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The Conquered - Chapter 15: Friends and Family

***** Taylor *****

Cindy gave me a hug and mumbled her thanks before leaving the office. It had been a week of non-stop crises at work. The only saving grace that I knew I had a strong, sexy, sexual, man who could love me into exhaustion so that my brain quieted enough for me to sleep. I think Andrew fucked me every night since Saturday. The continual ache as I sat or walked just made me smile. Damn but my man was an incredible top.

"Hey, space-man?"

I looked up to see Carole standing in front of my desk. I'd been miles away, remembering how hard I'd cum with Andrew fucking me against the shower wall last night when he got home from the gym. I smiled.

"Hey Carole, what's this?" I took the phone message from her fingers as she leaned in.

"That is your Aunt Claire. She's in a panic because your phone is 'no longer in service'." She wiggled her eyebrows. "I think someone forgot to tell the relatives he had new living arrangements."

I cringed. I was coming out of the closet slowly, and other than a few expected blow-ups, it hadn't been as bad as I'd anticipated. I just couldn't live hiding the importance of Andrew in my life. Most of the women in the office were "heart broken" that I had switched sides until they'd met my man; then they grieved outright for the fact I had him and they didn't. Most of my male colleagues and friends either didn't care, had adjusted to it, or were happy to have "less competition" for the women. I hadn't, however, done anything with my family.

"Thanks, Carole."

She studied my expression. "Not out with them yet, huh?"

I shrugged. "With everything going on, it slipped my mind." Honestly, it had.

"Well, time for a reality check. You've got some fancy footwork to do if you're going to calm that woman down."

I groaned. Aunt Claire was quite the mother hen, and if anything was a disruption it became a catastrophe. I wished I could prescribe; I'd have found a good chill pill to slip her. "Thanks for the warning."

She left, and I picked up the phone. Aunt Claire picked up on the second ring.

"Taylor Daniel Madison, you had better have a good explanation for why your phone is no longer in service." She must have had the school phone ID'd.

"And a pleasant good morning to you, Auntie C." I grinned. She hated being called that, but it was the name my cousins and I had for her since we were little.

"Don't get smart with me, young man."

I laughed. "Too late, Aunt Claire, I have an IQ over 160. You'll just have to live with it."


"Okay, okay, I apologize for not informing -the family- that my number had changed." I bit the bullet. "You might as well get out a pen and paper because I have a new mailing address too."

I could hear Claire's huff as she erased my information from her address book. "Really, you would think your Mother would keep us informed."

"Actually, other than the phone number change, she doesn't know about the address change." I grimaced, realizing I'd just made the cardinal sin of telling a relative of a change before my own parents.

"Are you telling me that your own Mother doesn't know you're living in sin with someone?" Aunt Claire was a believer in no sex until the wedding night. That probably explained why all her daughters were pregnant by twenty and rushed to the church upon threat of disownment before the fathers could make a break for it.

"Yes, Aunt Claire, that is what I'm saying. The situation is fairly recent and I'd appreciate if you would keep it to yourself." I ran through reasons and excuses quickly, trying to come up with one that would work. "I'm going up to visit them this weekend. I plan to make the introductions then." A lie, but she didn't need to know that.

"Fine, I'll stay quiet, but you had better get it done this weekend. You don't want to be springing a surprise like that on them for their fortieth anniversary."

I sat straight up. Oh fuck, it was their fortieth in just over a week. I swallowed down my panic. "Yeah, that was my thought. I also thought the news should be face-to-face, not over the phone."

That seemed to placate her. "Well, the Anniversary party is at one pm, Saturday week. I'll be hosting it here. The last thing your mother needs is to have to clean up after her own party."

"I assume that's what you were calling about?"

"Of course. That, and to wish you a happy birthday a bit early. We will all be so caught up with the Anniversary, I don't want you feeling forgotten."

"Thanks, Auntie C."

"Taylor Daniel..."

I laughed. Even though we'd never seen eye to eye, Claire was my favorite aunt.

By the time Andrew got home that night I realized my lie to Claire would have to be anything but. There was no way I could miss my parent's wedding anniversary. There was also no way I was going to show up with Andrew in tow without giving my parents forewarning.

"Hey babe, what's eating you?" Yeah, at this point Andrew could read me like a book. He may have started out unable to read anything I didn't want him to read, but after four months of sleeping in the same bed, he could see right through anything.

"Got a call from my Aunt Claire this morning."

"She's the one who is already a great grandmother?" He pulled out the milk, drinking directly from the bottle. The man could go through two or three gallons a week.

"Yeah." I admired how Andrew's lats flared as he lifted the jug again and took another swig. I wondered if I should just skip the conversation and nose dive into that hot, sweaty pit of his. No, I needed to talk. "I realized that I still have to tell Mom and Dad about us."

Andrew shrugged. "Is there any rush?"

I nodded and sighed. "Yeah, their Fortieth Wedding Anniversary is next weekend."

He frowned. "I thought it was your birthday next weekend."

I nodded. "Yeah, the day after."


"I'm going to be expected to be there."

Andrew looked at me like I was an idiot. "Of course you're going to be there. Glad I got some warning, though. I think Lee was planning a surprise party."

"Andrew, you're missing the point." I was getting frustrated. Not with Andrew, but with myself. Why was this so hard to address?

He came over, pulled me off the chair and kissed me. "What's the point, babe?"

I melted, laying my head against his chest, and sighed. "I can't 'come out' to my parents on their Anniversary. Showing up with my yet-to-be-introduced 'husband' in front of my aunts, uncles and cousins would just be wrong." I pulled at the raised nub of his piercing through his shirt causing Andrew to gasp. I loved how sensitive it was. It never ceased to be a fascination. He grabbed my hand before I could tweak him another time.

"You're trying to distract me."

"I need to go up this weekend and get us out in the open with them. I've been a chicken shit too long about this." Of course, the fact they traveled the country in their motor home every summer and weren't even back until after Labor Day had been a great excuse.

Andrew tipped my chin up and looked in my eyes. "You want me to go with you?"

I kissed him, realizing that as long as he was with me, I could face anything. "I love you."

***** Andrew *****

"I love you too, babe."

In the past week, Taylor and I had had more fun in bed, more raunchy, dirty, joyous sex, then I'd ever had in my entire life. It wasn't about getting off, because that'd always happen. It was about celebrating how whole we were, now that I could top him. Not that we hadn't been enjoying the lovin' we'd shared. We had. Only now, it was as if a circle had been completed. We'd done just about everything two people could do together, except one. At that moment, I knew my man needed it more than anything else.

I picked Taylor up in my arms and kissed him slowly as I wended my way around the furniture, to the back door. My plans had changed, but the setting could remain the same. Before I'd left for the gym, I'd piled up cushions, pillows, and blankets under the wide canopy of the old weeping willow in the backyard. We were normally so loud in bed, that I knew the extra thrill of possibly getting caught, heard but not seen, would ratchet the excitement up a bit more for both of us. Yeah, we'd turned a bit exhibitionistic.

To maneuver the deck steps, I had to pull my mouth from Taylor's, but pulled his lips to my throat, to keep the secret a bit longer. When he bit into the tender flesh of my neck, I had to lean against the railing and groan. The man knew which buttons to push. I was so fucking hard. "Goddamn bacon, keep that up and I'm gonna melt."

Whatever he said back to me was lost against my skin, but I felt his words, felt his meaning. I moved across the lawn, my hands filled with warm flesh, my nostrils flaring at the scent of Taylor's shampoo and newly mown grass. The brushing of the tree's wispy leaves roused Taylor before I lay him down on the makeshift bed. Seeing him lying there, staring up into my eyes, everything in my body screamed at me, telling me to jump on him and push us both hard, searching for a hard, fast release. Only my mind demanded that we go slow, take our time. I wondered if I had the strength to do it.

I dropped to my knees, running my hand up Taylor's leg, inside his thigh, moving over his hip as I lowered to him, taking his lips with mine. The moment our lips touched, I knew I could go slow, be the slow, steady rock that Taylor needed. My man was strong, stronger than just about anybody I knew, but even rocks need a little support. I could do that for him, and because of that, I knew exactly what to do. Our lips met, our tongues gently stroked each other as I started unbuttoning his shirt. Each new bit of flesh uncovered, I'd kiss and lick, taking his flavor into my mouth, branding him on my brain even more. When his shirt was off, I pulled my tee over my head, and then rubbing my hairy front against his, hearing his moans and gasps. "Andrew." My fingers made quick work of his belt and slacks, leaving him in only his briefs; the cotton tented by his body, excitement dampening the fabric. I ran my nose against his length, taking in his musky scent. Taylor quivered beneath me. "Andrew."

I kissed along his inner thigh, nipping with my lips, sucking gently. "What baby?"

His voice was husky and gasping. "What are we doing?"

I slipped his briefs down his legs, kissing his hipbone as the underwear cleared his ankles. "I'm lovin' you, baby."

His groan was rumbling and deep. "It's so one-sided."

I leaned over him, pulling his thigh over my hip. "Like hell!" I took his hand and wrapped his fingers around me. "Feel what you do to me. Every time, bacon. Every fuckin' time."

I backed up on my knees and undid the snaps on my jeans, shucking them. I pushed back against Taylor, letting the drooling tip of me swirl around his hole. As I rocked slowly against him, I felt his body open, my own juices leading the way. After a couple of minutes of my barely entering Taylor and his moaned whimpers, I reached over to the side of the blankets, grabbing the lube I'd brought out earlier. I smeared a bunch around him and slathered along my shaft. I pressed against him, staring into his eyes, as my body joined with his.

Taylor's back arched and he kept trying to push against me, needful and panting. I stayed in place, letting his body adjust to mine, flexing my cock from time to time, rubbing against his prostate, making him squirm and moan. When his body relaxed and no longer fluttered around my shaft, I lowered my head and took Taylor's lips as I pulled back and then thrust forward. I kept kissing him deeply as my hips moved, pushing into him, feeling him squeeze and flex against me. His moans against my lips and his groans I could feel under my palm, against his nipple, pushed me hard, making things tight and urgent low in my belly. I pushed it aside. I wanted Taylor desperate when I made him cum.

My body bucked and thrust against his for what could have been hours, but was probably minutes. I felt him get close, and to keep the wonder going, would slow down or gentle even further, keeping him teetering close, but not able to trip. The sunlight softened as it sank beneath the trees when I felt Taylor building too far, too much. He wouldn't last much longer. Truthfully, I could have blasted a long time before too. The last of my control was over with. I couldn't hold back as I began to rock fast into him, pushing him to the brink. His body stiffened around me, his back rigid as he started crying out, screaming my name. I felt him hot and scalding as he released against my belly. The heady, musky smell of his essence filled my nose as I pushed even faster, taking three extra thrusts to find my own release, hoarsely crying out, taking his lips again as I screamed out my love for him.

I stayed buried deep inside Taylor, barely softening, as our breath returned to us. My hands skimmed his skin, soothing the ache of loving from his tense muscles. I kissed the sweat dewed on his forehead from him as I rolled us onto my back, so he wouldn't have to continue taking all my weight upon him. "I love you, Taylor."

His nose drifted back and forth through my chest hair when he stilled. "I love you too. So damn much."

I pulled his face to look at me, needing to see his eyes. "We'll get through this. I promise."

His eyes were no longer haunted, but the nervousness crept back in; I could feel it as he lay against me. "I know. You make it easier."

"All I do is love you."


An embarrassed chuckle that escaped my lips, but his words did wonderful things to my heart. I couldn't stop running my fingers through his hair, feeling the soft weight of it, knowing his special scent would linger against them. His fingers were did devilish things to my nipple, but when I looked, I could see it was an absent gesture.

"Can we stay here for a while?"

"All night, if you like."

"I do."

So we stayed under the canopy of the tree. There were plenty of blankets. The late Indian Summer was warm during the day, but there was a hint of autumn in the night. I snuggled against his body, holding him to me. After the moon had risen, I found Taylor kneeling by my side, staring at me. The moonlight caught on a tear against his cheek. I sat up and kissed it away, holding him to me. "What is it baby?"

"What did I do to deserve you?"

"I ask myself that every day. What did I do to deserve you?"

"You let me in."

"Ditto, bacon."

What had been a gesture of comfort soon became a caress of passion. By moonlight, Taylor took me, pushing hard and making me cry out into the night. Bathed by the light of the moon, we poured our love out, me against my belly, his deep inside me.

As Taylor finally quieted and slept, I stared up into the swaying boughs of the trees, wondering what the weekend would really hold for us. If things went as badly as Taylor feared, I knew that I'd have to scramble to make things okay for him. The next day while Taylor was at work, I'd go talk to mom about a few ideas I had. But for tonight, I'd keep my man safe in my arms. With that last thought, I quickly gave in to sleep.

***** Taylor *****

"You sure you don't want me there?" Andrew looked concerned as he opened the car door.

"No, I think it's better that I break the news without the added pressure of a 'stranger' in their home. Hopefully, I'll be back down here within the hour to bring you home for introductions."

Andrew grinned, hefting his training textbook. "No problem. I've got plenty of study to do for updating my certifications next month." He eyed the Starbucks and laughed. "Maybe I'll have something chocolate while you're gone."

"Like your ass needs more padding."

Andrew frowned at me. "My ass is as high and tight as ever, Mr. Madison." Getting out, he flexed it at me before leaning in with a grin. "Though my weekly prostate exams might have something to do with any change in tonicity, Bacon."

I grinned back, hoping to hold onto the good feelings when I faced my parents. "Get that high, tight ass in there and don't get too comfortable. I don't plan to keep you waiting very long."

My mother looked up from weeding the front beds as I pulled into the drive. I hadn't seen her since April. I think we were both in need of a hug. I made it out of the car and across the lawn by the time she had taken off her gloves and brushed her knees.

"Hey, Mom." I pulled her into a hug and kissed her cheek.

"Taylor, what are you doing here?" Her smile, and the laughter in her voice, made it clear she was anything but upset.

"I realized I hadn't kept you guys up to date, and thought I should get some stuff out in the open before next weekend." Though I was nervous, the feel of being in Andrew's arms that morning lingered, and I knew no matter what I was safe.

Mom raised an eyebrow. She was one of the few people, other than Grandma Swenson, whom I actually got to look down to meet gazes with. Yeah, I took after my mother when it came to most of my physical attributes. "Like why you provided us with a new home number in August?"

"Yeah, that too."

She shrugged, dropping her gloves on her gardening stool and headed for the front door. "Might as well come in for some lemonade then. Your father is probably watching golf."

I grabbed my daytimer from the SUV and made it into the living room as Mom got back with the lemonade. Dad pulled me into a gruff hug after clicking off the TV. I found myself holding on a bit longer than usual. He was so close to Andrew's height, though he was never as incredibly built. As I stepped back, he gave me a critical once over.

"You're putting some meat on. It looks good."

I smiled. Dad seldom mentioned anything positive about my physical appearance. I hadn't been what he'd wanted in a son. In most things we were almost complete opposites. Liberal, conservative, intellectual, man of the earth, caregiver, believed that every man should make his own way. Yeah, I wasn't what he'd envisioned at all.

"So, what catching up do we need to do that won't wait until next weekend?" Mom was never one to wait for answers.

I took my glass and sipped before sitting down. "Well, I suppose the first thing is that I've rented out my condo and I'm living in a new place." I pulled out the contact information I'd written down for them. "Second," I unzipped my daytimer and pulled out a few photos from a set Grace had insisted upon having done when we told her we'd 'committed', "I've got some recent photos for you."

Mother almost dropped her glass trying to get to them. She was the ultimate photoholic. She flipped through them with a puzzled expression growing on her face. "Honey, who's the handsome man in a couple of these?"

I swallowed, hoping I didn't look too nervous. "His name is, Andrew. He's my partner."

My father looked at the pictures. "You've finally gotten out of that damn public service shit and opened your own practice?"

I flinched. Dad didn't understand that I loved helping kids. He'd never approved of my chosen career and was even less pleased by the fact I'd become an "under paid, public servant". I shook my head, dreading the explanation. "No, Dad. He isn't my business partner. Andrew's my 'life partner'."

My father looked at me like I'd just told him I was a rapist and ax murderer. My mother blinked, looking shocked, her eyes darting from the pictures to me and back. It took less than a minute for the explosion.

"Your WHAT?"

The outrage in his voice forced me to my feet. "Life partner, husband, mate, take a pick, Dad, they all fit."

"No son of mine is turning Queer!" He'd tossed the picture he'd been holding on the table and was looming off the couch to his full six-foot-two height. That used to intimidate me. This time, his size did nothing more than make my back stiffen. I'd spent the last few months bending a man bigger and stronger than he was over and fucking him senseless. I could handle myself.

"I didn't 'turn queer', Dad. I'm in love with a man. I didn't plan it, but it happened. I'm not going to apologize to you for it. I've fucking apologized to you my entire life!"

He snarled. "You have no idea..."

"No idea of what, Dad? No idea that I wasn't what you wanted in a son? No idea that you wanted a large family and I was all you got? No idea that I never made a single choice you ever agreed with or approved of?" I knew why I'd dreaded this moment. I even knew why I'd never really been attracted to men who weren't big and burly. I'd never been able to measure up to the primary male role model in my life. I hadn't wanted a 'daddy,' but I'd definitely sought out a replacement. "I'm tired of being rated against standards I could and would never meet. I came here to tell you that I'd met someone I plan to spend the rest of my life with. I'm telling you that I'm not going to hide my relationship, or who I am, or what I am from you or anyone else. That includes the rest of the family."

If my father had had a heart condition, the flushed heat in his face would have worried me. "You will not be bringing that man anywhere near our family. Do you hear me? As far as I'm concerned, he doesn't exist."

I snarled, grabbing up my daytimer. "Then I guess I don't exist, Dad. Andrew is a part of me and if you're denying him, you're denying me."

Mom hadn't said a word. She just sat there, the pictures lying on her lap, and cried. I wanted to go to her, to tell her I was still her son and that I loved her. I couldn't. The anger in my father's glare forced me to back away. My father had never been a violent man, but I didn't want to push my luck under these conditions.

"I'd wanted you to meet him. I'd hoped you'd be able to accept it." I realized just how disappointed I was as I turned to leave. "I'd known better, but I guess a kid always idolizes his parents, even when they're just as flawed as the rest of us."

I left without waiting for a response. I wasn't going to fucking cry. I'd never felt as happy and safe as I had over the last few months with Andrew. They hadn't been a part of that. As long as I had Andrew, I'd be fine.

I got back to Starbucks in less than an hour. I sat there; motor running, trying to get a grip. I hadn't realized how long I'd been sitting there, engine idling, until Andrew tapped on the driver side window. I blinked at him and he opened the door.


I couldn't keep up the strong act. I wrapped myself around his neck and cried, right there in the parking lot. I hurt so bad I thought I would die. He nuzzled my neck and stroked my hair until I could find enough control to pull back. I kissed him. I no longer cared who saw, what they thought, or anything. I needed him. I guess I thought he was all I had left.

"Take me home, Andrew. Take me home and tell me it will be okay."

He nodded, and I slid out of the driver's seat and over to the passenger's while he retrieved his books. We didn't really talk for the three-hour trip back. He couldn't think of anything to say, and I was too lost in my own thoughts to try. When we got home, he made love to me until we were both too tired, too sore and our balls too empty to go again. We had each other, that's all that mattered.

***** Andrew *****

I sat in the Starbuck's, three books opened before me, two empty cups at my elbow, doing nothing but stare out the window. There was a pile of neatly shredded napkins on one of my certification books. In a word, I was nervous. There was a couple sitting outside under the umbrellas, smoking. At that moment, I wished for a cigarette, if only to have something to take my mind off of Taylor and what he might be facing. The imagination was an evil thing. We could imagine the worst things in the world, ten million times worse than reality, or we could lie and imagine that everything would be perfect, when it hardly ever was. "Oh God, let Taylor be okay. Let his parents be as loving and accepting as he is," I prayed silently.

After nearly a half-hour, I was so restless I couldn't sit anymore. I got up and left, pacing outside, letting the last of the late summer's warmth fill me. Soon we'd both need jackets, but not today, not yet. On what felt like my fiftieth trip from Starbuck's to McDonald's, I spotted Taylor's SUV pull into the parking lot. As I walked the hundred yards to the vehicle, I grew worried. He wasn't getting out. He wasn't running inside to see me. It couldn't have gone too bad. He was their son, their one and only. When I looked in the window and saw the lost, hurt look on his face, I wanted to find their address and beat some sense into them. How could they hurt him? How could anyone hurt him?


Taylor simply looked at me and my heart broke. He was so lost, so hurt. I got my books. He slid over to the other seat. I drove him home. When we got there, all he wanted was to lose himself in sex. I gave him everything I had. Time and time again, we came together, sating our bodies, driving the memories and hurt away for a bit. It was all I could do for him.

The following Monday, I talked to Lee and Sebastian and told them that Saturday night we'd have a little party to celebrate Taylor's birthday. I called Becca and told her that she was expected Saturday night with Larry and to invite anyone else from work that should be there. After the calls were made and the minor details decided for the party, I drove to the office building downtown where my mom worked. We went to lunch, some nice greasy place where we could have calories while I poured my heart out.

"Mom, you should have seen him." I bit into the fried chicken strip after twirling it in barbecue sauce. "He was devastated."

Mom ate a fry or two, chewing deliberately. "Poor baby." I never knew how those two words could be said with such sweet anguish until that moment. "Well, there's nothing left but to have you both over for dinner Sunday. If they can't accept who he is, who he's in love with... It's their fucking loss."

Tears welled in my eyes. "Thanks, Mom." So inadequate, but true nonetheless. "For everything."

Her hand covered mine as I reached for some of her mozzarella cheese sticks. "Andrew honey, you're my son, no matter what." Her smile was sad. "I didn't struggle for thirty-two hours to bring you into this world to throw you out with the trash."

"That's not what I meant."

Her mouth crooked up on one side, so like mine. "Yes, it was. Taylor's parents will either remember the joy that he's brought to their lives or not. But until they do, he's gonna know that he's loved. He's family. Moira and Tom are going to be there. We'll have turkey and stuffing." She patted my cheek. "You told me he loved Thanksgiving dinner."

I sniffed back the tears. They were unstoppable, because one tear slipped out anyway. "I love you, Mom."

"Ditto, baby."

We continued to eat for a few minutes in silence. I groaned at the extra miles I'd have to run and the extra workout I'd need from the greasy food I'd just devoured, but it was worth it. "How could they do that to him?"

Mom looked at anything but my face when she started talking. "Honey, when you first told me, I was devastated." When she saw the look on my face, she immediately grabbed me up into a hug. "No, no, not like that. Baby, I was terrified for you." Her own voice filled with tears and I could hear her sniff as my face pressed into her shoulder. "I didn't want anyone to ever hurt you. Life is so damn hard sometimes, and the idea of you having more to deal with... it broke my heart."

Her shoulder muffled my voice, but I was glad my face was hidden. "You made it okay. As long as I had you, everything else was easy."


"Okay, maybe it wasn't easy, but it helped."

Her laugh was an exhale of breath against my hair. "Good. Because I never wanted you to think for one single minute that I didn't love you. I missed you for so long, baby."

I'd been putting it off for months, telling her the truth. Taylor and I had discussed it, and I knew that I needed to tell her. Timing seemed to be now. "Mom. There's something else I need to tell you."

She pushed me up, looking into my eyes. "What baby? Whatever it is, you can tell me."

I blessed the booths that normally meant we couldn't get service because we couldn't be seen. Now, they were a protective cocoon. "Remember when you were working the two jobs and Moira was taking dance lessons?" At her nod, I swallowed hard, praying for strength. "I spent that extra time before you came home working out at the school with the boy's wrestling coach." Oh God, this was so damn hard. "One day in November, as I finished my workout, the coach... the coach... he... came into the shower with me and he..."

My voice trailed off when I saw the tears in my mother's eyes. My throat was thick with emotion and when I brushed my hair back from my brow, I felt tears against my cheeks. "He raped me."

The gasp wounded me. The rolling, silent tears cut me in two. "I'm sorry, Mama. I'm so sorry."

Her wail was quiet, but filled with so much that I could never identify it all. Her arms came around me and we held each other as we cried. When the waitress came by, trying to crack jokes about how hot the jalapeno poppers were, she quickly left at my mother's withering look. It did provide us with a bit of a reprieve. I pulled back and wiped my cheeks. My mother did the same.


I looked at her, and for the first time saw what I hadn't seen all those years ago. She looked tired, worn out, and at the end of her rope. She had worked so hard to keep it together, put food on the table, and raise two growing, disillusioned children on her own. My mother is the strongest person, the most generous, most giving person I've ever known. "Mom?"

"Thank you for telling me." She ran her fingers through her silvering raven hair. "I knew something was wrong. I knew it. But I could never figure out what it was." Her hand cupped my cheek. "You went away. Nothing I did could reach you. I thought it was something I'd done, not something I hadn't been able to protect you from."

Was she blaming herself? "Mom, no! You had nothing to do with this. It... It was my fault."

She grabbed my chin hard, forcing me to look at her. "No. It wasn't your fault either. You never asked for it to happen, no child does."

I shrugged, relieved and exhausted all at the same time. "I'm sorry for going away."

"You had reason."

I nodded at that, thinking hard on what she said. Since I'd pushed it all out of my mind, it would make sense that I'd push everything else away too.

"How long have you lived with this Andrew?"

"I didn't remember until a few months ago, shortly after I met Taylor."

She shook her head in disbelief. "I knew that man was golden."

"What do you mean?"

"He gave me my boy back. You'd better believe he's gonna know how much he's loved by his in-laws."

"I love you, Mom."

I picked up the check, only to have my mother fight me over it. "You are just starting up that new club, you let me take care of this."


"No. Let me."

I never won these arguments, but I felt that I had to try. I took mom back to work and went home, feeling a bit better. The last of my secrets were out in the open. My mother knew. It felt good. That night, Taylor tried to hide his tears by taking a shower, but I knew he was losing it. I joined him in the shower and held him tightly as he cried it all out. He had supported me for so long, now it was my turn to help him. "I love you, Taylor."

It only made him cry harder, but once he was wound down, we crawled into bed, spooning together. It was a long time before either of us slept, but it was a comfortable, warm silence that got us there.

After days of cooking, planning, and preparing, Saturday night arrived. A few of Taylor's coworkers came, Sebastian and Don, Leon and Frank, Lee and Tyron, even one of Taylor's former students, Sean. The house was full of friends and family, all the people who loved Taylor and he loved. I manned the bar, mixing drinks, mostly margaritas. After that one night of drunkenness, I didn't drink anything but margarita mix and some ginger ale. Sadly, I watched as Taylor drank constantly. At least he was laughing.

When the majority of Taylor's coworkers had left, and it was only the guys and Becca and Larry, the real party got started. Since Sean was underage, he and I were the only sober ones in the group. He was a great kid, a bit awkward, but who at eighteen wasn't? He helped me in the kitchen, cleaning up a bit as the loud laughter floated in from the other room.

"Thanks Sean, for the help. I appreciate it."

His smile was shy. I knew by looking at him that once he grew into his body, he'd be a killer. "No problem. I appreciate the chance to come here. Mr. Madi—I mean Taylor helped me out a lot. Between him and Sebastian and Don, I don't think I'd be here if it weren't for them."

"That bad?"

His smile was all teeth, braces shining in the overhead lights. "I didn't want to be gay."

The way he said it, so simply, so matter-of-fact, broke my heart. I'd had one of those moments too. I knew where he was coming from. Without thinking, I wrapped my arms around him. "I didn't either. But now, I can't imagine my life any different."

I was still wrapped up in the hug when Lee popped through the door. "Okay you slut, let the boy go. Jesus!"

I stood up, but left one arm around Sean. "Fuck off. Sean's a great kid, but Taylor is the only man for me." I turned my head to look into Sean's eyes. "I'm sorry, Sean, but I'm afraid it would never work. You're adorable, but I'm taken."

Sean's blush was very becoming. I'd made the boy's night. I'd have given anything to have an older, sexy guy hug me and flirt when I was his age. Lee came further into the room to whisper in my ear, to which I could only laugh. I watched as Lee shined his smile towards Sean and felt the boy stiffen under my arm. Interesting.

When Lee left, I quietly watched Sean as saw his eyes follow Lee as he walked. Yep, the boy was smitten. Poor kid. Nothing could break Lee and Tyron apart. His first crush. Best thing to do when unhappy in love was to be distracted, I decided to include him in some of the fun. "Hey, why don't we go join the drunks and fuck with their minds?"

Sean's grin was boyish. This was a great guy. We joined back up with the rest of the group. Taylor ran up to me, kissing me deeply. I could taste tequila on him. Taylor tasted wonderful, tequila I could do without. "Baby, you're toasted."

"Oh shut up, studman, or I'll tell everyone about your first drunk." Okay, so his words were slurred, but he wasn't that far gone. Damn it.

Sebastian piped up, "Do tell."

Taylor turned around and bowed to the group. "Andrew is a wonderful drunk and a horrid thief. He stole my heart that night."

Tyron's exaggerated `Aw' only mostly pissed me off. But Taylor's words had me melting. I grabbed him and started kissing him. Before too long, Larry grew uncomfortable and cleared his throat. "Come on guys, get a room."

I raised my eyebrow at him, but Don spoke first. "Give us a break. I think we should have a big make out party, just like high school."

Frank piped in. "Nah, too many lights. Don't want to scare Becca." Frank and Becca had been getting along great. She taught math, and he'd actually worked in applied mathematics before becoming a fireman. In only a few hours, she'd talked him into being a guest in her class.

Becca laughed, letting her eyes wander to Frank. "I don't think so. I've seen bigger."

This was getting out of hand. "Come on guys; let's not get into a pissing match over whose mate is bigger."

Taylor started laughing. "That's a perfect idea. Whose man is the biggest one here?"

Lee looked uncomfortable. Sean turned beet red, but obviously curious. Don swaggered; Sebastian rolled his eyes. Sadly, since I'd had sex with just about every man in the room, I knew who'd win, hands down. I really didn't think it would be a good idea to have Frank whip out that monster and make Larry cry and Sean burst into flames from blushing.

I grabbed Taylor and pulled him over to the bar, kissing him gently then making him another margarita. I nibbled along his jaw and whispered in his ear. "Honey, I don't think you'd like having Frank make all the other men here cry."

His chuckle was bordering on hysterical. "Okay. But it would be pretty funny." He picked up his drink and staggered a few steps before turning back around. "But I have seen Larry. He may not be as thick as your luscious cock, but the boy is almost half again as long as you." With that, he walked back to the group.

I watched as Sean tried to subtly check out the group's packages. Being eighteen, he failed miserably. A bit later, when Taylor caught me giving in to curiosity and searching for a peek at Larry, he did nothing but laugh at me, outright. Bastard.

As everyone was leaving, designated drivers with the keys, I realized that this was my family too. You didn't have to be born into a family. They were whom you chose. I turned off the lights, locked the door, grabbed my man and took him upstairs. This man gave me this. Only a year before, I'd never have had a house full of people. How empty it had all been. Taylor snuggled against me in the dark, burrowing his head into my chest hair, mumbling drunken love words.

"Nice nipple ring, wanna fuck?"

My laughter echoed off the walls long after Taylor passed out.

***** Taylor *****

I didn't pay much attention to the doorbell on Sunday afternoon. I was still somewhat hung over from the "surprise" birthday party the guys had arranged. Andrew had been responsible; he'd nursed one margarita all night. I'd just wanted to forget about the fact I had not attended my parents' anniversary party, or heard anything from them since last Saturday. I'd gotten completely wasted.

I was lying on the couch, finally feeling something other than "death warmed over", when Andrew answered the door. It had to have been a stranger because none of our friends or family came to the front door. The kitchen door was the way in and out of the house to us.

"You must be, Andrew. You look just like your picture." I was jarred by the voice at the front door. After what felt like a pregnant pause, I heard, "I'm Katherine, Taylor's mother."

Falling completely off the couch, trying not to crash into the coffee table, I missed whatever Andrew's reply had been. I scrambled to my feet as Andrew came in, my mother close behind. Why was I so fucking scared?

Mom's eyes scanned the room. She probably recognized some of the furniture, like the couch, from my condo. Her smile was tentative but sincere. "You have a beautiful home."

"Thank you." Andrew seemed a bit unsure as to exactly how behave. Honestly, I wasn't sure myself.

"Mom, what are you doing here?"

Her eyes met mine, and I felt like the dam was going to burst. "I haven't missed your birthday in thirty-four years. I'm not about to start now."

Ok, the dam burst. I sank down on the arm of the couch and cried. Mom crossed the space and held me, patting my back and promised everything would be alright. I'm not sure exactly what I said. I know I apologized for just about everything from being born to having brown hair. She just shook her head, smiling softly at me with tears in her eyes. "You've always been my perfect boy, Taylor." Her fingers stroked my cheek, brushing away some of my tears. "We love you. It will take him a while, but I'm sure your father will come around."

I looked away, my eyes settling on the floor near the coffee table. "I never wanted to be a disappointment."

I tumbled off the arm and onto the couch cushions as Mom's purse smacked my arm. It wasn't the force, but the surprise that moved me more than anything else. "You have never in your life been a disappointment to me or your father. He may not know how to express it, but your father has always been proud that you're your own man. You never backed down, you never gave in, and you always stood by your beliefs. No one could ask for more than that."

I smiled, blinking away my tears and looking over at Andrew. "She's as much of a brute as you are."

Laughing, Andrew hefted me off the couch and set me on my feet. He wrapped his arms around my neck from behind and kissed the side of my head. "Yeah, I can tell. She's vicious."

Mom rolled her eyes, but smiled at us. We just stood there, Andrew holding me, Mom looking at us, and her smile softened. "You two look wonderful together. I kept looking at the pictures you left and I could see the love there. All we ever wanted for you was to be happy, Taylor."

I wrapped my arms around Andrew's and smiled. "He's the best, Mom. I've never been as happy as I am with Andrew."

She shrugged, seeming to believe the issue was resolved. "Then I'm happy."

I looked at her, not able to quiet the doubt filled whispers in the back of my head. "You sure?"

She smiled. "It will take some time to get used to, and I'm not sure how I'm going to tell Claire, but yes, baby, I really am happy. You've been searching for love for so long; I'm just happy you found it."

I smiled, still not completely convinced. "What about grandkids?"

She waved the question away as if it were not important. I knew for a fact it was. Though she'd always joked, she had asked more than once when I was going to meet the right woman and give her some grandchildren to spoil. "There's time. You can adopt."

Andrew shuddered. I did too. "Um, okay Mom. We can leave that topic for a while, right?"

She smiled. "Of course, dear. They don't even consider couples for adoption unless they've been together for at least five years."

Five years. I had five years of reprieve, and then all hell would break loose.

"Katherine, my mother is having us over for a small family dinner for Taylor's birthday. We'd love for you to join us."

Mom smiled. "Better call her to make certain, Andrew. I don't want to start off on the wrong foot with my in-laws."

I laughed. At least they wouldn't have the surprised first encounter I'd had. It was going to be an interesting birthday.