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The Conquered - Chapter 32: Trials (part 6)

***** Andrew *****

A grey light intruded behind my eyes. My hand reached out across the bed to find cold, smooth, not slept-in sheets. I sat bolt upright, the last bit of my sleep leaving me. "Fuck." The bed was cold. I flopped back against the pillows and stared at the ceiling. What had I gotten, two, three hours at most?

I glanced over at the bedside table and groaned. The clock read six-thirty. "Shit."

I wanted to snuggle. It was Sunday, the one day I could sleep in and cuddle. Like that will happen. I slunk out of bed and rubbed my hand against my cheek, feeling the rasp of beard as I yawned. I trudged into the bathroom to relieve the pressure on my bladder. After I was sure I was in no danger of exploding, I splashed some cold water on my face to chase the sleep from my eyes. I walked back into the bedroom and saw the mostly made bed; at least the one side of it. I swatted a pair of socks off the dresser and only felt slightly better when they ricocheted off the lamp shade and landed in the hamper.

I grabbed some cut-off sweats and pulled them on then grabbed some socks and sat on the bed to put them on. "No. I'll take the spare room." I pulled the sock too hard and I could hear the threads snap and complain. "Like he was a fucking guest." I pulled a tee-shirt out of the bureau and shoved my arms in the holes, missing the sleeve and ended up trying to shove my head through a shoulder. "It isn't my bed. It isn't my home." I got the shirt straightened and over my head. "It's our home and our bed, God damn it!"

With a sigh, my head slung low, I shook it. How did this happen? Groaning in frustration, I looked in the mirror over the dresser. "You look good, Jackson." I snorted. Yeah, right. "I need coffee."

I paused by the door to Sean's room. I swallowed hard and put my hand against it, willing my fingers to press through the wood. With another sigh, I turned away. I walked downstairs and kicked at the damn houseplant by the front door. I had a black thumb, but Taylor could grow just about anything. No matter what, I couldn't kill the damn thing. Just because I could, I kicked it again. Nothing. Shit.

I started the coffee and planted my ass against the counter, thinking. I looked up at the clock. It was nearly seven. Sean would be up by now. I never got a chance to call him back last night. Last night... oh God. I shut my eyes to block out the memories of Kevin. It didn't work. I could see him, smell him, feel his heat and hunger. I gritted my teeth, willing the images to disappear.

The coffeepot let out a wheeze and gurgle, shaking me out of my thoughts. I grabbed a cup and filled it. I walked over to the kitchen table and sat down. I took one sip and felt the caffeine jolt through my veins. After a good half cup, I noticed the papers sitting on the table. Where had these come from? I noticed the note on the top and recognized Tom's horrid signature. I thumbed through the papers and frowned. These were all signed by Taylor: Power of Attorneys, Living Wills, deeds, titles. Everything was there, spelled out to the most minute of detail. I checked the date by the signature. Yesterday. What the hell?

My finger traced over one of Taylor's signatures, idly following the curves and angles of his name. What did it mean? Obviously, he got them yesterday. After everything that was said? I looked at the stack and then set them down. I looked up at the clock again, but I couldn't see it. I brushed my hands against my cheek to rub my eyes and they came away wet. I sniffed and blinked hard so I could see the numbers on the clock. I picked up the phone and dialed Sean.

I waited through four rings before I heard the voice I needed to hear so desperately, followed too quickly by the annoying beep of voice mail. Damn it. The lump tightened in my throat. "Hey Sean... thanks for calling last night. I'm sorry I didn't get back to you until now. I miss you too, baby bro." Not really knowing what else to say, I cleared my throat. "I love you, kiddo."

As I hung up the phone, I heard a crash on the stairs. I was across the room and to the stairs before the adrenalin could catch up to me. My throat tightened as I saw Taylor, leaning against the banister, a book, plate and glass scattered down the stairs. He looked sad and defeated. "Taylor?"

He looked at me and blinked, but not before I caught moisture pooling in his eyes. "I'm okay. I just dropped the book."

He looked like hell. About how I felt. Tired. Worn out. Weary. Yeah, we looked like the walking wounded alright. "And the glass and plate," I added as I picked them up and made it up the stairs. Nothing had broken. "How'd you sleep?"

"Fine." He looked away.

I felt my face fall. Yeah. He gives a shit. Right.

"No. I didn't. Not really."

I cracked a smile. I shouldn't have been happy that he was miserable, but it made my heart beat faster. I had to touch him. Two days of nothing was killing me. I ran my thumb along his cheek, and he pressed into it immediately, as hungry for it as I was. "Nothing is broken," I whispered, not sure if I meant the dropped items or us.

"Are you sure?" God. He sounded so small.

I took a breath. "We need to talk."

He nodded and opened his mouth to say something. Nothing came out.

I let my hand open up and cup his cheek. "Not yet." When his eyes flicked to mine, confused, I shrugged. "We're both too tired to do this now." He didn't break our gaze as we stood there, tired, aching, and unsure. "Up or down?"

Taylor glanced at the book that was still at the base of the stairs. "Up."

I stepped up to him and clasped him under the knee with my left arm and around his shoulders with my right. I hefted him up, and this time he didn't even pause. He just leaned in, holding onto me. Resisting the urge to run, I carried him into our bedroom. "I could use some more sleep." I set him down by the door. "I think you could too."

I stared across the wide expanse of the bed, willing him to bite the bullet and crawl in with me. I shut my eyes and whispered prayers that he would come to bed. I just wanted to hold him, snuggle with him. Yes, I wanted to fuck his brains out, but at the moment, I wanted him by my side as I slept. When I heard the bed creak as he sat down, I ripped off my tee and shorts. I crawled under the covers. I reached across the bed and pulled him the rest of the way in. I settled back into the pillows and stared at him.

"I love you, Andrew."

Whether he needed to say it, or needed me to believe it, I didn't care. My heart rate kicked up at the words. I kissed his hair as he melted against me. "I love you, too."

***** Sean *****

Yeah. God. Oh shit... All I could do was gasp for breath. My brain was definitely rebooting.

Carlos nuzzled my neck as I came back down from the most incredible night of my life. "You feel so good," he sighed. He flexed inside me, making me moan, as he pulled his lips from my shoulder and smiled at me. "Was it everything you wanted?"

I pulled his face down to me and kissed him. Was it everything I wanted? Hell yeah. We sucked face, my legs gripping him tighter as he began moving in me again. I groaned into his mouth. "Carlos... I can't cum again..."

He chuckled, thrusting into me, causing me to gasp. "You're an eighteen-year-old stud, Sean." He chewed at my ear as he started up again. "You've got a few more loads in you before we dry you out."

His thrusting was interrupted by something annoying. I ignored it, twisting my hips to get him to keep going. He tried, but the annoyance repeated itself again, and again. He leaned in, whispering, "Answer the phone, Sean."

I grumbled, feeling totally gypped. Answer the phone? Who the hell stops a fuck to answer the phone?

"Sean," the unhappy, sleepy whisper came from the side of my neck, "your phone is beeping..."

I grabbed my phone off my nightstand and blinked a few times to focus. The message symbol was on and the phone tweeted again. I sighed, turning off the alert, and noted that Andrew had called before dropping the phone back on the nightstand. It took me a moment to realize that Carlos wasn't there. I wasn't naked. I wasn't sweaty and cum covered. I was fucking hard as a rock and my boxers were a little damp. I also had someone warm, soft, and comfortable snoozing against me. Damn. Dreams were the closest I ever got to sex.

Katie snuggled in closer as I stroked her hair. I just lay there, staring at the ceiling, and pushed aside the disappointment. I may not have had a night of hot, passionate sex, but I had to admit it felt good to wake up holding someone. I closed my eyes and ran my nose through Katie's hair. She smelled good. Hell, she felt good. For a moment I wished I had dreams about her instead of Carlos; maybe those would have been fulfilled. I sighed. Wanting it didn't make it real. I probably could have faked. Hell, last night with Carlos behind me and Katie's ass against my dick, it didn't matter Katie was a girl; my dick loved it. The thought made me think of porn stars who were "gay for pay". I could probably do that, even enjoy it, but I'd be faking. If Taylor and Andrew had taught me anything, life was worth living honestly.

I kissed the top of Katie's head as she stirred. "Morning, sleepy head."

"Morning," she mumbled, snuffling a moment before lifting her head. "Sorry about not going home."

I grinned. "Nah, I'd have worried until you called me from your house."

Katie shifted, her leg, which had been over mine, bumped my boner. I flinched and she jerked her leg away. "Sorry."

I blushed. "You know what they say: we rise with the sun."

Katie giggled and rolled away. "I didn't think a gay boy could get a hard on with a girl near by."

I blinked. "Why not?"

She shrugged. "I don't know. I guess it'd be a turn off."

"Can you get horny with another girl around?"

"Sure, but I'm not horny for her."

"Same thing, I think." I sat up, the sheets pooling at my hips. "I don't get turned on by tits and such, but I don't run away screaming if I see a nude picture of a woman."

She smiled. "You're a lot cooler than most gay guys about sex and such, Sean. Most gay guys are all 'ick, fish... aaaaaagh'." She lifted her hands in mock fear.

I laughed. "Yeah, well most gay guys didn't get to live with two totally comfortable, mature, cool guys who didn't do bullshit like that."

She rolled back over and propped her chin on her hands as she looked at me. "You miss them don't you?"

I nodded, lying back, tucking my hands behind my head as I looked at the ceiling. "Yeah. I miss Don and Seb and Jackson and Taylor, but I think I miss Andrew most." She looked at me skeptically, and I smiled. "I didn't have a crush on him or anything, Katie. I can't explain it, really. I respect the guys and love them, but Andrew was like a dorky big brother from the moment we met. Dorky in that cool, clumsy, caring way." I shrugged. How could I explain how cool Andrew was? It wasn't like he didn't make mistakes, or fuck up, but he was so sincere and honest in how he felt. The guys told me he hadn't always been like that, but I'd never met him before Taylor. All I knew was he understood. He cared. And I loved him.

Kate grinned at me, her eyes glowing. "You should see your face when you think about them. It's like you're remembering Neverland, or Oz, or something; someplace where you just can't be sad, or hurt, or lonely."

"Nah, not like that... there were bad times, and pain, but I guess the fact the guys cared, and tried, and made it the best they could, made the bad things seem not so important. I don't know what I'd have done if they hadn't taken me in after I ran away from home."

"Was your dad really one of those people who thought being gay was evil?"

I nodded. "I think he loved me. Taylor's Aunt C told me that most parents only want what they think is best for their children, even the misguided ones. I think he honestly thought I was suffering being gay, and that he had to cure me for me to be saved and live a good life." I shrugged. "Stupid, but that's what I think."

"Your Grandma is cool though."

"Yeah, she's the best. I'm happy I have a chance to get to know her. I always loved her as a kid, but I hardly ever got to be with her. We're making up for lost time." I looked at the clock. "Speaking of time, it's going on eleven."

Katie sighed, rolling out of bed. "Mom's going to kill me for missing church."

I watched her as she stretched. Katie really was cute. Walnut hair, round face, more hippy than she liked and soft, but she had great curves. Women, in my opinion, should have been softer. Not that they weren't tough or strong, but guys were supposed to be muscle heads; the whole yin-yang thing. Different but equal.

She pulled down her shirt and picked her jeans up off the floor. She grinned at me when she caught me watching. "You're going to ruin your reputation as a gay boy, Sean."

I got out of bed and batted at the front of my boxers. I was nothing close to hard any longer. "What? If I were even an ounce straight, don't you think I'd be interested?"

Katie shrugged. "Nah. I'm fat."

"What?" I looked at her. "You're beautiful."

She rolled her eyes. "No offense, Sean, but the opinion of a gay guy isn't very inspiring."

"Why? Just `cause I'm not interested doesn't mean I don't know what looks good." I grabbed my jeans from the foot of the bed. "I'm gay, Katie, not blind." I zipped up and turned around. "I'd believe a straight guy if he told me I was attractive... hell, I'd probably believe him more than a gay guy because I'd know he wasn't saying it to get into my pants."

Katie smiled, came over and gave me a hug. "You'd be such a great boyfriend, Sean."

I hugged her back. "How about if I just be a great friend?"

"I can live with that." She let go, grinning. "You can never have too many great friends."

I nodded at the door. "Let's get something to eat."

I grabbed a T-shirt as we left my room and wandered down the hall in search of food.

Grandma looked up from the Sunday paper, raising an eyebrow at us as I pulled my T-shirt on. "Morning, Sean. Morning, Katie."

Katie blushed under Grandma's curious gaze. "Good morning, Mrs. Bowen."

"Grandma," I groaned, rolling my eyes.

"What," she asked as she folded her paper.

"You're embarrassing Katie."

Grandma slid off her reading glasses. "If she's embarrassed about sleeping with handsome young men, she had better start looking at the girls."

Katie laughed. "Never."

"Have you had breakfast," I asked. It didn't look like it, but Grandma could have cleaned up already.

"No, I thought you might be hungry after your first night 'out'. I just had some juice so I could take my pills."

I looked at Katie. "What would you like?"


I checked through the cabinets. "We've got Grape Nuts and Raisin Bran, or oat meal."

"Raisin Bran." Katie sat down and looked at her phone. "Great, three messages. Anyone want to bet it's my mom?"

"Didn't you call her last night," Grandma asked.

Katie shook her head. "No. I told her I might spend the night in town, since I was going out with friends." She sighed. "I bet she's bitching me out for not getting back in time for church." She listened to her messages while I got down some bowls. She nodded as she clicked off her phone. "Yeah, she is 'disappointed'. She also said that she and my stepfather are going to go up to the Mount Dora art festival today."

"That is a wonderful art show," Grandma commented, taking her bowl from me as I brought them to the table and went back to get the cereal boxes and milk.

"I like the Winter Park one better."

"Too crowded," Grandma disputed, picking up the Grape Nuts and pouring some into her bowl. After we'd picked our cereals and poured our milk, she looked at Katie. "What are your plans for today?"

Katie shrugged. "Nothing. I got my studying done for next week's classes, so I'll probably just go home and do laundry or something."

"I'm sure Sean would appreciate help with the weight set he needs to pick up from Mr. Harmond."


Katie smiled. "You're getting a weight set?"

I shrugged, blushing. "I can't afford a gym membership, and I got used to working out at Andrew and Lee's place. Mr. Harmon just got a Bowflex Extreme, so he doesn't need his old weight bench and stuff. He told me I could have it for free if I came and got it out of his garage."

Katie grinned. "I'll help, but only if I can use it too."

I shrugged. "Sure, that's cool."

"When you're done with breakfast, give Mr. Harmon a call and make sure he's there," Grandma instructed, before taking a bite of her cereal.

"Yes, ma'am." A girl workout partner? There were stranger things.

***** Sebastian *****

I clutched the phone tighter in my hand. "Antonio, you have to get her out of here."

He chuckled. The bastard had a lot of nerve to laugh. "I'm not coming all that way to rescue you from Mama."

In less than twenty-four hours, my mother had taken over our apartment, first by cleaning, then by helping us pack odds and ends for when we moved. I loved the help, but... AAARRRGGGHHH!

"Just wait, little bro, one day, you're going to meet your soul mate and she's going to do the same to you. Either you help me now, or you're on your own."

Antonio laughed again. "Where's Don?"

I sighed as I sat on the bed. "He's toting boxes and getting things out of the top cabinet shelves in the kitchen."

"That's what you get for marrying a tall gringo."

I was wound so tight, I curled the phone cord around my finger, hopelessly misshaping it. "Tonio? Por favor? I don't care that the colors on the invitations don't match the programs at the church."

I heard Antonio sigh over the phone. Finally, he was going to help me. "I'm sorry Sebastian, but I won't help you. It's pre-wedding jitters. We all get them."

I ground my teeth in frustration. "You've never been married, or even engaged."

"Fine. So I've been told." He snickered. "Better?"

"Whatever. One of these days, Antonio."

"Yeah, yeah. I'll get mine." The phone got quiet for a second. "Probably."

The sad, wistful sound of my brother's voice made me stop and groan inwardly. "I'm sorry Tonio. I heard you and Susanna broke up."

He sighed again through the phone. "I don't really miss her. She was a pain in the ass."

"At least you found out now, before you actually moved in with her."

"She actually complained that I was too big for her. Can you believe that?"

Actually, I could. If Don weren't such a size queen, we'd be having problems. "I'm sorry, Tonio. Our burritos didn't come conveniently sized like the rest of us."

He chuckled and I could imagine him shaking his head. "You're bad, big bro. How come you don't have that problem with Don?"

"Don's a size queen. You know that." I could still remember the first time he took me in. My first fuck... and Don thought I'd done a lot for his life.

"Perhaps I should find a guy. Maybe he wouldn't scream and complain."

I shook my head. "Tonio, most men out there can't take me. Same problem, different hole. You'll meet someone. I promise."

I heard a clearing of the throat over the line. We were in danger of getting mushy. "I'll let you go now. I'll see you next month at the wedding."

"I love you, bro."

"Back at you."

I didn't even get the phone back in the cradle when my mother's voice called out. "Sebastian, come help Donito move the refrigerator. Ay yi yi, you have to clean back here when you move."

I didn't know how my mother could make my name have ten syllables in it, or make those brain piercing yips, but she did. I walked into the kitchen to find Don leaning against the counter, looking smug in his wife beater and jeans. We got the refrigerator out, and Mama took one look behind it and then slapped my arm. "Sebastian, I raised you better."

I rubbed my arm. "Mama, no one sees behind a refrigerator."

She turned to Don. "Donito, explain to your fiancée about cleaning." She set to work with a mop and dust rag on the coils behind the refrigerator. Don came up beside me and leaned down to my ear. "You need to clean more, Sebastian." Then in a delicious whisper that made my cock twitch, "you can clean me later in the shower. I'm very, very dirty."

I shook my head. No way -- not with my mother in the house. The idea of having sex under the same roof as my parents grossed me out. Antonio had no problem with it, but I did. I kept having nightmares of my mother walking into my bedroom while Don was plowing my ass, my legs up in the air, and me screaming out that I'm coming. She just takes one look at me and then cleans the room, telling me about the decorations for the wedding, and wants to know why I don't call her more.

I shuddered from the mental images and stepped back. Don took my hand and kissed my cheek. "You have those files to go over. I'll take care of Angelina."

I turned and he swatted my ass as I left for the dining room table and the stack of files. I could hear my mother and Don in the kitchen, laughing and cajoling each other. I stopped reading mid-sentence when a particularly loud laugh left the room, but for the most part, it went quickly.

Sunday night, Mama kissed my cheek as the cab driver put her bag in the trunk. "You pick well, Sebastian."

I smiled, blushing a little as she turned to kiss Don goodbye. "Keep my son happy, Donito."

"I will," he replied, eying the cabby waiting at the passenger door. "We could have taken you to the airport."

"I arrived on my own; I will leave on my own." Mama lifted her chin bravely. We all knew it was because she was horrible at goodbyes.

"Fly safe... Mama," Don said, kissing Mama on the top of her head.

She managed to limit herself to a couple tears before retreating to the cab and waving good bye to us before getting in.

We waited at the door, watching the cab pull out of the complex, until the tail lights were lost in the traffic. When I shut it, I went to the kitchen and grabbed the mop, a dust rag, and some Windex. Don quirked his head to the side as I came into the bed room. "What's that for?"

"You said you were dirty. I wanted to be prepared."

We both laughed as we made our way to the shower.

***** Taylor *****

Unlike Andrew, I wasn't sleep deprived. I was tired, exhausted really, but it was emotional not physical exhaustion. I just looked at him as he shifted in his sleep, throwing his arm over his head and snoring a little bit. I wanted to lean in and rub my face under his arm, and ravish him. That wasn't really an option. Hot, sweaty sex would just be a Band Aid. We had to take some time. As a counselor I knew that. As a rational partner I knew that. But as a needy, desperately in love, scared man in a gay relationship, I didn't know that. I just wanted to fuck, forget about it, and hope it'd go away. Still, Andrew looked comfortable. I would have said "at peace" but that wasn't true. It'd be a while before he was at peace again; before there would be peace for either of us.

"You know he's strong enough," Claire observed from the back of my head.

"I know," I whispered, "but I'm still scared."

Andrew's phone buzzed on the nightstand.

"Shit." I hobbled around the bed as the thing buzzed and wobbled its way across the top of the nightstand. I grabbed it before it could fall off, and was about to click it to voice mail, when I saw the number. I hopped out into the hall and clicked the receive button. "Hey, Sean, what's up?"


"Yeah, Andrew's asleep, so I grabbed the phone." I hobbled a little further down the hall so I wouldn't wake my sleeping man.

"He returned my call earlier, but I didn't have a chance to call back 'til now." He paused. "Why's Andrew asleep?"

I shrugged. "He hasn't slept well the last couple nights."

"Nightmares?" Sean knew all about those. We'd had a couple bad nights while he'd been with us.

"No." I sighed. "He just has an asshole as a partner."

There was another pause on the other end of the line. "Huh?"

I shrugged. "Remember how I said I was home after a little skiing accident?"

"Yeah," Sean replied suspiciously.

"Well, it was more serious than 'little'. Not life threatening or anything, but I still can't tie my own tie or button my shirts. Andrew's been busting his ass and I wasn't making it any easier."

"That doesn't make any sense. Why'd Andrew not sleep well over that?"

I shrugged. "Wasn't that, the stress just set us up for us getting into a stupid fight, Sean. Most fights are about stupid things, but this time it was mostly my fault, and I knew it, but you know how thick headed I can be."

Sean snorted. "No, not you."


"So everything's okay now?"

I shrugged again. "It should be. I'm sure it will be with some work."


"Not everything can be solved overnight, or with sex, or just by saying 'I love you', Sean."

"You guys aren't, like..." His voice was so small.

"No, Sean. We aren't breaking up," I said firmly, for myself as much as for Sean.

"Who's breaking up?" Andrew's voice came from the doorway.

I looked up. "No one, I hope." I held out the phone. "Sean's on the phone. I think he needs some reassurance from his big brother."

Andrew came down the hall and took it, speaking into the phone briefly. "Give me a second, Sean." He covered the mouth piece. "What did you tell him?"

I shrugged. "That you were in a relationship with a pig-headed asshole."

Andrew frowned. "Taylor."

"Just that you were asleep because you hadn't slept well, and that we'd had a fight, and that we were working it out." I looked at him. "Really, that's it."

He cupped my cheek before I could slide by, and kissed the top of my head. "Okay." He gave me a strained but sincere smile, and put the phone to his ear. "Okay, Sean. First, don't worry about it. We're going to be fine..."

I hobbled my way down the stairs to give Andrew some privacy. We hadn't had anything to eat all day, so I made my way into the kitchen and rummaged the fridge for something easy to cook. I pulled out a container of frozen, homemade chicken soup and popped it into the microwave to defrost enough to put into a pan. The soup was simmering lightly when Andrew walked in, still talking to Sean.

"We love you too, Sean. Have a good week. We'll tell you all about the wedding." Andrew hung up and dropped the phone on the table. "That smells good."

I nodded. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah. He woke up with a brunette snuggled up against him."

"What?" I blinked at Andrew and then turned to stir the soup. "Damn that kid's moving fast. I hope he used protection."

Andrew grinned. "So do I. If not, we might be uncles in about nine months."

"WHAT?!?" I sloshed soup onto the stove top as I looked at Andrew.

He held up his hands. "Joke, just a joke. His friend Katie spent the night after they went to the club."

I took a breath and calmed my nerves. "So it was platonic?"

"He was an honorable gentleman. He admitted that he really liked waking up with someone in his arms." Andrew's eyes softened as he looked at me. "I know how he feels."

I sighed, wanting to be in his arms and ignoring the world a bit longer. "So everything's really okay?"

"He's pissed that you glossed over your injuries, but he says he'll get over it as long as we work our shit out."

I pulled the pan off the burner. "Then I guess we'll have to work our shit out."

Andrew grinned. "Why's that?"

"I can't let one of my kids down."

Andrew's grin drooped, and he brushed away a strand of the damn mop I'd grown. "You haven't let me down either, you know."

"I haven't?" I wasn't convinced of that at all.

"No," his fingers slid behind my ear and he massaged at the base of my skull. I closed my eyes and let him pull me in and work the tension out. "You slipped off that pedestal I had you on, but I guess that makes you human."

"I need you, you know," I mumbled it into his chest.

Andrew pulled back a little to look into my eyes. "You don't have to say it for me, Taylor."

I shook my head. "I'm saying it for me... that whole 'you say it and it makes it less frightening' thing?"

"I really scare you that much?" Andrew looked hurt as he let go of my head.

"No. Needing you scares me that much." I looked at the soup. "I guess it's time for that talk."

Andrew sighed. "Yeah, I guess."

"We can do it later," I offered.

Andrew shook his head. "No, we might as well not put it off. The sooner we start, the sooner we can move on, right?"

"Okay." I pulled the bread out of the fridge while Andrew ladled up the soup.

"Why don't we take lunch into the living room?" Andrew eyed the paperwork covered kitchen table. "Talks at the kitchen table remind me of scoldings."

I grinned. "We've usually worked things out talking on that couch anyway."

Andrew's smile was warm and almost nostalgic. "I love that couch."

I followed him out of the kitchen, hobbling slowly so as not to drop anything. "So do I."