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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

TLR Chapter 25

I had started writing last night and now I was a few hours into the essay today.  A lot of rolled up balls of paper were strewn all over the floor.  I finally got a few pages done when Sawyer came in the kitchen squeezing my shoulders reassuring me that things were going to be ok.

“How are you doing, babe?” Sawyer asked.  

“I’d be ok if I didn't have to write this god awful essay,” I answered.

 “Alright Jenson, I hear you.  This essay that I'm having you write is to remind you first to be respectful and second that actions are Relevant.  Like when I ask you to do laundry instead of you playing Wii.  The third is Realistic meaning I'll follow through on consequences.  And since your whining about the essay I've added one more R for Remove as I will remove you from the situation when it’s called for,” Sawyer explained.

“Ahh, Sawyer you don't need to add another…”

“Ahh, yes I think I do,” Sawyer said. “Now I think you need to go back and start all over.”

I gave a sigh and went back and sat down and picked up my pencil began to write once again.  It was going to be a long day.


Ryan O’Donnell, TLR’s part time security guard, happy to be back from vacation, pulled up in his jeep and parked in his usual spot in the resort’s employee parking lot Monday night, ready to report for the night time shift until Duke could come back to work.

The young man had closed up the shooting range that he owned and managed. A few of the fellows had stayed at the range and shared beer and pizza with Ryan. The young owner had finally gotten the others to go on home, locked up and then took the rest of the pizza and beer to his trailer where he proceeded to finish them off and played his favorite video game. Before long he realized that it was time for him to report for work at TLR. He was running late and without thinking of how long it had been since he had finished off his last beer, jumped into his jeep and drove to the resort. Once there he found a golf cart and went to the security office to find out if Coral was ready to turn over his shift to him.

Coral smiled when he saw Ryan at the door to the security office and began to greet him, but a moment later he got a whiff of beer emanating from the newly arrived security officer and his jaw clenched in anger.

"What on earth are you doing? Drinking and then reporting for work? You should know better than that.”

Ryan glared at Coral. "I'm all right. I didn't drink that much." He said sharply, swaying slightly before regaining his balance.

"A professional does not report for work after drinking, nor does he drink on the job. You're security for God's sake. People depend on you for their safety and even a little bit of alcohol will dull your reaction time. I'm really disappointed in you right now, Ry."

Ryan continued to glare at Coral. The alcohol, affecting his good judgment said, "Don't preach to me Coral!"

"Are you bucking to be written up for insubordination as well, Ryan? Don't you think you're in enough trouble just showing up like this?"

Ryan's short temper kicked in and he snapped, "You don't have to be pompous about it do you? Of course I don't want to be written up, but don't tell me what I'm supposed to do. I was just runnin' a little late is all."

Coral took a breath and calmed himself. He leveled a look at Ryan and said, “Until Duke is back, I'm head of security, and even when he returns, I'm still your superior officer. Get your temper under control, you're an adult not a school kid, and I can deal with you being a little late, that's not the issue here. The issue is you showing up reeking of beer."

Coral's tone broke through Ryan's befuddled mind and he bit his lip. "Yes Sir." He said quietly. He remembered how Coral had handled his bad temper in the past, when he was a student at the Police Academy and Coral one of his instructors, with disciplinary measures, running, calisthenics, or pushups. "I'll get back in my jeep and head back home then, since you won’t let me go to work."

"No, I'm not letting you drive like that. How you didn't get into an accident just getting here I don't know. I'm calling James to take over and I'm driving you home. Just sit down and wait for me." Coral ordered sternly.  Not liking to call after nine o’clock, but knowing this was something he couldn’t deal with on his own, Coral picked up the handset and dialed James to explain the situation.

"I'll be right there." James replied without a second thought. "Five minutes."

"Yes sir, five minutes." Coral responded. Placing the handset back on it's base, he turned toward Ryan and said, "James will be here soon. You sit. Understood?"

Ryan went and sat down, his head hanging down now. "Will I be fired?" The young man asked softly.

Coral's features softened slightly. "You won't be fired for one infraction, Ry. But you are in trouble. What happens after this is up to James when he gets here." With one last disappointed look at Ryan, he sat behind the desk, took out the necessary form and did the write up while they waited for James. When Coral was finished he said to Ryan, "You have to sign here," pointing to the line waiting for the young security officer’s signature.

Shaking with fear and anxiety, Ryan shakily signed the form and sat back down to wait for James to arrive.

James, prompt as ever, arrived exactly five minutes later. He got out of his golf cart and strode purposefully inside, taking in the sight of the tall black man, half sitting on the desk with his arms crossed, and then the smaller, dejected sandy haired boy.

"I'm here Coral, you go ahead and take Ryan home."

"Am... am I fired?" Ryan asked. His voice held unshed tears and quavered slightly.

James looked at the two men and said to Ryan, "Mr. O'Donnell, since this is the first time such a thing has happened with you and you're usually prompt and do your work I'm inclined to let this write up be a warning. If it happens again you'll be fired and barred from TLR permanently. Is that understood young man?" James asked his stern Marine Captain coming out.

Ryan nodded. "Yes Sir." He said softly.

"Then let Coral take you home and I'll finish your shift."

"Come on Ry, give me the keys to the cart, I’ll bring you back to your car and drive you home." Coral said, holding out his hand for the key with a no nonsense expression on his face.

Ryan gave Coral the key to the golf cart. James watched until they were out of sight, and then went on his way.

Coral and Ryan got into the golf cart and the older man started the engine. He shot Ryan an angry look and began to drive back to the employee's parking lot.

"Not to sound selfish Ry, but it's not just your ass on the line, it's mine as well because I recommended James hire you straight out of the academy."

Ryan sighed at the angry look and words. He rode along with Coral silently.

"At least you're not trying to make excuses." Coral said approvingly. "Give me your car keys." He continued as they reached the parking lot. "Which one is your car?"

Ryan said, "I told you already, I'm all right, I can drive myself home."

"I thought we went over this already. You are not driving after drinking. Now hand me your keys and tell me which one is your car." Coral demanded, his dark eyes flashing with anger.

Ryan nearly threw the car keys at Coral. "It's the blue jeep over there!" He snapped, pointing to his jeep.

Coral caught the keys, his lips pressed into a hard, straight line, the muscles of his jaw working, his eyes slitted in anger. He walked around to the passenger side and opened the door for Ryan to get in. He forced himself to relax before saying, "Get. In."

Ryan got into the jeep, his arms crossed and a pout on his face and anger in his own eyes.

Coral then shut the door, walked back around the jeep, got into the driver's side, adjusted the seat and mirrors and started the engine.

"Put your seat belt on, and no fooling around, young man." Coral growled. "You're in enough trouble tonight without making it worse."

Ryan belted himself in and remained silent for the rest of the ride. He knew Coral knew the way to the range as Ryan did the qualifying for the security officers at TLR as well as police and other security officers in the area and civilians with permits to carry concealed weapons. Ryan also gave the instruction classes. When they got to the entrance of the shooting range, he said, "You can just leave me here I'll walk the rest of the way."

Coral was sorely tempted to give the younger man's thigh a sharp smack. Lesson one, never strike in anger, came to mind and instead of slapping the boy he struck the steering wheel.

"Don't play games with me Ryan. Just tell me how to get to your house, because I’ve never been there and that’s where I am dropping you off.

Ryan glared at him. "This is where I live. I'll just walk in."

Ignoring Ryan’s demand, Coral turned into the driveway and followed the familiar road until it split in two directions. Usually he’d take the left road where he could clearly see the firing range, so he turned down the right hand lane and drove until he came upon a mobile home that had definitely seen better days. He turned to look at Ryan expectantly.

Ryan said belligerently, "Well now you've seen my home all right? Now just leave me alone!"

Coral got out of the jeep and walked around the outside of the mobile home. Some of the windows had been boarded up and the base that the home rested on was slanted, causing one end of the mobile home to be higher than the other.

The screen door was half off it's hinges and the screen was torn, and part of the roof had been repaired using flattened aluminum cans.

Ryan pushed his door open and then about to slam it, shut it instead, remembering it was his own vehicle he'd be abusing. He walked to the door of the place and then glared at Coral. "I'll need my keys back. The house key is on my ring!"

Coral glared back, “Don't push your luck little boy." He said as he shouldered past the younger man to unlock the door, which looked as though it had been broken into several times.

Ryan continued to glare at Coral.

As the larger man turned the lock and opened the door, his jaw fell open as he saw the interior. Then the smell hit him. Old pizza and Chinese takeout, followed by the strong smell of stale beer.

The garbage was overflowing with takeout bags and boxes. Beer bottles littered the counters and table. Everything was sticky and there was crusted food in some places. The living room to the right of the kitchen held the computer and video game equipment and though there were empty beer bottles on the coffee table and shelves, the areas where the electronics were located were spotless

To the left was a narrow hallway which held a small bedroom littered with cast off items, then a bathroom with a washer and dryer with dirty clothes piled on top and spilling over onto the floor. At the end of the hallway was the master bedroom, the bed rumpled and looking like the sheets hadn't been washed in some time. There was more dirty clothing strewn all over and the dressers held various handheld video games, a DVD player and a stack of DVD's alongside it. The whole place was basically a mess.

Coral stood there, stunned that his friend had been living like this. Now he understood why Ryan had never invited any of them to his place and his reluctance to allow himself to be dropped off at his home tonight, instead insisting on walking to his home alone.

Ryan gave Coral a look. "You've seen my place, now you can go home. Pick me up for my shift tomorrow so I can have my jeep back." He snarled.

Coming to a decision, Coral looked at Ryan and said as calmly as he could, "Grab as many of your clothes as you can. I'm taking you to my house."

Ryan looked at Coral stunned. "To your house? Why?"

"You can't sleep in this. Hell you can't live in this. We're going to take as many of your clothes with us as we can and wash them, you're going to sleep in my den. We'll come back tomorrow to pick up anything else you want."

Ryan gave Coral a puzzled look. "Why can't I sleep here? I've been doin' it for the past four years now. It's where I live."

Coral looked around the kitchen and saw an unopened box of garbage bags. He took one out and began to fill it with dirty clothes. He made a mental note to talk to James about having someone from housekeeping come over and clean the rest of the mess.

"This is not living. If the health department ever came here to inspect, it would be condemned." Coral said as he kicked aside some debris to pick up another layer of clothing from underneath.

Ryan looking dumbfounded at Coral asked, "What the hell are you doin'? I live here!"

"Not anymore, at least not for now. Not until this place is cleaned up and repaired." He pulled his hand back quickly as roaches, disturbed by his efforts to clean, ran for the nearest dark place.

Ryan shook his head. "You're not goin' to take no for an answer I see."

"Not from you. Not tonight." Coral retorted. He was appalled that his friend was living like this and no one had known. It was clear to him that Ryan wasn't able to live on his own in a responsible manner, at least not now.

"Now grab a bag and start picking up some of your stuff. Shake 'em out before you put 'em in the bag." He said, thinking about the roaches, he fought down a shudder. Coral was a brave man, but roaches freaked him out.

Ryan said, "I can't afford to live at TLR. I'm only part time."

"Ryan, you don't have to live like this. You know that as an employee of TLR your home as well as your meals are part of your wages.  If James knew your living conditions I know he'd find a place for you at the resort. And if it's money you're worried about for your other living expenses, then you can stay with me. We'll fix up the den as a bedroom for you and you'll have plenty of time to move your stuff in. You are not going to live in this place one more night. Do you understand me?"

Ryan huffed. "I don’t remember anythin’ about livin’ at TLR for free and I don't understand what all the fuss is about. I've been livin' here all this time and it's never been a problem."

"Ryan, the place is a dump. It's falling apart! And I don't even think I have to mention the bugs. You can't live like this. You've been a guest in my house often enough, and we've known each other long enough that you should have known I'd have helped you." Coral didn't think it was the time or place to point out to Ryan that he was obviously not able to take care of himself.

Ryan flushed and looked away. He picked up a bag and went about gathering his clothes and shoes not saying anything further, but his shoulders were slumped and he worried his lower lip the whole time with his teeth.

The older man saw his friend's dejected look and put a hand on his shoulder. "I'll take care of you."

Ryan with a heavy sigh said softly, "I think that's most of my stuff." He didn't look at Coral.

"Ok then, tie off the bags and we'll put them in the back of your jeep. We'll work out the arrangements once we're home and we have the first load of clothes in the wash."

Ryan glanced up and said "I really don't need takin' care of, but if it makes you feel better..."

Giving Ryan another stern look, Coral retorted, “It seems to me that you do need looking after, and it will make me feel better to know you're in a clean, safe place."

Ryan turned and snapped, "Yes your majesty!"

"Zip the lip, little boy, you're in a lot of trouble and your attitude isn't helping your case." Coral growled.

Ryan bit his lip and got quiet at Coral's words and growl.

"Better." Coral said with a curt nod. "Now let's get going, and no more lip." He said, leading the way out of the mobile home and heading toward the jeep.

Ryan trailed behind Coral silently, then looked back for a moment. He snatched the keys out of Coral's hands without saying a word, locked the trailer door and then tossed them back. He went on to the jeep in complete silence. 

“Ry, I didn’t see any guns in the trailer.  Are they secured?”

“Yeah, they’re in the safe at the range.  All secure and safe behind a three foot thick wall of concrete and steel.  Alarm set and fully protected.” The range owner answered.

Coral nodded then tossed the bags into the back of the jeep and drove back to the resort. Transferring the bags to the back of a golf cart and gesturing Ryan into the passenger seat, he drove to his bungalow, making a beeline to the washing machine with the first bag of clothes.

"Are you hungry?" He asked the young man who been standing in the doorway, unsure of what to do next.

Ryan shook his head and just watched Coral.

"Then come with me to the den. I have an air mattress in the closet, we'll fill that up and you can settle in for the night. We'll work out further details tomorrow."

Ryan followed Coral into the den still silent and watched as the older man attached the electric pump and blew up the mattress.

After Coral finished that task, he went back into the closet and brought out two fluffy pillows, sheets and blankets. He made up the mattress as comfortably as he could and then looked at Ryan.

"You can't sleep in those clothes." He observed. "Strip down to your boxers and I'll get you a pair of sleep pants and a tee shirt."

Ryan kicked off his boots then got down on the floor and crawled onto the mattress still in his clothes. His green eyes looked at the black ones and he turned on his side and curled up.

Coral frowned. "Get up, Ry. I told you to take those clothes off. I'm going to get you some clean clothes to sleep in. I know they'll be too big but they'll be more comfortable than your uniform."

Hearing Coral's words he gave him a look, but got up and did as he'd been told.

Coral felt his jaw clenching again. This boy was pushing his luck. He took the time while he retrieved the clothes to calm himself down again. He returned shortly with fleece sleep pants and a tee shirt.

"Here you go. Like I said, they'll be a little big on you, but you'll be a lot more comfortable."

Ryan shrugged, stripped down to his shorts and put the clothes on. The oversized sleep clothes made Ryan look much younger than his twenty-five years. He got down and crawled back onto the air mattress.

"Atta boy. Lie down now."

Ryan reluctantly did as he was told.

Smiling and much calmer now, Coral covered the boy with the blankets and wished him a good night. He walked to the door and shut off the light before going into the kitchen for a snack, and to contact James.

Once Coral left, Ryan lay there in the dark quietly, but tossed and turned unable to sleep. He never slept well in a strange place the first night, even though he’d been to Coral’s home many times, it was the first time he’d ever spent the night.

Not knowing if James were in cell phone range, Coral keyed in the walkie talkie, “Coral to James. Over."

"James here. Are you back? Is Ryan all right? Over."

"Ryan is fine. I have him at my place. I can't go into a lot of detail right now, but I had to bring him home with me. Over."

James raised an eyebrow even though Coral couldn't see him do so. "He didn't give you a lot of trouble did he?" Over."

"He had a bit of an attitude problem at first, but he settled down and he's bunked down in my den. Over"

James nodded to himself. "All right. I'll get the rest of the story from you in the morning then. As long as you're both okay and he isn't giving you a lot of trouble. If he does I can fire him. Over."

"I don't think he needs firing, sir. I think he needs help. Over."

James asked, "Does he need an alcohol rehab program? We can help with that if so. Over."

"That, among other things. I'll give you a full report in the morning. Over."

James nodded to himself once again. "All you need Heath to check on him? Over." James asked.

"In the morning, sir. Right now I just hope he can stay in bed and sleep it off. Over."

"All right, but if you need Heath anytime during the night don't hesitate to call him. If you don't he'll scold you. Over." James warned.

Coral bit back a smile at James's words. Heath did have a way of saying exactly what was on his mind. "Yes sir. I'll keep a close eye on him tonight and call Heath if anything happens. Over"

James smiled to himself. "All right. See you and talk to you in the morning. Over and out."

"Out." Coral replied, placing the walkie talkie on the table beside him. He put his head in his hands and said a short prayer for his friend.

When he finished he found he'd lost his appetite. He wrapped up the sandwich he'd been making and took out a can of soda. Normally he would have avoided caffeine so late but he had no intention of sleeping tonight.


Feeling a need to relieve himself Ryan pushed himself up and off the mattress and tripping over the long sleep pants fell, fortunately onto the mattress.

Coral heard the thud from the den and ran to see if Ryan was all right. "Ry?"  He asked, turning on the light in the hallway.

The young man scrambled up off the bed and almost tripped over the sleep pants once again.

Concerned, Coral bent down and rolled the pant cuffs up, then tried to help the younger man up.

Ryan got to his feet and began to head for the door.

"What's going on? Where are you going?" Coral asked, concerned.

Ryan shrugged and continued to the door that led into the hallway to the bathroom.

"Answer me, little boy." Coral demanded, becoming angry again. He'd always liked Ryan, but the boy was really getting on his nerves tonight.

Ryan turned. "Oh now you want me to speak? I need to go to the damn bathroom!"

Coral took a deep breath, coming to a decision.  "Do what you have to do, and I think we need to have a talk when you get back."

Ryan nodded. "Okay." He headed on to the bathroom. After finishing he returned to the den and headed for the mattress on the floor. "That's better." He said and sank down onto the mattress.

"I said we need to talk before you settle down. Sit up." Coral said, kneeling down next to the mattress.

Ryan sat up and frowned slightly. "What?"

"I've been patient with you, but I'm going to tell you something and I want you to listen good. You can talk if you want to talk, but if you give me anymore lip or attitude you're going to regret it. Got me?" The tall black man asked, black eyes boring into green.

Ryan asked, "What are you goin' to do?"

"Test me one more time and you'll find out." Coral warned. "Now are you ready to go to sleep or do you need something else?"

Ryan sighed. "I can't sleep. I have a hard time sleepin' in places I’m not used to." He shrugged.

"Do you have a night time ritual that would help you settle down? Music? Reading?"

Ryan said, "Video games."

Coral chuffed a laugh. "Well, I don't have many video games and it's too late to play them right now anyway. Can you think of something else?"

Ryan said hopefully, "A beer will do it."

"Warm milk it is. Sit tight." Coral said.

Ryan made a face. "Warm milk?"

"If you think for one minute that I'm going to get you a beer then you're more drunk than I thought." Coral smiled dangerously. "I'll be right back with your milk."

Ryan sighed and waited for Coral's return.

Coral heated up some milk and as an afterthought he put some cocoa into it. Stirring it well he brought it back to where Ryan was resting. "Here you go." He smiled.

Ryan smelled the cocoa and took the cup from Coral. "Thank you" He said quietly and sipped at the warm drink.

Coral waited until the boy had finished the drink and then took the cup back to wash.  "Will you be all right now?" He asked gently.

"Yeah, I think so.  Thanks." Ryan said, settling back down on the mattress.

Coral smiled and rubbed the young man's arm.  "Good night then, Ry." He said, pulling the covers over Ryan once again.

"Good night."  Ryan answered before shutting his eyes and falling into a deep sleep.


Early the next morning Coral, a light sleeper, woke to hear a noise in the house.  Instantly awake he made his way stealthily through the bungalow.  He quickly checked on Ryan only to find the boy not in his bed.  That was when he heard the refrigerator door close quietly.
He walked into the kitchen noiselessly and found Ryan twisting open a beer.  Angry, he strode over to the boy and took the bottle out of his hands.

Ryan slightly confused whirled around and yelled, "Hey! Gimme that!"

"Beer?  For breakfast?  Sorry Ryan, not going to happen," Coral said, pouring the beverage out into the sink and rinsing the bottle automatically. “Sit at the table, I'll make us some coffee, then we can talk about you sneaking a beer before the sun is even fully up."

Ryan was pale and shaking and he watched with horror as he saw the beer being poured out. He shouted, "No! What did you do?! I needed that!" He jerked open the refrigerator and grabbed another bottle of beer, twisting off the cap and downing half of it in one long swallow glaring at the other man.

Without blinking, Coral took the second bottle, and poured the remainder down the sink as well.  He then turned, took Ryan by the arm and landed a resounding swat on the young man's backside. 

"That will be enough of that, little boy!"  Coral ordered.

Ryan jumped and yelped, "Ouch! What the hell did you do that for?" He pouted and rubbed his bottom that stung now.

"You are not going to disrespect me in my own house, young man.  If you think I'm going to stand by and let you destroy yourself with alcohol, you're wrong.  Now unless you want another one, I suggest you not reach for another bottle of beer, sit down as you were told, and have some coffee.  I'll have breakfast ready soon."

Coral made sure Ryan was seated before turning toward the refrigerator to gather food to make breakfast.  He counted the bottles of beer that were left over and was glad to see that only the two bottles were missing. Coral took out a large bottle of orange juice.  He poured each of them a glass.  "Drink this, you need to get some liquids and vitamins back into that body of yours. You look like death warmed over." He said.  The boy's unusually pale complexion and shaking were even more noticeable and Coral worried that Ryan's drinking problem was worse than he thought.

Ryan could see the big man was serious and sat down, his bottom still having a bit of a lingering sting. He was feeling a little better with the bit of alcohol he had consumed, but his head was aching and his yelling and shouting hadn’t helped. He propped his elbows on the table and put his head in his hands. The smell of coffee and food was making him queasy and he was turning a bit green as his stomach roiled.

Coral, observant as always, placed a bucket next to Ryan's chair.  He placed two slices of dry toast in front of the boy.  "Try to eat a little."  He said, his tone much kinder than it had been.

Ryan was still shaking some and he really wished he could have another beer. It would make this misery stop.  "If you'd let me have a bottle of beer then I wouldn't look like death warmed over." He said and pushed the glass of orange juice away, it making him feel queasier.

Coral poured cream into the coffee and added a generous amount of sugar, then placed that in front of Ryan as well.

"No beer.  Actually, you're better off with a cool glass of water," he said, placing that where the orange juice had been.  "Try to eat that toast.  It might help with the nausea."

Ryan picked up a piece of toast and tried to nibble on it and pushed the coffee away as well. "I can't stomach the smell." He told Coral and suddenly put the toast down and promptly emptied the contents of his stomach into the pail the man had placed at his side.

Coral was immediately by the boy's side, holding his head up so that the blood didn't rush to it. Once Ryan was done, Coral helped him back up gently so as not to upset his stomach any more, and helped the boy get some of the water down. Ryan moaned and was clammy.

Coral was surprised to hear a knock on the door.  Taking one last glance at the sick man and assuring Ryan he'd be right back, he went to answer the door.  He wasn't surprised to find Heath standing there, medical bag in hand and looking grim.

"I heard from James that you have a guest it need of my services."

"You heard right.  Your timing couldn't be better.  Please come inside. Ry is in the kitchen."

Ryan leaned over and made use of the bucket once more.

Heath followed Coral into the kitchen taking in the scene at the table.

Coral raced back into the kitchen and held Ryan's head and hair back again.

"How long has he been like this, Coral?” The young doctor asked.

Ryan sat back up once more, tears in his eyes and shaking. "'m soorry." He apologized.

"I caught him just a few minutes ago, opening a beer.  He grabbed another one and sucked half of it down before I could stop him.  He's been sick for the past minute or so.  I was just about to call you."

The young man was shaking, his skin was clammy, he was sweating, his eyes blood shot and his stomach was still roiling.

Coral wasn't unmoved by Ryan's pitiful appearance and put a comforting hand on the boy's shoulder.

"I tried to get him to drink a little juice and have some toast to settle his stomach but everything is making him sick."  Coral explained to the doctor.

"Was he sick last night too?"

He pressed the glass of water to Ryan's parched lips, trying to get to boy to get some fluid into him.  "I didn't hear him if he was...  Ry?"

Ryan shook his head at the doctor's question, wished he hadn’t, and cautiously drank some of the water.

Then the young man said, "It began when I woke up along with this ragin' headache."

"I have some non-aspirin pain reliever, Doc.  Should I give him a couple of those, or would his stomach just reject those as well? He can't afford to lose any more fluid.  His skin is dry as a bone."

"I doubt his stomach can handle it and I'm afraid this is going to get worse before it gets better."

"Should we get him to the infirmary?" Coral asked, concerned.

"No, I think we can handle this here," Heath answered.  "Let's get him back to bed and I'll give him something to help."

Ryan said, "Bed...yeah."

“The blow up mattress is kind of low, I'll just put him into my bed.  It'll be easier to tend to him there," Coral said, helping the young man up and leading him into his own bedroom.  Coral laid the boy gently on the bed.  Ryan snuggled down into Coral's large bed gratefully.

Heath sat his bag on the night stand and pulled out a couple of silver packages.  "Can you pull his pants down for me, Coral?"

Coral gently rolled the young man onto his stomach, tugging the sleep pants down as he did so.

Ryan panicked. "No!" He cried and tried to hold onto his pants.

"Stop that now," Coral commanded.  "The doctor is just trying to help you."

"Easy, son, I'm not going to hurt you," Heath tried to reassure the young man.  "This will help settle your stomach."

"Stop! What are you doin'?!" Ryan cried panic and fear in his voice.

Heath opened the package in front of Ryan's eyes so the boy could see what he was doing.

Ryan looked at the packet. "What's that? What are you goin' to do with it?" He asked, his voice small, scared and shaky.

"Since you can't keep anything in your stomach, I'm going to insert some medication rectally.  Once that takes effect your headache should be gone.”

"Now, let Coral slip those pants down.  Then I want you to relax.  This isn't going to hurt."  Heath reassured the younger man.  “I’ll add another one to help with the nausea."

Ryan bit his lip and clutched the covers he was lying on and squeezed his eyes shut tightly.

"Ry, I need you to relax."

Ryan let Coral pull his pants down the rest of the way, but was scared and couldn't help clutching onto the covers for dear life and biting his lower lip, hard. "Go ahead." He said in a tight voice.

Heath easily slipped both bullets into Ryan.  And pulled the boy's sleep pants back up.  "You need to lay still for a few minutes and let the meds work," he instructed.

Ryan let his breath out that he had been holding and said, "Yes Sir." He relaxed his grip on the covers now and lay still, the feeling of the suppositories both a bit uncomfortable, but in a way strangely comforting. He'd never had suppositories before and he found the sensations a bit confusing.

Coral went into the kitchen and retrieved the bucket.  He then went into the bathroom, dumped and rinsed it and then dampened a washcloth before bringing the items into the bedroom. He cleaned Ryan's face and mouth before settling the bucket closer to the bed.

Ryan," Heath asked, "how long has your drinking been a problem?"

Ryan craned his head over his shoulder. "It's only a problem for others, not for me." He griped. "I don't have a drinking problem," Ryan answered with a crooked grin.  "I drink, I get drunk, no problem."

"Any drinking that leaves you in this condition is a problem," Coral disagreed.

Ryan shrugged. "I can do everythin' just fine. I come to work, I do my work and I don't come to work drunk and I don't drink on the job. I only drank a bit more last night because the boys at the firin' range stayed late and we had pizza and beer. I don't see what the problem is. A couple of beers in the morning and I'm okay for the rest of the day until late afternoon or evening when I drink again, if I'm going to work I make sure to stop drinking' in enough time to not have it on my breath or impair me." He told Heath with Coral listening.

Coral frowned. "I could smell the beer on you from across the room, Ryan, so don't give me that.  It smelled like you'd taken a bath in the stuff."

Ryan frowned as well. "I told you it was because I lost track of time with my friends and I didn't realize it was so close to my report time or I would have stopped earlier like I usually do."

"The fact that you have to drink in the morning just to feel better from the night before is a warning signal, young man." Coral maintained.

“Coral’s right, Ryan,” Heath agreed.

Ryan shrugged. "It works so what's wrong with it?"

"It means you're not as in control of your drinking as you think." Coral retorted.
"And from what I saw last night, it's not helping you in your daily life either."

Ryan snapped, "It's none of your business as long as I arrive for work unimpaired and don't drink on the job and perform my job well."

"What did you see last night, Coral," Heath asked.

"His trailer is falling apart.  There were dirty clothes and trash all over the place, not to mention the roach problem.  I don't know what all else might have been living in there besides him. We gathered up as many of his clothes as possible in a short time and brought them here to be washed. But the trailer itself is uninhabitable, as far as I'm concerned."

Ryan had the ability still to feel somewhat embarrassed at what Coral had seen last night. "If he'd left me at the entrance and let me walk to my house like I had wanted to then he wouldn't have had to see any of that."

"It's a good thing I did," Coral replied.  "You can't live in conditions like that, Ryan.  And I told you last night, if I'd known earlier that you weren't taking care of yourself, I'd have stepped in sooner."

"Ryan, let me ask you something.  Do you like living that way?  Do you want continue living like that?"  Heath asked.

"Heck, I've been livin' there for the past four years, ever since I left my parents. No one has said I couldn't live there. It was the office for the firin' rage and I could see no reason not to live there too."

"Were you paying rent for that dump?"  Coral asked angrily.

Ryan looked at Heath and shrugged. "Doc, it's a place to live and it's cheap since I own it. I only have to pay the electricity and internet. I eat take out so I don't have to cook and I put on the propane when it gets really cold in the winter."

"I can understand that Ry, but maybe part of your problem is that you are alone too much," Heath said.

"You were complaining to me last night that money was an issue for you.  If you bought groceries and cooked at home you'd save a lot of money." Coral pointed out.  "And I saw all those games and gaming systems.  No one needs that many.  Cut down on those and you'll save even more money."

Ryan frowned. "I can't cook and my video games keep me company."

"Then perhaps Heath is right and you're too much alone.  I think moving in with me, at least temporarily, would be a good idea." Coral said, thinking that it would also be a good way to keep a closer eye on the boy.

Ryan frowned. "I'm grown up, I'm not a kid."

Coral made a mental note to contact James after Heath finished tending to Ryan.

Heath was quiet for a moment then said, "Ryan you are going to need help until you are feeling better and Coral's offer is the perfect solution."

Ryan glanced from one man to the other. "Are you sayin' that if I don't do all this I'll lose my job here at TLR?  Did Mr. Harrington put you up to this?" He asked a bit suspiciously.

"James is all for getting you the help you need, he didn't put us up to anything.  Right now he doesn't know any more than what happened last night.  I'm to give him a report this morning, after we're done here."

Heath saw the boy wince.  "I think you should try and get some sleep, Ry, and will talk about this later," Heath said.  "How's your stomach?  If your stomach is better let me give you something to help with the withdrawal."

Ryan said, "My stomach is feeling a bit better and that sounds good Doc." He sighed feeling the weight of everything on him right now. He glanced at Coral and said a bit belligerently, "Go ahead and give him your report and don't forget to make sure you tell him what a loser Ryan O'Donnell is." Ryan rolled over onto his side and glanced from one man to the other...

"You're not a loser, Ryan O'Donnell.  You just need help." Coral said in a gentler tone. "If you're the adult you say you are, then you'll accept the help, without further attitude. In the meantime, you should do as Heath said and get some rest."

Ryan bit his lip, tears in his green eyes and said in a dispirited tone, "Whatever you say, do whatever you have to."

“Ry, most of this is the alcohol talking and not really you.  We understand that but the choice to change has to be yours."

Heath handed Ryan a Librium pill and a glass of water.  "Here, see if you can get this down."

"In the meantime, you'll stay with me. Heath will help you maintain your health, and we'll figure out a budget for you. We're your friends, Ry.  We're here to help."

Ryan sighed and took the pill offered. "'Kay...I'll try it for a while, but what about the firein' range and my place?"

Heath watched as Coral helped the young man hold the glass to his lips and smiled.

"I'll check on it," Coral reassured the young man.  "I know a guy who can look after it for you until you're back on your feet."

Coral hadn't gotten much sleep the previous evening, constantly waking for any sound from Ryan, but he wasn't due back to work til Thursday and he planned to go to the trailer and clean it up as much as he could after he spoke to James.

Ryan nodded. ''Kay, but it won't be for long. Then I'll go back to my place. I'm sure I'll feel better in a few days."

While Heath and Ryan talked, Coral went out into the kitchen and removed every bottle of beer he had from his refrigerator.  He put them in a bag and placed the bag outside his door to be removed later.  He went back into the kitchen and called out "Does anyone want a cup of coffee?  Ry, how's your stomach? Think you can handle some toast and juice now?"

Ryan looked at Heath. "My stomach and headache seem better."

"Do you feel like eating anything?"

Ryan said, '"I can try some toast I think."

Not receiving an answer to his question, Coral went back into the bedroom in time to hear Ryan's response.

"Ok, toast coming up... do you feel you could drink something?  I can bring you a glass of water."

Ryan thought about the water and then said, "'Kay I'll try some water."

Nodding approvingly, Coral went back into the kitchen, made some fresh toast and got a bottle of water from his fridge to bring to Ryan.

He entered the room smiling, glad his friend was feeling better and was surrounded by friends.  "Here you go, kiddo.  And don't get any crumbs in my bed, got me?" he grinned.

Ryan grinned back mischievously for the first time since the night before and said, "Just for swattin' me I should leave crumbs in your bed."

"Leave crumbs in my bed and you'll get more than a swat, brat." Coral grinned back.

Ryan pouted. "You wouldn't hit a man when he was down would you?"

"You won't be down for long, pal, and I know where you sleep." Coral growled, his tone belied by the twinkle in his dark eyes.

"Well I think I've done all I can for now." Heath chuckled.  “Coral I’m going to leave more Librium pills for him to take over the next few days and the suppositories for nausea if needed and pain if he has cramps and such. I’ll check on him a couple of times a day.  Let me know if his condition worsens. The Librium will keep the shakes and the seizures under control.  It should also help with the anxiety as well as any hallucinations that can occur from the DT's."
"Thanks doc, I still have to go see James, do you mind staying with him for about an hour?"

"Sure no problem." Heath answered.  "He should sleep soon."

"Thanks doc, and you," Coral said, training his eyes on Ryan, "Get some sleep.  I'll be back in a little while. Understood?"

Ryan groused, "Bossy, bossy, bossy pants. I'll get some sleep." He yawned at that and settled comfortably on his side.

Coral smiled, resisting the urge to give the boy a hug.  He picked up some clean clothes and dressed in the bathroom before calling James.

Heath smiled at Ryan, "He cares about you and just wants you to be safe, you know?"

Ryan looked up at Heath and nodded. "Yeah, Coral's been a good friend to me ever since he was my instructor at the police academy." He couldn't suppress another wide yawn and his eyes began to close.

Heath pulled the blanket up over the sleeping boy's shoulders and left him to sleep.


James was at his desk cat napping as he had come into the office after his long night, taking Ryan's shift. He wondered how the young man was doing when he was startled by the ringing of the phone. "Harrington here." He answered.

"James, it's Coral. Is it too early to come and talk to you?"

James said, "No, of course not, come on over Coral. Maybe after we talk I'll go on back to my house and take a cat nap and let Jax watch over me." He teased.

Coral smiled. He was sure that the kid was capable of just about anything, James and Heath had been taking such good care of him.

"All right then, I'll be there in five." He said.

James smiled. "All right, I'll be waiting, but if it's more than five I might be asleep." He laughed.

"Thanks for reminding me, I'll be sure to bring the bull horn. See you in a few." Coral said, hanging up before he realized he'd completely forgotten his manners. He shrugged. If James wanted to call him on it he would apologize. In the meantime, he called a goodbye over his shoulder and headed out.

He arrived at James's office in record time and knocked politely at the door.


James laughed as he hung up the phone. In five minutes there was a knock on his door and he called, "Come on in Coral."

"Good morning James. I'll try not to keep you too long." The tall black man said, smiling.

Before James could ask, Coral filled him in on Ryan and his living conditions.

"Heath is taking care of him now, and I was going to head over to do a little cleaning, but I was wondering if we could get someone from housekeeping over there to fix the place up."

 James sat there and listened as Coral described the conditions Ryan had been living in and shook his head. "I'd be happy to send someone from housekeeping over to clean up the place, Maybe Jeff will allow Mutt, if he’s feeling up to it to go over to take a look at what repairs need to be done and perhaps he can recommend someone to do some of them."

"Thank you James. Right now, Ryan is in the denial stage and won't admit he has a problem. Heath gave him something to help with his symptoms and is going to keep an eye on him til I get back."

James asked, "Is there anything I can do to help, or do you think you have things under control?"

"I'm sure that if Heath thinks there's a bigger problem, he'll tell you. In the meantime I'm headed over to the trailer." He couldn't help an embarrassed expression, "Uh, do you mind if I raid the supply closet for some bug spray. He's got some unwelcome houseguests and I, ah, well they give me the judders."

James said, "No, take what you need.”
"Once I'm done picking up the trash and putting the dishes in to soak, I wouldn't complain if Mutt came to assess the trailer, and if anyone from housekeeping happened to show up, I wouldn't complain about that either."

“Let me make a quick phone call to housekeeping and get a team over there, then I'll call Jeff and maybe Mutt can come with you." James said, picking up the phone and calling housekeeping.

"Thanks James." Coral smiled gratefully at his friend and boss.

After a short conversation, James looked up and smiled at the tall man before him. "All right Coral, housekeeping will send a team of cleaners who aren't concerned about bugs, they said they should be there in about forty-five minutes....I know how to get to the firing range, but how do you get to Ryan's trailer?"

"There's a fork in the road Ry's trailer is at the end of the right fork behind some trees."

James nodded. "All right. Thank you, you're a good friend to Ryan, Coral." James said before putting the hand set back up to his ear and relaying the directions to the head of housekeeping.

"That's what friends are for, and TLR is more like a family in my mind."

James smiled as he hung up.  "It's exactly what we strive for, do you want to stick around a few minutes to see if Mutt can go with you?"

"Sure, the place isn't going anywhere." Coral joked. "Unless it falls off it's base."

"Or if the bugs carry it away." James teased.  “Let me give Jeff a call now." He dialed Jeff's number.

"Good morning, James," Jeff said, looking at the caller ID. "How are you this morning?"

James said, "I'm a bit tired. I had to take over Ryan O'Donnell's shift last night."

"Ry... is he all right?" Jeff asked, concerned. He liked the young man.

James went on to explain Ryan's situation and what Coral found out after driving him home.

Jeff sighed. He suspected something but had never had any proof about Ryan. "Hold on a second, James, please, let me get Mutt."

James said, "Okay."

James could hear Jeff calling Mutt, and someone limping quickly and groaning at the same time.

He grinned when he heard Jeff scold, "Take your time, there’s no need for you to hurry, young man. James would like to talk to you."

"Did I do something wrong?" Mutt asked worriedly.

"Not that we're aware of." Jeff said arching his eyebrows. "Did you?"

"No sir."

"Then you have nothing to worry about. Now James is waiting," He said, holding the handset out to Mutt.

Mutt took the handset and put it to his ear. "Good morning, James. What's up?"

"Good morning Mutt. I have a favor to ask of you."

"Sure, anything." Mutt replied.

James smiled, even though Mutt couldn't see it. "Mutt I'd like you to go with Coral. He found out last night that our young security officer Ryan is living in a trailer that's in bad shape. I'd like you to take a look at it and see if it's salvageable and if it is what work needs to be done and what you think it might cost to do it. I know you're very capable of making such decisions and reports."

Mutt raised his own eyebrows in surprise. He had no idea that Ryan was so bad off. "Sure, where does Coral want to meet? Parking lot?"

Jeff looked questioningly at Mutt and Mutt put up a finger to say one minute.

James covered the mouthpiece with his hand. "Do you want to meet Mutt or pick him up?"

"Well, after all he went through, I'm sure that Mutt is still a bit sore so I'll pick him up and we'll go from there." Coral said decisively.

James nodded his head. He uncovered the mouthpiece and said, "Coral will pick you up."

"Sounds good, I'll be waiting." Mutt replied.

"Thank you Mutt. I appreciate this." James said to the younger man.

"Anything for you, James," Mutt smiled.

James smiled. “All right Mutt. Coral will be there soon. Good-bye."

James hung up and smiled at Coral. "Everything's set. Mutt will be waiting for you. Let me know how everything went when you get back okay?"


"Goodbye James." Mutt said. Hanging up, he turned to Jeff to explain the situation.

"Well of course we have to help him.” Jeff agreed.  “Promise me that you’ll be careful and not over do. Let me know if you need me for anything."

"Will do," Mutt said, going up on tip toe to plant a careful kiss on his husband's lips.

Minutes later Coral arrived to pick Mutt up and drove him to the trailer. Mutt's eyes widened when he saw the condition of the vehicle his friend had been living in.

Coral and Mutt walked in, wrinkling their noses at the smell and then promptly opened windows.

"There's a lot of water damage here." Mutt noticed. "I wouldn't be surprised to find mold in the walls." Was his first assessment.

The cleaning crew arrived shortly after Mutt and Coral. They set to work putting to rights what they could. They set out traps to rid the place of the creepy crawlers and a couple of furry little visitors as well.

While housekeeping did their job, Mutt walked around the property. Despite his injuries, and with Coral's help, they raked the dead leaves and branches into a pile to be removed later. The grass needed cutting so Mutt saw to that while Coral trimmed the hedges. When they finished, Mutt walked around the outside of the trailer again and found several holes where the furry critters had gotten in.

"I don't think this place is worth repairing, Cor." He said somberly. "It's a dump even after being cleaned up."

Just then the head of the cleaning crew approached Coral. "Coral, I believe we've done the best we could with the place." He glanced at the trailer that was still not a very pleasant place to live in.  “I do hope it's as satisfactory as it can be."

Coral smiled at the man and said, "If you did half as good a job as you do at the resort, I'd be willing to bet he could eat off the floor if he had to." He complimented.

The man smiled. "Thank you, if there's nothing else required, we'll be returning, but I'd like you to take a look before we leave."

"Sure," Coral said, following the man back into the trailer. He smiled approvingly. The place was spotless, the dishes washed and set to dry, a load of laundry in the washing machine, and no sign of any life that didn't belong there.

The man smiled. "I hoped you'd approve."

"You did a fantastic job. Thank you." Coral responded. He knew that James was going to pay them extra and they definitely deserved it.

The man asked, "You won't forget to put the things from the washer into the dryer will you? Or do you want me to have one of my staff stay to look after that?"

"That's all right. Mutt and I need to stay here a while longer. We'll wait for the clothes to be done and take them back to the resort with us."

The man nodded. "Very good. We'll be taking our leave then." The man and his crew loaded up into one of the TLR vans and headed back to the resort.


While Coral had been inspecting the work, Mutt had called Torren and Adam, and explained the situation with the trailer. "It's clean now but there are a lot of holes that have to be patched up in the meantime. I think the whole place is going to have to be junked but if Ry is going to come back and live here, we should make it as safe for him as possible."

"Do you want us to come out now?" Torren asked.

"Let me talk to James first. He might want to come out and look the place over himself. I'm just giving you a heads up."

Coral came out in time to hear the last of the conversation. "I hate to call James again, he didn't get any sleep last night. Can the rest of this wait til tomorrow?"

"I think Torren should at least come out and patch up the holes so that nothing else crawls in tonight." Mutt suggested.

Coral sighed. Mutt had only just told him that the place wasn't worth saving but he understood the boy's reasoning.

"All right. Get Tor out here to do the patch job and we'll talk to James in the morning."

"Will do." Mutt said, smiling. He called Torren back and asked the other man to bring the tools needed.

Torren and Adam arrived about twenty minutes later with everything that Mutt said they needed and began work. When they finished, they loaded the bags of trash and bundles of lawn debris and put them into the back of the truck.  They would stop at the dump before returning to the resort.

"I don't know about you but I need a shower." Torren said, wiping sweat from his forehead.

"Me too." Adam said, looking Torren in the eyes and smiling.

"Get a room." Mutt joked.

"We plan to." Adam leered at Torren hurrying to finish so they could get back to their bungalow.


James, waking from his nap a few hours later, picked up his cell phone and called Coral.

"Coral here."

James said, "How is everything Coral?"

"Housekeeping did a spectacular job. Mutt called Adam and Torren to come and fix as much as could be done, but he says he thinks the trailer isn't salvageable. He's worried about mold in the walls from all the water damage from the leaks in the roof."

James said, "That's too bad. Of course Ryan can have a bungalow here at TLR as an employee."

"All right then sir. We just have to wait for a load of laundry to dry and we'll head back."

James said, "All right. When you get back you can talk to Ryan about what you found out and let him know there's no problem with him having his own bungalow here unless you don't think he should be living alone right now and want him to stay with you? Either way it's not a problem."

"I'd like to have him living with me, sir. I'm pretty positive that left on his own he'll go right back to his old ways."

James said, "Then I'll approve him living with you Coral and if you need anything from me I'm always available and willing to help any way I can."

"Thank you James. I may need some help in getting him to agree to stay with me until he's better."

James said, "I'll tell him he either has to stay with you or he's fired."

Coral raised his eyebrows but didn't contradict James. Coral was no stranger to tough love. He just hoped that Ryan would be cooperative. "All right, sir. Mutt and I will be back soon."

James said, "All right...and Coral?"

"Yes sir?"

"If you want to be responsible for Ryan, you know what TLR is all about." He said, knowing he didn't have to say more.

"Yes sir." Coral said, understanding what James hadn't said. "I'll do my best with him."

"Good man Coral. I know the two of you have history together and I'm sure he trusts you even if he pushes you."

Coral laughed, "He pushes everyone, but he won't get away with it with me. I'll take care of him." He reassured the older man.

James said, "I knew I could count on you Coral. He's a good kid."

"Yeah, he is. Thank you sir. I'll talk to you again later when I get back home."

James said, "All right. I'm going to go take care of some things too. Good bye for now Coral. See you soon."

"Goodbye sir."

After he hung up he turned to look for Mutt.  He saw the younger man disconnecting and collecting all of Ryan's game stations and games and putting them into a box.  Seeing Coral's raised eyebrows, he said, “We really shouldn't leave them here, and if he's anything like me and my games he's going to want them." 

Coral watched as Mutt carefully placed everything into the box and test it to see if it would hold.  He huffed in frustration because he was still so sore from is encounter with Gene.

Coral took the box from Mutt, frowning, making a mental note to limit Ryan's game time.  He liked games well enough himself, but it looked as though that was all that Ryan did, and it wasn't healthy.

"I'm ready when you are." Mutt smiled.

They loaded the box of games and the bags of clean laundry into the back of Coral's truck and headed back home.


After dropping Mutt at his home, Coral returned to his bungalow and placed the box containing Ryan's games on the kitchen table. He walked into the living room to find Ryan sitting in the recliner, watching television with a can of Coke beside him, looking and apparently feeling much better.

Ryan looked up. "Hi Coral. Heath said he had to go back to the infirmary to work on some things, so Duke came over to keep me company."

"I'm glad he did, I’m also glad to see you looking better. How do you feel?"

Ryan said, "Better, not sick to my stomach anymore and no headache."

Duke ambled into the room from the hallway where the bathroom was and smiled at Coral. “Hi Coral, Heath asked if I would stay with Ryan. I was bored and not doin’ anythin’ so it helped us both out.”

Coral smiled at the big man who was his superior officer and boss. “Good to see you out and about, Duke. When are you coming back?”

Duke shrugged. “Whenever my jailer says I can.”

Coral laughed and put a hand on the other man’s shoulder and squeezed. “It won’t be too much longer I’m sure before he allows you some light duty.”

Duke sighed and nodded. “I know. Now that you’re back, Coral, I’m goin’ back. Jake will be by to check on me in a while, like he usually does, and if I’m not there he’ll call out the Calvary.”

Coral smiled. “All right Duke, Thanks for staying with Ryan.”

Ryan smiled. “Yeah Duke, thanks it was nice to have company.”

Duke grinned at both men. “It was my pleasure. I’ll see you both soon.”

Coral and Ryan smiled back and nodded.

Duke left Coral’s bungalow and headed back to his own place.


Coral smiled approvingly at Ryan as Duke left. "Why don't you turn off the TV for a while and we'll talk about a few things." His tone making it clear that it wasn't really a request.

Ryan frowned slightly, but flicked the TV off with the remote. "What do you want to talk about?" He asked warily.

"It's about your trailer. It's been cleaned up and some repairs have been made, but Mutt says there's mold, and he thinks that it isn't worth saving. That means that I want you to stay here with me until we can figure out what our options are."

Ryan opened his mouth to protest, but closed it and slumped in his chair. "All right." He said softly.

"Want to tell me what's bothering you, Ry?" Coral asked gently.

Ryan snapped, "Nothing...I gotta do as you say anyway, I ain't got no choice."
"Have you spoken to James yet?" Coral asked, wondering if James had told Ryan what he'd told him.

Ryan shook his head. "No, I haven't seen James or talked to him."

"All right kiddo. James did say he wants you to stay with me. It won't be all bad," He said, as he walked back into the kitchen to bring Ryan the box of games.

Ryan's green eyes lit up as he saw what Coral brought into the living room. "You got my games!" He grinned. "Can I set 'em up right now?" He asked reaching for the box. "Let me see...we'll have to move a few things around to set 'em up and I'll have to see if the TV's got the right hook ups...if not we'll have to get a newer TV." He went on planning out his games.

"Wait just one minute, young man, we've got to lay out some ground rules before you set anything up." Coral said sternly.

Ryan looked at Coral. "Ground rules? Why?"

“Because you're not going to be sitting in front of that game console all day every day. You're going to have time restrictions."

Ryan looked shocked. "I'm not a kid, I'm a grown man and if I want to spend all day playing video games then it's my own business."

"While you're living with me, and you will be for some time, you'll have chores to do around the house, as soon as you're better. And then you'll have your shift to cover. You're not going to have time to sit and play video games all day. If you disregard my words, little boy, you won't be sitting at all. Understood?"

Ryan looked at Coral. "You...well don't have the right." He pouted. “We're not partners..." He trailed off and then bit his lips thinking he had just said too much.

"We're not partners, you're right about that. But you've proven to me that you need guidance and help, and I'm your friend."

Ryan looked at Coral studying him for a long moment and then nodded. "Yes, you've been my friend for a long time Coral, but you never swatted me before this mornin' and...well, it sounds like you want to take that further."

"Only because I care about you Ryan. You've been on your own and by yourself for too long, and you obviously don't take care of yourself. I'm here to help you, and if the occasional swat is needed, then I'll deliver that as well."

Ryan said, "I noticed...but a couple of times you said things that sound like you want to do more than the occasional swat. I'm not sure how I feel about that."

Coral took a breath, gathering his thoughts before answering. "You have a bad temper, Ry, and it gets in the way of your relationships with other people. That needs to stop. You need someone to guide you, help you with your temper, take care of you, and I believe that I'm that person."

Ryan bit his lip he knew what Coral said about his temper was true. "How can you help me?"

"By being there for you to stop the negative behavior, teach you better living habits, help you with your problems, be there when you need a shoulder, and sometimes, not always, disciplining you when you get too far out of line."

Ryan squirmed. "What kind of discipline? Swats?"

"Swats, sometimes. Extra chores. Writing lines to get a point through to you. And if those don't work, if you need it, I might take you over my knee and give you a sound spanking. But I'm hoping that you'll work with me and it won't come to that." Coral said quietly.

Ryan's green eyes widened. "S-spankin'? I'm way too old for that!"

Coral smiled in an understanding manner. "That's what I said to my commander the first time he did it to me. He said that as long as I continued to behave badly, then I was obviously not too old to be spanked."

Ryan looked at Coral in shock. "Y-you?!"

Coral smiled broadly. "Yep. Me. I thought that giving you extra pushups and such was sufficient but given your behavior and seeing your living conditions, I'm of the opinion that you need to learn discipline as much as I did."

 Ryan bit his lip. " helped you? What did you do?"

"It was hard to submit at first. I was cocky and sure of myself and thought that he couldn't possibly help me in any way... until the first time he walloped me. That was an eye opener." He laughed.

Ryan asked, "Why did you"

"Because I knew I deserved it. After a while I knew I needed it. He changed my attitude and my life. I was headed down a very bad path and he helped steer me in the right direction."

"You don't need it anymore?"

"I may feel the need for it on occasion, but I've learned to think before I act or speak, and that helps me to be a better person."

 Ryan nodded. "So he still does it?"

"He comes to visit now and again, and he threatens to do it, but he hasn't in years because he knows I learned my lessons well."

Ryan nodded. "I don't think I'd want that."

"No one wants a spanking, Ry. There's a purpose to it, and that purpose is to help you be a better person. To think before you speak or act out, to teach you to take better care of yourself and your belongings, and to ask for help when you know you need it. Whether that's a hand to help you move, or a hand on your backside on occasion."

Ryan asked softly, "You care that way for me? I still have my parents."

"Your parents aren't here. I am. And yes, I do care enough about you to want to you have a good life. I was very fond of you in the academy. I saw great potential in you, and that potential hasn't been met from what I can see. I'm not going to stand by and let you drown."

Ryan bit his lip and hung his head. "I've liked you too."

"Then let me help you." Coral replied frankly.

Ryan's green eyes came up and met the black ones and he said softly, "'Kay...but it's sort of scary, but I'm a big boy. I'm a security officer...I'm not supposed to be scared of anythin'."

"There's nothing to be scared of," Coral said, sitting on the arm of the recliner and putting a comforting hand on Ryan's shoulder. "I'll never give you more than you deserve or can handle, and Ry...?"

"Um...yes Coral?" He asked hesitantly.

"Once it's over, it's over and done with. Forgotten and forgiven. Understood?"

Ryan looked puzzled. "You mean whatever you may spank me for is done then?"

"As long as you've learned from the experience, then the subject is dropped. If you forget, then I'll have to reinforce it, but no matter what, you'll always be forgiven."

Ryan nodded. "All right Coral...I'm always forgiven?"

Coral put a comforting arm around the younger man. "Always." He said with conviction.

Ryan unconsciously snuggled closer to Coral.

"What things will you do that to me for?" He asked quietly.

"Disregarding your own health and safety for one thing." Coral answered calmly.  "All the poor habits you've developed, not eating right, drinking, playing video games when you’ve used your allotted time, not taking responsibility for picking up after yourself, dirty clothes all over the place and bad attitude, disobeying things I place in order for you, defiance, being sneaky, deceitful and doing dangerous things."

"You can have fun, but within boundaries. As I said before, you're not going to be in front of the television all day, playing games. You'll need to get a reasonable amount of sleep every night and after your shift when you go back to work."

"I suppose if I smoked you wouldn't let me do that either."

"No, Ry. Smoking ruins more than your health. It's bad for your teeth, your skin, your lungs. If you want to be a successful security guard, you're going to have to do some running. You won't be able to do that while you're gasping for breath."

Ryan said, "I can run and I don't smoke anyway."

"And we're going to keep it that way." Coral replied sternly. "If I catch you smoking you won't sit for a week that goes for drinking too."

Ryan's green eyes widened. "Havin' a few beers don't hurt!"

"They obviously hurt you. Your judgement is impaired, as well as your reaction time. You don't seem to know when to stop. You don't seem to know what your limits are, and that has to stop."

"I don't drink on the job ever and I always make sure I don't drink for a few hours before comin' to work...last night I just lost track of time!" Ryan protested, pulling away from Coral now.

Coral said patiently, "Ry, we've been over all that. It's not just that you lost track of time. It's the irritability I'm seeing now that you've been off the alcohol for a bit, drinking in the morning isn't normal. People who don't have a problem have one or two and they're good, they don't continue on until they pass out or lose track of time or their judgment. People who have a problem can find a million excuses why it's not a problem, people who don't can find a million why it is. I care about you buddy and I really don't want to see you go down that path. We can stop this now if you'll be cooperative and work with me here. I don't want you to lose your job either and that will happen if you keep this up."

Ryan listened to Coral's words. He sighed. He knew deep inside Coral was right, but a part of him didn't want to admit it. "I know Coral...I don't want to be spanked so I can't sit for a week though...that swat you gave me hurt enough." He pouted.

"Then do as you're told, and there won't be any reason for me to swat you. Deal?"

Ryan said, "I'll"

Coral smiled, a genuine smile, and held out his hand to shake Ryan's. "Deal."

Ryan for the first time since all this happened gave Coral his boyish, charming smile that lit up the green eyes. "Deal."

Unable to resist the bright smile, Coral smiled back and pulled Ryan into a hug. He knew that it was going to be a long haul, but for his friend, he was in for as long as it took.

Ryan couldn't resist snuggling into the big man as he was pulled into the hug. "Thanks Coral." He said softly, "Thanks for carin'."

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