a story by: Solace Lenity

This is a story about, well,  love and chance.  It is for the most part, a work of pure fiction, though some of the situations discussed are drawn from life experiences (particularly the romantic ones).  Though not in the beginning, this story will eventually contain sexual acts between consenting adults.  Gay characters have gay sex, so if this bothers you, or if it is illegal to read such materials due to your age or where you live, then please do not read further.  All copy rights are held by the author, so please do not duplicate, print, alter, or resubmit (or anything else I may have missed ) this story without first obtaining written permission from the author. 

Further notes:  This story will address several social issues in a perspective in which you may or may not agree.  It is also a story centered around life and love between friends, family, and partners, along with romance, and it is not intended to be a jerk-off story.  There are spiritual and paranormal themes which affect the lives of the characters.  Finally, the story is told in the various points of view of the characters involved.  (To make this process easier, each character's story is distinguished by a specific color and font style dedicated to that character.)

This is my first attempt at writing fiction of any kind.  If you have any comments, ideas, suggestions, etc., I would love to hear them. I have greatly enjoyed the comments I have received thus far and wish to thank you all for taking the time to send them.    Please contact me via


We were shopping at the mall, when Angel grabbed me from the side.  "I ain't sure what nobody else is gonna think 'bout it, but I's likin' this 'n."  As I looked into the wall length mirror, I was mesmerized by Chance's beauty.  His smile and his sparkling hazel eyes, which were more blue at that moment, melted my heart.  He was gently stroking the fabric of the stretchy shirt I was then trying on.  The jeans were rather snug as well. 

I grinned at him, gazing into his eyes through the mirror.  "I don't know, Angel.  They seem a bit revealing to me.  Maybe, they're just a bit too tight."

His infectious laugh rang clearly through the dressing room.  "Yeah, but that's what I's likin' 'bout it."  He smiled even bigger, and I wondered how that was possible.  Yet, he did.  He cast his gaze along my body, then commented, "You's put together REAL good, if you's askin' me."  His hand glided smoothly across my chest and down my side to my hip.  "I think that there looks AWFUL NICE on ya."

 To say I was surprised was an understatement, as blood pulsed through my cheeks and my whole face reddened.  "Lord, Humper.  I think Ethan was right!"  I shot.  "And to think, you had the nerve to tell me I was acting like them!"

He just giggled.  "Well, if you's don't want me tellin' you I think you's handsome 'n all..."  He started.

I grabbed him quickly, smirking.  "Should I get these in every color they have, Angel?"

"I knowed you was likin' it, just too shy like to admit it is all."  He laughed, then kissed me tenderly.  "Say, let's see what 'em other fella's think of this 'n."  The mischief that was on his face had me grinning.

He took my hand and led me out into the main area of the store.  "What y'all think 'bout this 'n?" Angel asked proudly.

"Holy!"  TJ started, but remembered his manners in front of Dad.  Jake lightly slapped him on the back of the head and grabbed him by the waist firmly, smirking and shaking his head.

Carter and Dakota just stared, while Daddy and Pop were smiling at Angel and me.  Then, Daddy told Dad, "Love, I could see you in an outfit like that, you know." with a big grin across his face.

Ethan looked shocked and smacked Daddy on the arm.  "There is no wonder from where Chance gets it!" Then, he turned to Shaft, "Honey, I told you something like this was going to happen."  He glared at Chance sternly.  "That's it Humper.  You can forget helping him pick out anything else."  Chance just gave Ethan his 'yeah, whatever' smirk.  Ethan's response, though, quickly had Angel reconsidering the outfit.  "Hey, if you want all the guys to see what they are missing by seeing ALL your boyfriend has to offer, then be my guest."

I was completely embarrassed, and everyone laughed at my expense.  Angel took my hand gently, pulling me to the dressing room.  "I guess we oughta get 'em ol' baggy 'n's then.  But, we's gettin' this 'n for you to wear at home 'n all."  He grinned at me with a wink.

"Honestly, son,"  Dad smiled, "you look nice.  A little too nice, perhaps, as Ethan is saying, but nice nonetheless.  If you like it, then buy it.  They are your clothes, after all."

"To think, I thought you were the sensible one!"  Ethan exclaimed as he whacked Dad on the arm. "Are you all crazy?  Do you realize what is going to happen when he steps out of the house in that?  We will never get a moment's sleep worrying about him." 

I hugged Ethan from behind, giggling.  "OK, Mommy.  I promise I will only wear this..."  but, he turned in my arms, putting his hand up to my mouth.  The guys were all snickering at everything going on, including Blade.  I have to tell you that Chance had many small conversations with Blade throughout the day, as Blade was curious about what it was like for Chance to be homeless.  He expressed a few times to me how special Angel really was.

"If you are getting ready to say you will only wear this in your room, I don't think that will make me feel any better.  You share a room with Humper, after all."  Ethan replied wryly.  Then, he smiled at me and pat my cheek.  "It's just that you are far too handsome for your own good.  I don't know that I like the idea of someone making eyes at one of our young men."

I kissed him on the forehead.  "I love you, too."

He grinned.  "Hell, just buy it.  You do look quite fine, Thumper."  Ethan turned his attention to Chance.  "I suppose you did pick out a nice outfit, Humper, even if you were thinking more with your hormones."

Chance bellowed with laughter.  "I reckon I's learnin' lots from you."

Angel darted to safety quickly, as Ethan was in hot pursuit.  Once Ethan exacted his revenge, Chance and I returned to the dressing room.  After trying on several more outfits, we made our final selections.  Among other outfits, I ended up with three stretchy shirts with coordinating pairs of those jeans.  Anything that made Angel that excited was more than fine by me.  We then purchased a few more outfits, a jacket, a coat, shoes, underwear, T-shirts, socks, and cologne.  Angel, of course, picked out the cologne.

While Angel and I were shopping for me, the other guys tried on outfits, too.  Jake, Juan, and Blade bought a few things, while the rest just enjoyed goofing around in various clothing with Ethan and Shaft.  By Shaft's request, Chance did some of his impersonations, which had everyone in stitches. 

Pop smiled at me.  "Eric, that Chance is one in a billion."  He hugged me tightly.  "I'm really glad the two of you found each other.  He loves you wholeheartedly and brings out the best in you."

"He brings out the best in everyone, Pop."  I grinned, thinking of the way he put others at such ease.  "He is so loving and so full of hope.  I can't explain it, really, but his very presence makes me believe all things are possible." Then, I laughed.  "In case you've not noticed, I love him wholeheartedly, too."

Pop chuckled.  "I remember those days all to well, Eric.  Just never let a day go by that you don't remind him just how much he means to you."  Then, he dug in his pocket and handed me some hefty cash.  "This is for the two of you.  I think you are both still too young to go out by yourselves.  So, go double dating... with TJ and Jake, Kal and Kanawha, Ethan and Shaft, or whomever else you think would make for a wonderful evening."

I was looking at the wad he gave me questioningly, and Pop laughed.  "I want you to enjoy yourselves as often as possible.  That should last you a little while, and it will make things easier on Kal and Kanawha."  He looked at Dad and Daddy, turning somewhat serious.  "Kanawha is a great man, and I have become rather fond of him.  Kal reminds me so much of David... well, what I imagine David would be like if he were still with us."

He became a bit teary eyed, and so did I.  Though it had never actually occurred to me before then, Dad really was a lot like David, in both looks and actions.  "David loved you so much, Eric.  You were his whole world.  From the day you came home from the hospital, he laid claim to you.  Your mother and I had to practically pry you away from him. You, in turn, would cry your eyes out until David was holding you again.  I still have no idea why he did what he did, son, but I do know that David loved you more than anything. Of that, there is no doubt." 

He wiped a few stray tears from my eyes and smiled.  "Chance loves you like that, too.  Only his love is ten times more, at least."

I hugged him tightly.  "Thanks, Pop.  I have been remembering David quite a lot lately."  We talked a good bit about our memories of my hero, as everyone else played around with the vast supply of clothes and hats.

I turned my attention to Chance and was struck with a volley of violent laughter.  He was wearing a bright purple suit and hat, strutting around performing his rendition of 'Pimp Daddy C', as he was calling himself.  Ethan, Shaft, TJ, Dakota, and Carter were pretending strong desire, comically swooning at his feet.  Daddy was literally all that was holding Dad up, he was laughing so hard.

"There is something off about your boy, there, Sorrow."  Blade chuckled.  "If not for his being so entertaining, I'm sure we would all be hitting the pavement with our asses by now."

As Blade had pointed out, the store clerks were all watching Angel's performance, laughing hysterically.  There was also an older guy who looked around Pop's age smirking.  Casually, he walked over to our group.  "Excuse me, gentlemen, but I was wondering if I could get all of your names, addresses, and phone numbers."

Chance's eyes grew huge, as the laughter quickly died down.  "Look, we's all just havin' us a little bit of fun.  We wasn't gonna hurt or steal nothin, honest."  He pointed to some of the bags beside Daddy.  "See, we's just gettin' Sorrow some of his school clothes 'n all."

The man laughed hysterically.  "No, no, no!  You have me all wrong, little fellow.  I am Mario, the manager, and our store participates in the fall fashion show here at the mall.  I was wanting all of your information because I believe you guys would make excellent models for the show."  He then looked at Daddy, Dad, and Pop.  "That would include you three gentlemen, as well. The show is on Friday evening, two weeks from now."

"You's wantin' us to walk 'round wearin' these clothes 'n stuff?"  Angel asked, somewhere between surprised and relieved.

"Yes, young man, that is exactly what I was thinking."  He smiled broadly.  "To be honest, I was watching all the little performances you guys have been doing, and they were quite funny.  I think they would make some great commercials for the store, especially 'Pimp Daddy C'.  I think it would give an impression of shopping experiences at our store being fun and exciting, yet still show that we offer something for everyone.  Of course, that would be up to the district manager, but I know they are looking for local talent and fresh ideas." He paused a moment to scan our faces.  "At any rate, you would each wear five outfits in the fashion show.  Those five outfits would be yours to keep for doing the show."

Everyone was somewhere between confused and excited as we talked it over.  Blade then asked. "Well, Mario, I was wondering if the clothes we take with us have to be in our sizes, or can they be in other sizes."

He thought about that a moment, as Angel and I wondered what was up.  Then, a smile passed Angel's face, so I knew it must be something good.  Mario finally answered. "I suppose if you or any of you other guys wanted different sizes, that would be fine.  You are the first to ever ask me that question, I must tell you."

Blade had a grin on his face.  "Then count us all in.  We will let you know what sizes we would like this coming Saturday, if that would be all right."

Mario agreed and wrote down all of our information.  We finished our shopping and then headed out to put everything into the van.  Once outside, Blade's grin had the best of us.

"OK, Blade, spill it."  Dwayne was the first to state his curiosity.  "Why are we all the sudden doing this Fall Fashion Show?"

Blade stumbled with his words a moment.  "I guess it is from being around you fags too much, but I was thinking."  Angel grabbed my hand, squeezing it gently as Blade continued.  "We all have old clothes that are in fairly good shape, except for you, Chance.  Anyway, we all now have new clothes for school, too."  He paused, finding it hard to express his idea.  "What I was thinking is this:  Every year, there are a few kids who do not have new clothes, and they stand so far out of place with the rest of us.  There were also those guys today, the ones from breakfast that were our age.  I imagine it has been quite some time since they have had anything new.  So, I was thinking that if we all did the show, then we could get a bunch of new clothes... like 70 outfits, if I counted right... to give to people who could truly use them. Maybe it is silly, but that is what I was thinking." 

Dakota motioned for Blade to bend down, so he did.  He was a bit awkward when Dakota hugged him.  "Normally, I do not like being called 'FAG', but I feel complimented by what you just said.  I think your idea is brilliant, and I would be happy if I could call you friend."  He reached out his hand to Blade, who smiled when he took it into his own in a firm shake.

Everyone grinned at each other and simultaneously attacked Blade with hugs.  Though he protested, calling it FAG-FEST, we all knew he liked the idea of having real friends.  Perhaps the hugs were debatable, but I believe he still enjoyed them. 

At any rate, we all thought it was a wonderful idea and readily agreed to Blade's new project.  I knew a bunch of us had ideas on making his project even better, but none of us voiced them.  This was Blade's first attempt to help others, and out of respect and admiration, no one wanted to do anything to take any of the glory away from him.  We all offered our assistance should he need it, but we wordlessly decided he would be the leader in this adventure. It was wonderful to see him smile so much, and he had every reason to do so.  Angel and I were very proud of him, knowing he had taken a huge leap in becoming the person God was delicately calling forth.

"Angel, I know you do not believe me, but I still feel certain it was you who inspired him to be better."  I whispered softly. 

He just grinned and kissed me.  "Sometimes, I's wonderin' if you's ever listenin' to me.  The rest of the time, I just reckon you's thinkin' I's lots more than I am, blind by love I guess.  But, I knows I's likin' you believin' in me so much."

"I only wish you could see yourself through my eyes, Angel.  Then, you would not have any doubts about yourself or how wonderful you truly are."  Then, I giggled.  "I guess you are the one needing glasses, now."

"I reckon we's both seein' ourselves different than the other 'n is.  I knows I's likin' what I's seein' in you.  You's growin' now, gettin' better 'n stronger ever day. 
Long as you's likin' what you's seein' in me, then I guess I's just fine with it." he smiled.

I kissed him softly.  "Angel, I love everything about you.  The way you laugh, the way you say things, the way you make people feel hopeful, the way I wake up to your beautiful, smiling face... I love you completely."

His eyes began to glaze over with tears, causing them to sparkle even more like the heavens from which I knew he was sent.  "You's made special, just for me.  I's so, so thankful for you, Sorrow.  I love you more 'n I knows how to say.  I hope you's know it anyway."

"Believe me Angel, I know."  I caressed his face, and our lips slowly met for another soft kiss.

"If you two could keep your lips off of one another long enough, we might be able to get you into the van so we can go eat.  We are kind of hungry, just in case you didn't notice."  Shaft laughed.  "You boys are getting more and more like your dads every day."

With that remark, we found our way quickly to our seats and headed out.  We were following Pop, and I was thrilled to see his choice of restaurants.  We pulled into Home Front's, a musical dinner theater with themes from  World  War II.  I had always held a fascination with WW2, and I was certain that Angel would love the music.

Pop treated everyone, saying it was his special reward to Chance for doing so well on his test.  Angel was beaming as he hugged Pop snugly.  "I don't reckon I's been to a place all fancy like this 'n before."  He gazed around, taking in all the sights, and his eyes were filled with wonder.  "This here place is real nice.  Look, they's all dressed kind of funny like.  'Em ladies even gots their hair done up in one of 'em old kind of styles." he commented with joy.

"Just wait until you hear them sing."  Pop smiled.

Everyone seemed enthusiastic as we were seated.  The wonderful melody of the live band played in the background as everyone ordered their dinner.  Angel was so adorable, the way his foot was tapping and swaying with the music.  The sounds of the band were captivating him, as if beckoning him to new levels of appreciation.  Smiling at his reaction, I knew this would be one place we would have to revisit.

As dinner was served, the show began.  If Angel had been excited before, it was nothing compared to his impression of the actual performances.  Though I found the show to be excellent, I was far more interested in watching Chance.  His face was so lit with fascination, finding nothing but utter joy and awe in everything. 

At one point, the diners were allowed to utilize the dance floor.  I was amazed at our dads' skillful dancing.  They were fantastic, really showing up the others.  Ethan and Shaft were rather sharp dancers, too.  The four of them did illicit a few stares and off-colored remarks, but they did not let them disturb the evening.

Dad took me out on the floor, while Daddy danced with
Chance.  Patiently, they instructed us on a few of the dances, which both Angel and I found to be awesome.  Pop taught Juan, while TJ and Jake danced beside him, carefully paying attention to the pattern of the steps.  They seemed to catch on quickly, and Pop praised them many times.  Carter, Dwayne, and Blade decided to sit the dancing out, claiming to be natural disasters on their feet.  I had seen Blade dance before, and he was not lying, that was for sure.  That left Dakota without a partner, but Carter eventually caved in to the pressure and fumbled through a couple of dances.  If truth be told, I believe Carter was beginning to realize that Dakota was one cute little fellow.

We changed partners a few times, and both Chance and I loved dancing with our dads and Pop.  It was just a great experience, and each one taught us a few new steps.  Shaft and Ethan worked with Carter a good bit, and I could tell he really loved those guys.  Honestly, though, who wouldn't? 

When the dancing time ended, everyone returned to their seats, anticipating the second half of the show.  The stories about the soldiers reminded me of what it must be like for Mic and Thomas.  Though I had not met him yet, I felt pride in knowing such a person existed.  So many were giving up so much to protect our freedom... and to me, they were all heroes.  The show ended with a tribute to our troops, and there was not a dry eye in the house.  We all left feeling very patriotic.

Everyone gave Pop his appreciation and thanks for the evening.  Chance and I gave him tight hugs, and he asked if we would like to spend the night with him sometime soon.  Since our Dads had a special evening planned for Monday, we decided it would be a great time to get together with Pop.

Pop talked this over with our dads, and they felt it was a wonderful idea.  Pop gave Dad a firm hug, calling him Sonny.  Dad carefully brushed a tear from Pop's cheek, becoming aware of the significance the name held for both Pop and me.  Sonny was his nickname for David.  He and Daddy also shared an embrace, as Pop whispered something to Daddy.  Smiling, Pop commented on what a fine couple they were and wished them years of happiness. 

Once Pop left, we all boarded the van.  In a matter of time, we had everyone dropped off to their homes.  As Blade exited the van, he thanked Angel for opening his eyes to the world around him.  Then, he quickly turned and walked away before Angel could comment.  Maybe it was my imagination, but I believe I noticed a few tears in Blades eyes, something I never before saw.

Once home, we carried everything into the house.  At Hela and Mic's request, I gave everyone a fashion preview of my new wardrobe.   Everyone seemed to be a bit surprised by the tighter clothing Chance had picked out for me.  Roe assured me that it was because I looked more mature in them.  His exact wording earned him a pounding from Hela, but that was the G-rated version of his intent.

After playing with the pups, Angle and I called it a night.  Dad and Daddy tucked us in, saying prayers with us, as usual.  We both thanked them for a wonderful day and the dance lessons.  They promised to teach us more about dancing, but suggested we ask Nana and Grams, since they were the ones who had taught our dads.

After a few nice kisses, Angel settled into my arms, nestling his head on my chest.  I gently scratched his back for a few minutes, and he fell fast asleep.  I fondly watched him in his slumber for the next hour, until sleep finally claimed me from the waking world. 


I awoke Sunday morning snuggled closely to Ethan.  He was such an amazing man.  I wondered what I ever did to deserve such a lover as I watched him peacefully sleep.  His chest would gently rise and fall with just the slightest snoring sound.  I smiled to myself, thinking how cute it was. 

His blond hair was flowing across his face, so I carefully reached out and brushed the stray strands away.  With that done, I could now behold his glorious face.  He was so peaceful, so innocent and pure.  Temptation gained the better of me, and I ever so gently kissed his lips.

Instinctively, I suppose, they responded to my presence.  Their silky soft texture was a welcomed feeling, causing electrically charged tingles to dance up my spine.  What started out as the slightest of touches began to increase in pressure.  Soon, we were locked into a strong, passionate kiss as Ethan stirred to life. 

His heavy eyelids, lined with thick blond lashes, slowly lifted upwards.  The golden tan, cat-like eyes of my lover glistened as they focused and gazed into my own.  Breaking our kiss, Ethan sighed.  "Mmm.  A guy could get used to waking up like this.  What's the occasion?" 

"You, honey."  I grinned.  "You are all the reason I need to view each day as spectacular."

With a ghost like touch, his fingers trailed across my chest and down my side, delicately roaming about my hip.  "You know, Shaft, flattery like that will get you everywhere."

His very presence stirred me from deep within, and I was pulsing to life quickly.  "Honestly, honey, this was not my original intention.  However, since we both seem up to the challenge..." I pulled him into another kiss, letting my lips finish my thoughts.

He giggled playfully.  "Never let an opportunity pass you by.  That is my motto."  With that being said, Ethan kissed me again.

His nomadic hands migrated about my body, arousing every nerve ending to the highest point of sensual pleasure.  I reciprocated, my fingers trickling lightly down his back and spine.  I firmly grabbed and squeezed the cheeks of his butt, just as I knew he liked, kneading them between my fingers.  His quiet moans assured me of his appreciation, as did his grinding himself against me.  The friction between our meeting bodies had us both shivering with delight. 

His kiss intensified, his tongue exploring my mouth with heightened need.  He continued smashing himself into me, pushing me from my side to my back. He broke our kiss, staring lovingly into my eyes.  Then, he reached into the night stand drawer.  After preparing himself, his cold, slick hand encircled the length of me, stealing my breath away with uncontrollable shudders.  With a few caressing strokes, he had me ready.

His eyes spoke the depths of his love, as they pierced through the veil of my soul.  With a small pressure, he impelled himself, granting me entry into the warm, euphoric space so lovingly offered.  I gasped as he tightened around the length of me, sensations beyond description passing through my very being.  I sat up somewhat, meeting his lips with my own for another passionate kiss.

Slowly, he began rocking his body, gently pushing me back to the bed.  I reached to touch him, but he stopped me.  Lacing his fingers in my own, he smiled, asserting his control over the situation.  With one last loving look, I closed my eyes, surrendering completely to my Ethan.

Each rise and fall of my lover brought moans of pleasure from me.  Softly, he grunted, varying his pace and positioning.  His body began to tense and tighten around me, as Ethan moved with more urgency.  Erotic waves of euphoria swept through me, and I began to feel the contractions inside me. 

Opening my eyes, I could feel the desire in Ethan's look.  A soft sheen of perspiration had covered us both, and he glistened in the early morning light, almost glowing in fact.  Tears filled my eyes as I pondered what a blessing he truly was.  "Ethan, honey, I love you."  I moaned out.

"Mmm.  I love you, too, baby."  he uttered through his pleasure. 

His contracting muscles encased me more tightly, as I let out a strong sigh.  Releasing my hands, he pulled me upward, joining us in another passionate kiss.  As his tongue touched mine, I was pushed beyond my limits.  I grasped him firmly, crying out into his mouth as I exploded into climax.  Seconds later, Ethan clutched onto me with a powerful grip, spasming into his own euphoric ending.

We collapsed back onto the bed, each depleted of our energy.  As our ragged breathing returned to a somewhat normal rate, Ethan looked at me, grinning.  "Now that is the way to start off the morning!"  he said cheerfully.

I smiled at him, caressing his delicate cheek.  "Making love to you is fantastic, but the simple act of loving you, now that is what really makes life worth living."

His eyes began to tear up, but he could read the concern on my face.  "You are such a romantic man, Shaft.  Every moment I am with you, you make me feel like I am the most important person on the planet.  You record every detail to your heart."  A single tear trickled down his cheek, and I caught it with my finger. Rubbing his cheek against my hand, he sighed.  "Sometimes, I can be such an ass... like when we went skating.  The truth is, I love you, Carmine Romero, with everything I have to give.  It just doesn't feel like enough, but I hope you know how much you mean to me."

I was deeply moved by his pledge, but something
in it struck me.   "Ethan, you are the romantic one between us, not me.  You are so full of life and emotion, while I just methodically observe everything. You act with such conviction and passion.  How could I ever compare to that?  If I express any life at all, it is only by your inspiration."  I admitted.  "As for the skating, well, it was stupid of me.  I put you in a position where you felt frustrated and out of control.  That was my fault, honey, not yours."  I smiled, remembering the evening.  "Talk about romantic.  I had never been so turned on as I was that evening.  The way you express your emotions and love in your caresses and kisses, you share your very soul with me, Ethan.  I could never offer you that.  You just have my word that I love you, but I have your very heart, in every single action, to show me your love."

"You could never be more wrong, honey, but I love you, anyway." he smiled.  "Let's get in the shower.  Then, you and I will fix breakfast for everyone again."

I laughed, thinking of our experience.  "It was fun, you know, cooking for the ones we love.  But, then, anything we do together seems to turn out that way."

He pulled me from the bed, and we took a long, hot, passion-filled shower.  Afterwards, we began our trip downstairs.  The rustling footsteps down the hallway let us know we were not alone.

"So, did you boys sleep well?"  I asked, bending down to pat their heads.  Domino and Chips wagged their tails in appreciation.  "Come on boys.  I'll take you outside."  After playing with the little monsters out back, I fed them.  Then, I joined Ethan in the kitchen.

After scrubbing up, I helped him start the French Toast.  We chatted a bit while cooking, exchanging a few kisses between the banter.  Then, he surprised me.

"Do you think we will ever have children?  Well, I know we won't get pregnant, but you know what I mean."  He laughed.

I thought about it a moment.  "Honestly, honey, I never really thought about children before.  I guess with my heart condition and all, I never even thought I would find a partner, much less have a family."

He looked at me sadly for a moment, then cheered up quickly, as if pushing those thoughts out of his mind.  "Well, one of these days, I would love to have a few.  Too bad Chance and Sorrow are already claimed."

"I don't think Kal and Kanawha would give them up very easily, that's for sure."  I laughed.  "But, I would love to raise a family with you, Ethan."

He kissed me, smiling happily.  We continued in idle chit-chat while finishing up breakfast.  Kanawha and Kal were the first to join us in the kitchen.  They put out the dishes and juices.  Sorrow and Chance quickly followed, hugging and kissing us all good morning. 

Chance grinned at Ethan and me for a moment, and I just knew he was going to make a 'humping' remark.  But, he surprised me.  "We's awful lucky, Sorrow 'n me.  We gets to see two guy couples in love with one 'nother, showin' us what it's  'posed to be like to be a couple 'n all.  We also gets to see two guy-girl couples too.  Other 'n having kids to findin' kids, I don't reckon there is really any difference in 'em."  Then, he laughed.  "Well, I reckon guy couples like kissin' more 'n guy-girl couples.  Seems like it 'round here at least."  With that, he kissed Sorrow, then turned back to us.  "See what I's meanin'!"

Ruffling up his hair, Ethan handed Chance a couple of platters to put on the table.  "I love those guys."  He muttered to me.  "I don't know what we would do without them."

"Neither do I, honey."  I grinned.  Though only children in many ways, they were so grown up in others.  Being with them always made us smile.  They made everyone smile, for that matter.

The family was soon all down to breakfast.  Allen had stopped by to join us, and I was delighted to see my sister so happy.  As selfless as she was, I was thankful that God had brought someone so kind and compassionate as Allen to be her companion in life. 

We all talked as we consumed our meal, just as we usually did.  After cleaning up the dishes, Ethan and I were heading up to our room to change for church.

"Not so fast, little brother."  Jena giggled.  We both turned to see four smiling faces:  Jena, Jew, Cole, and Allen.

"You two are not going to church today.  We have other plans for you."  Allen grinned, and Ethan and I looked at him in wonder.  "You have a different way of communing today."  he assured us.

"And you better not screw it up.  We all worked hard on this."  Jew added, hugging Jena from behind.

The grin on Cole's face grew as she began speaking.  "One by one, you both asked me for help.  So, we decided to teach you both a lesson in romance."  She laughed, seeing the shock on our faces as we turned to each other.  "Yes, Ethan asked me to help him find a way to give you the most romantic day.  He didn't think he was romantic enough for you, brother."  Everyone started chuckling.  "Little did he know that you asked me to do the same thing for him, and for the same reasons.  Well, today, we all hope you learn that it is not where you go or what you do that makes romance.  It is simply spending quality time with the one you love."

Allen handed us an envelope with driving directions.  "Follow these exactly, and do not open the envelope until you get there."  he smiled.

"And, you will need these, but no peaking."  Jew laughed, handing us a small suitcase.

"After you finish there, follow these directions.  Then, you can open this."  Jena grinned, handing us another envelope.

"Finally, you follow these directions, and do the same."  Cole laughed, handing us a final envelope.  "Now, go put on something comfortable.  You have a big day ahead of you, dear brothers, and we will kick your butts if you are late."

With that, we were dismissed.  Ethan and I changed into comfortable shorts and shirts, opting for sneakers rather than sandals.  We discussed the possibilities of the day, both grinning in excited anticipation.  In that moment, we realized our first lesson.  Not knowing what was going to happen, the fact that we faced it together made us feel romantically connected.

We put the suitcase in the trunk and hugged the four of them good-bye.  Following the directions, Ethan and I were on the beltway, heading to the other side of Raven Cliff.  We arrived at a sports multiplex, offering many activities, such as batting cages and miniature golf.  Opening the envelope, we found two tickets. 

Ethan opened the suitcase, and his eyes went wide with delight.  "Oh, yeah!"  He cried.  "I have always wanted to try this!"  I looked at him questioningly, and he removed a large pistol.  "It's a paintball gun."  he smiled.

We each dressed in the coveralls, putting on the goggles and caps, which were all found in the suitcase.  We looked silly, but Ethan was so excited.  Seeing him so, I became excited.

"That is lesson two, I guess."  I smiled.  "Seeing that the one you love is happy brings you happiness."

Ethan laughed.  "Smart asses and show-off's, if you ask me.  Honey, this is going to be great.  I promise, you will enjoy this."

"I already am, Ethan."  I grinned. 

We trotted down to the paintball area, and one of the guys showed us how everything worked.  Then, we were on our own.  I have to say it was great fun, but most of the joy I felt came from seeing Ethan so happy.  We hunted each other for a while, and Ethan delighted in peppering me with paint splats.  I did get in a few good shots, but he was far better than I at this.

A little later, another couple was in the area, and we talked for a few minutes.  Then, Ethan and I evaded them as they hunted us.  In that situation, I was really starting to get into it.  I could feel the thrill in pulverizing someone with paintballs, so long as it wasn't my Ethan.

We hunted like that for another hour and a half.  By then, we were all out of paintballs and breathless from exhaustion.  Saying good-bye to the other couple, Ethan and I cleaned up and disrobed, putting everything back into the suitcase.

"See, I told you this would be fun."  Ethan chimed as we loaded the suitcase into the trunk.  "You so nailed that guy!  I was amazed at how quickly you reacted."

"Well, I wasn't worried about him, and I was protecting you, so I guess that was what made the difference."  I laughed.  "I believe we should take the boys here sometime.  All of them, not just Sorrow and Chance."

"We'll have to save up for the paintball guns.  Say, maybe we could get everyone a gun and some paintballs for Christmas."  He rattled in his enthusiastic state.  Then, an evil laugh erupted.  "I would so love to nail Jena and Kanawha in this game."

I mused as he rattled on, definitely knowing lesson number two was important.  Ethan read the directions to me as we headed out.  We followed the highway to the outer edge of the south side of the city.  As soon as I saw the sign, I was thrilled, practically bouncing in my seat.

We parked the car, and I enthusiastically kissed Ethan.  I could tell he was not as excited as I was about our second activity of the day.  "Oh, honey, this will be wonderful.  I promise you, you will have a great time, just like I did with the paintball thing."

Ethan laughed.  "Lesson number three:  Romance is a give and take."  He kissed me softly.  "You cannot focus every activity on the interests of one, or even just mutual interests.  I guess to truly know your partner, you have to do things they enjoy the most.   I had the paintballs, and you have this:  The Raven Cliff Zoo." 

As I opened the envelope, I found two tickets and a gift certificate.  The tickets were for entrance into the zoo, and the gift certificate was for a restaurant located on the grounds.  "Looks like we will be eating with the elephants." I laughed

We entered the zoo, and began our journey following the tiger tracks on the walkway.  We viewed the many animals and their habitats.  I shared with Ethan many things I had learned about each of the animals.  I just knew for sure I was boring him, but he kept smiling at me as I talked.

Finally, I asked.  "I am boring you to death, aren't I?"

He laughed.  "Actually, I was thinking how amazing you are.  I have never seen you so passionate about something as I have today.  Especially with animal and natural habitat conservation."  Then, he kissed me as a large group of people passed by us.  "To be honest, I think it is a major turn on for me.  Seeing you get all worked up like that, well, I find it sexy."  He laughed.  "Lesson number four:  A passionate partner makes for a passionate time."

I held him firmly in my arms.  "Well, if you want, we can duck behind the seals and penguins for a little while."

"Hehehe!  Don't tempt me.  Remember what happened at the skating rink?  I am finding I could care less who is around us."  He grinned.

He took my hand as we continued our tour through the animal kingdom.  One funny incident occurred while watching the otters.  One male otter was trying to mount another male, which had Ethan in hysterics. 

"I just find it funny."
  he smiled.  "There are even gay otters in this world."

By this point, we were both starving, so we headed to the restaurant.  It was an OK meal, as far as the food, but being there with Ethan made it one of the best meals I had ever eaten.  I smiled, "Lesson number five:  The quality of the activity is greatly increased by the presence of your lover." 

He laughed.  "Well, the food is fair, but I agree.  This is one of the best dining experiences I have ever had.  The best would be yesterday evening, but that was because we danced together."

Without a further thought, I took his hand and began dancing with him beside our table.  Many were giving us odd looks, but I didn't care.  I wanted to do this, for both myself and for Ethan.

Softly, he whispered in my ear.  "Lesson number six:  Create your own music."  Nibbling on my neck, he continued.  "Find a way to make the most of every situation.  Now, this is the best dining experience I have ever had."  He leaned his head back on my shoulder as we continued to dance.

After our meal and dancing, we finished touring the zoo.  I bought us both a few animal souvenirs to put on our bed.  Upon entering the car, we began our drive to our final activity.  We were headed to the northern outskirts of town.  Then, we took a turn that lead way up to the top of a mountain.  From there, we parked in the parking lot as we were instructed to do so.  There did not appear to be much of anything up here.  I opened the envelope to find a note from Cole which read, "Enjoy the sunset."  There were directions to a path which lead to a patio-like overlook. 

Ethan and I held one another tightly as we watched the sun slowly descend.  It was magnificent.  "Lesson number seven:  Enjoy the simple things in life, like being together."  I grinned, seeing him in the fading light.  "Beauty is all around you, but the one you hold in your arms makes it pale in comparison." 

As the last of the evening light faded, the stars lit up the heavens and the city lights illuminated the world below.  "Oh, honey.  It's breathtaking."  Ethan said softly.  He turned and kissed me passionately.  "Honestly, this was the most romantic part of our day.  But, I think it was so romantic simply because we spent the entire day together."

I laughed wholeheartedly.  "That brings us to lesson number eight, and I quote:  '
It is not where you go or what you do that makes romance.  It is simply spending quality time with the one you love.'  Sister was right about that one, Ethan.  I cannot imagine anything being more romantic than this moment."

He grinned seductively.  "Well, I can think of one thing to make this moment even better."  Without another word, we kissed, our passions escalating in another round of lovemaking.


Monday morning, I was struck with a strong need to talk with Thomas.  As soon as I awoke, I felt the urgency.  I showered and dressed, but my mind was focused upon my husband.  In deep thought, I descended the stairs and joined the family for breakfast.

At some point, I was brought from my inner turmoil enough to notice that Ethan and Kanawha were absent from the table.  Kal smiled, saying they had an errand to run.  I cannot say too much of what other conversations went on, as I refocused my concerns towards Thomas. 

As breakfast clean up was finished, Jew, Jena, Roe, the boys, and I headed out to work at the mission.  I became aware that Chance and Sorrow sat on each side of me.   Each of our young men gently took one of my hands in his own, patting it reassuringly.

"He's just fine, Mic."  Chance smiled.  "I knows that's who you's thinkin' 'bout."

"I believe he is thinking about you, too."  Sorrow grinned.  "I can't wait to meet him.  Anyone who can captivate you so much must be one special guy."

I hugged them both to me, honored by their concern and caring natures.  "I think you boys will like Thomas quite a bit.  I know he will just love you both."  I thought back to many of our experiences before he left for his tour of duty.  "Someday, we hope to have a family of our own.  Thomas wants a house full of children, though I am not sure we agree in numbers."  I laughed.  "I told him once that if he expected that many children, he could give birth to them."  They joined me in laughter, and my mood lightened somewhat. 

"I don't reckon me 'n Sorrow's gonna have that problem."  Chance laughed.  "If we ever has us some kids, I guess we will prob'ly just find 'em like our dads found us."

Sorrow giggled, and it warmed my heart seeing their budding relationship.  "Angel, if any guy could get pregnant, I believe it would be you."

"If either of us is gonna be pushin' out 'em kids, I reckon it's gonna be you, Sorrow."  He laughed.  "Honest, I's just fine with given' some of 'em kids that ain't gots 'em nobody a place they can live.  I knows we'd love 'em just as much anyhow."

I was delighted by this exchange.  "So, you guys are planning on a family already, are you?"

Sorrow snickered.  "Well, yeah.  From working as big brothers, Angel and I have learned that we love children.  I suppose it is only natural that we want some of our own, someday."  His grin spread across his handsome face.  "It will be wonderful.  Angel will make an excellent father, and our dads will be awesome grandpas."

The image of Kal and Kanawha with a house full of grandchildren, now that was something to think about.  I giggled, seeing the two of them playing around, being the goofy guys I knew they both could be when it came to children.  "I believe you are right, Sorrow.  They will be terrific grandparents, and I feel certain that you and Chance will be phenomenal parents." 

"You've got that right."  Jena laughed as she signaled for a left turn.  "Those will definitely be some lucky children."

Jew turned to look at the boys, grinning.  "You're relationship is becoming a bit serious if you are talking about children so soon."  Jena had made such a difference in him, for Jew seldom stalled in his speech, and I could not remember the last time he had stuttered. 

Sorrow smiled, patting him on the shoulder.  "All I know is there will never be anyone for me besides Angel.  I'll happily spend my life at his side."

"We's made special for each other.  I reckon that's all we need to know to see we's gonna be together forever 'n all.  We gots a long time yet 'fore any of that happens, so we ain't in no kinda hurry or nothin'.  We's just enjoyin' each day, sharin' our dreams with each other's all."  Change chimed in, supporting Sorrow.

Jew reached over and pat Chance on the cheek.  "I can't think of two better people to raise a family than you guys."  he smiled.  "But, they will be my grandkids, too." he winked.

Sorrow slid forward and hugged Jew tightly.  "We both love you, too."

Chance giggled.  "I reckon our kids is gonna have 'em lots of family to get to know, and lots of family to love 'em.   I knows you guys sure love us enough."

"More than you could possibly imagine."  I smiled at him.  "From the instant we met you boys, you stole all of our hearts.  Now, we can't imagine life without either of you."

We continued our warm chat until we reached the mission.  I hugged everyone before turning to my office, once there, I could fight the urge no longer.  I just had to talk to Thomas.  As I logged on to my messenger, he was waiting for me. 

I quickly pressed the microphone button.  "Hey, honey.  I really needed to talk with you."  I sighed.

He giggled.  "I know, baby.  I just knew you needed me, probably as much as I needed you.  It is so good to hear your voice, Mic."  He paused a moment, and I could tell he was in tears.  "I miss you so much.  I would give anything to hold you, even if it were for one moment."

Tears formed in my own eyes, hearing the need in his voice.  "Oh, Thomas.  If I could be there right now, I would gladly do so.  I know exactly what you mean, sweetie.  I miss touching and holding you, too."

His sigh spoke volumes.  "Honey, I know it is not that much longer, but I don't know how much more of this I can take.  I want to be home with you so desperately.  We should be starting our own little family, not waiting out this tour of duty.  I realize now how unfair it was of me to ask you to marry me, only to turn around and leave like I did."

I smiled, knowing what a wonderful husband I had.  "Babe, it was not by choice that you left.  You are a marine, and you do your part to protect our freedom.  It is part of who you are, honey.  Knowing all you risk every day, all the sacrifices so many have made for our freedom, how could I not wait for you?  You are a hero, Thomas.  My own, personal hero."

I could tell he was smiling by the tonal quality in his voice.  "Well, I wouldn't go that far.  But, it is nice to be appreciated.  Oh, Mic.  I just want this to be over."

"No more than I do, honey.  Believe me.  I so miss my quality time with my husband!"  I admitted freely. Then, I giggled.  "You know, a woman has needs, just as much as a man does.  I have to tell you, Thomas, I am one needy woman.  But rest assured, you are the only one who can fulfill my yearnings.  There is no one for me but you, husband."

He laughed, and I could picture his smiling face.  The way the light would dance in his eyes as his hearty chuckles reverberated from his chest, it simply made me weak in the knees.  "That has been my every waking thought, Mic.  I love you, and only you.  God only knows how much I want to show you just how deeply my love for you has grown."

"Oh, Thomas.  I know you love me.  As much as my love for you has strengthened, I am certain that yours has for me, too.  Never worry about my not knowing, honey.  I feel it everyday in my heart."  I assured him.  He sent me a file, so I accepted it, and we continued talking while it downloaded.

"Mic, I don't like to talk negatively, but if something were to happen to me, it makes me feel better knowing that you understand how much you mean to me.  You are the better part of my life, my reason for getting out of bed each morning.  Your face is the first thing I see when I wake and the last thing I remember at night.  Just promise me that no matter what, you will remember that."  He said softly.

"Nothing is going to happen to you, babe.  But, for your peace of mind, I will."  As tears flowed from my soul, I continued.  "You just remember that your wife loves you more than anything in this world.  I am here, Thomas, patiently waiting.  I am not going anywhere."

I could once again hear tears in his voice.  "Mic, honey, I am going to have to go soon.  Some of the other guys will need to use the computer.  The file just finished downloading, so promise me you will use it any time you think of me."  He took a long pause, and I knew something was wrong.  "Mic, they are sending us on a support mission to the war zone in the morning.  I have no idea when I will get to chat with you again, so remember that I love you, always."

My heart ached, but I tried my best to be strong for Thomas.  "Husband, I will hold you again, just as we have been planning.  I love you, honey, with all my heart."

He sniffled.  "I know, baby.  I have to go now, Mic, but promise me you will use the file."

"I'll start it now, sweetie."  I vowed.

"It's just to let you know how much I love you.  I really have to go now, Mic.  I love you."

"I love you, too, Thomas."  I said as he disconnected and the file loaded.  It was a slide show, with pictures of Thomas and I together, our wedding, pictures I had sent to him over the net, and pictures of him during his tour.  Playing in the background was the most moving song I had ever heard.  It expressed our feelings for each other perfectly.

I wanna grow old with you

Another day
Without your smile
Another day
Just passes by
But now I know
How much it means
For you to stay
Right here with me

The time we spend apart
Will make our love grow stronger
But it hurt so bad
I can't take it any longer

I wanna grow old with you
I wanna die lying in your arms
I wanna grow old with you
I wanna be looking in your eyes
I wanna be there for you
Sharing everything you do
I wanna grow old with you

A thousand miles
Between us now
It causes me
To wonder how
Our love tonight
Remains so strong
It makes our risk
Right all along

The time we spend apart
Will make our love grow stronger
But it hurt so bad
I can't take it any longer

I wanna grow old with you
I wanna die lying in your arms
I wanna grow old with you
I wanna be looking in your eyes
I wanna be there for you
Sharing everything you do
I wanna grow old with you

Things can come and go I know but
Baby I believe
Something's burning strong between us
Makes it clear to me

I wanna grow old with you
I wanna die lying in your arms
I wanna grow old with you
I wanna be looking in your eyes
I wanna be there for you
Sharing everything you do
I wanna grow old with you
I wanna die lying in your arms
I wanna grow old with you
I wanna be looking in your eyes
I wanna be there for you
Sharing everything you do
I wanna grow old with you

Slowly, the reality of it all sank in, and my heart burst with deep pains of sorrow and worry.  I was lost, and my hero was so far away.  Softly, a knock at my door began.

I opened the door to find Sorrow and Chance, with tears streaking down both their faces.  "We knows what's going on, Mic.  We both wanted to be here for ya, if that's OK 'n all."  Chance said quietly.

I clung tightly to them both, unleashing my pain.  "Oh, boys!"  I cried.

They both held me snugly as I released my emotional baggage.  "It's going to be fine."  Sorrow soothed. 

"He's gonna need your lovin' now more 'n ever."  Chance encouraged.  "Hold tight to it 'n don't give in to your worryin'."

Sorrow stroked my back gently.  "Have faith, Mic.  Now is not the time to doubt.  He will be safe, you just have to believe it."

"God's a watchin' out for him.  We knows he's gonna come home just fine.  You's gotta believe is all."  Chance agreed.

They continued to soothe and comfort me while I cried out.  When all my tears were shed, we prayed.  A peace like none I had experienced before fell upon me, and I knew the boys were right. 

"I think maybe you should go home today and rest.  Chance and I called Roe, and he is on his way to pick us up."  Sorrow reassuringly smiled.

"Us?"  I questioned lightheartedly.

"You don't think we's gonna leave you or nothin' now do ya?"  Chance grinned.

"After all you have done for me, Mic, it is the least we can do for you."  Sorrow added.

"Fine with me, boys, but I don't want your Dad to know until after his date with your Daddy.  There is no sense in ruining their day, because I know Kal will cancel his plans if he thinks I even remotely need him."  I replied in honesty.  "God, I just pray he doesn't pick up on it."

Sorrow smiled at Chance.  "We'll make sure he doesn't."  I grinned at them, but my mind was racing, wondering if they could really do that.

Roe came to my office, and I could tell he had been crying.  "Oh, gurl.  He is going to be all right.  He just has to be."  He sighed.

I smiled at him, hugging him tightly.  "Of course he will, Roe.  The boys and I just prayed about it."  Then, I grinned at them.  "Plus, I have their word he will return to us safely, so I will not worry about it.  I will hold true to my faith."

"That's all it's gonna take, Mic.  Just havin' you some faith."  Chance beamed, hugging Sorrow tightly.  Then, he looked at his newly found boyfriend.  "I's real proud of you, too, Sorrow.  You just keeps on a growin'."

Roe grinned at them.  "Well, there word is good enough for me.  When they called and told me what was going on, I was sick with panic.  Then, they said they were coming here to check on you."  He paused a moment in realization.  Then, he smiled again.  "You boys are so much like Kal, it's kind of scary."

"I wouldn't say scary."  I laughed.  "It's more like humbling."

"Well, let's go see Jena and Jew.  Then, I will take you guys home."  Roe laughed.

We stopped by to explain the situation to the two of them.  Roe added in that the boys promised his safe return in exchange for our faith.  Roe called them our little prophets
, which had them both blushing.  Somewhere in his words, however, I suspected he was close to realizing their true potential.

After saying our good-byes, we headed home.  Kal and Shaft were pulling out the driveway as we were turning around the block.  Relief passed through me, as I smiled at the boys.

Roe dropped us off, and after my assuring him that I would be fine, he returned to the mission.  The boys and I headed into the house.  We played with the pups for a while, then I decided to retire to my room, suspecting Kal would be home shortly.

Special authors note:  As I am finishing this chapter up, getting it ready to send out, I received the call.  The price of freedom is often high, but I thank God that price did not include you, buddy.  I have been rejoicing since your mom called to let me know your plane landed safely.  Welcome home!  As one of my dearest friends, I have been thinking about you constantly, especially when I held my godson.  She didn't even know she was pregnant when you left, and now your son is almost nine months old.  Enjoy him, and hold him as long as you want (Don't let your mom tell you otherwise.  We all know how fussy she can be ;D) because you have more than earned it!  Just remember, he may be an infant, but he still tells me when he doesn't get his way.  Now, he has a hero to look up too.  God bless you, my friend and brother.  I hope to see you soon.


I's real sad that mic was goin' through what she was 'n all, but I knowed it would turn out just fine.  It still made me cry though, thinkin' how much ol' Thomas was givin up 'n all to make the world a safe place for Mic and 'em kids they was gonna have sometime soon.  I thought it was one of the nicest things I's ever heard 'fore.

Daddy 'n Dad got home later, but they was kinda busy.  I don't reckon they realized we's home 'n not at the mission till lots later.  By then, Pops was on his way to get me 'n Sorrow to come spend the night with 'im.  He got there, and our dads told 'im 'bout their day up to that point.  He smiled at 'em both, tellin' Daddy to take care of his Sonny.

Then, we put our stuff in his trunk 'n headed to his house.  Sorrow sat with me in the back seat, cause he wanted to hold my hand 'n kiss 'n stuff.   I's likin kissin' Sorrow cause he was real good at it.  His lips was all soft like and they made me feel all funny like ever time he touched me with 'em.  Sometimes, he put his tongue in there too, and I liked 'em kisses even better 'n the other n's.

Once we got there, I was kindly impressed.  It was a real nice place, even had a pool 'n everthin'.  He showed us to our room.  I noticed there was more 'n one place for people stayin' with 'im to sleep, but he just smiled 'n winked at us, sayin' he figured we didn't mind sharin' no room.  It was fine by me, cause I don't reckon I'd get much sleep without Sorrow bein' next to me.

We's put our stuff up 'n looked 'round.  Sorrow said he ain't never been to Pops place 'fore, and I felt awful sorry for 'em both.  They sure had missed out on knowin' one 'nother, that was for sure.  As we was lookin' 'round the room, I found this picture book.  In it was all kinds of pictures of Sorrow when he's little with some guy who looked like Dad quite a bit.  Sorrow sat down on the bed 'side me, and we was lookin' through it. 

Sorrow told me that fella was David, and I reckon he was kinda handsome, but not near as much as my Sorrow was.  On back in the book, we found lots of stuff that had been cut out of one of 'em papers.  They's all stories 'bout football 'n baseball.  Sorrow's name was in some of 'em.  Sorrow was grinnin', sayin' he never knowed his Pop was followin' his games 'n all that.  I reckoned Pops did lots of things he didn't know 'bout.

Pops come in the room, and I pat a place for 'im to sit on the bed next to me, since I was holdin' the book.  We was lookin' at 'em same pictures again, and Pops told us stories 'bout how David 'n Sorrow was such a handful when they was growin' up.  Sometime durin' one of Pops stories, I realized somethin'.

I looked at Sorrow, and then he knowd it  too.  "Pop, you don't blame yourself over David's death, do you?"  He asked as easy like as he could.

Pops got real teary like, rubbin' on one of David's picture with his fingers.  "I should have seen it coming, Eric.  I should have done something to help him."  he said as he started cryin' all quiet like.  I rubbed 'im on the back, and he smiled at me a moment, then started talkin' again.  "He never felt he could turn to me, I guess.   I still don't even know why he did it, Eric.  He did not even trust us enough to leave a note."

Sorrow got up off the bed 'n stood in front of Pops, holdin' him to his chest.  "Pop, David loved you.  I know he did.  I can remember him telling you that all the time."  Sorrow lifted his head real gentle like, lookin' into Pops' eyes.  "I blamed myself for so long, Pop.  But, now I know better.  Neither of us are to blame, and neither of us could have done anything differently to change what happened.  We both thought David was fine, and I guess that is what he wanted us to think.  We may never know why he did it, but we do know he loved us.  And, we both know we loved him.  That is all we have, Pop.  That, and each other."

Pops smiled real big, then started cryin' again, holdin' real tight to my big ol' angel.  "Oh, Eric.  I was so frightened after it all happened...  devastated, really.  I just knew for sure it was something that I had done.  That is why I left."  He was a sobbin' real hard then.  So was me 'n Sorrow.  "I didn't want to ruin your life, too, and in trying to save you from myself, I ended up hurting you.  You almost did the same thing."  He was so sad then.

Sorrow just kept holdin' 'im, rubbin' on his back.  "Pop, I never knew why you stayed away from me, but I guess it makes sense, now you've told me.  Regardless, though, I didn't kill myself, Pop.  I'm still here."  He then got real sad too, cryin' somethin' awful.  I was all to pieces wonderin' what to do, cause when Sorrow was hurtin', I was hurtin' with 'im.  "I love you, Pop.  And, I forgive you."  he said.

I got up 'n hugged 'em both while they kept on cryin'.    Finally, Pops spoke up.  "I love you, Eric.  I always have.  If you believe nothing else, just believe that much."  his face was all pleadin'.

"I do, Pop."  Sorrow grinned at 'im.

As they was huggin', I stepped back a piece, lookin' at 'em.  Then, I was feelin' somethin' real strong like for Sorrow.  I don't know what you'd call it, but he was lookin' awful good to me right then.  Wasn't his looks, to be honest, it was more 'n that.  The way he was bein' so nice to Pops 'n all, it made me feel different 'bout 'im.  I knows I loved 'im 'fore all this, but I knows I loved 'im lots more after that.

When Sorrow 'n Pops was finished cryin', they both hugged for a long time.  Then, they both looked at me, reachin' out one of their arms to me.  I walked up to 'em and they both hugged me all tight like.  "I love you, Angel.  Because of you, I am better than I have ever been."  Sorrow said, kissin' me on the head.

Pops laughed.  "I love you, too, Chance, for many reasons.  One is simply because I can.  Another is because you are perfect for Eric, and you make him happy.  Mostly, though, it is because you just have this way about you."  He smiled down at me.  "I guess you are just easy to love, and impossible not to love."

I's all red then, and Sorrow kissed me.  "I told you before Pop, that is why he's my angel."  He held me real close to 'im 'n started swayin' with me.  "I would love to dance with you again sometime soon, Angel.  I really enjoyed that last night."

"Well, I could teach you boys a few more steps if you want."  Pops smiled.

"Yeah, I think that would be fun."  Sorrow grinned over at 'im.

"Tell you what, boys... Let's order us a couple of pizzas and sort out some music.  Then, I will teach you all I know about dancing."  Pops was real 'cited bout that, and so was Sorrow 'n me.

We searched through 'em records waitin' on that pizza to get there.  Pops put on some music, and that lady sounded lots like Hela.  Pops showed us how we was 'posed to be workin' our feet 'n stuff.  Then, we's dancin'.  He'd tell us if we was doin' somethin' wrong, but mostly he just smiled at us.  The doorbell rung 'n Pops went to answer it while Sorrow 'n me kept on dancin'. 

Pops come into the room to get his money, followed by that fella who brought us 'em pizzas.  He looked at me 'n Sorrow real funny like, so's I's feelin' awful uncomfortable like.  Pops saw 'im a lookin' at us 'n laughed.  "I was just teaching Eric and his boyfriend how to dance."  He grinned.

"His boyfriend?"  That fella asked all amazed like.  "And, you are OK with this?"

"Why wouldn't I be?  Chance is a great kid, and he really loves Eric.  There is nothing more I could want for Eric than that."  Pops laughed.

That guy just shook his head.  "Well, you're handling this a lot better than most people would.  My parent's freaked when they met my sister's girlfriend.  They refuse to discuss it, but Sis swears when she finishes high school, she is going to leave for college and never come back home." 

"Why don't you bring her to our group meeting?"  Sorrow asked 'im.  He got 'im a pen and wrote down where and when to go to the meetin'.  "We would love to have you both, her girlfriend, too, if you want to bring her."  Sorrow smiled at 'im, tellin' 'im all 'bout the group.  Pops paid that guy, and he left, tellin' Sorrow he'd talk with 'is sister 'bout it.

We ate us some of that ol' pizza 'n it was the best I's eaten yet.  Then, we danced some more.  Pops danced with us some, showin' us lots of turns 'n bends 'n stuff like that.  We had us a real good time laughin' 'n carryin' on.  Then, we gots ready for bed.  Pops hugged us both, tellin' us night 'n all.

"I's had a great time dancin' with you.  I think Pops is gonna be lots of fun to be 'round."  I grinned, 'n Sorrow was still lookin' REAL GOOD to me.

He grabbed my hand, 'n we danced some more in that room with no music or nothin' like that.  He looked at me, smilin' real big like.  Then, he kissed me awful good.  This 'n was a real long kiss, and his hands was rubbin' me just a little bit, so I's a rubbin' on 'im too.  They's makin' me feel real funny, though, but not in a bad way or nothin'.  I think we's both gettin' too 'cited or somethin', so we just looked at each other for a real long time.  He kissed me again, and we got ready to go to sleep.  Sorrow put his head on my chest 'n  hugged me up real tight.  I held his head close to me, tellin' 'em I loved 'im.

"I love you, too, Angel." he said to me smilin'.  Then, we kinda went to sleep, just enjoyin' bein' close together 'n all.


I was so excited Monday morning.  We had worked diligently between church services on Sunday to get everything moved from the townhouse.  I was officially living with my beloved, and the thoughts had aroused a passionate night for us both.  I suppose we broke my old bed/our new bed in, but good.

Sneaking away from Killian, I bounded down the stairs, running into Ethan in the kitchen.  We chatted casually while I searched for the box of dry goods we had moved from the townhouse.  It was nowhere to be found, and my heart sank quickly.  Frantically tearing into the cabinets, I found that the items were not there either.

"Why are you in such a panic?"  Ethan asked humorously.

"There was a box from the townhouse with the flour and things in it.  Have you seen it?"  I asked rather hastily.

"Oh, that.  Well, it is out in the garbage.  Jena had me bag it up and take it out last night.  She said it was all old stuff, anyway."  He commented as my heart sank to depths far beyond dismay.  "Big guy, what's wrong?"

I darted out the back door quickly, only to see the trash truck driving off.  Standing in my pajamas, I ranted and raved at the dilemma I was now facing.  I ran back into the house, quickly searching for my keys and cell phone.  As I was slipping on my shoes, Ethan stopped me.

"Kanawha, what's wrong?"  he looked so worried.

"Just my luck is returning."  I stated flatly.  "I hope I can catch the truck in time, but I have a feeling this is going to be a long day."

Ethan put on his shoes and followed me to the car.  As we drove off, I called Love, praying to God that Killian would not know what was going on.  "Hey Love... Well, I know you are surprised I am calling you, but something has come up.  Ethan and I are running a small errand... No, hopefully it will not take too long... I know Love.  I cannot wait to spend the day with you either... I love you, too... OK, I'll call you as soon as we are done."  With that, I hung up the phone.

Ethan watched me for a minute.  "So, do you mind telling me why we are driving, clad in our pajamas, in pursuit of the trash truck?"  he asked cautiously.

As much as I tried to see the humor in it all, I was distraught.  Then, I saw the trash truck pulling out from between a couple of houses.  "Thank God!"  I exclaimed.  "There it is!"  I was so excited, and I felt a small tinge of hope.

Silently, we followed.  Several miles later, it turned up a winding road.  at the end was the city land fill.  As the truck stopped to wait in line, I quickly put the car in park and ran to the driver.

He laughed at my story, but in seeing my face, he noted his sympathy.  I followed him to a clearing, where he dumped out the contents of his truck.  An entire mountain of refuse was left in its wake.  I exited the car again, leaving Ethan to wait for my return.  The driver explained my predicament to the man with the dozer, and he said he would leave this area untouched until I was finished.  Then, I returned to the passenger side.

Ethan rolled down the window, as I asked him, "Eth, buddy, this is important.  Do you remember what kind of bag you put everything in?"

He thought a moment.  "It was a large black bag with the yellow tie strings.  Why?"

I shook my head sadly.  "It is never easy, is it?"  I asked to no one in particular.

"Yoo-hoo.  Remember me?"  Ethan said, expressing his annoyance.  "I am the guy who has asked you why we are here several times, yet you still keep neglecting to answer me."

I smiled at him.  Where I found the courage to smile, I will never know.  "Let's just say that my future depends upon me finding that bag.  I would tell you all about it, but you cannot know.  If Love reads it from you, then it will ruin everything."

 Ethan snickered. 
"You know, I have heard some lame excuses from you in the past, but this one sure takes the cake." Then, he opened the car door.  "Well, let's get at it, then."

I looked at him seriously.  "Ethan, you don't have to do this.  I know how you are about being dirty.  I can do this alone."

He hugged me, laughing.  "Don't get a big head over this, but if anyone is worth getting dirty over, you would be one of the top ones on my list."  Then, he looked at the trash pile.  "It just had to be trash."

As we began rummaging in the first couple of bags, the foul stench had us both gagging.  One look at Ethan, as he used the very tips of his fingers to move things about had me tickled.  Then, I burst into strong laughter, seeing the entire scene as others passing by us must. 

Smiling, I hugged the little guy.  "Thanks, Eth.  I needed a good laugh."

With a look of disgust on his face from the smells of the trash, he replied.  "Glad you could find this all so amusing."

"Well, look at it this way.  What would you do if you saw two men, dressed in pajamas, pilfering through a mountain of trash?"  I giggled.

"Wonder what the hell was up with them, I guess."  he said wryly.  "Or, why the hell they were digging in the trash to find a bunch of old food..." he mumbled.

"When this is over, I promise you will understand, Ethan."  I assured him.

He then told me about his and Shaft's big day.  I was really happy for them both, as they seemed so happy together.  I knew he had made such a difference in Ethan.  He was stronger, more confident, and I loved Shaft for that.  I loved Shaft for being Shaft, honestly, but his effect on Ethan was a positive bonus.

We continued ripping through the trash.  "EEWE!"  Ethan cried.  "This one is definitely not ours, unless someone in the house has shitty diapers and is not telling anyone." 

I could tell he was a bit pissed with me as he wiped some of the diaper's contents from his hand on an old newspaper.  I almost collapsed, I was laughing so hard.  Grinning, he slung one of the diapers at me, hitting me in the chest.  "Now, see how funny you think it is, asshole."

Before I knew it, we were peppering one another with trash, laughing hysterically at the other's appearance and reaction.  After a few minutes, we calmed back down and began our search again, each occasionally chuckling.

"Well, what have we here?"  I commented.

"You found it?"  he asked excitedly.

"No, but I found a Johnny Black, Secret Agent action figure."  I grinned, remembering how Ethan and I used to play with them as children.  "You used to take the clothes off of yours so you could see his rippling muscles.  I should have known then that you were into guys."  I shot.

Ethan giggled.  "Man, he had one fine body, though...  Even if it was made out of plastic."  Then, he became somewhat serious.  "You know, I always wondered where they came up with the body proportions for those guys.  I have never seen a live person look anywhere near like Johnny Black."

I snickered.  "Well, if he is such a disappointment for you, then I guess I will throw him back in the bag."

Grabbing the doll, Ethan laughed, "He was my childhood fantasy."  After a moments admiration, he then tucked Johnny securely under his arm.  "I'll put him in the car in a little while."

We continued our search, occasionally finding something worth commenting about.  Ethan found a few treasures, but we had yet to find the object of our search.  My cell began ringing, and I knew it would not be good.

"Ethan, will you answer it.  If I do, then he can read it out of me."  I explained, dreading the idea of him knowing how I had messed up our romantic day together.

Ethan grinned, fishing my phone out of my pajama pocket.  "Kanawha's pants."  He answered laughing.  "Well, they were down around his ankles, so I thought I would just get the phone... Hehehe! Yeah, we are fine... Well, tell that hunk of mine not to worry, we will be home sometime soon...  Well, Kal, he is a little busy at the moment, but I will tell him to call you back as soon as he can... Don't worry.  You know the big buffoon loves you more than life itself... Yeah, I guess you could say we are having an interesting day, though it would be a far stretch calling it fun... all right, I will... You, too.  Bye."  Hanging up the phone and returning it to my pocket, he smiled.  "Kal wants you to call him, like I needed to tell you that."

"Eth, what am I going to do?"  I was so doubting things at this point.  "I have the love of my life waiting for me for a day of romance, and I am here in the bowels of Trash Hell because I am such a moron.  Could I have screwed things up any worse?"

Ethan hugged me, patting my back.  "I'm not sure about what we are even looking for in this mess, but I imagine it had the best of intentions behind it.  You're a great guy, Kanawha, and Kal knows this.  Don't sell yourself short over something that wasn't even your fault."

Ethan was returning to his old self, starting to own up to blame that wasn't his.  "Look, Ethan.  It wasn't your fault, and I have never even thought of blaming you for any of this.  How could you have known I am such a dumb ass?  That stuff had been in the cabinet forever, so I figured it would be a safe place to hide it.  I should have told you and Jena that the box was important, but I didn't think about it.  I just figured the less who knew, the less likely it was for Love to find out."

"Well, we have always known you were a dumb ass, big guy."  He jabbed.  "I guess this is all just a big accident, but if it causes you any heat, I will take the brunt of it all.  I owe you that much."  Ethan smiled.

"Well, I guess it would be better for Kal to kick your ass than mine."  I giggled.  "Eth, we just have to find that damn bag!"

Frantically, we searched for the next two hours.  We were down to the last bag, when Love and Shaft pulled up.  I quickly ripped the bag open, only to be disappointed yet again.

"See, I told you he would read it out of you.  That is honestly the only reason I haven't said more, Eth."  I said in dismay.

"Are you sure that was the right truck?"  Ethan asked quietly, seeing Kal and Shaft were approaching us.

"Well, not exactly.  I was just kinda hoping it was."  I admitted.

"You know, if it was not the right truck, I might just have to kill you and stuff your body under this pile of stench."  Ethan giggled.

"You stand me up to take Ethan to the playground?"  Love chuckled.  "Oh, Love!  Look at you!"  He laughed.

"Honey, do you realize what kind of diseases you can pick up from playing in the trash?"  Shaft joked with Ethan.  "I guess we should take you boys to the hospital for your vaccinations immediately."

Love embraced me, just as Shaft hugged Ethan.  We were ready to kiss our men, when our men backed away from us.  "OH, Love!"  Killian cried, pinching his nose.  "That is one smell I will NEVER forget."

"Baby,"  Shaft said, in a mirrored position to Love, "I think we need to hose you down.  I think you are taking the image of trashy blond a bit too far."

"Do you want to be sleeping all alone, or are you going to quit being such an ass?"  Ethan replied sarcastically.

Love laughed.  "You two are a mess.  What in the blazes has gotten into you?  Why are you rooting around in garbage?"

"It just seemed like the thing to do."  I quipped.  "Ethan and I were discussing the things we had yet to do in our lives, and, amazingly, this was number two on both our lists."

"Well, do you think we could tear you away from all of your fun long enough to spend the day with us?"  Shaft asked, pretending to be hurt.

I was ready to throw in the towel and explain it all, when Valerie's words struck me again.  "Please, God!"  I cried out, turning around.  There, all by itself sat one lonely black bag with a yellow tie.  Cautiously walking towards it, I poured all the faith I could muster into my heart.  "I'll be.... Thank you, Lord!"  I cheered.  Then, I offered up a silent prayer of thanks.

""Alleluia!"  Ethan grinned, peering into the bag.

I toted the bag to the car, sitting it down to open the trunk.  Love peered into the bag.  "Love, I know we talked about saving back as much money as we can for the boys' futures, but I think this is carrying it a bit too far."  He chuckled.

I put the bag in the trunk, and turned to him.  "Shut up, smart ass, and get in the car.  We have a date, remember?"  I smiled.

"Well, I'm ready if you are."  he jabbed.  "Let's go to the restaurant right now."  As he opened the door, he found Johnny.  "What is this?"  He asked, smirking at me with his eyebrow raised.

Ethan grabbed him up, along with his other trinkets.  "I'll take him, thank you."  Then, he looked at Shaft.  "For being such an ass crusty, you don't get to look at Johnny with his shirt off."

Shaft laughed as the two of them piled into his car.  We all headed back to the house.  Love had the window down, laughing about the smell.  "And you made fun of the fish smell.  See how things come back to haunt you?"  He joked.

As we pulled into the driveway, the boys came out to greet us.  They backed away quickly as the smell of Ethan and myself drifted through the air, snickering at the sight of us.  I opened the trunk and pulled out a box of macaroni from the trash bag. 
Entering the house, Love smiled at me.  "You really need a shower, Love.  Go on up, and I will join you shortly."

I handed him the box of macaroni.  "Actually, while I am showering, why don't you cook this up for us.  I am starving, and I am craving some macaroni and tomatoes."  I grinned.

He just looked at me like I had lost my mind.  "You don't actually want to eat this, do you?"

"Love, this is macaroni from Georgia."  I laughed.

"They sell this same brand here, too, you know.  How about a new box, and we through this one away?"  He replied.

"The kind from Georgia is better."  I shot.  "Everything in Georgia is better.  Now, just go cook it, and I will be down as soon as I get cleaned up."  I smiled.

Looking at me as if I were completely insane, Love turned and went into the kitchen.

I darted up the stairs and stripped out of my pajama's as soon as I was in our room.  I was walking to the bathroom when I found a chocolate kiss on the floor.  Then there was another.  A whole trail of them, in fact, led to the shower.  Tears filled my eyes as I took in the sight. 

There were twelve dozen roses sitting in the shower, surrounded by at least eighty bags worth of hugs and kisses.  On the shower wall, there hung another dozen roses, along with a note from Love, which read:

"I have given you flowers and showered you with hugs and kisses.  I love you, but what more does a guy have to do to get you to marry him?  Perhaps ask, I guess.  Kanawha, will you do me the honor of becoming my life partner, committing yourself to me in a ceremony at our church, in front of God, our sons, and our family?" 

At the bottom of the note was a wedding band.  Inscribed were the words "My Love, Forever and a Day."  Blinded by tears, I started sprinting to my love.  Thinking and feeling the draft, I grabbed my robe and then continued running to him.


The idea of cooking trash infested macaroni was not to my liking, let me tell you.  It was just irrational.  But, if that was what Love wanted, then I would do it.  I found a colander, thinking if I washed the macaroni well, it might be better.  'Hopefully,' I shuddered, 'the boiling will be enough to kill any germs.'

I was surprised when I dumped the box into the colander.  I picked up the envelope and slowly opened it.  I removed the card and was quickly moved to tears by each word I read:

"Love, this is my backup plan.  Call me a pessimist all you want, but I have had such a good run of luck since you brightened my world, I am not willing to take any chances.  Sooner or later, my old luck is bound to rear its ugly head.  So, if you are reading this, then I guess I was unfortunately right.  First, let me say how truly sorry I am for ruining our day, though I have no idea how I managed to do it at this point."

"You deserve the very best, and try as I may to give it to you, sometimes I fail.  My plans were for a lovely day and evening, filled with good, southern romance.  Then, I wanted to do this properly.  Seeing that something has gone awry, I hope this will do.  In my heart, I could never love you more.  You are simply the  greatest gift I have ever received.  Your love has brought me to life in ways I never dreamed could happen.  With you by my side, I know that all things are possible.  After all, a big bonehead like me found a wonderful man like you."

"Love, will you marry me?  I know in our hearts we have dedicated our lives to one another, but I would like to have a ceremony.  I want God, our sons, and our family to witness our commitment to each other, and to have their blessings upon our union.  Maybe I am old fashioned, but my love for you could never be more true."

In the center of the card was a wedding band.  Inscribed were the words "I love you, Always and Forever."  I noticed the band was a perfect match to the one I bought for Love.  Then, I remembered the shower.  As swiftly as I could move, I darted out the kitchen to my love.

We met in the middle of the staircase, both shedding tears of joy.  "Oh, Love!  You have made me the happiest man to ever walk this earth."  I smiled, pulling him close as he encased me in his loving arms.

"You would have to be the second happiest man, because I have you.  That makes me by far happier than you could ever be."  he sighed. 

After an eternity in his embrace, I smiled, gazing at him. "Love?"

"Yes, Love?"  He grinned.

"I love you more than anything, but YOU STINK!" 

Kanawha laughed, and I took his hand, leading him to the shower.  After removing the flowers and the candy, I washed his body carefully and thoroughly.  Then, I let him kiss me.

"I suppose we should start getting ready."  He said, hinting for me to get out of the shower.  "We have a big day ahead of us."

I smiled at him.  "Honestly, Love, I could think of nothing better or more romantic than spending the day with you in our room."

"Well, we could do that, if you would not be too disappointed."  he smirked.

I grabbed his manhood in my hand, grinning.  "Now, how could you possibly disappoint me, Love?"

Nothing more needed to be said.  We spent the next few hours making love repeatedly to each other.  Finally exhausted, we showered again, dressed and joined everyone downstairs. 

The boys were getting ready to leave with Derek.  He called me Sonny again, and I was moved to tears.  I knew how special that name was to him, and I was deeply honored he felt that way about me.  I mused to myself that it would be nice to have a father, seeing that David and I would be close to the same age if he were still alive.  We kissed our young men good-bye, commenting on how cute they were together.  Then, we went back inside.

After visiting with the family, Love and I joined Ethan and Shaft for dinner and a movie.  It was a great time double dating with our dear friends... well, they were truly more like our brothers.  I was able to connect on a closer level to Ethan, as was Love to Shaft.  Overall, it was one of the most romantic times I had ever had.  The only one better would be the moment I met my love in the bookstore.  After all, that was the day my life truly began.

Well, this completes chapter nine.  Thanks for reading, and please let me know what you think.  Chapter ten will be coming  soon.

I Wanna Grow Old with You
Lyrics by:  McFadden, Filan, Egan  ©2001