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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

The Acquittal - 17. Chapter 16

Kyle was in his office Friday morning, going over the notes and the reports on all the evidence compiled from the crime scene. Once he felt satisfied with it, he would have the police end their work there and start moving onto other potential leads. He hadn’t planned on being here and he really had nothing else to do officially so he was wearing casual shorts and a blue polo shirt in the office instead of his usual suit and tie. What he was seeing so far wasn’t encouraging. Even after pointing out the raised toilet seat, there was no obvious evidence to be found but he have them go over every inch of the bathroom, looking for any potential DNA evidence just in case they got lucky.

Jeff had frowned at him the day before when he came in. Kyle knew better than to go near him or get another stern talking to. Yeah, he was still supposed to be on vacation so he wasn’t technically supposed to be here but his only other alternative was to sit at home alone. That wasn’t an option since Wednesday and yesterday when he was at his townhouse all he thought about was Jacob and what he said to him the night before he left.

He sat there for a couple hours, slowly reading through the list of items collected, waiting or hoping to see anything that would stick out in his mind but so far he had no success. He was hoping Steph would show up and start helping him go through the evidence with him and maybe point out something he may have missed. Checking the time on his phone he frowned slightly. It was still too early to call the medical examiner to see if she had found anything. But more than anything, he wished he was back home. Home with his dad and his son. Enjoying the warm day outside walking around the groves and being a family. Well, almost a family. He wished Jacob was a part of that but their last meeting left him feeling that it wasn’t something that could happen no matter how much he would like it to. It had hurt and he was still feeling the sting of that rejection three days later. He regretted leaving Matt behind but felt he was in better hands there than here if he was going to stay busy.

A knock on his door frame broke him from his thoughts. He looked up expecting to see Steph only to find a guy, slightly shorter than him with dark auburn hair, tanned skin and a questioning gaze. He spoke with a young masculine voice that was tinged with uncertainty. “You’re Mr. Howard, right?”

Nodding he confirmed, “Kyle, yeah. Who’re you?”

The man stepped into his office, extending his hand out, “I’m Mike. Michael Haag. I’m the intern assigned to you.”

Kyle stood up, staring at him with a little surprise as he received a firm handshake. “I wasn’t aware I was getting an intern.”

“Ah,” The man blushed slightly and seemed a little embarrassed as he said, “well, I guess Mr. Masterson felt you needed the help and, well he just hired me earlier this week.”

Kyle looked him over. Mike seemed to fill out his suit pretty well and while he might be a bit shy that was probably more due to nerves than actually having a shy personality. “When did you pass your bar?”

“Three weeks ago,” the young man gave him a small smile that Kyle thought made him look rather cute and brought out a pleasant smile of his own.

“Alright then,” he said, still smiling. “Have you been informed what I’m working on?”

Realizing he’d been accepted, Mike’s smile and body relaxed slightly as he nodded. “Yeah. Murder investigation. Mr. Masteron said there wasn’t much to go on yet.” He looked down at Kyle’s desk, seeing it littered with papers. “Apparently, he hasn’t been in here yet.”

Kyle motioned to a chair as he sat down, Mike pulling the chair up to the desk and looking at it all curiously. “Plenty of stuff in the house, none of it that I’ve found relevant yet. I’ve spent the last couple hours reading up on it all.”

The intern picked up a seemingly discarded page on the desk and looked it over as he responded, “shouldn’t the police be going over all this?”

“They are,” Kyle assured, “but I spent a couple summers getting extra credits in criminal investigations so I like going through the crime scene when I can.”

“You went to the crime scene,” Mike looked at him again, seemingly impressed.

“It’s no big deal,” Kyle muttered dismissively as he looked back to the paper he had been reviewing. “Okay, Mike, what we need to do is go over all of this. I’m looking for any indication that there was a guy there. About the only hint I got when I was there was the toilet seat being left up. I didn’t see any blood on it so I assume whoever it was took a piss before the murder.”

“Huh,” Mike grunted. “I remember seeing something on TV about how when you stand to piss, if you flush with the bowl uncovered, the force will spray up and all over the place. It’s just so fine you can’t see it unless it’s under a blacklight.”

“Ok. You’re weird,” he chuckled kiddingly. “But, I’ve heard worse ideas. I’ll have Harris swab the bathroom down and see if we pick up anything.”

Mike smiled, pleased he was being taken seriously. “Well, if I come up with any other weird ideas I’ll be sure to pass them on.”

“There are no stupid ideas at this point in the process,” Kyle remarked. “And I like weird.” He glanced up and saw Mike’s blue eyes sparkling in the light of the room. He maintained a pleasant face but inwardly he suddenly felt awkward. He knew that look from his college days. Jason used to give him that look right before… he shook his head to clear that thought and went back to what he was reading.

There was little talk for awhile as they went from page to page. Mike occasionally asked questions pertaining to the reports in front of them or pointed out something he thought might be of interest. Kyle dutifully highlighted anything for later inspections. Kyle could feel Mike’s eyes upon him occasionally and did his best to pretend to ignore it. Last thing he needed was a sexual harassment suit. He did admit the guy was attractive but right now the last thing he needed was to get tangled up with an intern. The silence between them was suddenly broken by a loud gurgling noise from what could have only been Mike’s stomach. Kyle slowly looked up from the paper he was reading and regarded the intern as his face blushed crimson. “Oh, God! I’m sorry,” he said laughing nervously. “I guess I haven’t eaten in awhile.”

Kyle glanced at the time on his phone and stood up. “Well, we better go feed it before your stomach goes on a rampage.”

He stood up, still embarrassed, trying to make light of it, “it’s fine. I can just run down the hall real quick and get a candy bar or something.”

Kyle locked eyes with him and said sternly, “grab a legal pad and a pen. We’re going to lunch and talk over some stuff.” The young man obeyed and followed Kyle on his way out of the office. As he passed by his secretary, Kyle informed her he was out to lunch in case anyone would be looking for him.

Minutes later, he and Mike were walking down the street casually on their way to Jackson House a couple blocks down. Kyle walked in casual and confident only then noticing Mike’s distinct unease. “What’s the matter,” he asked him.

“Well,” he paused a sheepish look forming on his face as his eyes glanced down, “I’m kind of broke at the moment.”

“Oh,” Kyle said with a slight pause before adding casually, “is that all? Don’t worry. Order whatever you want. I’ll take care of it.”

“But, I can’t repay you.” his sheepish look became more uncomfortable with each passing second.

“Good. I didn’t ask you too.” Kyle turned and started giving the young woman across the counter his order. When he finished he turned to Mike and glared at him until he finally stepped up and ordered as well. Mike turned his head, looking like he was expecting a reprimand. Kyle just smirked, brown eyes laughing as he playfully but gently pushed Mike aside and handed the woman his credit card to pay for the meals.

A few minutes of patient waiting the silent pair got their meals and moved to a plain white table with two chairs and sat down to eat. “Mr. Howard, you really didn’t have to do that.” The younger man gazed up as him over a tuft of reddish brown hair which he carefully pushed aside.

“Call me Kyle, Mike,” he said in a friendly tone, “we’re going to be working together for awhile and I’m gonna get irritated each time you pull out the ‘Mr. Howard’ bullshit.”

He snickered and replied, “Alright. Kyle, then.” They took a few bites each of their burgers, Mike occasionally glancing up at him. About halfway through his meal Mike said casually, “you’re not what I was expecting.”

Kyle chuckled silently. “And what were you expecting?”

He shrugged and said, “everyone at the office said you were kind of sullen and sometimes a jerk. You don’t talk much unless it’s about work and you almost never smile.”

Kyle sat there for a moment with a blank face, almost shocked but knowing that those who warned Mike about him were mostly correct. He had to admit over the last couple years he had been exactly as Mike just described him. Matt’s birth had mellowed him somewhat but the reality was that he had carried his anger and pain around with him wherever he went. But now, with the past mostly settled, it allowed him to be himself rather than the guarded untrusting person he had been around the people he worked with. “I can’t say they were wrong. Things change, though. I guess I changed in the last week or so.”

“To be honest,” Mike said carefully, “I was a little scared about it after they told me all of that. But, now that I’ve met you, you’re a really great guy and I’m looking forward to learning from you.”

“Well, I’ll say thank you now because in a couple months you’ll probably be regretting all of this.” Kyle grinned widely and Mike’s smile came easily. It was a handsome smile, Kyle had to admit.

“If you say so,” he replied with an honest smile. “I think I’ll end up liking you even more than I like you now.”

Kyle hid his surprise behind his burger as he took the final bite. He was definitely being hit on. He felt like he should politely shut him down but a part of him didn’t want to. As he chewed, he watched this new person without expression. He could encourage it and see where it went but that could end up shutting some doors he wasn’t quite ready to shut just yet. Best to just ignore it for now and keep things professional. He finished his burger and wiped his hands before saying, “get the legal pad ready. Let’s go over some notes for interviews next week.”


Jacob was readying his power drill, double checking it before he said to Tyler and Andy, “Ok. Just keep it steady and this should only take a minute to get it off.” Jacob fitted the drill bit into the first screw and pulled the trigger. The drill whirred to life, extracting one, two then three screws from the back door of the house before he stuffed them in his pocket and readied to unscrew the next hinge.

“Should’ve started at the bottom,” Andy said as he tightened his grip on the door. Jacob ignored him as he started the drill again, taking out the screws in the center door hinge.

Tyler gave off a surprised grunt as the door tried to tear itself away but he held it steady, his young muscles straining. “Wow, this is heavier than I thought.”

“Don’t you dare split my door, Jacob, or I’ll split your ass,” came David’s amused voice.

“You and what army, old man,” he muttered as he fitted the drill bit into the first of the final three screws.

“I heard that!” David laughed as he held Matt’s hand, keeping him safely away from potential harm as Jacob’s drill extracted the final three screws.

“Ok, it’s off. Ease it down gently,” He directed as the heavy oak door was suddenly freed from the door frame. Tyler stepped back a few paces as the door tilted down towards him, Andy carefully reaching down to the bottom of the door to support that end while Tyler got the top. Together they started walking it slowly down the ramp towards Jacob’s workshop.

“And how long is this going to take again,” David asked Jacob dubiously.

Jacob stood, storing the screws into his pocket with the rest and looked over at him. “At most, probably about five hours. I gotta deepen the etchings on the door for this to work.”

David eyed him, uncertain. “But it’ll be back up before dark?”

“That’s the plan,” He smiled a little trying to show some confidence. In truth, he hadn’t tried this technique on anything as big as a door. He’d played with it in his workshop, trying to get the technique down, called up a few carpenters he knew and emailed another up in Canada who he had seen online do this kind of design and was hoping he could reproduce it himself. He glanced down at the gleaming smile Matt gave him as he gazed up at him. Jacob knelt down and said, “I’m gonna be working for a couple hours so I’m gonna need a hug to tide me over until then, ok?”

Matt released himself from his grandfather’s hold and rushed into Jacob’s arms, giving him a tight hug that Jacob was all too happy to return. He gave the boy a peck on the cheek before releasing him and hurrying out of the empty doorway to catch up with Andy and Tyler. He hurried past them and opened the door to the workshop, helping Tyler get the door inside without any scratches and getting it face up on the largest table he had in his workshop. “Thank you both for your help. I’ll text you in about five hours when I get close to getting this thing done.”

“It’s gonna take you five hours just to redo the door,” Tyler asked him curiously.

“Naw,” Jacob chuckled. “About an hour to rework the door. A couple more hours after that for everything to set. I just hope it works like I plan.”

“So, what is it exactly,” Andy asked curious. He and Tyler hadn’t been told what he was doing only that he needed help getting the door into the shop.”

“You’ll find out soon enough,” he said cryptically with a small grin.

Andy rolled his eyes, “Come on, Tyler, we gotta get back to work,” he put a hand on the boy’s shoulder to lead him out.

He stopped and stuttered a little in protest, “well w-wait. Wouldn’t it go faster if you had help?”

Jacob was busy reaching for his power sander so he didn’t see the hopeful look in Tyler’s eyes. “I can’t do anything about how long it takes to set. Besides, I usually work best on my own here. Thanks for the offer though.” He looked up and gave Tyler and Andy a friendly smile.

“Come on,” Andy repeated. He feeling a little sorry for the young boy. He’d been crushing for months over Jacob who just never seemed to notice.

Once the door to his workshop closed, Jacob got to work sanding off the finish as quickly as possible. This was one of his first real artistic attempts and it had been well received by David and the others. He’d been wanting to try something bolder but hadn’t the courage or knowhow back then. But now he was ready and willing to try new things and new ideas. He had seen some images online and watched a couple videos which spurred him to finally give it a try.

As so often happens with him when he applies himself to his work, the rest of the world fell away. After sanding and making sure the grain was still smooth, he prepared to start digging and widening the design that had been etched into the wood. Admittedly, it was a fine idea at the time, however it never quite stood out the way Jacob had hoped. He’d started looking at it as a failure on his part, though he kept that opinion to himself since the people around him would insist on telling him otherwise. Just because he admits he failed doesn’t mean he sees himself as a failure anymore.

Years ago when he was still forced to live under an abusive father and deal with his rages and hate over the majority of his childhood, having Kyle and his friends show actual concern and love towards him helped him to see himself in a new light. If not for Kyle leaving him the way he did, he might be even better than he was now. But that’s how life is and he’s gotten used to it. He doesn’t see a loser when he looks at himself in a mirror anymore. He saw himself and nothing more. He was fine with who he was and his own ability. He just wished everyone else would see that as well and stop treating him like he was still broken.

He’d spent the morning dwelling on his fight with Kyle and feeling like he had said too much or not used the right words. Troy was right in that he owed Kyle an apology. His anger got the better of him and instead of sharing his feelings he inflicted his pain on Kyle. No matter how he felt, Kyle didn’t deserve that. But, he’d be back later tonight and they could hash it out again if Kyle was willing. He’s already put Kyle through enough and it wasn’t fair of him to heap more on him. He’d also like to hear more about what pulled him away so quickly too.

With slow, careful precision, he began using his tools to widen and deepen the design in the door, being careful not to go too far too fast or risk damaging the wood. I took him four days to build this door and he didn’t have a replacement on hand if he screwed up. He couldn’t let David’s back door to the house remain an empty hole anyone or anything could walk through. He hoped not many bugs would get into the house either. The last thing he wanted was Dad or Matt getting bitten because of him.

He had to slow his work as he started picturing the diminutive child with the bright smiling face he’d grown so accustomed to seeing in the house. He’d enjoyed spending all his time with the boy the day before, showing him around the groves and helping him pick some of the apples that were just now fully ripened. His delight was infectious and gave him a new appreciation for everything around him. He could remember the first time he came here with Kyle as a teenager and being awestruck by the beauty it all held. Over the years he’d gotten so accustomed to seeing it every day it had started to feel ordinary. Seeing it through the eyes of a child brought back some of the magic to him and he hoped this project would do the same for everyone else.

After an hour spent doing painstaking work retooling intricate etchings to suit his needs he prepared the solution and began slowly pouring it into the deep grooves in the wood. Mindful of spills, he kept a steady hand through the whole process and within a few minutes, he was pressing the door again to seal it, clamping it to hold the resin in place while it dried. He sat back and looked at it, hoping that in a few hours, he could be done and maybe by tonight or tomorrow night everyone else could enjoy the work he put into this moment.


When Kyle finally pulled into town, night had already settled in and the dark skies were covered in a blanket of clouds that obscured the stars and moon. He should have started back sooner but he had spent longer in the office with Mike than he intended to. As they got closer to a stopping point he had been asking Kyle a lot of questions about the office and how he got into the position he had now. Kyle had felt obligated to give Mike pointers on how to work his way through the office and his best options for promotions in the future. He found Mike to be bright, confident and a fun guy to be around.

When they got ready to leave the office Mike had seemed disappointed that they were done for the day but optimistic that he could handle the tasks Kyle set out for him over the coming week. He promised to see him again Monday morning bright and early, ready to tackle their lists of interviews they each had to get done to get things rolling along. Hopefully by that time, more evidence would make itself known when the autopsy report came in. Detective Harris and Mike both had his number in case there were any developments over the weekend but for the most part, he just wanted to get back to his son.

He snorted and smirked slightly, shaking his head a little in disbelief. He hadn’t thought of this town or that house as home in nearly a decade. Now, being away for a couple days left him feeling wistful. He had texted his dad before he left town and got a reply that they would be home and also to pick up swimming trunks for Matt at his place. Everything taken care of, showered and changed and a small bag full of clothes for him and Matt, he pulled up the drive, his headlights hitting the back of the house as he parked.

The light over the back door was on which brought a smile to his lips. He stepped out of his car and grabbed his bags. He could smell the familiar tinge in the air that told him that rain was coming soon. Off in the distance he thought he heard a muted rumble of thunder. He walked up the ramp and noticed the door looked different somehow. He was too tired from being in the office all day reading papers over and over to figure it out. Papers he had brought with him that he knew he shouldn’t because he’ll dwell on it without being able to figure it out. He slipped his key into the lock and heard it click before turning the knob and opened the door.

The kitchen was lit only by a single dim light over the sink so he was careful stepping inside in case he tripped on anything. As he shut and locked the door behind him he saw a dark silhouette in the doorway leading into the hall. He paused for a second before the figure stepped forward and said, “shhh.” His father’s bearded face was smiling and his eyes sparkled in the dim light around him. “Be quiet.”

“Why,” he whispered.

His dad motioned with one hand, grinning widely, urging him to follow as he carefully walked down the mostly darkened hallway. Kyle followed, hearing soft noises coming from the television in the living room. His mouth formed a half-smirk as he stepped into the doorway, curious about the need for caution. His dad stood there in the middle of the room looking at him in muted excitement and then pointing to the couch that was against the wall next to the doorway. Kyle had to walk around to see what his father found so amusing and was halted in his tracks as the occupants came into view.

Kyle’s half-smirk blossomed into a surprised, euphoric smile, looking down at Jacob, asleep on his back wearing just his shorts and a tank top. His long hair laying on the arm of the couch as he slowly breathed in and out. On top of him, with one strong arm wrapped over him protectively was his sleeping Matthew, wearing just a pair of pajama pants, his head turned to the side looking just as peaceful as Jacob. His arms were stretched out as if he were holding onto him.

“As you can see,” his father whispered in his ear, “they’ve been getting along pretty well the last couple days.”

Kyle didn’t speak but looked down at the two of them as they slept. The emotions inside him were mixed as his eyes took in every detail. This was the man who a couple days ago ripped him to shreds while he was trying to apologize to him. But he looked so peaceful and even in his sleep Kyle could clearly see Jacob’s devotion to Matt. Behind him he heard a click and looked behind his shoulder only to see his father’s phone sliding back into his pocket. “Should I just leave him there,” he asked quietly so as to not wake them.

“Don’t,” David said simply, “Matt’s dying to see you. They only just fell asleep thirty minutes ago. Jacob shouldn’t sleep this early or else he’ll be a mess tomorrow taking the kids swimming with Andy and the others. You could go to, you know.”

Kyle knelt down next to the sleeping duo. His hand carefully brushed through his son’s hair that had covered part of his face. When he got no reaction he leaned in closer and whispered, “Matthew, daddy’s here.”

The little boy’s eyes fluttered open slowly, sleep still trying to vie for dominance but once he focused on the face in front of him, his lips parted into a happy smile as he whispered, “daddy!”

Kyle grinned holding his arms out to him as Matt crawled carefully out from under Jacob’s arm. Reaching out, he pulled the boy into him and held him close as he stood up, feeling that familiar bond as his child’s head turned and laid upon his shoulder. “You were a good boy for grandpa and Jacob, huh?”

Jacob’s eyes opened, awakened by the sudden cold air on his chest where Matt had been a moment earlier, he instinctively reached out but found nothing until his eyes looked up and saw Kyle standing over him with his son in his arms. He smiled a little as he moved to sit up on the couch. “Hey.”

Looking down at Jacob, he managed a small smile that didn’t reach his eyes. His voice was neutral, revealing nothing of what he was feeling. “Hi. Did you two have fun while I was gone?”

Jacob looked up at him. He noticed the smile that had no warmth behind it, looking like someone who was just being polite and nothing more. “Yeah,” he muttered, his own smile faded. “We had a great time together.”

Kyle gave his son a peck on his cheek and muttered, “well, sorry I had to leave so quick. I brought some work here with me I need to go over. Dad, can I borrow your office for awhile? I kind of need some quiet while I go over some stuff.”

David looked between his two boys and nodding absently said, “sure. Help yourself. Jacob and I will be up for a couple more hours.”

“Thanks,” he squeezed the lovable boy in his arms once and whispered to him, “bedtime for my Baby Boy. Say goodnight to grandpa and Jacob.”

David grinned and leaned over, giving his grandson a kiss on the top of his head as he muttered, “goodnight, sweetheart.”

“Goodnight,” the child mumbled. He turned his head a little and smiled sweetly down as the dark-haired man, “goodnight, Jacob.”

Jacob managed a smile for the little boy and waved slightly. “Goodnight, Matt.”

Kyle stepped out of the room, taking the boy upstairs, gently swaying him in his arms until he got to his bedroom. He laid Matt down on the bed, covering him with the sheet and blanket before turning on the small lamp on the desk nearby. They talked for a little bit so Matt could tell him about all the fun he had over the last few days. Kyle noted that Jacob’s name came up repeatedly. Matt’s eyes seemed to light up whenever he said the name. Kyle giggled and gave into the urge to tickle Matt to hear him laugh before he knew it was time he was asleep. He smiled down at the boy one last time and gave him a goodnight kiss before he exited the room, closing the door softly on his way out. Heading back outside, he retrieved his bag and his briefcase before heading back inside locking the door behind him. Stopping to grab a soda from the fridge, he went down the hallway towards the back of the house and slipped into his father’s office.

Closing the door and turning on the lights, he made quick work of setting himself up on the small leather sofa, putting his drink and briefcase down on the coffee table in front of it. His father’s office was almost as large as the living room with ample space for the leather sofa and two high backed chairs in the center. At the far end of the room was a large oak desk where his father did all of the paperwork for the house and the orchard. It wasn’t the most comfortable and inviting room of the house but it served its function. A quiet place in the house away from most of the noise to work in peace. He opened his case and pulled the notepad out he and Mike had been working on together, intending to go over the list once again and making sure he had all current known contacts lined up for calls on Monday. As he got settled in, he heard another rumble of thunder and the first few taps of raindrops hitting the window behind him.

The longer he looked over the list the more problems he ran into. He realized that this was going to take longer than he had thought. For all he knew, this case could go on for a year before he had all the evidence collected, a suspect found, arrested and arraigned. Sighing, he reached over for his soda and took a drink. As the rain seemed to come down harder outside, a flash of light brightened the room for a second before the booming thunder rolled over the house. Kyle started scribbling notes on another page in his notepad and had the page almost entirely covered when he heard a soft knock on the door. “Yeah,” he mumbled without looking up.

He heard the door open and then close, his attention directed at his work when Jacob’s voice softly filled the silence between them. “Hey. Wasn’t sure if you were hungry or not. Thought I’d ask before it got too late.”

Kyle kept his eyes on his work, much the same way he had the first day he came back. “It’s already nine at night. I’m fine. I stopped and got something to eat before I left town.”

Jacob took a step forward. “Is everything ok?”

Kyle shrugged indifferently keeping his eyes on his work. “Well, there’s a dead woman whose murderer the police have yet to find. I’m putting together lists of people to interview next week to help them and hopefully build a case. My boss saddled me with a fresh off the truck intern who’s very eager to please me but he’s the only help I have and has no investigative skills to speak of at the moment other than something he saw on The Learning Channel. I’m waiting on reports and potential leads and, oh, yeah, you told me to fuck off. So, here I am. Fucking off.”

Jacob frowned slightly. It wasn’t his intention to make this combative. He took another step and said, “I was angry and I lashed out. You surprised me with something and I didn’t know how to deal with it.”

Kyle sighed and put the papers down in his hands, leaning back on the leather sofa, staring upside down through the window. “Please, God, don’t apologize again. I’m tired of hearing it.”

“What do you want me to say then,” his face darkened slightly as his frown deepened.

“You already said everything, ” Kyle replied. “I’m done apologizing for my mistakes. I forgave you for yours. I understand if you can’t forgive mine.”

“I never said I didn’t forgive you,” he muttered in defence. “What, you think I didn’t realize how bad I made things?!”

“Well, it sure didn’t feel like there was a lot of forgiveness last time we were talking.”

Jacob looked down at the floor and took a breath, trying to work this out. “Look… I was angry and I’m really not sorry that I was angry. You said it yourself that you deserved it. I am sorry that I took it too far. I didn’t mean what I said when I compared you to my dad.”

“It’s ok if you felt that way,” he replied. “We’re just fucked up.”

“No,” he said. “I just need time, is all. It’s not all about you, Kyle. I’ve spent all my life pretending everything was okay when it wasn’t. Everything inside me just feels jumbled up right now.”

“You seem to not have a problem with Matt,” he countered, finally looking over at him.

Jacob’s eyes narrowed which brought a smirk to Kyle’s face. “Speaking of… I have a question for you about that and I want a truthful answer. No bullshit, no half-assed answers.” He moved closer and sat down next to him, looking him right in the eyes. “If David died before you got back, would you even be here now? Would any of us even know Matt existed?”

Kyle looked away from him for a moment. His heart lurched for a moment thinking about what might have happened and it wasn’t a pleasant feeling. He turned his head back to regard Jacob as he said, “I can’t answer that. You know I can’t. And it sounds like you just want another argument and I’m not going to give you one.”

“I’m not...” He sighed and looked away. “Maybe I am. I don’t know.” A flash of lightning outside and the patter of rain hitting the house filled the space between them. The house shook slightly as the thunder rolled over the land. “Do you believe me when I said I’m sorry about the other night?”

Kyle looked at him for a moment and said quietly, “yes. I believe you. The reason why it hurt was because you had never been the kind of person to intentionally hurt someone like that before. Or at least, hurt me.”

“I was lashing out.” He said in a flat voice. “I wanted to make you feel how I felt.”

“Well, you got your wish.”

“It’s late.” Standing up slowly, Jacob began walking out of the room. He knew this wasn’t going to get settled now while they were both still full of resentments. “Pancakes and eggs for breakfast in the morning. Matt said he wanted them. Don’t be late.”

Kyle just nodded as Jacob left the room, closing the door behind him. In the silence that was left in his wake, Kyle took stock of what just happened. Sitting there as he replayed the last few minutes he got a sense that if Jacob meant what he said, then him being here wasn’t helping. He didn’t want to leave really, but maybe if there was some time apart it would be for the best. Then again, he had to think about what was best for his son as well. He needed to be the father Matt deserves not one that was disjointed over a former lover who couldn’t decide if he was going to be a friend, a lover or nothing at all. And if they couldn’t come to a good outcome he didn’t want Matt becoming attached to Jacob.

Decision made, he put his things back into his briefcase and closed it up. Turning out the light on his way out he carefully made his way upstairs to his bedroom just as the full strength of the thunderstorm came over the house. He went into the room finding Matt asleep despite the storm outside the window. Locking the door behind him, he got out of his shorts and shirt and slipped on a pair of loose nylon shorts. It wasn’t very often that he shared a bed with his son but it was never something he disliked. He was careful as he got into bed and laid down behind his son, pulling the sheet over the both of them. The boy made a small, sleepy noise as Kyle put his arm around him. Matt’s nearly sleeping body moved closer to him and finally curled up against his chest. Smiling softly, he held him close.


The next morning saw Kyle and his son there for breakfast downstairs with his dad and Jacob. There was polite discussion as David asked Kyle about what he was working on. He gave his dad the general points on the case but didn’t get into specifics because there were too few and he wasn’t sure what would eventually check out and what wouldn’t. Jacob would make a remark when Matt wasn’t trying to get his attention but they were very few. Kyle would politely give a simple response and nothing more.

David watched the two of them interact and it was beginning to annoy him. He had said some things to the both of them but they both seemed uninterested in what the other said. As the minutes ticked by, their “polite talk” was starting to wear on his patience and the tension in the room was such that even Matt had quieted down. The only thing that kept his tongue in check was the fact that the two of them weren’t kids anymore and they should know what they’re doing.

“What time are we supposed to be going to the pool,” Kyle asked casually without looking up from his plate.

“Andy and Troy said about three in the afternoon,” Jacob replied. “I thought we might go earlier. I was going to get a little workout in since I haven’t had time in the last week.”

Without looking up, Kyle said, “Not sure I’m looking for a workout. And I want Matt and I done before it gets too late. It’s a long drive back home.”

“You’re leaving tonight,” David asked as he looked over at him with a frown. Jacob kept his face measured but his eyes darted over to Matt and then back to his plate.

“I got a job to do,” he answered simply. “The sooner I get back the more rested I’ll be for Monday. I’m going to be busy day and night the next couple weeks.”

“Are you still planning on coming back next weekend for Labor Day,” David asked, trying to not sound disappointed.

Kyle looked over at his dad and shrugged. “I’m going to try. Probably just for Saturday and Sunday, though.”

“We’ll discuss it more when you guys get home,” David said quietly, letting the statement linger there almost as a threat.

Kyle just nodded and went back to his food, keeping his eye on Matt as he ate. He wasn’t wild about letting Matt use a fork but his dad assured him he could do it. Dubious but knowing better than to try to override his father, he just kept a closer watch on his son until they were done. “Ok, baby boy,” he said as he stood up, “time to get you cleaned up and we can go spend some time outside before we go swimming.” The boy grinned and gobbled up his last piece of bacon, leaving part of a pancake in front of him behind as he reached out for his dad to lift him up and setting him down on the floor before the two of them joined hands and headed upstairs.

David and Jacob sat there quietly, both of them with their thoughts turned inward. Finally, David stood up and muttered something about needing to make a phone call before he left the kitchen. Jacob remained seated, picking at the last bits on his plate, thinking over the last few days. As his thoughts wandered, he got the sense that he was a little boy again and he was in trouble.


Kyle insisted on driving to the gym with Matt in the backseat. Jacob mumbled something about meeting them there but Kyle gave him an exasperated look and said in a sharp voice, “oh, just get in. A three minute drive isn’t going to kill you.”

“Depends on your driving,” he muttered in response as he got into the passenger seat attempting to lighten the mood. Kyle didn’t reply as he pulled out of his parking spot near the back door to the house and headed down the drive to the connecting road. He kept the radio on to fill the silence, glancing in his rearview mirror to make sure Matt was safely secure in his carseat. Matt sat there, smiling, oblivious to what was going on in the front of the car as he drove to the gym.

Looking back on that trip, they would both agree it was the longest three minutes of their lives. Kyle couldn’t bring himself to say anything and Jacob wasn’t much better as he stared blankly out of the side window. He felt like his heart was being stretched in multiple directions and he couldn’t decide which way was the safest or the best course. Kyle was counting down the hours until he could convincingly go back home without anyone thinking he was just trying to get out of there. He hated disappointing his dad but staying any longer than necessary was going to make him hard to deal with both at work and at home. He was looking at long months of paperwork, interviews and meetings with detectives and coroner staff. That and caring for a three year old on his own made it feel like the weight of the world on his shoulders.

He pulled into the closest parking space he could find and shut off the engine before stepping out of the car without a word to his passenger. Walking around the car at a brisk pace as Jacob climbed out of his seat, he quickly opened the back door and carefully extracted Matt from his carseat. “Gonna go swimming with your new friends today,” he beamed a smile at his son, “you gonna have fun?”

Matt loved swimming and loved swimming with his dad so he was laughing with joy as his dad picked him up. “Where’s the pool, daddy?”

“It’s inside, sweetheart,” he said as he shut the door once they were safely clear. Jacob stood there, a silent question in his eyes if he was supposed to help with Matt. He received his answer when Kyle carried Matt past him towards the entrance to the gym. Jacob sighed and followed behind them silently. This isn’t what he was hoping for today.

It was officially the last weekend before school started. For Carter and Blake, that didn’t mean anything yet. They’d continue going to the house everyday while their parents worked. Chase and Tanner would be starting second and first grade this year and the friends wanted to give their children one last fun weekend together before schoolwork started to interrupt their innocent, carefree lives.

He walked in behind Kyle and signed in while Kyle bought a temporary visitors pass for him and his son. While he had to deal with paperwork, Jacob moved past him and headed into the locker room. Working the combination on the lock to his locker, he felt empty inside. He had been looking forward to today all week and even was getting Matt excited about it when they were spending time together. The thought of spending time with the little boy made him aware of the fact that he hadn’t gotten to touch him since he woke up earlier last night when Kyle took him. He had gotten used to feeling Matt in his arms or on his lap. The tickling and holding his hand as they walked through the groves.

He changed while pushing the thoughts aside about Kyle and Matt. It was mostly out of his hands now. He could come back and change to swim later. Right now, he just wanted to lift weights and try to get back to a normal life. He hadn’t been here to workout in over a week with the business around the house, David in the hospital and his own work on top of the sudden shifts in his life. He heard but didn’t acknowledge Kyle entering the room moments later. Hearing a slew of questions coming out of Matt’s mouth caused a small grin to form on his lips. As he set the weights, he laid down to start his bench press set.

Jacob tried to zone out and focus on his lifting but he had a constant nagging feeling that made his eyes scan the room, checking for Matt to make sure he wasn’t doing anything he shouldn’t be. He found him and Kyle at a couple treadmills near the front windows on the other side of the room. Kyle was jogging at a steady pace while Matt sat on the next one, playing a game on his dad’s phone. The child was safe but he couldn’t shake the need to double-check every few moments between lifts. Eventually he moved over to the leg press machine, keeping his attention divided between his workout and eyeing the boy.

It was a while later that his attention was shifted by a soft, sarcastic voice behind him. “Having lots of fun, I can see.” He whipped his head around and saw Brian wearing workout clothes, arms folded over his chest, looking at him with narrow, critical eyes.

“Nice job sneaking up on me,” he remarked. “What’s up?”

“What do you think,” Brian let his arms fall to his side as he walked over to an adjoining machine. “Andy’s getting the boys prepped for the pool. I’m in here to do a few sets to keep in shape and keep up with him.”

“Troy should be here soon, I guess,” he remarked, bracing himself as he started his leg routine.

“Don’t strain yourself too much or you won’t get to enjoy the pool with the boys.” Brian’s voice was quiet but there was a hint of an edge to it that Jacob found curious.

“Everything ok,” he paused to ask looking over at Brian who was doing some simple curls at a low weight.

Making a dismissive noise he muttered, “everything’s fine with me…”

Jacob wasn’t in a mood to decipher the remark so he let it drop and focused more on his legs. He caught movement towards the front of the room. Glancing over, he saw Andy in nothing but a pair of swimming trunks with his boys who were similarly dressed kneeling down in front of a smiling Matt, offering his hand to boy and then leading the three children out of the weight room. He noticed Kyle slowed his pace on his treadmill to watch and wave at his son as he went with Andy and the boys before returning his attention to his run. A flash of resentment went through him as he watched Kyle smile.

Some time later, after finishing his leg presses and started his butterfly curls he caught sight of Troy coming into the weight room from the doorway Andy exited earlier. His face was set in a deep frown as he stopped to look around the room. His eyes locked onto Kyle and then moved to where Jacob and Brian were working. Eyes narrowing, he half-walked half-stomped up to Jacob, stopping inches from him giving him a stern look. “One hour for the boys to swim and have some fun before we all head back to David’s for pizza.”

Jacob stared up at him looking up at him with a confused and hurt look. “What’s going on? You sound pissed.”

“We’ll talk about that later,” Troy said. “If you wanna spend time with the kids, now is the best time.” Without waiting for an answer, Troy marched over towards Kyle, looking like he was stomping to work whatever anger he had out of him before tapping Kyle on the shoulder. “The kids are in the pool if you wanna join them. We’re here for an hour and then going back to your dad’s house for pizza.” After seeing Kyle nod in acknowledgement he leaned in closer and added with a dark look in his eyes. “Try and remember we are here for the boys to have fun.”

Kyle seemed shocked by him but Troy turned and walked away without waiting for any kind of reply. He slowed his pace as he shut down the treadmill. Finally stepping off he stretched his legs a little before he moved towards the door. Brian was already moving which forced Jacob to abandon his workout or risk being left out. He kept a discrete distance behind the others as they went to clean up before going to the pool room.

The sonic assault of five squealing children hit his ears as Jacob stepped inside. A smile came slowly to his face as he observed the boys splashing around in the pool. Matt and Blake were in the shallowest side of the pool, laughing and playing together while the other three were racing back and forth with Andy in the water nearby. Troy had already removed his shirt and slipped into the water, coming up to Blake and Matt, surprising Matt with a quick tug on his waist. As Kyle and Brian joined them, the men relaxed themselves playing with the boys and talking among themselves. Jacob stripped his tank top off and dove into the deep end. He hadn’t been on the team with the others back in their school days but he was still a fair swimmer in his own right and took a little pride in having helped Troy teach Chase how to swim when he was younger.

He was relaxing in the water, eyes closed, after chasing Carter around the deeper end of the pool when he felt a splash of water hit his face. He shook his head, opening his eyes to see Brian and Blake grinning at him inches away from him. Jacob gave Blake a mock-threatening look causing him to squeal with laughter as race away. Jacob made a half-hearted lunge but let him escape as he snickered.

“Finally,” Brian quipped. “Wasn’t sure if I was gonna get to see a smile on your face today, grumpy.”

“I’m not grumpy,” he said casually. “Just had a lot of stuff on my mind lately.”

“Anything on your mind in particular,” he asked, his eyes gazing across the pool towards where Kyle was holding Matt next to Andy as the two of them were talking.

“Not thinking about Andy if that’s what you mean.” He sank lower into the water until the water was just below his chin.

“Cut the bullshit.” Brian floated closer to him so their faces were only inches apart. “I can tell you two are both on edge. Did you guys have a fight?” Jacob remained silent, looking away from him and everyone else. Brian sighed and drifted around him until he was right behind him, pulling him by his waist back against his chest. Leaning near his ear he whispered softly, “You know what I always loved about you? That you managed to pick yourself up after everything you went through with your dad and you never held any hatred for what happened.”

“We can’t connect,” he muttered quietly. “And it’s like he doesn’t want me near him or Matt.”

“We’ll see about that,” Brian murmured. “Meanwhile, I think Blake got away a little too easy, if you ask me. Let’s give him and his little friend some payback.” He grinned impishly and dove underwater, heading towards Blake and Carter. Jacob smirked slightly and dove after his friend.

After nearly an hour and a half passed, Troy sat up in his chair, grabbing his boys’ stuff before calling out, “alright, teams, everyone out of the pool. We got an early dinner to get to.”

Kyle laughed as he pulled himself easily out of the water. “Teams? There’s more than one team now?”

“Team A and Team B,” Andy chuckled as he carried Carter and Blake in his arms to the side. “All the old farts are Team A, I guess.”

“Team B will be bigger than the original in a few months,” Kyle remarked as he grabbed a towel to start drying a grinning Matthew.

“Who’s to say,” Troy shrugged. “Maybe you’ll have another.”

“No,” Kyle sighed. “Hard enough to deal with one on my own. Two would kill me.”

Everyone headed to the locker rooms, getting the boys and themselves in the showers to clean up and head out. Jacob opted to ride back to the house with Troy and Kyle didn’t object. The ride back was uneventful, the boys playfully teasing each other in the backseat was a welcome diversion from his worries. Troy asked a few questions about his work, specifically the back door he asked Andy and Tyler help with taking off and putting back on but he didn’t give him any answers other than a secretive smirk.

When Troy pulled up, Jacob saw everyone else standing around outside. David and Liz were sitting on the back porch. They both had somewhat solemn looks on their faces. David seemed pale and was slow to rise from his chair as Kyle and Matt came up the ramp. Jacob got out of the van, staring at David as he smiled and hugged his grandson. He looked fine from a distance but not like his normal outgoing self. As they all got the boys inside, Liz helped to get the boys changed out of their trunks and into shorts just in time when the pizza delivery showed up. Troy signed for the delivery and brought the five big pizzas inside. A small amount of bedlam broke out as paper plates and five small boys all scrambled to get what they wanted and hurry to the table while their parents got them some drinks before serving themselves. Liz attentively got pizza and a water for David before sitting down next to him and the boys. The five friends all sat down together on the other side of the table, eating slower than the others and talking among themselves.

It wasn’t very long after they had finished eating that David rose from the table and said to the boys with a smile, “How about we all go for a walk and see if we find any good apples to pick.” The boys clamored out of their seats and followed him out. Liz offered to clean up, giving Troy a meaningful look. Without a word, he rose from his seat and followed her, picking up discarded plates and cups. Andy looked over at Brian in an unspoken agreement and they both rose to their feet. “Ok, team, let’s go.” Andy put a hand on Kyle’s shoulder, urging him up.

“Huh?” Kyle looked up at him confused as he slowly got to his feet.

“We decided we need to have a team meeting,” Brian explained as he put a hand on Jacob’s shoulder.

Kyle and Jacob frowned at each other and reluctantly allowed themselves to be lead out of the dining room and down the narrow hallway to David’s study. The four of them stepped inside silently. Brian directed the two of them to sit down but otherwise stayed silent, his face was oddly somber and Andy just stood by the door, leaning against the wall with his arms folded over his chest. A few moments later, Kyle could hear footsteps approaching down the hall. He looked over at the doorway just as Troy marched in, slamming the door shut behind him without breaking his stride as he stopped just in front of Kyle and Jacob.

When he opened his mouth, his voice was filled with suppressed anger and eyes staring holes into both of them. “That’s it, I’ve had it with both of you! No one is leaving this room until this bullshit is settled for good. You two are gonna put your dad into an early grave with this constant back and forth with each other. It ends, one way or another, today. Am I understood?!”

Jacob sighed and muttered, “this isn’t going to help.”

“I don’t wanna hear that,” Troy growled.

Kyle sighed and sat back, looking withdrawn. He glanced towards the door and saw Andy had moved from his spot after Troy came in. Now he was leaning against the door itself in the same stance, his eyes meeting his in a silent statement that he wasn’t moving any time soon.

“So, why do you think you can’t connect with Kyle anymore,” Brian asked Jacob directly.

Jacob looked up at him, feeling slightly betrayed having his words used against him. “He just… doesn’t seem to want to,” he managed to say after a moment.

Kyle looked over at him with an angry look. “I don’t want to? Since when?”

“All day and last night you’ve been giving me the cold shoulder,” Jacob glared back at him.

“You just told me last night that you don’t know how you feel about all of this and you needed time,” Kyle’s voice raised slightly in exasperation. “There’s nothing I can do about that. Believe me, I wish I could. But I can’t tell you what to think or feel.”

“I never asked you to!” Jacob’s face started to turn red and his eyes darkened.

“Calm down,” Brian said coming to stand next to Troy. “Losing your tempers isn’t going to help.”

“Jacob,” Troy’s eyes went to him as he spoke. “You told me the other day that you felt like everything was bottled up inside you. He’s here right now and he’s not getting out of here. Tell him what you’re upset about.”

“Right now,” Jacob pondered sullenly before glancing back at Kyle, “I’m upset about him acting like I wasn’t allowed to even touch Matt all day.”

“That’s not true,” Kyle’s voice raised. “I haven’t seen my son in nearly a week. I got a couple hours of time with him before I had to head back and dad all but begged me to let him stay here the rest of the week. I didn’t want to tell him no and when I finally got to see him again, yes, I wanted to spend time with him but it wasn’t about me blocking you.”

“That’s bullshit,” Troy countered. “I’m not sure what the truth is exactly but I know that’s not it. Try again.”

Kyle glared up at Troy with probably more anger towards him than he ever felt in his entire life. “Ok, here’s more to the point. He doesn’t know how he feels. I am not going to let my son start getting attached to someone who might not actually be a part of his life long term. I’m sorry if that makes me sound like a horrible person but I have to protect him.”

“Jacob,” Andy piped up from the other side of the room, “you seemed to attach yourself to Matt pretty fast. You don’t act that way with our kids. How come?”

Jacob shrugged slightly. “To be honest, he started it. First morning he was here he was up early with me. Wandered right into my arms. He…” His head lowered. His dark hair covering his face.

Kyle watched him curiously before moving a little closer to him, the anger in his voice dissipating. “He, what? Tell me. I wanna know.”

Taking a breath, his head rose to look directly at Kyle as he answered softly, “he’s you. When I look at him I see the person you were before you left. I hear your voice in his. I see the look on his face he gets that’s just like I remember. I know it’s not right but I feel so connected to him because he’s everything about you I ever loved.”

There was a poignant silence in the room that seemed to tug at everyone’s heart. Kyle blinked a few times and cleared his throat before he said in a sad voice, “so… you don’t see any of that in me anymore?”

“Not lately,” Jacob mumbled. “There were a few times. But, even so, it doesn’t change the fact that our reality isn’t going to change.” He turned in his seat on the leather sofa to look directly at Kyle as he continued. “You have another life that you’re happy with. I can’t leave here. Your dad needs me here. My business is here. There’s no way we can be together again like we used to be. I tried telling you that the other night. I didn’t say it to hurt you. I said it because it’s the truth. And he’s not the only one. Andy needs me here and so does Troy. I cannot let myself get close to you again knowing that you’re not going to ever be a permanent part of my life.”

Kyle looked down in disappointment. He had tried but the physical distance was insurmountable it seemed. “Hey,” Brian said quietly, looking at them. “Since you all know about me and Andy, I guess it’s only fair I tell the rest of you that I’m quitting my job at the end of this semester.”

“A choice he made despite my objections,” Andy added.

“Shut up,” Brian whined with a smirk. “Anyway, not telling you what you should do, Kyle. Just saying, somethings are worth giving up.”

Kyle’s eyes drifted down to the floor. “I have a big job ahead of me. And I have a boy to raise and take care of. This thing I have now could take a year or longer. Fuck. DNA results alone could take months. And I still have another case I need to finish up in a month…” He sighed.

“I guess it just depends on what you think is best for you,” Troy said quietly.

“I can’t ask him to wait a year for me,” he said flatly.

“Well, you’d have to ask first,” Jacob muttered. “And you haven’t.”

“I won’t.” He looked into Jacob’s eyes. “I won’t put you through that again. Who knows what is gonna happen with this.”

Jacob’s eyes looked down at the space between them on the sofa. A smirk crossed his lips for a moment as he shook his head before looking back up at him. “I’ve been going through it for nine years already.” Kyle’s cheeks flushed red and seemed like he was about to say something but Jacob interrupted him. “Wait. I’m not saying that’s your fault. It’s our fault. You, me, dad, all of us. Every person in this room is guilty of that nine year gap.” He looked around the room at each of them. “Every person here let him go. We never tried to get him back for one reason or another. We could have tried and hounded him. Yeah, it might have pissed him off but it would have at least shown him we wanted him back. None of us did that. I didn’t do that. I didn’t do it because I was afraid. I was afraid of failing to get you back.” He looked back at Kyle. “No wonder you didn’t want to come back. No one gave you a reason to. I told you not everything is about you last night. I wasn’t wrong. But, maybe, if we had tried a little harder, maybe you would’ve come home sooner.”

Silence filled the room until Troy finally spoke up. “I think we’ve all taken time to express our opinions about all this. Look, if you two don’t want to get back together and you have a good reason not to, then I guess that’s that. The only thing I care about is that there’s a guy here who I’ve looked up to all my life and he’s feeling like everything going on between you two is his responsibility. And, to be frank, it’s going to end up killing him if you two can’t at least get along. I don’t know what happened this morning but I want you two to go back out there and apologize to him. Together.”

Troy headed for the door with Brian in step behind him. “You two are fucking grown adults. Start acting like it.” Andy opened the door for him and the three left the room, closing the door behind them.

Kyle and Jacob sat there looking at each other. Kyle struggled to find the right words to say and eventually just settled on what was in his heart. “Looking back, I can see now where it all started going wrong. When I started letting my fears dictate how I treated you.”

He looked at him curiously. “Wasn’t it when everything fell apart?”

Kyle shook his head slightly. “No. Long before that. When we were still in high school. The day I first saw the bruises on your body.”

His eyes darkened slightly as he frowned a little. “What did that have to do with it?”

“Everything,” he scoffed. “You begged me not to say anything and I knew the right thing to do would have been to yell for Dad but I couldn’t risk losing you. I loved you too much and I was too scared to do the right thing.”

“I probably would have gotten angry with you,” Jacob conceded.

“But, it would have been out,” he shrugged. “It would have saved you from how many other beatings and a weekend in the hospital. Police reports, court hearings, your dad going to prison. Would you have stopped speaking to me if I had?”

“Maybe... But only for a little while.”

“You would’ve come back?” Kyle turned his body to face him, resting his face in his hand as he looked at him.

He seemed to ponder it for a moment before answering. “Yeah. I loved you. I don’t think I would’ve stayed away for long. Plus, where else would I have gone? You guys were the only friends I had at the time. The only friends I really wanted to tell the truth.” He chuckled a little, smiling at him. “Besides, do you really think Troy would’ve just left me alone? Jesus, he was a bossy fucker back then.”

Kyle smiled and laughed, feeling some of the tension inside him evaporate. Seeing Jacob’s smile still made his heart swell a little. “Yeah. Like today. You think people mature or something but it just turns out they never really change much.”

“Haven’t you changed in the last few years,” Jacob asked him, still smiling a little.

“Meh,” he grimaced slightly as his head moved back and forth. “I guess in some ways I have. Not in very good ways, I guess. I just got this intern assigned to me the other day. When we took a break for lunch he mentioned that he’d been warned about me by the others in the office so he was a little nervous.”

“Warned about you?” One of his eyebrows lifted slightly.

He nodded in confirmation. “That I was sullen and withdrawn. Didn’t talk much. They told him I was an asshole at times or something.”

“That doesn’t sound like you,” he said in a quiet, comfortable tone.

“I have to admit, they weren’t entirely wrong,” he frowned a bit. “I had trust issues, I guess. So I kept people at a distance. I guess… being here again with all of you set me back to normal. Or whatever passes for normal with me.”

“You did seem a little defensive at first,” Jacob remarked.

Kyle gave him an odd look. “‘The fuck’s he doing here?’ Gee, wonder why I got so defensive?”

He blushed slightly in embarrassment. “Ok. I’ll admit, I freaked out when I saw you. I wasn’t prepared and… I just saw you there and I didn’t know what to do.”

“Just so you know,” he said to alleviate any sense of guilt, “I didn’t expect you to rush into my arms or anything.”

“If I’d still been drinking I might have done just that.”

“Maybe, but I’d rather you stay sober and safe. That was my point though, about not having done the right thing the first time I saw those welts on your back.” His voice lowered, reminding Jacob of the way he used to talk to him when they were together, touching, kissing, loving each other. “Even if it had meant losing you, I should have loved you enough to risk losing you to protect you from what you were going through.”

“Do you feel guilty about what happened after Prom Night?” Jacob’s voice was calm. His entire body seemed to have relaxed since the others left them.

“Yeah,” he said sadly. “I should have made you stay or… something. I don’t know. I knew what was going on at your place and I didn’t do anything about it. I felt like God had punished me or something.”

“It happened,” Jacob said flatly. “We can’t go back and change it. It wasn’t all your fault either. I could have stopped it. All I would’ve had to do was call the police or told one of my teachers.” There was a moment of silence between them but it wasn’t uncomfortable for once. Jacob glanced around the room before his eyes settled back on Kyle’s face. He liked looking at him when he was more at peace. Now, he looked pensive as he was thinking about his work. “Stop.” Jacob whispered to him.

His eyes met Jacob’s as he asked, “stop what?”

“Dwelling on your work.” He finally felt comfortable enough to move closer to Kyle. “I like you more when you’re not stressing yourself out. There’s nothing you can do about it now. Just relax.”

Kyle smirked, “yeah, you’re right.”

“Of course I’m right,” Jacob grinned, his crystal blue eyes laughing. “I’m not the kid you used to know.”

Kyle laughed which then brought on Jacob’s laughter. “You’re right,” Kyle repeated as his laughter passed, still smiling, “you are not the kid I used to know.”

Jacob moved close to him, making their legs touch. It sent a small but pleasant jolt through Kyle. He leaned his head on the back of the couch, looking up Kyle and asked, “so, what do you think of me now compared to that kid?”

Kyle slowly raised his hand and ran it through that long dark hair that had fallen over his face. “I have to say, I don’t know you as well as I used to but I do kind of like you more.”

“I’m kind of glad you said that,” he said softly. “And, I kind of want to get you know you more to. One thing I know for sure though is you are a great dad.”

Kyle blinked in surprise. His mouth fell slightly, finding it hard to respond. “I… I don’t think anyone’s told me that before.”

“Really? Not even Stephanie or Dad?”

He shrugged, “Dad hasn’t told me what he’s thought of Matt yet, really other than he totally loves him. Stephanie… Well… she’s not really into kids that much. She barely spends any time with Matt.” He put a hand up to forestall any comments from him. “Not that I ever expected her too. When we discussed having him, she told me clearly that it would all be on me because she wasn’t interested in having children. She warmed up to him a little bit enough that she would take him for a weekend or so if I ever had to work or needed some time to myself. But, for the most part, she’s uninvolved.”

“Oh. I’m really sorry,” his head lifted up, eyes with a little concern in them. “That must be really hard.”

He nodded. “There’s been a couple bad nights. Once in the hospital when he got the flu when he was a year old.” Kyle’s face froze for a moment, trying to stay focused on the moment instead of remembering.

Jacob reached over and touched his shoulder to comfort him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up anymore bad memories.”

“It’s ok,” he said as he smiled a little, “you didn’t know.”

“I do love him, by the way,” he added. “If you ever have a problem again, you just let me know.”

Kyle felt a surge of emotion pass over him as he smiled brighter. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, calling up the picture his Dad sent him of them asleep on the couch and showed it to him. “I know. This is my new favorite picture of him. And you.”

Jacob grinned as he looked at the picture. He was quiet for a moment just looking at it before saying, “so, where do we go from here?”

“Well, I think first thing we need to do is go find Dad and apologize to him for being two stupid idiots,” he replied with a small smirk. “After that? I’m not sure.”

“That’s fair,” he nodded. “Maybe, with a little time we can figure it out together.” Jacob slowly rose to his feet, looking down at Kyle. He held his hand out to him, waiting. Kyle looked up at and took the offered hand. Jacob lifted him to his feet and stared into his eyes for a moment before he wrapped his arms around him and pulled him close. “I hope I’m not making you uncomfortable.”

Kyle put his arms around Jacob. Smiling a little as he shook his head. “No.”

“Good.” He smiled softly, looking into his eyes. “I’ve missed this.” They held each other for a moment and Kyle felt an urge to press closer to him. Their faces slowly met, neither one of them sure who was moving.

Their lips almost brushed against each other before there was a knock at the door. Without thinking, they suddenly moved away from each other like two scared teenagers afraid of getting caught. “C-come in,” Kyle felt flustered and flushed as he self-consciously rubbed his hand over his face.

The door opened and Matt trotted in, holding out his arms as he ran up to them with David stepping inside behind him. “Everything ok in here? The others left a while ago.”

Kyle leaned down to pick up his son, holding him in his arm near Jacob. “Yeah, Dad. We’re ok in here. Look, ah,” he paused and looked over at Jacob before taking a step closer to him. “We’re sorry about how we’ve been acting lately. But, we talked it out and we’re ok now so you don’t need to be beating yourself up over anything.”

David looked at him carefully before looking at Jacob. “Are you sure?”

Jacob nodded. “We’re, ah, we’re just going to let things be what they are and… you know… see how it works.”

David eyed them dubiously. “That doesn’t sound encouraging.”

“Well,” Kyle said honestly, “it’s better than it was. I think we came to an understanding and… I think we appreciate each other more now than we did.”

“Okay then,” he nodded slowly. “I love you both. I want nothing but the best for the both of you.”

“We love you to, Dad,” Jacob answered as he stepped closer to Kyle. He laid a hand on Matt’s shoulder which made him turn his head around towards him. The boy smiled happily at him as he held his arms out towards him. Kyle’s eyes met Jacob’s as he smiled a little and nodded, letting go of his son so he could climb into Jacob’s arms.

David smirked and finally relaxed. “Oh, Jacob, you wanted to know when the sun went down.”

Jacob got a sudden look excitement on his face. “Oh! Ah, here Matt. Stay with daddy for a minute and I’ll be back.” He expertly passed the boy back to Kyle before he hurried out of the room.

David watched him as he walked pass with an odd smirk. Once he was gone, he shook his head and snickered softly, “that kid..”

“What’s going on,” Kyle asked him.

“You got me,” David said with a smirk. “He was working on the back door yesterday. Didn’t think he’d get it put back together in time, but he managed. You gonna tell me what you two have been doing in here?”

Kyle grinned slightly. “We settled a lot of stuff.”

“And what all does that mean exactly?”

“Well,” Kyle said with a half-smirk, “maybe he’ll be coming to visit if he has time. And I’ll be back as often as I can.”

“You love him, he loves you. I can see it in your eyes, Kyle. Just like the first day you brought him here. It’s only a matter of time, you know.” David gave his son a meaningful look. “You know, it’s never too late to learn how to run things here. If you ever wanted to settle down.”

“Carry on the Howard tradition, huh?” He laughed lightly.

“Four generations so far,” his dad said. “You’d be the fifth. Add Jacob and his talents to it and you could really be doing good.”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you had this planned.”

David suppressed a smile. “I’m good, but I’m not that good.”

He stepped up to his father and said, “seriously, dad, I’m sorry we made you worry. We just had a lot of issues to work out. As much as we’d like, we can’t just have everything magically go back to how things used to be.”

“I know,” his dad responded sullenly with a playful smirk. “Can’t blame a dad for trying. You just wait until that little angel of yours is as old as you are and see if you can stop being his father same as you are now.”

“I honestly hope you don’t stop,” Kyle said with a soft smile. “I’m always going to need my dad.”

There conversation was interrupted by pounding feet running through the house. David turned to look down the hallway as Jacob came racing towards them, his face glowing with excitement. “It worked!”

“What worked?” Kyle blinked staring at his wide-eyed exuberance.

Jacob stood there panting slightly looking at them as if he was trying to decide what to do next. “Follow me.” He lead them out the front door and slowly around the house. “Now, I want you to keep your eyes on the barn. Don’t look at the house.”

“Jacob, what the hell are you up to,” David asked him with an amused smile on his face.

“Just trust me, Dad.” He grinned, walking backwards motioning them to follow him. His eyes glanced over their shoulders. “Cover Matt’s eyes. Don’t let him look. Just a couple more feet.”

Kyle went along with it, putting a hand over Matt’s eyes, shushing him to be quiet and wait. “Jacob has a surprise for you, sweetie.”

Jacob stood, waiting for a moment before moving to stand in between David and Kyle. “Ok. You can turn around now.”

Kyle turned in place and looked at the back of the house. Night had almost completely fallen, casting the sky in a darkening purple with a scattering of stars above them already shining through. What drew his attention and made his mouth drop open in amazement was the large oak back door of the house. Where he had noticed fine, intricate designs in the woodwork before, now, from standing near his car he could see a soft, green glow emanating from those lines. The doorway seemed to be alive. The green color seeming to pulse with a life of its own as he watched it glow brighter the more the sky got dark.

“Oh my God,” David muttered.

“Better than a night light, you think,” Jacob asked with a grin.

“Daddy?” Matt was staring with wide eyes, amazed at the spectacle. “What is it?”

“You’ll have to ask Jacob, sweetheart.” Kyle could only grin as he could hear the excitement in his son’s voice.

“Jacob,” Matt nearly yelled as three-year-olds sometimes do, “you do that!?”

“Yup, I sure did, Baby Boy,” he said with a prideful smile as he moved closer to Kyle.

“How,” the boy asked.

Jacob leaned in close to the father and son and said in a stage whisper, “magic.”

Matt was silent but no less amazed. Kyle looked up at Jacob with a soft smile, “what’s the secret?”

Jacob moved closer until they were touching, putting his arm around Kyle’s waist and resting his hand on his hip. “Some glow in the dark pigment mixed with wood resin. Fill in the design carefully, let it dry and refinish the wood and this is what you get. What do you think?”

Kyle’s smile widened as he moved slightly so their bodies were brushing against each other. He felt Jacob’s hand on his hip grip him a little tighter as he whispered, “it’s beautiful.” They stood there for a few more moments, admiring Jacob’s work. In that quiet moment, watching the two of them, David could feel there was more than just the magic in the door around them.

Copyright © 2018 Jdonley75; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

17 minutes ago, FanLit said:

Small steps but at least there is stepping forward, not standing in place or moving back.


 “Wait. I’m not saying that’s your fault. It’s our fault. You, me, dad, all of us. Every person in this room is guilty of that nine year gap.” He looked around the room at each of them. “Every person here let him go. We never tried to get him back for one reason or another. We could have tried and hounded him. Yeah, it might have pissed him off but it would have at least shown him we wanted him back. None of us did that. I didn’t do that. I didn’t do it because I was afraid. I was afraid of failing to get you back.” He looked back at Kyle. “No wonder you didn’t want to come back. No one gave you a reason to. I told you not everything is about you last night. I wasn’t wrong. But, maybe, if we had tried a little harder, maybe you would’ve come home sooner.”




Yeah...  People probably expected or wanted that sooner but Kyle and Jacob weren't in a position to actually listen to each other until now.  I hate spoilers so I had to pretend it wasn't there when people would harp on it. 😉

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Goddammit, if either of them fucks one of those boys with the stars in their eyes, I’m skipping that chapter. Because I got enough miserableness around me than to read that. 10 chapters left, too? I may have to skip a couple chapters. And the end, if your earlier comments were breaking it to us gently. 

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2 minutes ago, Geemeedee said:

Goddammit, if either of them fucks one of those boys with the stars in their eyes, I’m skipping that chapter. Because I got enough miserableness around me than to read that. 10 chapters left, too? I may have to skip a couple chapters. And the end, if your earlier comments were breaking it to us gently. 

You are correct in that there are ten chapters left. 



As for the rest....?  :gikkle:

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3 minutes ago, Jdonley75 said:

As for the rest....?  :gikkle:

I’M SKIPPING. If I want to be disappointed,  I’ll read the news.

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4 minutes ago, Geemeedee said:

I’M SKIPPING. If I want to be disappointed,  I’ll read the news.

This is better than the news, I promise.

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WOW I am glad that Troy forced the issue. Brilliant chapter. Matthew is going to be in the thick of things. Getting the two of them to reconnect in a way that he won't even realise

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Great chapter. Was getting anxious as to when these two were going to have a break through.  Guess emotional responses can attest to the abilties of the author. In which case, I was pissed, confused and WTF'd numerous times. So Keep up the good work.😉

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Here here! Finally they’re listening to each other and talking! It’s a great first step!  Me thinks there may be a few more bumps in the road, but I can’t wait to read more! Thank you!

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5 hours ago, mikedup said:

WOW I am glad that Troy forced the issue. Brilliant chapter. Matthew is going to be in the thick of things. Getting the two of them to reconnect in a way that he won't even realise

It's what Troy does. He got the call from David and he took charge. 

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What a relief! Finally Jacob and Kyle have reconciled.

Please, please no more heart breaks from here on

Loved it and can't wait till the next one

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4 hours ago, long1jo said:

What a relief! Finally Jacob and Kyle have reconciled.

Please, please no more heart breaks from here on

Loved it and can't wait till the next one

I can't promise no more heartbreaks.  Life is like that. 

But, hey, the next chapter is up... :)

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I'm not getting my updates like I should...gonna have the FBI look into that!!!! 🤔 This was a fabulous chapter,  Troy the Regulator gets the job done!! :yes: Now lil Matt is going to have to finish straightening his "two" dads out! :wub: So well written...:2thumbs:

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3 minutes ago, Onim said:

I'm not getting my updates like I should...gonna have the FBI look into that!!!! 🤔 This was a fabulous chapter,  Troy the Regulator gets the job done!! :yes: Now lil Matt is going to have to finish straightening his "two" dads out! :wub: So well written...:2thumbs:

Try and keep in mind, Matt is just a three-year-old soon to be four-year-old.  There's only so much he can do except be him.  For the most part, he's already worked his magic.  But... yeah... he's got some moments to come.

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oh, no, only 10 chapters.  i wander if you'd bring us a sequel or perhaps have a story in the pipeline.  please say yes, as for  your story being true to life, absilutely.  i tore up on a few occasions.  Just sorry that theres a few chapters more.  I'm not sure what one of the reviewers refered to where they say that you fore shadowed a dreadful end to this story.  either way, i'm in it for the long hall, what ever happens to the guys.  thankyou, i havn't got to the 2 chapters yet, so i have 12 to go.  Hope you start the next story

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8 minutes ago, Heart said:

oh, no, only 10 chapters.  i wander if you'd bring us a sequel or perhaps have a story in the pipeline.  please say yes, as for  your story being true to life, absilutely.  i tore up on a few occasions.  Just sorry that theres a few chapters more.  I'm not sure what one of the reviewers refered to where they say that you fore shadowed a dreadful end to this story.  either way, i'm in it for the long hall, what ever happens to the guys.  thankyou, i havn't got to the 2 chapters yet, so i have 12 to go.  Hope you start the next story

I don't foresee a sequel to this.  I think after Kyle and Jacob get through this, their life will get pretty boring and no real need to check back in with them.


I do have the beginnings of a rough draft on a new story though it will be totally different from this.

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small leather soft,  -  small leather sofa, 


There is magic in a door and magic in relationships that are starting to rebuild.

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wow, finally, bitter sweet moments, great stuff Troy, great friend, loved the quote from Troy saying how they all were responsibble and J and K equally taking responsibility.  J seems to have got it together, more confidence and a little more assurance, taking the lead in some instances, your chapters never to evoke strong emotions.  as i hoped, great moments, you never dissapoint.  hope there are many such moments in the chapters ahead.  Mike, wander if you'd come up with a story about him at some stage, Just a thought.  onto next chapteroh, no, only 10 chapters.  i wander if you'd bring us a sequel or perhaps have a story in the pipeline.  please say yes, as for  your story being true to life, absilutely.  i tore up on a few occasions.  Just sorry that theres a few chapters more.  I'm not sure what one of the reviewers refered to where they say that you fore shadowed a dreadful end to this story.  either way, i'm in it for the long hall, what ever happens to the guys.  thankyou, i havn't got to the 2 chapters yet, so i have 12 to go.  Hope you start the next story

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wow, finally, Troy, you're the man, moments in this chapter had me tear up, bitter sweet moments, loved the exchange between J and K about taking responsibility, J more confident and more self assured and bold enough to make the first moves in certain instances.  All 4 guys have a great friendship and troy and the rest asuming responsibility was priceless.  You have a way of evoking strong feelings among your readers for your characters, thankyou, Mike, maybe you could feature him in your next story

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I'm usually not a fan of people who push others to resolve things they aren't ready to resolve. But in this case, Troy seemed to know what he was doing, and so far I can't argue with the results. Every time Kyle and Jacob talked since Kyle came back, it was frustrating. They needed the kick in the pants.

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1 hour ago, David Santos said:

I'm usually not a fan of people who push others to resolve things they aren't ready to resolve. But in this case, Troy seemed to know what he was doing, and so far I can't argue with the results. Every time Kyle and Jacob talked since Kyle came back, it was frustrating. They needed the kick in the pants.

Troy is a natural leader and he loves his friends with no reservations.  He's gone to great lengths to not heap blame on any one person and focused more on fixing the damage that's been done.  There was no way he was going to stand by and stay silent when he saw things going the way they were between Kyle and Jacob.  It's just against his nature.

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I would like to think that, in a similar situation as K & J, that I would behave in a more mature and adult way..............WAIT, Who am I kidding?  I would be as judgemental and probably more combative, not to mention passive/agressive.........Hell, I would kick my own ass...............Great chapter J........................:)Mike

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1 minute ago, flamingo136 said:

I would like to think that, in a similar situation as K & J, that I would behave in a more mature and adult way..............WAIT, Who am I kidding?  I would be as judgemental and probably more combative, not to mention passive/agressive.........Hell, I would kick my own ass...............Great chapter J........................:)Mike

The secret to their success in this chapter is that they had three friends who locked them in a room and made them tell each other truth instead of spewing fear-induced bullshit continuously.  Once they got over that, then the rest was easy.  Well, no not easy.  Just possible.

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On 10/11/2018 at 7:51 PM, flamingo136 said:

I would be as judgemental and probably more combative, not to mention passive/agressive

I would be passive-aggressive and would self-sabotage. I can be my own worst enemy. And I don’t have the support of the Team!

When I was having problems about ten years ago, my brothers gave me an ultimatum, but it was a little too late and focused on only some of the symptoms, not the actual cause of my problems. In their defense, I needed to talk to a psychiatrist and psychologist to deal with my clinical depression and generalized anxiety. And still things had to get much worse for me before things got better.

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