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    Jdonley75
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Cornucopia - 5. Homecoming

With a sigh of contentment, David smiled as Colt parked his car in the nearest spot to the house. The sun was just dipping beyond the trees of his beloved orchard as evening approached. It had been a long flight back to the country and an even longer drive from Savannah where they landed only to pack up again a day later. But after five weeks, three countries and a treasure trove of new memories, he was finally home.

Their plan had begun as just a simple trip to Italy for a few weeks and then come back. However, after a few days in Rome and enjoying the atmosphere and the weather, they opted to go to Greece. After that was a spontaneous trek to Spain taking in the architecture and relaxing in a small villa near Barcelona for a week. Finally, after they mutually decided that had seen enough for the time being, they returned to Georgia and finished with the long drive back to Pennsylvania. The smile on his face was for more than just his return to his beloved orchard but from the time spent and the long discussions they had throughout their trip.

Colt shut the engine off and looked over at his partner, smirking slightly at the easy smile on the bearded face. “Well, here we are,” he said with his casual southern drawl.

“Home sweet home,” David agreed. They shared one more quiet moment between the two of them before getting out to begin the arduous task of getting their bags out of the car.

Before Colt could open the trunk, they heard a squeal of boyish excitement accompanied by bare feet running across the driveway. David had just enough time to turn as Matthew crashed into him with a tight hug causing him to grunt in surprise. “Grandpa! You’re home!”

David chuckled and leaned down to pick Matt up and wrap his arms around him. “There’s my Baby Boy.” He gave his grandson a kiss on the cheek for good measure. “I don’t remember you being this heavy. Did you get older while I was gone?”

“No,” the boy replied with a giggle. “I’m still six.”

“Thank God,” David exclaimed. “I thought I’d been gone longer than I thought!” The two of them shared a laugh before he asked, “where’s your dads at?”

“They’re inside,” the boy informed him. “They didn’t see the car pull up. But I knew it was you.”

David glanced over at Colt who was pulling half a dozen bags out of the back. “Hey, let me help Colt get the bags out and you can hold the door open for us.”

“Okay,” the boy replied excitedly as David set him back on his feet. He went around the car to help Colt with removing bags. Most of it was Colt’s belongings and he knew the marine officer in him was still used to a certain way of doing things. So, he let Colt decide what David could carry and what he would bring in himself.

As they were getting to the bottom of the ramp leading up to the patio, the back door opened, and Kyle emerged with a bright smile. “Welcome home.” He took a few steps towards his father before offering, “can I help you with some of those bags?”

“I think we can handle it,” David replied as he slung a bag over his shoulder.

“Daddy,” Matt whined, “I was supposed to open the door for grandpa.”

Kyle grinned. “Oh, well, I’m sorry then.” He turned and closed the door before moving aside with a wave of his arm. “Here you go then.”

Mollified, the boy hurried to the door to make sure no one else got between him and his important job. David suppressed a chuckle as he made his way up the ramp. “How have things been while I’ve been gone?”

Kyle replied to David’s question as he gave the two older men and appraising look. “Everything has been fine. Got the four-wheelers oil changed last week. Jacob took Tanner out on a ride on one of them. Not sure what that was all about, but I guess it was him wanting a little fun with one of the older kids.”

“What about the fertilizing?”

Kyle nodded. “First round is done. And no, I didn’t aim for the leaves. I know you want it going into the soil for the roots to suck up.”

David grinned. “Good man. No pests?”

Kyle shook his head. “No, Dad. Everything is fine.”

Matthew opened the door to the house as David and Colt approached. David gave him a smile as he stepped inside his home. He breathed in the air of the kitchen, knowing that one of them had likely cooked lunch earlier. “Alright. I think Colt and I need to clean up and then get something to eat.”

“Sure. I can whip up something if you want,” Kyle offered before he turned to Colt. “And how long are you going to be staying with us?”

Colt looked at Kyle for a moment before turning his eyes to David.

“Uh,” David began. “Let’s get cleaned up and changed and then maybe order some food while we talk.”

Kyle frowned a little in concern but shrugged. “Okay. Jacob’s in the back working on something. I’ll let him know you’re home.”

“Where’s the baby?”

“Napping.”

“Okay. Give us half an hour or so.” David started to make his way down the hall to the stairs.

“You’re sure about this,” Colt asked him quietly as they started up the stairs.

David rolled his eyes. “Yes. We talked about this long enough on our trip.”

Colt said nothing more and followed him up the steps. Much like any battleplan, he thought to himself, this one wouldn’t last once contact with the other side was made.

Kyle headed down the hallway to his bedroom he has shared with Jacob for over two years now. When he opened the door to the first room, he was slightly surprised to not find Jacob at work at his drawing desk as he expected. A quick glance in the play pen showed Aaron was quietly sleeping. He smiled a little to himself before stepping through the second doorway into the bedroom. His smile turned into a grin, finding Jacob laying on the bed with his eyes closed. Laying on the bed next to him was a drawing book and a pencil. Kyle deftly crawled onto the bed and wrapped himself around his husband, taking a moment to just enjoy a private moment before whispering in his ear. “Jacob. Wake up.”

Jacob grunted softly at the familiar touch. “Hm? Is Aaron up?”

“Not yet, but he will be soon,” Kyle replied softly. “Dad’s home. Just got in a minute ago.”

Jacob stirred and slowly sat up. “What’s he doing now,” he asked as he rubbed his eyes.

“He and Colt are getting cleaned up from their trip.”

Jacob looked into Kyle’s eyes for a moment. “So, what’s wrong?”

Kyle blinked and sat up next to him. “Wrong? Nothing’s wrong. Dad’s back.”

A corner of Jacob’s lips lifted slightly in amusement. “And you’re unhappy about something.”

“No, it’s just…” He sighed in frustration. “I think there’s a change coming. And I’m not sure if it’s good or bad.”

“What is it exactly?”

Kyle felt silly as he worded his response carefully. “I’m pretty sure Colt is going to be staying indefinitely. It’s not that I have a problem with him or anything. It’s just…”

Jacob hazarded a guess. “You’re worried that he’s going to start inserting himself into our lives and maybe changing things that might make things uncomfortable in the house.”

Kyle’s eyes lowered to the space between them on the bed. “Something like that.” He didn’t want to think about it too much because of what he knew could be lurking behind that line of thinking.

Jacob leaned over to kiss the side of Kyle’s head as he got off the bed. “We’ve been changing things for awhile now, Kyle. It’s not like this would be the first curve ball thrown at us.”

Kyle flashed him a playful glare. “Yeah. A lot of them lately.” Jacob chuckled and stepped away silently with Kyle following close behind into the other room. “What do you think about Colt?”

Jacob turned to give Kyle an odd look before he answered. “He’s a decent guy. A little quiet maybe. Andy’s never said anything bad about him. Why?”

“Do you think you could live with him?”

Jacob’s eyes lit up and a knowing grin crossed his face. “Oh! Worried about having a stepdad around the house, huh?”

Kyle’s face let Jacob know he was not amused. “I’ve already had a stepdad before. Several in fact.”

“Kyle,” Jacob said with a lowered voice. “I think your job is giving you paranoia. Calm down. Everything will be fine.”

Kyle said nothing in response and smiled softly as he watched Jacob carefully lift Aaron into his arms. He wasn’t sure how to explain it, but ever since Aaron was born Kyle could see a change in Jacob’s demeanor. It was as if after all these years, Jacob was finally comfortable in his own skin. There was no trace left of the shy, withdrawn boy he fell in love with those many years ago. Watching Jacob be a father to both of their children was possibly the greatest gift he had ever received. It made their bond stronger and added more depth and meaning to their lives. As he stepped up behind his husband, Kyle looked over his shoulder at the marvel Jacob held against his chest.

“Looks like our little man is ready to play,” Jacob said.

“Dad said we should order food,” Kyle said. He gave Jacob a kiss on the cheek before adding, “let’s wait until they’re done cleaning up and we’ll order Chinese.”

Jacob nodded and they spent the next few minutes changing Aaron, checking on Matt and settling into the living room before David and Colt came back down. Kyle noticed they both seemed more relaxed than they had been when they first arrived, though to him Colt seemed to still have a cautious look in his eyes. Like someone half expecting an argument to start soon.

“How does Chinese sound for dinner,” Jacob asked David and Colt as he walked into the living room with menus in hand.

David looked over to Colt who shrugged. “I don’t mind. Wouldn’t mind some Hunan beef.”

“Sounds good,” Jacob answered. “Dad, you want your usual?”

David nodded. “Some fried wontons would be nice too. How about the boys?”

“They’ll probably just have some rice,” Kyle replied. “Might get some sweet and sour chicken for Matt. Just don’t tell him what it is and he’ll eat it.”

Jacob grinned and rose to his feet with Aaron in his arms. “I’ll call it in.”

Kyle sat back on the couch, looking across the room at Colt and David. “So… What’s up?”

David looked from Colt and back to Kyle. “What do you mean?”

Kyle shrugged. “You were gone for awhile. Just curious what spurred you to extend your vacation.”

Colt’s lips tugged down just enough for Kyle to notice. “We were enjoying ourselves. Nothing wrong with that.”

Kyle could hear a hint of a combative tone. He didn’t want this to turn into a fight in his own home. “I didn’t say there was anything wrong,” he replied, turning his full attention to Colt. “It’s my dad. I was just a little concerned.” His eyes went back to his Dad before he asked, “are you still taking your medication, like you’re supposed too?”

David sighed and nodded. “Of course. Don’t believe me? Ask Colt.”

Kyle smirked. “I figured you’d say something like that.”

David sat up a little, subtly taking charge of the room. “I’m glad you took good care of things while I was gone, son. But I’m more interested in hearing how you’re doing getting back into being a lawyer.”

A smirk settled on Kyle’s lips. “Things are going fine. I have a few cases right now. Nothing big. But I’m working towards bigger goals than just a few worker’s compensation cases.”

“Oh?”

“Well,” Kyle sighed, “I want to avoid doing any criminal defense suits. I wasn’t too fond of the defense lawyers I went up against in court when I was an ADA and I’m wanting to avoid being one of those. But, if a good enough case came up and I really believed the person I’m defending is innocent, then I’ll do it.”

David nodded as if expecting nothing less. “Well, you just do what you know to be right. You have a good instinct for that.”

Kyle chuckled slightly. “Usually.” Hearing footsteps approaching his gaze turned to the door as he added, “speaking of…”

Jacob walked back in, bouncing a giggling Aaron on his arm. “Be here in about half an hour.” He immediately plopped down onto the sofa next to Kyle, grabbing Aaron by his sides and lifting him up over his head. “Are you ready?” Aaron looked down at him and squealed excitedly before Jacob brought him back down. He looked to David as he turned Aaron to face the older man. “He’s been busy while you were gone.”

“Oh, really?” David grinned and leaned forward in his recliner. “So, what has my little grandbaby been doing all this time?”

“Oh, just watch.” Jacob leaned over Aaron as he slowly set his son’s feet onto the floor. “Aaron, look who it is. Is that your grandpa?”

Aaron’s attention broke away from Jacob, focusing on the man across the room. Recognition was quick as his mouth opened in a wide and excited smile. “Pawpaw?”

David felt his heart skip a beat at the sound of the little voice and his mouth broke open in a huge grin. His voice was clearer than it had been before he left. Colt watched in amusement next to him on the sofa. One corner of his lips lifted as he watched the little boy looking not even two years old bouncing slightly and tugging at the hands his father held over his head.

“That’s not the best part,” Jacob said to David before whispering to Aaron. “There he is. Go get him. Go get grandpa.”

Aaron took a tentative step forward and then another before sucking in his lower lip. After a third step, Jacob slowly released his hold on Aaron and the boy took two more quick steps forward before swaying just enough to make the men in the room to hold their breath before he straightened out and resumed his determined course as he took two more purposeful steps.

David slid off his recliner to his knees and held his arms out to encourage him. “Come ‘ere, sweetie.” The dark haired boy’s eyes brightened and made a happy noise as he got closer and closer until he half-stumbled into David’s arms. The proud grandfather held the boy close as he slowly rose to his feet. He looked down at Aaron who met his gaze with a huge grin before reaching his small hands up to that familiar face. “You’re off walking on your own now, huh?”

Colt watched silently as David held Aaron. A small, brief smile appeared on his lips watching his partner enjoy a moment with his family. While they had been out of the country, David’s heart had never strayed too far from his home. Whether it was text messages, videos online from Kyle, Andy or one of his other boys, David continued to keep in touch. At first it had irritated Colt. He wanted David to himself at least for a little while. But he slowly came to realize David’s connection to his home and his family was a part of him. He would have sooner succeeded in removing David’s limbs from his body than alter the fabric of those connections in his life. As usual, he opted to say nothing and just watch quietly from his viewpoint. He caught Kyle’s stare but ignored it. Making this work was going to take effort on everyone’s part. Colt knew David could count on him. How the others react was not something he had a say in.

Kyle and Jacob passed the time before dinner arrived filling David in on any of the small details they had not already mentioned to him already while he had been away. He sat there, holding a cuddly Aaron who seemed all too happy to spend time listening and watching everyone in the room as they spoke. When the delivery man arrived, the group retired to the kitchen to eat. David got drinks out for everyone as he usually did.

After the food had been dished out and the first few bites were consumed, Jacob eyed everyone around the table before speaking. “So, Colt. Did you have as good a time on your trip as Dad did?”

All eyes turned to Colt who looked across the table from his seat next to David. “Sure. We kept on the go most of the time.”

“I kinda got that impression from some of the pictures David was posting.”

Colt looked over to David before answering. “Yeah, well, he had a hard time keeping the camera out of his hand sometimes. But we got to see a lot of Rome.” A faint smirk appeared on his lips as he added. “Liked it so much we wondered what Athens might be like.”

Jacob detected a very subtle softening of Colt’s tone for a brief moment and it made him smile. “Did you go see the Parthenon?”

Colt nodded. “And a few other sites. There’s a couple temples there that’re still in good shape after a few thousand years.”

“It was the food that was the best part, I thought,” David added. “Some of those places were so… simple looking but had the best food the entire trip.”

Colt gave him an amused smirk. “What about that stuff in Spain you liked?”

“The bread stuff?”

Colt chuckled softly, which raised Kyle’s eyebrows. While they hadn’t been around each other much, Kyle couldn’t remember hearing Colt laugh. “What bread stuff?”

“What was it called again,” David asked Colt.

“Pa amb tomaquet.” Colt turned his attention back to Jacob. “It’s simple, so the waiter told us. Just bread with garlic rubbed right onto the bread. Some tomato and olive oil. Like anything you’d see anywhere but there was something about the bread that just drove your dad nuts.”

“I’m gonna try and make it myself sometime.” David smiled before taking another bite of his food. “Worth a try at least.”

“No language problems then,” Kyle asked.

“Not much,” David replied. “Colt has some passing understanding of Spanish. Most of the time it was just little local idioms and stuff we had a hard time figuring out. We usually found at least one or two locals with some English we could talk to. Beyond that, just our phones to translate for us. And a couple friends of Colt’s.”

“Oh. Not your first trip there, Colt?”

Colt shrugged. “Not to those countries. A few years back I was part of a group that went to a NATO summit in Brussels. Met a few people there and kept in touch since then.”

“That was while you were working at the Pentagon,” Jacob asked. Colt nodded in reply as they continued to eat.

The conversation along with the meal soon finished as Kyle and Jacob set to work cleaning up Matt and Aaron. David motioned for Colt to join him in the front room as Jacob and Kyle set to work with the boys and the kitchen. As they went down the hall, David put a gentle hand on Colt’s arm. “See, that wasn’t so bad.”

“You didn’t tell them,” Colt replied bluntly.

David suppressed a smirk. “I will inform them when they get done with their chores. I think they know what’s going on anyway. They just don’t want to say it until we do.”

“You mentioned when we first met that they’d just been married not a year when Stewie married that one guy?” Colt asked as they stepped into the front room and resumed their seats. When David gave him a nod of confirmation Colt asked the question he had been wondering for a long time. “If they’ve only been married two years now, how come you have a six year old grandbaby? Why didn’t they get married sooner?”

David sighed, appearing unperturbed. “I’ll just say the two of them parted ways a long time ago and didn’t get back together until later. By then, Matthew had already been born. Was already three years old before the ground started to thaw between them.”

Colt watched his face carefully when he answered. He knew there was more to the story than David was letting on. But he also knew that some families have their secrets which would rather stay secret. For now, he would have to be content with the answer he was given. “Sounds like they went about it backwards, if you asked me.”

David chuckled and nodded. “Maybe a little.” Eager to change the subject, he added in a quieter voice, “I think you’ll like it here. Spring is nice but I think the Summers are the best times in the orchard.”

His lips lifted slightly in a faint but happy smile. “Not all Summer though. Don’t forget you wanted to ask them for something special.”

David grinned. “Oh, yeah. That might be a more a gift for them than for us.”

They shared a quiet chuckle before they were interrupted by the sound of movement coming from the doorway. When Colt turned his head, he saw a pair of bright blue eyes under a mop of dark shaggy hair inspecting him. The innocent curiosity and Aaron’s slow crawl into the room amused him as the little boy inched closer and closer. Out of the corner of his eye, Colt could see David’s grin widening as his little grandson moved towards the couch Colt was sitting. “Well, look who’s here,” Colt said softly as the boy sat up to place his hands on the edge of the sofa.

“Looks like a man on a mission to me,” David commented as they both watched Aaron grasp the edge of the cushion to pull himself up to his feet.

“Definitely a marine in the making if I didn’t know better,” Colt said with a trace of mirth in his voice. He met the boy’s gaze with his own, unconsciously smiling more as the determined look on Aaron’s face gave way to a triumphant smile as he pulled himself totally upright.

David chuckled. “He’s the sweetest boy, I swear…” He grabbed the remote and turned the television on, looking for a baseball game to watch.

Colt kept his gaze on Aaron as he spoke. “What are you up to, little man?” Aaron made a grunting noise as he reached out to grab Colt’s arm before attempting to climb up onto the couch. Reflexively, Colt reached out to help balance the child to prevent him from falling. His actions seemed to only encourage Aaron as he slowly worked his way up onto the couch and moving in on Colt’s face. The child’s smile brightened as if he found what he had been looking for. Colt found himself in an uncertain position. Would Kyle or Jacob be offended if he held Aaron, which was what the little boy seemed to want? “Well… here you are then,” Colt said in a stiffer tone.

David glanced over and could see and understand what Colt was thinking about. “Looks like you made a new friend,” he said by way of encouraging him.

“Seems so,” Colt deftly picked the boy up and turned him around, setting him on his lap.

Aaron’s head turned back to look up at his new companion. “Hugs.”

Colt blinked in surprise at the apparent order he had been given. In the recliner next to him, David was laughing softly. “That means he wants to cuddle, I think. He’s a pretty affectionate kid.”

The retired marine smirked and gave in, gently urging Aaron to lay back against his chest as he put his arms securely around the boy. “Well, I guess I can accommodate him.”

Only a few moments passed before Jacob came down the hall. “Aaron? Where’d you sneak off to this time?”

“He’s in here,” David called out.

Jacob entered the room and looked to his dad, expecting to find Aaron laying in the recliner with him. When he saw David sitting alone, his eyes went to Colt finding his son there, looking completely at ease as he watched the screen, absently kicking a leg up as he got familiar with the new person in the house. “Oh.” Jacob didn’t move from the doorway as he watched Colt holding Aaron not unlike how David or Andy or Troy had done in the past few months since Aaron started becoming more and more social. The oddness of it was how it had taken Aaron a much longer time getting used to them to want to sit with them. “Wow.”

Colt heard the tone in Jacob’s voice and started to believe he had errored. “Do you want him back? He just helped himself to the couch.”

“No, no,” Jacob replied, smiling slightly. “He must really like you. I’m just a little surprised he took to you so fast.”

“He’s a grandpa in training,” David commented with a chuckle.

Colt cast a subtle look of annoyance but remained silent before turning his attention to the little boy in his lap. With his dark hair and his blue eyes, he was the picture of innocence to Colt. His mind wandered to when his own kids where that age and the feelings they inspired within him. The wonder contained in every new discovery a child experiences was something he remembered all too well. And how deployments had taken him away from some of those. He hoped Aaron’s fathers would get to see all of them as these first few years opened up before them.

So caught up in his private thoughts, he didn’t hear David at first when he spoke. “Well, now that we’re all settled in for the evening, I guess it’s not that hard to figure out that there’s some changes coming. So, we might as well get everything straightened out.”

Colt tore his attention away from Aaron and saw Jacob and Kyle sitting together across the room with curious looks in their eyes. “If you’re planning on getting away again, that’s fine,” Jacob said. “We can manage things here.”

“Well, that is part of it,” David replied. “He and I are planning a trip in a few months once the apples start growing. Sometime in July. Maybe after you’re anniversary.”

“Well, that’s fine, Dad,” Kyle said with a slightly forced smile. “What are you two planning on between now and then?”

“Oh,” David shrugged. “Mostly just sit around the house. Run errands. I need to catch up on the books probably or at least go over what you’ve been putting in.” He held up a hand to forestall any immediate reaction. “Just to make sure. I’ve been doing this a little longer than you have, and you’d be surprised what little details you can overlook.”

Kyle had to privately admit bookkeeping wasn’t his strongest ability, so he shrugged it off. “So…” he turned his gaze to Colt with Aaron sitting on his lap. “You’ll be staying with us for awhile.”

Colt’s eyes went from David and then to Kyle as he answered. “Wherever he goes, I go. It’s as simple as that.”

“Not that simple,” David countered with a knowing smirk. “He’ll be living with us. With me. We will be here most of the year, but we’ll be spending a few months in the winter down in Florida along with the occasional trips. I’ll make sure you know where we’ll be at all times and we’ll stay in regular contact.”

Kyle seemed ill at ease but nodded slightly in acknowledgement. “Any other changes we should know about?”

Colt spoke up ahead of David in a slightly more commanding voice than David or even himself may have expected. “Look, this will be a shake up for everyone. We’ll likely run into wrinkles here and there and we will work through them. More than likely we might get some more visitors if and when my kids may come and visit. We will work it out. No one’s going to be yelling and no one’s going to be giving orders. I’m not here to take anyone’s place. I’m here because I want to be here and be with Davey. Everything else is just noise.”

Kyle sat quietly for a moment as he processed the information. “We don’t expect you guys to do anything more than just be happy. We’re not expecting you to take care of the kids whenever we think we need a break or anything like that.”

David cleared his throat and smiled slightly. “Lucky for me, I enjoy being a grandpa to my two little boys. And, yeah, there will be sometimes we might want to take Aaron and Matt with us. But we won’t make that decision. You will.” He sighed slightly and went ahead with the other matter that was on his mind. “And, since we’re on the topic, your mother has invited us to visit her in July. I don’t think I need to tell you than her invitation was more of a demand than a request.” David paused as Jacob lowered his head to hide his silent chuckle. “However, there is something she wanted me to do and she’s very adamant about it.” He leaned forward a little in his chair to put emphasis on his next few words. “She wants us to bring Matt and Aaron with us.”

Jacob’s head shot back up. “What about us?”

David shrugged. “I’m betting she’s thinking you two could use a little alone time and give her a chance at spoiling her only grandchildren in the process.”

Kyle and Jacob exchanged looks as they mulled it over. He could see the appeal it could have some time to themselves, even if they might both be working at the same time. To be able to relax for a few days might do them both some good. “Okay,” Kyle agreed. “I’ll talk to her later this week and we’ll get it settled. Is there anything else?”

David looked to Colt who still had Aaron on his lap. The boy had a sleepy look in his eyes but otherwise seemed content with his new friend. He smiled slightly at the notion of them two of them getting closer in the future. “Nothing I can think of.”

“Sounds good then.” Kyle rose to his feet and motioned with a hand. “Let’s go look at the books while Aaron gets a few more minutes before bath time.”

David rose to his feet and followed Kyle down the hall that led to his study. As he moved through the room to his desk, he glanced up as Kyle closed the door behind him. By the look in his eyes, he could tell his son was troubled about something. “Something else bothering you, Baby Boy?”

Kyle stood with his back against the door, wondering if he dared to give voice to what he was thinking. “I just wanted to say that I’m happy for you and that I really do think Colt is a good guy. I don’t want you or anyone else to think I disapprove of him or anything like that.”

David was thankful for Kyle’s declaration. He also felt there was more going on in his son’s mind that he uncomfortable voicing. “But there is something bothering you.”

Kyle grimaced slightly. “I don’t know how to say this. I mean… it feels stupid that this should even be an issue but… after everything that’s happened, I just don’t want to worry about being blindsided about anything.”

A look on concern crossed David’s face. “Sweetheart, whatever you want to ask me, just ask me.”

Kyle sighed and mustered up his courage before asking in a quieter voice, “have you told him about… the thing? That happened? You know. With… me and Jacob?”

Very rarely in the last few years has the topic been discussed. He’s put on a brave face and remained stoic so as to not reveal anything that he might be thinking whenever it did become mentioned, even in this stilted, uncomfortable way. David mustered up a small smile meant to assure Kyle. “No. And he doesn’t need to know. He’s asked a few questions and he might ask you as well. But it doesn’t concern him. If he gets more direct in asking me, do you want me to tell him?”

“No,” he replied without thinking. “I’d rather it just never be mentioned again if possible, to be honest.”

David nodded in understanding. “Then that’s how we’ll proceed.” He could see a shadow of doubt and remembered guilt in his son’s eyes that prompted David to walk up to him and hug him. When he felt Kyle return the hug, with his head resting on David’s shoulder, he recalled a time when he held a teenage boy who fought against his fears to tell him a secret that was never really a secret. Just a boy who didn’t want to disappoint his father. He took an extra moment to just hold his son in his arms and pretend for just a moment that there had never been a gulf between them. “It’ll be alright, son. He’s a good man and I think he just wants to feel part of all of us. Can’t blame him for wanting to be close to you and to Jacob.”

Kyle smiled as he relished this private moment between them. It seemed like so long ago since he last felt save and loved in those arms. “From the looks of it, I’m pretty sure Aaron will throw a tantrum if he left anyway.” They shared a chuckle before letting go of each other. Kyle’s eyes seemed brighter and the worry and care that David saw moments ago had completely faded away. “I’m glad you had a good time in Europe.”

David smiled and kissed Kyle on the cheek. “Thank you. I love you. Now, go spend time with your boys before bed. I’ll be in here for a few minutes just to go over things before heading to bed myself.”

“Okay.” Kyle turned to leave and stopped just as he opened the door. “Maybe at some point, we should talk about paying off some of the older debts we have. I noticed some things that go back to when I was a kid.”

David turned his attention to the papers on his desk as he replied. “I’ll look into it but there’s nothing recent we need to worry about from what I’m seeing. Go. Have fun.” He waved his hand, motioning Kyle out of the room. He stood there looking at the page in his hands but not really reading it as the door closed. With a heavy sigh, David sat down in the chair as the memory of his biggest failure played out in his mind again as it had more than a few times over the last ten years. The things he should have done and what should have been said. If he had felt any guilt about it, it was only because he knew how delicate it all was and how he had to be careful in what he said. David had spent years trying to fix a foolish mistake made in the space of a heartbeat. He hadn’t understood at the time how wildly out of hand things got and before he could find the right words, it was too late. Shame in himself and the loss that he was still feeling at the time mixed into a toxic brew that could have destroyed his family if he had not been offered a miracle to make it all right.

And even then, he placed Kyle’s needs ahead of his own. And Jacob’s.

David frowned at himself, getting caught up in the past. The boys had decided to leave it all behind them and focus on their future, which was what he wanted them to do anyway. Best to just keep it there and not threaten to tip that particular apple cart. He turned his full attention to the papers on his desk, double-checking what Kyle had done and looking over a few plans he had made for the orchard over the next few years. Kyle had told him once that putting everything on the computer would save time and make things more efficient. While David was not computer illiterate, he preferred the more hands on approach of writing things down. Jotting notes, sketching out ideas on pieces of paper or just keeping the bills in a file where he could easily access them. Sometimes, it was the simpler ways to do things that tended to be the best.

So caught up in his work, David failed to hear the gentle knock on the door, or it open as Colt quietly walked in. Standing there watching David at his desk, Colt could not stop the smile from his lips. David was truly the master of his house from behind that desk. A true patriarch who was in total command and control of himself. Little wonder what he found so appealing in his partner the first night they met. He cleared his throat to get David’s attention. “I was wondering if everything was alright.”

David smiled up at the handsome man in front of him. “Of course. I just get focused on the task now and then. Where’s your new friend?”

A small chuckle belied Colt’s amusement. “His dads already gave him his bath and put him to bed.”

“Really? I didn’t know it had gotten that late.” He sighed and put down the papers in his hands. “I’m sorry. We get home and I just got right to work.”

“Hold on there. I wasn’t needing any apologies.” Colt stepped closer to the desk. “I just wanted to be sure you were okay. When Kyle came back out, he looked a little like a nervous cat in a dog park. Did you two have a talk?”

“Nothing for you to worry about,” David expertly evaded. “Just some catching up between father and son. Was there anything you wanted to talk about?”

“Yeah,” Colt said bluntly. “Rules.”

David cocked an eyebrow as he grinned in amusement. “Not many of those floating around here, but there are a few that are non-starters. For one, no alcohol in the house. Period. I know I bent the rule that one time, but that was just once. Can’t be doing that all the time.”

Colt nodded. “Alright. If I really wanna drink that badly, I can go visit Andy and his boys.”

David nodded. “I would encourage that. No climbing the trees. That’s about all I can think of.”

“I can think of some more,” Colt offered.

David managed to keep his grin hidden as he leaned back in his chair. “Go ahead.”

“First off, more for you and me than the others, there’s no staying up late into the night. You need more rest than you let on. Last time I was here, I doubt you slept more than four or five hours. And don’t give me that crap about how not everyone is the same. I can see it in your eyes even if you won’t admit it. You get tired and you keep going. That stops. When I say it’s time for bed, there’s no arguments. Got it?”

David held back a laugh. He loved how bossy Colt could get sometimes, mostly because it just showed how much he cared. With a grin and a nod, he replied, “yes, sir.”

Colt awarded him with a half-hearted glare. “Secondly, you’re their grandfather, not their babysitter. I’m okay with taking them to visit your ex-wife in the summer, but they’re not going to dump the boys on us whenever they feel like it.”

“Well,” David cringed a little. “We’ll see. Remember, it’s not just two kids. It’s more like seven. And a lot of the big gatherings take place here. And there will be sleep overs for the next ten to sixteen years. It won’t be an every weekend event, but they will happen. And before you say anything else, Kyle and Jacob never force the kids onto me. I take them when I want. They know their jobs and they’re prepared to do them.”

That seemed to satisfy Colt who nodded in agreement. “We’ll be staying here for months at a time but not all the time. You told them that?”

David nodded. “You were there when I told them. We’ll make this work.”

“Alright then.” Colt was silent a moment while he thought through anything else that had been on his mind. “Is there anything I need to know? Anything that might cause trouble?”

David met Colt’s gaze. “No.”

Colt seemed satisfied with that answer. “It’s twenty-two hundred hours. Aaron’s had his bath and put to bed an hour ago.”

“So?”

“Time for you to do the same.”

David laughed quietly as he rose from his desk, leaving everything behind to deal with tomorrow.

Copyright © 2020 Jdonley75; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments



It’s wonderful to visit the Orchard and the family again after so long, and catch up with the new adventures of David and Colt on their European trip. We do enjoy holidays in Spain, hopefully we can go to Greece next year. 

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It is always a pleasure to visit the orchard and catch up on what the guys are all up to! Thanks. 

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What an unexpected delight to find this morning❣️❣️ 👏
 

Though this was a snippet in time like the other stories in this anthology, I found myself looking for the next chapter at the end, lol.

You packed such a treasure trove in this chapter, Jonathan, I don’t know where to start and I’m sure once I’m done, there will be more I wanted to mention but didn’t.

Change is rarely accepted easily, and that was reflected in Kyle and Colt, they are waging a silent tug of war over their respective places in David’s life and both perspectives are understandable.

New love is all consuming, add in first love and your whole axis is overturned;  Colt wanted to really dive exclusively into this most important romantic relationship of his life but he fell in love with a man who is the head of a very close knit family so he’ll never have David all to himself, Colt is learning to share when he really doesn’t want to, lol.  His unease also comes from a combination of insecurity and jealousy over this family he’s currently a satellite member of-he holds back due to his own natural reserve and a fear he won’t be accepted, particularly by Kyle....he knows instinctively if Kyle really didn’t like him there wouldn’t be much hope for a future with David, besides envying the close nature of their relationship; It results in a gruff, somewhat dictatorial manner that I wouldn’t much care for if I didn’t know where Colt was coming from; The days of his emotional reticence around the Howard clan are numbered though and thy name is Aaron, lol!!  (Can’t you make him any more adorable?) 😆 💓

While Kyle has made great strides in managing his anxiety disorder, I think the very nature of it magnifies any personal upheaval in his life. (Interesting it doesn’t affect him professionally at all).  Jacob’s presence and command of his own recovery as well as being a father to the boys serve as the mainstay of his life but Kyle will always have a battle with this....as Jacob will always be in recovery, so will Kyle.

So here you have these two control freaks in a situation out of their control and each tries to stand their ground;  I’ve no doubt that they will come to some kind of neutral zone, as David is absolutely worth it to both of them....Kyle is already on his way:  “I just wanted to say that I’m happy for you and that I really do think Colt is a good guy. I don’t want you or anyone else to think I disapprove of him or anything like that.”   I think a conversation with “Stewie” is in order for Colt. 😊

Thank you for this treat, Jonathan, yet another delectable to add to the cornucopia.

💖💖

 

 

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FanLit

Posted (edited)

5 hours ago, spyke said:

They may want to re-think their plan about keeping Colt in the dark about the "thing." At some point in time, they should tell him because if he finds out about it by accident, it won't go over well.

-I disagree about Colt finding out, I think only the original team need to know about it, they were the ones most affected by what happened;  The only other person who I think should know (if they don’t already) is Helen. 

Quote

Maybe I'm projecting here, but this chapter has a different feeling than the others in Cornucopia. The others were a contained moments and this one seems very open ended and almost like it's a segue into the next full novel. One can hope, right?   
 

If you’re projecting, I am too, lol.  The end of this definitely felt more open ended than the other glimpses of Orchard life we’ve had.

 

 

 

Edited by FanLit
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Another great chapter, fraught with palpable tension. I am thinking both Kyle and Colt need a day away to them selves to have the discussion they both need, to clear the air, realize they both want what is best for David and to see they each approach David from very disparate viewpoints.

after a frank discussion they could be formidable allies in seeing David gets to let up a bit, admittedly it will be a slow process, but doable!

Well done, the wordsmithing was spot on!

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I'm so happy that David is putting his happiness first for once in his life.  I hope for the best for he and Colt.  It will be a series of adjustments and negotiations, as any relationship is.  I have mixed feelings about keeping Colt in the dark regarding the "incident".  I understand their desire to put the mistake in the past and move on, but I can imagine how hurt Colt would be if/when he finds out that he was excluded from this secret.  I have confidence that these wonderful characters will figure it out.

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19 hours ago, CaJu said:

Always nice to hear from them😍

You are really good at painting pictures of their family life.

Thank you.  The picture gets a little bigger and complex as the seasons pass it seems. :) 

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18 hours ago, Andre Delport said:

Jonathan, soooo good to have you back and get another fix from the orchard.  I hope I have read this offering correctly and that there will be more coming. If so, really looking forward to it.

There is a lot more in store in the future, that I can promise you.  With work returning to normal, the picture has gotten clearer over the last month or so.

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17 hours ago, Bft said:

It’s wonderful to visit the Orchard and the family again after so long, and catch up with the new adventures of David and Colt on their European trip. We do enjoy holidays in Spain, hopefully we can go to Greece next year. 

That's awesome!   I had to do a bit of research to get as close to accurate as possible.

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16 hours ago, JeffreyL said:

It is always a pleasure to visit the orchard and catch up on what the guys are all up to! Thanks. 

I'm hoping to start putting out more work in the near future.

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15 hours ago, spyke said:

What a great surprise to find this in my notifications today. Thank you Jonathan!

I'm glad that David and Colt have reached the point of planning a future together. Both of them are "set in their ways" and it's going to take some effort to make it work, but it's interesting to see the give and take that's already going on. Colt better get used to some huge family gatherings and sleep overs because that's not going to change. They may want to re-think their plan about keeping Colt in the dark about the "thing." At some point in time, they should tell him because if he finds out about it by accident, it won't go over well.

Maybe I'm projecting here, but this chapter has a different feeling than the others in Cornucopia. The others were a contained moments and this one seems very open ended and almost like it's a segue into the next full novel. One can hope, right?   

Thanks for sharing your amazing writings with us Jonathan. 

Glad you enjoyed the surprise.

You may be right that David should bring Colt up to speed regarding "the incident," since it's a pretty big focal point in the entire series.  However, it  seems that David and Kyle both seem to have it classified on a "need to know" basis.  It could be a mistake, but that just shows neither Kyle nor David are perfect.

This story was a bit more open than the last few.  Mostly because things are moving and in some ways, this story will have a lingering effect on the rest of the series in subtle ways.

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10 hours ago, FanLit said:

What an unexpected delight to find this morning❣️❣️ 👏
 

Though this was a snippet in time like the other stories in this anthology, I found myself looking for the next chapter at the end, lol.

You packed such a treasure trove in this chapter, Jonathan, I don’t know where to start and I’m sure once I’m done, there will be more I wanted to mention but didn’t.

Change is rarely accepted easily, and that was reflected in Kyle and Colt, they are waging a silent tug of war over their respective places in David’s life and both perspectives are understandable.

New love is all consuming, add in first love and your whole axis is overturned;  Colt wanted to really dive exclusively into this most important romantic relationship of his life but he fell in love with a man who is the head of a very close knit family so he’ll never have David all to himself, Colt is learning to share when he really doesn’t want to, lol.  His unease also comes from a combination of insecurity and jealousy over this family he’s currently a satellite member of-he holds back due to his own natural reserve and a fear he won’t be accepted, particularly by Kyle....he knows instinctively if Kyle really didn’t like him there wouldn’t be much hope for a future with David, besides envying the close nature of their relationship; It results in a gruff, somewhat dictatorial manner that I wouldn’t much care for if I didn’t know where Colt was coming from; The days of his emotional reticence around the Howard clan are numbered though and thy name is Aaron, lol!!  (Can’t you make him any more adorable?) 😆 💓

While Kyle has made great strides in managing his anxiety disorder, I think the very nature of it magnifies any personal upheaval in his life. (Interesting it doesn’t affect him professionally at all).  Jacob’s presence and command of his own recovery as well as being a father to the boys serve as the mainstay of his life but Kyle will always have a battle with this....as Jacob will always be in recovery, so will Kyle.

So here you have these two control freaks in a situation out of their control and each tries to stand their ground;  I’ve no doubt that they will come to some kind of neutral zone, as David is absolutely worth it to both of them....Kyle is already on his way:  “I just wanted to say that I’m happy for you and that I really do think Colt is a good guy. I don’t want you or anyone else to think I disapprove of him or anything like that.”   I think a conversation with “Stewie” is in order for Colt. 😊

Thank you for this treat, Jonathan, yet another delectable to add to the cornucopia.

💖💖

 

 

I'm pretty sure, as far as Colt and David are concerned, there's no real "first love" involved in either of them.  Colt loved his ex-wife.  David loved.....  ;) 

Anyway....

Having a new person added to a group as close as David and the boys are there are bound to be bumps, misunderstandings and a change in the individual bonds involved.  I'm almost sure Colt knew from the start that he was never going to get to have David all to himself.  David is a man set in his ways, just as he is.  But there is something between them that keeps them connected.  It starts with mutual respect and goes from there.  

I'll admit I really enjoyed putting that slightly uncomfortable feeling in the story because it's completely true that things like that that happens all the times in families when there's a new member.  How it all smooths out should be interesting.

I'm glad you noticed a slight hint of Kyle's anxiety.  That was done intentionally.  As far as how it never seems to get in the way of his job, I think of it much in the same way as someone who has a debilitating stutter, yet can sing perfectly.  The reason for that is because you use two different parts of you brain between speaking and singing.  In a smiliar way, Kyle's anxiety only seems to crop up in regards to his personal life, while his professional life is entirely different.

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10 hours ago, FanLit said:
15 hours ago, spyke said:

They may want to re-think their plan about keeping Colt in the dark about the "thing." At some point in time, they should tell him because if he finds out about it by accident, it won't go over well.

-I disagree about Colt finding out, I think only the original team need to know about it, they were the ones most affected by what happened;  The only other person who I think should know (if they don’t already) is Helen. 

Do you honestly think that Helen doesn't already know? 😅

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5 hours ago, drsawzall said:

Another great chapter, fraught with palpable tension. I am thinking both Kyle and Colt need a day away to them selves to have the discussion they both need, to clear the air, realize they both want what is best for David and to see they each approach David from very disparate viewpoints.

after a frank discussion they could be formidable allies in seeing David gets to let up a bit, admittedly it will be a slow process, but doable!

Well done, the wordsmithing was spot on!

If Kyle and Colt were to spend a quiet moment together.... well, anything is possible, really.  I don't see either of them voluntarilly doing that.

There's still a lot of this entire story readers aren't aware of.  A lot of secrets that have been hinted at but never overtly placed right in front of your eyes.  I tend to be subtle like that.  Small little phrases with double-meanings that obfuscate some truths I don't want the readers to know yet so that when they do find out, they can be as shocked as.... well, as I was. 😄

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2 hours ago, CincyKris said:

I'm so happy that David is putting his happiness first for once in his life.  I hope for the best for he and Colt.  It will be a series of adjustments and negotiations, as any relationship is.  I have mixed feelings about keeping Colt in the dark regarding the "incident".  I understand their desire to put the mistake in the past and move on, but I can imagine how hurt Colt would be if/when he finds out that he was excluded from this secret.  I have confidence that these wonderful characters will figure it out.

The "incident" isn't going away any time soon. ;)

I guess we'll have to see where the story goes from here.

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I melted when Aaron asked Colt for “hugs”, he is such a sweet and cuddly little baby. I’m quite certain that Colt’s “no babysitting” rule will never be fully enacted especially with his budding relationship with Aaron. 

I’ve been missing the Orchard gang badly so I’m definitely happy that you’re finally back. :)

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6 hours ago, Jdonley75 said:

I'm pretty sure, as far as Colt and David are concerned, there's no real "first love" involved in either of them.  Colt loved his ex-wife.  David loved.....  ;) 

Anyway....

Having a new person added to a group as close as David and the boys are there are bound to be bumps, misunderstandings and a change in the individual bonds involved.  I'm almost sure Colt knew from the start that he was never going to get to have David all to himself.  David is a man set in his ways, just as he is.  But there is something between them that keeps them connected.  It starts with mutual respect and goes from there.  

I'll admit I really enjoyed putting that slightly uncomfortable feeling in the story because it's completely true that things like that that happens all the times in families when there's a new member.  How it all smooths out should be interesting.

I'm glad you noticed a slight hint of Kyle's anxiety.  That was done intentionally.  As far as how it never seems to get in the way of his job, I think of it much in the same way as someone who has a debilitating stutter, yet can sing perfectly.  The reason for that is because you use two different parts of you brain between speaking and singing.  In a smiliar way, Kyle's anxiety only seems to crop up in regards to his personal life, while his professional life is entirely different.

Will Kyle go back to being and ADA or a district attorney as he seems to thrive on the work, but there is a lot of stress involved in this field of law, is the stress worth it? 

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Having grown up in Western PA, and currently living in Dauphin County it's amazing how accurately you paint the story you've been sharing. From the orchard to Harrisburg it all is spot on. You have everyday characters with warts and all living a real life. I've read all your posted stories and look forward to every new offering. Thank you!!

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16 hours ago, nix said:

I melted when Aaron asked Colt for “hugs”, he is such a sweet and cuddly little baby. I’m quite certain that Colt’s “no babysitting” rule will never be fully enacted especially with his budding relationship with Aaron. 

I’ve been missing the Orchard gang badly so I’m definitely happy that you’re finally back. :)

You're probably not wrong when it comes to Colt and Aaron.  We'll just have to see where that relationship goes.

 

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16 hours ago, Bft said:

Will Kyle go back to being and ADA or a district attorney as he seems to thrive on the work, but there is a lot of stress involved in this field of law, is the stress worth it? 

Funny you should ask....... 🖊️

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3 hours ago, Leo622 said:

Having grown up in Western PA, and currently living in Dauphin County it's amazing how accurately you paint the story you've been sharing. From the orchard to Harrisburg it all is spot on. You have everyday characters with warts and all living a real life. I've read all your posted stories and look forward to every new offering. Thank you!!

Thank you so much for that!

I did a fair amount of research about the area while writing the first book.  I looked at everything I could and did my best to remember my times traveling through Pennsylvania years and years ago.  I like making realistic characters.  I feel they can connect more to readers if they see something in themselves in who they're reading about and makes the story more enjoyable to tell and to read.

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