Monday, September 4, 2017
Phoenix from The Ashes Part 10
Written by Snarks, Rosemarie & PJ
Joaquin was awakened by soft singing in his ears, it seemed to be coming in stereo for some reason. He reached over to turn off his clock radio but the music continued. He opened his eyes and saw the twins on either side of him. It took a moment more for his muzzy brain to catch up to what was happening.
"Happy biiiiirrrrrrthdaaaaaay dear 'Keeeeeeennnnn, haaaaappyyyy biiiirrrrthday to you!"
'Keen's eyes opened wide. "It's the sixth? It's already the sixth?!" he exclaimed happily. "I'm officially eighteen! I'm officially an adult! I'm free!"
The twins hugged him and tousled his already messy hair. "Yup," Jarrod said, "eighteen today! C'mon! Shorty's got breakfast waiting!"
'Keen jumped out of bed and did a wild dance, which made the twins laugh. They joined in on the dance until Shorty yelled up the stairs for them to get the herd of elephants out of the bunkhouse.
Joaquin and the others ran back down the stairs, hoping that Shorty wouldn't make them walk back up and back down as he often did when the guys ran. This time, he only smiled and gestured the three to their chairs.
"Happy Birthday, Joaquin!" Bo said, handing the boy an envelope.
The young man looked at Shorty for permission which was given. 'Keen opened the envelope and found $100 in it. His eyes widened and he tried to protest.
"You know it's impolite to try to give back a present," Bo said with mock sternness.
"But nothing," Shorty joined in with a grin. "Just make sure you spend it on something you want, and spend it wisely."
"Thanks guys!" 'Keen grinned.
"That's just from Bo, but it's also just the beginning, more to come, but everyone needs to eat first," Shorty commanded.
Without any arguments, the other men dug into the plates of waffles and bacon, passing the carafe of coffee around until everyone had their share.
The rest of the day went as usual, except that 'Keen had a wide grin on his face the entire time, and he went about his chores with a new energy.
Later that evening, when the horses had been seen to and the bunkhouse was in good condition, Shorty led the small group to the main room at the resort’s lodge.
The boy was thrilled when sparkling confetti and streamers fell down around him. Everyone in the room yelled, "Happy Birthday!"
James winked at Jeff and smiled as 'Keen grinned with the celebration.
The men of the resort approached him one by one, shaking his hand or patting him on the shoulders.
"You did it!"
"You made it."
After everyone else had gone back to dancing or chatting among themselves, 'Keen walked over to the two older men. "I know I have you to thank for this! Thank you!" he cried, throwing an arm around each man's waist.
Jeff returned the hug, once again tousling the young man's hair. "You're very welcome. We couldn't let something like this go by without some kind of celebration." He smiled.
James smiled at the teen and returned the hug. "It was our pleasure to help out and I'm so glad Gideon contacted us about you so we could do all we have been able to."
Before 'Keen had a chance to reply, Mutt grabbed the boy up and dragged him toward a crowd of people who all wanted to dance with him.
The resort owner glanced at his business partner and laughed. "Well, he's been taken away from the old folks," he teased.
The music was not too loud but it was raucous, all the brats dancing, the Tops either joining in or standing by the sidelines talking and laughing until the food was served.
Jeff grinned at his friend. "Who you callin' old, old man? Let's dance!" he laughed.
He led James to where Mutt and Jax were dancing and joined the duo.
The older man grinned and danced with him. They didn't do it often, but it was fun when they did.
All About that Bass began to play and a cheer went up. It looked as though James had been about to sit the song out when Jax and Heath both grabbed his arms and refused to let go.
The resort owner laughed as his younger partners dragged him onto the dance floor. He may have been the oldest member there, but also was having the most fun, not feeling or looking his age at all.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Gideon, Ken and Mark joined the trio. "We finally made it!" Gideon grinned. "What did we miss?"
"Nothing just yet, don't worry," Jeff assured the men. The song ended and Jeff sighed with relief to hear the bell ring to indicate the dinner was ready.
"Birthday boy gets served first!" Jarrod yelled unnecessarily as everyone made room for Joaquin to go ahead of them. With a blush and a smile he walked along the steaming pans and chose quite a collection before making his way to a chair.
"Nope, you sit here with all the balloons!" Little Jake insisted, dragging the boy to the decorated chair.
Everyone went through the line and loaded up on the good food that had been prepared then found seats with their partners or friends to sit and talk as they ate. James smiled at Gideon and Ken along with their friend Mark. He was grateful the couple had taken an interest in the teen and that things seemed to be going well with them all.
Suddenly Joaquin jumped up and ran toward where James was sitting. Without another word, he plopped himself down beside the man and smiled up at him, darting glances back over his shoulder.
Mutt, Little Jake and Jarrod were all looking at him and grinning but none of them pursued him.
The resort owner looked at the smiling boy. "Enjoying yourself Joaquin?"
With a final look backward, 'Keen looked up at the man and smiled broadly. "This is great, James. Thank you so much. I really can't remember the last time anyone threw a birthday party for me," the words were said without guile but Gideon could feel his stomach knot up, though he continued to smile. Ken put his hand on his lover's and pressed as though to say, 'It's all right.'
"Well, happy eighteenth birthday, Joaquin!" Gideon said jovially. "Do you feel any older?" he joked.
'Keen thought about it for a minute and then grinned. "Y'know... I know it sounds weird, but I kinda feel younger, if that's possible."
Ken sat by, smiling, but his stomach felt heavy as well to know that this boy had had nothing for so long, and that he'd been carrying so much around with him that it had become a physical weight on his shoulders. He grinned widely, knowing that that part of the boy's life was over and done with, and patted the teen on the shoulder. "It's all uphill from here, 'Keen," he said. "You're your own man."
Mark too felt for the youngster and put an arm around his shoulders and squeezed. “It’s a transition, but you’ll handle it all right with everyone’s help.”
Joaquin's smile faltered for just a moment as he looked up at the resort owner, "James?"
The boy leaned in toward the older man and with one last look over his shoulder at his friends whispered, "Since I'm eighteen... I'm too old for birthday whacks... aren't I?"
Gideon, Ken and Mark laughed loudly. "I was wondering what the problem was," Gideon gasped as he tried to get his breathing back under control.
Ken leaned in toward 'Keen and said with a smile, "Gid had no problem delivering mine to me last birthday, so watch out!"
"That was something entirely different," Gideon said out of the corner of his mouth, "so not in front of the kids." He laughed.
James smiled and shook his head. "No one is too old for birthday whacks, especially here at the resort...not even me." He winked as his smoky blue eyes twinkled.
"So ahhhhh, I don't suppose today is your birthday too?" 'Keen asked hopefully.
The older man laughed and shook his head. "No, not today, but soon."
Looking somewhat disgruntled, the boy scowled but then his features brightened. "Um... Gideon, Ken, Mark, that is if you don't mind me stealing them from you for a little while James, would you please escort me to the back door?"
James said, "You may borrow them for a bit, but remember, that isn't going to get you out of your birthday whacks." He grinned and winked at the other men.
Gideon laughed. "I’m not sure that's going to help matters much. They'll still know where you're going."
"As the saying goes, you can run but you can't hide, especially not since you live with two of them right there in the bunkhouse," Ken giggled. "We'd get you home to your room but where would you go from there?"
The resort owner grinned. "Yep," he said in a somewhat bratty manner.
With a mischievous look between the two of them, Gideon and Ken both got up and took the youngster by his arms, suspending him in midair. "Birthday whacks! Come get your birthday whacks! Free while they last!" Mark bellowed.
"Awww guys!" the teen complained loudly.
Luckily, Jeff and Jake arrived there first and rescued the young man. When the others who had been gathering complained, Jeff reminded them with a laugh, "He said come GET your birthday whacks, not deliver them, so... all of you take position and 'Keen here will deliver them."
His announcement was met with good natured booing and warnings of what his next birthday would bring.
James shook his head. "Nope, we get to deliver them," he told his friend and gently scooped up 'Keen and went over to a chair and sitting down flipped the boy over his lap and delivered 17 light pats and one sharp smack. "To grow on!" James said and then looked to see who was ready to have a turn.
Mutt ran up and began to pat the boy's backside in a rhythm and then began to sing 'Baa baaa looooooo!' causing the others to laugh and sit down, knowing that they couldn't top that performance.
Jeff leaned down and whispered to the teen, "I think Mutt just saved your butt, literally." He picked the youngster up and set him back on his feet.
"Thanks Mutt, thanks Jeff." He turned to look at the resort owner and said in an exaggeratedly sarcastic tone, "Thanks a whole lot, James," with a wink and a smile that only James and Jeff saw.
The older man pulled the youngster into a hug and smiled. "You're welcome, it was all in fun you know." He winked at the boy and then ruffled his hair, pulling him into a tight hug.
'Keen hugged the man back, knowing that everything he had now was thanks to James, but he had no words and he could feel himself tearing up.
"Presents and cake!" Torren announced over the PA.
Keen gratefully sat back down in his decorated chair which had been moved closer to the presents. Torren played a hokey fanfare which had everyone laughing, after which 'Keen began to open his presents one by one.
His eyes widened in amazement at all of the things that people had bought for him. There were several gift cards for quite a bit of money addressed to him with notes which said, 'For when your brothers come home.' They made him tear up again.
"Ok, the best for last," Mutt announced with a wide smile, 'Keen, this is from me, Jax, Torren, and Adam."
Joaquin opened the large box and gasped before letting out a loud cheer, "Xbox! Thank you!" Then remembering his manners, he stood up and addressed all of the guests, “I want to thank all of you. I don't have enough words, but without James, Jeff, Shorty, Gideon and the rest of you... I’m not sure where I’d be right now. Thank you all, so much." He sat back down on the chair and let his tears loose. For once he wasn't afraid of anyone making fun of him, he knew they'd understand.
Mutt and Jax put their arms around ‘Keen and led him outside for a few minutes until he could calm himself. The cold air did wonders and he felt much better.
"Ready to go back inside?" Mutt asked with a soft smile.
"Yeah," the teen replied as each of the men put an arm around his shoulders and led him back to the festivities.
'Keens eyes grew as round as dinner plates when he saw the birthday cake that had been made for him.
Chocolate. Layers upon layers of chocolate. Icing, pudding, milk chocolate chips and Reese's Pieces all mixed in with a brownie base. He thought he'd died and gone to heaven.
Thankfully they had put candles in the shapes of a number 1 and a number 8 on top of the cake so that he didn't have to try to blow out eighteen individual candles. "Don't forget to make a wish!" the men shouted.
Closing his eyes, Joaquin wished with all of his might, no one had to guess what his wish was. Once he'd blown out the candles to a round of applause, he turned to cut the cake. It seemed a shame to cut into it but it smelled too good to pass up.
"If I gotta go, this is the way to do it," he joked around his third helping of the confection.
James laughed, "Death by chocolate."
"Nope," Tristan said with a grin as he walked by, placing dessert cups on each table, "that comes next."
The older man groaned at the young man’s comment as he watched him walk away for more dessert cups.
Everyone ate and danced and laughed, enjoying the party until it was time for the festivities to break up. Soon the cleanup started then the men all headed to their homes on and off the resort.
Joaquin, with a smile of contentment and happiness that he'd worn nearly the whole day, changed into his sleep pants and shirt, snuggled down under warm blankets and was soon asleep.
Nearly three weeks later the group was finally ready to go to Seattle. They were as prepared as they could be and were planning to leave the next day.
"Gideon, Ken and Mark have said they're all set to go. Gid was joking that Mark was packed up and ready to go as soon as you spoke to Attorney Green," Jeff said with a wide smile. "They're all looking forward to meeting these kids.” He turned to his business partner, “Do you have all the plane tickets?"
James shook his head. "I thought it would be faster and more comfortable if we travel in a private jet."
"Well, now I'm a little jealous that I didn't agree to go," Jeff laughed, "but don't worry, JW, we'll keep things together here, just take care of what needs to be done, and I promise," he said, holding up his hands to stay his friend's next words, "that we'll call you if anything at all goes wrong."
The resort owner laughed. "You know me too well, my friend. I know Teardrop Lake is safe in your hands."
"And I know that 'Keen is safe with all of you. He's much more relaxed with Gid, Ken and Mark now. That was a stroke of genius on Gid's part, suggesting that they spend weekends together."
James smiled. "Yes, it was,” he agreed, then added, “My friend Dex will have the jet ready in the morning. After Shorty brings Joaquin over we’ll leave, and pick up Gideon, Ken and Mark for one last conference with Oliver.”
When they were through talking Jeff went to search for his husband. He found Mutt quickly. Or rather, Mutt found him.
"So, when're they leaving?" Mutt asked excitedly as he caught up with Jeff on his way back to their bungalow. "Do they have a chance of getting custody of the kids?"
"What?" Jeff asked, dumbfounded.
"When're they leaving?!"
Jeff gave his husband a sour look. "If you know what they're doing then you know when they're heading out, which begs the question of how you knew about all this?"
"The Great Muttini knows all and tells nothing," Mutt quipped.
"I'll give you the Great Muttini," Jeff growled as he chased his husband toward their bungalow.
Jeff gave Mutt several mid strength swats and one huge kiss. "I don't know how you do it, Hon, and I don't think I want to know," he laughed.
"Some secrets are best left... well... secret." Mutt grinned.
It had felt as though the time had both flown and crawled to the men who waited for the court date to arrive. It was with relief that James began to call around to let everyone know when it would be time to go.
The man smiled as he called Shorty.
"What's up James?" the veterinarian asked in a jovial tone. He'd just been play wrestling with the boys and was in a great mood. Joaquin was really catching on quickly to the defensive moves that Shorty had been teaching him and was actually giving the twins a run for their money, learning to use his shorter stature to his advantage.
"It's nearly time. Everything is arranged and ready. I need for you to have Joaquin at my office by nine fifteen tomorrow and then we're ready to go."
"You got it, boss," Shorty replied with a smile. "I wish you all luck."
"Thanks, Shorty. If everything goes according to the Harrington/Barrett/Green plan, we may be flying back soon with a couple of new hands for you," James joked.
"I hope so, JW. I'll make sure Joaquin is ready."
James smiled. "All right, thanks Shorty."
After the resort owner hung up he called Heath.
"Hey, JW," the man’s partner replied affectionately. "How are you? Is everything ready and set?"
The older man said, "A little stressed and really busy, but Gid, Joaquin, Ken, Mark and I are on our way to Seattle tomorrow morning, which means that you, Jax and I are going to have a little going away party tonight," he continued in a suggestive tone.
Heath smiled even though he knew his lover couldn't see it. He shook his head in awe. Leave it to James to drop everything to help someone else and still think of them in the middle of it all. He still couldn't believe how lucky he was that the older man and Jax were all his now. "I'll see you tonight then, and I'm going to hold you to that party," he teased.
"Heath," James began, somewhat apologetically to the doctor's ears, "we've got copies of your findings so we'll have evidence of Joaquin's condition when he was found. I'm not sure but you may have to testify in person if this goes to court."
"Don't worry, JW," the young doctor assured his partner, "if it comes to that, I'll be on the next plane out. We'll help these kids one way or another."
"Thank you, Heath," James replied gratefully.
"For you, and those kids, anything. See you tonight, JW," Heath said just before he hung up.
Seconds after his conversation with the young doctor ended, the resort owner picked up the phone once again and called his friend Dexter Coletrain to update him on the situation and affirm he’d be ready for them the next morning. He smiled after hanging up, satisfied that he had done all that he could at the present. Dex had reassured him that he would be standing by. James thought of how blessed he was to have such good friends who were always there for him.
The next morning, Shorty had Joaquin dressed, fed and ready in more than enough time. The boy was nervous and excited at the same time, although guilt and fear still nibbled at his stomach, the feeling had diminished somewhat, and the thought that he might see his brothers again cheered him up a little. It was only that one little word, might, that kept him from true happiness.
James smiled as the veterinarian arrived at his office. Now he only needed Jeff to show up. "Come on in Shorty, Joaquin." He offered them drinks while they waited.
The youngster took a deep breath and tried to calm down. "D'ya think... d'ya think Gideon and Ken'll be able to get custody? D'ya think Sammy and Mike'll remember me? What if they don't remember me...," he trailed off nervously.
The big veterinarian put a comforting arm around the teen and hugged him close.
"Are you coming with me, Shorty?" 'Keen asked hopefully.
"Not this time, Hon," the vet replied, "but don't worry, you're in good hands. The best." He smiled at the scared teen. He leaned down to whisper something in 'Keen's ear, winked at the boy and showed himself out, patting Jeff on the shoulder in greeting as he left.
Jeff, who had heard the last of the conversation as he entered the room, smiled at the youngster." Don't worry, Hon, your brothers will never forget you. You're all they knew for the past five years. They won't forget that."
Joaquin smiled uncertainly at the older man, hoping that what he said was true.
James nodded at Jeff's words as they left the office and the co-owner promised once more to hold down the fort while the main man was away.
"Safe travels, my friend," Jeff said. With a smart, military salute, he turned and left the retired Marine and headed toward his office.
"Let's head out," the resort owner said to the boy. He squeezed the youngster's shoulder in a friendly gesture as they walked out to the parking lot where a stretch limousine, courtesy of Oliver, already packed with their luggage waited to drive them to Masonville. "First stop, to pick up the guys, then to Oliver's office before we all head to the airport."
All About That Bass Meghan Trainor
Released June 30, 2014
Recorded September 2013; The Carriage House (Nolensville, Tennessee)
Songwriters Meghan Trainor, Kevin Kadish
Producer Kevin Kadis