“I’m sure it isn’t an easy decision to make, but sometimes walking away to give them a chance at a better life is the best thing to do,” Carter explained to Dean Nash, the boys’ father, as they waited for Stefani Jennings to arrive. The social worker had been upset when the boys ran away from the temporary foster home, but when Carter called to tell her they were at Opie and Tasha’s house, she thanked him and said she was relieved. She asked him to keep everyone there until she could get there, and he’d agreed.
The sliding door opened, and Paul stepped out holding Donnie’s hand. The boy was wearing a pair of Tasha’s swimsuit bottoms and one of her tank tops, and he was actually smiling. Denny walked out in a pair of Opie’s old shorts, and Mack was wearing a pair of his own shorts. “We are going swimming. We hope we don’t interrupt your conversation, but if we do, then take it inside,” Mack joked as he winked at Carter.
Dean looked at Donnie and then looked at the floor. “I, uh, I think Donnie is one of those, uh, trans people. I don’t understand it, but I know it’s a thing. You won’t not want him because of it, will you?” Dean asked.
Carter smiled. It was as he’d suspected when he saw Donnie in Tasha’s robe the previous day. “No, Dean, we’ll still love him… or her. I guess your mother knew this and wasn’t thrilled?”
Dean took a sip of his beer and shook his head, taking off the dirty cap he was wearing. “Momma isn’t thrilled about anything, trust me. I hate myself for leaving them with my parents, but after Sally overdosed, well I just didn’t have anywhere to take them. They needed to eat and go to the doctors, so I left ‘em with my folks. I can see that was the wrong thing to do,” Dean explained as he seemed to take in the state of each boy’s physical appearance. Carter couldn’t tell if he was counting Denny’s ribs, but it was possible.
Carter touched the man’s arm to get his attention as he watched them in the pool. “If my brother and sister-in-law want to adopt them, will you sign over your parental rights? That’s what has to happen so they can be available for adoption,” Carter explained, based on what he’d looked up on the computer in the kitchen.
“So, you and your man wouldn’t raise them?” Dean asked.
Carter chuckled. “We’ll be in their lives, trust me, but Tasha is a schoolteacher, and she’s itching to have those two angels live with her. She can definitely be a good, positive influence on Donnie, and my brother, Opie, is a great dad. Mack and I will definitely be around for backup, and they’ll be loved by a huge family. Mack has two sisters and two brothers, so we’re an imposing force, all of us together. Those boys will be smothered in love, I’d guess.”
Just then, Stefani Jennings came through the back gate with Tasha and Opie in tow. “You should have called us,” Opie announced, looking pissed as he stared at the pool before he looked at Carter. Ms. Jennings stepped to the side and made a phone call, so Carter decided to explain the situation to his brother.
“I had it under control. I called Miss Jennings when Mr. Nash showed up, and Mack ran into the boys at the church. Paul had a nap, and we have some good news, I think,” Carter offered.
Opie didn’t look happy, but Tasha’s face was glowing. Carter knew what he had to do, and he was prepared. “Mr. Nash is going to sign over temporary guardianship to Mack. I’m on parole, so it’s better if it’s the priest. They’ll stay with us, and they won’t be any trouble, I’m sure,” Carter explained.
Carter saw Tasha was about to go off on a tangent, so he winked at her. “You don’t mind if we have them in the apartment, right?” he asked Opie.
“No, uh, no, that’s fine. Why is… Is that your swimming suit bottoms and your tank top?” Opie asked Tasha as Donnie hopped out of the water with a big smile before he did a cannonball off the side of the pool like Paul was doing. Denny and Mack were catching them, and they were all laughing. Ms. Jennings stepped over to the table with her professional smile in place.
“Okay, um, Mr. Nash, can we go inside and discuss this situation? The boys ran away from their emergency foster home, so I need to explain to you what’s next for them, should you find yourself…”
“Oh, those two are gonna take ‘em. Carter said I can give Mack here temporary guardianship, and the two of ‘em will take care of my boys. That’s what I wanna do,” Dean Nash explained.
Carter saw Tasha stick out her tongue at him, but he just winked. His brother needed time to get to know the boys better, and he knew the more time Opie spent with those two sweethearts, the more he’d love them. It would just take a little patience.
“I’ll see about getting you some twin beds or something, but for now, are you okay sharing this bed?” Carter asked as they stood in Mack’s room.
“Where’s Father Mack gonna sleep?” Donnie innocently inquired.
Denny laughed. “He’s gonna sleep with Carter. You won’t kick me, will you?”
The younger boy laughed as he took the cotton gown Tasha had given him toward the bathroom. “Can I take a shower?” Donnie asked.
Earlier in the day, they’d been in the pool, and Tasha had made them pizza. After Dean signed the emergency guardianship papers, he took the boys to the side of the deck, but Carter stayed within earshot to make certain things didn’t deteriorate.
“I’m sorry for leavin’ you with my parents and all, but after your momma died, I didn’t know what to do. I shoulda known that leavin’ you with Elsie and Morris was a bad idea. They weren’t that way when I was young, but they changed while I was growin’ up. That’s why I got out when I was eighteen, but I shoulda remembered it. I’m sorry about that, and I hope you have a good life now that you’re with decent people. I’ll think about you boys every day, but you’d best forget about me for your own sakes. I’m not good enough for you, but these people? They’ll love you. Be the good boys I know you are,” Dean had told them before he’d walked away without looking back.
Carter had seen Denny begin to fall apart, but Donnie had taken his hands and held onto them. “It’s for the best, Denny. He knows he can’t take care of us, and he’s givin’ us a chance at somethin’ better. This is better,” Donnie had whispered to his brother. Carter had to dry his own eyes at hearing the boy’s comment. Their souls were much older than their biological ages would attest, but it was time for a new beginning for all of them.
Carter remembered the boy’s question. “Yes, you can take a shower, but not a cold one. There’s a mark on the knob… let me show you,” he suggested, leading Donnie into the bathroom to show him where the mark was on the shower faucet for lukewarm water.
“You’re not mad ‘cause we run away, are you?” Donnie asked as Carter turned his back to the boy and took a seat on the sink as he’d done the previous day.
Carter thought carefully because he didn’t want them running away again. “No, I’m not mad about it, but I want you to think about how dangerous that was, Donnie. A stranger could have found you boys and hurt you badly. We won’t tolerate you running away from us, okay? Mack and I want you safe, and we want to know where you are all the time. Have you guys ever been to school?”
Donnie didn’t answer, so Carter glanced in the mirror to catch the boy’s reflection, seeing he was washing his hair. After he rinsed, Carter asked again about school. “Just when the truant officer came out to the farm to complain about it. Grandma found out about home-schoolin, and they didn’t send us no more.
“I can read and so can Denny. We can do numbers and stuff, but we don’t know stuff like Paul does. I guess we gotta catch up,” the boy told him as he turned off the water and wrapped himself in a large towel.
“Will we have to go to school?” Donnie asked as he stepped out of the shower onto the bathmat and stopped. Carter thought about how far behind they probably were and how difficult it would be for them to go to school and catch up. He wasn’t sure what they’d do about that, but they’d figure it out.
Carter reached into the drawer of the bathroom vanity and pulled out a double pack of toothbrushes. “We’ll work it out, I swear. There’s a toothbrush for you and one for Denny. You get to pick first,” he told Donnie as Carter hopped off the counter.
Before preparing to leave the room, Carter turned to Donnie and touched his shoulder as the boy got ready to brush his teeth. “You know, you can change your name if you’d like. Your father told me you’ve had a hard time with your grandmother because you might be feeling different on the inside than you look on the outside, but Mack and I understand it even if your grandparents didn’t. We’ll take you shopping to get clothes you’ll feel comfortable wearing, okay? It’s okay for you to be yourself… even Tasha agrees. That’s why she gave you that nightgown. You don’t have to hide with us,” Carter tried to clarify for the child.
Donnie gently picked up the gown from the bathroom counter and pulled it on over the towel before letting the damp cloth fall away. He picked it up and hung it from hook next to the shower curtain before he turned to look at his reflection in the mirror.
The way he gently touched the yellow and white bows across the front made Carter smile. Donnie looked at Carter who was still sitting on the sink. The child bit their lip for a moment before they seemed to settle on a question.
“Can I really change my name? I wanna be called Danita. I like that name, and in my head, that’s what I call myself. Is that okay?” Donnie asked, looking excited and scared shitless at the same time.
Carter grinned and bowed, sticking out his hand to take the child’s and place a gentle kiss on the knuckles. “Hello, Danita. I’m Carter, and it’s time for bed, young lady,” Carter told the child. The tears came immediately from the newly named Danita, and they were more than Carter could take, so he held the girl and let her cry. After all was said and done, they came out of the bathroom and Carter smiled at Mack and Denny.
“I’d like to introduce you to Danita Nash. She’s ready for bed,” he told them. Carter saw the man he loved offer the child a tender smile and a quick nod of his head. When Denny scooped up his sister and hugged her, Carter was happier than he’d been in a long time. It was hard having to hide your true self, and he was pretty sure Mack knew it as much as Danita.
The two men tucked the kids into bed, and then they went into Carter’s room. He closed the door and grabbed Mack’s hand. “Are you still a man of the cloth?”
Mack laughed. “I’m not sure about that, but I do know I’d like to take a shower with you, Mr. Riggs. I was in the pool, and I’d like to keep my skin as soft and supple as possible. Can I interest you?” he challenged with a very unpriestly grin.
Carter grabbed two towels from the basket in the corner of his room and pulled Mack behind him to the bathroom. He turned on the shower and only turned on the small light over the sink. “After you, Mr. McCord,” he taunted, seeing Mack chuckle.
They stepped into the shower and wrapped their arms around each other. Their hard cocks were rubbing together, and all it took was Mack’s moan at the contact. “I love you,” Carter whispered against his lips as he wrapped his hand around the two throbbing rods and began gently stroking them. Mack added the body wash and they held onto each other as his hand joined Carter’s in providing the delightful friction.
“Can we do this every night?” Mack gasped as Carter continued to stroke them, guiding Mack’s hand with his own as the shorter man thrust up into their fists and moaned.
“I’m hoping we can do this and a hell of a lot more every night. I haven’t been as celibate as you, babe, but it’s been a while. Oh, yeah, just like that,” he hissed as Mack’s hand glided over the head of Carter’s aching cock.
They continued thrusting and kissing, tongues sliding and probing. It was amazing. The sensations consumed his body, and when Mack bit his neck, Carter gasped. “I’m about to come.”
Mack’s body also began to jerk as he erupted between them. It set Carter off as he looked into the eyes of his lover and knew for a fact they were fated to meet. He didn’t know how or why, but nobody would ever convince him it wasn’t preordained that he’d meet Seamus McCord and fall in love. People always said the Lord worked in mysterious ways. Meeting Mack was one of those beautiful mysteries.
Carter crawled up from under the sheet and saw the utterly blissed-out look on Mack’s face. He’d given the man a blowjob and based on that face, he knew his lover had never had one. Carter certainly felt like quite the stud as he settled next to Mack. “You okay?” he teased as he bit a dark nipple.
Mack laughed and jerked away. “You’re in trouble now, Carter. I’m going to want to wake like that every day,” Mack threatened.
“Not a problem for me, love. So, it’s Sunday. Do you need to go to St. Rita’s? I mean, I know what we did last night, and maybe you need to atone for it or something? I’m not exactly sure of the protocol, Mack,” he whispered so as not to wake Denny and Danita on the other side of the apartment.
Mack pushed him onto his back and placed his chin on Carter’s chest, looking into his eyes. “I’d like to go to church, but not to St. Rita’s. Can I take you somewhere else? I think you might like it and I hope Denny and Danita might like it as well. I believe it might be my next step, Carter,” he whispered as he leaned forward and kissed Carter again, taking his breath away, not for the first time.
When they pulled apart, Carter smiled. “I’ll follow you anywhere, Mack McCord. I love you, remember?”
After several more heated kisses, they separated and grinned at each other. “So, what about clothes? We need to have clothes for them,” Mack reminded as he motioned his head toward the other bedroom.
“Yes, and there’s a twenty-four-hour discount store by the highway. Think they trust me?” Carter asked before he explained himself to his lover.
Mack chuckled. “Check the shoe sizes because there’s nothing worse than shoes that are too tight. I think you’re so great,” he whispered to Carter before he kissed him again.
That was all Carter needed. He hopped up, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, stepping into the flip-flops Tasha had been sweet enough to buy him after he got out of the halfway house. He turned on the coffee maker for Mack, and he headed down the stairs of the garage apartment as he dialed a number.
“Ummm. What’s wrong?” The sleepy voice made him grin.
“You feel like an early morning shopping trip? I need to pick up a few things for my new roommates,” Carter joked.
“Give me ten. Make coffee, please. I need the boost.” Carter walked over to the patio door and put the key in the lock, opening the door as quietly as possible. He listened to the shower upstairs as he prepared the coffee maker and turned it on.
Carter would love to have Denny and Danita live with him and Mack, but the truth of the matter was, they were just starting out. They’d just been intimate with each other the first time the previous night and then that morning, so they needed to get to know each other better, and the Nash kids deserved a more stable parental relationship… a more stable family. When Tasha breezed downstairs with her hair in a braid, Carter knew she was precisely what those kids needed.
“Opie’s going to piss himself, isn’t he? Oh, we have a Danita. She was so grateful for the gown, Tasha. I had no idea something like that meant so much,” Carter whispered as he filled a travel mug for his sister-in-law.
Tash smiled at him. “Rigger, you’ve never been a girl. Let’s go,” she demanded. The two of them hopped into her car, and off they went to the all-night discount store at six o’clock on a Sunday morning.
They plowed through the store like they were in some sort of race, but when Tasha stopped, Carter went to see what she was looking at, betraying his ignorance regarding any sizes other than shoes. “I have no idea, Tash. I don’t know about that stuff,” he told her as she perused panties.
“Okay, um, I’ll just get these. They look kind of gender-neutral, right?” Tasha asked as she picked up a package of six-pair of cotton hip-huggers.
“I guess. Why do you think I woke you from a sound sleep? How did you know about Danita?” he asked. Carter had only guessed before Dean Nash confirmed he believed Danita was trans, but Tasha just seemed to know the truth.
“I saw how much she loved the robe I loaned her that first day when we met, which reminds me,” Tasha explained as she went to the girl’s section and bought a gown and a robe.
Carter decided it was time to see just how astute his sister-in-law really was. “So, uh, Mack’s going to leave the church. He’d wasn’t sure about staying before we met, but then… Well, I figure I’m already goin’ to hell, so anyway. He found this new church he wants to try out. He met the pastor there yesterday, and he liked them.”
Tasha turned to him and smiled that knowing smile he was sure was what everyone called “woman’s intuition,” and he laughed. “You are a dangerous woman, Natasha. Does Opie know he’s playin’ with fire?” They both laughed at Carter’s comment.
After another hour of Carter relaying the story of how Mack and he met at the laundry mat as they picked up new clothes for Denny and Danita, the two of them rushed to the checkout with all manner of things. As Carter reached out to offer the young cashier his bank card, he was surprised when Tasha slapped his hand.
“They’re going to be my children, Rigger, and I’m taking care of them. Oh, this too,” she stated as she handed the cashier a large cotton dress. It was too large for Tasha to be sure, but Carter knew better than to ask. He nodded and gathered the bags as his sister-in-law signed the slip and smiled at the cashier.
They were back home in about fifteen minutes, and Tasha followed Carter up the stairs to the garage apartment. When he opened the door, he smiled to see Denny and Danita were sitting on the couch watching cartoons. He smelled good smells from the kitchen, and he left Tasha with the kids to see what Mack was up to in the kitchen.
“That smells amazing,” Carter stated as he walked up behind the man he loved and kissed his neck.
Mack laughed. “This is the only thing I can cook, so I hope you like it,” he stated as he flipped french toast in a skillet.
“It could have been plain toast, baby. I’d have eaten it like it was eggs benedict. So, you want us to go somewhere? We got the kids some clothes,” he told Mack.
They both heard the shriek and laugh from the living room. Mack turned off the burner, and they rushed into the room to see Danita holding up a sundress with tears in her eyes. “And I thought about how we might style your hair until it’s grown out some more, so let’s go over to the house and see what we can do. I think you’ll like it,” Tasha offered as she bagged up Danita’s new things and looked at Mack and Carter.
“You’re going to that church, right? The one Carter told me about? Well, we’re coming with you. I’m taking Danita with me to get ready. You boys get yourselves presentable. Bring that french toast over for breakfast, and I’ll make the rest. It smells great,” she ordered as she and Danita ran down the stairs.
Carter turned to see Denny wiping his eyes. “I never thought anybody would understand. Elsie used to beat the tar out of him for touching her dresses or looking at her shoes. I tried to get him to see he should just leave it alone until we were older, but he told me he couldn’t. Donnie told me he’d rather be dead than be a boy, so I just couldn’t leave him alone. I think he’d have hurt himself if I didn’t keep watch on him. I caught him with a glass bottle once, and I thought he was gonna slit his wrists, so I tackled him. I blacked his eye which I didn’t mean to do, but I got it away from him,” Denny explained, which broke Carter’s heart.
Mack walked over to him and took a seat, wrapping a long arm around Denny’s shoulders. “I’m glad you didn’t allow anything to happen that couldn’t be undone, Denny. You’re an amazing brother. I know this is probably confusing for you, but I think Carter can explain it to both of us,” he told the boy before he turned to look at Carter and offered a gentle smile.
Carter took a sat on the coffee table and smiled at the two of them. “Okay, well, I knew a few transgendered people in prison. See, they’re on the books as their birth gender, which was male, and they were sent to Farmington even though they were female inside, in their hearts and in their minds. They were in prison for different reasons, and one of them even tried to cut off her…” Carter began.
Mack touched his hand. “Babe, maybe not that graphic. Anyway…”
Carter chuckled. “Sorry. So, the way it was explained to me by a girl named Britney who used to cut my hair…” he began again.
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