Spring is the fourth book in the continuing story of CJ and his family. Although it's his point of view readers experience most, the story's not only about him. It's also about Brett and César―his two fathers. And about the men and teens who surround the three of them.

When creating the cast for CJ's story, I chose to make Brett Davenport a captain in the United States Marine Corps. I wanted one of the main characters to be a member of the armed forces to honor all those who've served their country, regardless of sexual orientation

To the ones who never came back, to those who returned changed in body and or spirit, and to those men and women who currently serve, I dedicate Spring. Thank you for your service.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

César wrapped his arms around CJ and pulled his son close. At almost six feet in height, the teen was a couple of inches shorter than his father; he comfortably rested his head on the older man's shoulder. Both had wet, red-rimmed eyes from shedding too many tears.

"Sir?" The Navy Corpsman stood an arm's length away. His voice was soft and respectful. "If you two would follow me, I'll take you to the room Captain Davenport is in."

"Thank you." CJ's whispered reply was barely heard.

"Yes, thank you, Corpsman"―César hesitated momentarily, looking at the name tape on the sailor's uniform blouse―"Cruz. Muchas gracias." His use of Spanish, a feeble attempt at normalcy, earned him a smile and nod from the young man.

Taking a deep breath, he steeled himself for what was to come. He nudged the boy forward and they moved mechanically, allowing the corpsman to steer them towards the door they'd been staring at. The door they both feared opening, dreading what they would find behind it. Past the entryway, the hospital's antiseptic smell assailed their nostrils. Entering the room their escort stood by, both winced staring at Brett. The handsome man's form was almost entirely covered by a white sheet.

Wires and tubes were attached to different parts of his body. The captain had been in surgery for several hours, doctors trying to fix the damage incurred when the helicopter he'd traveled in crashed moments following take-off. There were bruises over most of the visible skin, an angry looking cut on his cheek, black thread stitching the skin together. A forearm sported a fiberglass cast, and his right ankle was wrapped in bandages, resting on a pillow. The double fracture had required the orthopedist to bring the bones together using metal pins and rods.

"He should wake up soon." The young man glanced back and forth between CJ and César. "Usually they wait until the anesthesia has worn off before allowing visitors. But I heard my boss say there was a very persistent Colonel Edwards at the Pentagon who insisted you and your son be brought here immediately."

"How many people were in the helicopter with him? Do you know what happened to the pilot?" CJ had stopped sobbing but there was still a tremor in his voice.

The ghost of a smile formed on César's lip; he felt proud listening to his son. The kid had been terrified when they'd first arrived in the transport the Colonel had arranged for them. He now knew Brett was broken, but would live. And as soon as his fears were allayed, the first question CJ asked concerned the well-being of others.

"There were two other officers traveling with your father. Both survived. They're also pretty well banged-up, but will recover."

"What about the pilot?"

"The pilot wasn't so lucky. He lost his life when the aircraft came down on the Pentagon's grounds. His remains were recovered after the fire was extinguished."

CJ shook his head, reached for Brett's hand, and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Hurry up and get better, Papa. Dad and I need you." The voice was shaky as he began to sob once again.

Friday, 28 March 2014

"I'm home." CJ dropped his backpack on the floor by the door, slipped off his jacket, and hung it on the coat rack. "Hey, Papa. Hi, Mrs. Douglas."

"Hey, dude." Brett sat on his new, deep blue, leather recliner, his legs on the foot rest. An old quilt with frayed edges partially covered the lower portion of his body, the cast encasing his ankle making the fabric bulge around it. He wore a red Marine Corps sweatshirt; the edge of it barely touched the elastic waistband of his drab olive silkies. "Come give me a hug."

"Good afternoon, CJ. I wish you would stop calling me Mrs. Douglas. It makes me feel even older than I am. I have Wilson to remind me every day already." The white haired woman patted her perfectly styled medium-length hair, and in what was obviously an affectation, fiddled with the simple strand of pearls around her neck. CJ had seen the same move countless times. "My name's Mary, as you well know."

Wilson and Mary Agatha Douglas lived next door. Originally from Maine, they'd been in their home for decades. When César and Brett purchased the property next to theirs, the couple welcomed the two men to the neighborhood, a casual friendship developing over time. CJ had been told the story of his fathers attending a cocktail party at their neighbors' place soon after the two men took possession of their home―the gathering being something they would learn took place on a monthly basis―and being cornered by Wilson in his library.

The older man admitted he'd been apprehensive by a young male couple buying the residence next to his. He and his wife feared the place would turn into a party house. The retired Department of Commerce official acknowledged those fears had been unfounded. Once he and Mary realized the two men were just like any other couple―leading a quiet life, not bothering anyone else―their friendship blossomed. Mr. Wilson had remained an active man after he'd left work, until health issues slowed him down a year or so after his new neighbors had taken over the old house on Prospect Street.

As the aches of chronic arthritis grew, their forays into the Washington cocktail party circuit diminished, but they could often be seen walking around the neighborhood holding hands. The elderly couple welcomed CJ into their lives when the boy moved to Washington. They treated him like a grandchild, Mrs. Douglas spoiling him with cookies and lemonade when the weather was warm. As the temperatures dropped, she would always offer him a cup of hot cocoa. They had tried to pay him whenever he raked leaves or shoveled snow for them, but the boy had refused to accept their money.

CJ smiled at the woman's comment, it was an ongoing conversation between them. He air-kissed her as she rose, making sure not to disturb her light but perfectly applied make-up. "You know that's not going to happen anytime soon, Mrs. Douglas. Maybe after I get to be Papa's age." The boy bent down to carefully hug and kiss his father on the cheek. "Did our patient behave today?" he asked, looking over his shoulder. "Or do we have to send him to bed without dessert tonight?"

"You know your father's the perfect patient, young man. He ate all his lunch, and half-a-dozen of the cookies I brought over. Wilson wanted to bring over a beer to go with the chili, but I thought it wouldn't be a good idea. What with him still taking those strong pain killers. We've been chatting, waiting for you to return from school."

"You brought him cookies?" The kidding tone the boy used was indicative of the easy relationship he enjoyed with both his fathers. "You're gonna get fat, Papa."

"Oatmeal raisin!" CJ was used to the marine sounding childish when he became exited and right then he could have passed for an eight-year-old.

"Oh, hush! I'm sure he'll be running around as soon as his ankle heals. Would you like some? Maybe with a glass of milk? There are plenty left. I brought enough for all three of you."

"Thank you, I'll get some as soon as I change clothes. You know I love your baked goodies."

"Well, I think it's time I went back home. Wilson's been digging through boxes full of old papers and photographs. He went home a little while ago, and most likely has them scattered all over the dining room table by now."

When César and CJ returned home, late in the evening the day of Brett's accident, they'd found a note from the older couple on their front porch, along with a large thermos of soup and a basket of homemade rolls. The following morning, Mr. Douglas rang the doorbell soon after sunrise. He explained he and his wife had heard of the helicopter crash while watching the evening news, were relieved to hear Marine Corps Captain Brett Davenport had survived, and offered any assistance he and Mary could lend. When the marine was discharged, they insisted on spending time with him while CJ was at school and César was at work. Mary prepared lunch for the three of them daily, she and her husband ate together with Brett, one of them remaining behind with the recovering man, until CJ arrived after classes ended.

* * *

"Jarhead, if you ring that fucking bell one more time, I'm gonna shove it up your ass." His father's growling made CJ chuckle. He was sitting at the dining room table, finishing up homework, while César stood in the kitchen working on dinner.

"CJ, could you please get us some lube from upstairs?" Brett's mobility was restricted by orders from the surgeon; he wasn't allowed to put any pressure on the injured ankle yet. The elevator in the old house was a welcome feature, it was being used for more than moving furniture these days, allowing him to travel between the bedroom and the living area where he spent most of the day in front of the TV. On a lark, CJ had bought him a small bell as a welcome home present, so he could call for help if there was nobody close by, but the marine delighted in ringing it frequently. Often for no other reason than to ask for a hug.

"Gross!" CJ's chuckles turned into laughter. "I think Papa's going to be okay, Dad. He's already thinking of sex."

"He can think about it all he wants. But he can't even get it up, thanks to the Percocet he's been popping for the pain."

"TMI! First the bell and now impotence. I don't need to hear this shit." CJ's phone chirped, he looked at it and grinned. "Alright! Text from Chipper. Reinforcements are on the way. He and Uncle Matt are leaving their place now. Hopefully our invalid will behave in front of company."

The stream of visitors had been constant since Brett had been back home. He'd fallen into a pattern of napping after coming downstairs and eating breakfast, until Mary and Wilson brought him lunch. One of them stayed with him until CJ returned from school, when he'd once again take a nap. The pain medication kept him drowsy most of the time, but the doctor had instructed him to take them as prescribed until his follow up visit on Monday. The previous evening, Danno had brought food from Rogo's; Doc had offered to bring take out tonight, but César had instead invited him and Chipper to join them for dinner instead―he had marinated chicken breast overnight and was preparing a stir fry.

"Fat chance." César's mumble was loud enough for Brett to hear.

"Bullshit! I ain't impotent. I'm important. And don't you two forget it. So what if I didn't have morning wood the past couple of days. The damn ankle hurts too much."

"So what did you ring the bell for, Papa? What do you need?"

"Could you throw a couple more logs on the fire? It's almost dead and it's starting to get chilly in here." The pouting and whining made CJ smile.

César shook his head and grunted. The first floor's wide open space meant he could see all the way from behind the kitchen counter to the front of the room where Brett was. Street lights had come on and could be seen softly glowing in the twilight through the wide open curtains framing the floor to ceiling windows. The mild spring weather meant people were out and about. College students and area residents milled outside The Tombs, 1789, and F. Scotts.

"CJ, close the curtains while you're at it. It'll help keep the room warm for our baby. And also keep people from seeing me stab him if he keeps bitching."

* * *

"This looks really good, Uncle César." Chipper passed the bowl piled high with steamed brown rice to CJ, reached for the one full of aromatic stir-fry, and spooned a generous portion on his plate.

"I know, right?" CJ repeated his friend's actions, loading up his own plate. "It's real easy to make. Chopped onions, peppers, fresh ginger, and a little soy sauce. I've paid attention."

"There must be like a zillion different types of peppers in here. I haven't seen purple ones often. And Mom's dragged me to a bunch of trendy restaurants in New York."

"Speaking of New York," said Doc, looking at CJ. "Have you bought your tickets yet?"

"Ummm, no. I'm not sure if I should go. What with Papa being a crip right now and all."

Brett saluted CJ with his middle finger. "Fuck you. I'm not a crip, just temporarily incapacitated. Dude, you have to go. How often are you gonna get a chance to meet the Secretary General of the United Nations?"

"I don't know. Who's gonna help you out during the day while Dad's at work?"

"By the time you head up, I should be okay. The doctor told me I could probably start moving around a bit after he sees me next week."

"When's your appointment?" Doc asked between mouthfuls of food. "Damn, this is good shit. Y'all can have me over for dinner any time."

"Monday afternoon. CJ's skipping school after lunch and he's driving me."

"Can you believe that shit, Doc? My sixteen year old son can't drive by himself, but it's okay if he has someone over twenty-one in the passenger seat. Never mind my husband has casts on his foot and his arm. He's old enough and that's all the District requires. Stupid." César animatedly punctuated his conversation with the chopsticks in his hand. "Hell, when I turned sixteen back in Florida, I took the written and road tests the same day. One after another. Dad let me drive back from the test site. I never needed a ride from either one of my parents again. The little, insignificant ID meant convenience to them and independence to me."

"The people who passed the laws must assume the adult will be able to give guidance, because he's older and more mature. They've obviously never met Brett."


Saturday, 29 March 2014

Harley had proven his friendship, dedication, and loyalty to CJ in the days following Brett's horrifying accident. Once he found out why CJ wasn't at lunch that day, he'd taken it upon himself to go see each of his friend's teachers and get whatever work he missed out on. He did so every day and e-mailed his buddy as soon as he reached home each of the three days CJ had stayed out of school. Every morning and evening he would also text, inquiring about the marine's condition. On Saturday, he'd shown up at Brett's room to visit the injured man, carrying a couple of Star Trek paperback novels as a get-well present. All of his son's friends knew the marine was a diehard Trekkie.

Once CJ returned to school, the lanky, square-jawed boy had asked after the recovering man's condition each day. And his questions were not the casual how's-your-dad type; the affection he'd developed for Brett was evident in the concern his inquires revealed. And now, a week later he'd shown up early in the morning, wanting to see the man CJ knew his friend had a bad case of hero-worship for.

"Bruh, that shirt rocks!" Harley's first words when CJ opened the door showed what made the Wisconsin's boy heart sing: motorcycles.

"Come in, bud. And you just like it 'cause I got you the same one." CJ was wearing a black Harley-Davidson t-shirt, with a kangaroo mid-hop in front of a yellow-orange full moon. He'd bought two during his trip to Australia; the second one a present for his friend named after the motorcycle brand.

"How's Cap? Is he awake? I hope he's feeling better. I didn't want to say anything last week but he looked like shit―"

"I heard that!" Brett's shouted response reverberated through the room. He was sitting at the breakfast bar, his injured leg resting on a stool, a steaming mug in his hand.

"So did I, Mr. Wilkinson."

"Crap," whispered Harley. "Why didn't you tell me our school principal was here?" The boy recovered quickly. "Oh, hello, Miss. Edwards. I didn't see you there."

"Obviously not," the distinguished looking black woman replied. "Well, are you going to stand there or come inside?" Her attempt at sounding stern failed miserably as the corners of her mouth twitched.

"Coming inside, coming inside. Hiya, Cap. You look much better than you did last week."

"Thanks, Harley. I feel a lot better. Do you know Colonel Edwards?" asked Brett, glancing at the man sitting next to him.

"Yeah! I've met him before. He's your boss and Miss Edwards' husband. How are you, sir?"

The thick African-American, rubbed his shaved head with a hand, before removing the unlit cigar from his mouth. "I'd be a hell of a lot better if I could light this sucker up, son. I'm not allowed to smoke at home. Or in the car. Or in the house of men I know enjoy one on a regular basis themselves. This second-hand smoke bullshit's driving me crazy."

"Watch your language, Ray." His wife stood behind the counter facing the seated men. "There's two of my students in the room. Would you like a cup of coffee, Harley?"

"Are you crazy, Martha?" Brett sounded horrified. "You're offering Harley caffeine?"

"Nah, thanks anyway. I just had an energy drink."

"Papa, I'm gonna run down to Booeymongers to get us lunch. What do you want?"

"Bring me a Gatsby Arrow. And ask them for banana peppers on the side. Colonel, Martha, would you like to stay for lunch? I think we have a menu for the place somewhere around here."

"No, thank you, Captain. The Colonel and I are going to get going soon. Maybe I'll drop him at a park somewhere so he can light up that foul smelling thing he's been chewing on all morning."

* * *

Booeymongers, located on Prospect Street a five minute walk east from the house, proudly proclaimed it had been in business for over thirty years. The place offered an interesting assortment of breakfast items, sandwiches, and salads. The Gatsby Arrow, Brett's favorite, consisted of roast beef and brie on a baguette.

"Does your dad always order the same thing?" Harley was walking backwards in front of CJ. "I think he got one of those Gatsby Arrows last time we were here too."

"Turn around, Harley. You're gonna run into something or someone." CJ grabbed his friend's arm and pivoted him until they were both facing in the same direction again. "Yeah, Papa's predictable. He'll eat anything, but he has his favorites."

"What are you getting?"

"I'll probably build my own. It lets me try new things. But the roast beef sounds good. Maybe I'll get the Georgetowner, that's the turkey with avocado and alfalfa sprouts, but ask them to change the turkey to roast beef. And horseradish instead of mayo. What about you? Any idea what you want?"

"Nah, I'll figure it out when we get there."

* * *

"Those two seem tight as thieves. Martha, dear, could you pour me some more coffee? If you won't let me have my required daily dose of tobacco, at least I can get a little extra caffeine."

"Quit your bitching, old man." Mrs. Edwards snapped at her husband, taking the mug from him and walking over to the coffeemaker. "If you want to light up so badly, go sit outside in the rain."

"They met the first day of school last fall." Brett thought back on how Harley had come into their lives. "I took CJ to WALLS that day on the back of my motorcycle, and Harley saw me drop him off. The way CJ put it was 'This really cool kid, talking a mile a minute accosted me right after you left. All he could talk about was how great the Road Glide is.' They've been inseparable since. I think Harley would like us to take him in. He'd rather spend time with us than at his house with a couple of younger sisters."

"They're both bright and articulate. And I think they're good for each other. CJ can be somewhat serious at times, but Harley can make anyone smile. So, Captain, when I called to ask if you could handle visitors, you mentioned you wanted to speak with us anyway. What's on your mind?"

"Quick and dirty: César and I would like you to consider becoming a board member of our family foundation. It was established by my great-grandfather, and it's still being run out of California. We'd like to move all operations to the Washington area. We've both been here for a while, and with CJ coming to live with us last year, we realized any thoughts of moving to the west coast died. This is our home."

* * *

"There'll always be something there, but a plastic surgeon might be able to reduce the scar almost entirely." Prescott was examining Brett's face, looking at the already healing cut.

"I think Cap should keep it. It makes him look real bad ass. After all he's in the Marine Corps. And a biker. And those guys are supposed to be tough. I mean, they're the ones who―"

"Harley!" Brett shout startled the boy for a moment.

CJ would have said something when his friend started one his customary rambling tirades, but he was trying not to laugh at him in front of Dr. Harding and his boyfriend. Too late for that now. His buddy, used to being told to shut up, just smiled and leaned back on the chair he sat on.

"I remember you from the AIDS Walk last year." Gray glanced at Harley while chuckling. "Didn't someone call you motor-mouth then? I think it's nice you're so enthusiastic."

"Thanks, Gray. I'm glad some people don't think I talk too much. Hey, don't you work in construction? Did you know the captain and César are remodeling the basement this summer? Maybe they can hire you. You should see the drawings CJ cousins made, they're sick! It's gonna be such a great man cave to play―"

"Harley, shut up!" Brett was smiling and didn't shout this time. "Dude, you actually had a good idea in there. CJ, wanna show him those preliminary drawings? And the space downstairs? Maybe you can steer us towards a good general contractor, Gray. The cousins Harley mentioned are out of Chicago and not licensed in DC. We need a local."

"Sure thing. Come on guys, let's check it out. We can leave the old guys up here talking about plastic surgery and shit like that."

"Fuck you, boy." Prescott accompanied his comment with a raised middle finger.

"Later, sir? After we get home." The construction worker tried to hide his grin by lowering his eyes to the ground.

"How come you call him sir and he calls you boy?" Harley's question made CJ shake his head as the two teens led the way towards the stairs.

"Oh, and Gray? Fuck you from me too," Brett called out. "Prescott just told me you're twenty-eight. I'm only two years older."

Laughter echoed up the stairs, while Gray shook his head. "I can't believe you guys. You're all nuts in this house. Anyway, Harley, I call Prescott sir out of respect. You could say in a way he's adopted me and provides me guidance. We're members of the leather community which holds respect as one of its tenets."

"I swear I'll never figure out all the stuff that goes on in the gay world," Harley replied, scrunching up his face.

"Wow, this is a huge space, CJ." Gray stared at the crowded space after the lights were turned on by the teen. "Wait, it extends behind the house too?"

"Yeah, I think it goes partway under the garage and the courtyard. But not all the way to the end of the property. We're on top of the hill, and the drop off is almost a cliff. I think that's why there's like a retaining wall back there."

"So where are these drawings your father mentioned?"

"They're upstairs, but I think I can give you an idea of what the plans are. My cousin's studying to be an architect and he and his boyfriend did them. They both work for my uncle's construction company."

"You have a gay cousin? And he and his boyfriend are in Chicago your dad said?"

"Yeah. I'll make sure you get to meet them next time they're in town. Anyway, what they came up with is something similar to what they have at my uncle's house there. It's a big bedroom with its own bathroom in the front, two more bedrooms along that side wall with a bathroom in between them, and a half bathroom back there at the other end."

"What about the rest of the space?"

"This would all be like a big family room. Papa wants a pool table and we'll have a giant screen TV. Like a home theatre with comfy couches and chairs. And a small kitchen area with a refrigerator, a microwave, and a sink. We gotta have something to make popcorn and keep drinks cold."

"Damn! This could be like its own apartment, if you could give it a separate entrance. Great in-law quarters, or a place for a couple of college kids. It'll definitely increase the resale value of the house big time."

"Yeah, I think the dads plan on staying here forever, but they did mention if they wanted to sell, building out the basement would be a good investment."

"I think I might have a suggestion on a general contractor. Straight, but gay friendly. Has a great reputation. I'll give your dads a name and number. But they better ask for me to be part of the crew. I'd love to work on this project. It would be so cool to be able to come back as a guest and hang out here."

Sunday, 30 March 2014

César was not in his office for several days following Brett's accident. With the marine out of peril, and eventually back home, the EY partner had returned to work. Although he called frequently during the day, spending twelve hours away meant he arrived home after his husband was asleep―a result of Brett's pain medication. However, he'd insisted on being home to fix dinner on Friday and had planned on spending all of Sunday at home. The worst of the work rush was over and he was looking forward to a slower pace the coming week.

This morning, he'd helped Brett maneuver through his bathroom routine, before together taking the elevator down to the first floor. Now, fiddling in the kitchen preparing breakfast while Brett sat sipping coffee, the couple was able to catch up on the previous day's events.

"I'm okay with passing the general contractor's name and number to Ty. You want to send him an e-mail, Jarhead?"

"Yeah, I'll do it after we eat. From what he mentioned when he called me, Randy has enough on his plate right now. I'm sure school's kicking your nephew's ass."

"They need to get a licensed architect to sign off on their drawings soon. Although I'm sure we don't need to remind them of that." César placed several strips of bacon in the microwave, and reached for the waffle iron. "The contractor's going to need those to start the permitting process."

"It'll be good to have Gray as part of the construction crew. Having a friend of the family involved will make me feel better when they're alone in here."

"Yeah, and if we're home, we're guaranteed some good eye candy."

"Pervert! I'm out of commission for a few days and you start looking. Speaking of eye candy, you should have seen our Dr. Harding. Pres was wearing a tight, long-sleeved shirt which left little to the imagination."

"So, what's new? We've always known Prescott's addicted to the gym."

"I made a comment about him looking bigger and buffer than usual. He admitted he'd done a cycle to start the year off. If I wasn't happily married…" Brett wiggled his eyebrows in his signature move.

"Are you implying I need to start taking steroids and working out more?"

"Hell no! I'm sure he knows what he's doing. What with being a doctor and all. But if you start shooting up with testosterone and nandrolone, I'm afraid you'll just keep me on my back with my legs on your shoulders all the time."

"And the problem with that would be?"

* * *

Brett had wanted some fresh air after spending the week inside the house, so when JP and Tom dropped by in the early afternoon, César helped him move to a chair in the garage. The four men sat in the heated building, one of the rolling overhead doors open to help ventilate the area, drinking coffee and smoking.

"I wish I'd been there to help him," said CJ, dipping the towel he was using to wipe down his fathers' cars in the bucket of water at his feet.

"Right. And you'd be just as suspended from school as my son." Tom watched the boy who, unable to properly wash the vehicles due to the light rain, was trying to sweep the salt and road grime from them. "I'm proud Patrick's able to defend himself. But going against two of them in the middle of the cafeteria at school wasn't the smartest thing to do."

Detective Kennedy's youngest reacted badly to a schoolmate calling his father a fudge packer, implying the stocky hockey player was one too. A swift knee to the groin made the insulting kid bend over in pain, but before Patrick could finish him off, another boy jumped on his back. The way Bradley had recounted the story, his younger brother would most likely have dealt with the assailant, but a teacher had interrupted the brawl.

"Whatever happened to waiting until after class and then jumping the twerps?" asked Brett, blowing out an aromatic cloud of cigar smoke. "Maybe with a baseball bat in hand. Or in Patrick's case a hockey stick. It worked for him the time his own cousin acted up."

"Mate, you're such an ass." JP shook his head in obvious disbelief. "You're suggesting violence is okay right in front of your son?"

"I'm with Papa on this one. And I know from personal experience a good beating can put a stop to bullshit and bullying."

"See what I have to put up with, guys?" César's tone bordered on whining. "My husband and my son seem to feel violence can solve their problems. Whatever happened to resorting to fists as a last recourse? And only in self-defense."

"Reacting to verbal bullying is self-defense, Dad. Trust me, I know how much that shit can hurt. Those guys deserve to be taken out and shot as far as I'm concerned. A week's suspension from school is a small price to pay. I bet those fuckers will think twice before they talk shit in front of Patrick again."

"Speaking of shooting and guns." Tom puffed on his cigar while running a hand over his head. "What with being a detective on the DC Police Department, I never anticipated the hassles of owning a gun while living in the district."

"Shit, that's right. I never thought about that coming up when you guys decided to move to the District from Virginia." César scratched his head and closed an eye, apparently surprised at the sudden realization. "Brett being in the Marine Corps made it easier for us. He has to have at least his sidearm at home."

"How did you guys deal with the making sure a minor won't gain access to your guns without permission?" JP shifted in his chair while looking at his neighbors. "It's something we'll have to deal with when Tom's kids visit us."

"We showed CJ were the guns are kept, and told him he's not allowed to open those drawers. End of story." Brett waved his cigar around while talking, stabbing the air with it to emphasize his point. "Anything else is bullshit. If the kid went bat shit crazy, he could get his hands on a gun no matter what type of laws the idiots at city hall put on the books."

"I still want to learn how to shoot." CJ looked up from his cleaning. "I read up on the laws in Washington. The part I don't understand is the thing about keeping it locked or unloaded, with the ammo in a different place. What the fuck good would that do if someone broke in and the dads needed the guns to defend us?"

"If you want to learn how to properly handle firearms, either Tom or Brett could teach you. They both have to re-qualify on a regular basis because of their positions," said César.

"Maybe we can do it over the summer." Tom offer to teach him elicited a vigorous nod from CJ. "I think I'd like my kids to learn too. I could take all three of you to the range and teach you."

"Don't forget about Owen." JP's gaze shifted to CJ momentarily. "He'll be here soon enough. Gun attitudes are quite different in Australia, but he may want to learn how to use one anyway."

"He knows some. He told me he's gone hunting with his grandfather before." CJ ignored the fact all four men had their eyes focused on him. "Hey, anyone want some cookies? I'm getting hungry."

"Mate, you just ate lunch. But I wouldn't mind a couple of them." JP sounded sheepish. "They were pretty good. Which one of you baked them?"

"Mrs. Douglas, our next door neighbor, brought them over. She and Mr. Douglas bring Papa lunch every day, and she always leaves treats behind."

"Speaking of moving to DC and our neighbors," Brett looked over at César for an instant, getting a slight nod and a quick wink from him. To CJ, it looked like they were once again communicating in that silent way they often did. He stopped where he was, cookies forgotten momentarily, certain his fathers were up to something. "How'd you guys like to buy Mary's place?"