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    Dahawk
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Life's Struggles - 16. California Dreamin'

Summer had finally arrived and so had time for the annual Water’s family vacation, though this year the Water’s clan was being limited to just Kyle and Blu’s part of the family due to the increased size that the entire family had expanded too. They rented a villa on a private vineyard was going to serve as a home base for their vacation. Blu and Kyle would be using one of the master suites, Sage and Link would take another, while Brent and Val would use the only other open room. The rest of the boys agreed to crash in sleeping bags in the family room. There is a tiny guest cottage that they also rented for Tracy and Bella to use. The flight was scheduled to depart at nine-forty-five in the morning which had the house in a flurry of activity.

“Pop do you know where my flip-flops are?” Cody shouted from the hallway.

Blu looked down at his feet then scratched his head. “Uh… nope.” He laughed when Cody rolled his eyes. “I don’t know buddy, try out by the pool?”

“And you don’t happen to have on a pair of orange-colored Nike flip-flop’s size eleven?” Cody asked looking at Blu’s feet.

“You wear size eleven?” Blu asked incredulously then mumbled to himself, “How big is your junk, kid.”

“Um keep them and nevermind I’ll get Tracy to take me to buy new ones once we get to California,” Cody’s face was tinged in pink from the embarrassment of his Pop asking such questions.

Brent and Val had arrived a short time earlier and were bickering over the coffee pot. “Don’t you make the coffee it tastes like tar when you make it. It’s no wonder you drink yours with a half-pound of sugar in it,” Val snarked at Brent.

“Bitch, bitch, bitch, take a freakin’ breath and step off your menstrual cycle, would ya,” Brent said mimicking Val before pulling the sugar container away from Val.

“I guess your Mydol was expired because I borrowed a few this morning when I rolled out of your bed. Oh, and can’t you afford better shit-paper for the bathroom? I swear to god that’s damn near worthy of being rated as sandpaper,” Val grumbled as he poured the water in the coffee pot to brew.

“Then in future get off and fuck off if you don’t like my place,” Brent said, smacking Val on the ass eliciting a yelp from the man. Blu cleared his throat and both men startled and jumped away from each other.

“Guys, remember there are kids here.” Blu smirked and hopped on the counter waiting for the coffee. “Now lets discuss in detail about this ‘Get off and fuck off’ theory. How does that go and don’t’ leave anything out.”

“Oh. Uh if I recall Brent was getting hit from the rear and beggin’ for me to do him harder. It was “oh Val, I love it when you’re rough,’” Val did his best impersonation of Brent and just to piss him off he had a little lisp at the end.

“Daa-aad,” Jonathan squealed as he slid into the kitchen in his socks, the kid inventoried the adults tilted his head and continued warily, “Where’s dad?”

“What’s up, little man?” Blu asked his son, while receiving a cup of coffee from Val. “Thanks.”

“I can’t find…” Jonathan trailed off as Kyle rushed out of the laundry with Jonathan’s swim trunks and his UV shirt. “Here you go, keep packing we have to be out of here in one hour, chop,chop.” He turned to his husband and stole his coffee. “Thanks, babe.” Blu laughed and stole Val’s.

“Thanks, man.”

“See at least Blu has manners and doesn’t need to kill the cup of coffee,” Val stated as he poured another cup for him. “Some people do have tastebuds. Unlike some uncivilized individuals,” he said before sipping his coffee.

Brent looked over his shoulder to check for little kid ears, “And some people aren’t such drama queens this early in the morning.”

Sage wandered into the kitchen and froze in his tracks seeing both Brent and his brother in the same room and neither were attempting to murder one another. “What the hell did I miss? Last time I saw you guys together it was some weird form of Blmixed-martial-arts mayhem in the foyer.”

Blu laughed loudly “They figured out they could fight and fu–” Kyle’s hand slapped over Blu’s mouth.

“Enough I have a little kid as my shadow,” Kyle chuckled as he removed his hand from his husband’s mouth.

“So…” Sage staring at his brother and Brent scratched his head, “Really? Okay, just how is this gonna work? I don’t ever remember seeing you date anybody since you were in high school.” Sage stated. “And you both are like polar opposites or oil and water or whatever weird shit people say.”

“Mind your own bees wax,” Val told his brother, “Your sister will be here soon, be prepared for mayhem and drama, that cocksock took off on her and stole the money she’d saved up while she was pregnant. It’s ugly, little brother.”

“Couldn’t you have wired her money from Cali’ or something?” Sage asked. “It’s not like she didn’t know the idiot was worthless before.” He sighed, “If she shows up and ruins our vacation Val I swear to god I will take you to the cheapest veterinarian and have you neutered and you will be Brent’s bitch.”

Pointing at his brother, Val laid into Sage. “Watch your mouth, she’s your sister. Yes, she’s hard work but we love her and will make sure she’s got a support system. Understood?” The little admonishment garnered a lot of respect from Blu and Kyle. The family and extended as such have the same motto as the marines. ‘No man left behind.’

“Ya,” Sage grumbled. “Fine, but isn’t it convenient the day we are leaving for vacation Juan or whatever his name is, steals all of her money? I mean have you even seen her since she had the baby? I sure haven’t and she doesn’t call or text.” He shook his head before taking another drink from his mug.

“I don’t want to hear it, Sage. You will be nice to Thyme, I’m not kidding you, Sage. Things are rough for her, she’s only seventeen just like you and she’s scared. I see how you are with everyone in this house, you could use the same gentle hand with your sister. Do you hear me?” Val was firm and gave his brother the same ‘Don’’t mess with me’ glare that usually made him fall in line. It’s not like Val had had to use it a lot with Sage, but sometimes it was warranted. The younger sister was a handful, Val knew that but it was the three of them against the world. He softened when Sage looked a little admonished, but Sage being Sage had to follow up.

“Okay, but maybe rather than giving her cash that Julio can steal, we go buy her some prepaid debit cards?” Sage suggested refusing to call Thyme’s babies daddy by his real name. “Hell if the baby needs diapers Link and I might have some left that Noah outgrew.” He knew that over the last few months Noah has been hitting growth spurts and they had unopened packages of diapers and clothes that even if they used a shoehorn they couldn’t squeeze Noah into them. The only time Sage had seen his nephew was the day Angel was born, even that memory was tainted by Thyme’s boyfriend showing up with a few of his buddies from the Los Lobo gang that he is the leader of.

“Hey, guys,” Blu interrupted, “this is not a conversation for today, okay. Val has already told her she’s coming, so she is. Sage, make peace with it and do your best to support your sister. If she acts out we’ll sic Cody on her ass. Let it go and try and enjoy the vacation.”

“Okay,” Sage said with acceptance. “Link and I’ll spoil Angel while I can, god knows his sperm-donor doesn’t worry about it.”

Blu sighed as the doorbell rang out through the house. “We’re going to finish packing and we’ll get the door on the way through, that’s probably her now.” He steered Kyle from the kitchen because the brothers seemed to have no end in sight for their argument. Kyle opened the door, as expected a female version stood nervously at the door with two suitcases beside her.

“Come on in,” Kyle smiled ushering her into the house. “Glad, you could make it. I’m Kyle and the man grabbing your suitcases is my husband, Blu.” He smiled welcomely at the young girl. He chuckled, “And the same man that is now stealing your baby is harmless.” Blu swept past the mother and Kyle and up the stairs while he talked to Angel in his sweetest baby voice. “Sorry about him, you will see your baby again, I promise. Your brothers are in the kitchen through the archway, just there.” He pointed. The affronted girl seemed to be unsettled and confused. Kyle called out to the guys. “Val, come greet your sister, she looks like she’s about to implode, Blu stole her baby.”

Val walked into the foyer pulling Thyme into a hug, “You look good. How’s Angel?”

“Um, I don’t know,” she answered with her brow furrowed. Leaning forward she whispered, “Some man just took him and disappeared, what should I do?”

Chuckling Val released her from the hug, “don’t worry Angel will be back, Blu is greedy with spoiling babies.”

Hearing his brother talk about spoiling babies Sage decided to give up on his hostilities for the moment, “Let me guess Blu? And hey Thyme,” He said giving their sister a kind smile.

“I guess? And hi.” Thyme said looking down at the floor unwilling to meet Sage’s eyes for fear of seeing judgment in them.

“Let’s agree, I won’t make any mean comments while we are on vacation and we’ll spoil Angel and his cousin Noah rotten.” Sage offered as a form of treatise. “Does Angel need diapers for the trip? I’m sure Link and I have extras? Maybe even some clothes? With all the construction on the apartment, Lincoln has been taking Noah shopping so he can nap uninterrupted.

*****

The flight to California went off without much fanfare, most of the group slept. Noah found watching out the window fascinating. It seemed like in no time at all they were landing at a private airfield approximately thirty minutes from Bella and Tracy’s house. A charter bus had been rented for their entire vacation so nobody had to worry about driving. However, Bella and Tracy had taken a taxi down to the airport to welcome their family to sunny California. As soon as the door to the plane open Cody and Jonathan were off like a shot, ready for the fun times to begin even if their dads were old and slow.

Kyle shook his head at how quick their youngest disappeared, “I wonder if they realize they need to get their luggage?”

“Probably not.” Blu sighed. It’s going to be a long vacation.

“Well, at least we got all of the kids together, at some point they aren’t going to want these big family vacations,” Kyle said smiling as he spotted Bella and Tracy through the window of the terminal.

Spartan decided he was done walking behind Kyle and nuzzled him to the side pulling Levi along. “Sorry, Dad. I think somebody is ready for a pee break,” Levi said with a shrug.

“All good, as long he doesn’t use my leg to pee on,” Kyle called out to a retreating Levi.

As soon as the family got inside the terminal Tracy snagged Blu into a bear hug, “How was flight? Good?” He added a few slaps on the back before releasing his newest friend.

“Long,” Blu chuckled returning the greeting, releasing his daughter's boyfriend he pushed Kyle into the giant. “Better hugs than Stephanie, trust me.” He winked at Kyle.

Tracy enveloped Kyle with his bone-crunching hug, “You enjoy California. Yes?”

Kyle smiled at the big blonde, “Yes, we enjoy California very much. And you were right Babe his hugs are definitely one for the books.” After receiving his pats on the back Kyle smirked at his husband, very few peoples hugs could invoke the friendliness that Steph and now Tracy’s hugs are capable of.

At the little luggage turnstile, they found Jonathan riding the circular conveyer belt around. “Hey, Pop, look at this ride it’s fun!” The boy called out with a gigantic smile on his young face. Cody stood off to the side chuckling at his little brother's antics.

Bella shook her head at Jonathan muttering under her breath, “Get off of there. You don’t want Pop seeing that.” She saw their Pop turning toward Jonathan and covered her face with her hand, awaiting whatever was to come.

“Oh, freakin’ Jesus, Jonathan, git off of that you’ll hurt your damn self,” Blu griped as he moved at the speed of light to his youngest son.

“But it was fun,” Jonathan stated as he hopped off of the conveyor. “Why are adults fuddy-duddies?”

He furrowed his brow at Jonathan. “are stitches fun, or amputation?” he grabbed the boy positioning him at his side. “You stay right next to me until we get on the bus. No wandering off.” He turned to Cody. “You keep laughing and you’ll be on dish duty for the entirety of the vacation.” Blu looked around. “Where the hell did your dad go?” he mumbled.

Sage came back from the little airport gift shop with a new pair of shades for Lincoln and himself. After the pair had put their new sunglasses on Sage stooped down to Noah who was in his stroller with the canopy pulled over shading him. He reached into the bag pulling a miniature pair of sunglasses out and placing them on Noah along with a hat that said ‘Surfer Dude’ on it. Sage whispered to Noah, “Uh oh Grand-dad is in trouble and Grampy is being grampy.” The little one blew raspberries and threw his little arms in the air like ‘oh well.’

Lincoln turned to Blu, “Pop, I think Dad went to organize the bus while everybody was waiting on their luggage.”

“Oh, thanks Sage. Help me keep an eye on these yahoos, would ya. I don’t have eyes in the back – Jonathan,” Blu called out, “I said stay here with me.” Blu scrubbed his hands down his face in frustration then looked around area again. “Where the hell did Levi and Brody go, for effs sake.”

Sage was laughing so hard he had tears running down his face. He pointed out the window at what he guessed Californian’s called a patch of grass which resembled more sand than anything and there stood Levi and Brody while Spartan sniffed the ground spinning in circles for just the right spot to do his business.

Family: Get your effing asses to the luggage carousel right effing now before I cause a effing scene. Not you Blondie, you get the bus before my head explodes.

Kaleb: Is Blu havin’ a tantrum?

Blu: Fuck off, shit head. It’s like I’m vacation with 19 Kaleb’s it’s a fucking nightmare and we only just landed. Send Kassidy! Only kidding, that would be too much.

Kaleb: Lol. Glad the kids are making you remember me! Kassidy is grounded from all electronics til she’s 40. Maybe longer. Have fun!

Blu: Good luck, asshole. Give mom a hug for me.

Davis: Kaleb is busy yelling, his face is redder than I’ve ever saw. I’ll give mom a hug.

Blu: Thanks TTYL I’m off to kill my kids.

Thyme walked up beside Sage, “This is different, being with such a large family.”

“Oh, they’re crazy for sure, but a good kind of crazy. Give them a chance, you’re gonna love them. Blu is fun to rile up, Kyle kind sits back and laughs until he has to step in.”

Thyme’s phone started ringing so she looked at the display sighing before answering it, “Miguel, I’m on vacation with my brothers.”

Sage snatched the phone from his sister. “Listen up, a-hole. You left my sister high and dry. If she wants to talk to you she’ll call.” He dodged Thyme as she tried to get the phone from him. “Don’t call her again.” When he hung up he threw the phone on the floor and stomped on it, then threw it in the trash can. “Come on sis, we’ll get you a new one with a new number. Forget that asshole, you have us.” He wrapped his arms around his sisters wildly swinging arms until she calmed down and sobbed into his chest. Luckily Lincoln had grabbed for Angel when it had all started, he stood alongside them soothing the baby with tears in his eyes for his boyfriend's twin sister.

Thyme wiped her eyes and dried her cheeks, “Sage, you shouldn’t have done that to Miguel. He’s not going to be nice when we get back home.”

“We’ll figure it out. Me, you, and Val, right? We’re family we stick together. You just need to let us help you,” Sage told her sadly.

“But he’s Angel’s dad. Los Lobo won’t let me leave, Sage.” Thyme sighed accepting that her fate was sealed the moment she became pregnant.

“Then we’ll send you somewhere he can’t get to you, we’ll figure it out. Don’t stress, let’s enjoy this vacation that the Waters’ have generously bestowed upon us. Spend this time to get to know them, we’ll talk to Val and Brent tonight and they’ll figure something out for when we get back. You just have to trust us.” Sage hugged her. “We love you sis, promise you’ll let us help?”

She nodded her head, “I’ll try.” Looking around she spotted the rest of the group heading out the door, “We’d better catch up, don’t wanna become homeless in California.” Taking Angel back in her arms she looked into her son’s eyes, “Daddy can be scary, can’t he my Angel?” She said quietly.

*****

“ARABELLA!” Blu screeched through the house as he walked to the living room holding a cat cage like a bomb. His daughter looked up with the innocence of a child.

“Yes, Poppy, is something wrong?” she asked.

“What.The.Hell.Is.This. And why the freakin’ heck is it here?” he demanded, as Kyle rushed into the room sighing with relief and chuckled happy it wasn’t worse than he’d imagined.

“I thought we might need an ambulance they way you were screaming,” Kyle shook his head as he looked in the little pet carrier which contained a very pissed off looking Scarlett her eyes were bugged out and her fur was standing on end like she had been electrocuted all the while she was hissing hysterically.

“Take this ninja furball back to your cottage and keep it there,” Blu huffed, “fuking cat.”

Tracy reached over opening the door on the carrier plucking the little bundle of fur out, caressing her while whispering to Scarlett, “Who’s Daddies little Scar Scar?”

The effing cat rubbed its face against the big man purring as it went, then jumped out of his arms and ran down the hallway. Blu stood stock still glaring at Tracy.

“You’re dead to me.” Blu pointed at a laughing Bella. “Find that demon feline and get it out of this house or I’ll bury the thing alive.”

Tracy went down the hall calling Scarlett’s name and returned a short while later. “She not like you Blu. She shred your pillow.” He gently placed the purring cat back in her crate and took ahold of it placing it safely under his arm.

“Seriously get it out of here,” Blu grouched.

*****

After a long day at Disney, the family returned to the villa to unwind and relax. Kyle sang along quietly to the radio as he and Val prepared a cold dinner of salad, bread and luncheon meat on a self serve platter for everyone to sort out their own meal. Sage happily cut up fruit while Blu and Lincoln fed the two babies while Thyme sat and watched Blu with curious eyes and a bit of a crush because of how he treated Angel with such love and kindness.

“You okay, Tinny,” Val asked his sister using the pet name he had for her since she was little.

“I’m good.” Thyme said as she opened her can of soda.

“Boys, dinner’s ready,” Kyle called out to the living room where all the gremlins were lazily kicking back.

“I’m starved,” Cody said rushing to the platter of food. “It’s been at an hour since I had anything good. That snickers bar didn’t last long.” He stated as he stacked his sandwich at least six inches high with meats and cheeses, “Mayo, where’s the mayo?” He asked glancing around for condiments, “oh, and pickles we need lots of pickles.” Looking towards the refrigerator he got a smirk on his face, “I could just put some ice cream on this and it would be a complete meal and even dessert.”

Brent pushed the freezer tray back into the fridge. “You’re not having ice cream on your sandwich, delinquent. Go!” he glared until the teenager sullenly huffed belligerently and stomped his little ass back to his dinner. Blu gave the man a thumb up while he snuggled with one of the babies.

A plate was put in front of Blu, Kyle swept hair out of his husband’s eyes bending over giving him a quick peck on the lips. “Eat that baby, it’s salami, cheese, and mustard just how you like it.”

“Thanks, Blondie,” Blu said with an affectionate smile.

“Oh, barf,” Cody said with a mouthful of food.

“Shut up twerp,” Bella called out from her chair. “You’ll be all goo-goo eyed for somebody dumb enough to fall for you eventually. Well, maybe. You might have to pay them.”

“Yeah, Cody. I hope me and Brody are still in love when we’re fifty, just like our dads,” Levi remarked, leaning over and kissing Brody in front of god and everybody.

“Fifty?” Kyle looked at his son, “Really? I may have to recheck your math grades. I don’t look fifty, do I?” Kyle walked over picking up the toaster off the counter using it as a mirror.

“Sorry, dad. You’re right. I meant sixty.” Levi laughed, shoving a piece of pineapple in his mouth.

“Babe, we should’ve splurged and sent him to military school when we had the chance.” Kyle chuckled as he plucked a grape out of the bowl of fruit.

Blu snorted, “Just what this country needs, another blonde sociopath at the helm. No thank you. I think it’s safer for everyone if we keep him hidden away.”

“At least he’s not orange and has a full head of blonde hair. Also, no one cares about what he posts on twitter.” Kyle laughed.

“True dat,” Brent laughed along while piling meat onto his bread.

Lincoln finished feeding Noah, placing him on his shoulder to burp him. After a few pats on the back, a loud belch was heard. Link cradled the little one in his arm, handing him the Tinkerbell stuffed doll that Jonathan had bought him at Disney and now the kid wouldn’t even so much as look at the Pluto or Goofy that Sage and he had bought him. “I can’t believe you don’t like your goofy.”

“Or Pluto. What kid doesn’t like Pluto?” Sage asked before taking a sip from Link’s glass of iced tea.

“Hey, Bella,” Brent called to her, “do you think you and Tracy can watch the kids tonight so Val and I can go to a club with your dads?”

“Hey,” Levi grouched, “we don’t need babysitters.”

“Not you, idiot,” Brent scoffed, “the younger ones.”

Tracy smiled at being asked to watch the kids. He felt he was a part of the clan, “We watch kids tonight, be fun right Elskede?”

“Sure, happy to. Tracy can kick their butts at NHL17.” Bella giggled.

“Awesome,” Brent grinned, “are you old farts up for a night out?”

“Old farts? What the hell is wrong with everybody?” Kyle asked with a chuckle, “I believe I still pay your salary be it through Teddy or not. Plus I’m pretty sure you’re two months older than me.”

“Wow, Brent you really are old,” Blu said cheekily.

“Christ, he’s in bed before the sun is completely down,” Val scoffed. “Hard to have sex without poking him to wake up.”

Blu shrugged. “So don’t wake him.”

“Oh, my god. I don’t need to hear this.” Levi stood up yanking Brody from his chair. “Let’s go watch Netflix in the bedroom.”

“But this was just getting good the old folks are bickering like they did on ‘Golden Girls’,” Brody said as he followed Levi’s retreating form.

“I’m out. Come on Trace, let’s fire up the PlayStation.” Cody pushed Tracy out of the room.

*****

“Just go,” Blu said to Sage and Lincoln, “we’ll be fine.”

“See, baby, they’ll be fine. You didn’t schlep your guitar all the way to California to chicken out.” Sage told his boyfriend. “Come on, it’ll be fun and you deserve this. You’ve been working hard and you miss performing and playing for an audience.”

“But last time we left Noah with pop, it took us a week to get rid of his Harry Potter scar. The time before that…” Lincoln was getting worked up until Sage stepped in to calm him down.

“Come on, baby, relax. Your dads were just having fun, no harm was done and Noah seemed to enjoy it. Not that I think Cody did since they made him into a toad and made him hop around the room.” Sage chuckled.

“Fine,” Lincoln stated looking at his clothes, “I’m not gettin’ all dressed up though, it’s too damn hot. I think I’d shrivel up and die if we lived here.” Link picked his arm up and sniffed and then shrugged his shoulders, “At least I don’t smell.”

Bella and Tracy arrived, “You boys ready, we want to go with you. I didn’t get to see any of your gigs last time because of starting college.”

“Okay but I’m only gonna do maybe a couple of covers at most,” Lincoln said as he looked at some of the stickers on his guitar case from different venues his band had performed at during his short career.

The small group made their way to a campus of a nearby college which had placed advertisements online that somehow displayed on Sage’s cell when he was googling something about Disney. They found a nice comfy couch at the café and made themselves at home. Brent and Val sat down with them and the foursome looked at the two men incredulously.

Bella asked, “Please don’t tell me my dads sent you guys to babysit us?”

Brent wobbled his head side to side. “No, not babysit, just to make sure you’re safe. Plus, Val wanted to be here to support Sage’s boyfriend.”

Bella waved her hand. “Potato, potahto, you’re here to babysit.”

“Elskede, you’re dads just want you and brothers safe, there is nothing wrong with that.” Tracy kissed her forehead then pulled her into his side. “We are um… what is the word, applicate, no,” he glanced to Bella for help.

“Appreciate?” she assisted.

“Yes, that. Appreciate you coming,” Tracy smiled happily, “lets enjoy. Link, you go sing, we wait here.”

Link looked nervously at the stage, the last time he performed had led to a complete change in his life which included the newest additions in his life, Noah and Sage. To say it was a life-altering moment would be an understatement. He grabbed his guitar and walked up on stage, “Hi. How’s everybody doing tonight?” Link said into the microphone, getting a little of the crowd’s energy. He started off singing, American Authors ‘Best Day of My Life.’ With the final strum of the guitar Link sang out, “The best day of my life… my L…i…i..i…ife…” as the final cords were sung the crowd erupted into applause. “Thanks… thank you… I recently became a father and found the love of my life. He actually is the reason I’m here tonight,” Lincoln chuckled. “I pretty much argued with Sage, not wanting to come tonight. But, he won out and as you can tell yeah I’m not gonna be left live the night down. There will be I told you so’s, so fine you were right Sage I’m having fun with my music again. I started writing music when Noah decided he didn’t want to sleep at night. The next song is one Noah inspired me to write, wether is good or just bores him to death he sleeps like a baby,” Link laughed. “Okay, anyway here goes.” The lights lowered and a slow melodic strum of the guitar started off the song segue into the lyrics.

‘I opened my eyes just the other day, alone and unlovable,

There you were daddies little boy.

You were created to become daddies little boy

My life always was empty before you became daddies little boy.

A little boy who needs a daddy

A daddy who needs his little boy

I never thought I’d be anything but unlovable

And then there was daddies little boy…’

The final chorus faded out, the café was silent. Link opened his eyes at loud vacant silence feeling devastated that no one had even related to the song. When he looked around the audience people were wiping their eyes, then in a blink of an eye people were standing, cheering, and clapping their asses off.

“I just wanna…” Link stopped speaking to gather his emotions that were impersonating a roller coaster at the moment. “Thank you, everybody,” Lincoln stood and walked off of the stage back to the booth the rest of his family was gathered in. “Well. Was it bad?” he asked as he sat down.

Bella cried as the tears fell she hugged her brother tightly before anyone else could get to him. “I forgot how talented you are. That song was beautiful Link. I’m so proud of you.”

“Thanks, sis,” Link whispered squeezing his sister tight. “Love you.”

“Even when you think I’m asleep and you sing that to Noah, it really gets me right here,” Sage pointed to his heart. “I don’t think I could love you anymore than I already do, but if it’s possible I’m gonna spend the rest of my life trying too.”

A man approached Lincoln, Brent put his hand out to stop him from getting too close to the kids.

“Can I help you?”

“Uh…” he eyed Brent cautiously, “yeah, are you his agent?”

“Huh?” Brent curled his lip up at the guy.

“His agent? I’d like to speak about buying that last song. One of my clients,” the man looked directly at Link, “one of my clients is interested in purchasing that song from you.”

Lincoln looked skeptically at the man, “Who’s your client? That song means a lot to me.”

“I’m not at liberty to say at this time. He’s been looking for a ballad for a while now, when I heard this I called him and he’s adamant that he wants this song. I can tell you he’s a major country music headliner. That’s all I can say at this stage.” He held out his card. “He’s in town for two days. If you’re interested in selling your song get your agent to give me a call.”

Brent took the card looking it over then giving it to Link, then moved through the crowd to make sure the man had left the premises. He trusted no one with the Waters’ kids. They were like his own and their safety always came first. Val stayed with the kids as Brent did his job.

“That’s pretty exciting, Link. Do you have an agent?” Val asked.

“Well no. We were approached by a few when I was with the band on the road but I have no idea whatever happened with that. I kind of fell out with the guys after Noah. What should I do?” Link asked anxiously.

“We go back to the house and talk to your dads,” Brent said catching the tail end of the conversation, “I want us to go now. It’s too hard to watch you guys alone, here. You ready?”

“Yeah,” Lincoln’s hand found Sage’s intertwining his fingers together.

Sage grabbed Lincoln’s guitar, “Let’s go.”

*****

As the crew returned to their temporary home, the house was utter chaos. There were plastic pirate swords and all the older kids were doing horrible re-enactments. Jonathan ran up to Val placing the tip of his sword in his crotch saying, “Aye matey gimme your gold or lose your jewels.”

“Aye,” Blu approached Jonathan and Val with Noah dressed as a pirate, patch over his eye and Blu had a stuffed parrot gaffer taped to his shoulder. “Do as me pirate king says, or ye shall walk the plank. Aye!”

“Your wench shall laugh no more,” Cody barked out at a snickering Brent.

Levi joined in the fun, poking Brent in the guts with a plastic sword. “Give us ye gold, we want the gold. Gold! Gold! Gold!” he chanted as the rest joined in skipping and jumping around the two men. “Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!”

Brent laughed giving Val a “WTF” look, holding his hands in the air. “We have no gold, I’ll walk his plank.” He pointed to the man standing next to him.

Jonathan poked Val in his junk, “The plank it is matey,” the boy got behind Val continuing to poke the man this time in the back as the group escorted the men to the pool and nudged them one at a time onto the diving board. “Off with you, your wench shall follow.”

Brent glared at Val who was barely holding himself together after he heard Brent being referred to as his ‘wench.’

“You big baby Brent,” Val said as he walked off of the ‘plank.’ He surfaced the pool water sputtering, “this pool isn’t heated.”

Cody chuckled, “Aye matey our fortunes are drying up, and your bits are shriveling up.”

Val laughed, “I don’t know about that, but they’re certainly climbing back up. I can almost feel them in my throat.”

“Bitch please,” Brent grumbled as he took his last fateful step off of the diving board. “Oh, holy mother of god that is fuckin’ cold,” He cursed as soon as he reached the surface of the water.

“Who’s the bitch now?” Val chuckled as he pulled himself up out of the pool.

*****

Link sat in a high rise building on the 30th floor nervously glancing from one wall to another. After explaining everything with his dads, Kyle, had contacted his lawyer. George the lawyer had organized for them to meet with the man from the card, an agent to represent him and another lawyer recommended from George. Kyle, put his hand on Link’s knee.

“Relax, son. It’s going to be okay. You don’t have to sell the song if you don’t want to. Let’s just see what they say,” Kyle told him. When Link said nothing and continued to chew on his thumbnail he peered over his son’s head to his husband pleading for some help.

There wasn’t enough time before a rail-thin, impeccably dressed lady approached the trio.

“Lincoln Waters?” she asked.

Link’s eyes shot to the woman as he took a deep breath, dropping his hand to his lap.

“Yes, that’s me.”

“Right this way, they’re waiting for you in the conference room. Please follow me.” She said turning around and walking off without a glance. The three men scurried to catch up with the swiftly moving woman. She stopped at a door then knocked twice before opening, stepping inside she waited for the men to move into the room.

“Gentlemen, this is Lincoln Waters.” She left the room closing the door behind her.

The room was very minimalistic and cold. A glass top conference table big enough to seat at least twenty people. One wall of windows showing downtown Las Angeles, and one piece of artwork on the other wood-paneled walls. A phone sat in the middle of the table, on one side was a silver tray with a Crystal pitcher of water and some glasses, on the other side a platter of pastries.

“Gentlemen,” the man at the head of the table stood buttoning his suit jacket as he stepped over to the trio. “I’m Tyrone McCall, lawyer, George has asked me to sit in this meeting with you.” He shook their hands individually then motioned for them to sit as he introduced the other man in the room. “This is Presley Atkins, agent. We’ve asked to meet you early so we can get some details and talk you through the process. We will not sugar coat anything and if you have any questions ask as we don’t have much time before we meet with Mr. Cooper Layton…”

Lincoln gasped, his eyes sprung from his head. “Seriously?” barely containing his excitement. “He’s like the biggest country music star there is..” he rattled off the man's music stats as the lawyer and agent grinned at the kid before bringing the meeting back to business.

“That’s the one, as well as his agent. Everything will move swiftly until an agreement is met.” Mr. McCall went through everything from a legal standpoint and then the agent spent a quick couple of minutes asking Lincoln questions to get to know the kid until another knock on the door. It opened as all the air was sucked out of the room and a star-struck Link nearly passed out. Mr. Layton smiled at Link with a big genuine welcome.

“Nice to meet ya, kid.” He shook his hand and slapped him on the back. “You ready to start your career?”

“Let’s get this thing underway,” his agent commanded forcing his client to take a seat.

The meeting went completely over Lincoln’s head. He watched as the agents went head to head fighting for every penny, royalty, and copyright. The lawyer only interrupted a few times while he took copious notes. By the end of the meeting he still had no idea what was happening. Did he sell the song, were they taking it from him. The financials, estimates, and predictions were beyond comprehension. Poor Link was so overwhelmed he couldn’t breathe, he stood and left the room. He needed to catch his breath. He stepped out of the room and leaned against the wall slowly sinking to the floor, his knees were bent up and Lincoln found some comfort in hugging them to his chest, making himself a smaller target.

Just as he was calming down he felt body warmth sit down next to him. He expected it to be one of his dads, but it wasn’t. It was Cooper Layton.

“You okay, kid?”

“It’s a bit…” Lincoln searched for the correct words.

“Overwhelming, intimidating, confusing?” he smiled at Link.

Lincoln nodded, “Yeah, all of them. I went out the other night just to have fun, and reconnect with music and I shared a song that I hold dear to me. And… And now here we are.” Link shivered for no good reason, “I just can’t believe it.”

Mr. Layton chuckled. “Yep, it can happen that quick. If this song is received the way I think it will be you’ll be writing songs for the rest of your life. Is that what you wanted?”

“Yeah. I do,” Link smiled, “But, I want to be able to sing that song to my little boy at night. If that’s alright still? I know it won’t be mine anymore.”

“Uh, I see your hesitation. But you know you’ll always be noted as the songwriter. What if I sweeten the deal, a little?” he asked.

“Like what?” Lincoln asked the man who honest to god intimidated the shit out of him.

“What’s your singing voice like, do you think you could handle doing some back up in the studio?”

“I could sing the song to you acapella right now?” Lincoln said.

The intimidating star chuckled, “That’s okay, not necessary. I’ll fly you out to Nashville before we record the song, you can practice with my usual back up singers and you can be on the album too.”

“Umm… Wow… What if I suck and ruin your album?” Lincoln’s mind was waging war with itself.

The giant asshole laughed. Laughed. Out loud. Link shrunk into himself. “Well, if you don’t mix well with the sound you don’t sing. But you can still hang around while we record the song. I’m planning to make it a single, also. Even so, I don’t think you will suck at it if that was you singing when the talent scout called.”

“You heard me? Me singing ‘Daddies little boy’?” Lincoln stuttered nervously.

“Let all the suits in there sort out that legal and money stuff. Me and you, we can concentrate on doing the fun bit, and create life's soundtrack for the fans. How does that sound?”

Link eyed the man cautiously. “You’re different than I thought you’d be.”

Mr. Layton chuckled. “What did you expect?”

“Somebody snobbish, that thought he was better than some stupid teen kid that messed up and has a kid of his own at seventeen,” Lincoln shrugged his shoulders, “I honestly wouldn’t change the decision to raise my son with Sage by my side. He really wants me to follow my dreams and reach for the stars,” He sighed, “This is me reaching them.”

“Sage sounds like a keeper. It must be a struggle to raise a kid when you’re still a kid yourself. I admire your spirit and sense of responsibility. I have two young girls and a little boy of my own, but I also have my wife and a nanny and I still struggle.” He chuckled, winking at Lincoln. “Are you going to be okay with selling your song?”

“I think so,” Lincoln picked at a loose thread that had caught his fascination on his tie. “I’ll be able to say to everybody I sang this song with you when it was recorded.”

“We better get back in there,” Mr. Layton slid up the wall.

“Mr. Layton?” Link gazed up at the imposing man.

“Yeah,” he answered smiling warmly down at the kid who still looked completely terrified.

“Thanks,” Link flicked his wrist, “you know, for not being a dick.”

“No problem kid.” He winked at Link. “Call me Cooper, I look forward to working with you.”

By the time the meeting concluded Cooper and Lincoln had exchanged numbers, swearing to keep in touch. All legal corraling had been signed, sealed, and delivered so to speak.

*****

The gang found themselves back in the airplane after a tearful goodbye to Bella and Tracy, who would be seeing them back in Boston in a little over a month. The trip to California had generated many unforgettable memories, and Link seemed to find footing to start his career in the music industry. As always the Waters family may struggle but they always find their way back home.

We hope you enjoyed this chapter of the Waters family struggles.

Please leave a reaction. Don't forget we love reading your comments too!

Be safe, be kind, and love one another.

Aaron Hawke & JT Babbage
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Awesome chapter. Great vacation for the Waters family. Sage was able to reconnect with his sister, even if there is going to be trouble ahead. Link manages to relaunch his music career by selling a song.

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I live in Socal  you mean to tell me that crazy family was here and you didn't warn us.A far as Thyme and her issues let's think about that the security team against Los Lobo bring it on they won't know what hit them.BTW I wish you picked a different name I love the band Los Lobos lol.

Glad Linc found and outlet for his music if you become a established songwriter you'll make a nice living.Great chapter loved the comments about the Cheeto-in chief

Edited by weinerdog
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I just love how grumpy, Grampy Blu absconds with every baby who comes through the door and the parents are left going, “Huh?”  😆👶🏻

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4 hours ago, weinerdog said:

I live in Socal  you mean to tell me that crazy family was here and you didn't warn us.A far as Thyme and her issues let's think about that the security team against Los Lobo bring it on they won't know what hit them.BTW I wish you picked a different name I love the band Los Lobos lol.

Glad Linc found and outlet for his music if you become a established songwriter you'll make a nice living.Great chapter loved the comments about the Cheeto-in chief

Cheeto-in-chief ? LMAO That was great, i call him 'His Trumpness'

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On August 7, 2020 at 5:17 PM, Tonyr said:

Cheeto-in-chief ? LMAO That was great, i call him 'His Trumpness'

I spell 'his' name correctly, butt I change the emphasis to the ending...tRUMP. Writers take liberties where they can. (puns if you find them, intended).

As for 'writers',  It looks like Link found the right star to hang his future on as a songwriter/singer.

Stay Safe, Well, Distant and #WearTheDamnMask. As of today 12/08/2020 reports over 100,000 children are 'positive' with Covid-19 (or MIS-C). Proof that 'kids are not immune'. 

Edited by Anton_Cloche
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Awesome chapter! I love this family and how they support each other. Through all life's struggles it's so important to have a support system that can laugh and cry with you. People that give it to you straight and love you even when they don't like your choices. Family, whether by blood or our own choosing is so important. That's what i love about this story, that family connection and motto that no one gets left behind. 

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52 minutes ago, Indigoskye said:

Awesome chapter! I love this family and how they support each other. Through all life's struggles it's so important to have a support system that can laugh and cry with you. People that give it to you straight and love you even when they don't like your choices. Family, whether by blood or our own choosing is so important. That's what i love about this story, that family connection and motto that no one gets left behind. 

Same here.

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