Sunday: March 1, 2026
1:04 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, FAMILY ROOM
Jensen had driven Cecilia back to her apartment just over three hours ago. After putting the girls to bed long after their bedtime, he had taken a shower. Now, changed into a pair of sweatpants, he walked up to the couch in the family room and bent down just enough to slip an arm under Bo’s shoulders. Bo made a soft sound of protest as Jensen hooked an arm beneath his knees and scooped him up. Holding the blonde to his chest, Jensen walked back to the bedroom they shared.
He laid Bo on the bed, unbuttoning his jeans. He pulled them off and draped them over the foot of the bed. He knew Bo must be incredibly tired. Usually, he’d have woken up by now. Jensen pulled a pair of sweatpants up the blonde’s legs, tying the drawstring in a loose knot. He moved to unbutton the blonde’s flannel, pausing when Bo’s hand touched his.
“What’re you doing?” Bo questioned, his voice holding only the smallest hint of sleep and exhaustion.
“Getting you into something comfier than jeans and a flannel, babe,” Jensen said softly.
“Mm.” Bo slid his hand up to his chest, allowing Jensen to continue unbuttoning his shirt. “I can do that, you know,” he murmured.
“Nah, babe. I’ve got it.” Jensen cleared his throat, pulling the shirt off Bo’s arms. “Sit up just a sec?” With a grunt, Bo grabbed Jensen’s hand and sat up on the bed. “What shirt do you want?” Jensen questioned, grabbing Bo’s flannel.
Bo lifted his shoulders. “Surprise me.”
Jensen chuckled. “ ‘Kay, babe. Be back in a sec.” He tossed the shirt into the hamper and headed for his closet. When he came back into the room, he pulled one of his own shirts over Bo’s head. “Perfect,” he whispered.
One corner of Bo’s mouth lifted as he patted Jensen’s cheek. “You’re adorable.”
“Mm.” Bo kissed Jensen softly. “You smell nice.”
Jensen smiled faintly. “I took a shower before I brought you in here,” he said, climbing over Bo to get to his side of the bed. “Cecilia’s back at her apartment. Jamal had the plumbing fixed.”
Bo chuckled as he lay back down on the bed. “Yeah, he was mad that I didn’t tell him about the plumbing sooner,” he said.
Jensen snorted. “I’d like to say I’m surprised, but I’m not.”
Jensen lay down beside Bo, his head resting on the blonde’s shoulder. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Bo murmured, pressing a kiss to the top of the younger man’s head.
“You gotta go back to sleep, you know. That was the point of me carrying you back here.”
“I know, love. I’ll go to sleep,” Bo said softly. “You, too?”
“Mmhmm.” Lightly, Jensen wrapped his fingers around the material of Bo’s shirt, the heel of his palm resting on his chest. “One last question.”
“You had the option to push me away, insult me, and… and have me killed when I kissed you. Why’d you sleep with me instead?” Jensen questioned.
Bo offered an almost nervous chuckle. “I… had kissed a lot of people before you. Obviously, you know that. There was never any need or spark with them. When you kissed me, for just a moment, I felt like maybe I didn’t have to be drunk or wasted to forget about Bridge. I felt like… maybe, for the first time, I had found something that made me as normal as I was going to be. For a moment, I felt like I was no longer hiding from who or what I knew I was supposed to be,” he explained. He combed his fingers through Jensen’s hair. “I told you my first crush was a man, but I couldn’t feel things the way normal people could, so I just chose women to fit in. Kissing you and sleeping with you didn’t feel like I was just trying to fit in. It felt like I belonged, and I… I needed that,” he whispered.
Jensen turned his head to press a kiss to Bo’s chest, but he didn’t respond. Bo cleared his throat. “Can I ask why?”
“You aren’t the only one that needs reassurance every now and then, Eli. I’m confident in us, sure, but…”
“Kathy made you nervous,” Bo said. Jensen nodded. “Kathy’s wrong. I love you, and what I feel for you has nothing to do with getting over someone,” he said, his voice soft.
“I know,” Jensen whispered. “Thank you.”
“My pleasure, Jens.” Bo opened his eyes, staring up at the ceiling. “We should sleep. We have to have an actual conversation with Kayla today. About school. And then I have some more case things to deal with,” he said.
Jensen nodded. “Sure, baby. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Jens.” Bo reached up and turned off the bedside lamp. “Goodnight.”
One corner of Jensen’s mouth lifted as he closed his eyes. “Night, Eli.”
3:48 AM; CLIFFBURN, SAPPHIRE HOTEL, ROOM 301
The man walked back into his hotel room, closing the door with a soft click behind him. He kicked off his shoes and shrugged out of his coat. He crossed the room, tossing his coat onto the chair against the wall. He unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans, kicking them off as he sat down on the edge of the bed.
He had gone out and rented a storage unit, put the wood he had purchased inside. He still had to purchase the blade he needed for his next kill. He needs to purchase more wood, too, but he had done that on purpose. He wanted to space things out. He had time to kill, and he planned on using as much of that time as he could. He’d put his time to good use, even if it meant multiple trips to different stores over a certain period of time.
The man let out a soft sigh, unbuttoning his shirt and dropping it to the floor. He lay down on the bed, pulling the covers up over himself. He’d be up again at eight in order to drive out to Stokely for more wood. Afterward, he’d go to Chesterwick, drop the wood off at his storage unit.
After that, he wasn’t certain. He’d just go wherever the day took him.
9:32 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, KITCHEN
“So I still only know little bits and pieces, but I do know that our killer is right around five-eleven or six-foot,” Bo said, his phone pressed to his ear.
“Good. That’s something,” Jacob said.
“Sure, but not much,” Bo said. He pinned his phone to his ear with his shoulder as he washed off a yellow pepper. “I can’t place the year or origin of the specter. Sorry about that.”
“That’s okay, Bo. I wasn’t expecting anything excellent to come out of that video,” Jacob said honestly.
“I know.” Bo set the pepper on the counter, picking up an orange pepper and washing it off. “Have you had breakfast yet?”
“How about you bring everyone over and I’ll make food? I’m making omelets.”
“What kinda omelets?”
Bo chuckled. “Egg whites, bell peppers, mushrooms, chives, and cheese. And then some avocado slices on the side, but that’s just because it’s one of the few healthy things we don’t have to trick Amber into eating.”
Jacob snorted. “Yeah, sure. We’ll be there. Half hour or so?”
“Yeah, that should work,” Bo agreed. “Can I ask you something?”
“Have you ever been friends with someone that’s been homeschooled?”
Bo rolled his eyes. “Thank you, Captain fucking Obvious.”
Jacob laughed. “I knew a chick in college, actually. Her parents had homeschooled her,” he said. “Why? Because of Kayla?”
“Yes. I want to give her what she wants. I won’t make her go back to school she’s scared of. I just… I worry about her. I want to know she’ll come out all right on the other side.”
“Well, the gal I met in college was fine. She was the most outgoing little shithead I’d ever met, actually. And that’s saying a lot since Charlotte’s my daughter,” Jacob said. Bo chuckled softly. “She’ll be all right, Bo. Homeschooling isn’t the end of the world. Just make sure she has friends. You know, take her to the park, let her invite her friends over for sleep overs. That kinda thing. Kids stay in contact through phones and the internet anyway.”
“Yeah,” Bo agreed quietly. “Thanks, Jake.”
“No problem. You thinking online?” Jacob asked.
“Probably. Jensen and I are planning on talking it over with her tonight. Depending on what’s decided, I’ll call Jamal, and he’ll get things organized,” Bo said.
“Good luck with all of that.”
“You betcha. See you in a few.”
“Sure thing, Jake. See you then.”
7:57 PM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, FAMILY ROOM
“Now… you know this means you wouldn’t get to see your friends every day, right?” Jensen asked.
“I know,” Kayla said with a nod.
“And you’re sure you’re okay with that?” Bo asked.
Again, the girl nodded. “I think so. I’d still get to talk to them online or on the phone, right?”
“Of course, baby,” the blonde said softly.
“And they could come over to play sometimes?”
“One hundred percent,” Jensen said.
“Are you guys okay with it? I know… I know me and Amber doing different things would be weird. It’d be… it’d be annoying for you, right?” Kayla questioned.
Bo shook his head. “It wouldn’t be annoying at all, sweetheart. There’s a little bit of work we need to do, but it wouldn’t be annoying.”
“What kind of work?” Kayla asked.
“Well, we’d have to buy you a laptop, first of all.”
“Right. And we’d have to figure out what to do with you during the day. You’re too young to be left here alone, and you don’t trust people, so finding a babysitter would be hard,” Jensen said.
“Which is okay,” Bo said quickly. “You don’t have to trust everyone. There’s nothing wrong with that,” he assured.
Jensen nodded. “Of course. I’m sorry, sweetheart. That sentence sounded better in my head,” he said softly, reaching out to squeeze Kayla’s knee.
“Maybe… maybe you could stay at the station during the day. Either in Jake’s office or in the quiet room,” Bo said. “I’d have to talk it over with David,” he added.
“I couldn’t stay with you?” Kayla asked.
“Well, I’m in and out of the morgue and lab all day. I’d hate for you to see most of the things I stay during the day,” Bo said.
“We could talk to Jacob and David about keeping a desk in the lab for her. She could be in the lab alone as long as you were right next door in the lab,” Jensen said. “We could have a rookie stand in the lab whenever we have to leave,” he added.
“We’d have to find a rookie she was comfortable with,” Bo said.
“Umm, Dads? I’m right here,” Kayla reminded quietly.
Bo offered a smile. “I know, baby. We’re sorry.”
“I just… I don’t think I want to be homeschooled forever or anything like that. I just need to do it at least for the rest of this year. I can’t go back there. Not yet,” Kayla said. “Thinking about going back to school is like thinking about when I was in my treehouse for… for days. It’s scary, and it doesn’t make me feel good. I just want to finish this year of school without feeling… feeling scared every day. That’s all. And then I can go back to school next year. It’s just gonna be for the rest of this school year. Three months. Ish.”
“Baby, it’s okay. You don’t have to explain this to us. We’ll do what we have to for you. That’s all there is to it,” Bo said softly.
“Of course,” Jensen assured. “You can do this online thing for as long as you want,” he said. “And if that’s only three months, three years, or until you graduate, so be it. We’re okay with that.”
“You’re our little girl,” Bo added. “We’ll always do our best to do what’s best for you. If that’s homeschooling you, we’ll do it. No question about it.”
“We’ll make it work?” Kayla asked.
“Of course, Kay.”
“Thank you,” she whispered, standing up to throw her arms around Bo and Jensen.
“No problem, sweetheart,” Jensen murmured.
Bo pressed a kiss to Kayla’s temple. “I’m going to go ahead and call Grandpa J, then. He’ll get you into a good school,” he said. He squeezed her tightly before pushing himself to his feet. “And then I’ll call David, and we’ll go from there. Okay?” Kayla nodded. Bo smiled at Jensen before walking out of the room.
Jensen smiled, his hands resting on Kayla’s shoulders. “Wanna kill some zombies?”
“Yeah,” she whispered.
“Awesome. Go set up the game. You can even be first player.”
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