Thursday: March 5, 2026
3:07 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, BREAKFAST NOOK
Jamal turned his head to the left as he heard footsteps in the kitchen. “Hey, sweetheart,” he greeted.
Amber smiled as she padded across the kitchen. “Are you busy, Gampa?”
“Never too busy for you, sweetheart,” Jamal said. He closed his laptop, hiding the images of what he and the Minetti Horror Twins had done to one of the Lucchese family rats. “What’s up?” he questioned, pushing his chair away from the table.
“Is Aunt Cecilia gonna be okay?”
“Of course she is, baby. Come here.” Amber climbed onto his lap, resting her head on his chest as he wrapped his arms around her. “She’s gonna be fine.”
“You have my word, sweetheart.”
She nodded. “What about my brothers?”
“Well, I promise that we’re going to do everything we can to keep them healthy and safe,” Jamal said. “And you know what I say about promises?”
“You… never break them?” Amber asked.
“That’s right, sweetheart.”
“Why’d a bad thing happen to Aunt Cecilia and my brothers? They didn’t do anything wrong,” she said.
“Well, baby, bad things happen to good people all the time.”
“I wish I knew.”
“Do bad things happen to bad people?”
“Sometimes,” Jamal said softly. “Karma is one way to look at it. If you do something bad, eventually, something bad will happen in return.”
“Sometimes it’s getting arrested. Your daddies help get bad people arrested,” Jamal said. “That’s karma.”
“What about good people that do bad things?” Amber questioned.
Jamal let out a breath. “Bad things happen to some of them, too,” he said quietly. “But you don’t have to worry about that kind of thing, baby. You’re just a kid. Your dads will take care of you and keep you safe from all the bad they can. That’s all there is for you to worry your pretty little head about.” He cleared his throat. “Is that’s why you’re up, sweetheart? Because you’re worried about bad things?”
“Well, how about we play one round of your zombie game, okay? And then you go back to sleep.”
“You mean it, Gampa?”
Amber let out a squeal, jumping off Jamal’s lap. “Come on, Gampa.”
Jamal chuckled, pushing himself to his feet. “All right, sweetheart,” he murmured, grabbing her hand. “Let’s go destroy some zombies.”
5:50 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, FAMILY ROOM
Jamal opened his eyes as a hand touched his shoulder. He lifted his dark gaze to Frank’s face. “Yeah?”
“Your phone was in the kitchen, sir,” Frank said softly. “You’ve missed a call from Mister Austen.”
“Goddammit,” Jamal muttered, leaning forward in the rocking chair. He swiped his phone from Frank, unlocking his screen. “Did you answer it?”
“No, sir. I didn’t hear it until it went off with a missed call. My apologies.”
Jamal shook his head. “Not your damn fault.” He dialed Bo’s number, pressing his phone to his ear.
“Hey,” Bo whispered after four rings.
“Celia’s in more pain than before.” Bo cleared his throat. “He’s in distress, Jamal. If they don’t cut him out of her, we risk the chance of her going into labor, losing both babies, and then losing her.”
Jamal closed his eyes. The one time he missed a call from Bo. “It’s going to be okay, Bo. Baby’s survive at twenty-four weeks a lot more often than you think.”
“He’s smaller than his brother.”
“That doesn’t mean he won’t survive.”
“Jamal, do you even know who I am?”
“You believe in karma, Jamal. I’ve done a lot of bad things, and I keep having good things happen. It’s about time something bad catches up to me again,” Bo said.
“I’ll be at the hospital in twenty.”
“No, you don’t… It’s okay. We’ll sign the papers and… and she’ll be moved back to Clinstone for surgery.”
“I’m serious. It’s fine. I just hope Baby B is mine.”
“Because if he’s mine, Jensen’s son still has a chance to develop properly,” Bo said.
“Bo, kiddo, Jesus fucking Christ. Positive thoughts.”
“I’ve been positive for as long as I can.”
“Let me come to the hospital.”
“We’re going to be in Clinstone within the hour, I imagine. It’s a matter of us signing the papers,” Bo said. He sighed heavily. “I’ll call you when Cecilia’s out of surgery. Then you can come. Until then… I need you and my parents with the girls.”
“Sure, Bo. If that’s what you want.”
“Don’t tell them anything’s wrong. Please,” Bo whispered.
“I won’t. It’s between us.”
“Thank you. I, umm… I have papers to sign. I’ll call you.”
“Okay. Love you, kid.”
“Love you, too,” Bo said. Jamal waited for the blonde to hang up before pushing himself to his feet.
“Where are you going?” Frank asked.
“Mister Pitman, sir, with all due respect, you asked me to keep you out of churches at all costs,” Frank said.
Jamal offered a shrug. “What can I say? My boy’s hurt and my grandbabies are in distress. God hates me and, let’s be honest, I fucking hate Him, but this one’s for Bo and Jensen,” he said. He shook his head, smiling ever so slightly. “Gotta go put in a few good words for them. You stay here in case one of the girls wake up.”
“Jamal,” Frank hissed, wrapping a hand around the older man’s wrist. “You made me swear to never let you walk into a church again,” he repeated.
“Stand down, boy,” Jamal said, his tone dark. Frank released his wrist. “You watch over the people in this house. I’ll deal with my shit, you deal with what’s assigned to you. Are we at an understanding?”
“You and I are friends, Franklin, but the next time I override an order, you take note of it and step the fuck back without any argument. This is Bo we’re talking about. I don’t care if God smites me once I walk in there. As long as He listens for two seconds, I’m fine. That’s all I need.”
“I’m not worried about you getting smitten.”
“Yes, I’m aware. My father and churches, yada yada, whatever. They’re memories. I can handle them.” Jamal lifted a hand. “I’ll be back soon.”
“Of course, sir.”
7:21 AM; CLINSTONE SPECIALITY HOSPITAL, RECOVERY ROOM TWO
“You should go see your baby,” Cecilia whispered.
“I can’t,” Bo whispered back. He pressed a kiss to the back of her hand.
“He’s alive,” Jensen said quietly.
Jensen grabbed the blonde’s hand. “Come on. Cecilia should rest, anyway. We should go see our baby.” Before Bo could protest, Cecilia nodded toward the door. Bo sighed softly before following his husband out of the room. “What should I be prepared to see?”
“He’ll be hooked up to machines inside of an incubator. He’ll be small. He’d be able to fit in your hand if you were allowed to hold him. He’ll probably be red or pink. He’ll look… ill, aggravated, sensitive.” Bo cleared his throat. “And you’ll probably want to cry,” he added.
“What do we call him?” Jensen asked.
“Like… his name?” Jensen nodded. “I don’t know.”
“Castor or Pollux?”
“I don’t know,” Bo repeated. “He’s not a Gemini.”
“No, but he’s our baby, and he’s still a twin, birth month aside.”
“Pollux was immortal, depending on the version you want to believe, and when Castor died, Pollux asked to share said immortality with his brother so they could be together.”
“Then he’s Castor.”
“Because his brother never wants to lose him,” Jensen whispered.
In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Jensen did exactly two things when he saw their son. First, he whispered a broken, “Hi.” Second, his knees buckled and he hit the floor.
Bo knelt down beside the younger man, pulling him into a hug as his shoulders shook with a sob. “Shh,” Bo comforted, combing his fingers through Jensen’s hair. “It’s going to be okay,” he added, even though he felt it was a lie.
He could count the times he had seen Jensen actually cry on one hand. Once when Kathy had told him that Bo was only marrying him to get over Bridget, once when they got married, once when they found out Cecilia was pregnant and now, once when one of their sons was born premature, small and light, even for a preemie.
“Don’t tell me bullshit just to make me feel better,” Jensen said.
“Everyone stretches the truth to make someone they care about feel better.” Bo pressed a kiss to Jensen’s temple, hugging him tightly. “That’s the way humans work. Makes you feel a bit more positive though… yes?” Jensen nodded quickly. “Good,” the blonde murmured. “Then it’s all going to be okay.”
“ ‘Kay,” Jensen whispered.
“It’ll be rough… but it’ll be okay,” Bo said, and finally, he felt like he meant it.
7:56 AM; CLINSTONE SPECIALITY HOSPITAL, PARKING LOT
Bo barely flinched as the back door of Jensen’s car opened and Jamal climbed in, shutting the door behind him. Slowly, his blue eyes lifted to the rearview mirror. “Hi,” he greeted.
“Hi,” Jamal echoed. “You two okay?”
“We’re holding up,” Bo said, squeezing Jensen’s thigh.
“How’s Baby B?”
“On a breathing machine. He’s already had a blood transfusion to help combat anemia, and he has a heart murmur. We’ll wait to see if it goes away as he develops,” Bo said.
“Castor,” Jensen said from the driver’s seat, his voice rough.
Jamal nodded. “Which one is he?”
“Mine,” Bo said quietly. “Not that that’s a surprise.”
Jamal ignored the comment. “Cecilia?”
“Healthy and currently still in the womb,” Bo said. “We’re holding out hope he’ll make it until June.”
Jamal laid a hand on Jensen’s shoulder. “I went to church and prayed for them.”
Jensen covered the older man’s hand with his own. “Thank you,” he whispered.
“I thought you didn’t like churches,” Bo said.
“I don’t. I don’t like going in them, either. But I make exceptions for family,” Jamal said.
“He can’t say it, but he appreciates it,” Jensen said.
“I know he does.” Jamal cleared his throat. “You guys take as long as you need today. If you want to stay here all day, go for it. If you need to go to the gym to blow off steam, do it. As long as you’re safe, I don’t care. Your parents and I are taking care of the girls. Frank took Amber to school and your mom and dad are with Kayla now. We’ll watch them for as long as you need us to.”
“Thank you,” Bo said softly.
“That’s what I’m here for, kid.” Jamal squeezed Bo’s shoulder and opened the door. “You’ll keep me updated?”
“Of course, Jamal.”
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