Kelly was very happy. He was watching the news channel and suddenly Mr. Amunson was on it and he looked happy. He told the interviewer he'd told a young man he was making him personnel manager and he'd handed him a plan that would keep eight hundred people working and revitalize the small town that had appeared to be doomed.
He explained truly environmentally safe physical structures intended for heavy industry were rare and there were two in the town. The other, which was not in use, had been purchased because it was and the current Shearson Bearing facilities were not. The deal with Frazier had been made and he was delighted to point out the very young man who'd found a way to make it a good one for all concerned. He noted he'd also suggested the corporation aid those, who wouldn't be relocating with Shearson, find new employment.
Jim heard the news on TV and hurried in to catch the rest of the story. He squatted down beside Kelly and smiled back. No one who saw that smile would have doubted he was aware.
"You were upset about the proposed plant closure. I was upset about it and I usually don't pay much attention to business news. Sounds like this young fellow Mr. Amunson is happily bragging about will figure out a way to save any jobs he can save and do his best to help the people whose jobs he can't. Gizmo is dismantling the van. I have a suspicion I'll be painting it again, but I don't mind at all. The current paint job isn't bad, but I know how much of a rush job it was and that I could do better if I had a bit more time. Gizmo called me Hulk this morning. She's forgiving me. I knew she would eventually, but I expected it to take awhile longer. Kelly, your back isn't healing as fast as it should. It still looks like I just did it. I'm worried, but not badly yet. Gizmo told her dad to work on getting more antibiotics, just in case. I gave you a good broad spectrum injection when I removed the implant, but I got rather specific when she said she'd call her dad. I don't know if you figured out I met Dr. Hoskins because I WAS going to be part of the family. Gizmo is her grandniece. Met the other one she talks about the day I was fired. She's gorgeous too. She got in on this when a judge had questions he couldn't get answered. She flashes a badge, then says she's off work and does what he really sent her to do, talk to people and help THEM make good decisions. Yeah, I was impressed with the marshal."
Hulk; Kelly didn't want Hulk. He wanted his name. No one seemed to use it. The nurses had called him Hunk, Muscles, Big Boy, Gorgeous and a half dozen others of like nature. The trustees had called him Aide. No one had used his name in his hearing in almost three years and he was getting very frustrated. That too was a rather new emotion. It seemed to be moving in as "the man" moved hopelessness out. Then he did 'it' again.
"You're aggravated about something, aren't you? Frustrated? Yes, frustrated. Are you trying to do something or do you want to know something? You're not worried about your back, are you? No, I don't think that's it. I'll work on it. I've got a feeling it's not a new frustration, but it's definitely becoming more intense. Or maybe you just... didn't have room to notice minor frustrations before."
Suddenly he was in knots and the man was running with him and yelling for Bitsy. He was surprised when he felt hot water all around him. The man was stripping off his wet clothes in it.
"Bitsy, get a cloth to lay on his face! Damn! I don't know what to do! I don't want to take him to a hospital, but this is the third time and it scares me."
"Hulk, it's reasonable."
"He spent a couple months with a device making his muscles contract every few seconds. You told me it was too strong. He's got leftovers. Remember the calf muscle you had knots in at intervals for days? We up the amount of potassium, or phosphorus, or whatever it was that helped you, in his diet and see if it helps. Oh, that has got to hurt. So, you ready to talk?"
"You ready to listen?"
"Yes. I found out I missed your company more in the workshop than in my bed."
"I love Kelly, Bitsy. That's why I was sure they were wrong."
"I don't think you mean in general or as in buddies. I'm working on why it doesn't shock me, or even surprise me much. I've got an arm instead of an iron bar."
"It was easier this time than last."
"So, what are you going to do about it?"
"Being in love with him."
"It's the one thing I can't... just think he wouldn't mind, Bitsy. I'd happily talk a woman into having sex with him, but I won't. It's not the same."
"No, it's not. All right, I completely believe you. Kelly, I believe him because it took me five years to get him into my bed. He'll hop into one for a romp with someone he just plain likes once in awhile, but he is NOT casual about love. He's also very heterosexual, but that's not particularly important to him except YOU might have hangups about it."
"I've missed you, Bitsy."
"Missed you too, Hulk. Got mad at myself every time I did. I looked for someone to fill the hole you left, but gave up when I realized no one could. I had six years of best friend I was trying to replace. I finally realized I was really looking for a pair of very strong hands just where I needed them EVERY time I needed them and not a lover. That made me madder. I'm working on NOT getting used to having them there again. Kelly, you got the best 'best friend' there is. I'd like him back, but he deserves the best friend he wants and that's you. I'm headed back to the shop. I've got an idea I want to work on."
Kelly was stunned. He'd gotten excited when he'd watched the movies, but having sex with someone hadn't even occurred to him. He smiled at the man he did want to make love to him. It scared him because he suddenly realized it had been deliberate. The fear was he was wrong.
Jim was puzzled. He was sure Bitsy 'ought' to be right about the muscle spams, but about sure she wasn't. He qualified it because he was too emotionally involved to really trust his judgment. That had been obvious. He carefully dried Kelly's back and put fresh ointment and bandage on it. Grabbing him and dumping him in hot water wasn't helping it a great deal. Neither were the muscle contractions that pulled his careful stitches badly.
"I wish I'd brought that implant with us, Kelly. I'd like Gizmo to take it apart and find out what those fibers, wires, or whatever, I left in you were made of. I'd like a nice batch of x-rays to see where they all go and... a reason why you aren't healing as fast as I think you should be. You know exactly how far I am toward being a doctor, but I've learned quite a bit just working with them to help patients too. One of the things I learned is how fast good surgery heals on a healthy patient. I thought I did good, but I'm getting worried. I want to ask you if it's more painful than it should be, but I'm not sure you'd know if you could answer. Now I'm scared to leave you to help Gizmo. You can't yell across the intercom if you need help."
"Hulk! There's a delivery truck coming up the drive! I'm into this thing to my hips! I'll crawl out if you need to stay with Kelly!"
"I'll get it! I'll be right back to get you dressed, Kelly. Sorry."
Jim accepted four large boxes and carried them to the workshop, then ran for the house. Gizmo walked in carrying one of the boxes just as he finished dressing Kelly. She was giggling.
"They're for you guys."
"Merry Christmas last year from Aunt Elaine. That's what the note said. They're wrapped in Christmas paper, except for this little one. It says happy eighteenth birthday from cousin Terry and Walter Amunson and open last. The tag is in cousin Terry's handwriting."
"Go get the other boxes. I'll stay with Kelly until you get back."
"Never thought I'd get over being mad at him. It wasn't so much because he broke our engagement as he got stubborn. He could have accepted one of the scholarships he was offered and gotten a degree in biology or something, then gone into pre-med. He changed his plans for OUR life because he wouldn't change the one for his. I didn't want to look at the fact that I knew love was the most important thing to him and... he wouldn't have if he really did love me in the same way. You're the proof. I'll help you get through that NEEDED reserve. I just don't have any doubts you want him to make love to you. I'm jealous as hell. He's an incredible lover and I know it's him and not what someone taught because I know I was his first. He had girls chasing him since was the cutest boy in his kindergarten class. I told him what I wanted for my eighteenth birthday when I was fourteen. He made ME wait until I was nineteen and still sure. He's the most stubborn man in existence and I'll always love him."
Jim carried in the boxes and sat down in the floor where Kelly could watch to open them. He laughed when Gizmo said she was Kelly's "stand in" and started ripping open packages because he was excited.
"Wow! A pentium notebook! Oh, LOOK at the games! Ooh, I want to play this one. I've read about it, but I was sure if I got it I'd end up playing when I should be working. Oh, it's gorgeous!"
"Silk. There are three silk shirts in this box. They'll look great on you, Kelly. Pants, nice pants."
"I've got shoes, shoes and more shoes. This shirt is for you, Jim."
Kelly made the first sound he ever had and he didn't notice. He was too delighted to notice. He had finally gotten a name! He was surprised when Jim was suddenly right in front of him, obviously checking his back.
"Hey! Relax. That wasn't pain, Hulk. Something pleased him."
"I... He... "
"Whoa, easy. You're scared. Tell me why."
"He's never made a sound before, Bitsy. None. Not even when he WAS hurt."
"Uh, huh. All right. I'm still sure it wasn't a pain sound. Look at that grin. He's REAL pleased about something. Maybe because he made a sound?"
"Hnh. Hnh. Hnh."
"Uh, Jim. That's not involuntary."
"No. No, it's not. Shit! What's going on? Something... changed, Bitsy. I KNOW he couldn't do that before. I... I want it too much not to be scared."
"Makes sense to me. I think he decided he has to find a way to say yes or just WISH you'd make love to him forever. I'm SURE people will do about anything to let you know forever is a damn long wait. I told him five years was a bitch and he decided he's not going to wait that long. I don't know, Jim. I know miracles happen. I also know there's usually a physical component helping them along."
"I wish I'd brought you the implant."
"I already figured it out. I'm still working on why it didn't work right. Physiology isn't my strong subject, but I come up with NO answer and that is unusual."
"The filaments I left in his body?"
"Or the paths they made."
"OK. I'm in physiology and I think in circuits and mechanical things they operate, but your filaments sound like my wires. They're connected to his muscles, right?"
"I don't know."
"So they could be connected to nerves?"
"I don't know if they are connected. I don't know what they're made of, but I'm sure they won't poison him. Or I was."
"How far is the gap between the ends and what's the conductivity of the tissue that's trying to heal around them? The human body is an electrically operated system. The electricity he generated was used to keep the battery in the implant charged. You 'couldn't' have disconnected that implant and got it out of him, Jim. Kelly, they sent you home because they couldn't get it out without killing you."
"I used a soldering iron. You figure how fast I can cut or melt a thread with one."
"That was a short surgery."
"I wanted it out."
"I want to connect the filaments."
"I think he's using them. I think he may be able to learn to use them consciously. I think this miracle needs a little more physical help. I think he's not healing because HE'S using the system and bridging the gap and NEEDS it to be a bloody mess in there to do it. The spasms may be to keep it that way. I don't think he knows it. I think you're helping. I'm sure you don't know it. Kelly knows exactly what I mean. I talk to him. You carry on a conversation with him. You have no doubt he participates and neither does HE. YOU are impossible, James Arthur Waters. This is mildly surprising by comparison. Get me that level of conductivity, Jim. I'll get you anesthetic. It won't work for anyone else, but I don't leave a penny in the fuse box in OTHER people's houses. I feel like that's what this is. Now, say yes or no. First answer. Your feeling is the most important predictor of probable success on this one, Hulk."
"Kelly wants us to try it. I don't want to do it."
"I'm pretty damn reluctant too. How about a local aneshetic?"
"I know what all those gadgets anesthetists use do. I also know a great dentist with a lot of novocaine and some nice topical to start."
"Why are you so sure?"
"Because I think I might know what your filaments are and you made them annodes and diodes, every one with a little knob on the end just perfect for emitting a spark and that's why he's alive. You didn't short circuit HIS electrical system when you yanked it out. Kelly, I take credit for how fast and good he is with a soldering iron. He's yelled 'Shit!' and got something soldered fast in my workshop often. Let's finish opening the packages. I've got something to build before we decide exactly how we're going to do this. I won't know how big it will be until I DO build it. I need information before I do that."
"I want to open this one."
"The one that says last?"
"The one that says happy birthday. Dr. Hoskins knows I didn't have time to pack. She sent us clothes we need and toys. This is Kelly's present."
"Open it. You cheat for nice reasons. Papers?"
"Yes! He did it! Kelly, this is from the superior court! Walter Amunson gave me FULL legal and personal responsibility for your care! That's exactly what he WROTE at the bottom of the document he signed! Here. Read it."
"He can read?"
"We watched a year of Sesame Street. I figure he's lots better at remembering the televised lectures for college credit and probably has a better grade in microbiology."
"Hey, Hulk, you missed something in the box."
"Let him finish reading. Some of the words will be unfamiliar looking. He needs time to sound them out."
Kelly wanted to giggle. Bitsy had stuck a card in front of what he'd been reading. It had his name on it. She'd jumped on Jim's back to do it and yelped when he tipped over. He'd yelped when he twisted to keep from landing on her and knocked the lamp off the table. Bitsy had caught it, but ended up under Jim anyway. He'd been diving for it. Slowly it came to him he'd watched it all. He'd had to move his eyes to do it, and he'd learned all the name of the man who loved him so much he was making miracles happen.
"He got a BANK card for his birthday. The note wrapped around it says, 'The judge said you deserve to have a fucking good time, Keller, and we're all sure Jim is the one to see you get it. Spend this. It's the yearly budget for your care, so make it last a year. Let me know if it doesn't. Yachts are ALMOST as expensive as medical care. Buy one if you want one. Let me know if you'll let the company lease it to take super performers on a nice cruise. It's your money, but it's basically all invested but this. If you need more, we'll sell a couple stocks. I won't have any trouble convincing the trustees to go along with this. It's a great piece for Twenty-Twenty and you, me and 'the hunk,' as most of the female employees called him, all have great profiles. I know you've forgiven me. It helps me be sure I should forgive myself. Happy birthday. Visit home some time. It too is yours. Walter.' Nice man. Kelly, can I use your card? I know the pin number. You need pieces. You don't need a dozen VERY interested women knowing 'the hunk' is in town. Yoo, hoo, Hunk? Hey, are you all right?"
"Being angry is silly under the circumstances, isn't it? I'm working on it. I haven't figured out why yet."
"Kelly, he's the only one who doesn't know he's GOING to be protective at first glance. I figure it doesn't show in the mirror. You were going to do it, Jim. I know you. You'd figured out how to support both of you. Kelly's contributing to your fun. You're not being paid to take care of him. You've got his power of attorney because you're the one who WILL take care of him. You're trusted with HIS annual income from HIS business. This is nice. It makes him a full partner. You do the physical for two and he pays for the good time for two. It won't change if he needs less because you're not an employee. You're his best friend. No one will have ever been more sure THAT'S the reason someone is always beside them. He needs that. He's wealthy. It can really get in the way. I'm not nearly as wealthy and I know it for a hard fact. I'm borrowing the card. He's investing his share in the van. Novocaine?"
"Oh, hell. Hand me the phone."
"Who else? Daddy, we've got a miracle I'm building a part for. We need a doctor who understands miracles, helping them out and not metioning it to a damn soul. Kelly can even pay for it. You're on speaker, Daddy. Hulk's right here and so's Kelly. We'll know what he thinks about things."
"Uh... I see. Talk to me, Jim."
"I don't want to do it. She suggests a local from a local dentist. I want a doctor, but local anesthesia if possible. Kelly hates hospitals. I was scared when I took the implant out. I had to do it myself. He was in pain and I had to get it out before someone found us."
"You have to do it again. I'm sorry, Jim. I know several people who would do it because it's the right thing to do, but I wouldn't ask them to do something contrary to their oath. The surgery isn't. Not telling the research community about things that contribute to improvements in Kelly's condition is. Bitsy, a device which aids those struck most helpless is the dream of a great many people."
"It wouldn't aid anyone else, Daddy. I'm sure of it. It will aid ONE because of everything else that was done to him. It will aid Kelly because Jim has a surgeon's touch with a soldering iron and I know that touch extremely well. It will aid him because I read a lot of articles about new materials. I think he's got a new trunk line running to his muscles and he's wiring the house. It's got one problem. There's a gap in the line. So far it's jumping that gap, but it's not easy and eventually something is going to get between the ends and insulate it. Jim says Kelly's not healing like he should. I think he's fighting it because muscle doesn't conduct as well as blood."
"That's pretty wild."
"Where does it not fit what we do know, including about Hulk? Daddy, I want to work REAL fast on this. I'm just sure I should have circles around my eyes and Mom yelling at me for forgetting to eat. Kelly's the one in a hurry. He wants it done. I've got no doubt of it. I just think he'd prefer Hulk do it because he completely trusts his judgment and HE has doubts he should. All right. I'll get the pieces of this mixed in with a bunch of other stuff and the novocaine. Daddy, what about Leonard? He wouldn't do the surgery, but he could administer the novocaine."
"Yes, he could."
"Is there another Leonard, Hulk? He's the best vet in the county and he isn't one, Kelly. He's still taking in injured wild animals, fixing them up and setting them loose. He's just gotten a lot better at it than when we were kids."
"Call him. Kelly will really like him."
Kelly was nervous and Bitsy had been absolutely right about his impatience. He'd seen Jim's smile when a very unusual male voice said hello on the phone. He knew he had a sense of humor. He was nervous about meeting Jim's friend. He wanted him to like him. Jim said he'd know when he got there and went to "make lunch for six for three." Bitsy had headed for the city sixty miles away to pick up the large order she'd placed by phone. There was a roar outside and he understood what he'd meant.
"Jimmy Boy! Where are you, you bastard?! Come out here so I can give you a hug and then slug you for not calling me for four YEARS!"
"Try it and I'll mop the floor with you! Kelly's in the living room! Introduce yourself!"
"I'm Leonard. You're looking at my knees because I'm looking at your back. You'll notice they're lower than most. I'm a dwarf. I'm sure Hulk didn't mention it. He didn't mention you look like Michaelangelo's model either. I'm going to poke around. I poke gentle enough wild creatures let me do it. He's right. It's not healing as fast as it should. I think the whole thing's nuts, but I'll help them do it. I wouldn't want to be the one to tell Jim he's an alien telepath. Bitsy knows she's building a physical focus for his power and she doesn't. Hi. You have surprising muscle tone and gorgeous blue-green eyes. Someone gave you the rest of you, but those are yours. It'll work. I got more brief than you know about. I swung my scooter in front of Bitsy on the road and got a rundown. Want to contribute to a wildlife care center? I have three raptors and they don't eat chicken feed. Hi, Hulk. I'm making a pitch for a donation. I'm sure I saw a yes in those gorgeous eyes. Trapped eyes, why the hell did it take you so long to see it?"
"I saw it, Leonard. All I could do was be there long enough for my opinion to have some weight."
"That makes more sense. So, donation?"
"You said you saw a yes."
"True, but I didn't see an amount."
"How much do you need?"
"Oh, several hundred thousand dollars and regular paychecks for a staff of ten, but a freezer full of fish to feed raptors and raccoons would be great."
"Do you have a freezer to fill?"
"Not at the moment."
"You have to watch him, Kelly. He's good at slipping things in on people. They say yes before they find out 'freezer full' includes freezer. If he didn't do exactly what people want him to do with what they give him, they'd complain instead of laugh about it. Ow, it hurts me to turn you over for lunch."
"Let's get him up on his feet."
"Bitsy thinks he's building a connection to his voluntary muscles. Let's begin encouraging it. His legs have been exercised, but they've never borne his weight. The muscle is there, but it's never been used for the purpose of its existence. When wild animals are hit by cars and survive, it's often in their asses that I set bones. I build frames to keep them from tipping over and get them on their feet as soon as they're healed enough. Supporting their weight is the first step in rebuilding muscle they must have to run to catch prey or escape predators. We'll support his knees too. I'll build it and tell Bitsy it goes in the van."
"Why haven't you asked her to marry you?"
"Neither one of you realize you're Greek gods wandering among mortals, but it's extremely clear to me. I love her too much to marry her too, Jim. I'm not extremely healthy. I may live five more years."
"It's a fact. I've known I had a short life expectancy since I was a kid. All my life is still all my life so I'm getting the same share as everyone else. It's just crammed into a shorter time period. Besides, she doesn't love me that way and she might not know how to turn me down. It would be the only time she'd think about the fact I'm a dwarf and plug ugly. Since I know she should turn me down, I won't ask. Let's get him up for a minute. I need to see what kind of support you need for your knees, Kelly. I've been building them for mine for three years. Jim, I can almost feel you aching. I didn't tell you before because I knew you would and reducing the time you ache was my choice. It's also my choice not to tell the woman I have loved since I was nine."
"All right. Leonard, his lunch is getting cold. I made him mashed potatoes and sausage gravy. He's never had them before."
"I'll build while he eats. You'd better have food for me when I finish."
"I have food for you now."
"I'm sure you've noticed he's a bit thick, Kelly. I'm working hard at giving him time to talk to you and he's not getting it. I was his best friend as a little kid. You're his best friend now. We both recognize when he needs to talk to his best friend. Jim, hold his knee as lightly as possible to keep it from bending. We could about do that much with a wrap. Kelly, I'm going to poke you again. I want to know how hard your muscles are working and how much of your weight Hulk's supporting so I'll be poking him too."
"That's why you didn't study veterinary medicine."
"See, Kelly, not dumb, just thick. I've got his knees. See how much of his weight you can get on his legs. Good. I'm glad he's got you, Kelly. You're going to have a good time together a long time. You both deserve it. Lord, just look at those beautiful long legs. Run beside him in long strides. I always wished I could. You will. Do it for both of us. Oh, I have a perfect record on that. Every damaged creature I've been sure I would one day set free to run or fly has raced into the forest or leapt into the sky. Leap for me. You're the only one I've ever said that to who'll understand you do. See you in about twenty. He needs to cry. Think back pats at him. He'll feel them. We both know it. Prepare yourself for ambrosia. He makes GREAT gravy. Maybe I'll be back in fifteen."
"Leonard, what's wrong specifically?"
"I think making you a list is a waste of time. I don't do that intentionally. I'll take you for a ride on my scooter, Kelly. Gizmo built it for me. We'll wait til she's here in case Hulk has a heart attack watching."
"See? He does NOT trust my driving."
"That's because you're a maniac on that thing."
"True, but I'm less maniacal with a passenger, except you. I just LOVE your cute little yelp."
"Kelly, he's... very special to me and a lot of other people. We lived next door to his family, and I didn't even call him for four years. I thought of him a lot, but I didn't call. I kept hoping Bitsy would come to love him in the way he loves her. I trust his judgment she doesn't. It hurts, but I do. It... all hurts."
Kelly thought back pats. It hurt him that Jim hurt, but it felt very good to have him sit on the floor and lean against the couch beside him to cry. He was the most caring, gentle, strong, all the way through beautiful, person in existence. It 'dawned' on him he was in love with him too. He had rather good evidence it was a common phenomena. He understood that completely. He wasn't sure being smug he was in love with him was appropriate, but quite sure both Bitsy and Leonard would understand it.
Leonard arranged to be in the workshop when Bitsy got back. She took one look at what he was doing and whooped. It was what she'd been feeling was missing.
"I was working on things to make it easier for them now. They needed this as a statement what I'm building them IS for now."
"It is impossible, you know."
"Of course. As long as Jim doesn't know it, that's not a problem. I'm building our birdies a sky hook so they believe they can fly. Since I'm the practical sort, I'm building one that will work just in case there IS something to hook onto. He needed an explanation badly. He needed you here to help badly. Kelly just needs him."
"I told him what you carefully pretend not to know. He wanted specifics. I told him I didn't have time to make a list. I need a chair."
"I wondered why I was suddenly getting told."
"Three trips a day to feed and water are beginning to be at least two too many. I need you to build it because getting down beside a small animal and back up is beginning to be too much to do once. It also needs to be very quiet."
"Staying away gave me away?"
"Yes. Leonard, you're about to get a patent."
"Hulk! Call Daddy and tell him to get Brad Carter here! Leonard has something that will help a lot of people!"
"Brad is NOT a friend, Gizmo!"
"Brad has changed a lot! He married Carey Jurgensen! He's plump and VERY happy! They have three kids! A girl and twin baby boys! He shows up at his office wearing baby food!"
"That's a lot, but... "
"You are NOT hiding, Hulk! You have a friend who was in an accident! He's recovering! Leonard and I are building things to help! The one Leonard is building will help a lot of others too! It will definitely bring him enough to feed a LOT of damaged birdies!"
"I'll call him myself!"
Brad had 'run into' Jim five years before in the city. He'd greeted him with a fist to the jaw. He'd told several people Hulk obviously felt like he deserved it or he'd have been in the hospital reminding himself slugging someone Hulk's size is not a wise course of action. It had taken Bitsy and Carey another half year to convince him he was courting the wrong girl. He hadn't known he belonged plump and wearing baby food, but they both did.
Brad hit the button on his message machine and ran out of the door of his office with his jacket in his hand. He didn't plan on apologizing, but he was really pleased with the chance to show Jim it had been one good shot to the jaw for the way he hurt Bitsy. He was even more pleased that Leonard had something Bitsy was sure was worth patenting. He was ignoring being intensely curious about why Jim had seemed a bit nervous on the phone. He knew he wasn't worried he'd slug him again. When he got to the old farmhouse that Bitsy had made a beautiful modern home, he headed for the big barn she'd made a workshop. He was sure that's where he was needed and where she and Leonard would be.
"Back here, Brad! Hi."
"What is it?"
"A support structure that will help get people who have to learn to walk again on their feet. This is the piece that makes it so different. It adjusts the frame to give more or less support AS it's needed."
"Where does Jim come in?"
"With Kelly. He's the one Leonard built this one for. I'm building that van, but this shouldn't wait until the gizmos I'm designing for comfort are done."
"Show me how it works before I start trying to turn Leonard's scribbled diagrams on newspaper margins into something acceptable to the patent office. Where is he?"
"Sitting down. I gave him a good excuse. We're in a hurry, Brad. We need to make that wildlife care center permanent. He deserves to see it. He deserves to get to pay for some of it. Kelly will help see that the rest gets paid for. You've got a client. It's not Jim. You also have a lot of really good help, starting with a superior court judge and a CEO. Remember, all this is for Kelly and Jim is going to be very protective. Kelly needs it. Jim's been doing the job three years. They fired him and he went back and got him. He's the ONE who was sure Kelly existed. We are now all sure Kelly can recover. We are all sure Hulk is why, but carefully say words like therapy and appropriate stimulation. I'm trying to convince him that includes making love to him. I figure the fact he won't until Kelly CAN say yes is really going to keep Kelly working. He's taking him out to see America in a big van. Kelly is still going to need him just as much. They BUILT him beautiful and he's very, very, very, and several more very, rich. He needs a lawyer that's JUST his and KNOWS money is not more important than a smile of pride from people who love him. Tell me about the kids. You're wearing green on your tie today."
"I give up. I was wearing a bib. Strained peas are not appreciated by either Joseph or Jason. Who IS Kelly? I do need to know. I don't know if I'm the right lawyer, but I will find him the right one."
"Keller Nathan Holland the Fourth."
"Uh... I need a chair. A stiff drink would be nice too. Vegetative was the term I heard. I was about ten at the time and I've heard the same since."
"Jim fell in love with him and that made him rather sure they were all wrong."
"Um, is this person the same Jim?"
"He's finally figured out what he wants to be when he grows up, a very best friend for someone who needs the best at it and really deserves it. Kelly thinks Walter Amunson is doing a great job and he really likes Martin Fuller. He doubts it will ever be necessary to actually run the business. The amount budgeted yearly for his care is now his annual... draw or something. There was a nurse and a physical aide on twenty-four hours a day and a couple extras for specific jobs, plus people to take care of the mansion where he saw one room. Now, this is from my cousin Terry. The CEO is the executor of the estate, but he's got a board of trustees who STILL look at Keller as a business expense. They are NOT unhappy he is aware, but that's a big budget and they would have liked to cut it a long time ago. Walter took care of that. Kelly will need someone who says, 'He's not really involved with the business by his choice. Present your proposal to Mr. Amunson. He's the one he trusts to run it.' It's no longer an estate, Brad. Kelly is eighteen and Amunson gave Jim the pin number for the bank card and said have fun. The court stamped approved."
"He's 'just' a CEO now, but he's still the one of the best. Some calls will be from people who know it and think Kelly might be manipulated more easily. I'm not the right one, but I know who is. I imagine she'd be very happy to help keep Walter Amunson and Martin Fuller employed. They just kept several hundred people employed in the town named for her great-great-grandfather. She doesn't live close. Tell me about talking to Kelly."
"Squat down and look in his eyes. Jim will tell you what you're seeing if you need it, but you probably won't. Don't ask me. Hulk's involved. I don't expect nice reasonable explanations."
"Destiny does take a hand now and then, doesn't it? You feel better, Bitsy. He really wasn't the right one."
"The right one requires two people be the right one for each other. If he had been, we'd have one child. I've been at your house a few hours on a day no one was happy."
"Thank you. I was in court and Carey was exhausted. The story you read Tanya really helped."
"Three babies with flu is too many for one person. My dad sent the book and Louise sent frozen fruit juice on a stick of peppermint."
"She felt special even though little brothers were getting most of Mommy's attention. I didn't know about the juice bars."
"That's because I put a tarp over the big chair where we ate them while Carey got a nap. If I hadn't, you'd have known they were on peppermint sticks for years. If they'd been grape or berry juice, you'd have seen them on Tanya for days. You're stalling."
"Of course. I'm about to recommend a wild woman as an attorney to a very rich young man and I slugged the person whose judgment he trusts most the last time I saw him. I've decided I'm not going to come up with something appropriate to say except I'm sorry and I'm not, so that's out. Are you going to look around now?"
"No. I like being single, but I think I'll have Kelly's baby. Just because I decided I'm not looking for hubby doesn't mean I'm tossing out the whole plan, Brad. Oh, of course Kelly's. Go look in his eyes. Hulk knows who you're seeing. He'll see you do. Hulk! I did a lot of brief! Some of it was from Terry! I'm sending Brad up, but I want him back soon! He's such a good lawyer he knows he's not the one you need, Kelly! He knows the right one to tell people you like Amunson and Fuller and buzz off!"
"Bitsy, do you know Sonata Rojinsky?"
"Oh, I thought perhaps it was a quote. See you shortly. You do make things nicer for people."
"Hulk teaches being a friend is the best investment there is better than anyone else. You get paid dividends in friends. Much more valuable than dollars and the rate of return is incredible. Ooh, I'll use that one again."
"Can I quote?"
"Yes, that one's good enough and you know I'll yell at you if I don't like where you use it. I don't like that proposition. Don't use it to help get it passed. Don't try to convince me it should be. That's up to the people who live around here to do. The only way they're going to do that is by proving it over the ten years of the ten year plan. Kelly! Brad and I disagree on a political issue! He's not there yet because I was browbeating him! It forestalls months of having people attempt to change my opinion with reasoned debate! He waved and is headed your way! You'll like the green spot on his tie! HE wears a bib when he feeds his twin boys strained peas!"
He was basking in the feeling of being a person. The people he'd met all saw him that way. Jim did know him that well. In a way, he'd created him. He'd given him Sesame Street, the news channel, sitcoms, cartoons, movies and college classes. He'd taught, and gently touched, the person he was into existence. He was smiling when Brad sat on the floor in front of him.
"Hello, Kelly. I know a great deal about who you were supposed to be. I can see who you are. Bitsy told me I would, just before she browbeat me. She's quite right about you needing a lawyer primarily to keep you out of an office and help keep people from trying to get you to put Walter Amunson and Martin Fuller out of theirs. I know the right one for you. I stutter when I say buhbillions. She has enough money of her own she just takes clients she likes. She's going to be delighted to have you as one of them and with the real job. That town your corporation just saved was named after her great-great-grandfather. I want to call her and get her moving. She probably has a ways to travel to get here to meet you. She was somewhere in Europe the last I heard, but she may be in Fosterville, considering what's been happening there. Her name is Sonata Rojinsky. I went to law school with her. We called her Sonata Rose and she hated it. She was also barely eighteen when she started. She's twenty-three now and even more beautiful. Did Hulk tell you I slugged him last time I saw him?"
"I did mention it."
"I rather thought you would. He deserved it, Kelly, and knew it, or he'd have pounded me into the walk, but he only deserved one. I need your permission to call her and I may be putting VERY long distance on Bitsy's phone bill. Hulk, I'm pretty sure the answer was yes, but I'm an attorney and like concurring opinions. I got a smile."
"You got two. I'm jealous."
"I'll circle the date on my calendar. It took thirteen years, but I finally turned the tables."
"Kelly didn't care much for strained peas either, but I'm not wearing them."
"Come over and feed my boys, Hulk. I wouldn't even be jealous if you DID manage not to be wearing baby food afterward. I'd be too awed. Kelly, the hand comes up like this just as the spoon gets to here. The peas go that way in a lovely arc. I'd look for ties with green spots already on them, but Jason and Joseph would probably decorate them with carrots. You should be warned Bitsy has decided she's about ready to go on with the piece of her life plan she didn't change six years ago. You have been picked as daddy."
"Brad, you shouldn't have warned him."
"I wouldn't have if he didn't have so much money his child will need to be protected, Leonard. Bitsy thinks you'll have enough to start building the wildlife care center you've had planned since you were a kid. Please say you didn't design that piece of equipment on a newspaper margin."
"I did it on a paper towel. It's in the workshop."
Kelly giggled. Brad had run for the door and Jim was laughing. He was also on his knees in front of him fast. Kelly giggled. He just couldn't help it. It felt wonderful. He was suddenly in knots.
"Bitsy! Get that thing done! I'm running for the spa with Kelly! The cramping may follow when he does something new! This time he laughed!"
"Ow and yippee! Brad just came in and is CLEANING the workshop!"
"Leonard said the design is on a paper towel!"
"Leonard, get in here."
"You need my help?"
"As an excuse to look you over. He's already starting to relax. They're getting shorter or I'd... "
"Follow your instincts on this all the way, Jimmy Boy. They're your best guide."
"I love you too. Kelly, I'll never be immobile. Gizmo won't let that happen. Don't cry for me."
"He's crying for him, Leonard, just like I did for me. You bring a lot of love into the world. It'll be missed."
"Thank you, Kelly. You will help him give Bitsy a child, James. I want his child to spoil and adore. You have two children. He should have one."
"I have WHAT?!"
"Leonard! I KNOW what you told him!"
"Oh, that's nothing compared to what Brad told Kelly! It was a great lead-in! He's in shock and Kelly's giggling! Work fast!"
"I've got it figured out! You're keeping Kelly company! I need Hulk's miraculous hands on a soldering iron! Kelly, have Hulk call Mersia and PAY her to take care of the center a couple days! It will be a unique experience for her and his daughter needs shoes!"
"Oh, SHIT! It only happened once! You, uh... "
"Kelly, he was drunk."
"I was looking for anybody who was interested, Leonard."
"Mersia considers deciding to 'fuck your brains out' her best decision ever. We all agree. Gem is a delight. So is Kris."
"Your other daughter."
"Mersia did recommend she look you up when she went to the city and told her what you drink. I believe she planned your casual meeting for a specific time of month. Her mother probably helped plan it. Her dad definitely funded. Your genes are not leaving this town. We came after them. I actually needed this."
"Kelly needs it too, but it's really not that good for his back. Sorry, Kelly. Risk of infection comes a lot higher on the priority list than sore muscles."
"It's a connector, but it doesn't touch and it doesn't amplify. That's what was wrong with the implant. It won't be simple to put in, Jim. It has to be placed exactly and it's not the same shape as the implant was. It's a great deal smaller, but it isn't going to go in exactly the same place. She thinks you'll be able to see where it goes. I'll be watching to help you look. The healing blade must be in your hands. This time it IS Kelly's choice. You'll do fine. Everything right is on your side. You earn it."
"My parents taught me it pays best."
"They earned you and you set about making it mutual immediately. Let Heather give your daughter the name Waters to carry in this town. She'll have more children. She's decided to get married. Casey knows struggle is useless. Kris already has him trained as a horsy. He tells her about her grandparents."
"He's about sixty-five?"
"Six and runs two miles a day."
"I... need a lawyer."
"Kelly's right. My lawyer, not his."
"Kelly, I really like it when you express an opinion, but it seems like it's ALWAYS in support of something I'm going to find difficult. He slugged me."
"I'd have needed a stool to do it, but I would have. You felt a lot better afterward. You deserved a solid punch and somebody from this town deserved to deliver it. You were a hero to your classmates and you broke the heart of OUR high school sweetheart. It was NOT a gentle letdown, nor an attempt at one."
"Yeah, I deserved it. You stay in there another five minutes, then I work on those legs for a few. I'll be back to get you. It's what I do, Leonard. You will accept my skill given in friendship. Right, Kelly?"
"Kelly, I don't understand any of this. I believe in miracles, but I don't believe in destiny. My parents waited as long as they did to adopt for the same reason they didn't have children, Altzheimers in Mom's family. At fifty-five she was sure she had another twenty years. She had twenty-five. Dad had twenty-six. Heather is legally a second cousin on my dad's side. That's why her... our daughter... I am NOT ready for this."
"Yeah, makes two of us."
Twice more Kelly did something new and Jim ran for the spa with him. The second time, he was bleeding. Leonard went after the antibiotics Bitsy's dad had gotten. Brad was fed dinner, literally. Bitsy held a sandwich for him to take bites. He was carefully not noticing what she was working on and she appreciated how fast he was working to not need to not notice. He left right after Leonard got back. He'd needed his signature.