Dillon was so intent on what he was doing that he failed to hear Soldier walk into the room and come up behind him. He nearly jumped out of his skin at Soldier's quiet question.
"God, you scared me." Dillon put down the ornament and turned into Soldier's waiting arms. "Hi, honey. I didn't hear you come in."
"I got that. Sorry. You were in the past, weren't you? Who were you thinking about?" Soldier kissed Dillon before he could answer, holding his love to his chest and stroking his hair.
"You caught me. I got the ornaments out and was going through them. I was just swamped by memories of each boy. Look, Soldier, look at how many there are. I'm so glad we started that first year making these ornaments with their names on them." Dillon pointed to the big box that had layers of racks filled with homemade ornaments, each with a boy's name on it.
"Wow, that many? It doesn't seem possible, does it? Seems like yesterday that we got the first tree and you had the boys all make their own ornaments for it. That meant so much to them, didn't it? How do you always know just what will touch them, make them feel they belong?" Soldier hadn't let Dillon go yet and wasn't in any hurry to do so.
"Me? You're the one that gives them the security to be themselves." Dillon stood with his head on Soldier's shoulder, his comfort spot.
"This mutual admiration society could go back and forth all night. Let's just agree that we make a good team, huh?" Soldier said.
"A perfect union," Dillon responded.
"So, are we decorating the tree tonight? Isn't it a little early?" Soldier asked, his hands moving over Dillon's back distractedly.
"No, this weekend. I got the stuff out because I was going to call Casey and see if he would come over one afternoon and make one so we could surprise Gom with it. I figured since everyone is coming over for supper Saturday night, we could do the tree afterwards and it would make him really happy to have one for Casey to put on with all the others. It's not just boys we've worked with, it's family. He's making Gom happy. That makes him family." Dillon was moving slowly against Soldier, almost dancing with him in these moments that they had alone. They didn't have a lot of those moments and Soldier cherished them as much as he knew Dillon did.
"I can't believe how much he's changed since we met him. He's like a different person these days." Soldier said, pulling Dillon's head up so he could look into his eyes.
"Love will do that to you. How many times have we proved that, Soldier? How many times have we seen how love and acceptance, support and security have turned children from lost and tortured to healthy and happy?" Dillon looked up at him, pride in their boys evident in those eyes that Soldier loved so much.
Dillon was so special it was all Soldier could do not to carry him off over his shoulder to their room.
"I love you." It had to be said.
Dillon looked at him, head tilted, as if trying to understand where that came from, but it didn't seem to matter to him. His response would always be the same. "I love you."
That required another kiss that went on for a long delicious time.
"Oops, sorry. I'll come back later." They heard Trick's voice from the doorway of the great room.
"No, it's okay, come on in, Trick. We're just looking at some of the Christmas ornaments." Dillon said, easing away from Soldier. They seldom got caught in displays of affection, and Dillon never jumped away like they were doing something wrong. They had discussed it a long time ago. They didn't want to flaunt their love in front of the kids, but they would never apologize for their affectionate nature either.
"Yeah, that's what it looked like," Trick snickered.
"Ooh, smart mouth, come on in. Feel like saying that over here, a little closer?" Soldier asked, teasing Trick. The boy was slowly coming around. Both Soldier and Randy had been working with him ever since Casey had brought him to them the first time. He was another young boy who really needed to feel like he could take care of himself, protect himself. Soldier had trained a lot of the boys in that. It seemed to be a recurring theme, that need for self-preservation. It made such a difference in the way the boys felt about life, once they had a few self-defense skills.
Soldier's teasing was gentle and Trick showed he wasn't intimidated at all as he came over and acted like he was going to engage Soldier in a quick match. Dillon stepped between them and said, "I don't think so. It's almost time for supper and after that I need you in here, Trick, for a craft project. It's very important and you're the only one who can help with it."
"Crafts? Um, I'm not really good with that kind of thing. I never did good with that at school. Maybe you need someone else to help you." Trick looked desperate.
"Relax. It's not that hard. I'll explain later. First, what do you want for supper? It's just the four of us tonight. Niko's here, but Ben is at a friend's house, as usual, working on some project. So, you choose." Dillon walked by Trick and touched his shoulder in passing, pleased that he accepted the small touch without flinching anymore. Progress.
"Pizza? That kind you make with the chicken and cheese and green stuff. I love that." Trick hadn't even hesitated. Another success, Dillon thought. When he first came, he wouldn't have even answered, much less with a definite request.
"That green stuff is basil and garlic pesto. Good idea. I've got everything I need for that. Soldier, that okay with you?" Dillon turned to ask.
"Mmm, yeah. Love that. Good call, Trick."
Later that night Trick worked very hard at the craft project. Soldier peeked in once and saw him hunched over the table Dillon had set up. Trick's tongue was sticking out the left corner of his mouth just a little, which happened when he was really concentrating on something. He didn't go in, not wanting to interrupt, knowing Dillon was using the opportunity to give Trick some personal time. They each tried to do that for Trick, who fluctuated between wanting and needing it, and trying to push them away and refusing to let them in. Tonight was a good night. Considering what Trick had been through in his young life, it was a wonder he accepted any kind of overture from anyone. Dillon had a way, though.
Soldier had surprised them both by offering to clean up the kitchen while they worked on whatever Dillon had in mind. Soldier knew, of course, but he also knew that Trick would not be comfortable working on something like a Christmas ornament with Soldier watching. Trick had them pretty compartmentalized in his head. Dillon was there for the softness and caring and Soldier was there for the strength and security. That was how it broke down a lot of the time. There were a few cases where Soldier had been the one that filled both needs. The most notable ones were Tommy and Gom.
Soldier had forged such a strong bond with those two boys he had ended up adopting them. They were Marshes now. He couldn't be more proud of them. Both boys had ended up in vocations where they helped other kids just like they had been. They had both turned out to be gay, which wasn't a surprise to Soldier. He didn't know about psychology and what made people either gay or straight, but he knew that these two boys didn't have a lot of trust for the female population. It made sense in their cases, both of them having been severely abused by their mothers. They'd never made a big deal about it, but the trauma that had happened to them when they were young lasted forever. It took a good while and a lot of support from people who made them feel safe before they were comfortable being around women. It wasn't surprising to Soldier that they'd found love with partners of the same sex. He was just happy that they both ended up in healthy, happy relationships.
He could tell that Dillon and Trick were nearly finished so he slipped away to get a snack ready. He even got domestic and put it on a tray before taking it into the room where they were cleaning up.
"Wow, that looks good. I didn't think I could eat anymore after that pizza, but I think I can make room for little baby apple pies. I can smell them from here. Mmm, cinnamon." Trick was very talkative all of a sudden. Soldier watched him move his ornament over to the side so he wouldn't have to show it. He ignored it and set the desserts down on the other side of the table.
"Um, can I take mine upstairs? I need to work on some stuff," Trick asked, looking uncomfortable. Soldier figured they'd used up his quota of warm fuzzy for the day.
"Sure, just bring the dishes back down before you go to bed. You know the rules." Dillon said, reaching for his own little dish of pie.
When they heard Trick's door close from above Dillon motioned for Soldier to sit next to him. Soldier wasn't slow. He sat on the couch by Dillon and put his dish close to Dillon's. Dillon took a bite onto his spoon and turned to Soldier, offering it to him.
Soldier took it and moaned at the warm juicy goodness. "Delicious, baby. You make the best desserts ever." He copied Dillon's move and fed his partner a bite. "I stopped by a while ago and saw Trick was really working hard on his ornament. How'd you get him to do it?"
Dillon smiled and swallowed before saying, "I told him you loved seeing them on the tree and it was very important that his be there this year. It would break your heart if he chose not to make one. At first he shook his head like he didn't believe in anything like family traditions and Christmas customs, but he gave in when it came to disappointing you."
"You're a sneaky little thing, but I knew that," Soldier said, leaning in for a sweet kiss.
"Mmm-hmm, I pride myself on that trait. Want to see what he made?"
"Why do I get the feeling you want me to?" Soldier teased, watching Dillon reach for Trick's ornament. It was a yellow five-pointed star with TRICK in the middle in red letters. "Look closely at the points of it," Dillon said, softly.
Soldier brought it closer to him and saw that Trick had put very small names on each point. The names were Soldier, Dillon, Gom, Casey, and Tommy. These were the important people in Trick's life and the only thing he could come up with that made him happy and that he wanted on his ornament. There was a line drawn from his name to each point of the star, connecting him to each of them. Soldier's eyes stung as he looked at it. They were making headway with him. This proved it. He looked at Dillon and saw that he felt the same thing.
Soldier cleared his throat, "So, is Casey coming over tomorrow to do one?"
Dillon just smiled at him and nodded as he put the ornament back to dry. "Remember making these the first year? Those boys were so excited to even have a tree, much less to be making an ornament with their name on it. To them, that proved that they were part of a family, they belonged. I'll never forget the things they said as they worked so hard on them. They were so concerned with whether you would like them or not."