Castle Roland

Holiday Handoff

by MultiMapper


Chapter 13

Posted: 19 Mar 15

Holiday Handoff

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

An annoying electronic warble broke the silence of the bedroom and Galen reflexively reached out an arm to press the 'snooze' button on his alarm clock.

It was once again silent, but only for a moment.

The shrill, annoying sound began to repeat and Galen hit the snooze button with a little bit more force, somehow believing in his sleep fogged mind that the alarm didn't stay silent because he just didn't hit it hard enough.

Beside him, Marc stirred and mumbled, "I've got it."

As the electronic trill sounded a third time, Galen finally realized that it wasn't the sound of his alarm clock.

The sound stopped abruptly and a moment later Galen heard Marc quietly say, "Hello?"

As Galen glanced at his bedside alarm clock and saw that it was 3:26 in the morning, his foggy mind cleared enough to realize that it must be something serious if someone was calling them at such an hour.

"James who?… wait, back up." Marc said semi coherently.

Galen reached over and turned on the bedside lamp, then scooted up into a sitting position.

"Fine. I get that you're sorry, but why are you calling? I've known you for almost sixteen years, and you've never spoken ten words to me." Marc said with annoyance obvious in his tone.

Galen tried to force himself to come more awake so he could puzzle out what was going on from Marc's side of the conversation.

"Oh? He is?" Marc asked with surprise, then turned to look at Galen with concern etched on his face.

"Yes, of course. But it's the middle of the night. Why don't you come over for breakfast in the morning and we can help you sort this all out?" Marc asked hopefully.

Galen looked at Marc curiously, since he still hadn't received enough clues to get a handle on what was going on.

"Don't worry about that. We hosted a sleepover last night, so I had already planned on feeding four hungry boys. Trust me, there'll be more than enough." Marc said warmly.

Galen listened carefully, still hoping that he could glean some small speck of a clue about who was calling and why.

"Do you need directions?" Marc asked curiously.

After a moment and a slight nod, Marc said, "That's right. I plan on us sitting down to breakfast at eight. If you want to come a little earlier than that, we can talk while I'm cooking."

There was a pause, then Marc smiled slightly as he said, "We'll see you then."

Galen watched as Marc hung up the phone, then waited for an explanation.

"That was James." Marc said distantly as he stared at the opposite wall.

"James who?" Galen asked cautiously.

"Denise's husband." Marc said, as he turned with an expression of concern.

"Why in God's name would Denise's husband be calling us at 3:30 in the morning?" Galen asked incredulously.

"Honestly, I don't know. He was so distraught that he wasn't making sense. Maybe if he has a few hours to cool down, he'll be able to tell us at breakfast." Marc said frankly.

"But doesn't he hate us?" Galen asked cautiously.

Marc considered for a moment, then slowly said, "I've never really thought about it. I've always sort of looked at him as an extension of Denise. But I can't recall one time in all the years that I've known him that he's ever said anything derogatory or unkind to me."

"I'm guessing he's also never said anything supportive to you, either." Galen said seriously.

"No. He's always seemed to avoid me…" Marc said distantly.

"Until he needs you for something." Galen said flatly.

Marc turned to look at Galen and quietly said, "If you could have heard the panic in his voice… I don't know what his problem is, but there's no way I could walk away from someone in that kind of distress without at least trying to help."

Galen considered for a moment, then broke into a smile as he said, "That's what I love about you. You're so caring and giving to everyone around you."

"And here all this time I thought it was my cute ass that attracted you." Marc said with a grin.

"Well, yeah! That, too. But it sounds so superficial when I say it." Galen said as he moved in to give Marc a tender kiss.

After a long minute of kissing, Marc finally pulled back enough to say, "We'd better get some sleep. I get the feeling that this has all the makings of a very, very long day."

"Just remember, it's not you facing all this, it's us." Galen said as he looked deeply into Marc's eyes.

Marc nodded and quietly said, "All of us. I'm absolutely amazed at what a source of support the boys have been today. I've always thought that teenagers were, by definition, completely self-centered."

"I know what you mean. I've been carrying around this image of Collin that I've formed over the years. The young man that we met in the airport is nothing like the boy I thought I knew. I don't have words to tell you how proud I am of him." Galen said as he rested back on his side of the bed.

"I look at Christian and I'm amazed at how loving and trusting he is. Just from the little bit that we've learned about his past, I can see that he has every excuse to be bitter and angry and to blame the world for the inequities of his life. But somehow, he was able to open himself up to us and risk his fragile, battered heart one more time… quite frankly, I'm in awe of him." Marc said quietly.

"Face it. We've got some amazing boys." Galen said as he reached over to take Marc's hand into his.

"Yes. We do." Marc said tenderly, then raised their joined hands and kissed the back of Galen's.

"Goodnight." Galen said as he reached over with his free hand and turned off the bedside lamp.

"Goodnight. I love you." Marc whispered into the sudden darkness.

"I love you, too." Galen whispered in return.

Despite going to bed later than usual and being awakened in the wee hours of the morning, Marc's internal clock woke him up without fail at the usual time.

Although he would have dearly loved to get some more sleep, the more practical side of his nature drove him to get up and start his day.

After dressing, he decided to get some housework out of the way before he needed to start on breakfast.

He went into the downstairs bathroom and gave it a quick, once-over, cleaning, before going into the attached bedroom to change the bedclothes.

As soon as he opened the door, he froze in his tracks.

Collin and Christian were laying on the bed, completely naked, in the sixty-nine position.

"I'm sorry, I didn't know you were in here. I thought, I mean, I guess I assumed that you were still asleep in the living room." Marc said nervously, as he started to back out of the room.

"Marc!" Collin said suddenly, causing Marc to stop and chance a look at him.

"It's okay." Collin said, as he looked Marc in the eyes.

Marc gave a slight nod and withdrew from the room, feeling the tingle of a blush coloring his face.

After a moment for his racing heart to calm down, Marc began to puzzle over how two simple words from Collin had completely changed what had been an incredibly embarrassing moment for all of them into a moment that they would someday be able to look back on with a fond smile.

With a slight chuckle to himself and an amused shake of his head, Marc gathered the used towels and picked up the laundry hamper, so he could get the majority of his housekeeping done before he needed to start breakfast.

"Good morning, Marc" Collin said cheerfully as he walked into the kitchen.

"I guess I don't have to ask why you're in such a good mood this morning." Marc said with a hint of a blush rising up his cheeks.

Collin giggled as Christian walked into the room.

"Good morning, Marc." Christian said as he walked to the stove and gave Marc a firm hug and a kiss on the cheek.

As soon as he was released, Marc asked, "What was that for?"

"For being so cool and not freaking out on us." Christian said with a grin.

"I'm glad I didn't disappoint you." Marc said haltingly, not sure how someone was supposed to respond in that situation.

Christian looked at him curiously for a moment, then explained, "You can say that it's okay to be gay and there's no shame in it. You can make big speeches about responsibility and freedom, and all that other horse shit, but every bit of it is just words and don't mean nothing. What happened this morning, that was real. If I had any doubts at all about being safe or accepted… that took care of it."

Marc seemed to be about to say something, but instead, held up one finger. He quickly turned over the pancakes on the griddle, then turned his attention back to Christian.

"I… I'm…" Marc began to say, then gave up and pulled Christian into a firm hug.

"Me, too." Christian whispered as he held Marc tightly.

Collin was sure that Christian had a lifetime of father/son moments that he never got to experience. Watching Christian and Marc holding each other, just seemed so very right.

"Here you are!" Jorry said as he walked into the kitchen, still wearing his pajamas.

"Good morning, Jorry! Did you sleep alright?" Marc asked casually as he glanced away from his griddle full of sausage links.

"Yeah, I guess so. But my mom is going to freak out if she ever finds out that I got woke up by my first gay kiss while I was here." Jorry said as he took a seat at the kitchen table.

"I didn't…" Christian stammered as Collin said, "Not me!"

Marc turned away from his griddle with a look of concern.

"No." Jorry chuckled at the reaction, then explained, "Nicky must have been dreaming about Danny. I woke up with him hugging me and trying to stick his tongue down my throat."

After a moment for the words to sink in, Christian hesitantly asked, "How was it?"

"It took me a few seconds to realize what was happening. For those few seconds, it was pretty nice." Jorry said frankly.

"So, are you ready to pick a team?" Collin asked with a grin.

"No. I think I'll be a free agent for a little while longer. But at least now I know that it isn't as gross as I thought it would be. Who knows? If it hadn't been my little brother that was making out with me, I might have gone for it." Jorry said consideringly.

"There's no need for you to make any decisions about it this morning." Marc said from the stove.

The doorbell ringing prevented any further conversation.

Marc looked at the stove, then turned to Christian and said, "Could you get that? I can't really leave this right now."

"Sure." Christian said as he hopped up from his chair.

"Collin, would you go upstairs and wake up your father? I don't want him to sleep too late or he'll feel miserable all day." Marc asked hopefully.

"Okay." Collin said with a cheerful smile.

"Can I do anything to help?" Jorry asked curiously.

"You could go in and wake up your brother. Breakfast isn't going to be finished for about fifteen or twenty minutes, so you'll have plenty of time to get him awake and dressed." Marc said as he started transferring cooked sausages to a plate.

"I love you, Uncle Marc." Jorry said as he stood.

"I love you, too, Jorry. Always have, always will." Marc said with a smile at his nephew.

"Oh! Um, hi." Christian said as he opened the front door.

He couldn't focus on anything but the series of butterfly bandages holding together a nasty looking jagged wound from the man's temple to his hairline.

"Hello. Marc said to come over before eight."

"He's in the kitchen. Come in." Christian said as he stood away from the door.

The man hesitantly walked into the entry hall and Christian was about to close the door when Brucie stepped in, looking timid and uncertain.

"It's down this way, you can hang your jackets there if you want." Christian said before walking down the hallway.

Both Brucie and James kept their light jackets on as they followed Christian.

"Look who I've got." Christian said with a grin as he walked into the kitchen.

"James! Come on in. Would you like a cup of coffee?" Marc asked as he wiped his hands on a dish towel.

"Yes. Thank you. If it wouldn't be any trouble." James said nervously.

"Christian, would you take Brucie into the living room so us old folks can talk?" Marc asked with a grin.

"Yeah. C'mon Brucie. We'd better hurry before they start getting boring." Christian said playfully.

Brucie had a conflicted look and waited for his father's nod before he reluctantly left the room.

At the top of the stairs, Collin peeked into a room that turned out to be an office of sorts, then looked into what seemed to be a small living room. He was about to go to the next room when he heard movement.

Venturing further into the homey little parlor, he found that the far end of the room seemed to be it's own little room, only lacking one wall to make it it's own separate bedroom.

The bed seemed enormous and Collin guessed that it was a California king.

As he stepped closer, he noticed that his father was fast asleep, cuddling his pillow.

Collin smiled at the sight of his father looking so peaceful and innocent.

Then, much to his surprise, he found himself looking at his father in a different way. Yes, this was the man he grew up with, and that he had always loved. But now, looking at his slightly tanned skin contrasted by the stark white sheets, Collin noticed that his father was really hot looking.

His thoughts weren't exactly sexual in nature, but he reluctantly admitted to himself that his father was actually quite attractive.

The sound of the front door closing jarred Collin out of his thoughts and he sat on the edge of the bed and gently shook his father's shoulder.

"Marc says it's time for you to wake up or you're going to feel like crap all day." Collin said gently.

Galen slowly opened his eyes, then after a moment for them to focus, he smiled up at his son.

"Good morning." Collin said with a smile in return.

"How are you doing today?" Galen asked as he reached out to place his hand on top of Collin's and give it a gentle squeeze.

"I'm good." Collin said automatically, then blushed as he quietly added, "Well, Marc walked in on me and Christian while we were having sex this morning. So, that was kind of embarrassing. But he was really cool about it, so everything's fine."

"He's the best person I know. And I'm a better person because of him." Galen said as he looked into his son's eyes.

"I know, Dad. It really shows." Collin said frankly.

"Have I told you how proud I am of you?" Galen asked curiously.

"Lot's of times." Collin said with a smile.

"It's worth repeating." Galen said honestly.

"Thanks, Dad." Collin said as he leaned forward and gave his father a hug.

Galen returned the hug, then said, "Tell Marc I'll be down as soon as I've cleaned up."

"Sure thing." Collin said happily as he released his father.

"How are things with you and Christian?" Galen asked as he threw back the sheet and scooted to the edge of the bed, revealing that he was wearing only boxer shorts.

Collin automatically walked to the chair beside the bed and picked up his father's robe and handed it to him as he said, "Things are amazing. I really love him."

"How do you think you're going to handle it if things don't go the way we want at the court hearing?" Galen asked as he tied his robe closed.

"It'll hurt. But we talked about it and decided that however it goes, we'd rather be able to look back on what we did instead of what we wish we'd done." Collin said frankly.

"I wish I'd been as smart as you when I was your age." Galen said as he pulled his son into a hug and kissed him on the top of the head.

"You're getting there." Collin said with a teasing chuckle.

Galen released Collin and gave him a playful swat on the behind before saying, "Go tell Marc I'll be down in a few minutes."

"Alright. I'm going." Collin laughed as he scurried away.

Christian noticed Brucie's anxious expression and said, "Don't worry, we don't bite."

"I've never been around…" Brucie trailed off nervously.

"Around what?" Christian asked as he stopped outside the living room door.

"Well, Uncle Marc is… you know…" Brucie said as sweat beaded on his forehead, then he leaned closer to Christian and whispered, "…gay."

"Yeah. So am I. So what?" Christian said frankly.

Brucie's eyes went wide with terror at the admission.

"You don't have to pretend with me. I know you suck cock. No one here is going to freak out if you're honest with us." Christian said frankly.

After a long moment of silence, Brucie finally forced himself to look into Christian's eyes as he quietly said, "I'll try."

"My God, James. What happened to you?" Marc said as soon as they were alone.

"It's kind of a long… I'm not really here about that. It's about Brucie… I don't know what to do. And I thought… I didn't know who else…" James said sporadically, and seemed to be on the verge of hyperventilation or a nervous breakdown… perhaps both.

Marc quickly put the last few cooked sausages on a plate and placed it in the oven before he walked to the table and said, "Take a few deep breaths and calm down a little bit, then tell me what happened."

James nodded, then slowly and very deliberately took in a few deep, cleansing breaths.

"Okay." Marc said gently, then quietly prompted, "I know that you were fine at Linda's last night, so maybe you can tell me what happened after you left."

James nodded, then carefully said, "Denise was fuming mad when we left, as mad as I've ever seen her. She was ranting and raving… mostly about you."

Marc nodded, not surprised in the least.

"Well, I was driving us home, Denise got a phone call. I'm not exactly sure what was said, but she went silent. I think for the first time since I met Denise, I was actually scared of her." James said quietly.

"From the look of you, I'm guessing for good reason." Marc said honestly.

It took a moment for James to collect his thoughts, but finally he continued, "Once we got home, I got the feeling that she might need to talk about whatever was bothering her, so I asked her if she wanted to talk about it."

Marc nodded, then noticed a movement out of the corner of his eye and saw Collin walking into the kitchen.

"Dad said he'll be down in a few minutes." Collin said as he looked at James curiously.

"Thank you. Go on into the living room and I'll let you know when breakfast is ready." Marc said as he looked Collin in the eyes to convey the seriousness of the situation.

"Yeah, okay." Collin said slowly, then withdrew from the room.

"So, you asked Denise if she wanted to talk." Marc said quietly, prompting James to continue.

"I don't remember much after that. Most of what I know came from the police reports. The rest, Brucie told me." James said reluctantly.

"What happened?" Marc asked with concern.

"She hit me with something, one of those fake modern art pieces that she collects. And from what the doctor said, she really did some damage. If she'd hit me a quarter of an inch lower she most likely would have killed me." James said as he finally met Marc's eyes.

"Oh my God!" Marc gasped.

"What's even worse is that she did it right in front of Brucie. He saw the whole thing." James said as he tried to gulp past the lump in his throat.

"I guess, from what the police said, Brucie thought that she had actually killed me." James said as a tear escaped down his cheek.

Marc reached across the table and took hold of James' hand to do what little he could to comfort the distraught man.

"So, Brucie called 911 and told the dispatcher that I was dead and that he saw his mom kill me. I was still unconscious, so I can only imagine what he went through when the police arrived. But, what I do know is that Denise put up a fight when they tried to arrest her and they ended up tasering her because she was so violent and out of control." James said quietly.

Marc's eyes went wide as he tried to imagine his sister behaving like that.

"Well, of course, when the ambulance got there, they realized that I was still alive. When I woke up I was in the ambulance and Brucie was there with me, and he was crying and he told me how happy he was that I was alive…" James broke down into tears at that point and Marc got up to get a roll of paper towels from by the sink.

It took a moment for James to dry his tears and get himself under control, but finally he managed to say, "Brucie and I have never been that close. Ever since he was a toddler, he was mama's boy. So to see the relief on his face and to hear him say those words, it was like I was finally getting something I've been waiting my whole life for."

Marc nodded, prompting James to continue.

"Well, so I went to the hospital and between the police and the doctors, it was all kind of a blur. In the end, all I can tell you is that Brucie stayed right by my side, every step of the way. It took a few hours for the doctors to decide that my concussion wasn't severe enough to keep me for observation, so sometime after midnight, I was discharged from the hospital."

Galen poked his head in the door and Marc looked up at the movement.

Marc gave a subtle shake of his head and Galen immediately withdrew.

"I can't explain why, but I couldn't go back to the house. I just… there's no way I could face it yet." James said haltingly.

"Of course, that's where you were attacked. It's only natural that you wouldn't feel safe going back there right away." Marc said quietly.

James looked at Marc with surprise, then said, "Yes. That's exactly right."

Marc nodded, prompting James to continue the story.

"So I got a motel room for me and Brucie. I thought that maybe a good night of sleep and unfamiliar surroundings might help me in taking a step back, so I could look at things from a different point of view." James said slowly.

"That sounds reasonable to me." Marc said simply.

James gave a brief smile, but it fell away as he continued the story.

"What happened next is why I'm here." James said in prelude.

Marc felt his stomach tighten, not able to imagine what might have happened to bring James to his house, of all places.

"When we got to the motel room, I tried to tell Brucie how much it meant to me that he stayed with me. I don't know if he understood what I was saying, but I wanted him to know. Anyway, I told him that we'd figure everything out in the morning and we went to bed." James said and seemed to be getting slower and more hesitant as the story progressed.

Marc nodded, still unable to imagine what could have happened to bring him here.

"I guess with all the excitement and everything that happened… I don't know, maybe it was the pain medication, but for whatever reason, I couldn't sleep. I was laying there with my mind racing, trying to put the pieces together and figure out what had happened and what to do next when… I guess Brucie thought I was asleep."

Marc handed James another paper towel when he noticed the tears forming in his eyes again.

"At first I thought he was just scared from what he'd seen. I mean, when he was little, he used to crawl into bed with Denise and me when he was frightened. So I didn't say anything, I just let him think I was asleep. But then, he… I can't say it." James choked out and started crying again.

"Just tell me. I can't help you if I don't know what happened." Marc said gently, but firmly.

That must have been the right thing to say, because James collected himself and said in a low voice, "Brucie went under the covers and began to perform fellatio on me."

"Oh." Marc said with sudden comprehension.

"I was so shocked, I didn't do anything for a moment. I thought that maybe it was some sort of hallucination brought about by the blow to the head." James said desperately, and Marc could tell from his expression that he wished that it had been a hallucination.

"Finally, I was able to gather my wits enough to tell him to stop, but… he started begging me. For a moment, I felt bad for denying him what he wanted, but he's my son! I just… I don't know what I should do. I don't know what I should have done. That's why I called you. I want to do what's best for Brucie but I have no idea what that is."

The room went silent as James seemed to be waiting for some momentous 'words of wisdom' from Marc. And, as it turned out, Marc didn't have any.

So, after another moment of silence, Marc finally said, "I don't know if I'm the right person to talk to about this, but I promise that I'll do whatever I can to help you. What I do know is that what you did, telling Brucie to stop, that was the right thing. I think I may need to ask Galen's advice, if you'll allow me to discuss this with him. He's been a parent a lot longer than I have."

"If you think that's what's best. I didn't know where else to turn. You're the only… gay… person I know." James said, whispering 'gay' like it was a dirty secret.

"Okay. But we're not going to get anything settled in the next few minutes and I've got a hungry family waiting for their breakfast. The bathroom is next door down the hall, why don't you go in and splash some cold water on your face, and when you get back, breakfast should be just about ready to be served.

"Thank you, Marc. I'm so sorry for barging in on your family like this, on Christmas Eve, of all days." James said sincerely.

"Just remember, you and Brucie are my family, too. So I'm not the least bit upset that you came to me for help. That's what family does for each other."

As Christian and Brucie walked into the living room, they found Jorry kneeling by his brother, trying to wake him.

"Come on. Uncle Marc is going to have breakfast ready in a few minutes." Jorry said as he shook his brother's shoulder again.

"Nmpp mffr." Nick growled and turned onto his side to evade the bothersome hand on his shoulder.

"I am NOT a Nump Muffer, and if you want to eat breakfast, you need to get up and get dressed." Jorry said as he started to tickle Nick's side.

"You ARE TOO a Nump Muffer, I saw you muffing your nump right before we left for the Christmas party." Nick giggled.

"You did NOT, I had the door closed." Jorry said as he continued to try to find his brothers best tickle spots.

Brucie and Christian were standing just inside the doorway, smiling at the antics when both brothers seemed to spot them at the same time.

The laughter immediately stopped, and Jorry asked, "What are you doing here?"

"Marc invited Brucie and his dad over to have breakfast with us. So that means that they're our guests and we have to be nice to them." Christian said firmly

"I'm a guest, too, so I don't have to be nice." Jorry said flatly as he stared at Brucie.

After a moment to consider, Christian said, "I guess you're right. You don't have to be nice. But I'd really appreciate it if you'd give it a try, at least for a while to see how it goes."

"Why should I?" Jorry asked suspiciously.

"Go in the kitchen and take a look at Brucie's dad. Something's up, and it ain't good." Christian said frankly.

"Something happened to Uncle James?" Jorry asked with surprise, then turned to Brucie and asked, "What happened?"

"Um, I, um…" Brucie stammered then looked at Christian helplessly.

"Honest. Remember?" Christian asked firmly.

Brucie nodded, then quietly said, "My mom went nuts last night and kinda tried to kill my dad. In fact, the doctor said she almost did."

Christian, Jorry and Nick stared in silence for a long moment, until the silence was broken by Jorry asking, "What about your dad, is he going to be okay?"

Brucie slowly nodded and Christian could see tears in his eyes.

"Guys, why don't you go on and get changed and washed up. I think Brucie could use a minute." Christian said firmly.

"Yeah, alright." Jorry said sounding somewhat subdued.

Nick walked up to Brucie and looked up into his eyes as he said, "I'm sorry your dad got hurt. But I'm glad he's going to be okay."

"Thanks, Nick." Brucie said as he reached out to pat Nick on the head.

"Rule number one…" Jorry said firmly.

Brucie withdrew his hand and looked at Jorry curiously.

"…You don't touch Nick, ever. You do, and I swear to God, I'll break your dick off." Jorry said as he looked Brucie straight in the eyes.

After a moment, Brucie slowly nodded.

"Okay. Since your dad was hurt and things are pretty intense for you right now, I'm going to ease up on you. If you need something, I'll help you. You know, all that shit cousins usually do for each other." Jorry said seriously, then firmly added, "As long as you follow the rules."

"What are the rules?" Brucie asked cautiously.

"There's just the one, right now. If there are any more, I'll let you know." Jorry said as he looked deeply into Brucie's eyes.

"Yeah. Okay." Brucie said as he matched Jorry's gaze.

Jorry nodded, then guided his brother out of the room and to the bathroom.

"What'd I miss?" Collin asked as he entered the living room.

"Jorry being protective of Nick. That's about it." Christian said frankly.

"Hey Brucie, how's it going?" Collin asked as he walked to Christian's side.

Brucie looked from Collin to Christian, then his gaze fell to the floor.

"His mom tried to kill his dad last night." Christian said simply.

"Oh. Is that who's in the kitchen with Marc? I only saw him from the back." Collin asked curiously.

"Yeah. I guess that's why they're here." Christian said as he looked at Brucie curiously.

"Well, it looked like they were having a pretty intense discussion in there, so it'll probably be a few minutes before we have breakfast. Let's get comfortable." Collin said as he walked to the couch.

"Yeah. Have a seat, Brucie. I'll turn on the tree." Christian said as he walked over to turn on the switch.

Once the lights were turned on, Christian got down on the floor and worked the controls to put the little train under the tree into motion.

"You really enjoy playing with that, don't you?" Collin asked with a smile.

"I enjoy playing with something else a lot more, but I don't think Marc and Uncle Galen would want me doing that in the living room." Christian said with a devilish smile.

"Yeah. Too bad." Collin said with a weary sigh, then broke into a grin.

"You two, you're both…" Brucie hesitated.

"Yeah. Gay. Little word. Three letters. One syllable. Not hard to say." Christian said as he walked to the couch and sat by Collin's side.

Brucie stared at them and seemed to have a question, but finally the expression fell away.

"Okay. I just about pissed all over that fuzzy toilet seat cover!" Jorry said as he walked into the living room.

Collin and Christian broke into laughter at the announcement.

Nick followed his brother into the room and couldn't seem to contain his giggles.

"I told Marc that that was going to happen." Christian said frankly.

"What are you doing sitting around here looking at each other? Turn on the TV or something." Jorry said as he looked around the room.

"Actually, I think that we've probably got more drama going on than any of the TV shows." Christian said with a grin.

"Point." Collin said with a nod.

Christian noticed Brucie glancing around again, and he once again had that look like he wanted to say something.

"Come on, Brucie. I can tell that you've got something to say. It'd be best if you just spit it out otherwise you'll be choking on it all day." Christian said frankly, drawing all attention in the room to him.

"I, um. I just… I'm sorry about the way my mom treated you yesterday. That was wrong of her." Brucie mumbled.

"Well, thank you for saying so, Brucie. You're not responsible for the way your mother acts, so we don't blame you for it at all, but we appreciate that you feel bad that we were made to feel uncomfortable." Collin said seriously.

"Well said." Galen said from the doorway.

"Please tell me you're here to call us in to breakfast." Collin said quickly.

"Nope. There's a conference going on in the kitchen. It looks like it could take a few more minutes." Galen said as he walked into the room and took a seat on the arm of the couch beside where his son was sitting.

"Well, if it's going to take too much longer, what would you all think about going to McDonalds? I'm sure that by the time they're done talking, we'll all be hungry again." Christian asked as he looked around.

There were a few chuckles and everyone's gaze eventually fell on Galen, waiting for his reaction.

"Okay. Let's give them ten more minutes. If they're not done by then, we'll go to McDonalds." Galen said with a grin.

All the boys cheered except for Brucie, who was looking up at Galen with a bewildered expression.

"What? You don't like McDonalds?" Galen asked Brucie curiously.

"I do. But, you'd do that?" Brucie asked slowly.

"Sure. Marc's obviously dealing with something really serious with your dad and doesn't want to be interrupted. But the rest of us need to eat." Galen said frankly.

Brucie nodded, but didn't seem to be able to wrap his mind around what he was hearing.

"Galen, could you and Collin set the dining room table? You'll need to put the leaf in so there'll be room for everyone." Marc said from the living room doorway.

"We're on it!" Galen said happily as he stood.

"Jorry and Brucie, would you carry some food and drinks into the dining room for me?" Marc asked hopefully.

"Sure, Uncle Marc." Jorry said with a smile, then looked at Brucie curiously.

Brucie nodded, then walked with Jorry to the door.

"Nick, would you walk ahead of them and hold the doors open for them while they're carrying food so they don't spill anything?" Marc asked with a smile.

"Yeah! Okay!" Nick said happily, obviously glad to be included and given an important job.

"What about me?" Christian asked as he walked to Marc's side.

"You can help me with the scrambled eggs." Marc said as he led Christian out of the living room, then leaned in and quietly added, "And I have a favor to ask of you."

Once Brucie had taken the platter of pancakes and Jorry had carried the platter of sausages away, Marc looked around the kitchen to be sure that he and Christian were alone.

"Christian, I wouldn't normally ask this of you, but I'm trying to get a sense of what's going on with Brucie. His father has asked for my help, but I don't know what advice to give him because I don't have enough information about him." Marc said frankly as he cracked egg after egg into a large bowl.

"So, do you want me to pump him for information about something?" Christian asked curiously as he watched Marc add salt and pepper and then a splash of milk to the bowl.

"No, nothing like that. You're just more likely to spend time around him than I am. I was just hoping that you might keep your eyes and ears open and let me know if you get any sense of what's going on with him. If I had some sort of clue, I might be able to guide James to the resources he needs to help Brucie." Marc said seriously, then started beating the eggs vigorously with a whisk.

"Well, there's a few things that I can tell you about him right now." Christian said frankly.

"Like what?" Marc asked curiously as he began to pour the egg mixture onto the hot griddle.

"I guess the first thing is that Brucie's a real cock-hound."

"How do you mean?" Marc asked curiously as he slowly stirred the egg mixture on the griddle with a wooden spoon.

"I mean that I've heard that he'll suck any guy's dick, any place, any time. All he needs is an excuse to get someone alone for five minutes and he'll get what he wants." Christian said simply.

"Oh. That's not good." Marc said thoughtfully.

"Yeah. And to make matters worse, when he's done, he does this big guilt-trip/mind-game thing where he tries to make what he did someone else's fault. I guess he does that so he can believe that he's not gay." Christian said, then reached into the cupboard and took down a serving dish.

Marc smiled at Christian, then began to transfer the scrambled eggs to the dish.

"Marc, the guy plays the part of the victim, but he's a predator. He really screwed with Erik's head yesterday and it took all of us to get Erik to see that he hadn't done something wrong." Christian said frankly.

"You're telling me that Brucie gave Erik, my innocent little NEPHEW Erik, a blowjob?" Marc said in astonishment.

"Yeah. Erik and a lot of other guys, I've heard about six names so far, but I'm willing to bet that there's a lot more. And on top of that, I've heard Jorry threaten Brucie a couple times now to keep him away from Nick." Christian said seriously.

"Do you really think that Brucie would do something with Nick?" Marc asked with concern.

"Jorry thinks so, and I guess he'd know since he's been with Brucie before." Christian said as he met Marc's gaze.

"I don't know what I'm going to tell James." Marc said as he reached into the drawer and took out a large slotted spoon to serve with.

"Tell him to get Brucie in to see a psychologist or psychiatrist or whatever. And the sooner the better. Spend five minutes talking with Brucie and you'll see that he ain't right in the head. I don't know if what's wrong with him can be fixed, but I'm pretty sure that leaving him the way he is will guarantee that he's going to end up in prison or dead. Not everyone is going to put up with his bullshit games." Christian said firmly.

"Why didn't you tell me this before?" Marc asked as he looked around to see if there was anything else he needed to take to the dining room.

Christian grabbed a hot pad and the coffee pot before responding, "Because I didn't really think about it until you asked me. All I saw was someone who made me uncomfortable, I didn't think much about why."

Marc nodded his acceptance of the answer, then led the way out of the kitchen.

"Sorry, Love. The guys were starving to death so we started without you." Galen said plaintively.

Marc placed the serving dish of scrambled eggs in the middle of the table, then said, "Okay. But after all the hard work I put into this meal, I think you owe me something."

Galen's eyes lit up as he asked, "What did you have in mind?"

"You cook lunch. I'm going to have my hands full preparing for the dinner tonight." Marc said seriously.

"Oh. Yeah. Just let me know when you want me to fire up the grill." Galen said casually.

Marc rolled his eyes, but was soon smiling at his lover.

"This food is really good." Brucie said past a mouthful of pancakes.

"I'm glad you're enjoying it." Marc said honestly.

"I can't remember the last time I had a 'real' egg. These are wonderful." James enthused.

"You don't have real eggs at home?" Galen asked curiously.

"Well, we had them at home so Denise could make deviled eggs for everyone else, but Brucie and I were forbidden to have any. Denise worries about our cholesterol, so I haven't had an actual egg in years." James said as he spooned some more scrambled eggs onto his plate.

"Do you have a problem with your cholesterol? Marc asked with concern.

"No. In fact, there's nothing in the world wrong with any of us." James said simply, then added, "But that hasn't stopped Denise from removing all eggs, sugar, salt, white flour and whole dairy from our diets. She keeps us on a strict diet of eggs substitutes, salt substitutes, artificial sweeteners, exotic unpronounceable flours and skim milk."

"I guess that explains why her food tastes like it does." Marc said speculatively.

"What did she do to those crab puffs yesterday? I tried one and it was NASTY!" Jorry asked seriously.

"I don't know. I think it's that stuff she uses in place of cream cheese. I don't know what it is, but it has absolutely no fat at all and it smells like bad breath." James said as he spooned yet another serving of eggs onto his plate.

"Yeah, I think that's what did it." Jorry said with a queasy look.

"Dad, can we come over to Uncle Marc's for breakfast again sometime? This is really good." Brucie asked hopefully.

James looked at Brucie, then at Marc uncertainly. He obviously didn't want to deny his son such a simple request, but he also couldn't impose on Marc like that.

"How about we just set aside the last Sunday of each month for a family breakfast? James and Brucie and Jorry and Nick will all be automatically invited. We may not always have something big going on, but you'll always be invited." Marc said with a smile.

James seemed to be about to decline when Galen looked up from his phone and said, "I've entered it into my calendar as a recurring monthly event. Now there's no chance that I'll forget."

"Good. And when Nolan comes to pick you boys up, we can ask him about bringing you over for breakfast. Hey, we might even see if we can swing the last Saturday of the month and have a monthly sleepover." Marc said happily, then looked at Galen with question.

"We can try." Galen said with a smile.

"Are you guys finished already? There's still food left!" Marc said as he looked around.

"Everything was great, but I couldn't eat another bite." Galen said as he pushed his empty plate away and scooted slightly back from the table.

"And here I thought you guys were about to gnaw the legs off the table from being so hungry." Marc said with a teasing smile.

"I'll eat some more!" Brucie said and pulled the last two pancakes onto his plate.

"Eat as much as you want, Brucie." Marc said with a bittersweet smile, then noticed that James seemed to be fighting to stay awake.

"James, have you had ANY sleep in the past twenty-four hours?" Marc asked with concern.

"Does being unconscious count?" James asked slowly.

"No. It does not." Marc said firmly.

"Then, no. I haven't." James admitted quietly.

"I thought so. Come with me and you can lay down for a while." Marc said as he stood.

"No, I've got too much to do." James immediately protested.

"James. Take a step back and take a look at yourself. You're running on your last little spark of nervous energy. You're in no state to go anywhere or to make any important decisions. You need to get a few hours of sleep. You don't have to worry about Brucie or anything at all for a few hours. Just sleep and I promise that I'll wake you in time for lunch." Marc said firmly.

As James stood, he appeared to be half asleep already.

"Come on. I'll show you where the bedroom is." Marc chuckled.

"Here's the bed. The bathroom's right through that door and if you wake up before I come back for you, you'll be able to find us in the living room, which is down the hall and to the left." Marc said as he watched James sit on the edge of the bed and take his shoes off.

"I just wanted to say again that I really appreciate that you're willing to go out of your way to help me like this. I promise that if I knew anyone else who was gay, I wouldn't have bothered you." James said quietly.

"James, you needed help, you came to me and asked. I can't even tell you how huge of a thing that is for someone who lives on the fringes of the family. I'm the one that they whisper about and make jokes about and conveniently forget to invite to family functions. Please understand, helping you isn't a bother, it's an honor."

James looked up at Marc with wide eyes.

"There's a few things I should tell you before you go to sleep so that maybe you'll be able to… I don't know… acclimate or deal with it or whatever." Marc said with difficulty.

James' wide eyed expression changed to one of concern.

"The differences between gay and straight people aren't quite as drastic as you might think. I suppose that it used to seem that way because only the most vocal and flamboyant of us were ever recognized as gay. Because of the social stigma and consequences of 'coming out', many gay people lived in the shadows, hiding who they were." Marc said distantly, then realized that he was putting James to sleep.

"My point is that the world has changed. Nowadays, being gay is simply a matter of who you love. What Brucie tried to do last night was completely inappropriate behavior. I'm not saying that blowjobs are bad. I'm actually a big fan of them. But there's a time and a place and a context. I think that that's where Brucie's problem may lie. I think that Brucie may need professional help in identifying his pattern of behavior and changing it. I don't know if he's looking for love or acceptance or if he has some need to be in control, but he needs help identifying what he's missing and developing a healthier way of providing it." Marc said imploringly.

"So all gay people don't act that way?" James asked uncertainly.

"No. We act just like everyone else. Some of us are good and loyal friends and some of us are total jerks, just like with straight people. But the thing about Brucie is that his behavior doesn't necessarily have anything to do with his sexual orientation. He might not even be gay. I don't think we're likely to know which team he's on until we can get him past this strange, compulsive behavior. Please, don't let Denise talk you out of it or delay you. Brucie needs professional help and he needs it right away." Marc said seriously.

"You don't have to worry about Denise's opinion in this. The next time I plan on seeing her face to face is in divorce court." James said simply.

"I know that after what she did that you might not want to…"

"My father was abusive." James interrupted.

Marc froze at the statement.

"When I was five years old, I saw him punch my mother so hard that he broke her jaw. That was when she took me and my four older sisters to a battered women's shelter. The one thing I learned above all else from what my mother went through is that when your spouse raises a hand against you in anger, it's over. 'Sorry, baby', 'It'll never happen again', and 'just give me one more chance' will get you killed. NEVER put up with abuse." James said firmly.

"I'm with you one hundred percent, James. And, if while you're going through the divorce, you need anything, someone to stay with Brucie or a shoulder to cry on or whatever, Galen and I will be here for you." Marc said seriously.

"Thank you, Marc. I was scared to death to come over here. I felt like I was walking into the den of the devil himself." James chuckled.

"I'm pretty sure I know who perpetuated that notion." Marc said with a knowing smile.

"You know, every day living with her has been like walking through a minefield. Every minute of every single day I had to watch each and every step. It's been exhausting." James said as his eyelids began to get heavy.

"Yeah, look at what you straight guys put yourselves through just to get a steady supply of sex." Marc teased.

James smiled, then said, "I've never really enjoyed sex that much. We only did it at all so we could have Brucie. When he was about four years old we tried it a few more times, hoping to give him a sister, but when it didn't happen right away, we sort of lost interest and never did it again."

"What about the other women you've been with. Was it like that with them too?" Marc asked with concern.

"I've never been with anyone but Denise. But it doesn't matter anyway. Like I said, I've never really enjoyed it that much." James said seriously.

"James, my sister is what's known as a 'lousy lay'. I used to date one of her ex-boyfriends…"

"Javier. Yes, I've heard about him just about every day for nearly sixteen years." James said as his eyes opened to about half-lidded.

"I guess you would have." Marc chuckled sympathetically, then added in a soothing voice, "Trust me, sex can be wonderful when it's with the right person."

"I don't really care about that." James said as his eyes fell closed, then he continued in nearly a whisper, "All I want now is someone nice."

"I want that for you, too, James." Marc said gently, then quietly left the room.

Marc walked into the living room to find all the boys sitting around and watching an infomercial about a battery powered carpet sweeper.

"Christian, could you come into the kitchen for just a minute?" Marc asked quietly.

"Sure." Christian said quickly, then turned to Collin and said, "Let me know how it ends."

"Are you sure you don't want me to record it?" Collin asked with a grin.

"Yeah, I'm sure." Christian said as he finally reached Marc at the door.

"Do you need some help with the breakfast dishes?" Christian asked curiously.

"No. I've got this." Marc said as he busied himself with scraping off the breakfast plates and stacking them in the dishwasher.

" Actually, I thought of this last night on the way home but I didn't remember to ask you about it so I wanted to make a point of asking you now before I forgot about it again."

"Okay. Shoot." Christian said casually as he rested against the table.

"I was just thinking that, now that you have a trust fund, we might want to revisit the adoption question." Marc said carefully.

"You don't want me?" Christian said in shock.

"Of course I want you!" Marc said as he stepped away from the sink to pull Christian into a firm hug.

Finally, after Christian seemed to calm, Marc quietly continued, "I was just thinking that now that you have the trust fund, you have some choices that you didn't have before. You could go back to your mother's, for example, and things would probably be a lot easier than they were before, with the trust taking care of all your educational and medical expenses."

Christian slowly nodded, as if he were waiting for something that he knew that he wasn't going to like.

"I just didn't want to hold you to something that you decided before you got the trust fund." Marc said as he looked into Christian's eyes.

"You wanted me even when I had nothing but the little bit of money I had in my pocket and a suitcase of clothes. What makes you think that this trust fund will make any difference in how I feel? I'm more at home here than I ever was at either my father's or my mother's house." Christian said honestly.

"Well, in that case…" Marc never got to finish the sentence. Christian wrapped his arms around Marc desperately and it felt like he was hanging on for dear life.

Marc and Christian held each other for long minutes until Marc finally said, "How would you feel about helping me with something?"

"Sure, what can I do?" Christian asked quietly as he finally pulled away and started to get his emotions back under control.

"I was thinking that certain moments should be preserved and kept forever." Marc said gently.

"Huh?" Christian asked in confusion.

Marc chuckled and said, "I want to take some pictures before people start leaving. I was hoping that while I finish up in here, maybe you could get everyone to comb their hair and do whatever else they need to do to get ready for Christmas pictures."

"There's, like, no chance of us dodging this, is there?" Christian asked slowly.

"Absolutely none at all." Marc said with a smile.

"So I'll let the guys know to do it right the first time so we can all get back to kicking back and relaxing." Christian said with a decisive nod.

"That's why I asked you to do it while I'm cleaning up. I thought you might be better at motivating them to get ready before I go in there and start fussing over every little detail." Marc said as he went back to work cleaning the kitchen.

"I still think your fussiness is cool." Christian said with a grin at Marc before walking through the kitchen door.

After wiping down the countertops and one final pass through the dining room to make sure everything was as it should be, Marc went upstairs and got his camera and tripod.

When he walked into the living room, he couldn't help but smile at the scene before him.

Someone had closed the window blinds, so the soft red glow of the bubble lights on the tree was the focus of the room.

Everyone had their hair neatly combed and they were all standing in a stair stepped row before the tree, with Galen at the far end, being the tallest.

"Everyone certainly looks handsome today." Marc said as he set up his tripod.

"Christian said we gotta, or this is gonna take all day." Nick said frankly.

Marc chuckled, then admitted, "He might be right."

"How do you want us, Marc?" Christian asked from his place at Brucie's side.

"Jorry and Nick, come around to this side, by Galen." Marc said as he was attaching the camera to the tripod.

"Like this?" Jorry asked uncertainly.

"No, switch places. I want Nick on the end." Marc said after a glance.

"So we're good now?" Christian asked cautiously.

"Almost. Brucie, would you take one step forward and get down on one knee?" Marc asked as he looked through the camera's viewfinder and seemed to be making very delicate adjustments to the camera's position.

"Are we close?" Christian asked hopefully.

"Yes. Very close." Marc said as he checked the viewfinder one last time.

Once he seemed to be happy with the view, Marc turned his attention toward his family and said, "Now, everyone, I need to see your smiles."

"Seriously?" Collin and Jorry asked in unison.

Marc chuckled at the reaction, then said, "Yes, seriously. All I want is one good photo. So no cheesy or goofy smiles. Come on, let me see them."

It took a moment, but eventually everyone was able to put on a more or less cheerful face.

"Brucie, less teeth." Marc said as he looked at the group, then added, "Jorry, see if you can manage a less pained expression."

"I'll only do it for you, Uncle Marc." Jorry said flatly, then forced an angelic, innocent expression of happiness onto his face.

"Perfect! Everyone hold that pose and this will be over in just a few seconds!" Marc said excitedly.

As soon as he triggered the timer on the camera, Marc rushed around the group to Galen's side and smiled big for the camera.

There was a flash that seemed disproportionately bright in the darkened room, then everyone seemed to wilt with relief.

"Thanks, guys." Marc said happily as everyone started making their way toward the sitting area of the room.

"I wish my dad had been awake so he could have been in the picture with us." Brucie said in a slight whine.

"I know, Brucie, but he really needs his sleep, and if you'll help remind me, I'll be sure to get a good picture of you and him in front of the Christmas tree before you leave." Marc said gently.

After a moment to consider, Brucie smiled and said, "Thanks, Uncle Marc."

The phone ringing drew Marc's attention and he saw Galen answering it from his place on the couch.

The expression on Galen's face sent a chill through Marc, and all he could think to himself is, 'What now?'.

"I understand, thank you for calling." Galen said softly, then looked at Marc with an expression of anguish.

"What is it, Love?" Marc asked quietly, not entirely sure that he wanted to know. His plate seemed to be filled to overflowing with emotional issues at the moment.

Galen stood and gestured for Marc to follow him into the hall.

"What is it?" Marc whispered.

"That was the hospital. It's about Christian's father. He's taken a turn for the worse." Galen said gravely.

"Oh no." Marc gasped.

"I don't know what to do, what would be best for Christian." Galen said desperately.

Marc thought for a moment, then quietly said, "I think… no, I know that Christian needs to see his father. He may not think so, but years from now, I don't want him having any regrets."

"Shouldn't we ask him what he wants to do?" Galen asked cautiously.

"No. Not this time. I know that we've been trying to get the boys to be independent and make decisions for themselves, but this is one of those times when we have to be the parents and decide what's best, regardless of what they think." Marc said firmly, not looking nearly as certain as he sounded.

"What about Collin?" Galen asked cautiously.

"In other circumstances, I'd want him to go with you to support Christian, but I've got a house full of guests and I really need him here." Marc said regretfully.

"So, I take it that means that I'm taking Christian to the hospital?" Galen asked slowly.

"Unless you want to stay here and entertain our guests." Marc said simply.

"Right. I'd better get Christian and be on my way, then." Galen said as he patted his pocket to be sure that he had his car keys.

"You can do this. You're a great dad." Marc said as he stepped forward and pulled Galen into a hug.

"We're great dads. I wouldn't be worth a damn without you." Galen said gently, then moved in to give Marc a firm kiss.

After a long moment of kissing, Marc pulled away and regretfully said, "You'd better be going."

Galen nodded, then turned back toward the living room.

To Be Continued…

Editor's Notes:

Once again, and not at all surprisingly, I find myself wiping tears from my eyes after reading a chapter from MultiMapper.

I was wondering if there would be a new chapter in time for Christmas, and I guess I got my answer.

I find myself feeling very sorry for James, yet, he has finally come to the realization that living with that, and I use this word very loosely, person, was not at all a healthy thing to do.

I was very pleased to see that he did take a lesson from his mother, other than the one where he simply became a doormat and obeyed his shrew of a wife and did whatever she told him to do, namely never stay with someone who has attacked you physically.

I guess I would have to say that the biggest surprise was that Brucie decided to go with his dad. Although, when I think about it logically, I guess if he believed that she was intent on killing James, that might actually have given Brucie pause to realize, that perhaps he might be the next one on her list.

I think perhaps, deep down, Brucie loves his dad, but besides that, I think he saw an opportunity to escape the terrible situation in which he was existing. It certainly was not really living.

I would guess he might have thought that living with James would beat living in some sort of foster care facility, or being placed with a new foster family. I honestly can't imagine the, so called, "child care system" putting him back in his mother's "care", if care is the right word, especially after what she had done to James.

The morning surprise that Marc got when he went in to change the sheets was quite cute. I am glad he had the presence of mind not to react in typical parental mode, and break up the love scene that was taking place.

It only goes to show that he is really a very loving and understanding parent.

I must admit I wanted the chapter to continue, as I always do, but as I look back on it, I must admit that this was a very sensible place to stop.

The next part will be dealing with Christian's interaction with his father, and deserves to be more than an afterthought at the end of a wonderful chapter.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

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