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Friday, November 6, 2015

TLR Chapter 38

Jeff had been watching his brat closely and had noticed that Mutt had been disappearing into the woods more frequently on his days off.  When he asked Mutt what he was doing, Mutt would smile and say, "Nothing." which of course set off every alarm in Jeff's head. All he knew was that the pile of seasoned wood they kept for the fireplace was well stocked after Mutt's forays.  That in itself wasn't a bad thing, but Jeff wondered what Mutt was doing with the rest of the wood.  They'd agreed that the shed would be a workplace for Mutt, who up til then had been working in their cellar until Jeff complained about the drilling, sawing, hammering and banging.

"What are you up to young man?"  He'd asked

"I told you.  Nothing."  Mutt replied innocently.

"You're obviously doing something little boy.  Now what is it?"


"Don't say nothing.  You're bringing enough wood home to keep us in firewood for several years.  I don't believe that that's all you're doing."

"Gathering wood... that's it."  Mutt maintained.  After all, he reasoned, that was indeed what he was doing.  Jeff hadn't asked what he was doing with the wood, so he felt comfortable telling half the truth.

"The wagon is always full, and granted a large portion of it ends up on the wood heap.  But I also see you squirreling some away in the shed.  You're obviously doing something, so spill. What are you up to?"

"Nothing."  Mutt said staunchly, silently cursing that Jeff had gone there.

"Tell me that while looking into my eyes, little boy.  If you can look me in the eyes and tell me that you're doing nothing more than gathering firewood, then I'll drop the subject.  If I think you're lying to me you're going to start your day with a soapy mouth."

Mutt frowned.  He'd wanted to keep his project a secret... had even sworn Duke to secrecy.  Did gathering wood to work on the project count as ‘Something.’?

"Well, ok, I'm working on a project, but I want to keep it mum for now.  The fewer people who know about it the better."  He'd said a little petulantly.

Mutt had been going into the woods to find pine and cedar trees.  When he found the ones he was looking for he would take out his saw and take dead branches, at which point he would bring them into the shed outside of his and Jeff's bungalow and sequester himself for hours with the door locked.  He always made sure to do it when Jeff was at work so that he wouldn't be asked a lot of questions or disturbed.

"Just a project.  And you don't want to tell me what it is."  Jeff stated, arching an eyebrow.

"It's nothing, just a birthday present for Jax.  You know his birthday is coming up soon and I wanted to do something special for him.  Please, Jeff?  Don't ask me any more questions?  It's nothing bad, it just takes a lot of time.  Do you trust me?"

"I trust you with my life, honey.  But I also know you're a trouble magnet.  Promise me that you're not doing anything dangerous."

"I'm not doing anything dangerous."  Mutt replied with a smile.

"Well then, I'll leave you to it.  Just be careful."

"I'll be careful."  Mutt promised.

Jeff gave his husband one last doubtful look and then left to go to work.  Mutt, smiling happily, grabbed the wagon and the axe and made one last trip into the woods.


Finally, Mutt had found all of the wood he needed and was in the shed working on his project.  He was pleased with how it was coming out, and was sure that he would have everything ready in time for Jaxon's 21st birthday. There was just one problem he could think of, and while he didn't want to let anyone else in on his secret, he knew he'd have to approach James, since the project would eventually end up at his house, and he had to make sure there would be room for it.

Setting down the piece he was working on, he put everything away, locked the shed and walked to James's office, knocking on the door quietly just in case the older man were in a meeting or busy.

"Come in?"  Came the reply.

Mutt smiled tentatively and poked his head around the door.  Seeing James alone his smile widened and he went further into the office.

"Mutt!  It's nice to see you.  What's up?"  James asked.

"Well,” Mutt said hesitantly, “I, ah, I'm working on something for Jaxon's birthday and, well..."  He took a deep breath, afraid that James might laugh or just outright tell him no, "I'm making something for Jaxon's birthday?"

"Yes?"  James asked, confused yet intrigued by the young man's demeanor.

"Well,” He blushed slightly, "If he likes it he's going to need somewhere to put it."

"I don't understand."  James replied with a smile.  "Whatever it is, I'm sure it will be a wonderful gift. Of course we'll make room for it."

"I was going to make a table for it to go on, unless you have something already made?"  Mutt said, laying out a paper with the dimensions so that James would know how much room it would take up.

James considered the numbers and clicked his fingers as a thought occurred to him. "There's an old table in my storage shed.  It would need some work to restore but it's in good shape otherwise and I think it's exactly what you're looking for.  It has... or rather, it had a drawer underneath that would have to be rebuilt."

Mutt took a deep breath and smiled in relief.  Restoring the old table would take less time than making a new one. "May I go and get it?"

"Of course.  You know where everything is, and you'll recognize the table immediately.  It's the only one like it."

"Thanks, James. I'll pick it up now."  Mutt said happily.  "Um, just don't tell anyone what I'm doing, ok?"

James arched an eyebrow.  "Why don't you want anyone to know what you're doing?"

Mutt blushed.  "I'm afraid...  I know I can do it... it's just that... well, if I mess up..."

"Do you really think anyone will laugh or tell you 'I told you so’?"  James asked.  "Mutt, you're very talented at this kind of thing.  If anyone can do it, you can."

"I guess I knew that," Mutt said reluctantly, “But if anything does go wrong I'd rather just keep it to myself."

"I'll keep it between you and me," James said, “But I have faith in you, and I know that if you told Jeff, he would as well." 

"Thanks James."  Mutt replied, relieved.  "Jeff knows I'm working on a present, he just doesn't know what, and I just want to keep it a secret for now."

"Your secret is safe.  Now go get that table, and Mutt... just do your best.  It's all anyone can ask, and no matter what, I know that Jaxon is going to love whatever you're making for him."

"Thank you!"  Mutt said happily as he strode out of the office with renewed confidence.

Once in James's storage shed, Mutt easily found the table in question.  It looked quite old and was a little rickety.  The white paint was flaking off. Mutt frowned and considered the amount of work it would take to strip and restore the table but thought that for his friend, it would be worth it. He lifted the table experimentally and was pleasantly surprised.  It might need work but it would be solid and sturdy once he was done with it. He took the table home and put it behind the shed.  He knew he wasn't going to be able to strip the paint inside without fumigating the whole place.  He debated using his heat gun but he liked the old fashioned way of using paint stripper since in his opinion the paint came off much easier and left a cleaner surface. 

After placing a large tarp under the table to protect the grass behind the shed, he poured out some paint stripper into a paint pan and liberally brushed it onto the entire table, taking extra care with the crevasses of the tooled legs.  While the stripper began to do its work, he returned to the chess board inside.  

He'd had to cut the squares and work them so that they matched the remaining roughhewn board with the inscription from Jax’s Dad.  He'd stained the squares, and now that the stain was dry he was able to put the board back together using wood glue and clamps. All that was left was to do was wait for the table to be finished, and to carve a knight to replace the one that Gene had stomped on, since the original one had been beyond repair. 

He measured and cut the wood to replace the drawer, then meticulously sanded and assembled it.  He slid it into the empty space and was pleased to see that it fit with no further sanding or work needed. He set it aside to stain later.

Then, using nothing but a carving knife, Mutt sat down and concentrated on making the new piece look as much like the original as possible.  He admired the craftsmanship and care that had gone into making the board, and imagined the happy hours that Jaxon and his father had passed creating the set together.  He couldn't help but to feel a little twinge of jealousy but quickly pushed it down.  There was no sense in wishing for what never was and never could be. While his mother had eventually accepted Mutt's orientation, his father still denied that Mutt was his son, and there could be no going back.

He stopped long enough to put on gloves and goggles to strip as much of the paint as he could from the table.  Using grade 3 steel wool dipped in more paint thinner, he scrubbed off the last of the paint that the spatula had missed, leaving beautiful oak wood exposed.  He was eager to finish working on the table but he still had much to do with the board and the chess piece.  The project was turning out to be much easier than he'd originally thought.  He felt a little guilty for doubting what people's reactions would be and for thinking that Jeff would have been anything other than supportive, but years of verbal and emotional beat downs from his father had left their mark on Mutt, and no matter how many people complimented him on his talent, he always doubted himself and worried that his efforts were never good enough.

Lost in thought, the knife slipped and he cut the heel of his hand.  He watched dumbly as the wound bled.  Instinctively he put the piece he'd been working on aside so as not to stain it with his blood and ruin it.  Feeling detached from the situation, he looked calmly around for a piece of clean cloth to staunch the flow.  

'Real men don't cry.  Take it like a man!' Came Mutt's father's words as he stared down at the wound.  That was when two hands came out of nowhere and wrapped a familiar TLR tee shirt around his hand.  Fingers pressed down on the wound to apply pressure.  Mutt looked up to see a bare chested Jeff looking down at him with a worried expression.

"What's wrong?"  Mutt asked.

"What's wrong?" Jeff replied.  "You're sitting here with blood dripping onto the floor and you're asking me what's wrong?  Come with me.  We're going to see Heath."

"I'm fine, Jeff, it's just a little cut."  Mutt said absently.

"Get up.  Keep pressure on the wound.  I'm driving you to Heath's.  Get going."  Jeff was outwardly calm but worried about his husband's lack of response as he guided Mutt to their golf cart and helped him into the passenger seat.  He called ahead to tell Heath they were coming and drove to the infirmary at a speed that would have caused James to have kittens if he'd seen.

They reached the infirmary in record time.  Having heard the tension in Jeff's otherwise calm voice, Heath opened the door as soon as they arrived. Jeff was unusually pale.  Mutt looked on bemusedly, completely unphased.

"What happened?"

"Mutt cut his hand, it was bleeding all over when I found him in our shed.  If I hadn't come home for lunch I don't know how long he would have sat there."

"Mutt?"  Heath asked calmly, looking into the young man's eyes.

"I'm fine.  It's just a little cut." Mutt repeated.  "I've had worse, and this one doesn't hurt at all."

"Does it feel numb?"  The doctor asked.

"I guess.  Like I said, it doesn't hurt. I didn’t even cry."

Hearing those words Jeff thought he understood why Mutt had shut down.

"Let me take a look."  Heath said calmly, holding out his hand.

"It's fine!  It's just..."

"Don't say it's just a little cut, young man."  Jeff commanded.

Seeming to come out of whatever mist he'd been in, Mutt put his hand in Heath's and allowed the doctor to carefully unwrap the injured hand, being careful to peel the fabric away without tearing the wound open again.  When he saw the jagged, still slightly bleeding wound, he frowned and wrapped it in the tee shirt once again.  "This is going to need a few stitches."  He said solemnly.

"Have a seat on the table, Mutt. Keep pressure on that hand, Jeff, would you? And keep it elevated above his heart."  Heath said as he turned away to gather up the things he'd need to clean and stitch the gash in the young man's hand.

"A little superglue and it'll be good as new."  Mutt protested, feeling silly with his arm in the air.

"Superglue?"  Heath and James asked in unison.

"I've heard of people doing that but I've never tried it myself, and I'm not about to start.  This wound is too deep and the split is too wide to take chances."  Heath continued, returning with a syringe filled with anesthetic.

"I'm going to numb the area before I clean it."  He explained.  "Give me your hand now, Mutt."

Mutt made a frustrated sound.  "I hate needles, Heath.  Besides, I told you, it already feels numb.  A little super..."

"Hush you!"  Jeff commanded.  "Let the doctor do his job, and no more backtalk.  Understood?"

Mutt sighed, rolled his eyes and replied, "Yes, Sir."

Heath used some cotton gauze and mild soap and water to clean the skin around the wound and then proceeded to inject the anesthetic.  Mutt winced a few times but otherwise sat still, his face impassive.  Heath worried about the lack of expression and reaction from the young maintenance man.

When the anesthetic took effect, he cleaned the rest of the wound and began to stitch it up.

"So tell me what happened, Mutt."

"I was working on something and I... well, I was thinking about something else, and the knife slipped."

"What were you thinking about?"  Heath asked, trying to make conversation to keep Mutt's mind off of what he was doing.

"Just stuff.  Nothing important.  Basically daydreaming.  Just picked the wrong time to do it."  Mutt joked.

"I'll have to give you tetanus shot when we're done."

"I don't need a shot, Doc.  I keep my tools clean enough to eat with."  Mutt said calmly.

"I looked at your chart, and you're due for a booster soon anyway, so I'm going to give you a tetanus shot just to be on the safe side." Heath said firmly.

Mutt opened his mouth to protest but Jeff put a firm hand over his husband's mouth and said, “Hush! Let Heath do his job.  No more arguments.  I mean it."

Mutt licked Jeff's palm, causing the older man to remove his hand with an expression of consternation.  "Matthew Elijah..."

"Yes, Sir!"  Mutt replied, an impish smile touching his lips as he looked up at his Top.

Heath was heartened by this first sign of emotion. He finished stitching and wrapping the wound and prepared the tetanus shot.  Mutt wrinkled his nose but remained silent as Heath administered the shot.

"This is going to hurt a bit once the anesthetic begins to wear off.  Just take some Motrin to reduce pain and swelling.  Keep it dry, and try not to use it too much until the stitches dissolve."

Mutt thought about the still unfinished chess piece and table.  He mentally crossed his fingers as he promised Heath he'd follow directions.  He only needed his right hand to finish them, and now that his left hand was covered in bandages, it wouldn't matter if the knife slipped again.  And he had every intention of finishing his work.

"How are you feeling?"  Heath asked, watching Mutt's face for further expression.

"I'm fine."  Mutt repeated.  "I was fine before and I'm fine now."  Mutt replied dryly.

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