Martha darted through the door as soon as it opened, so anxious for her breakfast that she didn’t even acknowledge Gavin, practically knocking him over as she ran past him. Unable to control her big baby feet she slipped on the hard wood floor, practically running in place, then shot forward like a torpedo sliding...all the way through the kitchen, finally coming to a STOP....just short of banging her head on the wall where her water and food bowls were waiting.
She scowled up at her guys when she realized that her bowls weren’t there waiting for her. And after she had made such a grand entrance, it was the least they could do! Breakfast was the best part of the day! She was a growing girl after all and it had been a LONG time since dinner.
Gavin laughed as he watched her slide and cringed when her head just missed the wall. “She’s going to knock herself out, sliding on that floor the way she does.”
“I know. She’s banged her head on that wall more than once. You’d think she’d remember it and be a little more careful.” Jack placed her bowls on the floor and patted her head. He looked around the kitchen. “We should get an area rug for in here. She wouldn’t slide around so much.”
“Yeah, a rug is a good idea, it could save her a few headaches.” Gavin sat down on his barstool and took a bite of his own breakfast. He rested his elbow on the table, his chin in his hand, grinning, eyes sparkling. “You know, Jack, come to think of it, having a rug in here really isn’t such a bad idea at all. Just think of all the......possibilities.”
After pouring a little more juice in their glasses, Jack sat back down on his barstool. He scooped up a spoonful of cereal and paused mid-spoon, waiting for Gavin to fill him in on what...... possibilities?....there would be in having a rug in the kitchen. Jack knew that look and that grin; he had a feeling the possibilities would be.....very interesting.
“What.....possibilities?” Jack asked smiling, curiosity getting the better of him.
“Well, a rug sure would come in handy the next time we decide on having ‘kitchen floor sex’.” Gavin grinned even wider. “That floor is hell on the knees.”
“Tell me about it!” Jack laughed out loud. “On second thought, don’t! We have to leave for work in just a few minutes and if you start talking dirty, I’ll be late for court.”
“Honeymoon must be over.” Gavin sighed, shaking his head, ginning from ear to ear. “You used to be SO easy, Jack.”
“Well, that floor *is* hard, but I’m still easy. Talk to me about it again after we get home tonight.” Jack chuckled, taking a drink of his juice and trying really hard NOT to think about Gavin’s grin or ‘kitchen floor sex’ at the same time or they really would be late for work. “Too bad I have a basketball game after work.”
“You know what seeing you run around in those shorts does to me, Jack.” Gavin wiggled his eyebrows. “I’ll still feel like *talking* after we get home.”
“Will you stop by the house first, check on Martha?” Jack grinned, giving Gavin a leering look as he pushed his stool back and started gathering the breakfast dishes. “I have to go straight to the gym from the office.”
“Yeah, I’ll do that.” Gavin stood up, gathering the rest of the dishes. “Adrian said something about meeting me here so we can drive to the gym together. I think he wants to talk.”
Jack looked up from loading the dishwasher. “What’s up?”
“He says Conner is being unreasonable.” Gavin rolled his eyes as he wiped off the bar with a rag. “I don’t know? Some of the stuff Adrian tells me makes me think Conner *is* being unreasonable. But God Jack, Adrian complains about everything. It’s hard to figure out if he’s just exaggerating or not.”
“Complaining and exaggerating? Imagine that.” Jack’s eyes went wide in mock surprise, he bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. Oh, he could sympathize with Gavin’s dilemma. Sometimes it WAS hard to figure it all out.
Gavin could see that Jack was trying hard not to laugh, he threw the dishrag at him. “I do NOT complain THAT much, Jack!” He started laughing. “I don’t exaggerate either!”
Jack laughed as he caught the dishrag in his hand and held both hands up in surrender. “Hey, I never said a word.”
“You didn’t have to!” Gavin grinned. OKAY, so he DID complain and maybe he exaggerated...SOME, but that was part of his charm! Or at least that’s what he’d always told Jack. He held his hand up and caught the rag Jack tossed back at him. “Anyway, I don’t complain and exaggerate like Adrian does. It all just seems so much harder for them than it does for us.”
“Gavin, I don’t think you remember what the first few months were like.” Jack closed the dishwasher door and leaned against the counter. “Adrian and Conner still have a lot to work through and it’s never easy giving up control or figuring out when to take control.”
“I don’t remember it being all that hard.” Gavin scrunched up his nose at the look of disbelief on Jack’s face. “It was NOT that hard, Jack. At least it wasn’t for me! I was always happy with our relationship.”
“I’m just saying that it wasn’t always as easy as you seem to remember it.” Jack smiled, always amazed at Gavin’s selective memory. “At times it was and still is very hard.”
“Well, I didn’t think so! I was happy and SO were you!” Gavin stuck his nose in the air, daring Jack to disagree. Theirs was the perfect love story and Jack Ryan was NOT going to rewrite it.
“Of course we were happy.” Jack agreed. Theirs was a perfect love story, he just had a few extra chapters in his version of it. “But we both work hard at it, Gav and it wasn’t always easy. And just last weekend, you called me a.... controlling Neanderthal?”
“Well, you *are* a controlling Neanderthal!” Gavin grinned, not denying it. And that wasn’t an exaggeration either. “Anyway, Adrian does complain a lot, but some of the rules they have, well, they *do* seem unreasonable to me, Jack.”
“And I’ve told you that it isn’t up to us to decide what’s reasonable for them. We don’t live with them and we wouldn’t want anyone making decisions about that for us, would we?” Jack asked; the same question he always asked whenever he and Gavin talked about Adrian’s ‘complaints’. But he also knew how loud a brat’s voice could be; he’d lived with one of his own for eight years now. He decided to play devils advocate this time. “But give me an example of how you think Conner is being unreasonable? Maybe I can help sort this out for you.”
“Okay,” Gavin leaned against the counter. “Adrian said that Conner won’t let him see any of his old friends. That sounds pretty controlling to me, Jack. You would never do that! And you are the king of controlling Neanderthals.”
“Adrian has a gambling problem, Gav. Could it be that the friends Conner is referring to might have that same problem?” Jack cocked a brow. “And if you had that same problem, just how unreasonable do you think I’d be?”
Gavin laughed. “Totally unreasonable!”
“And that’s not an exaggeration.” Jack smiled, wryly. “I think you could safely say that it’s an understatement.”
“I’m so thankful we don’t have their problems.” Gavin shook his head as he turned around, heading for the stairs to finish getting ready for work. “I’m just glad it was never this hard for us.”
Jack just stood there for a minute, staring in wonder at Gavin’s retreating back and trying really hard not to laugh.
Gavin called from the stairs, laughter in his voice. “It was not THAT hard, Jack!”
Gavin steered his little red Honda out of the parking lot of his office and shifted into second gear. Taking one hand from the wheel, he flipped open the CD album lying on the passenger and searched until he found his favorite couple, Tim and Faith. He popped it in the player, pushed the button until he came to the song he wanted, and started twanging along with Tim. Tim was a twanger, but he was SO hot! The ring of the cell phone at his hip had him fumbling under his jacket, he pushed the button and brought it to his ear. He smiled when he heard Adrian on the other end.
“Hey, I was going to call you when I got home. I’m just leaving work.” Gavin propped the phone against his ear and turned down Faith and Tim. Pulling up to the intersection, he stopped at the red light. “If you leave now, we’ll get there about the same time.”
“Apparently Conner doesn’t want me at his game. I’m not coming.” Adrian’s voice sounded stiff.
“What did you do?” Gavin asked, not worried in the least about appearing nosey or anything. He was NOT nosey!
“Why do you assume *I’ve* done something, Gav?” Adrian’s voice sounded even more strained.
“Well, why else wouldn’t you be able to go?” Gavin rolled his eyes. He realized this whole thing was kind of new to Adrian, but Gavin still figured some things were kind of self-explanatory. Adrian should be able to figure SOME things out for himself. He just didn’t understand how Conner put up with all of Adrian’s complaining.
“Gavin, I don’t think seeing my old friends should be a problem.” Adrian defended himself. “It’s all Conner’s fault that I have to sneak around to see them.”
“Let me get this straight,” Gavin had a pretty good idea what happened. This sounded SO familiar! He wondered why that was? Adrian must have complained about it before. “You’re saying that you lied about where you went and who you went with and Conner found out about it?”
“It wasn’t a lie. Exactly.” Adrian hedged a bit. “Anyway, Conner was kind of upset about it.”
“Upset?” Gavin almost laughed at that understatement. ‘Upset’ didn’t sound so bad to him. If he had done something like that, Jack would’ve gone ballistic! And that was NOT an exaggeration!
The light had apparently turned green because a car honked from behind him. Gavin glared in his rearview mirror before shifting his car into gear. Couldn’t they see that he was trying to have a conversation? It was hard enough to shift gears, steer, listen to Tim AND carry on a conversation at the same time.
“Do you feel like company, Adrian?” Gavin flipped on his blinker and waited until it was clear before pulling into the left turning lane. “I can come over and keep you company, instead of going to the game.”
“Thanks, Gav. But I don’t know think Conner would like that. He’s being such a ...” Adrian stopped talking when he heard Gavin yell, followed quickly by the sound of squealing tires and then, what sounded like an explosion. After that, there was just .....dead silence.
“Gavin. What happened? GAV....!” Adrian yelled into the phone, panicked, heart racing.
He stared at the phone a few seconds, not knowing what to do. And then he did what was beginning to be second nature to him, almost an automatic reflex, whenever he felt lost or frightened and didn't know quite what to do. Although he wasn’t quite ready to admit that to himself yet.
He pushed one button and called Conner.
Jack gazed down at the sleeping head in his lap and ran shaking fingers through Gavin’s hair, careful not to touch the stitches and bruise that marked his forehead. He had to stop thinking about it, what could have happened. But his mind kept going back over the moment Conner’s cell phone rang and the look on his face at hearing the panic in Adrian’s voice as he told him that he thought Gavin had been in an accident.
Thank God Conner had been there. After making a few phone calls, Conner had found out where Gavin had been taken and had driven him to the hospital. Jack had barely been able to breathe, let alone think straight. He would have never been able to drive on his own.
After they had arrived at the hospital, the emergency room nurse had taken one look at Jack, white faced and near to choking, and asked Conner if a wheelchair was needed. Conner explained why they were there and the nurse, sympathetic and apparently worried that Jack was about to go into cardiac arrest, led them to the backroom.
When Jack saw Gavin and the blood soaked gauze haphazardly taped to his forehead, he’d very nearly passed out; he didn’t know if was from panic or relief. The only thing that had kept him from passing out right then and there was the knowledge that Gavin needed him. And he needed him upright and on his feet. So he just did what came naturally. He wrapped his arms around Gavin, his need to protect him always so strong.
Jack was just an average man, no stronger than the next. He was very aware that he found his own strength in that need to protect. It was the only thing that kept him on his feet that day.
Gavin had burst into tears as soon as he’d spotted Jack, wanting to know WHY it had taken him SO long to get there! Even though Conner and Jack had only arrived ten minutes after he did. Jack had laughed then, although his own eyes burned with tears, relief winning out over panic. Because, well....if Gavin was complaining he figured there wasn’t any permanent damage. Everyone knew how much Gavin liked to complain.
But it could’ve been so much worse. Jack couldn’t shake the image of Gavin’s mangled little car out of his mind. The SUV that had run the red light could be fixed, just some damage to the front end. But Gavin’s car was totaled, nearly bent in half. Neither car had been going very fast, which was the only thing that had saved them. No one could believe that Gavin had walked away from that accident with only ten stitches to his forehead and a few bumps and bruises.
Jack had always hated that car. He hadn’t wanted Gavin to buy it to begin with and knew his original arguments against it were good ones. It was death trap, too small to be out on the highway, no protection at all against even a mid-size car crashing into it. But Gavin had been so excited about it, wanted it so badly. Not wanting to disappoint him and very much against his better judgment, Jack hadn’t made an issue of it.
And by not making an issue of it then, it had very nearly killed Gavin now. Jack couldn’t shake the guilt that he’d dropped the ball on this one. Fingers still shaking, Jack lightly traced the bruise on Gavin’s forehead.
God, he loved Gavin so much. Disappointment couldn’t kill a person, but this time.....bad judgment had very nearly killed them both. Because if anything were ever to happen to him......
“Jack, I’m okay. You’re obsessing, I can tell.” Gavin didn’t open his eyes. He didn’t have to see Jack’s face to know the man was LOOKING at him. Jack had spent the past three days just LOOKING at him. “I always get in trouble for obsessing about stuff.”
“I’m not obsessing.” Jack said, rubbing his fingers over Gavin’s forehead, a gesture he’d obsessively repeated about million times in the past three days. Well, the last three minutes even.
“You ARE obsessing. It’s just a scratch.”
“Ten stitches. It’s more than a scratch.” Jack obsessed a bit more by rubbing his hand over Gavin’s forehead again. “We were so lucky, Gav. Your car was.....”
“Stop thinking about what my car looked like.” Gavin sat up on the couch, resting his chin on his knees and looked up at Jack.
Easier said than done. “I know, but it’s hard not to think about what could have happened, you didn’t see it, Gavin. We were just so lucky.”
“I’m fine.” Gavin chewed on his lip, feeling sorry for Jack and wanting to distract him from obsessing. “I had to stay in the hospital overnight, which was totally uncalled for by the way, and we’ve stayed home from work for three days and that’s been nice, it really has. But I’m okay, Jack.”
Jack smiled and rubbed Gavin’s lip when he began chewing again. “You’re going to chew a hole in your lip if you keep doing that.”
“Well, you know what I’m like when I know I’m in trouble and you don’t say anything.” Gavin figured he could sacrifice himself for Jack, it was the least he could do. “I know the accident wasn’t my fault, but I also know you must have plenty to say about me talking on the cell while I was driving.”
“Ah, I see. You’re still on the injured list.” Jack said, a wry smile turned the corners of his mouth. He reached over and lightly swatted Gavin’s exposed hip. “So you figure if we discuss it now, you won’t be spanked, is that it?”
“Timing is everything.” Gavin grinned. “I’m no dummy, Jack.”
“You’re a genius.” Jack chuckled, gently pulling Gavin on his lap, wrapping his arms around him. “And as much as you deserve to be spanked for it, and as much as I think you deserve it - you are on the injured list. So guess I’ll have to pass, this time.”
“Like I said, Jack, I’m no dummy.”
“You’re a genius.” Jack smiled, patting Gavin on the hip. “So you won’t have any trouble writing me a report on everything having to do with the distractions and dangers of driving and cell phones.”
Gavin groaned, leaning his head back on Jack’s shoulder. “I’ve a head injury, you know? Paperwork could cause a headache.”
“Hmm.. well, that’s true. I wouldn’t want that. We could wait about seven days,” Jack bit his ear, “and then I could spank you.”
“Oh, don’t worry, if I get a headache I’ll just take some Tylenol.” Gavin laughed, grabbing his ear.
“Like I said, you’re a genius.” Jack rubbed his chin in Gavin’s hair.
“We’re going to have to start looking for me a car.” Gavin sighed. “I loved that car. She had such personality.”
“I know.” Jack closed his eyes, seeing that car and what it looked like now. He gathered Gavin closer and squeezed.
“I thought about just replacing it, but Adrian said his dealership has a few cars he thinks I’d be interested in. He said something about a Mazda Roadster. I like the looks of those.”
Jack buried his face in Gavin’s hair, breathing in the scent of him. He knew how much Gavin loved that car; he felt it was an extension of his personality. And although Jack wasn’t looking forward to this discussion, that wasn’t going to stop them from having it. Making hard decisions, especially when it concerned Gavin’s safety or the security of their relationship, was his responsibility, one he took very seriously. And he did it for himself as much as for Gavin. Maybe more so. Perhaps he was being selfish, he was human after all. But just the thought of what his life would be like without Gavin in it was........
“....anyway, maybe we can go looking next weekend.” Gavin’s voice interrupted Jack’s thoughts. “I have the rental for a while, so I can take my time deciding.”
Jack took a deep breath, taking in that wonderful Gavin scent once more and resigned himself to the hard task ahead. And he had no doubt it was going to be hard. For both of them.
“Gav, I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. A lot of thought.” Jack paused, turning Gavin around, he kissed his forehead. “I think we need to look for a car with a little more metal around it, a little bigger.”
“I like little cars.” Gavin frowned, immediately not liking the direction this conversation was going or the look on Jack’s face.
“Yeah, but we’re a growing family,” Jack smiled, not ashamed in the least in trying to make this a little less painful, even though he knew it wasn’t going to work. “We have Martha now, the three of us couldn’t even fit in your car. And you’ve never been able take clients to lunch, if there was more than one.”
“Well, we have your SUV for a family car.” Gavin sat up in Jack’s lap, crossed his arms. “And if I have to take more than one client to lunch, which isn’t all that often, Jeff is usually with me and we take his.”
“That’s true, but it’s still an inconvenience.” Jack rubbed a hand down his face, sensing in Gavin’s body language that he knew what was coming. “Gav, if you would’ve been driving on the highway when that crash happened, there would’ve been nothing left of you. I knew the dangers of it when I let you talk me in to your buying it in the first place. If anything were to happen to you I’d never be able....”
“Jack, you are obsessing! That car was important to me. The only reason I even got this little scratch was because of the cell phone. It smashed against my head when the air bag blew. I’m fine!” Gavin tried to sound firm, the way Jack sounded when he obsessed. “I know I can be distracted some when I’m driving, but I’ve never been in a major accident and the other car ran into me. You can’t live your life afraid to go outside because something might happen.”
“I know that, but you don’t have to go out looking for trouble either. And this isn’t because I don’t think you’re a good driver, Gav. I’m more worried about what would happen if you were hit by someone else. On the highway, even a mid-size car would’ve torn that car and *you* apart.” Jack held Gavin’s hands in his and squeezed them. “I know that you like smaller, sportier cars and we’ll try and find something we’ll both be happy with, I promise. But we need to find something bigger and much safer.”
“We?” Gavin’s eyes narrowed, heart pounding, positive now where this was going and knowing he really didn’t have any control over it. “How big?”
“I don’t know, but it will at least have to have a back seat that people can sit in.”
“Have to have?” Gavin figured Jack must have obsessed himself right over the edge! He was morphing into Ralf Nader! “What about a convertible?”
“I said we’ll have to shop around. We’ll see what we can find that’s safe, we won’t know until we look.”
“I asked you a question, Jack.” Gavin crossed his arms tightly. He spoke slowly, so good old Ralph could understand. “What...about...a ...convertible?”
“I’d prefer a hard top, but we’ll see.” Jack patted Gavin’s leg. “The Lexus has a hard top convertible. Beamers probably have them too. I don’t know how big they are, we’ll have to shop around and...”
“A HARD top convertible?” Gavin slid off Jack’s lap, sitting on the edge of the couch. “Jack, that’s an OLD man’s car! What about what *I* prefer?”
“Gavin, I would hardly call a Lexus or a Beamer an old man’s car.”
“Why don’t we just buy a Mini-Van, for crying out loud!” Gavin jumped up from the couch, hands on his hips and glared down at Jack. Cars were like clothes, and in his opinion the Mini-Van was a soccer mom’s jogging suit! “Why don't you just cut off my balls while you’re at it and you can call me ‘the little woman’ then?”
“Gav, I would never ask you to even consider a Mini-Van and you know that.” Jack pushed himself off the couch in a subconscious move. He was calm and in control, but the Alpha never sat while his Beta stood, glaring. It was important to know your place in the hierarchy.
“Oh? Then explain to me just exactly what you ARE saying then? You’ve always known how important my car was to me!”
“I’m only saying that we’re going to look for something safe, not a matchbox car. But one we can *both* live with.”
Gavin sputtered. “Some decisions a man should be able to make for himself, Jack!”
“What decisions are those, Gav?” Jack tilted his head, cocking a brow. “When it’s something you don’t agree with, maybe? Tell me how that would work?”
“You are just being controlling! YOU don’t have to live with it! *I’ll* be driving it!” Gavin poked himself in the chest. “This is America in case you’ve forgotten and I’m a grown man! By all rights as an American, I should be able to own TWO cars of my OWN choosing! The Constitution even SAYS so....practically!”
“Yes, you are an American. But in this house, we have our own private Constitution.” Jack crossed his arm, Alpha written all over his face. “And while you do have rights, I have veto power.”
“And you're going veto the car I want, knowing how important it is to me?” Gavin just stood there searching Jack’s face and seeing absolutely no give at all. His shoulders slumped in defeat. “And you aren’t going to change your mind, are you?”
“No. I’m not.” Jack gently brushed the curls back from Gavin’s forehead. “Because you are too important to me.”
Jack rolled over on his back, folded his arms behind his head and stared, wide eyed into the darkness of their bedroom. Most nights when they climbed in to bed, Gavin couldn’t get close enough, his head usually resting on Jack’s chest, an elbow digging into his ribs, his weight making it hard breathe. He could hear Gavin softly snoring beside him, the space between them felt as wide as the Grand Canyon.
Jack figured that was the reason he couldn’t sleep. Everyone knew that it was much easier to sleep.... when you couldn’t breathe.
He knew how miserable Gavin was about the car, even though he hadn’t said much about it the rest of the evening. Well, he hadn’t said much of anything the rest of the evening. Jack knew the silence hadn’t meant that Gavin had accepted the decision or that it was a sign that it was going to be easily accepted anytime soon.
Jack loved hearing Gavin chatter. Hell, he even loved hearing him complain, it was part of his charm. Over the years Jack had learned to listen closely to those complaints, and he could gauge a mood or temper, hear an insecurity or unfilled need by them. But most of the time Jack could hear the grin that accompanied them and that wonderful Gavin-like logic that had never failed to make him smile. But a quiet Gavin was never a good sign.
Gavin’s trust in him to always do the right thing had never ceased to amaze him. And Jack knew that he had a huge responsibility to never betray that trust and he took it very seriously. But he wasn’t perfect and he did make mistakes. Making hard decisions wasn’t something Jack was afraid of, but he was well aware of how easy it could be to make a selfish one at times.
Knowing how important the car was to Gavin, was he being selfish this time? Jack thought about that awhile as he watched the sleeping figure lying next to him.
Gavin shuffled under the covers, slowly inching his way towards the heat and over that cold Grand Canyon space between them. Jack grunted when a head flopped down in the middle of his chest and groaned when an elbow jabbed him in the ribs. Pulling the covers over Gavin’s bare shoulders, Jack kissed his head, then leaned back on his pillow.
Yeah, he was probably being a little bit selfish. But Jack figured it was okay for a man to be selfish about some things. He closed his eyes and finally drifted to sleep.
It was so much easier to sleep..... when you couldn’t breathe.
Jack ignored the foot tapping. He didn’t bother looking up from his newspaper. He could feel Gavin glaring at him from the other side of it. He was surprised the paper hadn’t ignited into flames. All week long Gavin had been quietly pushing, silently rebelling. Nothing major, just little tests against the most simple of their rules. Rules they had always agreed on and were both very comfortable with. And he completely avoided any conversation about the real issue, no matter how Jack had tried to approach it. It had been a really long week.
Gavin glared at Jack from his end of the couch, arms crossed, feet tapping on the floor in irritation. Jack didn’t notice the glare. He didn’t even look up from his newspaper. It didn’t seem to bother him in the least that Gavin wasn’t happy with him! Just WHO did he think he was anyway?
“I’m going.” Gavin sat up a little straighter and puffed out his chest.
Jack cocked a brow over his newspaper. “Excuse me?”
Gavin ignored the cocked brow. He was a grown man! And it was high time Jack Ryan was put in his place! “I said...I’m going?”
Jack folded his newspaper and tossed it on the end table. He leaned forward on the couch, resting his elbows on his knees. He raised both brows. “Gavin, we both know that you are not going.”
Gavin flopped back on the couch, rested his feet on the cushion, his chin on his knees and pouted. Jack was being a controlling Neanderthal lately, well, even more than usual and Gavin figured needed to be a little more assertive with him.
“You are being SO unreasonable!”
“Gavin, we have always agreed that going to those types of clubs alone are off limits. And Chains is, most definitely, that type of club.”
“So? I won’t BE alone! Chris is going!”
“So,” Jack’s eyebrow went up again. “He’s single. You aren’t. Making a habit of going to ‘meat markets’ alone gives people the idea that you are single.”
“What do I care what everyone else thinks?” Gavin argued, unable to stop himself, even though he’d always agreed with Jack on that. “We know the truth.”
“You don’t have to care what everyone else thinks.” Jack pointed a thumb towards his chest. “You only have to worry about me.”
“Why don’t you want me to go then?” Gavin huffed, crossed his arms, making every effort to look insulted. “Don’t you TRUST me?”
“Gavin, of course I trust you. Don’t even go there. You hate going to places like that and you have never had any desire to go, let alone without me, so why do want to argue about it now?” Jack asked, already knowing the answer. This was all about the car and they had already had a rough week because of it. And until Gavin accepted it, things were going to continue to be unpleasant.
“Whether or not I don’t want to go is beside the point, Jack!” Gavin huffed some more. “I’ve never given you any reason NOT to trust me!”
“Gav, I do trust you.” Jack said, his trust in Gavin’s faithfulness had never been an issue. “I know that you would never go out looking to score with someone. But getting into the habit of bar hopping at ‘meat markets’ every week isn’t healthy for any relationship and it is not a habit we’re going to start.”
“WE aren’t getting into any habits! I’m not planning on going EVERY week!” Gavin glared from his corner of the couch. “That is just bulls....”
“We can talk about this, but think really hard about what you’re saying.” Jack warned, his voice calm, but the edge was there.
“What good will talking about it do? Apparently you’ve already made your decision and it doesn’t matter what anyone else wants. You aren’t even going to be HOME tomorrow night!” Gavin really didn’t want to go, but that wasn’t the point. “What am I *allowed* to do then....Daddy?”
“You’re pushing, Gav.” Jack warned again, brows arching even higher, patience thinning fast. “I was going to recommend calling some of the guys. You could go to Mulligan’s and shoot some pool or maybe go to a movie.”
“What? Like a Disney movie?” Gavin hissed, ignoring the warning, then pushing some more. “Or The Wild Thornberry’s, maybe? I know “Wild” is in the title, but I think it’s still rated General! How will I EVER decide between them?”
“We could go out to eat before the movie, so I’ll be home early. I mean, tomorrow IS a school night after all!” Gavin dug the hole a little deeper; then jumped in. “Maybe we can stop at McDonald’s before and I can order a Happy Meal! I hear they have some *neat* prizes this week!”
“Okay.” Jack’s nostrils did that flaring thing. “*I’ll* make the decision. You can just stay home tomorrow night.”
“THAT is NOT fair, Jack!” Gavin yelled, wrapping his arms tight around his knees. “You really think you ARE the Boss of the World don’t you!!”
“Lower your voice, Gavin and calm down.” Jack’s voice was calm and controlled, but the warning was loud and clear. “I’m sorry, but your mouth has been a little too free lately and that’s a habit we’re not going to start either.”
“Oh, you not only get decide what car I drive and where I can and can’t go...” Gavin stood up from the couch, hands on his hips, his body language read MUTINY. Taking away his car was important, but saying he couldn’t complain was - well, that was taking away part of his charm! “.....but NOW I’m not even allowed to complain!”
“Gavin, sit down and calm down.” Jack warned - for the very last time, instinctively pushing himself off the couch, because his Beta stood glaring again. “If you need for me to reinforce that with more than words, I’m more than willing to rise to the occasion. You don’t often blatantly disobey me, but think... really hard, about what happens when you do.”
Gavin glared at Jack, knowing he sounded hateful, hating the sound of his own voice and wanting so badly to stop. But he made no move to sit and there was no way he could calm down.
So he just buried himself instead.
“I’d have to THINK on my own in order to blatantly disobey you, Jack! And we ALL know I’m not allowed to DO that!”
Jack grabbed Gavin by the arm, propped his foot on the couch, pulled Gavin over his knee and swatted the seat of his pants several times. As soon as he was put back on his feet, Gavin plopped down on the couch, fast, tears stinging the backs of his eyes, still furious. But the reinforcement had cleared his head enough to know that sitting down had really been his only option
“You’ve done nothing but snap and push all week and I understand where this is coming from, Gav, I really do.” Jack stood in front of Gavin, arms crossed. “And I want you to talk to me about how you’re feeling....”
Gavin sat stiffly on the end of the couch, calmer, but not completely cowered. “How can I talk to you about how I’m feeling when you won’t even listen to my opinion! And I AM allowed to complain!”
“You’re always allowed to voice your opinions. You can complain all you want, and you do, *believe me* you do. But you’re bordering on rebellion now and you’re crossing some lines here.” Jack’s voice was firm, but not without compassion. “I know that you’re having a hard time accepting the decision on the car, Gav. If you can’t do it any other way, try thinking of it as a favor to me, instead of it being a ...dictate. Maybe you’ll be able to come to terms...”
“This is NOT about the car! But that IS a dictate no matter how you put it and I AM rebelling against a dictatorship! A favor means I have a choice!” Gavin snarled, then cringed again at the sound of his voice.
“You voted into this dictatorship, Gavin. And as the elected despot of this relationship, I’m saying you won’t be going anywhere tomorrow night.” Jack knew that wasn’t the real issue, but it was obvious that Gavin was still beyond any kind of rational conversation about the car. He nodded toward the stairs, both brows pointed upward. “It’s late. Before you bury yourself any deeper tonight, go on up to bed.”
Gavin just sat there a minute, trying to decide if pushing any further would be worth it.
“Or, I can turn you back over my knee, pull your pants down and really spank you. And then you can go to bed.” Jack’s eyebrows rose another notch.
Gavin, deciding that nothing was worth that, stood up and fled towards the stairs.
Jack sunk down on the edge of the couch, feeling a bit battered. He patted Martha’s head. “Well, that went over well, didn’t girl?”
Martha hated seeing her guys so unhappy. She whimpered in sympathy and licked Jack’s face.
Lying on his back, arms folded behind his head, Jack looked over at the clock on the night stand. He was so tired, but his eyes refused to close. He tried counting sheep, but that only made him start wondering about -the always unanswered question of - why people did that? Gavin would probably know why. His head was just filled with those interesting, funny little facts. He liked reading about stuff like that.
The covers tugged and pulled, the bed creaked. Jack grunted when a head flopped down in the middle of his chest and groaned when an elbow jabbed him in the ribs. He pulled the covers over Gavin’s bare shoulders and kissed his dirty blonde head.
He closed his eyes, finally unable to breathe and fell right to sleep.
“I’m heading out.” Jack leaned over the back of the couch and kissed Gavin on the head. “I’ll try and be home early, but you know how those open meetings can drag on”
“Don’t worry about it.” Gavin returned the kiss, not wanting Jack to go, wanting Jack to go, feeling miserable, trying not to and not having much luck. “I don’t need a babysitter, Jack.”
“I didn’t say you did, Gav. What are you going to do?”
“I’m grounded. What do you think?” Gavin rolled his eyes. Like Jack had REALLY given him a whole lot to choose from! He held up the book he’d been reading. “Read.”
Jack read the title and couldn’t help but smile. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion!
He didn’t have to guess what that was about.
“I wish you would give me one good reason how it’s fair that you get to go somewhere and I have to stay here alone.” Gavin complained, wishing that Jack would change his mind and knowing he wouldn’t, pissed about that and, maybe, ...somewhere in the back of his mind, ... kind of relieved too. Sometimes he confused himself. He really needed to see some sort of professional!
“I have a meeting I can’t get out of and I’m not grounded. That’s two good reasons.” Jack leaned his elbows on the back of the couch. Gavin seemed okay today, calmer anyway and he couldn’t think of any reason not to go. He just wished like hell he didn’t have to. After kissing him again, Jack headed for the door. “I’ll try not to be late.”
“Okay.” Gavin watched as Jack left the room, pissed and feeling pissier. He stuck his nose back in his book. He apparently didn’t have ANY powers of persuasion and he needed all the help he could get in order to have any influence over the controlling Neanderthal he lived with!
Very deep in research, Gavin was startled when the phone rang from the table beside him. He picked up the phone, ready to snap if it was Jack Ryan checking up on him!
“Gav? Are you going? You never called me back to let me know.”
“Sorry, Chris, I....” Gavin thought about it for a second, just a second, and that wasn’t nearly enough time to think ahead. “Yeah, I can go for a little while. I’ll meet you there.”
Jack steered his SUV into the parking lot of Chains, not happy and becoming less so every minute, since arriving home early and discovering Gavin’s rental car missing and Gavin himself no where in sight. The parking lot was full, so he decided to drive around and look for the car first, just in case he was mistaken and Gavin really didn’t have a death wish or something.
Driving past the front of the building, Jack had to dodge a few barely dressed beefcakes who ran out in front of him as they exited the ‘meat market’, apparently in a hurry to get to their cars.
He discovered after reading the marquee, that it was ‘FREE Wednesday For Anyone Wearing Jocs and Docs (or less)’.
Well, that explained the less than dressed beefcakes and since the temperature was a very crisp 20 degrees, it was no wonder they were in a hurry.
Jack growled under his breath. Gavin McCourt had better have paid damned good money to get in!
It was the next to the last row, third parking space down, that Jack discovered the silver Maxima idling, smoke rolling from the exhaust and the dome light shining from inside. He could barely make Gavin out through the condensation covered windows. He parked behind it, opened the door of the SUV and made his way toward the car with a purpose.
When he got to the car, Jack peered inside and tapped on the window, confused as to exactly, what in the hell Gavin was doing.
Gavin jumped when he heard the tapping sound and cringed when he saw Jack on the other side of it. And saying he did NOT look happy was an understatement. He looked ready to explode. Steam came out in puffs from his nose and mouth and Gavin was positive it wasn’t from the cold, because he was SURE he saw it streaming from Jack’s ears as well.
He was SO dead. And that was NOT an exaggeration!
He swallowed hard and rolled down the window, just a few inches, then peered up through the crack. “Hi? Your meeting didn’t last very long.”
Jack growled, the steam billowing now around his head. “What in the hell are you doing? It’s 20 degrees out here!”
Gavin blinked, lifting his book so Jack could see. “Reading? I told you I was going to read, remember?”
“Yes, I remember.” Jack leaned against the door and crossed his arms and it wasn’t because of the cold. “I also seem to remember you were told not to leave the house. And I really thought I was clear on that. What in the Hell are you doing out here?”
“I don’t know..I just couldn’t go inside.” Gavin, looking confused and miserable, held up his book again. “So I thought I’d sit out here and...read awhile.”
Jack’s nostrils flared, the steam was practically fire now. He looked around the parking lot, debated on leaving one of the cars here and decided that really wasn’t an option. He rubbed one hand down his face, stopping to rub his chin and just LOOKED at Gavin for a second.
“Home! Now!” Jack pointed a thumb over his shoulder. “Does that need any further clarification?”
Gavin shook his head, eyes wide.
"And Gavin...don't even think of stopping by the airport. There isn't a third world country in this universe that you could hide from me in."
"I know. I’ve kind of figured that out.” Gavin swallowed hard, shaking his head again. He cringed when Jack sent him one last look before heading back to his car.
He really wished there was a third world country somewhere in the universe where he could hide right about now. And then there was another part of him that was very relieved to know that Jack would find him there.
He really WAS confused! It was definitely time to make an appointment to see a professional!
Jack gently pulled Gavin up, careful of his flaming backside and gathered him in his lap. Gavin wrapped his arms around Jack’s neck, shoulders shaking uncontrollably, his whole body trembling and sobbing so hard he could hardly catch his breath. Jack just sat there and held him, knowing that as much as the spanking had made its point and he was positive that it had made its point, there was a much bigger reason behind this reaction.
“I’m s.or.ry..” Gavin buried his face in Jack’s shoulder, still sobbing, unable to say much else.
“Shhh, it’s okay.” Jack rubbed Gavin’s back, holding him close and waited until his sobs had quieted some. He reached for the velour blanket they kept folded on the back of the couch and after helping Gavin off with the pants tangled at his ankles, Jack wrapped him up and held him again.
“I really am sorry.” Gavin buried himself again, slightly calmer and sniffed against Jack’s neck. “I know you said I wasn’t allowed to leave the house. I hate going to those places, ... I didn’t want to go anyway, ...it wasn’t even important.....”
“I know that. We’ve dealt with it and that’s over. And I know that our decision about never going to those places without the other is very important to you, too, Gav.” Jack gently pulled Gavin away from his shoulder and wiped up tears from his face with a tissue. “One that you’ve always agreed with and accepted without question.”
“I know...I’m sorry.” Gavin sniffed, taking the tissue Jack offered. “I do agree with it. That’s why I sat...in the car. I..couldn’t go in.....”
“You’ve spent the past week quietly pushing against the really easy rules, Gav.” Jack rubbed his hands down Gavin’s arms. “Rules we’ve always agreed on and have been very happy living with for really a long time.”
“I know...I’ve been awful.” Gavin cried, he had been awful, hateful even and he hated feeling that way.
“You’ve been miserable.” Jack kissed his forehead. “And actively ignoring any discussion about the real issue; something you’re having very a hard time accepting.”
“It’s hard...”Gavin sniffed as he leaned his head back on Jack’s shoulder. “I don’t remember it ever being this hard.”
“Give it time.” Jack smiled, somewhat wryly, thinking again about how selective Gavin’s memory could be. Oh, Jack could remember a few times when it had been *much* harder than this. He also knew that, in time, Gavin wouldn’t remember this either. It just didn’t fit in with his version of their perfect love story.
“Sometimes it is hard for you to accept certain decisions, Gav. I know that. They’re really hard to make at times, too. And I’ll always listen to your opinions and I can never wait to hear your complaints. But in the end, it is my responsibility to make them. It was a promise I made to you, remember?” Jack smiled against Gavin’s hair. “It was during that ‘special consent meeting’ that you, very conveniently, don’t remember us having?”
“I still don’t remember that meeting, Jack.” Gavin teased, because he knew Jack expected it. He smiled a little at the memory. “But I do remember the promise.”
“I know you do.” Jack turned Gavin around on his lap and lifted his chin. “And I might be able to help you in coming to terms with those hard decisions; even give you reasons for them. But in the end, it is your responsibility to accept them.”
Gavin looked into that crystal blue gaze, loving what he saw there. His voice was still a little shaky. “Yeah, I remember that promise too.”
Jack kissed Gavin’s forehead again. “I know you do.”
Gavin shifted on Jack’s lap, wincing as he tried to find a comfortable spot. He didn’t find one. And he didn’t figure he would be finding a spot like that for awhile. He really wished he had remembered that promise and had been a little more responsible about everything to begin with. He laid his head on Jack’s shoulder, wrapped his arms around his neck and... accepted.
“JACK! ADRIAN AND CONNER ARE HERE!” Gavin yelled up the stairs as he passed, not bothering to look up.
“You want to say that a little louder?” Jack asked, from the middle of the staircase. “I think there’s space station somewhere that didn’t hear you.”
“Sorry about that. I didn’t see you.” ” Gavin grinned up at Jack. “They’re in the kitchen.”
“Are you ready to go car shopping, buddy?” Jack put his arm around Gavin’s shoulder and guided him towards the kitchen.
“Ready as I’ll ever be I guess.” Gavin shrugged, his grin widened. “Jack, I’ve accepted this and I’m fine about it all, I really am. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to complain about it some.”
“I know. It’s part of your charm.” Jack laughed as he kissed Gavin’s cheek. “I promise; we’ll find something we can both live with, okay?”
After entering the kitchen, Jack greeted Conner and Adrian and the four of them sat at the kitchen counter talking. Adrian told them about a few of the cars he thought Gavin would be interested in that were located at several lots affiliated with the dealership he worked for.
“The new Cabriolet looks a lot like your Honda, Gav. There’s a red one sitting over on the Martin Street Lot.” Adrian shuffled through his papers and pulled out a picture.
“I’m looking for something a little bigger this time, Adrian.” Gavin shrugged, trying not to feel too disappointed. He had accepted it, but this was something that was important to him, so he figured it was okay to be a little disappointed.
“You want something bigger?” Adrian looked at Gavin in surprise. “Do you still want a convertible? That’s about all I brought to show you.”
Gavin looked over at Jack and waited for him to answer Adrian. He didn’t. “I don’t know." Gavin shrugged his shoulders. "A convertible might still be an option, but we’ll have to see. I do want something that’s rated pretty safe, you know?”
Adrian nodded his head, then his eyes widened. “Hey, I almost forgot! I have some pictures of your car!” He reached in his briefcase and pulled out an envelope. “I took these when Jack, Conner and I went to take care of your car, I figured you’d want to see what she looked like.”
Gavin opened the envelope and groaned when he saw how mangled his beautiful, little car had been. “God, she looks awful!” Gavin moaned, passing one of the pictures to Jack.
“Yeah, she was a mess.” Adrian agreed. He loved cars and he’d always thought Gavin’s had such personality. “But it’s amazing when you look at her, that you weren’t hurt worse than you were. It was just lucky neither of you were going very fast. Can you imagine if you’d been on the highway?”
“I don’t think I’d be here looking at pictures.” Gavin chuckled as he passed another picture to Jack, who took the picture with very shaky fingers. Very shaky. He peered up at Jack’s handsome and very pasty-white face. Jack was obsessing again, Gavin could tell. He took one of those shaky hands in his, squeezing it a little. “Hey, I’m right here.”
Jack swallowed a very visible lump in his throat and gave Gavin a shaky smile. “Yeah, I know.”
Gavin’s gaze drifted back to the pictures. He just sat there minute, trying to imagine what he’d feel like if that were Jack’s car. He closed his eyes, quickly trying to erase that image. GOD, he didn’t even want to think about that! He couldn’t imagine what his life would be like without Jack in it - that was his biggest fear and worst nightmare!
He could be SO selfish, only thinking of himself, what was important to him. Sometimes he tended to forget that Jack’s biggest fear and worst nightmare..... was a life without him.
And Gavin couldn’t think of anything more important than remembering that.
He threw the pictures on the counter, jumped up off his stool, grabbed Jack’s arm and pulled him towards the door. “Let’s go car shopping!”
Jack rolled the new, red tapestry rug onto the floor, Gavin pulling at it from the other end. They stood back, admiring the way it looked and both nodded their heads in approval at the same time. The red rug looked perfect with the bright yellow walls of the kitchen and it gave the room a completely different look.
“It looks great.” Gavin bent down, centering the rug a little more. “It makes the room feel warmer, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, I like it.” Jack looked around the kitchen. “We should buy those blinds for the windows that we’ve been looking at and the red canister set we saw in that catalog would look nice too.”
“Jack, you’re turning into regular Martha Stewart.” Gavin laughed. “You don’t usually pay attention to those kinds of things.”
“Maybe you’re finally rubbing off on me.”
“I guess we’re both becoming more domesticated, Jack.” Gavin shrugged his shoulders. “We’re getting older, it’s only natural. Don’t feel bad about it or anything.”
“Uhm, well....I don’t feel bad about it.” Jack gave Gavin a clearly baffled look; he’d had that same look on his face ever since they left the car lot earlier today. “Gav, are you sure you’re going to be happy driving around in that thing all the time? You still have time to change your mind.”
“Jack why don’t you believe me? I LOVE it!” Gavin spread his arms out wide. “We’re a growing family. We have Martha now, I need something bigger to drive. And I’m always having to take clients to lunch. This is much more practical.”
“Gavin,” Jack spoke very slowly, still unable to believe it himself. “It’s a..... Mini-Van?”
Gavin grinned so big no one could possibly doubt his excitement over it. “Yeah, isn’t it great?”
“Yeah, it’s great.” Jack rubbed his hand over his face. “Just do me a favor and think it over for a couple of days. You still have time to change your mind.”
“What are you talking about?” Gavin rolled his eyes, held his hands out palms up and shrugged. “The decision on the car was yours. I accepted it, that’s all.”
“Or maybe you finally understood the reason behind the decision?” Jack shook his head, his smile was a little wry. “And I didn’t *decide* on a mini-van, Gav. That was ALL you. I can’t help but think you’re doing this as some kind of Gavin-like grand gesture and you’re going to regret it.”
“Grand gesture?” Gavin blinked in confusion. “When have I ever done that?”
“Well, let’s see, you didn’t want a dog and I remember trying to talk you into letting us get one. Just a nice *little* dog?” Jack cocked a brow when he heard Martha barking from outside and headed for the door to let her in. “And somehow we ended up with, .....Marmaduke?”
“Martha was NOT a grand gesture!” Gavin grinned at Jack’s expression. “Well, we don’t regret her, do we?”
“Only when it’s my turn to clean up the yard!” Jack chuckled as he opened the door, letting Martha in.
He smiled as Martha pranced around his feet. Oh, Martha had been a very Gavin-like grand gesture all right, but it hadn’t taken long for the... shock of her to wear off. She was family now, all one hundred pounds, five feet and......still growing, of her. He figured the mini-van would grow on him as well.
If it had to!
Martha pranced a little more and after the Big Guy patted her headshe ran towards Gavin, not wanting him to feel left out. Her guys could be SO sensitive and she never liked to show favoritism or anything.
She scrambled across the kitchen, tongue hanging out, running in place a few times as she slipped on the hard wood floor and slid to a STOP..... right at the edge of the strange looking red monstrosity, that had mysteriously appeared in the middle of the floor while she had been outside taking care of business.
Horrified, she took a few steps back and glared at the offending object.
Gavin laughed at the look on Martha’s face. “Look at her, Jack. She’s afraid of it.” He squatted down on the rug and patted his knee. “Come here, girl. It won’t hurt you.”
Martha whimpered and backed up a little more. She sniffed and stuck her nose in the air. She knew *IT* wouldn’t hurt her! She knew EXACTLY what *IT* was! There was a similar looking object lying in front of the couch in the family room, and she knew crom experience what *IT* was USED for.
Oh, her guys couldn’t fool her! She knew exactly what they were going to use THIS one for too!
And her guys were apparently planning on Wiggling right here in this very room!
She had accepted this Wiggling Business as a fact of life around this house and if it made her guys happy she really couldn’t complain. But she really felt that wiggling right HERE in the very room her food bowls were kept was going much TOO far!
Her people were SO strange! She wondered if any of her friends in the neighborhood had similar problems with their people.
Well, she was pretty sure that Bernie the Chihuahua’s people were probably Wigglers. Bernie was always sneaking under the fence in the back yard and attaching himself to her leg. He MUST have gotten that idea from HIS people.
Oooooh, that Bernie! He was a Wiggler, that’s for sure!
Jack laughed as he squatted down on the rug beside Gavin. He patted his leg. “Come on, girl. It’s okay.”
Martha whimpered again. She pushed her body up against the counter and carefully slithered around the edge of the Wiggle Rug until she reached the other side. She plopped down on the floor and sent her boys a glare.
Oh, this was just going MUCH too far!
The look on her face had Gavin laughing so hard, he sat down on the rug and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.
“Jack, look at her face! It’s hysterical!”
“I wonder what she thinks it is.” Jack laughed, shoulders shaking as he sat down beside Gavin, leaning back with his elbows on the rug.
They laughed again when Martha stuck her nose in the air, turned her back on them and regally pranced towards her food and water bowls.
“I don’t know, but she sure doesn’t like it.” Gavin laughed, his eyes were sparkling as he tilted his head to the side, grinning over at Jack. “We should pull her on it and let her get used to it, I guess.”
“Yeah, that’s probably what we’ll have to do.” Jack said laughing, there was a slight catch in his throat when he saw that look in Gavin’s eyes, the grin on his face. He felt his heart skip a beat, just like it always did and had done from the very first time he’d seen that trademark Gavin grin. God, he’d missed seeing it there the past couple of weeks.
Gavin felt his body go warm when he saw that look in Jack’s eyes, that look that had always made him feel so loved and safe and wanted. And that look could appear there at the strangest times too and for no reason at all, or so it seemed.
But this time Gavin was pretty sure he knew the reason. Of course, Jack would never admit it! He’d just make up some lame excuse about how Gavin’s grin always did him in. Well, it usually did, Jack was just SO easy! But Gavin knew there was more to it than that. This time anyway!
It was the Rug!
Gavin knew that Jack liked having 'kitchen floor sex' just as much as he did.
Leaning forward, he pressed both hands against Jack’s chest and pushed a little, until he was lying flat on that rug. Gavin straddled his body and rested his butt on Jack’s groin.
He Wiggled a little.
“We can get her used to the rug later. Much later. I figure we should, ......break it in first.” Gavin grinned again, as he rubbed his hands down Jack’s chest, stopping to loosen the belt buckle at his waist. “Sound like a plan?”
“We could go..... upstairs?” Jack groaned when Gavin wiggled again. He rubbed his hands down Gavin’s hips and pulled him forward. “We’re going to get rug burns and”...Jack moaned... “even with the rug, it’ll still be ... hard on the knees.”
Gavin wiggled again, leaning forward he nuzzled Jack’s ear. “Sometimes, even when it’s hard ...it’s worth it. Don’t you think?”
“Yeah.....” Jack pulled on Gavin’s hips and after rolling him over on his back he brushed Gavin’s lips with his own and whispered in his ear. “....it’s always worth it.”
Martha’s head jerked up from her bowl when she heard those all too familiar noises. Wiggling noises! She took a chance and peeked around the island bar, not surprised in the least at what she saw there.
Well, maybe kitchen wiggling wasn’t so bad. If it made her guys this happy she just couldn’t complain.
Maybe she should try a little wiggling of her own. She had heard through the neighborhood grapevine that Bernie the Chihuahua had a little bit of a crush on her. Bernie wasn’t a bad sort, and although he was a bit on the short side, he WAS kind of cute.
Maybe the next time Bernie crawled under the fence and attached himself to her leg, ....she wouldn’t be so quick in flinging him off.
She’d just let him wiggle.
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