Ok, here's the all the stuff you need to know before you get to the story:

Whew! Hate that required stuff, but it's there for a reason.

But, here's my last comment before you go to the story: I'm like you and the other 98% of the readers here—I'm a lurker. I read the stories, find story lines I like, and check back regularly (ok, daily, I admit it!) for the next chapter. I'd never seriously thought about what it takes for a site like this to operate. Understand, there are damn few sites like this that regularly publish—without charge—and encourage writing. I'm making a commitment here and now to regularly support Nifty. It's not cheap to keep the site running, maintain archives, etc.! Help 'em out, huh? Toss 'em a few bucks occasionally. Your brain and libido will thank you for it! Credit/Debit cards, money orders, and checks all work. Go here: http://donate.nifty.org/donate.html, then come back to read the story!

Now, on to the story's finale.....

Joe the Welder

Chapter 10 Finale

Typical Monday—at least the morning.

Drank almost the full pot of coffee after the mostly sleepless night I had. Joe's meeting with the Child Protective Services social worker is this afternoon. Can't worry about Joe's action/reaction to her visit any more.

Morning at the office went well. Threw myself into some clients I needed to follow up with—one couple had narrowed down their choice of homes between 2, and wanted to “think about it” over the weekend. Hope to get that pinned down with them, get the offer written up and submitted to the other agent.

They made their decision, they're meeting me at 2:00 pm to get the paperwork going.

Did some marketing work. Got out some mailings and emails announcing a new listing I had for sale. Nice home out on the lake, priced well. It'll sell, just need to get the word out.

Lots of phone calls covering details on existing purchase transactions, and scheduling home inspections, termite inspections, and home warranty followups.

Whew! It's now 11:45, and still haven't started the paperwork for the couple buying the place.

Grabbed a quick bargain burger from a place down the street, worked at my desk, got the paperwork done by 1:45 just as they pulled in outside my office—in a new luxury sport ute. Uh oh.

“Ok, Rex, let's get this paperwork going! We're excited!”

“Great! Let's go in the conference room, go over the paperwork so you know what you're signing. We'll also need to get a current loan approval letter from your loan officer replacing the one you've got and tailored to this transaction—that way the sellers know you're submitting a solid offer.”

Called the loan officer, he was at a late lunch. Went over all the paperwork for 'em, and after answering a few questions from 'em, got signatures on all the documents. After getting everything done, the receptionist announced the call from the loan officer.

“Barry, we're submitting an offer on the Everett's new home. Can you fax me over an update approval letter?”

“Sure—are the Everett's still there? Can I speak to 'em to review over a few details?” Passed the phone to hubby.

After a few minutes, and overhearing him explain about their finances—and the purchase of a new car--he handed the phone to me, face downcast.

“Rex, they no longer qualify to buy a place. Their buying a new car pushed their monthly debt-to-income ratio beyond allowable limits, and they don't have enough money to put more down to get a lower payment. Sorry to say it, but it looks like this one is dead.”

Chatted with the Everett's a few more minutes, suggesting some options—a lesser house, another lender, etc. After getting lukewarm responses, it's clear their dream is on hold till they can save up more money for a bigger down payment.

Shook hands with 'em and they left. It's now 3 o'clock,

FUCK! I'd been working with 'em for over 2 months, had showed 'em multiple properties. And now this. And lost a good chunk of today dealing with this failed transaction.

Time for a smoke and cup of coffee. Thank God there's a Starbucks coffee shop at the end of the strip mall we're in. Told the receptionist where I was going, and headed out.

Got my coffee, sat outside and lit my smoke. Suddenly hearing my name being yelled over and over; turn, look, and here's Joe running full steam toward me.

He looks like shit, red-faced, eyes swollen from crying, cheeks puffy, sweating from the run down here from my office.

“Rex, Rex---we got our kids! We got our kids!” He picks me up in a bear hug, pulls me back down—and give me a fire-laced kiss, as hot as anything we've ever done.

Here we go again—kissing at Starbucks in front of God, coffee drinkers, and half the town since we're on a busy city street. He's still hanging on so hard I can hardly breathe.

“Mrs.-Patterson-said-she-thought-we'd-make-great-parents-and-we-can-get-the-kids-We-just-need-to-do-a-few-things-to-the-place-to-get-it-whipped-in-line-for-'em-and-then-we-can-have-'em-when-school's-out-in-6-weeks-Oh-my-God-we're-gonna-be-daddies!” All in that unforgettable all-in-one-breath style Joe's mastered.

The crowd broke into applause, along with the agents, receptionist, and manager from my office. My office came down after Joe barreled into there from the cab, yelling for me. The receptionist told him I was here grabbing coffee, and he ran back out, yelling all the way. Guess they figured he'd tell me my house was on fire or something, and wanted to see the response.

“Joe, that's great news! Know you're excited about getting the kids.” He looked dumbstruck, face frozen.

“Rex, wait a minute. You don't want the kids? You don't want ME and the kids? Look, Rex....” His eyes teared up almost spilling over.

“No, no, no—I love you, you big lug, and I love the kids, too! I just wanna make sure you know what you're getting into with me, and me and the kids. It's a big step for you and for them. We've never talked about all this. I know how I feel about you but.....” and left the question hanging. Along with my pounding chest and twisting guts.

Damn bright sunlight. Always makes my eyes water.

Long pause. Crickets chirping. Joe standing open-mouthed looking like I'd bitch-slapped him. Traffic noise? What traffic noise? The world is stopped.

“Look, fucker, I'm not the best at this emotional shit. But goddammit, Rex, I fucking love your ass. You make me crazy. I never knew I could feel like this about anyone. I always know you've got my back. No one has every made me feel more taken care of, or more proud of who I’m with, or make me wanna be a better man. I'm not good at saying it, but you gotta know—I love and need you in my life. We got it good, Rex, and you're not going anywhere, you bastard.”

In a loud voice the whole strip shopping center can hear, Joe continues, “I LOVE THIS MAN AND ONE DAY I'M GONNA MARRY HIM!” Another kiss that takes my breath away—really, seriously can't breathe. More applause and cheering. And when we separate, slaps on the back from well wishers.

Damn sunlight must be getting brighter. Eyes watering more.

“Any other questions, Rex?”

Uh......no. The brain is officially jello. Who am I and what planet is this?

“Joe, let's get out of here. We need to talk, do some planning for the kids.” Finally. Complete sentences can still come from my quasi-functional brain.

Left the coffee shop, went back to my office to get keys to the minivan, and we spent the night at my place.

We made love all night long.

Guys talk about “sex”, “fucking”, and “making love” as though it's all the same. Or “sex” is reserved for among friends, “fucking” for sport, and “making love” as though it's some sort of delicate ballet. Not with Joe and me.

Think of the dance of the linebackers. Or the tension between goalie and forward. Hard. Rough. High energy. Bodies grappling together. Sweat. Muscles alternately tense and relaxed.

And through it all an underlying tenderness and trust in the look, the kiss, in the touch, no matter how rough the surface contact feels. When it gets kinkier, with bondage, or toys, or even a few rough slaps on the ass, there's always the sense that it's a measured, controlled explosion between men with far more of a connection than just physical. When making love is done, the connection continues, deeper, stronger, better, in the conversation and mere intimacy of holding and caresses.

Fuckin' great night. Maybe. Best. Ever.

Of course, we're getting the kids. Joe's notifying Ms. Patterson first thing.

Talked the next morning before I took Joe to work. My house, although only a two-bedroom is bigger than Joe's townhouse. Sara Elizabeth can have the bedroom, and I'll hit the foster parents up to see if they'll sell the bunk beds. We can convert the dining room in my place to the boys room until I can find us a bigger place. There's a guest full bath close enough that everyone will be happy.

And, Joe's gonna need another vehicle to handle running around with kids activities as well as his job.

The foster folks and Joe and me sat with the kids and explained that we'd make the move after school's over so they could stay focused on their studies. Besides, it's only about a month. The kids will still go to the same schools when schools start back up in the fall. We've got large school districts, so no problem there. And that'll give us time to get the place ready for 'em.

When the weekend hits, discussion about our finances takes place out on the patio over coffee. Just like any couple.

“Joe, looks like we've got enough between us, and with the rents we're paying, we can afford to buy a new place for all of us. Whaddya think?”

“You're the go-to guy on this one, Rex. You say it, we'll do it. But the idea sounds good, a little more room for us and the kids, and....”

“I know what ya want,” and start laughing. “I can see it now. All of us in a big house, kids and dogs playing in the yard behind the picket fence and matching minivans in the driveway. Of course, hafta throw in lots of hot kinky sex. And growing old together.” I stole a kiss. “Not exactly the Brady Bunch, but close enough. Suburban happiness!” I grinned.

Ding, ding, ding. Spidey sense going off---loudly; yup, this is gonna happen.

Joe looks at me and grins big, eyes wide with wonder. “What's that ringing?” Yeah, his spidey sense just got turned on with mine.

I just laughed. “I'll explain later, boy.”

It's been almost a year since Joe and I first met. A simple casual encounter with “Joe the Welder”. Now our fuckin' spidey senses are in sync.

Despite all the times he's kept me off balance with his public displays of affection; despite my worries about how he was dealing with his gay/bi/whatever feelings; despite the confusion I've had about where I stood with him—or where he stood with me; despite of (or because of) a few rough spots, the clarity is here.

Yeah, we got it good.

Joe's moving in next week.


Been a year since Joe moved in. Here's the update:

Frank, our favorite bartender, still owns and works at the Main Street Bar, and Elaine his wife helps out from time to time when her schedule allows. They bought a great house on the lake from me about 6 months ago, and he's in the process of opening a 2nd bar in a town 30 or so miles away with the same feel as Main Street. If it does well, he has dreams of franchising the Main Street's concept nationwide.

Brandon did a plea deal with the district attorney and is now serving a 10-20 year sentence for attempted murder. Joe makes the 3 hour drive to visit him every couple or 3 months. So far, only Braydon will go with him to see his dad—the rest of the kids don't care about seeing him. Brandon was surprisingly ok with us taking the kids. Think he's had time to think, or maybe he's met someone important to him while in jail.

Ms. (Dianne) Patterson at Child Protective Services pushed through the foster parent placement with the court in only 2 weeks, and, 6 months after Brandon's sentencing, pushed through a full adoption of Brandon's kids for us. (Since Brandon's wife abandoned the kids more than 18 months ago and has been untraceable, the court went with us. And Brandon's mom had no interest in taking the kids.) Dianne's been tireless on our behalf. We're good friends now, too. And Dianne's hinted that we'd be great foster parents for some of the gay kids that are harder to place.

Braydon is now 11, and a real sports nut. Plays junior league baseball and junior varsity football. Watches every sport shown on ESPN. He's gotten a growth spurt, and is about to enter adolescence with his body changing and sex drive going up. Joe's already sweating about having the sex talk with him; I'll probably end up doing that.

Clay is now 9 almost 10. Every bit as much an athlete as Braydon, but he's suddenly developed an interest in drawing and art. He's a little quieter than Braydon, a little more book focused, and a great kid with the same big heart as Joe. Braydon always kids him about being “the smart one”, though both of their grades are good.

Sara Elizabeth is pushing 7, becoming quite the young lady, loves to play with her dolls' hair, and play makeup, and is incredibly outgoing. Every weekend she's included by all the kids in her class in their birthday parties or sleepovers. She's doing well in first grade.

Sandy still works at the distribution center. And, Sandy has met a man, been dating him for 6 months or so. Their relationship seems to be going well. He's a good guy, loves Andy to pieces, and stops by regularly here both when Andy's here, and even when he's not. Andy stays with us a lot because of the shifts and hours she works. Andy, 10, soon to be 11, is inseparable from our boys—to the point he's got a bed in their room for his frequent overnight stayovers. Andy and Braydon are in the same grade, but always make time during their study sessions to help Clay. A

Mrs. Sheldon, is still as independent as ever—but her hip has been giving her problems, and climbing stairs in her townhouse wasn't helping. At 68, we convinced her to sell her townhouse, and now lives with us, taking care of the kids and house. She's got her own “mother in law” suite attached to the garage, so she still feels independent. Since Joe's mom is still in Michigan, she's a great substitute grandmother for “our kids”, Andy included. If we're the “Brady Bunch”, she's our “Alice”--funny, wise, energetic, and a damn good cook.

Chuck Edmundson, my cop buddy and his wife Danielle are good friends. We trade out a lot of weekends between their pool and our back yard, grilling in both places. And half the time Sara Elizabeth will get away from the boys with their daughter, who's in her class, and spend the night with her at their place while their boy, who's in the same class with Clay, stays with Braydon, Clay, and Andy here. Yeah, not a lot of sleep happens on those nights. And we've taught 'em to play flag football, and Joe and I will occasionally join in—and they love it. But, based on what Dani has said, there are some problems; she's afraid he's cheating on her. They're good folks; hope it works out.

As for Joe and me? Well, you already know we got the kids, with Andy a constant visitor, and Mrs. Sheldon being the housekeeper extraordinaire, cook, and substitute grandmother.

Yeah, we did end up with matching minivans—the local mom and pop florists were closing down their operations due to his heart condition, so we bought his wife's luxury minivan for Joe, since they wanted a sedan. As fate would have it, it's the same color as mine.

A month after the kids moved in, I found us a house which we've bought. It's a big old mostly-restored house, just right around the corner from Joe's old townhouse and Sandy's current place, so Andy can walk the few blocks anytime.

In the historic district, it's got 4 bedrooms and 3 baths in the main house and a mother-in-law suite attached to the garage with it's own bath and kitchenette. It'd been used as a small boarding house at the turn of the 1900's, so it's got high ceilings, big rooms now that the smaller sleeping rooms have been combined, hardwood floors, and only needed some cosmetic work by Joe to bring it back to good shape. Thankfully the kitchen had been redone, so we had an almost new 6-burner range to feed the animals—Joe included. Thankfully, the price was within reach, and had been discounted due to the cosmetics it needed.

There's also a small room off the master—I guess it used to be a cloak room for the parlor—and Joe's ready to mount a sling, and keep our toys in there. Yup, still have kinky sex, my Joe's an insatiable bottom/sub, and that may become a mini “dungeon”.

A couple of months after we moved in, Joe formally proposed to me—this time at the nicest restaurant in town. We flew out of state, got married there, and came back to a great reception that Mrs. Shelton put together with a group of friends to surprise us. Over 400 friends showed up at the hotel ballroom to honor us! Quite a night!

And before you ask, the house is on a half-block corner lot with oak trees big enough I can't reach around 'em, surrounded by a wrought iron fence There IS a small rose garden in back that's mostly overgrown and in the way, and it's surrounded by a white picket fence—and Joe won't even consider getting rid of the garden or the fencing. He kids me about the whole “white picket fence” thing. And Joe made a couple of rocking chairs for us to watch the kids from the front porch.

Yeah, it's true. We got it good.

(Thanks, guys, for following the story! Hope you've enjoyed it. And, for all the folks that wrote notes to me with with both suggestions and nice comments—you're special guys to a first-time writer like me! Your words kept me going and made me work harder--and for that, I thank you!

Keep watching—there are other stories coming. This writing shit's addictive! And, if you've got comments on this story, or suggestions for future stores, let me know! --Robert Rex, Northshoreman1@yahoo.com.)