The Lernier Family
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved




Chapter 44: Clay

Clay sat nervously beside Janelle on the couch.  This was his first day back with his family.  His wife had insisted that they meet at the Campbells’ home, instead of their own home.   She still didn’t trust him enough to be alone with him.  She had also made it clear things were NOT going to return to the way they were before he attacked her. 

Janelle had been living with the Campbells since her release from the hospital.  When he had been released to return to his own home, he had driven directly to the Campbells.  He had received quite a dressing down by Mrs. Campbell, before being allowed to see his wife.  His mind went back to his introduction to Mrs. Campbell.

When Mrs. Campbell opened the door, she said, “I’m Mrs. Campbell.   Please come in, Mr. Henderson.”  She didn’t extend her hand to him, but gave him a hard-eyed stare.   It was very apparent that she didn’t trust him.  He had never been intimidated by anyone in his life, but this woman knew she had the upper hand, and it was very clear he was on shaky ground with her.  Her stern countenance and piercing gaze shook the confidence he felt upon leaving the base.

“Thank you for allowing us to meet in your home, Mrs. Campbell,” he said, hoping to ease the tension between them.

“You’re welcome.  Please follow me,” she said, leading him into the music room.  “Please sit down.”  Her tone of voice left no doubt that he was to obey her.

He did as he was instructed.  She, however, remained standing.  “I have a few things to say to you, before Janelle joins you.” 

She walked over to the fireplace and pointed to a large photograph of two men in white tuxedos, holding hands.  “Do you recognize who these men are?”

He nodded his head, and replied, “I’ve met one of them, Rick Lernier.  He used to work for me at the Pentagon.”  He looked at the happy couple smiling out at him.

She nodded her head.  “It’s a photo of my sons’ wedding, and these are their children.”  She picked up a framed photo and handed it to him.

He wondered why she was showing him these pictures.  It made him uncomfortable, not knowing where this conversation was headed.  “I’ve met David and Ashley.   They’re my children’s friends.  I didn’t know Rick had five children.”

Mrs. Campbell nailed him with a frigid glare, and said, “The only reason I’ve agreed to let you step foot inside my home is because of your children, especially given your behavior toward Rick.  I have very little patience for ignorance, and even less for prejudice and hatred.”  She continued to hold his eyes with her steely glare.  “Have you managed to overcome some of your hatred and prejudice toward gays, since you last saw my son?”

He looked away from her, but responded, “Why does it matter?  Rick won’t have anything to do with me.  I tried everything I could to persuade him to return to work on my project.  I even tried to get Lt. Col. Bachman to talk to him.  But, it was too late by then.   That’s when I realized what an idiot I was for running Rick out of my shop.  I was too blinded by my religious beliefs to see that I had set myself up for failure, despite the warnings my superiors gave me.”

“Well, it matters a lot to me, because I’ve come to love your family very much, Mr. Henderson.  Janelle is a wonderful woman and your children have a special place in my heart.”  She paused, causing him to look up at her.  She held his gaze, and said, “I want you to be the father and husband you were meant to be; however, that means you can’t continue to carry hate and prejudice toward others in your heart,” she said.   Her eyes bored into his, searching for indications that he understood her and comprehended what he needed to do.  She seemed to know exactly what he was thinking, because she said, “It’s time for you to change the direction of your life.”

Shrugging off her comments, he said, “I appreciate everything you’ve done for my family, Mrs. Campbell.  What, exactly, is it that you want from me?”

“I want you to apologize to my sons for your poor behavior.  I want you to do your best to overcome any issues you have with two men loving each other.  I intend to continue my association with your family; therefore, I have to insist that we come to an understanding regarding my family.  I love my boys very much, and I won’t tolerate anyone bringing hatred or prejudice into their lives.  They have already suffered enough in their young lives.” Mrs. Campbell said.  “Can you accept my sons for who they are:  a happily married gay couple?”

He nodded his head, and replied, “I can do that, now.  I was convinced that I had to portray myself as homophobic to be accepted by my fellow Marines.  I didn’t want to hear anything but hatred for gays, even though my superior officer warned me not to offend Rick.  I’ve had plenty of time to think about a lot of things.  My therapist has helped me through the process of sorting out my feelings and the reasons for the anger I feel.  At first, I blamed Rick for leaving me high and dry on the job.  I felt he was the cause of my failure at work.  Then, I just snapped and I lost complete control the night I attacked Janelle.  I hurt the person I love the most in the entire world.” 

Here he stopped, looking away from her while trying to gain control over his emotions as tears ran down his cheeks.  After talking with Janelle earlier in the day, he was afraid he had already lost his opportunity to be reunited with his family.  Mrs. Campbell noted his emotional state, and waited, patiently, for him to continue.

“During the therapy sessions at Quantico, I realized that the anger I felt was really anger at my own failures.  I was unwilling to admit that I was the one who had failed, so I misdirected it toward others.  It took me a while to learn to live with myself, and to learn to change those things about myself I needed to change.”

He looked up at Mrs. Campbell.  “I’m a broken man, Mrs. Campbell.  I’ve begun the process of fixing what’s wrong with me; but, I’m far from being where I need to be.  I know that I don’t deserve to be with my family, after what I did to Janelle.  My children probably think I’m some kind of monster.  Janelle said they didn’t want to talk to me.”  He put his head in his hands, feeling a heavy cloud of despair and hopelessness come over him.

Mrs. Campbell said, “I think there may be hope for you yet; however, it will all depend on you and how you interact with your family and friends.  You have a lot of explaining to do to your wife; and, most of all, you have to convince your children that what they witnessed will never, ever, happen again.   You have a lot of work ahead of you to regain their confidence and trust.”  She paused, before continuing, “I’ll let Janelle know you’re here.”

She left the room, and returned a few moments later with Janelle.   He started to get up from the couch, but she waved him away, and said, “I don’t want you to touch me, Clay.  You lost that right when you assaulted me.”  She crossed the room, and sat next to him on the couch.  Mrs. Campbell quietly left the room.

Clay was brought back to the present by Janelle’s voice.   He turned to look at her.  “Clay, I need to know how you feel toward gays.”

He met her eyes, and asked, “Why?”

“Because your son is gay,” Janelle said, watching Clay’s face very closely.  She sat on the edge of couch, ready to take flight at the slightest indication that he intended to do her harm. 

Clay looked at her in shock.  He couldn’t imagine Mark being gay.  It had to be a very bad joke.  This had to be the Campbells’ influence on his son.  A sudden flare of white hot anger seized his mind.  He would make sure they couldn’t continue to teach his son to be gay!  He could tolerate other people being gay, just not his own son!

Janelle watched the expressions of shock and surprise cross his face, followed by anger.  She stood up, distancing herself from his anger.  Before he could speak, Janelle continued, her voice hard as steel, “If you still harbor ill will toward gays, then our marriage is over.  I will not subject my son to your hatred and prejudice.  Mark’s happiness is more important to me than being married to a bigot.  If you express any kind of negative feelings toward gays, I will make sure you never see your children again.”

He clenched his fists, while he tried to control his anger, but couldn’t speak. 

Janelle noted his clenched fists and said, “I think it’s time for you to leave, Clay.  I can see from your expression and your body language that you’ve got issues with the news I’ve shared with you.”  She turned away from him, and started toward the doorway

“Wait, Janelle, can we talk?” he begged.  “Don’t you see that it’s the Campbells’ fault Mark is gay.   We just need to get him away from here, Janelle, and he’ll return to normal.”

She stopped at the doorway, and turned to face him.  “What is there to talk about?  You hate gays, so that is all there is to say.”

“I don’t hate gays, Janelle.  I just don’t believe that Mark is gay.  He has been brainwashed by the Campbells,” he said, anger dripping like acid from his voice.

“Mark’s being gay didn’t just happen.   He’s been that way all of his life.  You’ve chosen to close your eyes to it, because of your hatred,” Janelle said.  “Good bye, Clay.  My lawyers will contact yours.  I have the answer to my question.  I’ve made my decision about our marriage.”

She left the room, leaving him completely stunned and unable to articulate his thoughts.   The anger he felt quickly evaporated, as he realized he had made a major mistake letting his anger show.  He was still trying to fathom why he didn’t know that Mark was gay, when Mrs. Campbell returned. 

She looked him in the eyes, and said, “I tried to prepare you to answer Janelle’s question in a positive way, but you failed.  It wasn’t my place to inform you of your son’s sexual orientation, or I would’ve told you straight out that he was gay.  Mark gave Janelle his permission to tell you he’s gay, because he is afraid of being beaten by you, just like you beat his mother.  Your children fear you, Mr. Henderson, apparently with good reason.”

He shook his head in disbelief.   How could things have gotten so out of control?  He felt like things were going to work out for him when he left Quantico; but, now, everything had turned out wrong.  He wanted to be angry at Mrs. Campbell, but he knew she wasn’t the cause of his problems. 

“Mrs. Campbell, what can I do to regain what I’ve lost?”

“I think Janelle already told you what she expected,” Mrs. Campbell said.

He thought for a moment, before he replied.  “Yes, she did.  I think I need some time to think things over, especially the news about Mark.”  He stood up, and Mrs. Campbell saw him out.

He climbed into his car and sat, staring at the house.   He finally turned the key in the ignition, and backed out of the Campbell’s driveway.  He drove home and pulled into his driveway.   He got out of his car and walked up to the front door.  It had been almost three months, since the last time he had entered his home.

He unlocked the door and walked inside.  He walked into the kitchen, throwing his keys on the table.   He stopped in surprise, as his gaze took in the handmade sign taped to the refrigerator.    It read, “Welcome Home, Dad!  Love Mark and Michaela.”

He pulled over a chair from the kitchen table and sat down, staring at the message from his children.  He missed them so much!  He thought about his beautiful daughter and longed to give her a hug.  Then, he thought of Mark.  The revelation that he was gay had shocked him, and he had thought, at first, that the Campbells had turned him gay, or Rick and his family.  However, the more he thought about it, he began to realize that Mark had always had an affinity for boys.  He had tried to ignore what he saw, especially in light of his own religious beliefs.

His thoughts turned to Janelle.  He loved her very much, and her rejection of him really stung.   He hadn’t expected her to choose their children over him, but she had.  She had made it very clear where she stood.  He understood why she feared he would attack their son, as he had attacked her.  He got that part.   However, somewhere, in the back of his mind, he hoped he could still salvage his marriage.  He just had to figure out how to accept his son as being gay!  He put his head in his hands and stared at the floor, wondering who he could call for advice.

Janelle sat across from her children and explained, “Your Dad won’t be rejoining us.   He made it clear he could not accept the fact that Mark is gay, so we’ll be moving back to Texas to live with Grandma and Grandpa Paul.”

Mark asked, “But aren’t people in Texas even more anti-gay than the people here?”

“That’s true, but I don’t have any other way to support our family, Mark,” she responded.  “We can live with my parents, while I look for a job.  We don’t have any money, so we can’t stay in Virginia.  We need money to pay the bills and to buy food.”

“Maybe the Campbells will let us stay here, until you find a job,” Michaela suggested.

“I don’t want to abuse their hospitality, Michaela.   They have been very wonderful to us, but we need to move on, now that we know your father won’t be returning,” she said, looking her daughter in the eye.

Michaela said, “Mom, can’t we at least try to make things work here?”

Mark said, “David said his Dads could help you find a job and we could do more things that don’t cost money.  If Dad weren’t so homophobic, I’m sure they could help Dad, too.”

She smiled at her son.  “Yes, your boyfriend has been lobbying his Dads pretty heavily to help us find a way to stay here.  They have already spoken to me about finding me a job.  They weren’t too sure about helping your Dad, given his history.”

He blushed, but replied, “It’s not just David, Mom, I want to stay here, too.  I love David and I don’t’ want to leave him.”

Janelle already knew that Mark and David were very close.  It was obvious to her, from how they touched each other, the little glances they exchanged, and how they finished each other’s sentences, that they were lovers.  She remembered how she felt about her first lover and how heartbroken she was when her parents moved the family to another state.

She met his gaze, and said, “I understand how you feel, Markley; but we need to do what is best for the entire family, not just one person.”

When she used his real name, Mark knew she was serious.  He protested, “But, Michaela wants to stay, as well.”

“Mark, I want to stay, but I can’t see how things will work for us,” Janelle said.

Mrs. Campbell came into the room, and she said, “Janelle, you are welcome to stay as long as you need to, so you can get on your feet.  You have stayed here with your family while you’ve recovered from your injuries; and you can stay a while longer, while you find work.”

Janelle started to protest, “But…”

Mrs. Campbell cut her off, “There are no ‘buts,’ Janelle.  You know that I’m a very stubborn woman and I’m used to getting my way.  So, now that that’s settled, I’ve invited the boys over for dinner to discuss employment opportunities with you.”

Janelle said, “I can’t imagine they will be able to find something that suits my talents.”

“You underestimate them, my dear.  Rick and Glenn and their family are very resourceful.  I don’t doubt that they will already have something lined up for you,” Mrs. Campbell said.

After dinner with the Campbells, Rick and I walked into the study, followed by Janelle and Mrs. Campbell.   We took our seats in front of the large desk, while Mrs. Campbell sat behind it.  She nodded her head, and said, “Okay, boys, let’s hear what you have in mind for Janelle.”

I said, “We want to help you set up your own business.”

Janelle stared at me in shock.  When she finally recovered, she asked, “What kind of business?”

“Well, your children have been very helpful in outlining your talents.  Mark told us that you graduated with a degree in voice and piano performance.  He also said you play the flute and the violin,” I said.

“That’s true,” Janelle said.

“Michaela told us you were on your high school swim team,” Rick said.

“Yes, I am a good swimmer,” she acknowledged.

“Well, we think you should teach music lessons, as well as swimming lessons,” I said.  “I can refer students to you, as well as putting your name out to the various music programs in the area,” I said.

Mrs. Campbell said, “We have an indoor swimming pool where you can teach lessons year round; and we have the music room for the music lessons.”

“Also, I think you should audition for the various orchestras in the area,” I said.  “I think you would find yourself in high demand.”

Janelle looked at me and asked, “Do you really think so?”

“Yes, I do,” I replied, confidently.

Rick glanced at Mrs. Campbell, before he added, “We also have a need for a housekeeper, since Glenn is working in Austin a couple of weeks a month.   I could really use the help.   It would only be temporary, since Glenn’s project is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year; but, it would allow you to move back into your own home, if you decide not to stay here with the Campbells.”

Mrs. Campbell smiled, and said, “See, Janelle.   What did I tell you?  They have already thought things through and provided you with several things to think about.”

Janelle smiled, and said, “They sure have.  Thank you for your encouragement, and the job offer.  Let me think it over, and I’ll let you know.”  She paused, then asked, “Would you consider helping Clay find a job?  I know how you feel about him, but he is a good man and I hate to see him suffer so much for his faults.”

I looked at Rick, who shrugged.  “I think we can give it some thought.  Has he changed his attitude toward gays?”

She shook her head.  “Unfortunately, no he hasn’t.  I’m filing for a divorce, since I can’t risk my son’s happiness by staying with him.”

“I’m sorry, Janelle,” I said.  “I had hoped that the Marine Corps could help him.”

“Me, too; but, apparently not,” she said, sadly.

“Well, maybe he will come to realize that his hatred is only hurting himself,” I said.

Rick said, “We’ll see what we can do; but, we can’t promise anything at this point.”

Janelle looked at us, gratefully.  “Here is his cell number.”

I entered it into my phone.  “Janelle, we are willing to help you get started by setting up a meeting with our financial advisor.  He can help you put together a business plan, advise you about how best to proceed.”

Janelle said, “Thank you.”

I said, “He’s my Grandpa Scarborough.  Here’s his number.  I’ve already talked to him about your situation.”

Janelle took the note from my hand, where I had written down Grandpa’s name and phone number.  “I’ll call him tomorrow.”

“Good,” I said. 

We stood up and made our way into the music room, where the teens were entertaining each other, playing the piano; and the twins were sitting on the General’s lap having an energetic discussion about who was going to drive his wheelchair!

We spent the rest of the evening enjoying the company of friends and family.  Janelle played for us, as did Mark.  Mark mainly plays by ear, but he has a beautiful touch on the piano!

Garth Bachman looked into his husband’s eyes, and said, “Phil, what do you think about starting a new company?”

Phil smiled, and said, “I wondered how long it would take for you to dream up some new scheme.”  He cupped Garth’s cheek with his hand.  “I’ve enjoyed our time together, but I’ve also known that you were becoming restless.”

Garth laughed.  “Restless?  I guess you could call it being restless.  We’ve been touring Europe for nearly three months now.  I think I’ll go crazy if I see another old castle or ancient city.”

Phil kissed him, and said, “Thank you for making my dreams come true, Babe.  You’ve taken me all over Europe and shown me things I never hoped to see.”

Garth caressed his lover’s body.  He loved running his hands over Phil’s smooth skin.  Phil had recently taken to shaving off his body hair, leaving his skin soft and silky.   Garth hadn’t been pleased at first, preferring his lover’s hairy chest to this smooth one; but, now he loved the feel of Phil’s baby soft skin against his. 

Garth played with Phil’s curly black hair, as he said, “We’ve had a wonderful time, but I think we need to do something besides play tourist.”

Phil asked, curiously, “What is it that you have in mind?”

“I’ve been in contact with some of my former associates in the Marine Corps.  There’s going to be a contract awarded to do some work at the Quantico Marine Base, and I’m thinking we should bid on it,” Garth said.

“Who else are you thinking of bringing on board to work on this contract?” Phil asked.

“Well…I’d thought about Rick and Glenn.  I mentioned it to Rick yesterday.  I even thought about bringing on Clay Henderson,” Garth responded, waiting to see Phil’s reaction.

Phil looked at his husband in shock.  “You’ve got to be kidding!  You aren’t seriously thinking of working with that homophobic maniac?”

“Yes, I am.  I think that we can work with him, despite his issues.  He has the right skills for the job, and is out of work at the moment,” Garth said.

“How do you know that?” Phil asked.

“Rick told me,” Garth said.  “I also had him checked out by some of my folks on the inside.  I’ve got a complete rundown on his mental condition.  The Corps thinks they have him sorted out, now; however, they don’t want him in a position of power in the Corps.   So, they are giving him an honorable discharge.”

“So, how does that equate to giving him a job in our new company?” Phil asked.

Garth smiled.  Phil had said “our” company, indicating that he had already accepted Garth’s proposal to form a new company.  He knew his lover would agree to his proposal. 

“Apparently, Clay’s son, Mark, is dating Rick’s son, David,” Garth said.

“Wow!” Phil exclaimed.  “Does Clay know his son is gay?”

“He does; but, his wife is leaving him because he can’t accept that fact.  But, get this:  She wants Rick and Glenn to help him get a job,” Garth said.

Phil smiled.  “So how does that involve us?”

“David has convinced his Dads to help Clay find a job.   He thinks that if Mark’s Dad gets a job, he’ll be able to pay child support and Mark’s Mom will stay in Alexandria instead of moving to Texas to live with her parents,” Garth said.

“Oh, I get it, now.  We’re helping David keep his love life from falling apart.” Phil said.

Garth nodded his head.  “Basically, that’s it.”

Phil asked, “But, wouldn’t it be better for David to lose Mark now, rather than later?”

Garth thought for a moment, then asked, “I’m not sure what you mean, Phil.”

Phil elaborated, “It’s almost guaranteed that Mark will dump David at some point in the future, Garth.  Do you know if Mark is out at school?”

“No, he’s not.  I asked that question, as well,” Garth said.

“If he’s not willing to admit to the world that he’s gay, the relationship won’t last.  David is very open about his sexuality, and unless Mark is ready to be just as open, it won’t work.  Plus, Mark and David are still in middle school.   They’re in the 8th grade, aren’t they?”

Garth said, “Yes, they are.”

Phil asked, “So, why is Rick trying to help keep them together, when he knows that things can’t last between David and Mark?”

Garth responded, “I think it’s actually Glenn who wants to help Clay.  Rick can’t stand the man, but you know how soft hearted Glenn is.”

Phil nodded his head in agreement.  “Yes, I do know how idealistic Glenn can be; but, I also know he is a good judge of character, at least so far.”

Garth grinned, and said, “That’s true; however, I think it’s the combination of Rick and Glenn, together, that produces fantastic results.  So, I think we need to talk to both of them about this little proposition, to make sure they are both on board with it, before we proceed.”

Phil said, “I like your thinking.  Now, I think it’s time for you make love to me.”

Garth laughed, and said, “I’ve always liked your one-track mind.”

Phil grinned.  “I believe that it runs in the same direction as yours.”

Garth responded to Phil’s statement, in a very physical way, leaving them both in a state of euphoria!

That same night, I lay in Rick’s arms, in a post-coital state of euphoria, enjoying the warmth of his bare skin against mine.  I was nearly asleep, when Rick asked, “Are you sure we should be helping Clay?”

I mumbled, “What, Babe?”

He repeated his question, “Do you really think we should help Clay?”

My sluggish mind tried to process his question, but failed.  I rolled onto my back and rubbed the sleep from my eyes, yawning widely.  Rick ran his hand lightly over my chest, giving each nipple a tweak, before leaning over to gently nip them with his teeth.  I moaned with pleasure, as he hand moved lower, causing my skin to tingle. 

He kissed me, then asked, “Do I have your full attention, now?”

I grinned up at him.  “Yes, you have it!”

He laughed.  “I thought I might, given how hard you are.” 

He straddled me, burying my cock deep inside him.   He began to ride me hard, so hard and fast that I came in record time, despite our recent coupling!

I lay limp as a rag doll under my beloved!  He knows exactly how to give me extreme pleasure!  I looked into his eyes, and said, “I love you, Mr. Lernier!”

He leaned down to capture my lips, leaving me breathless!  “I love you, too, Babe.”  He rolled off of me and got to his feet.  “Let’s get a shower.   Then, we can change the sheets, so we can sleep.”

He reached down to take my hand, pulling me to my feet.  He led me to our en suite, and turned on the shower, adjusting the temperature.   He pulled me under the warm cascade and began washing me.  I returned the favor, when he finished.  We dried each other off, then we turned our attention to making the bed.

I pulled off the sheets, while Rick grabbed the clean ones.  We worked together to make up the bed.  While we worked, Rick asked, again, “Do you really think we should help Clay?”

This time, his question made its way through to my brain, and I answered, “Yes, I think we should.  I had a really good conversation with him the other day, and I think he has made a lot of progress.”

Rick asked, pointedly, “Are you sure you aren’t just trying to save David the heartbreak of seeing his boyfriend move on?”

I climbed into bed and looked up at my handsome husband.  “That is a factor; however, Clay admitted how wrong he had been to harass you and Phil at work.  He knows you don’t like him, and he feels sorry for treating you poorly.”

“Are you trying to apologize for him?” Rick asked, suspiciously.

I reached up and took Rick’s hand in mine, pulling him into bed with me.  “No, Babe.  Clay’s a big boy and can apologize to you directly.  He doesn’t need me to do his dirty work.  I’m just pointing out that he has expressed his regret for his past behavior.  I told him that he would have to work things out with you, if that is what he wishes to do.”

 Rick pulled me into his arms.  “I wasn’t sure.  There, for a moment, I thought you were trying to convince me to give him a second chance.”

I grinned.  “You’re right.  I do think you should give him an opportunity to apologize.”

Rick kissed me, and said, “You’re always looking for the good in people.  I wish I could be as positive as you are about people’s intentions.”

“That’s why we make a good team.  You have a healthy dose of skepticism to counteract my tendency to be too trusting,” I said, tracing the outline of his six pack abs with my fingertips.

He put his hand over mine, and said, “If you keep that up, we’ll have round three.”

I grinned impishly at him.  “That would be fine with me.”

“Well, if that’s the case, I’m going to make you work for it,” Rick said, giving me a lecherous grin.   “I’ve been doing all of the work tonight, it’s your turn.”  He rolled me on top of him, spreading his legs for me.  I lifted them over my shoulders and entered him, causing him to gasp in pleasure.   I had my husband right where I wanted him, begging me to fuck the cum out of him!  I leaned down to capture his lips, pushing my tongue into his mouth.  I wanted him to know he was totally and completely mine, in every way!

Across the hallway, David and Purev were still awake, talking.  Purev asked, “Do you think our Dads will help Mr. Henderson find a job?”

David said, “I think so.  I overheard Dad talking to his friend, Garth, about starting a new company and hiring Mr. Henderson to work for them.”

“That would be so cool!” Purev exclaimed.  “Our Dad’s so the greatest!”

David looked across the room to the other bed, where Purev lay under his blankets.  “Do you think Mark will ever be comfortable being gay?”

Purev responded, “I don’t know.  Why do you ask?”

“Dad told me I needed to be careful about becoming so attached to Mark.  He said that it’s not very often that someone’s first love actually lasts,” David said.   “He said, even if Mark’s family stays in the area, Mark may not be ready to be in an openly gay relationship with me.”

Purev asked, “Is Mark still asking you not to out him at school?”

“Yes, he is.  He wants to be in Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) and he thinks being gay will keep him from joining JROTC,” David said.  “He’s always dreamed of following in his father’s footsteps by becoming an officer in the Marine Corps.”

Purev said, “Well, Mark’s right.  They won’t let him in the military if they know he’s gay.  Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell hasn’t been repealed yet.”

“Dad said that, too.  Remember, he was in the Marine Corps when he met Daddy.  They had to wait to get married until after Dad left the military,” David said.

Purev knew the story of how David’s Dads met.  He said, “I think it’s really awesome how they met and became soul mates.  Do you think me and Gabriel are soul mates?”

David said, “I don’t know, Purev.  Gabriel’s like Mark.  He doesn’t want anyone to know he’s gay.”

“Yeah, I know Gabriel still isn’t sure if he is really gay, or not.  He’s a very macho type of guy, and loves being with his buddies in the Army JROTC program at school.  But, I don’t like being around Gabriel’s school friends, because they’re always making jokes about “faggots” and “gays” that make me feel really uncomfortable.” 

David said, “He’s just like Mark.   Gabriel only takes you to places where he won’t be seen by his buddies.  Mark does that with me, too.”

Purev said, his voice cracking, “It makes me feel bad that Gabriel feels he has to hide his relationship with me from everyone.  Maybe, we really aren’t meant to be soul mates, after all.”

David got up and walked over to Purev’s bed.  He sat down and pulled Purev into his arms.  “It’s okay, Purev.  Dad said we should enjoy ourselves, but not to get too serious with anyone, until we’re older.”

Purev nodded his head, still watering David’s bare chest with his tears.  “But, I want someone to love me, for who I am, David.”

“I do too, Purev.  Someday, we’ll find Mr. Right,” David said, repeating his Dad’s words to his friend.

Purev dried his tears, and said, “Thank you for being my friend, David.”

David said, “You’re welcome.  Let’s get some sleep.  We have to be up early for school.”

“Good night, David,” Purev said.

“Good night, Purev,” he replied, returning to his own bed.

The next morning, Kyle woke up to find his Dads sitting on his bed.  Kyle looked up, surprised to see them in his room.   Normally, he was the one who went to their room to wake them up.  He sat up, and asked, “What’s up?”

I leaned over and kissed his cheek.  “We need you to pull on some clothes and join us in our room.”

Kyle asked, “Why?  What’s wrong?  Is it Grandpa?”  He knew that Grandpa Nielsen was in the hospital again.  He had been making good progress in the nursing home.  His paralysis was completely gone and he had begun making some sounds that were kind of like talking, but not quite.  Then, Grandpa had another stroke.

Rick said, “Just come as quickly as you can.”

We left Kyle’s room and walked down the hall to wake the rest of the children.  A few moments later, they gathered in our room, rubbing the sleep from their eyes.  I picked up my cell phone and dialed my mother’s number.

“Mom,” I said.

She asked, “Glenn, are the children ready?”

“Yes, they are all here,” I replied.   “I’ve got the phone on speaker now, Mom.”

“Children, I’m sorry that we had to get you out of bed so early, but Grandpa isn’t doing well.  He wanted to hear your voices one last time,” she said.   “I’ve got the phone on speaker here, as well.   I’ll voice his answers to your questions.”

Kyle said, “Hi Grandpa.  You’re not giving up, are you?”

“No, but my body has given up on me, Kyle,” Mom read from Dad’s board.

“I love you, Grandpa.  I’m going to miss talking to you about my day at school,” Kyle said, tears rolling down his cheeks.

“I’ll miss that, as well.  I love you, too,” Mom voiced for my Dad.

David said, “Grandpa, I love you.  I’ll never forget the many times you helped me tear things apart, only to rebuild them.  Thank you for understanding me.”

“I will always be there for you, in your heart,” Mom read from Dad’s board.

“Grandpa, I love you.  I made several new drawings for you,” Ashley said.

“Thank you, Ashley.  Please give them to your grandmother to keep for me.  I love you.  Thank you for being my little princess,” Mom said.

JJ and Josh came closer to the phone.  “Grandpa, you can’t die.  You promised to take us fishing,” JJ said.

“I’m sorry, JJ.  I did promise that.  I’ll have to get your Dads to take you in my place,” Mom responded for Dad, her voice thick with tears.

Josh said, “We love you, Grandpa.   We’ll catch the biggest fish for you.  We’ll miss you.”

“I love you JJ and Josh,” Mom read from Dad’s board.

Purev said, “Grandpa, thank you for all of your advice.  I love you.”

Mom read, “I love you, Purev.  Always keep your head up.”

Rick said, “Dad, we love you.”

I said, “Dad, we’ll miss you.  Thank you for being there for us.”

Mom read, “I love you, Glenn and Rick.   You’re wonderful husbands and fathers.  I’m proud of you both.  Thank you for sharing your lives with me, especially after how poorly I treated you.”

Mom continued, “Dad wants to speak to the rest of the family, so we’ll say good bye for now.  We love all of you very much.  I’ll call you later, boys.”

She ended the call.  Kyle walked over and threw himself into my arms.   His body shook with the overwhelming grief he felt.  I held him tight, and said, “It’s okay to cry.”

Ashley walked over to her Dad and said, “I need a hug, Dad.”

Rick pulled her onto his lap and she laid her head on his shoulder.  “I’m going to miss Grandpa.”

“Me, too,” JJ said.

“We all will,” I said, beckoning the boys to join us in a group hug.  There were tears in everybody’s eyes.

After a while, Kyle pulled back and said, “I’m good now, Daddy.   I’m going to get ready for school.”

He stood up and walked over to Rick to give him a hug.  Rick could see Kyle was still very upset.  Rick asked, “Do you need to stay home, today?”

Kyle shook his head.  “No, I’ll be alright.”

I asked, “Do any of you need to stay home from school, today?”

David and Purev shook their heads.   “We’re okay, Daddy.”

Ashley said, “I’d rather be at school, instead of waiting here at home.”

I nodded my head.  “You’re right about that Ashley.  It’s better to be busy than to sit here, worrying and waiting.”

She kissed her father’s cheek, and stood up.   “I’m going to get ready for school.”

She left the room, followed by David and Purev.  I looked at the twins and said, “Okay boys.  Let’s get out of your pajamas, then we’ll have breakfast.”

Josh asked, “May we have pancakes?”

“Yes, if you help me make them,” I said.

Josh shouted, as he ran to his room, “Hurray!  We’re having pancakes for breakfast!”

JJ followed him, at a slower pace.  Rick and I took a quick shower and got dressed for the day.  We walked into the kitchen to find David and Josh making pancakes.  I walked over and kissed David on the cheek.  “Thank you for cooking breakfast.”

David grinned.  “No problem, Daddy.”

We were soon joined by the boys and Ashley.  When everyone was seated around the table, we held hands and said grace.  Rick thanked God for our food and asked God to bless Dad, that his passing would be made easy and that he would be received into Heaven.  We ate our breakfast in silence.

We had just finished cleaning up the dishes, when my cell phone rang.  It was my mother.   “Hello, Mom.”

“Glenn, your father passed away a few minutes ago.  He was at peace.  He spoke with all of his children and grandchildren this morning before he left us,” she said.

“Did he call and talk to Johnny?” I asked.  Johnny is my 9-year old half-brother.  He has been spending every summer with my parents since he was two years old.  His mother, Renata, had an affair with my Dad while my parents were separated; and, of course, Renata got pregnant!

“Yes, he did.  Johnny is a dear boy, and I’ve come to love him as one of my own, despite the circumstances of his birth,” she said.  “Now, with your Dad’s passing, he will need a father figure in his life.  Maybe you and your brothers can work out something between the four of you to fill that void in little Johnny’s life.”

It was typical of my mother to always think of others, even during a time of loss like this.  I smiled through my tears.  “Yes, Mom, I think we can arrange to be there for Johnny.”

“Thanks, Glenn.  I knew I could count on you,” she said.  “I will call you with the funeral arrangements later today.”

Covering the phone with my hand, I asked Rick, “When will we leave for St. Catharines?”

“Tomorrow,” he said.

I spoke into the phone, “Mom, we’ll be there tomorrow.”

“Thank you for coming so quickly,” she said, her voice choked with tears.  “I need my family around me right now.”

“I know, Mom,” I said.  “We’ll see you tomorrow.”

“I love you,” she said.

“I love you, too, Mom,” I responded.  She ended the call, and I turned to the children.  “All of you need to get your homework assignments for the rest of the week.   I’ll write notes for each of you explaining the situation.  Please bring me your agendas.” 

Fairfax County Public Schools provides each child in the school system with a planner to keep track of assignments, projects, etc.  It’s also the vehicle for sending information to the school.  Of course, I call the schools, as well!

The teenagers quickly disappeared upstairs to retrieve their back packs, returning moments later.  I wrote notes for each one of them, finishing just as Jeff walked in the door to take them to school.

Seeing our sad faces, he asked, “What’s wrong?”

I said, “My father passed away this morning.”

“I’m sorry, Glenn,” Jeff said, giving me a hug.  “When are we leaving?”

Rick said, “Early tomorrow morning.”

Jeff looked across at Rick, “I’ll make sure everything is taken care of here.”

Rick nodded his head.  “Thanks, Jeff.  I appreciate all you do for us.”

“Not a problem, boss,” Jeff said, grinning.  “Cole and I will drive up with you.”

Rick met Jeff’s gaze, and asked, “Is there something you want to tell us?”

Before Jeff could answer him, Cole walked up behind him, placing his arms around his waist.  He said, “Good morning.”

I said, “Good morning, Cole.”

Rick responded, “Good morning.”

Jeff leaned back into Cole’s chest, and said, “I asked Cole to marry me, last night.”

“Of course, I said, ‘yes,’ and we want to be married as soon as possible,” Cole said.

Rick and I chorused, “Congratulations!” 

“We were going to ask for a week off to get married, but since we’re travelling to St. Catharines, anyway, we won’t need the time off,” Jeff said.  “We can get married while we’re there.”

I said, “We’re very happy for you both.  It will help make it easier for us to handle Dad’s funeral by celebrating such a happy occasion.”

Cole looked at me, and said, “I’m sorry, Glenn.  I didn’t know your father had passed.”

I said, “That’s alright, Cole.  We just found out ourselves just before you guys arrived to drive the kids to school.  Mom will call us back with the funeral arrangements.  Meanwhile, we’ve written notes to the school informing them the children will be out of school the rest of the week.”

Jeff said, “We’re leaving first thing in the morning for St. Catharines.”

Cole nodded his head, and said, “Good.  Glenn, do you know what we’ll need to get our marriage license?”

I grinned at him.  “I sure do.  I’ll print out the list of requirements for you.”

“No, need to do that,” Jeff said.  “I’ve already done the research.”

Cole said, “I should have known you had it all under control.”

Jeff turned around in Cole’s arms, and kissed him.  “It’s my job to take care of those I love.”

Caroline entered the kitchen, and said, impatiently, “Daddy, we’re going to be late.”

Jeff laughed.  “I think this is the first time you’ve wanted to get to school on time.”

Caroline glared at her father.  “No, it’s not.  I just want to get there early, so I can meet Thomas before class.”

Jeff said, “Okay, let’s go.”

Cole released him, and they left the kitchen, followed by Caroline.  We walked with them to the door.  Jeff said, “We’ll see you guys in a couple of hours.  We’ll finish our preparations for the trip, when we get back.”

Our teens each gave us a hug and kiss, as they filed past us to join Jeff and Cole.  We returned to the kitchen to find the twins waiting for us.

JJ said, “May we play dress up?”

Josh added, “We haven’t played dress up for a long time, Daddy.”

I looked at Rick and said, “Okay, we can play dress up this morning.  We can do our school work with Cammy and Skye this afternoon.”

Rick said, “You’d better call Zach and Todd to let them know about Dad.”

“I’ll do that after we play dress up.  You know how they like to sleep in when we’re not doing morning lessons,” I said, smiling at my husband.

Rick said, “I know.  I made the mistake of calling Zach one morning, while you were in Austin two weeks ago.”

My cell phone rang, and I grabbed it from my pocket.  I answered it, “Clay, what’s up?”

“Glenn, I’m going stir crazy just sitting around the house.  Do you think I could meet with you and Rick?”

I looked over at Rick and asked, “Are you up for a meeting with Clay?”

Rick thought it over for a few minutes.  “I guess.  Where does he want to meet?”

I asked, “Where do you propose to meet us?”

“Do you mind coming here?” he asked.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” I said.  “How about we meet you for breakfast at IHOP (International House of Pancakes)?”

“Okay, there’s an IHOP near me in Kingstowne.  Is that okay?” he asked.

“Sure,” I replied.  “The twins will love getting a second breakfast.  I think they must have been born hobbits, because they never stop eating.”

Clay laughed.  “I would love to meet your boys.  Mark has told me so much about them.”

“Are you speaking to Mark?” I asked, in surprise.

“Yes, I’ve let him know that I’m okay with his sexual orientation.  I decided I wanted to have a relationship with my son, rather than stand on my religious principles,” Clay said.

“Well, that is good news.   We’ll see you at IHOP about 10:00 AM,” I said.

“Great!” Clay exclaimed, and ended the call.

I dialed Jeff.  Cole answered Jeff’s phone.  “Hey, Glenn!”

I replied, “Hey, yourself, Cole!”

He asked, “What’s up?”

I said, “We’ve had a change of plans for the morning.  We need you and Jeff to meet us at the IHOP in Kingstowne at 10:00 AM.   We’re meeting Clay for breakfast.”

Cole gave a low whistle.  “Wow!  Do you want me to tell David?”

“Sure.  I’m sure he would find out from Mark, anyway,” I said.  “Apparently, Clay has decided his religious beliefs shouldn’t interfere with his relationship with his son.”

Cole responded, “It’s about time he got his act together.  Mark is such a great kid.  He deserves to have a father who accepts him for who he is.”

“Well, we’ll see you guys at IHOP,” I said.  I ended the call and turned to Rick.  “I guess we’ll see what the man has to say.”

Rick put his arm around my waist, pulling me close.  He kissed me, and said, “Let’s go play dress up.”

We left the kitchen to find that the twins had already pulled out the dress up clothes, and were sorting through them.  Josh found some swimming flippers, a Cubs baseball cap, and a jacket.   He put them on and added a pair of sunglasses to his costume.

He walked over to me and said, “I’m Josh the Super Duck!”

I laughed, and said, “I’ve got to have a photo of this one.”  I ran upstairs to grab my camera.  I returned and snapped photo of our very own Super Duck!

Meanwhile, JJ pulled out his leopard Halloween costume.  He slipped off his shoes and pulled it on over the top of his clothes.  He put his shoes back on and meticulously retied his shoes.   He growled ferociously and started chasing our Super Duck around the room.  

I got him as he ran past me.  I said, “Before you keep chasing your brother, I want to take your picture.”  I stood him in front of the couch and said, “Don’t move.”  I stepped back and focused the camera on him.   I snapped the shot, and he was off, chasing Josh around the room.

Rick pulled me down on the couch and wrapped his arms around me.   “Let them play for a while.  We don’t need to be anywhere for a couple of hours yet.”

I leaned back against his chest.  I lightly caressed his arms where they crossed my stomach, holding me close to him.  He nibbled on my ear, and whispered, “I love you.”

I turned my head to meet his lips in a tender kiss.  “Thank you for holding me close, Babe.   I need your touch.  I didn’t think Dad’s passing would upset me as much as it has.  I knew things weren’t going well and I thought I was prepared to hear of his death; but it’s really shaken me, Rick.”

“I know how you feel, Babe.  My Dad’s passing really bothered me,” Rick said, lifting my shirt and placing his hands flat against my chest.  The feel of his body against mine gave me comfort.

The tears started rolling down my face, as the reality of Dad’s death hit me.  “I’m going to miss him, Rick,” I said, my voice thick with tears.

Rick removed his hands from my shirt, and turned me around so I sat straddling him.  He pulled me to him and I buried my face in his chest, soaking his shirt with my tears. 

I mumbled into his shirt, “I wish we could have been closer to him.”

“Given where we live, we shared as much of our lives with him as we could, and our children benefited from knowing their grandfather.  We visited with your parents on most holidays and every summer,” Rick said.

I leaned back in his arms, and looked him in the eyes.  “I know we’ve done the best we could.  I’m just feeling the loss of a parent.  I remember how you felt, when you found out your Dad was gone.  I’m not feeling quite the loss you did, because I’ve been able to patch things up with Dad over the years.  So, I guess I shouldn’t feel so bad.”

Rick reached up and wiped away my tears with his thumbs, then he pulled my head down to meet his lips.  He kissed me and rubbed noses with me.  “I’m here for you, Babe.”

I wrapped my arms around his neck and buried my face in his shoulder.  A few minutes later, I felt two pairs of small hands patting my back.  I lifted my head and met JJ’s deep brown eyes. 

He gave me a worried look.  “Daddy, are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m okay, son,” I replied.

Josh patted my arm, to get my attention.  “But, you’re crying, Daddy.  Why are you so sad?”

I turned to look into his sparkling, sapphire blue eyes.  “I’m crying, because I miss Grandpa.”

“Grandpa said he was just going away for a little while.  He said we would see him again,” Josh said, seriously.  “He said he believed we would be together again in Paradise.”

“When did he say that?” I asked.

“When we visited him last time,” JJ said.  It amazed me that JJ had remembered what Dad had told him, as it had been nearly a month since we had driven to St. Catharines to visit Dad in the nursing home.

Josh spoke up, “Yes, Daddy, Grandpa told us that Paradise is a very nice place and he would wait for us there.”

JJ interrupted his brother, “But, Kyle said we are going to live together as families forever with God.  Kyle thinks his Mom and Dad are already there with his Grandma.”

I looked at Rick in surprise.  My two little guys were turning out to be quite the authorities on life after death!  I overheard Kyle talking about it with David and Ashley a few days ago, but I was unaware the twins had been part of that conversation, as well. 

I smiled at JJ, and said, “Well, I think we’ll have to talk more about where we go after death at another time.”

JJ said, “Okay.”  His brow furrowed and he said, earnestly, “Will we see Mommy soon?” 

“Yes, we’ll see her this week.   She and your cousins will be in St. Catharines for Grandpa’s funeral,” I replied. 

We have been very open with our boys about who their mother is.  We feel it’s important for them to have a connection with my sister as their mother.  Nancy’s love for us has increased over the years since the twins’ birth, because we’ve made her a part of their lives. 

Satisfied with my answer, he jumped down and said, “I’m hungry, Daddy.  May we have a snack?”

I shook my head.  “No, son.  We’re going to have a second breakfast at IHOP.  You can have pancakes and sausage when we get to the restaurant.”

“Okay,” JJ said.  He looked at his twin, and said, “Let’s watch Thomas the Tank Engine.”

Rick said, “Put your dress up clothes back in their tub, before turning on the television.”  They quickly did as they were told, and were soon sitting in front of the television, watching their favorite show.

An hour or so later, we entered the restaurant to find Clay waiting for us in the lobby.  He stood up and greeted us with a handshake.  “Thank you for agreeing to meet with me.”

I said, “Let me introduce you to our twins.  This is JJ and this is Josh.”

Clay looked at them both and smiled, noticing how closely the resembled their Dads.  “Hello, boys!   I’m glad to meet you.”

JJ looked up at Clay, and asked, “Are you Mark’s Dad?”

“Yes, I’m Mark’s Dad,” Clay responded.

Josh said, “Good, because we like Mark.”

“And Michaela,” JJ added.  “But she doesn’t like to play video games with us like Mark does.”

Clay laughed.  “I’m glad to hear that you like Mark.  I think he’s pretty special, too.”

Rick said, “This is our chief of security, Jeff Dunn and his fiancé, Cole Moran.”

Clay looked at them and hesitated a moment before extending his hand to them.  “Nice to meet you,” he said.

The hostess signaled that our table was ready.  We followed her to our table.  She was a petite Asian lady, with a bright smile and heavily accented English.  Her name tag read, “Myong.”  She asked, “Do you want booster seats for the boys?”I nodded my head.  “Yes, please.  That will make it easier for them to reach the table.”

She left us and returned a few minutes later with two booster seats.  We soon had the twins settled, and turned to looking at our menus.  She asked, “What can I get you to drink?”  I ordered milk for the boys, with orange juice and water for me and Rick.  The other guys placed their orders, and she left us to look over the menu. 

JJ asked, “How many pancakes may I have?”

Rick countered, “How many can you eat?”

JJ thought for a minute, then answered his father, “I think I can eat four little pancakes like these.”  He pointed to the children’s menu.  “Or I can eat two big ones like this one.”  He opened the menu to the page with the normal menu items were listed.

Rick said, “Okay, let’s order two small pancakes for you and I’ll give you my pancakes.”

Josh said, “May I have your pancakes, too, Daddy?”

I grinned at the eagerness in his voice.  I could always count on Josh being hungry!  “Sure, son, you can have my pancakes.”  He clapped his hands in excitement.  He turned to Clay, and said, “David and Mark like to make pancakes for us.”

“Yes, they make delicious chocolate chip pancakes,” JJ added, not wanting to be left out of the conversation.

Clay smiled at their excited little faces.  “Has anyone ever told you that you look like your Dads?”

JJ replied, “Yes, all the time.”

I met Clay’s glance, and smiled.  “Yes, we often hear that from people.”

Our waitress returned with our beverages.  Rick ordered his usual omelet with a side of pancakes for JJ.  I ordered the sampler.  I love my eggs over easy, so I can dip my toast in the yolk and eat it with my sausages and hash brown potatoes.

Clay ordered pancakes; while Jeff and Cole followed Rick’s example, ordering omelets.  Myong left us, and I distracted the twins with the games and crayons provided for them by the restaurant, while Rick got down to business.

“Well, Clay, what is it that you wanted to say to us?” Rick asked, holding Clay’s gaze.

Clay said, “I want to apologize to you for the way I treated you at the Pentagon.  I was wrong, and I’ve learned the hard way just how wrong.  I was too wrapped up in trying to impress the guys to pay attention to what was really important.”

Rick asked, “What was it that was so important?”

Clay looked out the window, then back to Rick.  “I wasn’t smart enough to realize that my religious beliefs had no place in our work environment.  I should have put them on the shelf, and listened to my superior officers’ warnings.  I was too blinded by my macho attitude to admit that a gay guy could be the most important person on my team.”

“Okay…,” Rick said, drawing out the word.  “So, where does that leave us?”

Clay said, “I’m sorry I messed with you and your family.  I’ve had time to rethink my opinion of gays, and I admit I’m still struggling with the concept of two guys being married to each other, no offense intended.”  He glanced at the four of us.

Jeff said, “None taken, as long as you don’t mind us saying we don’t understand how a guy could seriously think being with a woman is enjoyable.”  Clay looked thunderstruck.   He hadn’t expected Jeff’s response.

Jeff continued, “I’m divorced, with three children.  I was miserable the entire time I was married to my wife.  She made my life a living hell.  Since I’ve been with Cole, he has restored my faith in the human race.  I’ve never been happier.”

Clay nodded his head.  “I know the feeling, at least the part about your ex-wife making your life hell.  Janelle has made it clear she wants nothing to do with me.”

I said, “However, we know that she loves you.”

Clay looked at me in shock.  “How do you know that?”

“Because she has asked us to assist you.  She doesn’t want you to suffer any more than you already have,” I said.

“I didn’t know she had talked to you about me, other than to ask you to help me find a job,” Clay said.

Rick said, “You forget that we have come to know your family very well over the last few months.”

Clay nodded his head.  “You’re right.  Things haven’t been able to return to normal because of my issues with gays.  Janelle told me she wanted nothing to do with me, as long as I couldn’t accept my son.”  Here he paused and looked out the window.  Turning back to us, he said, “I want to have a good relationship with my son; but, I’m unsure how to move forward.  I’ve talked to him a couple of times over the last few days, but I’ve avoided the subject of his sexuality.”

“Are you asking for our advice?” Jeff asked.

Clay nodded his head.  He met Jeff’s eyes.  “I’ve made a royal mess of everything, and I don’t know where to start.”

“Start by being honest with him,” Jeff said.

“I’m afraid I’ll drive him away from me, if I tell him how I feel about gays,” Clay said.

“Why don’t you start by telling us how you feel about gays?  I’m interested to see where you are,” Jeff said, his expression hard as steel.

Clay flinched, but held Jeff’s gaze.  “I’m okay with gays, as long as they don’t force their ways on me.”

“So, as long as none of us tries to fuck you, you’re okay,” Jeff said, bluntly.

Clay said, “That’s right; however, I’m struggling to accept the fact that my son is gay.  At first, I blamed the Campbells and you guys for influencing Mark.  But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Mark has been gay all of his life.  It doesn’t make it any easier for me to accept, though.”

Cole said, “At least you’ve recognized that being gay is who he is.  My parents tried to convince me being gay was a choice.  It’s not a choice.  Why would anyone choose to be gay?  Society, in general, hates us and treats us very poorly.  Why would anyone want to voluntarily choose that kind of life?”

Clay said, “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

Our food arrived, and we dived in.  By the time I finished my eggs, the twins were finished with their pancakes and were looking for more.  I passed my pancakes to JJ, helping him pour the syrup.  Rick gave his to Josh, assisting him by cutting the pancakes into bite-sized pieces.

Jeff asked, “So, what kind of work can you do?”

Clay said, “I’m pretty good at setting up secure networks.  I’ve also worked on several highly visible projects for the Marine Corps.”

Rick said, “Please explain.”  Clay went over his credentials and work experience.  When he finished, Rick said, “Good.  I’m glad to see you’re honest about your work experience.  We’ve already checked out your resume with the Marine Corps and vetted you with some of our clients.”

Clay looked at Rick in astonishment.  “I didn’t think you would even give me the time of day, after the way I treated you.”

Rick laughed.  “You don’t know how persistent your wife is.  Janelle can be pretty persuasive.”

Clay grinned.  “I do know.  I also know how stubborn she can be.”

“Well, Garth had you checked out pretty thoroughly,” Rick said.  He met Clay’s eyes, and asked, “Do you mind if I ask you a very personal question?”

Clay answered, “Sure, go ahead.”

“How are you doing with your therapy?” Rick asked.

Clay looked down at his plate, before responding to Rick’s question.  “I’m making good progress, but I’m not completely recovered from my issues resulting from my tour of duty in Afghanistan.”

Rick said, “What does the Marine Corps think?”

“They said that I was well on my way to getting better.  I think they just wanted to discharge me as soon as possible,” Clay said, with bitterness showing in his voice.  “They basically washed their hands of me.”

“Do you think you could handle a high pressure job?” Rick asked, seriously.

Clay didn’t respond for a long time.  He wasn’t sure he could.  “I’m not sure I could, Rick.  Honestly, I think I’m capable; but, after what happened, I’m not sure.  I have to be upfront with you, Rick.  I’m a broken man and I’m not sure what I’m good for, anymore.” 

As he looked away from us, I could see his eyes were bright with unshed tears.  This was a man who seemed to be on the edge of a mental and emotional breakdown.  It was very evident that his emotions were very near the surface.

I looked over at Rick.  He took my hand in his, giving it a gentle squeeze.  He said, “I think we can provide you with employment.  Garth has a need for someone to write project proposals for his new company.  I think you would do very well, given your experience.”

Clay smiled, gratefully.  “I’m glad you think so.”

Our waitress brought our bill.  We paid for our breakfast.  As we left the restaurant, Rick said, “Garth will be in touch with you before the end of the week.  Unfortunately, we have to leave for Canada in the morning, so I won’t be available to meet with you.  But, you already know Garth and Phil, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”

Clay nodded his head.  “Thanks for meeting with me.”

We shook hands, and went our separate ways.  We returned to the house, and were met by Zach and Todd.  Todd pulled me into his arms, and said, “I’m so sorry.”  He held me tight for a long moment, before releasing me.

Zach asked, “How are you holding up, Glenn?”

I replied, “I’m okay at the moment.  I’m sure I’ll be a basket case later, but I’m doing fine now.”

Rick asked, “Are you guys traveling to St. Catharines with us?”

Todd nodded his head.  “Yes, I’ll be driving up, but Zach will have to fly up, after his game.  Your mother called with the funeral arrangements, Glenn.  I wrote them down on the notepad by the phone.”

“Thanks, Todd.  I love you,” I said.

Todd grinned.  “I know you do.”

I laughed, and said, “Let’s plan what we’ll need for the trip.”

We gathered around the kitchen table and made our plans.  Jeff had already made up a list of things that needed to be done.  We added things to his list, then divided the tasks between us and set about getting things done.  It was good to be busy, because it kept my mind off of the upcoming funeral!

David met Mark at the door to their math class.  Mark was grinning from ear to ear.  “Your Dads met with my Dad today.  Dad thinks they’re going to hire him.”

David high fived his boyfriend.  “Cool!  Now, maybe your Mom will decide to stay here, instead of moving to Texas.”

Mark’s smile quickly disappeared from his face.  “I don’t understand why Mom wants to go running home to her parents.”  The thought of running home to Mommy with his problems was the last thing his 14-year old mind could fathom.  In his mind, only sissies and pansies ran home to tell their Mommies all their problems. 

The Campbells knew he was gay and he had been open with them about it from their first meeting; but Mark had told his mother he was gay only because he couldn’t hide the fact from her, with David spending so much time with him.  She had seen them holding hands and kissing, so he had answered her question truthfully, when she confronted him about being gay. 

It irritated him that she was using him as an excuse to divorce his father.  Not that his father wasn’t deserving of being left out of their lives, after what he’d done; but Mark felt his mother should be honest about the reasons she was divorcing his father.  He had barely spoken to her since she announced her plans to divorce his father and the reasons for doing so.  He had expressed his feelings about her excuse for leaving his Dad, only to be told that she was doing it to protect him.  It made him very angry that she was putting the burden on his shoulders, blaming him for his parents’ divorce.  She claimed she accepted him as gay and said the right words, but she sure knew how to play a guilt trip on him, telling him that her reason for divorcing her husband was because he was gay and needed to be protected from him.

As the two boys walked into the classroom to take their seats, he turned to David and said, “I want to come live with you, David.  I don’t want to live with my mother.”

David looked at Mark in surprise.  “Why?”

“Because she is just as prejudiced against gays as my Dad.  She tries to pretend she’s okay with me having a boyfriend, but is really trying to take me away from you, by moving to Texas.   She even blames me for her divorce,” Mark said.

“Well, you can talk to my Dads about it,” David said.

“May I come over tonight?” Mark asked.

David said, “I’ll text my Dads.”

Meanwhile, the class started with the teacher outlining the homework assignment for the day.  David quickly tapped out a text message to his Dad.  Rick heard his phone chirp and pulled it out of his pocket.  He read the message, and looked over at me.

“Are you okay with Mark and Gabriel coming over to help the boys pack?” he asked.

“Sure, as long as they don’t stay too late,” I replied, with a smile, knowing the boys wanted some alone time with their boyfriends.

Rick responded, then he called Jeff to let him know there would be two more teens joining him for the ride home and put his phone back in his pocket.  David felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, and surreptitiously pulled his phone out to read his Dad’s reply.  He looked over at Mark, giving him the thumbs up sign.  After class, Mark and David found Gabriel waiting for them in the hallway.

David asked, “Can you come over tonight?”

Gabriel said, “Sure, let me call my Mom.”  He pulled out his phone and made the call.  He grinned, as he put the phone back in his pocket.   “Mom’s cool.   I can go as long as I’m back home before ten.”

“Great!” David exclaimed.

The three boys made their way outside to find Ashley, who was already waiting on the curb for their ride.  They were surprised when Cole pulled up in his Ford Explorer. 

He rolled down the window.  “Are you guys waiting for a ride home?”

“Yes, but we thought Uncle Jeff was coming to get us,” Ashley said.

“Well, since Gabriel and Mark are coming home with us, we needed two vehicles.  Climb in, and we’ll take you home,” Cole said.

The teens climbed in, and Cole pulled away from the curb.  As soon as they were out of the parking lot, Mark leaned over to kiss David.  “I’ve wanted to kiss you all day,” he said.  He leaned closer to David’s ear, and whispered, “I want to fuck you, tonight.”

David grinned, and placed his hand on the inside of Mark’s thigh.  Gabriel noticed, and asked, “Can’t you guys wait until you get home?”

Mark grinned back at his friend.  “No, we can’t.”

A while later, Cole pulled into the driveway of our home.  The teens made their way inside, and joined Rick and I in the kitchen.  Moments later, we were joined by the Edison High School contingent, followed by Jeff and Cole.   I passed out chocolate chip cookies and glasses of milk to everyone.

Jeff smiled, as he munched on his cookies.   “Glenn, you will have to teach Cole how to make chocolate chip cookies.”

I returned his smile.  “I’m sure Cole already knows how to make you happy.  He doesn’t need to make cookies.”

Cole laughed.  “That’s true, Jeff.”

Jeff blushed, but grinned at his finance.  Caroline said, “Dad and Cole have been acting like teenagers.”

Jeff looked at her in mock horror.   “How can that be?”

Marie said, “You two are so goofy.  I only thought teenage boys acted that way.”  She looked over at the boys seated across from her.

Mark said, “I resemble that remark.”

The rest of our teenage boys laughed, and chorused, “So do we.”

Ashley said, “It’s true.  Boys are so immature.”

Caroline agreed.  “Yes, but they’re so cute.”

Purev said, “I know I’m cute.  Gabriel even said so.”

Gabriel kissed his boyfriend, then asked, “Isn’t he adorable?”

Caroline said, “Yes, he is.”

Kyle finished his cookies and milk, and stood up from the table.   He rinsed off his dishes and placed them in the dishwasher.  “I’ve got to get on my homework.”

Ashley said, “Me, too.”   She cleaned up after herself and followed Kyle out of the kitchen.  The rest of the boys weren’t far behind them, retiring to their room.

Jeff said, “We need to be getting home, as well.  We’ll see you guys in the morning.”

I stood up, and hugged both Jeff and Cole.  “Thanks for bringing the children home.”

Cole said, “Not a problem, boss.”  He turned to Jeff, giving him a quick kiss.  “I’ll see you at home.”

Caroline and Marie followed their father and his fiancé outside.  As they climbed into Jeff’s SUV, Caroline asked, “Do Marie and I get to be in your wedding?”

Jeff looked at her in surprise.  “Why, of course.  What made you think you wouldn’t be?”

“Well, we weren’t sure, because you’re both guys, and won’t you have two best men to stand up with you, instead of bridesmaids?” Caroline asked.

Jeff said, “Well, I hadn’t thought of it that way; but, I want you both to be groom’s maids for me.  Is that okay?”

Marie giggled.  “I’ve never heard of groom’s maids before.”

“Well, there is always a first time for everything,” Jeff said, smiling at his daughters.  “I want both of you to part of our wedding.”

When they arrived at their apartment, Cole said, “Dinner is ready.  I put our dinner in the slow cooker this morning.”

The girls set the table, while served up the food:  roast beef, potatoes, carrots and a green salad.  After dinner, Caroline said, “I’m glad you came to live with us, Cole.  You’re a much better cook than Dad is.”

Jeff agreed.  “Yes, I’m glad I finally met someone who can cook!”  He leaned over and kissed his lover.  “Thank you for everything you do for us, Babe.”

Cole smiled, and said, “You all make me so happy, it’s the least I can do for my wonderful family.”

Marie walked over and wrapped her arms around Cole’s neck from behind him.  “I wish I’d found you first, because you’re so handsome.”  She kissed him in the cheek.  “I’m glad you’re marrying my Dad.”

Cole said, “I’m glad he agreed to marry me.”

Jeff said, “We’ll clean up, while you two get your homework done.”  Each of the girls gave their dad a hug, and left the kitchen.  Cole stood at the sink and washed the dishes, while Jeff dried them and put them away.

When they were finished, Jeff said, “I need some one-on-one time with my guy.”  He took Cole’s hand, and led him to their bedroom.  He closed the door, locking it behind him.  He pulled Cole to him, and kissed him deeply.

He whispered, huskily, into Cole’s ear, “I want you to fuck me.”

Cole stripped off his clothes, then did the same for Jeff.  He led him to their bed, pushing Jeff down on the mattress.  He lifted Jeff’s legs over his shoulders, looking deeply into Jeff’s eyes.  “Make me yours, Cole.”

Cole grinned, and said, “Are you ready?”

Jeff nodded his head, and Cole proceeded to make wildly passionate love to his boyfriend!

Sated, Mark held David in his arms.  He looked across the room and met Gabriel’s eyes.  Gabriel grinned.  “That was really hot, seeing you two fuck.”

Mark grinned back at him.  “Yes, that was pretty awesome, watching you fuck Purev.”

David said, “It felt great to me.  I wish you could come with us to Canada.”

Mark said, “Maybe I can.  I’ll ask my Mom, after I talk to my Dad.”

Gabriel asked, “Are you sure you want to talk to your Dad?”

“Yes, I need to talk about what Mom is doing.  At least, he’s been honest about his feelings toward me,” Mark said.

Purev said, “Mark, you need to give your Mom credit for not siding with your Dad; and disowning you, like my mother did, at first.”

Mark said, “I think what she’s doing is worse than throwing me out of her house.  She’s putting on a happy face and telling me she loves me; but, in reality she doesn’t because she thinks that taking me away from David will force me to be straight.  I overheard her talking to Mrs. Campbell about it.  I thought she really accepted me for who I am, until I heard her say she couldn’t believe I was really gay.  She said it had to be a phase I was going through, a period of rebelliousness because of my father’s harsh discipline in our home.”

David smoothed Mark’s blond hair, trying to sooth his boyfriend.  “I’m sure she still loves you, Mark.” 

Mark asked, “How do you know?”

“Because she’s a nice person,” David said.

Mark snorted, expressing his disbelief, “I really don’t think so.”

Gabriel said, “Do you want us to listen, while you call your Dad?”

“No, I want to talk to him alone,” Mark said.  He got out of bed, and padded into the en suite, turning on the shower.  David joined him under the water, kissing him.  They finished washing each other clean and got out of the shower.  They dried each other off, and got dressed. 

Mark said, “I’m going downstairs to call my Dad.”

David said, “The twins will be watching their show, so you can use their room, instead, or I’m sure you could use my Dads’ room.”

David led him to his Dads’ room, and opened the door.  Mark walked in and sat down in front of the fireplace, while David closed the door and returned to his room.

Mark pulled out his cell phone, and dialed his Dad’s number.  “Hey, Mark!” his Dad answered, enthusiastically.

“Hey, Dad,” Mark said.  “I need to talk to you about Mom.”

Clay said, “Okay, shoot.”

Mark explained everything he had overheard his mother tell Mrs. Campbell and how he felt about it.  Mark ended by asking, “How do you feel about me being?  Be honest with me, Dad.  Don’t lie to me like Mom has.”

Clay thought for a moment, then said, “To honest, I’m struggling to accept the fact that my son is gay.  I’ve blamed myself, the Campbells, David and his Dads, and I’ve blamed your mother.  I keep going over everything we have done for you, wondering where we went wrong.  I keep telling myself that you’re just doing this to get back at me for hitting your mother.  Believe me, I’ve tried to come to terms with it.”

Mark’s heart sank, as he heard his dad explain his feelings.  “Do you hate gays?”

Clay sensed that this question was a litmus test, and knew he had better get it right.  “No, I don’t hate gays, anymore.  I used to detest them and viewed them as sinners and an abomination in God’s eyes.  I thought it was my duty to harass them and to demean them in any way possible.  I learned I was very wrong about gays through hard experiences.  First, I messed on the job and ruined my career by being bigoted.  Then, I learned firsthand, how honorable and compassionate David’s Dads are.  They have every right to hate me, but have shown me every kindness possible, given my current situation.  They are good people and I’m sure every other gay man is a good person, as well, NOT an abomination like my religion taught me.  I can’t continue to hate gays, and be true to myself.”

Mark listened intently to his Dad’s rambling.  “So, can you still love me, even though I’m gay?”

“Yes, I still love you, and I promise you I won’t try to change you, or force you to become something you’re not,” Clay said.  “If you want me to talk to your mother about it, I will.”

“She won’t speak to you,” Mark said.

“No, not directly, but I’ll have my lawyer speak to hers about taking you away from her to protect you from her attempts to change your sexual orientation,” Clay said.  “Is that okay with you?”

Mark said, “Yes, I don’t to live with her, anymore; but you have to promise you won’t turn on me, like you did my Mom.”

Mark’s request pierced Clay’s heart.  He couldn’t deny that he had betrayed his family by breaking his vow to cherish and protect them.  “I promise to do my best to protect you from anyone who would do you harm, including myself,” he said.

Mark gave a huge sigh of relief.  “Thanks, Dad.  I was worried I would need to stay with David’s Dads, like Purev, if you rejected me.  I love them, but I would rather be with my own family.”

Clay smiled, tears clouding his vision.   He said, “I’m glad you want to be with me, son.  It’s been really hard for me, since your mother served me with divorce papers.”

Mark said, “It’s been pretty miserable for me and Michaela.  The Campbells have tried to help us, but Mom is nearly impossible to deal with, anymore.”

“I’m sorry we’re putting you through all of this,” Clay.  “I promise to do my best to make things better.”

“Okay, Dad.  I love you,” Mark said.

“I love you, too, son,” Clay said.  “Have a good night.”

“You, too,” Mark said.  He ended the call and stood up.  He went searching for his boyfriend.  He found him in his bedroom, packing the last of his clothing into a duffle bag.

David looked up and met Mark’s eyes.  “How did it go?” he asked, already knowing the answer from Mark’s happy face.

Mark embraced him, and kissed him.  “We’re good.  He’s going to talk to Mom, and he’s going to tell her I’m going to live with him.”

David said, “Are you going to ask your Mom if you can go to Canada with us.”

“No, I don’t think I should.  I want to be there to tell Mom I’m serious about living with Dad, when she gets the news from her lawyer,” Mark said.

David nodded his head, “Okay, but you have to call me to let me know how things go.”

“Okay,” Mark agreed.

The boys walked hand in hand out of the room and down the stairs to join Gabriel and Purev in the family room.

Prev To be continued . . .