Blue feels relaxed as he and Tad walk up to the Baxter farmhouse. He feels like he and tad have cleared the air and will be able to work together.
Ella and Nick greet them like excited puppies. The pair are blonde and willowy and Blue can see why their parents are not expecting them to work with the animals, they both look like they might break.
“So Mike said you need some help. What stage are you at?” Blue asks.
“We’re just a bit lost. We know what we want it to taste like but not how to do it.” Ella says sweetly.
“I figured today we could just talk about what market you’re aiming for and tomorrow I can bring my little ice-cream maker and show you some basic flavors and how we can adapt them for commercial volumes.” Blue says.
“We just want something that tastes good. If it tastes good people will buy it.” Nick says naïvely.
“I expect Tad will be able to help with costings for both the ingredients but also transport, packaging and marketing.” Blue says seeing that the pair are utterly clueless.
“Yeah I can do that. But Blue is right we need to think about who you want to sell it to as that will determine what flavors Blue helps you create.” Tad says following Blue’s train of thought.
“I don’t get it.” Nick says and Blue catches Tad’s eye and smiles it is going to be a long road.
“Well we can start with basic vanilla, chocolate and strawberry and take it from there.” Blue says.
“Okay.” Ella and Nick say enthusiastically.
Blue and Tad talk through options and Tad pulls up some basic numbers. Ella and Nick grasp the concepts but cannot make a decision between them. They have no confidence or drive and zero business sense. Tad absolutely shines. Blue is surprised as it is Larry who has talked of doing these backroom chores and not Tad and yet Tad has great understanding of what is needed and knows the local firms. He’s been amazing and Blue is delighted.
“I think that’s enough for today. We’ll start on the practical side tomorrow. Are either of you artistic?” Blue asks trying to find what the pair do have a flair for.
“I am, I love to draw and paint.” Ella says with a smile.
“Okay have a think about your labels, about how you want things to look.” Blue says feeling relieved.
“Oh Ella will be so good at that.” Nick says.
“What are your passions?” Tad asks Nick gently.
“I like fashion. I tried to design farm clothing but dad shut it down. I’m better at styling than designing.” Nick says.
“Perfect.” Blue says.
“What?” Tad asks confused.
“Nick can get some mood boards up together. Think about what sort of ice cream different groups of people would like, what it would look like, where they would buy it. Treat ice-cream as an accessory.” Blue suggests.
“Like what coffee cup goes with your style?” Nick asks perking up for the first time.
“Yes and what flavor people would desire. I’m sure you’ll come up with something. We’ll come back tomorrow and get cooking.” Blue says.
“But ice cream is cold.” Nick says confused.
Blue and Tad smile through gritted teeth and leave.
“How can anyone be so dumb?” Blue asks as they get in the car.
“How did they graduate college?” Tad asks.
“I feel bad ridiculing them but man that was hard.” Blue says.
“Amazing opportunity for us though. We need to become partners in the business not hired help.” Tad says.
“Agreed. You seem all fired up. You are pretty intoxicating when you’re in full flow.” Blue says with a smile.
“So are you.” Tad grins. Tad found Blue very sexy when he was describing ice cream flavors and talking about local suppliers.
“I thought Larry was the marketing and logistics guy.” Blue says.
“Just because I’m prepared to work on the practical side doesn’t mean I’m incapable of doing the admin too. I have made sure I know every aspect of running a farm and all aspects required for diversifying. I am really serious about it. I don’t like working on dad’s farm during breaks as I’m just another pair of hands, he’s going to be running the farm for another 20 or 30 years, there is no place for me in the main operation. It’s not about me being arrogant and wanting to start at the top but about me being able to shape my career and not just waiting until dad dies which is horrific. If dad was shit and the farm not profitable then it would be okay to push but it is. He produces excellent produce, is efficient and adaptable. Sure Larry and I could take over the admin side and make our mark there but that isn’t enough for me.” Tad explains.
“I get it. Some friends have the same issue, wanting to take over their dad’s farm when he is years from retirement and actually hasn’t had control that long since his own dad retired. I think you and Larry should talk to Abby about getting the market up and running too. You’re both well placed to bring together the old and new and have some idea of how you want it to be a showcase.” Blue says.
“Between the Baxter project and that I’d barely have time for school.” Tad grins.
“But you want to. I can see it and I can see your mind whirring working out where Larry would be involved. You do love your brother and want him to succeed.” Blue says.
“I do, I push him too much and don’t let him be himself. I try and fill the void mom left I guess. He’s getting better at pushing me away but I still need to learn how to back off.” Tad says.
“You’re all mixed up. I get it, I really do. I have spent the last 2 years being pulled in every direction and the 18 before that being molded by my mother more firmly than I ever realized. You’re not sure who you are, football stud, farm boy, sensitive g, head of the family, all of those. Your dad snapping back with it has pushed you out a little, I showed up working on my dream which is so similar to yours. You need to find yourself and let Larry do the same.” Blue says.
“Yeah. I know. Who I am at school is not who I am here and I can’t work out when I’m being real.” Tad says.
“This ice-cream project is a good distraction.” Blue says.
“Yes. I have a million ideas. Lets go for dinner in the city. I know a great vegan place. We can talk through our ideas so we can steer the airheads tomorrow. I had no idea the/ d need help from the ground up.” Tad says.
“Sounds perfect. I thought they just needed help with recipes not an entire business plan. I’m so glad you were there too.” Blue grins.
They get to the restaurant and Blue is delighted to see the menu has several of his favorite foods on it. Other than a little time with Robin he hasn’t had time to explore the city much yet. A dinner out with someone with similar goals feels like just what he needs.
“I love the smoked tofu here. I could just eat it and the sauce forever.” Tad grins.
“You coming back to the veggie side?” Blue asks.
“No, well probably I will be at school but I will have meat if I know where it has come from. Honestly that sandwich.” Tad grins.
They enjoy talking through their ideas and how to steer Nick and Ella on the business and eat a good meal. Blue feels extra at home as a group clearly coming from a yoga class fill the remaining tables.
“Oooo banana pudding. Yum.” Blue says as the dessert menu arrives.
“I’m having bananas and bananas and bananas for dinner.” Ocean says as Robin and Gervais sit down in the booth with him.
Ocean is getting older, very much a pre-teen now. At school he does a very good job of assimilating but at the café, at home and in the gym he is the little kid full of silly jokes, who loves to color, bake and cuddle. He loves being silly around his big brothers and they all indulge him.
“I think you should have turned into a banana by now. Do you ever eat anything else?” Gervais asks with a smile. He got back to school the night before and Cheryl asked them to come in and fill her in on Blue’s state of mind.
“I love bananas best.” Ocean grins and dig in to the plantain, rice and beans his mom brings over.
“Once a week he’s allowed his banana dinner.” Cheryl says indulgently.
“I have a present for you from Blue.” Robin says as Ocean finishes up and Cheryl joins them.
“Really?” Ocean looks up eyes beaming.
“Here.” Robin says handing him the parcel.
“Oh wow. Can I open it now?” Ocean asks Cheryl.
“Yes of course you can.” Cheryl laughs.
He tears off the paper to find new gym shorts, hand guards and a tin of banana toffee and a big bag of sweet banana chips. Robin, Cheryl and Gervais howl with laughter.
“He got this for you.” Robin says handing Cheryl a gift bag which she opens to find a set of vegan soaps and body oils.
“He sure knows what we love.” Cheryl grins.
“We are so excited that you’ll be coming for the summer. You’ll love it. Not as tranquil as being by the lake but his house is lovely and when the land is in shape it will be pretty great.” Robin says.
“We’ve barely explored yet, there are plenty of places we can hike and find some quiet and Blue’s kitchen garden is perfect for morning yoga. Though we will wear clothes with you guys around.” Gervais grins.
“Nude rude yoga.” Ocean says and laughs his head off.
“I’d appreciate you wearing clothes, not sure how I’ll manage in a house full of men, nudity will not help. But Heidi, Abby and Gladys sound like my kind of women and I am sure I’ll find some friends.” Cheryl says with a smile.
“You’ll like them a lot. Blue started a new job today, helping a dairy farm set up an ice-cream sideline.” Robin says proudly.
“Blue makes the bestest ice cream.” Ocean pipes up.
“That sounds absolutely perfect for him. He’ll learn a lot and probably come up with something that tastes amazing.” Cheryl says.
“I worry about him being alone but between the ice cream job and the bakery he’ll be seeing people most days.” Robin says.
“He is happy but I worry too. He needs someone to take care of, to wake up to. He isn’t himself without that.” Gervais says and Cheryl nods.
“I am so relieved you tracked him down and he didn’t turn you away.” Cheryl says.
“He welcomed me. Gladys welcomed me in to her home. I was a major part of the reason he left but he has fully forgiven me. I am so lucky because we are closer than ever. I gave him some fields and he gave me a house for Christmas. We were totally in tune to each other again.” Gervais says.
“All three of us were. It was the best the three of us have been in forever. I get that he couldn’t tell us where he was until he was established and we kind of crashed that but neither of us would suggest he came home. He is in the right place for him.” Robin says.
“And he’s still had no word from anyone else? Nothing from Clara?” Cheryl asks.
“Nothing. He feels thoroughly rejected and replaced. He rejected her too by leaving, by selling up but her total indifference really hurts.” Gervais says.
“Are you feeling hurt by her too? You saw her as your mom.” Cheryl asks.
“I do. Her not being in touch over the holidays did sting. Its that stupid thing I’ve rejected her but I still wanted her to reach out.” Gervais shrugs.
“I expect she didn’t think you needed an invite. But I am sad she didn’t call you at all.” Cheryl says.
“You’re on Blue’s side. She is as much to blame for him leaving as you and Spence.” Robin says.
“I know. I kind of miss her. I don’t know why.” Gervais says.
“Because despite the way she treats Blue she’s an admirable women who has been there for you.” Cheryl says.
“Don’t be sad Gervais, I will look after you.” Ocean says climbing in to Gervais lap and kissing his cheek, the kindness of the child tips Gervais over the edge and the tears begin to fall.
Back at the house its quiet, Magnus and DeShawn are out at a charity auction. Robin and Gervais are snuggling up on the sofa to watch a movie when Andy and Birch knock on the door.
“What do you want?” Gervais asks surprised to see them together.
“Can we come in? We want to talk about Blue.” Birch says.
“I guess.” Gervais says reluctantly.
Robin looks at Birch with a slight pang for the friendship he lost.
“We’re going to track down Blue. Will you help?” Andy asks sitting down.
“Why now?” Robin asks.
“What do you mean?” Birch asks.
“Blue left months ago. What has changed that makes you want to look for him now?” Robin asks determined to give nothing away.
“Clara has whitewashed Blue from the house. It was weird. So weird. Everyone asked after him all the time, all over town but Clara would just change the subject, introduce Chris and Bea as if it was perfectly normal.” Andy says.
“So everyone would ask us, whenever Willow and I were in the café every single person would ask after Blue. We had no idea what to say. I realized just how much I’d got him wrong. I want to apologize to him, properly for how I acted in Australia. I should never have taken Bea’s side. I feel like I need to do this. To put things right.” Birch says.
“For you. Not for him. He knows you were wrong.” Gervais says curtly.
“Do you know anything? Has he given you any clue? Please. We just don’t know where to start. I thought you could maybe hire an investigator.” Andy says and Robin smirks.
“No. I don’t want to invade his privacy, his new life. If he wants to call you he will.” Gervais says firmly.
“Did something happen with his mom? Do you think that is why he left?” Birch asks.
“Birch you’re one of the last people he’d want to talk to about it. You know that. Leave him be” Robin says gently, he’s touched that the pair have finally woken up but it feels way, way too late.
“So you have spoken to him. Is he okay?” Andy asks.
“He’s happy.” Gervais says.
“Good. Chris won’t talk about it and Bea is delighted he’s gone. I’ve been going mad wanting to talk about it to find him but I can’t talk to you two as Chris gets jealous. Katelyn is torn up about it too and Roe but they don’t dare say anything because of Clara. Everything is so f up.” Andy says, eyes
Robin looks at his oldest friend and almost relents. He knows Blue will deal with everyone in his own time and he want to protect Blue, to let him have his safe bubble for as long as possible.
“I need to speak to all the guys in your house. Can I come over tomorrow? Are George and Dylan back?” Gervais asks and Robin gasps remembering that Gervais now owns their house.
“Yeah. Lets have a back to school potluck. Everyone bring a dish. About 5?” Andy suggests,
“I’ll come before as I need to speak to you 5 alone first.” Gervais says.
“Okay. If you talk to Blue again please tell him I miss him and I’m sorry how things went so wrong.” Andy says.
“We will.” Robin says gently.
“If you know where he is we won’t push for an address. We just want to be sure he’s okay. We were stupid to wait so long. I guess you two didn’t. We should have known.” Birch says.
“We needed Blue to know we were his true friends.” Gervais says and Robin nods.
Andy and Birch leaves. Andy feels worse than before. That Robin and Gervais clearly know a lot more than they are letting on saddens him. He misses Blue terribly and knows he’s messed things up even further by being so slow to react. Wanting to keep the peace with Chris has lost him a friend,
He has no idea how Chris truly feels, like Clara he shuts all conversation down. Andy thinks Chris is hurting too much to talk about it, Blue is one loss too many on top of his family.
“Should we tell them?” Robin asks Gervais ask they snuggle later.
“No, Blue didn’t want us to know where he was. We have to keep his location secret.” Gervais says.
“I know. We should tell him though, about Andy and Birch.” Robin says.
“Yeah. We will tell him, its good news, they are slow but they get it.” Gervais says.
“Horrid of Clara to pretend he didn’t exist.” Robin says.
“She’s a bitch, an utter bitch.” Gervais says and they cuddle and fall asleep together.
“Shall I come with you?” Robin asks the next afternoon.
“If you want. I won’t say no to the support and I might need help not murdering Bea.” Gervais says.
“Oh boy, I am coming to support you but also as I want to see their faces.” Robin grins wickedly.
“I figured.” Gervais grins back.
“I love you G. They can’t hurt you without going through me.” Robin says.
“I love you too. Lets do this.” Gervais says and they walk down the street holding hands.