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Life's Struggles - 7. Finding New Ways

Blu flicked his temporary gym locker closed looking over to a frustrated Brody.

“You ready for this, boxercise classes can be intense?” Blu asked the angry teenager.

“Wish it was me beating whoever the hell hurt Levi,” Brody stated as he yanked a muscle shirt over his head. “Soon, very soon, I’m gonna figure out who did it.”

Jonathan reached up patting Brody on the shoulder comfortingly. “You’ll figure it out, Brody.”

“Yeah,” Cody said slamming his locker door closed then jumping over the bench in front of it. “Besides, karma’s a bi–” he stopped side-eyeing his pop, “beach.” He smirked nodding his head. “We’ll get ‘em.” The kid started dancing around on his feet shadow boxing. “Pow, pow,” he bellowed.

“Yeah, well, you kids don’t go doing anything stupid. I don’t even think your grandpa Teddy can get you out of that kind of trouble. You come to me, Derek or your dads if find out anything. You understand?” Brent said sternly to all three boys while shoving his hands into a pair of grappling gloves.

“Yeah, I agree.” Blu motioned to Brent.

“Uh Huh,” Brody grunted as he slammed a fist into the weight bag.

The boys and two men walked into the class, Blu watched with amusement at Brent’s surprised face as he greeted the trainer.

“Gage,” Brent said excitedly, “what the fuck are you doing here, man.” They slapped hands ending in a bro hug.

The trainer laughed, “Got a job here when I got back from the desert, I wanted something easy,” he shrugged a shoulder easily. He jutted his chin to a guy who entered the room. “We’ll catch up later, yeah?”

“Sounds good, I’ll get your info before we leave.”


The trainer walked to the front of the room to start the session. Blu turned to Brent with a smirk.

“I can’t believe I didn’t know you were a ‘bro dude’.” He chuckled at the man who he considered a friend more than their personal-security these days.

“Shut the fuck-up dick nose,” Brent said out the side of his mouth.


Kyle, Link, and Sage decided to pay a visit to Kaleb and Davis. The elevator doors slid open, and Kyle stepped out first followed by Lincoln while he tugged a skeptical looking Sage out the door. “Don’t worry, I don’t hear Uncle Kaleb crying so she-devil must be napping,” Link said shrugging his shoulders.

“One can only hope dude,” Sage glanced around checking for any signs of ambush like they previously experienced. “No paint on naked siblings that has to be a plus.”

Kyle shook his head walking toward the living room, “Boys I think you’re embellishing a bit. Kaleb where are ya brother?” he called out.

Kaleb flew around the corner out of the living room with his finger to his lips, “Shhhh… they are napping. Nanny number six seems to have their number.”

“No shit?” Sage grimaced after he realized what he said, “I mean you’re kidding, the one I met left covered in paint, screaming all kinds of nonsense.”

“She’s Brent’s sister,” Kaleb sighed, “I guess if you grew up with a teenaged bodybuilder Brent, you’d learn how to deal with kids quickly.”

“Bodybuilder?” Kyle asked more than a little impressed, and more of an understanding of why the guy looked the way he did.

“Oh, god, you should see the pictures,” Kaleb flapped his hand moving the air around, “Katie, has some adorable pictures of him.” He focused on the hand holding between his nephew and his friend, “so Link, am I missing a little info,” Kaleb asked as he gestured to the linked hands.

“Don’t you start too,” Lincoln grumbled, “Pop, has wanted to remove doors already. I don’t get it,” Link shrugged, “Sage and me aren’t ready to try the laundry room stuff. We only just agreed to be boyfriends.”

Kaleb’s eyebrow rose, “Sage, hmm… let me advise you that if you ever reach the serious thing and decide to try the laundry room don’t do it while Blu is around he’s like a bloodhound. He can sense shit that the normal person doesn’t.”

Sage chuckled, “Uh, thanks, I guess.”

“So are we taking bets on how long til Kassidy runs the new babysitter out of town?” Kyle asked jokingly.


Kyle and Blu were hosting a bar-b-que to give everybody a chance to unwind from the stress each of them has been experiencing. The home telephone began to ring, “I got it!” Cody yelled out before answering it. “Dad!” he yelled out shoving the phone at Kyle as he came out of the kitchen. ‘It’s Brody,” Cody mouthed to him.

“Hey, bud,” Kyle stated to the boy.

“Woah, take a breath.” Kyle said with a sigh, “Levi is just working through all the feelings from his trauma, remember what the therapist has been telling each of us.”

“Do you want me to come to pick you up?”

“Nobody is here for the cookout yet,” He explained to the teen. “Okay, I’ll be there in a bit.” Kyle hung up the phone.

“Babe,” Kyle called out while finding his keys.

“Yo?” Blu called out from the kitchen where he was cutting up vegetables.

“I have to run and pick up Brody,” Kyle let out a deep breath, “Levi had a meltdown on him.”

He heard Blu muttering to himself. “Yep, alright. I thought Brent was with him?”

“I think Brent is going to stay with Levi.” Kyle turned the doorknob, “I don’t think Levi knows how to push his buttons the way he does to Brody.”

“Yeah, the guy is unflappable. Drive safely, Blondie. Love ya,” Blu called out before he heard the door click closed.


Kyle walked down the hallway of the rehab to find Brody, “I told you to go the fuck home!” He heard Levi shouting as he approached his son’s door.

“Levi,” Kyle said as he entered the room. Spotting Brody sobbing in a chair next to his boy. “Brody doesn’t deserve your abuse, he loves you.”

“Dad, stay out of this.” Levi growled, “Brody, I can’t deal with you crying. Fuck. I can’t take all of this, it’s you have to take this therapy, oh you need to learn to walk with that fuckin’ cane. Oh n’ get this Dad,” he said sarcastically, “the idiot therapist said we should consider a service dog. A dog,” Levi ranted, “What the fuck is a dog going to do?”

Kyle placed his hand on Levi’s shoulder, “Levi, a service dog will help you with tasks that are limited with your vision. Pop and I talked to your therapists, we agree with them.”

“Oh, so you’re siding with them too!” Levi roared angrily.

“Son, you know we all want you to get better as soon as you can.” Kyle glanced from Levi to Brody. “That boy,” He gestured toward Brody, “Has been here for you since the day you got injured. And you know your family would do anything for you, we’ve all been attending the family counseling with you to help each of us.”

“I just want my old life back, Dad,” Levi’s anger faded as he broke into sobs. “And look at my hair it looks like I’m done up for Halloween, some grotesque version of the guy from ‘Friday the Thirteenth.’”

“You’re not gross,” Brody stated, “but you’re definitely a grouch!” the teen chuckled trying to lighten the mood but the joke fell flat.

“Brody,” Levi wipes his face with the back of his hand, “Just go home with Dad, sorry I was an ass. These therapy sesh’s suck, I can’t think straight after them.”

“I love you, Levi. I’ll see you tomorrow, or maybe later tonight.” Brody kissed his boyfriend and made his way out of the room somewhat deflated. He felt emotionally exhausted and needed a little distance to regroup and calm down himself. He’s not used to Levi when he felt the way he did.

Kyle hugged his son, “Levi, I love you. Pop and the boys send their love too. Brent is gonna hang with you.”

Brent walked in the room wearing some old looking army sweats, “Boss,” he chuckled at Kyle who rolled his eyes. “Levi,” he said as he parked himself in a chair looking at the teen. Kyle glanced one last time at his son offering a smile before he left to find Brody.

“So you’re my babysitter huh?” Levi asked the man even though he’s been like part of the family since he himself had joined it.

Brent gave a disgruntled huff pulling a book from his back pocket and began to read ignoring the snotty attitude of one of his favorite kids in the world.

“You’re just gonna ignore me then?” Levi crossed his arms indignantly.

The man turned the page on his book, “I ain’t your punching bag Levi. You do you, man. I’m just gonna sit here and read my book, so zip it.”

“Zip it?” Levi huffed “fuck you asshole. I got shoved down the stairs and I’m supposed to act like everything is another wonderful day.”

“God, Levi,” Brent placed his book on the tray table as he sat forward in the chair glaring at the boy. “Do you even realize the shit you’re saying to people?”

“You said to do me,” Levi gruffly stated, “well, I’m being the new me.”

“For the love of god, Levi, stop acting like a brat. I get what happened to you sucks, now your whole life is going to change. You can’t keep pushing everyone away and expect them to take it. You have the sweetest boyfriend in the entire world, that kid loves you more than you deserve right now. I’ve never had that, Derek has never had that. Hell, more than half the world wish they had what you two have, and you’re going to throw it away. Get over yourself and do what you have to recover instead of whining.”

“What the fuck do you know about recovering?” Levi settled in for a fight.

“This,” Brent stood up and pulled his sweat pants down on his right leg displaying a gnarly scar. He watched Levi’s angry eyes soften a touch but they still had fire in them. “Three operations, four months of therapy.” He turned and lifted his shirt to show his back that had three ugly bullet wound scars. “These just missed my spine but did enough damage to keep me in rehab for close to a year.” He angrily dropped his shirt, sat back in his chair and went back to reading his book ignoring Levi.

“Wow,” Levi uttered quietly. “I never knew.”

The man moved his eyes to meet Levi’s gaze. “Why would you? Do you think I go around whaling on everyone because this shit happened to me. The pain, the anger, the residual mental and emotional scars can all be dealt with, Levi, they may not disappear but you learn to cope and move on best you can. The physical scars, however, will always remind you how lucky you are to still be alive and able to function, kid. We’re the lucky ones, it’s about time you start to realize it.” He again went back to his book.

“You don’t understand,” Levi adjusted himself in the bed, “the vision therapy gives me bad headaches when I try to focus on stuff. Reading is hard, how am I gonna keep my grades up and go to college with Brody? He could find somebody that isn’t all fucked up.”

Brent turned the book over sitting it open on his leg. “Do you have such little faith in Brody?”

“Faith?” Levi rubbed his forehead, “I know he loves me, but what will he do when he figures out I can’t play ball or do the stuff we used too?”

“I’m pretty sure he knows that already, and he’s still here isn’t he. Look, Levi, this all comes down to how you handle this from here. I’m not saying you can’t be angry because I sure as fuck would be too, but you need to find a different outlet for it. Use it to fuel your recovery, don’t be a man that others will pity and whisper about. This is your life, it’s in your hands. What happens from here is on you. Let yourself become the person that people are in awe of, instead of a pathetic has been because you were too busy hating the world.”

“So, you’re saying even if I can’t do something,” Levi’s face scrunched up, “I can find a way to still do something that… I could like become a coach or something.”

Brent shrugged his shoulder. “Sure, if that’s what you want. You can still become anything you want within your limitations, you’ll figure out what they are and how much you can take. You don’t have to change your dream, maybe adjust it a little and become the best damn whatever it is. You’re only fucked up, for now. You’re only broken, for now. You’re only angry, for now. You find a way to cope, you find a way around your limitations, you find a way, Levi. You’re still young. Learn these lessons now, they’re a lot harder to grasp once you’re an adult. Research, work hard, push yourself, over and over, and over. You’ll end up President one day if you want, can’t do any worse than the orange combover.” Brent smiled.

“I’ll talk to Brody later,” Levi rubbed his temple, “he’ll help me do research. Thanks, Brent.”

“Anytime, kid.” He smiled. “Now shut the fuck up and watch your stories so I can get back to my book.”

“Stories,” Levi chuckled, “I’m not the one reading women’s love stories.”

“My dad wrote it, jackass,” Brent said defensively.

Levi laughed hardily, “Mhmm… and my Pop is gonna be Queen of England.”

“I’ll be sure to curtsey in his presence next time, now shut up.”


Kasey flew in the door singing “Uncle Blu, where are you?” to the Scooby-Doo theme song.

“You won’t find me, I’m not here.” A melodic tone in return.

Shawn following quickly behind his little brother apologizing, “Sorry, he has me watching Scooby-Doo every time it’s his pick of the television. I think my ears are gonna’ fall off.”

“Pop, hide your wallet,” Cody shouted, “oh my god, he even has Scooby swim trunks on.”

“Don’t worry Codes, my wallet is in the safe. I knew he was coming. It wouldn’t matter anyway he has me on automatic deducation from my account. I only have to pay if I go over my quota.” Blu chuckled at his own joke, winking at Cody.

Jonathan looked at Kasey and Shawn, “We gonna swim?”

“As long as he quits singing,” Shawn shrugged his shoulders, “Daddy and Poppy couldn’t get him to stop since he woke up.”

Lincoln and Sage were stretched out in a lounge chair together. Link squeezed Sage’s hand which laid on his stomach before whispering, “DO.NOT.SWEAR. around that kid, you’ll be indebted to him instantly,” he pointed at Kasey before the little one cannonballed into the pool.

Jared ran in the pool area carrying Kasey’s floaties for swimming, “Dammit Kasey you know you’re not allowed in the pool without these floaties. What if Uncle Blu installed a shark in the pool?” He smirked toward Link and Sage.

“I think the fishy guy delivered a baby shark just the other day,” Sage said barely keeping a straight face.

“You’re both wrong,” Lincoln deadpanned, “it was an alligator.”

“You’s lying,” Kasey climbed out of the pool shaking his head flinging water on the pair of teens. “I didn’t see nothin’ swimin’ in the water.”

Kyle came out in board shorts, “Grandma and Grandpa will be here shortly,” he said as he stuck a tray of hotdogs and hamburgers in the small refrigerator in the poolside grilling area. “Jared where is Mason?” he asked as he looked around not spotting his brother-in-law.

“He ran to the pharmacy to pick up earplugs for Shawn and us,” Jared stated as he stretched out on a lounge.

“Why?” Kyle asked as he offered his brother a beer.

“You’re nephew,” Jared pointed at Kasey, “thinks he’s the next American Idol or something with his crazy singing.”

“Pop,” Jonathan called out as he waded in the shallows of the pool.

“Jonathan,” Blu called back with a chuckle.

“You swimmin’ with me?” The boy hesitated looking at the water, Blu had given him a few swimming lessons but lacked confidence in his own abilities.

“I can do that, buddy. We’ll get Uncle Kaleb to man the grill when he gets here, saves everyone eating charcoal burgers and dogs.” Blu put the tray of kebabs in the refrigerator he’d brought out with him. “Just let me change and I’m all yours.”

“Babe, I haven’t made charcoal in years,” Kyle grumbled with a smile before taking a gulp of his beer.

Blu stole a quick kiss from Kyle. “I was talking about me, love ya.” He told his husband before hurrying off to change his clothes to go into the pool with the kids.

“Kassidy” Kaleb yelled, “incoming kid don’t let her hop in the pool!”

Jared wrangled the young girl as she tried running past his lounge chair. “Come here, gremlin.” He picked her up blowing a raspberry on her cheek.

“Uckies,” Kassidy said wiping her cheek. “I no gremie, Koley is slave,” She pointed toward Kole who was on Kaleb’s shoulders and Davis had Kayden on his.

“Hello, brother dear.” Kyle said sickly sweet while Kaleb narrowed his eyes waiting for what was coming next. “You are on grill duty. Aren’t you excited?”

Kaleb shrugged his shoulders, “Then you and Blu are on triplet duty, sounds fair to me.” He smirked, “gets you guys a little Grandpa practice in.”

“Ha!” Kyle scoffed. “Firstly, not a chance. Davis is here, he’ll be fine. Secondly, do you really want to give Blu free rain with your kids? God only knows what he’ll teach them,” he said wrapping an arm around his brother’s shoulders steering him toward the grill. “Beers in the refrigerator, have at it, brother.” He kissed the side of Kaleb’s head then walked off.

“Besides,” Lincoln scoffed, “we decided, our kid won’t be hatched from the chaos egg–” Sage slapped his hand over his boyfriend’s mouth before he could say anything else that may cause more friction between Blu and him.

Sage replaced his hand with a light kiss on Lincoln’s lips, “Would you please not say stuff like that, your Pop will be forming a lynching squad for me for de-somethinging” he waved his hand in the air, “I don’t know for messing with his little boy.”

“Hmm, I wouldn’t worry too much, dad can handle him.” Link melted into his new boyfriend soaking in all the comfort he could.

“Your Dad likes me I think,” Sage looked around the pool area still no sign of Blu, “but your Pop wants to kill me for some weird reason, he still doesn’t believe I’m only seventeen even after showing him my ID.”

Lincoln snuggled deeper, “Pop will come around. Just be thankful you’re not dating my sister.” Link chuckled. “Trust me, she is going to have to elope and have babies in secret.”

Sage chuckled, “she seemed to think we were dating already when I met her. She pulled me aside before she left and said I better take good care of you or I have to reckon with her.” A shudder tore through him, “I’m not quite sure who is more terrifying her or your Pop.”

“Absolutely my sister. The only person who can reason with her is Pop, and they’re in this together.” Link chuckled. “You’re doomed.”

Sage poked Link’s side whispering, “Who’s the old people that just walked in?”

Link looked over and saw his Gramps and Grams with Grandma Elsie, a big smile grew on his face as he launched out of the chair going to the couple. He was showered with hugs and kisses.

“Come meet my boyfriend,” Link pulled on his Gramps’ arm.

Sage stood up hesitantly holding out his hand, “I’m Sage, Sir.”

“Doug, nice to meet you son.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Sir,” Sage glanced between the man and the pair of women.

The older man laughed. “Don’t call me sir, save that for my son.” He looked around the yard. “Where is Blu?” Doug asked Lincoln.

“Stick removal, I think,” Link laughed at his Gramps ripping on his own son.

“Shut up,” Sage mumbled under his breath elbowing Lincoln, “if he hears you he’s gonna try to strangle me.”

Doug put an arm around Sage’s shoulder. “If my son gives you any crap take it with a grain of salt. He used to be easy going but he’s turned into bear with a stick up his butt since the kids came along. Trust me, he’s all roar. He’s actually quite level headed except when it comes to this lot. Find some way to bond with his grumpy ass and you’ll be fine.”

“Bond?” Sage looked horrified, “I think if you were pouring cement he would have me bonding with it.”

He threw his head back and laughed at the dramatic teenager. “Trust me, he’ll eventually come around. He’s just testing your resolve before he trusts you with his kid.”

Kyle choked on a mouthful of beer sputtering, “Dad, he honestly doesn’t,” he wiped some of his mess off his face. “I’ve never seen somebody deny that a person isn’t the age he is after being presented with a state ID.”

Shrugging his shoulder, Doug said, “He can be stubborn, but if you give up he’ll know he was right not to trust you. Hang in there, grow on him like a fungus.” He laughed slapping the kid on the shoulder before wandering off to find his bride.

“What an odd man,” Sage said respectfully but utterly confused.

Kyle chuckled, “He’s the best, Blu and his family took in my brothers and myself when our parents didn’t want us.”

“Oh, that’s… nice,” Sage said searching his brain for a way to the topic.

Kayden wandered over carrying his book, tugging on Sage’s swimsuit, “you’s read wif me?” The boy held his book up.

Sage smiled and glanced at Link before looking down at the little boy, “sure I will read to you.” Picking up Kayden he carried the little boy over to the lounge that Link and he had occupied. Settling in the chair the little boy opened his book showing Sage where to start from.

“I’m gonna go say ‘Hi’ to my Grandma’s,” Link explained to Sage, “I’ll be back.”

Kayden looked up at his cousin, “you’s go he’s mine,” the boy stated shooing him away. Link chuckled walking away.

A short time later Lincoln walked back over finding Kayden soundly asleep on top of his sleeping boyfriend, spotting Blu he called out softly, “Pop, come here you gotta see this.” Link snapped a few pictures with his cell phone of the sleeping pair.

“Hmm?” Blu mumbled, he didn’t want to say he thought how cute they looked not ready to concede defeat in hating Link’s boyfriend just yet. He pointed at the pair, “Make sure they don’t get burnt.” Then he walked off impressed that Link’s boyfriend had fallen asleep reading to the angel of the triplets. Dammit, he so wanted to hate the guy.

Kyle approached his husband. “Why do you look like someone kicked your puppy?”

Blu took a deep breath crossing his arms over his chest, “I thought it would be easy to hate the kid for putting the moves on our baby boy, but he’s making it hard too.”

Kyle simply kissed Blu in response, proud his man was starting to thaw.

Well as you noticed Levi, is starting to find a way to move forward thanks to the family and Brent. Little steps forward, always striving for better.

Thank you for reading, remember to leave a reaction and feel free to comment.

As people suffer the affects of coronavirus, remember to practice social distancing.

Love and good health to all.

Aaron Hawke & JT Babbage
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I.glad someone has started to talk some sense into levi. Kasey i love Scooby doo too! And finally a demon tamer arrived to quell the beast that is Kassidy. 

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Great chapter. I think Brent is the perfect person to try and help Levi. Sage did well at the barbecue, keeping Kayden quiet and under control.

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Levi definitely needed that talk frim Brent. Brent was correct in saying that Levi was taking his anger and frustration on everyone, especially poor Brody. I'm enjoying how protective Blu is being over Link. Sage has his work cut out for him trying to win Blu over. Kaleb is for sure getting karma with the triplets for some of the stuff he pulled. Lol! Kassidy  is a riot! Totally reminds me of Nan! 

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Are we going to continue to see an expanded role for Brent?We found out a lot about him. Are we going to see more of Gage also?Loved Brent's orange combover comment.I guess you can get away with that comment with these readers here.Lol. You would be surprised how many arguments I've started just by saying anything mild about the orange combover

Sage rocks🙂

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Hee hee. I feel sorry for Sage having to deal with such personalities all at once, but at least it's enjoyable. 

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Great Chapter! Seems like lots of things are heading in the right direction! Just hope the assholes that did that too Levi slip up somehow. We haven't heard of any evidence that was found. We know he was kicked after being pushed down the steps. I don't remember if there were any distinctive shoe prints left on him or his clothes. Hope the brag or something if they do, there is something that can pin it on them. and then they squeal on the coach!


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You’ll end up President one day if you want, can’t do any worse than the orange combover.” Brent smiled.

A priceless line!! I LOVE IT!!!

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