Another Chance - Book Three

Chapter Seven: The Bear

by Zarek Dragon


Tuesday, as Jim was almost to his car, a deputy approached him. Seeing the deputy through the window, Nick stepped outside just as the deputy was handing Jim a summons, “You are hereby ordered to appear in court before Judge Bishop next Monday, July 20, 2015, in the matter of Tina Louise Caulfield versus James P. and Zac A. Bolt over custody of the child Jake Bolt.” The deputy looked over at the door and saw Nick coming out, “Sheriff, I didn’t know you lived here.”

Nick looked at the deputy, “I don’t yet. Jim’s mom is the lady I’m marrying in just under a month.”

“I’m sorry I had to do this.” The deputy looked nervous.

Nick tried to ease the deputy’s mind, “You were just doing your job, it’s not one of the glamorous duties, but I’ve been there. I’ll see you in the office in a few minutes.”

Jim read the summons and couldn’t believe that the bitch was actually taking them to court. He called the ranch right away. Jackson answered the phone, “Just calm down, I will talk to Ryan and have him call you. Or, you can go talk to your mom at the law firm that she works for. I will send Zac home right away, and I know that you boys didn’t charge me for watching my house, but I’ll repay your kindness by giving you the week off to clear your head. Why don’t you boys spend some time at a cabin I have on Jackson Lake. And before you ask, no, I don’t own the lake, but when I saw a cabin for sale on it, I couldn’t resist buying it. You will have no cell service, internet or TV, so it’ll give you a chance to unwind and get your heads cleared before you go to court.”

“I don’t know, Jackson,” Jim cried, “You let me go there and I won’t want to come back for court.”

Jackson sounded stricter than Jim had ever heard him, “Don’t even talk like that. If you miss that court date, they WILL take Jake away from you. I KNOW that you don’t want THAT!”

Jim sniffled, “No, I’m just worried that if I go they will.”

“Listen to me and listen well,” Jackson sounded upset, “You take time to clear your head, but make sure you go to court. I promise, you show that you and Zac are the right parents for Jake and no judge will take him away. You don’t go and it won’t matter that you and Zac are the right parents.”

“I know,” Jim regretted ever saying that he might not come back for court. He knows that he can’t miss it. “Jackson, what if Zac and Jake went to the cabin without me? It would give them a chance to bond stronger and I think I could clear my head better if I went off on my own for a few days.”

Jackson calmed down a little, “That’s up to you boys, but the cabin is there if you want it.”

“Thanks Jackson, when you send Zac home, tell him that Jake and I are headed to my mom’s office and he should meet us there,” Jim cried as he hung up his phone. Jim walked back into the house with Jake following him. “Joe, can you watch Colby for a few days?”

Joe smiled, “I get my dog back?”

“He’s not your dog,” Jim chuckled, “but yes. Zac and Jake will be going to Jackson’s cabin and I want to get Gold and go camping by myself, well, me and Kunoichi. I don’t want to take both dogs with me.”

Jake was almost crying, “I wanna go with you, Daddy.”

Jim thought for a second before speaking, “I know you do, but I think you should stay with Papa so Daddy can be by himself for a little bit. I need to do some serious thinking and if you were with me, I’d want to have fun with you instead. Do you understand?”

Jake looked down, “No.”

Jim picked Jake up and hugged him, “Daddy wants to be with you for a very long time, but I need some time by myself. Maybe I am too young to be a daddy, but I love you so much that I don’t want to lose you. I promise, I will return and you, Papa and I will stay a family. And this will give you and Papa a chance to get closer.”

“I love Papa,” Jake giggled.

Jim smiled, “So you want to help Papa out and get closer to him?”

Jake gave an impish grin which Jim wasn’t sure if it was good or bad. He picked Jake up and carried him out to the truck.

When he parked at the law offices, Zac was already waiting for him. Jim got Jake out and the little boy ran over to Zac. “Papa, we going to Uncle Jackson’s cabin.”

Zac looked at Jake, “You, me and Daddy?”

“Nope,” Jake grinned, “Just you and me so Daddy can go think.”

Zac grinned and mouthed a thank you to Jim. He picked Jake up and Jim held the summons so Zac could read it. After Zac had read the summons, they walked into the building. The receptionist greeted Jake and then asked if they were there to see Heather.

“Yes and no,” Jim replied. “We want to see my mom, but we are hoping that she can suggest a good lawyer.”

“That might be hard to do in a law firm,” the receptionist joked. “Personally, I think every lawyer here is good.”

Jim showed the receptionist the summons. “Tina is Jake’s birth mom, but she gave him up right after he was born and she never once showed any desire to even contact him until now.”

The receptionist buzzed the door and told Jim, “You can go back and see your mom, but I think she will want to refer you to Harvey Cox. He is one of the best family law attorneys that you will find, in my opinion, in the entire country.”

Zac put Jake down as they were walking to Heather’s office. As soon as the munchkin saw his grandma, he ran over to her. Jim walked over to her and handed her the summons. After reading the summons, she pushed a button on her phone, “Mr. Cox, this is Heather Bolt, are you busy?”

There was no answer but in less than a minute a man appeared at her door, “What do you need?”

Heather handed him the summons. “And who is Tina Louise Caulfield?” Mr. Cox asked.

“She’s the mean lady who threw pop in my daddy’s face,” Jake answered.

Jim responded, “She is Jake’s birth mother, but she abandoned him right after birth and never made any attempts to make contact until now.”

Mr. Cox looked at Heather, “Can you hand your son a pad and pen, please?” Then turning back towards the boys, “Jim and Zac, write down any names and their phone numbers of people who you believe will testify on your behalf. We may not need them, but I would rather be well prepared, just in case.”

Zac spoke up for the first time, “Jim also has a recording from their last meeting, but I don’t think Jake should hear it.”

Mr. Cox looked at Zac, “Would you or Heather take Jake out of the room then? I’d like to hear this recording.”

“I will,” Zac offered. “I think Mom should hear the recording as well. Once you hear it, I think you will know why.” Zac picked up Jake and carried him out of the office. He closed the door behind him.

“Jake, would you like to come with me?” the receptionist asked, “I can get you a chocolate milk and some chips.”

“Can Papa come with me?” Jake asked.

The receptionist smiled, “Yes he can, and he can get something to drink and chips as well.”

“Papa likes Coke and Chili Cheese Fritos or Cool Ranch Doritos,” Jake announced.

Zac smiled, “I never knew you paid that much attention to what I get.”

“You’re my papa,” Jake smiled, “and I love you.”

Zac started crying, “I love you, too, but I never even thought you paid as much attention to me as you do Daddy.”

“I love you and Daddy the same,” Jake stated. “Why are you crying?”

“Because you just made me so very happy,” Zac blubbered.

Jim had played the recording for Mr. Cox and Heather. Mr. Cox looked thoughtful for a second, “I need a copy of that recording, or actually two copies. I need to give a copy to the police.”

“Jim, why didn’t you share this with Nick?” Heather looked upset.

“Nick Archer, the Sheriff?” Mr. Cox asked.

“Yes, Jim’s future stepfather,” Heather replied.

Mr. Cox smiled, “Right, I remember you talking about him. Your wedding is coming up soon.”

“Why should I have played it for Nick? What could he have done?” Jim seemed dumbfounded.

“She broke the law, he’s a law enforcement officer,” Heather stated.

Mr. Cox looked at Jim, “What she did is a strong form of coercion, or blackmail, possibly leaning toward extortion, seeing how she was trying to get something from you.” Jim got an understanding look on his face.

“Zac kept telling me that I should let Nick hear it, but I didn’t understand why. Now it makes sense.”

Mr. Cox held his hand out, “Can I borrow your phone to get it recorded, please?”

Jim handed over his phone and Mr. Cox left Heather’s office as Jake and Zac were coming back. “Daddy, I made Papa cry,” Jake declared as he climbed onto Jim’s lap.

“How did you make Papa cry?” Jim asked, looking a little worried.

Jake looked over at Zac, “He said that I made him very happy.”

“He knew what chips I would want and said that he loves me and you the same,” Zac sniffed. “I guess I was wrong about you and him being closer, it just seems that way since the two of you are together more.”

“I’m glad,” Jim smiled. “As much as I want to be selfish with Jake, you are his papa and need to be just as close to him.”

“Would you join Jake and me at the cabin, I know that part of your not going was to give us time alone, but we don’t need that. I think Jake will agree that we want you with us,” Zac pleaded.

“That was part of it, but I also need some time alone,” Jim replied. He looked thoughtful, “If you want me to join you, I can, but I will still want some alone time.”

Zac grabbed Jim’s hand, “We can do that, we can go swimming or fishing to give you time to yourself.”

Jake looked up at Zac’s face and asked, “Can we get a bear, Papa?”

“I don’t think there are any bears around there, maybe we can have Buster come out.” Zac teased.

“I don’t wanna shoot Uncle Buster.”

Mr. Cox came back into Heather’s office and handed Jim his phone. “I have contacted the Police and Sheriff’s Departments. I played the recording for both and both are sending someone by to pick it up. Sheriff Archer is leaving the arrest to the police so she can’t try claiming he only arrested her because he is close to this family. I believe that is the right course of action. And the Sheriff says that he wishes to speak with you tonight.” Mr. Cox was looking at Jim when he said the last part.

Jim finished writing the list of people who he knew would testify on his behalf and handed it to Mr. Cox. Zac looked at him, “Sir, we are going to a cabin on Jackson Lake. Here is the address, in case you need to talk with us. We won’t have any phone service or internet, but we will be back on Friday.”

Mr. Cox shook Zac’s hand, “That should be no problem, I plan to talk with each of these people and decide who I think will have the most value to our case. I believe all of them will give good testimony, and if the need arises, I will use them, but I would like to start with the best ones first. If you can stop by here around four Friday, we will discuss strategy then.”

Zac and Jim drove to the house so Jim could park his truck and they could get what they needed. They loaded Zac’s truck with what they were taking. “So, should we wait until after Nick has a talk with me?” Jim asked. “He’s probably upset that I didn’t come to him.”

Zac took Jim in his arms and looked into his blue eyes, “I don’t know about upset, but he may have wished that you did. What if we stop by his office on the way to the cabin?”

“We can do that,” Jim agreed. After putting Jake in his car seat, Jim and Zac got in and they drove to see Nick.

After Zac pulled into a spot, Jim got Jake out of his seat. “Daddy, would you be upset if Papa carried me? You need to talk with Grandpa Nick, and…”

Jim stopped the little boy from explaining, “You don’t need to explain. I agree, it will be easier and you should never feel like you have to choose between us.”

“Thank you, Daddy,” Jake said, then he kissed Jim on the cheek and ran around the truck to Zac before Jim could grab him.

“Whoa partner, you didn’t even look, don’t you ever do that again,” Zac scolded. “What if a car was driving there? Papa’s truck does stick out further than the average car and they might have hit you.”

Jake looked down, “I’m sorry, Papa, I just wanted to be with you since Daddy will be busy.”

Zac picked Jake up and hugged him, “And I’m glad, but I don’t want you getting hurt, OK?”

“OK,” Jake grinned. “Ummm, Papa, is that a butt?” Zac looked at the car he was parked beside and sure enough there were two people inside it having sex. A teenage boy’s butt was very visible.

“Yes, I think they might be changing clothes,” Zac lied, thinking this one time wouldn’t hurt. He moved Jake away from that car as fast as he could, almost not looking before crossing the parking lot.

“Glad you stopped, that car almost hit the two of you,” Jim looked worried.

Zac took a few deep breaths, “And right after I chewed Jake out for not looking.” Then looking at Jake, “Do you understand why we should look?”

“Uh huh, I will from now on. Why didn’t you park there? Then we wouldn’t have had to worry,” Jake asked, pointing at an empty spot with only grass and sidewalk between the door and it.

Zac pointed at a sign, “See that sign with the blue square and picture of the guy in a wheel chair? That means only handicapped people can park here. If Papa did, he could have to pay a fine.”

Jake looked a little confused, “Oh, and they put pictures so kids can understand? We can’t drive.”

Zac laughed, “No, but there are adults who speak other languages, and a few who can’t read. To make it easy for them to understand, they use pictures.”

Jake’s face lit up as he understood, “That makes sense, then.”

Nick spotted them coming in. “What are you guys doing here? Not that I mind.”

Jim looked down, “The lawyer said that you wanted to talk with me and we’re going out of town for a few days.”

“It could have waited until you got back, but I am glad that you stopped by. Come back to my office,” Nick requested, leading the way. “All three of you can come in.”

“Are you sure?” Zac was hesitant.

Nick stopped and turned around. He chuckled a little before saying, “I’m not going to chew Jim out or anything like that. What I have to say is safe for Jake to hear.”

They entered the office and Zac closed the door. Jake climbed onto Jim’s lap. Nick sat on the edge of his desk and looked at Jim. “I know what you’re going to say. Mom asked me the same question when I was at the lawyer’s office,” Jim spoke first.

Nick grinned, “Which is?”

Jim hung his head down, “Why didn’t I come to you and play the recording for you? And I told her, I didn’t think you could do anything since I thought it was just a threat.”

Nick looked at Jim sternly, “What she did wasn’t just a threat. Do you know what coercion is?”

Jim looked up, “Where you try to get something from someone by threatening them?”

“OH,” Nick began, “So close. No, that is extortion. Coercion is trying to get someone to do something by threatening. Both are forms of blackmail and they all are against the law. Had you come to me right away, there may not have even been this hearing coming up.”

“So I screwed up again,” Jim dropped his head back down. Zac started caressing Jim’s back, trying to make him feel better.

Nick walked around and sat in his chair, “No, you just didn’t know, now you do. You were smart to talk with your mom and get Harvey as your lawyer. I hear good things about him, like he’s never lost.”

Jim looked up, he noticed that Jake fell asleep. “That was Jackson’s idea. I mean, I was planning to go talk to Mom, but I didn’t even think about asking her to recommend a lawyer. Actually, she didn’t even give me time to ask. I showed her the summons and she called for Mr. Cox right away.”

“See,” Nick sounded chipper. “I think deep down, you knew she would and that was why you wanted to see her in the first place.”

“No, I knew she would give me advice on what to do,” Jim confessed.

Nick chuckled, “I rest my case. Jim, you are a caring person, you love more than anyone I know, but you are human and will make mistakes. Learn from them and don’t let them get you down.”

Jim started to sniffle, “I can’t help it. I’m also a perfectionist, except, I only expect perfection out of me. I understand that everyone else is human, so I don’t expect perfection, but I strive for it.”

Nick smiled, “You think everyone else is human, but you’re not?”

“No,” Jim responded, “That would be crazy. I know that I am human, too. I know that I will make mistakes, but it still bothers me.”

“You know that’s silly, don’t you?” Nick grinned.

Jim fidgeted a little, “Yes, but it doesn’t change the fact that I get upset with myself when I screw up.”

Nick stood up and walked around to behind Jim. He started massaging Jim’s shoulders, “That’s because you care. If everyone cared about his fellow human half as much as you, this world would be a much better place. I might even be out of a job. No Jim, you are not perfect, but your main flaw may be that you expect too much out of yourself.”

Jim looked a little happier than he has since they left the law office. “Thanks Nick. I’m glad that we stopped by. Now I can go enjoy the peace and quiet with my two favorite guys in the whole world.”

Nick feinted a pout, “I’m not going.”

Jim chuckled, “No, and while you are in the top five of my favorite guys, No one beats Zac and Jake.”

Nick smiled, “I’m glad. The three of you belong together and I promise, any judge will see that. Now, go enjoy yourself.”

“Thanks, Nick,” Jim stood up, holding Jake so he wouldn’t drop him. Walking around the desk, meeting Nick halfway, gave him a hug. As the boys were leaving, Jim heard Nick call the deputy that had given him the summons.

Jim was careful putting Jake into his car seat so as not to wake him. “Now we need to go back and pick Kuno up.”

“What about Colby?” Zac looked surprised.

Looking at Zac, Jim explained, “When I was planning to go think by myself, I asked Joe to watch him and Joe got excited. We can ask Joe if he wants us to take him, but…”

“About that,” Zac seemed a little disappointed, “I know there are times when you want to be alone, we all need our personal time, but we are a couple and we need to think together when something comes up that affects our family.”

“You’re right,” Jim agreed, “But I didn’t want to be alone to think so much as to clear my head. I feel like I’ve been making stupid mistakes lately and I want to stop making them. Besides, at the time, I was wanting you to have a chance to be close to Jake.”

Zac smiled, “That’s what I love about you. As selfish as you want to be with Jake, you love me enough to do that.  As for making mistakes lately, I think you’ve just been under a lot of stress. Share with me anytime you feel bothered, that’s what a husband is for, to help support one another.”

Jim was starting to feel better already. Zac just had that effect on him. “Have I ever told you that I love you?”

“Have I ever told you that I love the band U2,” Zac kidded. Jim faked a pout. “If I wasn’t driving, I’d lean over and kiss that lower lip.”

When they pulled up to the house, Zac gave Jim a quick kiss and stayed in the truck with Jake. Jim went in to get Kunoichi and see if Joe wanted him to take Colby. “Joe,” he called out. “Instead of going off by myself, I am going with Zac and Jake, so we can take both dogs.”

Joe knelt down and put his arm around Colby, “No, my dog can stay here.”

Jim just shook his head and laughed. “I told Zac that you would want me to leave Colby. Be warned though, when Zac, Jake and I move into Nick’s place, both dogs are moving with us.”

Joe looked down and sighed, “I know. I’ll just have to come visit as often as Mom lets me.”

“You’ll be welcome any time. I’d almost say that you could move with us, but I don’t know how Mom or Zac would feel about that, plus Zac and I do need some time to be just us and Jake for a while,” Jim grinned.

“Yes you do, but I do appreciate the love,” Joe responded.

When Jim let Kunoichi into the truck, she went right to the back seat and started licking Jake’s face. Jake started to giggle and then woke up. Jim got in his seat and buckled his seatbelt as Zac put the truck into gear and started heading for the cabin. “As you noticed, I was right about Joe wanting to keep Colby. I also broke his heart telling him that when we move to Nick’s house, Colby was moving with us.”

Zac was quick to reply, “He can come visit whenever he wants. We’ll have that spare bedroom, so he can sleep over, too.”

Jim made eyes at Zac, “I told him that I’d almost let him move with us, but we will need some time to be just us. And I couldn’t even offer without talking to you and Mom. He agreed, that he should just visit.”

You know,” Zac said, taking a quick glance at Jim and smiling, “the day Joe entered our lives, I kind of adopted him as well.”

“I know you did,” Jim laughed, “Makes me feel like we’re one of those families where I married my brother making our brother my brother-in-law.”

Zac declared, “Joe and I are close, but you can’t convince me that you aren’t closer.”

Jim debated, “I wouldn’t bet on that. When he broke his leg, you were the one he had change his underwear for him.”

Zac, “And if it ever happens again, I would do it all over, especially the tickling his foot part.”

“All the times we sat in your old truck with Joe between us and we tickled him, and the day that we got his guitar for his birthday, I don’t think I am any closer to Joe than you are.”

Zac looked at Jim as he sat at a red light, “You might be right, and I think you’re feeling better about yourself, too.”

Jim grinned, “I have the most handsome husband and most adorable son, I must be doing something right, and that does make me feel better.”

Zac pulled up beside the cabin and took the key Jackson gave him to unlock the door. The downstairs was one big room and a full bathroom. The only appliance was a refrigerator. On the wall opposite the lake, sitting between two smaller windows was a fireplace with cooking utensils and pans. The wall towards the lake had a big window that spanned more than half the length of the cabin and went almost two floors high. Stairs just inside the door led to a loft which had two king-size beds. “Would this be a one-room cabin?” Jim asked.

Zac smiled, “Yes, since there are no interior walls, except for the bathroom, this is considered only one room.”

“Can we go swimming, now?” Jake asked. Kunoichi barked as if to say she wanted to go as well.

Zac responded, “We have to unpack the truck and get things put away first.”

“OK, Papa,” Jake giggled and ran out to the truck to help. Jim handed him a small bag to carry. Jim carried in the three suitcases.

Jake handed Zac the bag and Zac started putting the food away. “Why don’t you go upstairs with Daddy and help him put your clothes away. And then you can slip into your swim trunks.” Zac didn’t want to tell his son that he could unload the truck faster by himself. He loved Jake’s wanting to help and hopes that never changes.

Zac had finished putting everything away when Jake came down stairs wearing his grape-colored swim trunks and green water wings. “Papa, I have three faces,” Jake giggled.

Zac gave Jake a funny look, “Three faces?”

Jake showed Zac his water wings, “See, my face and I have one on each arm.”

Zac smiled, “That you do. Are those supposed to be frogs?”

Jake grinned, “Yup, Daddy read the package and it said ‘Li’l Frog Water Wings.’”

Zac grinned at Jake, “Want Papa to slip into his trunks so we can go swimming?”

“Of course, Daddy says that he’s taking a nap and I too young to swim alone,” Jake’s antics had Zac laughing. As Jake had said, Jim was in one of the beds, going to sleep when Zac went upstairs. He tried to quietly take off his clothes and put on his jade speedos.

“Mmmm, that’s the nicest ass I have ever seen,” Jim mumbled, causing Zac to trip.

Zac stood up, still naked, “I thought you were asleep. You surprised me.”

“And your front looks better than your ass,” Jim grinned.

“Just take a nap, Hornball, our son is downstairs waiting on me,” Zac urged.

Jim smiled, “Give me a kiss before you go downstairs and I can dream about us.”

“I can do that,” Zac said before giving Jim a very passionate kiss.

Zac went downstairs and Jim drifted off to sleep thinking about Zac. Jim opened his eyes and it looked like he was at entrance to the ranch, but the sign read, “Z Double J Ranch, Another Chance for those unwanted.” Jim walked into the barn and there was Gold in his usual stall. The stall for Platinum had a full grown horse in it and a young shirtless boy around ten years old was brushing him. The boy looked over, “Hi Dad.” The boy had black curly hair and when Jim looked into his eyes, there were the blue eyes with brown specks that Jim recognized.

“J-J-Jake?” Jim stuttered.

“Yeah Dad, is something wrong?” the boy responded.

Jim just smiled, “No, I’m just admiring how handsome you’re getting each day.”

Jake began to blush, “You say that every day. That and that you love me.”

“Where’s Papa?” Jim asked.

Jake continued brushing, “He’s at the boys’ dorm. One of the toilets is clogged.”

Jim looked at his half naked son and suggested, “Why don’t you finish getting dressed and we can go riding. I’ll get the saddles for Gold and Platinum.”

“Look out Daddy, there’s a bear attacking!” Jake shouted. Jim heard the growl but it didn’t sound like a bear, it sounded more like a five year old. And then the bear pounced on him.

Jim opened his eyes and saw Jake, wearing a bear costume, crawling on him. “You woke me up from a nice dream. You were older and looking as handsome as ever.”

“I’m a bear, Daddy, growl,” Jake said.

Jim held Jake up with both hands, “I see that, is that the costume Papa promised you?”

“Uh huh, and he told me just this once, I can come wake you up.”

Jim lowered Jake back down, hugging him, “I’m glad that you did, I can go back to sleep cuddling you like a teddy bear.”

“No, Papa said that supper will be ready when we get downstairs,” Jake explained.

Jim pouted, “Does that mean no cuddling?”

Jake grinned, “We can cuddle after supper.”

“What are we having? Should you take your costume off so you don’t get food on it?” Jim inquired.

Jake started unzipping the costume, “Papa said I could eat with it on, but if you think I should take it off, I will.”

“If Papa said you can wear it, I guess you can,” Jim agreed. Jake zipped his costume back up and ran down the stairs.

Jim heard Zac ask, “Did you wake Daddy up?”

“Uh huh, and he wanted to cuddle with me until I told him you said supper would be ready.”

Jim got to the bottom of the stairs and looked at Zac and Jake, “So, what’s for supper?”

“We’re just having roast beef sandwiches and smoked bacon potato chips. I figured something light tonight,” Zac replied.

Jim smiled at Jake, “That explains why you don’t mind him wearing the bear outfit while he eats.”

“Even if we were eating something messy, the costume is washable. The lady triple stitches everything with the first stitch being fishing line.” Zac explained.

“But as much as Jake loves the costume, one of us may have to let him play sheriff so we can wash it, like in that Tide commercial,” Jim teased.

Jake got an evil look in his eye, “I rest you, Daddy.”

Jim was taken back a little, “Me? What did I do?”

Jake grinned as he spoke, “You were sleeping, so you are rested.”

Jim chuckled, “OK, I get it.”

Zac looked at Jim, “How are you feeling?”

Jim started telling Zac and Jake about his dream and Jake being ten years old. He commented about the name and that Zac was taking care of plumbing in the boys’ dorm. “I can understand the name, Z for me and double J for the two of you, but are you saying that you would like our ranch to be a haven for boys?” Zac asked.

Jim looked peaceful and thoughtful, “I never really thought about it, but maybe in about five years after we are both done with all of our schooling, I would like that. It could be a place where boys like Joe whose parents kicked them out could call home and feel loved.”

Zac smiled at Jim, “And I know the perfect person to love them. You have so much love to give.”

Jim smiled, “It wouldn’t upset you to have such a large family?”

Zac leaned over and kissed Jim, “As long as you are my husband, I don’t care if we have just Jake or a thousand boys calling me Papa. They just better be respectful to Jake as well as us and anyone living at our home.”

Jim looked at Zac, “Well, Jake is our son. These other boys will be living at our home, but won’t actually be our sons. I wouldn’t mind adopting a brother for Jake in a few years, and I won’t mind fostering these boys.”

“I’m getting a brother?” Jake smiled.

Jim laughed, “Not any time soon, but I take it, you would like one. Did you have any close friends at the home that you have in mind?”

Jake didn’t hesitate to answer, “Not really, but I do miss having other boys around to play with.”

Jim looked a little sad, “I can imagine. Papa and I may not wait so long to get a brother for you, he and I will talk about it after the hearing, I promise.”

“Babe, it won’t be easy on us going to school and taking care of Jake as well as working as is, but if you’re willing to try, we can talk to Aunt Sallie,” Zac offered, reaching to take Jim’s hand.

Jim took Zac’s hand and gave it a loving squeeze, “We’ll discuss it. As much as I would love to give Jake a brother he can play with, I think we should wait until I finish high school, or at the least, we are out of Mom’s house.”

“See,” Zac smiled, “That’s thinking logically, that rest did you a lot of good. I ever tell you that I love you?”

“No,” Jim fake pouted, “You keep saying you love that rock band.” Zac started to laugh and pulled Jim out of his chair. Jim landed on Zac’s lap, and Jake covered his eyes while his dads kissed.

“Do we have to stay until Friday?” Jim asked. “If we head home tomorrow, Jake will have Austin to play with until they head back to Montana.”

Zac gave Jim a peck on the cheek. “Babe, I only came here for you and Jake. As long as you’re feeling better and I am with you, I don’t care where we are.”

Jim looked at Jake, who still had his hands over his eyes, “You want to head home tomorrow so you can play with Austin?”

Jake was all smiles, “You mean it? We can go home so I have someone to play with?”

Jim, having grown up an only child most of his life, never realized how lonely he actually was until Joe came into his life. Jake, having lived in a group home, is starting to miss having children his age to play with and Jim felt sorry for him. A single tear ran down Jim’s cheek as he picked up Jake, “I mean it, you little grizzly, we’re going home tomorrow.”

Zac smiled at Jim, “We’ll be moving out of Mom’s place just before Aunt Brenda takes Austin home. How soon should we call Aunt Sallie?”

Jake asked, “What’s a grizzly?”

Jim hugged Jake tight, “It’s a type of bear, or a little boy wearing a bear outfit.”

Zac laughed, “Daddy was kidding with the last part, but we can start calling little boys in bear suits grizzlies.”

Jake chuckled, “I’m a grizzly, growl.” Jim hugged Jake a little tighter and kissed his cheek. “Daddy, you’re squishing me, and I gotta go poop.”

Jim put Jake down and the boy ran to the bathroom. Zac grinned, “I think you were squishing the poo out of him, literally.”

“I was just giving a bear hug,” Jim said defensively.

“Well, you can give a papa hug,” Zac grinned.

Jim smirked, “I’ve never heard of a papa hug.”

In the morning, Zac packed everything in the truck before Jim or Jake woke up. Jim woke up and looked for his jeans and a t-shirt. “Honey, what happened to my clothes?”

“I packed the truck already,” Zac responded.

Jim gave him a puzzling look, “Ummm, are you expecting me to ride home wearing only my boxers?”

Zac smiled at Jim, “Why not, you look good to me.”

Jim was quick, “Because I want you to keep your eyes on the road while you drive.”

“In that case..." Zac started as he went out the door. He came back in carrying Jim’s jeans and an azure colored shirt.

Jim smirked, “What about my shoes? Or do you want me barefoot and pregnant?”

Zac chuckled, “I don’t think we can achieve the pregnant part. And if I had my way, you’d be bare butt, not just barefooted.”

Jake was coming downstairs and overheard Zac, “Papa, I have a bear butt.” Jim and Zac laughed when Jake wiggled his rear at them. They ate a light breakfast and headed home.

Meeting with Mr. Cox on Friday, he told them that everyone on their list seemed like good choices. He wanted to start with Matt, Dusty, Aunt Sallie and Jackson. “What if her lawyer asks Dusty what kind of mess I was when he first met me? I mean, I was totally depressed with the loss of my dad, then Gold and finally Shadow. Zac brought stability back into my life. And I did get Gold back.”

Harvey smiled, “That just shows how hard you love. Were you still functioning?”

Jim looked at ease, “That was my biggest concern.”

Harvey looked at Jim, “I think their best chance is trying to prove that you are too young to be taking care of Jake. I want to bring in Mr. Duncan to discuss how responsible you have been at school. Jackson will discuss your work ethics. Aunt Sallie agrees that while you are young, you do have the benefit of having both of your families to assist. It is of her opinion that Jake is better off with the two of you. I know Judge Bishop to be a fair man, so I don’t foresee any issues causing him to take Jake away from you. I just can’t promise that it won’t happen.”

“What about Jake? Will he have to get on the stand?” Jim looked concerned.

Harvey grinned a little, “The judge will want to talk with him in the privacy of his chambers before he makes a decision, so I see no reason to put him on the stand.”

Zac looked at Harvey, “Should we prepare anything for us on the stand?”

“I’m not sure I want to put you on the stand. If I do, her lawyer will do his best to attack your character and even get you to claim you are too young to be parents. He’s already going to try proving it. I suspect that he’ll do his best to get an age requirement from Aunt Sallie. I’ve also placed a call with Mr. Buchanan. He wasn’t available, but whoever answered the phone said they would have him call as soon as possible. Now, unless you have any questions, I think I have everything that I need. I’ll see you boys at the courthouse on Monday, about half an hour before the hearing.”

Zac held out his hand, “Thank you for everything, especially for being so positive. Have a good weekend.”

The weekend felt like it dragged and Jim couldn’t wait for it to get over so the hearing could go on. He was anxious to get it done. While there was still a little uneasiness about the hearing, Jim was sure that Jake would be staying with them.

Monday morning, Jim, Zac and Jake were at the courthouse early. Jim was pacing the hall waiting for Harvey Cox to show up. Ten minutes before the time he told the boys to show, he walked in. Mr. Cox led the boys to a room outside the court where the hearing will be. “I’m sorry that you had to wait.”

Horse Runner

I hope you enjoy the story and that it draws you in, wanting more. If you have any suggestions or concerns, don’t hesitate to email me.  Thoughts and suggestions are always welcomed and may or may not be implemented. Concerns will be considered and addressed as much as possible.

Also, I have created a mailing list.  If you would like to be added to it to be informed of new submission, please contact me at Zarek Dragon.  Please let me know that you read it on The Story Lovers' Website.