Monday, July 26, 2010

Patrick frowned and looked up from the paperwork on his desk. “What the …” he left the word hanging and stood up. As he walked out into the waiting area of the ER unit the noise level increased in both intensity and volume.

“What’s going on?” he inquired of a nurse who was standing near the door of the examination room. A small cluster of persons – nurses, orderlies and the janitor – were gathered in the middle of the room engrossed in a noisy discussion.

The nurse started when she saw Patrick. “Oh Dr Dean …” she stammered and pulled herself together, at the same time clearing her throat loudly. One by one the group members looked over and stopped talking.

“What’s going on here?” Patrick asked again, advancing into the room. Today was his turn to be on duty at the ER and he was about to wrap up his shift and go home. Patrick knew this place had seen its share of some horrific and bizarre situations but they were usually not so disorganized. All the nurses knew their jobs well and if there had been an emergency someone would have come to get him.

The group parted slowly and Patrick’s eyes moved down and saw what had been the reason for the commotion. “Who’s this?” he asked as he took in the sight of a tousle-haired little boy, looking forlorn in the middle of the room.

“We don’t know,” one of the nurses replied in a tone which hinted at some mystery.

“We found him … um, he just appeared? …” another supplied in a mystified whisper.

“Out of nowhere it would seem …” someone offered rather unhelpfully.

Patrick ignored all the comments. “Hello …” Patrick said and his voice gentled as he advanced towards the boy. “What’s your name?”


“Well Tommy, are you hurt?” Patrick had gone down on his haunches and was peering into Tommy’s eyes, trying to read any sign of pain or distress. The boy looked lost and frightened but showed no sign of any kind of physical pain.

Tommy shook his head.

“Is your mommy here, Tommy?” Patrick asked. “Or your dad?”

Tommy looked around at the people staring at him and he slowly shook his head again, apparently close to tears.

Patrick heard a collective murmur behind him and he turned his head back to the personnel gathered. “Is this an assembly, people?” His voice was calm but it got everyone’s attention immediately. Feet began to shuffle. “Nurse Brenda, you may stay. The rest of you please go back to your stations.”

Tommy silently watched the group troop out from the corner of his eye. He shrank back in alarm as Patrick reached for him.

“It’s ok,” Patrick said soothingly, dropping his hands immediately. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to startle you. I just wanted to examine you to see if you are all right. I am a doctor, and I am in charge of the ER unit here … and it’s my job to examine anyone who is brought here. Do you understand?”

Tommy looked doubtfully at Patrick, still distrustful. Nurse Brenda came forward and brought her face down as well, and she said kindly, “Dr Dean is a very good doctor, Tommy. He is the one in charge here. Can you do as he says?”

Tommy looked from one to the other and after a moment’s hesitation, moved one step towards Patrick. Patrick smiled warmly at him and patted his shoulder, then slowly drew him nearer. “I’m going to get you to sit on that bed over there – ok?”

Blue eyes opened wide and turned towards the bed. “Kay,” the little voice was barely more than a whisper.

“It’s a bit high, so … let me help you …” Patrick picked up the boy and deposited him on the examination bench. Nurse Brenda came over and removed the thin and worn jacket and Patrick carefully began to examine Tommy, asking casually “so how old are you Tommy?”

“This much.” A little hand was held up. Three chubby fingers were straight and a fourth remaining slightly bent with the help of a thumb. “Almost four.”

“Almost four ... hmm …” Patrick repeated soothingly while he quickly completed the examination. The kid seemed all right, although a bit thin. “Did your mom or dad drop you off while they went to park the car?”

Tommy frowned at the question, but after a moment he shook his head.

An eyebrow shot up. “So … who brought you here then?”

“I wasn’t ‘zactly brought. I comed by myself.” Tommy’s eyes filled and his lower lip quivered as he glanced around what to him was a rather strange place. “It was getting dark and I-I saw the lights.”

Patrick looked at Nurse Brenda, obviously asking for help. He had no idea what Tommy was saying.

“What lights, honey?” Brenda asked.

“The ones behind the big glass doors.” Tommy pointed towards the hallway leading to the ER entrance. “I don’t like the dark,” he murmured.

Patrick froze as a sinking feeling filled his stomach. He cleared his throat. “Um Nurse Brenda, can you stay here with Tommy while I go outside for a while?” He looked meaningfully at his nurse.

“Of course, Doctor. We’ll have a chance to get to know one another better, won’t we, Tommy?” She attempted to pacify the child when she saw him looking somewhat uncertain about the doctor leaving.

Patrick forced a smile at the boy before he left the examination room. He went to the reception counter and started to make inquiries. Security personnel were called in. No one seemed to have any idea where Tommy came from or how he got there.

“Oh Christ!” Patrick cursed under his breath, one of the few times he allowed himself to do so in the hospital. “It would appear we have an abandoned child on our hands!”


“It would be nice if Patrick made it home before supper got cold,” Kyler commented hopefully. “He’s been held up twice this week already.”

Although the young man was hungry, he’d much rather wait for the arrival of the last family member so they could eat together and share their day’s news. Hearing a car in the driveway, he rushed over to the window and glanced out.

“He’s here!” Kyler unnecessarily announced as he ran to open the back door.

Hugh came over to stand behind Kyler, wrapping an arm around Kyler’s slim waist. “We’ll eat as soon as Patrick gets out of his work clothes, ok?” Hugh said. “Then perhaps we could …”

Kyler never knew what Hugh planned to do that evening because he never got to finish the sentence. They both gazed in surprise as Patrick went round to the back of the car and opened the door. A small boy tumbled out and immediately clutched Patrick’s hand.

“Hi guys,” Patrick called cheerily, although Hugh didn’t miss the forced note. “This is Tommy.” Patrick looked down at the boy and smiled encouragingly. “Come on Tommy, let’s go inside and get you something to eat ok?”
Tommy shyly grinned for the first time and nodded.

Hugh let go of Kyler and moved out onto the back porch. He raised an eyebrow at Patrick but refrained from the obvious. Instead he smiled at Tommy and introduced himself, “hello Tommy, I’m Hugh.”

Looking up through big round blue eyes, Tommy’s uneasiness returned and his smile faded a bit. However, he still willingly went into the house.

“And this is Kyler.” Patrick pointed to Kyler. “Ky, come say hi.”

“Hi there, little guy.” Kyler bent at the waist and offered his hand to Tommy. His smile widened when his handshake was accepted.

“We are VERY hungry!” Patrick announced deliberately as he shrugged out of his jacket. “Aren’t we Tommy?”

“Uh-huh,” Tommy readily agreed, glancing around the brightly lit kitchen.

Hugh took the jacket out of Patrick’s hand and gestured towards the stairs. “Go wash up Patrick. We will eat right away. Tommy, you should go wash your hands as well.”

“Come on, kid, I’ll help you while Hugh sets another place at the table. Bet we’ll get back before Patrick, huh?” Kyler kept his tone light in an attempt to put the little fellow at ease.

He was anxious to learn more about their unexpected guest and therefore in a hurry for everyone to get seated with their meal on the table.

Tommy obediently went along with Kyler and even allowed this stranger to wash and dry his hands and face. When they returned to the kitchen, he let Kyler lift him onto a chair that Hugh had put the thick telephone book on, and push it closer to the table.

Patrick came back downstairs, changed into sweats and looking fresh. He sat beside Tommy, spooned some re-heated stew into his bowl and cut the meat into smaller pieces. “I want you to eat that slowly Tommy. I know you are hungry but it will give you indigestion if …” Patrick saw the little brows pucker and amended his sentence, “it will make your tummy hurt if you eat too fast.”

“Okay,” Tommy agreed with a shrug. He was hungry but not as hungry as he had been a few times in the past. He had eaten a nice breakfast that morning. Wanting to please Patrick, he picked up his spoon and slowly shoveled some of the warm food into his mouth. It tasted very good and the next spoonful went in a little faster.

Hugh placed a half glass of milk on the table in front of Tommy. “Here you go, Tommy. Kyler, do you want milk as well tonight?” His eyes crinkled at the young man.

“Sure thing; why not?” Kyler returned the teasing. Although he liked milk, it was usually something he drank for breakfast or with dessert as he wasn’t a big coffee drinker.

Patrick seemed pre-occupied as he chewed his food. He suddenly looked over at Hugh and asked, “Do we have anything small enough for Tommy to change into for tonight?”

Kyler looked up in surprise. “He’ll be spending the night?”

“Yes, he is staying over tonight,” Patrick answered with a wary eye on Tommy. Fortunately Tommy was quite engrossed in his meal and paid no attention to the adult conversation going over his head.

“Doesn’t the kid have any clothes?” Kyler was becoming more curious by the minute. Just where had Tommy come from and why was he with Patrick? He however had enough manners not to ask in front on the boy.

“No,” Patrick said quietly, a bit reluctant to elaborate with Tommy there. “Nothing. But I am sure we can work something out. It’s too late to go to the stores. If I had thought of it earlier …”

“I think I can get him one of my smaller t-shirts,” Kyler offered. “I wouldn’t mind hearing some of the particulars as to how we ended up with him in our care.”

“Of course, I intend to Kyler, and I’ll fill you in later, ok?”

Hugh reached over and covered Patrick’s hand briefly, the touch eloquent. “It’ll be fine. I am sure we can work something out for tonight.”

Tommy finished eating, pushed his almost empty bowl away and drained his glass of milk.

Kyler smiled at the little guy. “Guess I can wait a bit to learn the facts.”

Hugh also smiled as Tommy licked his lips. The boy was really quite cute. “Hey Tommy, are you done? Can you try to finish the carrots?”

Tommy looked at the big man, then at his bowl. Not wanting to anyone angry with him, he pulled the bowl back and slowly ate the remaining pieces of vegetable.

“Good boy, Tommy. You’ve put me to shame.” Kyler got up and walked around the table. “You look kinda sleepy. Come on, I’m gonna let you sleep in a really special room. You’re gonna like it. There’s a nice comfy bed with a soft, fuzzy blanket.” Leaning down, he whispered in Patrick ear. “Don’t talk about the kid until I get back, okay?”

“I won’t” Patrick reassured him. “And don’t forget to let him brush his teeth. Use the spare toothbrushes; they’re adult size but they’ll have to do for now.”

Hugh and Patrick cleaned up from the meal during the half hour it took their young partner to get Tommy settled in the guest room.

“Sir Galahad?” Hugh asked lightly as he started to wipe down the kitchen counters.

“Ha!” Patrick snorted. “I don’t know what I was thinking of but …” He shook his head as he trailed off.

Hugh came over and kissed Patrick on the forehead. “Whatever you were thinking, I am pretty sure it was the right thing to do.”

Kyler skipped into the room and threw himself down on one of the kitchen chairs. “Okay, there’s just the three of us again. Come, Patrick, sit and start telling us how and why Tommy is here with us. Who is he really and where did he come from? Where are his parents or other family members? How long is he gonna be here?” Kyler began bombarding his Top with questions.

“Wait, I am going to get us some tea first,” Patrick said as he filled the pot with water.

“Shall we go into the living room?” Hugh suggested.

“Here’s fine. Do we really need tea?” Kyler’s impatience was obvious.

“You can wait two minutes darling.” Hugh laughed. “We’ll be so much more comfortable.”

“I don’t want a drink. But I guess Patrick deserves that much after putting in such a long day.” Kyler reluctantly caved in. However, he paced until they finally left the kitchen and turned out the light. Once he was seated in the big armchair facing his partners on the living room sofa, he repeated his questions.

“He came into the ER by himself. He caused quite a commotion with the nurses … he is rather cute isn’t he?” Patrick chuckled.

“Yeah, he is. But who does he belong to?” Kyler was most curious about Tommy’s parents.

“I don’t know … no one knows in fact. We couldn’t get him to talk about that. He just said he came in because it was getting dark and the ER was lighted.” Patrick suddenly looked serious. “God, how can anyone leave a kid like that out in the streets?”

“Could he be lost? Separated from his parents somehow?” Hugh inquired. “Perhaps his parents are looking for him even right now? Did you check with the police on a missing kid?”

“Of course. Checked with our own security first, in case some adult lost a kid like you said, maybe while visiting a patient. No missing kid reports. We called in the police but had a hard time getting a hold of someone at social services and child welfare. No one knows who he is. It’s like he just appeared out of nowhere.”

“Wasn’t anyone even able to offer suggestions as to what to do with him?” Kyler was appalled over the inability of government services to help out in an emergency like this.

“Well, we had quite a wait for a child welfare officer to even respond. Then we were told it was unlikely they’d find a placement for him and to call back on Monday, which is four days from now” Patrick shook his head as he related the events. It obviously touched a deep part of him from the look in his eyes. “Poor kid; he just sat there staring at us with those big blue eyes. He looked so trusting too. How can anyone abandon a child …?”

Hugh took in a deep breath and moved over to sit next to Patrick. “Honey, I am glad you brought him home. But couldn’t those agencies come up with anything?”

Patrick rolled his eyes. “You wouldn’t believe the red-tape and the hassle. First of all, it’s late on Thursday and the Canada Day weekend has begun. It was almost impossible to reach anyone as they were all off duty. I couldn’t just leave Tommy there while they waited to find a place for him to go to. God knows where he would have ended up.”

“Hell, they might have even decided to keep him in the children’s ward of the hospital until the holiday was over,” Kyler muttered, getting a little short-tempered.

“Well, they just needed a temporary place while they sorted this thing out. But all their usual homes were full. I guess they would have to come up with some solution in the end; they can’t just leave the kid there in the ER! But I had no confidence they would have found a suitable place.”

“So whoever you were speaking to agreed to you bringing him here?” Kyler sat back in his chair, shaking his head in dismay.

“They were actually quite relieved when I said I would take him for the weekend. They did a quick check – all routine – with the hospital administration. A worker came over and gave me some forms to sign and … well, I brought him back.”

“I’m glad you did,” Hugh said softly.

“I tell you this has made me re-assess humankind.” Patrick sounded bitter. Hugh squeezed his hand.

“I guess the system works as best it can. Nothing’s perfect. Good thing you were there for him, Patrick.” Kyler’s expression was one of admiration for the older man. “So, we have a little houseguest until Monday. This should be fun.” He smiled as plans for activities began to form in his head.


The next morning, Kyler woke before either of his partners. He lay between them for a few minutes, just enjoying the physical closeness. He was about to snuggle down and catch another few minutes of sleep when he heard a strange mewling sound and suddenly remembered their houseguest. Quietly slipping out of bed, he headed for the guest room where he found Tommy softly crying.

“What’s wrong, little man?” Kyler gently inquired, squatting down next to the bed. He didn’t receive an answer and after looking around, realized he didn’t need one.

“Hey, it’s okay, Tommy. We all have accidents now and again. It probably happened because of being in a strange place with people you never met before. Come on, let’s get you cleaned up. Then we’ll get breakfast started, okay? How do pancakes and syrup sound?”

Kyler quickly stripped the bed, bathed and put another one of his own clean t-shirts on the boy. It came down to well below Tommy’s knees, which was a good thing because Tommy’s underwear had been tossed along with his other clothes into the dirty laundry last night.

Tommy glanced down at the shirt and back up at his caregiver. “Too long.”

“Yeah, I know. Here, I’ll fix it.” Kyler reached between Tommy’s ankles, grabbed the hem of the t-shirt from the back, pulled it though Tommy’s legs and pinned it to the front of the t-shirt’s neckline. “There you go; a one-piece outfit to wear until we get the laundry done.” The two smiled at each other, more than satisfied with the temporary outfit.

Kyler ushered Tommy downstairs to the basement where he threw the soiled linen and Tommy’s dirty clothing into the washing machine.

“We’re all set now, so how about we go get those pancakes?”

Tommy nodded eagerly. He was beginning to love this house with predictable meal-times.

“Here, you start with this, Tommy,” Kyler instructed, handing the little guy a glass of orange juice. “I’m gonna mix up the batter.”

Tommy climbed onto a chair at the counter and knelt to slowly sip his juice. His eyes followed Kyler around the kitchen as Kyler took eggs and milk from the refrigerator, and a box of pancake mix and a bottle of syrup from the pantry. The little fellow watched with interest when a fresh pot of coffee started brewing and the griddle was turned on low.

Upstairs Patrick stirred and reached out, finding Hugh. “Hey,” he murmured thickly and Hugh wrapped a heavy arm around him. Their heads moved and their lips found each other. They began to kiss slowly, enjoying the sensation. Morning sex was one of their favorite pastimes.

“Wait,” Patrick pulled away abruptly.

Hugh opened an eye. “What?”


Hugh pulled Patrick back. “Relax, Kyler’s got him. I think I can smell the coffee …”

Patrick threw the sheets back and began to get off the bed. “We should go see what they are up to.”

Hugh groaned but made no protest.

They washed up and headed down to the kitchen without bothering to change. It was Saturday and they could afford to be sloppy.

Kyler looked up at the entrance of his two partners. “Well, looks like two sleepyheads decided to join us after all, Tommy. Should we share our breakfast?”

Tommy grinned and nodded his head.

“That smells good!” Hugh inhaled with appreciation. “Do you like pancakes Tommy?”

“Yes,” Tommy answered, shyly lowering his eyes.

“Good morning, Tommy.” Patrick tousled the boy’s golden head. “Did you sleep well?”

Tommy reverted back to nodding his responses. He glanced up at Kyler, his eyes conveying his uncertainty.

Kyler’s wink was one of secrecy. He wasn’t going to mention the state he’d found the boy in earlier. “Tommy was just waiting on his bed for one of us to come get him,” was all he offered on the subject. “And we got a laundry going, right Tommy?”

A bright smile answered him.

“I think we need to consider getting some basic stuff for Tommy,” Patrick sat down at the table and eyed Tommy’s dress. “We can’t have him wearing Kyler’s t-shirt like that the entire weekend. Do you have shorts underneath, Tommy?”

“No, just this,” Tommy replied, pulling at the front of the big t-shirt.

“His clothes should be dry soon,” Kyler informed the two older men. “That is they will be once I get them into the drier. Back in a sec.” With that, he hurried down to the basement and transferred the wet load.

“I don’t suppose you remember where your house is?” Hugh asked gently, taking Kyler’s place at the griddle and turning over the last batch of pancakes.

“No,” Tommy shook his head.

“Did you wander off and get lost?” Patrick asked. “What do you remember of yesterday?”

“I didn’t get lost. They were just gone.” Tommy stared wide-eyed from one man to the other.

Patrick and Hugh exchanged a startled look. Before either could respond, Kyler bounded into the room.

“Hey guys, can we talk and eat at the same time. This stuff is going to get cold,” Kyler interjected as he began putting hot food on the previously set table. “You wanna fetch the coffee, Hugh?”

Glad to be doing something, Hugh got the mugs down and poured out three cups of coffee. Patrick again prepared Tommy’s meal by cutting the pancakes and then put a fork into the boy’s hand. “Go on, eat up.”

Tommy dug in hungrily. “This is good,” he murmured as he licked some syrup off his fingers. He loved the sweet buttery flavour.

“You sure enjoy your food, kid,” Kyler commented with a chuckle, before digging into the pancakes he’d piled on his own plate.

Hugh waited a while before he re-started the gentle probing. “Tommy, who were you living with? Your mom and dad?”

“Uh-huh, in a house on wheels cause we moved around a lot.”

“Do you remember what happened? How did you come to the ER?” Patrick held up a finger when Tommy opened his eyes inquiringly. “I mean the hospital, the place where I found you?”

“I ‘member,” Tommy replied, vigorously nodding his head. “They left me to play in the park at the campground. They were going to play with a bandit who only has one arm.”

“They went probably to the casino in Kelowna ,” was Kyler’s best guess. “Did your parents tell you when they’d come back?”

“Before dark; only they didn’t and I went looking for them.”

Patrick’s mouth was set in a grim line. “Was it just your parents with you at home? Any brothers or sisters?”

“There is just mom, dad and me.” Tommy squirmed a little in his seat and licked his fingers.

“Do you know your full name, Tommy?”

“My name is Tommy Adams. I am almost four years old. I do not have a phone number or address.” The little boy was obviously parroting off something he had been taught to memorize.

“What’s your dad’s name? And your mom? What do their friends call them?”

“Brian and Shirley,” Tommy readily responded.

“So then, how did you finally end up at Patrick’s hospital?” Kyler asked as he added more milk to Tommy’s empty glass.

“They said there would be bright lights where they were going. So I went looking. I saw the lights. I was glad too, cause I doon like the dark.” Tommy gave an eloquent little shudder and then pushed his plate towards Patrick. “Can I have some more, please?”

“You sure can.” Patrick put another pancake on Tommy’s plate. Both he and Hugh were looking extremely solemn.

Tommy flashed a bright smile as he held up his fork expectantly. “I only get them when we visit Nanny and Grampy.” Tommy waited patiently while the pancake was cut up and syrup poured over it. “I like pancakes!” he announced.

“Tommy,” Patrick asked in a casual voice, “Have your parents gone away before? Have they left you in the past perhaps with a friend or an aunt or uncle?”

“Yeah … but they always come back.” Tommy paused to think over past events. “I don’t ‘member staying with anyone else.”

“But you do remember your grandparents, right?” Kyler softly enquired. He was finding the situation somewhat unsettling and hoped the more information they could gather, the easier it would be to locate the boy’s family. It was inconceivable to Kyler that anyone would abandon a small child in this manner.

“I haven’t seen them for a long time. I think they live far far away,” Tommy answered vaguely. This didn’t prove helpful as small children really had no concept of time. “Is my mom coming back?” he suddenly asked with a definite quiver in his lips. His voice dropped to a small sad whisper.

Patrick sucked in his breath and Kyler busied himself with the remaining piece of pancake on his plate in an effort to hide his feelings of dismay at not having an answer for the little fellow.

Hugh got up and began to clear the dishes. He hadn’t said much, and he now put a hand on Tommy’s shoulder and squeezed it reassuringly. “We are going to try to find them. Maybe they got lost or held up somewhere? So in the meantime you can stay with us. Now, would you like to watch some TV while we clean up?”

Tommy shoveled the last bite into his mouth, drank down the remaining mouthful of milk and wiped his face on his shirt sleeve. He smiled up at Kyler. “I wanna watch the bear in the big blue house.”

“Sure, kid. Let’s go see if it’s on.”

Hugh waited till Tommy was out of hearing before he asked Patrick. “What did child welfare have to say about this case? Do they have any idea who the parents are? Any records of them?” He couldn’t keep the disgust out of his voice.

Patrick shook his head. “Nope. No one knows about them. Its ridiculous and its absurd how this could happen.”

Hugh let out a breath and shook his head. “I know. Well, there’s nothing much we can do for now.”

“I believe the agencies will contact me on Monday and maybe we’ll know more then. Maybe the parents got into some accident … I don’t know what to think …”

“Tommy’s settled in front of the boob-tube,” Kyler announced, coming back into the kitchen.

“Thanks, Ky,” Patrick swing an arm around Kyler’s neck and pulled him in for a kiss. “You’ve been a great help.”

“He’s a good kid and no trouble at all.”

“What have you planned today guys?” Patrick asked his two partners. “I thought we might take Tommy to the mall, pick up some stuff for him and get some groceries at the same time. Ky honey, did you make a list?”

“No need, Patrick. It’s Canada Day and all the stores are closed for the day.

“Oh darn!” Patrick rolled his eyes. “I forgot. Well, what are we gonna do about clothes? He can’t go round …”

Kyler laughed at his partner’s obvious distress. “Stop. I’ve got it covered. I’ll get the kid’s clean clothes out of the dryer in a few minutes. “

Hugh grinned at Patrick. “Tommy’s in good hands; Kyler is a natural! I am thinking we can take him some place fun today – take his mind off things. How’s that?”

Patrick’s mouth curled in a lop-sided smile. “Yeah, good plan. And you are right. Kyler is a natural. Who would have thought?”

“Hey, I know a bit about kids. I was one myself not too long ago,” Kyler responded to the light teasing in kind.

“So what shall it be? Zoo? Park? Beach?” Patrick rattled off as he tried to imagine what a four-year old would enjoy.

“I bet Tommy would love to go to the parade this afternoon and to the fireworks in Kelowna this evening. What do you say? That should be a fun day for him. We can shop tomorrow.”

Both his partners heartily agreed.


Tommy leaped into the car as soon as Kyler opened the door for him. “We’re really going to a parade?”

“You bet we are, Tommy,” Kyler laughingly assured the little boy while getting in beside him.

Patrick grinned at Tommy’s exuberance. “Buckle up at the back!” he ordered.

Tommy looked around him, a little lost. He didn’t get to ride in a car often. In fact he had never ridden in such a fancy car before.

“Here, let me get that for you,” Kyler offered. “We’re ready, Patrick,” he informed his partner as soon as he had both himself and Tommy buckled in.

They made their way downtown, parked the car behind the pharmacy and walked to Main Street where the parade would soon be passing by. Hugh and Patrick watched with amusement as Kyler held Tommy’s hand and the pair of them walked ahead, happily chatting away. The child had lost all shyness with them but it was obvious it was Kyler whom he trusted the most. Tommy turned his face up to look at Kyler often and absorbed every word Kyler uttered.

“There’s going to be clowns, majorettes, bands and lots of floats, Tommy. We’ll try to find a good place right down front so you won’t miss a thing,” Kyler promised much to the little boy’s delight.

“I can hear some noise already,” Tommy excitedly exclaimed, pulling on Kyler’s hand to get him to walk faster.

“Don’t wander off too far, guys,” Patrick called out. “And keep your cell phone handy, Kyler. In case we get separated and need to call you.”

Kyler waved to indicate he had heard the directive; then he picked Tommy up and tossed him over his shoulder. Tommy laughed joyously as he bounced while Kyler ran to get to the parade site faster. They found a good spot in the shade and waited for the two older men to catch up with them. The event lasted about forty minutes and left Hugh and Patrick wondering who was more hyped by it; Kyler or Tommy.

They decided to stay downtown for lunch and after weaving their way through the throng of people, were fortunate enough to find an empty booth at the Maple Grill. By the time they finished their meal Tommy was yawning and fighting to keep his eyes open. On reflex, Patrick bent and swooped Tommy up as they exited the restaurant. He looked down at the small face. “I suggest we head home now, take a nap?”

Tommy merely nodded and laid his head down on Patrick’s shoulder.

Hugh took the car keys from Patrick. Tommy was more than half-asleep on Patrick’s shoulder by the time they reached the car so Patrick carefully slid into the back seat with Tommy in his arms while Kyler sat in the front passenger seat.

In the end, all four of them napped in the living room. The walk and the parade had tired them all out. Refreshed after an hour’s sleep, Kyler and Tommy watched TV while Hugh and Patrick put together some sandwiches in the kitchen. After an early supper they piled back into the car and took off for Kelowna for an evening of entertainment. Three hours later they were on their way home again.

“Man, that city sure knows how to put on a fireworks display. The colours seemed to dance in time to the music.” Kyler’s voice held a note of awe as they left the bright lights behind them. He turned to check on Tommy. “Guess who’s fallen asleep?” he softly asked, not really expecting an answer.

“I think we tired him out thoroughly today,” Patrick said, then added a little anxiously. “I hope we didn’t overdo it.”

“You’re the doctor,” Hugh retorted.

The hour long ride passed quickly and quietly. Once again, Patrick picked Tommy up and carried him into the house while Hugh wrapped an arm around Kyler and walked with him leisurely up the drive.

“Had a good day, honey?” Hugh asked.

“You bet. Although I never expected to spend it with a little kid, but it’s really been a lot of fun.”

“You were wonderful with Tommy, you know that?”

“I was kinda hoping I was, but wasn’t sure.”

“Well, you were!” Hugh leaned over and kissed Kyler on the lips. “Why don’t you go up and shower. I’ll lock up down here.”

Kyler willing complied with the suggestion and ran upstairs. He made a slight detour when he went in to see if Patrick needed any help getting Tommy settled for the night.

“Hey,” Patrick looked up as Kyler quietly came into the guest room. He had already laid Tommy down on the bed. “Grab his shoes, will ya?”

Kyler assisted with removing the child’s footwear and went to fetch something for the boy to sleep in. Between Patrick and Kyler, they managed to get Tommy into another over-sized t-shirt. Patrick pulled the covers up and stood for a moment, looking down at the sweet face on the pillow.

“He sure looks angelic, doesn’t he?” Kyler whispered.

“Yeah, he does.’’ Patrick swallowed the sudden lump in his throat. “I can’t imagine who could ever …” his voice trailed off.

Tommy stirred and his little face puckered up a bit. “Mommy, where are you?” He appeared to be in the midst of a bad dream, eyes still tightly shut.

“Hey, it’s ok Tommy,” Patrick said quickly as he sat down on the bed. He reached out and stroked the hair back from the small forehead. “You’re safe with us.”

Tommy’s eyes fluttered open and he gazed up at the two men with a look of confusion.

“You okay, Tommy?” Kyler asked, worried.

“I want my mommy,” Tommy whimpered.

“Honey, we’re going to find your mommy soon ok? But right now it’s very late and you need to sleep.”

“Is my mommy gonna be home tomorrow?”

There was a tense pause and before either of the men could think of a suitable response, Tommy started to cry, softly. He turned his face into the pillow. “I miss my mom.”

I’m sure your mom misses you too,” Patrick said, hoping he was going in the right direction. It did nothing to stop the crying and on impulse he leaned down and gave Tommy a hug. A pair of small arms snaked around his neck and clung on. Patrick swallowed hard a few times, avoiding Kyler’s eyes.

“Bet your mom put in as busy a day as you did,” Kyler added, not sure of what else to say.

“Oh yes,” Patrick quickly agreed, as he allowed Tommy to press into his stomach. “We did lots today. Did you enjoy the fireworks Tommy? Wasn’t it grand?”

“Uh-huh, but it was awfully noisy too.”

“You got that right, kid, but it’s all part of the fun,” Kyler responded with a bit of a chuckle.

“Are we gonna be busy tomorrow too?” Tommy asked, his distress temporarily forgotten.

Patrick patted Tommy’s head and gently pushed him back onto the pillow. “Well, tomorrow we will go and do some shopping,” he said, relieved they had managed to turn the conversation.

“We will even let you pick out some new clothes,” Kyler offered.

Tommy’s nod indicated his agreement to the plan. “Can I get a toy too?”

“If you go to sleep now and dream sweet dreams, we’ll get you a toy tomorrow. Is that a deal?” Patrick asked as he got to his feet.

“It’s a deal!” Tommy held up his hand to high-five Kyler’s before squirming down in the big bed. “And maybe my mommy will come home tomorrow.” He whispered under his breath, more for his own benefit than anyone else’s.

Patrick shook his head at Kyler. It would have been a fruitless discussion and they both wisely refrained from acknowledging the remark or responding to it.

“Let’s get you tucked back under the covers, little guy, okay?” Kyler bent over to straighten the top sheet and blanket, and tuck them under the Tommy’s chin. “Nighty, night; sleep tight!” He tousled the blond curls.

Tommy giggled and repeated the unfamiliar words. His eyes closed and in a few moments regular breathing could be heard as he slipped further into dreamland.


As promised, Friday proved to be another action-packed day. As soon as breakfast was over, they all headed for the mall where Kyler handed his partners the extensive grocery list he had written out with instructions not to forget anything. Then he and Tommy took off for the ‘fun’ section of Walmart.

When they met up almost two hours later, both parties were pushing carts loaded down with bags and parcels. The stains on Tommy’s face were evidence of a chocolate ice cream treat at some time during the morning. Gripped tightly in Tommy’s right hand was a talking ‘Woody’ action figure and securely tucked under his left arm was one of ‘Buzz Lightyear’.

Hugh raised an eyebrow and smirked. “Looks like someone paid a visit to the Disney store.”

“Yeah,” Tommy concurred excitedly. “We got Buss Lightyear pyjamas there too; and two ‘Toy Story’ movies.” Tommy tried to hold up two chubby fingers, but was unable to do so for fear of dropping one of his toys.

Kyler gave his partners a guilty grin and shrugged his shoulders. “It’s easy to spoil him. Besides, what other reason would I have for going to that neat store?” He looked at the over-flowing carts and shook his head. “Maybe we should put all this stuff in the car before deciding what to do next.”

“We have perishables so that’s a good idea,” Patrick said as he began to turn the cart towards the exit. “Let’s go back, put the stuff away, and then maybe drive to the lake. We can have lunch at one of the cafes along the waterfront.”

“That sounds like a treat!” Hugh declared with a smile, glancing at the little boy. Patrick was obviously trying to pack as much fun into the weekend as possible, which Hugh suspected was his partner’s way of trying to compensate Tommy for what he had been put through. Not that any of it was Patrick’s fault but the soft spot in Patrick – the one that his patients frequently saw - was actively asserting itself. “Tommy will like the lake, I’m sure.”

“I like that idea,” Kyler enthused. “What do you think, Tommy?”

“I like the idea too,” Tommy repeated dutifully, already echoing Kyler every chance he got.

Hugh and Kyler were putting away the last of the groceries and Patrick was upstairs getting Tommy changed into a newly purchased outfit when two cars pulled into the driveway.

Kyler glanced questioningly at Hugh and walked over to the window. “It’s our Police Chief. I don’t know the guy who got out of the other car, but they’re both heading in here.” He waited somewhat impatiently while Hugh opened the back door and welcomed in their guests.

After shaking hands with Hugh and Kyler, Chandi introduced the stranger he had with him. “This is Mr. Howatt from Social Services. He met Dr. Dean at the ER last night and took care of some paperwork at the time.”

With introductions taken care of, the four men sat down at the kitchen table. “Is Dr. Dean available?” Mr. Howatt inquired, taking more paper out of his briefcase.

“He’ll be right down. He is taking care of something upstairs,” Hugh answered and sat back in his chair. He noticed Chandi doing the same.

Kyler glanced from one man to the other, dying to ask questions but knowing they’d have to wait until Patrick joined them. He grinned broadly when the man in question entered the room.

“Oh hello, Chief,” Patrick greeted Chandi with raised brows. He turned to the other gentleman. “Mr Howatt, isn’t it? Are you here about Tommy?”

The social worker got right to the point. “As I feared when talking to you last night, Dr. Dean, with it being the long weekend, we’ve been unable to locate a suitable home in which to place the boy.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem, Mr Howatt. We can -” Patrick’s reply was spontaneous.

“Wait,” Hugh raised a hand to halt the conversation. “Patrick, where’s Tommy?”
Patrick regarded Hugh with a frown. “He’s in the living room, watching one of the new movies Kyler bought him.” They didn’t usually make family decisions without first discussing with one another but he couldn’t imagine this being an issue. He looked at Hugh inquiringly.

“OK, sorry for interrupting but we don’t want him wandering in while we are discussing this,” Hugh explained, understanding Patrick’s look. He nodded to Mr Howatt. “Please – go ahead. You were saying you can’t get a suitable home for Tommy due to the short notice?”

“I’m afraid that’s right. We called everywhere. We are planning to have him taken into Kelowna and putting him up at the Young Offender Facility. Of course, he’ll not be mingling with the other residents.”

“That’s like a jail or something!” Kyler hollered and jumped to his feet. “You can’t put him there! He’s just a little kid!” He looked from one of his partners to the other, willing them to do something.

Hugh pulled Kyler down and sent him a warning look.

Patrick cleared his throat and addressed the social worker. “Is there any possibility for us to keep Tommy with us until you find his parents? He just went through …. well, moving him now to another strange place isn’t going to do the poor kid any good.”

“I agree with Patrick,” Hugh added in a soft but firm tone. “Tommy seems to have adjusted to us rather well, even though it’s only been a couple of days. We would hate to see him have to go to another home, much less a facility.”

“There will be absolutely no trouble this weekend.” Patrick looked at his partners for confirmation. Even though they had not had a chance to discuss it, he felt certain they would back him up.

Kyler and Hugh nodded immediately.

“In fact, we shouldn’t have any trouble working something out for the next week if need be,” Hugh offered. “School’s closed for the summer and we can work around the swim team’s schedule.”

“Don’t forget, my hours are pretty flexible too,” Kyler reminded his partners.

“That sounds fine!” Mr Howatt said, relieved. He had come actually hoping to hear this. He wasn’t exactly looking forward to removing the child and placing him in a strange and cold facility. As far as he could see, this was a warm and comfortable home. These men looked decent enough, although he could have hoped for a woman’s presence as well.

“So what’s next?” Hugh asked. “Do we have any paperwork to do as well?” He nodded to the pile of documents on the table.

“Yes actually. Chief Barrett has already vouched for all of you,” the social worker informed them. “Mr Jackson and Mr Jamieson, if I could just get your signatures on these forms permitting me to do background checks I’d appreciate it. I already have Dr. Dean’s. You do understand that Tommy is not to be left with anyone else other than yourselves, right?”

All three men nodded absently as Hugh and Kyler quickly read over the forms and signed them. Then Mr. Howatt took his leave with promises to drop by on Monday.

“Well, guess we’re going to have our little houseguest for a while longer,” Kyler happily exclaimed. “Bet he’s gonna get spoiled when we take him to my folks place on Sunday for the bar-b-que.”

“Speaking of the little guy,” Chandi spoke up for the first time since making the introductions. “I wonder if I might have a few words with Tommy. I need some information in order to put out an APB on his parents.”

“Sure, he’s in the front room. Do you want us to fetch him?” Patrick got to his feet.

“Yes, please.” Chandi pulled his chair away from the kitchen table and sat down again. He wanted to appear as least intimidating as possible to the small boy he would be meeting for the first time.

“Tommy may be a little shy at first, Chief, but he warms up to folks real easy,” Kyler informed him.

Tommy entered the room with a tight grip on Patrick’s hand. He’d been told someone new wanted to speak to him. He looked over Chandi appraisingly and slowly approached the man in uniform when the chief smiled and held out his arm. Tommy felt at ease with what he saw. He liked the numerous, long tightly-braided hair, the warm coffee-brown eyes, and the friendly black face. He tentatively returned the smile as he came to a stop in front of Chandi.

“How do you do, Tommy? My name is Chandi and I’d like to ask you a few questions. Are you okay with that?” The Chief took a pencil and small pad out of his shirt pocket.

“Uh-huh,” Tommy nodded and stepped closer to see what the man had in his hand.

“Great. I understand your name is Tommy Adams and that you are almost four-years-old, right?” Getting another nod, Chandi continued. “I was also told that your parents’ names are Brian and Shirley, but I was wondering if you could tell me anything about your home.”

“It was the kind that moved around and we never stayed in one place very long. It’s big and kinda white on the outside.” Tommy began then stopped to watch his words being written down. “There are some blue and gray stripes along the sides. Oh, and there’s two words on it; one begins with a really big ‘C’ and the other with a ‘T’. It is also the only trailer with a brown bear sitting in the back window. It’s my bear and helps me not get mixed up with the other trailers that might look like ours.” He paused and seemed to think things over. “That’s all I ‘member.”

“Thank you, Tommy. You’ve been a big help.”

“Will you be able to find my mommy and daddy now?”

“I’m certainly going to give it my best shot, little guy.” Chandi ruffled the blond curls. “In the meantime, you’re with some really nice people who will take good care of you.” The chief put away his note pad and pencil; then getting to his feet, turned to the other men in the room. “I’ll get this info out to the other police forces in the province. I will keep you informed and up-to-date on our progress in the search for Tommy’s family.”

“Thanks, Chief, we appreciate that,” Hugh responded and held out his hand. His partners nodded their approval before doing likewise.

“You did a great job with giving the police so much information, Tommy,” Kyler praised as soon as Chandi was gone. He squatted down to be at eye-level with the boy. “You ready for that drive Patrick promised us and a rather late lunch by the lake?”

A bit of a scrabble followed but soon enough they were taking off for another interesting day. Having a young child on their hands made a huge difference. For one thing they could not go to any restaurant they liked – they had to think of somewhere that would offer something suitable for kids. And for another they had to plan the day well and not stay out too late; otherwise the boy would fall asleep on them. They had to take into consideration things like afternoon naps, long car rides, and a fascination with colorful balloons.

But it was the way Tommy often reacted to the things they took for granted that made the biggest impact. For instance, eating at least three meals a day. Juice. Discarding soiled clothes into the hamper instead of wearing them again the next day. Shoes with proper laces and no holes. A coloring book that had not been colored by someone else.

It put a lump in their throats, made them a little guilty. More human.


Kyler woke first on Sunday morning. After relieving himself, he crawled back in between his two partners and smiled at the memories filtering through his mind.

Upon returning from their drive on Friday, they’d had an impromptu picnic in front of the TV and watched the two Toy Story DVDs until Tommy fell asleep and was carried off to bed. Yesterday, they had gone back into Kelowna and spent the entire day taking in the petting zoo, one of the large water parks, and participating in as many outdoor activities as time and energy allowed.

They’d arrived back home completely worn out and ready to seek out their beds; all but Kyler that is. As often was often the case after an extremely active day, the young man was still on an adrenaline-high when everyone else only wanted to crash. Patrick easily got Tommy settled for the night, but it had taken several swats from Hugh and the threat of a sound spanking to get Kyler calmed down enough to get in bed.

Kyler now felt refreshed and raring to go. He glanced first at one sleeping partner and then the other, trying to decide which one to awaken first. With a sly smirk, he reached under the light cover and wrapped a hand around Hugh’s flaccid penis. He chuckled softly when it slowly sprang to life.

Patrick opened an eye when he felt the bed shift rather vigorously. He grunted, rolled over and was soon entwined with his partners. The bed shifted even more. Patrick leaned over to kiss Hugh and felt a warm mouth engulf him. He groaned loudly as he felt a wet warm tongue slide along his length. He was about to let out another groan when all three of them froze.


The voice was small and sleepy.

Patrick almost knocked Hugh’s eye out as he scrambled up and Kyler was just about suffocated by the covers he was hidden under.

“What are you guys doing?” Tommy asked, coming over to the bed while rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “Isn’t it time to get up yet?”

Patrick quickly jerked at the covers, making sure no indecent body parts were exposed. Hugh sat up, rubbing his eye. He glared at Patrick and patted around for Kyler.

“Found them!” Kyler announced as he crawled out from beneath the sheet, holding up a pair of boxers. “Mornin’ Tommy; couldn’t sleep any longer, huh?” Not sure what the boy had or had not seen Kyler did what he could to hide his embarrassment.

“I woke up and heard some weird noises. I got scared and didn’t want to stay by myself.”

It was an adorable whine and Patrick almost succumbed to it. He would have invited Tommy in to share their bed but he quickly changed his mind. He didn’t want Tommy regaling someone later with tales of how they all shared a bed while stark naked under the covers. “Come on, let’s go brush our teeth and you can help me fix breakfast. What do you want this morning?”

“More pancakes with syrup.” This was the third morning in a row that Tommy had given the same answer when asked what he wanted.

“Maybe you’d like to try something different for a change, kid,” Kyler suggested. He really didn’t fancy eating the same thing yet again. “We’ll be downstairs shortly. Isn’t that right, Hugh?”

“Hmm.” Hugh grunted as he felt Kyler’s hand on his thigh.

“Well, don’t take too long you two,” Patrick said with meaning, fully aware of what was happening. “We’ve got chores today, and don’t forget we’ve got to leave early for the BBQ.” He had quickly slipped into a pair of boxers and turned to Tommy ask, “You ever been to a BBQ Tommy?”

“I’m not sure,” Tommy replied after a moment spent pondering over what a BBQ actually was.

“Well, you are going to enjoy it, kiddo, “Patrick promised.

“Lots of fun and food to be had, and you’re gonna met our folks; Patrick’s and mine anyway,” Kyler reminded the boy. “But right now, you go and help get breakfast started.” He gave Hugh a nudge in the ribs and a suggestive grin.

Patrick turned and gave his partners a severe look, before he took Tommy out of their room. He was careful to close the door behind him with a deliberate click, mouthing the words ‘be quiet!’

Hugh returned Kyler’s grin and grabbed him, pulling him onto his lap. With Kyler straddled over his thighs, they kissed slowly, enjoying the gentle exploration of tongues.
“Shhh…” Hugh murmured over Kyler’s mouth.

A soft moan was the younger man’s only response as he tightened his embrace and deepened the kiss.

Hugh wrapped one arm around Kyler ‘s waist and easily flipped him onto his back. He slid on top of the younger man and pinned his arms above his head. They continued to kiss while Hugh rubbed his erection over Kyler’s. He could feel the heat from both of them.

“Shhh …”

“Can’t help it,” Kyler whispered around a giggle.

“And stop giggling too!” Hugh admonished as he expertly spread Kyler’s thighs wider apart. “They’ll hear us!”

“Then stop teasing and get down to business.” Kyler reached for the lube on the night table, unscrewed the cap and handed it to Hugh. He squirmed impatiently while his lover quickly stretched him and liberally spread the lube where needed.

The groan that escaped Kyler’s lips as Hugh entered him was swallowed up in another mind-blowing kiss and within moments, their bodies were rocking in a well-rehearsed rhythm that soon had them both straining for their release. Hugh aimed his strokes making sure he was hitting Kyler’s spot every time he plunged into him. He was stroking Kyler with one hand, holding himself back for him. Only when he felt Kyler shudder did he let himself go. A couple of powerful thrusts and he was spent, lying limp over his lover.

“Jesus!” Hugh murmured, catching his breath

“Oh my God!” Kyler barely managed to gasp out his pleasure. As their panting ebbed, he mused with a soft chuckle, “Hope that wasn’t too loud.” Of course, at this point in time he really couldn’t have cared less.


Kyler dropped down into the big armchair, put his feet up on the coffee table, folded his arms up behind his head and waited for his partners to join him. Patrick was putting Tommy to bed and Hugh was in the kitchen preparing some iced tea.

Kyler couldn’t get over how quickly the holiday weekend had flown by. Tomorrow morning they’d be getting back into their routine and starting a new week. All but Hugh, that is. Being as school was out for the summer, Hugh was officially ‘off’ for the next two months. However, he usually filled as much of this time as possible with a packed training schedule for the school swimming team. Hugh had worked around the availability of the team members, since many of them had summer jobs. It had been quite a task getting everyone to fit in.

Hugh had gone over the schedule again after the visit by Mr Howatt and Chief Barrett. Swimming practice was easy – he could bring Tommy along. But there would be some meetings where the child would be totally out of place. After careful consideration of the schedule and his commitment Hugh was able to assure Patrick and Kyler that he would have no problem looking after Tommy for coming the week while fulfilling his timetable. All of them had been relieved as none of them relished the thought of Tommy being placed with a temporary home.

A lazy smile played across Kyler’s face as he thought of their day. Sunday was chores day and as was their custom after breakfast everyone pitched in, even Tommy. It hadn’t taken long with them all working together. It was amazing how much more fun it had been with Tommy around. He had looked so cute helping the three men as eagerly as a puppy running after a ball. The sound of his laughter had made them smile.

Then it had been off to Uncle Kipper’s place with a slight detour to pick-up Patrick’s parents. Bette and Doug had been enchanted with Tommy the minute they set eyes on him. It warmed Patrick’s heart to see his mom, and even his dad, so taken with the child. A pang twisted Patrick; he knew he would never be able to give his parents a grandchild and from the reaction at the back of the car, it would appear that was something the two of them really enjoyed. He kept up a bright smile but he was thoughtful throughout the BBQ.

As promised, there’d been more than enough to eat and plenty to keep them all entertained. Not only were Bette and Doug captivated with Tommy, but Clarissa too appeared charmed with the boy. The older folks were completely taken up by his antics and the joy he exhibited whenever something new was handed to him. The little fellow seemed equally enthralled by them and not at all shy provided Patrick, Hugh or Kyler were close by.

Kyler glanced up when Hugh entered the room carrying a tray. Hugh put a tumbler of iced tea down in front of Kyler and slapped his Brat’s feet off the coffee table. “Feet off!” he barked, but not too sternly.

Sitting up a little straighter, Kyler glowered at the older man. Unfortunately, the pout lost its effectiveness in the yawn that escaped the young man’s mouth.

“Tired?” Hugh asked, and before Kyler could respond, continued. “Finish your tea and go on up to bed. You need to be up early tomorrow.”

“I’m not that tired. And besides, you can probably use a bit of help with Tommy in the morning,” Kyler responded, before picking up his glass and taking a drink.

“Don’t worry!” Hugh replied. “I’ve got it all worked out and I’ll be fine. Tomorrow will be easy; I haven’t scheduled training for the day. But I will need to go in Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday though.”

“What are you going to do with the kid on those days? I can change my usual routine if you like.”

“No need to do that. I will bring Tommy with me to the pool. He’ll probably enjoy watching the swimmers. Maybe I could even take him swimming after the team’s done with practice. He’d like that.”

“Like what?” Patrick asked, coming into the room. He squeezed in beside Kyler in the armchair and wrapped an arm around Kyler.

“Hugh was just saying that Tommy might like to go swimming.” Kyler snuggled against Patrick’s chest. He actually was tired but had no intentions of admitting it.

Patrick nodded. “I wonder when we’ll hear from Chief Barrett?” he thought out loud.

Kyler shrugged while playing inattentively with the condensation on his glass. “Who knows? There’s really no rush now that we have Tommy’s care figured out for the coming week.”

Hugh handed Patrick his tea. “But one week may not be enough, honey. We don’t know where his parents are, or if they are all right. There’s a whole big question mark there. What kind of parents leaves their child behind like that? Unless something happened to them. Anyway, I’m just glad the timing is so good. If I had school, I wouldn’t be able to stay home.”

Patrick sighed. “Yup! I have to agree. I would hate to see Tommy go to some strange place or worse still, that facility. What’s it called again?”

“The young offender’s home-away-from-home,” Kyler responded with a shudder.

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

“Unless, of course, they managed to find him another temporary family to go to,” Kyler added; no more thrilled with that idea than he had been with the first one.

“Honestly, I cannot imagine Tommy being handed to a complete stranger.” Patrick’s voice was suddenly low and intense.

“When you brought him back, we were the strangers,” Hugh responded, with a sardonic look on his face.

Patrick managed to sigh and scoff at the same time. “That’s true. I know it’s only been a few days, but don’t you feel as if he belongs ….” Patrick paused. “I mean, it’s like he is a part of the family.”

“He sure has settled in fast,” Kyler readily concurred.

“He is a tough little kid!” Patrick couldn’t keep the admiration out of his voice. “He’s only four and yet he took charge - went and looked for ‘the lights’ all by himself! Did you see how my mom and dad, heck even your mom Kyler, did you see them dote over him?”

“Maybe they miss having a young kid around? Then again, my mom may still have hopes of someday being a grandmother,” Kyler suggested, not altogether sure how he felt about that unrealistic dream.

Hugh stared at Kyler and Patrick raised his brows.

“She used to talk about having grandchildren when I was in my teens and before I came out,” Kyler explained and checked to see if his partners’ expressions would give away their thoughts on where this conversation seemed to be heading.

“I hope she knows the unlikelihood of THAT happening!” Hugh murmured.

Patrick cleared his throat before speaking. “Well, that is not altogether unachievable.”

Hugh looked at Patrick steadily. “What?”

Kyler glanced up to see if the good doctor was pulling their legs.

“What I mean is we don’t have to marry and bear children for our parents to be grandparents. There are surrogate moms. Or we could adopt.”

“Would you seriously think about doing such a thing?” Kyler was more than a little surprised.

Patrick shrugged. “What? Adoption and surrogacy? Maybe. Lots of people consider such options these days. Not just gay partners too.”

“Society is undeniably more open and accepting nowadays,” Hugh agreed. “And medical science makes it possible.”

Kyler turned his attention back to Patrick, slightly anxious. Patrick seemed to be trying to say something and holding back at the same time. It made him suddenly wary.

Sensing Kyler’s unease, Patrick patted Kyler’s thigh and rubbed it soothingly. “There’s no reason why gay men and women cannot have kids. It has been proven they are totally capable of bringing up children in an acceptable manner. Just needs determination and planning. Don’t you think so?”

“I know gay people can raise kids,” Kyler stated. “Remember, Uncle Kipper helped raise me and he’s gay.”

“That’s right. But let’s take Tommy’s case as another example. If his parents are not found, theoretically he would be a good option for someone who might want a child in their lives.”

“But what if he has family somewhere besides his parents?” Kyler inquired.

“That changes things of course,” Patrick said reasonably. “The first choice is always those related to the child, from what I know. Unless they prove to be unreliable or not worthy.”

Hugh said. “He did mention grandparents, didn’t he?”

“Yes he did,” Patrick replied.

“They’ll probably take him, so why are we even having this conversation?” Kyler was becoming steadily more uneasy with this discussion.

“I am just saying …. as a case in point.” Patrick rolled his eyes, beginning to be impatient with Kyler’s resistance. “When a child gets abandoned, other folks get a chance to adopt.”

“Yeah, but other people doesn’t mean us!” Kyler jerked away from Patrick and turned to glare up at him.

“I am not saying we will, Ky. ” There was a pregnant pause, before Patrick spoke again. “But let’s say we have considered this and we want to adopt …. this would be a perfect situation. He’s a great kid.”

“Only we haven’t considered it, have we?” Kyler’s astonishment was becoming more apparent with each passing comment and he shifted somewhat uncomfortably. He found himself working hard to keep his thoughts from spiraling out of control.

Patrick turned to Hugh. “What about you? Is it as shocking to you, Hugh?”

Hugh’s eyes crinkled and he smiled over at Patrick. “I have to admit I have not given this any thought before, but it’s not entirely impossible. There are many things to take into account before we would even begin to consider a step as big as this. God, our lives would be quite different with a kid around, but if we really did want to adopt a child, I would be happy to find one like Tommy.”

Patrick smiled back, his own eyes warm. “He sure deserves a chance to have a proper home, and be happy.”

Kyler pushed himself off the chair and stood uneasily eying the two other men. “There are lots of kids who deserve better lives. That doesn’t mean we have to provide it.”

Patrick gave a sigh of frustration. “Kyler, for heaven’s sake, we are just discussing possibilities ….”

“The way you’re talking about Tommy, sounds like we’re doing more that just ‘discussing’, Patrick.”

“What’s wrong with talking about him? He is a great kid and deserves a chance. You like him too, Kyler, so I don’t… “

“Yeah, I like him as a houseguest,” Kyler curtly interjected, “but not to live here permanently.”

“I don’t understand what you are getting so riled up about!”

“Cause I don’t like where this is going,” Kyler spat out, folding his arms over his chest and taking a combative stance.

“Will you let me finish? I am trying to explain …”

“You mean you’re trying to suggest we keep him!” Kyler interrupted yet again, his voice rising along with his irritation.

Hugh decided to step in as the voices escalated. “Guys!” His voice had turned stern. “Let’s keep it down, okay? And I think we’ve discussed this subject quite enough for this evening. We are all tired from a long day and I say we go up to bed and leave this for another time.”

“I say we leave it for good!” Kyler insolently expressed his thoughts on the subject.

“Kyler.” Hugh’s tone held a note of warning.

Kyler backed down and he left the room in a huff. As he climbed the stairs to do his Top’s bidding, his chest tightened. His head was spinning with the possible implications of what they’d been talking about and he was confused as to why he found it so disturbing.


Kyler was the first one up in the morning after having spent a restless night. He quietly got dressed and headed downstairs where he ate a quick breakfast of toast and peanut butter. He highlighted the day on his work schedule that was tacked to their bulletin board. It showed where he was each day as he kept books for several small companies. Today he would be at Dairy Queen until approximately two in the afternoon and then on to the bakery.

Patrick came in as Kyler was finishing his toast. Their eyes met briefly, neither in the mood for conversation.

“Coffee?” Patrick asked shortly as he spooned some coffee powder into a mug.

“No thanks. I’m good.”

Nothing more was said as Patrick munched a biscuit, leaning against the counter. He watched Kyler’s back as he was washing up his plate and glass. “Have a good day,” he called out as Kyler patted his hands on the dish cloth.

“You too,” Kyler responded coolly, walking over and kissing his partner. “See you tonight.” With that, he was out the door.

Patrick sighed to himself. Not the best start to the day, but at least he got a goodbye kiss.

Last evening’s conversation continued to play on his mind as he drove to working, stopping to pick-up a coffee at Tim’s. He arrived earlier than expected and filled in time helping with the preparations for opening. He enjoyed cleaning out and reassembling the ice cream machines. Once the boss arrived with the mail, Kyler went downstairs and cloistered himself in the small office. His worries slowly dissipated as he became absorbed with data input of debits and credits.

He walked in the back door of their home just after five o’clock to the mouth-watering aroma of meat pie cooking in the oven. He found Hugh reading the newspaper in the living room and greeted his partner with a kiss. Tommy immediately got up from the floor where he had been playing, and ran over to give Kyler an enthusiastic hug.

“Look what I got!” he exclaimed, pointing to the little cars scattered about.

“That’s quite a collection you got there,” Kyler enthused before noticing how familiar everything was.

“Where did that box of toys come from?” he asked suspiciously, sitting down next to Hugh in hopes of a cuddle.

“Your mom dropped them by on her way to the lounge,” Hugh answered and dropped an arm over his Brat’s shoulders. “Apparently she dug them out of the attic where you had packed them away several years ago.”

Kyler pursed his lips as a feeling of resentment hit him. The emotion only lasted a few seconds and left him somewhat bewildered. ‘What’s it matter if the kid has my stuff,’ he thought. ‘It’s not as if I’m gonna use it again.’

Hugh’s arm squeezed comfortingly around his shoulders. “You should have seen his face when he was given the box,” he whispered next to Kyler’s ear.

“Bet he got pretty excited.” Kyler tried to push any negative thoughts away.

“He sure was!”

“That’s good. He probably doesn’t get to many toys.”

“Doesn’t look like it. Makes you feel good, doesn’t it?” Hugh suggested gently. “Much better than if the toys were just stuck up in the attic.”

“Yeah, you’re right.” Kyler softly mused, pleasantly surprised to notice he actually was feeling better about the little guy having his things.

Just then the buzzer sounded from the kitchen, indicating their supper was ready.

“Where’s Patrick?” Kyler inquired as he set a plate in front of Tommy.

“He called to say he’d be late,” Hugh answered while pouring milk into a small tumbler. “He mumbled something about the pending arrival of a new baby. He’s on standby till the gynecologist gets there. But he said not to worry that he might end up having to perform the delivery. He said the labor would likely take hours as this is the mother’s first.”

“The joys of family practice. These events never seem to consider other peoples’ plans, do they?” Kyler chuckled when voicing the rhetorical question.

Hugh only smiled in response, his attention mostly on preparing Tommy’s plate. Just after a day Hugh was already in the comfortable habit of looking after the young boy. Tommy never complained and hardly asked for anything. He just accepted everything he was given with a smile and joyful curiosity. He was so easy to enjoy.

Kyler silently watched the expressions on Hugh’s face as the older man concentrated on every little thing Tommy did or said. While Kyler willingly admitted he liked the kid too and even found him adorable, he was also beginning to feel he was being ignored. He kept his head down to hide his pain at the thought of being supplanted by the little fellow and having to vie for his Tops’ affection and attention.


A somewhat casual routine fell into place over the next couple of days. After the guys left for work, Hugh would get breakfast for Tommy and himself. Then Hugh took Tommy off to the swimming pool and left him on the benches while he drilled his swim team. Tommy sat quietly by himself, his large eyes following all the action. The guys joked and played with Tommy good-naturedly on their break. Then when swimming practice was over, Hugh allowed Tommy to get into the pool with him, and taught him a few basic strokes.

More than a few times Hugh caught himself looking at Tommy with tenderness. It was a new emotion; one he didn’t really know how to deal with. And so he kept it to himself and waited.

Meanwhile, with each passing day Kyler was finding it increasingly harder to deal with his feelings of being disregarded as his partners’ preoccupation seemed to strengthen daily.
The likelihood of Tommy’s stay being extended indefinitely didn’t come up again until Wednesday evening. Chief Barrett had dropped by with news concerning the child’s parents shortly after Tommy had been put to bed.

“We’ve located the RV belonging to Brian and Shirley Adams. Seems they lucked out at the casino and took off for parts unknown after ditching their rather rundown trailer behind a vacate gas station somewhere between Kelowna and Penticton.”

Hugh, Patrick and Kyler stared at the police officer in disbelief.

“You mean they are all right? Not hurt or dead?” Patrick sounded aghast.

“Do you know where they are now?” Hugh inquired.

“RCMP officers are still trying to track them down as well as any other family members.”

“Not a heck of a lot of news, is there?” Kyler murmured, suddenly feeling very sad for the little boy sleeping upstairs.

“Sorry for our information being only sketchy at best, but it’s all we have at the moment,” Chandi informed them, somewhat apologetically. “How are you getting along with the little guy?”

Hugh was the first to speak. “He’s doing fine with us. No trouble at all.”

Patrick quickly added. “That’s right. No point in finding another home for him at the moment and unsettling him. We can keep him for a while, at least till you find his parents.”

The Chief of Police was happy to hear that all was going well and that Tommy was welcomed to stay as long as necessary. He didn’t stay much longer, leaving them alone to digest this latest news and its’ potential ramifications.

As soon as their visitor had left, Kyler turned to his partners. “It sure is beginning to look like we might end up having our houseguest a lot longer than at first thought.” He was a tad put out by the situation and while knowing his disgruntlement was uncalled for, he couldn’t help how he was feeling.

“I don’t think we need to discuss this just yet, do you?” Patrick shook his head firmly at his younger partner.”

Kyler was still very uneasy and added to this was a new found fear. He suddenly realized that the longer Tommy stayed with them, the harder it would be for them to see him go. The growing attachment between his partners and Tommy was becoming so very obvious; he was just as confused as ever by his aversion to increasing the size of their family.

“I hope they end up going to jail,” Kyler scoffed. “Tommy’s better off without them.”

“Don’t be unkind, Kyler!” Patrick scolded gently. “And we really need to have more information before we discuss our next steps.”

Stung by the mild reproof, Kyler sunk further into his chair. His head was swimming with worrisome thoughts but he kept them to himself. He sat quietly while listening to his partners talk over the few facts they’d been given. He mentally crossed his fingers that Tommy’s grandparents or some other relative would be found.

“So how’s it going so far for you?” Patrick asked Hugh. “It may turn out to be longer than we expected. I had thought a week tops, but at the rate the investigation is going who knows? Are you ok to be saddled with the kid for so long?”

“I’m all right,” Hugh said easily. “Quit worrying. In fact, I am beginning to enjoy having the little fellow around.”

Patrick chuckled. “Smitten too, aren’t you?”

Hugh laughed as well. “It’s hard not to be. He is certainly a well-behaved child. God only knows how he managed to have such a great attitude when it’s obvious his life hasn’t been a bed of roses.”

Kyler maintained his silence as he absorbed his partners’ comments. To him the conversation seemed endless. It was Tommy this, Tommy that and when Kyler realized he couldn’t put up with it for another minute, he go to his feet.

“I got something to do,” was the only explanation he gave as he left the room. Both Hugh and Patrick looked at his disappearing back with some surprise.

Patrick was halfway out of his seat when Hugh stopped him. “No Patrick, give him some time.”

“What’s eating him? Oh …” Sudden realization hit Patrick. “Tommy?”

Hugh nodded his head. “I was hoping he would get over it after a few days. I invited him to come swimming with me yesterday and today but he refused. Did you call him from work at all today?”

“Yeah, I did. He said he was busy and couldn’t talk.” Patrick frowned. “We need to talk to him.”

“Yes, but when he’s more ready.”

Patrick sighed in resignation and acknowledged Hugh’s advice with a nod.

Once in the back porch, Kyler slipped his feet into a pair of sandals and quietly walked out of the house. Slowly backing out of the driveway, he tried to figure out where he could go. The lounge, his family home and Patrick’s parents were the first places his Tops would look for him.

Without much further thought, he headed out of town towards the reserve.


It was well after nine in the evening when Kyler arrived at his destination. He slowed down to park in front of the bungalow nestled in the trees on the furthest side from the highway. He hadn’t been stopped as he was fairly well-known by most of the folks living on this large track of First Nations’ land. Getting out of his car and seeing the house in darkness, Kyler walked around to the back of it. He strongly suspected that the man he sought would be in the sweat lodge.

Although Kyler had been here only a dozen or so times in the past, he’d enjoyed his visits with the wise, quiet-spoken Band Elder and felt this gentleman just might be the one to help him out.

“Enter, my young friend,” a voice from inside called out even before Kyler had made his presence known.

Responding to the bidding of the Elder, Kyler entered the lodge with his head respectfully bowed and sat down next to the man on the floor. The one-room structure was hot and humid so with the older man’s permission, Kyler quickly stripped down to his shorts, tossing the rest of his clothes on top of his shoes near the entrance.

“You seem troubled,” the older man observed.

“Yes, sir; kinda,” Kyler sadly answered.

“Before we go any further, what have I asked you to call me in the past?”

“Grandfather,” Kyler answered shyly and glanced up to see the sparkle in the other man’s eyes and the patient expression on his face; a face creased with age and wisdom.

“Good,” the Elder nodded his approval. His voice cracked with age when he spoke. “You have not been to visit in a long time. I trust it was because you were busy. Harry told me you have two new partners and that you had completed your university. Both pieces of information pleased me. So tell me a little about your partners, and then you can start at the beginning when your troubles first started bothering you.”

“My partners’ names are Hugh and Patrick.” Kyler knew last names were not important to the old man. “Hugh is a high school Phys-Ed teacher and Patrick is a Doctor.” Kyler shifted a little uncomfortably at the thought of bringing up the topic of Tommy. He was embarrassed by his feelings regarding the little boy, but reminded himself that this was exactly why he had come to speak to this man.

Taking a deep breath and squaring his shoulders, he boldly began his tale of woe. “A week ago, Patrick brought home a little boy who had been abandoned. Tommy is really a cute kid; very polite, easy to please, seemingly contented with his lot in life even though he’s been given a rotten start on it. At first, I enjoyed him being with us but now I’m not too sure.”

“Why is that?” the Elder gently prodded.

Kyler felt his face heating up and it wasn’t because the other man had just added more water to the hot stones. “They’ve been talking about maybe keeping Tommy if he isn’t claimed by anyone. But I don’t want them to.” This last was barely audible as the young man squirmed with shame.

The Elder smiled. He was aware of Kyler being raised as an only child, that he was now the young Brat of two older Tops who all but doted on him. The man waited patiently for Kyler to continue.

“I know the kid deserves a good home and a family that really wants him; a family that will love and care for him. I just don’t want it to be us. I know I must sound very shallow and selfish, but it is how I feel and I can’t seem to help it.”

There was a long pause as if the elder was considering his thoughts. Finally he spoke in a soft tone. “I do not think you are either, simply because you are neither of those things. However, I understand you finding it difficult to share certain things you hold dear, and that includes the love and attention of your two partners.”

“But it’s not just them. Patrick mentioned that his parents would enjoy being grandparents and my mom used to say she looked forward to having grandchildren one day. Patrick said we could adopt or maybe find a surrogate mother to bear us a child of our own. They seemed so taken with the idea and the older folks really took to Tommy last Sunday when we were all at Uncle Kipper’s for a BBQ.”

Kyler’s lips pressed together as he thought of how everyone had fawned over the boy. A feeling of revulsion swept over him. “I’m the only one who’s against the whole idea! It’s selfish, but I can’t and don’t want to share my family!” Kyler was practically wailing out his distress. It was the Elder’s firm hand on his arm that made it possible for him to calm down.

“And you are already suffering the dread of being replaced?” The Elder’s quiet voice offered assurances that no judgments were being made.

“Since Tommy’s appearance, everything has revolved around him. I know he needs what everyone is giving him…that is, I know it on a logical level. But in here,” Kyler touched his chest, “it’s starting to hurt. My mom even gave the kid my old toys and it kinda pissed me off.” Self-disgust accompanied this last statement.

“Have you talked all this over with your partners, little one? They need to be informed of your feelings, before they make any decisions. I assume they are the ones who make the final decisions regarding your relationship, is that right?”

Kyler nodded his head. “I always get to say my bit, but mostly Hugh and Patrick agree on the end result. If they can’t come to a pact on something really important, Hugh gets to make the call.”

Having former knowledge of the type of lifestyle his friend participated in, the Elder was able to respond to the young man’s need with understanding and compassion. “Your Tops,” he paused when Kyler’s head shot up with blue eyes widening in surprise. “Yes, I know,” were the only words needed to appease the astonished man.

“As I was saying, your Tops are responsible for meeting your needs; be they physical, spiritual, or emotional. You, on the other hand, are responsible for keeping them informed of any problems you are having.”

There was a pause before the older man gently prodded, “Am I right?” Getting a nod of agreement, the Elder leaned in closer to place an arm around his guest’s bare shoulders. “Once a decision is reached, it is up to you to accept it.” He sadly shook his head when he saw the despair in Kyler’s eyes.

“I don’t think I will be able to this time, Grandfather,” Kyler murmured, tearfully. “And I don’t want my partners put in a position of having to choose between me and Tommy. That’s why I am hoping someone shows up to take Tommy.”

“And should your partners still want to bring a child into your relationship through adoption or some other means; what will you do then?”

Kyler shrugged his shoulders and was relieved when the Elder didn’t insist on a response. They sat quietly for several more minutes before the Elder spoke again.

“You are a kind-hearted man, my friend. But like all of us, you have your weaknesses. One of which is your inability to share with others, especially when it comes to your family and significant others. Do not judge yourself too harshly, little one. Talk things over with your spouses; all will work out for the three of you.”

Kyler sat silently for a while. He really hadn’t come to get a solution; that resided only within himself. What he had needed was for someone else to know his secret thoughts; thoughts which he felt were so base and low, he could not come to terms with them on his own. But there had been no horror in Grandfather’s eyes. The old man had not recoiled and told him to leave. Instead he had looked with understanding at him and told him to talk to his partners.

For the first time in his relationship with his Tops, this was something he could not share with them. Hugh and Patrick were too close to the problem. He needed someone who wouldn’t judge him or think less of him for having those thoughts.

Feeling a little better than he had when first sitting down here, Kyler sent his companion a weak smile. “Thank you allowing me to visit and for listening to me.” Looking at his watch, he let out a soft whistle. “Dang, it’s after midnight and I have well over an hour’s drive home. I better get going.”

Grandfather acknowledged Kyler’s thanks with a nod. “Drive safely, my son.”

The younger man impulsively threw his arms around the Elder’s neck and hugged him. “I’ll return to let you know how things turn out. Promise!” he whispered and felt the hug being returned.

The two men got to their feet to shake hands and say goodbye. “Have you made a decision as to what you will do should things not go the way you want?” the Elder inquired; his facial expression one of kindness and support.

“Yes, I have,” Kyler softly murmured, looking down at the floor. He grabbed up his clothes and shoes before making a hasty departure. He didn’t want the Elder to see the tear slowly making its’ way down his cheek.


It was almost two in the morning when Kyler drove into the yard and turned off the engine. He saw the light on in the living room and wondered what the consequences were going to be for being gone so long without informing his partners were he was going and when he’d be back. He had even forgotten to take his cell phone.

Smacking his hand on the steering wheel, Kyler worked on getting up his nerve to go into the house and face what he assumed would be two very angry Tops.

Hugh heard the soft crunch of tyres and got up from his arm-chair where he had distractedly been watching TV. The volume had been turned down low in order not to disturb Patrick who was snoozing on the sofa. Both men had elected to stay up to wait for their young lover to come home.

Hugh went to the kitchen and opened the back door, waiting for Kyler to appear. When he saw no sign of the young man, he slipped his feet into a pair of sandals and walked out to the driveway. When he saw the silhouette of Kyler sitting in his car, his heart gave a lurch.

Was he hurt?

His footsteps quickened and he reached out to open the car door. “Honey, are you all right?” Hugh asked in an anxious tone.

Kyler looked up at his partner and opened the driver’s door a crack. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He studied Hugh’s face to try and determine just how deep a hole he had dug for himself.

Hugh stepped aside to let Kyler come out. He ran a quick eye over the younger man and was relieved to find him apparently unharmed. He pulled Kyler close for a quick kiss and tapped his butt with his open palm, not quite a smack but firm enough to get Kyler’s attention quick.

“Where have you been, young man? Do you know how late it is?”

Kyler mumbled a vague affirmative, having quickly decided not to retort with the smart-aleck comeback that had made its’ way to the tip of his tongue.

Hugh didn’t really seem to listen to the answer; he was more concerned with getting Kyler into the house. Hugh picked up Kyler’s mobile phone which was lying on the kitchen counter and handed it to him. “We called.” His tone was dry.

“I forgot to grab it on my way out.” Kyler explained in a low voice and returned the cell to its’ resting place in the charger.

Hugh gave him a look but did not expound on Kyler’s explanation. With a hand on Kyler’s back, Hugh silently walked Kyler into the living room. Patrick was sitting up on the sofa and stretching his arms amidst a big yawn. He shook the sleep from his eyes and fixed them on Kyler instead. “What time is it?” Patrick asked.

“It’s what Mom would refer to as the wee hours of the morning,” Kyler answered, a fragment of guilt creeping into his voice.

“Are you ok?” Patrick asked, his eyes gentle. “We got worried.”

“I’m fine, really. I went for a drive and ended up visiting with an old friend at the reserve. I guess time kinda got away from us.”

Hugh raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

“You know you are not supposed to take off like that,” Patrick remarked, but it was more of a statement than an accusation. There was certainly no reprimand in the tone, which relieved and troubled Kyler at the same time. It was unexpected and abnormal.

Kyler sighed and closed his eyes for a moment before adding to what he had already said. “I just felt I needed some space; I’m sorry I was gone so long but it really was unintentional.”

“Look sweetheart, we understand …. well, we think we understand what you are going through but I wish we could have talked about it instead.” Patrick looked at Kyler, a little sadly.

Kyler’s bewilderment grew with every passing minute. ‘Why are they being so nice? How come they’re not jumping all over me for breaking the rules?’ He shook his head as if doing so would provide him with the answers to his unspoken questions.

“We were just worried. The last thing we want is for you to be unhappy.”

That brought a lump to Kyler’s throat. To hide it he said gruffly, “You should know by now that I’m able to take care of myself.” Kyler averted his eyes and looked at the carpet. ‘Not that I always want to,’ he mutely admitted to himself.

“You know you can tell us anything.” Patrick looked keenly at Kyler, hoping to catch the young man’s eyes.

“Yeah, that’s usually so,” Kyler murmured, still keeping his eyes on the floor.

Patrick and Hugh exchanged a quick look. They had discussed earlier how to handle the situation and they had decided to give Kyler some leeway to let him work out his feelings if he was not quite ready to share. They had felt this was one time forcing him to talk prematurely would be a wrong decision. Much as they hated to leave things hanging, Kyler needed time to be able to understand his own heart.

Patrick let go a breath and said as readily as he could. “Well, it’s your call. You let us know whenever you want to talk … I think it might be easier to just tell us and get things off your chest but if you need more time, then that’s fine with us too.”

‘What the hell is going on here?’ Kyler wordlessly wondered, glancing from one of his Tops to the other.

His confusion grew with this unforeseen reaction to his behavior, which even he knew was unacceptable. Although these two partners of his were always fair and understanding, they were also firm in maintaining the boundaries they’d all agreed upon. Why were things changing?

Hugh had been watching their exchange silently, with his arms folded across his chest. Noticing the tired droop of Kyler’s shoulders and the dark circles on his eyes, Hugh said quietly, “Why don’t we go up to bed. It is way past all our bedtimes.”

Patrick came over and slipped his arm around Kyler’s waist. “Yes, good idea. We’re all bushed.”

Kyler moved along in a slight daze. Maybe his fatigue was responsible for the confused thought tumbling around in his head.

The three men walked tiredly up the stairs and headed to their master bedroom. It was well past two am and with all the stress and tension, they were more than ready to roll into bed and catch a few hours of sleep. As they passed the spare bedroom they heard a soft whimper, followed by sobbing.

Hugh raised his eyebrows and Patrick immediately let go of Kyler and went in to check on the little boy.

Kyler groaned and rolled his eyes. ‘Now what?’ he groused to himself.

Hugh patted Kyler on the bum and said, “Go wash up and get into bed, darling.” He had already seen the dark look on Kyler’s face.

“You’d think he could sleep through the night by now,” Kyler grumbled.

Hugh frowned. “He’s four years old, Kyler. They get nightmares.”

“I guess,” Kyler quietly agreed somewhat shamefaced.

Hugh pushed Kyler gently into their own room, resisting an urge to roll his eyes. “Patrick will take care of him while I take care of you! Now go brush your teeth and then you can get into bed!”

Kyler got clean boxers and a t-shirt from his bureau and unquestioningly followed his Top’s instruction. He couldn’t understand why things were so different. Usually by now, after the stunts he had pulled tonight, he’d have been punished. But not much had even been said. Maybe his partners figured going over the same ground wasn’t worth it any more; maybe he was no longer worth the effort it took to repeatedly remind him. He pushed aside the heartache and regret these thoughts were engendering. He was just too burned out to think about anything at the moment.

Just as Kyler emerged from the en suite cleaned and in his sleeping clothes, Patrick walked in with Tommy in his arms. The little blond head was lying against Patrick’s shoulder, and the small arms were tightly wound around Patrick’s neck.

Patrick shot an apologetic look at his partners. “He wouldn’t settle.”

Hugh went over to Patrick and brushed the hair from Tommy’s forehead. “Hey Tommy,” Hugh called out softly. “It’s time to go to sleep. Let’s go back to your room, ok?”

“Noooo, don’t want to!” Tommy whined, stubbornly tightening his hold on Patrick.

“I tried that already,” Patrick mumbled.

“Just where do you think he’s gonna sleep then?” Kyler belligerently inquired.

Kyler didn’t miss the silent exchange between his two partners. Driven to the edge of his endurance, he exploded. “I can’t believe you are even thinking of bringing him into our bed. Oh hell all right, you can if you want, but it’s too damn hot for all of us to sleep there.”

Tommy began to whimper again, reacting to Kyler’s harsh tone. Hugh frowned, and Patrick glared.

For Kyler, this was the last straw. “I’m like, so outta here!”

With that, he pushed past his two partners and left the room. He deliberately slammed the door on his way out and then stomped down the stairs to the study where he slammed that door too.

Throwing himself face down onto the leather sofa, he angrily pounded the armrest with his clenched fists. “If they want the kid so badly, they can have him. First thing in the morning, I’m history!”

His voice cracked, but he obstinately refused to cry.


Hugh and Patrick watched the disappearance of Kyler’s back for a second time that night. The first door slam made them all wince; the second was considerably muted but nevertheless equally forceful. They were left in no doubt of Kyler’s frame of mind.

“Looks like we need to re-think our strategy,” Patrick muttered.

Hugh mumbled something unintelligible under his breath; of all the things he would not tolerate from Brats, slamming doors was high on his list of unacceptable behavior. His jaw was set in a square line, his face looking sterner by the minute.

With Tommy still clinging wide-eyed to Patrick, both men had to control their own tempers. Patrick looked uneasily at Tommy, who was beginning to fret. A tired, heavy-eyed Tommy was very different from the sunny child they had got used to. With limited experience in such matters, he wondered if Hugh might prefer to deal with the little boy; he looked hopefully at his partner.

Catching the unspoken question, Hugh nodded toward the bed instead. “Why don’t you put Tommy down and stay here with him. I’ll go after him.” The jerk of his head indicated clearly where his preference lay.

“Oh, ok.” Patrick moved towards their big bed, hoping Tommy wouldn’t start to wail. The kid looked perilously close to tears.

Tommy’s eyes darted fearfully around the unfamiliar room, and he began to suck on a thumb while one fist still clung on to Patrick’s t-shirt.

“It’s ok, sweetie. Do you wanna sleep here with me tonight? Good, climb in.” Patrick threw back the covers.

Crawling into the center of the big bed and flopping down with his small head dwarfed by the pillow, Tommy gazed questioningly at his caretaker. He sent Patrick a shy smile when the big man stretched out beside him.

In spite of his misgivings, Patrick smiled as Tommy shifted closer and snuggled against him. It sent a powerful stab of warmth and protectiveness through him. “Good boy,” he said soothingly, his hand caressing the blond curls.

“Ky’r is mad at me for waking up?” Tommy apprehensively asked around the thumb in his mouth.

“No, of course not. No one’s mad at you.”

Hugh came over and planted a kiss on Tommy’s head. “That’s right. You didn’t do anything wrong. Patrick’s gonna stay here with you, ok? There’s nothing to be afraid of, just close your eyes and go to sleep.”

Tommy immediately rolled over and snuggled against one of the men he was beginning to depend upon. If asked who he loved and who loved him, the little boy would have rhymed off all three of their names.

Hugh gave Patrick a quick kiss as well before he went out of the room. He padded softly down the stairs and headed towards the study.

Kyler heard his partner enter the room and shifted onto his side to glare up at Hugh. “Why don’t you just leave me alone?” he antagonistically demanded. “Doesn’t Tommy need both of you?”

The sarcasm didn’t go over well with Hugh. He walked straight over to the sofa and yanked Kyler to his feet. Without preamble, he turned the young man around and landed six firm swats to Kyler’s bottom.

“Would you mind telling me what that was about?”

“What’s what all about?”

“Do I really need to explain, Kyler?”

“Look, I’m tired. I’m in a pissy mood and I just want to be left alone.” Kyler’s voice had dropped to a slightly more respectable level as he finally realized just how far he might have pushed things.

“Well, you ARE certainly right about the ‘pissy’ mood thing,” Hugh said sharply. “But I have no idea why you think you are allowed to behave in this manner just because of your bad frame of mind. Slamming doors? Is that the way to tell us something?”

“No,” Kyler reluctantly admitted and felt a warm blush spread over his face. The bout of temper he’d been reacting to was rapidly losing its’ hold on him.

“In case you haven’t worked it out, you are stepping well over the line and we are going to be having a very long chat about it.”

“I’m sorry, Hugh. I know I’ve pushed too far.” Kyler’s tone was bordering on pacification, his roller-coaster ride of explosive emotions coming to an abrupt end. He was crashing, but was still too confused to do anything about it other than strike out at one of the people he considered responsible for the pain he was experiencing. Bound and determined not to break down and cry, he settled instead for trying to out-stare his Top.

Patrick would have tried to gently talk him around, but that was not what Kyler needed at the moment. He desperately needed Hugh to firmly put the boundaries back in place. Kyler knew that, but didn’t know how to ask for it.

He silently pleaded for the older man standing in front of him to fix things.

Hugh wasted no more words. With a firm hand on his Brat’s arm, he took a seat on the sofa and pulled Kyler over his lap. It had been a while since Kyler’s last spanking and although this felt more like the norm to the younger man, he was nevertheless somewhat alarmed to find himself in this position.

Hugh let his hand rest heavily on Kyler’s butt while he continued in a stern, no-nonsense voice. “Patrick and I understand you’ve been going through some stuff and we’ve tried to be patient. We wanted to give you some breathing space. But this is not working out for you, is it? And while I don’t know what you’ve thought or concluded or intended or misunderstood, slamming doors is not the way to tell us something is wrong.”

“I just couldn’t seem to stop myself, Hugh. I didn’t mean for you to take it so personally.” Kyler sincerely tried to rationalize his behavior, all the while knowing his reasoning was feeble at best.

Hugh snorted. “Not take it personally?”

“Well…that is…” Kyler wriggled, feeling mortified.

Hugh didn’t wait for Kyler to continue. “Neither is sarcasm ever acceptable.”

As he spoke, Hugh slipped his fingers into the waistband of Kyler’s shorts and pulled them down easily. The twin half moons were exposed, pale and smooth and at that very moment, clenched tight. Hugh patted the white flesh that was already a pinkish shade due to the previous swats, saying in a firm tone, “Such behavior is not acceptable and we will not tolerate it. Not from you or anyone else.”

Hugh raised his hand and brought it down in a powerful smack. The while flesh immediately blossomed into a deeper rosy hue, leaving a clear handprint on one side of Kyler’s bum.
Kyler grunted and reached for a throw pillow, clutching it tightly and burying his face in it.

“Especially not from you, because I expect better of you than this!” Hugh added for emphasis. He raised his hand again and delivered a series of spanks. The pace was not hurried but it was not slow either, and the fire in Kyler’s butt was hardly quelled before the next spank landed. The flame built up exponentially; Hugh apparently meant business this time.

Kyler began to squirm as the heat built. Two dozen or more extremely heavy swats landed before the tears he had been holding back began to flow unchecked.

“Are you still unclear as to why you are now over my knee?” Hugh asked when he heard the hitched breaths and gasps and sniffling.

“I’m not sure!” Kyler wailed. He lay there panting when he realized the barrage of painful smacks had stopped. As was always the case when finding himself over one of his Top’s knees, two modes of thought conflicted with each other. On one hand, he didn’t want to be spanked because it was embarrassing to acknowledge that it was deserved, plus it darn well hurt. On the other hand, it answered his need for the structure and security this process afforded him as well as the opportunity to clear the slate and start again.

“I guess I’m being punished for taking my bad humour out on the people around me.”

“And…” Hugh prompted, gently patting the heated flesh.

“For door slamming and rudeness,” Kyler tearfully added.

“All right then, care to tell me what this is all about?” There was an unmistakably gentle note in Hugh’s voice.

“I can’t talk to you or Patrick. You just don’t get it and I don’t know how to explain it all to you because I don’t even understand it all myself.” Kyler once again buried his face in the soft cushion. He wondered if and when he’d be permitted to get off the bigger man’s lap.

Hugh heaved a sigh. “Try anyway.” His hand tapped encouragement.

Kyler shook his head, still unable to voice his concerns. Although he was starting to feel less wound up as the smarting of his backside slowly diminished, he still had a ways to go before he’d be able to open up completely.

Sensing the resistance still in his young Brat, Hugh tightened his arm around the slim waist and pulled him closer. Having lived with Kyler long enough, he knew he rarely did anything in half-measures. Whatever the young man was obviously still clinging on to must be something pretty big, some suppressed emotion that Kyler felt he couldn’t tell his partners. And until he did, Hugh’s job was not complete.

Hugh began to spank, picking up the pace and delivering a series of even spanks on the quivering bottom. Kyler squirmed desperately as the heat returned immediately and in full blast.

“We may have let you off the hook on some things but nevertheless our rules remain unchanged.” Hugh’s palm was beginning to burn as well. He quickly emphasized every other word with a hard swat. “Do you remember what rules I am talking about, Kyler?”

“Yes,” Kyler cried out. “The ones about going out and not telling you where I was going or when I’d be back; forgetting my cell and coming in really late.”

“That’s right. But there’s one more. What is the most important rule of all, Kyler?”

With the firestorm raging across his bum, Kyler found it hard to focus and come up with a response that would satisfy his Top, but after a moment or two he finally managed to do so. “That I’m to talk to you if I’m having problems instead of trying to run away from them.”

“That’s right!” Hugh delivered three more powerful smacks which had Kyler yelping loudly.

Giving a shaky affirmative nod, Kyler slumped on Hugh’s thighs and gasped with relief. Within moments, he found himself sitting on Hugh’s opened thighs and wrapped in two loving arms. This was one of his favorite places, although he preferred to be here without a badly burning bottom, snotty nose and tear-stained face. He worked at calming down so he could converse with as little sniffling and hiccupping as possible.

“Is the slate wiped clean yet, Hugh?” Kyler hopefully asked for reassurance.

“My love for you has never wavered and will never waver no matter what you do, honey. The slate is clean but you must tell me what has made you so upset.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words, Hugh.”

“Come on Kyler, give it a shot. You can tell me, you really can … and I won’t judge you.” Hugh planted a gentle kiss on Kyler’s forehead.

“I know it’s really late, but can you give a bit of time to get things straight in my own mind?”

“Take as much time as you want,” Hugh said, holding him close.

Kyler drew in a deep breath of relief, as he relaxed against his Top’s broad chest. Over the next several minutes, his convoluted thoughts gradually became more coherent. He conscientiously had to pull himself out of the dreamlike state he often fell into after a tough discipline session.

Upstairs, Patrick had succeeded in getting Tommy to sleep again and not wanting to risk waking the child up, Patrick left him in their big bed. He tiptoed out of the room, leaving the door slightly ajar so they could hear him if he woke up, then headed downstairs. He knew he would find his partners in the study. It was the only other room they used for discipline and he opened the study door cautiously. He saw Hugh and Kyler cuddling on the sofa, and stood quietly against the wall. Kyler was speaking in a low voice and Patrick didn’t want to interrupt.

“I’m not too proud of how I’ve been feeling and acting the last few days, Hugh,” Kyler softy began, nervously twisting the front of Hugh's t-shirt with his fingers. “At first I really enjoyed the novelty of having a little boy around the house, but it paled rather rapidly.”

Hugh’s fingers were a soothing presence on his back, gently moving and massaging tight muscles. “And then …?”

“I started to resent the kid and all the attention he was getting. Listening to you and Patrick talk about maybe someday becoming parents gave me a lot to think over.”

Hugh had caught sight of Patrick. He didn’t react as Patrick held a finger to his lips and Hugh gave a tiny nod to indicate understanding.

Kyler paused and swallowed before continuing. “Even though I have no desire whatsoever of being a father, I can understand the appeal it holds for the two of you. You’d both make great fathers and I don’t want to be the one to throw a damper on you pursuing that thought should you wish to do so.”

“Oh Kyler.” Hugh laid his chin on Kyler’s head. His eyes met Patrick’s across the room.

“I know there’s a good possibility that Tommy will need a good home and you two seemed interested in providing him with one.” Kyler hoped his misgivings weren’t coming across in his voice.

Folding Kyler even closer, Hugh replied. “Yes, we both did consider for a moment what it would be like to be dads. It’s something we had never even thought about you know? All these years together, we never … but when Tommy appeared and we started to consider it, and to know it was a possibility, I gotta admit we were pretty excited.”

“Yeah, I kinda picked up on that,” Kyler responded somewhat despondently.

Patrick decided it was time to make his presence know. Walking over to the sofa to join them, he chipped in. “But that does not mean we had made up our minds, Ky.”

“That’s right,” Hugh concurred. “We were merely toying with the idea.”

Patrick sat down next to them and beckoned Kyler with a crooked finger. Hugh relinquished his armful of Brat to Patrick.

“I don’t ever want to put you in the position of having to choose between me and having a kid of your own,” Kyler whispered almost inaudibly. “But I really suck at sharing.”

Patrick clicked his tongue. “First of all, if we ever have a kid, it will belong to all of us. No such thing as a kid of ‘our own’. There is no such equation, Ky.”

Patrick waited a moment for the thought to sink in before proceeding. “More importantly – and I want you to pay close attention here Kyler – we will never make such a decision without the consensus from all of us. This is one time it will not be a democracy where the majority vote wins. It has to be unanimous. So the question of choosing will never arise.”

“But if you two should someday want a child and I still don’t want one, then it would be rather selfish of me to say so and stand in your way.”

“It’s not about being selfish at all,” Hugh said gravely. “You need to tell us exactly how you feel because that is important to us. We each have the right to an opinion and the others have the right to know what that is. Keeping your feelings hidden does not help at all, and you know it! It makes you cranky and frustrated.”

“Tell me about it,” Kyler grumbled with a ghost of a smile as he reached back to tentatively rub at his still aching bottom.

Patrick turned Kyler around so he could look him in the eye. “Listen to me, baby. The idea of giving Tommy a home here may have been tempting but we have not even seriously started to consider it. And if and when we do, it has to be something all three of us want. There is no shame in telling us you do not support the idea. There is no wrong in that.”

Kyler glanced back and forth between his two partners and read the sincerity in their faces, but a trace of uncertainty remained.

“I totally agree with Patrick, Kyler. For something as major as this, we need to be honest with one another. And I will tell you one more thing, babe. Patrick and I will never do anything that will make you unhappy because you are our top priority. Nothing will ever replace that.”

Patrick raised his eyebrows at Kyler, with a questioning smile on his face asking if he understood.

Kyler’s young face lit up with the happiness and relief his lovers’ words filled him with. He knew beyond a doubt that they would keep their vows and he couldn’t begin to express how knowing he took precedence in their lives made him feel. “But what about Tommy? He’s still going to need a permanent home.”

“Well, we’ll wait and see what the week brings us. Tommy will always have a place in our hearts, no matter how it turns out with his parents. He’s a great kid and we’ll make sure he is well taken care of. It doesn’t have to be us to do it. OK?”

Kyler nodded. “That works for me.”


The rest of the week went pretty much like the first part with maybe two exceptions. Kyler used up most of Thursday playing catch up after sleeping in late. On Friday he eked out an extra long lunch period to join Hugh and Tommy at the pool. It was a nice break and he promised to do it again.

By unspoken consensus they made no plans to go far from home that weekend; all three men were silently anticipating some kind of news from either the police or children’s welfare. Hugh decided they should eat supper out on the patio, hoping the change would make everyone less jittery. It was very pleasant out in the open, and they were all seated around the patio table, listening to Tommy regale them with different aspects of the day they had spent at a couple of places Kyler referred to as ‘tourist traps’ when the front doorbell rang.

It abruptly ended the conversation.

“I’ll get it,” Kyler offered, pushing his chair back and getting to his feet.

Hugh and Patrick remained seated and continued to listen to Tommy although they had their ears trained on the front end of the house.

“Hugh, Patrick, can you come here? Chief Barrett has someone he wants to introduce us to,” Kyler called out a couple of minutes later from inside the house.

A quick look was passed between Patrick and Hugh. They both got up and Patrick patted Tommy’s head. “Stay here Tommy, while we go see what Kyler wants, ok?”

Leaving Tommy alone, Hugh and Patrick walked into the house and saw that Kyler was leading Chief Barrett into the kitchen together with some other people, who were partially obscured by the doorway. The Chief greeted Hugh and Patrick as they approached.

“I’d like you to meet Jenny and Andy Martin.” Chandi started the introductions but before he could voice the reason behind the Martin’s visit, a bundle of excitement barrelled into the kitchen and flung itself at the middle-aged couple.

“Nanny and Grampy!” Tommy hollered, first hugging and kissing the woman then transferring his attention to the patiently waiting gentleman.

Three men looked on in astonishment while Chandi barely managed to hold back his laughter at the shocked expressions on their faces. For the several minutes, they watched the exhilarated greetings between Tommy and the happily smiling older couple. That is Hugh and Patrick watched while Kyler kept a wary eye on his partners. He easily picked up on the various emotions they were trying to keep hidden. He understood their mixed feelings that ranged between disappointment and delight, regardless how fleeting some of them may have been warring with each other. He himself felt a sense of relief; something he would later give more serious thought to.

“These are Tommy’s maternal grandparents,” Chandi eventually explained, once they had settled down around the kitchen table and Tommy had gone to look for his box of toy cars to show them off.

“We guessed,” Patrick said with a smile. “So what happened to his parents?”

“The RCMP apprehended the Adams couple when they attempted to cross the border into Washington. From there, they were able to locate Shirley’s parents.

Jenny wiped at her eye while her husband shook his head with disgust.

“What’s going to happen to them?” Hugh asked gently, aware of how this must be impacting the grandparents. It had to be difficult not only to see how irresponsibly your child had behaved but even worse to know your grandchild had been the victim of such ill-treatment.

“Both she and her husband, Brian, will be facing charges of child abandonment.” This last was said quietly for the adults only while Tommy was busy dragging out the box of toys he had been given.

Jenny and Andy turned their attention to Tommy as he showed off each toy car and truck. They smiled at Tommy’s enthusiasm and Kyler looked on with a sudden swell of pride as he saw how his old toys were bringing so much delight to the family.

“Kyler gave them to me,” Tommy announced loudly, giving Kyler a bright smile.

“All except this set with the fire engine, little buddy,” Kyler reminded him, taking the three pieces and returning them to the display box they belonged in. “You get to keep all the rest, right?”

Most the toys Kyler had kept had been given him by his father. But this set, consisting of a large extension ladder truck, a slightly smaller hose and equipment truck, plus an emergency squad vehicle, held special meaning to Kyler. He had received it from his father for his twelfth birthday, just a month before the man was killed in a mining accident. As a result, he could not bear to give it away.

“That is so kind of you!” Jenny turned grateful eyes to Kyler. She reached out on impulse and squeezed Kyler’s arm. “Thank you!”

Kyler’s face flushed a deep pink, both from shy pleasure and from a tad of residual guilt at the memory of his first reaction when seeing the little fellow with his toys.

“We were just about to have our dessert,” Hugh announced. “How about I make a pot of tea and we can all have a piece of apple pie?” he asked politely.

“That would be lovely,” Jenny said appreciatively. “I could do with a cup of tea. But then we need to be on our way, don’t we dear?”

Andy nodded. “Yes, we’ve got quite a bit of road to cover. Does Tommy have a lot of things to pack?”

There was a startled silence.

“Tommy will be going with his grandparents. They will be providing him with a permanent home and are even planning to eventually adopt him.” Chief Barrett stepped forward to explain as gently as possible. He strongly suspected the three men had understandably formed an attachment to the child they’d been caring for over the last ten days.

“But do you have to all leave so soon?” Kyler inquired, surprised at not wanting to see Tommy go. It all seemed to be happening so quickly.

“I can’t speak for the Martins, but I really have to be going,” Chandi answered. “Thanks for the invite though.”

Hugh got up and started to make tea while Patrick walked Chandi to the front door. He thanked the Chief and waited at the front door, lingering till Chandi had got into his patrol car before closing the door. Then he took a deep breath and reluctantly headed back into the kitchen.

Tommy had climbed on top of his grandfather’s knee and was nibbling a biscuit.

“Tea’s ready,” Hugh said softly, his eyes anxiously searching Patrick’s face.

“Thanks – um, you guys go ahead. I’ll go put Tommy’s things together,” Patrick offered.

Making his way upstairs, Patrick felt a tightening in his chest. His legs moved automatically to the spare room where Tommy had been sleeping for the past week. The room was beginning to look like it belonged to Tommy. Tommy hadn’t brought anything with him except the clothes he wore, and yet there were unmistakable signs of his presence now. Like the jacket he had looked so cute in was flung over a chair and the small cap which had made them all grin when they had first put it on Tommy’s head was hanging on a hook behind the door. Small things which made Patrick blink.

Patrick looked around, suddenly a little lost as to where to begin. Subduing a sigh, Patrick went out to the closet and found an unused backpack. He brought it back to Tommy’s room and started to put things in. Clothes, books, toys. Halfway through, he sat down heavily on Tommy’s bed and the bag slid slowly to the floor. A muscle twitched at the corner his mouth and he closed his eyes.


Patrick’s eyes flew open and he cleared his throat awkwardly. He managed a weak smile. “Hey Tommy.”

Tommy looked at him with large questioning eyes.

Patrick opened his mouth to speak and found he couldn’t. His hands gestured aimlessly but fell listlessly to his thighs instead. He bent his head.

Without a word, the small boy came and put his arms around Patrick, snuggling close and burying his face in Patrick’s chest. Patrick smiled, immediately hugging Tommy close. “Are you ok going with your grandparents?”

“Yes.” The voice was small but positive. “I like staying with them.”

Satisfied with the answer, Patrick leaned down and dropped a kiss on Tommy’s head. “I’m gonna miss you, buddy!”

Patrick felt the small head move on his chest, followed by a tiny little sniffle which was valiantly stifled.

“Hey,” Patrick whispered. “Look at me.”

Tommy pulled away and raised his head, his lashes damp. He asked in a shaky voice. “Am I ever gonna see you again, Patrick?”

“Sure you are,” Patrick said lightly, brushing the hair off Tommy’s forehead. “We are going to get your address from your grandparents and we’ll come visit. OK?”

Tommy managed a doubtful nod, which did not speak of confidence. In his short lifetime, a lot of promises hadn’t been kept.

Patrick put both hands on Tommy’s shoulders and looked into his eyes. “I promise you we will come and visit you once you have settled down with your grandparents. Horses couldn’t keep us away. And ...” he let the sentence hang expectantly, “... I am going to give you our telephone number here, so you can call us any time you want.”

“Really?” Tommy looked a bit more cheerful.

“Really,” Patrick said solemnly. “Can you trust us?”

Tommy cocked his head to one side and after a moment’s reflection he flashed a smile and nodded his head.

“Good!” Patrick pulled him back for another hug, holding Tommy somewhat more tightly than he had meant to. After a long while, Patrick released him and said softly, “Now let’s go say goodbye downstairs.”

THE END ....