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Chapter 3

I was immediately surrounded by hugs and lost myself in the experience until I noticed that Judge Harmon was approaching.

"So Thom, what's going to happen to Jason now that the legal matters have been dispensed with?" Judge Harmon asked with a kind smile.

"Well, we will need to go back to the hospital for another MRI and blood work. But if all goes as I expect, I think that he should be able to be released tonight." Dr. Finley said speculatively.

"Then I suppose I should arrange a hotel room for a few days. It's going to take a little time to get Jason the things he's going to need in Ohio." My dad said thoughtfully.

"A hotel room? That sounds awfully lonely. Why don't you stay with us, Jace? We've got plenty of room and it would be nice to have some company." Josh asked hopefully.

Dad seemed hesitant to accept, but finally asked, "Are you sure it wouldn't be a problem for you?"

"No problem at all. We have a guest room just sitting there waiting for Jason to use it." Judge Harmon said with a warm smile directed at me.

"Yeah. And it would probably be better for Jace to have someone around to talk to." Josh said hopefully.

"What do you say, Jason? Do you want to?" My dad asked me, still sounding uncertain.

I didn't even have to think about it. I just automatically answered, "Yeah. I think staying with Josh sounds great."

"And if Jason were to have any unexpected difficulties, Josh and Abe can call me at home and we'll see that Jason is taken care of." Dr. Finley said with a smile of approval.

"Then I suppose it's settled. Let's get you to the hospital so you can get your tests taken care of. I'll pick you up in the morning, so we can go shopping for a new wardrobe and luggage." My dad said with a note of tenderness in his voice.

"If you'll meet me at the admitting desk, I'll go on ahead and get everything arranged." Dr. Finley said seriously.

"We'll take good care of Jason." Roberta said with a happy smile.

I didn't even realize it before, but she was still hugging me.

I smiled up at her and returned the hug.

"Then I suppose we'd better get going." My dad said as he led the way toward the door.

As we started to walk as a group, I noticed that Officer Martinez had been standing to the side, watching everything.

"Just a second." I said quietly and separated myself from Roberta.

"Thank you Officer Martinez. I appreciate all your help." I said as I looked him in the eyes.

"Just stay out of trouble. That's all the thanks I'll need." Officer Martinez said in a very professional voice.

"I just received a call asking for confirmation about the verdict. I think there are news crews on the way." A young female police officer said as she rushed into the hall.

"You'd better hurry." Officer Martinez said, then urged me toward my father.

* * * * *

I got into the car with my dad and suddenly realized that I didn't know anything about this man who was my father.

"I can't even tell you how happy I am right now." My dad said in a voice of wonder.

He was just sitting there in the driver's seat and seemed to be lost in his thoughts.

Whatever was going on inside his mind, he seemed to be so happy that I didn't want to do something to mar the experience.

Finally Dad took in a deep breath and said, "I guess we'd better go."

"Yeah." I said quietly.

I know it's not a great speech or anything, but what are you supposed to say to someone who's so happy he's about to burst into tears? I really wanted to say something, but anything I could think of sounded stupid or inadequate.

"I'll be able to come and visit." Dad said out of nowhere.

"Do what?" I asked cautiously.

"In Ohio, I'll be able to fly in on weekends and spend some time with you." Dad said gently.

I smiled as I said, "That sounds nice. I think I'd really like that."

* * * * *

We were both silent for a few minutes.

I had so many questions, but anything I could think to ask had to do with stuff that we weren't supposed to talk about.

I noticed a serious look on my dad's face and was worried by it.

"Is something wrong?" I asked hesitantly.

"No. Not wrong. I just feel... I just don't have words..." My Dad trailed off with difficulty.

Even though I couldn't find the words any better than he could, I was pretty sure that I understood what he wanted to say.

"Sometimes words get in the way of what you're trying to say." I said as I turned to look at his profile.

"You're here." I said in an urging tone that caused him to turn and meet my gaze.

My dad glanced at me with a look of question.

"Even though I don't know what happened before today, I'm pretty sure that you had plenty of reasons to give up on me... but you didn't. So don't worry about trying to explain it. I understand and I love you for standing by me." I finished in a choked whisper.

"You... love me?" My dad said as tears began to fill his eyes.

I stopped and thought back over my words, then broke into a smile as I said, "Yeah. I love you Dad."

He seemed to be at a loss for words at my declaration, so I continued, "I don't remember the things that happened before, but I know how I feel right now."

* * * * *

As we pulled into the parking lot of the hospital, Dad slowed down. Someone was running directly toward us.

It was Josh.

Before I could say anything about it, Dad had pulled to the curb and rolled down the car window.

"Jace, you need to come with me." Josh said as he ran up to our car.

"What's wrong?" I asked quickly.

"I'll explain later, hurry." Josh said urgently, than began to walk quickly toward the side of the building, away from the front door.

"Go on. I'll park the car and catch up to you." My dad said with concern sounding in his voice.

Sensing Josh's urgency, I quickly got out of the car and hurried to catch up to him.

"What is it?" I asked as I finally reached his side.

"Reporters." Josh said darkly as he slowed down to open a small side door.

It took a moment for the significance of the word to register as I followed Josh down the hallway.

"Wait here." Josh whispered, then walked forward to peek around the corner.

I watched as Josh stepped out into the main hallway and tried to look casual as he looked both ways.

"It's clear, come on." Josh called to me in a stage whisper.

I hurried to Josh's side and he guided me to walk beside him down the hall.

"I'm going to take you in the back way, through the lab. We're less likely to run into reporters that way." Josh said frankly.

"What about my Dad?" I asked quietly, not wanting to seem uncooperative or ungrateful for his help.

"Roberta was waiting by the front door to catch you in case I couldn't get you to stop. When she finds out that you're already inside, she'll bring him to us." Josh said seriously.

After snaking our way through a few hallways, Josh pushed open a door, surprising a few lab technicians by doing so.

"Just passing through..." Josh said repentantly as he hurried across the room.

"Is that?..." One of the lab techs asked before he could catch himself.

"Yeah. Would you run interference if any reporters come around asking questions?" Josh asked as he paused by the door at the far side of the room.

"We've got you covered." One of the men said with determination.

Josh smiled at the man, then gestured for me to precede him into the next room.

* * * * *

"I'm so glad you're here Jason. Get up on the table so we can get this started." Dr. Finley said in a voice that sounded to be much relieved.

"Do I need to undress or anything?" I asked as I walked to the huge MRI machine.

"I suppose you can if you want, but I'm only going to be scanning your head." Dr. Finley said with a barely suppressed grin.

"Oh. Okay. Then I guess I'm ready." I said as I rested myself back into a somewhat comfortable position on the table.

"Here we go." Dr. Finley said as he brought the machine to life.

* * * * *

I guess all the excitement of being in court and everything else that had gone on was enough to distract me from the MRI.

After what only seemed like a few minutes, Dr. Finley was telling me that it was okay for me to get up again.

"What do I need to do now?" I asked as I sat up and looked around.

"I think the best thing would be to wait here while Dr. Finley looks at the test results." Josh said thoughtfully.

From the tone of his voice and the way that he kept looking at the door, I could tell that he was worried.

The sound of movement from behind us caused both of us to turn with a jerk.

"Freedom of the press can be a real pain in the ass." Roberta said as she led my father into the room through the lab entrance.

"I think we lost them in the pediatric ward." My dad said as he walked to stand by the table I was still sitting on.

Without a thought, I got up from the table and pulled my dad into a hug.

Even though he was nearly a complete stranger to me, I felt that I needed the assurance of a hug and from his expression, he did too.

"Don't worry Pappi, this should only take a few minutes. Then you should be able to leave and you won't have to come back." Roberta said from Josh's side.

I glanced up to see a ghost of a smile flit across my dad's face at being called 'Pappi'.

Josh seemed to be lost in thought for a moment, then walked to the other side of the room.

"I'm glad you're going to be alright." My dad whispered as he hugged me just a little bit tighter.

"Me too." I said in an equal whisper as I did the same.

"Here. This is my address and phone number." Josh said as he approached us.

"As soon as Dr. Finley says it's okay for Jace to leave, I'll take him home with me." Josh said as he handed a slip of paper to my dad.

"Thanks Josh. There's no way I'll ever be able to repay your kindness." My dad said as he looked at the paper in his hand.

"Sure there is." Josh said in a cheerful voice.

At my dad's questioning look, Josh said, "You can stop by now and then and let me know how Jace is doing."

My dad smiled and gave a slow nod of agreement to the arrangement.

"Or, if you'll give me your address, I could send you letters and let you know how things are going." I said quietly.

"Yeah." Josh said happily, "Sounds like a plan." 

"Good news!" Dr. Finley said as he burst into the room.

I think Roberta was the only one in the room who didn't nearly have a heart attack at the abrupt entry.

Dr. Finley must have noticed, because after a look around the room, he shyly said, "Sorry about that."

"That's fine. What's the good news?" My dad asked imploringly.

Dr. Finley's apologetic look changed back into one of happiness as he said, "After a careful examination of the MRI, I have concluded that the treatment worked even better than I could have hoped."

"How's that?" My dad asked cautiously.

Dr. Finley looked at my dad thoughtfully, obviously thinking of how to phrase what he wanted to say in layman's terms.

"I guess you can think of it this way." Dr. Finley said in prelude.

"Before his treatment, Jason had a malformation deep in his brain which seriously effected his behavior. As he grew older, it grew bigger and had an even greater influence." Dr. Finley said slowly as he looked my dad in the eyes.

"Yes. I understand that." My dad said darkly, as he hugged me just a little bit tighter.

"Well, the challenge of my treatment was to eradicate the malformation without disturbing the surrounding, very necessary, tissue." Dr. Finley said carefully.

I felt the movement as my dad nodded.

"I administered my treatment which, to be honest, is far too technical for me to explain here and now, but suffice it to say that it worked. The results of the MRI not only confirmed that the malformation was completely destroyed, but also that the surrounding tissues weren't disturbed at all." Dr. Finley said with a trace of excitement creeping into his voice, then turned his gaze on me and continued, "To put it in even simpler terms. The bad brain tissue was nearly 100% destroyed while the good brain tissue was virtually undisturbed." 

I nodded at the doctor, that I understood. Truth be told, I understood it the way he explained it to my dad, but whatever. I didn't mind hearing it again.

"So I suppose the only challenge we still have facing us is to get Jason out of here without seeing it on the 11:00 news." Dr. Finley said frankly.

"I have an idea about that..." Josh said hesitantly.

When all attention turned to him, he said even more quietly, "If Roberta wouldn't mind sharing some more clothes."

I think the room went silent, but I'm not sure. I may have just blocked it all out when I realized what Josh was suggesting.

"Mind? Don't be silly! I love playing dress up." Roberta said with a smile of delight, then rushed out of the room.

* * * * *

"Is this going to be okay with you, Jason?" My dad asked quietly from my side.

"I guess so." I said cautiously, not really knowing how I felt about it yet.

"Try not to worry about it, Jace. We just need to hide your identity until we get you out of the hospital. You can put up with it that long, can't you?" Josh said imploringly.

I looked around and suddenly realized how much trouble everyone was going to, just for me.

"I'll be fine." I said quietly to Josh, then more to the room in general, I continued, "Thank you for everything you're doing to help me." 

"I want to thank you too, Jason." Dr. Finley said in a serious voice.

I looked at him with question, not knowing of anything that I had done that he could possibly have reason to thank me for.

"About six years ago, I was referred a case of a child, about seven years old, as I recall. He was having almost 'Jekyll and Hyde' behavioral swings. After exhausting nearly every diagnostic test available to me, I stumbled on a very small tumor, deep in his brain." Dr. Finley said in a low voice.

"Was that like what I had?" I asked cautiously.

"No. It was the same general area of the brain, but what you had was a congenital defect. What the child had was a cancerous tumor." Dr. Finley said carefully.

"Oh." I said in a small voice, then hesitantly asked, "Were you able to help him?" 

Dr. Finley slowly nodded and said, "Yes. But the treatment was horrible." 

"The tumor was so deep in the brain tissue that surgery was not an option." After a moment to gather his emotions, Dr. Finley continued, "Chemotherapy is basically a cocktail of poisons. Radiation, by it's very nature, is destructive to living tissue. Even though I'm sure that he and his family would agree that it was worth going through all of it. I felt as though I was trying to swat a fly with a snow shovel."

Although I got what he was saying, I couldn't help but puzzle over the strange analogy.

"Since then I've been working on developing a treatment option that could target the problem area without putting the patient through untold hell." Dr. Finley said frankly.

"And Jason was the first patient you received who turned out to be a candidate for your new treatment?" My dad asked quietly.

"Not exactly." Dr. Finley said, then looked at me with concern.

"I've had quite a few patients that might have benefited from my treatment, but conventional treatments were also an option for them. So I continued using chemo and radiation, even though I believed that I had a far less traumatic way to treat them." Dr. Finley said with regret.

"So Jace was the first patient you got who had no other options?" Josh asked cautiously.

Dr. Finley nodded and said, "It was either this or a mental institution for the rest of his life. Fortunately, Mr. Kerbo was willing to allow me to use my experimental treatment." 

"You said that if it didn't work, Jason wouldn't be any worse off for having had the treatment. That being the case, I think any father would have made the same decision." My dad said quietly.

"Perhaps." Dr. Finley said slowly, then continued, "But I doubt that there are many other fathers who would be able to finance the treatment out of their own pockets. I'm sure that the insurance companies wouldn't even consider covering something this experimental." 

"It's just money. It means nothing in the face of something like this." My dad said as he hugged me firmly to his side.

* * * * *

"My foundation is too dark for your skin, but I think I have everything else that you'll need." Roberta said in a rush as she hurried into the room.

"Foundation?" Josh said with surprise, then continued, "We're just going from the hospital to the car. I don't think Jace needs makeup." 

Roberta flashed Josh a pitying look then muttered under her breath, "Men."

"Is there anything we can do to help?" Dr. Finley asked with amusement as he watched the proceedings.

"Get him out of these 'man' clothes so I can make him beautiful." Roberta said as she started to sort out the stack of things she had carried into the room.

"Are you really okay with this, Jace?" Josh asked me cautiously.

I don't know if it was Dr. Finley's story, or maybe it was just from having one emotional revelation heaped on top of another all day, but for whatever reason, I just couldn't manage the emotional energy to do anything but say, "Just do it."

* * * * *

I suppose I should have felt embarrassed.

I mean, my dad was right there. Roberta was there, looking all... female.

Dr. Finley was there, sort of an authority figure.

I should have felt embarrassed. 

But I didn't.

I felt nothing but a desire to help them as they tried to change my appearance enough to get me out of the hospital and past the reporters.

"I wish I had a wig for him. There's so much I could do." Roberta said as she backed away to survey her work.

"Maybe we can get him a hat or something." Josh said uncertainly.

"Hat's are sooooo out this season." Roberta said in an exaggerated voice, then seemed to be assaulted by inspiration.

"Did I bring it? Oh, tell me I have it with me." Roberta muttered as she started rifling through the large carpet bag of a purse that she had brought in.

I glanced around to see that my dad, Josh and Dr. Finley were all watching to see what Roberta was going to pull out of the bag next.

A coat rack?

"Is something wrong Jace?" Josh asked me with concern.

I blinked, then realized that everyone was looking at me.

"I think I just remembered something." I said distantly.

"Tell me about it." Dr. Finley said immediately.

"It was silly." I said dismissively.

"It was a memory. Jason, I can't even tell you how important this is. I need to know exactly what you remembered and how it made you feel."

"It's fuzzy." I said as I thought about the strange thing I had remembered.

"It's like a dream... but I remember someone with a large purse like Roberta's. She was looking through it just like Roberta was doing... and she pulled a coat rack out of the bag." I said as I strained to remember.

"Marry Poppins." My dad said suddenly.

I looked at my dad with question.

"That used to be one of Jason's favorite movies." My dad said with a loving smile directed at me.

"An associative memory. That's interesting." Dr. Finley muttered to himself.

"Is something wrong?" Josh asked with concern.

"No. I don't think so." Dr. Finley said, then seemed to notice that we were all looking at him with question.

"Much of the human mind is still a mystery to us. A side effect of my treatment caused Jason to lose much of his long term memory... that was expected. But I had assumed that when the occasional memory returned, that it would be in a somewhat random fashion." Dr. Finley said thoughtfully.

After a moment to consider his words, Dr. Finley continued, "It appears that Jason's memories will return as associative links are reestablished."

"Is that bad?" Josh asked cautiously.

"No. It's neither good nor bad." Dr. Finley said with a smile. "This is simply an interesting development from an academic standpoint." 

"If it's not a problem, then can we finish and get Jason out of here?" Roberta asked cautiously.

"Yes. I think that's a very good idea." Dr. Finley said with a smile.

"Here Jason, let me do this and I think we'll be done." Roberta said as she approached me with a small piece of something that looked like terry cloth.

She stretched the thing between her hands, then brought it up over my head and under my hair line.

"Perfect!" Roberta said with triumph as she stepped away.

"Wow!" Josh said as he looked at me with surprise.

"Thank God and Wal-Mart that I thought to keep a hair band with me. I usually don't wear those things but I just had the feeling that it might come in handy someday." Roberta said happily.

"Well Jace, are you ready to go?" Josh asked with a smile at me.

"I guess so." I said uncertainly, then asked, "Do I look okay?"

"Yeah. You look lovely." Josh said with a teasing grin.

"I'll see you in the morning. I hope you have a good night." My dad said as he moved in to give me a hug.

"I'll see you then." I said as I returned the hug, then whispered, "Thanks again."

"I love you." My dad said as he pulled back to look me in the eyes.

"I love you, too." 

* * * * *

"Here's the plan." Josh said, then peeked out of the lab door.

I waited, hoping that we weren't going to have a problem.

"I'm parked in the employee parking lot behind the hospital. If we go out through the cafeteria, we should come out pretty close to my car." Josh said, then motioned for me to follow.

"Lead the way." I said as I glanced up and down the hall to see if anyone was looking.

"Just try to look casual." Josh said as we walked slowly down the hall.

"That may be hard for me to do." I said cautiously.

Josh looked at me with concern and asked, "Are you really nervous?"

"A little, but it's more because these pantyhose are itching." I said uncomfortably.

"Well, if we can get out of here without any problems, I'll have you out of those pantyhose in about twenty minutes." Josh said, then waggled his eyebrows in a suggestive fashion.

I couldn't help but break into a laugh at the suggestive tone that he had used.

"There's the side door to the cafeteria. That way we can completely bypass the dining room." Josh said as he put an arm loosely around me.

I glanced up at Josh with question at the move.

"If anyone asks, you're my girlfriend." Josh said as an explanation.

"Sounds good." I said, then cautiously put an arm around Josh's waist.

* * * * *

"Mrs. Shin? Would it be okay if we leave through your back door?" Josh asked as he guided me through the bustling kitchen.

"You know that's against the rules, Josh." A tiny older woman said in a firm, authoritative voice.

"I know, but there are some reporters out in front of the hospital that we'd really rather not have to talk to." Josh said imploringly.

Mrs. Shin looked at me for a moment, then said, "Oh. I see."

I waited, wondering just what we would do if she said 'no'.

"It's been a few weeks since we've had to facilitate a 'celebrity escape'. I guess we were due." She said as she took a ring of keys off her belt and led the way toward the back door.

"Yeah. The reporters should be able to understand that if someone is at the hospital, they probably don't want to have their picture taken." Josh said, then looked down at me and gave me a wink.

"Vultures feast on the misfortune of others. Asking them to do otherwise is asking them to go against their nature." She said as she turned the key on the push bar door to disable the alarm.

"Thanks." Josh said appreciatively, then led me out the door.

* * * * *

As soon as the door had closed behind us, Josh froze and I looked around to see what was wrong.

"Shit!" Josh gasped as two men approached.

"Hey, did you see that Kerbo kid while you were in there?" One of the men asked quickly as he approached.

"I don't think so." Josh said as he clutched me to his side, then in a slightly louder voice he said, "I'm going to be a daddy!"

I blinked with surprise at the declaration and would have gasped except that Josh had swooped in to give me a deep kiss.

"Oh, um... that's nice kid." the reporter said, then motioned to his partner to move away.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that the two men had taken up a position a few feet away to return to their stake out of the cafeteria exit.

At first I didn't realize it, but my hands had automatically moved up Josh's back and I was returning his kiss full force.

"Come on. Let's go home." He whispered against my lips.

"Yeah." I whispered, and I'm sure that I probably had the most goofy, love-struck expression on my face that ever was.

"Good luck you two." The reporter said as we walked past him toward the employee parking lot.

"Yeah. Thanks." Josh said as I continued to walk with him, arm in arm.

* * * * *

"Are you okay Jace? You're awfully quiet." Josh asked as he drove.

"Yeah. Fine." I said absently.

I didn't know what I was thinking or feeling at that moment, I just knew that whatever it was, I didn't want it to ever end.

"Is it something you don't feel like talking about?" Josh asked quietly.

"No. It's nothing like that. It's just... that kiss." I said with difficulty.

"Yeah. I'm sorry about that. It was kind of an impulse thing to get us away from the reporters." Josh said hesitantly.

He didn't mean it. That's what he was saying, he was doing what he needed to do. It didn't mean anything.

"You aren't mad at me, are you?" Josh asked hesitantly.

"No." I said slowly, then quietly added, "I liked it."

Josh seemed surprised by my admission.

"I mean, I know you were just trying to distract the reporters and that it didn't mean anything..."

"Hold on." Josh said firmly.

I stopped and looked at him curiously.

"I *was* trying to distract the reporters, but when I kissed you, I meant it." Josh said seriously.

"Yeah?" I asked hopefully.

"Yeah." Josh said with a shy little smile.

The trip to Josh's house only took a few more minutes, which passed in silence.

I used that time to replay that kiss in my mind and wish, that maybe, there might be a chance for me to get another.

* * * * *

"There you are!" A woman said as we walked into the house through the back door.

"Were you waiting for me?" Josh asked timidly.

"Your father called and explained what was going on. I was getting worried that you might have been caught by the reporters or something worse." 

"I had to smuggle Jace out of the hospital and it took a few extra minutes." Josh said quietly. "Mom, this is Jason. Jace, this is my mom, Amanda Harmon." 

"It's nice to meet you Mrs. Harmon." I said respectfully.

"Yes. It's nice to meet you too Jason." Mrs. Harmon said formally, then in a mischievous voice she continued, "Although I've got to admit that you're not at all what I expected from the way my husband described you." 

I puzzled over the statement for a moment, then realized that I was still dressed in women's clothing.

"We had to disguise Jace to get him out of the hospital." Josh hurried to explain.

"That's good to know." Mrs. Harmon said with a chuckle, "I was beginning to think that all Josh's friends were transvestites." 

"Trans-gendered." Josh corrected gently, then added, "And Roberta is the only one so far."

Mrs. Harmon smiled at the explanation, then said, "Why don't you take Jason upstairs and get him something more comfortable to wear. Your father should be home by the time you're finished, then we'll have supper." 

"Okay." Josh said with relief, "Thanks Mom."

"Go on." Mrs. Harmon said with a chuckle.

* * * * *

"It looks like the only thing I'm going to have that might fit you are some sweats and a t shirt. Is that going to be okay?" Josh asked timidly.

"Yeah. That will be fine." I said frankly.

"Here you go. The bathroom is right next door if you want to wash that goop off your face." Josh said casually, then added, "You'd probably have time to take a shower if you want." 

"That might be fun, if you'd join me." I said hopefully.

Josh got a pained look, then hesitantly said, "I don't think that'd be such a good idea with my parents downstairs."

"I'll save the shower until later then." I said with regret.

"Jace." Josh said in an urging tone.

I turned back to look at him curiously.

Rather than say anything, he just stood there and opened his arms to me.

I felt a smile creep across my face, then hurried into the embrace.

"Everything is going to be fine. I know it is." Josh said as he held me close to his chest.

"Right this minute, I believe you."

The hug lasted a few minutes, but it was just what I needed to lift my spirits.

"We'd better get that makeup off of you." Josh said quietly.

"Yeah. Do you think you could help me? I'm not sure if it will come off with soap and water. We might need turpentine or something." I said with a grin.

"Yeah. I'll help." Josh said with a chuckle then guided me to walk with him into the bathroom.

* * * * *

The makeup removal didn't take as long as I thought it might.

Once that was done, changing into the sweats and t shirt was simple enough to do.

I caught Josh looking at my butt as I changed and hoped that meant that things might get interesting later.

When we finally walked downstairs, Judge and Mrs. Harmon were in the living room watching something on TV. As soon as we walked through the doorway, Judge Harmon turned the TV off.

"Is something wrong?" Josh asked hesitantly.

"Let's just say that you shouldn't turn on the TV tonight." Judge Harmon said simply.

"Is there stuff about me on there?" I asked cautiously.

"You could say that." Judge Harmon said with a pained look.

"Why can't they just leave it be?" Josh asked desperately.

"Because there are those who feel that justice wasn't served. Or maybe they just want vengeance. For whatever reason, things didn't turn out the way they wanted, so they're raising a fuss." Judge Harmon said frankly.

"I'm sorry to be so much trouble." I said sincerely.

Judge Harmon gave a weary chuckle, then said, "My job is to see that the law is applied fairly. That's what these people elected me to do. And that's what I did. What you have to realize is that if any of them were the defendant instead of you, they would be fighting tooth and nail to be given a second chance." 

"But they feel like... what ever I did, I got away with it." I said quietly.

"Yes. That's the root of the problem. But what they don't see is that the person who did those things was mentally unbalanced and not responsible for his actions by reason of insanity. You aren't him. You are responsible and sane. I made the right decision." Judge Harman said as he looked into my eyes.

"I'll do whatever I can to prove that you're right." I said as I matched his gaze.

"Well, now that that's settled. Who's ready for dinner?" Mrs. Harmon asked pleasantly.

"These boys both look like they could use a good meal." Judge Harmon said as he stood from his place on the couch.

"Yeah. That hospital food doesn't seem to stick with you." Josh said frankly.

I realized that I actually was very hungry and nodded my agreement to Josh's statement.

* * * * *

As we sat around the table, I felt completely out of place.

It's possible that it was just a consequence of my memory loss, but I had the feeling that this was something that my own family didn't do often, if ever.

Sitting around a table and eating dinner, talking about what happened during the day... it seemed perfectly natural for them, but completely foreign to me.

"So Jason, are you excited about your trip to Ohio?" Judge Harmon asked me.

I turned my attention to him, my mind had been wandering. I actually had to think about the question for a few seconds before I could answer.

"I'm nervous about it, but I don't know if that's the same as being excited." I said cautiously.

"I suppose that nervousness is a natural reaction when being thrown into a foreign environment." Judge Harmon said with a chuckle. "Just make sure that you stay in touch and let us know how you're doing."

"Josh said that he's going to give me his address so I can write letters and stuff." I said, then glanced at Josh with a smile.

"Good. I think we'll all be interested to hear how you're enjoying your new life in Ohio." Mrs. Harmon said gently.

"I hope I'll have lots of good things to tell you." I said honestly.

* * * * *

When we went back upstairs, I noticed that Josh seemed to be hesitant and a little bit nervous.

I sat down on Josh's bed, then quietly asked, "Is something wrong?" 

"No." Josh said quietly, then added in a mumble, "It's nothing."

"It looks like it must be something if it's bothering you this much." I said frankly.

"It's just... while we were having dinner, I realized that I'm starting to feel something for you." Josh said quietly.

"I'm feeling something for you, too." I said slowly, "Is that a bad thing?"

"No." Josh said immediately, then amended, "At least it wouldn't be..." 

"...if I weren't leaving." I said, finishing the thought.

Josh reluctantly nodded.

"I know that when you have to leave, it's going to hurt like hell." Josh said as he looked into my eyes, begging for my understanding.

"Yeah." I agreed. I knew what he was saying was true, but I didn't want it to be.

"I think that we should probably step back and think about what we're doing before both of us end up getting hurt." Josh said regretfully.

"Yeah." I said with resignation, then heaved a sigh.

"I'm sorry Jace." Josh said with true remorse sounding in his voice.

"Will you hold me?" I asked quietly, hoping that he wouldn't refuse.

"Yeah. Anytime you want, for as long as you want." Josh responded as he sat on the bed at my side.

Before the hug had really began, a knock on the frame of the open door interrupted us.

"Do you guys mind if I come in?" Judge Harmon asked quietly.

"Come on in Dad." Josh said, and to my surprise, he didn't make any move to let go of me.

"Is there a problem?" Judge Harmon asked with concern.

"No. Jace was just feeling a little overwhelmed and needed a hug. What's up?" Josh asked, keeping his voice low.

"I just wanted to check and see how you guys are doing. I'll leave you two alone." Judge Harmon said with a smile at us.

"No. It's okay Dad. We really wouldn't mind if you came in for a few minutes." Josh said honestly.

Judge Harmon seemed to consider the words for a moment, then moved to take a seat in the desk chair by the bed.

"You two really seem to have gotten close in the short time you've known each other." Judge Harmon said frankly.

"Yeah." Josh said with a whisper of regret.

"I was just curious... how are you going to handle it when Jason needs to leave?" Judge Harmon asked Josh sympathetically.

"We were just talking about that. It's going to be tough, but I guess if we just hold ourselves back..." Josh trailed off with regret. "Don't worry Dad. We're not going to get in too deep."

Judge Harmon shook his head slowly, either in disagreement or just as a sign of frustration at the impossibility of our situation.

"I wish it were that simple." Judge Harmon said regretfully.

I looked at Josh in time to see him look back at me. It was obvious that neither of us knew what Judge Harmon was trying to say.

"Human emotions don't work that way. You can't just turn them on and off like a faucet." Judge Harmon said to us with regret. "I suppose sometimes our lives might be easier if you could."

"But what should we do? It's going to hurt when Jace has to leave." Josh asked his father desperately.

Judge Harmon nodded slowly.

"Dad?" Josh asked, even more quietly.

"I don't know the depths of your feelings toward each other... I doubt if you do either." Judge Harmon said in prelude as he looked at us.

"But one thing I've learned is that a lost love fades with time and a broken heart will eventually mend. The thing that will cause you the most pain in the long term is regret." Judge Harmon said softly.

"I don't understand." Jason said quietly.

"If you two can spend the limited time you have to it's fullest advantage, then you can part company without wondering 'what might have been'. You'll each carry the memories with you and they'll help you endure the separation."

Josh and I looked at each other again, it was almost as if we were communicating telepathically.

"It may not exactly be the recipe for a happy ending, but I promise that if you can look back on these days without any regrets, it will be much easier on both of you." Judge Harmon said to us seriously.

"I know this is a stupid question but... you're okay with us... you know... doing stuff?" Josh asked his father cautiously.

Judge Harmon looked at both of us then quietly said, "Those that wrote the laws picked an arbitrary age in an effort to prevent the innocent from being exploited. So from a legal standpoint, no. Certain physical acts between the two of you are illegal."

I looked at the judge with surprise at the statement.

"But before I'm a judge, I'm a person. And as a person, I feel that the two of you are exactly what each other need right now. Jason's memories have been wiped away by his treatment. He's a blank slate. I think that experiencing a special friendship on the first day of his new life will be the foundation for a happy and productive life."

"And, speaking as a father... Josh, if I'm right about you two, this could end up being one of those special friendships that last a lifetime. " Judge Harmon said as he slowly stood from the chair.

"Thanks Dad." Josh whispered as he watched his father walk toward the door.

"Don't be up too late. I'm sure Jason is going to have a long day tomorrow." Judge Harmon said before walking out and closing the door behind him.

* * * * *

"What do you want to do?" Josh asked me tentatively.

"Spend the night with you." I said honestly.

Josh gave a small nod, then said, "I think we can do that." 

"Good." I said with a grin.

"What would you like to do right now?" He asked cautiously.

"If you're in the mood, another one of those kisses would be kinda nice." I said as I looked deeply into his eyes.

"Yeah. That sounds perfect." Josh said, then moved in to give me a firm kiss. 

The last kiss had been quick, but this one lingered. He seemed to be taking his time and going slowly so he could remember every detail for later.

I decided that I'd like to do the same thing.

I closed my eyes and tried to feel and memorize every sensation of kissing the beautiful young man in my arms.

There was a little tickle and it took a moment for me to realize that it was Josh's tongue tracing along my closed lips.

I opened my mouth slightly and his tongue ventured in slowly, almost tentatively, as if unsure of it's welcome.

My tongue slid against his, and it was the most erotic feeling that I could have ever imagined.

It seemed that Josh was feeling the same, because the kiss became deeper and more desperate.

As much as I would have liked for that feeling to continue forever, I needed to breathe.

"Wow." Josh gasped as we separated.

"Yeah." I said with a chuckle that I couldn't restrain.

"I think I'm ready for a shower. How about you?" Josh asked in a sultry voice.

"Yeah." I said breathlessly. "But can we do some more of that later?"

"Count on it."

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes: Well, I read this yesterday, and was ready to write the notes, but I got called away, and then forgot all about it.

I really love this story, which shouldn't be much of a surprise to anyone.

Jason is quite a good person. He is still going to have quite a difficult time getting his life back together. The move will help him, at least, I hope it will. I hope that somehow he and Josh can spend a lot of time together, perhaps during school breaks, and such. They shouldn't be separated for good. That is, of course, an oxymoron. Keeping them apart is not a good thing at all.

I hope it will not be nearly as long between this and the next chapter as we had between the last one, and this one.

Thanks MM for another great chapter.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher