Just Hit 'Send' - The Happy Years

by Grasshopper

Ch. 8

Turning off the shower, Jordan stepped out, grabbing for a clean towel.

His hand hit a bare rack.

"Dan............Can you get me a towel? Yo, Danny, you there?" he called out the open door.

Grumbling, he patted the worst of the water off with the face towel and shook his head like Fiddlesticks. He couldn't complain; it was his turn at laundry, but he was kinda dripping here.

Shaking the shaving cream can, he squirted a handful and smoothed it on his face. Reaching for the razor, he heard the front door bang shut.

"Can you get me a towel, Hon?"

He heard a giggle and a snip of the linen closet door. A small face appeared, peering over a big towel. "Here be's me with a towel. I be's Hon."

Jordan laughed, "You're my little Hon. Thanks, Punkin." He took the fluffy blue towel, dried his back and shoulders and gave his hair a rough rub.

He and Dan had agreed to be casual with JD about bare skin. Not to make a big deal about it. He could feel JD staring, but kept shaving.


"Uh huh?" Jordan mumbled around the white Gillette foam.

"What's that?"

Aw, shit. "What, JD?" he asked, wishing Dan was here. He was much better at this stuff.

"That." He looked over to see JD pointing at something below his waist.

"It's the same stuff you've got."

"Nah," JD puzzled, "I don't gots one of those."

Trying to keep this conversation smooth, Jordan kept shaving. "JD, you've got the same equipment I've got. We're both guys. He took a deep breath and jumped in, "You've got a penis just like mine....maybe it's not as ............,"

"Daddddyyyy!" JD sighed loudly. "I know I'z gots a peenis."

"You want to shave with me?" Jordan tried to change the subject.

"Daddy! I just wants to know what be's that," he pointed.

Jordan stopped and looked at JD. "Okay, what do I have that you don't have?" He looked down at his crotch and then over at JD.

JD rolled his eyes in that 'Daddys can be so dumb' way he had and pointed again. Seeing that his Daddy wasn't getting it, he tried to explain. "I see'd

that and I checked Nickie. She don't gots one either."

"Well, no. Nickie won't have one. She's a girl."

"I know my sissy be's a girl," JD answered, belligerently. "Daddyyyy!"

"She won't have a penis," Jordan said, wishing loudly that Dan would appear in the doorway right now.

"Wait, Daddy." Jordan breathed a sigh of relief when JD ran off into the other room. Feeling a bit naked, he draped the towel around his waist and knotted it firmly.

JD came running back with a box of Cheerios. "See, Daddy?"

Just then, the door opened and Jordan heard the familiar sound of the tip tap of Danny's braces.

"Dan! In here! Right now!" he called out.

Danny's beautiful face appeared in the doorway. "You called? Hey, little punkin. You hungry?" he asked, seeing the Cheerios.

"Danny, JD is trying to explain something," Jordan groaned, widening his eyes to show Dan he needed a little help. "I'm kinda clueless."

Danny snorted, "That's nothing new. What ya need, lil guy?"

"K........," JD started over. "Daddy gots one. I don't. Nickie don't. I be's showing him, but he can't see. Like this," he said, patiently, waving the Cheerios box.

"Your daddy has something that you don't have and Nickie doesn't have, right?" Danny repeated. "Where?"

Jordan sighed. Here we go again. JD pointed directly below Jordan's waist, where the towel perched.

Danny's eyes followed the pointing finger and then rose to meet Jordan's. "And the Cheerios have something to do with this?"

"Yes, Papa D. Do you gots one?"

"I have no earthly idea," Danny answered.

Totally mystified, Danny picked JD up and sat him on the counter. "Real slow now, JD. Explain to Daddy and me how a Cheerio box is like some part of his body?"

JD turned the box over and punched at the bar code with his finger. "See? Daddy gots one like at the grosey store, but I don't and Nikkie don't. Do you gots one? Mommy said that she went shoppin for my sissy and me, but we don't gots one. Why not, Papa D?"

"What? I do not have a bar code!" Jordan choked out as Danny tried, without success, to stifle his giggles. "What ARE you talking about?"

Danny thought for a second and the light dawned. He grinned and looked over at Jordan, "Yeah, I've got a 'bar code' just like your Daddy's, JD."

"Can me see?"

Danny blinked, then his blue eyes lit up mischievously. "Um, I guess, but it would be easier to 'view' your Daddy's right about now."

Jordan, shaving forgotten, hands on hips, asked, "Would someone clue me in?"

"Ya gotta turn around for this show," Danny chuckled. "Your 'bar code' is on your butt."

Jordan's face wrinkled in puzzlement, then he let out a laughing OMG and turned to drop the towel lower off his rear end. He had not forgotten, never forgotten, just hadn't connected what JD was trying to ask.

Etched on his right cheek, in blue ink was tattooed, Property of DAT in tiny flowing letters.

"And you gots one too, Papa D?"

"Yes," Danny smiled, his memory zooming back to that day, the beach, the sun, Markie and Jerry, the four Musketeers. How Jordan had taken care of him then...was still taking care of him now.

Jordan reknotted the towel, his eyes on Danny's face, watching the memories flood through him.

"Why do I not gots one?" JD's little face crunching up. "Or my sissy?"

"Quit teasing him," Jordan smiled. "JD, these aren't bar codes like on stuff you buy at the store. These are tattoos."

"Oh," JD said, his mind already whirling in another direction, "Like on Smackdown?"

Danny rolled his eyes, "Yeah, like that."

"I want one."

"I think your mommy would have a royal fit, lil guy."

"Pleeeeeease? Like you and Papa D has?"

"We'll never hear the end of it, you know. He'll rag on us til we give in," Danny whispered, laughter in his voice.

Jordan thought a minute and relented, "K, JD but it's a secret for just us guys, k?"

JD firmed his small face and squared his shoulders, Secret guy stuff.....

Okayyyyyy !!" He grinned, then his bottom lip trembled a bit. "It will hurt me?"

"Would your Daddy or I ever hurt you?"

"Noooooo ! K, me's ready," he said, scrambling to undo his shorts.

"Whoa.....we'll put yours on your tummy. It will be the cool new place," Jordan smiled. "Let me finish shaving and we'll do it."

A few minutes later, sweat pants on, Jordan found Danny and JD sitting on the sofa in the living room, waiting patiently. Jordan walked over and opened the long drawer in his desk where he kept his marking pens. Choosing two colors, he sat down beside JD, who was offering up his round tummy happily.

Thinking for a minute, Jordan grinned and began to draw with the blue Sharpie. He sketched a small starfish, complete with a little smile, sneakers and a baseball cap.

"You finish, Dan," he said, handing the green Sharpie with love and laughter in his eyes.

Danny blew on the little starfish, making JD giggle and then he printed in tiny little letters - make a difference .

Satisfied, the three 'guys' waited till the secret tattoo was dry, so they could open that box of Cheerios and watch Spongebob and Patrick try to get out of some big trouble at the Krusty Krab.

"I love Patrick," JD sighed, as he chewed and watched the screen. "He be's a starfish just like meeee!" He pointed to his tattoo. Just then, Spongebob asked Patrick where the hamburgers were that he had cooked and Patrick answered, 'Uh...I...uh...forget." To which, JD shrieked with laughter.

Dinner that night was full of the day's stories. Griff had been asked to run next summer's little league program and was discussing the pros and cons. Markie held Nickie in her lap, eating with one hand and patting the baby with the other until Danny lifted the little squirmy girl away.

Everyone went their separate ways to watch TV or grade papers or sit and watch the sun go down out on the sand. Markie came out onto the back porch, "Nickie says goodnight. She's going to bed now."

Quiet surrounded the house. It was too good to last.

"JD !!! Joshua Daniel Latham/Lawrence Langley !!!"

"Oh, shit," Danny groaned, "What now?"

Griff ran inside and, after a few minutes, when all that could be heard were Markie's voice and JD's wails, Griff opened the screen door, glaring at his friends.

"Okay.......come explain why Nickie has a picture of a........well, I don't know what it is........on her tummy in permanent marker. All we get from him is something about Cheerios and Smackdown."

"Aw, double shit," Danny moaned, as Jordan tried to choke back the giggles that threatened. "We're in big trouble."

Jordan laughed, "So much for secret guy stuff." He scooped Danny up out of the swing and walked toward the house, straight into Markie's furious face and JD's lifted arms.

JD's tear-streaked face washed. Nickie's little tummy kissed. Markie, really pissed and Griff trying to smooth it all over, Jordan and Danny snuck out the back door and collapsed on their bed letting the laughter spill out.

"I thought I'd die when JD was trying to explain about the bar codes and how Markie must have bought them both at a store that doesn't have boxes," Danny snorted.

"He was trying so hard and making it worse and worse," Jordan gulped in air.

"All because we have these tattoos."

"Yes.......we do," Jordan breathed.

Danny eased closer. "Can I see yours?"

"Um hmmm."

"Can I maybe touch yours?"

"Um hmmm."

They rolled together, the years falling away, the tender, shy feelings of those first years flooding back.

"I love you so much, Jordy. I think it can't get any better and it always does. You always surprise me and I can't ever get enough....not of loving you this way and loving everything about you."

Jordan felt Danny's heart beating under his outstretched hand. "We've come through a lot, haven't we, angel?"

They lay quietly for a minute, each knowing how lucky they were, each inhaling the smell of the man they loved........



"Nose to nose? Toes to toes?"

Sighing, Jordan gathered him in. "I am so lost in love with you. You will never know, my beautiful blue-eyed boy." His nose touching the tip of Danny's, they kissed, slowly at first, little pecks and licks, laughing and snuggling, but the fire was there. It built, as it had for years. They would always feel the fire.

"Let me........."

"I want......."



turned into

"Now, Jordy!"

"Love me!"

"Like this?"

"Right there!"

"Oh God!"

The night covered them softly as it always did. Jordan&Dan, so very lucky.

"I can't go. I don't have my homework," Danny struggled to cry, the sound of the bell ringing insistently in his ear. "Mom, I can't go today."

"Wake up, Dan. It's the phone. Grab it," Jordan shook him urgently.

"Danny shook his head to wake himself up, Groggily, he answered, "Yeah? Hello?"

He sat straight up in the bed and clutched the phone to his ear.

"Mom, slow down!"
"But, he's still........"
"I'll be there as soon as I can."
"Love you too."

He sat, with the receiver in his hand. "My dad," he said simply.

Jordan turned on the light and grabbed the phone out of Danny's hand. Striding over quickly to the desk, he flipped the phonebook pages and punched in a number.

"Yes, hello. I need 2 tickets on the first available flight to Daytona."
"Yeah, this morning at 10:30, okay."
"Jordan Lawrence. Mastercard......"

Danny could hear Jordy making the reservations, but he couldn't move. His dad! Heart attack! Oh God! Not his dad. He jogged and swam and ate right and .................. When had he talked to him last? He hadn't called them in like 2 weeks. Oh, Dad!

The early morning passed by in a fog, Jordan throwing clothes in duffels, Markie calling the school to arrange a sub for Jordan and calling to explain why Danny would miss his therapy groups. Saying she didn't know how long they'd be gone. Probably till the end of the week.

JD was in tears and had to be forced to Kindergarten. He hugged Danny very tight. "I love you, Papa D. Love you."

Pulling himself from the frozen mood he was in, Dan hugged him back. "I love you too, lil guy. We'll be back real quick."

JD whispered in Jordan's ear, "Daddy, don't let Papa D cry. Please, Daddy?"

"I'll hold his hand. I promise. Go on to school."

The flight was long and torturous, as Danny thought of all the little things he could have been doing for his dad, for his parents. "Jordy, I was supposed to go down and fix their gutters. Why didn't I go?"

"Shhh, Hon. Hush now. You didn't because we have to work. We were going over Christmas holidays, remember? We still will. He'll be right out there in the front yard giving us advice, like he always does."

"Will he, Jordy?"

"Yes, he will. Let's get there before we jump to any conclusions." He snugged Danny into the crook of his arm, glaring at the look he was getting from a large overdressed woman across the aisle, unable to resist gently stroking the blue-black curls off Danny's forehead and planting a soft kiss. "Shh now."

The hospital was cold and glary white, smelling of antiseptic and sadness, as all hospitals do. Jordan and Danny had been in their share and the depressive atmosphere hit them both as they walked through the automatic doors.

"Ernest Trainor," Jordan said, as they walked up to the Information Desk.

"Room 413. Family only at this time," the receptionist replied. "You are family?"

"Yes," Jordan answered quickly. "His son," nodding to Danny, "And I'm his nephew." Getting on the elevator, he leaned toward Dan, "Not taking any chances."

Not able to give him physical support, Jordan kept his eyes on Dan's face.

'I'm here', his green eyes said loudly. Danny smiled, 'Thank you'.

They found Room 413 and Jordan opened the door carefully to find Fran, Danny's mom sitting in a huge metal chair close by the bed, holding desperately to her husband's hand.

"Oh, Jordan.....Danny," she cried, as she spotted her son. Danny moved quickly to her side and hugged her close. Jordan stood at the end of the bed, wishing he could help, but knowing this was a family moment. Being there was all he could do.

"He was laughing and helping me get the Christmas decorations box down from the attic. We wanted to get some new lights this year. The old ones were half blown and I like the new round bulbs they have at Walgreens....., she said, rushing her words, "Oh......he was at the top of the ladder and he seemed to catch his breath. I don't know what happened, Danny. He just fell. He was laughing and then he fell. I don't know..........I don't know."

"Shhh, it's okay," Danny soothed. "Mom, how is he now?" Jordan knew how much those words cost Dan. He knew how terrified Dan was of the answer.

"The doctor says it was a heart attack. He's never had any heart problems, Danny. You know that."

"I know, Mom. How is he now? What does the doctor say now?"

"I'm not sure. He should be back soon. I told him you were coming. He said he'd be back this afternoon to talk to you."

"Good deal." Danny walked close to the bed and touched his dad's sleeping face. "Hey, Dad, it's me, Danny. Jordan's here. We came to clean the gutters. Can't do it if you don't wake up, k?"

Jordan walked to his side and took his hand. "Hey, Mr. T. You take your time. Dan and I will wait right here with Mrs. T till you decide to wake up."

The light from the hall shone into the dark room as the doctor came through the door, clipboard in hand. "Mr. Trainor?" He looked from Dan to Jordan.

Danny held out his hand. "Dan Trainor. This is Jordan Lawrence."

"Mr. Lawrence," he nodded toward Jordan.

"Harold Jacobs."

"Tell me about my father," Danny asked.

"He suffered a relatively mild heart attack. We regard these as warning signs. He should come out of this a bit weak and needing to rest, but should recover to live his normal life."

"Thank God," Danny sighed and pulled his mom close. Jordan's fingers remained laced in his. "But he is...was so healthy. No smoking, no drinking. He exercised and ate right. What happened?"

"Stress can cause this. Heredity. We'll be conducting tests and putting him on meds to prevent this from happening again. He's a very lucky man that he was brought in quickly and is in such good health."

"How soon will he be up and around?"

"I want him to rest for at least a week, not bed rest, but taking it easy. I'd say by the end of the month, he'll be running in all five gears."

"When can he go home?" Jordan asked.

"I want to keep him here for tests. He can go home, let's see, today is Tuesday. You can get him home on Thursday. How does that sound?"

"Sounds great, right Mom?"

Fran wiped the quiet tears from her cheeks. "Oh, yes. Did you hear that, Ernest? Home on Thursday."

"He should be coming out from under the sedatives we gave him any time now. He needs to stay in that bed until tomorrow and then he can get up and walk with a nurse just to make sure he has his balance back."

"He'll be fighting the hospital as soon as he wakes up," Danny laughed. "He hates them."

"Don't we all?"" Dr. Jacobs smiled. "Any other questions?" He waited and then smiled and left the room.

Danny stood behind his mom's chair and rubbed her shoulders. Jordan watched as Ernest slowly began to wake from a drugged sleep. His face broke into a wide smile when he saw Danny standing behind his wife.

"What you doing here, son? I just had a little fall off a ladder."

"We wanted to make sure you were okay and start working on those gutters," Danny smiled, his relief shining in his eyes.

"We? Is Jordy here?" He looked around and found the tall blond. "Hey there, sunshine. Sorry for all the fuss."

"No fuss, Mr. T. We needed a break from work," he laughed. "I miss the beach. Wanna go surfin' tomorrow?"


"Hahaha..............yeah, darn tootin' I do," Ernest chuckled. "When do I get out of this place?"

Jordan and Dan stayed through the weekend, cleaning those gutters and washing the siding. Ernest came home on Thursday, insisting on touring the beach to make sure it was still there. The Christmas decorations box was sorted through and a few ornaments were wrapped carefully for Danny to take to JD and Nickie, some of Papa D's homemade ones.

They went ahead and hung the outdoor lights and fitted the new round bulbs from Walgreens. Standing back on Saturday night, taking a look at their handiwork, it was agreed that the house was ready for Santa.

On Sunday afternoon, taxi on the way, Danny asked one last time, "You sure you're gonna feel strong enough to make it up for Thanksgiving? We could come down here."

"We asked Dr. Jacobs and you heard his answer. The change of scene will do me good and seeing those grandkids will be the best medicine in the world. Your mom will drive and I'll just sit back and enjoy the ride."

Fran snorted, "Yeah, and push on that invisible brake pedal the whole time."

The taxi pulled up, Jordan hugged his in-laws one last time. "Take it easy, Mr. T. We'll see you in two weeks."

"Dad, I..............," Danny choked up.

"I know, son. Believe me, I know. Go on now. Jordan's waiting. Take care of each other."

"See you both for Thanksgiving. I'll call tonight when we get home. I love you both so much."

Danny was quiet all the way to the airport and on the flight home. He curled up, his head on Jordan's arm and slept.

"We'll begin the descent into Wilmington in approximately 10 minutes. It's been a pleasure having you on this flight." The voice of the pilot buzzed in his head and Dan opened his eyes.

"I slept."

"Yes, you did," Jordan smiled. "You needed it."

"I almost lost him. I don't know what I would have done, Jordy."

"You would have gone on.....like we always have. It would have been rough but I would have helped you and we would have gone on. It's what he would want."

"I was thinking about your father," Danny said softly.

"Don't waste the brain power," Jordan sighed. "He'll never change."

Danny knew how hard it was for Jordy to accept his father's attitude. For such a long time, Danny had felt the weight of guilt that it was his fault, but he knew now, that no matter who Jordan had chosen or how it had all worked out, Mr. Lawrence would still have chosen his "religion" over his son.

"What if this had been him?" Danny asked.

"I would have gone home, supported him the best I could, and come away feeling sad and lonely...until I got home to you."

"I don't know what I would ever do if I lost you."

"You're not going to lose me. I'll just wear a collar with a tag that has your name and address on it. I get lost and they'll bring me home. K?"

Danny smiled, his eyes tired. "I love you, Jordan."

"Right back at ya, Danny Boy."

Thanksgiving was a great holiday for a lot of reasons. Jordan had borrowed two long cafeteria tables from the school, Fran had brought beautiful fall leaf tablecloths to cover them and they had set them out on the back porch praying for mild weather. The gods were with them and the day was perfect.

Markie and JD had made little turkey napkin rings for each place and when everyone; Jordan, Dan, Markie, Griff, Easy, Val, Gabriel, Fran, Ernest and JD finally sat down to the groaning tables, they looked around the table and at each other and smiled.

The turkey consumed, the dressing and gravy, cranberries, sweet potato casserole, green beans, and punkin pie all eaten, it was time to sit back and think about just why they gathered together and why they were thankful.

Jordan stood up. "I want to say that I'm so happy that Mr. and Mrs. T are with us this Thanksgiving. We're thankful Mr. T is feeling great again. We've got a new baby, good health, a new member of our family and a beautiful day. We've lost one member of our family but he's holding his glass in the air right now with us. Raise your glasses, everybody. To the happiness of us all!"

JD grinned and raised his 'wine' glass full of Dr Pepper.

One by one, they stood and, tears shimmering, said grateful thanks for the past year and hopeful thoughts for the year ahead.

"I am so very grateful for loving Markie and our sweet baby girl."

"I'm thankful that you let me come here and be part of your family and that Easy saved my life."

"I want to thank each and every one of you for taking me into your hearts and letting me share Easy with you."

"I am so glad everyone is here today and making my first Thanksgiving with my new daughter.....and my old son.......the best ever."

"We are so happy to be here today with our family. Thank you for including us and thank God for letting it happen."

"I always say the same thing every year. Why be different? I thank God for a boy on a skateboard and his heart that was big enough to let me be here today."

"I am so grateful for my dad being well and my parents being here. I'm thankful for my family here around this table and especially I thank God every day for my Jordy."

"My personal thanks, God, for Dan. Without him, I'd be lost."

Everyone started talking, but a sudden loud sound shushing hushed them.

A small boy climbed up on the seat of his chair and raised his Spongebob Squarepants 'wine' glass. "I gots stuff to say." He looked around the table.

"I be's thanksful for Mommy and Daddy and Papa D and Pop and Unca Easy and Auntie Val and my bestest friend Gabe.........my second bestest friend Andy and my beautiful Fiddleficks. I miss my Grandpa Nic, but he's happy in Hebben with Sam angel. Thank you God for my sissy." He looked around at all the astonished faces. "That's all I gues. Oh.......and thanks for my grandma and grandpa T." He sat down with a plunk......and a very satisfied look on his face.

"He's growing up," Markie sighed, tears in her eyes, her hand reaching for Jordan's.

"Yeah. I hope he has an easier path than we did."

Thanksgiving holidays over, Christmas staring them in the face, Jordan watched Danny quietly. He was dragging; Nic's death, his father's heart attack, the strain of working a full-time job on braces. Jordan never forgot that Danny just didn't possess the same physical strength. It seemed like Jordan had watched over Danny all his life........and he wouldn't ever ask for anything else. God, he loved Daniel Trainor.

Jordan made a few private phone calls standing out on the sand with his cell and, everything arranged, he sat down to Sunday dinner on the 10th of December to announce that he had rented a cabin by a lake outside of Boone, North Carolina and he and Danny and JD were gonna go spend the first week of Christmas holidays in the snow.

Markie and Griff were stunned and then, sly smiles broke on their faces. "A whole week? You and Dan and JD? Leaving Markie and me alone with just baby Nickie?" Griff grinned.

"Thought you'd like the plan, kinda an early Christmas present," Jordan laughed.

"Oh, Jordy. Can we afford it?" Danny asked quietly.

"We can afford anything that will put the roses back in your cheeks, let you relax and let me have some time alone with you."

"Um," Danny chuckled, "You're forgetting someone."

"Nah. I figured Markie and Griff need some down time too. We'll take the Tasmanian Devil with us. He's never been in snow up to his eyeballs, have you, punkin?"

"My eyeballs? Wow !!!!!! T'morrow, we go t'morrow?"

"Hold on, lil guy. We go when my school is out, your school is out and Dan can arrange for a sub for his therapy classes."

"How many days be's that?"

They ended up getting the calendar and drawing red boxes around the days until the 17th.

"That not be's too many days, right Daddy?"

"That's 6 days, kiddo. Count them."

The next 6 days were spent gathering enough supplies to feed and clothe the army at Valley Forge.

"Marks, I really think he's got enough stuff now," Jordan laughed as Markie stuffed yet another sweatshirt in the bulging duffel. "If you forget something, we can always buy it."

"I've never been away from him," she frowned.

"I will be okey dokey, Mommy, Promise," JD patted her on the cheek.



"What about Fiddleficks? He will be soooooooooo lonely."

Finally, the morning of the 17th arrived and JD was up before the sun. He had struggled into his long underwear and snow pants and was fighting with the zipper on his bright electric blue down jacket when everyone began to rise and shine.

"Whoa, little guy," Griff smiled. "The temperature is gonna be 68* here today. You don't need all that on."

"I gotta be's ready."


"For snow up to my eyeballs."

"Jordan!! Help!!"

The AC pushed all the way down, JD bouncing in the back seat, his face peeking out from the hood of his snow parka, the van packed to the ceiling with 'stuff', Fiddle standing on the back seat beside his boy, it was time to head out.

"Thank God for seat belts," Danny laughed.

"We gotta get him out of that suit," Jordan groaned, "Before he faints."

"It'll get colder as we head inland."

Danny was right, I40 to Raleigh, then Greensboro, up to Winston, then 421, heading toward Boone. The air got crisper and colder as they drove northwest. JD had fallen asleep with a Raleigh burger, fries and a chocolate shake. After his eyes drooped shut, Jordan pulled over and eased the heavy parka and pants off, leaving him in a long-sleeved Spongebob t-shirt and chocolate brown corduroy overalls, his head pillowed on a sleeping black ball of fur.

"He had all that on under the other stuff? Good lord."

"Thank you for this," Danny murmured. "I can't think of anything I'd rather do in this world than be with you and JD in a cabin in the woods."

"You may change your mind, city boy," Jordan chuckled.

Along about 2:00 in the afternoon, Jordan flipped on the right blinker and pulled off the highway onto a dirt road. The sign read, "Miller's Cabins By the Lake' – 5 miles.

The first building they saw was a little general store with a hand painted sign Freedlichs hanging above the door.

"The realtor said to stop at the store for the key."

They pulled over and JD's eyes bounced open. "We be's there?"

"Yep. It's cold, so pull on your jacket." Fiddle sprang out of the van and took off into the woods, smelling smells and chasing squirrels.

Jordan always went around and helped Danny out. He never asked if Dan wanted to wait in the car. It was a given that Dan always wanted to go in.......any place they went. One of the rules they lived by.

"Let me get your jacket out of the back, Dan."

"Nah, I want to feel the cold." He reached out his arms and Jordan lifted him and set him on his feet. "Jordy, it's beautiful here." He blew out his breath to watch the frosty air.

Managing the three wobbly steps, they clammered into the store.

An old man looked up from an old black and white TV and raised his eyebrows.

"Mr. Freedlich?"

"Ayup! What kin I do ya for?"

"He talks funny, Daddy," JD whispered.

"We rented a cabin for a week on the lake," Jordan replied. "I think you have the key."

"Ayup! I surely do. Good cabin it is. Sound, no leaks. The electricity's on. If you have any trouble, just come tell me and I'll call the handyman. He lives not far."

"We will. Thanks for the help. Can you point the way?"

While Jordan stepped out on the front porch with Mr. Freedlich, Danny and JD investigated the old store. "Look, Papa D, eggs in jars. What be's that? And look, Papa D........ewwwwwww.....little feets in this jar."

"Ewwww is right. I have no idea. We'll ask your Daddy. He knows stuff like that."

They saw bread and milk and eggs, not in jars; candy and popcorn and dusty magazines.

"Well, when Mommy's groceries run out, we won't starve, right?"

JD got a sneaky look on his face. He didn't usually deal with Papa D about candy.

"Papa D?"


"Do you likes candy?"

"Sure do."

"Do you like pops?"

"Yep.........especially Tootsie Roll Pops." Dan could see where this was leading. "I kinda want one right now. Do you see any?"

"I think so," JD grinned, and pulled five Tootsie Roll Pops from behind his back.


"Well, one for me and one for you and one for Daddy and one for Fiddle and one for me."

"I think you said you twice and does Fiddle eat pops?"

"Oh, yes, Papa D. Fiddle loves pops and I can eat it if he does not want it," he answered, almost batting his long eyelashes.

Danny shook his head. What a kid!

The road to the cabin was rutted with trees close on the sides. They pulled into the front yard and JD was out like a shot, Fiddle close at his heels.

"Stay right here in the front, JD."

"Will." He ran around in circles, touching the old wood railings, the chopping block for firewood, peeking around the corner at the long dock. "This be's wheeeeee, Daddy." He stopped at the tire swing hanging from the branch of the old oak tree by the front door. "A swing?"

"Yeah, here let me get you in."

"I can gets in by myself," he insisted, trying to climb up into the black rubber ring and finally stopping when he was laying crossways through the tire. "See!"

Jordan unloaded the boxes and duffels, carrying them into the cabin. Dan started putting all the groceries away in the cabinets and put away the cold stuff in the fridge. JD Checked out every little nook and corner of the small cabin, Fiddle close at his heels.

"Where be's my room, Daddy?"

The cabin was old but well taken care of, a veranda porch all the way around with birchwood rockers. The main room was made of the living room and the kitchen and there were two bedrooms off to the left, one larger than the other.

"Here's your own room, JD. Look, you can see the lake and everything."

JD bounced on the bed and grinned. "Lumpy bumpy......good bed."

The air was getting colder by the minute and the cabin was frigid. "I better get a fire going," Jordan laughed, 'Before we freeze. Coming?"

"You think I'd miss a chance to watch you chop wood?" Danny grinned. "It's a major fantasy of mine."

Jordan chuckled, ""Fraid you won't get the bare chested, sweat-dripping one today. It's colder than hell out there."



"Is not hell hot?"

Laughing, Jordan zipped up his jacket and grabbed up the axe. "Right, punkin. Let's go see just how cold it can get here."

Handing JD a white garbage bag, He showed him pinecones and told him to fill the bag. JD, his electric blue jacket flashing in the sunlight, hopped and jumped on every pinecone lying in the yard. Fiddle, seeing the game, would grab one and run off with it, making JD chase him.

Danny watched from the window as Jordan lifted a piece of wood from the pile by the old shed and stood it on end on the chopping block. Steadying the log with one hand, he raised the axe and the wood split in two. Chopping five logs into ten manageable chunks, he handed one to JD and they came back to the cabin.

"I'm gonna get the fire started for you and get it warm in here." He laid a bed of pinecones and crumpled up some newspapers. Making a pile of wood, Indian style, he lit the paper and the pinecones caught. Soon, the fire was blazing and the aroma of the wood began to fill the little cabin.

Danny watched and his face spoke volumes.

Jordan walked over and put his warm hands on Danny's cheeks. "I know, baby. But, it's what we do for each other. What you can't do, I do. What I can't manage, you do for me. Right?"

Danny turned his face into Jordan's hand. "Yes, Jordy."

"I'm gonna cut enough wood for the night and morning."

"I'll get supper going," Danny smiled.

The supper cooked, the dishes washed, the fire crackling in the old fireplace, the smell of smoke and the spaghetti mingling to rest a weary soul, Jordan, Dan and JD zipped up and walked out to stand at the end of the long dock that jutted out into the cold black water of the winter lake.

"I see a light ober there, Daddy," JD said, pointing across the lake.

"Yep, some people put a light on the end of their dock to let people know where the end of the dock is at night."

"It's a happy light, right Daddy?"

"Yes, JD. It's a happy light."

"I wonder who libs at that light? Maybe a boy like me." JD cocked his head and stared across the lake. "Maybe turns on his light so he has good dreams, maybe Daddy?"

"Maybe so, Punkin."

It was too cold to sit down or stay, as much as the quiet night air called to them. Their breath, puffing out in clouds, let them know that it was time to go in and cuddle by the fire.

Jordan, Danny's head in his lap, snuggled into the soft cushions of the old sofa while JD and Fiddle curled up together on the rug in front of the fire.

"Be's there a TV, Daddy?" JD asked, looking around the big room.

"Yeah, but let's not turn it on while we're here. Enough time for that when we go home, k?"

JD frowned, "But, Daddy.......Spongebob.........Patrick?.......Bob my Builder?"

"I brought some of your books. We can read instead, k?"

"K, Daddy," JD answered, not quite sure but willing to try. "I neber been with no TV."

"You'll make it. I promise."

The fire crackled and the hypnotic flicker of the red-orange flames gently lulled JD to sleep, Dan not far behind.

Easing JD into his fire engine flannel pjs, Jordan tucked him into the small single bed. "Night, lil guy. Tuckered you out today."

"Night, Daddy.... Kiss night to Papa D. I luv the lake," he murmured as his lashes closed.

Fiddle jumped up and curled next to JDs feet, sighed a huge doggy sigh as if to say that all was right with the world.

Jordan stared down at his son. Right this minute, JD's world was perfect. Jordan hoped it would always be so. He knew that was wishful thinking, but maybe JD wouldn't have as many bumps in the road as he and Dan had encountered.

Closing the door half-way, the little Tigger nightlight glowing like the light at the end of the dock across the way, Jordan walked softly out to look down at his sleeping love.

Not wanting to wake him, Jordan reached down and lifted him carefully into his arms. The covers of the bed turned down, the quilts already warmed by the fire, Jordan eased Danny's jeans and flannels off and caressed his beautiful face. "Sleep deeply, Dan. I love you so very much."

Jordan secured the cabin, put more wood on the fire, set the fire screen up and, dropping his clothes on the floor, climbed into the big bed to stretch out on his side and watch Danny's face as he slept. The cold moonlight, the gentle flicker of the fire on the walls of the bedroom and Danny's soft breathing rocked Jordan to sleep.

Danny felt warmth on both sides. His eyes opened to a beautiful crisp sunshine-filled day and JD's eyes staring at him.

"If you're in front of me," he smiled, "Then who is keeping me warm back there?"

"Daddy..........hahaha........for sure. Can we wake him up now? I be's so starvin'."

"I'm awake," Jordan sighed. "I could just stay in this warm bed forever."

"Noooooo, Daddy. We gots stuff to do."

"I'm kidding, punkin. What you got on the plans for today?"

"We gotta go in the woods, and ride in the boat, and chop wood, and go to the grosey store and see the light, and read books, and....................."

"Whoa," Jordan laughed, "I guess we better get on up so we can get started with all that."

As the day wore on, and JD wore out, Danny sat on the side of his small bed at naptime and read to him from the Paddington book that he'd gotten from his friend Andy.

"Paddeton be's a very good bear, Papa D. He makes messes but he fixes it right up."

"Yep, just like you."

JD's eyes slipped into sleep and Danny tried hard not to giggle as he found Jordan already naked, curled under the warm quilts in their "nap" bed.

"Come here, my pretty."

"You the wicked witch of the west?"

"I'm anything you want, as long as you get in this bed."

Danny leaned against the bed and stripped off his clothes. Jordan threw the covers back and Danny slipped under.

"Ahhhhhh, these sheets are so cold."

"Here. Let me warm you up." Jordan's head disappeared under the covers and Danny felt him wiggling his way down his body and a jolt as a very hot mouth found him and took him in. Giving way to the old familiar, yet always hot and overwhelming feel of Jordan loving him, Danny arched his back and let Jordan take him away.

Crawling back up, his lips wet and sticky, Jordan kissed Dan, sharing the taste, his tongue lapping gently at Danny's lips. "It just gets better. You just get better."

Danny reached for the bottle on the bedside table and filled his hand with the lotion he knew Jordan liked. Reaching under the covers, he took Jordan in his warm hand and gently caressed and stroked, whispering little words, meaningless and yet erotic and hot, words like 'I love you to be inside me', 'you make me whole', 'tonight Jordy, fuck me'................It was that last that made Jordan burst in his hand.

"God, Dan.......tonight, yes. Every night.........as long as we live."

The days rolled by. Danny became stronger each day, more pep in his halting walk, more strength in his voice, his laughter louder and more often.

The snow came on the fourth day. The day before, the clouds had hung low and heavy in the sky and Jordan had disappeared for two hours, saying he had to go pick up some supplies. He came back with two red sleds with steel runners, one JD sized and one just right for Dan. He rigged rope pullers on each and snuggled Dan into one with a heavy quilt.

JD had the other. After unsuccessfully attempting to harness Fiddle to his sled, JD pulled it around the yard, making horse sounds.

"What do's reindeer sound like, Papa D?"

"I guess the same as regular deer."

Jordan answered, "I guess they bellow like moose." He made a weird bellowing noise which JD then revised into the JD Moose/Reindeer sound and ran around the yard dragging his sled.

"Where does he get the energy?"

They spent hours in the snow covered woods, stopping every few minutes to take pictures and look at everyday objects that snow turned into a beautiful creation.

Noses frozen and red, throats raw from laughing, it felt good to come back to the warmth of the banked fire and the hot cider Dan had left simmering on the stove.

"Daddy? When be's Christmas?"

"When we get home. We'll be home on the 23rd. Plenty of time for getting and decorating the tree and wrapping the presents."

"Sante knows where I be's, right?"

"Santa knows exactly where you are, kiddo. You think Santa would lose track of the best little guy in the world?"

JD grinned, then said thoughtfully, "Just so he knows."

Too soon, it was time to head back to the city, to the warm beach salt air and the hustle of Christmas and life in general. As they walked around the property for the last time, Dan, hating the sled but knowing he couldn't make it on his own in the wet snow, JD said goodbye to everything he'd come to love in the last 7 days.

"Daddy...........Papa D?"


"Can we come back? I won't be's so sad if we can come back."

Jordan and Danny looked at each other and knew that they wanted to come back too. They had found peace and rest, had laughed and loved, and Jordan had seen the way the clean country air recharged Dan. He would do anything to keep those sparkles in Danny's eyes.

"Yep. Why not come back in the summer, though? Swimming and fishing and no big clunky jackets next time."

"Yeyyyyy! Summer. We'll be's back, cabin. We'll be's back, swing." He ran around touching the things that had come to mean so much to him in such a little time. As they walked to end of the long dock and looked out over the cold still frosty water, JD shaded his eyes with his mittened hand, "We'll be's back, little light over there."

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