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Chapter Eleven

These parties weren’t what they used to be, Zacky lamented as he moved from one gathering to the next, mingling with his friends. Long gone were the days when they would stay up into the ungodly hours of the morning getting drunk off their faces every chance that they got. Sure, they still did it on occasion, but not nearly as often as they used to. The wives seemed to steer completely clear of it these days, and Brian would no longer allow it to happen in his house – understandable, given his young and impressionable daughter.

Even Johnny and the Berrys had calmed down a lot through the years, much to the surprise of everybody who knew them. It had happened sometime after Jimmy’s death, so gradually that nobody had noticed it at first. Some believed it to be a reaction to their friend’s death – a simple need to not go out the same way that their brother had – and Zacky was inclined to agree with them. His own drinking had slowed for the same reason. And today, he realised, it had slowed even more.

He had to take care of his son. The thought was at the forefront of his mind no matter what he was doing, and he found himself looking over toward the boy more often than not. He hadn’t moved from the chair that he had claimed when they had first arrived, had said little more than a hello to everybody who had been introduced to him. It was perfectly clear to Zacky that Lysander wasn’t enjoying himself in the slightest. He was about to start saying his farewells to his friends when the situation took a turn.

McKenna, God bless her soul.

“Dude, are you ever gonna finish that?”

Zacky looked down at the bottle in his hand. It was still his first drink of the day and he’d been nursing it for over an hour already, something that had never happened before. He shrugged in response to Johnny’s question. Once upon a time he may have taken up the challenge, but things were different now. Lysander would be in the car when they drove home later that night. And even if it was only a short drive away from Brian’s house, anything could happen out on those Californian roads. It no longer seemed worth the risk.

“You’ve gone soft,” the bassist mused as he took a swig of his own drink. “Just like Gates did. Who would’ve thought?”

“Ah, shut it, Christ.”

“Seriously, though,” Johnny said, still grinning, “he seems like a good kid. I think you got lucky.”

Zacky nodded. Truth be told, he couldn’t have agreed more. He could only imagine the stress he’d be going through now if he’d been landed with a teenage version of himself – there was no way that he could have handled things as smoothly as Lysander had, and he most certainly wouldn’t have taken lightly to being taken away from his friends at such an important age. Even without all of that, he remembered well the almost daily fights that he and guys used to get into. Lysander wasn’t like this at all. In fact, the boy rarely complained about anything and Zacky couldn’t have been more grateful. It was making things just that little bit easier.

“How’re things with Gen? You mentioned something about a fight.”

Zacky looked across the yard to his wife. She looked beautiful with that vibrant smile on her face and the sunlight gleaming in her hair. Her laughter drifted across to him on the breeze.

“Things’re good,” he said after a moment. “Better. She’s been on my back about kids again is all.”

“What, one ain’t enough for her? Two, since you’ve got another on the way.”

“She doesn’t see them as hers.”

The look Johnny gave him then was one of sympathy.

“She’ll come around. You know they always do.”

They didn’t. But Zacky wasn’t in the mood to argue.

He had to excuse himself when his cell phone sounded from within his pocket. He headed back inside, closing the French doors behind him to block out the sounds of the party beyond, and only then did he answer the call.


“Zack, darling. It’s been a while.”


He couldn’t hide his surprise at hearing the lawyer’s voice. Her call was most certainly unexpected. For a moment, his breath caught in his throat. What could this be about? Did she have news for him about Dakota? Had they found the girl? The idea sent butterflies fluttering in his stomach, but he reminded himself that he needed to be prepared for anything that the woman could possibly say. A part of him even had to stop and wonder at whether or not revealing his new role of as a father to the world had caused an onslaught of new accusations.

“What, ah... What’s up?”

“Don’t sound so panicked,” Maria chuckled. “I told you I’d keep you updated. That’s all that this is.”

Zacky breathed a sigh of relief. Yet, at the same time, he couldn’t help feeling slightly disappointed. A part of him had hoped that this would be the news they had all been waiting for. Why could things never be that easy?

“All right, then. Hit me. What’s been going on?”

“Just what you’d expect,” she replied. “Authorities are still searching and keeping an eye on the house. So far, there’s no sign of Miss Maverick.”

There was that disappointment again, sudden and unbidden.

“Have they made any progress at least?”

“Not much,” she admitted. “Though since you posted your little message to the fans, there have been a number of sightings reported all over the country. The police are still investigating, of course, but so far none of them have panned out.”

It was better than the alternative, he had to admit. The thought of his fans actively looking out for Dakota and making the calls when they felt it necessary pleased him. It occurred to him now just how much it would have disappointed him if he’d been informed that all had been silent.

“I received a call from the Columbus Police Department last night,” she went on. “They’re going to start looking into Jacob Alfonzo. You can thank Lysander’s friends for that one.”

“So they think the mother’s death was a murder after all?”

“No, they’re still calling it an accident. But they’re willing to consider the possibility that young Miss Maverick may be with him. For whatever reason.”

That was something that was sure to please Lysander at the very least. He was always so adamant that Jacob Alfonzo had been the cause behind Dakota’s disappearance. If it were true, the police would track the man down and bring her home safely.

“How’re things going with Lysander? No problems?”

“No problems,” Zacky confirmed. “Things are going as well as they can.”

“Good.” There was a smile in her voice. Zacky could hear it. “I’ll let you get back to things, then. But don’t hesitate to call me if you need anything.”

“Will do. Call me if you hear anything.”

“Of course. Ciao, Zack.”

His phone went back to his pocket. He took a moment just to breathe then, to think on the things that the lawyer had told him. If he hadn’t known it before, he most definitely knew it now – Dakota would be with them soon. It was time that they prepared for her arrival.

It was a good thing he already lived in a big house.

Laughter met his ears once again, but it didn’t come from outside. He took the final steps that he needed to move into the living room, where the sight of Lysander and McKenna laughing easily with each other was the first thing that he saw. There was no stopping to smile that spread across his face. Seeing his son laughing so easily, so fully, with everything that had been happening in his life recently... It was nothing short of amazing.

He wasn’t going to interrupt, but McKenna caught sight of him before he could escape the room.

“Everything okay, Zee?”

“Everything’s fine,” he assured her. “Just stepped inside to take a call.”

It was such a simple statement, but Zacky saw Lysander’s eyes light up with the same unpreventable hope that he himself had experienced in small doses not even minutes ago. He smiled the boy’s way.

“Nothing yet,” he said apologetically, “but your friends back home convinced the cops in Columbus to start looking into Alfonzo some more. So make sure you send them my thanks, huh?”

“Will do,” Lysander replied. He sounded almost breathless. As if the news had come as a surprise to him – a good one, judging by the way the smile remained on his face. “That’s good to hear.”

“It is,” Zacky agreed. “I’ll let you kids get back to your conversation.” He glanced at his watch. “Lunch should be ready around two,” he added as he looked back at them both, “so make sure you eat something.”

McKenna saluted. Zacky lingered just long enough to make sure Lysander nodded before he headed back out to the party.

He made his way back to Gena’s side, slipping an arm around her waist and kissing her cheek in greeting. She shot him a smile even as she carried on her conversation with the other girls. He found himself listening, though if anybody had asked he wouldn’t have been able to tell them what the conversation was about – he was glad just to have his wife’s voice drifting all around him. Here was a sound that he had never grown tired of, not in all the years that they had known each other.

He didn’t leave her side again until Brian asked for a hand in setting up the tables that their gathering would be using for lunch. It was an easy task – one that Zacky had helped out with on many separate occasions – and they got it done just in time for Matt to inform everybody that the food was finally done. Their barbeques may not have been five-star meals, but they were decent enough that when you were invited, you made an effort of showing up just for the food.

Zacky watched his friends – his family – gather at the table. He sat beside Gena and Danny Abell took the seat on his other side. Zacky kept an eye on Lysander when the boy emerged from inside, still chatting away with McKenna as the girl handed little Harmony back over to her mother. The two teens sat together at the far end of the table, Lysander taking a moment to send a nod Zacky’s way. Zacky returned the gesture.

He fell into the conversations easily, eager to be caught up on anything he had missed in the week or so that he had been distracted for. It was hard to believe that Lysander had only been in his life for a measly seven days, but that was the fact of the matter. Thankfully, aside from McKenna’s stint of borrowing her father’s car without permission, it had been a quiet week for everybody else. Zacky hadn’t missed a thing.

“Four songs in,” Matt was telling Suzy when Zacky tuned into their conversation. “So we’ll still be in the writing process for another month or two at least. Then it’s into the studio.”

It wouldn’t be that simple, of course. There were all manner of things that needed to be sorted out before the band would step foot into the studio again, but Suzy already knew this.

“She hasn’t started walking yet,” Michelle was saying to Gena as she bounced Harmony on her lap. “But Doctor Leskov said not to worry. She’ll start when she’s good and ready.”

“Just enjoy yourself while she can’t,” Gena advised. “If she’s anything like you and Brian, you won’t be able to keep up with her once she starts!”

Walking. Talking. These were the topics that he usually heard discussed when Harmony was involved. But they were things that he had missed when it came to his own children. He realised that now, though he wasn’t certain how to feel about it. On the one hand, it was a huge help that Lysander was old enough to do things for himself now – had he still been a toddler or younger when he’d been handed over to Zacky, he wasn’t quite sure how he would have coped with the situation. At least other parents were given nine months to prepare themselves. Two days would not have been enough.

And yet, there was something disappointing about not having been there to watch his son take his first steps or say his first word. These were things to Brian and Michelle looked forward to; these were things that Zacky would never know when it came to Lysander.

Beneath the table, Gena squeezed his hand. He shot her a smile, thankful for the gesture. Without even knowing it she was giving him strength. He didn’t know what he would ever have done without her.

It was late afternoon by the time their feasting was done. The sun was setting in the distance and the conversation had died down into small talk. Brian stood, demanding silence without a word, and all eyes turned to him and the bottle of Heineken still in his hand.

“Thanks for comin’ everybody,” he said at once, raising his beer slightly as both of the Berrys raised theirs high. “We all know why we’re here. It’s that time of the year again. Birthday season. So why don’t you join me in wishing a very happy early birthday to my old man, my sister-in-law, and my beautiful wife.”

There was a chorus of “Happy birthday!” all around followed by some enthusiastic clapping from Harmony, which earned its fair share of laughs. Brian swooped down and kissed her on the forehead before returning his attention to the gathering at large.

“But we have another reason for gathering here today,” he went on. “We have a new addition to our family that needs to be welcomed.” He grinned the grin that had stolen so many teenage girls’ hearts. “Lysander.”

Zacky’s eyes had flicked to his son the moment that Brian had mentioned a new addition, but now that he had been called out by name Lysander was also looking to him. There was surprise in his eyes and perhaps even a tinge of nervousness to the way he stilled in his seat. But as he had when confronted by his grandparents, he stood his ground and refused to show just how much effort was going in to the simple action.

“Some of us had the pleasure of meeting you earlier,” Brian said, “and some of us have just met you for the first time today. But I think I speak for everybody when I say that it’s great to have you with us, and we’re lookin’ forward to getting to know you some more.”

There were words of agreement from everybody, with Johnny throwing in a “Hell yeah!” as he climbed to his feet, just for good measure.

“We’re your uncles now,” the bassist added, a grin of his own in place as he looked down the table at the boy. “So if anybody gives you any shit, you come tell us so we can kick some ass, y’hear?”

There was a moment in which Lysander looked Johnny over – sizing him up and considering his words carefully before he finally came out with, “Sorry, Uncle, but I think even I could kick your ass.”

Johnny was the only one who didn’t laugh at that, though he did manage to crack a smile as he sat down once again. Grinning from ear to ear, McKenna slapped Lysander on the back and bid him a job well done. Still chuckling, Zacky gave the boy two thumbs up.

“If that doesn’t make him one of us, I don’t know what does,” Jason remarked.

“Speaking of ass kicking, though,” Brian spoke up again, “we know that your sister’s still out there, but she’ll be welcomed with open arms when she finally gets herself down here. And the bastard who took her? Well, we’ll make sure he gets what he deserves. And that’s a promise.”

Zacky looked to Brian as the guitarist made this promise. Both he and Matt had fierce looks on their faces, looks that said they were deadly serious. Zacky had never really given much thought to Jacob Alfonzo – he had been far too focused on coming to terms with the fact that he had a son and a daughter – but he realised now that he should probably have been thinking along the same lines as they were. Jacob Alfonzo needed to be punished for the crime that he had committed, and Zacky knew that he and the band had the power to make sure that happened. It was a thought both comforting and thrilling all at once.

“Thank you,” Lysander said with a tiny nod in Brian’s direction. “And thank you to everybody for being so...accepting and understanding. It’s made things a whole lot easier on me this past week, so I... I really appreciate it. Thanks.” He looked straight at Zacky and Gena then and added, “And thank you both, for everything you’ve done for my sister and I so far. I don’t say that enough.”

“It’s no trouble,” Zacky assured him. “I just wish we could have done it sooner.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore. Everything’s going to work out regardless.”

“And that is cause for a celebration!” Matt Berry piped up. “More booze, Gates!”

It was cause for a celebration, Zacky agreed. And so he would have to plan his own party for when his daughter finally arrived, as an official welcome party for both of his children. His twins. But for now, it was time to enjoy the night with friends and family. It was time to celebrate what they already had.

He wrapped an arm around his wife’s waist, and joined in on the conversation once more.


A/N: if you are really enjoying this story, I would much prefer you to follow it on Mibba, where all the chapters through to eighteen are already currently posted. I don't get on this site enough to keep my updating schedule up. And for your convenience, here's the link.

But if you prefer to stay here and wait a little longer, that's cool, too. Just be aware that this isn't one of my main homes.


I read this here, I read this at Mibba. I'm just obsessed with this story! I love it!
Nia_Flores Nia_Flores
Update! Soon! Please!
I can't help reading this twice. I love it! LOVE IT!!!
Nia_Flores Nia_Flores
I read this on Mibba & I re-read it here! It's really great.
Nia_Flores Nia_Flores
Update soon or i will DIE