10:00 AM; SAN DIEGO, THE PITMAN ESTATE, FOYER
“I hope this is important, Jamal. I left work for you,” Wayne said, closing the door. He waited for a moment, a frown tugging at either corner of his mouth. “Jamal?”
“Stairs,” Jamal’s voice answered.
Wayne walked out of the foyer and headed for the staircase. He tilted his head back to look up at Jamal. The older man sat near the middle of the staircase, one hand on the railing, one leg stretched out. “Are you okay?”
“Oh, my God, Jamal. How long have you been sitting here?” Wayne asked as he hurried up the stairs.
“Where the fuck’s Frank?” Wayne asked, squatting down beside the older man.
“I fired him yesterday for insisting I needed help.” Jamal let out a heavy sigh. “I need help, Wayne.”
“You’re scared of letting Bo know that, though. Aren’t you?”
“I promised him I’d never let him see me weak again,” Jamal said.
“Being old isn’t a weakness,” Wayne said. He stood up, holding out his hands. “Come on. Let’s get you to a hospital, have a doctor make sure everything’s okay.” Jamal grabbed Wayne’s hand, allowing the man to slowly pull him up. “Anything hurt?”
“Well, my hip and back. But that’s mainly daily shit now,” Jamal muttered. He leaned against the wall. “I need Frank.”
Wayne nodded. “Do you have a phone number for him?”
“No. His phone’s on my table.”
“I’ll have Nicole find him and then I’ll bring him back. He’s your person, Jamal. He’ll come back. You know that,” Wayne said. “Is your office still upstairs?”
Jamal snorted. “What do you think? Of course it is. Nothing’s changed in this place.”
“Why don’t you move it downstairs?”
“Because the room Frank wants to move it to is your old bedroom.”
Wayne sighed softly. “You’re a lot more sentimental than people give you credit for.”
“I don’t want to have credit for that. Not by people outside of this family,” Jamal said.
Wayne’s expression softened. “I know, Dad,” he whispered. One corner of Jamal’s mouth lifted. “Come on. We’ll get you checked out, make sure everything’s all right, and then we’ll get Frank back for you.”
“Thank you. I’m sure deciding to come here wasn’t easy for you.”
“The choice was easy. Explaining its importance to Nicole was hard,” Wayne said. “But she is more accepting of you now.”
“Carrying a person through the woods to save them tends to have that effect on people,” Jamal said.
Wayne chuckled, wrapping an arm around Jamal’s waist. “Clearly.” They walked slowly, Wayne doing his best to match Jamal’s pace. “You don’t have to see yourself as weak. You’re aging. You have back pain, and sometimes, you need more help than other days. That’s not something you have to hide from Bo. It’s not weakness.”
“I know,” Jamal muttered. “Thank you. For leaving work for me.”
“Family. Remember?” Wayne asked.
“Yeah, kiddo, I know. But still. Thank you.”
10:32 AM; SAN DIEGO, GRANDVIEW CLINIC, EXAMINATION ROOM FOUR
Jamal lifted his head as Frank walked into the room. “Hi,” he greeted.
Frank nodded once, reaching back to close the door. “Sir.”
“I’m sorry, Frank.”
“I know you are, sir.”
“I hate to admit it, but I’m not what I used to be. I can’t keep doing what I do,” Jamal said.
“I know, sir.”
“I need help. I still don’t want to walk with a cane, you know. But that’s just a personal choice. That doesn’t even relate to my boy.”
Frank smiled softly. “I know, sir,” he repeated.
“But I want you to help.”
“I assume that’s a request to move back in, sir?”
Frank nodded. “Of course, sir.”
“Thank you, Frank,” Jamal said quietly.
“My pleasure, sir.” Frank tucked his hands behind his back, clearing his throat. “Are you all right? Master Wayne has informed me you fell.”
“You don’t have to call me that,” Wayne interrupted from where he sat against the wall. “I’m not a hormonal teen any more.”
Frank chuckled. “I’m aware, sir.” His gaze fell back to Jamal. “Well?”
“I’m fine. A couple bruises,” Jamal said. He sighed. “I caught myself on the railing before I went too far. I just couldn’t stand back up on my own, that’s all.”
Frank nodded. “How’s your shoulder then?”
Jamal lifted one shoulder. “A little bruised. Smacked it on the railing.”
“We’ll ice it if it gets too bad, sir.”
“Of course, sir,” Frank murmured. “There are a lot of things we can do to help your back pain, sir.”
“Examples?” Jamal questioned.
“Would I be around other people?”
“There are a few supplements that can be taken to help. Not all of them are one hundred percent backed by science, but they work for some people,” Frank explained.
Frank cleared his throat. “Yoga.”
Jamal laughed softly. “That’s not happening.”
“Men can do yoga, sir.”
“Yes, to stare at women in tight clothing.”
Frank rolled his eyes, a faint smile tugging at one corner of his mouth. “You wouldn’t be in a class, sir. You’d have a trainer of your choice. It can help in many ways, sir.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Yoga’s damn good for the body, Jamal,” Wayne said, flipping a page in the magazine on his lap. “Helps loosen muscles, strengthen the body, helps range of motion, all that fun jazz.”
“How would you know?”
“Because I’m young and hip. Obviously.”
Jamal snorted, dragging his gaze back to Frank’s face. “What else?”
“We’ll continue chiropractic and massage therapy appointments.” A pause. “And you need to work on your sleep schedule. That alone is damaging any progress we may make on alleviating pain.”
“Also true,” Wayne commented.
Jamal nodded. “And it’ll help?” he asked.
“If we do it right, yes,” Frank said.
“Which means you’ll have to stop your extra-curriculars,” Wayne said.
“I can’t do that,” Jamal said. “You know that.”
“We’ll lessen them,” Frank said softly. “I’ll alert Mrs. Lucchese of a change. She’ll understand,” he said.
Jamal shook his head. “I can’t do that, either.”
“How far along is your replacement in training?” Wayne asked.
“How can your replacement be busy? Isn’t he supposed to be working to be you?” Wayne asked.
“He isn’t ready to be me. There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re taking it at his pace,” Jamal said.
“Holy shit, Jamal. Your replacement is Bo, isn’t it?” Wayne asked, lifting his head to look at the man.
“He’s the only person that can handle it without fucking up everything I’ve ever created,” Jamal said.
“What about Kathy? You’ve known her much longer, obviously.”
“The difference is that I’d trust Bo with my life. If Bo had a choice between helping me or himself, he’d choose me because he knows I’d help him afterward. Katherine would choose herself, and I’d die. She puts herself first. Not her boss, not her partner, not her assets. She comes first. Always. She doesn’t trust me, and I don’t trust her. She is never getting anywhere near what I’ve created,” Jamal said.
“Damn,” Wayne whispered. “But… you’re sure you want to turn him into you?”
Jamal shook his head. “There’s a difference between want and need, Wayne. I don’t want him to be me. I don’t want him to lose everything or be ruthless. But I need him to take over, or else everything is… gone,” he said softly.
Wayne nodded slightly. “What can I do to help?”
“Do you still box?”
“Would you be willing to help train him?” Jamal asked.
“You want him to meet me?” Wayne questioned.
“You’re family. He’ll always be responsible for holding up my end of the deal when it comes to you,” Jamal said.
Wayne nodded slightly. “Sure, Jamal. Just give me a date, place, and a time.”
Wayne cleared his throat, looking down at his magazine again. “My pleasure.”
12:40 PM; CLINSTONE, LITTLE DELIGHTS
“LT says we should have the warrant for the security camera by tomorrow afternoon,” Jacob said, distastefully picking at the salad before him.
“Good. If we get lucky, we can catch at least a little glimpse of the killer,” Bo said. Jacob nodded. With a sigh, Bo grabbed Jacob’s salad and pushed his uneaten sandwich toward the sergeant instead.
“Oh, my God, I love you.”
Bo chuckled. “I saw your hateful expression when you ordered the salad. It’s the only reason I got a sandwich instead,” he said.
“Again, I love you. Thank you,” Jacob said.
“My pleasure, Jake,” Bo said. He looked down at his phone before tapping a hand against Jensen’s thigh. “I have to take this.”
“Sure, babe.” Jensen slid out of the booth, watching Bo walk out of the diner before sitting back down.
Jacob’s brow furrowed. “What’s that about?” he asked.
“It’s probably Jamal,” Jensen said.
“Pitman?” Rick asked. Jensen only nodded. “I didn’t know they were actively in contact.”
“Well, shortly after the last time you and Bo worked together, he left his department and joined under Jamal instead,” Jensen said.
“Oh.” Rick tilted his head to the side. “How is the old man?”
Jensen chuckled. “I dunno. He’s old. Excited for the wedding, though. Why? Do you actually know him? More than just, you know, general fear?”
Rick laughed. “Are you kidding? Before I moved to Iowa, I was at his house with Kathy nearly every single day. The man’s amazing with kids. He’d read us books or take us down to the beach. He played tag with us, catch, hide-and-seek. The guy was damn great back then.”
“Huh. I didn’t know that. Hell, I didn’t know you’d lived anywhere but your tiny little town,” Jensen said.
Rick shook his head. “I’ve been places, seen things. Mainly L.A., and now Clinstone. So, you know, my life is full of adventure.”
Jensen chuckled. “Clearly.” He turned to look out the window, a frown on his face. Bo sat on the ground in the parking lot, leaning back against the car. His head was bowed, his phone pressed to his ear. “I’ll be right back,” he said quietly, sliding out of the booth. He headed out of the diner, jogging across the parking lot to squat down in front of Bo.
“No, I know,” Bo whispered. Jensen reached out, laying a hand on Bo’s knee. The blonde nodded, quickly covering Jensen’s hand with his own. “Sooner than expected. Okay.” A pause. “No, I understand… I know… I won’t, I know.” He lifted his hand, wiping at his eye before covering Jensen’s hand again. “Okay. I love you, too. Be careful, okay?” he asked. “Thank you. I’ll talk to you soon.” Bo waited a moment before pulling his phone away from his ear, dropping it into his lap.
“What happened?” Jensen asked.
“Jamal fell down the stairs. He… he caught himself, so he’s fine, but…” Bo trailed off, shaking his head. “I’m going to have to replace him sooner than planned, Jensen. I’m…” He sniffled, rubbing the heel of his palm beneath his eye. “You’re going to hate me.”
“No, I’m not, baby,” Jensen whispered. He held Bo’s face between his hands, leaning up to press a kiss to his forehead. “I’m always going to love you. I’ve already made a promise to you, remember? A promise to marry you, to love you forever, and in February, we’ll fulfil the promise. It’s not changing. Ever.”
“Promise,” Jensen said softly. “When?” he asked.
“I might be a monster by the time we get married, Jens.”
“You could never be a monster.”
“I killed my brother. Where do I draw the line?” Bo asked. “When do I cross the line that makes me a monster?”
“He wasn’t your brother. Blood or not, he wasn’t. Tom is the only by blood family you have. Him and his wife and children. Everyone else on that side can go fuck themselves. He wasn’t family, and even if he was, he was asking for it,” Jensen said.
“What if I become a monster?”
“Baby, you won’t. We’ve talked about this. You’re going to be you, Eli. You’re going to be smart and kind and caring. You’re going to love me and the girls. You’re going to be stronger and more confident in yourself, but you’re going to be you. Always,” Jensen explained softly.
Bo nodded, reaching out to brush Jensen’s hair away from his forehead. “We’re going to need to go to L.A. soon. If this case isn’t solved within the next couple of days, we’ll have to leave it. Or, at least, I will. You can stay here if you want to.”
“Babe, I’m not letting you fly out there all by your lonesome. Oh… how far apart would we be? One thousand, three hundred and fifty… one miles?” Jensen asked.
“And point four,” Bo said quietly.
One corner of Jensen’s mouth lifted. “And that’s why I love you,” Jensen murmured. He tilted Bo’s head back just enough to kiss him. As Jensen pulled back, Bo tilted his knees to the side and wrapped his arms around Jensen’s neck.
The blonde closed his eyes as Jensen hugged him back. “I love you, Jens.”
“I love you, too,” Jensen said softly, pressing a kiss to Bo’s temple.
Bo sniffled before clearing his throat. “I’ll talk to Jake and David, but Jamal wants to start training as soon as possible. He wants to be able to go with me to the first few… deals that I do, make sure nothing goes wrong.”
“We’ll go whenever you want to go. I’ll order the cribs tonight, have them shipped to the house in L.A.. We can put them together when we get there. If that works with you?” Jensen questioned.
Bo nodded. “That’s good with me.”
“Good.” Jensen pulled away from Bo and pushed himself to his feet. He held out both hands, offering a smile as Bo grabbed one of his hands. “Up we go,” Jensen murmured, tugging him to his feet. Bo slipped his phone into his pocket as Jensen hooked an arm around his shoulders, pulling him against his side. “It doesn’t matter what happens with Jamal, Eli. As long as you always come back home to me, nothing’ll change. I’ll love you. The girls will love you. Same old, same old, babe.”
Bo smiled faintly, reaching up to lay a hand between Jensen’s shoulders. “I love you, too, Jens. Thank you for being… so damn perfect.”
“Mm.” Jensen squeezed him tightly, kissing the top of his head. “I’m gonna go ahead and remind you that you’re fucking perfect, too, Eli,” he said softly.
“Thank you,” Bo whispered.
“My pleasure, babe.”
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