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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Phoenix from the Ashes Part 12

Written by Snarks, Rosemarie & PJ

Going through the grocery store, Gideon was careful to stick to the list that James had shared with them, figuring that with all of them splitting up to find certain things they'd get the shopping done faster. The boy did try to put some snack cakes and soda into one of the carriages but they were caught quickly and put back. He blushed a little bit at the look that was aimed at him and continued on.

James smiled as they checked out and said, "Joaquin, your new apartment isn't in the best neighborhood, but it's not the worst either. I checked it out and it's pretty safe. The bus stops at the corner and you can use that to get to your mother's when it’s time to pick up the boys from their school buses. If needed you can use it to get to your new job as well," he told the youngster.  He smiled as they arrived and went to the caretaker's apartment to get the key and then led the way upstairs two flights to the apartment. He opened the door and was glad to find it neat and clean. 

Once inside, 'Keen's eyes widened. It wasn't a huge apartment by any means, but it was beautiful, with wood floors and big windows.

Gideon began to put the perishables they had bought into the fridge and freezer, which were quite clean. The stove and oven were clean as well.  There was a nice little table with four chairs so if 'Keen wanted to bring his brothers here to feed them he could do so.

James checked the cupboards and was pleased to see that there were dishes and pots and pans just as the caretaker had promised. There was a sofa, flanked by two end tables and two lamps with a comfortable looking arm chair next to one of the end tables. The place was cozy and clean.

The resort owner grinned at the teen who was looking with something like awe at all of the things that were now his. "It's called an efficiency apartment." He went over and opened a set of large wooden doors that 'Keen had initially thought was a closet, and was surprised when a bed folded down onto the floor. The older man grinned in satisfaction as he saw that it was made up with clean linens, fluffy pillows, a warm blanket and a comforter as he had requested. Two dressers stood sentinel on either side of the bed.

'Keen threw his arms around the older man and yelled, "Thank you!"  When he realized what he'd done he stepped back, blushing furiously.  "Thank you," he repeated in a more moderate tone. 

James laughed when the teen threw his arms around him and thanked him. He squeezed the youngster back and said, "My pleasure. Everything's included in the rent here and it's paid up for you for the next six months so you can get on your feet and begin to take over the payments."

After thanking the man once again, Joaquin looked around the apartment and grinned. There was even a television with cable hooked up already, and a laptop beside it.

Mark and Ken picked the boy up, one under each arm, and placed him on the arm chair. 

"Your kingdom awaits, Your Majesty," Mark joked.  "May we have the honor of being seated in your presence, Your Highness?"

"C'mon guys," Joaquin grinned, blushing, "just sit down."

The men proceeded to make themselves comfortable, either on the couch or pulling the dining room chairs forward to form a comfortable circle.

 " 'Keen," James said after a moment, "give me your phone. I want to add some extra numbers into it that you'll need." He had made certain while the boy had been at TLR that he had received his own cell phone, which, like the other residents, was paid for by the resort.

Joaquin was quick to hand the phone over, feeling another rush of gratitude. He felt much more secure now, knowing that while he was going to be on his own, he would have friends only a call away. 

The former Marine scrolled through the contact list that included the resort, Mutt's maintenance phone, the number for the infirmary, Gideon and Ken’s numbers and Mark’s cell. He had seen Shorty, Bo, Jax and the twins in there, as well as Griff, Dean and Duke's numbers. He added his home phone as well as Heath's personal cell.  Then handed the phone to Gideon so he could add Roman’s number. When he was finished he handed the phone back to the teen.

"Contact any of us day or night," he said sternly.  "Do not hesitate to call any of us at any time. You'll always be able to reach at least one of us and the rest of us will know you need help too, understand?"

"I understand, James. Thank you," the young man said with a shy smile. "I really appreciate all you've done for me.  All of you. Thank you."

The older man smiled and ruffled the youngster's hair affectionately. "You're welcome. We'll be by tomorrow.   We’ll pick you up to take you to your new job. Roman already knows you'll need to meet your brothers’  buses after school and will need to care for them at other times when your mother needs to be at work, and he's more than willing to be flexible with your schedule."

'Keen sighed in relief. He'd been worried about how having a job and taking care of his brothers was going to work out. "Thank you again. I can't... there're no words...," he stammered.

"Don't you worry, Joaquin," Mark replied as he sat on the arm of the chair and leaned down to hug the boy around the shoulders. "We're all here for you. We're family. We take care of each other."

The teen turned his face toward the man's chest and hugged back, trying not to cry. He'd never have believed, only a few short months ago, that he would have anyone who cared for him like this.

James smiled and said, "You're welcome, you don't need to keep thanking us. I also put Oliver's number in your phone if you need to talk to him and can't get hold of me. He can advise you and will get back to me as well. Don't be afraid to leave a message with his secretary. He's very good about checking his messages when he gets back to his office and will call you back."

Mark smiled at the boy, "My numbers are in there as well. I'm nearly always home, working on my book, but I want you to promise me that if you need anything at all, you'll call me as well."

Joaquin smiled at the men.  "Tha...," he began.

Mark put a playful hand over the boy's mouth, "Hush you, didn't you just hear the man tell you to stop thanking everyone? Remember. Family."

"Well guys," Gideon said, looking at his watch, "if we're going to be here to pick our young man up for his first day of work, we'd better let him get some sleep. Shall we?" he grinned.

James nodded. "I can drive us back to the hotel...get us there in no time at all." He teased, his smoky blue eyes twinkling with mischief.

"Oh, Good Lord. No!" Gideon said with a horrified expression.  "Anything but that!" The man scooped up the keys which had been put on the dining room table and in a more sedate tone said, "I'll be more than happy to drive, I know you must be exhausted by now.  Guys, let's head out." He grinned at the older man before pulling 'Keen into a final hug. "Sleep tight my friend," he said quietly.

Mark smirked and stifled a laugh while Ken pretended to wipe sweat off of his forehead. They all wished the youngster a good night and one by one they filed out until it was only James, Mark and 'Keen left.

The resort owner laughed and then handed the young man the key to his apartment. "Keep your door locked at all times as well as your windows when you're not here and only leave the one near the bed open if you need to at night." He led the young man over to an object mounted on the wall. "This building has a security system. This is an intercom. You press this button to talk and this one to listen. This last one is to unlock the door to let visitors in. Never let anyone in unless they say who they are and you recognize them understand? It's for your safety."

"Ok, James, tha... I mean." He sent an amused look at Mark who had raised his hand again as if to cover his mouth. "I'll make sure to do that."

"Good night then, Joaquin," the resort owner said with one last smile before he turned to leave.

"I'll be out in just a minute ok, James?" Mark asked.

"Sure, we'll be waiting for you." The man grinned as he left.

" 'Keen," Mark began, "I know what it's like to be out on your own, scared, not knowing where you're headed or how to get there.  I was there once myself. I’m glad to have made the acquaintance of the men at the resort and to have them as friends.  Knowing James, no matter who needs help, he’ll be there. It’s the kind of man he is," he smiled gently.  "Just remember, we're here for you. Always. I want you to promise to call me, or any one in your contacts, for any reason. Promise?"

Joaquin smiled and said, "Promise." He wrapped his arms around the man and gave him one last bear hug for the night.

The older man returned the hug and even though he knew that this young man was eighteen, he planted a kiss on the top of his head. "We'll see you in the morning. Good night, Hon," he said as he left, closing the door quietly behind him


Settling himself down on the couch, the youngster tried to watch television for a while, but he found himself dozing off despite the excitement of the day. Turning it off he picked up the laptop, found some soothing music and settled down onto the Murphy bed. 

He lay there for quite some time, trying to sleep, tossing and turning and finally giving it up as a lost cause. He looked at the clock and shook his head in frustration. 

Turning on the television once more he looked for the most boring program he could find. Other than some infomercials and a preacher droning on he couldn't find much. 

He laid down on the couch and watched those for a while. Every time he felt he would start to doze off he would jerk awake again, the memory of his brothers and how haggard they had looked etched into his brain.

Once more looking at the clock he sighed and put a hand to his burning eyes. His body wanted to sleep but his brain just wouldn't let him. 

He worried about Sammy and Mike. How would they react when they found he was gone at breakfast? Would Callie be kind or would she yell like she usually did. He wondered if she'd been made to attend parenting classes. There had to be some for the parents of Special Ed kids somewhere. Even a regular one would be better than nothing.

'Keen laid down again but his thoughts whirled while his body became more and more tired. He wondered why the court had been in such a rush to award custody back to their mother who had spent years neglecting them, ignoring it when her boyfriend du jour, he'd learned the words while out at lunch with Shorty one day, would smack him around or verbally abuse him. 

More than a few of them had taken great pleasure in making Sam or Mike cry by teasing them mercilessly and then calling them names. 'Keen had learned early on how to get their attentions off of his brothers and onto himself regardless of the consequences. He knew that Sam and Mike were a lot smarter than people gave them credit for, and understood more than they were able to convey. There had been no way he was going to let some cruel, ignorant bastard hurt them.

Once again, he mentally cursed his mother for putting those jerks and her drugs ahead of her kids. He could feel his heart pounding in anger at the memories. Finally, unable to take it anymore he got up to take a hot shower, hoping that would calm him enough to help him sleep.

The water was soothing and he even found himself nodding off under the spray, so he finally got out, dried and dressed and laid back down.


It seemed as though he'd only just fallen asleep when he heard a loud, obnoxious buzzing noise. Sleep deprived, at first, he thought a monster mosquito or fly had gotten in. Seeing none, he then looked for an alarm clock. What could be making that noise?

When it came again he remembered where he was and realized that the buzzing was the intercom. He jumped out of his bed, stumbled to the door and, still groggy, hit all the buttons at once with the palm of his hand. "What!?" he yelled. Frustrated when no one answered he hit the three buttons again and yelled, "Whadda ya want?" When no one answered once again, he punched the buttons several more times in frustration.

Within moments there was a knock at his door. Without thinking he flung it open, preparing to tell off whoever was on the other side when he saw the imposing figure of James in the doorway, with a concerned looking Gideon, and Ken and Mark with matching expressions of worry, standing slightly behind. He took a few steps back in surprise and nearly fell.

The resort owner put out his large hands and steadied the teen. "Whoa there Joaquin, I'm guessing you had difficulty working the intercom system?" he asked, seeing the sleepiness of the boy.

'Keen's eyelids fluttered with fatigue, "Yeah," he slurred slightly, "I just kinda was taken off guard. Sorry."

Gideon walked into the room and put his hand on the teen's shoulder. "Did you get any sleep last night?" he asked, looking closely at the youngster's tired face. "We were worried, we called you three times and when the phone kept ringing we got concerned."

"Not much. I was too worried about Sam and Mikey, and... just everything kept bugging me and I kept getting mad... I dunno," he sighed.  "I'm sorry, I didn't hear a thing until I heard the intercom."

Mark, with a sympathetic expression, said, "Why don't you go take a quick shower and see if that'll wake you up a little. Do you feel like you're up to this today, Hon?"

"Gotta," 'Keen yawned, "can't pay the rent by sleeping... wish I could."

Ken laughed, "I know how you feel. Go on, take that shower, we'll wait for you." He patted the young man on the back and proceeded to make up the bed and place it back in it's space.

Joaquin went to the dressers, which James had thoughtfully filled, took out a pair of khakis and a blue polo then headed to the shower.  When he came back out, his hair was still damp and his socks hung in his hand.

Once the teen had finished dressing James smiled at him. "Let's go over how to use the intercom system once more, then we'll go to meet Roman."

"Sure," 'Keen smiled sheepishly.  "It just caught me off guard is all. I never heard a sound like that before." He walked over to the intercom and allowed the older man to show him once more what each button was for.  "I'll remember now, James. Thank you."

The former Marine smiled at the boy. He looked at Gideon and said, "Gid, would you step out in the hall with me for a moment?"

Gideon, a little perplexed, nodded, "Sure, James.  Ken, help him get his bearings ok?"  His partner nodded and grinned.  He turned to Joaquin to help in any way he could, even if it was nothing more than some light morning chatter to help keep the kid awake. Mark added his laughter to the conversation, as well as a few stories that had all of them laughing. 

Once out in the hallway Gideon cocked his head slightly, "So, what's up?"

James gave the man a concerned look. "I'm worried about Joaquin staying here by himself.  He doesn't seem to be ready for this and I was wondering if you had any suggestions...maybe Mark could stay with him do you think?"

Gid looked thoughtful for a few moments, pondering the question. Suddenly his eyes opened wide and he grinned up at his friend. "How about if Mark stays here til the lease is up?  He was planning on staying for a while anyway, and he can write anywhere... then Joaquin can live with Roman. Of course, we'd have to run that by both of them first," he laughed, "but I think my brother would love to have a kid in the house again."

The resort owner nodded. "All right, perhaps you can speak to him and then we can talk to Mark and Joaquin and see what will work for them."

"Let me give Ro a call before we run this by the others... just in case neither of them is crazy about the idea."

He pulled out his phone and had a quick conversation with his brother. Even James winced when the other man hollered his acceptance of that arrangement. "I'd love to have a kid in the house again! Beats having all you old farts hanging around," he joked.

Gideon looked at the other man and grinned.  "Well, that's one third of the question answered."

"Thanks Ro, I'll talk to you soon."

"Later, Giddy," Roman said just before hanging up.


Joaquin sat down and felt a brief pang of homesickness as he put on the sneakers that Shorty had bought for him.  "How's everyone back home... I mean... at the resort?" he asked, unsure if he was allowed to call the resort home anymore and feeling a little bereft.

"Everyone at home is just fine," Ken replied, putting mild emphasis on the word home.  "James called and the place is still standing," he joked.

'Keen, Mark and Ken were laughing when the other two men returned to the room.  They smiled as they saw Joaquin laughing with the others. He already looked better than he had earlier.

"Mark, Joaquin," Gideon said, "I have a proposal for you."

"Sorry Gid, went down that road once before. Didn't like it, and I think the kid is too young for you, to be honest," Mark joked.

"Not to forget that you're already spoken for," Ken said with mock severity to his husband 

Joaquin could only giggle at the men and shake his head in disbelief. Seeing grown men joking around with each other like that, without swearing or yelling was a nice change. One he'd gotten used to at the resort and wouldn't trade for anything.

"Ok, jokesters, reign it in for a minute," Gideon said with a smile. "James and I were wondering, Joaquin, would you mind bunking in with Roman for a while? I was thinking that it would be a lot easier for you to get to work if you rode to the bookstore with him, and the bus stops just down the street at the corner so you'd be able to catch it to meet your brothers’ school buses.  And Mark... well, you can write anywhere, right? This is as good a place as any, at least for the next six months. What do you guys think?"

'Keen looked uncertain for a few minutes, true, he would prefer company, but would James think less of him if he admitted that he wanted to live with Roman? And would Mark be willing to take the apartment on short notice?  He looked at the writer with a questioning expression.

 "Actually," Mark said thoughtfully, "I could use this place. It's quiet, and I don't have to worry about aggravating neighbors calling me every night asking me to come to dinner." He gave Gideon and Ken a meaningful look.

"Does this mean that Mark gets to eat all the healthy food and I get to eat the Funny Bones I saw in Roman's kitchen?"  the youngster asked hopefully.

Ken laughed out loud at the boy's chutzpa, he knew that the youngster was... mostly... kidding. Besides, he thought, a Funny Bone now and then wasn't going to hurt 'Keen any, and he knew that Roman knew this as well, having raised three kids of his own.

Gideon looked at the teen and said, "You don't have to answer right away if you want to think about it, 'Keen."

"No... ummm... I... I guess it'd be alright. It would kinda make more sense. Is he... your brother I mean... is he ok with it?"

"He's already on board and is picking out the best room in the house for you." Gideon smiled.

"That means we just have to pack up your clothes and stuff and transfer them over to Ro's house, and that's not too hard," Ken said.

"I get to keep the laptop though," Mark said firmly, "after all, I need something to write with."

Gideon chuffed a laugh, "We all know you write everything by hand, you old pirate."

Mark chuckled and playfully punched 'Keen on the arm. "He's right, you know. I wouldn't steal your laptop from you... but I do get to keep the television."

James smiled at all the interaction. "I'm glad you like the idea, Joaquin. I thought it might be a good idea if Mark were to stay with you for a while, but Gideon came up with something better."

Mark frowned but winked at the boy so that he would know he was only joking. "Share a place with a kid? Been there, done that. Nope, Roman is welcome to him." 

James looked at Mark. "Thanks for staying here, this way we'll know 'Keen will have two people he can come to locally if he has any difficulties, worries or anything else that may come up."

“Besides," 'Keen said with a smirk, “now instead of Gideon and Ken calling you every night it can be me and Roman."

"Rotten kids... don't know their place anymore," Mark said with a mock growl.  "I'll be there at six."

The resort owner chuckled at the teen's words and winked at him. "That's it, don't let him get homesick."

Gideon smiled at the youngster. "Well, if the plan is agreeable, gather up your stuff and we'll go to breakfast and get your things turned over to Roman."

The teen smiled and said, “It sounds good to me.”

Gideon and Ken wasted no more time. They pulled out the rolling luggage that had been bought to transport the boy's clothing and began to carefully pack.

"We can leave the food here though," Ken said.  "Man's gotta eat something between now and dinner."

"And we're running a little late," Gideon frowned at his watch. "We'll just about be on time to meet up with my brother for breakfast."

“Well, don't forget me!" Mark declared.  "I'd like to go out for breakfast too, ya know!"

The other man teased, “Well then get a move on!”

James chuckled in reference to the groceries they had stocked into the apartment.   "Yes, the food can stay here, we wouldn't want our writer to fade away from being famished." He winked at Mark.

Gideon, Mark and Ken, each taking a suitcase, followed the former Marine out of the apartment, carefully locking the door behind them, and headed out.

The resort owner led the way to the rental car and helped load 'Keen's possessions into the trunk.

Once the men had loaded up, Gideon called Roman and told him they were on their way to the restaurant. "My treat," he reminded his brother.

"Well, in that case, I'll be there soon."

Gid couldn't help but to laugh. Even though the conversation hadn't been on speaker, it was obvious that everyone in the car had heard him.

Ken was pretending to unclog his ear canal, and Mark was shaking his head. "I hope he knows how to use an indoor voice."

The men all laughed at the retired school teacher's remark.

"I guess some things just don't change," Ken joked.

'Keen and the others arrived only minutes before Roman did, and they were seated at a large booth.

"So, I see my new assistant is all ready, eh?" Roman said, giving 'Keen a smile as he arrived.  "We start work right after breakfast."

"O... Ok," the teen replied. He still wasn't used to people who were loud without yelling but somehow this man managed it. "Ummm, thank you, sir," he said, still feeling a bit timid around him.

"Don't you 'sir' me, young man,” he reminded Joaquin with a wink.  "My name is Roman, or Ro for short," Gideon's brother said with a wide smile, "and that's what you'll call me. Now, I forgot to ask you... should I call you Joaquin? Or Phoenix?" he teased.

The youngster blushed and Gideon elbowed his brother in the ribs. "Behave yourself for once," he chided.

"Ah, the kid knows I'm joking, but it would be easier to know what you'd like to be called, it's easier than saying 'hey you.' "

"Everyone calls me Joaquin," the teen told him with a smile, “but my little brother Sam could only say 'Keen... so... I like to go by that.”

" 'Keeno!" the man replied, laughing.

Gideon massaged his temples, "I should have warned you..."

Joaquin blushed a little, still unsure of how to take the man's humor, until he saw Mark and Ken stifling laughter.

James smiled at Gideon's exuberant brother. "Roman, 'Keen will also need to make time to Skype with Alfred to continue his schooling. I spoke to him and they can Skype and e-mail assignments etc. He's been tailoring an education curriculum for his needs in order to complete his high school diploma, he doesn’t have much more according to his tutor before he can take his exams," he told the man. 

"Ah, no worries," the man boomed, "the store basically runs itself, there's just a few things that need to be done to keep it ship shape."

Roman turned toward Gideon and James, trying to include all of the men in the conversation. "He can do what he needs to do after work. I'll make sure he has time to study."

"And I'm always around if you run into trouble with your studies," Mark promised.

'Keen gave the men a grateful look and picked up his menu. He needed something else to focus on because he felt himself tearing up and didn't want to blubber in front of all these men.

The resort owner smiled at the man and said, "Thank you, sounds like our boy will be in good hands."

Roman grinned and patted 'Keen gently on the shoulder. "Ah, I promise I'll go easy on him. I'll only give him 12-hour days instead of 24 hours. How does that sound, 'Keen?"

Despite his initial worries, Joaquin grinned back. "I can do that," he joked.

James chuckled. "Now you're sounding like me, we just can't have that," he teased the teen.

Joaquin chuckled, feeling much better than he had earlier and eager to get to his job.

Once they all had something to eat, the others smiled as the teen went with the man who was now his boss and the resort owner smiled. "Why don't we help load up ‘Keen’s possessions in Roman’s car and then see the sights and hang around for a few more days? Dex said he's in no hurry to return to Maine."

Gideon grinned, "I'll be your tour guide. I wonder if Roman'll let me take you guys around in his bus," he laughed.  "He's got it fixed up inside and he loves to show it off."

James grinned at Gideon. "The bus might just be the thing, perhaps I can convince Roman to sell it to me for the resort instead of using the van," he teased.

"He'd rather give up an arm or a leg than that bus," Gideon laughed.  "That's his baby but I know if we ask him politely, in other words, if I beg, he'll let us take a ride around the city."

The former Marine laughed. "We can do that I'm sure."

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