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.

XXXI. No Business Like Show Business

The next two weeks were frantic for all hands. Todd and Greg had dug into their unconscious and found some song writing talent they didn't know they had, and had written some material for the big pre-Christmas dinner. Todd knew that they would have to use some familiar material, songs he knew were in the public domain, but he also knew enough about the music business to realize that to be successful they had to have original material.

Dan was lying in bed, awake, alone. It was three AM, and still Charlie had not returned. It was only two days till the party, and the practices had been running this late every night. Charlie and Josh would get up at six, go to school, then go directly to practice from school. They got home every night between three and four, flopped exhausted on their beds, often without even undressing. Then next morning they did it all again.

Dan missed his bed partner; his lover; his friend. He missed both his brothers terribly. Was this what it would be like from now on? Dan doubted that they could keep up this pace for very long, in fact he'd heard Clarke comment that if they didn't start using a little common sense, he would have to step in. For now, though, everyone agreed that it was necessary. The rest of the band were living on their savings, and they didn't have that much. It was important that they start making money somehow, and soon! They didn't want to take another job; that would get in the way of their practice and performances later on.

Dan heard the Mustang pull in the yard. He heard the front door open, footsteps on the stairs. Then he heard nothing. The house had fallen completely silent again. Still no Charlie. Curious, he slid out of bed and opened the bedroom door. Total darkness except for a sliver of light coming from under Josh's bedroom door. He walked silently to the door. There were no sounds coming from inside. He raised his hand to knock, but before he did, the light went out. Discouraged, he lowered his hand and went back to bed. What in the world did that mean? He took Charlie's pillow and hugged it to him. "Chah-wee!" he whispered. What was going on in Josh's room? He started to cry.

Dan was awakened at 6:20 by the sound of the Mustang firing up. He scrambled out of bed in time to watch it leave. The top was down so he could see clearly that there were two occupants: Charlie and Josh. He ran downstairs. There was a note on the kitchen table saying that Jane had arranged for them to set up in the hotel ballroom where the party was and practice there, that they would call their respective schools and explain. They would not be going to school today, Friday. That would be not problem for Charlie because his school had been very accommodating; Josh was another story. Josh's teacher considered his singing career a total waste of his time, made no allowances whatsoever. Had it not been for the fact that it was a private school and they needed the money, they would not have tolerated such goings on at all! As it was they were getting close to expelling him, money or no.

Jane was in the ballroom watching as the band set up for their dress rehearsal. She was appalled at some of the ancient equipment they were using. She had tried to convince they to let her buy them some new amps, but they stubbornly refused. "We're better with the old stuff," Todd explained. "We're used to it, and we've got enough to learn without having to break in new equipment. And besides, we can't afford new stuff."

"But I didn't expect you to pay me back," Jane said.

"No thanks, Ma'am," they all said in unison. "We need to make it on our own, or not at all."

The rehearsal went much better than anyone had dared hope. Having this huge ballroom to fill was much different than the small living room where the band had been living. It was much easier to get into the music, vary the volume and apply emphasis where necessary. Now they were beginning to get a good feeling. This might actually work!

"He's got a beautiful voice," Jane commented to Charlie as Josh went through some of his numbers.

"Yeah," Charlie agreed. "I just wish there was some way of keeping it from changing for a few years. I mean, it's so high, and clear, and..."

"Maybe it'll hold off. Sometimes boys are fifteen or sixteen before their voice changes. Maybe if he keeps using it, you'll get lucky. But even if it does change, it'll probably be just as good, just not as high."

"I sure hope so. He loves to sing so much, and he hasn't had that much chance. He deserves a chance to really enjoy it."

"Charlie," Jane said tentatively, "about tomorrow night. I was still kinda hoping that you'd be my date."

"But... I'll be busy with the band! I mean, even during dinner we're expected to provide background music."

"I... I was thinking more of after it's over. It's been a long time, Charlie, and I miss you. I've already told Dan what I want, and he doesn't seem to have a problem with it."

"I do, Jane. I'm sorry, but I've been doing a lot of thinking. I knew that's what you had in mind, but it's time I figured out who I am and stuck to it. I don't sell sex any more, and I..."

"I didn't mean I wanted to hire you for sex, Charlie! I was hoping..."

"I know, Jane. I guess it's kinda a hang-up with me now. You have been so good to all of us. Knowing all that, and considering that I'm gay and have a full time lover, I can't get it out of my head that if I spend time with you, it's like paying for what you've done for us. I do want to pay you back, Jane, but not that way! I want to succeed, and then we can have a relationship - not sex related, but a friendship that only comes from two people who really care about each other. I don't know if that makes any sense, but..."

"Yeah, it makes sense, Charlie," Jane said with a grin. "You've just turned me down again, and made me feel good about it. No one does that better than you!"

The rehearsal finished at 6 PM. They decided that they'd take the rest of the evening, and the next day, to completely relax. Charlie had called to say that they'd be home for dinner, to which Nancy responded by inviting the entire band for the evening. No, they had said, they thought it important that they spend some time apart to catch their breath. So that left the Edwards family home alone. Jerry and Sean, who had been spending more and more time training, arranged to take the evening off as well. It seemed that Jerry was feeling as left out as was Dan.

There was a tension in the house that was hard to explain. It had only been two weeks, but it seemed like months since they had all been together. "You guys think you're ready?" Clarke asked as they sat and stared at each other, the carpet, the walls.

"Ready as we'll ever be," Charlie answered. "Sometimes I think it would've been better if we hadn't spent so much time preparing."

"Ordinarily I'd agree," Clarke said. "But you guys have spent so little time together... I mean, you'd never even got to know each other really, until these two weeks. You needed this time to get to know, I mean REALLY KNOW each other."

"We know each other now, Dad," Josh said. "If I never see another dude with a guitar it's gonna be too soon!"

"Tired of the music business already?" Clarke asked.

"No way! I love it! But those guys always think they know so much more than me!"

"They do, little brother," Charlie reminded him. "They are pretty inexperienced, but still they've got a lot more experience than we have."

"Yeah, but they don't have to keep reminding me."

At bedtime Dan got another disappointment. As they headed up the stairs, Charlie said "Dan, I'm gonna sleep with Josh tonight. You can too if you want."

"Charlie," Dan said, "can I see you for a minute in our room?"

"Sure, Dan. Josh, you go ahead and have a shower then get in bed. I'll be there in a few."

"OK, Charlie," Dan said, "what's goin' on? Is there something I should know about you and Josh?"

"No, Dan. What makes you say such a thing?"

"Nothing, Charlie. Nothing at all. Just that you and I haven't so much as kissed for two weeks. You come home and flop on the bed without even getting undressed. Then you don't even bother to come to bed, at least with me. Do you have any idea how pissed Dad would be if he knew you've been sleeping with Josh?"

"Dan, you don't think.... Oh my God, you do! You think that I've been messing with Josh, don't you?"

"What am I supposed to think, Charlie?"

"You're supposed to give me the benefit of the doubt, like you used to. That's what you're supposed to think! Damn, Dan, he's only twelve years old! What the hell do you think I am?"

"Charlie, I know you're not... well... but he has expressed some interest in fooling around. And the other night, you didn't even come in here. You just went to bed with Josh. I mean, I know you wouldn't hurt him, but..."

"Dan, he was upset! He kept forgetting the words to a song we're doing and Greg kinda got on him about it. He broke down completely, Dan! He was ready to hang it all up! So we got in his bed and I just held him and let him cry it out. There's a lot more ways to make love than just having sex, Dan! He needs me right now! Believe me I want you as much as you want me, but Josh needs me! He's scared to death! I'm just tryin' to keep things together till after the show. I'm pretty sure he's gonna be ok, and I'm hoping after he sees that he can do it, that he'll feel better about it. Otherwise, he'll probably give it all up. But right now I don't care about that either. I just don't want him to be alone. I'd love it if you'd come too, Dan, but tonight I've got to make love to Josh, and it isn't about sex."

Dan stood and studied Charlie's face. He wanted a romp in the sack so bad! But he was proud of Charlie too. "You're serious, aren't you Charlie?" he finally said.

"Serious as a heart attack! Please, Danny, come with us! We'll spread sleeping bags on the floor and sleep there. Josh needs us, and I need you! Please?"

"Kiss me first?" Dan said.

"Before, during and after. I love you, Danny."

"I love you too, Cha-wee!"

They kissed. It wasn't the longest kiss they'd ever shared, but it was the sweetest. With one quick kiss, they reconfirmed their love, their commitment. Then they both went down the hall to join their little brother; to support him, love him.

It didn't take the members of the band long to realize that playing a dinner dance was not the best way to make their debut. True, it was a relaxed atmosphere; there wasn't a lot of pressure, in fact there wasn't any at all! They hadn't even been introduced, nor were they mentioned in any printed material. Of course at this stage anonymity wasn't all bad, because they hadn't thought of a name anyway.

As directed, the band began to play at 7:30, as everyone was being seated for dinner. The plan was to simply play background music, including some singing, during dinner. This part of the evening was expected to last until about nine. The band would take a short break while the tables were being cleared and moved, then they would play again at 9:20 or so until midnight. They were not expected to speak or make announcements, although they were told that they would probably be interrupted from time to time to allow various announcements to be made by some of the party goers. There would be no recognition, so acknowledgment. Their only real mandate was to make the dinner music listenable but not obtrusive, the dance music danceable. So why were they doing it? Well, the money was good, and Jane had implored them to trust her. "Just do your best," she'd said. "I'll do my part and make sure the right people are there. You guys do your part and you'll be glad you did. So they did their part.

The instrumentals were a snap. There were literally hundreds of tunes by all the big bands of a few years ago, all of which were very pleasant and easy to play. The vocal numbers during meal time were a little more challenging. They had to be pleasant, not too loud, not the least intense; the sort of song one could listen to and gain something, but also ignore if one chose. By the time dinner was finished the band members were all beginning to relax. "You're doing great," Jane said as she breezed by. "Just be sure to liven it up as much as you can for the dance, but easy on the rock 'n roll."

"Great!" Chad grumbled. "Jazz it up, but don't play rock 'n roll. What the fuck did that mean?"

"Just what she said," Todd replied. "Just do what we do best, what we've always done: We play the crowd. We keep adjusting till they're getting what they want."

"And how are we gonna tell?" John moaned. "Their noses are all so high in the air, we couldn't see a smile if we were hangin' from the ceiling!"

"We'll be ok," Todd replied. "Remember, we've got our secret weapons. We're gonna start with you two guys, ok? How's about you do an Everly Brothers medley? I think it shows off how well your voices blend, and it's all good danceable stuff."

"Ok," Charlie answered. "You ok, Josh?"

"Yeah, man!" Josh replied. In actual fact, Josh was faring better than any of them. After a major panic attack in the afternoon where he'd said there was no way he could even show up, he had got over it and become totally wired! He was up for anything and having the time of his life!"

Todd's decision to begin with vocal duets was a good one. Josh and Charlie sang several duets, beginning with the Everly Brothers, continuing with songs other famous duo's had made famous, and sprinkled in a few they'd worked out themselves, including all the Christmas songs they had arranged to their own style. Josh was truly flying high as he saw the audience respond. Everyone, it seemed, was dancing. The rest of the band began to catch Josh's enthusiasm, and the general quality of the music seemed to improve, or so they thought. There was very little outward show of encouragement or appreciation, but Charlie knew this was not unusual in situations like this. Still, it made it very difficult to read how they were doing.

It seemed to some pretty tired musicians to take a month and a half, but eventually midnight finally came. They had been playing non-stop for two and a half hours. This was forever for a band, especially one with little experience doing long sets. They had been gratified when they started getting requests, most of which were numbers that at least some of the members knew. Some were repeats of songs they'd played earlier, and they took that as a good sign too. Then finally the Master of Ceremonies called "last dance," the band played a slow number, Josh and Charlie took turns soloing, they sang a few phrases as a duet, and it was over.

Charlie noticed that Jane was with a young man who appeared older than Charlie but still decidedly younger than Jane. He wondered if the guy was in the same profession he'd been in last year. He was relieved, but at the same time he felt pangs of jealousy that she had done precisely what he'd implored her to do: she found somebody else.

"Come with me, Chah-wee!" Dan said as they finished packing up their equipment. None of the family had been invited to the affair except Clarke and Nancy; but Dan, Jerry and Sean had all managed to get in and stay hidden behind the curtains.

"Just a sec, Dan," Charlie said. "The guys will probably want to meet and go over what we did right and wrong."

"Later, Chah-wee! Mom and Dad are taking Josh home, Jerry and Sean are already gone. That leaves you and me and the Mustang. It's a warm night, I've already put the top down, so come on!"

"I got a feeling we're not going home," Charlie commented as they walked across the parking lot."

"Could very well be. I'll drive."

They didn't go home; they also didn't go to the bluffs where they'd made love two weeks ago. That was Charlie's second guess. Instead they drove down the coast for over an hour until they came to a very exclusive resort hotel. Dan pulled the Mustang directly to the front door and stopped. "It's such a nice night, I hate to put the top up and go in, but you're probably tired."

"Yeah," Charlie agreed, "I am a little bushed."

"Not too bushed for a little payback," Dan said with an evil grin. "You owe me, Chaw-wee!"

They made their way through the crowded lobby after the valet had relieved them of the car. Dan led Charlie directly to the elevator. "Where we going?" Charlie inquired.

"To bed," Dan answered, "where do ya think?" He pushed the button for the sixteenth floor - the penthouse suite. Charlie had been in this hotel several times as a young hustler, but he'd never been in the penthouse. The whole joint was very posh, but the penthouse was reputed to make the rest of the hotel look shabby by comparison. The elevator arrived and they stepped off. Dan took the room key and unlocked the door. As soon as they had stepped inside, he closed the door and put the chain in place. It was totally dark, which allowed the two lovers to see clearly through the outer wall, which was entirely glass, to the Atlantic Ocean beyond. The view, even at night, was truly spectacular!

The only source of light in the room were candles: one on each night table, two on a small table where two places were set. Next to this table was another table with what looked like a full course meal laid out. "What in the world..." Charlie exclaimed.

"Shut up, Chaw-wee! Kiss me, you gorgeous hunk. Danny's waited long enough for his Chah-wee!"

After a long, deep kiss, Dan led Charlie to the table, poured two glasses of champagne and held one to Charlie's lips. Charlie took the other and held it to Dan's. As they sipped, Charlie was startled as he heard the door close softly. "There's someone here!" he exclaimed.

"Not any more," Dan replied. "That was just Jerry and Sean leaving. They were setting things up for me."

"You scheming faggot!" Charlie exclaimed. "You've set me up again!"

"Uh-huh. Now what say we eat? You haven't had a decent meal in days, and that pheasant was expensive! I don't want it to get cold."

As they sat and ate, slowly sipping champagne as they drank in the beauty of each other in huge gulps, Charlie heard for the first time the surf coming from the ocean. "There's a balcony," Dan explained. "I guess they musta opened the door. It's such a gorgeous night out."

"Yeah," Charlie agreed, "it is. And that sound is so soothing it's liable to put me right to sleep after this big meal."

"Oh no, you don't! I've been sharing you one way or another ever since we got back from Truro, and tonight you're mine! All mine! You've got a little more work to do before you sleep. You always seem to get to just lie there on the bottom while I do all the work. Tonight YOU'RE doing the work! My tail's been twitching for three days thinkin' of this night."

"Sounds like a plan, Danny boy. Actually I been thinkin' the same thing lately."

"You guys were really great tonight, Charlie," Dan said when they were stripped and in bed.

"You're just sayin' that 'cause it's true," Charlie quipped.

"There you go again, making jokes. It IS true, Charlie! You were all really great!"

"I'm glad you think so. None of those rich bitches at the party seemed very impressed. This was supposed to be our big chance, but I didn't see anyone kickin' chairs out of the way to get to us."

"It'll come, Charlie. But right now I'd be much more thankful if we could do a little of a different kind of coming."

"You randy queer!"

"Uh-huh. Now are you gonna make love to me, or am I gonna have to rape you?"

"Actually," Charlie said with a grin, "that sounds like it could be fun. Is that an option?"

"Not right now it isn't. Maybe later. But first... Charlie... O man, I want you so bad..."

"I guess..." Charlie struggled to say between kisses, "we'd... uhh... we'd better do somethin' about that then..."

"Yeah, Charlie! Please? Before you drive me wild?"

Charlie did. He got into a 69 with Dan, but after loving Dan's member with his lips only briefly, he whispered to it, "I'll see you later, buddy," then he worked his way down as Dan raised his legs and spread them, giving Charlie full access to his pucker hole. Meanwhile Dan was rolling Charlie's equipment around in his mouth, getting it wet and slimy. There was to be no lubricant tonight other than saliva. There had been no discussion; they both wanted it this way.

When Charlie entered Dan, the entry was slow and smooth. There was no POP, no struggle, no pain. Charlie had only to push gently and slide all the way in. What there was, was a loud whimpering sound coming from Dan as Charlie bottomed out inside him. It had been so long since he had felt the incredible sensation of his lover inside him; he opened his eyes and stared up into Charlie's face staring back at him. "Don't... Ughhh..." Dan whispered, "don't... be in a hurry... it feels so incredible!"

"I love you, Danny," Charlie said softly. "I gotta stop or I'm gonna cum."

"Then stop for God's sake! I don't want this to end! Ever!"

Charlie lowered himself gently until his full weight was on Dan's body. They were still coupled as they lay there, lips and tongues dancing together. Each time Dan bit lightly on Charlie's tongue, his penis jumped inside Dan, which caused Dan to clamp down a little tighter on the thing that had him impaled. "That'll make me cum too," Charlie warned. "In fact I don't think there's any way to stop it. Just being close to you tonight is gonna make me cum."

"Just lie quiet," Dan instructed. "I don't want violence or intensity tonight, I just want you inside me. It feels so good! If you cum, well, you'll just have to do me again till you get it right."

Eventually, after some pretty tense moments, Charlie managed to calm down... not a lot, but enough to hold his explosion at bay for a little while longer. They lay there together, kissing softly, playing the "twitching game:" Dan clamped his sphincter, causing Charlie's penis to twitch, causing Dan's sphincter to clamp again. Charlie raised himself up on his elbows, then his hands. He looked down at his lover. Big mistake!

Dan was lying with his eyes wide open, his tanned face framed with the white pillow. It looked to Charlie almost like a halo. There was a slight contented looking smile on his face. It was too much. Charlie felt the storm gather within him. He began to thrust. It was an unconscious movement, almost as if he'd been suddenly attached to some oscillating machine. "I... I'm cumin' Dan!" he gasped loudly.


"Well," Charlie said when he could say anything, "I was planning on sucking you totally dry tonight, but judging by the mess you just made, I think you're already pretty dry."

"Listen to who's talking," Dan retorted. "You filled me so full I'm gonna be leaking for a week!"

"No problem, Danny boy! That can be my breakfast every morning for the next week. Then I'll just fill 'er up again."

"You better not wait a week to do that again! Man, Charlie, your voice isn't the only part of you that makes beautiful music!"

"I got a pretty good musician under me for support," Charlie answered."

"Uh,,, Chah-wee, you're slippin' out."

"Yeah, you kinda wore Dexter out for the moment. But he'll be back. Dan... Uhh... would it gross you out if I... well... I'd kinda like to clean you up... with my tongue. If you won't be grossed out."

"Charlie, are you serious?"

"It's ok, forget it. If you don't want..."

"Charlie, are you talking my... belly, my chest... my... my..."

"Yeah, Dan, your ass too. But it's ok... it was just a thought..."

"Do it, man!"

Charlie did it. Well, he started to do it, but before he was even close to being done Dexter was back, all engines running. So Charlie injected another load into Dan while Dan added to the mess on his stomach. They weren't nearly as monumental as the first loads had been, but certainly respectable. Charlie wanted to go to sleep then, still inside Dan; but Dexter would have none of it. He wanted his sleep too, so he shrank to a size that would not allow coupling anywhere! So they just got a towel and cleaned up the worst of the mess, then embraced tightly and went to sleep, the sound of the surf sixteen floors below in their ears.

Something awoke both boys at seven the next morning. The sun was streaming in the glass window/mural, providing a breathtaking view and a warmth that was truly erotic. The surf was still pounding. Charlie looked at Dan, Dan looked back at Charlie. Instantly the engines were running wide open again. But there it was again! What had wakened them was the pounding on the door. "Open up, you guys!" came Jerry's voice from the other side of the door. "C'mon! Get up! We got an emergency!"

"Oh well," Dan said as he hopped out of bed, "it's gotta be the shortest honeymoon on record, but it was a good one!"

Charlie could see from the expression on Sean's face when he and Jerry burst into the room that Sean was impressed; or was the word 'shocked?' The bed, a king-size, was about as disturbed as a bed could be. There was ample evidence everywhere that there had been far more than sleep going on in this room. Of course both Dan and Charlie were still naked, and after sleeping with the various body fluids on their skin all night, the didn't exactly smell like daisies.

"Jerry," Charlie said, "I really appreciate you and Sean helping Dan set this all up. But... it would've been so much better if..."

"I'm sorry," Jerry said with no indication he'd had any idea Charlie was trying to be funny. "I thought you'd want to know, Charlie. Todd and the band are leaving."

"Leaving? Whadda ya mean, leaving? Where are they going?"

"I'm not sure, Charlie. I think they're eventually heading for Nashville, but they might be going home for Christmas first."

"What! I don't understand! What in the world happened? I thought we did really well last night!"

"We all thought so, Charlie. We all thought you guys sounded really good! But I guess the guys in the band expected something more. Oh, and you'll find out sooner or later anyway, they're really pissed off that you and Dan took off like that. I told them to get over it, but, well, I think you'd better come home. They're all packed and ready to take off. They promised they'd wait to hear from me. I didn't tell them where you are, only that I'd try and find you."

By the time the boys arrived home it was close to 9 AM, and the battle was raging. The station wagon was parked in the drive, trailer attached, evidently loaded for a long trip. The family was there, and so was Jane. She had dropped by to congratulate the boys on a successful party. Charlie and Dan walked in just in time to hear Greg say, "I don't see how you can say it was successful. I don't see anybody beating down the doors to sign us up!"

"That's not the way it works," Jane answered. "The entertainment business is a giant game of cat and mouse, who can fake whom out, bluff your best. Believe me, you were noticed. But you have to be patient!"

"We can't afford to be patient!" Chad countered. "We're very quickly going broke! And winter's coming on. We don't want to be driving back to Nova Scotia in a blizzard."

"Chad," Charlie said as he entered the room, "I thought we had an agreement. My dad has said he wouldn't see you guys go hungry. We knew it wouldn't happen overnight."

"It won't happen at all with you, Charlie!" Chad replied. "You're obviously more interested in getting your rocks off than in helping the band. Where the hell did you get to so fast last night anyway? And besides, I'm sick to death of that snotnosed kid forgetting the words to his songs."

"I don't think it's any of your business where I went after we were done, Chad," Charlie answered. "As for Josh forgetting a few lines..." Everyone in the room could feel the electricity build, and the blood rushing to Charlie's face was very clear for all to see.

"Charlie..." Clarke said, "don't say anything you'll regret."

"I won't, Dad," Charlie assured him. "But I'm also not gonna go through life regretting NOT saying what needs to be said either. Chad, there are two things that just don't work with me, and you've just done them both. You don't accuse me of being a pervert because I'm gay, and you don't mess with my brother. Any of them! Not physically, not mentally, not emotionally! You all knew from the start that I was in love with Dan. You all assured me that it didn't make any difference. Now ever since you guys got here you've kept Josh and me away from our family, me and Dan apart. You've worked my little brother to the point of slavery, and he and I have killed ourselves to please you. We did what we said we'd do, and I for one think we did a damn good job! So we didn't have the world bowing at our feet! We haven't got anyone begging us to sign a recording contract! We did our best. It didn't do what we'd hoped! We're still not millionaires. So now we should quit? Now I should ignore my lover for another few weeks? Maybe a few years? I'm sorry, Chad, but that ain't the way it works. In my life, Danny Edwards comes first! FIRST, Chad! Not you, not Todd, not the band. Danny!

"I think you're making a big mistake if you leave now, but that's y'all's decision. But if you think for one minute that I'm gonna check with you before I spend time with Danny, then I guess we've got a problem. I'm sorry, guys, I thought you all understood that. I don't think I've backed down on any commitment I've made, and I won't either. I'm as committed to this band and making it work as anyone, but you're not my whole life. Oh, and one more thing: The next time one of you, ANY of you, talks to Josh the way you did the other night, Greg, you'll be dealing with me, and I'm gonna be in your face big time! I happen to think he's a hell of a singer, and I know he's a hell of a brother. You don't have to agree, that's your right. But you will treat him with respect. Anything less and you deal with me! Non-negotiable! Any questions?"

"I think you've made it very clear," Chad said. "C'mon guys, we've got two thousand miles to drive."

"Chad," Todd said, "Charlie didn't say anything we haven't heard before. Dammit, guys, we WERE good last night! And like Charlie has already said, Josh was so much more than just good! We have to give this a chance!"

"Whose side are you on, Todd?" Chad and Greg both chorused.

"I'm on the side of the band. I think Charlie's right. I think we should wait for a few weeks to see what happens."

"Yeah, right," Greg said with disgust. "Next thing we know he'll be boffing Dan right on stage between verses of a song. Maybe he'll even grope Josh while he's trying to sing. God knows the kid can't sing even without Charlie's hands in his pants!"

"Game over!" Charlie said. He was surprisingly calm, or at least he LOOKED calm. In truth he was steaming, but he was also in his home, had promised his dad he wouldn't lose control, and those two facts meant something to Charlie. He would keep his cool if it killed him, and the way the pressure was building in his head like a PRESTO pressure cooker, there was every indication that it very well might kill him. "I've really enjoyed working with you guys, and I appreciate what you've taught me. I've learned more than I ever wanted to know about singing, show business, but it's over. I'm sorry, but if we can't work together without resentment and prejudice, then we can't work together at all."

"Charlie," Todd said, "he didn't..."

"Didn't mean it? I'm sorry, Todd, he meant it. What he didn't mean was when he said what I am didn't make any difference to him. That's what he didn't mean! Maybe he even thought at the time that he did mean it, but he didn't. You can negotiate with Josh if you want, but deal me out."


"Forget it, Todd," Josh said with more vehemence than he realized he possessed. "Even if I did work with people who don't like my brother, which I don't, Greg doesn't like me anyway 'cause I'm just a kid. It seems to me that Greg doesn't like anyone who isn't a carbon copy of himself. I'm done too."

"They'll be back, Charlie," Jane said after the boys in the band had left.

"Jane," Charlie said crossly, "you've told me countless times you knew I wasn't stupid. Well, don't try to treat me now as if I am. They won't be back! It's got nothing to do with last night, at least the party part of last night. We were good, dammit! We were damn good! Josh was incredible! If no one wants us, well, it's their loss. But what's bothering our redneck band from Truro is the fact that their lead singer is gay and wants to spend time with his lover. Well, too bad! Either they get over it, or we move on! I'm finally beginning to realize that we've still got lots of options. We've got incredible friends like you, and our dad! We're gonna make it, Jane! Take a look around you. Jerry; Sean; me: Danny; Josh. We're gonna make it! Every single one of us is gonna make it! I don't know where we'll all end up, what we'll all be doing, but we're not gonna fail, because we've all got Clarke Edwards now. He guides us, inspires us, loves us, controls us. Four of us call him 'Dad' now, and before you know it the fifth of us will too. And just being his friend, knowing him, is awesome. Being his son is one of the greatest honors of my life! Now I understand why Danny is the incredible person that he is! I don't need a recording contract, Jane! I don't need a band, or anyone's approval! Neither does Josh or the rest of us. We've got all we need right here."

"Charlie," Clarke said as he put a hand on Charlie's shoulder, "I think you should try and cool off. You're pretty excited."

"Exactly what I'm gonna do, Dad. I'm gonna go fishing. Is anyone going with me?"

"May I come?" Jane asked. "I haven't been fishing since my father took me when I was a very little girl."

"Come on," Charlie answered. "Looks like we're gonna be taking two boats again. Is that a problem, Sean?"

"Absolutely not, Charlie!" Sean answered. "You coming, Mr. Ed.... er.... Dad?"

"Just try and keep me away!" Clarke replied.

* * *

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