Will watched as Logan, Donnie, and Emily left the waiting room. He knew they would probably be waiting for a while. After about ten minutes of silence, he shook himself from staring off into space and looked around at the people that were still sitting there. Juan was cuddled up in Adam's lap, he looked to have fallen asleep while crying. Adam seemed to be staring off into space like he had been only with tears running silently down his face while. Jack was sitting next to him holding Adam tight to his side.
Will had reached down some time ago and grasped Bill’s hand in his own. He smiled softly thinking to himself that over the past month, he and Bill had become very close.
It had all started one night, while they were checking out the Chinook, Will had confided to Bill about something that had been bothering him. They were working together checking out the electrical system. Bill was manning the controls, while Will was checking the wires making sure none of them were broken. He had just called a break, and they met up at the back door of the Chinook.
“You know, it's kinda eerily quiet in here tonight.” Bill commented as Will brought him a cup of coffee. He plopped himself down on the ramp next to Bill and looked out over the empty hanger. He let out a long sigh, and Bill looked over to him curiously. “What's on your mind Will?”
Will looked up at the older boy with a searching look before saying “You know, I still don't really know how to deal with being outside the lab. I know it's been over a month, but it's still really hard sometimes.”
Bill was a little bit shocked at what he was hearing. Will had always been the cool, collected, and sometimes cocky fly boy that could do anything. Now Bill was seeing a different side of the boy he was falling in love with. “What are you having trouble with?” He asked in a quiet voice.
Will looked up at Bill and into his deep eyes, he saw caring and sympathy there, but also something else, he wasn't sure what it was, but it gave him a weird feeling in his stomach, not a bad feeling, just weird and for some reason kinda scary but in a good way, a way that Will wasn’t too sure he wanted to explore right now. “Well, to be honest, the thing that's bugging me the most is Adam and Logan. It just doesn't seem to fit.”
“What do ya mean?” Bill asked not really understanding what Will didn't get about it.
“Well,” Will sighed out not knowing exactly how to put it into words, “I guess I just don't understand how they can be that close. I mean I know that Adam is struggling with the same things I am, but he at least had a few years where he was with other people other than the doctors, and trainers. I guess I just don't understand what's between Adam and Logan.”
Bill sat there thinking over what Will had said, when it finally hit him what he must mean. “You mean you don't understand about Adam and Logan being boyfriends?”
“Yeah I guess that's what it is, I mean I was taught about sex, I was taught about masturbation, and the good feeling it produces, hell, I was even shown how to do it, and do it regularly. They said it was needed to prevent a build up of sexual tension that could interfere with an operation. I was taught about how sex works, and why it feels good, but, I just don't see what the big deal is with it, and mostly I just don't understand why Adam was so upset when he hit Logan. I mean sure, Logan isn't one of us,” he looked up at Bill with a grin, “he's what we like to call a squishy. He gets hurt easily. But Adam acted like it was the end of the world, and kept going on about how he hurt the one he loved. I guess that’s my biggest question. What's love? I mean besides the love I have for my brothers. I understand that,” Will was in a rush by this point trying to get out the questions before he forgot them, “but what I don't understand is what the difference is between how Adam loves us, and how he loves Logan. He says it's different, but even he can't explain how or why.”
Bill was kinda blown away by all of this. Will has always been a man of few words unless he was shooting off at the mouth, and he had never seen Will be this serious about something. Not to mention that he now knew just how bad Will had been sheltered in the labs. His casual talk about sex, and masturbation would have had Bill turning bright red, but Will was talking about it as if it was a outta a text book or something not exactly very stimulating as it ordinarily would be. He sat for a second trying to organize his thoughts, and when he was finally ready, he reached down and made it obvious he wanted to take Will's hand. When Bill had it placed firmly in his, he began.
“Will, let me ask you a few questions. First off, what do you feel, inside, when you hold my hand?” Bill asked knowing that he may not get the answers he hoped for, but knowing that if Will wasn't ready for things, it could be even worse.
Will looked up at Bill, then at their hands, then back into his eyes. “I really don't know, it's weird, nothing that I have ever felt before. It feels good, like in my stomach, almost like a contentment, but...” he broke the gaze with Bill, and started to stare off into space. “It's nice, but I don't know why.”
Bill let out a breath he didn't know he was holding, and also looked out over the hanger. “You know, people have been trying to define love since the beginning of time, and they still haven't come up with an answer. I don't know if I can answer your questions, but what I can do is explain to you the difference between how I feel for Ronnie, and how I feel for you. I really think I may be falling in love with you, but I'm not really sure how to go from here. Maybe after I explain the feelings, we can figure it out together.”
Bill looked back, and noticed that Will was staring at him. He returned the look, deep into Will's beautiful eyes, and began. “What I feel for Ronnie is brotherly love. I don't want to see him hurt, I want to try and make sure he stays safe, protect him, and I want to see him be happy. I’d do anything for him” he said pausing for a moment before adding softly “I already have” then in a louder voice “But when he grows up and goes off on his own…I’d be sad, real sad but it won’t be the end of the world…for either of us. We’ll go on and still love one another but apart. The thing is, what I feel for you is different. I want to spend every minute of every day with you, I want to grow old, with you. I want you to be in my life forever, but as more than just a friend, I want to share my deepest thoughts, fears, feelings, everything with you. It's more than just sex, I mean you know I have no feeling down there, so sex really doesn't mean much to me. But I want to share everything I am with you. Does that make any sense?”
Will had been looking deep into Bill's eyes the entire time the older boy was talking. He didn't understand what he was feeling inside, but with everything Bill had said, he knew that he was feeling the same. “I still don't understand it, but everything you said... it fits with what I feel too. If that's love, then it scares me.”
Bill cocked his head to the side, clearly not sure what Will meant. “Why does it scare you? I thought nothing could scare you.” Bill couldn't help but laugh at his last line.
Will laughed a bit to, but it soon faded, and he tore his gaze from Bill and looked back over the sterile empty hanger that they were alone in. “It scares me, because it makes me weak.”
Bill's eyes shot back to Will, but the younger boy wouldn't look at him. “Why do you say that it makes you weak?” Bill asked with a bit of a hitch in his voice, not really wanting to know what he meant.
Without looking back, Will said in an almost dead voice. “I was always taught that anything that could distract you from the mission, or anything that you feel is more important than the mission makes you weak. The most important thing is your orders. Nothing else matters. Not your family, not yourself, and certainly not someone who could be used against you. It interferes with your concentration, and getting the job done.”
Bill sat there in stunned silence for a few seconds trying to digest what Will had said. He saw that Will was trying hard to fight back tears. He didn't know what to say about that, as he knew nothing about what was going through the boy’s head right now. The war seemed to rage across Will's face for a full minute before he said, “I don't know what to think about any of this. But I know this much, Adam says it's not a weakness, it actually makes him fight harder, but he does say it's a constant source of worry, and sometimes pain.”
Silence reigned over the hanger for several minutes, while both boys sat there, hand in hand, lost in their own world. Will trying to figure out what he was feeling, and Bill in a war with himself as to what to do about his feelings. Finally Bill broke the silence, he didn't know if what he was about to say would help at all, but he knew he needed to let Will know about his past.
He let go of Will’s hand, which caused Will to look up at him with a question in his eyes. “Help me down from here, I want to lean back on the ramp if I can.”
Will nodded, and quickly moved to help Bill out of his chair. Once Bill was settled down on the ramp, his legs extended out, and his upper body resting on his arms, as he leaned back against the ramp. Will moved the chair down off the ramp, and re-filled their coffee cups. He took a chance, and did something that he had thought about doing at times, but didn't seem right. He wiggled behind Bill, and supported his upper body with his own. He wrapped his arms around Bill's chest, and was once again surprised by the definition he felt there. Bill for his part, melted back into the younger boys embrace, and almost purred in satisfaction. After a few moments, of just enjoying the feel of another body close to his own, Bill started to think back to the time before he was confined to his chair.
“Adam’s right Will it does make you fight harder, it…he’s right about everything he said” Bill softly told him which confused Will for a moment not quite understanding but with the next words realized that soon he would. “Will, I really want to tell you about how I got here, but it's kinda hard. I hope it will help to explain what I am feeling, and maybe help you with what you are feeling, but it's not exactly pleasant memories. Just try to bear with me, okay?” Bill felt Will nod into his shoulder, and then he began. “To really understand what happened, you have to go back a few years...”
Nine year old Bill came to a skidding halt outside the front door to his house. It took him a few seconds to get his breathing under control as it wouldn't do for him to let his step dad think he had to run the whole way home, just to make it on time. He wasn't supposed to stay after school for any reason, and his stepfather knew exactly how long it took to walk from the school, home. If Bill was even a minute late, his step dad would punish him for not following one of his rules. Of course Ronnie didn't have to worry about the rules, as the rules were different for him. He could stay after school and play with his friends if he wanted to not that Bill blamed Ronnie, no he knew who to blame.
Last month Bill had wanted to try out for the third grade soccer team. When he asked his mom, his mom had said that he had to ask his father. Everyone except Bill and Ronnie called Greg, Bill's father. Bill refused to call him anything other then his stepfather, unless he was speaking directly to Greg, then it had to be father. Ronnie could call him dad, or daddy, but Bill had to call him father. He couldn't remember how many times Greg had told him that “You’re not my kid, and dammit I wouldn't want you to be either.”
Having gotten his breathing under control, Bill moved up the steps to the house. He quietly opened the door, making sure the screen door didn't slam, and silently closed it behind him. He hoped that he could get past the living room where Greg was with out being noticed. He bent down and pulled off his shoes so they wouldn't make any noise, and started to head for the stairs. He was almost there when Greg thundered from the living room, “Biiiiiiillllly, get your ass in here.” Damn, not today.
Hanging his head, Bill shuffled off into the living room. He hated the way that Greg always called his name in that damned singsong voice. That was the main reason why he hated anyone calling him Billy. All too soon, he stood in front of the chair Greg was sitting in. “You have any homework?” Greg asked him not bothering to take his eyes off the television.
Bill mumbled an answer, and the next thing he knew, he was laying flat on his back, with Greg screaming at him. “Speak up when I talk to you boy, what do you think, I'm a fucking mind reader or something.”
Bill pulled himself up to his feet, not letting the tears fall that he knew were forming in his eyes. Crying would just set Greg off on how much of a baby Bill was, and that would probably end in Bill getting hit some more with Greg screaming things like, “I'll make you into a man even if it kills you.”
“Sorry sir, and yes sir, I have homework to do.” He said, loudly this time. Greg always insisted on Bill calling him sir.
“Let me see it.” Greg demanded from his chair, now turning back to the TV. Bill picked his bag up from the floor where it dropped when Greg had slapped him, and started to rifle through it. Finally he found what he needed, and pulled out his homework folder. He hesitantly handed it to the man, and Greg snatched out of his hand.
For a few tense moments, Bill sat there watching as Greg went through his homework. Finally, Greg shoved it back at him, and with a growl told him to get upstairs and get it done. Bill moved up to his room trying to be a quiet as possible. He walked into the room he shared with Ronnie. Greg had tried to make Bill take the really tiny room down the hall that was little more than a closet, but Ronnie had whined and begged, and finally it was mom that agreed to let them share a room. Greg had argued that he might “taint my boy.”
It's always been like that for Bill, he was always the bad kid. He tried as hard as he could to make Greg like him, but nothing he did worked. He finally figured out that no matter what happened, Greg wouldn't like him because he was “a damn bastard kid that I gotta put up with.” As Greg would often say.
When he got into his room, Bill finally released the tears he had been holding back and as they fell silently looked over the room, seeing the difference that was apparent even in something like the room. Bill's side of the room was mostly spartan with the only things decorating it being his book shelf where he kept all his books, and a single model Helicopter that he had put together. Ronnie had told everyone that he had done it, and that was probably the only reason Greg hadn't broken it like he had broken all the other models that Bill had put together. Greg also wouldn't tolerate Bill's side of the room to be messy at all. If it was, then there would be hell to pay of a kind you wouldn’t want to have.
Ronnie's side of the room was a lot different. His side was littered with dirty cloths, posters on the wall, and of course his TV and game system. At night, Ronnie and Bill would play the thing if Greg was being really bad, but the only time that Bill was caught playing the game system when Ronnie wasn't home, Bill couldn't walk right for almost a week.
It never occurred to Bill to hate Ronnie or blame him for the disparity that existed in their world. Many would but from the beginning Ronnie had always loved Bill, loved him unconditionally, and for Bill that was all the love he really knew in his life, that of his brother and he loved Ronnie more than anything in the world because of it. No Ronnie made life bearable for Bill and he could never hate him. He was just worried that one day Greg would turn on the little boy who made sure Bill shared in everything he ever got. That frightened Bill more than anything else. He couldn’t bear the thought of Ronnie suffering what he did.
Bill sat down at his desk and started to work on his homework. He had to have it done as quickly as he could, so that Greg could look it over. He was very thankful that his homework tonight was only worksheets and some reading. Usually if Greg didn't like the homework he had done, which was more often than not, he would end up tearing up the papers. With everything being worksheets, Greg couldn't tear it up, or at least Bill didn't think he would. That was another thing that bothered Bill, if Bill got less then straight A's on his report card, Greg would go nuts, Ronnie, on the other hand, didn't have to worry about it. Truth be told there were a lot of things that bothered Bill and mostly because he just couldn’t understand why. He knew other kids who had stepparents and they didn’t get treated the way he did, at least he didn’t think they did. Ronnie was always so apologetic when he got something that Bill didn’t and he could never explain to the younger boy why because he didn’t know himself.
Bill had tried to tell his mother about everything one time, but she refused to believe what Bill had said, and had told him that he should be grateful that Greg puts up with him. Of course by the time Bill got up the nerve to tell his mom, Greg had been telling her a bunch of lies about how bad of a kid Bill was. Of course since his mother worked so many hours, and Greg did nothing all day but sit on his ass, his mom didn't really have the time, or energy to deal with the problems. The day after Bill had told his mom, he came home to an irate Greg. Later that night, and after a trip to the hospital, for a broken arm, and some cuts, all of which he got because he was running in the house, and fell down the stairs, he got lectured by Ronnie about not doing anything to piss Greg off although Bill didn’t really need to do anything for Greg to be pissed off at him. He even thought of telling a teacher or something but Greg as if sensing his thoughts informed him that that idea would not be a good one, for him. After that Bill did everything he could to not be seen or heard in the house not that it did a hell of a lot of good. Even if Bill made himself invisible Greg would come looking for him anyway.
Will could see that this was having a real bad effect on Bill. He didn't like to see his new friend in such pain, so he did the only thing he could. After Bill told him about trying to become invisible, Bill had lapsed into a silence. Will held him tight for a few moments then spoke up. “Hey Bill, why don't we head down to the mess deck and get something to eat. I'm sure someone's down there at this time of night, and will have at least some better coffee on.”
Bill nodded his head, reached up and brushed away a few unshed tears this had been even harder than he thought it would be and he hadn’t even gotten to the bad part yet. He then gave Will's arms a squeeze before letting go. Will extracted himself out from behind Bill, then picked the older boy up and put him in his chair. He was somewhat surprised when he looked up at the clock and it read 04:30. They had been talking for over an hour, but both of them were too keyed up to be tired. Will decided to try and lighten the mood some, so on the way to the elevator, and down to where the kitchens were, they talked lightly about the helicopters. Will absolutely loved the fact the Bill wanted to know everything he could about them. What really surprised Will was that Bill had started asking questions that really made him think for the answers, and they had only been going at it for about a month so far. The only complaint that Will had about Bill's performance so far was that Bill pretty much flew by the text book. That wasn't a bad thing per say, but by taking that approach, Bill would never be a top flier. Will was beginning to have an inkling as to why though, although he wasn’t sure what he could do to counteract it yet.
When they got down to the mess deck, they found the place was mostly deserted, except for a little mop of brown hair that could be seen bobbing up and down behind the counter. When Will cleared his throat, the little mop bounced up, and they could see the youngest kid in the entire place, Ray. “Hey there Ray, you’re up early. What's ya doing?” Will asked as he pushed Bill over to the counter, and Ray jumped up onto it so he could sit down and see who was there.
“Hey there Will, just getting stuff ready for breakfast, Dave says we gotta start early to feed everyone. He should be down here soon.” Ray said, and Will couldn't help but chuckle at the little guys enthusiasm. He was beginning to think that Joe and Janet were right, all the kids here needed was a little boost in their self esteem, and they would turn out great, and Ray was a very good example of that.
Will nodded, “Yeah you gotta start early to feed all the monsters here, but we're just down here for a snack. We haven't even gone to bed yet. Think you could rustle something up for us?” Ray bobbed his head up and down with a grin on his face, then hopped off the counter and scurried into the back. Will turned Bill around and they headed for a table laughing at the little imps antics.
They had just gotten settled when Ray came out carrying a try, overloaded with cold cut sandwiches. There was also a couple of coffee cups that were steaming. Ray's face was a mask on concentration, as he walked to them with the tray, making sure not to tip it. Both Will and Bill had to stifle a laugh at Ray's little tongue stuck out the side of his mouth in concentration. When Ray set the tray down on the table his face glowed with accomplishment. Both of the older boys thanked him profusely for his service, and Ray scampered off back into the kitchen letting them know to call if they needed anything. Both boys attacked the pile of sandwiches, and the steaming coffee, until all that was left was the coffee, and a few crumbs. Bill took this opportunity to ask Will about something. “So, what do you think about Logan's idea about the radar?”
Will sighed and leaned back in his chair. “Well, if it works, it'll be great. The idea is simple. To plant a virus into the radar computers that would change the color of our “blip” to the background color. I mean it would be hard for them to miss us, even if we shut off the transponders, but with him doing it that way, they would see us, but they couldn't tell us from the background. Basically making us invisible.” Bill nodded, but wasn't really thinking about radar right now, his mind was far away lost in memories.
Bill sighed contentedly, and sat back in his chair. “You know, less then two months ago, I was really worried about what Ronnie and I were going to eat next, now I ain't gotta worry about that. It's kinda nice.” Will nodded, as he too sat back in his chair and got comfortable.
They sat in silence for a few moments, then Bill said, “You know, I still have a lot to tell you, and I want to get it out while I can. Think we can go back to your pod or something so we can be a bit more comfortable?” Will only nodded, got up, and cleared their trash knowing that he had to hear the rest of it, that Bill had to tell it to him even though he was pretty sure he didn’t want to hear it now. Taking a hold of Bill's chair, he pushed him back towards the pod that he shared with his brothers. He transferred Bill to the couch, when they got there, then wiggled in behind him like he was earlier, and Bill started speaking again.
Bill woke up with a start when he heard the shouting going on in the other room. Things hadn’t improved any in the intervening couple of years and tonight was no exception. Ronnie was quietly crying in the other bed, which told Bill that his mother and step father had been at it for a while. They had been arguing a lot lately, ever since his mom lost the second job she had, and Greg got caught hitting Bill. Of course his mother never said anything to Bill, like apologizing for not believing him.
Bill got out of bed quietly, and moved over to Ronnie's bed worried about him. He slid in next to his brother, and held him close. Ronnie snuggled back into Bill's chest, and Bill wrapped his arms around his younger brother. “It's gonna be okay little guy, things are gonna work out.”
The cries turned into soft whimpers as Bill kept whispering to Ronnie about how things were going to work out, and things were gonna be okay. Finally Ronnie fell back asleep, but Bill stayed awake to listen to what was going on. It was almost an hour later when things went to hell even worse, he just didn’t know how much worse yet. Bill was just about to fall asleep when the screaming got louder.
“Fine!” he heard Greg yell with derision in his voice, “take the fucking bastard, but you ain't leaving with my son.”
“It's not like it matters, Ronnie isn't your kid anyways!” He heard his mother shout back the fury in her voice evident as well as something else. There was silence for a few moments after that, but Bill felt more than heard Ronnie start to sob again, and he just pulled him in tighter to him. They both jumped when they heard something crash downstairs, then they heard Greg stomping his way up the stairs.
Fear shot through him as Bill jumped out of Ronnie's bed, and barely made it back to his own, when the door burst open and Greg thundered into the room. He flipped the lights on, and looked around for a second. Bill thought he had seen hatred before, like every time Greg had looked at him but now realized he had never seen a look of pure hatred on anyone's face before, and it scared him, it scared him a lot. Greg looked at him snarling, and Bill was sure that Greg was about to come after him.
Greg didn't though, to Bill’s horror he moved over to Ronnie's bed, and yanked the nine year old little boy out of the bed by his hair and threw him across the room. Ronnie had started to scream when Bill grabbed him but as he hit the wall, then crashed down to the floor, that screaming came abruptly to a stop. Greg with a savage smile now started to move to where Ronnie lay on the floor in a heap not moving. Bill knew that Greg would either hurt Ronnie real bad, or end up killing him if he hadn’t already done one or both. As afraid as he was of Greg, he was more afraid of his little brother getting hurt.
Without thinking, Bill launched himself off the bed and ran towards Greg full force tackling him. He was a big kid for eleven, and his momentum was enough to knock Greg off his feet and out of the room. Bill then slammed the door shut, and locked it. He ran over to Ronnie to see how his little brother was doing. Ronnie wasn’t moving at all, and Bill didn't know how bad he was hurt. He knew enough though to know not to try and move him and to check and know that he was breathing but that was all.
Greg started to pound on the door, screaming for Bill to unlock it. Bill was scared shitless at this point and did the only thing he could think of. He ran to his bed, and fell to the floor right in front of it. He reached under the bed to find what he knew would be there it was the only chance they had.
After the beating he got when he told his mom about what was going on, Ronnie had gotten him a pre-paid cell phone. He had used his allowance to get it and Bill was quite moved by the gesture. Bill himself didn't get an allowance, but Ronnie got five dollars a week. Bill knew that Ronnie had to save up for many weeks to have enough for it. Ronnie told him it was for an emergency, and this certainly fit the bill.
Bill was shaking like he had a fever as he franticly grabbed the phone and hit 911, just as the pounding stopped. He was more frightened now then he ever was before.
“911, what is your emergency?” a voice said from the other end of the phone.
“Please I need help! My step dad is trying to hurt us, my brother isn’t moving, please.” Bill cried into the phone trying but unable to fight back the tears, and hoping that the police could get there in time.
“Okay honey it’s going to be alright, what's your name, and where are you at?” The ladies voice said trying to reassure the terrified young boy, and Bill could hear her typing away on a keyboard.
“Please” he begged “He’s not moving, please help us,” he cried as he stared at the silent door petrified of what he knew was on the other side.
“Honey listen to me you have to tell me your name and where you’re at, you have to or we can’t get help to you or your brother” the lady said desperately trying to get the boy to calm enough to give her the information.
Those words brought Bill back from the abyss he had been sinking into “My name is Bill Tompkins, and I live at 335 south tenth st...” Bill started, but was interrupted by Greg starting to pound on the door again. Bill whimpered into the phone again “He’s back”, and the lady started to say something when the pounding stopped again. Bill was about to turn his attention back to the phone when a mighty roar sounded through the house, and the door flew in. Bill screamed as he saw Greg there with a gun in his hand.
He dropped the phone, and screamed, “No Greg! Don't shoot!” He then ran over to try and get to Ronnie he had to protect him. He saw Greg raise the gun, and point it at him. He raised his arms to try and ward off the bullet as he screamed “No!!!” Just as he heard his mother scream and then the gun went off. He felt the bullet tear into his shoulder, and incredible pain throwing him back across the room. He hit the wall, and fell down to the floor, where he lay dazed for a few seconds, but his fear and concern for Ronnie overcame the daze.
He struggled back to his feet surprised at how weak and dizzy he felt, and saw that his mom had tackled Greg to the floor. He heard another gunshot as he struggled to get to Ronnie. His only concern right now was for his little brother. He heard another blast from the gun, just as he reached him. He tried to reach down to grab his little brother, but his arm wouldn’t work. He looked down at it not quite understanding why things wouldn’t work right, and noticed that there was blood dripping from his fingertips, and his arm was just hanging there, and he couldn't move it.
He looked back to where Greg was struggling to his feet again, and saw his mom on the floor. Half of her face was missing, and all he could see was blood and some gray stuff on the floor. He felt himself scream, but didn't remember screaming.
His screams made Greg look up from where Bill's mom was laying, and look at him with absolute hate. Bill felt a cold shiver go through him like a knife, feeling a warmth spread down his legs at that look, and it brought him back to what was going on. He saw Greg raise the gun and point it at Ronnie.
Bill screamed then, “Leave him alone!!!” At the same time he heard the front door burst in and voices yelling from down stairs. Greg looked over his shoulder, and Bill could see two police officers, guns drawn, bound up the stairs. Greg had lowered his gun slightly with the noise of the police coming in. When he saw them come up the stairs, he half turned towards them.
“Freeze!” he heard one of the officers yell, and things slowed down with what happened next.
Bill saw Greg spin around raising the gun again in Ronnie’s direction. Bill threw himself over top of his little brother at the same time he heard the roar of the gun. He felt something slam into his back and a burning pain as darkness began to come, then heard the sounds of two other guns going off. The next thing he remembered was one of the officers bending over him asking if he was okay. Bill shook his head, whispering each word distinctly and separately “I…don’t…think…so” and then dropped it onto Ronnie's. With everything he had left in him, he gave his brother a kiss on the forehead, saying, “I love you,” as the blackness overtook him.
Bill was struggling to wake up. He couldn't understand why he couldn't open his eyes, and it was starting to scare him. All he could hear was a “beep... beep... beep” in the background that was driving him nuts. He finally managed to open them a little, and found he was in a strange room. He didn't know what was going on, or why he was here at first, but, then, in a flash, it all came back to him. He tried to sit up, but couldn't. He couldn't feel anything from his waist down. It was dark in the room, and he couldn't see if there was anyone there. He was starting to panic not knowing where he was, what was wrong and, more importantly, if Ronnie was okay.
“Ronnie!!!” he screamed, hoping that his little brother could hear him. He kept screaming for his brother for about a minute, when the door burst open, and a nurse rushed into the room.
“What is it honey? What’s wrong?” She asked as she rushed over to his bed, and grabbed his hand.
Bill tried to pull away from her, scared of who she was, and not knowing where he was. “Where's Ronnie?” He begged of her, “and where am I?”
“Shush...” She said her heart breaking at seeing the fear there, knowing all he had been through as she tried to calm the scared boy down, “You’re gonna be okay, you’re in the hospital.” She was talking softly, trying to sooth his fears,
“Where's Ronnie, is he okay?” Bill asked again, his voice trembling with fear.
“He's okay, honey, he’s in the other room with your grandparents he’s okay. Do you want me to go get them?” She asked, still finding it strange that the grandparents would spend all their time in the other boy's room, never doing more than stopping in to talk to the nurse about their other grand child.
Bill slumped back with a relief so great he almost thought he was going to pass out from the intensity of it, and barely nodded to the nurse’s question. She bent over and gave him a hug, then left the room. She left the door open slightly, and moved down the hall.
Bill was left with his own thoughts, as he went over and over in his mind what had happened.
The nurse walked down the corridor to the other room and walked inside where she saw the other little boy and his strange grandparents.
"Honey your brother is awake and is asking for you, he's really worried about you" she said
Ronnie immediately sat up and asked "Can I go see him, please"
"Sure you can all go in and see him, I think it'd make him feel a lot better"
"You go Ronnie, we'll wait here for you, don't be too long" the elderly woman said to the boy who simply looked oddly at her for a moment before climbing down off the bed and walking over to the nurse
"Come on sweetie" the nurse said casting one last glance at the cold fish sitting there looking as if they had sampled something bitter. She felt sorry for the boys who were going to have to go live with them, especially the older boy. He was going to have enough to deal with already and certainly didn't need this too she thought as she led Ronnie back to his brother's room.
“Bill!” Ronnie yelled as he came into the room. He immediately ran over to the bed, and started to climb in. The nurse was about to say something, but thought that Ronnie being there was probably the best thing in the world right now for Bill, so instead of saying anything, she moved over, and helped Ronnie get into the bed with out hurting any of the wires or tubes that were going into and out of Bill.
“Bill, I was so worried about you, are you okay? We've been here for two days, and grandma and grandpa have been here too. They wouldn't tell me anything 'cept that mommy and daddy had to go away for a while.” Ronnie cried, in a rush, as he buried his head into Bill's good shoulder.
Bill had tears running down his face as soon as he saw Ronnie, he was so glad to see, with his own eyes, that Ronnie was okay. He knew that they would never see mom and Greg again, but didn't know how to tell Ronnie what had happened. He was worried about the fact that Ronnie's arm was in a cast, but the fact that he was alive was all that mattered to Bill right now. “It's okay shrimp, I'm okay, I was just so worried about you. Are you alright?”
Ronnie pulled his head back, and wiped his tears with his arms, “Yeah, I'm okay, the doctor said my arm would be okay after it healed.”
“He's right,” a voice said softly from the doorway. They turned to see a rather short but fat man standing there wearing a lab coat, with a stethoscope hanging around his neck. He moved into the room, and turned the lights on low, so they could see with more light than what was coming in from the hall.
“Once his arm heals up, he'll be good as new.” The doctor added as he moved over to the bed on the side that Ronnie was not on. Both boys looked up at the man, neither looking much like they wanted to trust him. “Hi, I'm Doctor Alberts, but you guys can call me doc. I'm glad to see you’re awake Bill.” He had heard from Ronnie that Bill hated to be called Billy and was thankful for that bit of information, as he knew it would be tough to get this young boy to trust him after everything that happened to him.
“Sir...” Bill started in a small voice, almost making Alberts lean forward to hear him. “Umm, I mean Doc, is... is Ronnie really gonna be okay?”
Alberts was shocked that after everything Bill had been through, that his first thought would be for Ronnie. He knew from experience, that Bill was probably in an a lot of pain right now, but he didn't let on. He was solely focused on making sure his little brother was gonna be okay. “Yes Bill, Ronnie will be good as new in a few weeks. I'm really glad you’re awake now, because the little guy laying next to you was about ready to explode if he didn't get to see you.” He said smiling at the two.
Alberts was glad his little joke worked as it got a little giggle from Ronnie, and Bill actually cracked a smile. Bill's smile faded to a grimace of pain, and the doctor got a bit concerned. The grimace vanished almost as quickly as it had appeared. Ronnie leaned in and whispered something to Bill. Bill then looked to the doctor and asked his next question.
“Okay doc, Ronnie says he wants to know about me, and I would too. How bad is it?” Alberts was shocked at how mature Bill was in asking the question, but he wasn't too sure how he would take the answer. He thought about it for a few seconds, then decided to be honest with the boy.
“Ummm.. well... since your grandparents have made it obvious they don't think either of you should know the whole story, I really can't tell you.” He raised his hand to cut off the protests, and quickly went on. “However, in my medical opinion, I think you should know, so I am going to tell you.”
He went over, and picked up one of the chairs in the room. He brought it over next to the bed and sat down. He took a moment to organize his thoughts, and when he was ready he looked up and met the older boys’ eyes. “First off, I need to inform you that the police will be needing to talk to you, and you would get this information from them anyways, however, I think you might handle it better if I tell you.” He then looked at Ronnie, and said, “the whole story.”
He saw that he had both boys undivided attention, and began the tragic tale. “Ronnie, I am sorry to have to tell you that both your mommy and daddy are dead. They died the same night that you and Bill got hurt.” Ronnie started to cry, and Bill pulled his little brother into his shoulder, with his one good arm, and started to whisper reassurances into his ear.
Alberts waited patiently for Ronnie to calm down. He was only slightly surprised that Bill had not reacted at all. That led him to believe that the police were right when they said that Bill had witnessed the entire event. He knew that the older boy would probably need a lot of counseling to get over all of this.
About five minutes later, Ronnie quieted down, and looked up, first to Bill, who gave him a nod. He then looked over to the doctor and nodded for him to continue.
Alberts took a deep breath then went on. “Bill, you suffered two different gun shot wounds. One that entered your shoulder breaking the bone there. The other one, went into your back, and severed your spine. I know you probably don't understand what that means but...”
Alberts was cut off by Bill saying, “That’s why I can't feel anything from my stomach down, isn't it?” Bill asked with the start of tears running down his checks.
The doctor just nodded, and said sadly “I’m afraid so,” and Bill nodded back. Ronnie looked back and forth between them for several seconds, before settling on his brother. “What does that mean Bill?” Ronnie asked in a very small voice.
“It means, shrimp, that I'll probably never walk again.” Bill said with a hint of finality in his voice. Ronnie quickly looked to the doctor, who just nodded in agreement saying “I’m sorry but there’s nothing we can do”. Ronnie cried out “No!, please Bill, tell me it isn’t true”, looking back at his brother. “I’m afraid it is. That’s one thing they can’t fix can they doc?” Bill said. Shaking his head as Ronnie stared at him with eyes full of hope he did one of the hardest things he had ever had to do and that was say to the little boy “I am really sorry but your brother is right, he’ll never walk or feel anything from the waist down” With that Ronnie started to cry again, but Bill quickly cuddled him close trying to reassure him. He knew that using his nickname for Ronnie helped a bit, but it was gonna be hard on both of them for a long, long time.
Alberts was constantly amazed by the older boy. Here he was only eleven years old, but he was taking this better then most adults he had talked to about this. He’d seen a lot in his years as a doctor but this was by far the most touching of all. The only thing left to tell them was probably going to be the hardest part. He waited for Ronnie to calm down again, then continued.
“The last thing I need to tell you is probably gonna be hard, Ronnie, why don't you lay your head on Bill's shoulder for this, and Bill hold onto your brother tight okay?” they both nodded although Bill flashed him a look that spoke volumes about not hurting Ronnie anymore, and got into the position the doctor told them too. When they were ready, the doctor got up and took Bill's injured hand in his own. He brushed a little bit of hair out of Ronnie's eyes, then took a deep breath.
“Ronnie, I hope you know what kind of big brother you have here and just how much he loves you. I found out from the police, and verified it through the lab here. When your father fired his gun the last time, it was meant to hit you. Bill threw himself over you at the last second to protect you. When the bullet hit him, it severed his spine, but it also deflected... ummm... made the bullet go in a different direction than it was going... and it went into your arm, breaking it instead. If it hadn't been for Bill here, it's most likely, that it would have killed you.” Alberts finished up squeezing Bill's hand, and watching to see if both boys could handle the information they just got.
Ronnie stared at the doctor for a moment, then looked at Bill stunned by what he had just heard. When their eyes met, Bill answered Ronnie unasked question with a nod of his head, and Ronnie squeaked out “Why?”
Bill just squeezed Ronnie closer with his one good arm, and kissed him on the forehead. “Cause your my baby brother, I have to protect you and most of all because I love you.” Ronnie then buried his head into Bill's shoulder crying his eyes out. He now knew that Bill would never walk again because Bill had saved his life. As if Bill knew what was going through Ronnie’s mind he softly said but with great force “I wouldn’t change a thing little brother, you’re here now and you’re alright which is all that matters.”
The doctor watched as Bill pulled Ronnie closer into him, and shed a few silent tears. Once he was fairly certain neither boy was going to have a major breakdown, he left them alone surprised to find his face wet as he left the room, damn it you just weren’t supposed to let it get to you like this he thought as he walked down the hall towards the lounge, he needed to be alone for a while. They stayed like that for several minutes, before Bill looked down and saw that Ronnie had fallen asleep. He held his little brother for a few minutes, before he looked up at the ceiling, and prayed with tears still running down his face and fear evident in his voice, fear and pleading.
“God, I don't know if you even listen to me anymore, but I need your help. I can't look after Ronnie anymore, and I don't know what's gonna happen now. Please God, I am begging you, please, send one of your angels to look after him. I can take care of myself, but Ronnie's too little, and needs someone. Please, watch over him.”
Bill feel asleep shortly after his prayer, and neither boy noticed the doctor come back in and give Bill some medication through his IV. He stood there and watched over the boys for a few seconds. He couldn't get over what both boys had been through, or how well Bill was taking it. He hoped it wouldn't become an issue later, but for now, Alberts knew he would do all he could to help both boys. They had somehow touched something deep within him that he never allowed to be touched.
Ronnie was released from the hospital the day after Bill woke up, but Bill would be in there for a while longer. Ronnie didn’t want to go but wasn’t left with a choice and made sure that he came back almost every day to see Bill, however, he rarely saw his grandparents. When he did see them, they barely said two words to him. He knew they didn't like him any better than Greg did. At least they didn't know that Ronnie wasn't Greg's son, or else Ronnie would have been treated like Bill was and Bill made sure it stayed that way cause Ronnie didn’t need that on top of everything else.
Bill was alone in the room for the next two weeks. Doc had told him that he would probably be in the hospital for about six months total. They had to make sure that there were no long term problems other then the ones they knew about, and wanted to make sure that he knew how to do his physical therapy. During that time he learned all about what the future held for him. He spent a lot of time late at night crying, often crying himself to sleep but in the end he knew he’d have to get used to it. It didn’t make it any easier but over time he gradually came to an acceptance of his condition. What he had said to Ronnie that first day was something he meant every word of. Even knowing the cost he wouldn’t change a thing. His brother was alive and that made it all worth it.
He finally did get a room mate who was about his own age. Kenny was his name, and he had been in a pretty bad accident. It seemed a car had hit him while he was riding his bike. He ended up breaking both his legs and had some internal injuries. Kenny was a nice kid though, and helped make the time go faster for Bill. Bill's grandparents hadn't paid to have the TV turned on, so he really didn't have much to do during the day, except read the books that were brought around. When Kenny got there, his parents had turned on the TV, and Kenny made sure Bill could see it when he watched something.
Bill was sad every time Kenny's dad was around. It was obvious the Kenny's dad loved him and cared about him. It made Bill wonder why he couldn’t have had a dad to love him. Was something wrong with him like Greg always said? Was it so much to ask God to be loved? He didn’t get an answer to his questions just like he never had but loved the time with the other boy’s father Kenny's dad, Dave, as Bill was told to call him, picked up on what was going on, and knew from the nurses that Bill's only visitor was Ronnie, and how the grandparents treated Bill. Dave also knew what had happened to Bill's parents, as it had been all over the news. That 911 tape that the news had played was one he would never ever forget to his dying day. When Bill had dropped the phone it had stayed on and it was all recorded. He shuddered at recalling that desperate cry to help them and the even more chilling words “He’s back” said with such horror in that little voice. The cry begging the man not to shoot them and the scream of “No” followed by gunshots and finally the barely audible words said to his brother of “I love you” still brought tears to Dave’s eyes. Looking at his own son he didn’t know how anyone could ever treat a child so horribly or do something like that to one. All he could do that night when he first heard it was go into Kenny’s room and hold the confused boy he had woken up to him as tightly as he could. Explanations would come the next day when unfortunately Kenny heard it as well. Then he had been faced with the prospect of answering questions from his son that he didn’t have answers to, questions that he didn’t know mirrored Bill’s. He tried his best to involve the little boy in everything that he did with his own son, and many times brought Bill a treat when he came. The boy became special to Dave in that time and too Kenny as well. He wondered if there wasn’t something they could do for the two of them. Bill ate up the attention and could, for a little while, pretend that he had a daddy, a real daddy to love him like he had always dreamed of but, was even more depressed, when Kenny was released about a week before he was to be. As usual nothing could last.
Bill knew that going to his grandparents house was not going to be fun as Ronnie had told him how much they had bitched about the modifications that had to be made for Bill's wheelchair. Ronnie said that he had actually gotten into a fight with them when they had said no to Ronnie moving into Bill's room when he came home. Finally, though, Ronnie's whining had won out, and they allowed it. Ronnie was a bundle of joy when he came in the day Bill was to be released.
While the nurses were getting Bill ready to go home, and the grandparents were getting him checked out, Ronnie managed to find a few seconds when they were alone and told Bill about the sleeping arrangement. Ronnie said that the main reason they allowed it was so that they wouldn't have to get up in the middle of the night in case Bill needed something.
Bill's grandparents barely said two words to him other than what was needed to get him in and out of their car. When they got to their house, his grandfather wheeled him into his room, helped him get into bed, then left him alone. After so long around people who cared about him and were friendly to him this was like being punched in the gut. It hurt even though he didn’t want it to but Ronnie never left his side the whole time, and once they were alone, Ronnie ran over to his side of the room.
“Hey Bill, I found something at the old house that I knew you would want saved. I hid it so they wouldn't find it.” The little guy rustled around in his drawer for a few seconds, then came back over to Bill's bed handing him something wrapped in cloth. Bill took it, then unwrapped the object. When he saw what it was he started to sob. He had held everything in for so long, and now it all seemed to come out in a rush. He held the framed photograph to his chest and cried for what seemed like hours. Ronnie held him all the while that he was crying, and soon the older boy cried himself to sleep. Ronnie took the picture and placed it on the dresser next to his bed before crawling back in beside his brother and wrapping his arms around him tightly.
Tears were slowly streaming down both boys eyes as Bill got done talking. Will held him tight to his chest while the older boy cried. He couldn't understand how anyone could treat someone like Bill was treated. It made him feel bad for how he had felt at being a lab rat for so many years. While it might not have been great, it was nothing compared to what Bill had to go through.
Once Bill was done crying he continued his story. “You know, it sucks having a birthday in the hospital. But what sucks even more was that I had a nicer birthday there then I have ever remembered. They said that since I was turning twelve, that I may need to be moved to the adult section. They were only kidding, but it made me feel weird. Anyways, we stayed with my grandparents for about 3 months, before we left. Things weren't going too well there, as I was basically ignored. Which meant that anything that I needed help with, I either went without, or Ronnie had to do for me. He never complained, but I felt bad having to have him help me with things like going to the bathroom, or taking a bath. I got pretty good at being able to do both by myself, but it's a lot better with help. He stayed by me and kept me going Will, I…think…I think I would have found a way to finish what Greg had started if it wasn’t for Ronnie being there,” and with that Bill lapsed into silence, and Will spoke up almost immediately.
“I’m so glad you didn’t Bill, and if you ever need help with that stuff, let me know. I mean I would like to help you if you need it. And if I can't I'm sure Chang can. He's a doc and knows all about this kinda stuff.” Will said as he squeezed Bill tight against his chest. Bill muttered a thanks, then went on with his story.
“One day, as I said, about three months later, Ronnie came into the room in a rush. I asked what was wrong, and all he said was that we were leaving. I knew my grandparents had left for the evening, so I wasn't sure what was going on. When I finally got Ronnie calmed down enough to tell me what was going on, he told me that the grandparents had decided that I needed to be sent away to a school for “kids with special needs.” Ronnie said that we were not going to be split up, and had gotten money out of the safe that they kept in their room. It was only about two hundred dollars, but we would have to make do. Ronnie was very insistent that he would not stay here if I went.
I tried to talk him out of it, but he finally looked me right in the eyes, and said. If they send you away, then I'm gonna run away to find you. Now, would you rather go with me, or would you rather me go by myself. Ronnie has always been a stubborn little shit, and I didn't doubt he would do what he said, so we had to go. You know it’s kind of funny but being ignored I think is worse than anything else. At least with Greg and what he did you knew you existed but with them you might as well not have” Bill said sadly.
“We loaded our bags with some clothes, and as much food as we could find, then struck out to find a future. We were near the bus station, so we went there. The next bus to leave was going to end up in Salt Lake City, so we told the guy at the counter that we were going to see our grandparents there, and he bent the rules to let us buy tickets.”
“We spent two days on a bus, and when we finally got to Salt Lake City, we tried to find some place to go. We only had about fifty bucks left, and didn't know what the hell to do. We were well and truly fucked by this point, we just didn't know it.” Bill gave a bark of laughter, and Will couldn't help but join in.
“Finally, after only two days, we were out of money. We had no clue what to do then, but thankfully, we happened to run into Jack, literally. We were coming around a corner, and I ran over Jack's foot with my chair. After apologizing profusely, he must have figured out things were not right with us. He offered to buy us dinner at the Burger King that was across the street, and we took him up on the offer, not having anything better to do, and we were both hungry. Finally, he managed to get our story out of us, and offered to bring us back here. We didn't really trust him, but we had nothing better, and didn't have much to lose. The rest, as they say is history.” Bill finished his story, and they both stared off into space thinking about the story that was just told.
After a few minutes, Will asked the one question that was still bugging him. “Bill, there's one part of the story that still bugs me a bit.”
Bill looked over his shoulder, “Okay, what's that?”
“Well,” Will said, “the picture that Ronnie gave you. You never said what it was a picture of.”
Bill nodded his head, then struggled to get sat up. Will quickly moved to help him, then, with a motion from Bill, moved the chair over so Bill could get to it. He reached into a bag that was attached to the back on the chair and started to feel around inside. Finally he pulled out a picture frame and handed it to Will.
Will looked at it for a second, then asked, “Is this you?” When Bill just nodded, he continued. “And who's the other guy?”
Bill held out his hand, and Will handed him the picture. It was of Bill when he was two or three years old, being held by a man in a military uniform, standing in front of a helicopter. His hand shaking and with a deep but unspoken longing in his eyes and voice he said “I... I'm not really sure who it is...but I think…I think it's my... dad”
Will was looking at him when he was suddenly brought back from his memories by Janet walking into the waiting room looking like hell.
Everyone jumped up moving towards her as she held up a hand saying quickly “I have to get back in there, he’s still in surgery but I wanted to give you guys an update. He’s still alive and we’re doing…” but she was interrupted by a voice over the paging system coming on saying
“Code Blue Surgery one, Code Blue Surgery one” and a ragged voice following it with “Janet I need you now!”
At the announcement Bill’s and Janet’s faces had gone white as a sheet and with the final words Janet spun around and raced back through the door yelling back “Stay there” to the assembled boys who were milling about looking at one another in confusion.
Will finally asked a trembling Bill “You know what that means don’t you?” and all eyes turned to the wheelchair bound boy who didn’t say anything for a moment or two as they all watched his throat work trying to get the words out until he finally said in a strangled whisper with tears running down his face “It means he’s…he’s dead!”