Castle Roland

Holiday Handoff

by MultiMapper


Chapter 5

Posted: 22 Jan 15

Holiday Handoff

By MultiMapper
Copyright ©2002-2015 MultiMapper.
All Rights Reserved.

Author's Note: I would like to give special thanks to Iluvantir for his contributions to this chapter.

Marc and Galen were sitting in silence at the kitchen table. Both men were apprehensive as they watched the doorway and tried to formulate reasons to hope that the boys weren't too bothered by the stories that they had told.

The sound of movement broke the silence and both adults looked up with concern at Collin and Christian walking into the kitchen.

The expressions that the boys wore didn't give any clue as to their moods.

After a tense moment of silence, Collin walked to his father and leaned down slightly to give him a hug.

"Are you alright?" Galen whispered.

"Yeah Dad." Collin said gently, then continued more strongly, "Thanks for caring enough to tell us about what you went through."

Christian heard the words so sincerely spoken, and before he could think better of the idea, he walked to Marc to try to show his own appreciation.

Christian moved close to Marc's ear and whispered, "Thanks Marc. I've never had anyone talk to me straight up and honest like that before... you know, like I'm an adult. I'll try not to screw up, so maybe you'll keep talking to me that way."

Marc pulled back enough to look Christian in the eyes before saying, "Don't worry about it Christian, everyone screws up sometimes. Galen and I both know that. The thing that shows whether you're an adult or a child is if you can take responsibility for your actions."

Christian hesitantly nodded that he understood.

"You're what, thirteen?" Marc asked cautiously.

"Thirteen and a half." Christian said seriously.

Marc smiled at the response, then continued, "Galen and I will try to keep that in mind and treat you as a young man, but you need to let us know if we slip up and accidentally treat you like a child. "

"I will. Thanks." Christian whispered, then pulled Marc into a hug.

After a brief silence, Galen cautiously said, "Marc, if you'll go get Christian's luggage out of the car, the guys can get unpacked while I start to work on the iPod."

"Sounds like a plan." Marc said as he released Christian from the hug and stood.

"Come on guys. As soon as you're unpacked, we have a few more things to do before we can call it a night." Marc said as he draped an arm loosely around Christian's shoulders.

Collin smiled at the sight of Christian being held so gently and walked to join Marc and Christian at the door.

"From the look of the luggage you brought, you guys should be able to share the chest of drawers in the guest room without a problem. Is that okay with both of you?" Marc asked casually as they walked down the hall, toward the front door.

"Sounds good to me." Collin said with an ear-to-ear grin.

Marc chuckled at Collin's cheerful response as he released Christian from the hug to open the front door.

"You said that we have other stuff to do tonight... can you tell us?" Christian asked as the trio walked to the car.

"Sure. I just thought that when you guys are finished unpacking, we could decorate the Christmas tree." Marc said with a smile.

"Sounds good." Collin said casually as he stopped beside the car and waited for Marc to open the trunk.

Collin noticed Christian's distant look and quietly asked, "What's wrong?"

"It's nothing... I just always wanted..." Christian began to say, then looked around, as if searching for something.

"What is it Christian?" Marc asked as he took the suitcase out of the trunk and sat it on the ground.

"I just..." Christian muttered, then looked into Marc's eyes and quietly said, "All my life, I always wanted to have a real tree at Christmas... but now it feels like I'm not really here... like it's a dream."

Before Marc could formulate a response to Christian's words, Collin casually said, "Some people think that life is just a dream."

Christian looked at Collin uncertainly for a moment, then broke into a smirk as he asked, "Those people wouldn't happen to be rowing boats, you know, gently down a stream, would they?"

Collin made a show of thinking about it before saying, "Now that you mention it, they might be."

Marc chuckled at the exchange as he closed the trunk of the car.

"Mr. Stone! How are you doing this evening?" A woman's voice called out from the end of the driveway.

"Mrs. Rhodes." Marc responded with a smile, then in a lower voice, said to the boys, "Come on over here and meet our neighbor.

"Good evening Mrs. Rhodes. I'm surprised to see you out of the house this late." Marc said as they approached.

"We're all willy-nilly this evening because we're getting ready for our trip."

"Oh? I didn't realize that you were going anywhere. I hope that this is a vacation and not a business trip." Marc said with a smile.

"It's going to be our first real vacation in years. We're going to visit Harry's family for the holidays... my in-laws." She added a bit sourly at the end.

"Maybe there will be enough Christmas spirit to make it enjoyable." Marc said with an understanding smile.

"If the Christmas spirit is the only spirit being served, then it will be." Mrs. Rhodes said frankly.

Marc nodded his understanding, then asked, "Would you like for us to keep an eye on the place while you're gone?"

"If you wouldn't mind. I had thought about asking you, but Harry said that you two would probably be going out of town to enjoy the holiday in some exotic place." Mrs. Rhodes said in a conspiratorial whisper.

"No. We're staying right here. We've got the boys with us this holiday, I can't imagine any place that I'd rather be."

"Oh? And who are these young men?" Mrs. Rhodes asked as she turned her attention to the boys.

Before Marc could answer, Collin said, "I'm Collin Anderson and this is Christian Stone. It's nice to meet you Mrs. Rhodes."

"It's very nice to meet you as well." Mrs. Rhodes muttered absently, then turned to Marc and said, "I didn't know that you and Mr. Anderson had children."

"We don't live here. We're just here for Christmas." Collin said quickly, not wanting Marc to have to explain Christian's presence.

Mrs. Rhodes smiled gently at Collin, then glanced at Christian's bandaged ear and black eye with concern.

"I suppose I'd better get back in there. I have a million things left to do and I know I'm going to forget something." Mrs. Rhodes said wearily.

"Do you need us to pick up your mail while you're gone?" Marc asked cautiously.

Mrs. Rhodes froze in thought for a moment, then said, "I don't know if Harry remembered to stop the mail or not. If you could check it for us, we would appreciate it."

"I'll do that. Just stop by when you get back and we'll have it waiting for you." Marc said with a smile.

"Thank you so much." Mrs. Rhodes said sincerely, then glanced back at her house and said, "I really have to go."

"I hope you both have a wonderful holiday." Marc said as she started walking away.

"Thank you. And I hope you and yours have a happy holiday as well." Mrs. Rhodes said just before disappearing behind the tall hedge that divided the property.

"She seemed nice." Collin said casually as he turned back toward the house.

"Yes. We were really lucky to get such good neighbors." Marc agreed as they began to walk.

"I bet she thinks that I'm your son." Christian said with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

"I know. I probably should have explained that to her." Marc said in an apologetic tone.

"Nah. This was a lot easier than the truth." Christian said casually, then in a more serious voice, continued, "I mean, as long as you don't mind her thinking that I'm yours."

"Mind? I'd be as proud as I could be if it were true... I just don't like lying." Marc finished weakly.

Christian stopped and looked at Marc with surprise as Collin said, "I had a feeling that you felt that way."

"You did?" Christian asked in a bewildered tone.

"Yeah, Marc strikes me as being really honest."

"Oh, that." Christian muttered, then quickly added, "Yeah. He does seem like that."

As the trio reached the house, Marc said, "Why don't you guys go get unpacked? I have a few calls that I need to make."

Collin and Christian glanced at each other, then nodded their agreement to Marc.

"Just give a yell up the stairs when you're done and we can get started on the tree trimming." Marc said with a smile.

"Sounds good." Collin said with a grin, then turned to Christian and said, "I'll show you our room. You're going to love it."

"Is something wrong?" Collin asked as he flopped his suitcase onto the bed, then opened it.

"No. Not really." Christian said, then slowly moved to do the same.

"How do you want to do this? Top and bottom or left and right?" Collin asked as he looked at the dresser.

"Bottom." Christian said automatically, then blinked and asked, "Wait. What are we talking about?"

"Where do you want to put your stuff in the dresser?" Collin said simply, then asked, "What did you think I was asking?"

"Never mind." Christian said quickly, then continued, "I'll take the bottom drawers if that's okay."

"Yeah. Fine. This'll just take a minute." Collin said as he took neatly folded stacks of clothes out of his suitcase and sat them in the dresser drawer.

When he had finished, he noticed that Christian was sort of staring off into space.

"Do you need another one of those not-aspirin things?" Collin asked with concern.

Christian blinked, then shook his head absently.

"If you talk about it, maybe I can help." Collin said gently.

Christian slowly nodded, then quietly said, "I really like it here with your family. I just don't know what's going to happen after Christmas."

"Lobster people are going to come up out of the ocean and enslave the human race." Collin said simply.

"What?" Christian asked in a bewildered voice.

"Yup. Great big lobster people are going to come up out of the ocean and they're going to be really pissed off." Collin said seriously, then added, "I mean, can you blame them?"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

Collin smiled and said, "What I'm really saying is that anything could happen after Christmas. It doesn't hurt to prepare for tomorrow, but you have to live in today."

Christian thought about the words, then slowly nodded.

"I'm done if you want to unpack now." Collin said as he closed his suitcase, then slid it under the bed.

"Yeah." Christian said, then stopped and asked, "Lobster people?"

Collin giggled and nodded.

"Marc! We're done." Collin called up the stairs.

"I'm in here." Marc's voice called from the living room.

Collin and Christian walked into the room to find Marc standing in front of the bare Christmas tree, looking at it critically.

"Do you think it would look better by the door?" Marc asked cautiously.

Collin and Christian looked at the spot Marc was indicating, then back at the tree which was set up in the corner of the room.

"I think it's better here. You can see it from wherever you're sitting in the room." Collin said speculatively.

"Yeah. And it would probably be easy to accidentally bump into the tree if it was by the door." Christian said with a nod.

"I guess you're right." Marc said with one last look at the tree, then turned to the boys and said, "I just wanted to be sure we had it where we wanted it before we started decorating."

"Shouldn't Dad be here for this?" Collin asked with concern.

"We'll call him down once we've brought in the decorations. I'll need you guys to help me bring everything in from the garage." Marc said with a trace of enthusiasm in his voice.

"I'm ready when you are." Collin said cheerfully.

"Christian. If you start feeling tired, or your head starts hurting, just let me know." Marc said seriously.

"Just how many decorations are we talking about?" Christian asked cautiously.

"Enough." Marc said with a smile as he led the way out of the room.

"So Marc, just how many Christmas trees are we planning to decorate?" Christian asked as he looked at the multitude of boxes they had brought in from the garage.

"Just one. But I also have some other decorations for the rest of the house." Marc said with a grin.

"Only one house? It looks like enough for at least two." Christian said frankly.

Marc chuckled and said, "Help me unpack this stuff. We'll set the tree stuff aside for now and work on the rest of the decorations."

"Just tell us what to do." Christian said, obviously not knowing where to start.

"Who is Lionel?" Collin asked as he pointed at the name on the box.

"Just set that over by the tree. There should be two more that go with it." Marc said as he carefully unwrapped a Santa figurine wrapped in tissue paper.

"Nativity?" Christian asked from another set of boxes.

"You can set that one up on the coffee table. Just put the magazines in the hutch underneath." Marc said as he placed the tiny Santa on the side table next to the couch.

"I don't think they have this many Christmas decorations at the mall." Christian said as he moved to the coffee table.

"I like Christmas." Marc said with an unrepentant shrug.

"I think maybe we got a wrong box. This one says 'dining room'." Collin said cautiously.

"No. That's the table cloth, place mats and other Christmas dining room things."

"I'll just put it in on the dining room table." Collin said with an amused grin at Marc.

"I don't know how this is supposed to go." Christian said as he unwrapped the delicate ceramic ornaments.

Marc glanced over to see the little pieces of the nativity scene scattered around the coffee table.

It struck him as sad that Christian obviously didn't have a clue about what the nativity set represented.

"How about this? Why don't you just scoot everything together for now, then later, I'll read you the story and you can put things where you think they should go." Marc asked gently.

"Sure." Christian said, then started moving the pieces of the set together.

Marc stopped and watched for a moment, noticing how much care Christian was taking to be gentle.

Collin walking back into the room snapped Marc out of his thoughts and he took notice of the tiny elf in his hand, waiting to join Santa and Mrs. Claus on the side table.

"You have GOT to be kidding." Collin said as he looked at Marc.

"What did you find?" Marc asked curiously.

Collin reached into the box before him and pulled something oval and fluffy out for Marc and Christian to see.

"Oh yeah." Marc said with a giggle.

Christian stared at the thing for a moment longer, recognizing the crude Santa face, but trying to figure out what it was when he realized. "No way!"

"It was a gift from my mother." Marc said defensively.

"You aren't going to use it, are you?" Collin asked cautiously.

"It's only for a week, maybe two." Marc said weakly.

"Where?" Collin asked, then looked to see if Christian was going to back him up.

"Your bathroom is the only one on the main floor." Marc said, having the feeling that he was going to lose the coming battle.

"It's your house." Christian said reluctantly, and noticed that Collin looked like he was ready to fight.

"But if that fluffy toilet seat cover causes the lid to fall while I'm taking a leak... I'm pissing on it." Christian continued seriously.

Collin nodded his wholehearted agreement.

"How about this? Put it in the bathroom under the sink, and if we have company, one of you guys go in and put it on." Marc asked hopefully.

"Yeah." Christian said, then added, "But I don't see why we can't just leave it in the box."

"My mom knows how much I enjoy Christmas. She went to a lot of trouble to find something for me that I didn't already have." Marc said honestly. "I want to show my appreciation for her thoughtful gift by using it."

"So you really put this thing out every year?" Collin asked cautiously.

"Yes. But the last couple years I was alone and that was the guest bathroom. I have my own bathroom upstairs that I would use most of the time." Marc said simply.

"I guess I can see that." Christian said consideringly.

"Look at all this stuff." Collin said as he dug deeper into the box.

"What you got?" Christian asked curiously.

"One of those weird little rugs that fits around the bottom of the toilet, some different sized towels, a soap dish, I'm afraid to ask what these things are..." Collin said as he held up a little Santa face on a curved piece of metal.

"That's a shower curtain hook." Marc said with a chuckle.

"You're shittin me!" Christian said before he realized it.

Marc let out a laugh at the reaction, then said, "There should be another box that goes with this one. It has the shower curtain, the wastebasket, lotion dispenser and the nightlight.

"Um, Marc... I understand that you love Christmas..." Collin said hesitantly. "...But at a certain point it becomes kinda creepy and, you know, like a stalker or something."

"I think the word you're looking for is 'obsessive'." Marc said with a smile. "But like I told you, my mom bought this for me. I admit that it's a little over the top but... it's Christmas."

"I'll go put this in the bathroom for later so we can get started on the tree." Collin said as he put the fluffy toilet seat cover back into the box.

"Is that everything?" Collin asked as he looked at the stack of boxes beside the tree.

"I think so. We're ready for your father now." Marc said as he surveyed the room.

"Do you want me to go get him?" Collin asked hopefully.

"No. I'll get him. Why don't you two start unpacking the boxes by the tree so we'll know what we have to work with. We'll need lights first, then garland, then the ornaments, then tinsel. Most of the rest will go under the tree." Marc said seriously.

"I'm afraid to imagine..." Collin said in a weary voice as he looked at the stacks of boxes.

Marc chuckled and said, "It's going to be wonderful. Trust me."

"What do you think?" Collin asked as soon as they were alone.

Christian looked around the room, then at the stack of boxes that was nearly as big as the tree.

"I think Marc must have been really lonely." Christian said softly.

Collin froze at the unexpected response.

"...he's worked so hard to try and be happy." Christian said distantly. "Can you imagine how lonely it must have been to have all this... and no one to share it with?"

After a moment to consider, Collin said, "No... I can't imagine."

Christian nodded, then looked at Collin with question.

Collin nodded his agreement to the unvoiced question then said, "We'll make sure it's the best Christmas he's ever had."

Christian smiled, then went to work unpacking the boxes of tree trimmings.

"Sorry that took so long. Galen should be down any minute." Marc said as he walked back into the living room.

"I think we're just about done unpacking stuff... except for the train set. I don't have a clue about that." Collin said honestly.

"That goes around the bottom of the tree when everything else is finished." Marc said happily.

"That's what I thought, but since neither one of us has had a train set before, you'll have to set it up." Christian said seriously.

"Well, if you guys wouldn't mind, I'll show you how to set it up. I think it would be more fun to do it together." Marc said honestly.

"Yeah. We could do that." Christian said, then grinned at Collin, knowing that he would go along with it.

"I'm in the mood for some hot chocolate. Do you guys want any?" Marc asked hopefully.

"Sounds good." Christian said thoughtfully.

"Yeah. Me too." Collin said with a smile.

"Why don't you guys take five? We'll start back in after the hot chocolate break." Marc said with a smile.

"Plan." Christian said with a single nod, then got up to go to the couch.

Collin grinned at Christian, then slowly stood to do the same.

"Good God! It looks like the North pole exploded in here!" Galen said as he walked into the living room.

Collin and Christian both broke into laughter at the statement.

"Here you go Christian. I think everything works, but you should check it out." Galen said as he handed the iPod to Christian.

Collin gave his father a smile of appreciation as Christian stared at the iPod in his hands.

"You really fixed it." Christian said in wonder.

"I'm just glad I could help." Galen said gently.

Christian suddenly stood and pulled Galen into a hug without warning.

Galen chuckled and returned the hug as he smiled at Collin.

"What did I miss?" Marc asked from the living room doorway.

"Dad fixed Christian's iPod." Collin said with a smile.

"I thought he would be able to." Marc said warmly, then turned and asked, "Collin, would you help me carry in the hot chocolate when it's ready?"

"Sure." Collin said happily as he stood.

"I wish I had a dad like you." Christian said into Galen's shoulder.

"I wish that too Christian." Galen said as he held the boy firmly in his arms.

"Thanks for telling Judge Robison that you wanted me here for Christmas. It's already the best Christmas that I ever had."

"I have a feeling that this Christmas is going to be special for all of us for a lot of different reasons." Galen said softly, then pulled back slightly to look into Christian's eyes. "We're all glad that you're here with us."

Christian looked at Galen with disbelief evident in his eyes and whispered, "Yeah, but I don't know why."

"Because you're you... That's it." Galen said as a smile crept onto his face.


"We like you Christian... it's just that simple." Galen said honestly.

"So it's not because you... feel sorry for me because I got beat up?" Christian trailed off in a whisper.

"Nope." Galen said simply. "If you remember, we invited you over back at the airport before any of that happened."

Christian stared at Galen, still not able to fully believe what he was saying.

"You're just going to have to accept that we think you're a great guy and that we want to spend time with you." Galen said with a full smile.

"I'll try." Christian said quietly, then turned when he saw Marc and Collin walking into the room.

"I thought the hot chocolate might be just a little bit better with some iced sugar cookies." Marc said as he sat a tray of mugs on the edge of the coffee table.

"I love those." Galen said with a boyish smile as he watched Collin place the plate of sugar cookies beside the hot chocolate.

"I hope everyone likes marshmallows in their hot chocolate." Marc said as he handed a steaming mug to Christian.

"Oh yeah. Marshmallows are the best." Christian said happily.

"Watch out, it's really hot." Marc hurried to say as Christian brought the mug to his lips.

"Yeah. After everything else that's happened, you don't want to end the day by burning your lips off." Collin said as he accepted his mug from Marc.

"That's right. And I'm depending on your help with the Christmas tree." Marc said seriously.

"From the look of all the boxes, it will probably take all of us." Galen said as he looked at the mass of ornamentation.

"It looks like more because it's spread out. The boys organized it so the decorating should go fairly smoothly." Marc said as he looked over the piles of things critically.

"Well, as fussy as you are about things, I'm sure it's going to take a while." Galen said, then an 'Oh Shit!' expression came over his face.

"Fussy?" Marc asked as he turned to face Galen fully.

"Oh, I, um..." Galen bumbled, then turned to the boys and said, "Guys, help me out here."

"You stepped in it. You clean it up." Collin said to his father as he tried to restrain a grin.

"Fussy?" Marc repeated as he crossed his arms across his chest.

"What I meant was that you pay attention to detail so that everything turns out just right." Galen said weakly, hoping that it was good enough.

Marc looked sternly at Galen for a moment, then an almost imperceptible smile started to break through.

"Come here." Marc whispered.

Galen smiled and scooted a little closer to Marc, knowing that he wasn't in trouble after all.

"Thanks for putting up with me and my fussy ways." Marc said then turned and pulled Galen into a deep kiss.

Collin glanced at Christian and was surprised to see a look of confusion on his face.

"What's wrong?" Collin asked curiously.

"I thought they were going to fight." Christian said in a small voice.

Collin froze, knowing from Christian's reaction that he must have witnessed some horrible fights in his life.

"Galen and I try to understand each other." Marc said as he snuggled Galen to his side.

"He knows that I can't help saying stupid things sometimes." Galen said shyly.

"That's right." Marc said with a chuckle. "And besides, I am a very detail oriented person... Fussy."

Collin smiled at the sight of his father being held so tenderly.

"Galen, on the other hand, is a very objective oriented person. As long as it works, he doesn't worry about the small stuff." Marc said, then in a stage whisper he said to the boys, "He's kind of an oaf."

"So you two kind of make up for each other's faults." Collin said speculatively.

"In a way. Being detail oriented isn't really a fault in my line of work. I'm a software engineer, so the detail work is very important in what I do." Marc said honestly. "Galen is a hardware designer, so his mindset is perfect for the work he does."

"So that's why you could fix my iPod? Because you build computers?" Christian asked curiously.

"Pretty much." Galen said as he enjoyed snuggling into Marc's side.

Christian cautiously took a sip of his hot chocolate, hoping that it wasn't still too hot. After a moment for the taste to register, a look of surprise came over his face. "This is really good."

"Thanks." Marc said with a smile.

"No." Christian said quickly. "I mean this is really REALLY good. I've never tasted hot chocolate this good in my life!"

Marc chuckled at Christian's statement, then said, "That's probably because this isn't instant."

"It's like... like sex." Christian said, then took another drink.

At the look of absolute bliss on Christian's face, Collin hurried to get his own hot chocolate from the coffee table.

"Remind me to get more cocoa next time I go to the store." Marc said to Galen with a chuckle.

"Count on it." Galen said, then leaned forward to get a sugar cookie.

"Wow. This is really good." Collin said with appreciation.

"I'm glad you like it. Do you want some cookies?" Marc asked casually.

"Did you make these?" Christian asked as he took one of the cookies from the plate.

"No. I bought these at the store." Marc said as if he were admitting to a mortal sin.

"They're really good." Galen said as he snuggled closer to Marc.

"Yeah. They are." Marc said, then scooted down a little bit to give Galen a kiss on the cheek.

"Freaky." Christian muttered as he watched.

"What was that?" Marc asked as he looked at Christian curiously.

Christian blinked, then realized that he had spoken out loud.

"Oh, I just... I've never seen anyone get along like you two." Christian said shyly.

"Think about how weird it is for me." Collin said to Christian frankly.

"Does it bother you?" Galen asked his son with concern.

"No." Collin said immediately. "No way."

At Galen's concerned look, Collin felt compelled to explain, "You and Mom never really did anything like... that."

Galen sadly nodded and said, "Just please don't feel like your mother is at fault for any of that. Every year that we were married, I became a little more emotionally distant. At the end, it was like we were two strangers who happened to live in the same building."

"You being gay couldn't have helped." Christian said frankly.

Galen smiled at the comment and considered his words for a moment before responding, "I really don't know if that had anything to do with it."

Collin and Christian were sitting silently with equal curious stares, both obviously wanting to know more.

"I was trapped in a marriage to someone I didn't love. But I didn't even realize how stagnant my life had become until one day last May..."

Both boys saw the smile on Marc's face at the statement.

"A group of specialists were called to Orlando for this big 'Super Secret' project they were doing." Galen said distantly.

"What kind of project was it?" Christian asked quickly.

"A secret one." Galen said with amusement.

"All we're allowed to tell you is that the project is called 'Libra'." Marc said honestly.

"Right." Galen confirmed, then continued, "So while I was there, I was teamed to work with a software engineer."

"Marc?" Collin guessed.

Galen nodded, then said, "Since I was a stranger in town, Marc very graciously offered to show me around."

"He seemed so... lost." Marc said with a fond smile.

"Before the first week was over, we were spending every waking moment together." Galen said distantly.

"What about the NON-waking moments?" Christian asked with an impish grin.

"Oh no. Nothing like that happened." Galen said quickly.

"Galen was a perfect gentleman." Marc said seriously.

"My part of the job only lasted for three and a half weeks. Then it was time for me to go back home." Galen said with a pained look at Collin.

"You remember that I was telling you earlier about how I was trapped in a loveless relationship? That was when I finally realized it."

"So after being here with someone you could enjoy spending time with and could talk to, you went back home to an empty, lonely, private hell." Christian said speculatively.

Galen considered the words and finally said, "Actually, yes. I didn't think about it in those terms, but that's exactly what happened."

"Is that why you got really friendly all of a sudden?" Collin asked cautiously.

Galen chuckled and nodded before saying, "After spending time with Marc, I could see what we were missing in our lives. I was doing my best to become interested in your life and... communicate."

"It was really freaky. Dad went away for three weeks, and then when he gets back he's being all friendly and wanting to spend time with me..." Collin said frankly, then in a slightly quieter voice, he continued, "I thought maybe he was dying."

"So how did you end up here?" Christian asked curiously.

"If I hadn't been called to work in Orlando, I probably would have been content to continue on, just dragging myself through each day for no other reason but to get it over with. But since I had a taste of what life could be like... it was only a matter of time." Galen said distantly.

"But when did you figure out that you're gay?" Christian asked insistently.

Galen blinked as he snapped out of his thoughts, then said, "I'm not sure that I am gay."

"If you're not, then you've got some heavy duty explaining to do to that guy who's snuggling you." Christian said with a chuckle.

Galen took hold of one of Marc's hands and said, "I needed help understanding what was wrong with my life and how to fix it. The only person I could think of, the only person I wanted to talk to about it, was Marc."

"When he called, I had no idea what a roller coaster we were about to get onto." Marc said with a chuckle.

Galen nodded and said, "I don't know exactly when it happened. It might have been the day we met, or it might have been sometime during the months that we spent talking on the phone... but somewhere along the way, I fell in love."

"With a guy." Christian said in a leading tone.

"With a person. If Marc had been a woman, I don't have any doubt that I would have fallen just as much in love." Galen said warmly.

"But didn't the whole 'it's a guy' thing kinda bug you?" Christian asked carefully.

"A little, right in the beginning. But I was so in love... I would have done just about anything to be with Marc." Galen said with a dopey smile.

"So you're a straight guy who fell in love with a dude." Christian asked cautiously.

"Oh no. I don't mean for it to sound like that." Galen said quickly then scooted up so that he could put an arm around Marc.

"After the divorce, I came to Orlando to stay with Marc until I could get on my feet and start a new life." Galen said happily.

"And one thing led to another?" Christian asked cautiously.

"The first night I was here, Marc confessed that he had feelings for me." Galen said shyly.

"I was attracted to Galen from the first day that we met." Marc said with a smile.

"I can't even tell you how scary it was for me, but I decided that if Marc felt that way for me, I'd at least give it a try." Galen said as a blush started to rise up his cheeks.

"I tried to be gentle." Marc said as he glanced at Galen.

"It was the most beautiful..." Galen trailed off with a goofy smile.

"I guess that means you liked it." Christian said with a chuckle.

"It was like a whole new world opened up to me. Like it had been there the whole time and I just never saw it." Galen said with an awestruck expression.

"I'll take that as a yes." Christian said with a smile, drawn in by Galen's elation.

"So does that mean that you aren't attracted to guys except for Marc?" Collin asked cautiously.

Galen considered for a moment, then said, "I wasn't attracted to men before Marc, but now I'm learning to appreciate the beauty of the male form."

Collin slowly nodded that he had heard.

"Hey Collin, do you like looking at guys?" Christian asked casually.

Collin looked at his dad, then at Christian with panic in his eyes.

"It sounds like we're all on the same team here. So it's okay to talk about it." Christian said frankly.

Collin looked at his father again and saw only concern reflected back at him.

"Yeah. I like to look at guys." Collin admitted shyly.

"Me too." Christian said as he reached over to put a hand on Collin's shoulder.

"Well, if you guys are finished, I think we'd better get to work on this Christmas tree before it gets any later." Marc said with a gentle smile at the boys.

"I was wondering about something." Collin said as he looked at his father hesitantly.

"What's that?" Galen asked, noticing that Collin was reluctant.

"Well, I guess I just don't understand... when you and mom got divorced... she was really... I don't know... angry." Collin said as though he was fighting to get the words out.

Galen nodded slowly, waiting for Collin's question.

"But after you moved away, it seemed like she was okay again. I mean, like, overnight." Collin said in puzzlement.

Galen smiled and said, "I think you can thank Marc for that."

At Collin's inquisitive look, Galen continued, "You'd have to talk to your mom about it to be sure. But I got the feeling that when we divorced, she felt like she somehow failed. Like she didn't do enough to make the marriage work. But when I told her about Marc and I becoming a couple, she seemed to realize that she wasn't to blame for anything. I suppose that in her mind, me being gay was the root of all our problems and that let her off the hook."

As Collin thought about the words, Christian asked, "So does she act like it's your fault now?"

Galen chuckled and said, "No. She's been really understanding about everything and has given us her blessing and best wishes."

"Wow." Christian said, obviously having difficulty even imagining someone reacting like that.

"Collin, you should call your mom and let her know that you got here safely." Galen said to his son. "You wouldn't want her to worry."

"She didn't say I was supposed to call her." Collin said simply.

"It would still be better if you did. It's just the courteous thing to do." Galen said frankly.

"Okay Dad." Collin said, then looked around and asked, "Where's the phone?"

"It's right here." Marc said as he gestured to the phone on the end table. "But you can use the phone in the kitchen if you'd like to speak privately."

"Yeah. Thanks Marc." Collin said shyly, then slowly left the room.

"Do you need to make any calls Christian?" Marc asked quietly.

"No. I'm alright." Christian said in a low voice.

Marc nodded his acceptance of the answer.

"I suppose we should get to work now." Marc said as he looked again at the bare tree.

"One more cookie." Galen said as he leaned forward and snatched one off the plate.

Marc smiled at the move, then snuggled close to Galen when he sat back.

"How is your mom?" Galen asked as Collin walked back into the living room.

"She's fine. She said that she's going to spend Christmas at Grandma's house." Collin said with a smile.

"That's good. I'm glad she's not going to be alone." Galen said gently.

"Is everyone ready to decorate the tree?" Marc asked into the ensuing silence.

Nods of agreement went around the room, then all attention turned to Marc, waiting for his instructions.

"We're going to need to start with the lights since they're going to take the most time." Marc said carefully.

"I've never seen Christmas lights like this before. They're kinda weird." Christian said cautiously.

"They do look a little strange at first, but once they're lit, I think you'll like them." Marc said with a smile, then continued more seriously, "The thing is that they all need to be upright before we do anything else."

"Well, that should take forever." Christian said sourly.

"Not if we all work at it. Let me show you the first one, then we can get started. I think we have six strands here, so there's enough for everyone. The power strips are already behind the tree and we have extension cords in the box with the lights." Marc said seriously.

"You've got this down to a science." Collin said in an impressed voice.

"Years of practice." Marc said with a smile, then quietly asked, "Collin, would you hand me the first strand?"

"I'm out of lights. Do you want me to start on the garland?" Christian asked Marc cautiously.

"Sure." Marc said as he concentrated on getting his light secured to the branch in an upright position.

"How do you want me to do it?" Christian asked, then cautiously added, "I've never done this before."

"Imagine how it would look if the tree were covered with snow. How it would seem to drape over the branches." Marc said thoughtfully, then added, "It works best if you start at the top and work your way down."

Christian waited for a moment to be sure that Marc didn't have any other instructions for him, then began to cautiously place the garland on the tree.

"How's that?" Christian asked when he had finished the first garland.

Marc stood back and looked at the tree critically.

"I'd have to say..." Marc trailed off, as if to consider his words carefully. "...perfect."

Christian smiled at the response.

"If you want to keep going with the garland, Collin can start hanging the ornaments where you've already finished." Marc said consideringly.

"What do you need me to do?" Galen asked as he slowly stood.

"Do you remember that switch that I asked you about last week? I'm going to need it now." Marc said frankly.

"Oh yeah. It's upstairs in one of the supply boxes." Galen said thoughtfully, then quietly added, "I might need your help to find it."

"We'll be back in a few minutes guys. Yell if you need anything." Marc said before following Galen out of the room.

After a long moment of silence, Collin quietly asked, "How you doing?"

Christian considered for a moment, then said, "Actually, I'm feeling pretty good."

Collin smiled and went back to work, carefully hanging ornaments on the tree.

"How are you?" Christian asked gently.

"Fine." Collin said automatically.

Christian considered for a moment, then asked, "Really?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"I was just thinking that if I learned all that stuff about my dad... it might be a little bit freaky." Christian said cautiously.

Collin reached down and took another ornament from the box before saying, "It was a little bit strange talking about it, but... it's okay."

"Good." Christian said with a smile.

"You about done with that?" Collin asked as he noticed that Christian was placing garland on the lowest branches of the tree.

"Yeah. I wonder what else I could do while I'm down here." Christian said with a devilish smile as he glanced toward Collin's crotch.

"My dad and Marc will be back any second." Collin whispered as a blush rose up his face.

"Yeah." Christian said with a grin, then whispered, "That makes it more exciting."

"I don't..." Collin began to say, but his words were cut off when Christian began to slowly pull down his zipper.

"We shouldn't..." Collin said in a trembling voice that betrayed his excitement.

"How are you guys doing?" Marc asked as he led the way into the room.

"I'm finished with the garland, I was about to help Collin with the balls." Christian said with a grin.

"That's good. We've got the switch so no one will have to crawl under the tree to turn the lights on and off." Marc said, oblivious to Collin's flustered state.

"Where do you want me?" Christian asked as he took an ornament from the box.

Collin didn't seem to be able to form any words and simply pointed to a place on the tree.

"Your fly is down." Christian said casually, then went to the indicated spot on the tree to hang his ornament.

Collin quickly reached down and zipped up his pants, then glanced around to see if Marc or his dad had any idea of what was going on.

"This is going to work just fine. We'll even have an outlet for the train." Marc said happily as he plugged the power strips into outlets on the switch.

"I thought this would be just what you needed." Galen said as he carefully uncoiled the cord.

"Marc, do you want us to use all of these balls?" Christian asked as he noticed that they had quite a few left.

"We'll just have to see how it looks when you're finished. Nothing says that we have to use them all." Marc said frankly.

"Marc, you need to see this." Galen said as he stared at the tree with wide eyes.

"What is it?" Marc asked curiously, then walked to Galen's side.

"The ornaments..." Galen trailed off, hoping that he wouldn't have to explain.

"They look fine. Very evenly distributed." Marc said slowly, not knowing what Galen's problem was.

"Here, maybe this will help." Galen said, then flipped the switch on the end table beside him.

All the red bubble lights lit up, causing the tree to nearly glow.

"Beautiful." Marc said with a smile.

Collin and Christian backed away from the tree to see the whole thing lit up.

Galen took in a slow breath, then carefully said, "There are two ornaments under each light."

"Yeah. So?" Marc said, appreciating the overall look of the tree.

Galen gave a small shake of his head, then said, "Each bubble light looks like an erect little penis, and the ornaments are hanging like testicles."

There was a long moment of silence, then Marc said, "I wonder how that happened?"

"I wonder." Galen said dryly, then looked askance at his son.

"Oops." Collin said with a blush rising up his cheeks.

"I like it." Christian said frankly.

After a moment, Marc said, "Actually, so do I."

"Are you saying that you want to keep it that way?" Galen asked cautiously.

"Sure. It doesn't bother me." Marc said frankly.

"I think it needs one more thing." Christian said quickly.

"What's that?" Marc asked curiously.

Christian went to one of the boxes in the floor and carefully picked up some tinsel.

He walked to the tree and carefully put the tinsel in place, being careful to keep his body blocking everyone else's view.

"There." Christian said with accomplishment, then stepped away from the tree.

"Imagine it like that on every light." Christian said happily.

"Pubes." Collin said with a chuckle.

"Or icicles gathered on the branches of our holiday tree..." Marc said in a dignified voice. "...if anyone should ask."

"So you mean that we're going to keep it like this?" Galen asked cautiously.

"That depends on what everyone thinks about it. I wouldn't want to keep it this way if anyone is ashamed of it." Marc said frankly.

"I think it's great." Christian said immediately.

"I like it." Collin said, then looked to his father with question.

"I'm not ashamed. But we're going to be having company in the next few days. I wouldn't want to offend any of our guests." Galen said carefully.

"It's not 'in your face' obvious. Anyone who would make the association must have a demented, dirty mind to begin with." Marc said frankly.

"Hey!" Galen said in playful mock offense.

Marc chuckled at the reaction, then said more seriously, "I think our tree is beautiful and I would be proud to share it with anyone I would invite into our house."

Galen considered for a moment, then nodded.

"Should we get to work on the tinsel then?" Christian asked hopefully.

Marc glanced at Galen with question, then after receiving a nod, said, "Go for it."

"What next?" Collin asked as he stepped back to look at the tree.

"We need to put the top on the tree." Marc said simply.

"Shouldn't we have done that first?" Christian asked cautiously.

"I wanted to see how the rest of the tree was going to turn out. I have three different toppers, and I didn't know which one would look best." Marc said as he knelt down and opened a cardboard box.

"Makes sense." Galen said as he moved closer to see what Marc had.

"We have a silver star with white twinkle lights..." Marc said as he placed it on the floor in front of him.

"...A gold winged angel..."

"...And a multi-colored rotating star."

"Angel." Collin said firmly.

After a moment to consider, Christian slowly nodded his agreement.

"What do you think?" Galen asked Marc quietly.

"I like all three, so it doesn't matter to me." Marc said frankly.

"Same here. So I guess we're going with the angel." Galen said, then flipped the switch to turn off the tree lights.

"Any idea of how we're getting her up there?" Collin asked curiously.

"Him." Marc corrected quietly.

"Do what?" Collin asked with confusion.

"The angel, it's a him. His name is Mikey." Marc said frankly, then continued, "If you're father will brace me, I can reach the top with the foot stool."

"Let's do it." Galen said as he moved in front of the tree.

"Christian, would you get that extension cord right there and hand it up to me when I'm ready?" Marc asked as he pointed.

"Got it." Christian said as he moved around the side of the tree.

"Collin, will you hand Mikey up to me once I'm in place?" Marc asked as he positioned the stool where he wanted it.

"I'll be ready when you are." Collin said as he carefully picked up the delicate ornament.

"I've got you." Galen said as he held onto Marc's hips to be sure that he wouldn't fall.

"Collin." Marc said and held out a hand.

With a little bit of a stretch, Collin carefully handed Mikey up to Marc.

"Let me help." Collin said as he moved to his father's side and helped him to keep Marc steady.

"I've just about got it." Marc said slowly, then quickly added, "Christian. Hand me the cord."

"Here you go." Christian said as he reached the cord up to Marc.

"Stay there for a second." Marc said as he plugged it in.

"Now run the cord behind the tree." Marc said as he pulled the cord out where Christian could get a good grip on it.

"Yeah. Okay." Christian said, then took his end of the cord and worked it around so that it was out of sight.

Marc kept hold of the top of the cord to be sure that Mikey wouldn't be pulled off the top of the tree by all the movement.

"How's that?" Christian asked cautiously.

Marc gently pulled on the cord, then tentatively let it go.

"I think that's fine. It doesn't feel like it's pulling too much." Marc said carefully.

"Are you ready to light it up?" Galen asked as he and Collin finally released Marc so he could get down off the step stool.

"Yeah. Go ahead." Marc said, then moved the step stool aside.

Galen flipped the switch and the entire tree lit up with a warm glow.

The angel on top was illuminated with soft white light which seemed the perfect compliment to the red glow of the rest of the tree.

"It's the most beautiful tree I've ever seen." Christian said in wonder as he absently put an arm around Collin.

"I think so too." Marc said, then without realizing, did exactly the same as Christian as he put his arm around Galen.

"Can we wait on the rest until morning? It's getting late." Galen asked hopefully.

"I think that's a good idea. The train will take a while to set up and I think we've all had a very long day." Marc said gently.

"Yeah. Sounds good." Collin said quietly.

"I guess if you guys will carry the empty boxes out to the garage, I'll spread up the couch." Galen said thoughtfully.

"For who?" Collin asked cautiously.

"You. I thought we settled that back at the hospital." Galen said frankly.

"No. Nothing was decided." Collin said and seemed to be gearing up for a fight.

"If anyone should be sleeping on the couch, it should be me." Christian said quickly.

"Hold on guys. I think we're losing sight of what we're doing here." Marc said quickly. "Christian, please be honest with us. How do you think you would be most comfortable tonight?"

"Honestly? I think it would be nice to sleep with Collin." Christian said as he looked Marc in the eyes.

"Does anyone have a problem with that?" Marc asked as he looked around.

"Will you guys promise not to fool around?" Galen asked simply.

Before Christian could answer, Collin quickly asked, "Will you?"

"Collin, I'm your father and I'm responsible..." Galen began to say when he was interrupted.

"I'll tell you what," Collin said angrily. "Why don't you sleep on the couch for the rest of the holidays. And when they're over, you fly back and stay with Mom until Easter, while I stay here with my boyfriend."

"Collin!" Galen was in full parental mode. "That will be about enough!"

"Hey, that's what you taught me. If you want to know if something's right, turn it around and imagine yourself in the other guy's shoes. You know, when I met Christian on the plane, we were just two guys who thought the other looked hot, fooling around to kill some time on the flight..."

Christian nodded.

"But when Marc said that Christian had been hurt I realized that he was more than some hot looking guy, I realized that I do have feelings for him. Then when I saw him in the hospital, I realized I was falling in love with him. So if it's fair for you to tell me I have to do that, it's fair for me to tell you the same thing. You and Marc wanted so much for me to accept your relationship and your love for each other. Why can't you do the same for me?" Collin said as the tears he had been fighting back began to come out, then he dashed out of the room.

Marc, Galen and Christian stared at each other blankly for a moment.

"I think I could have handled that better." Galen finally said.

"Yeah." Marc whispered. "You suck."

Galen looked at Marc with surprise at the statement.

"Christian? Do you have any thoughts before we try to sort all of this out?" Marc asked cautiously.

After a moment to consider, Christian slowly shook his head and said, "I think it's too late to do anything. He said the 'L' word. So no matter what you do now, someone gets hurt."

"What do you want to do?" Marc asked, knowing on some level that Christian was right.

"I want to hold him and let him know that things will be alright." Christian said reluctantly.

Marc nodded, then said, "Galen? Do you know what you need to do?"

"Yes. I need to let him know that I'm an insensitive goon sometimes and that I love him and trust him to behave responsibly." Galen said, watching Marc's eyes carefully to see that he was getting it right.

"It'll do for a start." Marc said, then quietly added, "An apology might not hurt."

Galen nodded, then glanced at Christian and said, "Sorry about ruining the night. We almost made it."

Christian reluctantly smiled and said, "Yeah. Almost."

Galen took a deep breath to brace himself, then walked out of the room.

After a knock on the door, Galen hesitantly asked, "Can I come in?"

"Yeah." Collin answered reluctantly.

Galen slowly walked into the room and found his son laying on the bed with his face buried in the pillow.

"I'm sorry." Galen said as he cautiously sat on the edge of the bed.

"I know." Collin said into his pillow.

"If you want, we can make a deal between us right now and maybe we won't have this problem anymore." Galen said cautiously.

After a moment, Collin asked, "What kind of a deal?"

"Well... I guess you've noticed that I'm not very good at picking up on other people's feelings..." Galen said in prelude.

Collin finally lifted his face from the pillow and asked, "Ya think?"

Galen gave his son a weak smile and said, "That's why I need for you to tell me. Really spell it out for me just like you did in there... except maybe without the yelling."

After a moment to consider, Collin reluctantly nodded.

"If you'll be honest with me, I'll be honest with you and maybe we can avoid anymore problems like this." Galen said hopefully.

"Are you going to make me sleep on the couch?" Collin asked his father as he sat up to look him in the eyes.

Galen smiled at his son as he said, "No. In fact, I'm not even going to ask you not to fool around."

Collin's eyes went wide at the statement.

"That is, if you'll make a deal with me." Galen amended.

"What kind of a deal?" Collin asked cautiously.

"Nothing bad, I promise." Galen said, then noticed Collin's impatient stare. "Before you and Christian take anymore big steps, stop and think about what Christian has been through and what he's feeling."

Collin looked at his father inquisitively, not knowing exactly what question he was wanting to ask.

"I love you and I don't want to see you hurt." Galen told his son gently. "But if you were hurt. I think you could handle it. You know that your mother and I will be there for you however you need us."

Collin hesitantly nodded that he understood.

"I have a feeling that Christian is a pretty tough kid, but if something does hurt him... he has to face it on his own." Galen continued darkly.

Collin nodded again.

"So here's the deal. Think about what you're doing and how it will affect Christian. If you have any doubt at all, I want you to come to me or Marc and ask our advice." Galen said seriously.

"I don't get it." Collin said quietly. "Like what?"

"I'm asking you to think about consequences and think through your decisions. If you have any doubts or questions about the decisions you'll be making, I want you to talk to one of us so we can help you." Galen said frankly.

"But you'll let me decide." Collin asked cautiously.

"You and Christian." Galen said with a nod.

Collin took in a deep breath, then looked his father in the eyes and said, "Okay. It's a deal."

Galen smiled, then pulled Collin into a hug.

"Thanks Dad." Collin said as he returned his father's hug. "I'm sorry I acted like a kid in there."

"I treated you like a kid and you responded like a kid. So what do you say we call it even?" Galen asked hopefully.

"Sounds good to me."

After a long moment of standing and staring at the doorway that Galen had just passed through, Marc slowly turned to Christian and asked, "Can I give you a hug?"

Christian looked at Marc for a moment, then gave an almost imperceptible nod.

"I'm sorry that happened." Marc said as he enveloped Christian in a gentle hug.

"Yeah. Me too." Christian said quietly.

Marc waited for a moment, then asked, "What do you think is going to happen between you and Collin?"

"I don't know." Christian mumbled into Marc's chest.

Marc slowly nodded, then asked, "What do you think you'd like to happen?"

"How bad would you freak out if I said that I wanted us to be like you and Galen?" Christian asked hesitantly.

"I wouldn't freak out at all." Marc said softly.

"I think that if he really does, you know, feel that way... that I might want to give it a try." Christian said reluctantly.

Marc hugged Christian a little more firmly to assure him, then said, "Do you mind if I give you a little warning about the Anderson men?"

"Like what?" Christian asked as he pulled out of the hug and looked Marc in the eyes.

"If Collin is anything like his father, you're going to need to understand your own feelings and be sure of what you want before you consider what he wants." Marc said slowly.

"That sounds kind of selfish." Christian said hesitantly.

"It isn't really." Marc said, then gestured to the couch, inviting Christian to have a seat.

"When I look at Collin, I can see a lot of his father in him." Marc said as he stared at the tree.

Christian slowly nodded.

"When it comes to practical things, Galen is wonderful at making decisions. If we needed to have some work done on the house or were trying to start up our own business, I'd feel comfortable letting him take the lead and just offer my opinion when I felt that I had something to contribute."

"But when it comes to our relationship... he's a buffoon." Marc said frankly.

"That bad, huh?" Christian asked with a grin.

"Worse." Marc said with a pained smile. "I have to spell out exactly what I expect of him. He is completely immune to subtle hints. Romance is like a foreign language to him. And if I let him get away with it, he'd never lift a finger to help out around the house."

"So he wants to be in control and make you, like, the housewife?" Christian asked slowly.

"No... well, at least not intentionally." Marc said with a pained smile.

"I don't get it." Christian said as he turned to face Marc more fully.

"If I let him, he would probably do like you just said and control everything. But the funny thing is, that if I wanted, he would gladly give up that control to me and let me make every single decision that effects us both." Marc said frankly.

"Somehow, that doesn't sound much better." Christian said hesitantly.

"It isn't." Marc said honestly. "The way we've made it work so far is to communicate with each other. We don't sugar coat it or try to spare each other's feelings. We just lay it out there and explain exactly what we expect... and sometimes what we'll settle for."

Christian slowly nodded that he understood.

"If things work out between you and Collin, I want to be sure that you go into it knowing what you want to happen." Marc said seriously.

"But is it worth it? I mean, it sounds like if you make one wrong move, you're stuck paying for it for a long time." Christian asked slowly.

"Is it worth it? Oh yes." Marc said with a huge smile. "Galen is incredible. Not only is he a genuinely good person, but I know without a doubt, that he loves me completely. He's devoted to me and would do anything to make me happy."

"Wow." Christian said with surprise.

"I can't imagine anyone else that I'd want to be with. And as far as the work, you can think of it as an investment. If you can get the communication and ground rules working early on, it gets easier and easier as you both get more comfortable with it. In fact, I think I can safely say that every day is just a little bit better than the one before." Marc finished with an expression of joy.

"Okay. Yeah. I could go for that." Christian said quickly.

"Then keep what I told you in mind and if you have any questions at all, you ask me and I'll help you." Marc said seriously.

"Why?" Christian asked, but before Marc could respond, he restated his question. "I mean, why are you doing this for me?"

"Because when I was your age, I had to figure things out all on my own. I didn't have anyone who I could ask for advice." Marc said frankly. "I like you Christian and I don't want you to have to feel that."

"Oh... thanks." Christian said, thrown a little off balance by the statement.

"Oh yeah, it's also because I think Anderson men should come with instruction manuals. These guys will drive you crazy until you figure out where they're coming from." Marc said with a smirk.

"I'm beginning to see that." Christian said with a chuckle.

"How are things going in here?" Galen asked as he walked into the living room.

"Pretty good. How are things going back there?" Marc asked cautiously.

"Just fine. Collin will be out in a minute." Galen said happily.

"Let's see. You have to work in the morning, right?" Marc asked thoughtfully.

"Yes. For half a day." Galen said seriously.

"Then why don't you take my car? I have a few errands to run in the morning and I think the guys would be more comfortable in the Fairlane." Marc asked casually.

"Sure. I don't mind, but you may need to remind me." Galen said with a note of apology in his voice.

"Just trade keys with me now, then there's no chance of forgetting." Marc said frankly.

Galen chuckled as he reached into his pocket and said, "You know me too well."

"Sorry about that." Collin said as he walked into the living room.

"It's no problem as long as you're alright." Marc said honestly.

"Yeah. I'm fine now." Collin said shyly.

"Good. I'm glad. Is there anything else that needs to be done before we call it a night?" Marc asked as he looked around.

"Christian, where do you want to sleep?" Galen asked quietly.

"With Collin, as long as no one has a problem with it." Christian said, then looked at Marc with question.

"I assume you're okay with that Collin." Galen asked simply.

"Well DUH." Collin said with a roll of his eyes.

Galen fought down a smile at his son's response.

"Well, if that's all settled, let's call it a night." Marc said as he tried to keep the chuckle out of his voice.

"Good plan." Galen said happily, then turned to the boys and said, "I hope you two have a wonderful night. I'm really glad both of you are here."

"Me too. Goodnight." Marc said with a smile.

"Dad?" Collin called out before his father could get out of the room.

Galen stopped by the doorway and looked at Collin with question.

"Condoms?" Collin asked cautiously.

"Nightstand." Galen said, then continued on out of the room.

"Do you have some plans that I should know about?" Christian asked as he walked with Collin to their room.

"What? Oh that." Collin said in realization, "Me and my dad had a talk about stuff. That was just my way of making sure he really meant what he said."

"Huh?" Christian asked hesitantly.

"Trust me, it doesn't matter. I'm wiped out. I'll probably be asleep before my head hits the pillow." Collin said frankly as he walked into the bathroom.

Christian smiled and said, "Oh, good. I'm glad we're on the same page."

"But who knows what's going to happen in the morning." Collin said from the bathroom.

"I can't wait to find out." Christian said as he started getting ready for bed.

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes: In all honesty, I think I only found one place to change something, and I'll be darned if I can remember what it was. This was a very beautiful loving chapter and it displayed once again the insight that MM has when it comes to people's interactions. I certainly hope the boys can find a way to stay together.

I notice that a question that came up near the end of the last chapter remains unanswered. I will leave it to you to try and remember what that question is. I know that I could use a new chapter any time now.

Here's a hint. You don't have to wait till next Christmas to give us a new chapter.

I loved the name of the Angel. That was sweet.

Thank you MM for another wonderful chapter.

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