The house was large and very pretty. Kira liked the way most of it was white and brown, simple but comforting. She was out of the car shortly after Hoyt, who was already heading toward the house. She had to scramble to catch up to him, and came in behind him.

"Take your shoes off a minute," Hoyt ordered, kicking his own off. "Mama likes to keep her carpet nice 'n' clean."

"Oh... okay, sure." She slipped her tennis shoes off by the door and followed Hoyt. "Sir?"

"You have a seat right there on the couch. Make yourself comfortable." Hoyt took off his hat and put it on the table. "I'll get the big guy."

She blinked a few times, sitting down on the couch. "Where is he?"

"Basement, probably." Hoyt stomped his feet a few times. "Tommy! Hey Tommy! Thomas, you get your ass up here right now!"

Kira felt someone tap her shoulder, and she turned to see an older woman with whitish-brownish hair, extending a hand to her. "Hello there. Did Hoyt bring you here?"

She nodded, happily shaking the woman's hand. "Yeah. He says his nephew might help me fix up my aunt's house here, so I can live there."

"Oh, that sounds wonderful." She smiled, her grip firm but kind. "Well, my name is Luda Mae Hewitt. Hoyt's my little brother, and Thomas is my son. I'm sure he would love to help. He likes his work down in the basement, but it can get repetitive and he likes a change sometimes."

"That's great, I'd sure love some company and another person to help me out. I can't do it all myself, you know? And the house is big, so it can get to feelin' lonely. It'll be good to have someone else around. Oh... by the way, my name's Kira Wells. Sorry, didn't think about that..."

"Oh, that's alright. You Bobby Wells's little girl?"

"Yeah, did you know him?"

"Saw him around town a few times. Wasn't he the physical education teacher at the school for a year or two?"

"I think so, yeah."

"Oh, I remember him now... gave Thomas detention a few times."

Kira quirked an eyebrow. "Oh, what on Earth for?"

"Aw..." Luda Mae shook her head. "Poor boy... he's always been bigger than the other kids, you know? He couldn't run so fast... every time they had to run the mile he'd end up gettin' winded and just walked. Last to finish every time, and he got detention for walkin' it."

"Oh." Kira could feel her face heating up a little. "I'm really, really sorry. That doesn't sound like it was Thomas's fault. My daddy's always been tough on everybody, that's all. Was Thomas in my class or somethin'? I don't remember."

"Oh, probably not. I think he was a grade or two ahead of you, but..." She shook her head, and smiled. "I don't remember your name when I think of everyone who made fun of my boy. And for that I think I like you already." She patted Kira's shoulder and gave her a reassuring smile before leaving. "I'm sure he will too."

There was heavy running from downstairs, and Kira straightened up so she was ready to meet Tommy. She was sure that was him, Hoyt said he was probably in the basement and Luda Mae said he was a bigger guy.

Hoyt scared her by slapping his hands down on her shoulders. "Alright, Missy Wells, here he comes. Be gentle on him, huh?"

"You... You mean I gotta ask him? I thought you were gonna!"

"I am. But you wanna meet him proper first, don't you?"

"Oh, well... I guess so, yeah."

"He's comin', fast as he can... should be here soon."

As if on cue, a door (the door to the basement, she assumed) opened, and somebody poked their head out. Far as she could see, they had dark hair and were wearing something on their face. She sat up and leaned that way. "Hello?"

"Thomas," Hoyt called. "Get over here, will you?"

The man's fingers gripped the door, and he drew back behind it, hiding. Was he afraid of her?

Kira brushed some of her hair back. "Thomas? You don't have to be scared. I don't bite, I promise. Hell, most times I don't even bark."

His face came out just a little, his dark eyes blinking at her. He still looked so shy and a little confused. Still afraid.

She sighed and sat back a little. "Please come out. I really want to meet you."

"Tommy." Hoyt's voice was harder now. "You get out here now and sit down next to her. She ain't gonna say nothin' and if she does I'll beat her ass."

Very slowly, he came out from behind the door and shut it. As Luda Mae had said, he was bigger, but not just in terms of weight; he was also tall, almost bumping his head on the top of the door. He was wearing just simple clothes, with a brown-black apron over it all, and his hair reached down to his shoulders, maybe a little bit longer than that. And when he turned so she could see his face, she actually couldn't see much of it - he had some kind of mask on, covering his mouth and nose, though she could actually see his lips.

He seemed nervous, so she scooted over on the couch to make room, and waved him over. "Will you please come sit down?"

He looked down at the floor real quick, and then walked carefully over to sit beside her, though not very close, and folded his hands in his lap. Then he looked up at Hoyt, making a noise that Kira couldn't quite decipher.

"Oh, come on now." Hoyt pushed against his shoulder. "You can get closer 'n' that, get on over a little there."

She felt the couch move a bit as he obviously got a little closer. She smiled and faced him, though he wasn't really looking at her. More like avoiding her eyes, really, was what he was doing. She held out her hand in his direction. "It's nice to meet you."

He kept his hands in his lap, and his eyes flickered to her for half a second before returning to Hoyt. He looked like he had no idea what to do.

"Go on, boy, you shake her hand now," Hoyt instructed.

He looked over at her for a second, and his eyes still looked scared. He extended his hand and took hers, and his hand was a little sweaty but she didn't mind. He carefully shook her hand, like he was doing this for the first time, then withdrew his hand faster than she'd ever seen anyone do that, folding it back into his lap with the other one and snapping his eyes back to the floor.

"See, that wasn't so hard, was it?" Hoyt patted Tommy on the shoulder, rather roughly. "This here is Missy Kira Wells, the little one. You remember old Coach Wells, don't ya?"

Tommy made a noise and suddenly brought his hands up to cover his face. He continued to make noises, what sounded like muffled shouting and even a little crying.

Kira's eyes widened, and she moved closer to him, lightly putting a hand on his arm. "Tommy?" She rubbed his arm for a second, a little startled by what he was doing now. "I ain't nothin' like my daddy, I promise. Whatever he did or said to you, he probably said that stuff to me too. And I'd never. Will you please bring your hands down now?"

After a few more seconds of the muted noises, he slowly pulled his hands away, placing them back in his lap. He drug one arm across his forehead, probably to wipe off sweat, then sighed. He made a noise that sounded like a little whimper, then another sound that could probably be interpreted as sobbing without even opening his mouth.

"He says he's sorry," Hoyt spoke up.

"Don't he talk?"

"Nah, hardly ever." He slapped Tommy's shoulder again, grinning. "You ain't much of a talker, are you, boy?"

Tommy looked up at his uncle, then shook his head. "Uh..."

Kira had to stare at him, smiling, because it sounded like he was trying to form words. "What you wanna say, Tommy?"

He looked over at her, then shook his head again. His eyes were very serious, but still wide with a little fear in them. "Uh... uh-uh," he grunted quietly, before looking down again.

She laughed. "Oh! I get it, you were just agreein' with the Sheriff. Am I right?"

Tommy nodded, then looked up at Hoyt.

"Yeah yeah, I know, boy." He walked around the couch and put a hand on Kira's shoulder. "You gonna go help Missy Wells fix up her auntie's house so she can live there. That sound good, Tommy?"

He blinked a few times, then raised his head up. He met Kira's eyes with his, and she saw that they were a nice, warm brown color. Like chocolate, or the comfort of a teddy bear. He made a kind of gurgling noise, but it looked like he was smiling. He rubbed his hands on his apron, and then looked down at his shoes.

Kira looked up at Hoyt. "What'd he say?"

"Says he'd be happy to do it but who'd do the butcherin' he usually does? But I'm sure we'll be fine, Tommy."

Kira looked over at Tommy, then put her hand over both of his. "Don't worry, Tommy. You don't gotta help for too long. Three, four hours a day till it's done, I guess? That way you can still do your butcherin'. Would that be okay with you, hon?"

He moved his hand around and very loosely wrapped his fingers around hers. He met her eyes again, and this time she could see an expression of how much he really did want to help her. A deep-throated but light noise alerted her that he was trying to say yes, that was fine. "Uh... uh-huh."

Kira grinned, then jumped up, leaned down, and threw her arms around him, as tight as she could. "Thank you, Tommy! Thanks so much, you're the best!" She pressed herself up against him, chest to chest, probably choking him by now. "You come help every day, I will make you lunch and lemonade and anything you want! Just say the word, whatever it is, I'll figure how to make it!"

When she let go, Tommy got to his feet, covered his face with his hands again, and bolted from the room, back down into the basement, slamming the door.

Kira fell on the couch, having lost her balance, and blinked up at Hoyt. She really was confused, why had Tommy run out after she hugged him? Most people liked hugs... "Is he okay? Did I do somethin'?"

"Naw, you're fine, Missy." Hoyt shook his head, pulling on his belt. "Boy's just a little embarrassed, that's all. Not a lotta folks besides us family ever hugged him, and no girls outside family." He looked down at her. "But you could tell what he was sayin' though?"

"Yeah. I didn't think he was that hard to understand, even without the talkin'." She rubbed her shoulder, biting her lip just a little. "He's gonna be okay, right?"

"Aw, he's fine right now." Hoyt walked over to the basement door and pounded

on it. "Tommy! Thomas Brown Hewitt, you get back up here right now, boy!"

After a minute the door opened and Tommy peeked out. His fingers ran up and down the edge of the door nervously. His eyes were a little frightened, and if she wasn't mistaken he was blushing under the mask. "Uh... uh..."

"It's okay, Tommy." Kira got back up and walked over to the door. "If you don't want me huggin' you anymore, I won't. Do you want me not to hug you no more?"

He blinked, then pointed his eyes down as if he'd suddenly found something very interesting about the floor. "Uh... uh... uh-uh. Uh... uh-uh."

She smiled, then took his hand. She slowly pulled him out from behind the door into the living room. "Would you mind goin' now? Just to check it out, see what you'll be able to help me out with?"

He nodded, then wiggled his fingers in hers. But when she tried to pull away, thinking she was making him uncomfortable, he wouldn't let her. He just clutched her hand tighter, taking a sharp breath. He grunted, smiling and obviously agreeing. It was probably his version of Let's go.

"Great." She pulled him along, heading for the front door. "Let's get goin', the light fades fast."

"Little lady, you ain't drivin' my car and I ain't drivin' you back to that place right now," Hoyt called. "It's too hot, I told you."

"Hmmph." Kira glanced back at Hoyt. "We can walk, can't we, Tommy? It ain't too far from here."

Tommy shrugged. Maybe? But it was hot out there.

"That ain't a good idea, Missy," Hoyt spoke up. "This heat'll do crazy things to your head. You oughta either wait for me to drive you in the car, or you don't go at all. You wanna do otherwise, that's fine. You go out 'n' get heatstroke for all I care, but don't you drag my nephew along with you. His brain don't need no more damage, you hear me?"

Kira was about to sigh and start arguing with him, but she felt Tommy's arm around her, and she blinked up at him. He was shaking his head violently. "Uh-uh!" He opened the door and tugged on Kira's arm, as if trying to drag her out the door - which, actually, he probably was.

Hoyt scoffed. "Okay, you know what? Fine. You wanna go out 'n' get yerself sick, Tommy, you do that there. Go on, fry what's left of that brain and pass the hell out, boy. You just don't expect me to come pick y'all up if you faint in the middle of the road."

From what Kira could tell, Tommy had just rolled his eyes. But he didn't really make any noises, just looked down at her. Was she ready to go?

Kira grinned and stepped out the door with Tommy. "Alright, let's get goin' then."

Any questions or anything, drop me a review! I love them and they motivate me to write even more sooo... if you like or even just read, PLEASE review. And have a good day! ^^