Sunday, April 24, 2016
TLR Chapter 66
The day after Duke's first spanking, Jake sat on Duke’s large recliner. He would have to see about bringing his recliner over if he was going to be spending most of his time here with Duke. He thought hard about the night before. He didn't like that Duke had nearly fallen off of his lap, and worried that his legs might give out the next time and Duke would fall.
Suddenly he had an idea and grinned. He picked up the phone and called Jeff.
"Markham." Jeff answered almost immediately.
Jake said, "Hello Jeff, I have an odd question for you."
Jeff hesitated only a moment before he placed the voice. "Jake? Sure, what's on your mind?" He put down his pen and set aside the papers he'd been working on so that he could give Jake his full attention.
Jake shook his head. "Sorry Jeff, I'm a bit frustrated and should have told you it was me. I've been thinking a lot about when I spanked Duke. It wasn't very comfortable for either of us, I mean trying to keep him safe and on my lap. I've been wracking my brains how to make it more comfortable. I was wondering if you had any ideas?"
Jeff chuffed a laugh. "Well, to be honest with you, Jake, I'd gone to Mutt and asked him to build a special chair, just for that purpose, but Mutt told me it would have been massive once it was done. Why don't you give him a call," Jeff suggested, looking at his watch. "I'm pretty sure he's in his office right about now, or if not you can catch him on his cell phone."
Jake smiled. "Thank you Jeff. I'll call him and see what he can come up with. He's pretty ingenious."
Jeff grinned as he thought about some of Mutt's wilder excuses when trying to evade a spanking and said, "Yep that he is. Good luck. Call me if you need anything else."
"Thanks Jeff, I will." Jake disconnected the call and called Mutt's office.
"Maintenance. Matthew Tailor here. How can I help you?" Mutt answered, pulling a work order out and picking up his pen to begin taking notes.
Jake said, "Mutt, this is Jake. I was wondering if you had a few minutes to talk?"
Mutt blinked in surprise but recovered quickly. "Sure, Jake. I always have time for you. What's up?"
"Well...this is a bit embarrassing. I spoke to Jeff about it and he suggested that you could help. It's about being able to spank Duke so he can feel safe and secure while I'm doing it."
Mutt blushed a little, remembering that he'd been going to build a special chair for just that purpose. "Well," Mutt said thoughtfully, "what exactly was the problem, if I can ask? We can start there and that'll give me an idea of where to go with it."
Jake said, "Well we used the couch, but he began to roll off my lap because I couldn't sit far enough back and so I braced my feet against the coffee table. It helped, but hurt my legs to do it." He explained.
Mutt frowned in thought and unconsciously tapped his pen against the blank work order on his desk. "Ah, Jake, you busy right now?" he asked, an idea forming in his head. "I figure, if I can come over to Duke’s now and get some measurements I might be able to come up with something concrete. I have an idea already but I'll have to see if it'll work. Ok?"
Jake said, "Yes, I’m at Duke’s and I'll be here for a little while yet."
"Alright then." Mutt grinned. "I'll grab my gear and we'll see if my initial idea will work. Be there in about fifteen minutes."
"Thanks I'll be waiting for you." Jake disconnected the call and waited anxiously for Mutt. He was glad Duke had gone out for a while and hoped Mutt would have been there and gone before Duke came back.
Mutt arrived within the fifteen minutes promised with some papers and his gear. He knocked on the door, three quick raps, and then waited impatiently. The more he'd thought about it, the better the idea looked and he was eager to get the project started. He hadn't had anything other than minor maintenance problems at the resort for a while and he looked forward to the challenge.
Jake went to the door and opened it. "Come on in Mutt. Thanks for being so prompt."
"My pleasure. So, um, you used the couch last time?" he asked, getting straight to the business at hand.
Jake nodded. "Yes, it seemed to be the most practical at the time."
"I just need to take some quick measurements then. These papers here are the schematics from when I originally built Duke's couch, and I was going to use those measurements, but then I thought, he's had it for a while, age and use and such might have altered the height from floor to the seat, so I want to re-measure that, and I'll need you to sit on the couch so I can get an accurate measurement for my idea. Ok?"
Jake nodded. He scooted himself up on the couch. "Do you want me to sit all the way to the back?" He asked.
"In whichever spot and position you're most comfortable in... I mean... for what you have to do." Mutt replied, blushing a little. He knew that discipline was a way of life for himself, but he still had a hard time imagining Duke over anyone's knee.
Mutt knelt down and measured the couch from the bottom to the floor, then from the top of the cushion to the floor and wrote them down. He waited for Jake to have a seat so that he could take the next set of measurements.
Jake situated himself in the position he had found the best for him and Duke on the couch. His feet barely touched the floor.
Once Jake had settled himself down comfortably, Mutt noticed how his knees didn't reach the end of the seat cushion and took note of how many inches above the floor his feet came to rest. "Would you extend your legs for me, please, Jake?"
Jake extended his legs and Mutt took quick measurements before turning his attention back to Jake.
"Alright, when I was trying to get Duke's measurements for the... I mean... um..." Mutt stammered, not wanting to admit that he'd been going to work on a spanking chair for the two of them, "I mean, for the couch, you know, when I first made it..." He could feel his face getting hot. He was not a good liar, as Jeff often told him.
"Well anyway, what I'm thinking is this..." Mutt continued in an effort to change the subject. "You know the gurneys... the ones that they put you on when you're being put into an ambulance?" Mutt asked.
Jake nodded, not quite sure where this was going. "Yes."
"Well here's my idea. They're kind of spring loaded, you hit a latch and they collapse, you pull them and they extend. If I can make something like one of those gurneys, to scale of course, you can pull it out from under the couch when you need it, expand it so that your legs are supported, and then when you're done, you just hit a latch and it'll collapse and fit back under your couch. Does that sound like something you'd like?"
Jake considered the idea and then smiled. "That just might work! Thank you Mutt! You're a genius!" Jake hugged Mutt.
Mutt, surprised but pleased, returned the hug and laughed. When Jake released him he asked, "Now the question is, would you prefer it be made of metal or wood? I can make a wooden one in no time, a metal one will take a little longer."
Jake asked, "Which would be stronger and the most durable?"
"If I do it right, either one will work. I have lots of sturdy lumber ready to go. I'll have to get the right kind of metal for the inner frame, heavy grade iron should do. For aesthetics though, you might want to go with wood and leather to match the couch. It'll be less noticeable for one thing, and for another, you can both pull it out to rest your legs on when you're watching TV."
Jake laughed. "It sounds great."
"Alright." Mutt grinned. "I'll get started on it as soon as possible. He scratched his head in thought, "I'm pretty sure I have most of the hardware I need too. I'll do an inventory and let you know. The only thing I don't think I have is a latch, but that won't take much time or money to get."
Jake nodded. "You come over to the bar and let me know what you need and I'll make sure you have it. I'm not sure when I might need it next, brats are brats." He said with a grin.
"If he's half as bad as me, you'll get lots of use out of it." Mutt laughed. "Alright, let me get back to work. I'll do my inventory tonight when I get home, make a few sketches and begin work on it on my day off. Talk to you soon, then." Mutt said. Then his expression grew thoughtful again. "Does Duke know about this? I mean, I don't want to spoil the surprise."
Jake shook his head. "No, he doesn't, but he'll find out the next time I need it."
"You're such a Top." Mutt joked. "Ok, I'll see you later then, and I won't mention it to Duke. Bye for now, Jake." he said, clapping the taller man on the shoulder before heading toward the door.
Jake shook his head at Mutt's comment, but said, "I appreciate your help Mutt and thanks again." He watched the younger man leave and smiled to himself at the surprise Duke would have the next time he needed to be put over Jake's lap.
Later that night Coral was walking back home from dropping Ryan off at work, when he noticed a figure on the beach, silhouetted by the moonlight and standing so still that at first he thought he was seeing things. It wasn't until the figure moved and the sounds of quiet crying reached his ears that he was sure. He began to walk onto the beach, which was closed after dark, to tell the man that he had to go back to his bungalow. When he was a few yards away that he saw that it was the new man, Griffin, and the cries wrenched at his heart.
Uncertain how Griffin would react to being touched by a man he’d only met once before, Coral approached with a soft clearing of his throat and stood beside the man who, after his initial startle, turned his face away and tried to wipe at the tears which wouldn't cooperate and kept falling. Coral reached into his pocket, took out some tissues and handed them to the other man, who took them a little sheepishly with a quiet thank you. "Allergies." he said.
"Yep, that time of year." Coral agreed, looking out over the water, hoping to spare the young man any further embarrassment.
Griffin wiped at his eyes and stood silently, also staring out at the water, the moonlight reflected in its surface. "It's so peaceful here." He finally said, as though afraid to speak and break some kind of spell.
"Yep." Coral agreed again. He spoke quietly and stood casually, allowing Griffin his space and time to think. He didn't want to tell the young man that he had to leave the beach due to insurance regulations, he didn't want him to feel badly, so instead he said, "It's too quiet out tonight, and I could sure use some company. Would you care to walk with me?"
Griffin, who had been feeling lonely and a little afraid, nodded and followed Coral back to the walkway.
"My name is Coral, Griff. I helped you and Mutt bright your stuff in from the cave.”
"Yes, sir." Griff replied softly, staring at the ground as they walked.
"How are you liking the resort, Griffin?" Coral asked, still maintaining his easy manner, hoping to make the young man feel more comfortable.
Griffin replied. "It's very nice here."
"Do you like your bungalow?"
There was the slightest hesitation before Griffin answered, but to Coral it spoke volumes, "Yes, thank you."
It was then that Coral realized that they'd accidentally done something quite cruel. They'd put Griffin into the bungalow he would have been sharing with Chad, and now he was there, alone with his thoughts and memories and nothing else.
Coral heard Griffin's stomach growl and he frowned, concerned. "Have you eaten?" he asked casually.
Griffin hesitated again and finally shook his head, no. He hadn't eaten since James and Jeff had insisted he join them and the others for lunch, and even though his stomach growled softly he was sure he wouldn't be able to eat.
Making a split second decision Coral said, "I'm heading to the lodge for coffee and a bowl of chocolate mousse. I'd like you to come with me, we can sit and relax for a little while." Coral saw that Griffin was trying to find a way to politely decline and decided to make the decision for him. "Come on, Griffin," Coral smiled, giving the young man a friendly pat on the shoulder, "Gary and his crew can and will make just about anything you can think of. You're looking a bit chilled and the lodge is just the place to warm up with a cup of coffee, a good meal and a friend."
Griffin smiled despite himself and nodded, allowing Coral to put a friendly arm around him and lead him toward the lodge. Coral had just eaten with Ryan and wasn't really hungry, but he felt that Griffin and his needs were more important at the moment. He fully intended for Griffin to be surrounded by as many new friends as he could drum up at this time of night.
When they arrived at the lodge Coral saw Duke and Jake chatting at the bar, having their lunch break together. They both looked up and waved the two men over with smiles of welcome on their faces. Coral smiled back and gestured a somewhat reluctant Griffin toward them. "Don't worry," he whispered, "Jake and Duke are good guys, I think you'll like them."
Griffin nodded once again and wended his way toward the bar, Coral close behind with a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
"Duke, Jake. I'd like you to meet Griffin Holden."
The two men held out their hands to be shaken, "Hello Griffin. Welcome to Teardrop Lake Resort. Can we get you anything?" Jake asked, attuned to the young man's nervousness and doing his best to put whatever fears he had to rest. "I'm the bartender here. Duke is our head of security, and we're both at your service." he said with a grin.
"Have a seat, join us." Duke said with a welcoming smile. "The more the merrier, as the sayin' goes."
Griffin looked at Duke, a little in awe of the tall, handsome man. At 6’ himself, Duke towered over him. When he realized he was staring he blushed and looked down. Duke, who was used to people's reactions to him, wasn't offended at all and said, "Granma used to say she thought I was part beanstalk when I was growin' up. I was already six feet when I was fourteen." he joked.
Griffin smiled and his blush faded. One of the things that had drawn him to Chad had been the other man's 6'3" frame and broad shoulders, as well as his ability to make Griffin feel like the most adored man on the face of the earth. He began to feel the tears pressing against his eyes and blinked a few times to stop them.
Jake saw but didn't comment on it. Instead he asked, "So what would you like to eat? Greg and his staff will make you anything you like. Are you hungry?"
He stifled a laugh and a smile when Griffin's stomach growled loudly. Duke did laugh and Jake gave him a light swat on his thigh along with a warning look before turning back toward Griffin, who looked confused, naturally assuming that the larger man was the Top in the relationship.
Duke blushed with a sheepish expression and apologized.
"It's alright," Griffin assured him. "I guess I'm hungrier than I thought. Everything smells so good." Griffin hadn't eaten since lunch and even then he had only eaten enough to satisfy Jeff.
"Have a seat, Griff, and order anything you like. I need to use the men's room. I'll be right back, alright?" Coral asked, worried that Griffin might feel uncomfortable being left with men who were still more or less strangers to him.
Griffin gave Coral a worried look but nodded, his expression clearly asking Coral to be quick about his business.
Coral sent a barely perceptible wink his way and Griffin noticeably relaxed, turning finally to the waiter who'd approached him to place a food order while Coral went to the men's room.
Even though he was still technically on his break, Jake got up and poured Griffin the water he requested, embellished it with a slice each of lemon and lime and slid it the length of the bar until it came to rest perfectly in front of him. Jake was rewarded for his efforts by delighted grins from both men.
"I dunno how you do that, Jake, but I bet you'd make an amazin' golfer."
Jake laughed. "I stink at golf, to be honest. Baseball and football, that's another matter. Even though I'm an inch shy of 5'10" my coach in college made me a place kicker. After my initial try out he said that if he didn't know better he'd have sworn my legs were spring loaded." he laughed. "There were times when he felt I needed more of a challenge and he'd put me in as kick returner because my smaller stature was more of an asset in that situation."
"What does that mean?" Griffin asked, looking a little confused. "Kick returner?"
"Kick returner? I'd catch the opposing team's kickoff and attempt to run it towards their end zone to score a touchdown. If the ball was kicked into my own end zone, I had to assess the situation on the field while the ball was in the air and determine if it would be beneficial to my team for a return. If I decided that it wasn't, I would make a touchback by kneeling down in the end zone after catching the ball. That would end the play and start the next play at the 20-yard line to start the drive."
Coral, who had hesitated at the door of the men's room to make sure that Griffin didn't scare and bolt, smiled when Jake slid the drink toward him and was pleased to see them all talking, Jake becoming animated as he spoke, and the other two obviously asking questions. He finally turned the corner, keeping an eye out incase Griffin decided to check on him and he quickly called Jeff.
Jeff answered immediately, which Coral was thankful for since it meant that he hadn't gone to bed yet.
"Jeff, it's Cor. Got a minute?"
"Of course," Jeff replied, a smile evident in his tone. "What can I do for you?"
"It's more what you might be able to do for the new guy, Griffin."
"Is he alright?" Jeff asked, concerned.
"Well, it depends on your definition of alright, actually. I found him down on the beach, crying."
"Where is he now?"
"I brought him to the lodge for a late dinner. I left him with Jake and Duke so that I could call you. I'm worried about him. He admitted to me that he hadn't eaten, and he looks tired. I don't think he's slept at all since he arrived here."
"I'm not surprised, to be honest." Jeff admitted sadly. "He's taken Chad's death pretty hard. I suspected that he hadn't been sleeping well, or eating much for that matter, especially after he admitted that he'd been hiding out in the woods behind the resort for the last couple of weeks." Jeff caught himself biting the inside of his cheek, a habit he'd picked up from Mutt and found himself imitating when he was worried about something. "I'll be right there." he said, making a mental note to bring Griff to Heath the next day.
Coral felt the twinge in his heart at the reminder that Chad was gone. It had come as a shock to him when James had given him the news and he'd had to fight back his own tears.
"Wait, Jeff! I need to ask you... well, a favor if you will."
"It occurred to me that we put Griffin in the bungalow that he and Chad would have shared. He's, well I think he's lonely, and I'll bet scared as well. On one hand he knows he's among friends, yet on the other..."
"He's alone in a strange place." Jeff finished for him.
"I was thinking of taking him in, to stay with Ry and myself, but he barely knows me, and I'm not sure how Ry would react with a stranger in the house..."
"You want me to ask him if he'd be willing to stay with me and Mutt?"
Coral hesitated just a moment before answering in the affirmative. "I wouldn't ask, but he seems to have taken to you and Mutt very quickly. I'd ask James but his house is already pretty full."
"I don't have a problem with asking him. Let me talk to Mutt really quickly first, and then if he's ok with it we'll try to figure out some way to get Griffin to come and stay with us."
"I have the perfect plan." came Mutt's voice in the background.
"How long have you been standing there eavesdropping, little boy?" Jeff asked, trying but unable to make himself sound stern.
Coral, with no one to watch him, smiled widely. It came as no surprise to him that Mutt had been listening in.
"Since the phone rang." Mutt replied, "And I have the solution to the problem."
"Which would be?" Jeff asked archly.
"First off, termites."
"Termites?" Coral said aloud in surprise.
"Termites?" Jeff echoed.
"Of course." Mutt replied innocently. "Didn't you know that Griff's bungalow has termites? I'm gonna have to spray you know, and he can't be living there when I do it, so he's gonna have to go somewheres else til the job is done."
"Hmmm, and just when did you find out that the bungalow had termites?" Jeff asked in clear disbelief.
"Oh, when I was getting the bungalow ready for habitation, of course. I meant to get right on the job but then I hurt my hand, and then we had that plumbing problem and then the sprinkler system broke and... well, it just plain slipped my mind until you mentioned Griff and the bungalow. I can actually start exterminating in the morning, but in the meantime he really shouldn't be living there..."
"I don't think we should make up a story to get him here with us." Jeff countered. "We can just tell him the truth."
"And make him feel more uncomfortable than he already does? I remember when you first came to pick me up at that old motel that I felt like a burden, like... I was taking advantage of you... like I was only being taken in out of pity."
"You never told me." Jeff replied, sounding a little hurt.
"I was grateful, more than you knew," Mutt said earnestly, "But I didn't know you, and I was afraid that if I said anything you'd think I was an ingrate and leave me behind. Like I said, I didn't know you," Mutt rushed on, "If I'd known then what I know now I'd have said something, but I was alone and scared, much like Griff is now, and if we told him we were taking him in because we feel sorry for him, I'm pretty sure he'd decline. And, as much as he likes and respects you, I'm certain he'd feel a little hurt as well, maybe even feeling as though he were nothing more than an afterthought."
Coral, who had been listening to the whole conversation, glanced out at the three men once again before jumping back in. "I'm not a big fan of lying, Jeff, but I think Mutt is right in his assessment. I don't think that Griffin will be willing to take a charity invite. I mean, look how long it was before he even let us know he was on the property. The termite story will make things easier for Griff, and he's the one who needs us most right now."
Jeff went silent for a few moments, thinking hard about the fabrication and its justification. Finally he said, "Alright. I don't like lying in any form, but..."
"And secondly," Mutt continued as though the two Tops weren't in the middle of a discussion, earning him a dark look from Jeff. "We'll need to get some stuff ready for him, for which we'll need Ryan's cooperation, and Tank and Cary, and we'll have to work fast." He quickly laid out his plan, which impressed both older men.
"So are we still going with the termite story?" Jeff asked after he'd called the men in question and received affirmative answers.
"There really are termites." Mutt said staunchly. "And I can get right on the extermination procedure tomorrow. We just have to get Griffin and his stuff out of that bungalow and here with us as soon as possible."
"And just how long will this extermination last?" Jeff asked archly.
"A few days, maybe a week, depending on how bad the infestation is." Mutt replied immediately.
Coral suppressed a laugh and shook his head at Mutt's audacity. "I have to get back to them before they wonder what happened to me," he said. "You two work out the logistics and I'll keep him here as long as I can without making him suspicious."
"Alright then Cor, we'll see you in a little while." Jeff replied.
"In a while." Coral said, grinning, before he hit the off button on his phone. He slid the phone back into his pocket and was just leaving his hiding place when he nearly ran into Griffin.
"Oh!" the young man said, surprised, “I was just coming to make sure that you were alright."
"I'm fine, Griffin." Coral said with a smile. "I just drank too much coffee at dinner and it caught up with me. Are you ready to go back and finish yours?"
"I've eaten, thanks. I felt a little guilty about eating without you but you said you just wanted dessert. Are you still in the mood for chocolate mousse? From what Jake said it sounds really good and I'd like to try it, and... well, Jake and Duke had to get back to work and I felt a little... odd, sitting there by myself, even though Jake kept talking to me between customers."
"Chocolate mousse it is, then." Coral smiled, leading Griffin back to the bar where they'd all been sitting. "Jake, would you ask Ben to bring out a couple of bowls of the mousse, please? And we'll take a couple of cups of decaf too."
He nearly laughed when Griffin wrinkled his nose. "Don't care for decaf coffee?" He asked.
"Not really," Griffin said apologetically. "Unless it has flavored creamer in it to disguise the taste."
"I can arrange creamer for you," Jake said, "What do you like? French Vanilla? Hazelnut? Mocha? Bailey's Mudslide?"
"Mudslide, please. I've never tried that one." Griff answered with the first hint of interest he'd shown since arriving at the resort.
"Done and did." Jake said, grinning as he poured two cups of coffee and added a generous dose of the flavored creamer to Griff's. He handed the black coffee to Coral who took the time to appreciate the aroma before taking a sip. "I don't know how you make such perfect coffee every time," he said, "Mine always comes out full of grounds and with the consistency of sludge." he joked, making even Griffin laugh.
"When I make coffee at home it dissolves the spoon." Jake said very seriously. "Just the way I like it."
Griffin choked a little on his coffee as he tried to breathe and laugh at the same time, spilling a little of the coffee on the bar as he did so.
Coral patted him on the back until his breathing returned to normal and Jake, still grinning, wiped up the spill with a bar towel.
It was nearly a half hour before Mutt arrived and scanned the room for the men he was looking for. He made a beeline for Griffin, concern on his features. "Griff, I'm glad I found you." he said a little breathlessly, taking a seat next to the young man and asking Jake for a glass of ice water.
"Is everything alright?" Coral asked while Mutt gulped the water and asked for more.
"Well, no, not really. Griff, I have some bad news about your bungalow."
"What happened?" Jake asked concerned, “Is anyone hurt?"
Coral felt a twinge of guilt for worrying Jake but it was short lived when Mutt answered. "Oh, everyone is fine, including the termites."
"Termites?" Griff asked. He hadn't seen any sign of insect life in the bungalow which had looked shiny and clean when he'd moved his duffle bag in.
"Yeah, I was supposed to have taken care of the problem days ago but I never got around to it. I'm going to start exterminating in the morning but in the meantime I need you to pack your stuff and get out of there."
"Do they bite?" Griff asked, concerned.
"No, but you don't want them getting into your clothes and stuff. I'd suggest shaking out your clothes before you repack them."
"I never unpacked," Griffin admitted, a little shamefaced.
"That's good then, one less thing to worry about. Now, at this time there are no other bungalows available, and we don't want you sleeping on your motorcycle or in the cave again, so Jeff and I wondered if you wouldn't mind coming to stay with us for a few days... just until I get the spraying done and the mist and residue are gone. Please? We'd be so happy to have you stay with us."
Griffin struggled with the idea of staying with other people. While he'd been very sad and lonely, trapped in the bungalow with nothing but his thoughts, he wasn't sure he was ready to spend any length of time with other people just yet.
"You'll have your own room," Mutt reassured him, "Full access to the kitchen, bathrooms and living room. You can play the radio or watch TV while me and Jeff are working, or just wander the grounds and take a look around. Go swimming... jeez, you’d have the run of the place, and I know you'd have fun. Whadda ya say?" Mutt asked, brown eyes large and pleading.
He looked so much like a lost puppy dog that Griffin finally smiled and agreed to stay with them, "But only until the termites are gone, ok? I don't want to be a burden."
"It'll be our pleasure to have you, and you're no burden, you're family."
Griff blushed a little, a pleased smile on his face. "Ok," he said shyly, "As long as you're sure."
"We're sure." Mutt replied with a grin. "When you and Cor are done with your desserts, we can stop by and pick up your stuff."
"We're done, unless you'd like more coffee or mousse?" Coral asked, looking inquiringly at Griffin.
"No, thank you." Griff said with a smile, “Everyone's been stuffing me since I got here. If I eat one more bite I'll probably explode."
Jake reached under the counter and brought out a foil wrapped package. "Then I don't suggest you eat all these left overs just yet." He grinned when Griff blushed and glanced guiltily at Coral who tried to hide his own smile.
Jake handed the package over to Coral and the two men led Griff out into the somewhat chilly air. Griff shivered slightly and wrapped his arms around himself. Coral, seeing this, took off his lightweight jacket and put it over Griffin's shoulders. The young man tried to protest but Coral stopped it with a look. "When we get to your place we can pick up your jacket. In the meantime, keep that on."
"But... aren't you cold?" Griff asked, no longer shivering and frankly grateful for the warmth.
"I have a high tolerance for cold," Coral assured him with a smile. Nights tended to become a little chilly in their neck of the woods, and Coral wondered how Griff had managed to stay warm in that cave for so long. He didn't bring the subject up however, knowing that there would be plenty of time for explanations later.
They quickly picked up the duffle bag and Griff's jacket and headed for Jeff and Mutt's place. Jeff had hot cocoa waiting for them when they arrived.
"Mutt, why don't you show Griff to the bedroom and help him get settled in. Coral, would you like to stay for hot cocoa?"
Coral grinned as he handed the duffle bag to Mutt. "No thanks, Jeff. It's late and it's time for me to hit the hay." He glanced over his shoulder to make sure that Mutt and Griff were out of earshot before asking quietly, "So you guys got Ryan's bed and dresser here with no problem?"
Jeff replied, equally quietly, "Tank and Cary came and we made short work of it. Make sure to tell Ryan again how much we appreciate the loan."
Coral chuckled. "It's not like he was using them."
Jeff nudged Coral with his shoulder and winked up at the taller man. "Still, thanks." Then in a louder voice he said, "Well, Cor, thanks for getting Griff here to us safely. Sleep tight."
Mutt and Griffin walked into the kitchen just in time to say goodnight to Coral, who grinned and gave them the thumbs up as he shut the door behind him.
The three men sat a while and chatted amiably about everything and nothing for another hour until Jeff picked up the empty cups and said goodnight to the two younger men. "I'll take care of the cups, you two brush your teeth and get dressed for bed. Griff, I'll check in on you before I head to bed."
Griffin blushed slightly and said, "You don't have to do that, really."
"Oh but I do." Jeff replied, "You're family, and we take care of our own. Now, no arguments, brush, dress, bed. In that order." he smiled.
Once again, that feeling of belonging and safety overwhelmed him. Griff managed a "Yes, sir." before turning toward the bathroom to do as he'd been told. He didn't want Jeff or Mutt to see him crying yet again.
Mutt went to Jeff and put his arms around his husband's waist. "Do you think he'll be ok?" he asked softly, feeling tears pressing against his own eyes.
"Eventually the pain will fade," Jeff replied, hugging Mutt close and kissing the top of his head. "In the meantime, we just need to be here for him. Now, let's get to bed, you have to get up earlier than usual tomorrow."
"I do?" Mutt asked, frowning as he tried to recall what it was that he had to do that was so important.
"You have to ride into town and get the chemicals and gear to safely fumigate that bungalow. The ride there and back will take most of your morning."
"But... but..." Mutt sputtered.
"Termites. And I think you should check all of the unoccupied bungalows as well, don't you?" he growled softly into Mutt's ear, "We don't want them spreading."
Jeff kissed his boy, turned him toward their bedroom and sent him on his way with a swat to the backside. "I'll be right in." he promised.
Mutt huffed a sigh of exasperation but went into the en suite bathroom to brush his teeth and get ready for bed. He was sure he'd never get to sleep as his mind went over all the gear and things he would need to fumigate for non-existent termites.