A/N:What do you know? I'm alive...

Chapter Seventeen

Crowe rubbed his forehead in annoyance as his ex wife continued her rant on the dangers of 'impressioning' their son with his 'homosexual' lifestyle, how idiotic he was being when he could get it up easy enough for women - after all, he had for her - and what his parents would think! Why everyone felt the need to bitch and moan today, he was unsure, but it surely seemed like the day for it.

"Charlie, I really don't have time for this mess. River is in the car and Waverley is waiting for the boy," he said with a sigh.

"You aren't listening to a word I am saying! Do you even realize when you go there everyone in town is going to know you're a-" she cut herself off and glanced over at Ryan's room to make sure the door was closed before hissing, "A queer? Everyone will know and then everyone will know I was some clueless fool!"

"So what you really care about is what people think of you." Another sigh, "Charlie, get over yourself and tell Ryan to get out here. I don't have time to placate you for whatever issue you have with me now."

"This is the mess I am talking about! Your total lack of thought for anyone other than yourself. And taking that fag outside with you- Yeah, I went to that crappy little store as soon as your daddy told me who you were with and saw. Really, Crowe? Really."

"Lord have mercy," the man said under his breath in frustration even as he rose from the overstuffed chair. "Ryan! Let's go, son!"

"Unreal. Just unreal." She threw her hands up in the air. "Just make sure to keep your… your lover's hands off my son."

Resisting the urge to give his ex the finger, he happily scooped up the kid when he came running. Giving him a brief hug, he pulled back and ruffled his hair. "Ready to go see the troops?"

"Is der dot dogs where the twoops are?" the 2 year old asked with a cheeky smile, looking so much like his dad.

Snickering and thoroughly ignoring his ex, Crowe grabbed Ryan's overnight bag and headed for the door. "You bet, kid."


River felt his heart squeeze in his chest in what he assumed was pure nervousness when Crowe stepped out on the porch holding a munchkin. This was big, he knew that. No, meeting the best friend was big. Meeting the kid was huge. What if the kid hated him and- He had no time to finish that annoyingly worrisome thought as the driver side door opened and Crowe pulled up the back on the seat to place the kid in the back of the double cab truck where his car seat sat.

Ryan stared at the black haired boy with big green eyes until he was all the way buckled in. "You dot sumpin on your mouf." He said and reached out with his pointer finger until he was met with the resistance of his car seat. Frowning, he kept his finger extended. "What's it?"

Running his hand over his mouth, River smiled at the kid. "A lip ring." Pulling his lip down, he showed the kid the flat inside of the stud.

The kid's mouth dropped open and his finger wiggled.

Crowe smiled at the pair and placed the overnight bag next to Ryan before adjusting his seat and getting in. Putting the car in drive, he said over his shoulder, "Ryan, this is River."

Ryan, for some reason, found that funny. And then continued giggling when River growled playfully at him for 'laughing at his name'.

Convinced the pair would get along, as he knew they would, Crowe pulled out on the road. He hadn't doubted that River would be great with the boy, he seemed like the sullen softie type that was bound to be great with kids.

The drive was short and River was pulled away from the silliness when the caught sight of the big farm and the large white tents surrounding the house itself. The yard, outside of the horse fences, speckled with dozens of people as loud country music blared even through the rolled up windows. Cars were parked on one side of the yard and were actually lined down the driveway to the point where Crowe had to park closer to the road than the house.

"I didn't know you were bringing me to a redneck festival or some sh-" he cut himself short and glanced behind him at the kid before glaring at Crowe.

"Shut up and get out," the blonde said, chucking his chin as he opened the car door and got the kid out.

A brief walk later and they were approaching the one of the three tents, a few people getting up from the tables under them to come over and greet Crowe and his 'sweet little boy' who looked more like a hellion than the angel they claimed him to be the way he glared at the women pinching his cheeks.

"'top it," he growled, making River snicker which he immediately regretted when a few eyes turned to him and stayed there.

Crowe took it in stride and threw his free arm over the younger man's shoulders. "Excuse us, ladies, we need to find the man of the hour. Any suggestions on which direction we should head?" He didn't wait for an answer and didn't get one besides, instead he made way over to where he knew the man would be - the food. And right he was for he saw the brown haired fellow standing there in his Army issued bottoms and boots with a black wife beater that even River would have had to admit he looked pretty sexy in. And then he ruined in by turning towards them just as he stuffed a hot dog in his mouth. Yep, that was the Waverley he knew.

"There's my kid!" Waverley said around a mouthful of food as he plopped the half eaten hot dog down and went to greet the kid. Finally swallowing, he reached for Ryan, "Hey, little man, you want some grub?"

Ryan eyed the fellow before slowly shaking his head. "Him dets me food." He said, pointing in River's direction without taking his eyes off Waverley.

River took that as his cue and did just that, giving the kid time to meet his God dad even as he guessed what the little one would actually eat.

Crowe smiled as he watched River go do what the kid said before turning back to a disappointed looking Waverley. "Ryan, this is your god dad, Waverley. He's the one who kept sending you all those cars at Christmas. Is your Monster Truck still your favorite?" he paused to wait for the expected nod. "Thank you goddad for that one."

The 2 year old seemed to consider this a moment before pointing to his green, printed shirt. "I like Digger. LIke my twuck." That seemed to open the flood gate of a long conversation where the veteran and the toddler were on the same level as they discussed giant, wasteful trucks that squashed other cars. Even Crowe couldn't get into that one.

River came back and handed the plate to Ryan, now snug in his god father's arms, along with a juice box he had surprisingly found in the cooler. He watched then as the fellow grabbed his own plate and took the little one over to a table where they both, very similarly, stuffed their faces and talked about nonsense with their mouths full.

"You sure you got claim to that one?" he said jokingly, a slight grin on his face as he turned to his boyfriend. "Think your kid likes me."

"Yeah, turned out well," Crowe smiled, taking River's hand and leading him over to get their own plates.

River struggled to keep his mouth shut when Crowe piled his place high. He didn't think he'd ever feel okay eating other people's food when he knew for a fact he wouldn't be able to return the favor and feed others. Especially now that he had lost his job. Besides, half the people here probably hated his guts and not just because he liked to suck cock. He really didn't belong but he had promised to hold his shit together and not ruin the day. He couldn't help but think it though.

They were crossing from one tent to another when a sweet-looking, if older, redhead blocked Crowe's path.

"Hey there, m'darlin," she said, working around Crowe's piled up plate to kiss his cheek. "I see my grandson has made a new friend today."

"Two, as it happens," he smiled and gestured to River. "Ma this is my boyfriend, River. River, my mother Maggie."

"Oh," the woman said with some surprise but never lost her smile as she extended her hand out to shake the dark haired man's hand. "Nice to meet you, laddy."

Smiling despite himself at the awesome Irish accent the woman possessed - he always found accents fascinating. Possibly the reminder in them that there were other places much better and more amazing than this one - he extended his hand and shook her's. "Nice to meet you, ma'am."

Her eyes crinkled as she smiled wider at his manners. "Handsome boy." Taking her hand back, she patted his cheek, which was currently up in flames. "Watch yourself now, your da is around here somewhere. Likely to combust when he sees you brought your fella here." She stated, not in distaste of River so much as stating a fact she knew about her husband.

"He'll be alright. His son's gay and, with the way gossip spreads in this town, most of these people already know it."

"That's my boy, to hell with them!" She smiled widely again before turning to go greet her grandson with a tickled to his tummy.

"Your mom is sweet as pie," River caught himself saying as they slowly walked to follow her.

"I know. I'm her by product. Why do you think I taste so good?"

Snorting, he was unsure if the snort was brought on by surprise or humor, he eyed his guy even as he set his plate on the table on the other side of Waverley. "Don't flatter yourself."

Leaning in close, Crowe whispered in his ear, "I don't do much 'to myself' nowadays. Not when I have you to do it all for me."

Giving his best scowl, River plopped down ignoring him. He refused to be brought in to a pun filled conversation with the guys kid and mum on the other side of the table.

Crowe didn't seem to mind. In fact he seemed more humored by the slight red on River's face than the food in front of him. "You're so freaking cute," he said out loud and popped a kiss on River's flushed cheek.

"Lord, have mercy. Here? In public?" came a low, hissing voice from behind them that had River stiffening.

Crowe seemed rather unphased as he turned and gave a mock salute to the town's current Mayor and his dad, the man's own plate full and a pair of sycophants following a few steps behind him.."Yep, just can't contain all that gay love."

It seemed like silence surrounded them to River even though the music was steadily playing. And then, something unexpected happened; Mrs Maggie Balderson burst out laughing.