Love Knots

Chapter 8


Wyatt sighed heavily as he sat at his desk, finding it hard to focus on the work in front of him. His head was in his hand and he blinked before shaking his head to wake himself up again. He hadn’t really gotten a lot of sleep last night, but there was just way too much paperwork that needed to be re-filed plus he still had to go inspect the new Tin Men Jeb was training.

It wasn’t only lack of sleep that had kept him from focusing today though. Nor was it the thoughts spinning through his mind last night that had kept him awake as he held Ambrose. No, what had been troubling him most was Ambrose’s reaction when he woke up this morning; the mild panic attack at finding out that he hadn’t slept in his own bed… and he hadn’t been alone.

Wyatt exhaled heavily and leaned back in his chair scrubbing his eyes with his palms. He couldn’t help thinking that Ambrose’s reaction was more than just finding himself in a strange and unfamiliar situation. It was almost like… something had happened to him before… But whether or not he remembered it happening or if it even did happen was another story entirely.

Getting to his feet, he headed over to the coffee pot and poured a cup. He’d brewed it extra strong this morning and realized he was going to need it to get through the day. Blinking again to wake up some more, Wyatt headed back to his desk and finished up the last of the filing for the day before slipping on  his coat, securing his hat and coffee in hand, headed out to the training field to find Jeb.

 *          *         

“Whoa,” Jeb said, blinking as he opened the door. “You look like shit, dad… What happened?” he asked, stepping aside to let his father enter his office.

“Thanks,” Wyatt said rolling his eyes and stepped in with a sigh, rubbing at his eyes again. “Didn’t get much sleep last night…”

“Oh?” Jeb asked. “How come? DG said you left dinner pretty early.”

Wyatt groaned. DG… Of course… Exhaling heavily he sat down, leaning back in one of the wooden chairs opposite his son. “Talking… with Ambrose,” he replied.

“So, you are talking with him again?” Jeb asked with a smile. “That’s good. DG said you’d gone to talk to him.”

Wyatt sighed and looked at his son wearily. “Is there anything she doesn’t ask or tell you?”

Jeb chuckled. “No, not really,” he replied. “She is my girlfriend, after all.”

“Yeah… I figured as much with how much time you two spend together…” Wyatt said and rubbed his eyes again.

Jeb smiled and shook his head. “You know dad,” he said seriously. “The inspection can wait till tomorrow… you need some sleep.”

Wyatt sighed, blinking owlishly and shook his head slightly. “Maybe you’re right,” he muttered. “But I still wanted to talk to you about something…”

“Okay,” Jeb said sitting down. “But really, dad, I already know about girls.”

Wyatt sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Okay,” Jeb muttered, seeing the look. “What’d you want to talk about?”

Wyatt swallowed, not believing he was going to actually sit and talk to Jeb about this… “Ambrose,” he said after a moment.

Jeb blinked. “How is he?” he asked, slightly confused and a little worried. “He’s all right, isn’t he?”

“Yeah…” Wyatt answered with a sigh. “A-at least physically, I think so…”

Jeb wrinkled his brow. “What do you mean?”

Wyatt exhaled heavily and shifted, leaning forward in his chair as he scrubbed his face in his hands. “We stayed up talking most of the night,” he said after a moment before looking up at Jeb. “Did you know he doesn’t remember us?”

Jeb shifted a little uncomfortably. “Yeah,” he replied quietly before meeting his father’s eyes. “DG and I stayed after his surgery… You left after the first time he woke up… when you knew something wasn’t right… DG went to see him and he didn’t remember her… he couldn’t believe that she was the princess he’d known before… He refused to talk to either of us, insisting that we were lying to him and that we were really the witch’s spies trying to get information. The Queen had to assure him we were telling the truth…”

Wyatt exhaled heavily and shook his head. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked wearily.

“Well, you’d gone…” Jeb said matter-of-factly though his tone was gentle. “I watched, but you always seemed to avoid him, so I figured it didn’t make much difference, and,” he said exhaling a soft breath. “I figured you’d understand better if you found out for yourself.”

Wyatt sighed and raked his fingers through his hair. “I guess I probably deserve that…”

“Look dad,” Jeb said. “I’m not saying you do or that you don’t. I’m just saying that he needed friends, and I thought you were one of them; that’s all.”

Wyatt sat back exhaling wearily. “Well, that’s one mistake I’m not going to make again.”

“What do you mean?” Jeb asked.

Sighing, Wyatt looked at his son, his expression tired but calm and serious. “Jeb,” he said, not believing he was actually going to have this conversation with him. “You know I loved your mother…”

Jeb blinked in surprise, taken aback by the abrupt turn of the conversation. “Yeah…” he said warily, sitting back in his chair. “I know, dad… I could see it…”

“Well, it was more than that…” Wyatt admitted.

“I know,” Jeb said lowering his eyes to his desk and nodding. “Y-you would have died that day if it meant that we would be safe…” he said quietly and swallowed over the lump in his throat.

“Yes,” Wyatt said. “I would have…” He paused and was silent for a moment. “I could never replace your mother… she was the only woman for me…”

Jeb blinked and looked up but his dad wasn’t looking at him. “But you can’t be alone…” he finished quietly.

Wyatt exhaled heavily and leaned back, slumping in the chair and looked at his son tiredly.

“You’re asking me?” Jeb asked incredulously, laughing slightly in disbelief. “Would it really matter what I said?”

“No,” Wyatt replied honestly. “I’m not asking you for your permission so it wouldn’t really matter. What I’m asking for is your opinion. That’s different.”

Jeb blinked, sitting back slightly. “Well… what is it you want to know, dad?”

Wyatt sat up, shifting somewhat restlessly in his chair. “You’re right…” he said. “I can’t be alone… Eight years along hearing nothing but the rain and hail hitting that damn suit, feeling nothing but scalding hot or freezing metal is enough alone time… but like I said, I can’t replace your mother, I don’t want to…”

Jeb swallowed and nodded slightly. “So what do you want, dad?” he asked quietly.

Wyatt sighed heavily, stilling finally. “I want to know if it would bother you… what you’d think about it if I was with…” He trailed off, clearing his throat and rubbed the back of his neck.

“If you were with a man instead?” Jeb asked.

“No!” Wyatt snapped. “I mean… I mean, yes, but…”

Jeb blinked, looking at his father and trying not to smile though his lips twitched.

Wyatt exhaled heavily. “You know… with your mother,” he said. “It was more than just the fact that I loved her… I wanted to protect her.”

Jeb nodded, blinking misty eyes. “I know,” he murmured. “And she knew…”

Wyatt sighed and lowered his head, steepling his fingers as he rested his forearms on his knees. “When I met him, I… I felt that same feeling… I wanted to protect him, keep him from ever being hurt again… I never thought I’d feel that way… that strongly for anyone again… but I didn’t trust it, he was a head case… a convict.” Wyatt paused exhaling heavily. “And then, we came here… and I learned – the hard way – that he wasn’t a convict at all… He had been the Queen’s advisor. Still, I didn’t know what had happened to him… it wasn’t until the first time I saw him fight and we rescued DG and Raw and made it to the cabin where I found your horse that I found out what had happened to him…”

Jeb swallowed, but remained quiet, waiting for his father to continue.

Gods!” Wyatt swore in frustration, gritting his teeth and clenching his fists. “I swear if that man weren’t already dead…”

Jeb blinked at the outburst. “W-what man?” he couldn’t help asking.

“Raynz…” Wyatt said, looking steadily at his son.

“You mean the alchemist?” Jeb asked. “The one they executed when he refused to help?”

Wyatt nodded.

“What’d he do?” Jeb asked, but at the look from his father, shrugged slightly and continued, “Well, aside from the fact that he really did work for the witch.”

“Well, at first I thought he’d refused because he believed the witch would return,” Wyatt said. “But then, last night…” He trailed off and exhaled heavily, shifting once more. “Last night, Ambrose mentioned him… he knew him before…”

Jeb blinked. “You’re kidding.”

Wyatt sighed and shook his head. “I wish I were…” he muttered. “Ambrose was extremely bright…”

Jeb chuckled with a smile. “I believe it,” he said. “DG showed me some of the things he found that he’d made for her.” He sobered quickly however when his father remained serious. “So what happened? How’d he know the guy?”

“He went to school with him… he was the youngest in his class,” Wyatt replied. “He surpassed Raynz to graduate and was even offered a job teaching…”

“Wow,” Jeb muttered and blinked in awe.

“Yeah, well, Raynz wasn’t too thrilled about it… Ambrose said he didn’t take the job because he didn’t know what Raynz would do…” Wyatt continued. “He was eighteen when the Queen hired him. From what I gathered, when the witch took over, she hired Raynz… I saw the memory… he was practically giddy over the chance to show up Ambrose…”

“Oh, man…” Jeb muttered, exhaling a long slow breath.

“Yeah…” Wyatt said with a nod. “It really upset Ambrose to even talk about him… He didn’t even know that he’d been executed until I told him.”

Jeb swallowed. “How’d he take it?”

“Relief I think…” Wyatt replied.

“You think?”

Wyatt sighed and nodded. “He broke down, and all I could do was hold him together…”

“You mean…?” Jeb asked wrinkling his brow.

“Yeah…” Wyatt said and sighed, raking a hand through his hair. “You remember what I’d do with your mom when she was upset…”

Jeb flushed a bit and nodded. “You’d just hold her in your lap and let her get it all out…” He smiled then before continuing, “And you’d usually end up putting her to bed afterward.”

Wyatt lowered his head with a nod.

Jeb blinked. “You mean…?” he asked.

“I let him have the bed,” Wyatt hedged, looking up. “He was completely spent afterward and could hardly keep his eyes open, much less move.” Exhaling softly, he took a sip of his now lukewarm coffee and grimaced. “It was this morning that was the problem…”

“Oh?” Jeb asked, blinking. “What happened?”

“I went in to get a change of clothes and he heard me,” Wyatt replied, leaving out the fact that he hadn’t left the room to begin with. “When he woke up and realized he’d been in my bed he had a mild panic attack.”

“You didn’t…?” Jeb asked.

Wyatt gave him a stern look. “No,” he said honestly. “I didn’t take advantage of him. I’d think even you’d know me better than that by now.”

“Right,” Jeb said and bit his lip. “Sorry.”

Wyatt nodded.

“So… he’s okay now, isn’t he?” Jeb asked after a moment.

“Yeah,” Wyatt replied. “It took me a few minutes to calm him down and explain what had happened. He was so tired when I put him to bed that he didn’t remember, but we’re still talking if that’s what you mean.”

“That’s good,” Jeb said and nodded.

“He’s agreed to come back tonight and talk some more,” Wyatt said. “Figure with the depth of what he told me, even though it was so little, I owe it to him to tell him about me…”

Jeb nodded then looked at him questioningly. “What about the medicos? They told DG and I not to tell him anything about how we know him, to just let the memories come back in their own time.”

“Medicos don’t know everything,” Wyatt replied and took a sip, grunting at the taste, his coffee now gone cold. “Besides, I can tell him about us without telling him what we’ve done together if need be.”

Jeb nodded and sighed heavily, lowering his gaze. “It’s him isn’t it?” he asked. “It’s Ambrose you want to be with…”

“Yeah,” Wyatt replied and sighed. “If he’ll have me…”

Jeb swallowed and nodded, still not meeting his gaze.

“Jeb?” Wyatt asked.

Jeb smiled weakly. “He’s a good guy, dad,” he said before meeting his gaze. “There’s nothing bad I could say about him…”

“But…” Wyatt prodded.

Jeb looked up meeting his gaze at last. “DG told me that from what she’s seen, we’re ahead of the Other Side as far as accepting couples of the same gender,” he said, weak smile still in place.

“But he’s not your mom…” Wyatt said dryly.

Jeb sighed. “Look dad... Honestly, I know you loved her and she loved you… I know she’d want you to be happy and not be lonely, and if he makes you happy,” he said with a slight shrug. “What can I say about it? You already said it wouldn’t make a difference either way…”

Wyatt exhaled heavily.

“Dad,” Jeb said. “I can’t tell you whatever it is you want me to say, because I don’t know how I feel about it… but I know Ambrose is a good guy. I know you aren’t replacing mom and you do deserve to be happy… mom would want that. So, if he makes you happy, then what else is there to say? I mean, I never thought that you’d be interested in men, but knowing you don’t want to be with a woman again, it kind of limits your options a bit, doesn’t it?”

Wyatt blinked and looked up to see his son actually smiling and chuckled after a moment. “Yeah,” he replied. “I guess it does.”

Jeb smiled and nodded, watching his dad relax a little. “So, um… just… just out of curiosity…”

“What?” Wyatt asked and looked at Jeb slightly uneasily.

“Well, I was just wondering, is… is this a new interest, or...” Jeb paused, blushing red with embarrassment before ducking his head a moment. Taking a breath he looked up, still slightly pink and continued, “Or have you, um…”

Wyatt rolled his eyes and sighed. “Or have I had a previous interest…” he muttered.

“Yeah,” Jeb asked slightly embarrassed.

“Once,” Wyatt replied, getting to his feet and Jeb followed suit. “A long time ago… before I met your mother, and,” he said pausing and turning to look at Jeb. “Before you ask, nothing happened. We just… shared a dance…”

Jeb blinked, somewhat surprised at his dad’s honest candor. “W-when?” he asked.

Wyatt sighed and blinked tiredly as he shrugged into his coat once more. “Just after I graduated the academy,” he answered, putting his hat on. “At the graduation ceremony for the Tin Men.”

Jeb blinked and swallowed but nodded after a moment and followed him to the door. “Dad?” he asked quietly.

Wyatt sighed and turned back from the door he’d just opened. “What?” he asked.

“Thanks…” Jeb answered. “For telling me…”

Wyatt nodded and headed out the door.

“Hey!” Jeb called after him.

Wyatt paused and turned, looking at him questioningly as he released a tired sigh.

Jeb grinned and chuckled. “Get some sleep…you’re going to need it.”

Wyatt nodded again and turned to go.

“Hey, dad!” Jeb called again and laughed when he saw him look skyward wearily before meeting his gaze. “Good luck.”

“Thanks,” Wyatt called back with a tired smile and waved before heading off to the castle.

Jeb chuckled and shook his head as he went back to pull his office door shut and headed off to inform his men that the inspection would be delayed until sometime tomorrow… what time, he wasn’t really sure of…

Chapter 7 ~~~~~~~~ Back to Tin Man ~~~~~~~~ Chapter 9

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