This story occasionally includes explicit depictions of sexual acts between consenting adult males. If you are underage or it is illegal to view this for any reason, consider yourself warned. If you find this material offensive, I have to wonder why you came here in the first place.
This story is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to people, living or dead, is entirely a coincidence.
As author, I retain all rights to this story, and it cannot be reproduced or published without explicit consent from me. This work is copyright © Fitz, 2011 and 2012.
This is my first attempt at writing a story, so I would love to hear any feedback, be it positive or negative. Send me an email with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would like to thank Jay Gordon at jaygordonstories.com, for much of the inspiration to write this, in addition to the many amazing stories that I've read by a wide number of authors. Jay's stories may have given me the inspiration, but all the excellent writers have created a desire in me to write. Thank you all.
Finally, my wonderful husband gets a shout out for being so supportive, allowing me to bounce ideas off of him and for taking the time to edit for me. He is apparently a glutton for punishment, as he keeps volunteering to look at the newest chapter for me. NCRaider is also proofing my chaptesr for me. They have been amazing, and any errors that remain are mine and mine alone. Thank you!
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I awoke when the curtains to my room were thrown open by a fully-dressed Noah.
"What the hell?" I demanded.
"Well good morning to you, too, Sunshine!" Noah responded. His voice was annoyingly chipper, but I couldn't quite tell if it was sarcastically so, or if he was just that much of a morning person. I am not. "Sorry to wake you like this, but shoving you wasn't working. It's nearly eleven, and we need to get up and figure out a game plan."
With a groan, I sat up. "Are you always this damn chipper? Last night was Hell. All I want is a little more sleep, but I guess you're right," I said reluctantly "Time to get up."
Noah just laughed in response. "Not really, no. Once I get some coffee in me, I'm usually good to go. Today's different, though. And you're wrong about last night. While it was terrifying at first, it ended up being the best night of my life. Scott, I now have custody. I have my son. All the evil in the world could have descended on us last night, and it wouldn't change the fact that today my son is coming to live with me!"
"Ok, ok. I get it. Sorry. I'm just not quite awake yet. We really do have a lot we need to do. We have to go by Child Services, we have to go by the trailer, we have to..."
I was abruptly cut off as Noah sat on my lap and gave me a firm, but loving kiss.
"Good morning, Scott," he said, gazing into my eyes. Like always, his hypnotic stare drew me into his sparkling hazel orbs.
"Now listen to me," Noah continued. "We're just going to take things one step at a time today. There's a lot to go through, and I'm sure there will be some things we didn't think about that will come up suddenly. Together, you and I can get though today. Now – are you ready to have a four-year-old in your house?"
"Well, I don't really have too much of a say in the matter, now do I?" I said, jokingly, poking him in the ribs. "Honestly, my biggest concern is that I don't know how much needs to be done to child-proof the home. I mean you get a baby, you have several months to prepare before they can even begin to crawl and around and start getting into shit. Zach's past crawling. Hell, he doesn't even really walk anywhere, usually approaching everything at a sprint. At least I miss out on potty training. He seems to have that one down pretty well," I added with a laugh.
"You say that, but you only saw him for one day. He's mostly got it down, but there are still accidents. Again, we'll just take everything one day at a time, and deal with whatever comes up. Besides, I'm sure Sarah and Tom will be more than willing to help us child-proof the house when we get there."
I looked at him, a smile slowly spreading across my face.
"You just said 'the
"And you're point is?" Noah's confusion was growing.
"Before, you've referred to it as 'my' house, even yesterday when we were talking about you living with me, at least temporarily. It wasn't a big deal or anything; it just felt special to me."
I wrapped my arms around him, and pulled him down. I held his head against my chest for a few minutes, just taking in the wonderful emotions permeating the air.
Suddenly, we heard a quiet voice come from Noah's room. "Daddy?" You could hear the fear in Zach's voice. Without waiting for a response, he yelled his question again, and began screaming.
Noah jumped out of my arms, but his attempt to sprint into the adjoining room was stifled when he banged his knee into the dresser. Instead, he hobbled as quickly as he could. I was right behind him.
Zach was lying on his stomach, screaming 'Daddy' as loud as he could between sharp gasps for air. He didn't even seem to realize we were in there until Noah picked his terrified son up.
The boy's eyes went wide and the screaming stopped, but the sobbing continued for a bit, as he struggled to calm down. Noah just bounced him gently in his lap, repeating soothing words and sounds.
After a few minutes, Zach looked up at Noah. His eyes were still brimmed with tears, and his lip continued to quiver as he asked, "Daddy? Where were you? I thought you lefted me."
"No, Zachy. I'll never leave you again. There may be times were I can't be with you at that moment, but I'll always come back to you. I was in the other room talking with Scott. I'm sorry I wasn't here when you woke up. I never meant to scare you, ok?"
Zach just nodded in response, before looking at me. "Will you leave me?"
I smiled at the simplicity of the world as it appears to a child. I sat down on the bed next to Noah, and stroked Zach's back.
"I don't have any plans to go anywhere, little buddy."
That caused Zach to pout a little bit. "I'm not little! I'm four."
"Yeah, but you're a lot shorter than me, so you're still little from the way I see it. Can I call you 'little buddy'?"
I'd already learned with Zach that giving him a distraction from what was upsetting quickly caused him to return to his usual self. Maybe I might be cut out to be a father, after all. He thought for a moment, tapping his finger against his chin as he did so, of course.
"I guess, but only because you're bigger than me. When I'm all growed up, I get to call YOU 'little buddy' if I'm bigger than you."
"You got yourself a deal!" I said excitedly, and ruffled his hair. While he was still giggling from that, I gave him a quick kiss on the forehead.
"Now, we have a VEEERY big day today. Both you and your daddy are going to be moving in with me, at least for a while. But first we have to take care of a few things here in town first. Ok, Zach?"
"Ok, Scott!" he replied, almost as if I was a drill sergeant giving orders.
"How about I give Zach a quick bath, while you shower? Then we'll grab lunch and go over to Child Services. Sound like a plan?"
"That works for me. I'll be back in a few."
Not wanting to waste any time, I hurried out of the room without hesitation. When I returned, fully-dressed, a few minutes later, I found them in the bathroom. Zach sat naked in an empty tub and giggled as his father poured cups of warm water on him.
"I've never seen a bath like this," I said with a grin plastered on my face.
"Yeah, well Zach, here, is afraid of baths, and I didn't want to deal with an upset kid at the moment, so we had to improvise a little. But he does seem to like this. There," he said, pouring one last cup of water over the boy's head, "that's good enough for now. We'll have to figure out how to do this better in the future, ok, bud?"
"Yeah!" Zach replied as his father grabbed a towel and proceeded to dry him off.
"Of course we only have the one set of clothes for now, but it'll have to do. Now let's get some food!"
I held Zach's hand as we walked out of the motel, and strapped him into his seat before climbing in beside Noah. We went to a nearby fast food restaurant, where Zach glumly ate his kid's meal, eyeing the pocket that Noah had put the toy in the entire time. He quickly came around once he finished and was allowed to play with his new toy.
After eating fairly quickly, we headed over to see Dr. Saunders. If I hadn't known how late of a night she had, I never would have guessed from her appearance. She led us through a bunch of paperwork, which we filled out, while Zach happily sat on the floor filling out his own 'paperwork' with crayons she kept in a drawer.
"Scott, I know you were overwhelmed yesterday when I granted you custody. Do you want to have the paperwork amended? This is the chance to do so."
"No," I said with any hesitation or second-thought. "I just hadn't thought it was even possible. You really caught me off guard, and I was overwhelmed. But now that things have settled down a little, I definitely like the idea."
"Good. I can tell how much he looks up to you already. Now, once we're done here, you're going to have to go to the police station. I'm sure they're going to want official statements."
We soon managed to finish up and were out of Dr. Saunders's office by two. Zach proudly showed her the drawing he'd made of Noah, Zach, and I standing with Chuck E. Cheese. He explained to Dr. Saunders how we were friends with the mouse, and with the world's-worst whisper informed her that I was scared, but he made sure that I was ok, but "don't tell Daddy, because he's not supposed to know."
Noah had to clamp his hand over his mouth to keep from laughing, while Dr. Saunders struggled to keep a straight face herself. I just shook my head, knowing that this was something that I wasn't going to live down for a long time.
We bade farewell to the woman we'd only known for twelve hours, but had radically changed all of our lives in that time, and headed off to the police station.
Once we'd identified ourselves, they led me to Detective Martin's desk to take my statement, while Noah and Zach were herded to another room. I watched them go, and was surprised by an immediate sense of unease while watching them leave and not knowing exactly what was happening.
Detective Martin seemed to catch on. "Don't worry. We have a room with toys and all that. We don't actually need a statement from Noah, just from Zach, and we've found kids are more responsive when they are in a place they feel a little more comfortable. Although to be fair, this is mostly just a formality. That woman was causing a scene all night. There is no question, based on the evidence we've already collected, as to what happened. I just need you to give me the details of your phone call with Zach."
I gave him the little bit I could, but since the conversation lasted all of three words from the boy, there really wasn't much to contribute. He didn't seem that bothered by it.
"This should've been taken last night, and wouldn't have taken any longer than it just did, but in the chaos, it just slipped through the cracks," He explained.
"Should I be concerned about the stuff she was yelling from the car? You know, the stuff about us being responsible for everything?"
"Personally, I wouldn't be. After consulting with the doctor who saw Zach, we are officially adding 'child abuse' to the charges against her. Of course, I'm just a cop. It's always possible that it could come up again in court. But there were plenty of witnesses, including two officers, who saw her light her own home on fire and attack a cop. There were also plenty of witnesses who watched you arrive after everything had happened."
"One last question, and then I'd like to gather up Noah and Zach, if possible."
"I'm sure it won't be an issue. With Zach, it's more going over his statement a second time, just to make sure that it's consistent with what he told us last night. What's the question?"
"I was wondering if we could go to the trailer. Maybe see if some of Zach's stuff is salvageable. We're taking him back to Atlanta once we're done here, and we don't even have a change of clothes for him yet."
"That shouldn't be an issue. I doubt you'll be able to find much, though. Between the smoke and the water, my guess is that most of the stuff inside is ruined. Who knows, though? You just might luck out."
Detective Martin led me to the room where Zach and Noah were waiting. Like he had suggested, the officer inside wasn't really asking questions. Instead, she and Noah were sitting on the floor, playing with Zach.
"Maria, are we interrupting?"
"Not at all, Jason. I was helping Zach build a skyscraper using these blocks."
"Scott, this is my partner, Detective Rodriguez. She was busy trying to untangle the statements from the onlookers when you arrived last night. Er, this morning?" He yawned. "Sorry, I'm running on fumes at this point. I guess it's time for another coffee.
"Say, Maria, would you be willing to go out to the scene with these three? If you don't want to, I can always send someone else."
"I don't have a problem with it."
"Thanks," I told her.
Noah gave me a confused look.
"I wanted to see if anything was salvageable. Clothes especially, but any toys would be good, too. I'm sure he'd want some of HIS stuff when we get to the house," I explained to him.
"Good idea. But can Zach and I stay here? I'm worried that going back there will upset him. I trust you to take whatever you think we can salvage, but I know we're going to have to replace most of the stuff."
"That's an even better idea. I'll just take what I can, come back here, and then we can head home." Suddenly I had a thought and turned to the officers. "Wait, is that ok if they stay here?" I realized that we were making plans to utilize a room of the police station without even asking.
Both Detectives Martin and Rodriguez laughed at that.
"That's not a problem," Detective Martin answered.
I rode with Detective Rodriguez in her squad car, clutching several trash bags that I hoped to fill.
The trip out was mostly a bust. Zach's room reeked of smoke, and I could tell that mildew had already begun to set into his clothes. I dug through them anyway, hoping to find something. Unfortunately, even if I had been able to find clothes I thought we could clean, most of them seemed like they were too small for Zach to wear anyway.
I did manage to salvage a handful of toys, including, somewhat ironically, his fire truck from the day before. It was very sooty, but I hoped I'd be able to clean it up. Shoved between the wall and his bed, I also found a stuffed bunny that seemed to have escaped the water damage. It still reeked of smoke, but I hoped that I'd be able to wash it enough to get rid of the smell.
We returned to the station with a half-dozen toys. All that remained of the first four years of Zach's life. I gathered up Noah, who held Zach, asleep, in his arms and shook both detectives' hands, thanking them profusely, before we got in the car to return home.
As soon as we pulled out of the parking lot, I called Sarah. I needed to get a bedroom opened up in the house.
"Hi, Sarah, it's me."
"I'm surprised to hear from you. Aren't you spending the weekend with Noah's kid?"
"Actually, that's why I'm calling. It's a long story, and I'll just explain it when we get home. The short version is that Noah and I are on our way home right now. Oh, and Zach's coming with us."
"Oh my God! Is everything ok? What happened?!" She cried out. I could hear noise in the background as she tried to relay information to Tom.
"Sarah, just put the phone on speaker so I can talk to both of you." I waited until Tom announced that he was there to.
"Basically, shi...crap hit the fan this weekend, and we were granted emergency custody of Zach."
"Wait. You said 'we'," Tom stated. "What do you mean 'we'?"
"Since Noah lives in an efficiency, they were going to set it up so that my place was his temporary address, and the two of them would stay with us until we figured everything out. That's still the plan, but Noah insisted that I have custody as well."
"OH MY GOD, SCOTT!!! THAT'S GREAT!!" I had to pull the phone away from my ear to prevent hearing loss as Sarah screeched on her end. Even Zach, now awake, winced at the volume from the back seat.
Tom, always a voice of reason, asked, "Is this maybe a little too soon?"
"Honestly, probably, but technically the arrangement is only temporary, and the little guy has really taken to me already. Me too, as a matter of fact."
"That's right," a little voice behind me perked up. "But only because you're taller than me."
"Well, of course!" I told him, and then realized that Tom and Sarah probably couldn't even hear Zach. Hopefully they didn't think I'd completely lost my marbles and was now talking to myself.
I returned to the reason I called. "Anyway, I'm calling because we need to open up a bedroom for Zach to stay in, even if it's just for tonight. Tom, would it be too much if I were to ask you to move your stuff into Sarah's room? That way, at least Zach can have his own bedroom."
"Oh? And where will Noah sleep?" Sarah asked suggestively.
"I guess the couch for now. We'll figure out the rest of the details later. We still need to get home, and then try to hit the mall before it closes. Zach needs clothes."
"What about Steve's office?" Tom asked. "You always just worked from the couch and never used it. If you want – Sarah and I can go through it and clean it out. That way everyone can have a bedroom."
"No!" I said, a little more emphatically than intended. "Sorry, what I mean is that I thought about doing that, and it's not a bad idea. But I just feel like it's something I need to do. Hell, I haven't been able to bring myself to go in there since Steve died." I paused for second, thinking over what I had just said before adding, "Actually, you can help if you want. I'm sure there's stuff in there that you or your parents might want. At least wait until tomorrow to deal with that."
"That works for me. We'll have the bedroom ready for Zach by the time you guys get home," Tom responded.
"Alright, we'll see you then."
After I hung up, I turned to Noah.
"You know, Tom made a good point that hadn't sunk in yet for me. Isn't granting custody to me a little too soon in our relationship? I mean, I know people who have been together for years but don't have legal custody of their step-children."
In response, Noah first sighed. "If this was an ordinary relationship, I'd say yes. However, since my current living situation isn't amenable to having custody, Richard mentioned in passing that it would be simpler overall if you had joint custody, at least while we were staying at your house. As he said that, it just felt like the right thing to do. Whenever I find my own place, we will have to figure out where to go from there.
"It was a bit impulsive, but the way you two have taken to each other, it seemed like the natural choice. Again, it's only temporary. Your legal standing may be terminated at the hearing, or we may decide it's simpler to have it revoked whenever I find a place. After all the hell that my boy has gone through, I just think the more he knows that you and I are there to support him, the better he'll be."
We rode in relative silence for a while after that, until I heard a quiet sniffle in the back seat. I looked back, and Zach was fighting back tears. Noah noticed as well.
"What's wrong Zachy?" Noah asked his son.
"I miss my house," he responded dejectedly.
"I know you do, buddy, but we're moving to Scott's house, where you are going to stay with me and Scott. You're also going to be living with two other great people, Tom and Sarah. Does that sound ok to you?"
Zach just nodded slightly. "But what if I don't like it there? I like my house."
"If you don't like it, talk to me or your daddy," I told him. "We'll see what we can do to fix it to make it better for you. Ok?"
Again, he just nodded before quietly saying, "But I'm scared."
Noah sighed. "I know you are. This is a big change for all of us. Can you be the big, brave four-year old we all know you are?"
He tapped his chin for a moment before shaking his head. "Uh-uh." With that he started sucking on his fingers on his left hand while wiping his eyes with his right. He wasn't quite crying, but he was definitely still sniffling.
"Noah, pull over," I told him.
"Just do it. I'm going to ride in the back with Zach. His whole world's turned upside down, and he's leaving the only home he ever knew. We both know he'll be fine, but it's just something he doesn't know how to deal with," I said, before quickly adding, "If you'd prefer, I'll drive if you want to sit with him. I'm not trying to step on your toes or anything."
"No, no. It was your idea, so you can do it. At least legally, you're already as much his father as I am. When I come up with the next brilliant plan to make him feel better, I get to be the one to put it in action, though, deal?" He said, while slowing down and pulling onto the shoulder of the highway.
"Deal," I said with a laugh as I climbed out of the car. I quickly got in the back, and wrapped an arm around Zach, who just buried his face into my bicep. It was uncomfortable, but I managed to stay that way until we got home. It didn't seem to bother Zach at all. He fell asleep after a few minutes, and didn't wake up until we arrived.
– – – * * * – – –
Sarah must have been staring out the windows waiting for us to get home. She was out on the porch, dragging Tom behind her, before we even stopped the car. Fortunately, Zach woke up as we came to a stop, and I was able to free my arm and get a little feeling back in it.
By the time I had unstrapped Zach and got him out of the car, Sarah was all over him. Fortunately, Noah and I were right beside him.
"Oh aren't you just the cutest thing ever!" She squealed. "I'm your Auntie Sarah, and we're going to have SOOO much fun together."
For his part, Zach just backed away
from her, eyes wide with fright. He grabbed the leg of Noah's shorts and stuck
his fingers in his mouth, much the same way he had done when he had met Dr.
Sarah looked a little put off by his reaction. I wasn't surprised by it, but Noah stepped in before I could say anything.
"Sarah, please calm down. His whole world has been turned upside down. Right now, he needs love and support, not an 'Auntie Sarah'. Just be 'Sarah'. The rest will come naturally.
Then to Zach, he added, "Remember how I told you that there were two very nice people that would be living with us?"
Zach just nodded at his father, but it was clear he was still overwhelmed and a little frightened.
"Well, this nice lady is Sarah. The man next to her is Tom. Can you say 'hi' to them for me?"
For his part, Zach removed his fingers from his mouth and quietly said, "Hi." He didn't loosen the death grip he held on Noah's shorts, but his concern seemed to fade a little.
"It doesn't help that he literally just woke up from a nap," I added to Sarah. "Just give him a little time to adjust to things. Everything I've seen of him shows just how strong he is for such a little guy, but I think he might be near his breaking point at the moment."
"C'mon, Zach, let's go check out your new home!" I added brightly, scooping up the boy, who quickly released Noah's pants and giggled happily.
Sarah tried to apologize to Noah for how over-the-top she acted, but he just shrugged it off.
"Just help me carry our stuff inside. I know this should be an exciting time, but I'll bring you up to speed while Scott shows Zach around. Tom, you're recruited to help too."
I saw Tom give a mock-salute as I carried the squirming tyke up the stairs to the porch. I set Zach down, and told him to explore, but warned him to be careful.
He nodded, still a little apprehensive.
"Look, I'm going to be right beside you, ok? This is your home now, too, so I want you to look all around, and find all the best spots to play 'hide'. That way, if you ever need to, you'll already know where to go. How does that sound?"
Zach looked in my eyes and his eyes showed no signs of fear for the first time since we had arrived.
"It's my home now?"
"Of course it is!"
"But you're not mean like Mommy, so I won't have to play hide, right?" Again, his concerns were showing, but he seemed to be sizing-up the situation from a perspective he was comfortable with.
"I can't promise that I'll never get upset at you, but I can promise I'll never be mean like her," I responded as truthfully as I could.
"Great!" I said enthusiastically. "Well, this is the porch, and there's a swing we can sit on later."
"I like swings! Daddy took me to a park once and I got to ride on the swings and pushed me really, really high, and I thought I'd be able to fly, but he wouldn't let me jump because I might get hurted. I also went down the slide all by myselfs!"
It would never cease to amuse me the way the mind of a young child worked. One moment, he was almost too scared to speak, and the next he was rambling on about something that any adult would think hardly warranted comment.
"Well, there's a few really neat parks nearby that we can go to someday. I'm sure your daddy would love to push you on the swings."
"Yay!" he said with a level of enthusiasm that only a kid could muster.
"Now let's go inside and see the rest of the house. Ok?"
Slowly I let him lead me from room to room. He was in awe of how big and clean the house was. He seemed very curious about all the kitchen cabinets, and I made a mental note that we should consider putting locks on the cabinets, especially ones that had chemicals in them.
We were back in my bedroom when I heard Sarah exclaim, "Oh my God! That poor boy!" and I knew immediately that Noah was well into the story. Unfortunately for Zach, I had no idea if he had just described Willow, the conditions he was living in, or the actual events of the night before.
Finally we came to the one room I hadn't been in for over a year. Steve's office.
"What's in here, Scott?"
I steeled my resolve, and simply said, "Let's find out," and opened the door.
The room was completely Steve. I have no better way to describe it than that. It was neat and orderly with everything in exactly the right place, while still managing to look completely overwhelming with brimming bookcases, stacks of meticulously organized papers, and trinkets and mementos covering nearly all available surfaces. Steve was utilitarian in that everything in the room had a specific purpose, but he lacked the ability to utilize his organization scheme simply due to the sheer volume of stuff. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't like something you'd see in a reality show, or anything, but I never understood why he needed four containers for writing utensils (black, blue, and red pens, as well as pencils) with at least a dozen in each container, especially when he only ever used the computer to write anything anyway.
For a moment, I felt like I could feel him again, but then I realized I was wrong. Sure, some of the things in the room had sentimental value to me, but most of it was just stuff. I realized that, by not even stepping foot in 'his' room, I'd done myself a great disservice. Maybe if I'd been strong enough to face it earlier I could have started coping with the death of Steve much earlier. It still hurt a lot to think about going through everything, but I realized that it would be cathartic if nothing else.
I was pulled from my reverie by Zach tugging at my shorts. Apparently he'd been trying to get my attention, but I'd been lost in my own thoughts.
"Scott, what's this?" he asked when he finally got my attention. I crouched down to his level, and he handed me a picture frame containing a photo of Steve and I on our honeymoon. We had been sightseeing in the Virgin Islands when a local approached us and asked if we wanted a free picture with a burro. I wasn't particularly interested, but Steve was. It turned out I was right to be wary. It was a scam, and I had to pay $15 to get my camera back. Then he tried to sell us weed.
As much as I tried to fight them, tears began to fill my eyes.
"Don't cry, Scott!" Zach said loudly, which caught the attention of the others, who rushed to the study. "I'm just confused. Are you boyfriends with Daddy, or Tom?"
The threatening tears began to dry as I saw Tom cover his mouth to keep from laughing.
"That's not Tom in the picture. He had a brother who looked exactly like him. The two of us were boyfriends for many years."
"Oh. Where is he?"
I thought for a moment, trying to figure out the best way to put it. I decided that direct honesty was probably the best policy in this case, especially if he was ever worried that Steve might show back up again at some point. "He died. Do you know what that means?"
Zach just shook his head.
"He got hurt very badly. He was hurt so badly that the doctor's couldn't make him better."
I figured that was all the reaction I was going to get from Zach, so I took the moment to wipe the single tear that had managed to escape my eye.
Suddenly, I was engulfed as the young boy launched himself in my arms. I wrapped my arms around Zach, embracing the little guy firmly.
"I'm sorry, Scott. I remember when Gramma went bye-bye. Mommy cried for a week."
He kissed my cheek and buried his face in my neck.
"I love you, Scott."
Fresh tears filled my eyes, and a quick glance to Noah confirmed that he was just as moved as I.
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I'd like to thank my readers for all the wonderful comments I have received. A very special thanks to those of you have emailed me. Please, keep them coming!!!!
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