Just Hit 'Send' - The Happy Years

by Grasshopper

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Ch. 12

Easy fumbled with his bowtie, his fingers showing just how nervous he really was.

This was what he wanted, Lord yes, but why was it so hard to tie this ridiculous tie?

"Having trouble?" Jordan smiled, coming up behind his friend, reaching around to slip the silk through the loop and pull the edges tight. "This reminds me of when JD was trying to learn to tie his shoes.....I'll just run the bunny through the cave and out the other........" He laughed when Easy snorted in frustration. "Take it easy, big fella. You've got a beautiful lady waiting for you. All you've gotta do is hold out your hand."

"I know," Easy sighed. "I can't believe how lucky I am."

Jordan turned his friend and put his hands on Easy's shoulders, looking him in the eyes. "You're both lucky. Not everyone finds someone to love. Hold on tight to what you have."

"Like you and Dan," Easy smiled.

"Yeah," Jordan sighed. "Just like that." His head turned to the sound of laughter coming down the hall. He heard the click, click, click of Danny's braces and the chatter of JD's excited voice.

"All's I gotta do is hand Unca Easy and Aunt Val the rings, right?"

"Right," Dan said, his voice patient. Jordan knew how many times they had all answered that very same question.  "When Rev. Gaines looks at you and asks for the rings, you just hand them over."

"And I've got 'em in my pockets, right?"

"Yep. You've got Easy's in your right hand and Val's in your left. Show me left."

JD made a capital 'L' with his thumb and pointer of his left hand, but then he held up his right hand and did it backwards. "Look, Papa D, if I turn my hand around, it's a big 'L' too."

They walked into JD's bedroom, JD still making capital 'L's' with his hands, his face all frowny. "Daddy, my big 'L's' are backwards. I think I'm gonna make a shitoops."

Trying not to laugh, Jordan squatted down in front of his son. "Punkin, don't make a big deal out of this. It won't matter which ring comes out of your pockets first. You can even hand them both at the same time. Easy won't care." He looked up at his way too nervous friend, his eyes asking for help. "Here, let's put Easy's big ring on this thumb and Vals' little one with the diamonds on the other one, okay?"

Easy laughed, his chuckle low and loving, "Lil Bro, you'll do just fine. I'm the one that might mess up."

JD walked over to Easy, the rings poking up off his thumbs. "Unca Easy, don't be scared. Aunt Val is beeeeutiful. She looks like a great big giant umm......cupcake."

Dan grinned, "He's right. Val looks wonderful and she's so ready. She sent us to tell you to put it gear."

"A cupcake, huh?" Easy laughed. He knew how much Val had wanted a full out white wedding gown. She and Markie had kept it top secret and he didn't know what to expect. He would have been happy to just go to City Hall and sign the papers. But, he wanted Val to have her day. It would be the first of their whole life of memories. Now, if he could just get this tie to quit choking him. He guessed he'd better shift gears and get a move on toward the rest of his life.


The early spring day was warm, but there was a soft breeze blowing off the water. There were rows of four white chairs, each lining the white carpet that rolled across the sand to join the flowered arch where the minister stood waiting.

"It's time, Ez," Danny smiled, his heart full, knowing how much Easy wanted this. "Let's go get you married."

They walked down the path between the chairs, four men who had grown up together, four men who depended on each other for support and love and had carried each other on strong shoulders for so many years.  Easy took his place beside the minister, turning to watch the porch, his eyes wide, simply waiting for Val.

Griffin stepped up next to his brother, his heart so full of pride. He looked out at the people seated and found his mother's eyes. Even though Griff had tried to buy her a plane ticket and even offered to come down and fly back with her, Delores Langley had ridden the bus, terrified of airplanes, to be here to see her adopted son get married and to meet the woman who had stolen his heart. From the first moment they met, Val and Delores had just clicked and now, she said she was just gonna wait to have more grandkids.... but she wouldn't wait long.

Jordan had walked beside Dan, slowing his steps to match Dan's more hesitant ones. They had managed the ramp easily, but Jordan gripped Danny's arm firmly as they maneuvered the sand. Dan had refused to even think about using his wheelchair and Jordan knew how hard it was going to be for him to stand with his braces, but Danny had insisted. They stood next to Griffin, four handsome men, their tuxedos black against the white North Carolina sand, their faces wearing matching grins as they looked out over their friends sitting along the white carpet.

Val's family and friends, even many of her students, were seated to the right, Val's mother already sniffling into her husband's handkerchief. They had all fallen in love with Easy and the tears were simply tears of joy.

To the left, Easy's ragtag kids took up the rows directly behind Delores.

They had all piled into the center's van, dressed in their new shirts and dress pants, after Gabriel had inspected them for any telltale dirt. So many lost boys, and Easy, their only hope for a future free of drugs or pain. They all sat very quietly, not wanting to let him down on his big day, plus, Gabriel kept giving them the 'be good' look and they totally minded Gabriel.

Beside Delores, on the front row, cheeks shining, eyes sparkling, Gabriel, Mitch and Chris sat, handsome and excited, in their new suits. Mitch had hold of Gabriel's hand and pictured maybe one day, them standing right there, wanting to make what they felt be forever.

The stereo began to play the wedding march softly and all eyes turned toward the back porch. Val's sister came out the back door first, her bouquet of wildflowers blending with the apricot of her dress. Step/step/stop...step/step/stop....Markie came out next, her blonde hair a wreath of gold shining around her face, her rounded tummy letting everyone know that a new baby was on the way. She looked back once and whispered to a small someone behind the screen door, then turned back to walk down the aisle, her eyes finding Griffin's.

The music continued and everyone watched the doorway. Jordan began to have a sinking feeling. He knew who was supposed to be next out that door.

"You better go," Danny whispered.

Jordan looked over at Markie. She rolled her eyes and nodded her head toward the porch. "Go", she mouthed.

Jordan took a deep breath and strode quickly down the path up to the house.

"What?" he whispered, as he walked into the living room.

Val was laughing, as her father stood by looking totally confused. "I think you need to help JD, Jordy."

Turning to his son, Jordan saw the tears welling in the little boy's eyes. "What's wrong, Punkin?" he asked as he knelt down on one knee.

"I have gots my 'L's' and I have gots the rings, but, Daddy," he sniffled, "I can't get my hands out of my pockets with my 'L's."

Jordan choked back a snort of laughter, looked apologetically up at Val. Val just grinned. "No problem. Just help him get his," she shook her head, "'L's' out of his pockets, so I can get married." She looked at her father and smiled, "JD has a certain way of doing things, Dad."

Jordan said quickly, "JD, let go of your 'L's' and pull your hands out of your pockets."

"But, I'll forget which..............."

"Trust me. Let me see your hands."

JD tugged his hands free and showed them, palms up, to Jordan. "Good, now reach back in and get the rings."

Jordan took the two golden rings and slid one on JD's left thumb and one on the right. "Which one is Val's?" he asked.

JD answered, "The twinkley one," wiggling his left thumb.

"Right, now, just keep your hands out where you can see them and forget the 'L's' for now. Let's go."

Jordan kissed Val on the cheek, winked and guided JD out the door. They walked down the aisle, JD heading directly for the minister, his arms out in front of him, his two thumbs stuck straight up in the air, his other fingers clenched tight.

The music continued and Val walked out onto the porch on her father's arm. Griffin heard Easy's sharp intake of breath and smiled.


"And do you have a token of devotion to give your love?" the minister asked.

"We do," Easy and Val both answered. They turned to the little blond haired green eyed boy who was bouncing up and down, thumbs dancing along to the rhythm. Reaching for the rings, they slid them off the little thumbs and looked deeply into each other's eyes, pledging a forever love.

As the words were spoken and the vows taken into their hearts, Easy and Val felt the love of their families and their friends. They felt the love that surrounded them when they were near this house and these people. They were blessed.

"Everyone, I give you Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Arthur Langley." 


The music took on a different beat as the party shifted into high gear. "You do look like a cupcake," Easy whispered into Val's ear as they danced their first dance together, "And you know what a sweet tooth I have."

Val laughed and swirled away to dance with all her new brothers-in-law. She twirled with Jordan, then  Griff and then took a cup of punch to sit by Danny in the shade of the porch.

"I am so grateful I found this family," she sighed.

"I know how you feel," Dan answered. "It's like things can be wrong, but you come home and it will work out. It's what love is, isn't it, Val?"

"Yes," she thought for a minute. "I think love is wanting happiness for the person you love more than you want it for yourself. If you can see happiness in their eyes, then you'll be happy too."

Danny smiled and hugged her tight. "Go," he laughed, "Dance with him before he comes and drags you away."

He watched Val laugh as Easy grabbed her up and kissed her for the millionth time, and then smiled when their neighbor from across the street, Mary Kessler, climbed up the steps to sink gratefully into an empty chair.

"I'm so glad you decided to come," he said.

Mary had received the invitation from Val and Markie in person. They had walked over and Markie had introduced Val. Markie had insisted that Mary was so welcome in their home and that this was the perfect time to get to know everyone. Mary had been hesitant, but Val had insisted too and so, here she was, in Mr. Collins' home, watching the happiness she had always known was there. She wanted so to ask if she could see the murals, but was too shy.

"I've always watched your family come and go with such pleasure," she said quietly. "After my husband passed away, I was at such loose ends. I always wanted to meet Mr. Collins.....and Mr. Treadway." She didn't know how to say what was in her heart; that she wished all these beautiful young people the very best and didn't feel any of the bad feelings her husband had felt.

Danny watched her emotions play across her face, wondering what this sweet lady was trying to say. "You lived here when Nic.....Mr. Collins and Mr. Treadway built the house?"

"Oh, yes. I watched the house go up and," she blushed, "I would walk over at night after everyone had gone to peek in the windows. It was such a beautiful house."

"I wish you had known them," Danny said softly. "We never met Sam, Mr. Treadway. He was gone before we found the house, but I know that he and Nic, Mr. Collins were so happy here."

"Did they go to all the places he painted?" she asked, then realized that she shouldn't know that. "Oh."

Dan laughed, "Ahh, the murals. You peeked in the windows. If you only saw them before the house was finished, you haven't seen half of them. Would you like to now?"

"Oh, I really....." she said, flustered, then, "Oh, please."

Dan pushed up to grab his braces and led her to his and Jordy's door. "Jordy and I live in the apartment," he said, as he opened the screen and she walked hesitantly in. The murals filled every wall, up the stairs to the loft and all through the one big room downstairs. One scene flowed into another, from Tuscany to Paris, from the Australian Outback to the lava beaches of Hawaii, from Symond's Yat in England to the cliffs of Yosemite. Sam and Nic had been to all those places and loved in all those places. Sam had just wanted to paint their memories.

After walking slowly around the room, gently touching colors here and holding her hand to her heart, Mrs. Kessler walked over to the mural that was painted on the wide wall by the door. "This is all of you," she questioned. "Who painted this?"

Dan wasn't sure how to answer. He looked hard at Mary and said quietly, "Sam."

"Oh," was her only answer, her eyes welling with sudden tears, then, "Yes, I can feel it." She stood quietly, searching each face, looking at the happiness, the strength, the love that spread from one face to the next and finally, her eyes rested on Sam. He seemed to be smiling right at her. She smiled back.

"Thank you for sharing their memories," she said, turning to Dan with tears in her eyes. "I understand now." She kissed Danny on the cheek and walked out the door.

He stood for a minute, staring at Nic and Sam. "I wish you were here," he whispered. "I wish you could see Gabriel and Mitch. It's starting again, the magic.

Mary walked toward the door and then, turning back for one last look, said softly, "You have a wonderful place to be happy with Mr. Collins and Mr. Treadway all around you. If you ever need me, I'm just across the street."

Danny felt this tug in his heart and gave her a big hug. "That's from Nic and Sam. You would have loved them."

She sighed, "I know that now. I'm just so sorry it's too late to say it to them."

"Oh, I think they know," Dan smiled. He watched as she quietly said goodnight to Markie and wished Easy and Val happiness. "You had a good neighbor and didn't even know it," he whispered to the night air.

Danny sat back in his chair on the porch, watching the dancing and the laughter and all his friends high on happiness. He smiled as he watched Gabriel tug Mitch around the corner of the house out onto the driveway to dance where no one could see them. Mitch fought at first, then smiled shyly and melted into Gabriel's outstretched arms. Danny remembered those first embraces, that first jolt of electricity. His eyes sought out the only person who would ever send that lightning shooting through his body.

Jordan was talking to Val's school principal when he felt a familiar tingle at the back of his neck. Without turning around, he smiled at Mrs. Kimball, excused himself and walked onto the porch.

"You rang?"

Danny smiled into those emerald eyes. "Yeah, I did."

"Dance with me later?"

"Oh yes, Jordy," he sighed, letting his emotions flow out in those three simple words.

Jordan stared at Dan and then made a small sound of a mix of exasperation and lust low in his throat.

"What?" Danny asked.

"How can you do that? After all these years?"

"Do what?"

"You know what. When you say 'Yes, Jordy' like that, you know what I feel. You know what I want."

Danny smiled, reached for Jordan's hand and brought it to his lips to kiss the inside of his palm. Folding the fingers in, he watched Jordan's eyes darken. "I'll always want you as much as I did the first time." He watched Jordan glance at the house, at their apartment door and then sigh. "Go dance and mingle," he prodded Jordan, "I just needed a little 'Jordy fix'."

Jordan leaned into Dan until their foreheads touched. "There is nowhere in this world I'd rather be than right here with you and you know it." He leaned back against the porch rail, settled his arm around Danny's shoulders and watched the people talking in small clusters and dancing to the music.


Easy and Val off on their honeymoon to Jekyll Island; the last of the guests waved off to homes or motels; Easy's boys back to the center to eat their pieces of wedding cake, the family changed into comfy clothes and settled down around the fire in their usual places.

"Seems odd without Ez and Val," Griff said quietly.

"They'll be back in a week," Markie answered, as she eased herself down onto the sand.

Jordan watched her. "You okay?" JD and Nickie hadn't given her any trouble, but this new pregnancy had left her puking and nauseas from day 1.

"Yeah," she said, smiling, as Griff watched her with troubled eyes.

JD stretched out on the blanket, Fiddle's head in his lap.

"You did good today, JD," Jordan said.

"I kinda messed up," he answered. "I almost did a shitoops, but.....I didn't.

Unca Easy and Aunt Val gots their rings on."

"Yep," Danny smiled, "All's well that ends well."

"Where are the boys?" Griff asked, looking around.

"Gabriel took the kids back to the center. He said he'd see us later after he goes to get Mitch."

"They're getting pretty tight," Griff said, looking at Jordan.

"Yeah, I hope they have it easier than we did, huh Dan?"


Gabriel, for all he had done on the streets for money, was so shy around Mitch that he broke out into a sweat every time they were alone. He couldn't help feeling that he didn't deserve a good, innocent boy for a boyfriend. That, somehow, he would mess up and Mitch would toss him away like the garbage he used to feel like before Easy helped him.

He tried not to let himself think about what he had had to do just to have some food, but sometimes, at night, in his dreams, he was back on the streets and he could feel the hands, smell the sweat. He would wake up, feeling dirty, and not even scrubbing would take away the dirt.

He didn't deserve this chance, but he wasn't about to blow it by making a move to scare Mitch.

Mitch, on the other hand, kept looking in the mirror, trying to see what was wrong with him....why Gabriel only held his hand or danced with him...never seemed to want anything closer. He cussed at his long curly brown hair and big liquid brown eyes thinking he must be ugly and doofy. Why else would Gabriel never ever try to kiss him or anything?

He heard a knock on his window and sighed. Yelling bye to his parents, promising to be home by 11, he opened the front door and couldn't help grinning when he saw Gabriel.

"Hey."

"Hey."

One boy, needing proof that he was worthy, and one boy needing proof that he was acceptable, Mitch held out his hand and they walked down the front steps, turning in the direction of the beach and the one place they felt safe.

They walked along the dark sidewalk, forgetting they couldn't and swinging hands, talking about nothing, laughing, just loving being together. At first they didn't pay any attention to the loud teenagers down the street, hangin' around the low brick wall that blocked off the cemetery. When Gabriel heard the tone of their voices, he pulled on Mitch's hand to tug him across the street. Too late, they were caught in the group's hatelights.

"Ohh, what do we got here?" one of the boys yelled. "I see two little fags walkin' down OUR street like it's fuckin' okay for them to even exist."

"Hey, yeah, you homos get off our street," another called.

"Gabriel?" Mitch whispered.

"It's okay. We'll be okay. Just keep walking," he answered, holding on tighter to Mitch's hand. He knew he wouldn't ever let anything happen to Mitch, even if he got hurt in the doing. The one thing these bozos didn't know was that Gabriel had learned to protect himself early on. Those mean streets were a school that taught you to protect yourself or die.

The boys walked into the middle of the street, one breaking a beer bottle and holding the jagged edges out in front of him. "Maybe they need a little lesson on who's in charge on our street. Maybe these little butt fuckers will think before they prance around here holding hands like it's okay. They make me want to puke."

Gabriel could feel Mitch getting ready to yell something back. He knew Mitch would fight, but Gabriel just didn't want him getting hurt. He said softly, "Hold on."  He felt Mitch's anger.

The three loudmouths came closer. "Hey, you homos give blowjobs? What say, we get free ones and then we let you go?" They laughed and motioned toward the empty dark cemetery.

Gabriel kept in front of Mitch, his hand holding the younger boy behind him. "You know," his voice rang clear in the night air, "You sure talk way too easy  about butt fucking and blow jobs like you get them all the time from each other. There's not a part of me that's gonna touch a part of your sorry asses this night or any other."

Just as the one dipshit with the broken bottle came at Gabriel in a drugged out lunge, Gabriel turned and shot the side of his foot into the kid's crotch, taking him down flat. Slowly, watching the other two, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a knife. Opening the three inch blade, he looked at the shiny edge and back at the two and asked quietly, "Now, if either of you is even remotely interested in getting your ass fucked, I'll be glad to oblige.... with this. If not, you better take your friend here someplace. I think he needs some ice."

He grabbed Mitch's hand and they backed off down the sidewalk a few feet, then watched as the two boys grabbed hold of the third and half dragged him toward the lights.

"You totally kungfu'd that guy," Mitch bounced, as he came back to life. "I've never seen anyone do it in real life. You totally annihilated that son of a bitch. You creamed his ass. Where did you get that knife? Would you have really cut them? God, I wanted to just knock their blocks off. Who did they think they were? Stupid fuckers....I was so ready to take them down. Can you teach me how to....................,"

Gabriel was laughing as he shut Mitch up the only way he could think of. The kiss came out of nowhere and did indeed shut him up. It started, mouths shut, lips pressed hard, eyelids fluttering, hands grasping tight, but slowly, it softened.

"I couldn't let them hurt you."

"I had your back."

"I know you did."

Tongues skimmed and caressed. Chests pressed tight as their bodies hardened and they tried to touch everywhere. Breathing came in gasps and, suddenly, the world was right.

Gabriel rubbed his cheek against Mitch's and said softly, "I've wanted to do that forever."

Mitch looked at him with questions in his round eyes. "Me too. Then why haven't you?"

"I didn't know if I was good enough."

Mitch frowned. "Not good enough? You're like everything I want. I didn't know why you didn't want me."

Gabriel shook his head. "Is this the way people are? Do they just stay confused?" He laughed.

"I guess until one of them turns into a superhero and smacks down the bad guys," Mitch giggled.

"We better get off this street for now."

"Yeah, I can't wait to tell everybody about my own SuperMan."

"You so will not."

"Will."

"What will it take to shut you up?"

Mitch grinned, "I can think of ways to keep my mouth occupied." He wiggled his eyebrows and they turned the corner, heading for the lights of the house on the beach. Another life lesson learned. Sometimes, you just gotta stand up and say 'What the fuck!'.


"You will not walk down that street again in the dark," Markie said sternly. "We'll come pick you up from now on."

JD was all ears, his eyes wide, as the two boys told their adventure around the fire. "You gots a knife? You kicked the bad guy? You are like Power Rangers. You did a smackdown?" He jumped up and tried to get Fiddle in an armlock.

"I better take this little Power Ranger in to bed before he gets smacked down by this huge fierce dog," Markie laughed. "But boys," she said seriously, "Please be careful. There are so many fools out there."

Griff insisted on driving Gabriel and Mitch home and going in to talk to Mitch's parents. There would be lights put on that stretch of road soon, or there'd be hell to pay in the mayor's office.

Dan lay with his head in Jordan's lap, the swing gently rocking back and forth, the night breeze ruffling their hair and the sound of the waves relaxing their anxiety.

"That could have gone so differently," Danny sighed. "They could have both been hurt."

"I know, but they weren't and I'm so proud of Gabriel. He stood his ground. Maybe, one day, no one will have to defend themselves just for being who they are. Maybe one day, everyone will understand."

"I can only pray so."

They swung quietly for a few minutes, each lost in his own thoughts, Jordan's fingers running through Danny's soft black curls.

"Darlin'?"

"Yes, Jordy?"

"I've been waiting for my dance."

Danny smiled. "Well, here I am. I'm all yours."

Jordan stood up carefully and went into the house for the little portable player. He slid a CD in and clicked on the right track. Holding out his hand, he pulled Danny up and into his arms.

These were the times that Danny felt the most loved. Jordan was taller and stronger, and when Danny put his feet on Jordan's, they could pretend that they were dancing just like any other couple in love. They couldn't swirl or do fancy dips, but they could be in each other's arms and Danny could feel the passion of Jordan's body as he held Danny under his arms, pressed to his chest. As they swayed to the music, the words came clear:

"I set out on a narrow way many years ago,
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
."

Danny listened to Jordan's heart beating and thought back to when they first met. Had he known what he knew now, would he have met Jordan Lawrence at the shark tank?

"I think about the years I spent just passing through
I'd like to have the time I lost and give it back to you."

Would he have been brave enough to hold out his hand and let this beautiful golden boy into his heart? If Jordan had known what he knew now, would he have spent all those years waiting for Danny to come to his senses?

"Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart they were like northern stars.
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms."

Jordan had never loved anyone but Daniel Trainor, never had, never would.

He'd only had a broken heart when Danny wouldn't come home. He tightened his loving arms around the boy who held his heart.

"This much I know is true
That God bless the broken road
That led me straight to you
."

Jordan leaned down and kissed Dan. He kissed him for all the time they'd lost, all the time they'd had and all the time to come.  He whispered, "Our broken road wasn't other people. It was us. It was us learning that all we ever needed was each other." Scooping Dan up in his arms, he walked to the flowered arch and sat them both down on the edge of the raised platform to stare out at the moonlight on the dark water.

"We've had some life so far, haven't we?"

Danny laughed. "Yeah..... hospitals, misunderstandings, families....."

"But, through it all, we've had us."

"Yes, Jordy, through it all, we've had us."

Jordan held Dan as they listened to the murmurs of the waves rolling up the shore only to be pulled out into the vast ocean again and again.

Danny sighed, "Even when I ran away and left you. Even when I totally sucked?"

Jordan couldn't resist, 'You never totally sucked...well, maybe, but in a 'you make me happy' sucky kind of way."

"Jordy!"

"Come to bed now, Darlin'. I want to dance with you a little longer."


Jordan was worried. He would die before he shared his frustrations with Dan, but the more Dan talked about adopting a child, the more his face got all dreamy planning what they'd do as a family, the more Jordan researched and the more what he found disheartened him. How was he ever going to explain to Dan? How was he ever going to trash his dream?

Jordan had spent hours on the internet, reading about gay and lesbian adoption. There were states that were comfortable with it and let one on the partners adopt. There were states that were investigating the possibilities. Then there were states like North Carolina where one person could apply, but if unmarried, no one else could join the adoption. There could be no secondary parent application. So either Jordan or Dan could apply, but the other would not have any legal rights to the child. The worst part was that on a site where all the states were listed and their stand on gay adoption, North Carolina was listed as "a hostile climate" for lesbians and gay men. Hostile! It made Jordan so angry that someone like Dan could ever be thought of as someone to be hostile towards. He had more love in his heart for a child than anyone Jordan knew.

He also found that a huge strike against Danny would be his disability. All the sites stated that if the person applying would be unable to react in an emergency situation, there would be great doubt as to their ability to be a good parent. Jordan thought of all the times Dan had rescued JD or Riley or Chris and knew that this was just another bureaucratic way of sifting out less than perfect people. If Jordan applied, he might be accepted, but that would leave Dan with no claim to the child that he so much wanted.

He added gay + physically challenged and he came out with a no win situation. He knew how much Dan wanted this. Should they move? Leave everything and everyone on the possibility that they might be able to adopt a child? Jordan wanted Dan's world to be as happy as possible, but he didn't have the faintest clue what to do.

Dan had mentioned that maybe they could foster children if they couldn't adopt, but Jordan knew deep inside that Dan's heart would break every time the foster child was moved and they would never be able to fight the system.

"Dan?"

"Uh huh?"

Jordan cleared his throat. "How much do you want to try this adoption thing?"

Danny looked at Jordan's serious face. "A lot," he answered slowly. "Why?"

Jordan got up from the computer and sat down on the sofa, taking Danny's hand. "You know I'd do anything for you, anything to make you happy, right?"

Danny felt tears burn the back of his eyes. "Yes, Jordy." He could feel the bad coming and his heart began to break.

Jordan spoke softly, telling Dan everything he had read, explaining that, all those years ago, when they had closed their eyes and pointed on the map to where they would live, it hadn't been a good choice for what Dan wanted now. The world was changing, but so slowly. It wasn't ready to welcome them with open arms and let them have the same freedoms as others. As much as Dan might want this child of their own, he and Jordan had chosen a different path. One that, as long as they lived here, in their house on the beach with their family, they would have each other and they would care for others, but not the way Danny dreamed of.

"We could move to another state," Jordan said quietly, 'I will. I will for you. I could apply for primary custody and you could apply for secondary."

"But," Dan sighed, "If I get refused because of these," he slapped his legs, "Then the baby would never belong with me?"

"No," Jordan's voice a whisper.

"Oh, Jordy, it's been a dream for so long."

"I know, Baby, I know."

Danny curled into Jordan's arms and Jordan waited, knowing Dan was following that thought down some lonely road in his head. He just stroked Dan's hair and waited.

"I never told you this," Danny finally said. "I asked at work if I could switch to the children's therapy classes and they told me No. They said because I was gay, there might be repercussions from parents. If I hadn't let it be known at work that I'm gay, I guess I could have, but Jordy, I'm proud of you. I'm proud of me. I never hide it. I wouldn't hide it for any reason."

"Dan!"

"It's okay, really. I just want to be a part of a child's life, like you are for JD. It's selfish of me when I have so much."

"It isn't selfish at all to want to share all that love you have."

Dan got quiet again and then spoke softly, "Maybe we could at least apply to foster kids so we've been inspected and then we could help Easy at the Center. I could try not to get too attached," he smiled crookedly.

It just about killed Jordan to watch the disappointment flow through his sweet boy. "I know it's not much right now, Darlin', but you always have me."

"Not much?" Danny murmured, "Not much? It's everything. If you would move to make me happy, if you would give up your life here so I could have a dream, that's everything. We'll make it through this just like we've made it through every other obstacle in our lives."

Jordan knew this hurt would take a long time to heal, that Dan was too used to taking pain on the chin and accepting loss. He wanted to go out to a kidtree orchard and pick the perfect one just for Dan. Maybe the laws would change, maybe someone would just look out from behind their wall of ignorance one day and say, "Hey, these lonely children need love and there are all these wonderful gay couples begging for them." Maybe someone would get hit in the head by a two by four and the thought would occur that gay doesn't mean pervert and that a gay man has the same feelings as a straight one. That so many kids are hurt by their straight fathers. That maybe, just maybe, two men who love each other would have room in their lives for one tiny little person.

A loud tapping on the door and an equally loud "Daddddy!" signaled the arrival of a little freshly scrubbed boy in his Thomas the Train p.j.s waving a book in the air. "Daddddyyy, Mommy says to read to me cause she's got the ughs."

"She does, does she?"

"Yeah, it's gross. She gets all funny and then goes baaarrrfffy in the bathroom. Pops says to be nice. I always be's nice." He plopped down on the sofa and wriggled his way between them, grinning.

"Look, I gots a loose tooth. Mommy says when it falls out, I put it under my pillow and I get money from the tooth fairy. Is that true, Daddy?"

"I guess so cause I always did."

"Me too," Danny smiled. "I always got a quarter."

JD thought for a second. "That was a hunrud years ago, Papa D. My tooths are dollar tooths, I be thinking."

"That would be inflation, correct, small son?" Jordan laughed.

"I am thinking, um, flation, yes."

"Well, it's up to your own personal tooth fairy and I'm betting on the traditional quarter myself."

JD flapped a very worn out book around, back cover torn off, what looked like jelly smears on the front. "Read, please."

Danny smiled, his eyes still a little misty, "I will." He and JD cuddled comfy on the sofa, JD holding the book at the exact right page.

"Edward Bear, known to his friends as Winnie-the-Pooh, or Pooh for short, was walking through the forest one day, humming proudly to himself. He had made up a little hum this very morning............................"

Jordan watched Danny as he made the silly story come alive, humming the "Tra-la-las" and "Rum-tum-tum-tiddle-ums" for JD. He hoped this would be enough for Dan. Enough to keep him happy and content.

""Now, by this time, Rabbit wanted to go for a walk too, and finding the front door full, he went out by the back door, and came round to Pooh, and looked at him.
"Hallo, are you stuck?" he asked.
"N-no," said Pooh carelessly, "Just resting and thinking and humming to myself."

Just as a very sleepy little boy closed his eyes for the last time, a huge yawn cracking his jaws, Danny read,

"So, with a nod of thanks to his friends, he went on with his walk through the forest, humming proudly to himself. But, Christopher Robin looked after him lovingly, and said to himself, "Silly old Bear!"

Jordan hoisted JD up, carried him to his bed and covered him, kissing his forehead. Calling a soft 'goodnight' to Markie and Griff, he walked back to Danny and looked down at him still holding the book.

"Come on, you silly old bear," he said softly, holding out his hand.

Danny realized, in that moment, that life had handed him the gold ring. He thought back to the time before Jordan, sitting in that wheelchair, holding that bottle of pills, wishing someone, anyone, would rescue him from the lonely life he had created for himself. He had pushed everyone away because a very bad person had hurt him. Danny never wanted to go back there. He never wanted to be without Jordan. He would keep the gentle ache he felt when he saw a father with his child to himself and find other outlets for himself. That Jordan would sacrifice his life here for Dan to play some kind of 'maybe' game had made him see that perhaps God has a reason for unanswered prayers.

"Let's play bears tonight," he laughed up into Jordan's serious face. "Enough of this serious stuff. I kinda wanna hibernate with you."

Jordan sighed in relief and laughed out loud. "You got it, fuzzball. You gonna be a sweet little berry-nibbling brown bear or a great big ferocious meat- gobbling grizzly?" His grin widening as he watched Danny register what he asked.

"I think um........," Danny batted his eyelashes, "A grizzly, please."

Jordan lifted him up and nuzzled his neck. "I think I'll start munching right here where it's really tender." He laid Danny down on the bed and pulled his shirt off over his curls. "Or, maybe here," he groaned as he licked a wet circle around one chocolate nipple. He slid jeans and shorts down, and his eyes widened. "No, I'm thinking now that this looks to be the tenderest bite I've seen in quite a while of hunting in these dark woods."

Danny giggled and the two bears settled in for a long, but very active hibernation.


Three weeks later:

"Monday, the team of inspectors from the fostering program is coming to question us and look at the house. Are you ready for that, Dan?"

"What if they're homophobes, Jordy?"

"Lots of people are, Dan. We've been there too many times. Just smile and talk as if you can't see it."

They had filled out all the forms, even written their requested  'life stories' out, laughing as they realized that their story together would make an unbelievable book. "No one would ever take our story seriously," Danny grinned. They hadn't left anything out, well, except for personal family things that didn't bear repeating.

They were as ready as they ever would be to defend their right to at least share their life experience to help a child in trouble.


Monday came too fast. Time always zooms when you're nervous or terrified and Danny was kinda frozen inside. He found that it was important to him to have these people recognize him for a good person. Maybe that was dumb, but that's how he felt. What if he wasn't good enough? What if they were gay haters and Jordy got angry? What if HE got angry? What if?

The appointment was set for 3:30 so that they would both be home from work. They had trusted Markie to have the house straight and the Langley part of the family gone out for dinner and a movie.

Jordan and Dan sat out on the back porch waiting for the visitors, sipping frosted glasses of iced tea.

"Is my hair okay?"
"Do you think they care if I have on sneakers?"
"What if they think the house is too close to the beach?"
"I don't feel so good."

"Dan, stop. These are just two people doing a job. They're gonna love you. Everyone loves you. I love you. Calm down and think good thoughts. Here's a kiss for luck."

Just as Jordan leaned in to calm Danny with a gentle kiss, two people turned the corner of the house. They jerked apart as if they'd been doing god knows what. Jordan stood up and extended his hand.

"Hi, I'm Jordan Lawrence and this is Daniel Trainor." He walked down the steps and shook the man's hand.

"I'm Brad Smedley," the man introduced himself, taking Jordan's hand and reaching over the railing to shake Dan's. He had a kind face, faded blue eyes and laugh lines at the corners of his eyes. "And this is Lisa Davies." She nodded her head slightly, avoiding their eyes and ignoring Jordan's outstretched hand.

"Hello," Dan said, forcing a smile. "Please come and sit down. Would you like something to drink?"

Ms. Davies pulled out a clipboard, pushed her glasses up on her nose, pulled a pencil out of the knot of hair on the top of her head and said, "How much alcohol DO you drink, Mr. Trainor?" Her pencil poised over the clipboard, she looked at Dan.

"Oh, oh," he said, confused. "I don't drink, I just meant water or soda or something. This is tea." He looked at Jordan with strickened eyes.

"No alcohol whatsoever?" she sniffed.

"We only drink an occasional glass of wine or beer, Ms. Davies," Jordan replied smoothly. He watched her make a check.

"I see on your forms that you both left 'religious preference' blank. Do you have adverse feelings toward organized religion or faith in your lives?"

Dan felt Jordan tense up. He said quickly, "We were both raised in religious homes, but for personal reasons, we choose not to attend church now." They watched her make another check and write a little note.

The questions went on, with Ms. Davies making checks and notes and Mr. Smedley sitting quietly.

Finally, Mr. Smedley stood, saying, "We'd like to take a look around your home if we may."

"Of course," Jordan answered, standing and walking toward the door. "The Langleys live on this side, Griffin and Markie, with their two children, JD and Nickie. Dan and I live over this way in the apartment." He opened the screen door and stood back to let the two pass through. "Coming, Dan?"

Danny nodded, "I'll be right there." He grabbed up his braces and levered himself up on his feet. Jordan held the door open for him and steadied him as he faltered at the doorway.

"Ah, that's right, you are physically challenged," Ms. Davies said, watching Dan intently as if willing him to fall.

"I've been in two automobile accidents and my legs just finally gave out," he said quietly. Jordan put his hand on Dan's back and rubbed gently.

"Do you think your um, problems would hamper your ability to care for a child?"

"Dan is great with kids," Jordan answered in a clipped voice, his disapproval of these people beginning to show through. "He has helped raise my son and several of the boys at the Outreach Center. He has a wonderful way with children." He could almost feel Danny giving up. Every question was hurting him and she hadn't even asked the big one yet.

And then, here it came. "You are a homo-sexual uh......for lack of a better word, couple. You feel you can show a child the right atmosphere and correct moral values?" Jordan could almost hear the unspoken 'when you have none yourselves' thought in her head.

Jordan opened his mouth to say he'd had enough, but Mr. Smedley replied first. "Ms. Davies, you may wait for me in the car. I'll be along in a few minutes."

She started to say something, but then thought better and turned on her heel to walk out the door.

Jordan and Dan waited for the man's next volley of questions and were stunned when he said instead, "You surf?"

Jordan answered, "Uh, yeah, we do." They walked out into the sunshine and Mr. Smedley walked over to admire their boards propped against the wall.

Running his hand over the smooth board, he said, "I used to surf when I was a kid. Sometimes, I wish I could turn back the clock and just feel the sun on my face and the sand between my toes." He stared out at the Atlantic, squinting into the sun. "I want to apologize for the questions, not the questions themselves, but for the way they were asked. I'd already decided to approve you after interviewing your employers, reading your applications and talking to your neighbor across the street, Mrs. Kessler. Everyone had good things to say and, now that I've met you and seen the kind of caring atmosphere you have in your lives, I'm sure there will a place for you in our foster child program."

"Then why............?" Jordan asked, confused.

"Some people see only in black and white," Mr. Smedley replied. "Some people see labels and close their minds. A few can even be card-carrying bigoted fools. I was asked to bring that young woman and review her value to us as a fair non-judgmental organization. There had been a few problems before. Let's just say that McDonalds needs counter people too."

Jordan couldn't help grinning at the joke.

"I will be your contact. I already work with your friend, Easy, with kids that need to spend time at the Center. What I'm hoping is that you will be able to help gay kids who need someone to talk to."

Danny had that Oh...My...God look on his face and Jordan laughed. "Earth to Dan. Speak now."

"Really? Really?" he kept saying.

"Really, Mr. Trainor. Someone who's gone through as much as you have in one lifetime and still wants to wrangle with teenagers, is strong in my book," the inspector laughed, clapping Dan on the shoulder.


Dan walked slowly across the street, his braces tapping. He still couldn't believe what had happened. They were going to get to help kids, maybe not the way he dreamed of, but he was going to get his chance to make a difference. It was all he asked.

Raising his hand to knock, the door flew open. Mary Kessler asked, excitedly, "What did they say? I've been praying so hard."

Danny laughed, "All these years, we've had our own cheerleader just across the street. Thank you, Mrs. Kessler, whatever you told Mr. Smedley really helped a lot. He said they were gonna let us help kids. I'm so happy I could bust."

She gave him a quick flustered hug and said, "It was the least I could do. When he asked me if I thought you and Jordan would be good candidates for the foster program to help troubled children, I just said that I couldn't think of anyone better suited. That your lives, your family is so happy and it was bound to spill over onto anyone you help."

Danny had a sudden thought. "Mrs. Kessler, maybe, sometime when you aren't busy, you might like to help Easy at the Center. I know he's always wishing that the kids had a grandmother to read to them."

The tears that sprang into her eyes was answer enough. "I'm never too busy," she smiled.


"We are celebrating tonight," Jordan said at breakfast the next morning. Everyone had heard the great news; they'd even called Easy and Val and hoped they weren't interrupting anything. Jordan hadn't seen Dan this excited in a long time. Neither of them could quit grinning.

JD bounced around the table, crowing, "Chuckeeeee Cheese."

"Jordan teased him, "Ugh, who wants to go eat pizza with a giant rat?"

"Meeeeeeeeeeee!!" the little boy yelped.

"Shhh, Joshua Daniel," Markie said firmly, "This isn't about you."

"But, but, Mommy, Daddy said cel-brate. That means special, yes?"

"Yes, but in this case, it means grownup celebrate."

"Oh......I will not be 'llowed to go," he said sadly, peeking out from under thick lashes.

"Okay," Dan laughed, "We'll endure the deafening cultural wasteland of Chuck E. Cheese for you, you conniving munchkin, but then you'll just have to TRY to sit quietly through our 'adult' celebration."

"Where are we going for that?" Griff asked, knowing no one in this family could stand stuffy serious places for very long.

Jordan looked at Dan. Dan looked at Jordan. They got the silliest grins on their faces and said at the same exact time, "STAR WARS!!"


That night, pizza eaten, a few leftover tokens tossed on the bedside table, an over tired JD finally asleep with his Yoda doll and light saber clutched in his arms, Jordan Skywalker stood on the sofa, his legs firmly planted in the cushions, a white sheet wrapped around his naked self, belted at the waist.

"I can feel the force," he rumbled, "It is strong in this room."

"Feel it, you can. Have it, you cannot," a giggly voice answered from the bed.

From behind his back, Jordan produced his light saber, pressing the button and hearing it zip into life. Whoosh.......whoosh, he waved it across the air.

"My light saber says differently, oh little one."

"Hmmmm, touch your light saber, I will. Strong am I with the force."

Jordan called time out. "Dan, I cannot even begin to go with Yoda. It's too...............ick or something."

Danny snorted, "K." he began to breathe heavily, sucking noise and air up from his stomach.  He reached over the side of the bed and pulled out the black plastic mask. "Jordan.......you....are.....my....son!"

"Now, that's just gross!"

"Well, I can't be Padme'," Dan pouted.

"You can be...," Jordan grinned, "Han Solo." 

"But, wouldn't that make him like really old?"

"Go with me here, Daniel. I'd do him. Pull out that light saber."

Danny grabbed his light saber from the bed and turned it on. "Zwoosh," it sprang to life.

The green glowing lights dipped and plunged, struck against each other and sprang away as Jordan Skywalker jumped from the sofa to the bed and stood over the powerful Dan Solo giving a kinda drooly view of the Jedi knight.

"I've been stuck on Tatooine for so long with only my light saber to keep me company at night, Dan Solo," Jordan said, looking so pitiful, running his hand down the light.

"I can probably help you with that. Come here and let me check your force, maybe you need your batteries recharged."

"I should trust you with my light saber? Do you have the ways of the force to recharge me?"

"Oh, yeah."

"Then, help me, Obi-Dan Kanobi, you're my only hope."

Jordan Skywalker sank down on to the bed, his knees finding their places on either side of Dan Solo's thighs, dropping the plastic light saber on the way.

"Hmmmmm, help you I can, yes." Dan said, pulling away the sheet.

Jordan grabbed up the Darth Vader mask and pulled it over his head. "You gonna stop with the Yoda, my son?" he breathed raspily.

"K," Danny laughed. "I kinda like my Jordan just the way he is."

Mask, Yoda voice, light sabers forgotten, they celebrated yet another victory in their lives. It was a small one in the scope of the world, but huge to two men who just wanted to love and be loved in return.

*

"Well, they made it through another day, Sam," Nic sighed.  "I'm glad they found Mary Kessler. I think she'll be all right now."

Sam smiled, "Yeah, she saw the painting of the family and she understood. I wish we'd known she needed our help all those years ago."

'What would we have done, Sam? There's no getting past ignorance like her husband had. The only saving grace is the place he has here in heaven," Nic smiled evilly.

"No, but we could have smiled, could have somehow let her know she had friends."

"You're a good man, Samuel Treadway. I'm glad I found you."

"Goes both ways, Nickie, my love. Now, let's get a move on. Even in Heaven, if you're not in line early, the good seats for Star Wars get taken and I want to sit near enough to the Archangels to hear them cussing out the evil empire."

Laughing, Nic let Sam pull him up. He took one last look at his sleeping family, checked on Easy and Val, made sure Gabriel and Mitch were having happy dreams and said a soft prayer for them all. "God's will," he murmured, "God's will."


Acknowledgements:

all the rest ~ just me, with a little help from George Lucas

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