This Story is intended for a mature audience only. Redistribution without permission is forbidden. This is a work of fiction for artistic enjoyment, feedback welcome at vlad885 @ hotmail.com
Keith arrived at the group home the next week in a decidedly unhappy mood. It was raining and had been for several days making the street urchins scarce. He had to resign himself to the fact that Brad wasn't coming back, he was growing weary of the search anyway. Even though he loved the boy in his quiet way he had to concede that he was likely long gone. He'd had a couple of sightings but each time he caught up to the shorthaired boys, it wasn't Brad after all. So what exactly was he doing here getting his stuff, Keith wondered to himself as he knocked on the door.
A skinny young guy opened the door and let him in,
"You must be Keith? I'm Trevor" The boy greeted
the Trevor I've heard all about, are you?" Keith said finally able to put
a face to the name.
"I was Brad's roommate, I've got his room now" the boy explained.
"Oh yeah." Keith replied disinterestedly, he just wanted to get the stuff and get out of there.
"It was supposed to be temporary but I guess I'm here full time now" Trevor offered.
"Is Peter or Tom here? I'm picking up Brad's stuff" Keith explained.
"Tom doesn't work here anymore, it's Peter and Elliot now" Trevor informed.
"It's like a revolving door around here," Keith noted
"What?" Trevor quizzed
"Never mind" Keith replied
"I packed Brad's stuff, it's in these boxes" Trevor advised
Three boxes, that was the sum of Brad's life Keith lamented.
"Have you heard from him? Is he going to live with you?" The boy assumed.
"No I haven't Trevor, I don't think he's coming back" Keith explained again wondering what he was doing there. He should've just left it all to be divided amongst the kids. "If you really want something I'm sure he'd be ok with you having it"
"I'd take his MP3 player" Trevor suggested eagerly.
"Fine, get it" Keith ordered.
The boy pulled the machine out of the box and with it several photographs, which dropped onto the floor. Keith picked them up and flipped through them, they were all of the time he and Brad were at the cottage. He had given the kid a link to the photos online but didn't realise that Brad had them printed. He sighed thinking of happier times as he put them away and closed the box back up.
"I'll help you take them out," He offered. "If Brad doesn't come back maybe you could take me out sometimes, Brad was always going on about you" Trevor asked as the pair carried the boxes to the man's car.
Keith chuckled at the thought of another lost puppy.
"Trevor your social worker has to get you someone I can't just start seeing you but I'm sure you're worthy of my time." Keith said getting a sad look from the fresh young face. "I'll tell you what, if I do decide to ask for another assignment I'll ask for you specifically."
Keith quickly got into his car and drove off, it was too emotionally painful to stay and talk to the new boy. Someday he might be ready but this was just too quick for another one.
When he got home he put the teen's boxes in the garage. It wasn't the right time to bring them inside to look through them. He should likely just give them to charity after all, Keith thought, perhaps he'd find a keepsake and donate the rest.
He noticed that his voicemail light was on and checked the message, it was the drop in centre reporting that another boy matching Brad's description had shown up. He didn't get it early enough in the day to respond as he'd gone to the group home right after work. Keith decided he would call tomorrow, as there was likely no one there at this hour.
Keith took his first break at 10:30 the next day and called the drop in centre.
"Ever green" A woman's voice answered.
"It's doctor Brown I got a call about a missing boy, Brad lock," He said as he had several times before.
"Yes he was in yesterday Keith, it's Lynn" The woman replied.
"Did you ask him his name?" Keith said not getting excited about the information, as he'd been disappointed so many times before.
"He told us his name was Brad but we don't ask for full names" Lynn replied.
"Ok ... well if he comes in again ask him if he knows me and if he does have him call me" Keith said tired of visiting drop in centres and shelters on wild goose chases. He even had one Brad look-a-like offer to come home with him to be `the best son ever'. As Keith hung up the phone he wonder if that should be his plan but he knew in his heart that Brad couldn't be replaced. Maybe in time someone like Trevor would work out but for now it would just make him miss the teen more although Keith admitted to himself that he was depressed, spending all this time alone searching for love lost.
As he was leaving for the day his receptionist handed him a written phone message. It was from Lynn again this afternoon, `Brad at evergreen' was all it said. Keith crumpled it up and threw it in the garbage. Brad would come back if and when he wanted there was no further point in fruitless searches Keith decided. He pulled his car out of the parking lot and hesitated. He switched his turn signal from left to right and turned toward the shelter heading the opposite direction from home.
"One last look" Keith said to himself, "If this Brad is clean enough I'll take him out for something to eat" He decided although he didn't want to get anyone's hopes up.
He parked near the shelter and walked over, by now the door goon knew him well enough to let him pass. On entering Lyn pointed to a lone boy sitting at a table.
"He says you know him and asked me to call, he's been waiting all afternoon." She reported.
He looked like any other street kid but his hair was too long and ratty to be Bradley. Keith stood in front of the boy and began to tremble, as under those layers of dirt it was Brad, his Brad.
"Brad" He whispered.
The teen kept his gaze on the table and didn't respond. Keith moved to touch the boy's face but the teen swept his hand away with his own.
"Look at me" Keith asked softly.
The boy looked up and locked eyes briefly with Keith before he hung his head again. It was Brad for sure, all he needed was a glance to confirm it but why was he so unresponsive, Keith wondered. Was it anger, or remorse perhaps even shame at his appearance?
Keith sat beside the boy on a hard plastic chair. He slowly moved an arm around the back of his torn jacket and gave him a half hug. He noticed that the boy was wearing a shirt that he'd bought him. It was a nice dress shirt, likely the only collared shirt the boy owned but now it was in pretty bad shape, like his boy.
"Brad, come home with me" Keith said softly
"You don't want me ... I've ... done things" Brad replied with out looking up.
"I don't care, come home" Keith replied
"I'm damaged goods" Brad repeated
"I'll take you in any condition" Keith replied wondering if Brad was injured in some way. "You waited for me all day why would you do that if you didn't want to come home?"
"I kinda hoped you'd give me some money," Brad advised
Keith flung his wallet open, he kept twenty bucks as he'd need it to pay for parking and flung the rest, perhaps a hundred dollars down on the table in the front of the teen. Brad scooped it up and put it away, money wasn't something to be left lying around in a place like this.
"Come home, I have all your stuff you could get cleaned up and change your clothes" Keith reasoned.
The teen stood avoiding eye contact as he prepared to leave. Keith grabbed his wrist firmly causing Brad to snap,
"Let me go!"
Keith held on tight, this wasn't happening again he thought.
"Brad come home with me, please," Keith begged as the security man took notice of the commotion.
"I'm not going to jail," Brad blurted as he manoeuvred his arm attempting to break Keith's hold.
Keith continued to hold on tight as he put his arm around Brad's back adding to the restraint.
"Tom wasn't injured, he didn't even miss a day's work so there's no way you're going to jail. Even if you had go for a few days how could it be any worse than how you're living now?" Keith asked exasperated.
Brad stopped struggling and remained silent with his head down as though he were examining the floor for an answer.
"You did it your way now let's try my way" Keith asked softly.
"Ok" Brad mumbled quietly.
Keith held him in a big hug and a few seconds later the defeated boy returned to gesture.
The man got the boy out of there quickly, lest he change his mind. He drove directly home and ushered the teen inside where his first priority was to clean him up. Keith led the silent boy into the bathroom where he undressed him in a role reversal, as it was typically the man being undressed by the horny boy. Keith sensed that Brad was weary and willing to let the man do what was required. Once Brad was nude Keith made a cursory inspection for injuries and was relieved to find none. Keith turned the shower on and tested the temperature, adjusting it until he was satisfied. He helped the boy into the water stream and watched him stand there. Brad seemed strangely helpless making Keith think he must be exhausted. The man quickly pulled off his own clothes and joined the boy in the shower. He methodically washed the teen from head to toe, his hair three times, as he noticed the boy had lost weight. Once clean Keith dried him before taking his love to the guest room bed. He laid Brad on his belly and began a slow gentle massage. The teen was incredibly tense as the man worked his fingers into his shoulders and back. By the time he got down to the boy's legs he noticed a change in his breathing the teen was asleep.
Keith crept downstairs, he was so happy to have Brad back that he had forgotten everything else. Now the work would begin, he'd have to call the police and Children's services. He wanted to delay that as long as possible but he knew that if the cops showed up and found Brad in his house then he'd be in trouble too. After finding the officer's card Keith left him a message that Brad was with him and then he left a message with the social worker as well. Brad was home but now they were right back where they left off. There would be charges to deal with most likely and given that he'd runaway he wasn't likely going back to the same group home. There would be no way that he'd let them stop him from seeing the boy, even if that meant a confrontation.
He went back upstairs to watch his beauty sleep. Other than the scruffy hair he might have been able to imagine that Brad had never been gone. Keith realised that Brad might be cold as he left him naked on the bed. He reached across the boy and pulled the comforter over him. Brad snapped his head around and stared at Keith, he'd always been a light sleeper but being on the street likely made the teen even more so.
"Sorry" Keith mumbled as he completed his task and then kissed the boy.
Brad silently closed his eyes again as Keith just sat and watched him, the boy's soft breathing was music to the man's ears. Brad was home.
Keith eventually left him to go sleep in his own bed, he wondered to himself why he didn't put the boy in his bed with him but it seemed best to let him recover, sleeping undisturbed.
Keith was dressed and ready to leave for work the next morning when Brad appeared naked, fresh from his bed.
"Oh hey, I'm off to work but I'll be back by three, we have a meeting with the cops at three thirty" He informed. The officer had called back and made the appointment, they seemed unconcerned that a wanted fugitive was sleeping in his house.
"You're not worried I'll leave" Brad snorted as he braced himself against the breakfast bar still half asleep.
"If you really want to leave there's nothing I can do about it Brad but I hope you're ready to trust me now" Keith admonished. "Your stuff is in these three boxes you can move them upstairs into your room"
Brad nodded before heading for the fridge, the boy must be starved Keith thought, they didn't even have dinner last night.
When Keith got home from work he took Brad to the police station. He was relieved to find Brad still home dressed and ready to go. He could tell the boy was nervous but there was also an air of futility to his manner. The angry boy had become the quiet boy, he just wanted it over with it seemed.
The officer disinterestedly went through the process of taking a statement and had Brad sign it. The cop then went off leaving the two alone in the small interview room. Brad's gaze alternated between Keith and the floor as the two silently waited. Keith decided that a discussion wasn't the best idea anyway, in case they were being monitored as he'd seen on TV. When the cop returned he had a small blue slip that he placed in front of them.
"Ok, you're being charged with assault. If you and Dr. Brown sign the promise to appear then you can leave now, you're required to advise us if you move and you're to have no contact with the victim" the man stately flat.
The phrase victim burned Keith, Brad should be the victim here he thought. They both signed the document and were on their way. Keith was so relieved that Brad wasn't locked up, in his current state he worried how the boy might have been affected.
"Do you want to get a hair cut?" Keith asked as they drove off.
"Why?" Brad replied
"You usually like your hair short" Keith suggested.
"Fine" Brad said calmly
"Yes then?" Keith confirmed not sure what fine meant.
"Yes" Brad replied.
Keith drove to the mall and left Brad to get his haircut. He knew the teen wouldn't want to be babied and have an adult watch over him. He strolled the mall killing time until he got back around to the hair salon. Brad was done just as he returned. Keith was stunned by the lack of hair the boy now sported. He had it all shaved off, just the way he was when Keith first met the angry boy. Keith stroked the tiny bristles of hair when Brad came over to him.
"Back to normal" Keith said cheerfully, hoping it was true.
"Yeah" Brad replied softly.
The evening was quiet as Brad just lounged in front of the TV. They'd had dinner without much conversation, as Keith didn't want to pressure the kid. Brad had shown no interest in talking about his experiences on the street but Keith knew that would come out in time. He was surprised that Brad wasn't on the computer already announcing his return to the cyber world where there were likely dozens of `where are you' messages waiting.
Keith stroked the boy's head lovingly again as he spoke to him.
"Your worker is coming tomorrow morning, I've arranged to take the afternoon appointments so I can stay with you"
"She's going to move me," Brad said flatly.
"I don't know?" Keith replied thinking it was a question.
"Yeah she is, I should go pack" The teen replied as he got up and went upstairs, strangely lacking any outward emotion.
Keith had hoped Brad would see the value in cooperation and choosing his battles but this seemed more like surrender. That evening Brad had gone to sleep in his own bed again. It wasn't as though Keith was desperate to have sex with the teen but he was surprised that Brad had yet to demand it.
Keith opened the door and popped his head into the darkened room.
"You can come sleep with me if you want" He said softly in case the boy was still awake.
Getting no response he went to bed alone.
In the morning the social worker arrived just before nine, thankfully Brad was already dressed. Once they got settled with coffee and such she got down to business.
"Ok, Brad you're sixteen so I can't keep you in care if you don't want to stay" She advised.
"Two more weeks til I'm sixteen" Brad said softly.
Keith was suddenly anxious, he'd forgotten the teens' birthday was so close, he'd have to get a present for him, something special.
"I assume you're staying here," The woman said ignoring Brad's technicality.
"That would be ideal" Keith said in his professional tone when Brad didn't respond.
"Ok, this is an extended care contract. What it says Brad is that if you stay in school we'll send Keith money for your care." The woman said as she produced a document.
"So I'm is foster parent?" Keith quizzed, surprised that worker hadn't briefed him on this plan.
"No that would require an application and training. Brad is living independently with you as a mentor, I'm not ready to give him money directly until we see he's committed to school" She advised.
"So I can live here full time?" Brad asked softly, finally getting some emotion back into his words.
"Yes, as long as you follow the conditions otherwise you're on your own" The worker explained flatly, seeming almost to expect him to fail.
"What about his charge" Keith asked.
"He'll get community service at worst, I'm not worried" She noted but Keith was despite the positive spin he gave Brad on the subject. A judge might want to make an example out of some sixteen-year-old punk that hit his caregiver.
Once he'd seen the woman to the door Keith returned to Brad and said gleefully,
"I guess you have to unpack".
Brad smirked at the man's humour and then broke out into a smile, the first one that Keith had seen from him since finding the boy.
Next chapter should be online in about a week or so.