My apologies and gratitude to all of you out there who were concerned by my absence. A project kept me pretty busy, but it's complete...and here I am. <g> Thank you for thinking about me. A quote I used in one of my stories says it best: One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don't come home at night. ~ Margaret Mead. I didn't come home on time and you worried. Bless you.
This one is slightly different from my other Traces stories. Instead of a series of snippets, this is one continuous tale.
Thanks, K. She's my beta, but any remaining mistakes are mine.
This is dedicated to all the dads, and all the moms, relatives, and friends, who function as dads. Happy Father's Day to each of you!
Hope you enjoy!
His fingers traced the delicate symbols etched into the stone entrance to the Temple of the Sentinels. He had been here before. The summer after he had graduated from high school, his father and uncle had brought him to the temple. He had entered the grotto, and with the two men's guidance, he had seen the mysteries without the use of drugs. It had been an enlightening experience that caused him to shiver each time he remembered it.
But he wasn't at the temple now. Not really. He was on the dream plane, and he knew he was supposed to enter the ancient building and discover another part of his destiny. This had happened before, so he had no reason to be frightened...but he was. Whatever lay within the temple was going to change his life, and while there were some people who were just sitting around waiting for their lives to change, he was quite happy with his. He and his Guide would graduate from UCLA in a couple of months. They would then attend the police academy, and he would take his rightful place as Cascade's second Sentinel. His Uncle Blair had once told him that it was one Sentinel per tribe, but through his experience here at this temple, he'd learned that Cascade was his to protect as well. That was fine with him. He loved Cascade. He loved his family. He was glad that he was destined to be close to them.
So, he didn't want this change, whatever it was. He knew if he concentrated hard enough, he could shift back to reality. However, he also knew it was his duty to go inside and face what was to be. His eyes adjusted immediately to the gloomy interior. In front of him were two jaguars: a large black male, and a slim spotted female. As he watched them, he realized the male was chained by way of a tight collar chafing around his neck. The male was also unsteady, the legs obviously weak, his balance apparently affected since he stumbled and weaved erratically as he impatiently paced his small confine.
The female was not bound, nor unsteady. She kept circling the male, obviously in heat, as she wiggled her hind end invitingly before the dark one. When he paid her no attention, she nipped at him, and growled. She bullied and teased him, until the male finally half-heartedly mounted her. When the deed was done, he dragged his belly across the dirt as if to wipe away her scent. Then he curled up protectively into a corner, and succumbed to his weakness.
David Ellison sat up with a gasp. Immediately, he turned his head toward the other bed and was grateful that he hadn't woke Evan. He had always known that as a Sentinel, he would eventually meet and bond with a person who would be his partner for as long as he lived. It was the way of Sentinel and Guide. He had recognized Evan Strongheart as that person immediately. Ev was his Guide, his best friend, and his other half. Yet, there was a difference between the relationship his father had with his Guide, and the one David shared with Evan. Jim Ellison had bonded exclusively with Blair Sandburg. But David was bonded to Blair, as well as Evan, because Blair had been his interim Guide from his birth until Evan appeared. He'd known his uncle had worried about that, worried that he had screwed up David's chance of accepting his own Guide when the time came, and he'd known the man would have guided both Sentinels (and run himself into an early grave) if it had come to that. All three of them (father, son, and uncle) had been relieved that he had recognized, and accepted Evan as his Guide. Yet, his connection to Blair still existed.
But his greatest and strongest bond was to his father. Blair, ever the scholar, had hypothesized that in ancient times, Sentinels were needed at the boundaries of the tribal area so their young were taken from them and raised by the village. That made Jim the first Sentinel to raise his/her own little Sentinel, which meant rules were bound to change and be rewritten-- which didn't bother the younger Sentinel in the least. David could not remember a time when he couldn't sense his father, hadn't felt his presence. He thought back to how he had just stared at some little boy in kindergarten, who had screamed that his father was leaving him. Leaving? Fathers couldn't leave. They were in your head. He had been a very puzzled child when Uncle Blair had come to pick him up that afternoon.
Now he was a troubled child. So what if he was twenty-three years old, and due to get his Master's degree in a few weeks? He was realistic enough to know he was still in a child in some matters, would always be a child. And that, as his uncle would say, was cool. He and Evan had talked about that for a long period. David would always be the junior Sentinel and Evan would always be the junior Guide, and the beauty of that was there would always be someone to look to when something went wrong, someone who had gone through whatever trials awaited them. He actually shuddered when he realized that his father and uncle had just winged it all those years...and were still winging it. It was no wonder he didn't have to look far for his heroes.
"What's going on, Dave?" a sleepy voice called from across the room.
"A dream, Ev."
"What kind of dream?"
"Go back to sleep, man."
Evan sighed and thumped his pillow. "It's too freaking early in the morning to argue about this. You Sentinel. Me Guide. You talk."
David smiled. His father had tried to warn him that having Evan apprentice at Blair's knee every summer, and various vacations in between, was going to backfire one day. "Jaguars," he replied softly.
"Jaguars? Now, I know you're going to talk to me." Evan threw his covers back, and sat up. "Is this one of those imminent danger things, or an early warning system alert?"
"I saw something that has already happened."
"The making of me. Maybe."
Evan leaned over and opened the door to the tiny refrigerator at the foot of his bed. "Please, let there be a Coke," he muttered. "I'm going to need a caffeine fix for this one." Snagging a can, he popped the top and took a big swig. "Okay. The making of you.... Your conception?" he hazarded. "Watching your parents doing the nasty has to be cosmic."
"Ah. The wisdom of a psych major," David smirked. "Guess you could call it, 'kitty porn.' "
"You're a sick man, Ellison. What's with the 'maybe'?"
"Dad may not be my biological father. I told you about my mom...."
"International criminal. Bonkers at the end."
"I can feel the love, Evan," David said dryly.
"You're cool with who she was. Let's get to the part you're not cool with. And if you want love, don't wake me in the middle of the night."
"I'll be sure to pass that information on to your girlfriends."
Dark eyes glared across the room. "Don't get off track. You're not sure your dad is your dad?"
"He and Mom didn't date or anything...and she had probably been with someone else right before she was with him."
"So, they had a one-night stand?"
David closed his eyes. "That's what I thought. I mean, Dad said something about biology, and drugs, and instincts."
"Sounds like a one-nighter to me, although I can't picture the Captain doing drugs. Not just because he's a cop, but he's so...straight."
David shook his head. "We Sentinels can't do recreationals, Ev. Wouldn't even if we could. She drugged him against his will. And then they did it...at least that was the picture I had in my mind. But...that's not what I saw in the dream."
"What did you see in your dream?" Evan picked up his Coke and moved to the other bed, sensing his Sentinel's emotional disturbance.
"She raped him," David whispered.
"He was drugged...too weak to be interested in her. But she kept teasing him, and forcing her scent onto him until he had no choice. I could see it in his eyes, Ev. He was sickened by the act, and disgusted by his participation. I wonder...."
"You wonder...." Evan urged.
"I wonder if that's why he claimed me. So that he could believe that something good came from the worst night of his life," David worried.
"That man loves you, David! Everyone can tell that just by the way he looks at you. He's not making an excuse for a bad night, or pretending to care for you out of guilt or whatever. Do you know I thought that only mothers could express their love for their kids in an open manner? Yeah, I knew my dad loved me, and that other dads loved their kids, but it just wasn't shown for the world to see, you know? Then I met you, and you were so wild about your dad, so excited about me meeting him. I was shocked when you ended a phone call to him by saying, 'I love you.' That was something you were supposed to give up by age six.... I remember us flying to Cascade for Christmas break, and your dad and uncle meeting us at the airport. He hugged you. There. In public. For no other reason than he was glad to see you. You don't know how much that one act rocked my view of the world."
"I want a paternity test done," David said quietly. "He never requested one, but he told me if I wanted it done, he would do it."
"Why?" Evan nearly yelled. "Why do you want to hurt him like that?"
"I don't want to hurt him."
"But that's what this is going to do, Dave. You know it will."
David sighed. "I know. That's why I've been putting it off for the last several years. But I think that's what this dream was about...facing who I am and how I came to be. I can't go to the police academy this summer not knowing, Ev. When I don that uniform and pin on that badge, I have to know who I am." He hung his head to the side, brushing it against Evan's shoulder. "Don't fight me on this one, okay?"
The American Indian nodded reluctantly. He didn't like this idea at all. He was a Guide and Guides protected Sentinels. That meant he was supposed to protect the Captain too. And the man was going to be hurt. "I'll see if I can get Eddie to TA my Friday afternoon class. That way we can catch an early flight. But I gotta tell you, man, this isn't one of your brightest ideas."
"Observation so noted. Thanks for going with me, Ev."
Evan shrugged, snagged one of David's pillows, and curled up on the end of the bed. "As if I'd miss a chance to go home. Think Mrs. Mac will make us cookies?" He was asleep before David could reply.
Dr. Blair Sandburg, police consultant, burst out laughing as soon as he slid into the truck beside his best friend. "Oh, man! That was great! Did you see Lowenstein's face? That poor guy," he continued to chuckle.
"He shouldn't have left the incident out of his report," Captain Jim Ellison said, without cracking a smile.
"He just transferred to Major Crime, Jim. Give the guy some slack."
"I did, didn't I?"
"Yeah, just enough to hang himself," Blair chided, then started laughing again. "'Lowenstein, is there something you want to add to your report?'" he said, altering his voice to a decent imitation of Jim's. "'No? Well, then I suggest you change colognes...or your diet.'" The 4x4 shook as he nearly doubled over. "He'd gone to so much trouble, Jim. Showered, changed clothes, everything, so that you wouldn't find out he'd tripped over his own two feet and landed in that pile of manure."
Jim finally laughed. "Guess I taught him not to lie to ol' Eerie Ellison, huh?" The nickname didn't bother him. Being a Sentinel did make him eerie...and way too hard to fool.
"You don't have to worry, Jim. He now has the right amount of 'captain fear'."
"Yeah, everybody always reaches that point, except you. I don't know how Simon put up with you all those years."
"According to him, it was because it was the only way he could put up with his best detective. The man was impossible without me. Mean, fussy, anti-social...."
"I get the picture, Sandburg," Jim growled, then stopped.
The abrupt cessation alarmed Blair. "What is it, Jim?"
Blair swiveled his head around, only seeing traffic. "Where?"
He relaxed, then tensed again. "He didn't say anything about coming home this weekend, did he?"
Jim shook his head and focused. "He's agitated, but unharmed. Neither is Evan."
"You can sense Ev from this distance?" They were still a good twenty miles away from what they called the cabin, but was more of a mountain retreat in appearance. Large, spacious rooms. Plenty of glass in order to see the surrounding mountains and forest. It was the perfect home for a Guide and his two Sentinels.
"I sense Ev through David. They have a very strong bond." He glanced at his partner. "You really don't have to worry about it."
Blair sighed in relief. He had nightmares about having screwed up David by guiding him through his childhood. It was bad enough that the boy had bonded so closely to his father, but there was nothing he could do about that. He would never, ever, try to come between Jim and David. It had been so gratifying over the years to see father and son together. Jim had never gotten along with his father, and he had never known his, so watching the two of them had been a unique and heartwarming experience. But maybe he could have held back--
"You are David's other parent; you couldn't have not given him what you thought he needed," Jim said, reading his mind-- not a Sentinel skill, but that of an old friend.
Blair smiled. "Thank you."
"Never begrudging me a moment of David's life."
"Why would I? He's always been as much your child as he is mine."
From the beginning, that had been Jim's view. Without giving it a second thought, he filled in Blair's name and work number in the other parent slot on all of David's paperwork (briefly he wondered if anyone had made a study of the amount of paperwork a little kid had to have just to exist in current society). The smirks he received, the flares of hatred he must have sensed even if the person kept his face clear of reaction, none of it seemed to touch Jim. And David, always eager to emulate his father, took the same stance: No, he didn't have a mommy, but he had an Uncle Blair, and if you didn't like that, well, then you were a bad person and he didn't want anything to do with you anyway.
He swallowed the lump in his throat the memories caused. "I wonder what's wrong? David's not an impulsive person."
"Despite how hard you tried to make him otherwise?" Jim grinned.
"I just didn't want him to be rigid. He's a Sentinel. You know how flexible you have to be, Jim. At any minute you can sense danger, and, wham, that mental list of yours is shot to hell."
"I know, Chief, and you did a good job with him."
"We did, didn't we?"
"We always do our best work together," Jim agreed. "But if your kid is in any trouble...."
"Knowing your kid, he probably called the owner of his apartment building a slumlord, and got himself kicked out on the street."
"That would make him your kid-- militant, standing up for his rights," Jim pointed out.
"No, that would make him your kid-- a stickler for building codes, seeking justice for all the tenants," Blair corrected.
The police captain smiled. "I think he's the best of all three of us, Chief-- you, me, and even Alex."
Blair nodded. He was definitely the best thing Alex Barnes had ever produced. "Maybe one of them needs more material for his thesis," he guessed. The Cascade P.D. only actively recruited men and women with college degrees, and if you had your eye on being a detective, then a graduate degree was a must.
"I thought you reviewed both final copies over spring break?"
"I did. Then what could it be?"
Jim turned into the drive. "We're here. You can ask them yourself." He saw the two young men spill out the front door.
"David," Jim said, folding his arms around his son.
"Hi, Dad." He moved from his father's arms to the other man's. "Hi, Uncle Blair."
"Dave." He accepted the embrace, then the other's. "Ev."
"Teacher," Evan said warmly, then stuck out his hand. "Hi, Captain."
Jim shook the hand, trying to keep the amusement off his face. Evan was always so formal with him. At first, he'd been concerned that he came off gruff and awkward with the young man he considered to be part of the family. But David had assured him, it wasn't fear, but awe, which prompted Evan to show him such respect. "So, why are you here?" he asked, never one for small talk, especially with family.
David looked at Evan, saw the disapproval, but continued anyway. "I need to speak with you, Dad."
Blair understood what David hadn't said. "Hey, Ev. Let me show you the new plants I put into my herb garden." He gently tugged Evan around the house toward the small plot. "So, is everything okay? I'm not asking you to break a confidence, or anything," he clarified.
"Actually, Dave's hoping I'll tell you, so he won't have to. I probably shouldn't tell you, just to spite the coward."
"Okay, something tells me you two disagreed on this matter?" Blair questioned carefully.
Evan yanked at what he hoped was a weed. "I like the Captain, Blair, and it's not just a Sentinel/Guide thing. He's a good man, a good person. He's practically adopted me, both of you have. It doesn't feel right to deliberately hurt him."
"Whoa!" Blair said quickly. "I think you better tell me what's going on."
Evan nodded miserably. "David came to ask his dad for a paternity test."
"Damn." Blair sat down right where he was, ignoring the mixture of grass and dirt beneath him. Evan obediently did the same. Blair was his mentor and a Shaman. It was not right to be above him. "Why now?"
"David says he needs to know his identity before he goes to the academy."
"And what do you say?"
"David is scared of disappointing his father, so he's taking preemptive measures."
Blair nodded. It was nice to know David's Guide was so perceptive. "David has always tried too hard with Jim. Even before he found out about his mother, he wanted to be perfect for his dad. He resigned from the baseball team when he got his first B. Of course, Jim just hugged him, and called the coach the next day. Then when he found out about Alex, he became almost compulsive in pleasing Jim. I think that's one of the few times Jim got truly angry with him. He shoved him into a chair, and told him that he wasn't William Ellison, that his love wasn't conditional on his level of excellence, and that he was hurt David would think that way. Then he told his son that he, David, wasn't Alex, and that no matter how good or how bad he became, it would never change the way he felt about him.
"I thought that had ended it. They both sat down and talked everything through, and David went back to being just a good kid, getting into minor trouble, having his car keys taken away on occasion.... I wonder what brought this on," he mused.
"He said he'd been thinking about it for a while, but the other night, he had a dream. That's what prompted our trip this weekend," Evan confessed.
"What kind of dream?"
"He saw the jaguars. Not his, but his mom's and dad's. They were, uh, creating him, and it wasn't the way he thought it was."
Blair frowned. "What do you mean?"
"He said his mom raped the Captain." His teacher paled. "Then it's true?"
"In a manner of speaking. Jim had been drugged at the time. He doesn't even remember it."
"Does that mean there's a good chance he isn't actually David's father?"
"No," Blair said adamantly. "I don't care what a genetic test might say. Jim is that kid's father, in every way that matters."
"Then why doesn't David see it?" Blair murmured, worried about both of his Sentinels.
Evan leaned over and put his head in Blair's lap. "I don't know, Teacher. I don't know."
Jim led David up to his office on the second floor. It was the place where serious discussions took place, and considering the speed of his son's heartbeat, this was definitely in that category. He went to the sofa instead of the desk, hoping that would put David a little more at ease. It didn't.
"Okay, son. What is it?" Jim asked gently, when David continued to stand. He smiled internally. Although David had never been in the military, he had the military stance down pat. Guess I do it more often than I thought. He realized that they took like father, like son to the extreme at times. Some people felt sorry for David because they assumed it was Jim's idea. He felt sorry for himself, because he had to take extra care not to screw up. Having someone looking up to you was a daunting responsibility.
"Are you in trouble?" he tried when the young man stayed silent.
"Did you get someone else into trouble?" he asked carefully. In this new millennium, birth control was supposed to be foolproof; a lie in any millennium was still a lie.
"I want you to take a paternity test."
Well, guess it's me who got someone into trouble...or didn't. "Okay. You and Evan staying around this weekend, or are you scheduled to fly back? I can probably score some tickets to the Jags' game tomorrow night," he offered casually.
David was startled by his father's reaction, or lack thereof. "Uh...our return flight is Sunday afternoon."
"Great. Let me call in a favor or two. You guys planning on hitting the city tonight? You can take the 4X4 if you want. I'll take the sedan if I get called in." Jim picked up the phone, but was stopped by David's grip.
"That's all you have to say, Dad? Okay?"
"What else is there to say, David? I told you that the paternity test was your decision to make. You've made it. I won't go back on my word. Just tell me when and where, and I'll be there."
David nodded. Why was he so surprised at Jim's acquiescence? His father had always been a man of his word. No matter if it broke his heart. "Okay, Dad. Ev and I have some errands to run, then we're going to check out the new club down at the docks. So, we'll probably be late."
Jim threw up a farewell wave. "Have fun."
David walked outside to where the Guides waited. He could tell that both men knew what he'd done. Blair looked at him questioningly. "He's on the phone, seeing if he can get tickets to tomorrow's Jags' game."
Blair nodded. He'd known Jim wouldn't react emotionally. He just hoped his friend wouldn't shut down altogether. "You guys had dinner?"
David nodded. "Dad says we can borrow the 4X4, and there's a new club in town...."
"Yeah, down near the docks. If the bouncer is this huge, bald-headed dude, tell him Professor B sent you, and he'll let you in with no problem."
Evan smiled. "A student of yours?"
Blair shrugged. "Aren't they all? If you would excuse me, I think I'm needed inside."
David watched his uncle hurry away, then faced his Guide. "Ready? I want to check out the music store at the mall."
Evan nodded, not saying anything until they were on the road. "How did it go?"
"He said okay. Didn't ask me why. Didn't ask me if I wanted to rethink it. Nada. He just said okay."
"So, how do you feel?"
David's hands tightened on the steering wheel. "I wonder if Uncle Blair's garden needs fertilizer...."
"I don't want to talk about it," Jim said as his Guide climbed the stairs to his office.
"Okay. Did you get the tickets?"
Jim nodded from where he sat behind his desk. "Yeah. Lower level, center court."
Blair whistled. "Not bad."
Jim shrugged. "Since it might be one of the last things I do with my son, I thought I shouldn't skimp."
"David will always be your son, Jim," Blair said quietly.
"Yeah, but will I always be his dad?"
"He's not doing this to hurt you."
"I know. He needs to know who he is. I understand that, but...." He looked at his friend, and knew there was someone willing to share his burden. "But understanding doesn't ease the pain."
Blair walked around the desk, leaning over the back of the chair to put his arms around Jim. Nothing else was said.
Evan let himself into his apartment, and almost tripped over his roommate. "If you're going to do things like this, put up a speed bump warning, would you?" No smart aleck response. Uh oh, something was majorly wrong.... "Dave?"
David lay supine, his arms resting on his chest, a letter crumpled in one hand. "It came, Ev. The test results."
"And I haven't opened them. Don't know if I ever will." He sat up suddenly, his eyes glaring into his friend. "Why did you let me do this? I don't need a test to know who my father is. All I need is a half-way decent memory. All I need is to look inside myself, and feel him."
Evan didn't bother to remind him that he'd tried to talk him out of this. There was no way David had forgotten. "What about your dream? What about having to know who you are?"
"I am a Sentinel. Jim Ellison is a Sentinel. By that fact alone, I am his son. We share the same genes-- whether directly or indirectly. He is my leader, my elder, my father. That's all I need to know to be protector of Cascade." David closed his eyes. "The dream was to remind me that I had a choice. I could be my mother-- arrogant, aggressive, abusive. Or I could be my father-- able to remember who he was and what he stood for, even when drugged and tempted. His body was violated due to nature, but his soul remained untouched. That was what I was supposed to learn.... That I could break, yet not be broken. Does that make sense to you, Ev?"
"Yes. Teacher said that your way, our way, would be difficult. We probably will break at some point."
"But we will not be broken," David completed. "Why didn't I see that then?"
"Maybe because you weren't ready to choose yet. Maybe because you had doubts as to your path."
"So, where are those doubts now? Nothing has changed in the weeks since I went home. Hell, I took a page out of Dad's book and forgot about the whole thing, until this letter arrived. What made the difference?" David puzzled.
"Maybe your dad did. The Captain didn't oppose your decision. He hugged you when you left. He told you he loved you. You hurt him as badly as you could...yet his soul remained untouched. Like in your dream."
"Like in my dream.... I don't have any doubts, Evan. Except for what I should do with this." He held up the letter.
"What do you want to do with it?"
"Then do it."
David shook his head. "That wouldn't be fair to Dad. He went through this once. He doesn't need to spend the rest of his life waiting for me to have doubts again."
"So, you're going to open it?"
"Yes, with the knowledge that the contents are of no real importance. I have a father, Ev. This paper cannot change that. Ever."
"I can't believe next week I'll be at the academy," David said, dangling his long legs off the pier.
"You can't believe you're going to the police academy, or you can't believe you're actually going back to school so soon?" Jim asked with a chuckle as he, too, dangled long legs. They were camping out this weekend, since it would be a while before the four of them could get away together again. The academy, plus rookie status, meant Evan and David wouldn't be making vacation plans for a long time.
"Don't dampen my enthusiasm, Dad. Or I might feel the need to share some of your academy stories with my classmates, just to get through the long, tedious days."
"Blackmailing your old man on Father's Day? That's so sweet, son," Jim said dryly.
David flashed him a grin, which slowly faded. "Speaking of Father's Day.... Here." He thrust an envelope into his hand.
He and Blair had opened cards earlier in the day, so Jim was confused. "What's this?"
"The results of the paternity test." Jim's hands shook infinitesimally, but enough for a Sentinel to notice. "I chose today to share this with you, because I wanted you to know, that no matter what this report says, you are my father. This is our day, no one else's," David declared.
"'No matter what this reports says?'" Jim repeated. "Don't you know?"
David shook his head. "No. I thought it was something we should find out together. No time to school our reactions. No time to hide our emotions. Let's deal with this, Dad, and remove it from our lives forever. Okay?"
Jim nodded. His suddenly numb fingers awkwardly ripped open the envelope. David reached over to help him unfold the single sheet of paper. The younger Ellison almost zoned on the words, until a drop of water splashed across the type. That startled him enough to pull his attention away from the paper and to the sky, where not a cloud appeared. Then he smelled the saltiness of the drop, and watched the next one drip from his father's chin. He quickly realized that while he'd had weeks to make peace with whatever the letter revealed, Jim had not. You wanted honest emotion, Dave.
He took the letter from Jim's hands, and wrapped his arms around him.
Blair and Evan came down the trail, stopping when they saw the pair on the pier. "Damn," Evan said softly. "Dave must have given him the results."
"Of the paternity test?" Blair asked, his stomach fluttering. "I thought David had given up the notion, or had thrown away the results, or something. He didn't say anything during graduation, or even the weeks he's been home. Do you know what the test revealed?"
Evan shook his head. "Dave never opened it. Maybe we should--" He started forward, only to be stopped by a firm hand.
"Look at them, Evan." The two men had their arms entwined, their heads resting against each other's. "Doesn't matter what the results were. They already know the truth."
As the sun started its slow sink to the west, a breeze swept across the peaceful lake. A piece of paper got caught up in the flow, dipping and soaring until it reached the middle of the lake, where it came to rest, until the waters soaked in and claimed it.
Two pairs of Sentinel eyes watched this occurrence, neither inclined to say anything. Paper was paper, truth was truth...and love...had no bounds.
"Happy Father's Day," David whispered.
"Thank you, son," Jim replied. With matching groans from sitting too long, they got up and joined the rest of their family.