Just Hit 'Send' - The Happy Years

by Grasshopper

Ch. 6


One minute Gabriel was walking towards a beautiful house, laughing people standing on the front porch, a small boy bouncing up and down in excitement. The next, he was flat on his back, a huge black dog slobbering all over his face.

"Get off him, you goof," he heard Easy laugh and he felt the huge animal being lifted off. Gabriel sat up and was immediately licked soundly across the nose.

"Fiddleficks! Get off the boy." Gabriel looked up into the frowning green eyes of a small blond boy who had a death grip around the neck of the huge dog.

"I think Fiddle is in love," he heard the man with the leg braces say, laughter in his voice.

Gabriel had wanted to be cool when he met these new people. Instead, here he sat, in the middle of the path, covered in a gigantic furry black drooling tongue. "Hey, Boy," he said softly, his fingers hesitantly running through the shiny black fringe of Fiddle's ears and was rewarded with yet another sloppy slurp.

"Give me your hand," a friendly voice offered as a strong tanned hand offered itself. Gabriel grabbed hold and was pulled neatly to his feet. He looked up shyly into bold green eyes.

"Hello Gabriel. My name is Jordan. Welcome to our family."

Markie pulled Easy over into the kitchen. "He's overwhelmed. Do something," she hissed in his ear.

Easy looked out into the living room where Nic was holding JD in his lap, trying futilely to teach him to tie his shoelace. JD had hold of the hand brake of Nic's chair making 'roooom roooom' noises and paying no attention, just staring at Gabriel from under his long lashes.

Gabriel was staring out the window watching Jordan wax his body board, Danny laughing at some joke of Griff's. . His shoulders were tense and Easy could see that he was taking it all in; the laughter, the love. Whether he would let himself open up to it or close down further was up to him. Easy could only give him the chance.

Val walked over to the quiet boy, her hand going to the back of his neck on a gentle caress. "I know just how you're feeling right now," she sighed. "When Easy brought me here for the first time, I realized he doesn't come 'one to a box'. He's part of this ragtag band of gypsies. But you know what, Gabriel?" her voice softened, "They can help you if you let them. Everyone here has walked along a path just like yours. They know exactly how you feel."

Gabriel looked from the small boy wrestling to free himself from the elderly man in the wheelchair, to the beautiful blonde woman in the kitchen whispering at Easy. He turned his head to look wistfully out the window at the three men laughing and squinting into the hot summer sun; one blond, one brown haired, one black curls. Friends for sure. Friends like he wanted. Friends like he had never had. Sighing, he felt the warmth of Val's hand and began to relax just a little.

The doorbell rang and JD erupted from Nic's lap. "Meeeeeee! I will open the door!!" He tumbled to the door, Markie grabbing the back of his t-shirt.

"Whoa, Speedy Gonzales. Manners!" she reminded him as she opened the door to a smiling woman and a wriggling long-haired, sweetfaced boy decked out in Hawaiian hibiscus baggies and a purple Shrek2 tank top.

"Andyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy !!" JD shrieked. "My friend, Mommy. He comed to my house." JD grabbed the smaller boy's hand and pulled him into the living room. Huge dark brown eyes saucered, Andy looked from face to face as JD enveloped him in a tight bear hug. "My Andy has come to my house," he sighed.

"Daddy!! Papa D!! Griff!! Come see my Andy!!" He ran to the back door and yelled.

Jordan held the door for Dan. "What's all the commotion?"

JD grabbed his hand. "Daddy, my bestest friend from Kidecare has come to my house." He pulled Andy to where Jordan was standing, towering over the tiny boy.

Jordan squatted down to eye level. "Hey there, Andy. Glad to meet you." He offered his hand. Andy held on tight to JD's shirt.

Seeing a big scratch on Andy's cheek, he tried again. "You win this fight?" he touched the little boy's cheek lightly.

Andy's eyes filled with tears. "I fallded down."

"Fell," Jordan corrected automatically.

"DADDY!! COME HERE!!" JD commanded furiously. He stomped off to behind the sofa. Jordan rolled his eyes and followed.

Leaning down, Jordan whispered, "What?"

JD had on his 'frog face'. The one he wore when grownups have been bad. Brows wrinkled, mouth all scrunched and frowny, hands on hips, all 33 inches of righteous indignation, he hissed, "He be's just a baby. He dunna talk good yet."

Jordan cocked his eyebrow at his son.

"I'm a big boy, Daddy. I know this stuff."

Jordan felt Danny's eyes and he turned his head to see the laughing blue waiting to see if he could wiggle out of this one.

Jordan walked back over to Andy who was now twined around his mother's leg and stuck out his hand.

"Sorry, Andy. I'm sorry you 'fallded' down. Would you like to go swimming?"

Andy popped out from behind his mother, his face beaming. "Yeth, yeth," he crowed.

"He's got no front tooths either," JD explained, "Like me."

"And me," Griff grinned and took out the bridge from his college football days that pretended to be his bottom front teeth.

"That was good, Daddy," JD said as he patted his daddy's face. "Try to 'member, K?"

Markie slipped her arm through Andy's mother's. "Let's go out and watch the 'boys' play, Karen."

Gabriel stood quietly by the window and watched it all. He knew Easy. He was trying to put everyone else together. Who belonged to whom??? He knew Val was Easy's girl........Mrs. Langley was JD's mother...........She must be married to Mr. Langley.......But JD called the tall blond man Daddy and the guy with the braces Papa D. His eyes reflected his confusion.

"Nic? Want me to get you settled on the porch?" Jordan asked before they all trouped out the door towards the water.

Nic, watching it all, watching Gabriel's face, replied, "No, Gabriel can help me."

Gabriel blinked and answered, "Uh.....sure." He walked over and let the brake off the chair.

"You know someone in a wheelchair?" Nic asked.

"Yeah, I had a friend at school. He was cool about it but needed some help sometimes." He opened the screen door and guided Nic's wheels over the metal strip.

"How long you been like this, Mr. Collins?"

"Just call me Grandpa Nic like JD does. Mr. Collins makes me feel old," Nic grinned. "I've been like this all my life."

He saw the sadness, the pity fill Gabriel's eyes. "No, boy. Don't go getting that look in your eyes....not for me. I've lived a wonderful life. Been loved by the one person who totally completed me."

"But..........you couldn't walk."

"But I could love and I could be loved. After I decided that I wanted to feel; after I let go of the pain and the anger, I found my life. That's what you have to do, Son. You have to let it all go. This is a fine place to do just that."

Gabriel's wet eyes stared out at the water's edge. He heard JD squeal; heard Easy's deep laughter and watched Griff hold Andy tight on the tiny bodyboard. "Who are all these people? How do they all fit together?"

Nic laughed. "Give it a little time. They will all fall into place. Believe me, who belongs with who is easy to see when you look for it."

"Gabriel ! Come on ! The water's great !"

Gabriel looked at Nic. Nic smiled, "This is your one chance, sweet boy. Don't mess it up. Go to JD's room and get that bathing suit on."

Gabriel stood still for a second. He was comfortable hiding. Nothing hurt when you hid. But listening to the laughter, watching them all together, he felt a rush of what he knew was missing.

"K," he said softly, and with that "K", his world changed.

Sitting around the fire, the cool Atlantic breeze ruffling sun-dried hair, voices murmuring softly as the light began to fade from blue to lavender, new friends eased their way into the caring, loving group.

"Karen, how long have you been on your own with Andy?" Val asked.

The slight woman, her cheeks rosy from the sun of her first real day of pleasure in months, smiled a bittersweet half smile. "Andy and I have been a team for almost two years now, right partner?" Andy grinned at his mom from his snuggled place between JD and Fiddle.

"Did I hear you say you worked at Walmart?" Danny asked.

"Yes," she answered. "I work as a receptionist at Dr. Harold's dentist office and then at Walmart in the evenings til 6." Her eyes swept the ground for a moment but her pride kept her from looking away. She waited for someone to say, like her sister had over and over, what a bad mother she was being to leave Andy with sitters, but she had to pay the rent and Andy's fee at Kindacare. Her husband was never good with the child support.

Instead, she watched Markie look at Jordan and Jordan look at Danny. "Karen," Danny said, a big smile creasing his face, "I get off work at 2 every day and swing by to grab the munchkin. I could grab up two munchkins for the price of one, if you like. Andy could come here and stay with us til you get off work."

"Oh, I couldn't do that. I couldn't impose like............"

"WHAT??? My Andy can come to my house every day?" JD grabbed Andy around the head and fell on him, legs flying everywhere. "Wheeeeeee!! Come with me," he dragged his friend up and they barreled into the house. "I will show you which toys you can play with."

"JD!!" Markie groaned.

Jordan laughed. "I don't think there's a way out of it now, Karen. We'll all have to go to timeout for months if "Our Andy" doesn't come to our house. Believe me, JD will be the best watchdog you'll ever meet and Dan and Nic will be right here til we all get home."

Markie and Val carried dishes to the kitchen, whispering about the cute single guy that taught PE at Val's school and how soon they could get Karen and him together, plotting like true matchmakers.

Gabriel sat quietly through all the talk, all the laughter, answering anytime someone spoke to him but not adding much. He was totally wishing he lived here, right here. He never wanted to leave. He knew what waiting for him back on the street.

"They're all something, aren't they?" Easy said quietly.

"Yeah. Easy?"


"Can we walk a little?"

"Sure." Easy stood up and waited for Gabriel, casting a quick glance over at Jordan, who was watching them.

The waves lapping the sand, the voices softening as they walked along the surf, Easy said gently, "What's up? How can I help?"

Gabriel had so much to say and no words would come out. Maybe just a little...maybe Easy wouldn't hate him if he told him just a little. "Easy," he started jerkily, "You know what I do....on the street. What I do."

Easy purposefully kept his eyes straight ahead. "I know what you did. I'm hoping you're not gonna do it anymore."

Gabriel tried, he tried so hard, but the tears came. The tough street veneer began to run off him with the tears. "Easy, I can't go back where I came from. There's no going home. I left for reasons. I had to." His voice grew tense and Easy put his hand on the boy's shoulder.

"You don't have to. I won't try to make you tell me anything you don't want to. Can you tell me why you felt you had to run away?"

Gabriel seemed to just collapse into the sand, his head down. "I had to. I was bad. My family told me to go."

"What could you do that would make your family say...............," Easy started and then light dawned. "Gabriel, why did your family push you out?"

"I can't tell you. You'll make me leave too." The sobs were getting heavier. It was as if an iceberg had broken loose.

"I have an idea that I might already know," Easy said quietly, "And if I'm right, you've got friends here, true friends."

"I," Gabriel mumbled, his words garbled, "I did guys on the street cause I needed money, but Easy........I didn't mind sometimes."

Easy sighed. "You left home because you're gay? Your parents couldn't accept it?"

Gabriel's eyes jerked up then out towards the water. "My mom caught me in my room with Denny Calligan. We were just foolin' around, just jerking' off. It was just the second time. Hell, I hadn't even kissed him."

"And what happened?"

"She told my father and he told me to get out." Gabriel stood up defiantly. "So, I got out. I had $300 saved and I got on the bus and landed here."

"What do you want to do? If you could do anything now, what would you want? To go home?"

"I don't know.........just not what I'm doing."

"I think there are some other guys better equipped to talk to you about this than me."

"I don't wanna talk to a shrink," Gabriel said belligerently. "I'm not sick."

Easy chuckled. "I don't think anyone would ever call Jordan a shrink. All he has is a degree from the Gay School of Hard Knocks."

"Mr. Lawrence...........Jordan....he's gay?" Gabriel pictured the tall golden haired man with the soft smile and the strong hands and the easy laugh.

"You aren't real observant today, are you? Your gaydar malfunctioning?"

Gabriel gave a quick gasp and then a small grin, "I guess so. I guess though, with just his best friends I wouldn't see it."

Easy snorted, "See what?"

"Him being gay. He wouldn't like be "gay" with his straight friends, right?"

Easy could see the total confusion in Gabriel's face. "Gabriel, I can't believe you missed it."


"Nevermind. Right now, let's head on back. I'm glad you told me a little about yourself. We can start from there helping you get back on track."

They walked back along the water's edge, Gabriel deep in thought and Easy trying to bite back the giggles that threatened to spill over. He figured he'd better warn his friends about Jordan before someone realized he was gay. He guessed he'd better tell Dan first J

Shrieks were getting louder as they neared the fire. Gabriel frowned but Easy just laughed, "I imagine Andy's mom is trying to pry him away from JD." Sure enough, the scene was chaos as Karen was edging towards the front door with a sleepy Andy in her arms.

"My Andy," JD sniffled, his bottom lip on the floor.

"Tell JD bye, Andy," his mom urged.

"ByeBye, JD," he yawned.

"I wanna keep him," JD snuffled.

"You'll see him at Kidecare on Monday," Jordan said gently. "And remember, Papa D is gonna get both of you and bring Andy here after school."

"Oh yessssssssss !! I forgotted," he brightened. "Bye, My Andy."

JD in bed with dreams of friends and dogs and surfboards and love, the others gathered back by the fire. Easy thought it was time for some explanations. "Guys, we need to explain some things to Gabriel. He's been kinda confused all day. I think he was so busy trying to not show us himself that he missed seeing us."

"Oh lord, how can you miss us?" Griff laughed. "If someone wrote a story about the bunch of us, no one would ever believe it."

"Who's gonna do this explaining?" Markie grinned.

Easy turned and looked into the crystal blue eyes. "You go, Danny. You know it all."

Danny had been leaning heavily on his braces with his back propped against the porch wall. His eyes dimmed for a second with bad memories and then sparkled as he realized that Gabriel didn't need to know any of that. None of the bad things, only where they were right now.

Thinking a second, he laughed, "I can see why he'd be confused. Okay, I suggest everyone get where they belong. That'll prolly help more than anything else."

Like a huge fruitbasket turnover, people shifted and moved where they belonged. Val slid into Easy's lap, her arms snugged around his neck.

"I knew that one," Gabriel snorted.

"Markie and Griff eased down onto the thinking log, fingers entertwined.

"Figured that one too except for the "Daddy" part."

Nic got himself more comfortable in the Adirondack chair and said quietly, "I'll tell you about my Sam one day if you like. He and I built this house of love."

Gabriel nodded, his eyes wide.

Jordan got up off the wooden swing and climbed the steps to where Danny waited. Whispered something in his ear and lifted him in his strong arms. They settled onto the swing, Jordan throwing a cover over Danny's legs and

pushing a ringlet of black curls behind his ear tenderly.

Gabriel sucked in a breath. "That one I didn't see."

"I guess what I was trying to say, Gabriel, is that we're people first. Who we love, who we belong with is just who we are," Danny smiled. "You didn't see Jordy and me because we don't push it at people unless we're comfortable with them. We've had a lot of years to see that what we feel for each other doesn't need to be public knowledge unless we want it to be."

"So," Gabriel sighed, "You're gay."


"Have you been like ummm...... with each other very long?"

Markie laughed, "They've been together forever. Only Nic and Sam have them beat, right Nic?"

"We've been together since we were 15 years old, give or take a few mishaps along the way. I've loved Dan since the first minute I saw him," Jordan said gently, his mind flickering back to a lonely figure slumped in a wheelchair staring at the sharks. "He is my first love and my only love."

"So," Gabriel sighed, his mind whirling, "Gay people can be in love. It's not like my father said?"

Everyone cringed. Images of David Lawrence shot around the group and Jordan answered, "No, Gabriel. It's not like your father said. Trust me on that."

The talk continued until Markie couldn't hold back the yawns. "Guys, I've gotta call it a day. Gabriel, you are welcome here anytime you want to come. I've loved having you. Now I'm going to bed."

The party broke up and Gabriel got hugs from every direction. He whispered in Nic's ear, "Thanks for telling me to take a chance."

"Come back soon. You fit here," Nic smiled.

Jordan and Danny walked Easy, Val and Gabriel out to the car, Danny leaning on Jordan.

"You tired, Punkin?"

"Yeah, a little."

Gabriel watched as Jordan kept his arm tight around Danny's waist giving him the support he needed. He saw Danny lean his head onto Jordan' shoulder.

"Night, guys," Easy called as they backed out the drive and pulled onto the street. Gabriel turned his head to take one last glimpse of two men who had become something he wanted to be one day.

"I'm glad you came today, Gabriel," Val said, a smile in her voice.

"Not half as much as me," he replied. "I've got so much to think about now."

"I'll drop you at the center. You'll be there tomorrow?" Easy asked casually, hoping to hear the right answer.

"Yeah. I don't think the street is the place for me anymore."

Easy looked over the top of his head into Val's eyes, the smiles saying it all.

Jordan was quiet. Danny knew that kind of quiet. "Thinkin' about your dad?"

"I was just thinking about what Gabriel said. How can parents be the way his are? Like my dad is? I'm still me. Gabriel is still Gabriel. We didn't change. We were born gay. He said his father loved him until he said he was gay. Can you imagine just stopping loving JD for any reason?" His shoulders hunched, his voice quiet.

"No, and neither can you. I'm not excusing them; you know how I feel but I guess it's just too much to expect them to change their whole view of what's right."

Jordan's head reared up, "Even for their own children? I can't accept that."

"Hon, we're back to unconditional love again. I have it. You have it but most people put conditions on love. "I'll love you if..............if you're handsome enough, smart enough, popular enough, straight enough......What if one of your "requirements" for loving someone was that they had to be able to walk? Not exactly a big request. Most people can do it."


"You don't think that goes through my mind everyday? How you love me in spite of my handicap. What if, that day, you had turned and walked away? Not because you were cruel but because you hadn't been strong enough to love me."

"It doesn't take strength to love you, baby."

"Yeah, yeah it does, Jordy. All these years, carrying me, holding me, supporting me, it's been that love. I know it. You do too."

"Well, I'm no easy job either."

Danny laughed, "What, you? My high maintenance man? I tried to get rid of you bunches of times.......tried kicking you to the curb, but nooooooo. You wouldn't let go."

Jordan walked away from the window and knelt in front of Danny's wheelchair. "I remember the most beautiful blue-eyed boy sitting just like this one night. I was so afraid to kiss you but more afraid not to. You owed me a kiss that night."

"So many kisses, so many tears...."

"So much laughter, so much love........."

"I love you, Jordy."

"Of course you do. What's not to love?" He grinned as Dan popped him on the nose.

"I think," Danny sighed, "That all we can do is raise JD the best we can and help Gabriel and love Nic and just be ourselves. The world's just not quite ready to say that I can love you."

"Well, I'm always ready for you to say it, especially if you say it, "he smiled, his green eyes dancing, "Nose to nose and toes to toes. Come to bed and tell me how much you love me, you gorgeous guy."

"May I show you?"

"Maybe, if you promise not to hurt me."


"Well, I am a kinda delicate flower."

"More like a stink weed."

"Oh yeah?"


"Well, come to bed."

"You aren't the boss of me!"

"I am so."

Jordan raised one eyebrow. "You are the boss of me???"

"Yep." Danny ran his fingers down Jordan's chest and just lightly grazed the bulge in his shorts. "I," he licked his lips, "Am," he lowered his eyelashes, "So," he reached a bit lower and cupped Jordan's throbbing balls, "The'" he leaned in and licked Jordan's bottom lip, "Boss," he breathed softly in Jordan's ear, "Of," then ran his tongue down the side of Jordan's face, "You."

Jordan rocked back on his heels, his eyes dark and his breathing heavy. "C'mon Boss..........Bed time."

Monday came and with it work and people flying in every direction. Nic handed Markie and Griff and Jordan and Danny their brown bags.

"What's for lunch today?" Jordan asked, "Not tuna again, I hope."

"No," Nic laughed, "I got the message when you ran out the door Friday without your lunch. I've got you all on low carbs starting today. Baked chicken, raw veggies and lemon water."

Griff rolled his eyes. "How's a coach gonna keep his strength up with that, I ask ya."

Nic chuckled. "We're having steak tonight. Hang in there."

JD reached for his Spongebob lunchbox. "Me and Andy trades. I hope he gots that stuff like last week."

"You've got chicken soup in the thermos and a peanut butter and banana sandwich, without crusts, and chocolate chip cookies."

"Are the nanas round or long?"

"Round like you asked."

"Okey doke."

Jordan bit. "Why do you want them round?"

"Cause we take em out and flip em."

"Makes sense to me," Danny laughed.

"Kisses. Kisses," JD announced. "One for Grandpa Nic. One for Daddy. One for Mommy. One for Papa D. One for Griff."

Jordan looked up from the loud smacking to see an odd expression flicker across Griffin's face. Jordan stored it away for later.

"Let's get this show on the road."

JD jumped into the side door of Danny's new van. His job was to push the buttons that elevated the lift. He never did it wrong. "Come on, Papa D. I wanna see my Andy."

Jordan pushed the sliding door shut with a swift move and walked to the driver's window to get a goodbye kiss. He knew how proud Dan was of the van and how it made him so much less dependent. Jordan worried himself sick everytime Danny drove away, images of snowy roads and screeching brakes trying to claim his mind, but he held it all in and was proud of Dan.

"Don't forget you get two for one today," he laughed.

"You think this little JD Squarepants would let me forget?"

"Hahaha....................I don't gots square pants."

Nic watched them drive away, waving as the last car turned the corner. He loved them all so much. "Sam, you can feel how happy I am. The only thing missing is you. I miss your touch on my face and your sweet kiss." Nic wheeled himself into his bedroom and reached into the bedside table for the pills. He was taking more and more of them lately. It was odd.........he loved being here with all the hubbub and laughter and love but he wanted to be with Sam. He knew how lucky he was. He had happiness while he waited.

Sam had told him one night while he was in that place between awake and asleep.........he had told him about where he was and how it would be. Nic felt only peace as he waited to join Sam where no one cared who they were, just that they loved. Sam had told him that he had a place all ready for them, by the water where he could paint and Nic could take long walks. Sam said that the first painting he would do after Nic got there was of Nic walking across this old bridge, that he had the bridge already painted in; he was just waiting for Nic to pose.

Nic felt the twinges in his chest and closed his eyes, breathing slowly in and out. He could feel Sam's fingers in his face. "Not long now, love," he smiled.

"Let's try this one more time."

"K." JD sighed a long dramatic sigh.

"Build a tee pee
Come inside
Close it tight so we can hide
Over the mountain
And around we go
Here's my arrow
And here's my bow!"

"Did you follow it this time?"

JD flopped the laces over in his hands. "I cannot. I'm stupid." He made the teepee.........he shoved the end thingie through.......he went over the mountain but there wasn't any bow like Daddy kept showing him.

"You're so not stupid. Don't say that," Jordan groaned. "Let me show you one more time."

"Andy dunna tie his shoes."

"Andy has Velcro," Jordan explained.

"I want Velcro."

"JD, you have to know how to tie your shoes before you can go to Kindergarten. It's a rule."

"I won't go."

Jordan let out a long breath. He shot a 'save me' look over at Dan.

"K, I'll try, but I'm not promising anything. C'mere, munchkin." JD escaped from his daddy's lap and walked cautiously towards the next shoelace inquisitor. "Can I go see what my Andy is doing?" he asked hopefully.

"In a sec.......let's see if this will help. Once there was a bunny that was very sad cause his ears were long and floppy and he stepped on them all the time."

"Like my shoelaces?"

"Yep, just like that. One day a beautiful fairy,,,,,,,,"

"The shoelace fairy?"

"Yep. She landed on the bunny's head and.........."

"Didn't that hurt? Does she have a wand?"

"Nope. She lifted up the bunny's ears and crossed them over like an x."

"I can cross my eyes.........look."

"Lovely. She put one ear through the bottom of the x and she pulled."

"She pulled the bunny's ears..........bad fairy."

"No, she was trying to tie his.........."

"Dan," Jordan laughed, "Stop. That is the worst thing I've ever heard."

"Well, it's better than the teepees and the arrows and crap," Danny huffed.

"Can I go see Andy now?"

"Yes, go see Andy and his Velcro sneakers," Jordan snickered. "We give up."

JD made a break for it and ran to the porch to find Andy, jumping on him and tickling him into giggles. A few minutes later, the two little guys came back in the living room, barefooted.

"Look Daddy........Papa D.......I don't gots to learn anymore. We throwed our shoes away."

"Not that simple, Punkin."

They heard the car door slam and Griff and Markie walked up the front path. "Mommmmmmmiie. Griffffffff!!"

"Why are you guys barefooted?" Markie asked.

"We throwed away our shoes cause I'm stupid."

Markie looked over at Jordan. "What now?"

"He's having a little trouble learning to tie his shoelaces. No one said he was stupid."

"Did you try the snake song?" she asked.

"We tried everything."

Griff shook his head. "Get your shoes and come here, JD."

JD and Andy scurried out onto the porch and came back with JD's sneaks.

"Sit here on my lap and we'll tie your shoes."

"Okay." JD crawled up into Griff's lap and snuggled back against his chest, wiggling his bare toes.

"Okay, put your shoe on. There. Now take these two strings and do this." He looped them over and pulled one through. "Now, make a loop like this so it looks like the letter 'b'. Got it? K. Now stuff this part through and pull it all tight. You tied your shoe..........Congrats !!"

"Where are the teepees and the fairies?" JD asked.

"I think that must be a gay thing," Griff snorted. "Now, put the other one on and tie it." He watched as JD, tongue stuck out between his teeth in deep shoelace concentration, tied a sloppy but effective bow. "Pull it tight now."

"Mommy! Look! I tied my shoes! Daddy! Papa D! I tied my shoes!!"

"You be's very very smart," Andy crowed.

JD proceeded to retie everyone's shoes who couldn't escape fast enough.

JD climbed back up in Griff's lap throwing his arms around his neck. "Love you," he whispered as he plopped wet kisses on Griff's face, "My Pop."

Griff looked down into JD's smiley face, "What?"

"Well, Andy says I gots a Daddy and a Papa but who weres you. I thinked about it this much," he stretched his arms out wide, "And I wanted you to have a 'pecial name too." He got suddenly shy and lowered his face into Griff's chest. He mumbled, "Okay?"

Griffin Langley was not prone to tears. He had cried at Josh's funeral while he held Jordan's hand. He had cried alone in his room when Jordy ran away. He cried the night Easy told him about his parents. Those were sad tears; tears of frustration and grief.

He had cried the day Markie married him and he knew he'd cry the day their child was born. Those would be happy tears; tears of joy and happiness.

Right this minute.....this small boy in his arms, he felt tears well up and knew he had been waiting, hoping for this moment. In that moment, JD became part of him like he hadn't been before.

"I guess yeah," he said softly and felt his son snuggle closer to rest his cheek against his wildly beating heart.

JD began to wiggle. "Andy and me have to go find three more cocina shells for his mommy. C'mon, AndyPandy..........Bye, Pop!" He giggled and the two little boys ran out the back door.

Griff got up and walked to the back steps to watch them as they scurried around in the sand. Jordan was rocking quietly in the old wicker rocker.

"You heard?"


"You cool with it?"

"Totally..........Pop! Get used to it. You'll be Daddy in about 5 months."

"We've come a long way together, Jord."

"And I thank God for you every day, my friend."

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[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead