Now That You're Here - The College Years

Chapter 12.5



Author’s note: I wasn’t planning on showing you guys what happened during Matt and David’s trip to Florida, but apparently everyone is really curious to know how it went. Of course I didn’t know this until I was almost finished with chapter 13 so I decided to throw in a little snippet to make you all happy. Unfortunately, being as long winded as I am, the snippet turned into a full length chapter. I hope you don’t mind. Chapter 12.5 is strictly Matt and David so if you don’t care what happened between the boys on their trip, you can just disregard this and wait for 13 to be posted. For those who are curious, I hope you enjoy it!


David waited until the door was closed before he reached out and pulled Matt to him. He didn’t get much resistance as he leaned in and placed his lips over Matt’s, but when he tried to deepen the kiss, Matt pulled away.

“David, we’re in a car,” Matt pointed out.

“Yeah, a limo with tinted windows. No one can see us, babe. We’re completely shut off from the rest of the world in here,” David explained as he tried for another kiss. This time Matt withdrew completely. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know,” Matt admitted. “I’m guess I’m just really nervous. I mean, you and I haven’t been together that long and I’m still so far in the closet I can’t see the light, and I’m about to meet your entire family…it’s a little overwhelming.”

David sighed as he moved closer to his boyfriend and took his hand. “I never should have asked you to come. Do you want to get a hotel room and hide out until it’s over? I have to be at the party, you don’t. I could try to book a suite at the Ritz-Carlton. You could relax, soak in the Jacuzzi and forget all about the crazy Jackson clan. Dylan expects me to spend the night, but I can get out of that and join you for a late dinner.”

“No, it’s okay. I don’t want to spend my whole day alone in a hotel room.”

“Okay, I can get Charles to turn around and take us back to the airport. The jet can take you back to Texas and I’ll just see you tomorrow? You can come over as soon as I get home,” David suggested.

“No…no…that’s not what I meant. I don’t want to go back to Texas. I meant I don’t want to spend a whole day alone in a hotel room when I could be with you. Yes, I’m scared. More like terrified, but I want to do this. Ever since I said yes, you’ve been walking around with this goofy little smile on your face. I like that I could put it there. I don’t want to do anything to make it go away. I just…I think I just need to go slow, you know? I’ve never been myself out in public before. Making out in the back of a limo just feels a little…unnerving. Can we just…ease into it?”

“Of course we can,” David said as he took the hand he’d been holding and brought it to his lips, kissing it softly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t even think about it like that. I’ve been openly gay for so long, I never really thought about how fast this must be for you. I promise, we’ll go at your pace, okay?”

“Thank you,” Matt breathed a sigh of relief. “I know I’m a pain in the ass. I don’t know why you put up with me.”

David bit his tongue. Hard. There was no way he was going to tell Matt the real reason he put up with all the rules and rule changes. There was no way Matt was ready to hear that David was falling in love with him. Hell, the strength of his feelings for a guy he really didn’t know scared the hell out of him, but the feelings were there and they were real. David just had to make sure he kept them to himself for awhile.

“Because you’re so pretty,” he teased instead, bringing a smile to Matt’s face. “And because you’re never boring.”

“Um…thanks…I think,” Matt laughed.

When the car pulled up outside Dylan’s house, Matt felt like he had swallowed his tongue. He’d seen big homes before, but never anything like he was seeing through the limo’s window. “Oh shit,” he mumbled.

“What?” David asked in confusion as he reached for the bag carrying the girls’ presents. He hadn’t wanted them in the trunk, banging around with the luggage.

“Your brother lives here?”


“This place is huge,” Matt said in awe.

David finally understood and chuckled. “Yeah, I guess it is. I don’t really think about it like that, though. It’s just Dylan’s place. Come on; let’s go in before we get bombarded out here in the driveway. The driver had to announce us at the gate so they know that we’re here. I got us here early so hopefully my parents haven’t arrived yet. I thought you might hold up better if you met everyone in stages.”

“Thanks. Um…this is probably going to sound a little girly, but do I look okay?”

David burst out laughing. “As gorgeous as ever,” he assured him as he planted a quick kiss and then climbed out of the car. Before David could even turn around to help Matt out of the car, shrieks of excitement and a deep, resonating voice could be heard at top volume.

“Uncle Dave, Uncle Dave! You’re here! You’re finally here!”

David stepped away from the car and opened his arms as three beautiful little girls threw themselves at him, almost knocking him down. “Hey, how are my three favorite princesses?”

“Girls! Take it easy before you knock your uncle down,” Dylan scolded gently.

“It’s fine, Dyl. I’ll never object to having my arms filled with these three,” David assured him before turning his attention to the girls. “Happy birthday girls. You ready to celebrate?”

“Yes!” They answered in unison, using a decibel level that probably had small animals running in fear. “Are those our presents?” one of them asked.

“They are. Well, all but one present that was too big to fit on the jet. That one will be here in a little while. You guys wanna take these in and put them on the gift table? We’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“Okay!” Again in unison.

David watched them go and then turned to his brother laughing. “God, I just love them. I don’t know how you managed to make such awesome children.”

“Oh shut up, you little shit, and give me a hug.” Dylan laughed as he pulled his brother into a tight hug. “I miss you, you know. You could visit more. It’s not like it’s hard to get here.”

“I know, I know,” David agreed as he pulled back. “Life has just been busy lately. Speaking of which, this is Matt.”

Dylan turned his attention to Matt and stuck out his hand in greeting. “It’s…uh…nice to meet you. I didn’t expect David to bring anyone.”

Matt shook his hand but suddenly felt uncomfortable. “I’m sorry. I…don’t mean to intrude on a family occasion.”

“You’re not intruding,” David insisted and then smacked his brother. “Hell, Dyl, what kind of welcome is that?”

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. You are very welcome here. It really is nice to meet you. It’s just that David has never brought anyone home to meet the family. Ever. I’m just surprised.” Dylan turned to David. “Does anybody know you were bringing him?”

“No, I thought it was best if Mom was surprised. If she knew in advance, she’d have a whole inquisition prepared. It’ll be better with her off her game,” David pointed out.

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Dylan laughed. “Seriously Matt, it’s nice to meet you. Come on in and make yourself at home. We have about another hour before everyone starts to show up. David can give you a tour of the house and show you where you’ll be staying. If you need anything at all, just let me know.”

“Thanks, I will.”

“Okay, let’s go in and see what the girls are up to now.”

Matt walked through the house in sheer wonder. It was beautiful and bigger than he even imagined when he saw it from outside. The room that he and David were staying in was a charming suite with its own bathroom and a balcony that overlooked a beautiful garden. The four poster bed looked like it was out of a romantic movie, making Matt wish it was closer to bedtime. He was standing on the balcony, watching the girls as they ran around the yard when David walked up behind him and pulled him close.

“So, what do you think?”

“Of the house? It’s amazing,” Matt answered.

“No, not of the house,” David laughed. “Of my brother and his family. Renee is a sweetheart who is definitely too good for him, and the girls…they make me excited for the day when I can have my own kids.”

“So what does your brother do?” Matt asked curiously. “He obviously makes good money if he lives here.”

“He’s a lawyer with his own firm. He opened it the year after graduating law school. Having Jackson Technologies for a client opened a lot of doors for him. Actually he and Renee are both lawyers. They met in college. Obviously Renee hasn’t been carrying a big case load since having the girls, but she’s always kept her foot in the door. She refused to be a full time stay at home mom. She claims she doesn’t want to be one of those Stepford wives. It’s amazing how she juggles it all with just a little help from a part-time nanny.”

“Lawyers, huh? Nice profession. I considered it for awhile, but the pressure from my father to be a cop was too strong to fight,” Matt said. “What about the rest of your family. You haven’t really told me much about them.”

“Oh, well let’s see. Darren and Donovan are the twins. At 28 they are confirmed bachelors. They share a townhouse not too far from here. I don’t think either one of them wants to be on their own. They definitely have that twin bond that you hear about. They were always interested in building things so they found their way into construction after college. Since then they’ve opened their own company and work mostly with high end construction. They have a third partner, Joe who they met during their first job right out of school. Joe fell in love and married my sister Deanna. They have two boys, Peter is five and Donald is four. Deanna is the suck up of the family which is why the boys are named after my father and grandfather. I love her to death, but she’s a spoiled little princess who thinks she deserves to have anything she wants handed to her. You could imagine her surprise when she fell in love with a construction worker. They’ve been together since long before the construction company opened up. I’ll tell you, it was fun watching her try to deny her feelings for Joey. She didn’t win that battle, obviously. She followed in my mother’s footsteps and became a teacher. They also don’t live too far from here.

Then there’s Daniel. He’s a chef in one of the top restaurants in Manhattan. The reviews he gets in magazines like the New Yorker make me so proud of him. Like I said, he and I are very close. He’s one of the best men I know.”

“Is he coming today?”

“He wasn’t sure at first, but I got a text from him late last night that said he found someone to cover for him, so I guess he’ll be here. Sometimes it’s hard having these family get-togethers because it makes me realize how much I miss everyone.”

“You mentioned to Justin once that you planned on moving to New York after graduation. Was that to be near Daniel?”

“Yeah, when we were younger we promised to live in the same town once we got older. We have relatives all over the country and even a couple in London. We agreed that we never wanted to be that far away from each other.”

“Then how did you end up in Texas? How come you didn’t go to school where Daniel was?”

“I don’t know. I think I was still really messed up because of Ricky and I was so tired of having everyone watch me so closely, you know? I kind of just needed a break from everyone. I’ve regretted it a time or two and considered transferring to NYU, but I decided to stick it out where I was.” David pulled Matt to him and kissed him softly. “I’m glad I did.”

“Me, too,” Matt replied shyly.

“Okay, so now that you know who’s who, are you ready to go downstairs? Everyone should be here soon.”

“I guess I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” Matt replied.

David laughed as he grabbed Matt by the hand and led him downstairs. They made it into the foyer just as Deanna, Joey and the boys walked in.

“Davey!” Deanna shrieked as she ran over and pulled her baby brother into her arms. “God, I’ve missed you.” She pulled back and held him at arm’s length, her eyes roaming up and down his body. “You’re too thin. Are you eating properly?”

“De, I’m not too thin. I’ve gained five pounds since I last saw you, and I eat fine, thank you very much,” David laughed. He looked over and caught Joey’s attention. “How do you put up with her every day?”

“Medication,” Joey replied without skipping a beat, causing everyone to laugh. He reached out for David’s hand. “How’re you doing, buddy? Despite your lack of body fat.”

“Well, I thought I was doing fine until I was informed by an expert that I’m a skeleton,” David teased. Then he looked down at the boys, who were trying to shyly hide behind their father. “Hey guys, how are my two favorite nephews? Got a hug for Uncle Dave?”

The suggestion broke through their shyness and both boys hurdled their way to him and threw their arms around him in a big hug. “Hi Uncle Dave,” Peter offered.

“Boy, you guys are getting so tall. Pretty soon you’re going to be taller than me.” David hugged them tight and then pulled back and turned his attention to Matt, who had taken a step back to allow for the family reunion. “De, Joey, this is Matt.”

Suddenly all eyes fell on Matt, making him squirm in discomfort. “Um…hi. It’s nice to meet you.”

Deanna looked back and forth between David and Matt a few times before breaking into a smile and approaching Matt with her arms out, pulling him into a hug. “Matt, it’s so nice to meet you. I wish I could say that David has told me a lot about you, but he hasn’t. I don’t know a thing about you. We’re going to have to rectify the situation. Come with me.”

David watched in horror as his sister started dragging his boyfriend away. “De, I really don’t think…”

“Give it up, Dave. It’s a lost cause. Let her talk to him for a few minutes and then you can go rescue him,” Joey suggested. “While you’re waiting, you can help me bring the bags in from the car. Between the girls’ presents and what we pack for a day away with the boys, I almost need a hand truck to unload.”

David looked back to where Deanna and Matt disappeared and sighed. Joey was right. The best way to save Matt was to give his sister a few moments with him and then steal him away. As they walked outside, David saw the twins getting out of their truck. His face broke out into a huge smile as he rushed over to them.

“Hey. It’s so good to see you guys!”

Darren reached him first, pulling his brother into a tight hug. “Hey Davey, I’m so glad you made it.”

Donovan was waiting patiently and pulled David to him as soon as Darren let him go. “Yeah, what the hell was that, blowing us off for Thanksgiving?”

“Sorry about that. I was busy,” David offered as he looked at his brothers closely. It always took him a moment or two to figure out which one was which. They were identical in looks but not in personality. Darren was more shy and reserved and it showed in the way he avoided eye contact, unlike with Donovan who would stare directly into the eyes of everyone he talked to. “I did catch your little stint on TV, though.”

“Yeah, some bitch with a cameraman showed up while we were at Rockefeller Center and started harassing us. Granting an interview was the only way to get her to leave us alone,” Darren complained, his distaste for the spotlight obvious.

“Oh, knock it off,” Donovan scolded. “It wasn’t that bad. Besides, she was hot. I got her phone number. She told me to look her up the next time I’m in the city.”

“Oh God, please tell me you threw out her number,” David groaned.

“Why would I do that? We’re going to New York for Christmas. Now I won’t be bored,” Donovan laughed.

David sighed. “Don, you can’t date a reporter. Everything you say can and will be used against the entire family.”

“Hate to tell you baby brother, but I don’t plan on doing much talking,” Donovan winked. “Now let’s get inside. I can’t wait to meet the mystery man that you brought home.”

“How did you…”

“Are you kidding? Dylan called me the minute you took him upstairs to your room. It’s one thing to hear about a potential boyfriend. It’s another to know that you brought one home. Dude, we haven’t met anyone you’ve dated since Ricky and that doesn’t even count since not only was he part of the family, but none of us knew that you guys were gay…or dating. So, is this serious?”

“I don’t know. I guess so…I mean, I hope so. It’s just…complicated,” David tried to explain.

“Complicated how?” Donovan prodded.

“Well, he’s not really out,” David answered carefully.


“Yeah, out. As in out and proud. Up until a couple weeks ago, he was still insisting that he’s straight. Other than me, of course, there’s only one other person who knows about us.”

“Wait a minute,” Darren jumped in. “He’s still in the closet? And you brought him here? With the Jacksons? Are you out of your mind?”

“Well I was kind of hoping that you animals could behave yourselves and not scare him away,” David replied.

“Again, are you out of your mind?”

Joey put his hand on David’s shoulder in support. “I’ll do the best I can to keep Donovan in check, but it’s definitely a full time job. You’ll have to figure something out for the others.”

“Oh fuck off, douche bag.” Donovan pretended to be upset as he gently shoved Joey away. “He’s my baby brother. There’s nothing wrong with making sure that the guy he’s seeing is the right guy for him.”

“Speaking of the right guy, where is he?” Darren asked as he looked around.

“Deanna got her hands on him,” David admitted.

“What? You are out of your mind!” Darren exclaimed. “We’d better get in there and save him. She’ll eat him alive.”

“My wife is not that bad,” Joey said indignantly and then paused. “But we’d better get inside just in case.”

David just shook his head. He had a feeling that it was going to be a long day.


“So what is your major?”

Matt was sitting on the couch with David’s sister, his heart beating at a pace that couldn’t be good for him. “Um…Criminal Justice. I’m going to be a cop.”

“Really? Isn’t that dangerous?”

“I guess so, but someone has to do it. My grandfather, my father, and my uncles are all cops. I’m just following in their footsteps.”

“Huh. And how old are you?”

“I’m eighteen.”

“Wow, kind of young. David is twenty-three.”

“I know.”

“So, where are you from?”



“Got two.”


“An older brother.”

“What are your intentions with my brother?”

“My what?”

“Deanna, what the hell are you doing?”

Matt looked over as Dylan walked into the living room with a grin on his face.

“I’m just having a little fun with Matt here,” Deanna told him as she patted Matt’s leg.

“No, you’re scaring him. What’s wrong with you? This is the first guy David’s ever brought home and if you scare him away, David will stop coming home for these things.”

“Oh, don’t be such a stick in the mud,” Deanna threw back before turning to Matt. “I’m not scaring you, am I?”

Matt was saved from answering when David’s nephews came running in, the smaller one crying. “Mommy, Petey said that I can’t have any birfday cake cause I bad. Tell him I not bad.”

“Peter, stop tormenting your brother,” Deanna demanded. “I warned you before we got here that I expected you to be on your best behavior. If I have to talk to you one more time, no TV for a week.”

“But Mommy…”

“Don’t you but Mommy me. I mean it.”

“Fine,” Peter sighed dramatically. “Come on, tattletale. Let’s go.”

Deanna shook her head as she watched her boys walk away. “Those two are going to be the death of me. Dyl, do the girls fight like that?”

“Strangely enough, they hardly ever fight. It makes me very nervous. I hope they’re not holding it in until they hit their teens,” Dylan laughed.

“I told you, you have nothing to worry about,” Donovan said as he entered the room, obviously having overheard the conversation. “Darren and I never fought either when we were young. It’s a twin, or as it were, triplet thing.”

“No, you and Darren are just freaks of nature,” David pointed out as he walked over to where Matt was and sat down on the arm of the couch. He looked at his boyfriend closely. “Are you okay? I’m sorry about my sister.”

“Excuse me?” Deanna spoke up. “Why are you apologizing for me? Matt and I were having a lovely conversation before Dylan came in here and interrupted.”

“If by lovely conversation you mean interrogation then yes, they were having a lovely conversation, right Matt?” Dylan asked with a smirk.

Matt swallowed as all eyes turned on him. He could feel Deanna’s eyes burning holes in his skull. “It’s fine. We were just chatting.”

“See?” Deanna responded like a five year old.

David continued to look at Matt closely for another moment and then smiled. “Alright, if you say so. Matt, these are my brothers. Darren’s in the red and Donovan’s in the blue. Guys, this is Matt.”

Matt got up and approached the men, extending his arm in greeting. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you, too,” Donovan said as he looked Matt up and down, holding onto his hand a little bit longer than necessary. “Very nice, Davey. He’s a hottie. If I bent that way, I’d be trying to steal him for myself.”

“You might try, but you wouldn’t succeed. Matt landed himself the hottest of the Jackson brothers when he landed me.”

The room broke out into laughter and good natured ribbing as the men all started to insist that they were the best looking out of the group. Matt took this as his opportunity to slide into the background and observe. His family was a fairly decent size when all the aunts, uncles and cousins came around, but with only him and his brother at home, life was more on the quiet side. The group in front of him was loud and rowdy, and they were still missing a person because Daniel hadn’t shown up yet. He smiled to himself as he thought about what it must have been like growing up in the Jackson house, but before he could get too deep into thought, Renee joined the room with two people who could only be David’s parents.

Donald Jackson was a striking man, his mere size a contradiction to the idea of a computer geek. He was also very good looking despite his advanced age and Matt could easily see the resemblance between him and his sons. Theresa, on the other hand was a small thing. If Matt were to venture a guess, he’d say she couldn’t have stood much taller than five foot. It was immediately obvious that all the children, including Deanna, got their height from their father. It was also obvious that the children all worshiped both their parents by the way they passed hugs and kisses around. Matt just stood back and let them have their reunion, knowing that the attention would be on him soon enough.

“Mom, Dad, I’d like you to meet my boyfriend Matt,” David finally said, leading his parents over to where Matt was standing.

“Your boyfriend? You have a boyfriend?” his mother asked in awe.

“What? You mean Dylan didn’t call you and tell you I brought someone home?” David asked as he glanced over at Dylan.

Dylan had the decency to look embarrassed. “No, I know you didn’t want Mom to know, but you didn’t say anything about Donovan and Darren.”

“Why didn’t you want your mother to know?” Donald Jackson asked, turning his attention on his youngest son.

“Oh, it doesn’t matter why,” Theresa said as she grabbed Matt and held him at arm’s length. “Oh, look at you. You are adorable. Come here and give me a hug.”

Matt allowed himself to be pulled into the tiny woman’s arms and smiled. Despite just meeting her, Matt could feel a calming effect in her presence. “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Jackson.”

“Oh please, call me Teri. No need to be so formal. Wow, I can’t believe my son has finally brought someone home. I’ve been waiting for this day for years,” Theresa said as she got teary eyed.

“Teri, you want to let the boy go so I can meet him?” Donald asked as he gently moved his wife aside. “It’s good to meet you, son. I hope my family hasn’t been giving you too much trouble. I know they can be a bit much to take. I’m sure Deanna has already started the interrogation.”

“Why does everyone keep saying that?” Deanna barked. The room broke out in more laughter.

A short time later, as the excitement over Matt’s presence settled down, David was standing off to the side of the room when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned around and smiled at Dylan.

“He seems to be fitting in well, doesn’t he?”

David looked over to where Matt was deep in conversation with Donovan and smiled. “Yeah, he really does. Just one more Jackson to go.”

“And the most important in your book, huh?”

“What? No, of course not. Mom and Dad…”

“Mom and Dad aren’t Danny. Look, David, I know how hard it was for you when you and Danny weren’t getting along. I also know how close you two are. In fact, I’d say that you guys are probably as close as the twins, maybe even closer. I also know that you don’t share much of your, shall I say dating life, with him because you’re afraid he won’t accept it. You don’t have to be afraid. He loves you and he’s going to love Matt, too. All his anger and pain was never about the gay thing.”

“I know that’s what he said, but what if it’s not? What if he really has a problem with it but we don’t know that because I’ve never flaunted my life in front of him?” David asked in obvious concern.

“Is that why you never brought anyone home before?”

“Yeah, kind of. I mean, I didn’t want to rock the boat, and nobody was ever really important enough to want to, ya know?”

“But Matt is.” It was a statement, not a question.

David glanced at Matt one more time before turning back to his brother. “Yeah, he is.”

“Then Danny will love him. Look, Davey, I never told you this before, but when you and Danny weren’t speaking for those weeks, he came to talk to me.”

“What did he say?”

“He assured me that it had nothing to do with you being gay. He just felt betrayed. He said that you guys were supposed to share everything and that how could he trust you if you didn’t even have the decency to tell him who you really were.”

“But it wasn’t that simple,” David said, his need to defend himself kicking in. “If it was just me, it would’ve been a little different, but I had Ricky to think about. He was so afraid of someone finding out about him that he couldn’t even think straight. He was convinced that if I came out, everyone would know about him, too.”

“Danny knows, and he understands that you were trying to protect Ricky. I think he was just having a hard time understanding why you didn’t confide in him. You know, if you had told him, he never would’ve told anyone else. He would have taken your secret to the grave if you had asked him to. That’s why he reacted like he did.”

David sighed. “I know, and believe me, I thought about it so many times. I just felt like I had to do as Ricky asked. Trust me; I regret it more than you could know. Watching Danny walk away from me that day, the day that he found out? I can’t even begin to explain how much that hurt me. It was like losing a limb for those weeks when we weren’t speaking. And then, once we were talking again, he wouldn’t trust me. I think that was even worse.”

“Well, it’s in the past now. You don’t have to worry about it anymore. And as for Matt, trust me, Danny is going to love him, if for no other reason than you do.”

“I don’t…um…it’s only been…how did you know…?” David stammered.

“How did I know you loved him? Because I can see it in your eyes every time you look at him. I know you guys haven’t been together all that long, but that doesn’t mean anything. I knew the second I saw Renee in my Business Law class that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. Here we are, more than ten years later and I still feel the same way. Matt might not be ready to hear it yet, but there’s nothing wrong with you feeling it. I’m happy for you, baby bro.”

“Thanks, Dyl,” David replied as he hugged his brother.

“What is this, a party?” Daniel called out as he entered the room, drawing everyone's attention.

The room erupted in shouts as everyone greeted the long lost son. Daniel was the only one, aside from David, not living in Florida so it was an emotional greeting, even though they all just saw each other at Thanksgiving. David waited until everyone else had their turn before finally making his way to his brother.

“Hey, do I know you?” David teased.

“Come here you,” Daniel replied as he pulled David in and hugged him like he’d just returned from war. “I’ve miss you so much.”

“I miss you, too,” David whispered, his voice getting choked up with emotion.

When the brothers finally let go of each other, the women in the room were misty-eyed and the men were clearing their throats. It was so obvious that despite the distance between them, Daniel and David were still as close as ever. David looked around the room and found Matt with his eyes, signaling for him to come over.

“Danny, I want you to meet my boyfriend Matt,” David said proudly. “Matt, this is Daniel.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Matt said as he shook Daniel’s hand. He knew his palms were sweating. After seeing the greeting between the brothers, he had no doubt that Daniel’s acceptance was the most important one out of the entire family.

Daniel shook Matt’s hand and smiled. “So my little brother finally found someone to put up with his shit, huh?”

And just like that, everything was okay.


The party was a nice affair. A few of the girls’ friends came by with their families and added to the controlled chaos, but Renee handled it all like a pro. The opening of the presents took a long time, with shrieks and shouts ringing out throughout the huge backyard and probably the neighborhood. Of course Uncle Dave’s pony was the biggest hit of all, surprising everyone in the room other than Dylan and Matt. Apparently Dylan chose not to tell his wife about his brother’s extravagant gift, leaving Matt to wonder if the oldest Jackson sibling was in trouble. Everyone chipped in to help with the clean up and then Donald and Theresa said their goodbyes. They had early morning plans and Theresa was still recovering from a bout of the flu. She needed her rest. From there, everyone else started to make their excuses and say goodbye until it was just down to Daniel, David and Matt. The only ones spending the night.

Once the girls went to bed, it was decided that the adults would sit outside by the pool and have some wine. Renee went to the kitchen to throw together some cheese and crackers while Dylan suggested that the men make a trip to the wine cellar to make their selection.

“Why don’t you guys go on ahead and I’ll take Matt outside. I’m sure that at eighteen, he doesn’t have a wine preference.” Daniel suggested.

“Well, Dylan doesn’t need me to pick something out. I’ll just go…”

“Davey, relax. I promise I’m not going to hurt him,” Daniel said with a smile. “And I promise not to pull a Deanna and interrogate him.”

David looked towards Matt for any objections. He got none.

“Go head, David. It’s fine,” Matt assured him although his heart rate kicked up a notch.

David gave Daniel a threatening glare and then followed Dylan towards the cellar, leaving his boyfriend and his brother alone.

“Come on, you want to go take a walk outside?” Daniel suggested. “The grounds here are beautiful.”

“Yeah, okay.”

As soon as they made it outside, Daniel started talking. “I’m sure you’re expecting some kind of big brother speech, but that’s not why I wanted a few minutes alone with you. After Deanna, I’m sure you’ve had enough family interference.”

“She wasn’t too bad,” Matt lied. Deanna had scared the crap out of him.

“Yeah, right. You don’t have to defend her. I know how she is. I always thought she’d be better getting rid of her teaching certificate and going to work for the CIA. No one would survive a debriefing from her.”

“She was a bit…intimidating at first, but I survived. Besides, she was just looking out for her brother, and I think that’s sweet. It was fine.”

“If you say so,” Daniel chuckled. “Anyway, I actually wanted to talk to you and see how David is. I mean, how he really is.”

“Um…okay. Why don’t you just ask him?”

“I do, all the time. And he says he’s doing great, but I still worry about him. Listen, Matt, I’m sure you know about what happened with Ricky. It was hard on the whole family because we had known him and his parents forever, but Davey took it so hard. I didn’t know the extent of it at first. My parents were the only ones who knew they had been more than just friends, but I saw the light go out of his eyes when he got the news about Ricky. It was the only time in our lives that I felt any kind of distance between us. He shut down from everyone and it killed me to watch him in so much pain.”

“I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him,” Matt said. “I’ve only ever lost distant relatives and that was when I was much younger. I don’t know how I’d handle losing one of my best friends.”

“It’s not easy. Trust me; Ricky and I were never as close as he and Davey, but he was a good friend to all of us. We all mourned, but not like David did. I tried my best to be there for him, and I think he was finally adjusting, when he came out to us. I’m so ashamed to say that I was a complete and total asshole and I don’t know how he ever forgave me for the way I reacted. I turned my back on him at a time when he needed me the most and I don’t really have an excuse for what I did except to say I was hurt and wanted to hurt back. Can you imagine learning something like that, something that important about a person you trusted more than anyone else in the world? You’ve seen our family. We are all very close and we love each other unconditionally, but David and I? The bond we share? I should have known. I should have known the moment he knew because he should have told me. And it hurt that he didn’t. It hurt really bad that he didn’t trust me enough to tell me who he was.”

“But you know he wasn’t doing it to shut you out, right? I mean, accepting that you’re gay…it’s not an easy thing to do. Trust me, I know firsthand.”

“You’re not out. David told me. Do you have any siblings?”

“Yeah, I have a brother. He’s two years older than me.”

“Are you close?”

“Yeah. He’s going to school at NYU so we don’t see each other much these days, but we’ve always been close.”

“Look Matt, I’m not trying to tell you what to do. It’s your call to make. I just know from my own experience that it’s devastating to find out that your own brother didn’t trust you enough to tell you what he was going through.”

“I know. I’ve been thinking about telling Mark during winter break. Truthfully, I wasn’t planning on telling anyone because before I met your brother, I planned on staying in the closet, getting married, and living my life like my family expected me to do.”

“And David changed that?”

“Yeah, he did, the jerk,” Matt joked. “He just swooped right in and changed my world.”

“I’m pretty sure you changed his, too. I’ve never seen him this happy. That light in his eyes, the one that went out when Ricky died? It’s back. I knew it the moment I saw him today,” Daniel sighed. “I guess that’s why I wanted to talk to you. I don’t want to butt in where I don’t belong, but I love him and I don’t want to see him get hurt. You said he changed your life. Do you mean that? I don’t want to see him hurt again and having you change your mind and stay in the closet will break his heart.”

Matt thought about his words carefully before speaking them. “Look, Daniel, I don’t know what’s going to happen between us. We’ve only been together for a couple of weeks. We’re not exactly ready to pick out china patterns. I will say that my feelings for him are real. I wouldn’t be here if they weren’t. Hell, my life would be so much easier if I didn’t care so much, but that’s not an option anymore. For whatever reason, from the moment we met, I haven’t been able to get him out of my head. He is sweet and kind and he makes me happier than I ever remember being. The last thing I would ever want to do is hurt him. I promise.”

“That’s all I needed to hear,” Daniel replied. “I hope I haven’t offended you by talking to you about this.”

“Not at all. I think it’s sweet how everyone is so protective of David. He’s lucky to have so many people in his corner,” Matt said. “And for the record, David forgives you completely for what happened after he came out. He loves you very much and cherishes the bond that you guys share. He’s just happy that you were able to forgive him for keeping such a secret.”

“That’s the great thing about family. No matter what happens, love and forgiveness go hand in hand.”

“I hope you’re right, Daniel. I really hope you’re right.”

“Talk to him. It might not be easy, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Don’t wait too long though. The longer it goes on, the more it hurts. Trust me,” Daniel said. “And if you need me to hop on over to NYU and kick his ass for you, just say the word.”

“Thanks, Daniel.”

“Hey, there you guys are,” David said as he sidled up alongside Matt. “Is everything okay?”

“Everything is fine, Davey. I was just telling Matt here all your secrets,” Daniel teased.

“Wonderful, now I’ll have to kill him,” David teased back, smiling at Matt.

“You wouldn’t dare. I’m too pretty,” Matt laughed.

David took a moment as if he was contemplating it before laughing. “Yeah, you’re right. You are too pretty. I guess I’m stuck with you then.”

“I guess so,” Matt replied as he took David’s hand, his first time initiating contact between them all day.

“Come on, let’s go get some of that wine,” Daniel suggested as he watched the interaction between Matt and David. His younger brother was finally happy. It was a wonderful sight to see.


Daniel pulled Dylan’s truck up to the curb outside the airport and put it in park before climbing out for a proper goodbye. He offered to drive David and Matt instead of making them call for a car. He himself had arranged to stay an extra night while he had the coverage at work. Since they had only stayed one night, there was hardly any luggage to carry, both men only having a small bag a piece. Daniel walked around to the other side of the truck and joined the men on the sidewalk.

“Well, it was nice meeting you, Matt. You have my number. Call me any time this yahoo gets out of line and I’ll fly in and kick his ass,” Daniel said as he hugged Matt goodbye.

“I will,” Matt agreed. “It was nice to meet you, too. Take care of yourself and maybe I’ll see you in the spring.” Matt turned to David. “I’ll be inside. Take your time saying goodbye.”

Once Matt was gone, Daniel pulled David to him and hugged him tight. “I’m going to miss you. This trip was way too short.”

“I know. We’ll have a little more time at Christmas. I’ll be in Florida for at least a few days then. Maybe we can take a day just for us.”

“Sounds good to me,” Daniel told him with a smile. Then he sobered. “You’re not coming to New York after graduation, are you?”

David shook his head sadly. “No, I’m probably not. Not if things work out between Matt and me. He’s a freshman. He’s got quite a few years left in Texas. I’m sorry.”

“Hey, no need to apologize. I’m just glad you’re happy. Besides, it’s not like we don’t have access to a private jet. We just have to make more time for each other. I’d love for you and your friends to come out for spring break, but if you don’t make it, maybe I can fly to Texas for a few days. I haven’t taken any time off from the restaurant since I started there until this weekend. They owe me some vacation time.”

“That would be great. Now I’d better get in there before Matt runs off with the first hot TSA employee he sees. I love you, brother.” David hugged him one more time.

“Love you too, buddy. Talk to you soon.”

David watched his brother drive away and felt foolish as he wiped at the dampness around his eyes. He jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Hey, you alright?”

“Yeah, I just hate goodbyes,” David explained. “Come on, let’s go home.”

“You got it. Thanks for bringing me here. I had a really good time.”

“And my family didn’t scare you away?”

“Not at all. In fact, watching you with them showed me a different side of you. I feel like I know you even better now and I like what I know.”

“I’m glad to hear that, 'cause I like you, too.”

Matt took David by the hand and led him into the airport. It was not lost on David that Matt initiated contact between them in a public place. Maybe the trip to Florida was just what Matt needed. David didn’t expect him to come out of the closet the minute their plane touched down in Texas, but at least Matt got to experience what it could be like if he did come out. Hopefully that would go a long way in readying him for the future, because David couldn’t wait until the world knew that he had found the man of his dream.

End of part 12.5

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