As I had expected, Dragonlady was able to get Dr. Amodio in touch with his former step-children within a week. After they had been taken from him, they had been split up and had grown up in separate foster homes. They had only recently finally been able to connect with each other again. They both remembered and had been trying to find their step-father but to no avail.
As they were not blood related, they were not allowed access even to his name from their own files. They had only known him as Papa Vinny and had never actually known his last name. He was quite proud that they both wanted to transfer to his college from the ones they were currently attending, so that they could be close to him once again. As is often the case with children who grow up in the foster care system, they were both in social work programs at their respective schools.
Once they were settled into Vinny's home and attending classes at our school, I invited them all out for a family picnic at the farm. Caine confirmed that they belonged at a family picnic when he called Dr. Amodio "Unc Vin." A few moments later, Janice and Kate pulled up in the driveway. As they got out of the front seats, Scooter and Piper got out of the back.
"Umm Dad... are you ok?" Ephraim asked nervously. When I looked at him curiously he went on to explain. "You just broke the tea pitcher, Dad." I looked down to see blood and glass in and on my hands. "Aunt Kate, come quick," Ephraim yelled. "Dad's hurt."
"I'm fine, really," I started but was silenced when Kate smacked me on the arm.
"Sit down and shut up," Kate told me.
"Did your bedside manner always suck this bad, or have you just been spending too much time with Dragonlady?" I pouted.
"Nothing that will need stitches unfortunately, so I don't have to come up with an excuse to forget the local anesthetic," Kate said as she looked over my hands. "Just go wash them off and I'll be in to wrap them once I get the first aid kit out of the car."
"There is one in the upstairs bathroom," Ephraim offered. "I'll get it." He took off at a run into the house.
"Energetic little thing, isn't he?" Kate observed. "Well come on, Cameron, let's meet him halfway."
As we went into the house, I could hear Dr. Amodio and his step-children introducing themselves to everyone. I barely registered hearing him telling everyone outside that he and I were working on a special private study project as Kate and I stepped inside. By the time Kate and Ephraim were satisfied that I was thoroughly mummified with enough gauze to render my hands totally unusable for finishing dinner, and we got back outside, I saw Scooter at the far opposite end of the two picnic tables away from Vinny and his kids. Piper was sitting between them looking rather uncomfortable while Scooter was seriously scowling.
I stood on the porch doing a bit of scowling myself. How dare Scooter be rude to my guests, at my dinner, at my house? He didn't have to show up with his little tart and rub it in my face that he didn't want me. I turned around and headed for the kitchen grateful for the last minute preparations that had to be finished before I had to go outside and watch Piper fawning all over Scooter. No sooner had the kitchen door closed behind me than it was reopened by Piper himself.
"You know you call Janice Dragonlady, but you're a snake," he announced.
"What?" I questioned. "How dare you call me names when you come here shoving it in my face, you little backstabber!"
"Backstabber??" he returned. "You're the one flaunting a new boyfriend in front of Scooter when you know how he feels."
"You would know more about what he feels like than I would," I snapped, and then I realized what he had said.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"What are you talking about? Dr. Amodio and I aren't dating; we're working on a project for an upcoming conference."
"You really are just doing school stuff?" Piper gasped. "Oh this is priceless. This is like a Hallmark channel movie plot."
"If you are going to be annoying and talk nonsense go back out there to your boyfriend and let me finish dinner."
"You mean he is gay? SWEET!"
"Of course Scooter is gay. Did you do drugs or something before coming over here?" I asked him in confusion.
"I NEVER touch drugs that aren't prescribed," Piper said quickly and very firmly. "My parents' drug use is what got me into foster care. They cared more about their habit than they did me."
"I'm sorry to hear that, I really am," I told him. "I didn't mean to bring up bad memories, but you just seem to be talking such nonsense today that I can't follow you."
"Well, you told me to go out there and talk to my boyfriend so I naturally assumed you meant.... OH! Now I know what you meant. You big goofball, you're jealous of me and Scooter." He then broke out in giggles that would have sounded perfectly normal for a fourteen year old girl. "You are so adorable sometimes, do you know that?"
I gave up and sat on a barstool shaking my head. Poor Piper. Too much time around Janice; that must be it. It finally pushed him over the edge.
"OHMYGOD! I just figured it out!" he squealed. "When you called the other night you thought that he and I..." More giggles. "That we were... Oh you poor thing, thinking that Scooter would look at anyone else, especially after all the nights he spent here with you."
"Piper, do you mean to tell me that you were not having sex with him when I called?"
"Hell no, honey," Piper giggled again. "He was helping me out of those damned thigh high gogo boots. They were killing my feet."
"So you and he...."
"Are like brothers, or brother and sister, since I have much more flair than he does," Piper answered. "Scooter only has eyes for you, sweetie, and right now he thinks you brought him to meet your new boyfriend Vinny."
"That's ridiculous, Vinny isn't gay."
"Ok fine, but do you know if that little hunk of his is at least bi?"
"I've only met his step-son once before tonight, Piper," I told him. "We are hardly on close enough terms to discuss that. You and Scooter really aren't....."
"Never have been and never will be, honey, so you have a clear field, not that you have any competition anyway. That boy has it so bad for you."
"You think so?" I asked nervously.
"I know so, Cammie," Piper replied. "You and the boys are all he talks about. He drives me crazy asking if I think he has a chance with you and if I think he is step-dad material."
Just then, Ephraim came into the kitchen. He walked up to me and hugged me tight. "I love you Dad."
"I love you too, son," I told him returning the hug. Peter came in then and he hugged me too.
"You are like the most romantic old dude I have ever known," Peter gushed.
"What did I do now?" I asked.
"Brendan told us about you agreeing to let him have yours and Pops rings for their wedding," Ephraim told me. "You're the best Dad in the whole world."
"That is the sweetest thing I have ever heard," Piper said as he started wiping tears. "You big ninja marshmallow you."
"Derek doesn't know about it yet, so don't spoil it, Aunt Piper," Ephraim told him.
"Aunt Piper?" Piper asked then grinned and giggled. "I love it. Wait until those queens at the club hear about this." He then practically pounced Ephraim and Peter. "You little sweethearts."
"Ok... Ok... everyone out of the kitchen who isn't here to help carry stuff out, but grab something to take out when you go," I ordered with a smile. When I got back outside, I found that the rest of the family had arrived. As I had suspected, Grandma Sarah had made almost as much food as I had. Karen had brought quite a bit as well. I hadn't realized just how large my family had grown until I saw everyone together like this. To think such a short time ago I was crying because I was feeling so alone.
When the family started leaving several hours later, I was the happiest kind of exhausted. I started the cleanup and got told to sit and relax by Brendan, Derek, Ephraim and Peter. In fact, everyone that was still there suddenly made themselves scarce, leaving me alone with Scooter. He and I both started talking at the same time, and we were both apologizing.
"You first," he told me.
"No, you can go ahead," I replied.
"I am very sorry I jumped to conclusions about you and Vinny," he said while staring at the table. "It's just that I thought things were going so well and then all of sudden you weren't talking to me and I didn't know what I did."
"You didn't do anything I didn't do first," I explained. "You jumped to a conclusion because I had jumped to one first. I called that night and heard Piper answer your phone and make those noises, and well.... I should have asked what was going on, instead of thinking up my own explanation."
"Is that what this was all about?"
I blushed intensely and nodded. "I am so sorry. I guess I still couldn't believe that you would be interested in me as much as I was in you. It's really new for me to be attracted to someone younger than me. Peggy was older, and so was Edan."
"I knew that about you and that's why I thought you and Vinny were an item, because I didn't think you would ever give me a second look. I was afraid that you would think of me as nothing more than a brother... or a convenient pillow," he added with a teasing grin.
"Well you are pretty comfortable," I joked back, before I got more serious. "Comfortable in more ways than one. I thought about having to go out dating again at some point and to be honest it scared me to death. I would rather face down that whole gang again before entering the dating meat market again. I didn't have to go looking for Edan; we just sort of found each other, just at the right time for each of us. I never guessed it would be that same way again. You were there just when I needed you the most."
"I have to tell you that I had a HUGE crush on you when we were in high school," he confessed. "I was just so scared of letting anyone know that I liked boys better than girls."
"I had those same problems," I admitted. "There were quite a few afternoons and nights that I... umm... thought of you."
"Wait!" Scooter exclaimed. "Did you just tell me that you jerked off over me? That is so RAD!!!"
"Careful there, you are making yourself look old now," I teased. As if on cue, Ephraim came out of the house to get something off the table.
"Uncle Scooter, back in the old, old, olden days when you were a kid what did rad mean?" He giggled and then ran for the house with Scooter chasing behind him.
When I got in the house, I found Scooter trapped on the floor by all the boys, even Caine and Andy were bouncing on him and giggling happily. Piper was shooing the doctor and the dragonlady out of the kitchen with a towel, while explaining that if he needed help fixing the plumbing or changing the oil in a car he would call the lesbians.
"Hey! I'm a doctor not a plumber or a mechanic," Kate protested.
"Honey, that still means you hire other people to clean up for you," Piper declared. "It's just that instead of 'PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANT'," and here he did a ballerina pose gesturing to himself, "you call them nurses."
"He's got you there, Kate," Scooter added from under the pile of step children two of whom were stepping all over him thanks to their big brothers, Derek and Ephraim. He suddenly groaned and drew his legs up tight.
"Sorry Uncle Scooter," Derek said unconvincingly. "I wasn't watching where Caine was kicking you."
Janice exploded in laughter and called out, "Don't break anything your dad might want to play with later."
"JANICE!" I scolded. "No adult humor in front of pubescent ears and brains."
"You know perfectly well that...." she began.
"I know you aren't getting cookies to take home with you today," I interrupted her.
"Quick Kate, give Scooter CPR," Janice blurted.
"Like hel.... he'll need it," Kate started then corrected herself when she got a glare from both me and Janice. "What are you giving me the evil eye for Janice?"
"If you said hell in front of the kids..... aww hell," Janice started to explain and then stopped with a hand over her mouth.
"Three batches you have lost out on, Janice. I suggest you shut up now," I told her.
"But they all know that word," Janice pointed out.
"HELL!" Caine squealed happily. Janice buried her face in her hands.
"He didn't, until now," I pointed out. "Thank you, dear sister of mine."