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Chapter 18

I had a difficult time concentrating that next week. My masters' advisor, Jon, and the detective that handled my assault case, James, were coming over for dinner on Thursday night. James had been shot on Sunday and Jon had frantically called us for help. I was thrilled, for the most part; the two of them had connected. I had been concerned for Jon and his apparent lack of social life.

When they had started dating, with a little push from Marcus and me, I was excited. However Jon's frantic call on Sunday, and the stress the whole incident had caused for him, had made me rethink the relationship. I knew in my heart I wanted this to go forward, but Jon was beside himself when he couldn't get information and again when he thought about just how dangerous James' job was. When Jon decided to continue to pursue the relationship, I was torn. I was hoping that seeing them together would help me get back on board. Not that it mattered to them, but I felt responsible.

Marcus arrived home after I did that night. Dinner was his homemade lasagna and tossed salad. Marcus had worked hard the previous evening putting together his incredible lasagna, so dinner prep had been easy for me. Our guests arrived together; James was not allowed to drive, and would probably be out of work for two months. He was using crutches to get around, but he expected very few lasting effects from the bullet wound.

"Tony, I want to thank you again for getting me information on Sunday. As you could tell from my phone call I was frantic, but Jen's friend Sarah was a godsend. Please make sure she knows just how much it meant to me." Jon said.

"No problem, it was fortunate she was working. We never saw eye to eye when Jen and I were together, but now we can laugh about it and are friendly. I will let her know again how much we appreciated her going out on a limb."

"Perfect segue, speaking of not being able to get information, I have some papers I was asked to draw up. I think we should get business out of the way before we start dinner." Marcus said. "Now I want you all to understand what you are going to sign."

Marcus retrieved a folder from his briefcase and laid out papers in front of all three of us.

"Let's start with James... "

Marcus explained to each of us what the health care proxy actually meant. I was the witness when Jon and James signed their forms. Marcus then had them witness the forms for each of us. I hadn't thought about needing the same form for us, but it made perfect sense to get our ducks in a row too.

Afterwards, Marcus had Jon and James witness the signing of our wills, and living wills. I was hesitant to sign anything called a will, it just seemed morbid. Marcus and I had argued for a couple of hours on Monday night about the need for wills. I just couldn't get past the idea it was asking for trouble. Finally, his level headedness trumped my emotions. It was just a piece of paper that protected us. He insisted it provided him piece of mind that no one could just swoop in and decide what his intentions were; I think his mother's last visit was still very clear in his memory.

Paperwork out of the way, we sat down to dinner.

"James, what were you doing responding to a domestic violence call? Isn't that out of your normal job description?" Marcus asked. "Detectives don't normally do that sort of thing, do they?"

"Well believe it or not, we were on a stake out looking for the father. Unfortunately, when I see an asshole beating up on someone else, I have to step in. As it turns out, the father would have stayed hidden in the basement for weeks if his son had kept his temper in check, and left his girlfriend alone. So, not only did we get the son for assault; the father is now facing a slew of charges from burglary to fencing stolen property to possession." James explained.

Jon piped up, "Not to mention shooting a cop."

"Yeah, that too," James sheepishly replied." My back-up was a rookie and made a rookie mistake. Honestly, my partner and I were ready to crash the place at any sign of the father so I was all geared up. The father got off a wild shot before being slammed to the ground, I was lucky to get hit in the muscle of my thigh. I actually spent last night talking to the rookie; trying to convince him to stay on the force. He's a smart kid who did almost everything right. I know he won't make the same mistake twice."

"Okay, enough talk about it. I'm doing well dealing with the whole my boyfriend is a cop thing... but I'd just as soon not relive the moment anymore" Jon added during a strained chuckle.

"Well, I assume you are out at work, James." I said. "Does that cause you any issues?"

"Actually, my life is so much better since being outed. It happened a couple of years ago; I was seeing an idiot who got pulled over for a DWI. He tried to use my name to get out of the charges. Needless to say, I was out and we were history.

"I had worked so hard to keep the closet door closed. It was taking so much energy and causing way too much distraction, it made the job more difficult. I'm lucky my boss discovered has a gay son, and his attitude has improved tremendously. Granted sometimes, the cases I get assigned are because of my orientation. But that's okay; I think I bring a certain empathy to some of the victims. I think it helps them, and it helps me do a better job.

"I mean Tony's case was open and shut. I was actually glad to be assigned to take your statement. I know some of the other detectives make the victim feel like they asked for it. I hate when I hear that. I think in those circumstances, my sexuality helps."

The mention of my attack brought a brief flutter of anxiety; I paused for a moment before adding my thoughts.

"I can say looking back on it, you were very sympathetic. It was an excruciating experience, but your empathy helped me to get through it. I hope you know how much I appreciated it."

Marcus placed his hand on my thigh to show support and make sure I was okay. The gesture was so typically loving on his part. I smiled and pulled him in for a kiss.

After dinner, James needed to use the bathroom. I quickly walked with Jon to the couch.

"Are you doing okay? I can tell you guys care a lot about each other. How's the whole my boyfriend is a cop thing going?" I whispered.

"Tony thanks. It's unbelievable. We are actually talking about moving in together. Right now, he's on medical leave, so the whole cop thing is easy. He means the world to me, I think I can handle the fear. It helps to know you and Marcus are there in my corner, though. Thank you both." Jon smiled.

That night we played a few incredibly competitive games of Scrabble. Marcus won the first one, only because he managed to use all his tiles first. After several games, I was the only one who hadn't been victorious. The last game of the night, I managed to play the word "squares" perfectly. I netted over one hundred and fifty points with the one word. It was a miracle I managed to keep my excitement in check while waiting for the others to play. I practically leapt out of my seat, when it was my turn. Marcus was laughing hysterically by the time I finished the word.

"I knew you must have had a monster word in your hand, Babe. I don't think you could have managed one more minute without exploding. That was priceless." They all laughed.

After a wonderful night, we said goodbye to Jon and James. As we lay in bed, Marcus gave me a kiss.

"Babe, I'm thrilled for those guys. I think Jon is in a really good place mentally about the whole thing. What do you think?"

"I do feel much better about it. I had fun tonight. James is a hoot. They make a really cute couple. I wonder how moving in together will work out for them? I think it's a big step for both of them. In all the time I've known Jon, the only other person he dated was you. And we know how that worked out...

"Thanks for going through all the forms with us before dinner. It just feels odd that we have to carry those health care proxies with us when we travel. But I suppose it's just like carrying passports, you do what you have to."

"Don't even think about it. It's just a stupid piece of paper that makes life easier. I do have a problem though."

I picked my head up and looked into his eyes.

"What's wrong Hon?"

"Well, we need to find a new pull-out couch or futon or something to use when your folks stay with us. If I remember correctly, the last time we went furniture shopping... we had a little disagreement." He snickered. "I hope this trip is a little easier."

"Well, last time I was all concerned about you spending your money. This time it will be our money. So, now it will be all about if our decorating styles mesh. I'm pretty sure we can talk through that part easier than the last time. I mean a chartreuse leather futon would fit perfectly in the office. Don't you agree?"

"Chartreuse, really; why not neon pink? Or even zebra stripes?"

"Really, you'd let me get zebra stripes? Awesome I can't wait to go now."

"Babe, over my dead body, and for the record, I hate paisley. I won't even wear a tie with paisley on it. So put that out of your mind too."

"Marcus Lucas Taylor, you love me so much I bet if I really wanted a zebra striped futon cover you'd let me get it. However, I think purple polka dots would be better."

Marcus started tickling me. I grabbed his hands and kissed him. Things quickly built into a breath taking passion. After we came down from our orgasms, I lay my head on his chest.

"I love you with all my heart. I really am the luckiest man alive."

"The second luckiest... I'm the luckiest. Now don't argue; and get some sleep."


Furniture shopping had been a piece of cake this time around. We found a wonderful grey leather futon cover, and a walnut frame to match the coloring in the office and the décor in the living room. We could set it up in either room. It was heavier than normal, due to the fact the mattress part was on the thick side. We also found linens and pillows for it. We were all set for when my parents came for Thanksgiving. Marcus knew they would give us a hard time about giving up our room for them, so we spent a little extra money to make sure the mattress would be more comfortable.

Danni and Hunter arrived back in town Monday before the holiday. I managed to get Danni alone for a few minutes when he visited me at school on Tuesday. His niece was a peer educator in the new group; she was as bright and quick witted as her uncle. She also had amazing patience when it came to helping some of the other students. Danni was there to pick her up for a family function.

Isabella was working with one of the younger boys in the group when Danni arrived. She smiled and waved at her uncle, before returning to work. Danni and I used the time to catch up a little.

"So, you guys are coming for Thanksgiving dessert right? My parents are due in town tomorrow and I'd love for you guys to meet them. Marcus has been baking since the weekend."

"Of course, we will be there. I wouldn't miss the opportunity to meet your 'rents for anything."

"So, spill... How did rehearsals go? How are the musical director and the Diva doing?"

"Absolutely incredible, Hunter is a genius. He really knows how to get the best from his cast. I have never felt better about my talent. I can't wait to go on tour. I hope you guys can see it. I think the plan is for us to be here next October. I'm not exactly sure. In fact I'm guessing a lot of the time; I won't even know which city we are playing. The schedule looks pretty daunting."

"Wow, but the whole thing sounds great. I can't wait to see Hunter again. How are you guys doing after rehearsal?"

"Even better, he wasn't kidding when he said he would be able to separate work and us. No matter how long of a day it's been. We still manage to get time for the two of us. Even if it's just a late supper, it's fucking amazing. I have never been this happy in my entire life."

"That is wonderful. I'm so thrilled for you."

"Thanks, I see Mr. and Mr. Wonderful are still on top of the world. Have you figured out the proposal thing yet?"

"No, but my mom convinced me to stop stewing about it. I will figure it out. I will know the right moment, and it will be perfect when it happens. Of course, whenever we go out I carry the ring with me. By the time I give it to him, the ring will have worn a hole through most of my pockets."

"That's funny. I still think you guys should come down to New York City around Christmas time. Hell, maybe you could come to one of our full rehearsals before we go on tour. Really, come down for New Year's or at least sometime during that week."

"That would be fun, suggest it to my boyfriend and see what he thinks. Just wait until after Thanksgiving dinner is over. We have his whole family and my parents coming for dinner. And then you and Hunter, Jon and James, Keith, and even Jen and her friend Sarah, will all be there for dessert. He's put a ton of stress on himself, but he seems to be enjoying every minute."

It was time for our group to call it a day.

"Everyone, I want to thank you for all your hard work. I think we should get packed up to go. Are there any questions before we call it a day?"

Everyone was silently waiting for the end of class and their escape for the holiday. I knew a lot of the kids were missing class tomorrow, their families heading out for Thanksgiving.

"Okay, thank you everyone. Have a great turkey day, those of you I won't see tomorrow." I winked.

Isabella gave her uncle a big hug. "It's so good to see you. I didn't know that you knew Mr. Wallace, Danni?"

"I don't know Mr. Wallace, but Tony and I have been friends for years."

"Danni, you need to be serious. Or I will resort to calling you Uncle Daniel."

"Bella, you are as conniving as your mother. My dear sister Katherine would be proud of you. But you know I don't answer to Uncle Daniel... "

"Isabella, take Uncle Daniel with you and have a great holiday. I see you and Matthew are making great progress with his communication skills. You must have learned your patience watching your mother deal with your Uncle."

She giggled and grabbed Danni's hand. "C'mon, let's get home. I want to hear all about your show."

I said goodnight to the rest of the group and headed home.

Marcus was frantically running around in the kitchen when I got there. Various pots and pans, either full of food, or empty and dirty, littered the countertops. He looked a little frazzled, but completely in his element.

"Okay, Babe, here's the deal. I have completely taken over the kitchen with Thursday's meal. There is no possible way I can make anything for dinner. So you need to use your magic fingers and order something. I don't care what you get, so long as it doesn't involve turkey."

I walked over to him and gave him a kiss. "I saw Danni today. He was picking up his niece at school. Hunter and Danni will be here for dessert. They are doing great and are looking forward to joining us. What do you say to pizza, Hon? I'm thinking garlic pizza with broccoli tonight, unless you are in the mood for 'shrooms."

"Garlic pizza sounds great, I'm tomato sauced out with that lasagna. How much did I flipping make? We have been eating leftovers for weeks and there still is some in the freezer. Good God, now you have me saying flipping, what will it be next? Wicked?"

"Are you kidding? Better get in the habit, my parents will be here for four days... You won't even be able to say hell without hearing about it from Dad." I burst out laughing. "Get it out of your system now. Did I ever tell you what my grandmother used to say when she thought she was cussing? 'Shittyfartypoopydarn.' All together and really fast, just thinking about it makes me smile."

"Was that your Mom's mom or your Dad's? 'Cause that is wicked cute." He grinned at me.


Wednesday was a joke at school. Not a single one of my one-on-one students were in school that day. The elementary kids were being shown movies or having Thanksgiving parties. Finally, I escaped about one. As I was walking to the car, Marcus texted to let me know my parents had arrived safe and sound. Even though weather was cooler than normal, we hadn't seen much snow yet. I sent a return text to let them know I was on the way.

When I arrived at the condo, Marcus and my folks were sitting at the dining room table laughing. Honestly, little moments like that always put a huge smile on my face. I loved the fact Marcus and my parents had developed such a great relationship. My only concern was that I was the brunt of the joke, or plans were being made around me I had no control over.

"Alright, what trouble are you three getting into, and should I be worried?"

"Actually, Babe, I was telling them the story about how much my nephew Josh loved the meatballs. We never mentioned it to your Mom when we visited. Of course, I had to throw in my mother's reaction to Josh blurting out just how good the meatballs were. I expect the little devil will say something to Betty tomorrow."

"Absolutely, your nephews don't have a shy bone in their bodies. Just wait, you guys are going to love Marcus' family, especially the twins. Remember when we drove home from New Hampshire the first time? You told me those boys just might be your favorite people on the whole planet; I know they are right up there on my list."

Mom jumped in, "I'm really looking forward to meeting your family, Marcus. Your Dad is definitely joining us tomorrow, correct?"

"Oh yeah, Dad will be here for sure. He may even bring his on-again, off-again girl friend with him. I can't remember if they are on or off right now. Knowing my father, now that he's almost back to full strength, they are probably on. We will find out tomorrow. I like his girlfriend, but they seem to like their togetherness a little less than I expected. Carolyn is very independent, and Dad likes his alone time. But it works for them. If Carolyn does decide to join us, I made sure Dad told her to invite her son and his husband too."

"Holy cow Marcus, you are going to have a full house here tomorrow," Dad laughed.

"Okay, you promised I could help get this feast ready. What do you still need done?"

"Well Betty, I still need to make deviled eggs, the twins love them. The stuffing is made so that it can season through, and the potatoes we can peel tomorrow. The squash needs to be set up, the green bean casserole and fruit salad still aren't made. And that's just the beginning."

"Okay, let's have lunch. Our men can get the luggage out of the car, and they can hit the store for any supplies we need still. I want to make my meat pie and banana bread. What time is dinner tomorrow? Will we have time for my breakfast bake in the morning? And I think tonight's supper will be my breakfast crepes. They are one of Tony's favorite things."

"Dad, I think we have been relegated to gopher status. Wow, now it really feels like Thanksgiving." I grinned. "Mom, make sure my boyfriend learns your secret for the crepes, especially how I like all the extra crispy edges."

"Tony, at the rate I'm going, your boyfriend will have all my recipes. You two won't have any reason to come visit."

"I don't know Betty, I keep hearing about all the different dishes you made for Tony growing up. It seems to me you still have a couple thousand recipes up your sleeve you haven't shared. Apparently, I'm not allowed to have baked ham until I find out about your warm pineapple casserole."

She grinned at me. "It's nice to know I still have a few tricks left."

Mom and Marcus worked all afternoon on the feast. Dad and I only got sent out for supplies twice, otherwise we talked about school. It was a really special day. After Mom's breakfast crepes and bacon for dinner, we all retired to the living room to just chat.

"Before I forget to mention it, a few of our friends will be stopping by for dessert tomorrow evening. That includes Jen and her friend Sarah from school. You'll also get to meet a few of our other friends too. By the way Hon, I invited Keith for dinner, not just for dessert. He didn't have plans and I felt bad. He was excited to get a real meal."

"Excellent, after what Betty and I made today, there will be enough food for two armies. You never said has Keith decided to work on Ian's project?"

"Actually, he wants to continue working with Jon, but one of the other students jumped at the chance. I think Keith might end up being the student Jon takes to conferences. I guess he really likes working with Jon and is doing well."

"Wow, that's great. Betty and Sam, Keith is a master's student Tony has been mentoring. He's a nice kid and works almost as hard as your son did. We met him through a mutual friend and Tony has taken him under his wing. Your son is pretty amazing, you should be very proud."

I just beamed at Marcus. I thought back to the night Marcus broke down on me. It felt wonderful to think all that stress had been put past us. Marcus hadn't brought Adrian up again since that night. I let it rest hoping, if he needed to talk about it, he knew I would be willing to listen.

Suddenly our night was interrupted by Marcus's cell phone.

"Jamie, calm down. What's going on? Okay, we will be right there. Don't worry. Tell your neighbor we are on the way. I'm sure everything will be fine.

"Tony, Sarah is having some severe cramps. They are headed to the hospital. We need to go over to Jamie's and get the boys. I want to bring them over here and make it seem like a sleepover. Betty and Sam, we will be right back. I guess you are meeting the twins a little early."

Mom put her hand on Marcus's arm. "I'm sure everything will be okay. She is probably just dehydrated. It happened to me a couple times with Tony. I'll make some popcorn and we'll make it a movie night."

"Thanks Mom. We will be back in about an hour. It takes some time to get the boys packed up. Do they know what's going on Hon?"

"No, they are playing next door with the neighbor kids. We are just going to pack some stuff up and surprise them. Let's get going." Marcus looked concerned.

"Mom and Dad, we will be back soon."

As we went for the car, I made a suggestion to Marcus.

"Hon, why don't you let me get the kids and you run up to the hospital to be with your brother."

"Are you sure? What are you going to tell the kids? I really want to go to the hospital, but I want the boys to think everything is cool. I think Nick is going to the hospital, anyway. Maybe I can run up later, after the boys go down for the night."

"Whatever you think is best, I know you are going to stress about Sarah. I am, too. But, I'm sure things will be fine." I hugged him.

As we drove to Jamie's house, Marcus was deep in thought.

"Look, let's get the boys, and I'll run up to the hospital after we get them back to the condo. You and your parents can have movie night. You can tell them we need their help in the morning or something. The problem is those boys are too smart for words. They will be on our story faster than we can tell it. I'm just afraid they will freak about Mommy going to the hospital so close to what happened to Dad."

"You're right; they are smarter than average six-year olds. But, they are also easy to keep occupied. Trust me; between my parents and the fun of a sleepover, I think they will be fine. Besides, tomorrow will be fun. This could be nothing. Think positive thoughts."

"Thanks, Babe." He grabbed my hand and gave me a forced smile.

We packed up clothes, toys, movies and the tent. Still there was no news from Jamie. When we showed up at the neighbors, the boys dashed into our arms.

I decided to take the lead; Marcus's thoughts were with his brother and sister-in-law.

"What are yous guys doing here?" Josh yelled in my ear.

"Well we decided we hadn't had a sleep over in a long time. So since my Mom and Dad are here, we are having a movie night and a sleep over before we have turkey day tomorrow. How cool is that?"

Stephen yelled in Marcus's ear, "This is awesome, But, we gots to get our stuff ready."

"Well. Uncle Marcus and I were so excited about this; we already packed up your stuff. C'mon let's hurry. My Mom is already making the popcorn."

"I forgots that your mom would be here. I gots to tell her about her meatballs." Josh said.

"You'd better tell her, she'd love to hear it. Are you guys ready for a fun night?"

"Don't we gots to say good night to Mommy and Daddy?"

"They said goodnight and have fun and see you tomorrow!"

"Okay, let's go!"

We drove the twins back to the condo. They raced to the door and knocked.

"Well hello, you must be Stephen and Joshua. You can call me Grandma Wallace if you want. Even though I'm not your real grandma, I hope you don't mind? Mrs. Wallace sounds like an old fuddy-duddy."

Both boys started to giggle and gave Mom a big hug. She was beaming ear to ear. I guess there was little doubt about whether she wanted Marcus and me to have kids. It appeared Grandma Wallace couldn't wait.

"I hope you brought movies, Uncle Marcus and Uncle Tony don't have any new ones. I hope you guys have one I haven't seen yet. Guess what... the popcorn is already made."

"Yeah, I love popcorn. Gee, Grandma Wallace you are way cooler than Grandma Taylor. I think she is a fuddy-duddy." Stephen giggled.

Josh shouted, "Yeah and your meatballs are yummy. Uncle M did a great job making them."

"Excellent, so boys how about we get into our PJ's and start the movie. What ones did Uncle M and Uncle T grab? Oh look, I haven't seen this one yet; or this one."

"Me too, Let's watch both. We didn't seen them yet either." Josh shouted.

"Well boys, Grandpa Wallace is thinking; if we are going to watch two movies we better get started. C'mon men let's get changed." Dad grabbed their hands.

Marcus was grinning. Suddenly his phone rang, he showed me the caller ID; it was Jamie.

"Hey, any news... That's great... Yeah the boys are here and already bonding with Tony's parents, it's cute. Okay, tell her we send our love... Yeah, I understand. Tell her to relax and take care of herself. We will bring you guys' food when we bring the boys home... Are you sure... Okay we will touch base in the morning... Don't worry tonight will be fun... Let me know when you get home. Love you guys."

We all looked at Marcus, waiting for news.

"Well Grandma Wallace was right, someone wasn't drinking enough. As soon as they pump some more fluids into her, they will be able to go home. She's supposed to be on bed rest for a week. But J is hoping at least through the weekend she will take it easy. So he is coming tomorrow to see the family and bring food home when he gets the boys. So everything is fine. She just needs to be careful about her fluid intake and overdoing things. Oh and the doctor has moved the due date up three weeks to the middle of February."

I gave him a hug, "Holy Cow, that's great. I'm so relieved."

Mom walked over and grabbed Marcus's hand. She spoke softly, "Look, What do you say we keep the boys until Saturday. They can help me make food to send home to you know who on Friday. We can pack up a few meals to help them out. And don't argue, as I recall I owe a member of the Taylor family for doing exactly the same thing a few years ago. Consider this returning the favor. Please."

The two of us wrapped our arms around her. I think Marcus was trying to hold back tears. I gave my Mom a kiss on the cheek.

"You are the best, Mom."

"Nonsense, it's just what you do. Right, Marcus."

"Thanks, Betty. You are amazing."

Stephen came over and started tugging on Mom's sleeve. "Grandma Wallace, we is ready. You needs to get your PJ's on so we can start the movie. Don't worry we will wait for you."

I looked over at the couch and Dad was dressed in his PJ's and robe, with Josh on his lap. They looked over at the rest of us and Dad said, "C'mon we aren't waiting all night for you three. We have movies to watch. Get the lead out"

"Yeah, yous guys, keep the lead out." Dad whispered in Josh's ear. "I mean get the lead out."

We all burst out laughing.



Thank you for continuing to read this story. It has been such a joyful experience so far! Stay tuned lots more to come.