Chay awoke at his usual time just by the force of habit. He had never had a more difficult time getting out of bed, though. With the visit from Cassius and all that they had all learned at dinner the previous night, he had forgotten until he got ready to get into the bed that he was going to be sleeping in Chipper's bed, on sheets he had deliberately not laundered. Even though he normally slept in his underwear, he had stripped naked to sleep in the bed in which his dream boy had admitted to sleeping naked. Naked in Keagan's bed he could admit to himself that he had fallen totally and completely in love with the adorable blond teenager. He so wanted to stay in that bed on those sheets all day, but he had a business to run. He crawled reluctantly out of the bed and yanked the sheets off the mattress as he.... He had forgotten to bring clothes up with him for this morning. He put on the dirty things from the day before and decided that he would have to go in his room to grab something.
He knocked on his bedroom door, but softly. He didn't hear a response, so he eased the door open and slipped into the room. He had every intention of keeping his eyes as far from the bed as possible, but he heard his name whispered softly. He turned and saw the sheet had been kicked off the bed during the night, no doubt due to the heat. Both young men were shirtless, and Keagan was cuddled up to Claude, while mumbling Chay's name.
"He's been doing that all night," Claude whispered. "Snuggles me but calls your name. If he weren't my little brother now, I would feel a bit put out sharing a bed with someone who can't remember it's me they are with." There wasn't any malice in his voice, but there wasn't much humor either. He had spoken the truth. "I love him like he's always been my brother, though. Part of me wishes he had been, so he could have been spared some of the pain of growing up in that place. Of course, my sire and his bitch would have probably made more pain for him, but at least I would have been around to help him some, you know?"
"I know exactly what you mean," Chay nodded as he walked over to the bed and reached out to run his fingers through his sleeping angel's hair. "I would give anything to have been able to keep him from ever hurting in any way, and yet I wouldn't want to change a thing in his past because it made him the person he is today, and I am rather fond of him just the way he is."
"Yeah, well, he's pretty stuck on you, too, dude," Claude laughed. "I was actually worried when he first started calling out to you last night. I love him to pieces, but he's not exactly... well I mean, even before he named me as his brother, I would have only.... If he had demanded it, I would have done what I was required to do.
"But you were awfully glad when he didn't?" Chay prompted.
"No doubt," Claude agreed quickly. "I much prefer him as a brother and a friend."
"He doesn't quite compare to Cassius, does he?"
"That's for sure," Claude said dreamily. "OH... shit... shoot... I shouldn't have...."
"Relax, buddy," Chay smiled. "I have nothing against you and Cassius, on any level. I think you guys will be great together once one of you gets the nerve to admit that you want the other one."
"But what can I offer a guy like him? I'm homeless, broke; I don't even have a way to pay for school next semester."
"You're not homeless," Chay corrected. "If nothing else works out, you stay here with your little brother until something else does. That said, we need to wake said brother so you boys can earn your keep around here. It's time to make the beignet."
"Yes sir, Bossman Sugarman, Sir," Claude said with a military-style salute. "Yo, bro, the slave driver of a boss says we got work to stay here," he called out softly as he gently shook Keagan's shoulder. Those eyes opened looking right at Chay and in that moment he forgot what the sky looked like on a clear day, because nothing could be bluer or more gorgeous than those windows into the very gentle soul of a truly beautiful person, inside and out.
"Morning Boss," Keagan smiled and stretched on the bed. "Good morning, Clau... Big Brother," he corrected himself with an even bigger smile.
"Time to hit the ground running, boys, we're already behind schedule," Chay pointed out as he grabbed the clothing he had come into the room for and headed into the bathroom to change. He did not trust himself to undress in the room where Keagan was that close to naked. The three of them went downstairs and Chay started Keagan's sheets in the laundry machines while they all got to work getting the shop ready for the day's business. After several mistakes in the kitchen, Claude was sent to straighten and prep the dining and sales part of the shop. He may be a fantastic cook, but he was no pastry chef. He pouted comically as he went out to start putting the chairs back on the floor and wiping down the tables.
When it was finally time to open the doors for customers, along with the regulars that Chay had grown accustomed to, there were three serious faces outside on the sidewalk. "Uncle... I mean Mr. Henri, it's so good to see you again," Claude called out as he unlocked the doors and held them open for everyone.
"Family law be damned, I hope you never stop calling me Uncle Henri, Claude," the old man said as he hugged the younger tightly. "Now maybe you can tell me what is so all-fired important that we had to have the conclave of the families this early in the morning?"
"Aunt Dixie!" Keagan squealed and ran over to get cuddles from the woman. "You come right in and have a seat. I will bring you a plate of beignet and some café au lait right away."
"You hear dat, Sugarman?" Dixie called out as she squeezed the little blonde to her. "Least one of my Baker Boys know to brought me the beignet."
Chay laughed but continued to wait on the customers at the counter. Claude and Keagan both excused themselves and ran back to help. Claude was much better at working the sales counter than he had been in the kitchen, so Keagan ran back over to the table where Cassius, Dixie, and Mr. Henri sat watching the three shop workers. "Here you all go, now if you need something else, just let me know."
"What I need is to know what is going on here," Henri repeated.
"Oh, that's easy... at least I think it is now," Keagan blurted with a blush. "I didn't know I was doing anything official and if it caused trouble with your families or whatever, I'm really sorry but Claude came over and was apologizing and he got on his knees and then he was laying on the floor and begging me not to get him killed and I didn't want him dead and I didn't want a slave or a servant but I really wanted a big brother like my whole life I wanted one and I said something and then Cassius said it was all official and stuff and I didn't mean to do that but I'm glad I did it, anyway."
"Maybe we could get Chay to come over and tell us all that slow enough that us old folks can understand it better," Dixie teased.
"I'm sorry, it's just that I'm really kind of excited about it now that I know it was official and I'm really happy, too, and I think Claude is as well," Keagan blushed more.
"Sunshine, you gonna bust something if you pump any more blood into them cheeks," Dixie laughed as she reached out and hugged the boy once again. "Just told Aunt Dixie what you did, since Cassius insist I should hear it from you."
"I kinda sorta claimed Claude as my big brother," Keagan mumbled shyly. "I didn't know I was doing anything official, but I'm really glad it was official because it really is how I feel about him. Please don't take it away from us. He really seems happy about it, too."
"You claimed.... Cassius, did you witness it? Tell me the exact words, please," Henri begged.
"My Prince said that if it were up to him, he would adopt Claude and give him his own name," Cassius reported. "He also said that Claude was everything he could ask for in a brother."
"I gave the sacred blessing on him, Henri," Dixie confirmed. "He could only be closer to me if he were my heir."
"Closer than your blood family?" Henri asked quietly.
"Closer than some, and equal to others," Cassius responded for his aunt who suddenly had a crying teenager wrapped around as much of her as he could. "He is just now learning that, himself, in fact."
The old man stood, bowed deeply, and then slowly went to his knees beside Keagan. "I speak not as the head of the Lafayette family, but as one who loves Claude as much as I would my own grandchild. Thank you, My Prince, for taking in the child of my heart. You may ask of me anything that I am able to bestow, anything at all within my power."
"OH, Mr. Henri please don't kneel like that, you could hurt yourself. Here, please allow me to help you up," Keagan said quickly, and he held out his arms to the old man. "There is maybe one thing, maybe... if you really wouldn't mind. No. Never mind, it's too much to ask. I have to be happy with so many blessings I already have."
"Speak, young prince, please?" Henri prompted as he put his hands into those of the young man and felt a surge of energy and youth and vitality like he had never experienced before. He gasped softly and looked to his old friend Dixie, who seemed as surprised as he was, but nodded to him anyway.
"Well, it's just that umm... well... you just said that you hoped Claude would always call you Uncle Henri. My whole life the only family I had since my parents died was my grandmother. Do you think you could maybe find it in your heart to call me your nephew as well?"
"When our little prince does his magic, he don't do it by halves, does he?" Cassius asked with a laugh.
"He sure don't, my little Sunshine," Aunt Dixie beamed happily.
"Prince Keagan, you wish to form a family bond with me, with the House of Lafayette?" Henri asked nervously. "I am honored and more deeply touched than I have words to say. My Queen? What say you to this request?"
"Sunshine has spoken," Aunt Dixie shrugged. "Henri Lafayette, you have offered a boon to my blessed prince, and he has made his request. How do you respond?"
"I cannot honor this request in my heart, My Queen," Henri began. He saw Keagan's face fall and the teen started to pull away from the man, but he held the boy firmly. "My heart can only call this angel, and his new brother, grandchild."
"Henri, you sure of this?" Dixie asked quickly.
"The last time I was this sure of anything was when I asked my Calvin to join his life with mine," Henri said firmly. "Speak to me your whole name, child," he said quietly to Keagan.
"I am Keagan Denys Guibert," Keagan mumbled shyly.
"I, Henri Jameson Lafayette III, name and lay claim to Claude Etienne Guibert and Keagan Denys Guibert as my grandchildren, with no difference than they had been born to me. So mote it be," he said firmly and slapped the table.
"In the name of the House of LeVeau, I, Dixie Chanteusse LeVeau acknowledge and welcome the family kinship bond to the House of Lafayette. So mote it be." She too slapped a hand onto the table.
The other diners in the bakery that morning had not heard a word from the table where Dixie, Henri, and Cassius had gathered, but each of them suddenly smiled and some of them actually wiped tears of happiness and joy from their faces, while not entirely sure why they were in a such a good mood all of a sudden. Claude ran over to the table quickly. "What just happened? What did I just feel?"
"Claude, my tongue now calls you that which my heart has wanted all your life, and it is thanks to your brother here. Come here and give your PawPaw a hug my little Oompa-Loompa."
"Oompa-Loompa?" Keagan snickered and giggled and then belly laughed.
"I told you we all get embarrassing names from our fam.... Wait, you were serious?" he asked Henri with tears coming to his eyes. At the old man's nod, he threw his arms around the man he would forever call PawPaw, and a moment later, pulled his brother into the embrace to join them.
"Hey, don't you two forgot you still got an Aunt Dixie over here," the old woman teased. "Henri, I think this means I don't ever hear you call me queen or majesty again. We family now, my old friend. If only your Calvin was still here to celebrate with us."
"Oh, Aunt Dixie, Uncle Calvin would be halfway through his second box of Kleenex by now," Claude laughed.
"He would no doubt," Henri agreed with a sad smile.
"Aunt Dixie, I'm a little confused now," Cassius spoke up finally. "Does this change Keagan's position in our family?"
"Not a bit, he's still your prince," the old woman instructed. "His word can only be overturned by myself, or my direct named heir. Although, either of us would now also call on Henri before we make such a decision as Keagan and Claude are now members of both families."
"Aunt Dixie, there is one more thing you have to know about our sunshine prince," Cassius said calmly.
"Cassius, can you tell them while I go back to help Chay? I... well, I kinda don't want to go through it again," Keagan said shyly.
"I would die before bringing you pain, My Prince," Cassius told him with a bow of his head. Once the little teen had left the table, and Claude had gone upstairs to take a bath and get ready for his morning classes, Cassius spoke again, but his voice was husky with emotion. "I swear on my life, I didn't know this until last night, My Queen."
"This serious enough you got to call her title and not Aunt Dixie? Should I be hearing this?" Henri asked.
"You need to know it because you claimed the boy as family," Cassius replied. "That little angel's last name is Guibert, Aunt Dixie. Don't that ring a bell?"
"It's familiar, but I can't place it," she admitted.
"Remember when George Thomas died in Vietnam, and his commanding officer come to our house to told Momma and Daddy how George Thomas had died to save that man's life?"
"He related to them?" Dixie gasped. "No... you ain't fixing to sat there and told me that boy the little sugar buzz."
"Yes, ma'am, but there more you both got to knowed," Cassius confirmed. For the sake of Mr. Henri, Cassius backed up the story and explained why they called Keagan the sugar buzz. The old man smiled at the mental image of the handsome teen he had just seen as a toddler running around a yard high as a kite from too many pralines. "My Queen, Mr. Henri, Keagan tell me last night I save his life that day when I give him all them candy."
"What you mean you save his life?" Dixie asked.
"If he weren't sleeping off that sugar buzz in the back seat of the car, he said he would have been standing up on that hump in the floorboard of the car like he always did. Thank all the powers that be, he sleeping like the angel he is when the log truck jack-knife right in front the car."
"That the wreck he lose his Momma and Papa?" Dixie whispered. Cassius could only nod.
"I can't no more say the word today than he could last night," Cassius choked out as tears rolled down his cheeks. "They both...." He made a chopping gesture at his neck and both Dixie and Henri gasped in shock and hurt for what the boy must have gone through.
"There's more to the story I want to share with you, Aunt Dixie," Chay said softly as he pulled up a chair beside them. "The bedroom furniture you sold me. It was his grandmother's. The twin bed that had the little angel sticker on it. He was given that sticker at the hospital where he was taken after the accident. That angel was to help his parents watch over him. He put it on that bed that very night. He lost everything but the clothes on his back when his grandmother had a stroke a few years later and she was put into a nursing home."
"I swore to you, Chayton Anthony, on all my power and my life, I don't know that till you spoke it to me right now," Dixie whispered solemnly. "I just know years ago I'm traveling up the north end the state and I see a sign for a sale. Everything got to go, it said. I miss out on the other furniture, but I got that bedroom set cause I feel it in my bones, I got to have it and keep it. The day you walk in my store, I know just as clear that you supposed to take it from me." She suddenly sat up straighter and looked over to Cassius. "Cassius, you got to take me to the warehouse right this minute. That furniture, not the only things I got that day. There was one more piece. We going right now to get it for that boy."
"Mr. Anthony, would it be all right with you if I see this furniture, maybe with Keagan?" Henri asked quietly.
"I don't mind if he doesn't, but please call me Chay."
"Well then, until you can call me PawPaw as well, you can just call me Mr. Henri," the old man smiled. "I don't think it will be that long you have to use that name, though."
"Mr. Henri, I swear to you, I will not touch Keagan in any improper way until he is of legal age to consent and agrees. If he doesn't want me, then I will remain his friend for all my life."
"He'd be a darn sight dumber than I take him for if he turns down his split apart," Henri said with a frown, then he smiled. "He won't though. He looks at you the very same way my Calvin always looked at me. You boys gonna have yourself a happy ever after. Me and Dixie, we gonna seen to that."