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Note: Thanks to Tim for feedback on the draft chapters.  I owe special thanks to Robb and Rock for doing the final proofreading and catching all those silly little errors I missed.

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Finding Family

by Jeff Allen




When we got back to school from Thanksgiving, there wasn't much time to relax before the end of the semester and the start of final exams. It seemed like TJ, Josh and I spent most of our waking moments trying to get ready for exams. Josh kind of moved into our suite during exams. Jonathan said he didn't mind having Josh sleeping in his room `cause during the day and evenings he was usually out with his own study groups over in the business building so it was only late at night when he was back in the room. Besides, he and Jonathan had become good friends.

We got together with Karl Henson the weekend before finals. TJ decided we needed a study break so once again he called Karl and informed him that we were showing up on his doorstep with the pizzas and that we expected him to furnish the beer. Josh came along with us and met Karl for the first time.

Karl seemed a little more relaxed than before. I think TJ knew the story about what had happened to Karl up at West Point, but he didn't share that with me. One value that was really strong among Coach's Cubs was keeping confidences. I'd find out what happened when Karl was ready to tell me. I'd never find out about it from TJ even though he was my best friend.

One thing TJ did talk about was how he felt about Donnie Micheaux. I was glad for him. Both he and Donnie seemed happy when they were together. I just hoped it would work out for them.

Jonathan finished with his exams earlier than the rest of us and went home. TJ, Josh and I had our biology final on the last day of exams. We busted our butts studying for that one. Doc Griffith was a great guy, but he was hard as hell. We wanted to do well.

The exam was at mid-day. During the exam, I was puzzling over the answer to one of Doc's questions when I lifted my eyes up from the paper in front of me in time to see Doc walk over to the door of the classroom where a big black man in a state trooper's uniform greeted him. The trooper was about 6' 3" and probably a solid 220 pounds. His neat gray and black uniform shirt seemed to highlight his broad shoulders, bulging biceps, and thick chest that came to a narrow waist at his utility belt. He had a broad face and nose with full lips. His milk chocolate skin highlighted large, almond shaped eyes with dark irises surrounded by almost starkly white sclera. The trooper and Doc greeted each other like old friends, then the trooper whispered something to Doc, and I saw him react with a start. He glanced back toward the students before regaining his composure and turning back to the trooper. They talked for another minute or so before Doc laid his hand on the trooper's upper arm in gesture of familiarity. The trooper left and Doc returned to the classroom.

I was puzzled, but refocused on the exam in front of me and went back to work. To tell the truth, I got so wrapped up in trying to do well on the exam, I forgot about the trooper. I finished the exam, checked over my answers, marched to the front of the room, and handed it in to one of the grad students who was proctoring. I looked back into the room and was surprised to see TJ still writing. Usually he finished before me. Josh was also still writing, but it was normal for him to take longer than either TJ or me on an exam. I headed to the student union to get a cup of coffee and wait for my buddies.

TJ came into the union when I was about half done with the coffee. He grabbed himself a cup, and we settled down to wait for Josh. We waited, and we waited. Josh didn't show up. We took that as a bad sign that he was having trouble with the exam. It worried us because we knew he really needed to make a good grade on the exam to solidify his B in the course. After two cups of coffee we gave up on Josh and headed back to our dorm to finish packing for home.

The message light on the answering machine was blinking when we got to the room. I hit the play button.

"TJ or Trey, this is Dr. Griffith. When you get this message, call my cell phone immediately. It's important."  He rattled off the number then closed with, "Please call back as soon as you can."

I looked at TJ. He looked as puzzled as I was.

I punched in Doc's cell phone number. He answered on the first ring.

"TJ? Trey?"

"This is Trey, Doc. We got your message."

"Thanks for calling back. Can one or both of you come back over to my office right now? Josh Locklear needs you."

"Josh? What's happened? Is he alright?"

"Josh isn't hurt, but he's just found out that his mother's been killed. He's here in my office with me, and he's asked for one of you."

"Oh my God! Tell Josh we'll be right there!"

We ran back over to the biology building. The door to Doc's office was closed. I knocked. The state trooper I'd seen in our class during the exam opened the door.

`I'm Trey Arnold, and this is TJ Ladd. Doc Griffith called us."

The imposing trooper nodded and opened the door wider. Josh was sitting in one of the chairs. He'd been crying. Doc Griffith was sitting in a chair across from Josh. There was also another man in the office sitting in a chair next to Josh with his arm around Josh's shoulders. The man had classic good looks with a small cleft in his chin. He had sandy brown hair that sort of fell over to one side, and looked like he had a powerful athletic body even though it was well hidden in a loose fitting sweatshirt and jeans.

Josh looked up at us. His eyes welled with tears. We rushed over and hugged him. TJ got down on his knees, and Josh just sort of melted into him.

He pulled himself back together. "Thanks for coming, guys."

"Man, we're so sorry to hear about your mom. We're here for you. What can we do?"

"Just stay with me for a while, okay?"

"We're here as long as you need us."

Doc Griffith spoke up. "Trey and TJ, I'd like you to meet Sgt. DeShaun McMillan from the State Police and my partner, Matt Stevenson, one of Josh's football coaches."

I wasn't sure I'd heard correctly. Had Doc just said that Stevenson was his partner?

I guess I had heard correctly because TJ grabbed Stevenson's hand and shook it. "Coach Stevenson, I'm really pleased to meet you. Josh has told me a lot about you."

"And Josh has just told me a lot about you two guys. Thanks for coming back."

TJ turned his attention to Sgt. McMillan. "Pleased to meet you, sir."

They shook hands.

I recovered my wits and shook hands with both men. They had firm grips. I liked both of them instantly.

Doc spoke again, "Can one or both of you stay with Josh tonight out at our house?"

TJ replied, "We'll both stay."

"Good. Matt's going to take Josh over to his dorm to pack. I'll stay here while you guys pack; then I'll show you the way out to the house." He turned to Sgt. McMillan, "Dee, do you need anything else from Josh right now?"

"No. You guys get away from here. Josh needs to be some place more private than this office right now. Let me check back in with headquarters, and if we need something I'll give you a call out at the house. I'll probably come by in the morning just to check on things."

Then he surprised me by giving both Doc and Matt a hug before laying a big hand on Josh's shoulder and leaving. Was the hunky trooper batting for our side too?

Coach Stevenson put his arm around Josh's shoulder again.

"Josh, are you ready to go pack up some of your things?"

He nodded.

Doc touched TJ and me on our elbows. "You guys go back and load up your cars. Call me when you're ready, and I'll meet you at the entrance to campus and lead you out to the house."

Coach Stevenson gave Doc a quick peck on the lips before leaving with Josh. There was no mistaking that sign. They were definitely a couple. Wow!

TJ and I beat it back to the dorm to pack and call home. I called the house and left a message on the answering machine. TJ called Donnie at the service station. I knew TJ and Donnie had been looking forward to seeing each other, but right then Josh was the highest priority. Both of us knew what it was like to lose your parents.   We knew what Josh was thinking and feeling at that moment, and at least for me hearing about Josh's mother brought back some pretty intense memories and emotions.

We met Doc and followed his Toyota 4Runner about three or four miles into the country. He turned into a driveway that led to a secluded house. Inside, Doc directed us to put our gear in the upstairs bedroom. The house wasn't all that big, but it was comfortable. Very modern and rustic with a large kitchen and dining area, a living room off one side and a master bedroom suite off the other. There was one bedroom, a bathroom, and a small office area upstairs. Josh's bags were already in the bedroom.

Back downstairs TJ and I took up positions on the couch on either side of Josh. Coach Stevenson gave all of us glasses of a really great red wine. They told us what they knew.

Early that morning a neighbor had called 911 reporting a fire at Josh's house. When the firemen arrived, they found the house, Lucille's Crown Victoria patrol car, and her old Oldsmobile all in flames. Lucille's body was in the front seat of the patrol car. The first indications were that she'd been shot and then the killer or killers had poured gasoline in the house and the cars and set them afire.

Josh just sat there like a statue. He was holding hands with TJ and me. Every once in a while I felt him squeeze my hand. I squeezed back.

Doc and Matt, as Coach Stevenson wanted us to call him, fixed sandwiches for everyone. Josh didn't touch his at first, but Doc insisted that he eat at least a little of it.

We helped Doc and Matt clean up the kitchen, and then TJ and I took Josh upstairs. We sat on the bed for a long time and talked with him about his mother and about our memories of our own parents. We went to sleep fully clothed with Josh sandwiched between us.

When I woke the next morning, I could smell coffee and bacon. I used the bathroom and then went downstairs. Doc and Matt were in the kitchen along with Trooper McMillan. Doc was at the stove cooking the bacon.

Matt nodded his head toward the coffee pot. I grabbed a cup and joined him and Sgt. McMillan at the table.

"Ah, Doc, I've got to ask you something."

He turned around and smiled. "You mean about Matt and me?"

"Yeah, that and how you knew TJ and I wouldn't be freaked out."

Matt and Sgt. McMillan chuckled. Matt responded, "Gary and I have been partners for seven years, although I was in love with him for a long time before that. There's a long story that we'll tell you sometime, but the short version is that just after Gary and I finally got together, my mother was killed. My father did it, and later he tried to kill Gary and me too. Having lost my mother in that way, I know what Josh is going through. I needed a lot of love and support to get me through the death of my mother. Josh is going to need the same thing, and I'm going to be sure he gets that from me, and I think, from what Josh has told me about you and your family, he'll get that support from you guys as well."

Doc chimed in, "Matt has always been completely out to all the other coaches on the team."

"I know. Josh told us before that Coach Stevenson told the entire team he was gay. It was one of the reasons Josh wanted to come play here."

Matt took up the conversation again, "I'm proud that our athletic department is accepting and supportive of gays and lesbians. In fact, after some troubling problems a couple of years ago, the entire campus community has been amazingly supportive and open. Anyway, Josh finally told me that he's gay about a month ago. He also told me that he'd met some other gay athletes and had been invited back to their house for fall break and then for Thanksgiving. He talked about meeting a whole house full of gay guys and feeling like they had really opened their hearts to him.

"After DeShaun told Gary about needing to notify Josh of his mother's death, he called me so we were both waiting for him in Gary's office after the exam. When we asked Josh if he wanted us to call anyone, he asked us to call you guys and said you were his best friends. Even a dumb coach like me can put two and two together to figure out that you and TJ were the gay athletes who'd had him to their place for fall break and Thanksgiving."

At that point Josh and TJ appeared in the kitchen. Josh was looking a little worse for the wear.

We ate the bacon and eggs and then Sgt. McMillan took Josh into the living room to ask some questions. TJ and I volunteered to clean up the kitchen, but Doc and Matt shooed us away so we went upstairs and took showers. When we came back down everyone else was back in the kitchen.

Josh looked even more shell shocked than before. His chin was down, and he never looked up from the table.

Sgt. McMillan began talking, "Josh has given me permission to talk about this with all of you. The autopsy on Deputy Locklear is probably being done right now. When that's completed, the body can be released to Josh. We still need the findings from the autopsy, but right now it appears that the person or persons who did this shot Deputy Locklear first then ransacked the house before setting fire to the house and vehicles. Deputy Locklear was working on an investigation that involved the local drug traffickers and their suppliers. We think they're the ones responsible.

"Our investigators think they were looking for something in the house that they thought Deputy Locklear might have kept in there. We're not sure if they found it or not so we want to play it safe and assume they're still going to be on the lookout for whatever it was they wanted. There's a possibility they might think that Josh would know the location so for the next several days we don't want Josh to be alone. There will be lots of police protection at the funeral, but it's the other times we're worried about."

TJ spoke up, "Josh can come back to Carterville with us. I can't imagine anyone would look for him there."

"Josh," Matt asked, "how do you feel about that? You know you're welcome to stay here, but TJ has a point."

Josh never looked up as he answered, "No offense, Coach, but I think I'd rather go with TJ and Trey."

Sgt. McMillan spoke again, "Good. I know Matt and Gary are willing to have you here, Josh, but Adams State is a logical place for the bad guys to look. Now, we need to talk about some arrangements..."

We spent the next hour or so talking about the funeral arrangements for Josh's mother. There were lots of questions to Josh about what his preferences would be, but his eyes never came away from the table top when he answered.

After Sgt. McMillan left, Josh said that he was tired and wanted to go take a nap.  TJ moved to go up with him, but I saw Doc lay a hand on TJ's arm stopping him.

When TJ was out of the room, Doc turned to TJ, "Let him be by himself for an hour or so. He may want to do some grieving in private."

We sat in the kitchen drinking coffee and getting better acquainted with Doc and Matt. Matt told us more of the story of his abusive father and how that abuse had ended with the murder of his mother. I told them about losing my parents in the landslide. I cried when I did that. I hadn't done that in over a year. TJ moved over to sit on one side of me and Doc took the other. When my crying jag was over, TJ talked about the deaths of his parents and about his stepmother running off with whatever money had been left from Dr. Ladd's estate.

Doc asked if we knew C.Z. Johnstone since he was from our hometown. Of course TJ had known C.Z. since right after coming to live with his father and stepmother. I'd only met C.Z. a couple of times back in Carterville and talked to him in the biology building on occasion at Adams State. It figured that Doc would know C.Z. `cause he was a bio major like us.

After about an hour of conversation, TJ went upstairs to check on Josh. When he hadn't come back down after a reasonable length of time I went up to check on them. They were lying fully clothed on the bed asleep. TJ had his arms wrapped protectively around Josh's big shoulders.

I tiptoed back down stairs.

That afternoon Matt took Josh, TJ, and me back to the university to work out in the football team's weight room. I think Matt suspected that Josh needed something to take his mind off his mother's murder and work off some steam. Josh literally attacked the weights, and he exhausted the rest of us trying to keep up with him.

Sgt. McMillan and his lover Ron Kestler, a campus police officer, came out to Doc's for dinner. Kestler looked like he was in his early twenties. He was good looking with short, dark hair and medium brown eyes. I guessed his height at about six foot and weight at around 185 pounds. He had a tuft of dark chest hair that showed at the open color of his flannel shirt.

Doc served wine to everyone before he and Matt disappeared back into the kitchen. Sgt. McMillan, who told us to call him Dee, brought us up to date on the investigation (not much progress there) and on the plans for Lucille's funeral. The autopsy on Lucille's body had been completed, and the Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill was ready to release the body. Josh chose to have his mother cremated. I think that was a wise choice. From the sounds of what had happened in the fire, there wouldn't have been that much of a body to put into a coffin anyway. There were some fireworks from Josh when Dee asked him about his preference for a location for the funeral. Since Lucille had been a law enforcement officer who had apparently died in the line of duty, the funeral would be a big one. Most of the county sheriff's officers plus contingents from the state police and neighboring law enforcement agencies would be on hand in full dress uniforms. Josh's grandfather had made arrangements to have Lucille's funeral at the Maxton Primitive Baptist Church where he was a deacon. Josh hit the roof.

Josh rose to his feet and raised his voice bringing Matt and Doc back in from the kitchen. "That son of a bitch threw her out of his house when she told him she was pregnant with me. We lived in the same town, but I've only seen him and my grandmother three or four times while I was growing up. There is no way that sanctimonious asshole is going to have anything to do with Mom's funeral. If she wasn't good enough for them in life, they aren't good enough for her in death!"

Dee stood up and wrapped Josh in his huge dark arms. "Hush, son. It's okay. This is your decision. We can have the funeral anywhere you want. It's your choice."

TJ and I sat there stunned at the vehemence of Josh's remarks. We knew Josh and his grandparents weren't close, but we hadn't realized they were that estranged. As far as I knew the grandparents were Josh's only relatives. I knew at that moment that I had to talk to Parker. I also knew what Parker's response would be.

As if on cue, the phone rang. It was Parker. After exchanging pleasantries with Matt who'd answered the call, my uncle asked to speak with Josh.

Josh took the call in Doc and Matt's bedroom. While he was gone TJ and I talked quickly.  He was thinking the same thing I was about Josh's future.

In a couple of minutes Josh came back into the living room wiping tears from his eyes. "Trey, your uncle wants to talk with you and TJ. I left the phone on the night stand."

I got to the phone before TJ. "Parker?"

"Hi, Trey. Is TJ there?"

"Yes, he's right here."

"Good. I want to talk with both of you guys, but then Donnie and Ryan want to talk with TJ."

I smiled. "What do you want to talk with us about?" I already knew.

"I called Josh to extend our sympathies on the death of his mother. I also told him that we had a bed ready for him when the funeral was over. He's welcome to come back here and live with us if he wants."

I smiled again. "I knew you'd say that! TJ and I were going to talk with you before we asked him to come back to Carterville. I think the only family he has left are his grandparents, and they're not going to be very welcoming of a gay grandson. We should be back home in another couple of days. It looks like the funeral is going to be the day after tomorrow. We'll bring Josh back with us."

"Good. Let us know what the arrangements are."

"I will. I'll put TJ on the phone now. Bye, Parker. I love you."

"Love you too, Trey. See you in a couple of days."

I handed the phone to TJ and went back to the living room.

I sat next to Josh on the couch. "Josh, Parker told me that he asked you to come home with us. I want you to know that both TJ and I want the same thing."

He leaned into me, and I wrapped my arms around his shoulder. "Thanks, Trey. You guys are like the brothers I never had."

TJ stayed on the phone with Donnie until Doc announced that dinner was ready. He had a shit-eating grin on his face and a bulge in his pants when he joined us at the table. Guess he and Donnie'd had a good conversation.

The dinner was delicious. Doc cooked veal piccata. It was as good as anything I'd ever had in a restaurant. The man was a great cook in addition to being a great professor, and now a great friend.

After dinner, TJ and I insisted on being allowed to clean up the dishes and the kitchen. Ron Kestler volunteered to help since he knew where most of the dishes and cooking utensils were stored.

With the kitchen clean, we joined Doc, Matt, Josh, and Dee in Doc's hot tub. With the exception of TJ and Josh who I'd seen naked any number of times, it was my first chance to perv on the rest of them.

Ron Kestler was solidly built. His chest muscles were nicely rounded and covered with a scattering of dark brown hair which came together under his pecs to form a line that traveled down the middle of his abs, flared out to surround his belly button, and then narrowed again before disappearing into a dark pubic bush from which projected a nice 5 inch cut cock and low hanging egg-sized balls. His thighs and calves were thicker and hairier than I'd imagined.

DeShaun McMillan had a spectacular build with broad shoulders, bulging biceps, and thick chest with square pecs and nipples that stood out as darker circles on his milk chocolate skin. His flaccid cut 7 inch cock was surrounded by a thick, black, wiry brush of pubic hair and rode on top of the largest and lowest hanging pair of balls I'd ever seen.

Matt had a well-developed chest with nice rounded pecs with a scattering of hair and eight pack abdominal muscles. His nipples were just about the same sandy brown color as his hair. He sported a four and a half inch cut cock peaking out of a thick bush of pubic hair that was just a little darker than the hair on his head.

Doc had the most body hair of any of us in the hot tub that night. The hair on his chest spread out across his pecs, surrounded his nipples, and then narrowed to a line down the middle of his abs before widening into a pretty good bush around a five-inch cut cock. It's a shame that body had been hidden behind a shirt and tie all semester. On the other hand, it was probably a good thing. If I had known what was under his clothes, I wouldn't have been able to pay attention in class.

The night was cold and damp with a few snow flurries, but it was pleasant in the hot tub. Dee and Ron were the first ones to call it quits. They said their good-byes then hurriedly climbed out of the tub and ran into the house to get dressed.

The rest of us didn't last too long after Dee and Ron left. Everyone made a dash for the door while I helped Doc put the cover back on the tub. I had lots of goose bumps all over my body by the time we managed to get back inside. My cock was so shrunken from the cold that it looked like just a slightly bigger goose bump.

We ran the next morning before breakfast. There was a thin layer of snow on the ground, but the skies were crystal clear. Our breath formed big white clouds in the crisp air as we ran.

After breakfast TJ, Josh and I packed my old Volvo for the trip down to Maxton for Lucille's funeral. Dee had said he didn't want us staying in one of the motels in the area because of security concerns so we were going to be staying with a state trooper friend of Dee's for the next two nights. I folded the directions and the phone number into my pocket; we thanked Doc and Matt; then we headed out toward the eastern part of the state.

The next two days were long and exhausting. Dee McMillan's trooper friend was very nice and made us all feel welcome in his house. We met a lot of people. All of the sheriff's deputies paid their respects as did a bunch of people from the area who'd known Lucille. There was one tense moment before the funeral when I thought Josh and his grandfather going to get into it.

Josh told me later that his grandfather had said something about wanting Josh to come live with them so they could bring him into a true Christian environment.

That set Josh off. I was all the way across the room at the reception before the funeral when I heard Josh's voice. "You old bastard! You ignored mom and me for eighteen years. We weren't good enough for you. Now you want me to come live with you so you can raise me in a `Christian' home. Mom may not have gone to church very much, but I can tell you that she raised me in a way that was a hell of a lot more "Christian" than the hypocritical crap that you put out!

"I'll be just fine. Mom did a good job raising me, no thanks to you. You never wanted me around when I was growing up. Well, now that I'm grown, I don't want to be around you either. I hope this is the last time I ever have to lay eyes on your miserable face!"

You could have heard a pin drop in the room after Josh's outburst. TJ and I rushed to Josh's side from different corners of the room. We steered him out into the hallway to try to calm him down. I made a point to remember that the boy had a temper. I sure didn't want someone as big as him to be seriously mad at me.

Doc, Matt, and Dee McMillan all showed up for the funeral. Dee was in his trooper uniform and joined the delegation of other troopers. Coach's Cubs all showed up as well. I thought Josh was going to lose it when Parker, Ryan, Isaac, Tyrone, and Jonathan came into the VFW hall where the funeral was being held.

TJ and I introduced Parker and the Cubs to Doc and Matt.

I'd noticed Matt looking closely at Jonathan as I was introducing them. When they shook hands I heard Matt say, "You know you have a double on the football team? His name's Wes Dawson. I almost went up and called you Wes when I saw you walk in the door."

Jonathan gave a little laugh, "Yeah, poor Josh just about dropped his teeth when we met for the first time. He's been saying that he'll have to get the two of us together, but it hasn't happened yet."

After the funeral was over and the crowd had dispersed, we packed up and got ready to leave. TJ left with the Carterville crew.  He was anxious to get back to be with Donnie, and I couldn't blame him for that. Our plan was to spend the night at Doc and Matt's and head to Carterville the next morning. Josh would drive TJ's Jeep, which was still parked, at Doc's.

Before we left, Josh wanted to go back out to the place where his house had been. We'd gone out there the day before. There wasn't much left. Just the shell of the double wide. The burned out wrecks of Lucille's Oldsmobile and the Sheriff's Patrol Crown Victoria had been towed to the state crime lab in Raleigh.

I stood by the car as Josh walked around the blackened mess that had been his home. He kicked at a few pieces of debris then stood with his hands in his pockets and his back to me gazing out over the harvested cotton fields beyond the house. His shoulders moved a couple of times like he might be crying. When he finally turned and walked back to my car his eyes were red and swollen but dry of any tears.

"This isn't my home anymore. I'm ready to go."

He sat in the passenger seat and looked straight ahead as I drove away.

(To be continued)

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many of the characters who play parts in this story were previously introduced in either "When Love Comes" (last posted in the College section on Sept. 6, 2001) or "Love of a Lifetime" (last posted in the College section on May 19, 2003). While not necessary, readers may find it useful to read the two earlier stories posted on this site.  Both previous stories are also posted at

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