Castle Roland

The Chosen

by Andrew Todd

In Progress

Chapter 12

Posted: 9 May 16

The Chosen

Andrew Todd

Kris heard the sirens in the distance and knew he didn't have much time. He ran from the stall and went to the nearest tack room. He grabbed several large blankets and headed back to the scene of the fire. Along the way he saw a fire extinguisher and he grabbed that as well.

He opened the door of the feed room and gasped when he saw the damage. He took the fire extinguisher and emptied the contents all over the room, trying to hit any area that looked burned, which was easy as the whole room was a black mess.

When the extinguisher was empty he dropped it outside the door and ran back to the stall with the blankets. He held the blankets in his hands and concentrated. He felt his hands start to get warmer and watched as sections of the blankets started to smoke. He stopped when he thought the blankets looked 'used' enough.

He knew there was nothing he could do about his clothes, so he hoped it didn't look too bad.

He heard vehicles stop outside the barn followed by doors slamming and voices. He stepped out of the stall and towards the barn door.

"Kris?!?" he heard Jesse call.

A wave of relief washed over Kris when he saw Jesse enter the building followed by a couple of firemen.

Jesse reached him first.

"What the hell happened?" Jesse asked excitedly as he looked Kris up and down.

"I'd like to know that too," said the fireman who appeared to be in charge.

"Well, I had finished grooming Samson after you left, Jess, and then I was just sitting around thinking about what we had been talking about when I smelt smoke," Kris explained. "I ran through the barn trying to see if it was coming from in here. When I got to the feed room over there," he pointed to the room, "there was smoke coming out from under the door. I didn't know how bad it was, so the first thing I did was get Samson out and then I came back for Sabre. By then the fire had spread to the wall next to Sabre's stall. He started to spook, so I used my shirt to cover his eyes. We were almost out of the stall when the shirt slipped and he bolted and pushed me to the floor. I got up and ran to see if I could find something to put the fire out. I grabbed the extinguisher and some blankets and I guess it wasn't as bad as I thought, cuz I was able to put it out."

The Chief nodded as Kris told his story. "Are you hurt? Burned?" he asked.

"I don't think so," Kris replied.

"Well, I want to have one of the paramedics take a look at you. You probably took in some smoke."

Kris wanted to argue, but he didn't have the energy. "Ok."

The Chief turned to Jesse. "Why don't you go with him?" he instructed. "We need to take a look at the damage and see if we can find a cause for the school's insurance company."

Jesse nodded and followed Kris and the paramedic who had taken him by the elbow and led him from the barn.

While the paramedic examined Kris, Jesse called Dylan to let him know what had happened.

"Kris's alright, though?" Dylan asked anxiously.

"He seems fine," Jesse assured him. "In fact, if his breeches weren't dark in spots from the smoke, you'd never guess he was near a fire."

"Ok, well, just keep an eye on him."

"He's being checked out by the paramedics; if he has to go to the hospital, I'll go with him."

"Just let me know."

"I will."

"Love you."

"Me, too," Jesse answered and then he disconnected the call.

He walked over to the ambulance where Kris sat while the paramedic took his blood pressure.

"How is he?" Jesse asked the medic.

"I'm fine," Jesse insisted.

Jesse nodded. "I'll take the professional's opinion," he grinned.

The paramedic nodded. "He's good," he said. "His lungs are clear, blood pressure is fine and he's got no burns. We could take him to the hospital for further evaluation, but I don't think it's necessary."

Kris looked pleadingly at Jesse, knowing that as a faculty member he could insist that Kris be taken to the hospital.

"If he doesn't go to the hospital is there anything he shouldn't do or that we should watch for."

"Like I said, his lungs are clear, so I'm not seeing any obvious signs of smoke inhalation. But just watch for any difficulty breathing; you might also watch for any signs of delayed shock," the paramedic explained as he turned from Jesse to Kris. "If you feel dizzy or nauseous or have difficulty catching your breath, let someone know and go right to the infirmary."

Kris nodded. "I will."

"My room's right next door to his, so I'll check in on him," Jesse assured the paramedic.

The paramedic nodded.

" there any reason I should stay in or..." Kris stammered.

Jesse smiled. "We're going on a weekend camping trip tomorrow. I think he wants to make sure he can still go."

The paramedic smiled and nodded at Kris. "As long as you don't have any of those symptoms between now and then, you should be good to go."

"Thanks." Kris grinned.

"Kris, why don't you go wait in my car," Jesse instructed. "I just want to check with the Chief so see if they've found anything."

Kris nodded and took Jesse's keys.

Jesse ran back over to the barn and found the Chief just coming out.

"Did you find anything?" Jesse asked anxiously.

The Chief nodded. "It looks like it was started by a cigarette," he explained. "It looks like someone dropped or threw it near a bag of grain. There was probably some loose hay or something flammable on the floor that led the fire to the bag and from there, given what's stored in there it wouldn't take much time for the fire to get out of control."

"I'll have Jason, the head riding instructor, talk to the kids who volunteer here as stable hands. I don't know of any that smoke, but someone may have been experimenting."

"What about the boy that was here?"

"Kris? I know he doesn't smoke and he cares too much about the horses to do anything to endanger them," Jesse declared.

The Chief looked at Jesse skeptically. "Alright...but, something about his story doesn't add up."

"What do you mean?"

"From the burn patterns and the damage done, he shouldn't have been able to put that fire out with that little extinguisher," the Chief explained. "And if he was close enough to put it out, he should have suffered some sort of smoke inhalation."

Jesse shrugged. "I guess he was just lucky," he offered. "I trust him; maybe in the excitement of everything, he wasn't clear on what happened, but I know he didn't have anything to do with causing the fire."

"Well, like I said, it's suspicious, but you know your students," the Chief replied. "There's nothing to indicate anything more than an accident, so I'll file my report and send a copy to the school and their insurance provider."

"Thank you," Jesse said as he shook the Chief's hand and then went to take Kris back to the dorm.

Jesse drove Kris back to the dorm.

"If you need anything, either you or Charlie come and get me or Dylan right away," Jesse instructed Kris after he got him settled into his and Charlie's room.

"Jess, I'll be fine," Kris replied. "Charlie should be here any minute and after dinner, we're gonna pack so we can leave as soon as classes end tomorrow."

Jesse nodded. "Ok, just take it easy; the paramedic said you could still feel some side effects."

"I will, don't worry."

"I always worry about my friends," Jesse said with slight grin. "Can't help it. I'll be right next door if you need anything before Charlie gets back."

"'K, thanks," Kris said as Jesse left the room.

Kris pulled off his boots and half-chaps and stripped off his breeches and underwear. He grabbed a clean pair of briefs from his dresser drawer and pulled them on. He knew he should probably run and take a shower, but his head was spinning with the events of the afternoon.

He lay down on his bed and drifted off to a restless sleep.

When Kris opened his eyes, the room was dark. He let his vision come into focus. The only light was coming from the small lamp on Charlie's desk.

He watched for a few moments as Charlie quietly worked on what he assumed was homework.

He rolled over on his side making the bed springs squeak and Charlie turned.

Charlie smiled warmly. "Welcome back, sleeping beauty."

"Hey," Kris replied quietly.

"How are you feeling?"

Kris laid his head back on his pillow. "Ok, I guess. What time is it anyways?"

"A little past nine."

"Shit!" Kris swore, sitting up quickly. "Why did you let me sleep that long?"

"When I got back from practice, Jesse stopped me and told me what happened at the barn. When I came in you were sound asleep and I figured that would be the best thing for you," Charlie explained. He nodded at a tray on his bed. "I brought you a sandwich from the dining hall, if you're hungry."

"Thanks," Kris said as he walked over to Charlie's bed and picked up the tray. He walked back to his bed, sat down and started to half-heartedly eat the sandwich and chips that Charlie had brought.

Charlie watched Kris as he ate.

"Are you ok?" he asked. "You seem, I don't know, a little out of it. Or are you still freaked out by me?" he queried shyly.

Kris looked up at Charlie and their eyes met. He put the put the tray on the floor and patted a spot on the bed next to him.

Charlie slowly walked over and sat next to Kris.

Kris wrapped his arm around Charlie's shoulder.

"I'm sorry if I was a jerk yesterday," he said.

"You weren't," Charlie replied. "You were just so quiet; I thought I freaked you out so much that you wouldn't want me anymore."

Kris leaned in and lightly kissed Charlie on the lips.

"I could never not want you," he said quietly. "I was a bit freaked by what happened, but I think I'm over that."

"Then what's wrong? I know it's more than just the fire. Something is off with you."

Kris sighed. "It might be your turn to freak out."

Charlie shook his head. "I don't know how. The only thing that would bother me was if you set the fire and I know you didn't. So I don't think there's anything you could tell me that would be freakier than what's happening to me."

"Well, I didn't set it," Kris said slowly. "For a minute, I wasn't sure, but the Fire Captain found evidence that it was a cigarette that started it and I've never even touched one."

"Why weren't you sure?" Charlie asked. "You would know if you did it or not."

Kris stood up and walked over to his desk. He picked up the small metal trash can and placed it on the floor about 2 feet from his bed. There were only a few scraps of paper in the bottom of the can.

Kris looked at Charlie somberly. He held his hands out in front of himself and concentrated. He felt the warmth flow through his and saw a small flame dance in the palm of his hand.

Charlie's eyes bulged at the sight of the flame.

Kris turned his hand over and the flames drifted down into the can like a small downy feather. The paper in the can ignited. Charlie stood up and walked over to the can. He could see the small fire burning away.

"Shit," he said under his breath.

Fearful that the room's smoke alarm might go off, Charlie looked around the room. He saw an open bottle of water on his desk. He stared at the bottle and his eyes turned black. A jet of water jumped from the bottle into the trash can and Kris's fire was doused.

Charlie stepped back and flopped down on Kris's bed.

Kris looked at him. "I told you," he said. "It's your turn to freak out."

Charlie looked up at Kris and shook his head. "That's not what's freaking me out," he declared. "Well, in a way it is, but not what you can do, but why is either of us able to do these things. It's crazy; I mean, I never did any of this stuff before and now we both have these strange powers."

"That's not entirely true," Kris said as he sat next to Charlie.


Kris took Charlie's hand in his. "You've been a good swimmer all your life. You told me you were always like a 'fish' in the water."

"Kris, that's just a saying."

"But, it's true. You've always had an affinity for the water and I've always had problem with my temper. Maybe somehow, us being together brought out these abilities."

"I still don't get it."

"Well, you have an effect on me," Kris explained.

Charlie looked at him with raised eyebrows.

Kris laughed. "Not that affect you perv," he chuckled. "You calm me down."

"I do?"

Kris nodded. "I noticed it the first time you shook my hand the day we met. Whenever you would touch me or when you were close, I would feel this almost cool calm come over me. I thought it was just the fact that you were so easygoing and you were rubbing off on me, but maybe it's more. Maybe we're yin and yang for each other. Fire and water are opposites; if my abilities are triggered by my temper, then it would make sense to have someone who could counter those emotions near me."

"Checks and balances," Charlie muttered. "But where did they come from and why us?"

Kris shook his head. "I have no ideas about that one. I wonder if we're the only ones."

"Wouldn't make sense," Charlie said. "Why on the whole planet would you and I be the only ones with powers like this?"

"I know, but it's not like we can go around asking people."

"We could talk to Dylan and Jesse," Charlie suggested.

"NO!" Kris exclaimed.

Charlie jumped at Kris's sudden outburst.

"Sorry," Kris said as he pulled Charlie closer to him. "This is the first time in my life that I'm not being judged by people over who my father is. I have friends and I'm having fun. I don't want anyone looking at me as some kind of freak."

"Do you think they'd think we were freaks?"

"I don't know, but I don't want to take that chance," Kris said.

"Ok, but how much control do you have?" Charlie asked.

Kris shrugged. "I don't know," he reflected. "I don't think I'm gonna set anything on fire accidentally. When I was in the barn, everything happened by reflex. Samson knocked me into the wall that was fully on fire. I thought I was a goner, but I just felt a little warm. It's like you said yesterday, it was like a switch flipped in my head and I knew that I wasn't going to get burned. I was able to pull all the flames to me and absorb them. Don't ask me how, I have no clue and I don't know what else I can do."

"Well, if we're not going to say anything to anyone else, at least for now, we need to watch out for each other and probably find someplace that you can practice. I mean I can use the pool, but where would you be able to go?"

"The pool might not be a bad place."


"Well, if something got out of hand, there's plenty of water for you to douse me with," Kris laughed.

Charlie smirked at his roommate. "I'm being serious," he said.

"I know, but I don't want to think about it right now," Kris replied. "I want to just pack up for this weekend and then snuggle up with you and sleep, ok?"

Charlie reached up and stroked Kris's cheek. "Ok." He smiled before he tilted his head up and kissed Kris.

Kris eagerly returned the kiss wrapping his arms around Charlie's torso. It never failed to impress him how firm and taut Charlie's body was. When you looked at him fully clothed, you would assume he was just another slight, skinny boy, but when you touched him, you could feel the tight, hard elongated muscles of someone who spent hours exercising.

Kris knew Charlie's body was the result of the years he spent swimming and diving. For that reason he was far more impressed and excited by Charlie's build than he was his own. He knew his muscles came from genetics and not so much from any hard work or diligent exercise. He had always thought that it was the one gift his 'sperm donor' had left him, since the man he called 'Father' was short in stature and leaned toward the heavy side. Now he wondered if the physical gifts he and Charlie both possessed had any relation to the new powers they had stumbled upon.

Before he could ruminate on that any further, he felt Charlie's body push against his and found himself lying on the bed with Charlie wriggling on top of him.

He felt Charlie's cool hands go down his neck and shoulders and finally stop at his pecs. Charlie lightly played with his nipples and they continued to kiss. Kris started to feel himself get swept away. It was only when he felt Charlie's hand rub against the front of his briefs, that he shook himself out of his passion-induced reverie.

He grabbed Charlie's wrist and pulled it away from his crotch.

"Hold up," Kris instructed as he tried to sit up. He moved Charlie over so he was sitting on the bed, which made sitting up easier for him.

Charlie looked confused and sad. "What's the matter? You don't want to..."

Kris shook his head and looked into Charlie's black eyes. "No, I want to in the worst way," he explained. "But, I want my first time with you to be special. I don't want it to be because we're both freaked out by all this stuff going on."

Charlie shrugged. "Anytime with you is going to be special," he mumbled.

Kris grinned. "Look, we're both virgins. I want to look back on our first time and remember every moment about it. I don't want that memory to be me smelling of smoke and us trying to figure out why we have these powers."


"I know, me too," Kris chuckled. "Hopefully, we'll have two tents out there; it would be so much more romantic to remember our first time in the woods, under the stars..."

Charlie smiled and kissed Kris's cheek. "You're just a closet romantic, aren't you?"

"Only when I'm around you," Kris replied pulling Charlie close.

"Dave, are you just about ready?" Dyson asked, poking his head into the cave.

"I will be in about five more minutes," Dave replied, not looking up from his monitors.

Dyson chuckled. "I've got four really anxious guys out here waiting on you," he said. "Stevie says if you don't move your ass and quick, he's coming to get you and I get the feeling he won't be as nice as me."

"Ok, ok, I get the message," Dave nodded. "Tell them I'll be out in two seconds, I just need to power everything down."

"'K, and I was also told to remind you, no laptops, smartphones or tablets allowed," Dyson said as he left the room.

Dave shrugged. He knew that everyone, especially Stevie, wanted an 'electronics' free weekend. He had protested, but had been outvoted. It was probably not a bad idea to get away from all this for a few days, but he always felt like if he was away or not online he would miss that important piece of information they were looking for.

As he reached to power off his computers, he heard the e-mail chime go off. He opened it quickly. It was news of another suspicious fire, this one was in New Hampshire. He moved it to his 'Check Later' folder and powered everything off.

As he was closing the door to the cave, he turned and saw Stevie walking towards him.

"I'm ready," Dave said.

Stevie grinned. "Good, you just saved yourself a world of pain."

The two walked out of the playhouse hand in hand and over to where the others were waiting.

"All set?" Alex asked.

"Ready," Stevie answered.

"Then let's get going."

Benji and Oliver were already sitting in the F-350 they had borrowed from Dale; hitched to it was the ranch's trailer loaded with six horses, as well as feed and tack.

Alex would be driving the others in Benji's truck. All of their gear was loaded in the back.

They had agreed that Benji and Alex would be the only ones to have their phones on them. Mainly, to keep the vehicles in contact and in case of an emergency.

With Dale's help, Benji had found a campground about three hours up the coast. It was situated on the ocean and had stabling facilities for the horses. They had called ahead and booked the stalls for the horses as well as two adjoining campsites for themselves.

It was about two o'clock when they left. If they avoided the heaviest of traffic they should get there with enough light to set up camp and get the horses settled.

"We'll see you guys Monday night," Damon called to the convoy as he and Kai waved to them.

"Seeya," Alex called back.

Director Black punched the twelve-digit code into the keypad and waited impatiently for the doors to slide open.

He entered the room and looked at the banks of monitors on the far wall.

"Anything, yet?" he asked of the young man who sat at a desk facing the monitors.

The young man turned. "Nothing, yet, sir," he replied. "I've run facial recognition software on all the major airport surveillance tapes we could get our hands on and there's no sign of him."

"Well, it's been over a month, Casey, he must have gotten wherever he was running to bypassing the major hubs. We need to pull our focus from finding the Chambers boy and focus on locating the other boys."

"But, sir, wouldn't finding Dyson Chambers help there?"

"Initially, but now, I'm assuming he's already contacted at least one of them. Whichever family he and his father were watching. If he's already got one or more of the boys together, it's imperative that we find the others before they do. Whatever happens, we have to make sure the five of them never come together. That would be dangerous for us all."

"Holy..." Kris muttered as he saw the large log cabin come into view. It was two stories and stood on a large lot. Next to it was a small barn.

Jesse and Dylan laughed in the front seat of the truck.

"I thought we were roughing it," Charlie said.

Jesse looked back at the two younger boys. "I never said anything about 'roughing it'. I said we'd get away for a few days in the mountains. You both assumed we'd be in tents and sleeping bags."

"Whose place is this?" Kris asked as they all exited the truck.

"It's ours," Dylan replied.

"You're kidding."

Jesse grinned. "It was a graduation present from my father—well, my biological father," he explained. "He knew how much we had come to love the area and he tends to overcompensate a bit."

Kris and Charlie stood staring at the cabin.

"Guys," Jesse laughed. "We need to get the horses taken care of and all of our stuff inside before it gets too dark. Kris, why don't you and I take care of the horses and Charlie can help Dylan get the other stuff inside."

"Ok," Kris replied as he followed Jesse to the trailer.

He helped Jesse unload the horses and get them settled into the six-stall barn. They had brought Jesse and Dylan's horses: Jupiter, Grey Wind, Val and Dodger. Kris would have loved to have brought Samson, thinking the gelding would love the open trails they would be riding on over the next couple of days, but as he belonged to the school, Jesse explained there was too much liability involved and it would be simpler to bring their own horses.

Once they had the horses bedded down and fed and all the supplies and tack they had brought was put away, Kris looked around the barn. It was compact, but very modern and well-appointed.

"Your father gave you all this for a graduation gift?" Kris asked incredulously. "From high school?"

Jesse nodded. "My natural father, Trevor," he replied. "Like I said he tends to overcompensate. He's the one who gave us Jupe and Grey."

"You called him your 'natural' father just now and before you called him your 'biological' father. Were you adopted?"

"It's a little more complicated than that," Jesse explained. "I was raised by my mother; I never knew who my father was growing up. When I was fifteen my mother died of cancer."

"Shit, I'm sorry."

Jesse smiled solemnly. "Thanks. It was a rough few days; my best friend was killed while he was on a trip and I had just come from his funeral when my stepfather told me that my mom had been brought to the hospital and wouldn't be coming out. She hadn't been married to him too long, but he had made my life miserable. That day he came after me and I was so upset and angry, I fought back. I clocked him with a trophy and ran like hell. I took my friend Seb's dog, Kaya, and ran away."

"What happened?"

"We were on our own for a couple months. Eventually, I ended up making it from Wellington where I had lived to Ocala. I was camping in the woods near a horse farm. Once day I was exploring and I saw a beautiful blood bay gelding running around a paddock by himself. It was like he was being quarantined from the other horses. He was alone like I was. I went over and talked to him and eventually, I hopped on him and rode him around. I saw a man walking towards us and I slid down and ran off.

"The next day, that man found me and Kaya in the woods. Instead of having me arrested or turned into the authorities, he and his partner took me in. Danny and CJ became my foster dads and brought me home with them. The horse that I had stumbled on that day was Val and the lady who owned the farm gave him to me when I left. When we got to 'Second Chances', Danny and CJ's ranch, I met Dylan and we've been together ever since."

" how did you meet your real dad?"

"Well, first thing, I consider Danny and CJ my real dads," Jesse answered. "They were there for me when I needed someone. Trevor, my biological father, is a really nice guy, but I only met him when I was sixteen. We've developed a good relationship, but we are more like friends than father and son."

"He never wanted you?"

"Again, it's more complicated than that. He was married and had kids, he was young, there are lots of reasons. When my mom died, he looked for me, but since he wasn't on my birth certificate he wasn't legally my father and couldn't get the information. Eventually, he hired a PI to find me."

"Did he try to take you away from your dads?"

"We thought he was going to, but he needed me because my little brother, Cole, had leukemia and needed a bone-marrow transplant."

"Did you do it?"

"I would have, but I wasn't a match, Dylan was—which was crazy because he's not a blood relative, but we figured that was Seb watching out for us from heaven. Trevor was the one who got Dylan and I invited to Lancaster. He's spent the last couple years trying to be a dad, but like I said we work better as friends. I see him every so often, but I try to get Cole up here or to meet at the ranch as often as I can."

Jesse saw the forlorn look on Kris's face.

"Hey, what's the matter?" he asked patting the younger boy's shoulder.

"I was just thinking how lucky you are," Kris said, tears rolling down his cheeks. "You have three dads who want and love you and I don't have any."

"C'mere," Jesse said quietly leading Kris to a couple of bales sitting against a wall. He sat Kris down and took a place next to him. "Kris, I don't know what the deal is with your father, but not being a good dad to you is his problem, it's not something that you caused."

"It's because he's not my real dad."

"Is that why you asked if I was adopted, cuz you are?"

"I'm not adopted, my mom had sex with someone to get pregnant cuz my dad wanted a son."

"And you don't know who your real dad is?"

"I doubt he even knows I exist."

"Let me tell you something I have learned over the last couple of years. Your real family is created by love, not blood," Jesse said squeezing Kris's hand. "Danny and CJ, their son Idgie, my brothers at the ranch, Dylan and his parents as well as Trevor and his wife and my brother, Cole—they are my family. If Trevor had never tried to find me and I never knew him, I wouldn't be missing anything, because I have people who love me and you do too."

Jesse caught the cynical look on Kris's face.

"You have Charlie—I know he loves you—and you have Dylan and I," Jesse said. "And as time passes on and you start to make your way through the world, your family will grow."

"It's hard sometimes," Kris said quietly.

"I know, I've been there," Jesse replied. "My mom loved me, but she was a single mother and she was a bit older than most of the other moms when I was born. I was on my own a lot. I was small and I got bullied and picked on all the time, until Seb came along. He was my protector from the day we met, my best friend—I loved him so much."

"Were you like brothers?"

Jesse blushed. "For a long time, we were. Then the night before he left on his trip, we realized that we were in love with each other. We kissed and held each other that night. Neither of us wanted to move too fast and we thought we had our whole lives ahead of us. When he left the next morning it was the last time I ever saw him."

"Shit..." Kris exhaled. "Do you regret that you didn' know?"

Jesse's green eyes met Kris's blue ones. "No, I don't. At first there was a part of me that regretted that I hadn't shared that with him, but then I met Dylan and I knew he was my soul mate. I fell for him hard and fast. Even though we knew we were in it for the long haul, we waited a long time before we made love. We both wanted to make sure the other was 100% ok with it before we took that step."

"You don't have to tell me the details," Kris said shyly. "But was it special? I mean was it something you'll remember?"

Jesse grinned. "Oh, yeah," he replied. "It wasn't like some kids who have sex so built up in their heads that they are disappointed cuz nothing can match that fantasy. I was completely in love with Dylan and he felt the same. Just being with him was amazing to me. The first time we made love it was like we were just putting a cherry on it, so to speak."

Kris blushed.

"What?" Jesse asked curiously.

"Charlie and I almost did it the other night," Kris confessed. "I don't know what 'it' would have been, but I made him stop."


"I guess because after all the shit I've gone through in my life, I want to start making good memories," Kris explained. "I don't want to think back on the first time I had sex and remember it as us fumbling around on my little dormitory bed and me smelling of smoke."

"Kris, that's sweet, but I'll let you in on a little secret."


"If you're with the person you truly love, the only thing you're going to remember is how he made you feel that first time and how much you love him."

"Hey, Kris!!"

Kris and Jesse looked up to see an excited Charlie run into the barn followed by Dylan.

"There you are!" he exclaimed as he ran towards Kris and Jesse.

Charlie stopped when he saw Kris's expression and red-rimmed eyes.

"Are you ok?" he asked, the concern in his voice apparent. "What's going on?"

Kris stood up and embraced Charlie. "I'm fine," he replied. "We were just talking, but it's all good."

"Cool," Charlie said hugging his boyfriend. He turned to Jesse. "Man, Jesse you weren't kidding about your father 'over-compensating'. This place is ridiculous."

"It's just a cabin," Jesse protested.

"'Just a cabin', my ass," Charlie barked. "It's a damn log mansion." He grabbed Kris's hand. "C'mon, you've got to see this place."

Kris stood his ground as Charlie tried to pull him in the direction of the barn door.

"I will in a minute, I just want to help Jesse with the trailer," he said quietly.

"Kris, go ahead," Jesse offered. "Dylan and I can take care of the trailer."

"Are you sure?"

"Yup, you better go before Charlie explodes," Dylan laughed.

Charlie pulled on Kris's hand harder and Dylan and Jesse laughed as they watched Charlie pull his roommate, who was six inches taller and at least sixty pounds heavier, out of the barn.

"Is he alright?" Dylan asked Jesse when the two younger boys were out of earshot.

"He's getting there," Jesse replied. "I think he has a lot of 'daddy' issues to work through. We just need to keep letting him know that there are people who are here for him and they aren't going to let him down or disappear on him."

"Sometimes he reminds me of Ace," Dylan said. "The muscles and the size make you think they're invincible, but they're really sensitive inside."

"I can see the similarities," Jesse replied. "But Ace was always confident and sure of himself, he just wore his heart on his sleeve; Kris is a little boy in a man's body. He needs to be reassured that he is deserving of love, hopefully, Charlie can make him see that."

"Can you believe this place?" Charlie asked excitedly as he pulled Kris through the front door of the cabin.

Kris was blown out of his funk by the sight before him. The first floor of the cabin was wide open. There was a huge kitchen filled with the most modern appliances in the right rear corner; in front of it was a dining room with a table that would comfortably seat ten. The corner of the room opposite the kitchen was lined with book shelves. There were several throw rugs covering the hardwood floors. Near the book shelves there were several overstuffed chairs and floor lamps.

The sight that really took Kris's breath away was the center of the room which was obviously a living/family room. The vaulted ceiling over this area was lined with skylights which let the sun shine into the room. There were more area carpets covering the floors. Several couches and recliners were scattered around the room. Some formed a semi-circle around an entertainment center which boasted a 70-inch flat-screen television. Several more were facing the back wall of the room which was lined with windows through which a breathtaking view of the White Mountains could be enjoyed.

"Look up there," Charlie said excitedly as he pointed to the second floor landing on either side of the great room. "Dylan says they were designed like lofts. There're separate staircases on each side leading to them. Dylan and Jesse have a master suite on that side," he pointed to the right of them, "and there are two more suites on that side. Dyl said we could each have one or just share. What do you think?" He grinned.

Kris smiled warmly at the boy who had captured his heart. "I think I can manage to share with you," he said as he leaned down and kissed Charlie.

Give Andrew some encouragement to continue this story —

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