Series: Day's End
Characters: Ken/Jess, guest appearance Wes
"You can drop me off here," Brixton said, taking hold of the door handle.
"The school's not for a couple blocks," Ken said.
"I know where my school is. I am the one who attends it."
Ken bit his tongue. He wanted to rake this kid over the coals for being a snot, but he knew the kid was dealing with shit no kid ought to. Shit, he and Jess had dealt with own their own back when they were kids.
"Look, I know I sound like a jerk, but I usually arrive in my dad's Mercedes. The rumor mill has probably already started, but if I show up in this beat up truck..." Brixton's voice drifted off leaving Ken to fill in the rest.
Ken looked hard at the teen. "We have to meet Ms. Lindy at the office. She has all the paper work for the school. If there's a problem or you get sick or whatever, they have to call me, not your parents."
He felt bad for the teen. Foster care was more than just giving a kid a place to sleep. There were legal issues that had to be dealt with as well. But Ken didn't want to make the kid hurt worse than he already was.
"I'd like to keep up the facade that everything is fine. I'm only a junior. I have this year and next to get through. High school can't have changed that much since you went."
Ken remembered how important the social standings were in high school and he remembered he never gave a shit about any of that. But it looked like Brixton did care. "OK, look, why don't I drop you off here, I'll go ahead and park at the school. I'll go into the office and meet with Ms. Lindy and whoever else we have to meet. But you do have to come in too, I think."
"I can do that. No one will question me going into the office. They would ask questions, and then make up their own answers to make the gossip juicy enough if I was seen riding up with you."
Ken nodded his agreement. He sighed as Brixton jumped out of the truck. He wasn't sure this was the best way to handle things, but he was never as self-assured and confident as this kid was. He'd always thought that kids today were more worldly than when he was a teen, maybe this was the proof. Or maybe this kid had too much practice at hiding. What did the kid say? He'd like to keep up the facade? Who talks like that, Ken thought. A facade was a fake front to a building. A front that hides what's really holding it up. Damn, this kid's more complicated then he seems.
Pulling into the parking lot of the school, Ken wondered if he knew how to handle a kid like Brixton. Well, too late now, he thought. He'd not give up on him. Walking up to the school, Ken saw all the little groups of students. They all seemed so young yet so confident at the same time. A large sign on the front door stated that all visitors must check in at the office first. Ken was glad the sign had an arrow pointing the right way. Ken gave a sigh of relief when he spotted Ms Lindy waiting outside the office door.
"Good morning, Ken. Where's Brixton?" She asked him quietly.
"He's coming. He didn't want to be seen riding up with me."
Ms. Lindy gave a knowing smile. Ken knew she'd been doing this line of work for a long time, she probably knew all the little games the kids played in order to continue looking normal to their friends.
"Let's go on in, I've all the paperwork. We just need to inform the school officials."
Ken followed Ms. Lindy into the office and they were promptly shown to the principal's office. The secretary that showed them the way said in a hushed voice, "not many of our students deal with social services. We'd like to keep this discreet as possible for the families."
"I don't give a sh-" Ken stopped talking with a grunt when Ms. Lindy elbowed him.
"Yes, yes. We do understand the need for privacy," Ms. Lindy placated the secretary.
"The headmaster has been apprised of your arrival and will see you now," the secretary said giving Ken an icy look.
Headmaster? Ken thought to himself. He thought that was a term they used in England and that in the good old US they used principal. But he refrained from making a comment to the snotty secretary, mostly because he didn't want Ms. Lindy to elbow him again.
The meeting with the headmaster went smoothly. The papers were explained in detail and Brixton showed up in time to let everyone know he understood he wasn't to contact his parents until this situation was settled.
As Ken walked out of the office, he took Brixton aside. "I'll pick you up where I dropped you off. I'll work with you as long as you don't screw me over."
"You're way too old for me to screw," Brixton said. He quickly looked down and mumbled out an apology when Ken gave him a hard look. "Sorry. I'll be there at 5. I've Lacrosse practice until 5."
"That'll work for me. Have a good day," Ken said and then walked out to his truck. This was going to be harder than Kevin had been. With Kevin, things weren't so complicated. There were no pretenses to be upheld. With Brixton there were too many to count and some that Ken didn't understand.
He did understand about coming out to his parents. It wasn't pretty and he'd been kicked out of the house. Literally. But what he couldn't figure out with Brixton's parents was that it wasn't that their kid was gay. It was what others would think of them.
Ken thought of this as he drove to his cabinet shop. The traffic was heavier than he normally dealt with, but then he normally was at work by this time. As he pulled into the parking lot, he saw Wes's truck already there. He silently thanked Jess for being an ass to Wes. The kid was damn good as a supervisor for him.
"Hey, bossman," Wes greeted Ken as Ken walked in.
"Hey, Bud." Ken liked the easy going young man. He seemed to have his shit together and he and his partner, Link, had become friends. Wes's parents had adopted Ken and Jess's first foster kid, Kevin.
"You get the kid to school?"
Ken nodded. He'd called Wes early this morning and explained why he'd be late. Wes assured him not to worry, that he'd get the shop open and everything running.
"The Lewiston's job is almost done. Should be done this afternoon," Wes said.
Ken looked at Wes. How did this young man get to this point? Did he go through all the shit Ken had? That Jess went through?
"What? Do I have a booger hangin' outta my nose?" Wes asked.
Ken laughed. "No, you don't have a booger. Hey, Wes, can I ask you something? Kind of personal?"
Wes fidgeted and then said, "Um. Yeah. I guess."
"Did your mom and dad flip when you came out to them?"
Then it was Wes's turn to laugh. "Heck no. I worried until I thought I'd puke. Then got up the nerve and you know what they said?" Wes waited for Ken to shake his head no. "They said, it's about time you told us. We've known since you were about 12."
"Yeah. Mom said when she started to suspect, she talked to Dad. She said they talked about it and knew that no matter what, they loved me. So when I came out, I think they were tired of waiting for me." Wes looked at Ken and then continued. "Ken, I know not everyone has the acceptance Mom and Dad gave me. What you and Jess are doing for this kid is a good thing."
"Fuck, Wes. I don't know what the hell we're doing. Brixton's not like Kevin. It's like Brixton comes from a world I don't know shit about," Ken admitted his fear to the young man.
"No, it's the same world, Ken. We all need the same thing. Its just the outside trappin's that makes us look different," Wes said. "And some of us, you and Jess, Link and me, we don't need those trappin's."
Ken looked at Wes and thought about what Brixton had said about letting him keep the facade up. "Yeah. Brixton said something about keeping his facade. Whadda you think? Should we let him?"
When Wes looked back at him, Ken was surprised at the knowledge in the young man's eyes.
"Yeah, Ken. I think you should. He needs that more than you or I did." Wes shifted a little on his feet. "Um. Ya know, Jess used to hide behind his own facade, before you came along. He doesn't need it anymore. The kid you have now might need his as much, maybe more, than Jess needed his. He still has to live with his mom and dad. He's not grown up yet."
Ken felt stunned. Yeah, Jess had hidden behind a front. Just his front was full of piss and snark, and Ken knew how to deal with it. He tore that front down. But Wes was right, this kid needed armor to shield himself until he was an adult. And didn't everyone have some kind of shield they hid behind until they met that one person that let them shed that shield?
Shaking his head, Ken said, "Thanks, Wes."
"What for?" Wes asked.
"For letting me talk this shit out."
Ken laughed as Wes blushed and stuttered out, "Aw, crap, bossman, it's not big deal."
"Come on, boy. We got cabinets to finish or Jess will be bawling us both out."
Part 4: Masks