Tuesday, May 9, 2017
TLR CHAPTER 112
The alarm went off at noon as usual, and Jake reached out an uncoordinated hand to hit the button that would turn it off. He rolled over and looked at his man, a smile on his face as he looked with love at his sleeping brat. He leaned over and planted a kiss on Duke's lips. "Good morning, sleepy head," he whispered.
Duke's grey eyes fluttered open and he grinned at Jake, grabbing the other man and kissing him back.
Jake leaned into the kiss and then gave his lover a playful swat on his hip. "Come on, Dove, let's shower and we'll get lunch on. What are you in the mood for?"
Duke pouted a little at the swat but said promptly, "You."
Jake happily obliged, and forty-five minutes later they were in the shower, scrubbing each other down before getting into clean clothes.
"We may as well eat at the lodge, what do you think?" Jake suggested, giving his man another deep kiss.
Duke smiled. "All right, breakfast at the lodge sounds good today. What do you have planned for us afterward that we'll need to run anywhere?" he asked.
"Nothing in particular. Maybe pick up a few more things at the grocery store or we could just go walk for a bit. It looks like a nice, sunny day out," Jake suggested.
Duke smiled. "Yes, groceries are always good and I agree a nice hike through the woods would be nice. I love to see spring arrivin'."
"Then that's what we'll do." Jake smiled. "Let's head out for breakfast. My stomach is complaining," he joked just as his stomach let out a deep rumble.
Duke chuckled. "Mine is too and you know I'm a bottomless pit." He grinned and walked with Jake toward the lodge.
Both of them were ravenous and ordered the largest breakfasts on the menu. "Don't worry," Jake said with a grin, "we'll work that off and more between our hike and... ah... other pursuits."
Duke laughed and said, "I'm sure glad we can get breakfast anytime here at the lodge. With so many people on different shifts it's a good thing. I don't think I'm goin' to have any trouble eatin' all this and yeah, we'll work it off one way or another." He grinned at Jake. "We always do."
Just after they'd given the waiter their orders, Jake saw Dean and Griff walk in. He smiled and waved them over.
Duke smiled and called, "Over here Baby Bro... Griff!"
Dean tried to smile as he approached the two men but was having a hard time maintaining it. Griff followed along silently, not willing to look at Duke until the situation was resolved one way or the other. They sat down, Griff near Jake and Dean sitting nearest Duke.
"Anything on special today?” Griff asked nervously.
"We ordered the Big and Hearty, double bacon and sausage for Duke, of course."
Duke grinned. "Of course."
The waiter came back in a flash, seeing the two new men and stood patiently by while they decided what they wanted.
"Two more of those then, please," Dean said with a more natural smile for the waiter. "And coffee, please."
"In a jiffy," the waiter replied with a grin. "Do you want them all at the same time?"
"Sure, sounds good," Dean replied.
Duke, noticing the change in his brother’s expression toward the waiter, exchanged a look with Jake.
"Be back before you can say antidisestablismentarianism," the waiter joked as he turned to put the orders in.
Jake had noticed Dean's odd expression as well and gave Duke a half shrug. "Dean," he began, "is something on your mind? You seem... distracted today."
"Yes, there is," Dean replied, trying to school his face into a neutral expression. He looked at Duke and Jake and after taking a deep breath he asked, "Duke, someone's been playing pranks on us for a week or so. This morning was especially annoying. You wouldn't happen to know anything about them, would you?"
Duke gave his brother a look. "Just because I got a reputation as a master prankster, don't mean I pranked you...have I ever pranked you before?" he asked his baby brother, a hurt look in the grey eyes.
"Not until now, if my suspicions are correct," Dean replied, with a somewhat stern look at his big brother, searching the other man's face for any sign that he might be guilty.
Duke looked at Dean. "I ain't never done it before, what makes you think I'd do it now?” He began to get angry now. "Just 'cause you're a Top don't mean I'm that kind of Brat!"
"You admitted to me that you felt uncomfortable with how things worked out, Duke," Dean said in what he felt was a reasonable voice. "It would only be normal to test the limits."
At that, Jake jumped into the conversation with a frown. "Duke wouldn't do anything like what you're suggesting, Dean, and if you knew him as well as you think you do you'd know that"
Duke began to get really upset now. "If I wanted to do that I'd done it years ago,...you told me nothin' would change between us...now you tell me at the first sign of somethin' that I'm the one who done it! You lied to me...now you want to be a Top to me...you don't even believe me! I oughta pound you like I did when we were kids for sayin' somethin' like that!" He stood up, becoming even more agitated and cried, "I don't even like you being a Top!"
"And that's why I suspected you, Duke. I don't want the fact that I'm a Top to get between us, and yes, the fact that you might still be having problems with me being a Top, and also the fact that you are the undisputed king of the resort pranksters are what made me believe it might have been you," Dean replied, trying to keep his own voice calm.
Jake put a comforting hand on Duke's shoulder and pulled him down and back into his chest, whispering something in his ear before turning to Dean. "I can tell you right off the bat that Duke's had nothing to do with your prank problem and I don't appreciate you blaming or suspecting him of anything like that."
The big man now had tears in his grey eyes and his lips were trembling and he whispered brokenly, "I can't believe my own brother who knows me like no other would even think such a thing possible of me. I never ever thought of such a thing. I might not like the idea of your bein' a Top, but I wouldn't do anythin' to hurt you or Griff...I woulda thought you knew me better than that." Tears began to leak out now and Duke turned his head into Jake.
"None of the pranks were hurtful, Duke, just annoying. I know you'd never do anything to hurt either me or Griff. Will you accept my apology?" Dean asked, his own heart aching with the knowledge that he'd ever suspected, and now had upset his big brother.
Jake pulled Duke close and moved his body as if to shield his man from Dean. He turned a look over his shoulder and glared at the other man. "He may accept or not, but I'm not going to forget this anytime soon."
Griff slid a little closer to Dean looking both worried and nervous and needing reassurance.
Dean put his arm around Griff and hugged him tightly. "It'll be ok," he whispered
Duke quickly wiping the tears away nodded. "I accept your apology Dean, but I still oughta pound you for thinkin' such a thing. I still can put you over my lap you know," he told the younger man. "Top or not, we're brothers first and brothers stick together."
Dean gave a little half grin at his big brother's threat. Top or not, he knew that Duke would have no problem backing that threat up with action. "You're right, Duke. Brothers first and always. I'll find out who was responsible soon enough I'm sure. Jake, I'm sorry. Can we start this morning fresh?"
Jake thought for a moment, looking at his man whose eyes were still moist with unshed tears. "Yeah," he replied, "as long as Duke is good with it, then I am too, but like I said, I'm not gonna forget this any time soon."
Dean sighed, "I guess I can respect that. If anyone had accused me or Griff of something like this, I'd have been upset too."
The waiter was as quick with the food as he'd promised, even with the extra sides, and brought a fresh carafe of coffee after placing the food in front of the men. "I'll be nearby if you need anything else gents," he promised with an uneasy smile. He couldn't help but to over hear the conversation and it had made him a little nervous as well.
Duke wiped the remainder of tears out of his eyes and then went over to Dean and pulled him up and hugged him tight. "Don't ever do this again Dean," he told him and then landed a hard swat to Dean's bottom. "Got it Baby Bro?" he asked.
Dean jumped at the swat and hugged his brother back tightly. "Got it, Big Bro," he replied with a smile.
"Well, let's get to our food before it gets cold," Jake said, feeling much better now that Duke was happier
Duke grinned and hugged Dean tight once more. "Good, then we understand each other?"
"Of course," Dean replied giving Duke a bear hug. "Understood."
Once the two brothers had released each other with grins, they sat back down, hugged their partners and began to eat.
As Duke began to eat he smiled at his brother and new partner. "Now...about those pranks, there are others here who are just as good at pranking, we just have to find out which of them are the culprits, Mutt is good, Adam and the twins are as well as Torren," he shared with Dean.
"I thought of them as well but couldn't for the life of me figure out why they'd play pranks on us."
Duke shrugged. "New territory, see what the new Top on the block will do," the big man said.
Dean thought about that for a moment and nodded. "Now it's just a matter of finding the culprits. Cary already told me he didn't know anything about the eggs and I believed him. Tank isn't the sort, I don't think. Neither is Mike. The bakery Brats wouldn't have had the time or energy, I don't think, and Jax would never consider anything like this. That leaves housekeeping, the twins, Mutt, Adam and Torren as the most likely suspects."
"I... I can sort of ask around, you know, not coming right out and asking but... kinda mention what's been going on," Griff offered. "If anyone knows about it they might be more willing to talk to me than you, Dean."
Dean, seeing Griff's nervousness and knowing the Brat code of silence, rubbed his man's shoulder. "Are you sure you want to do this, Griff?"
"No?" Griff managed a laugh.
"We'll figure it out. C'mon hon, let's finish up here. We have work to do at the stables this morning while the weather is good and Jax is probably already there waiting for us."
Duke nodded. "Maybe someone would fess up to you Griff, they might not want to say anythin' to me because I'm Dean's brother."
"Yeah," Griff said hesitantly, "I'm pretty sure they'd talk to me, but... I'd feel a little weird telling anyone else about it..."
Duke looked thoughtful. "Well you don't exactly have to ask about it, you can just sort of bring up the subject of pranks in general, have you ever done any in the past?" he asked the younger man.
Griff shook his head. "I don't have that kind of imagination," he admitted, "other than switching out the sugar for the salt one time when I was a kid for April Fool's Day, which didn't end well for me I never played another prank."
Dean grinned and hugged his man. "I'm glad you didn't try that at home," he joked. "Now, let's head out. We have a lot of work to do. Jake, Duke, we'll see you later, and if we find out anything we'll be sure to tell you."
"Thanks, Dean," Jake replied with a smile of appreciation at Griff. "Thanks Griff."
Griffin nodded, blushing slightly, hoping that the pranksters would confess on their own before he was forced to give them up. He really didn't want the reputation as a tattle tale.
Duke smiled at his brother and Griff as they prepared to leave and squeezed Griff's shoulder. "Don't worry about anythin', it's good between me and Dean now...we each know where we stand, good luck finding out who the true culprits are."
By the time they'd reached the stables Dean, thinking over things had become a little upset again, and was hammering a little more loudly and with more force than usual. Griff and a clueless Jax worked as quietly and efficiently as they could.
When Jarrod came up to bring them freshly made iced tea he noticed the look of intensity on Dean's face and was a little nervous. He'd never seen the man like that before. When he brought Griff his glass he asked quietly, "Is Dean upset about something? Is he ok?"
Griff shook his head slightly and then gestured down the stairs to the stable proper. "I'm just going to take a little break, ok Dean?"
The frown disappeared from Dean's face and he smiled at Griff. "Of course, Hon, take as long as you like. Jax, why don't you take a breather too. We're Nearly finished up here. We can save the downstairs repairs for tomorrow.”
"Thanks," Griff replied with a sigh of relief as he followed Jarrod down the stairs with Jax right behind them.
"What's going on? Is he sick or something?" Jarrod asked worriedly. Jax stood by, listening quietly.
"Not physically, no, but someone's been playing a bunch of pranks on us and it's got him really upset. He and Duke almost came to blows over breakfast at the lodge because Dean thought that Duke was responsible for the pranks. Duke did... kinda hit Dean," Griff admitted, unwilling to admit that his Top had been swatted by his Brat brother.
Jax gave out a short gasp and his eyes widened. He took a breath to ask a question but Jare beat him to it.
"They didn't... they didn't fight though, did they?"
"No, other than that one... um... smack that Duke gave Dean, they calmed down pretty quickly," Griff replied quietly, "but it was a close call. Duke was really hurt and upset. Do... do you know anything?" he asked the two young men.
Jax shook his head and looked at Jarrod to see if he had any answers. His own gut twinged with foreboding when he saw the look on Jare's face but again he said nothing. He wanted to stay out of any trouble that had been brewing.
With a knot of guilt in his stomach Jarrod turned away and returned to the bunk house where they were getting ready for a late lunch. Jarrod's stomach churned and his thoughts raced. He and Little Jake had meant for the pranks to be funny, not start a war between Dean and Duke.
Feeling unsatisfied with the lack of an answer but realizing that they'd discovered at least one of the guilty party, Griff and Jax went back to helping Dean with the last of the repairs. Griff hoped that Jarrod would confess before he had to admit what he suspected.
Shorty and Bo, who had come home for lunch couldn't help but to notice that Jarrod wasn't quite himself as they sat down to eat.
"Are you ok?" Shorty asked, putting his hand up to the boy's forehead checking for a temperature.
Jarrod looked up at Shorty with teary eyes and said, "I've been playing pranks on Dean," he admitted quietly. "And now Duke and Dean are all mad at each other because Dean thinks Duke was responsible. Griff said that Duke hit Dean over it."
Shorty’s eyebrows rose, but he remained silent, waiting to hear if Jarrod had anything else to say. It didn’t pass his notice that Little Jake had become unusually quiet as well and just stared down at his plate.
Jarrod looked pleadingly up at Shorty and said, "W... I never meant it to go that far Shorty. I'm really sorry! It was just supposed to be harmless fun."
"Sounds to me like you have some apologizing to do, but not to me. And you and I will deal with this after lunch," Shorty said, more than a little upset that the so called harmless pranks had caused a rift between the brothers. He was also sure that Little Jake had something to do with it as well, judging by the way the boy was acting.
"The truth boys. Now!" Shorty said, leaning up against the counter with his arms crossed. "How many of you were actually in on it? Do I need to call Eric and Jeff?"
"What makes you think Mutt, Tor or Adam had anything to do with it?" Little Jake asked hastily, an expression of mild terror on his face.
"Maybe they were. Maybe they weren't, but they might know something you two aren't admitting to me."
"Jacob?" Shorty asked, turning his attention to the younger twin. "Do you know anything about this?"
Little Jake's stomach dropped down into his pelvic region. He couldn't outright lie to Shorty, especially since the punishments for lying were worse than anything he'd get if he just confessed.
"Yes," the young man replied quietly.
"You were in on it?"
Little Jake looked beseechingly at Shorty, begging him not to make him tell. "I... I'm not... I'm not really sure," he said finally.
Shorty went over to the wall mounted kitchen phone, picked up the handset and dialed Jeff's number. When the other man picked up Shorty told him the situation and suggested that he might want to talk to Mutt about it. After that he called Eric on his cell phone and repeated the story, ending with the same suggestion that he'd given Jeff.
The twins looked down at their plates, unwilling or unable to eat or look Shorty in the eyes.
"Jarrod, if you're done with your lunch, I'll meet you upstairs in your room."
Jare got up reluctantly and walked up the stairs like a man marching to the gallows with Shorty close behind.
Little Jake winced as he heard the first of the swats land on his older brother's backside and nearly started crying when his brother began. Bo tried to eat but found that his appetite wasn't nearly as big as he'd first thought it to be. He didn't like it when he was punished for something but for some reason it felt worse when it was one of the boys.
He tried to block out the sounds, unsuccessfully, and finally went outside and ran down to the river to get as far away as possible.
Jarrod took his punishment without complaint but he wished now that he'd thought twice about pranking Dean and Griff. He wished he'd listened to Mutt and Adam and stayed out of it. He prayed that Shorty wouldn't ask for names because he, like Little Jake, couldn't give up their friend.
Putting Jarrod into a corner, Shorty called down for Little Jake who received the same consequences. "You can come out when you tell me who else was involved, unless the culprit comes out on his own."
"That's not fair!" Jarrod complained, beginning to cry again.
"It certainly is," Shorty replied evenly. "Your harmless pranks turned into a family dispute, and that is not acceptable."
"You two just stand there and think. What's better, spending an hour or more in those corners or telling me who else was responsible for this?"
Moments after Jeff and the big veterinarian hung up, Jeff called Mutt and asked him to come to his office as soon as he could. Having nothing that couldn't wait, and worrying that something had happened, Mutt ran to the office.
"Close the door," Jeff said quietly.
"What's wrong?" Mutt asked worriedly.
Jeff looked up at Mutt and asked point blank, "Do you know about any pranks that were being pulled on Dean and Griff?"
Mutt licked his lips. "It wasn't me, I promise."
"I'll accept that as truth," Jeff said. "Especially since you promised you wouldn't go into anyone's bungalow without a work-related reason for being there, or having been invited in. Now, answer my question do you know of any pranks that were being pulled on Dean and Griff?"
Mutt cleared his throat, “I… ahh… there was some talk, but me and Adam said outright we weren’t going to get involved and we made the twins and Tor promise not to have anything to do with it either.”
Jeff gave his husband a severe look and leaned forward on his desk on his elbows. "And you believed them?" Jeff asked, surprised.
"I didn't hear anything about the pranks until just now, Jeff," Mutt said earnestly. "I really thought they'd kept their promise."
Jeff relaxed his posture and sighed, "Well, I can't blame you for something someone else did, especially after they'd given their word. I can't hold you responsible for something you had no control over."
"So, we're good?" Mutt asked hopefully.
Jeff stood up from his chair and walked around the desk to give his husband a reassuring hug. "We're good, Hon."
Eric had been sitting in his office, planning weather appropriate activities for the current guests when the call came in from Shorty. After hanging up with the veterinarian he sat quietly, teeth clenched, hoping that it wasn't his boys involved in the affair. He promptly called first Adam and then Torren and asked them to come to his office where he waited impatiently.
Torren was the first to arrive. He could see that Eric was upset about something so he sat quietly in one of the guest chairs until Adam showed up, looking curious.
"What's goin' on, Eric?" Adam asked worriedly, "Ye didn' sound like yerself. Are ye sick?"
"Not physically," Eric replied, his stomach and heart feeling as though they were being squeezed with worry. He cut straight to the chase. "Do either of you know about the pranks that have been played on Dean and Griff lately?"
Torren looked at Adam and bit his lip, "Pranks?" he asked trying to look innocent.
Adam's eyes widened and looked at Torren. Just as quickly, his eyes narrowed and he shot his partner a look that should have dropped him on the spot.
Torren took a deep breath and swallowed against a hard knot that had formed in his throat. "I have no idea what you're talking about. What pranks? You know I don't like to go around people's places when they're about," he told Eric.
Adam didn't want to tell on is partner but he couldn't lie to Eric either. He told Eric about the conversation on the beach that day and added, "But Tor promised he wouldn't get involved. Didn't you Tor?" he said pointedly.
Torren again put on his most innocent look and said, "Of course."
"So, are you saying you had nothing to do with the pranks that were being pulled, Torren? You know nothing about them? Who was involved?"
Torren swallowed hard and his eyes skittered away from Eric. He couldn't say without telling a lie.
"Adam?" Eric said, turning his attention to his other partner, "you promise, you swear that you had nothing to do with this?"
"None a'tall," Adam said immediately.
"And you're not aware of Tor being involved in these shenanigans?"
"T' th' best'a me knowledge he promised he wouldn't. Did'ja Tor? Did'ja, after ye promised?" Adam asked, feeling betrayed. Like Eric, he wasn't fond of being lied to, especially by one of his own.
Torren's naturally dark complexion paled several shades at the forthright question. Once again, he swallowed past the lump in his throat.
He avoided looking at Eric or Adam. That in itself was answer enough for both of the other men.
Eric got up and stood in front of Torren who drew back slightly. "The truth, Torren Luis."
"Yes Sir," Torren answered quietly, still not looking at either partner.
"Adam, I'm sorry I disturbed you at work. You can go on back, Hon. I'll see you at home later, ok?" Eric said, glancing at Adam with a tiny smile to let him know he wasn't in any sort of trouble. He turned his gaze back on Torren who if anything turned even paler.
Adam sighed and gave his lover a sad look. He knew how much Eric hated to have to punish them.
"It's alrigh', Eric. Tor... I guess I'll see ye later," he said sadly as he turned to leave.
Torren gave Adam a contrite look and then continued to stand there waiting for the axe to fall.
Once Adam had gone, Eric sat on the edge of his desk and pulled off his sneaker before sitting on the chair beside Torren. "I'm going to tell you now, Torren, I'm not angry with you, just terribly, terribly disappointed. Disappointed that you'd lie. Disappointed that you'd be involved in something like this. Do you have anything to say for yourself?"
The young man bit his lower lip for a moment and then said, "They weren't anythin' harmful.”
"Harmful?" Eric repeated. "Are you aware that Dean and Duke nearly got into a physical altercation over this? Dean thought Duke was the one pulling the pranks. Not only that but going into people's homes without being invited is against the rules. You should know that by now. How were you getting into their bungalow, and why would you engage in these pranks in the first place?"
Torren's face went pale once more at Eric's description of what happened between Dean and Duke. "It wasn't supposed to happen that way!"
"No, any more than something like that should happen between you and Adam, but it did. You crossed a line, and that can't go unpunished."
"So why did you do it, Torren? Why, after promising Adam that you wouldn't? Why at all? Did Dean or Griff do or say anything to upset you? Mind, even if they had, what you did was wrong. I just need to know."
Torren shrugged, not wanting to say
Eric sighed unhappily. "Alright then Tor. You know the drill. Pants down, you can leave your underwear up, and over my knee."
Torren's brown eyes went wide. "Awww...Eric, please?"
"It's too late for that, Hon." Eric replied, his heart once again feeling as though it were being squeezed. "Do as you were told. I don't want to have to do it because then you'll lose the underwear as well."
The young man asked, "If I tell you what you want to know can I not get spanked?"
"You're going to be punished for lying. For making a promise and not keeping it. You're going to be punished for going into Dean and Griff's home without being invited. You're in trouble for nearly causing a fight between two family members of our community. If you tell me I may go easier on you. If not, then you lose the underwear as well."
Torren protested, "But the things that were done weren't all that bad...I don't understand why everyone's bent out of shape over it." He pouted.
"The fact that you went into a home without a work order or an invitation was bad, Torren. You still haven't told me how you were getting in there. You could lose your job over it if Dean decides to make an issue of it. The pranks themselves might have been harmless but they were the direct cause of a rift between family members, and that's inexcusable," Eric said sternly, trying to maintain his composure. He had never spanked his Brats out of anger but he felt himself tensing up at his lover's words and apparently uncaring attitude.
Torren looked down and bit his lip and said, "It was a piece of tape over the bolt latch so the door closed, but wouldn't lock. It was done…well Dean is the new Top on the block and it would have been interesting to see how he reacted to things. It wasn’t done to be mean or anything…at least it wasn’t intended to be," he told Eric.
"Thank you for telling me that," Eric replied, relaxing somewhat. There was still the punishment to take care of. Taking a deep breath to steady himself he took Torren by the wrist and pulled him toward him. "Pants down, Tor," he said quietly.
Torren allowed Eric to pull him forward, then with a pout unfastened his jeans and pushed them down to his knees.
Eric gently pulled Torren over his knee and began to deliver the first of many swats with the sole of his sneaker, an implement he only used in the worst cases, and only ever seemed to need to use with Torren.
Torren wriggled to try to get comfortable in an all too familiar position and yelped at the first stinging smack of Eric's sneaker and then yelped at each additional one as his backside was set on fire.
"This will never happen again, will it Torren Luiz? You will never go into a resident's or guest's bungalow without a work order or an invitation. You will never pull pranks on anyone because you don't know what will happen as a result. And you most certainly will not lie or make a promise and then not keep it. Am I right?"
Torren now lapsed into Spanish, "Si señor, por favor!"
After delivering a solid dozen good swats with the sneaker, he put it aside and began to rub Torren's back. "It's alright now, Tortuga. It's all over and done with. Keep your word and this won't happen again. Understand?"
"Si señor, comprendo," Torren sobbed out and continued to make apologies and promises in his native tongue.
Eric helped Torren up, pulled up his jeans and then carefully sat his young lover down on his lap, wrapping his arms around the sobbing boy. "Te amo mi pequeña tortuga. Hush now. Todo está bien ahora Entender?"
Torren snuggled against Eric and nodded at his question. "Si," he said quietly amid sniffles.
After an hour in the corner Little Jake had had enough. "Shorty?" he asked with a quaver in his voice.
"Ready to tell me who was involved?"
"It was me and Jare definitely. Tor might have done something but I'm really not sure. If anyone else did anything I don't know about it. Honest."
"Well, I'll take that as your answer. Now, Dean and Griff are nearly done in the stables. I think it's time for the two of you to apologize to him and Griff and promise never to do anything like this again. To Dean or anyone else. Understood?"
"Yes sir," the chastised twins replied.
With a final swat, each as they passed him, they went out into the stables and found Dean who was just finishing up.
"Dean," Shorty said, "I have a couple of boys here who would like to say something to you." He pushed the boys forward.
Both of the twins began babbling apologies at once, causing Dean to smile despite himself.
"Alright guys, apologies accepted. Now tell me, are there any more surprises in my house that I have to worry about?"
"Not from us, no," Jarrod said without thinking.
"Not from you? Who else was involved?" Dean asked.
The twins looked back at Shorty, silently begging him not to make them tell. Shorty lowered his chin and gave the boys another level look.
"Torren," Jare admitted quietly. "Maybe," he stressed. "We're not sure."
"No sir, not that we know of."
"No sir, they wanted nothing to do with it. They.... Mutt and Adam... made us promise we wouldn't but..."
"You decided to do it after all," Dean stated, knowing that a question wasn't necessary.
The twins nodded.
"How did you get into the bungalow?" Griff asked curiously.
Jarrod blushed and admitted, "The bathroom window. You always leave it open a little."
Dean nodded and made a mental note to make sure the bathroom window was closed and locked from now on.
"I've already taken care of the situation, Dean, unless there's something else you'd like to add," Shorty related finally.
The twins looked up at Dean, their eyes wide open with concern. Shorty had never allowed anyone else to punish them and they dreaded what Dean might do if he decided he would as well.
"No," Dean replied after a few moments of letting the twins sweat it out. "I'm sure you dealt with them accordingly."
"Ok you two," Shorty said, "you have work to do. Get to it." He gave them each another swat as he sent them on their way. The boys jumped and ran to do as they'd been told.
"Griff, Jax? Do you mind if I talk to Dean alone for a few minutes?" Shorty asked gently. He could see that the younger man was upset and perhaps a little spooked.
"No problem," they said quickly. "We'll just take the tools back out to the truck." With that, the young men grabbed up the tool belts and fairly ran out of the stables.
Shorty lowered his voice and his expression was apologetic. "I heard that you and Duke came to blows this morning over this? I'm real sorry to learn that."
Dean laughed, "Nah, it's not like that."
Shorty's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Then what..."
"Duke wasn't happy that I'd basically accused him. He, ah, gave me a swat once it was established that he'd had nothing to do with it," the man grinned sheepishly. "Don't worry, I don't think Brats swatting Tops is going to be one of those traditions that catches on any time soon. It was just Duke, reminding me that even though I'm a Top, I'm still his little brother."
Shorty laughed, clapping the other man on the back as they walked toward Dean's truck. “I’m really glad then that it wasn’t anything serious.” It looked as though things were going to be alright after all.