Just Hit 'Send' - The Happy Years

by Grasshopper

Ch. 4

Easy typed the last line of his report, sighed and rolled his chair back, standing and stretching his arms above his head. So many boys, so much trouble, so little help. If he had just had a place like this when he was small......but he knew he probably wouldn't have come. He would have been too ashamed, too terrified. Easy was worried about all the old memories; they were resurfacing after all these years. He knew it was probably because of Val. She had appeared in his life quickly and her innocent questions about his family and his past kept his mind churning.

All the family he'd ever known and loved, except for one person, was right here in Wilmington. He had come to the conclusion, over the years, that he'd gone through the hell of his life, street hustling and doing things he would forever be ashamed of, to get to the place where he was now. He had told Griff everything all those years ago and would never mention them again. Griff would sometimes just grab him and hug him tight, no reason, just to let him know he was loved.

Easy sometimes went back in his mind to that night he had watched a young boy fly off that seawall and crash into the cement. He could have just stolen his backpack and run.........but he hadn't. Easy had given his body away but never his pride, never his soul. He remembered the moment his life changed:

"Hey man. You okay? I was watchin' ya. That was way kewl. No one ever boards the wall. Ya lost your board, man. It deep sixed. Wanna get up?"

"I'm Jordan Lawrence."
"Easy."
"I'm okay. You got a name?"
"I just told ya. Easy."
"Your name is Easy?"
"Yeah, that's what they call me."

And, it seems, he'd never looked back toward that flickering light at the end of the seawall.

Now, he had a new job, helping boys like he had been. Giving them shelter and the information they needed to make a new start. He owed it to them. He owed it to Jordan.....to Griff......to Danny.

Back when he thought that everything he had was the dirty ripped Lakers t-shirt on his skinny shoulders, he'd never imagined that he'd have a college degree, friends who would never let him down and the world an open book for him to fill in the pages.

The noise from the outer office jarred his thoughts. He walked quickly to his door to see one of the neighborhood policemen half dragging, half carrying a wiggling thrashing dirty kid in a torn blue and gold letter jacket through the outer doorway. Officer Harold rolled his eyes and held on tighter. "Easy, give me a hand here?"

Maybe it was the memories, maybe it was the pain he saw in the boy's eyes. Easy took hold, lifted him up off his feet and held him in the air. "Hey now, no more of this." Easy looked in his eyes, saw what he knew he'd see, glazed and bloodshot, unfocused and dull. Sighing, he carried the struggling boy into his office, Officer Harold trailing behind.

"If you can sit, I'll put you down."

The boy, close to tears, nodded and Easy plunked him into one of the wooden chairs in front of his desk. Turning to the policeman, he looked for answers.

"He's one of the regulars down on Barstow. Tonight, he was going for a record or something. Higher than a kite and jumping out in traffic. He solicited a plainclothes car. Fred has 2 sons of his own. We just thought maybe you.............," his voice trailed off.

Easy sighed. "Sure. Leave him with me. I'll see what I can do." He waited for the policemen to leave and reached for the phone.

"Val? I'm gonna be late."
"Yeah, another one."
"Thanks, love you too."

He sat quietly and watched the boy as he settled in the hard wooden chair. "You got a name?"

The boy shook his head. Easy took in the crudely carved tattoos on his hands and the holes in his trainers. "Been on the road a long time, huh?"

The boy shrugged his shoulders.

Every time a new kid came in or was dragged in, Easy felt this overwhelming wave of hurt. "You know I can't let you go back out there like this? We have cots and hot food. I want you to sleep tonight and tomorrow we'll talk. Will you stay?"

He watched the boy's eyes flit around the room. Slowly, he nodded his head.

"Good. I know you have reasons for running. Everybody does. I just want to help you get off the street and safe. Fair?"

Again, a quiet nod.

Standing and stretching, he motioned for the boy to follow him and he led him to the kitchen. "Want some hot oatmeal or some pizza?" he said with a totally straight face. The boy looked at Easy with almost laughter in his eyes and dove into the huge slice of pizza.

"Ya think?" Easy chuckled.

He waited till the boy had finished off 3 pieces of pizza and 2 glasses of milk, then watched as he got up and washed his plate and glass and set them on the drainer to dry.

"Thank you," Easy smiled. "My name's Easy. You?"

The boy made a move with his mouth and then shook his head.

"You aren't mute, are you?"

The boy rolled his eyes.

"Didn't think so. Okay, I'll accept this silence for now but you're gonna have to help me with it soon, deal?"

Sad eyes looked into sad eyes. The boy nodded his head.

"Please promise you'll stay here til morning," Easy asked as he showed the boy the empty cot and handed him a towel. He couldn't quite read the expression in the boy's eyes.


When he got home, Easy found the box sitting outside his door. It was the last of his stuff shipped from Oregon. He had thought this box was lost. He turned the key in the lock of his apartment. He'd go pick up Val and head out for the beach house in a bit. He just wanted to feel warm for a minute.

Throwing his keys on the desk and shoving his shades on top of his head, he slit open the box tape with his fingernail and pulled out the small picture frame wrapped in bubble wrap. Letting the wrap fall to the floor, he walked over to the table by the living room window where the floorlamp was casting dust dancers as its light streamed down and set the picture down carefully, then rubbed a smudge off with the tail of his shirt.

"Here ya go, Mama. He thought he stole it all but I kept my heart. I'm so sorry you aren't here with me. I'd take care of you and give you all the things you never had. I'd give you the world." Placing it down gently, he smiled sadly and squared his shoulders. His life was good and no one could take it away. He'd make sure of that. Only Griff knew, and Griff would never tell.


Jordan looked up as the screen door slammed. "Hiya, guys."

Val walked over and planted a kiss on his cheek and ran her fingers lightly over Danny's hair. "Where's Markie?"

"She's making sure the dirtball brushes his teeth after dinner." Val laughed and headed off toward the back of the house.

Easy flopped onto the sofa next to Dan and grabbed the sports section. Jordan shifted, stood up and stretched his arms. "It's Friday. Let's go do somethin'."

Danny laughed, "Like what, Jordy? Movies?"

"Just somethin. I'm restless."

Griff looked up from the magazine he was reading. "Don't ask JD. I already know what he'll say. You so don't wanna know."

"Know what? Know what?" a voice bellowed as its owner ran into the room, his t-shirt soaking wet, toothpaste fringing his grin.

Jordan bit. "Where you wanna go, little man."

"Oooooooh. I wanna go to the skatin rink. All my friends have been. Can we, Daddy? Can we?"

Griff shook his head, "Told you."

Markie made a face. "I told you I'd take you this weekend, JD. Grownups really don't wanna got there."

"Nah, not a cool place," Jordan said, not looking at Dan, which Danny immediately caught.

"Hold on. I wanna go," he said, smiling.

"Come on, Dan. We can think of a better place than that."

"Why? How many of you ever roller skated?" Danny asked.

Slowly, everyone in the room raised their hand, except JD. Danny laughed and raised his too. "See, we're all a bunch of geeks. Who thinks they still can?"

Val laughed, "I'll fall on my butt."

"Well, I'll catch you before you hit the ground," Easy offered.

"And who's gonna hold you up?" Val teased.

"Oh Lady, is that a challenge?" he grabbed her arm and spun her around.

"Mommy, we going? Are we, Daddy?" JD jumped from his mother to his dad in huge leaps.

Markie looked from face to face. "I give. Who's game?"

Jordan walked over to Dan. "You okay with this? We could go somewhere else."

Danny frowned. "Don't do this. Don't make me different."

Jordan leaned down and kissed him gently, whispering, "I love you."

"Nic and bouncy boy can ride with us," Easy said. "We'll meet you guys out front."

Jordan folded Dan's chair and stuck it in the back of the Jeep. Markie and Griff crawled in and he shoved Dan up and into shotgun. "We know what we're doin' here, right?" he laughed. "It's been like a million years."

"Come on, Sk8r Boi," Griff snorted, "Don't tell me you can't stay up on a pair of wheels."

"It's been awhile," Jordan grinned, "But I can stay up longer than you."

Markie groaned, "Uh oh.....Testosterone Attack !!"

"On the wheels, Marks, on the wheels," Jordan laughed.


Nic and Danny settled behind the railing so they could watch the humiliation of their friends and loved ones, Markie strapped trainer skates on JD.

Easy, Val and Markie opted for regular old fashioned skates, but Jordan and Griff took one look at the roller blades and began to shove at each other like 8 year olds.

"It's like ridin' a bike. You never forget how," Markie said as she took JD's hand and pulled him around the low wall onto the waxed wooden floor.

"But I nebber have, Mommy," he said, suddenly terrified of the skates, the noise, the music and all the people whizzing by.

Easy rolled out onto the floor. "Stay right there, Lil Dude. Let me test my memory." He rolled out into the flow and, after a slow start, got his balance and flew two turns around the oval, ending up right in front of JD. "I got it. Come on, lil guy." He scooped JD up, his long strides carrying them off, JD squealing.

Markie and Val looked at each other and wobbled off into the steady flow of other "what the hell am I doing here?" people along the edge of the wall.

"Be careful, Jordy," Dan smiled as he watched Jordan and Griff lace up.

"Piece a cake, Daniel," Jordy grinned. "I'm gonna skate this guy into the dirt."

Griff growled, "You and who else?"

Jordan made sure Danny was comfortable, dumped his wallet and keys in his lap, ruffled his hair and they were gone.

Nic laughed. "They sure love to compete."

"Yeah, since they were little. But Griff's always been there for Jordy. Always." Danny watched as the two took laps around the floor.

Easy rolled to a stop in front of Nic, lowering JD to the floor. "Ready to try now, lil dude?"

"K. Hi Grandpa Nic...Papa D. Watch me......I'm gonna skate." He held his small hand out and Easy gripped it solidly. Wobbly ankles and flapping arms, JD managed to make it about 5 feet before he sat down hard on his bottom. He looked up at Easy, his bottom lip quivering.

"Ouch," Easy said gently. "Ready to go again, Lil Sk8r Boi?"

JD grinned, "Like my Daddy." He crawled up on his knees and Easy pulled him up onto his wheels.

Danny sat watching the skaters, his mind wandering back to the last time he had skated. He'd been six at Melinda Crayton's birthday party. He could remember the way it felt, how free, and how you just wanted to skate and skate forever.

"We miss a lot, Dan," he heard Nic say softly, "But it's still good to enjoy life."

"Yeah," Dan sighed. "I always want Jordy to do whatever he wants. I never want to hold him back."

"And he will as long as he sees a smile on your face. You smile and Jordan is free. Jordan will never leave you, Dan. He loves you too much."

They watched the skaters circle the rink, some skating backwards, showing off; some arm in arm; some just managing to stay upright, but all with huge smiles on their faces, having fun.

Jordan and Griff rolled to a stop in front of Dan. "Hiya, baby. Everything okay? Want me to get you a soda?"

"Nah, I'm fine, Jordy. Nic and I are enjoying the show."

"C'mon then, Jord," Griff challenged. "Let's see who the all time champion Sk8r Boi is tonight. Twice around the rink...first one back is KING!!"

"You're on," Jordan laughed, winked at Danny and yelled, "Go!" pushing off to get one nanosecond head start.

Nic and Danny laughed as they heard Griff yell, "Cheater!"

They skated close, arms pumping, adrenalin rush. Just as they rounded the last turn of the oval, a little girl wobbled out onto the waxed floor and straight into Jordan's path. To avoid her, he swerved and headed directly into the huge pillar in the center of the rink, his body crumpling just after the sound of skull striking wood.

"Oh My God," Nic breathed. Danny couldn't roll his chair. He had left his canes in the car. He was trapped in this damn chair. Crying out, he watched as Griff and Easy cleared people away and Markie punched in 911 on her cell.

"Don't move him," he heard someone say loudly.
"Watch his neck."

He could hear JD crying and another sound, little mewing noises, his own breathing as he fought for control. Markie ran to his chair. "He's gonna be okay. Hold on, Danny." She grabbed his hand and squeezed.

"Push me out there," he pleaded. She shoved the chair out onto the floor and he wheeled himself to Jordan. "Help me out," he yelled at Easy.

Afraid to touch Jordan, he sat by his side waiting for the ambulance. He could hear the siren coming closer. Jordan's eyes were closed, those beautiful green eyes. There was a huge knot forming on his forehead and his breathing, his chest under Danny's hand, seemed slow and sluggish.

The paramedics rushed in and Danny felt someone grab him out of the way. He turned and found Griff's arms around him tight. "He'll be okay. He'll be okay." Griff repeated over and over.

They got the neck brace around him to protect from possible back and neck injury and, on the count of three, lifted Jordan onto a gurney . Danny could hear JD crying and Markie talking to him softly. "Daddy will be fine. You'll see."

"Dan," Griff said gently, "I'm gonna ride with him. You know it's best. Markie will get you there right behind the ambulance." He turned and followed the gurney out the door, leaving Danny wide eyed in his wheelchair.

Markie began to wheel Danny across the floor and out to the parking lot. JD was clinging to Easy's shoulders, sniffling.

"Go," Easy said, "We're right behind you." He was shoving Nic's chair in the trunk. Danny climbed up in the Jeep and Easy flung the chair into the back.

The emergency room was noisy and crowded. The paramedics wheeled Jordan's gurney in and started down the long hallway. "Head trauma. Possible skull fracture. BP 160/90. Breathing slow and erratic."

Griff let go of the cart and watched them wheel Jordan into an examining room. He stood still for a minute, then turned to open his arms as Markie flew into them.

"Dan, they'll be out in a minute to tell us. Hold on." He took Danny's hand in his like he'd seen Jordan do a million times.

The others rushed in the whooshing automatic doors and gathered close wanting information. "They'll be out on a few minutes," was all Griff could think to say.

"Insurance........," Markie exclaimed.

Danny dragged his mind back to the surface. "I have his wallet." He dug Jordan's insurance card out and handed it to Markie.

After what seemed like hours, the doctor on call came out. "Are you folks with Mr. Lawrence?"

"Yes," everyone cried. "He's my daddy," JD sniffled.

"Well, he's going to be fine. He sustained a concussion from the blow to his head but there doesn't seem to be any fracture or swelling. There is no damage to his neck or spine. He's going to have some ugly bruising and a huge knot on his head, but he didn't suffer any permanent damage."

"Oh thank God," Markie, sighed, turning to Griff as she let the news sink in.

Easy groaned, "We knew his hard head would come in handy one day." Val slapped his arm.

"Can we see him?"
"I need to see my daddy."
"Please let me see Jordy."

"Who is a family member?" the doctor asked.

Everyone turned to Danny. "I'm his partner."

"Oh," the doctor sighed, frowning, "We only allow direct family members with patients in the emergency room. I'm sorry."

Griff squeezed Danny's hand hard. "I'm his brother." He leaned over and spoke softly into Danny's ear, "I'll go see how he's doing. I'll come right back out and tell you."

"I want to see my daddy," JD grumbled, overtired and worked up, tears threatening.

"Markie, let Val and me take JD on home. He needs to get to bed." Easy reached for JD, who fell sleepily into the man's arms.

Nic reached out for Danny. "Don't think about it right now. Just be thankful Jordan is fine. Time enough later. Hear me, Danny?"

Danny kept his face down. His thoughts were a jumble. They wouldn't let him see Jordy. These people who save lives and care so much won't let me see Jordy. He felt the tears and tried to hold them back.

Griff came striding down the long hall. He knelt beside Danny's chair. "He's awake. He's okay except that he's pissed as all hell back there. He's pitching a shit fit cause they won't let you come back."

The nurse came out. She smiled at Danny. "Are you Dan?"

"Yes," he frowned.

"Your young man won't cooperate with us," she sighed. "He needs to stay over night to let us check the concussion but he insists he's going home."

"I can watch him," Danny promised.

The nurse smiled. "I'm sorry about the rules. They're just plain wrong. I think he'll be fine after a night's sleep. Just wake him up every four hours and ask him questions to make sure his mind is clear."

A commotion in the hall made Griff and Markie and Danny look away from the nurse. Jordan was storming down the hall in his sock feet, his shirt tails flapping. "I'm fine. I'm going home," he repeated over and over, slapping away a nurse's hands. He stopped in front of Danny's chair and reached in to take the smaller man in his arms.

"I scared you. I never meant to scare you. Are you okay?" he whispered in Danny's ear.

"I'm okay. You scared me to death," Danny half sobbed. "Don't ever do that again."

"I promise. I love you," Jordan said softly and kissed Danny lightly on the mouth. "Now, can we go home?"

Griff drove. Markie sat shotgun and closed her eyes, the fear of the night catching up with her. Jordan and Danny sat in the back seat, close, Danny's hands constantly touching, feeling, patting. He couldn't stop.

"I'm okay, baby. I promise. I'd never leave you that way."

"It just showed me how quick happiness can be taken away and how I couldn't get to you at the hospital. I was terrified and they wouldn't even let me see you."

"Shhhhh," Jordan soothed him. "I'm here. We're fine. We'll be home in a minute."

JD was asleep on the sofa, his head in Val's lap, his feet in Easy's. Nic was sitting by the front window watching for the headlights. "They're home," he said softly, "And Jordan's with them."

The ragtag group stumbled through the front door amidst welcome homes and happy smiles.

"I'm fine," Jordan grumbled. "I lost my sneakers."

"We'll get them tomorrow," Markie laughed, shaking her head. "Dan, get him to bed but remember what the doctor said."

"I will," Danny said seriously. "Wake him every fours hours and ask him questions."

Jordan rolled his eyes and groaned as the movement made his head ache.

"Thanks, everybody," he grinned. "Oh, and Griff?"

"Yeah?"

"I won by default." He ducked the pillow thrown in his direction and wheeled Danny out the back door.

Markie leaned her head out, "Call if you need me."

Easy snickered, "Those two won't need anyone in about 5 minutes."

Val gasped, "But Jordan just................,"

"And he scared Danny and that adds up to lots of 'I love you' time next door," Easy tried to explain.


Jordan felt Danny's hand on his back, shaking him gently. "Jordy.."

"Hmmm?"

"Who am I?"

"Martha Stewart. Ewww, why are you in my bed?"

"Jordy! Who am I?"

"This really bothersome boy who keeps waking me up."

"Jordy!!!"

"Hmmm?"

"Who am I?"

Jordan rolled over and took Danny's face in his hands. "You are the boy I love. You are Daniel Alan Trainor."

"Good," Danny sighed, "Go back to sleep now."

"Oh no you don't, this is the third time. I have to be compensated for being waked up." He wiggled his butt closer and let Danny feel how awake he was.

"But you have a concussion," Danny sighed as Jordan's hands began to stroke him.

"I've also got a really powerful case of the hard-ons, Dr. Trainor. Please help me. I need medicine."

"And what medicine would that be?"

Jordan reached in-between their bodies and located the 'medicine'. "Right here, Doc. I need a definite hot compress."

"Hmmm......I suppose a few CCs of my 'medicine' wouldn't do you any harm," Danny grinned.

"I'm in pain. You're gonna have to baby me," Jordan whined softly.

"Oh, are you really.................,?" Danny froze.

"No, Doc. I'm playing pretend," Jordan giggled and shoved his hips again. "I feel a horrible spasm coming on."

"A spasm, huh? Well, let Dr. Trainor take a look." Danny schooched down the bed and crawled up between Jordan's warm thighs. "Hmmm, seems okay to me. A bit feverish, slightly elevated, rather dampish but in good health."

"Maybe you need to ummm.....test everything to make sure all the parts still work right."

"I guess I could kinda," Danny whispered, as his mouth took Jordan in and tested him for leakage and swelling, "check you out."


Easy swung by the house the next morning to get a report on Jordan.

"They haven't appeared yet," Markie laughed. "I guess all that waking up and stuff exhausted them."

"Well, I'll call later in the morning," he laughed and drove toward the center.

In the midst of all the excitement last night, he'd forgotten the new boy. He wanted to check on him and get him situated before the weekend was over.

He walked into the kitchen and found two teenagers arguing over who gets the last of the Capt. Crunch. He laughed, "I guess I'll have to eat it since there's no other way to settle it except to yell."

'I guess we could flip for it," Andy suggested.

"K, that's fair," Brad agreed. They flipped and Brad won the toss.

"Guys, way better to flip than to argue. Yelling gets you nowhere." He reached high onto the top shelf and grabbed out a new box of Crunch. Tossing it to Andy, he said, "Always find a way to make decisions without yelling. Have you seen the new boy?"

Andy shook his head. "He split this morning early."

"Damn," Easy groaned. He could help them when they came in. He couldn't just chase them down off the streets.

There had been pain in that kid's eyes. Pain he'd seen before in his own. Maybe he's come back. But Easy knew that wasn't a sure bet. None of these teenagers trusted adults. Why should they? Adults had gotten them where they were now.......knee deep in shit. Maybe he's just drive over to Barstow on his way home this evening and see if he could find Mr. NoName.


"Jordy?"

"Yeah?"

"What if you had been hurt really badly?"

"I wasn't."

"But what if you had been?"

Jordan stopped grading the papers he'd been working on and dumped them on the floor, reaching for Dan, pulling him into his lap. "I wasn't, baby."

"I hated that they wouldn't let me see you."

"Me too. That's why I came home. I'm not staying in some place that won't let you in."

"But, that's what I mean. What if it had been worse and you had been unconscious? What then, Jordy?" Danny slid his arms around Jordan and hugged him tightly.

"I don't know, Danny. I can't believe they won't let the one person you love the most in the room."

"We could go to Canada or Vermont and get married and they still wouldn't let us here."

"We'll always be different, Danny. We knew that going in. It's like if they don't have to acknowledge us then we don't exist."

"How exactly do we threaten them, Jordy?"

"Fuck if I know. I just want to love you and live with you and be happy the rest of my life."

"Me too, Jordy."

"Then we'll try not to give a flying fuck what they think and do our best to not run into any more skating rink poles, K?"

"What if something happened to you or to me? Can we make wills so what we have stays with us?"

"I think families can fight that, Dan," Jordan frowned.

"My parents wouldn't. Oh..........," he sighed, remembering Jordan's father.

"We won't worry about that tonight, sweetheart." Jordan rumpled Danny's curls and blanked out the picture of his father's face. He looked into Danny's eyes and knew he needed to lighten the mood before Danny got scared again.

His mind raced for a minute, then he laughed and said,

"Did I ever tell you that I can throw a lasso?"

"Like on a horse?" Danny giggled.

"Yup. I even have chaps."

"OMG ! Those leather things that cover your jeans but like show off your stuff?"

"Never quite thought of it that way, but well, yeah. I ummmmm, actually have them if you wanna see."

"OMG !! Now, Jordy..........right now!"

Jordan walked over to the closet and rustled through an old box that had been shoved back in the dark corner. "Okay.........see, they go on like this and then I can pee without having to take them off." He strapped the leather chaps on over his jeans and stood in front of Danny.

"Do you have the rope?"

"Uh huh."

Danny was bouncing, bad thoughts forgotten. "Oh.....show me, Jordy!

Jordan laughed to himself. "You're adorable," he grinned. He tugged the heavy rope out of the box and adjusted the slip knot. "Okay, I haven't done this is awhile but here goes." He climbed up on the sofa and began to spin the rope in ever widening lazy circles above his head, finally letting it loose to fly across the room and loop around the wooden chair by the door.

"Oh...WOW!! Do it again, Jordy."

"Heck, if I'd known this would have made you so crazy, I'd have done it a long time ago," he giggled. He spun the rope and caught a few more wild escaping pieces of furniture.

"Jordy...................,"

"Mm Hm?"

"Um.......?"

"What, Daniel?"

"Can I see like the X-rated version of this show?"

"Dan Trainor! You skanky dog!"

Danny giggled and barked a few low howls. "I wanna see my own rodeo. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?" He sat there, his beautiful blue eyes sparkling, the tip of his tongue showing pink between his teeth.

"Okay," Jordan tried not to laugh, "For you." He walked over to the wall and pulled two cowboy hats off the rack. "But this is not a peep show. It's audience participation."

Danny's eyes widened and his grin stretched from ear to ear as Jordan proceeded to strip Danny's clothes off and leave him in only a leather vest dragged out of the closet and one of the cowboy hats. Lifting him and setting him in the wheelchair, Jordan grabbed up the chaps and walked into the bedroom, returning minutes later in cowboy hat, chaps and cowboy boots and a lot of tan skin.

Danny giggled, "Yehaaaa !!" He couldn't breathe looking at what the chaps were not covering up.

"Okay, Lil Pardner," Jordan drawled, "Don't you go makin' a run for it. I'll have to rope ya."

Danny decided to play. "Oh but aren't you the bad cattle rustler?" He fluttered his eyelashes and giggled. "Don't hurt me."

"Ah may hafta brand ya, Lil cowpoke," Jordan drawled, way into Wyatt Earp now. As he moved, his erection, at full mast, bounced against his chaps and the leather fringe waved madly.

Danny made a move and wheeled his chair in a tight circle around the end of the sofa towards the kitchen.

"Stop now, Lil Dude, before I hafta hogtie ya."

Jordan swung the lasso over his head and Danny heard the slow swoosh swoosh, as it flew through the air to land around the chair and his shoulders.

"I gotcha," Jordan laughed, "And now I gotta brand ya, so I know ya belong to me." He strutted, John Wayne-style over to Danny, who was snorting with laughter.

"Does it hurt to brand me?" he asked, his blue eyes saucered.

"Trust me, Lil Dude, You'll like this branding." Jordan's eyes darkened. He looked down at Dan and in one swift move, eased onto his lap, his knees on either side of Danny's legs. Leaning in for a kiss, Jordan whispered in Danny's ear, "Fuck me, Cowboy," and slid down, in one smooth motion, taking Danny's hard length into his body.

Next door, Markie turned to Griff as they cuddled in bed watching Letterman. "Griff, listen."

Griff muted the volume and they listened, grins and snorts turning into a total gigglefest and finally into a bit of loving of their own.

The next day, neither Griff nor Markie could look at Jordan or Danny without snickering.

"What?" Jordan finally asked.

"Nothing." Another giggle and rolling eyes.

"What's with you two?" Jordan muttered.

As Griff left the room to help Markie with the dishes, Jordan and Danny heard "Yippee Ki Yeh!!" and a burst of giggling.

"Oh my God," Danny groaned.

Jordan went back into John Wayne-world. "Well, Pilgrim.......wanna go practice that ropin' a little more? I'll let you wear the chaps." He stood up and reached for Danny, heaving him over his right shoulder and exiting the living room.


Easy had cruised for 2 nights up and down Barstow, looking for that boy in the blue and gold letter jacket. This was the last time he'd try. He wanted so much to help but he knew if a kid didn't wanna be found, he wouldn't be.

Suddenly, he heard someone hit the side of his car with something hard. He slammed on his brakes and pushed the window button. As the window snicked down, he heard a loud voice yell, "Mister. Mister. I'll blow ya for ten bucks. You can fuck me for twenty-five. What do ya say, Mister. Prime ass here, Mister."

Easy pulled over to the curb and let the car idle. He already knew before he looked who he'd find. The kid was trying to peer in the window. Easy opened the door and stepped out.

"Aw, shit," the boy snarled and turned to run. "Touch me and I'll scream rape." He backed off ten feet and stared at Easy.

"I don't want to grab at you and I'm not gonna chase you down the street," Easy said softly. "You said you'd wait for me at the center."

"I changed my mind," the boy answered belligerently. "I don't need nothin' from you."

"You need a lot, from me or someone else."

"Go away.........I don't need anyone."

Easy just stood, leaning against the car.

"Why should I believe you? You're just like all the rest of em."

"You can believe me cause I've been right where you're standing and I know exactly how you feel right now."

"Yeah, and how's that?"

Easy knew if he moved away from the car, the boy would run.

"Scared. Alone. Hungry. Just wanting to feel warm again."

"I don't need nothin'."

"That's where you're wrong. We all need something."

The boy was breathing heavy, his questions coming out like bullets. "So, what ya think I need, Mister Know It All?"

Easy smiled. "You need to talk. You need someone to listen."

"I don't got nothing' to talk about." Easy watched his body language change. The shoulders loosened, the arms fell to his sides.

"You want to talk......I'll listen, K, Lil Dude?" he leaned over and laid a ten dollar bill on the ground. "Go get some food."

He turned and opened the car door. The ignition cranked, he turned on the blinker. 'Come on, kid', he whispered.

He put his foot on the gas and started to pull away.

"Hey............Mister."

"Yeah?" Easy let down his window.

"My name's not Lil Dude."

"Didn't figure it was."

The boy stood still, weighing everything he had against all that he didn't.

"Gabriel."

"Night, Gabriel," Easy smiled. "See ya at the center?"

"Maybe."

"We'll talk."

"Maybe."

Easy pulled out into traffic. "All right then," he smiled as he watched the boy, Gabriel, lean down and then head toward the bright lights of the McDonald's on the corner.

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