Awaakan – Backstory Notes

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Some of this might get referenced in the story, but otherwise it’s all stuff that was cut because it wasn’t actually needed in the main book itself.  And yes, cutting it was painful and I’m glad I never went back and poured more into any of these scenes.   Some of this might get changed as the actual book is finished, so don’t take any of it as gospel.

 

Eliot meets David

Eliot stumbled as the two jocks pushed past him and knocked him into one of the other students. The young man he collided with held out a steadying hand, but Eliot lost his grip on the papers he was carrying. “Dammit.”

“I take it those are the papers we just handed in?”

“Yep.”

“Let me give you a hand.”

With the younger man’s help, none of the papers escaped. Eliot grinned. “David, wasn’t it?”

The younger man nodded. Eliot took a second look, then a third. David shifted his weight from foot to foot uncertainly, and Eliot decided to take a chance. “You doing anything Friday night?”

“Um…”

“I know this great bar down by the river.”

“I’m… uh, not old enough to drink.”

“How about a movie then?”

“Are you… asking me out?”

Eliot nodded, noting the confusion on the younger man’s face. He was about to curse himself for making the play, when David responded quietly, “okay.”

“Can I get your phone number?”

David nodded, then rattled off a string of digits. Eliot noted them down in his phone, and smiled. “Pick you up at 8?”

“Alright.”

Eliot grinned and shifted the folder into his bag before walking off. He noted that David stood there another couple moments before heading off to his next class.

#

David and Eliot First Date

David waited outside and got in the car as soon as Eliot pulled up to the curb. Eliot gave him a grin and they talked briefly about class on the way to the theater.

“So, what do you want to see?” Eliot asked as they pulled in the parking lot.

David glanced at the queue. Crowded, as he should have expected on a Friday night this close to campus. “I… I haven’t given it much thought.” He saw several people he recognized, and started to wonder what exactly he was doing here.

“Busy night. How about we go back to my place?” Eliot asked, his voice gentle. “I’ve got all the classics.”

“The classics?”

“From Looney Tunes to Casablanca.”

“Sounds fun.” David settled back into the seat of the car. His relief lasted until Eliot pulled into a driveway a couple miles from the campus. The house was on the small side. “Your roommates won’t mind?”

“I don’t have any. The place is mine.” Eliot smiled as he lead David into the house. “I’ve got a couple extra rooms, but my last roommate just moved in with his girlfriend and I haven’t really felt the urge to get a replacement yet. Kind of nice not having to fight anyone for study space, you know?” He set his keys on the side table. “I’ve got soda, if you want anything.”

“Coke?”

“I’ll get it. Why don’t you pick a movie?”

David nodded and walked over to the shelf. Eliot apparently hadn’t been kidding about having a Looney Tunes collection. He glanced over the house. The furniture was much nicer than he would have expected in the home of a college student. “You know, I’ve never actually seen the Godfather movies before.”

“Great film.” Eliot handed David a coke and took the movie to the DVD player. “Pacino in his prime.”

David glanced around the living room. There were two recliners, and a couch. He hesitated, unsure of where to sit.

Eliot turned from the TV, and smiled gently. “Is this your first?”

“First?”

“Date with a member of your own gender?”

“That obvious, huh?”

Eliot nodded, then sat on the couch. After a moment, David joined him. Eliot smiled, and pushed the button on the remote. About a third of the way through the movie, David began to realize Eliot was watching him more than the film, and he felt his cheeks starting to turn red. David swallowed, then asked, “what about you, is this your first?”

Eliot shook his head. “No. Does that bother you?”

“I don’t think so.” He shifted slightly to face Eliot. “How… how long have you known?”

“About me or you?”

“Yes.”

“I figured out I wasn’t going to be much of a ladies man by the time I was eight. As for you? Well, I figured it out when you agreed to go out with me.”

“What would you have done had I said no?”

“Kicked myself a few times.” Eliot shrugged. “Seemed a chance worth taking.”

David finished his coke, and sat a moment, not really watching the film. Eliot gently took the empty can from him. “David?”

“Yes?”

“I don’t to move any faster than you feel comfortable with. You want me to stop, I’ll stop. I’d very much like to kiss you.”

David started to respond, then leaned forward instead. Eliot’s lips were warm, and tasted slightly of the root beer he’d been drinking. He felt Eliot’s hand on his chest, pushing him back slightly into the couch as Eliot moved closer.

After some time, David became vaguely aware that the end credits were running, and that his shirt was unbuttoned. “We, um, missed the film.”

“So not complaining.” Eliot sat back with a grin. “Look, um… I can take you home if you want… but you could spend the night.”

“I…” David sighed. “I’ve got a class in the morning.”

“Alright then.”

#

David and Eliot Second Date

“It’s… not an issue for a TA to date a student, right?” David asked.

“I’m not Mr. Mackin’s TA,” Eliot explained. “His normal TA had to have surgery and won’t be back for another week, so he borrowed me from Mrs. Mackin. I’m one of her minions.” He handed David a soda, then slide over a couple take out menus. “What do you want, pizza, chinese, or sushi?”

“I’ve never had sushi,” David replied, glancing over that menu.

“Sushi it is then,” Eliot grinned. “Anything in particular you want to try, or are you okay if I order?”

David handed him the menu. “All I know about sushi is it involves rice and raw fish.”

“Well, most types involve rice anyway,” Eliot replied. He looked over the menu contemplatively, then placed an order. “So, are you a music major?”

David shook his head. “Business. And construction, I suppose. I just happen to like music. Are you?”

“No. I’m a med student.”

“Surgeon?”

“Psychiatrist.” He frowned. “I probably should have asked earlier but… if you aren’t old enough to drink, how old are you?”

“I turned seventeen in July.”

“I am so going to hell,” Eliot said. Then he shook his head and laughed. “Full disclosure, I’m twenty six. Twenty seven this November.” He raised an eyebrow. “Is that an issue?”

David shook his head. “Not for me,” he said.

Eliot nodded. “So, tell me about you. Why business and construction?”

“My dad owns a construction company. Mostly public works, but also some houses. His dad started it.”

“Taking over the family business doesn’t thrill you?”

David shrugged. “It’s a good company. Not sure what else I would do.”

“Music?”

David smiled. “It’s an interest, not a vocation. Mom does music lessons.”

“Do you play?” Eliot asked.

“Guitar. A few others, but these days it’s mostly the guitar,” David said.

“Love to hear you play sometime,” Eliot said. “Siblings?”

“A sister. Naomi. She’s twelve.” David leaned back in his chair.

“Do your parents know?”

“No. And… they can’t.” David starred down at the table. “I’m still figuring things out myself,” he said quietly.

Eliot nodded. “Did you date in high school?”

“Amber Rosenthal,” David answered.

“You two were…?”

David laughed. “We might have been the only two people in Awakaan County who actually took a telescope when we went stargazing.” He shook his head. “She got into an astrophysics program out in Berkley, California. Dad… really hasn’t acknowledged that we broke up. What about you? Siblings?”

“Only child. Spoiled rotten,” Eliot acknowledged. “Let’s see… I spent a couple years after high school just sort of knocking about driving my folks insane, then came here. I finished my undergrad work in psychology two years ago, and am about halfway through my MD.”

#

David and Eliot Go Clubbing

“A nightclub?”

“Monty’s been raving about it,” Eliot said. He shrugged. “It’s not fancy dress. Jeans are fine. It’s um… friendly.”

David raised an eyebrow. “Friendly?”

“GLBT,” Eliot replied. “Look, I get it. Public date, big deal,” he laid a hand on David’s arm. “You get uncomfortable, ask me to get you a glass of merlot. I’ll make excuses, get you out of there. Deal?”

“Alright. Deal.”

#

Amber Comes out to David

David picked up the phone on the third ring. “Hey Amber,” he said.

“Hey David. How are the Gophers?”

“Freezing to death. The Bears?”

“Lost in the fog. Seriously, visibility out in the bay is about two inches. So, um… there was a reason I called.”

He waited a few moments. “And that reason is…?” he prompted.

“I’m dating someone. Her name is Susan.”

David starred at the wall for a moment before he started to laugh.

“David…?” Amber said. “David, why are you laughing?”

“I’m… also dating someone. His name is Eliot.”

“Holy shit,” Amber replied. “That’s… oh wow, that’s great. That’s… what are the odds? Here I had this whole speech about how it has nothing to do with you and…”

“…and I value our relationship and even though everyone thinks we are going to get back together…” he continued.

“…that is likely not going to happen and I hope we can remain friends.” She finished. “So… have you told your parents?”

“You… are actually the only one who knows.”

“Yeah. Same.” He heard her sigh through the phone. “I’m not sure what is going to piss Mom off more. That I’m a lesbian or that I’m not going to marry that nice Andrews boy.”

“My dad is also more or less in denial that we’ve broken up. He seems to think we’ll both have some flings then get back together when we come home for the summer.”

“Yeah. I’m not coming home this summer. I’m not coming back at all, actually. I’ve got the trust fund Grandma left me, that should get me through school.”

“Tell me about Susan.”

“She’s a computer science major. Smart. Funny.” She sighed dreamily. “You’d like her. Eliot?”

“Med student. Also smart and funny. He’s great.”

They chatted for several more minutes before Amber said, “I’ve got to get ready for class. You’ll keep in touch, right?”

“Absolutely.”

“Tell your Eliot I said hi, and if he breaks your heart I’ll break his legs.”

“Same to Susan.”

#

David Tells his Family he wants Summer School

“I really could use you here over the summer,” Wyatt said

“There are two classes offered this summer that won’t be offered again for another year and a half,” David replied. “I stay over this summer, I can shave almost a full year off getting my degree.”

“And we don’t have to listen to him torture the guitar,” Naomi pipped up.

“And Naomi can continue to think her boy bands are real music,” David acknowledged.

Sarah snickered, and Wyatt rolled his eyes, then grinned. “Sure you don’t want to stay over for some girl?”

“I promise, it’s got nothing to do with a girl,” David said. “I’ve even got a part time job lined up in the city. I’ll be able to pay my own rent and food.”

“You’ve thought this through,” Sarah said. “I guess your sister is finally going to have to learn how to work the lawn mower.”

“Shouldn’t be a problem for her,” David replied. “She doesn’t really need all ten fingers, after all.”

“But I’m rather fond of the lilacs,” Wyatt complained. He exchanged a look with his wife, then sighed. “He won’t even be 18 for three more months.”

“He’s managed just fine thus far,” Sarah replied. “And he turns eighteen in two months.”

“No he doesn’t. August 15th.”

“July 15th,” David replied.

Wyatt grumbled. “Summer sessions in high school, summer sessions in college.”

“Nerd,” Naomi added.

“Doofus,” David replied.

“Kids,” Sarah said.

“Sorry,” they chorused unapologetically.

“Fine,” Wyatt said. He grumbled. “Not like I’m going to win this argument anyway.” He looked back at his son. “I’m not buying you a car.”

“The city has good public transportation, and I have my bike. I’ll be fine.”

#

David talks to his mother about staying the summer

 

“So, why are you really staying the summer?” Sarah asked as she started to put away the dishes. “Is there are girl?”

“It’s not over a girl, Mom,” David said. He set the pot he’d just scrubbed into the sink to rinse and started on the next one. “I just…”

“Like not having your dad looking over your shoulder every minute?” She grinned. “What classes are you really taking this summer?”

“I am taking the accounting class,” he said defensively.

“The public speaking class isn’t actually required for your major,” Sarah said. “And you hate it.”

He shook his head. “There is a special section on blues’ guitar.”

“Sounds fun,” Sarah said. “So, if it isn’t a girl, is it a band?” She elbowed him. “I’ll still love you if it’s a band.”

“You say that now, but wait until you hear our first album,” he grinned. “Strange does rhyme with orange, right?”

She picked up the frying pan he’d just scrubbed and looked at it contemplatively. David immediately fled the room.

#

David defends Monty in a bar fight

 

Monty began to regret his choice of words, and really the fact that he’d spoken at all, as the massive man started in his direction, his two friends a step behind him. Monty took a step backward, and David stepped between him and the oncoming freight train.

“That’s enough,” David said, his voice low.

The huge man balled up his fist and swung wide. David twisted and shoved the blow to the side. “I said that’s enough,” David said.

“Fuck you,” the big man said, and took another swing. This time David blocked it and hit him with a jab to the kidneys, causing the larger man to double over with a pained gasp. One of the man’s companions bellowed and rushed at David, fist cocked for a punch. David caught the blow and used the man’s momentum to take him to the ground. Monty heard a bone snap. The first man got up and lunged at David, managing to land a blow to David’s shoulder before David got him in an armlock and drove him to his knees. Then David shoved him away as the third man decided to take the opportunity to attack. David again used his attacker’s momentum to put him on the ground.

The bouncer arrived a moment later, and took a second to survey the scene. Mark was a half step behind him. David held up his hands as soon as the bouncer arrived, stepping backwards to stand next to Monty.

“That bastard broke my arm,” the man on the ground said, pointing to David.

“Three on one,” said another guy at the bar to the bouncer.

“Call the police,” the injured man said.

“Don’t be an idiot,” Mark replied. “There are three separate cameras on the bar, and all of them will show it was a clear case of self defense.”

“What are you, a lawyer?” the first man asked belligerently.

“Yep,” Mark said. “His lawyer,” he said, nodding at David.

The bouncer laughed at the flummoxed expression on the guy’s face. “I’ll pull the tapes,” he said.

“Now, wait a minute here,” the third guy said. “Just wait.”

“Drunk and disorderly, assault and battery… your buddy tried to pick up a pool cue, that could get it into assault with a deadly weapon territory,” Mark said. “You want to press charges?” he asked David.

“I want to play pool,” David said, shrugging. “How about you?” he asked Monty.

“Pool sounds good,” Monty replied.

“So, am I calling the cops?” the bouncer asked the three guys. When they hesitated, he shrugged. “Clear out,” he ordered them.

#

Mark talks to Eliot about David being a ninja

 

“Hey guys,” Thomas said, setting his jacket down next to Mark’s. Eliot hung his on the back of a chair. “Sorry we are late. Who is winning?” he asked, coming over to the pool table.

“I am,” Monty replied as he bent over to line up a shot. He banked off the side and knocked two balls in.

“Someone could have warned me he was a hustler,” David complained good naturedly.

Mark shook his head, then looked over at Eliot. “Were you aware your boy-toy had a terminator mode?”

“Yes,” Eliot said. “It’s pretty hot.”

“Asshole,” David said, moving to take a shot at the pool table.

“Love you too,” Eliot retorted, then looked back at Mark. He raised an eyebrow. “Something happen?”

“Monty did that thing where he opened his mouth and words came out,” Mark said. “Instead of Monty getting beaten up by three drunks, three drunks got beaten up by David.”

“It was a thing of beauty,” Monty said. He sank his last ball, then straightened back up. “He put them all on the ground.”

“And… you didn’t get kicked out?” Thomas asked.

“Nah, the bouncer showed up, David switched terminator mode off and Mark switched scary lawyer mode on,” Monty said gleefully. “I’ve totally got goons.”

“Goons?” David and Mark said, almost in stereo.”

#

David and Eliot pick up Susan and Amber

 

Amber grinned and took one of Susan’s bags. “You know, you really didn’t have to bring the kitchen sink,” she said teasingly.

Susan grinned back. “Not everybody can pack for a week in a lunchbox. Where’s our ride?”

Amber stood up on tiptoe and scanned the crowd.

“Looking for someone?” a voice said behind her.

She turned around. “David,” she said, and pulled him into a quick hug. “David, Susan. Susan, David.”

David extended his hand, and Susan accepted the handshake. “I’ve heard a lot about you,” he said.

“Thanks for picking us up,” Susan said.

“Not a problem,” he replied, and bent down to grab the suitcases. “Eliot is pulling the car around, he’ll meet us at the gate. Is this all your stuff?”

“The rest got shipped to the conference hall,” Amber said as she started walking to the exit. “You’re coming to the conference, right?”

“Wouldn’t miss it. I haven’t had the chance to heckle one of your speeches in two years.” He went through the door she held open. “I’ve been saving up rotting vegetables for days.”

“Har har.”

David pointed to a red honda. “There’s Eliot.”

“Are we all going to fit?” Susan asked.

“Should. It’s a big trunk.”

Eliot pulled the car to the curb, then popped the trunk and got out. Amber gave him a quick once over. He was a few inches shorter than David, but probably a few pounds heavier. His red hair was cut fairly short, and both his face and arms showed a bit of sunburn on pale skin. “Amber, this is Eliot. Eliot, these are Amber and Susan.”

“Good to meet you both,” Eliot said as he helped David load their bags into the trunk. He frowned. “Anything fragile?”

Susan indicated the bag she was still holding. “Just this one.”

“Might want to keep it in your lap,” Eliot advised as he managed to get the trunk closed.

Amber grinned. “Susan may have overpacked.”

Susan shook her head. “Amber has never worked one of these and has no idea the contingencies for which one must plan.”

David opened the car door for Amber while Eliot repeated the gesture for Susan. “Straight to the hotel, or do you ladies want dinner first?”

“If you don’t mind, dinner would be great,” Amber said.

“What are you in the mood for?” David asked.

“How about that greek place you were telling me about?” Amber asked. “If it’s not out of the way?”

“It’s on the way, actually,” Eliot said.

#

David meets Eliot’s mom

 

David knocked, then opened the door and let himself inside. He had set his bag down in the living room when he heard a polite cough behind him and turned to find a stern looking woman in her fifties gazing at him disapprovingly.

“Is there a reason you just let yourself into my son’s home?”

“I… um…”

She tapped her foot impatiently as David fumbled for a response. He was saved when Eliot entered and almost immediately smiled. “David, I wasn’t expecting you until this evening.”

“They are still doing some work on the dorms.”

The woman looked between them, then said, “are you aware there are people who just enter your house when you leave your door unlocked?”

Eliot grinned. “This is David. And he actually has a key. David, this is my mother, Caroline. I wasn’t expecting her at all.”

“You… you actually gave someone your key?” Caroline raised her hands to her face to partially cover a look of surprise. “Oh, oh” she reached out and grabbed David’s arm, practically dragging him into the living room. “I want to know all about you.”

#

Eliot and David talk about Eliot’s mom

 

“Your mom is um…”

“Overbearing?”

“I was going to go with nice,” David said.

Eliot chuckled. “Yeah, she’s nice.” He grinned. “She wants me to drag you out to their spring bash. What do you think?”

“An excuse not to spend a week dealing with my father? Where do I sign up?”

“What’s the issue now?”

“Still the frat thing. And now that he’s heard Amber is making the move to California permanent, there is a hefty dose of ‘so when are you going to knock a girl up?’. I’m thinking telling him I’m joining a cult and taking a vow of celibacy.”

“Would that be better or worse than ‘sorry dad, I have a boyfriend?'”

“Too close to tell,” David replied. “He’s also having a good rant about the change of major.” He shrugged. “Apparently, I’m going to be wasting the next three years and he’s not going to be paying for it and blah de blah blah.”

“You pointed out you have a scholarship and are eighteen now, right?”

“Didn’t have to. Mom shut him down pretty hard,” David said. “I thought about telling her, but it’s not fair to ask her to keep the secret from Dad.” He shook his head. “How did you tell your parents?”

“I… more or less didn’t have to,” Eliot admitted. “I never had any reason to keep it a secret from them, so they just sort of found out naturally. My parents and Mark’s parents are both pretty progressive. They were a little disappointed when they realized that despite Mark and I both being gay we weren’t into each other than they were over the fact we were gay in the first place. Of course, considering that my dad and Mark’s dad were together even before they met our respective mothers, it would just be weird.”

David chuckled. “And your moms are cool with that?”

“They were all very up front with each other. Gwen and my mom also hit it off like long lost sisters from the beginning as well, which I imagine helped quite a bit.” Eliot shrugged. “Thomas’s parents aren’t happy about it, but they accept it. And Monty’s parents stopped talking to him long before he starting dating boys.”

#

David tells the guys he is going hunting with his dad

 

“Hey David. You coming with us this weekend?”

“Can’t. I’m actually heading home right after class gets out,” David said.

“Something up?”

“Deer opener.”

Monty stopped short. “You are going to go kill Bambi?” He turned huge eyes at David and actually made his bottom lip quiver.

“Better question, are you bringing back parts of Bambi wrapped neatly in white paper?” Mark asked.

David laughed. “Got a particular preference?”

“Summer sausage?” Mark asked hopefully.

“No eating Bambi,” Monty said.

“Bambi is tasty,” Mark replied. “Maybe a roast?”

“Sure. Dad and I each have a tag.”

“You are going to kill Bambi and Faleen?”

“Just Bambi and his son,” David replied. “No does.”

“I’m not talking to you anymore,” Monty said.

#

Wyatt picks up David at the bus station

 

“Bus was supposed to be here half an hour ago,” Wyatt complained.

“There was an accident just outside the suburb,” David replied. He opened the back door and put his bag inside, then climbed into the passenger seat. “When’d you get a new truck?”

Wyatt smiled proudly. “This thing can haul every piece of equipment we own,” he said. “And check it out, heated seats.” He revved the engine before pulling out of the parking lot. “You joined a fraternity yet?”

“No.”

“Bah. You know, there is more to do in college than just study.” He glanced at David. “Ian’s daughter might be coming on the hunting trip with us. She’s eighteen now, you know.”

“I completely forgot since the last four times you mentioned it,” David replied.

“Don’t you take that tone with me,” Wyatt muttered.

#

Eliot picks David up at the bus station

 

“How was hunting?” Eliot said as David climbed into the passenger seat.

“I shot a deer and refrained from shooting my father. So… good?”

Eliot laughed. “I take it Bambi is in the cooler?”

“Most of Bambi is in the deep freeze,” David said. “Brought a couple roasts, and some rib-eye steaks.”

“Your butcher has a good turn around time,” Eliot said.

David chuckled. “My granddad taught me how to butcher a deer when I was thirteen. He always had this little rant about how the butcher would keep all the choicest cuts for himself and would leave half the trimming behind when he tossed the carcass.”

“Your granddad go with you?”

“He had a stroke when I was fifteen. His left hand and leg don’t work well enough anymore for him to actually hunt anymore, so he just sits at camp, tells us we are doing everything wrong, and lies about how he once took down a fifty point buck with a swiss army knife and shoelace.” David’s tone was affectionate.

“A shoelace?” Eliot scoffed. “My granddad did it with a paperclip and a bit of twine. And it was a grizzly bear.”

David rolled his eyes. “I’ll bring the summer sausage when I come back from Christmas break. It won’t be ready for almost a week yet.”

#

Eating bambi

 

Monty sniffed as he came into the house. “Something smells good,” he said, dropping his backpack on the table.

“Hey Monty,” Eliot said. “Didn’t think you were coming.”

“Theater was having some power issues. They eventually got fed up and told us all to go home. What’s for dinner?”

“Bambi,” Mark said, pulling a roast pan out of the oven.

“You killed Bambi?” Monty said, turning to stare at David.

“As it turns out,” David replied. “Bambi is a big jerk. Left Faleen and the kids for a pronghorn, won’t pay child support, stomped on Flower’s tail, sold Thumper out to some coyotes and now the poor rabbit is in the witness protection program.”

“Well…” Monty glanced at the roast pan. “Maybe in that case…”

“Trust me, he had it coming,” David assured him.

#

Sarah finishes David’s quilt

 

“Going to drop that in the mail for David?” Wyatt asked.

“Actually, I was thinking of driving in and surprising him with it,” Sarah said while carefully folding the quilt.

“It’s a six hour drive,” Wyatt said.

“I had two cancellations and can easily reschedule the Glidden boys,” Sarah said. “It’s not always on him to make the trip, you know. Especially since he has to take the bus.”

“This is still about the car? He’s got a job now, if he wants one that badly he can buy his own.”

“It’s not just about the car, Wyatt. He can’t exactly bring his friends home with him on the bus. I’d like to meet a few of the people he’s mentioned, see his dorm room, visit my son.”

“I can’t get away from work, and Naomi can’t…”

“I wasn’t asking either of you to come. In fact, I wasn’t asking anything at all,” Sarah said briskly. “I’m driving up tomorrow, right after Marla’s violin lesson.”

“He know you are coming?”

“I’m going to surprise him,” Sarah said, smiling. “Pick him up from work, take him to dinner. He was going on about the desert at some greek place and I’d like to try it.”

#

Sarah finds out about Eliot

 

Sarah found herself singing along to the radio as she pulled into the center where the security company was located. She glanced down at the clock. “Half an hour early,” she said to herself. She looked around the shopping center, then her eyes fell on the sign for a music shop. “Well, that will do nicely.”

Her alarm alerted her after she’d been browsing for a while. She quickly paid for the sheet music she’d found, then walked towards the security company. She grinned when she saw her son leaving the building, still tucking in his shirt. She was about to call his name when she noted him walking up to a red haired man. Her eyes widened when David greeted the man with a kiss and they started to walk to a car. As David walked around to the passenger door, he looked up to say something to his companion and caught sight of her. He stopped dead in his tracks.

After a moment, his companion turned to see what David was looking at, and she squared her shoulders and walked in their direct. “David,” she said.

“Mom,” he replied, his voice sounding slightly strangled.

His companion’s eyes widened, and she was fairly sure he said a curse word under his breath. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “I… wanted to surprise you,” she said to David. “Surprise,” she said, trying to keep her voice light.

“Mom, this is Eliot. Eliot, this is my mom. Sarah,” David managed after a moment.

“It’s nice to meet you, ma’am,” Eliot said.

“I…” she found herself at a loss for words and just starred at him.

He looked at David, then back at her. “We were just heading out to dinner,” he said. “Join us?”

“David… told me about a Greek place.”

“Would you like to ride with us, or follow?” Eliot asked.

“I…” she looked at the car next to her, then opened the back door and slid in behind the driver’s seat.

#

Eliot, David, and Sarah go out to dinner

 

“So El is short for Eliot?”

“Yes ma’am,” Eliot replied.

She took the seat next to her son, and Eliot sat down across from her. After a moment, she looked at David, and said, in a small, hurt voice. “You could have told me.”

“I… didn’t think it was right to ask you to keep it from Dad,” David replied in the same tone.

She nodded. “You… said the chicken here was really good?”

They chatted for a few minutes, carefully avoiding the elephant in the room. Finally, she looked across at Eliot, meeting his eyes for the first time. “What’s your major?” she asked. “You are a student, I presume.”

“I’m in the medical program,” Eliot replied.

“A doctor?” she asked. “Surgeon?”

“Psychiatrist,” he replied. “My undergrad work was in psychology.”

“Like Sigmund Freud?”

David made a choked sound. “Don’t. Please don’t get him started on Freud.”

Sarah managed a smile, then looked back at Eliot. “How old are you?”

“Twenty eight.”

“You are aware that makes you nine years older than my son?”

“It’s… a bit closer to ten, actually,” he admitted.

“How did you… when did you meet?”

David and Eliot exchanged a guilty look. “He TA’d for one of my classed when I was a freshman.”

“So, three years. You’ve been dating for three years.” She looked back at Eliot. “You started dating my son when he was seventeen.” She took a breath, then set her hands on the table. “I’m sorry.”

“I should have told you,” David said.

“Yes,” Sarah replied. “But I understand why you didn’t,” she added after a moment. She went silent as the server put their plates down in front of them. She poked her chicken with her fork, then looked back at them. “Are you two living together?”

“No,” David replied. “He lives a few miles from campus, so it’s more practical for me to stay at the dorm during the week and…” he trailed off.

Sarah nodded. “So, I cleared my schedule until Monday. I thought we might…” She smiled. “I need to find a motel.”

“I have a guest room,” Eliot said quietly.

Sarah looked up at him, then nodded. “I’d appreciate that,” she said after a moment. “If it’s not too much trouble,” she added.

“It’s no trouble,” Eliot said.

#

Sarah gets to know Eliot

 

Eliot showed her to the guest room, and she set her bag on the bed. “You live here by yourself?” she asked as she followed him back to the living room. She noted David’s guitar leaning against the wall, and amended, “or mostly by yourself?”

“I had roommates for a while. After they moved out, I just never got around to finding replacements.”

“I went through seven roommates my first year in college,” Sarah said. “Finding compatible people to share a house with is a monumental task.”

David nodded. “My roommate and I only get along because we never see each other.”

She took another look around the house, and noted the furniture was of surprisingly good quality. She looked at David’s guitar. “Are you also a musician, Eliot?”

“I appreciate music, ma’am…”

“Sarah, please.”

“Sarah. I appreciate music, but I personally have no talent for it.” He smiled, then looked at David. “Our plans for tomorrow actually involved going to watch some of David’s classmates perform their first gig at a club downtown.”

“Having an old lady along won’t embarrass you, will it?”

“Not in the slightest,” David assured her.

Sarah nodded and glanced around again. Her eyes fell on a picture sitting on the end table. “Your family?” she asked Eliot.

“My mom and dad,” Eliot acknowledged.

“Your brother?”

“Close enough,” Eliot said. “That’s Mark. Our dads have known each other since their college days, and our moms became best friends upon meeting. Mark and I have known each other our whole lives.”

“My daughter has a couple friends like that. Emily and Janet. Emily’s mom Nancy was one of my first students when I started teaching piano lessons.” She looked over at her son. “How are classes going?”

“Good,” he replied. “I sat for a certification last week,” he added. “EMT.”

“EMT?”

“Emergency medical technician,” he clarified.

“Is that like a paramedic?”

“Not quite. Paramedics are actually allowed to do things like start IVs and the like. I’m a step below that, but a couple steps above just the basic CPR certification.” He shrugged. “After proofreading El’s papers the last couple years, the exam was fairly easy.”

“He says that about most exams,” Eliot told her.

“He always has,” she replied. She looked back at the guitar. “He’s been practicing, right?”

“My friend Monty is trying to get him to audition for a musical coming up,” Eliot told her.

“Which one?”

“They are doing Grease.”

“Oh, I love that one. He’d be great in it.”

“No.” David said.

“He has stage fright,” Sarah told Eliot.

“The best way to get over that is to face it head on,” Eliot replied.

“You two do not get to team up,” David said.

#

Sarah tells David that she’ll deal with Wyatt

 

Sarah looked up at her son as she finished packing her bag. “I had fun,” she said.

“Are you okay? With me and Eliot?”

“I’m… going to need a bit of time,” Sarah admitted.

He nodded, then picked up her bag for her. She followed him into the living room, then stopped and looked from him to Eliot. “Give me a bit of time, and I’ll deal with Wyatt,” she said. “I… would really like it if you could join us for Christmas,” she said to Eliot.

“I would like that too,” Eliot replied.

She hesitated a moment, then gave him a quick hug. “Don’t be late to class. Either of you,” she said as she went out the door.

#

David and Wyatt talk about Sarah

 

“Your thoughts?”

David sighed. “My mom can handle my dad, but he isn’t going to take it well. I’m supposed to marry some nice local girl and settle down to coach something or other, run the family business, and carry on the family name.” He shrugged, then smiled. “Speaking of which, your mother dropped a few, er… hints.”

“I know. I told her we’ll start with a goldfish and work our way up.” Eliot shrugged.

#

Naomi calls David to tell him about the accident

 

David set his cue down as his phone started to ring. He frowned at the caller ID. “Naomi?”

Eliot set his cue on the table as he watched David’s expression go from concerned to stricken.

“I’m on my way.” David closed the phone then starred bleakly at Eliot. “My parents. There has been an accident. I… she doesn’t know yet if they are going to make it.”

“Want me to drive?”

David shook his head bleakly. “I…”

Eliot nodded in understanding. “Take my car. I’ll get a loaner in the morning.”

“Thank you.”

#

David arrives at the hospital

 

Naomi flung her arms around David as he entered the waiting room. “Oh, thank god you are here. They won’t tell me anything.”

“What happened?”

“Mom and Dad went to dinner. Mom said it was a special occasion, and she was taking Dad up to Killian’s. She told me to spend the night at Janet’s. It was raining, and… they went off the road.”

David closed his eyes and rested his chin on the top of Naomi’s head. The doctor entered the room a few minutes later. “Andrews?”

“Here,” David responded.

The doctor, whose nametag identified him as ‘Richards’, consulted the chart in his hand. “Your mother was just moved out of surgery and into the ICU. Her condition is listed as stable.”

“Did she say what happened?” Naomi asked.

“I’m afraid she has not yet regained consciousness. Until she does, we cannot be certain of the extent of the damage.”

“What does that mean?” Naomi demanded, and David put a hand on her shoulder and drew her to him gently.

“The rescuers pulled your mother out of the water. We do not know how long her brain was without oxygen.”

“And dad?” David asked, holding his sobbing little sister.

“Your father is still in surgery. His injuries are more numerous, with considerable damage to his lower extremities. His intoxication levels have complicated matters as well.”

Naomi pulled herself away from David. “But they said Dad was driving.” She looked at the doctor in disbelief. “My father would never drive drunk.”

“Perhaps you misheard the rescue team,” the doctor said in a pacifying tone.

#

Leona visits David

 

Leona shifted the casserole dishes and knocked on the door. A moment later, David answered. “Aunt Leona.”

“David, sweetie, can I come in?”

“Of course,” he said. He reached out to take part of the load she was carrying.

“Where is Naomi? How are you holding up?”

“Naomi is spending the night at Ems house. I’m… alright.”

She looked down at the newspaper open on the table and frowned. “Classifieds? You…”

“Dad is never going to walk again. They don’t know if Mom is ever going to wake up. Naomi is fourteen. And Dad took out a second mortgage on the house to buy that fucking truck and try to keep the company afloat.”

She frowned briefly at his language, then sighed. She looked over the positions he’d marked. “Washing dishes. Fast food.”

“I’m not exactly qualified for,” he glanced down at the ads. “Senior advertising agent.”

“You are selling the company?”

He nodded. “I’d love to try to keep it going, but apparently it’s been in the red the last two years. Theo made me an offer on it anyway. That will take care of the medical expenses, and the equipment we’ll need to take care of Mom and remodel so Dad can come home. And one of the mortgages.” He sat back down and resumed going over the ads.

She sat across from him. “What about school?”

“Maybe when things get settled I’ll…” he sighed.

“Your girlfriend? What’s her name, Elle?”

“El is just starting a residency. We’ll figure something out. I can head up on the weekends or…”

“You know I’m just a phone call away, right?”

“I know.”

#

Leona tells the sheriff to hire David

 

“Heather, got a minute?”

“Leona. Got that ad for me to look over?”

“No.”

“We need to get it…”

“Don’t bother. You are going to hire my grand-nephew.”

“Am I now?” Heather asked while raising an eyebrow.

“He needs a job.”

“And you want me to just give him one?”

“He’s a blackbelt. He was captain of the wrestling team. He’s smart and hard working enough to have graduated at sixteen. He’s better for the job than the last four schmucks you hired.”

“Is he even old enough to drink?”

“He will be in July. Heather, I’m asking you. Wyatt may have been a good contractor but he had lousy business sense. His shitty insurance isn’t going to cover half the expenses, especially since he was driving drunk. Those kids are going to be left with nothing. Give David a chance.”

“Tell him to be here Thursday morning, 9am. I’ll give him an interview, let him take a practice exam.”

#

David interviews with for the deputy position

 

Heather looked at the young man who sat across from her. “You graduated in 06, right?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“What was your GPA?”

“4.0”

“And your college GPA?”

“3.9.”

“Your resume says you’ve been working as a security guard the last two years. Armed?”

“No Ma’am. You have to be 21 to get a permit to carry.”

“Leona tells me you are a black belt?”

“Yes ma’am. Taekwondo and judo.”

“You took state in 06?”

“Yes ma’am.”

She flipped the resume over and looked at the test results. She nodded, then looked up at him. “There was an incident the summer before you left for college, as I recall correctly. You put Gordon and Joel Marcus both in the hospital.” She smiled. “In the same incident.”

“It was…”

“Oh, you don’t need to defend yourself,” Heather interrupted smoothly. “It’s a point in your favor, actually. I’ll be honest. You don’t meet the requirements for the position. That said, I am going to hire you. Probationary until you are twenty one. One of my other deputies has been wanting to bring in some new training options. You get to be her guinea pig.”

“I… Thank you, ma’am.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” she replied. “You start in two weeks. I’ll have Leona take care of the paperwork.”

#

Heather tells Cora she is getting a new partner

 

“Wait… not only am I getting a completely unqualified partner, he’s not even old enough to carry a gun yet?” Cora starred at Heather.

“Cora, excluding shooting helpless canoes, when was the last time you actually had to draw your sidearm?”

Cora gave her an annoyed look, but Heather just raised an eyebrow. After a full minute, Cora sighed and relented. “I shot a raccoon last year,” she muttered.

“You put a raccoon out of it’s misery,” Heather acknowledged.

“Is he at least majoring in law enforcement?”

“Business. And some construction,” Heather replied.

“Oh, good, we’ll finally be able to do something the next time Ester calls 911 to report her sink is clogged up,” Cora grumbled. “I said I was sorry about the canoe.”

“I think it will work out,” Heather said. “He’s a nice kid. Leona asked a favor.”

“She needed a baby-sitter.”

“Think of it as an opportunity to mentor.”

“Right. Baby-sitting.”

#

Leona talks to Wyatt

 

Leona sat down next to her nephew. Wyatt just starred at the ceiling. “I talked to Heather,” she said after a minute. “She hired David for the deputy position that just opened up.”

“He should be back in school. Or running the company.”

“You are damn lucky Theo is buying the company,” Leona replied. “The offer he made is more than fair and you know it.”

“I don’t need you sticking your nose in,” Wyatt said through gritted teeth.

“Your son had to drive back to the city today to say goodbye to his friends so he can come home to take care of Naomi and your sorry ass. You are not going to dump trying to save the business you ran into the ground on his shoulders as well.” She looked over at the man lying on the hospital bed, and sighed. “I’m so sorry, Wyatt.”

“When David came to see me… he said Sarah hasn’t woken up yet.”

Leona leaned over and took one of his hands. “She’s in a coma. There is still brain activity, but they don’t know when… or if… she will ever regain consciousness. She was in the water for a while, and there was head trauma. David is making arrangements for her to receive in home care.”

Wyatt nodded. “This is all my fault, isn’t it?” he asked, his voice small. “I was drunk, and I was driving.”

“Why would you do something like that, Wyatt?”

“I… I have no idea,” Wyatt replied. “I don’t remember anything of that day. I barely remember anything of that week. Naomi said that Sarah was taking me out for a nice evening at Killian’s, but I don’t know what the occasion was supposed to be.” He went silent for a few minutes, then asked, “Why would Sarah even get in the car with me if I was as drunk as they say I was?”

#

David tells Eliot about his new job

 

“So, deputy?” Eliot asked. “You had a hankering to go into law enforcement”

David smiled. “Paycheck enough to cover the bills without me having to work two jobs,” he said.

Eliot nodded. “I’m sorry,” he offered.

“Yeah, me too.”

“We aren’t breaking up,” Eliot said firmly. David raised his head to look at him. “I mean it. We knew the next couple years were going to be rough, we just didn’t realize it was going to be rough on both of us. We’ll arrange things so we each get a few days off in a row once a month. We’ll make it work.”

David nodded. “You willing to date a jackboot?”

“Let’s see… handcuffs, man in uniform, laying down the law…” he shoved David in the chest, causing the other man to tumble backwards onto the bed. “Yeah, I think there is potential with that idea.”

#

David tells Eliot about remodeling the house

 

“How much remodeling are you going to need to do?”

“It’s not that bad,” David replied. “Some of Dad’s former employees have already volunteered to come by and lend a hand. The problem is buying the stuff we need to do the remodel. Doors and stuff I can get at a salvage yard. Things like the wheelchair accessible tub and stuff…” He sighed. “Might just have to build in a shower, add a bench.”

“So, the hospice I volunteer at. They remodeled earlier this year. Might still have some of the old stuff warehoused. I could check.”

David looked up at him. “You are a terrible liar.”

“Will you actually let me buy it for you?”

“No.”

“Fine. Then there is some old stuff warehoused and I can arrange for you to get it at a steep discount. I’ll arrange for it to be delivered.”

“El…”

“Plus Mark, Thomas, and I are chipping in for an early Christmas present,” Monty chimed in. “We each chip in a hundred or bucks, El, what will that put the final cost at?”

“Handrails, wheel chair accessible tub with circulation aids, ADA compliant toilet,” Eliot shrugged. “Couple hundred bucks or so.”

“I can’t let you…”

“Let,” Monty said to Eliot. “Let. Like he hasn’t saved me a few thousand dollars with all the shit he’s fixed at my house and refused compensation for.” He smacked David lightly in the back of the head. “Karma, jackass. Time to reap the consequences of being a good friend.”

“Assholes.”

“Love you too,” Eliot said.

#

Cora meets David

 

“So, you’re David.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“I’m Cora. Not ma’am.”

“Yes ma’ Cora.”

“That’s your desk,” she said, indicating a desk that was just barely visible under a pile of boxes that had been stacked haphazardly. “Come on,” she said, gesturing irritably for him to follow her. “Heather says I get to train you.”

“Yes,” he said, lengthening his stride slightly to keep up with her brisk pace.

“Sucks to be you,” she said cheerfully. “Because she’s also authorized me to do additional training.”

“She did say something about me being a guinea pig,” he said.

“Ah, so you’ve been warned. Get in the car.”

#

Cora takes David to the hospital to view an autopsy

 

Cora pulled the car into the hospital parking lot and got out. The young man followed her as she walked into the elevator and hit the button to go down. “You haven’t asked what we are doing here,” she observed.

“The only reason you want me to ask is so you can refuse to tell me,” he replied.

“Really?”

“If I asked, you would tell me I will find out soon enough,” he said.

Her lips twitched slightly. “And?”

“I’ll find out soon enough,” he acknowledged.

She shook her head. “You are taking some of the fun out of this.”

“Cora, what are we doing here?” he asked.

“You’ll find out soon enough,” she retorted.

The elevator doors opened, and she led him down the hallway and through two sets of double doors. “Hey Paul.”

“Cora. You are a few minutes early,” said a short man with graying hair. He shook his hands off.

Cora looked over at the tall man behind her. “Paul here is the medical examiner. He’s going to walk us through a typical autopsy.”

David nodded. Cora applied a dash of mentholatum under her nose, then offered the jar to David. He shook his head. She smirked, but put the jar away. They followed Paul into the next room, where the body of a man in his fifties was laid out on a table. “Jacob Varnell,” Paul said. “He was found face down in his kitchen by a neighbor.” He began to walk them through the stages of the autopsy, and Cora interjected the occasional question. She watched David out of the corner of her eye, and was surprised when he spoke up to comment that the weight of the liver was off.

“It is,” Paul acknowledged. “Thoughts?”

“You made a comment earlier about him being a drinker. A combination of alcoholic hepatitis and congestive heart failure could easily lead to an enlarged liver.”

“Do you have a medical background?”

“I’m an certified EMT,” David replied.

Paul chuckled. “Well, you just cost Cora ten dollars. She bet the sheriff you wouldn’t make it through the entire thing.”

Cora shook her head. “Alright, junior, let’s head back to the station.”

“He’s not done yet,” David said. “He hasn’t even started dissecting the heart for signs of blockage.”

Cora gave in and laughed. “I brought two down here last month.”

“Roderick at least made it out of the room before vomiting,” Paul said.

“Alright, kiddo, let’s see what else you’ve got,” Cora swept out of the room, and David followed.

#

Cora gets David’s background

 

“So you’ve seen an autopsy before?” Cora asked as she started the car.

“Yes. And I hunt,” David replied.

“Rifle or shotgun?”

“Both.”

“You aren’t old enough to legally carry a pistol. Have you used one before?”

“A few times at the range,” David replied.

“Heather said you were majoring in business and construction.”

“I was. I changed it last year.”

“To what?”

“Biomedical engineering.”

“So did Heather hire you as a favor to Leona, or just to fuck with me?” Cora asked, then laughed. “Both, I suppose,” she answered herself. “So you’re a nerd,” she added.

“I have been so accused, yes,” he replied. “Mostly by my sister.”

“You probably can pass the physical requirements,” she said, taking another look at him. “Runner?”

“Yes. And wrestling and martial arts.”

She stopped at the light and turned to look at him. He returned the look, raising an eyebrow. “You are a nerd who does karate.”

“Taekwondo and judo, actually.” He nodded. “Light is green.”

She muttered something, then continued driving. “How is it you’ve seen an autopsy before?”

“I’m dating a med student.”

“Anything else I should know?”

“I play the guitar and I can recite all the states and their capitals.”

“Smartass.”

#

Heather reveals she hired David in part to screw with Cora

 

Cora knocked on the door of Heather’s office. Heather looked up and grinned. “How’d it go?”

“You told me he was a business major.”

“Paul says you owe me ten bucks.”

Cora laughed. “You are still pissed about the canoe.”

Heather shook her head, then shoved a piece of paper at Cora. Cora sat down and looked it over. “A certified EMT with two years experience as a security guard,” Cora said, looking over the resume.

“I gave him the exam, just to get an idea of how much training he’d need,” Heather said. “He passed it. I asked if he’d studied. Apparently, a couple of his fellow guards were in the law enforcement program and were paying him to proofread their papers.” She folded her hands. “He’s probationary until he turns twenty one. I’m using some discretion since he is Leona’s nephew. He’s going to be shadowing you. You’ve been complaining none of the others have any interest in doing those CSI seminars and what not. He’s all yours.”

“So is this about the canoe, or the others complaining about my nagging them about qualifications?”

“I’m multi-tasking.” Heather smiled again. “Try not to break him. Leona will pout if you do.”

“We’ll see how he handles paperwork,” Cora replied.

#

David tells Eliot about his first day as a deputy

 

“How was the first day on the job?” Eliot asked.

“My new partner apparently isn’t all that happy about having a partner. She dragged me in to see an autopsy and bet the sheriff I wouldn’t last ten minutes.”

“Pfft… did you tell her I already popped that cherry?”

“I didn’t put it in those terms, no.” David said, trying not to laugh. “Cora is apparently a bit gungho and has been attempting to get something approaching an actual CSI unit into the department. The Sheriff doesn’t see the need, being that most of the time a crime around here is committed we know exactly who did it before we even get on the scene. I’m either a compromise or sacrificial offering.”

“How’d she take losing the bet?”

“I got to learn how to turn handwritten scribbles into police reports.”

“And the excitement never ends.”

“What about you?”

“I actually got to diagnose a patient today. She had a horrible case of ‘cut her hand open on a piece of glass’. I even got to operate. One whole stitch.”

“My hero,” David said. He then cursed slightly as the wrench slipped.

“What are you doing?” Eliot asked.

“Putting in a new shower head. Some of Dad’s former employees came by this weekend, helped me get in the new tub and the ramp.”

“When does he come home?”

“It’s looking like Wednesday. We switched out the bedrooms. Original plan was for Naomi and I both to move upstairs, but Naomi has decided to take over the basement instead. That leaves me the master bedroom.”

“Must be nice after the dorm,” Eliot said. He tried to stifle a yawn.

“Get some sleep,” David said.

“You’re not the…” Eliot yawned again. “…boss of me.”

“Asshole.”

“Love you too,” Eliot said.

David grinned and hung up the phone before going back to his plumbing.

#

Wyatt comes home from the hospital

 

Wyatt starred out of the window as the van pulled into the drive. A ramp had been added to the front of the house, and the temporary railing was still in place. He noted the front door and sidelites had been replaced by a set of double doors. David came out of the garage as the driver got out and came around to the side door.

The driver pulled the chair into the lift, then hit the button for the lift to take the chair to the ground.

“Where is Naomi?” Wyatt asked.

David nodded to the house just as Naomi came out of the front door and started walking towards them. “Right there,” David said.

Naomi smiled and waited for David and the driver to get the wheelchair off the lift. As soon as he was off the platform, Wyatt hit the button on his chair. It lurched forward. He cursed. Naomi came around to the back and started guiding him to the ramp.

“New doors,” he said.

“David let me pick them out,” Naomi said.

“I like them,” Wyatt said. He looked over his shoulder and saw Naomi smile.

David followed them into the house, and Naomi pushed the chair into what had previously been Naomi’s room. Naomi put a hand on Wyatt’s shoulder. “I thought you might be happier here. It’s got a good view of the front yard.”

Wyatt looked over at the hospital bed and lift system. Naomi pointed, “the red cord and the little alert button are both tied to a call system that alerts the nursing service and both of our cell phones.”

“And the cow bell?”

Naomi grinned down at him. “That’s for when you just need a fresh cup of coffee. You know, a real emergency.” She pushed the wheelchair over to a door that hadn’t been there before, and opened it. “We haven’t quite finished redoing the bathroom yet. Still needs another coat of paint.”

Wyatt looked around the blue and white room. A shower curtain featuring a lighthouse half-obscured what appeared to be a tub with a door. “What’s this?”

“Wheel-chair accessible bath tub,” David replied.

Naomi leaned over and opened the tub door, and pointed to the handrails. “You open it, then you can transfer in and sit here. Then you can either shower, or if you want, you can shut the door and pull this lever. That seals it, and then you can fill it up and it works like a bathtub. Like a spa, actually. The doctor said the jets will help prevent any circulation issues from developing.”

“Must have cost a fortune,” Wyatt said.

“It’s not new,” David said. “The hospice El volunteers at remodeled last year, and they had the stuff they took out warehoused. El pulled a few strings. This one had only been installed for a year before they took it out. Got a bit lucky.”

Naomi grinned. “You should have heard David, Ian, and Theo cussing trying to get it in here. David put in a new shower head, see?” She pointed it out. “So you can fill it like a tub, you can use the rain head, the regular shower head, or the handheld. Or all of them.”

“You use greenboard when you redid the stall?”

David nodded. “Most of the medical equipment is in the wardrobe here,” he said, pointing at the heavy walnut piece near the door. “A nurse and physical therapist will be coming in daily until you get settled, then it will taper off.”

“And who is going to deal with this when the nurse isn’t here?”

“I’ve had my EMT certification for a year now,” David said. “I talked to the hospital, and there will be a class this summer that Naomi can take.”

“You are a certified EMT?” Wyatt said, glancing back at David.

David nodded.

“When did you do that?”

“Last winter.” David shrugged.

“Huh,” Wyatt said. He looked up at Naomi. “You upstairs now?”

“David is upstairs,” Naomi said. “I’m taking over the basement. David fixed the shower, and Ems and Janet are coming over this weekend to help me paint.” Her voice got a little sad. “We are setting up David’s old room for Mom.”

“They are going to let you bring Sarah home then?” Wyatt asked David.

“She’s stable,” David replied. “She’ll have a nurse come in three times a week. Right now we are looking at her coming home first week of December. Should give us enough time to finish getting ready.”

Naomi tilted her head to one side. “There goes the timer,” she said. “We made a ham.” She bounced out of the room.

Wyatt looked around the room, then back at his son. “That handrail out there is just temporary, right?”

David sighed, then nodded. “If it doesn’t rain this weekend, Theo and I will get the permanent one in.”

“What did you do with your mother’s roses?”

“Right now they are in pots in Ian’s greenhouse. He’ll winter them there, then I can replant them in the spring. We found a wrought iron banister at that salvage place just outside Silver Falls. The roses should look nice with it.” David reached to grab the handles of the wheelchair, and Wyatt hit the switch. After the first attempt, he made it through the door and into the kitchen. Naomi was setting the table.

#

Cora tells David about shooting a canoe

 

“You shot a canoe?”

“I feared for my life. It approached aggressively. Pretty sure it was rabid.” Cora put her head under her open notebook. “The canoe had it coming.”

“Did it insult your mother?”

“No, it brutally murdered my former partner, just days before he retired, and I avenged him. Shut up.”

“Cora… you let it get personal?”

“I had to throw out the book!”

“And by partner…”

“Best damn flashlight I ever owned.” Cora sat up and grinned at David. “Let me tell you kiddo, you’ve got some to do, to live up to that.”

“I hope I can fill the flashlight’s shoes.”

“Doing okay so far, sport. Now if only you had an off switch and traveled in the glove box.”

“You seriously shot a canoe?”

Cora stood, aiming her finger at David in a gunslinger’s pose. “Yes, in fear for my life, I drew my piece and fired, Bang Bang. I rolled into cover and fired again. Bang Bang. Then, just when all hope was lost, I rose from the ashes and finished it off. Bang Bang Bang!”

“Seven shots from a six shooter. I am impressed.”

“It made me that mad. Hush before I give a demonstration.”

#

Heather talks to Cora about her new partner

 

Heather grinned at Cora. “It’s been about two weeks since you last complained about me saddling you with a partner.”

Cora glared up at her, then returned the smile. “He… might have some potential.”

#

Sarah comes home from hospital

 

Wyatt kept hold of Naomi’s hand as he watched the nurse going over the equipment with David. He couldn’t quite make his eyes go to where Sarah was lying on the bed, her form still. Naomi squeezed his hand gently.

It was nearly an hour before David walked the nurse to the door and signed off on a sheet of paper. He looked at where Naomi stood next to Wyatt. “Any objections if I just order a pizza for dinner?” he asked tiredly.

“As greasy and unhealthy as possible, if you would,” Wyatt said, trying to inject a note of humor into his voice.

“Jukebox it is,” David replied. “Double anchovies for Naomi.”

“Jerk. Get root beer. And mozzarella sticks.

David smiled as went to the phone book.

Naomi glanced down at her dad, then went to the fireplace and started setting it up. “Maybe we could get out a game?”

“Monopoly?” Wyatt asked.

“Naomi cheats,” David said.

“Scrabble?” Wyatt suggested.

“David cheats,” Naomi retorted.

“The ability to spell does not qualify as cheating,” David replied. “Yes, hello…” he said into the phone, and began ordering.

Wyatt shook his head. “Get the cards, girl. High time I taught you how to play poker.”

#

Eliot invites David to fancy party

 

“Don’t forget to bring a suit,” Eliot said.

“I… don’t own a suit,” David said.

“Really?” Eliot asked.

“I haven’t needed one since my great uncle Marvin’s funeral. I was twelve.”

Monty slung his arm around David’s shoulders. “So, I’m hearing… shopping trip.”

“I can’t,” Eliot said. “I’ve got to finish two papers before I go anywhere.”

“No worries, we’ll get Cinderella here ready for the ball,” Thomas chimed in.

“Anyone pulling out a magic wand gets punched,” David said. “I can buy my own suit.”

Mark laughed. “Too late, Thomas and Monty have that look in their eyes. You are going to be lucky if you get out of this without being dragged to a salon.”

“You’re coming to,” Thomas said.

Mark shrugged.

“Great. I’m being shanghai’d by the three good fairies,” David muttered.

Monty started laughing hysterically into David’s shoulder. Mark and Eliot both rolled their eyes.

#

David defends Monty as a cop

 

“Let’s head back to our place,” Mark suggested.

“Sounds good to me,” Eliot said. “Dibs on the drums.”

“Where’s Monty?” Thomas asked, grabbing his jacket.

“Restroom, I think,” Mark said.

“There he is,” David pointed across the club. He held up the car keys and saw Monty nod in response.

 

Monty made his way out of the club and slipped out the door. He saw the others heading into the parking garage and ran to join them. He checked his jacket pockets, making sure he had his phone, and bumped into a guy coming out of the parking garage.

“Watch it,” the guy said, shoving him back.

“My apologies,” Monty said, trying to step around him.

One of the guy’s friends laughed. “Look it this little fag,” he sneered, stepping to block Monty’s path. “Fucking my little pony shirt. What are you, a kid diddler?”

“I don’t want any trouble,” Monty said, taking a step back.

The guy he ran into laughed drunkenly. “Then maybe you should have watched where you were going.”

Monty ducked to the left and slid past the bigger man, but one of the others shoved him as he went by, causing him to stumble into the wall. “Where you going, fucker?”

The guy he’d run into swung at him, narrowly missing as Monty ducked away. Another guy cut off his retreat, laughing. The big man wound up for another swing. David intercepted swiftly, catching the bigger man’s arm and twisting it back. The bigger man let out a grunt as David applied pressure to the joint.

“Hey now,” one of the other guys started to say, taking an aggressive step forward.

“You have the right to remain silent,” David told him, his voice cold and hard enough that Monty took an involuntary step backwards. “If you give up that right, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” He yanked his badge out of his pocket with his free hand.

“Shit, we didn’t mean…”

“You have the right to an attorney,” David continued. The guy he was holding tried to twist around, and David kicked the back of his knee, causing him to drop to the ground. “If you cannot afford an attorney…”

“He’s drunk, officer,” one of the guys said, holding out his hands in a placating gesture. “And stupid,” he added.

“Not a good combination,” David said, his voice hard.

“We were just getting ready to take him home.”

“Funny, it looked to me like you were committing assault and battery. I bet those security cameras there are going to agree.”

“Look, I’m sober, our car is right over there…” the guy said.

David glanced down at the man he was holding. “I’ll tell you what, if this nice man here is willing to accept an apology in lieu of pressing charges, I’ll let you gentlemen off with a warning.”

“We’re sorry,” the man said to Monty. The others quickly repeated the statement, assuring Monty that they didn’t mean it and were deeply apologetic.

David waited for Monty to nod and step away before he released his hold. He looked at the man who’d been talking. “Get him out of here.”

“Yes officer,” the man said, and he and his friend quickly grabbed their companion and bundled him into the car.

As they sped off, Thomas started to laugh. “Holy shit,” he said. “Did he actually wet himself? I think he wet himself.”

“You okay, Monty?” David asked.

“That was great,” Monty observed gleefully. “You shoved a jackboot up his ass.”

Eliot grinned. “You are sexy when you do the cop thing,” he said.

“Get in the damn car,” David muttered.

“I think I’m going to swoon.”

“Asshole.”

“Love you too.”

#

David learns Naomi is dating Keith

 

“Keith,” David said, nodding at the young man sitting on the porch.

“Um, Mr. Andrews. I was just… Naomi called, she’s riding with Emily and they got held up and she’s running late. We’ve got a test and um…”

“Breath, Keith,” David said, his lips twitching as he tried not to smile.

“Breath, right.” Keith exhaled. “Sorry Mr. Andrews.”

David shook his head, and unlocked the door. “You know, you could have knocked. Dad is home.”

“Your dad um…” Keith trailed off.

“Good point,” David said. “Come in, you can wait in the kitchen.”

Keith followed David into the house, then sat at the table. “Soda?” David offered.

“I’m okay, Mr. Andrews.”

“What’s this test?”

“Um… economics.”

Naomi slid into the house a moment later. “Hey Keith, sorry I’m late.”

“So how long have you two been dating?” David asked

“How’d you know we are…”

“De. Tect. Tive.” David said. “I’m guessing about three weeks ago. That’s about the time Keith started jumping every time I glanced in his direction.”

Keith starred down at the floor. Naomi shuffled her feet slightly. “Don’t tell Dad.”

David shook his head. “My lips are sealed,” he said.

“You’re not…? I mean…” Keith stuttered.

David shrugged and acknowledged the point. “Keith, you staying for dinner?”

“Um…”

“Yes,” Naomi said.

“Alright, clear out of the kitchen. I’ll call you up when it’s ready,” David said. “And Keith…?”

“Yes Mr. Andrews?”

“You two better be practicing safe economics.”

“Augh,” Naomi said, and threw a dishtowel at him. “You are such a butthead.”

David laughed.

#

David talks to Cora about Keith and Naomi

 

“When did I become scary?” David asked Cory.

“You aren’t. You are a pretty little pansy boy,” she replied.

“Naomi’s new boyfriend is so scared of me he can’t form a sentence in my presence.”

Cora snickered. “Well, in that case, I’ll point out you did recently break a man’s arm when he took a swing at you. Plus you can take Big Marcus down in about three seconds. And you are her big brother and carry a gun.” She elbowed him. “Who is she dating?”

“Keith Wu. He works at the paper with her.”

“The one that writes the ‘history of’ column?”

“That’s the guy.”

“We gonna run him out of town on a rail, or are we tarring and feathering him first?”

David chuckled. “I suppose that’s her decision.”

#

David gives Naomi a lesson on condoms

 

“So, you are really okay about me dating Keith?”

“Is there a reason I shouldn’t be?”

“Well, Dad hates him.”

“You could bring home Captain America, and Dad would hate him,” David said.

“Keith’s a great guy. Um… your crack about er… safe economics…” She glance up him. “We aren’t… I mean… but if… ugh.”

“Legally, I’m your guardian,” David replied. “If you want me to take you down and get you a prescription for the pill, just say the word.”

“Seriously?”

“You will, however, use a condom as well.”

“That’s like… ugh. Doesn’t it kill the mood?” She gestured. “Hold on there a minute there girlie, let me slip this here balloon on.”

“So put it on for him.”

“Wait, what?”

“They didn’t cover foreplay in sex ed?”

She starred at him. “I cannot believe I am having this conversation.”

He shrugged, and started pulling things out of the refrigerator for dinner.

After a couple minutes, she sighed. “So, um… how would I go about putting one on him?”

He went to the refrigerator, removed a cucumber, and set it on the table in front of her, then went back to cutting up an onion.

Naomi poked the cucumber with her finger. David shook his head, then left the room. He came back a couple minutes later and tossed a small box at her. She glanced down at them, then back up at him. “Okay, so, hypothetically, if he were here and we were and needed…”

“Then, hypothetically, I would grab him by the ear and toss him out the front door for not being hypothetically responsible enough to have his own. Then, hypothetically, I would glare at you for not being hypothetically responsible enough to have your own backup stash. And then, hypothetical pie.”

He took the box from her hand and removed one of the silver packages from inside. He ripped open the package. “Pinch the tip like this,” he said. He picked up the cucumber. “Roll it on, down like so.”

She nodded. “That’s it?”

He shook his head. “When you are done studying, you need to make sure you hold it here when he pulls out. Otherwise, well, the cucumber is a bit softer at that point and…”

Her eyes widened. “Oh. Ew.”

“And kind of messes with the whole point of wearing one in the first place,” David acknowledged. “Three things. One, they have an expiration date. Two, they are sensitive to temperature changes, and thus only a doofus carries one in his wallet. And three, if there is any amount of pressure to go one step further than the other party desires, defenestration will occur. We clear?”

She nodded. “This is… weird. I’m sitting at the kitchen table having a conversation with my brother about penises.”

“Penises? I thought we were talking about cucumbers and balloons. You’ve got a dirty mind.”

“You are such a jerk,” she said. She snatched the box off the table. “I’m keeping these.”

He chuckled, then stood up and went back to making dinner. Naomi took a second look at the box. “Um… David…?”

“Yeah?”

“Um… why are they cherry flavor?”

“Guess.”

“Oh my god, I’m so done talking about this with you,” she said. She could still hear him laughing as she fled the room.

#

Silver Falls sex store

 

David pulled off the highway about an hour outside the county line. Naomi glanced around curiously. “What are we doing in Silver Falls?” she asked.

“Good fishing here, bit of a tourist trap. Which means it has a few things that Awakaan doesn’t.” He drove through the downtown, then pulled back into a small shopping center.

She got out of the car. “What are we doing here?”

“We aren’t here. I don’t know about this place. I never took you here. In fact, I’ve never seen you before in my life.” He jerked his head towards the building. “Follow me.”

“Right.”

She followed him into the shop, then her eyes went big. “Oh. My god.”

David shook his head then walked up to the counter. “Excuse me?”

“Yes?”

“My little sister has some shopping to do, and frankly, I think she’d be more comfortable dealing with a complete stranger than her brother.”

The woman behind the counter laughed. “What’s her budget?”

David handed her a hundred dollar bill. “I’ll be next door,” he said to Naomi.

Naomi nodded absently, still starring.

“I’m Lisa,” the saleswoman said.

“I’m… uh… Naomi.”

“Alright. First off. We pride ourselves on discretion. I promise, no one will ever know anything you and I discuss here.”

“Not even…” she glanced at the door David had exited.

Lisa held up the bill he’d given her, then handed it to Naomi. “First boyfriend?”

“Yes,” she swallowed.

“Anything for self-exploration?”

“I… what?” Naomi widened her eyes. “Um…”

Lisa steered her gently into the shop.

#

David learns how bad his father’s finances are

 

David threw the ledger off the desk and sat for a moment with his head in his hands.

“David?” Naomi asked, her voice trembling slightly.

“Hey,” he said tiredly. “Thought you were asleep.”

“Couldn’t,” she said. She sat down across from him. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Go back to bed.”

“David?”

“It will be fine, Naomi. Don’t worry. I’ll think of something.” He managed a smile. “Nancy said you can stay with her for the weekend. She said she’ll take you, Janet, and Ems to get your nails done.”

“They are going to be okay, right?”

“I don’t…” he sighed. “Yes, Naomi. Everything is going to be alright.”

#

David takes Naomi shopping for condoms

 

“Okay, so, hypothetically…” Naomi said, then stopped. “Ugh.”

“Hypothetically?”

“I can’t just go buy them at the store. Dad would find out in like ten seconds flat.”

“And blow a hypothetical gasket,” David acknowledged.

“So… hypothetically… would you pick some up for me?”

“Hypothetically, that would require that I, your elder brother, acknowledge that you are having sexual relations rather than… ahem… studying.” David shrugged. “And per the code of big brotherdom, I would be forced to tar and feather your young man before placing him in a barrel of scorpions and rolling him out of town.”

“Well I can’t just order them online, Dad’s the one that gets the mail.” She leaned back in the chair. “How did you and Amber manage not to get caught?”

“I assure you Amber and I were merely out stargazing,” David shrugged. “And on our fifth date Dad threw a box of condoms at me, winked, and told me to have fun watching the meteors.”

“That… is so incredibly unfair.”

“Get in the car.”

“What?”

“Grab your purse. Get in the car.”

#

Mongolion BBQ

 

Naomi slid into the seat across from David. “How’d you know about that place?”

“I don’t.” He gave her an innocent look. “I don’t know why you are here, but I came for the Mongolian BBQ. Hungry?”

Naomi giggled. “So… hypothetically, um… if Keith and I stayed out late… stargazing…”

“You don’t own a telescope.”

“Ugh. Hypothetically…”

“Hypothetically, you have a bedroom. It’s nice, comfortable, private, and safe. Hypothetically, if you study quietly, everything will be fine. And hypothetically, you have had the actual ‘how everything works’ lesson, right?”

“Yes. Mom went over it with me when I started my period. I am sixteen now, you know.”

“You won’t be sixteen for three more weeks. Hypothetically.”

“God, hypothetically doesn’t even sound like a real word anymore.”

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