Reservations – A Novel
By Drew Filchak
Chapter Thirteen: “Simplifications”
I hated doing it – ending the extended moment I'd spent watching the boys sleep. A good five minutes had passed as I stood, lost in my thoughts, in the doorway of their room gradually absorbing the reality that, in so many ways, each one of them had chosen each other … and chosen us in turn.
As I watched them sleep … Mau curled up into Chris' chest, his head resting on Chris' bicep … Timmy burrowed under the blankets so that only the top of his head peaked out … Cleats lying flat out on his back, resolutely snoring as the covers surrounding him lay heaped to one side, and Ben, rolled away from Cody though still connected with his new-found boyfriend as his face lay cupped in Cody's outstretched and relaxed palm … the collective sight of the six boys at rest brought me my own sense of resolution.
I wasn't naïve or foolish enough to think the peace would last, but its comfort in the moment was enough for now.
The gentle nudge woke Ben. He looked up towards me and sucked in the drool spilling down his cheek. He rubbed his face once.
"Give me a second, B." A deep yawn followed an agonizing stretch and a satisfied moan as he rolled over towards Cody to place a light kiss on his makeshift pillow. The gesture stirred a deep emotion within me. I turned to leave the room giving privacy its expression, its moment. The sweet gentleness was Ben's alone to experience.
I raised the pair of Ben's running shoes in my hand as I whispered back to him. "I've got your shoes, bud. Take your time."
My turn into the restaurant's entrance instead of heading for the street exit confused Ben. His look, as usual, conveyed so much.
"I thought that instead of running this morning, I'd have some overdue one-on-one time with Hank."
His head tilted in question. "So what am I doing here?"
"What do you mean?"
He rolled his eyes. "If you want to bond with your boy, why you bringing me? I just thought we were gonna run." He looked toward the front of the diner. "Is it even open yet?"
Ah. Now I understood. "It's always open for us. Besides, what good is one-on-one time with my buddy without my best boy with me?" I bumped his shoulder with mine and watched as his eyes rolled keeping his expression disinterested, just as I knew he would. What he couldn't keep me from seeing though was the delight that tweaked his eyes. I threw my arm across his shoulder and headed towards the bar.
Hank must have been in the back and since it was still twenty minutes to seven, the main door remained locked to customers. We took our seats and turned the coffee mugs over just as Hank came through the service doors. His original direction shifted slightly towards the coffee urn even though he didn't acknowledge us until he'd retrieved the pot.
"It's about time you decided to come home, bitch. I was beginning to think you didn't love me anymore." His expression remained neutral as he filled our cups. I grunted to acknowledge his words. Hank held the pot over Ben's cup, pausing before he poured. "You still taking it black?" His eyes met Ben's short nod.
I saw a smirk form on his young face. "Hank, don't be upset with Blair. Being our mommy is hard work." Ben shot me a quick tip of his chin as I snorted. "Plus, word says you've been tied up on the shrink's couch."
I looked fully at Ben as he raised his cup for a sip. My lips parted to say something, but nothing came out. How did he hear that Hank and Gayle had connected?
Hank nodded slowly. He set the pot on the bar between us. "That's what you hear, huh?"
"Well," Hank started, "someone's got to give her a little TLC after a couple days spent with a bunch of juvies. I'm just tryin' to do my part."
Ben tipped his chin again. "Word."
Hank leaned his hands against the bar and threw me a smile. "Kid's got a smart mouth on him. Doesn't guardianship give you the right to smack him or something?"
My head shook once. "I have to do the whole 'I want to be his father' in court thing first and then I think they still frown on that sort of thing. Shame, huh?"
"Damn shame. What's the world coming to, bud?"
"Oh, so now he's your bud," Ben shot out. "A second ago he was your biaatch!"
My arm shot around Ben's neck and I had him in a strangle hold before he knew I'd even moved. "I say we take him and his mouth in the back and work a little of the attitude out of him. What say?"
Hank's eyebrows raised quickly, his eyes bright and amused. "Word."
"Oooh, I'm scared, all a shiver."
"Yeah, I know you are." My laughter started to rise as Hank joined me. I gave Ben's neck a last squeeze then planted a kiss to the top of his head and released him.
The banter continued as Hank placed a food order for us. It felt good to simply enjoy my time at the bar catching up with my bud and having Ben with me. We spent no time speaking about the boys. The conversation focused on how he and Gayle connected and about their date the night before and where he was taking her to dinner this evening. We talked about a couple new restaurants that had opened recently and about what stage shows were playing at the performing arts center. While Hank served other customers, Ben and my conversation centered around the new house and what kids he knew living on the streets that might consider coming to stay at my place in City Park. I shared with him that Bill was going to continue meeting with them for a while, but he'd probably take over the Adams Street house and the new crop of boys.
My morning surprise came when he asked what time his father and uncle were going to be arrested. I didn't know. He just nodded. After a moment he turned to me and said 'thanks' for believing him. A quick squeeze of his shoulder let him know how I felt. I could tell he didn't want to talk any more about it.
"How are you and Cody doing?"
His face lit up with a giddy smile. "Good."
He nodded once. "Yeah." He covered his deepening smile with a last sip from his cup.
"Joel and I were talking about the bedrooms at the new place."
A quick look towards me and then a return to his cup was the extent of his reaction.
"It, uh, puts us in kind of a difficult situation, with you being my son in time and Cody being Joel's. We know you're going to be sixteen soon and Cody is already, so after talking about it some we were thinking that maybe you and Cody …"
"Blair! You can't be serious about us being in separate rooms! Man, it's the best part of the day."
I held my hands up to stop him. "Hold on. At first, we thought about it then knew that at this point it didn't matter. What I was going to say was that we thought it might be best for you and Cody to take the smaller room that Mau and Timmy are taking since you'll be in just one bed and they'll have two in their room."
Ben smirked widely though he tried to hold it in. "Yeah, jam."
I grinned at him. "We both still don't think that you two should be having sex, but we don't know anyway of stopping it."
Ben's face scrunched into a scowl showing his distaste that I'd put the topic out on the table so openly. "All we're doing is kissing, Blair."
"And you're going to sit there and tell me that's gonna be okay for both of you?" My look plainly conveyed my doubt.
I thought the heavy sigh I heard was going to be the only response I received. He surprised me again. "I get so weirded out and … confused sometimes, B. And then, there's times like last night where all I wanted to do was tear his clothes off." He looked at me. His eyes contained doubt and confusion and a wildness that I recognized as youthful lust. He shook his head after a moment as if to clear some thought. "I mean, he's like … had all this sex before and I haven't … "
"As I told you before … "
"… had any." He finished, quietly, and first looked down to his cup then turned his blue eyes, completely confused and plaintive, toward me. The near-panicked look screamed his desire, but yet, also contained the fear that any fifteen-year old boy felt as the first thoughts of acting on previously unknown, yet horribly strong desires warred within his psyche. And I saw added to it lay the anti-societal, ingrained conditioned response that said what he wanted was so completely wrong no matter how he tried to spin it. My protective instinct, which had grown considerably since his first arrival, kicked in and I reached to squeeze his shoulder to let him know that I understood.
But I stopped.
The look I witnessed in that instant and what caused my heart to swell with tenderness and understanding, vanished completely in a flash to be horrifyingly replaced with a twisted expression of disgust and self-loathing. The look rocked my core.
"I'm no virgin. I've had sex." He spat, more to himself than to me.
No previous experience had prepared or paved the way to deal with the rush of thoughts and emotions instantly bombarding me as his words sank in along with all their hate and resignation. My mind, my thinking processes, instantly numbed and froze as if I'd stalled in the moment. He made no actual difference between the horrific rape committed against his body, his soul, than with that of the utter beauty and sanguine joy of making love to someone you had feelings for. Even if it was just sex, there was no distinction emanating from him. He didn't, couldn't see a difference between that and what his fucking uncle had done to him! None whatsoever. And then it hit me … it was all he knew. The bastard took his utter virginity!
He stared at me openly as tears flooded his eyes. "Why would Codes even want to touch me?"
Oh, God! No!
"Stop, Ben!" My voice hissed urgently demandingly. One hand flew to grasp his neck and the other cupped his chin as the forming, unwanted tears threatened to prompt some of my own. I swallowed roughly and forced my tears back. "That was rape, son, brutal and wrong and … criminal in so many fucking ways that that bastard … " my whispered hiss shook with quiet, undisguised rage, " … is going to rot in hell for what he did to you.” His tears overflowed and his chin began to shake uncontrollably in my hand. "That was not sex, Ben! There is nothing that he did to you that will ever compare to making love with Cody. Please, son, Ben … please, you've got to separate it in your mind, your heart … somehow, you've got to believe that what you're feeling for Cody is really, really good and honest and pure and … completely okay to feel."
My fingers, desperate to convey some kind of solace, caressed the back of his head lovingly. Automatically, he moved towards me and buried his face in my chest as his body hitched, miserable and in pain. Enveloped in my arms, his whine reached my ears.
"I want him so much, Blair … it's so sick …"
"No, baby boy, no. It's not sick, it's natural and it's just fine. Okay?" His body shook in spasm, convulsing uncontrollably. I looked around to see what people were noticing. There was only one other man and a woman watching us from across the bar and I could see a pain in their gaze as they saw a man and his obviously upset son experiencing a tender, heart-rending, albeit public, moment. Hank stood leaning against the service bar, his eyes trained on us. I threw the couple a tight smile along with a wink to Hank then squeezed Ben tightly and kissed the top of his head. "You're okay, Ben. Alright?"
We sat quietly; me embracing him, him crying softly. Slowly, his quaking unvoiced sobs quieted and I felt his breathing slow to more of a regular rhythm -- the current hurricane subsiding. His face pushed against my chest and I felt a slight wetness through the thin fabric. Sometimes a smile feels so good. Mine did.
Hank’s quiet voice reached us from the service area. "Hey boy, you need a Kleenex?"
He sniffed a couple of times and slowly pulled away then nodded once towards Hank. Tear stains covered his face. He looked at me; so tentative was his glance that I couldn't help but to blow him a kiss meant to convey my love and acceptance. The slight upraise of his mouth, showing he felt that 'I was just being weird' yet at the same time knew how much I loved him, caused deep emotion to foster an unexpected thought. We'd known each other for such a short, miniscule amount of time, but we were connected to the core. There was no doubt in me whatsoever – we were meant to hook up and spend the rest of our lives entwined in each other's paths. And that realization spurred the deepest smile I'd felt in weeks to surface. In its most simple form, I knew that everything was going to be okay. I knew it deep inside. That simple knowledge brought with it deep contentment.
"What?" Another sniff accented his scowl.
"What's that stupid 'Blair smile' for?" His eyes scrunched to underscore his words. "You're so wiggly, dude." His voice, while trying to push the utterly intense emotion aside so he could somehow regain his 'coolness', trembled with a quaking lilt.
My lips pursed to suppress my smirk, but I instantly knew I couldn't contain myself. "I just love you being in my life, boy."
A sudden twitch in his face was followed by a literal gush of renewed tears that instantly overflowed his eyes and blazed new trails down his pristine, red cheeks. His shoulders hitched again, emotion racking his lithe, young body. With both hands, I reached up and tucked his hanging blonde hair behind his ears then pointed my finger deliberately at him.
"I mean it, Ben." My chin tipped upward in a mimic of his routine response. "And I mean it for good."
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Hank move toward us, his one hand offering a box of tissues while the other held a full pot of coffee. "I keep these around because I have a horrible sinus condition."
Ben effectively hid his smile at the non-subtle redirection behind his trademark eye roll as he grabbed a tissue.
Hank smile widely. "Take two. They've got a nice lotion additive." He filled both cups, then set the pot on the bar and propped his hands on the edge. "I'll say this, Blair." His eyes fixed on me, sparkling with play. "Ever since you first set eyes on Joel as he entered from the back so long ago, you've brought a hell of a lot of colorful drama to this ole diner. I think I aught to write a book about it. Hell, retirement could be just a few keystrokes away!"
Ben blew his nose, raucously, as only a teenager without pre-conditioned hang-ups could. I grinned. "So, bud," I said to Hank as I tipped my chin towards the couple across the bar, "they couldn't hear what we were saying, could they?" I threw a conspiratorial glance towards Ben who reflexively darted his eyes once towards Hank then across towards the couple. "Some things are meant to stay between a guy and his kid, if you know what I mean." That made Ben happy if his look of gratitude was any indication.
"Naa. You boys' secret is only known to me." He winked at Ben, giving him a tight grin. "Did you get enough to eat, kid? Want some more sausage?"
Ben shook his head shyly.
"You're alright, kid; you know that, don't ya?" Hank's head tilted toward Ben. "Word?"
A quick nod paralleled Ben's response. "Word, dude."
Hank nodded affirmatively then grabbed the coffee pot and walked towards the couple. I turned toward Ben.
"Son," I started quietly. "Please, don't worry about Cody. Take it slowly. You're both such great kids. You won't regret waiting, I promise. And neither will Cody." Without thinking about it, I reached across and tucked his hair behind his ear which earned me an immediate roll of his beautiful blue eyes.
"Now, are you ready to head upstairs? I need to talk with Joel about a couple of things."
He nodded and stood as I waived to Hank with a parting comment to enjoy his evening.
As the elevator doors closed, Ben launched towards me, wrapping his arms around my chest.
The phone lay in my hand, mute finally, as I stared at the nine steaks spread out across the cutting board in front of me. My mind flashed between the last three phone calls and trying to remember if I'd salted the steaks. The day's events somewhat staggered me with their scope. But it was the stray thought that I'd be sleeping alone tonight which seemed to cause me the most difficulty, at least for the moment. It was a bizarre reaction, yet somehow it was easier to focus on than the events of the past few hours. Joel and I hadn't spent a night apart in almost seven weeks.
My thought skipped to the reason for the separation and the end result of his impromptu meeting in Chicago. Cleats was going to be our son.
The concept blew my mind.
I'd had some time over the past week or so since Joel and I first spoke about adopting the boys and buying the house, to get used to the idea, but now, today, we had our first actual, confirmative step towards making it a reality.
Upon entering the apartment after breakfast with Hank, Joel greeted Ben and me at the door with an excited and wild look in his eyes. He'd just hung up with Steven and had gotten him to agree to not pursue either Cleats' or Chris' parents unless they refused to sign a waiver of parental rights for their sons. I still didn't know how he did it, but he did and Cleats and Joel were scheduled on a ten o'clock flight to Chicago to present Cleats' father with the waiver. Joel said Cleats had insisted on going and Joel admitted that he couldn't come up with a reason to refuse him.
The last phone call was from Joel. Cleats' father had signed the waiver.
They'd been waiting on the front porch of Cleats' house when his father arrived. Joel said that Cleats had stopped his father immediately from going on about 'what Cleats wanted now' after giving him a home his whole life and then damn-near cutting his face off. He'd told his father that he wanted nothing from him other than his signature on the form and he'd be gone from his life for good. Joel shared that the shock had been apparent on his father's face when he finally understood the purpose of the form.
"Blair," Joel's voice had dropped to a low, almost soft tone, "I swear the man aged twenty years in front of me. It was like he could hate and curse his own son, but to think about Cleats not wanting him to be his parent was too much. He sagged and almost collapsed, but Cleats helped him into a chair. He handed him the waiver and pen and said 'Sign it, old man. It's for the best.' I'm telling you, Blair, the look his father gave him … god, it was completely blank except for the fact that his eyes were very wet and so very bloodshot." Joel had had to stop and clear his voice. "Then Cleats took his father's keys out of his hand and let himself in the house and returned a second later, handed him a beer and told him again to sign the paper as he got a couple of things from the house. Blair, the man was in shock. But before Cleats came back out, he looked at me, then pointed to the limo waiting on the street and asked if it was mine. When I nodded, he asked me to please take care of his son, signed the form and gave it to me."
Joel said that when Cleats returned, all he had with him was a pair of track shoes and a small framed picture of his mother. His father had looked away when Cleats came out and Cleats had shrugged before heading to the limo. They were staying the night in Chicago so that Cleats could see his older sister.
I still felt the intensity of the scene Joel had shared with me. I looked down at the steaks lying half-prepared and shook my head as I thought about the calls from Rob relating his conversations with the District Attorney's office. The arrests of Ben's father and uncle and Cody's parents had occurred as planned. The Wyoming arrest took a little longer due to the fact that Cody's aunt was called to come watch his younger brother and sister. It wasn't expected that Cody's mother would be held for very long as she had tried to stop his father from kicking him out and bail would be set at a reasonable amount for her release. There would be no bail for his father. Extradition orders were being handled for his transfer to Denver to appear before Steven Chambers.
Ben's father denied the whole thing. The sheriffs found him and Ben's uncle drunk at three in the afternoon. Both were belligerent and calling Ben a liar until the uncle got too riled up and said he deserved what he got and that Ben had begged him to fuck him. Rob would meet with both fathers in the morning regarding leniency if they signed the waivers. In Cody's case, his mother would also need to sign.
I stared at the meat, unfocused and unseeing. The quiet in the apartment spoke volumes as to the general mood. Bill had spent the better part of the afternoon with the five boys in the media room. While the door remained open, I hadn’t heard much sound coming from the boys for sometime now. I’d quickly brought Bill up-to-date with the events from the prior evening between Chris and Mau and the fact that Mau hadn’t let Chris out of his sight all day. I also related my morning with Ben even though it felt like I was betraying confidences. Bill had assured me he wouldn’t directly bring up the events, but he needed to know the smallest things at this point if he was going to make any kind of headway. I’d warned him upon his arrival that the boys were all fairly sullen and quiet. I couldn’t blame any of them. Cody and Ben both knew that the arrests had occurred and had no comments with the exception of Cody asking about his brother and sister.
I looked again at the phone in my hand. There would be one more phone call yet this evening. Rob was currently in Colorado Springs meeting with Chris's parents. Inside, I was glad that Chris had not wanted to go. He’d said he never wanted to see either of them again. That conviction remained and I found no fault in it.
Gradually, the realization sunk in that my staring at the phone wasn’t going to make it ring. I set it on the counter and my hand reflexively went to my neck in a feeble attempt to reduce some of the tension stored there. The sound of someone entering the kitchen from the hallway prompted me to turn. Chris stood looking at me, his face a mask of relief and calm.
“It’s done, B. They signed.”
My eyes widened. “How do you know?”
“I had Rob call me when he got there so he could put the bastard on the phone. I simply made him sign it. Rob just called again to say he’s on his way back to Denver and that all the stuff of mine from the list I sent with him would be arriving in a few days.”
I guess I wasn’t really surprised at his unknown involvement. I wondered briefly how he 'made his father sign', but let it go. The fact of the matter stood for itself – he’d been on his own, on the streets since October; over seven full months. He stood across from me with little of the insecurities from last night left in his stance. Having a hand in determining his own destiny apparently had a good effect on him.
"Do you feel as calm as you look?"
He shrugged. "Maybe. I just know I feel better. I'm never gonna have to go back."
I studied him for a moment. His jeans hung loosely on his hips as the short-waisted tee-shirt just brushed the waistband. He looked comfortable and relaxed. The change in him was noticeable. I hadn't realized how tense he'd been since he'd come to stay with us until I now saw the lack of it. With his hair pulled back, the muscles of his neck and those into the shoulders were visibly less clenched and his shoulders seemed to drop further than before. He actually slouched some which was considerably different than before. He'd always remained erect of posture even when he'd lean against a counter or sit on a couch or chair.
"What?" He asked, interrupting my study.
My head nodded slowly as a grin formed. "Just checking you out. It's remarkable how much more relaxed you are. I can see it everywhere, even in your face."
Another shrug. "Yeah, well … you're not." He locked eyes with me. "I think that playing Daddy and Mommy is taking its toll on you."
It was my turn to shrug. "Maybe, but I think it's more about not having a good workout in a couple of weeks. My body needs a real brutal hour or so with the weights. I just haven't had the time lately." I smirked. "And as far as the 'Daddy and Mommy' thing, that's finally gotten a little easier."
"Yeah? How, B.? I know what you two have dealt with over the past … oh … thirty-six hours. How's it gotten any easier?"
I couldn't quite figure out what he was after as far as his question went.
"Let's just say that I'm in control of my life again. For a while there, I'd kind of let myself be tossed from one thing to another."
A slow nod answered my words. It was quickly followed by a smirk. "When do Fu and Cleats get back?"
"Tomorrow morning. Change of plans. Cleats wanted some time with his sister."
"They get the waiver signed?"
I nodded. "Are you guys finished up with Bill?"
"I guess. He and Cody are taking on the T and Bone."
"I don't know, but Bill's kickin' everyone's ass." He grinned
"Huh." I turned back to my task of seasoning the meat, finally deciding that what ever I'd put on it before I zoned out would have to be enough. I covered them and started to clean a big bag of green beans. Chris moved next to me and grabbed a handful. We cleaned in silence for a short while until I noticed that he'd stopped. I waited.
"Mau's been all over me since we woke up."
I gave him a quick glance. "Yeah. It's been kind of hard to miss. What do you think's going on?"
Chris shrugged. "Bill asked him why he was staying so close to me."
"He said because he liked the way I smelled."
I turned my head at his words and couldn't resist the urge to play up on the comment. I sniffed loudly which brought a grin from him. "Hmm. All I smell is horny boy."
Chris laughed and pushed my shoulder. "I may still be horny, but I'm all man where it counts."
I laughed with him and grabbed another handful of beans. "I guess, dude." God, I thought, I'm even beginning to talk like them. "After what I saw last night, I'd have to agree that you definitely would hold your own with the men." I smirked at my pun.
"Oh, that's low, B."
"I couldn't resist."
The comfortable silence felt nice, companionable. We finished the last of the beans and I grabbed some lettuce for the salad. Chris' question surprised me and finally answered my question about what he was really asking earlier.
"So, Blair, if you want, you can still change your minds, you know."
I paused then set the lettuce on the counter and wiped my hands while turning to face him squarely. "At least now I know why you were asking how I was doing. But let me tell you a couple of things, Chris." His gaze focused on the counter. "Look at me, please." The look that reached my eyes conveyed the very clear fact that while he may have taken some real steps towards manhood with his forcing his father to surrender parental rights, he was still very much a seventeen-year old young man placing his trust in adults that he'd only known for two weeks.
"It's not that …"
"Chris, yes it is. And it's all right. I may have needed some time to adjust to the six of you and I'm sure my adjustment period is going to go on for a while, but I want you, all of you, to be in my life everyday. I want us to be a family for good."
"C'mon, Blair. Admit it. You would never have even considered any of this if it hadn't been for Joel."
"Yes, that's true, but life has a way of bringing you what you need even when you don't know what that is. I'd do just about anything for Joel. That's what love and being in love with someone is all about. I've waited my whole life to meet that man and when I finally did, I fell in love with him. I had no clue what came with that love and I'm only partially referring to you boys. It may have been a surprise for me, but I've fallen in love with each one of you." I reached to turn his chin towards me so I could look into his eyes. "You, along with the others, are why I met Joel. That may not make sense to you right now, but I believe it fully.
"A couple nights ago, Joel and I were sharing the results of our separate talks with you, Cleats, Ben and Cody, and I was completely overwhelmed by your needs and by what I saw as my inadequate skills in meeting those needs. But then a funny thing happened. For the first time since I met Joel, I saw him doubt himself. Not about having you in our lives, but he doubted which direction to go next. And it hit me then that the eight of us had been directed to this point and it was up to us to choose if we wanted to continue. We all have a choice, Chris. And I knew then, very suddenly actually, that what Joel and I had set into motion was what we were meant to be doing."
"But …" his voice quavered showing his very real desire to believe what I was saying while at the same time he was afraid to trust it. A desperate plea, bordering on a prayer for my words to be true, poured from his eyes.
"But what, bud?"
"But do you want us? Do you want me?"
I pulled his shoulders close and wrapped him in my arms. My hand pressed his head against my cheek. "Oh, yes, Chris. I do want you. I want all of you to be my boys … my sons … and live with us and be with us and grow up with us for as long as possible." My whisper into his ear brought a shudder to his body and I felt his arms tentatively return the embrace. "It's okay to be a bit afraid now, Chris," I continued softly. "You've been through so much and now, with the custody thing, you have even more reason to be afraid, but we won't let you down, son. Not in the end. We won't. I promise you that."
His hug tightened and I felt his whole body shudder again with a wracking emotion. I heard the sounds of the other boys coming down the hallway and made the decision to let them see me hugging Chris. They entered the kitchen, Tim leading, and then they stopped. I shot them a quick smile and a wink and Chris continued to cry in my arms. I saw Bill enter finally and take in the scene.
"And that goes for each of you," I started. Chris pulled back and turned to find his boys looking at him, concerned expressions on each face. He went to wipe his eyes as I continued. "I want all of you to be my boys. I want all of you to be my family." I gestured to Timmy with my arm and he moved into a one-arm hug, his small arms encircling my waist. "I love you guys." I pulled Chris against me again as the intensity of the moment launched my face into a wide smile.
Mau's worried expression turned from me to Chris. "Chrissy?"
Chris sniffed once then nodded to him. "I'm okay, bro."
Ben's eyes locked with mine and he knew from my look that everything was okay.
"Ben, Cody," I started as I continued to hold onto Chris and Timmy, "I know today's been tough with all the stuff with your parents. How are you doing?"
They both shrugged and I couldn't help but grin. "That's fair." I gave Timmy a final squeeze and released both him and Chris. I walked toward the other boys and with one hand, tucked Ben's hair behind his ear and messed Cody's hair with the other. I blew a kiss to Mau, who blushed and grinned. My eyes met Bill's briefly and he gave me a wink and a nod.
"Okay, enough of the serious stuff." I said. "Who's hungry?"
Timmy didn't hesitate. "I'm starved, B-man."
His comment launched a series of grins and a few laughs. Chris grabbed Timmy around the waist which brought a squeal of delight from him. "You're always hungry, T-man," Chris said.
"Great, then." I winked at Ben. "Would you light the grill, pup?"
Maybe a third glass of scotch wasn't such a bad idea. Depending on my mental state and how much propane was left in the patio heater's tank, I might just have a fourth. The mental chuckle threatening to escalate into a full-throated hysterical laugh wasn't going to be snuffed out like some uncontrollable case of the giggles in church regardless of the preacher's glare. The problem with my threatening chuckles lay with their source.
The first glass helped. The second, better.
Too bad Bill hadn't stuck around a little longer. Or better yet, too bad this one couldn't have waited until we were in the new house and Gayle was a whole hell of a lot closer. I just hoped the fuck I did the right thing. Time would tell once she returned my call.
Tossing away the absurd, sudden wish for an on-call servant to bring me another scotch, I pressed myself out of the chair and out of the circle of heat carrying my empty glass towards the terrace doors. Mau had left the right one ajar in his haste to find Chris and as I pulled it further open I heard two things; the main entry door closing somewhat forcefully and a bizarre shout.
"Mommy, we're home! What's for supper? I'm starved!"
I stepped through the doorway just as Cleats and Joel entered the main living area. They wore identical, devilish smirks. Part of their smirks was obviously due to Cleats' declaration and the other part was probably caused by the surprise of their early return. It didn't matter. I was glad to see them.
"Don't 'mommy I'm starved' me, boy. Dinner's already cold and besides, you're not supposed to be home until the morning."
His pout along with Joel's uncharacteristic 'uh oh, mommy's pissed' caused my surprise and happiness at seeing them home early to burst through and I tossed my arms open wide. "Give me a hug, kid."
A subtle smirk and he moved into my arms. His return hug held an intensity that surprised me even more than the fact that I was the first to pull away though only slightly. "Welcome home, Cleats," I said softly. "You're our first and that makes me very happy."
Emotion clouded his face, most likely from his own surprise at the hug he'd just been a part of. I saw a question in his eyes.
"What d'ya mean the first?"
"The first one with a clear road towards becoming part of our family." My words struck him solidly. He stared into my eyes, searching for something. Maybe it was assurance that my words were truly meant. Maybe he looked to see if there was humor behind my words. Maybe he was looking for a way out. I didn't know anything more than the fact that I also saw fear looking back at me. The two scotches I'd just finished probably played into the loosening of my emotions to the point of saying what I did, but inside, I knew I meant what I'd said, completely.
The conflicting emotions across his face suddenly gelled into one of raw longing. "If you still want me, then we're cool …uh …."
I cupped his cheek briefly in response then slid my hand to the back of his head behind his locks. A gentle squeeze and my wink lifted his expression slightly. "Good."
Joel watched our interaction. His mouth stood slightly open as our intimate touch ended and Cleats stepped back. Our eyes met for more than the few seconds they'd touched during my words with Cleats. They contained love and longing, and I smiled.
"Hey, Mr. Summers. There and back again, eh?"
"You could say that, Mr. Michaels." He winked.
I looked again towards Cleats. "I have one last steak already cooked. Did you not eat? I can reheat it and slice up a tomato."
Cleats' eyes widened excitedly. "I could eat."
Joel laughed. "You just finished a filet on the plane an hour ago. You can't be hungry yet."
"Aw, Fu," he said as he put his hand on Joel's shoulder, "that filet was delicious, man, but it was so small."
His hand rubbed his flat abdomen through the clinging nature of his sports shirt. "Gotta fill up the tank."
Chris walked into the room as the three of us stood there grinning. "Hey, bitch. Thought you weren't comin' back till tomorrow.”
Cleats turned in time to bump fists with his bud. "Nah, bro. My sister was busy with work so we said 'fuck it' and grabbed a flight." He winked at Joel. "The Fu is one fast-movin' brutha when he wants to get home to his stud."
Joel flipped his head in theatrical jest. "Yeah, it was all me, Clayton. That's how I remember it." Joel's wink toward me stoked the primal rush that had led our sexual escapades since we'd met.
His playful attitude since he walked in the door stirred me. Obviously for Joel, it had been a good day with Cleats. It felt like the two of them had drawn even closer than before they'd left. It was like their connection had deepened more than what I'd felt this morning when they seemed to leave so abruptly. I had to admit it felt good.
Clearly, Cleats needed and had wanted some kind of connection with us 'crackers'; the term he'd used during the first night he'd spent with us. He wasn't out to offend. He simply wanted to fit in. That was something I knew about, intimately. Throughout my life, I simply wanted to fit in and belong. I wanted to be the guy that was liked by all, even if I wouldn't kowtow to or kiss anyone's butt to get it. I may now be in my 40's, but it still applied just as it applied to Cleats.
From the start, being around Cleats compounded the sense of inadequacy or lack of normality I'd known all my life. The separation from his old life was because he was now surrounded by a white world; white men, iconoclastic rules in a world that had no precedent with a black teen living with five other white teens and two white gay males. For me, I suddenly found myself living not only with a man, but a hot, sexual, wear-it-in-front-of-you straight man that made me feel both secure and insecure with each and every encounter simply by being the stud I thought he was. I knew what Cleats must have been feeling … somehow alone, yet surrounded by different people that actually cared about him – people that didn't make account for the darker skin, that didn't think he was different. He was Cleats.
And somehow now, I knew the same applied to me. The boys didn't judge me or think I was any less the confident, self-assured man than Joel. I was the one that judged me. I was the one that always felt I needed to prove that I was just as much a man as any straight guy. I was Blair; B-man. Joel loved me. The boys loved me. And that would have to suffice.
"Hey Joel, did you hear the news?" Chris asked, interrupting my ruminations with a grin he couldn't hide.
Our eyes met briefly before he faced Chris. He saw the smile tighten my lips. "I take it that the Colorado Springs contingent was successful, yes?"
A slow nod.
"Oh, Chris …," Joel said quietly, his relief and obvious pleasure clearly evident in his aborted reply. His arms opened. The boy's grin dropped as he moved into the embrace and the two men hugged.
Cleats watched the exchange for a second before turning to me in silent understanding. He understood the conflict between happiness and loss his friend now felt. As the hug continued, increasing emotion rippled through Chris' surfacing as a quiet whimper. Cleats reached a hand to his shoulder. Buds. Joel moved his hand up to stroke the long blonde hair as repeated shudders of pain mixed with relief moved through Chris.
"It'll be alright now, Chris. You'll be alright. That old chapter is finally finished and the new one's just beginning. Just think of the possibilities, bud. They're unlimited."
Chris pulled back and wiped his eyes on the back of his hand, then nodded. His arm reached out to pull Cleats close in a one-armed hug. "Only good shit from now on, bro?"
"Got dat right, Chrissy." The gleam in Cleats' eyes flickered mischievously as they exchanged looks. "We're gettin' us a new white daddy. And one that’s fuckin' rich as shit, too, boi!"
Joel and I laughed as his comment dispelled the intensity of the past moments. Then Joel, his laughter quieting into a tight but warm smile, reached to cup each of the boys' cheek with his hand. Their young, bright smirks stilled as they felt the uncharacteristic display of gentleness.
Tenderness and sincerity softened his voice to just above a whisper. "And I'm getting two of the finest sons a man could possibly want." As his words faded, Cleats stared at Joel wide-eyed, his mouth dropping open slightly as Chris' face widened into a broad grin.
"I love you both," Joel continued. I saw a last caress to their cheeks then Joel dropped his hands. "And dat’s," he continued in his normal voice, "something you can take to the bank … boi!"
Something between a moan and purr summed up my answer to Joel's question. He was right. The third scotch I finally enjoyed, this time with Joel on the terrace, had loosened me up. I was actually considering asking him to do it again. If I still smoked, I think the time it took me to finish a cigarette would have sufficed for adequate recharge time. There'd been a few times lately when he slid his cock into me that I'd been reminded very quickly just how big his dick really was. This time had been no different in some ways – my legs on his shoulder, literally trembling with impatience, while my head lay pinned to the sheet by his steeled, dominating stare. His cock had paused in near suspended animation, the head pressing against my hole in the ultimate act of control – his martial arts-conditioned body rigid and waiting as if it was training me.
I'd finally begged.
And when his initial entry finally occurred, breaching me like a meteor as it rips through the atmosphere bringing with it fire and utter awe, I'd cum before his second full stroke even had a chance of being born. He'd worked my body by that point through non-stop sensual manipulation with his hands, mouth and tongue into a quivering mass of over-taxed and raw nerve endings then combined it with his utter control over me in a perfectly aimed first plunge at my hidden button to stun me into the ultimate anal orgasm. That had never happened to me before. Nor had he stopped, but rather fucked me nearly unconscious until I climaxed again, this time with him simultaneously some indeterminate while later.
He couldn't blame me for wanting a repeat immediately, though it probably would have killed me.
"Why'd you laugh in the middle of everything?" His voice rasped husky and muted as he nuzzled into my neck.
Why had I what? Oh, yeah … he was asking me something. I pulled back from the sexual stupor and thought about his question.
"I had a flash of something that is probably occurring as we speak, something I haven't had a chance to tell you." The threat of uncontrollable, unstoppable church giggles threatened again.
"And that caused you to laugh?"
The feel of his face against my ear, nuzzling softly, expectantly, reminded me surprisingly of my childhood before all the crap with my dad when I'd curl up against my father's hairy chest after he'd showered the grime away from the job site. It was intimate and safe and thoroughly enjoyable now as a forty-two year old as then, especially to an eight year old. He'd tell of his day and listen to mine and we'd share that moment repeatedly over the years in different settings and with different outcomes. I used to tell my dad everything until Mom died.
I thought to myself, just tell him and get it over with.
"Mau is most likely getting dildo-fucked by Chris in the spare room. Again."
His head arched back sharply and the look he gave me left no doubt that he hoped I was making a joke. My loss of composure started slowly. First I snorted, then the vision of Chris' wide-eyed shock when he rushed onto the terrace looking for a confirmation or my approval or signs of mental break escalated my snort into a chuckle. I had to stop myself from loosing it completely.
"Don't look at me like that, Joel. You had to be there to understand."
His mouth widened, shocked by my statement. "Then help me to understand, Blair. I can't imagine how this could be the least bit funny."
I pinched my eyes tightly then gestured for him to move off me. I took a deep clearing breath and exhaled slowly. "Trust me, love, I'm not laughing about the thought of Mau and Chris together. I'm still worried that I made the wrong decision. I've left a message for Gayle, but once you hear the story I hope you'll agree that an immediate decision was required." The phlegm in my throat still lay thick after our love making so I sat up against the headboard.
"I was out on the patio having just poured myself a second Scotch when Mau walked out with his hand behind his back. I thought by the serious expression on his face that something was wrong, but he shook his head when I asked him. Then he said that Chris said we'd kill him if he did it, especially after Chris and my talk last night. I tried to explain that we didn't think intercourse with Chris was good for him in light of everything that happened. And then, Joel …" I swallowed slowly while my head shook with disbelief, "he says 'he already said no to me again about fucking, but I want him to use this' and he brought out my old dildo."
Joel dropped his head and sighed. "I know," I continued. "He said that Timmy told him about it this afternoon after he overheard Chris telling him that he couldn't do the deed with Mau. I was speechless. And then he informs me that he'd already used it this afternoon, but it didn't do anything for him because Chris wasn't there. I mean, c'mon Joel, what would you have done? My mind was racing between trying to remember if I'd boiled it after its last use a year or more ago and what he'd just said to me. Especially when he follows all that up with Chris being the only thing he can think about and how he wanted Chris to make 'it', which I took him to mean sex, special again."
"Oh, god, baby," Joel said as he rolled onto his back. The ceiling took his concentration for a moment. "God … we've been so busy doing everything we can to show him love and that he's safe and Gayle's been doing what she can to take some of the horror out of what happened to him that we've forgotten he's a sixteen year old boy with raging hormones. And it apparently seems like he's fallen for Mr. Sex Walking himself to fill the need." He fell silent for another moment. "So what'd you finally say to Mau?"
"I asked him if he was absolutely sure, which of course he was, and then I made him promise me not to make Chris do this if he wasn't comfortable with it."
Joel nodded. "So that's what made you laugh?" I could tell my story wasn't adding up in his mind.
"No. It was the combination of my shock when he whipped out the dildo, then Chris' stunned, wide-eyed gaping mouth expression when he showed up on the terrace not even two minutes after Mau went into find him and the replay of it after I'd had a moment to think and the visual of how Timmy must have reacted when he found it in the first place. I couldn't stop laughing for at least five minutes after Chris left. It was all so bizarre and surreal."
I slid down to my pillow and turned on my side to face Joel. "I just never saw this one coming, babe."
He smirked. "I guess not. Who would? And honestly? I haven't a clue if you made the right decision. We'll have to let the pros tell us that."
I snorted once more.
"Poor Chris. You didn't notice, but when you came in with Cleats and Chris approached, I gave him a raised eyebrow. First, he blushed total cherry and then feigned being weak and worn out." We both grinned. "Unfortunately, I'm going to have to ask him to share what happened so Gayle is informed."
Joel chuckled. “Oh, the irony! The guy finally gets his rocks off and then has to tell the 'adults' all about it.”
Gayle looked at Joel and I for a long moment then took a sip from her coffee cup. I wasn't sure about Joel, but I definitely felt like I was awaiting the principal's decision.
"In its simplest form, guys," she began, "this is actually a positive sign.”
Both Joel and I released our breath.
"It shows that he's able to see a difference between being raped and wanting sexual stimulation and satisfaction. The fact that he's sought out someone his own age and not either of you shows a normal physical and sexual desire. Also positive is that he seems to have placed his affections on someone that's shown him love and acceptance, someone that's provided him hugs and comfort … and protection when he needed it. It's a good sign that you tell me Chris shared how Mau wasn't looking for any kind of hard or abusive penetration. So many times with kids that have been raped repeatedly, they'll look for heavy abuse because they are convinced that's the only way they deserve sex or can receive satisfaction."
"But …" I knew there was more that wasn't so positive.
"Yes, there is a 'but'," she acceded. "He's sixteen and his desire to be penetrated, his desire for anal intercourse, is what worries me. Desire for anal penetration normally develops later in an adolescent's development." She paused, dropping into some private thought.
Joel cleared his throat. "Isn't it a good thing that Chris said during their second time that they began making out and just touching each other and the dildo slipped out and wasn't in play at the time for climax?"
"Yes. It is a good thing. Do you think Chris would mind talking to me about this now?"
I smirked and picked up my cell phone. Poor Chris.
A few minutes later, an obviously reluctant Chris plodded into the restaurant and slid into the booth. He sighed. "This is so not right, dudes."
Joel reached over and squeezed his shoulder. "I promise you, bud. This will be the last time we'll ask if you'll agree to inform us in the event something doesn't seem or feel right with Mau's reactions to your … uh, activities. I promise."
Chris released a big sigh then nodded agreement. "What do you want to know this time?"
How could I refrain from smirking? Poor kid! "Gayle's a little worried about Mau's desire to be penetrated. What do you think about it?"
He shrugged. "I love being screwed. That was my favorite thing with Coach. Is that wrong?"
"No, Chris, it isn't. I don't want you to think that." Gayle gave him a smile. "It's just that in Mau's situation, his desire for it might not be natural like yours is. Before any of the abuse happened, he professed to be heterosexual. Now with circumstances as they are, meaning living with you first in the building and now here, I want you to be aware that there might come a time where receptive penetration instantly becomes horrific to him. You wouldn't have any warning, Chris."
"So, should I do it if he asks or not?"
I could sense his frustration. This was a very unfair situation to put him or allow him to be in. My heart went out to him. "Honey … just be aware. You shared with me how much you care for him and he let me know just what he felt for you." I gave him a grin, wanting him to know how much I loved him. I think he did if his return nod and grin were any indication. "Keep it simple if he'll let you."
"Blair, he makes me so hot that just touching him is almost enough to get me off. And he loves rubbing against me."
"Good. Maybe that'll work for a while. Show him the other ways you can be together." As I finished, I thought about the unfairness of the situation. "I'm sorry, bud, that we had to ask you to talk about all this. I know you just want to enjoy being with him."
"Hell, B, just being with him and knowing he wants to be with me is great all on its own. Do you realize how cute he is?"
I nodded and glanced at Gayle. She smiled and nodded her acceptance. I glanced at Joel and raised my brow.
"Chris," he said gently, "please, please, please promise me you'll never let either of you slip up and exchange semen."
"Roger that, Fu. We already talked about it." His eyes flashed with mischief. "We cut our palms and made a blood oath … no swapping jiz."
I sighed. What were we going to do with him?
After Chris returned upstairs, I slouched into the booth drained of all energy. Joel placed his arm around my shoulder with a soft caress. I hoped that this was the right thing to do.
She smiled brightly and conveyed a great deal of approval with her nod.
Hank slid into the booth next to her and placed the pot of coffee on the table. Joel grabbed it and poured refills and the four of us sat quietly keeping our own thoughts as the minutes passed. Finally, Gayle set her cup down and looked at us.
"Do the two of you realize just what an incredible thing you're accomplishing? It's nothing short of miraculous in many ways. A little under three weeks ago, you were in the first fresh blossom of your relationship … two exceptionally powerful men in their own right acknowledging their love for each other and their desire to commit to a shared path with literally the world at their feet. And then, along comes what most people would see as a negative, unpleasant experience and the two of you turn an armed robbery into a selfless rescue … not just of one lost teen, but six fucked up and tossed away kids that the three million other people in this city didn't seem to give a shit about."
"Amen, girl," Hank murmured.
"Sure, between you there is almost unlimited means to accomplish anything you set your minds on, but you chose to give the most priceless gift of your hearts and your home to these boys even before you knew the extent of the abuse each one has known. And hear me when I say that each of them has been abused time and time again. But you are offering them salvation and a life with unlimited possibilities. Have either of you even stopped to consider what you've accomplished in three weeks? I'd bet everything I own that you haven't. It's not in your natures. And that's exactly what makes you my heroes. I'm humbled and honored to be a part of such Great Works."
Gayle's words … they almost made me stagger with their implications. I turned towards Joel and saw tears running down his cheek -- my straight, solid man with more capacity for giving and loving than any twenty men combined. The look shared between us spoke silently of our surprise and dawning awareness that there were only more challenges ahead, but that with each challenge we'd met we also knew accomplishment and building resolution. I could see in Joel that he had only just now recognized the scope of what we were doing and all of its many facets. I recognized it because I was realizing the same thing as well. And in that recognition I saw that not only had we offered love and a safe new chance for the boys, we'd provided salvation and a new start for each other. This was stuff of the heart not an acquisition with a beginning and end date. It was ongoing, just as we as a couple were ongoing.
His lips trembled slightly as more tears fell. "I love you so much." His whispered words filled me with his emotion.
"And I love you."
This moment was the simplification of everything we'd been through since our first moment of seeing each other. As with each moment of our time together, this moment too had its own element of drama, but it was real life and I for one have no more fears or reservations about what next is to come.
Special thanks goes to Rock Hunter for his endless efforts to edit this mess. Thanks, Bud!
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