"Boys?” Tyler shouted out the back door. Balancing his daughter on his hip, he took another step out on the patio looking around and seeing nothing. He could swear he heard them out here a minute ago. Taking a few more steps outside, he immediately heard giggles from the tree house. Tyler smiled to himself and walked over into the shade and looked up through the open floor entrance. “Boys? You up there I assume?”
“Yeah dad, we’re up here.” There was a slight pause before a hurried, “you can’t some up here though!”
Tyler chuckled and rolled his eyes, “Johnny boy, I know the rules, no adults allowed. I’m just letting you guys know that dinner is almost ready and Knox’s dad is on his way, he’ll be here any minute.” Tyler saw both boys peek their heads over the hole leading up into the treehouse as they both groaned in unison.
“Does he have to go now? Can he stay the night?”
Tyler shook his head, “Sorry bud, it’s a school night. Maybe this weekend if Brendon and Dallon are okay with it.” Ruby started to get fussy in Tyler’s arms so he set her down but continued to hold her hand. “Dinner in fifteen minutes, and remember to wash up first, I don’t need any dirt, sticks, or leaves at my table again.”
Walking back into the house, Tyler let Ruby wander off into the living room to go back to watching her cartoons. Tyler would prefer if she didn’t watch so much tv but at this point, it was the only way he could get anything done around the house anymore. At least she’d be reading on her own soon, he’d insist on less tv time then. Turning back to the stove, Tyler almost didn’t hear the front door open and close and instead a squeal of delight from his daughter caught his attention.
“Unca Brenn’n!” Tyler shut the oven off and then stepped into the living room to see Ruby being swung around by her favorite uncle, little giggles escaping her. He set her down and watched her be dizzy a little before she shouted up excitedly at him, “Unca Brenn’n, come watch cartoons wif me.” She tried to grab his hand and tug him towards the tv but Brendon stood his ground. Well, he knelt and got eye level with her first.
“I’m sorry pumpkin, I came by to get Knox out of your dad’s hair and then I have to go home. But next time I promise, okay?” With the most skeptical look a four year old could muster, Ruby stared Brendon down and kept her mouth shut, but held out her pinky, the most serious of promises. Brendon chuckled and wrapped his pinky around hers and she finally broke into a grin and ran back to the couch, letting Brendon go in peace.
When he stood and looked at Tyler, he exhaled a sharp breath, “Geez, didn’t think I’d get out of that death glare alive. She definitely gets that from you, Ty.”
“I know, I didn’t even have to teach her, must all be genetics. I wish she had more of Josh’s chill nature to be honest like Ana; it would be easier to argue with her.”
“Is Ana at practice?”
“No, the coach took this week off so I’ve been running drills with her. Momma Joseph says she’s a chip off the old block.” Tyler smiled to himself, proud of his daughter for accomplishing so much in basketball, just like he did. Already on varsity and well on her way to be a key player should her team make it to the championships. He’d push her as far as she’d want him to, and back off if she found other interests. No repeats of his childhood for her. “She’s upstairs working on homework with Bronx, Pete and Patrick’s kid? I guess they have a class together this year and it’s some group project. It’s nice that those guys moved back into town, we’ll get to see them more often.”
“Yeah, we’ll all have to hang out and party like the good ol’ days.”
Tyler snorted, “Brendon, even in the old days, I never partied with you guys.”
“I know, you were the sober not-fun one.”
“No, I was the responsible designated driver slash babysitter.”
“Yeah, that was fun for me. I got to do what I wanted and had you to take care of me. Maybe that’s how you got to raise three amazing kids.”
“Hey, it’s not all me, Josh is a great dad too.”
“Oh yeah, is he home yet?”
“Not just yet,” Tyler snuck a glance at the clock hanging on the wall behind Brendon, “should be any moment though. You sticking around for dinner or heading home?”
“I gotta be heading back. Dallon was planning some family game night or something and he’d kill me if we were late. Where’s Knox? Was he any trouble?”
“No, not at all. They got home from school, dropped their bags, and went straight for the treehouse.” Tyler thumbed out back. “Still in there now.”
“Yeah, thanks for picking him up from school for me. I’ll go get him now.”
As Brendon went to leave out the back door, Tyler remembered the boys’ request. “Oh, hey wait, Johnny wants to know if Knox can stay the night this weekend. I don’t mind, we don’t have anything going on if you and Dallon want a night to yourselves.”
Brendon had a look of relief on his face. “Honestly Tyler, that would be great. We haven’t had a night alone in far too long. I was afraid we’d never get to do it and be loud ever again.”
“I’m gonna stop you right there pal, I don’t wanna hear it. Tomorrow night okay?” Brendon nodded, “That’s fine then, I’ll let Josh know and you can tell the boys.” Brendon went to the base of the tree and Tyler went back in to check on the food.
“Tyler?” Josh called out from the front door. “I’m home. Hey angel!” Tyler rounded the doorway just in time to see Josh scoop up their daughter and give her a million kisses. Josh really did make the best father any kid could ask for. He was kind yet stern when he had to be, understanding and always proud of his family. He set her down and strode to Tyler’s side, pulling him in for a greeting kiss. “Hey babe, how was your day?”
“Not bad, got almost everything done I wanted to do except tidy our room and make the bed.”
Josh leaned in so little Ruby wouldn’t hear, “Don’t worry about that, we’re just gonna mess it up again later,” he whispered while tugging on Tyler’s ear lobe and pinching his ass, causing him to jump.
Tyler turned a fair shade of red and shoved his arm, “Joshua!” Josh only stepped back and winked before turning to head upstairs to change from his work clothes. Tyler still hadn’t recovered by the time Brendon came in with two sour looking boys.
“I told them they had to come down now, but sleepover tomorrow, that was the deal, right boys?”
Neither looked up but mumbled, “yeah” together.
All of a sudden, Tyler heard Josh roar, “WHAT THE HELL?” before some banging and slamming doors and a young boy racing down the stairs and whipping out the front door with Josh on his heels. Tyler raced to Josh to see what was the matter. Josh stood firm on the front porch, puffing out his chest and shouting after the kid, “Yeah you better run!” with Tyler trying in vain to shush him before the neighbors got involved, pesky as they always are.
“What the hell just happened? Josh, answer me.” Tyler had to physically grab Josh’s face in his hands and make him look at him.
“That punk just had his hands all over our daughter, upstairs in her room. Who the hell was that? Did you know she had a boy in her room?”
It took everything in Tyler not to want to laugh at Josh and the whole situation. “That was Bronx.” Josh just stared emptily back at Tyler, waiting for clarification. “Pete and Patrick’s kid?” A spark of realization touched Josh’s eyes before hot fury replaced them again.
“I’m gonna kill him.” Josh was still tense, fists balled up at his sides, practically shaking all over.
“No, no you’re not. You’re going to go take a shower and change into your comfy clothes and then come down and eat dinner. I’m going to talk to Ana and see what’s up. Okay?” Tyler didn’t get a verbal answer and instead received a grunt coupled with a still angry expression, followed by some mumbling while Josh slumped up the stairs. Turning back around, Tyler realized that Brendon and the kids witnessed all of that and for a second, they all just stared at Tyler.
“Well,” Brendon spoke up, “looks like it’s time for us to go champ.” Brendon clamped his hand on his son’s shoulder and started to usher him out. “I’ll see you tomorrow Tyler. Uh, good luck I suppose?” He said walking past Tyler on his way to take Knox home.
Tyler pinched the bridge of his nose in annoyance thinking over how best to handle this situation. Josh didn’t get angry often, but when he did, it took him a little while to calm down. A hot shower and food were easily the best ways to get him started on a cool down process so thank god for both of those options, but Josh has never been mad at anything dealing with his kids before so who knows how this situation is going to go. “Johnny, will you watch Ruby while I go talk to your sister please? Dinner is ready, I already turned the oven off so don’t worry, just,” he sighed, “keep Ruby occupied til I get back down.”
Marching up the stairs, Tyler could hear his daughter crying on the other side of her door and it broke his heart. He made sure to knock first before slowly stepping in and shutting the door behind him. Ana was curled up on her bed, legs pulled to her chest. Even though just about everything screamed Josh when it came to Ana’s looks and personality, her and Tyler shared their emotional backgrounds. He knew that in this instant, just being there with his daughter was enough. He sat beside her and let her cry into his shoulder. It never got any easier seeing your child cry. Whether it was a scraped knee, being sick, or now, entering their teens years, with heartbreak and hormones. He knew she’d open up eventually, he just had to give her time.
After a few minutes, the sobs turned into sniffles and she sat up straight next to Tyler. “I didn’t mean for Pops to walk in and see us like that. We weren’t even doing anything, really, just kissing, honest.”
“I believe you sweetheart.”
“I guess I should’ve told you I was dating Bronx before now, probably would’ve been easier.”
“How long have you been dating?”
“Just a few weeks. We were talking for a while and he asked me to be his girlfriend, just now. This is the first time we’ve really kissed, I swear, it just sorta happened.” She started to chew on her bottom lip, a bad nervous habit of both Tyler and Josh. “Does Pops hate me now?” She had a worried look on her face.
“Oh, no baby, he could never hate you. I bet you just shocked him is all.” Tyler held on to his little girl with all his might. He laughed to himself, thinking out loud, “Damn, thank god Bronx is a fast little shit, your dad probably would’ve wrung that boy’s neck if he could’ve gotten ahold of him.” Ana chuckled in Tyler’s side.
“He’s on the track team and no offense, but you and Pops are old.”
Tyler faked a shocked look, “Hey, I may be old, but I’m not THAT old, I still got it, right? I’m still hip, I’m still cool.”
“Sure dad, whatever you say.”
“We’ll talk more about you and Bronx later. For now, get ready for dinner, I’ll talk to your dad, and we’ll go from there okay?”
Ana nodded and flashed a wide, straight toothed grin, just like Josh, “Okay. Thanks dad.”
“Of course, sweetheart.” Leaving Ana’s room, Tyler walked straight into his and Josh’s bedroom to wait for him to exit their shower by sitting on their bed. He’d have to make sure Josh wasn’t going to lose it at dinner so better to deal with it now.
Less than a minute later, Josh walked into their room wearing only a towel. Tyler wolf whistled at Josh and got a half bark laugh in return. “I’m still angry Ty, don’t change the subject.”
“I’m not changing any subject. What, I can’t admire my sexy husband, looking as fine as he does?”
Josh took one big deep breath and turned to look at Tyler. “Since when does she even bring boys over anyway? Why did you let them go up into her room alone, door closed?”
“She went up there to do homework with Bronx, we’ve known him since he was born Josh, I’m surprised you didn’t recognize him.”
“Yeah well, I saw a boy perched over our daughter like a predator and everything went kinda red.” Josh dropped his towel and began to get dressed in his scuzzy, lounging clothes. They were worn sweatpants with frayed bottoms, yet they were Tyler’s favorite on Josh, as well as his favorite to steal. They were just as comfortable as the day he bought them all those years ago.
“Would you calm down? They were just kissing.”
“Well kissing could’ve lead to something else.”
“Relax, she would not have done anything with us in the house anyways.”
“I don’t want her doing anything at all! She’s just a kid!”
“She’s almost sixteen Josh! She’s not a kid anymore. Your baby is growing up and it’s something we were gonna have to deal with sooner or later.”
“She said no boys til she was older.”
“Josh, she said that in kindergarten, when boys still had cooties. Face it, our little girl is growing up. We can’t stop it, and you of all people knows what strict parenting actually does.”
“This is different. I listened to music my parents didn’t want me to, I started to play the drums without them knowing, not –“ he began flailing his hands around his body, “other things!” Tyler couldn’t stop the smile reaching his lips watching Josh make a big fuss. “Tyler, this is serious, why are you laughing?”
“You’re just really cute when you’re flustered, sue me.” Josh groaned and joined Tyler sitting on the edge of the bed.
“What if I’m not ready for her to grow up? Why can’t they stay little forever?” Josh pouted while leaning his head on Tyler’s shoulder, letting him card his fingers through Josh’s locks.
“Because then they’d never learn new things. Never find their talents and passions and go out and do cool things like we did.”
Josh grunted and mumbled, “Why do you have to be right and logical all the time?”
Tyler chuckled, “Well one of us has to. And I will agree with you, I wish I would’ve known about Ana and Bronx before finding out this way, but our little girl is growing up, we can’t stop it, and at least we have two more little ones to fuss over for a while longer anyhow.”
Josh sat up and smiled at the floor. “Yeah, I guess so.” Turning to look at Tyler, he reached up to place his hand at the nape of his neck and pull Tyler in for a sweet and slow kiss. Pulling away, Josh had no more anger in his eyes, only love for Tyler, his family, and a little guilt. “I should go apologize to her, shouldn’t I?”
“I think so. I’ll go set the table and you go talk to her. Knock first this time though, will ya?”
Josh rolled his eyes and walked over to Ana’s room while Tyler went to serve dinner. Johnny had done a good job of keeping Ruby happy and even managed to set the table by himself. Tyler smiled at the surprise, “Hey, good job bud!” Leaning down to get a high five, Tyler pulled away at the last second, “Ha ha, too slow,” he teased.
“Daaaad!” his son argued while Tyler laughed to himself, thinking he was so slick. Sitting the kids down and serving the food, Josh and Ana came to join them, both smiling. Tyler’s smile lit up knowing his family was all okay and that everything was going to be alright.
After dinner, it was Johnny’s turn to clean up and Josh helped while Tyler and the girls went to rest in the living room. Tyler asked Ana what her project was on exactly and how school was going when Josh asked if he could talk to Tyler privately for a moment. They slipped back into the kitchen and excused their son from the rest of the dishes.
“Now I was thinking,” Josh started before Tyler interrupted.
“Josh, I swear, if it’s about stopping Ana and that boy…”
“No, it’s not. I mean, it’s about them, but just listen. I know Ana is a teenager and she’s gonna learn more from her friends than she will from us, but do you think we should give her the talk?”
Tyler stared dumbfounded before bursting out into laughter. Josh looked surprised at the outburst for a minute before switching to a look of skepticism. “I mean it Ty, like you said, she’s growing up, what if it’s faster than we realize?”
Tyler had to wipe his tears before even opening his mouth to reply. “Josh, she already knows about the birds and the bees. She learned that before she even started her per-” Tyler’s mouth was clamped closed by Josh’s palm and Josh’s face contorted into a look of discomfort.
“I don’t wanna hear about that. I know it’s something that happens but I don’t want to think of my daughter as a woman just yet. And I know that she learned about the how and what pieces go where, but should we, I don’t know, should we sit her down again now that we know there is in fact a boy involved?”
Tyler thought for a moment and maybe Josh had a point. Knowing anatomy was one thing, but now feelings and hormones would be involved and that was a scary thought in and of itself. “I think you’re right. But it was your idea, you’re leading this thing. I’ll be your back up, but this is all you.” Tyler pointed at Josh and then walked back into the living room where all three kids were watching some sitcom.
Josh spoke up, “Johnny, I want you to shower, brush your teeth, and get in bed. You don’t have to sleep yet, you can play your Gameboy or whatever, but I want you in your room, and then asleep by nine, got it?” Josh got a swift head nod before their son darted out of the room, probably eager to be able to play his game. Josh next knelt to a yawning Ruby who was desperately trying to rub the sleep from them. “And you princess, are going to bed right now. No fuss, and only one story tonight.” Josh scooped up the little girl and made his way up the stairs, but not before Tyler heard a sleepy argument and Josh agreeing to two stories. Ana cast a nervous glance to Tyler who could only send one back.
“I’m not going to bed without talking about earlier am I?”
“Unfortunately, no. Pops will be back in a couple minutes and he and I wanna talk to you. Don’t worry though, it’s nothing bad or anything.”
The two waited in practical silence for what felt like forever, the boring sitcom playing dully in the background, neither of them really paying attention. Josh tiptoed back down the stairs as if any noise would wake Ruby. Being more so Tyler’s child, that girl could sleep through anything once she was taken under into the world of sleep. Josh made his way to the couch and sat next to Tyler, opposite Ana and cleared his throat, but said nothing. Tyler waited for Josh to start and when no words came, Tyler sighed, sat forward on his seat and said, “Sex.” Both Josh and Ana groaned and shied away. “We want to talk to you about sex, Ana. Josh?”
Josh looked like he might throw up but did his best to trudge forward. “Look, Ana-”
“Pops, I know about sex, probably know more than you actually.”
“You know, I wanna say I doubt it but kids get crazier and crazier every year. Anyways, I know you know about sex, but I just need to do my job as your dad and make sure we’ve had this talk. Believe me, it’s much more awkward for me than it is for you.” Ana rolled her eyes which caused Tyler to smile to himself, thinking of when his parents would lecture him and he thought it was a waste of time. “What I’m trying to say is that sex isn’t something you just do, it’s an…experience. It’s something you get to share with someone that bonds you like nothing else. As much as I want to, I can’t stop you from making your own choices, I just want to make sure you understand your choices and what happens because of them.” Josh took a breath and continued on, “I just don’t want you to rush into things thinking you have to prove anything to anyone, alright? You do or preferably don't do whatever you want or don’t want. Got it?” Ana stayed silent but nodded, showing she was listening. Josh took another deep breath and looked to the ceiling, unable to keep eye contact with his daughter, “Now, if you want to be on birth control, fine, we can get you some,” Tyler all but busted out laughing at the grimace on Ana and Josh’s faces as they were both so uncomfortable, “but always, always, always, use a condom. I don’t care if a boy says he’ll stop right before, boys are dumb, stupid, selfish cretens who only care about themselves and to top it all off diseases- “
“OKAY JOSH, I’ve had my fun, I’m sure Ana got all of that, right sweetheart?” Ana nodded really hard, signifying she was absolutely done with this conversation and Josh looked so incredibly relieved. “So, in conclusion, only do things with your consent and if you aren’t feeling it, no is always an option. We can get you birth control, just tell me or Pops, and always use a condom. Lots of nasties out there. All good?” One quick nod from both Josh and Ana. “Oh, and as far as having Bronx over, yes, he can come back, no, your dad is not going to kill him, but doors are to remain open and a curfew will be set regarding how long he can stay here, understood? Alright, you can go now.” In a matter of seconds, Ana was flying up the stairs to her room. “See Josh? Piece of cake.”
Tyler glanced over to a very sick looking Josh and again had to reign in his laughter.
“That was the hardest goddamn conversation I’ve ever had in my life.”
“More than telling your parents you’re gay, getting married, or us having a kid?”
“Believe it or not, yes. Harder than any of those times.”
“Well you did great.”
“Hopefully we scared her into abstinence.” Josh chuckled.
“I doubt it, but we can always pretend like we did.”
“I’m going to need to.” Tyler leaned into Josh’s side while he swung an arm around Tyler’s shoulders, pulling him in tighter. “Thanks for backing me up.”
“Sure thing. Any time.” Josh kissed Tyler’s temple as they settled into the couch relaxing after such a long day. Nothing gets better than this.