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The Long Way Home

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Nahele looked at Steve, then back down. He toed his foot against the kitchen floor. He looked back up and swallowed, his Adam's Apple jumping, and began to stare at the shelves and glasses and plates behind Steve's head. He started counting them. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. 7 grey plates. 1-2 "Aloha" wine glasses. 1-2-3-

"Kiddo."

"I don't think you should adopt me Steve. I'm not a good kid. If I was, I'd have a home right now. I really, really appreciate the offer, believe me I want you to be my dad and I want to live here and go to school and just have a regular schedule and play ball with you and tell you about my day. I want all of those things so bad," Nahele stopped to take a breath from his ramblings. "But I'm not a good kid. You wouldn't even know me if I hadn't stolen your car....and," Nahele's voice went up a notch, his eyes were wet, his face flushed. "I messed up. I've been so hungry still and I don't make much working for Kamekona and I was trying to save up since you want me back at school next year, but I didn't want to take charity. I stole a couple candy bars and sandwiches from the corner mart up the street, that’s why I’ve been leaving here so early, they caught me and I’ve been working it off. You can't adopt me, because I messed up and now you're got to send me to juvie." Nahele was trembling in his chair, but he was too frozen to run. He was scared, but he felt like he owed it to Steve to stay and meet his fate. He knew that Steve would never hit him, but her knew he’s disappointed the man who he admired so much.

“I know I messed up Sir. I’m so, so sorry. I just, I didn’t know what to do. But I’m not your problem, I’m not supposed to be your problem and you shoulda washed your hands with me when you first met me. I’m sorry I lied to you,” Nahele filled the silence, waiting for Steve to speak, simultaneously desperate for Steve to kick him out and prove Nahele right that he was worthless and desperate for his forgiveness. If Steve forgave Nahele, Nahele figured he could forgive himself. Silencing himself, Nahele began to count the plates again. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 dinner plates. 1 wooden bowl. 1 -

Nahele shot to his feet when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“It’s okay kiddo. It will be okay. You messed up, but you’re making it right. We’ll talk, we’ll sort things out. But let’s make a few things clear right now,” Steve gently guided Steve into the living room and the couch.

“I’m only getting this first thing out of the way, because I know you need to hear it. Yes, you messed up, but you told me and you’re making it right. You shouldn’t have stolen food, but I’m not sending you to jail for it. I know you better now kid and I know that you’re in a rough situation. We’ll figure it out. But just like you should not have stolen food, you shouldn’t feel like you have to. Not only is kitchen open to you, but I want you here. I’ve been stocking up extra groceries, praying that you’ll take a sandwich with you or some fruit. You have to learn to depend on people kid, not everyone is here to screw you around. I know you’ve been messed with, kid, but I’m different I swear. I want to watch out for you,” Steve paused and looked at Nahele who was still trembling lightly, tear tracks on his face. The kid was biting his lip and Steve watched him count the wood boards in the living room.

“Third, you’re not paying for high school next year. Your supplies, any fees, your textbooks, whatever it is. I already committed to covering whatever the state isn’t. You’re my priority. The only thing I want you saving money for is for yourself and, if you decide to go to college, for that and I’ll help out then too,” Steve paused as Nahele shook his head.

“You’re not supposed to do that,” Nahele whispered.

“What? Take care of you? Love you. Be grateful I might actually have a chance of having a son and that he’s a kid as cool and compassionate at you? Sorry kiddo, that’s the truth. To be frank, even if you say no again to be fostered, I already think of you as mine. Everybody agrees. Mrs. Rey at the coffee shop near the Palace asked me earlier about why she hadn’t seen “my son in lately,” and Duke and everyone at 5-0 already think of you as ‘my boy,’” Steve paused.

“Kid, If you’re mine, this is what life is going to look like. It’s going to be a partnership, you’re old enough that I’m not just going to make your every decision. And you don’t have to think of me as your dad or you as my son, I know you don’t have a good history with parents, biological or foster, but we’ll be a team. You’ll have your own room and your own posters on the wall and your own laptop and your own stuff and a bathroom to share that’s yours most of the time. You’ll have 24/7/365 access to the kitchen and I’ll always make sure to buy foods you love and that there’s lots of healthy options. We’ll work on the car and we’ll work out and watch TV and I’ll help you with your homework and tutor you before schools begins in the fall. You’ll hang out with Danny and his kids and I on the weekend and help me host team bbq’s. You’ll have your own space and everyday I will look forward to hearing about your day.”

Nahele was quiet for a moment and then spoke up, “That all sounds really good. You sure you’re not angry at me.”

“I’m not angry, a little frustrated because I with you came to me and you’re definitely grounded for a week, but I understand why you did it and it doesn’t make me care about you any less. What do you say kid?”

Nahele looked Steve in the eye for the first time that night. His restless body finally calm. “Yes, yeah, I want you to foster me. I want you to be my dad. I want to be your kid, your son.”

Steve’s face broke into a wide smile. “You already are, kiddo.” He pulled Nahele into a tight hug and kissed the teenager on the crown of his head. “You already are.”