Special thanks to Dice, who writes MUCH better English than I do, even tho it's her second language.  Thanks, honey!


Indiscretions of the Heart

Friday, May 3, 2002

Gavin swiveled the stool around and leaned back on the bar. He took a drink of his beer and propped the mug on his knee. He hadn't seen Jack in a good half hour, so he scanned the room looking for the tall black head that would most likely be pretty easy to spot even through the crowd of oh so elegantly dressed people. He tugged at his tie and took another drink of his beer.

It wasn't that he felt uncomfortable with the country club set.

Exactly.

Gavin had eaten here with his parents millions of times while he was growing up. Okay, so MAYBE millions was a slight exaggeration, not that Gavin EVER exaggerated; but it was WAY more times than he wanted to remember, that's for sure. They'd brought him along on those occasions when it was convenient for them, like when they had to make a "family appearance" for certain social events. As a kid Gavin had watched his parents, mostly from a distance, work a room.  So he knew how to make small talk at parties, how to dress, how to smooze, what to say; …OKAY, so he still had SOME trouble with the `what NOT to say' part, but he was better at it than he used to be.

Of course Gavin had learned most of it through trial and error and much to his very reserved and dignified parent's dismay, he had learned it mostly through error.

One of those errors was the very reason Gavin had decided to hideout at the bar for awhile. He was SURE he'd spotted Eleanor Hensley standing in the ballroom with a bunch of her stuffy friends.  Eleanor would remember Gavin, that's for sure, even though it hadbeen years and years since he'd last seen her.

Gavin had been probably about 9 years old at the time that the Pickle Incident took place. The always impeccably dressed, diamond fingered Eleanor was a tall, elegant and attractive woman. Well, except for the pickle size growth that had disguised itself as a nose in the middle of her face. GOD, it had been SO hard to keep from staring at that thing as a kid. It was HUGE!

But one day while Gavin was eating dinner right here at this very club, Eleanor had stopped by their table to chat with his parents and that HUGE pickle sized growth had somehow been replaced with a tiny turned up little ski slope.

He hadn't meant to say anything mean. Gavin would never hurt someone's feelings on purpose, which was proven by the fact that he had never mentioned the pickle before. Sheesh, TALK about restraint, and Gavin never did have much of that! But he'd been SO flabbergasted at seeing that tiny ski slope nose staring down at him. It was just TOO much for the chattering, overly friendly inquisitive or as Jack liked to say, nosy boy Gavin had been. He just HAD to know HOW that happened.

"Mrs. Hensley, WHAT happened to your NOSE? Were you in an accident or somethin'. Did someone cut part of it off?" Gavin was a sweet kid, so he had quickly added, "It looks really nice though, better than your other nose, that's for sure."

Gavin had heard his Mother make that squeaking sound in the back of her throat, the sound that only Gavin could hear and had heard so many times growing up.

The elegant Caroline McCourt had recovered quickly though and told Eleanor how `lovely she looked' and had she "been to Palm Springs recently". Which Gavin figured was the place that people went to when they had a pickle nose and wanted to exchange it for the ski slope kind. WHO would have EVER guessed there was a place like that!

Neither of his parents had said a word to Gavin, they had just given him that look of disappointment. It was a look Gavin was all too familiar with and couldn't remember a time when it wasn't there. The look that said they were not so much disappointed with WHAT he had said, but just......disappointed. In him. In who he was. The rest of the evening was spent in strained silence, the tension so thick you could cut it with a knife.

He'd gone home that night and thrown up. That's usually how an evening out with his parents had ended. It had worried him some when he had started doing that; he thought maybe he had a terrible disease or something, but then he knew that SOME people were just allergic to stuff. So he had figured that he was just allergic to country clubs. People could be allergic to just about anything.

He'd read about stuff like that. Even as a kid Gavin had been an avid reader.

Gavin had to admit there were times that he DID do things on purpose just to provoke his parents. He had figured since he was a disappointment to them anyway, he might as well live up to their expectations of him. Sometimes those little sounds from that back of his Mother's throat and those disappointed stares his Father would give him were the only signs that they knew he even existed. Or so he had thought at the time.

There was the time he'd let those mice loose in the country club kitchen during the Lake Erie Junior Yacht Club Gala. But that was a WHOLE other story. And maybe changing all of the locks on the men's room lockers hadn't been the nicest thing to do. But Senator Watkins's face sure was red; and what kind of first name was Senator anyway? And borrowing that 36 ft. Catalina and yachting about on Lake Erie might have been going a bit too far in proving a point. Gavin figured he probably should have asked the owner for permission first. It had seemed like SUCH a good idea at the time.

But Gavin was grown up now. He realized that although his parents were reserved and hadn't known quite what to make of the son that they had created, they really weren't the uncaring people he had imagined them to be. They were just mismatched, his parents and him.

And although he still chattered, some might say too much; and "reserved" was something he'd decided long ago was a waste of time; he could handle the country club set; he wasn't "allergic" to them much anymore. He could smooze when he had too; knowing how to smooze helped him in his business. And Gavin knew from those past experiences what it felt like to feel uncomfortable, so he usually knew what to say to make a person feel at ease.

No, he wasn't uncomfortable with the country club set.

Exactly.

He just preferred eating Sunday dinner at the Ryan's. Those wonderful, loud, arguing, teasing, so beautifully unreserved Ryan's. They were a match, the Ryan's and him. Or sitting at Mulligan's eating chicken wings with Jack and their friends. Or sitting across from Jack at their very own kitchen counter.

Seeing Jack enter the bar caused Gavin's heart to skip a beat. Just like it always did and had from the moment Gavin had first spotted Jack years before. It skipped another beat when he saw the smile that spread across Jack's face the minute he spotted Gavin. It was that smile that always appeared so quickly whenever Jack happened to catch sight of him.

A whole lot was said in that smile.

That smile always said "There you are, I missed you." That smile never failed to say, "You could never disappoint me." That smile that appeared there said a whole lot more than "I love you just the way you are." It said, "I love you BECAUSE of the way you are."

"Hey, I've been looking all over for you." Jack leaned against the bar. "Are you hiding out in here?"

"I saw Eleanor Hensley. I TOLD you she'd be here." Gavin grinned. Not Eleanor Hensley, or pickle noses or mice in the country club kitchen, could make Gavin feel small and insignificant now. Not with Jack standing beside him. Smiling.

Jack's smile widened at Gavin's grin. He knew that for the most part Gavin had gotten past feeling like he'd never measured up or was lacking in some way. But he had been a little worried that Gavin would be nervous about coming here tonight. He'd told Jack about so many of the unpleasant memories he had of this country club. Sometimes the thought of that friendly, over eager, special little boy, feeling so out of place and unaccepted was like a knife in Jack's heart.

"Gav, Eleanor Hensley probably doesn't remember that, or even if she does, she had to know you didn't mean any harm in what you said. You were just a little boy." Jack motioned for bartender and ordered water with lemon. "Your parents should've explained that to you instead of making you feel like you committed a crime."

"Maybe. But there ARE people here that probably remember when I let those mice loose in the kitchen or the time I ....borrowed that yacht." Gavin leaned his elbows on the bar. The look of pure mischief lit up those green eyes.

Jack cocked an eyebrow and grinned. "Well, that one WAS a crime. Instead of making squeaking sounds in the backs of their throats, they should have paddled your butt. You're lucky you didn't know me then."

Gavin looked up at Jack; the mischief was gone, replaced with something else. "I wish I would've known you then."

"I wish I'd known you then too, Gav."

Jack truly wished that he had known Gavin then. He would've made sure that Gavin had known how special he'd always been. And he would have probably punched David McCourt in the nose...... and then smeared mud on Caroline McCourt's best white dress. Hell, Jack would've been a kid then too, so he figured it was okay to have that fantasy. He liked the McCourt's now. But some of the things that they failed to do for Gavin, still bugged the hell out of Jack.

And who was he kidding? If he'd known Gavin back then, he probably would've went for a ride on that 36 ft. Catalina with him. And then Big John Ryan would've kicked both of their asses. Disappointed looks and strained silences weren't something that happened in the Ryan household.

"I found Mac." Jack sat down on the barstool. "He finally showed up."

Gavin's face lit up. "Did he bring the new boyfriend? Did you see him?"

"Yeah, he's here too." Jack took a drink of water. "They were heading this way. Mac got nabbed by Judge Sinclair and.... that means he could be awhile."

Gavin smiled. "I thought you liked Judge Sinclair. That's why we're here isn't it? Isn't this a fundraiser for his campaign?"

"I do like him and I respect him as a judge, but once he starts talking it's hard to get away to get away from him."

"What did you think of the new boyfriend? What does he look like?"

"Seems like a nice guy. He's a tax attorney."

"Yeah, but what's he look like?" Gavin wiggled his eyebrows. "Mac makes him sound like a cross between George Clooney and Adrian Paul."

Jack laughed. "I think those are our fantasies. Mac's fantasy is Ben Affleck, or at least that was the way he described him."

"Does he look like Ben?"

Jack shrugged his shoulders. "There might be a slight resemblance. He's a nice looking guy."

"Thanks a lot Jack." Mac poked Jack in the ribs, the other hand rubbed Gavin's shoulder. "You left me with Sinclair."

Jack and Gavin turned around on their barstools. Jack stood up laughing. "Friendship only goes so far."

"You were smart Gavin, hiding in the bar."

Gavin shook Mac's hand. "I'm glad you showed up. I was starting to have some doubts."

Mac gave Gavin a smile and stood back to make room for the man standing behind him.

"Gav, I'd like you to meet Wes Champior. Wes, this is Gavin McCourt."

Gavin stuck his hand out and smiled at the man Mac had been talking non-stop about for the past three weeks. Dark hair, blue eyes, tall and nicely built, a slight cleft dented his chin. He WAS nice looking. And he did look a little bit like Ben Affleck... or someone else Gavin had seen before anyway.

There was something really familiar about the guy....he looked like....who was it? ...like.......Oh God! Gavin almost lost his balance and nearly choked when the man's face finally registered in his brain.

Wes's eyes widened as he searched Gavin's face. "Gavin. Is that...."

"It's nice to meet you Wes." Gavin interrupted, and pulled his hand loose from the grip Wes had on it. His stomach was beginning to roll.

Wes gave Gavin a puzzled look. "Don't you rem...."

"Can I get you two something to drink?" Gavin turned his back to him and leaned against the bar. He had to lean against it before his legs gave out and he fell flat on his face.

Wes shoved his hand in his pocket and scratched his head with the other hand. "Sure, I'll just have a beer."

Mac ordered a vodka and tonic. The three men fell in to an easy conversation and after Gavin passed the drinks out, he sat back down on his bar stool. And in a very Un-Gavin like way, didn't say a word. He put his elbows on the bar and rested his chin on his hand.

God, who would have EVER thought he'd run into HIM again. Or that one of their good friends, his AND Jack's really good friends would end up being head over heels in love with him. It was a nightmare. A long distant nightmare that Gavin had blocked from his mind and hadn't given one thought to in years.

He needed a drink.

Something with more kick than a beer or he'd never get through this night without having a heart attack. He glanced back at Jack, just to be sure he wasn't being watched and when he saw the three of them deep in conversation with a few other attorneys, Gavin decided he was safe. He motioned for the bartender and ordered a Blow Job. Gavin wasn't much of a shot drinker, but when the situation called for one it was the one he always ordered.

Blow Jobs in general always made him feel better.

Tilting his head back, he downed the shot in one gulp and motioned for the bartender again. He downed that one right after ordering a third. That one went down even faster than the other two. The fourth one went down faster still. He did this a few times more and considering the fact that his head was already spinning and his stomach was in the middle of a nuclear war, it was probably a blessing in disguise when Jack wrapped an arm around his shoulder and moved the sixth shot glass out of his reach. Or was it the seventh. Somehow Gavin had lost count.

"What are you doing?" Jack whispered in his ear.

"Blow Job." Gavin smiled at Jack, his lips felt rubbery.

"You're wasted." Jack looked shocked. How could that happen in five minutes and Gavin only two feet away from him?

"I wanna another Blow Job Jack." Gavin whined. LOUDLY.

Jack kept his voice low and firm. "I think you've had enough buddy boy."

Gavin snickered at the bartender. "This is Jack. He's thinks I've had enough Blow Jobs. TELL him! TELL him that a man can never have too many of those."

"Did you want something else sir?" The bartender asked Gavin, unaware of who was exactly in charge of how many Blow Jobs Gavin could handle in one night.

"Yeah!" Gavin hiccupped. "Jack won't give me my Blow Job! Get me another.....and give Jack a Blow Job too. Or give it to me and.....I'LL give it to him. Nobody gives Jack Blow Jobs ....but ME!" Gavin pounded his fist on the bar, howling at his own joke, knocking over the half filled beer glass.

Jack shook his head at the bartender as he pulled Gavin's arm off of the bar and away from the spill. "We don't need anything else. Thank you."

"But ...Jaaack..."

"Gavin, I'm warning you right now, don't say another word." Jack spoke softly in Gavin's ear. "We're going home. Now."

Gavin pouted. "Am I embarrassing you? You're disappointed aren't you?"

"You could never disappoint or embarrass me Gav." Jack put around Gavin's waist and pulled him up from the bar stool. "But I'm not going to allow you to embarrass yourself."

Gavin's stomach rolled. He swallowed. Hard. That country club allergy must be coming back.

"Jack. I'm ggonna be ssick."

Jack motioned for Mac to come over and give him a hand. They walked Gavin out the door as quickly as they could, practically carrying him in between them.

They barely made it out the door before Gavin lost the battle with his stomach and spewed all over the perfectly manicured shrubbery at the side entrance to the club.

Jack tossed Mac his keys. "Could you get the car for me. I don't think he's going to make it there."

Gavin groaned and spewed a little more. Jack took his handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped Gavin's mouth. He guided Gavin to the bench and sat down, pulling Gavin close and rubbed his back.

"It's okay baby. We'll be home in a little while."

"I was going...to California...remember. I..didn't think....I'd ever see you again." Gavin whispered. "Please don't hate me, Jack. I'd die if you hated me."

"Gav, I know that you're drunk, but that is a totally ridiculous statement." Jack pulled Gavin closer. "You're going to get the spanking of your life for getting yourself into this condition though. If you were that uncomfortable being here, all you had to do was say you wanted to leave, honey. You don't drink in order to deal with things. You talk to me"

Gavin's stomach turned again. He leaned over to the side and spewed some more and said something that sounded like, "If I talked you...if I ...told you....then you would hate me for sure. I was going ....to California ...remember? It didn't count."

Jack didn't have time to make sense of that statement or to even wonder what Gavin had meant by it. Mac pulled up with the SUV and got out to help Jack get Gavin in the car.

It took about forty-five minutes to make the twenty minute ride home. They had to stop three times in order for Gavin to throw up. It took another ten minutes to get him up the stairs. Jack undressed him and made him drink some water. Then it was time to throw up again.

Jack held Gavin's head up so it didn't fall in the toilet, whispering reassuring words as he rubbed his back. After washing Gavin's face with a cold rag, he helped Gavin in to bed. Jack went back in the bathroom to clean things up. Two minutes later Gavin stumbled back in the bathroom and they started the process all over again.

When Jack was sure there could be nothing left in Gavin's stomach to come out...the dry heaves started. Jack gently but firmly forced him to drink even more water. When it looked as if the heaving was finally at an end, Jack undressed himself and started the shower. He helped Gavin into the shower and held him under the cool spray. He washed his hair. After drying him off, Jack guided Gavin to the bed and climbed in beside him, pulling him close.

"If I live through the night, you're gonna kill me tomorrow...aren't you?"

Jack figured it was a good sign that Gavin was starting to worry about tomorrow. "I figure you're going live, Gav."

"Until tomorrow?"

"Until tomorrow."

"I love you so much Jack. I never wanted to go...to California."

"I love you too, Gav." Jack kissed Gavin's head. They should have never gone to that country club. Apparently it had brought back too many bad memories of fiascos of the past.

Well, Jack wasn't going to add to that memory by quietly disapproving of Gavin's behavior. He wasn't going to make Gavin feel guilty or insignificant by ignoring it or him.

No, Jack wasn't going to ignore it. And he wasn't going to be quiet about it. At ALL!

*****************

Saturday, May 4, 2002

Jack awoke the next morning when he felt Martha's tongue licking the arm that dangled over the side of the bed. She pranced around in circles and barked a few times. Jack brought his fingers to his lips and made quiet shooshing sounds. The barking stopped but the prancing became more agitated.

"Okay girl, I'm coming. Hold on." Jack whispered trying not to wake Gavin, who was still sprawled on top of him, snoring softly into his chest. He slid out from under him and pulled the comforter back over Gavin's bare shoulders.

A soft smile turned the corners of Jack's mouth as he looked at Gavin sleeping so peacefully, looking so sweet. No one would believe that this was the same man that spent most of last night upchucking Blow Jobs in the toilet.

Jack wasn't looking forward to today at all. They had plenty to discuss and parts of it weren't going to be pleasant. For either of them. But he figured as bad as Gavin had felt last night, a little extra sleep couldn't hurt any. Martha followed him out the bedroom door and down the stairs.

.............

Boom...Boom....Boom....! The room vibrated. The windows rattled. The bed was buzzing. This was what hell was like. Gavin was SURE of it!

He should get up and yell down to the Devil, only disguised as sixteen year old Jared Thomas, to turn off the cranked up car amps that was causing his head to pound. But that would require him to open his eyes. And Gavin really didn't think that was possible. He'd probably go BLIND if he opened his eyes.

He heard nosey Ethel Masterson yelling from her porch and the sounds from the stereo stopped. Jared was a good kid really and sometimes angels of mercy were disguised as nosey old bats.

He sent up the silent prayer of the hung over, swearing to God he'd NEVER do another Blow Job as long as he lived. And then he thought about that a minute....and quickly sent up another silent prayer...explaining to God what type of Blow Job he was referring to. Gavin knew that sometimes things he said didn't come out quite the way intended them too and he certainly didn't want God getting ALL confused and thinking Gavin had been talking about something ELSE!

He had NO intentions of giving THAT up!

The bed felt too big without Jack in it. Too lonely. He rolled over on his back and chanced blindness by slowly opening one eye. Then the other.

Jack appeared in the doorway to their bedroom, a glass of water in his hand. "Good Morning."

Morning." Gavin's throat was dry, his voice hoarse.

Jack sat on the bed and kissed him. Which proved to Gavin just how much Jack loved him. His mouth felt like a hamper filled with dirty sweat socks.

"Take these." Jack held out a palm that held two Tylenol.

Gavin slowly sat up in bed and took the Tylenol and washed them down with the water.

"I'm really sorry."

"How much do you remember?" Jack asked, taking the empty water glass and sitting on the night stand.

Gavin cringed. "Unfortunately....everything."

"Gav, you seemed like you were enjoying yourself last night." Jack's brow creased in a frown. "If being there bothered you, you should have told me. We would have left."

Gavin swallowed hard and closed his eyes. It wasn't being at the country club that bothered him. But he just couldn't tell Jack. He just COULDN'T. It didn't matter. This ghost from the past just didn't matter now. He was supposed to go to California, so it didn't count. It DIDN'T.

So how come it felt like it did? Now, after all this time?

Jack searched Gavin's face. "How do you feel?"

Gavin's smile was a little wobbly. "Like I had a …little too much to drink?"

Jack rubbed his face with his hand at the understatement. "A little? You drank more than a freshman at a frat party."

"I only had six ...."

"Six shots in under five minutes. It wasn't just irresponsible Gav, it was self-destructive."

"I'm in trouble. Right?"

Jack cocked a brow. "What do you think?"

Gavin let out a breath. "I think..... you're going to spank me."

"You must not have burned too many brain cells last night; you're pretty quick this morning." Jack said a little wryly. "You seemed to be enjoying yourself last night, Gav. I can't figure out what possessed you to do that. Any ideas?"

Gavin played with a string on the comforter and avoided looking at Jack. He should just tell Jack the whole story now. If something was bothering him, he needed to tell Jack. It was something Jack had told him time and time again.

But he just couldn't. It didn't matter now. He was supposed to go to California. So it didn't count. It DIDN'T.

So how come it felt like it did? Now, after all this time?


Jack lifted Gavin's chin and kissed him again. The man was besotted.

"Come on. Get up and I'll fix you some breakfast. We'll finish this after you take a shower."

Stay of execution for the hung over. Gavin should have felt grateful, but kind of wished they could get it over with.

Jack pushed himself off the bed and held out a hand to help Gavin up. "And please.....brush your teeth before you come downstairs."

..-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

Gavin felt almost back to normal as he dried himself off from the shower. Jack had fixed a huge breakfast of bacon, sausage, hash browns and eggs. His stomach had revolted at first, but the greasy pork and poultry had made him feel so much better. He wrapped the towel around his waist and headed for the bedroom.

He stopped in the doorway and cringed a bit. Jack was sitting on the bed....waiting for him. He guessed his stay of execution was over. As much as he felt he deserved it, he really wasn't looking forward to it.

"I'm sorry."

"I know you are. Come on, let's get this over with." Jack held out his hand.

Gavin shuffled over to the bed and Jack unwrapped the towel tied at his waist. "If something is bothering you Gavin, you talk to me. I can't help you if I don't know what you're thinking."

Jack pulled Gavin between his knees. "What you did to yourself last night was pretty close to self abuse. There was a moment or two that you had me scared to death. I wondered if I should take you to the hospital for alcohol poisoning."

The guilt of that made Gavin's stomach churn. He felt so awful about putting Jack through all that last night. And he'd been so patient through it all. He'd held Gavin's head up while he was sick, Gavin remembered Jack's soft words and how his hand rubbed his back. Jack had washed his face. He'd washed his hair.

"I'm sorry."

Jack turned Gavin over his knees, wrapping his arm around the small of Gavin's back. There wasn't any rebellion on Gavin's part, his body was limp, not an ounce of resistance. He promised himself he wasn't going to cause a commotion or holler or beg.

It was the least he could do.

That is until the first swat landed. Gavin never was any good at hiding his emotions. He just wasn't very good at explaining them sometimes. But when something hurt.....he yelped. And Jack's spankings hurt! He yelped and yelped loud. And continued to yelp each time Jack's hand descended. That is until about the tenth swat. Then those yelps turned into hollers and of course not long after the begging started.

Begging didn't to a bit of good though. Jack didn't stop whacking on his butt until it was as red and shiny as that old witches red ruby slippers. When Jack decided Gavin had had enough, he helped him up off of his knees. He lifted the comforter back on the just made bed and laid down, pulling Gavin down until his head rested on his shoulder.

Jack held him and rubbed his back until Gavin's sobs quieted and they both fell asleep.

Gavin awoke first. His eyes puffy from crying, his nose felt stuffy. He rubbed his nose on Jack's sweatshirt and sniffed. Jack always thought it was funny, but Gavin loved it when Jack wore his old Ohio State sweatshirts. He liked the look of Jack in them. He liked the smell of Jack in them. They brought back so many memories. Good memories. Of when they'd first met.

Jack had been wearing an Ohio State sweatshirt the very first time Gavin had seen him. He'd been wearing one the very first time Gavin had met him.

()()()()()()()()()()

March 1994

It was a warm early spring day, Saturday, March 19, 1994. It seemed like everyone on campus was out on the courtyard beside the library; reading, doing homework, playing football, tossing Frisbees, anything that could possibly be done outside was being done there today.

Gavin tossed the Frisbee to Seth, who wasn't really in to the game and promptly missed it.

"Gavin, we really need to head back and get ready for that party." Seth grumbled after retrieving the Frisbee.

Seth thought that Gavin could be exhausting sometimes. If it wasn't for the fact that he was so likable, he could drive a person NUTS!

"Just a little while longer. It's good to be outside."

Seth tossed the Frisbee back to Gavin and laughed when Gavin missed it this time. He spotted someone that would probably grab Gavin's attention long enough so they wouldn't have to play this stupid game anymore.

"Hey Gav! There HE is?"

"Who?"

"Jack?" Seth laughed. "Or the guy you call "Jack".

Gavin's heart skipped a beat. He'd seen this guy on campus several times.

He had the broadest shoulders Gavin had ever seen. Solid muscle, not bulking, but ….just perfect. And the most beautiful crystal blue eyes. No one had eyes like that …for real anyway. Gavin had fantasized about him, dreamed about him, made up stories about him.

And he didn't even know his name. He just called him Jack. A fantasy had to have a name as far as Gavin was concerned.

And there HE was again, wearing that old gray Ohio State sweatshirt Gavin had seen him in before. "Jack" did wonders for that sweatshirt.

"Why don't you talk to the guy Gav?" Seth teased. "I've never known you to be shy."

Gavin rolled his eyes. "He's probably not gay Seth, what good would that do?"

"How do you know he's not gay?"

"He doesn't LOOK gay."

Now Seth rolled his eyes. "What does gay LOOK like? One in ten Gav! You're going to be leaving for California in a couple of months. This could be your only chance."

Gavin thought about that a minute. Seth was right! What could it hurt to talk to the guy? At least his fantasy could have a voice. Of course he could talk like a Neanderthal or a girl or something .... and ruin everything.

"Hurry up Gav. The guys heading for his car." Seth crossed his arms. "Chicken."

That was all Gavin needed to hear. He wasn't a chicken. Gavin watched "Jack" as he set the load of books he'd carried from the library on the hood of his car. Before he lost his nerve Gavin did the only thing he could think of to stop him from leaving. He quickly tossed the Frisbee towards him…maybe harder than he'd intended. Unfortunately, this Frisbee wasn't one of those cheap flimsy kind.

It hit the windshield of "Jack's" car…with a crack, just missing "Jack" himself, by inches. He quickly turned around, a frown wrinkling that perfect brow. His crystal blue eyes looked a little…..annoyed.

Gavin didn't seem to notice the …annoyed look. He ran across the lawn until he was face to face ….with the man of his dreams. Or at least in his mind….what dreams should be made of.

"Hey, I'm really sorry about that." Gavin smiled at "Jack" as he reached down and picked up the Frisbee where it had bounced to the ground. He looked even better up close than he'd imagined.

"I guess I threw that a little harder than I meant to."

The man seemed a tiny bit ticked about the crack in his window, but there was no way anyone could look at Gavin's smile….and NOT smile back. It was contagious.

"Well, things happen," "Jack" said with a smile, pushing up the sleeves on his OSU sweatshirt. "It sure put a crack in my windshield though."

Gavin looked at the windshield of the beat up Toyota, noticing for the first time the long crack right in the drivers' line of vision.

"I'm really sorry." Gavin chewed his lip a second. "I'll pay for it. Honest. You won't even have to turn it in to your insurance."

"Jack" laughed. Gavin loved the sound of that laugh.

"Well, considering I only have comprehensive on it, insurance wouldn't do me a whole lot of good anyway. It's a pretty old car, but it gets me where I'm going."

Gavin perked up. "I love older cars. I have a VW bug. Gavin leaned his hip against the front of the car. "Like I said, I can pay for the window. It's the least I can do. Do you go to school here? I'm a senior. I graduate in just a few weeks. I took college classes my last year of high school, so I'm almost finished. After I graduate…. I'm heading for California."

For some reason that made "Jack" laugh again, Gavin's heart skipped another beat at the sound.

"I think somewhere in there was a question….but I'm not really sure."

Gavin laughed this time. "Yeah, I tend to talk a lot. Sorry about that. I asked if you go to school here too? I've seen you around before."

"Law school. I did go here for my B.A. too."

For the next ten minutes, the black haired Adonis stood next to his car and answered questions. HUNDREDS of them, he was sure. And although he HAD been in a hurry, for some reason he couldn't explain, he just couldn't leave. There was something about this green eyed imp that just made him feel like smiling. He didn't think he'd ever smiled and laughed so much in his entire life, and he'd come from house filled with smiles and laughter.

"If you aren't even twenty one yet, you must have crammed to be graduating this early?"

"I wanted to get started early so I could finish early, you know." Gavin shrugged. "School is …the easy part. I'm good at math and I like to read about things. Although that tends to get me in trouble some."

Those blue eyes lit up as the Adonis laughed again. "I always thought reading kept you out of trouble."

Gavin shrugged his shoulders, holding his hands out, palms up. "I'VE always thought so. But for SOME reason, most people that know me tend to think of it as a ..... NOT so good thing. Just ask my high school chemistry teacher."

"Sounds like a story."

"A long one!" Gavin was getting definite "gay vibes". There was something about the way he kept staring at Gavin, something about the way he kept smiling at him...that made him think just maybe... he WAS gay! Gavin had always thought he'd had a sixth sense about those things. Some people had that ability.

He'd read about stuff like that.

Wanting to know more about him, Gavin asked, "Where are you going to practice law? Do you know yet?"

"Cleveland." He still didn't want to leave just yet. Couldn't leave for some reason. "That's where I'm from."

"I'm from Cleveland TOO!!" Gavin eyes went wide. He thought it was just a crime that they hadn't run into each other before now. "Why? I mean why are you moving back to Cleveland?"

Gavin couldn't wait to finish his last semester of college. He was going to California. Some place warm and far away from his family.

"Where else would I want to be? My family's there." He laughed again, this time at Gavin's expression.

"Well, right there's a PERFECT reason. Family! I have a few weeks left of school and then I'm heading for California. Far away from Cleveland and…my family." Gavin laughed, but there was a certain sadness you could hear in it. He'd always gotten the feeling his parents didn't like him much.

"California would be just about as far away as you could get and still be in America, I guess, unless you went to Hawaii." "Jack" said to Gavin, unable to stop staring into those dancing eyes. "What's your major?"

"Marketing and Advertising. My father set up a meeting with one of his friends firms. I have to go back to Cleveland for that interview.. I guess. I don't even want to waste my time….but, the man's footing my bills so I guess I owe it to him." Gavin didn't want to talk about that anymore.

"Jack" could sense that this subject was off limits. Although he thought it sounded like a typical rich kids grumbling. He went to OSU on a football scholarship, but he'd still had to work his ass off for any spending money. He'd paid for law school himself, busted his ass for three years and was still going to graduate at the top of his class. He couldn't help but make a comment.

"Well, it's probably the least you could do." "Jack" cocked an eyebrow at Gavin.

Gavin squirmed at that eyebrow, but laughed anyway. "Don't get me wrong. I appreciate everything they've done, you know. Just wish they liked me better."

"Jack" heard that sadness again underneath the laughter. He nodded his head. "Yeah well… that's the least *they* could do. So when are you leaving for California?"

"A week after graduation. My roommate and I are going together. We're just friends, you know." Gavin wanted to make that perfectly clear. "I still don't understand why you'd want to go back there. To Cleveland! What're your plans once you move back?"

"I take the bar exam next spring. I've got a job clerking with a firm I've interned with during the summers and when and if I pass, I'll practice there."

Gavin would bet everything he had, that this guy would pass that exam on the very first try.

"Then you'll be a big time attorney, probably buy one of those big mausoleums on the lake and have a yacht docked in your back yard and highballs at 6:30 everyday." Gavin said this in a way that made it clear those things didn't impress him. His parents had all those things and it wasn't all that great. No… just stuffy, cold and very lonely.

"Jack" chuckled again. "Fraid I'm not the highball type. I'm a poor Irishman. Probably just a beer on occasion. And someday, when I can afford it, I want one of those houses in the historical section. You know the area I'm talking about? Washington Street or Cherry Road."

Gavin's heart started beating. Really fast. He had dreamed about living in one of those houses when he was growing up. One of those big old Victorians. If he lived in one of those houses he'd remodel it …room by room himself. Those houses always seemed like they had heart beating inside of them somehow.

"One of those big old Victorians. Remodel it room by room myself. Those houses always seemed…I don't know…alive somehow." "Jack" said this like it was something he'd planned his whole life.

Gavin's breath caught in his throat at hearing those words. His own words, really. He could see that house just as clear as the crystal blue eyes he was staring in to. Like he was seeing it in their reflection.

Gavin said softly, "Yeah, like they have heart beating inside of them. I bet those houses were happy."

"Jack" looked into that green gaze and smiled. "Well, I've always thought that it was the people that lived inside a house that made it happy. But…I could be happy in one, I think. Anyway, that's the plan."

"Nice plan." Gavin thought it was a really nice plan.

"Jack" laughed. "Even if it's NOT in California."

Gavin laughed with him. "Well, it would be a nice plan in California too."

Gavin looked up when he heard Seth yelling from across the lawn. "HEY! If you're through yakking, we'd better head back and get ready for the party!"

Jack pushed himself away from his car. "Well, sounds like you have plans…and so do I really."

Gavin waved at Seth. "We're just going to a party. Seth and I aren't…you know…partners or anything. It's just casual. Maybe you and I could go out to eat or something instead?"

"Well, I have plans this evening too. It's casual, but the plans have already been made." "Jack" answered, but Gavin thought it sounded like he really wanted to say yes.

"I could get out of my plans." Gavin said, if his heart didn't stop pounding, it was going to pop right out of his chest.

"Jack" shook his head and cocked an eyebrow. There was something… funny about that eyebrow.

He said, "I kind of have a rule…about breaking plans that I've already made. I can't do that."

"Ah, a rules guy." Gavin laughed, as he stood away from the car. "I don't follow that many rules myself. You probably have a rule about…leaving with who ever you go with too."

"Yep, that's another one."

"I don't follow that one either" Gavin's eyes were sparkling. "Maybe we could do something tomorrow then? I mean, if you're interested in doing that? I have to drop off the money for your windshield anyway."

"I would be interested in doing that. Sounds like a plan." "Jack" shook his head, then burst out laughing. He rubbed his hand over his face. "You know, as many questions and answers that we've been through in the past ten minutes, it seems kind of odd that I don't even know your name."

"Oh yeah." Gavin laughed again and stuck out his hand. "My name's Gavin McCourt."

"It's nice to meet you Gavin." He took a hold of that hand and shook it. "I'm Jack. Jack Ryan."

Gavin dropped the Frisbee to the ground. His eyes widened and he was sure he was going to pass out.

Jack!

It was a… SIGN! Gavin was SURE of it.

"I just moved out of a house I shared with some friends. I'm renting a furnished apartment on East Street for the next few weeks." Jack ripped out a paper from his notebook and wrote down his address and telephone number. "Give me a call tomorrow and we can plan something then."

"Great! I'll call before noon." Gavin stepped over the curb and onto the sidewalk. He walked backwards a few steps, still staring at Jack, and then turned around and started walking up the lawn.

Jack called out to him as he grabbed the car door handle. "Hey Gavin."

Gavin turned around, still smiling.

Jack returned that smile. It was just so damned contagious, he thought.

"Just remember my rules. You know…the ones about breaking plans you've made and leaving with the one you came with." Jack was still smiling as he opened the car door. "You go with me….you leave with me."

Gavin waved at Jack when the car door closed before he could answer. As he walked across the lawn towards Seth, Gavin thought about what Jack had said. He was a little worried that Jack could make him WANT to change ALL of his plans.

He had a feeling that leaving with Jack wouldn't be a problem. It would be the leaving without him part that might be hard.

....................
Sunday, May 5, 2002

"Quit spiking the ball, Jack!" Jenny glared through the net, hands on her hips.

"I didn't spike it brat!" Jack glared back at his sister; he bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing.

"Yes you did!" Jenny threw the ball over the net so it could be served again. "Why is it that I always get stuck across the net from people taller than I am? It's not fair!

Sean laughed. "That's because most of us are taller than you, shrimp."

Gavin smiled, listening to the good natured arguing between the brothers and sister. Football, baseball, volleyball, it didn't matter. They took them all seriously. God, he loved Sunday's at the Ryan's. In the winter everyone gathered in the house for Sunday dinner, watching football, playing games. The house wasn't very big, but there was always enough room for any one that stopped by. And it never felt crowded.

The first warm sunny Sunday of spring brought them all outside. The huge picnic table was brought out from the shed and placed under the oak tree that, according to Jack, used to have a tree-house. If Big John had a say in it, there would be one built there again for the grandchildren, which were growing in number. Number six was on its way, due to make an appearance any time now. Gavin thought from the look of Beth, it could be any minute. She looked like she was ready to explode. She still looked beautiful though.

Gavin thought that all of the Ryan's were beautiful. He loved them all.

"Aren't you going to defend me against these guys Gav?" Jenny poked Gavin in the arm. He usually ended up being on her team.

Gavin wrapped and arm around her neck and rubbed her head with his knuckles. She hated that. "What can I say Jen, most of us ARE taller than you."

"Don't whine about it brat. You have a guest here today." Daniel had the ball, he was ready to serve.

Patrick was in the back line on Gavin and Jenny's team. "Yeah Jen. Don't let him see what a brat you are. Maybe if you pretend hard enough, we can fool him into thinking you're normal. We could finally get rid of you."

Jack laughed, poking a finger in the net. "Yeah Jen, we won't tell him all of your faults. Like how you always hog the bathroom."

"Or how you always have to have your way. About everything." This was from Daniel.

"We won't tell him what you look like in the morning either." This was from Patrick.

Jenny looked smug. "Maybe he already knows that, Patrick."

Jack covered his ears. "Too much information please! There are some things older brothers should never know!"

Jeremy spoke up then, laughing at the banter. "Thanks for the warning guys, but I'm not so easily scared off. I may just take her off your hands for you."

This had everyone smiling. Jenny didn't normally bring the guys she dated to the Sunday get togethers. She always said that after meeting her Neanderthal brothers, they never called her back. Bringing Jeremy here today meant that he was someone special to her. And regardless of how much her brothers teased her; she knew that they all thought that she deserved to be loved by someone special.

"It's time to start getting things ready." Mary Ryan called as she passed by the net carrying plates and cups. "You boys leave your sister alone."

"Mom, we think it's only fair that we warn Jeremy what he could be getting into." Jack grabbed the plates and cups out of Mary Ryan's hands and kissed her on the cheek.

"You heard me. Quit your teasing." Mary placed her hands on her hips. A smile turned the corners of her mouth. "Don't make me have to call your Da. You're going to scare to poor boy off."

"And we don't want that." Jack laughed. "We could finally be rid of her. She's such a brat."

"Jack Ryan, that's enough!" Mary said with a laugh. "You're going to embarrass her."

Patrick headed for the grill, and stopped to kiss his mother on the cheek too. "We can't embarrass her, Mom. She walks around without putting a bag over THAT face, so we know NOTHING could embarrass her."

Everyone laughed at that; since Jenny wasn't only a beauty, she was the spitting image of their mother and a tiny feminine version of Patrick himself.

"That does it. I'm calling for your Da." Mary laughed again and headed back towards the house to finish dinner. "Gavin, you and Jack get the chairs and food table out of the shed; Patrick, go help your Da with the grill, he burns everything. Sean and Daniel, come carry things from the kitchen."

"Hey, what happened to equal rights? Jen, Laurie and Beth don't have to do anything." Sean grumbled, winking at Gavin. Sean loved watching his Mom get her Irish up.

Mary Ryan turned, giving her son a good-natured glare. "Jen has company; Laurie and Beth are getting the kids cleaned up. And because I said so."

The boss had spoken. Everyone headed towards the grill or the house in order to help get things ready. Gavin followed Jack towards the shed. They began pulling out the lawn chairs and the table for the food.

"You're being awfully quiet today. What's wrong Gav?"

Gavin shrugged. Lots of things. Things he couldn't talk about.

"Do you really think that Jen might marry this guy?" Gavin asked Jack as they carried the food table over to the tree.

"I don't know Gav." Jack stopped under the tree, he sat the table down. He spotted his sister and smiled when he saw her kiss Jeremy right on the lips. "Look at her face. She looks so happy. Maybe this is it."

"But JACK! He said he's moving to Colorado. That's miles and miles away!" Gavin frowned at the thought. "That means Jen would be moving."

"I know." Jack sounded as sad as Gavin did. "But he hasn't moved yet. Sometimes when you fall in love, your plans can change."

Gavin knew that was true. His own plans had changed when he'd met a Ryan. A pain shot through his heart again when he thought about that ghost from his past. He couldn't seem to shake the feeling, it was driving him crazy. He should tell Jack about Wes. He knew that he should.....but it didn't matter. He was supposed to go to California. So it didn't count. It DIDN'T.

So how come it felt like it did? Now, after all this time.

###################

March 1994

** Gavin was up at six the next morning. He was just too excited to sleep, but thought it best to wait until eleven to call Jack. Some people didn't like to get calls that early in the morning. Well, Gavin didn't either. But since he WAS up, he wished everyone else was too.

Jack sounded really pleased when he heard Gavin's voice on the other end of the phone. They made plans for lunch and Gavin picked him up in his "classic" beat up Bug. It was a rainy Sunday and not much going on. They talked over lunch and discovered they not only both loved old houses, but art and antiques. They both loved to read and followed most of the same sports. They took a drive and talked some more.

They spent each evening of the next four weeks together. Jack sometimes worked until nine and Gavin was usually there waiting for him when he got home. They studied together, watched old movies at Jack's apartment, eating carryout and talking non-stop about this and that. Well, Gavin talked. Jack just ….looked at him most times…and smiled.

And Jack had proved to Gavin just how incredibly gay he was. The sex was .....well, they just seemed to fit together in a way Gavin hadn't thought possible.

One Saturday night while Jack was working, Gavin had decided to attend a party before going over there. It was a typical Ohio State frat party. A combination of too much booze and spring fever caused things to spiral out of control a little too fast.

Or at least the police apparently had thought so. They had taken issue with the fact that Gavin had been racing down the middle of High Street with several other intoxicated frat fellows, and hauled him to jail. Gavin hadn't even been driving.

Seth had been the one pushing the grocery cart; Gavin had been just sitting inside it. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Gavin was a little frightened sitting in that jail cell. He felt so lonely and small that night. He didn't think he could bear calling his parents to bail him out, although they would have wired the money; it just wasn't worth the icy disapproval and strained silence it would cause.

Gavin figured that since Jack was almost an attorney, he would be the perfect person to call. And he couldn't think of another person in the whole world he'd rather have on his side at that moment than Jack. He crossed his fingers and hoped Jack wouldn't be mad at him for calling him to help.

Jack arrived at the police station ten minutes after Gavin's call. He signed him out; made sure he was alright, took him home and fixed him something to eat.

Jack hadn't been upset with Gavin for calling him to help, that was very clear, but he SURE was pissed though. And Gavin was about to find out that icy disapproval and strained silences wasn't something that Jack Ryan had ever heard of.

Gavin sat on the kitchen chair, at first not quite understanding why Jack was pissed. "I'm sorry that I bothered you. I just didn't know who else to call."

"WHAT were you doing? What possessed you to do it?" Jack crossed his arms over his chest and pinned Gavin to the kitchen chair with a look.

Gavin cringed and sunk down in his chair. Jack was so mature and never did anything stupid as far as Gavin had seen so far. He'd probably be embarrassed to be seen out in public with him now.

"It wasn't like we were driving a car or anything. It was grocery cart, for crying out loud. And I wasn't even driving it. I was just SITTING in it. "

Jack's eyes narrowed, his nostrils flared. It was a look that Gavin would one day come to understand, usually meant he was in BIG trouble. But there was a reassurance in that look too; that look was a whole lot more comfortable than the icy stares and tense silences he was used to.

"Barreling down High Street in a runaway grocery cart, going who KNOWS how fast, traffic zooming every which way. Gavin, you COULD have been KILLED! "

Gavin's eyes widened. "I ...didn't really think about that, I guess."

"You didn't think at ALL!"

"I DID think...." Gavin stopped when Jack's eyes narrowed a little more.

"You didn't think it all the way through, apparently." Jack's nostrils did that flaring thing again. "If you ever pull a stunt like that again, I'll kick your ass myself. You won't have to worry about the police."

Gavin believed him. "Are you mad that I called you?"

"I'm glad that you called me. I was worried. You had told me you would be here when I got home from work, Gavin." Jack continued. "Next time, call me before, okay?"

Gavin smiled, the mischief was back. "You mean before I go grocery cart racing?"

Those blue eyes narrowed again. "Like I told you, I wouldn't pull that stunt again if I were you."

Of course, Jack was moving back to Cleveland and Gavin was moving to California; so Gavin didn't figure Jack would be around if he ever did decide to go grocery cart racing again.

Jack returned to Cleveland the third week in April and started working for the law firm he had interned with. Gavin called him almost everyday after he'd left. Told him what he was up to. What exams he was worried about.

His plans for California.

When Gavin returned to Cleveland for the interview his father had set up, he and Jack spent most of those few days together. They watched movies, hung out, drove to the historical section and looked at the houses there.

They had both dreamed a little that day; they sat in the car in front of this big old Victorian house, one that needed a lot of work, and talked about the way it would look after they fixed it up. They had both decided it could be beautiful one day.

Jack had even introduced him to his family. This really large, loud, warm, arguing, teasing, wonderful family. Gavin had never felt more at home anywhere, than he did that day. He had fallen in love with them all from the very first moment.

Gavin headed back to school for exams. Saying goodbye that time had been the hardest thing Gavin had ever done.

But Jack hadn't asked him to stay. Did he want Jack to ask him stay?

Well, he didn't ask. So it didn't matter. Gavin was going to California.

The week before he was to leave for California, Gavin attended a party on campus. Another typical campus frat party where things tended to get a little out of control. It was the last college party he would attend as a student. Seth introduced him to a guy Gavin hadn't seen around before.

His name was Wes.

Wes reminded Gavin so much of Jack. Black hair, blue eyes, a slighter build, but still put together in a nice package. He was easy to talk with, fun to be around and for just a little while, Gavin pretended that Wes was Jack.

But he wasn't Jack. Gavin had a feeling that there could never BE another Jack. He had feeling he wouldn't find another Jack in California either.

But Jack hadn't asked him to stay. Did he WANT Jack to ask him to stay? Would he stay if Jack asked?

Gavin and his roommate, Steve hadn't even planned on going home again before leaving for California. They both had jobs lined up and wanted to get out there and settled in.

Gavin and Steve had packed up their belongings and shipped them to California as soon as their exams were over. He had a plane ticket in his hand, his suitcase packed and a taxi waiting to drive them to the airport, leaving his Bug with a friend.

Gavin had his hand on the door handle of the Taxi when he stopped and looked across the hood at Steve.

"Don't hate my guts. But I'm not going."

#####################

Wednesday, May 7, 2002

Martha was prancing at Jack's feet as soon as he opened the kitchen door. He rubbed her head and patted her back, then let her out the door, watching as she darted out the doggy door at the back of the garage. Then he went in search of Gavin.

Jack found him lying on the couch in the family room, hands behind his head staring at the ceiling. The television was blaring; some guy on an infomercial was talking about some sort of herbal hair growth treatment.

Jack walked over to the television set and hit the off button.

"HEY! I was watching that!" Gavin sat up on the couch and glared.

"Yes, I can see why you'd be interested in herbal hair growth treatment." Jack LOOKED at Gavin and his head full of blonde waves. "What I'd like to know is WHY you're lying here instead of at the ball field. Unless I'm mistaken, that WAS the plan."

"Plans change. I'm allowed to change my plans."

Gavin crossed his arms and stared at Jack's feet. There was no way he could have gone to ball practice. He just couldn't. Not after Jack had called him at work and told him that Wes was going to joining THEIR team. The team that THEY had played for, for the past six years.

"You can change your plans anytime you want too. However," Jack gave Gavin a pointed look. "You are a member of a team that you committed to and depend on your being there. And MOST of all, I was expecting you to be there and DIDN'T know what in the hell had happened to you."

"I'm sorry. But I don't want to be a member of the team anymore. I'm allowed to change my plans."

Jack was a little shocked at that announcement, but that was beside the point.

"Gavin, the decision to play softball this year is entirely up to you. I'd love for you to play, but its fine by me if you choose not to. However, just NOT showing up at 6:30 or not CALLING me to tell me you weren't coming, ISN'T fine by me and you KNOW that. I'd like to know WHY. Why you didn't call? Why you didn't answer the phone when I called you?"

Gavin shrugged his shoulders. "Practice wasn't going to be that long. I figured you'd be home by 7:30, so I just grabbed something to eat and thought I'd....wait for you at home."

"Did you really believe for even ONE second that when you didn't show up or answer my calls that I'd just go on about my business and not WORRY or wonder WHERE you were?" Jack put his hands on his hips. "You must be really surprised then; that I left practice early and came home to see if you were even alive!."

Gavin had been acting so strangely all week, and for the life of him, Jack couldn't figure out what was wrong. Unusually quiet, quietly rebellious. Late for work, late coming home from work. Moping about as if his best friend had died.

"What has gotten IN to you? You haven't been yourself all week?" Jack waited and he still didn't get a response. "And.... apparently you aren't ready to talk about what's bothering you."

Gavin couldn't talk about it. It didn't matter. He was supposed to go to California, so it didn't matter. It DIDN'T. Then WHY did if feel like it did? After all this time, why would it matter now?

Jack held his hand out. "Okay, if you don't want to talk about it, then you can go on up and get ready for bed. I'll be up in a minute, and I'll have plenty to say about it, believe me."

Gavin allowed Jack to pull him up from the couch. He was sent towards the stairs with a down payment swat that guaranteed more was to follow.

Jack rubbed his hands over his face, feeling more confused and baffled than Gavin. He watched as Gavin climbed the stairs. He didn't stomp. He didn't complain. He didn't pout. He didn't argue. He wasn't pleading for one more chance.

Which could only mean.......there was something bothering him.

And Gavin had been doing the same things all week. Or not doing them. Gavin could be forgetful. He could be obsessive and compulsive. On too little sleep, he became cranky. If he found himself in situations he didn't know how to handle, he could sometimes panic and then hysteria would override good sense. He had an overactive imagination and an inquisitive nature; which was a nice way of saying he was nosey; both of those things could cause quite a chaos and had on more than one occasion.

But Gavin rarely deliberately created. And when he did, it meant something was bothering him. Usually something that Gavin couldn't explain or didn't understand why it should bother him. He could obsesses over the smallest thing until it drove him crazy; and the things you would think WOULD bother him, didn't seem to faze him at all. There usually wasn't any rhyme or reason to it.

Whatever it was, started the night of the fund raiser at the country club, Jack was sure of that. Something must have happened that night that Jack wasn't aware of, hadn't noticed.

What was it that Gavin had kept saying that night? Something like.... "I was supposed to go to California".

What did that mean?

Jack walked in the sitting room and sat down on the chair by the window seat. Gavin had planned to move to California when they had first met. But Jack didn't think that Gavin had ever regretted not going. That couldn't be it!

It had been Gavin's decision to stay.

Jack remembered that like it was yesterday. Gavin had visited him here one weekend a couple weeks before he was to leave for California. He'd driven up to go on a job interview that his Father had arranged for him. Gavin had no intentions of taking the job, but he had promised his Father and hadn't wanted to disappoint him. He felt that'd he'd disappointed him enough.

They had spent the whole weekend together. They had driven to the historical section and pointed out the houses they liked; this very house they lived in now.... was the house they had liked most of all.

He had introduced Gavin to his family. Jack smiled, remembering Gavin at that first Sunday at the Ryan's. He had watched them all fall in love that day. His family and Gavin.

When Gavin had left that following Monday morning, the hardest thing Jack had ever done was letting him go. He didn't ask Gavin to stay. Jack knew that if he HAD asked, Gavin WOULD have stayed.

But he knew that Gavin needed to make that decision for himself, because it was what he wanted to do.

They had talked on the phone several times after that, but they didn't see each other again. Before hanging up the phone each time, it took everything Jack had in him not to ask Gavin to stay here with him.

On the day Gavin was to have left for California, Jack had spent the day regretting that he hadn't asked him to stay. Lying in bed that night, after tossing and turning, Jack made some decisions of his own.

At midnight, the doorbell rang.

When Jack opened the door, he saw Gavin standing there. For some reason, and Jack still couldn't explain it..... the sight hadn't surprised him at all.

When Jack had told him about that later, Gavin had been convinced it was probably some kind of E.S.P. or something.

He'd read about stuff liked that. Of course.

Jack had said, "Wondered when you'd show up. I was going to give you a month and then I was coming out there to haul you back."

Gavin smiled, a beaming smile that Jack still found contagious to this very day. He'd asked, "Were you really planning on doing that?"

Jack had pulled Gavin through the door, wrapped his arms around him
and said, "That was the plan."

Well, Jack wasn't going to let one more day pass without finding out what was bothering Gavin. They'd deal with the fact that he'd not shown up for practice and didn't bother calling, and then Jack WOULD get to the bottom of it. One way or another.

Even if it killed both of them

..................................

Sitting on the bed, bottom throbbing, Gavin rubbed his nose on the sleeve of his shirt. As much as he hated being spanked, he'd rather take another one than have Jack keep pestering him about what was bothering him.

"Gavin, something has been bothering you ever since Friday. I've
racked my brain trying to figure it out and we're going to get to
the bottom of it one way or another before this night is over."
Jack stood in front of Gavin, crossing his arms. "Let's start with why you don't want to play softball this year and work our way back."

Gavin chewed on his lip and sniffed again. "I can change my plans if ....."

"Gavin, if you don't want to play ball that's fine, BUT.... I want to know WHY!"

Gavin started breathing heavy, he felt like he was going to hyperventilate. Jack would never be able to forgive him. Things would never be the same between them. And Gavin had loved every minute of sameness the past eight years had brought him. But he just couldn't go on this way. He just couldn't.

Gavin breathed even harder, he was on his way to being hysterical.

"It's WES!" .

Of all the things Gavin could have said, nothing could've surprised
Jack more.

"What about Wes, Gavin?"

"I DON'T want to ...play...ball with HIM!"

"Why?" Jack was totally perplexed. "You barely spoke to guy when you met him on Friday."

"I...met him before.....at a party. And you weren't...there...and..we...Oh God!.." Gavin covered his face with his hands. "It was YEARS ago, please believe me. It didn't MEAN anything. I love....."

"Calm down." Jack held his hands out. "You knew Wes before you knew me?"

"NO! I met him AFTER"......" Gavin choked. "I....knew you."

Gavin closed his eyes and sobbed.. "He had ...dark hair.. and blue eyes....just like you ....and ....you weren't... theerre."

For one second Jack's heart literally stopped beating. For one brief second it felt as though his gut had been turned inside out.

But only for one brief second. This was Gavin. And the thought of Gavin ever being unfaithful was.......

........ridiculous!

Jack crossed his arms and glared down at Gavin, who was now sobbing
hysterically on the bed.

"Enough!"

Gavin's head jerked up at the sound of Jack's voice. His eyes went
wide.

"I want the hysterics to stop right now. You just answer my questions and we'll get this sorted out." Jack's eyes met Gavin's. "It's going to be okay Gav."

Gavin looked into Jack's eyes. Gavin could see that there wasn't one shadow of doubt reflected in that crystal blue gaze. It WAS going to be okay. Jack said so.

Gavin nodded his head. He inhaled a shuddering breath.

"When did this....thing... happen?" Jack wanted the facts first and only the facts. When. Where. How.

"Eight years ago."

"Okay, where were you?"

"At a party."

"Where was the party?"

"In Columbus, at a house... on campus."

Jack took a deep breath of his own and that one last tiny little pain that hadn't completely left him yet, disappeared.

"Before you moved here? Was this before you graduated? "

Gavin nodded his head. "I guess it was about a week before."

"Gavin, you didn't move in with me until a week after you graduated. I was living here in Cleveland, you were heading for California."

"But Jack, I already LOVED you. WE had already begun! I already LOVED you."

"Gav, you were headed for California. What? Did you think if you had moved to California, we would have never gone out again with anyone else? We had made no promises to each other. Our life together didn't really begin until you moved to Cleveland".

Gavin looked at Jack. There were so many questions in that look. Questions he wasn't quite sure he wanted the answers to.

"Did you? Go....out with someone else?" Gavin asked and then wished he hadn't. Did he really want to know?

Jack saw all the questions and doubts that flashed across Gavin's face. He knew there was a part of Gavin that wished Jack had been with someone else during that month apart; it would have made him feel less guilty. Another part of him truly hoped that he hadn't. Jack paused for a second, wondering which answer would make Gavin feel better; and then he thought again. He'd never lied to Gavin before and he wasn't going to start now. The truth was always the right answer.

"No Gav, I didn't." Jack smiled, he pulled Gavin off the bed and sat in the chair, pulling him down on his lap. "I already knew that you were it for me. But just because you needed a little bit more time, doesn't mean that you loved me any less. You were going to California. We hadn't made any promises or even discussed the possibility of you staying in Ohio."

"I didn't want to go to California. I wanted to be with you" Gavin laid his head on Jack's shoulder and closed his eyes. "But you didn't ask me to stay."

"Things happened so fast between us. And then we really didn't have much time to see where it was all going to lead. I moved back to Cleveland, you already had planned on moving to California." Jack kissed Gavin's face and lifted his chin.

"But you didn't ask me to stay." Gavin whispered.

"I knew that if I asked you....you would have stayed. I knew that Gav, even if you didn't." Jack had been so sure of that. "I wanted you to make the decision on your own, because it was what you really wanted to do."

"You sure have changed a lot in eight years Jack." Gavin huffed. "If I told you now that I was hopping on a plane and moving to California without you...."

"You'd not be able to sit down on ANY plane when I got through with you." Jack chuckled in Gavin's ear. "A whole lot has changed in eight years, Gav."

"I wanted to stay with you." Gavin had known that all along, but Jack was right. That was one thing he'd had to decide for himself.

"And you did. And you made that decision on your own." Jack pulled Gavin closer and rested his cheek against Gavin's. "Do you remember what I said to you when you showed up on my doorstep?"

Gavin thought about it for a minute. He nodded his head. "I remember exactly. You said." "Wondered when you'd show up. I was going to give you a month and then I was coming out there to haul you back."

"That was the plan." Jack remember exactly too. "And for me... that is the day it all began. And that is the reason you have never given Wes Champior one moment of thought ...until you saw him again. Because that is the day it began for you too."

Gavin let go of the last bit of guilt that had been torturing him for the past week. It felt so good to let it go. Jack had a way of making things seem so simple. If Gavin had anything at all to feel guilty about, it was the fact that he hadn't talked to Jack about it sooner.

"I'm really sorry. I should've talked to you about what was bothering me." Gavin chewed on his lip. That was something that always ended up getting him into trouble, which was just plain crazy behavior. Things always seemed better after he talked with Jack.

"GOD Jack, if I were you I'd ....."

"Spank you? I probably should. Not coming to me when something is bothering you is something we've talked about many times, Gav." Jack lifted Gavin's chin and kissed his nose.

"But......I think you've tortured yourself enough over this."

"And tortured YOU in the bargain...ow!." Gavin rubbed the spot that Jack swatted, which was still sore from the spanking before.

"Keep reminding me. You could talk me into spanking you again. It wouldn't take much." Jack swatted Gavin again, with a little less force. Then rubbed the spot himself.

"You really need to learn the art of explaining your feelings a little better. You have a tendency to get things so twisted it's sometimes hard for even me to understand what's going on. We are going to work on that buddy, a whole lot harder than we have in the past."

Gavin turned around in Jack's lap and wrapped his arms around his neck. "What would you have done, if I had gone to California and decided I didn't want to leave....when you came to haul me back?"

"I guess... we'd be living California."

**************

Saturday, May 11, 2002

Gavin placed the last glass in the dishwasher just as Jack came through the kitchen door. The softball team had left an hour before and they were just finishing cleaning up the mess from the cookout. It had been a great day and Gavin was glad he wasn't going to have to quit softball. It was always fun, hanging out with the guys.

"I just did the last of the dishes. Are you done cleaning up outside."

"Yeah. I put the cushions from the patio furniture in the garage." Jack grabbed a coke from the fridge and sat on a barstool. "Supposed to rain tonight."

"It was a beautiful day for a cookout. I think everyone had a good time." Gavin leaned against the bar. "We really need to find Tyler a boyfriend though. Someone normal. Where does he find these guys anyway?."

Jack laughed. "This one wasn't as weird as the guy he brought to John and David's Christmas party."

"No one is THAT weird." Gavin made a face, before taking a drink from Jack's coke can. "Mac and Wes make a nice couple though, don't you think? I talked with Wes quite a bit today and he really is a nice guy. I remember thinking that when I met him before."

Jack had seen Gavin talk with Wes at different times during the day. And Jack was... normal. He wasn't a saint. And he'd be lying if he didn't acknowledge that little bit of jealousy he'd felt at seeing Gavin talk with the guy.

"Yeah, I saw you talking to him. Wes is a really nice guy and I hope he and Mac make it" Jack smiled at Gavin, a little wryly. "I have to admit to being a tiny bit jealous. I mean, it's not that I think you were being unfaithful to me or anything Gavin...... but you remember how you felt when Brian was here at Christmas time."

Gavin's eyes narrowed, he stuck his nose in the air. "THAT is totally different. What happened between Wes and me was TOTALLY different than what happened between you and B.y.r.o.n,...I mean Brian,  Jack."

Jack looked a little confused at Gavin's expression. "Well, I told you then that I could understand your feeling jealous, because the thought of someone from your past isn't really something I want to think about, you know?"

"Well, HOW you can even COMPARE the two is beyond ME?" Gavin stuck his nose a little higher in the air and sniffed again. "

"YOU had SEX with Brian. Wes and I only...kissed and made out a little bit. We didn't have.....SEX, for crying out loud!"

The impact of that statement literally caused Jack to sit back on his barstool as if someone had physically pushed him. As the air began to slowly fill his lungs again......he sat back and enjoyed the feeling as the complete joy at what Gavin had said coursed through his body.

Jack HAD been honest with Gavin before. THEY hadn't really begun until the day Gavin had showed up on his doorstep in Cleveland. But Jack WAS only human. And he was NOT a saint. The fact that Gavin had NEVER had sex with Wes made Jack feel.....VERY happy.

After enjoying that very happy feeling for another minute.....another feeling began replacing it.

Jack's eyes narrowed. His nostrils flared. He pushed the stool back from the counter and slowly stood up.

Gavin blinked at Jack's expression. Narrowing eyes and nostril flares were NEVER a good sign. A light dawned. Uh oh.

"Did you think I meant that....Wes and I...had... SEX? Jack.......WHERE did you get THAT idea? REALLY!"

Gavin decided that he had just been insulted. If anyone had a right to be upset...it was HIM!

Jack pushed up the sleeves on his right arm. "WHAT was I supposed to think!? That you were carrying on for DAYS, becoming completely hysterical, over KISSING! I can't even imagine what you would have done if you DID have SEX with the guy."

"I could NEVER......!" Gavin slowly pushed himself away from the counter and took a few steps back. "and I NEVER said we HAD....sex either!"

Jack pushed up the sleeves on his left arm. His nostrils flared again. "You really need to learn to control yourself some Gavin, and EXPLAIN things in a little more detail!"

HOW was it Gavin's fault that Jack had this terrible tendency to get the basic facts SO confused! They really needed to work on THAT!

"Jack.....you get SO mixed up about stuff sometimes you know? How was I supposed to KNOW you were even THINKING......!"

Gavin thought for sure he heard Jack growl. Actually GROWL, for crying out loud. He thought his best bet was to make a dash for the stairs.

He turned and ran. Jack caught up with him by the fifth stair.

Jack grabbed Gavin by the arm; he flipped him over his shoulder in a fireman's carry, swatted him on the butt and continued up the stairs with a purpose.

"JACK, what are you doing?" Gavin laughed, his head dangling, he whacked Jack on the butt.

Jack smacked Gavin on the butt again. Hard! Causing Gavin to yelp.

"I'm going to show in....in complete detail.....the difference between SEX and a KISS!"

Gavin grinned, even though the blood was rushing to his head.  He thought that sounded like a really good plan.