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Leaving the House and Growing up

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“I think we have everything ready. Do we have everything ready?” Griff asked as he panned the Alpha Kappa Tau House’s main room, checking all the decoration-smiling at the off centered T Bozzy had deliberate painted onto the gradation banner as payback for still being up at one that morning.

Decked out in red and gold the room was set. Drinks, decorations, DJ station, marquee outside for the stage show. Everything you needed for an end of the year house after after party.

“I’ve got this Griff. I’m ready,” Jimmy, the new social chair, said as he stood next to Griff. “So go gradate already,” he added poking Griff with an elbow.

“Yeah, right,” Griff said drawing in a breath, “Gradation day. I’m done. I’ve done it,” he echoed himself with a wide grin. “I’ve got to go and find Todd and the guys or we’re going to be late,” he said suddenly with a wave, “Later.”

“Later,” Jimmy waved back as Griff jogged up the stairs.

“Todd, Trip, Logan, Bozzy?” Griff called as he took the stairs two at a time and raced toward the up stairs lounge where the others were standing with their deep blue gowns already on “You guys couldn’t wait?”

“Gees Griff you said you’d be five minutes. It wasn’t five minutes. Hurry and get your gown on before we’re even later than we already are,” Todd complained with a grin as he pointed toward the dry cleaner’s bag hanging on the floor lamp beside him.

“I wasn’t that long. Just finishing up a few things,” Griff defended himself as he pulled open the bag, taking a moment to look at his gown.

“You were gone almost half an hour Griff. I thought we’d have to send Bozzy to go find you,” Trip complained lightheartedly. “And we all know that Jimmy has everything covered.”

“Yeah you made sure of that last night when you kept me up until almost two. And sober,” Bozzy moaned, “do you know how wrong it is to be awake after midnight sober? I haven’t done it in four years that’s how wrong it is. It’s against the bylaws, or should be,” he kept up, taking a swig from a flask he pulled out from under his gown.

“Sober? You want to go there?” Griff asked giving Bozzy a look as he pulled his gown over his head.

“What? I was sober,” Bozzy defended, looking everywhere but Griff.

“Man I think he knows,” Trip said, barley keeping in his laugh at the way Griff glared at Bozzy while the Bozzy tried, and failed, to look innocent.

“Okay so I might have dipped into my stash but dude, after midnight,” Bozzy said, hands raised in a whatever gesture.

“Fine but I know that T wasn’t because of the whisky. I know,” Griff said as he pointed his finger toward his brother with a last glare.

“We all know,” Logan said shaking his head, “But now we’re running late. We need to stop by Griff’s place and the Greek Counsel before heading to the stadium and we only have,” Logan made a show of bring up his hand while looking at Griff, “less time then we planned. So let’s go,” he suggested.

“Yeah, Logan’s right. The others are waiting so let’s get going. Griff, you’re driving,” Todd stated as he started heading toward the stairs.

“Dude, we won’t all fit in his jeep-like we aren’t that small,” Bozzy reminded the group as they piled down the stairs.

“Which is why we’re taking the House van. We need to drop off those supplies for the Greek Graduation Party so the Fraternal Counsel will stop bugging me about them. We’ve already voted on a new Rep. You think they could bug him and leave me out of it,” Todd complained with a frustrated sigh.

“Oh, like you aren’t already missing it,” Logan remarked before sighing himself, “I know I am…well not Buchanan. Dealing with that ass I don’t miss,” he added as the group waved to the handful of lower classmen milling about as the group headed to the House van.

“Hell, dealing with him almost kept me from running last spring. I still don’t know how I was talked into it,” Griff said shaking his head as he climbed into the driver’s seat.

“Buchanan. Dealing with Buchanan was how we talked you into it. Logan and I needed the support,” Todd reminded his best friend as he got into the passenger side while the others climbed into the middle seats. “Can one of you make sure all the stuff made it into the back? Should be two kegs, three small casks and case of wine,” he asked turning toward the rear of the van.

“It’s all here but damn, just how much do you think we’re drinking?” Trip asked, looking over the back seat at the alcohol.

“And what pussy told you to get wine?” Bozzy demanded to know as he gave the box of bottles a dirty look.

“It’s not just for us. Alpha Kappa Tau along with a couple other Houses are supplying the liquor for the grad party and between grads, friends and family we’re expecting almost a thousand people. I hope we have enough,” Todd explained with a slight frown turning back toward the front as Griff pulled away from the House.

“If the other Houses bring what they agreed to it’ll be fine. If they didn’t well it’s on them and our replacements can deal with it,” Logan stated simply resting back into his seat.

“After today…damn I’m going to miss this place,” Griff agreed looking toward the lecture buildings as they drove by.

“Alums are always dropping by. No reason we can’t do the same,” Trip suggested with a shrug.

Grinning Bozzy started rocking his head, “yeah, drop in on the House parties and show those coeds that a real man can be like.”

“Hell no. I remember how much we bitched about those guys. I am not letting you turn into one of them. And I know I can get Scotty to help me with that,” Trip stated, shooting Bozzy a look. “But just visiting the House again, that I can get behind.”

“Not me. I will always be an AKT but if I never see this campus again after today it will be too soon,” Todd chimed in, shaking his head as he looked at the old brick buildings. “I just want to get on with my life. Mine and Heathers.”

“If my mother gets her way I’ll be on the alumna board within five years so I don’t think I’m done with this place yet,” Griff complained with a smile.

“What about your dad. I though dude was the legacy?” Bozzy asked as he poked his head between the front seats to talk with Griff better.

“Damn man, get back here and put on your seat belt,” Trip ordered pulling on Bozzy gown, forcing the guy back to his seat.

Griff didn’t answer the question as he turned on the street leading to his and Pete’s soon to be former place.

“Dudes what did I say,” he asked, dropping his voice to a quite-for him-level under Trip’s glare.

“His dads still not dealing with the him and Pete thing so stop talking about it,” Logan reminded Bozzy as he gave him a solid poke to the ribs with his elbow.

“Ouch, damn. I get it I get it,” Bozzy complained, crossing his arms and pouting the rest of the silent drive to Pete and Griff’s place which luckily was only a few more blocks away.

“Dudes, where have you been,” Scotty asked, rushing up to the van the moment Griff pulled up to the curb and killed the engine, “Never leave me alone with that chick again, please,” he pleaded leaned into Trip the moment the man was out of the vehicle, resting his head on his boyfriend’s chest, “she won’t stop talking about her thesis and it’s summer. Make it stop.”

Chuckling Trip wrapped his arms around Scotty and resting his chin on the top of Scotty’s head. “It’s okay. A couple more hours and you can drink all the booze you need to forget all about her,” he said amused.

“Really? Thank god,” Scotty answered, hugging Trip and smiling again.

“Rachel isn’t that bad,” Pete rebutted with a smile as he walked over more casually, kissing Griff who had gotten out and come around the van, “But you are late John. Checking up on Jimmy?” he asked.

“Why would you say that,” Griff asked, narrowing his eyes at Pete.

“Because he knows you, that’s why,” Todd answered Griff’s question before answering Pete’s, “and yes. He felt the need to double check on everything Jimmy did this morning but we are here now, so why aren’t you and Scotty in your gowns? And where are the boxes for the Council?”

“Those things feel weird,” Scotty said, running his hand over Trip’s chest, feeling his gown, “too slick and makes me itchy.”

“Dude doesn’t it,” Bozzy said pulling his gown away from his neck, “it’s like none stop. I can’t wait to be done with these.”

“Then grab the boxes and we’re can get to the stadium for the commencement sooner. So where are they?” Logan asked Pete.

“In Griff’s jeep, didn’t see a reason to move them,” Pete answered pointing toward his boyfriend’s white vehicle with a small pile of boxes in the back, “Both Todd and John are going to want to stop by the Greek Counsel before heading to the ceremony so both vehicles will be going,” he finished with a shrug.

“He has a point,” Trip agreed looking at Logan and Todd who also nodded.

“I guess that means you’re driving the van Logan,” Griff said, handing the keys to the former vice-president.

“What? Why me and not Todd or Trip? You guys know I don’t like driving this thing,” Logan complained, looking between the keys and the two other brothers who had their paperwork in to drive the House vehicles.

“I’m going with these guys,” Todd explained, pointing toward Griff and Pete, “and you really want ride in the van while Trip is driving? Remember last time-“

“Damn never mind. I remember throwing up, don’t-I remember,” Logan said nodding and clutching the keys tight.

Trip frowned at the brothers, “What are you trying to imply? I drive just fine thank you.” He stated firmly, “I’ve been driving since I was old enough to reach the tractor pedals and no one ever complained about my driving then.”

“And that’s the problem. A street isn’t an empty field. There are speed limits for one,” Todd pointed out.

“And stop signs,” Pete added to be helpful.

“Hey, leave my guy alone. I like that he can’t drive. It means I get to,” Scotty said defending his boyfriend.

“Scotty? You too?” Trip said with a sign, “fine. But we’re going to be late if we don’t get moving.” He reminded the group taping his wrist.

“Wait stop dudes we can’t go yet,” Bozzy interrupted them all holding up his camera. “Group photo remember?”

“Right. Did you bring your tripod?” Todd asked, glancing back toward the van.

“Dude we have a porch railing and I got a timer. Get together,” Bozzy ordered with a grin. Moving a few of them about as he set up the camera on the wooden railing before hitting the timer and running toward the group with a massive smile.

***

Throwing his cap into the air he almost didn’t quite believe it. He’d done it. He was finally finished after so many years. He was never going to have to write another paper or listen to another lecture.

Reaching out he grabbed Pete for a kiss and didn’t let go even as the caps rained back down.

***

The room moved as one, each pair of dancers on the floor stepping, mostly, in unison with the music for the opening dance of the official Greek Graduation. Griff and Pete knew they both stood out anyways. They could feel the eyes on them, guys and gals from other Houses, family and who knows who else. But neither cared as they made their away around the dance floor. They’d earned this and Griff wasn’t going to let anything take it away from him. “I think I might…I love you Pete,” he said as the music slowed to a stop.

Neither of them moved as Pete smiled and leaned in for a brief kiss, “Good, because I know I love you John.”

Ducking his head Jock grinned happily, “Want to dance again?” Griff asked holding Pete close to him, “it’s more your kind now,” he added as pop song started playing changing the style of dancing drastically.

“Another joke about my music and I will make you dance to it. Don’t think I won’t,” Pete mock threaten with a bit of a glare. “But first I think we’ve put off your parents long enough,” Pete pointed out, nodding his head toward the Alpha Kappa Tau tables where both their families, along with many others, sat.

“Do we have to? Jamie is being an ass and my father…” Griff shook his head before resting it on Pete’s shoulder a moment then standing up, “He’s never going to get over it,” he sighed even as he let Pete lead him off the dance floor and toward the tables.

“You never know. He might come around John. He will if your mother have anything to say about it,” Pete stated with a light chucky.

Griff nodded, “My mother does tend to get her way more often than not,” he conceited as they drew closer, “Crap, look who’s sitting with them.”

Narrowing his eyes Pete shifted his focus from Helen, Jamie and Jonathan to the other five people at the table, two where his own parents but the last two…”Buchanan,” he uttered looking at their outgoing House President Gary Buchanan and as equally unpleasant father. “Maybe another dance wouldn’t be the worst idea,” he offered looking back toward the dance floor.

“Nope, too late Pete. My brother has spotted us,” Griff said remorsefully, returning his brother’s wave, picking up the pace as he weaved through the dancing crowd toward the table, pulling a tight smile and greeting his and Pete’s family once they were close enough to hear each other.

“Buchanan,” he added after nodding toward the fellow senior.

“Griff,” Gary said back coolly, “I can’t say I expected you two here. The way you both ditched living in the House I thought you two’d want to dump the rest of us and get out of town as fast as you could.”

“We aren’t the only brothers not to live at the house Buchanan,” Pete rebutted returning the unpleasant tone.

“And I’ve spent more time in the House than most of the guys even after moving out, and that’s including some of the other board members,” Griff challenged giving Buchanan, who’d made little secrete of spending most his nights sneaking out, and in, to half the sorority on campus and not in the house presidents bedroom.

“After what you did to McDougal I can’t believe you showed your face. Letting a brother get expelled when you can stop it. If I could have got rid of you,” Gary shot back with a bit of a sneer stepping into Griff’s space.

“You really want to go there? Because McDougal’s the one who fucked up and put a brother in a coma. I’m just sorry he didn’t land in jail like Smithy,” Griff countered stepping up until they were chest to chest.

“Fuck you Griff-“ Buchanan spouted only to get cut off.

“Both of you back up and stop this right now,” Jonathan Griffith said, pushing himself between the two seniors and grabbing Griff shoulder to pull him back. “This is not a private party,” he added, looking at and handful of attendees at some of the nearby non-Alpha Kappa Tau tables. Some where carefully not looking while others were openly watching the two outgoing leaders of one of their fellow houses bicker.

“John’s right. You should have taken it up with the queers earlier in private,” Steven Buchanan added, his hands landing heavy on Gary’s shoulders.

“Steven. Given your own skeletons I’d be care what you say about my son and anyone in his life,” Jonathan stated bluntly as he turned toward the fellow alumni, staring him down.

“When we were. Fuck it. Gary, lets find a better table. I don’t like the smell of this one,” the older Buchanan said waving his hand before his nose before walking away.

“Sure, whatever. I don’t understand why Bentley or Franklin put up with those two,” Gary muttered as he followed his father.

Griff watched the pair for a moment before turning back toward his father, “Dad…thank you,” he said, smiling a bit.

“Steven was always an ass and clearly his son takes after him. Something I can’t say surprises me. And your choice means you will deal with more like him. Find a way to deal with it better,” Jonathan informed his son before retaking his seat next to his wife who had been watching the exchange closely.

“Gee way to kill a mood dad. The guy was a dick. Bro should have decked him,” Jamie Griffith said rolling his eyes and finishing off the beer before him. “If they’re all like that you can forget me joining a frat I don’t care how many family members bought into its BS.”

“Jamie, while joining is your choice you will respect your brother and father’s choices. As well as my brother’s. Or have you forgotten he was also a member of their fraternity,” Helen remember her youngest son while laying a restraining hand on her husband.

“And not all of them are like Gary. Wait until you meet Todd or Trip. And you’re going to like Bozzy. Too much maybe,” John add on finally taking his own seat.

“Well whatever,” Jamie dismissed, “I’m getting some more, who else wants,” he asked, looking around the whole table, “Ms. Bradley, another wine?” he inquired seeing her wine glass was the only other one empty.

“Why thank you. That would be very nice. Red please,” Laura thanks as she handed her glass to the youngest Griffith.

“Beers for Pete and me,” Griff asked as he checked with Pete who nodded.

“Beer for the friend coming out, I mean up,” Jamie said giving his brother a glare before heading off.

“Thanks,” Pete said, shaking his head and giving Griff an amused smile.

With a sigh Griff run a hand through his hair, “think he’ll even let it go?” he asked in general, leaning his shoulder into Pete’s.

“At least he’s okay with us. I mean he could be like-“ Pete started before cutting himself off with a look toward Griff’s father, “I mean-that is-“

“Peter is quite right. Your brother will get over not knowing first as soon as something interesting happens in his life that he must share with you,” Helen smoothly explained. “I would be surprised if it’s not completely forgotten once he starts school in the fall.”

“Will he be following in his father and brothers footsteps and attending here as well?” Bill asked as he watched the Griffith family and his son.

“He believes he is still thinking about it but yes. Come fall he will be in attendance. He may or may not follow their footsteps in his choice of social circles but that is the limit of his choices,” Helen explained as she sipped her white wine.

“And what of you two? Have you made any definitive plans now that the day has finally come?” Bill asked the graduates.

“Yeah. I found out I did get the internship in LA last week and I’m sure you know Pete has two theater companies that want to look at his scripts once we get there,” Griff bloated with a big smile.

“No, we didn’t know. Pete, how could you keep that to yourself,” Laura said happily, beaming at her son as she reached over to pull him into a hug.

“Mom,” Pete complained, turning red and ducking his head, “they just want to talk. It doesn’t mean anything yet,” he explained, smiling as he glanced up.

“Still, your mother is right. It is very much something to be proud of, is that not right Jonathan,” Helen said in support, looking toward her husband.

The elder Griffith was silent for a beat but finally he sat down his drink and turned toward the younger couple, “Listen to the adults. It is good new. Writing isn’t the most reliable of professions so don’t overlook opportunities when you have them. Use them to make connection to create more opportunities. You evidently have some talent. Make the most of it,” he explained before picking up his whisky and sipping at it once more.

The table was silent for a long moment as almost everyone looked at Jonathan, Helen, Laura and Griff glaring as Pete looked at him confused. But it was Bill that spoke first, “Jonathan isn’t wrong. You have talent son. Your mother and I have always known it And it’s clear these theater groups see it too. Don’t let them get away. Make them realize how good you are. Because you are good,” Bill said confidently in support of his son.

“Well said,” Helen echoed before returning to the topic of summer, “but now I know your internship doesn’t start for a month, it is the same for you Peter?”

“Yes, I got lucky and they both wanted to meet the either the week John’s internship starts or the following week so there will be some time to get settled in LA,” Pete explained to their families.

“And what of between now and then? You are of course both welcome to stay at the house for the summer, longer if needed,” Helen offered, “we are only a short drive to the city after all.”

“Thanks for the offer and we might take you up on it over summer but come fall,” Griff stopped and looked toward Pete.

“We need to make it on our own. Even this last year it’s been you both who have been paying rent, not us. We’re 22. We’re out of school,” Pete added on, smiling at his boyfriend.

“It’s time we start standing on our own. But if anything happens we know you’re there. All of you,” Griff finished looking at all four of their parents.

“We understand, don’t we Laura,” Bill said leaning into his wife and pulling her close as she dabbed at her eyes with her napkin.

“Yes. And we’re so proud,” Larua told them.

“What about roommates? LA rent isn’t cheap. Are any of your brothers also going to be in LA,” Jonathan asked, casting his gaze about to the other seniors around them.

“Maybe. Todd for the first couple of months at least but if Heather, well he might move out before the end of the year. We’ve also talked with Logan and Trip. Both of them are staying in LA but Logan might be staying with his uncle and aunt’s place doing yard work and stuff for rent and Trip will depend on Scotty and he might be crashing with Bozzy in one of his family’s empty places. But Bozzy’s family, they manage property, did find us a great place so we should be good.” Pete explained to their families ticking off the brothers on his finger. “Was anyone else staying in LA?”

“Not that I’d be willing to live with again,“ Griff answered with a grin, “without pledges around I never realized how much cleaning there was,” he stated.

Laura laughed at the commented before replying, “Learning to clean up after yourself is all part of growing up boy. You’ll be used to it because when I visit it had better not look like the upper floors of a frat house,” Laura said still laughing.

“Hey it’s not that bad,” Griff defended.

“Yeah it’s clean,” Pete said in support.

“And how many hours did the house spend cleaning in this week?” Jonathan asked with a light smile, “I used to live there remember. I find it unlikely teenagers have changed that much so I know that it’s like,” he added when Griff and Pete shared a look rather than answer the question.

“What’s this about teenagers? Are you all taking about me?” Jamie asked upon returning; handing a glass of red wine to Larua and one of dark beer to Pete before pulling a soda can from his pocket for himself, “and your dumb brothers don’t know what a good drink is. Can you believe they don’t know that ale is? I mean fuck, though you frats bros there suppose to be drinkers,” he companied, pulling the tab on his can while leaning back in the chair.

“Jamie,” Helen said with a barely repressed sigh, giving her youngest son a disappointed look.

“Fine,” Jamie said dejectedly sitting up straighter.

Griff didn’t hold back his grin as he chuckled at his brother, “if you want a good drink go with the scotch, which I know they have,” he explained as he stood up, “and I guess I’ll have to just get mine myself,” he complained giving Jamie an annoyed look.

Which is right when the flash went off in his eyes.

***

The few light colored petals fluttered over the grass as the wind lightly blew, adding splashes of color to the sea of green that stretched out beyond the hardwood deck that was just beginning to greet the sun rise over the distant mountains.

Griff smiled as he closed his eyes, listening to the rustle of leaves, whistle of long grass and chirp of birds.

It felt good to be home, even if just for the summer.

***

Griff stopped at the threshold of the garage turned woodshop, watching his father from behind for a long moment before stepping forward, wishing he had take a swig from Jamie’s flask when he’d offered it. But it was too late now. Drunk or sober he had to do this.

He knew he’d been avoiding his father as much as the older man had been avoiding him the last two weeks so it was on both of them but it couldn’t go on. One of them had to make the first step or at some point his mother would stop dropping hints and just take the first step herself.

Better one of them take action first Griff had decided when his father retreated to his craft shop the moment the dinner plates were cleared for the fourth time in as many days.

Only now he had no idea what to do other than watch his father nail a plank onto a wooden bench. One in which half the wood looked rough cut and bran new while and other half looked well worn and weathered, plus very familiar. “Is that mom’s bench?” Griff asked suddenly, raking his brain to try and remember if he’d seen it poolside earlier.

“John?” Jonathan asked, turning and looking up from the bench toward Griff, “What are you-never mind. Yes it’s your mother’s bench. One of her potted trees fell over in the last wind storm. It cracked a lot of the planks. Probably would’ve made more since to just replace the thing but…” he stopped, pulling his lips tight as he looked away.

Griff stepped forward to get a better look at the bench. Almost a third of the planks were new or missing and even one of the main supports had been replaced. Pulling it apart without wrecking it must have been painstaking and slow. Easily twice as long as just building a new one. “It was the last thing we made together wasn’t it? The summer after my year freshmen in high school right?” he added, trying to remember if they had made anything after that summer. After his sophomore year had started, after he’d met Marcus.

“A birthday gift to your mother so she could sit next to the pool,” Jonathan said with a nod as he turned to fully face his son, “so she wouldn’t have to deal with those -“

“Uncomfortable, unsightly, and unusable monstrosity that Californians call pool chairs,” both men finished together, smiles on both their faces.

“Watching her try and get comfortable while sitting in pool chairs will never not be funny,” Griff said with a light chuckle.

“It’s her least favorite part of the club, or this coast, but her pride won’t let her not try and fit in when we’re there,” Jonathan agreed, matching his son’s laugh.

“She loved having a proper bench to sit on to read or watch Jamie and I mess around in the pool,” John said, smiling at the fond memories.

“She does. She’s been having to put up with a regular chair since the bench was damaged so I’m trying to get it fixed for her before summer starts in earnest. Almost there,” Jonathan explained, patting the wooden planks, old and new, softly.

“Could you,” Griff started then stopped, wiping his sweaty palms on his jeans before forcing himself to continue, “could you used a hand.”

The shop was quite for a long minute as Jonathan slowly ran his hand over one of the old and worn planks before answering, “We’d have a lot of hard work ahead. It’s mostly down to sanding and staining now. Going to take a few days,” he told his son, pointing toward the small pile of sand paper sitting on the workbench across from him.

Griff nodded, “It may have been a few years but I do remember how much work it takes to finish a project off. I even remember how to sand the right way, with the grain,” he joked as he pulled one of the work stools over to sit on the opposite side of the bench.

“After now many times you had to re-sand that box you should remember,” Jonathan reminded his son.

“That was the first project I finished all on my own. It may have taken me three months but I did it,” Griff said proudly, sitting up taller.

“Yes you did,” Jonathan agreed with his own smile. “Why don’t you get out a couple of cigars and then we can get started,” he said.

“They still in the same?” Griff asked as he started heading toward the large black and red tool chest along the wall.

“Still in the oak box in the middle drawer,” Jonathan confirmed while he pulled out both a large ash tray and sorting the pile of sand paper to pull out the forty and fifty grit sandpaper for the two men to use.

The shop was quite for a good few minutes as the two men lit their cigars and then getting down to work taking the sand paper to the newly added wood.

“I’m sorry,” Griff said, pulling the cigar from his lips and blowing out a cloud of smoke as he hung his head, “I’m sorry I didn’t say anything for so long.”

“John…” Jonathan started only to stop, unsure what to say.

“You had a right to know. I know that mom knew. I don’t know how she did it. I don’t know what gave it away but she knew and I knew back in high school she did. Just like I knew you didn’t. I could- should-have told you. So many times you asked who I was dating, who I wanted to date and I should have…but I just couldn’t. I knew how you’d-I couldn’t.” Griff explained, his voice broken and slow, his head never coming up.

Jonathan sat focused on his cigar and leaving them both in frozen silence for a moment. Then with a deep breathe he placed the cigar in the tray and his sand paper on the bench and stood up, walking around the bench to stand in front of Griff, “look up. A man doesn’t hide from hard truths. He faces them head on,” Jonathan said his voice firm and clear.

“Yes sir,” Griff said, bringing his head up and meeting his father’s eyes as he squared his shoulders.

“I want you to listen to what I’m about to say because I mean it and I think we both need to hear it. Clear,” Jonathan stated.

“Clear,” Griff responded as he looked at his father confused.

“Good,” Jonathan said with a nod before starting, “You were scared to tell me and that is not on you John Griffith. That is on me,” he declared.

“I don’t-“ Griff started to say, his voice very confused, until he was cut off by his father.

“I do not agree with your choice. It will make your life a lot harder then it needs to be but it is your life. Not mine,” Jonathan made clear. “But you should never have been worried about telling me. You are my son and always will be,” he finished, pulling Griff into a hug.

Returning the hug, Griff all but buried his head into his father’s shoulder. His muffed thank you almost lost but his father heard it and would remember even after the embrace ended and they both returned to sanding.

Which, much later, is how Helen found them. Sitting, smoking, sanding and talking as they had years before.

They never saw the camera.

***

Standing in the middle of the empty space holding up the contract Griff almost couldn’t believe it.

His gaze traveled from the small balcony doors to the dark brown carpet and the bare white wall. It felt empty, blank, fresh, ready for whatever.

Just like him he smiled looking at his signature on the dotted line.

***

“Hey Griff, have you seen Todd? I’m not sure where he wants these bags” Heather asked walking into the new apartment, hands full of two backpacks, and twice as many shopping bags.

“Last I saw he was trying to get the tv and stereo set up in the living room with Pete,” Griff answered as he worked to make the vacuum, their sports gear, coats and shoes all fit into their entryway closet.

Heather shook her head, “I should have guessed getting that thing up and running before tonight’s game would take priority over his clothe. It’s not like he needs to make a good impresses tomorrow or anything.”

“Please, he could walk in more hangover than Bozzy and not have any problems. His former big brother’s his boss. He’ll get slack for the next month or two at least,” Griff reminded her with a grin.

“I know, I know,” Heather said back, “Still he can’t rely on that forever. College is over and this place will not turn into an adult version of AKT,” she made clear as she started heading down the hall toward Todd’s bedroom

“We’ll have to see about that,” Griff counted with a happy smile, closing the closet door quickly before anything could fall out.

Giving the door a final satisfactory tap Griff headed toward the living room, stopping to frown at the mess of wires, cords and boxes that surrounded Todd and Pete.

“I thought you two said it would be a cakewalk to hook up the new systems together?” Griff questioned crossing his arms.

Todd and Pete shared a quick, and guilty, look with each other before looking toward Griff.

“Well John…we may have under sold just how long it’s going to take us. Just a little,” Pete explained as he held up a couple cords.

“Yeah turns out the system at the house had been…lets say fixed, by some of the brothers before us to make it easier to work. I don’t remember half these slots being on the tvs and I know the stereo didn’t have this many cords connecting to it,” Todd added as he pointed to the tv then stereo receiver as he held up five different cords and wires.

“It’s been almost an hour. We have a lot of stuff to unpack. And don’t think you two can get out of it by working on that either,” Griff declared firmly as he walked toward them and looking at the mess. “You have until the pizza gets here. After that we’re calling it for the night, game or no game.”

“Come on Griff. We can’t miss the game. If they win they go to the Rose Bowl. We have to watch,” Todd counted, his voice shocked.

“Then get it working hon,” Heather told her boyfriend as she leaned on the shared hallway and living room wall. “Griff want to help me with the kitchen so we’ll be able to eat when the pizzas arrive,” She suggested heading toward the kitchen.

Nodding Griff followed, “Good, the last thing we need is for someone to drip pizza grease all over the new carpet,” he added, grabbing the brand new boxes of plates and bowls, a gift from Pete’s parents, as he did.

“You mean like the carpets at the AKT house after less then a week?” Heather asked with a chuckled while pushing some of the bags that covered the counter to the side clearing a space for the box of dishes.

Setting the box down in the now empty space Griff shook his head, “I still can’t believe that Shawn dropped a whole pizza. And it came out of the box face down. Do you know how rare that is?” Griff asked then answered without stoppting. “Super rare. It never happens. Not before or since. A one off less then a week after replacing all the carpet. It was…” he kept shaking his head.

“Well that shouldn’t happen today. Todd and Pete know how to eat,” Heather said still smiling.

“Hopefully better than they set up a tv and sound system,” Griff said back, smiling as well.

“How much you want to bet they get it up and running just when the delivery guy gets here?” Heather asked while checking the dishwasher out.

“You mean how much do you want to bet they finally tell us it’s up and running just as he gets here?” Griff suggested popping the top of the box open and pulling out the Styrofoam packaging.

“They better not just be wasting time like that. They wouldn’t really?” Heather asked as she dug through a few bags before pulling out some dishtowels, laying them on a counter by the sink.

“Na, that would be more of a Scotty and Bozzy move,” Griff admitted as he started loading the dishes in the dishwasher. “Anything to get out of work.

Heather smiled, “But they were good at it,” she commented, “and hand me four plates will you?” she than asked while staring the water.

“Why not put them all through the dishwasher?” Griff asked, handing the plates over, “we have more than enough room,” he added, gesturing toward all the empty space in the dishwasher.

“Griff, how long does a dishwasher take to clean dishes?” Heather asked with a smile as she started digging into the bags again.

“About thirty minutes or so,” Griff said with a shrug, “it might be a bit tight with the pizza delivery but not bad, and we can always take them out early.”

“Have you ever worked with anything but a commercial model?” Heather questioned, pulling a bottle of dish soap out and adding it to the water.

Pausing for a moment to think Griff shook his head, “No. The house has a commercial one and at home, well I never used it so no idea,” he admitted.

“I’ll give you a tip, commercial dishwashers are faster than everyday ones. A lot faster. If this one is done in less than a hour and a half I’d be surprised,” Heather explained, “now it might just be drying for the last half so we could take them out then dry them ourselves but that’s still a good half hour or forty-five minutes away.”

“So we need to wash the dishes we need tonight by hand,” Griff agreed as he pulled a couple of knifes from the dishwasher and handed them to Heather, “I thought living on our own wouldn’t be that different from being at the house but it’s is. It’s turning out to be very different,” he complained a bit as he started pulling tools and utensils from the bags and loading them into the dishwasher.

“We’ll get the hang of it. But you have to tell me where all this came from,” Heather asked, pointing toward all the bags and boxes of kitchen stuff. “I didn’t think either of you were that big on cooking? I know Todd likes to try and cook sometimes, and he’s getting better but these aren’t his. Are they?” she added unsure, dunking the dishes in the water.

“No they aren’t from Todd,” Griff answered, “Pete told our parents that we weren’t going to be eating out all the time and that we were going to learn to cook. Then my mother went overboard and together with Laura made sure we have anything and everything we could possibly need. Like this thing?” he said holding up a melon baller. “This is a smallest ice-cream scoop ever.”

“That’s because it’s for bite sized melon ball. Which you would know if your frat house ever had healthy food at your parties and not just chips and beer,” Heather countered taking the baller.

“We also had hotdogs and humbuggers. The food of men,” Griff laughed as Heather rolled her eyes.

“You are hopeless but I will save Todd,” Heather said with an amused glare.

“Save me from what?” Todd asked, popping his head around the corner, looking into the kitchen.

“Being a man,” Griff told his friend, jumping away from Heather with a grin when she playfully swung the melon baller at his.

“No. From being a neanderthal like Griff and your other brothers,” Heather countered as she marched over to Todd, “Because the man I love will know what fruit is.” She declared shaking the kitchen utensils at Griff.

“Why do we have such a small ice-cream scoop?” Todd asked, slipping it from Heather’s hand to look at it, then up at Griff. “Is it some fancy rich person thing?”

Griff didn’t even try and hide his laughter as Heather grabbed it back and tapped it on Todd’s shoulder firmly enough to make him wince, “it’s not an ice-cream scoop. It’s for melon. You’ve even liked the watermelon balls at my house’s Farwell brunch,” she complained.

“Oh, is that how they were made? I thought it was with a spoon,” Todd said surprised. “But you use this?” he clarified pointing to the utensils.

“Yes,” Heather sighed before changing the subject, “Now if you’re in here does that means that the TV and stereo are both working finally?”

“Yep, it’s all set. Now we need to figure out where we want the sofa and chair. Pete said we should get you for that part,” Todd said turning toward Griff. “I tried telling him you wouldn’t care but-“

“The hell I wouldn’t care,” Griff said, cutting off his best friend with a playful glare and shoulder check as Griff headed for the living room, “We are getting a coffee table so there will need to be room between the couch and TV for it,” he made clear to all as he entered the living room.

Pete looked up from where he was pulling the sofa closer to the TV looking guilty, “I thought you and Heather were going to get the kitchen unpacked?” he asked, giving the sofa another tug bring it closer to the entertainment stand.

“A likely story Bradley, now freeze,” Griff ordered as he stared down Pete who had tried to nudged the couch again. “You really thought I was too busy to help set up the living room? I don’t think so,” Griff stated as he stepped behind the sofa, grabbing it with both hands he pulled it back. “We are getting a coffee table.”

“End tables are better and lets you get closer to the TV,” Pete countered as he pulled it back toward him, and the TV.

“You can’t share a plate of dip or bowl of popcorn from end tables,” Griff counted, “and being too close is bad for your eyes,” he added with a strong jerk, once more pulling the sofa back.

“This could go on for awhile,” Todd said clearly amused as he watched the couple argue in the living room from the safely of the kitchen next to Heather.

“Let them have their fun,” Heather shrugged, “You can help me with the kitchen and maybe a few other things,” she suggested, wrapping your hands around Todd’s neck and pulling him into a kiss.

“I like the way you think,” Todd grinned as he hungrily returned the kiss, letting Heather press him against the counter as he pulled her closer.

A few minutes later they were both breathless when a flash of light broke their kiss.

***

“How is it already eight?” Todd asked as he slumped into the chair opposite Griff.

Griff barely lifted his head as he shifted to look at his friend, “It can’t be eight. Because that would mean I’ve been here over twelve hours but I still have at least an hour of work to get done before I leave so it can’t be eight,” he complained before pushing himself up, lifting his head from the table.

“Trust me, it’s eight,” Todd assured Griff, “I wouldn’t be here drinking their crappy coffee if it’s wasn’t but the good coffee cart on the tenth floor closes at 7:30 and I need coffee if I’m going to finish the files I’m assigned before morning,” Todd explained as he blew on his hot, and burnt, cup of coffee.

“Damn, I’d only meant to rest my eyes for a moment after that sandwich,” Griff complained, rubbing his eyes.

“How long?” Todd asked, eyeing the balled sandwich wrapper, “and are their sandwiches any good? I’m starving but if I go out it means that much longer before I get done and go home.”

“Too damn long ago, quarter after seven,” Griff answered with a yawn. “And it wasn’t bad, I think. I don’t really remember eating it honestly. Just buying it and needing to rest for a moment. These hours are killing me,” he told Todd, frowning down at the wrapper.

“I’ve got to eat something so I’m going to have to chance it. You staying or?” Todd asked, standing up and looking toward the coffee and food cart set up in the corner of their build’s 25’s floor sky lobby.

“Yeah, it’s been forty five minutes, what another fifteen,” Griff shrugged, “As long as I get it done before I leave I don’t think Aaron will care, can you get me a turkey and whatever,” he added as he pulled out a bill.

“No problem,” Todd said before heading over to the moderately stocked cart. Grabbing turkey for Griff and a roast beef with chips for himself. Thankful for the lack of a line.

“I can’t believe I was looking forward to this job,” Todd said once he was back at the table with Griff.

Griff nodded as he bit into his new sandwich, “I though it would be so much better than school. So much easier. Man we didn’t know how good we had it,” he added after he swallowed.

“And this is only the second week?” Todd shook his head as he unwrapped his sandwich. “How is Pete going? His scrip meetings going well?” he asked, taking an overly large bite, and enjoying every moment of it.

“The first one didn’t. They wanted his scrip so they could rip it apart I guess. He was pissed when he got home from that meeting so other then him hating them I didn’t get, or understand, a lot of details but he has hopeful for the one tomorrow,” Griff explained between bites.

“Damn, well it better go well because if it doesn’t…What the hell did we all go to school for?” Todd questioned, “Because it wasn’t so I could work twelve plus hours days proof reading case documents and reviewing precedent.”

“Seriously. Who read all these files last month before they hired me?” Griff ranted, “They aren’t even letting me near the clients. I spend all my time researching travel plans or looking up dates or whatever else they can make me do that keeps me from getting near anyone cool. I thought PR would be fun,” he concluded, finishing off his sandwich.

“Tell me about it. At this rate I don’t think I’ll get to even write a motion before I’m thirty let alone see the inside of a court room. I know corporate law isn’t all about cases but still,” Todd complained as well as he finished off his late night meal.

“Totally. This is not what I dreamed of doing,” Griff said as he crumpled up his second wrapper around his first and stood up, “But it’s what I am doing so back to the grind.”

“Yeah, if I want to get any time to sleep in the same bed with Heather at all tonight I need to get going too,” Todd agreed as he too cleaned up his area. “Taking the elevator or?”

“Stairs, I need the wake up and it’s only three floors,” Griff shrugged, heading toward the main stairwell. “Later.

“Later man,” Todd said in return as he headed toward the bank of elevators, hitting floor 14 once he got in one; fighting to not fall asleep to the gentle hum as it smoothly descended the eleven floors.

Todd popped his eyes open at the ding signaling his floor even as floors away Griff let out a sigh as he pushed open the stairwell doors and walked back into his firm’s offices.

***

“So are you going to tell me what’s going on already or are you going to be this nervous for the rest of the night?” Heather asked as she and Todd started walking up the stairs leading to the apartment.

“What makes you think anything is happening?” Todd asked with his most innocent look,” it was just another date. We always go out on Saturday nights?” he added to defend his point.

Heather let out a sigh, “Todd. You aren’t fooling anyone,” she stated. “Because yes we have gone out just about every single Saturday night since we moved to LA,” she smiled when Todd nodded, “But until tonight those have always been double dates,” she finished, giving Todd a extra glare as she raised her eye brow.

“Well. That is. What I mean. Would you.” Todd tried to respond a few times but stuttered to a stop each time as Heather just glared at him harder. “They had something else they had to do and I can’t tell you what,” he finally said at last.

“Todd,” Heather said, crossing her arms, keeping her eyes fixed on her boyfriend.

“Really Heather. They had something else they had to do. You’ll understand when you find out what but I can’t tell you. Honestly,” Todd promised. “And wasn’t it nice to have dinner just the two of us?” He added with a bit of a grin.

Softening her glare Heather started smiling, “maybe. It was kind of nice to have you all to myself,” she said coyly, reaching up to pull Todd into a light kiss. “We might have to talk to them about limiting our double dates. I’m sure they’d like the alone time too…wait, was that why? Did they want some alone time. Do we need to make sure we’re not home before a set time?” she asked with a frown, checking her watch even as they reached their floor.

“What no. why would you think? They have their own bedroom.” Todd answered heather, clearly confused by the questions.

“Then why have you been checking your watch every five minutes since we left the restaurant,” Heather demanded to know, “because it makes me feel like you don’t want to be with me but want to make sure we’re together for at least a couple hours,” she explained.

“Heather, what? No. I love spending time with you. I love you. It’s just,” Todd let out a sigh. “Can we go into the apartment. I think you’ll know why I’ve been-it will explain the night,” Todd confessed, pulling out his key and opening the door.

“Okay,” Heather agreed as she stepped into the hall, frowning at the odd light coming from farther inside. “Are Griff and Pete even here? What is with the weird light? Did they finally knock over that lamp and break it,” she complained as she made her way down the hall and into the living room.

Behind her Todd grinned as he saw the lights flickering and heard Heather gasp when she turned the corner. Griff and Pete had pulled it off. Stepping around her Todd took Heather by the hand and lead her into the candle filled living room where he stopped them in the middle. Surrounded by a circle of candles Todd knelt on one knee and picked up the light blue orchid that had be left there.

“Heather, from the moment we met I knew you were different. Special, better than any other girl I’d even known before. Or will ever know. You are amazing and make me want to be better. You make me feel-I can’t describe it,” Todd told Heather honestly as he held up the flower, “but I know I never want it to stop. I want you by my side for the rest of my life. If you’ll have me,” he finished. Offering the orchid.

“Todd,” Heather whispered as her eyes watered. Taking the flower her gaze shifted to it as felt its weight. Heavier then it should have been she looked it over even as she ran her figures down its stem.

That’s when she felt it and froze. Todd reached up and slowly took the blue orchid from her hands, leaving the golden ring that her fingers had found behind.

“Heather Tesh, will you marry me and become my wife?” Todd asked, setting down the flower and taking her hand.

“Yes Todd, yes I will,” Heather cried, wrapping her arms around Todd, her joyful tears streaming onto his shoulder as she held him tight and was held tight in return.

Which is why neither of them noticed the flash as Pete and Griff watched from the dark kitchen.

***

“Did Bozzy stop by and you forget to tell me?” Pete asked as stopped at the kitchen table, grocery bags in hand.

“What? I haven’t seen Bozzy in…I can’t even remember,” Griff said with a frown as he paused in his task.

“Then where did all the photos come from?” Pete asked, stepping away to drop the bags on the counter to unpack them.

Griff looked down at photos that covered the table. At least fifty of them they were a mix of different shapes, some landscapes and some portrait just about the only think they had in common was they were all of the brothers of Alpha Kappa Tau. More of Pete, Todd and Griff than anyone else but almost all the brothers were in at least one photo somewhere.

“Right, so Bozzy did take most of these but they came in the mail, or at least the second group did. I got first package from Jimmy last week but didn’t open it until I got Bozzy’s today,” Griff explained as he returned to sorting the photos why who was in them.

“Okay,” Pete said, drawing out the word. He didn’t say anything else as he fished putting away the food, and beer he’d bought but once he had he sat down next to Griff who hadn’t stopped working. “And why?” he asked.

“Why what?” Griff answered, not bothering to look up from his work.

Pete took a breathe and glared at Griff, “why all the photos. You said you asked for them but you hadn’t said why,” he explained as he looked over all the photos. Smiling at the one of him with Griff arm around his waist, pulling him close-making it clear they weren’t just friends. He remembered Bozzy taking that photo at the first AKT social they’d openly gone to together. It had been a fun but challenging night. Buchanan had made sure of that.

Letting the photo drop back to the table he scanned the others. Smiling at one of Scotty laying in the grass with Trip on top of him. He couldn’t remember if that was the day they’d told John and him that the two were a couple. He wasn’t sure, “hey John, was this when they told us they were together?” he asked, holding up the photo.

Griff focused on the photo for a short moment before shaking his head, “no that was after the Greek games. They told us after the midterm kegger which is,” Griff explained, searching through a stack of photos before holding one up, “this one.”

The photo had Trip sitting against a thin white tree as Scotty clutched him, head resting in Trip’s lap.

“Scotty got so drunk that night,” Pete said, nodding with a laugh. “He just blurted it out and then upchucked all over the bushes,” he recalled.

“Trip was pissed at him for a week,” Griff said smiling as well as he looked it and the other photos in his Trip and Scotty stack.

“Are all those of the two of them?” Pete asked as he watched Griff thumb through them.

“Yeah. Next to Todd and us I think I have more of them than any of the other brothers,” Griff explained, setting them down once he had looked through them all again.

“So why do you have them at all?” Pete asked, returning to his original question.

“Oh, that. I asked for them because I wanted to make a photo album for Todd and Heather, as part of their wedding gift but as I looked through the stuff I had I realized I wanted it to be of us too. Not us two just the two of us but all of us, the house us,” Griff explained, holding up a pair of group photos. One taken in front of the AKT house and the other in front of his and Pete’s shared house. “They were such a major part of our lives and I never want to forget any of it.”
“I can’t even remember the last time I talked to any of them, other than Todd,” Pete said, his smile fading.

“Before I started on organizing Todd’s wedding I couldn’t either, not even Logan,” Griff said regretfully. “We’re all just so busy.”

“Part of growing up I guess,” Pete said with a bit of a shrug. But they’ll be at the wedding right?” Pete asked.

“Should be, half of us are in the wedding party so if they don’t show up it’s going to be a very small wedding,” Griff joked, taping his finger on a photo of Scotty and Bozzy wresting, or falling, or something, on the house’s back lawn. “And not as much fun.

“Well then we’ll see them next summer if not before. It’s only six months away,” Pete said simply. “maybe I’ll finally get someone to buy my play. Working in a mail room sucks,” he add as he stood up.

“You know a thank you might be nice. I did get you that job,” Griff said, acting put-upon.

“Gee thanks for the job working long hours dealing with other peoples mail when I don’t even like dealing with my own. How can I have forgotten to be grateful,” Pete deadpanned before rolling his eyes. “Are you going to help me with dinner or not?”

“Sure, these can wait,” Griff answered, putting the photos to the side.

**The End***