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.

XXIV. Getting Home

There were no incidents of note the rest of the way home. After a good meal, a rather long night of pretty intense lovemaking, all three had slept soundly until nine the next morning. Now, they'd decided, it was time to get serious about making their way back to Daytona Beach without further delay. No problem, they agreed; with three drivers, they could do it easily in two days with no further stops except for meals. Suddenly it was extremely important that they get home... HOME!!!!

When they arrived in Daytona Beach, it was early Tuesday afternoon. They had driven more or less non-stop from Bangor, Maine. When they pulled into the address that Clarke had given them, none of them could believe their eyes. It was without doubt at least twice the size they had imagined, even in their wildest fantasies! There was a circular drive, with a branch leading off to the left where a four car garage sat to one side of the main house. The entire structure was red brick, definitely Mexican style, and definitely luxury all the way. "This can't be right!" Dan exclaimed. "My father would never get anything this fancy. There's gotta be some mistake!"

"Well," Jerry said, "if this isn't it, what do we do now? All we've got is this address, and we've checked that twice. This is the address he gave us."

"I dunno, Jer," Dan said doubtfully.

"You must be the Edwards boys," a voice said behind them. "Welcome to your new home!"

"Edwards boys?" they all questioned as they turned. Damn that sounded good!

"Why, yes! I was told to expect y'all today or tomorrow. I'm Emily Fawcett, the housekeeper. Mr. Edwards told me he had three sons, but he neglected to mention he had the three most handsome sons on the planet!"

"Three..." Charlie stammered in reply, "three sons? But... I don't..."

"That's what he said, three sons. Now let me see if I can guess. You're Charlie, right? He told me you were the middle one and the most bashful. And you're Jerry, right? You're the big brother to the other two, and as watchful as any father could be. He told me he would never have allowed the other two to drive all that way alone, but he knew you'd look after them. And of course that leaves you, Danny! The baby! Well, you're certainly no baby, but you're sure pretty!"

"But..." Dan stammered, "but this place! It's a mansion! I mean, it's... it's..."

"I hope it's gonna be yours," Mrs. Fawcett said. "Mr. And Mrs. Edwards told me that they were only renting until they saw how everyone liked it. But I'm hoping y'all will love it here. I certainly do, and I just know three gorgeous kids like you guys will make life worth living around here. So come on, park your car up by the front door, and I'll give y'all a tour. We've got to go to your new school in the morning, but for now, make yourselves at home! I'll show you where all the bedrooms are and y'all can choose who sleeps where, and then we'll all discuss dinner, ok?"

"We have to go to the school in the morning?" Dan questioned.

"Oh, yeah, that's right. You all were already on the road so there's no way you could have known. The principal called here yesterday morning, and I put him in touch with your father in Canada. He has a few questions about your records, what you've done, all that sort of thing. He wants to see y'all as soon as you're available."

"I thought everything was settled," Jerry commented.

"It was," Mrs. Fawcett agreed. "He wanted me to be sure to tell y'all that there's no problem, but he may have some good news for you. I think he wants to put y'all in some sort of enhanced program. Your father said it would have to be up to y'all, that you had worked hard all summer so it was your decision."

The discussions about school out of the way for the moment, Mrs. Fawcett continued her guided tour of the house. There was a huge entrance area, a large living room off to the left and what looked like a library or study on the right. A large formal dining room was behind the living room, and adjacent to that was the kitchen and breakfast eating area.

Before taking her charges upstairs, she ushered them outside where there was a large deck overlooking a covered swimming pool, with what looked like a poolhouse at the opposite end. "WOW!" Dan exclaimed. "This is so totally awesome!"

"I thought you'd like it," Mrs. Fawcett said with a grin. "This is Sean's favorite part too. This and the boat house."

"Boat house?" Charlie questioned.

"Sean?" Dan and Jerry said together. "Who's Sean?" Jerry questioned.

"Sean is my son," Mrs. Fawcett explained. "He's been taking care of the pool and boat for the past three weeks, waiting for the new tenants or owners. He's around here somewhere, possibly out fishing. He loves to fish, and with the two boats here he felt that he could keep them running right, and satisfy his urge to fish at the same time. Mr. Edwards said it was ok, and that you boys were not to use the boats until Sean had taught you how to use them properly."

"How old is Sean?" Dan asked.

"Seventeen," Mrs. Fawcett replied. "He's been really excited ever since I got this job. He doesn't have many friends, and since his father left us four years ago he's been really lonely. When he found out that Mr. Edwards has three sons, all more or less his age, he was really excited. He's really hoping you'll all become good friends."

"Sounds good to me," Dan answered. Then without thinking he added, "Long as he can live with three weirdo's." Neither Jerry nor Charlie could think of anything to add to that, Mrs. Fawcett seemed to have nothing further to say, so no one said anything. "I'll let Sean show you all around the boat house," she said eventually. "Till he gets back, let's go upstairs and you can choose your bedrooms."

"This place is a freakin' mansion!" Charlie exclaimed when they were alone upstairs. They'd been shown the six bedrooms upstairs, all absolutely luxurious, and had each chosen one, at least for now. Mrs. Fawcett had left them to unpack, and now they were all gathered in Dan's room.

"I'm a little overwhelmed," Dan replied. "When Dad told us we'd be in a rented house, I never dreamed it would be anything like this. I never dreamed I'd ever call a place like this home!"

"That's not all that's luxurious," Jerry commented as he looked out the window. "There's a Greek god walking up from the boat house, and unless I miss my guess, it's Sean. And he's... he's fuckin' kick-ass gorgeous!"

Dan and Charlie ran to join Jerry at the window. What they saw made them gasp. The boy walking along the footpath from the boat house was indeed breathtaking. He was about average height and build for a seventeen year old. He wore shorts and a tank top, revealing the very darkly tanned skin of one who had obviously spent the Florida summer in the outdoors. The muscles in his chest and shoulders rippled as he walked. His hair was short, and almost a platinum blond, although the roots were darker: further evidence that he had been in the sun all summer. His legs were long and muscular, covered with a thin film of more of that platinum sun-bleached hair. From his left hand dangled a stringer with for or five large catfish. Jerry was hyperventilating. "C'mon, you guys!" he urged. "We're havin' fish for supper!"

"Jerry," Dan said with alarm, "I've never seen you like this!"

"That's because you've never seen me in heat before, Danny boy! We're talkin' a major babe here! Now are you comin' or not?"

Dan and Charlie both tried to slow Jerry down, tried to tell him that there was every possibility that Sean was not gay, but Jerry would not be dissuaded. All he knew, all he cared, was the vision of the gorgeous adonis he'd seen in the window, and he would not wait to get closer!

"I guess you've seen my Sean from the upstairs window," Mrs. Fawcett observed.

"Yes, Ma'am!" Jerry replied. "I'm Jerry," he said as he pumped Sean's hand half off its arm, "and these two reprobates are Danny and Charlie. I saw the fish you were carrying, man. You've GOT to teach me how to fish like that!"

"No problem," Sean said with a flash of his deep blue eyes that completely washed away what was left of Jerry's self control. "I'd love to take y'all fishing. You free tomorrow?"

"Sean," his mother reminded him, "they've got that school thing in the morning. First things first, son."

"Yeah," he replied, "I know, Mom. Sorry, but there should still be lots of time for fishing."

"I suppose so," she said. "Right now you all need to get ready for dinner, It'll be ready in about twenty minutes."

"Mom!" Sean complained, "I was gonna cook these cats for supper, while they're still fresh! I mean, we've got..."

"We've got London Broil for dinner!" Mrs. Fawcett answered sternly. "Now you boys go off and clean those catfish if you're going to, then get washed for dinner. You don't have any time to lose."

"Yes, Ma'am," Sean answered. "Y'all wanna help clean these cats?"

Nothing was further from the minds of Dan and Charlie as their preference for what they wanted to do in their first night in their new home. But nothing was more foremost in Jerry's mind. "We'd love to, Sean," he answered enthusiastically for all of them. "Just tell us how we can help."

"Jerry's in love," Charlie whispered as they all walked toward the dock at the back of the property. "Or maybe it's lust!"

"Can't say I blame him," Dan answered. "Sean is one cool dude!"

Charlie didn't know how to respond to that remark, so he said nothing. What was he feeling, jealously? And if it was, was it because Jerry was so obviously captivated by Sean's charms, or was it because Dan had very obviously noticed how incredibly beautiful Sean was? Or was it... Oh God forbid... was it guilt? Because like it or not, Charlie had also been far from unmoved by the startlingly beautiful creature that had just been thrust into their midst.

"I know y'all are northerners," Sean was saying in that captivating seventeen year old baritone voice with the charming southern drawl. "You probably think these here catfish are kinda revolting compared to your trout and salmon, but lemme tell ya, this here's some mighty good eatin' if it's cooked right. And filletin' is as easy as fallin' off a log. Just watch and learn, my good friends."

As three boys watched speechlessly, Sean filleted and skinned the four catfish in mere moments, then looked up and flashed them all a grin that destroyed whatever was left of their defenses. All three were now at his mercy, and he appeared to be fully aware of it. "Guess we'd better be a-gettin' back to supper," he drawled, "else Mom's gonna have our hide. But don't y'all be a-worryin' none 'bout these cats, cause they'll freeze just fahne. And tomorrow Ah reckon we'll catch a bunch more, and tomorrow night we'll have a catfish feed fit for a king!"

"OhmyGod!" Charlie heard Jerry moan.

"We'll be leaving as soon as we clean up the dishes," Mrs. Fawcett said as they finished an excellent meal. "That'll give you boys a chance to get rested up. Tomorrow's probably going to be a busy day. First there's the school meeting, then unless I'm very much mistaken, Sean has already planned a fishing trip."

"I was kinda hopin' to stay a while tonight," Sean said, the disappointment plain on his face.

"Sean," his mother said, "They've just driven two thousand miles! They must be exhausted!"

"Not really, Ma'am," Jerry countered. "We're all so excited about this gorgeous house, it's doubtful if we'll get any sleep any time soon. We'd love to have Sean stay a while. We were thinkin' we could all go for a swim and check out that pool. We could drive him home later, or... or he could just stay over!"

Charlie and Dan were looking at each other, having to use every bit of will power to keep from bursting out laughing. They were each wondering if the begging in Jerry's voice was as plain to everyone else as it was to them. But whatever the reason, Jerry's arguments worked. "I guess that'd be all right," Mrs. Fawcett said, "If you'd like to, Sean?"

Sean's whole face brightened. "Yes, Ma'am!" he said, beaming. "We can all go for a swim, then I can show y'all around the boat house. Maybe we can even take one of the boats out for our first lesson. I guess I'm supposed to show y'all all about them before you're allowed to take them out."

"You'd better forget about taking the boats out tonight, Sean," his mother directed. "There's plenty of time for that."

Sean agreed to forget about the boats tonight, which was fine with his three students. Dan thought to himself that Jerry would probably not be able to learn anything anyway, after he got a load of Sean in a bathing suit. But Sean wasn't out of surprises yet. "Do any of y'all have a swim suit I can borrow?" he asked. "I usually go nude 'cause I've had the pool all to myself. But with y'all here..."

Charlie was sure Jerry was going to choke to death. Of course Charlie knew what he was trying to say, but he also knew it would be a long time before Jerry could say anything at all, so he said it for him. "I've got one that'll probably fit," he offered, then added as he felt the anger of Jerry's eyes on him: "but if it's just the four of us I don't see why we can't all go naked."

Now Charlie knew that Jerry was about to have a heart attack! He wondered what Sean's mother would think of this new development, but they were all surprised when she just smiled and observed, "Boys! I swear, you're all the same. You'd rather get naked than eat! Just see to it you put something on before you go down by the boat house, Sean! I've seen you down there naked, and you never know when a boat might come up the canal."

"Aw, Mom," Sean answered with a wide grin, "That's half the fun! They're killin' themselves tryin' to get a look, and I always dodge behind something just in time."

"Be that as it may," she repeated, "I don't want you all running around the grounds naked! Everyone will think there's a bunch of exhibitionists moving in!"

For some inexplicable reason, four young men saw to it that the after dinner cleanup was finished in record time. By 6:30 Mrs. Fawcett said her good-byes, admonished her son and her new charges once more to behave, and left for home. "Charlie, Jerry and Dan," she instructed, "be sure to be up and ready to go by 8:30. Mr. Tanner is expecting us."

"Cool!" Sean exclaimed. "Last one in's a wimp!" Without further ceremony Sean led the way to the pool. On the deck, the clothes came off: ALL of them, in record time.

"You ok?" Charlie asked Jerry as Sean jumped in the water. "You're looking kinda peaked."

"God, he's gorgeous!" Jerry answered.

"Jerry's in love, Dan," Charlie said.

"In love, or in lust?" Dan asked.

"Both!" Jerry answered. "By the way," he called over his shoulder as he jumped, "thanks for teaching me to swim. I knew it'd come in handy some day."

"He really is some kinda hunk," Dan observed. "And did you see..."

"Yeah," Charlie said, "I saw. He's well equipped. And I've got a feeling Jerry's gonna know exactly how well equipped before morning."

"What makes you think Sean's interested?"

"I don't have any idea, but Jerry seems to think so. His instincts were certainly right with us."

The 'quick swim' ended up lasting over two hours. They swam and dunked each other, had a few races which Sean won easily. They played their own version of water polo, and just generally enjoyed being carefree boys swimming naked in the 'ole swimmin' hole,' only this time that swimmin' hole was a very large, clean, well kept swimming pool. Finally they were all out of the water, drying off.

"Help me out here, guys," Jerry whispered to Dan. "I don't know how to approach him."

"You?" Dan teased. "The great Jerry Wallace is tongue-tied?"

"Please, Dan, I'm serious! I dunno what to do!"

"Trust me, Jer," Dan said as his eyes flashed that irresistible gleam they always got when Dan was up to something. Then he turned to Charlie who was just getting settled on his back a deck chaise. "Lookin' good, handsome," he said rather loudly, then dropped to his knees and kissed Charlie full on the lips. Sean saw it... he could hardly avoid seeing it... and he was very obviously embarrassed. "Gee, Sean, I'm sorry," Dan said. "I'm not usually that blatant, but sometimes when I'm havin' a really great time, and I know I'm with friends, I kinda let myself go too much."

"It's ok," Sean replied. "I guess I was kinda taken by surprise, but it's ok. I kinda suspected you two were lovers. It's nothing to be ashamed of."

"We're not ashamed of it," Charlie answered. "But we do have to be aware of those around us. It's just not fair to expect everyone to understand."

"I understand," Sean said. "I think it was beautiful." The rising piece of manhood at the union of his legs and body gave every indication that he not only understood, but that he was envious of what he'd seen.

"Sean," Jerry said as he finally found his voice, "I... I've wanted to do that to you ever since I first laid eyes on you! I hope you don't think this is being too forward, but I can't stand it any longer. Sean, could I kiss you?"

"I... I've never been kissed by a guy..."

"I'm sorry, Sean. I didn't mean... I mean, if you don't want to..."

"I want to, but... well... I've just never... I mean... I mean... YES! Please, Jerry, Yeah!"

Jerry didn't have to be invited twice. As their naked bodies touched, their arms around each other in a tight embrace, Jerry knew exactly what to do. The kiss was long and deep and wet and passionate. Before it was over, two very hard penises were battling a duel of their own. When they finally broke that kiss, there were tears in Sean's eyes. "Oh, man," he said in a trembling voice.

Jerry was apologetic then. "I shouldn't have done that," he said. "I'm sorry, Sean. I don't know what came over me. I don't usually..."

"Please don't tell me you didn't like it," Sean said. "I'll get better. I told you, it was my first time with a guy and I guess I was kinda nervous."

"You don't understand, Sean. I loved it! I mean, I loved it too much! I wanna do it again at least a million times! I wanna do more! But I've got no right assuming that you..."

"I am, Jerry. I haven't done much, but I am gay. I've always known it. My mom knew it even before I did."

"Your mom knows? And she's ok with it?"

"She loves me, man! She says I'm all she's got and if that's a part of me, then she loves that part too. I've tried to be straight, I go out with girls all the time, but it just doesn't work. She tells me I should quit trying. I don't think she knows you guys are gay, but when she finds out I think she's gonna be happy that we're the same that way. I think..."

"Sean, what do you think she'll say if she learns that you and I are... that we've... I mean..."

"Only one way to find out," Sean said nervously. His erection had long since wilted, and now he was trembling violently.

"Can you guys lock up?" Jerry asked Dan and Charlie.

"Go!" Dan answered. "Sean, you lucky dog, you're about to be made love to by one of the best guys on the planet! Now go! See you guys whenever."

"What d'you suppose they're doing in there?" Dan wondered after he and Charlie had made love. "They're awful quiet."

"You know very well what they're doing," Charlie answered with a chuckle. "We shoulda told Jerry to leave the door open a crack though, so we could hear. Damn, they're quiet!"

"I dunno, Charlie. Sean seemed awful nervous and shy. Maybe they just cuddled up and went to sleep."

"You believe that if you want to," Charlie answered. "Me, I think I know Jerry better than that."

'Whenever' turned out to be next morning at 6, when Jerry came creeping into Dan's room where he and Charlie were still sleeping. "Where's Sean?" Charlie said sleepily as Jerry shook him gently.

"Still sleeping. I just wanted to thank you guys for getting things started, and for leaving us for the night."

"Everything go ok?" Dan asked.

"Far beyond ok," Jerry answered. "Man, he is so... so awesome!"

"So, you guys are... an item?"

"I think so, at least until the rest of the gay community discovers him. But that's not the best part. He's gonna be going to the same school we are! Can you believe that? The same school! He told me that was the main reason his mom wanted this job, so he could use this address. He said we're gonna be going to one of the best schools in the state!"

"I wouldn't expect anything less from my dad," Dan said nonchalantly. "Does he have any idea what the principal wants to see us about?"

"Nope. But he says it's nothing to be afraid of. He said Mr. Tanner is a really great guy. He's gonna go with us and introduce us, if his mom says it's ok. But I'd better get back there. I want to be watching him when he wakes up. I want to be watching whatever he does. Man, he's beautiful!"

"Thank you all for coming in," Mr. Tanner said pleasantly as the four young men sat in his office, "and thank you for bringing them and introducing them, Sean."

"You're welcome, sir," Sean said, with obvious respect in his voice.

"I'd like to see you first, Jerry, if I may," Mr. Tanner suggested. "Then perhaps Dan and Charlie and I can meet, if that's ok with y'all." Of course it was ok, because this man had in just the few minutes they'd been talking, charmed them all. So Dan, Charlie and Sean excused themselves, Sean suggesting that he give his friends a quick tour of the school while they waited.

"Ah'm so glad he took Jerry first," Sean said with that same slow southern drawl that was totally captivating. "I been wantin' to talk to y'all ever since... well... I guess you know what happened last night."

"Not in any explicit terms," Charlie replied. "But we know you made Jerry one of the happiest dudes on earth."

"He... uhhh he made me even happier, Charlie!"

"If you're so happy," Dan questioned, "why is there a tear in your eye?"

"Cause I'm so happy, but I'm scared, too."

"Scared? Sean, it was your first time, wasn't it?"

"Yeah. I mean, I done some playin' around before, like I guess most boys do. But nothing like that!"

"But if you enjoyed it, and you like Jerry, I don't understand why you're afraid."

"I'm afraid of what Jerry will think of me. I mean, the things I did! I never woulda believed I'd a done things like that! And... and..." Sean was really starting to cry now. "Charlie... Danny... I shot right in his mouth! I mean, right in his mouth!"

"Sean," Dan said as he stroked the boy's back, "You made Jerry so incredibly happy! As for what you did, we've all done that! It's part of how we make love."

"Are you sure?"

"Sean," Charlie said, "Jerry came into our room this morning before you were awake. He came in just to tell us how amazingly happy he was! He is just as scared as you are! He's scared that you won't like him as much as he likes you! Actually I don't think the word is LIKE, I think it's LOVE! He's in love with you, Sean. And as for you shooting in his mouth, well, Danny does that to me all the time. I love it! It's HIM! I can taste the difference between Danny and Jerry. Believe me, Sean, he woulda been disappointed if you hadn't done that!"

"We better get back," Dan said, "I think I hear voices back toward the office. But Charlie's right, Sean. Jerry thinks you're the most beautiful thing he's ever laid eyes on. Actually I kinda agree, present company excepted of course."

"I think we've got Jerry squared away," Mr. Tanner said as the they sat down in his office. "Now let's see if I can present my proposition to you boys in a way you'll understand. I've been going over the records your father brought, and I have been told you did very well in summer school, and have been given credit for the eleventh grade, is that right?"

"Yes, sir," Charlie answered. "Actually we have the certificates from summer school with us."

"That's good. I'd like copies of them for the records, but there are some things I don't understand. It may be none of my business, and if so by all means tell me. But the whole summer school thing seems, well, not consistent with the two young men I'm looking at. Your school records are all very good, no behavior issues documented, and yet you both ran away. I'm sorry, but you two just don't fit the pattern. Is there something I'm missing?"

"Yes, sir," Dan replied. "I guess you know that Charlie and I are not brothers, at least not yet."

"Yes, Mr. Edwards explained that your exact family status is still unclear. But that doesn't explain why... I mean, something must have happened."

"It did, sir. You might as well know right up front. Charlie and I... we're..."

"Are you trying to tell me that you two are lovers?"

"Yes, sir. We sorta got caught in a pretty embarrassing situation, and we panicked. That's when we ran away. I'm sorry, Mr. Tanner, I was hoping you wouldn't have to deal with all that at least until we had a chance to prove ourselves."

"I don't have to deal with it, Dan. That is your business! Aside from imposting the same sorts of guidelines I would if one of you were female, whom you love is your own concern. The guidelines I'm talking about are the obvious ones: outrageous displays of affection, kissing in the halls, that sort of thing. But I'm the one who should be sorry. I guess I suspected, and I should have let it go at that. But let's get down to why I wanted to see you, shall we?"

Now Dan and Charlie were doubly nervous. Would their school career in this beautiful school end before it even started? Was he about to tell them that they'd have to find another school? But Mr. Tanner was still talking. He certainly didn't seem bothered by what they'd just told him.

"Just to put your minds at ease," he said, "everything is in order and you can start next Monday just as planned, in the twelfth grade if that's what y'all decide. But I would like you to consider an alternative. You see we have an enriched program in this school, and we're always watching for bright young men and women who are not afraid of work. That's why Sean is here, and frankly I would love to have you two try the program. It's a lot of work, and... well, to be frank, you'll lose a year. There are just so many things in the eleventh grade you will have missed, it could hardly be considered 'enhanced.' So what I am proposing is that you repeat your junior year, but in the enhanced program along with Sean and Jerry."

"Jerry?" both boys questioned. "Jerry's a junior? In the enhanced program?"

"He's pretty sure he can do it, especially if he has three other students supporting him. With his age and life experience, I tend to believe he has a good chance, so we're going to try him. The question is, what about you?"

"We would have to check with my dad," Dan said, "but I'd like to try. It sounds interesting."

"It's certainly not a free ride. You'll be expected to keep your grades up, even when you miss classes."

"Miss classes?" Dan questioned.

"There will be field trips, times when you're expected to work at home on your own, even a few weeks here and there when you'll be getting practical experience working for a local business. We encourage athletics of all sorts. There are arts programs, like music, writing, graphic arts. We have football, baseball, soccer, basketball, and swimming. There are track and field, weight lifting, martial arts, and probably others I can't remember at the moment. The point is, as a student in the enhanced program, you will be encouraged to participate in any and all. You'll be excused from classes when necessary, but you will not be excused from exams, tests, or any other academic requirements. It's sort of a new concept, and one I hope will catch on. The idea is, these are the best years of your life and you need to pursue anything you want; but first and foremost is your schooling. You will be expected to sustain a minimum 3.0 overall average."

"WOW!" Charlie exclaimed. "I'm sorry, sir, but you just described paradise! That is so incredible! I mean, we can participate in sports, or not, as we choose? And if we do we're still expected to perform the same academically?"

"That's precisely right. If you can do it, you'll be well on the way to your first college degree by the time you leave. If not, well, you can say you gave it your best shot."

"I wanna do it!" Dan exclaimed.

"What about your dad?" Charlie questioned.

"I don't think he'll have a problem with it. In fact I know he won't. Are you in, Charlie?"

"If you say so, Danny. You sure your dad will be ok with it?

"OUR dad, Charlie! Get used to it! It's OUR dad! And yeah, I think he'll be thrilled! In fact unless I miss my guess, he already knows."

"Can you believe that?" Charlie ranted as they all drove back to what was to be the Edwards home. "I mean, that school is something! And the principal knows about us, and doesn't have a problem with it... Man, this is too much! And we're all gonna be in the eleventh grade together! Man! This is just too kewl!"

"Yeah, well, enjoy it," Sean said with a wide grin. "What you seem to be forgetting is all the work. They're gonna work our tails right off! I've been there two years. I mean, get ready for some serious work!"

"Whatever," Dan said. "But right now we've still got three days left of summer vacation, and I hear tell there's a redneck Floridian around here somewhere who claims he knows how to fish. So what about it? Anybody wanna go fishing?"

Labor Day weekend! Finally! Two weeks of school down. Four boys had been working endlessly, trying to get into a rhythm, trying to keep on top of their homework, trying wherever possible to get ahead so when the time came for extracurricular activities, they'd be ready. Unfortunately Clarke and Nancy Edwards had finally arrived last week, only to inform Charlie that he would have to accompany Clarke back to Truro for a custody hearing. No big deal, Clarke had assured him, it would only mean two or three days of lost school, and Charlie would be officially, legally, a member of the Edwards family.

"Would you be terribly offended," Charlie asked on the plane, "I mean, I don't want to appear to be ungrateful, but... well, I'd like to keep the name Nelson. I'm not even sure I can explain why, except that it's always been my name."

"I understand completely, Charlie," Clarke assured him. "Of course you can keep your name, if that's the way you want it. The important thing is that we show up in that courtroom tomorrow morning, state our case in the most positive terms, then wait for the judgment. There should be no problem at all, and then we can all get on with our lives. And don't be afraid of Justin Krandell. He's a fine attorney, and I've told him everything. He'll do his best for us."

"M'Lord," George Shaw said, "my client, Mr. Donald Nelson, has done everything in his power to provide a home for this boy. It came as a complete shock to him when Mr. Clarke Edwards petitioned for adoption of Charles Nelson, my client's son. We have to wonder, M'Lord, what all has happened in the Edwards family since Charles has come under their influence.

"M'Lord," Justin Krandell said as he rose, "Charles Nelson is only trying to make a life for himself. He and my client's son, Daniel, ran away last fall, then returned home this past June. Since then the two boys have been in summer school, and now they are both enrolled in a very prestigious high school in Daytona Beach, Florida, where they hope to secure their High School diplomas. I have already submitted evidentiary documentation that young Charlie had his father's documented permission to reside in the Edwards home."

"Enough bickering!" Judge Eaton ordered. "I have read the summaries of the case so there's no need to go over old ground. Mr, Krandell, do you wish to call any witnesses?"

"Yes, M'Lord. I'd like to call Mr. Clarke Edwards."

The two attorneys bantered back and forth, each trying to make his particular point of view. "He wants money," Charlie whispered to Clarke. "He's got wind that you're making a lot of money and he wants in on it. He's not gonna let me go."

"I don't think it's up to him any more," Clarke whispered back. "He has shown pretty clearly that he doesn't want a gay son. I'd hoped we wouldn't have to get into all that, but if we have to, well, we have to."

Clarke and Justin had no way of knowing, but they were playing right into Don Nelson's hands. George Shaw had been making a big thing of the fact that Charlie had run away from a perfectly good home, had spent six months living with two other minors illegally in Florida. He hadn't brought up the reason for their having run away, but when Justin did, he was quick to jump on the bandwagon.

"My client wanted to spare the court the embarrassment of discussing his son's sexuality, M'Lord," George stated. "But since my colleague has brought it into the open, I feel we should consider Mr. Nelson's plans. He would like to get Charlie into a treatment facility where his affliction may be dealt with before it's too late."

"Treatment facility?" Justin countered. "M'Lord, this is the first we've heard of this. May I respectfully submit that Charlie is not ill, physically or mentally. There is no condition to be treated!"

"No condition?" George shot back. "The boy is a homosexual! He has had countless partners! He has sold sexual favors to both men and women for money! If this is not a condition, m'Lord, I don't know what is!"

"Excuse me!" Charlie said as he stood up.

"Charlie, sit down!" Clarke ordered.

"I'm sorry, sir," Charlie answered, "I can't do that. Your honor, may I speak?"

"This is not a TV program, son," the judge said, "nor is it the United States. But I suppose your main exposure to courtroom etiquette up to this point has been Perry Mason, so I'll forgive your addressing me improperly. As to your request, I would love to hear from you. Do you want to be sworn in as a witness?"

"Yes, sir, if you please."

"All right, Charlie," Justin said when Charlie was settled in the witness box, "just relax. Perhaps you could tell us in your own words precisely why you are living with the Edwards family?"

"Yes, sir. My father didn't want me. He said as long as I was a homosexual, I am not his son."

"How did you become a homosexual, Charlie?"

"I don't think it's something I became. I think I've always been gay. When I was younger I didn't understand what I was feeling, but as I grew into my teens I knew. It's just the way I am."

"So you have never considered the possibility that you could change?"

"Yes, sir, I've thought about it a great deal. But it's kinda like being left handed. I've seen teachers try to force kids to use their right hand, and all they do is make the kid miserable."

"Do you want to change, Charlie?"

"No, sir, not if it means losing Danny."

"Danny Edwards?"

"That's right, sir. We love each other and we're not doing anyone any harm. We just want to be together."

"Just so I get a clear understanding," George Shaw began when it was his turn, "I believe you've said you're not interested in any kind of therapy to treat your homosexuality, is that correct?"

"Yes sir, that's correct."

"Even if it means losing your home? Being disowned by your father?"

"I have a home, sir. I've already said I'm not interested in being cured because I don't think I'm sick. But it is possible to treat bigotry and prejudice. I think if my father loved me he would try to understand."

"M'Lord," George said after a few more questions, "I think we've heard enough. My client wants to do what he can for this child, but under the circumstances it's very difficult. Based on the boy's own testimony, it is obvious that he has no interest in returning home. I suggest that it's only a matter of time until he finds the Edwards home not to his liking, and he'll be on the road again and there will be another proceeding like this one. I therefore request that you declare him a chronic runaway and have him detained in a juvenile facility until we can have him examined by a psychiatrist."

"I tend to agree," the judge said. "So ordered. The boy will be taken into custody immediately and held until an evaluation can be done."

"I strongly object!" Justin said. "Charlie has broken no laws, has done nothing wrong! He has given no indication that he plans to run away again. This is an outrage!"

"I suggest you be careful what you say, Mr. Krandell, or I'll find you in contempt. This boy is in danger by his own admission. He needs to be evaluated. This court is adjourned."

Charlie looked questioningly at Clarke Edwards as someone in uniform began to lead him out of the courtroom. "Please," he said, "I just want to talk to Mr. Edwards for a minute."

"You're not talking to anyone," the man said gruffly. "You're in custody now, and you'll be staying there until the judge says otherwise."

"Cooperate, Charlie," Clarke called to him. "We'll get you out, but you have to cooperate."

* * *

If you like this story, or for that matter if you don't, please let me know by writing to