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Nobody cared.

And in the end, when it really counted, my father turned out to be a real father after all.

We were standing in the bathroom and King was yet again replacing the bandages on my back over my burns. Since it had to be done three times a day, he’d become an expert. King had also been doing research on tattooing over scars and visited the artist who had done some of the work for Jake’s wife, who had scars all over her body and tattoos covering a lot of them. He had a sketch ready for me, but I wasn’t ready to look at it just yet. I still had to shut my eyes when King changed my bandage, not yet able to come to terms with my ruined skin. But when I was healed, both physically and mentally, I knew King would be able to make something beautiful over something so ugly.

I was in rough shape for a couple of weeks, but I was finally starting to feel like myself again and just in time too, because in less than twenty-four hours, we would become full-time parents.

“I took the last of the boxes down to the Goodwill,” King said, pressing his lips into my neck.

It would’ve taken King only a few hours to clear out Preppy’s stuff from the house. But he didn’t want to just get rid of his things, or push them aside like it was a job that needed to be done. Bear felt the same way, so the two of them spent two days and nights holed up in Preppy’s room, going through his stuff, reminiscing about old times, and drinking their way through a case of tequila, getting high, and doing God only knows what with the whatever they may have found stashed in Preppy’s room.

It was done, and Preppy’s room had all been cleared out. Just in time too. Because it took a lot of adjusting on all of our parts, but with the help of Tanner’s parents, who I had to reassure a million times weren’t going to be cut out of Sammy’s life, he was finally coming to live with us in the morning. I didn’t want to rip him away from them suddenly; it wouldn’t be good for anyone. Plus, I’d needed time to heal. The last few weeks had been a transition, not just for Sammy, but for all of us. “I’m so happy he’s coming home today, especially now that I’m mobile,” I said.

“Some other things come to mind that we can do now that you’re mobile. Dirty fucking things,” King said, giving my waist a squeeze. My stomach fluttered and I’m not sure if it was his words, or the baby. I clasped my hands over his and looked at King’s reflection in the mirror. I couldn’t help but think about Max and what could’ve been.

“I see that look, and know what you’re thinking, Pup. But you have to stop focusing on the bad shit. We’ve done enough of that. Max will have a good family who will take care of her and give her everything she could ever want. Yeah, it fucking sucks, and there isn’t a second that goes by that I don’t want to be in her life, but she’s been through enough shit as it is. She doesn’t need to spend the next fifteen years in foster care just because I was too fucking selfish to sign off on her having a real life or because I wanted to fight the system some more and not get anywhere. Besides, when she’s older, maybe she’ll want to meet me. Meet us. And that’s the day I’ll focus on when shit gets heavy in my head,” King said.

“Where did I get such an amazing strong man?” I asked.

“You came to his party one night…” King laughed. “Come on, let’s go.”

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“You’ll see,” he said, mischief glinting in his eyes.

King led me through the grass. I had to hop over bricks from the fire pit that had met their end in some sort of explosion. A burnt hole in the center of the yard is all that remained. Whenever I asked about it, King would just shrug and tell me that it wasn’t his story to tell.

We passed the dilapidated garage, which was falling over more and more every day. King had plans to tear it down and build a new one. A bigger one with a new tattoo shop and apartment for Bear.

If he wanted it.

King led me over to the dock, the place where he’d first shared with me his deepest secrets all those months ago.

Max. His Mom.

It seemed like a million years ago yet was as clear to me as if it happened that morning. “You know, with all the shit that’s happened over the last few months, there were a few times I thought I’d never be standing on this dock with you again,” King said.

“Just so we’re clear, you’re not letting me go this time?” I whispered. King spun me around in his arms. I placed the palms of my hands over his hard chest. The warmth of his skin warmed my hand through his shirt.

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