For Everything You Are

by James Matthews

Chapter 10

Welcome Home Jake

Getting to the terminal at Fenchurch Street was the easy part, Cody thought, as he stepped off the train, dazed and still shaking from the reality of his situation. As he made his way to the ticket barrier, he saw a large underground map in the distance. Putting his ticket through the slot, the flaps opened, and he quickly made his way over to it.

"Can I help you, young man?" asked a man wearing a C2C company uniform. "You look kind of lost," he added.

"I guess I will be when I leave here. I need to get to Heathrow airport," Cody replied, still looking at the map, bemused, unable to work anything out. The man regarded him for a moment before speaking.

"Well, it would have been easier for you to have taken a train from West Ham, two stops back, but since you are here, let's work out a route for you." The man stood thinking for a moment, visualising the quickest route for Cody, who was now becoming impatient that his urgent journey had come to an apparent halt. "OK," the man finally said, "From Tower Hill Underground Station, take the Circle Line to South Kensington Station. Change there and take the Piccadilly Line west bound all the way to Heathrow."

"Thank you. So what about tickets, I mean, do I need to get separate ones or…?"

"No, just one. Just ask for a zone six travel card. That will cover you for all your station changes."

"Thanks again," said Cody, as he hurriedly eyed the ticket windows, and joined the queue.

With tickets in hand, he walked out of the station and followed the signs taking him to Tower Hill Underground Station. It was nearing rush hour, and Cody was being nudged about like some kind of ball in a pinball machine; there were more people coming towards him than going with him. He trotted down the steps to the next set of ticket barriers and down another flight of stairs onto a busy platform. A train pulled up at the station and a sea of people began leaving the train, causing him to take a step back, his eyes wide.

This is scary!

He just about squeezed himself on to the train as the doors were closing. Managing to find a spare bit of handrail, he held on, steadying himself as the train rattled through the tunnel, lights flickering. There was almost a moment of calm until the train stopped at the next station, with Cody wondering how in the hell all the people on the platform were actually going to get on this tube on wheels. They did, of course, much to his discomfort. He was now squashed up against the door, hot, sweaty, scared, with the acrid smell of train oil, people's sweat and odour. Rush hour on London Underground was not something he had ever experienced before, and he didn't care for it all that much.

"Jenny, you haven't thought this through," Alan said, exasperated.

"And what would you have me do, Alan, leave a crying sixteen year old homeless boy we have known all his life in a freezing bus shelter, nowhere to go?" Jenny replied, as she paced the kitchen. Alan followed her with his eyes.

"But what's he going to do when he gets here? Who's going to pay to feed him, clothe him, and put him through school?"

" We are Alan, because we are decent people! You don't leave your child, any child for that matter, for the wolves, just because they happen to be gay. That woman, I swear, of all the things, of all the times we… how could she, Alan, how could she do that? It's not right, it's… it's inhumane."

Alan let out a sigh, scratched his head, and looked at the clock. "I really have to go, Jen, I'm already late. Can we talk about this later?"

"I know. Alan. I'm sorry, I know this not ideal, and I do see your objections, but what else could I do? If something happened to him… if I'd turned him away, I couldn't live with myself, and…."

"Yeah, and you saying that makes me see your side too, honey. I'm sorry, I just really think there could be a barrel load of shit coming our way when his mother settles down and realises her son has travelled here under our say so"

"He's sixteen, Alan; technically, she has no say over what he does or where he goes; that's the law; well, back there it is, anyway."

"Alan sighed and kissed his wife on the head. "I really need to go."

"Call me later?" Jenny said, eyeing him warmly.


Cody had managed to eventually find a seat on the underground train as it neared the station at terminal 4. He got up, ready to jump off at the first opportunity, really needing to see open space again. Exiting the train, he walked towards yet another set of ticket barriers, walked through, and found a vacant bench.

He pulled out his cell phone and checked the time; it was approaching 6:30pm; noticing no one had called him, he slowly put the phone away, deflated, but more angry than anything . No one fucking cares , he thought, as he pulled at his hair.

Making his way into the terminal, he went searching for a place to grab a drink. The airport was bustling with activity, an environment that put him on edge. Spotting a McDonalds, he went and ordered a Coke and sat down, not bothering to order food. Placing his head in his hands with the Coke just in front, he began to tear up, but brushed the feeling of intense emotion away, deciding instead that he had better call Jenny.

Cody once again collected his cell phone from his pocket and dialled.

"Hello?" came Jenny's voice.

"It's me; I'm here" he replied softly.

"Cody, thank God. So, are you OK, you made it to the right terminal?."

"Yeah, I…do you know she hasn't even tried to call me?" he said, voice shaky.

"Your mum?"

"Who else? I'm so scared Jenny, what's gonna happen to me? I'm going out of my mind."

"Cody, listen. Right now, you need to stay calm and concentrate on getting on this plane. We will figure out the rest when you arrive, and don't worry, I will be speaking to your mother. But before I do, I need you here safe, OK?

"Does he know?"

Jenny let out a sigh. "No he's away on a camping trip with his school. Like I said, we will deal with everything when you get here."

"I feel sick," was all he could stutter out.

"Yeah, I'm guessing this won't go down in history as your finest hour, Cody, but you're gonna be OK, and I know you can be mature enough about this to see it through."

"So, I better go, I'm not sure how much this is costing me," Cody said, eyeing the time on his phone as the call seconds ticked by.

"No, wait, let me call you back. Hang up and I'll call you."

"OK." Cody pressed the end call button and waited until the phone rang again.

"Hey," came Jenny's voice again.

"Hi, so what do I do now? I have no ticket or anything."

"You need to find the British Airways desk; they will print it off for you. I'll text you the reference number; just give them the phone, and they'll pull up your flight details."

"It's gonna be OK, right, Jenny?" he asked, suddenly overcome with anxiety again. Jenny held the phone away from her and let out a soft lurching sob before composing herself.

"Sure, honey, everything's gonna be fine, just be brave, OK?"

"I'll try," he replied, sounding unsure.

"Look, when you get my text, go find the desk, get your ticket, and then go find some place warm and comfortable. Try and get some sleep, too; you have a long journey ahead. Just don't forget, you need to go find your plane about 45 minutes before your fly out time. If you need anything, just call, and I'll call you back."

"OK, thanks, Jenny."

"Bye, sweetheart; talk to you soon, OK?"

"OK." The line went dead and Cody sat back, letting out a long and thoughtful sigh. What the fuck !

"Colin Jones, I presume?" Alan said, smiling as the two men met outside what had become Alan's office at the base in Beale. Colin's office was next door, but since Alan had started a few days back, he had not seen him. He held out his hand, which was collected by Colin and tightly shaken.

"Alan, damn good to finally meet you. I've heard a lot about you, and mostly from my son, as it happens." He laughed. "So, how are you and the folks settling in up at old Sam's place?"

"Yeah, great, it's been a tough few weeks, what with buying stuff for the house and getting Jake into school, but we're about all done now, and to be honest, I was glad to get to the base and get cracking in my new role here. Ethen had told me some stuff about you, too. All good, I promise." He smiled.

"Jake's your son, right? Yeah, Ethen has mentioned him. I don't get home very much, but I'd love to meet the rest of the family soon."

"That would be great; feel free to pop by any time you're back at home. I have to say, Jake and Ethen have really hit it off, and your son is a great kid, Mr. Jones."

"Yeah, he's turned out OK. I was worried since his mother died it wouldn't be the case; they were very close, but he's come through it, and please, Alan, call me Colin."

"Colin it is, then, so uh, do you wanna grab some coffee or something? I'm parched; maybe you could fill in some gaps for me about our working arrangements. I just set up this office and have been given our first assignment, but didn't want to make a real inroad until I saw you."

"Sounds good., Just let me dump my case in the office and I'll be right out. I really should freshen up first, too, change my shirt and all that, just hit the runway about an hour ago from Arizona.

"Sure thing, Colin; just give me a knock when you're done. I have some files I can be putting away first, so I'll see you in a bit."

Hazel looked at Craig as he sat there sipping on a glass of whiskey. It was already out when he got home. His demeanour was thoughtful, but stern.

"You've hardly said a word about this in over 3 hours. Have you actually heard anything I have said, Craig?"

"I've heard it all, Hazel, sometimes more than once, but what else can I say? I can't believe it, OK? I can't get my head around this right now. But I do think we should call him."

"And say what, Craig? I have nothing to say to the boy - his letters, his…his lifestyle... no, I have nothing I want to add or subtract from that. I will not have a gay son under my roof… no way."

"Yes, Hazel, you have said that a million times now, but I think maybe if we got him some help, he could change, rather than just throwing him out. I don't think you made the right choice there. You have thrown our son out on to the street and told him he cannot contact any family. I mean, Haz, we don't even know if he's dead or alive, and you sit there like you have never cared." Hazel started pacing the kitchen again.

"We've been over this, Craig. I did care, and that's what's makes me so angry, but people like him don't change; they lie and corrupt; like the bible says, man will not lie with man, that's what it says. How do we face the lord knowing that our son has gone against one of its fundamental teachings, it's repulsive and wrong, Craig; what…what will the church say?" She fell back into her chair and thought about that part intensely.

Craig let out a sigh and took another mouthful of whiskey, "And what does the bible say about overcoming barriers and love and…."

"I'm sorry, Craig, I can't listen to this anymore! You want to call him and tell him this is OK, then fine, but I don't want him here; he does not come back to this house while I am still here. I will speak to the school and tell them he has left our house, and we do not know where he is, which is the truth. I want to then clear out his room and not speak of him again." Craig just looked at his wife in pity; even he knew that was just over the top and cold hearted.

"Two wrongs don't make a right, Haz, and what you are suggesting is just plain wrong. We have a son, he's taken the wrong path, we should be helping him correct his ways. This is wrong; this whole thing is wrong. We cannot just cast out our own son to the elements without at least trying…"

"Ha, you are never here, Craig," she cut him off. "So, don't please lecture me on being a good parent. If he needs help, let him decide to find it. Now, I'm going food shopping. If you call him, fine, but please leave me out of it, and I don't want him here when I get back." Craig just shook his head and watched, as Hazel grabbed her car keys and left the house.

Wasting no time, Craig went to the house phone and dialled Cody's cell phone.

There was no response.

Fucking bastard has the nerve to call me, probably more insults and abuse, Cody thought, as he placed the unanswered phone back in his pocket.

With his plane tickets now collected he was in a surprisingly more relaxed mood, maybe from exhaustion or because of his phone call from Jenny, he couldn't decide. There were a good 3 hours before he had to even start thinking about boarding his plane, so he sought out a seat in the viewing lounge, watching as planes took off and landed. He got lost in his thoughts, his eyes beginning to feel heavy.

He was suddenly alert again as he felt his phone vibrate, signalling a text message. Pulling it out from his pocket, he viewed the screen and smiled as Kit's name appeared.

(Kit: r u ok )

Cody immediately started tapping a response.

(Cody: yeah at airport flying out to Jake's place)

(Kit: What the fuck, no way m8 that's some heavy shit)

(Cody: out of options Kit, all I can do, I'm safe don't worry)

(Kit: cool man, well txt me wen u get there)

(Cody: will do, and thx 4 everything Kit)

(Kit: anytime)

Cody placed his phone away and shut his eyes, now desperate for rest.

Ethen was driving back from the base down to Jake's school; he planned to meet Ed and Luke for lunch. Ed wanted Ethen to talk to Luke about his situation with Jake, and thought it would be better done while Jake was away on his trip. Since the weekend was approaching, it would give Luke a chance to think about things, and hopefully by the new school week, things would be calmer between the two of them.

"Wanna go to Donny's?" Ethen asked, winding down his window as he was greeted by Ed and Luke in the school car park.

"Doesn't that place have rats?" Ed remarked, laughing.

"Yuk!" added Luke.

"Maybe, but they cook a mean burger, and it's cheap," grinned Ethen.

"Well, I'm sold," Ed shrugged. "Oh shit, you know what? I'm sorry, guys, I just remembered I have to meet Ben today; I need to give him some homework to copy."

"Ben, who's Ben?" asked Luke. "You never mentioned this or him before."

"Yeah, I, um, I just remembered, so…you two go, have a nice lunch. I'll see you back at school, OK?" Ed said, trying to sound sincere.

"C'mon, Luke, let's go," gestured Ethen. Luke got in the car, and Ed watched as they drove out of sight.

The drive to the burger joint was mostly uneventful, apart from the odd glance from Luke at Ethen as they made their way through the quiet town. "You ok?" asked Ethen, "You look like you wanna say something."

"No, I'm good, just wondering who this Ben guy was." Ethen didn't reply.

Ethen pulled the car into an empty slot and switched off the engine. He led Luke into the restaurant and found a secluded spot at the back. They were situated in the middle booth, which had partitions on either side. Perfect , Ethen thought, as he shifted round the fixed table and got comfortable.

"What you having? I'm paying," smiled Ethen. Luke eyed the menu up and down.

"Hmm, I'll have the Classic Burger and some fries, if that's OK?"

"Sure, Luke, anything you want." The waitress came over and took their order, and once away again, Ethen saw his moment to start. "Eh, Luke, so is there anything you wanna talk to me about?"

"Not specifically, why you do ask?" Luke replied, looking confused.

"Anything about Jake, maybe?" Luke glanced up and sighed.

"Is this why Ed conveniently had other plans, so we could talk about Jake?"

"No…well, kinda, but…"

"Look, if this is about the other day at school with him, Ed has already given me the dress down, so I'd rather not go over it again, OK?"

"It's not just about the other day Luke; this is just as much about you and me."

"What about you and me?" Ethen was surprised; he was feeling lost for words as he shifted in his seat. Wanting to be firm, but not damage their friendship, there was also damage control to Luke's feelings to consider. Fuck, this is difficult!

"The thing is, Luke, Jake and me….well, we're like, together, you know, and I wanted you to hear that from me for a start."

"What, so you can rub my face in it? And I pretty much knew, anyway; it don't take a rocket scientist to work it out," the anger showing briefly in Luke's voice

"And?" said Ethen.

"And what?"

"So, how is it gonna go with us from here on? More importantly, are you going to be civil to Jake, and remember he has done nothing wrong here?"

Luke remained silent and stared at the salt and pepper pots. He was about to say something when the waitress appeared with their order. The boys thanked her and she moved on to another customer, giving Luke the opportunity to speak.

"Look, Ethen, I'll try, OK? I'll try to cool it with Jake, and I'll even apologise if it makes you happy, but I can't pretend - it cuts me up, seeing you two together. I get it, OK, there is no me and you…I just, I dunno…always thought there might be, and then when he came along, it was like…"

"Luke, Jake arriving here would have made no difference, OK? I'm really sorry, but I just don't see you like you see me; I mean… God, being with you would be like going out with my brother," Ethen said, pulling a face, shaking his head. "It's just the way it is, and I'm sorry if you're hurting about things, but I can't fix this for you. It's something you gotta get used to." Luke just nodded, a sad expression on his face.

"Do you think you could take me back to school now?"

"You haven't finished your burger," replied Ethen, eyeing the half eaten meal.

"Yeah….I don't feel so hungry anymore."

"Well, OK, but look," Ethen reached over and rested his hand on Luke's wrist. "I'll make you a commitment. I'll always be there for you, and I promise not to be all over Jake if we are at your place together, and I'll talk to Jake about doing the same. But please, Luke, make your peace with Jake; we live in a very small town, and it's likely you'll bump into him quite often."

Luke pulled his hand away and looked at Ethen. "Yeah, I'll do my best!"

"That's all I can ask," replied Ethen, smiling. "C'mon, then, we better get you back to school." Ethen left some notes under a plate and led Luke out of the restaurant and back to his car. The journey back was silent, and when they arrived, Luke just got out and wandered back into the school without saying a word to Ethen. He sat in his car and pulled out his phone, dialling Ed.

"How'd it go?" came Ed's voice straight away.

"Hard to tell…OK, I think, but he's pretty bruised up, as expected." Ethen heard Ed sigh.

"Does he know?"

"Yeah, he knows… I feel so bad, you know?"

"Yeah, I know. Listen, don't worry. I'll mop up the rest later at home, but hey, Eeth?"


"You did the right thing, OK, and thanks. I just hope he becomes easier to live with now," remarked Ed, letting out a small chuckle.

"Yeah, me too, I'll catch you later, OK?" Ethen hung up and pulled out of the school, letting out a long sigh.

Cody woke up, for a split second wondering where he was, before the sledge hammer of reality dawned on him; he was at the airport still, and no, this had not been a bad dream. Stretching, he looked at his watch; it was approaching 10:30pm. Better start heading to the gate , he thought.

Getting up, he went and looked at the arrival and departure screen, eyeing his flight number. The plane was on time, and the gate was indeed open. He walked down what felt like an endless walkway, eventually coming to gate 232. Opening the large glass door, he went in and took a seat.

There was no one at the desk yet, and looking around, Cody could see the room was about half filled. Feeling restless, he got up and went over to the large window, which looked out to his plane, watching as fuel was being added, luggage being loaded, knowing that in less than an hour he would be part of that plane, too, and no going back, no return ticket. Am I doing the right thing , he mused.

Looking back at the filling room, he could see people smiling - excited people, happy people. There was no one he could see who was there because they were running away for being gay. Am I running away , he thought, escaping, escaping what? This was what people did when they had just robbed a bank or murdered someone, not because their mother was too blind to accept their son was gay, he thought, taking his seat.

Before long the Gate Assistant was calling people to get ready for boarding. A queue began to form and he joined it. Hands shaking, he looked pale. Soon, it was his turn to submit his boarding pass, and he forced a smile as the woman greeted him. She smiled back and gave him his pass back, leaving him one thing to do – walk down that jet way and onto the plane. "Well, here we go," he muttered, before gripping his bag and moving on down the ramp.

Alan was busy looking over some documents at his desk when the buzzing of his cell phone broke his concentration.

"Hey, honey, what's up?" asked Alan, seeing the caller was Jenny.

"I just checked the internet; his flight left on time," she replied. "You're OK to collect him from Reno?" She heard Alan sigh.

"Yeah, it's fine, Jen. So, what time do I need to be up?"

"Well, it says here the flight gets in around five fifteen in the morning, so how long will it take you?"

"Pfft, dunno, Jen, maybe 3 hours if traffic is good. I'll leave around one thirty just to be safe." Alan looked at his watch. "Listen, I'll be leaving in about an hour, so we'll discuss this in more detail then."

"Yeah…yeah, OK, let's do that. I'll see you soon." Jenny hung up and went upstairs to one of the spare rooms, pulling out some bedding from the linen cupboard on the way. She started to make up the double bed, bought in case any family ever came to stay, not thinking in a million years Cody would be the first to use it.

With the bed finished, she went into Jake's room and took out a few pairs of boxers and socks, one pair of jeans and a couple of tops. Knowing that Cody would no doubt need a change of clothes when he got there, and with the mess that would need to be talked through, clothes shopping would not be high on the list of priorities.

She kept playing Jake's reaction over in her head. She wondered how he would take it, how he would deal with it. Somehow, she would find the words to explain why she did what she did, and it was not just Jake that might not be convinced, as Alan, who had rushed off to work that morning, would probably still have reservations. This was a mess she felt could be sorted out.

Ed jumped on the bus and smiled, as he headed towards Luke, already sitting down in their usual seat.

"Hey, Luke, hi, I haven't seen you since lunch."

"You planned it, didn't you?" Luke hissed at his brother.

"What…planned what? I don't know what you're talking about." replied Ed, frowning.

"Ben get his homework OK?" said Luke, a hint of sarcasm coming through.

"Uh…yeah, he did, so why the bad…."

"Get real, Ed; I know what you two were up to," snapped Luke cutting him off.

"Luke, look..."

"I don't wanna hear it; you and Ethen's tactics were really not needed, and it was really not cool what you did, skipping out on me like that. I had to endure some fucking pep talk from him, and you thought this would be a good idea?"

"It was his idea, and yeah, I actually think he did the right thing. You have been walking around like a wet rag ever since Jake came on the scene, and how long does that last? When were you gonna give it up and move on? A month, a year, when?"

"Alright, alright, I get it. Jeez, spare me the second lecture of my day."

"I'm just saying, is all." Ed scratched his head, exasperated. "So what are you gonna do now?"

"About what?" replied a moody Luke.

"Well, you gonna be cool with Jake?"

"Why is it always about Jake, for fuck sake? Who made him the centre of attention all of a sudden?"

"Luke, he's not, but you did lay into him, when actually, if you think about it, all the guy has actually done is move here, and I'm pretty sure it was not his choice." Ed thought for a moment and then grinned. "Listen, Mom and Dad are away next weekend, you know, on that Masons meeting, why don't we do another barbecue and invite Ethen and Jake over, and you can smooth things over with him, OK?"

"I guess," replied Luke softly

"Yeah, and I might even let you have a can of Shandy," remarked Ed, the comment bringing a slight smile to Luke's lips.

"Shandy, you gotta be kidding, right?" said Luke, incredulous.

"Yeah, maybe kinda lame, maybe a man's beer, then," he said, punching Luke on the shoulder.

"You got a deal, bro!"

Alan arrived home and put his key in the door, but Jenny was already opening it as he did.

"Hey, Alan , I have run a bath for you, there is a bottle of beer on the side, and some of those smelly salts added for good measure. Dinner will be about thirty minutes," she said warmly, smiling.

"Whoa, well thanks, honey, that's really nice of….hang on a sec, what's happened?"

"Nothing's happened; can't a doting wife do something nice for her husband?"

"Usually when the doting wife has some bombshell to drop, or has bought something expensive, then, yeah, the doting wife usually can."

"Well , we do need to talk about Cody…and yeah, I know you need an early night, but I know you have questions, and I know you are not one hundred per cent comfortable with this. So, I thought we might talk some of it through."

"Well, better to do that now, I guess. Cody's arriving later, and Jake is also home tomorrow, so, yeah, maybe we get some of the tricky issues out of the way," Alan said with slight concern. "Let me go up and I'll be down in a bit; we can discuss it over dinner."

"Sure, darling, enjoy your bath." Alan kissed his wife and went upstairs, leaving Jenny to prepare dinner. She opened the oven to give the already cooking stew a stir, when there was a knock at the door. Opening it, she saw a smiling Ethen on the step.

"Well, hello, Ethen, everything OK?

"Yeah, Jenny, I was just wondering what time Jake was gonna be home tomorrow; I thought we could hang out if he's free." The smile on Jenny's face began to leave her.

"Uh, well…um, well, something has come up, and I think we may need Jake here with us tomorrow, Ethen."

"Oh," was all he could say at first. "Have I done something wrong?" he added, looking concerned.

"Oh God, no, Ethen, we've not seen Jake so happy for a long time. Look, I know how what I just said might sound, and no, before you think it, I'm not trying to keep you two apart, it's just….look, come in for a moment, and I'll try and give you a brief explanation." She moved to the side, and Ethen stepped past. "Go through to the kitchen, honey. Hope you don't mind, but I'm preparing dinner, and I would invite you stay, but I have some things to discuss with Alan, and I wasn't really expecting you to call, so I only really made enough for…."

"That's cool, Jenny, honest. I know I just sort of showed up; its fine."

"OK, so where to start," she said rubbing the back of her head. "Ethen, has Jake ever mentioned a person called Cody to you?"

"Uh, the boy from the UK right, his best friend there?" Ethen replied, clicking his fingers remembering.

"Yeah, that's the one. Well, he had some big problems at home; you see, he's gay…I mean, well, at least he might be, or maybe he's not sure… anyway, his mother and father have found out and thrown him out, and told him not to contact any of his family."

"Wow. Poor guy, is he gonna be ok?"

"Well, he is now, we hope. You see, he's actually coming to stay here. I don't know how long, maybe for good, but there is a lot we need to work through with all this, and that's why we need Jake here tomorrow."

"Yeah, no, I totally understand. So, does Jake know?"

"No and that's another problem, what with their history, and we…."

"History?" Ethen cut her off. Jenny looked at him carefully, his face serious.

"What exactly has Jake told you about Cody?" she said slowly.

"Nothing, only that they were best friends when he lived back in England."

"Hmm, right, OK."

"Why, are you saying it was more than that?"

"Ethen, honestly, I don't know what it was; all I ever got from both of them was that it was complicated, but we left the country before they ever…well, anyway, Jake would really not like me discussing his personal life, so maybe if you have questions, you should speak to him, but please try to make it so it never came from me. I just assumed you knew more, that's all."

"No worries, Jenny. Sorry for the questions; it's really none of my business, either, I was just curious, you know," he replied, laughing nervously. Ethen was acutely aware that Jenny did not know about his and Jake's relationship, and he saw things were about to get interesting.

"Its fine, Ethen, I just didn't want you thinking anything strange was happening, that's all."

"Yeah and thanks. So, I'll get going and let you and Alan enjoy your dinner."

"OK, Ethen. Well, I'll let Jake know you stopped by, and get him to call you when things settle down a bit."

"Thanks, Jenny, I'll see you later. You see to supper, I can let myself out."

"Thanks, sweetheart, I'll see you later"

"Yeah, bye." Ethen left the house and walked back to his own, deep in thought. He felt scared in a way that this could complicate things for him and Jake, if this Cody guy wanted to complicate things, that is.

"Someone here? I heard talking." Alan asked as he came through to the kitchen.

"Just Ethen. He wanted to know when Jake was home, that's all."


"Yeah, I said it might be best to keep away tomorrow with…well, you know."

"No, I agree, I'm sure Jake will have other things on his mind come tomorrow anyway." Jenny just nodded as she pulled the stew from the oven and placed it on the table, spooning some onto a waiting plate in front of Alan.

"Wine?" she asked, going to the refrigerator.

"Better not. I need a clear head for this drive."

"True, so…"

"Yeah, so…"

"How do you feel about all this?" Jenny said, watching Alan's expression. He sat there and leaned back in his chair, stroking his chin.

"My main three concerns are his parents, Jake, and how Cody is gonna settle here with us."

"OK, well, the first two are easy. Hazel has not got a leg to stand on; she threw him out, gave him no choice on what he could do, and he's sixteen. If she calls, and I say if, then, I will have that conversation when we get there. If she doesn't, I will send a letter explaining that Cody is safe with us, not that she deserves it."

"And Jake," Alan said, his brow raising.

"Jake will be OK, he's… he's mature enough to accept why we have done this."

"I was really talking about him and Cody as a possible issue; I mean they hardly left each other on the best of circumstances. I'm just worried, if Jake rejects him being here, what then?

"Then, we'll have two sulky teenage boys at each other's throats for a while until it blows itself out. But I really don't think that is gonna happen. I happen to think Jake will be pleased to see him, and Cody won't wanna rock the boat in his current predicament."

"Hmm, well, I hope you're right on this one, Jen."

"And your third concern? Please elaborate."

"Well, there is school for a start, but bigger than that is him settling here, if that happens. Now, I already contacted the Customs and Border Protection about him, and that's fine under his circumstances; usually, he would have had to travel here with us, but…well, anyway, that's sorted . But, we are not his legal guardians, so we need to look into how this is gonna work long term."

"OK, so we'll do some research and figure it out."

"And what about finances, Jenny? I mean, Jake is not cheap, he's gonna need clothes, food, furniture, and I don't think it's fair that we give Jake special treatment, but then, if we are suddenly paying double for everything, it's gonna add up, Jen."

"Yeah, well, I been thinking about that as well, and I think all we need to do is sit down with them both and explain that sacrifices will have to be made for them both, and if they want extra, then they will have to get weekend jobs or something after school."

"Yeah, I agree, but then it's also not fair that we suddenly have to ask Jake, through no fault of his own, to make sacrifices in the first place. I don't think we can win that argument if it comes up, Jen, and believe me, I envision some repercussions here."

"I know. I get what you're saying, but I just don't see Jake minding all this; after all, him and Cody….well, they….I just think it will be fine, Alan."

Alan and Jenny had been chatting for about 40 minutes over the stew she had prepared when Alan said his final piece.

"OK, well, let's see how this plays out, and we'll take it a step at a time. Anyway, I better try and get a few hours sleep; do you mind?"

"No, you go get some rest. I'll get you up with a cup of tea when it's time."

"OK, honey, goodnight then."

"Night, darling, see you in a few hours." They kissed and Alan went upstairs to bed, leaving Jenny to clear away the dishes.

Alan….Alan darling, time to get up," Jenny said, gently shaking him on the arm.

"What….oh right, yeah. What time is it?"

"One am. Your tea is next to you, I'll go start the car and warm it up inside."

"Sure thing, honey, thanks." Jenny smiled and went downstairs to the car. Alan had recently leased a Grand Cherokee Jeep and Jenny a Toyota Prius, since returning the loaned SUV back to the base. She slotted the key in the Jeep and put the blowers on maximum, leaving the 4x4 to warm up.

Meanwhile Alan was up and dressed and brushing his teeth in the bathroom.

"Are you sure you don't want me to come with you?" Jenny asked, looking at him through the mirror.

"I'm sure; make sure you go back to bed when I go. Have you even been to bed yet?"

"No, I was up making a list of things we're gonna need for Cody; besides, I was worried if I fell asleep you might not wake up; you know what you're like for sleeping through alarms," she replied, grinning.

"Hmm, well, I better get going then; thanks for warming the car. I'll call you when I get to the airport, OK?"

"Yeah, don't forget, will you? Let me know you got there safe and he did, too."

"No worries, see you in a few hours." Alan left, kissing Jenny on the head as he did. She waved to him from the front door as he pulled the car out of the drive. Closing the door, Jenny went back upstairs and got into bed; within seconds, she was asleep.

The drive to the airport was a lonely one for Alan, as the roads were quiet. He expected more traffic, but as he had never done the drive over land before, he didn't really know what to expect. There was a small amount of build-up as he approached the airport, but then there always was at any airport, he mused to himself. Finding a slot in Short term parking, he exited the car and made his way to the arrivals terminal and found a seat. Cody's flight was due in 40 minutes, and with baggage and customs, he thought, it might be an hour or so. Better grab a coffee , he thought, getting up and eyeing Peet's Coffee and Tea.

Hello, sir, may I take your order?" asked a young woman behind the glass counter.

"Yeah, can I get a latte please, and what is that cake you have? Yeah, that one there."

"That's carrot cake, sir. It's very good."

"Yeah, OK, and a piece of that, thanks."

"From the United Kingdom?" she asked, smiling, while preparing the coffee he ordered.

"Yeah, well, was, I guess. My family and I live here now, near the Beale military base."

"Yeah, I know it. My grandfather's brother had a ranch near that base; he used to keep all sort of animals on it," she remarked, reflecting. "Said something about being self-sufficient. The old guy died recently and left nothing to anyone. My grandfather said that even the animals had long gone."

"What, uh….I mean, what was his name, do you remember?"

"Sure, I remember. I used to play down there with the horses, and help him out from time to time in the summer heat. His name was Samuel Beckets, but most folks down in the tiny village knew him as Sam, or Uncle Sam. He was a very sweet and kind man, but you know what they say, God always takes the good ones, right?"

"He sure does, er…."

"Marie. Sorry, my name badge is back on the counter. I had to change earlier when the coffee machine went crazy and spat gunk all over me."

"Well, Marie, my name is Alan, and Samuel Becket's place is currently being lived in by me and my family., Small world, huh?" Alan said, grinning.

"You have got to be kidding me. I mean, really?" she asked, stunned.

"Yes, really, I'm not having you on."

"Wow, well, what a small world we live in. Here's your coffee, and just let me get that carrot cake for you." Marie walked away, shaking her head smiling. "There you go, enjoy, and lovely to meet you, Alan."

Alan went and found a seat, reflecting on what had just occurred and tucked into his carrot cake. He got lost just watching as people came and went, finding it funny eavesdropping on other people's nearby conversations. He made a mental note to tell Jenny about a woman that had just got back from Rio to tell her waiting husband she was leaving him for a Brazilian man half her age, but still expected him to drive her home. Seemed perfectly reasonable over a coffee , he thought.

Looking up at the arrivals board, he could see Cody's flight had landed, and got up, walking to the area passengers came through to get out into the main foyer. As he arrived, the volume of people coming through was increasing rapidly. Bobbing his head up and down trying to gain a better view through the sea of people, he noticed a slow walking scruffy teenager with a black bag, his hair messy and clothes creased. He looked exhausted, his head hung low, dragging his feet.

"Cody?" Alan called, when he thought he was in earshot. The head of the teenager slowly rose along with a hand, but no smile, just an acknowledgement Alan had the right person. Cody stopped right in front of Alan, looked up, and broke down in tears. Alan pulled him in quickly, as if away from a cliff edge, the two of them embracing for a while, as other passengers moved round them.

"I'm…I'm really sorry about all this, Alan. God, I'm so tired, I feel like I'm gonna go crazy or something."

"Hey, just breathe, everything is gonna be OK, you're safe now, you're here." Alan said, caressing the back of his head. "C'mon, let's get out of here and get home; we got quite a long drive ahead," he said, directing Cody to the exit. As they walked out into the cool night air, Alan took off his coat and wrapped it around Cody's existing one, noticing he was shivering.

"When did you last eat?" Alan said after a while, looking concerned for the quivering boy by his side.

"I don't remember; maybe yesterday morning; it was a while ago; I just haven't felt hungry."

"I can get that," replied Alan, as they approached the Jeep. "Listen, do you wanna go in the back and you can lay across the seat then and get some sleep? I'll get the car warm as soon as the engine warms up." Cody managed a nod as he opened the rear door and heaved himself into the high back seat, immediately lying down. Alan got in and looked back at him, not bothering to ask him to strap in.

Alan slowly drove out of the airport and waited until Cody was asleep before deciding to be more generous with the gas, but once out on the open road, he released the hungry 5.7 litre engine, quickly reaching a steady ninety miles per hour. It was either get home quicker or stop for a rest, and Alan wanted the former for both of them.

Alan managed to shave forty minutes off the journey by pure speed alone and before he knew it, he was pulling the jeep into the drive and coming to a halt. He half expected Jenny to come running out, but realised she would be asleep after having such a late night, remembering he had not called her like he promised. Probably for the best , he mused.

Alan switched off the engine and sat in thought for a moment before getting out and opening the rear door to a sound asleep Cody, debating whether to wake him or not.

"Cody… Cody, we're here," Alan said, softly shaking him.

"Oh, OK, right," came a groggy reply.

"C'mon, big guy. Let's get you inside and up to bed."

"I have a bed already?" replied Cody, not really thinking about the question.

"Sure you do, and you'll be seeing it soon enough; let's go inside." Alan put the key in the door and led Cody through to the kitchen. "Just dump your bag anywhere for a moment; would you like anything to eat or drink before you go up?"

"Maybe just some toast and juice," Cody replied, taking a seat at the table. "If that's OK, I mean." Alan just chuckled.

"I think I can manage that." Alan pulled two slices of bread out and pressed them into the toaster and fetched some orange juice from the refrigerator. "What would you like on it?"

"Butter is fine," Cody replied, managing a smile

"So how was your flight in?"

"Long and boring. I tried to sleep, but my brain was buzzing. I can't believe my mum, Alan, I just can't believe it. More so, I can't believe I'm sitting in your kitchen; it all seems so…unreal. I keep thinking it's a dream, it's a dream but then I know it's not, and I'm just so tired and…."

"It's OK, Cody, you don't have to go into it now, we can talk about this anytime, OK?" Alan came round, resting his hand on Cody's shoulder.

"Yeah, but I want to; I wanna get it out, you know. The whole thing is just messed up."

"I thought I heard voices," said Jenny, as she rushed over and grabbed Cody. "Sweetheart, thank God!" She kissed him all over his head and hugged him tight. "You're safe, oh, thank God you're safe."

"I thank God for nothing," Cody remarked, feeling all of the sudden witty.

"Now, now," Jenny tutted.

"Well, don't crowd the boy, Jen, he's just got here," Alan said, placing Cody's toast in front of him.

"I'm sorry, I'm just so relieved. And…is that all you could manage for him, Alan?" she said, eyeing the two dry looking bits of toast. "He needs a proper meal."

"It's all he wanted." said Alan incredulously

"He's right, that's all I asked for, Jenny," added Cody, looking sympathetically at Alan.

"What, no eggs, bacon…?"

"Just toast, Jenny, honest, my stomach is in knots still," Cody said, cutting her off.

"Jenny, will you stop fussing, honey?" Alan pleaded.

"You're right, I'm sorry. I'll, um, go pull back your bed." She went to walk away before turning to face Cody. "We're glad you're here, Cody." She smiled and disappeared from the room.

"Wish my mum was like her," he said, more to himself than Alan.

"Yeah, well….we'll deal with her later, but for now, you're here, you're safe, and we're gonna work through this, so just try and relax, OK?"

"Yeah, well, every time I start to, there is one thing that keeps popping back in my mind." Alan looked at Cody as their eyes met in silent communication.

"Jake?" Alan said, biting his bottom lip.

"Jake!" repeated Cody.

"I'm sure he'll be very pleased to see you."

"Yeah, like a kick in the guts; we didn't end on the best of terms; it was more my fault, but…."

"No point worrying about something that's in the past, Cody, I'm sure you and Jake will work out whatever it is that needs working out. But if you like….would you like me to speak to him?"

"Naa, this is something I gotta be a man about and do myself; besides, if he thought I'd put you up to it, it might make things worse."

"Yeah, you might be right."

"Uh, would you mind if I went up, Alan? I'm really dog tired."

"Yeah, you go, and hey, it's Sunday, so have a lie in, OK?" Alan joked.

"Yeah, I will," Cody grinned, shaking his head. "Man o man, what a day." He headed out of the kitchen, leaving Alan standing by the sink, arms crossed, smiling.

"Yeah, what a day," he muttered.

Jenny was out back putting some laundry on the line when she could hear footsteps through the gravel up the driveway; putting down the laundry basket, she walked down the side passage and her eyes met with Jake's.

"Mum… hey, ya miss me?" Jake said, excited at seeing his mother.

"Su…sure I did, where's my hug, then?" she replied, a little nervous.

"What's Dad up to?"

"He's um… sleeping. He kinda had a late night."

"At the base?" Jake asked innocently.

"Hmm, not exactly, why don't you come inside and take off that rucksack."

"OK," he replied, shrugging. He followed Jenny round to the back and into the kitchen, dumping his bag in the corner. "Man, I'm beat," he said, wiping his brow.

"I'll bet; so did you have fun?" she asked him, setting down a glass of milk on the table for him.

"Oh, Mum, it was so cool, we had a fire and cooked these marshmallow things and one of the boys brought a guitar and we sang stupid songs, oh, and we got lost one day, well, our group did, anyway, but we were found when some girl saw a cactus she recognised. In fact, all that really happened was, we went in a circle cos the guy reading the compass…well, he couldn't."

Jenny was laughing now, leaning against the worktop as she listened intently to Jake as he shared his stories. But the laugh faded fast as she saw a sleepy Cody standing in the kitchen doorway. Jake, seeing his mother looking past him, stopped talking. He just stared at her as she froze, her face like a rabbit in headlights, eyes wide.

"What's wrong?" he said slowly, turning on his chair to come face to face with the person in the doorway. Jenny closed her eyes.

"Welcome home, Jake," Cody said quietly, a very slight grin on his face.

What the fu….

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