“But I thought we’d already talked about expanding our family.” Darby looked quizzically down at the tall man sitting in front of him. In order to maintain his combatant stance, he struggled not to let Rowan’s handsome appearance become a distraction.
“Grant it, Sweets, I’ll admit we briefly discussed the subject at one point.” Rowan worked at not smiling at the indignant expression on his lover’s gorgeous face. “However, at the time I was under the impression we were taking about someone much smaller; someone whose needs would include formula and diapers, among other things.”
“So you’re saying that a full grown young adult is out of the question?”
“Well….” Rowan rubbed the back of his neck as he endeavored to come up with an answer that would be the least upsetting for his husband who was obviously hoping for an affirmative response. He got up, walked around to the front of his desk, sat on the edge of it and put his hands on Darby’s shoulders in order to pull him in closer. “We have to consider our life-style choices, Darby. There are many who would find it somewhat unsettling, to say the least.”
“So you’re worried about Spencer overhearing something and being disturbed by it?”
“Do you not see that as a possibility?”
“Yeah, but he could get used to it. I did.” Darby’s momentarily impish smile had Rowan rolling his eyes. “And at least if we took him in, he would not have to go to live with strangers and Shelley would find it less distressing when making him leave the only home he’s ever really known. She loves him, but with the baby and all is finding caring for Spencer just a bit overwhelming.”
“But that doesn’t mean he becomes our problem, Darby.”
“Problem!” Darby almost screeched and pushed his way out of his husband’s arms. “Good thing Spencer is in the other room and didn’t hear that. Talk about getting upset; hearing that you’re a ‘problem’ would do it.”
Rowan grabbed at his Brat, spun him around and landed a stinging blow to the seat of his jeans in order to get him to calm down. The message was clear so no verbal explanation was necessary.
“Sorry,” the younger man mumbled and glanced up beseechingly. “Can’t we just give it a trial run? Please, Rowan.”
The older man slowly reconsidered the idea and reluctantly relented. “A two month trial is all I’m willing to consider, Darby. And there will be several rules involved; all with consequences if they are not followed to the letter. Understood?”
“Yes, I got it. Honest!” Darby whooped with delight and hugged his beloved. “I gotta go tell Spencer so as to not keep him waiting any longer,” he shouted over his shoulder as he ran out of the study.
Rowan closed his eyes and silently prayed he wasn’t making a horrendous mistake that would prove complicated and extremely difficult to reverse. However, he couldn’t help chuckling to himself when he overheard his enthusiastic young husband saying, “You’re in, Spence. Let’s go get all your stuff.”
“I trust you’re going to clean up that mess, Darby. Preferably before you walk through it again and crunch even more cereal into the floor mat.”
“I’m getting it, Rowan. Just give me a sec.” Darby retorted as he returned with the broom and dustpan in one hand and dragging the vacuum cleaner behind him.
“Spencer, I don’t know why you have to be get in your clumsy mode whenever you enter the kitchen,” Rowan muttered and went back to reading the morning paper.
“How come I always have to clean up, Rowan? I mean, Spence is a member of ‘our’ family; not just ‘my’ family,” Darby good-humoredly gripped.
“Them’s the rules, Sweets. You agreed to them when your new best friend moved in here, remember?”
“Yeah, and I guess it’s still a good trade-off. Right, Spence?” Darby struggled to pick up the few remaining bits of cereal stuck in the mat’s fibers. “Guess we’ve learned the hard way that the snap, crackle, pop sounds louder when being walked through than when having milk poured on it,” he grumbled as he straightened up to put away the cleaning supplies.
“No one can ever complain about him being too talkative,” the older man observed as Spencer ignored what was going on around him and polished off his breakfast.
“Don’t pay him any mind, Spence. He’s teasing you know, but most times it can be hard to tell. You probably noticed how different Rowan and I can be. I’ve often wondered myself how we got together and stuck it out this long. After all, he’s a lot older than me.” Darby snickered at the ‘now there’s a stretch’ that was muffled by the newspaper. “Now you and I are a lot closer in age, Spence; just a couple of years apart when you think about it. But it’s been over five years now since me and Row became a duo. Whoa, talk about mismatched. He’s a neat freak and like you, I’m an admitted slob. But we’ve made it work. Of course, rules and consequences had a lot to do with our success. Guess you’re beginning to figure that out, huh?”
As had become the case over the past couple of weeks, Darby babbled on while Spencer just sat and listened patiently with an expression of feigned understanding on his face.
Rowan shook his head and tried not to laugh out loud. He reflected back to when he and Darby first met. The younger man was extremely introverted and for a while Rowan wonder if he was even capable of speaking full sentences. A lot of effort had gone into teaching Darby the importance of interactions between partners.
‘Guess he’s finally conquered his communication difficulties,’ Rowan mused with a smile but kept his thoughts to himself.
“Well, Sweets,” the older man announced as he folded his paper, pushed back his chair and got to his feet. “I better get over to the hanger. That C-check isn’t going to get anywhere without me spearheading it. You two guys have a good day and I’ll see you both later.” Rowan lovingly kissed his husband and ruffled Spencer’s hair affectionately.
Once Rowan’s car had pulled out of the driveway, Darby issued an invitation. “Well, Spence, looks like we have the place to ourselves for a while. Let’s leave the remaining clean-up in here until later and you can help me get the music room set up for today’s lessons. Unlike the student I had here yesterday, the two youngsters coming in this morning love an audience. So you’re more than welcome to observe the proceedings if you like.”
Days and weeks slowly passed by and everyone seemed to be adjusting well to the changes in their lives.
In the past, Rowan had found a particular aspect of his job somewhat challenging time-wise. Although he’d strive to pace his working day to have quality time with his husband, during a C-check he’d often had to put in extra hours. This would happened during emergencies only, which fortunately didn’t occur too regularly; so he was happy that Darby now had someone to keep him company.
Darby and Spencer spent almost every waking hour in each other’s company; unless Rowan was around. Then Darby easily switched his attention to his lover, leaving Spencer to entertain himself; which he usually did by sleeping outside on the glider.
While Spencer didn’t seem to mind Darby’s often incessant chatter when they were together, he appeared to enjoy even more the time spent stretching out on the leather sofa in the study with Rowan. It was an unsolicited habit he had picked up shortly after moving in with them, even though it seldom happened that he and the older man were alone. And as long as Rowan didn’t object, Spencer would take full advantage whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Presently, he stood at the doorway leading into the master bedroom and silently watched as Darby finished making up the large bed that dominated the room. A bed Spencer had yet to be invited into.
“Come on, Spence. Let’s get this load into the washing machine.” Darby led the way downstairs and into the laundry room. “You needn’t give me that long face. It’s not up to me whether or not you’re permitted to sleep in our bed this soon. In fact, I can’t guarantee if you’ll ever be allowed to join us in it. You should really count yourself lucky to even still be here at all. I was sure you’d be kicked to the curb when you accidentally damaged some of the root system to Row’s prize rose bushes. Your gardening skills leave a lot to be desired, my friend. And I’m not the only one who can’t believe you’re even on the premises after that stunt. Riley is still having a hard time wrapping his mind around you being here to begin with.” Darby continued to talk as he crammed the bed linen into the washer and added the soap.
“Okay, Spence, that’s one more chore on the go,” Darby declared as he closed the lid and started the cycle. “I’ll change loads in between the three music lessons I’ve lined up; one this morning and two this afternoon. Now remember, I’m counting on you to remind me. Rowan won’t be so forgiving if I forget to transfer one of the loads to the dryer again. He says it makes our clothes and stuff smell funky. I can’t hang them out to dry because the weatherman has promised rain for sure today. Of course he’s predicted that for the past four days and has been wrong every time. Go figure.”
“Well, that’s that!” Darby announced somewhat later in the day. “Laundry is finished. It’s washed, dried, folded and put away. I even ironed the pillowcases which is something I don’t normally do. But Rowan prefers them without creases, so what the heck. With no more students coming today, I’m going to treat myself to a beer. I’ll freshen up your drink too, Spence, seeing as the ice cubes put in it before I went upstairs have already melted.” Darby opened the refrigerator doors, grabbed a cold one and a handful of ice.
“By the way, Rowan said we don’t have to bother with supper. It’s too freakin’ hot to cook, so we’ll be ordering in. Trouble is, it’s not only just hot, it’s also unbearably humid.” They stood side by side gazing out the window. “Man, look at that black cloud appearing on the horizon,” Darby softly mused. “It seems to be heading our way now that the wind is picking up. Maybe if we cross our fingers, we’ll get some of that promised precipitation after all. Meanwhile, let’s go sit on the side veranda and see if we can catch a breeze,”
Darby removed his shirt and wiped the sweat off his face. “That breeze isn’t making much of a difference, is it my friend?” He removed his shorts and dropped them beside his discarded shirt, finding it a tad cooler in just his boxers. ”I’d strip completely if it weren’t that folks can see us from the road. Dang, I wish we were able to dive into our pool right now, but the water’s a tad murky. It’s why I chose to sit out here instead of at the back of the house where seeing the pool would be utter torture. Thinking about it is bad enough. Rowan ordered a new pump and hopefully it will be here by the weekend.” He rubbed the cool bottle he was holding across his bare chest. “Aaah, see that, beer can provide a bit of relief inside and out.” He chuckled when Spencer jerked back to avoid the bottle being placed against his cheek. “You don’t know what you’re missing, old boy.”
They swung back and forth on the glider for several minutes enjoying each other’s company in silence. That is until Spencer suddenly began to tremble as thunder was heard rumbling in the distance.
“Don’t be scared, Spence. Although I can certainly understand if you are. I was once frightened by it. In fact, I got so scared I actually peed my bed. Of course I was only four at the time.” Darby hoped talking about his past might help his friend calm down. He himself always enjoyed hearing about Rowan’s childhood, especially when he was upset. “You see, I was born with some kind of ear defect. At first they thought I was deaf, but realized as I got a bit older that the problem was operable. The first time I heard thunder was a while after the surgery. It woke me up during the night and I let out a shriek of terror. Fortunately my dad was on hand to soothe my fears. Vivian, my father’s wife, wasn’t as understanding. She told me to be quiet and stop acting so foolish. All sympathy, that one,” Darby snorted. “You probably wouldn’t have like her. But that’s okay, ‘cause she wouldn’t have liked you either. Hell, she didn’t even like me and she was supposed to be my mother. My dad had to travel a lot for his work and I believed she missed him, but she didn’t. Then during my teens I thought she was uncomfortable with me being gay. But now I realize she ever knew. She was too wrapped up in herself to be interested in anything to do with me. Row explained how things must have been for her. We were in a committed relationship when I was finally informed that she was not my biological mother. You’d have liked my dad though. Too bad he’s been gone for several years. Row says I’m now a member of his large family, so I’ll never really be alone again. Anyway, Dad help me get over my fear and I’ll help you get over yours.”
A closer clap of thunder made Spencer whine and scramble to squeeze in between Darby and the padded back of the swing. Lightning flashed across the sky and moments later the rain started falling.
“Yahoo!” Darby yelled as he jumped down off the veranda. “Come on, Spence! Time to cool off.” He turned to see Spencer heading into the house in search of a place to hide. “Wimp!” he hollered.
Darby pranced about with his arms spread wide, his eyes closed and his head facing the sky. It was far from being the downpour he’d have like. Barely enough to lighten the weight of the clouds, it was refreshing nonetheless. Any disappointed he felt disappeared when Rowan drove into the driveway.
“You’re home early!” Darby merrily exclaimed and ran towards his husband as he got out of the car.
“Nothing wrong with your senses, Beethoven,” Rowan teased as he returned the hug with equal enthusiasm. “Swim trunks are better in public than boxers, my boy.” He landed a swat on his Brat’s wet rear and sent him toward the house.
Darby laughed as he splashed his way over to the steps. “Damn it!” he hollered as he stumbled and rammed his toes against the bottom one. “Man, that hurt,” he moaned as he hopped about on the uninjured foot.
“Humph, serves you right for being out here in bare feet.” Rowan wrapped a hand around Darby’s left bicep to help get him inside and over to a kitchen chair. “Okay, let me see what you’ve done to yourself this time,” he instructed as he pulled out a second chair and sat down. His voice had a ring of exasperation to it. He gently examined the sore foot and slowly lowed it to the floor. “At least the skin isn’t damaged, but I’m afraid you’ll end up with a good bit of bruising.” He sat back, crossed his arms and glared at the man sitting in front of him.
Silence reigned as Darby shifted uncomfortably, blushing with disgrace as he waited for the inevitable scolding.
“We’ve been over this issue of you going outside with bare feet several times now, Darby. There is plenty of footwear for you to choose from in the back porch; sandals, flip-flops, sneakers, and boots to mention a few. I would have thought you’d make more of an effort to avoid a repeat of last summer’s incident. Stitches, a tetanus shot and two rounds of antibiotics to clear up the resulting infection certainly would have been a deterrent for me. But not for you apparently. Which is why after some discussion we had to make it a rule, remember?”
“I just keep forgetting, Row.” Darby shrugged, feeling somewhat disheartened about the whole situation.
Rowan got to his feet. “We’ll continue this discussion upstairs after we both get changed.”
It wasn’t long before Darby found himself sitting next to his husband on the side of their bed. Rowan had substituted his suit for shorts and a T-shirt. Darby was wearing dry boxers. He knew he’d only have to remove anything else he put on.
“You’ve already had warnings and a couple of minor penalties for this infraction, Darby. What did I say would happen if you failed to adhere to this particular directive again?”
This was a query the young man hated having to answer. He struggled to overcome his embarrassment. “You said I’d be spanked,” he softly mumbled and hoped he wouldn’t be asked to repeat it. Before he had a moment to think any further, he was face down over Rowan’s hard thighs. He felt fingers slipping into the waistband of his underwear which were then deftly yanked down to his knees. The punishment that followed was swift and painful, but fortuitously short-lived.
Once Rowan felt the message would be remembered and the disobedience not repeated any time soon, he ended spanking and began caressing Darby’s back as he waited patiently for the sobs to let up.
When Spencer was sure the thunder had stopped, he crept out of his hiding place and went looking for Darby. He paused in the lower hall as strange new sounds assaulted his ears; ones he’d never heard before. He slowly made his way upstairs and listened outside the master bedroom. He quietly pushed opened the door and curiously studied the two men cuddling together on the large bed.
A conversation appeared to be taking place. One side consisted of softly murmured words of love and reassurance; the other side seemed to entail whispered replies interspersed with faint hitches and sniffles. Spencer was a bit confused but not overly perturbed by what he was hearing.
Sensing they were no longer alone, Rowan glanced up and saw Spencer standing in the doorway. Thinking Darby might find addition solace with his newest best friend beside him, Rowan lightly patted the bed by way of invite.
No other sign was needed. Spencer bounded across the room and landed on the bed with enough force to cause its’ occupants to bounce slightly. Rowan merely rolled his eyes while Darby moaned as the inferno on his backside was reignited.
The younger man wrapped his arms around Spencer’s neck once the big golden retriever had squirmed his way in between the couple. Darby found a sense of well-being when nuzzling into the dog’s smooth coat. He wondered at this sudden change in status for the animal, and looked up imploringly at his husband.
Rowan smiled, immediately understanding the inferred question. “It’s been over two months now, Sweets. I thought you’d have figured it out by now.”
“Just needed confirmation, Row. That’s all.” Darby reached over, pulled Rowan’s head closer and kissed him. Next he grinned and hugged their pet even harder. “You got that, Spence? The head of our household has spoken. It’s official now. We are forevermore a family of three.”