24 - Figure It Out
“Then, what do you do after you combine those two numbers?”
A young Tiana sat at the kitchen table of her family’s brownstone, nibbling on the back of her pencil as she tried to concentrate. “I don’t know...” she groaned.
“Come on, princess, you got this.” Her shoulders relaxed slightly as she felt her father’s comforting hand rub gentle circles on her back. “You just multiplied these four components together and got these two numbers, right?” he asked.
“Pa, come on,” she groaned as her forehead fell on the table. “I can’t do this. I’m too stup-”
“Hey!” he said, tapping her hand. “What did I say about using that word?”
Tiana twisted her mouth as she raised her head. “I’m sorry...”
“Try it again,” he instructed.
She let out a laborious sigh as she looked at the sheet. “I have to... find the square root?”
“Exactly!” he blurted, startling her. “Sorry, princess. That’s right. Find the square root.” She scribbled down on the piece of paper before she held it up to show her work. “Look at my girl! Ain’t you smart!” Tiana chuckled as her father ruffled the kinky curls on her head.
“James! I just did her hair!”
James turned around to see his wife walking into their house with Dante who was holding multiple grocery bags. “Now, I gotta do it all over again,” Cheryl sighed.
“NO!” Tiana yelled as she jumped from her chair.
“Tiana, get your little black behind over here,” Cheryl ordered.
“No!” Tiana yelled again as she darted towards the stairs.
“I am not chasing that child,” Cheryl said, walking into the kitchen. “You better go get her.”
“Tiana, listen to your mama,” James laughed as he got up.
“You don’t sound convincing at all, James,” Cheryl scolded.
James snickered as he followed his daughter around the corner. Tiana smirked as she hid behind a wall from him. Suddenly, the scenery drastically morphed. Her body had aged and her clothes had changed. She could feel sand beneath her feet and between her toes. She looked up to see she was no longer in her brownstone but on a sandy beach. The wind blew in her hair. She looked to her left and to her right but the beach was empty.
Her father’s voice echoed around her. She spun around to find him.
“Over here, sweetie.”
She spun around again until she saw him standing on the beach wearing all white. His hands casually sat in his pockets. His face was significantly aged.
“Pa!” she screamed, running towards him. The sand picked up beneath her feet as she ran towards her father. But, his silhouette was already starting to disappear. “Wait! Wait, no!” she shouted as she nearly tripped from how fast she was running.
“Come on, sweetie. I’m right here...” Her father’s voice grew fainter as he started to disappear.
“Pa, wait! Wait!”
Tiana opened her eyes to a dimly lit room. She moved her tired arms and legs beneath the thin sheets that covered her. She inhaled deeply, catching Owen’s scent, and realized she was in his bed. Looking underneath the sheets, she discovered she was also completely naked.
“Shit...” she groaned, sitting up in his bed. She held her hand to her forehead as she looked around Owen’s room. There was a cup of water on his desk with two pills and a note.
“For your hangover. Clothes are on the chair.” - O
She immediately took the pills before swallowing down some water. She got out of bed and looked at the clothes left for her which happened to be a long shirt…
“And a thong... seriously, guys?” she sighed. She pulled on the thong and grabbed the shirt that smelled like Jason. She enjoyed the warm feeling that his scent gave her before she pulled his shirt over her head. Tiptoeing to Owen’s door, she cracked it open and could hear low voices coming from the living room.
“We checked everywhere. No trace,” Owen sighed as he ran his fingers through his hair.
“Well, we have to try again,” Jason said.
“He said it’s a truce,” Tyler said.
“And you believe that motherfucker?” Jason scoffed.
“No, but... are we really equipped to challenge this right now?” Tyler asked.
“My bat is always ready,” Jason said.
“I mean emotionally,” Tyler said. “We still haven’t... talked about Dante... And what about Tiana?”
“We’ll do this without her,” Jason said. “We’ll be done with them before she even realizes it. And then, we can follow through with my plan.”
“Your crazy-ass plan,” Owen smirked, shaking his head.
“It’s a great fucking plan,” Jason scoffed. “And you both love it. Don’t lie.”
“We haven’t done that shit in a while,” Tyler said. “I don’t think she’ll be okay with it.”
“Oh, so you have a problem with my plan, but you’re perfectly okay with Owen’s plan,” Jason said, sucking his teeth.
“Not this again, Jason,” Tyler groaned.
“It’s not even a plan. It’s... more like a gift,” Owen said.
“You don’t even know if she’ll like it,” Jason said.
“I know she’ll like it,” Owen said quickly.
“He means he’ll make her like it,” Tyler grinned.
Jason shook his head with a snicker. “Owen the Freak.”
“I’m doing us all a favor,” Owen said, rolling his eyes. “She’s gotta get used to us somehow.”
“But with that?” Jason asked. “She’ll definitely freak out.”
“No. Your plan is what she’ll freak out over,” Owen protested.
“Bullshit. She’ll fucking love it,” Jason rebutted.
The guys looked towards the hallway and saw Tiana standing barefoot in Jason’s t-shirt. Her body was only slightly hidden behind the wall. “Baby girl,” Jason beamed.
“Hey, T,” Owen smiled. “You’re awake.”
“Yea, after sleeping for what feels like a week,” she sighed.
“Almost...” Tyler grinned.
“Come here, baby,” Owen said, motioning her over with his hand. She walked over to them, and Owen immediately grabbed her waist to sit her on his lap.
“How are you feeling,” Tyler asked.
Tiana shrugged. “My headache is slowly going away. Thanks for the Advil. My um... thighs are a little sore though...” Owen raised a brow as Jason tried to hold back a snicker while Tyler turned pink.
“Probably Ty’s fault,” Jason said. “Considering how hard he fucked you the night before.”
“What?!” Tyler said surprised. “You’re the one who had her spread eagle with your tongue in her-”
“Okay! Okay!” Tiana said quickly. “I was thinking more from all the dancing we did.”
“Right... the dancing,” Owen chuckled. He slid his hands beneath her shirt, feeling her skin as he kissed her back. Tiana rolled her eyes. “Seriously, T,” Owen said, grabbing her waist. He turned her around so that she was facing him. “How are you doing?”
She could see the sincere concern in Owen’s gaze as his blue eyes probed her. Tiana sighed. “I don’t know, O. I’m just... tired I guess. I don’t really want to think about it, you know? I mean... I was really nervous that you guys weren’t going to believe me.”
“That’s bullshit,” Tyler said. “You’re too important to us.”
“We still don’t really understand Dante’s motives,” Owen said. “But you are two completely different people. It’s not your fault, and we love you regardless.”
“That’s all that matters,” Jason added. Tiana felt her heart throb as she bit her lip, feeling beyond overwhelmed. “I can’t tell if that face means she’s emotional or horny,” Jason said, quirking up a brow.
“Might be both,” Owen grinned.
“You guys are idiots,” Tiana chuckled as she hugged Owen tightly.
“Well, us idiots actually have a surprise for you,” Jason smirked mischievously.
“Jason, no,” Tyler said firmly.
“Ty, yes,” Jason said. “Decision is final.”
“We never agreed on this,” Tyler said annoyed.
“As a matter of fact we did,” Jason said. “Just now.”
“What the heck are you guys talking about?” Tiana asked.
“Nothing, babe,” Owen smiled. He lifted her off of his lap and stood to his feet. “But we do have a surprise for you. You should go shower first.”
“Okay,” she said, looking around. “But have you guys seen my phone?”
“Oh yea,” Jason said, pulling her panties and phone from his pocket.
“Seriously, Jason?? Why do you have my underwear?!” she blurted.
“I don’t get how that’s a question,” Jason said. “Do you not remember me eating your pussy? You came twice. How do you think I got to it in the first place?”
Tyler and Owen could barely contain their snicker as Tiana looked at him annoyed. “You are such an annoying little smart ass,” she said, walking towards him. “Just give me my phone.”
“You’ll have to come take it from me, babe,” Jason grinned. He held it behind his back and looked up at her from the chair.
“Don’t make me hurt you, Jason,” she said, leaning over him. He quickly wrapped a hand around her waist and pulled her between his legs.
“Mmm, hurt me, baby,” he said, squeezing her ass with one hand as he nibbled on her waist.
“Jason!” she said frustrated. She tried to grab the phone from behind him, ignoring the fact that he was chewing at her shirt to get to her skin.
“Such a child,” Owen smirked, watching the spectacle.
Tiana finally snatched her phone from Jason just as he pulled her onto his lap. “You’re insufferable, you know that?” she said, turning on her phone.
“And you’re irresistible, you know that?” Jason grinned. He slipped his hand between her thighs and kissed her neck.
Tiana shook her head with a smirk when suddenly her eyes widened. “He’s awake!” she screamed.
“Who’s awake?” Tyler asked.
“David!” she said, standing from Jason’s lap. “He’s awake! Miles just texted me. He’s up!”
“Oh...” Tyler said flatly.
“That’s fantastic, babe. You can send him a ‘Get Well’ card,” Jason said, grabbing her hips and pulling her back down on his lap.
“Jason!” she said, slapping his hands away as she stood back up. “I have to go see him!”
“Are you shitting me?!” Jason blurted.
“I don’t fucking think so!” Tyler snapped. Tiana looked at the two of them, startled by their outburst.
“T, go shower and get dressed,” Owen said, standing to his feet. “I’ll take you.”
“The fuck, Owen!” Tyler growled.
“This motherfucker,” Jason protested.
“Both of you, just shut up,” Owen snapped. “Tiana, go.” Tiana hesitated for just a moment at the disapproving scowls on Jason and Tyler’s faces before she quickly rushed to her room.
“Are you fucking high?” Tyler snapped.
“It’s crack you smoke, right?” Jason said, standing to his feet. “Cause I know you did not just volunteer to bring our girl to-”
“He was fucking shot!” Owen snapped. Tyler and Jason immediately stopped talking as they looked at Owen. “Or did you forget?” Owen said. “Cause I didn’t. Since it was my fucking fault.” Tyler’s jaw tensed as he watched his brother slowly exhale in frustration while running his fingers through his hair.
“Her friend almost died... because of me,” Owen said with heavy regret. “Her father died. Her mother is on her death bed. She just found out her deceased brother has been lying to her all this time. She drank until she cried. I mean... I have never seen her this broken, and it’s far too much shit for one girl to take. Especially our girl. Just let her have this. She needs this.”
“She needs us,” Tyler said annoyed. “Look, I get you’re feeling guilty or some shit, but... we finally have something good here going for us, Owen. She admitted she loved us. So let’s ride that fucking wave. I mean shit, I’m actually on board with Jason’s crazy-ass plan if it means making her ours.”
“Genius ass plan,” Jason corrected.
“Whatever,” Tyler said flippantly as he looked at his brother. “She should be here with us. Not him. I’m with Jason. She can send him a ‘Get Well’ card or something.”
“Amazon. Edible Arrangements. 1-800-Flowers. Google does wonders, my friend,” Jason added.
“Guys,” Owen sighed. “I’ll go with her. We won’t stay for... more than an hour, I promise. But we can’t keep her from seeing him. You weren’t there when he was shot. When we took him to the hospital. You didn’t see how traumatized she was. The look in her eyes... She was fucking wrecked. And I can’t... I can’t see her like that again...”
Jason loudly exhaled as Tyler rubbed his temples. “I need you guys to trust me,” Owen insisted. “I promise I won’t keep her away for long. Just... register for Jason’s psycho-ass plan, and we can head out when we get back. I promise.”
Jason looked towards Tiana’s door before he looked at a frustrated Tyler. “One hour,” Tyler said tightly.
“One hour,” Owen nodded.
Jason shook his head in frustration. “Fine… Do we start the timer when you leave, orrr....”
“Jason,” Owen groaned.
Tiana stood in the elevator holding a bouquet of flowers. Her foot tapped impatiently as she watched the numbers change. “Relax, T...” She felt Owen grab her hand and looked at him to see a comforting smile on his face.
“I’m just so nervous,” she said. “I swore I thought he was going to die, Owen. I don’t know how I would have been able to live with myself. It’s all my faul-”
“Stop,” Owen said, squeezing her hand. “It’s not your fault. Don’t you dare say that. If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s mine.”
“Owen...” she said, looking at him concerned.
“I’m just... glad he’s okay...” Owen breathed out as he leaned back against the elevator wall.
Tiana put her flowers to the side and leaned against him. She pressed her chest against his and tried to look into his eyes despite his lowered head. “Owen...” she said softly, pressing her palm against his chest. She knew Owen was feeling guilty about David. She could tell the moment he went against Jason and Tyler to escort her to the hospital. She was grateful he advocated on her behalf, but she could still see the regret and guilt on his face.
“Baby,” she said, rubbing her lips against his, trying to get a response. Owen raised his head to look at her and met her beautiful brown eyes laced with worry.
His hand slid around her waist and pulled her close as he caressed her lips with his. She parted her lips, and he immediately slipped his tongue into her mouth. She breathed out as Owen’s hand descended to her backside, palming her ass. “I love you,” he said against her lips.
“I love you too,” she said, nibbling on his bottom lip. The elevator dinged as the doors opened up. Tiana rushed out with Owen trailing behind her. She ran to the nurse’s stations, impatiently asking for David’s location. The nurse checked her clipboard before pointing to a room. Tiana immediately rushed to the room and stopped short at the door. She nearly forgot how to breathe when she caught David sitting up in the hospital bed.
His eyes immediately brightened when he saw Tiana. “Hi, you,” he smiled brightly.
“David!” Tiana squealed. She immediately rushed at him, tossing his flowers on the small table before giving him a huge bear hug.
“Ooh! Careful,” he chuckled. “Still sore.”
“I’m so sorry,” she said, quickly pulling back from him. She sat on the bed next to him. “Are you alright? Are you okay? How are you feeling? When did you wake up? Where’s Miles?”
“Babe,” Owen said, touching her shoulder from behind to calm her down.
David chuckled amusedly when he looked up at Owen. “Uh… hi...” David said, looking at him curiously.
“...hey...” Owen said, looking David over.
“...you must be Owen. Tiana’s told me a lot about you,” David smiled.
“Has she now?” Owen smirked as he pinched Tiana’s waist.
“Just a teensy bit,” Tiana said, a bit embarrassed.
“I know what your favorite food is, let’s start there,” David laughed.
“Jeez, T!” Owen said, feigning shock.
Tiana covered her face in embarrassment. “I’m sorry!” she squeaked.
“I kinda figured she had a crush on you with how often your name came up,” David teased.
“Oh, gosh, David! Staaaahp!” Tiana groaned in embarrassment.
Owen shook his head amused. “Typical Tiana. She doesn’t usually get embarrassed like this. But, when she does-”
“It’s cute,” David chuckled.
Owen raised a brow before smiling. “Yea, it is...”
Tiana caught the way David and Owen were both looking at her. She found herself shrinking under their heated gaze before she cleared her throat. “Um, David... I just... I wanted to say that I’m so sorry,” Tiana said, looking at him as he quickly looked into her eyes. “I’m sorry for everything. I have... never felt so awful in my entire life. And I... I just couldn’t imagine what I’d do if... if-”
“Hey, it’s okay,” David said, grabbing her hand.
“It’s really not,” Tiana said, feeling her eyes brimming with tears. “You could have died, David, and I-”
“But I didn’t, Tiana,” David insisted. “I’m alive. Nearly fully functional.”
“Nearly?” she asked.
David sighed. “One of the bullets hit a nerve in my hip. When I woke up, I couldn’t... necessarily feel my legs.”
“Oh god!” Tiana cried into her hands.
“Tiana,” David said, peeling her hands away from her face. “Don’t freak out. It’s just temporary nerve damage. It can be fixed.”
“This is all my fault!” Tiana freaked.
“Tiana, baby, calm down,” Owen said, rubbing her arms.
“But he’s paralyzed because of me!” she hyperventilated.
“I’m not paralyzed,” David said quickly. “I’ll just be on crutches for a while.” David grabbed her hand, trying to get her attention. “It could have been so much worse. This is a good thing.”
Tiana slowed her tears. She looked at David who gave her a warm smile back. “You didn’t deserve this,” she said.
“Honestly, it’s exactly what I deserve,” David said with a sad smile. “A girl lost mobility in her entire lower half because of me...”
Tiana looked at him sadly. “...Miles... told us what happened...”
“It’s karma,” David shrugged.
“That’s bullshit,” Owen said quickly. Tiana and David looked up at him. “Shit happens to people all the time. But I don’t believe in that karma bullshit because there’s a lot of good people suffering and a lot of bad people sitting pretty. You didn’t deserve this,” Owen said.
David gave Owen a grateful smile. “Thanks, man...”
Owen returned the smile before he cleared his throat. “What happened to your friend anyway? Miles.”
“He just went to get me something to eat,” David said. “Sick of this hospital food. He’ll be back later. But thank you guys for visiting. It means a lot.”
“When will you be released?” Tiana asked.
“In a few weeks,” David said. “Hopefully sooner than later. It’s a little boring here without my research.”
“I’ll bring you some books,” Tiana said quickly. “And we can Facetime. I’ll check up on you.”
“You don’t have to do that, Tiana,” David protested.
“I want to, David,” she said quickly. “I know you don’t have a lot of family here. So Owen and I will be here to check up on you and help you if you need it.”
Owen nodded. “Don’t try to talk her out of it. Once her mind is set to something, that’s it,” he grinned.
David chuckled. “Thanks, guys... I really appreciate that.”
Tiana rushed to hug David as he wrapped his arms around her to embrace her. Owen stuffed his hands into his pockets as he watched David nestle his face into Tiana’s neck. He was unable to distinguish how he felt about the scene before him.
“I’ll see you soon, okay?” she said.
David nodded at her with a smile. “I look forward to it,” he said. His touch lingered on her hand.
“We’ll... see you around,” Owen said, giving David a head nod.
David gave a sideways smile as he locked eyes with Owen. “See ya around...”
Tiana and Owen walked out of the hospital and headed toward Owen’s motorcycle. “Thank you for coming with me, O,” she said to him.
“Of course, T. I know how much he means to you.” He handed her a helmet, but she stopped to think before putting it on.
“Is it just me or... did he have eyes for you?” she asked.
“Tiana,” Owen laughed.
“I’m serious!” she said. “He was looking at you the way he looks at me.”
“You know... the sex eyes,” she laughed.
Owen shook his head. “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.”
“Oh come on, Owen!” she said. “I’m just a little confused cause I was certain he’s straight. I mean we-”
“Bisexuality is a thing, babe,” Owen said. “What do you think I am?”
Tiana mused. “I’m the only girl you seem to be sexually active with.”
“Yea and I plan on keeping it that way,” Owen said, grabbing her waist and pulling her forward. He went to kiss her when she pulled her head back.
“Are you saying that you’re giving up your hoeing days for little ol’ me?” she teased.
Owen smirked as he grabbed her more roughly. He squeezed her ass hard until she squealed. “I’m saying... that this ass is mine. And I will do with it as I please,” he said, biting down on her lip. “Don’t pull away from me again...”
Tiana swallowed hard as she looked into his darkened blue eyes. “Or what... is Daddy gonna punish me?” she teased.
Owen chuckled amused. “Baby, don’t start something you’re not prepared for,” he said, slipping his hand into the back of her pants.
“Try me, Daddy,” she breathed against his lips.
Tiana yelped as Owen roughly grabbed her hips. He stuck both hands beneath her jeans and grabbed two large handfuls of her ass. She gasped out loud before he ferociously swallowed her breath with a kiss. “Damn tease. I will fuck you so damn hard you won’t be able to walk straight for days,” he growled against her neck. “Don’t test me, baby girl.”
Moaning breathlessly, she wrapped her arms around his neck.
They both jumped startled as a nurse waved at them from the curb. “Y’all can’t be doin’ that shit up in here!” she yelled at them.
“Sorry!” Tiana said embarrassed. Owen felt his phone buzz and looked down to see a text from Jason.
Jason: Your hour is up! Where’s my woman?!
Owen shook his head with a smirk as he tucked his phone back into his pocket. “Let’s go, babe,” he said, getting on his bike.
Tiana tightened her arms around Owen’s waist as his motorcycle sped down the freeway. She had had so many dreams of holding him like this. Not as a friend but as his woman. Owen pulled over to a gas station and waited for Tiana to get off before he did. She went to kiss him when she caught the troubled look on his face. “Owen?”
“I just thought of something,” he said, thinking. “HeaTWave targeted Ty and me through our mother. They targeted Jason through his sister. And they threatened Joey’s cousins, Anna’s grandmother, and Darren’s parents.” Owen looked at Tiana seriously. “It’s possible that they may have targeted you through David.”
Tiana looked at him confused. “But Jay wasn’t a hacker.”
“Darren, Ty, Jason, and I have been searching everywhere for Jay since the shooting. But it’s like he disappeared without a trace. And I don’t like it. I don’t like that the person who tried to hurt you is still on the loose.”
Tiana looked at Owen surprised. “You think Jay was part of HeaTWave.”
Owen sighed. “I don’t know, T. I just... I just think we need to be careful. We need to stay on the lookout and keep checking on David. At least until we find Jay and deal with him personally. David’s life could still be in danger.”
“Do you really think they’d go after David again?” she asked frantically.
“I don’t know, babe... They did call a truce, but... that doesn’t really mean shit in our world...” Owen muttered as he took out his phone. “I’m gonna text Ty to look into it.”
Tiana’s brows furrowed with anxiety as she looked down. She couldn’t imagine anything else happening to David on her behalf. Owen glanced at her and immediately felt bad for worrying her when he had been advocating so hard to calm her down. “Hey,” he said as he tucked his phone away. “Come here.”
She moved into his arms as he hugged her tightly. “I don’t mean to worry you, T. I just want to make you aware. I’ll do everything in my power to keep you safe. I’ll protect you with my life. And I can’t do that if I’m not communicating with you what’s on my mind.”
He pulled his head back to look into her eyes. “No more secrets,” he said.
Tiana nodded. “No more secrets...”