I lean back peacefully dosing on the beach over looking the ocean of his private island. The sun gently warmed my skin as a soothing breeze blow over the island.
"Life can't get any better than this." I think, taking a sip of my Strawberry Daiquiri.
"Still drinking that Frou-froud rink." a voice says over my shoulder.
Tilting my head back, I look upinto the smiling face of my bodyguard, best friend and lover Roger "Race"Bannon. Though he is older now, his body is still tight and muscular. His white-blond hair has a few strands of grey and his face a few more lines, buthe is still as youthful looking as the first day I met him over 15 years before.
"A real man," Race continued as hecame around and nudged my legs over to sit on the lounger, "drinks whiskey."
Smiling, I wrapped my arms around Race's neck and pulled him in for a long, deep kiss. Our tongues dueled for dominance as tiny moans of pleasure escaped both of us. He knows just how hot he makes me. Finally when we had to come up for air, I pulled back so that my lips barely touch Race's and whisper, "That's not what you said last night."
Race blushed furiously and I laughed. I love making Race blush because for all his macho posturing, he is more of a softy than I could ever be. As I pull Race in for another kiss, we are doused with cold water and a voice says, "Ewww... watching my dads making out... gross, that is not what I want to see this early in the morning."
The voice belonged to Jessie, Race's 25-year-old daughter. She is standing there with her arms wrapped around her fiancé Todd, smiling; however,the bucket that formerly held the cold water was in the hands of a grinning Jonny while his husband Hadji stood by his side trying to look innocent.
"Come on Dad, all that lounging around will make you fat." Jonny laughs as I groan, "Please son, I've already been out with you. Have mercy on an old man-you know I can't keep up with the younger generation."
"That's not what you said last night." Race bent over and whispered in my ear. Now it was my turn to blush. The kids must have heard him because they began to laugh.
I sit back relishing the sound of their laughter and wishing that it happened more often.
"It has been a long 15 years," I think as I watch Race grab his daughter, throwing her over his shoulder as he runs back out to the water. Hadji and Todd race behind them laughing, but Jonny sits beside me and bumps me with his shoulder. I make room for him to sit more comfortably on the lounger.
"Whatcha thinkin' about Dad?" he asks me as watches the others playing in the water.
I rest my hand on his swollen belly and respond, "OH... just us and all that has happened to us over the years."
I think back to when Agent Corvin introduced Jonny and me to Mr. Roger "Race" Bannon. My wife had just died of a mysterious ailment. To this day no one has been able to convince me she was not actually murdered. Race was to be our bodyguard and Jonny's tutor, nursemaid, and friend. I would watch as Race not only worked with Jonny to help him get over his bitterness about the death of his mother, but also the loneliness of an absent father. "But my 'watching' was from adistance. I was no longer an active part of my son's life. I no longer spoke with him or even took meals with him and Race. I was locked up in my lab before my son awakened until well after he had gone to bed.
I was always busy, losing myself in my work as a means to escape my pain but it wasn't until Race pointed it out to me that I realized I was also escaping from my son. I think it was because Jonny reminded me so much of my dear wife. He had the same soft blond hair, blue eyes and slender build. Jonny also possessed a spirit of adventure that he could have only gotten from her because I was the bookworm in the relationship. But it wasn't until the Mystery of the Lizard Men that I realized how much I had neglected Jonny or how important Race was to us both.
The Lizard Men were a nefarious group of miscreants working to perfect the laser as a weapon when Race and Jonny stumbled across their hidden base on a dilapidated looking vessel. The "Lizard Men" hoped to destroy the first manned flight to the moon and throw the international community into turmoil; thereby heightening the mistrust that was already prevalent worldwide among the leading governments. Jonny and Race were captured and only Race's quick thinking saved them. Fortunately, the team with which I was working was able to destroy the laser by using a mirror and reflecting the beam back to the source which caused it to blow up. Race returned with Jonny and briefed Agent Corvin and team on what they had discovered. And although he was speaking to the group, I could have sworn that he was watching me the whole time. That
night after Jonny was tucked into bed we sat drinking on the terrace of the beach house.
"You know Dr. Quest," he began.
"Benton." I interrupted.
"Anyone one who has saved me son's life and been as good to him as you have deserves to call me by my first name."
He started again, "Benton, Jonny is hurting."
I nod, "Naturally. He just lost his mom and they were really close. I suspect that it will take him a while to get over it."
But as I was speaking, Race was shaking his head.
"It's not that. Jonny and I have worked through the loss of his mother. He has come to grips with her not being around because he knows that even in death she still loves him." Race pauses, "What he can't come to grips with... is the loss of his father."
I sat with my head down.
"I'm still here."
Again Race shook his head, "No you're not... not where it counts. Your body is here but your thoughts and mind are far away.
You've closed yourself off from him. Sure, you say `hi' or give him a hug, but he can tell that you're just going through the motions. He sees you slipping away and for some reason he thinks that it's his fault."
"It's not." I said with my headstill down.
"Then why would he think that?"Race persisted.
Suddenly I needed to move, so Igot up and began to pace.
"Benton." he said, waiting for ananswer; an answer that I didn't want to give because in my heart I knew why my ten-year-old son felt the way he did.
"Benton." Race said again, when I didn't respond.
I stopped pacing and with my backto him said, "Because I made him feel that way."
"What?" Race said not wanting to believe what he just heard.
"I made him feel that way!" I said as I turned to look at Race, and then quickly averted my eyes.
"Tell me!" he commanded.
Flashback 5 years earlier
I was working in my lab when the alarm sounded. Special Agents Reese and Jones appeared by my side as if by magic.
"What is it?" I gasped trying to pass the agents only to find my way blocked. "What's going on?"
"Dr. Quest," replied Agent Reese," I suggest that you go back to the lab."
"No! I tried to force my way around them, "What aren't you telling me." Suddenly I heard,
"Jonny." I yelled, desperate to get to my son. Then I see him running towards me and I scoop him up into my arms. I look up at Agent Corvin's approach.
"Dr. Quest, please take your son and go back into the lab."
I feel myself getting angry, "Why?" I shout. "Where's my wife? Where's Mary?"
I see a look pass between Agents Corvin and Reese as he says to Reese, "Why don't you take Jonny to get some icecream?"
Even at five, Jonny was very intuitive. He clutched me tighter and began to cry that he didn't want to go. But I gently disengaged his fingers.
"Go son, I'll be with you in aminute."
"Promise Dad?" he asked tearfully.
I gave him a kiss on his foreheadand nodded.
"I promise. Now be a good boy and go with Agent Jones." I put him into Agent Jones' arms and watched as he carried Jonny away. Assoon as they were out of sight, I whirl on the two agents.
"What happened?" I demanded.
Agent Corvin took a deep breaththen said,
"I'm sorry Dr. Quest but it's yourwife."
I felt weak in the knees,
He nodded and said, "I don't know how to tell you this but she's dead."
My world began to tilt.
"We don't know but it appears she had a heart attack?" A pause, "Doctor...are you okay?"
"No." I said before the world went black.
"When I woke up Mary's body had been removed and extra agents had arrived. I was later told that the official report was that Mary had a stroke and died in her sleep. I knew differently. She was young-only 27 and in excellent health. No, she had been murdered. The case was closed, but I never received the satisfaction of seeing the killer brought to justice. After that, I began to lock myself away in my lab. Those were my feeble attempts as shielding myself against the pain."
"And Jonny?" Race asked.
"You saw him for yourself. He became withdrawn and a discipline problem. He wouldn't cooperate with tutors or counselors." I turn back to Race. "That is, until you came. You seemed to be the balm that he needed. For some reason he opened up to you. After a couple of weeks he was the Jonny that I knew before Mary died."
"He just needed someone to show him that he was still important... still loved. He wanted a father and I became that to him."
"But I still can't take your place. He needs you."
I nodded again.
"So what are you going to do aboutit?"
I looked out over the gentle rolling waves lapping at the beach.
"First thing in the morning, I'm going to take my son for a day on the boat and I'm going to tell him how much he means to me."
"And then..." Race persisted.
"I'm going to spend the rest of my life proving it to him."
Race smiled and nodded his approval even as I sighed.
"What's wrong?" he asked his arms folded over his chest.
I couldn't bring myself to look at him,
"I've spent so much time running away from him and so much time alone, I don't know what I'll do once I let goof that."
I felt Race step up behind me and the next thing I knew he'd turned me around so I was facing him.
"I think I can help you with that." And then he did what I'd wanted him to do almost since he came to the island... he kissed me.
I have always heard that the first kiss is the sweetest and after that kiss I was inclined to agree; but I needed to be sure. So I leaned in and kissed him again. That night we just lay in each other's arms talking and we decided that we wouldn't take our relationship any further until I worked out my issues with Jonny. It wasn't until two months later that we made love for the first time.
It was slow and tender with Race making me fill sensations that I hadn't felt in my life, even with Mary. Of course I felt guilty and turned away from Race but just as he was patient with Jonny, he was more so with me. And it wasn't long before he shared my bed every night.
Jonny pushes his blond hair out of his face and shifts on the lounger with a groan.
"You okay?" I ask concern coloring my voice.
"Yeah... just the babies moving. They're such a wigglers. It's a wonder I get any rest at night." He pauses and smiles in the direction of the figures playing in the water, "But Hadji is such a wonder. When he plays his Bansuri they both settle right down."
I smooth his hair back and smile, "It was lucky that we found him isn't it?"
"More than luck dad, it was fate."
I smile as I continue to smooth his hair back. "The Calcutta Adventure." I think, "That's were Pasha Peddler introduced us to an eleven-year-old street urchin known only as Hadji. He'd saved my life but Jonny didn't know that. He thought Hadji was trying to stab me."
"Remember when you thought Hadji was trying to stab me and you tackled him."
"Boy do I ever." Jonny laughs, "He threw me for aloop figuratively and literally. Another laugh, "And I had the bruise on
my butt to prove it. I think I fell for him then."
I listened to him and grinned. But I hadn't grinned when I first found out. I was quite shocked because I wasn't aware that Jonny had fallen for Hadji.
Ten years earlier
They were fifteen when Race caught them in a secluded grove making out and snuck back to tell Benton what he had witnessed.
"I think it`s time you told the boys about the birds and thebees." Race casually remarked.
"Darn it." I swore, "I went over that with him."
"You gave him a book to read." Race pointed out cheerfully.
I scowled. As much as I love this man there are times like this when I would gladly throttle him.
"I'm sorry, "I said sourly, "I always thought that it would be Mary who would..." I stopped my breath catching at the pain in my heart and in Race's eyes.
This time when I said that I was sorry, it came out differently.
"That's okay," Race replied, "You still miss her don't you?"
"Not as much as I did before I found you." I said putting my arms around him and resting my head on his shoulders. I held him for a while enjoying his closeness and then I said, "Let's go talk to the boys."
We found them sitting on the beach looking at the ocean.
"Jonny, Hadji we need to talk." I said without preamble."Race saw the two of you this afternoon."
"Saw the two of us what Dad?" Jonny asked innocently.
I sighed. I did not want to do this.
"Jonny please... Race saw the two of you making out."
Jonny's face fell then he looked at me with the defiance that only a fifteen-year-old can muster.
"I love him dad..." he started to say but I interrupted him,
"How can you know for sure? What about Jesse, I thought you had a crush on her?"
Jessie was Race's 15-year-old daughter. He had just became aware that he and his lady friend Jade-who was also a beautiful oriental spy that helped us out from time to time-had had a child together.
"Ah shucks Dad. We're just good friends."
"I couldn't tell by the way you were always holding hands and looking at each other."
"Dad...I know the difference between a crush and being in love?"
I was getting exasperated and the amused expression that Race wore wasn't helping.
"Jonny, I don't think you know enough about your sexuality..."
Jonny shuck his head vehemently, "I know enough that I won't be ashamed and hide it like you and Race."
That hurt. Race and I had done our best to keep our relationship from Jonny, but not out of shame.
"Jonny, I'm not ashamed of what I have with Race but society is not ready to accept certain types of relationships. "
"But why did you try to keep your relationship a secret from me and Hadji?" he asked; the pain of our supposed betrayal coloring his voice.
"Jonny... we weren't trying to hide from you or deceive you. Race and I decided that we didn't want our relationship to color your perceptions of who you wanted to be with. It wasn't fair since you didn't have any type of female influence in your life."
"But Dad," he said, "I've been around girls and that hasn't changed how I feel about Hadji. You say the world isn't
ready to accept your relationship? Well, I think it's time to make them ready. Hadji and I aren't going to hideours."
Ihad to admire his tenacity. "Jonny,'' I said softly, ''if this is what you want then I'm behind you 100%; but I have one favor to ask."
"Sure dad." he replied.
"I don't know if either you or Hadji, are sexually active..."
"Dad..."he whined and I held up my hand.
"Just promise me that you'll wait until you're 18. I want the two of your to be sure that this is what you want."
"Wait until we're 18?" Jonny ask incredulously. ''Why?''
"Because fifteen is too young to be sure that this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with...'' I was saying when Jonny interrupted me.
"Dad, I won't feel any differently at 16, 17 or 18.
"Alright," I countered "then a few years won't make any difference.''
Jonny was about to protest when Race spoke,
''Jonny, I think your dad is right. If Hadji truly is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, then this is a decision that shouldn't be rushed."
''Aww Race. I thought you would understand." Jonny was pouting.
''I do." Race assured him, "but I also know the hormones of 15-year-oldboys and sometimes they do the talking. You want to be sure that Hadji is the one you really want before you announce it to the world."
Then Hadji spoke up, "Jonny I agree with your dad and Race." he said, catching us all by surprise. ''If we are serious about being together, a few years will not make a difference. It might even serve to deepen our love." he smiled, "I want to be with you for a lifetime. I feel you are my soul mate and if a few years is the price to be paid in order to assure your dad of our commitment then I am willing to pay it."
"Hadji, are you sure?" Jonny asked.
In reply, Hadji took him into his arms and kissed him.
Later that night as we cuddled in bed Race said, "We have two fine boys Benton."
''That's because you were here to balance my mistakes."
He playfully slapped my arm. "We've both made mistakes, but we always let the boys know that we weren't perfect and that we loved them."
"Do you think they'll be okay?" I asked and felt him nod.
"We have two strong young men both physically and emotionally... they'll be fine.''
And they were. Not only did Jonny's and Hadji's relationship deepen, they had a commitment ceremony on Jonny's 20th birthday. As a part of our present to the boys, Race and I held our commitment ceremony the next day. If I'd had any doubts concerning Jonny's feelings about me, the love and pride shining from his eyes dispelled all my fears.
But even then, Jonny was planning for the future and two years later he came to me with a strange request. Or I should say, since I've had to think about it, maybe it wasn't so strange after all. Jonny was always the adventurous type.
I was working in my lab when Jonny and Hadji, approached me. And just like when they were kids, I could tell that they were up to something.
"Dad..."Jonny said hesitantly.
"Yes son? '' I questioned.
''Um.., well sir..."
"Yes?'' I asked outwardly patient but inside I was amused.
"Well, it's like this. Hadji and I want to have children."
I looked from my son to his mate and back again. "Well, it'll be hard but not impossible. There are many agencies that will allow gay couples to adopt." But Jonny was shaking his head as Hadji spoke,
Excuse me, Dr. Quest but that's not what we mean."
"What do you mean? '' I asked confused.
"I want to have a child." Jonny blurted out.
I looked at them both stunned. I knew my son was willing to try new experiences but...
"Jonny, this is crazy!" I said without thinking, "Even if you were able to conceive and carry a child, why would you?"
Jonny looked at me and at that moment I would have done anything to take back my words and the pain they caused him. Without another word, my son turned and rushed out of the lab with Hadji right behind him.
I stood up, "Jonny... son..." I said moving to follow when Hadji turned back to me and said softly, ''Don't. I'll take care of him." And then he was gone.
To say I felt lower than dirt was an understatement. So I just sat there staring at nothing and was still sitting there when Race found me an hour Iater.
"Benton, what's wrong with Jonny? I just passed by his and Hadji's room and I could hear his sobs in the hallway; but when
I knocked Hadji opened the door and told me everything was fine. He said that Jonny just needed some time to himself.
Race finally took in my expression and slumped posture and said, "Now why don't I believe that that's the case.''
"It's my fault." I said without preamble and then went on to describe what happened. When I finished Race whistled.
"That's a fine mess."
"Tell me about it." I said dejectedly. "Now what can I do to fix this? ''
"You could help him." Race offered.
"Benson, aren't you working on Reproductive Technology?''
I started, ''Race you know that technology's for women who can't conceive."
"Well?'' he asked.
"But what you and Jonny are asking me to do is unheard of. It's impossible."
"Aren't you the one who always said that the impossible can be made possible? Benton, you've developed lasers, satellites and truth serums...Is it so hard to help your own son have something he wants?" He paused and added, "Or is there something that you aren't telling me?
I looked down, ''Race I'm scared. This technology is new and highly controversial? What are the ethics of implanting a male with a fetus? What are the morals of that and more important, what if something goes wrong?"
Race pulled me close, "Benton, we can't stop how people will feel about this procedure, but if you can do this for Jonny, I say go for it. And as for something going wrong, things can go wrong when a woman becomes pregnant. It's up to Jonny and Hadji to decide if it is worth the risk."
I sighed resignedly, "I already lost his mother and I just can't lose him."
"Then think of it as gaining a grandson." Racesaid rubbing my back. "I think that Mary would like that."
I nodded and said, "I think she would too." I pushed away and said, I'd better go talk to him them."
Race kissed me and said, "Remember, Jonny loves you and he trusts you no matter what happens and if this will make them happy, I say go for
I smiled and told him, "Thanks. You know I love you don't you?"
"Of course," Race answered, "what's not to love?"
With one final kiss, I walked to Jonny's room and knocked on the door. Hadji answered and after looking at me for a few moments, he nodded and stepped back, allowing me to enter. I saw Jonny lying on the bed. "Is he asleep?" I whispered.
Hadji shook his head and went over to the still form. Caressing Jonny's face he spoke to him gently, "Jonny your dad's here." Then he moved as if to leave.
"No, please stay." I said quickly. ''What I need to say is for both of you." I waited until Hadji sat back down and took a deep breath.
"Jonny, I love you and wouldn't hurt you for anything in the world." I paused and both boys watched me silently. "I can't lie to you, this scares me. If this gets out you will become an oddity... a freak. I don't want that to happen."
"But Dad..." John began to interrupt but I held up my hand.
"Please let me finish." I waited for him to nod."I'm more scared about the dangers of this procedure. What if something happens that I have no control over? I don't want lose you. You are all that I have left of your mom."
"Dad." said Jonny, reaching up to wipe away tears that I didn't even know had run down my cheeks. "Life is a gamble. I miss Mom too but she wouldn't want us to be afraid to live." I put my arms around him. "Dad, if I can do this mom will continue to live in our child, Hadji's and mine. I want that dad please."
He smiled and hugged metightly, "But if we are going to do this, then you have to listen to me and payclose attention to what I tell you to do."
"No, Jonny. I will perform the procedure but I will do all I can to minimize the risks and you have to follow my instructions."
"He will Dr. Quest." Hadji responded and Jonny nodded.
"Okay," I looked at them both. "Jonny, I want you to get a good night's rest because starting tomorrow I will have to put you through rigorous testing. You are my test subject and I will need to collect a lot of data." I stood up and gave both young men a hug. "Jonny, I really hope I can do this for you."
They hugged me back, "I know dad... I know."
I hugged them one last time and left the room. As soon as the door was shut, I heard them both give a whoop of joy and I smiled. Maybe this
wouldn't be such a bad thing after all.
Looking at my son, I think it was a very good thing. It was also a stroke of luck that Jesse was willing to supply the egg.
24 months earlier
It actually took another 3 years of testing and development before I felt that the procedure was safe enough to try it out on Jonny and once again he shocked me. One evening after Jonny's latest series of hormone treatments he said,
"Dad, I want you to inform the world of your procedure. Not only that, I want to havea video blog of every step of my attempt to have a baby."
"Hear me out Dad. What you are doing will give both gay and straight couples hope. And if you offer it to the world, then you don't have
to worry about some government agency taking it and trying to use it only for the highest bidders."
I will never be able to express how proud I was of Jonny at that moment. I looked from him, to Race, to Hadji and then to Jesse and they were all nodding in agreement.
"Okay then. When do you want to start?"
"Is anything wrong with now?"
"No. Let's get started."
"The good thing about being independently wealthy is not having to be dependent onany government agency for funding." I thought.
Still 24 months earlier
The next day, I contacted Agent Covin and invited him to the island. After his arrival that evening, we had dinner and then Jonny, Hadji,
Race, Jesse and I let him in on what was going on. Being a government man he wasn't too happy with my decision, but he had enough respect
for me to give me his support.
Since that time, a worldwide audience has seen Jonny's quest to have a baby. I have to admit that although I had a lot of trepidation at
first; Jonny's idea was actually a good one. I was able to have my pick of volunteers from the scientific and medical community who were willing to provide me with much needed help for the upcoming medical procedures. The viewers had seen and read Jonny accounts of his hormone
shots. Then six months before the actual implantation of a fertilized egg, those who were interested had the opportunity to see the implantation of the artificial uterus.
The uterus was made of a rubber substitute that I developed in my laboratory. It stretched the same as the uterus of a woman and was
strong enough to support the growing embryo or embryos if it came to that. Before we began any of the surgical procedures, I asked Jonny how he wanted to deliver the baby. If he wanted to give birth, I could create a passage from the bottom of the artificial uterus to an opening I created between his testes and his anal passage. I'd also have to replace the tissue in that area with a more elastic substitute so that it could expand to the necessary diameter during the birth. If not then I would performa caesarean. Jonny wanted to give birth and the reconstructive surgery was performed over four 12 hour sessions.
Finally, we harvested eggs from Jesse and then we introduced DNA from Jonny before implanting a total of seven eggs into Jonny. This way the
child would carry the DNA of both parents. After this was done all we could do was monitor Jonny and wait.
As scientists, the team and I were anxious as Jonny's body began to reject the implanted eggs. Jonny was heartbroken with each report of a
rejection. I could see him beating himself up for "forcing" Hadji to agree to let him have theprocedure. Added to this was the guilt he was suffering over not being able to give Hadji a child. Race, Hadji and I spent many hours trying to console Jonny. Hadji assured Jonny that
he hadn't been forced to do anything and that he wanted the child as much as Jonny did while Race and I kept telling Jonny that he could try
again later and that maybe the time just wasn't right for him to carry child.
In the meantime, Jonny was kept on bed rest as we carefully monitored the two remaining implanted eggs. We continued to watch first with trepidation, then with relief as the months passed and the embryos grew and became fetuses. Finally about four months later, I was able to take my son off bed rest.
"Which bring us to where we are now." I think, looking at my very gravid son. "Jonny's about 36 weeks along and mom and children are doing well." Iam interrupted in my musings when Race and Hadji sprint toward us.
"Come on Benton, Jonny..." Race exclaims helping Hadji pull Jonny to his feet then turning to pull me up, "the water's fine." I follow behind them as Hadji and Race help a waddling Jonny to the water.
On the water's edge, I stand watching them frolic, so lost in thought that I didn't notice Race walking back towards me.
"Thinking about Jonny?" Race asks pulling me into his embrace.
I nod and lean against him. After a moment we turn to watch the younger men and Jesse in the water. Jonny turns to me and waves.
"If you had to do it again, would you change anything?" Race asks kissing the side of my neck.
I smile and say, "No I wouldn't change a thing."
And as much as I miss Mary, in my heart I know it to be true.