Castle Roland

Forever 2 - Changes

by Jack Schaeffer

In Progress

Chapter 16

Posted: 21 Apr 16

FOREVER 2 - Changes
By Jack Schaeffer
Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved.

"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation." - Robert F. Kennedy, Senator and U.S. Attorney General

Moving day. It was organized chaos at the bank on our last day there. Chris Walker and his construction crew completed all the updates to our new office, on time and on budget. According to Simon, the remaining punch list items were miniscule. Chris hoped to finish them up over the weekend before we opened our doors on Monday morning.

"Sam, did we get everything out of Will's office?" asked a harried Todd, wiping a dirty hand across his brow. He looked tired. We were all tired. It had been an exhausting week.

"Yeah, Danny and I turned it all over to the movers half an hour ago." Sam grunted as he lifted another heavy box full of files onto the dolly he was loading for the movers. A small mountain of similar boxes lined one whole wall in the main conference room. We were filling them faster than the movers could get them out of the building.

"Why are we taking all these files?" I asked.

"These files hold every transaction, report, filing and analysis done for the trust since its inception. We'll move it all now, then purge what we can later."

"Isn't all this information in the computers already?"

"A lot of it, sure. But I'm not comfortable leaving anything related to the trust behind. We need to maintain control. Davis agreed."

"Ugh! Light a match and be done with it," I said. Todd smiled and kept packing. I sighed and reached for another box to fill.

"Do we know why Will left early, today of all days?" I asked, trying to straighten my aching back. The muscles in my neck and shoulders felt knotted, and I had a massive headache. Breathing the dust kicked up from several years' worth of old files didn't help matters. I was sweating, working as hard as I could, but Todd still filled three boxes to my one. It would have been so much easier to buy the file cabinets from the bank and move them as is, but Todd said no. He didn't want to take any furniture or fixtures belonging to the bank.

"Will said it was some kind of medical emergency and he would call me as soon as he knew more. That was at two o'clock. It's now six, and I haven't heard from him."

"Should we call him?"

"I tried an hour ago. His cell went straight to voicemail. He'll call, Jack."

I started to say something about it being irresponsible to leave the team in the lurch, but I bit my tongue. I was just tired and crabby. If Will left, knowing we had to be out of the bank tonight, he must have had a very good reason for it. I huffed and reached for another pile of folders.

"Tell me again why the movers can't fill these boxes?"

"Keep moving, Jack," said Sam, giving me a look I didn't like. "After we get these files out of here, we're done for the night." I grunted and shut my mouth. My attitude was not helping.

Nor was the rising fear inside me that I was making a huge mistake with this move. A week ago I had six employees, counting Sam. Now I had over twenty starting on Monday, and they were all dependent on the success of my unproven, untested company. I shook my head in a failed attempt to banish such thoughts and made another bankers box to hold still more fucking file folders.

The three of us managed to fill the last box about an hour later, and Sam put it on top of the final load for the movers. I flopped into a chair, exhausted. Todd looked haggard and wiped out. Aside from his mussed up hair, Sam wasn't even breathing hard. He stood there, smiling down at us.

"How can you stand there with a grin on your face?" I said.

"Because...aren't you excited?"

"About paper cuts, black lung, and back pain? No, not so much," I replied, coughing into a napkin. The brownish phlegm left behind was not encouraging.

"Come on, it's not that bad. The heavy lifting is over," said Sam.

"For today. Tomorrow we get to go to the new office and put it all back together again. Assuming I survive the night," I said, coughing up more brown crud. Was I the only one bothered by all the dust? I could feel the pressure growing around my nose and under my eyes. I needed a shower, food, and sleep, in that order.

Sam looked concerned as I continued coughing. He pulled a water bottle from the refrigerator in the credenza and handed it to me.

"Thanks," I wheezed, taking a sip. It helped.

"Let's get you home, little man," he said.

"Please," I nodded. "Todd, we good to go here?"

"Hmm?" He was lost in thought.

"You okay if Jack and I split?" asked Sam.

"Oh...yeah...sure. I think we're done. Mason and Simon left half an hour ago. I'll see if Danny's ready and grab my stuff. You guys are coming to the new place tomorrow, right?" Sam nodded. I coughed some more.

"Okay, we're leaving. Later, Todd," said Sam.

"Later, guys."

Sam grabbed my arm to steady me as I stood up. I was a little dizzy and everything hurt. We walked to the elevator and I leaned heavily against the polished brass wall as Sam punched the button for the lobby, then pulled me into a hug.

"You okay, Jack?" asked Sam. "You're warm." Of course I was hot - we just moved a mountainside of paper and assorted crap. I tried to hug him back but my arm muscles ached.

Downstairs, Ben took one look at me and said, "What the hell happened to him?" I mumbled something incoherent.

"Let's get him home," I heard Sam say. I staggered to the garage, leaning on Sam's arm. I fell asleep before we made it down to street level. Sam had to shake me awake when we arrived at the house. I was vaguely aware of Maggie pulling clothes out of the dryer in the laundry room as I stumbled through.

"Let's get some water," said Sam, guiding me to the kitchen table. I leaned over and put my head on the table. My whole body ached. Maggie came in, saw me half asleep on the table, and put her hand against my forehead.

"He's burning up, Sam. I think he has a fever." Her voice sounded slushy in my ears.

"I know. What do we do?" asked Sam.

"He needs fluids and something for the fever. There should be a thermometer in one of the medicine cabinets in your room. If you don't find one, let me know. He needs a shower, then get him into bed. I'll bring him fresh juice. Try to get him to drink some before he falls asleep."

Sam managed to get me to our bedroom. I tried to undress but had trouble focusing. My socks wouldn't come off. I heard Sam chuckling.

"You have to take your shoes off first, Jack." He pulled them off, then my socks. Then he gently pushed me onto my back so he could pull my pants off. Soon I was naked. And shivering.

Sam quickly undressed and started the shower, then came back and half-carried me into the bathroom. He stood next to me while I peed into the toilet, then we got into the shower. The hot water felt wonderful against my frigid skin. Sam washed me head to toe, rinsed off the soap, then dried me the best he could. Once in bed under warm covers, Sam stuck a thermometer under my tongue. I made some silly comment about a more fun place he should stick it. He didn't smile. When he read the thermometer a minute later, he was frowning. He handed me a glass of juice. I drank some while he looked at the thermometer again.

"Will I live, doctor?" I wheezed. I didn't stay awake long enough to hear his answer.

The next morning, I woke up to an empty bed. I rolled over and my stomach heaved. I barely made it the bathroom before throwing up. Sam appeared in the mirror next to me when I looked up from rinsing my mouth.

"Hi," I said weakly.

"Morning," he said. "How're you feeling?"

"Like a truck ran over me, backed up, and did it again."

"That good, huh?" He smiled. I groaned, then turned to hug him. He hesitated, but pulled me into his arms anyway.

"I'm sorry I got sick," I mumbled into his chest.

"It's not your fault, Jack. Don't worry about it. Just concentrate on getting better."

"What time is it?"

"A little after ten, I think. Why?"

"Crap! I have to get ready. We should already be at the office."

"Hold on there, boss. You're not going anywhere but back to bed. I called Todd last night and told him you were out of commission until Monday."

"But, team. They're counting on me. I can't let them down now," I whined.

"You go in there and get them all sick, I don't think they'll be too happy with you."

"Ugh! This sucks!"

"Yes, it does. But grousing about it won't help. Come on...back to bed. You need rest. Are you hungry?" I shook my head, instantly regretting the move. Pain shot from my neck straight up and over my head, settling behind my eyes. I closed them and moaned. Sam put me to bed. He gave me two more pills, I finished the juice, and he kissed my forehead. I closed my eyes and drifted off.

I slept until dinner time, awakening to sheets soaked in sweat. What a mess! My head felt a little clearer and I didn't feel any pounding pressure. I stood up slowly beside the bed and seemed a bit steadier on my feet. Making my way to the bathroom I decided I would live.

I showered, then stripped the bed. I was balling up the sheets to throw in the laundry basket when Sam appeared, dressed in old jeans, looking sexy as hell. His dark chest hair was peeking out over the neckline of his blue t-shirt. I smiled, realizing my dick still worked. Sam saw me getting hard and smiled, too.

"I see you're feeling better," he said.

"A little. I made a mess of the sheets though. I think my fever broke."

"Good. Did you take your temperature?"

"I was waiting for the doctor to make me," I teased.

Sam grinned. "I think I'd rather play doctor with you when I know you don't need one for real."

"You're no fun anymore," I said, pretending to pout.

"Nope. No fun. Not until I know you're well." He did pull me into a warm hug, which by itself made me feel better.

"Thanks for taking care of me, Sam," I said.

"No problem," he said, rubbing his chin on my forehead. "Are you hungry now?"


"Maggie made chicken soup. How's that sound?"

"Wonderful. I need to get out of this room."

" might want to put some clothes on. She's cleaning and fumigating the whole house." Sam helped me get dressed. I didn't really need help, but I enjoyed having an excuse to get his hands on me. We took my temperature. It was normal again.

We walked hand in hand to the kitchen and I sat at the table drinking more juice while Sam heated up a pot of soup. Maggie came in, wiping her brow.

"Jack! How're you feeling?" she asked.


"Good. Sam's warming up the soup?"

I nodded.

"Now that he's up, I'm going to clean your room and the bathrooms, Sam. Are you good with soup for dinner, too? I could make you something else," said Maggie.

"No need, soup is fine with me. It smells delicious," said Sam.

"There are crackers in the pantry, if you want them. Fruit for dessert, Jack. No sweets."

"Yes, Mom," I grumbled with a grin. She smiled at me, walked over, and put her hand to my cheek.

"I'm glad you're feeling better, Jack."

I put my hand over hers. "Me, too."

She smiled and turned back to Sam. "If there's any washing, leave it in the laundry room. I'll do it first thing tomorrow."

"Where can I find a set of sheets?" he asked.

"I'll take care of it. I'm headed that way. You boys eat."

"Thanks, Maggie," said Sam.

Once the soup was ready, Sam ladled it into big bowls, set a box of buttery crackers between us, and we dug in. Sam ate two bowls of soup and half the crackers. I managed to eat most of my one bowl. Sam kept pushing crackers at me. I think I ate three or four.

"Did Todd call today? How is everyone doing, getting settled in?" I asked.

"He called around three. He said the guys love the new space and were mostly moved in."

"Did Todd ever find out why Will left yesterday?"

"Yeah. It was his friend - the pregnant one who came to the party? She was in a car accident. Her baby was born prematurely."

"Oh no! Is she okay? What about the baby?"

"I don't know the details, but I think so. They're both still in the hospital, I'd imagine."

"I should call him," reaching for a cell phone that wasn't there.

"Your phone's in the bedroom. Call Todd first, though. He made me promise he would be your first call."

I kissed Sam on his forehead, put my bowl in the sink, grabbed a water bottle from the fridge, and retrieved my phone from its charger in the bedroom. I sank into a leather couch in the living room and dialed Todd.

"Hey, Boss. Feeling better?" he answered.

"A little. How's it going?"

"Good. The guys have moved into their offices. Will's got the IT crew setting up the servers and computers. They say they'll be finished sometime tomorrow morning, which is very good news. We need access to market data first thing Monday."

"Speaking of Will, what happened with his friend? Valerie was her name, right?"

"Yeah. Apparently she was in a car accident. She had some cuts and bruises, but the worst part was the accident induced labor. She delivered her baby a few hours after arriving at the hospital."

"Is the baby okay?"

"I guess so. Will didn't say otherwise."

"Well, if you hear anything, let me know. Does Will seem okay to you?"

"Yeah, totally normal. I asked if Valerie had family in the area, and he said no, that's why she called him after the accident."

"That makes sense. Please tell him if he needs anything to call me, okay?"

"Sure. He's got the new IT guys well in hand. I wasn't sure he had it in him, but so far, I'm impressed. He's a pretty good manager."

"Awesome. Hey, are you going to be at the office tomorrow?"

"In the afternoon. Margie's coming in with me to get the lay of the land and make sure we're ready for Monday."

"You still comfortable with our arrangement?"

"You mean with Margie reporting to you and not to me?"


"Well...since she's going to be your assistant, as well as the office manager, it makes sense. And she and I were never comfortable with me being her boss."

"I'm sure. I'm glad she decided to join the team," I said.

"I just hope she knows how much of a pain in the ass her new boss is. Guy buys a whole building, but can't be bothered to show up on move in day."

"Hey now. I would have been there, but Sam said you'd all be mad at me."

"He's right. Listen to Sam. The last thing I need is a bunch of sick people here on Monday. Seriously, Jack, if you're not feeling up to it, don't come in. I'll be crazy busy getting this place organized as it is. Last thing I need is the boss running around here, infecting everyone with some kind of disease."

"Ha ha, very funny," I said. "Don't make me feel any worse than I already do."

"I thought you said you were feeling better?" said Todd.

"Physically, I am. I just don't want to let the team down. You all have worked so hard to make this happen. I feel like I'm not pulling my weight."

"Jack, none of this would be happening if it weren't for your vision. Hell, if it weren't for you, we'd all be on the street looking for work on Monday instead of starting a company that's going to change the world. Everybody on the Schaeffer team is excited and working hard to make this thing a success. Believe me, boss, you're doing great. And I'm not just sayin' that because you gave me the corner office."

I laughed. "Yeah, well...don't make me regret it."

"Are you sure you don't want to change your mind? I can move into the office next door."

"No, you should have it, Todd. You've earned it. I won't be there all the time, and you need the extra space to meet with people privately. I'll be fine in the office next to you. Besides, I like the view better."

"Suit yourself, it's your company," he said.

"'s our company. My name may be on the door, but I'm not the company. The whole team is."

"And we're all pulling hard for you, Jack. This is going to be fun."

"You and I have different ideas of fun, but whatever floats your boat." Sam sat down next to me on the couch and motioned for me the wrap up the call. "Listen, I've gotta go. As long as I'm feeling up to it, we'll be there tomorrow afternoon. Can we still do that thing we talked about for the team on opening day?"

"Planning on it. I'll have everything ready for you."

"Great. Okay...well, I'll see you tomorrow then. Thanks for everything, Todd."

"Night, boss."

"Bye," I said, hanging up.

Sam kissed my cheek, then stretched out on the couch, laying his head in my lap. "Maggie just left for the night. Everything alright at the office?" he asked. I looked down into his deep blue eyes and forgot to breathe for a second. He was so beautiful.

"Jack?" Sam prompted.

"What? Oh, yeah...I think so. How about you? You alright?"

"Me? I'm good. Glad you're feeling better, that's for sure. You were in pretty bad shape last night. Kinda scared me." He looked up at me and could see the edges of real fear in his deep blue eyes. I rested a hand on his cheek, and he reached up to hold it there.

"I'm fine, Sam, I promise," I said, hoping to reassure him. "I think it was just some kind of twenty-four hour bug. I feel fine now. A little weak, maybe. I didn't mean to scare you, big guy." I stroked his hair as we continued talking.

He sighed, pulling my hand from his cheek down to his chest. "My nephews, Camden and Carter? When they were like five or six, they both spiked a 104 degree fever. It was so bad they had to be hospitalized, and it took forever to get the fever to break. They were in there for four days. They nearly died."

"Wow, that had to be rough on your sister. What caused it?"

"We never knew. The doctors couldn't find a reason. Kat and my mother suspected meningitis, which really freaked us all out. Thankfully they tested negative. But man, were they ever sick."

"It had to be hard, leaving them in the hospital," I said.

"What do you mean? We never left," said Sam.

I stopped stroking his hair and I sat up a little straighter. "You all stayed at the hospital?"

"Hell, yeah. No way was I leaving my boys all alone. We took turns sitting in the room with them. We had to wear those surgical scrubs, with the gloves and everything. Cam and Carter made fun of the hat they made me wear, and the face mask. I didn't care, anything to get them to laugh. The hardest part was not letting them see how scared we all were."

"Wait a minute? You, your sister, your parents, and I'm assuming the boys' father - you all stayed at the hospital for four days? And they let you?"

"It's not like we asked permission. My dad informed the head nurse that someone from the family would be in the boys' room at all times, and the rest of us would be in the waiting room, or somewhere else in the hospital. None of us left. My brother-in-law, David? He couldn't stop pacing up and down the hallway outside their room. We finally had to make him lay down on the second night, before he fell down. I'm not entirely sure Kat didn't get a doctor to sneak a sedative into his coffee. He was a mess. We all felt the same way, of course.

"How's that?" I asked. He squeezed my hand harder as he relived the emotions.

"Scared, frustrated...angry. I mean, here's these two kids, laying in their beds, sweat dripping off of them, hooked up to all kinds of tubes. You love 'em so much, and it hurts to know they're in pain, and you feel so fucking powerless. It's horrible."

I leaned down and kissed his forehead. Listening to Sam tell this story, I was struck once again by the intense and inclusive love of his family. A family he wanted me to be a part of. Would they love me with the same intensity?

"The kids are fine now?" I asked.

"Oh yeah. They're tough little rugrats. Well, not so little anymore. They're eight. They'll turn nine on July third." I smiled. Sam had told me little snippets about the boys, and I could tell he really loved them, almost like they were his own. He clearly missed them.

"Isn't that when we're supposed to visit your family?"

"Yes. We always have a big birthday party for the twins. Actually, now that you're feeling better, I need to talk to you about our trip."

Sam sat up, still holding my hand, and I snuggled up under his arm, which he threw over my shoulder. "So, Kat called this morning, while you were sleeping. I told her we were coming. She's very excited to meet you."

"I hope she doesn't regret inviting me. Did you talk to her about where we're going to sleep?"

"Yes," he said, but I could hear the hesitancy in his voice.

"What? She doesn't think it's a good idea, me coming, does she?"

"No, no. It's not that. She's concerned about Myra and Eugene."


"Myra and Eugene are my aunt and uncle - she's my mother's sister. We don't see them often, but I guess they're coming to the coast, too."

"Let me guess. They hate gay people," I said.

"Well, hate's too strong a word. Let's just say, they're not super comfortable with the idea of having a gay nephew." My defenses were up in an instant. I sat up straight and twisted to face Sam.

"What do you mean? What did they say to you? Did they hurt you? What? Tell me," I demanded.

Sam put a hand gently on my thigh. "Shhh...settle down, Jack. No...they never hurt me. And they've never said anything to me directly. When I came out to my parents back in high school, my mother told my aunt, and I guess she made some unkind comments to my mother. We didn't see them much for several years after that. My mother told me it had nothing to do with me, and to not worry about it, so I didn't. It wasn't until I moved away to college that Kat told me the whole story."

"Which was?"

"Aunt Myra blamed my father for me being gay. Said she always knew there was something the matter with my dad, and my mother should have never married him. Me turning out gay was her punishment for marrying against their father's wishes."

"Wow. I've heard some dumb statements about gays, but that...wait...your grandfather didn't want your mother to marry your dad? Why?"

"According to Kat, he didn't think my dad was good enough for my mom. Might have been because he wanted to be a lawyer. My grandfather had no use for politicians or lawyers. Ripped on 'em every chance he got."

"Will your grandfather be at the reunion, too?" I asked.

Sam laughed softly. "No, he's dead. He died about four years ago. My grandmother died from lung cancer and he passed away three months later."

"Oh...I'm sorry. But I'm glad he won't be giving your parents a hard time, especially about us." I sounded selfish, so I shut up. This wasn't about me. It was about Sam and his family. I just didn't want to make anyone uncomfortable, and I was still worried.

"What do we do about your aunt and uncle?" I asked. "Did Kat have any ideas? I don't want to make this visit hard on your mom, Sam. We can't do that to her."

Sam looked at me with a strange expression. He stared deep into my eyes like he always does, searching and probing. "How do you do it?" he whispered. "How do you care so much about my mom, when you've never even met her?" He grabbed both my hands.

I shrugged. "I don't know, I just do. She's your mom, Sam. You love her. It wouldn't be right to cause her any trouble, when I'm sure she's working very hard to make the reunion special for her family. She has to be thrilled you're coming home this year. I don't want to spoil it for her."

"You aren't going to spoil anything. I'm telling you, Jack, my mom will be very happy I have you in my life. Very happy."

"We'll see. So? How do we handle your aunt and uncle?" I asked.

"We don't. We are who we are, Jack. We show up just like everyone else, and we be ourselves. If they have a problem with it, it's their problem."

"But Sam..." I started. He pulled me into his chest, and looked deep into my eyes.

"No buts, Jack. You're my family. We're going to visit the rest of the family. If my aunt and uncle can come to the reunion, then so can I, and I can bring the man I love with me." He kissed me softly, and I tried to settle down. He broke our kiss and rested his forehead against mine.

"And your mom's going to be okay with all this? Does she even know I'm coming with you?"

Sam smiled. "If I know my sister, she hung up with me and called my mother immediately to tell her. My mother will be calling asking about your favorite foods any minute. Kat will make everything work. You'll see."

"How can you be so sure?" I asked.

"You don't know Kat. It's what she does. And I pity the fool who tries to interfere with her plans. She'll watch out for me, and you, too."

"I hope so. What about your dad? How's he going to feel about us?"

"He's more concerned about my professional future than my love life. I fully expect to be grilled incessantly about law school and my plans afterward."

"Law school is three years, right?" I asked.

"Yes. And I'll have summer internships, as well."

"In St. Louis?"

"Hopefully. We'll have to see."

I was settled on living in St. Louis while Sam attended law school. I wanted to support him in any way I could. I owed him that much. I wasn't wild about the idea of possibly needing to move during the summers for his internships. Then again, we had the resources and flexibility to live anywhere, so as long as I could be with him, what did it matter where we lived?

What did matter is what I did with my life while Sam was learning to be a lawyer. I had my company to run, which sounded so grown up and professional. But despite our recent successes, I was still scared to death I would find a way to screw it up. I knew Todd and the guys would do their best to prevent a disaster, and having them for a strong safety net was the only reason I could move forward at all.

An idea popped into my head about something I could do while Sam was spending hours and hours in class and study groups. I would talk to Margie about it on Monday.

"What are you thinking about, Jack? I can see your mind spinning behind your eyes," said Sam, grinning.

"Oh, just thinking about the move to St. Louis. We have a lot to figure out to make it happen." He suddenly looked stricken.

"Like what?" he asked.

"Like where we're going to live for starters. We need to find a place that will be good for us for at least three years, right?"

He looked puzzled, and stared across the living room toward the fireplace. I watched his profile, trying to figure out what upset him. He suddenly turned to me, looking sad.

"Jack...I...I'm sorry. I didn't even think about living arrangements. My scholarship covers room and board in a residence hall. I just assumed that's where I'd be."

"Fine by me, if you want to share one of those tiny dorm beds. Might get a little tight at times, but we could make it work. Hopefully we won't have another roommate - might make it awkward for sex," I said, smiling.

Sam snorted. "Ya think? With all the noise you make, I'll have to tape your mouth shut, just to keep the police at bay."

"You do, and I won't be able to do that thing you like," I said.

He grinned. "Okay...dorm's out. What did you have in mind?"

I laughed. "Good to see you've got your priorities straight. My idea was to find our own place as near to campus as possible, so you can walk to class, if you prefer. A house would be great, but an apartment or condo would work, too. Just depends on what we can find. You okay if I have Simon start looking?"

Sam swallowed, but didn't say anything. He went back to staring at the fireplace. I stayed quiet. I could see his temples pulse as he worked through his inner struggle. A couple of minutes later, he turned to me.

"When I met you, and fell in love with you, I had no idea about your money. I suppose I should have seen the signs - the house, the car, the expensive dinners. Maybe I just didn't want to see it, because I already knew you were the one for me." His voice cracked.

He swallowed hard and continued. " we are. I'm in love with a guy who has more money than I can ever imagine, and you know what? Fuck it. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if you're as rich as Midas. I love you, Jack, and I'm certainly not living without you. So whatever you want to do is fine with me."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. Look, I know I freak out about the money. I don't like the idea I'm living off your largesse, but that's not really true, is it?"

"No, it's not. I was only half joking about the dorm thing, Sam. I mean it. If that's what you need to do to succeed in law school, then I'll sleep on the floor next to you if I have to. We can eat dorm food and shop for clothes at Goodwill and buy school supplies on sale at Wal-mart. I'll get a pizza delivery job so we have some spending money, and we'll make it. We'll make it together."

Sam laughed. "You'll deliver pizzas? When you can buy the whole damn chain?"

"Whatever it takes to be with you, Sam. I'll give it all away. Every last penny of it. I mean it." I was staring into his eyes now, unblinking. I could feel the fire in my own.

He stopped laughing. "Fuck. Me. You really do mean it, don't you?" he whispered.


"Jack...I can't...I would never..."

I grabbed his head and held it rigid in my hands, our eyes locked. "I know you'd never ask me to do it, Sam. But don't doubt me - the money means nothing to me if I can't have you in my life. And I will never, ever use the money to manipulate you into doing anything you don't want to do. Never. You say the word, and it's all gone tomorrow, as long as I get to stay."

I touched my forehead to his, still holding his head in my hands. He looked into my eyes, then suddenly grinned. "Can we at least keep the jet? I love that thing."

"Yes, we can keep the plane." I smiled.

Sam leaned in and kissed me, gently at first, then with more heat. I slid my hands down from his head to his chest, caressing the hard nipples under his t-shirt. My body responded instantly. I wanted him so badly, but my logical head intervened. I pulled back, breathing hard.

"Sam...before we get carried away here, I think maybe we should wait one more day, just to be sure I'm not contagious or something."

He leaned back, grabbing my hands. "Fine, but you owe me, little man," he said.

"I'm good for it, big guy," I replied.

He smiled. "Let's go to bed. You need to rest if you're really planning on going to the office tomorrow."

Sam stood up, helped me to my feet, and we walked hand in hand to our bedroom, turning off lights as we went. I didn't say anything, but I still felt a little weak and wobbly. We did our bathroom routines and slid under the fresh, clean sheets. They felt good against my naked skin. Sam spooned up behind me, his semi-hard cock resting on my ass, his hairy strong arm across my chest, pulling me close. Home sweet home.

We slept in the following morning. Somewhere in the night we had changed positions, and now my steel hard dick was poking Sam's butt. I wanted to explore the possibilities, but my bladder had other priorities. I slid out of bed and hurried to the bathroom. My legs were steady and strong. I felt healthy and whole again. I smiled to myself, hoping to make good on my debt to Sam sometime today.

I splashed some water on my face, rinsed my mouth, and returned to the bedroom, only to find Sam had disappeared. I checked the other bathroom, but no joy. How did I lose him so fast? I was a little cold, standing in the middle of the room stark naked, so I jumped back under the covers. I heard Sam coming down the hallway, humming some tune I didn't recognize.

The door opened, and there he was - my knight in blue boxer briefs. His saber was quite prominent, and I had trouble deciding what to feast my eyes on - his cock or his radiant blue eyes and smiling face. My guy woke up happy today.

"Morning, Jack. How're you feeling?" he said, setting a glass of orange juice on the nightstand next to me.

"Good. Back to normal. You're awfully chipper this morning," I said.

"I am. I'm excited, Jack."

"Excited? About what?"

"You and me. Our future. Seeing my family again," he said, sliding up next to me. He turned to face me, putting a hand on my chest. He looked deep into my eyes, and I saw his need for physical connection. Or maybe it was my own reflecting back in his eyes. I pushed him down and rolled on top of him, kissing him hard. His arms wrapped around me and we didn't come up for air for nearly an hour. I wanted Sam in me, but he wanted to wait until later for some reason. I started to pout, but he just laughed and smiled wider. I'd have to wait.

We showered together. Sam was in a goofy mood, and he kept trying to tickle me, then screamed for mercy when I found the back of his thigh and went to town on it. Somehow we managed to get ourselves clean and presentable for the day.

Having slept through breakfast, lunch was roast beef sandwiches and more chicken soup. Maggie made great soup. It reminded me of my grandmother's. Sam said it was probably the best he'd ever had, too. Ben joined us just as Sam was ladling out his second bowl full.

"Afternoon, boys," said Ben. He sat down next to me and leaned back in his chair. "How're you feeling today, Jack?"

"I'm good. We were thinking of heading into the office after lunch."

"I better eat something then," he said, getting up to raid the refrigerator. Sam sat down across from me, smiled seductively, and dug into his soup. I sat back and watched him. I still had half a sandwich on my plate. I was hungry for something, but it wasn't food. If Ben wasn't in the room, I might have interrupted Sam's soup slurping.

The three of us chatted while we ate. Ben had some ideas about improving security at the new building, all of which made sense. He needed Frank Toomes, the current security agent, up and moving instead of sitting behind the desk. He also wanted additional security agents, enough for two agents at all times in the building.

"We need to upgrade the security pass system, too. Who should I talk to about getting it set up?" asked Ben.

"I'll bring it up in our staff meeting tomorrow morning. Will handles the technology, and Simon handles the tenant management at this point, but I think he's hiring the current building staff to work for us."

He nodded. "I'll need their names and addresses to do background checks."

"Background checks? Why?" I asked.

"Every new hire has to pass a background check, or they don't work for S&A. Standard security protocol," said Ben.

"Got it. I'll have Simon get the list to you first thing. Are we okay to open tomorrow morning?"

"I think so. I have two new people joining Officer Toomes on the day shift. We may need additional agents, but this should suffice for now."

"What will the new guys be doing?" asked Sam.

Ben smiled. "Don't let them hear you say that, Sam. Josie and Lydia are tough cookies, but no one would mistake them for guys. One will be manning the security desk down in the lobby, the other will be on the S&A floor, keeping an eye on things, especially when I'm not there. They'll switch roles throughout the day, so you'll see different agents in your office at different times."

"And Todd's okay with that?" I asked. Ben sighed and looked at me hard.

"I didn't ask him, Jack. My job is to make sure you all are safe so you can do your work without worry or concerns. If that means I need to put security personnel on the floor, so be it. And yes, before you ask, they will be armed - discreetly armed. I need to know no one - including you and Todd - is going to interfere with security, otherwise there's no point to my being here."

He was staring hard at me, serious as a heart attack. I looked across the table at Sam and back to Ben. As much as I didn't like needing security, it was foolish to think otherwise. And I trusted Ben with my life.

I swallowed. "Okay. I'll talk to Todd today," I said. "Whatever you want for security, you've got it. Nobody will interfere. I'll instruct the staff to abide by whatever security procedures you set up."

Ben nodded. "Good. And I'll instruct my agents to stay out of your way as much as possible."

"I'm sure Todd will appreciate it. Thanks," I said.

I looked across the table again at Sam. He nodded. "Now that that's settled, let's get out of here," said Sam. The three of us made quick work of cleaning up the kitchen.

The drive to the office was uneventful, except for the serious makeout session in the back seat. We didn't even notice when Ben parked the car in the garage.

"If you two are finished back there, we're here," said Ben, laughter in his voice.

Sam looked up, took in the parking garage, and looked down at me again. He kissed me one more time. "Time to go to work, boss," he said with a stupid grin. I think I grinned back, but I really couldn't feel my lips at the moment.

There was no one at the main desk in the lobby. I saw Ben make a mental note. He pulled a security pass from an unlocked drawer and swiped us through the turnstiles to the elevators. The disgusted look on Ben's face said it all. Sam and I wisely said nothing as we rode in silence up to the twenty-first floor.

When the elevator dinged, I made a move to exit, but Ben put an arm in front of my chest.

"Wait here a minute," he said. His voice tone brooked no argument. I leaned back and Sam grabbed my hand. Ben stepped out and looked left and right. Seeing nothing, he motioned with his hand for us to leave the elevator. It was eerily quiet.

"You two stay right here, and don't move," Ben whispered. He gave me a look to reinforce his request. I nodded. Ben turned to the left and held the security pass against the reader on the glass door entrance to our new reception area. The little light on the box turned green. He pushed through, turning back toward us and putting a hand up to remain where we were. I'm not sure I could have moved at that point. Sam squeezed my hand tighter.

The only noise we could hear was the sound of the elevator returning to the lobby. I looked across the hallway to the second set of elevator doors and the stairway entrance next to it. If something bad happened, I intended to be the first one through those doors.

"Where'd he go?" whispered Sam in my ear after a couple of minutes. I shrugged. The quiet was getting to me. We both jumped a little when the elevator behind us started whirring again. We could hear it slowly rising up the building. It wasn't stopping. I looked at Sam and we shuffled to our right, away from the elevator doors. Sam pushed me behind him, putting himself between me and the elevator.

The elevator stopped with a loud ding. As the doors slid open, we heard a blood curdling scream from somewhere inside the office. I think my heart stopped.

Todd came flying out of the elevator, carrying a large flat box. He swerved left, never seeing us. He moved fast, reaching for his security pass to swipe into the office.

"Todd!" yelled Sam.

Todd threw his hands up, sending the box he was holding flying into the air. It ricocheted off the glass wall and landed on the floor. I saw "Black Jack Pizza" in red and black lettering on the box. Todd swirled around, hands raised in a defensive posture, ready to fight.

Recognizing us, Todd dropped his hands. "What the fuck, Sam! Don't just stand there, guys. That was Margie!" He swiped his card and flew into the office, leaving the mangled pizza on the floor. Sam and I followed hot on his heels.

We turned the first corner beyond the reception area and saw Ben and Margie walking toward us. Margie was smiling, and Ben looked embarrassed. Todd stopped short, and I ran right into Sam's back with a loud grunt.

"Margie, are you alright?" asked Todd, grabbing her in a tight hug.

"Yeah, babe, I'm fine."

"We heard a scream," said Todd.

She laughed. "Ben scared the shit out of me when he came into the kitchen all ninja like. I heard a noise, turned around and saw a man with a gun."

"My bad," said Ben. "There was no security downstairs, so I made Sam and Jack wait in the hall until I could clear the office. I heard sounds coming from the kitchen and went to investigate."

"Great. Babe, your pizza is laying on the floor out by the elevators," said Todd.


"I dropped it when these two idiots scared the crap out of me."

"Todd, we'll get you guys another pizza. I'm sure Ben would be more than happy to fetch it, wouldn't you Ben," I said, hoping he got the point. He gave me a look, then grinned.

"Margie, what would you like on your pizza?" he said.

"Barbeque chicken, pineapple, and jalapeno peppers."

"Seriously?" I said, without thinking. She gave me a threatening look.

"I'm pregnant, Jack. I had a craving. You don't have to eat it," she said, then turned to Ben. "You don't need to get me another pizza. I'm good. I'd probably only a eat a bite or two and then throw it up later, anyway."

Margie grabbed Todd's arm and kissed his cheek. "Thanks for trying, babe. You're so good to me." He shrugged his shoulders and grinned, like any man would when praised by his lover.

"Are we the only ones here?" asked Sam.

"Yeah. Everybody else is all set to start tomorrow morning. Network's up and running, databases are all up to date, and we'll be ready for the opening bell. Staff meeting is scheduled for ten, Jack," said Todd.

"Perfect. Thanks, Todd," I said.

"Wanna see your new office, Boss?" asked Margie.

"Yes!" I replied, like a kid expecting a new bicycle or something. Margie and Todd led the way to the northwest corner of the building. I'd made the decision to give my new President of Schaeffer and Associates the big corner office once the final plans were drawn. I chose the somewhat smaller office next to it on the left. It had a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains to the west. Thankfully the windows were heavily tinted so the afternoon sun wouldn't be too blinding.

Sheila Weinkopf had done an amazing job with the interiors. Understated, professional, with scattered soft highlights for visual interest. In my office, a large modern-design desk sat in front of a matching credenza against an interior wall. I walked across the dark gray carpeting with its faint herringbone pattern, sat down behind the desk, and looked out the windows to my left. The rugged mountains filled the distant view, confident and immovable. If only I felt the same way.

A black leather inbox resided at the right corner of my desk. There was a piece of paper in it.

"What's that?" I asked Margie, pointing.

"That? It's your agenda for tomorrow. You have staff meeting at ten. After lunch you have meetings scheduled with each of your department heads, along with Todd. In between, you and I will figure out what I'm going to be doing for you," she said.

I swallowed. It was really happening. Tomorrow I would officially start running my own business. And to think, just over two months ago, a single, unexpected phone call put all of this into motion. I started to ask Todd if he felt as overwhelmed as me, but he wasn't paying any attention to us. He was staring out the windows, worry etched deep into his brow. Something was wrong.

"Margie? Would you show Sam around the place? We'll catch up in a few," I asked. Sam followed my eyes to Todd, looked back to me, and nodded.

"Come on, Margie. I want to see the kitchen. We need to convince Jack to cater lunch tomorrow." I smiled, nodded to Margie, and the two of them left my office. Todd seemed oblivious to their departure.

"Penny for your thoughts?" I said quietly.

Todd turned to face me. "Not sure they're worth that much at the moment," he said, letting out a deep sigh.

"What's wrong?"

"I don't know. And I don't like not knowing, Jack. Being in the dark unnerves me."

"What don't you know?"

"It's Larry. He won't join our advisory team. I've asked him half a dozen times in the past month to help me put it together. He always makes some excuse. Then yesterday, I flat out said it felt like he was avoiding me, and you know what he said?"

"What?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

"He said, 'Todd, I am not going to be on the advisory team. You don't need me anymore.'" His voice cracked, and he turned to look out the windows again, shoulders slumped in defeat.

I had to play this carefully. Larry had talked to me a week ago, right after we returned from Oklahoma, and explained why he wouldn't be on our advisory team. I understood, but Larry made it clear I had to help Todd understand, as well.

"You feel like you still need him, and he's left you high and dry, don't you?" I said.

Todd faced me again and nodded. "I don't understand, Jack. He said he wanted to play a part. He had no problem with reviewing our transition plans and helping me formulate our exit strategy from the bank. Now, it's like he's just decided to quit. Maybe it's his health. Maybe he's not telling me everything. I just don't know!" he said, raising his voice.

"Todd, tell me something," I said, standing up from the desk and walking around to the low leather couch against the far wall. "When you and Larry talked about your plans for starting this business, did he tell you what you should do?"

Todd thought about it for a moment before answering. "No...not really. He listened to my ideas, and then said he agreed with them. Why?"

"What else did he say?"

"I don't know," said Todd, still frustrated. I waited, and watched as Todd's frustration turned to sadness in his eyes. "He said...he keeps saying...I don't need him anymore."

I stood up and walked over to him, putting my hands on his shoulders. "He's right, Todd. You don't need him to run this company. You have the right ideas. You know what to do. He knew it when he was lying in that hospital bed, hooked up to all those infernal machines, and he knows it now. And you know what else?" I asked.

Todd looked up into my eyes. "I know it, Todd. I know you're the right guy to run this company. I have total confidence in you, and in the team you've been building around you for the last several years. You may think this is all a sudden shift, but Larry was grooming you for this from the first day he hired you. He taught you well. It's time to fly, Todd. It's your chance to shine. It's what he wants for you. It's what I want for you. We all want it for you."

He looked at me, eyes getting moist, then he turned away to escape the intensity of the moment. I let him. Todd returned to staring out the windows, but he was standing a little straighter now.

"He's wrong, you know," whispered Todd, so soft I almost didn't hear it. "I do need him. He's my friend. He's...he...I just need him in my life, Jack. I don't want to lose him."

I took a step closer, but gave him his space. "You aren't losing him, Todd. Larry is still here, as your friend. Family, even. He's taking a step back from working with you, so you can stand on your own. He loves you, Todd, like a father should. He's an amazing guy."

Todd looked at me sideways, and smiled. "He is, isn't he?"

I put a hand on his shoulder. "Yes, and you're just like him. You're gonna be a great father, too."

"I hope so. I'm scared shitless about it."

"Well, you've got some time before he or she arrives. Stay focused on Margie. Speaking of, I don't want to overwhelm her with work. Will she tell me if it all gets to be too much?"

"I think so. She's not bashful about speaking her mind, as I'm sure you've figured out. But I'll tell her you asked."

We were quiet then, looking out over the tops of the nearby buildings, across the rapidly narrowing arid plains being swallowed up by urban sprawl, and up into the majestic mountains. Something about their rigidity gave me hope and confidence.

"Tomorrow's a big day, Jack. You ready?" asked Todd.

"As long as you're with me...yeah...I'm ready."

We joined Sam and Margie and explored the office together for a few more minutes. I was very impressed with the workmanship and final results. You have a plan on paper, but seeing it come to fruition is exciting. After coming full circle, Margie plopped herself down at a desk just outside my office.

"Where's your office, Margie?" I asked.

"What do you mean? You're standing in it," she said.

"What? I thought we reserved one of the window offices for the office manager."

"You did, but I'd rather be out here, Jack, if it's okay with you. This way, I'm closer to you when you need me, and I'm more visible to the rest of the office staff. I can keep my eye on things better from here."

"Whatever works for you," I said.

She stood up again. "Right now what would work for me is a hot bath and some chocolate ice cream." Todd chuckled. "You know what else, stud?" she said, snuggling up to her husband. "If someone were to give me a decent foot rub, he might get lucky tonight."

"Gotta go, guys," said Todd with a smile. "Try not to wreck the place, Boss. We've got real work to do tomorrow." Sam laughed.

We walked together to the elevators. Ben was in the reception area, sitting at a desk, making notes in a notebook. He looked up.

"We headed out?" he asked. I shook my head. "Not yet. Todd and Margie are leaving, though."

"Okay. I'll ride down with them. I want to check out some things in the lobby for tomorrow. You guys okay up here by yourselves?" asked Ben.

"We'll be fine," said Sam, grinning.

"I'm sure you will," said Ben, grinning back. What was that all about?

We finished our goodbyes and Todd, Margie and Ben stepped into the elevator.

"Come on, Jack. I want to show you something," said Sam.

"What?" I asked.

"Come on, you'll see." I followed him through reception, through accounting, past the server room, and straight into my office.

"Sam, I've already seen my office." I said, stepping through the door. Sam gently closed the door behind us, then turned the lock. He turned the lights off. The soft glow of the city lights below illuminated the room just enough for me to see Sam start unbuttoning his shirt. He slowly approached, his eyes locked into mine. My breath slowed, my pulse quickened. He had that look - the one that said I was his next meal and there was no escape. Not that I wanted to.

"I believe it's time to properly christen this office, Jack," he said lustily. I swallowed as my dick went rigid in my jeans. My ass twitched. "And I do believe you owe me, little man. Time to pay up," he said, grabbing my shirt front, twisting and pulling me in.

Then he kissed me. I gladly paid my bill in full.

Author's Notes:

Jack survives the move, barely. Plans continue for the big trip to visit Sam's family. Will Sam's aunt and uncle make trouble? Will Ben force a showdown with Todd over security? Will Margie ever satisfy her food cravings? Much more to come in the next chapter. Stay tuned.

I say it every time I post a new chapter, but I must thank my editors - Harry, Darryl, and Mark - for their dedicated service to making Forever the best it can be. Thanks, guys, from the bottom of my heart.

For my readers, I have something brand new to help us stay in touch and continue on this journey together. I've launched my new website and I have a new email address as well.


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