Another Chance - Book Three

Chapter Nineteen: Scott Gavin

by Zarek Dragon


On the Friday before Labor Day, Jim, Joe, Dusty and Buster were sitting in PE class. This was their last class before going to their SWO, or Student Work Opportunity, job. Since Buster wants to be a teacher, for his SWO, he went to the middle school to be a TA, or teacher's aide. He doesn't get paid like other students do, but he gets some practical experience. Patrick was in a few of the classes that he sat in on already.

Coach Jenkins was standing in front of the class, just pacing. Dylan asked him, "Dad, is something on your mind?"

Coach Jenkins stopped pacing and looked at the class, "Well, with this class being in the middle of the school day, there is no way we can go out to the ranch as a class. The School Board even approved me taking classes out again as long as I promised no skinny-dipping."

"Sir," Jim said, raising his hand, "we can always go out on a Saturday. I work there Saturdays, and so does Joe and Buster, but we can always plan for after four, when we get off."

"Thank you, Jim," Coach responded. "After you and Dusty approached me and told me about the changes at the lake, I called Jackson. He said that though he's normally closed to general public for riding after four, if we wanted to go and make a night of it, we can any Saturday, even tomorrow night. Does anyone have a problem if we make it tomorrow night?" No one raised their hand. "Then we will have our visit to the ranch tomorrow night. And with it being a Saturday night, why don't we make a party of it. You can bring a date. And those of you who haven't seen it, wait until you see the changes."

Jim asked, "My sons are usually with Zac and me at the ranch when we work Saturdays, does anyone have a problem if they are there Saturday night?"

Dusty stood up, "I'd have a problem if they aren't. They are two of the greatest boys you will ever meet. Though they aren't biologically Jim's, they are so much like him, especially Patrick." Everyone encouraged Jim to bring them as they all would love to meet the boys. The rest of the class time, they discussed what refreshments they wanted and who was supplying what. Coach asked Jim to let Jackson know they were coming.

After class, Jim and Joe headed for the ranch, Buster headed to Cody Middle School. The class using him as a TA this day was the sixth grade geography class. This was Patrick's last class for the day. He walked in and seeing Buster, he gave him a hug. Patrick had told his classmates that Buster is an uncle, so none of them thought anything of it when they hugged.

The teacher called for everyone's attention, "Today, I will be grouping you up and giving you a list of coordinates on the globe. We have eighteen students, two globes, three atlases and one world map, so I want six groups of three. Whichever group can find all ten cities belonging to the coordinates the fastest gets a prize. Once you think that you have them, take your list to Buster or me and we will check them. We will tell you how many you have wrong and you can go look at those coordinates again. First group to get all ten correct will win a free pizza coupon from Millstones' for each member."

Patrick was happy when he and Toby were grouped together. The third boy to join the group introduced himself. "My name is Scott Gavin, aren't you Toby Maelstrom? Your dad is an elder of our church."

Toby responded, "Yes, my dad is an elder of our church, but I don't recall seeing you there."

"I'm not surprised," Scott stated. "My family sits in the last row."

Toby's face lit up, "OH, your family is the one that owns that small farm on the corner of Rd 2Ab and Quarter Horse Lane."

"Cool," Patrick stated, "We go by there all the time. You have some nice looking horses. I'm Patrick and my family lives on Mustang Lane."

"We've only had those horses for a short time," Scott explained, "Our others were getting old so Dad sold them and bought fresh ones from a local ranch called Another Chance."

Patrick got excited, "My two dads work there."

"Did you say two dads? That's cool," Scott grinned.

Patrick looked into Scott's green eyes and felt a little strange. He suggested that they start looking up the cities using one of the globes. Once they had all ten cities they thought were correct written down, Patrick took their paper up to Buster. Buster compared it to the answer key and told Patrick that they had one wrong.

"We missed one," Patrick stated to Toby and Scott.

Toby suggested, "Maybe Cody isn't one of them."

Patrick shook his head, "No. I'm sure that forty-four point five two degrees north latitude and a hundred nine point zero five degrees west longitude would be Cody. Maybe this one isn't Barsaloi, oh crap. We were looking north of the equator. This one is south, the only one south."

"So it looks like maybe Nairobi, Kenya?" Toby guessed.

Patrick wrote down Nairobi and Scott took the paper up to Buster. The teacher started saying she had a winner as Buster declared Scott's paper was correct. The teacher looked at both papers and since both were done close enough, she declared it a tie. "I only have three coupons, so we go to a tie breaker. Each team will be given five coordinates and ten minutes to find them. The team with the most correct after time is called, wins."

Both teams were handed a sheet of paper with the coordinates and once time started they had to use a globe to find the different cities. Patrick did the searching, Toby read the coordinates and Scott wrote down the cities as Patrick told him the name. When time was up, they had a city for all five coordinates. The teacher checked the other team first.

"You only have four cities written down but I am happy to say they all are correct," the teacher told them. She walked over to Patrick's team. "You have five cities written down, but are they all correct? For you to win, they need to be. Miss one and we have another tie. Miss two and the other team wins."

She scanned the paper not once, but twice. She looked at the boys and spoke, "I'm sorry but you have all of your cities correct."

At first Patrick was downhearted, thinking she said they were wrong, but then it sank in, "What? Wait, did you say they were all correct?"

The teacher chuckled, "Yes, and I'm sorry was for the other team. You are the winner and each of you boys will get a coupon."

Patrick, Toby and Scott were ecstatic when they received their coupon. They felt sorry for the three girls, but that was short lived. Toby walked over to one of the girls and asked if she would like to join him for the pizza. It was a large three-topping pizza, big enough for him, his dad and her to share.

Patrick thought about asking one of the girls to help eat his pizza, but decided, if he shared with his family, it just wouldn't be big enough for a fifth person. Scott flashed Patrick a grin. Again, Patrick felt something strange happening. Scott looked at Patrick and suggested, "We should get our families together for this. Too bad Toby wanted to share his with Jeanie or I would have suggested all three families."

"We can still do all three families; we'd just have Jeanie as well. Toby is my best friend," Patrick stated.

"That's cool, can we be friends, too? I really like you Patrick, you're smart and caring and…" Scott didn't finish his thought, he was afraid it might scare Patrick if he told him that he what he was thinking.

Patrick smiled, he didn't seem to catch the last "and", "I like you too, Scott, I'd be happy to have you as a friend."

When class let out, Patrick went to find Jim and Zac waiting on him. He was a little surprised when he didn't see Mr. Maelstrom. Toby was with him, "Toby's dad isn't here? This is the first time that he hasn't picked us up all week."

Jim spoke softly and quietly, "He called and asked if we could pick you boys up. He's in court finalizing the divorce and Mrs. Maelstrom is being a bit demanding. It seems that she thinks she should get the house and cars but couldn't care less about anything else. I'm sorry with how that sounds, Toby. I'm sure she wasn't referring to you."

Toby responded, with tears in his eyes, "No, I think she was. I've known my whole life that she didn't love me. I hope that she doesn't get anything, but I'd gladly give it all up to have her out of Dad's and my life."

"OH DAD AND PAPA!!!" Patrick changed the subject as he and Toby got in the truck. "We had a contest in Geography class and we won. It was Toby, my new friend Scott and I on our team. We each got coupons for a free pizza at Millstones' Pizza. Scott suggested that all three families go together and celebrate."

"That's cool Patrick, way to go," Zac offered, "and you too, Toby."

Toby smiled, "I've never seen anyone look up coordinates on a map as fast as this guy. I read the coordinates, Patrick found them and Scott wrote them down."

The boys went to the ranch and were getting out of the truck when Mr. Maelstrom pulled up. Toby looked at his dad and asked, "So do we have to move?"

"Nope," Mr. Maelstrom stated, "I just told the judge that I filed for divorce when she was happy you were in the hospital and she laughed at that. The judge declared that she could keep her car and her clothes. Everything else was to go to me to help raise you. I'm sorry that she didn't even want visitation, but I'm glad that I don't have to share you with her."

"I'm glad that she didn't want visitation," Toby declared, "I don't hate her, but since she doesn't love me, I don't love her either." Toby hugged his dad and started to cry.

Patrick prodded, "Tell him the good news, Toby."

"Oh, right," Toby said, "Patrick, a boy named Scott and I were a team in geography class and we each won a coupon for a free pizza. Scott suggested that we all go together with our families, but I also invited a girl. Her team almost won so I felt sorry for her. And she's cute."

Richard laughed, "You won a pizza? I think we can figure something out with Scott's family and set up a time. You are too young to date, though, but I suppose we can let this girl join us this one time."

Richard took Toby home, promising to see the boys at two the next day. Jim commented about having a busy day planned for Saturday and was ready to go home.

Saturday morning, Jim and Zac found Patrick and Jake sitting in the dining room. "Let me guess, you want French toast for breakfast and have everything ready," Zac teased.

"Nope, we do have everything ready, but not for French toast," Patrick responded.

Jim walked in the kitchen and found two pounds of bacon, a dozen eggs, and bread with butter beside the toaster. "How do you want your eggs?" he asked.

After breakfast, Jim and Patrick took care of the horses. Patrick really enjoyed taking care of the horses and being with Jim felt good. When they were alone, Jim looked at Patrick, "I, uh, I'm not sure how to ask you something without embarrassing you."

"Umm, if it's what I think it is, I don't know what happened, honest, Dad," Patrick looked nervous.

Jim gave a weak smile before speaking, "I was doing laundry and I recognized a stain in one of your briefs. I'm guessing you had what is called a 'wet dream,' and if so, it's perfectly normal for a young man to have them, especially when going through puberty."

Patrick looked down, "Is that what you call it? I sorta freaked thinking something was wrong with me. Then I had another one this morning."

"Wow," Jim said, "Normally there's more time between them, but it's not unheard of. If you want to talk about it, I'm here, but I can understand if you find it embarrassing. Just know that it's normal, you have nothing to worry about, and Papa and I are always willing to listen if you decide you want to discuss anything."

"How do you know if you're gay?" Patrick asked.

Jim wasn't ready for that question and paused to think, "You may be too young to actually know that, but for the most part, you are attracted to guys more than girls. At your age, you may feel something for guys, but according to Sigmund Freud, that's normal. You may discover later that you're interested in girls. Are you attracted to Toby?"

Patrick shook his head, "Not Toby, but my new friend Scott has emerald green eyes and I want to kiss him whenever I look in them. And his smile just causes my knees to get weak."

Jim warned, "Be careful, he may not feel the same as you, and it could just be a phase."

Patrick acknowledged, "I know, but I think he does. When he found out I have two dads, he thought that was cool and he said that he really likes me. I think he almost called me cute but was afraid to."

Jim smiled at Patrick, "At this time, I don't think it means that you are gay, but I wouldn't rule it out, either. Just be careful and respect Scott. Don't push him into doing something he's not ready for and don't let him talk you into it, either."

"I was dreaming of him when I had my wet dream this morning," Patrick admitted.

Jim laughed, "That would explain why you had one so recently after your first. Just know that gay or straight, Papa and I will love you the same."

Patrick hugged Jim, "I could have never had this conversation with Daddy. He might have disowned me for even thinking I might be gay."

Jim chuckled, "I guess that is one advantage about having gay dads."

Once the horses were taken care of, Jim and Patrick got the horses ready for Matt and Gina to show up. As Matt walked around to help Gina out of his truck, Jim sent Patrick to get Jake. Matt hugged Jim as he announced, "Guess what, I received a full scholarship to attend the University of Wyoming here in Cody. They want me to play basketball, but they have a great veterinarian program. Classes start on Tuesday."

Jim happily told Matt, "I think Zac enrolled there as well. They have a great business section under their Animal Science department, including raising and breeding livestock. I was planning to go to Northwestern, but when Zac was checking them out, I decided that's where I want to go."

Matt declared, "I have to take those courses as well so we'll probably be in classes together. But, Zac can get his Associate's Degree in two years or Master's Degree in four. I have to take six years of classes to get my Doctorate to be a doctor."

Jim seemed a little sad, "Zac's going to take night courses so he can work the ranch during the day, but I'm concerned with what that'll do with his time with the boys. He wants his Master's so that's four years."

"I hear you," Matt said, "If he goes all year round and doesn't take the summer off, he won't have to have as stressful of a schedule. He could also take a little longer than the four years to get his Master's to ease it up a bit, but he needs to do what's best for him, you and the boys. Gina will be doing online courses so she can stay home with our baby when he's born. She's glad that you suggested it. Maybe Zac can do some of his online as well."

Jim looked at Gina, "I'm glad, I know that you weren't expecting a baby so soon and wanted to do schooling first, but I'm glad you can still do your schooling."

Gina smiled, "I'm glad that you suggested taking online courses. And I can do them while Matt's at home so he'll look after the baby while I'm having a class session."

Patrick was returning from getting Jake when he heard Gina talking, "If Dad and Papa let me, I'd be happy to babysit for you."

Jim responded, "I have no problem with it."

Matt looked at Patrick, "We have almost half a year before the baby is born, and then a few weeks before Gina or the baby are up for trips. If you are still interested then, we can discuss it, but I promise, unless there is some unforeseen reason to need a special babysitter, you will be our first option."

Jim had just finished taking care of the horse after Matt and Gina's riding when Richard and Toby showed up for their riding lessons. Jim looked at his watch and then Richard, "You are a few minutes early, but I like that. With there being two of you, Patrick will be assisting me as it will help him be a better rider."

Richard stated, "I don't have a problem with it, as long as Toby and I learn what we need to know."

Jim acknowledge what Richard said, "Good to know, and I promise you, before your hour is up, you will know the basics. After that it will mainly be practice and correcting your form. Toby, you were with us the other day, what is the first thing you think you should learn?"

Toby thought, "Well, ummm, the first thing you did was brush the horses to make sure no burrs will get under the saddle. That would hurt."

Jim gave Toby a quick nod and smile, "If you will be going to ranches who saddle your horse for you, you won't need to know that as much, but if you want to properly learn how to ride, that includes saddling your own horse, so you are correct. Since neither of you have actually ridden a horse, I chose a couple of tamer animals for you to use. Grooming the horse before the ride is slightly different than grooming the horse after the ride, but I will show you. And expect to be a little sore tomorrow. You will be using muscles that you may not know that you have. I will try to teach you how to minimize the pain, but riding a horse is exercise, and we all know that when we try a new exercise for the first time, it tends to hurt."

After they brushed the horse and inspected the saddle for burrs, Jim demonstrated how to properly place the saddle on the horse. Since Toby would have had a difficult time doing it himself, Jim used the horse he would be using. He then showed how to secure the saddle using the cinch. He watched as Richard saddled his horse. As the hour progressed, Richard was surprised with how much he was learning. He actually felt confident he could handle his horse before his lesson was over.

The Cody High School seniors started arriving a few minutes before four. Coach, Dylan and Kevin were the last to arrive and they showed up right at four. Not knowing how many horses would be needed, Jim had all the horses ready to be groomed and saddled. And every horse was used. Jim apologized to Patrick, "We don't have a spare horse, even Buster is riding with Uncle Joe. Either you can ride with Papa or me, or Jackson will be taking some of the kids in the wagon."

Patrick just smiled and said, "At least you're letting us join you, you could have taken Jake and me home to have Grandma watch us. I'll ride with you."

Jim turned to Jake, "Patrick's riding with Dad, do you want to ride with Papa or do you want to ride Oro?"

Jake looked at Zac and without hesitation, he stated, "I want to ride with Papa." Everyone mounted their horse except Jim, Jake and Patrick. The teens that didn't have a horse climbed into the wagon. Jim handed Jake up to Zac and then mounted Gold. He gave Patrick a hand getting up.

As the teens noticed the dock and the cabin, many made comments about it and how much more fun they could have. Some of the boys asked if they could take the canoes out. Jackson simply told them to enjoy themselves. Coach Jenkins suggested that they have a race since there were two canoes and several boys agreed. Jackson started cooking burgers on the grill.

After Patrick dismounted from Gold, he asked Jim, "Can Jake and I go in the cabin and change into our swimming trunks?" Jim just nodded as he alit from Gold. The girls that came, which included Cheyenne, wore their bikinis and swimsuits under their clothes as did a few of the boys. The boys who didn't, waited for Patrick and Jake to come out of the cabin and then they went in to change.

Since girls were joining them, someone set up a volleyball net so the girls could join them. While some of the girls may have joined in football, not all of them would and they thought Patrick might enjoy volleyball over playing football with much older boys. Jake was a bit young for either, but they let him play just for fun.

After the first game of volleyball, Jackson announced that the burgers were ready. Coach Jenkins took down the volleyball net as they ate. Dylan spoke up, "Dad, what gives? We were planning another game after we ate."

Coach Jenkins responded, "Knowing how you boys love football and girls would be here as well as Jim's and Zac's boys, I brought the belts for flag football. Now, if you would rather play volleyball instead, I'll set it back up."

Patrick was the first to answer, "I vote for football." Once he said that, everyone else agreed.

Coach looked at Patrick and smiled, "I can't wait until you are in high school." He turned to Joe, "You want to play or be a ref?"

"Buster and I can help ref," Joe answered.

After choosing sides, Jim had Patrick hike the ball to Jake and then Jim picked the boy up. "Hold the ball tight," he told his son and then he carried him all the way down for a touchdown. Jake laughed the whole time.

Coach Jenkins kidded, "You moved pretty fast there, Jake."

Jake giggled, "Because Daddy carried me. This is fun."

"See that boy right there? He's my son," Coach Jenkins stated, "Do you see the straps hanging down his sides? If you pull one, it'll pop off."

Jake grinned and walked over to Dylan. Dylan was wondering what was up because Jake had a devilish grin. Jake reached over and grabbed one of Dylan's "flags" and pulled it off. Once that happened, instead of football, everyone was trying to pull "flags" while keeping theirs from being pulled. That lasted the rest of the night until Patrick was the only one still having a "flag" attached.

Jim walked over to Coach Jenkins, "You instigated that, didn't you?"

"I sure did," Coach admitted, "and it looked like y'all had fun doing it."

Jim confessed, "I admit, I did, but we didn't get much football played."

Coach looked at Jim, "Be honest, do you think your boys would have enjoyed playing football more than this?"

"Patrick, maybe," Jim stated, "but Jake, no. I think he had more fun just pulling the flags."

Coach smiled, "So you can understand my thinking. As for Patrick, he seems to like playing sports and I can't wait until he's in ninth grade."

"I'm still learning things about him," Jim averred, "but yeah, I think he'd be good at anything he decides to try. Jake is still a bit young, but Zac and I agree that we will encourage him to try anything he seems interested in. They both like martial arts."

Coach just started laughing, "I just envisioned Patrick running towards the end zone with the ball and someone trying to tackle him, but he does a martial art move on them. Maybe I should invent martial art football." Jim just laughed.

As they wrapped things up, all of Jim's classmates commented about how they enjoyed getting to meet Patrick and Jake. Everyone seemed to have a good time. Patrick asked if they could spend the night at the lake. Zac apologized, "I'm sorry, Bud, but none of us brought a change of clothes, we have no sleeping bags, or everything."

Jim thought for a minute and said, "We should leave our sleeping bags here. We never use them anywhere else and if the need should arise, we can always come get them. That way, if we wanted to spend a night spontaneously, we can."

Zac gave Jim a peck on the lips and whispered, "Are you suggesting that I go get our sleeping bags and each of us a change of clothes?"

Jim looked at Patrick and then back to Zac, "Would you, please? I think the boys would be happy."

Zac gave Jim another peck on the lips and replied, "If it'll make the boys happy, I'll do it." Patrick hugged Zac around the waist.

As Zac got in the truck, Patrick looked at Jim, "Thank you for requesting it, I know it made me happy, but I can't say for sure about Jake. He's asleep on the ground."

Jim picked Jake up and asked Patrick, "Are you in the mood for a walk or would you rather wait for Papa to come back?"

"How long of a walk?" Patrick asked.

Jim replied, "As the crow flies, it's about a tenth of a mile, but that's too risky and we might run into rattlesnakes. If we stick to the trail, we may still run into snakes, but the chance is less likely. The trail is about a quarter of a mile. I've not really measured either way, so those are just guesstimates."

Patrick questioned, "Why can't we just ride the horses?"

Jim answered, "They've had a busy day and deserve a break." Patrick acknowledged that he understood and asked if they could just wait for Papa to return. Jim held his free arm out and Patrick moved in for a hug. "I guess you've had a busy day yourself. Did you have fun?" Patrick didn't answer so Jim looked down at him. The boy fell asleep hugging him. When Zac returned, he had to take a picture.

Monday morning, Jim had hoped that Jake forgot about wanting to milk the cows. He didn't know if Jackson was able to arrange it and he didn't want the boy disappointed. Much to his chagrin, Jim woke up hearing a little boy shouting about wanting to go milk a cow, today. Groggily, Zac spoke, "How does he know today is Labor Day and he might get to milk a cow? And it's five in the morning, why is he awake and so chipper?"

"I can guess the how he knows it's Labor Day," Jim responded, rubbing sleep out of his eyes. "He probably made mention about school and someone told him we have no school, today. As for the awake and chipper, he's a five-year-old."

Jim and Zac headed downstairs, spotting a sleepy Patrick coming out of his room. "I love my brother, but I really hope he doesn't wake me up this early too often," Patrick stated, letting out a yawn.

Jim chuckled, "I hear you Bud, but I think he's a bit excited about hopefully being able to milk a cow."

"I just hope Jackson was able to arrange it," Zac commented. "He called them, but wouldn't let me know if he was able to convince them to come and let kids try milking or not."

As Zac parked the truck, Jackson headed to meet them. Zac told him, "I hope you were able to set up for a cow to be here. All this boy has talked about in the three hours since he woke us up was getting to milk a cow."

Jackson explained, "Well, I told him that I would charge an extra dollar for everyone getting tickets to go ride if he shows and he would get that dollar whether they came over to his display or not. Those that bought tickets would turn one in to him and if they didn't have a ticket, he could collect directly from them."

"I know; I was there when you spoke to him. You just never let me know if he was coming or not," Zac stated.

Before Jackson could answer, a truck was pulling up beside them. Jim smiled when he read "George's Dairy Farm" on the side of the truck. A man got out of the truck and walked up to Jackson. "I brought three cows to make it easier on them to be milked all day long. Some kids may not get milk, but I'm sure they will have fun trying. Where would you like for me to set up?"

Jake squealed, "Did you bring cows for me to milk?"

Jackson laughed, "This is the boy I was telling you that wanted to milk a cow. He won't have a ticket since his family works for me so let me give you money for him now."

The man looked at Jake, "You seriously want to milk a cow? As soon as I have them ready, I will show you how to do it." He turned to Jackson, "He gets his free."

"And my brother?" Jake asked.

The man smiled as he replied, "Sure, maybe I'll let the two of you do it first so people get an interest."

Patrick hadn't really showed an interest in milking a cow prior but when he found out that he was going to get an opportunity he calmly said, "Sweet."

Jackson showed the man a temporary bull pen that he set up beside the pony rides in the corral. Patrick and Jake watched as the man unloaded his cows from the truck. He placed a stool and a pail with each cow. And he posted a sign that said, "Come milk a cow for one ticket or $1.50."

Jackson commented, "They're only paying a buck for the ticket."

"That's right," the man said and then added, "Just like if you get tickets to an event, you get them cheaper buying the tickets ahead of time rather than buying them at the gate."

"You have a point," Jackson concurred, "If someone wanted to rent a horse, it would cost them the same as buying tickets, but by buying the tickets, they also get a drink, a choice of a burger or hotdog AND they get to milk a cow."

The man looked at Jake, "If you want to come watch, I'll show you how to milk a cow. By the way, my name is George."

"I'm Jake and my brother is Patrick," Jake responded as he watched George milk the first cow.

"I take it, you and Patrick are really close," George surmised.

Jake nodded his head, "Uh huh, he lost his parents and moved in with us. He's been the best brother I could ask for and I'm trying to help him not hurt anymore."

"And you have been a big help, Bro," Patrick said, a tear running down his face, "but please, don't mention it anymore. It brings back the pain when you do."

"I'm sorry, Patrick," Jake offered.

"I know, and I understand that you didn't know it hurts talking about it, so I forgive you, but please…" Patrick didn't finish his sentence, he just hugged Jake. Jim watched what had happened and wanted to give Patrick a hug, but he let the two boys just hug each other.

Jake was ready to milk a cow when people started lining up. He was milking one cow as Patrick milked another. One lady inquired, "I don't want to milk a cow myself, can I use my ticket to watch the little boy milk it again? He's so cute, can I take his picture?"

"As for the picture, you'd have to ask his father," George stated, then he looked at Jake and asked, "Do you want to milk the cow again? This lady would like to watch you."

Jake just grinned and sat back down on the stool. Patrick was getting ready to look for Jim when he saw a truck pull up with a horse trailer. The truck had a sign that said "Gavin Farms." "Dad," Patrick started, "that's Scott's family."

Jim and Patrick walked towards the truck, leaving Zac to keep an eye on Jake. Jake was having fun milking a cow and several people used their ticket to watch him. A blonde-haired boy around Patrick's age was getting out of the truck when Jim and Patrick got there. He immediately ran to Patrick and gave him a hug. Jim thought, 'I can see why Patrick thinks Scott has feelings for him.'

Scott introduced Patrick to his parents, "Mom and Dad, this is Patrick, he was the one who really did the work that won us the pizzas."

Patrick was a little surprised when Scott hugged him and he almost kissed the boy but settled with just returning the hug. He turned to Scott's parents and greeted them, "I'm pleased to meet you, this is my Dad."

Jim shook hands with Mr. and Mrs. Gavin. "Patrick tells me that Scott suggested for the boys and all of us to all go together for a pizza party."

"Yes, that's what Scott told us as well. We were thinking around Friday night the eighteenth, unless you will be busy." Mr. Gavin stated.

"Hmmm, I'm not sure what Zac's schedule is like for school, he'll be taking night courses since he works on the ranch during the day. What about Saturday night?" Jim suggested.

Mr. Gavin agreed, "Saturday night or Sunday afternoon work for us. The twenty-second will be Scott's twelfth birthday and he'd like to invite Patrick over for a small party right after school. It'll just be us and Patrick, but you'd be welcome to join us."

Jim looked at Patrick, "You have my permission to go, either you can ride your bike, I can drop you off or I can take you and stay until you're ready to go home."

"Or he can ride home from school with us and spend the night," Scott suggested.

Patrick looked at Jim waiting to see what he said. Jim gave Patrick a one-armed hug and said, "It's your call, but if I were you, I'd jump at the chance to spend the night."

"Thank you, Dad," Patrick said, giving Jim a hug. He turned to Scott, "If your parents don't mind, I'd love to spend the night."

"Scott already asked if you could," Mr. Gavin responded, "And we thought it would be a splendid idea."

"I just hope I don't wake you the next morning, I get up at five so I can take care of the horses," Scott warned.

Patrick laughed, "That's not that early. Through the week, we get up at six, but weekends, it's five since Dad and Papa come here to take care of these horses. I like helping Dad take care of them, maybe I can help you so you get done quicker." Jim smiled at Patrick.

Jim looked at Mr. Gavin, "So Mr. Gavin, what's in the trailer?"

"Please, call me Ed," Mr. Gavin started, "I hope Jackson doesn't mind. Scott wanted to come here today, hoping to go riding and we brought our own horses."

Jim confirmed, "Jackson won't mind, but don't buy any tickets. They include the cost of horse rental and you can buy the food and drink for less than the tickets."

Patrick asked Scott, "You want to see my brother milking a cow? He's so cute and people are using their tickets just to watch him doing it."

Scott smiled at Patrick, "If he's your brother, he has to be cute."

Patrick just smiled and then asked Jim, "Can I take him to watch Jake for a few minutes?"

"If it's alright with his parents," Jim replied.

"Can I, Dad?" Scott asked.

Ed agreed, "For a few minutes, then you need to help me unload the horses since it was your idea to come here to go riding."

Patrick and Scott ran to watch Jake still milking the cows. No one else seemed interested in doing it, they keep using their tickets just to watch him. Jake didn't care, he was having fun, but he was obviously getting tired. George looked at the crowd, "After this cow, I think the boy needs a break; I know the cows will."

Scott watched Jake and let it slip, "He's almost as cute as you." Patrick was surprised by Scott saying that but he didn't respond, acting like he didn't hear it. Scott glanced over and was glad Patrick "didn't" hear him.

Jim walked with Mr. and Mrs. Gavin and led them to Zac. "Hon," Jim announced, "This is Ed and Dena Gavin. They are Scott's parents. We thought maybe Saturday the nineteenth would be a good day for the pizza party for the boys and then Scott invited Patrick to his birthday party on the twenty-second and Patrick will be spending the night."

Zac shook their hands and greeted them, "I'm pleased to meet both of you. I take it, Scott really likes Patrick."

"He hasn't stopped talking about him since he got home Friday," Dena averred. "I've never seen him take a liking to anyone as fast as he has Patrick."

Jim whispered in Zac's ear, "I think Scott has a crush on Patrick. Patrick has a crush on Scott and asked me about being gay."

Zac told Jim, "We'll talk later."

That night when they got home, Jim and Zac sat down with Patrick. They asked Jake to go play in his room. Zac looked Patrick in the eye and asked, "What's this I hear about you having a sleepover at Scott's?"

Patrick looked down, "Scott invited me to his birthday party and said I could spend the night. Dad said that it was alright, but now I'm nervous about going."

"Oh?" Jim questioned, "did something happen today?"

Patrick nodded his head once, "When we went to watch Jake milking a cow, Scott commented that Jake was almost as cute as me. I like Scott and I want to kiss him, but I'm not sure if I'm gay and if I am, I don't think I'm ready for a boyfriend."

Zac smiled, "You're not ready for a boyfriend. If you were, you would know it. And remember what I said when you told me you had a crush on someone else?"

"You mean when I told you I had a crush on Dad?" Patrick asked. He looked at Jim for some reaction. Jim raised an eyebrow, slightly surprised, but not totally. He merely gave Patrick a smile. Patrick continued, "You said that it might be a phase. Dad said the same thing, that Sigmund Fraud claims that everyone goes through it."

"Sigmund Freud, and yes, you and Scott may both be going through a phase. If you want, I can come pick you up after the party. You can say that I said not on a school night," Zac offered.

Patrick's eyes went big, "No Papa, please? I want to spend the night with Scott. I think it would be fun and I promise, if Scott tries anything, I'll tell him that I'm not ready. That is, anything but kiss."

Jim laughed, "You seriously want to kiss him. I hope for both of your sakes that either you both are going through a phase or neither of you are. I would hate to see either of you get broken hearted."

"Yeah, I'm sure Dad told you, if you discover that you're gay, straight or bi, we will love you and support you. We can promise you that," Zac assured Patrick.

"When does a straight boy get too old for his dads to kiss him?" Patrick asked, "I enjoy you two kissing me, maybe not in public, but I hope I never get too old for you to kiss me like you do."

Jim gave Patrick a hug, "There is no set age when it happens for anyone, gay or straight. Straight boys may start getting embarrassed sooner, but there's no age on that. As long as you feel comfortable with it, I don't care if you're thirty, I will be happy to kiss your cheek and say I love you."

Patrick smiled and Jim noticed a gleam in his eye, "You're my dad, I like knowing that you love me, so I hope I never feel uncomfortable with it. That goes for you too, Papa."

Zac said, "OK, you have school tomorrow, go get a shower and get to bed. Let Jake know that we said the same for him."

"I love you, Papa," Patrick said, giving Zac a hug and kiss. Then he walked over to Jim, "I love you, Dad." Jim picked him up with his hug and held him.

Zac acted upset, "I thought I told you to get a shower and go to bed. You can't take a shower if you're up in the air like that."

Patrick stated, "Dad picked me up, it's not my fault."

Jim placed Patrick over his shoulder, "I think I should get a shower and go to bed, myself. I have school tomorrow as well." Patrick laughed as Jim went upstairs carrying him like that. He was surprised when Jim didn't put him down. Instead, while still carrying him, he went in and turned on his shower.

Concern in his voice, Patrick asked, "Dad, do you plan to put me down before you get in? We still have our clothes on."

Jim chuckled, "Oh, I was wondering what that weight on my shoulder was." And he set Patrick on the floor.

"Somehow, I doubt you had to wonder too much," Patrick giggled, then he gave Jim a hug before heading to tell Jake that Papa said for them to get a shower and go to bed.

Jake looked at him and asked, "Did you get in trouble for something?"

"No," Patrick answered, "Dad and Papa just needed to talk to me about when I go to Scott's birthday party in a couple of weeks."

Jake confessed, "OK, I was worried about you when they took you to the table and asked me to come up here."

"I'm glad you cared, want to shower with me so I can wash your hair and back?" Patrick offered.

"Uh huh," Jake said. After their shower the boys went to bed.

Zac found out, he had a class on Tuesday nights, but a couple of his classes could only be taken during the day on Wednesdays and Thursdays, or he could do them online. Since the day classes started at nine in the morning and would be out by three in the afternoon, Zac chose those days as his days off from the ranch. Josh agreed to help those days if Jackson needed anyone before Jim arrived.

Scott started eating lunch with Patrick and Toby every day. The three discussed what pizzas they wanted to get with their coupon and hoped that their parents would let them.

Since Zac didn't have classes on Friday nights, they moved the pizza party back to the original date. At Millstones, Jim spoke to Patrick, "C'mon, it's your coupon, so order what you want on it and I'll order a second pizza and drinks to be sure we have enough."

"Papa said that you don't like olives, but I do. I don't know about Jake and Papa," Patrick commented.

Jim encouraged the boy to get what he wants, "If you want olives, get them, or maybe get them on half. I don't know if Jake does or not, but I know Papa doesn't. Papa and I can eat off the second pizza. Just make sure that whatever you put on it, you will eat."

Patrick grinned, "Scott, Toby and I were hoping that we could pick the toppings since we won the coupons, but we didn't want to ask and seem selfish."

Jim gave Patrick a slight hug, "Asking if you could wouldn't have been selfish, but I'm glad it worked out like you wanted. And you do know that if you asked, we would have let you."

Patrick gave Jim a toothy grin and said, "I was fairly sure that you would, but seeing how I never had to test it, I really didn't know."

Jim chuckled, "At least that's honest, but never be afraid to ask anything."

"Can I take Gold to school on Monday?" Patrick teased.

That made Jim laugh, causing the entire restaurant to look at him. "I don't think the school would allow it."

"I know, but you said I could ask anything," Patrick replied.

When the pizza arrived, Jim asked Jake which side of the pizza he wanted to eat from. Jake pointed at the olives and asked, "What's them?"

Zac said, "Those are olives, do you like olives?"

Jake shrugged his shoulders, "I don't know." Patrick picked an olive off and handed it to Jake. After eating it, Jake wrinkled his nose and made a face.

Patrick declared, "I'm glad I didn't get olives on the whole thing."

After they ate, Patrick, Scott, Toby and Jeanie asked if they could go to the arcade room. Jake looked at Patrick and asked, "Can I come, too?"

Patrick replied, "You may be too little for most of the games, but we can see if there's anything you can play." Jim and Zac mouthed a "thank you" to Patrick.

As the night wore thin, Jake was sitting on Jim's lap asleep. Patrick had spent fifteen dollars playing arcades, but five of that was for Jake to play skee-ball. He came back to the table and laid his head against Zac. Jim announced that he thought it was time to head home and Zac concurred.

Horse Runner

Author's Note: What's Jim and Zac doing in Priorities?


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