David's Initiation: The Partnership 18

Draginacht@aol.com (AKA Jeff)

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Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental. The story contains graphic descriptions of sex between men. Anyone who is forbidden by law to read such material must stop now. This story is being posted to the Nifty Archive solely for the enjoyment of its readers.

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"Hold that thought," Dave said in a soft, seductive voice then he got up to answer the doorbell. Tony continued playing – as best as he could.

Dave stood, adjusted his woody and walked slowly toward the door, hoping that it would subside enough so as to not be obvious to whoever was ringing the bell. It rang again. Dave reached for the handle, turned it and opened the door.

"Gloria!" Dave exclaimed. "C'mon in out of that rain. Here, let me have your raincoat and you can place your umbrella here in the foyer. What brings you out on a day like this?"

Gloria Redmond was an attractive woman, about 45 years of age, 5 feet 2 inches tall, black short cut hair, and fair skin, which was contrasted by the deep red lipstick she liked to wear. Gloria was a highly successful attorney who also specialized in high profile divorce and child advocacy cases. Gloria was the attorney that Morgan Kramer called on when she divorced her husband. She also did pro bono work for Philos trying to improve the lives of the children in residence there.

"Thanks, Dave, believe me, I wouldn't be out in this weather if I could avoid it," she replied as she checked her dress and hair to make sure everything was still perfectly in place. Gloria was direct as always.

Dave hung her raincoat on a coat rack and turned to continue the conversation. "Please, come on in to the great room; Tony and I were just relaxing after lunch." He escorted Gloria into the great room where Tony was now standing at the piano prepared to greet her. She carefully negotiated the steps in her high heels and extended her hand.

"Hello, Tony, and congratulations by the way. Or should I be saying `best wishes?'" She chuckled at her own humor then turned to face Dave. "What a lovely home you have here," she observed. "Is this one of your own creations?"

"Thank you, yes it is," Dave replied. He always experienced a feeling of pride when anyone complimented him on his design. "Please, have a seat over here," Dave invited as he motioned toward the facing love seats by the dark fireplace. Gloria lowered herself into one of the loveseats and set her briefcase on the floor beside her feet.

"So, I gather by your comment that this not a social call." Dave projected a friendly smile. "Philos isn't in trouble I hope?"

"Not a social… oh," she realized that Dave might be referring to her earlier comment, "that I wouldn't be out in this weather if I didn't have to? Yes, well, I'm afraid this is a professional visit, and no, Philos isn't in trouble." Gloria smiled at Dave's suggestion. "But if you don't mind, Dave, I'd prefer… and please, Tony, don't take this personal, but I'd prefer to talk with Dave privately."

Dave looked at Gloria, then at Tony, and back to Gloria. "There's nothing you can say to me that Tony can't hear," Dave said confidently. This was the first time such an issue had arisen.

Tony suddenly felt the awkwardness of the moment and sought for a way to deflect some of it. "Could I interest you in a glass of sweat tea?" he asked.

"Oh yes, thank you. That would be perfect," Gloria said

"And you, Babe?" Dave nodded with a smile. "I'll be right back," Tony said as he turned to go to the kitchen. He figured that his absence would give Dave time to sort out any reservations Gloria might have about his presence during the forthcoming discussions.

Rex had helped Dave answer the door but for some strange reason kept some distance between him and Gloria. Dave wasn't sure how he should read that as he sat in the loveseat facing his visitor.

"Dave, I'm sorry I wasn't able to attend your and Tony's ceremony but I want to congratulate you both." Gloria had accepted Dave's condition for discussions and was stalling until Tony returned. "I hear it was beautifully done."

"Thank you, and we thought so too. Our sisters did all the planning."

"Here you are, Gloria," Tony said as he offered a glass of sweet tea from the tray he was carrying. She chose a class, took a long drink and set it on the table next to the loveseat.

"Thank you, Tony, that really hits the spot. I swear summer seems to come earlier every year. Now Dave," Gloria seamed prepared to get directly down to business. "I've come here on a day like this, a rainy Sunday, at the request of a client."

Dave listened intently and without interrupting, fully expecting Gloria to come right to the point. Tony had given Dave his tea and quietly sat down beside him.

"She wants to know if you'd be willing to see her."

"Her? Probably; who is she?"

"Her name is Tiffany Foster and she says you know each other."

"Good heavens! I went to high school with a Tiffany Foster." Turning to Tony, "You remember, Hon, I told you about Tiff and the junior and senior proms."

Oh yes, Tony remembered all right. He had laughed himself silly listening to Dave describe what happened between him and Tiff and at this moment it was all he could do to keep a straight face.

"Yes, I do." Tony didn't want to say any more for fear of losing his composure.

"Of course I'll see her," Dave said to Gloria. "Where is she? I wish you'd brought her with you." Dave was feeling a little excited. After all, he and Tiff had always been friends and their last meeting had been very cordial.

"I'm afraid that isn't possible. Perhaps I should give you some background first," Gloria said as her face assumed a serious pose. "You see, for several years Tiffany lived in New York City. She had an mid-level management position in a major investment firm and was quite successful. Then about two years ago her mother died of breast cancer. Tiffany's father has COPD and so…"

"I'm sorry, I didn't know about her mother," Dave interrupted, "And COPD? What's that?"

"Forgive me, please, I'm so used to using the term I sometimes forget that others may not know what it means. It stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. You see, Tiffany's father was a heavy smoker all his life and I'm afraid it caught up with him. He's now in a wheelchair and needs supplemental oxygen." Gloria paused for a moment to find her place in her explanation.

"So after her mother died, Tiffany was able to get the firm to relocate her here so that she could take care of her father." Gloria paused for a moment to think about her next comments then she continued. "Recently Tiffany was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her symptoms were not clear until she was in the late stages and by then the cancer had metastasized to her lymph nodes and other organs. Her doctors made it clear that the cancer was not treatable; there was nothing they could do." Gloria took a deep breath, exhaled and looked directly at Dave. "Tiffany called me to help her put her affairs in order and one of her final requests is that she would like to see you."

"My God!" Dave gasped in grief and horror. He felt Tony grasp his hand and squeeze it, signaling his support. "How terrible! Of course I'll see her. Where is she?" Gloria noticed Tony's action and felt moved by it.

"She's in the hospice ward at County General."

"And she's been here in town what, two years? And she never called?" Dave sounded disappointed. "And what about her father? What'll happen to him?"

"Until she became ill, Tiffany was able to take care of him by herself. But when she couldn't manage that any longer she arrange for in-home nursing care. I've since helped her arrange for him to move to an assisted living facility where he'll be taken care of. The facility also has a nursing home wing and he'll be moved in there if and when it becomes necessary."

Tony still held Dave's hand and could almost read his emotions through touch. In his real estate business he had, of necessity, developed an ability to read people and something was telling him that there was more to this story than Gloria was telling. He wouldn't have to wait long to find out what.

"Gloria, this is terrible." Dave was clearly touched by Tiffany's plight and that of her father. "Is there anything I can do?" Dave had no idea what Tiffany's situation might be but he was prepared to use whatever resources he has at his disposal to help.

"I'm glad you asked that, Dave," she continued. "Because Tiffany does have a favor to ask, an enormous favor." Gloria paused and looked at Dave, studying him for any kind of reaction.

"Of course! If there's any way possible, I'll do it." Dave visualized Tiffany's entire family – her, her mother and her father – passing into oblivion and it bothered him.

"Tiffany isn't alone; she has a child, a six-year-old son and she would very much like for you to take him into your home and raise him." Gloria continued to study Dave for a reaction and it was swift.

Dave's immediate reaction was to turn and look at his partner. Tony was grinning from ear to ear. Dave turned back to Gloria and looked at her for a few moments before speaking, like he was turning things over in his mind.

"But what about his real father?" Dave asked.

"I'm going to let Tiffany explain that, Dave."

"Well, Tony and I've talked about being foster parents," he smiled. "We have a couple of friends who are. But… this is kind of sudden. Whatta ya think, Tony?" Dave said as he turned back to his husband. Tony didn't say anything, he just continued to grin and nod his head vigorously while squeezing Dave's hand.

"But what about all the paperwork, and the training? We haven't done any of that."

"That won't be necessary, Dave. I've already set everything up so that if you agree it will happen quickly and there won't be any dispute."

Dave was quiet for a moment while he thought. Then Tony spoke up.

"We can do this, Babe, you know we can." Tony understood that given Dave's anal-retentive, analytical personality he'd take a year or two to make a decision. So Tony was trying to give his partner the kind of encouragement he needed.

"Ya think?" Dave asked with a questioning smile.

"You bet." Tony looked and sounded so confident Dave couldn't ignore his advice. And as if on cue, they leaned toward each other and shared a brief kiss. Although Gloria appeared cool and collected on the exterior, she was boiling with excitement inside.

"So I guess the next step is to go see Tiffany!" Dave's statement was more of a rhetorical question that Gloria responded to immediately.

"Whenever you're ready; we can go right now if you like." Gloria could see that the events had a real head of steam and she wanted to move as quickly as possible – time was running out.

For the first time since Gloria began her story Dave wore a big smile. "Okay with you, Hon?"

"Okay with me, Babe, I'll drive." Tony was in a hurry to get the show on the road.

The three of them stood and Dave let out a grand sigh; the other two laughed because they felt exactly like Dave. As Dave and Tony escorted Gloria to the front door they happened to glance toward the pool and notice that the rain had stopped. Dave helped Gloria collect her raincoat and umbrella and opened the front door for her. They agreed on where they would meet at the hospital and Gloria departed. Dave let Rex out the back hoping he'd take the opportunity to do his business while he had the chance and he did.

Tony was thinking WAY ahead of Dave and went into the garage where he found the car seats they no longer needed for Kate's boys. He installed one of them in his SUV in case it was needed on the way home. He'd also decided that he should drive so Dave could think; his husband had a lot on his mind. Tony drove to County General where they proceeded to the hospice wing and joined up with Gloria.

Gloria introduced Dave and Tony to the floor nurse who led them down the corridor. Just outside the door to Tiffany's room the nurse explained that only Dave would be allowed in and pointed out a lounge area across the hall and one room down where the others could wait. Dave watched Tony and Gloria walk toward the lounge then turned and placed his hand on the door, ready to push it open. He wondered what awaited him on the other side. `It's been what, seven years since I've seen Tiff? What will she look like? What's the cancer done to her?' There was no need to wait any longer so he pushed the door open and walked quietly into the room.

The shades on the window were almost closed but allowed enough indirect light to filter into the room filling it with a soft, almost ethereal glow. As Dave's eyes adjusted to the dim light he observed a woman sitting in a chair beside the bed; she appeared to be knitting. Then he looked at the bed and saw Tiffany. He studied her for a few moments. The head of the bed was partially elevated and she appeared deceptively comfortable.

The lady put down her knitting, stood and approached Dave. "She sleeping," the woman whispered. "She fades in and out so if you have a seat and wait I'm sure she'll awaken again soon." The woman placed her hand on Dave's forearm in a comforting gesture.

"Thank you," Dave whispered his reply with a smile. He'd seen situations like this before and was quite certain that the woman was a volunteer from one of the local hospice organizations who stays with terminal patients to the end. The fact that the woman was present was a sign that Tiffany probably didn't have too much longer to live.

Dave approached the bed slowly and could see that Tiffany's eyes were closed. He could hear a faint `wheezing' as she breathed. She looked so peaceful he didn't want to waken her. His first thought was that she looked as he remembered her in Seattle. Then he noticed how gaunt her face was. Because she had elected not to take chemo, her hair was pretty as ever. Dave thought back to those high school days and how innocent they both were. That was a happy time. He sat down in the chair and, without thinking, reached out, gently grasped Tiffany's right hand, and raised it to his lips.

"Oh David… you came."

"Hi, Tiff, of course. Surely you don't think I could stay away knowing you were here?"

"I'm so glad you came." Tiffany suddenly relaxed, she felt like a burden had been lifted from her body. Based on her knowledge of what Gloria planned to tell Dave, she made an assumption that his coming meant that he'd agreed to her request.

"I know I should have called you – I just couldn't." She seemed so apologetic and Dave wanted to assure her it was all right.

"That's okay, Tiff, I'm sure you were busy; Gloria told me about your mother passing and your father's illness. Can I get you some water?" Dave had noticed Tiffany moving her tongue in her mouth like it might be dry.

"Please," it was all she could say. Then she closed her eyes for a moment while Dave poured some water from the pitcher into a glass he found on the bedside table and placed it in her hand. She took a sip through the straw that was in the glass then handed the glass back to Dave.

"Thank you." Dave set the glass on the table and turned back to Tiffany. "David, I'm sorry, so sorry." She appeared to be getting a little agitated.

"Oh Tiff, please don't be sorry about anything." Dave tried to reassure her and keep her calm.

"No, you don't understand, I have a lot to be sorry for." Dave opened his mouth like he was going to interrupt her but she raised her hand and covered his lips with her fingers. "I don't have much time, David, so let me have my say." Dave took her hand in his and nodded.

"I've kept a secret from you that I shouldn't have. You see, you have a son, we have a son." Dave was stunned, shocked. He didn't know what to say. His jaw must have dropped to his chest. "Remember Seattle?" Dave nodded. "I must have miscalculated and missed a pill but that wonderful night we spend together produced our son."

"But…" Dave began. He'd finally found his voice. "Why didn't' you tell me?" He begged.

"Oh I wanted to, Heaven knows I wanted to. But I was afraid you'd be angry with me; accuse me of tricking you. It wasn't like that at all. Then I decided I should tell you but didn't know how to contact you. It wasn't until I mentioned to Gloria that I was searching for you that she told me she knew you. And that's when I learned that you were…" Tiffany hesitated like she didn't want to finish her sentence.

"You learned that I was gay." Dave's tone of voice was very factual.

"Yes." Tiff held her hand out toward the water glass and Dave gave it to her.

"I'm not ashamed of it, Tiff, it's who I am." Dave was very unapologetic. "I was married in a civil ceremony earlier this month and my partner and I are committed."

"I know," Tiffany replied as she handed the glass back to Dave. "And I want you to know that I'm very happy for you. I just had a lot of reservation about whether you, as a gay man, would be interested in learning that you had a son. Then all of this happened," she was referring to her medical condition, "it wasn't supposed to turn out this way. Now there's no longer any choice. Am I correct in assuming that the fact you're here means you've agreed to take care of our son?"

"Yes, I agree, my partner and I both told Gloria that we agree to raise your son. But…" Dave couldn't hold back the tears any longer. "I didn't know he was my son until you told me. Oh Tiff, oh Tiff, this is so sad." Dave bent over and kissed Tiff's forehead. "Please tell me as much as you can about your life, how you got here, about our son. What's his name, by the way?"

"Oh David, I'd love to. Please hand me some more water and then sit on the edge of the bed and I'll tell you all that I can remember. Later, I've asked Gloria to take you to our condo where you'll find a journal I've kept, writing as often as I could. You'll also find some photo albums that will be precious to you. His name is Paul David Foster Baker." Dave almost jumped when he heard her speak the name `Paul' – it opened a door to a lot of other memories.

"I chose the name "Paul" for my father," she continued. "Of course I had to name him `David' after you, his father. Then I decided on adding my last name. His birth certificate lists his last name as `Baker' because somehow I had a feeling that it would be important someday. I've been using `Foster' as his last name up until now because it was simpler, but now… (cough, cough, cough)." Dave reached for the water glass. Tiffany took a few sips and continued her story.

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Tony and Gloria left Dave standing outside the door to Tiffany's room and walked to the lounge area. Tony stopped in the doorway and watched. There were three other people in the room, a nurse, a man in a wheelchair, and a young boy. Tony wondered if that might be Tiffany's son that he and Dave were going to take care of. Tony watched as Gloria approached the man and shook his hand. He obviously recognized Gloria and smiled warmly at her. Then he noticed the man was wearing a nasal cannula, which was attached to an oxygen bottle that was mounted on the side of the chair.

The young boy, probably six years old, had been looking out the window while talking to the man in the wheelchair. Tony overheard the word "Grandpa." The boy had turned away from the window and was giving Gloria a hug, pretty much confirming Tony's original suspicion.

Gloria spoke a few words to the boy and then she stepped aside and pointed toward Tony. When Tony could see the boy clearly his mouth dropped open and he almost gasped. He was looking at an almost perfect live reproduction of that picture of a six-year-old Dave that hung on the wall in their great room. He was at the age where his legs were still a little short for the rest of his body; they hadn't yet grown to match the proportion of his torso. The boy then looked up, looked into Tony's eyes and he smiled. Tony returned the infectious smile and walked toward the boy.

"Hello," Tony began in as friendly a tone as he could generate. He extended his hand. "My name is Tony."

"Hello sir," the boy replied with a friendly smile. "My name is Paul and this is my grandpa." Tony was captivated by the boy's poise. He seemed so mature and confident. "Are you here to visit a friend? We're here to see my mother; she's not very well." Tony noted the tone of sadness in little Paul's voice.

"I came with a friend to see someone. I'll bet you like to play sports. What kind of sports do you like?" Tony wanted to change the subject, and quickly.

"I like to play soccer and tennis and…" Tony's diversion worked.

And while Tony kept little Paul occupied, Dave listened as Tiffany struggled to tell him of many major events of her and Paul's life until now. Dave was becoming aware that Tiffany was beginning to tire. Knowing how stressful situations like this can be for someone in her weakened condition he stopped her, promising to return tomorrow. At about the same time a nurse and the hospice lady came into the room and concurred with Dave's assessment, saying that Tiffany needed to get some rest.

Dave closed the door behind him and leaned against the wall, his head back, his eyes closed, his arms and hands flat against the wall. His mind was a exploding with information; he hardly knew what to think or where to start. So many bits and pieces of jumbled information were whirling around in his brain. After a few moments the hospice lady came out of Tiffany's room and Dave turned to her.

"How long?" He wasn't going to waste time. The lady looked at him as though she was surprised by his question. She wasn't, but took a few moments to frame her reply.

"It could happen today, tomorrow, or Tuesday; we never know. I've seen many cases like hers and it's never easy to predict." The woman could see the concern in Dave's eyes and decided to provide a more definitive answer. "If I had to guess I'd say no more than a few days; she's very weak."

"Thank you, I appreciate your candor." Dave pushed away from the wall and walked down to the corridor toward the lounge – he needed to find Tony.

Dave stepped through the door to see Tony standing next to a young boy, probably six years old, and they were looking out the window and pointing to something and seemingly engaged in an intense discussion. He looked for Gloria but she wasn't in the room. Then Dave recognized Mr. Foster and approached him.

"Hello, Mr. Foster," Dave said quietly. Tiffany's father hadn't notice Dave approach until he spoke. He reached for Dave's extended hand and held in with both of his.

"Hello, David, it's good to see you again," Paul Foster said in a raspy voice. "Tiffany told me you might be coming to see her. I'm so happy you did."

"So am I, Sir. How are you doing?"

"Oh, fair to midland; kinda hard to breath sometimes but they're taken' good care of me. You got a fine boy there," Foster said with a smile and nodded toward young Paul.

At that moment Tony and young Paul must have become aware that someone else had entered the room as they turned around. Dave's heart began to melt when he looked into Paul's eyes.

"C'mere, Son, there's someone you need to meet," Paul Foster said as he extended his hand and gave a `come hither' signal with his fingers.

Young Paul studied David for several seconds before he moved. Then he walked slowly, almost hesitatingly forward. When Paul was close enough, Dave took a step forward and sank to his left knee, which put him almost on the same level with his son. As Dave looked into Paul's eyes he could see that they were hazel and he was sure he felt his heart skip a beat.

"Hello," Dave began. "My name is David Baker and I'm a friend of your mother's. What's your name?" Tears were beginning to well up in Dave' eyes as he watched the six-year-old study him while standing just out of reach.

"I'm Paul David Foster Baker." The boy hesitated for a moment and then asked a prophetic question. "Are you going to be my daddy?"

Dave's gut was churning, his chest was tight and he thought his heart might leap out through his mouth but it couldn't because the lump in his throat was blocking it. "I would like to be your daddy… if that's okay with you," Dave finally said. He knew from young Paul's reaction that someone, Tiffany, his grandfather, or Gloria must have told him about his father and he was processing this new information. Finally he spoke.

"Yes, Sir, I'd like that."

Dave held out his arms and young Paul stepped into them, pressing his young body against his father's. Dave's hands and arms closed around his son and tears began to stream down his cheeks. He was experiencing totally new feelings, they were so strong. His love for Tony was strong without question. But this was a different kind of love, a kind he'd never felt before.

They must have held each other without speaking for at least three minutes. Then Dave felt a hand on his shoulder and knew it was Tony's. Dave turned his head and looked up into Tony's grand smile and he drew strength from it. He felt young Paul move and released his grip.

Paul pulled back, looked into Dave's eyes and asked, "Am I going to live with you now?"

`This is moving awfully fast,' Dave thought. "What's your grandfather going to do?" Dave asked.

"Dave," it was Gloria speaking. She must have come back from wherever she was. "Mr. Foster will be returning to the assisted living facility where he and Paul have been staying. The administration made some exceptions under the `current circumstances' but they have restrictions against children living there. So if it's all right with you, I have a backpack in my car with some of Paul's things in it. Perhaps in a day or two we can go to the condo and get the rest of his things."

Dave stood up and looked around. Tony, Gloria, Mr. Foster, the nurse and young Paul were all looking at him. `Yep, they were really bettin' on the come here. But I can't say no, not after holding my son in my arms.'

"So you think it's all right if Paul goes with us now?" Dave asked. "There aren't any legal papers to take care of or something?"

"Everything's fine, Dave. There's no hurry, I'll call you in a few days and we can set up an appointment so that I can explain everything."

"Can I see Mommy before we go?" young Paul whined.

"Let's ask the nurse, Paul, I'll bet she'll say you can," Dave replied. Paul looked up at Dave and slid his small hand inside his father's larger one.

And with Paul leading the way, they went out into the corridor and found the nurse. Tiffany's father went in first to say goodbye then Paul was told he could go in. But he wouldn't let go of Dave's hand so Dave went with him. Dave watched as young Paul gave his mother a hug and a kiss and he could almost hear his heart breaking. It was a scene so sad no movie script or director could have captured it on film. With a promise to return tomorrow the party departed, leaving Tiffany in the quiet of her room.

As Dave and Paul walked hand-in-hand down the corridor Tony was on Paul's other side. Tony was surprised when Paul reached up and took hold of his hand. Gloria was behind them with Mr. Foster and she couldn't help thinking how much like a family the three men looked.

It was a good thing that Tony drove because Dave was much too emotional to concentrate on traffic. Paul climbed into the car seat in the back and Dave helped strap him in. Then Dave climbed into the front passenger seat and fastened his seatbelt. When Dave rested his elbow on the center armrest Tony grasped Dave's hand. Dave looked up and smiled – he really needed to feel Tony's touch at that moment.

"It's amazing just how much he looks like you," Tony said as he turned the key in the ignition.

"Well, there's a very good reason for that – he's my son."

Dave's reply caught Tony by surprise. He had just placed the transmission in `Reverse' and immediately returned it to `Park' and looked at Dave with astonishment. Dave leaned over the armrest and kissed Tony on his cheek.

"I'll explain when we get home," Dave said with a smile, the first real smile he'd had since before they went to the hospital.

"Oh, I can hardly wait!" Tony replied with an interesting smile as he again moved the transmission to `Reverse' and backed out of the parking space. "Hey, look at the time!" Tony pointed to the clock on the dash – it displayed `5:33.' Whatta ya wanna do about dinner?" Then turning his head toward the back seat, "You hungry, Paul?"

"Yes Sir," was Paul's little boy voice reply.

Dave's stud Marine had read his partner and knew that Dave was too overwhelmed with emotion to deal with much more so Tony gradually and subtly took control of the situation.

"Look, Babe, we have some ground chuck in the fridge; I can turn that in to spaghetti real quick." And without hesitation, Tony looked at Paul in the rear view mirror and asked, "Hey Paul, you like spaghetti?"

"Yes Sir," Paul replied meekly but with a little more excitement. He was still evaluating the two men in the front seat.

"Good, that's what we'll have. And Paul, why don't you call me Uncle Tony, that's what all my nephews and nieces call me."

"Yes Sir… Uncle Tony." Tony could see Paul smiling when he looked in the rearview mirror.

Turning to Dave, Tony asked, "How about calling Georgia and asking her to start browning the ground chuck? I'll bet Paul is real hungry. Oh, and while you're at it, ask her to let Rex out; he must be about to burst by now."

"Sure thing, Hon," Dave responded. He was relieved to have Tony to lean on at this moment. He called Georgia, who was more than happy to oblige. However, Dave failed to mention that they were escorting a young boy home.

"Say Paul, do you like dogs?" Tony thought he should cover this subject before they reached the house because he wanted to avoid an unpleasant situation if Paul was afraid of dogs.

"Yes Sir, I guess so…" Paul sounded a little uncertain and it told Tony what he needed to know.

"Well, we have a dog; he's kinda big but he's really friendly. His name is Rex and I know you two are gonna be real friends." Tony hoped that saying it would make it so.

"Okay…" Paul replied hesitantly. It was only a few days ago that his mother had told him that she'd found his father. Paul had always wondered why his friends had fathers but he didn't. `Your father's a wonderful man,' she'd said. `I just know you'll love him'. And Ms. Redmond said she knew Mr. Baker and liked him very much. Then he asked his grandfather and got the same story. So far, Paul liked what he saw. He sure felt good when Mr. Baker hugged him. He wasn't yet able to put words to his feelings but he sure liked the feelings he was having.

Anyway, Gloria had tried to explain to Paul what was happening. He didn't completely grasp what it meant about his mother dying but as a minimum he understood that he would have to live with his father. He remembered some of his friends in New York who had to move because their parents got divorced but he didn't know how that applied to his case. He just hoped the two men in the front seat would be nice to him and so far it looked good.

Rex was grateful that Georgia had let him outside to do his business. Now he was comfortably back in his normal position, lying in front of the kitchen window. He'd learned that if lay there he could hear the cars passing on the street and when he heard one slow down it would probably be either Dave or Tony. Eventually he was able to distinguish between Dave's F-250 and Tony's SUV.

Suddenly his ears perked up and he pushed up with his front legs so that he could look out the window. Tony's SUV was turning into the driveway so Rex took off toward the back door, his paws slipping, grasping for traction on the slick tile kitchen floor. He flashed past Georgia, who was browning the ground chuck on the stove, and sat at the backdoor, tail rapidly wagging back and forth, waiting impatiently for his masters to enter the house.

Something was wrong, he didn't hear the garage door opening. Then Rex heard a car door slam closed in front of the house and, with paws again sliding and slipping trying to gain traction he took off toward the front door. They never came in the front door!

Tony thought it would be a nice gesture that the first time Paul entered the house it would be through the front door. It might be the only time he would inter that way. While Dave helped Paul unbuckle his car seat (he didn't really need any help but Dave was beginning to be just a little protective) Tony retrieved Paul's backpack, unlocked and opened the front door.

"Sit, stay," Tony commanded. Rex sat on his rump and waited. Paul, with Dave right behind him walked into the house and stopped. Tony, who was already inside the house sensed that Paul was at least a little intimidated by Rex's size. Paul stopped and looked directly at Rex.

"Just relax, Paul, I'm going to introduce you. Rex," Tony looked at the dog, "I want you to meet Paul." Rex stood from his sitting position and approached the three men, his tail wagging as usual. Rex lifted his right paw. "Now just reach out and shake his paw," Tony instructed. Paul did as instructed and Tony could tell by Paul's smile that he was at least intrigued. "Now you can pet him, like this." Tony placed his hand on Rex's head and began to pet him.

Paul extended his hand, with lots of uncertainty, and began to mimic Tony. Rex was able to get a couple of licks of Paul's hand before he moved forward and shoved his snout into Paul's crotch. Paul's jumped back immediately and bumped against Dave's legs. And before anybody could react, Rex began licking Paul's face. It only took a split second for Paul to begin laughing and giggling. The friendship was formed. Just as important, when Tony heard Paul's giggle he recognized it as the same one that belonged to his lover and mother-in-law. `He's Dave's son all right,' Tony thought as the smile on his face expanded.

"That's enough, Rex," Dave commanded. "Let's let Paul into the house. Rex backed away but he remained close to the boy.

"Oh, Wow!" Paul exclaimed. "You have a swimming pool! Can I go swimming?" Suddenly Paul's attitude made a major flip.

"My, my, what we got here?" Georgia exclaimed as she walked out of the kitchen toward the two men and a boy.

Dave made an immediate decision – he wasn't going to hide anything. "Georgia, I'd like you to meet my son Paul, he's going to be living with us," Dave announced. Georgia gave Dave a strange look. But she'd seen so many odd family situations it didn't faze her and she smiled warmly at Paul. "Paul, this is Georgia and she runs this house." Dave chuckled at his comment because he knew it was true.

Paul extended his hand but Georgia wasn't having any of that. "Com'ere chil, give Georgia big hug." And she wrapped him in her arms until Paul thought he was going to suffocate between her ample breasts.

Tony and Dave looked at each other and grinned. "Dave, why don't you show Paul to his room and then go for a dip in the pool while I fix dinner?"

Dave smiled. He'd finally realized what his partner was doing and he knew he'd have to figure out a way to repay him. And there were lots of ways.

"Okay, that sounds good," Dave replied. "Paul, let's go put your things in you room and then we'll go swimming."

"Okay, Sir," was the reply in a little-boy voice.

Dave led Paul to Tony's old bedroom; they hardly ever used it anymore. Their relationship having been exposed to their nephews, the charade was no longer needed. Also, Dave wanted Paul to be close during the night just in case his son needed him. Dave showed Paul his room, took him through the bathroom and showed him where he and Tony slept and then back to Paul's bedroom. Paul needed to use the bathroom and Dave shut the door to give him privacy. Dave could hear the telltale sound of pee splashing in the toilet and a few moments later Dave heard the toilet flush and Paul opened the bathroom door.

"What's that?" he asked. Dave stuck his head through the doorway to see what Paul was pointing at.

"That's called a urinal. You can pee in that if you want."

"Cool," Paul replied. It was the first time he'd given any indication that he was beginning to feel more comfortable.

Paul said he didn't bring a swimsuit and Dave said it was all right for him to swim in his underwear. Dave, saying he needed to change into his swimsuit, left Paul to undress by himself. Dave hurried but just as he put his right foot into his Speedos he saw Paul, dressed only in his briefs, watching him from the bathroom door. Dave couldn't help feeling a little self-conscious with his large manhood flopping in the air but, acting like nothing was wrong, he continued by placing his left foot in his trunks and pulled them on. Dave announced they were ready and led Paul to the pool.

It didn't take long before Paul was laughing and having a good time. Then Dave noticed Rex standing at the side of the pool and said: "Watch this." He picked up a tennis ball and tossed it close to Rex who launched himself into the air, caught the ball and splashed into the pool. Paul squealed with delight. It was the most fun thing he'd ever seen. Soon he was throwing the ball for Rex but he didn't always get it close enough for the dog to catch. After about thirty minutes Tony walked out to the pool and watched the fun for a few minutes before announcing that dinner would be ready soon. Dave took Paul into the large shower next to the pool and showed him how they use the handheld shower nozzle to rinse the chemicals off of Rex. Paul was one constant giggle when Rex started shaking the water off. Then Dave turned the water on Paul and himself to rinse them off also. Dave gave each of them a towel and began to dry off. He couldn't help notice how Paul seemed to watch his every move, like he was recording every move or something. Then they wrapped towels around their wet bathing suits and made their way back to the bedroom. Dave made sure Paul knew what clothes to put on and then left him alone to change.

The rest of the evening passed smoothly. Dave insisted that Georgia join them for dinner and while Tony entertained Paul, Dave gave her a brief explanation about Paul being his son. With tears in her eyes she rewarded Dave with a big hug and volunteered to look after Paul anytime she might be needed. From now on Paul would be like a son to her, just like Dave and Tony.

Dave didn't know what Paul's normal bedtime was so he made an arbitrary decision to make it 9:00pm. At 8:30 Dave told Paul it was time to take a shower and get ready for bed. Paul said he'd never had a shower, except for the earlier one with Rex, only baths. Dave told his son that big boys take showers and he could start tonight if he wanted. Paul was excited. Dave was beginning to form some judgments about his son. One, he suspected that Paul hadn't had much in the way of male roll models. This opinion was prompted by the way Paul seemed to observe everything he and Tony did. Two, he had a hunch that Tiff probably preferred baths, thus always chose that method. Paul stripped out of his clothes while Dave adjusted the water temperature. Then Paul stepped into the shower and seemed to enjoy the feel of the water spraying all over his body. Paul insisted his father join him so Dave reluctantly stripped and stepped in with his son. Paul asked for some instruction on how to wash so Dave gave a demonstration and then let Paul try it. It was great fun to get all lathered up and then step under the shower and watch it all wash away and disappear down the drain. Of course, Dave could clearly see that Paul definitely had the Baker endowment and he felt pleased that Tiffany had not had Paul circumcised.

Paul found his pajamas in his backpack and put them on. And without being prompted, he found his toothbrush and toothpaste and brushed his teeth. Then he crawled into Tony's old bed, and lay down. Dave pulled the cover up over him, sat beside him, leaned over and gave him a `goodnight' kiss. Paul's eyes closed and he was asleep, very tired from the day's events.

While Dave was taking care of Paul, Tony was securing the house and turning the lights off, preparing for bed. Just before turning the lights off in Paul's room, Dave observed Rex curled up beside Paul's bed. It made him smile and feel happy that the two had seemed to bond so quickly. He pulled the bathroom door closed, brushed his teeth, emptied his bladder in the urinal, turned out the light, opened the door to Paul's room and went into his and Tony's bedroom.

"Thanks, Hon, for everything," Dave said as he settled into Tony's arms. "I couldn't have made it through this day without you." A deep sigh of relief escaped Dave's chest.

"I'm just glad I could be here for you, Babe. I'm just a little curious about how all this came about."

"Yeah, I'll bet you are. Honestly, I've wanted to tell you about it all day but I couldn't find the time." Although their naked bodies were pressed tightly against each other and they shared a few kisses, neither man was aroused. They both felt the pressure and stress of the day's events.

"Remember when I met Sean?" Dave began. Tony said he did and Dave proceeded to explain what happened in Seattle between Tiff and him. Dave apologized for not telling Tony sooner, it just didn't seem to be important. After all, Tiff was on the pill and there should have been NO consequences.

Dave got up twice in the middle of the night to check on Paul. His son seemed to be sleeping soundly and Rex was on guard at the side of the bed.

The next morning, Monday, Tony decided to fix pancakes. Paul must have devoured at least eight of them. Tony didn't have to ask if Paul liked his uncle's pancakes.

Dave called Mr. Hastings and told him he needed a few days off for a family emergency. Hastings asked if he could help and Dave thanked him but said that wouldn't be necessary; Dave would brief him just as soon as he could.

Tony called his office and asked the secretary to reschedule all of his appointments. Just after 9:30am, the phone rang. Although Dave didn't' think he was nervous he jumped at the sound of the phone. Tony answered.

"It's for you - Gloria." Tony looked quite serious.

"Hi Gloria," Dave began then listened for a few moments. "We'll be there as soon as we can. Paul too?" "Right. See you soon." He hung up the phone and looked at Tony. "I suppose you can guess where we need to go."

"Okay, I'll drive." Then Tony wrapped his arms around Dave and gave him a firm hug and a tender kiss. That act seemed to give Dave strength as his concern for Paul grew. He bent down on one knee and looked at Paul.

"Paul, Son, we need to go back to the hospital. Do you want to go to the bathroom before we leave?"

"Yes Sir." Paul was not quite adjusted to addressing Dave as `Daddy' or `Father.' But he thought it was fun to pee in the urinal. Dave followed Paul to his bedroom and suggested he change shirts. They were quickly out the door en route to the hospital.

Gloria met them as they stepped off the elevator. "Her minister should be here soon but Paul can go right in." Dave was wondering how Gloria became the central figure who controlled everything. It would be a few more days before he'd find out.

Again, Paul wanted Dave to go with him. Dave was shocked at the change that had occurred to Tiffany since he saw her yesterday. Gloria had warned him in her earlier phone call that the doctor said Tiffany was near death and from his experience at Philos he could see it. A different hospice volunteer stood and left the room. Tiffany was awake when Dave and Paul approached the bed.

"Did you have a good time at your daddy's house last night?" Tiffany asked in a very tired, weak voice. Her breathing was labored but she also displayed a mother's loving smile. She reached out and took hold of her son's hand.

"Oh yes, Mommy!" He sounded excited. "They have a biiiig house (Paul waved his hands in the air trying to show how bid the house was) an' they have a dog; an' his name is Rex; an' Uncle Tony fixed gaspetty for dinner; an' they have a biiiig pool; an' …" Paul paused, then continued. "An' Daddy went swimmin' with me; an' Rex knows how to swim too; an' … an'…,"

Paul was on a roll. He was hardly taking time to breathe. He wanted to tell his mother everything he could remember. Tiffany's heart filled with joy as she listened to her excited son describing the wonderful time he had at his father's house.

"An' Uncle Tony made pancakes for breakfast; an' they have a nice black lady – her name's Georgia; an' she lives there an' takes care of the house; an' … an' … an' there's a thing in the bathroom called a ural and you can pee in it an' it's not a toilet." Paul finally seemed to run out of steam.

Tiffany was near tears with laughter. It was great therapy for her heart and soul. More importantly, it gave her great relief to hear her son describe his wonderful experience with his father.

"Come here, Baby," Tiffany said quietly as she tugged on Paul's hand. Paul crawled up onto the bed and followed his mother's directions until he was lying in her arms. "Remember when Mommy told you she was very sick and she might have to leave you some day?"

"No, Mommy." Paul did remember but he believed that if he said `No,' maybe it wouldn't happen.

"Well, Baby, I'm afraid that time is about here." She could hear her son groan into her breast. "And now that you have your daddy to take care of you and I know you're going to be okay, it's almost time for me to go."

"But Mommy, I don't want you to go. Can't you stay and go to Daddy's house? We could have lots of fun there."

"Oh, Baby, I'd love to go live with you and Daddy but I'm too sick. I'm going to have to go live with God and Jesus, remember?"

"No, I don't want you to go," Paul was crying now and the whole scene was tearing Dave apart. He'd been with AIDS patients and their partners and family when they passed but Paul was a child; there's no way he could understand. And then Dave looked at Tiffany. She and he were the same ages. She shouldn't be dying; people their ages aren't supposed to die so young. Dave saw Tiffany look up at him and mouth the words, "Thank you, thank you so much, I'll be watching." Dave leaned over Paul and gently kissed Tiffany's lips. "Now you should take him and go," she said barely loud enough for Dave to hear.

Dave could only nod his head in agreement – his voice failed him at that moment. He reached down and slipped his hand around Paul's waist. "C'mon, Son, your mother needs to rest for a while. We'll come back tomorrow." Dave knew he might be telling a lie but he was trying to be as comforting as possible. And he needed to get Paul out of the room as soon as possible. It took a few more moments but with encouragement from Tiffany, Paul finally agreed to leave. And as Paul was sliding off the bed, Tiffany asked Dave to do one more thing.

"Would you send Tony in, please? I'd like to meet him." Again Dave could only nod as he picked Paul up into his arms and carried him out of the room.

"Tiffany would like to see you for a moment," Dave practically whispered to his partner. Dave's cheeks were wet with tears as he continued trying to comfort his son. Paul's arms were around Dave's neck and his legs were around Dave's waist as he cried on father's shoulder.

Without comment, Tony quietly entered Tiffany's room and approached her bed. He'd not had the same death experiences as Dave and was shocked at just how ill Tiffany looked. He grasped her hand softly and waited for her to speak.

"Thank you, Tony," Tiffany began. "You're a lucky man to have found Dave."

"Oh, I know that, Tiffany," he replied with a subdued smile. "And I promise that we'll take good care of Paul."

"I believe you, Tony, Paul has already told me how well you've been treating him; he loves your gaspetti and pancakes." Tiffany tried to chuckle but it came out as a cough.

"He's a lovable, adorable young man, Tiffany, and Dave and I will protect him and raise him to be a fine person."

"That's all I need to hear; I can't ask for more than that. Thank you." Tiffany closed her eyes and Tony took that as a signal that it was time for him to leave.

Tony found Dave in the lounge sitting in a chair holding Paul close to his chest. Paul clung tightly to his father, giving no indication of letting go.

"Let's go home," Dave suggested quietly. Tony nodded his agreement.

"Paul?" Tony asked quietly. "Why don't you come to your Uncle Tony and let me carry you for a while?" Tony asked rhetorically.

"Okay," came a sad reply. Paul was quickly transferred to Tony's arms, which allowed Dave to stand. As they left the lounge and walked toward the elevator, the elevator doors opened and a man who looked like he could be a minister stepped out. They nodded a greeting as they passed in the corridor and when Dave, Tony, and Paul stepped into the elevator and turned around they could see the man enter Tiffany's room. The elevator doors closed and it started down.

As distraught as Paul was, he seemed to recover rather well once in the car and on the road. Funny how the hum of the engine and movement of the car can be so soothing to kids. Tony suggested they have lunch at McDonald's and that seemed to improve Paul's attitude even more. They returned home after lunch and Paul wanted to lie down. Rex followed Paul to his room and kept him company.

Dave collapsed into one of the loveseats; he was exhausted. Tony went to the fridge, got two beers, returned to the great room, picked up Dave's hand and wrapped his fingers around a beer. Dave opened his eyes, looked up at his lover and smiled.

"Thanks, Hon, you always know what I need."

"We both need this, Babe." Tony sat down, wrapped his right arm around Dave and pulled him into a long and loving kiss. "You think he'll be all right?" Tony asked.

"Yes," Dave replied with obvious certainty in his voice. "He'll have to be – there aren't any other choices, are there?"

"No, there aren't. So whatta we do now?"

"Oh Lord! I haven't the slightest idea. I guess we just go on from here. I think we'd better plan on going to their condo tomorrow to get the rest of Paul's things – he's just about out of clothes. Gloria gave me the address and ya know what?"

Tony took a swig of his beer. "What?"

"It's in the same building where I had my first apartment after graduating from college. They must have turned it into condos. And Tiff's condo is directly across the hall from my old apartment. Isn't that serendipitous."

"I'll say."

They finished their beer and cuddled for a while. They actually dozed for a few minutes. Both men were emotionally drained and the light nap did them a world of good. Paul climbing up on them to join in the cuddle awakened them.

Later that afternoon Gloria came by. One look at her face and Dave and Tony knew why she was there – she had some unhappy news for them all. Tony kept Paul occupied while Gloria and Dave took a walk outside and she told him that Tiffany had passed away not long after they left. Gloria was prepared to tell Paul but Dave suggested that he should be the one to break the news and he didn't want to do it that afternoon. He felt that Paul had been through enough – he'd tell him tomorrow. Before Gloria left she informed Dave that the funeral would be Sunday afternoon. A small ceremony was planned at the Memorial Cemetery with burial to follow immediately after. Then she proposed they meet at 10:30am Friday morning so that she could close out the remaining details of Tiffany's estate. Dave promised to be there.

The evening seemed to go well except that everyone was moping around. After dinner they all went up into the entertainment/playroom and watched a DVD of "The Nutty Professor." At 9:00pm, Dave supervised Paul's shower again and helped him get into his pajamas. Whoever packed Paul's backpack had included one of his favorite books so Dave climbed onto the bed with his son and together they read a story. Paul fell asleep before the story was finished so Dave tucked him in, kissed him on his forehead – all of which he'd done many times for his three nephews. Noting that Rex was in position beside Paul's bed, Dave turned out the light and closed the door to the hallway and the bathroom.

Dave was exhausted. Since yesterday afternoon he'd felt like he was caught on the crest of a wave and couldn't get off; he was trapped for the ride. Dave shed his clothes and jumped into the shower. The hot water felt wonderful… and so did Tony's arms. Tony was in their bedroom when he heard the shower start so he stripped and joined Dave. Again, Tony took over. He washed them both, toweled them dry and after donning their boxer shorts both men went to bed. They had discussed whether it was prudent for them to parade around naked in front of Paul and agreed that they shouldn't do that. Dave was asleep almost before his head hit the pillow. Tony made sure the bathroom door to Paul's bedroom was open after turning out the lights. Dave didn't even feel his lover spoon in behind him and kiss the back of his neck. Tony soon joined Dave in sleep.

Dave was dreaming that something cold and wet was touching his arm. It turned out to be Rex's nose. Rex had been nudging his arm to wake him and it had worked. As soon as Dave sat up Rex backed away and behaved like he wanted Dave to follow so he did. As soon as he was in the bathroom he could hear Paul crying.

Dave sat on the edge of the bed and began rubbing Paul's back to comfort him. Paul turned over and wrapped his arms around his father.

"I want my mommy," Paul cried. What was Dave to do? "I miss my mommy," he continued to cry. Thank goodness Dave had been present when Tiffany had reminded Paul of what was going to happen.

"I know, Son, I know," he said with great sorrow and compassion as he continued to rub Paul's back in an effort to sooth him. "Just remember what your mommy told you; she's gone to live with God and Jesus. And they've made her all better again. She's not sick anymore. You know she loves you very much; I heard her say that. Remember?"

"Um-hm," Paul whimpered. He seemed to be calming down. No doubt being held lovingly by his father had something to do with it. "Daddy?"

"Yes, Son…"

"Will you stay with me?" Dave responded without hesitation.

"Yes, Son, we'll be together for a long time."

"And Uncle Tony too?"

"And Uncle Tony too." Dave smiled at that thought and his heart was filled with happiness. "Now let's lie down and get some sleep, okay?"

"Yes, Daddy…" Paul had stopped crying except for an occasional sniffle. He began to feel more secure when he felt his father's arm drape over him and pull them together. It didn't take Paul long to drop off again and Dave waited until he heard the deep breathing, indicating that Paul was in fact asleep.

Tony awoke and realized Dave wasn't in the bed. `Probably in the head,' Tony surmised and relaxed, waiting for Dave to return. After what Tony considered a reasonable length of time and Dave hadn't returned, he began to get concerned. He got out of bed and checked the bathroom – no Dave. While in close proximity to the urinal Tony took the opportunity to piss, then continued into Paul's room. Paul was asleep and Rex lifted his head to acknowledge Tony's presence then lay back down. `But where's Dave?' Tony wondered.

He continued his search by walking from Paul's bedroom out into the hallway along the great room wall. His eyes were already adjusted so he scanned the room and found his partner. Dave was sitting on the floor near the large window, centered on the room. Tony continued walking and as he approached, he could see that Dave was sitting cross-legged facing the pool and slowly swaying back and fourth in total silence.

Tony stood next to his partner quietly watching him and wondering what was happening. He'd never seen Dave like this and he was concerned. Dave's eyes were closed as he bobbed back and fourth so Tony sank to the carpet as quietly as he could without disturbing Dave. After watching for a couple of minutes, Tony couldn't stand it any longer. He reached out and placed his hand on Dave's knee.

"You all right, Babe?" He asked softly. Dave stopped bobbing, slowly opened his eyes and looked at Tony. Without saying a word Dave uncrossed his legs, climbed between Tony's outstretched legs and wrapped his around his husband, holding Tony is as close as possible.

Dave's thighs were on top of Tony's and his feet touched behind Tony's lower back. Tony closed his legs around Dave's hips and pulled them closer together. This was one of their favorite positions because it allowed them to touch crotch-to-crotch, belly-to-belly, chest-to-chest, and lips-to-lips – a very intimate position. Only this time Dave buried his nose under Tony's chin and took deep breaths.

"What's wrong, David?" Tony was really worried now. Dave's body was almost vibrating with tension. "Talk to me, share with me, Dave." Dave took a deep breath and let it out.

"Hon, I don't know if I can do this. I'm 31 years old - what do I know about raising a kid? Nothing. I don't even know where to start. But I also know this is something I HAVE to do. Paul needs me. His mother's dead and I'm the only one he has."

Tony sat listening. He wanted to comment but knew that Dave had a strong tendency to internalize most things and as long as he was talking, Tony wasn't going to interrupt.

"I know you didn't sign on for this and I won't blame you if you don't want to accept this responsibility. And if you want to leave…"

"Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!" Tony interrupted. He couldn't allow this line of reasoning to continue. "Listen, Babe, we're in this together. As I recall it was just a couple of weeks ago that we promised to love each `for better or for worse.' And I'm also pretty sure I told you once that if I could have your babies I'd do it gladly. I meant it then and I mean it now. Just think, I get to help you raise your son and I didn't have to go through labor to get here." Tony felt Dave's body shake like he might be chuckling. "And ya know what, we've missed all the dirty diapers." Now he was sure Dave was chuckling. "But we'll get stuck with the teen years so I'm not sure who got the better end of that deal. Now look at me, Babe," Tony placed his hand under Dave's chin and pulled his face up so they could look into each other's eyes; the moonlight shining through the large window was quite bright. "We can do this, David, I'm sure if it." Tony kissed Dave's lips softly - Dave returned the kiss.

"But you don't know any more about how to raise kids than I do." Dave argued.

"And that's where we get lucky; we've got sisters who've raised a few kids and I'll bet you a trip to Europe that they'll be more than happy to help out with free advise. Further more, I think your parents did a great job of raising you; all you have to do is raise Paul the same way you were raised. Whatta ya think?"

"Well… I hadn't thought of it like that. Yeah, I guess you're right. It won't be easy but then nothing good hardly ever is."

"The thing that concerns me is," Tony continued, "Just how are we gonna explain us? Don't you think Paul's a little too young to understand our relationship?"

"Yeah, I thought about that earlier today. I think…" Dave paused for a moment. "I think we should just be ourselves. We shouldn't hide our love and hopefully he'll see it as a natural thing. When he asks, and I'm sure he will, we'll explain things on a level that he can accept. Remember how Kate's boys reacted?"

"Yeah, that was something else but it turned out okay."

"As long as we're honest about who we are I think Paul will be okay with it."

"Well… I guess you're right." Tony agreed. "Look, Dave, tomorrow why don't we call Kate and Sophia, invite them here, introduce them to Paul and tell `em we need their help?"

"Oh shit!"

"What?!"

"I just thought. What am I gonna tell my parents? How can I possibly tell them I have a son born out of wedlock as a result of a one-night-stand?!"

"HO-ho-ha-ha-ha!" Tony burst out in uncontrollable laughter.

"What's funny about that?" Dave demanded to know.

"Well think about it, Dave. Is it gonna be any more shocking than when you told them you were gay?"

Dave was quiet for a moment then he began to chuckle, which turned into laughter. "I see your point." He finally said. "Kinda ludicrous, huh?" He chuckled again. "And tomorrow morning I'll call Sophia and Kate… and I'll call my mother too. I have to bring her into this. And I'll ask them to get here about… what time you think would be good?"

"First, let's find a new position; I think my legs have gone to sleep," Tony chuckled.

"Let's continue this conversation in bed," Dave suggested. And they relocated to their bed after checking on Paul again.

"Now, where were we? Oh yeah, let's shoot for 10:30. We can always adjust if we need to. And we can give them lunch with a good wine to calm them down," Tony suggested as he spooned up behind his husband.

"Yeah, they'll like that," Dave agreed.

"And what does being 31 years old have to do with any of this?" Tony asked.

"What?"

"You said you were 31 years old and didn't know anything about raising a kid."

"Oh," Dave replied groggily. "I dunno," he continued as his eyes closed. Feeling secure in Tony's arms, Dave allowed sleep to overtake him.

***

"They should be arriving any minute," Dave said. "How do you think we should do this?"

"How about I take Paul up into the playroom and play some video games. I'm sure there are some age-appropriate ones left from when the boys were here last time."

Paul went with Tony to the playroom and quickly became enthralled with one of the games. Dave went into the library to watch out the window for Kate, his mother, and Sophia to arrive. Consistent with her anal-retentive nature, Kate's SUV pulled into the driveway right on time and Dave was pleased to see that his mother was in the passenger side as agreed. Almost immediately Sophia turned into the driveway right behind Kate. The ladies got out of their vehicles and visited for a minute or two then turned and walked to the front door. Dave was already standing with the door open ready to greet them.

"So David, you made this meeting sound pretty important over the phone this morning," Nancy began. Dave smiled at his mother.

"This better be good," Sophia added. "I have things I need to be doing. And where's Tony?" Dave followed the three women into the great room and allowed them to choose where they wanted to sit.

"Tony will be here shortly, he's busy at the moment." Dave continued, casting a nervous smile at the women. He sat next to his mother in one loveseat, facing Kate and Sophia in the other.

"I've asked you three here because I need a LOT of advise and I trust…" Dave paused and them included his partner, "Tony and I trust your judgment more than anybody else's." Dave had already decided he wasn't going to beat around the bush; he was going to lay it out on the table and see what happened.

"Thank you, David, but what kind of advise are you looking for?" Kate asked.

"Two days ago, Sunday, I learned that I have a son." That news seemed to take a few seconds to register but when it did the questions followed.

"What?!" "When?!" "How?!" "Who?!" "Where is he?!" "What do you mean, you have a son?!" Nancy asked the last question.

Dave was able to get the ladies calmed down and told the story as quickly and briefly as possible. He explained that almost seven years ago, August, he was in Seattle on a consulting project for Hastings. He was feeling lonely, still hurting from losing Paul, and then he ran into Tiffany in the hotel. As old friends they had a pleasant dinner together and enjoyed catching up on things. Tiffany invited him to her room so they could continue visiting. Dave was vulnerable and in a weak moment succumbed to Tiffany's charms and spent the night in her bed. When he got to that part he looked at Kate and thought about that evening with Tiff after the senior prom. He wasn't about to raise that issue but a faint smile that crossed his face.

Kate not only remembered the events of Dave's senior prom but her and John's as well. She certainly didn't want her mother to know what she and John did after their senior prom. And she replied to her brother with a faint smile.

While her son and daughter were faintly smiling at each other, Nance was chuckling inside. The parent network was totally functional and she, like any good parent was aware of the traditions for the senior prom. Dave cleaned up the vocabulary for the ladies from what he'd used with Tony.

He wrapped up by saying that only last Sunday he learned that Tiffany was dying of ovarian cancer and that she had a son and wanted to know if Dave would raise him. Not until he spoke to Tiffany did he learn that he was the father. When he explained about Tiffany's mother's death and her father's COPD, Nancy said she'd heard that Mrs. Foster had died of breast cancer a couple of years ago but that they'd moved out of town the year before and it came as a surprise.

Dave managed to get through all this in rather rapid order. To say the women were in a state of shock might be putting it mildly. But they listened and nodded their heads and promised to help any way they could. When Dave finished the women hit him with a host of questions and asked when they would get to meet him.

"His name is Paul David Foster Baker. He's six years old and he's with his Uncle Tony," Dave grinned when he said that.

"Six years old?" Kate asked. "Why that's the same age as Susan." Then she did some mental calculations. "Yes, that computes."

Dave excused himself, asked the women to remain seated and went to the playroom.

"Paul, there are some people I want you to meet; they're downstairs in the great room. Will you come with me, please?"

"Sure, Daddy, I beat Uncle Tony EVERY time!" Paul exclaimed, he was obviously proud of his accomplishments. Holding Paul's hand, Dave and Tony escorted Paul into the great room where the three ladies waited.

"Paul, I'd like to meet my mother, she's your grandmother Baker."

Nancy held out her hand, "Hello, Paul, I'm so happy to meet you." Then she bent over, gave Paul a big hug and kissed him on the cheek.

Paul grasped Nancy's hand and shook it. After Nancy released him he turned to Dave and said, "She's pretty, just like Grandma Foster." Nancy practically melted on the spot. One heart captured.

"And this is my sister, your Aunt Kate."

"Hi, Paul, you're a fine looking young man," Kate said with a big smile. Paul shook her hand and Dave continued.

"And this is Tony's sister, your Aunt Sophia." Dave knew he was making the introductions backward; he should have been introducing Paul to the women but he wanted to do everything possible to make sure Paul didn't feel threatened.

The women took over from there. Each of them held Paul on her lap and asked a ton of questions. They were obviously fawning over him. Kate and Sophia told him about their own sons and said they would be excited to meet him.

Paul wasn't quite sure what to think of all this attention. He'd gone from his mommy, his grandma, and his grandpa to a daddy, an uncle, two aunts, another grandma and grandpa, and a lot of cousins. Rather than think about it then, he turned to Tony.

"Uncle Tony, can we play some more games?"

"Sure we can, Paul, I'll follow you."

In his own way, Paul was letting it be known that the audience was over; there was something else he wanted to do. He was also a little overwhelmed.

The ladies were excited, using such words as `darling,' `handsome,' `adorable,' and `precious.'

"He's the reason I asked y'all to come today, I…" Dave looked at Sophia and changed his pronoun. "We, Tony and I, need advise, lots of it, about how to raise a child."

"Now, David," Kate began, "you've practically helped me raise three boys and I have to say I think your instincts are pretty good. Just follow your instincts."

"Yeah, Sis, but I wasn't the primary parent either. And you got to grow into it but Tony and I are going from zero to six overnight."

All three ladies enjoyed a hardy laugh at that assessment. And although he had been serious, even Dave had to laugh. Then Nancy spoke up.

"David, we're as near as the telephone. When you have a question, just call. Surely one of us will be available.

"And among the first things you'll need is a pediatrician," Sophia began. "I have an excellent one and I'll call and set Paul up with an appointment. And school is just over a month away so you're already behind on that matter. Shannon and the girls have all gone to St. Stevens Episcopal School. It's co-ed and you don't even have to be Episcopalian to go there. And I'm sure there's another concern you may not have gotten to yet and that is about Paul having two dads."

"Well, for now Tony is `Uncle,' so I don't know how that'll play out," Dave replied.

"My point is, the school is more open minded about gay issues than either the public or other private schools. I'll be happy to help you with introductions and references if you decide that's what you want."

"Thanks, Sophia. Already you've come up with things I never dreamed about."

"Can you three come to dinner… let's see, this is Tuesday, say Thursday or Friday?" Sophia asked.

"Let Tony and me talk it over and I'll call you. Our schedule is in shambles."

"Okay, I'll hold you to it," Sophia said with a chuckle.

"Now, David, you have to come down this Saturday," Kate jumped into the conversation. "Come in the morning; bring Rex, and the boys can go swimming and play games. It'll be good for Paul to meet his cousins." Then as almost an afterthought, "Oh dear, that means I'll have to explain all this to them. Well, they're old enough to learn about such things."

"Can I interest you in some lunch?" Dave asked as he stood up. "We have tuna salad with some wheat crackers and sweet tea to drink." He had decided against serving wine.

They all moved into the kitchen to the constant chatter of advice. Paul and Tony joined the group and the visit turned into a real family event. Dave fixed Paul a PB&J sandwich and that prompted Kate and Sophia to tell him the kinds of things he needed to keep on hand to feed a hungry growing boy. While one of the women kept Paul occupied, the other two were filling Dave and Tony's minds with suggestions. Lunch concluded on a very happy note with Dave and Tony much wiser about how to begin raising a child.

As the ladies were walking out the door to go home, Nancy was the last one out and turned to kiss her son on his cheek. "And remember," she said, "you're the daddy. That means in addition to loving him, you have to make decisions that are in your son's best interests. Don't expect to be his friend – that will come later, after he leaves home. That's the way your father and I raised you and your sister and it seems to have worked out pretty well." Nancy had a great deal of pride in her statement. "And remember, when Paul needs a good spoiling, you bring him to me and your father – that's OUR job."

Dave grinned and waved as ladies climbed into their vehicles and departed.

"Can I go swimming?" Paul asked after the ladies had gone.

"I think it's too soon after lunch for you to go swimming," Dave advised. "You know, we're about to run out of clothes for you. Why don't we go to your old condo and get the rest of your things. Then when we get back, you and Rex can go swimming." That sounded so simple that young Paul had to agree.

***

Dave was surprised when he pulled up and stopped in front of his old apartment building and George, the doorman opened the SUV door for them.

"George! What a nice surprise to see you again!" Dave exclaimed.

"Why, hello Mr. Baker, y'all movin' back in?"

Dave explained his purpose for being there and George said he had heard that Ms. Foster was bad off. It didn't take long to collect the rest of Paul's things and load them into Tony's SUV. Paul had a favorite teddy bear he made sure to get and, of course, he would need all of his toys and books. Dave remembered to take the photo albums and he was able to find the journal Tiffany told him about. He also remembered that Gloria said she planed to donate the furniture to a battered women's shelter and give Tiffany's clothing to some charity.

Wednesday morning, Dave made a trip to his office and explained his situation to Mr. Hastings, that he now had a six-year-old boy living with him and would need the rest of the week to set up arrangements to care for him. He avoided giving any of the specifics and Hastings didn't press for any. Hastings considered Dave one of his most valued employees and encouraged him to take whatever time he needed.

Once Dave got home, Tony took off and tried to catch up on his client list – houses needed to be bought and sold. While Tony was gone, Dave called Sophia then he and Paul walked up the street for a visit. Paul got to meet Shannon and his sisters while Sophia presented Dave with the name and phone number of their pediatrician along with the same information for the principal of St. Stevens Episcopal School. She added a few other names and phone numbers she thought might be helpful.

Back home, Dave let Paul watch TV while he called for appointments with the pediatrician and the principal. Dave had never been allowed to be a TV watcher as a kid and he didn't like using it as a sitter. He was committed to making this a temporary solution until he could come up with a better one. Tony called to check in and see how things were going and by then it was time to start fixing dinner.

When bedtime arrived Tony took over and helped Paul get ready. Then he read him a story. Dave came into the room and both men tucked Paul in and gave him a goodnight kiss on his forehead. Paul reached over the side of the bed, gave Rex a pat on his head then turned over and went to sleep.

The two new fathers pulled the door to Paul's room partially closed but left just a crack so they could here him if he needed them. Tony took Dave by his hand. "Come with me," he said softly. Dave followed his partner down the hall and into the library. "Look at that," Tony said and pointed to a section of the bookcase that had some empty space.

"Now isn't that smart. Did Paul do that?"

"Yep, this morning he asked me if this room was where we kept all our books. I told him it was and the next thing I knew he brought his books in here, found that unused shelf and put them in there. Look," Tony got real close to Paul's books. "He even arranged them alphabetically. MUST be your kid, he got your anal-retentiveness gene." With a smile and a giggle, Dave balled up his fist and playfully popped Tony on the side of his arm; Tony faked severe pain.

Dave and Tony sat at the kitchen table disposing of a beer while examining their schedules for the rest of the week. They decided that they didn't want the week to go by without letting their closest friends know what was going on. Although a Thursday night gathering of the Platoon was unusual, they agreed that it was the only evening available. They called the members and everyone agreed. Dave made sure to ask Mike and Todd to bring Berry with them.

Thursday, Georgia devoted the entire day getting to know Paul. She was to become an important influence in his life. With Georgia around, Dave was able to go into the library and do a little catch-up office work on his computer. Tony came home for lunch, something he rarely did but it would become part of his routine when Paul was home.

The other two couples of the Platoon arrived at the same time, almost like it was planned. To say that they were shocked would be a gross understatement. And every one of them made a trip to the photo of Dave when he was six years old and had to agree that the similarity with Paul was striking. But the most important thing to happen that evening was a conversation between Mike and Dave.

"You know, of course, that the days of wild sex on the kitchen floor are over," Mike said jokingly and grinned at his friend. He and Dave were standing in the kitchen doorway watching the rest of their "family" interacting in the great room. Dave chuckled involuntarily because although he and Tony had never done that, the possibility had always existed. Now, for all practical purposes, it didn't. "And then there's that loud sex that you guys are used to having; you gotta tone it down now."

With his mouth half open, Dave looked at Mike with an astonished look on his face. He turned and looked at Tony and realized that ever since Paul's arrival Dave had been so consumed with caring for his son that he'd completely neglected his partner. He and Tony hadn't made love since last Saturday. Dave turned back to Mike, leaned in to him and kissed his cheek.

"Thanks, Wetback, I owe ya."

"What'd I do?" Mike asked with a serious look on his face.

"Possibly saved my marriage, Dude, thanks." Dave walked over to where Tony was standing talking with Berk, Paul, Berry, Todd, and Dan. He stuck his face in front of Tony, planted a light kiss on Tony's lips and then whispered in Tony's ear. "Help me get these guys outta hear and put Paul to bed and I'll really make it worth your while."

Tony pulled back and smiled at his lover. "Well guys, tomorrow's gonna be a very busy day for the Baker-Mancuso family so if it's okay with you, we'd like to call it an evening."

Both men gasped for air, their hearts raced, and sweat dripped from their bodies. Tony leaned down and brought his lips in contact with Dave's. As his wilting spear slipped from Dave's scabbard, Tony bent down and, starting with Dave's cannon, he began cleansing his lover's body of his own juices. After one more kiss to share his collection, the two men rolled to Tony's side of the bed and embraced.

"How did you know what I needed?" Tony asked in a soft, sexy voice.

"Ohh…" Dave thought for a second. "I noticed that your brown eyes were beginning to turn white."

Tony laughed. "Yeah, my white count was getting a little high." Dave giggled at his partner's description of his need and then they made a quick trip through the shower before going to sleep. Early the next morning, Dave again made good on his offer before Paul got up.

Friday morning, Dave kept his appointment with Gloria Redmond, right on schedule. He'd been in a lot of law offices and Gloria's was among the nicest. They sat in a couple of wingback chairs with delicate Queen Ann legs and upholstered in an attractive, large, floral print fabric – very feminine. No sooner were they seated than Gloria's secretary, a very attractive man, brought them coffee then left the room.

"Dave, I'm going to guess that you have a host of questions so why don't I just begin and you can jump in with questions as they come to you." Dave nodded and took a sip of the coffee. Gloria continued. "At the hospital you mentioned having to sign documents. Well, that isn't necessary. When Paul was born Tiffany listed you as his father and even gave him your last name on the birth certificate. To make her life easier and avoid confusion she chose to use her last name when signing him up for activities, schools, etc. Because of her decision there are no papers to sign – you just assume parental custody." Gloria watched Dave for a moment. "Do I see a question on your face?"

"Well… uh, yes, I guess I'm still in a state of shock about all this."

"I'm sure you are."

"I'm a little curious though, you seem to possess a great deal of knowledge about Tiffany and Paul, like you've known them for a long time. And didn't I hear Paul call you `Aunt Gloria'?"

Gloria smiled like she was reminded of fond memories.

"Yes. That's definitely worth your knowing about. I suppose now that she's gone I won't be breaching any client confidentialities. You see, I was living in New York when Tiffany moved into the apartment directly across the hall. We became good friends and I introduced her to a number of my friends. We were both professionals, had a lot in common and enjoyed doings together. She quickly discovered that I was really handicapped when it came to the investment world and, being the sweet lady she was, Tiffany offered to give me an education. She even gave me some very timely advice from time to time and now I not only understand what I'm doing, I have a very nice portfolio." Dave interpreted that "timely advice" to mean "hot tips" that the SEC might frown upon.

"When she became pregnant I did all that I could to help, especially on the legal matters. And when little Paul was born she let me hold him immediately and I've loved him ever since." Dave noticed that Gloria `The Iron Lady' had moisture in eyes. "About a year after Paul was born I relocated here because of some special circumstances that aren't germane to this story. But I managed to get up to the city often and maintained our close relationship. In all that time, Tiffany never told me who Paul's father was, not until she moved here to deal with her mother and father's problems and was diagnosed with cancer.

"Well, the time came when she had to make a decision about Paul's future. The second she told me that Paul's father's name was David Baker I told her I knew someone by that name. It didn't take more than a couple of minutes of comparing notes for us to conclude that you were who she was looking for. However, Tiffany still wasn't sure so we devised the plan of me coming to your house… and you know the rest." Gloria smiled a Dave. "Does that about cover it?"

"Yes, I'd say it does." Dave sat looking at Gloria for a moment while he absorbed what she'd just said. "Paul seems to have a strong emotional attachment to you. I hope you'll remain a part of his life."

Again tears seemed to well up in Gloria's eyes. "Thank you, Dave, I've been hoping you'd leave that door open. Oh, there's another thing you should know about. Because Tiffany had no information about your finances, she set up a trust for Paul and made me the trustee. It's quite large and she intended for to be used to pay for his education and security. However, now that you have custody of Paul it may be more appropriate that I assign you as trustee. Do you have any preferences on that?"

Dave had to think for a moment. This certainly was unexpected. "I'd like to propose a third option," he began. "Do you per chance know Walt Richardson?"

"I certainly do, he's a highly respected and a very impressive attorney. How do you know him?"

"Walt represents my interests in some financial holdings and he coordinates with a well-known investment firm to look after those investments."

The longer Dave talked the larger Gloria's eyes became. She had assumed that as an architect Dave had an exceptionally good income from the Hastings Firm plus the private construction deals he had with Sam Matthews. But here he was talking about investments being administered by one of the top attorneys in the southeast. Walt Richardson wouldn't be involved in any insignificant venture.

"If it's possible, I'd like to propose that you pay Walt a visit and see if the two of you can reach an accommodation that will allow him to represent Paul. If that's okay, I'll contact Walt and run it by him."

"Dave, I think you may have an excellent idea here. I do okay with my own investments but administering for someone else is a little out of my line. I'd feel better knowing that someone of Walt Richardson's stature was looking out for Paul's financial interests. So yes, please call and let me know what he says. To change subjects, you know that the funeral is Sunday afternoon?"

"Yes, do you think I it's a good idea to bring Paul?"

"I think so; I've always believed that it helps kids get closure on the idea of losing a parent. I know some people think it's cruel or uncaring but I'm not one of them. And then later you'll be able to take Paul to visit his mother's grave and it'll help him remember. We don't want him to forget, do we?"

"No, I think not. Ya know, Tiff and I were always good friends and I always wished her the best. It's sad that she's gone." An awkward moment of silence followed Dave's comment until Gloria broke it.

Now," Gloria said as she rose out of her chair, "if you'll join me at the desk, there are some documents I'd like to show you."

Dave, Tony and Paul had dinner with Sophia, Sean and the kids. Paul seemed to be getting used to meeting people and as long as he knew that Dave and Tony were near he was just fine.

Saturday morning, Tony again made pancakes– that would become a tradition for them for years to come. Then they gathered a few things they wanted to take with them to Kate's, loaded them into Dave's F-250, Rex included, and started off for the hour-plus drive to the Close house.

When Dave pulled into Kate's driveway the whole family came out to greet them – someone must have been on watch and sounded the alarm. Nancy and Bob were also there so the whole family was together. Dave went through the process of introducing his father and brother-in-law to his son but the boys wouldn't wait for introductions. They circled Paul and began patting him on his back and ushering him into the house. Introductions at their ages are totally unnecessary. Susan managed to get close enough to Paul to say "Hello" but that was all.

Dave and Tony had to chuckle as they watched Paul being swallowed up by the young men of the Close family. Paul was escorted around the house and shown the boy's rooms, the playroom, the pool, and anything else they could think of showing. Rex tagged along like he was an integral member of the group.

"My name's JD, this is Matt and this is Mark," JD said early in the tour. "And Mother said your name is Paul?" JD asked.

"Yes, Paul David Foster Baker," Paul announced proudly. "JD… that's a funny name."

"Yeah, my Uncle David gave it to me. He's your father," JD explained. "My real name is John David Close. John is my dad's name and David is for your dad. SAY!" JD exclaimed. "We could call you PD, like for Paul David! Would that be okay with you?"

"Yeah!" Paul replied excitedly. "That's neat!" He thought it was cool to be with the older boys and if they wanted to give him a new name, that was even better. The boys had already obtained their mother's permission to go swimming as soon as Paul arrived. They quickly put on their bathing suits and hopped into the pool. In what seemed like a matter of seconds, Paul was integrated into the extended Baker family and made to feel like it was where he belonged. Dave and Tony were overjoyed to see how the boys were so protective of their younger cousin. And with JD, Matt and Mark calling "PD," "PD," all the time everyone quickly picked up on the fact that the boys had renamed their cousin.

Lunch was served poolside then the boys moved to the playroom so they could show Paul, oops, PD, some of their new video games. After a short break they returned to the pool.

The adults circulated between the kitchen, family room and pool visiting and talking about Paul. Bob seemed particularly interested in his new grandson and risked getting sunburned while watching him play in the pool.

The boys processed through the shower room just off the pool and PD helped rinse the chlorine from Rex's coat. All four boys put on the clothes they'd worn earlier and joined the adults for dinner. Kate let the boys and Susan eat in the kitchen and she and the rest of the adults spent most of their time listening to the conversation coming from the kitchen table.

After dinner, Dave and Tony went into the kitchen to help Nancy and Kate clean up and chat some more. The whole day had been filled with fun and excitement and everyone was beginning to feel tired.

"Hey y'all, come look!" John exclaimed quietly as though he was trying not to awaken someone and they followed him into the family room. On the other side of the room, in one of the large overstuffed chairs sat "Granddad Baker" with his new grandson snuggled in his arms – both were fast asleep.

"Oh David," Nancy whispered. Even in a whisper, she sounded like she might cry. "What a wonderful sight. You know, your father had given up on having a grandson to carry on the family name. I think it's just wonderful how quickly they've taken to each other." At that moment a flash filled the room; John had taken a picture of grandfather and grandson and it was enough to awaken them.

Dave said it was time for them to be heading home because they planned to go to church in the morning and then to Tiffany's funeral that afternoon. Nancy asked if he thought it'd be okay if she and Bob attended and Dave said it would. Nancy wanted to see Tiffany's father again and express her condolences.

PD slept the entire trip home and Dave didn't have the heart to make him take a shower; he just tucked the sleeping tyke into bed with a goodnight kiss from both parents. Rex was also happy to get some rest.

Sunday morning, Tony slowly became aware of his surroundings. He lay on his stomach, his arms folded under his pillow and his left knee bent so that it was touching Dave's leg. Without opening his eyes he knew Dave was already awake and lying on his back. Tony cracked his left eye and saw that Dave's hands were behind his head, his eyes were open and he was staring at the ceiling. Tony closed his left eye, straightened his legs and stretched with a low grunt. Then he pushed himself up, leaned over and kissed Dave softly on his lips.

"Penny for you thoughts," Tony offered.

Dave turned and smiled at his partner. "Don't you give credit for inflation?"

"Okay," Tony kissed Dave again, this time with a little more feeling. "Make that ten dollars." He finished with a chuckle. He felt really good this morning.

"Okay," Dave accepted the offer. He too was feeling really good this morning. "Just before I woke up I was having this strange dream. I've been lying here trying to figure out what it means."

"What kind of dream?" Tony now had his head propped up on his right elbow so that he could get a better view of the man he loved.

"Oh…" Dave thought for a second. "You and I were someplace, I didn't recognize it, and… this is gonna sound strange, Tiffany and Paul, that's Paul Roehl, were standing side-by-side and they were smiling at us. Tiffany's arm was around Paul's waist and Paul's arm was around Tiff's shoulder. They didn't say anything; they just smiled at us. I wonder what it means?"

"I think I know what it means," Tony replied as he slid his right arm under Dave's back and pulled his husband to him. Their bodies instinctively sought maximum contact and Tony looked deep into Dave's beautiful blue eyes. "I think it means that they're watching us and they're pleased with what we're doing. And I think we can depend on them to watch over us, all three of us from now on." Tony didn't want to freak Dave out but he too had the same dream and it made sense to him.

Dave found Tony's analysis to make perfect sense to him. He looked into Tony's brown eyes and pressed his lips against Tony's. Their passion began to rise, as did the equipment inside the CK's they had decided to wear ever sense PD arrived. Then they felt the bed move.

"Who's that getting into our bed?" Dave asked in a low, gruff voice like he was one of the three bears. PD giggled as he pounced on top of the two new fathers. Dave and Tony's arousal wilted and they remembered Mike and Todd's comments about how they'd better prepare to make some adjustments in their sex lives. The three `men' of the house played and snuggled for a while then they got up, took showers, had breakfast and went to church. The rest of the Platoon joined them and PD seemed happy to see Berry again.

After church, Dave, Tony and PD returned home where DP sat on the bench alongside Uncle Tony and watched with great interest as he practice on the piano.

The funeral began on schedule at 2:30pm. Dave and Tony brought PD a few minutes early so that he could visit with his Grandpa Foster. Nancy and Bob arrived and spent some time talking with Paul Foster and getting an update on his condition. As Dave sat through the service he couldn't help notice that no one from his and Tiffany's age group was present. Then he felt guilty for not getting the word out to some of their high school friends who still lived in their old hometown. Later he looked around and noticed that at least Dan was there with Berk and that made him feel a little better.

The funeral service was followed immediately by the interment. The few family and friends gathered at the gravesite for the final words by Tiffany's pastor and then it was over. Young Paul seemed to have held up quite well through it all and Dave wondered just how much of it he really understood.

They stood around saying their `goodbye's" and then headed to the car. Nancy's heart was pounding with pride as she watched her two sons walking slowly away, her six-year-old grandson between them holding their hands. She realized that they were walking into a future full of uncertainty, promise and love. She hooked her hand around Bob's elbow and they followed the trio into the future.

*******

THE END

********

Jeff's note:

Dear fans, and if you've stuck around this long you have to qualify as fans, I want to thank all of you for your loyalty, encouragement, support, critiques, and a lot of humor as we shared David's life, loves, disasters and successes. Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think this story would wind up like this when I posted that first chapter in March 2002. Once I got started I just followed where David and the guys led me. If you've enjoyed reading this story as much as I've enjoyed writing it, I think we've all had a rewarding experience.

And I also want to thank David at the Nifty Archive for his valuable advice and support in posting each chapter for y'all to read. I'm going to send him another financial contribution to help ensure the Nifty Archive continues to exist and I encourage all my fans to do the same. If you don't know how to do that go to http://www.nifty.org/nifty/support.html#monetary and find out how.

Again, thank all of you so much and be of good health.

Sincerely, Jeff