Building Things Chapter 40

Conner walked out of the bedroom and came into the living room, seeing Alec sitting at the table. Conner was adjusting his tie, looking at Alec who had his hands in his hair, elbows on the table and was staring down at a scattered stack of paperwork before him. Conner knew what it was and smiled to himself as he drew near the opposite end of the table.

"Hey, babe," Conner said, "Why don't you give that up for a while and we can work on it together tonight when I get home?" Alec slowly lifted his eyes from the scattered papers and just stared at Conner.

"Wow." Alec said softly, dropping his hands away, laying his arms on the table. "You look so awesome."

"Thanks." Conner smiled softly. "I've gotta go, I'll see you tonight alright?" Conner asked as he came around the table looking down at Alec. There was a wider smile from Conner now, as he bent down and kissed Alec, then pulled back, seeing something. "You okay?" Alec just nodded.

"Yeah. I just can't get over how hot you always look in your suits."

"Hmmm, it's that tailoring thing that I had done." Conner winked. "Always does that you know, to any suit."

"God, you're gorgeous." Alec almost swooned. Conner smiled his million dollar smile and then chuckled.

"Thanks. I'm glad I'm running late, otherwise I'd eat your underwear off you right now." Conner wiggled his eyebrows.

"Oh, anytime."

"Fine...tonight, you, me, table, underwear...right?"

"Whatever you want." Alec whispered. Conner kissed him again, and then picked up his briefcase and winked as he walked out the door, leaving Alec alone, hard, and out of breath...

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Ty was walking in from the back door, wiping his hands on an old towel, seeing Derrick rinsing out a coffee cup at the sink. Ty smiled at him, only seeing the shirt Derrick wore, a button down powder blue long sleeve, Derrick's soft olive complexion and his dark hair accented by the color of the shirt. Ty walked around the counter and now saw the dark slacks that Derrick wore, and that they were trim and slim on him, down to his black shiny slip-ons.

"Wow, you look very impressive. I probably shouldn't get to close, I'm covered in grout already."

"Mmmm," Derrick said as he leaned close to Ty, "you smell like a man, and I love it. If I didn't have this meeting this morning, I'd so drop on my knees and blow you right now, mmmm."

"And I would so let you." Ty wiggled his eyebrows. "Who's the meeting with?"

"That stupid ass lawyer thing that Tom got us into. We finally got through to them and they agreed to a meeting. I've got to figure out a way to get us out of it. You know, the Van Owen issue." Derrick rolled his eyes. Ty nodded his understanding. "I told Tom to dress to kill, I hope he does."

"Ahh, it'll be alright. You'll knock 'em dead, you always do." Ty said, continuing to smile.

"What are you going to do today?" Derrick returned the smile.

"Knock out the rest of the wall with the grout, and if I have time, I'll schedule the electricians for trim and final."

"Sounds good, then we can figure out the flooring. I still can't make up my mind."

"Sounds like a shopping trip to me." Ty rolled his eyes.

"Oh you love it and you know it." Derrick chuckled. "Now give me a kiss, I've got to go." Ty leaned in and Derrick gave him a long kiss then slowly pulled back. They looked at each other for a long moment. "I love you, you know?"

"I know." Ty wiggled his eyebrows, and Derrick only shook his head while closing his eyes. He turned and went for his keys and then headed for the front door, leaving Ty alone in the kitchen.

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Alec got out of the shower and got dressed, his good tight jeans and a nice pullover. He did his hair and checked his look after brushing his teeth and then went to the dining room table. He picked up an envelope there and stared at it for a few seconds and made sure he really wanted to do this. He pulled up his resolve and decided. He took in a deep breath and let it out and then grabbed his keys, and walked out of the apartment and headed downstairs to the parking lot to his car. He got in and started it. He pulled out of the parking lot and started driving across town, the envelope in the seat, staring at him. He looked at it from time to time. He kept driving and then as he started to pass the green rolling grassy areas, the manicured lawns, and the large homes were coming into view as he came up and over the curved hill, he slowed down and started looking for the street numbers out in front, and then saw it. He pulled into the large cobblestoned circular driveway. He was here. Again with another deep breath, and then let it out slowly. He grabbed the envelope and got out of the car.

He walked up to the large doorway and rang the bell, rubbing his sweaty palms on his jeans. The girl that answered the door was in a longer black skirt and a white blouse. She smiled at him, and Alec thought he had seen her before but wasn't sure.

"May I help you?"

"Yes, I'd like to see Mr. And Mrs. Van Owen, if I could?" Alec asked. She knew exactly who he was, she didn't approve of him at all, the competition as it were, so to speak, but she knew that she could not deny him also. She opened the door wider for him and let Alec in. He looked around in the foyer and was in awe. He had never seen anything like this before up close in his life, only in pictures or on TV. He heard a voice in front of him.

"Good morning, young man." The older lady said. Alec looked at her, remembering her clearly. Conner had her eyes, and Alec smiled softly at seeing them.

"Good morning, ma'am." Alec said, tipping his head slightly toward her. She approached him slowly coming out of a formal looking living room. Her hands were in front of her as she came closer.

"What can we do for you?" She asked, her voice was almost business like, cool and aloof. Alec was aware that the girl was still there, almost behind him, remaining silent and not moving.

"I came to deliver this...for you and your husband." Alec said as he held out his hand, taking a couple of steps toward her. She looked at it, but did not reach for it, but waited. Her eyes slowly went back up to his, but only after she had scanned every inch of Alec. She showed no emotion, no reaction, nothing.

"I don't think that will be necessary." She finally said, and Alec's heart stopped, his throat went tight, and he didn't know what to do. All of a sudden, it was like his life was flashing before his eyes. He was not prepared for her to say something like that at all. He had had thoughts that she might take it and see it and only smile, or just say thank you at least, Alec had felt, thought, wanted to at least invite them, to do the right thing, to be the better person, for Conner's sake, to make the gesture at least. She crushed him, taking it all away in an instant. Derrick had warned Alec of this, had tried to stop Alec but Alec had pressed the argument, and Derrick understood, giving Alec the address.

"He came out here for something." The voice boomed to Alec's left. Alec jumped in spite of himself and looked toward the voice. A large towering man stood in the large hallway, holding a glass. "At least hear him out." He said and she scowled toward the man but looked back at Alec and Alec met her gaze, extending the envelope again, further toward her. She took it carefully and slowly opened it, pulling the invitation out. She read it and then held it out to the girl that was still behind Alec. She silently walked and took it to the large man in the hallway. He handed her the glass in trade for the envelope, he opened the invitation and read it, and then looked back at Alec, scanning every bit of him as well, then put the invitation back in the envelope.

"I thank you for delivering it, young man," She said taking a step closer to him, "but I'm afraid that we have a prior engagement on the day in question. Please understand that we will not be able to attend." She was cold in her tone, final, choosing each and every word carefully. Alec was certainly crushed, but he had resolved himself to be the better person in all of this, he did not show any hint of emotion at all. "Phoebe will show you out. Thank you for stopping by." She turned and began to walk away, as the girl, Phoebe, came over to open the door for Alec.

"Just a moment." The man boomed. Alec turned and looked at him. "I'd like to ask, does my son know that you are here?" The older lady stopped and turned around looking at Alec and then to her husband, then back at Alec.

"No, sir, he does not." Alec said, with a firmness in his voice. He was not sweating in his palms any longer, he was angry now. Alec had listened to Conner and to Derrick talking about these people, never really understanding how these people could really be like they were. He realized that he had been wrong, dead wrong, and Conner and Derrick had been right all along, what an idiot you have been, Alec thought of himself.

"I thought as much." Van Owen boomed. "Tell me, young man, would you have a few minutes?" Alec's eyes went wide, and he gulped...out of the frying pan...he wanted to panic, but thought of Conner, this is for Conner.

"Yes, sir, I have a few minutes." Alec smiled, not looking at her at all now.

"Why don't you come with me?" The man said, turning, making it sound more like a command than a request. Alec followed, and they entered into a room that was lined with bookcases and woodwork, filled with books. The desk was to the far wall and was almost the size of Alec's car. The man went and sat behind it. "Have a seat." Alec sat in an overstuffed leather chair, which was very comfortable, but he felt like a little kid in it, he scooted forward to the edge.

"My name is Clayton Van Owen." He said as he sat back in his own large leather chair, rocking back a little. "I'm sure that my son has talked about us to you."

"He doesn't say very much, sir."

"Not surprised, I suppose. And you are?" Van Owen asked, telling Alec that he really didn't read the invitation, only scanned it.

"Alec Marquez."

"Well, Mr. Marquez, I would say that you have some backbone to you. You could have just dropped that envelope in the mail, instead you brought it out here. Is there another reason that you have for coming out here?"

"Actually sir, there is. I was curious, I guess, to see if what Conner says about you is true."

"Oh, what does he say?"

"Well, sir, I'd rather not say. I'm not here to continue a family feud. Your problems are between yourselves and your son. I am here to simply extend an invitation to something that is important to your son's life. Something that he is very excited about."

"Excited." Van Owen said, just staring at Alec over the top of the desk.

"Yes. Actually, he's the one who started arranging all of this. He was trying to keep it as a surprise. I figured it out, and then I finally got involved."

"Sounds like his mother." Van Owen muttered softly.

"Beg your pardon?"

"I said, that's what his mother did. She did everything when we got married, I didn't get involved until near the end, besides showing up at the church." Van Owen cracked a smile at the memory, then came back to focus on Alec. "Is there anything else that you wanted?"

"No sir, I did what I intended to do." Alec said, getting up out of the chair.

"Do you work, or do you go to school?" Van Owen asked.

"I work. I'm an assistant chef at a local restaurant."

"Really. Are you any good?" Van Owen gave a half smile toward Alec.

"Your son has never complained about my cooking." Alec said with a lifted eyebrow.

"He needs to eat, he's too damned skinny as it is." Van Owen said with another half grin, and Alec saw a slight change in the man, and knew this wasn't business, this was about his son, and Alec realized that there was more to this man than what Conner and Derrick saw. Alec thought he'd take a chance.

"Well, if you pardon me for saying it, I think he's perfect just the way he is." Alec said in a flat tone.

"You don't say." Van Owen said equally flat. He got to his feet, then came around the desk. "I have a meeting with the board this afternoon, my son will be there."

"I would like to keep this between us, if that's alright?"

"Why is that?"

"Let's just say, I don't want him upset. This was my idea, and he doesn't need to know."

"Secrets?" Van Owen asked.

"For the time being. At least until tonight." Alec said, again with a firmness.

"Alright. I can respect that."

"Thank you, sir." Alec said and put out his hand. Van Owen took it, giving it a firm shake.

"Let me show you out. I'm sure you have other things to do besides sit here and talk to an old man." Van Owen said, walking Alec to the door. They went to the front door, and Phoebe opened it for Alec. Alec turned and shook Van Owen's hand again.

"It was a pleasure to meet you." Alec said, taking his hand back and then walked out of the house. He heard the door close behind him, taking in a deep breath and then letting it out. He went to his car and got in. He composed himself and then drove away back toward town.

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"Why do you encourage such things?" She asked as he headed back for his study, stopping him.

"In case you don't remember, he is still our son." Van Owen looked toward the front door and Phoebe. She ducked her head and walked away quickly. Then he turned and looked at his wife.

"He seems like a nice young man."

"A nice young man?" She asked. "He was at Mr. Jacobson's house the day I went to see Conner."

"And?"

"And...he's one of them."

"So is our son. There doesn't seem to be anything that we can do about it. I'm learning to live with it." Van Owen said as he walked away.

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Derrick and Tom pulled up to the building and Derrick parked on the street. Derrick knew it as a law firm, but he didn't know much about them. He thought he should have called Sid and asked him, but didn't. Hind sight, oh well. He got out, as did Tom, carrying a large satchel. They walked inside and up to a receptionist. She was on the phone, talking to someone, but smiled at them acknowledging their presence. She finally hung up the phone.

"Can I help you?"

"Yes, we're here to see Mr. Rentner. We have an appointment."

"Just a moment." She smiled and picked up the phone. "Mr. Rentner, your nine o'clock is here." She said and then paused, she was listening, then hung up the phone. She smiled back at Derrick and Tom. "If you gentlemen will go down this hallway through that door, Mr. Rentner will see you now." She said, pointing to her left.

"Thank you." Derrick said, smiling back at her. They walked away together, Derrick opening the door and holding it for Tom, then letting it close by itself. They saw an older balding man in a suit standing in a doorway watching them coming closer.

"Mr. Rentner?" Derrick asked.

"Yes." He said in a mild voice and gave a faint smile.

"Derrick Jacobson." Derrick said holding out his hand. Rentner shook it, giving a weak handshake. "This is my business partner, Tom Donahue." Rentner shook Tom's hand in the same weak manner.

"Won't you gentlemen come in, please?" Rentner stepped inside the conference room, with a long table in its center, chairs all around it. "I'm sorry that the principle client isn't here yet. They should be here any minute, I hope. Won't you sit down?"

"Thank you." Derrick said, going to the other side of the table, near the head, Tom following him, placing the satchel next to his chair.

"Are those the plans for the proposed project?"

"Not exactly." Derrick said. Rentner looked confused. "There are some issues that needed to be discussed first. Perhaps we should wait for your principle client to arrive? Then we can get down to it."

"Well, I thought that we were going to discuss the plans that you had?" Derrick looked at Tom, who raised an eyebrow. Derrick had heard the conversation on Tom's end of the phone that day, and nothing like that was said.

"Apparently there is a bit of confusion, so let's all discuss it and get on the same page, shall we?" Derrick was doing his best to keep his anger in check. He knew that he and Tom were being played now, and he didn't like it, not at all. Derrick went to say something when the door opened, and two men walked in. Derrick wanted to smile seeing the one, but didn't. Tom went to say something, recognizing him, but Derrick elbowed Tom in the ribs under the table.

"Ah, gentlemen, thank you for coming." Rentner said. Derrick and Tom stood up. "Mr. Derrick Jacobson, Mr. Tom Donahue, I'd like you to meet the principle client in this, ABL Corporation, they are represented by Mr. Conner Van Owen, and his assistant..."

"Caleb West." The stunning young man said. Derrick was drooling inside seeing this guy, wow.

"Mr. Jacobson..." Conner said, shaking hands with Derrick, then reaching and taking Tom's hand, "Mr. Donahue."

"Mr. Van Owen, it's a pleasure." Derrick said, then reached for West's hand. "Mr. West."

"Mr. Jacobson." The young man's grip lingered longer than it should and his eyes roamed over Derrick. West pulled his hand and shook Tom's, "Mr. Donahue."

"Mr. West."

"Well, now that we're all acquainted, why don't we get down to it." Rentner said. Derrick and Conner eyed each other, but never gave it away.

"I'll come right to the point, gentlemen," Derrick said, as he remained standing, the others sat, "Tom." Derrick said, and Tom picked up the satchel, putting it on the table. Derrick opened it, and pulled out the spread sheets and renderings that they had been sent, along with the vague particulars. "In short, gentlemen, this proposal doesn't make sense. The measurements given here, along with the renderings, and the proposed site, do not fit. What you have here belongs to another location or site. If you wish us to proceed with providing blueprint for this project we need better information than vague outlines. And if this is what you want built, it would appear that you already have blueprint on this structure, as you have this rendering. So, I question why you involve us?"

"Mr. Jacobson, do you have specifications of the proposed project?" Conner asked.

"Not enough in detail, Mr. Van Owen."

"What do you require?"

"Better documentation, a rendering of what you really would like, and a true size for accommodation. The site may not be suited for need of size. Have you bothered to check on the size of the lot?"

"We haven't had the time..."

"Well let me help you with that. We took the liberty of checking with the Building Department." Derrick said, getting the document from them showing the plot size. "You can have this copy, we have the original. You asked what else we require? Is there a time table that we are facing? And as we have waited for over a week and a half just to hear from you, if we are now pressed for time, I need to know to put more resources into it." Derrick gave a fake smile toward Conner and West. "Now, either you call us direct or have your attorney voice it to us, but we need to know and soon, as our firm has other clients to serve, and we need to give them consideration. If this is becoming a rush job, then I would suggest that you find another architectural firm." Derrick looked over at Tom. "Tom." Derrick said, and Tom gathered everything and placed it back in the satchel, getting to his feet. "I think we're done here, good day to you gentlemen." Derrick smiled and started toward the door.

"Mr. Jacobson," West said, getting to his feet, "our corporation has already paid for your services. I would suggest that you..." Derrick stopped and turned, Conner looked up at the ceiling knowing it was coming.

"Mr. West, I would suggest that if it's the money that is your primary concern, that I shall have a company check cut and refund every last cent. What you people have given doesn't make sense, and if you want a structure to be designed and built that will fall down around your heads, have someone else do it for you, we certainly won't."

"You have been given measurements and specifications already." West said, Derrick getting closer to him with every step.

"That don't make sense, as I said. Have you not been listening? How long have you been an architect, Mr. West? I've been one for almost twenty years. I can pick your own house apart detail by detail in under three minutes. It'll make your head spin. I'm telling you this doesn't make sense, and it can be a danger. Now, when you get your head on straight and figure out what you want, let us know." Derrick said, turning and went for the door.

"There's also a contract that was signed."

"I'll have my lawyer call yours." Derrick said looking at him from the door, then walked out, Tom following him.

"Holy shit," Tom said.

"Save it until we're outside." Derrick said softly, going through the doorway and they walked out of the building. Derrick gave a sigh as he reached the car.

"Wasn't that the guy that was staying at your house?"

"Yes." Derrick said.

"Holy shit. I thought you guys were friends?"

"Still are." Derrick said.

"But with all that?"

"It's business." Derrick said, unlocking the doors.

"But..."

"Tom, I know how to put friendship aside from business, don't you think? I mean, I didn't kill you for signing the contract without me in the first place, did I?" Derrick asked, and Tom gulped.

"You want me to walk back to the office?"

"Get your fucking ass in the car." Derrick smirked, and then got in.

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Conner and West were walking out of the office, heading for the street. Conner wasn't saying anything, West was mumbling more to himself than to Conner. They walked through and out of the building. Conner stopped and looked around hoping he might see Derrick still there. They continued walking around into the parking lot of the building.

"Aren't you going to say anything? I think he was way out of line with that whole deal of his. Somebody needs to knock him down a peg or two..." West said, and then stopped as Conner grabbed him by his lapels and swung him around to face Conner.

"Get it through your head, we aren't always right!" Conner growled. "If the man says it's wrong, it's wrong! We need to find out. Something's not right with this whole thing. I'll check into it personally." Conner said, and then let West go. West pulled his jacket, straightening it out. Conner went to the car and opened it and got in. West was quiet the whole way back to the office.

Conner parked and walked into the office, he stopped and checked for any messages. The girl there handed him a few, he took them, looking them over and walked to his own office. He went around his desk and sat down. He organized them to priority, and looked up seeing West standing there in the door way, his arms crossed over his chest. Conner just stared at him for a moment.

"You know him, don't you?" West asked. Conner sat back.

"And if I do?"

"It might be a problem." West said.

"How?" Conner asked.

"Familiarity breeds favoritism." West said. Conner chuckled.

"You sound like my father. That's one of his quotes."

"He was right." West said.

"No, he was wrong. Familiarity has a root word and that's family, something he doesn't believe in. Breeds, means screw, something he does and does with this corporation, favoritism, yeah, he shows it, he has his little clicks and buds, his favorites. You need to open your eyes, and see what's really going on. My father has a personal issue with that man, and what's going on is intentional, he stalling for time, hoping he can damage them in some way." Conner said. It was falling on deaf ears, West was in the elder Van Owens pocket, as was playing the game to get ahead. Conner knew it, and knew that West could be dangerous, as he had been placed as Conner's assistant, presumably by his father, and Conner also knew that he was trapped in the game, and had to find a way out. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some calls I have to return." Conner said. West turned and walked away. Conner sighed as he dialed the phone.

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Derrick was sitting behind his desk, thinking. He was sitting in his chair, turned away from his desk, his forearms on his thighs, hands folded together, as he stared blankly at the wall. He didn't hear the knock on his open door.

Terry stood there in the doorway, knowing Derrick was deep into it, his thinking, he had seen it a few times before, and thought to himself, do I interrupt him, or do I wait? Hmmm, tough decision. Tom came up next to Terry and looked in, seeing it for himself.

"Oh." Tom said, softly. "Yeah, I'm fucking dead. I'll just be in my office." Tom turned and walked away. Terry watched him for a minute, then turned back to Derrick. He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. He knocked again. Derrick didn't look up. Ok, decision made. Terry walked in and stood in front of Derrick.

"Boss?" Terry asked. Nothing. "Boss?!" Derrick snapped and looked up.

"Hey, what's up bud?" Derrick asked with a small smile.

"There's some things that Neal needs to go with you, and Claire has some checks that need to be signed. Kim says she's been trying to get a hold of you, but you're not answering the phone."

"I didn't hear it." Derrick said, looking at the phone on his desk. He felt his pocket vibrate. He reached in and pulled out his cell phone, looking at it. Five simple words were on the screen.

"Is it safe to talk?"

Derrick smiled and opened the phone. He texted back; in a minute. Derrick looked up at Terry.

"You said something about Neal?" Derrick asked.

"Boss, you alright?"

"Yeah, meeting this morning, it's got me thinking."

"Well, there's an understatement." Terry said, Derrick had a blank look. "Boss, Neal has some things he needs you to check over. Claire needs to see you as well." Terry was trying to get into Derrick's field of vision. "Hello?"

"Yeah, I hear you, yeah. Neal, Claire...what about Kim?"

"Yeah, call her...she says she's trying to get you on the phone?"

"Okay, sure...yeah, I'll get to her." Derrick said, tapping his fingers on the desk. He got up. He looked at Terry. "What time is it?"

"Ten thirty."

"Damn it." Derrick said. "Where is Tom?"

"He's in his office, probably hiding under his desk." Terry said, narrowing his eyes. "Boss, is there something I can do for you?"

"No, bud, I'm fine. Something has just occurred to me, that's all. Where's Tom?"

"In his office."

"Right. Okay, I'll see Claire first and then Neal. Tell Kim I'll be with her in a few minutes."

"What do you want to do about Tom?"

"Tom?" Derrick looked surprised, then at Terry, then smiled wide, "I'll kick his ass later." Terry's eyes went wide. "Oh, did we get all the stuff done for Beckett?"

"The last of it is with Neal, I'm sure that what he wants to see you about."

"Right." Derrick said and went around his desk. He opened his cell again and texted; Tonight. House. And closed his phone. He walked out of his office. Terry followed into the hallway, but split off to go to Kim. Derrick walked over to where Claire was, in her little corner. Derrick hated it, and had offered her a larger space, but she declined, liking her small like confinement. It was 'organized clutter', Derrick always called it, and had threatened to move her anyway, saying that one day she would come in and have her own open wide space. She would only glare at him, and threaten to quit if he did, and became their little personal joke. Claire was really sweet and reminded Derrick of one of his favorite aunts. She always made him smile, and he needed a little 'Clair time' right now. Derrick knocked on her little cubicle wall. She had her back to him.

"Permission to enter?" He asked. She turned and looked up at him.

"It's about time." She said with a tone. "I've been looking to see you since yesterday."

"Really? I just the summons just a few minutes ago." Derrick cocked his head a little and she winked up at him. He smiled at her warmly. "I'm told that people want money, who is it now?"

"You know, the usual's, the monthly vultures? They want money to keep the lights on, the internet, city fees, stuff like that?" She said and gave him a wink.

"Okay, where do I sign?" Derrick said, clicking a pen. She handed him one after the other, and he signed it them on a stack of paperwork she had, handing them back to her. "Tell me, I'm signing money out, do we have anything coming back in?"

"Oh, tons." She said, handing him another one. "I should be able to retire by this time next year to the Bahamas." She said in a dead pan voice.

"Remind me to have the accountant double check the books next week." Derrick said as he signed the last one.

"Don't bother, he's going with me." She said as she turned back toward her desk. Derrick smiled and shook his head. Derrick walked away heading toward Neal. Near the back of the building was a large room that had large tables and desks in it. Derrick called it 'the Core', where the juniors did all of their drafting or did their work on computers. The Core was decorated with different types of wall art, pictures, posters, paintings, lithos, Derrick had told them they could do what they wanted as it was their work space as long as it wasn't graphic or inappropriate. There was music playing from a stereo system that was in the corner, and all of them had decided to rotate types of music every day to accommodate everyone's tastes. Something that Derrick definitely approved of. Music meant productivity, and as long as they were happy, taken care of, paid well, Derrick saw results, and he was very happy with Neal and his capabilities. Neal smiled when Derrick came in the Core. Derrick smiled back as he walked up to him. The other juniors looked up and smiled at Derrick as well. Most of them were interns, students from the college, studying architecture, and Derrick and Tom always took them in, giving them jobs, remembering what it was like being starving college students once themselves.

"Thanks for coming Boss." Neal said, looking over some drafts on his table.

"No problem. Sorry it took me so long. Claire wanted to spend your paycheck." Derrick frowned, and Neal went wide eyed. "Only kidding. What's up?"

"It's a couple of these Beckett deals. One's an addition, but it looks like they're adding an addition to another addition." Neal said, handing Derrick an 8x10 photograph of before, then the print for the addition, then a rendering for the final. It looked like a mess to Derrick.

"Hmmm. I see what you mean. They want to add on...here." Derrick pointed at the photo."

"Yeah, they do, it's gonna look like hell."

"I see what you mean." Derrick said, thinking for a moment. "Okay, do this. Do the one that Sam needs to get to his client. Then do one, that makes it a blend, all the way through, front to back, make it a rendering only, from the rear perspective, then put a personal note on it, telling Sam that it would look better this way, he'll see it, propose it to his client, and if he accepts it, you get the credit for the idea." Derrick looked at Neal, and Neal smiled warmly and blushed. "Now, what else?"

"Uh...this other one. It's a building downtown here, for a 'reno'. They want to change the fa├žade as well. I think they're missing out on the neighborhood and the buildings, trying to go modern rather than staying with the historical point. I mean, they can spruce it up, but if they change it totally, it will stick out like a sore thumb, you know?" Neal said, and looked up at Derrick. Derrick smiled back at him and put a hand on Neal's shoulder.

"Hold on a second." Derrick said softly to Neal. He turned and looked back at everyone else. "Hey, you guys? Everybody have a second? Come on over here. Neal has an interesting problem." Derrick said, and everyone got up from what they were doing and gathered around them. "Okay, give it again bud." Derrick said softly. Neal spoke to everyone, but like he was only speaking to Derrick. He finished and Derrick looked back at all of them.

"Understand, we give the client what they want," Derrick said to all of them, looking around at all gathered there, "but Neal understands as an architect that there are many other things to take into consideration, the neighborhood where the structure stands, like Neal said, it will stick out like a sore thumb, and in my opinion, he's right. The other things to consider are budget, preference, the builder and his knowledge, plus understanding what the client is actually trying to accomplish. In this case, it's an established business, and they're trying to catch the eye to draw in more, I can understand that, but as architects, we can offer them so much more, we can give their structure character, warmth, appeal. Understanding where it stands and what it means, gives it dimension, scope." Derrick said, and everyone was truly listening. Derrick turned back to Neal, "Beckett paid for only one rendering, and that's the modernistic approach that the client ordered. Do that. But, what I want you to do, is give him another one, lending to what you were saying about the neighborhood, give it a facelift, but not out of scope. What do you say?"

"But he only paid for the one."

"I know. But, you're standing on principle, your belief that it's not right. I agree. Give him something to back to the client with, to give as another proposal. I know Sam Beckett, he'll eat this up. He thinks like we do, wants to keep it the same, and not make this like so many other cities in other areas with a mishmash of different styles. He will see it and will pitch it, believe me. And I guarantee that other businesses in the same area will see it and will want the same. He make money, we'll make money. If I have to give him a freebie, it's no problem at all. It's worth it in the end." Derrick looked back at everyone. "Understand that? Standing on principle, it's what we do here in this firm. I won't do it any other way." Derrick looked back at Neal.

"Thanks, Boss."

"No, thank you Neal. You're doing the right thing, and I'm proud of that." Derrick said and shook Neal's hand. "So are you good?" Neal answered with a nod. "Good, do whatever you need, I know you'll make it right. Save this one for last tough, do the residence first, I know Sam, he makes more money off business customers, it's the residential customers that keeps his cash flow going though. The faster you get him that one, the better he'll like it." Derrick smiled, "Okay?" Neal nodded again, "Okay, if you want me to check it again, let me know."

"Thanks, Boss." Neal said. Derrick winked, then turned and looked at everyone.

"Hey, what are you all standing around for?" Derrick held up his hands, "Get back to work." Then Derrick smiled and everyone saw it. "Hey, that's a great song, somebody crank that up." Derrick smiled again and walked out of the Core. He headed toward Kim. Coming down the hallway, hearing music in the background behind him, he smiled again. He went by Terry's door, looking in as he went by, seeing Terry with a staffer, talking over something. 'Yeah, right choice' Derrick said to himself, and went out front seeing a couple of people sitting there, waiting, Derrick came up to Kim, he waited as she was on the phone. She finished and looked up at him, and had a look of relief on her face.

"You've been looking for me?" Derrick asked.

"Yeah, is your phone broken or something?" Kim asked, looking a little perturbed.

"No,...I was kinda...nevermind...what's going on?" Derrick said, rolling his eyes.

"A few calls for you, they didn't want to talk to Tom, only you." She said, handing him some notes. He took them and looked through them, and then looked over at the couple that was sitting there.

"Okay, I'll handle these. What's up with them?"

"They were waiting to see someone to talk about some drawings they have for a project. I was waiting for one of the juniors to get free."

"Uh, I kind of have them motivated to do something else right now. Why don't I handle them instead."

"Well, I didn't..." Kim said, as walkins usually went to the juniors, then they brought in the partners.

"It's alright," Derrick said, "then I'll make these calls." Derrick walked away and over to the young looking couple. "Hi, can I help you folks?" Derrick asked, and the young man stood.

"Hi, yes, we were wondering if someone could look at our drawings for a house?" He looked nervous, and she just smiled.

"Sure, do you have them with you?"

"Yes, my wife, she has them."

"Good, why don't we take a look at them, would you care to follow me?"

"Thank you, yes." He said and then reached down for her hand, and helped her up, that's when Derrick noticed she was very pregnant. Derrick's eyes went wide.

"Oh, wow. Are you alright?" Derrick asked, seeing she had trouble getting up.

"Yes, I'm fine." She said with a bit of a grunt. Derrick looked at him and then at her. They both barely looked like they were sixteen, if not younger. Derrick reached out an arm and she took it to help her get to her feet.

"You sure you're alright?" Derrick asked.

"Yeah," She exhaled heavily grabbing her large belly, patting it gently, "I'll just be glad when he comes out."

"Oh? A boy? You already know?" Derrick asked, smiling, she nodded, "That's great. When are you due?"

"Anytime." She huffed and Derrick's eyes went wide.

"Uh...uh, should we wait until after you..." Derrick was still wide eyed and looked at Kim, and then back at them.

"No, I'll be fine. Jonathon wanted to get this done, and I'm supposed to have him with me all the time,...in case."

"In case,...what?"

"I go into labor." She said, smiling at Derrick. He gulped...hard. He hadn't blinked his wide eyes once. They were burning.

"Maybe I should bring out a table here, and you can get comfortable...or maybe we can get you a softer chair, or something...do you need some water?" Derrick was falling apart, and the girl saw it and smiled.

"You're almost as bad as my father." She positively glowed, Derrick thought, "I'll be alright. I just can't stay on my feet too long in one spot."

"Okay...yeah...let's...yeah...uh, let's go this way." Derrick had her by the arm, guiding her slowly, he looked at Kim. "Kim, call Terry, get the conference room set up, water, coffee, stuff like that, okay?" She nodded and picked up the phone, dialing. Derrick led them into the conference room. There was a few of the girls from the staff trying to get things set up and ready, as they came in the door. Terry was behind them and took a step now and then following and they came in and led her to a chair. Derrick was an absolute wreck before it was all over. He had never had to deal with anything like this before and felt like he was useless. The boy, Jonathon, seemed calm, taking everything in stride as it happened. Derrick was amazed by his composure.

"So, are you comfortable?" Derrick asked as she was seated, in a larger, wider chair. Pillows had been brought in by some of the girls and they all stood at the door, just watching.

"As comfortable as I can be with this thing inside of me." She said as she pointed to her belly.

"Okay." Derrick said, backing up a step. He kept thinking, don't do this to me, don't do this to me, oh, God, don't do this to me! "Would you like some water or,...?

"Water would be fine," She smiled up at him, "thank you." Derrick poured her some iced water and put the glass in front of her, and then backed up again. Derrick looked up at the boy, Jonathon.

"Uh, I'm Derrick Jacobson, by the way." Derrick said, holding out his hand toward him. The boy turned , saw it, and reached out his.

"Jonathon Swanson. It's a pleasure. This is my wife, Angie."

"Hi, Angie." Derrick stuck out his hand toward her. She grunted, trying to shift herself and took his just taking it, not shaking it. She smiled that glow again, and Derrick settled into a chair next to her. "Is there something else we can do?"

"No, we'll be fine. I just need to get settled. Oh, I have the sketches here in my bag." She said and reached for it. Derrick looked toward the door, seeing the girls there and widened his eyes, one of them held up her hands in question. They went to leave and Derrick held up a hand to stop them. He didn't want them to leave him alone with them. He was so lost. Angie pulled out the sketches and put them on the table, groaning slightly, making Derrick very nervous. "He's pushing, that's all." She smiled, "He really wants out." She looked at her husband, who raised an eyebrow at her. He reached down and grabbed the sketches and spread them out on the table.

"So, this is what we're thinking. A little house, three bedroom, yes, but small, with room to grow and expand if necessary." Jonathon said, Derrick diverting his attention to the sketches. "We have a lot in Cambridge area, you know where that is?" Derrick nodded.

"Yes, it's in the older part of town. There's not to many vacant lots there."

"Yes, exactly." Jonathon said, "We were able to buy a corner lot, and want to build something that fits with the neighborhood. We didn't want a fixer-upper, you know throwing good money after bad, it just keeps mounting." Derrick nodded, watching him closely, but looking back at her from time to time. "So we decided that it would be best to build. We like the neighborhood, good people there, older families, it's close to schools. But we want to be able to build on or go up if the time comes."

"I see." Derrick said. "I agree, it's really a wonderful area of town, and needs a breath of new life with a young family. Yes, I see what you want," Derrick said, looking at the floor plan sketched out, "and you want it to look as though it were a part of the neighborhood, and had been all along." Jonathon nodded, and looked at his wife, then back at Derrick.

"Exactly. We came here because my father recommended this firm."

"Who's your father?"

"Matthew Swanson." Jonathon said. Derrick's eyes went wide.

"Matthew Swanson, the city councilman? That Matthew Swanson?"

"Yes." Jonathon said. "My father said that the city usually comes to this firm first for its projects and they listen to the owners opinion when it's needed."

"I'm honored." Derrick said, thinking about the last time he was at a council meeting, it went badly as he remembered, hmmm, have to check on that.

"You mean, you're the owner? This is your firm?"

"I'm one of the partners, yes. I have a partner, Tom Donahue."

"Mr. Jacobson, I didn't know...I thought..."

"It's okay." Derrick said, regrouping, looking at the boy with his wide eyed stare. "Let me get my partner." Derrick said, then looked at Terry, and nodded his head sideways. Terry turned and headed out the door, getting by all the girls, and was gone. Angie made a groan, Derrick turned his eyes only toward her, and then she made another one. Derrick's eyes widened and he stood up. She sucked in a deep breath, and clutched the arms of the chair. She groaned very loud and exhaled and Derrick wanted to panic, but looked at the girls in the doorway. They came in and got around her, not touching her, but just looking, knowing. One of the girls, Celine, turned and looked at Derrick.

"She's going into labor."

"What?!" Derrick asked, backing up a step. Then Tom came in and stepped up next to Derrick.

"What's going on?" Tom asked. Terry was behind both of them looking over their shoulders.

"What do mean 'what's going on'? She's going into labor!" Derrick said holding out a hand toward the girl.

"What?!" Tom asked loudly.

"Uh, yeah!" Derrick said, he turned and looked at Jonathon. "Where's your car?" Derrick asked, getting a hold of himself now. Jonathon looked at him.

"We don't have one, we walked here."

"What?!" Derrick gripped the boys arm.

"We only live a couple of blocks away." Jonathon said, then looked at his wife, who was grimacing in pain. "Maybe we should call an ambulance." Derrick got mad, mad because this was happening and these kids didn't have a plan.

"Terry, go to my office, my car keys are on my desk, get'em. Tom, get the other side of this chair, we're taking her out to the parking lot and getting her into my car." Tom was just staring at her. "Now!" Derrick said, getting the girls out of the way, and grabbing the chair. Tom grabbed the other side. They lifted and started toward the door. They tilted the chair back a little, to get her through, Jonathon followed as well as all of the girls. They went through the lobby toward the front door of the building. Angie groaned again, and Derrick and Tom looked at each other with wide eyes.

"Somebody get the doors!" Derrick said loudly. One of the girls hit the doors, coming around them, and then Terry was there as well, pushing open the other door. "It's alright, we're going to get you to my car. What hospital are we going to?" Derrick asked as he looked where they were carrying her in the chair.

"Community," she groaned, as she held her belly, tilting her head back.

"Alright good, hold on." Derrick said, as they set her down next to his car. Derrick looked down and saw her legs were wet, as well as her tiny tennis shoes. "What happened?" Derrick said, as Terry got the passenger door open.

"My water broke, I think." She groaned again.

"Damn." Derrick said, looking at Jonathon, "back seat, now." The seat was tilted forward and Jonathon got in. Tom and Derrick lifted her carefully by her arms and set her down as the seat went back into Derrick's car. They got her in, and Terry tossed the keys to Derrick who went running around the car and got in on the other side, then sat down and started the car. He backed out and hit the street and went through a couple of red lights but got them there to Community Hospital. Derrick went on a run to the ER and shouted for help and grabbed a wheelchair, and was followed out by two nurses, they all worked to get Angie out of his car and into the hospital. Angie was wheeled over to the maternity wing and Derrick slumped into a chair, as Jonathon had joined his wife. It wasn't a full day or even lunchtime, and Derrick was exhausted. He looked up, not knowing how much time had gone by and saw Jonathon standing there in front of him, all smiles.

"Hey, are you okay?" Jonathon asked, putting a hand to Derrick's shoulder.

"Yeah," Derrick snapped around, "how is she?"

"They are doing fine." Jonathon said with a smile. "I have a son, and he is beautiful, like his mother. The nurses said you were still here. I wanted to come out and check on you."

"Thanks." Derrick said softly, smiling.

"They said we got here just in time, thanks to you."

"It's fine, no problem at all." Derrick said, relaxing a bit.

"Would you like to see them?"

"Oh, no, I...this is for family, and..."

"Hey, you got us here, you stepped in, you took care of it, that makes you family...to us." Jonathon smiled. "Now, would you like to see them?" Derrick was wide eyed.

"I guess so, if..."

"It's fine." Jonathon said and held out his hand, he pulled Derrick to his feet and led him through the doors into the ward. Jonathon led him to a room, a small room, and they walked in. There on the hospital bed was Angie, looking at what was in her arms, a small blanket that contained something that was moving a little, not much, and making some soft sounds. Derrick smiled as he stepped closer, she looked at him and their eyes met. Derrick stepped to the edge of the bed and looked down.

"He's perfect." She said, smiling and then looked down at the bundle. There was another sound of fussing, moving, but not a cry. Derrick leaned closer and saw the little face, and then little tiny fingers on one hand that was moving, flexing themselves a little, trying to grip something that wasn't there. Derrick smiled even more, seeing the little bundle and then smiled at her. Derrick bent down and kissed her on the forehead, even though he really didn't know her. She clutched her hand in his on the bed and looked up at him. "It's embarrassing, but you said you're name was Derrick, didn't you?"

"Yes, that's right."

"We have talked about names, but hadn't picked one out yet. Could we name him Derrick?" Derrick's eyes welled all of a sudden, and his bottom lip trembled. He blinked hard several times, and backed away from the bed a step.

"Oh, I think that you should name him after someone else, or go with what you picked out." Derrick said, as his voice faltered on him. He put a hand to his throat as they both looked at him.

"I think it's a fine name." Jonathon said, going around to the other side of the bed.

"I do too." She said as she looked back at the bundle and then looked at Derrick. "Would you like to hold him?"

"I...uh...I...have never...held ...a baby before." Derrick stammered out, wiping an eye with his hand.

"It's easy. It's alright really. You won't break him." She said in her gentle voice. Derrick stepped forward again, and she took the bundle and handed it out to Derrick. "That's right, arm underneath, support his head in the cradle of your arm, that's right." She said as she slipped her hands out. "You've got it. See? You're a natural." She smiled as Jonathon sat on the bed next to her. They watched as Derrick cradled the bundle and rocked it gently, looking down at the little face that was going back to sleep. The little hand stopped moving now, and Derrick didn't know what to do.

"He's asleep." Derrick said with a grin.

"You'll be handy to have on those bad nights." She said giving him a soft look. Then she smiled, and took her husband's hand in hers.

"I think you should take him back. I really need to go." Derrick said quietly so as not to wake the tiny bundle. He slowly handed the bundle to her as she held out her arms. "If you guys need anything, you know where to find me." Derrick smiled at them both. "I gotta say, this was an interesting morning. Come and see me when you get settled in at home."

"Thank you so much." She said and reached out a hand toward him. He took it and kissed the back of her soft hand, He reached over and shook Jonathon's hand and then turned and walked away. He went through the corridors of the hospital and then out to the parking lot, getting into his car, he sat there just looking over at the empty passenger seat. The tears rolled down Derrick's cheeks and he sat for a few minutes just getting himself together.

*************************************************************

Conner drove to the corporate office which was at the north end of town. The building was five stories tall and covered in glass, it reflected the sun at all points of the day, and for as long as Conner could remember he had always thought of it as the 'Crystal Palace'. He pulled into the parking lot, knowing he was early for the meeting, another thing that his father had taught him. 'Be early and ready to go.' Words that echoed in his head, as he grabbed his briefcase, and got out of the car.

Inside, he walked by the round reception area, nodding to the two people that were there, they recognizing him, nodded back as Conner headed for the elevators. He waited for the elevator as did a few others, eyes were looking at him, but he didn't pay attention to them. The chime sounded and the doors opened. Conner waited for those inside to get out. He stepped in with two others and waited. He pushed the button '5' and the other two pushed their floors, Conner didn't pay attention. The doors closed and the elevator started moving.

"Afternoon, Mr. Van Owen." Conner turned slightly, seeing a smiling face near him, and he smiled back briefly.

"Afternoon." Conner replied and nodded his head. The elevator stopped and one got off. The doors closed and the elevator started moving again, stopping on the fourth floor.

"Have a nice day." The person said, stepping by him.

"You too." Conner said, and the doors closed. The elevator started moving again and went up one more floor. The doors opened and Conner stepped out. He walked directly to a large glass wall, seeing people moving about inside the large office. He walked through the large glass doors and headed across the open area, seeing the conference room directly ahead, its large table, two solid wall at each end with white boards that were blank, and all of the chairs. The glass wall on the far side was clear and the sunlight poured in. Conner walked in, not paying attention to the three men at the far end of the table. He proceeded to the other end and came around to the other side, putting his back to the glass wall that looked out over the city in the distance. He had seen the view before, and it was impressive, the panoramic view of the city and the surrounding landscape, but that wasn't why he was here. He set his briefcase on the table and opened it, as he stood.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Van Owen." A voice said from the other end of the long table. Conner looked up, seeing the three men at the end of the table. He nodded his head toward them, one was his father, sitting at the head of the table, flanked by two others, Conner knew who they were, his father's assistants, Conner smiled to himself, thinking of them as 'hired guns'.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen." Conner said, being polite and then went back to his briefcase, pulling out a few documents he knew he would need, then closed the case, and set it on the floor next to the chair he was going to occupy. He unbuttoned his jacket and sat down.

The meeting began, each of the department heads gave their brief to the rest of the board, and Conner paid attention to each, some of them gave only facts, while a few others danced about just giving useless information and rambled on. Conner was bored to tears with it. This was his third board meeting since his father had brought him into the corporation. Conner was asked to give an update on his division, the real estate end. He stood and gave his presentation, being concise not only in giving figures, but giving a comparison of the past with the present, as the real estate company that was purchased recently by the corporation had been failing and was easily acquired. Conner's job was to oversee all of the holdings of real estate that the corporation held, and that amounted to holdings in several countries, and those holdings were very sizeable. Conner had done his homework and knew where they really stood. He presented the board with fact, showing them that the market was slowly turning in their favor. The meeting was soon over, with the elder Van Owen closing it, giving his usual thank you for coming and doing a good job. Conner put his things back in his briefcase and closed it. Everyone was getting up and was leaving.

"Would you stay for a few minutes, Conner?" The booming voice at the end of the table asked. All eyes went wide from those who were still in the room, and looked at Conner. They all knew about the differences between father and son, and they couldn't get out fast enough. Conner left his briefcase on the table and walked over to the glass wall that looked out over the city, putting his fingers in his front pockets. Conner was scanning the horizon as he felt someone next to him, and looked down as he saw the reflection. He turned his head slightly, seeing a glass handed toward him. He looked into his father's face and then down at the glass.

"A peace offering?" Conner asked.

"If you want to think of it that way, why not?" Van Owen said. Conner took the glass. Van Owen held up his own. Conner touched his glass to his father's. "Your presentation was good. I was impressed. It seems that you have turned a few things around in your short time with us."

"Thank you." Conner said and sipped at the Scotch. "It's been a bit of an uphill fight, no thanks to you." Conner looked back out the window.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, you hand selected my 'personal assistant'." Conner said, sipping again. "He seems to have your agenda well in hand, and is clearly looking out for your interests."

"I owed his father a favor, and gave the boy a job." Van Owen said, looking out the window as well.

"Oh cut the shit, father." Conner said, "Bottom line is you don't trust me, and need someone on your strings to keep an eye on me. Your thinking I'm going to undermine you and your precious corporation."

"It's not a matter of trust. It's a matter of business."

"That's a lie. It's a fact, you don't trust me. I can't say that I blame you. After our history, I wouldn't trust me either." Conner said and then turned and looked at his father, he leaned against the glass. "But, you know what? You gave me a job to do, and if there's one thing that you taught me, it's get it done and done right. And that's exactly what I'm going to do, whether you like it or not. You brought me in to run a division that was failing, I'm turning it around, and I what I don't need is some snide-assed fucking spy hovering over my shoulder and reporting back to you every time I make a move. But, you know that already. Is there something else you want to talk about, dad?" Conner emphasized the last word.

"I suppose it can wait, until you're in a better frame of mind."

"Well, another one or two of these might change that." Conner smiled, holding up his glass. Van Owen narrowed his eyes at his son. "I mean, come on, we're here, not at the house, under the 'evil eye' that we both would get from mother. You want to talk, we can get drunk together and have a talk, might be fun, we've never done that together, come to think of it, we've never done much together at all. I'll have to make a list of different things to do together. Now that we're under a 'peace offering' and a flag of truce."

"Are you through?"

"I thought you wanted to talk?" Conner asked and then emptied his glass. "I guess I was wrong." Conner walked over to the table, setting his glass down and picked up his briefcase. "Thanks for the drink, father. Give mother my best when you see her." Conner walked out of the conference room, as all eyes were on him. He went to the elevator and waited.

**********************************************************

Derrick walked into the lobby of his building and walked up to Kim. She was wide eyed seeing him. He smiled at her, and saw some of the others staring at him. He looked around at their faces, he felt like he was standing there in his underwear.

"Any other messages?"

"No." She looked at him with a strange look.

"Is everything alright?" Derrick asked.

"Yes." Kim said softly.

"Do I have something in my teeth?"

"Uh, no. I just wasn't expecting you back here."

"I see. I'll be in my office if anyone needs me." Derrick said, and walked away. He entered his office and went around the desk and sat down, seeing the messages that he had before all this had happened. It was getting late in the day, and he knew it might be too late to make some calls. He sat there thinking about what had happened and then it hit him. He got up and walked to the conference room. He saw the sketches still on the table. He went over and picked them up. He looked them over carefully remembering clearly what Jonathon had said, what they wanted their house to look like. Derrick took the sketches and walked out. He went to Tom's office and knocked on the door and then went in.

"Holy shit." Tom said, looking up from his desk. "You look like hell, buddy." Tom stood up from his desk. "Hey, come in and sit down. Tell me what happened."

"I don't know really." Derrick said as he took a chair, he smiled softly at the memory. "We got to the hospital, got inside and then I sat there and waited for a little while. I don't really remember how much time went by and then he came out and got me and took me into a hospital room. She was in the bed, and was holding the little..." Derrick lost the words, and Tom was staring at him wide eyed.

"Baby?" Tom asked.

"Yeah,...a baby, little tiny thing. It was making sounds and moving all around and..."

"You okay?"

"Yeah, I've just never been around anything like that at all. It was really...special."

"Yeah, it is, I'm sure." Tom said in a soft voice, looking down at the floor. Derrick looked up at Tom and then it hit him, he remembered that Tom and Diane couldn't have kids, they had tried several times, but kept losing them. Derrick felt sick all of a sudden about it.

"Oh Tom, I'm sorry." Derrick said, reaching out and taking Tom by the hand.

"Hey, it's alright." Tom smiled at his friend, squeezing Derrick's fingers. "Well, here's another thing for our memoirs that we'll write in our old age, right?"

"I suppose so." Derrick said, as Tom went back around the desk. "I need the stuff from this morning. I'm going to have a meeting at the house with Conner, give him all the details that we have, and show him what's going on. He said that he was going to look into it personally, and I think he needs to better informed."

"Okay. You want me there?"

"No, you don't have to, unless you want to." Derrick said.

"You think he'll do something about it?"

"I know he will."

"You trust him that much?" Tom asked.

"Yeah, I do. I'm going to be his best man at his wedding." Derrick said. Tom's eyes went wide.

"Well, okay then. I guess trust isn't the issue."

"No, it's not. It's his father that is." Derrick said. He thought about it for a minute, then looked at Tom. "Those kids, this morning, do you know who his dad is?" Tom shook his head. "Matthew Swanson, the city councilman."

"Are you kidding?"

"That's what he told me. I'm going to do their plans for them, this house that they sketched out." Derrick said, holding up the sketches. "I'll get a start on it in the morning, and I'll let you know what Conner says too."

"Okay." Tom said. "Derrick,...I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am for getting us into this mess."

"Like I said, we'll figure it out. And now we have a trump card, but I won't play it and risk a friendship, either yours or his. I can only assume that Van Owen knows Conner will talk to me about it, but, I won't risk Conner's career either."

"It's a tough spot." Tom said, handing Derrick the satchel.

"We've been in tougher, recently. We'll get through it, I promise you." Derrick said, taking the satchel. "I'll see you in the morning."

"Yeah sure." Tom said. Derrick walked out of Tom's office and went to his own, leaving the sketches on his desk. He walked out, closing the door behind him and found Terry at his desk.

"Hey, Boss." Terry said looking up.

"Hey, bud. I have a meeting at the house this evening that I need to prepare for. You need anything from me before I leave?"

"No, I'm good here. Are you alright?"

"Yeah, it's just been a strange day, you know?"

"Yeah, I do." Terry said.

"Hey, I was going to ask, how are thing with you and Annie?"

"Uh, there good, actually." Terry had a look and then he blushed. Derrick smiled.

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, we're going out tonight. How did you know that?"

"I didn't, I was just asking. I mean after you guys were at the house that night, it just seems like you two have clicked." Derrick said.

"You could say that." Terry blushed again.

"Oh, I get it." Derrick said and smiled, knowing he had embarrassed Terry. "Say no more, I think it's great." Derrick smiled. "I'll see you in the morning."

"Night, Boss."

"Night." Derrick said and walked up to the front. He looked down at Kim. "I'll be at the house, I have a meeting there this evening. I'll return those calls in the morning. You need anything from me before I go?"

"No, thank you. I'll see you in the morning." She smiled at him. Derrick smiled back and walked out the front door.

*************************************************************

Conner had driven back to his office at the real estate company and was sitting at his desk. He had his cell phone out and was texting Alec. He told Alec that he had to see Derrick tonight about a problem at work. Alec texted him back asking if everything was okay. Conner replied no. Conner knew Alec was going to work at the restaurant, and would be home late. Alec was either leaving now or was starting to drive. Conner texted him, don't worry, will be okay. See you tonight. Love you. Conner closed the phone and put it in his pocket, and then looked up. He saw Caleb standing there in the doorway.

"How was the board meeting?" Caleb asked.

"Come in and shut the door." Conner said. Caleb did it, then walked over to Conner's desk. "I'm sure you'll find out soon enough. You'll probably have your phone call, if you haven't already."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Don't play the game, dude. You know exactly what I mean. We both know you're actually working for my father. He basically came right out and said it." Conner said, Caleb's eyes went wide and Conner had his confirmation right there. "Sit down." Conner said, and Caleb did so. "So, why don't I tell you how this is going to go. First, I'm going to give you the information that my father wants to hear, so that way you keep doing what you're supposed to do and can keep your job. Next, I'm going to give you more to do, to keep you busy, more than you have been. You're a board certified realtor, and you're going to start taking listings, showings, and everything else that goes along with it. You may think you work for my father, but you're also in this division, which means that you need to perform like anyone else in this office. You'll have a quota to answer to, just like everyone else that's here, and you will perform. If you don't..."

"Or what?" Caleb asked, thinking he had something still.

"I'll have your ass out of here before you can even turn around. You see, there's something else you need to know. My father expects results, profit, bottom line, I have to give those results to the board, those that don't perform, the board orders cutting...you follow my meaning?" Caleb's eyes went wide. "My father cannot protect you if the board decides, he has to go with it, he has no choice. Work with me, and I'll work with you, and maybe you can save that sweet ass of yours." Caleb went wide eyed again. "Yeah, you have a sweet ass, you know it and I know it. And something else you probably don't know," Conner said, seeing Caleb turning ashen, "my father is a homophobe. Hates gays with a passion."

"Are you saying that I'm gay?" Caleb asked flatly, thinking that Conner was stepping over the boundary of employer and employee.

"I'm saying that, yes." Conner said flatly. "My gaydar was screaming the first time you walked in. My father doesn't need to know, at least not yet."

"You're gay?" Caleb asked, his color returning a bit.

"Wow, you're pretty quick, aren't you?" Conner asked. "My father knows about me already and because of that we don't really speak. I'm proud of being gay, love it, and I'm actually getting married to the man I love. So, I won't 'out' you to my father, cause he obviously has no idea at all, and it can stay just between us for now."

"What do want?"

"I thought I made it clear? I guess not. What I want is for you to do your job, stay off my ass, and feed my father what I give you to feed him. Simple, right?"

"You don't want anything else?" Caleb asked, with a sly look.

"No, nothing, and I mean nothing else." Conner said. "I won't cross that line at all. Are we clear?"

"I guess we are." Caleb said, looking down.

"What you do outside of this office is none of my business, and who you do it with. But, if you compromise anything that has to do with this division, you're done. Is that clear enough to you?"

"Yeah." Caleb said. "It's too bad."

"What?"

"You're really hot, and I had kind of..."

"Yeah, I get it." Conner said, holding up a hand. "Not gonna happen." Conner could feel his phone vibrating in his pocket. "So, do we understand each other?"

"Yes." Caleb said.

"Good." Conner said. "Next week, I'll have you put on the listings."

"Alright." Caleb said softly, looking like he was whipped slightly.

Conner stood up from the desk. Caleb stood as well. Conner reached out a hand toward him, Caleb looked at it, and then took it, giving it a firm shake. They stared at each other for a long moment and then Conner took back his hand. Caleb turned and walked to the door and opened it slowly, as if he wanted to say something else, but didn't. Conner watched him carefully and then Caleb stepped out, closing the door behind him. Conner exhaled and pulled out his phone, seeing it was from Alec. The text read 'worried. Love you too.' Conner smiled, and texted him back, 'under control, no worries, talk tonight when you get home.'

 

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