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This story contains scenes of violence and coarse language.

The Fire Soldiers bring Kieran back to the alley within fifteen minutes. Once they get there, they toss him on the ground. He suffers a painful landing on his backside.

Jasper grabs Kieran by his arms and throws him against the wall. Then, he and the rest of the gang start hitting him like a punching bag. One by one, gang members go up to Kieran and take one severe punch at him anywhere they want. Even Brock gives him a beating. When all the Soldiers have their punches, Jasper goes up to him and gives him one of his deadliest looks.

He sees that Kieran’s face is bruised and bloody, and his outfit is wrinkled from the attacks. His smile and laugh are devilish. That’ll make him talk, he thinks. He asks him, “All right, Kieran, now what exactly were you doing at that fucking police station?!” His voice gets louder with every word.

“Nothing wrong,” Kieran replies. “I was just trying to convince David’s boss that I wanted out of the Fire Soldiers!!” He screams the last five words.

Jasper slaps Kieran hard across his face, knocking him to the ground. He yells at him, “Don’t you get all fresh with me, you fucking little brat! I’ve told you again and again and again, I ain’t letting you quit the Fire Soldiers! You hear me?! I’ll kill you before that happens! You ain’t gonna turn your back on us now! And you ain’t ever gonna spend any more time with that damn cop of yours! I forbid it!”

Before Kieran can get back up, Jasper grabs him, stands him up and clutches him. He looks at his eyes and speaks softer, yet firmly. “Face reality, Kieran! The roots of society reject all of us! You must help us out in the war against society!”

Kieran releases himself from his grip and blasts, “Who the hell do you think you are, Jasper?! You’re not exactly Jesus Christ here, you know! You are so far from that! Face it! You’re using everyone here to get all the things you want! You don't give a damn about any of us, or the people you make us hurt!” He takes a few deep breaths as he fights back tears.

“Spare the evangelist act, little brother!” Brock shouts. “You’re not the one who rules here! Jasper rules! You are supposed to listen to him and follow his orders, do you understand that?! We’re sick and fucking tired of all your fucking around with us!!”

He throws Kieran’s jacket and bandanna back at him. “Look, Kieran, we ain’t interested in what you want out of your future! This is your future! Crime and gang life are your only options, just like everyone else here! We ain’t telling you this again! Now put your goddamn gear back on!”

Kieran throws his gear back at Brock and yells, “Fuck you up your fucking ass, Brock! I’m not putting this shit back on, and you can’t fucking make me! So why don’t you all just fuck the hell off?!”

Then he stops and covers his mouth. He stares at Brock’s angry glare. He has never sworn before anyone like that in his life. He calms down soon enough, and says, “I don’t care if you’re my real big brother, Brock. You and your friends are not going to turn me into a bad guy. I’ll be damned if I let you ruin my life like this! I’m much better than this! I know that!”

“What, you think you’re too good for us?” Jasper asks. “Don’t make us laugh, Kieran. You’re just like everyone else standing here. You have our rules, our regulations, our everything. You ain’t your own person here, so you don’t make your own choices. I’m your leader, so you’re in my hands! I ain’t letting you...” Then, Kieran turns and walks out of the alley in mid-sentence. “Hey!” He runs up to Kieran and demands, “Where do you think you’re going?”

“To find a phone booth,” Kieran answers in a rational, yet unnerved tone. “Maybe I can bum a quarter off someone and use it to call David. Yeah, I can ask him to come pick me up.” He starts walking up the street, away from Jasper, limping a bit.

But as Kieran waits at the crosswalk, he starts to have disturbing thoughts. Some questions begin to form in his mind. How will he get the quarter he needs to call the station? Who can page David for him? And even if he can be paged, how will David be able to talk to Kieran, if Kieran is at a phone booth and David is out on patrol? Kieran has to rethink his options. There’s only one thing to do, he decides – find the route the Fire Soldiers took and get back to the police station.

Kieran walks across the street as fast as he can, and turns to another red light. On the opposite side of Portage Avenue, he saw a few businesses that looked familiar – a Tim Horton’s franchise, a brand-new auto parts store, an interior design service selling office furniture, and a small ladies’ clothing store. Kieran smiles; he remembers seeing them on the way back to the alley. When the light turns green, Kieran walks across Portage Avenue and keeps going past the buildings. He stops on the corner of Portage and Carlton Street. The light is green, but the hand signal is flashing, so Kieran rushes across Carlton before the light turns red.

As he walks, he’s covering parts of his face. His nose is bloody, and he’s also bleeding from cuts on his lips and above his eyebrows. He covers these spots with his hands, hoping that it won’t become serious. He walks along the street searching amongst the traffic. He can’t find medical help or David anywhere; he never sees an ambulance or police car. And passers-by just walk past him like he’s not even there.

On the other side of Carlton Street, Kieran begins to wonder where he came from next. He stands in front of a sporting card store. That, he remembers, but which way did he go from there? Kieran tries to think. He can’t remember much after that card store, thanks to all the beatings he got from the other Soldiers. He feels rage, and he jumps up and down in anger and frustration, screaming, “Think, Kieran! Think, think, think!” Finally, after much aggravation, he decides to go down Carlton to see if anything looks familiar.

Kieran sees a small law office, a large apartment building and a few houses thereafter. He starts to get confused. He does not remember these houses at all. He soon realises that the Soldiers never took him down Carlton. He goes back to Portage Avenue and keeps walking to the next street up ahead, Hargrave Street.

He looks down Hargrave and sees some fancy lampposts. The lampposts don’t look familiar to him, so he looks down Portage again. Kieran is standing in front of a small corner store. On the opposite side of the street, there is a drug store. He remembers seeing it on his way from the police station. Soon, he starts to remember the way back. Perhaps if he stays on Portage for a couple more streets, he can surely get there.

Kieran starts down the street when the light turns green, and he keeps walking until he reaches the station. On the way there, he searches for police cars, and calls out David’s name. He’s desperate to track him down, but he doesn’t want to collapse doing it. When he gets there, Kieran rushes up the steps and into the building without hesitation.

Once he’s inside, Kieran starts looking for David. He calls his name over and over, until another police officer stops him and asks, “Are you looking for someone?”

Kieran says, “I’m looking for David McBain. Do you know where he might be?”

“He’s still out on assignment,” the officer answers. “Why don’t you go see Chief Markham?”

Then he removes Kieran’s hands and sees red marks all over his face. “You look terrible, boy,” he adds. “Why don’t you go to the washroom first and clean yourself up? Just go straight then hang a left.”

“Sure, I’ll do that.” Kieran runs quickly to the men’s room, before the bleeding gets worse.

Kieran spends ten minutes in the washroom. He blows his nose a few times, and sees blood stains on the tissue. He holds his head back for several minutes and soon, the bleeding stops. Now it’s time for his lips and eyebrows. He runs some more tissue through hot water and puts it on the cuts. When he takes them off, they continue to bleed. Both his eyes have shiners.

Kieran sighs, turns off the faucet, and goes to dry his face off. When he’s completely dry, he covers his cuts with pieces of dry tissue. Then, he rolls up his turtleneck sleeves and pant legs, checking his elbows and knees for more injuries. Both are scraped and bruised badly. His arms and legs are also bruised. He notices his elbows have started to bleed, so he quickly covers them with more tissue.

Kieran leaves the washroom and goes to Chief Markham’s office. He knocks three times and hears Markham’s voice say, “Come in.” He pokes his head through the door, and Markham looks up from his paperwork. He is shocked to see him.

“You again!” he cries at him. “What do you want this time?”

“I’m looking for David, Chief,” Kieran answers. “Has he left the station already?”

“He went out on his assignment about fifteen minutes after you left, Kieran,” Markham says. “He should be back any time.”

“All right, I’ll go find a waiting area.” He starts to walk away, but Markham stops him. “Come back here!” he calls.

Wordlessly, Kieran turns and goes back to the office. Markham takes him inside, shuts the door and tells him to sit down.

He looks at Kieran’s face and says, “I couldn’t help but notice those bruises and marks, and you limping. Where did all that come from?”

“Those stupid Fire Soldiers did this to me,” Kieran says. “Damn that Jasper, he took one big swing at me, then let the rest of them beat on me afterwards. Even my own brother hit me.”

“Are you sure?” Markham asks. “For all I know, you could’ve tried to rob a liquor store, and the manager could’ve defended himself by breaking bottles over your head and beating you half to death!”

“Oh, get serious!” Kieran says. He gets up and does a spin-around for Markham, modelling his outfit. “You remember this, don’t you? Does this look like something a liquor store robber would wear?”

Markham stays silent, so Kieran sits back down and continues speaking. “If I even wanted to rob some liquor store, I’d be wearing my gang gear. But I never wore my gear at all today. I even refused to put it on when the Soldiers hurled it at me during our fight. Now what does that say about me, huh?”

“Right, Kieran,” Markham says sarcastically. “You probably took off your jacket and bandanna on your way here, and left both of them behind without looking back. You just showed up here looking like that so you can try and prove yourself innocent. Stop playing this game, Kieran. Why don’t you just admit that you committed some crimes between the time you left and right now, so I can take you to jail?” He stands up and barks, “Come on, let’s hear some confessions!”

“Chief, I didn’t...,” Kieran begins, but stops once he notices Markham’s sour look. He can’t be persuaded. Kieran sighs and lowers his head. “Never mind, Chief Markham. I’m obviously not getting through to you. I’m just going to go find a place to sit down, so I can wait for David without being hassled!” He turns and walks out, leaving the door open. He goes back to the reception area and searches for a comfortable bench.

Kieran sits on a small bench near the main doors, and waits until David and a few more officers come back. When he sees him, he stands up and starts walking with him.

“David!” he cries. “Oh, thank God you’re back! You won’t believe what I went through trying to track you down!”

Kieran sees three members of another gang in David’s possession. The culprits are two guys and a girl, all around twenty-five years old, from the looks of them. Kieran can tell they’re from another gang, because they’re all wearing red and white leather jackets, and their caps are on backwards. So he asks David, “Who are these guys? And what have they done? Was this from the bust you talked about? How did it go?”

“First, we had to take fifteen minutes to recover from those blows your gang gave us,” David says. “We had to recruit one of our younger officers to act as bait, but it was successful, nonetheless. Once he gave us the signal, that’s when we took off after them. You should’ve seen how fast these critters were going; some of us had to run like rockets. My officers and I had ourselves pinned on them, so they wouldn’t fight us while we handcuffed them.” He turns to Kieran, and is shocked to see his face, wrinkled outfit and limp. “Kieran, what the heck happened to you?”

“Why don’t you finish your business with these guys, and I’ll tell you everything,” Kieran says. David nods, then he and the others take the criminals into Markham’s office to report them.

When David comes out, Kieran begins telling his story about how Jasper, Brock and the other Fire Soldiers attacked him when they got back to their alley. He gives him every detail, from his confrontation with them about betraying the gang, to his quest to get back to the station, to his argument with the bull-headed chief when he noticed his injuries.

David frowns when Kieran finishes the story. He sighs heavily and said, “That’s it, Kieran. You’re sticking with me from now on. I can’t have you getting hurt by those guys again. And I’m not going to let them take you from me, just so they can use you again. You’re much too good to be going through this, Kieran.” He squats down to Kieran’s eye level. “I can see that inside of you, my boy.”

David stands back up, and Kieran says, “Thank you, David. You don’t know how much this means to me.”

David smiles and ruffles Kieran’s hair. Then, he checks his watch. It’s almost eleven-thirty. “Why don’t you come to the reception area with me?” he suggests. “You can talk to me while I type up a police report. Then we’ll see about getting you bandaged up.” Kieran agrees, and he takes David’s hand as they go to his desk.

~~~~~~~~~~

At quarter after five, when both David and Virgil end their shifts, Kieran sits in the front seat of David’s car. The Fire Soldiers haven’t come for him all afternoon. They never know he’s spent the whole time at the station. Kieran smiles. Good, he thinks. Those stupid Fire Soldiers can rot in hell for all I care.

Kieran is going to David’s house for dinner this evening. David invited him while they're eating lunch. “You’ll get to meet my wife and child,” he said. “And Virgil’s family will be there, too.” Kieran accepted the offer easily.

“That’s wonderful,” David replied, “but I’ll have to take you to your place first. You need to change out of those tattered clothes.”

On the way to Kieran’s house, he says, “David, I can’t believe that I’m going to meet your family and your brother’s family all in one evening. Do you guys always get together for Sunday dinners?”

“Yes, unless we have a shift, of course,” David says. “One week, Virgil and his family will come to my house; the next week, my family and I will go to Virgil’s, and so on. This week, it’s his turn to come see me.”

Kieran can’t stop thinking about the meal. Sure, he likes hamburgers and fries like the average family, but what he loves most of all was ethnic foods – Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Japanese. But he doesn’t dare ask David what’s being served, because he knows it’s very bad manners.

“I hope you like Italian food, Kieran,” David says. “We have spaghetti, lasagne, fettuccine and manicotti.”

“Love it,” Kieran replies. “I’m already looking forward to this.”

“I’m glad to hear it. Home-made ethnic foods are Debbie’s specialities.”

“Debbie’s your wife, I’m assuming.” David nods and Kieran continues, “That's amazing. She hasn’t even met me, yet she can read my mind. I love ethnic food. Have you told her about me yet?”

“Yeah, and she’s just dying to meet you.”

When they arrive at Kieran’s house, both he and David leave the car simultaneously, and Kieran runs into the house. At first, Mrs. Camp is happy to see him again, but then she notices his bandages.

“My word, Kieran!” she cries. “What happened to you?”

David steps into the house before Kieran can explain. Mrs. Camp looks at him and asks, “David, what in the world happened to him?”

He looks at Kieran and says, “You’d better go change now, boy. I’ll tell your mother everything.” Kieran goes to his bedroom while David explains the fight he had with the Fire Soldiers.

When he wraps up, he says, “Now, I’m taking Kieran to my house for dinner, so he can meet my family.” Just then, Kieran reappears in a maroon button-down shirt and tan slacks.

“Oh, that looks so lovely,” Mrs. Camp coos. She walks over and parts his hair.

“Very handsome,” David compliments. “Stylish and mature, like a gentleman.”

“Thank you, David,” Kieran replies. He walks over and gives him a warm hug.

He turns to Mrs. Camp, and she says, “Now, Kieran, you’re going to be a guest in David’s home. I want you to be on your best behaviour. Don’t forget to be courteous and polite.”

“Sure, I will,” Kieran says. Of course he will be polite. He likes David too much to be unmannerly. Surely, his mother understands that.

“I’ll try to have him home by ten-thirty,” David promises. Mrs. Camp nods and smiles, then he and Kieran leave the house.

David lives on Grassie Boulevard. When he arrives at his house twelve minutes later, he opens Kieran’s door for him. Kieran takes his hand as he steps out, and they walk to the front door together. When they enter the house, they see a brunette woman sitting on the living room couch watching television.

David kisses the woman hello, then says, “Debbie, this is Kieran Camp, my new Little Brother match.” He turns to Kieran. “Kieran, this is my wife, Debbie.”

“Nice to meet you, Debbie,” Kieran says, shaking her hand. Then, before she can ask about his black eyes, he explains, “Pardon my eyes, ma’am. I got these in a fight I had with my gang.”

“All right,” Debbie replies. “David’s told me a lot about you and your little problem. I can’t believe how you got into it. You must be so miserable.”

“I am,” Kieran says. "But with your husband by my side, I’m sure to get it solved.” He glances at David, then back at Debbie. “You married a very good man, Debbie. This really shows how much he loves our city’s children. Don’t ever let him go.”

A few minutes later, they see David and Debbie’s eight-year-old son run happily into the living room. The boy has David’s hair, ears, nose, mouth and chin. Kieran looks at him as if he’s from another galaxy. He presses his lips together in anger when he sees David bonding with the boy in his arms.

He points at David’s son and asks in an upsetting tone, “And who, may I ask, is that?”

David shows off the child and says, “This is my little boy, Dylan.” He kisses Dylan on his forehead, puts him down and introduces him to Kieran. Kieran shoots a nasty look at both of them. He looks as peeved as a girl whose boyfriend has another woman on the side. Dylan says a brief hello to Kieran, then goes to sit with his mother.

Kieran turns to Debbie and says through clenched teeth, “Excuse me, Debbie. David and I need to talk in private.” He grabs David by the arm, takes him to the master bathroom and closes the door.

He glares at him and spits, “You’re so unbelievable, David! Why didn’t you tell me that you have a son? When were you going to spring this on me?”

“Calm down, Kieran,” David says. He clears his throat. “Look, I told both my wife and son about you over dinner last night. Dylan knows I’m your Big Brother, and he accepts that.”

“Yes, but why didn’t you tell me about him yesterday, when we were getting to know each other?” Kieran demands. “I think I would’ve understood then.”

“Well, I wasn’t sure how you’d react if I told you about Dylan right away,” David explains, defending himself. “I was afraid you’d quickly change your mind about me, or something.” He takes a pause, then, “Look, Kieran, I hope you can act civil around my son. And try not to get too jealous if he wants to cuddle up to me tonight, OK?”

Kieran thinks about it for a few moments, then says, “All right, I’ll try. But I still wish you’d told me about him before.”

David opens the door, and Kieran walks out. They go back into the living room, and Kieran sits on the loveseat. David sits down next to Debbie on the couch. She takes a sip of coffee and sets it down. She coughs a little and asks, “So, Kieran, what plans do you have for your future when and if you get out of this gang?”

“Well, I’m probably going to have to repeat the eighth grade next year, since I haven't been able to go to school in two months,” Kieran answers. “I’m not sure about what I want to do with my life, but I do know that I want a great career.”

“Two months?” Debbie asks. “Is that how long you've been in your gang?”

“Yeah,” Kieran says, “I couldn’t go to school because my big brother, Brock, took me out of my home. From there, I joined his gang, even though I didn’t want to. As David probably told you, they make me do unmentionable things that you can’t believe. It’s ruining my life. I’ve begged them to let me go, but they won’t do it, because of this oath they made me take, and all that other jazz.” Then, they hear the doorbell ring.

“Oh, that must be Virgil and his family,” David says. He excuses himself to answer the door.

He is greeted by Virgil, his wife and two of their children, and invites them into the house. Virgil’s wife looks like an older version of Marilyn Monroe, with the way she wears her blonde hair. Their older son looks like a no-nonsense type of teenager, with his father’s hair, mouth and cheekbones, and the serious look it seems he was born with. Their younger son looks like a mirror image of his mother, except for the glasses he wears.

Kieran stands up and says, “Hello, Virgil. Who might these nice-looking people be?”

Virgil puts his arm around his wife and says, “This is my wife, Mary Lynne.” Then he points to his two sons. “These are our boys. The one with the raven-coloured hair is Nathaniel, and the blond one is Curtis.” Kieran shakes all their hands. But he somehow has an uneasy feeling about Nathaniel and Curtis. Both look very suspicious of him.

“Virgil and I also have a ten-year-old daughter named Heaven,” Mary Lynne says to Kieran. “She’s at home with a baby-sitter tonight. She’ll be in bed before we get home.”

David says to Dylan, “Son, why don’t you take Kieran and your cousins downstairs until dinner’s ready?” Dylan obeys, and the boys leave the living room. All the adults sit down and talk. As Kieran starts downstairs, he hears Virgil say, “You know, Dave, maybe Kieran isn’t such a bad kid after all. I’m starting to warm up to him. In fact, I think you two actually look good together.” That makes him smile.

The boys are playing a game of Clue in the recreation room. At first, Nathaniel and Curtis won’t let Kieran play, but Dylan scowls, “He’s Dad’s friend, you guys! Don’t be rude!” He smiles at him. “It’s OK, Kieran. You can join us.” Kieran sits down beside Dylan. As the boys play, Kieran appears to enjoy being around Nathaniel and Curtis. But deep down, he feels very uncomfortable about them.

Twenty minutes later, David calls them for dinner. Everybody sits around the big dining table and joins hands for the blessing. When the meal begins, the parents serve themselves before serving the children. David is busy serving Kieran, while Debbie serves Dylan.

Meanwhile, Kieran is lookin uneasily at Nathaniel and Curtis. They’re giving him strange, nasty looks. It’s as if they’re wondering what their Uncle David is doing with him to begin with. They look over at David, who’s unaware of their suspicions. They shoot looks of strong disapproval, but they don’t dare say anything to him. Kieran can tell the boys know about him being in a gang. He’s upset to know that even members of his Big Brother’s own family don’t approve of him.

He leans in closer to David, points to Nathaniel and Curtis and whispers, “David, your nephews seem to think I’m not wanted here. Did Virgil tell them anything about the two of us?”

David looks at both boys, then whispers back at Kieran, “Perhaps he did. Right now, they look like they want to murder me for having you over here.”

“What are we going to do? Having your relatives disapprove of us being together is not helping me achieve my goal!”

“Just eat your dinner for now. If this continues, I’ll talk to them both about you. Maybe I’ll tell Virgil about them, too.”

Kieran nods, then he and David sit up and start eating. While they eat, they keep glancing over at Nathaniel and Curtis. The boys keep giving them nasty looks as they eat. Nathaniel even shakes his head, as if to say, “Uncle David, what are you doing with that delinquent?”

David looks over at Virgil and Mary Lynne. They are eating their food and chatting with Debbie about this and that. They look completely unaware of how rude their sons are acting.

Half an hour later, dinner is over. Kieran helps David put the leftovers away, while Debbie loads the dishwasher. As Kieran scoops out the manicotti, he says, “Thanks for having me over here, David. I really appreciate this.” He puts down the serving spoon and looks up at him. “I appreciate everything you’ve done for me since I’ve met you. I only wish there were more cops that were as kind as you.”

David puts the lasagne down and turns to face Kieran. He puts his hand on Kieran’s shoulder and says, “Kieran, you know I’d do anything for you. I am your light at the end of your tunnel. And you, you’re the only one outside my family who means everything to me. I saw that from the first moment I met you. And I promise I’ll stand by you through whatever you go through.” He kneels down and puts his other hand on Kieran’s other shoulder. “Of all the young people I’ve met in my career, you are the most special, because I know you want something. And I know you’ll do well with whatever you want to do.”

“Do you mean it?” Kieran asks.

“Yes,” David answers. “You know I mean it, Kieran. I can’t stress that enough. You know I would never lie when I say something serious like this.”

Tears of happiness begin to fall from Kieran’s eyes. “Oh, David, thank you for saying that.” He gets closer to David, and they engage in a long embrace.

Just then, they hear Nathaniel’s voice as he and Curtis go into the kitchen. “Uncle David, is it all right if we…” he begins.

Right there, they catch their uncle hugging Kieran. Both of them scream really loud, then they jostle over to separate the two. Curtis pins Kieran to the edge of the counter and yells orders in his ear, while Nathaniel is yelling at David. He yells, “Why the hell are you hugging that boy, Uncle David?! Are you stupid?!”

Debbie quickly abandons the dishwasher to rescue Kieran and control Nathaniel and Curtis. Virgil and Mary Lynne appear from the living room. They are horrified at what they see. They walk quickly over to calm their boys down.

David becomes very angry with the boys. When Nathaniel and Curtis are quiet, he grabs them both by their arms. He turns to his wife and says, “Debbie, would you help Kieran put the food away while I have a talk with these two?” Debbie nods and goes to finish with the leftovers. David takes his nephews to the bathroom, while Virgil and Mary Lynne go back to the living room. Kieran just stands there, trying to recover from the shock of that sudden attack.

In the bathroom, David slams the door and turns to Nathaniel and Curtis in an agitated rage. “Have you two lost your fucking minds?!” he shouts at them. “What the hell would possess you to jerk me away from Kieran like that?” He turns to Curtis and keeps ranting. “And you, Curtis, what were you doing pinning him against the counters like that? I thought you were going to hurt him for a moment there!”

“Well, what are you doing getting involved with a gang member in the first place?!” Curtis demands. “And a Fire Soldier at that, from what we’ve heard! Man, Uncle David, what are you doing to yourself?!”

“Look,” David says sternly, “I’m only trying to help that boy out of the gang life! He’s very unhappy with it, and he wants out, seriously. I’m trying to guide him out by being his Big Brother. I’m getting him involved in everything I do, and doing all I can to keep him away from the Fire Soldiers. That’s the best way I know how!”

“You honestly think you can change this Kieran kid?” Nathaniel asks with a hint of attitude. “You can’t change a person, Uncle David, and even you know that!”

“I’m not trying to change him, Nathaniel,” David replies. “I’m only trying to make his life better. He wants it that way.”

“And to do that, you have to get involved in this street kid’s life?” Nathaniel’s tone sounds exasperated. “Do you know how dishonourable that is, not only to yourself, but to your profession? Are you even aware of the crimes and murders he may have committed while in this gang?!”

“Yes, Nathaniel,” David says. “He told me everything, and let me tell you right now, he’s not proud of any of it. Maybe if you tried getting to know him, instead of just judging him mentally like you did all through dinner, you’d be able to understand that!”

“Uncle David, we want to be cops, like you and Dad and Grandpa McBain, not child therapists!” Curtis says spitefully. “Didn’t Grandpa teach you anything about good police work? You can’t put faith into anyone when you’re a cop. That’s what Dad taught us, anyway.”

David sighs a little. “Boys,” he says, “being a good and honourable cop takes more than just apprehending the bad guys. You have to be able to help people whenever they may need it, no matter who they are. That’s exactly what your grandfather taught me, your father and your uncle Garry. I’m sure your father has taught you that, and that’s exactly what I plan to teach Dylan.”

“All right,” Nathaniel says, sounding a little more civil. “And what about your friendship with Kieran? Do you really like this kid?”

“Yes, Nathaniel,” David answers. “I really do like Kieran.”

David can see some change in both his nephews. They apologise for criticising his relationship with Kieran, then hug him. David feels more at ease and says, “I think he’s still in the kitchen, boys. Now, I want to you to go and apologise to him. Tell him you were just being judgmental towards him, and that you won’t do it ever again.”

Nathaniel and Curtis walk out of the bathroom to the kitchen. They see Kieran standing near the sink, looking really angry. His arms are folded across his chest. They stop in front of him.

Nathaniel says, “Kieran, we’re sorry for acting so hostile towards you, and for bashing your relationship with our Uncle David. We were just judging you based on what our Dad told us. Can you ever forgive us?”

“It’s going to take some time for me to get over this,” Kieran says to the boys. “I don’t know how I’m going to forgive you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find David.” He walks away, leaving the boys in the kitchen.

Kieran goes into the living room. He sees David and Debbie, talking with Virgil and Mary Lynne. David makes room for Kieran on the loveseat, and he sits down beside him. Kieran puts his arm around him, and then his head on his shoulder. He feels that he needs David’s comfort, after the horrifying confrontation they had with the hard-nosed nephews.

Kieran has a lot of thoughts as he sits with his Big Brother match. Why can’t certain people see past his gang life, and accept him for the person he wants to be? Why can’t those same people respect David’s decision to help him? And what is the real reason behind the Fire Soldiers’ constant pressure towards him? Jasper and Brock can talk about loyalty until they lose their voices, but Kieran will never believe any of it. He’s too smart to believe that a gang can be a person’s “second family.”

Kieran stays quiet until Virgil, Mary Lynne and their sons leave the house. When they’re gone, David asks, “So, what do you think of Virgil’s family?”

“His wife was nice and humble, at least,” Kieran replies. “Their boys, on the other hand, could’ve been less aggressive and judgmental. They’ll have to be if they want to be good cops someday.”

“Yeah, Virgil’s going to have to teach them something about sincerity towards others,” David agrees. “Rest assured, Kieran, that’s what I’m going to teach Dylan about law enforcement when he gets older.”

“Does Dylan really want to be a cop when he grows up?”

David laughs. “He’s growing up in a family of police officers, Kieran. Of course he wants to be one. In fact, he told me so about a year ago.”

“Oh, of course, isn’t that obvious?” Kieran says. “Silly me. Dylan loves his father enough to want to be like him. And I can see why.” He puts his other arm around David and gives another friendly hug.


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