by Grasshopper

Chapter 18

"I'm going to have to find a job," Cody sighed, his rocker making a creaking sound, as he and Jase sat watching the purple sunset sky turn to shades of gray. "I never really thought about how unqualified I am for most work."

Jase smiled, "You'll find something."

"Well, Drifter isn't exactly running over with museums," Cody muttered.

We could move to a big city," Jase said quietly, "Los Angeles, Chicago."

"No way," Cody spluttered, "You'd hate it, Davy would hate it and I'd hate it enough for all three of us." He reached over and laced his fingers in Jases.

"I would if you need to," Jase said softly.

"I know and I love you for it," Cody smiled, "But I'll find something here. Here is where I want to be."

They rocked in the peaceful quiet of the twilight, watching the evening shadows begin to fall and hearing the soft murmur of Davy's voice out in the barn as he curried Sassy and teased the horses.

"It's amazing how Davy's come through all this without being afraid," Jase said, pride in his son glowing in his words.

"I think he feels his mother and his....and Tommy around him."

"Do you really believe all that, Cody?"

"That the people who love us keep us safe even after they're gone?" Cody asked.

"Yeah, the wind and the sun and the spirits?"

Cody rocked and his voice grew soft. "I believe that, yes. I believe we are surrounded by our ancestors. They can't keep us from harm, but they can guide us and make us feel loved. My grandmother Soft Wind spoke to me a lot when I was a boy. I still feel her around me when I'm tired or defeated or scared. She gives me strength." He added gently, "Jase, Davy wants to know what to call Tommy. Talk to him, okay?"

"I will. I want him to be comfortable with who his father was and Cody, I know you're disappointed about the pendant. I guess some things we're just not supposed to know," Jase said, rubbing his thumb over Cody's knuckles. "I'm sorry."

"There's something I'm missing about all that," Cody replied. "I don't know what it is, but some piece is just not quite fitting. The pendant was made for someone in forbidden love....Kajika said that. He said that the man was dead to me. Not dead, Jase....dead TO me. That rankles my brain." He reached up to pull the pendant out of his shirt and touched nothing.

"Damn! I left the pendant with Kajika," Cody frowned. "I guess I was so disappointed I just walked off and forgot it. I'll have to go back and get it."

"I'll go with you if you can wait a few days," Jase said, "I have to catch up with the backlog of work."

"No hurry," Cody smiled. "It's been twenty-two years; another few days won't matter."

Davy could hear the deep rumble of his daddy's voice and the softer reply of Cody's. He grinned and brushed Sassy harder. "Everything's good again, Sas. Cody's back and Daddy's happy. All the bad stuff is over."

Ole Three Paws sat quietly atop the rocky peak watching the barn. He knew when the lights went out his boy would be safe inside the house. He lay down and rested his muzzle on his front paws, his gleaming yellow eyes sharp and alert. He would stand for his boy with his life. That was the way. The wind sighed around him:

"Namid, the evil is close. Take care."

"Davy, watch me draw one," Cody said picking up the ruler and pencil. "Okay, I make the base line three inches long. Now, I put the ruler at the end of that line and draw a line two inches long. With me so far?"

"Yeah, okay," Davy groaned.

"What kind of angle is that?"

Davy wrinkled his eyebrows, remembering what Cody had told him about angles. "It's obtuse, right, cause it's fatter than an 'L' ?"

"Right. Now you connect the two points here and here to make a triangle."

Davy drew a line from the end of the two inch line to the end of the three inch line.

"How long is it?" Cody prompted.

"Umm," Davy measured, his nose wrinkled in concentration, "It's four and um halfway between four and five. That's 4 ½ right? It's 4 ½ inches long." He broke into a big smile.

"Yep, so are any of the lines you drew to make this triangle the same length?" Cody loved to watch Davy work his brain.

"No, and that makes this a scalene triangle, right Cody?"

"Yep, BrainBoy."

Davy giggled. Cody made homework fun. "Now, all I have to do is draw a scalene triangle and an equilateral one and label them and I'll be done."

He drew a line and then stared at it. "Um, Cody, how do I make one with the sides all the same?"

Jase rocked out in the deepening night. This was all he asked for; Cody and Davy and the warm night air. If it was Charity and Tommy who protected them all, then he was grateful and he wouldn't question the night wind.

Later, the breeze blowing the curtains to create dancing shadows of moonlight across the bed, lying side by side, fingers tracing light circles over sweat-cooled skin, Cody said softly, "Jase."


"I have something I need to.................,"

Cody rolled onto his side and then eased himself up to lay like a cover over Jase's body. He rubbed his lips over Jase's and linking their fingers together, raised his arms toward the headboard. Stretching, growling deep in his throat, "I like this. Right here."

Cody's mouth dipped into Jase's neck, sliding down nibbling his chest and then tasting the muscles of his belly, laughing softly when they quivered, feeling the hardness as he moved down.

Coming to his knees between Jase's spread legs, Cody found the warm hazel eyes and locked them with his. "I want you to.............,"

Jase understood, but asked, "Want me to what?"

"I want you inside me. I know that's what you want. Love gets lost, taken away. I love you. I want to be part of you, to feel you loving me the way you want to. I want to know, for just a moment, we belong. I don't want to lose you." Cody's eyes filled with shining tears.

Jase watched the tears build and overflow. He wanted this so much, but he knew that wanting and doing were two different things. He knew how much Mackenzie Jeffers had hurt this beautiful boy, mentally and physically. He knew how much Cody wanted to feel loved, but how terrified he was of what his body was aching for, that feeling of being filled with the very essence of the person you loved. Jase wanted to make love to him so much, but he had to think of Cody first.

"You're never going to lose me," he whispered. "I couldn't love you any more than I do right this minute. I don't have to do that to love you, angel." He gathered Cody into his arms and whispered softly in his ear. "Love you, love you, love you."

"But, I need........," Cody sniffled, not able to express how much he wanted to feel like he belonged to Jase.

Jase held Cody heart to heart, rubbing the small of his back and murmuring softly. "Then, love me. Turn this around, Cody. I need you as much as you need me. You come fill me. You come love me and claim my body. It already belongs to you, but you take it and fill me with the love you have."

Cody's eyes widened. "But, I thought..........,"

"What, you thought that it had to be you? That I wanted to just use you? That's what he taught you and that's wrong. I love you, my heart and my body are yours. I trust you, Cody, that's the difference. You would never hurt me and I hope you know I'd never hurt you."

"He told me he loved me and then he'd hurt me," Cody whispered.

"He was wrong. He was an evil shit, and what you had to endure with him was not love in any form. I don't imagine he's ever loved anyone. All he feels is lust and all he wants is to inflict pain. Don't think about him anymore. He's not worth a thought."

Jase held Cody, as little nervous shudders rippled through his smaller body. This wasn't the time for anymore talk about Jeffers. Hopefully, he was gone from their lives forever. This was just the place for soft sighs, stroking and touching, mouths tasting, bodies giving what could be given. Cody wanted, but he wasn't ready. He might never be ready. Did it matter? Not to Jase McBride. He had what he wanted and, if it took a lifetime to assure Cody that he was loved simply for who he was, not for what he had been or what he had been forced to do, then Jase's lifetime welcomed it.

"Shhh, now, sweetheart. We'll talk all you want to, just know one thing. I love you and you show me you love me in everything from the way you love my son to the way you treat me like a king in this bed. When you left, I thought I would lose my mind. Shh now and go to sleep. Tomorrow is the first normal day we've had in weeks. Let's see how boring we can make it."

Cody smiled, his dark eyes still wet, but his heart calm. Jase understood.

6:30 came early, but Cody, being one of those horrid morning people, was singing along with the country station as he danced around the kitchen to the smell of frying bacon and the sizzle of over easy eggs. Jase groaned and rolled over in the bed, slamming his hand on the snooze alarm.

Davy came in from feeding up the horses and sat down at the table. "Want me to go get Daddy up, Cody?"

"Nah, let him sleep in a little. We'll go over your times tables while you eat breakfast."

"We play 'Around the World' in class and Mrs. Bailey says I'm one of the fastest kids in the room," Davy said proudly.

"Let's see how fast you are. We'll do the doubles first. 9x9."




When Jase walked in 10 minutes later, Davy was laughing, strawberry jam smeared in one corner of his mouth, as Cody tried to get him to say his 9 answers backwards.

"Codyyyy! No one has to know it that way."

"But, it's cool to know," Cody laughed. "Go!"

Davy snorted, "81..72..63..54..45..36..27..18..9. There, I can do it. Did you hear me, Daddy? It's easy the way Cody showed me cause all the numbers add to nine. Want me to do it again?"

Jase grinned weakly, "Sure, Davy Boy."

Cody took pity. "Davy, let your dad wake up. Get all your homework packed, okay? Here's your lunch. I've got to go to the store today, anyone want anything special?"

The talk was light and easy, Davy getting his backpack ready, Jase listing the stops he had to make at ranches around the county.

"You keep your cell on today, Cody."

"Okay, but when I do the battery dies."

"I just want to know where you are." Jase shot him a look that said 'And I want to know you're safe'.

They stood on the front porch watching Davy pedal his way down the long drive toward the highway. He waved as he got to the main road and headed into town.

"Do you think it's safe for him to..................?" Cody started.

"I know," Jase nodded, "I want to keep him in my pocket. It was all I could do not to carry him to school in the truck, but we've got to let it go. He's been riding his bike to school all this year and there's no one left to hurt him."

"Okay," Cody sighed, "I just worry."

Jase tugged Cody's long black ponytail. "We've got to let him be a kid again.

I'll help you with the dishes before I go."

Cody grinned. This part of 'glad he was home' was sure great.

Cody drove down the dusty highway headed for Shiprock. The little general store in Drifter didn't have enough variety and Cody had a long grocery list. He laughed knowing that Jase's little domestic attack wouldn't last much longer and the kitchen would belong to him again.

The Piggly Wiggly had everything on his list plus a few little treats for Davy. The bags loaded in the truck, he pulled out of the parking lot and drove slowly down the main street. Cody hadn't made a big deal out of wanting to find a job with Jase, but it was important to him. A large animal vet in Drifter, New Mexico didn't make enough money for Cody not to be pulling his weight. That stunt he'd just pulled, running off to Connecticut had been way too expensive for Jase.

The little craft store caught his eye as he sat idling, waiting for the light to change. First the name, Helaku Arts and Crafts, and then the small hand-printed sign in the window, Help Needed. It was worth checking out. There was ice cream and milk in the cooler along with chicken and steak. He couldn't stop, but what if someone else got there before he did? He drove around back and found a spot under a big spreading cottonwood. If he only took ten minutes, and no one stole his groceries.....................

Abner drove out to Kajika's small house. He'd been troubled by the events yesterday and wanted to check on the silent man. Hok'ee greeted his arrival with loud barks and yips.

"Where is your master?" he asked the cur, scratching behind his short spiked ears. Hok'ee smelled Abner's pant leg and, recognizing a friend, wheeled around to make a dash for the rising peaks in the distance.

Abner trekked across the warm sand, his hand shading his eyes as he searched for the tall Indian. Seeing his figure high up in the rocks, Abner called out, "Kajika, come down."

Kajika had known from Hok'ee's barking that this was a friend ever since he had heard the truck drive up. He raised his hand in greeting.

"Ya'at'eeh, Aditsan," he called down. "Wait, I will be there."

Abner watched as Kajika climbed nimbly down the rocks. How he did it Abner could not understand. He was blind, had been all these many years. How could he climb amongst the sharp rocks and boulders?

Abner had met Kajika thirteen years ago when the dealer who handled Kokopelli's carvings had become ill. Having heard the stories about the silent one who lived in the hills, Abner had volunteered to drive out and pick up the art pieces out of curiosity.

Curiosity had turned to friendship and Abner had continued to drive out once a week. He loved seeing the beautiful new work that Kajika created, especially as Kajika was blind and worked from memory of the beauty he held in his heart.

Abner knew that Kajika had not always been blind; that something had happened years ago to cause the blindness and it was the reason his friend stayed alone in the hills with just an old cur dog for companionship. He never asked, but always hoped that one day, Kajika would value him as a friend highly enough to tell him.

"Ya'at'eeh, my friend," he said as Kajika stopped in front of him at the base of the rocks.

"Welcome, Aditsan," Kajika said softly. "Why are you here? My work will not be ready until tomorrow."

"I came to see if you were well. Yesterday was strange and you seemed disturbed when we left."

Kajika sighed. "Yesterday was a day I did not see in my dreams." Hesitantly, he asked, "Tell me of the boy who came, Aditsan. What did you see?"

"He is a handsome youth, long hair the color of the crow's wing and eyes full of light."

"He is......Navajo?" Kajika asked.

"He looked to be full-blood but a tilt of the eyes, the shape of his chin, there was hint of white."

Kajika reached for the pendant around his neck and rubbed the carving with his thumb, his mind full of the woman he had lost.

Abner watched his friend grasping the necklace the boy had brought. Did Kajika know more about the owner than he had said yesterday?

"Would you like to talk with him again?" Abner asked, his eyes waiting to see the reaction to his words.

"NO!" Kajika said sharply. Then, realizing his mistake, softened his tone. "No, my friend, what is past is past. It would not help him to know the truth of the stone. It is better that he go on believing that the one he searches for is dead."

"Sometimes," Abner replied, "What is better is not what is needed. Sometimes, only the truth will ease his pain."

"He was in pain?"

"He was. He searches for something that will make him whole. He has had much suffering in his life and what he believed has been shown false. He searches for the truth."

Abner watched Kajika's eyes well with tears. He reached out to his friend, touching his arm.

Kajika murmured, "Even a blind man can cry for what he never had."

Jase turned down the drive toward the house. His afternoon office hours started at 1:00 and he just had time for a sandwich and a beer before his first appointment. He enjoyed going out to the big ranches and taking care of the livestock a lot more than tending to the pets of the citizens of Drifter, but both paid his bills. Plus, he knew how much some of these little cats and dogs meant to their 'parents'.

Mrs. Benson pulled up at the barn in her Bronco just as he swigged the last of his Coors. She was a sweet old thing with blue hair and tight jeans and a heart bigger than all of New Mexico; a true western lady.

"How you doin' today, Ms. Ethel?"

"Howdy, Doc. I'm fit as a fiddle, but ole Sparky here, he's still ailin' with that rheumatism in his back quarters. Can I get some more of that tonic for him?"

Jase ruffled the beautiful old red setter's long ears and lifted him onto the metal examining table. "Let's see how those joints are today, Old Boy."

Jase knew Sparky was hanging on because Ms. Ethel needed him to. Jase would know when it was time and he'd tell her, but for now, there was no pain and Sparky knew his mistress needed him. Putting animals down was the hardest thing Jase had to do. He knew how much they meant to their owners. Sparky had been with Ms. Ethel since before Mr. Charlie died. He was a link to her husband that she wasn't ready to give up yet.

"Mr. Kendell's cocker spaniel, Fancy, dropped a litter last week, Ms. Ethel. Five of the sassiest black and whites you'll ever see. You need to take a ride out and pick you out one. Give ole Sparky here some company."

Jase watched her eyes mist over as she reached for Sparky's fur. "Not quite yet, Doc. Sparky and me do just fine."

Jase heard the sound of a car coming down the front drive. It wasn't a truck so it couldn't be Joe Harold with his hunting dogs. He listened as he continued to check Sparky and visit with Ms. Ethel.

A man walked around the corner of the house and headed toward the barn, a black satchel in his hand. Heavyset, fiftyish with waves of black hair struck with silver, mirrored sunglasses, and a very expensive suit for a salesman, at least that's what Ms. Ethel decided.

"You got company. They're paying em pretty good I guess by the looks of that salesman's outfit."

"I'll be right back," Jase said, as he washed his hands, drying them on his shirt. Walking across the barnyard, he felt a tinkle of unease but shook it away as he spoke to the stranger.

"Hello, what can I do for you?"

"You the man of the house?" the stranger asked, looking around, peering into the kitchen door.

"Yes," Jase answered, smiling to himself thinking that Cody might have something to say about that.

"My name's Jefferson. I'm taking over for the usual salesman for this route in New Mexico. I'd like to show you my line of excellent vacuum cleaners."

"Sorry," Jase smiled, "We've got a good one and I'm not the one that would know anyway."

"Little wife at home? I'd be happy to give her a demonstration."

Now, Jase McBride had two choices.....discuss his private life with a total stranger to defend Cody's place in his world or.........not. He couldn't wait to call Cody "the little wife", but he'd do it with flowers in his hand.

"Sorry," he said again, "Not interested."

"All well and good," the man said, "I'll leave my card and if you change your mind, give me a call." He reached in his pocket and then said, "Oh, I noticed you have a child in the family. I have a free gift for him. I'll just get it from my car."

Jase watched him walk around the corner of the house and turned to Ms. Ethel, "You need a vacuum?"

"Don't you dare be sending any salesman to my house," she laughed. "I had a dickens of a time getting rid of that religious nut selling bibles."

The salesman called from the porch, "I'll just leave his free prize here on the steps. Make sure he gets it. Have a nice day." Jase walked over as he pulled his sunglasses off to wipe the dust away and Jase looked into the coldest eyes he'd ever seen.

"Sure." Jase watched as the man walked away. He heard the car start up and, returning to Ms. Ethel, he gave Sparky a shot for his rheumatism.

"Dang nuisance, that's what those salesman are," Ms. Ethel griped.

Cody opened the door to Helaku Arts and Crafts and smiled when a little bell tinkled above his head. He looked around to see shelf after shelf crammed with Native American crafts. Hand woven baskets, hand loomed rugs and blankets, hand carved kachina dolls and squash blossom jewelry. So much to see and too much at the same time. His hands itched to rearrange the items and create proper settings. Whoever owns this shop knows beautiful things but not how to display them.

"Hello?" he called out to no one.

"Hold on, I'll be there in a minute," a slightly frazzled voice replied from the back room. Cody waited until a woman rushed through the beaded doorway holding a baby in her arms, a toddler clinging to her dress.

"Hey," she said, smiling as the baby pulled a clip from her hair to let it fall into her face. She tried blowing it away with a puff of breath from the corner of her mouth, just to have it fall again. The baby popped his pacifier out of his mouth, threw it across the room and proceeded to burp up all over her shoulder.

"Mommy, I want a drink," the little boy clutching her leg whined.

Mopping at her dress with a beautiful Navajo blanket she grabbed up from the counter, she groaned, "Not now, Benji, Let me talk to the nice man. Sorry, did you see something you wanted to buy?"

Cody nearly laughed. He'd never been in a shop quite like this. No wonder there was a sign saying 'Help Needed'. This poor woman needed all the help she could get.

"I came about the sign in the window."

"Oh, OH!!" she gasped. "You want a job?"

"Yes, ma'am. I don't have a lot of experience in sales but I can learn."

"Do you live around here?" she asked, prying the baby's sticky fingers out of her long red hair.

"I live outside of Drifter. I was here buying groceries and saw your sign," Cody smiled, and scooped a glass figurine out of the toddler's hands.

"Are there people in Drifter I can call, to you know, check up on you?"

"Yes, ma'am. I guess you could call Alan Schneider, the attorney. He knows me and knew my grandfather and grandmother."

The bell over the door jingled and Cody saw a tourist couple come in. He

looked at the owner, her face dabbed with baby barf and back at the lady who was admiring the kachina doll on the table. Seizing the moment, he walked over and said," May I help you?"

Twenty minutes later, he was whistling as he turned the key in the old truck. He had a job, had made his first sale, couldn't wait to organize that little shop, and truly hoped that Jenna Yeomans, the owner, didn't visit very often.

She had told him about her other three children and her trucker husband and that if she didn't get help in the shop, they'd have to close it. Cody assured her that he was good with colors and organizing and could be there days from eight til two, but that he had to be home by three when his son got home from school.

He punched #1 on his cell.

"I got a job."
"Go me!!"
"Yeah, we'll celebrate!"
"In a craft store."
"I can't wait to tell you."
"I'm on the road now."
"Be home by," he looked at his watch, "three."
"Love you."

Cody sang along to the radio as he drove the lonely strip of highway between Shiprock and Drifter. He was so excited thinking about how his life with Jase and Davy was coming together now. They had everything ahead of them. He tried not to think about his father, dead from a lunatic's gun or the evil of Mackenzie Jeffers. He only passed one car, a big gold Lexus with tinted windows headed toward SR64.

"Years ago," Kajika said haltingly, "I reached for the stars, my friend. I tried to take what was forbidden. These eyes are my punishment."

Abner sat down beside Kajika to lean against the heat of the red rocks. "To strive is not forbidden. Is the boy, Helaku, part of your punishment?"

Kajika sighed, "I would give my life to see him. I felt the wind whispering to me over the years, of lives beyond my own, of beating hearts that I had created."

"Hearts?" Abner asked.

"Yes, but I am not to know them. They are better off without a blind man who has a heart of stone."

"I think, my old friend, that your heart is not like the carvings. I think this boy will carve a place in your heart whether you like it or not."

"I will not accept it," Kajika said sadly.

"I don't think your son will accept that, my friend."

Celebration consisted of Cody's famous chicken enchiladas, slightly mushy ice cream and lots of hugs.

"Can I come see where you work, Cody?" Davy asked.

"Sure, Punkin. Give me a few days to get it cleaned up and maybe your dad will drive you over."

"Will you, Daddy?"

Jase looked at the smiling faces of his family. He would have driven Davy and Cody to the moon tonight if either had asked.

Lacing his fingers through Cody's, he smiled, "Sure, Davy Boy. We gotta go check out what Cody's doing."

"I won't be making much, but it'll buy the groceries," Cody said.

"Hun, you know you......................,"

"I do too. It may not be a museum, but it's a start. Jenna was telling me that business really picks up around the time of the Shiprock Fair in the fall. People come from all over the country. Maybe I can find out more about the pendant." His voice lowered and he frowned. "Sorry, not going there tonight. Anyone want some more ice cream?"

Sitting on the back porch, watching the sun begin its dip toward the horizon, Jase stretched his long legs and felt a twinge from the bullet wound. It didn't bother him too much, but it did jump up and bite him every once in awhile.

He could hear Cody and Davy cleaning out the horse stalls and laughing when Davy stepped in a pile of crap. Or maybe that was just Cody laughing. Jase smiled. He could get used to this quiet everyday happiness. No more danger, no more mystery. Charity and Tommy could rest easy now.

Cody picked Davy up and held him upside down over the water trough. "You gonna quit?" he laughed as he threatened to drop Davy in.

"No," Davy squealed. "You made me. You tricked me."

Cody lowered the long black hair toward the water. "Okay, you're going in."

"No No No," Davy shrieked. "Cooooooooooodddddddddyyyyyyyy!!"

Hefting him up over one shoulder, Cody carried a still protesting Davy over to the porch. They plopped down on the steps, Davy resting his head against Cody's leg.


"Yes, Daddy?"

"I need to tell you. Tell you about your father."

Cody started to stand up.

"No, you're our family now. What we say, we say together."

Davy got up and walked over to lean against his daddy's knee.

"Your father was a good man, a wonderful man. He was my best friend. I loved him very much."

"He was killed by the mean man, right Daddy?"

"Yes, he was killed trying to help you mother."

"Help her?"

"Yes, Tommy knew he was bad and he went to the.....mean man to tell him to stop bothering your mother. He died trying to help."

"He was a brave warrior then," Davy smiled.

"He was. His name was Quiet Water, son of Climbing Wolf and Snow Bird. They live over in Arizona. I'll take you to meet them very soon."

"I have a grandmamma and granddaddy?" His face broke out in a big grin.

"Yes, they will love you. You look just like your father."

"I look like my....," Davy cut his eyes at Cody, "My birth daddy?"

"Yes, I have pictures I'll show you. You have his eyes and his crooked smile."

"You loved my daddy?"


"Do I call him Quiet Water?"

"I think that would be a respectful way to remember him. It was his birth name and how I think of him," Jase said quietly.

"Cody, I have three dads, one mom, three grandmas and two grandpas. I have a very big family, don't I?"

Cody's felt the tears and blinked them back. He was Davy's dad now. . "You've got lots of people who love you, Davy Boy. You're a lucky kid."

Jase rocked back in his chair. Life couldn't get any better than this.

"What's that, Daddy?"

Jase looked over to where Davy was pointing. He remembered the strange salesman and the free gift. "Oh, a guy came by today selling vacuum cleaners and wanted to speak the little woman." He grinned at Cody, who immediately stuck out his tongue. "He left you a free gift."

Davy ran over and picked up the small brightly wrapped box. "What's in it, Daddy?"

"We won't know till you open it, kiddo," Cody smiled.

Just as Davy pulled the ribbon and the sparkly paper slid off, Jase wondered how the man had known there was a child in the house.

"Davy! Wait! Let me have that b................................,"

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