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maybe, but maybe it's not

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It’s almost midnight when Bell exits Chastain, exhausted from a day of back to back surgeries but he wouldn’t trade places with Kit and be the CEO again for anything in the world. Except maybe if she asked him to. 

 

He notices Jake hovering just outside the entrance but he doesn’t dare assume he’s waiting to speak to him. Ever since they seemed to have a breakthrough due to Kit’s interference, whatever she had said to Jake she wouldn’t tell Bell no matter how much he asked and plied her with expensive whiskey, he was resolved not to overstep again, let Jake come to him. 

 

And for the first time that actually seems likely. He nods in acknowledgment to his former stepson as he passes him and almost gives himself whiplash when he turns back towards him at the sound of his name.

 

"Hey, Dolph. Wait." Jake closed the small distance between them in a few quick paces. Hands in his pockets, partly due to the weather, partly not. 

 

Not wanting to seem overeager, there is a beat before either of them speaks, “I’ve been thinking a lot about everything and I, Gregg and I would like to have you over for dinner on Saturday.” His speech is jilted but sincere and Bell doesn’t do anything to mask the surprise on his face, thrown by the leap forward to a personal dinner with Jake and his husband. 

 

“That would,” he clears the lump forming in his throat, “I’d like that.”  

 

A moment passes between them, the silent acknowledgement of a meaningful step forward in their relationship and Jake pushes against the weight of it. “And I reserve the right to change my mind about this.”

 

Bell nods, “Understood.” He respects and, more than anything, regrets Jake’s reasons for being hesitant about him but he couldn’t be happier at the olive branch he’s just been given. 

 

“I’m open to having you back in my life,” he takes a breath and burrows his hands even further into his pockets, “and my child’s life.”

 

“Jake, I promise you I will not waste this opportunity.” His voice is thick with emotion again, his eyes maybe a second or two away from welling up and Jake lets out a relieved sigh, dropping his shoulders and relaxing for the first time since their conversation began. 

 

“Let’s just start with dinner, we’ll show you the nursery, Gregg will cook and oh, you’re welcome to bring Dr Voss with you.” 

 

Bell is relieved at the idea of Kit being with him but puzzled as to why Jake is extending an invitation.

 

“Kit? I'm sure she’d love to come but...” He trails off mid-sentence hoping Jake will fill in the blanks. Kit has been instrumental in this entire situation but he’s unsure why Jake is extending an invite to the CEO of the hospital in this context. 

 

“Sorry,” Jake struggles to find the words, chuckling at his apparent misinterpretation of the situation (and yet still confident of his assessment of the pair), “I thought you were together. The way she spoke about you and just like,” His hands finally exit his pockets and he gestures to Bell. “Generally how you are with her.” 

 

Bell is thrown by Jake’s assumption and feels exposed by Jake calling his demeanour out so directly. His brain short circuits for a moment and takes him back to a memory that is never too far out of reach. 

 

Could you? You’d say dapper?

 

“No, I mean, it’s not that I don’t, it’s just that we’re not, it’s not…” He bumbles in the same way only Kit seems to bring out in him, or apparently just talking about her. His feelings for her. 

 

“Yeah, kinda like that.” Jake shows no mercy to the position he’s put his superior in and Bell scoffs trying to regain his composure. 

 

“Dolph, are you blushing?” It’s a stretch but Jake can’t help but tease him, testing the waters of their slowly evolving, re-emerging dynamic. 

 

“Kit and I are not a couple.” He steadies giving Jake a pointed look. 

 

“Right, well she kinda helped bring this whole situation together so the invite still stands. Plus, I’ll have Gregg, I think you’re entitled to some moral support as well.”

 

“I will ask her about it later.”

 

“Later?” He smirks, now he really is just trying to mess with Bell. 

 

“If we text later or when I see her next, which won’t be later tonight because I’m heading home for the night, to my home, where she will not be.” The words leave Bell’s mouth more slowly as the figurative hole he is digging himself gets deeper and deeper. This is the longest conversation Jake has permitted him the entire time he’s been at Chastain so far and this is where it has gotten him, babbling about his relationship status with Kit. 

 

Before Jake has the chance to take things even further he offers the truest explanation he can think of, the one he tells himself as a cold comfort every time he has to say goodnight to her when everything in him wants to do something, anything else. 

 

“The timing just hasn’t been right. She was seeing someone, I was her boss, she got sick, now she’s my boss and dealing with being the CEO. It’s complicated.” It’s also a relief to talk about it. Kit is his closest friend, his confidant, and this is the one thing he can’t bring himself to talk about with her. 

 

“That’s what you’re going with? The timing isn’t right? Dolph, you tracked me down after twenty years and threw a curveball into my whole life. The timing wasn’t right but everything that happened this past year urged you to reach out to me, made you realise you shouldn’t waste any more time.” He’s baffled at the man standing in front of him, who he had shot down so many times in the last few weeks but who refused to give up. “Why is this different?”

 

“My friendship with Kit has shown me that I can be the person I want to be. Reliable, trustworthy. Kit is the one that urged me to reach out to you. But I didn’t have anything to lose when I did that. You already weren’t in my life but Kit,” he breathes out heavily, shaking his head. “Kit is very much in my life and I have… I have a lot to lose.”

 

“You’re scared.” 

 

“Absolutely terrified.” He shrugs, it’s the oldest, most textbook reason not to do something.

 

Fear. 

 

“Listen, Dolph, I can’t tell you how to live your life but Gregg keeps telling me that I owe it to myself to see this through because of the relationship we had when I was a kid and the possibility of what this could be, don’t you and Kit owe that to each other too? To take a chance on the possibility of what you could have based on what you do have?”  

 

Do everybody’s kids get insufferably smart when they grow up? 

 

He pivots the conversation effortlessly, “What time for dinner on Saturday?”

 

Jake begins to walk away, answering as he goes, “Be there at 7:30, I will text you the address.” 

 

“I will let you know if Kit is coming and Jake?” Jake looks back at Bell from over his shoulder. 

 

“I’ll think about what you said but rebuilding our relationship,” he motions between them, “That’s my priority right now.”