Sunday, May 14, 2017
TLR CHAPTER 119
Vacation Part 3
Jax, half way down the steps, turned to look at Wes. When his friend didn’t say any more, Jax asked, “Link knows what?”
“Damn, I should have thought of the dust,” he replied, more angry at himself than anything else.
The young man followed his new friend as he stomped further away from the cabin to knock the dust off. They moved into the barn where Wes flipped a switch. A loud noise startled Jax until he realized the compressor had started.
Wes attached the air blow gun tip. He blew the dust from his boots and pant legs then turned and did the same for Jax. When he was through he turned off the switch, re-coiled the air hose and looked over at his accomplice.
“I should have done that before we went into the cabin,” Wes sighed.
Jax, finally understanding what the problem was, said, “There’s no dust around the pond, is there?”
“No, there isn’t,” Link said stepping into the barn. “So, would one of you like to tell me where you were this morning?”
Wes looked at Jax and then said, “We did go to the pond but we…”
“It’s my fault, Link,” Jax interrupted. “I asked Wes to take me up on the ridge. He told me I should ask you, but I wanted to do it on my own.” He looked down at the dirt floor of the barn. “I needed to do it.”
“But I didn’t let him go alone, Link,” Wes added. “I knew you wouldn’t like that. I was there the whole time… and… well… he was safe.”
Link observed both young men. He really couldn’t fault Jax for wanting to see the place where his dad had died or Wes for taking him to the spot. His heart ached for his young friend. Taking a second look at Jax, he noticed that the young man didn’t look as grief ridden as he had earlier that morning. He was looking Link in the eye, and the older man noticed that Jax's eyes seemed livelier. Link held the gaze, searching for a clue as to what had happened on that ridge.
“Did you build the rock wall?” Jax asked shyly.
Wes grinned, knowing that his guy hadn’t expected that question.
Link hesitated and then answered, “Yeah, I did. On the first anniversary.” He looked back over his shoulder through the barn door… up towards the ridge. “That first year I would find my way back up there once or twice a week.”
Neither of the young men said anything, both hoping Link would share more.
“I finally worked through my guilt but back then I hated that Nick was the one to die. I mean he had a son, it shouldn’t have been him,” Link softly added. “My parents helped me through the guilt. Helped me understand that it truly was an accident that no one could have foreseen.”
“I wish I would have had your parents to help me,” Jax sighed, “but I guess my mom did the best she could… well, the best she could at the time. Her asshole husband didn’t think I needed any time to deal with Dad’s death.”
The big ranger stepped closer and pull Jax to him. “I’m sorry we couldn’t keep you here, little boy.”
Jax returned the hug. “I know, Link and I don’t blame you for not being able to keep me here. It was out of both our hands.”
Wes wiped his eyes and cleared his throat. “Maybe we should get back to the cabin before the other guys eat our breakfast,” he joked, forcing himself to smile despite the lump that had formed in his throat.
The older man threw an arm around the two men's shoulders and hugged them as they walked back to the cabin.
When they got to the steps leading up to the kitchen porch he followed the two guys into the cabin where James and Heath were waiting at the table.
"Good timing," Heath joked, "we were about to divvy up your breakfasts between us."
Jax laughed, going over to sit between his guys.
James put an arm around his youngest partner and smiled down at him. "You all right?" he asked quietly.
"Yeah, I’m fine," Jax said. "Me and Wes went to the pond."
The oldest of the trio arched an eyebrow. "So, care to tell us how you got dusty down at the pond? Link said there wasn't any dust around there."
The young man heard Link clear his throat then continued, "And, um, Wes took me up to the ridge."
Heath sat back and looked at his young partner in surprise. "Why on earth would you go up there alone?"
"I just needed to do it," Jax quietly explained.
James asked in concern, “To the ridge? Where exactly? To where your father died?"
"I was with him the whole time, James," Wes reassured the men.
"I needed to see where he died and ... well to say goodbye."
The resort owner put an arm around his young brat and asked quietly, "Did it help?"
Heath looked at his lover worriedly but remained silent. He put an arm around Jax and James and held them close.
"Yeah, it did. It was almost like he was there with me."
James snuggled Jax between himself and Heath wanting to impart how much he was loved and cared for.
"Do you feel better now for doing it, Hon?" Heath asked.
Jax reached for his glass of juice, took a gulp then answered, "Yeah, I do feel better. And there was this squirrel… um… well… it showed me this."
The young man reached into his pocket and pulled out the silver piece. He held it out for the other men to see.
Heath carefully took the small piece of metal and looked closely at it. He felt a hard knot in his chest as he read the inscription, before handing it to James.
The older man examined it closely and a sheen of moisture shone in his eyes as he said softly, "That's something precious, I'm glad you found it."
"I remember when you gave that to Nick, Jax," Link commented. "He loved that bracelet, never took it off." The ranger shook his head. "I looked all over for it when I was up there building the wall. I never found it."
"I guess Nick was waiting for Jax to come back and find it," Wes said taking a bite of his eggs.
James said, "It was meant for Jax to find."
"Well," Heath said with a smile, "I'll bet Mutt would love to make a new band for that when we get back home. Put it in a safe place, eh, Jax?"
"I will. I'm not losing it again."
The doctor turned his attention to his breakfast but found that the knot in his chest had moved up to his throat and he didn't think he could eat. He forced the first few forkfuls down and drank some of his coffee which dislodged the knot somewhat. "So, what will we do today?" he asked, trying to get his mind off of the item Jax had found.
James said, "It would be nice to see the redwoods."
"Well, Muir Woods is about a couple hours away," Link told them.
"And they shouldn’t be too crowded during the week," Wes added.
"Sounds good," Heath replied with a smile. "I've always wanted to see them close up. I'll help with clean up once we're done and you lead the way."
The resort owner nodded. "I understand there are some fine wineries around as well. Before we leave it might be nice to go to one and perhaps do some ocean fishing?" He had been pushing his food around on his plate, just sipping on his coffee.
"The Pacific Ocean isn't too far from Muir Woods," Wes added. "And we have great fishing in the slough and the bay."
Jax noticed James's lack of appetite and covered the larger hand with his smaller one. "You need to eat, James."
The older man smiled down at his youngest partner. "I'm not all that hungry little one. I'll catch something later."
Heath looked at his lover and smiled, "Not to sound cliche but breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, JW. Give it a try, at least try to eat half. OK?"
Wes winked at Jax. "I'm not getting in this conversation."
The older man looked around at everyone and nodded at Heath. "I'll eat some." He began to fork eggs into his mouth and taking a biscuit made a little sandwich out of the bacon.
Heath winked at James, gave Jax a little hug and started to eat his own breakfast which had gone a little cold. Even cold it was very good and he finished up in no time, taking his plate to the sink to wash it.
Jax looked between his guys then said to his older partner, "I really am feeling better, James.” Then he leaned into Heath. "Thanks for bringing us here, Doc."
The doctor hugged his boy and planted a kiss on his cheek, "You're very welcome, Hon," he whispered.
James smiled at Jax's words and said, "Well, it's been a pretty emotional morning so far for all of us." He continued to munch down his meal.
Link looked around. "What’s say we hang out here today and head to Muir Woods tomorrow? I'll go down and borrow Dad's SUV again and you guys can just relax today."
"In that case, I call dibs on the hammock. James? Jax? Want to join me?" Heath asked with a wink.
James said, "I do."
Wes jumped up. "Last one there is a rotten egg."
The doctor jumped up and laughing, chased and finally outran the other men, diving into the hammock which, thankfully, was sturdy enough to withstand the treatment. "Think it'd fit all five of us?" he laughed.
The rest of the day was spent in quiet conversations. Jax and Wes beat Heath and Link in a game of Horse Shoes. Later that night they all sat on the porch looking over the town below.
"This has been one of the best days I've ever had," Heath said quietly, eyes sleepy lidded and a contented smile on his lips.
"Yeah," Jax sighed leaning into Heath.
The doctor put his arm around his young lover and hugged him close, kissing him on the cheek.
James leaned back, eyes half closed and said, "I haven't relaxed so well in a very long time. The view here is beautiful with all the lights twinkling below us."
"I love it up here," Wes said sitting between his man's legs on the steps.
James looked over at the other couple and scooted closer to his own men, putting an arm around both Heath and Jax, cuddling them close and kissing Heath. "Thank you for this relaxing vacation, Doc."
"You're welcome, JW," the younger man replied quietly, still unwilling to break the peace that had settled over them. "You needed it. We all needed it, I think."
James echoed the sentiment. "Jeff will be glad to see that I've been able to unwind while I'm here. He was getting concerned," he shared.
"My thanks to Link and Wes for putting us up," he smiled at the other men.
"It's our pleasure." Link tapped Wes on the shoulder. "I think we are going to head up to bed. Let’s plan on leaving about nine in the morning. The traffic should thin out by then."
"Well, in that case," Heath growled through a huge yawn and a stretch, "I think we'd all better do the same."
The oldest of the trio looked at his men. "Sounds good. Then we can have a relaxing start to our day."
Jax stood and he and Heath pulled James up from the swing.
James grinned as he rose to his feet and followed Link and Wes into the house then led his guys into the guest room they were sharing.
A little later when they were all in their bed, Heath smiled, remembering the beauty and peace of the day. He put an arm around Jax, his hand resting on James's arm, and fell asleep.
Link and Wes were up early the next morning, tending to their chores and packing for their adventure to the redwoods.
Heath was the first to leave their bedroom. He walked into the kitchen, looked around and asked, "So, Link, anything I can do to help out?"
"Just, set yourself down and eat," Link laughed. "The SUV's all packed and ready to go."
The doc laughed and shook his head, "That's me, a dollar short and a day late," he said as he sat down at the table.
James smiled at Jax as their partner left the room. "Ready to relax and have some fun little one?"
"Yeah, I’m ready," Jax answered.
The resort owner smiled at the others as he walked into the kitchen, an arm around Jax. "Sorry we're a little late," he apologized to the others, including Heath.
"No need to apologize, James, after all, it is our vacation. If you can't laze about in bed all morning during it then you're doing something wrong," Heath smiled then stood up to give his partners a hug before taking his place once again. "Doesn’t it smell great in here?!"
"Sure does...like waffles and ham," Jax agreed.
Once everyone was served they dug in. No one made a comment about Heath pouring maple syrup on his ham. He had two servings before finally pushing himself away from the table with a grin and a groan. "Ahhh, I ate too much," he complained half-heartedly, "but if I gotta go that's the way to do it."
James chuckled to himself as he too poured a bit of syrup over his ham.
Once the men were finished, the resort owner stood to begin clearing plates to help their hosts and to get going on their adventure.
Drying the last plate and placing it in the cabinet with the others, Link announced, "We can leave whenever you guys are ready. Bring a jacket just in case. Being that close to the ocean it can get cold."
Heath rummaged around in their luggage and came out with three medium weight jackets. "Good?" he asked Link.
"Perfect, although, coming from Maine the cold probably won't bother you."
The other man laughed. "Yep, anything over 45 degrees is considered warm to me."
James said, "We're used to cold, but it's always good to dress warmly."
Wes chuckled. "Well, let's get going then."
"Right behind you, Wes! Lead on, Link!" Heath grinned.
James put an arm around Jax's shoulders and followed their partner and hosts.
Link was right, once they reached Interstate 80 the traffic had thinned out. They left I-80 at Vallejo, CA following CA-37 past Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, over the Mare Island Bridge crossing the Napa River.
“Back to the left is the Historic Mare Island Naval Shipyard,” Link explained.
“I was there just before it closed as a base,” James reflected.
Then they continued on to SR-37 past the northern edge of San Pablo Bay and on to US-101. They made good time and about an hour later they found the turn off to Muir Woods. It was a steep downhill drive that Link had to navigate carefully but the scenery was breathtaking.
Heath thought his head was going to swivel right off as he tried to take in everything at once, pointing out various trees and wildlife to everyone.
James remarked, "There's no cell phone signal here and it seems we’ve arrived just in time. It looks like the parking lot is almost full."
"You're on vacation, James, no need for cell phones," Link laughed.
The other man chuckled at Link's remark. "It becomes such a part of what I do I find myself checking it anyway."
As they entered the park and walked along the paths James kept looking up at the giant trees in amazement. "It makes you wonder about the power of nature. These trees would even dwarf Duke," he shared.
"They make me feel... tiny," Heath laughed, drawing his young partner closer and holding onto James's free hand. "It's amazing," he breathed.
The mid-morning sun filtered through the massive trees adding a surreal feeling to the woods.
James walked contentedly with Heath and Jax, linking their hands with one another and the oldest partner breathed in the scent of the redwoods as well as other fragrant trees, shrubs and flowers just coming into bloom.
They walked along the main trail, winding through the park but chose not to hike on any of the steeper ones. Taking pictures to share when they got back home they finally reached the visitor's center again.
James asked, "Anyone interested in buying any gifts?"
"Let's see if there is anything we can get the guys back home," Jax said.
Heath grinned and shot into the gift store without having to be asked a second time. He looked around and marveled at the variety of things the shop had for sale, and he looked closely at all of them.
James looked on smiling as his partners checked things out.
"Look," Jax said pointing at a basket of Redwood Tree saplings, "do you think they would grow in Maine?"
The older partner shook his head. "I'd like to think so, but I think the climate is too harsh for them to survive."
"What about this then," the younger man asked holding up a picture frame. "We can put one of the pictures we took today in it."
James smiled. "That's a good idea. You two select the things you'd like to bring back for the guys." He didn't choose anything for himself, enjoying his partner’s enthusiasm.
Heath's eyes were immediately drawn to some of the necklaces made from sterling silver and inlaid with redwood. He found one that had a tree etched into it and couldn't decide if he wanted to buy it for one of his friends or himself. He laughed as he looked around. If he were honest, he'd buy the whole store for himself and maybe, just maybe, he'd share.
The oldest of the trio smiled as he watched his partners. "Find anything else you'd like Jax?" He asked.
The doctor pointed to a sign above the check out. "Look, if you'd like we can even get the frame personalized. What do you think?"
“Yeah, maybe the date,” Jax agreed.
"Great idea, Jax, and honestly, I can't make up my mind, so I'm just going to pass for the time being. Maybe we can come back again before we leave, if not, it's not like we won't find other things to tempt us," he grinned.
Link and Wes, having been to this park several times, waited for the others outside. "Can we eat lunch on the beach, T-man?" the young carpenter asked.
When their three guests came back out of the store with Jax clutching a paper bag, Link said, "If you want to we can drive over to the coast to have lunch."
"Sounds great," Heath replied. His stomach growled in agreement even though he'd had a large breakfast.
"Yeah, we should be able to see the Golden Gate from there," Wes added.
James smiled. "It sounds great, I'm game."
The rest of the day was spent exploring Marin County before they headed back to their cabin in the sky.
James, Heath & Jax stayed close to the cabin the next day while Link and Wes made their way into town to check to see how their jobs were doing without them.
The middle partner, not able to sit idly any longer, began to put together plans for a good lunch for all of them once the guys had gotten back.
The other men had straightened up some things and cared for the animals while the two men were away, enjoying this as they had no farm animals at the resort.
While Heath and Jax were resting in the hammock, James placed a few calls to insure the monument would be ready for the unveiling next week.
After a restful afternoon, they enjoyed a wonderful evening with Link's parents.
While the others played a friendly game of Sequence, Link, James and Jason, made plans to move forward with the dedication.
The following morning, seven men boarded one of the local charter fishing boats and headed to the bay. Conrad, Wes's dad and Jason, Link's dad joined the others for a fun day. Somewhere around two in the afternoon, each having already caught a good-sized fish and had photographed them so they wouldn't be accused of telling "fish stories",
both James and Jax lost their battle to stay awake and cuddled in the warm sun while the others fished.
Heath, happy with the company and seeing that his partners were relaxed enough to sleep, continued to fish. Every now and again he'd glance at them with love plain in his eyes, only to be distracted by their next catch. He was truly enjoying the outdoors and the fresh air, and made a promise to himself to find more time to get outside when they returned to the resort.
After the boat docked late that afternoon, the men made their way to Wes’s parent’s house for a fresh fish dinner. Shortly after the meal, Link drove Wes and the others home. Showers were quickly taken and the cabin soon played the song of snoring men.
The following days were relaxed with no definite plans. They did travel to Napa Valley’s Wine Country. James arranged to ship several bottles back to the resort as well as purchasing some for their hosts and their parents.
The Wednesday before the men were due to leave on Monday, Jax woke to find he was alone in the cabin. Wandering out to the kitchen, he found a note letting him know that James, Heath and Link had headed into town to pick up supplies. From the note, it didn’t look like they would be back before early afternoon.
Wanting to make one more trip to the place his dad had died, the young man rushed to eat something. After dressing, he grabbed a couple of bottles of water from the fridge and stopped in the barn to retrieve Wes’s day-pack. If he hurried he knew he would be back long before the others got home.
An hour later, Jax still hadn’t found the Blue Oak that rose above the spot where his dad gave his life to save the little girl. He knew he was close, he had to be close, but he just couldn’t find it. He should have paid more attention when he followed Wes up to the ridge.
Back at the cabin, Wes had returned from a quick trip to town. His boss, Ken, had agreed to let him work on a project for Jax to take back home with him. He’d gotten the idea from the bracelet piece that Jax had found.
He’d had lunch with James, Heath & Link at Tiny’s Diner, so he knew Jax should be at the cabin. When he entered the kitchen, Wes saw a half full glass of juice on the counter along with an empty bowl. What he didn’t find was Jaxon. The door to the guest room was open, the water wasn’t running in the bathroom, so he knew the younger man wasn’t in the shower. Before he panicked, Wes headed out to the barn to see if his friend was out there.
Jogging across the driveway he noticed the hammock was empty. Jax wasn’t in the barn but Wes saw his day-pack wasn’t where it was supposed to be. He rubbed his hand across his face and then rubbed the scar on his shoulder. Pulling his phone from his jeans, he called Link.
“Hey Babe,” Link said when he answered his cell phone, “Are you back home?”
“Yeah, I’m here… but…”
“Well, Jax isn’t here. Was he going anywhere?” Wes asked.
Link glanced across the table at James. “No, he was still sleeping when we left.” He held his hand up to stop the questions on the lips of the two men. “Did you check the barn?”
“I’m standing in the barn, T-man,” Wes answered. “My day-pack is gone. I think he went back up on the ridge.”
“Did he leave a note?”
“No sir,” Wes sighed knowing that was a hard rule with his man. “I’m going to go look for him.”
“OK be careful,” Link agreed. “We’ll be home soon. Take your cell and a radio.”
“Yes sir,” Wes said hanging up the phone. He grabbed Link’s day-pack then ran back into the cabin and stuffed two jackets into it along with a couple of bottles of water. He knew his guy always kept energy bars in his, so he slung the pack over his shoulder and grabbed a fully charged radio on his way out the door. He jogged toward the pond.
Back at Link’s parents’ house Link was explaining the conversation he just had with his lover.
“Wes is home but Jax isn’t there,” he relayed to the two men. “His day-pack is gone so he thinks Jax might have gone back up to the ridge to say goodbye to his dad again.”
Heath looked at James. “We should have seen this coming, JW. Jax said he felt like Nick was there with him when he went before.”
Before James could say anything, Link stood. “Let’s get back to the cabin. Wes is looking for him and hopefully he’ll find him by the time we get there.”
Jax finally saw the tree he had been looking for, only it was below him not higher up the slope. He kicked the dirt under his feet knowing that he had wasted time stumbling around trying to find the trail again. With nothing else to do he slowly inched down the slope toward the tree. Losing his footing he had to grab one of the scrub oaks dotting the hillside to keep from sliding over the rock out cropping in front of him.
“Easy, Son,” the breeze whispered.
Jax felt a hand on his arm, pulling him back, but when he looked around no one was there.
“Dad?” he whispered not really thinking he would get an answer. Not getting the reply he hoped for, Jax worked his way around the out cropping and carefully slid down to the rock wall Link had built.
Wes had followed the same trail they took when he led Jax to the Blue Oak the first time. It wasn’t hard to see that Jax was in fact heading up to the tree again. The scuff marks the younger man’s boots left were easy to follow. He stepped from the trees just in time to see Jax almost slip. He froze when he saw the young man pulled back. Then stepped back under cover of the trees and watched his friend ease down the slope.
Jax cleared his head then quietly said, “Came back up here to say good-bye, Dad. We’re going home in a couple of days. I just wanted you to know you don’t have to worry about me. My guys… yeah… guys, I have two partners… well they love me and I love them. They’re the best. You would really like them.”
The young man waited for some kind of signal that his dad was there with him, but when it didn’t come he stood up from the rock wall and said, “Goodbye, Dad, I love you.”
Wes walked out of the trees again, sliding his boots so Jax would know he wasn’t alone.
Hearing the noise Jax snapped his head around then sighed, “Oh, hi, Wes.”
“Yeah, hi, Bro,” he said. Then reached out to hug his friend. “We need to get back to the cabin before it gets dark.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Jax said looking back at the Oak. “I didn’t mean to be gone so long. I, um, sorta got a little lost.”
“Is that why you were up there?” Wes chuckled pointing up the slope.
Jax blushed. “Yeah, I’m not sure how that happened but I ended up higher than I was supposed to be.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re OK I saw you slip.”
“Yeah, we can talk about it after I get you home,” Wes said. “I’m sure your guys are wondering where you are and if you’re OK.”
Jax sighed. “I guess I forgot to leave a note, huh?”
“Yeah and that’s a hard line for Link.”
“Yeah, for my guys too,” Jax agreed.
Wes draped his arm over his young friend’s shoulder. “Let’s get moving, Bro.”
Just as the younger men reached the pond, Wes's radio crackled to life, "Wes come in please. Over."
"I’m here. Over."
"Where are you? Over," Link's voice asked.
James exchanged an anxious look with Heath.
"We just reached the pond, Link. Should be home in a few minutes. Over."
Heath sighed with relief. "Are they alright?" he whispered to Link.
“Is Jax OK? Over," Link asked his partner.
The oldest man had a worried look in his eyes as he waited for the reply.
"Yeah, he's a little scraped up but nothing serious. He stumbled a couple of times but he's OK. Over," Wes answered.
Heath put an arm around James and gave him a brief hug and a reassuring smile.
"I'm glad he's all right," the resort owner whispered to his partner.
"OK, I got a couple of men here needing to see their man. Over," Link said into the radio.
"I need to see them too," Jax sighed.
James reached for the radio, with a questioning look at Link.
Link nodded and passed his radio to the older man.
James took the radio and said in his calm quiet manner when he was upset, "We love you Jax and we'll talk about all this when you get back...we can't wait to see you. Over."
Jax's eyes glistened with moisture hearing the words from his lover.
"He can't wait either, James. Over and out," Wes answered.
The resort owner said, “We’ll be waiting. Over and out.” He handed the radio back to Link who hung it on his belt.
When the brats finally reach the end of the path, their men were only steps away having come across the clearing to meet them.
James reached his boy in a few long strides and pulled him into a bone crushing hug and kissed him soundly. "You worried us, little one," he said gently.
Heath, seeing Jax scuffed up, went to his young lover as their oldest partner released him and checked him over quickly for any injuries. Seeing nothing immediately, he wrapped his arms around the boy and held him tightly. "We were so worried about you. Don't ever go out without leaving a note."
"I'm sorry," Jax sniffed. "I didn't think I would be gone so long."
"Even if you'd just gone to the pond, you should have let us know where you were going, Jaxon," Heath said, trying not to scold the upset young man. "If anything had happened to you..." he let his thought trail off.
James said a bit more sternly, keeping an arm around the young man, “It doesn't matter. Whenever you leave the immediate area you know you're to leave a note whether it's only a half hour or two hours."
Link pulled Wes to him. "I'm glad you're OK, little one," he said to his young friend before releasing him. "Wes and I are going to go start our chores.” He turned to James. "Take as much time as you need, my friend."
The older man nodded. "Thank you."
Heath took Jax by the hand and gently led him into the house.
James followed his men and went to the living room. He watched as his other partner pulled Jax down on the couch and sat on the other side of their boy.
"I'm really sorry. I just wanted to see the spot one more time and didn't think about the note until Wes found me," Jax tried to explain.
The oldest partner said quietly, "We have no problem with your wanting to go to the spot, what we do have a problem with is not knowing where you had gone. No one knew and if something had happened to you we wouldn’t have known where to look for you and then we would have been devastated," he told the young man quietly.
"You could have waited for us, Jaxon," Heath replied with a hint of steel in his tone. "We would have gone with you. We'd have given you your space if you needed it. As it is, you're here, scuffed up and dirty. What happened out there?"
"I sorta got lost and then when I finally found the tree I was above it," Jax answered. "Then I tried to climb down the slope and slipped."
Heath closed his eyes against the image that came to his mind and he pulled Jax into a hug, burrowing his face into his young partner's soft hair.
"The weird thing is I thought I heard Dad and it felt like someone grabbed me and pulled me back...but no one was there."
"Then I'm grateful to him for looking out for you, though I prefer that it had been me and James."
"You believe me... that Dad was there?"
James tensed and his smoky blue eyes grew dark at the thought of what could have happened to his boy and was glad Nick's spirit had been looking out for him. It only cemented for him the danger the young man had been in and he looked at Heath, waiting for his turn to hold and hug their brat.
"I believe that things happen during our worst moments where we feel the presence of the ones we've lost, yes," Heath admitted.
Tears started to flow again. "Thanks Doc."
Heath handed Jax over to James who looked like he needed a hug as much as their boy did.
James now able to put an arm around Jax hugged him tight and kissed the top of his head. "Yes, things happen we don't always understand."
Jax snuggled into James craving his strong arms.
The older man snuggled the younger one and blinked back tears that had formed without him realizing and swallowed the lump in his throat.
"However, I hate to point out that his intervention wouldn't have been needed if you'd either waited for us or left a note about where you were headed, Jaxon," Heath said, looking into the boy's eyes. "If you'd done more than slip, if you'd been injured, we wouldn't have had any idea where to look for you. We wouldn't have been able to help you," he scolded gently.
James nodded. '"Yes, I said that before. I don't know what we would do without you to complete us," his voice grew husky with emotion.
Jax released his grip on James and looked up at Heath. "I wasn't thinking and I'm so sorry. I never want to cause either one of you the grief I've felt,” he whispered. "I love you too much to do that."
The young man sighed, "So how much trouble am I in?"
James looked at Heath. "We'll need to talk about it. I think you could do with a good hot shower. Why don't you do that then we'll talk and let you know just what we're going to do."
The doctor nodded his agreement and gave Jax a kiss before the boy got up to do as he'd been told.
"Yes sir," their boy said knowing he needed his guys to make this right for him.
As the young man left, James rubbed his hands over his face. "This is not how I wanted our vacation to turn out. I'd like your input on this Heath."
The other man sighed and thought about the situation for a moment. "I hate to discipline him while we're on vacation... heck, I'd hate to do it any time, but this time he was out of bounds. He could have been seriously hurt or worse. He's lucky all he got were a few scrapes, James." He looked at his lover, concern, "I understand in a way why he did it, but..."
James looked at his partner. "Yes, and unfortunately, I believe a spanking is what's needed. A hand spanking, but a spanking all the same." The older man sighed. "He put himself in a dangerous situation and we could have lost him."
I hate to say it, but I agree," Heath replied quietly. "I just can't bring myself to do it... JW?"
James studied his partner and nodded. "All right," he sighed. "I'll do it."
Once Heath left, James went into the bedroom to wait for Jax.
The oldest partner looked up as his boy came into the bedroom and he asked him, "Feel better?"
"Yeah... um... yes sir," Jax answered quietly.
James put out his arms to the young man. "Come here little one," he said softly.
Jax slowly walked to his lover. He held his hand out for him to take.
The older man grasped his hand and pulled his boy onto his lap. He wrapped his arms around him and hugged him. "Heath and I talked about what we should do," he said quietly.
"I'm sorry," Jax whispered.
James kissed his cheek. "I know you are, but it doesn't erase the rule you broke about us being informed of where you are. It's for your safety as well as for our peace of mind. Do you understand?" he asked calmly.
"Yes sir, I understand," the young man replied.
"I'm glad. Heath and I decided a spanking will make things right. You put yourself in danger and that's not something we take lightly," he explained.
Jax just nodded. He knew if he tried to speak he would cry and he didn't want James to feel worse.
The older man hugged him. "That's my brave boy," he praised. "Ready to get this over with?"
"Yes sir," the boy answered. "I'm sorry I wrecked our vacation."
James kissed Jax on the lips and said softly, "You didn't ruin anything little boy. Things can happen anytime and it's our job to give you what you need when you need it. Once we get the unpleasantness out of the way then we can move on and enjoy the rest of our time here."
Jax nodded and returned the kiss his partner gave him. "I love you, James."
The older man said, "I do too and it's time you were shown just how much." He removed the towel from his lover's body, turned him across his lap and began to give his young brat what he needed and deserved, as the first swats fell.
"...but it was the strangest thing, T-man," Wes was saying when Heath walked into the barn.
The doctor smiled apologetically, "Sorry guys, I just came to see if I could lend a hand out here for a little while. I also see I came in the middle of a conversation. If it's private I can go outside and find something to do."
"No, it's OK, Heath," Link said. "Wes was just telling me what he saw when he found Jax."
The other man looked at Wes with a curious expression. "What happened?"
Wes jumped down from the perch he'd had on the work bench. "Well, I saw Jax slip but then somehow he just stops slipping... like someone or something grabbed him."
Heath nodded thoughtfully, "Yes, he mentioned that he felt as though his father had been with him. I like the idea that he's still there, looking out for Jax," he said quietly.
"Yeah, me too," Link said. "It always feels like Nick is around when I go up there.
Maybe he can rest now knowing that his son has you two to look out for him."
The other man smiled, touched by the vote of confidence from Nick's best friend.
"Thank you," he replied softly. In his head, he sent up a quick prayer for Nick and assured the man that he'd do his best to keep his son safe.
"Um, Heath... is Jax OK?" Wes hedged. "I mean..."
"Wes..." Link started to scold his lover.
The doctor put an arm around the younger man and smiled, "Yes, he'll be right as rain in no time. He just needed some time with James."
Link chuckled at the look on his boy's face. This was a lesson that Wes had learned the hard way too.
"So, what can I do in the meantime?" Heath asked with a grin. The sadness he'd been feeling diminished considerably. He knew that Jax was in the best hands possible at this moment.
“Why don't you and Wes fire up the bar-b-que and we’ll have burgers for dinner," Link suggested.
"Consider it done." The man smiled. "Come on, Wes, show me where your grill is and we'll get it set up and going."
After 30 minutes, with the fire ready for the burgers, Link said, "Why don't you go and see if your guys are ready to eat Heath?"
The doctor sent a grateful look at his new friend and walked into the house in search of his partners. He found James and Jax cuddled up on the bed. The younger man looked considerably happier and more rested than he had in a long time. He laid down on the bed and gave them both kisses before announcing that dinner would be ready soon. "You look good, Hon," he said quietly to Jax.
His young lover gingerly rolled over pulling the older man to him. "I'm sorry, Doc," he mumbled. "I promise I won’t forget again."
"All's forgiven and forgotten honey, as long as you remember in the future. We love you so much, Jax," Heath said as he laid down on the bed with their youngest partner sandwiched in between them. He put a reassuring hand on James's arm, looking with love at his other partner.
James cracked open one eye and said in a sleep laden voice, "Heath's right little one."
"I know and I love both of you."
"Well, if you're up for it, let's have something to eat before I forget the burgers and have the two of you instead,” he joked as he stood up.
Jax giggled, "Food first, Doctor."
James smiled. "Burgers sound good for now."
The doctor held out his hands, helping each of his partners up. He helped their boy dress then they all walked hand in hand to the porch to have dinner with their friends