3:29 PM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, KITCHEN
Amber ran into the kitchen, offering a loud, “Hi, Daddy!” before dashing out of the room and down the hall to her room. Kayla, in her usual quiet fashion, gave Bo a hug before walking into the living room.
Jensen walked into the kitchen, tossing his keys onto the counter. “Saw your car in the garage,” he said, tapping a hand against Bo’s arm. “I wasn’t expecting you to be home.”
“I changed my mind on staying late,” Bo said.
Jensen cocked his head to the side, leaning back against the counter. “What changed your mind?”
“Jake offered some words of wisdom. I decided to listen to him,” Bo said. He wrapped his arms around Jensen. “You’re perfect.”
One corner of Jensen’s mouth quirked up as he hugged the blonde. “You’re pretty damn perfect yourself,” he said softly. “Were Jake’s words of wisdom about me?”
“Mm.” Jensen pressed a kiss to Bo’s temple. “Well, since you’re here, what do you wanna do?”
“We can find out what Kay wants for her birthday. You know she isn’t very good at telling us what she’d like,” Bo said.
“There is that,” Jensen agreed. “The girls wanted to go outside, maybe build a couple snowmen. Wanna come with?”
“Obviously.” Bo stepped away from Jensen, raising an eyebrow. “Think Amber’s going to destroy one with a baseball bat again?”
“One hundred percent. It’s practice for zombies,” the younger man said.
Bo chuckled. “Of course.” He patted Jensen’s chest, a soft smile on his face. “Well, let’s go build some snow zombies.”
3:30 PM; WORTHINGTON, NOBLES COUNTY COURTHOUSE
“Mister Johnson, tell me, do you know the defendant?” Adam Sullivan questioned.
“How do you know him?”
“I’ve been his roommate for five years.”
“How long have you known him?” Adam asked.
“A little over ten years.”
“In those ten years, have you ever noticed any… aggression in the defendant?”
Cecilia let out a heavy breath, resting her forehead against the heel of her palm. She wanted to go home, and waiting for Adam to finish his questioning of the witness so she could cross-examine wasn’t something she was in the mood for. She had a headache, which Adam’s voice and logic was worsening. Her back hurt, courtesy of being forced to sit most of the day. Her stomach hurt, courtesy of the Austen-Taylor twins driving their feet and hands into her abdomen.
“Sometimes. What kind of aggression did you see sometimes?” Adam asked.
“He gets mad real easy, and… and he punched a couple holes in our walls.”
“Did he ever hit you?”
“Ever hit anyone else?”
“Speculation, Your Honor,” Cecilia said.
Adam glanced back at her, holding up a hand. “Apologies, Your Honor. To your knowledge, Mister Johnson, did the defendant ever hit another person? Did you see it happen with your own eyes?”
“Did you ever hear stories about it?”
“Objection,” Cecilia said.
Adam waved a hand. “Withdrawn.” He shoved both hands into his pockets. “Mister Johnson, when was the last time the defendant had a job?”
“A year ago.”
“Was he fired?”
“Why?” Adam questioned.
“Objection. Further speculation. The witness wasn’t there when my client was fired,” Cecilia said.
“Sustained. Move along, Mister Sullivan.”
“Of course, Your Honor,” Adam said. Cecilia rolled her eyes as he asked another question that would yield him no effective results. Whenever he knew they were nearing the end of the day, he had a habit of drawing out his examination so that Cecilia’s cross-examination of the witness would be put off until the next day. There had been a time that she would actually benefit from his method. Now that sleep was hard for her to come by, it was damaging to her defense.
“Your Honor?” Adam questioned. “May I approach the bench?” Cecilia’s brow furrowed as she looked up. Adam’s eyes were on her, and he certainly didn’t look angry. He looked… concerned? She glanced over at Alice, who only offered a shrug in response. Cecilia dragged her gaze back to Adam, watching him talk to the judge. He nodded, holding a hand out behind him briefly.
Finally, the judge nodded. “We’ll be holding the rest of Mister Johnson’s testimony off until tomorrow,” he said as Adam walked away from the bench.
Adam stopped by the table and grabbed Cecilia’s arm. “Stand up,” he whispered.
“What’s your fucking game, Sullivan?” Cecilia asked in a hushed whisper.
“You’re bleeding, Delacroix,” he said, shrugging out of his suit jacket as the judge dismissed court and stood up to leave.
“Adam, what the hell?” Alice questioned as people began to file out of the room.
“She’s bleeding,” Adam said. “What hospital?”
“Wh–what?” Cecilia asked, her eyes focused on the blood between her thighs.
“What hospital does Mister Austen have your doctor at?” Adam questioned.
“Umm… Cliffburn Fertility something.”
“Okay,” Adam whispered. He waited for two officers to take Cecilia’s client away before he helped her to her feet and draped his jacket over her shoulders. “Alice, call Austen, let him know I’ll be in Cliffburn with her. I’ll be there in twenty.”
“I don’t know what’s happening,” Cecilia breathed as Adam hurried her out of the courthouse.
“Are you in pain?”
“I don’t know. Yes? Back pain. Abdomen. I just thought… I thought it was normal shit,” she said.
“It could be. We don’t know,” Adam assured. “Don’t work yourself into a nervous breakdown, all right? Weird things happen all the time. The body’s insane, and… and babies are even crazier.” In the parking lot, he pulled open the passenger side door of his car. “Get in.”
Cecilia stared at him for a moment, swallowing roughly. “You have to understand why I don’t want to get into a car with you.”
“I’m a fucking asshole in court. I get that. But that’s not who I am all the time. Get in the car and I drive you there, or I sit here with you while I call an ambulance, but they won’t take you to Cliffburn. It’d be against protocol,” Adam said. He sighed. “I’m not a total monster, Cecilia. Get in the car, please. Not for me, but for you, Austen, and those babies.” He let out a breath of relief as she climbed into the car.
The last thing he wanted was for Bo Austen to sic Pitman on him for being unable to get Cecilia back to Cliffburn.
4:01 PM; CLIFFBURN FERTILITY ASSOCIATES, WAITING ROOM
Bo let go of Kayla’s hand, holding out both hands. “You two just… just sit here, okay?” He cleared his throat, sniffling. “Umm, don’t let Amber out of your sight. Keep each other entertained. You have the tablet. Play games. Just do… something, okay? Daddy and I will come back to check on you.”
Kayla reached up and squeezed Bo’s hand. “It’s gonna be okay, Daddy,” she whispered.
Bo let out a soft breath, leaning down to kiss her forehead. “Thanks, baby,” he breathed. He turned around, walking back to where Jensen stood at the counter.
“Room two,” Jensen said, grabbing Bo’s hand. He followed the blonde back to exam room two. Bo pushed open the door and stepped into the room, Jensen behind him. Bo glared at Adam for only a moment before crossing the room to wrap Cecilia in a hug.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, wrapping her fingers around the back of his shirt.
“Shh, we don’t know anything’s wrong,” Bo murmured. He closed his eyes, squeezing her shoulders tightly. “I just want you to be okay, that’s all. That’s the big picture, Celia.”
Bo pulled away from her to meet her eyes. “There are a lot of things this could be. It could be nothing or it could be something. Good, bad, neutral, whatever. But my main concern is always going to be you. Jens and I… can always try for another kid. I can’t just try for another you.”
“He’s right,” Jensen whispered. He hugged Cecilia before stepping back and dropping into one of the chairs in the room. He cleared his throat as Bo sat down beside Cecilia on the exam table. “How long are you planning on standing around, Sullivan?”
“I’m only here to make sure she’s okay,” Adam said. “Hell, to make sure you’re both okay. Can I do anything for you?”
“Our girls are in the waiting room,” Bo said quietly, helping Cecilia lay back on the table. Gently, he rested a hand on her stomach before lifting his watery blue eyes to Adam’s face. “How good are you with kids?”
“I have two nephews.”
The blonde nodded, closing his eyes, letting his head hang at his chest. “There’s a grocery store about three blocks away. Take them and let them, I don’t know, pick out a bag of candy or something. Amber tends to favor sour gummy worms. Kayla likes fruits more than candy, but, you know.” He swallowed. “Kayla, our oldest, will ask for a password before she’s willing to leave with you. That would be ‘studious’.”
“Studious?” Adam echoed.
“We choose words people wouldn’t randomly guess. Keeps strangers from stealing my babies,” Bo said quietly. “You can… you can do that for me, right?”
“Of course, Mister Austen.” Adam reached out and squeezed Cecilia’s hand. “Told you not to worry,” he whispered before walking out of the room.
Less than a minute later, Doctor Craig Hill walked into the room, shutting the door behind us. “Pain level, Miss Delacroix?”
“I don’t know. Maybe… a three?” Cecilia questioned.
“All right,” Craig said softly. “Well, we’re going to get to the bottom of this. If you’d lift your shirt, we’ll start with an ultrasound, see what we can see,” he said, sitting down on a stool near the bed. Cecilia lifted up her shirt before grabbing Bo’s hand. The blonde squeezed her hand, grabbing one of Jensen’s hands with his other. Still, he kept his eyes closed, favoring listening over looking.
He held as breath as the first heartbeat came through the machine’s speakers. It was the stronger of the two, Baby A. He waited, letting out a soft gasp of relief as he heard Baby B’s heartbeat behind him. “How’s it looking?” he questioned.
“They’re both good,” Craig said. “No visible distress, which is a very good thing. However, I’m going to take Miss Delacroix down to the lab so she can get her blood drawn for a bit of testing, and then I’ll do a quick physical examination. After that, she can just rest in here with you two for a bit. Okay?”
“All right, Doc,” Jensen said softly, squeezing Bo’s hand. “Thank you.” Bo listened to the rustling of clothes and material behind him before Craig and Cecilia left the room. “Do you… think it’s gonna be okay?”
“I don’t know,” Bo whispered. He forced his eyes open, clearing his throat. “The twins not being in distress is a relatively good sign for them, though.”
“But that doesn’t clarify anything. The human body is a mysterious thing, you know? You could be stabbed in the heart or shot in the head and live or… you could get a paper cut and die two days later. Nothing’s for certain, ever.”
“I was kinda hoping you’d give me some crazy, brilliant reason that everything would be okay.”
Bo offered a tired smile. “Apologies.”
“What do you think might be wrong?” Jensen asked.
“I’m not sure. Alice didn’t say much on the phone,” Bo said quietly. “I can’t believe Sullivan stopped a fucking court case to help our Cecilia and our babies,” he whispered.
“He’s still a bastard.”
“Trying to put me in prison doesn’t make him a bastard.”
“Maybe not, but to me it does. And, you know, being Adam Sullivan makes him a total bastard,” Jensen said. Bo chuckled softly, looking down at his lap. “What do you wanna do while we wait?”
“Well, after Celia comes back in here, it’ll probably be a good three hours or so before we get results to find out what’s wrong,” Bo said. “I think… I’ll call Jamal.”
“And have him come down?” Jensen asked. Bo nodded. “Could be a good idea. If Cecilia has to be here tonight, we aren’t leaving the hospital.”
“Yeah,” Bo whispered. He reached back with his free hand, leaning up to pull his phone from his back pocket. Unlocking his screen, he dialed Jamal’s number and pressed the device to his ear.
“Listening,” Jamal greeted after the first ring.
Bo’s brow furrowed as he bowed his head, opting for a weak, “Hi.”
“What’s wrong, kiddo?”
“I…” Bo trailed off, squeezing Jensen’s hand. “Can you and my parents come to Cliffburn?”
“As soon as you can.”
“I’m at the station now. Give me, say, six and a half hours.”
“You wanna tell me what’s wrong?”
“No,” Bo whispered. “Not yet.”
“That’s okay. Jensen with you?” Jamal asked.
“Good. I’ll see you in six and a half. Text me where you want to meet. We’ll be there.”
“My pleasure, kid. Can I talk to Jensen?” Wordlessly, Bo handed the phone to his husband.
“Jamal,” Jensen greeted.
“Is he okay?” Jamal asked.
“You’re both okay?”
Jensen cleared his throat. “There you go,” he said quietly.
“Damn,” Jamal whispered. “You’ll keep him safe?”
“You know I will.”
“Say it?” Jensen echoed.
“I will protect him with my life, sir.”
Jamal let out a breath of apparent relief. “Good. That means no alcohol or cigarettes, no matter how bad he feels. You read me?”
“Ten-four, Chief. Read you loud and clear.”
“Good,” Jamal repeated. “I’ll see you guys soon. Hold down the fort till then.”
“I know you’re scared, too, and that’s okay. Don’t ever feel like you have to hide your feelings just because… just because it’s me. You’re allowed to be human.”
One corner of the younger man’s mouth lifted. “Thanks, Jamal.”
“Sure thing. I’ll see you in a little over six hours. Stay sane.”
“I’ll do my best, Jamal. See you soon.”
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