Friday, March 17, 2017
TLR CHAPTER 110
From his small kitchen, Dean watched Griff resting on the couch. It hadn’t taken much to convince Heath and Jeff to let the recovering young man stay with him in his bungalow. After all, Dean was the logical choice to watch Griff; he could stay home with him. The others needed to run the resort.
Dean’s feelings for his young carpenter couldn’t be ignored and if he guessed correctly, Griff had feelings for him too. After spending the last 3 days together, he was learning it was ok to depend on the big man.
The bruise covering most of Griff’s cheek was finally moving past purple and to green. If he moved his head to fast the spinning returned and he felt woozy. His shoulder where Gene had kicked him was still tender but luckily no bones were broken. That bruise was fading too. Aside from that he was feeling much better. Not only feeling better, he was happy. He looked over at his boss, no, Dean was more than that. When Griff thought about it, even before Gene had attacked him, Dean had cared for him. The big man never pushed but he was there when the younger man had needed him. He hadn’t felt this way since, well, since before Chad had died. But it was more than just being happy. He really enjoyed being here with Dean.
Pushing away from the counter he had been leaning against, Dean grabbed Griff’s jacket and tossed it next to him. “If you feel up to it, let’s get you out of here and have dinner at the lodge,” he said while sitting down on the coffee table in front of the young man. “The fresh air will do you good.”
“Sounds like a great idea, Dean,” Griff agreed pushing up to his feet. “Damn,” he groaned as a wave of dizziness washed over him.
“Easy, little boy,” the big man warned while reaching out to steady his boy. No, not his boy, not yet Dean thought.
Griff leaned against Dean’s broad chest waiting for his head to clear. “When will I be ok again?” he growled into the chest.
Dean kissed the blonde hair under his chin. “Soon, little boy, but you can’t rush it, those were powerful hits you took,” he explained.
Blue eyes turned up trying to focus on gray eyes. Stretching up Griff pressed his lips against Dean’s. The big man pulled back enough to ask, “Are you sure, little one?”
Dean gently pushed back, his lips sealing his commitment to his young man. He felt Griff sag in his arms. He held the kiss while carefully turning to find the couch. Setting down he pulled Griff with him. When Dean finally released the kiss, he positioned them so they were facing each other. “I’ve been wanting to do that almost since the first day I saw you, little one,” the big man whispered as if saying it out loud would break the spell.
Griff softly touched Dean’s cheek. “I’ve wanted to do it too. I didn’t want to hurt Chad’s memory,” he admitted, “but I know Chad would be OK with us. He’d like you.”
Gray eyes sparkled. Dean grinned at the young man. “You’re a special man, Griffin Lee Holden.” He paused then said, “I actually knew Chad. He was a fine man and knowing that you think he would be OK with me caring for you makes me very happy.”
Griff snuggled against Dean’s shoulder. Relieved that Dean felt the same way he did. Relieved that he had someone he could count on.
“I know Chad was a Top, Griff,” Dean pointed out. “And from what I’ve seen, you are…”
“A brat,” Griff filled in the blank with a laugh. “Yeah, I’m a bonified brat.”
“And now, if you want, you’ll be my brat,” Dean murmured into the hair resting on his shoulder. “More than a brat though, we will be partners, lovers, family.”
“Yeah, I want it,” he answered looking up at Dean. “I want to take care of you and to know you’ll be there for me,” Griff added.
Dean chuckled. “And best of all, you’ll get a brother in the deal. A great big brother.”
The two men sat in silence enjoying the new feeling of belonging. Finally, Dean stood and pulled Griff to his feet. He helped his boy into his jacket and said, “Let’s go get that dinner then we can come back here a cuddle.”
Mutt and Jeff joined Duke and Jake at their table. Mutt was just about to reach for a roll when Jeff stopped him from touching the food by pinning the offending hand to the table.
"You still have to wash your hands," he scolded gently.
Mutt looked down at his hands and realized that he hadn't gotten all of the potting soil out from under his nails. He blushed hotly and went into the bathroom to scrub.
Dean pulled the big oak door opened and guided his young man into the lodge, arm around his waist. He steered Griff over to the table where Jeff, Jake and Duke were sitting.
As he walked out of the bathroom Mutt saw Dean and Griff at the table. He smiled, knowing that the arm around Griff's waist was more than just a security measure.
Reaching the other men he leaned in toward Griff with a smile and said in what he thought was a quiet voice, "If you can't have Jeff... and you can't, then Dean is a perfect Top for you. Congratulations."
Dean heard a gasp coming from the direction of his brother, then turned to Mutt and growled, "I can see you don't know the meaning keeping a confidence."
Mutt, his face getting hot once again, glanced over his shoulder and saw the dumbstruck expression on Duke's face. He looked guiltily at Dean and bowed his head, looking up at the older man from beneath his thick eyelashes. "Sorry, Dean. I didn't mean to be so loud."
He looked at Jeff and saw a familiar expression on that face as well. One that didn't bode well for him that evening.
Dean just shook his head wondering how Duke was going to take the fact that his baby bro was a Top.
"We'll talk about this later, little boy," Dean said to Mutt. Then he pulled out a chair for Griff.
Mutt worried at his lower lip with his teeth and looked up at Dean for some reassurance that he wasn't really angry with him. The young gardener sat quietly and played with his silverware, not willing to look anyone in the face. Jeff, understanding his boy's discomfort, put a reassuring arm across his shoulders.
Mutt leaned into the embrace but swore that he wasn't going to say another word during dinner other than to place his order even though his appetite had flown the coop for the moment.
Dean cleared his throat. "Griff and I have decided to give being a couple a try," he announced to the table. Which also means, you’re going to lose your house guest, Jeff.”
"Congratulations," Jeff said with a grin. "I have a feeling that the two of you are going to be very happy together.”
Mutt looked up at the couple and tried to smile, but when he caught the look on Duke's face he blushed again and leaned in closer to Jeff.
Griff smiled and blushed. "Thanks," he replied watching the look on Dean’s brother’s face.
"And as Mutt so eloquently put it, and for those of you who have been guessing, yes, I am a Top," Dean chuckled.
"There was no guessing about it," Jeff joked. "James and I had you pegged from day one. And no, Mutt never said a word," he said pulling his boy closer.
"Until now," Mutt said wryly.
"I guess I can't really blame you for slipping Mutt," Dean said.
Duke was flummoxed. That had come out of left field... it was the last thing Duke had expected. "A-a T-Top?" he asked hesitantly, looking shocked.
Dean sighed and looked at the stunned man. "Yeah, a Top, big bro."
Duke looked puzzled. "H-how'd you become a Top?"
"I didn't become a Top, Duke. It's not something you can become. Either you are or you aren't,” Dean explained. "I didn't mean for you to find out this way,” he said glancing at Mutt again.
Mutt pressed his hot face into Jeff's shirt front, mentally kicking himself for letting the cat out of the bag. "I'm really sorry, Dean," he mumbled.
Dean knew how sorry his young friend was and said, "I know, little boy. You might have done me and Duke a favor."
Jeff rubbed his boy's shoulders and held him close. He knew how much Mutt prided himself on being able to keep a secret, and knew that he was punishing himself worse than he ever could. He leaned down and whispered something in Mutt's ear. Mutt wrapped an arm around Jeff and was finally able to look Dean in the face.
"A favor? Dean, I... " he stammered.
"I needed to talk to Duke about being a Top, but I just didn't know how to start the conversation," Dean replied.
Duke sighed. "So, you've known you were a Top too, not just gay...I don' understand since I'm supposed to be a brat...how can a brat raise up a Top?" He still looked very confused. “How do you even know about tops and brats?”
"Well, I actually know about Tops and Brats because, Big Bro, being a Top has helped with that," Dean said smiling at his brother.
Duke scowled. "How do you know you're a Top?"
"The same way you know you're a brat."
Duke frowned. "I don't like him being a Top," he said sulkily. "It doesn't seem right."
Jake watched the color drain from Duke's face but before he could say anything Dean spoke, "You're still my big brother that will never change."
Duke said quietly, "I'm glad of that at least." He wasn't sure how he felt about Dean, his baby brother being a Top and he, the big brother, the one who had taken care of him his whole life, the big bad Marine being a brat. He felt very small inside.
"Duke, listen to me for a second," Dean began. “I know this is a lot to take in, but nothing has changed between us. You are still the man who raised me. You are still my best friend. That will never change. We just have a bit more in common now. More to share. And I know how strong a brat is. That he controls a lot in a relationship."
Duke looked at Dean and said, "Yeah, it’s nice to have somethin' else in common." He didn’t comment on the rest, feeling his world just tilted on its axis.
"It's as easy to spot a Top as it is to spot a Brat, Deano. And you’ve never given off Brat vibes, if you know what I mean," Jake laughed.
"We knew from the first day you came to live here," Jeff said with a smile. "The way you held yourself, the way you spoke to James. Not many people can argue with the man and win."
Duke looked thoughtful at Jeff's words and nodded. "Usually only Jeff can argue with James or Heath and win."
"I didn't mean to argue with him, but, damn it, I just needed to get busy. I was rested." Dean laughed.
Jeff huffed a laugh. "I hear that."
Even Mutt managed a chuckle, beginning to feel better as the conversation flowed.
He nudged Jeff and nodded his head off to their right where the waiter was approaching their table and the conversation ebbed a bit. With a smile and a jaunty wave, the waiter took their orders and went back to the kitchen.
Once they were alone again, Dean said to his brother, "Duke, I'm serious when I say nothing will change between us. I'm still the person you raised and you are still my big bro. Just because there is a label for who we are doesn't change anything."
Duke looked at the men around the table and then said to Dean, "Well I'm a bit shocked, but I guess if you're a Top then you are." He still had a slightly worried look. "You aren't goin' to try to ...well do anythin' to me like a Top?" The large man looked over at his brother. "You wouldn't tell Jake on me would you baby bro?"
"Duke, I'll protect you when I can just as you will protect me but, it's Jakes job to Top you, not mine. And no, I wouldn't tell on you, D, well not unless you were doing something dangerous."
Jake grinned. "As if I'd share my Dove with anyone else," he said, leaning in to kiss Duke's cheek and put an arm around him.
“Bro, being a Top isn’t just about dealing with troublesome brats. It’s about caring for your lover, keeping him safe. But it’s about him supporting you too. Being there for you as you are there for him.”
“Yeah, Duke," Griff agreed. "All I that matters to me is Dean cares about me and I care about him." Then he laughed. "And him being a Top is gunna help him a lot."
Dean hugged Griff to him and laughed too.
Duke nodded at Dean's words, then asked Griff, “Help him...how?" He snuggled into Jake.
"Well, you all know Chad was a Top so that makes me a brat, Duke," Griff answered. "Chad used to say I was low maintenance, but a brat all the same."
Duke nodded. "I knew you were a brat, Griff, I just didn't know I raised up a Top." He frowned again, still having a hard time believing that had happened.
It was at that moment that the waiter returned with a large tray filled with their orders. "Bon appetite, gentlemen," he said cheerily. "If there's anything else you need just wave me down," he added as he turned to leave.
Mutt, feeling much better now that he knew Dean wasn't angry with him, and that Jeff didn't seem upset, began to eat his meal, grateful to have something other than his foot to put in his mouth.
Griff, still having trouble with his shoulder smiled when Dean took his fork and knife and cut up his steak.
Jeff planted a gentle kiss on his boy's cheek and began to eat his own dinner.