One Door Closes

By MultiMapper
Copyright ©2002-2009 MultiMapper and CSU Productions.
All Rights Reserved.

For full disclaimer and Copyright information visit Copyright/Disclaimer Page. Continuation of viewing this document is deemed acceptance of all terms on the preceding link. While these stories are provided for free, I would appreciate it if those who were able would consider contributing to this artist via my Patreon.

Chapter 40

As Vincent walked with Gabe and Adam toward the tables, he noticed that Lawrence was watching him.

"I need to talk to my brother for a few minutes. When I'm done I'll come back and sit with you." Vincent said seriously.

"We'll save you a seat." Adam said softly.

Vincent looked at Adam and realized that after how he had behaved, that Adam's gesture was incredibly kind.

"Thank you Adam, I appreciate it." Vincent said as he looked Adam in the eyes to convey his sincerity.

Adam smiled and nodded that he understood.

* * * * *

The silence in the study was broken as Sean's frustration finally erupted, "Maybe we should ask Mom or Uncle Chip about this. I feel like we're just going in circles."

"I think before we do that, we should talk with Kenny and Kevin and find out what they want to do." Cory said seriously.

"But we don't know what we *can* do until we've finished digging through this legal mumbo jumbo." Sean said as he looked up from his padd.

Cory thought about the statement for a moment, then said, "Let's find out what they want to do, then work to make it happen. I think we'll be in here all night if we try to trace out every legal pathway that's open to us."

"You're the patriarch." Sean said with a smile as he turned off his padd.

"That's not all I am." Cory said with a playful twinkle in his eye.

Sean recognized Cory's expression and quickly said, "Oh no. We're at Uncle Chip's house. We can do that at home."

"Don't you love me anymore?" Cory asked with his best pouting expression.

Sean broke into a smile at the sight and said, "You know I do, now and forever."

"Show me." Cory said in a seductive whisper.

* * * * *

"Can I talk to you for a few minutes?" Vincent asked Lawrence firmly.

"Sure." Lawrence said as he stood from his father's side.

As Deacon stood to join them, Lawrence said, "I think this talk needs to be just the two of us."

Vincent glanced at Deacon apprehensively and nodded his agreement with the statement.

"I'll be right here if you need me." Deacon said as he looked deeply into Lawrence's eyes.

Lawrence broke into a smile and said, "I'll be right back."

After a long silent moment staring into Deacon's eyes, Lawrence turned to look at his brother expectantly.

"Is there someplace where we can talk alone?" Vincent asked impatiently.

"I doubt that anyone will be in the weight room right now. No one will bother us there." Lawrence said seriously and led the way toward the house.

* * * * *

"I think we need to start back toward the house." Jacob said with a serious tone.

"Is something wrong?" Kenny asked with concern as he pulled on his reigns to stop the horse he was sharing with his brother.

"Sort of." Jacob said distantly.

Kenny and Kevin shared a look, then Kevin asked, "Am I in trouble?"

"No, nothing like that." Jacob said as he looked past Kenny and Kevin into the distance.

Kenny noticed the distant look in Jacob's eyes, then asked, "What do you see?"

Jacob shook his head in distraction and said, "Guys, I'm going to tell you something that I probably shouldn't right now. But I think you two need to talk about this before you make any decisions."

"Is it something bad?" Kevin asked cautiously.

"It kinda depends on how you look at it. Um, I guess I'll just say it,  they found your mom. she's under arrest in Utah." Jacob said as he watched for a reaction.

"Good." Kenny said, then leaned forward to look at Kevin's expression.

After a long silent moment, Kevin looked up and noticed that Jacob and Kenny were looking at him expectantly.

"Are you okay Kev?" Kenny asked quietly as he hugged Kevin from behind.

"Yeah. I'm fine." Kevin said with surprise.

"What are you feeling?" Kenny asked with concern.

"Nothing." Kevin said to Kenny, then turned to Jacob and asked, "So is that it?"

"Sean and Cory are going to ask you what you want done with her... you know, to make things right." Jacob said hesitantly.

"I never met her. She doesn't care about me and I don't care about her. I kinda hope they keep her in jail for a long time." Kenny said with a touch of anger in his voice.

Kevin looked back at Kenny for a second, then stared off into the distance.

"What do you think Kev? You're the one who lived with her, whatever you decide, I'll go along with it." Kenny said more quietly.

"I don't know" Kevin said in a small voice.

"Well, Cory and Sean are just about done... um, working things out. They should be ready to talk to you by the time we get back to the house." Jacob said with a distant look.

Kenny hugged Kevin for a moment, then picked up his reigns and followed Jacob back toward the stable.

* * * * *

"Do you live here or something?" Vincent asked as he followed Lawrence into the weight room.

"No. JC showed a group of us around his house. What did you want to know?" Lawrence asked as he took a seat on the weight bench.

"I'm not sure... JJ and Adam said some stuff to me that got me thinking..." Vincent said with difficulty.

Lawrence nodded and waited for Vincent to find the words to ask his question.

"Well, I guess what I really want to know first is , um, do you think about me naked and... like, um... doing stuff to me?" Vincent asked in a small voice as he fought to look Lawrence in the eyes.

Lawrence felt a momentary urge to laugh at the suggestion, then recognized the apprehension in Vincent's expression.

"No Vince. I can honestly say that I've never thought about you that way." Lawrence said sincerely.

Vincent continued to watch Lawrence's expression for a moment longer before nodding in acceptance.

"Vince, before I met Deacon, I don't think I ever really thought those things about anyone, well, except maybe movie stars and stuff." Lawrence said in thought.

"So the stuff dad said about you trying to make me queer like you was a lie?" Vincent asked in confusion.

Lawrence thought about the question seriously for a moment before answering, "Well, I think he believed the things he told you, so I don't know if you can say he was lying to you. But what he said was wrong, so yes, it was a lie."

Vincent looked at the floor as he thought about the words.

"Vince, I just want you to be happy. If that means that I need to be your brother or your friend or to just stay away from you, that's what I'll do." Lawrence said seriously.

"That's kind of what I figured out today." Vincent said in thought.

Lawrence waited for Vincent to put his thoughts together.

"JJ and Adam said that when I say things like 'queer' and 'fag' and stuff like that, it makes people not like me. They said that the only people who would want to be around me are people filled with hate..." Vincent trailed off in a small voice.

"I think they're right." Lawrence said softly.

"I don't want to be like that... I just... I don't know if I can be any other way." Vincent said and looked at Lawrence with a pleading expression.

Lawrence saw his brother's suffering and said, "I think that if you really care... If you're worried about it... Then it's not too late to change."

"Really?" Vincent asked with hopeful eyes.

"Really. Just try to ease up on the hate talk and just accept that different people find happiness different ways. Just try to figure out what will make you happy and leave them alone to take care of themselves." Lawrence said peacefully.

Vincent nodded in thought.

"And if there's something you're not sure about, you can always just ask me." Lawrence said softly.

"Yeah. Thanks." Vincent said in a whisper.

"You ready to get back to the party?" Lawrence asked as he stood.

"Yeah... I'm sorry I used to say all that mean stuff to you." Vincent said shyly.

"I understand about that. Don't worry about it." Lawrence said gently.

"Thanks. Lawrence... Can I call you Larry?" Vincent asked with a teasing smile.

"No." Lawrence said firmly, then a small smile escaped.

* * * * *

As Aaron and David were walking away from the pool area, they noticed Jake and Xain walking toward them.

"Hey guys, how's it going?" Aaron asked happily.

"Just fine. We're just enjoying walking around out here. It's really beautiful." Jake said in a slow peaceful voice.

"Yeah, it really is." Aaron said happily, then was struck with inspiration, "Guys, I was just going to change into some dry clothes before we eat. Would you like to see our house?"

"Your house?" Jake asked cautiously.

"Yeah, right over there." Aaron said in a proud voice as he pointed to the guest cottage he shared with David.

"The one with the pink flamingo in the yard?" Jake asked hesitantly.

"No. That's Mark's house... but we put the flamingo there." Aaron said with a chuckle as he led Jake and Xain past Mark's cottage.

"I fail to see the humor in putting a plastic replica of Earth avifauna on Mark's property." Xain said seriously.

"It's because Mark is a landscaper. He creates big beautiful landscape designs that people pay huge amounts of money for. I put the flamingo there because it's like the opposite of landscaping and design. It's like the lowest form of landscape decoration." Aaron said as he led the group to the door of his cottage.

Xain paused for a moment, then looked at Jake and said, "I wish to verify my understanding of this form of humor. If one were to use the same logical process to attempt to respond in kind, then Aaron would be deserving of an accordion."

David broke out in laughter at the statement as Aaron cringed and said, "Dude! No one deserves an accordion."

* * * * *

As Lawrence and Vincent walked from the weight room, Vincent quietly asked, "Do you know any, um... not-gay people?"

Lawrence stopped and thought for a second, then said, "To tell you the truth, I don't think of people in terms of 'gay' and 'not-gay', but I know there are a few straight people around here."

"Who?" Vincent asked as they began to walk again.

"My dad for one." Lawrence said frankly.

Vincent thought about the statement as the pair reached the sliding glass door.

"You're welcomed to sit with us if you want to." Lawrence offered gently.

Vincent looked up into Lawrence's eyes and saw the genuine concern.

"Thank you, but I already said I'd sit with Adam and JJ." Vincent said gently.

"Okay, just as long as you know you're welcomed." Lawrence said seriously.

"Yeah, thanks." Vincent said with a timid smile.

* * * * *

"I guess we'd better go get Kenny and Kevin." Sean said as he cuddled Cory to his side.

"Yeah, I have to admit that I'm not looking forward to this." Cory said quietly.

"I know, neither am I, but this can give them some closure and let them put this whole situation behind them." Sean said seriously.

"I'm with you babe. I know it needs to be done, I just don't have to like doing it." Cory said frankly as he reluctantly stood.

Just then the door opened. Kevin, Kenny and Jacob walked in.

"Hey guys, we were just coming to look for you." Cory said with a smile.

"I know... you got some on your chin." Jacob said with a disapproving glance.

Cory automatically reached up to wipe his face, then realized the joke as Jacob, Kenny and Kevin all started laughing hysterically.

"Yeah, yeah. Funny guys." Cory muttered in a barely tolerant tone as he waited for the boys to calm down.

Sean looked at Jacob curiously and asked, "How much did you tell them?"

Jacob finally got his chuckles under control and said, "Mom. Jail. Utah."

Sean nodded, then looked to Kenny and Kevin who had also calmed down.

"Well, since Jacob already told you, I guess all we need to do is decide what needs to be done." Cory said seriously.

"I only want one thing." Kevin said in deep thought.

"What's that?" Jacob asked, not able to make sense of Kevin's swirling thoughts.

"Somehow, I want Momma to know what happened to me since I came here. I want her to know that I'm loved and have food and I'm learning to read and that I'm really happy..." Kevin said distantly.

Kenny shared a look of surprise with Sean, Cory and Jacob.

"...I think that will hurt her worse than anything else." Kevin said with a bitter tone in his voice.

"I don't understand." Kenny said quietly.

"I don't think she ever loved me. She didn't want me to be happy. All she wanted for me was to be little and skinny and stupid..." Kevin said in thought.

"Why?" Jacob asked in a leading tone, apparently already knowing the answer.

"I don't know..." Kevin said in a lost voice.

"Yes you do. You heard her say it once when she was yelling at you. It's time to remember." Jacob said firmly.

"Because I'm like my dad." Kevin said in a whisper as tears started welling up in his eyes.

Kenny looked around the group in confusion.

"She hated me and hurt me because I'm like my dad." Kevin said in a whimper as the tears began to fall.

Kenny hugged Kevin tightly, doing his best to comfort his brother.

"She... she made me weak because my dad was strong. she made me little because my dad was big. She made me stupid..." Kevin said before he broke into sobs again.

"So I guess when she knew that dad was dead, hurting you must've stopped being fun for her, so she left." Kenny said in a pained voice.

"It fits. Her abandoning you the way she did was the final insult." Cory said in consideration.

Jacob watched as Kenny held Kevin close and started a slight rocking to soothe him.

"Jacob, get with intelligence and see what you can come up with." Sean said seriously.

Jacob nodded then got a vacant look in his eyes.

Kevin and Kenny noticed and looked at Sean with question.

"It's a telepath thing." Sean said dismissively with a shrug.

As Jacob's attention returned to the room, Kevin shyly said, "Thanks for helping me to remember Jacob."

"Yeah, you'll have to teach me how to do that." Kenny said, relieved that Kevin was feeling better.

"I probably could." Jacob said seriously.

"Really?" Kenny asked with wonder.

"Well, you and Kevin appear to have the potential to develop full telepathy, but until you get your twin link fully formed we can't be sure." Jacob said in thought.

"How long will that take?" Kevin asked curiously.

"It's hard to say. Most twins grow up together and just have to work on extending the telepathy past their link. You two need to connect with each other before you can do anything else." Jacob said carefully.

"How do we do that?" Kenny asked seriously.

"Jamie and I need to sit down with you two and work on that. I think that once we get you to recognize the link on a conscious level, all you'll need to do is spend time together working to strengthen it." Jacob said in thought.

"That sounds like it's going to take quite a bit of time, why don't you guys work on that after the current situation is resolved." Cory said in thought.

"Guys, if you'll come out by the pool, I think the entire intelligence division of Clan Short would like to help you with this." Jacob said with a smile.

Kenny looked at his brother curiously and received a nod in response.

* * * * *

"Vincent, we saved you a seat." Adam said as he gestured to the empty seat beside him.

"Would it be a lot of trouble to save it for a few more minutes?" Vincent asked hesitantly.

"No problem, just go do what you need to do." Adam said with assurance.

"Okay, I don't think I'll be gone long." Vincent said seriously, then walked to Lawrence's table.

* * * * *

Chip had his attention divided between the grill before him and the group of mothers who were talking seriously and occasionally glancing over at him lovingly.

"If you would like, I could assume the cooking duties so you may speak with your Aunt." Spock offered seriously.

In a distracted voice, Chip said, "It wouldn't do any good. She won't tell me anything until she has everything worked out. I'm just worried about what those four are planning."

"Given the past encounters I have observed, whatever is being planned is ultimately for your benefit." Spock said in a slow, measured tone.

"Probably, but it's also something that I don't want to do, otherwise I would have done it already." Chip said honestly.

Spock nodded slowly, then said, "Such is the purpose of the extended family."

"Then will you stay here and support me when they're finished?" Chip asked hopefully.

Spock arched an eyebrow at his brother, then said, "When there are indications of an impending disaster, the logical person evacuates the area."

Chip gave Spock a stern look and muttered, "Coward."

* * * * *

Vincent walked to Lawrence's table in time to hear Joe say, "I want to take Mona someplace nice. Not so fancy that it makes her uncomfortable, but nice enough to be considered a real date. I'm not from around here so I'm really stuck, do you guys have any ideas?"

"Lieutenant Bowers?" Vincent asked as he stood to one side of Joe's chair.

"Oh. Hi Vincent. How are you doing?" Joe asked in a pleasant tone.

"Um, I was just wondering if I could talk to you... I mean, when you have some extra time." Vincent said uncertainly.

Joe looked at Vincent's concerned expression and said, "I have time right now, you can hop on up here and talk to me if you like."

Vincent looked at the group around the table and said, "I kinda wanted to talk in private."

* * * * *

"Unca Brady?" A small voice asked from Brady's side.

Brady looked down to see Ricardo looking up at him shyly and Reuben at his side.

"How are you boys doing?" Brady asked with a warm smile.

"We were playing with Ricky and Timmy for a while, but Ricardo wanted to come over here with you." Reuben said quietly.

Brady looked around the table and said, "Well, I think it's about time to eat. We're kind of packed in here, what would you two think if we moved over to that table by Robin and Kayla? We can save a seat for your mom."

"That'd be nice. Momma's working really hard." Reuben said as he watched his mother carrying food out to the serving table.

"I think she's doing that because she enjoys helping people." Brady said as he stood.

"Reuben?" Allen called as the three turned to leave.

Reuben looked at Allen curiously.

Allen turned in his seat and opened his arms in invitation.

Reuben accepted the invitation and hugged Allen tightly.

"Thanks Reuben, I was just needing a hug." Allen said in a contented voice.

As Allen released Reuben, Ricardo waited for his turn.

Allen leaned down into an awkward position to give the small boy a hug, but it was worth it.

"You need hugs?" Ricardo asked with concern.

"Yeah, sometimes I just need a hug. Thank you Ricardo." Allen said with a smile.

"I'm gonna eat w'Unca Brady. Billy can give you hugs." Ricardo said in a serious voice.

"I'll remember that." Allen said with a smile and released Ricardo.

* * * * *

As Kevin, Kenny and Jacob walked to the side of the pool where Kyle, Sammy and Sebastian were already waiting, Cory and Sean walked to the table where Dan, John and Matt were sitting quietly and watching the boys.

"Do you guys mind if we join you for a minute?" Cory asked respectfully.

"Please sit down. What's on your mind?" Dan asked as he turned his full attention to Sean and Cory.

"Kevin and Kenny's mother has been found. She's in police custody in Provo, Utah." Sean said as he took a seat.

Dan considered the statement for a moment, then said, "I think that's a good thing. What are you going to do now?"

"Well, Kevin wants his mother to know what has happened to him since he came here. He believes that knowing that he's happy will be the best revenge he can take. I don't think Kenny really cares what happens as long as she doesn't get away with what she did to Kevin." Cory said in thought.

"So I'm guessing that the meeting of all the telepaths by the pool is to decide how to give Kevin what he wants?" Matt asked as he glanced at the increasing group of boys.

"That's right. But first I need to know if this is a good thing as far as Kevin and Kenny are concerned." Cory said, directing his statement to Dan.

After a moment of consideration, Dan said, "Actually, I can't imagine anything better for both of them. Kevin will have the satisfaction of closing this door to his past without doing anything that he might regret later. Kenny will get to see the woman who hurt his brother in jail and can carry the knowledge that justice has been served."

Cory nodded as Sean said, "That's kind of what I was thinking. Now all we have to do is figure out how to get the Utah authorities to allow Kenny and Kevin to visit their mother in the jail."

"If you'd like, I can handle that for you. I have the connections to make that happen." John said in thought.

"Thanks John. Just let me know if you need anything from me to make it easier." Cory said in a very business-like tone.

"I'm sure it won't be a problem. But I suggest that you get Matt and Dan to go with you. Matt can handle security and Dan can make sure that everything is going the way it should, from a psychological standpoint." John said seriously.

Cory nodded and said, "That's a good idea. Matt, would you make arrangements for the Mississippi to be ready to depart this evening? I'd like to get this taken care of tonight."

"Consider it done." Matt said seriously.

"I guess we'd better find a place to sit before the food is ready." Cory said as he looked around the pool area.

"Why don't you stay and sit with us. We don't get much chance to just sit and visit lately." Dan asked pleasantly.

"Don't you want your kids to sit with you?" Sean asked cautiously.

"They're having too much fun with their friends to remember that they even have parents." John said with a chuckle.

Cory glanced over to see his boys scattered among the other guests and having a good time with their friends. With a nod he said, "I see what you mean."

* * * * *

After looking in the family room and finding it occupied with a group of boys around the computer, Joe led Vincent into the living room and closed the door.

Vincent took a seat on a sofa and looked at Joe with apprehension.

Joe noticed Vincent's expression and said in a gentle voice, "You look like you have something really serious on your mind. Go ahead and ask me whatever you want."

Vincent nodded in thought then asked, "You're not gay are you?"

"No, I'm not." Joe said seriously as he took a seat on the couch across from Vincent.

"Good. I didn't think so." Vincent said, sounding a little relieved.

"What's got you so worried?" Joe asked with concern.

"Everything I thought was right and wrong is all upside down now. Lawrence says my dad told me lies, but dad used to say that queers would try to trick you and tell you lies to make you one of them." Vincent said seriously.

"So are you asking me what you should believe in?" Joe asked cautiously.

Vincent thought about the question for a moment, then finally said, "My dad said that I can't trust what Lawrence says cause he's queer. Lawrence says I can't trust what dad says cause he's full of hate. You're really nice, so you're not full of hate, and you already said you're not gay. So I just wanted to know what you believe is right and wrong."

"Come over here and sit with me and I'll tell you what I can." Joe said as he patted the spot beside him.

"You're sure you're not gay?" Vincent asked seriously.

"One hundred percent not-gay. I promise." Joe said with a smile.

Vincent hesitantly sat beside Joe and looked up at him with question.

"Well, the first thing I believe is that people make too big a deal out of the whole 'gay' business. What people do in the privacy of their bedroom doesn't matter to me." Joe said in thought.

"But don't it make you feel weird if you're around a gay guy? I mean, don't you feel like he's lookin at you?" Vincent asked curiously.

"Not usually. But now and then I notice a guy checking me out and it makes me feel... I don't know, kind of good. I feel like I'm attractive." Joe said as he casually put an arm around Vincent's shoulder.

"But what if he wants to stick his thing in your butt?" Vincent asked with concern.

"Well, to be honest, in all my life, I've only had two guys try to pick me up. I told both of them that I wasn't interested, and they left me alone."  Joe said honestly.

Vincent snuggled into the casual embrace and asked, "So it doesn't make you mad that Lawrence is queer?"

"No. I mean, I suppose if someone had given me a choice of whether I wanted my son to be gay or straight, I probably would have chosen straight. But that's just because I can see how gay people are treated sometimes and I'd want to keep my son from having to go through that." Joe said carefully.

"I wish I had a dad like you. You're nice." Vincent said in a contented whisper.

"Well, since I used to be married to your mom, I guess that kind of makes me your step-father." Joe said in a considering voice.

"Really?" Vincent asked hopefully.

"Well, I don't think that it means anything legally, but yes. Really." Joe said as he gave Vincent a real hug.

"I don't remember the last time my dad hugged me like this." Vincent said in a small voice.

"Well, I have a lifetime of hugs saved up that I haven't been able to give to anyone. So whenever you feel like you need a hug, just come to me and you'll get one." Joe said with a smile.

"You're sure you're not gay?" Vincent asked again.

Joe laughed and said, "Yes, completely sure."

"But I thought hugging another guy would make you gay." Vincent said in thought.

"I'm pretty sure it doesn't work that way. But if I'm making you uncomfortable, I'll stop." Joe offered quietly.

"No. I like the hugging, I just don't want to do nothin to make me gay." Vincent said seriously.

"Vincent, I don't think anything you can do right now will make you one way or the other. One day you'll either be attracted to girls or boys. That's when you'll know. Until that day, I don't think there's anything you can do that will make a difference." Joe said honestly.

Vincent thought about the statement, but remained silent.

"Right now, I think we should get back to the cookout. From the look of things when we left, the food should be ready any minute."

* * * * *

Out of the corner of his eye, Chip kept tabs on the group of mothers while trying to stay focused on his cooking.

"How's it going?" JC asked as he approached the grill.

"Fine. Would you mind doing one of your expert carving jobs on the brisket? I just started the hot links and burgers so we can start as soon as the brisket is ready to serve." Chip asked as he was turning burgers to grill them evenly.

"Yeah, I'll do it now. Everyone seems to have settled in fairly well." JC said as he looked over the gathering.

"Aunt Jackie and your mother are in conference with Teri and Mona." Chip said as he looked at the group of women again.

"What do you think that's all about?" JC asked curiously.

"Us." Chip said frankly.

JC looked at Chip and saw an expression of concern.

After a glance at the mothers, JC leaned in and gave Chip a quick kiss on the cheek, then walked to the serving table to start carving.

Chip glanced at the women again, then started transferring the cooked burgers onto a tray.

* * * * *

"This place is really nice. You two live here?" Jake asked as he looked around the clean little cottage.

"Yeah. Isn't it great? I mean, we still go up to the house for meals cause all we've got here are snacks." Aaron said as he motioned to the kitchenette.

"I just think it's really cool that you guys have your own house." Jake said with a smile.

"Yeah. It's awesome." Aaron said, then walked into the bedroom.

"Aaron used to have a room in the house, but Chip and Josh said that since Aaron was so responsible, that he could have a cottage." David said with a look of pride directed at the bedroom door.

"I kind of like living in our house. I mean, it would be cool if Xain and I could live on our own like this, but I really like having Ken and Kev around too." Jake said in thought.

"Well, it's not like we're across town. We have the intercom so anyone can call us at any time and our computer is on the main house network." David said seriously.

"You appear to have found a practical way to gain your independence without losing the support of your family." Xain said in a speculative voice, then continued, "I find the arrangement to be logical."

"Yeah, I guess it is." David said in thought.

"Okay, are we ready to get back to the party?" Aaron asked as he walked out of the bedroom wearing swim trunks and a mesh shirt.

"I guess you're planning on going swimming again." Jake said with a smile.

Aaron chuckled and said, "No, but I usually don't have to plan it. It just happens. This time I'm going to be prepared."

"I guess we're ready." Jake said with a smile as he put an arm casually around Xain.

Aaron put an arm around David and led the way to the door.

* * * * *

"Did you get everything settled?" Adam asked as Vincent took his seat.

"Yeah. I think so. I'm just really confused about some stuff." Vincent said carefully.

"That bump on your head can't be helping." Gabe said from across the table.

"I guess not... If I tell you guys something will you promise not to get mad at me?" Vincent asked carefully.

"I'll promise to try." JJ said seriously.

Adam and Gabe nodded their agreement.

"I guess because my dad always talked mean about qu... gays, it made me think bad about 'em. Now that I've talked to you, I don't hate you or nothin but...I guess I'm kinda scared of you." Vincent said in thought.

"You're scared of us?" Gabe asked with disbelief.

Vincent nodded shyly.

"It makes sense." Adam said distantly.

JJ and Gabe looked at Adam curiously.

"If he's been told all his life that gay people are evil and bad and trying to 'get him'. Then it makes sense that he'd be afraid of us. Even if his logical mind tells him that we're not bad, deep inside there's still a voice that's telling him to watch out, be careful, don't trust." Adam said speculatively.

"Yeah, okay. I can see that." JJ said with a nod.

"Vincent, just tell us what we can do to make you not afraid of us and we'll try to help you." Gabe said in a soft voice.

"Be not-gay?" Vincent said as he looked up, barely hiding a teasing smile.

"Well, besides that." Gabe said with a chuckle.

"Um, I guess all I need you to do is understand if I act weird around you or need to go away from you. I just... I can't help it." Vincent finished in a whisper.

"Vincent?" Adam said, drawing Vincent's attention.

"You've taken quite a few big steps today. We'll give you the time and space you need to take the next step." Adam said seriously.

"Yeah. We'll invite you to join in and do stuff with us, but we'll understand if you don't want to." Gabe added.

"And as long as you're willing to talk honestly with us like this. We won't be mad at you if you slip up a little now and then." JJ said with a smile.

"Thanks." Vincent whispered, then looked at the serving table, hoping that the food would be ready soon.

* * * * *

"Guys, I think Brady has the right idea. We have too many people gathered around this little table to be able to eat. Let's get that table by Brady before anyone else can snag it." Allen said quickly.

"I think we're going to need two tables." Deacon said as he looked at the group.

"You're right. With all the boys, we'll overflow one table pretty quick." Allen said in thought.

"Let's just get that table and the boys can fill in wherever they want." Billy said as he stood.

"I'll save my dad a seat." Lawrence said seriously.

"I want to sit with you and Pop." Deacon said with a smile directed at Billy as he also stood.

"Sounds perfect." Allen said with contentment as he walked to Billy's side and hesitantly put an arm around him.

"I love this part." Billy whispered to Allen.

"What's that?" Allen asked curiously.

"Where everything is new. Allen, let's never lose this feeling." Billy said as he hugged Allen to his side.

"I promise to try. Every day will be like the first." Allen said peacefully.

To Be Continued...