“And you?” Nelson asked. “What about raising kids that aren’t yours and …”
“I grew up with the children of my older siblings,” Tres said. “I like kids, and they like me. I don’t care if I’m their biological father. There are certainly plenty of Sierras on the planet. I really only care that kids are happy.”
“You know that Tink works for me in the summers, right?’ Tres asked. “She’s started calling me ‘Daddy T’.”
“Yes, you’ll get a name too,” Tres said.
Nelson’s grin grew wider.
“This is really happening,” Nelson said under his breath.
“Yes, lonely boy, you are suddenly going to be a part of a big, loud, weird family,” Tres said. “The weird part is me. Well, certainly, you know Enrique.”
“Have you met Loki yet?” Tres asked.
“Loki?” Nelson gave a confused shake of his head. “From the movies? Thor’s brother?”
“He and Hedone have a ‘thing,’” Tres said with a nod and a grin. “Something for you to look forward to.”
“I guess,” Nelson said.
“Hey, Jake said that they’ve finished the demo on the house,” Tres said. “Can we take a look?”
“Yes,” Nelson cleared his throat. “That is what we’d planned to do this evening.”
Tres drained his beer. He spied that Nelson’s beer bottle was empty. Tres gestured to it.
“It was nice to have a beer,” Nelson said. “You can just leave that here.”
“Is Mari here?” Tres asked.
“No, why?” Nelson asked.
“She was showing me some options for the house,” Tres said.
Mari appeared. She grinned at Tres.
“I was just listening in,” Mari said.
“Yes, who needs an A.I. when you have a nosy fairy?” Nelson asked.
“Exactly,” Mari said. “What is an A. I.?”
Nelson opened his mouth, but Tres continued.
“She can show us different options,” Tres said. “I’ve priced out some of our options. She can show us visually what they would look like — you know, most expensive, medium, cheap. She …”
Nelson looked confused.
“Let’s go into the other house,” Mari said.
With that, they left the carriage house. They went through the backyard and into the main house. The walls were torn down to the studs. The floors were bare wood. The antique wooden stairs had been covered in paper to protect them during the construction.
Tres took a breath and sighed.
“I love a fresh pallet,” Tres said. “Has Jill been through?”
“She told me what she was thinking,” Mari said. “She wanted you to know that it was just preliminary. She would be here but she’s at the hospital.”
“How is Sandy?” Tres asked.
“You were just there,” Mari said.
“I was focused on …” Tres said. “I’m kind of a one-track guy.”
“Ah, yes,” Mari said. “Sandy’s okay. Stronger. They are going to move her tomorrow morning.”
“He … Blane, I mean, was emaciated, sick, and clearly distraught,” Tres said. “The first thing he said was, ‘How’s school? Did something happen?’ He was still my brother, my …”
Tres shook his head and looked over Nelson’s head.
“Anyway, Blane was back on his feet by the time I had finished my Masters in Finance,” Tres said. “He asked Jake to hire me as the assistant to the CFO at Lipson. The man was elderly, an original Celia hire. He taught me the ropes and when he retired, Blane pushed Jake to hire me. It was risky because I was so young, but …”
“Seems like it’s worked out,” Nelson said.
“It’s been great for me,” Tres said. “I’ve learned a ton. Helping to orchestrate through the employee buyout has set me up for life. Seriously. I could go anywhere and get a job. I’m hoping to retire at Lipson. That’s my goal. What about you?”
“What about me and Blane?” Nelson asked. Nelson blushed. “Are you asking about sex or …?”
“No,” Tres said with a grin and a shake of his head. “I don’t want to know about that.”
Nelson looked up at Tres.
“I was asking about what your goals were,” Tres said. “Do you plan on retiring from the Denver Crime lab? Going back to Emergency Medicine?”
“Oh,” Nelson said. “I haven’t thought that far. I like working for Ava, but anything could happen.”
“You still feel close to Blane?” Nelson asked.
“I feel like he’s my family,” Tres said. “Heather says that Blane calls me his little brother. I think that’s about right.”
“And Enrique?” Nelson asked.
“I have lunch with him every once and a while when my mother insists that I tell him something,” Tres said. “I don’t really feel one way or another about him. He’s like my elder siblings. They are people I know, relatives, otherwise …”
“So no big happy family parties,” Nelson said.
“No,” Tres said. “I’m a little …”
“Shy?” Nelson asked.
“Introverted,” Tres said.
“Me too,” Nelson said with a grin. He made a dramatic sigh. “You can’t imagine how relieved I am.”
“Why?” Tres asked.
“I just … I don’t know,” Nelson said. “You’re a young heterosexual male. Why move in with some lady and her husband?”
“And you?” Tres asked. Nelson nodded. “That ‘lady’ is a Greek Goddess.”
“That’s why?” Nelson asked. “To be near a Goddess?”
“No,” Tres shook his head. “You’re very verbal, Mr. Weeks. You’re going to have to slow it down for me.”
Squinting, Nelson nodded.
“I was just pointing out that Heather is a Goddess,” Tres said. “Not that all women aren’t Goddesses in their own rights. They are. It’s just that …” Tres sighed. “We are honored to be in her presence. If something wasn’t right, she would know it.”
“Oh,” Nelson said. “I never thought of it that way.”
“She has the choice of every man or woman on the planet,” Tres said. “She chose Blane and then she chose us. There’s a kind of responsibility and honor with that.”
Tres turned around. He went up the stairs to the living room area.
“I have that TV,” Tres said.
“Listen, you and Blane …” Nelson said. “You were going to tell me. I … uh … I’ve worried about you, you know. You’re the youngest of all of us, the most free. Hetero. How are you going to handle me and Blane and …”
Tres turned to look at Nelson. Nelson’s face was red. His body language was tense.
“What are you asking?” Tres asked.
“What are you to Blane?” Nelson asked.
“Oh,” Tres said. “I don’t know. I’ve never asked. I can tell you what he is to me. Would that help?”
Swallowing hard, Nelson nodded.
“I was fourteen or fifteen when Enrique started dating Blane,” Tres said.
“Oh, that’s right,” Nelson said, visibly relieved. “Enrique is your brother.”
“I was sixteen when Enrique moved in with Blane,” Tres said.
“That was Blane’s house?” Nelson asked.
“The condo?” Tres asked. “Celia bought it for him so that he would always have a place to live.”
“Enrique kicked him out,” Nelson said.
“Enrique and his mob kicked him out,” Tres said. “It took Jacob about a year to get Enrique out of it.”
Nelson nodded. Tres was silent for a moment. He wasn’t a man who shared much. He’d hoped what he’d said was enough.
“You and Blane?” Nelson asked.
“My parents were really elderly when I was born,” Tres said. “So old that I’ve wondered if I was the child of one of my elder sisters.”
“And?” Nelson asked.
“I’m told it’s not true,” Tres said with a shrug. “Most of my older siblings were married with their own children when I was born. Enrique was at home. I …”
“There just wasn’t much for a young child in that house,” Tres said. “I shared a room with my great-grandmother until she died. After she died, I could go weeks without anyone saying even a word to me. I had a roof. I had food. But human interaction?”
Tres shook his head.
“Then Enrique met Blane,” Tres said. “Blane has this way of reaching into the dark and …”
Tres looked at Nelson to see that Nelson was nodding.
“Anyway, Enrique’s ‘friend’ became my surrogate brother,” Tres said. “He’d make me lunches for the week. When he realized I was bored in school, he helped me figure out a way to graduate early. I was two years into college at Metro when my father asked me if I was ever going to graduate from high school.”
Tres shook his head.
“But Blane was there the whole time,” Tres said. “Enrique, too, but it was really Blane. After the whole Enrique thing, I thought I’d lost Blane forever. I came to the Castle — there weren’t gates then — and begged them to let me see Blane.”
Tres shrugged. Tears came to his eyes.
“Sorry, I always get a little bleary when I think of this,” Tres said.
“Delphie and I talked,” Nash said. “I’m addicted to this stupid phone.”
Nash pulled the charred phone from his pocket.
“I was going to class and I realized that I usually tape our classes,” Nash said. “I’ve never even looked at them, but I have them. I … I … liked having them.”
“Today, Heather and her grandmother came to our class to talk about the types of love,” Nash said.
Samantha snorted a laugh.
“You had a lecture on love from Aphrodite and Hedone?” Samantha asked incredulously.
“Yeah,” Nash said.
“That’s an incredible honor,” Samantha said.
“And must have been so weird,” Samantha said. “Aphrodite always looks at me like I’m some kind of beetle. I never know if she’s going to step on me or …”
“How do you know them?” Nash asked.
“Oh,” Samantha said. “I don’t really know, and anyway, we’re talking about you.”
“You’ll tell me?” Nash asked.
“Later,” Samantha said. “So the Goddesses of Love taught you about … Agape?”
“Well, yeah,” Nash said. “But I was more … well … at the end, Heather talked about ‘Mania’.”
“Obsessive love,” Samantha said.
“She looked right at me,” Nash said. “I felt like she could see into my soul. How I almost killed Sandy and …”
“Nadia,” Samantha said softly.
“My mother was obsessed with everything,” Nash said. “Right now, she’s obsessed with getting money from my dad. Says that he owes her for all that he put her through. All he put her through! What a joke!”
Nash shook his head incredulously. He looked at Samantha.
“I’m sorry,” Nash said. “I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this stuff.”
“Sometimes, it’s nice to unburden yourself to a familiar stranger,” Samantha said. She smiled. “Plus, I know all of the players.”
“Well,” Samantha said, after a moment. “You know the paths you need to take.”
“So why are you so upset?” Samantha asked.
“I …” Nash said.
Tears started down his face. Unable to speak, he shook his head. Samantha sat with him until he was calmer. When he was still, he looked up at the clock.
“I have to go,” Nash said.
He jumped up and started out of the house.
“Would you mind if I come to see you later?” Samantha asked.
Nash stopped in his tracks. He turned to her. After a moment, he gave her a brief nod and ran out of the house. Teddy was waiting with their bikes in front of the house.
“You okay?” Teddy asked. “You missed practice.”
Nash grunted. They got on their bikes and rode to O’Malley’s house.