Wednesday, June 15, 2016
TLR Chapter 70
James and Jaxon were sitting in the living room, Jax in the recliner with his legs up and James in his favorite overstuffed chair. It was a beautiful summer day and the cause for Jax's restlessness.
"But it's so nice out," Jaxon pointed out once again, trying to keep the whine from his voice. "I'm much better, and I can do a lot more than I used to."
James raised an eyebrow at his young brat, “Which is why you fell down the stairs and re-injured your knee." He reminded him.
"I said I was sorry." Jax replied with a pout, "And I didn't fall down the stairs I only missed one step and I didn’t hurt it that bad. Heath has me in a light brace now. It’s only been a couple of weeks and he let me walk without the crutches for the last week."
"You're lucky you didn't tear a tendon, or hurt yourself worse than you did. As it was you ended up with a series of bruises. The way you're going, Heath is going to wrap you in bubble wrap so that you can't get hurt anymore."
Jax tried not to laugh. He knew that James was serious and not happy that the incident could have been a lot worse than it had been.
"But I'm better now." Jaxon persisted. "And even Heath says that swimming is good low impact exercise and will help strengthen my knee."
"We have a heated pool you can work out in."
"Heath says I need cold as well as heat, and the lake would be perfect."
James sighed in frustration. Jaxon had been bugging him to go to the lake ever since the weather had become warmer, which had led to Jaxon's trip on the stairs when he'd tried to get his swim trunks and sneak down to the lake by himself while he and Heath had been at work.
The two of them had scolded Jaxon severely, bringing the younger man to tears of remorse. He'd behaved himself admirably since then but had been becoming restive with the nicer weather once again.
"Please, James?" Jaxon asked hopefully. "We can go tomorrow when there's nothing else to do. Maybe we can take Tris and Mutt, and Duke and Ryan and..."
"I'm not taking a bunch of brats with me without backup." James laughed despite himself. "If Heath and Coral or some of the other Tops come with us, I'd be willing to take you all to the beach for some relaxation on Sunday. We have a special cove for just the residents to enjoy on their days off. There is a dock to swim and fish from. We have a stocked cabin there as well as a shed with fun water things such as rafts and such. Some even spend the night.”
"Really? That would be great!" Jaxon replied, smiling and looking much happier than he had just moments before.
"It's going to take some planning so it might not be this weekend. I'll have to call around to see who is willing and able to come. Understand?" James replied sternly.
"Yes, I understand." Jaxon replied, still grinning. "We can bring a picnic lunch! And then afterward we can sit by a bonfire and..."
"All good ideas, hon." James smiled, trying to calm Jaxon down. "But one thing at a time. We have some calls to make. Make a list of the people you'd like to come and we'll start there." He laughed when Jaxon reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a piece of paper with the names of just about everyone on the resort.
"Hon, not all of these people will be able to make it. Even on a Sunday, some of them are on call in case of emergencies. Let's make it a small group, to start, then we can invite the others on a different day. We can start a little tradition.
Saturday evening Ricky checked on the shellfish he was preparing for the dinner with Jeff and Mutt. The saffron rice was about ready too.
Troy tried to snitch a piece of fish from the tray in the oven and Ricky smacked his hand. "No, get your hands out of the food little boy."
"I just wanted a taste."
Ricky said, "I'll give you a taste of something else if you don't behave."
Troy sighed. "Yes Sir." He went to the window for the hundredth time to see if their guests were arriving yet.
Jeff paced and looked at his watch again. "Mutt! Matthew! Get a move on! We're expected in just a few minutes and we still need to drop Griff off." Their young guest had been invited to have dinner with James, Heath and Jax.
"I'm coming!" Mutt groused, tired of Jeff's constant harping about the time. "I just want to make sure I look nice."
Jeff walked back up the stairs to the bedroom where Mutt was trying to tame his hair. He put his arms around his husband and kissed his cheek. "You look very handsome. You always look very handsome. But Troy and Ricky don't care how you look."
"Next you'll tell me I can walk in stark naked and they won't care." Mutt grumbled.
Jeff gave Mutt a mild swat. "I'd mind. Now, you look wonderful, let's go." Jeff commanded.
Yes, sir." Mutt mumbled, but he followed Jeff and Griff out the door and down the steps. Despite Jeff rushing him, in his opinion, Jeff walked at a sedate pace to first James’s home then to Troy and Ricky's bungalow.
"Behave yourself." Jeff said as they walked up the steps.
Troy asked, "Are you sure they'll like what we've prepared? Will they like the dessert?" Troy worried.
Ricky smiled. "I'm sure. Stop worrying Niño."
Troy saw the men walking up the path and flung open the door. "You're here!"
"Not really, you're just seeing things." Mutt joked.
Ricky followed behind Troy and chuckled. "Hello Jeff, Mutt, come on in." He invited, gently moving his brat aside.
Troy said, "Mutt, you're lookin' good."
Mutt turned toward Jeff with a smug grin and stuck his tongue out at him. He turned back toward Troy and thanked him just before another, slightly harder swat caused him to yelp. He turned and directed a dirty look at his husband who only raised an eyebrow.
"Fine." He hissed at Jeff before walking in to get out of range of Jeff's hand.
Troy gave Mutt a questioning look, but led him into the living room. "I thought we'd play a video game while the big guns talk."
Ricky smiled at Jeff and shook his head. "I hope you and Mutt like shellfish and saffron rice. It's not a spicy hot dish."
Mutt was worried at first that his attitude was going to cause Jeff to do something horrible, like forbid him from playing video games with Troy, but his husband smiled and only told Mutt once again to behave himself.
Jeff turned back toward Ricky and grinned. "I'm sure we're going to love whatever you've made. Thanks again for inviting us."
Ricky smiled. "You're welcome. Come on in and have a seat. It won't be long before everything's ready."
Troy said, "Ricky won't even let me sample any of the food. He's been a pain all day." Troy groused to Mutt as they walked into the living room. He set up the game and sat down beside Mutt.
"Yeah," Mutt empathized. "It might spoil our dinners. How is eating dinner going to spoil our dinner? It makes no sense."
Troy nodded. "You're right of course. Our partners just don't make much sense sometimes."
"I know what it is," Mutt said, leaning forward with an impish grin. "They mix stuff in that they know we don't like, that's why we're not allowed to have any. We might get a taste of something we don't like before it's fully cooked."
Troy couldn't help but laugh. "Maybe, but I like most things Ricky cooks. Not a lot of vegetables in Mexican food. Mostly meat, beans, rice and cheese, except for some things where lettuce and tomatoes are required. Or spinach." He wrinkled his nose.
"How do you know he's not grinding up liver... or tongue?" Mutt persisted, "And putting it in the meat."
Troy about gagged at Mutt's comment. "He wouldn't! I'd know!"
"Lotsa spices in Mexican food, right?" Mutt continued to tease, "How could you taste it if that's what he was doing? And then all that salsa and stuff to mask the rest of the taste?"
"He wouldn't do that!" Troy fairly yelled, upset that Mutt was apparently making fun of his partner's cooking.
Ricky, hearing raised voices called, "What's going on in there Troy?"
Troy clapped a hand over his mouth. He gave Mutt a worried look. "Nothin'...Mutt and me are just talkin' is all."
Ricky said, "Well talk nice. I don't want to hear raised voices again."
Troy rolled his eyes at Mutt. "Yes Sir."
Mutt giggled, "Sorry, Tiger." He said in a lower tone. "I didn't mean to get you in trouble. Do we still have time to play that video game?"
Troy glanced over at Ricky and Jeff. "I think so, the big guns are still talkin'."
"Set it up and let's knock em down, my friend." Mutt grinned.
Troy grinned back, turned on the game station and they began to play.
Ricky smiled at Jeff. "He seems easier to handle since we went through your classes. I'm glad we came and that my friend, Scott, suggested it."
"I'm glad you both came. I knew that the resort could be a help, and don't forget, even after you leave, we're a support system for you. So if you feel yourself falling back into old habits, you give us a call."
Ricky asked, "I can do that? I was concerned about that. I was worried that once we left things would go back to the way they were."
"We stand by our guests, just like we stand by each other. When you and Troy arrived here your relationship was rocky at best. Now after just two weeks, I've seen a dramatic change in not only you but Troy as well. I know that James as well as myself would love to have you and Troy back again whenever you can make it."
Ricky smiled. "Thank you. I hope next time we can come for a longer time."
"Same here." Jeff replied, returning the smile. "Dinner smells wonderful." he said, inhaling appreciatively.
Ricky smiled. "It'll be ready in a few minutes." He got up and pulled the baked shell fish out of the oven. Then he checked the saffron rice on the stove and determining it was done he turned the pot of rice onto a large platter, spreading it out. Then with a pair of tongs he took the shell fish and placed them on top of the rice arranging them pleasantly. He dotted the dish with grape tomatoes and placed lengths of celery and raw carrots around the edges. "There, I believe we're ready." He turned back toward Jeff with a smile.
"Want me to call the boys?" Jeff asked.
Ricky smiled. "Yes, thank you."
Jeff got up from his seat in the kitchen and went into the living room to let Mutt and Troy know that dinner was ready.
"We're almost done." Mutt said, putting up his pointer finger to indicate just one more minute.
"Put that finger down." Jeff said, "And come and have dinner. It's ready."
Troy nodded at Jeff as he concentrated on his move.
Jeff crossed his arms and cleared his throat. "Let's go gentlemen. Now."
Troy said, "One more move and I'll have him Mr. Markham."
Ricky came over. "What's going on? Supper will be getting cold and there's nothing worse than cold shell fish."
Troy said, "Shell fish are served cold all the time Ricky."
Ricky said, "Not the way I made them. They're meant to be eaten while still warm. Put up the game now."
Troy made a few more moves on the control.
Ricky's brown eyes sparked. He went over to the power switch. "Now, or I'll turn it off."
Troy cried, "You can't!"
Ricky said, "I can and I will."
Jeff strode over to Mutt and took the control out of his hands. "You were told more than once to put the game away and come to dinner, Matthew." He leaned down to whisper in Mutt's ear, "This is not the way to behave when you're a guest in someone else's home. Now do as you were told, or you'll be sitting on a hot seat."
Mutt had the grace to look embarrassed. "I'm sorry." He said, genuinely contrite.
Troy seeing Ricky was annoyed and seeing and hearing Jeff with Mutt put the controller down as well.
Seeing Troy complying, he took his finger off the power button. "Thank you."
"Now that that's settled, I suggest we all go to the kitchen and enjoy the meal that Ricky made for us." Jeff said, still looking at Mutt.
Troy went with Ricky to the dining table and took his seat. He glanced at Mutt and Jeff, then looked down at his plate.
Ricky sat and smiled at his brat and his guests.
Jeff and Mutt sat down and Jeff smiled to lighten the mood. "Dinner looks scrumptious, Ricky."
"I'll pour the wine, shall I?" Mutt offered, trying to make up for his bad behavior.
Ricky said, "That's fine Mutt, as soon as I give the blessing." Ricky proceeded to bless the food and then smiled. "Dig in everyone and thank you Mutt, for pouring the wine."
After the wine glasses were carefully filled, the four men dug into the delicious meal that Ricky had made. Mutt finished in record time and looked at Jeff, “Is it alright if I have more? This is amazing."
"Yes," Jeff replied with a crooked grin, "But try to taste the food this time, and don't just hoover it in."
Mutt grinned, “Yes sir." He said as he took another serving. Determined to behave, he took his time eating this time and savored the flavors.
Troy served himself and smiled at Mutt. "This is one of Ricky's specialties. I love it and he doesn't make it very often. Only special occasions."
Mutt swallowed and asked, “Can we have the recipe? I know Gary would love it and we'd have something new on the menu."
Ricky blushed a little and said, "After all you have done for Troy and I it's the least I could do. I'll write it all down and give it to you before you leave."
"Thank you!" Mutt replied. "Oh man, a new dish. I bet this'll go over like gangbusters."
Troy smiled at the other two men. "It should."
Mutt and Jeff helped Ricky and Troy clear the dishes and stack them into the dishwasher. "Why don't you boys go back and wait at the table, I'll help Ricky bring out dessert and coffee." Jeff said.
The boys did as they were told. Mutt stretched out with a loud growl of contentment and accidentally kicked Troy.
"Whoops, sorry, Tiger." Mutt said, not looking the least bit sorry.
Troy frowned and kicked Mutt back. "What is it?"
Mutt grinned in an almost feral manner. "My cousins and I used to do this during family dinners to relieve the boredom." he said as he kicked Troy a little harder.
"First one to say 'Ow', loses. Oh, and the Tops can't catch on or we're ground beef."
Troy nodded. "'Kay."
Troy gave Mutt a grin and kicked him a bit harder. "You're on."
Mutt watched out for the two tops and hauled back his foot to deliver another, harder kick. He had to pull back though because Ricky and Jeff were just coming back into the room with coffee, cream and sugar, and a tray filled with a confection made with ice cream rolled inside of a tortilla type thing, sort of like a crepe and covered with powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate. There was a decorative toothpick stuck in to hold it all together.
Ricky smiled. "Dessert. Hope everyone enjoys it. It's another specialty I like to make for special occasions."
Mutt waited for Jeff to take the first one and then he snaffled one off the plate and bit in, giving Troy a sharp kick as he did so.
Troy took one off the platter and as he sat back down kicked Mutt hard.
Mutt made a muffled sound behind his tortilla and grinned as he aimed another kick at Troy. "These are wonderful," he said around a mouthful.
Ricky smiled. "Thank you, I rather thought they would go over well."
Troy took another bite and grinned at Ricky. He kicked Mutt again.
He shifted in his seat, took another bite of the confection and hauled back to aim another kick at Troy's shin.
Troy bit into his dessert just as Mutt kicked him and was glad he had been as this way he wouldn't yelp. He waited until Mutt's mouth was empty and then kicked Mutt again. Mutt grimaced and gasped. "Ow!"
Ricky frowned at the two young men and looked at Troy. "What's going on between you two?" He asked firmly.
Troy gave his partner an innocent look. "Nothin' Ricky, what makes you think there's somethin' goin' on?"
"Nothing's going on," Mutt said quickly. "I just bit my tongue."
Troy gave Mutt a smirk, knowing he'd won the game.
Ricky raised an eyebrow at the two and then glanced over at Jeff. He thought something was going on, but felt out of his depth as how to handle it.
"I know what you were up to Matthew." Jeff said sternly. "I've seen you do it enough with Adam and Torren. I told you that this was no way to behave when you're a guest in someone else's house, didn't I?"
Mutt swallowed the last of his dessert and looked at Jeff. "Sorry, Chief. Sorry Ricky." Mutt said, his eyes trained on his now empty plate. He picked up a napkin and wiped his hands and mouth.
Troy bit his lip now. They had been busted.
Ricky gave Troy a stern look. "What were you doing Chico?"
"It was just a game." Mutt said quickly to get Ricky's attention off of Troy. "It was my idea. Just something to pass the time."
Ricky arched an eyebrow. "Just what kind of game?"
"Ummm, sorta like footsies." Mutt hedged.
"Footsies?" Ricky asked, narrowing his eyes. He turned to Troy. "Niño, I want to know just what you were doing and I want to know now!" Ricky told his brat, an edge of anger in his voice.
Troy had heard this before and he instinctively cringed inwardly and put his arm up, ready to receive the blows that usually followed that tone of voice.
"Don't be mad at Troy, please." Jeff said. "Mutt gets these crazy ideas and he seems to be able to convince even the most level headed brat to go along with him."
Mutt saw Troy's reaction and instinctively went to protect his friend. He was a little angry, thinking that Ricky was still beating on Troy despite what he'd learned to the contrary. He was fully prepared to clock Ricky if he raised a hand to Troy.
Jeff became alarmed when he saw the look on Mutt's face and Troy's warding gesture. He looked at Ricky, trying not to judge. "Ricky?"
Ricky heard Jeff and nodded. "I see." Turning to Troy and noticing the boy's reaction he said quietly, "I know you don't trust it yet Chico, but I told you I wouldn't be hitting you anymore."
Ricky looked at Jeff. "When I'd get angry I would hit Troy. You saw that when we first came here. I learned a lot and I promised myself and Troy that wouldn't be happening anymore. It will take time for him to trust the change, and the reaction I'm sure is instinctive."
Mutt visibly relaxed and Jeff gave Ricky an apologetic smile. "You're right, it will take time, I'm sorry if we alarmed you. Mutt, sit down."
Mutt hesitated for a moment, putting a comforting hand on Troy's shoulder for a moment before doing as he'd been told. "I'm sorry too." Mutt said quietly. "I should have known better."
There was an awkward silence and Jeff considered making their excuses and taking their leave.
Troy ducked his head, embarrassed at having caused a scene.
Ricky went over to Troy and put an arm around his shoulders. "Niño, it's all right. I love you and I'm going to take good care of you and not hurt you anymore."
Troy looked up then and seeing the love in Ricky's eyes relaxed and leaned into him.
Mutt leaned back toward Troy and patted his shoulder again. "I'm sorry, Tiger. I'm sorry, Ricky, for thinking that you were going to hurt him. I should have known better."
"Old habits die hard." Jeff said quietly. "It will take time, Ricky, but as I said, we're all here to support you and Troy for as long as you need us. And you're welcome to return to the resort as often as you are able."
Ricky nodded and hugged Troy to him. "It's all right."
Troy sighed. "I couldn't help it. I didn't mean to act that way." He apologized.
"So, is it alright if I grab another tortilla and some coffee before one melts and the other gets cold?" Mutt asked, trying to change the subject. "That reminds me, Gary would probably love the dessert recipe too, if you don't mind sharing that. I really think it's about time to expand our menu, don't you think, Jeff?"
"Definitely." Jeff agreed.
Ricky frowned slightly, recognizing Mutt’s attempt to distract the Tops from the misbehavior, but looked to Jeff for the lead in how to handle this. Kicking each other under the table wasn't acceptable. Had he done that with his parents there his father would have hauled him out to the woodshed.
"Ricky, would you mind if Mutt and I used your bathroom for a few moments? We have something to discuss." Jeff said, looking pointedly at Mutt who blushed. He'd been hoping that the kicking incident had been forgotten.
Ricky shook his head. "No, of course you may use it."
Jeff led Mutt into the bathroom and gently closed the door. "Footsies?" He demanded quietly. "More like Kicksies! I don't come down on you for doing it at home, but we're guests here, and I expected better behavior from you."
"We were just having a little fun, Jeff. Please, not here?"
Troy watched anxiously as Mutt was taken into the bathroom.
Ricky said, "I love you Niño." He turned Troy and gave him a few good swats. "Now, no more naughty behavior at the dinner table comprende?"
Troy yelped and rubbed, then said, "Yes Ricky."
Ricky pulled him into a tight hug. "Good."
Troy jumped a little as he heard a few solid smacks coming from the other room.
Ricky hugged Troy close. "No worries Niño, Jeff knows how to handle this kind of thing."
Troy nodded. "Yes, but it's got to be embarrassin' for Mutt."
Ricky said, "No more embarrassing than for Jeff to have his partner behave like he did."
Troy thought about this and nodded.
Ricky smiled at his brat and pulled him into another hug.
Mutt and Jeff exited the bathroom moments later. Jeff smiling, Mutt with a scowl and cheeks pink with embarrassment. He knew that Troy and Ricky had to have heard what had happened in the bathroom.
Troy and Mutt were given permission to continue their video game while Jeff and Ricky talked in private. They left an hour later amidst hugs and promises to be there to see them off in the morning.
Early the next morning, Mutt was there to help load all of Ricky and Troy's things into the bed of their truck. James and Jeff came just as they were finishing up.
James smiled as Ricky and Troy finished up their packing. "I'm glad the two of you have learned a lot, and don't forget to practice what you've learned."
Ricky smile. "We won't. It's been a good experience."
"We'll miss you," Mutt said, sincerely. "Troy, email me as soon as you get home so I know you got there all right."
"And thank you for the recipes for Gary," Jeff smiled. "He was thrilled to get them."
Troy said just as sincerely, "We'll miss you too and I certainly will email you as soon as Ricky lets me on the computer."
Ricky smiled and said to Jeff, “You’re welcome.” He turned to his boy and promised, "We'll make sure you get to send an e-mail Chico."
James and Jeff clasped hands with Ricky and Troy as they said their goodbyes, and watched as the two drove off into the rising sun.
"I'm glad we helped them." Jeff said. "They have our numbers in case they need help or advice." He assured his friend.
James nodded. "Yes, our record still stands." He grinned. "We haven't lost a couple yet."
“No, we haven’t, JW. No, we haven’t.”
“I better get back to the house.” James said,” Jax talked me and Coral into taking him, Ryan, Tris and Jarrod to the cove this morning.”
Jeff laughed, “Sounds like fun, JW. Good luck and be careful.”
James chuckled. “Thanks. I’ll be careful, of course, and I’ll need all the luck I can get.