by Rusty

"He was SO out," Jenny called out, running towards the infield, from her position way in the outfield. She usually played short stop, but Daniel's wife, Lori wanted to play the infield for a change, so Jenny switched with her.  Jenny hated not being where the action was. "Wasn't he out Gavin?"

Gavin, who was pitching, in what always started out to be a friendly little family softball game, grinned at the irate imp and  said, "Sorry Jen, I didn't see it."

It wouldn't have mattered if he'd seen it or not.  When the "ref" called you out, you were OUT. If the "ref" called you safe, you were SAFE.  No sense in arguing.

Jack, who was playing for the other side and had just slid safely, according to the "ref," into third base, looked over to Gavin and  said, "If you didn't see it, I don't know HOW she could have."  Then looking over to his sister, he said, "Just how DID you see it Jen, you were about 500 yards away."

Never having been intimadated by her Neandrathal brothers, even though she was a good  foot shorter than any of them, Jenny stood in front of Jack, straightening to her full 5'2 and glared staight into her brothers ....well, lower chest. 

"ANYBODY could have seen THAT.  YOU were just SO out," she sputtered.    Jenny took her sports as seriously as any Ryan.

"And *I* called him safe," John C. Ryan II, aka..Big John Ryan, called again.  The *I* being the final say in any and all Ryan sports activities. Well, any and all Ryan arguments, period.

He was 6'4,  a full two inches taller than the tallest Ryan son, with shoulders as wide as any doorway Gavin had ever yet to walk through.  At 55 years of age, he still planned on five more years before he retiring from the Cleveland Police Department, and there wasn't a criminal out their who would want to tangle with him. He always said after having raised five kids,  not one of them ever getting into any real trouble, he "damn well saw to that", putting each of them through college, there wasn't much that could intimidate him.

When Big John called you safe...well, you were safe. 

"Oh Dad, we're going to have to buy you some binoculars if you're going to ALWAYS insist on being the ref," Jenny muttered and turned to run back to her position in the outfield.
"Dad, you must be losing your touch.  You're just gonna to let her get away with talking to you like that?" Jack said smiling at his Dad.  "She's such a brat," 

"Yeah, she's always gotten away with murder," Patrick, the second Ryan son called from second base. His big smile spead across his face.  Patrick was always smiling.

Sean, the third and as yet only unattached Ryan son, who was standing  behind home plate, flipped up his catchers mask and called out, "Boy, isn't THAT the truth.  We never got away with anything. Why is that Dad?" 

Jenny turned around, glaring at her brothers teasing and called to Sean, "YOU are supposed to be on MY team.  What ever happened to loyalty between teammates." 

"I'll tell you why boys....she's prettier than all four of you put together," Big John said, grinning at his boys.  

Daniel, number four Ryan son, who was also on Jenny, Gavin and Sean's team called out, "It's only because she looks like Mom. I'm telling you Dad, spoiling her the way you did was a great disservice to ALL of mankind." 

"You're supposed to be on my side too Daniel," Jenny called out, trying to hold back a smile.  It was hard to look mad when you were really have such a great time. 

Just then a tiny woman with dark brown hair, the very image of Jenny, called out the back door, "It's time to start the steaks John."  It always amazed Gavin that this tiny woman had given birth to those four hulking Ryan sons.

Big John smiled at the woman and called back, "We're on our way darlin'."

Big John might be the head of the Ryan Clan, but this woman was the heart of John Ryan.  Every other Ryan knew that. 

There were various wives, aunts, uncles, cousins and several friends who tended to stop by for Sundays at the Ryans. Everyone was welcome and you never knew who was going to show up.  Each Sunday in the summer John and Mary Ryan had a cookout and there was always enough food for whomever happened to drop by.  In the winter there was always a potluck and everyone crammed into the old two story house.

Everyone started towards the house, the women heading towards the door of the kitchen to help Mary Ryan.  The men, including all the Ryan "boys" following their Dad to the grill at the side of the old two story house they had all had grown up in.  It was a traditional house, the women doing the cooking, the men doing the grilling.  Although, the men were in charge of the kids while the women finished up the side dishes in the house. 

There seemed to be kids everywhere, but there were actually only five today.  Patrick's two boys were five and six.  Daniel had twin boys that had just turned five and the littlest darling was Katie, who had just turned three.  Sean and Jenny weren't married yet, and being a Ryan " you had better damn well be married before procreating all over the damn country".  This was a firm rule set in stone by Big John Ryan himself. 

Jack and Gavin, of course, didn't have any children as yet.  After seven years together, they still hadn't decided which one of them would have to get pregnant. 

Gavin, heading towards the side of the house with the rest of the men, was stopped short, almost tripping over the littlest Ryan, who held out her arms and said, "Up Gabin." 

Gavin smiled down at Katie and bent down to pick her up.  "You need a ride, sweetie," he asked her, lifting her up onto his shoulders.  She loved riding on Gavin's shoulders.  She just loved Gavin period.  Whenever the Ryans were together, from the time she was able to crawl, she followed him around like a puppy.   

Jack looked up to see Gavin headed towards the rest of them and smiled.  "She found you. It's a wonder she let you play with the rest of us."

"We found each other. Isn't that right Katy?" Gavin reached a hand up and tickled her tummy, causing her to giggle in that way that made Gavin melt. 

Jack chuckled saying, "Gavin, you really should get off the birth control darlin'.  We're NOT getting any younger." 

"I've told you before, YOU get off the birth control. Ain't NO way,"  Gavin laughed, then winced as Katy yanked on his hair. 

Seeing her brothers and cousins playing with the hose and deciding that might be fun, she yanked on his hair again and said, "Down Gabin." 

Lifting her off of his shoulders, he held her out in front of him and puckered his lips, "Kiss first." She puckered her lips, gave him a peck and then squirmed to be let down.  She then grabbed his hand and said, "mon Gabin, pway wif me." 

Gavin looked over at the boys with the hose.  And the mud they were making. Then looked back down to Katie.  God, she was so cute.  He didn't like to tell her no, but didn't really want to play in the mud just now.

"Why don't you let Uncle Gabin stay with me this time Katydid," Jack said, smiling at the little imp.  "He needs to stay and help Grampa."

"NO, Gabin, c'mon wif me," she stomping her cute little foot and giving her Uncle Jack a puckered frown.  Gavin was hers. She didn't like to share him.

Uncle Jack cocked an eyebrow at her. 

She let go of Gavin's hand and started running toward that hose. Not without a look back at Uncle Jack to fix him with a glare. As far as she was concerned, Uncle Jack was  always taking Gabin away from HER time with him. 

"What IS it about that eyebrow?" Gavin said smiling.

"You really should learn how to say no to her.  She's a little monster," Jack said, chuckling. "Good thing we DON'T have any kids.   

Gavin laughed, "She's NOT a monster. She just knows what a good catch I am."
"She know's she's got you wrapped," Jack smiled. "Come on, you can help me set up the table for the food."  

After the grilling and all the food was brought outside and placed on the food table in the yard, everyone sat down around the picnic table that Big John had made himself.  Extra large to accomdate his family. They ate steaks, three different salads, Mary's sweet potato cassorole.  There were pies and cakes.  They all ate too much. They talked about sports, politics and laughed at childhood stories that Gavin loved to listen to.  The Ryans tended to talk over each other.  They played hard, laughed loud, argued louder, but never with any malice. 

Gavin loved them all.  The easy way they were with each other.  How welcomed they had made him feel from the very first time Jack had brought him home.

It might seem odd to some that Big John Ryan,  a gruff, Irish Catholic cop, didn't blink an eye at having a gay son. Or that his son's gay partner was just as welcome in his home as any other of his children. But that was the way it was.  

Family was family. 

Driving home that night Gavin thought, not for the first time,  how different Jack's family was from his own.  Well, Jack's family was his own now, but, different from the family he had come from.  Gavin's parent's were educated, upper class people.  Not upper middle class. But upper class.  His father was CEO of a major steel plant.  Although, the last Gavin had heard, he'd retired now.  His mother was an English professor.  They were both very educated, intelligent people.  They were also stiff, unforgiving and very critical people.  They just didn't know how to love the son they had because he was so different from the son they had wanted.    

Funny, how a man like Big John Ryan, who probably never finished the 8th grade, and  had never made more than 50,000 dollars in one year... probably half that when he was raising his family, had more intelligence and  real wealth in one of his little big fingers than either of his double degreed monied parents had in their whole body.  Of course, Big John Ryan was a very big man, so he had to have a very big heart to go with it. 

Noticing how unusually quiet Gavin was being, Jack took his right hand off the steering wheel of his SUV and grabbed onto Gavin's hand, resting them both on the console.  "You tired?" Jack asked.

"No, just thinking.  I love Sunday's at the Ryan's,"  Gavin looked over at Jack and smiled.

"We're LOUD," Jack chuckled. 

Gavin laughed, "VERY loud."   .
On Wednesday, Gavin opened the garage door and pulled his car in, noticing that Jack wasn't home yet.   It was Gavin's turn to cook dinner. He'd have a few minutes head start, maybe they could eat dinner a little early and still have time to run over to the mall to pick up a suit he had bought and left to be altered.  

Entering through the door to the kitchen, Gavin dropped his briefcase on the counter and headed for the fridge.  Pulling out the things he needed to start dinner, he laid everything on the counter and then, noticing the light on the phone, pushed the button to listen to the messages. 

The first voice was Greg, wanting to know if he and Jack would be interested in tickets to the Indians Game this Friday. Cool, Gavin thought, as he began chopping an onion for the stir fry. The next message was apparently a hang up, but the next voice he heard had him stopping mid chop.

"Gavin, this is ...Moth..Mom.  Could you, .. please.... call me as soon as you can reach us at.."

God, Gavin thought. She even stumbles over the word ...Mom.  Of course, she doesn't know the meaning of the word, so how could he expect her to know how to prononce it. 

He stared at the phone.  Why would SHE be calling NOW.  What had it been,....six years..since the last time they had spoken?   

Six years, two months, three days, Gavin looked up at the clock on the mircrowave.... and 4 hours, give or take a few minutes. 

Ten years ago, when Gavin had decided that living a lie was just too hard, he had told his parents the truth about himself.  They were angry, embarrassed and extremely sure that at 19, he couldn't possibly know what he was saying. They couldn't possibly have a gay son.  For the next three years their relationship, always strained anyway, had become even more uncomfortable. 

Then he met Jack.  Moved in with him.  Making a life together.  Gavin was happy and for the very first time in his life, felt the power that came with being truly accepted for who he was.   

His parents had met Jack a couple of times. Very strained meetings that usually left Gavin feeling drained and depressed for days after.  A year after he and Jack had starting living together, his father had made a very hurtful and hateful comment about Jack.  Well, that was the very last straw.  Angry words were exchanged. Hurtful things were said by both of them.  Gavin's mother just stood there, and Gavin knew she sided with his father on everything that was said. His father had basically said, it's either Jack or us. And he could forget about any inheritance if he made the wrong choice.   

Well, to Gavin the choice had been so very easy. He had never once had any regrets.  He hadn't spoken to either of them since.   He sure as hell wasn't going to call her back.

As far as he was concerned, THEY had made THEIR choice.  They didn't deserve a second chance.
Jack arrived home about six o'clock, entering through the kitchen door from the garage and dropping his breifcase beside Gavin's.  He wrapped his arms around Gavin's waste and leaned his head down over his shoulder. "Hey, what's for dinner?"

"Just stir fry.  I thought we could make it quick and easy, then run over to the mall to pick up my new suit.  That okay with you?" Gavin asked, leaning his head back for a quick kiss. 

"Sure," Jack said, letting go of Gavin and walking towards the bathroom off the hall beside the kitchen.  Leaving the door open he called out, "Did you stop on the way home and pay your insurance premium?" 

Crap, he'd forgotten to do that.  He'd already received a late notice that Jack had found in the bill drawer.  He wasn't exactly happy about it either. 

"Taken care of," Gavin called out, then added in a whisper, "tomorrow." 

Gavin heard the toliet flush and the water in the sink running.  Then Jack walked back into the kitchen,  and pressed  the button for the messages on the phone.

Insurance premiums immediatly forgotten, Gavin rushed over to the phone and slapped his hand over the button saying, "I've already listened to the messages. Greg and John have tickets for the Indians game on Friday.  You wanna go?"

Jack looked up at Gavin, a frown puckering his brow, "Okay, yeah.  We can go. Was that all that was on the machine?" 

"All that was important," Gavin replied, looking at Jack with his own frown.

"There are three messages on the machine Gav.  What are the others about?" Jack asked again.

Gavin looked up again, "One was a hang up, the other one isn't important. I should have erased it."

"Gavin, is there a message on the machine you don't want me to hear for some reason?" Jack asked, thinking that the call must have upset him somehow. 

"Why in the hell do you always assume that I've DONE something?" Gavin snapped out, then slammed the knife down on the counter and headed for hallway.  "Am I THAT bad, that you see possible crimes everytime you turn around, Mr. Attorney.  I've always thought you should've been a goddamn prosecutor."

"OKAY, I don't know WHAT'S wrong with you.  I just asked you a simple question and you're getting ... Jack started, grabbing Gavin by the arm to stop him. 

Gavin interupted yelling, "It WASN'T a DAMN simple questions. YOU were accusing me of something and you KNOW it." 

"I WASN'T accusing you of ANYTHING.  But if you don't calm down right now I WILL have something ....Jack started yet again.

"WHAT .. you gonna spank me Big Man?" Gavin sneered, trying without much success to jerk his arm out of Jack's grasp. 

Since they apparently weren't going to get anywhere near the real reason for Gavin's little tantrum by calmly discussing it, Jack took Gavin's sneered remark as a suggestion.  He turned Gavin slightly with the arm he held and brought his other  hand down with a smack on to Gavin's butt, "Yes, I guess I am," then swatted him twice more.

"Ouch, okay, okay," Gavin yelped, jumping with each crack of Jack's palm.

Still holding his arm, Jack stopped in mid swing.  Holding his hand up ready to land another smack, he asked, "Do you want to tell me what's wrong now?"

"Nothings wrong," Gavin said and then covering his butt with his right hand, quickly added, "go ahead and listen to the message.  It's not important anyway." 

Jack looked into Gavin's eyes, seeing confusion and what seemed to Jack like panic. "Are you sure you don't want to tell me about it first?"

"No, if you listen, it'll explain everything," Gavin said softly. 

Jack let go of Gavin's arm and slowly walked over to the counter, pressing the message button on the phone.  He listened to the invitation to the game, the hang up and then the unfamiliar voice, that, after identifing herself, Jack understood was the source of Gavin's problem. 

Looking over at Gavin, still standing in the doorway of the kitchen, he asked softly, "What are you going to do, Gav?"

"Nothing.  Not one damn thing." Having said that, Gavin turned back around and went to the counter to finish the dinner he had started.

"Gav, don't you think it would be a good idea to call her ...see what she wants?"  Jack asked Gavin, leaning on the counter resting his chin on his hands.  "It may be something important."

"What could be so damn important after six years, Jack?  We don't even KNOW each other as far as I'm concerned." Gavin adding the onions, peppers and whatever else he could find into the pan on the stove.

"Want to talk about it?" Jack asked Gavin, straightning up and heading around the counter to the cupboards, he opened the door  that held the dishes and started set them at the bar counter.  They could just eat there this evening. 

"Nothing to talk about.  I've made my decision.  NOTHING is going to change my mind," he stirred his creation in the pan.

"It's your decision.  I know they hurt you Gav," Jack said, reaching for a bowl to put the stir fry in and walking up beside Gavin, placed it on the counter.  He placed his hands on Gavin's shoulders and began to rub.

"But just something to keep in mind. It's never a good idea to burn bridges.  It's never to late to start again, either.  Family's important."

"You're family isn't anything like my family, Jack," Gavin said, picking up the pan and dumping it's contents into the bowl Jack had placed on the counter.  He picked up the bowl and moved it over to the bar counter.  

"Gavin, my family IS your family. Don't ever forget that.  But that doesn't mean that you couldn't build something with you're parents.  It may not ever be like the Ryans.  Different, but still good." Jack opend up the silverware drawer, grabbing some forks and knifes, then took a seat at the bar. 

Gavin started putting the stir fry on the plates and looked up at Jack. "Why bother? They don't deserve a second chance as far as I'm concerned."  He grabbed two cans of coke out of the fridge and sat down across the bar from Jack.

Jack looked up at Gavin and smiled.  "Gavin, you've been a part of the Ryan clan for seven years now.  Haven't you learned anything from John and Mary Ryan in all that time." "There's no such thing as too many chances when it comes to family,"" quoting a line right from Big John Ryan himself.

"Dad would tan you good, if he heard you talking like that." 

Gavin looked up at Jack and smiled slowly, "I wish you would've taken after your Mom more.  You're WAY to much like your Dad."

"What are you talking about?  Mom could wield a wooden spoon  that could make you wish for Dad's belt, let me tell you, " Jack chuckled.. "She's just mellowed with age."

"Tell me again, the story about when you and Patrick set fire to the field.  I LOVE that story," Gavin said, with an evil smile. 

"YOU are a sadist.  You only like that story because I got the belt AND the spoon," Jack laughed, "You rub you're hands together like you're about to open a present everytime someone starts to tell it."

"'Can't help it.  I just love knowing you weren't always the one in charge of everything.  It makes you seem more human," Gavin said laughing between bites of stir fry. 

Jack took a drink of coke and set it down on the table.  Pushing his stir fry around on his plate, he looked up at Gavin and asked, "So, what are you gonna do?" 

Meeting Jack's gaze he thought to himself.... I'm going to do what a Ryan would do. Because what ever else I am, I'm also a Ryan.  In the heart, anyway. 

"I'll call her, " he said softly. 

Satisfied with the answer, Jack took a bite of stir fry.  Picking up his coke again he said, "One summer Patrick and I were playing "wilderness men" and decided we needed to build a fire to cook our prey over.  I stole some matches out of the drawer in the kitchen and....... 

Gavin rubbed his hands together. .

They decided not to go to the mall that evening.  Since it was Gavin's night to cook, Jack cleaned up the kitchen, then headed upstairs to check on Gavin.  He had said he would make the call, but hadn't done it as yet.  Jack didn't want him agonizing about it all evening and figured he was probably in their bedroom doing just that.

Jack understood why Gavin was nervous about calling.  He had only met with the McCourts a handful of times, feeling the tension between them and their son was obvious on each of those occasions.  Jack had tried to make conversation and the McCourts, being well bred people,  were cordial, but you could sense their disapproval of both him and Gavin.  You could also feel the yearning, on both their parts, for something more than what was between them.  Each of those meetings had left Gavin depressed and deflated for several days.   

To Jack, family was family. You were loved unconditionally.  Sure, there were expectations in his family and rules that you lived by and if expections weren't met or if a rule was broken there were consequences and you paid  them.  But then you were forgiven and it was forgotten.  There were no strings attached to the love his family had for one another.  You were accepted for who you were and expected to live up to who ever that was. 

He knew Gavin wanted a relationship with his family.  He knew he had been hurt by their obvious disappointment in WHO he was. Jack had tried contacting the McCourts after that last blow up six years ago, thinking maybe if he talked with them, calmly, he could possibly mend the rift between them and Gavin. His calls were not returned.

Until now.  

Well, six years might be considered by some as to long a wait in returning a  phone call.  But, like he'd told Gavin before, there were never  to many chances when it came to family.  It was never to late to start over and build something from where they were now. Maybe the McCourts were now ready to accept Gavin for who he was.  Maybe Gavin could accept them for what ever they were able to give.

"Gav, what are you doing?" Jack ask as he entered their bedroom.  He looked in the master bathroom off the bedroom and found Gavin in there under the sink.  

"I'm cleaning out from under the sink.  There's so much junk in here we never use, " Gavin said from beneath the cabinet. Holding a hand out over the cabinet door, "Look at this.  When was the last time we ever used hair spray, for crying out loud.  I don't even remember buying this."

"I think it's Jen's.  What made you start cleaning out from under there all of a sudden?" Jack asked, looking down at the top of Gavin's head.

"Don't know. Seemed like a good time as any," came the reply from beneath the cabinet. 

"Come on out from under there Gavin.  You're just putting things off.  Just make the call and you'll feel better having it out of the way, okay." Jack leaned over and pulled on Gavin's arm.

"How would you know if I'll feel better?" Gavin said, trying to pull his arm out of Jack's grasp. "I'll call when I'm ready."

"You're ready now." Jack pulled Gavin to his feet and pushed him out the door of the bathroom and nudged him through through the bedroom.  He thought it best to make the call down in the kitchen.  

"HOW come YOU get to decide everything anyway, Jack Ryan?" Gavin complained towards the Neandrathal pushing him from behind.

"You're NOT going to agonize over this all night.  Just do it and get it over with.  You'll fool around and wait until it's to late to call tonight and then you won't be able to sleep." Jack said, still nudging Gavin at the top of the stairs. 

Gavin started walking down the stairs as slow as he possibly could with Jack nudging at him.  He was having plenty of second thoughts about calling. He stopped short on the third step from the bottom.

"NO.  I've decided NOT to call. And you CAN'T make me call either."

A swat landed hard on his butt that propelled him the three steps needed to reach the bottom. 

"That's NOT fair.  You can't DO this," Gavin whined.  Another swat landed, and they continued another few steps, then he stopped again. 

"Jaaack, you can't MAKE me call if I decide I DON'T want to." 

The next swat landed with more force than the other two. That swat had him moving through the hall and into the kitchen. 

"Jack, STOP doing that.  You said it was MY decision."

"And you made the decision. I'm just helping you follow through.  I'm NOT going to allow you to work yourself in to a state of panic over this Gav.  You WANT to make the call.  I KNOW you do. So DO it," Jack replied, as his hand applied the next swat that landed with a little less force, but still pushed Gavin the extra steps he needed to reach the counter. 

"I'm more than willing to make an issue over it Gavin.  We won't even have to go to the basement.  I can just pull out a kitchen chair, pull down your pants right here and then you can make the call sitting on a hot rear end.  I would think you'd rather make the call without having a stuffy nose and hoarse throat from howling. 'Cause believe me, Gav... I could make you howl," Jack said, stating a fact he had proven on many occasion, as he pushed Gavin onto the stool at the counter.

Gavin plopped down on the stool at the counter by the phone.  His butt was safer sitting down anyway.  He also figured he should sit while he still could. 

He DID want to make the call.  But he was afraid. What if they rejected him again?  It had taken him a long time to get over that feeling and he didn't want to go back there.  Ever!

"I'm here with you, Gav," Jack said, knowing Gavin was nervous and afraid.  "Right here beside you.  What ever happens... happens.  All you have to do is dial the number and let the cards fall where they may. It could end up being a good thing."  

Jack rested his hands on  Gavin's shoulders and rested his forehead against his.

"Just remember this...if it doesn't work out and they don't want to begin again, it will change nothing about who
you are right now.  You'll still have me.  You'll still have the rest of the Ryan's.  You will have at least tried.  If what they want isn't  to be a part of your life, it's their loss. You'll have lost nothing." Jack smiled down at Gavin and  kissed him on the forehead.  "But, you just might gain something....if you make the call." 

How does he do it, Gavin thought?  How does he always know the right thing to say?  The right thing to do?  Gavin stood up from his stool and wrapped his arms around Jack, holding him.  He leaned his head up and kissed his lips. Then turned around towards the counter and picked up the phone. 

Jack sat across the counter from Gavin, looking at some bills they'd received in the mail that day. Not really seeing them, mostly listening to Gavin talk on the phone.  From what Jack could tell from hearing only one side of the conversation, his parent's had retired to Naples, Florida and were in Cleveland visiting friends. Apparently they had heard that Gavin had started his own business and Gavin filled them in on a few of those details.  He told them a little about their house and what remodleing they had done, some of the plans they had for it.  Wanting to see him before they returned to Naples, Gavin mentioned something about coming by the house on Saturday, maybe for a late lunch or something. When he said 2:00 would be fine, Jack assumed they had agreed.

When Gavin said goodbye and hung up the phone, he stood staring at it for a few moments, then looked up at Jack, his eyes glistening.  He went around the counter to Jack and wrapped his arms around him again.  Closing his eyes he whispered, "
Thank you."

Jack and Gavin stood in the driveway waving goodbye to Gavin's parents as they pulled out onto the street. 

"This ended up being a really nice afternoon, don't you think?" Jack asked Gavin, putting an arm around his shoulder.

"Well, it could have been worse,' Gavin said smiling, turning toward the front of the house.  "It was NO Sunday at the Ryan's that's for sure.

"They tried Gavin.  And we have PLENTY of Ryans, anyway.  They're just different. These things take time," Jack said, climbing up the front steps onto the porch.   He held the door open while Gavin pulled the mail out of the box.

"They seemed really proud hearing about your work.  They must have kept up about you through friends.  You're Dad seemed to know a lot about some of your clients," Jack said to Gavin as he passed through the door.

Leading the way through the foyer and down the hall to the kitchen, Gavin headed straight for the fridge, dropping the mail on the counter on the way. He took two cans of coke out and sat them on the counter.

"Yeah, I kind of got that impression too.  I don't understand it, Jack.  Why didn't they just call ME?  I mean, if they wanted to know what was going on with me, why ask other people?"

"Who knows, Gav," Jack said, sitting down on the bar stool and opening his coke can.   "Maybe they were waiting for YOU to call them.  They may have felt that you were rejecting who they are, by being who you are." 

Jack took a drink from his can. "They're getting older, maybe they've mellowed some and maybe they just wanted a second chance. Like I said, who knows. Just start from here and now, forget the past." 

He raised his coke can in a toast, "To second chances."

"Yeah, to second chances," Gavin said, raising his own can, then took a drink and smiled.  "It did seem okay.  I mean, at first I was nervous and I could tell they were too, but after that first few minutes it seemed okay. They're nothing like the Ryans though." 

Jack nodded his head. "They're  never going to be loud and expressive in their feelings Gav.  Their never going to be like you or the Ryans or anyone else.  They're  nice people.  You just have to accept them in the same way you want them to accept you. Build on that."

"The Ryan Way," Gavin smiled,  then frowned as he glanced at the mail sitting on the counter.  He noticed what looked like a pink slip through the window of the envelope on top.  The return address said Nationwide Auto Insurance.

Crap.  Being a nervous wreck since Wednesday, he had forgotton to stop by the office to pay that damn premium.   

Jack noticing the look on Gavin's face followed his gaze down to the mail on the counter.  Seeing the envelope with the pink slip showing through it, he picked it up and looked at it closer. 

"Is this what I think it is?" he asked, looking up from the envelope into the very sick looking face of Gavin McCourt.

"I can explain," Gavin started, but Jack interupted. 

"You told me on Wednesday you had taken care of it.  Did it cross in the mail, do you think?" Jack asked, looking hopeful.

Not being able to lie...well, outright anyway, Gavin stuttered out, "Well,, what I said was....."taken care of", and then I said  "tomorrow", .... but you, uh, . may not have heard me say that part of it, you see."

Crossing his muscular arms over his big chest, Jack cocked his head to one side and said, "Might that be because you "whispered" that part in hopes that I WOULDN'T hear you?"   

Not waiting for an answer, Jack uncrossed his arms and pointed his thumb towards the basement door, sort of like a hitchhiker does when flagging a ride. 

Gavin, not wanting to pick up this paticular hitchiker,  whined, "But Jaaack, I've been so stressed the last few days......I promise, I'll go first thing Monday morning."

Jack just pointed that thumb again.  Gavin slid off his stool and slowly headed around the counter towards the door, keeping a safe distance from Jack on his way by.  He gave Jack a look that said,  "Can't you see how upset I've been?" 


He moved. ..........................................................