And here is the concluding chapter. Thanks for reading!
Denver's shoulders were tight and with every clack, the keyboard sounded angry. It was probably just reflecting Denver's tension and frustration. If he'd thought he'd had writer's block before, this showed him it had been little more than a pebble in the path. This was a true, honest-to-god writer's block. In fact his typing was merely re-typing a scene that had already occurred, hoping that something might sprout at the end of it.
He glanced to his left, the little itch in the back of his neck telling him that he was being watched.
Sean's big eyes widened, and he ducked his head down again to the coloring book filled with images of earth-movers and race cars. Denver sighed and pushed his keyboard away. He swung his chair to the right and just observed the quiet boy coloring on the floor beside the couch, furious motions he hadn't been using before suggesting that he was just as nervous being watched as Denver was.
Denver frowned, considerable guilt crawling up his throat when he tried to imagine what Sean probably felt like. The boy lost his mother. He was sent to live in a house he'd never seen to live with two men he'd never met before.
Pat was right. Denver was an unbelievably selfish prick.
Sighing, he rubbed his hands over his knees and cleared his throat. "Hey… Sean?"
The crayon stilled, and Sean's head ducked just a little lower, like a dog that was afraid of getting scolded. Slowly, Sean's dark head lifted and those huge green eyes met Denver's gaze. "Y-yes?"
Denver smiled a little. "I'm a bit hungry. I was thinking I might run down to…" Where was he going to run? "…To an ice cream store. Do you like ice cream?" Was it too cold outside to offer a kid ice cream? Were there rules like that?
Sean slowly nodded. "Yeah."
"What do you think? Want to get some ice cream with me?"
Sean's eyes traveled to the window briefly, and he bit his lip. "But… it's cold."
Denver chuckled a little. Apparently there were rules like that. "I bet they have hot chocolate, too. Do you like that?"
Again, that slow, uncertain nod.
"Well, let's get some of that then."
Those big green eyes lowered. "I… I'm broke."
Denver's brow lifted, wondering where in the world a boy that young had come up with the notion of being 'broke', and that he was broke. "But I'm not, and I'll buy it for you."
Sean shook his head. "We… don't take charity…"
Denver blinked at the boy, his mind whirling in disbelief and confusion. Damn. Pat's emerald stare always made Denver weak, but that broken green gaze completely melted him. What sort of life had this child lived? He cleared his throat. "But we can be friends, can't we? Friends do nice things for each other. You'd let me do something nice for you, right?"
Sean's gaze lifted slowly and it was obvious he was debating something in his head. He bit his little lip before slowly nodded. "I… yeah…"
Denver smiled and stood. "Let's go get your coat then."
"Yeah. That new one that… that Daddy bought you." It felt so strange, and actually hurt a little, to refer to Pat as 'daddy', but Sean had taken to calling him that like birds took to the air.
Sean gave a little nod and carefully returned the red crayon to the box among the others and spent more time than Denver would to make sure the flap-lid closed properly. Sean pushed himself to his feet, his butt leading the rest of his body in that way that only children and dancers could manage. He walked to the bookcase where Pat had cleared away the bottom two shelves for the few things they'd purchased so far for Sean. The boy slid the coloring book neatly among the others and set the Crayon box in the small basket with the little palate of disk-shaped watercolors.
Denver could only watch, struck and a bit awed. He couldn't remember a time when he'd been that conscientious about… anything. Books ended up where they ended up; if he couldn't find a pen, he ran out to buy another four or five. But this boy… Denver would think it was genetic, but Pat wasn't that neat either. Sure, he liked order, but he often failed to achieve it, even when Denver wasn't around to mess it up for him.
Denver smiled and stood. "Ready?"
Sean's little cheeks turned a bit red. "I… where is the… my coat?"
Denver headed to the hall closet. He jolted a little when he felt a sudden, warm hand slip into his own. He was glad he hadn't pulled away, because Sean looked… unsteady. Feeling guilty about… something… Denver gave the little hand a squeeze. "This is going to be fun."
Sean looked up, something like hope in those endless green eyes. "Really?"
Denver nodded. "Really. Just wait and see."
Just as the kettle began to whistle, Denver reached the bottom of the stairs.
"Is he still sleeping?"
Denver glanced back up to the room at the top of the stairs where Sean's door was propped open. He could see the warm orange light in the shape of stars and a moon on the ceiling from the nightlight. He smiled a little, remembering the flush cheeks and the tiny little snore... remembering how awkward checking on him had felt when Sean had first come to live with them. Now, five months later, it was just... rhythm... sweet. "Yeah." He headed into the kitchen to finish making the tea he'd started before heading up to check on Sean.
Denver padded across the floor, carrying the two cups of steaming tea into the living room where Pat was reading the paper. In front of Pat, he set down the red mug that they always fought over, each claiming as their favorite. Denver's actual favorite was the green and blue turtle-shelled one in his hand, but it always felt nice when Pat would surrender and give something he loved to Denver because Denver wanted it, and he loved being able to sigh and give Pat the mug that Pat liked so much and say 'only because I love you'. Because the smile Pat gave him… that was priceless.
Pat's gaze wandered over the mug, and he arched an eyebrow before he returned to his paper. "One of us must have done something wrong if I'm getting that without a fight."
Denver sighed and bit his lip before he began quietly. "Pat, I…" He frowned and took a deep breath. "How did you end up with Sean's mom?"
Pat looked up again, a deep scowl instantly casting over his features. He shook his head and turned the page before beginning to read again. It took a long while before he actually answered: "You don't want to talk about this."
Denver frowned and edge a little closer, feeling like a naughty dog begging for a reassuring pat from the master he'd displeased. "But I do."
"Well, I don't."
Denver sighed. Well apparently he was the cuffed puppy. He leaned back again. Rebuffed. "Pat… you never said you forgave me for… leaving you and all the other… stuff… that I did. Is it because you actually didn't?"
Pat sighed and folded up the paper. He set it aside and leaned over to take Denver's chin in hand. He guided Denver's head up and searched his eyes, Pat's intense gaze doing a damned fine job of boring through Denver's calm and making a good-faith effort at his soul.
Denver had to break the eye-contact.
"Denver, baby, why are you suddenly bringing that up?"
Denver shrugged. "That's the only reason I can think of that you wouldn't want to talk about it…"
Pat huffed and sat back. "I don't suppose someone as creative as you could possibly imagine that I'm perhaps ashamed of what I did?"
Denver dared to glance up. "Ashamed?"
Pat's scowl deepened. "Denver, I went on a bender and got a woman pregnant—a woman I didn't love and never found sexually attractive. I couldn't have even pretended to be with her. She left my life to raise my son by herself… in conditions that I'm gathering were less than any child should encounter. What in that telling isn't there to be ashamed of?"
"If you didn't find her attractive… how did you…?" Denver winced. Damn his curiosity… and damn his inability to filter the words that rolled off his tongue.
Pat's jaw muscles worked violently and Denver realized he was getting close to another one of those lines. However, Pat eventually answered: "I was thinking of you, and…" He shrugged. "She had a cock ring."
Denver's eyebrows went up, and his mouth made a surprised 'oh'. His face got warm in the sudden shame of having hurt Pat and then being such a weak-assed pansy that Pat couldn't even talk to him about it… for years. Denver sighed. "Pat, I'm so sorry."
Pat shook his head. "They were my stupid choices."
"But… I drove you to them."
"Well, yes you did. But then we can say your mother drove you to yours. So then, this is all her fault?"
Denver frowned. He understood what Pat was saying. Was Denver still hurt and sometimes angry at what his mother had said and done to him? Absolutely. However, he knew full well that what he'd done to Pat and to himself afterwards was his own foolishness and desperation. Not her fault. Not Pat's fault. His. So by the same measure, Pat was responsible for his own behavior.
"But… then… will you forgive me?"
Denver looked up when he heard Pat's warm laughter. "Baby, I forgave you a long time ago. Think maybe I can get some forgiveness too?"
Denver nodded quickly and he scooted a little closer to Pat before he sat back against the couch. "Yeah, I think you can."
Pat grinned and wrapped his arm around Denver's shoulders as he took a sip of his tea. "And I get this mug from now on, right?"
Denver chuckled. "Don't get ahead of yourself."