Author's Notes: This story takes place directly following the episode 'With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept'. This is my last One Tree Hill story, because I stopped watching the show. Written April 2006.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, and I am not making any money from these stories.
Warning: Non consensual disciplinary spanking of a teen by a parental figure.



Restitution


Keith looked down at Jimmy with tears in his eyes because he couldn't stop it from happening. He looked up and saw Dan come in. He looked back down at Jimmy and said, "He's gone Danny."

Then when Keith looked over at Dan again he was shocked to see that Dan had the gun Jimmy had just used to kill himself in his hand, and even more surprised to see that Dan had the gun pointed at him. Keith just said, "Dan?"

Dan pulled the trigger. Keith felt sharp pain in his right shoulder and fell to the ground.

****************

Keith opened his eyes to see bright lights all around him, and he could hear the hum of machines. He waited a second for his eyes to adjust to the brightness, and then he looked around the room. He was in the hospital. There beside his bed was Karen asleep in a chair. He smiled as he saw her. He had to think for a few minutes to remember why he was there. When he remembered Dan shooting him, he looked down at his right shoulder. It was wrapped in gauze under his hospital gown. It didn't hurt that much, but he was pretty sure they had him on some kind of pain medication. He looked over at Karen again, and thought about letting her sleep. But he knew if it were him in the chair, he would rather be woken up to be assured that she was okay. He said, "Karen?"

Karen started awake. She looked over at Keith and saw he was awake. She looked like she didn't quite believe it. She slowly got out of her chair and walked over to his side. She put a hand on the side of his face and said, "Keith?"

He smiled at her. "How long have I been out?"

A tear spilled down her face, and she said, "Not quite twenty four hours."

He reached up with his left hand and wiped the tear off her face. "I'm sorry I scared you."

She leaned her head down on his left shoulder and cried. He said, "Hey, I'm okay. It's gonna be fine."

She nodded a little but still cried. Keith put his left arm around her and she climbed up on the bed to lay down next to him on the tiny hospital bed. As soon as she was calm enough to talk Keith asked, "Is Luke okay?"

"Yes. They questioned him for a long time, but as soon as they let him go, he came straight over here. He stayed until I sent him home around three in the morning. He didn't want to go, but I promised him he could stay with you tomorrow night if you hadn't woken up yet." Karen looked at her watch and saw that it was eight fifteen AM. She continued, "He's probably still asleep, but he'll be back here as soon as he wakes up."

Keith nodded and then said, "Where's Dan?"

Karen sat up and had hate in her eyes and voice as she said, "In custody."

Keith looked surprised at that. "Why?"

"For shooting you. Don't you remember?"

Keith gave a nod. "I remember, but I thought he would try to blame it on Jimmy hoping I wouldn't remember."

"They caught the bastard red handed. When the swat team heard the first shot, they moved in. There were two witnesses there that saw Dan shoot you."

Keith nodded and thought about that for a second. Then he asked, "What about Payton?"

Karen smiled. "She's going to be just fine. She'll have to be on crutches for about a month, but that should be it."

"Nathan and Haley?"

"Both fine. No one else was hurt."

"Thank God for that."

Karen said, "Lucas told me what you did. How you stepped in between him and Jimmy. You very well may have saved his life and Payton's too."

Keith looked over at her and said, "I did what I had to do. I'd do the same thing again even if I knew Dan's shot was going to kill me."

Karen started to cry again and whispered, "Don't say that."

Keith looked up at her and said, "But I sure would have had some regrets about us if I had been killed."

Karen just nodded and lay her head down again. A few seconds later a nurse came in to check Keith's vitals. Karen got up and said, "I'm going to give Haley and Nathan a call to let them know you're awake."

Keith nodded, and the nurse started asking him to try and move each finger on his right hand, which he did with no trouble.

A little while later when the doctor was done talking with Keith, he had a few minutes alone. He had spent most of yesterday morning thinking about Lucas, and how he had gone into the school when there was a shooter on the lose. And now those thoughts were back in his head, because thinking about his brother shooting him hurt too much at this point.

Keith remembered how he felt when he saw Karen standing there crying and terrified. He had wanted so badly to do anything to make her feel better. And then when he found out Lucas had gone into the building after the shooting happened, he had just been livid. He had worried over Lucas and all the other kids for the next hour, and as he worried and watched Karen worry he had thought about lots of things. He had thought about being Lucas' father both in practice and on paper. He had thought about what that would mean to the both of them and to Karen. He thought about what Lucas had done for Dan by dragging him out of that burning building, and about the fact that Lucas seemed to like to be the hero.

Before Keith had gone into the school to talk to Jimmy, he had decided that if everyone made it through alive, Lucas was getting spanked. He understood that it wouldn't make him very popular with Lucas, and probably not with Karen either, but he also knew they would accept it and eventually forgive him because he would be doing it out of love for Lucas.
A few minutes later Karen came back in and told him that Nathan and Haley would be by to see him later. He looked at her and said, "Karen?"

"Yeah?"

"There's something I wanted to talk to you about yesterday, but I didn't get the chance."

She went and sat on the side of his bed, knowing it would be a serious talk. "Okay, go ahead."

He looked away and said, "It's about Lucas and you aren't going to like it."

She got slightly tense and said, "What about Luke?"

He looked at her and said, "He was the one who pulled Dan out of the fire at the dealership."

Karen's eyes got wide and she stood up. She shook her head and whispered, "No."

Keith sighed and grabbed her hand in his. "He told me about it the first day I got back. Believe me, he did it."

Karen was furious and ready to cry at the same time. She said, "He went into a burning building to save that demon spawn? Does he have a death wish? Didn't I do a good job of teaching him self preservation?"

Keith stopped her by saying sharply, "Hey! Like it or not, he did exactly what I would do."

"What?!"

"I couldn't stand by and watch someone burn to death if there was a good chance I could get them out. Luke obviously saw a clear path, and believed he could get to Dan before he got burned, and he was right. I don't think Luke would jump in front of a bullet for Dan or trade his life for him. He just figured it was safe."

Karen said, "I can't believe you're defending Lucas, especially after what Dan did to you."

"You can't blame Luke for what Dan did, the two events aren't connected. Dan was a bastard before Luke pulled him out of the fire, and Luke knew it. He did it less for Dan, and more for himself. But I'm not exactly defending him. In fact I plan to make sure he thinks twice about trying to be a hero in the future."

Karen felt her anger turning from full blown to a low boil. She sat back down and said, "How do you plan to do that?"

Keith said, "Well, he thinks he's invincible, because he's seventeen. We all thought we were invincible at seventeen right? I'm planning to make sure he understands that we don't agree."

"Are you going to ground him?"

He looked at her intently. "Would you be okay with that? I mean I'm not his father on paper yet, but we all agree that I will be soon right? So does that mean you're giving me full reign to be a parent to him including discipline?"

She gave him a 'don't be silly' look and said, "I think you've had that right for a long time now, even before we planned to get married. You've been the closest thing to a father Lucas has ever known, so yes."

Keith nodded and said, "Then I'm going to spank him."

Karen just starred at him not knowing what to say. Keith said, "He's not going to like it, but trust me when I say grounding him won't do squat. We've been down that road before, and while he may have accepted being grounded by me, I don't think it actually changed his behavior all that much. This is big, and I want to leave a lasting impression on him that what he did was not okay."

Karen shook her head and said the first thing that came to mind, "But he's….. so big."

Keith chuckled at that. Then he said, "I'm going to have to wait for a couple of weeks before I'm healed up enough to do it, so I'm going to ground him for two weeks first. But I'm going to need your help to enforce that since I'm stuck here for a few more days."

"Are you sure about this? He may fight you on it, or even if he doesn't, he may hate you once it's done."

"I'm sure." Keith said with conviction.

"I hadn't thought about it, but this is going to be a big adjustment for both me and Lucas. It's just been the two of us for so long….. It's going to be hard to not feel usurped when you tell him to do something, and I know it's going to be hard for him. But I'll try my best to be supportive of you, because I know you love him."

"Thank you Karen. I do love him, and I love you too."

She smiled and said, "Same goes for me"


Two hours later Keith was asleep again, and Karen was sipping coffee in the chair next to his bed when Lucas arrived. Karen got up and gave him a hug and then looked in his eyes. She said, "Keith woke up this morning. The doctor thinks Keith will have a full recovery with some physical therapy for his arm."

Lucas felt relief wash over him at that statement. He just nodded, not trusting his voice. Karen said, "If you don't mind staying here for a while, I'd like to go take a quick shower and change clothes."

Lucas nodded. "Take your time Mom. Try and get some sleep. I was planning to be here most of the day anyway."

Karen gave him a quick kiss, and then turned to walk out. She stopped and turned around wanting to warn him, or give him some idea of what Keith had decided, but then as she saw the sad and almost desperate look Lucas was giving Keith and changed her mind. She left quietly. Lucas went over to Keith's bedside and said quietly, "Thank you."

Lucas went to sit in the chair his mom had been in a few minutes ago, and waited anxiously for his uncle to wake up. At noon a nurse came in with a lunch tray, and checked Keith's IV and took his pulse, which woke him up. She smiled at Keith and said, "I brought you some lunch."

He said, "Thanks."

The nurse looked over at Lucas and said, "Are you going to be here for a few minutes to help him with lunch?"

Keith looked o see who the nurse was talking to and saw Lucas. Lucas nodded and said, "Yes."

She finished up, and left the room. Keith and Lucas locked eyes for a few minutes. Lucas' voice sounded strained as he said; "You got shot because of me."

Keith shook his head and held out his hand to Lucas. He said, "Come here."

Lucas got up and walked the three steps to Keith. Keith grabbed Lucas' right hand in his left and rubbed a thumb over the back of Lucas' hand as he said, "It's not your fault Luke."

Lucas looked close to tears and said, "You stepped in front of a loaded gun for me."

Keith indicated the bed and said, "Sit down son."

Lucas sat on the edge of the bed. Keith kept a hold of Lucas' hand and said, "I may not be your father on paper yet, but I've loved you since you were born. I'll always try my best to protect you. I'd do the same thing again in a heartbeat if given the same choices. But it's not your fault."

Lucas was still emotional and felt a tear slid down his face as he said, "But if I hadn't saved Dan…."

Keith squeezed Lucas' hand and said, "Then you would hate yourself for letting him burn even more then you hate yourself for saving him. You aren't responsible for the things Dan does, and you can't live your life thinking everything Dan does from now on is your fault just because he's alive."

Lucas looked down and wiped at his face. He gave a little nod and said, "But if I hadn't gone back into the school…."

Keith pulled Lucas down into a one armed hug, and Lucas hugged him back while trying to be careful of his right shoulder. Keith said, "I still would have gone in to talk to Jimmy even if you hadn't been in there. I'm glad I was there to protect you Luke, but I went in to talk to Jimmy. To try and save him, and everyone around him, not just you."

Lucas started to cry harder at the mention of Jimmy, and Keith held him and let him cry. A few minutes later after his crying was tapering off Lucas whispered, "I was so scared."

"I know. I was too."

Lucas sat up, wiped at his face and looked at Keith seriously when he said, "I don't think I could take it if you got killed protecting me."

"I know I couldn't take it if you got killed when I could have prevented it."

The room was quiet for a few seconds. Lucas turned and looked at the lunch tray. He said, "You hungry?"

Keith nodded so Lucas helped put the bed in the upright position, and opened all the containers of food for him. He moved the table so Keith could reach it, and then went to go sit in the chair. Keith ate and thought about how much he really didn't want to bring up this next part, even though he knew he had to. He turned to Lucas and said, "Aren't you hungry?"

Lucas shook his head. "I had a late breakfast right before I came over."

Keith nodded and finished up. Once he was done eating he pushed the tray away, and turned to Lucas. Keith said, "I thought about you a lot yesterday morning before I got shot Luke. And I think you and I need to have a serious talk about what you did."

Lucas' face turned a little pink and he stammered, "I…. I thought you just said it wasn't my fault."

"My getting shot wasn't your fault. But that doesn't mean that I condone what you did."

"But Payton…"

Keith interrupted, "I'm glad you were there for Payton, but you ran into a building where someone was shooting a gun Luke. Did you even think about your mother when you were doing that? What would she do without you? You may have ended up saving Payton's life, but that doesn't make what you did okay."

Lucas looked a little defensive and said, "I had to try and help."

Keith nodded and said, "I'm sure you think you did, and when I was thinking about you yesterday morning, I knew that's what you would say. So I made a decision. If I hadn't gotten shot, you wouldn't be sitting comfortably today."

Lucas looked confused, "What do you mean?"

Keith looked deadly serious. "I mean that if you and I had gone home together yesterday afternoon, I would have put you over my knee and beat some sense into your behind."

Lucas felt his face getting even more red and he couldn't keep eye contact. His uncle had never spanked him, and his mother hadn't spanked him since he was seven. He said, "Keith… I…"

"You're grounded for two weeks Lucas, and at the end of that time, when I'm a little more healed up, you're getting spanked for running into that building." Keith knew Lucas wasn't going to like it, but he believed it was the only way to get Lucas to stop and really think about things before doing something reckless again.

Lucas shook his head and stood up. He backed a few feet further away from Keith and said, "You… you're joking right?"

Keith gave him a steady look and said, "No I'm not."

"But…. I'm seventeen, and….. you can't."

"I can."

Lucas shook his head again. "But I was trying to do the right thing. How is it okay for you to go in, but not me?!"

Keith glared at Lucas and said, "I knew there was only one shooter. I knew the shooter was Jimmy who I've known for many years. What did you know when you went in?"

Lucas looked down not liking that logic. Keith prompted, "Tell me what you knew before running in there."

Lucas mumbled, "That someone had shot a gun, and that Haley and Payton were probably in there."

Keith shook his head. "For all you knew they could have both been dead already, and you could have been running to your own death. The shooter could have been anyone, and there could have been more then one. It was a bad decision Lucas."

Lucas' mind was racing and he said the first thing that came to his mind. "Nathan went in too."

Keith sighed and said, "And if he were my son I'd probably spank him too."

Lucas spit out; "I'm not your son!"

Keith tried not to let that hurt him, because he knew it was said in anger and not really how Lucas felt. He nodded and said, "You're right, and if you want to cancel the adoption over this, well I'll be sad about that, but the punishment stands either way."

Lucas shook his head and said, "I can't believe we're even talking about this. I need to get out of here."

Lucas started for the door and then Keith called out to him in a no nonsense voice, "Lucas Eugene Scott, don't you dare walk out that door. We are not done."

Lucas had his hand on the door, and felt himself cringe at his full name. He slowly put his hand down and turned around. His uncle had been an authority figure to him his whole life, so he couldn't just walk out the door no matter how much he wanted to. Keith pointed to the chair beside the bed and said, "Sit your ass down."

Lucas walked over, sat, slouched, crossed his arms, and glared at the floor. Keith said, "I talked to your mother about this earlier today."

Lucas gave Keith a disbelieving look and said, "And she was okay with it?!"

Keith nodded, "I don't think she likes the idea much, but she's going to back me up."

Lucas gave a sarcastic "Great. That's just great."

Keith gave a tired sigh and said, "Do you think you could help me lay the bed back down? I think this pain medication is gonna knock me out soon."

Lucas felt a rush of guilt and stood to help as he said, "Yeah, of course…. Sorry."

Once the bed was down Keith said, "Thanks."

Lucas asked, "Do you need anything else? A glass of water or something?"

"No I'm fine."

Lucas went back to sit in the chair. Keith said, "I'm serious about you being grounded Luke. Starting right now, you can be in this room with me, at the café working for your mom, or at your house. No going out with your friends, and no having your friends over to your house. No computer, TV, or cell phone. Since I'm out of commission right now, I'm trusting you to stick to it on your own."

Lucas leaned back in the chair and said quietly, "Okay Uncle Keith."

Keith gave him a nod and then lay his head down and closed his eyes to get some sleep.

Lucas sat in the chair thinking about things for the next two hours. At the end of that time he still couldn't believe his uncle was planning to spank him. He knew for sure that his uncle was serious about it, and he knew that Keith kept his promises and would do what he said he was going to do. What Lucas had trouble with, was the fact that Keith seemed to think it was not only okay to do, but that it was the right thing to do.

He thought about the plans they all had for Keith to adopt him. He wanted to believe that Keith was just going over board with the idea of being his father. He wanted to think that if they had never talked about it, that Keith would have never had such an insane idea. But the more Lucas thought about it, the more he knew that wasn't true. Especially when Keith had said he still planed to punish Lucas, even if the adoption wasn't going to happen. Lucas wasn't sure right now if he still wanted the adoption to happen or not.

And Lucas really couldn't believe that his mom was going to let Keith do it. He understood being grounded, and didn't really have a problem with that. In fact as he ran into the school that day, he had assumed his mom would have a few unpleasant things to say about what he had done, and that she would ground him. But if she was okay with Keith spanking him, then she had to really be pissed about the whole thing. She hadn't seemed all that angry, but then she had been in shock over Keith getting shot too.

Lucas really didn't want it to happen, more because he thought it would be embarrassing then because he thought it would hurt, but either way he wanted to avoid it. He tried to think of a way out of it. He thought that maybe if he was really good over the next two weeks, and showed both his mom and Keith that he was sorry about what he had done, maybe Keith would change his mind, or maybe his mom would change Keith's mind for him.

His thinking was interrupted when Karen came back into the room. She saw Keith was asleep, and then she smiled at Lucas and said quietly, "Hey."

Lucas got up so his mom could sit down and said, "Hi. Did you get any sleep?"

Karen sat down and shook her head. "I tried to lie down, but I couldn't fall asleep. I went to the café and put a sign up to let people know I'd be open tomorrow."

Lucas nodded and then sat down on the arm of the chair. Karen said, "Did he wake up while you were here?"

Lucas looked away, "Yeah."

Karen could tell Lucas wasn't all together happy. She said, "Did the two of you talk?"

Lucas gave her a wounded look and said, "How could you agree with him Mom?"

Karen had to think about that for a few seconds. Then she said, "I don't want to bury you Lucas. And after hearing about you saving Dan, and then….."

Lucas interrupted with a loud, "He told you about that!"

"Keep your voice down, and yes he did."

Lucas whispered, but there was still anger in his voice, "He had no right"

Karen glared at him and said, "So you think as your mother I don't have the right to know that you ran into a burning building to save someone?"

Lucas evaded the question, "He promised not to tell you."

"He probably wouldn't have told me if you hadn't run into a school where guns were going off six months later. It's like you have a death wish or something. Neither one of us is okay with you dying, so yeah I think I agree with Keith."

Lucas shook his head. "Look Mom, I know that I messed up. I know it wasn't a good idea to go into the school, and I'm really sorry that I worried everyone. I totally understand being grounded for two weeks, and even though I don't like it, I know why you both think it's important. But Keith said he's planning to…." Lucas darted a glance over at Keith who was still asleep and then looked back at his mom when he said, "….to spank me, and I don't see how you can be okay with that."

Karen could tell that this was really bothering Lucas, but she had known that it would. She could also tell that Keith was right in thinking that grounding Lucas obviously wasn't going to leave a very lasting impression on her son. She put a hand on Lucas' knee and said, "I'm sorry Lucas, but I think Keith is right."

Lucas stood up to get away from her touch and said, "You never would have been okay with this before you were planning to get married! You're both going way too far pretending that Keith is my father now."

Karen stood up and Lucas took a step back after seeing the look in her face. She pointed a finger at him and poked him in the chest as she said, "We're not pretending, and if you are, then maybe you don't deserve him as a father!"

Lucas just shook his head no while looking distressed and ready to cry at what she had said. They both heard Keith's voice, "Hey now, what's going on here?"

Lucas spun around but didn't know what to say. Karen took a deep breath to calm herself down and said, "Lucas is less then happy that I agree with you about his punishment."

Lucas stared at the ground. Keith thought about it for a few seconds and then said, "If you want to be mad at someone Luke, be mad at me. Your mom is backing me up, but she doesn't like the idea, and doesn't actually want me to do it."

Lucas yelled, "She wouldn't even let you if you weren't getting married!"

Keith shook his head and said, "First of all, I don't think that's true. And second, I thought you were happy about us getting married."

"I am….I just…."

Karen said, "You just had a picture in your mind of what being part of a whole family would be like, and this doesn't fit. But honey, I think your picture is askew. Being part of a whole family doesn't mean there won't be any more problems or struggles."

Lucas had nothing to say to that, but had a feeling she was right.

Keith smiled at Karen and then turned back to Lucas and said, "There are lots of good things about being a whole family. I think you'll see that in time, even if the adjustment period is hard."

They were interrupted by a knock on the door. Nathan and Haley came in looking happy. They stayed for about an hour, and everyone visited. Karen and Keith both made it clear to Nathan that they thought his running into the school had been a bad idea, and Nathan had the decency to blush when Haley agreed with them. Haley noticed that Lucas was a little more quiet and reserved then usual, but knew seeing his uncle shot had been hard on him, and assumed that was the reason.

As Haley and Nathan were leaving, a police officer came by to get a statement from Keith about Dan and the shooting. Lucas left the room with the excuse of using the bathroom and finding a late lunch, but really he just couldn't stand thinking about how his saving Dan played a part in Keith getting shot. After eating a quick lunch Lucas went to check on Payton who was on the next floor. Brooke was there keeping Payton company, and Lucas gave them the news that Keith was awake and would have a full recovery, but made it a quick visit.

A little while after the officer had left, Lucas came back into the room. Karen and Keith were talking about their wedding plans. He listened to their plans for about half an hour and then said, "I think I'm gonna head for home."

Keith looked at Karen and said, "It's getting close to dinner time. You should head home too, so you can get a good night's rest tonight."

Karen looked at her watch and saw that it was almost five o'clock. She looked at him and said, "Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I'm kind of tired actually."

"Okay then, I'll be back tomorrow night after I close the café."

Keith smiled at her and she went to get a kiss. Then Keith looked over at Lucas and said, "What are you going to do tomorrow?"

Lucas said, "School's out all week because of the shooting, so I don't really have any plans. I guess I could help Mom out at the café."

Karen nodded and said, "We might be more busy then usual with school being out, so that would be a big help."

Keith said, "Then I guess I'll see the both of you tomorrow night."

That night after dinner, Keith got a visit from Whitey, and got a call from his parents.


The next day at the café after the morning rush, Karen saw Lucas talking on his cell phone, and made it clear he needed to wrap up the conversation. He did, and then she held out her hand for the phone. He rolled his eyes in annoyance before he handed the phone to her. She turned it off and stuck it in her pocket. He stalked off to the back room to do some dishes before he said something he would regret.

In the afternoon Brooke came by. Lucas saw her and said to Karen, "I'm gonna take my lunch break."

"Not so fast mister."

Lucas turned to her and gave her an irritated look. She said, "I'll let you have lunch with her today as long as it's here in the café, and as long as you tell her you can't see her for the next two weeks."

Lucas was pissed and said, "She is my girlfriend mom."

Karen said calmly, "I know, and that is why I'm letting you explain your situation to her on your own instead of embarrassing you by talking to her myself."

Lucas hadn't been grounded in a while, and he was already starting to resent it and it was only the second day. He turned and walked to Brooke who gave him a big kiss. They sat down at a table and he asked her if she wanted to have some lunch. She did, and he went to the back and made them both a sandwich before breaking the news to her. As he was making the sandwiches he remembered that his mom had grounded Brooke once when she was living with her, so maybe it wouldn't be completely humiliating to tell her about it. But he knew for sure that he wasn't telling anyone what his uncle planned to do at the end of the two weeks.

Once they were both sitting down and eating he said, "Hey Brooke?"

"Yeah?"

"I can't really do anything with you for the next two weeks."

"What do you mean?"

Lucas could feel himself blushing as he said, "I'm grounded."

Brooke looked shocked and said, "What for?"

"For going into the school."

"But you saved Payton's life. Your mom can't be mad at you for that."

"Yeah, I think she can, and actually it was Keith who did it."

"Uncle Keith grounded you?"

Lucas looked around and said, "Jeez not so loud Brooke. I'd really rather not have everyone in town laughing at me."

Brooke lowered her voice and said, "But I don't get it."

"Mom and Keith think it was reckless and dangerous for me to run in there."

Brooke sat there thinking about that for a while. Then she said, "Well Payton and I are glad you did it, even if your folks don't seem to appreciate your heroic efforts."

He leaned over and kissed her and said, "Thanks."

She said, "Two weeks huh?"

"Yeah."

"I'll miss you."

"I'll miss you too."

"But I guess I'll have more time to spend with Payton, and I think she could use a friend right about now."

Lucas nodded and said, "I think you're right about that."

The rest of the lunch they spent talking about their friends and what it would be like to go back to school the next week.

********

Keith was in the hospital for the next three days, and during that time Lucas and Karen both spent their days working in the café, and their nights visiting with Keith. None of them brought up Lucas' punishment much, except that when Keith and Karen were alone, Keith would ask her if Lucas was sticking with it, and was pleased to hear that he was.

On Friday afternoon Nathan, Haley, Brooke, Mouth, and a recently released Payton all went to the café for lunch. Lucas gave his mom the most pathetic look he could come up with. She knew he had been working hard at the café, and sticking to being grounded, so she rolled her eyes and said, "Okay go have your lunch break with them for half an hour."

"Thanks Mom."

Lucas went to sit with them, and while Brooke was a little surprised, she didn't say anything. Lucas got everyone's orders and then he and Haley made them together. Soon everyone was eating. Mouth brought up the fact that Jimmy's funeral was on Sunday, and they all made plans to go. Lucas knew Keith would want him to go to that grounded or not, and he told them he was sure Keith would go too, since he was going to be released on Saturday. Then Mouth told them about the party that was at the school that night. He asked them all if they were going to go. Nathan and Haley looked at each other, and then nodded. Brooke looked to Lucas not knowing what to say. Lucas said, "I'm not going."

Mouth said, "Why?"

Lucas knew he was grounded and couldn't go, but as he thought about it he realized he didn't want to go anyway. He said, "I know that Jimmy had some major issues, and that things were really bad for him, but if he hadn't brought that gun to school both Payton and Keith would be just fine today, and we'd all be in school. I'm not going to a party in his honor. I'll go to his funeral to say goodbye, but that's all."

Everyone at the table was quiet for a few minutes. Then Brooke looked to Payton and said, "Wanna be my date tonight?"

Payton looked to Lucas wondering if it was okay with him. Lucas saw the look and said, "It's fine. You guys go and have a good time."

That night after they had closed the café, Karen and Lucas went to see Keith like they had every night. Once they had all said their hello's Karen said, "I have something to talk to you both about."

They looked at her and Keith said, "What's up?"

She sat down on the side of Keith's bed and said, "You're getting out of here tomorrow right?"

Keith nodded, "The doctor said tomorrow morning."

Karen said, "Well I was thinking maybe you should move into the house with me and Luke."

Keith looked over at Lucas to see his reaction. Lucas was thinking about it, but didn't look angry or upset. Keith turned back to Karen and said, "I thought we were going to wait until after the wedding."

Karen looked down at her lap and said, "Over the past few days I've decided life is too short. I'd rather have you there now."

Keith looked over and said, "Luke?"

Lucas was still angry with his uncle, but he did want his mom to be happy and in the long run wanted Keith to be happy too. He just nodded and said, "It's okay with me."

Keith smiled. "Then let's do it."

Karen smiled at him also. "Really?"

Keith laughed and said, "Of course. How could I say no?"

Karen leaned down and kissed him. Lucas looked away and found the chair on the other side of the room fascinating. A few seconds later Karen said, "I'll go over and get you a few essentials tonight, and then on Sunday we can round up Nathan, Haley, Brooke, and maybe some others to help us move everything in."

Keith smiled and said, "Sounds like a plan."

Lucas shook his head and said, "Sunday is Jimmy's funeral."

Karen and Keith both were quiet for a few seconds and looked unhappy. Lucas said, "But maybe we could get everyone to help out tomorrow afternoon."


The next two days were busy. Saturday Keith was released, and he went home to Karen's house that was going to become their house. Then a group of people including Nathan, Haley, Brooke, Mouth, Styles, and some people from the cheerleading squad including Rachel all showed up and helped move all of Keith's things out of his apartment and into the house. With so many people helping, they were done before dinner time. Karen ordered some pizza to feed them all as a thank you for helping them out. Lucas had a good time hanging out with his friends while he was helping with the move.

Sunday everyone went to the funeral for Jimmy and said goodbye. Karen helped organize a little get together at the café for everyone including Jimmy's mother, and everyone shared their happy memories of Jimmy from the past. When everyone was gone, Lucas and Karen cleaned up while Keith sat and thought about the day.

As soon as Karen went over and said they were done, Keith stood up and gave Lucas a hug. Lucas was a little surprised but hugged back and said, "What's this about?"

Keith let him go and said, "Nothing in particular. It's just because you're here, and I love you."

Lucas let him go as well and just nodded in understanding. His mom had hugged him about ten times already that day, and he knew it was because she was thinking about loosing him the way Jimmy's mom had lost Jimmy. They all went home together, and were genuinely glad they were all able to be together that day.

On Monday morning, Karen went to the café early. Lucas went back to school, and Keith found himself alone in Karen's house. He tried to think of it as their house, but that was hard. He felt comfortable in the house, since he had lived there for a few months while Karen was away in Italy, but it was odd to be there permanently.

Keith sat at the kitchen table sipped on a second cup of coffee while he thought about all the things he needed to do in the next few weeks. The doctors had told him to rest as much as possible for the next week, and he had to go back for some physical therapy three times a week for the next two weeks. The wedding was in two weeks, and while most of the planning had already been done for that, there seemed to be little things that needed to be done every other day. Keith had no job, since he had just moved back to Tree Hill, and knew he would need to look for one. He hoped to have one in line to start about three weeks from now after the wedding and the honeymoon were over.

Then there was the adoption paperwork. It had all the signatures on it except for Dan's. Keith thought he would need to visit Dan in jail and get that signature before he asked Lucas if he wanted to go through with it or not. Keith thought he would wait until after he spanked Lucas to bring that up again, because he doubted Lucas would be agreeable before that. Keith knew that Lucas might not want to do it after the spanking either, but he thought at least Lucas would know what he was signing up for at that point.

Keith spent the morning looking through the want ads, and updating his resume on the computer. Then in the afternoon he called the local jail and asked when visiting hours were. He found out they were happening at that moment, so he grabbed the adoption paperwork and drove down to the jail. He got in to see Dan without much trouble.

Dan came out in the ugly orange jumper and glared at his brother on the other side of the glass. Keith picked up the phone on his side waiting. Dan thought about just saying he didn't want to talk and going back to his cell, but he eventually went and picked up the phone. Dan said, "Come to gloat?"

Keith shook his head, "Sorry Danny, that's more your style. I came to make a deal."

Dan was interested. Keith held up the adoption paperwork. He said, "I want you to sign this for me."

Dan smiled and shook his head. "Have you been smoking crack or something? No deal, but thanks for the laugh."

Keith looked at Dan and said, "I know you still don't believe me Dan, but I didn't start that fire. I have never tried to kill you, but obviously the same doesn't go for you, does it? Over the years you've been a horrible person to Lucas. Not just a bad father, but a bad person. You ignored him completely until a few years ago, and then you were awful to him when you did pay attention to him. But even after all that Lucas saved your life by pulling you out of that fire. And to repay him you choked him? Don't you think Lucas deserves to be happy? This adoption is what he wants. It will make him happy, and it will make Karen and me happy as well. After all the things you've done to make us miserable I think you owe us this."

Dan felt defensive said, "I didn't choke Lucas because he saved me; I choked him because I thought he had started the fire."

Keith glared and said, "I know that, and Lucas knows that too, but the fact of the matter is that he saved your life and then you tried choking him to death. He won't ever be able to forget how you repaid his heroic deed. Maybe if you had shown him some kind of kindness in the past he would be able to see it some other way, but you never have."

"If you think guilt is going to work on me, you don't know me at all."

Keith sighed and said, "No, I know it won't work, but I always like to try and give you a chance to show me you have a soul somewhere in there before I resort to bribery."

Dan smiled and said; "Now we're talking. Let's hear it."

"You sign the paperwork, and when your case goes to trial, I'll tell the judge that I believe it was an accident, and that I don't believe you would ever try to kill me. You don't sign the papers, and I'll tell the judge that you wanted me dead but were just a bad shot. I'll even tell them that you threatened to kill me before. Criminal intent could be the difference between jail time and probation. And on top of that, if you sign it, I'll come visit you every week if you do go to prison, and I'll make sure both Nathan and Lucas visit you once a month. If you don't sign it, I'll make sure neither one of them comes to visit you the entire time."

Dan sat and thought about that for a few seconds. While he was thinking Keith said, "It should be an easy choice for you Danny. You don't even like Lucas. You think he's a waste of human space, so why not give him to me?"

Dan shook his head, "Lucas has potential. I don't hate him or anything."

"Actually I think you do hate him. But that's beside the point. I love him, and I want to be his father on paper, since I have been a father to him in practice most of his life. I guess the question you have to ask yourself is; how long do you want to be in jail?"

Dan couldn't think of a good way to refuse to sign. He didn't want to be in jail. He wanted out. He needed time to come up with a plan. He said, "I'll think about it, and let you know tomorrow."

Keith shook his head. "Sorry Danny. This offer expires as soon as I walk out of this room. So I think that means you have about ten minutes to decide."

They sat quietly for a few minutes, and then Dan said, "How can I trust you to keep your word?"

Keith said, "I've never been dishonest with you. Even when I've been angry with you I've never promised you something and then not followed through. But I guess you're just gonna have to trust me."

Dan waited until the last second. Keith folded up the papers and said, "Okay Danny."

Dan said, "Wait. I'll sign."

Dan waved at a guard, and they got the paper over to Dan's side of the glass. He signed it, and as he was handing it back to the guard to give to Keith he said to Keith, "If you break your word to me I'll kill you."

Keith shrugged and said, "You could try. But I won't break my word. I don't want you to go to prison Dan. You'll just learn how to be more of a criminal then you already are. When is your bail hearing?"

"Thursday."

"I'll come to it, and if the judge asks, I'll tell him I don't think you're a flight risk."

Dan just nodded and watched while Keith walked out. Dan didn't understand why Keith was being so nice. He had a lot to think about that night.

When Keith was done with his visit, he went to the courthouse to file the papers and set a court date with a judge for the adoption to be official. He set it for a week and two days later on Wednesday. That would be a couple of days after the spanking, which Keith planned to do Monday night, and a few days before the wedding which was the following Saturday. As he was walking out of the courthouse he thought how strange it was to plan things around spanking his nephew. But he was still taking some pretty strong painkillers, and anytime he moved his shoulder more then an inch one way or another it gave him sharp pain. So he had to wait.

That night Lucas came home before Karen, and found Keith looking for jobs on line. Lucas said, "Hi Keith."

"Hey Luke, how was your first day back?"

Lucas dropped his backpack on the couch and said, "It was weird."

Keith went to sit beside him on the couch and said, "Tell me about it."

Lucas talked for the next half an hour about how odd the school day had been, and when he was done, he felt better. He thought it was really nice to have Keith there. Once they were done talking about school Lucas said, "So what did you do today?"

"I looked at some want adds, redid my resume, went to visit Dan and got him to sign the adoption paperwork, and set up a court date for us all to talk to a judge about the adoption a week from this Wednesday."

Lucas was shocked, "Dan just signed them? I guess I shouldn't be surprised. He never did want me, but I thought he would try to use it against us just for his own enjoyment."

Keith put an arm around Lucas' shoulders. "Actually he didn't want to do it. He may not always show it, but I think he does want to claim you as his. He just doesn't want to have to do any day to day parenting. And I'm sure he'd get a lot of enjoyment out of not signing it just to upset me and Karen."

"Then how did you get him to do it?"

Keith sighed and said, "I promised to testify that he wasn't trying to kill me when he shot me."

Lucas yelled, "What??!!"

"You heard me."

"But… but why? Why would you do that?"

"Because in a way it's true. Dan was trying to kill me, but only because he believes that I tried to kill him first in the dealership fire. But I didn't try to kill him, and if he knew that, then he never would have tried to kill me."

Lucas shook his head. "Sometimes I think you go way too far in trying to do the right thing Keith. Dan belongs behind bars. You shouldn't be trying to get him out just because his attempt on your life was motivated by false beliefs."

"What would you do if Nathan shot you? Would you try to send him to prison for years, or would you talk to him and try to repair your relationship?"

"That's not the same thing at all."

"Why not?"

Lucas thought about that but couldn't come up with a good answer so he just said, "Because Dan's been a bastard for years."

"And Nathan has been the poster child for good behavior?"

"Well no, but….."

"And if not for this, we probably would have had to wait until you were eighteen, or we would have had to go to court to prove abandonment, and that could have taken until you were eighteen anyway. This is better."

Lucas muttered, "Mom's not gonna like it."

Keith nodded, "I'm sure you're right about that."

Lucas smiled mischievously said, "Want me to go out with my friends tonight, so you can have the house to yourself while she yells at you?"

Keith laughed and said, "Nice try, but no."

Lucas shrugged, and while he had been kidding when he said it, Keith telling him no rubbed him the wrong way, and made it not funny anymore. In fact it made him question the adoption all together. Ever since Keith had told him he was going to spank him, Lucas had wavered back and forth between wanting the adoption, and wanting to tell Keith to screw off. During Jimmy's funeral Lucas had wanted the adoption. When he first got home and found someone there to talk to and who wanted to listen to how his day was he wanted the adoption. But telling him he couldn't go out, even in a light tone, made him think that Keith needed to knock it off. Lucas stood abruptly, knocking Keith's arm off his shoulders in the process. He grabbed his backpack, and muttered, "I've got lots of homework." before heading to his room.

Keith shook his head knowing that Lucas was having issues with his authority. At any other time Keith knew Lucas wouldn't think twice about being grounded by him. But getting grounded by his potential dad who had threatened corporal punishment was apparently a much different experience for Lucas.

The house was quiet until Karen came home two hours later. She had brought dinner home with her from the café, and as she walked in she called out, "I brought home dinner!"

Keith and Lucas both showed up in the kitchen a few seconds later, and they all helped to get out plates and silverware. Soon they were sitting down together eating. Karen asked Lucas about school, and he gave her the highlights. Keith asked Karen about her day, and she talked for a little while about an irritating customer. Then Karen asked Keith about his day, and he told her what he had done with Dan. The kitchen was silent for a few seconds, and Lucas cringed while waiting for the yelling to start, even though he knew it wasn't directed at him. He wasn't disappointed.

Karen started out in an almost quiet voice, but by the time she was done she was all out yelling. "Are you telling me that you went to see Dan, and bribed him into giving up Lucas by agreeing to lie at his trial? The trial that is for his attempted murder of you! You're actually going to commit perjury to help your bastard of a brother go free! What were you thinking Keith??!!"

Keith remained calm. "I was thinking that Dan only tried to kill me because he thinks I tried to kill him. And I was thinking that I wanted our family to be official, and this could very well be the only opportunity we have to get that."

Karen just sat there and shook her head for a few seconds. "But it's Dan! How many times has he hurt all of us over the years? He could have killed you that day Keith! What would I have done without you? How could you have done this without talking to me about it first?"

Keith felt bad about it now and said, "You're right. I'm sorry, I should have talked with you about it first. I just wanted to get it over with, and you've been through so much because of Dan, I didn't want you to have to get involved."

Karen shook her head, "This is not the way our marriage is going to work Keith. We talk about things before making any big decisions. If you can't agree to that, then our marriage is going to be short and unhappy."

Keith nodded. "If I had really sat down and thought about it before I went over there, I would have realized I should talk to you first. I'm just so used to living on my own, and only having my own future to think about….. I'm really sorry Karen. Can you forgive me?"

Karen looked down at her plate for a second and then looked back up at him. She nodded slowly and said, "I forgive you this time, but there better not be a second time."

Keith nodded in agreement, and then they talked about the things that Keith had agreed to, and about why he had done what he had done. By the time he was done explaining, Karen felt a little better about it, even though she didn't think it was the right choice.

Lucas sat and watched his 'parents' have a pretty serious argument and then work it out. And in that moment he wanted the marriage and the adoption to happen. He could tell how much happier the two of them were together, even when there was a problem. And he could see the love they had for each other in the way they both made compromises to make the other happy. And he had a lot of respect for Keith owning up to his mistakes instead of just insisting he was right the way Dan would have in the same situation.

When Keith and Karen were done talking, Karen noticed that everyone had been done eating for a while. She turned to Lucas who had been unusually quiet and said, "Do you have homework?"

"It's already done."

"Good, then you can clean both bathrooms tonight, including the tub and the floors."

Lucas groaned and said, "Come on Mom, can't I just go to my room for the night or something?"

"No."

Lucas snipped, "Well I guess I won't hurry to finish my homework for the rest of the week if you're going to be like that! I was just sitting here minding my own business and then you have to go and be mean about things. If you're mad at Keith take it out on him!"

Keith said with disapproval, "Lucas."

Lucas turned on Keith and shouted, "You aren't a part of this discussion!"

"Well since I'm the one who grounded you in the first place, I am a part of this discussion like it or not."

Karen glared at Lucas and said, "If you don't lower your voice, you can be grounded for another week. You always do chores when you're grounded, so stop acting like it's out of the ordinary, and get to it."

Lucas bit the inside of his cheek to keep from yelling back, shoved the chair away from the table, and stalked out of the room to go clean the bathrooms. Karen and Keith looked at each other for a second, and then Keith said, "Well that could have gone better."

"He gets grumpy pretty often when he's grounded."

"Does he talk back to you and yell like that too?"

"Sometimes."

Keith shook his head. "I don't like it."

"But even when he yells, he still does what I ask him to do in the end."

"Well, that's good at least."

Lucas was irritated the rest of the night and avoided talking to either adult. And as he was scrubbing out the toilets, he thought for sure he didn't want the adoption to happen.

**********

During the rest of the week Keith went to two interviews and ended up being offered a job at the largest mechanic shop in Tree Hill. He told them he would start after the honeymoon, and they were agreeable to that. On Thursday he went to Dan's bail hearing, and his statement to the judge did get the bail lowered to a reasonable amount that Dan could afford to pay. At that point Dan was seriously questioning whether Keith had tried to kill him.

Lucas had a difficult week with many ups and downs. He kept waffling between wanting Keith as a father and not. He kept being happy to have him at home with him one minute and not being so happy about it the next. He tried not to be angry about the chores he was assigned every night, because he was trying to prove to both his mom and his uncle that he knew what he had done was wrong so that Keith would change his mind about the spanking.

Then on Saturday things came to a boil. Karen went to the café early and left a list of chores for Lucas on the kitchen table. Keith was awake first, and saw the list as he was drinking some coffee. It was mostly yard work which Keith knew Lucas wasn't all that fond of in the first place. Keith noticed Karen had left a note for him too. He was supposed to make some phone calls to confirm when the wedding cake and flowers were going to be delivered next Saturday, and he was supposed to double check the invitation list to make sure they hadn't forgotten anyone.

Keith had showered and gotten ready for the day, and he had gone over the invitation list twice before Lucas got up. A sleepy looking Lucas stumbled into the kitchen and went for the coffee. He sat at the kitchen table next to Keith who said, "Morning."

Lucas grunted in response. Keith said, "I was going to make some breakfast, does anything sound good to you? Eggs? Pancakes?"

Lucas nodded and said, "Yes."

Keith laughed a little and said, "Okay, both."

Keith started getting things out to cook, and Lucas noticed the note his mother had left. He picked it up and glared at it. He crumpled it up and dropped it back onto the table. Keith saw this and said, "Is there a problem?"

Lucas gave him an irritated, "No."

"Then why did you just crumple your list of chores?"

Lucas glared at him. "What? I'm so stupid I can't remember five things? I need to check back on the note every few minutes to make sure I've got it right?"

Keith raised his eyebrows at that. "I don't know where that attitude came from, but you better put it away and get out a new one before we have trouble today. I asked you a simple question in a reasonable tone."

Lucas muttered an insincere, "Sorry."

Keith sighed and went back to cooking, thinking Lucas' mood would improve on a full stomach. Lucas grabbed the newspaper and started reading while Keith cooked. When Keith was done cooking, he set a plate down in front of Lucas who said, "Thanks."

Keith made a plate for himself too and they ate in companionable silence. Once they were both done Lucas put his plate in the sink and got himself some more coffee. He sat back down at the table and started reading the paper again.

Keith finished eating and cleaned off both plates and put them in the dishwasher. Then he went into the living room and made the phone calls that Karen had wanted him to make. There was a problem with the flowers, and he ended up being on the phone for about half an hour calling a few different places. He finished and went back into the kitchen to see Lucas sitting in exactly the same spot with his cup of coffee still full next to him.

Keith thought about it and then said, "Don't you think you should be getting started on your list?"

Lucas didn't even look up. He said, "I will as soon as I finish my coffee."

Keith looked at his watch and said, "You've been up for over an hour now, and you haven't touched your coffee in half an hour."

Lucas picked up the mug and took a drink from it. He gave Keith a challenging look and said, "It was too hot before."

Keith knew when he was being played. He went and took the cup out of Lucas' hands and poured it down the sink. Lucas yelled, "Hey! I was drinking that!"

Keith turned back around and said, "And now you're not. Go get dressed and start on your list."

Lucas tossed the paper he had been reading on the table and headed towards his room as he said, "Jeez Keith, maybe you're the one who needs a new attitude."

Keith almost went after Lucas, but instead he closed his eyes and counted to ten in his head. A few minutes later Keith heard the shower going. Keith shook his head knowing that Lucas was going to need yet another shower a few hours from now after all the yard work was done, and that really he was just procrastinating in a way that wouldn't directly get him in trouble.

Half an hour later Lucas came out of the bathroom dressed in a tee shirt and old jeans. He got out a textbook and sat down on the couch in the living room. Keith just stared at him for a few seconds, but Lucas didn't look up. Keith said, "What are you doing?"

"My homework."

Keith shook his head not believing it. He said, "It's going to get hot today Luke. You need to get the yard work done now, and do your homework tonight."

Lucas said, "So you're telling me my homework isn't that important?"

Keith raised his voice and said, "You know that's not what I'm saying."

Lucas shrugged, closed his book and said, "Whatever." as he headed for the front door.

Keith was furious and said with anger, "Whatever? Did you just say whatever to me?"

Lucas had been in a rotten mood all morning, but he heard how the tone of his uncle's voice had just changed and he decided that hadn't been the best thing to say. He turned around and said sincerely, "Sorry Uncle Keith. I just…. I hate yard work, and I don't want to be spending my whole Saturday doing it. You know?"

Keith's temper went back down at the 'uncle' and at the tone. He nodded and said, "I know you don't like yard work, but instead of looking at it like a punishment, why don't you think of it as helping out your mom? I'm probably not going to be up to doing any kind of yard work for another month. And your mom works really hard all the time, so it isn't really fair to make her mow the lawn and trim the hedge on her one day off while you sit around reading the paper is it?"

Lucas knew Keith was right and looked down. He nodded and said, "Yeah you're right."

"So get started."

Lucas nodded and walked outside feeling guilty about being rotten all morning. He opened up the garage and got out the lawn mower. He started up the mower and got to work on the grass. Before he got even a quarter of the way done with the lawn the mower died. He tried to start it again, but it didn't work. He opened the gas tank and saw it was empty. He kicked the mower in frustration and said, "Damn it!"

He went to the garage and got the gas can. He went into the house and saw Keith sitting on the couch watching a basketball game on TV. That frustrated Lucas even more. Logically he understood that Keith was still healing, and couldn't be out there doing the yard work with him, but it still made him feel like doing something to get rid of his frustration. He glared at Keith and said, "The damn mower's out of gas, so I need to go to the gas station."

Keith turned off the TV, glared back, and said, "You say that like you're accusing me of something."

Lucas rolled his eyes. "I need money and the keys to your truck."

Keith slowly nodded and got up. He got his wallet out, handed Lucas ten dollars, and said, "You can walk to the gas station."

Lucas yelled, "It's ten blocks away!"

"Yes it is, and you're grounded which means you don't get to use the truck, and it also means you have nothing else pressing to do today if it takes you a while. Maybe a walk will help you keep your temper in check."

Lucas shook his head in disbelief. "Maybe you need to come down off this new power trip of yours."

Keith's jaw clenched. He pointed to the front door, and took a deep breath before saying with forced calm, "You better get your ass out that door, and head to the gas station before you say something else you're gonna regret."

Lucas gave Keith a look of hate and stormed off towards the front door. He opened it, and then yelled back over his shoulder, "You suck!"

Lucas slammed the door shut and headed down the front steps.

Keith stood there staring at the front door for about one second before he thought, 'I've got to do it now, or it's just going to get worse the closer it gets.'

Lucas made it to the walkway before he heard the front door open up again, and his stomach lurched as he heard Keith's voice say, "Freeze Lucas."

Lucas stopped and turned around to face Keith with a glare. Keith walked down to confront Lucas. He held out his hand and said, "Give me the gas can."

Lucas wasn't expecting this and it made his anger start to fade. He looked at Keith's face and wondered if he was going to go get the gas for him. He slowly handed it over. Keith took it, and walked back to the porch. He set the gas can down next to the porch swing, and then walked back to Lucas. Keith grabbed Lucas's upper arm and started walking the two of them to the house. Lucas knew in that moment that he had pushed too far, and that Keith was angry. Lucas said, "Keith?"

Keith walked them up the front porch steps and opened the front door for them. He said in a calm but clearly annoyed voice, "Having to wait for me to spank you has obviously been a strain on you, so we're taking care of it right now."

Lucas felt panic rush through him. He shook his head quickly and said, "No! I mean…. I can wait. I'm sorry about this morning."

Keith had closed the front door behind them, and went to the living room. He walked them to the couch and said, "Sit down, we're going to talk."

Lucas thought talking sounded good and sat. Keith sat down next to him on the couch and said, "I'm sorry that I had to make you wait so long. I know it was hard on you, but there was no avoiding it with my shoulder the way it was. I hope that this is never going to happen again, but I want you to know that if it does, I'll make sure you don't have to wait a long time."

Now that the moment appeared to be at hand, Lucas' stomach felt like it wanted to lose breakfast, and all he could think about was how much he wanted to avoid it. He said, "But you said two weeks! It hasn't been two weeks yet."

"Your attitude all morning made me change my mind about that."

Lucas had been in a bad mood all day and he knew he had been pushing at his uncle. Now he wished he hadn't. He said, "I'm really sorry about that. I promise I'll do the rest of my chores without any complaints."

"I understand why you've been upset Luke. Let's just get this over with, and things can get back to some kind of normal."

"Doesn't your shoulder still hurt?"

"Yes, but I'm sure it won't be that much better two days from now when I was planning to spank you in the first place. I'll just have to do it left handed."

Lucas flinched at the word 'spank' and said, "I've tried really hard to be good for the past two weeks. I've had time alone when I could have watched TV or done other things, but I didn't. Shouldn't that count for something?"

Keith knew Lucas was trying everything he could think of to get out of it, so he just nodded and said, "Sure. That means you won't get spanked twice in the same week. And if this morning was your version of 'good' then I'd say it needs a lot of work."

Lucas felt like he wanted to cry at what he saw as injustice. He said, "I hate you, and I don't want you for a father. I'm not going through with the adoption."

Keith was hurt but tried not to let it show. He nodded and said, "Okay, but you should know that I'm always going to want you for a son, so if you change your mind you just let me know. But that is NOT what we're talking about right now. We are talking about the fact that you could have gotten yourself killed when you ran into that school, and your mother and I are not going to tolerate it."

Lucas shook his head no. Keith put a hand on Lucas' knee and said, "This is going to happen, and it's going to happen now. It's going to hurt and it's going to be embarrassing for you, but I want you to know that I'm doing it because I love you and I want to keep you safe."

Lucas thought about running for a split second. He knew he could probably get away, but that would only postpone things because he would eventually come home, and Keith would be waiting. Keith stood up and pulled Lucas to standing also. Keith kept a hand on Lucas' upper arm when he said, "Drop your jeans."

Lucas' eyes widened and he shook his head no with a look of horror on his face. He kept shaking his head no as he watched Keith reach down with both hands and unsnap and unzip his jeans for him. They fell to the floor in a heap around Lucas' ankles. Keith sat down and yanked Lucas face down over his right leg. Lucas caught his upper body with both hands on the couch cushions. He kept his arms straight, so his upper half looked like he was about to do pushups on the couch. But his feet had gotten tripped up in his jeans, so his lower half had fallen and his waist had landed on Keith's thigh. Lucas' breathing was shallow with fear of the unknown.

Keith put his left leg over both of Lucas' legs to help keep him in place since he didn't have that much strength in his right arm still. Keith knew Lucas had to be scared, embarrassed, and angry all at the same time. Keith said, "Lay down and put your left hand behind your back."

Lucas didn't move. Keith sighed and said, "If you don't start to cooperate, your underwear can come down too kiddo."

Lucas was appalled at the thought, and thrown by the kiddo. Keith hadn't called him that in years. He awkwardly let his upper body rest on the couch, and put his left hand behind his back. Keith got a firm grip on Lucas' left wrist with his right hand, and planned to keep it in exactly the same spot for the whole spanking, thinking that would be the best position for the least amount of movement of his right shoulder. Then Keith shifted Lucas slightly so that Lucas' hips were directly on top of his right thigh. Lucas couldn't remember ever feeling quite so ridiculous.

Lucas was startled out of that thought, as he felt the first hard smack on the left side of his butt, quickly followed by a matching smack on the right side. Lucas' whole body had jumped with the first smack, and he held his breath at the second. The swats kept coming hard and amazingly fast, and Lucas couldn't believe that it was so painful. He had been expecting it to be embarrassing and uncomfortable, but not painful, no matter what his uncle had said. He let his breath out in a rush.

Keith didn't know how long his shoulder would hold out if Lucas started to really struggle, and he knew his left arm wasn't as strong as his right, so he was putting significant force behind each blow. He was also doing it as fast as he could, not letting Lucas get adjusted to the pain before giving him more. Keith could tell it was having the desired effect when he felt Lucas starting to squirm before he even got to twenty.

Lucas couldn't help but try to squirm his butt out of the line of fire. More then ten swats later, when Lucas realized his squirming didn't work or even slow Keith down, he yelled out, "Keith! Keith, you're hurting me!"

Keith could tell that Lucas was surprised and dismayed at that. Keith kept going and said, "I know."

Lucas squirmed harder and a few swats later said, "Please stop!"

"Sorry Luke, but we're not done yet."

"But it's not faaaaaaair!"

Keith said calmly, "I think it is fair, and I think it's justified as well."

Lucas shook his head no and spent the next few seconds yelling out ow's and other incoherent sounds of pain. Lucas was close to tears when Keith stopped suddenly.

Keith said, "Lucas, you have been reckless with your life twice in the past six months, first by going into a burning building, and second by running into the school. This spanking may hurt, but trust me, it's nothing compared to getting burnt in a fire, or shot. You could have gotten seriously hurt or killed on both of those days. I am not going to just sit by while you do dangerous things to try and be the hero, and neither is your mother. You better remember this day, and think hard about it the next time you think about doing something that could get yourself hurt. Do you hear me?"

Lucas had been grateful for the reprieve, and lay there breathing hard trying to get his emotions under control. He listened to Keith and took his words seriously. He felt the control on his emotions slipping as Keith talked. When Keith was done Lucas nodded his head and got out a "Yes."

Keith nodded and added, "And just for future reference, if you keep talking back and being passive aggressive when you're grounded, you will quickly find yourself swatted or worse."

Lucas' voice was shaky as he said, "Okay."

After hearing that, Keith quickly pulled Lucas' underwear down just far enough to bare his butt, leaving the elastic resting where butt met thigh. Lucas yelled out, "NO!"

Keith's only response was to resume the spanking with the same force and speed as before. Lucas struggled with renewed force for a few seconds, which wrenched Keith's shoulder. Keith's shoulder was already hurting, but that made the pain skyrocket. Keith grit his teeth and tried to ignore it so he could finish up. Lucas' struggles only lasted for a few more seconds before he gave up and started to cry, even though he was trying not to with everything he had.

Lucas had trouble believing any of it was even happening, let alone that it really hurt and that his crying was getting harder. The position mixed with the sounds, the feelings, and the emotions his uncle's words were producing, made him truly regret the things he had done to get himself spanked.

Keith continued to spank Lucas until his crying turned into sobbing, and he heard Lucas say in between gulps of air and loud exclamations of pain, "I'm sorry. Uncle Keith, I'm sorry."

Keith stopped at that and let go of his wrist. Lucas stayed where he was and cried into the couch cushions. Keith pulled up his underwear and rubbed his back while he calmed down. Lucas tried to get up while still crying, but Keith stopped rubbing his back, and put pressure on it to keep him in place. Keith said, "Tell me why I spanked you."

Lucas wiped at his face with both his hands and tried to stop crying. "B…because I w…went into the s….school."

"That's right. And why was that a bad choice."

"I c…could have b….been killed."

"Right again, and what are you going to do next time?"

"Think things through first."

"I really hope so Lucas, because I don't want to be here again. Today sucked for me too you know."

Lucas nodded, because he was sure it was hard for Keith too. Keith took his left leg off Lucas' legs, and helped Lucas stand with a hand on his upper arm. As soon as he was up, Lucas reached down, pulled up his jeans, and fastened them. Keith stood up also, and pulled Lucas into a hug. Lucas' crying started back up again with the hug, and he wrapped his arms around his uncle and rested his forehead on Keith's shoulder.

Keith hugged Lucas harder and said, "It's over now Luke. I'm not mad and I forgive you."

Keith held Lucas until he stopped crying again which took quite a while. When the crying was done Keith rubbed Lucas' back a little and said, "Better?"

Lucas let go of Keith and wiped at his face again while nodded that he was. Keith let go and said, "Okay then here's what's going to happen for the rest of the day. You are going to go splash some water on your face, and then you are going to go to your room and lay down for a few minutes while I drive down to the gas station and get the can filled. Then in about half an hour you are going to go back outside and finish your chores. When you're done with that, you can do your homework until your mom comes home."

Lucas nodded at all of this, and was more then just a little relieved to hear that he didn't have to walk to and from the gas station with an aching backside. He was also happy to hear that he got to have a little time to himself, to think about what had happened and try to compose himself. Keith continued, "Then when your mom gets here, we're all going to sit down and talk about this."

Lucas shook his head no and gave Keith a look that seemed to say he would rather eat glass then discuss what had just happened with his mother. Keith said, "Sorry son, I know it's not what you want to do, and I'll keep it short and to the point. But I want her to know that I did it and it's over, and I want you both to know what I'm going to expect from you for the next two days while you're still grounded."

Lucas was disappointed to hear that he was still grounded, but had actually been expecting it. He nodded and muttered, "Okay."

Keith patted Lucas' shoulder and said, "Thanks. You go clean up and lay down, while I go get the gas."

Lucas nodded and Keith turned and headed for the front door. Lucas saw the back of Keith's shirt and said with shock, "You're bleeding!"

Keith looked down at himself. Lucas felt a rush of guilt and said, "Your shoulder in the back."

Keith looked back over his shoulder and saw there was a spot of blood there about the size of a quarter. The exit wound from the bullet had been much bigger then the entrance wound, and while it was healing up just fine, it would still be a few more weeks before it was done healing. Keith sighed with annoyance that the healing process was taking so long and turned to face Lucas. "Could you change the bandages for me?"

Lucas looked like he was going to cry again and said, "I'm sorry."

Keith shook his head and said in a coaxing voice, "Hey, it's not your fault."

"How can you say that? I was awful all morning and pushed you into spanking me early, and then my struggles opened up the wound that was healing on your shoulder, so yeah, I think it's my fault."

Keith hadn't been expecting Lucas to see things that way so soon after the spanking. He nodded slowly while thinking and then said, "So, do you think I should spank you again for this?"

Lucas took a step back and covered his butt with both hands while he shook his head no frantically and said, "What?! NO!"

Keith nodded again and said, "Why not?"

"Because I don't want you to."

"Well that's not a good enough reason. I suspect you'll never want me to spank you. So think about it and tell me why not. I agree with you by the way, so tell me why I shouldn't."

Lucas calmed down a little, put his hands to his sides and really thought about it. A few seconds later he said, "I don't know."

Keith walked over and put his left arm over Lucas' shoulders and started them walking to the bathroom. He said, "Because no matter how much you were pushing me, it was up to me to decide if I was physically ready to punish you or not, and apparently I was wrong. But it was my decision and not yours, so it's not your fault it's mine. And you can't help but struggle when you're in pain. You need to lay off the guilt Luke. The spanking was supposed to help you not to feel guilty anymore, not to make you feel more guilty."

They made it to the master bathroom and Keith let go of Lucas' shoulders. He got out the supplies the doctor had given him to change his bandages. He was supposed to do it twice a day, but since he had bled through he figured three times today would be okay. He put the supplies on the counter and looked at Lucas. He said, "If you're too squeamish about the blood I can run over to the café and have your mom help me."

Lucas shook his head. "I can do it."

Lucas hoped he was telling the truth. He hadn't actually seen the wound yet, because his mother had been helping Keith. Keith nodded and carefully took off his shirt. He got the supplies ready while he explained to Lucas what to do. He tossed his shirt in the hamper and then sat down on the lid of the toilet with his back facing Lucas.

Lucas walked over and started to take off the old bandage, and was unhappy to see that there was quite a bit of blood on it. He got it off and thought he might be sick from looking at the wound. It was about three inches tall by three inches wide, and was oozing. He felt hot tears in his eyes again and said, "Jesus Keith. It looks really bad."

Keith could tell Lucas felt awful and tried to lighten the mood. "Yeah, it's gonna leave a wicked scar. Do you think it'll make me look more dangerous? Don't most women go for guys who look a little scary?"

Lucas had been starring at it, but now gave his uncle an almost confused look. Then after a few seconds he said with a small smile, "Say that in front of mom and you'll see what scary looks like."

Keith actually chuckled at that, and Lucas picked up the bandages and medication and put them over the wound. He taped it up and said, "Okay, all done."

Keith stood up and looked at it in the mirror. He turned and put a hand on Lucas' shoulder and said, "Thanks kiddo, now go wash up and lay down for a while."

Lucas nodded and went to do that. Keith got out the pain medications that they had given him to take as needed for pain on top of the regular one he was taking daily. He took one and then went to the bedroom to get a new shirt. Soon he was on his way to the gas station.

Lucas went into his room and lay down on his stomach. He put both his hands behind him and rubbed his butt experimentally. The sharp pain was fading, but it was still plenty sore. He muttered, "Shit."

He rubbed at it for a few more seconds, and then put both his hands up under his pillow to rest his head on. He lay there and thought about Keith and what he had done. Lucas had hated every second of the entire spanking, but he found he was slightly less angry with Keith now that it was done. He thought, 'I don't care what Keith says, it's not fair. Nathan didn't get punished. Hell, his relationship with Haley is better then ever because of him running in there. Payton could have died, and probably would have died if I hadn't gone in there to help her. Her dad thanked me and told me how grateful he was that I saved his daughter. Keith's just being a jerk about it. It hurt, and he's an asshole.'

'Why is it okay for Keith to step in front of a loaded gun to protect me, but it's not okay for me to go into the school to save someone? Hypocrite! …….'

Then Lucas thought the same thoughts he had had every day since the shooting. 'He stepped in front of a loaded gun for me. What if Keith hadn't been there? Jimmy could have shot me, and then Payton and I might both be dead.'

He shook his head and thought, 'Keith could be dead too. He got shot, and still isn't healed.'

Lucas' mind brought up the image of Keith's wound now that he had seen it. He shuddered slightly. He thought, 'Keith was so determined to spank me that he did it even though it opened up his healing wound. That had to hurt. He put himself in pain to give me pain? Why would he do that?'

Lucas shook his head and sighed. He knew the answer, he just wasn't sure that he wanted to admit it. But the thought went through his head anyway. 'To keep me safe.'
Lucas glared at no one in particular and thought, 'I don't need protection! I'm not some little kid. I'm gonna be at college next year. I have a life of my own, and he has no right to try and control me. I'm perfectly capable of making my own decisions.'

He thought about what Keith had asked him right before letting him get up, and was irritated to find that his answer was still the same. He would give serious consideration to what happened today before he went into a dangerous situation again. Whether he thought it was fair or not didn't really matter that much, the fact was that it had worked, and for some reason that irked Lucas. He didn't want anyone to have that much input in his decision making.

He thought about Nathan with some jealousy because he knew he was free to make whatever decisions he wanted. Then his thoughts turned to some of the decisions Nathan had made over the years and realized they really hadn't been that good. He also thought about the fact that Nathan had never really known the kind of unconditional love from a parent that Lucas had from his mom and in many ways from Keith as well.

Lucas thought, 'Is that the trade off? Does one have to go with the other? 'Overprotective and in your face when you've made a bad choice' parents who still love you when you screw up, or 'pushing it under the rug and covering it up when you've made a bad choice' parents who don't love you when you aren't their version of perfect.'

A few seconds later he felt kind of sorry for Nathan. He might not have agreed with the reasons behind the spanking, but he knew for sure that Keith had done it because he loved him, and his mom had let it happen because she loved him, and that was worth more then some temporary pain.

Lucas stayed on his bed thinking about things until Keith arrived home with the gas. Keith put the gas in the mower, put the gas can away, and then knocked on Lucas' bedroom door.

Lucas sat up on his bed but found that to be pretty uncomfortable and stood. He said, "Yeah?"

Keith came in and said, "How are you doing?"

Lucas looked away and shrugged. "Okay."

The room was quiet for a few seconds. Then Keith said, "You hate me still?"

Lucas shook his head and mumbled, "No."

The room was quiet for a few more seconds and then Lucas said, "I guess I'll go finish my chores."

Keith nodded and said, "Good idea. The mower's ready."

Lucas went out and started on the yard work with a new attitude. He had so much to think about, that he wasn't angry about what he was doing anymore. In fact he was so distracted by his thinking, that the yard work seemed to get done rather quickly.

Keith checked out the window every once in a while to see how Lucas was progressing, and was happy to see it getting done fast. At one point he saw Lucas put a hand back and give his butt a small rub. Keith felt a little stab of guilt at that and sighed. He was glad to have it over and truly hoped to never feel the need to do it again.

A few hours later Lucas came in looking sweaty and kind of tired. He saw Keith and said in an unsure voice, "I'm done, so I was gonna take a shower."

Keith nodded, "Okay."

Fifteen minutes later Lucas came out looking more like his usual self in a new change of clothes and damp hair. Lucas walked towards Keith and picked up his textbook from the coffee table. He said, "I'm gonna do some homework."

Keith thought Lucas sounded like he was looking for approval. Almost like he was asking if it was okay with Keith that he do his homework right then. Keith nodded and tried to sound reassuring when he said, "I think that's a good idea. Did you want to sit here on the couch with me while you do it? I could turn off the TV and read something for a while."

Lucas shook his head and said, "No, that's okay, you don't have to stop what you're watching. I'll do it in my room."

Keith gave a hesitant, "Okay."

A few hours later Karen came home. She went to sit next to Keith on the couch and gave him a kiss. He kissed her back and said, "How was your day?"

"Pretty good. How was yours?"

Keith took a deep breath and said, "Not so good."

Karen gave a little wince, knowing how her son could get when irritated, and said, "Did Luke have issues with his chores?"

"Yeah, and then I had issues with his issues."

Keith turned his head in the direction of Lucas' room and called out, "Luke, could you come here for a minute?"

Lucas was lying on his bed trying to do his homework, but he was having trouble concentrating. He heard Keith and went out to see what he wanted. Lucas stopped when he saw his mom sitting there on the couch next to Keith in the exact same spot he had gotten spanked a few hours earlier. He realized Keith had called him out there to talk about what had happened, and he felt his whole face getting red. "Yeah Uncle Keith?"

Karen could tell right away that something was off between Keith and Lucas.

Keith felt bad at Lucas' obvious embarrassment, but wanted to get it all out in the open. Keith scooted over a little and patted the spot on the couch that was between him and Karen. He said, "Come sit down and talk to us."

Lucas walked over and sat in between them. Keith put a hand on Lucas' knee in what he hoped was a comforting gesture. He looked over at Karen who looked worried and said, "I spanked him this morning."

Karen's eyes darted over to Lucas who kept his eyes on his lap. Keith continued, "I think the strain of waiting for it was getting to him. He was rude, unpleasant, and basically challenged my authority all morning."

Lucas slouched lower on the couch at those words and squirmed a little because he knew they were true and that embarrassed him. Karen said in a disappointed voice, "I see."

Keith said, "Lucas, do you have anything to say to your mom about going into the school?"

Lucas hadn't really been expecting that and stammered out a very quiet, "I'm sorry..… and it won't happen again."

Karen couldn't believe the change in Lucas' demeanor. She gave Keith a glare thinking he must have beaten Lucas within an inch of his life to get this kind of a response. She pulled Lucas into a hug and said, "It's okay, I know you're sorry, and I certainly forgive you."

Lucas hugged Karen back hard, and to his horror found he was crying again. Karen felt it before she heard it and then hugged him tighter. She glared even harder at Keith and murmured to Lucas, "Lucas honey, it's gonna be all right. I'm sure you feel bad right now, but I love you, and I know you'll feel better in a few days."

Lucas nodded into her shoulder and tried to stop crying. Keith felt awful watching Lucas crying again. He squeezed Lucas' knee and said, "I'm gonna go get a glass of water and give you two a few minutes."

Keith got up and walked out of the room. Karen and Lucas sat together for a few minutes while Lucas cried and tried not to. Finally Karen couldn't take it anymore and asked, "Are you in a lot of pain Lucas?"

Lucas sat up wiped at his face and looked a little confused for a second. Then when he realized what she was asking he was even more embarrassed. He shook his head, "No, I mean a little, but not that much. It's just that I feel so bad about everything."

She put a hand on his face happy to hear his crying was more about emotions then pain. She said, "About going into the school?"

"Well kind of, but really more about how I've been acting the past week and a half, especially towards Keith. He took a bullet for me, and I repay him by being a shit."

Karen said with mild disapproval, "Language."

Lucas shrugged, "You know that's what Keith would say."

Karen patted Lucas' knee and said, "Sounds like you should be talking to him instead of me."

Lucas looked down and said, "But how can he still like me and want me for a son after all the stuff I did and said to him. I told him I hated him."

Karen said, "You wait here a second."

Karen got up to get Keith even though Lucas shook his head and whispered, "No. Mom, no."

Karen went into the kitchen and saw Keith standing by the sink looking out the window. She went up to him with her hands on her hips and said in a harsh whisper, "What did you hit him with?"

Keith looked surprised and a little hurt. He held up his hand with the palm facing her, "Just this, I swear, and only on his rear end."

Karen glared for a second longer and then looked out the window taking a deep breath trying to get her protective maternal instincts under control. She nodded once, looked back at Keith and said, "I believe you, and I'm sorry I asked, but I just haven't seen him so… broken in a long time."

Keith nodded and said, "I know. It was really hard for him to accept that I was so upset with the things he had done that I was actually hurting him."

She nodded and said, "He thinks you can't love him anymore after the way he's been acting the past week and a half."

Keith frowned, and after a few seconds said, "I'll tell him that that just isn't true, but he might not believe it at first. Come on, let's go talk to him."

They both walked back out to the living room, and Lucas kept his eyes down. Keith sat on one side of him and Karen on the other again. Keith put his arm around Lucas' shoulders and said, "Hey Luke, I just wanted to let you know that I loved you when you were a tiny baby, I loved you when you were a little kid, and I love you just as much now if not more."

Lucas shook his head. "But I was so mean to you."

Keith smiled and said, "You weren't that mean, and I know you were upset."

"That's not a good excuse."

Keith nodded and said, "Well okay then, since you feel so bad about it, here's the deal. For the next two days while you're still grounded, if you're talking back or being a little shit, I'm gonna swat you and see if it improves your attitude."

Lucas looked a little uncomfortable and said, "I don't think we need to go that far."

Keith said, "I think we do. But I want you to know that no matter how much you act up, I'm still gonna be here at the end of the day, and I'm still gonna love you."

Lucas gave a quiet, "Okay."

Keith turned to Karen and said, "Do we have plans for tomorrow?"

"Not really."

"Then let's all do something together."

Karen smiled and said, "Like what?"

"We could pack a picnic lunch and go to the park for the afternoon."

Karen said, "Well that sounds really nice, but I don't see how that fits with Lucas being grounded."

Keith smiled and said, "Don't you know the worst punishment for a seventeen year old boy is to have to be seen in public having a good time with his family?"

Karen laughed a little and said, "Sorry, I didn't realize."

Lucas wasn't sure what to think of this until he saw Keith smiling at him. Keith said, "What do you say Luke? Do you have any complaints to make about it?"

Lucas shook his head quickly and said, "No way. No complaints from me for the next two days."

Keith said "Good. So I guess you better finish your homework tonight so that you don't have to do take it with you tomorrow."

Lucas nodded and stood up. Keith said, "But bring it out here to work on it."

Lucas gave Keith a questioning look and said, "Why?"

Keith raised an eyebrow and said in a 'don't question me' voice, "Because I told you to."

Lucas looked surprised for a second and then looked to his mom who was giving him an expectant look waiting to hear what he would say. Lucas slowly nodded and said, "Okay."

Lucas went to get his books and Karen leaned over and whispered to Keith, "Why?"

Keith whispered back, "Because I don't think he should be alone much for the next two days. I hope it will reassure him that I love him just to be around both of us."

Karen nodded and got up. She said, "I'm going to go work on the café's schedule for while we're on our honeymoon."

Keith nodded and waited for Lucas to come back out. As soon as Lucas was settled on the couch doing some homework Keith went in and talked to Karen about the wedding plans and the problems he had fixed that morning with the flower arrangements.

**************

The next two days went really well for the three of them. Sunday they spent most of the day together. Lucas was happy to have a day off from doing chores, and contrary to Keith's joking, Lucas had a great time spending the day with his new family at the park. On Monday Lucas was on his best behavior, and didn't complain at all when he had to spend the evening washing both cars.

Tuesday morning Karen left early for work as usual, and Keith made breakfast for Lucas. Lucas came to the kitchen to grab a bowl of cereal and was surprised to see there were eggs and hash browns waiting for him. He looked at Keith and said, "What's this for?"

Keith said, "I'm just happy that your two weeks are up."

Lucas sat down and started eating. He said with a full mouth, "Me too."

They both ate in silence for a while. Then Keith said, "Hey Luke?"

"Yeah?"

Keith found himself really nervous and looked at his plate when he said, "I don't know if you've thought about it anymore, but tomorrow we have a court date to see the judge about your adoption. Last I heard you didn't want to do it, but I was kind of hoping you had changed your mind since then. I know I still want you to be my son. But I guess we need to make a final decision before we see the judge so that we can either tell him to forget it, or that we want it to happen."

Keith looked over at Lucas to see his response, even if it was going to be 'no' which would hurt. Lucas looked at him and said, "I've thought about it a lot over the past two weeks. Well really ever since you asked me. I'm sorry I told you I didn't want to go through with it. I think deep down I've always wanted it to happen. Even when I thought you were being unreasonable, I never doubted that you loved me or had my best interest at heart. And I guess I think that's the most important part of being a dad. So yeah, Dad, I still want to go through with it."

Keith smiled big and thought he just might cry. He leaned over and gave Lucas a kiss on the forehead and said, "Thanks son."

Lucas smiled but shook his head, "No. Thank you for not giving up on me when I was rotten."

Keith laughed and said, "You couldn't be rotten if you tried. Finish up and go to school."

"Okay Dad."

**************

Wednesday went off without a hitch. All the paperwork had already been filled out correctly, so as soon as the judge asked Keith, Karen, and Lucas a few questions each, he signed the papers and made it official. Keith breathed a sigh of relief when it was over. He was worried that Dan would show up and try to contest it. No one had told Dan when it was, but Keith was still worried that he would somehow find out and ruin the plans now that he was out on bail. That night the three of them went out to dinner to celebrate.

On Saturday Keith and Karen got married. Lucas and Nathan stood up for Keith, while Haley and Brooke stood up for Karen. Everyone thought it was a beautiful wedding, and the couple seemed happy.

*************

Four months later Dan's trial was almost over. Keith had testified as promised, and he was sure that it had helped Dan's case. Keith was working at his new job on a Wednesday when he got a call from a friend of his who worked at the courthouse telling him the verdict was in. Keith had already made arrangements with his new boss about this, and soon was on his way to get Karen. Karen left the café in the care of a new part time employee that Karen had been training since Debbie left town. Then the two of them went to the school and got Lucas and Nathan out of class to take them along. They arrived in court a few minutes before the verdict was read.

The judge said, "Have you reached a verdict?"

The lead jury person said, "We have your honor."

"What say you?"

"On the count of attempted murder we find the defendant not guilty. On the charge of aggravated assault we find the defendant guilty."

The judge nodded and turned to Dan. He said, "Mr. Scott, since you've had a clean record up to this point, and because of your brother's testimony, I'm going to go easy on you this time. But I want you to know that if I ever see you in my court again that is not going to be the case. Two years probation, and six hundred hours of community service."

The judge banged the gavel and Dan breathed a huge sigh of relief. The courthouse started to clear out while Dan talked to his lawyer for a few minutes, and when he turned to leave the room was fairly empty. But he saw Keith standing there waiting for him with Karen, and his two sons. Dan could tell that Karen was less then happy with the verdict, but the rest of them seemed fairly happy with it. He went over, and Keith smiled and held out his hand to shake. Dan knew that Keith's testimony had been the biggest reason for the sentence he got. He put his hand out and shook as well. Keith said, "Congratulations Danny."

"Thanks Keith."

Nathan said, "I'm glad you don't have to go to jail Dad."

"Thanks son."

Karen and Lucas remained silent. Dan knew what Karen thought. He turned to Lucas and said, "What about you Lucas? Would you prefer to see me behind bars?"

Lucas thought about it for a few seconds and said, "You know, a few months ago I would have said yes. But since I don't have to endure you as my father anymore, and since Dad seems to think you deserve another chance, I guess I'm okay with it for now."

Lucas turned to Nathan and said, "Sorry man, no offence."

Nathan shrugged and said, "It's okay. I understand."

Nathan had gotten used to Lucas calling Keith 'Dad' over the past four months and it didn't phase him, but it was the first time Dan had heard it. He found it hurt him more then he thought it could. Dan had been thinking a lot about Keith, Nathan, and Lucas since Keith had first come to visit him in jail. He had kept his distance, but he had taken to heart the things Keith had said to him about Lucas. He had really thought about it, and knew that even though he had done quite a few things to hurt Lucas in the past, that he didn't hate him. And he really did regret choking him before learning that Lucas had been the one to pull him out of that fire.

Dan looked at Lucas and said, "I've been thinking about you a lot over the past few months, and I understand why you would rather have Keith for a father. I've done a lot of things in the past that might lead you to believe that I hate you, but I don't. And I'm going to try to rectify that over time starting today."

Lucas wasn't sure if that was something he wanted or not. He said, "It's okay Dan, I don't want or need anything from you."

Dan nodded. "Probably true, but I'm still going to try."

Dan turned to Keith and said, "Lucas has the same heart condition as me."

Keith and Karen both said, "What?!"

Lucas glared at Dan and said, "Bastard! I save your life and this is how you repay me? Why don't you just choke me again, at least that's a direct attack!"

Dan looked at Lucas and said, "I am repaying you Lucas, even if you don't think so right now."

Lucas said with hate and venom, "I hope you burn in hell!"

Dan scoffed and said, "Get in line."

Dan looked at Karen and said, "Lucas does have the same heart condition as me. He was taking some pretty expensive medications when he was living with me. I don't know how he's getting them now, or if he's even taking them."

Karen just shook her head and felt like crying. Keith looked at Lucas who was glaring at Dan. Keith put a hand on Lucas' shoulder and said, "Is this true Luke?"

Lucas looked over at Keith for a second, but was too ashamed to keep eye contact, and Keith could tell it was true. Keith just shook his head and stood there in shock for a few seconds.

Nathan wanting desperately not to be a part of the oncoming conversation looked at Dan and said, "Hey Dad, you wanna share a cab? You can come and see what Haley and I have done with the apartment."

Dan smiled at Nathan and said, "That sounds great son."

Dan and Nathan started walking out, and then Keith called out, "Hey Dan."

Dan turned around. Keith said, "I'm thinking maybe the next time I give you a chance to show me that you've got a soul somewhere in there, you're gonna surprise me."

Dan smiled a little, shrugged and said, "It's a possibility, but I wouldn't count on it."

Keith nodded thinking that was probably true, and then turned back to Lucas as Dan and Nathan walked out the door. Lucas stood there darting glances at his mother who looked to be in shock. Keith said, "Let's go home."

Keith put an arm around Karen and headed towards the door looking back once to make sure Lucas was following. They all got in the car and before Keith started it, he looked back to Lucas and said, "Explain."

Lucas looked out his window and said, "I didn't want to take the test in the first place, but mom insisted. I knew if I told her the truth my basketball days would be over, and I just couldn't take that, so I forged a new test result."

Karen interrupted, "How could you Lucas?"

Lucas looked at her and said, "You made me take it, even though I told you and told you I didn't want to. I wasn't going to let the results ruin my life!"

Karen said, "Don't you dare try to make this somehow my fault!"

Keith said, "Why would you tell Dan and no one else?"

Lucas looked over and said, "That was when I was trying to find something on him to get him put in jail. Which I suppose is kind of ironic now. And I thought it would be a good way to get him to trust me, and to get my medications paid for."

Karen shook her head. "We have a health plan Luke. It's not like I wouldn't be able to afford them."

Lucas said, "One more monthly bill mom. Are you sure you could have afforded it, because I don't think you could have."

"I would have found a way."

Keith said, "We will find a way. How are you paying for them now?"

Lucas got a little pink in the face and looked out the window. Keith said with disbelief, "You're not taking them?"

Lucas said, "I couldn't afford them, and they were affecting my game. I was brining the whole team down with my lousy playing."

Karen just sat there not believing what she was hearing. The more Keith heard the angrier he got. He said with clenched teeth, "How long have you been off them?"

Lucas slouched back in his seat at the tone and said, "Six months."

Karen put a hand over her mouth. Keith turned around, took a few deep breaths, and then started the car. It was a silent ride back to their house. Lucas almost said something in his defense more then once, but then lost his nerve. Karen kept going between wanting to break down and cry, and wanting to yell. Keith was angry and upset, and kept wondering what to do now.

Fifteen minutes later when Keith pulled the car into their driveway, he knew what to do next. He turned the car off and turned to the backseat. "You get your ass in the house while I talk to your mom."

"Dad, I….."

"Right now Lucas."

Lucas felt his stomach taking a dive at Keith's tone, but he opened the car door and went into the house. Keith turned to Karen who broke down into tears as soon as Lucas got into the house. Keith held her while she cried. Keith said, "Now that we know, we can get him back on the medications, and he'll still be able to live a long and full life. Dan's already thirty-six, and he never had any medications for the condition growing up."

As soon as she could talk Karen nodded and said, "I just can't believe he would lie to me about it. Then to stop taking the medication so his game would be better? What was he thinking?"

Keith shook his head, "I don't know, but I know he's gonna take it seriously from now on. You might want to wait in the car or go for a little drive for the next fifteen minutes."

Karen looked surprised and said, "Why?"

Keith said, "I plan to have a loud 'discussion' with our son."

"You plan on spanking him?"

"Yes."

"I don't know Keith. It was so hard on him the last time. Maybe we should just ground him."

Keith thought about it for a few seconds and said, "He lied to you again and again, and did things that he knew were dangerous to his health. I don't think grounding is going to cover it. I know it was hard for him last time, it was hard for me too, but I also think it worked. Think about it and tell me honestly. Do you really think grounding him will work just as well, or do you just have a hard time seeing him hurting, especially right after finding out he has a medical problem?"

Karen did think about it for a couple of minutes and then reluctantly said, "You're right. I'll wait in the car. Come get me when you're done."

Keith gave her a small kiss and said, "I love that you trust me with him Karen. I'll come get you in a few minutes."

Keith got out of the car and walked to the house. Lucas was in the kitchen pacing. Keith went in and shut the door behind him. Lucas looked at the door for a second and said, "Where's mom?"

"In the car."

Lucas felt his pulse race and said, "Why?"

Keith walked towards the table and said, "I think you know."

Lucas shook his head even though he had a pretty good idea. He sounded more worried then anything else when he whispered, "No. Dad, no."

Keith got one of the kitchen chairs and pulled it away from the table. He sat down in it while Lucas stared at him with wide eyes. Keith said, "You lied to your mother about this and hid it from her for months. You stopped taking the medication for it so you could play high school basketball a little better. Those are things that a child does Lucas, not a man. You know as well as I do that lying is wrong, and that your mother and I are very serious about you not doing things that are dangerous to your health. So now you're going to get spanked."

Lucas shook his head in a panic, "Not again! It was supposed to be a one time thing."

Keith sighed, "I had been hoping to never do it again, but I can't let this go. Come here."

Lucas shook his head again and pleaded. "Dad…. Keith, please."

Keith shook his head. "No Lucas. It's happening, even if I have to come get you."

Lucas looked close to tears already. "But this all happened last year, when you weren't even around! You can't punish me now for things that happened so long ago."

"I might agree with that if it were really in the past, but you're still hiding it, and you're still not taking the medications for it, so I would call it a current situation. Now come over here."

Lucas stood rooted to the spot trying to come up with something to make this all go away. Keith raised his voice and said, "Lucas!"

Lucas jumped a little and found himself walking towards Keith whether he wanted to or not. When he got within reaching distance he said, "I'll take the medication from now on."

"Yes you will. Now drop your pants."

Lucas tried to take a step back, but Keith grabbed a handful of Lucas' loose fitting jeans and held tight. Lucas said, "But… it really hurt last time…. And if I'd known this was gonna happen….. I would have told you."

"You've had four months to tell me. If you had come to me, or to your mom, at any point during that time and told us about this, you might have gotten grounded, but that would have been the end of it. Now it's too late for that. I told you to undo your pants."

Lucas felt like maybe it was someone else unbuttoning his jeans and pulling the zipper down. Keith gave his fist full of jeans a quick yank and they came out of Lucas' hands and fell to the floor in a heap around his shoes. Keith grabbed Lucas's wrist and pulled him over his lap. Keith's wound was fully healed, so he could use his right arm this time. Lucas thought this was much more uncomfortable then the couch where at least part of him was supported. As it was, he had to hold his upper half up with his hands on the floor, and his legs were so long that his knees almost touched the floor on the other side.

Keith wrapped his left arm around Lucas' back to keep him in place, and used his right hand to quickly pull down Lucas' underwear to mid thigh. Lucas said, "Please don't!"

Keith brought his hand down in the center of Lucas' butt with a very loud sounding smack that reverberated in the kitchen. Lucas jumped and immediately yelled, "Ouch! Damn it!"

Keith gave him a good twenty swats while Lucas jumped, squirmed, and shouted through them. Lucas had known it was going to hurt, but he wasn't at all ready for it, and very quickly felt the tears in his eyes slip down his face long before the twenty were done. Keith stopped and said, "You don't lie to us, and you don't hide health issues from us, or you'll find yourself here again."

Lucas got out, "Okay I won't!"

Keith was done talking and resumed spanking. Lucas was dismayed that Keith wasn't done. And a few seconds into it he cried out, "I said I won't do it again! I'm sorry! Daaad, I'm sooooorry!"

Keith didn't say anything; he just tipped Lucas further forward over his lap and started concentrating the spanks on his sit spots. Keith felt Lucas' struggles intensify and he had to get a better grip around his waist to keep him in place. Lucas yelled out, "Oooooww!" and put his hand back to try and cover his butt from the onslaught.

Keith paused long enough to grab Lucas' wrist and hold it behind his back. Then he started spanking even harder. Lucas hadn't thought it could get more painful. He started crying harder as the spanking continued, and soon he had no more air left for talking. Keith heard the loud sobbing and gave Lucas six more swats before stopping.

The only sounds in the room for the next few seconds were Lucas crying. Keith let go of Lucas' wrist, and Lucas used that hand to cover up his face while he cried. Keith kept one arm around Lucas' waist and let his right hand rest on Lucas' lower back waiting him out. When the crying sounded less intense Keith said quietly, "Tell me why I spanked you Luke."

Lucas desperately wanted it all to be over, and was worried that Keith wasn't done since he was still laying bare assed over his lap. Lucas had a hard time getting it out through his crying, but he hoped Keith understood him as he said, "Because I lied to you and mom."

"And?"

"Because I stopped taking the medication."

Keith patted Lucas' back in approval and said, "Are you going to do it again?"

"No, I swear I wont."

Keith nodded and said, "Okay then we're done here."

Keith leaned down slightly and pulled up Lucas' underwear for him and then said, "Up you go."

Keith put a hand on Lucas' upper arm to help him stand up. Lucas got up and immediately leaned down to pull up his jeans. While Lucas did that, Keith got up and put the kitchen chair back in it's spot at the table. He turned to look at Lucas who seemed to be the picture of misery still sniffling and using one hand to wipe at his face and the other to hold his bottom.

Keith walked over and pulled Lucas into a hug. Lucas was reeling with emotions and was still a little shocked and overwhelmed that it had all happened so fast. He hugged Keith back after a few seconds and tried to settle down. Keith held him until he was sure the crying had stopped. When he let go he held Lucas at arms length.

Keith said, "You know that I love you right?"

Lucas said in a wounded voice, "Yeah I know, but I kind of think you suck right now."

Keith almost laughed but he could tell Lucas was serious so he bit the inside of his cheek. When he had it under control he said seriously, "I can understand why you'd feel that way kiddo."

Keith patted his shoulder one more time and then said, "I'm going to get your mom, and you are going to do some serious apologizing to her."

Lucas nodded and Keith went to the door. He started walking to the car, but Karen got out as soon as she saw him and walked quickly to the house. She said, "It's over?"

Keith nodded. She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek because she could tell he was pretty unhappy. She went into the house and saw that Lucas looked even worse. Karen walked over and gave him a hug.

Keith came into the kitchen and closed the door behind him. Without prompting Lucas said, "I'm sorry mom, really, really sorry. I know you wanted me to get the test because you were looking out for me. And I know forging new test results was wrong. I promise it won't happen again. And I'll start taking the medications again as soon as we get them."

Karen patted Lucas' back. She had had a lot of time to think while she was waiting, and she had come to a decision of her own. She said, "I accept your apology Lucas, but you're done playing basketball of any kind until we get you in to see a specialist and I talk to them personally about what that kind of physical activity will do to you. Then we'll see after that."

Lucas let go of her and said with anger, "What! No way mom! It's getting close to the end of the year, and the team needs me. You can't…. Ow!"

Keith had heard enough. While Lucas was complaining, Keith had walked over to him, grabbed his upper arm, and given him a hard swat. The room was silent for a few seconds while Lucas and Keith locked eyes. Keith said, "You want to rethink that answer son?"

Lucas looked close to tears again and said, "But it's….."

Keith swatted him hard two more times. Lucas yelped at each one, and tried to get his butt out of his father's reach with no success. Keith said, "The next words out of your mouth better be, 'Okay mom I won't play basketball anymore until I see a doctor.' I am not putting up with the kind of crap you pulled when you were grounded last time Lucas."

Lucas glared at Keith hating him in that moment. He was too angry to think things through. He yelled, "It's my life, and I'll play basketball if I want to!"

Keith sighed, not wanting to do it, but knowing he had to. He kept a tight grip on Lucas' arm and pulled him towards the kitchen table. Lucas realized too late what he had just said, and what was about to happen. Keith pulled out the same chair again and Lucas said, "No! Wait! I didn't mean it! "

Keith sat and yanked Lucas back over his lap. Lucas realized his mother was still in the room and craned his head around to see her. He said, "Mom! Mom, tell him I didn't mean it! I was just angry, please tell him."

Keith waited to hear what Karen would say. Karen looked at Lucas closely and said, "Yes you were angry, but learning when to hold you tongue even though you're angry is something I guess you need to learn."

She turned to Keith and tried to show her support by giving him a nod even if she was close to tears herself.

Keith turned back to Lucas and started swatting the seat of Lucas' jeans. Keith knew Lucas was already in pain, so he wasn't actually swatting him very hard, but he doubted Lucas could tell. Lucas immediately started crying and writhing over his lap. Keith stopped at ten swats and then waited for a few seconds. He said, "You know what I want to hear before I let you up."

"I won't p….play basketball u….until we see a doctor."

"You'd better mean it, because if I catch you playing before you see one, we're going to do this again." Keith gave him another swat.

"No! I won't play, I won't!"

Keith nodded and helped Lucas stand again, but this time instead of standing up too; he pulled Lucas down to sit in his lap. He wrapped his arms around Lucas and held him close. Lucas didn't even care at that point that he was way too old to be sitting on anyone's lap. He just rested his head on Keith's shoulder and murmured, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." through his tears.

Keith murmured back, "I know. I forgive you. It's going to be okay, I'm sure your mother can get you that appointment very soon. Especially when the doctor hears you aren't on the medications, they're gonna get you in quick. I'll be surprised if they don't see you by the end of this week."

Lucas hadn't really thought about that, and hoped Keith was right. It also made him regret his outburst, because if he got to see a doctor this week he would only miss one game, and that sure as hell wasn't worth getting spanked again over.

Karen watched her husband comforting their son and wished again that she hadn't wasted all those years just being friends with Keith. She walked over to the two of them and put one arm around Keith's shoulder and the other arm around Lucas' shoulders. She leaned over and kissed the top of Lucas' head. She said, "Lucas honey, I know it's hard to imagine right now, but the things you do in high school just aren't going to seem that important later in life. You may feel really bad about missing out on some basketball right now, but ten years down the road it's not going to matter to you. But I need to make sure you have those ten years to realize it. I want you to have those ten years to do something more important with you life than high school basketball."

Lucas nodded understanding what she was telling him, even if he didn't feel that way yet.

For the next few minutes the only sounds in the room were Lucas' breath hitching, and his sniffling. When Lucas was done crying he said, "Can I…. Get up?"

Keith smiled slightly and said, "Of course. This wasn't part of the punishment you know, I just thought you would find it comforting."

Lucas gave Keith a look that seemed to say he was slightly crazy. Lucas got up and said, "Just don't tell anyone about it, or bring it up…. at all… ever again."

Keith chuckled and yanked an unsuspecting Karen down to sit in his lap instead. He said, "Your mom doesn't seem to mind."

Karen smiled at him and said, "Not at all, in fact I think it's nice."

Lucas made a face and said, "Yeah, don't bring that up to me again either."

Keith gave Karen a quick kiss and then helped her stand as he got up himself. He walked to Lucas and put an arm around his shoulders and started walking them out of the kitchen. He said, "Why don't you go splash some water on your face, and lie down for a little while. Your mom and I will start calling to see how quick we can get you an appointment."

"Okay, thanks." Lucas paused a second and then clarified, "I mean for starting to make the calls, not for the rest of it."

Keith had a hard time not laughing at that, and tried to sound sincere when he said, "I figured."

They were able to make an appointment for Friday, which made Lucas happy. The next day Lucas wasn't very happy that Karen took him to school, and talked to Whitey personally about Lucas being benched until after Friday. But then Lucas was already in a bad mood since he was still a little sore from the day before and had to endure sitting at school all day.

Friday Lucas spent most of the day at the doctor's office running tests and getting a full physical. When it was done the doctor assured Karen that Lucas could play any sports he wanted, and in fact was encouraged to get regular exercise as long as he was taking his medicine. They got the prescription filled before they left that day.

That night at dinner Karen and Lucas told Keith what the doctor had said, and Keith was relieved to hear that Lucas could resume normal activities. When dinner was almost done, Karen got out one of Lucas' pills and handed it to him and said, "Take it."

Lucas took it out of her hand and said, "Why right now?"

"You can take them in front of me until I trust you to do it yourself."

Lucas looked to Keith and said, "Daaaad."

Keith shook his head. "Don't look at me for help with this one kiddo. But I bet if you give her your word that you'll take them from now on, she'll only make you take them in front of her for the next year……or two."

Lucas glared. "It's not funny."

Keith lost his smile and said, "You're right it's not. It's not funny to lose someone's trust, because once it's lost it's a hard thing to get back. It takes time, and you're just going to have to accept that."

Lucas sighed and put the pill in his mouth and washed it down with some milk. Keith reached over and patted Lucas' shoulder. Karen gave a curt nod and put the bottle of pills on the kitchen counter for the next day.

That night the three of them went over to the river court and Keith and Lucas played some one on one basketball while Karen watched. They played to ten, and Lucas beat Keith by four shots. When they were done Keith was breathing hard and went to sit next to his wife for a few minutes. He complained, "Getting old sucks."

Karen smiled at him and said, "Not as much as not getting old."

Keith gave her a kiss. Lucas was practicing his free throw shots and glancing over at his parents every once in a while. He still couldn't believe he even had 'parents' instead of 'parent' sometimes. He could see how happy they were together, and that made him happy as well. He thought about Keith and knew that he was lucky to have him as a father even if he didn't always appreciate the way he showed his love. But ninety-eight percent of the time Lucas really did like the way Keith showed his love and those were pretty good odds.


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