Hello Dear Ones! Well, that didn't take long now, did it? I've been thinking about our little family+1 since finishing the Daddies series and stumbled upon the idea for the story that begins below. The time covered in this piece will be shorter and will draw on some of the events of the ending chapters in Daddies. This will be a Gavin-and-AJ-centric tale, giving Gavin a back story as well as telling the story of how the boys met. Expect a little more angst (after all, we're dealing with teens here!) but just as much cavity-inducing sweetness at in Daddies. I hope you enjoy!
Gavin O'Keefe heard a door slam, followed by shouting out in the hall. He placed the shirts he'd removed from his suitcase in a drawer and peeked out into the hallway of the Junior dorm at Dalton Academy. Two thirds of the way down, he saw a tall boy with out-of-control curly hair pounding furiously on the door for room 208.
"Michael! Jacob! Open the door. It was funny the first two hundred times, but now this is getting old. Open the door or I'm so going to…" Laughter came from within 208 and the boys stuck in the hall, who tried to stop from grinning, started pounding again.
"Everything okay out here?" Gavin asked, the boy in the hall turning to look at him.
"Everything's fine except for my two idiot roommates, who think it is hilarious to lock the door every time I leave the room. You'd think that after rooming with them for two years I'd get wise and find a better living situation, but the little ankle nippers have grown on me," AJ said, grinning.
"Mind if I help?" Gavin asked.
"Be my guest," AJ replied, waving his hand towards the door.
Gavin stood before the door and rapped on it with his knuckles. "Nice try, AJ!" a voice from within bellowed. "We're still not letting you in until you cooperate and fork over your dad's brownies. We know Blaine sent some to school with you. He ALWAYS does!"
"Uh, I'm not AJ. I'm Gavin, from down the hall. I'm new here and wondered if you have any poster tack I can use. I ran out and I have one more poster to hang." Gavin turned to AJ and whispered, "Are you ready?" AJ nodded, knowing exactly what to do.
"How do we know you aren't AJ, disguising his voice?"
"I'm not sure who AJ is," Gavin replied, wordlessly pointing to AJ and raising his eyebrows. AJ nodded with a grin. "But if you are too busy, I'll, uh, move on and ask someone else." Gavin smiled at AJ, doing a silent countdown on five fingers. AJ moved so that he was flat against the wall to the right of the door and when Gavin mouthed "one!" the door flew open. "Hi!" Gavin said, moving out of the way. AJ jumped from his hiding place, pushed Michael and Jacob out of the way, and barged into the room.
"I hate both of you!" AJ said to his roommates, now safely in the room. Before closing the door, he turned, regained his composure, smiled and said, "Thanks, Gavin. See you around?" before slamming the door and emitting a war cry. Gavin heard the shuffling of feet, a loud "oof!" and a crash to the floor that he imagined involved a football-like tackle. Moments later the laughter began, and Gavin knew all was right in room 208.
"Just like home," he muttered to himself, as he made his way back to his room.
Gavin O'Keefe was a typical California boy. He grew up on the beach, learning to swim and surf. The shock of blond hair that always hung in his eyes and the permanent tan gave him that quintessential beach bum look. His family, consisting of a mom, a dad, and six brothers and sisters, lived a comfortable life, not far from Los Angeles, but a world away. Gavin's father, Patrick, moved to the United States from Ireland when he was a young man. Through hard work and determination, he started a plumbing business that became one of the largest commercial plumbing businesses in the state. His mother, Molly, went to college to be an archeologist. After meeting Patrick, marrying him, and beginning a family, Molly's days at dig sites were done, but she did take up a teaching position in the geology department at a small California college, not far from their home. So, Gavin Tiernny O'Keefe grew up surrounded by love, siblings, fights, holidays, cousins, vacations, and friends.
Not-so-typical was the fact that Gavin was gay. Once, he tried to pinpoint the exact moment when he realized that he was different from most boys and he was unable to do so. Gavin had that rare experience growing up, where everyone in his family and circle of friends just knew. He wasn't particularly effeminate (or at least he didn't think so). At age eleven he was aware enough to put words to his feelings, discussing them with his mom and dad. Neither seemed surprised nor disappointed; both admitted that they'd always known, end of story. This was enough for Gavin. He traveled through early adolescence, relatively unscathed. There were some turbulent times in middle school, especially when other kids began to catch on. Some of Gavin's lifelong friends abandoned him, but his truest buddies stuck by him, sometimes even deflecting the teasing they saw coming his way. Regardless, Gavin maintained his sense of self, and never tried to hide the fact that he was gay.
At the beginning of his sophomore year, his Grandpa Evans, his mom's dad, sent him an email, wondering if Gavin would like to attend a private school in Westerville, Ohio. It had been Grandpa Evans' dream to have one of his grandsons attend Dalton Academy, the same school he'd attended as a boy. Gavin, who adored his grandpa, said he'd do some research, talk to his parents, and get back to him. A quick Google search took Gavin to the school's webpage. The grounds looked lovely and traditional. The boys wore blazers (blazers? On a beach bum from California?) and participated in extracuriculars like drama, debate, yearbook, sports, and the Warblers, which Gavin found to be some sort of a singing group. While all of these attributes seemed quite fine, Gavin was most impressed with the school's inclusive nature and no-bullying policy. "We believe, support, and enforce the idea that Dalton is a place for everyone." And while Gavin's experience in high school had been positive for the most part, the thought of going to school where he could truly be who he was held a certain amount appeal. After many discussions with his parents and a few phone calls with his grandpa, Gavin sent off his application to Dalton. Three weeks later, his acceptance letter arrived.
Gavin knew that saying goodbye to his family was going to be difficult, but he didn't expect the buckets of tears that fell as his family took him to the airport and put him on a plane. For all the fights and scuffles and arguments, the O'Keefe clan was about as close-knit as they come. Parents and kids formed a giant group hug around their boy before he would head through security clearance. When they managed to pull themselves apart, the smallest member of the family remained, clinging to her big brother's leg. "I don't want you to go, Gavvie," cried Siobhan, age three. Gavin reached down and picked up his favorite sister, and hugged her, fresh tears falling from his eyes. He knew that when he came home for Christmas, he'd have missed a big chunk of Bhannie's growing up and that she'd be taller and smarter and not the same.
"Be a good girl for me, 'kay Siobhan? You are in charge of making sure my fish get fed every day, just like we practiced. Can you do that for me?" Gavin asked, pulling away and looking at his little sister in the eyes. Siobhan nodded her head, slipping her thumb into her mouth to comfort herself. "I love you, little sister," Gavin said as he placed her in his dad's arm. Turning to the rest of the family he said, "Well, I guess this is it. I love you all! See you at Thanksgiving!" With that, Gavin turned and got in the security check line, waving to his family once more before disappearing from their sight.
"Gavin, I can't tell you how happy my old man heart is, knowing you are attending Dalton. The years I spent here were some of the most important in my life. Life here shaped me into the man I became and I'm thrilled you'll have that same opportunity," Robert Evans said to his grandson.
"I'm really excited, Grandpa, but a little nervous too. I'm really missing home right about now," Gavin said, looking at his grandpa.
"Well, the good news is that your feelings are very normal. And more good news is that Grandma and I are right here in town, so you can get to family in a matter of minutes! All you have to do is give me a call and I'll be here as soon as humanly possible!" Robert said, hugging his grandson.
"Thanks, Grandpa. That means a lot to me," Gavin said.
"Besides, I'll give you three whole days until you've found a whole passel of friends. You won't even want your old Gramps hanging around then!" Robert said, messing up Gavin's hair.
Gavin laughed, hoping what his grandpa said was true. Grandfather and grandson hugged one last time before parting at the front door. Dalton's policy was the freshmen and transfer students were dropped off by parents and families on their first day, and that family members did not cross the threshold of the school until homecoming in October. Gavin joined the gathering crowd of boys who made their ways through the front doors and into the entry hall. After transfer student orientation, room assignments, and schlepping luggage to the Junior dorm, Gavin found himself alone for the first time all day. His single occupancy room was about the size of his room at home, but it sure felt lonely. The quiet made him start to regret his decision to live by himself; Gavin had not realized how much he'd miss the noise he'd always lived with. Opening the door to the hallway let in the noise of boys carting their luggage and moving into the dorm rooms, which provided Gavin with a little bit of comfort. He hoisted his suitcases on to his desk and opened them to unpack. After making up his bed, Gavin reached for a pile of shirts to put in his dresser.
And that's when he heard a door slam, followed by an annoyed, yet slightly amused voice of a boy demanding that his roommates let him back in. "Everything okay out here?" Gavin asked.
After setting up his laptop and establishing his school email account, Gavin received a message about a mandatory Junior class meeting in the common room at 7:30. After dinner, he stopped by his room to grab a sweatshirt, and joined the crowd of boys as they made their ways to the main floor. Couches and chairs were set up all around the room and a podium was placed near the fireplace. They boys who gathered were good-naturedly talking and joking around. Gavin felt a bit left out, but he realized that most of these boys had known each other for two years already. He found a chair, sat down, and surveyed the room. Seconds later, he realized that the three boys he'd met in the hallway that afternoon were seated right in front of him. Their current argument consisted of which sport was better, lacrosse or soccer. AJ, the boy Gavin assisted in getting back into his room, emphatically stressed that since he'd now played both games, he could say with great authority that soccer was far superior.
"AJ, you are crazy! In lacrosse, you get to hit people with sticks, man! WITH STICKS! Try doing that in your precious soccer games," one of AJ's roommates challenged.
"Come on! You must admit that soccer is a game of skill and brains. How smart does one have to be to beat the brains out of an opponent? Soccer is where it's at; you just can't bring yourself to admit it," AJ countered.
"Well, we don't have to use our brains because most of ours have been knocked out playing lacrosse!" the other roommate stated, immediately realizing that he'd just lost the argument for his roommate and himself.
"Not helping, Jacob," Michael said.
"But…" Jacob stammered.
AJ turned away, laughing loudly with a smile that reached his crinkled eyes. When his laughter subsided, he looked directly at Gavin and the smile returned. "Hey! Gavin, right? I'm AJ, from this afternoon." AJ stuck out his hand.
"Right!" Gavin said, reaching out his hand to shake AJ's. "Gavin O'Keefe, to be exact. And you were right, by the way. Soccer is far superior."
"Do you play?" AJ asked, turning to fully face Gavin.
"I played on my school team for the past two years. Junior varsity, so no big deal," Gavin said. "I've played on teams since kindergarten. Man, I love that game!"
"Well you should try out for Dalton's team!" AJ said. "I didn't play last year, but I played freshman year. Sophomore year I allowed myself to be swayed by the baboons I live with to play lacrosse, hence our stunningly brilliant conversation a few minutes ago," AJ said. "Hey, by the way, thanks for the help earlier today. How'd you come up with a plan so fast?"
"I have six brothers and sisters, so when you live with that many siblings, you have to be quick. It's a matter of survival, really," Gavin said.
"Well, I'm impressed. I don't have any brothers or sisters, so I guess I'm slow in that department!" AJ said with a laugh. "Soccer tryouts are next week, so let me know if you want to…"
"Sounds great," Gavin said, as a Dalton student, complete with his blue and red blazer, approached the podium and called the boys to order.
At 9:30 that evening, Gavin heard a light knock on his door. He found AJ on the other side, holding what looked like the most amazing brownie in the world on a napkin. "Hi! Come in!" Gavin said, moving from the doorway. "How'd you know which room was mine?" he asked.
"I knocked on about fifteen doors before I found you," AJ said, laughing. "Anyway, I wanted to thank you for rescuing me this afternoon. This," AJ said, holding up the treat, "is what Michael and Jacob were after. It's for you!"
"My god, that looks amazing! I can see why they locked you out of your room! Your dad made this?" Gavin asked.
"One of my dads. He sends them with me when I come back to school and sometimes he overnights an entire box of them to me when life gets stressful around here," AJ said. "I have two dads instead of a mom and a dad. Both my dads went to school here, so they know how crazy it gets." AJ waited, not sure how Gavin would react.
"So your dads are…" Gavin started.
"Yep, gay," AJ said, looking Gavin squarely in the eye. AJ wasn't sure what to make of the grin that spread across Gavin's face.