tagGay MaleEfrain and Cory Ch. 30

Efrain and Cory Ch. 30

bydayne©

Epilogue -- Christmas Eve Eve

Molly Jones thoughtfully sipped her wine as she leaned against the kitchen counter. Indiana was all over the kitchen preparing their evening meal. He said it was just a simple Mexican soup recipe one of his roommates had taught him, but it looked delicious—whole chicken pieces with hearty chunks of potatoes, carrots, zucchini, celery, and cabbage, along with just enough jalapeno to give it some heat. He had an avocado in the fridge, which he told her would go on top.

She watched him add the last few ingredients to the stock pot, put on a lid, and set the whole thing to simmer. Tomorrow, she and her son would spend Christmas Eve with the Sages and Trans. Tonight, it was just her and Indiana. He'd arrived earlier that day, and they spent their time together chatting about this and that inconsequential detail—what she did at work, what he did at work and school—neither hitting close to the things she really wanted to speak about.

Molly remembered a time when her son told her everything, but that hadn't happened in years.

Now, Indiana kept secrets, kept her in the dark about the things going on in his world. Looking back on their life, Molly realized the change hadn't happened over night. Indiana began hiding parts of himself little by little, starting back when he'd been a boy, and the hiding only became worse as he became a teenager, and later a young man.

Indiana had been around five or six the last time he'd been completely open to her. Her then-husband had finally brought himself to pick their son up after school, which had been the first and only time Indiana's teachers and classmates saw him. Indiana had her coloring, and the likeness to his father would only appear once he'd matured, which made it difficult to see that they really were father and son. Children could be petty and cruel with those different from them, and having a father who looked so very different from him instantly marked Indiana as "other". Then, she and Andre had their own problems, and over several years caught between the stresses of school and home, their son simply clammed up, gradually stowing away things.

If she got anything at all from him, it was under duress. And really, she only remembered that happening once when he was ten, right after his first summer with his father. Their custody agreement allowed Molly to keep Indiana during the school year, but he would spend his summers and alternating holidays with Andre, who had remarried before the ink even dried on their divorce.

She'd convinced herself that Indiana's nightly calls home had been little more than separation anxiety, and managed to keep up the pretense right up until he told her he didn't ever want to go back. It had taken days to coax out the reason. She knew from Andre that Indiana hadn't been getting along with his new step-brothers, Trevor and Devin, but had been assured that it was all just "boys being boys". Molly did not think however, that "boy being boys" was a good enough excuse for Claire's hellspawn calling her child freak, faggot, or momma's boy.

She recalled that her son managed to hold himself together through most of the telling, but broke apart the moment she tried to assure him that he wasn't any of those things. "But, I am," he'd sobbed, his voice rising. "All of it! Just like they said! Like everyone says—an ugly weirdo cocksucker pussy who needs his mommy!" No amount of consoling, of assuring him that being different or gay or loving his mom was okay, could ease his pain, so she had held him until he'd cried himself out.

After that, Indiana had drawn his uniqueness around himself like a mantle, a protective barrier between himself and the rest of the world. Molly had celebrated this change, mistaking his non-conformity for free self-expression until it was too late. Indiana's hidden life had stretched out beyond the normal secrets children keep from their parents. If it hadn't been for his interest in running and Laurel coming into his life, he might have closed himself off from her entirely over the course of his teens.

Molly blamed herself. She blamed her ex-husband. She blamed Claire and her horrible sons. But, most of all, Molly blamed Michael Jameson—the little shit who found every little chink in her son's armor and exploited it.

The boy treated her son like a dirty secret at home, and a meal ticket when they went off to college, and Molly had to learn about this treatment from Laurel, who Michael had thankfully been unsuccessful in driving away. Years of screaming matches, Michael's cheating and hypocritical jealousy, his refusal to acknowledge Indiana, the times he flipped out when Indiana tried to hold his hand in public. Laurel said Michael had once shoved him away hard enough to leave bruises when Indiana hit a stone pillar. Molly kept silent in all this because trying to talk had made him even more secretive, a condition that hadn't improved once that boy had been pushed out of Indiana's life.

But, things were shifting.

Indiana, for the first time in ages, was opening up to her.

And all she had done was ask, "Who's Preston?"

Molly had been angry when Indiana disappeared after Thanksgiving dinner, but then curious as pictures began filtering in. Sure, there had been pictures of Indiana with Laurel and Mike Tran, which increased in number once Michael Jameson was out of his life. However, the last few weeks were something else. Three young men had joined the cast of characters in her son's college life.

Molly recognized one of the boys in these new pictures as his roommate, Efrain, who was a smart and serious young man. She liked him well enough, especially after he'd cooked for her during one of her visits. The second boy—a wholesome blond-haired, blue-eyed football stereotype—usually appeared along with Efrain. Cory, as Indiana had identified him, was the new roommate who'd taught her son how to make the caldo de pollo that was now simmering on her stove.

But, it was the third boy that got her attention. Laurel had told her all about "Indie's Upgrade", but Molly didn't think he'd be this adorable. Well-dressed and well-coiffed, with a sweet face that made him seem cheeky and lively.

Although, the kid could have been the Antichrist and Molly still wouldn't have cared.

Because of this young man, she had photographic evidence of her only child, who she loved beyond reason, dancing in bars, and having movie nights, and looking sharp and confident for a big presentation, and cuddling on the couch, and snuggling under blankets, and sharing meals with friends. Through these pictures, Molly witnessed a change in Indiana, little glimpses of his former self peeking through, growing more frequent over that short period.

So, it was only natural that she would ask about the boy.

"Who's Preston?"

"A friend," he said simply, setting a timer for the soup.

"Didn't look like just a friend," she said as they took up their wine glasses and headed for the living room. "I saw the pictures."

"Oh," he said. "He's Cory's best friend. I ran afoul of him when I tried to break him and Efrain up."

"Why'd—"

"It's a long story." Indiana plopped down on the sofa, and she sat down next to him.

"We got some time," Molly said and listened intently as her son led her through his and Preston's sordid journey from enemies to lovers.

"So, do you think things might get serious?"

"I don't think so. We're just fooling around."

"I doubt that."

"Even if I was serious," he said, "Preston is a little out of my league."

"Don't say that," Molly chastised.

"No, really. He's smart and funny. And, he's very attractive."

"Sounds like a catch."

"He is. Could have any guy he wanted." Indiana stared at his wine glass before gulping down the contents. "No idea what he's doing with me."

She ruffled his hair. "You're a pretty good catch yourself."

He laughed.

"You're my mom; you're supposed to say that."

Molly looked at her son as she let the subject drop. She needed to schedule a little visit sometime next semester and see for herself who this "just a friend" was.

~*~*~*~

Francisco "Frankie" Torres, the current Rountree Chief of Police, sipped his beer as he observed the groups mingling in the Finnegans' family room. PK and Cindy only had Jamie, and Jamie and Kate only had Preston (and the twins when Kate remarried), but the Finnegans' annual Christmas party was anything but small. The Finnegan clan tended to accumulate family members throughout the years—rookies, like Frankie, that PK had taken under his wing in his time as Chief of Police, friends of Jamie and the grandchildren who had come to regard Cindy as their second mother/grandmother, teachers and coaches who'd remained friends long after the children had grown up, community leaders who grew close to the couple as they collaborated on city projects.

It was still early enough in the evening that guests weren't too deep in their cups, but late enough that most young families had taken their children home. However, since PK's daughter-in-law and her second husband, along with their children, traditionally stayed over the night of the party and through Christmas, Preston was allowed enough alcohol to get tipsy, and the twins, Kent and Ellie, were allowed to stay up later than usual.

Which certainly made things more interesting.

Frankie noticed the young man catching up with his friends and some of the younger officers, like Kyle Fortenberry and Adam Kinney, who'd been rookies before he went off to college. Preston took after his mother, but anyone who knew Preston Kent or James Aaron would immediately recognize Preston James. While Preston'd always been quite different, there were elements—mannerisms, sayings, expressions—that marked him as PK's grandson, and Jamie's son. Friends and family loved Preston for those traces of PK and Jamie, but loved him even more for those parts that were all him.

Ellie and Kent had been running around most of the night being cute and taking advantage of the blind eye everyone turned to the occasional sips Preston permitted them to steal (as they did years ago when Preston conned the rookies for tastes of this and that cocktail). While Kent and Ellie weren't PK and Cindy's biological grandchildren, they certainly developed many of the Finnegan family traits, right along with those Frankie had come to recognize as unique to their father, Joe.

Like most people, Frankie loved all of PK's grandchildren equally, but Preston was Preston and that made him special.

Frankie noticed the twins making their rounds back to Preston's group. Preston had just refilled his cup with mulled apple cider and rum, which had been a favorite of all three siblings. However, when the two lingered after stealing their sip and pulled out their cellphones, eyebrows raised. The Turner twins were up to something.

"Guess what," Kent said, drawing in their attention.

"Preston has a new boyfriend!" Ellie sang. She waved a cellphone at the group. "Wanna see?"

A few of Preston's crowd looked to Ellie, eager for some gossip, and a couple people from other groups stole some glances at the circle now forming around the Finnegan grandkids. As for himself, he could talk all he wanted about being a grown man, but Frankie still moved a little closer.

"Please tell me you're not on Facebook," Preston said. "I thought I told Mom you're too young for that shit."

"She says it's fine," his sister replied.

"Don't change the subject," Kent added. "We got dirt to dish." He began messing with his own phone, presumably to show off pictures of the new guy, as he shot a look at Preston. "Thought we were going to let you get away with ditching us early on Thanksgiving, didn't ya?"

"Yeah," Ellie pouted. "You didn't even help put up the tree this year."

"And then all these pics started flooding his feed."

"How'd you see those? I don't even have you friended," Preston said.

"Mom showed us," Kent said. "Oh yeah." He turned to the listening officers. "We're pretty certain the blond really is just a friend.

"They still probably made out or something," Ellie added

An expression of shock and outrage crossed Preston's face.

"Yup," Kent giggled, "they made out." His sister nodded in agreement. "I wonder if they did it."

"How the fuck do you even know about that stuff?" Preston said.

"Preston, we're eleven," Ellie said, rolling her eyes. "We're not children anymore."

"I've already had, like, a bajillion girlfriends!"

Frankie noticed the discrete giggles going around the room as he coughed to hide his own chuckle.

"So, back to the new guy," Kent said.

"We did some research," Ellie said.

"Don't you two have anything better to do?" Preston said. "I told Mom y'all have too much free time."

"He goes by 'Indie'," Kent said, as if Preston hadn't spoken. "Not sure whether it's short for something, or just something he picked up, but it's still pretty pretentious, if you ask me."

"You guys have got to see him!"

"Yeah, seriously not his normal Jersey Shore morons." Both twins turned their phones for the group to see.

"Holy shit!" Adam Kinney laughed. "You weren't kiddin'."

"Fuck," Kyle Fortenbery said. "It's like you ran through every gym bro and—what are they called?—the dancers..."

"Go-go boys?" Adam said.

"—And go-go boy in Blacksburg," Kyle continued, "and had to move on to baggin' hipsters."

"Damn, just how tall is he?" Micah Lawrence, one of Preston's childhood friends, asked. "I mean, Preston isn't the tallest guy, but he's not that short, but the man is towering over him!"

"He's six-foot-six," Preston said, as if in resignation.

Another young officer, Alliah Johnston, looked at the proffered images and shrugged. "At least this one looks like he has brains."

Frankie snuck a glance at the admittedly attractive boy standing with Preston and had to agree with Alliah's assessment. Hell, Preston looked more intelligent just posing next to him. Even the way they posed together was different from Preston's other guys—none of the silly "seductive" posturing, just a simple grin. However, what really shocked him was the other boy's appearance. Brightly colored hair and a face full of piercings, and his glasses and suit the only thing keeping him from looking like a druggie.

Just where did Preston meet a guy like that?

"He's a grad student," Ellie said. "Studies something, can't pronounce it. An-th-ero-pol-gee, or whatever. Sounds important."

"I think it's pronounced un-em-ploy-ment," Adam said, disdainfully. "But, still makes him sound pretty smart."

"We tried to read some of the articles he published," Kent said. "But they had too many big words, and we got bored."

Ellie selected another picture to display. "They look pretty cozy here."

"They look really 'cozy' in this one," Kent said, showing off a different image on his own phone. He turned to their older brother. "So, is he your boyfriend?"

"No, we're just friends," Preston said. "Not like it's any of your business."

"Oh, so he's a fuck buddy," Ellie chirped. Half the room, Preston and Frankie included, choked on their drinks.

"Where the hell did you learn that word?!" Preston damn near screeched.

Ellie and Kent shrugged. "Around," Kent answered. "So is he?"

"That's none of your business." Preston's face turned red.

"He is," Ellie said with a nod. "Do you want him to be your boyfriend?"

"That's also none of your business." His face became even redder. The three siblings had drawn a larger crowd, yet remained oblivious to the quiet chuckles around them.

"He does," Kent declared. "Are you going to ask Indie to be your boyfriend?"

Preston's only response was to slap his forehead and drag his hand down his face. He downed the rest of his drink before he turned around and tried to escape. The twins trailed behind, badgering him with more questions.

"You want to ask him, dontcha?

"Do you think he'll say yes?"

"Do you like him?"

"Do you think he likes you?"

"Are you in looooooooooooooooove with Indie?"

"Do you think he's in looooooooooooooooove with you?"

"You gonna move in with him?"

"Are you gonna marry him?"

"Will you get matching piercings instead of wedding rings?"

"Who'll be the bride?"

"Duh, Preston 'cause he's shorter!"

"Think he'll wear a dress then?"

Frankie knew that at some point, poor Preston would crack and tell them (mostly) everything they wanted to know. If only Frankie could find someone like that to do interrogations, Rountree would solve every crime in no time. Preston stalked away (possibly to find Joe and Kate to demand that his parents make his brother and sister go to bed), and the party carried on as usual.

Frankie refilled his Christmas beer stein, the one he brought every year. Most other attendees had their own favorite mug or glass they brought to the celebration as it had become another one of the traditions that had cropped up over the decades since PK and Cindy began throwing Christmas parties for their friends.

Every member of the Finnegan extended family knew to keep the 23rd free, no invitation needed (although, they were sent without fail). Same day, same time, same place, and everyone knew what to bring—how could you ring in the holiday without Cindy's eggnog, or the berry cobblers the former Mayor and his wife always made, or Lt. Harris' chestnut soup, or any number of holiday favorites? The Finnegan Family Christmas Party was practically on the Rountree community calendar, pictures would be in the city paper the following day, and guests would joke about PK's white elephant party gifts for weeks.

Even Jamie's passing couldn't prevent the annual event. That year, Frankie had worked hard to convince his longtime mentor and friend of the importance of keeping tradition, especially when losing someone as special as Jamie. Everyone loved Jamie (of course, everyone admired PK and adored Preston—charisma and charm seemed to be ingrained deeply within the Finnegan genetic code), and everyone missed him, but shutting themselves off from the world would only make the hurt worse. And more than anything, Preston needed his extended family to fill the hole his father had left. The event had been more somber that year, but Frankie was sure it had cut years off their mourning process, especially for Preston. The lively college student mingling with the crowd and playing with his inquisitive half-siblings was a far cry from the inconsolable and screaming four-year-old the Frankie had to carry out of the funeral because there really isn't a good way to explain to a child that he wouldn't see his daddy again.

Frankie observed Preston as he routed Kent and Ellie, freeing him to socialize once more, even if it meant more friendly ribbing from the officers and friends who'd been in the group.

Preston had taught a few of those officers a very hard lesson about underestimating their opponent, and many still got flack from their coworkers for getting their asses handed to them by a little teenaged gay cheerleader (who also just happened to practice two different forms of martial arts). Frankie remembered the racket from when Preston threw and pinned Adam Kinney, and then rubbed salt in the wounds by telling him that he didn't need to worry because "gay men can't stand the taste of pussy". He called Kinney "Officer Pussycat" for the rest of the year.

That little incident had probably done more to win the hearts of the City of Rountree Police Department than any of the anti-discrimination policies PK and Frankie had instituted over the years since Preston came out.

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