I laughed and he grinned at me, making me smile. We made our way over to the dinner table when Karen announced that dinner was ready, finding the kids already sat waiting for us. Gramps demanded dessert instead and Karen rolled her eyes, telling him off like a naughty child and saying everyone would get dessert if they had dinner first when Lily asked if she could have dessert instead as well. Gramps and the kids all but hovered up their dinner, and I couldn’t help being amused as the four of them sat there impatiently.
"Must be hard having to feed four kids at once" I said, smirking slightly.
"It's a skill" Karen laughed.
"I don't think I'd cope" I chuckled.
Karen went and fetched everyone a slice of chocolate cake once we’d all finished dinner, and we all dug in, enjoying the treat of a homemade cake for once. I giggled when she slapped Gramps’ wrist when he tried to sneak himself some more, and Lily asked very nicely if she could have some more just to wind the old man up. Karen gave her a tiny bit more, and she stuck her tongue out at Gramps. She looked at him innocently when he pretended to be grumpy with her, giggling and finishing her cake when he stuck his tongue out at her. I offered to help clean up once we were done, taking the opportunity to ask Karen what she thought of Lewis.
"He's very quiet, isn't he? Almost as quiet as Danny"
"No thanks to his mother" I muttered, sighing a little when she shot me a questioning look. "Promise me you won't breathe a word of what I'm about to tell you. Especially not to my mother" I said and she nodded.
I explained to her what a nasty piece of work Sarah was, and the real reason we’d gone our separate ways, and how that’d resulted in me desperately trying to find somewhere for Lewis to stay before my time ran out and he got dragged into the care system. I briefly mentioned that she’d raised him to be a bit of a homophobe and Karen smiled a little.
"Well we'll fix that"
"Somehow" she laughed slightly.
"I'm sure we'll think of something" I smiled and she nodded.
I asked her how she was since I hadn’t had a chance to earlier, glad that she was okay. I asked her if Gramps was as bothered about her finding a new love as he was about me and she shrugged.
"He wants me to be happy, sure. I think I'm a bit past dating, don't you?" she asked with a laugh.
"Y'never know, you could find yourself a nice toyboy" I winked and she laughed again.
"I'll keep my eyes peeled for you"
"Try not to hoard them" she chuckled.
"I'm not old enough to have a toyboy"
"No, but you might hoard all the pretty men from me"
I laughed at that. "Well then, I'll do my best to leave some for you"
"Feel free to point any pretty young ladies my way, Hadley" Gramps said. I’d forgotten he’d been helping clear up as well.
"I don't seem to have the best luck with pretty young ladies" I laughed a little sadly.
"So? I'm not looking for another relationship. If I can't go to the strip club, someone's gonna have to come to me"
I laughed and he grinned, just as Lewis wandered in.
"What's a strip club?" he asked.
"Ask Gramps" I said and Lewis looked at the old man.
"They are a wonderful place of many, many good people doing their bit for the world. But you can't go til you're eighteen" Gramps said and I bit back a laugh.
"No more talk about strip clubs, please" Karen scowled.
"Gramps is in trouble" I said to Lewis, giggling a little.
"Gramps is very much in trouble. No more cake for gramps" Karen said and Lewis giggled at the horrified look on the old man’s face.
"I hate you all" Gramps said, sulking off to his chair.
"Am I staying here now?" Lewis asked.
"If you want to" I said.
"No more boys kissing?" he asked innocently and I frowned a little
"No more boys kissing. But you know there's nothing wrong with it, right? No matter what your mommy said" I said after a while of not being sure what to say.
"But mommy said it's nasty"
"Well I kiss boys and I'm not nasty, am I?" I smiled, ruffling his hair.
"But kissing boys is nasty. You shouldn't do it"
"It's not nasty, sweetie"
"Then why did mommy say it is?" he asked and I looked at Karen for help.
"Um... Because she didn't like it. That's all it was, honey. She just didn't like it, but that doesn't mean you have to hate it too" she said and I nodded.
"So if I kissed a boy no one else would find it icky?" Lewis asked innocently and I nodded, smiling, but I could tell he didn’t believe me.
"Why don't you believe me, kiddo?" I asked, my smile falling a little.
"'Cause mommy's not the only one that says it's bad"
"Who else said so?"
"People on TV and in the streets. They all say that 'god hates fags' and mommy told me fags are boys that kiss other boys"
I sighed. I’d been hoping I wouldn’t have to explain all of that yet. "There's people out there that don't think boys should be allowed to kiss each other. But they usually think girls are only there to make babies as well, and we both know that's not true"
He didn’t say anything to that and I waited to see if he had any more questions.
"Look, it doesn't really matter what people say, you can kiss whoever you want to" Karen said, smiling.
"Thanks for that" I said when Lewis scuttled off.
Karen shrugged. "I just wish I'd known to tell Maxxie that when he was a boy. It's the least I can do to make growing up a little easier on someone” she said, sighing. "I tried to do my best for him, y'know. His father was... Well, a lot like Sarah, I suppose. I told him being gay was bad because I hoped it'd protect him from his father. If I'd known before I started saying that stuff, I wouldn't have said it at all" she said and I patted her back. "I'll try and do better with Lewis. If he wants to stay anyway"
I nodded. "I think he will. He said he wanted to stay with me, but I can't cope with three of them"
Karen chuckled. "Well I'll make sure you guys come visit us more often, then"
"We will" I laughed.
"You and the kids are always welcome to stay over, if you want"
"Thanks" I smiled and she smiled back. "Well, I should probably go see if Lewis wants to stay with you two. I've got all the paperwork at home, so I'll bring it over later if he does want to"
Karen nodded and I wandered off to find him. He was sat with Danny, playing quietly in the corner of the room.
"Hey" I smiled.
Danny smiled back and Lewis looked up at me.
"Do you like it here, Lewis?" I asked and he nodded. "D'you want to stay here?"
"Can Danny stay?"
"Not for good, I'm afraid" I said, and this upset look washed over his face. "Sorry, sport. But we'll come visit you all the time" I smiled, but the upset look didn’t lift from his face.
"You'll forget me if I'm here"
"No we won't" I said, wrapping him in a cuddle.
"Promise you won't forget about me" he said when I kissed his head.
"I promise" I smiled.
"Will you make sure Danny and Lily don't forget me?" he asked and I nodded.
Danny held his hand, about the closest he’d get to saying he wouldn’t forget him, and I saw Lewis squeeze his hand a little. Danny squeezed back, smiling, and Lewis cuddled Danny. I wrapped my arms around the both of them, asking Lewis if he wanted Danny to stay with him for the night. He nodded and I let Karen know, going and sitting back down with them.
"Karen and the old man are really nice" I smiled, noticing Lewis sort of clinging to Danny. "And we're only a phone call away if you need to talk about anything you don't think you can tell them" I said, trying to get him to be a brave boy for me.
"I'll miss you though"
"We're not far away. And you'll still see Danny and Lily at school" I smiled and he nodded a little.
I kissed the top of his head again, staying there with the two of them til I figured I should probably go and get their pyjamas and stuff they’d need in the morning.