A/N: Hey, guys. So I've been silent lately - haven't been updating much. There's a few reasons for that. The first is I've been a bit depressed and everything. The second is this right here. Interestinglyenough, or Tye as I call her, is working on a joint series with me. This is one of the one-shots in that universe. We've been working on one-shots first, to get a feel for the characters and the background and everything, but a larger story is in the works and should be posted soon :) Please don't forget to check out her profile for the rest of the one-shots and stories and everything. We haven't quite decided how we are going to post it, either on both of our profiles or like the first story on hers, the second on mine, etc. So we're still figuring that out. I decided to go ahead and post this to see how it goes and if I like how we are doing things right now, posting wise ;) So this is basically a test. Please, please let me know how it sounds!

We are going to try to post things chronologically but we are kind of writing them out of order. Right now there are 4 one-shots written. We'll see how it goes for posting :) Enjoy!

Story length: 6015


Ask No Questions, I'll Tell No Lies

It was Daniel who introduced him to philosophy, and the great philosophers, ironically enough. He sat Max down one day when he was seven and wouldn't stop bugging him, and gave him a book, told him to keep quiet while he discussed business with a friend of his.

Max could barely read such long books at the time, and philosophy had a lot of long-winded descriptions and big words he struggled to sound out in his head. At the time he was home-schooled, though; he learned to read when he was four. He could read at a fourth grade reading level when he was six. At first it was a struggle, reading those books on Socrates, Plato, Aristotle… it was difficult and he almost gave up, but his father told him to read. Daniel told him to read.

So he read, and he struggled and in the end finally made sense of what he was reading. In the end he overcame that challenge, but in doing so became engrossed with what those particular books had to offer. He began reading in earnest, getting a hold of everything he could find pertaining to philosophy and the great philosophers. He enjoyed all the questions and outlooks on life.

Daniel was not happy about this, though.

Which was ironic, because he was the one who introduced him to the questions in the first place. Kids asked a lot of questions anyway, but he took it to the next level by parroting Socrates' six questions – what is virtue, just, good…?

Daniel hated all the questioning.

When Max turned ten he sent him to public school to get away from the questions for a while. He could bother the teachers with his questions instead. Max asked all kinds of questions whenever he could get away with it; half the time they had little to do with anything they were learning in class. His math teacher was especially snippy with him when he asked what purpose numbers served in self-responsibility.

In the end, it was all his dad's fault, really.

If he never made him read those books he wouldn't have asked the right – or wrong – questions.

He lied to me.

His own father lied to him. Daniel. No, not his father.

Never his father.

"Dad, why don't we share a last name?"

"I told you, Max, you have your mother's last name."

"Well I have to do a family history project for school, Dad, and I need to know her side of the family if I share her last name."

"Not now, Max."

"Dad, it's due tomorrow! I've been asking for weeks!"

"Go to your room."

"But I-"

"We'll discuss it later."


"I said go to your room!"

That was yesterday. After he came home from school with a zero for that project, since his father never did give him any answers, he got ridiculed by his friends and classmates for not knowing his family. He was adopted, they told him. He argued that he was not adopted; his dad would have told him if he was. He'd asked plenty of times, after all; they didn't share any common features.

Daniel had curly black hair.

Max had wavy blond hair.

Daniel had dark brown eyes which reminded him of cool earth, the scent of trees of warm Spring air.

Max's eyes were clear blue.

Daniel had freckles.

Max did not.

Daniel's second toe was bigger than his big toe.

Max's was not.

There were so many differences, of course the question cropped up from time to time. In the back of his mind he wondered, but surely Daniel would have told him, right? He would have said, 'Son, you're right, you're not my real son.' Or something. He would have said something instead of adamantly lying all these years.

But because he refused to answer the vital question for Max's project, he went looking for answers on his own.

He found no birth certificate. No record of him existing prior to when he was three-years-old. He struggled to remember that far back but could recall only vague, blurry impressions, nothing concrete. The imagination of a toddler. Nothing substantial, nothing worthwhile.

When questioning his dad's friends, Keith – from the dog training store they both owned – pointed out that Max was in fact adopted. He said he thought Daniel would have told him, and he thought Max knew and that was why he was asking. So he let it slip. And Max had yet to confront Daniel about this as his dad – or adoptive dad, whatever – wasn't home yet.

At age seven he learned to ask questions.

At age ten he entered public school, where asking questions was both encouraged as well as discouraged. It was confusing at times, for a kid.

And at fourteen he learned his dad was in fact not his dad at all, and had been lying to him. Being his adoptive dad was fine; he just wished he'd been told. He wished that when he'd first asked that very question, Daniel hadn't looked him straight in the eye and lied. Lied like it came so easily to him.

It was childish but it left Max questioning everything he'd ever been told by Daniel. Was his last name truly that of his mom's? Who was his mom? Why did he lie about the fact Max wasn't his son? It seemed childish, and perhaps the deception was innocent, but to know he'd been looked dead in the eye and those next words out of Daniel's mouth had been an outright lie… told purposefully

For the first time since he started asking questions, he wished he had just left this alone. He wished he didn't know. He wished he didn't go snooping on his own, searching for answers. Sometimes it was indeed better not to know.

He wasn't aware he was walking in any particular direction until he stopped outside a familiar door.

He didn't know he was knocking until that very door opened to reveal black bangs partially hidden beneath an equally black beanie cap. The golden eyes looking back at him were at least familiar and oddly comforting.

"Hey," he said quietly, rubbing at the back of his neck awkwardly, before he quickly looked away. "Sorry. It's late."

Indeed it was. It was after sundown. No wonder his friend looked so shocked to see him.

Due to the fact they both lived a little 'out there', as far as city standards went, their proximity, however distant, landed them a ride on the same bus when they went to school, despite the fact Max was two years older than Nyx.

He met Nyx two years ago when Gareth, Nyx's guardian and also his cousin, gained custody of him for whatever reason – Nyx wasn't very keen on sharing much of anything – and as a sort of 'welcome to your new home' gift, Gareth got him a pug puppy. Said puppy refused to be house broken so Gareth enlisted the help of the local, nearby dog trainer, which was Max's dad – foster dad, adoptive dad, whatever. And thus, Max's first memory of Nyx was of the kid hovering protectively over a yipping pug puppy. Then when Nyx hit middle school they shared a bus ride. While they didn't go to the same school anymore, with Nyx still in middle school and Max in high school, they still shared a bus ride every day they had school, and they remained close. In truth Nyx was probably one of his closest friends, and not just proximity wise.

"Is something wrong?" Nyx asked with this odd lilt to his voice. Max would usually attempt to decipher all the little cadences of his friend's voice – Nyx often left a lot of things unsaid so it was just better to attempt to figure everything out from his tone of voice – but right now, his mind was otherwise distracted.

"Um… no," Max said, forcing a smile, backing up from the door. "I don't know why I'm here. Sorry. Everything's fine. I'll, uh… see you Monday, on the bus."

Shit, did we have plans this weekend?

He honestly couldn't remember. Today was Friday. He thought maybe they agreed to go bowling but he could have been wrong. It didn't matter right now anyway. He didn't feel up to doing anything right now.

And in truth he had no reason to feel this way, honestly. It wasn't like it was a giant surprise or shock. He and his father didn't share many, if any, traits or features. They were almost complete opposites, and he'd always wondered deep down if he was indeed adopted, especially since Daniel didn't like to discuss his mother or why Max shared her last name and not his. He just said she left them when Max was a baby and they weren't to discuss her again.

Another lie, probably.

He scrubbed a hand over his face, a habit he picked up from watching his dad – Daniel, he reminded himself, not Dad – working late hours at the kitchen table, staring down at papers he refused to let Max get near.

More secrets.

He decided he really hated secrets.

"What's wrong?"

He blinked and refocused on his friend, forcing another smile. "Nothing," he said. "Everything's ace."

Nyx looked rather dubious. He perfected that look.

"I'm being stupid," Max told him. "Nothing new there, right?"

Nyx frowned somewhat. "Hearing you admit it is."

Ah, humor.

His smile was genuine this time. "Right, that. Well. I'm being silly. And don't you ever take that thing off?" He lifted a hand and prodded at the beanie atop Nyx's head. Nyx all but hissed at him, swatting his hand away, quickly fixing his beanie. Max smirked at the familiar behavior. "One day you're going to tell me why you always want to have hat hair."

Nyx scowled. "Do I pester you about your loud clothing?"

Max snickered, feeling better by the second. "My clothing isn't loud. It's not my fault it's more colorful than yours." He waved his hand in front of him, gesturing at the entirety of Nyx's ensemble. Black shirt, dark jeans, black beanie. At least he was tan. "I'm telling you, man, other colors exist besides blue and black. Red, for instance."

Nyx shrugged. "Is there a reason you're critiquing my clothing?"

"Hey, I mentioned your hair – you brought up clothing," Max reminded him. He ran a hand through his own short, wavy blond hair, blowing bangs briefly out of his eyes before he sighed heavily. "Well, I should be going, I suppose."

"Why are you here?"

"Well, gee, nice to see you too, Nyxie."

Nyx frowned. "Don't call me that."

Max mentally winced. "Right, sorry."

He forgot Nyx could be a bit testy when it came to nicknames. He was usually good at catching himself before he used any for his friend, but sometimes they slipped out anyway. Even after two years of being friends with Nyx, he couldn't quite bite his tongue in the appropriate places.

"I'll be going," Max said quietly, shaking his head as he turned to take his leave.

"Wait," Nyx said from behind him.

Max took in a slow breath and turned to face his friend again. "Hmm?"

"Gareth can give you a ride," Nyx offered.

Max smiled. "Very thoughtful of you, my friend, but I'll be fine. All the psychos are in the busy part of town, remember?"

He waved goodbye to his friend and finally took his leave. He was halfway down the long, bumpy road leading away from the clearing in which Nyx's cabin was located, when a familiar red Jeep stopped next to him. Since he watched it approach, he stopped, waited, and climbed into the vehicle.

"Nyx's?" Daniel asked as they pulled back down the road, further away from Nyx's cabin.

"Mm," Max replied, looking out the window.

"You had me worried. I actually called Gareth. He told me you were speaking to Nyx at the door."

"Oh. Sorry."

He didn't mean to make anyone worry. He just had to get away from the house for a little while, that was all.

"Keith told me you spoke to him."

He shrugged, gaze still focused out of the window on the passing trees just visible from the glow of the headlights, and the shadow of the moon. When it got dark here, in the City of the Gates, it got dark. Pitch-black in the trees, the leaves too thick to allow the moonlight to seep down onto the ground below. Half the time you couldn't even see stars. As they exited that stretch of the road, though, and got back onto the main roads leading back toward their rundown house, the stars became further visible, and he relaxed, looking up at them from his window.

Watching the stars had always calmed him. It was something he and Nyx seemed to have in common. He tried, a few times, to get Nyx to stay the night at his house since he said he missed the stars so much and there was a bit of a better view from Max's house, but he refused. Max didn't let it hurt his feelings, though. Nyx was wary about leaving his cabin. He also refused to take that beanie off. Perhaps he was afraid Max would steal it during the night.

Max would think about it, of course, but in the end he probably wouldn't actually take it from him, if he slept in the damn thing too. Perhaps it was special to him, gifted to him by a family member or old friend. Max didn't know the story behind it. He wouldn't pry. Nyx could keep his history and his secrets – for now. One day Max hoped there would be no more secrets. He wasn't sure how many more he could handle right now.

"Are you listening to me?"

"Hmm?" He looked away from the window and the stars, focusing instead on Daniel's stern gaze which flicked toward him briefly before refocusing on the road.

"I said you should have just asked me."

"I did," Max reminded him, lips twisting into a frown. "You said we'd talk about it later, and I told you I had a project I had to do. I failed the project."

"You didn't tell me that."

"I tried. You wouldn't listen."

Daniel sighed heavily. It was this long, drawn out sound which lingered in the car. Max returned his gaze out the passenger window.

"You're adopted."

Max wished he didn't wince. Thankfully it was dark, so he hoped it wasn't noticeable. "Yeah, well. I figured that out on my own, thanks."

"Don't be rude. I'm trying to talk to you."

"I wanted to talk earlier. Now I want to go to bed."

"You're being difficult."

Max shrugged, still looking out the window.

They turned onto their desired street, still partially in the woods. As the lights in their house became noticeable, Max felt himself relaxing a little, tense shoulders dropping somewhat. Freedom was close. He just had to wait.

The Jeep rolled to a stop. By the time the key was out of the ignition Max was already pushing into the house, edging down the dark hallway. He remembered he was supposed to change the light earlier today, but with what he learned it slipped his mind. Now he shouldered into his room and closed his door behind him, even as he sighed and dragged a hand down his face, sitting heavily on his bed.

A few minutes later his door opened, as he knew it would.

Things could never be easy.

Daniel's dark brown eyes were narrowed.

"I said we were going to talk, Max."

Max shrugged. "You didn't want to talk earlier. Why is now so different? I'm tired. I have plans with Nyx tomorrow."

Crap. Now I'm lying.

He swallowed. He hated lying. Why was he lying?

"We're talking."

Max sighed heavily. Why was it that when his father demanded something, he got his way, but if Max tried the same thing it never worked? It didn't seem fair. Illogical.

"Why did you lie to me?" he found himself whispering, voice more hoarse than he liked to admit.

Suck it up, Max. It was just a little lie.

No, it wasn't. It wasn't a little lie. This was Max's entire life so far. And it was a lie.

"I've raised you since you were three-years-old," Daniel said. "And I didn't lie about you sharing your mother's last name. She was… She loved you. I wouldn't take that away from either of you."

"Was?" Max whispered, voice trembling somewhat. He took in a few deep breaths to steady himself. "What… What does that mean?"

"She's dead, Son," Daniel replied softly, resting a hand on Max's shoulder. The weight should have felt familiar, comforting; instead it was just unwanted and raw and he couldn't shake it off fast enough as he shot to his feet, spinning around to glare at Daniel.

"She's dead? You told me she left us!"

"She did, Son," Daniel said.

"She died! That's not the same thing!" He whirled around again, his back to Daniel now, as he brought his hands up, tugging at the strands of his hair, releasing a growl of frustration. "Get out!"

"Excuse me?"

That tone of voice was a warning. He knew this. But he didn't care at the moment.

"Get out of my room!"

"Do not speak to me that way, Maxim. I am your father."

"You're not my father! You're a liar!"

It happened so fast he wasn't sure it actually happened until he found himself blinking up at the ceiling, suddenly horizontal instead of vertical. To be fair it was a nice ceiling, it just wasn't something he wished to have an excellent view of at the moment. Especially not when the pain hit a moment later, registering in his mind as he quickly groaned and glanced in his father's direction.

Daniel hovered over him, rage plastered over his face.

There was blood somewhere. He could taste it. He ran his tongue over his busted lip, felt his head throb as he rolled over to get to his feet, swaying slightly. A second later a hand grasped his arm, and he jerked away with a snarl.

"Let go of me!"

"Max, I… I'm so sorry," Daniel said, and while Max wasn't looking at him, he could almost see the frown on his face. "I don't know… I don't know what came over me. I'm sorry. I-" His fingers brushed against his arm again.

"I said don't touch me!" Max snapped, spinning away from him again, rubbing tenderly at the back of his head. "Get out of my room."

"Max, I-"

"Go away!"

He hit me. He hit me.

Daniel had gotten annoyed with him before, sure, even to the point of threatening to smack him, but he never actually hit him. He'd yelled himself hoarse and ordered Max to his room, but he'd never turned to violence. The sudden episode of violence left Max's head spinning. If it happened once it could easily happen again. Maybe the caring, fatherly personality was all just an act, another well-told lie. Maybe this violent person was his true persona. Maybe it was all just another big lie, another secret.

Stop it, Max, you're assuming things.

If there was anything philosophy taught him, it was that he was to never assume anything. It was why he always tried to take everything at face value. He would take someone at their word, and look at the evidence in front of him. He would never assume anything.

Right now, Daniel was saying sorry.

But the actions were always so much louder than half-hearted apologies after the fact.

And he hit him. Knocked him to the ground.

"At least let me look at you," Daniel said quietly from behind him.

"Go away."

"You're bleeding, Max. Be reasonable."

Reasonable? Is he serious?

"Go away."

He must have looked so childish, standing with his back to his dad, hands clenched into fists at his sides, spine rigid. Blood on his head, too, since that was all Daniel could see right now.

It was easy to see blood against light blond hair.

"Max. Please."

"Please just go away," he said weakly, closing his eyes.

"Not until I have a look at you. Will you let me?"

"I just want to sleep."

"You might have a concussion."

"And whose fault is that?"

The words came out harsher, frostier, than he intended, but right now he didn't care. He had a bad headache, he felt dizzy, and the taste of blood on his tongue was enough to make him nauseous.

The silence that followed that statement left him wondering if Daniel finally listened and left him alone. He wasn't sure what was worse at the moment – Daniel continuing to argue and lingering in the room, leaving Max's spine rigid, or the thought of him just abandoning him when he was injured. As angry as he was right now, he still loved Daniel. He was still a kid, only fourteen. He wasn't ready to be alone. A part of him just wanted to curl up on the couch with his head in Daniel's lap like he used to do when he was little, whenever he didn't feel very well.

But right now the thought of Daniel's fingers combing through his hair just left him wincing.

"Max, please?"

Daniel's sudden voice was loud in the room. Max blinked his eyes open, sighing heavily, even as he gave into a small nod.

He tried not to flinch as Daniel's fingers grasped his shoulders, pulling him closer to the larger man. He was so tall. At one point Max lied to himself and said he would be as tall as him one day. Now he knew that wasn't true at all.

Somehow, it was just another injury for the day.

"You have a nasty cut back here, Kid. I think you hit the edge of your desk."

Max nodded numbly. He was too tired to feel the pain of Daniel's fingers prodding the wounded area. He just wanted to sleep and forget today ever happened. Forget everything he learned, forget the excellent view he had of the ceiling, forget the rage written across Daniel's face…

A few minutes later Daniel finally said he thought he'd be okay, no concussion or anything. Max nodded, refusing to say anything, and after a moment of lingering there, Daniel finally sighed, apologized again, and took his leave. Finally Max was alone in the room.

He looked down at his hands, finally unclenching them, bringing them up for a closer look.

The blood beneath his nails registered more than the pricks in his hands, from where his fingernails buried deep enough to draw blood. Tomorrow he would feel the pain more, and there would be questions if anyone noticed the lip, the back of his head, his hands…

But no one would notice.

If Nyx saw it he wouldn't ask about it. No one at school would be able to tell the difference unless he showed him his hands or something. No one would question a split lip. If they did he'd just say he fell out of bed or something.

It would be so easy to lie to everyone.

To lie just like Daniel.


Disgusted with himself, he hoped the blood on his jeans and pulled off his shirt, putting it on top of his pillow so he wouldn't get blood on his favorite pillow. He could always wash his shirt. It was harder to wash a pillow.

And the fact that was what mattered most to him right now should have alerted him something was wrong, but he was too tired to care right now. Too tired and sore and why did he lie to me, why did he hit me, why-

He closed his eyes.


"So are you going to tell me what happened or are we just going to pretend you don't have a busted lip?"

Nyx's choice of words usually would have left a smile on Max's face. He tried to force one now but found he didn't have the energy. Instead he shrugged, looking out the window of the bus. It was Monday now and the busted lip was still clear as day.

"I fell out of-"

He couldn't do it. He couldn't lie.

He snapped his mouth shut and shook his head, keeping his gaze focused out the window even though he could feel Nyx's eyes on him.

Nyx had noticed this morning, he was sure, but he didn't say anything. Max didn't offer an explanation, either. They just got back on the bus after school, and had dropped off most of the other kids so only four remained, including the two of them. They sat in the back, away from the other two who were huddled more toward the front, chatting animatedly.

And now Nyx decided to bring it up.

"You were saying?" Nyx asked.

"Nothing. Hey, how do you think you did on that History test? Did you study enough?"

He heard Nyx mention the history test earlier the previous week. Nyx always studied when he could even though Max was sure he could ace the tests without all the studying. Nyx was smarter than he thought, or at least that was what Max thought.

"Don't you usually accuse me of changing the subject?"

Max winced. Nyx had a point.

"Now I know something's wrong."

"Everything's fine."

"Are you lying?"

"N-… Yes."

Damn it, mouth, lie better.

He hated lying, but telling the truth would just raise questions and he wasn't prepared to deal with them right now. Maybe later, someday, but not right now.

"How did you get a busted lip? Did you get into a fight?"

"Something like that."

"With who?"

"Does it matter?"

"Obviously, or you wouldn't be avoiding the issue."

Damn him for always having a point.

"Look, it doesn't matter, okay? Let's talk about something else."


Nyx had a tone, but right now he couldn't decipher it.

"So? The history test?" he asked again.

Nyx talked about his day at school until the bus stopped outside of Max's house. Max wasn't aware anything was wrong until Nyx touched his shoulder.

"What's wrong?" Nyx asked. "You suddenly got all tense."

It was then Max realized why he was tense.

Daniel never waited for him to get off the bus. He was never outside waiting. A lot of the time he wasn't even home until late evening.

But now he stood there, his gaze focused on Max through the window. Waiting for him.

Max swallowed thickly.


"I'll talk to you tomorrow," Max managed to say as he rose to his feet.

Hiding away on the bus wasn't an option. Already the bus driver was tossing him odd looks for taking so long.

He gathered his things and quickly got off the bus even as he contemplated fleeing the house.

No. You can't run away, Max. Face it.

He took in a slow breath, shouldered his backpack, and approached Daniel as the bus pulled away from the house.

Daniel smiled weakly. "Hey, Kiddo. How was school?"

"Fine," Max said. "What are you doing here?"

"I have a surprise for you."

"A… what?"

Daniel took in a slow breath. "Well, two, I guess."

"Two surprises? Who died?"

The joke was out of his mouth before he could stop himself. Instantly they both went stiff. The silence surrounding them was suffocating. Finally Daniel sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face.

"I'm trying here, Kiddo. You know that, right?"


"You know I'm sorry, right?"


"Max, you're not making this easy."

"I'm sorry."

He didn't know how to make this easy for Daniel. It certainly wasn't easy for him.

"Let's go inside."

Max nodded and followed Daniel into their one-story, two-bedroom house.

He dropped his things off in the living room as Daniel led the way into the kitchen. It was the largest room in the house, with a large freezer, a refrigerator which also doubled as a freezer, a dishwasher, and a kitchen table which was probably bigger than Max's bed.

He sat the table in one of the wooden chairs.

Daniel sat across from him. "Okay, Son. Ask anything. I'll answer as best as I can."

Max swallowed thickly. "How did Mom die?"

"She was murdered."

He flinched. "What?"

"She was killed. No, they never caught him."

"And… and my dad?"

Daniel sighed heavily. "He was never in the picture, Kid. I don't know anything about him. I'm sorry. I only knew your mom."


"I told you that you weren't adopted because I just thought it was… easier. Than bringing up the past. And… and I know you're not my kid, but for the past nine years… you've been my son in every way that matters."

Max took in a slow breath, looking away. He was not prepared for any of this. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle would be so disappointed in him. Not to mention Scar from the Lion King; he sang a whole song about being prepared. Max watched that movie about a million times as a kid.

"I'm sorry I lied to you, Kiddo. I know how much you hate that. And I'm so sorry for hitting you. I don't… I don't know why I did it. I just know that when you said I wasn't your father… I guess I just snapped."

Max swallowed thickly. The lump in his throat made it difficult. "Okay," he managed to breathe.

"Is there… anything else you'd like to know?"

"Did you love her?"

The question was out of his mouth before he could even process what he was saying. When Daniel remained silent, Max finally looked at him again to find this glazed, soft look in his eyes he'd never really seen before. Daniel swallowed thickly, nodding as he looked away this time instead of Max.

"Yes," he said softly. "I loved her."

"Do you love me?"

"You're all that's left of her."

"Do you love me?"

"Of course I do."

"Do you love me?" Max asked again, frowning at him. "Or do you just love her so much all you can see when you look at me is her? Does she overshadow everything? Do you see me or her?"

"Max, please."

"Do you love me, or do you just love the memory of her?"


"It's not a hard question."

"I love you both."

Max closed his eyes. "That doesn't answer the question."

"What is it you're looking for, Kiddo?"

He took in a slow breath, struggling to find the answer himself. "You took me in because you loved her."

"I would do anything for her. But don't think I don't love you too. I loved you even then. We… I'd known your mom for a long time. Since we were kids. She got pregnant with you accidentally; never told me who the father was. Shortly after that we got together. On the… On the night she died I was supposed to watch you while she went out with some friends."

Hearing the pain in Daniel's voice left Max regretting his line of questioning, but these were things he needed to hear. He needed to hear the pain, the answers, everything.

"We lived together at this point. I had to work late that night, but I promised I would be home in time for her to go have fun with her friends. So I hurried home, called her on the way… she didn't answer. She always answered. By the time I got home I knew something was wrong. The front door was broken in. I ran inside and found her in the living room."

Stop, Max wanted to say. Please stop.

But he stayed silent, letting Daniel tell the story.

"She… there was so much blood. I… And you were crying. It snapped me out of my daze. I found you in the kitchen, in your highchair, with a man hovering over you. He was trying to take you with him, Kiddo. He saw me, and I guess your mom got a call off or something because the police were already showing up by this point. He left you there, ran away, and I picked you up."

Okay, stop. Please.

"I picked you up and I never let go. Your mom, she… Zoey didn't have any family members left alive. And she never said who the father was. I took you in. I'm sorry I lied to you, Max, but this was a conversation I really didn't want to have."

And Max knew he was telling the truth. He could understand why this was such a rough subject with him. Still, he was happy to finally know the truth. He was happy he finally had some questions answered. These answers raised further questions, but he didn't think he was ready to ask them right now.

"So when you ask if I love you or if I just loved her – the answer is both. I took you in because I loved you both. I kept you because I just really fucking love you, Kid."

Max swallowed again.

He didn't know what to say.

He was saved from answering by the small whining noises coming from out of the room, off down the hallway, toward the bedrooms.

"Oh, yes. Your surprise."

"My what?" Max all but squeaked, looking at Daniel.

"You always wanted a puppy."

Max jumped to his feet. "Are you serious?"

"I know I always said no, but… I know you really want one. Plus, with Keith's back as a bad as it's getting, I'm going to be spending more time at the training center. I was wondering if you would like to start helping me?"

"Helping you?" Max echoed, staring at him. "Like work there?"

"When you're old enough, yes. Until then, you could volunteer."

"And you got me a dog?"

"Keith's dog had puppies. They're mutts. He gave me the runt."

Max couldn't stop the grin from spreading across his face. "A puppy? Mine?"

"I know you've always wanted one, and since I'm going to be gone more, and you're going to be working around dogs anyway… I figured you might as well have your own."


"She's in my room."

Max left the room before either could say anything more.

He found the puppy exactly where Daniel said she would be – scratching at the door to Daniel's bedroom. She was so small, instantly pouncing on his foot the minute he opened the door, her little tail wagging happily at the sight of a person. She looked up at him with wide blue eyes and barked happily, pawing at his leg. The little black paw matched the rest of her little body – solid black save for her left ear, which was white. She looked almost exactly like a Labrador Retriever, which was what Keith's dog was, save for her tail, which was a bit bushier than a Lab's.

Max picked up the little puppy. Her tongue was smooth and wet across his face.

"Do you like her?"

"I love her," Max replied with a grin, unable to look away from the wriggling ball of fur in his arms. "What's her name?"

"I thought you could name her. She's seven weeks old. All the other puppies were gone save for the one he's keeping, and he couldn't find a home for her. I told him I'd take her."

Max's smile just kept growing.

"If it helps, she likes philosophy."

"Oh? How do you know?"

"Before I corralled her in my room to wait for you, I caught her chewing on that book you left in the living room. What was it? Something about Aristotle?"

Max laughed, grinning down at the puppy. "Aristotle, huh? You look a bit more like an evil Aries, but sure. Aristotle it is. But we'll call you Aries."

Aries licked his nose in response.

A/N: And there's that. Hope it sounds okay, and please let me know, okay? Thanks for reading and please review!