This story is fiction. It depicts, sometimes explicitly, sex between teenage boys, between boys and men, and between boys and females, both teenage and adult. If you find such things offensive, or reading such things is illegal where you live, please read no further.

XV. Dan's Dilemma

By the time the three boys had been in Truro for three weeks, they had become quite comfortable with who they were in the location they found themselves. There were still those who chose to harass them or downright ignore them, but in all they had to admit that things were not as bad as they had expected.

Charlie took Lisa to the dance, in fact Dan and Jerry both had dates and went as well. All had a wonderful time, especially Jerry. He had never been exposed to Down East Canadian music before, and was suitably impressed. "The Atlantic Storm" was a group that had got started a little over a year ago, and were becoming very popular in the area. Their music was a blend of American country, Scottish, Irish, and French-Canadian. It was a lively, happy sound, and extremely danceable. Charlie and Dan wanted desperately to dance together during the evening, but they knew that the area hadn't progressed that far, at least not yet.

True to her word, Dan's mother did not bring up the subject of the possibility of Dan moving back home. But when Dan brought it up she was only too willing to discuss it.

"I don't know what to do." Dan complained to his mom, "I want to come home so bad, but I know Charlie won't, and Jerry says he can't."

"I don't see why not," his mom answered.

"They don't have a place to live. Charlie is sure his dad would never let him come home, and Jerry just doesn't have a place."

"They could stay here, or at least Jerry could. And I think Charlie would be pleasantly surprised by his dad's reaction after all this time."

"I don't think so, Mom. And Charlie doesn't either. His father's got to know we're in town, but he certainly hasn't called."

"Has Charlie called him?"

"No, Mom. I think he prefers not knowing for sure, rather than calling and being rejected."

"We have to take chances with love, son. If we love someone we have to be willing to take chances with them, and that includes our parents, children, anyone we love. That's why we took you at your word that you're ok and happy. That's why we didn't try and force you to come home. You had to take a chance on your love for Charlie, and we had to take a chance that you were safe because we knew that's what would make you happy."

"I'm not so sure I am happy, Mom." Dan said to his astonished mother.

"Not happy? But I thought..."

"Don't get me wrong, Mom. I love Charlie more than I love life. And I love Jerry too, but in a kinda different way. But I'm just not sure I'm done being a kid yet. I miss you and Dad. I miss the good times we used to have. I miss the rules, and most of all I miss your love and caring. Charlie and Jerry spoil me so bad, and watch out for me like a little boy; but they're not my parents. Does that make any sense?"

Dan was in his mother's arms then, crying like the little boy he felt like at that particular moment.

"It makes perfect sense to me, son," his mom answered as her hands gently stroked his hair, his neck and back. "I'm afraid you have a pretty big decision to make, and no one can make it but you. Unless you can convince the others to stay, you're going to have to decide between them and home. You need to know that we'll support you whatever you decide, but the decision has to be yours."

"I don't wanna lose Charlie, Mom," he cried, "but I think I will if he goes back without me."

"Have you talked to him about it?"

"No! He'd think I don't want him any more."

"Have you discussed it with Jerry?"

"No, Mom. I'm... well I guess I'm afraid. But I think they know I'm thinking about it."

"I think you should be sure, Danny. It's a pretty big issue and if you want to spend your life with either or both of them, I think they have the right to know what's going on in your head."

"I think I'll get Charlie to call his dad." Dan reflected. "Ya never know, maybe he'll be surprised." And with that Dan fell silent, enjoying being cuddled by his mother. Presently he felt a little better and went searching for Charlie, who had been outside mowing the Edwards' lawn.

"Jerry," Dan said tentatively as Jerry lay on a lounge chair in the sun, "can Charlie and I borrow the car for a little while?"

"No prob," Jerry answered, "What's up?"

"Nuthin' really, there's just some place I want to go. We'll be back in an hour or so, ok?"

"Want me to come? I'm not doing anything."

"Thanks Jer, but this is something I have to do with Charlie. We won't be long."

Jerry handed Dan the keys, his bewilderment showing on his face. Before he had a chance to press the issue further his companions were in the car and gone.

"I thought I heard the car leave," Mrs Edwards questioned as Jerry went in the house.

"You did," Jerry answered, "Dan and Charlie went somewhere."

"They did?" Where'd they go?"

"I have no idea. I was hoping you could tell me."

"Sorry, no help here. Unless..."

"Unless what?"

"Well, Dan and I just had a long talk, and he said he was going to try to get Charlie to go see his dad. It could be that... well, maybe they're going over there. He really wants Charlie and his father to make up."

"I know that, but they're both terrified of that man! I can't believe that Dan would go over there voluntarily."

"I can. Dan would go to hell and back for Charlie. Jerry, while they're gone, can we have a talk?"

"Yes ma'am. What's up?"

"Okay, Dan," Charlie said as Dan drove the big Lincoln downtown, "what's goin' on? Where we goin'?"

"To your house to see your father."

"Really? Did he call?"

Dan could see the expression of anticipation in Charlie's face. "Not exactly," he answered.

"Then why are we goin' there? I told ya I would make sure he knew I was in town and the rest is up to him."

"That's not good enough Charlie. It's just not good enough."

"It's good enough for me. You didn't live with him for sixteen years, Dan. You don't know what he can be like."

"I don't care. It just ain't right that you spend a month here and don't even see him. He's your father, Charlie! And I can't see you leave without at least trying."

"See me leave? Where am I goin'?"

"Back to Daytona, aren't you? Or am I missing something?"

Suddenly a cold chill started at Charlie's neck and rippled down his body in a wave. "Dan," he said with a suddenly serious voice, "is it me that's missing something? Are you stayin' here?"

"I'm thinking about it, Charlie. And I thought, if you could only see your father, talk to him, maybe...."

"Maybe what? Maybe he'd give me a hug and suddenly turn into a father who thinks I'm more than a piece of shit? Maybe he'd forget how much fun it is to beat on me?"

"Give him a chance, Charlie. You've been away for eight months. He might be glad to see you and make up."

"Yes, I have every reason to believe he wants to make up. And that's why I've been here for three weeks and he's never called. Forget it, Dan, I'm not going to see him and I'm not coming back to this shithole town. Not ever!

"Please, Charlie?" Dan pleaded. He had pulled the car over to the curb, just a block from Charlie's house. "I can't stand the thought of losing you."

"Who said anything about anyone losing anyone? What exactly are you saying, Dan?"

"I'm not saying anything, Charlie. I just think we'd be better off here till we finish school."

Dan was starting to cry now, knowing he'd blown his chance to reconcile Charlie and his father. "Please, Charlie!" he pleaded, "Won't you try for me? Won't you even try and see if you can go home?"

"I don't WANT to go home! My home is in Daytona now. Why in the world would I want to go back to my old life? I didn't have a life, Dan! And I don't want to go back to my non-life."

"But we could go back and finish school. We can even go to summer school to catch up. I checked."

"You checked? So you've been working on this all along! You've been planning this ever since we left, haven't you?"

"No, Charlie, I haven't. But I wanted to know what my options are. I wanted to know if I'd lose a year so I called to find out. They said with my grades I could probably make it up over the summer. And if I recall your grades are every bit as good as mine are."

Charlie was adamant that he wasn't going back. But Dan was just as adamant that he should go see his father. He was crying out of control now, thinking he'd blown any chances he'd had of staying home with Charlie. It seemed to him that his decision was getting further away, not closer. Then Charlie surprised him again. "Okay, Dan," he said, "I'll go see him. But you're not going. I'll take you home then come back."

"But I thought..."

"That's the way it's gotta be, Dan. Taking you in there with me is like waving a red flag in front of him. Let me do it my way, ok?"

"I don't know any easy way to bring this up," Mom Edwards said to Jerry, "so I'm just gonna forge right in. The truth is, I'm worried about Dan. He's thinking of staying home, and I wanted you to know that I didn't influence him and we're not pressuring him, as badly as we want him to stay."

"I know that, Mrs. Edwards. I was expecting something like this, and when I saw what a great home he has here, I can't honestly say I blame him. I'd kill to have a home like this!"

"You could have one," she offered.

"I appreciate that, ma'am, but you know as well as I do it just wouldn't work. I've been fending for myself for too long. Believe me, you wouldn't want me here."

"I'm sorry, Jerry, but I don't agree. I think you're a wonderful person and we'd be lucky to have you."

Jerry felt a tear well up in his eyes. Where were all the people like this when he was growing up? Why couldn't he have met someone like this instead of all those families who were trying to score a hit at his expense?

"You know Danny adores you," Mrs. Edwards was saying.

"Yeah, I know," Jerry answered, still fighting a losing battle with tears. "I love him too and I'll really miss him. But if he decides he wants to stay, I'll support his decision. He's got a lot more to lose than I realized. You can count on me, ma'am."

"I'm not looking for allies, Jerry. I know you mean well and I appreciate it. But I just want my son to be happy, and I want you and Charlie to understand that I'm not trying to interfere. I'm really worried about how Charlie is going to react and I was hoping you'd talk to him, maybe help him to understand that it's best if Dan stay here at least until he's finished school."

"Charlie is gonna be a problem," Jerry agreed. "He's so incredibly hung up on Dan. I know he wants the best for him, but he is a bit of a hothead."

"Don't I know it!" Mrs. Edwards chuckled. "Dan is trying to get him over to see his father, but I know that's not going to work from what he's told me. I would never tell Charlie this, but they are a lot alike in a lot of ways."

The back door opened and Dan walked in. "You two look awfully serious." he commented.

"We are, Honey," his mom replied. "We're talking about you. Where's Charlie?"

"He's gone over to see his dad. He said he'd go if I let him go alone."

"You think he'll really go?" Jerry wondered.

"He'll go, Jer." Dan answered, somewhat annoyed. "If Charlie says he's gonna do something, he'll do it. I'm just afraid he'll make things worse. But he said he'd try and he will. So what's about me to talk about?"

"I think you know, Dan." Jerry answered.

"I was just telling Jerry," his mom said, "that we only want the best for you, and now all we're trying to do is help you figure out exactly what that is."

"Well if you make any big discoveries I hope you'll let me know, 'cause I'm so confused now I don't know how to sort it all out."

"You told Charlie?" Jerry questioned.

"Didn't have to, he figured it out. He's not too happy about it. He thinks I've been planning all along." Then Dan was in his mother's arms again, sobbing. Jerry regarded the scene and he too started sobbing from the ache in his heart. In his mind he remembered being cuddled by his mom like that when he was only four years old, and the vision was as clear as if it had been yesterday.

"I wondered if you were gonna show up." Don Nelson said when he answered the doorbell.

"Hi Dad," Charlie said as he stuck out his hand and tried to be pleasant. His dad ignored the hand and motioned his son to come in.

"So how've you been?"

"I'm doin' ok, Dad.

"You're living in Daytona?"

"Yes sir. That wasn't our original plan but things seem to have worked out there."

"So I see. I have never even been in a Lincoln, and here you are still a kid and driving one."

"It's not mine, it belongs to Jerry, our roommate."

"Yes, I've heard of Jerry. He's...

"He's the guy who picked us up and gave us a home," Charlie interrupted before his father had a chance to say whatever was on his mind.

"Dad..." Charlie faltered as they sat down in the living room, "Dad, I want to apologize for running away like that. I was so scared..."

"And so you shoulda been! Dropping that bombshell on me like that."

"Well, I'm sorry, but at the time it seemed like the only thing I could do under the circumstances. It was kinda a bombshell to me too."

"So it's true? All those stories going around town?"

"Well, I don't know what all you've heard, but probably most of it is true."

"Why, Charlie? Why would you do such a thing? What got into you?"

"I have no idea, Dad. I mean, it's not as if I woke up one morning and decided to be gay. I just am. You'd have to be crazy to CHOOSE this way of life, but it seems that I had no choice. It just happened."

Charlie's dad sat and looked at his son. I mean he REALLY looked at him for perhaps the first time in many years. "You're growing up, boy," he commented, "and you're looking really good. Some day soon you're gonna meet some girl and fall for her, then you'll forget all this foolishness. Then you'll understand what a mess you put me in with all those stories going around town."

"That's not gonna happen, Dad. I don't know why or how it happened, and it wasn't my choice, but I am what I am and I have to live with it."

"Well, I don't have to and I won't! If you choose to live that way then you're not my son. I don't bring up faggot sons.

Charlie knew that this conversation was going nowhere. He could feel his face flushing, knew that he was starting to lose his temper. Jerry's tutoring came into play and he used all the skill, the self control, the rationality that he could muster. Jerry had taught him when with a client, he should not lose control no matter what the cost. He saw this situation as being no different. His father was baiting him and he knew it; worse still, it was starting to work. He had to state his business and get his answer, then get out of there before he blew.

"I guess that means that I'm no longer welcome here?" he said evenly, looking his father in the eye.

"It means I don't have a faggot son and I don't take in boarders. It means that if you want to live here and be my son you have to forget all that disgusting foolishness and live normally."

"I love Dan, Dad, and I can't change that. I don't even want to change it."

"Bullshit! How can you love another boy? And the things you do! That's repulsive!"

"Is it, Dad? How do you know? Have you ever tried it?"

Charlie knew before the words were out of his mouth that he'd gone over the line. His dad was on his feet now, his face red as a beet and his eyes had murder in them. In self defense Charlie stood to face him.

WHAM! Charlie was on the floor, blood gushing from his nose. He shook his head to clear it, then struggled to his feet. "Go ahead," he challenged, "beat the shit outa me. That's your answer for everything isn't it? You hear something you don't like and you beat it into submission. I won't fight you Dad, so go ahead and do your thing."

"Don," a female voice came from behind Charlie. Without turning to look Charlie knew it was the voice of Ellen, his stepmother. "Please, Don, he's trying to make up."

"He's trying to tell me I'm one of his kind too, that's what he's trying to do."

"Charlie," Ellen said, "if you'll just sit down so we can talk this out..."

"I was sitting down. But if I'm gonna get a beating I'm gonna stand and face it. Oh, and by the way, I don't need a mediator, and I certainly don't need you."

WHAM! Charlie was on the floor again, this time taking a lamp with him and smashing it. "You don't talk to her like that!" his dad raged. "She's your stepmother."

"Emphasis on STEP," Charlie pointed out as he got to his feet again. "She's not my mother and won't ever come even close. So Ellen, if you'll kindly FUCK OFF so my father here can finish what he does best..."

The next blow was a closed fist headed for Charlie's left eye, but this time Charlie was ready. He deflected the blow and stayed on his feet, albeit a bit wobbly. "Ok, Dad," he said as he tried to clear the fuzziness from his brain, "you've had your fun, and you're not gonna hit me any more. I told you I wouldn't fight you and I meant it. But you're NOT gonna hit me again."

"I'll decide when I stop hitting you, ya little fag!" Another swing which Charlie deflected easily; then another and another. Charlie was starting to feel good about himself again now. He was dodging and ducking, deflecting and blocking, without himself throwing any punches. But his father was getting more furious with every unsuccessful swing.

"I guess that means I have my answer." Charlie said as he fought to keep the tears from starting.

"What was the question?" Ellen asked.

"The only question I have for you," Charlie said as he blocked yet another punch, "you don't wanna hear. So I'll just leave before your husband bursts a blood vessel or something.

"Don't go Charlie," Ellen advised, "not like this."

"You'd like that, wouldn't you? You'd like me to stand here and be his punching bag all day wouldn't ya? Sorry, but those days are over. He'll have to beat on you now, and he will, sooner or later.

"My question was," Charlie said over his shoulder as he opened the door, "can I come home. But like I said, I have my answer. Good-bye Dad, I love you. I won't be bothering you again. Good-bye Ellen, I DON'T love you!"

He managed to get into the car and out of the driveway before the flood came; but then he had to pull over because he couldn't see as the tears came in a torrent. He wanted Dan by his side; or Jerry; or his mom. But at that moment they all seemed equally unavailable to him. So he sat at the curb, behind the wheel of the big Lincoln, and cried till he couldn't cry any more. He was alone again! Just like he'd been for the past four years till he and Dan had run away. He hated this town! It had offered him nothing but hurt and disappointment. He vowed he would never come back. EVER!

Dan lay asleep in his mother's arms. But it was not a peaceful sleep. He dreamed of Terry; of the nice family he'd left; of the horrible death he'd suffered. In his dream, all the pictures were tinted red, the red of Terry's blood, which was everywhere! It was so needless! Terry had simply to go home and he'd be accepted, nurtured, helped. In his dream Dan was alongside Terry, feeling Terry's pain, losing his blood as Terry bled to death. He awoke with a scream that startled his mom so badly that she almost dropped her son.

"Danny!" she soothed, "it's all right! What in the world..."

"I had a dream," Dan sobbed, "about Terry."

"Terry?" his mom questioned.

"Yeah... I told you about him. The kid from Richmond that I met."

"But..." his mother questioned, confused.

"I've got a feeling," Jerry offered, "maybe Dan didn't tell you the whole story."

They both looked at Dan, and it didn't take a rocket scientist to see the guilty look on his face. "I kinda left out some of the details," he mumbled. "I didn't want to worry you. Besides it all worked out ok."

"Doesn't sound very ok to me, if it gives you nightmares like that!"

"She has a right to know, Danny," Jerry said. "Would you like me to tell her, or will you?"

"I... I'll do it," Dan said. And he did. The whole thing.

"Tell her the rest," Jerry ordered after the story was told.

"What rest?" Dan said blankly.

"Your trip to Richmond. I think that's what bothered you more, in a way. Tell her that too."

Dan's mother wasn't at all sure she was ready for any more. Her son, so quiet and sedate, so devoted and affectionate, had been involved in kidnaping, murder, drugs, pornography, and God knows what else! He'd been involved sexually with a seedy underage street kid, with no protection whatsoever, and the police had the whole thing on videotape! And yet there was more?

Dan told his mom that once the boy's identity had been determined, he went with the cop to see his parents. He described a family situation not unlike the one he had enjoyed for fifteen years. As he started crying again he explained that there'd been no need for Terry to die, no need for him to run away at all. He told about Terry's drug habit and his parents' intention to put him in a treatment center. As he started to cry again, he said "They were so much like you and Dad, Mom! All they ever wanted was to take care of Terry, to make him well. But Terry didn't understand that. He couldn't see that they loved him, and now he's dead! Dead, Mom! I don't want to end up like that. I don't want to hurt y'all any more! I want to live here and make you proud."

"We ARE proud of you, son."

"Well, I'm not proud of me. I'm realizing more all the time just how much I'm throwing away, and how stupid I'm being. Mom, what am I gonna do?"

When Charlie walked in, everyone gasped at his appearance. His efforts to clean himself up in a gas station washroom had been less than successful. His eyes were red and puffy ample evidence that he'd been crying. There was blood from his nose on his shirt, and it had begun oozing blood again. "I take it," Jerry said, "Things didn't go as well as you'd hoped?"

"On the contrary," Charlie answered, his voice breaking. "Now I can go back to Daytona and be content there. He tried to beat me up, but after a couple lucky punches I didn't let him hit me any more. That felt good!"

"But?" Jerry questioned, knowing there was more to the story.

"He kinda told me I wasn't welcome there any more, unless I gave up what he called foolishness. In other words give up Dan."

"Enough talk!" Mom Edwards ordered, "Let's get you cleaned up, Charlie. And she led him upstairs to apply some first aid.

Half an hour later Charlie came downstairs. He had showered and changed his clothes, and Mom Edwards had applied some much needed TLC to his face and arms, which were bruised pretty badly from having blocked a dozen or so punches. He looked better, but by no means well. Just as he walked into the kitchen Dan's father came in the back door, home from work. "Charlie!" he exclaimed, "what on earth happened to you?"

"Later, Clarke," Mom said. "I'll explain it all, but right now the three boys are going out to dinner, aren't you, boys?"

"We... we are?" Dan stuttered.

"We are!" Jerry answered. He was quick to pick up Mom's signal that the three of them needed to be alone so they could talk.

The boys drove around a while, just taking in the sights, not saying much of any importance. Jerry kept commenting on the beauty of the area, while Dan and Charlie kept answering that he should see it in winter before he made up his mind. Before they knew it they were relating to Jerry some of the winter experiences they'd had growing up. A snowball fight here, sliding down a hill there, the snowman they'd made only to have it wrecked an hour later by the "big kids." Finally Dan got up the courage to break the ice.

"I'm real sorry you think I was holding out on you, Charlie," he said. "I didn't mean to keep secrets, but I just didn't want to get you all upset till I was sure." He also had no earthly idea how to bring it up, but he didn't mention that reason.

"So now you're sure?" Charlie questioned.

"Not really. I kinda was till you came home from your dad's all beat up. Now I'm confused again. I just don't know..."

"Well," said Charlie decisively, "I'm certainly not confused. I really don't have a choice."

"You do, ya know." Jerry suggested, "I think the Edwards' would be thrilled to have you."

"It wouldn't work, Jerry. It would be..."

"It would be great, Charlie! And I think you know it."

"But... but what about you?"

"For me it's different. I've been on my own so long I wouldn't fit in."

"What about the business? How're ya gonna manage on your own?"

"I did it for five years. I'll miss you guys terribly, but we can visit back and forth. I think you both should stay here, at least till you're done high school."

"I wish we were like you, Jerry," Dan lamented. "You never had a family really, so there's not that extra complication. If we didn't have our families we wouldn't be in this pickle now. We'd know exactly what to do."

Jerry's eyes popped wide open, his face turned red, and he started screaming. "Don't you ever let me hear you say that again," he roared. "You spoiled little shits have a home, friends, roots. You know where you came from and what you're made of, and if y'all had any brains at all, you'd know just how precious that is! Why, I met more of your friends in one week than I've had in my whole life!"

"I'm sorry, Jer," Dan said, a bit confused. "But you often say how lucky you are to be completely on your own, so I thought..."

"You thought nothing. You know nothing. Don't you know a defense mechanism when you see one? I'd give my soul to have the history y'all have, without a care in the world, your biggest problem being making a good grade on your next math test or what model you want to put together next. I heard stories about your hockey games, your basketball teams; parties, dances, summer camps, fishing trips, Halloween, music lessons, school concerts, boy scouts, cadets, Sunday School; all things I know nothing about. To me those things are just words that mean nothing - just things that kids with families do. Those are all memories no one can ever take away; normal little things that y'all take for granted, but I can only guess what they're like, cause I had none of them. All the time you were growing up you never once had to look over your shoulder; never once had to dodge cop cars because you were in trouble, and didn't even know why. Never once did y'all have to worry about where you're going to sleep tonight, or where you're gonna get some supper. Let me lay a few of the hard facts of life on ya, then tell me you want your family out of your life."

Jerry started to tell his two friends about his background, about how he came to be where his is now. He'd never talked about it much before except in generalities, and both Dan and Charlie were anxious to hear about it. Supper, their reason for being together in the car, was forgotten. They turned the radio off as Jerry, tears in his eyes, began to unfold the story of a little boy roaming from place to place.

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