© Paige Parsons
Palms sweating with a queasiness worthy of the first trimester of a pregnancy the petite brunette wore a pattern in the carpeting in front of the sofa. What had she done? Maybe it wasn't too late to take it back. No, it absolutely was too late. She orchestrated things purposefully leaving herself no out. Now, now she had zero option but to move forward. The storm that started within was soon to be out creating sweeping destruction in the paths of all it crossed. When it came to being book smart, Rocki was always at the head of the class, but when it came to her EQ, that emotional intelligence quotient she was beginning to suspect that she would fall woefully short. Well, maybe not totally at the bottom of the class, but real near it. She was aware that the news would not be taken well on any level. The problem was she plowed ahead and didn’t let it stop her from moving forward with her plan. The plan she was questioning more and more by the minute.
Rocki had spent the night going over the plan with her best friend Ramsea all night and still she was pacing her parent's living room, gnawing through her bottom lip and wringing her hands waiting for them to get home so she could break the news. It wasn't like she was a child or anything, but her rearing dictated that she seek approval on something so big. Life changing would be more appropriate. Yeah, she was fooling herself. She didn't leave herself any wiggle room out of the decision because if there was even an inkling of an out she knew they would force her to take it.
The car pulled up and she dashed to the window. Her stomach dropped. Her mouth dried. All the moisture in her body was showing up in her hands. They would be a little surprised by her being home already, but they’d be happy. That happiness would take an ugly turn all too soon though. She stepped from in front of the window and leaned against the wall. Well, there was no turning back now.
The door flew open a call of pure elation filling the room.
"Rocki! Rocki get down here!"
Popping around the doorway Rocki leapt into his arms squealing with delight as the six foot man, who was always her giant Prince, spun her around.
"I'm here. I'm here. Daddy put me down before I toss my lunch."
They were both giggling when the booming voice of her other dad could be heard.
"Hey Rod any extra for the electric bill is coming out of your clothes budget. Since you're too good to shop at the Suit Barn."
The front door closed a bit before he saw what had his partner of twenty years too distracted to do it himself.
"Raquel," he called out as he walked to pull her into an embrace. "You're here early. What's going on?"
"Do not question our good fortune, Brock. Our little girl is home a week early and I for one am thrilled."
"I am too. Of course I am. I'm just making sure everything is alright."
Inside her stomach was turning. Rocki backed up a little from her dad's embrace and pretended to straighten pillows on the couch before flopping down. Anything to buy her some time. The man's non-verbal scrutiny could break her and she knew it.
"Yes, 'Sergeant Worry-Wort' everything is fine. I just figured I'd come home and hang out before we leave for Mexico. You know let daddy cook for me, help you with whatever is being built in that garage, and..."
"And that is enough browbeating, Brock. This is your home baby girl no explanation needed. Show up whenever you like."
"Of course Rod is right. I worry. Sue me. No wait, on second thought, don't. For what it's costing us to send you to law school, I know you'll be good and win. I'm going to go upstairs to change."
He bent down to kiss her forehead.
"Glad you're home, Rocki."
"Me too dad."
For someone who was feeling glad her nerves were shot. She kept thinking one of them would notice her shaking hands, which made her run them through her hair then shove them beneath her butt.
"I'm gonna go start the pasta water. Rocki, come with."
Avoiding Rod's outstretched hand Rocki went for the distraction. She jumped from her perch and then practically hurdled the coffee table calling out behind her, "race you there!"
"Hey, you can't call race after you start running."
Rod was in pursuit as they cleared the living room, crossed the dining room and made their way to the kitchen. She was sitting on the counter when he hit the doorway.
"Who do you think I learned it from. I remember a certain someone who used to do it to their six year old daughter all the time."
"Yeah, but it made her a much better racer and a lot more aware."
Hopping up next to the tiny brunette, whose petite stature no longer concerned him or Brock, Rod threw his arm around her shoulders. Rocki had completed their family and their life together. He would forever be grateful for all the things that conspired to bring them to one another.
"A lot more aware of cheaters," she laughed.
"My darling girl the world is not filled with people who want to see you win. That knowledge--"
"Makes me work twice as hard to beat the competition,” she finished for him. “I know, daddy. You've been saying that for years. It only made me slightly paranoid, but thanks."
He knew she was being sarcastic and took no offense. Having two dads could be challenging enough, but having two that were federal agents made it twice as hard. She walked with a different awareness, dated with a different awareness, prepared in a different way for every actuality, and generally scrutinized things with a more cautious eye because of it. It had made her the person she was and she too was grateful. It was part of the reason she had made the decision she had. The decision she only hoped they would understand.
"Let's get this water going. Then I'm leaving you to cut up ingredients while I go change. Whatever you do, don't let Brock help. I've never been able to train him to dice properly."
"But we love him anyway."
"Well, he does other good things with his hands."
"I meant building things, missy. When'd you get so fresh?"
They laughed as they worked in tandem pulling out things for Rod's Penne-a-la-DiGrado. It only made him a little suspicious to know that his daughter had clearly been sneaking around town all day. The fridge was stocked with items he and Brock just didn't bother with when they were on their own. Most meals were eaten out or taken out when Rocki wasn't home. He'd also made note of the boxes in the foyer. She had brought home a lot more than she would need for a month vacation. Unlike his partner, he wasn't a bulldozer to get at the information. He would see where the evening took them, but he was also starting to suspect there was more to this earlier arrival than his little girl was letting on.
"Okay, kiddo small uniform pieces and don't drop the pasta until--"
"It's at a rolling boil,” she loved finishing his sentences, mostly because it made him equal parts nuts and proud. “I got it, daddy. How many times have we done this?"
"A few hundred. Missed you baby girl."
"Missed you too daddy."
As he left the room, she sighed, hoping she wasn't going to ruin their relationship permanently. If it came to that then maybe she would just bite the bullet and do what they wanted. No, she couldn't do that. That's what she had to remember. There was no turning back, but what was ahead was scaring the tar out of her. As she diced up veggies she thought back to the great times spent in this kitchen and this house. It wasn't perfect, but definitely what she considered pretty close. Now she was going to taint those memories with her news. Guilt sucked!
Brock Greystone had spent years single. When he figured out he was a homosexual, several brief and unnecessary marriages later, he opted to remain single rather than address something that made him as uncomfortable as it did society as a whole. He was a Marine and a federal agent. Being gay just didn't seem to fit into the equation. So he pushed his desires down maintaining the heterosexual pretense. Then a case took him to Philadelphia and there had just been something about Rod. Something about the young, fast talking, witty, tall Italian that made him want to spend all his free time with him. The kid, and that was how Brock saw him and treated him for months in the beginning, was magnetic.
Within eight months Rod was on his team and in his bed. That's what Brock has always been grateful for. Rod making the first move is what moved them forward. It's what eventually brought Rocki into their lives too. Rod wanted to be a father. Not interested in bringing in a third party surrogate they went the route of adoption. The invasive process had Brock threatening to back out at nearly every stage, but in the end he'd endure everything for the man he loved.
When they brought their precocious little peanut home, he was won over. He wasn't sure that sharing their lives with a six year old was the way to go, but after her first night home he could no longer imagine a them without her. He guessed that's what parents he’d met were always talking about when they tried to articulate what their children meant to them. She was all together playful, smart, sensitive, as evidenced by the menagerie of strays paraded through the house, and tough. She would work in the garage with him, play basketball with Rod and had her fair share of toss-and-tumbles with kids who thought it was okay to speak ill of her family and the fact that she had two daddies. As Rod would say, while playing good cop during chastisements, 'the kid's got spunk'. Rocki didn't feel like she was missing out on having a mommy. She had a Rod and a Brock. They picked her special and she let anyone who asked know just that.
The women in their lives picked up all the girly duties that made daddies so uncomfortable. Aunt Chanel had taken her to buy tampons and gave her the sex talk. An act that both he and Rod were undyingly grateful about. Aunt Lisa took her shopping and gossiped about boys. Aunt Chanel took her for her first big girl hair cut at the salon. They both came over to help her get ready for senior prom. As each milestone came up Brock worried how they would or should handle it, but then their extended family would rally and it would work itself out. Now his little girl had finished her first year of law school. It was amazing how the time seemed to breeze by in the blink of an eye.
"I thought he was making dinner for us." Brock came up behind her to steal a pepper.
"I'm his sous chef. You're not supposed to do anything except keep me company, he said."
"It's his one place to be bossy and give me orders. He never misses a chance."
"I think it has more to do with burning his sauce that one time." Rocki laughed.
It wasn't that Brock didn't cook. His fair was just more basic. He was a real meat and potatoes guy. If he could grill it, he could cook it. Uniform dicing and the phrase parboil meant nothing to him. So he took a seat with a cup of coffee from the fresh pot Rocki had started and decided to play catch up. They hadn't talked as much during the last few months of the semester. He'd been put off by what he thought was her avoidance, but she kept saying that she just had so much studying to do that he stopped questioning.
"So, are we looking at straight A's this semester?"
Rocki nearly took her finger off at the question. Taking a deep breath without turning around.
"Haha, um, that might be a little wishful thinking. I mean I did well, but I don't know about straight A's."
"I'm teasing peanut. Every time I called, you were writing a paper or off to a study group, so I figured straight A's were the logical end result. You know, as long as you're working hard we'll be proud of you."
"Yes, dad. And, I did, I worked really hard this semester."
"You did manage a little fun, I hope. Rod will be very disappointed if you didn't. He takes recreation quite seriously."
"Indeed I do."
Rod came up behind Brock and wrapped his arms around his partner. It got easier over the years, but it was still hard to not make physical contact with him throughout their day. Physical touch was absolutely Rod's love language. He didn't always need words, but skin to skin contact was like breathing to him. Rocki was used to their open affections. It had taken Brock longer to be comfortable with it and outside the house he was still the more conservative and reserved of the two. Here in their kitchen though there was nothing he enjoyed more. He reached up to rub the arms around him as Rod kissed his neck.
"We at a rolling boil yet?"
"Definitely and everything is set to go in the sauce." Rocki answered.
"Okay, drop the penne and I'll start the sauce."
During dinner they chatted about everything and nothing. All surface and non specific. Rocki made sure if there was a lull that she filled it with anything other than the details about herself. She listened and asked questions about each case they mentioned, even in jest. Finally, there was nothing left to eat or clean. She went into the living room to exhale. Maybe this could wait until tomorrow.
"So, those boxes coming or going?" Brock asked, his tone not inviting the notion of a non response.
Damn, damn, damn! Why did she have to have federal agents for parents.
"Huh?" Rocki stood by the mantel keeping her back to her dad. She was sending up prayers to every saint Rod had ever taught her that she could do this.
"Don't. If you can huh, you can hear. Turn around for me please."
Suddenly, Rod appeared behind his partner doing a quick assessment of the situation. Looking at his daughter, he directed his words to Brock.
"That can't be how you interpreted, let her tell us."
He scooted pass his love to sprawl his large frame across the couch.
"He's not going to let any of us sleep until he knows, so whatever it is, peanut, just spill."
Rocki looked at them both then dropped her eyes to the floor. The pattern on the Persian rug had never been so interesting before. There was a lump in her throat and butterflies in her tummy. All of her logical arguments were gone and brain felt as hollow as an empty vessel. She felt like a little girl having to tell them about something naughty she did. Things hadn't changed much. Brock was all stern and imposing. Rod was the relaxed more reasonable appearing one. Appearing was the operative word because he could be just as tough when it came to some things.
"It's just stuff I don't need to have with me anymore. It can all go to the attic. I mean, I felt like I needed every little thing when I first went to college, but I'm an adult now. Well, I felt like one until the inquisition started."
As she eyed both her fathers using her peripheral, Rocki attempted a move to the stairs.
"Oh, this conversation is far from over. Get comfortable."
She moodily dropped onto the couch in the corner furthest from Rod tucking her legs beneath her.
"I’ll take a lot less attitude with that comfort." Brock said, crossing into the room but still not sitting.
"Seriously, dad what is it?"
"You tell me. You've been dodging all night."
Her head was spinning. There really was no point in avoiding. She was going to have to tell them. Tonight will be as good a time as tomorrow morning. They'd be just as pissed. Self preservation made her want to hold out though. Reverting back to every bad tell she had Rocki started rocking slightly and chewing on the sides of her fingers. Rod turned to her. Brock moved to sit on the coffee table in front of her.
"Moving in closer and staring at me is not helping guys. Please can we talk tomorrow."
"No," Brock was direct.
"Rocki there is nothing that you will tell us tonight or tomorrow that will make us love you less. You have to know that. Right, Brock?"
"Of course it won’t, but we are not waiting until tomorrow."
"I did something. I mean, I have to tell you something about what I did. You're not--"
Rod reached for her practically pulling her to him as he turned her around. "Raquel, are you pregnant?"
"What?" Brock’s voice bounced off the walls as he got to his feet. His face flushed with anger from zero to sixty in a second. Maybe her news wouldn't be so bad once they knew it wasn't that.
"You guys. No, I am not pregnant. Come on. It's not 1950 and I didn't let some boy 'get' me in trouble. Dad, you can sit down. I promise this has nothing to do with anyone I've been dating. Besides, if it was I'd probably tell Aunt Chanel or Aunt Lisa not you two."
"All right, enough of this Rocki. What is going on?" Rod was hoping to draw her out before Brock really started yelling. She might be their princess, but the man was not known for his patience.
"Dad, please sit."
When he was she suddenly felt closed in again and hopped up to pace in front of them.
"You have to promise to let me get it all out before you say anything. Okay?"
"I'm not promising anything, talk."
"Brock, please. Go on baby girl."
"This past year was really hard. Not just the work either. Everything was hard. I haven't been happy. I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I needed to find something that didn't make me feel like I was suffocating."
"Oh, baby, I had no idea." Rod held his arms open, but she refused the comfort, wanting to get it all out while she was still producing saliva. Arms crossed tight Brock’s eyes were clouding over.
"Raquel, did you fail your classes?"
"No," she squeaked out. "I… I... I withdrew from law school."
"You did what? Well, we'll just drive up and re-enroll you tomorrow." Brock was a man about solutions. He was sure with some signed paperwork and a few threats she could be re-enrolled in by sundown.
She backed away a little more. Clearly she was too old to be punished, but the man still put the fear of the devil on her heels in her.
"I can't. The waiting period for me to change my mind passed."
"No! Absolutely not. This is not happening. We have spent a fortune on school and you don't just get to decide to drop out." Brock was resolute.
There was the yelling both she and Rod anticipated for different reasons. It had been a hundred moons since she'd made him angry enough to go full volume.
"Brock, stop it. We have to hear her out."
It was fight or flight time and running wasn't an option.
Straightening her spine, Rocki continued. "It is happening and I didn't just decide. I took this seriously. I have a plan you know."
"That's the problem. We don't know. We don't know anything because you've been sneaking behind our back, making life altering decisions."
"Because it's my life. Ugh, I knew you wouldn't even try to understand. Dad, I felt like I had spent ten years in prison when I was at school."
Rod went to her this time. Holding her close he rubbed her back and head without speaking. Brock had pinched the bridge of his nose so many times he thought he might've broken it. He may have been comforting, but Rod was no pushover.
"Baby girl sit down and take us through it from the beginning."
She looked over at her other father. Her chocolate brown eyes were full of apprehension. His deep blue ones were hidden behind a mask of stern reproach. Rocki could tell he wasn't anywhere near a place where he wanted to offer her comfort.
"I applied to another program. I got in too."
"What program, Raquel?" Each word was clipped. Rod gave his own version of a glare at his husband’s tone.
"The USSS." The acronym gave her a minute while they processed.
"The Secret Service?"
Shit. He was zero to sixty again. His red face was nearly purple now.
"You want to be a federal agent? Not while I'm alive."
Rod was too stunned to speak. Law enforcement was not what he was thinking. She obviously loved the law, but he didn't see his little girl carrying a gun. Chasing down the bad guys.
"You're telling me it's good enough for you, but not me?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying. You're too smart for this Raquel. You've always wanted to be a lawyer. One hard year doesn't mean you throw it all away."
"Hypocrite," she shouted, and pulled away from Rod.
"Would both of you sit down please and stop yelling? Rocki you are way out of line. You're the one springing all of this on us. What did you think our reaction would be?"
"Pretty much this, which is why I didn't want to talk about it on my first night back."
"I honestly don't think he'd take it any better tomorrow."
"Are you saying you're okay with this, daddy?" She had a little hope infused now.
"No, he's not." Brock all but growled.
Rod physically sat Rocki in his spot on the couch and went to his husband.
"Don't tell me how I feel and I won't tell you how you should feel."
Reaching out to touch his face Brock backed off a little. As a smidgen of the tension left his body Rod pulled him close.
"You are the absolute love of my life. I back your play and have your six in all things, but I will not dictate our daughter's future. I can't do to her what my father did to me. Baby, we have to hear her out. She doesn't need our permission, but I think she wants our blessing. We need to listen."
"I hate everything about this."
"I know, but you love her. That's all that matters."
They were huddled together, speaking so softly Rocki couldn't make out the words. Her dad did seem calmer, though. Several of the resident butterflies in her stomach flew off. She stood up and moved to them.
"Dad. Daddy, I'm really sorry I lied. I didn't want to, but I was so scared. This isn't something I wanted to be talked out of. I need to know you understand, and that you forgive me."
For a minute they both stared at her. She held her ground and their gaze.
"Well, Rod's right, I think you better start at the beginning."
She didn't wait for an invitation, instead she launched herself into their arms.
For the next two hours all they did was talk. Rod patient and inquisitive. Brock pensive. Rocki thorough. She didn't leave any part of her thought process or actions out knowing they both did better with detailed specifics. Finally, it was settled. They would cut their trip to Mexico short and help her move down to Glynco, Georgia for her first eleven weeks of training. Then she would come back to DC for more training before she graduated from the program.
Tears had been shed, there was more yelling, a few cups of coffee, a beer or two and a lot of negotiating. In the end, Brock had to let her go with his blessing because she was determined to go without it. It was that streak of stubborn resolve that vexed him and made him proud at the same time.
Once they had sent their wrung out twenty-two year old up to bed they settled on the couch. Brock was one who liked to cope in solitude most times, but tonight he allowed Rod to hold him gaining both comfort and strength. Letting his little girl go off to do something that was so potentially dangerous was turning him inside out. How could he protect her when it was going to be her job to do the protecting? It wasn't something he needed to voice.
After all their years together he knew Rod understood. They'd all had their roles and Brock was the protector. He slept better at night knowing that he was the one who made sure his house, his husband, and his little girl were safe and sound. It didn’t matter that Rod also carried a gun, or that his precious baby girl would soon too. He simply wasn’t ready to turn the protector baton over.
After a while Rod's breathing deepened alerting Brock that the love of his life was sleeping sound. Sliding off the couch Brock kissed him before Rod rolled to his side. He wouldn't make him get up until he finally made his own way up to their bedroom. For now he needed to go to his other place of refuge. In the garage, he poured a shot of bourbon and picked up a sanding block. He had easily pictured Rocki’s life as a lawyer. As a United States Secret Service Agent he had no idea what her future could hold. One thing was certain, Rod was right all those years ago. The kid did have spunk.
After sanding the same spot repeatedly, Brock had no choice but to concede that he wasn’t actually focused on his task. He was soothed by the bourbon and the solitude. No new answers came up, but he was finally in a place where he wasn’t running worse case scenarios through his head. Progress.
“Brock? Are you back there? Honey?”
Rod put everything down and headed toward the door.
“I’m surprised you woke up on your own. I did leave you in your favorite spot.”
“I don’t care how comfortable that couch is no spot is my favorite if you aren’t in it.”
“Come on sweet talker let’s get to bed. Something tells me I’m going to be on chocolate chip pancake detail early in the morning.”
The guys lowered their voices as they passed Rocki’s bedroom door. The lights were out confirming she was asleep. Rod hoped it was a peaceful rest. He had an urge to go in and double check and tuck her covers, but he refrained. Brock always teased his obsessive bedtime routines when she was younger, so he could only imagine what would happen if he did it when she was in her twenties.
“I think I’ll give her a little academy wake up call, before the pancakes,” Rod said.
“Daddy-PT, that’s cruel, Rod.”
“Let’s face it, she's my daughter and she’s expecting at least a little retaliation for withholding information. An early morning run and a few pushups will be a nice way for her to earn those pancakes.”
“I do love your devious mind, Rodrigo DiGardo.”
“And, I love everything about you, Brock Greystone.”