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Saturday, December 24, 2016

TLR Chapter 98

Once the other men left, Gabe relaxed considerably. Maybe things wouldn't be so bad after all. He leaned into Ezra's hug and laid his head on his husband's shoulder.  "I'm alright, Ez. I'm... I'm just glad it's all over. I'm sorry I worried you. Forgive me?" he asked sincerely.

"Of course, I forgive you, I love you. And just so you know, I received a radio call from James just before you arrived. He wants to see us at nine o'clock tomorrow morning, so that means we have to get up and ready to roll early.  In the meantime, we have a few things to address Gabriel "

Gabe swallowed a hard lump in his throat. "I'm really sorry, Ez, honest. Can't this wait til the morning? Or maybe we can just chalk it up to lesson learned?  I mean, I did come out of it rather the worse for wear..." he added hopefully.

Ezra said with a slight smile, "Nice try, my boy, but you know you and I have established rules and consequences for sneaking off, and fighting, especially you being belligerent toward others."

"Awww, come on, Ez. I don't do that much anymore. This was more of a one off. I told you I was restless! I told you I needed to get out of the cabin just for a little while but you wouldn't listen to me!  And... well, I guess that made me mad, and... well... then Ryan sauntered in... and it all just came out like a storm. I could see and hear it but I didn't have any control over it, you know?"

Ezra continuing to hold Gabe said, "You know we don't allow these things to happen. I listened to you, gave you alternatives, but instead of waking me and letting me know how you were feeling you sneaked off without my knowledge and the rest is history. You understand that had you awakened me I would have helped you get through your restlessness? Most probably in a more enjoyable manner too."

"But I wanted to go out!" Gabe protested.  "We... well, you know," he said blushing a little, "we did it your way... but when I woke up I still wanted to go out… and I knew you'd say no again… so it's really kind of your fault that I snuck out if you think about it. And... well... feeling like I couldn't talk to you, to convince you to go out with me, that made me kinda mad and sad. And then that kid walked in... he doesn't need to ask permission to go out, I'll bet. He's just a kid and he struts around like he's cock o' the walk."  Gabe was grasping at straws at this point and he knew it. He also knew that Ezra wasn't going to buy a word of it.

Ezra raised an eyebrow and got a stern look. "This is a result of poor choices. I'm not at fault here. Had you awakened me I might have entertained the notion to go or I might have said no, but I wasn't given that choice. When you sneaked out you took that choice away from me," Ezra said quietly and with a sadness in his grey eyes. "I don't enjoy disciplining you, Gabe, but this went over the top tonight. You could have been badly injured and I don't know what I would have done if that had happened. Ryan was working, doing his job, even if he is young. He wasn't sauntering around without permission," Ezra scolded gently.

"He... I guess he just reminds me of that jerk, Eddie, from..."

"I know, Hon.  You told me about Eddie and how he abruptly fired you and threatened to beat you up if you ever showed up again. But you also told me that you filed a complaint about him, and Eddie was eventually fired."

"He's not the only one though... all of those young kids that..."

"Sweetheart," Ezra said, putting his arms around Gabe and rocking him slightly, "I know the things that those people said and did to you, the disrespect, the attitudes, but that's all over and in the past now. I know it's hard to forget it when people have been so cruel, but you need to learn to let it go. Remember the breathing exercises I told you to do whenever the bad memories hit?"

Gabe nodded reluctantly.  "I guess... I didn't think of that."

Gabe hunched his shoulders and gazed at the floor. He knew he'd been in the wrong. He knew now his reaction to Ryan had been unreasonable, and he knew that he should have backed off when Jake had first told him to, but he'd felt so out of control.  So, angry. He sighed deeply and turned his gaze to Ezra. "I'm sorry, Ez," he said sincerely. "I don't really know what got into me. I was just mad that I wasn't getting my way, I guess. And when that kid walked in..."

The older man said quietly, "We've talked about your actions when you are not getting your way before Gabriel and it always ends up in some kind of disaster."

"I know," Gabe replied miserably. "Ezra, I don't know how you put up with me sometimes. Why do you stay with me when I make such bad choices and end up in trouble?"

Ezra smiled and pulled Gabe to him close. "It's because I love you, silly goose," he teased lightly, kissing Gabriel lightly on his injured nose. "There's no one else for me but you and I'm here to help you to learn to stay out of trouble as much as possible."

"I love you too, Ez. I don't know what I'd do without you," Gabe said quietly.  "I'm... I'm ready."

Ezra hugged his boy tight. "I'm proud of you know what we need to do now so let's go into the bedroom."

Ezra took Gabe by the hand and led him from the kitchen.


James rubbed his eyes as he headed for his office. He had heard about the disturbance at the bar and that Ryan had gotten into an altercation with a guest. He wanted to get the whole story before he made any decisions. He waited for Jeff, Coral, Ryan, Jake and Duke to arrive.

Ryan hearing the call from James headed directly for his office, to be joined shortly afterward by Jeff, Coral and Jake.  Duke rushed in only moments later and was relieved to find that the meeting hadn't started yet.

Jake stood back in a corner of the room. He was only there to provide any further details regarding the altercation if needed, and to wait for Duke, who he worried wasn't going to get enough rest this night.  In all fairness, it seemed as though none of them were.

Ryan looked up a bit nervously as all the important people were called together. He bit his lip and glanced at Coral.

Coral put a comforting hand briefly on Ryan's shoulder and managed a small encouraging smile before dropping his hand and focusing on James and Jeff.

James said, '"Thank you gentlemen for coming. I understand we had an altercation between one of our long-time guests and Ryan here. I'd like to know what happened."

Ryan looked at Duke and Jake.

Duke said, "I received a call from Pete that there was a fight goin' on between our on-duty security officer and Gabriel Nichols-McClennon. When I arrived, Ryan had him in a body hold. When Ry released the man after he asked him if he was going to behave the other man punched our security officer in the face and then Ryan retaliated in kind. It took both myself and Coral to drag him off the guest."

Ryan looked down and bit his lip. "I lost my temper when he hit me," he acknowledged. "He had been verbally harassin' me from the moment I walked into Jake's for a cold root beer, callin' me names and such. I did grab him by the front of the shirt and threaten to beat him up if he didn't shut up, but when Jake came along I let him go, but Gabe wouldn't stop. Then I got him in a body hold after he shoved me in the chest a couple of times almost makin' me fall," Ryan related.

James looked at Jeff and then at Coral and Duke and then at Jake. "Is this accurate?" he asked.
Jake nodded. "Yes," he said quietly.  "Ryan was ready to let it go but Gabe wouldn't stop. As far as Ry getting Gabe into a body hold, he was well within his rights. It was self-defense."

James nodded. "Well it seems that you operated within the parameters of your duty as a security officer."

Ryan bit his lip and said, "I shouldnt'a grabbed him by the shirt and threatened him even though he was provokin' me. It wasn't very professional," he confessed.

"From what I hear it could have gone a lot worse," Coral acknowledged. "As far as your inappropriate actions, we'll deal with that ourselves, provided James doesn't want to pursue the matter further?" he asked, looking at the man.

The resort owner shook his head. "You and Ry can deal with that yourselves. He wasn't the aggressor. Jeff and I will speak with Ezra and Gabriel in the morning."
Ryan looked relieved. "Thank you, James."

The older man nodded. "I'm not too sure you'll be thanking me once you get home, but you're welcome," he said with a twinkle in his Smokey blue eyes.

The young security officer said, "I told him I was going to talk to you about banning him from the resort...well I yelled it at him," he amended, lowering his green eyes.

James shook his head. "I have an appointment to speak to Ezra and Gabriel tomorrow at nine."

Coral put his arm around Ryan, gave him a hug and kissed him on the forehead.  "As far as your temper goes, Hon, I have the perfect thing for you.  We'll take care of it when I get home from work later."

Duke told Ry to go ahead and head home. By now Harry would be reporting for his shift anyway. He watched as Coral led Ryan from the office.

James looked at Duke and Jake. "You two can go home now. Jeff and I will finish up here." He glanced at his friend before saying anything more.

Jake and Duke smiled gratefully and left.  As soon as the door was shut behind them, Jeff looked at James and said, "OK, what's on your mind, my friend?"

James said, "Sometimes I wonder why I do this."

Jeff frowned and tilted his head curiously.  "Do what? Run the resort?" he asked, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees.

James nodded and ran his hands tiredly over his eyes. He said, "I am glad though we have people like Jake, Coral and Duke to keep things going and of course you." He gave his friend a rueful grin.

"Without you, none of us would be here. There would be one less place for us to go to just be ourselves, without judgment, without prejudice. What you've accomplished here is nothing short of amazing. All of us owe you our gratitude, James.  Maybe… " Jeff said slowly, "everyone else goes on vacation, James and maybe you just need to get away from all of this for a while. Let it go. Take some time for yourself. I promise we won't blow the place up if you take a few days, or even a week to catch your breath."

The other man looked thoughtful and grinned at his friend. "I know you wouldn’t blow up the resort while I was gone. You may be right. I'll need to talk to my partners and see Jax's schedule and perhaps Heath, Jax and I can all go together? Would everyone be all right without a doctor on the premises do you think? Maybe Heath knows someone who can fill in for him," James mused out loud to his friend. "I really hope I never get too old to be in charge of Teardrop Lake Resort. I do love it like a child." He smiled.

Jeff grinned. "I'm sure Heath will know someone, just as surely as I know Heath would never leave the resort without some kind of back up.  I think a vacation for the three of you would be a great idea.  Whether it's three days or seven days.  A change of scenery will do wonders for you. Forget your cares for a little while, come back to us fresh and rested."

James got up and put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "I'll give it serious thought Jeff. I'm sure Jax and Heath would jump at the chance to go somewhere."

"You give it some thought. In the meantime, head on home to your partners and get some much-needed rest. Good night JW."

James smiled. "I’ll do just that. Good night my friend."


When Coral and Ryan arrived at their bungalow, the tall black man smiled reassuringly into his lover's green eyes and led him inside. He undressed his boy and tucked him into their bed before undressing and joining him.  "Sleep my Angel," he crooned. Despite his worries, Ryan fell asleep in the safety of Coral's arms.

When Coral woke to report for work Ryan shared breakfast with him and then, still sleepy went back to bed with a little incentive from his fiancé. When he awoke, it was afternoon and he took care of some of his household chores and then realizing that it was almost time for Coral to come home began to try to fix something for them to eat. He glanced into the fridge and cupboards and thought he'd make a tuna casserole, how hard could that be? Coral made it from time to time and didn't seem to have any problem with it. He got out their recipe card file and found the recipe and began to put things together. He puzzled over some of the directions, not quite sure what was meant by them, but did his best.

Coral arrived and sniffed the air. There was something familiar about the scent, but also something else that he couldn't quite put his finger on.  He smiled as he walked into the kitchen to find his lover putting the finishing touches on a quite artistic looking salad.  He went over to his boy and put his arms around him in a gentle hug.

"Smells good, Ry. What is it?"
The young man bit his lip and then said, "Tuna Casserole...I hope."
"Well, let's eat, Angel, and then we can get down to your punishment from yesterday."

Ryan looked up at Coral and sighed. "I was hopin' you forgot about that." He pulled the casserole out of the oven with the mitts. He had a bruise now on his cheek and the side of his nose as well as on his knuckles, but he didn't pay them any mind.

The older man took Ryan's bruised hand in his own and gently kissed the knuckles. "When something like that ends up with you being hurt, it means something to me, and we need to nip it in the bud. Understand?"

"Yes sir," Ryan said in a humble tone.

"Well, let's worry about that after dinner, what do you say?"

Ryan grinned.  "Yep and I made dinner for you!"

"I can see that." Coral smiled. "That was very thoughtful of you. Let's have some of this delicious smelling casserole," he said as he sat down at his place at the table.

Ryan remained standing and happily dished up a plate of the tuna casserole for Coral before serving himself and sitting down.

Coral smiled and took a forkful of the casserole. His expression changed from enjoyment to bewilderment as he carefully chewed the food.

"Ah.... this is... unique." he hedged.

Ryan gave Coral a puzzled look. "Is there somethin' wrong?" he asked as he took a cautious bite.  He wrinkled his nose.  "You're right, it does taste different, but I don't know why. I followed your recipe."

"Can I see it?" Coral asked.

Ryan retrieved the recipe card and handed it to Coral who looked at it and laughed.  "No wonder!" he exclaimed. "Half of this is unreadable, it's no wonder you might have read something wrong. What exactly did you use?"

Ryan said, "Well, for instance, right here it said two cans of condensed milk, so that's what I put into the recipe."

"Well no wonder then," Coral replied,” It was supposed to be condensed soup, usually mushroom or celery. I know the recipe like the back of my hand so it never occurred to me that no one else would know that.  That was my fault, not yours," he reassured Ryan.

"Well it doesn't taste bad... just different," Ryan replied, as he dropped a little bit on the floor for Castiel who was nearby, hoping for a taste.

The kitten sniffed the bite and drew his head and ears back before walking away with his tail up.

Coral, who hadn't seen the exchange said, "True enough, and maybe in the future I'll use some condensed milk in this recipe."

The two smiled and sat down to eat their dinner. Afterward they washed and dried the dishes, and Ryan was about to go play a video game when Coral reminded him that they had unfinished business.

Ryan looked a little puzzled.  "What do you mean?"

"There are still consequences to be addressed from last night," Coral said, arching his eyebrow.

Ryan nodded. "Yes Sir. Umm...what are you goin' to do?" he asked a bit nervously.

"Well, I certainly don't want to spank you when you're injured, and I think you've been through enough, physically. However, we can't let this go without consequences," he said, pulling out Ryan's notebook and pen. "I think some lines would be more than sufficient to get my point across."

Ryan sighed. He really hated writing lines the way Coral made him do it. He'd much rather just write them as quickly as he could and get them over with. He rolled his eyes and wrinkled his nose, then winced at the action. "'Kay, Coral...what do you want me to write and how many times this time?"

Five hundred and fifty. Fifty to get the point across, 250 for the eye roll and another 250 for the face you made," Coral said deadpan.

Ryan's green eyes widened with each edict. "Please Coral...that's too many! Can't you spank me instead?"

Coral grinned, "I was just kidding about the number," he admitted. " I just added the extra 500 to get your attention. Now, I've already written the line in your book. Same routine. Read it to yourself. Think about the words and how they apply to you, and then write it.  Only fifty times, or until you get the point.  Now, write."

Ryan looked at what Coral had written and his brow wrinkled in concentration as he read the quote, which said, ‘Men are like steel. When they lose their temper, they lose their worth.' He looked up at Coral. "I don't get it Cor..." He read it again and then his face brightened. "Oh...!" He began to write.

"Stop a moment, Ry. Explain to me what you think it means," Coral said, putting a hand down on the paper.

Ryan jumped a little startled and looked up at Coral. "It means that if steel isn't tempered it loses its strength and is worthless.  When I lose my temper, I lose my strength and become weak and worthless," he told Coral.

"Not exactly," Coral said. "Think on it a little more while you write.  I'll be nearby if you need me."

Ryan's brow furrowed as he continued to write for a while. Finally, understanding hit.  "Cor, I think I know what this means now!"

"Alright, Hon, explain it to me."

"If I lose my temper all the time, and if I keep acting like a hot head and lashing out, then people will lose respect for me, and I'll lose my respect for myself... my self-worth.  Is that what it means?"

Coral grinned.  "By George, I think you've got it! How many times did it take you to write that before the message sank in?" he asked, looking over Ryan's shoulder at the page he had been writing on.

As usual, the lines had been written neatly and precisely, but had not been numbered. Coral had long ago stopped trying to get Ry to number his lines.

Ry looked and counted. "Twenty," he replied.

"Well, that's good enough for me," Coral replied with a smile.

"You mean I don't have to write anymore?" he asked, pleased and surprised.

"Well, I said you only had to write it until the message sank in, and it did. So... what would you like to do now?"

"Why don't we go for a walk down to the lake. We can sit on the beach and watch the sun set."

Coral smiled broadly.  "I like that," he said.  He helped Ryan slip into a light hoodie, grabbed his own, and the two-walked hand in hand toward the beach.


Early the next morning, Ezra made breakfast, then walked into the bedroom where Gabriel was still sound asleep after his long night. He hated to wake him up but it was an unfortunate necessity.
"Sweetheart, we have to get up, have our breakfast and head out," he said quietly, trying to avoid waking his husband too abruptly.
"Wha... huh?" Gabe replied.
"Remember, James wants to meet with us at his office at nine, so we have to get going now.  Get dressed, eat your breakfast, and let's head out."

"We don't even have time to take a bath?" Gabe asked, a tinge of anger in his voice as he sat down, wincing as he did so to eat his eggs and toast.

"We took baths last night and we're clean enough for the time being. Just put on fresh clothes and we'll head out."

"That's not entirely fair," Gabe groused. "I'll bet James had time to shower and shave."

Ezra tried not to laugh. "We haven't shaved since we got here, Hon, I don't think James is going to mind.  Come on, let's get a move on."
A very grouchy Gabe finished his breakfast, washed his face and hands, put on fresh clothes and waited for Ezra to pronounce them fit for human company.
"You look very handsome," Ezra said, giving Gabe's hair a final brushing and a kiss on his forehead in an effort to avoid hurting his husband's still sore mouth and nose.

Gabe tried to wrinkle his nose at the chaste kiss but ended up groaning instead.  "Ow," he muttered.  "Stupid Ryan. He didn't have to hit me that hard."

Ezra said, "Well, when two people lose their tempers things can get bad." He ushered Gabe to the ATV and said, "Get in and let's go down to the resort."

Gabe slouched, squirming from time to time in the passenger seat of the ATV and brooded the entire way to James's office.  His stomach knotted.  What if Ryan had really convinced James to kick them off the resort?  Would Ezra ever forgive him for that? he wondered.

Ezra glanced at his partner and sighed as they drove to the resort. He knew Gabe was sore and not happy about things, but they needed to meet with James.

James hadn't slept or had time to shower and shave. He had had coffee and a bite of breakfast at Jeff's insistence as he had brought James a tray. He paced a bit as he waited for Ezra and Gabriel to arrive, glancing at his friend from time to time. The resort owner disliked having to deal with incidents like this, but it was a necessity. He also continued to mull over the idea of a vacation. He was pretty wired up.

Not long afterward there came a knock on the door of James's office. Even though they knew they were expected, they'd agreed it was only polite to knock first.

James jumped a little at the knock, but walked over and opened the door. "Come on in gentlemen," he said.

Ezra entered the room first, holding Gabe's hand and making the slightly younger man follow. Gabe kept his eyes down and remained silent. He held onto Ezra's hand as though it were a life line.

James glanced over at Jeff and then said to Ezra and Gabriel, "Please, sit down.  Would you like something to drink? Coffee, tea, hot chocolate?"

Ezra said, "Coffee thank you." He nudged Gabriel. James looked a bit haggard to him.

"Coffee also, please," Gabe replied in a low voice. He noticed how tired James looked and couldn't bear to look at him, knowing that he was the cause.

James waved the men to the sofa and poured coffee and handed each one a mug. "You want more, Jeff?" he asked his friend.

"I'll get it, James, thank you," Jeff said with a half-smile. He was very worried about his friend and didn't want to cause him anymore grief.  He topped off his cup and sat down in the chair beside James.

Once he and Ezra were seated, Gabe with a bit of a wince, started to speak before anyone else, babbling apologies to James, Jeff, Ryan even though the young man wasn't there, and everyone else he could think of that had been there.

James shook his head and said quietly, "Gabriel, slow down. You and Ezra have been coming to the resort for some time now and this is the first time there has been any trouble of this magnitude. It was serious, an altercation with one of my security officers, but I don't ban anyone from here without giving them a second chance."

Ezra assured the other two men, "I've dealt with Gabriel on this matter when he was returned home last night."

Jeff tilted his head a little and looked at Gabe closely. The man seemed sincere but he still had his doubts.  "I'd like you to apologize to Ryan in person, Gabe.  But before I let you anywhere near him, I'd like your word that you will remain respectful and calm, and truly mean it when you do so. Can you do that for us?"
Gabe gritted his teeth a little and shot Jeff a brief but definitely angry glance before lowering his gaze to his coffee and taking a sip.
"That's what I thought," Jeff replied.  "Tell me, what do you have against young men like Ryan?"
Gabe's story spilled over like a waterfall, sharing about the man Eddie and other young men who had been in authority over him and how badly they had treated him and how his resentment and lack of respect had grown toward them. He told about how Ezra and he had gotten together and how he felt that his lover was the first one to show him respect and how he still tried not to hold resentment toward younger men in authority, but that it was something he still struggled with from time to time. Jeff and James nodded now and again, but allowed the younger man to tell his stories. They agreed that he had been treated badly in the past, but reminded him that Ryan, and in fact, no one on the resort, had had anything to do with what had happened to him.  They asked him to put aside his anger while on resort grounds, and to treat everyone with the same respect he asked for.

Gabe sighed.  "I can do that. I... I knew I was wrong last night but... it... I..."
"I understand," Jeff replied softly. "But it's not going to happen again, is it?"
"No sir, I promise," Gabe said fervently. 
Ezra put an arm around Gabe's shoulders. "That's my boy, Gabe. I'm proud of you for wanting to make things right."

Gabe leaned into the hug and leaned his forehead against Ezra's shoulder.

James said quietly, "Gabe, I created this place so all can feel safe and enjoy being here. My security officers are chosen for their skill and upstanding conduct. Ry has had his rough spots, but he's a good officer. His unprofessional conduct has been addressed and he also will be working harder to maintain that professionalism," he told the other men.

"Thank you, James, for understanding. I'll have a talk with Gabe about apologizing to Ryan in person. I know he can do it."

"I'll do it," Gabe said quietly. "I know now I was wrong, and taking out my problems on someone who didn't deserve it.  I'm really sorry," he repeated.

James gave Gabe a small smile. "All right Gabe, Ryan is probably sleeping right now as he came off his shift, but you can make your apologies this evening if you and Ezra want to come back down for dinner."
Ezra looked at Gabe. "Would you like to do that, Gabe?"

"Does that mean that we can stay here for lunch and dinner?" Gabe asked hopefully. "And maybe some TV?  I've been dying to catch up with NCIS." His eyes pleaded with Ezra to say yes.
Ezra looked at Gabe, "Do you believe you should be rewarded for poor behavior?"
"No sir," Gabe replied sadly.

Ezra nodded. "We can stay for lunch and dinner because it will be more convenient for you to make your apology to Ryan, but no television."

"Ok," Gabe replied, knowing that if he'd wanted to that Ezra could have just as easily had them go back to the cabin and wait. "Thank you, Ezra."
Ezra hugged Gabe. "You're welcome. Why don't we take a walk around the area here, maybe go for a horseback ride before lunch or if you'd rather afterward?” Ezra knew his boy might still be a little sore from last night's correction.
"You're the best, Ez!" Gabe said happily, throwing himself into his husband's arms, not caring that they had an audience. When he was close to Ezra's ear he whispered impishly, "Do you think I can get a pillow for the saddle?" Before Ezra could answer, Gabe, ignoring the pain in his face, planted a breath stealing kiss on his lover's mouth.

Ezra a little surprised returned the kiss and then whispered back, "I'll ask Shorty if he has a padded saddle."

James watched the interaction between the two men feeling a bit better, but still concerned about the apology to Ryan. He knew Coral would be there as well as Ezra and they would contain any further hostility between the two.

Ezra said, breaking the kiss, "Then let's go enjoy ourselves while we're down here and we'll go to Ryan's place when it's time."

James watched as the men left and sunk down into his comfortable chair. "Well another crisis dealt with."

"And now, it's time for you to rest, my friend. Take a catnap. Brody and I can hold the fort down, and I promise if anything urgent comes up, we'll call you."

James chuckled and said, "Sounds good, but there's some paperwork I need to finish up before I can leave. I need to finish writing up this report and get it into their file," James told Jeff.

Before Jeff had a chance to object, Heath arrived with a prescription pad. He wrote furiously and slapped the piece of paper on the table in front of James.
Jeff read over James's shoulder and laughed.
It read, 'Go home. Take one (1) warm shower. Put on comfortable sleep clothes, preferably straight out of the dryer. Sleep. Call me when you wake up.'
"And I will be coming around to make sure you follow that prescription to the letter," Heath said, eyebrows raised.

James couldn't help but laugh softly. "Yes Doc," he said and stood up, turned and hugged Heath tight and kissed him. "I'm going to follow that prescription now."
"Come on, JW, I'll take you home," Heath said with a smile. "Jeff, thanks."

"Later, my friends," Jeff replied with a grin. He turned toward his office with a considerably lighter heart.
The resort owner went with his partner to be taken care of for a while.


After they had dinner at the resort Ezra and Gabe made their way to the bungalow shared by Ryan and Coral. The couple were just getting back from watching the sunset at the lake and it wasn’t yet quite dark. They saw the other two men approaching and Ryan stiffened in Coral’s arm, which was around his shoulder.

“It’s all right, Angel, I’m right here with you.”

Ryan looked up into the dark brown eyes filled with love and relaxed. He knew Coral wouldn’t allow anyone to hurt him in any way.

Coral greeted the other couple, “Hello there Ezra, Gabe.”

Ezra smiled. “Hello Coral, Ryan. We’ve come to see you.”

Coral nodded. “Come on inside and we can have something warm to drink.”

Ezra nodded. “Thank you.”

As they entered Ryan went over to Castiel’s carrier to let him out and he immediately perched on Ryan’s shoulder.

Gabe’s eyes widened at the sight of the kitten. “You have a kitten!”

Ryan smiled and petted the fur ball and the animal began to purr loudly. “Yes, this is Castiel.”

Gabe looked at Ezra. “Can we get a pet, Ezra?”

The slightly older man said, “We’ll need to talk about it, Gabe, but right now we have other business to take care of.” He gave his brat a pointed look.

Coral made hot chocolate and poured some all around. They all seated themselves at the table and although Coral generally didn’t like for Ryan to have is kitten at the table allowed it this time because he knew his boy was a bit nervous about this meeting.

Gabe looked at Ryan and then stared down into his cup for a long moment, then said looking up softly, “I’m sorry about being so rude to you last night Ryan. It won’t happen again.”

Coral knew he couldn’t tell Ryan how to handle this, but reached out and squeezed his angel’s arm for a moment.

Ryan sighed and said, “I accept your apology, but I don’t get why it happened in the first place. I don’t know you very well and I haven’t done anythin’ to you that I know of…unless I did and didn’t realize it?”

Ezra shook his head. “It’s just something that Gabe has a problem with…it’s not for me to tell though. If Gabe wants to he can tell you about it.” He gave his husband an encouraging look.

Gabe sighed, but then shared with Coral and Ryan what he had told James and Jeff earlier that day.

Afterward the other two men had a better understanding of things.

Ryan said, “We all have stuff in our background that has hurt us. With tops like we have it helps us to cope, but neither you or I are incapable of handlin’ things when we need to.”

Gabe looked at Ryan a little surprised, but then a slow smile crept across his face. “I never thought of things like that. Thank you, Ry.”

The younger man said, “You’re welcome.”

Coral and Ezra were both proud of their boys.

Ryan told the other couple he and Coral were getting married and asked Gabe what it was like to be married and the four of them talked about that into the night.


'Men are like steel. When they lose their temper, they lose their worth.' * Quote by Chuck Norris

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