Matt was laughing because crap, he couldn't remember the last time he'd had an entertaining conversation with someone other than his partner. The rookie was quick and funny as hell. He wished his new partner was half as witty as this kid was. He looked over to the woman that he'd have as his partner starting on Monday. She was on the plain side but that could be said for most of the women on the force, it came with the job. Perps didn't respect someone they wanted to fuck so most of the women detectives played down their looks while on the job. Stella was probably a knock out when she tried.
Matt sighed and brought his mind back to the conversation at hand.
"Hey, so if I take the Detective exam next year and get promoted can I steal my partner back?" Sam asked Stella with a big grin.
Stella's eyes flashed in annoyance. "Like you could pass the exam," she said with a smirk. She and Sam had been verbally sparing all night. They were either going to kill each other or fuck like rabbits at the end of the night. Matt put his money on the fucking since Sam was a notorious man whore and Stella looked like she could use a stiff one.
The rookie laughed, he seemed to be taking it in stride, not letting the seasoned professionals scare him off. Matt wondered if he'd ever been that young because he felt like he'd been old and jaded by the time he'd joined the force, not shiny and new like this kid. They were celebrating Matt's promotion to detective and the rookie, Marks, was going to be partnering with Sam, taking Matt's spot.
"Look at that," Sam said, the sneer evident in his tone as he nudged Matt's elbow to get his attention. Matt turned from his study of the rookie.
"What's got you in a snit now?" Matt asked his old partner. He took a moment to think on how weird that sounded. He'd been partners with Sam for six years, practically since he'd joined the force. They were more than partners now, they were more like best friends. It would be weird not spending every hour of every work day with Sam at his side.
Sam motioned towards the dance floor. "You'd think they'd have enough sense to stick to their own bar instead of coming in here and gaying the place up," Sam said, the disdain thick in his voice.
Matt shifted uncomfortably on his stool as he looked at the scene that had Sam so riled. There was a slender young guy dancing in the middle of the little dance floor. He was surrounded by girls but any fool could see that he wouldn't be going home with any of them. The guy's obvious gayness was what was irking his buddy.
The kid was wearing the tightest pair of jeans Matt had ever seen. His shirt was also skin tight; it was black but, swear to god, had glitter woven into it. Matt watched the boy, because he had serious doubts that the kid was twenty-one, gyrate to the beat of the pumping dance track. No self-respecting straight man in the upper Midwest would move like that.
Matt started when the young man threw his multi-hued weirdly angled shoulder length hair back, revealing his eyes which met Matt's own staring ones. The boy smiled but Matt knew that his own face wore an expression more akin to the one Sam was wearing. He watched as the boy's smile faltered as did his rhythm. Matt felt bad at the almost fearful look that crossed the boy's face as he turned and grabbed one of the girls. They rushed off the dance floor leaving what was obviously the rest of his entourage to straggle after them.
Sam chuckled beside him. "You still got it buddy," he said. "One look from you and everyone scatters."
Matt shrugged at what Sam said. He knew that Sam meant it as a compliment but he hated the effect he had on people. He couldn't help the imposing figure he cut. At six foot four and almost two hundred and forty pounds he was an intimidating figure to be sure but add to that the fact that he had a jagged scar that split his face from almost the exact center of his hair line to his left ear and people almost peed themselves when confronted with his ugly mug.
Oh sure he'd had people tell him that he was still a handsome man but come on, he knew what he saw in the mirror every morning. Thankfully his eye had been spared since the blow had just flayed the skin off leaving it a hanging flap that a skilled plastic surgeon had deftly replaced and stitched up so fine that the scar was really just a thin white line. It was most noticeable where it ran through his eyebrow making it look like he had three instead of two.
He ran his hand through his thick black hair, making a mess out of what could never be called a hair style to begin with. "I didn't mean to scare the poor kid away," he said.
The rookie snorted before he said, "Dude that was so cool. I wish I had your superpowers."
"Yeah what's your tag line? Scatters fags with a single glance?" Sam asked joining in the rookie's laughter.
Matt bristled at the word fag but didn't let on how much it bothered him. He kept his closet door firmly shut and gays like that kid pissed him off. Not because he was envious that they could proudly proclaim their sexuality, no he would have played down his own even if he was out. It was because gay men like that little fruit gave all gay men a bad name. It was no wonder, with flaming guys like him, that people were under the impression that gay men weren't manly. Not masculine enough to be a cop that's for sure, if anyone knew his secret there'd be no telling what kind of shit he'd have to put up with and forget ever getting promoted. He sighed and downed the last of his beer.
"I gotta get home," he said. He stood and put on his jacket.
"We're going to have one more. Drive safe man," Sam said as he smiled at Stella. Yeah Matt could see where this night was going to end. He just hoped that his old partner didn't make his new partner an unbearable bitch to deal with.
He nodded as he threw a couple of twenties on the table to cover his part of the bill even though they all protested. He turned and walked out. His truck was parked down the block and he shivered when the frigid wind seemed to blow straight through his coat.
He didn't really feel like going home but he couldn't think of anywhere else to go. He'd just broken up with his latest fling so he wasn't going to be getting laid, may as well go home and get a good night's sleep.
He parked his truck in the garage and quietly made his way to the bedroom. He took a quick shower and crawled into bed. He wrapped his arms around the sleeping figure in his bed and let sleep take him away from his problems.
"Calm down Payne, he left already. Look, he's gone, I saw him put on his coat and walk out. Not like he's gonna attack you or something," Tina said with a tipsy giggle.
"Oh my gawd, did you see how he was looking at me? If looks could kill I'd have dropped dead right there," Payne whined. He hated straight bars and cursed the fact that all of his roommates were straight women. The way the big man had looked at him had sent shivers down his spine and not in a good way.
"Quit being a drama queen, it's not like you ever don't get looks. They're all just jealous because you get all the hot girls because we all love you so much," Mel said. She snuggled into his side and kissed his cheek.
"I wish that was the problem. I told you we should have gone to Strobe. You guys aren't going to find anyone in here anyway. They're all either old or here with dates already. I may as well have gone somewhere where I could have gotten laid," he groused. He'd given in to his friends and come to The Empire so they could look for guys. It was only fair since they'd gone with him to Strobe the weekend before.
The only three younger guys that didn't seem to have a woman attached at the hip to them had been sitting at one table. Payne shuddered when he remembered the look on the huge one's face when their eyes had met. He didn't scare easily. He'd stood up to his fair share of bullies, being small, gay and a snappy dresser had always made him a target but there's no way he'd want to meet Gigantor in a dark alley.
Tina was petting his hair which was the norm for her as she looked at the table where his nightmare had been sitting. "Poor baby, we'll protect you. But we brought you here because you need to slow down, you're gonna wear out that cute little ass of yours. Who's gonna want you if you're all stretched out before you even turn twenty-one? What's going to happen when you can't find a new bed partner every week?"
Payne's mouth dropped open and the girls around him giggled. "Oh good advertisement baby," Lisa said. Payne swatted at her over Tina since she was the only one not cuddling on him.
"You guys are so mean to me, I don't know why I hang out with you all," Payne pouted. He did know though, he loved his girlfriends. They never made him feel like a freak or the odd man out. It sounded dumb but he was one of the girls with them, except when they tried to sleep with him, which every one of them had at one time or another and sometimes more than once. It was funny actually and had turned into a sort of game between the three of them to see which one of the three would get him to sleep with them first and Payne played along knowing it would never ever happen.
"Aww we love you sweetie, now let's go get some pancakes and you'll feel better," Tina said.
They got themselves up and into their coats for the three block walk to the café that they liked to hit after drinking and dancing. It was still pretty early but Friday nights were usually not all that hopping. Calling it a night at midnight to eat pancakes and head back to their house to watch bad horror movies was always the plan.
They trudged two by two down the icy sidewalk, shivering and trying to avoid the icy patches. The café was a bastion of warmth on a frigid night. They got their usual booth and settled in.
"So are you still planning on going home for Christmas, Tina?" Payne asked. They were on break from school and Tina and Lisa's families were in the cities. The girls had both talked about going home for the holidays but hadn't firmed up any plans that he knew of.
"Yeah, I talked to my mom today and I have to go. Lisa and I can drive down together at least," she said and smiled at the other girl. "Only thing is we have to stay past New Years, my parent's thirty year anniversary is on the second."
"Who gets married on the second of January? Damn that's a bummer but at least Mel will be there to keep me from languishing in my loneliness," Payne said dramatically as he winked at Mel.
"Sorry babe, I gotta spend the holidays with Jimmy's family. I promised I'd go with him this year. I think he may propose and I am so not ready for that," Mel said. She was the oldest out of the four of them and had been dating her boyfriend for over two years. They were on again off again so much Payne usually lost track of which they were but apparently they were on if she was spending the holidays with him.
"Yuck, don't you dare marry him Mel," Tina said as she started stroking Payne's hair once again.
"Would you stop petting him, cripes he's not a dog," Mel snapped. She was pissed that Tina said anything bad about Jimmy. They could only do that when the couple was off again.
"I just love how festive his hair is. I did such a good job this time. I think I got an A," Tina said. "Plus the cut is fabulous on him. The angled bangs and the asymmetrical cut is so in right now and he has the perfect hair for it."
"Ugggh do we have to talk shop all the time? I'm sick of school and glad we don't have to go back for a month!" Lisa said.
"Yeah, I wish I didn't have to work. The salon is so freaking busy this time of year that they let me have a chair," Payne said. He was bragging but trying to disguise it as a complaint. Nobody got a chair at La Salon before they graduated, but they'd been shorthanded and Payne was at the top of his class. He'd mainly been stuck doing easy stuff that any idiot could do, trims and hairstyles weren't his favorite but hell he had a chair!
Mel shoulder bumped him. "You are such a suck up. You probably gave Marco a blowjob for that recommendation. If he wasn't such a big homo, I'd have done it myself," she said.
"I did not! God Mel, that's just gross, he's like thirty," Payne said with a shiver at the thought of old man penis in his mouth.
Lisa and Tina laughed so hard they both snorted. "Thirty's not that old," Lisa managed to trill out.
"It is too, in gay culture thirty is ancient," Payne said. He wasn't an expert or anything but he'd heard what the young guys at the club said about the past their prime guys that came in looking to score one of them. They were all looking for a boy they could show off and boss around. Payne was way too independent to let anyone tell him what to do.
"Yeah, we'll see how ancient you think it is in ten years. It's not that far off you know," Tina said wisely.
"Whatever, I'm young and cute, I don't have to settle for an old sugar daddy when I can get hot guys my own age," Payne said with a snort.
"Oh, I want a sugar daddy," Lisa said with a giggle. "I'd make a good kept woman!"
They all giggled and then stuffed themselves with pancakes until they were about to burst.
"What are you planning for New Year's Eve?" Mel asked when they were done stuffing their faces but waiting for the check.
"I think I'll have to take Ralphie up on his offer to go to a party at the River Inn. Baz got tickets to the big bash they have there," Payne said.
"Uggh, I hate Baz, you better be careful around him. He probably stole the tickets and you'll end up in jail when they catch you trying to use them," Tina said.
Payne giggled, "Nope his sugar daddy gave them to him and told him to invite a couple of cute friends," he said.
The three girls all stared at him with wide eyes. "Oh my god, you're going to get old man drool all over you," Mel shrieked. The other patrons all looked over to their booth.
"That's our signal to get out of here before they lynch us," Tina said when she noticed the attention they were receiving.
"I'm not going to get drool on me. Ralphie said once we were in we could split up. Not like I gotta entertain a bunch of old fogies," Payne said as he got up and put his coat on.
"Yeah, well just watch your ass," Mel said.
Payne smiled at his friends. He loved them so much and wished they would be there for the holidays but he guessed he could use some time with his family too. He had a date with Ralphie to finish his Christmas shopping in the morning and he had to catch his niece's Christmas concert so he was glad they were calling it an early night. He fell asleep snuggled on the couch between Mel and Lisa, feeling safe and warm.
Matt was never one to sleep in even on a weekend. He came slowly awake and snuggled into the soft warmth he held in his arms. "Morning," he said before he kissed the neck he had his nose buried in.
A soft groan proceeded the mumbled, "Morning, didn't think you'd be here." He got in response.
He rolled onto his back and put his arm over his eyes. "Yeah well I forgot to tell you that Steve and I had a falling out," he said.
He felt the mattress move and then his arm was pulled away. He looked up into his wife's worried hazel eyes. "He couldn't handle it, right?" she asked the question she already knew the answer to.
Matt heaved out a sigh. "No, he couldn't but like that's anything new," he said.
"I'm sorry honey, you know you could always…"
"No, it wasn't love Cindy and I'm not abandoning my family for anything less," he said cutting her off.
The look of understanding tinged with hurt on her face cut him to the bone. He hated that she felt responsible for another of his failed relationships. He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. "So the mall concert today, right?" he asked changing the subject.
Cindy got out of bed and walked around to stand in front of him. He spread his legs so she could step between them. Her hand on his face brought his eyes up to meet hers. She bent down and kissed him softly on the lips. "I'm sorry for all of this," she said.
It wasn't the first time she'd apologized for a mistake they'd both had a part in making. He was probably more culpable than she was. It had been his drive to prove his father wrong that had put them in the situation in the first place. Of course it had been her pity for him over his disfigurement and her part in it that had driven her to comfort him. In the end it had been both of them that decided what they wanted out of one night of misplaced passion.
"Well you know what they say, 'You made your bed now…"
She covered his mouth with her small hand. "Don't. You sound like your dad when you say things like that," she said.
He snorted, "Yeah, like father like son," he said.
She moved her hand from his mouth to trace the scar on his face. "Matt, you are not your father. You are nothing like that man. You are a good, kind man, a good husband and a great father. We love you so much," she said. She kissed him softly again.
He did try his best to make the most of their situation and their understanding of each other's needs had gotten them through thirteen years of marriage. He knew as well as she that if either of them actually found someone that filled that empty spot in their souls that either of them would happily step aside. Up until now neither one of them had found that person, he wasn't sure if that said something about the two of them or not. Maybe it had been meant to be and they were just fooling themselves that there was someone out there for each of them other than each other.
"Now can you go make sure they're up while I get ready?" she asked as she walked away toward the bathroom. She turned back to him, "And tell them they have to wear their new dresses." She smiled as he cringed at the news he had to deliver.
He got up and left the room. He walked down the hallway and looked into the other bedroom, it was empty so he went down stairs. He found what he was looking for on the couch eating cereal and watching cartoons. They had his black hair but Cindy's hazel eyes. They were beautiful, the best mix of their parent's genes shining through. How could anyone think that those two girls could have been a mistake? He felt the love he had for them swell in his chest like it always did when he was questioning his choices and knew he'd done the right thing all those years ago.
They looked up at him, smiled and said, "Morning Daddy," in unison. It was still a bit creepy even after twelve years of seeing and hearing it.
"Morning girls, your mom wanted me to make sure you were up and that you knew that you needed to wear the new dresses she bought. You got fifteen minutes to finish breakfast and start getting ready," he told his daughters.
"Okay daddy," Abby answered for both of them while Amber continued to chew her cereal.
"I hate the dress," Amber said after she'd finished chewing.
"You hate all dresses," Matt said. "You know you have to wear it for the concert so I don't want to hear any complaining." She nodded and he patted her on the head.
He went to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee and toast himself a bagel. He smiled when both girls brought their bowls in and rinsed them before putting them in the dishwasher. He bent down to receive a kiss from each of his girls. He didn't care what anyone said, having kids was the absolute best. He'd never regret his decision to stay with Cindy to raise them.
He was skimming the paper when his wife came in, her subtle perfume tickling his nose. She was dressed in a navy pencil skirt and an off white sweater. She was still a beautiful woman and Matt thought she was actually getting prettier with age. "So are you planning on going to the mall in your sleep pants?" she asked. She got her own cup of coffee and a yogurt for her breakfast.
Matt looked down at his bare chest and ratty pants. "Think anyone would notice? They'll all be looking at you anyway. You look great," he said. It never hurt to compliment your wife, a lesson he'd learned a long time ago.
"Oh whatever, all the women and half the men would be drooling over you if you showed up like that," she teased back. "Go get dressed we have to be there to help set up."
"Ugggh I told you to stop volunteering us for everything," he groused. He rinsed his cup and plate and put them in the dishwasher.
"I had to. They asked for big strong men to help with the risers and Mr. Pearson was looking straight at me when he said it, no way out of it. Sorry," she said with a laugh.
"Yeah, yeah, Mr. Pearson can suck eggs," he said but went to the bedroom so he could get ready.
They took the family car to the mall and Matt let the girls out at the front entrance so that they wouldn't have to navigate the icy parking lot in their dress shoes. It was the weekend before Christmas and the lot was already so full that he had to park in one of the auxiliary lots. He wondered whose brilliant idea it had been for the kids to have a concert at the mall on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
He hurried from the car to the mall trying to prevent his ears from getting frostbitten by the wind that seemed to gust more than not. He let out a sigh as he stepped into the warmth of the crowded mall. It was packed and it took him ten minutes to get to the main atrium where the concert was set to take place.
"Mr. Robertson, I'm so glad you're here," the music director, Mr. Pearson greeted him as soon as he joined the other fathers, brothers, and probably uncles that the man had gathered to help him wrangle the unwieldy sections of risers into position.
"So glad to be here," Matt said letting his sarcasm get the best of him. The others laughed and nodded their agreement.
Mr. Pearson was used to the grumbling and just smiled at his small army. He pointed out what order things needed to go out to the center of the floor in and stood back to direct the work. Matt picked up a section and carried it out to where it was supposed to be. He turned back to catch the look of surprise on the other men's faces as they paired up to carry the sections he'd easily lugged by himself. He shrugged what could he say he was a brute. He pulled up the sleeves of his sweater and grabbed another section.
Payne picked Ralphie up in front of his apartment building. He waited for his friend to buckle up before driving them to the mall. He lucked out and got a parking spot near one of the side entrances. The wind still pushed its way through his coat and he was shivering by the time they made it inside.
He ignored the looks they got as they both took their coats off and checked them so they wouldn't get overheated as they shopped. His friend was almost as small and flamboyant as he was so they garnered looks pretty much everywhere they went when they were out together. Payne had gotten good at keeping his eyes pointed forward so he didn't have to acknowledge the looks. He couldn't help being fabulous and if people wanted to look, they could, didn't mean he had to let him know he saw them.
Ralphie threaded his arm through Payne's as they headed off into the retail wonderland. He only had to get a couple of gifts, he'd done most of his shopping on black Friday but as usual his brother Payton was stumping him again. He usually wouldn't have put off his shopping excursion but his niece's concert was at the mall and he figured he'd kill two birds with one stone.
He let Ralphie drag him into every store and then back out when nothing caught his attention. Payne was seriously considering just getting his brother a gift card to the mall by the time they'd hit half the stores. He looked at his phone to check the time.
"Oh, we gotta go, the concert's going to start in fifteen minutes and I told my parents I'd meet them a little early," he said.
"Oh goody, I get to see your mom and dad," Ralphie said a little snidely.
"Get over it, they don't even remember that it was you they caught me with the first time," Payne said with a giggle.
"Whatever, your dad still gives me a look every time I see him. He probably blames me for turning you gay," he pouted.
"He does not. They knew before they caught us and I told them that since we're both bottoms they had nothing to worry about. What were we going to do? Rub our asses together?" Payne asked which made Ralphie shriek with laughter.
"Oh yeah cause I wasn't the first one to rim you till you screamed," he said a little too loud. People stared and Ralphie being Ralphie crossed his eyes and stuck his tongue out at the lookie loos.
Payne snickered at his friends antics. "Yeah well I didn't hear you complaining when I perfected my deep throat technique on you either," he said much quieter than his friend.
He and Ralphie had been friends since they were little kids, never best friends but always there for each other. They'd done a lot of sexual experimentation on each other when they'd realized they shared the same secret freshman year. It was nice to have someone to practice on that would give you tips instead of making you feel like a failure. Payne credited a lot of his self-confidence to his friend.
They walked down the crowded hall to the main atrium. "Wow, look at all that eye candy," Ralphie said as he took in the men that were setting up the risers.
"They're all dads so try to keep your eyes in their sockets," Payne said as he waved to his own brother who was carrying a section with their dad.
"Oh, oh, oh," Ralphie pulled on Payne's sleeve to get his attention. "Look! OMG, I want one of those for Christmas."
Payne followed where Ralphie's eyes were tracking a huge man carrying a section all by himself to the center of the room. His arm muscles bulged under a thick pelt of black hair. Payne shivered as he watched the Adonis lug the heavy piece like it was nothing. He let out a soft whimper when the guy bent down and his kakis pulled tight across his, most likely rock hard, ass.
"Oh wow," Payne whispered as Ralphie giggled next to him.
The guy stood up only five feet from where Payne and Ralphie stood and turned toward them. Payne's eyes got wide when he recognized the hot guy as Gigantor from the bar. The smile slipped from his face as he took in the marred perfection that stood before him. The guy was quite possibly the most gorgeous man he'd ever seen but the thin scraggly line that ran across his face stopped him from going over into unattainable land. He wondered why he hadn't noticed how the guy had looked at the bar; maybe it had been the scowl that was now a huge bright smile that had made him appear so menacing.
Ralphie elbowed him and he started and realized he was staring and that was just rude. Gigantor's smile had faltered and he looked like he was going to say something when two identical teen aged girls rushed up to him.
"Daddy, Mr. Pearson needs help again," one of them said to the big man.
Payne watched as Gigantor nodded towards him and his friend before looking down with that bright smile at the little girls. He let them each take an arm and led him away. Payne heard him say, "Okay but I'm ready to tell Mr. Pearson where I'm gonna shove the next heavy object he needs moved." The girls giggled up at their dad who winked back. Payne shivered and got goose bumps on his arms at the sound of the man's deep husky voice and the premonition that this wasn't the last he'd see of Gigantor.
"Holy crap, why are all the really hot ones straight?" Ralphie pouted.
"Don't know. Let's go there's my mom and Courtney," Payne said as he spotted where his family had staked out a spot. He walked over to them and his mom wrapped him in a hug which was the usual order of things.
"Payne honey, Caitlyn will be so happy you made it," she said. "Ralphie, good to see you. Finishing your shopping?"
"Yep, just got a little left. How are you Mrs. Shaw?" Ralphie asked politely.
Payne hugged his sister and sister in law and then his father and two brothers when they rejoined the family. "Where's Payton?" he asked after his missing sibling.
"He's working today so we're charged with making sure we get it on video for him," his sister Paysley said.
"I saved seats for everyone," Courtney said.
They all sat down and Payne felt pretty good surrounded by his family. He looked across and could see Gigantor sitting with a beautiful woman. They were chatting and laughing obviously very engaged with each other. Payne felt a little tug at this heart. He hoped that someday he'd have what the big scarred man had with his wife. He turned to watch as the kids crowded on the risers, looking for his little niece.
Matt had been surprised to see the kid from the bar at the mall. Not that it was a big deal, it seemed half the city was there. He'd wanted to tell the kid he was sorry for scaring him off but the way his smile had fallen when he took in Matt's scarred face had said more than words ever would. Hell what did he care what the scrawny little kid thought, he wasn't Matt's type anyway. He liked his men to be men, not some romanticized version of what a gay relationship should look like.
He sat back and enjoyed watching the little kids sing and do actions to their song. They were so damn cute at that age. He missed having little ones that liked to be picked up and held. His girls fussed when he carried them around now, apparently it wasn't dignified for an almost teenager to be held like a baby by her daddy. He had to settle for piggyback rides on the few occasions his girls were willing to indulge him.
One cute little strawberry blonde up front kept trying to get someone's attention in between the songs and when she finally did she waved frantically and blew kisses. Matt followed the little girls eye line and for some reason he wasn't surprised to see the kid with the multicolored hair at the receiving end of her display. The kid was frantically trying to catch the air kisses that were aimed at him. He signed I love you to the little girl and the girl signed it back to him.
Matt smiled at the display. It was one of the sweetest things he'd ever seen, that was until they young kids finished and filed off the stage. It was funny they walked off in orderly lines but the minute they hit the floor they scattered to find their families. Matt couldn't help but look for the amorous little girl and when he found her sure enough she was being swung up into the kid's arms. Matt watched as the boy held the youngster up over his head and then lowered her so they could give each other Eskimo kisses.
It was then that Matt saw it. There was a glow around the kid. It was like Matt could see his aura, not that he believed in such things but there was a soft golden glow that hung in the air around the kid as he rubbed his nose against the tiny nose of the child he held. Matt's skin tingled with warmth but he shivered.
He watched as they signed to each other with the one free hand they each had and then laughed. The kid kissed the rosy little cheeks and handed her off to the next in line. Matt looked over the assembled crowd around the kid and counted at least three possibly four that could be siblings and an older couple that looked like the parents of those around them. He was glad for some strange reason that the kid seemingly had a large loving family around him.
When their eyes met – Matt realized he'd been staring quite openly – the kid gave him a crooked little smile. He looked down and his eyes were hidden behind his strange hair and Matt wished that the kid would look up just once more.