Priorities - Book Two

Chapter Twenty-Three: The Camping Trip (The First Day)

(A Crossover with Still Another Chance)

Author's Note: When doing a crossover between two stories, every effort is made to keep the stories interconnected yet separate. In some cases this isn't prudent to the story line. The chapters, Priorities Book II Chapter 23 and Still Another Chance 10, have some areas that are virtually identical, but different in many areas. Both authors contributed to the creation of the entire chapter. Please read both stories, you will come across many differences; some more subtle than others.

After Mrs. Masterson left, Henri and Marine showed the twins around the restaurant. They could tell by the way the boys were reacting to the food around them, that they were probably hungry. Henri asked the chef who was filling in for François to prepare the boys a meal. He then joined Marine and the boys in the private dining room.

Marine was sitting on one side with an open chair for Henri. Leon was sitting across from Henri's seat and his brother, Noel, was across from Marine.

[Author's Note: Whereas the characters spoke in French, I will be writing it in English.]

Henri took his seat, noting the smiling faces on the boys. "You two look happy."

Leon took the lead, "Oh we are. Mama told us that the whole reason we came here was to find Cousin Marine."

Marine asked, "Why, after all these years, did she want to find me? Until now, I haven't heard from her since you two were still babies."

Leon looked down and said softly, "There were problems back home, money problems. Mama said she hoped we could find you and we could live in America. Then, she could find a job here and we could be happy and around other family."

Henri decided not to ask about the 'problems' he was just happy the boys were safe with him. He turned to Noel and asked, "What are your birthdays? How old are you?"

Noel looked over at his brother and Leon replied, "Noel is kind of shy around new people, I was born on December 24, 2004 at 2358 (11:58 pm). Noel was born on December 25, 2004 at 0003 (3 minutes after midnight), we are eleven years old."

Henri then decided to ask about their knowledge of English. "Mrs. Masterson said that you two only spoke a little English. You will have to learn it if you are going to live here."

Leon smiled and said, in English… very good English, "Oh, we speak English just fine. When that lady was talking to us, we were very upset… our Mama had just died and we didn't know what was going to happen to us. "

Noel spoke for the first time, he had a very melodic voice, timidly he asked, "Are you our new Papa?"

Marine had a tear in her eye when she replied, "Yes, Little-one, Henri is your new Papa, and I am your new Mama, I'm your cousin Marine, but we're going to adopt you."

Noel was happy with that response, but Leon spoke next, "Do we have to give up our last name?"

Henri said, "No, Leon. You can be my son and still carry your family name."

Noel, obviously becoming more comfortable, asked, "What's your last name?

Henri replied, "Duchamp."

Leon thought for a moment before saying, "Leon Duchamp," turning to his brother he continued, "do you like that name for me?"

Noel smiled and said, "I like it for you and I like Noel Duchamp for my name!"

Noel thought for a moment then turned to his brother. They stared at each other for a few seconds, intense expressions on their faces. Noel then turned to Henri and Marine and said, "Could we keep both names?"

Henri told them they could. If they didn't have middle names they could have their names changed to Leon Montblanc Duchamp and Noel Montblanc Duchamp, or they can hyphenate the name to Montblanc-Duchamp.

Leon said, "Neither of us have middle names, Mama told me when I asked that she had nobody she wanted to honor by giving us their name as a middle name. I think we will use Montblanc as our middle names and use Duchamp as our last name. The hyphenated name would be too confusing."

"Well, you two have an older brother also. His name is Roger. We adopted him last year and he just got married to his boyfriend." Henri explained.

Marine added sadly, "And he's an orphan, like you two."

"We don't care that he married a boy, but he must be much older than us." Leon replied.

"Actually, he's 14. He'll be fifteen in November.

"You can get married here when you are fourteen?" came the shocked reply from Noel.

"If you have permission from your parents, yes."

"Wow. Now I can't wait to meet him, he must be a special person," Leon said, "There are a few things I think he can help us with. You know, 'boy things.'" Embarrassment evident in his expression.

At that time their food arrived. The boys dug in like they hadn't eaten in a week. "This is good, what's it called?" Leon inquired.

"It's my specialty. It's one of the dishes that our restaurant is known for, It's Henri's Hunter Stew."

Noel, having cleaned his bowl, asked if he could have some more! Henri asked, "Are you sure you don't want some dessert? I have something special planned for it."

"Ok, I will have dessert and then if I am still hungry could I have more of this stew? It's the best thing I've ever eaten!" Noel announced.

The restaurant was now open and they had reservations for a full house all night. Henri was a little concerned because he was spending all his time with the boys and ignoring his business. "I'm going to go check on the restaurant; when I return, I'll make you your special dessert."

Henri left the private dining room and walked into the main seating area for the restaurant. Every table was full and the waitstaff was doing an excellent job. He found his Maître D'hôtel who told him that everything was running smoothly and he'd call Henri if he was needed.

Henri felt proud of the man. He had stepped up when needed; Henri would have to reward him in some way. He made the rounds of the tables as he normally would so his customers would feel that they were important to him. What they didn't realize was, it wasn't an act. He truly wanted his customers to feel as if they're among friends when dining at his restaurant. He went back to the private dining room and asked the boys to follow him out.

Once in the main room, Henri called out for everyone's attention. "Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for joining us this evening. I hope you are enjoying your meal. I have a bit of wonderful news to share with you."

"As you all know, our son, Roger was married this past week and will be living with his new husband."

Henri had to wait until the applause and calls of "Congratulations" died down.

"Thank you, but that's not all of the news. The two boys standing beside me are the sons of my wife's late cousin. They will be living with me and I will be starting the process of adopting them immediately."

Again, Henri had to pause until the applause died down. During the applause, Leon got Henri's attention and whispered something in his ear. Henri nodded.

When the applause died down, Leon said, "Merci… Thank you for that. I'm Leon and my brother is Noel. We are very happy to find our new family after our Mama died a couple of days ago. I look forward to meeting you all. I am sure you will be back to our restaurant. Bon Appétit."

As more applause was going on, Henri led the boys back into the private dining room. Henri was impressed with Leon's speech. He didn't seem intimidated at all and spoke very fluidly and comfortably. Henri knew now that between Roger, Noel, and Leon, the restaurant would be in good hands when he retired."

Almost as soon as they returned to the dining room, one of the Sous Chefs brought out a cart.

Henri went to it and wheeled it over to where the boys were sitting. He then, with all the theatrics he could, prepared their dessert of Cherries Jubilee. Leon and Noel were quite happy seeing the Flambé.

Dinner and dessert finished, they returned to Henri's office. It was nearly 7:00 pm when his phone rang.

Answering it, he was surprised to hear Mr. Miller, the attorney who assisted them with Roger's adoption, on the other end of the line.

"What can I do for you, George?" Henri inquired.

"Well, I received a phone call at about five-o'clock this evening from a Mrs. Masterson from Child Services. She told me that you were adopting two boys? Do you know what you're getting into?"

Henri laughed, "I do, George. These boys are actually blood relatives from France. Marine is the last living relative and the boy's mother brought them here so she could find Marine and stay in the United States to raise her children with family close by. Unfortunately, she was killed in an accident the day before yesterday and the boys were brought here for emergency temporary placement as foster children. When it came to light that they were family, she asked if we'd adopt them. The answer was one we didn't even have to think about."

"Can you come in to the office tomorrow morning, and bring Marine and the boys?" George asked.

"Sure thing, 10 o'clock in the morning okay?"

"You're on. See you then." George replied, then ended the call.

Henri then turned to the three who were staring at them. "We have an appointment tomorrow morning with the lawyer to start the process of adopting you two. The restaurant is in good hands, why don't we get you back to the house and get some rest? You two probably haven't slept as you should the past couple of days. You'll stay in the room Roger had before he got married."

Henri checked in with his staff, confident that all would be well, they left and headed home.

The following morning, the Duchamps found themselves in the waiting room for Mr. George Miller, Attorney at Law. They hadn't waited very long when the receptionist said they could go into his office.

They found both Mr. Miller and Mrs. Masterson seated at a conference table. Everyone took a seat and Leon said, in perfect English, 'It's good to see you again, Mrs. Masterson. Thank you for bringing us to Mr. and Mrs. Duchamp."

Laughing she replied, "Why, you little devils! You speak almost perfect English? You really had us believing you spoke almost none."

"I'm sorry, but we weren't sure what was going on and were a little afraid. We didn't mean anything bad." Leon said, contritely.

"It worked out for the best. Had you spoken English, then you'd have gone to the orphanage. It's not a problem, don't worry about it."

George took control of the meeting at that point, "So, Henri, what we have here is a case of an international adoption. Since you have already been approved as adoptive parents when you adopted Roger, there should be no impediment from our side. However, you will be adopting two citizens of France. I have contacted the equivalent to Child Services in the boys' hometown to get their approval. I don't foresee any issues there."

"What happens if they do have issues?" Marine asked.

"Well, then we have to get a few people involved. Our State Department, maybe a lawyer in France, and it will most likely have to go to court. But let's not dwell on that at this point. You are their sole living relatives and are willing to take them in. I see no reason for them to object."

George then took a document from his desk and showed it to Henri. "It appears that Mrs. Montblanc bought a travel insurance policy, naming the boys as beneficiary. It was for $500,000, but had a clause that if she died as the result of an accident, it pays double. I need to find out how the boys can claim this money since they're minors. I believe that you, as their current guardian can file on their behalf, but I want to verify that."

He turned to Leon and Noel before saying, "I need to ask the two of you; Do you want to be adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Duchamp?"

Both at the same time, without any hesitation, gave an emphatic, "Yes!"

George's smile split his face as he replied, "Fine, I will do everything I can to make that happen."

George started asking questions of Henri and Marine as he filled out the forms he'd need to file for the adoption. He then asked the boys several questions. As he was doing that, his secretary knocked on the door before entering. She handed George a paper.

George looked at the document and, since it was in French, asked Henri to translate it.

Henri read over the document and smiled, "It's from the Child Services in France. It's an authorization to proceed with the adoption of Noel and Leon Montblanc."

George smiled, "As I said, I didn't foresee any problems. Now I can file for the adoption today. I will do what I can to get it fast tracked. With Child Services here not contesting, and having authorization from the foreign child services organization, it's a formality and we should be able to get it on the calendar in a week or two… maybe sooner if there's a case that gets delayed."

George explained to Leon and Noel that soon, they'd go to court and a judge will talk to them in private. After they talk with the judge they'll go back into the courtroom and they will be adopted. They'll be asked if they want to change their names.

Once the boys understood what was going to happen, the meeting broke up. George told them that as soon as he had more information he'd let them know.

Henri and Marine took the boys out for lunch at McDonalds. For the boys, this was a real treat. Even though they had McDonalds in Paris, they didn't have the money to go there. During lunch, Noel said, "I am sad we lost our Mama, but I am happy we have a new family. Is that bad?"

"Not at all, I'm sad my cousin died, but I'm happy I can be there for you. You are family and I love you." Marine replied.

Noel got up from his seat and went to Marine. He wrapped his arms around her in a tight hug and said, "I love you, too, Mama."


"Maurice, while you are gone, don't even think about this place," Joe advised. "The boys will be camping, only Eric will be coming back to visit with his grandparents during the day, so just enjoy your visit.

"Merci, j'ai l'intention de le faire," Maurice claimed with a smile. "That's 'thanks, I intend to.'"

Joe chuckled, "At least you didn't apologize this time, but thanks for repeating it in English."

Seeing someone he didn't recognize entering the kitchen, Maurice asked, "What are you doing in my kitchen?"

"She's alright, Maurice," Joe declared. "Miss Williams is with Children's Protective Services." Joe looked at Miss Williams and asked, "You don't have another boy needing a home, I hope. We won't be opening until Monday, the first."

Miss Williams shook her head, "No, I was asked by the State to come and inspect."

With a puzzled look on his face, Joe inquired, "Why? I mean, you are free to inspect all that you want, but we already have our certification, and we were recently inspected."

"I am aware," Miss Williams assured. "No, this is because the State would like to establish Another Chance Boys' Home as a place where parents can bring their sons who they cannot care for. They could be able to sever their parental rights here instead of just tossing their kids onto the street like so many do. That way, there wouldn't need to be any legal action against the parents. Are you prepared for something like that?"

Joe looked worried, "It depends on how many do it, and how quickly. I may need more staff if I get a rush."

Miss Williams nodded, "I understand. You will be receiving an amount from the State for each child that you house, but from what I was told, you don't want the money itself, you would rather it go to the boys."

"That is correct," Joe stated. "They can have part of it immediately, but the rest will need deposited into a trust fund and they can have it on their eighteenth birthday, or if they go to college before. The Home, itself, will be functioning on donations. We were given a sizeable donation at Trevor and Roger's wedding; plus, we have annual donations already lined up. You would have to talk with my mom about how much we have total, right now as well as what is pledged. As a lawyer, she is handling the trust fund for the Home."

"Trevor and Roger? They're the boys who were in the paper?" Miss Williams asked to clarify. "It was because of that article and the publicity that the State would like making this a Safe Place. If you are up to it, I will recommend it, but don't let yourself get overwhelmed. I understand that Aunt Sallie will be overseeing everything. Use her for guidance. I'm sure, she'd be happy to help with hiring or wherever else you may need her assistance. Here is my card, you can call me with questions, also."

A tear running down Joe's cheek told what was truly in his heart, "If it keeps even one boy from being tossed out like Eric or I were, I will do it. I would so much rather the parents come here than just throw their sons out."

"I had a feeling," Miss Williams averred as she wiped the tear from Joe's cheek. "Maurice, I understand that you will be cooking. I've read your background and I am impressed. Are you ready to cook for a hundred boys?"

"Oui," Maurice replied. "Won't be a problem. With Joe's assistance, I can manage, or we've already discussed increasing my staff as needed."

"Yes, I believe you will," Miss Williams assured. "Now, just so I can include it with my report, I'd like to speak with Alexander... err, I mean Xander Martin and Phoenix Blaze."

"I hope they haven't headed to the lake yet," Joe chuckled. "They will be camping all weekend."

"Yes, I saw them loading up a couple of trailers attached to ATVs," stated Miss Williams. "Xander said that he would speak with me."

Joe said, "Well since they know you want to speak with them, they will probably wait."

They walked out to where the boys were preparing their rides and all the boys were grouped together, waiting. Miss Williams asked for Xander to chat with her. Once they were alone, she explained what her mission was, and Xander gave his thoughts. "Cases like mine, I honestly don’t think this place being a safe place would have mattered. I would have rathered that son of a bitch kick me out or gave me up to a place like this. Jim, Zac and Joe may be young, but I think that's why I trust them so soon after coming here."

"In your case…" Miss Williams had to stop to clear her throat and wipe her face. "In your case, had you considered running away…"

"Which I did think about," Xander interrupted.

"I'm sure you did," Miss Williams acknowledged. "I would have, but then that could have gotten you into more trouble. But if you had a Safe Place that you could have gone to and explained, we would have gotten you out of that hell a lot sooner." Tears were flowing down Miss Williams' face.

"I'd be happy to help in any way I can," Xander declared. "If I can be like someone that any new boy needs to talk to, to help them cope, I will. This place means so much to me."

"Well, sorry to keep you from your camping trip, and thank you," Miss Williams offered. "Can you ask Phoenix to come in, please?"

"We're still waiting for Tim to show up, so you're not keeping us, yet, but thank you and I will."

Xander went out and Phoenix went in. While Phoenix was talking with Miss Williams, Alex dropped Tim off. Tim went to hug Xander and his dad, thinking he'd grabbed his stuff, pulled away. "Crap!" Tim exclaimed, "my sleeping bag and clothes are still in the car."

Xander smiled, "I don't mind sharing my sleeping bag with you. We can just unzip it and lay on top."

"We have extra sleeping bags in the cabin," Zac stated. "Jim or I will be out later, in case you don't find one."

Patrick asked, "Are we taking one of the radios? We could just call you if we can't find them."

"Yes, you will be taking a radio," Jim stated. "Remember, security will be monitoring it, as well as us, so if you have an emergency, use it. And remember it's not a toy."

"We will, Dad," Patrick replied.

"Also," Zac added, "We still haven't found out who left that camp fire in the cave last month… actually, over five weeks ago, so be careful. Whoever it was has probably moved on, but we don't know for sure. If they are still on the property and threaten you in any way, let us and security know as soon as possible."

"We will, Dad." At that time, Phoenix came out of the cafeteria. Miss Williams followed him and headed for her car.

"What was that all about?" Jim asked.

Joe explained, "She is here on behalf of the State. They want to make this a place where parents can give up their boys rather than just kick them out for being gay."

"And if a boy is in a situation like I was, they would be able to come here," Xander added.

"Speaking of which, Dusty will be here Monday. He would like to talk with each of you individually," Jim stated, looking at Xander and Phoenix, "and if you're up to it, together. He will be making regular visits, but it's up to you how often you talk with him."

"I thought Dr. Bear was coming," Zac claimed.

"He believes that Dusty, being closer to their age, would make them more comfortable, and Dusty is interning for him while he goes to school."

Trevor was getting anxious, "Let's get a move on. That lake is screaming, 'Come swim in me.'"

"Crap, my swim suit is still in the car with my sleeping bag."

"That's OK," Jake stated, "we're all guys, so we don't need them."

"You skinny-dip?" Tim questioned.

Patrick chuckled, "Wait until you've experienced it, you won't want to wear anything while swimming, again." Tim shrugged his shoulders.

Trevor mounted one ATV and Xander mounted the other. Jake rode with Xander. As Jim handed Xander a radio, he suggested that they head on out so that the ATVs didn't spook the horses. Phoenix and Eric got in Eric's golf cart.

The rest of the boys mounted horses and headed for the lake. Maurice and Brian got into the Home's SUV, then headed for South Dakota.

Brian and Maurice spent the seven hours they drove to Rapid City learning more about each other. They discussed their lives up until they met, talking about their families, when they came to the realization they were gay, and their hopes and dreams of the future.

As they approached the city, Maurice pulled over to call his brother. After trying François' home, he called his cell phone. When he answered, Maurice told him that he and Brian would be there in about thirty minutes.

"Come to the restaurant, something has happened that you should see." François told him.

Maurice tried to get his brother to tell him what had happened, but couldn't get any more information. As they drove, Maurice pointed out some of the interesting locations they passed. Just over thirty minutes later, Maurice pulled into the parking lot of Chez Henri. The restaurant wasn't scheduled to open for another two hours so the only vehicles in the parking lot were Henri's, François', those belonging to the staff and another that Maurice wasn't familiar with.

Entering through the kitchen, Maurice saw the usual hustle and bustle of a brigade kitchen preparing for the nightly dinner service. Absent were Henri and François. Maurice was told to go to the private dining room.

He led Brian into the room where he found his brother and sister-in-law, Robert, Jacques, Henri and Marine, a man he'd seen but didn't know and two young boys. When Henri saw them enter, he went to them, wrapping his arms around them and kissing each on the cheeks.

"I have wonderful news! Come!" He led them over to the man they didn't know and Henri introduced him as Mr. George Miller, Henri's attorney. He then called out, "Leon, Noel, come here, please."

The two boys came over and stood quietly. "Maurice, Brian, I want to introduce you to Leon and Noel Duchamp." Seeing the puzzlement in their faces, Henri explained how the boys had come to them.

Maurice knelt so he was at their level and said, "Bienvenue à la famille, petits garçons. Je m'appelle Maurice et c'est mon petit ami, Brian. (Welcome to the family, young men. My name is Maurice and this is my boyfriend Brian.)"

In perfect English, Leon replied, "Thank you! It's nice to meet you."

They chatted for a time then Henri asked everyone to be seated for the meal that was to be served.

During the meal, George Miller told those assembled that the official adoption of the two boys was scheduled for Friday, August 5, 2016 at 1:30 pm in Family Court. Until that time, they will be under the guardianship of Henri and Marine.

"So fast?" Maurice asked, before adding, "Don't adoptions usually take much longer?"

"Generally, yes," George explained, "however, in this case, due to the fact that it was not being contested in any way, they put us into the earliest spot in the docket they could. The clerk said that the judge liked doing something happy before his weekend so a Friday afternoon would be perfect."

Brian was impressed with the meal. It was really the first time he'd ever had a truly French feast. When Henri made the desserts tableside, the show was quite spectacular.

After a fully enjoyable meal, Maurice and Brian decided to leave. They'd had a long drive and were going to go back to François' home to rest. They would have the entire day Friday and Saturday to visit and to pack up those belongings Maurice wanted to bring back with him to Cody. They planned to leave very early Sunday morning in the hopes of being back early Sunday afternoon.


Once they were at the lake, Xander asked Trevor, "Should we unload the trailers first, or go for a swim and wait for the others?"

Jake took that as a hint and started undressing. Trevor, on the other hand, suggested, "We should unload the trailers. Let's line up the coolers at the tree line. That way, they'll be easy enough access, but out of the way, and in the shade."

"That makes sense," Xander replied. The boys had Jake stand out of the way while they drove the ATVs over to the trees. They were moving the second cooler when Eric and Phoenix rolled in. Trevor noticed that he had used the road and asked, "How close are we to the road? Any chance of someone seeing us?"

Shaking his head, Phoenix stated, "No, we are blocked by trees, and it's at least three hundred yards between us and the road."

Xander stated, "Cool, Trevor and I have one cooler left to move, if you two want to start taking things into the cabin, we'll help when we're done."

"Can I help?" Jake asked. Eric handed Jake a sleeping bag. The boys on horses were arriving as Jake went into the cabin. Suddenly they heard screams from inside. Patrick jumped off his horse and ran toward the cabin. "JAKE!!! Are you alright?!?" concern was evident in his voice, as he ran for the cabin. Xander put his end of the cooler down, and rushed to the cabin door.

Jake backed out of the cabin, claiming, "Someone is in there!"

"Come out of there," Xander demanded.

"What if they're armed," Patrick questioned. "Maybe you should call Dad and security."

"No, please don't," a boy called out. Then a sixteen-year-old boy came out of the cabin, followed by two boys around Jake's age.

LukeXander looked at the boy for a few minutes; he seemed to recognize him. Finally, he asked, "Luke? What are you doing out here? And who are these two boys?"

"When your dad was arrested, my dad was making comments, stating that you only got what you deserved for being gay," Luke claimed. His head was low as he continued, "I got mad and told Dad that you didn't choose to be gay, it was how God made you, just like me."

"So, you're gay?" Tim questioned.

Eric inquired, "Did your dad kick you out?"

Still looking down, Luke nodded his head. Xander asked, "And these two boys?"

"They are my six-year-old brothers, Matthew and Mark," Luke replied. "When big bad Preacher John James kicked me out, he looked at them and snarled, 'If Matthew and Markyou're gay, you might as well leave with him.'"

"Can they know if they are, at six?" Xander asked.

Luke responded, "Honestly, I don't have a clue, but they chose to leave with me."

"We are gay," one of the twins replied.

"Do you know what being gay means?" Scott inquired.

"It means we love boys instead of them nasty girls," the other twin stated.

Trevor questioned, "How long ago did he kick you out?"

"I don't know, I don't even know what day it is, anymore," Luke admitted. Then he added, "He kicked us out on the sixth of June."

"ALMOST TWO MONTHS AGO!?!" Scott was shocked.

Patrick asked, "Were you staying in the cave on the far side of the ranch?"

"Yeah, until you two discovered our campfire," Luke declared.

Patrick insisted, "We need to let my dad and papa know about you."

"Please?" Luke begged, "if you do, the twins might get separated, and I can't allow that."

"My dad will be running the Boys' Home; you need to talk with him. I promise; he will understand and help you," Eric argued.

Luke looked nervous, "Can I have time to think about it? You're asking a lot from me."

Before anyone could answer, they heard Jake talking, "Daddy, can you, Papa and Uncle Joe come to the lake, we need you." They were all stunned to see him with the radio in his hand.

"Jake, what did you do?" Xander asked.

Shrinking back, Jake nervously responded, "I'm sorry, but Patrick said that Daddy and Papa needed to know."

One of the twins got all over Xander... "You didn't hafta yell at him, he was just doin' what he thought was right."

Looking at Jake, Xander muttered, "You're right, and I'm sorry, I didn't mean to. Jake, you did do the right thing, you just surprised me."

"OH MAN!!!" Luke was distraught, "We need to get out of here."

"Can we eat something, first?" Matthew asked.

Mark added, "Yeah, I'm hungry."

Luke sadly told his brothers, "We don't have anything to eat, and I'm almost out of money."

Trevor looked at the twins and asked, "Would you like some chips and I can fix you a hotdog?"

"Can we have the hotdog, now?" the twins asked, as if in one voice. "We like them cold." Luke sat on a log and started to cry.

Tim sat beside him, put his arm around the boy and offered, "I barely know these people, but I think you'll be glad that he called them."

Xander sat on the other side, "In the week I've been here, this place has helped me deal with everything. Give it a chance, Luke. It is called 'Another Chance.'"

Matthew turned to his brother, tears running down his face and says, "Come on Lukey... I don't wanna run no more. I wanna be someplace nice. I like it here."

It wasn't long and Joe's SUV was pulling in from the drive leading to the road. Jim and Zac got out, as well as Joe. "What's up, boys?" Jim asked as he noticed Luke and the twins. "Who, may I ask are these three?"

Luke started telling his story, again. After he had told it, Zac looked at him, "OK, here is what we need to do… first, my father-in-law, Jim and Joe's stepfather, is the Sheriff. I will have him go speak to your dad. We need to get his version of the tale and see if he is willing to sign over his parental rights. With what you told us, I don't believe that will be a problem."

"I think he will," Luke agreed.

"Then, we need to get you and the boys registered with the State so you can be a resident of the Home, legally."

"My brothers, too?" Luke asked.

Joe gave Luke a smile, "The Home was meant to be primarily teenagers right now, but…" Luke looked hopeful. "… under the circumstances, I think we can allow the boys to stay, too."

"Each room has two twin-size beds. I think we can make one a bunk bed so that you three can stay in one room," Jim offered.

"Seriously?" Luke looked relieved and started to cry.

Zac stated, "We'll go back and get everything started. Do you want to go back with us?"

"Can they stay out here with us?" Roger asked.

"If that is what they want," Jim answered, "but Nick will probably be out to talk to them today." Jim looked at Luke, "Nick is the Sheriff."

"Aunt Sallie will need to talk with you, also," Zac added. "She's the one in charge of all the Homes."

"But we can stay out here with these boys?" Luke inquired.

"We'll call you on the radio before we come out." Joe informed them.

Luke looked down, "Thank you. I was so worried that the twins would be separated."

Jim, Zac and Joe climbed into the SUV and headed back to the office. As Joe drove, Jim called Aunt Sallie while Zac called Nick. They explained the situation to both of them, along with the plan they had worked out.

Everyone was reluctant to go swimming, but it wasn't because they were worried about being naked with three additional boys. Trevor suggested that they wait until after Nick and Aunt Sallie had talked with Luke and the boys. He also thought it would be a good chance to talk and let everyone get to know each other.

As they sat on the ground, Matthew sat to the right of Jake and Mark sat on his left. Mark whispered, "I'm glad that big boy apologized. I think you're cute."

"Daddy, Papa and Grandma always say that I am. And Xander is alright, he looks out for me, usually," Jake stated. Roger looked over at Jake chatting and winked. Jake just smiled back at him.

"Well, I'm glad that he apologized to you," Matthew stated. "Mark is right, you are cute."

While waiting, the boys chatted and Luke gave them more details of what happened. Xander stood up and yelled, "What a big dick!"

Not taking his eyes off Jake, Mark responded, "Luke, pull your pants up."

"My pants are up, I was telling them more about when I was kicked out and you two joined me," Luke chuckled.

Matthew returned, "Oh, he was referring to that big asshole. I thought maybe you had your pants down, too."

Nearly an hour later, the radio crackled, "Boys, Sheriff Archer and Aunt Sallie are on their way. I hope you are dressed."

Patrick picked up the radio and keyed it, "Thanks Papa, we are. Trevor suggested that we wait to swim."

"Finally," Trevor commented. "While they are here, Roger and I will start preparing lunch and then we can go swimming after we eat."

Sheriff Archer pulled in, then he and Aunt Sallie got out. Nick asked Luke if he could talk to him in private while Aunt Sallie took the twins aside to talk with them.

Nick took Luke inside the cabin. After talking to him for nearly thirty minutes, Nick led Luke back out and asked to see the twins. Mark ran up to Luke and hugged him. He asked, "What should we say?"

"Just be honest and tell the Sheriff everything that you remember. I trust him, and you guys trust me, so..." Luke advised. Nick smiled at Luke.

Again, nearly thirty minutes passed until they stepped out of the cabin and Nick looked at Aunt Sallie, "Would you like to accompany me as I return to 'big bad Preacher James's house? You may want to get anything that the boys would like retrieved. And I would like someone to go with me when I arrest him, so I don't do what I really want to do." Nick noticed Luke had a small grin, as if relieved.

Farting HippoMatthew asked, "Can you get Mark's and my hippo? It farts when you squeeze its belly."

Aunt Sallie looked at Matthew and replied, "I'll leave it with Joe, tonight. Anything else?"

Looking sad, Luke requested, "By my bed is a picture of our mother. She died giving birth to the twins. Can you grab it, too?"

Aunt Sallie offered Luke a hug and averred, "I'll get it for you."

Once Nick and Aunt Sallie left, Trevor called out, "Hot dogs are ready!" Then he placed them on the picnic table. Luke and the twins were just standing there so Trevor called out, "Come on, I fixed two for you and have two cold ones for each of the twins. You are now a part of our family,and you can ask any of the guys, I look out for my family!"

Luke put his arms around Trevor and said, "Thank you. Thank all of you. You don't know what this means to us, what pressure I feel has been lifted."

Trevor responded, "You're right, I don't know, I can only imagine how you are feeling. Before we leave, let me get you one of my cards. You can call me for anything, even just to talk."

Once everyone had a couple of hot dogs, some chips and a beverage, they found a place on the ground to sit and eat. Tim, Xander and Luke sat together on a log and talked about the high school. Tim lamented when Xander explained that the Home does schooling at the ranch.

Jake looked at Mark and asked, "Can I taste your hot dog? I've never had a cold one before."

Mark looked at Jake and countered, "Only if I can kiss you. I think you're cute."

Jake blushed and smiled. He picked up one of Mark's hot dogs and took a bite. After he swallowed, he said, "That's good."

Mark gave Jake a kiss on the lips, and Matthew asked, "Would you like to try a bite of mine, too?"

After everyone was done eating, and the trash was gathered, Jake asked, "Can we go swimming, now, or do we have to wait thirty minutes?"

"We don't have any swimsuits," Luke mentioned. "When it was just us, we didn't worry about it."

Xander chuckled and asked, "Jake, care to explain?"

Jake said, "We are all boys, so we don't have to wear anything."

"None of us brought swimsuits," Patrick added. "We do keep some in the cabin for when they are needed, but after almost a year, they have yet to be worn."

"Can we, Luke?" Mark pleaded. "We are all just boys."

Luke smiled at Mark, "You are one of my two favorite brothers. If they don't have a problem with it, neither do I."

"You only have two brothers," Matthew declared.

"And you both are my favorite," Luke chuckled. "You know, I love you both."

With that, all the boys stripped to their birthday suits and ran into the water. Jake, Mark and Matthew walked in hand-in-hand with Jake in the middle.

After the boys finished their swimming and were 'air-drying' their lithe naked bodies, Roger's stomach started rumbling. Trevor, chuckling, asked, "Is someone hungry?"

"Babe, knowing this group, everyone is probably hungry."

"Well, why don't we start getting dinner made. I'll get the fire started on the grill, you go see what everyone wants. We have hamburgers, hot dogs, and bratwurst."

Trevor started setting up the grill as Roger went from boy to boy asking what they wanted for dinner. When he got to Jake and the twins, Matthew asked, "What's a bratwurst?"

"It's like a German hot dog. It's bigger than a hot dog." Roger explained.

"I dunno, I never had one. I guess I'll just have a hamburger. If I'm still hungry can I have something else too?" Mark replied, eliciting agreement from both Matthew and Jake.

"Why don't I have Trevor make a bratwurst and the three of you can share it to see if you like them?"

"Yeah, that would be cool. I wouldn't mind taking a bite of Jake… I mean Jake's." Matthew joked.

Once Roger had everyone's order, he and Nigel got all the meat that Trevor was going to cook from the coolers.

Trevor was working the grill like a professional and was putting out the food at a good rate when Vince stopped by.

"Looks like you guys have a good system going. Those bratwurst smell really good." Vince stated.

"Would you like one? We have plenty," Trevor offered.

Not wanting to offend Trevor, Vince replied, "Sure, I'll have one. I know it won't spoil my dinner!"

Trevor served him up a brat and told him where the condiments, chips and drinks were. Vince thanked him and headed off.

As he was passing Luke, he stopped for a moment. "Hi. You must be Luke. I just wanted to introduce myself. I'm Vince. Zac's dad. I run security at the ranch. I just wanted you to know that you're safe here, but if you have any problems, just let us know. We're here to make sure you guys are all safe."

Slightly nervously, and slightly embarrassed at standing there in front of the man naked, Luke replied, "Uh… thanks, I guess."

Xander, who was sitting with Tim, Luke, and Alex Sprayberry said, "He's cool, Luke. You don't have to worry about him at all. And you should see the 'Stang he rebuilt for Patrick. Ever want a hand with that race car, let me know."

"I may take you up on that," Vince grinned.Luke smiled then and said, "Thank you, Vince."

Vince then went on to fix up his bratwurst.

As the boys ate, there were several conversations going on. Tim was relating, "I was thinking, before I met you guys, I only knew one person named Alex. Now I know three. You two; even though you go by Xander instead of Alexander or Alex. My dad is also Alexander but he, like you, 'Little Alex' use the shortened version of the name."

Alex turned to Nigel who was smiling, "I kind of like that… 'Little Alex.' After all I am the smallest Alex around here." Nigel leaned over and kissed Alex's cheek and said with a wink, "As everyone could see, you're not all that little." That caused his boyfriend to blush slightly.

Matthew, Mark, and Jake were sitting enjoying their hamburgers. Mark took the bratwurst that they were going to share and took a bite. "Hey! This is good!" His brother then tried a bite, followed by Jake. Having finished their hamburgers, they went to the grill to ask if Trevor could make them each one.

Everyone fed, all sixteen boys chipped in to clean up from their dinner. Vince had stopped by to let Trevor know that he truly enjoyed the bratwurst before he left. During the cleanup, Sheriff Archer stopped by to let Luke know about what had happened at his old home. Luke wasn't really surprised at what Nick had told him. Nick further explained that the photo and the hippo had been left with Joe in the Home's office.

Luke thanked Nick who went off to find Matthew and Mark. "You boys… that hippo was really cute and funny. I am going to buy one for my wife, she'll get a real kick out of it."

"Thank you for getting him for us. We really like him too. At least his farts don't stink like Luke's… his really smell sometimes." Mark averred, wrinkling his nose.

"Hey, at least when I fart, it's just me, but you two are so identical, you even fart at the same time. It's like having a fart in stereo. Talk about double trouble."

"Do we have any beans?" Matthew asked.

Roger offered, "We can get some."

"Ohhhh no," Luke warned. "Give these two beans and they'll smell them clear at the ranch."

Nick, chuckling wished all the boys a nice evening, got into his car and left. Cleanup finished, all the boys started pairing off to relax for a few hours before going to bed.

It was nearly 7:00 pm and everyone was kicking back and relaxing after a full day.

"I'll be right back, Babe. I need to take a pee." Trevor whispered before getting up. As Trevor was taking care of 'business,' Roger's phone rang. Looking at the caller-id he was surprised to see that it was from his dad.

"Hi Papa. What's going on? Anything wrong?" Roger asked, concern evident in his voice.

"Actually no, Roger. The opposite, actually. Are you still planning on coming home on August 3?"

Roger was now very concerned. "As far as I know, are you sure there's nothing wrong?"

"Non. Nothing wrong. I wanted to let you know that Mama just got word that her cousin just passed away."

Now Roger was confused. "Mama's cousin just died and nothing's wrong? I don't understand, Papa."

The next thing Roger knew he heard, "Let me tell him, Papa." A young boy's voice continued, "Hi Roger. My name is Leon. My Mama was Mama Marine's cousin. She died in an accident a couple of days ago and Papa is going to adopt us."

"Us?" Roger asked, more confused than ever.

"Oui… I mean yes. Me and my brother Noel. Mama was bringing us here because she wanted us to live with Marine because she was sick and didn't think she would be alive to take care of us." Leon continued, a tear rolling down his cheek.

Roger stood there, not knowing what to say. Trevor, who had returned looked at him with concern, "Everything okay?"

"I don't know what to say, can I talk to Mama?" He asked Leon.


Roger then spoke to his mother for a time. When the call was done, he said he'd call back in a day or so. Closing his phone and putting it down, he turned to Trevor. "I have twin brothers now. I think."

Not sure what to think, Trevor turned to Roger and asked, "Don't you mean we have twin brothers now?"

Cleanup finished, all the boys started pairing off to relax for a few hours before going to bed.

In the warmth of their shared sleeping bag, Alex tightened his grip on his boyfriend. Nigel, enjoying the cuddling they were sharing, was thinking about his life, now that he and Alex had been adopted. It had been a whirlwind of activity.

Coming to Cody was supposed to be a vacation. Imagine his surprise when he found out that, not only was he getting adopted, but so was Alex. Finding out that they would be living literally across the driveway from one another was better than anything.

Alex, nibbling on Nigel's ear whispered, "Can you believe how our lives have changed? A year ago, I was nothing but a bully. Now, I'm here, with you, my boyfriend. Sometimes I feel like it's a dream, if it is, I never want to wake up."

Nigel rolled over inside the bag, their naked erections rubbing against the other, and kissed Alex deeply. Nothing more than that happened before they fell asleep holding each other, contentedly.

In the large bed, the two small eleven-year-old twins were cuddling as they talked about the life they now had ahead of them. They were happy they'd found their Mama's cousin and that she seemed nice. The pair were comforted in the fact that their mother had given them a chance to live with family instead of being left to whatever might have happened had she passed away while they were still in Paris.

The more they learned about their new soon-to-be brother, Roger and his husband, Trevor, the more excited they were about them. Both had shared feelings they were just starting to have. Noel's seemed stronger than those of his twin, but Leon still couldn't honestly deny he was feeling them to some extent.

When they awoke the following morning, they'd have seven days until they would be adopted. They truly looked forward to seeing where this went.


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