Val hit the doorbell button at the front door of the Waters residence, or at least he hoped to god he was knocking on the right door – the place gave a new meaning to the word huge. Brent was over visiting with the family, catching the crew up on Kassidy’s newest antics she was pulling on her dad. When the doorbell rang Brent motioned for everybody to stay put he would get the door. He turned the knob opening the door, “What the hell are you doing here?”
Val’s face contorted into a snarl, “Fuck you, Hutchinson, I’m here to see my brother and his family.” He tightened his hold on the teddy bear that was in his left hand.
Brent’s fists were clenched, “And just who is your brother? You never mentioned one in college?”
“Move it asshole. I’m not gonna explain my family to you,” Val shoved Brent and a small scuffle ensued causing the family to converge from multiple directions.
Sage arrived at about the same time as Blu and Kyle, by this time both Val and Brent were clutching various pieces of each other's clothing trying to overpower one another. “What the hell? Brent let go of my brother! Val, stop acting like a damn kid.”
“He started it!” Val pointed at Brent and his hulking form.
Blu growled, “I don’t give a shit who started it.” Grabbing Brent he yanked him away from the other guy. “This is our house, how about you both be respectful, or get the fuck out.” He scowled at Brent, who stepped back from the situation wiping the tiny bit of blood from the corner of his mouth, as Derek the other security guy appeared in the foyer. He glanced at Val and the panting Brent.
“Oh, shit,” he said, then turned to Val, “you haven’t done enough damage? What, you came to finish him off?”
“Go to hell Derek,” Val huffed at the man that had once been a mutual friend. “I wasn’t the one getting it on with some twink in a bed that Brent and I shared. He deserved getting his ass kicked, he’s just lucky the little thing he dragged home left in one piece.”
“Jesus, enough!” Blu said, angrily. “Air your dirty laundry somewhere else, preferably not in front of my kids.” He focused on Val. “I don’t know who you are but I’ve half a mind to call the cops. Now get the hell out of my house.” He swung his arm aggressively toward the door.
“Pop! This is better than a hockey fight,” Cody called out from the bottom of the stairs. “You can’t stop this.” Levi and Brody gave each other the stink-eye and shrugged their shoulders at the hockey comment.
Sage shook his head at the whole episode, “I’m sorry everybody, the stranger that doesn’t know how to shut his mouth is my big brother Val.” Grabbing his brother by the arm, he yanked his brother over to where he was standing, “Val this is my uh, my family.” He pointed to Lincoln who was holding Noah. “This is Lincoln Waters, our son Noah.” He gestured to Blu and Kyle. “And these two gentlemen are his dads, this is Blu, and Kyle Waters.” Then Sage pointed to the brothers. “Link’s twin as you can tell, is Levi, his boyfriend Brody. That’s Cody here at the stairs, and up there is their youngest Jonathan, who you scared the shit out of, by the way.” Sage gave the young kid an apologetic smile. “Oh, and this muscle-bound dork is a Physical Education teacher.”
Val looked like a scolded child in the principal’s office, “Really?” He looked at his not so little brother and Lincoln along with their adorable son. “Sage, Lincoln, I’m sorry about acting like a fool.” Making eye contact with Kyle and Blu, “I apologize for causing such a commotion in your home.”
Brent grumbled under his breath, “Val was on every intermural sports team there was in college. Think his stupid ass even coached a few of them.” He glanced at his old flame, his eyes raking over him from head to toe. “Still looks hot, I guess.” Shrugging his shoulders, “I need to head over to Kaleb’s he is testing a new recipe. Sorry guys. I’ll see you later,” turning he attempted making a hasty departure. “Derek, I’ll call you later,” He shouted over his shoulder.
Sage navigated his little family to a quiet spot out beside the firepit, which overlooked the pool. “Val, I told you I would stop and visit when things aren’t so chaotic,” Sage stated as he glanced at Noah who was content with gnawing on his fingers at the moment.
“I know, but I wanted to meet Noah before he heads off to college,” Val snarkily stated to his brother. Before Sage could retort Val handed the teddy bear that he brought to Link, who was holding Noah. The bear was a cream color and wore a little jersey that had the letter ‘N’ on it instead of a number. “I hope ya don’t mind but I bought that for Noah.”
“Of course not.” Lincoln smiled. “Would you like to hold him?”
“God, I don’t think I’ve held a baby since Sage grew into a mouthy kid. But, I’d love too.” Val looked at the little boy showing adoration for the infant. “He looks like his daddy. Don’t you Noah?” He said to his nephew who drooled around his hand which was still in his mouth. Reaching out his arms Lincoln placed the little boy into his arms.
Sage smiled as he watched his brother shower, Noah, with goofy child-like faces. “How’s work going Val?”
Val shrugged his shoulders, “I love my work, but it’s only temporary. The teacher I’m filling in for is almost back from his medical leave.”
“Hmm, you’ll be fine, Val,” Sage assured his brother, “something will come along.”
Kyle appeared with a tray of hot chocolates, and a plate of freshly made biscotti that Brent had brought over from Kaleb’s earlier in the day.
“How is everything going out here?” Kyle asked the boys.
Sage looked at Kyle, “Everything is good, Dad. Thank you.” His eyes found their way back to Noah, who was being cooed at by Val.
Link looked at his dad, “Are you still interviewing to fill the coach's vacancy?”
“Uh…” he looked at Link warily, “yeah, we are. Why?”
Sage’s eyes went wide when Lincoln stated, “You should interview Val. I mean he is part of the family.”
Kyle took a long assessing look at Val, unsure how to answer after what they just walked in on back at the foyer of the house. Would it be a good idea to hire someone who has no control over his emotions? The man was going to be dealing with hormonal teens, not suited for everyone. Kyle does not doubt that Val is a good man, generally speaking. He only had to see how Sage turned out to know that, but the altercation with Brent had him taking pause.
Val glanced over at Lincoln’s dad, “I’m honestly sorry for the ruckus earlier. It’s been years since Brent and I saw each other. I thought I was over that part of my life,” shrugging his shoulders, “I was dumb enough to think about life after college with him. You know the house with the picket fence. Dumb shit.”
“No, everyone’s entitled to have their dreams. My only concern is your temper. How are you going to react when one of the kids gets out of line? And they will. A lot of the students spend their life outside of school fighting just to survive day to day. A lot of the home situations aren’t good. It takes a lot of patience,” Kyle told him.
Sage interjected his thoughts, “Dad, Val, isn’t one to blow up and lose his cool. When my parents did the stuff they did to me, he was the one there for me. When I tried killing myself, he picked me up and tried helping me find my way in life. I can’t say he didn’t yell at me a few times when I needed it. But he’s not violent, he doesn’t demean a person.”
Val chuckled momentarily, “Wow. Thanks, Sage. I um… the last fight I was in was with Brent in our college apartment. I kicked his ass then I took our yellow and chocolate labs better known as Fred and Barney, leaving his ass. Both the boys deserved better than him and his childish ways.”
“Hmm, okay, email your resume and references to the school. Link can give you the details, I’ll get it in front of the board and we’ll go from there.” He gave Val a warm smile. “Light the fire or come back inside guys it’s getting cool out here. Did you want me to take Noah, you know if I don’t pop is only going to come out here and get him anyway.” Kyle chuckled.
“Thanks, Mister Waters,” Val stated softly looking at the baby who was snoring lightly in his arms. “I need to talk to Sage and Lincoln before I go. So if you’d like to take Noah, I think that would be fine. Wouldn’t it little guy?” Val kissed Noah on the forehead, handing him to his grandpap.
Kyle took Noah in his arms tucking his little blanket under the baby's chin, “I’ll be in touch after we receive your paperwork.” He turned walking back inside the house.
Val’s attention refocused on his brother, “Sage, I have something for you.” He reached inside his jacket pulling out an envelope and paused holding the parcel. “I don’t know if you remember Gram and Pap West. Pap, didn’t believe in banks. He said, ‘they were the government's way of controlling everything you do.’” He chuckled at the memories of the old man, “Anyhow Pap got real sick after Gram passed. I think he was heartbroken over gram not being with him no more. Pap told me where his stash was.” He shook his head, “the old fella had a moonshine still, I honestly wouldn’t have believed it myself if it weren’t for my own two eyes witnessing it. Inside the still was a bunch of balled up, crinkled up denominations of money, I mean it was packed. The still was hidden out in the woods and looked like it had been there since before the civil war. But, Pap said we deserved a better life than what our parents gave us, and this was Gram and Pap's way of helping us.” Val placed the envelope in Sage’s hand, “Use this money to secure a future for your family Sage, I don’t mean for you to squirrel it all away. Have some fun too along the way. I went to the bank and got cashiers checks for you and thyme you can place it in your bank accounts.”
Sage opened the envelope looking inside at the obscene number on the check, “One hundred-fifty-thousand dollars? Jesus, I don’t know what to say.” He swallowed audibly staring at the check. “I can’t take this, Val. You should have it.” He shoved the check back at his brother. “You sacrificed everything for me and Thyme. Take it, Val.”
“Nope. My college was paid for with some of the money from Gram and Pap.” Val reached out squeezing Sage’s shoulder, “You and Thyme had to grow up faster than each of you should’ve. I just want to be sure you can have the family and life you deserve. I didn’t sacrifice anything, and no one forced me to raise you two. I did it because I wanted to. Not for any other reason. I love you both. I don’t regret one single decision.” Val smiled warmly at his brother. “Well, maybe the exception of letting your sister date that meathead. But that’s about it. Shoulda just got you to help me get rid of the body.”
“There was no talkin’ sense into Thyme about him,” Sage cringed at the thought of having to deal with father of Thyme’s child.
Val smiled, “I guess. You look really happy Sage, I’m proud of you for taking the chance to make a life for yourself.”
“Thanks,” Sage had a dreamy look on his face. “You remember that Tom Cruise movie with that blonde chick. The one where he is the sports agent?” He paused for a moment. “Well, Link completes me.” He nudged his boyfriend’s shoulder.
Link chuckled beside Sage, he shook his head. “That’s too cheesy, would you like some crackers with that?” He punched his boyfriend gently in his shoulder.
“I honestly don’t know what I would do without Lincoln or Noah.” Even though he was talking to his brother Sage held his gaze on the love of his life.
Val made a fake gagging sound, “Ya. Barf. You two are like some god awful rom-com. But I’m happy for both of you. Use that little nest egg to get yourselves on your feet, there is always something that is needed.”
Sage became serious. “Thank you, Val. I appreciate everything you’ve done. Can I ask you a favor though?”
“Shoot, bro.” Val nodded with a smile.
“I need you to fix whatever the fuck happened with Brent earlier. Or at least fix enough you can agree to be civil. Brent’s important to this family, and you’re important to me–”
“Val you’re my brother-in-law or will be anyway. So you’re a part of our family too,” Link said while fidgeting with Sage’s hand.
Val let out a long slow breath, “I’ll do my best. But I’m not taking his picture off of my punching bag at home.”
Sage rolled his eyes. “Fair enough, thanks big brother.”
“On that note, I’ve experienced enough feelings for the day.” Val stood up, “I’m outta here. Talk to you guys soon,” He smiled and offered a quick wave before leaving.
Bella sat in the arena with Stacey while they waited for their other roommate, Tracy. He’d just finished practice and they were all traveling home together to save on money getting to and from school. Since most days all their classes were around the same time they pooled their money for gas giving them a little extra to have some little luxuries, like Pepsi and Tracy’s ‘Cheese Wiz.’
“Do you think Levi will tell your dads about Tracy?” Stacy asked her best friend.
Bella tilted her head furrowing her brow. “What do you mean? Nothing is going on with Tracy.”
Stacy snorted, “Sure there isn’t. But you know what I’m talking about. Your dads aren’t going to be happy that a boy is living with us.”
“Are you kidding, having a guy the size of Tracy living with us should deter my pop from sending a security guy to stay with us. All.Through.College.” Bella gave her friend a playful glare.
Tracy came out of the locker room talking animatedly on his cell phone, “Ja mamma. Jeg svarte ikke fordi jeg var i dusjen fra praksis. Jeg har en venninne, det gjorde jeg ikke i dusjen. Jeg vet ikke når du vil møte henne, forhåpentligvis snart. Elsker deg Bella venter på meg – Yes Mom. I didn't respond because I was in the shower from practice. I have a girlfriend, I didn't do that in the shower. I don't know when you will meet her, hopefully soon. Love you Bella is waiting for me.” He rolled his eyes as he ended his call placing his phone in his jacket giving Bella a quick peck on the lips, “My Momma, she so embarrassing, thought I was doing boy stuff in shower instead of answering phone. She wants to know when I bring my elske home to meet her.”
Bella blushed all the way down to her toes, quickly looking away from Stacey. Tracy threaded his fingers with hers as they walked toward the exit. She heard Stacey laughing next to her while walking to the car. “Yeh, right. There’s absolutely nothing going on. Blu is gonna kill you, or him. But there is a funeral in my near future. Good luck.” Stacey only spoke loud enough for Bella to hear her.
“Shh,” Bella admonished her friend quietly before smiling up at Tracy. “You guys want to grab a pizza on the way home?”
Tracy nodded, “And Cheese Wiz and grapes. Need snacks.”
“God, you’re such a boy.” Bella chuckled.
“Yes, I showed you last night. Did you forget?” He grinned down at the girl he was enamored with. “I’ll do better job tonight. You see.”
Stacey let out a loud raucous laugh. “Oh my god, you are in soooo much trouble.” She elbowed Bella, then leaned forward so she could see Tracy giving him a conspicuous raised eyebrow. “Have you met Blu yet?”
“That you Poppa?” Tracy asked Bella.
“Ugh! Yes, Tracy.” Bella then punched her friend in the arm. “He’s not that bad, and you know it. He loves you just as he does me. Don’t be mean.”
“Oh. Okay. I meet him soon elskede?” Tracy asked giving Bella fingers a light squeeze. “Levi and Brody were nice. Your Poppa has to be good man.”
“He is,” Bella said with a wince, “he’s just a little overprotective. Moreso with me than my brothers, but he’s a total momma bear when it comes to us kids. My other dad is too, I guess but he doesn’t get as riled up as pop. Remind me to tell you about the time he caught Brody and Levi kissing in the laundry.”
Stacey cracked up again trying to catch her breath. “Oh shit, I forgot about that.”
“I protect you now. Bella owns my heart,” Tracy said lovingly. “My momma will smother you in hugs when she meets you.”
Bella blushed again, but her heart was warm and full. If only she could go back ten years and tell her young self not to be so sad, lonely, and closed off. The love she felt from her family and now this man who gave her, her full attention at his every opportunity still made her pause somedays, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Sage, Lincoln, and Noah were on the way home from the car dealership with their new to them Ford Expedition. They had discussed options before going to the dealership and had decided a lightly used vehicle would suit their need as long as it had provided adequate safety features. The salesman had a used Expedition, that was recently sold back to them when the elderly owner lost his license. “You’re happy with this right, Babe?” Sage asked as Lincoln played with different gadgets on the dash.
“Huh? Oh yeah.” Link said as he hit a button causing the seat to heat up. “Oh my god, that feels so good.”
“Link, stop that my ass is hot now.” Sage chuckled at his other half. “Is Pop still gonna watch Noah for us to go on our double date with Brody and Levi?”
“Uh… yep. Movies then Mexican, I think Brody said.” Link smiled over at Sage.
“Good deal. Refried beans and burritos,” Sage patted his stomach. Noah let out a little squeal at the mention of his Poppa’s menu selection, “don’t worry you aren’t eating beans. Grampy will give you a nice warm bottle.”
They pulled into the driveway with their newly acquired auto, Sage shut off the SUV and smiled as he hopped out opening the passenger door to a happy Noah who was drooling like a fiend. The small family went inside the house to find Blu and Kyle snuggling on the couch. Kyle was watching a documentary on Steely Dan and Blu was lying with his head his husband's lap while he read a book.
“How’d it go?” Kyle asked, his fingers tangled in Blu’s hair. He tried to sit up when he saw the boys come in the room but Kyle held Blu firm in his lap. No need for the kids to see their dad in that state. Blu still rang his bell, so to speak.
“We still babysitting tonight?” Blu asked excitedly.
Lincoln walked over to Blu handing over a slobbering Noah, “Yes, you want to play with Grampy and Grandpa. Don’t you Noah?”
Sage chuckled at his little family, “We got a really good deal on an Expedition. The original owner was elderly and lost his license, and it has all the bells and whistles.”
“And it has ass warmers,” Lincoln smirked at Sage.
“That’ll boil your boys,” Blu chuckled, looking up at his husband, “at least we won’t have to worry about them reproducing to soon if they’re gonna kill their swimmers.”
Kyle slapped his husband’s thigh playfully then amusedly agreed. “I concur.”
“Before you boys toddle off, me and dad want to talk to you too, quickly,” Blu said then groaned as he tried to sit up but needed some help from Kyle. “God, I’m old.” Link tried not to laugh while his pop looked like a turtle on his back trying to flip right way up, all the while Noah sat on his chest slapping him on the stomach.
Sage and Link squeezed into the recliner together. “What’s up?” Link asked.
“Guys, since you both drive and have a car now, and Brody drives, me and your pop want to downsize the Escalade to something a bit smaller. Since your brother can’t drive and Brody does all the driving for the both of them, we were wondering if you would mind if we traded the escalade in but also got your brother and Brody a smaller run around SUV. They don’t have the money to buy anything right now?”
“What about Cody?” Link asked.
“He won’t be driving for another year or so, but the boys will have to help out here and there running Cody and Jonathan to activities when they can,” Kyle answered.
“I think it’s fair to do,” Lincoln said looking at Sage, who nodded his head.
“Why would we care if you got them a car? We don’t need one,” Sage asked, “We had the means to get a better vehicle that was safer for Noah and reliable for us until we finish college.”
Blu sighed. “I know. It’s just that we didn’t want you boys to think we’d overlooked your needs. It’s just–”
“No pop. Look, Dad, Pop, don’t okay, we’re not like that. You don’t have to do something for one just because another got something. It doesn’t have to be even you know. You have always done your best by us. Sage and me don’t need anything, you’ve already helped a great deal by letting us have an allowance from my trust. Something we will talk about later by the way. We are more than grateful and appreciate everything you’ve already done. What you do for or with Levi and Brody is between you guys.” He glanced at Sage. “Did I say that right?”
Kyle nodded his head, “We appreciate both of your input guys. We just don’t want anybody to have any bad feelings between you or your siblings.”
“Pfft, that’s never gonna happen. Coming from our backgrounds we all understand the difference between need and want. Although you’ve given us more than either, we also want to earn our future. It’s not on you and pop to work that for us. We have to secure our own future too. But, we are grateful for you making it easier for us to do that without struggling. Really.”
Sage smiled at the men that will eventually become his in-laws, “I also want you to know, we are going to place half the money I received in high-interest bonds. The rest is in an interest-earning bank account to pay toward incidentals.”
The guys were sitting around the table at San Chi’s Mexican Restaurant following the movie, waiting on their order to come out enjoying each other's company. “Oh my god who would’ve thought they would ever make a Bad Boys VI? Martin Lawrence looks like he is old enough to be our grandfather,” Lincoln stated as he shoved a chip with salsa in his mouth.
“Will Smith is still badassed,” Levi interjected.
Brody pointed his finger at the group, “What about the new criminal? I thought Chris Hemsworth played a hell of a villain.”
Sage laughed as he recalled part of the movie, “How about when Hemsworth’s character blew up Will Smith’s new Porsche? I thought he was gonna cry.”
“Ooh,” Brody rubbed his hands together excitedly, “Chimichanga’s, oh yeah.” His glee with his food as it was served made the other’s laugh along with their server as she laid the plates down in front of their intended victims.
“Enjoy, gentlemen, everyone good for drinks. Anyone need a refill?” she asked glancing at each of the young men.
“Nope, vwhere goob,” Brody answered with a mouthful.
“Gross, Brody,” Link groused then said to the server. “We’re good thank you,” he glanced at her name tag, “Rebecca.”
The foursome ate like starved wild animals, not a word spilt between them unless it was to pass something. After about half an hour, with empty plates and full stomachs, they all took a breath.
“Baby, can you carry me to the car. I can’t move,” Brody groaned while rubbing his stomach.
Spartan’s head popped up over the edge of the table providing each of the guys the sad puppy is starving look. “Sorry buddy, your Poppa ate it all and didn’t save you a crumb,” Levi told his companion, “And now he wants us to carry his cute hiney out to the car,” Spartan whined as his ears drew back – like not today buddy I’m too tired.
“We’d better get home, guys. Who knows what Kyle and Blu have done with Noah, although I bet you they’re all asleep on the lounge.” Sage chuckled.
The boys entered the house, they could hear the television. Obviously, it was Jonathan’s turn to pick because it was yet another Harry Potter movie. Link and Levi smirked at each other knowing it would have been driving their dads crazy, but they’d suffer through for Jonathan’s sake while Cody bitched and moaned the entire time. So weird. Cody would do that to be with the family instead of excusing himself to hang out in his room.
As they approached the living room they heard Jonathan, Cody, and Blu acting out the parts. When they entered the room they were actually play acting the parts out laughing their asses off with Noah playing the part of Harry Potter. The family turned to see the foursome when Lincoln gasped and Levi, Sage, and Brody started laughing.
“What the ever-loving hell did you do to Noah?” Link gasped at the scar that ran down his son’s head.
“He’s a wizard, see?” Blu turned Noah so they could see him properly and then used the young boy as a marionette doll and cast a spell on his dad. “Accio,” Blu waved Noah’s hand at Lincoln. “Bummer, he was supposed to get me the remote,” he said disappointedly while Jonathan giggled and Cody rolled his eyes.
“So where did you come up with the little costume, Pop?” Sage asked while admiring the creativity.
“I dunno,” Blu said quietly trailing off, but he wouldn’t meet their eyes.
“Uh-huh,” Lincoln mumbled as he took Noah in his arms. “And Grampy is getting dementia. Do you know what dementia is?” He asked his son as he touched Noah’s cheek. The entire room erupted into laughter other than his Pop.
A voice carried through from another room. “He got it on Amazon the day you asked us to babysit!” Kyle yelled out.
“Traitor,” Blu retorted, “you’re supposed to have my back.”
“I have your back,” Kyle came in the room and gave Jonathan and Cody a bowl of ice-cream each. “I also have your front, your top, your bottom, your…”
“Don’t finish that,” Levi pleaded, “so gross.”
“Now Grandpa is just bein’ goofy,” Sage said. “Did he have his bath yet?” He looked at Blu for a response.
Jonathan laughed remembering the ordeal, “Oh yeah he got a bath in the kitchen sink, and Pop got peed on.” He slapped his hand on his leg as he laughed. “Then Pop had to get a shower.”
After Sage and Lincoln got Noah settled into his crib for the night, the pair cuddled in their bed. Lincoln had some music he had recorded playing softly in the background. “What is that smell coming from?”
“I swear to god it isn’t me,” Sage assured his boyfriend.
“Well, I didn’t eat refried nothin’ that shit is gross,” Link playfully flicked Sage’s chest.
“Shit!” Sage jumped up off the bed almost dumping Lincoln over the side of it. “Your Pop got me. Where did he hide it?” Sage began the search for the offensive diaper. After tearing apart almost the entire bedroom Sage found the diaper stuffed inside of the diaper bag that was assigned to him. “Son of a doodlebug, he got me.” He said as he glanced over at his and Lincoln’s son, who was soundly asleep in his crib.
We hope you enjoyed this installment. Each of you are getting to see and learn a little more about Tracy and Sage.
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