Chapter 23 Jeff's Decision

The next morning, Jeff bounced out of bed and walked over to Phineas. "So have you decided what you think?" His partner had already dressed and was sitting on the edge of the bed. As he watched him move stiffly, shifting position, he could see that his arm was hurting him. Jeff sat down on the edge of the bed beside him and waited.

After a pause, Bogg answered him. "Yes."

"And?"

Phineas took a deep breath, sure that Jeff would disagree with him and wishing that he didn't have to remind him of painful memories. "Well, it is a great opportunity, but I don't think you should take it."

"Why not?"

"A couple of reasons," he paused, unsure how to phrase his thoughts. "Something terrible happened to you. You lost your family, and your childhood got messed up. I know I'm not much, but I feel like we're a family now, and I think you need that. More than you would if the accident hadn't happened."

"Oh," Jeff's answer was soft, and he felt a sudden anger toward Bogg for mentioning his parents. At the same time he felt Bogg's arm behind his back and a hand on his shoulder. His throat felt constricted and he blinked back tears as Bogg continued.

"But, ignoring all that, I still don't think it's a good idea."

Jeff steadied himself and tried to answer without conveying any emotions. "Why not?"

"Because, even though you act grown up," the phrase 'you're still a kid' flashed in his mind, but he didn't say it, "you aren't quite there yet."

He paused, but Jeff didn't reply.

"Once you're an adult, you'll be one for the rest of your life. You can't go back. Just be a kid for as long as you can."

Silence.

"It would be easier for you if I stayed here, wouldn't it?" Jeff finally asked. He had to know what Bogg thought about this.

"That sounds like Kane talking."

"He said you wouldn't have to worry about me on missions if I was here."

"I'll always worry about you. If we're on a mission, I worry when you're out of my sight. But if you were here without me, I'd be worried all the time. I'd be a mess. It wouldn't be easier, that's for sure. Kane doesn't know what it's like."

"What what's like?"

"Taking care of a kid."

"So you really want me to stay with you? To turn down this great opportunity?"

"More than anything," Phineas' whispered, his heart pounding. He couldn't say it any plainer.

Jeff felt warm inside, his anger over Bogg bringing up his parent's deaths was forgotten. Suddenly he smiled, the choice seemed so obvious now.

"There's one more reason," Phineas continued.

"What's that?"

"There aren't any girls your age here."

Jeffrey burst out laughing. "Only you would think of that!" he choked out when he could talk.

"What's so funny about that?" Phineas asked and reached out with his left arm tickle his kid.

"Hey, stop!" Jeff squeeled and reached over to reciprocate.

"Careful" Bogg said, immediately covering his right arm with his left. This left his left side exposed and Jeff tickled him just until he squirmed.

"I'll get ya later," Jeff told him as he stopped.

After they calmed down, Bogg spoke first, "so what do you want to do?"

"I already gave them my answer."

Bogg's jaw dropped, "you did?" he said in a serious voice. "I thought we were gonna talk about it? You asked what I thought?"

Jeff shrugged, "I gave an answer but I wasn't positive. Kane said he'll stop by today to see what my final answer is."

"What did you tell them?"

"That I really appreciated the offer, but I couldn't accept it."

Phineas smiled widely, "and you decided that without my winning arguments? What led you to that decision?"

"I'd miss you too much," Jeff said simply. "That bit about the girls though... that was genius, I should've seen that coming, you do have a one-track mind sometimes."

"You just called me a genius," Bogg said with a smile.

"Yeah."

"Well, here's another genius idea, why don't you sit in on one of those legal classes while we're here. And why can't you do the same for the mission control classes?"

Jeff sat up straight, "really?"

"Why not?"

"They might not let me, they're pretty long on rules you know."

"If they say no, you can just go and research the rules and argue your way into the course."

Jeff chuckled, "you know, we do make a pretty good team."

"I think I know a girl who can get you into any class you want."

"How could you know a law professor?"

"What's that supposed to mean?" Bogg said in mock astonishment. "Anyway, it's not a professor we need, it's a secretary. As I always say, be nice to the secretaries, because they're the people who really run the place."

"I've never heard you say that."

"Must be another one of those billions of things I'm teaching you I guess."

Suddenly, Jeff leaned sideways and put his arms around the man. "Thanks," he whispered.

"For what?"

"For taking care of me. For being as much like my parents as anyone could be."

Bogg's throat felt tight. That was about the nicest thing that he could imagine Jeffrey saying. He leaned back and looked into the kid's eyes, his hand still on Jeff's shoulder. "I'll never stop," was all he could manage to say. And he was happy that it made Jeffrey smile.

The End

Author's Note: The protective effects of a smallpox vaccination start to wear off after 3-5 years. Bogg exposed Jeffrey to cowpox because he couldn't be sure whether or not he was immune to smallpox. The fact that he became ill with cowpox was a strong indication that he would have gotten smallpox if he'd been exposed to it.