Luka gently sponged off Dave's body. He knew that he was only doing this to put off the inevitable meeting with Dave's parents. Although Dave had assured Luka that his parents would make him welcome, Luka was still reluctant to set out on the journey. After all, it was one thing to tell your son that he could bring his 'boyfriend' home. It was another thing to actually come face to face with him. Luka wondered to himself how he would have reacted if Marko had brought someone like Dave home with him. He sighed wishing that he had had the chance to react to a situation like that.
"Uh, Luka?" Dave's voice interrupted his thoughts.
"What?" said Luka.
"Don't mean to complain, but you've been washing my nipple for the last ten minutes, and the water's starting to get cold," said Dave lightly. He had seen the faraway look in Luka's eyes and knew that he was thinking of his family.
"Sorry," apologized Luka, dropping the cloth into the basin and picking up a towel. "I was a million miles away," he said as he gently wiped the moisture from Dave's body.
"If you're worried about meeting my parents, we can always stay here. Tell them the car broke down or something. They won't mind."
Luka shook his head. "Much as I would love to spend the next few days here with you, a promise is a promise," he said smiling. "Besides, you need your rest, and if we stayed here, you would not get any. Am I right?"
"You're right," said Dave, smiling in acknowledgement.
"So, let us go, before it gets too late."
"Hey, I was ready to go ages ago. You're the one who delayed us."
"You are always 'ready to go'."
"I don't see you complaining."
A few hours later, they were nearly at the Malucci house.
"It's the third house along," said Dave, as Luka turned into the street. "Oh crap," he said, as Luka pulled up outside the driveway.
"What's wrong?" asked Luka.
Dave indicated the cars parked around the house. "That's what's wrong. Those are my sisters' cars. Mom must have told them we were coming. Crap, crap, crap. They've all come out to see you."
"Well, I'm sure it will be very nice to meet your family. You were planning on introducing me to them sometime, weren't you?"
"Oh sure, but one at a time. Not all together like this. I don't know if you're ready for the Malucci girls."
"How bad can it be?"
"Uh, dude, the thing is, in my family, I'm considered the quiet and tactful one."
"Oh crap," said Luka, with mock horror. "Would you prefer if we went back to Chicago?" he asked jokingly.
Dave appeared to be considering the option. "Too late," he said finally. "Looks like they've spotted us." Sure enough, the door of the house had opened.
Dave clambered out of the car. Balancing on his crutches, he was soon surrounded by, what seemed to Luka, to be dozens of people.
Luka tried to keep track of who he was being introduced to. Mr. and Mrs. Malucci, or Ricardo and Florence as they had told him to call them, were easy, as they were the oldest couple in the group. Then there were Dave's sisters, Flo, Katerina, Mary and Josie, who strongly resembled each other. Their husbands were Mike, Steve, James and Harry, but Luka couldn't remember who was married to which sister. By the time he was being introduced to Dave's nieces and nephews he was totally confused. Matters weren't helped by the fact that everyone seemed to be talking at once. Luka watched as Dave stood there in the middle of it all, carrying on about three conversations at once, totally at his ease.
Dave looked up from where he was explaining to his nephew Karl (6, son of Mary and James), that his ankle was broken, and yes, he would be allowed sign the cast later. He could see that Luka was looking a bit overwhelmed. He smiled to himself. The Malucci clan seemed to have that effect on most people. "Mom," said Dave, "How about I show Luka to his room and we can both freshen up. It's been a long journey."
"Where are my manners?" said Florence. "Of course you poor boys must be tired, coming all the way from Chicago."
Luka followed Dave and Florence up the stairs.
"There's the bathroom, Luka," said Florence, "and here's your room. If you need more blankets or anything, I'm sure Dave will be able to help you."
Luka wondered was there a double meaning behind Florence's words. Her expression was innocent enough, but then so was Dave's most of the time.
"Thank you. It looks a very comfortable room," said Luka, politely.
Florence smiled. "Dinner will be in about an hour."
"We'll be down before then, Mom," said Dave, watching as his mother left the room.
Turning back to Luka, he said, "So what d'you think of the family?"
"They seem very," Luka tried to think of the right word, "animated."
"You mean loud," said Dave, grinning. "Yeah, but they're great. I mean look at Mom, look at the room she's after putting you in."
"I don't understand?" said Luka. "Your room is at the opposite end of the hallway. We could not be further apart and still be on the same floor."
"Yeah, but this room is at the end of the house, next room is just used for storage, and then there's the bathroom. That's two empty rooms between here and my parents' room. So if we're quiet...."
"And when have you ever been 'quiet'?" asked Luka, as he realized what Dave was implying.
"Never needed to be before," said Dave grinning. "But I'm sure I can try it. You'll just have to keep my mouth shut."
"Hmm, I wonder what would be the best method for that? Perhaps we should practice a little," said Luka, moving closer to the chair where Dave was sprawled. Leaning in to Dave, he gently kissed him on the lips. "How about this?" he whispered, before sending his tongue flicking gently into Dave's mouth.
Dave groaned, feeling Luka's hands caress him gently. "Oh yes," he said, pulling away slightly. "But, we can't now. They'll be waiting for us downstairs." Reluctantly, he pushed Luka away. "Tonight. My parents are usually in bed early, and sound sleepers as well. The girls will be gone early to get the kids to bed. Think you can wait until then."
"Guess I'll have to," said Luka. Giving Dave a quick peck on the cheek, he stood up.
Later that evening, Luka found himself holding the youngest Malucci (Alexa, nine months, daughter of Flo and Mike) while Dave was in the kitchen, letting his nieces and nephews sign his cast.
Alexa had initially been suspicious of this tall dark stranger, but soon brightened when Luka starting singing Croatian nursery rhymes to her.
"I can't believe she's not howling," said Flo, laughing as she returned with Alexa's bottle. "Usually she won't go to anyone new, unless she's had a good chance to inspect them first."
"You're definitely a natural with kids," said Katerina. "You'd make a great father."
The words, which were so innocent in intent, were like a knife in Luka's heart. "Excuse me," he said, hurriedly handing Alexa back to Flo. "I....I need some air." He hurried out of the room brushing past Dave as he limped back into the room
"Luka?" called Dave, but Luka didn't reply as he hurried out to the garden. Dave limped into the room. "What did you guys say to him?" he asked accusingly.
"Nothing, at least all I said was he'd make a good father," replied Katerina. "What's the big deal? I mean I know if he's with you, he's not going to have kids," she said bluntly. "But I didn't think he'd be that upset about it."
"Oh shit," said Dave.
"Language, Dave," said Ricardo.
"Sorry Dad," said Dave, absently. "You guys weren't to know," he said to his sisters. "But Luka did have kids. They... they died in Croatia, along with his wife, before he came to the US."
"Oh shi...crap," said Katerina. "I'm sorry, Dave, I had no idea. I'll go and apologize."
"It's okay, I'll go talk to him."
Luka was sitting on a bench in the garden, staring into space, when Dave sat down beside him. After sitting in silence for a few minutes, Dave said, "Kat's really sorry about what she said. She didn't mean to upset you. It's just that I never told the girls about you and your family. I'm sorry. I didn't think."
Luka sighed. "It's okay, Dave. I know she didn't mean anything by it. It's just that every now and then, someone says something or does something and I am reminded again of what I have lost."
Dave put his hand on Luka's. "She was right about one thing though." Luka looked up at Dave. "You would make a great father." Luka smiled.
Dave continued. "I know that what we have together is something special, but I don't want to deprive you of the chance to be a father again."
"What are you saying Dave?"
"I guess I'm saying that if you want to call it quits and maybe settle down with someone you can raise a family with, then.....then I won't stop you." Dave looked away so that Luka wouldn't see the pain in his eyes.
"How can you think that you mean so little to me?" said Luka, "You think that I would give you up, on the off-chance that I might find a woman that I cared for enough to have children with? Dave, I love you. I want to be with you. And if that means that I will never be a father again, well, that is something that I resigned myself to a long time ago."
"I only want you to be happy," said Dave, his voice heavy with emotion.
"You have made me happy," said Luka simply, as he put his arm around Dave. Kissing him gently, he said, "You have made me very happy indeed."
Dave returned the kiss.
They were suddenly interrupted by children's voices chanting, "Dave and Luka up a tree. K I S S I N G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a house and a car in the garage."
Breaking free from Luka's embrace, Dave grabbed his crutches and limped towards the group of kids which had gathered behind a nearby bush. Luka could hear him yelling at the kids, "Right, I am going to catch you all, and then I'm going to bite your legs off, you hear." From the squeals of delight, Luka could tell that this was a familiar threat.
A few minutes later, Dave returned. Settling down on the bench beside Luka, he said affectionately, "Little brats. Knew I should never have taught them that rhyme. Now, where were we, oh yes." He put his arms around Luka, and started kissing him.
Luka pushed him away, "What about the children? Won't it warp them, to see two men kissing?"
Dave shrugged, "They're half Malucci. They're sick and twisted to start with. But yeah, maybe we'd better not. Next thing we know they'll be taking pictures and selling them to their classmates."
"They would do that?" asked Luka, slightly shocked.
"I used to do it with my sisters' and their boyfriends. Great way to supplement my pocket money."
"You are terrible."
"But you love me for it."
"Oh yes, most definitely."
To be continued.