11:51 AM; CLINSTONE ELEMENTARY, FOOTBALL FIELD, BLEACHERS
Jensen wrapped an arm around Bo’s shoulders as the blonde leaned into him. “Update?” Bo questioned.
“Amber came second in her first race, but then they did an egg race, and she won and threw an egg at a kid, so… she kinda wins everything in my eyes,” Jensen said. Bo chuckled. “And Kayla’s won a race, let a kid win a second race, and is preparing to, and I quote, ‘leapfrog the heck out of everyone’.”
“That’s our girls,” Bo whispered. “Twins?”
“Eve’s asleep. Cecilia took Noah to the bathroom to change his diaper so I could keep watching the girls,” Jensen said. He looked down at the blonde before his green eyes shifted back to the field. “How was the scene?”
“Dead gal from Iowa.”
Jensen frowned. “You’ve worked a case there before,” he said quietly.
“Yeah, with Kathy and Dallas.” Bo shrugged. “She was headless on the baseball field, nails pulled off.”
“Did you ID her by name, too? Or just that she’s from Ellepath?” Jensen asked.
Bo nodded. “Serena Bishop.” He cleared his throat, twisting his ring around his finger. “Jake says this is the first time he’s gotten Alice to leave the house in two months. So when we’re all out at lunch, we have to be very cautious around her. Handle her with kid gloves, but don’t be condescending, okay?”
“Right. And her parents are meeting us in the parking lot to take the twins?” Jensen asked.
“Good. How was Jake? He’s all smiles when he’s around me.”
Bo lifted his shoulders. “It’s hard to tell. He asked case-related stuff, and then we left,” he said.
“Yeah, I figured,” Jensen said quietly.
“Hey, Bo,” Cecilia Delacroix greeted, her cornflower blue eyes focused on Bo. “Must’ve missed you before you went out to the crime scene,” she said, buckling Noah back into the stroller.
“Yeah, I know. Had to leave pretty abruptly,” Bo said. He reached out and squeezed Cecilia’s hand. “How was work this morning?”
“Well, working such a short shift was basically a godsend,” Cecilia said. Bo chuckled softly. “I finally finished up the paperwork on the last case I worked, so I’m currently free.” She crossed her arms over the fence that surrounded the track. “I haven’t had time where I wasn’t on a case for quite a while. Feels odd.”
“You get use to it eventually,” Bo said.
“Right. Just means you can spend more time with us. Do boring old people stuff together,” Jensen said. “Like build puzzles.”
“Young people put together puzzles, too,” Bo said.
“And you’re still not old,” Cecilia said. “How’s wedding planning going?”
“We’re halted at the moment,” Bo said. “We can’t decide on a date.”
“What’re your options?”
“Well, we were thinking December or February. December twenty-ninth because it’s when we met and when we got engaged, and February fourteenth because it’s when we started dating,” Bo said.
“Oh, guys, a Valentine’s Day wedding could be perfect,” Cecilia said softly.
“Would people attend a Valentine’s wedding?” Jensen asked.
“Yes. Then they don’t have to plan any big, romantic dinner for their dates,” Cecilia said. “Really, it’s pretty damn perfect for a lot of reasons. It’d give you guys time to get out invitations and all that jazz. It’s easier for you guys because you don’t have to deal with dresses and resizings,” she said.
“Oh, all good points,” Jensen agreed.
“But, honestly, we have no idea. I don’t even know if we should do it soon or if we should wait until after we figure out what’s happening with the twins,” Bo said.
“I don’t know. It could work either way. Just know it’s up to you two no matter what,” Cecilia said.
One corner of Bo’s mouth lifted. “I know. Thanks, Celia.”
1:02 PM; CLINSTONE, ONOMOTOPIZZA PIZZERIA
On one side of the booth, Cecilia, Bo, and Jensen sat, Kayla between the two men, Elijah Mason on Bo’s lap, and Amber on Jensen’s. Jensen stretched his right arm across the back of the booth, his hand just grazing Bo’s shoulder. On the opposite side of the booth, Jacob and Alice Mason sat, Katie Mason between them, and Charlotte Mason seated on Jacob’s lap. Alice sat closed to the wall, one leg drawn to her chest, her head turned toward the window.
Bo didn’t blame her for feeling disconnected to the rest of the world. Left in a depressive state after her release from the hospital, she had been put on antidepressants that did nothing but take away her energy and drop her mind into a thoughtless haze. Bo knew it was hell on the entire family, but Jacob was doing his best to hold everything together.
Jacob cleared his throat. “So, last day of school. What kind of… fun things do you have planned for the summer?” he asked.
“My daddies are gonna make us a treehouse in the backyard,” Amber said.
Jacob smiled faintly. “That’s pretty damn awesome,” he said. “When’re you gonna start that?” he asked.
“This weekend, hopefully,” Bo said.
Bo chuckled softly. “Thanks. We’re going to need it. What about you? Plans?”
“Charlotte wants to learn how to play baseball,” Jacob said. “Which I think is just her way of telling me she wants to throw a very hard ball through the kitchen window.” He lifted his shoulders. “Again.” Charlotte giggled, a sound that confirmed the idea rather than denied it.
“I’m going to another dyslexic camp in a couple weeks. It’s only a week-long, but it’ll still do me some good,” Katie said.
“That’s good, kiddo. Good luck,” Jensen said.
“Thanks.” Katie’s blue eyes shifted to Bo’s face. “I’ll be going into high school math next year. Algebra one, I think. Could you help me figure some of that stuff out before the school year starts?” she asked. “I hate the way the teachers go over all of it, so any kind of head start would be great.”
“Sure, Kate. Your dad can always bring you over after work or something,” Bo suggested.
Jacob nodded. “Works for me,” he said quietly.
“Are you taking any college courses, Kate?” Cecilia asked.
“Composition one and… Intro to Psych,” Katie said. “The guidance counselor suggested them and Dad signed off on it a month ago. So unless I change my mind when school starts back up, I’ll have six college credits after first semester,” she said, smiling faintly.
“That’s great, Katie,” Cecilia said. She shoved Bo’s shoulder with her own. “Keep up at that pace, and you’ll be Bo.”
Katie laughed, shaking her head. “No offense, but I don’t wanna be Uncle Bo.” She looked back over at the man. “Your intelligence is still a little off the charts for me.”
“Kid, I graduated college and his intelligence is off my charts, too,” Jensen said. Bo rolled his eyes. “Going out for any sports?”
“Basketball. I don’t get played much or anything, but it’s still fun,” Katie said.
“Gotta start somewhere, Katie-Kat,” Jacob said softly, patting his daughter on the shoulder. He reached out with his free hand, straightening out Charlotte’s cup before she could knock it over. “If you get through this meal without spilling stuff all over the place, I’ll buy you ice cream.”
“Okay!” Charlotte said excitedly.
“Is that how you have to deal with her now?” Bo asked.
Jacob shrugged. “For now. I’ll find something better to bribe her with later,” he said. Bo snorted. “The case from today. Are we working on that after lunch? Or tomorrow?” he asked.
“Tomorrow,” Bo said. “I’m just not in the mood to spend the rest of my afternoon and evening in the morgue.”
“Fair point,” Jacob said quietly, nodding. He scratched at the dark hair on his jaw, clearing his throat. “Well, after we’re done eating and after we get ice cream, we can go down to the park, let the kids tire themselves out for a while. Okay?”
Bo nodded. “Sounds good, Jake.”
2:34 PM; CLINSTONE, HAVEN’S PARK
Bo sat down on the swing beside Jacob, wrapping his arms around either chain, cradling them in the crooks of his elbows. “So… how’re you doing, Jake?” he asked. With Jensen pushing the kids on the merry-go-round and Cecilia back at the Mason household with Alice, Bo and Jake could talk alone, which was the only time he could get honest information out of the sergeant.
“I don’t know,” Jacob said quietly. “I guess I’m as good as anyone could expect. Alice says, like, three to four words to me every couple days, and they’re usually something like… ‘I need to shower’ or ‘Are we eating soon?’ It hasn’t been easy, Blondie.”
“I know,” Bo whispered.
Jacob kicked his foot against the ground, pushing his swing back and forth lightly. “I don’t know what to do. I just want her to be okay.”
“She’s been through a lot, Jake,” Bo reminded. “For now, I think you just have to keep doing what you’ve been doing. Being loving, caring, and supportive. Be there for her,” he said.
Jacob nodded. “I mean, there have been some slight improvements.” He turned toward Bo, smiling softly. “She told me she loved me this morning. I haven’t heard her say that since December,” he whispered.
“That’s a step,” Bo whispered back.
“I know. I just miss having… Allie, you know?” Jacob questioned.
“I know,” Bo said softly. He reached over and patted Jacob’s thigh. “If something change soon, we’ll take her to a specialist and they can… they can run some tests. Maybe she just needs a good therapist or something. Kathy always had a therapist on standby.”
“I can’t afford that, Bo.”
“I’m not letting you continue to pay for shit for my family,” Jacob said.
“You’re my family, Jake,” Bo reminded.
“That doesn’t mean I’m willing to let you do everything for me.”
Bo shrugged, his blue eyes falling to the ground. “Jamal and I are gambling at the end of this month. I could teach you how to play poker, and then you could come with,” he said. “Then it’s not my money.”
“I couldn’t do that. I have a family, Bo.”
“So do I. It’s not a negative impact. You just don’t get addicted to it like some people do. It’s… casual, really,” Bo said. “Truthfully, it’s just a bunch of old guys with Scotch, cigars, and reading glasses.”
“So they aren’t, like, thugs that kick your ass when you steal all their money?” Jacob asked.
Bo chuckled, shaking his head. “No. They crack jokes and tell war stories and show pictures of their grandkids,” he said. “They aren’t dangerous. Jamal’s dangerous, and he isn’t going to hurt you.”
Jacob was silent for a moment. “You can really teach me how to play?”
“Yep. I helped you study for the sergeant’s test, didn’t I?”
“Yeah… And I aced that shit.”
“Exactly,” Bo agreed.
Jacob nodded. “Okay.” He cleared his throat. “Thanks, Blondie,” he whispered.
“You’re welcome, Jake.”
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