Damon could hear the piano as he walked into Kai's studio. He stood in the doorway and listened. He never tired of hearing his husband play. For all the magnificent scores and songs that Kai had written over the years, Damon felt the simplest rush of excitement hearing Kai just tinkering away at the piano lost in his own little world.
He had seen the young singer and his entourage leave about a half an hour earlier and he knew that Kai would be unwinding.
He snuck up behind Kai and started to massage his shoulders.
Kai rolled his shoulders and sighed.
"You need to hurry; my husband will be here any minute."
Damon playfully smacked him in the head.
"Don't stop," Kai ordered.
"You are so tense," Damon observed.
"That kid's got a great set of pipes, but the biggest ego and sense of entitlement I've ever seen," Kai said. "I told Sam that he needs to rein him in. He's got a great future, but he's only fourteen and no one's gonna put up with that attitude, at least not me."
"What's Sam say?"
"He wants me to produce the kid's album because he doesn't want some slick overproduced pop-mess, he wants something that really features the kid's voice and we've got some great songs for him; so, he said he'd lay it on the line to him and the parents: they're the ones who are enabling him at this point."
Damon continued kneading Kai's shoulders. "I need to get you on the massage table," he said.
"Sounds like heaven," Kai sighed. "Do you have time?"
"Yup. My schedule is clear for the rest of the day; Benji called, he's working after school and will probably be late and Alex is, well, Alex."
Both laughed. They knew that if Alex didn't have a lacrosse practice after school, he usually had some sort of date. They had both long since given up on trying to stem their son's sex life.
When the boys were fourteen they had sat them down to have the 'Birds and Bees' conversation. It was then that they had discovered that not only was Alex already experienced, but he was 'batting for both teams,' as Kai liked to say. They tried for a while to dissuade him from being sexually active, but finally relented by making him promise to practice safe methods and threatening him with dire consequences if he was to get any of his female partners pregnant.
During these conversations, Benji announced that he was gay, but that he wasn't ready for sex. Kai and Damon were both proud not only of the maturity of Benji's decision, but that Alex never pressured his brother to follow in his footsteps. As different as the twins were, they loved and respected each other completely. Their support for each other was never in question.
Kai stood up and took Damon's hand. The two walked through the studio and out into the yard.
"How did we get so lucky?" Kai asked as they walked towards Damon's clinic.
"I ask myself that every day," Damon replied. "I always knew we'd be happy, from the first day that teacher put us together to do that science project when we were fifteen, but never in my wildest dream did I ever imagine it would be this amazing." He stopped and turned to face Kai. "I love you so much," he said as he hugged Kai. "I love our life and our sons. I couldn't love those boys more if you or I had given life to them ourselves."
"I know, me too," Kai replied as he hugged Damon back. "But, we did give them life, Day. Think about it. If Renee and Doug had died in that accident and we hadn't been there, the boys would have been thrown into foster care or placed for adoption; they probably would have been separated. We were able to take them and raise them as Doug and Renee wanted. They are our sons, in every way. They have been since the day they were born."
"You're right," Damon grinned as they continued walking.
"So why is Benji going to be late?"
"I guess he met a new boy at school and he's a rider so Benji's bringing him to the ranch to meet Dale."
"I bet Alex is happy about that," Kai laughed.
"I'm sure he's thrilled."
"So is this a potential boyfriend?"
"I have no idea," Damon replied. "You know Benji; he plays it too close to the vest."
"He may not even know yet," Kai suggested. "I just hope he's open to it if it comes up."
"I swear if those two didn't look exactly the same some days I wouldn't even think they were related," Damon observed. "One screws anything that moves and the other one can't even find a boyfriend."
"I think that's an oversimplification in both cases," Kai replied. "You know Benji is just careful with his heart. He's like you were, so afraid of being hurt. Sometimes, it's almost like he remembers his parents, even though I know that's impossible. And Alex…" He looked at Damon and burst out laughing. "Ok, he's just a horndog."
Damon grinned. "Yeah, but I think it's his defense mechanism too. If he's on the offensive he thinks he can't be hurt. It won't surprise me if Benji is the first one to find a lasting relationship; he just needs someone he can trust. With Alex, it's going to be more of a struggle."
"Between his dick and his heart." Damon grinned. "You know that most of these guys and girls he hops into bed with aren't looking for anything long term which is fine with him now, but I wonder how he'll feel when Benji has that special someone."
Benji stood by his locker waiting for Oliver after the final bell. They had split up after class so that Oliver could run to put his stuff away at his locker and then meet Benji.
"Are you going home?"
"No gotta date."
"Him or her."
Benji just rolled his eyes.
"I'm taking Oliver to his house to change and then to the ranch and then home again so I'll be home late, but I already called Dad. I told him that we needed to work in the playhouse when I got home."
"You didn't tell him about the pen?"
"Give me some credit."
"I'll see ya later."
Oliver walked up just then.
"Are you ok?" he asked.
"You had the most faraway look in your eyes."
"I was just thinking about some plans that Alex and I had for this evening."
"Oh, I'm not messing anything up am I?"
"No, like I said, I always work after school and I already talked to my dad about being late so we could get in a ride, so we're cool."
They walked out to the parking lot, which had already thinned out considerably.
Benji pointed to the red pickup that was parked towards the back of the student lot.
"There's my baby. I like to park in the back, keeps some of these idiots from dinging and denting it."
"Yes, they do seem to be in rather a hurry around here."
"I can imagine the driving around LA must be a bit of a shock for you," Benji observed. "I grew up here and it can still freak me out sometimes."
"Yes, quite. My father had wanted me to get my driver's license as soon as we arrived but after his first day driving here he immediately rethought that plan," Oliver quipped.
"How are you getting to school?"
"Well, my dad dropped me off this morning, but I believe the plan is to take the bus after this."
"Oh, hell, that sucks. Look, I pass your development on the way to school every day. I don't know how close you are to the gate, but once we get over there I can see. I'll either pick you up at your house or at the gate."
"Are you sure, Benji? I don't want to be an inconvenience."
"It's not; like I said, it's on the way," Benji assured him. "On the occasional rainy day, I have to take Alex, but the truck's a Super Cab, so I've got a back seat. He can sit there. Besides, if you start coming to the ranch, we can go right from school to there."
"That's sounds terrific."
As they approached the truck, Benji pulled out his keys and unlocked the doors. They climbed in, buckled up and Benji started the truck.
He knew where Oliver's development was, he simply needed the directions to the specific house.
When they reached the house, Benji parked in the double-wide driveway next to a black Mercedes and cut the engine.
"Nice car," Benji said.
"My mum's," Oliver chuckled. "A bit of a bribe from dad as she wasn't completely thrilled about the move."
They got out of the truck and Benji followed Oliver through the open garage and in a side door.
They entered into the kitchen. A woman about forty was standing at the counter. She had short brown hair and was dressed casually. She held a glass in her hand and appeared a bit disoriented.
"Oliver; I didn't hear the bus."
"No, Mother. I got a ride from a friend." He gestured towards Benji. "Mother, this is Benjamin Abercrombie, Benji, this is my mother, Felicity Mills."
"Nice to meet you, Mrs. Mills," Benji said extending his hand.
"And you; Billy, is it?" she replied, lightly shaking his hand.
"Benji, Mother," Oliver sighed.
"Benji," Mrs. Mills repeated.
Benji could smell the alcohol on her breath.
"Mother, Benji works at a stables nearby and he boards his horse there," Oliver explained. "He's taking me over to introduce me to the owner and so that I can look the place over and check out some horses. We should be back around..." he looked at Benji, "...six-thirty or seven?"
"That's fine, Oliver, dear. Your father is working late tonight anyway."
"C'mon, Benji, I just need to get changed and we can be off," Oliver said as he headed towards the living room and the front stairs.
"Nice to meet you, Mrs. Mills," Benji said over his shoulder as he hurried after Oliver.
Benji quickly followed Oliver up the stairs and into his bedroom. It was a good-sized room with a queen-sized bed, a 46-inch flat-screen television and desk and laptop. Benji could tell that Oliver was still moving in as there were still lots of boxes around the room and things were in a bit of disarray.
Oliver closed the door behind them.
"Sorry about that," he said as he started rummaging through his dresser.
"My mum," Oliver replied. "She's got a bit of a problem. My dad thought that moving here where it's a bit brighter and she could get out more might help, but so far it hasn't. She gets depressed and because of that she drinks."
"I'm sorry," Benji said. "I had a friend last year that had depression; he tried to kill himself. His parents had to send him to a mental hospital and then when he got out they moved upstate so that he could get a fresh start."
"My parents married young and my mum wanted a baby in the worst way," Oliver explained. "The first ten years they were married she had five miscarriages. The last pregnancy went to full term and the baby was stillborn. The doctor told her there was no way she could try again, she simply would not be able to carry a baby to term. She became depressed and my dad started looking into adoption. After a few years, they were able to adopt me. For the first few years, things were great. My mum was a mother and she was happy as could be. Then she got pregnant again. The doctors all told her she should terminate. She was nearly forty, which for a healthy woman would be a concern, but for someone who had a history like hers, there was no hope, but she was determined. She carried the baby into her sixth month and then she miscarried and she's never been the same. She has good days and bad, but the good ones seem to be fewer and farther between."
"Wow. I'm so sorry," Benji said. "That's so weird, that we're both adopted and have such a similar background." He told Oliver about his birth parents and their deaths and his and Alex's adoptions. "Our dads have always made us feel so special and let us know how much our real parents loved us and looked forward to raising us, but I guess there is a part of me that misses them and what might have been. I mean, I can't imagine life without Dad and Pop, but sometimes I wonder 'what if'."
Oliver nodded. "I know what you mean."
"Has your mother ever gotten any help?"
"She's been to multiple therapists, inpatient and outpatient facilities, rehabs, nothing seems to take," Oliver sighed. "Sometimes it's like she doesn't want to get better."
"My dad's a physical therapist, maybe he knows someone who could help. I'll keep an ear out."
"Thanks. Enough of that though. Let me just go and change and we can be on our way," Oliver replied as he walked into his bathroom carrying a pile of clothes.
He emerged a few minutes later wearing tan breeches and a t-shirt.
"Just need to find my boots," he said, rummaging through a box.
"Those?" Benji asked pointing to a pair by the closet.
Oliver looked up and shook his head. "No, those are my old tall boots. Don't need them today, just want my paddock boots, they should be in here somewhere…ah ha…here they are." He pulled out a pair of short leather boots with copper zippers up the front.
Oliver nodded. "But, of course," he laughed.
Benji grinned. "I have the same ones."
Oliver pulled on his boots and stood up. "Ready." He started for the door and then turned, reached back into the box and pulled out a helmet and held it up. "Now, I'm ready," he laughed.
Benji smiled and the two left the room and went back down to Benji's truck.
Alex lay lazily wedged between Geneva Tremont, the head cheerleader, and her boyfriend, Brody Langford, the varsity quarterback. It wasn't his first encounter with them, but both had been away for the summer and had decided they need to make up for lost time. Over the last hour there hadn't been an orifice that went unfilled or a partner that went unsatisfied, multiple times.
He remembered being a lowly freshman a few weeks past his fourteenth birthday. He had lost his virginity two weeks before to Emma Quinn, a sixteen-year-old girl who had been coming to see his father to rehabilitate an injured knee. He would often stop to talk to her when she came for appointments. Pop always said he had the 'gift of gab' and was able to charm anyone. Soon, he had Emma under his spell and after her last appointment, she drove him to a secluded spot by the lake and gave him a late birthday present.
He had heard a lot of his older friends talk about the awkwardness of first-time sex, the fumbling and the confusion. He didn't experience any of that. Emma wasn't a virgin, but she thought she had died and gone to heaven in the arms of this younger boy. He brought her to the brink of pleasure manually and orally, before finally making love to her.
A few weeks later, he was at his first high school party. He saw a beautiful girl in the corner of the room. She had dark raven hair, hazel eyes and perfect breasts. He walked up to her with his usual confidence and began talking to her. His friends were stunned. He had no idea that the girl was a senior and that she was dating a college freshman who had graduated the previous year. Her boyfriend had been a lineman on the football team, a wrestler and amateur body builder. He was also at the party.
When the boyfriend approached Alex and his girlfriend, Alex's friends began making arrangements for his funeral. They were shocked to see Alex laughing and joking with this behemoth and still flirting with the girlfriend. They were absolutely floored when Alex left the party with the two.
Alex spent that night with the two learning the pleasures of making love to both women and men. He realized that he didn't care what gender his partners were, it was the connection he craved.
He knew he had a reputation, but he didn't care. He had long ago stopped caring what anyone thought about him. The only people who mattered to him were his fathers and Benji and they would never judge him. He knew none of them liked the fact that he was, for lack of a better word, promiscuous, but they accepted him and loved him and he loved them for that.
He was starting to realize that he was looking for more. The sex just wasn't enough anymore. He had always craved that physical connection, but now he was starting to want something emotional as well.
Being here with Geneva and Brody drove the feeling of emptiness home to him. While the sex was amazing, he knew they loved each other, the emotional connection was there; he was a playmate. They loved him as a friend, but they would be together with or without him. Neither of them would be with him alone.
Alex envied Benji, that he had been able to resist pleasures of the flesh and wait for love or at least until he was ready. Alex couldn't: he had needed it.
Everyone thought that Alex was the stronger of the two twins, but Alex knew the truth. Benji was and always would be the stronger.
Benji had just finished showing Oliver around the stables when Dale Kennet pulled up in her pickup truck.
"Hey, Dale." Benji waved as they crossed the yard.
"Benji, how are you?" Dale said as she hugged him. She was stocky woman in her mid-fifties, about 5'3" with short brown hair and blue eyes. She had never married and thought of Benji as her adopted 'grandson'.
"Pretty good. Survived the first day of school."
"Survived? Aren't you the top of your class?"
Benji blushed. He gestured towards Oliver. "Dale, this is Oliver Mills, his family just moved here from England. He's going to my school and he's looking for a horse. Oliver, this is Dale Kennet."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, ma'am," Oliver said taking Dale's hand.
"Son, please call me Dale," she chuckled. "So, Benji, have you seen him ride yet?"
Benji grinned. "Not yet. But I already warned him that he'd be tested."
Dale looked over Oliver. "Well, he dresses the part. Have you ridden western, Oliver? Most of my horses are trained western pleasure and for trails."
"Actually, I have, Dale," Oliver replied. "Of course, I learned English, but as I told Benji, I wasn't much for competition or hunter/jumper. I much prefer a good hack. A friend was very into western style riding and taught me a great deal. My old horse wasn't too keen on it as he had been trained English, but I'm sure with the right horse and Benji's help, I'll get along quite well."
Dale smiled. "I'll just bet you will. Benji, I'll leave him to you. You know my rules and you know what I look for. Let him try a few of the horses over the next week or so and let me know how he does. Oliver, Benji's been my right hand since he was all of eight years old. He's the best: you couldn't ask for a better friend."
"I'm starting to see that."
Benji blushed deeper as Dale and Oliver grinned at him.
"Ok, ok," he coughed. "Let's get started, or I'll never get to chores."
"Don't worry about stalls tonight, Benji," Dale said. "That boy, Carson, is still here through the end of the week. He leaves on Friday. So you and Oliver can play till then. After that we may need an extra pair of hands." She looked at Oliver. "You interested, Oliver?"
"Great. Just spend the next few days getting to know the place and the horses. Saturday, Benji will show you how we do things. If you do decide to buy or lease one of the horses then we'll work out some kind of work-for-board deal like I have with Benji."
"That sounds great," Oliver said with a smile. "Thank you, Dale."
"My pleasure. Having you young ones around here keeps me young," she laughed as she left towards the farm house.
"She seems nice," Oliver said to Benji.
"She's great," Benji replied. "Come on, I'll introduce you to Arya and then we can figure out who you can try first."
He led the way around behind the barn. He opened the gate and let Oliver through locking it behind them. There were quite a few horses milling around in the large open field. Most of them ignored the two boys as they stood by the gate.
Benji shaded his eyes and scanned the horizon. He looked over at Oliver.
"You may want to cover your ears. Alex hates when I do this," he said as he put his right index finger and pinky in the corners of his mouth and released an ear-piercing whistle.
"Oww!" Oliver laughed. "How do you do that?"
"Practice." Benji grinned. "Listen."
They heard the high-pitched neigh of a horse some distance away and then after a few minutes the thundering of hooves.
Benji pointed towards a clump of trees where there was a paint horse running through them. "Here she comes."
Oliver watched as the paint continued racing towards them. She was fast and she was bearing down on them with no signs of stopping. When she was no more than five feet from Benji she stopped and reared into the air. She came down and daintily walked to her boy.
Benji threw his arms around her neck and hugged her.
"Show off," he laughed. "Oliver, this is Arya."
Oliver looked at the horse. She was about sixteen hands and thickly built.
"She's beautiful," he whispered. He slowly stepped forward and offered his hand. She hesitantly sniffed his hand and then nuzzled him as he stroked her cheek and neck.
"I told you, she loves everyone, except Alex," Benji laughed.
"She's a paint?"
"American paint, yes."
"She's bigger than I would have expected."
"She's on the big side for the breed," Benji explained. "There's probably some quarter horse or something in her family somewhere. Since paint describes color and breed, there can be a mixture in there."
"Are you going to breed her?"
"I haven't decided," Benji answered thoughtfully. "She's only six. I know that a lot of breeders would have already popped two or three foals out of her by now, but she has plenty of time. She'd be a good mama, but I'm not sure--probably some day. It's just harder when you own the mare."
"I know. When you own the stallion, you can sire hundreds of offspring and you really have to just pay to care for the stallion and you make all the money. With a mare, you pay for the breeding, you get one baby, and you pay for all the vet bills."
"But you get the baby," Benji grinned.
"That's the one benefit," Oliver nodded.
"Come on, let's get her up to the barn and see about getting you a ride," Benji said as they walked back to the gate.
"Don't you need a halter?"
Benji laughed. "Nope. I told you, I've had her since she was three. She's my shadow. She stays with me all the time. I have a halter for her for when we go to trails away from here, but even there it's mainly for show."
"Amazing." Oliver shook his head. "I've never seen that before. I mean, I've had friends whose horses would follow them in the fields and even join up, but they still had to use a halter."
Benji shrugged. "I don't know, she's just special I guess."
As they walked past some of the other fields Benji started pointing out other horses that he thought might pique Oliver's interest. He knew Oliver was experienced and would want a younger horse that he could work with, but he also knew that Dale would want him to start slow, until he proved himself.
Oliver showed some interest in a few of the quarter horses and a mustang that had just come in a few weeks ago, but he was non-committal.
Benji led Arya to her stall and locked her in with a flake of hay to keep her busy while he helped Oliver find a horse.
They were taking a second look at a couple of the horses that Benji thought that Oliver should try when they walked past a small paddock. Running around the paddock was a jet-black horse with a small white star on his forehead. He was about 16 ½ hands and well muscled. He was running all over the small field and rearing and bucking.
"Wow!" Oliver exclaimed. "Who's that?"
Benji stopped and shook his head. "No, no, no. That's Jester. He's nuts. He's only three and he just came in a few days ago. He's a mustang. Some guy bought him from a breeder in Utah and thought that he was gonna train him and breed him. He went through three trainers. Put the last guy in the hospital."
"So what's he doing here?" Oliver asked, climbing up on the fence to get a better look.
"Dale's a soft touch," Benji shrugged. "She heard from a friend that the owner was going to put him down. You don't just destroy an animal because they aren't exactly what you expected. So she contacted him and bought Jester. I don't know what her plans are for him. It was everything Carson and I had to get him into this paddock when he got here. He's stubborn and mean."
"Maybe he just needs a friend," Oliver said slipping over the fence.
"Oliver! What are you doing!?" Benji called excitedly.
"Making a friend," Oliver replied calmly.
Benji shook his head and watched nervously. He looked around and hoped no one saw this. If Dale came out now, Oliver would be fired before he started.
Benji watched curiously as Oliver walked towards the big stallion. Jester saw Oliver and took off towards him. Oliver stood his ground and looked Jester right in the eye.
Benji was amazed when Jester stopped and reared in front of Oliver, just as Arya had done with him. Oliver and Jester stood about five feet apart staring eye to eye. Benji watched them, neither moved. If he didn't know better, he would have thought they were communicating like he and Alex did. But that wasn't possible, was it?
After a few minutes, Jester dropped his head and walked slowly to Oliver's side. Oliver reached over and scratched the black horse's ear and stroked his neck.
"That's a good boy," Benji heard Oliver say calmly.
Benji watched as Oliver took Jester's face in his hands and he spoke quietly to the horse. He couldn't make out what Oliver was saying, but Jester kept nodding his head up and down like he was saying 'yes'.
Without warning, Oliver stepped to Jester's side and wrapped his hand in his mane and stepped back. Benji held his breath as Oliver swung himself forward and up onto the mustang's back.
Benji exhaled in relief as Jester never even moved. The horse stood calmly as Oliver stroked his sides and neck.
Holding a handful of mane, Oliver gave the stallion a light squeeze and he calmly walked over to the fence where Benji was standing.
"I don't believe it," Benji said as Oliver sat there on the mustang. "How the hell did you do that?"
Oliver shook his head. "I don't know. I've never actually trained before. I just thought he looked like he needed a friend, and I guess I did too."
"Benji!! What are you doing!?" Dale called as she came running from the barn.
"Oh, shit! Nice knowing you, Oliver."
Dale was red in the face and out of breath as she reached the paddock. She looked angrily from Oliver and Jester to Benji.
"Benji, I gave specific instructions that no one was to go near this horse!! You know what he did to the last trainer that tried to mess with him."
"I know, Dale, I know," Benji replied. "I told Oliver that."
"Miss Dale, this is entirely my responsibility," Oliver said. "Benji did warn me and I ignored that warning. Being out here, I guess made me want to try the 'cowboy' experience. I know it was irresponsible and dangerous and I promise that I won't do anything like this again. I simply felt some sort of pull to Jester and thought that maybe I could reach him."
"Well, it looks like you did something to him," Dale laughed. "Ok, at least no one got hurt. But I have rules for a reason, boys." She looked at Oliver and Jester. "I guess since you've started him, you need to work with him and finish him now, Oliver."
"Really?" Oliver grinned.
"I get the feeling you might be the only one for him."
"Dad! Pop! I'm home!!" Alex called as he came in through the front door.
"Hey, Alex, we're in the kitchen," Kai called back.
Alex dropped his messenger bag and helmet by the door and walked into the kitchen.
Kai was sitting at the counter while Damon was working at the stove.
"Hey, bud," Damon greeted his son.
"Hey, Dad," Alex said as he kissed Damon on the cheek. "Pop," as he did the same to Kai and then sat next to Kai.
"How was the first day of school?" Kai asked.
"Same shit, different year," Alex laughed.
"Who gave the explanation this year?" Damon asked.
"Benji. We had a new homeroom teacher. When she called my name she had the usual 'WTF' look on her face so we had to explain…again."
"Well, if it was Benji's turn we won't be getting invited to the principal's office," Kai chuckled.
Alex shook his head. "Hey, it was one time and I was only nine. It was the third year in a row."
"Alex, you told her to 'grow a fucking brain'," Damon laughed.
"Well, was I wrong? She wasn't the best teacher we ever had."
"So where were you after school?" Kai asked.
"Had a date."
Alex nodded. "Someone who was away all summer. They got a hold of me last night and wanted to get together after school."
"Alex…" Damon started.
"You know we love you and we don't judge you and we don't want you to take this the wrong way. But have you ever actually gone on a real date?"
"What do you mean?"
"He means have you ever taken a girl, or a guy, to a movie or to dinner or even bowling and spent the evening in each other's company talking, laughing, getting to know each other, you know, vertically?"
"No," Alex replied looking down at the counter. "I was actually thinking about that today."
"About what?" Kai asked.
"About Benji being right to wait. He's waiting for love, or at least for the right person. I needed the contact, I craved it. I always felt like something was missing."
"Missing?" Damon said as he came over and sat at the counter. "Was there something we could have done?"
Alex shook his head furiously. "No, you guys are the best. Are you kidding? I have friends that would kill to have you as parents or to have Benji as a brother. No, the problem was with me. I can't explain it, there was just some kind of emptiness I didn't even realize was there and the sex filled it. Not sports or school or any of the other stuff. I mean, even as a fourteen-year-old nobody, I could talk seniors, girls and guys, into going to bed with me. It was fun, it was power. But now, it just feels so empty." He looked at his fathers. "Am I a horrible person or what?"
Kai leaned over and hugged his son. "No, you're one of the three best people I know. You're just growing up and the things that were important to you once upon a time aren't as important now. Even if you have all the experience in the world, the first time you make love to someone that you have truly given your heart to will be a unique and amazing experience."
"Thanks, Pop," Alex said, sniffling back a tear. "You guys are the best."
"Well, we kinda lucked out in the kid department," Damon laughed. "So did you meet this new friend of Benji's?"
"Oliver? Yeah, he's cute," Alex laughed. "Actually, he's perfect for B. He just moved here from London, they have all the same classes together and he's another horse nut…so I'm free." He raised his arms in victory.
Kai and Damon laughed.
"I doubt you're completely off the hook, but it will be nice for Benji to have someone who actually likes to go there with him."
"Hey! You know I love hanging out with B, but that horse hates my ass," Alex whined. "But, seriously, Oliver seems like a really nice guy. Matt, Austin and I sat with them at lunch for a bit before our lacrosse meeting and he was joking right along with us. I'm happy for B. He stays to himself too much."
"It's harder for him," Damon explained. "You know he's afraid of getting too close to anyone. He's been communicating with us for ten years and we're family, but if he gets emotionally involved with someone and they can't accept being with someone that can read their thoughts and talk to them telepathically he could get hurt."
"I know, but Oliver seems like a really stand-up guy."
"Let's hope so."
Benji pulled into Oliver's driveway.
"I'll pick you up at seven tomorrow morning," he said. "Just bring your riding clothes and we'll head to the stables right from school."
"Smashing! Thanks for everything, Benji." Oliver smiled as he got out of the truck. He waved to Benji and disappeared into the garage.
Benji backed the truck out of the driveway and was pulling away from the house when something caught his eye. He stopped and looked at the side of the house.
Next to the garage was a small patio. Sitting on the patio was Mrs. Mills.
Benji pulled over to the side of the road and turned off the truck. He got out and crossed the lawn and approached the patio.
"Hi, Mrs. Mills," he said as he walked onto the patio.
Her eyes were bloodshot and unfocused. "Oh, hello…uhh…" Her speech was slurred.
"Benji, of course, Benji; I'm sorry."
"That's ok." He pulled a chair over to where she sat and sat down beside her. "Are you ok, Mrs. Mills?"
"Yes, I'm fine, why do you ask?"
"I was just dropping Oliver off and you looked like you might not be feeling well and I wanted to see if you needed any help."
"That's very kind of you," she slurred. "Oliver is so very lucky to have found a nice friend like you." She laid her hand on Benji's.
When her hand touched Benji's it was like a switch went on inside him. Suddenly, he could feel the all the raw emotion that was flowing through Oliver's mother. He closed his eyes and concentrated. He pulled it into himself, the depression and despair, the self-loathing, the pain. He could feel the poison of the alcohol entering his system as well, but he struggled to maintain his focus. He fought against the intoxication and the loneliness until he found what he was looking for. The love she felt for her son and her husband. He brought those happy memories to the forefront of her mind, he flooded her with the good and powerful emotions that she seemed to be longing for but unable to find.
Finally, he opened his eyes.
She was staring at him with tears in her eyes. Her eyes were clear and focused.
"Are you ok, Mrs. Mills?"
"I think I am, Benji, I think I am," she whispered as she stood up and walked into the house.
Benji stood unsteadily and staggered to his truck. He stood next to his truck and looked around. It was starting to get dark and the street was deserted. He closed his eyes and focused on all of the pain and illness that he had absorbed from Mrs. Mills; in his mind's eye he made it smaller and smaller until he was able to cast it out of his body.
When he opened his eyes, he felt normal again. He got back into his truck and drove off. He didn't see Oliver watching him from his upstairs bedroom window.
Kai, Damon and Alex were all still sitting around the counter talking when Benji came in.
"Hey, B, 'bout time you got home," Alex chastised him.
"Hey," Benji replied distractedly.
Damon stood up and walked over to Benji. "Hey, Bud, are you ok?"
"I don't know," Benji replied. "I think I just detoxed Oliver's mother."
Dyson ran down the street. He kept checking over his shoulder to make sure he wasn't being followed. He didn't see anyone, but he couldn't be sure. He needed to find some place to hide out and rest and regroup. Everything was happening too fast. He saw a small diner that looked empty and slipped inside. He took a small booth in the back where he could see all the exits. He kept his backpack right next to him.
He and his father were supposed to be doing this together and now he was on his own.
He came home and found the house eerily still. The house had been ransacked, he ran to his father's study and found him lying on the floor. His hands were tied behind his back and he'd been shot.
His father whispered to him with his final breath.
"Find The Chosen," his father had instructed him. "Fulfill the prophecy."
He heard a noise from the other end of the house. He quickly and quietly slipped down the hall to his room and shut the door. He slid the framed poster of 'The Sixth Sense' aside revealing a keypad. He punched in a six digit code and the small wall safe opened. He dumped his booked out of his back pack and pulled the papers and flash drives out of the safe and dropped them in the pack. He also took the passports, credit cards and cash. He pulled on his black hoodie and zipped it up. He slipped his arms into the backpack and then grabbed his throwing knives and a small automatic from the safe and shut it.
He slowly opened the door and peered around the hallway. He slipped out and walked towards the back stairs. He was almost to the head of the stairs when a man in a business suit came out of his father's bedroom. He had a radio in his hand. Before the man could react, Dyson was on him. His foot shot out and caught the man in the chest. He spun and swung his fist and connected with the man's jaw and the man crumbled to the floor.
Dyson ran down the stairs, through the kitchen and out the back door. He ran until he was sure he wasn't being followed and he could find a place to hide. Now he needed to regroup and get started. He and his father had started this mission and he was going to see it through.
Dyson pulled a sheet from his backpack. He looked at the first name.