Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Lernier Family Chapter Thirteen - Zach's Hockey Injury

Chapter Thirteen – Zach’s Hockey Injury

We sat on the back patio looking out across the Potomac River with our friends, Zach and Todd.   Their twin boys, Cameron and Skye, were teaching our boys how to play soccer.  They had set up a miniature soccer field on the back lawn between our two homes.    It was late spring and the weather was just right.   The azaleas were blooming everywhere I looked.   There is a reason John Smith, one of the early British settlers from the Jamestown colony, wrote that the forest seemed to be on fire with the rampant growth of flowering azaleas.

The guys were nursing their first cold beers of the evening.   I had a tall class of fresh squeezed lemonade.   The boys had eagerly gobbled down their hamburgers and hot dogs before running back onto their soccer field to continue their soccer practice.

It felt good to finally be settled into our new homes.   It had taken the better part of a year to complete the remodeling of the two houses.   Zach and Todd had purchased their home at the same time as we did.  The two adjoining homes were perfect for our needs.   We had the fence separating the two properties removed and erected privacy fences on either side of the two homes to form one great big yard for our two families to enjoy.
Both homes had a boat dock.   Zach and Todd purchased a used sailing boat from a friend of Mr. Campbell (a.k.a., The General).   The General had gifted his own sailing boat to us with the condition that we take him out on the boat whenever he felt the urge to go sailing.   Rick and I were getting pretty good at handling the boat by ourselves but we preferred to have Zach and Todd along to help with the boys as well as to share in the work of sailing the boat.  Zach and Todd are very good sailors.   Both of their families owned boats and the guys practically lived on the water during the summer months as teenagers.

Rick and Glenn's New Home - Front

Rick and Glenn's New Home - Back

Rick and Glenn's Boat Dock

As I looked out over the river, I marveled at how wonderfully things had turned out for us.   Despite my worst fears, we had successfully fostered three older children in our home until their grandmother was able to leave the convalescent center.   The three children, Kyle, David and Ashley, still visited with us most weekends much to the twins’ delight.   JJ and Josh had become very attached to them during their three month stay with us.   Mrs. Reed purchased a home not far from us which made it convenient for the children to stay in close contact with us.

Mrs. Reed had approached us last week regarding her plans to appoint us as the executors of her estate and the guardians of her grandchildren in the event that she passed before they were of age.   Rick and I had instantly agreed but told her we needed to consult with my grandfather first before proceeding with the arrangements she had proposed.   She made another statement that had shocked and surprised us.   I heard her voice in my memory:

“Rick and Glenn, I want you to consider adopting the children,” Mrs. Reed said.   We both stared at her as if she had lost her mind.   She continued, “I am not crazy.   The children love you and the boys.   I know that you two are wonderful parents.   I know that my health isn’t good and I could go at anytime.   I want the children to be raised by loving parents and even if you agree to be their guardians upon my death, the state could step in and place the children with a foster family.   I want to prevent that from every happening so I am asking you to consider adopting them.”

Rick was the first to recover, “Mrs. Reed, we are honored that you would ask us to adopt your grandchildren.   We will need to talk it over before we can give you an answer.   There are so many things to check out before we would agree to move forward with an adoption.   You do realize that if we go before a judge to adopt them that the children still could be taken from you and placed in foster care?”

“Yes, I do.   I have already talked with Mrs. Evans about how we would go about the adoption process,” Mrs. Reed said.   “I have already spoken to my lawyer about helping us.”

It was obvious that she had given it some thought.   I looked at her and asked, “Is there something going on that we should know about?”

She looked at us for a moment, a sad expression on her face.   She started to speak but then stopped and shook her head, “No, I am just trying to look out for the children’s best interests and that is making sure that they have a loving family to take care of them.”

The children had interrupted our conversation before we could ask any additional questions.   I couldn’t shake the feeling that Mrs. Reed was hiding something from us.   I had mentioned that to Rick but he had shrugged it off as if to say I worrying too much about nothing.  

Absent-mindedly, I took a sip of my lemonade as I watched the children playing still thinking about Mrs. Reed.   Rick put his hand on my knee to get my attention, “Sweetheart, I was just telling Zach and Todd about our plans to go to the beach for a week,” Rick said.   “You seemed to be on another planet there for a while.”

“I’m sorry, Babe.   I was just thinking about Mrs. Reed’s proposal,” I said.

Todd asked, “Have you two decided what you are going to do?”

Rick answered, “Yes, we have.   We are going to move ahead with the adoption of the three children.”

“That’s wonderful, guys!” Zach exclaimed.   “I can’t think of anyone better than you two to take in those three orphans.   Mrs. Reed is very smart to get the adoption process finished before anything happens to her.   You know how prejudiced against gays state workers are.   Everyone involved in the adoption process will do everything they can to stop you from adopting children.    It has become very difficult to adopt now that some of us want to establish families of our own.”

“I know,” I replied.   “I have a friend from Denmark who can’t believe how bad things are here for gays.   He e-mailed me the other day to say that we should move to Denmark where gays have the same rights and privileges as straight people including church marriages.”

“We should move back to Canada,” Zach said.   “Canadians are so much more civilized about the whole situation.”

“But remember, we had quite a struggle to get equal rights for gays,” I said.   “It just didn’t happen because we asked for those rights.   We had to go to court to win those rights before the government acknowledged that we had the same rights as anyone else.”

“True enough,” Todd said, “however, I didn’t have to worry about crazy people trying to take my boys from me as I do here nor do I have to worry about whether or not I will be allowed in my husband’s hospital room if he is injured or has a medical emergency.   The level of hatred towards gays seems to have increased geometrically over that last few years.”

Zach said, “We were amazed at the amount of legal paperwork we needed to complete to make sure all of our legal bases were covered concerning our boys when we moved to the United States.   I am grateful your Grandpa insisted that we take care of it as soon as we moved here.”

“Grandpa is pretty savvy when it comes to legal stuff,” I said.   “We are glad we have done everything we can to protect our family from those that would tear our family apart.”

As I spoke, a tall, well built man appeared around the corner of the house and approached us.   I appreciated his physical assets as he walked over to us.  He noted my appraising look and gave me a roguish look before he turned to Rick and said, “Mr. Lernier, everything has checked out for the changeover of the guards.”

Rick responded, “Thank you, Eddie.   Would you care for a cold beer?”

“Thank you, sir, but I promised to meet my boyfriend for dinner,” Eddie said smiling.   He turned to me and said, “Thank you for introducing me to Jamie.   He is a really wonderful guy.”

“Not a problem, Eddie.   I am glad things are working out for you two,” I replied.

Zach laughed, “Eddie, things are more than working out from the looks of your neck!”

Eddie’s face turned a deep red, “Jamie can get pretty wild sometimes.”

Todd said, “Go have fun with Jamie, Eddie.   Thank you for making sure the night shift has got everything under control.”

Eddie laughed, “I will do just that, sir.”   Eddie left us practically running to get to his car.

Eddie McGuire is our chief of security.   He is a former marine and needed a job coming out of the service.   Rick met him through his work as a defense contractor and decided to offer him a job setting up our security at our new home.   Eddie is 25, 190 cm (6’3”) tall with blond hair cut close to his head, intense blue eyes and a square chin.   I introduced him to one of my violin students, Jamie Preston.   Jamie is a senior at George Mason University majoring in music performance.

Todd turned to me, “That was a great thing you did for Eddie.   Jamie has been a real blessing for Eddie.”

I said, “Jamie has fallen really hard for Eddie.   I hope Eddie can see how much Jamie loves him.”

“Eddie knows,” Rick said.   “He talked to me about asking Jamie to marry him.”

Zach said, “Good.   They make a wonderful couple.”

“Just like me and Rick,” I said taking Rick’s hand in mine.

Rick nodded his head in agreement and said, “And like Zach and Todd.”

Zach smiled, “Yes, we married our soul mates didn’t we, Rick?”

“Yes, we did,” Rick replied leaning over to kiss me on the lips.

Just then, we heard a cheer go up from Cameron.  We looked up to see that Josh had made a goal.   The boys came running over to make sure we had noticed Josh’s accomplishment.

“Dad, did you see Josh make a goal?” Cameron asked breathlessly as he came running up to Todd.

“Yes, we saw him make his first goal,” Todd responded.   “Have you been teaching the twins how to dribble the ball?”

“No, we haven’t done that, yet.   First, they need to learn how to kick the ball.   Then we will teach them how to dribble the ball,” Cameron explained patiently, his expression very serious.

“Thank you for teaching the boys how to play soccer,” I said.   “Do you think they will make good soccer players?”

Cameron thought for a moment before answering, “They can be good soccer players if they will practice a lot just like we do.”

“Good answer,” Zach said smiling.   “You are a great coach, Cammy.”

JJ and Josh climbed up on our laps.   Josh looked up at Rick and asked, “Did you see the goal I made?”  He pointed to the net where the soccer ball sat.

Rick nodded his head, “Yes, son, you did a great job.”

Josh wrapped his arms around Rick’s neck and kissed Rick on the cheek.   “I love you, Daddy”

“I love you, too, Josh,” Rick replied.

I gave JJ a hug and a kiss on the cheek, “JJ, you did a great job, too.”

JJ smiled and pointed to the ball and said hesitantly, “I like ball.”

“I am glad you like playing ball,” I replied.

Zach said, “JJ seems to making some progress with his speech since the doctor put tubes in his ears.”

“Yes, he is doing much better now,” I said.

Rick said, “JJ’s speech therapist, Mrs. Barker, comes twice a week to work with him.   Dr. Lee said he should be able to hear all of our words now and that his speech should improve dramatically.   Before, JJ dropped the first letter of every word because that is what he heard us saying.   The tubes in his ears should help keep the fluid from building up and causing him not to hear properly.”

“It’s only been a little more than a week since the surgery and he is already starting to speak instead of pointing to what he wants or getting Josh to talk for him,” I said.

I held JJ close and kissed the top of his head as I remembered that day at Children’s Hospital in Washington, DC.

*** ***

On our way to the hospital, I kept going over in my mind everything we had been through with JJ to this point.   Starting shortly before his first birthday, we had noticed that he wasn’t as verbal as his twin, Josh.   When we had questioned our pediatrician about this, she had told us that it was perfectly normal for one twin to be more vocal than the other.    But as time passed, the difference between Josh’s amazing verbal skills as opposed to JJ’s nearly total silence continued to bother us.   At our insistence, our pediatrician finally agreed to refer us to several specialists at Children’s Hospital of Washington, DC.   We had seen one specialist after another until we finally saw Dr. Lee.   She examined JJ and then read over his medical history.  

 She had turned to us and said, “I think we have the answer to your questions.”  We had stared at her in stunned silence.   After all the different doctors we had seen, she was the first to make that statement.   When we didn’t say a word, she continued, “From what is documented here, JJ has had a lot of ear infections beginning when he was two months old.”

Rick said, “That is true.   He has always responded well to the antibiotics he has been given except on two occasions when his ear drum burst when the medication didn’t work.”

She nodded, “That is documented in his medical record as well.   I believe the reason your son isn’t talking is because he can’t hear you.   For most of his life, his ears have been filled with fluid.   What he hears is similar to what you would hear if you were at the bottom of a swimming pool trying to listen to someone talking sitting in a patio chair next to the pool.   That is the reason why what he does say comes out extremely garbled and unintelligible because he is only repeating what he hears.   My recommendation is to remove his adenoids and put tubes in his ears.   I believe that taking this course of action will help keep his ears clear of fluid so he can hear properly.   As for his improving his speech, I recommend that he be seen by a speech therapist to help him with his vocal skills.”

Rick and I looked at each other and then back to Dr. Lee.   “It’s worth a try,” I said.   “No one else has been able to answer our questions before now.   When would you perform this procedure?”

“Next week.   Tuesday is my normal day in the surgical suite.   I will ask my staff to set up the appointment for you and provide you with the pre-op instructions,” Dr. Lee said.

We left her office feeling like we had finally made some progress towards helping JJ.    Reading over the instructions and all the disclaimers that were printed there about the possible side effects of the surgery made me very nervous.

We left Josh with Todd and the twins before the sun came up.   Since JJ was the first surgery of the day, we were up early and made sure we had plenty of time to get to the hospital to fill out the needed paperwork, etc.   As we entered the pediatric surgical center, Dr. Lee had greeted us and then had gone over the procedure – removal of the adenoids and tubes to be placed in his ears.   We filled out all of the paperwork and the nurse led us back to where the anesthesiologist explained what she was going to do.   She then placed the mask over JJ’s face and in seconds he was asleep in my arms.   I was more than a little shocked at how quickly he became unconscious.   The paperwork had included warnings that being put under anesthesia was dangerous and could lead to death.   It made me worry that she had given JJ too much.   Despite my fears, I laid him down on the gurney and watched them secure his little body in place and they wheeled him out of the room.   I sat there frozen in place not wanting to worry but not being able to stop.  

Rick took one look at my face and pulled me into his embrace.   I melted into his arms and buried my face in his chest as my tears coursed down my cheeks.   My only thought was that they had put my little boy to sleep and had taken him from me.   Rick smoothed my hair with his hand and then put his hand under my chin and raised it so he could look into my eyes.

“Glenn, JJ will be alright.   Dr. Lee said it will take less than 30 minutes to complete the procedure.   Let’s go to the waiting area so we can be there when JJ comes out of the operating room,” Rick said.

He took me by the hand and guided me out of the examination room.   My tears still blurred my vision so I had to wipe my eyes so I didn’t run into anything.   We sat down on the coach to wait.   Rick put his arm around me to reassure me that everything would be okay.   After 30 minutes came and went, I started to get nervous.  

I turned to Rick, “What if something has gone wrong?   Why haven’t they come out yet?”

Rick took my hand, “Be patient, Glenn.   Maybe they needed a little extra time.”

I nodded my head uncertainly and tried to relax.   I felt so much anxiety that my stomach was tied up in knots.   I kept glancing up at the clock on the wall as it moved ever so slowly.   It approached an hour since they had taken our little boy into the operating room.  

I was beginning to panic when Dr. Lee came into the waiting room.   She said, “I am so sorry it took so long.   Your boy has the smallest ear canals I have ever seen.   It took me a long time to clean out all of the ear wax and then it was a struggle to properly place the tubes in his ears.   He will be waking up shortly and will need you to comfort him.   Please follow me.”

She led us down a hallway and into the recovery room where our precious little boy lay on the gurney.   A nurse stood by his side taking his pulse.  She looked up and smiled as we walked over to join her at JJ’s bedside.  

Dr. Lee said, “I will leave care instructions with the nurse and a prescription for antibiotic drops for his ears.   The nurse will give JJ a pain reliever when he wakes up but you will need to continue to give it to him for the remainder of the day.   He should be fine by tomorrow.”

Dr. Lee left us and the nurse introduced herself, “I’m Mary.   If you need anything, I will be at the desk over there.”   She pointed to her desk and then left us to wait for JJ to wake up.

After a few minutes, JJ’s eyes fluttered open and he tried to sit up.   I put my hand on his shoulder and pushed him back down on the bed.   “Lay still, sweetheart.   Daddy and I are right here,” I said in a soothing tone of voice.   JJ stopped struggling to sit up and lay still.

Rick smiled, “That’s my boy.   Thank you for listening.”   He sat down in the chair next to the bed and took JJ’s little hand in his.

At that moment, I don’t know who needed more comforting – me or JJ.   I was so relieved to see that JJ was alright that tears were running uncontrollably down my face.   I sat down on the bed next to JJ and pulled him onto my lap.   I gently hugged him and tried to control my emotions.

Rick smiled at me and lifted his hand to my face and wiped away my tears, “It’s okay, Babe.   JJ is fine and so are you.”

I replied, “I hate it when I can’t control my emotions, sweetheart.   I am so happy that JJ is okay.”

“Glenn, don’t worry about it.   It is one of those things that endear you to me,” Rick said holding my gaze.   “I always know how you are feeling because you are like reading an open book.”

JJ moved to get down but I held him firmly in my arms, “JJ, you need to wait a bit before you can get down.   Do you want some apple juice?”

Seeing JJ’s nod, Rick walked over to the nurse who gave him a juice box for JJ.   Rick opened the straw and pushed it through the foil for JJ and handed to him.

JJ greedily sipped the juice.   When he finished it, he handed me the empty juice box and said, “More.”

Rick got him another juice box.   Rick handed it to him, “JJ, you can have some crackers now if you want some.”

JJ shook his head in the affirmative as he drained another juice box.   Rick handed him a saltine cracker which quickly disappeared.   JJ held his hand out for more which Rick supplied.

The nurse approached us and said, “Let’s check our little guy’s vital signs, again.”   I held JJ as she took his pulse, listened to his breathing and then she checked his blood pressure.   JJ patiently waited for her to finish.   He didn’t move or try to get away from her touch.   When she was done, she said, “You are such a good boy, JJ.   Do you want to choose a stuff animal from my collection?”

JJ said, “Yes.”

“I will be right back,” the nurse said.   She was true to her word.   She returned with an armful of stuffed animals.   JJ chose a miniature tiger and hugged it tightly.   He smiled brightly at her and said, “Thank you.”

“You are welcome, JJ,” she responded.   She left us to return the toys to their drawer before returning to us with several sheets of instructions for caring for JJ.   She looked at us and said, “Dr. Lee has left these instructions for you.   I have to review them with you before we can discharge JJ.”   She went over them and then handed them to us along with the prescriptions the doctor had left for us.   “You can get JJ dressed now.   As soon as you are ready, I will take you down to the patient pickup area.”

I dressed JJ in his regular clothes and said, “We are ready to go.”

Rick said, “I will go get the car.”

The nurse came over and asked, “Ready?”

“Yes, we are ready,” I replied.   A few minutes later, we were standing outside the hospital waiting for Rick.

Rick pulled up in the Land Rover and parked it in front of us.   He jumped out and opened the door for me.   I put JJ in his car seat and buckled him in and then got into the car myself.   The nurse waved to us as we pulled out.

I glanced at the clock on the dashboard and said, “Wow!   It’s only 11 AM!   It seemed like it was much longer than that.”

Rick laughed, “It only seemed that way because you worried so much.”

I replied, “I know; however, it still seemed like a long time.   I can’t help worry about our little guy.”

Rick nodded his head in understanding, “I know, sweetheart, you haven’t stopped worry about our boys since the day they were taken from us by the CPS people.”

I thought for a moment, “I guess you are right about that.   Intellectually, I know that my fears for their safety are unfounded most of the time; but emotionally, I haven’t recovered from the trauma of that experience.   I guess I will never be able to stop worrying about them.”

Rick reached over and took my hand in his, “It’s okay, Babe.   The boys know that they are very much loved and wanted in our home.”

*** ***

JJ’s placed his hand on mine and reached up with his other hand and touched my chin, “Dad, want to play.”

“Okay, JJ,” I said and let him down.   JJ quickly rejoined the other boys and continued playing soccer.   Pretty soon JJ made a goal and the boys let out a huge cheer.   JJ looked over to see if we were watching.   We stood up and clapped for him.

A great big smile broke out on JJ’s face before he ran to get the ball out of the goal net and kicked it towards Cammy.   As the sun went down, I went inside and retrieved the ice cream bars the boys had chosen for their snack.

As soon as they saw me come outside, I was mobbed by four very excited little boys whose eyes shown with anticipation.   “Okay, you each get one ice cream bar.”   I handed them and then said, “You need to get up to the table to eat them and make sure the wrappers go in the garbage.”

The boys complied by climbing up to the picnic table.   I walked over to the guys and offered them one.   After taking one myself, I joined them at the patio table.   “There are four left.   Should I let them have another one?” I asked.

Zach said, “No, I think you should save the rest for tomorrow.”

“Agreed,” I said.   I finished mine and returned the rest to the freezer.  

The little guys joined us at the patio table.   They climbed up on our laps and we held them as we talked in the fading twilight.   It wasn’t long before four boys were snuggled up on our laps asleep.

Rick said, “I guess it’s time for us to put these guys to bed.”

Todd agreed, “I think we will have to give them their baths in the morning.”

“That being the case, we will meet you at 9 AM tomorrow.   That will give us time to get them bathed and ready for the day,” I said.

Todd grinned, “Sounds good.”

We parted company with our friends and took our boys to their room.   After tucking them in, Rick took my hand and led me to our bedroom.   He closed the door and pulled me into his warm embrace.

“I love you, Glenn,” he said.

“I love you, too,” I said.

After helping each other out of our clothes, Rick led me into the shower.   We had the shower remodeled before we moved into the house.   Rick turned on the various shower heads (there are six – three at waist height and three at normal height).   We love the feel of the water cascading onto our bodies from every direction!    Rick pulled me into his arms and started kissing me passionately.   The feel of his hands caressing my body along with the pulsating spray of the water on my skin caused me to moan with exquisite pleasure.

Rick pulled back and gave me a mischievous grin, “You aren’t excited are you?”

I looked my lover boy in the eyes and grinned before he renewed his assault on my senses.

*** ***

I snuggled up to my guy with a sigh of complete contentment as he pulled me close to him.   He nipped my ear and whispered, “Did I meet your expectations, Babe?”

I turned my head and kissed him tenderly on the lips, “You know you did.”  

Rick smiled, “I just wanted to make sure.”

“You are the best lover in the whole world, Rick,” I said.

Rick tightened his embrace and I laid my head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat.   Soon Rick’s breathing became slow and regular.   I knew he had fallen asleep.   My mind was still pondering all of the wonderful things that had happened to us.   We had a perfect marriage, two marvelous boys, good jobs, and a nice home.   As I drifted off, I couldn’t help thinking that we were living our happily ever after.

*** ***

The next evening, we were gathered together in the family room to watch Zach’s game against Montreal.   Todd had gone to the game to see Zach play and had left the twins with us for the night.  The game was tied and Zach had the puck.  We were all on our feet cheering him on.   Cammy and Skye were bouncing up and down with excitement.   Both were shouting, “Go, Dad, Go!” as they pumped their fists in the air.   Zach passed the puck to his teammate who took it down the ice while Zach set up for a shot at the goal.   At the last possible second, the puck was shot to Zach who put it in the net.   The crowd was on their feet celebrating the goal.   We were celebrating with the boys here at home as well.  

Then something started to happen on the ice.   A fight broke out between two of the players.   Soon several others joined the melee including the referees.   We couldn’t see who was doing what to whom.   It took a few minutes before the fight was broken up.   There was a player down on the ice but we couldn’t see who it was.

As the camera zoomed in, it became apparent that it was Zach.   Cammy and Skye shouted, “That’s Daddy!”

“It does look like him.   Let’s watch and see what is happening,” Rick said.

When he didn’t get up, I said, “I think he is badly hurt.”

They brought out a stretcher and Zach was lifted on to it and strapped down.   The sports announcer was speculating about what kind of injury Zach had sustained.   Once the ice was clear, the penalties were announced.   The opposing team had two players out with five minute penalties.   Our team also had one player in the penalty box in addition to Zach being carried off the ice.  Play resumed.  

Skye asked, “Is Daddy going to be alright?”

Rick replied, “I think so.   We will have to wait and see if he comes back out on the ice.”

Skye and Cameron sat glued to the television, watching closely to see their Dad.   The game ended with a win for the Capitals.   The boys were very excited about the game but still were worried about their Dad.

Rick shut down the entertainment center and turned to the boys, “It’s time for bed boys.   Let’s get you bathed and in your pajamas.”

JJ looked at me and pointed to his ears, “Plugs?”

“Yes, I will get your ear plugs, JJ,” I said, reassuring him that I would take care of his needs.

Cameron walked over and took JJ by the hand, “Can I help JJ get a bath?”

“Sure, Cammy,” I said smiling.   “Thank you for helping.”

Skye grabbed Josh’s hand, “I get to help Josh!”   The two boys ran ahead of us.   They scampered up the stairs and into the boys’ bathroom.

Cammy and JJ followed them.   Rick and I followed at a more sedate pace.   When we got to the bathroom, all four boys had stripped down and were in the bathtub.  

Rick said, “Boys, we need to put the water in first.   Hop out for minute so we can run the water.”

As they climbed out of the tub, Cammy turned to Skye and said, “I told you we had to wait until the water was in the tub.”

I noted that Skye was about to argue so I interrupted, “It’s okay, Skye.   Cammy, here are the earplugs for JJ’s ears.   Let me show you how to put them in so they won’t let any water in.”

Cammy said, “I know how to put them in.   I watched you do it yesterday.   Can I do it?”

“Okay, here are the earplugs,” I said handing them to Cammy.   I pulled the ear band out of the drawer.   I checked JJ’s ears to make sure the earplugs were properly installed and then wrapped the ear band around JJ’s head making sure to cover JJ’s ears.   I adjusted the Velcro so the headband wouldn’t slip off in the bathtub.

Cammy looked at my handiwork and said, “I think JJ’s ready for the bathtub.”

“Yes, he is ready to get in the tub,” I agreed.

Rick had finished filling the tub, “Okay, in the tub you go boys!”

Rick had added some bubble bath to the water.   Cammy said, “I love bubbles.   I like making faces with them.”

Cammy proceed to mold a beard and a mustache out of the bubbles clinging to his face.   Skye pointed at him, “You look like Dad.”

I laughed, “Yes, Cammy does look like your Dad.”

Cammy put bubbles on Skye’s face making a mustache, “Now you look like Daddy.”

Skye turned to let me see his face, “Yes, you look like your Daddy.”

Rick and I knelt down beside the bathtub to help wash the boys.   After they were all clean and the bubbles had started to disappear, Rick said, “Okay, boys, it’s time to get out.”

Josh said, “Can we play in the tub some more?”

“No, Josh, it’s time for bed,” Rick said laughing.   “I know you like playing in the bathtub.”

We lifted each of the boys out of the tub and wrapped them in a towel.   “Dry yourselves off boys,” Rick said.

I took JJ’s headband off and removed the earplugs and put them in their case and put them in their drawer.   Cameron helped JJ dry his hair and then did the same for himself.   Each of the boys wrapped himself in his towel and marched back into the boys’ bedroom.   Cameron and Skye helped dress the twins and then crossed the hall to their bedroom and soon returned with their pajamas on.

We tucked JJ and Josh into their beds.   Cameron asked, “Can we say prayers?”

Rick said, “Sure.   Cammy do want to pray for us?”

He nodded.   As soon as everyone was ready, he began, “Dear Lord, thank you for my Dad and Daddy.   Please bless Dad that he will okay.   He is a good Dad.  Bless us with a good night’s sleep.   Amen.”

We murmured, “Amen,” and I said, “Thank you for remembering your Dad.   I am sure he will be just fine.”

Cammy replied, “I know he will because we prayed for him.”

Skye said, “Daddy told us that if we pray when we need something, everything will turn out alright.”

Rick looked at me in surprise but didn’t say anything.   I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Your Daddy is right about that, Cameron.   Give JJ and Josh a hug good night.”

Rick and I both kissed the boys on the cheek and said, “good night.”

I turned on the baby monitor.   Yes, I know they aren’t babies anymore but it gives me great comfort to be able to hear them.   Rick thinks I am being overly protective of them but he doesn’t understand that I do it to help me overcome the trauma of that horrible time in our lives.   At least I can sleep in my own room at night now instead of on a cot in the twins’ room.
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We followed Cameron and Skye across the hall to their bedroom.   The boys crawled into their beds.   Cameron asked, again, “Do you think my Dad is okay?”

Rick replied, “I am sure he is okay.   Your Daddy would have called if there was problem and he hasn’t called.”

Rick’s explanation seemed to satisfy the young boy because he reached up and hugged Rick around the neck as Rick leaned down to kiss him on the forehead.

“Good night, Cammy.   Don’t worry anymore about your Dad, okay?” Rick asked, looking Cameron in the eyes.

“Okay,” Cameron responded.

I tucked Skye’s blanket in around him and then leaned down to kiss his forehead.  “Good night, Skye,” I said.

“Good night, Glenn,” Skye said.

We turned the lights out and quietly closed their door.   Rick took me by the hand and led me to our bedroom.   We silently undressed each other and by mutual consent climbed into bed with Rick pulling me into his arms.

I snuggled up to my sweetheart and looked into his eyes, “Do you think we need to call Todd to make sure Zach is okay?”

“Go ahead and call if it will make you feel better,” Rick said smiling at me.   “I know you will worry until you know he’s okay.   You are worse than Cameron!”

I kissed him on the lips and reached over to grab my cell phone from the nightstand.   I punched the speed dial for Todd’s cell phone.

It rang a couple of times before Todd answered, “Hello, Glenn.   I’m sorry I didn’t call sooner.   I am at the hospital with Zach.   He has a concussion from hitting his head on the ice.”

“Do you need us to come up to the hospital?” I asked.

“Not at the moment,” Todd said.

“Okay.   We will keep the boys until you are ready for them,” I said.

“Thanks, Glenn,” Todd said.

“Tell Zach we are just glad he is going to be okay.   Cameron has really been worried about his Dad,” I said.

Todd replied, “I am really worried as well.   He was knocked unconscious on the ice and when he finally regained consciousness, he didn’t remember anything.   They are running tests right now to see what damage has been done.   I will talk to you guys tomorrow.”

“Okay.   Good night,” I said and broke the connection.

I rolled over and back into Rick’s arms.   Rick looked at me with raised eyebrows.   I explained what Todd had told me.   I ended by saying, “I am glad Zach wasn’t badly hurt.”

“You mean that his injuries weren’t worse than they are,” Rick said.  

I nodded, “Yes that is what I meant.   I love Zach and Todd very much.”

“Yes, they are a very important part of lives,” Rick said.   “Now that you know what’s going on with Zach, can we concentrate on us?”

I grinned, “Of course, dear.  What did you have in mind?”

Rick answered my question in a very physical way that left me without any doubts about what he had on his mind!

*** ***

Todd sat next to Zach’s hospital bed.   He hadn’t told Glenn everything that had happened because he didn’t want them to worry.   Zach had sustained a head injury as well, despite the protection afforded him by his helmet.   They had brought him to the Georgetown University Hospital to perform an MRI of his head to make sure there wasn’t any internal bleeding.   Zach was conscious but they had him heavily sedated.   The team doctor, Dr. Eastley, was very concerned because Zach was knocked unconscious on the ice.   Dr. Eastley had insisted that Zach be transported to the hospital immediately when Zach didn’t respond to anything he tried to revive him.   Dr. Eastley had sent one of his assistances to get Todd while they transferred Zach to the ambulance.

When Dr. Eastley saw Todd, he put his arm around his shoulders.   “I want you to know we are doing everything we can for Zach.   I called ahead to arrange for one of the best neurosurgeons to take a look at Zach.   He will meet you at the hospital.”  

Dr. Eastley escorted Todd to the waiting ambulance and introduced me the EMT, “Brad, this is Zach’s husband and he will be accompanying you to the hospital.   I will get there as soon as the game is over.”

Brad had a funny look on his face but managed to recover enough to say, “Please climb aboard, Mr. Anderson-Ingram.”   Brad climbed in behind Todd and took a seat on the opposite side of Zach.

Todd took Zach’s hand in his own hoping that his touch would help revive Zach.   Todd was barely holding back his tears when Brad asked, “How long have you been married?”

Todd looked across at Brad, “We have been married eight years and have twin boys.”

Brad tried not to show his shock at finding out that this gay couple had children.   “How did you manage to have children?”   Brad’s astonishment showed in his voice.

“We used a surrogate,” Todd said.   “The boys are seven years old.   Zach wanted to have children right away.”

Brad said, “I don’t mean to pry but I am very surprised that you have children and are married.”

Todd had been looking at Zach’s face trying to detect any sign of movement.   He looked up and said sharply, “Gay couples are just like any other couple.   We love each other very deeply and we have two beautiful children.   We had to go to Canada to be married because of the hatred and prejudice that exists toward gays here in the United States.   We lived in Canada for a number of years before Zach was traded to the Caps.”

“I’m sorry.   I didn’t mean to offend you.   It’s just that I have never met a married gay couple before now.   You do know that Georgetown Hospital may not let you in to be with him because of their Catholic rules,” Brad said.

“Then I will be calling my lawyers to sue them,” Todd said.  “I wasn’t consulted about where Zach is being taken or I would have objected very strongly.”

Brad nodded, “I understand.   I will do what I can to smooth things out with the hospital.”

We didn’t talk the rest of the trip to the hospital.   After Zach was taken into the emergency room, Brad came out and escorted Todd back to be with Zach.   Brad stopped at the nurse’s desk and said, “Dr. Eastley has requested that Mr. Anderson-Ingram remain with the patient.”

The nurse nodded her head and Brad proceeded to Zach’s room.   He reached his hand out to shake Todd’s, “I hope everything works out.   I am an avid hockey fan and your husband is one of our most valuable players.   We need him back on the ice as soon as possible.”

Todd turned to look at Zach.   He went over to his beloved husband and leaned down and kissed him on the lips then whispered, “Zach, I love you.   Cameron, Skye and I need you.   Come back to us.”

Todd pulled the chair close to the bed.   He sat down and took Zach’s hand.   A few seconds later, a tall dark-haired man in his late thirties came into the room.   His emerald eyes were very striking in his deeply tanned face.   He smiled as he reached out to shake Todd’s hand.   “I’m Dr. Michael Economides.   Dr. Eastley said you would be waiting for me.   You must be Todd Anderson-Ingram.”

Todd nodded his head, “Yes and this is my husband, Zach.”

Dr. Economides nodded, “Yes, I know.   He is the reason I am here.   My apologies for bringing you here but this is the best place for us to work with Zach.   I have informed the staff that you will be staying with Zach and that there will be no harassment of any kind due to the nature of your relationship to Zach.   I hope that we will be able to provide Zach the best care without inconveniencing you.”

The doctor’s words comforted Todd since he didn’t carry a copy of his medical power of attorney with him to the game.   He hadn’t given it a second thought when they left for game earlier in the day.   Dr. Economides moved over to Zach’s side and began to examine him.   Todd resumed his seat and took Zach’s hand in his.

Zach started to stir and his eyes fluttered open.   The first words he said were, “Where am I?”

Todd said, “Zach, you are at the hospital and this is Dr. Economides.”

Zach turned to look at Todd but didn’t respond.   In fact, Zach looked puzzled.   He didn’t remember anyone name Todd.   Obviously, they knew each other very well since Todd was holding his hand.   He turned his head towards the doctor.

“What is the last thing you remember?” Dr. Economides asked.

“I can’t remember anything,” Zach said.   “My head hurts so badly I can’t think.”   He closed his eyes against bright lights.

Dr. Economides signaled for Todd to turn off the lights, “We are going to turn out the lights for a few minutes.   I need to look into your eyes for a few minutes.”

Dr. Economides continued his examination.   He said, “Zach, you have suffered a severe concussion due to a fight on the ice during a hockey game.  You are here because you were knocked unconscious and have been out for nearly an hour.   Dr. Eastley tried to revive you without success and sent you here.   I am a neurosurgeon specializing in head injuries.   We are going to take an MRI of your head to determine if how extensive the damage is before we go any further.   Todd, please remove Zach’s wedding ring and the necklace he is wearing and keep them until Zach returns from the MRI.   I will send in the nurse to help get him ready for the MRI.”

He left the room and a moment later a male nurse arrived.   “Hi, I’m Alonzo.”

Alonzo smiled showing his perfectly white teeth.   He was compact and well muscled at 67 cm. (5’6”).   His dark brown hair matched his eyes and he had a cleft square chin.   The dimples in each cheek added to his charm.   Todd observed the ease and grace with which Alonzo moved as he cut off Zach’s uniform and replaced it with a hospital gown.   Todd was startled out of his reverie by Alonzo’s voice, “Sir, do want to keep his wedding ring and his necklace?”

Todd looked Alonzo in the eyes and then looked down to see the ring and necklace in Alonzo’s hand.   “Yes, I will keep them for my husband.”

Alonzo smiled, “I am glad you are here for him.   I am gay as well but I haven’t been as fortunate as you to find my soul mate.   Of course, I haven’t told the hospital that I am gay or I would lose my job.   I will probably have to transfer to another hospital soon because I hate hiding who I am.”

Todd felt relieved.   He had expected to encounter only prejudice and hatred from the employees of this catholic hospital.   “Thank you for being so kind,” Todd said.

Alonzo smiled, “You are most welcome.   I have been instructed to take your husband down to the imaging center.   We will bring him back here when we are done.   You might want to get some coffee or something while we are gone.”

Todd nodded, “I’m okay.   I will wait here.”   His cell phone rang.   He pulled it from his pocket and saw that it was Glenn.   He answered it.   He was grateful for Glenn’s call and that the boys were doing okay.   He ended the call and then sat staring at the walls in the examination room.

His thoughts took him back to their wedding day and the many happy memories they had made together like the day they had become parents.   The tender look on Zach’s face as he held his infant sons in his arms would always be etched in his memory as one of his favorite moments.   Zach had been so proud that day.   They had picked out the boys’ names many months before they were born:   Cameron Todd Anderson-Ingram and Skye Zachary Anderson-Ingram.   Zach had recently been drafted to play for the Toronto Marlies and the young family had moved to Toronto.   Todd had many fond memories of those first few years in Toronto.   Every milestone in the twins’ lives was a cause for celebration.   Some of those moments were when the twins first said, “Dada and Daddy,” and when they took their first steps.   Todd drifted off to sleep in his chair.   Alonzo returned with Zach a couple of hours later.    He walked over to touch Todd’s shoulder.   Todd was instantly awake.

“It’s okay.   I’ve brought your guy back to you,” Alonzo said.   “He has been very patient during both a CAT scan and an MRI.  Dr. Economides is looking at them right now.”

Todd reached over and took Zach’s hand in his.   He placed Zach’s wedding band back on his ring finger.   Next he stood up and put the gold necklace around Zach’s neck.   The necklace held a small gold heart with Zach and Todd’s names and the date of their wedding on one side and on the other the words “Joined in Love Forever.”

Zach looked up at Todd and said, “Thank you for staying with me, Todd.”

Todd smiled, “I will always be here for you, sweetheart.   I was afraid that you wouldn’t remember me.”

Zach said, “I don’t remember being knocked down on the ice.”

Alonzo said, “That is a normal occurrence when someone has a traumatic experience like you did.   Eventually, the memory of it comes back.”

Dr. Economides walked into the room.  The expression on his face was grim.   “Todd and Zach the MRI and the CAT scan didn’t show any signs of hemorrhaging but there is some swelling.”

Todd asked, “Then why was Zach in a coma lasted for over an hour?”

Dr. Economides responded, “We don’t know why people go into a comatose state nor do we know why they come out of it.   There are many things we don’t know about the human brain.   Given how long Zach was unconscious, I think we need to take precautions.   I am recommending that we remove a small portion of the skull to ensure that the swelling doesn’t do any further damage.   The other option is to put in a drain to help reduce the pressure on the brain.   Either option will serve to reduce the chance of further damage.”

Before we could ask any questions, Dr. Eastley arrived.   He walked over to Zach’s bed, “I’m glad to see you are conscious, Zach.   We can’t afford to lose one of our star players.”

Zach smiled, “I don’t want to be lost either, Doc.”

Dr. Economides brought Dr. Eastley up to date on the result of the tests and then restated his recommendations.   Dr. Eastley said, “I would recommend the least invasive procedure but then, again, I am not the neurosurgeon.”

Dr. Economides said, “The least invasive procedure would be to put in a shunt to drain any fluid off of the brain.   However, I strongly recommend that you avoid vigorous activity for at least 10 days.   I will put it in writing that a minimum of 10 days of rest is needed.”   He turned to Dr. Eastley, “If you can’t guarantee he will be off the ice, I will have him admitted and keep him for observation.”

Dr. Eastley winced as if he had been slapped, “I can’t guarantee that.   Zach is under contract to perform and will be expected to be on the ice.”

Dr. Economides expressed hardened and he said, “Okay, I will get him admitted.”

Dr. Eastley didn’t look happy.   “Coach is not going to be happy.  Zach, you are a key part of our offense and we need you for the next game.”

“I can always get up and walk out of here,” Zach said.

“They won’t let you do that without signing a bunch of legal documents stating that you won’t sue them for malpractice by releasing you from the hospital before Dr. Economides agrees you are ready to leave,” Dr. Eastley said.

Todd said, “But isn’t Dr. Economides the specialist here?”

“Yes, he is and that is why I arranged for Zach to be seen by him.   But now that the tests don’t show any serious brain damage, I can’t defend keeping him off the ice,” Dr. Eastley explained.

Todd was getting pretty angry with Dr. Eastley’s obvious penchant for giving in to the team’s demands and putting players at risk.   “Let me be blunt, Dr. Eastley, if Zach sustains any serious injuries because of your unwillingness to abide by Dr. Economides advice, I will personally hold you responsible; and believe me you won’t be practicing medicine anywhere when our lawyers are done with you.”

Dr. Eastley said quietly, “Are you threatening me?”

Todd looked him in the eyes, “No, I am making you a promise Dr. Eastley.   I understand that you are at the mercy of your employer and are required to get players back on the ice as soon as possible.   I want to be perfectly clear that Zach’s health is the first concern here and is not subservient to his employer’s wishes to win the next hockey game.”

Zach interjected, “Gentlemen, please stop arguing.   I will play as soon as Dr. Economides releases me from the hospital.   Dr. Eastley, please forgive my husband for his direct approach to this problem.”

Todd held up his hand, “Zach, Dr. Eastley needs to understand that you have a family to care for unlike some of the other players who are single and don’t have any other responsibilities other than to themselves.   We don’t need your income from playing hockey to sustain our family and it is not worth having you severely injured or crippled for life.   I agreed to letting you continue to play hockey because it is something you have dreamed of doing all of your life.   You have done that now for several years and I haven’t complained about all of the other injuries you have suffered as a result.   However, this time I won’t sit back and let the team doctor put you back on the ice before you have had time to recover.   A head injury is not something to take lightly.   I believe that Dr. Eastley will agree with me since he was the one who called in the specialist.”

Dr. Eastley looked at me and then at Zach before he answered, “I must apologize if I came across as being willing to sacrifice Zach’s well being for a team win.   Yes, I agree that head injuries are to be taken very seriously.   I will let the coach know you will be staying in the hospital for a few days for observation.”   He looked at Todd for a moment before continuing, “You are a good man, Todd.   You were right to put me in my place.  I know that you have been very support of Zach over the years.   Zach has talked about you and the twins a lot since he came to the Caps.   We know he loves you very much and that you are the perfect husband for him.”

Todd looked at Dr. Eastley and smiled, “I am glad to hear Zach knows he has the perfect guy for him!”

Zach laughed and then clutched his head in pain, “Ouch!   Laughing makes my head hurt!”

Dr. Eastley noted with humor in his voice, “I guess we will have to be careful not to tell jokes around you anymore.   I will check back with you guys in the morning.   Good night.”

Todd leaned over and kissed Rick on the lips, “I love you and don’t you ever forget that.”

Zach smiled, “I love you, too.”

Alonzo entered the room, “I guess you are going to be staying with us for a few days.   Let’s get you moved to your private room.   I have arranged for a cot to be brought in for you Mr. Anderson-Ingram.”

“Thank you for thinking of me,” Todd said.

Alonzo grinned, “If I were you, I would sleep next to Zach on the hospital bed.   You have married a very hot stud.”

Todd laughed, “I did do that.   I have to admit Zach does have a nice physique.”

Zach remarked with a grin, “Watch it!   That’s me you are talking about.”

Alonzo laughed, “Okay, we won’t talk about you when you are awake.   We wait until you are asleep to discuss your finer physical attributes.”

Todd guffawed, “I think you have met your match Zach.”

Alonzo’s face beamed and said, “I only try to do the best job I can.”

They wheeled the hospital bed into a private room and Alonzo pushed it into position.   The cot was already there.   Todd set it up while Alonzo helped Zach to the restroom and then helped him get comfortable.   

“I will be in and out over the next few hours.   The charge nurse will be in shortly to get you settled,” Alonzo said.

“Thanks, Alonzo,” Todd said.

“You are most welcome,” Alonzo replied as he disappeared from sight.

The nurse came in shortly and quickly explained what the doctor’s orders were for the night and then set up the necessary monitoring devices.   When she left the room, Todd curled up on the cot next to Zach and the two fell fast asleep.

*** ***

A couple of hours later, the nurse came in to check on her patient.   She disapproved of gay marriage and wasn’t happy that these two men were under her care.   She tried to suppress her feelings of disgust but was finding it hard given her religious beliefs.   She stood in the doorway for a moment to get herself under control.   She looked at the man in the hospital bed and noticed that he was a well built man, dirty blond hair.   His nose was swollen.   It added to rough good looks.   She could see that he spent a lot of time in the sun from the dark tan he had.  She also knew he was a hockey player and that he was gay so it didn’t matter how handsome he was or that he was a celebrity hockey player.

She tiptoed into the room and took the man’s vital signs as quietly as she could.   Reminding herself that she didn’t want to disturb the man’s partner who was asleep on the cot next to the hospital bed.   She didn’t want to have to speak to him.   She might have to care for her patient but she certainly didn’t have to enter into a conversation with him or his partner.   She thought, “What a waste!   A handsome guy like this falling in with a guy!   Why didn’t these handsome men realize the error of their ways and decide to pay attention to young single women like herself?”   She had dated off and on for years but it seemed like everyone one of her attempts to develop a lasting relationship ended in misery.   She had nearly given up on finding someone she could love and spend the rest of her life with; a soul mate.

As she made notes on the medical chart, she saw her patient’s partner open his eyes and look at her.   He sat up and smiled at her.   She was startled by how good looking this man was.   His brilliant blue eyes, blond hair, deep tan and perfect male physique had a huge impact on her.   He definitely was a looker!   She tried to calm herself but couldn’t help being deeply attracted to this man.   She returned his smile, “I am Gillian Lefebvre and I am the night nurse for this ward.”

Todd stood up and said, “Nice to meet you, Gillian.   I am Todd Anderson-Ingram.”

She smiled up at him as he towered over her.   She quickly noted how his muscles rippled under the form fitting dark blue exercise shirt.   She had always preferred masculine athletic men and this guy was all of that and more.   Todd grinned as he noted her appraising look.   He noted how her cheeks colored up as she realized that he knew she was giving him the once over.   She lifted her eyes to meet his gaze and smiled, “I am sorry.   I couldn’t help but notice how handsome you are.”

“Thank you Gillian.   I try to keep myself in shape.   It’s hard work since I run my own business, home school my twin boys and try to keep up with my husband and his travel schedule all at the same time,” Todd said.

At the mention of his husband, Gillian reacted as if she had been slapped.   She stiffened and tried not to show her disappointment.   “I take it that this is your husband?”

Todd nodded, “Yes, he is.   Zach and I have been together for a long time now.   We went to Canada to be married during our sophomore year in college.   Our boys are seven years old.”   Todd pulled out his wallet and showed her a family photo.

“They are beautiful children,” Gillian replied politely; her chilly voice reflecting her feelings of revulsion that two gay men were raising children together.

Zach stirred and opened his eyes.   He asked, “I am thirsty.   Can I have some water?”

Todd immediately offered Zach the cup of water with a straw.    Todd held the cup for his husband.   “How is your heading feeling?”

“It really hurts right now,” Zach replied.

Todd said, “Zach, this is Gillian Lefebvre.   She is the nurse in charge tonight.”

Zach gave a painful smile, “Nice to meet you.   Thank you for being here tonight with us.   Did Dr. Economides leave any instructions about what medications I can have?”

Gillian had been watching the two interact and had noted the little things that signaled a deep and abiding love for each other – a soft touch, the gentle way Todd adjusted Zach’s pillows to make him more comfortable, his attentiveness to Zach’s needs.   She observed the tender look that passed between them as Todd helped Zach sip the water from the cup.   She had never seen such tenderness and love between two people with the exception of her parents.   She knew that she was witness to a very loving relationship between two people.   It was the type of relationship she very dearly wanted for herself someday.

Zach repeated his question.   She gave a start and looked into Zach’s eyes, “I am sorry.   Would you repeat your question?”

Zach patiently asked, “Did the doctor leave any instructions for painkillers?”

Gillian replied, “No, he did not.   He did leave instructions that he was to be called if you woke up during the night.   I will let him know you are awake.”

She left the room and Todd leaned over and kissed Zach tenderly.   “I am sorry your head hurts.   I wish I could make it better.”

“You already have, Babe, just by being here with me,” Zach responded taking Todd’s hand in his.   He played with the ring on Todd’s finger.   “I want you to know that I love you very much and that I am very glad you agreed to marry me.   You have made me very happy every day of my life.   Thank you for being the light of my life.”

Todd’s eyes were bright with tears as he replied, “You know that you mean everything to me, sweetheart.   I love you so much words can’t express how I feel.”

Zach replied, “You don’t have to put your feelings into words because you have shown me how much you love me in everything you do.”

Todd leaned over and kissed Zach, again.   He whispered, “I love you.”

Unbeknownst to them, Gillian had observed them as she stood in the doorway.   She had been about to enter when she saw Todd kiss Zach the first time.   She had started to leave but then felt compelled to listen to what they were saying.   She felt slightly guilty for eavesdropping on their conversation but she couldn’t help being curious about how two handsome men could be so in love with each other.   Their words had brought tears to her eyes and touched her deeply.   She was surprised to find herself thinking that such love and devotion had to be okay.   It led her to think that maybe her religious upbringing hadn’t taken into account that gay people could form loving families just like straight people.   Didn’t God love all of his children and not just those who professed to follow one religion or another?

She entered the room and said, “Dr. Economides will be here shortly.   He is on call tonight.”

Todd smiled at her and said, “Thank you for calling him.”

His smile and expression of appreciation for her efforts on their behalf caused her to smile in return.   “You are welcome.   I will come back when the doctor arrives.”   She still couldn’t believe how captivating Todd was.   His magnetic personality drew her to him despite her knowledge that he was married to Zach.   She shook her head trying to clear her mind of such thoughts.   She sat down at the nurses’ station and pulled out the paperwork she needed to finish with the intent of burying her mind in the minutiae of her job.

Dr. Economides entered the room and greeted the two young men with a nod of his head.   He turned to Zach, “How are you feeling?”

“My head hurts very much.   Can you give me something to ease the pain?” Zach pleaded.

“Yes, I will have the nurse give you something.   Has the ice helped?” Dr. Economides asked.

Zach shrugged, “I don’t know if it has or not.   I only know that my head hurts so bad I can’t stand it.”

Dr. Economides checked Zach’s vital signs and then looked at his eyes and felt the back of his head where he had hit the ice.   “I am going to order another ice pack for the back of your head in addition to more acetaminophen.   No aspirin or ibuprofen allowed until you have recovered from the concussion.”

The doctor left the room to talk to the nurse.   Gillian soon returned with the medication and a new ice pack.   She handed pills to Zach while Todd held a cup of water for him.   With the ice pack installed and the medication taken, Zach leaned back and closed his eyes.

Gillian turned to Todd and said, “Dr. Economides will check back in the morning before he leaves the hospital.” 

Todd nodded his understanding and she turned and left the room turning out the lights and pulling the door closed after her.   Todd sat down on the cot and took Zach’s hand. 

Zach murmured, “I love you, Todd.”   He briefly squeezed Todd’s as he drifted off to sleep.

Todd tried to sleep but couldn’t help worrying about his beloved husband.   He tossed and turned as he tried to get comfortable.   He managed to sleep some because he awoke to hear Zach calling his name.

He got up and took Zach’s hand, “I’m right here, Babe.”

Zach held Todd’s hand tightly as if it were a life preserver.   “I can’t see, Todd.   I think I have gone blind.”   His voice was full of fear and panic.  

“Zach, calm down.   Let me buzz the nurse and she can call Dr. Economides,” Todd said trying to remain calm.

Todd pushed the call button and Gillian answered, “Yes.”

“Zach thinks he has gone blind,” Todd said.

“I will be right there,” Gillian replied.

She was there in a few seconds.   She switched on the light and came over to Zach’s bed.  Zach was blinking his eyes against the bright light.   She asked, “Can you see now?”

Zach answered a little sheepishly, “Yes, I can.   I must have panicked because I could see anything in the dark.”

Gillian smiled, “That is not unusual for someone with a concussion.   It’s time for another dose of the pain reliever.   I will be right back.”

She left the room and Zach looked over at Todd, “I’m sorry to worry you, Todd.”

Todd laughed, “I am just happy to know it was a false alarm.”   Then he gave Zach a stern look, “However, don’t do that to me, again, do you hear me, Zach?”

Zach lowered his gaze from Todd’s, “I promise I won’t do that to you, again.   It scared me more than it did you.”

Todd took Zach’s hand in his.   “It’s okay.”

Gillian entered the room with the pills and again was astonished at the special connection these two men shared.   She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that these two loved each other very deeply.   She handed Zach the medication which he quickly popped into his mouth and sipped water from the cup Todd offered him.   Gillian checked the ice pack.   It was still cold so she said, “I will check back in a few hours, unless something else happens.”   She grinned and winked at Todd who returned her grin.

Todd walked over and turned out the lights and returned to hold Zach’s hand until he fell asleep.   This time Todd couldn’t get back to sleep.   He laid awake thinking of his sweetheart and how he could help assist his recovery when they returned home.   Thinking of home reminded him of their two very active boys.   He wasn’t sure how he was going to keep them from bouncing all over the house with their Dad home.

Before too long, the light of day started to peak through the curtains and Dr. Economides tapped lightly on the door before he walked into the room.

Todd stood up and stretched.  “Good morning, Dr. Economides.”

Dr. Economides replied, “Good morning, Todd.   Let’s see how the patient survived the night.”

Zach was barely awake when Dr. Economides began checking his vital signs.   Zach stretched and then rubbed his eyes.   Zach focused on the doctor and asked, “Can I go home now?”

Dr. Economides said, “That depends on what we see this morning.   I want you to have another MRI to see if there has been any additional swelling before I will agree to send you home.”

He noted it on Zach’s chart and then he left the room to inform the nurse.   While they waited, Todd helped Zach to the restroom and then back into his hospital bed.  

Alonzo came into the room.   He smiled and said, “Hey guys!   Looks like I get to see you one more time before I get off.”   He turned to Zach, “Okay, big guy.   Let’s get you downstairs.”

He wheeled the hospital bed out of the room leaving Todd to wait as he had the night before.   Todd looked at the time and decided it wasn’t too early to call Glenn and Rick.  He pulled out his cell phone and placed the call.

*** ***

I heard the phone ringing but thought it was part of my dream.   Rick sleepily murmured his question, “Are you going to answer it?”

His question woke me up and I rolled over and reached for the phone.   Glancing to see who it was, I saw it was Todd and quickly answered it.

Todd said, “Good morning, Glenn.   I’m sorry to wake you so early.”

“Not a problem,” I said.   “What’s going on with Zach?”

“The doctor wanted to run one more test before releasing Zach to go home.   I’m waiting for Zach to come back from downstairs,” Todd said.

“Do you need us to come and get you?” I asked.

“Yes, we will need you to pick us up since we left our car downtown at the arena,” Todd said.

“We will bring the children over to see their Dad just in case the doctor decides to keep Zach in the hospital for another day.   We will drive two cars over so we will have enough room for everyone just in case he is released today.   Does that sound okay to you?” I asked.

Todd replied, “Yes.   When do you plan to arrive?”

“How about ten o’clock?   That gives the doctor time to decide if Zach is coming home today or not,” I said.

Todd said, “Okay.   We will see you at ten then.”   Todd gave me Zach’s room number and hung up.

Rick said, “So we are going to the hospital with the boys.”

“Yes.   Can you take today off so we can help Zach and Todd today?” I asked looking into my lover’s eyes.

“Yes.   I will have to call the office to let them know I will be out today and possibly tomorrow,” Rick said.  Rick pulled me close and started nibbling on my ear.   “But before we do anything, we need to see how well you handle having sex in the early morning.”   Rick grinned as he executed a very well thought out plan to seduce me!

*** ***

Todd looked at his cell phone for a moment as he thought about calling his parents and Zach’s but decided to wait until after the doctor informed them of the results of the new tests.

He heard Alonzo joking with Zach as they returned to the room.   Alonzo pushed the hospital bed back into its position and locked the wheels so it wouldn’t move.   He turned to Todd and said, “You have a wonderful husband, Todd.   Would you mind if I kept in contact with you guys?”

Todd nodded his head, “Sure.   Why don’t you plan to come over to the house tomorrow night?”

Alonzo smiled, “I have to work tomorrow but I am on the earlier shift so I can come a little later in the evening.”

Zach smiled, “Good.   We look forward to seeing you then.”

Alonzo left us and Todd reached for Zach’s hand.   Zach smiled, “Alonzo seems like a really nice guy.”

Todd agreed, “Yes, he does.”

Todd informed Zach of his call to Glenn and their plans.   They chatted about their boys, etc., until the doctor returned.

Dr. Economides entered the room with a smile on his face, “It appears that the ice and the rest helped.   The swelling I expected to see hasn’t occurred and the swelling I saw last night has diminished somewhat.   I don’t see a reason to keep you here for observation as it appears you are on your way back to good health as long as you don’t reinjure yourself.”

Zach grinned, “I’m a fast healer, Dr. Economides.”

Dr. Economides smiled, “You must be.   I will fill out the discharge papers.   Let’s plan to get you out of here by noon today.”

He left the room and Todd leaned over and kissed Zach on the lips.   Zach put his hand up to cup Todd’s cheek.   “I know why I heal so quickly.   It’s because you were here with me all night.   Thank you for being here with me.”

Todd smiled, his eyes bright with tears, and said, “You know that nothing would have kept me from being here with you.”

Zach took Todd’s hand in his and said, “I love you.”

Gillian tapped lightly on the door and then entered the room.   “Congratulations, Zach!   Dr. Economides just told me the good news!”

Zach smiled, “Thank you.   However, I still have a headache.   Can I have some more pills?”

Gillian smiled, “Sure.   I will be right back.”

Todd looked at Zach, “We should call Rick and Glenn so they can bring me some clothes since they cut your uniform off of you in the emergency room last night.”

Todd placed the call but didn’t get an answer so he left a message.   Todd grinned at Zach, “I will bet that Rick and Glenn are making out.”

Zach laughed, “Yes, I think you are right.   Those two can’t keep their hands off of each other.”

“It’s great to have good friends who love each other so much,” Todd said.

*** ***

We lay exhausted in each other’s arms basking in the afterglow of our lovemaking.   I love that feeling.   Rick was gently twisting my hair in his fingers as he stared into my eyes.   He smiled and said, “Thank for the wonderful treat this morning.”

I grinned, “No, I should be thanking you!   I love waking up next to you every morning, Babe.”

We heard a tap on the door and then the door opened to reveal our twins standing in the doorway.   Rick pulled the sheet up over us and said, “Come in boys.   You can get up on the bed with us.”

The boys split up, one on each side of the bed, and climbed into to bed with us in the middle.   Rick sat up and took Josh in his arms while JJ put his arms around me and gave me a hug and kiss.

Josh said, “It’s morning, Dad.   It’s time to get up.”

Rick laughed, “Yes, son, it is time to get up.”

JJ spoke clearly, “I am hungry, Daddy.”

I smiled at him and said, “Okay, I will make pancakes this morning.   Can you boys check on Cammy and Skye while we get dressed?”

Josh jumped down from the bed, “Yes, we will.   Come with me JJ.”

The two boys disappeared through the doorway and down the hall to the twin’s room.   Rick pulled me to my feet and we made our way into the shower.   We dried each other off and then wrapped a towel around our waists before leaving the en suite.

We entered the bedroom to find all four boys camped out on our bed.  Cameron said, “We want to help make breakfast this morning.   Can we make pumpkin pancakes with chocolate chips?”

I said, “Sure, Cammy.  Can you and Skye help the twins get dressed while Rick and I finish dressing?”

Cammy smiled, “Yes, Glenn.”

The four boys jumped off of the bed and made a beeline to their rooms to get dressed.   I closed the bedroom door and turned to kiss Rick.  “I love you, Rick.”

Rick nibbled on my neck and murmured, “You taste so good.   Maybe we can find a babysitter for tonight.  What do you think?”

I laughed, “Maybe we should find a babysitter right now so we can satisfy your need for sex!”

Rick laughed, “That’s a great idea.   Let’s see what can be arranged.”

Rick released me and we turned our attention to getting our clothes on.   We helped each other dress and made our way to the boys’ rooms to check on their progress.

We found the boys putting on their shoes and socks.   “Thank you, boys for getting dressed this morning.   Let’s go to the kitchen to see what there is to cook for breakfast.”

The four of them raced ahead of us.   I heard my cell phone ring, again, so I detoured into our room while Rick followed the boys to the kitchen.   I saw it was Todd and answered it.

“Good morning, Todd.   How’s Zach,” I said.

“He is doing well enough they are releasing him from the hospital today.   Can you bring some clothes for Zach?   They cut off his uniform in the emergency room and we don’t have anything for him to wear.”

I laughed, “Todd, I thought that you liked him better without his clothes on!”

Todd laughed and looked over at Zach with a big grin on his face, “I do like Zach best without his clothes on but I don’t want to have him arrested for indecent exposure before I can get him home!”

Zach smiled and nodded his head, “Tell Glenn I only disrobe for my husband and no one else, not even for him!”

Todd repeated Zach’s statement and added, “But I might share him if you agree to share Rick.”

I laughed at that thought, “I will suggest it to Rick and see what his reaction is.”

“I already know the answer, Glenn.   I was just teasing,” Todd said.   “Thank you for watching the boys for us.   I know they are probably getting anxious about seeing us by now.”

I responded, “They have been perfect angels as always.   Besides, you guys are part of our family, remember?”   

“I do remember, but still we appreciate all you and your family have done for us,” Todd said.

“Todd, you have done just as much for us as we have for you.   I will pick up Zach’s clothes before we leave for the hospital.   We are planning to get there between 10 and 11 AM.   Is that soon enough?” I asked.

“I hope so,” Todd replied.   “I want to get home as soon as possible.   We haven’t heard from Dr. Economides or the nurse about when we can check out of here.”

“Okay, we will see you in a little while then.   We are just getting breakfast and then we will be on our way,” I said.

Todd said, “Thanks, again, for everything.”

“Bye,” I said and ended the call.

I joined the rest of the family in the kitchen.   Rick had kept the boys busy making breakfast.   Cammy and Skye had cracked the eggs while Rick was being supervised by the twins as he made the pancakes.   Rick poured the pancake batter on the griddle and Josh and JJ dropped the chocolate chips in the center of each pancake.

I said, “Looks good boys.   I will cook the sausage and eggs.   Cammy and Skye, thank you for cracking the eggs.   Will you two set the table?”

Cammy said, “Yes.”

I handed him the plates and pointed to the bottom drawer where we kept the plastic cups.   “Skye, will you get the cups out?   Then you and Cammy can both set the silverware on the table.”

Before long we were sitting down to a delicious breakfast.   Skye said grace and then we demolished the food.   After cleaning up the kitchen, I said, “We need to get your Dad some clean clothes.   Let’s go over to your house and pick them up.”

Cammy shouted, “Hurrah!   Dad is coming home!”

Cammy and Skye took off out the back door and across the lawn to their house.   The rest of us followed them at much slower pace!   We entered the house and made our way to Zach and Todd’s bedroom.

Cammy said, “Dad likes to wear these sweat pants and this shirt.”

Skye disagreed, “No, Cammy, he likes to wear these shorts with the sweat pants over the top of them and here is the hoodie he likes to wear over that shirt.”

“Tell you what, boys.   We will take everything you have picked out and we should take an outfit for your Daddy as well.   They are both very tired and maybe some fresh clothes will help them feel better,” I said.

Cammy smiled, “That’s a great idea!”

Skye pulled open a dresser drawer and pulled out a pair of Speedo bikini style underwear, a pair of running shorts and a tank top.   “These are Daddy’s favorite clothes.”

Cammy nodded, “Yes, those are, and if it’s cold, he wears this jogging outfit, too.”  He pointed to it where it lay on the chair next to the bed.

I looked at Rick and smiled, “I think that we should take the jogging suit and a t-shirt as well.”

Rick laughed, “Yes, I think your Daddy would appreciate us bringing him a t-shirt.   Cammy, did you remember to get underwear for your Dad?”

Cammy said, “No, I forgot.”

Skye walked over to a different dresser and pulled open the top drawer and pulled out matching Speedo underwear for his Dad.

I grinned, “See, we aren’t the only ones who like the Speedo bikini style underwear.”

Rick laughed, “Okay, let’s get into the car boys.”

I gathered all of the clothes together and put them in the little overnight bag I had brought for that purpose.   Rick checked all of the doors to make sure they were locked before we exited out the back door.   Rick headed to the garage while I returned to lock up our house.

Soon we were on our way to the hospital.   We parked and then made our way into the hospital and went up in the elevator to Zach’s floor.   Cameron and Skye read the room numbers out loud as they walked down the hall until they came to their Dad’s room.

They pushed the door open and walked in.   Gillian had just finished giving Zach the doctor’s instructions for taking care of his injury when she heard the door open.   She turned and saw the boys who shouted together, “Dad!”   They ran past her and climbed up on Zach’s bed, one on either side, and wrapped their arms around his neck.   They kissed him on the cheek while Zach put his arm around each of them and pulled them close.

Cameron said, “We saw you on television last night.   We saw you get hurt and we were worried because you didn’t come home.”

Skye said, “And we missed you.   Can you come home now?”

Zach kissed each of the boys on the forehead, “Yes, boys, Dad can come home now.”

Reassured, Cameron climbed down from the bed and ran around the bed to jump into Todd’s arms.   “I missed you, too, Daddy.”

Skye joined Cameron in Todd’s arms.   The boys hugged their Daddy.   Skye asked, “Did you keep Dad safe last night, Daddy?”

Before Todd could answer, Zach said, “Yes, your Daddy kept me safe.   He slept right there on that cot and didn’t leave my side.”

Cameron looked at Skye and said, “See, I was right, Skye.   Daddy was protecting Dad.   That’s why he didn’t come home last night.   I told you that was what Daddy was doing.”

Skye nodded his head, “I am glad Daddy was here to protect our Dad.   I just missed them so much I wanted them to come last night.”

Gillian watched the family reunion and thought, “I am glad I have met this family.   They are proof that gay parents can create a safe and happy environment for their children.”    She turned her attention to the other men in the room.   She looked over the tall, dark haired man whose blue eyes seem to have endless depths to them.   From his demeanor, she guessed that he was a military guy.   His straight back and good posture told her this was a man who was very confident in himself and knew how to command respect.   He smiled as he caught her giving him the once over.   She blushed and but held his gaze for a few moments before turning to look at the man at his side.   She met his clear grey-blue eyes and he smiled at her acknowledging her gaze.   She had never seen eyes like his before – they were silver tinged with flecks of gold surrounded by a sliver of deep blue at the edges.    He had a quirky twitch to his mouth and a jaunty tilt to his head as he observed her.   As her mind registered the spiky blond hair and the diamond studs in his ears, she knew he was gay.   She lowered her gaze trying to hide her reaction and saw that the pair were holding hand.   But what caught her attention was the wedding band on the ring finger of their left hands.   She thought, “They must be married.”  Her thoughts were interrupted when Todd addressed her.

Todd said, “I am sorry, Gillian.   Let me introduce you to our boys.   This is Cameron and Skye.”

Gillian turned her attention to the boys on Todd’s lap and smiled, “It’s nice to meet you boys.”

“And these are our friends, Rick, Glenn and their boys, JJ and Joshua,” Todd said point to each of us as he spoke our names.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Gillian said.   “You must be a gay family as well.”

Rick answered, “Yes, we are.   In fact, we live next door to Zach and Todd.”

Josh said, “We are very special because we have two dads.   They are wonderful to us and we are wonderful to them.”

Gillian said, “Your boys look so much like you.”   She wanted to ask if the boys had the same mother but restrained herself.

I said, “Yes, we each have a mini-me.”   I noticed the puzzled look on her face and said, “Yes, they are twins.   My sister was our surrogate mother and my partner is their natural father.   So technically, I am their uncle.”

The color rose in Gillian’s cheeks.   She was embarrassed at how transparent her thoughts were.   “I am sorry.   I didn’t mean to offend you.”

I responded, “It’s okay, Gillian.   We have had some of our friends ask us how we ended up with fraternal twins that look so much like us.   We were married in St. Catharines, Ontario, in the same church where my parents were married.   Zach and Todd were my roommates at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.”

The twins were being very shy and were holding onto us.   Cameron got down and walked over and took JJ’s hand and said, “It’s okay, JJ.   You can give my Dad a hug, too.”

JJ looked up at Gillian and then looked up at me.  “Go ahead, JJ,” I said.   Josh let go of Rick’s hand and took Cameron’s other hand.   He led the twins over to Zach’s bed and helped them up so they could sit next to Zach.

JJ wrapped his arms around Zach’s neck and said, “I love you, Uncle Zach.”

Zach smiled, “I love you, too, JJ.”

Josh, not to be outdone by his brother, hugged Zach and said, “I love you, Uncle Zach.”

Zach said, “I love you, Josh.”

Josh asked, “Are you coming home with us, Uncle Zach?”

“Yes, Josh, I am coming home with you,” Zach replied.

Gillian smiled and said, “I will be back in a little while to take you down to the patient pick up.”

She left the room still pondering how something she had been taught was wrong could feel so right.   She had just witnessed the loving relationships these men had with their partners and with their children.   It was so much at odds with the picture painted by her parish priest of gays.   The dissonance she was experiencing between her professed faith in teachings of her religion and the reality that she saw in that hospital room made her determined to become more actively involved in dispelling the misinformation being disseminated by her religious leaders.   She resolved to never again to be part of the tide of prejudice that was drowning out the voice of reason in her church.

Rick turned to me and said, “That nurse sure had the “hots” for us.   She kept looking us over as if she couldn’t get enough of us.”

I laughed, “She certainly wasn’t hiding the fact that she was attracted to you, Rick.”

Todd smiled, “I had the same experience last night when I met her for the first time.”

I grinned, “Todd, you don’t count because you always have that effect on everyone you meet!”

Todd laughed, “Okay, I have to admit that it doesn’t matter who it is.   I can’t help it if I have such a magnetic personality that no one can resist me.”

Zach laughed, “That true, Todd.   However, I did manage to resist you for over a year!”

Todd nodded, “But I eventually won you over didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did,” Zach said.

“We brought you some clothes to change into,” I said holding out the overnight bag.  

Todd took it and started taking out the clothes and setting them out on the bed.   He laughed, “Okay, who picked out the Speedos.”

Cameron said, “I did Dad.   I picked out your favorite clothes.”

Todd blushed, “Thank you, Cameron.”

Rick laughed, “Don’t worry, Todd.   Your secret is safe with us.”

Zach smiled, “Cameron is pretty observant.   There isn’t much that escapes him.   Isn’t that right, Cammy?”   Zach ruffled his son’s hair.

Cameron looked up at his Dad, “I like watching you and Daddy because you love each other so much.   I want to find someone who loves me like you love Daddy.”

“I am sure you will find the right person for you, Cammy,” Zach said.

The guys got dressed.   Gillian came into the room with Alonzo who was pushing a wheelchair.   Alonzo smiled and asked, “Who is this?”

Todd made the introductions.   Alonzo said, “Nice to meet you.”

Gillian said, “Good luck, guys.   I will leave you in Alonzo’s capable hands.”

“Thank you, Gillian, for looking after us last night,” Zach said.

“You are welcome,” she said with a smile.

Alonzo pushed Zach down the hall and into the elevator.   Zach said, “Alonzo, why don’t you follow us home?”

Alonzo smiled, “Sure.   I will get you into your car and then I will go check out.   I will meet you in the main parking lot.”

We got everyone settled into their cars and then we waited for Alonzo to find us.   We left the parking lot and caravanned home.   Reaching home, we helped Zach into his bed.  Alonzo took charge and directed us.   Soon we had Zach comfortable and Alonzo looked at Zach and said, “You need to rest.”

Zach nodded, “I feel like I have been run over by a truck.”

Todd kissed Zach lightly on the lips, “I will keep the kids quiet so you can sleep.”

Todd turned to the little guys and said, “Boys, give your Dad a kiss and then let’s go to the family room so he can get some rest.   Dad needs to sleep so he can get better.”

Cameron was the first one to climb up on the bed next to his Dad followed by Skye.  Our twins stood patiently waiting their turn.

JJ pulled on Todd’s hand, “Uncle Todd, may we give Uncle Zach a kiss, too?”

Todd smiled down at the dark-headed boy and looked into his chocolate brown eyes, “You and Josh certainly may, JJ.   Uncle Zach needs all the encouragement he can get so he will get better quicker.”

JJ’s eyes widened, “Do you mean that if we give Uncle Zach more kisses and hugs that he will get better faster?”

Todd laughed, “Of course, JJ.  Didn’t you know that giving hugs and kisses to someone always makes them feel better?”

JJ shook his head, “No, I didn’t.”

Rick leaned over and whispered into my ear, “We have heard more words out of JJ in the last few minutes than we have heard from him his entire life.”

I nodded, “That’s very true.   His verbal skills have been progressing so rapidly with the help of his speech therapist that it amazes me.”

JJ looked over at us in surprise.   It was obvious that he had heard us talking about him.   Rick noticed the look and smiled at his little boy.   He said, “That’s right, JJ.  We are very happy you can hear us now.”

JJ grinned and pointed to his ears, “My ears don’t hurt anymore, Dad.”

Cameron and Skye climbed down off of Zach’s bed and turned to help our boys take their turn giving Zach hugs and kisses.

Josh said, “Uncle Zach, you have to get better super fast because we all gave you so many hugs and kisses.”

Zach smiled, “I will certainly do my best, Josh.”

I said, “Okay, boys, Uncle Zach needs to rest now.   Let’s go find some cookies and milk.”

At the mention of cookies and milk, the twins scrambled off the bed and were by my side in not time!

Todd kissed Zach, again, “I’m going to turn on the baby monitor so you can let me know if you need anything.”

Zach gave him a look that said, “I’m not a baby.”

Todd laughed, “You are my baby today, Babe!”   Zach stuck out his tongue at his sweetheart and leaned back against the pillows and closed his eyes.   He has a contented smile on his lips as he relaxed.

Todd nodded his head to indicate that we should leave.   The boys led into the kitchen were the whole troop had assembled around the table with expectant looks on their faces.

I walked over to the fridge and pulled out the milk while Todd retrieved the chocolate chip cookies I had given them yesterday.

Alonzo asked, “Can I help?”

“Sure,” Todd responded.   “The plates and cups are in the cupboard on the right.”

Alonzo retrieved the plates and cups and placed them on the table.   Todd and I served the cookies and milk.   We the boys were done in no time!

Josh asked, “May we play soccer, Dad?”

“Yes.   You boys can run off some of the energy you have,” Rick said smiling at Josh.

The boys cheered and ran out the door headed out to the backyard to play their game.

Meanwhile, I had been giving Alonzo the once over.   Alonzo caught me eyeing him and grinned, “I hope I don’t look to bad after working a 12-hour shift.”

I laughed, “You look just fine, Alonzo.   Where are you from?”

Alonzo said, “I grew up on a small farm in Colorado near Grand Junction.   My parents own about 200 acres and run cattle on it.”

“What made you decide to become a nurse?” Rick asked.

“I loved being an EMT at the local firehouse.   I decided to go into nursing instead of becoming a doctor because I didn’t have the money to spend so much time in school,” Alonzo said.

“What brought you to Washington, DC?” Todd asked.

“I’m gay and there aren’t very many gay guys in Grand Junction.   A friend of mine moved here a last year and said I might enjoy the gay scene here,” Alonzo said.  He hesitated for a moment and then said, “I haven’t been able to meet very many guys here because of my work schedule.   I appreciate you guys inviting me over.   You don’t know how nice it is to be able to be who I am.   I have to be so careful at work because I don’t want to be fired for being gay.”

Rick smiled, “Do you mind if we introduce you to a single friend of ours?”

Alonzo looked pleasantly surprised, “You would do that for me?   You don’t even know me!”

Rick laughed, “Yes, we would do that for you.   I have a co-worker who just moved here from Dubai.   He is a consultant for a software engineering firm.   He is originally from Hartford, Connecticut.”

“What does he look like?” Alonzo asked.

Rick said, “He is 6’4” (194 cm.) with dark brown hair, green eyes, dimples in both cheeks, a square chin, a killer smile and is in very good physical shape.   He is 31 years old and is looking to find a soul mate.   At least, that is what he has told me.   He has been staying downtown in a hotel.   We have invited him to stay with us until he finds a place so he will be showing up here tonight with all his stuff.”

Alonzo grinned, “He sounds wonderful to me.   I am 29 years old so he is pretty close to my age.   Do you think he will be interested in dating me though?”

“I don’t think you have to worry about that Alonzo.   I think you should meet him first and spend some time getting to know each other before you decide to start dating,” I said with a smile.

“You look like you spend a lot of time working out,” Todd commented.

“I do.   Since I don’t have a social life, I spent most of my time at the gym.   I need to head home and get some sleep.   I don’t have to work until midnight tonight so I can come by later to meet this guy.   What is his name?” Alonzo asked.

“His name is Scott Dickerson,” Rick responded.   “Come for dinner at six.   We will put an extra steak on for you.”

Alonzo grinned, “Thanks for everything, guys.   I will talk to you later.”

Alonzo left us sitting around the kitchen table.   Todd said, “He seems like a really nice guy.”

Rick and I nodded our heads in agreement.   “I think that Scott and Alonzo will hit it off very well,” Rick said.

I looked over at Todd and noticed how tired he looked.   “Todd, go get some sleep.   You look like you need it.”

Todd nodded his head, “I didn’t sleep much last night.”

Rick stood up and walked over to Todd and pulled him up from his chair.   “Let’s get you to bed, sport.”

I helped Rick guide Todd back to his bedroom and helped him get comfortable.   As soon as he was tucked into bed alongside his husband, I said, “We will watch the little ones.   Now, get some sleep.”

Todd grinned, “Yes, Mommy!”

I laughed, “You will think, “Yes, Mommy!” if you don’t do as you are told.”

Zach rolled over and pulled Todd close as we left the room.

Zach said, “Hmmm….you smell good!”

“So do you, Babe,” Todd responded with a smile.

“I was couldn’t sleep because you weren’t here with me,” Zach said as he started nibbling on Todd’s ear.

“Zach, you are not going to have sex with me until you get some rest,” Todd said sternly.

Zach laughed, “Okay, I will wait but remember I won’t be able to heal properly without lots of hugs and kisses and hot sex!”

Todd laughed, “You are so predictable!   If you are feeling better after dinner, I think we can satisfy your needs.”

Zach grinned, “You know I will be feeling better by then!”

*** ***’

Author’s note:   Check out this link to a study that shows that there are many advantages to being gay parents:

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