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.

XXVI. The Decision

Time seemed to stand still as Dan sat and watched Charlie's face. The shock, sheer panic, was evident to Dan. What had he done? This had seemed like such a good idea, and Dan had been instrumental in getting the old man here from his home two hundred miles away. Dan knew that Charlie adored his grandfather, was very proud of his name and where it had come from. So why the adverse reaction?

Justin had spoken to Charlie Nelson Sr. by phone several days ago, had asked him if he had any information he thought would help. Yes, the old man had said, he most certainly did! But he had given up his car and drivers license a year ago due to his failing eyesight and had no way to get here. No problem, Dan had said as soon as he arrived from Florida, he would go get him. Clarke had decided that since his car was several years old and would not be worth much in a sale, he would keep it so they would have transportation when they were in Truro. So yesterday Dan and Margaret had made the trip and brought the old man back. It was a godsend in many ways. It kept Dan busy, and that was important right now. He was finding Truro, the town he loved, the only place on earth he'd known until last year, a rather alien place without Charlie. It was to him as if the other twenty-five thousand inhabitants were not even there.

The trip back to Truro had been somewhat tense for Dan. He had told Mr. Nelson who he was, or more accurately he'd given him his name; but if the man knew that he was his grandson's lover, he gave no indication. He also made no effort to discuss the reason for this trip, so neither did Dan. They talked pleasantly enough, but only about very neutral subjects. Now Dan wished he had taken the chance and broached "IT." The look on Charlie's face told Dan that he'd made a grave error. What would the old man reveal? Why had it affected Charlie so profoundly? What had he done?

Charlie had no way of knowing it had been Dan who had gone to get his grandfather, and at this particular moment that was probably a blessing. In his present state of mind, he would be in serious doubt of Dan's love, if he'd known what Dan had done.

As long as Charlie could remember, he was reminded that he was the eldest grandson, indeed almost the only grandson. He not only carried the family name, but his grandfather's given name! That, he'd been told, was his legacy, and with it came certain responsibilities. As he grew up he'd been made well aware of his grandfather's many merits, probably exaggerated, but nonetheless he was a man to be admired.

Charlie Nelson Sr. had been a farmer. Like most farmers in those days, he'd raised a large family: four girls and five boys. Legacy number one: perpetuate the family name. Expressed another way: Make babies! Nelson babies! No matter that only one of the nine kids saw fit to keep the family farm; that wasn't important, but name certainly was!

Charlie Nelson Sr. had been a deacon in a country church for many years. Some of Charlie's uncles had even called Charlie "Young Deacon" when he was small. Legacy number two: become a deacon in a Baptist church. Probably even less likely than number one for a gay boy. Charlie doubted that he'd be allowed to take Communion in that old country church, never mind be a deacon.

Don Nelson was the second son, not the eldest. By the time Charlie had come along three of Don's brothers had already had children: all girls. Don was the first to produce a boy. So what, it could be said. We love all our children equally, don't we?

Well, don't we?

Charlie's sister, almost four when Charlie was born, certainly didn't think so! All the attention she'd been getting melted like snow on a ninety degree day in Texas when Charlie arrived.

And there was legacy number three: Don Nelson had been the self-appointed savior of the family; the first to produce a male heir. And now it was Charlie's turn. He had the genes; he had the name of the family patriarch. It was all up to him!

But as the little boy grew, he seemed to become more of a disappointment to his father. He wasn't exactly what his father had in mind. He was never much of an athlete, was almost delicate in many ways. He loved music, would sit with his mother for ours on end listening to her play and sing for him. He didn't even understand football and had no desire to learn. But give him a puzzle, a new song to sing, a book to read, a copy of National Geographic he hadn't seen before, and he was your friend for life. So by the time he was twelve, the year he lost his mother, Charlie had pretty well fallen out of favor as the preferred family heir. Charlie was the family geek.

Charlie's mother, when she was well, had always acted as a buffer between him and his father. In her more courageous moments she had even stood between her husband and the little boy to prevent the beatings that were becoming increasingly a part of his life. But once she was gone, Charlie's buffer was also gone. Now his father's disappointment in his son was obvious to him. And to hear him talk, that disappointment was most certainly even stronger with his namesake, the grandfather he practically worshiped.

"My son Donald," the old man began, "young Charlie's father, hasn't bothered to tell me of Charlie's troubles, nor has anyone else in the family. I suppose they are all hung up on our newest 'family disgrace' and what it would do to me if I knew. Well, I know now, and what it has done to me is to make me furious! How dare they not tell me!"

Oh great! Charlie thought, he's furious! God, I never wanted to be ashamed of what I'd become, but... but I wanted so much for my grandfather to be proud of me! Now here comes the tirade about how if he had known he could've prevented it. Probably a few more good hide tannings when I was younger, or maybe if they'd forced me to do more boy things...

"When little Charlie was born, he was the pride of the Nelson family, including me. He was the first boy, and he was given my name. But no one in the universe was more proud of him than his parents. They doted over him, showed him off, spoiled him. Actually that's not fair, exactly. We all spoiled him a very great deal. But Charlie's mother beat us all on that score. She did more than spoil him, though. I think she saw inside him, to something the rest of us didn't see. I have often wondered what Charlie would be like today if she had lived. He might well have been a great scholar, or a musician to equal Mozart by now! She could bring out the best in him like no one I have ever seen.

"I can still remember that little guy when he was only two," the old man continued. The glint of a tear could be seen if one looked closely. Charlie sat watching, totally astonished. He had never seen his grandfather display any emotion whatsoever! "Whenever he met someone new, or whenever we asked him, he would literally beam! His eyes lit up as if powered by batteries! He would grin widely and exclaim 'I Chah-wee!' He was so proud of his name! And we were all so proud of him!

"I don't know the average age when a child learns to read these days, but I doubt that it's four. That's when Charlie learned. He would get so frustrated looking at pictures in books, and when he asked a question he realized that the answer usually lay in those strange markings below the picture. That was called reading, his mother explained to him, and he immediately wanted to read. He nagged her to teach him. She did. There were no places to take a child who wanted to do something in advance of the system in those days, no facilities for gifted children, no advanced children's programs, so his mother did it. He was truly the apple of her eye.

"I wonder how many people in this courtroom understand the concepts of depth perception and triangulation. Charlie does. He learned, well, figured it out really, when he was six. He had got a nasty bee sting on one eyelid, completely closing the eye. No problem, he said, he had two. But he very quickly found out that there were things he couldn't do as well with only one eye, like cast a fishing fly, which his father had taught him to do with perfection. We had one of those old viewmaster 3-d picture viewers. With one eye the pictures were still visible, but they lacked life and dimension. He wondered why. He thought and analyzed, read and asked questions, until he had the whole thing mastered.

"Charlie learned about the speed of sound when he was seven. After the incident with his eye, he reasoned that there was probably a reason for having two of everything else too. His hands were obvious. One hand would hold an object steady while the other did whatever manipulation was required. The feet, he learned, required two for balance and walking. He thought about his ears and how he could not only hear sounds, but he usually knew without even thinking about it where those sounds were coming from. Back to the books he went.

"Once he learned that sound actually travels through the air at a measurable speed, it didn't take long until he noticed an airplane flying overhead. After the plane passed, the engine seemed to Charlie to be slowing down. We explained to him that it wasn't, but that was a trick the sound was playing on him. Charlie did not take kindly to having tricks played on him, especially by something as inanimate as sound. He noticed that passing cars, and especially trains, liked to play the same tricks. He could tell instantly and instinctively if they were moving toward him or away from him. Why? None of us understood it so we couldn't explain it to him. So he found out on his own. Can you imagine how humbling it is to be in your fifties and have the Doppler effect explained to you by a seven year old? I couldn't even spell Doppler!

"I could go on and on. Why did wood float but not rocks? How come a piece of steel sinks, but ships made of steel float? What is fire? What is smoke? How come there is not always smoke with fire? Why did the fire in a bucket go out if he covered the bucket? What was an explosion? How do refrigerators work? Car engines? Naphtha gas is a clear liquid just like water. How come it burns and water doesn't? When you spill gasoline on water it makes colors like a rainbow. How come? Why?

"I think at one time or another he has driven us all to the point of screaming with his questions. At first it was cute, then downright impressive. But then the novelty became old hat. His father started to get tired of his constantly taking things apart to see how they worked. Half the time he couldn't get those things back together, but it wasn't for lack of trying. He gave every appearance of being extremely mischievous. I don't really think he was, but rather just so wonderfully, incredibly curious! But as his reputation grew, punishments for wrongdoing grew more severe. Then to make matters worse, his mother began teaching him to sing and play. He loved music, and he could sing like a little angel! When Little Charlie sang, he put his entire body into it! I'd never seen anything like it. When he sang, the songs came to life! There was first of all that perfect little voice. Then the facial expressions. But Charlie didn't stop there. His body English was something to behold!

Charlie's dedication to music, according to his father, took away from the time he should be dedicating to doing more boy things like playing sports, getting dirty, play fighting, all those macho male things that Charlie never had time for. He would never be a man, his father said, and would certainly not be worthy of the name he'd been given.

"Before anyone here gets the wrong idea, I am not leading up to the point where I claim I know why Charlie is... I think the term we use these days is... uhhh... Gay, right? No, I have no idea in the world. Nor do I even hint that I saw it coming. For most of my life I've been aware that there are boys who like boys, but it was never discussed in anything but hushed tones, and no one ever took the trouble to understand it. No, to me he was just a very intelligent little boy who was more sensitive than most, and absolutely always a delight to his grandparents. My wife, God rest her soul, thought he was the most fantastic gift this family has experienced in many years. Unfortunately I never told him so, and my wife certainly didn't.

"Charlie's beatings became so severe I wanted to interfere, but my wife would not hear of it. I loved that woman with all my heart, but she was a tyrant, which probably explains why three of my sons, including Charlie's father, are the same way. I don't honestly think this has anything to do with the way Charlie is either, but it certainly broke my heart to see that little boy getting beaten until he couldn't walk, and for no other reason than the things his intelligence and curiosity drove him to do. I was terrified that his spirit would be broken. It's obvious now that it wasn't, but that's not for lack of trying. Charlie, you made it, young deacon!

"As I was saying, it began to seem to me as though all of the things Charlie wasn't were the traits that his father wanted: good in sports, NOT such a brain, a little less musical and artistic, more rough and tumble. Charlie was turning himself inside out to please his dad, but the more he tried, the further they seemed to drift apart. And probably worst of all, the more his self esteem suffered. At two, Charlie feared nothing! He was Chah-wee Nelson, and to hell with anyone who had a problem with that! At four, he had realized that he wasn't invincible. Still, he thought the world's problems could be solved by figuring out its puzzles. By the time he was eight, he seemed convinced that the only one who valued him was his mother. He didn't sing that much any more, and only for his mother. No one else could get a note out of him.

"Don taught Charlie to fish at a very early age, and Charlie showed a lot of promise. He could cast a dry fly with dead accuracy, an art that I have never mastered. Charlie hooked and landed a fourteen pound Atlantic salmon when he was seven, and then totally disgusted his father by letting the fish go. He had played that fish for over two hours! It was too beautiful, Charlie said, to kill. Soon Charlie began to make excuses why he didn't want to go fishing. His father had managed to scream and yell at him so much that he'd taught him to hate fishing! When you're a young boy, you tend to want to do things that are fun. And when they're not fun, you tend to avoid them! To Don, fishing meant automatically that you killed what you caught. Killing was not fun for Charlie. I can forgive my son a lot of things, but I can never forgive the taking away of the joy of fishing from a little boy! That's what my son did to Charlie!

"As Charlie's mother's health failed, she had less and less of an influence on him. Their visits to the farm became less frequent, then stopped altogether. I am ashamed to say now that I was relieved when that happened. I knew Charlie's life wasn't a happy one, but if I didn't have to watch it, I could more easily ignore it. In only two or three short years Charlie went from the crown prince of the Nelson family, to the family disappointment, and now he has achieved the ultimate: he is the family disgrace! Well, that is the case in many minds. In mine, he is still indisputably, without challenge, the crown prince of the Nelson family."

"Excuse me, sir," the judge said, "I think I am getting a little confused here. Are you saying that Charlie's father is responsible for his being the way he is now? Or that you always knew it because he wasn't interested in masculine things? I know you said you didn't know the reason, but then you go on to explain that Charlie wasn't exactly what is considered 'normal.'"

"No, sir," Mr. Nelson said again, "I'm not saying that at all! I'm trying to say that I have no idea in the world what happened and what causes what. I know that Charlie was always a very sensitive, extremely affectionate little boy. He was never comfortable with killing anything. He took exception to the popular belief that wildlife is there for the taking, and if we kill it we're even more of a man. But surely that's not a crime! Surely we haven't come to the point where showing emotion and love and caring is considered abnormal! Have we? Frankly I think that what Charlie is, what he has become, what he does, is perfectly normal for him. If Charlie is in any way abnormal, it's only because he is more intelligent than most of us. I think the day is coming when that will be painfully obvious to all of us who now scorn him.

"His father would never hug him, and that's his father's loss. The little guy used to hug me, and it was one of the warmest feelings I've ever experienced! Having experienced the love that little boy was capable of literally pouring out, I believe he is capable of loving anyone who returns it. Maybe all gay people are like that, I simply don't know. I know such people have always existed, but for most of my lifetime that was a subject that was just not discussed.

"No, sir, I cannot explain why he is the way he is, but my understanding was that you were more interested in his future. All I can tell you is that he has no future with his father. He really has no future in this family. He has already endured more at the hands of the Nelson family than anyone should have to, and that was before we knew he was gay. I for one strongly urge you to grant his request to leave the family and attach himself to those who obviously love him and appreciate him. It will be our loss, but I believe we've already lost him. We let him down, and I believe we deserve to lose him, and sooner or later every last one of us will regret that loss.

"I should also say publicly that I met the young man Charlie is in love with, if that's what they call it, and now I understand so much more than I did. I think they are very much alike, those two, and I don't mean just in their sexual preference. I think young Dan is a very tender hearted, very intelligent young man.

"When he introduced himself, he simply called himself 'Danny,' the girl who was with him, 'Margaret.' I knew immediately who he was, and at first I didn't understand why he'd introduced himself and his companion that way. My immediate conclusion was that he was ashamed of his relationship with Charlie. But as we drove the four hours it took to get here, I realized that he'd done it out of consideration for me. He didn't want to embarrass me. Charlie, since you've have made a commitment to this young man, I expect no less of a commitment than if you were married to a young lady. You have yourself a fine young man there, and it may be presumptuous of me to think you care, but you have my blessing."

"But," Justin questioned, "if Dan didn't identify himself, how did you know?"

"Oh, that's easy. The last time I saw Charlie's mother alive was about six months before she died. Charlie was only twelve then, and he was at school when I visited. I was still driving then, and we all knew what was coming. I took it upon myself to visit her while she was still able to enjoy having company. She was such a charming lady! You're a lot like her, Charlie. I can see your mother in so many of your movements! As we sat and chatted, I was profoundly moved by the expression that came over her face at the very mention of Charlie's name. Once I noticed it, I purposely mentioned his name a few times because that look was so uplifting, so thrilling! It was a look I thought only a mother could have until yesterday. I saw that same look in Danny's eyes every time Charlie's name was mentioned! Well, Danny, you're obviously not his mother, but it's just as obvious you love him more intensely than most of us can comprehend."

There were two people in the courtroom with very damp eyes, and both their names were Charlie. Well, make that three. Dan sat in his seat next to Jerry, Sean and Nancy Edwards, his teary eyes drifting back and forth between Charlie his lover, Charlie his lover's grandfather, and Charlie's father. Dan's right hand reached for Jerry's, found it, grasped tightly. His left did the same with his mother's. Don Nelson was sitting straight and rigid, showing no emotion whatsoever.

Dan felt a sudden urge to rush over to him... to Don Nelson! Once there he would hug him! He knew that everyone would expect him to hate the man, but he didn't. He didn't hate him, nor did he fear him as he had in the past. Somewhere within him, Dan discovered an understanding: a feeling of empathy. This man was truly disabled! Oh, he could walk, probably even run! He could see and hear. He had all his faculties, all his body parts. But Don Nelson had the most severe disability of them all: This man had forgotten how to love, if indeed he'd ever known!

"I think I've heard enough," the judge said suddenly. "If you don't mind, sir, would you allow your grandson to take the witness stand?"

"My pleasure, sir," the old man said. "If I talk much more I'm gonna be crying, and that's not the male thing to do, is it?"

"Ok, Charlie," the judge said when Charlie was seated, "I'm about to make a ruling here. But I need to know some things from you first. Your grandfather has made it very clear that a lot of people love you and care about you. That's becoming more and more obvious with these proceedings, but I have to know from you, whom do you love? I won't ask you to prioritize, and I'll attach no significance to the order of the people you list. But I need to know, do you love those people who love you? Do you care? Do you understand what's been happening here?"

"I think I do understand, sir," Charlie answered. "I think I'm glad this whole thing happened because I've learned a lot. But even more important, I've got my grandfather back. I guess I never lost him in the first place, but I thought I had. I thought I'd lost him several years ago. I somehow got the idea that there was no way he could ever love me or care about me because I'd let him down so much! When he appeared here today I said to myself it's all over! I thought, he's got to hate me! I'm carrying his name! And I've disgraced the entire family! But he still loves me! He is such an awesome man! I have always adored him! I have always loved my name because it came from him! Grand-dad, I love you!

"I love my father too, sir. I honestly don't think he loves me and that hurts a lot. But I love him. He has given me so much! He cared for me and provided for me. I suspect that even now, if I were to move back to his house he would feed and clothe me until I finish school. He has never backed away from his responsibility. He taught me honesty and integrity. He taught me that hard work is the only answer for a successful and happy life. He taught me how to fish. I have nothing but pity for anyone who doesn't know how to fish. I love you, Dad! You're so awesome! I only wish I could have made you proud!

"I am not even gonna go into my love for Danny, except to say that I have loved him for as long as I've known him. I guess I loved him before I even realized that's what I was feeling. And I have never loved him more than I love him right now!

"I love Mom and Dad Edwards. I guess we're really close to getting a decision here, and if it doesn't go the way we want, I'll be staying in Canada. I never thought I'd ever say this, but I will abide by your decision, sir. But as far as how I feel about you all, it doesn't make any difference. You guys have always been so great to me! Even when I ran off with your son, your reaction was to love us both! And to offer me a home! I want to always call y'all Mom and Dad, no matter what happens legally. And if the decision does go against me I'll try to abide by it. But once I'm on my own I guess y'all know where I'll be heading.

"Your honor... uhhh, I'm sorry, M'Lord, I could go on and on. But some people you're not gonna know, some you're not gonna believe. Like the girl I spent the summer here with: Lisa. Oh God, I love her so much! We were actually girl friend/boy friend two different times. She has been such an incredible friend to me! She knows that Dan and I are lovers, and still she sticks by me like glue!"

Silence in the courtroom. Charlie couldn't go on. He sat in the witness box, gazing out over the crowded room. There were so many here he loved! So many! Wouldn't it have been easier to identify the ones he didn't? There was Jerry; Sean; John and Linda Jenkins. There were people he hadn't even met, like Terry Blalock, the young hustler who had saved Dan's life.

"Mr. Nelson," the judge said. "Mr. Don Nelson that is. We haven't heard from you, sir. Do you have anything to add? Is there anything you want to say?"

"No, sir. I think it's all been said."

"Mr. Nelson, we are discussing your son severing all legal ties with you. You have nothing to say?"

"He and I have discussed this in private. No, sir, I have nothing to say."

"Very well," the judge said with a sigh. Then he addressed the crowded courtroom. "I can only hope that others in this courtroom have learned half as much as I have today," he said. "Charlie, I am granting your request to be freed from your father's custody to be adopted by the Edwards family. Mr. Edwards, I am granting your application to adopt Charlie Nelson, effective immediately. I presume, Charlie, that you will be keeping your name?"

"Yes, sir," Charlie replied.

"Don't do that!" Charlie Nelson Sr. demanded as he stood up. "Charlie," he said, "the Nelson family has let you down. We had our chance and we blew it. The Edwards family have embraced you, taken you in when no one else wanted you. Take their name if they'll share it, Charlie! Be a full member of the family who wanted you as you are!"

"But... But Grand-dad..." Charlie protested.

"Do it, Charlie! Make your old grandfather proud of you once more! I have been so proud of you all these years! You have risen above whatever got in your way! Now it's time to see things for what they are. Take the name of the family that wants you, Charlie! Whatever your name is, I'll still know who you are and I'll still be a very proud grandfather, and you're still the apple of my eye, no matter what your name is."

"Is that a problem, sir?" Charlie asked of the judge.

"Is that what you want?" the judge asked.

"Yes, sir," Charlie answered.

"Then so be it. Your new birth certificate will show your name as 'Edwards.' Charles Nelson Edwards. This court is..."

"One moment, please?" Dan called as he stood.

"You are Danny, right?" the judge said.

"Yes, sir. I respectfully request that you grant one more adoption today. The young boy Josh, Charlie's friend in the Youth Detention Center. He made some pretty explicit accusations, sir. If he were to return to that center even one night, he could be in serious danger. I request that you release him from the detention center and into my father's custody. My father will agree."

"Mr. Edwards?"

"You heard my son, M'Lord. That boy is in serious danger. He placed himself in that danger to support my newly adopted son. I could not live with that, knowing I left here, aware of the risks and not doing anything. Of course we want him!"

"You don't know anything about him!"

"I know he befriended Charlie," Dan said defiantly. "And if I know Charlie, he's not going anywhere without knowing Josh is ok."

"Social Services," the judge said as he looked directly at the Supervisor, "how do you feel about placing a boy in a home with three homosexuals?"

"It's better than any alternative we can offer, sir," came the answer.

"Josh? Would you like to live with Charlie and his new family in Florida?"

"Are you kidding?" Josh replied enthusiastically. "Charlie? And in Florida? What's not to want? Yes sir!"


"That's more than I dared hope for, sir. Josh deserves far more than life has handed him so far. But it also points out just how much in tune Dan and I are."

"Don't push it, Charlie," the judge said with a grin. "I'm convinced. So ordered! We're adjourned."

Charlie dashed from his seat and came face to face with Charlie Sr. "Grand-dad," he said as his tears would wait no longer.

"Don't say it, Charlie," the old man said. "You have nothing to be sorry for, nothing to be ashamed of. Just go out there and make me proud like I always knew you would, son. Oh, and before you go..."

"Yes sir?"

"You have to ask? You don't remember?"

"I remember, sir!" Suddenly Charlie was five again. His arms went around his grandfather in a bear hug that almost took the wind out of the old man. "I Chah-wee," he said happily. "I Chah-wee Nelson Edwards, and I love my grand-dad."

"You do that to Danny regularly," the old man gasped, "you might kill him, but you'll never lose him!"

"Baby Meat!" Jane called in the parking lot outside the courthouse.

"Jane?" Charlie questioned. "I didn't know you were here! I was so surprised when you went on that stand today!"

"Wouldn't miss it, babe. I just hope I helped. When are we gonna get together?"

"Jane, not ever, I'm afraid. I mean, things have changed. You and my dad are business associates now. I mean... well, I'm no longer in that business, and my dad..." Charlie couldn't help noticing how natural it felt, and how incredibly wonderful, referring to Clarke Edwards as his dad.

"Your dad is one awesome negotiator, that's what! But does that mean we can't go dancing?"

"Of course not, Jane! I still love to dance."

"That's good to hear," Margaret said behind Charlie. "There's a party at my house tonight at seven. It's supposed to be warm tonight which is a good thing, 'cause I don't think we're ever gonna get everyone inside the house. Please say you'll come?"

"We'll be there," Jane answered, "won't we, baby meat?"

"Please don't call me that, Jane," Charlie pleaded. "Of course we'll be there, Margaret."

"Come with me, Charlie," Dan said as he tugged on Charlie's arm.

"Just a sec, Dan. There's at least a dozen people I've gotta see and thank."

"Later. Right now we're late."

"Late? Late for what?"

"Check-in. Jerry set it up for 3:30, and it's already 3:35."

"Check-in? Dan, what in the world are you talking about?"

"Just go, little brother," Jerry said. "I'm your big brother now so I get to pull rank on you. Oh, and Dan, you're already checked in. Here's the key. But room service is due to arrive any time so you better hurry."

It doesn't take long to drive from one part of Truro to another, no matter where you are or where you're going. The place just isn't that big! For once Dan was thankful for that as he pulled his dad's car into the Sundown Inn and parked in front of a room in the back. Charlie was still sputtering and protesting, but the protests were weakening fast as he began to realize what was going on.

As soon as Dan got Charlie inside the room and the door closed, they were locked in a tight embrace. "Charlie," he said. "I've missed you so much! I love you so much!"

"I love you too, Dan," Charlie answered. "But Dan, I don't know if I can..."

"Charlie," Dan said, "surely you didn't think this was all about sex..."

"Well, Dan," the answer came back, "It had occurred to me that..."

"Charlie, I'm not about to tell you I don't have sex with you on my mind, but give me a little credit here, ok?

"I'm sorry, Dan. I guess I'm getting a little paranoid. I'm back to thinking all anyone wants from me is my body."

"Well, I won't deny wanting your body. I mean, it's a totally awesome body! But... I mean, we went to a lot of trouble for you and I to have this quiet time together in a motel room. You're not gonna refuse me, are you?"

Before Charlie could answer there was a light knock on the door. Dan released his grip on Charlie reluctantly and opened the door. Two waiters entered and began setting up a very elaborate meal. "Supper?" Charlie questioned.

"Yeah," Dan replied. "I kinda thought we might get arrested if we tried drinking this bottle of wine in a public restaurant. And besides, I kinda wanted to be alone, and I was hoping you did too."

"I dunno how you do it, Dan," Charlie said as the tears began again. "You always seem to know what's in my mind. Even this afternoon with Josh, you just knew."

"Well, with Josh it was a no-brainer. In case you hadn't noticed, he's a really cute kid."

"That's got nothing to do with it and you know it, Dan! You just knew I wasn't gonna leave him in that shit-hole!"

"Well, you certainly can't leave him behind now," Dan said as he tipped the waiters and closed the door behind them. "He's your brother now. Oh, and by the way, so am I! So do me a favor and kiss your brother, and I mean a REAL kiss, and then let's eat. We got a party to go to at seven, and I've got all sorts of things planned before then."

Dan poured two glasses of wine from the bottle Jerry had got for him. He took one glass and held it to Charlie's lips. Charlie drank lightly, then took the glass and held it to Dan's lips. He drank, then took the glass from Charlie again and set it on the table. They kissed again. Dan could almost feel the tension melt from Charlie's body as he ran his hands over his back. "You're really somethin' Danny!" Charlie whispered. "D'you suppose that awesome dinner can wait a half hour or so?"

"Let's find out," Dan answered as his hand slid down Charlie's front, unfastened his belt buckle and the top of his pants in one easy motion.

"You're a shameless slut!" Charlie said with a grin as his hand followed Dan's example.

"Uh-huh. Any objections?"

"None that I can think of. I'll let you know in a hundred years or so."

"Charlie, right now I want you inside me so bad!"

"That makes two of us. I love you, Danny Edwards!"

"I love you too, Chah-wee Nelson Edwards!"

"I dunno, though, Dan. I mean, I've had so many dicks up my tail this past month, I mighta caught something."

"If you got it, I want it too."

"That's crazy, Dan! You know we always agreed, when we were in the business, that if one of us was exposed..."

"I don't care, Charlie! Please? If it'll make you feel any better we can use a condom. But I've missed you so much!"

Dan got his wish. Charlie took him up on his offer and used a condom, but right now that was perfectly ok with Dan, as long as he wasn't refused. Charlie was terrified that Dan would want to reciprocate, because Charlie had been so totally traumatized and demoralized he just wasn't sure he could accept anyone right now, even Dan. Not to mention that he was very very sore. But Dan seemed to realize this too, and was perfectly content with his position on the bottom.

After their lovemaking, they sat alone at the small table and ate the wonderful meal they'd been served. It could very well have been sawdust, though, because neither of them tasted a bite. They sat there, staring at each other, eating away, paying no notice what they were eating. They had never, not even those first days, been so much in love! And now they were brothers!

"What?" Charlie exclaimed when they were finished, "no dessert?"

"Uh-huh," Dan answered with a grin. "You're looking at it."

"Don't you ever get enough?"

"Not when the donor is my brother Chah-wee."

They hadn't bothered to get dressed before they ate, so they were soon on the bed again, this time in a 69 position, trying hard to extract their dessert from each other. It didn't take long, in spite of the fact that they'd both had a bone rattling orgasm before they ate. When they could bear to release one another, they rearranged themselves on the bed until they were face to face. They exchanged a few more "I love you's", then Dan said, "We'd better get dressed. We're expected at that party."

"Why can't we just skip it?"

"Not a good idea, bro. After all, a lot of people have put themselves out big time for us. The least we can do is show up for the celebration."

"Yeah, I know you're right. But I'd sure like to..."

"We got a whole lifetime, Charlie. And no one can ever separate us again! No one!"

The two boys got dressed and went back to the Edwards house. It was already 7 PM, and the house was deserted. Everyone had already left for the party. It was a very eerie feeling to Charlie, walking into this house he'd known most of his life as best friend of its favorite son. It was his home now, but he would probably never live here. Clarke and Nancy had decided to leave it exactly as it had always been, with all the furnishings and linens that were so familiar to Charlie. Their new house in Daytona had been fully furnished, so there was really no need to take more than a few personal items and things with some emotional value. This, they said, would always be home. But to Charlie it still felt very strange, coming into this house with no one here.

They showered, then changed clothes. Margaret's house was only five minutes away, but they would still be late. It was 7:45 before they finally boarded the Edwards family car and headed for the MacDonald house.

"What in the world!" Dan exclaimed as he turned on to the block where Margaret lived. The street was blocked by a police barricade, with a patrol car sitting in front of the barricade. In the darkness the boys could see a lot of people milling about the street, and at the far end of the block, the flashing lights of another police car could be seen.

The town of Truro only had two police cars in 1966, and that, according to many of the citizens, was one more than they needed. It's true that the crime rate was extremely low, there were few emergencies; but tonight what little crime there was would have to wait because the two squad cars were tied up blocking the entrance to the street where Margaret and her family lived. "Oh God!" Charlie gasped as he started to hyperventilate, "what now?"

"Dan Edwards?" the police officer questioned as Dan rolled down the window."

"Yes, sir. What's going on?"

"And you would be Charlie Nelson?" the cop asked, ignoring Dan's question.

"Yes, sir."

"My partner is opening the barricade. Please pull over to the curb and lock the car, then both of you please come with me."

"What's going on?" Dan repeated his question.

"Please," the cop answered, "just pull over to the curb and lock the car."

"Step on it, Dan!" Charlie ordered. "Get the hell outta here!"

"I can't do that, Charlie! The street's full of people. Besides, we haven't done anything. There musta been some sort of accident or something."

"Might I remind you," Charlie said, "I haven't done anything either, but they still saw fit to lock me up for six fuckin' weeks. Please, Dan, get outta here!"

"I can't, Charlie! Dad would kill us! And besides, maybe he's in trouble, or someone's been hurt, or killed!"

"I gotta tell ya, Charlie," one of the cops said over his shoulder when Dan and Charlie were both in the back seat of the patrol car, "you've been set up real good! I mean, this is one o' the biggest setup jobs I've ever seen!"

The cop laughed and faced front. He picked up the radio mike and spoke into it. "This is Jacobson. We have the subjects in custody."

"Ten-four" was the reply. In spite of his state of mind, which was approaching total panic, Charlie found himself fascinated to learn that they really did talk that way on police radios. The car started to move. The siren sounded. People on the street began to separate to make way for the patrol car. "No one can ever separate us, huh Dan?" Charlie said bitterly. "Wanna bet?"

* * *

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