Michael had the information he wanted to confront the murderer, before court started. Nothing would have to be said in the courtroom, it could be stopped quickly and the charade could end. At the same time he was being ripped apart to his very core as a human being. His beliefs and values had been rocked like they had never been so torn in his life, and no one knew but him. He believed now that Jack Barrolls knew. If he didn't, he wasn't as smart as Michael gave him credit for. He would know before long whether Jack really did know or not. But the clock was ticking and it was making him nervous.

"Why are we going so early?"

"My sister called me yesterday and wanted to see me. She says she has a message from my father."

"And you're going why? I thought you were done with him Michael?"

"I'm just covering my bases. Trent. I don't want it to be said that in the last hour he tried and I chose to stay away. I just want to prove to myself that I'm a bigger man than he is, Trent."

"That's why I love you Michael. When you know what to do, you don't back down. I'm proud of you for being the bigger man here, Mikey. I'll be proud to tell my children that their father met the problem head on, with no fear." Trent grabbed Michael and pulled him over to him in the truck and Michael let him. He slid next to Trent. He needed him right now. He wanted to throw up and run. The last thing he wanted was to see Frank Evans, let alone talk to him.

They stood there, the four of them. Mandy stood next to her father and Trent stood firmly next to Michael. Frank watched as Trent purposely held his arm behind Michael as if to support him. But Franks sensed the affection it was meant to show, Trent's true intention of the gesture.

"It doesn't have to be this way you know."

"I think it does have to be this way. The charade has to end. I just want to know why? Who's going to answer me that." Trent was confused by the conversation, thinking that Frank had called Michael here.

"Just to fuck you over, Michael, why else. I was tired of you walking away with everything and I left with nothing. And Mom was going to go and see you and wonder why you didn't send any messages to let her know and then you would have known I never told them anything, I told them you left for good. I didn't know where to find you at school anymore. But then Trent's mother happened to bump into mother one day outside my job and we were together and she invited her to your graduation party. I couldn't let anyone find out I couldn't have that now, could I, Mikey. But now, no one is going to find out, you little fuckstick."

"You lied about the timeline the night of the party Mandy. You had the time, you left the party and then you didn't go to Hampton that night. As a matter of fact you got a speeding ticket on the way to Hampton the next morning at six thirty, and I'm sure Jack Barrolls has either figured it out or will soon today by a question I asked him last night after the trial closed yesterday. In case you're wondering: I asked him to find out where your boyfriend was that night. I knew he'd be where ever you were. They found out you two were in the car that got the speeding ticket. The boyfriend had to give his Id and he left it in a bar here in town the night before. Proving he was in town the night before, waiting for you, Mandy. Your problem, Mandy, is that I'll still have a mother and you won't. Hopefully you'll spend the rest of your life in prison somewhere, rotting. Thinking what you lost, not what I lost. I gained a family, and that's the way they keep it, in the family. You couldn't."

Mandy turned to leave and was suddenly surrounded by plain clothed policeman, who had been slowly closing in since the conversation had begun.

"Did you get all that? I don't want to have to do it again?"

"Thank you, Michael. I know that wasn't easy for you."

"You didn't tell me any of this, Michael, I could kill you"

"Oh, hell, big boy, you'll live to see another day." Michael put his arm around Trent's and held him close. "I'm glad you were here with me. I still have to say something to that SOB, I suppose."

"No, Michael, you don't have to do anything you don't want to right now. This is your life to live, not someone else's. It was enough you cleared his name, but he still owes you, he has to come to you for forgiveness, not you to him."

"Thanks, love. I needed that. Now let's go see Dad. I'm sure by now he's beside himself, not being here and seeing what's going on. He liked protecting me from my father. I have to thank him when we see him Big Boy!! Now let's get moving. Come on."

The two carried on and laughed the entire trip to the hospital. Michael was still laughing as they entered Clay's room. It was a laugh that Trent hadn't heard in a long time, but one he couldn't help fall in love with all over again.

"Now there's a sound I could get used to. I haven't heard you two like that in a long time." As heartbroken as Michael was, he was free from thinking of anything for a day or two and right now his stomach and brain registered famish at the same time.

Steve and Walter were on duty and when Steve came in Michael got the speech.

"What in the hell is your problem? You look like death barely warmed over. Your father looks better than you do right now, Michael? The comment wasn't lost on Clay nor could it be missed on the smile he wore on his face.

"Michael Evans ... you look pathetic and I don't want to hear excuses. I'm ordering you a breakfast of French toast with one pound of butter and extra bacon. And if your boyfriend says boo, tell him to see me."

"Oh, now I know why I liked you best, Steve!" Steve left immediately. He wanted to have Michael eat in front of him. The boy had lost too much weight. Steve walked over to Michael and gave him a hug. Steve felt as though he was hugging a walking corpse. At that moment it made him feel like crying. He quickly let go of Michael, walked out of the room and headed for the kitchen to order the meal for Michael. Steve was going to make sure that anytime Michael was here to visit Clay, he'd make it his personal mission to make sure that the kid ate something.

"Tell me what happened, boys." Michael relayed the entire story to Clay from the leaving the court room the day before and seeing him without saying anything until speaking to Jack Barrolls and the confrontation in front of the court room this morning and Mandy's arrest. Clay was in shock over Mandy's ability to murder her own mother and hugged Michael to try and comfort him.

"I'm sorry it turned out this way Michael, I'm still shocked over your sister being the one that killed your mother. I wouldn't think it possible if it wasn't for the fact that you were telling me yourself. I'm sure it never entered your mind that she was the one that did it."

"Let's just say I'm not totally shocked, Dad. It explains some of the distance that Mandy and I were having the last couple of weeks before the shooting. I mean she wasn't returning my calls like she would have before this all happened. Something between us was off; I just couldn't put my finger on it. Once I put two and two together, it was the only thing that made sense. It was the only logical answer. I wanted to be wrong, but when I looked at the facts it was the only thing that answered the questions that were running around in my head. The one thing that bothered me the most was that night. Mandy was gone before my mother showed up and then I didn't see her the rest of the night and she never asked me about the party the next time I talked to her. Which meant she already knew how the party went, otherwise she would have asked me something, if nothing more than out of idle curiosity. And just in our short conversations after that she never brought it up or asked what I thought about it. I would think that, if anything, I'd be asking my twin what in the hell was going on. And it was the first time with her that she wasn't asking. It just didn't sit right with me."

"Maybe you missed your calling, Michael. You might have been better at investigating things like this. You should be on the police force and investigate murders." Michael laughed at Clay and the thought of himself being cop.

"Oh yea, I can see it now. Michael, in a uniform, walking around with other cops, who seem always seem to lean towards being six feet or more." Trent started laughing as he pictured Michael standing there with a uniform on, completely drowning in the entire gear that cops wear. He couldn't help but poke fun at his lover.

"Yea, Mikey, I can just picture you in that uniform, hanging from your shoulders, and half of the gear they wear somewhere around your ankles." Trent couldn't help himself. He had to laugh at the image he was creating in his mind.

"Just remember: I know where you sleep, Trent, and I'm not below using that piece of information to get back at you. I don't forget easy, you should know that by now." The three of them were laughing when Steve returned with two breakfast plates and put them in front of Michael, who was completely amazed at the stack of food in front of him.

"Steve, I can't eat all this."

"You're certainly going to try for your sake or I'm going to find a willing doctor to have you admitted for observation purposes for malnutrition. Now, sit down and start eating. We'll see how much of a dent you put in that. And remember: I have connections in this hospital, since I basically work the top floor only. I take care of all the board members and their immediate families; it would be no problem finding an adequate reason to have you admitted, so eat."

Michael groaned but at least he had a smile on his face, the first one that Clay had seen in a while. And he was happy to see it. Clay closed his eyes to rest his head, a bolt of lightning shoot through his brain and Clay slipped quietly into a coma. It took several moments before the monitor's he was attached to, began to shrill their warnings. Michael and Trent both jumped back as Steve and Walter came running into the room to get to Clay. Steve used the intercom system to alert a Code Blue in Clay Sander's room. Walter checked for a heartbeat and he found a weak pulse coursing through Clay's body. Within seconds of Steve calling a Code Blue several doctors and nurses were coming through the door. Michael took Trent and held him in his arms.

"It's going to be okay Trent, maybe he's had some kind or relapse or something." Michael struggled for the right words to help Trent calm down. Even though he himself was unsure of what was going on with Clay. He had seemed so good two minutes ago. To Trent the clock seemed to stand still and that whatever was going with his father they didn't want to tell him. The doctor's began reading the machines recordings and realized that Clay had slipped into a coma, immediately after he had suffered a stroke. Neither of the boys could hear what they were saying and it was Trent that finally couldn't stand being ignored anymore.

"What is going on? I need to know what's happening."

"At a quick glance it appears that your father has suffered a stroke. Why he is now in a comatose state, we are unsure of. We are going to be running tests right away to see when we can give you a more definitive answer. We aren't sure how long he could be like this. He might wake up in five minutes and be fine, as if nothing happened. On the other hand he could wake up in five weeks. We just can't tell you anything until we run those tests and see what the results are. I'm telling you now, that even after the tests are done, we might still be where we are now. Please try and be patient. In the meantime, talk to him as if he was awake. We all agree that talking to someone in a comatose state has a tendency to help them come out of it. That's not a proven fact, but results are better when checked against people that don't get talked to.

Trent held on to Michael's hand, trying to digest what he was being told. His stomach was in knots and he wanted more than anything to have his father to just wake up and be okay. The man was Trent's role model and champion. In his eyes Clay was invincible. His world was being ripped apart inside his chest. He realized at that moment that he wanted his father at his wedding with Michael. More than anything he loved the man and couldn't carry the burden of helping his mother survive the ordeal. He couldn't even imagine how he was even going to tell her what was going on. He wasn't even sure he could make the call.

"Michael, I have to ask you to call Mom. I can't bring myself to tell her. This is going to be very hard on her; he's her rock and driving force. She does so much for him and loves doing it, every minute of it. I can't even remember a time that she wasn't doing something for him." Trent's eyes were beginning to fill with tears and he put his head on Michael's shoulder and let his arms drop next to his body. Michael held him and tried to reassure him that everything would turn out okay. It was just going to take time.

Slowly, and with some hesitation, Michael got his cell phone from his pocket and hit the button for speed dial to Sarah's phone. Michael thought the phone didn't even ring. She had picked it up so quickly.

"Hi, Michael, when did you get out of court? What happened today? I'm on my way to the store to get a few things and then after that I'll be going to see Clay. I talked to him this morning and he sounded so good." Michael's heart was breaking, listening to her talk about Clay the way she was. His resolve to just gently tell her was breaking and he wasn't sure now what he wanted to say to her, to tell her this terrible news. She was so happy. With all the energy that he could muster within himself, Michael spoke up.

"Mom, you have to listen to me." Sarah was pensive as she heard the tremor in Michael's voice. She knew within seconds that it was Clay.

"Oh God, Michael, please don't tell me that something has gone wrong with Clay. Tell me he's still alive...I couldn't .............."

"He's alive, Sarah, he's not dead. But they think he's had a stroke and now has slipped into a coma. Trent and I are already at the hospital, we were here when it happened. One minute he was fine and the next minute he was just quiet. It just happened that quickly, within seconds."

Sarah pulled over to the side of the road the tears were making it too hard for her to drive. It was the first time that Sarah wished she had a chauffeur at her disposal. Clay was more than happy to provide her with one, but she always insisted that it wasn't necessary. She was fully capable of driving herself. Pulling herself together, she dried her eyes and finished her drive to the hospital. She thought back to the time he had first made the offer of having a driver for her. Not only would he have been a mechanic for all the cars, but also their driver when they had some place to be and didn't feel like driving.

However, Sarah loved driving, especially if it had anything to do with the children. She didn't care if she picked one up at midnight or had to drive one for an early morning practice at five o'clock in the morning. Fortunately, Trent and Peter were the only ones that had required rides early in the morning. And that only happened when it was swimming season. Right now though, she wished she had said yes.

The boys sat there, next to each other, watching Clay and holding hands trying to comfort one another. Michael wasn't his natural child by birth, but Clay had treated him far better than his own father had, even in the short time that Michael had lived with the Sander's. Michael considered him a father, someone he could look up to, a man that had scruples and dignity which he bestowed upon his children by being the loving man he was. Clay firmly believed in teaching his children by setting the example. Clay touched people in so many ways, never comparing them to anyone else. He was proud of each of his children, no matter what they did in life. He didn't care. He knew they would find their way in the world and make an example for their children. Never once did he regret having as many as they did and fortunately for him Sarah felt the same way.

Stephen had been right when he told Michael about the miscarriages and his parents wanting to have twelve children. They wanted to be surrounded in their later years with lots of grandchildren. Primarily, Clay's delight was Christmas time. He and Sarah would be shopping for Christmas in July, trying to make sure that each got the one thing they wanted most. Hiding them was the problem when the kids were young and believed in Santa. They started converting a room at Clay's many buildings and would put the gifts there. When they had free time he and Sarah would spend hours by themselves wrapping gifts and putting name tags on each package. On Christmas Eve he would have a few of the workers load a small truck and deliver it to the house. As the kids got older and for the benefit of the younger ones, they would help their parents unload and put the presents under the tree.

Sarah could feel the tears beginning to fall again because of the warm memories that she and Clay had shared over all those Christmases. Now Sarah wondered if Clay would be home in time for Christmas. She hung her head and prayed. Michael and Trent just sat in silence and gave her the time that she needed.

"When was the last time a doctor was in, boys?"

"About an hour ago, we are still waiting for Dad's regular doctor to come in and see him." This was a new piece of information for Sarah. Clay had never mentioned having a doctor that he saw regularly. He didn't want to worry his wife by telling her he was seeing a doctor. He knew she would worry too much and start thinking that something was wrong with him and he wouldn't tell her. Nonetheless, Clay was making sure that he saw the doctor about twice a year, just to keep tabs on his health and hopefully catch anything before it got out of hand. The heart attack was a complete surprise because he had passed the last stress test with flying colors. Sarah was unaware of that information.

"Did they say anything when they were in here? Did they say how long this would last? I just don't know what to do; he's always been the strong one between the two of us."

"I have a feeling that Dad didn't think anything was wrong with him, otherwise he would have either said something to you or would have seen a doctor, just to make sure nothing was wrong. He told Michael that the trial had nothing to do with it, but you know how protective he can be when it comes to us kids. You know how much he to reach out and take Michael into the family. I don't think he'll rest until some piece of paper that says he legally belongs to the Sanders clan, either by marriage or by adoption."

"The stress of the courtroom proceedings was wearing him down Michael. Clay was really upset that you have to go through this ordeal. No one your age should be subjected to this emotional stress. He talked to Jack Barrolls, trying to have you dismissed somehow. He even talked to a few different lawyers." Sarah let go of Michael's hand, which she had held while telling him how Clay was handling the whole thing. "Please don't tell him I told you that. He doesn't want to add any other stress or pressure in your life."

"I really appreciate that, Mom, however, one day I'll have to handle things myself. I know he's just trying to protect me. But he won't be able to be there all the time and I'm going to make a mistake, that's how I learn, by making my own mistakes."

"I know Michael, he's just trying so hard to help you and make up for what he feels are the short comings of your father. He knows that he doesn't have to, it's just the way Clay is with kids, always has been."

He leaned over and kissed Sarah on the cheek. Without any hesitation he wrapped his arms around her and at that moment Sarah Sanders completely broke down. Trent came over and stood next to his mother on the other side from Michael. He knew if his father died now, his mother would be devastated and Trent would be counted on more than anything. He was, after all the oldest man in the house. Stephen and Peter were living on their own and just couldn't drop what they were doing to come and babysit their mother not that both of them would have cared. This was the woman that had done so much for them in life, aside from being just a good mother. She taught them how to love and respect themselves and those closest to them.

The doctor finally arrived about two hours later. She had the staff page him several times while they waited for some kind of answer, one she could wrap her head around, both mentally and emotionally.

"I'm truly sorry, Sarah, that I had to make you wait; we are in the middle of turning out the newest of our interns into the real world. I know you can appreciate that, it's just like letting your children take their first steps, and inside you hope and pray that everything you taught them has sunk in and they know how to use it."

"Jake, what exactly is going on with Clay?" Sarah liked Jake Elwood ever since she met him at the dinner announcing Clay as a member of the Board to City Hospital. He was pleasant with his patients and didn't give up until he had a definitive answer for their family members. More importantly he wanted to have answers of success and good outcomes. It was one part of the job that Jake could never get used to: telling the family a patient left behind, that there was nothing that could be done to save their loved one.

"Sarah, from all indications he's had a minor stroke. Unfortunately, any long term diagnoses I can give you would be a guess at best. He could wake up tomorrow and shows no signs of anything happening. And to make matters worse he could wake up and not remember the heart attack. He will know because of the stitches on his chest. But he might have some memory loss from the stroke. And we won't know that until he wakes up and we can do some more tests. The only thing I can tell you is that he's in good hands and we will try as hard as we can to figure out why he went into this coma. I will not give up, Sarah, but he might be here awhile, and after that maybe rehab when he wakes up. The best advice I can give you is to talk to him like he's awake and you're visiting. Go through the normal routines of everyday life for him. Ask him questions; better yet bring a book that everyone can read aloud for him."

Sarah thanked their friend and gave him a hug. She at least felt like she had an answer and that she could move on with life, with her husband going along just like they always have.

"I want you two to go home and bring some things here for your father. If you have trouble finding any of his clothes, just ask one of the upstairs maids, they all know what goes where and they will be happy to help. All of them are thankful and happy that he is alive, if you call this living. Please you two if anything ever happens to me, make sure they don't make you sit around like this, just waiting to die. I'll hate my life and will want to pass on, at the stage of the game. I know how terrible that sounds, but you know how close your father and I are. Seeing me like that would make me want to die. Don't prolong the inevitable. If the doctors aren't giving good odds on making it through whatever is wrong with me, then by all means pull the plug. It's what your father wants. Neither of us wants to see you kids suffer and have to make that decision; it's all in the paperwork. The lawyers will instruct you as to what is or isn't acceptable in those terms."

The three of them sat there without saying a single word, just watching Clay and his breathing patterns. It was lunch time before anyone even realized it.

Michael's nerves may have been stressed to the max in the past couple of weeks but, for the first time in a long time he felt like himself when he entered the market. And all it took was a normal everyday routine to revive him. Whatever the case, for once he wasn't going to question it.

"Hello Michael." His blood flow stood still and Michael stayed frozen in his tracks. He was alone with no one to protect him. How was he going to handle this? He took a deep breath and turned to face the direction the greeting had come from. He stood there looking almost frail; the trial had definitely taken its toll on Frank Evans. If Michael hadn't taken a few seconds to gain control of him, he would have gasped at the sight of the Major. Neither said anything once they had made eye contact.

Michael was not giving in; he was not going to be the first one to speak. With the situation the way it was, the first person to talk now would end up being the loser. And he was determined to walk away from him without guilt or shame. For the first time in his life Michael accepted the fact that the Major no longer ruled his world, nor did he belong to any part of it. It was just the way it was going to be. Now was the time to sever the strings to his father for good.

"I'm not sure where to begin, Michael. I'm sorry isn't enough, I'm sure, and I can honestly say that I can understand that. I'm not loo..."

"Stop, before you open your mouth again. I'm tired of hearing lies coming out of your mouth. Imagine my surprise in the courtroom when it was brought to the attention of the whole fucking world that you've been living this double life. Homophobic in one world and cocksucker in the other. Or perhaps you like it shoved it up your ass and having another man make you feel like a piece of shit. Which one is it today? Frank the military man or Frank the bitch?"

Frank stood there, his shoulders slopping further down, even more from when Michael first saw him. He went on without letting his father get a word in. Something his father had taught him very well, how to belittle people by not letting them have a chance to speak. Michael wasn't even sure where all the words were coming from, but they were coming out faster than the Major could think, not giving the Major time to think or speak. And that's the way Michael wanted it to keep him from speaking, to keep him off balance. There was no way in hell the Major was going to have time to speak.

"What are you up to? And what exactly do you want? It's obvious you've been watching me since you knew where to find me. What? Do I have to worry about you becoming a stalker now? I won't do that, Frank. I won't hide from you anymore. You made me feel so invisible growing up, degrading gays. Talk about calling the kettle black. I actually believed you for the longest time. I spent days sometimes crying myself to sleep because I was disappointing you. Feeling ashamed for what I was. And I had no reason to feel that way. It was only because of the way you felt about yourself, which hurt me the most. It would have hurt less if you had used a knife to stab me instead. Just what the fuck were you thinking, treating me that way?"

"I can't make it up to you or make you understand why I did what I did. I know now what a terrible father I was. I'm hoping we can talk to one another agai...."

"This is the last conversation you and I are going to have, Major." Michael used the term out loud for the first time in his life. It was if Michael had a produced a sword and without pause, stuck in his father's chest. Frank's life had begun to crumble from the minute that Michael had closed the door the day he left home."

"I know you're angry right now and I don't bl..."

"Don't bother trying to back paddle on this, or talk your way out of what I already know. It would probably be a bunch of lies anyway. You haven't been honest your whole life, not with yourself and certainly not with me. You're lucky Clay was there to stop me in the courtroom. When that guy spoke of your meetings at the hotel, I wanted to plunge a knife so deep inside you and drive it up into your brain. Maybe then it would be different for us."

"I was hoping you wouldn't say anything like that." Frank had straightened himself and stood up.

"Let me make this perfectly clear to you, Frank. There is no more 'us'. There will never be an 'us' ever again. Any hope of that was lost when your fuck buddy got on the stand. That was the very end of any resemblance that we had left of a family. Now there is none. In case you hadn't noticed: my sister killed my mother, so, long before I lost them, I lost you. When I walked out the door that day, I vowed never to come back. I won't come back nor will you ever be part of my life. I have a family that understands who I am and they have taken me into their home and made me feel welcome. It's the one place I can put my head down at the end of the day and go to sleep without being afraid of you. I could have never thought about bringing home a friend if he was in trouble, you would never have approved."

Michael went silent, looking directly into his father's eyes. This was one time that he wasn't going to back down from him. Any hold his father had on Michael was no longer there and it was Michael who was calling the shots now.

"I'm not going to say much more, you aren't worth the time any more, but I want to say my piece before I walk away. The man that sat next to me in the courtroom is the man you never were or could be. He asked for permission to adopt me, whether Trent and I stay together or not. I agreed."

Michael waited to see the expression on his father's face and what he saw made him realize that he had struck a nerve in the old man. He wanted something he said to get through to him. The thought of his father being alone for the rest of his life didn't bother him at all. Michael figured that for all the grief he had been subjected to by Frank, he was just paying him back. But he knew enough to stop saying anything or he would have just been lashing out without thinking. He didn't want to do that. He wanted his father to know that he was the better man. Michael just wished Frank to know that it wasn't him that made him a better man, but that it was all the men in the Sander's household. They were slowly changing Michael's mental compass. However, it was Clay who had become Michael's mentor and father figure and was changing him the most. He wasn't going to turn back now.

"Remember Michael that never is a long time, so maybe someday you'll want to look me up for the sake of knowing I'm okay."

He couldn't believe the words that were coming out of Franks' mouth; he actually thought that there might come a day that Michael would talk to him again.

"The conversation is over, Major. I'm leaving, but you're welcome to stand here by yourself and talk your fucking heart out. I just won't be here to listen." Michael turned and began to walk away in the same direction he had been heading.

"You can't walk away from me, Michael Wayne; I'm still your father. You can't change that, and no piece of paper will change that. You'll see someday you'll want something or need something and then you'll come running to find me."

He heard what he said, but he promised himself that he wasn't going to let himself get dragged into his father's attempt to get to him. He paused in his stride but refused to turn around; he continued his steady pace away from the Major, his heart beating twice as fast as it usually did. But he felt free, for the first time he could remember Michael felt a true freedom within himself. Taking a cleansing breath he picked up his pace and kept walking with a slight smile on his face, proud of himself for having faced one of his greatest fears. He knew that he would be able to accomplish anything in life after this conversation with the Major. He was proud of himself for not buckling or crying in front of the man.

He wanted so badly for Clay to be awake when he got back to the hospital. He wanted to share with him what had happened and how he had handled the situation. Without realizing it, Michael was still seeking an older male's validation in life. That it really was okay to be who he was, someone to be proud of and not ashamed of. He had stopped at a florist on the way and brought his mentor and friend a small plant, one that Michael hoped would grow with the man in the years to come. Michael prayed as he walked, wanting a speedy recovery for Clay. He got to his car and took off for City Hospital. Clay was still out of it when he got back to his room.

Michael was surprised to see Trent at the hospital, he was sure that Trent had classes that morning.

"What are you doing here, buddy? I thought you had classes today?"

"My second class got cancelled, so I thought I'd surprise you and come see Dad at the same time." Trent wrapped his arms around Michael and lifted him slightly off the floor to give him a kiss.

"Why are you so chipper, Mikey? Something is different about you. What are you up to?" Trent was unaware of Michael's morning event.

"Promise not to yell, scream, kick or smack me if I tell you?" Michael knew the minute he mentioned his father Trent was going to at least yell at him for facing him without Trent being there for safety's sake, even though he hadn't planned on seeing Frank that day.

"Must have been something really good if you are asking me not to do anything that might cause bodily harm to someone's cute little ass. Or perhaps you'd like to just come clean now and tell me what you didn't want me to know." Michael was now holding Trent close to him and Michael leaned his head against Trent's shoulder and put his arms around Trent.

"Something tells me by the tone of your voice and you're slightly shaking that you're a little afraid to tell me something. This isn't going to be something I want to hear, is it?

"Well, it's a good thing for me and I'm happy it happened, but there is someone else involved that I don't think you're going to be happy about. I just want you to know that I didn't plan on it happening." Trent lifted Michael's face up, holding him by his chin to make sure they had eye to eye contact. Trent didn't say anything for a moment, he just looked and Michael tried to look around him, so he couldn't see what Michael was hiding from him. And Trent knew he was hiding something, and then it hit him.

"Son of a bitch, Michael, you fucking faced your father alone. What did I tell you about seeing him or being near him without me being there with you? You know very little for a guy that's as smart as you are. Sometimes your simple stupidity astounds me."

"I'm sorry, kiddo, but I didn't catch that. Why don't you look me in the face and raise the volume of your voice so I can hear you." Looking like a cat that swallowed the canary Michael looked up at Trent with a slight tear in his eye. He knew he had let Trent down and had done something that Trent had clearly asked him never to do, because he didn't trust the Major at all. He was the catalyst that put the murder in motion. He had just as much blood on his hands as Mandy did. If he had been honest with Michael and had accepted him, none of this would have ever happened.

"Please Trent, don't get mad at me. I didn't have too much time to think, he was just there all of a sudden, and I had to do it this way. I just hope you understand. He was just there all of a sudden beside me in the grocery store. It was only because we were in a public place that I stayed and stood my ground, I wasn't going to run away from his Trent, I've been doing that all my life."

"God damn it, Michael. What the fuck were you thinking being with him by yourself like that? He may be older, but he's in better shape than you are. He could have done some real damage if he had gotten his hands on you." Trent stood looking out the window, unsure if he should be mad at Michael, or be happy because he was still okay. At least he looked okay. He turned back to Michael to look and make sure.

"I should beat you within an inch of your life, Michael. I'm still mad at you for this, but it's your safety and welfare that concerns me. If he had wanted to he could have killed you."

"I'm sorry, Trent. I just wanted him to know how I felt about him and what he had done and how he could have prevented my life being screwed up if he had just been honest in the first place." Michael was furious that day in court; it had taken all his will power not to go after Frank.

Michael slowly walked over to Trent and looked him in the eyes.

"I'm sorry, Trent, It was just something that I had to do for myself. I just needed to know that I was the better man and could walk away from him and not look back. And I did. Only after saying what I had to say. I walked away and felt calm and relaxed for the first time in my life when it came to my father. I stood my ground and proved to myself that I am stronger than I think I am. But I can tell you that he knows that any relationship he thought would or could be is no longer possible."

"You're lucky this time, Michael. Promise me you won't ever do it again."

Michael looked at Trent, the man that loved him and always looked after his welfare. He regretted not having Trent with him to some degree but it was something he had to prove to himself. Michael took Trent by the hand.

"Come with me. I need to go for a walk. We'll come back in ten or fifteen minutes. I just feel the need to stretch my legs and get some air." Trent wasn't in the mood really to go, he wanted to sit with his father but Michael prevailed by his persistence and pleading.

"Come on, Trent. Just for a few minutes. Let's just go out and get some fresh air. Please." Michael knew by pleading and giving Trent a certain look he'd get him to give in and go along. But Michael wasn't planning on going outside; he had another destination in mind. However he wasn't going to tell Trent that, he wanted to surprise him. As they descended in the elevator, Michael told Trent he needed to find a bathroom. He needed to take a piss all of a sudden. Michael spotted a family bathroom not far from the entrance opened the door and looked to see if anyone was watching. He quickly pulled Trent into the bathroom with him.

"What are you doing Mikey, I don't need to go. What? All of sudden you can't take a leak by yourself?"

"I don't have to take a leak Big Boy, I just wanted you all of sudden and Dads bathroom is not the place." Michael shoved Trent against the wall, lifted his shirt up and over his head, leaving his chest and nipples exposed for Michael to chew on. Trent couldn't resist and didn't stop him. Before he could say anything Michael had latched onto his nipple and began chewing on it, biting it lightly driving Trent crazy. Michael knew this was something that Trent couldn't say no to or would he stop Michael from what he was doing and wanted. Trent moaned in compliance to his Michael's bites of passion

Trent took Michael's head in his hands and ran his fingers through his hair, keeping Michael close to his chest allowing him to devour his nipple. Michael went back and forth between the two, running his tongue in between them; Trent felt weak in the knees and had a hard time concentrating on standing up. This sudden attack from Michael was something he needed and wanted. Slowly Michael made his way down Trent's' chest using his tongue to make small circles anywhere he could touch Trent. He groaned every time Michael made contact.

Michael unfastened Trent's jeans and pulled them down around his knees. Trent quivered from the anticipation of having his cock sucked by his lover. It didn't take Michael long to engulf the man's cock into the warmth of his hungry mouth. Trent moaned with the sheer pleasure that Michael was giving him, turned on even more by the location they were in.

Trent kept his hands on the back of Michael's head and roughly forced his cock into Michael's mouth. Michael's eyes watered and at first he gagged, but he was determined to take all of Trent's cock in to his mouth. Michael didn't disappoint Trent as he fed his cock further down his throat. Michael's gag reflex had released even more saliva into his mouth as he breathed through his nose. He wanted one thing and that was to have Trent shove his soaked dick up his ass.

Michael backed off and began to stand up. Trent grabbed Michael by his belt and loosened it enough to unsnap them and pull them down along with his underwear.

"Fuck me, Trent, I need it bad. I want to feel you inside me"

"Oh yea, baby, you're going to get that all right." Trent spun Michael around and put his hands on the sink. Trent leaned down and ran his tongue along Michael's ass, aiming to stick his tongue into Michael's cunt. It was what he wanted to do, just as much as Michael wanted to be fucked. He drilled his tongue into his hole and Michael's head snapped back at the contact. His whole body shook.

"Now, Trent, do it now."

Trent stood up and aimed his tool at Michael's ass and pushed his shaft all the way in. Michael bit his lip to keep from screaming out in pained lust. Trent ran his cock over Michael's prostate and shuttered from the feeling it gave him. His orgasm was close. Trent continued to ram his cock in and out of Michael's ass. Taking his cock all the way out and then shoving it back in as hard as he could. Michael knew it was coming.

"Yes, Trent, I'm almost there. Make me cum. Oh God, please, make me cum."

Trent shoved his dick into Michael and ground his hips against Michael's ass, his cock rubbing back and forth over Michael's prostate. He knew he was close. He could feel his balls tighten with expectation of release. It had been a while since they had made love and Michael knew he wouldn't last. His lust for release was too great.

"Come on, Mikey, cum for me, do it NOW" Trent whispered in Michael's ear and the heat of his breath blowing into Michael's ear drove him over the edge. The muscles of his ass clenched tightly, strangling Trent's cock, forcing him to orgasm. He filled Michael with his seed. Michael was lost in pleasure as his cock spasmed almost violently when his semen erupted from his cock, coating the sink and tiling with his sperm.

The two collapsed against each other, spent from their hurried love making. Both were sexually satisfied from their spontaneous tryst. They were both spent and their bodies were covered in a light sheen of sweat.

"Oh God, Michael, that was wonderful. It's been so long since we've made love with all that's going on. I didn't want to push you while the trial was goi..."

"Ssh... Don't say anything. I needed you more than anything. I know it's been tough on you too. And I'm sorry for that, but I just want to put this part of my life behind me and for us to go on with our lives."

Trent leaned down and kissed Michael tenderly on the lips, overwhelmed by the emotions he was feeling at the moment.

"I love you more than you'll ever know, Michael. I don't know where my life would be without you right now." Michael felt himself getting sentimental and now was not the time he wanted get emotional.

"I love you, Trent. I can honestly say that without you, my life would be a mess right now. Maybe some of these things wouldn't have happened. Maybe I'd still be living at home. Maybe I'd be gone. I don't know. I just know that when I met you my world changed forever. You've given me more than anyone has given to me and I'm glad we have each other. Now, Big Boy, let's sneak out of here without looking too suspicious."

"As if we don't look like we're guilty of something: two guys walking out of a family bathroom, with no kids in tow, at least none yet. Maybe someday."

Michael had been okay up to this point but with his sexual energy spent and with Trent saying what he had, Michael couldn't hold back and he turned and fell into Trent's chest crying softly and just holding onto him. His comment on the possibility of wanting children had tugged at Michael's heart.

"Hey, come on, what are those tears for?" Trent took Michael's chin in his hand and tilted it so that he could look directly into Michael's eyes. "Come on, dry those eyes and let's get some fresh air. Maybe you do need a few minutes outside. The sunshine will do you good and make you feel better as it always does. Look how good you feel when we go to Jamaica; you always love being outdoors when we go there. I can't wait for us to go again, and before you know it January will be here. We'll have another week all to ourselves."

Trent grabbed some towels and made them a little wet to wipe the tears from his face. With that done Trent took Michael by the hand and slowly opened the door to the bathroom. Outside the door stood a woman with two small children, obviously in need of the bathroom they had been occupying.

"Sorry we took so long, my boyfriend was sick and I helped him out. You might not want to go in there until they can clean up the mess."

Trent turned with Michael and walked outside as quickly as they could. As soon as they were out of earshot, both boys doubled over in fits of laughter.

"I can't even believe you said that, Trent, your boyfriend being sick. That was good. Did you see the look on her face when you told her she might not want to go in there?" Trent nodded and both continued to laugh at the whole scenario, wondering if she had gone in or not. Michael doubted it. And he roared with laughter that much more. He just considered that they had been caught and for once he didn't care. He loved Trent and that's all that mattered to him. Once they got their laughter under control, Michael couldn't help but ask Trent about going to Jamaica.

"Are you sure you want to go back there, after what happened to you?"

"Why not, Buddy, it was an accident, the same accident could have happened if we were here, doing who knows what. I love it too much there to not go back. That's our place and for the next few years it will hold a special place in our hearts, no matter how much time goes by. That's why I want us to go back; it's our place and it's only going to happen once in our life. As we get older our desires were we go and what we do will change. We're only going to be this age once Mikey"

Michael looked at Trent in amazement and love. It was obvious that no amount of talking would change his mind about Jamaica. For Michael it was painful to think about with what had happened and the surgeries that Trent still faced.

"What happens when they want to do a surgery?"

"I've discussed this with the doctors. They don't want to do anything just yet, but when we get back from vacation there is going to be another one. I was waiting to tell you, but it's not going to mess up school. The next couple of operations will only make me miss a few days here and there. I won't be out so long next time."

"Why didn't you tell me this before, Trent? I've been worried about that and when the next one was going to happen?"

"I found out right before the trial started and you had enough on your plate at that time. I didn't want to add any more worries for you. I have one other thing to say and I hope you don't get mad."

"Do I have to promise anything?"

"Yea, don't get mad."

"I can't promise you that, but I'll try. You might as well tell me and get it over with." Trent was hemming and hawing over telling Michael what he had in mind because it involved the wedding ceremony and he wasn't sure how he was going to take it. Michael watched Trent's face and could see the anguish in his face.

"Come on,

It's not the end of the world, is it? After what we've been through so far I'm sure we can handle whatever it is you have to say. I promise not to get mad. Does that make you feel any better?" Michael took Trent by the hand and sat down.

"I want to postpone the wedding until the summer between our Junior and senior year of school, Mikey." Trent grew silent, waiting for Michael to say something to him. Michael sat quietly looking at the ground.

"Any particular reason why?"

"Because, I'll have had all my surgeries by then, that's the first thing. Second, I want to build our house before we get married. I want us to be able to move in as soon as we get married." Michael just looked into Trent's eyes and saw the hopefulness he had, waiting for Michael to say something.

"I asked you to wait once. I think you have the right to ask the same of me. I'm surprised about the house. What made you decide about that?"

"Our school schedule is hard enough on us, and I know adding a house will mean even more work. But it will give us a year to move in and think about what we want to do to the house after we graduate and are working. I want to make the house the way you want it."

"What about the way you want it?"

"As long as you're happy, Mikey, I'll be happy with it. I'll have too many ideas as to what to do. You're the practical one, so I'll do whatever you want. And just maybe I'll add my influence to whatever you say. Don't worry about that."

"I guess I can wait, but I don't want to wait any longer than that, Trent. I want us to get married, you know that. And by then I think we'll be ready for the house. I hate living in the same house and being in separate bedrooms. Just don't ask me to wait until after graduation or I might want to kill you." Michael smiled and Trent felt like a weight had been lifted off of him. He had known for weeks that he wanted to talk to Michael about the wedding being postponed.

"Let's go back and tell Dad what we've decided." Michael smiled at the thought of telling Clay and wished he would come out of the coma he was in. Every day that it went on seemed to make things worse, at least it seemed worse to Michael.

"I wish he'd wake up, babe. I'm worried for Mom if he doesn't wake up. I just don't understand why he's in this coma thing, or what brought it on." Trent was visibly shaken by the ordeal. Michael could tell by the tone in his voice that he was on the verge of breaking down over it.

"Come on, hot shot. Cheer up, Big Boy. It's going to be okay, you'll see, I promise you. Have I let you down yet?"

"No, you haven't, but I don't know this time, Mikey. He's always been the strong one, for all of us. What if something happens to him and he doesn't come out of this one? I'm scared for my mother and the younger ones. Dad needs to be here for them."

"It's going to be okay. Have a little faith. Your Dad isn't going anywhere. Look at this way: his body is just saying 'I need a break' because you won't take one. You know your Dad, better than I do Trent. And even I know that man never stops for a break. Even when you went on vacations, he'd be running the company from where ever you were, right?"

"You're right, Michael. He doesn't stop. I just hope this doesn't stop him permanently. Doing nothing will kill him just the same, I think."

"Hey, don't think like that. You have to be positive. He needs you to be positive, and so do the younger ones, Trent. They're watching you because they don't fully understand what's going and what's wrong with him. So their reactions are gauged by what you and the older kids are doing. And you've the biggest influence on them right now because you're the oldest living at home." Trent's shoulder shifted downward and he hung his head resting it on Michael's shoulder.

"How come you're so smart and know all this stuff?" Michael blushed.

"I don't, Trent. I just know that being positive in these situations never hurts. So come on, give me a smile and let's go break the news to Dad. He'll be disappointed, I think, but he'll go along with it. That I'm sure of."

"You're right, he probably will Michael."

The boys entered the hospital and made their way back to the top floor to visit Clay. Sarah was sitting in the chair next to him reading him the morning paper. It was something he always liked to do.

"Hello boys, where have you two been? I saw your car, Trent, and thought for sure you'd be here when I got up to the room. Where were you two?"

"Michael and I were doing some talking, Mom, and we've decided to postpone the wedding until the summer between our junior and senior year of school. We just think it's best right now. There are some things that we want to finish up and do before we settle in." Sarah didn't say anything while she pondered what the boys had said.

"What do you think, Clay? Should they postpone their wedding until then?" He made no expression and he didn't open his eyes, but his message was pretty clear.

"You two always seem to do the right thing, maybe this is too." Clay didn't open his eyes, but they all jumped up when he started talking. Sarah leaned over and kissed Clay.

"I love you, handsome. What's the idea of scaring me half to death? This won't be happening again, and you're going home and take a much needed sabbatical from work!"

Michael stood there as Trent squeezed the life out of him, happy to hear his father's voice again, something ten minutes ago he wasn't sure he'd ever hear again. Clay told Michael to come over to the bed.

"I'm sorry what happened to you and your father. No boy should have to do that to his father. You're too young to lose him, especially under the circumstances. I'll do the best I can to guide you the same as I guide the rest of my children. But I'm not replacing him, Michael; I just want you to know I'm there for you. I thought about this the day you told me and for as long as I was out it seems to keep coming back to me in pieces." Michael leaned over and kissed Clay on the forehead.

"You've done more for me than my father ever did, Clay. And I'm not talking about the things that money bought me. You've just been there for me anytime I needed someone to help me or guide me as you say. I don't want that to change. I like being able to count on you, Dad." Michael noticed that tears were running down the sides of Clay's face and he got a Kleenex and wiped the moisture off his face as gently as he could. He put a few clean ones in Clay's hand. Steve and Walter entered the room, surprised to hear that Clay was awake because none of the monitors registered any movements.

"Well, this is a good sign, how long have you been up?"

"Just a few minutes, Steve. He hasn't said a whole lot, but he's been awake for maybe two or three minutes."



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