My thanks to Ricky beta reading.
After getting gas I headed straight to school. My fingers tapped in time to the music on the radio and, when at stoplights, I was wiggling in my seat and singing along. I suppose, for some folks, they'd say that being woken up by blow job instead of an alarm clock makes you happy. I can't really argue that, but having Lucien in my bed all night was right up there, as well.
I walked toward the school, whistling to myself, when my mellow morning was interrupted by Phil Ashmore.
“Hi, Robin,” he said, falling in next to me.
“You look happy today. Get laid last night?”
I stopped and turned my head to look at him.
“I'm kidding!” he said, raising his hands. “Unless you think it's funny, anyway.”
“One day, Phil, you may have friends that will find that funny. Today is not that day,” I said. “I don't want to hear a single thing about Lucien, Me, Hamster or Derek and any sexual reference. Otherwise I just won't talk to you. Okay?”
“Got it. Sorry.”
I resumed walking towards the doors and Phil, undeterred, joined me.
“So, I was wondering. Is Jamie gay?”
“Well, that sucks. I heard there is some guy Sean holds hands with, is that his boyfriend?”
“No,” I said, pulling up short and looking down at him. “They are friends. Why? What are you up to?”
“I need a boyfriend, or more specifically, I need to get laid.” He slowly wilted as I glared at him.
“And you think, somehow, my brothers are the perfect people for that?” I narrowed my eyes and he swallowed visibly.
“I...It's just...well, Jamie and Sean are so...hot – cool! I meant cool!” he said, raising his hands as I took a step closer to him.
“My brothers are both straight and, even if they weren't, they aren't someone I'd just toss to you so you could get your rocks off,” I snarled.
“Robin, wait, please!” he said, desperately. “I'm not trying to be a jerk! How can I say I like someone without making you mad?”
“Stop talking about them like they have no feelings or brains! They aren't just bodies walking around for you to get off on!”
“Okay, okay!” he said, hands still out in front of him. “Jesus, how can I talk about guys? I mean, don't you?”
“Not like that,” I said. “I mean, I recognize that guys are good looking – but you're in a different category, Phil. You have a reputation with us, and not a good one.”
“But...” he dropped his hands and his shoulders slumped. “Isn't it normal to talk about guys you like?”
“Sure it is,” I said, softening my tone. “But, Phil, you don't sound like you know or respect any of them. All you do is make sexual jokes or references at their expense.”
“I'm just...dying not to be a virgin anymore!” Phil whispered and glanced around to ensure he wasn't heard. “Didn't you want to get laid when you were my age?”
“Of course. But I was also a little nervous, and I didn't want to screw it up. I also wanted to find the right person to do that with, not just some random hole.”
“I don't...understand. I mean,” he leaned in conspiratorially and said, “guys are always ready, right?”
His reply was cut off by Sophie's arrival, and then that of Lucien and my brothers. Lucien kissed me and thanked me for the note.
“What sort of sweet note did he leave you?” Sophie asked.
“I'm not telling you anything,” he replied, laughing.
“Oh, come on, Cowboy! It can't be worse than what I can think up!”
There was a round of laughter and then the first bell rang. Being a year ahead of our friends, I had no classes with them, save second period with Lucien. It was a European history class and we were both doing well in it without trying all that hard. Still, I didn't get much of a chance to talk to anyone, even at lunch, as rumors were starting to swirl about Gavin and his 'groin pull'. Sophie managed to silence our table, for the sake of Phil's ears – or perhaps, by Phil not knowing, she was saving Gavin.
After school I had lacrosse practice. I was a little surprised to find Devyn waiting for me when I got done, leaning against my car.
“Hey, Dev,” I greeted him as I put my stuff in the tail of the car.
He waved in greeting and then signed, asking for a ride.
“Yeah, sure. You coming to study group or you want me to drop you at Griff's for a ride?”
'He'll take me home, after,' he signed. As I reached to key the ignition, his hand darted out to still mine. Glancing at him in question, he moved his fingers. 'I need to talk to you, but I need to use my computer, okay?'
“Yeah, sure.” I sat back in my seat as he pulled a small laptop from his backpack and was, shortly, tapping out a message. Turning the screen I read, 'This will be easier, since your sign isn't...the best.'
“Oho! You're going to start this conversation by busting my chops over a second language?” I chuckled.
'Yes.' he typed. 'More importantly, what I have to talk about is kind of complex and personal, so I didn't want to risk any misunderstanding.'
“Okay. What's going on?”
'Okay, so...Griffin and I have been dating for about three months. Both of us are very comfortable about where we are, but...'
“Is this about...sex?”
'Yes and no. How long did you wait before your first time?'
“Oh. Um, you know, whatever I did or anyone else does, that doesn't mean it's right for you guys, you know?”
'I know. Griffin and I are unique, both having been victims of abuse. That doesn't mean we aren't talking about it and we've come close, at points. You and Lucien are about the most perfect couple I know, so it seems like a good place to start.'
“Well...” I sighed. “My first time was with a guy named Charlie. I admit we were a little uninformed when it came to having sex and, it kind of matters what you call sex, as well. Like, some people say oral isn't sex, you follow me?”
Devyn nodded, lap top forgotten and the screen saver up.
“So, for Charlie and I, it was only a few weeks and we felt we'd made love.” I felt a heat build in my face and I smiled at Devyn, staring at me so raptly. “You might think that we had anal that night, but it was actually a whole lot of exploring and oral. Still, we both felt like we'd lost our virginity – we'd crossed a line.”
He woke the computer and typed, 'Did you both feel comfortable?'
“Oh, yeah, very. It probably took us six months to start testing out the whole anal sex thing. We were pretty happy doing what we were doing, but we watched porn like anyone else and we talked about doing it. Of course, like any other horny people our age, we had a hard time finding times and places where we could be alone, uninterrupted.”
'He didn't own a Volkswagen bus?'
“Hah. Anyway, that was that.”
'Okay, so...you and Charlie broke up? So Lu was your second?'
“Well,” I fiddled with my hands and looked out the windshield at the playing fields. “Charlie passed away in a car accident. But...things were not going well, at that time.”
'I don't mean to pry, and I don't know if any of it could help me for you to mention it...'
“I know, Devyn, and you're sweet to say so. But it's okay, I made peace with it. See, Charlie was in a weird place. His dad had beat him up,” I glanced at Devyn, whose eyes were wide in alarm and he typed quickly.
“No, thankfully. It was physical. But, see,” I sighed and leaned my head back against the seat. “For Charlie, it was kind of the same thing as Lucien – they both have some good memories of their dads. In Charlie's case, he'd get conflicted about his dad and wanting to, somehow, earn his love back.”
I didn't hear him typing, so I continued. “I know it doesn't make any sense, at least it didn't to me – still doesn't. But then, I can't imagine having either of my parents abuse me. I've always been lucky enough to have a great family and never have been taken advantage of by an adult.”
I glanced at Devyn and he rolled his hand in a 'continue' motion.
“Anyway, Charlie was struggling with that and with fears about not being adopted by the family he was with...and in some ways he wanted things to fail. To go back to what they were before his dad went off on him. Some of that...want...included not being with me.”
'I don't understand.'
I smiled sadly at him. “Sometimes Charlie felt like we would last forever. But he had a lot of days where he felt guilt, unjustified guilt, about being gay and feeling like he'd caused the situation with his dad. When I went to counseling after he died, the therapist told me that kids frequently think things are their fault. Like...” I thought for a moment and then said, “if a kid gets in trouble for not cleaning his room and then the parent that punished them leaves the family or something, they might think that them not cleaning their room caused that.”
'That's fucked up.'
“It is,” I nodded. “Charlie was no exception. Despite what his dad did to him, he still loved him and thought he could fix things. Unfortunately, fixing things meant not being gay. It was really hard for him and he was going through a lot when he died.”
'Were you still together when he died?'
“Yeah. For all of that, we still loved each other. It was just...hard.”
We sat in silence for a moment before Devyn's fingers dashed across his keyboard again. 'That kind of abuse, I wonder how it's affecting Griffin? He knew he was gay before, that's why he dated Royce, but I wonder if he is having trouble moving forward with me because of that?'
“How far have you gone? If you don't mind my asking, of course.”
He shrugged. 'Lots of making out, some groping, but he can freak out if we do that much. It's a little bit frustrating because I do want to do things with him, but I'm not that much of a tool to push it, you know?'
“I can empathize.”
'So, did you wait long with Lu? Both your boyfriends had some abuse in their background, I don't know if that helps me...'
“I think...it depends on the person.” I smiled at Devyn and said, “You probably know the background, that Lucien had a crush on me for a long time – way back when I was dating Charlie, as a matter of fact.”
'I think I heard bits and pieces; just from teasing, though, never an actual story or anything.'
“Basically, Lucien was in love with me for the whole year I was dating Charlie. I found out about it kind of quick because Alec and Kale told me. I would have figured it out, but they wanted me to know because they were trying to set up a safety net for him and they also figured that, if he knew me better, he wouldn't see me like he did.”
Devyn held his hands out in question.
I gave him a lopsided grin. “He used to dream I'd take him away from his problems, like a hero or something. But, the theory was if he could see me as a person, then he might change his mind.”
'That was the dumbest plan ever conceived!'
“What? What do you mean?”
'Come on, Robin. Really? Someone is going to like you less when they actually know you?' Devyn shook his head and snickered.
“It made the super hero thing go away,” I replied and snorted. “Besides, I think you're biased.”
'Okay, fine. Then what?'
“Things were a little complicated, after Charlie died. The way things had been with us – which wasn't exactly good or stable...in fact, I felt like we were headed toward a break up.”
I was looking down at my hands, one folded over the other in my lap. “When Charlie died, not only did I have overwhelming grief and known that I'd lost someone stupidly important to me, but the very idea of being interested in anyone else brought waves of guilt. It wasn't healthy guilt, either, like just from the love I had for him and the way our relationship ended so suddenly. It was because we were having so much trouble and the uncertainty of things.
“Even though Charlie and I loved each other, I was carrying tremendous guilt for thinking we might not last, for doubting us. For...in some ways, I felt like I hadn't been as supportive as I could have been. More sensitive to what he was going through. As a result, the therapist told me, I overcompensated when he died. My guilt was pushing me in ways I didn't even recognize as guilt – I thought it was grief. Well,” I sighed, “it was grief, too.”
'How did you get through it?'
I smiled. “My family – all of them, blood and found, and Lucien, of course. He was waiting for me to work through it all. I knew he loved me, and I was fighting falling for him.”
'How long, after you became official...?'
“The first night,” I said and laughed at Devyn's shocked expression. “You have to understand, he'd been in love with me for a long time, and I...well, I was sure no one was going to love me like Charlie had.”
'How do you reconcile...having had sex with someone else but being in love with a new person? I mean...what do I mean?'
“They were both important to me. But...my relationship with Lucien is more stable, more equal and, ultimately, more fulfilling.” I glanced at Devyn who was frowning, perhaps trying to make sense of what I'd said or trying to figure out if any of it applied to him. “I learned a lot from my first relationship. But what I have with Lucien...there really isn't a comparison.”
Devyn nodded and looked thoughtful for a moment, then started to type, 'I know that Griffin had a very bad first relationship, but I figure he has to have taken some good things from it, too. Maybe some of the early stuff. Problem is, the rest of it's hanging over his head and I don't know what to do about it. I want to help him heal, I want to give him that...mature relationship Lucien gave you...'
“Well,” I laughed, “not everything is mature with him. You may not know, I had to chase his ass all the way to Albany, once!”
'You know what I mean.'
I let my laugh taper off and I nodded. “I know. My guess is that he's scared. Royce's touch started out nice and turned into something terrifying. Now he has sweet, adorable little you-”
Devyn punched me and signed 'watch it with the little crap'.
I grinned. “Dev, you're adorable, so just get used to it.”
He grinned and lifted his fist threateningly.
“Like I was saying. You guys will have to talk about the steps you can take – it might be more formal, now, than you'd like. But once he can see that he can be touched in a loving way, then it's just a matter of him getting used to it. Eventually, you'll erode all that fear he has built up and he'll know, when you touch him, he's safe instead of feeling Royce lurking in the back of his mind, ruining his romantic moments with you.”
'So should I just tell him I want to blow him and work it out from there?'
I laughed and he joined me. “Well, if you think being direct is the way to go – you know Griff better than I do.”
'I just wish I could touch him intimately and not have him lock up and freak out.'
“Sometimes...our feelings don't make sense. Like I said about Charlie and his dad. Griffin knows you won't hurt him, but old fears die hard.”
Devyn sat in silence for a moment and then typed, 'I can't believe you and Lu actually fucked the first night you were a couple.'
“Hey, realistically? Lucien had been waiting for a year,” I snickered. “Let's get out of here, I need a shower and both our boyfriends will wonder where we are.”
Much of the week went on as per normal. School, homework group and practice. Lucien made contact with his bio-mom, through the lawyer, and they set up a meeting at his office for that Friday. As it happens, Friday turned into quite the day. It started that morning when I and the wonder twins, Sean and Jamie, arrived at school. They had barely walked away before Phil had sidled up and was unabashedly watching them go.
“Really, Phil?” I asked while rolling my eyes.
“This is better, isn't it? And Robin, they are totally cute!” Phil said.
“That might be true, but I really, really don't want to hear you say that.” I put hand to my forehead and said, “Try and understand, Phil. You're talking about my little brothers.”
“Not so...uh, right.” He cut himself off after seeing my glare. I had a very uncomfortable idea that he was about to say something about their junk, which I could probably count on Phil to be crass enough to say – but it'd also make me wonder where he'd heard it from. After Jamie had his encounter with 'Hoover' Peterson...
“Oh, man,” Phil said and then acted as if his body were melting. “Maybe I should go after him, huh? He's got plenty of experience!”
Reluctantly I turned to see who he was looking at. There were plenty of guys, in the general direction, but my stomach clenched and I thought to myself 'not even Phil could be so low'.
“I heard,” Phil said in a conspiratorial way, “that Griffin Douglas can suck dick like a machine and take an ass pounding seven days a week!”
I saw red. I no longer felt entirely in control as I grabbed Phil Ashmore by the collar and threw him up against the side of the school. He started to bounce off the wall, an angry scowl on his face, but I pushed my palm flat on his upper chest – I so badly wanted to choke him! - and held him in place. He might have continued to fight, but perhaps my hand, cocked back to break his horrible mouth, kept him silent.
“I am so sick of you, Philip Ashmore. I tried to be nice, as a favor to a friend, but there really is no being nice to you, is there? I can understand you being horny, I can understand you wanting to get laid, and I even understand you pining after guys like my brothers. What I cannot understand is how they mean nothing to you – no love, no compassion or caring, just you wanting to get off. And you know what, Phil? You might find someone someday that doesn't mind that. They might not think they deserve love and you'll be the guy to not give it to them!
“But let me tell you something, you twisted fucking ticket,” I snarled. I grabbed him by the back of the neck and pointed his face back over to Griffin. “You think he's cute? Pretty? Someone you'd really like some alone time with? Answer me you fuck up!”
Phil's head slowly nodded.
“Now picture him with a split lip. Black and blue bruises all over that pretty face. Imagine him getting the holy shit beat out of him and being left on the side of the road to die like a piece of garbage. Now,” I leaned in and whispered in his ear, “imagine the guy that did that to him coming over to see him and not caring how much he'd hurt him, but just looking to take advantage like some fucking...parasite.”
I pulled him back and shoved him against the wall again. Looking into his eyes, which were wide and shimmering with, what? Fear? Compassion? Understanding? I wish I knew. I couldn't guess, but I wasn't going to assume it meant anything good or constructive.
“When you talk that way about that sweet guy – when you talk about abuse and rape as something so glib as 'having experience'? You sound no better than his rapist. You know why, Phil?” I leaned in and brought my nose nearly into contact with his as I stared into his eyes. “Because then you think as little of him as that fucking sadistic bastard did. Go away, Phil.”
“I said go away, Phil. I can't look at you anymore without throwing up.”
I turned my back to him and worked to master my emotions before my friends got close enough to see my face clearly. I wiped away a tear quickly. Thinking the way Phil did, that was how guys like him turned into monsters like Royce. I wasn't sure that what I did was the right thing or the best way to handle it – maybe not, but I was full of some pretty righteous anger, right then. Should I have talked to him? Should I have explained why his words were so wrong, or had I done that? Did the way I did it make the right connection for Phil? Or had I just rejected him so hard that I'd pushed him down the 'Royce path' another step?
I honestly couldn't say. But, I realized, that was the way I felt. Griffin and Devyn had suffered and didn't deserve that. People talking like that...it made me unreasonably angry. Considering Phil had looked at Sean and Jamie, I'd better have a talk with them about watching out for Asher. God alone knew if Phil would try anything with the freshie, but he'd been through enough, too. I had no more time to think of it as my friends arrived in a group and Lucien was giving me a morning kiss and the world started to return to normal.
After school I went to Lucien's home and rode into Binghamton with his folks. The lawyers office was in an old two story building and he occupied the entire second floor. We met first, with the lawyer who explained that Lucien's bio-mom was hoping to win Lucien to her side. Lucien's face hardened, and I took his hand.
“The goal here is to get her to drop the suit though, right?” he asked.
“That's the best outcome,” the lawyer confirmed. “However, I have to remind you of what I said to you at your home – I think there is a very slim chance for that to happen. She feels she has been wronged and you have been illegally taken from her. The little bit of contact I've had in the course of this proceeding is that she is determined.”
“She's not the only one,” Lucien said and squeezed my hand.
“On the matter of her suit,” he said as he opened a folder and flipped through some pages, “I think we have reason to be optimistic. I won't go into too many details as I'm waiting on some supporting documentation – and this is still a very real threat. Often family court decisions come down to how the judge is feeling that day, if they've had their coffee or lost a fight with their spouse that morning, so...”
“One thing at a time, right?” I asked.
“Absolutely. Now, for this meeting – since it's not a legal meeting, per se, your mother has brought your sister and requested the lawyers and Mr and Mrs. Kutsenko not be present. Your parents have agreed to this, albeit grudgingly.”
“Lu, if that doesn't work for you, we can just leave,” his dad said, firmly.
Lucien smiled at him, perhaps enjoying the show of protection. “I can handle it, Dad. But, um, can Robin go in with me, then? He wasn't on the list.”
“The worst she can do is end the meeting since, as you said, he wasn't on the list.” The lawyer nodded at us.
“Well, I don't know where her head's at. Maybe she'll turn out to be a raging homophobe and the sight of my boyfriend will make her run away screaming. It's worth a shot, right?” he said with a grin and I couldn't help but laugh at him.
“Any edge we can get,” the lawyer agreed, chuckling.
I trailed behind Lucien as the lawyer opened the door into an adjoining room. My first impression of Lucien's bio-mom wasn't what I had built up in my head. I figured she'd be obviously evil or nuts, like a Cruella DeVille or something. Instead she was a plump, middle aged woman with crows feet and conservative dress. She stood and smiled at Lucien, but when she stepped around the table to embrace him, he back-pedaled quickly.
Her face faltered and she dropped her arms. “Lucien. It's wonderful to see you,” she said, her hands coming up in front of her face and covering her mouth and nose as if in prayer.
“I'm...not that excited to see you,” he said quietly.
She pulled her hands from her face and her mouth pursed. She nodded once and went back around the table and resumed her seat next to a girl who was, presumably, Claire.
“Who is this?” his bio-mom asked, tilting her head toward me. Even mentally, I just couldn't call her his mom.
“This is my boyfriend, Robin Kirkwood,” he replied and took my hand. His sister jerked back as if she'd been slapped, though Lucien ignored her. Instead he pulled a chair back for me and had me sit.
“This was to be a family meeting,” bio-mom said.
“Robin is my family.”
“Sweetheart,” she said, taking on a tone that bordered on condescending, “the state was wrong. I am your mother and we need to work on being a family again. Do you really think bringing someone in from outside the family, no matter how fond of them you may be, is the best way to get started?”
“My family is the Kutsenko's, and Robin and the rest of the Kirkwood's; and that's leaving out Griffin Douglas, Austin Hamilton, Devyn Kennedy, Derek Pellegrini and the rest of my found family.”
“Who are these...strangers?” she asked, holding her hands out. “They mean nothing to me.”
“They are the people that have taken care of me and loved me, and I love them back.”
“But they are not your family. You are a Rousseau-”
“I'm a Kutsenko,” he spat. “Lucien Rousseau had a father who drank too much and died early and a mother who tried to kill him. Lucien Kutsenko is loved. He has a good family and a good home and is going to college and marrying his high school sweetheart.”
“They have poisoned you,” she said, her face going from the soft, middle aged woman I'd seen when I walked in to one that was hard and unforgiving. “I thought, at first, they might have taken good care of you. I see you are not too thin, so you get food. But now you tell me blood is not thicker than water? That this...boy is more important than your mother and sister? All this was allowed to happen?”
“I'm happy here. This is who I am. I want you to go away. Take Claire and crawl back under the rock you've been hiding under.”
“A mother has a duty to her child,” she said, shaking her head and her tone of voice sounding so very reasonable. “You have strayed too far from your roots, changed your name – but you are still Lucien Rousseau, no matter what name sits on your lips. This boy? He has deceived you. He cannot love you as you think he does, and he cannot marry you, dear child. Marriage is between a man and a woman before God.”
Lucien stood and I joined him. He took my hand and said to her, “I would kiss my boyfriend in front of you, just to show you how wrong you are. But I respect him far more than you respect me.” With that he pulled me towards the door, but I pulled him back.
“Out of all the things you've ever said to me, I've never felt more loved than I do right now,” I said. Then, I kissed him – fuck the two of them.
Exiting the room, the adults looked at us and Lucien merely shook his head. “You were right. She has it in her head that she is on a mission to put us back together and pretend to be a family. She didn't listen to a word I said.”
“Well, I was afraid of that,” the lawyer sighed.
“Are you all right?” his mom asked, touching his face with her fingertips.
“Yeah, I'm fine, Mom,” he said. “But I could use a little hug, anyway. It always amazes me that you took me in, take care of me and love me and now, are fighting for the right to keep doing that. Sometimes it's a little overwhelming.”
“Let's go home, baby. We'll have a nice dinner and relax. You'll stay, Robin, won't you?”
“Yes, ma'am,” I replied, ducking my head. Settling into the back of the Kutsenko's car we started the trip back home. Lucien was idly stroking my hand and I decided to lighten the mood a little.
“So, you realize, when you were telling her who-all your family is, you claimed Jamie. Right?” I teased.
He rewarded me with a crooked grin. “Well, I guess I better get used to it. Not like it matters, though. I mean, we get along and everything but it's not like there is much outside of that.”
“Jamie is our wild child, though. And you admitted he's your family.” I grinned at him, “I'm going to tell him.”
“Robin, no,” he said. “Why are you picking on me? When have I ever been negative about Jamie?”
“Hmm. Remember when we watched him play football? And you cheered for him to get tackled?” I asked, with a giggle.
“That was just teasing,” he replied, shoving me. “You know I like the wonder twins. Besides, ever since Sean got here, Jamie's turned into a hugely loyal guy. He'd walk through fire for me, just because you love me.”
My reply was cut off by a kiss. Each time I tried to continue, he'd quickly kiss me again until we were doing nothing but giggling in the back seat. Eventually we remembered that people were waiting to hear the outcome of the meeting so we started calls – me to Kale and Chase, first and he to Alec and Sasha. I have to say, I was always happy and in love with Lucien but this afternoon I had developed a new respect for him in terms of standing up to others.
We split up calling Hamster, Derek, and Griff. I ended up texting Dev, and that took up the rest of our time until we got to his house.
As promised, Mrs. Kutsenko whipped up a great meal and afterward we all settled in on the couch to watch TV together. It was kind of an odd experience, cuddled up on the couch with Lucien's folks on the couch opposite us, but they were relaxed against one another as well. As much as it was weird with older people around, it was also kind of nice to be able to express ourselves that way with them.
After the second movie it was nearly eleven. Mr. Kutsenko offered to call my folks and there was no way I'd say no to that. That was how I found myself, a short while later, in my nearly-naked boyfriend's arms.
Rather than jumping each other's bones, were engaged in a pretty hardcore cuddle. I was seeing just how close we could actually get and luxuriating in the feel of his skin on mine.
“Thanks for coming with me today.”
“Silly, where else should I be?”
“Still...it made things easier.”
“Well, it's where I belonged so no need for thanks.”
We spooned and I sighed with the gentle motion of his breathing as it caused his back to move against my chest. I moved my fingertips along his skin, gently feeling my way across familiar, and yet still exciting, territory.
“What happened with you and Phil this morning?”
My fingers stilled momentarily, then I resumed stroking his skin. “He was being an asshole. I don't know if I can keep up this favor to Sophie.”
“I'll tell you after,” I said. I covered his mouth, no doubt swallowing the 'after what' he planned to ask. The truth was, even though I was perfectly happy to simply lie down with my boyfriend, he was going to ruin it with this line of questioning. Therefore I had no choice but to make out with him to avoid all that. Really, it was the most sensible thing to do.
In the morning, after repaying him for the happy wake-up he'd given me earlier in the week, we sat downstairs and had breakfast. His parents had tapped on the door earlier to let us know they were going grocery shopping, and as a result we didn't bother dressing in anymore than our underwear. Sitting in the small breakfast nook, playing footsie while we had a simple breakfast made me wonder if this is how things could be in a few years, when he and I would be on our own. Dear God, I hope so.
“So, before you ravaged me last night, you were saying Phil was being an asshole?”
I fixed him with a frown. “I'm confused, do you want to talk about this or are you angling for more sex?”
“Can't I have both?”
“I dunno,” I said, taking a bite. “I don't want to spoil you.”
I lifted the corner of my mouth in a smile. “Well, you know you can have sex whenever you want, so I guess the difficult part is Phil.”
“I can have sex whenever I want?” he asked, giving me an evil grin.
“What is going through your head?” I asked, chewing slowly and looking at him with suspicion.
“I want outdoor sex. I want to see the sunshine on your skin and grass underneath you or maybe a beach.”
I coughed and then started to laugh. “Excuse me?”
“Yeah. I mean, what the hell, right? There was skinny dipping, this is just the next logical step, right?”
“Well, no,” I said, growing hard despite the list I was about to recite. “First it's illegal, and second we've done it in your bus and that should count, and third – have you ever had sand in the crack of your ass?”
“But you're not saying no,” he pointed out.
“How can I say no to you, damn it!” I said, laughing.
“All right!” he said with a grin and pumping his fist. “Now what did Phil do?”
The thought brought a scowl to my face and I picked a few more bites of food before I addressed his question.
“It's going to upset you. It upset me and we're both kind of happy right now, considering everything going on. Are you sure?”
“You mean,” he asked slowly as he stood and, moving to my side of the table, sat down next to me. “Do I want to share this thing with you, so you're not the only one dealing with it?”
I gave him a lopsided smile. “Point taken. It's a big one, though.”
He reached into my lap and cupped me. “This is a big one. Everything else? Not so much.”
It was probably the most daring, stupidest, impulsive thing we'd ever done. Yet, in moments, we were making out madly, our underwear was gone and I was on my back on the table. It wobbled and shook and I'm reasonably sure I got butter in my hair and syrup on my back. His mouth was everywhere at once and he was, literally, drooling over me. The table was squeaking and seemed to be shifting under our exertions. We made a horrible mess and broke a plate – but it was so good, so spontaneous and electric, I didn't realize any of that until we were scrambling to pick up as his folks honked from out front, likely for help with the groceries.
Lucien sent me upstairs while he frantically picked up and followed moments later, and as a consequence I beat him to the car and started helping with the bags. Once everything was inside Lucien's mom said she was going to get changed into cleaning clothes and headed upstairs. Before we could move, Lucien's dad froze us in place with an order to stop.
We turned, somewhat guiltily, to find him leaning back against the counter with his arms crossed.
“Boys, I want you to know I'm under no illusions about your relationship. You guys are very good for each other and we are happy you've found each other. But,” he said, holding a finger in the air. “It's really, really disturbing to walk in and see you screwing where I have breakfast. So, please, not in the kitchen.”
Heat rushed to my face, but even then Lucien apparently held out some small hope that his dad was making a guess – maybe from the drunken tilt of the table?
“Dad,” he said, a tone that scoffed at his dad's comment.
“Lu,” he said, a tired tone that indicated just how futile fighting this was. “Robin's feet were perched like parrots on a pirate's shoulder. Trust me, there is no arguing this – not where I eat. Hmm?” he said, pointing at each of us in turn.
“I'm so...” I began to apologize.
“No more than I am, trust me. Let's, uh, not speak of it again. Agreed?”
We mumbled an agreement and, as we turned to go, he added in, “And not a word to your mother!”
To say we couldn't get upstairs fast enough is a huge understatement. We passed his mom going up the stairs, but he stopped us short of entering his room. Instead he led me, quietly, into Alec's room – and to a vent in the floor.
“So? How bad was it?” came the voice of Lucien's mom and the crinkle of the bags as she began to pull the groceries out.
“I need brain bleach,” his father said. “I mean, I knew they must have fooled around some. But...” he started to chuckle, “good gravy, energetic doesn't even begin to cover it. I'll tell you this much, that was not their first time.”
“Well, at least we learned our lesson from Alec,” she said, humor lacing her voice. “I'm so glad I won the coin toss. I love those boys, but I wouldn't want a front row seat for that! Oh, well! At least we don't have to buy a new couch. Do we need a new table?”
“I...uh...how about we remodel the kitchen?” Then there was a nervous chuckle that turned into the both of them having a good laugh at our expense. Lucien frowned and took me back to his room.
Leaning back against his door I looked at him, slumping down onto his bed. “That was so embarrassing,” he said.
“A little,” I conceded. “But I think every couple has that kind of story.”
He snorted. “I expect something like that from Alec. I'm only surprised I didn't know about it before. But who else?”
“Kale and Chase, for one,” I said, pushing off from the door and taking a seat next to my boyfriend.
“Yeah, right. I bet Kale only has sex by appointment!”
“Well, he wasn't much for spontaneity, I'll give you that much,” I giggled, thinking of the memory. “You remember when we had that weekend JV wrestling trip two winters ago? We were gone for the weekend and Kale convinced my folks to let him stay home?”
Lucien's eyes narrowed in thought. “Yeah. I remember we shared a hotel room and the guys next door were spreading the rumor that we had loud sex-”
“It was a rumor,” he said firmly, a small grin curling his lips.
“Anyway,” I said, nudging him. “After we got back, mom went into this big cleaning mode and forced us all to help. Jamie found a condom wrapper under the piano.”
“I know!” I said. “ I was shocked he was cleaning under the piano too!”
Lucien laughed. “You're making this up!”
“Nope, scout's honor! Jamie played dumb and walked into the kitchen – mom had me pulling out the appliances to clean – and he asked what that was from.”
“Oh, come on! Jamie would have used it for leverage!”
“Nah. If he'd shown it to Kale, Kale would have taken it and he'd have nothing to show for it. Instead, he went full spectacle. I'm telling you, it was hysterical!”
“Kale must have been mortified,” Lucien said.
“He was. I mean, I guess its one thing if you think your parents might think you're having sex, and another thing when they are confronted with the evidence.”
“Ugh,” he groaned, covering his face. “I can't believe my dad saw me...”
“Fucking me?” I giggled and shoved him.
“How can you not be embarrassed? I mean – fuck!” He stood and rubbed his face. “Try to understand! I know you don't seem to care if Austin knows when we do it or how and you think it's funny if Sophie asks for details on your dick-”
“Babe,” I said, standing in front of him and stopping his shuffling.
He looked up into my eyes and my confidence faltered at the emotion in his eyes.
“Robin, I don't want anyone to know what you look like naked or what we look like when we make love. I don't want anyone else to know how your face looks when we're alone or when you...” he shook his head, “it's private. It's mine.”
“Sweetie,” I said, taking his face in my hands. “How do you plan to accomplish your outdoor sex dreams if you're always worried someone will see us?”
“You're mocking me,” he stated, his lips twitching.
“A little,” I conceded. “But, really, if you have kids you have to expect they are going to have sex. Maybe not on your breakfast table, true.” We both giggled. “But, listen, if it happens it happens. We take precautions, but we're just two human bodies doing what comes naturally. If all that doesn't convince you...out of all Kale's good qualities, do you want his uptight one to be the one you have?”
“I am not uptight!” he said defiantly. “Just because I'm embarrassed my dad caught us screwing on the breakfast table doesn't make me uptight!”
“I...” I felt giggles bubbling up inside me, and I tried to fight them off – really, I did. “I think that may...have been the funniest thing I ever heard you say!” By that point, I was laughing out loud and sinking to the floor. Lucien tried to scowl, but his face cracked and soon he'd joined me. As my laughter tapered off I took his hand.
“Listen. When we have our first place, we need a breakfast table.”
“And a sturdy lock on the door,” he groused.
“Yes, and a sturdy lock,” I chuckled.
We leaned against each other, chuckling on and off. Eventually, Lucien sighed and said, “At least we got to finish.”
“Yeah. Timing is everything.”
“So what was that you were going to tell me about Phil?”
“I told you, it's upsetting. I'm not sure I handled it right, either.”
“Well, what happened?”
“He...well, he started off asking questions, sniffing around wanting to screw Jamie or Sean.”
“He aims high,” he said, kissing me quickly and wrinkling his nose as he smiled. “Everyone wants a Kirkwood.”
“Now who is mocking who?” I asked. “Plus, can we please remember we're talking about Phil, here?”
“Phil does seem to be an expert on cute guys – excepting he wasn't stupid enough to hit on you. Then, I'd have to bitch-slap him.”
“You...anyway, Phil cannot date my straight brothers. Even if they were gay, I'd be breaking kneecaps to keep them apart.” I huffed.
“So, you were saying?”
“Yeah, yeah. So...” I closed my eyes and sighed. “Yesterday morning Phil made this really shitty comment about 'oh, I should date that guy, he has experience' or some such shit.”
“Is there a sexually active out kid we don't know?” he asked.
“I don't keep a spreadsheet, babe,” I rolled my eyes. “But he was...he was talking about Griff.”
“He fucking did not!” Lucien was on his feet and staring down, his face struggling between emotions – disgust and anger chief among them.
“I know, I know!” I said, my hands fluttering at my sides. “I was stunned.”
“How did you not fucking kill him? Griffin doesn't know, does he? Jesus, did that slimy perv say something to Griff?”
“Babe, babe, slow down!” I said and reached out for his hand and tugged him back down onto the floor with me. “Trust me, I tore into him. I won't even repeat what I said. I don't know if it will make a difference – the right difference – or not.”
“If he says something to Griffin...if he hurts him...”
“We'll be there, babe. We probably can't prevent it, but if he's stupid enough to do something, he'll pay for it.”
“Yeah,” he said, looking down. “He will.”
“I've never seen you so...aggressive,” I teased.
“I feel guilty about all that, no matter what Griff or anyone else says. I keep thinking if only I had reached out to him, none of that would have happened.”
“It's bullshit, though,” I replied. “He liked the way Royce looked and he'd have still gone out with him. Royce was a monster. Let's be glad Griff is safe, now.”
“I feel kind of protective toward him, though,” he said, taking a seat beside me again and hung his head. “He and Devyn have been through so much...”
“They suffered, and so did you. That's why you feel close to them. You're their Alec.”
“What?” he asked, crumpling his nose.
“Alec showed up to help you, after you'd gone through so much. He protected you, nurtured you and he loves you. Now, you're trying to do the same for other people that dealt with things they shouldn't have had to.”
“That's...I didn't think about it, like, plan it or anything. I guess that makes sense, though.”
“Well, maybe you should talk to Griffin, anyway,” I said. “Devyn is getting a case of blue balls.”
“What am I supposed to do about that?”
“I don't know. Dev came to me asking advice. He asked me if he should just tell Griff he wants to blow him,” I said with a laugh, remembering Devyn's determined look.
“He probably should. Otherwise, Griff can just keep telling himself that Dev isn't ready, either or something. A good blow job would do a lot for Griff, I'm pretty sure Royce never gave him one.”
“You think it's that simple, huh?”
“Well, think about it – everything Griff experienced was all for Royce, not him. He might not know that he's supposed to enjoy sex, too. Besides, Dev isn't going to attack him or try and fuck him. He knows that, right?”
“Yeah, I think he does. Still, maybe you're right. Dev should tell him, so at least they talk about it. It must be hard, though, since Dev is probably too busy to pull out his phone and text his intentions to Griff while they are making out.”
“Can we get everyone to stay over at your place tonight?”
“I'm enjoying waking up next to you. I just want to keep it going,” he said, dropping his eyelids demurely.
“Even if you can't get sex?” I teased.
He glanced up at me, stayed silent a beat or two and then said, “I guess so.”
“Uh, what?” I said, pulling back and laughing. He didn't let me get far as he climbed on me. Soon we were laying on the floor, he on top of me, grinning down.
“I mean, I'll take waking up with you, even if we can't have sex – wait, how about a quickie in the middle of the night? We can test out your picnic table!”
“You're evil,” I said with a giggle.
“Well, you did say anytime I want...”
“I meant,” I said, poking him with my finger, “that I don't turn down any chances we get, not that we could go get arrested for screwing in the middle of town!”
“No, no – we just go up to your room, a quickie!” A grin was spreading across his face.
“Nope. Everyone will tease us since they'll all know. Sorry, babe. It's waking up with me or nothing.”
“Fine,” he said with an exaggerated sigh, followed by a lengthy kiss, followed by another.
The following week was difficult for everyone. On Monday we got news of a court date, a hearing, for crazy lady who wanted to take my boyfriend away. That would happen on Friday. The second thing happened on Thursday, and I think it was safe to say, no one saw it coming. As I took my seat at lunch, everyone's focus was on Griffin. He was alternating between looking down and glancing around at our friends.
“What am I missing?” I asked as I took a seat next to Lucien.
“Uh, Griff was just starting to tell us, actually.”
Griffin met my gaze, but his was very uncertain. “I didn't really think much about it at first,” he said in a tone of voice that bordered on apologetic.
“Think about what, Griff?”
“Well, last week, I went to my locker after cross-country practice and my...” his face colored and he glanced around at us before saying, “my underwear was missing.”
“Your...? Um. Was your locker door open or bent or something? Lock missing?”
“Uh. No, not that I saw. But, they have a built in lock, you know? I memorized the combo a few weeks ago when I got it and threw the paper away, you know?”
“Okay. What then?”
“Well,” he said, keeping his eyes on me, “like I said, I didn't think much about it. I mean, it was weird, but stuff happens. Maybe I did something, somehow, and didn't realize it.”
“Okay,” I said. “Then what?”
“Well...every time I come back from the shower, some of my clothes have gone missing. Did I say my, uh, underwear went missing after my shower?”
“Oh. Well, yeah, that's when they did. So I figured that someone on the team was messing with me. You know, like a practical joke.” He bobbed his head and continued, “So I didn't want to make a big deal out of it, in case it was some kind of team thing, you know? New guy and all?”
“Yeah, okay. You look kind of upset, though.”
“Yeah...” his voice trailed off. “Well...when I got home last night I realized I couldn't find my wallet. Since I put my street clothes in the locker when I'm practicing, I thought it might have fallen out in there. So, this morning, I went to look in my locker...and...”
We sat in silence, waiting for Griff to gather his courage. Even then, his voice was small.
“Someone taped a condom and a note to my locker.” He started to breathe harder and Devyn took one of his hands while Hamster pressed into his other side. Griffin looked back and forth between them, his eyes growing wet.
“I...the note...” he reached into his pocket, fumbling. “I thought it was Royce, maybe. Then I realized, that was dumb, it couldn't be. Then I thought, maybe it was one of his friends or something...”
He produced a wrinkled bit of paper. Derek took it from his hands and unfolded it. He glanced down, frowned and shook his head. “Sick fuck.”
Devyn held his hand out and Derek handed the paper over. Devyn's brows drew together as he read, his lips pursing and then he threw it into the middle of the table as if it were trash. I reached out and pulled it to me.
'Griffin, you make me want to fuck like bunnies. Your face is so pretty, your lips just right for a dick and your ass – I know we could have fun, you already know what to do. I like a man who has experience being a bitch.'
My head whipped to the space I'd seen Phil sitting in when I'd arrived, but all I saw was his backside as he left through the open cafeteria doors. There were dim squawks of curiosity from my friends as I stood and strode quickly to the door, intent on catching that sick little bastard before he could get away from me. Right then, in that moment, I knew that I was going to hospitalize him if I could catch him. All I could think about was beating his miserable head in and doing my level best to rip his fucking dick off.
Stepping out of the cafeteria I glanced down both directions and didn't see him. One led deeper into the school and the other, outdoors. I headed for the exit, sure he would try to hide among the students outside for lunch. Dimly I heard my friends and my beloved boyfriend, asking me what I was doing – but I found it easy to ignore the questions. Stepping out of the school I glanced around, looking for – and spotting that pervert.
Before I could take a step, I was surrounded. Lucien was directly in my path and the rest were around me in a circle.
“Babe,” Lucien said, putting his hand on my chest. “What's going on?”
“Did you read it?” I demanded. “Did you?”
“No, I just followed you. What...it was Phil.”
I nodded, my own tears threatening. “You remember I told you that last week that bastard, he called Griff...” I started and then turned slowly from Lucien until I caught Griffin's gaze, looking back at me with concern. I pursed my lips and reached out to him, and his hand reached back reflexively.
“Ah, shit, Griff,” I sighed, the red in my vision fading and my heart filling with compassion for my friend. “You don't deserve this, none of it.”
His eyes moved side to side, studying my face. “What did he say, Robin?”
I pursed my lips again and looked down toward the floor. “He said he wanted you because you had...experience.”
His hand twitched in mine and I looked up to meet his gaze. “He's a sick fuck, Griff. I'm sorry he did that to you. I thought I'd set him straight last week. Calling you that is so fucking gross and...and...”
“No, no,” he said with a shudder and then he gave me a tentative smile. “It really scared me for a little bit – well, half the day,” he said with a shuddering laugh. “But you have no idea how relieved I am to know it was just him. I mean, hey, I can take Phil, right?”
“You'd kick his ass,” Derek confirmed. Hamster reached in and felt Griffins' bicep, declaring him the winner in a battle of wimps. A round of nervous, tension breaking laughter raced through our group.
“So, wait a second,” Lucien said, placing a hand on my shoulder. “My peace loving boyfriend was heading off to, what? Beat some kid to a pulp?”
“Not just a pulp, babe,” I said, quirking the corner of my mouth up. “A bloody pulp.”
His reply was lost in confusion as the sound of yelling caught our attention. Glancing around, we were focused on looking for the source when Griffin asked, “Where's Devyn?”
Across the quad we could see a small crowd gathering and we headed for that, en masse. Pushing through we found Devyn squared off with Phil. Devyn's lip was swelling, but Phil had one eye closing up and his nose was dripping blood. Phil glanced at me as I pushed through the underclassmen and, at that point, Devyn was not going to miss a chance. He launched a surprisingly effective punch that staggered Phil. I stepped forward but Devyn held up a hand and signed quickly. I glanced at Lucien for help, Dev's fingers too nimble for me. It was Griff, however, who translated.
“He says he's going to get in trouble for fighting anyway, let him make it worth it.” Griff stepped in between Devyn and a dazed Phil. “You don't have to. You defended me and I'm okay,” he said softly.
Devyn glanced at Griff and then at Phil. He made an angry grunt and Griffin blocked his view.
“It's over. He can't hurt me.” Griffin wrapped Devyn in his arms and Devyn clutched him close, “I have you, I'm safe.”
“Break it up, guys,” Hamster said to the crowd. They were already dispersing since the fight was over, and I encouraged us to join them. I figured, even though Phil obviously got his ass handed to him, he wouldn't want to get into why that was. If we were lucky, it would all go away – including Phil.
Friday I skipped school. Lucien's hearing was at eleven in the morning and I showed up at his house at eight thirty, while he was showering. I waited for him in his room until he walked in, hair damp and wearing just his underwear.
“Hey,” he said, his voice still slowed from sleep.
“Hi, babe.” I stood and hugged him, enjoying his warm skin.
“Your parents said it was okay for you to come?”
“Yep. Oh, mom got you a shirt and tie to wear today,” I said and pointed to a bag on the bed. “It's plain white, like mine, with a matching tie.”
“That tie is ugly,” he smirked.
“It is. You'd think you could find it on sale, like, a dozen for twenty bucks, right?” I said, laughing.
He frowned. “I don't know how to tie one. Do you?”
“Yeah. I'll tie you up – I mean, tie it for you,” I snickered.
His lips twitched in amusement and he proceeded to dress.
“How nervous are you?” I asked.
He paused and then started to run his belt through the pant loops. “Actually, I'm not nervous at all. Weird, huh?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “Any idea why?”
He stepped into his dress shoes and then began to button his new, white dress shirt. “Yeah, I know why. I was thinking about it last night – couldn't sleep, you know? I was thinking about how many times I got to wake up next to you this past week and that, even with all the bad shit going on, I had some good things. Major good things, like you. Like Austin and Derek, like Devyn and Griffin. Like my folks and our big brothers. You know what I realized?”
He pursed his lips, glanced in the mirror and then focused on me. “I'm one lucky asshole. I don't know if I deserve all this or what, but I know it's all mine, no matter what. I realized my bio-mom can't touch that and can't take it away. I must have something going for me to have all you fantastic people love me.”
“It's your ass,” I deadpanned. He planted a hand on his hip and gave me a look I'm sure he thought was sexy.
“Is that all?” he asked.
“Well,” I said, “there are other parts. Like your heart,” I said and stood to embrace him. “I'm also kind of partial to your lips and, well, the whole package really. Yeah, I guess that's it, Lucien – you're a total package. What's not to love?”
“I love you,” he said as he hugged me.
“I love you, too, babe. Let's get your tie set.”
After getting his tie adjusted we headed downstairs to breakfast. There were more people than Lucien was expecting, though. Gathered in the kitchen and at counter tops and tables was Hamster, Derek, Chloe, Sophie, Gavin, Devyn, Griffin, my parents, Jamie, Sean, Asher, Kale, Chase, Alec, Sasha and little Linc. Our entire family was in one place – and they all had on the white dress shirt with the ugly tie.
Lucien stopped and stared at them, his hand coming up to cover his mouth. They all had something to say to him, and I can't remember it all, but the important part was that the entire family was there for him. I was very proud to be part of a group like that and felt incredibly thankful and grateful to have found them all and to be considered a part of them.
“Hey,” Alec said. “You just give me the word and I'll throw myself in the aisle and have a fake seizure, okay? I've been watching video's, I think I can be convincing.”
Lucien just shook his head and muttered something at his brother.
“Hey, when did we get a new breakfast table?” Alec asked as he turned toward his parents. Lucien and I shared a smile at that.
The ride into court was a little raucous. Alec said we should all ride together in Lucien's bus, but my dad said we could be pulled over for not enough seat belts. So saying, he climbed in right behind the driver's seat and said, “Good thing you have a judge with you.”
There was a lot of laughing, teasing and just a wonderful feeling of shared togetherness as we headed to town, except my mom, who followed with Linc. Once inside we were called in pretty fast, which is always a surprise with family court, according to my dad.
So there we were, a sea of white shirts and ugly ties seated in the gallery while Lucien and his folks sat at the defendants table. Bio mom frowned constantly at us and Claire's eyes were wide and darting from one person to another.
“All rise for the honorable Judge Livingston.”
The judge waived everyone back down and tapped a few sheaves of paper on the desk, laying them out into a few distinct piles.
“I have reviewed the briefs from both lawyers. As this is a family court hearing and not a trial, I will ask if anyone has any final statements to make before I make my ruling?”
“My client wishes to address the court, your honor,” bio-mom's lawyer said.
“My client does as well, your honor,” said Mr. Sloane, the Kutsenko's family attorney.
“Very well,” Judge Livingston said in clipped tones and waved towards bio-mom.
“Thank you, Judge,” she said as she stood. “This situation has been horribly difficult on my children and I. From the records I'm sure you can see that we've had a very difficult road. While I am very thankful to have my daughter home, my attention and my heart has been divided without my first born.” She gripped her long skirt and twisted it restlessly. “As a direct result of the illegal acts of the state, my son has been led into a dangerous place and I fear for his immortal soul. I'm looking so forward to leaving here today with him and bringing him back home where he belongs. Bless you, Judge.”
Taking her seat, she shot another disapproving look at our group.
Lucien stood right away and stepped around his lawyer's chair to stand between the two tables. He smoothed his pants, adjusted his tie and smiled back at us. Then, he faced the judge.
“Hi, Judge Livingston. I'm Lucien Kutsenko. This lady would like you to think I'm Lucien Rousseau, but he was last seen in this very room. That guy, he lived in fear an awful lot. His dad died as a drunk and his mom, well, the last memory he had of her she was trying to cut his eyes out with a knife. As much fun as that was, it's not exactly what you want on your Christmas cards, you know?”
My mouth dropped open. What was he doing? I had expected his voice to shake, for his nerves to be as frayed as mine were. Instead, he stood straight, his voice was firm and when he did walk, there was a confident pop to his step.
“There are a few reasons I'd like you to deny this lady's petition, your honor. First, she had fourteen years to be a mother and she wasn't. She left my sister and I behind with my father, who did what he could. Then, when we were given back to her – you heard the part about the knife, right?”
The judge nodded, lips pursing briefly.
“Second, I was told by a man I admire very much and who will be my father-in-law one day, that this court is about the best interests of the child.”
I glanced at my dad, who wore a smirk on his face.
“I'd also like to point out,” he continued, “I'm sixteen. At fourteen I can choose to be adopted and I did choose. I also have nineteen reasons with me to prove I have a stable, loving family that she wants to interrupt for her own selfish reasons. You notice I said interrupt? I did that on purpose – they will be there for me as soon as I can get away from her, if you decide that.”
He dropped his hands to his sides and said, softer, “I've had a really good run the last few years, Judge Livingston. I found the best family a guy could ever have. I've gotten more love and support in the last two years than I got my whole life. I used to think that my dad dying was the most unjust thing ever to happen. Then it was my mom trying to kill me. Then it was my sister turning her back on me. All of that means next to nothing, today. Growing up with these people has given me that perspective and made me who I am – because they allowed me to be who I was. They encouraged me and nurtured me. With the wisdom that comes with that little bit of maturity I can honestly say, taking me away...that would be the most unjust thing, ever.
“So, please. Let me stay with my family.”
Lucien resumed his seat, but not before I led us in a cheer and Alec tried to get us to do the wave. The banging of the gavel was enough to bring us back down, eventually.
“The court thanks each of you for your comments. This case centers on two things – the well being of the child and the validity of the adoption. I do not think the welfare of the child is in danger in the home and community he is in. In fact,” he said, patting one of the stacks of documents, “his grades are high, he is participating in the community and has letters of recommendation from a score of teachers, social workers, and other professionals – so that isn't really a question.”
“The validity of the adoption centers on state law, which states that a child must be in care of the county or their case not having been discharged for a period of fifteen months in order to petition the court to be freed for adoption. The plaintiff claims that the minor child was only in custody of the county for thirteen months. The child was, indeed, in placement for thirteen months.”
There was instant chatter around me and I felt my heart drop. I tried to stand but my legs didn't have the strength. She was taking him away from me!
“Order!” the judge called out, banging his gavel. We settled slowly, stunned at his words.
“While the facts are clear that the minor was in placement for thirteen months, his case file was opened with the Department of Children and Families upon the death of his biological father. When the biological mother was located and the children were placed, a period of five weeks had passed. Additionally, the children were living with their biological mother for a period of six weeks, at which time the case file was still open and active and it was at this point that the children were removed.
“By the law, this places the minor with an open case file for sixteen months and fourteen days. Therefore, the county acted appropriately in petitioning to terminate the parents rights and the adoption is confirmed.”
We erupted. There was no other word. I was out of the gallery and holding him, crying and laughing. Around me, it was nothing short of a celebratory pandemonium. We slowly realized the gavel was hammering away and we quieted down. Judge Livingston stared at us, and I was unsure if the twitch in his cheek was him trying to control his anger or laughter.
Turning to face the bio-mom he said, “To be clear, ma'am, sending this child with you would have been a travesty. As parents go...God help your daughter. Court is adjourned.” His gavel crashed down and we resumed our celebration. In fact, we partied all the way home, all of us in our white shirts and ugly ties. Everyone was jubilant, and the house was filled with laughter. The day seemed to have developed a sense of magic, an elastic feeling as if the celebration would never end.
Of course, all good things do end. Eventually Kale and Chase left with a sleeping Linc. My folks were catching a ride with them, both having indulged in the adult celebration of wine and, well, wine. Alec and Sasha were oddly stiff when leaving, almost like they were hiding something...
Mr and Mrs Kutsenko were happy to let the rest of us camp out in the living room. It would be a little cramped, but we moved the couches out and spread the cushions around, along with blankets and pillows and sleeping bags. Couples were darting off to the bathroom to change and Lucien and I went upstairs to do the same.
Lucien kicked off his dress shoes and unbuttoned his shirt. He glanced up as he did so and grinned at me as I watched him.
“Help me get this tie off?”
I stepped forward and lifted the tie up in my hand. “I like this new confident you,” I said and pushed him backward, climbing on his lap and holding him in place with his ugly tie.
“You seem pretty confident right about now,” he said, huskily.
“I'm confident we'd get caught – and it would be more embarrassing than the breakfast table,” I said, twitching my lips in amusement. He grinned and we spent a few minutes just sitting like that, communicating without speaking.
We headed downstairs, with me in my silly Robin tee shirt and matching shorts. The couples were already snuggled in together, and we'd been left a spot between the two of them. Asher was lying on his back between the wonder twins, both of whom looked to be up to something. Well, Jamie always looked that way, but just as Sean was rubbing off on Jamie, the reverse was also true.
We settled in and Lucien was pushed into me by Devyn and Griff, and I found myself pushed forward by Hamster and Derek.
“What's this?” I asked.
“We're looking for a celebratory kiss,” Derek said.
“Oh, no! Again?” Jamie moaned through his giggles.
“Wait, what? Sean, let me go! I want to see!” Asher said while the guys laughed.
“What do you think, give them what they want?” I asked.
Lucien didn't respond, but pushed me back as he leaned over and kissed me energetically. When I came up for air I laughed.
“Babe, they wanted a kiss in celebration, not a make out session!”
“I just wanted Asher to get his money's worth,” he winked and looked over at the three youngest. “Going to score that for me, guys?”
“Ten! Ten!” Asher said, shoving my brothers before they could contradict him.
Lucien grinned back down at me. “A ten. I'll say.”