Daniel walked for an hour to where his steps took him. Remembering over and over again what his “father” and his “sister” had said, he innocently wanted to escape, but... To a shopping center? To an amusement park? With his cousin Marcel? Whatever it was, he didn't want to go back to school, much less to his house. For a brief moment, he considered calling Victor - at least just to talk to someone -, but he dismissed that idea. The twin was still a complete unknown.
At the same time the first class began at his school. The teacher named her students one by one and Daniel's turn followed. She called his name again but he obviously wasn't there. The girl who saw him leave her raised her hand - the same one that Daniel liked her. She told her in front of her other classmates about his strange behavior. The guys said nothing; some lowered their heads, others looked at her in bewilderment. The teacher opened her eyes and immediately left the classroom. She spoke to the principal to report the situation. This was an exceptional case; an 11-year-old boy missing. They called the police and then tried to contact Ernest.
Witsel was heading to his workplace and continued thinking about Daniel but also about Victor. He mistakenly believed that by hiding his origins from the boy, he was doing the right thing. The man was aware that he had robbed the twin of the ability to raise his child and also by not allowing Stella to gain custody. He always treated Daniel like he was an excuse to get Victor back to him. Ernest's phone rang constantly in his jacket pocket while he drove. His breathing became irregular; he felt that he should go to a nearby hospital.
Years before, he created a “real estate business” to continue with his criminal objectives and ridiculously thought that he was going to continue escaping from the police, but things did not turn out the same. Former customers doubted his reliability after what happened at his clothing store. Many of them looked for another, more reliable trafficker. This was a good opportunity for Marcus Nel to follow him everywhere to find a way to process him. He still felt indebted to Mira.
Once Victor told Benxa about Daniel, both his brother and Marcus resumed their desire to catch Witsel. The now retired Mr. Nel took advantage of his mandatory rest to do justice to Victor - denouncing Witsel again and again. James once became a father figure to the twins and Marcus indirectly continued in that role. He did it in a much more secretive, almost invisible way.
He was watching television while preparing breakfast. The news showed a car crash into a pole. Marcus didn't see anything out of the ordinary until, at some point, the camerawoman zoomed in on the license plate. He remembered seeing those numbers somewhere, sure enough, in his notes, he realized they were Ernest's. He sat on the sofa and called Benxamin - the twin was investigating the death of a girl. Marcus told him that Ernest had been in an accident; the man couldn't contain his astonishment, but he didn't say anything. Benxa hung up, had to concentrate on his work. Immediately afterward he received another call, it was Marcel informing him of Daniel's disappearance. Forced to continue his duty, he called Victor and Lester. The twin thought of joining them once he had time to do so.
Lester spoke with Marcel on the phone to meet at a nearby place. Victor tried to stay calm; the professor took him by the hand to show his support.
The redhead tried not to worry the father, but that had never happened before, “Dani doesn't leave the house much. He hardly has any friends or I don't know any. I called Tamara a few minutes ago, but she has not been able to reach Ernest.”
“Is there a chance he went to a park?” Lester asked.
Those words made Marcel realize something; “maybe he went to my apartment, but I live far away.”
Victor stared at him, on the verge of losing his temper, “help us.”
Marcel nodded and the three men took a taxi, attentive to the children passing by on the street who had similar characteristics to Daniel. Victor called his son's phone, but it was turned off. The police were also surrounding the area, anyone could find him. Finally, Marcel along with the couple arrived at the old gothic style building. Victor's paternal instinct sensed that the boy could be close to them. Lester and Marcel were shouting Daniel's name.
The teacher warned them that he lived on the sixth floor and that there was no elevator. The three of them quickly went upstairs. Victor didn't care about his limp - much less the pain he might feel -, and after running and running, their efforts successfully led them to Dani. The child was sleeping on the floor in a fetal position, waiting for his cousin to open the door for him. Marcel sighed in relief; he remembered when he ran away from home and caused great concern to his family and those boys whom he later considered his friends. Lester was startled, he put his hands on his head - controlling his emotions in front of his boyfriend. Suddenly, he received a call from Benxamin, who was driving like crazy down an avenue to go to school.
Lester tried to calm him down, “Benxa, we found Daniel!”
“I knew it!” Benxamin said. He doubted the ability he had acquired to read his brother's thoughts and wanted to confirm it with another person.
Victor sat next to the boy. He didn't say anything, just looked at him. Lester understood that it was time to leave him alone with his son and asked Marcel to accompany him to the first floor to wait for Benxa. The father had a lump in his throat - without knowing him well, he loved him too much. He didn't know whether to hug Daniel or tell him that “he would be by his side when he needed it most.” He wasn't sure how to act, so it occurred to him to gently pat him on the back, with the intention of waking him up. The boy opened his eyes - sat up lazily -, and saw Victor.
“Hi Daniel. Did you come to see Marcel? You should have told your family, they are worried about you. I'll go look for your cousin,” the man said.
“I'm in trouble, right?”
Victor wanted to ask him the reasons for his adventure, but his son knew him so little that he was not going to tell him the truth.
“My sister is here, Victor?” Daniel asked.
“Your... ? I didn't know you had one.”
Victor didn't know about that either. Why the hell was his mother pretending to be his sister? He was angry at the lies the boy grew up with. But he was also part of that situation and had done exactly the same thing with Lester. He reflected - he was the adult here -, and wanted Daniel to feel calm.
“We have to go back.”
“It... was my fault!” Daniel started to cry. “I told Tamara that you gave me the console. I heard her arguing with my dad and yelling at him. He said she is my mom and you are my dad, it's true?”
What Daniel was experiencing had to be expressed as naturally as possible. Perhaps that place was not the right place to talk about such a delicate topic, but Victor was aware that it was time to stop lying for convenience and tried to answer all of his son's questions without monosyllables.
“Yes, it's you and you haven't done anything wrong. This isn't your fault, I'm glad you were honest. Not all of us are capable of that. Adults sometimes prefer to hide certain truths from children. I'm sorry you found out that way. What Ernest said is true, you are my son and the best thing that has happened to me. And if you allow me I will tell you everything."
Victor continued with his explanation while wiping his son's tears with his shirt sleeve. The boy looked at his father very carefully.
“I was in prison when you were born, I met you thanks to your grandfather Ernest. I remember he took you on the weekends and I played with you, but it wasn't for long. I couldn't tell you the truth; you were too young to understand. This is also my fault. Once I was released, I tried to look for you. He and Tamara went to live far away, so it was difficult for me to know where you were.”
He sighed. “But now I'm with you, Daniel. Do you remember the men you talked to yesterday? If you need help, my brother Benxamin and Lester, my partner, will also be there to help you.
Dani was curious about the professor. Victor knew that, like any child, he asked questions that were beyond his understanding. “Is Lester your boyfriend?”
“Yes,” the man nodded.
“How did you meet him?”
“I think at the time I was about 8 and he was 7. We were classmates. We became friends and as we grew up I started to like him, I confessed to him what I felt for him. But a lot of things happened and I didn't see him again until recently.”
"I like a girl. I don't know if I could tell her that," Daniel said, blushing.
Victor didn't think his son shared something so personal with him; he was glad the child did it.
Meanwhile - on the first floor -, Benxa was talking to Lester and Marcel about Ernest's accident. Marcus kept him informed of the situation; the man was hospitalized as a result of a heart attack he suffered while driving to his office. Tamara was at school worried about Daniel and equally aware of her father's situation. The man survived, however, he wasn't going to escape again. Benxamin and Marcus again secretly anticipated what was about to happen to him. With less money, fewer followers, and diminishing prestige, Ernest could be accused of various crimes without easily extorting judges or the police.
Victor went down the stairs with the boy. The three men had to measure his words to tell him the unexpected news about his grandfather. Dani cried again, but he was no longer alone, his father hugged him with some doubts about how the child was going to react, but in response, his son clung to his neck. Lester slowly reached out to stroke his head.
They all went to the hospital along with Tamara. None of them spoke a word. No one wanted Daniel to feel more uncomfortable than he already was. The boy, despite all her lies, took Tamara's hand and looked at her sadly. She, on the other hand, had a hard time lowering her head to speak to him, but in a moment that she couldn't bear, Tamara began to cry. Dani didn't know what to do, he walked away from her.
“I'm so sorry! I'm a bad mother. I thought only of myself,” she said and hugged him.
He was confused - he didn't say anything to her -, maybe he didn't have the right words to accept her apologies. Victor and the others looked at them from afar, they remained there without intervening.
Ernest recovered satisfactorily in the hospital; the doctors had him under control and the police were guarding him. In his youth he could have escaped. Guilt for his crimes against that twin who caught his attention in a perverse way and especially against Daniel softened him to the point of not resisting. When he recovered weeks later he turned himself in to justice.
The grandfather was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but he was Witsel, he wasn't going to be in an overcrowded jail, much less in a cell measuring two by two meters. He settled in a comfortable place with a television included. Although pathetic to many, it was the best criminal punishment he could have received.
Tamara agreed and did something responsible for the first time in her life. She requested and was granted custody of Daniel. Being fairer, and in favor of Victor, she accepted that it be shared. The woman married her millionaire but she helped Victor so that little by little Daniel began to relate to his real father. Tamara and her ex agreed that their son was going to live for short periods with both her and Victor. That is, Daniel was going to be with his mother in a luxurious country house for a few months, and then with his father and Lester in their modest abode for a similar time.
Lester was aware that raising his boyfriend's son was not easy, Dani was a preteen who had become accustomed to a life of comfort, but the professor learned to love him little by little, just as happened to his boyfriend. Being a father was not a plan that Victor had in mind before turning thirty, but that was his destiny and he accepted it without reproach. He learned from his son over the years and guided him so he wouldn't make the same mistakes.
Several years passed since what happened, more precisely December 2018, something very important was going to happen in the lives of Lester and Victor. The two men decided to get married in a church that celebrated gay weddings. Their planned marriage was modest. There was no expensive protocol that suited their love - that didn't matter. It was symbolic but equally significant.
Victor, being the eldest of the grooms, entered the church first, walking with a firm step to the aisle where the Father was waiting for him. The man was accompanied by his brother, who proclaimed himself best man at the wedding. Victor then waited for Lester's turn. The decoration of white roses and pretty blue bows looked majestic. The professor walked arm in arm with Stella - the maid of honor. She with a glamorous style, dressed in red, proud of her nephew. Marcel, his sister Elsa and his parents, in addition to Lorna and Derek - who achieved his long-awaited freedom in 2010 -, the rest of the guests. Unfortunately, Marcus wasn't present, he had passed away two years earlier.
The couple wore an elegant suit, white shirt and black bow tie that at times made Victor feel suffocated, but for Lester's sake, he pretended to be comfortable. There was also a handsome Daniel, 23 years old, a design student, who was photographing his father and his stepfather - proud to witness their happiness. Benxamin gave him his position as official wedding photographer. The ceremony continued, the couple said "yes", they kissed, the people around them applauded. An emotional Marcel cried and Benxa smiled at his reaction.
The after-wedding party was going to be in a bar, but first it was time to throw the bouquet to the guests. Lester and Victor knew who to give it to and with all their strength the bouquet of red roses fell into the hands of Benxamin – who without hesitation gave Marcel a flirtatious look. His green eyes were intimidating, the redhead couldn't contain his laughter, in response and to break the ice, Marcel winked at Benxa.
Daniel hugged the newlywed couple, admiring his proud fathers. The now man was in a relationship with his girlfriend and first love of his entire life, the girl he likes when he was a child and had plans to live abroad with her. The couple was happy for him and willing to support him in each of his decisions.
Lester and Victor's love grew stronger as the years passed, living together for the rest of their lives was their goal. Marriage, a symbol of their love and their promise to care for each other in the years to come. After all the difficulties they went through, their love did not succumb; it was strengthened through trust and respect.
The idyll declined but turned into love.