By SF Writer
Copyright 2003 Stormnation, All rights reserved.
* * * * * * *The bell signaling the end of the school day rang with a sudden piercing cry, allowing students all throughout Merlow High to jump out of their seats and head home for the day. However in Mr. Pearces last period Social Studies class, one student remained seated.
"Mike, everything ok?" Bryan Pearce asked as he leaned against Mikes desk.
"Yes, Sir." Mike said with little conviction.
"What is it? Study? Home? The game this weekend? Girl?"
"How about all of the above." Mike sighed as he laboriously threw his books into his bag.
"Look, Mike. I know about the situation with your father. Ive been there myself so if you ever need someone to talk to."
"I know you have, Sir. Everyone does. I guess thats kind of why I stayed behind." Mike said anxiously as he held his hand over his stomach as if that would stop it from churning. "I think "
"You think what, Mike?"
"I think I need help. I need someone to talk to. Someone to understand what Im going through. I think if I dont get help, Im going to lose control of my whole life and everything and everyone in it. Will you please help me?"
"Im no counselor but I have a good ear and a sound mind. And for the next hour, Im all yours." The teacher said comfortingly.
The fairly young teacher, still in his mid twenties and an alumnus of Merlow High, motioned Mike to take a seat at the front of the class. He pulled a thermos out from under his desk and motioned towards Mike.
"I have some chicken soup here with your name on it." Mr. Pearce said as he handed a cup of the warm soup to Mike. "Itll help calm your nerves. Now tell me where you want to begin."
"I dont know where I should begin."
"How about starting off by telling me where all your anger comes from. Youre collected on the outside but you have a lot of anger inside. If you dont release it somehow, its going to fester and explode. Are you angry at your father?"
"Is that all?"
"Who else are you angry at? What else are you angry at?"
"Myself. For taking it all these years. I feel so stupid sometimes."
"You love your father dont you." Mr. Pearce said as more of an observation than a question.
"You stuck with him because you thought hed change."
"I wanted him to and he said he would. But he never did." Mike sighed regretfully, his face somber and disappointed.
"When did it start, Mike?"
"When I was seven is the first time I can really remember. All I can remember is that I smiled at him one day and he just started beating me. He said I looked like my mother too much and it reminded him of the past. At first he tried to rationalize what hed done. But as time wore on, he just did it because he felt like it I think. Hed get drunk and Id lock myself in my room and hed just come in with his belt. Those times I hated him so much but then when hed be off the bottle hed always be nice to me and make me feel sorry for him. I fell for it every time."
"Until the last time "
"The last time just pushed me over the edge. I couldnt handle it and I was in so much pain, I thought hed broken my ribs. I ran out of the house and just kept running. In the rain. In the cold. He beat me so bad that night, he was so angry. I thought he might have put me in hospital. But I could never bring myself to fight back. I dont know why I never fought back or did anything."
"Has he ever sent you to hospital before?"
"A few years ago he did. He cracked two of my ribs, broke my arm and gave me a minor concussion. I said I fell off the roof and landed awkwardly. I always tried to cover for him."
"Because I loved him. He was my only real family. My real Mom died when I was young. I thought if I told on him or fought back that hed leave me and then Id have no one." Mike said as he held his face in his hands and sighed mournfully. "I never even told my Mom I mean Dr. Marcus that he was really the one who put me in hospital. Shed never forgive herself if she knew. Shes always tried to watch out for me even though Im not her blood."
"So now youre living with Dr. Marcus. Has that changed your life at all?"
"You have no idea. She saved me, she really did. I owe her more than she knows. But I still have all this anger hanging over me. All my past and history still haunts me. I dont know how to deal with it. I almost hit my girlfriend. Im a passive guy. I dont even like to fight. Id rather use it on the field. But after what happened with Sarah, Im scared man. I dont know what to do."
"Talking to me is a great start. Admitting you need help is another great start. Its going to take time, Mike but youre a champion. You know you needed help and thats the most important thing and I respect you for that. Im going to help you, Mike. I know some people who can help you if you want but only if you want. Now I want you to sit back and finish that soup while I do some talking. Then youre going to talk some more. And were going to keep doing this until you finally start feeling some release. Thank you for trusting me enough to come to me. It means a lot. Im always pleased to help my students. And you knew you needed it. Youll get through this, Mike. Youll get through this."
* * * * * * *
"Come in!" June yelled from the living room as she heard a knock at the door. "The doors open!"
"Daniel? What are you doing here?" June said feeling a little caught off guard by the father of their three childrens appearance at her doorstep, yet still managing to feign a polite smile. "I wasnt expecting you."
"Would you believe I was just in the neighborhood and thought Id stop in?" Daniel Marcus Sr. said flashing a well meaning and sincere smile.
"Merlow isnt in the neighborhood for you."
"I have a week completely free. I wanted to spend it here in Merlow if you dont mind. Not in the house of course but I want to spend some time with Daniel and Dade."
"You know how he gets when you call him Daniel." June said smiling to herself. "Hes all Storm now, you have to respect that."
"Not just in name either." Daniel said giving a mock look of distress at the thought of his sons temperament. "But hes a good kid."
"A good kid who just happens to be a very fine young man now." June said with pride in her eyes. "Im sure theyd both love to spend time with you. Where are you staying?"
"The Lakeside Lodge. Room 329."
"Ill be sure to tell the boys. I wish I could spend more time with Abby. Its just so hard to get away from the job."
"I know exactly what you mean. We havent been ideal parents, June. But I intend to make up for that in the near future. Hows Mike doing?"
"Dont ask. That story will take time and a cup of coffee. Neither of which I have right now unfortunately. Work calls." June said as Daniel helped her with her coat.
"Perhaps I can take a raincheck on that coffee?"
"Sounds good. Lunch tomorrow. Feel free to make yourself at home. It did once belong to both of us after all. The house should be filling up in about twenty minutes. Good luck." June smiled as she instinctively leaned forward and kissed Daniel on the cheek before she headed for the door.
"Thanks " Daniel said surprised at Junes openness with him.
"Sorry about that." June said blushing. "I dont know what came over me. Old habits I guess."
"Yeah " Daniel said trying his best to suppress his own blush. "I know what you mean."
"Ill see you later, Daniel."
"Bye, June." Daniel said closing the door behind June as he watched her get into her car and drive away, a warm reminiscing feeling passing over him.
* * * * * * *
Sarah stood proudly at the door of Mr. Pearces Social Studies room, listening to the conversation going on inside. Her eyes were just slightly watery and her lips were pursed in a proud smile.
"Lucas." Sarah said quickly wiping her eyes as she stepped away from the door and smiled at Lucas.
"Whats wrong?" Lucas asked as he put his hand on Sarahs shoulder.
"Nothings wrong. Im just so proud of my baby. Hes so wonderful. I knew I picked the right guy. Hes so incredible, I dont know how I ever could have doubted him."
"Mike? Whats he doing?" Lucas asked surprised.
"Admitting he needs help. His heart is in the right place, Lucas. I just wish I could be there for him but hes completely locked me out of his life now. He thinks hes protecting me. Saying he doesnt want to hurt me and that Im better off without him right now. Hes full of shit. Damn Marcus influence. Now more than ever I know I need to be with him." Sarah said wiping her eyes even more as she let out a few stray tears. "Look at me, Im going soft here."
"Its ok, Sarah. We can be there for each other. You and Mike will be together again I just know. Youre meant for each other."
"What about Storm? Is he still freezing you out?" Sarah asked as she accepted a kleenex from Lucas and blew her nose. "I havent spoken to him lately. Hes been avoiding me."
"He does that sometimes. Right now hes still angry at me. Im trying to respect his wishes to leave him alone but its so hard for me. I just miss him so bad. I miss living there with him. I miss talking to him. I miss everything. But Im trying to adapt. I know this is what he wants. Im trying."
"Its hard being us isnt it?" Sarah said softly as her eyes fell to the ground in deep thought.
"Only every day including public holidays. Can I walk you home?"
"Id like that. I just wanted to make sure he was ok. He doesnt know I still watch out for him. I think I always will."
"I know what you mean. They cant expect us to not want to be there for them."
"Come on, lets go home." Sarah said putting her arm around Lucas shoulder as they headed down the now largely empty hallway and made for home.
* * * * * * *
Dade began his long walk home; purposely making sure to go the longer route and making sure no one he knew saw him. He didnt much feel like any company right now. All he wanted to see was the shoreline of Lake Herren. The route he was walking would take him around the edge of the vast lake through the bay behind Sarahs house.
Right now a myriad of thoughts entered Dades head as he walked wistfully along, stopping occasionally to skim a stone along the surface of the lake. Even though time had passed since Marcel had left again, Dade still had a lingering sense of emptiness that still haunted him. Although Marcel wasnt the only reason for Dade feeling this way, it was a big factor. Another was the seeming lack of connection between himself and Storm lately. Ever since the incident at Reese Bridge, Storm seemed too wrapped in his own life and problems to hang out or spend time with Dade like they usually did. And this was one time when he could really have used his brother. Dade sighed to himself and wished Storm were there right now but he knew hed already be at the Dojo teaching a junior class before the main classes began.
Dade tried his best to pull himself out of the funk he seemed to be in right now but it didnt seem to do any good. Skimming stones along the water didnt seem to be making him feel any better either.
"Maybe I should just call myself, Blue." Dade said frowning to himself. "Shake it off, Dade. Youre being a dickweed."
"Why are you being a dickweed?" Sarah asked as she approached Dade, Lucas flanking her right side.
"Oh. Hi, Sarah. No reason." Dade said as a sinking feeling came over him as he realized hed been found by at least one of the people he least wanted to be found by; Lucas.
Dade eyed Lucas up awkward and nervously. Lucas returned the look with an uncertain acknowledgment. Unsure himself of what to say to Dade or whether he should say anything at all. Sarah meanwhile looked back and forth between each of them and frowned realizing the tension in the air.
"I gotta get home." Dade said with nervousness in his voice. "Bye."
"Uhh ok then. Bye, Dade." Sarah said bewildered as Dade quickly walked away slinging his bag over his shoulder.
Sarah stood with a huge disappointed frown on her face. Her eyes were fixed on the back of Dades rapidly disappearing figure. Lucas saying nothing the whole time.
"That was weird." Sarah said finally. "And really, really awkward. I hate that."
"You think?" Lucas said sarcastically.
"Youre getting bitter and sarcastic in your old age, Sheridan. Does he hate me?"
"No. He hates me."
"I told him I wished he were dead."
"Then I can see why he hates you." Sarah said as she began walking again. "Ill talk to him later."
"At least hell talk to you. He barely acknowledges me. Cant say I blame him to be honest."
"How the hell did we all get so fuc messed up? What happened to all of us? We cant even be friends now?" Sarah said holding her hands up as she awaited Lucas long delayed answer.
"I dont know, Sarah. I used to be ever the eternal optimist. But sometimes you have to know when to give up." Lucas said as he shrugged his shoulders and said no more.
* * * * * * *
Today Id had to replace Sensei Takada and instruct the Junior and Senior classes while Marty Lee and I both took the intermediate. Id done this before but today seemed more real. Because the other times Id lead the class, Takada had been there watching over me. Today he trusted me to do it on my own. Granted of course he had no choice since his only daughter was going into labor with his first grandchild but still I felt honored to be given the responsibility.
Life had been weird for me lately. Id become strangely placid. I didnt feel as angry or as passionate in my thoughts about Lucas anymore. Its like I really just didnt give a damn anymore. Things didnt seem as big a deal as they used to. That actually scared me at first because I knew if I didnt feel passionate about something, then it obviously didnt mean as much to me. Or at least thats what I told myself.
Anyway, Im kinda feeling good right now. Sure my friendships are screwed up but Im happy. Happy or in denial. Ill choose happy for now. So right now Ive just finished leading our last training session for tonight and have everybody in formation in front of me awaiting my final comments.
"The Intermix is this Saturday. Its being held in Hamilton at the Templeview Stadium. If anyone needs a ride. Dont ask me." I said grinning mischievously. "Ill be hitchhiking."
"Anyway." I continued, my light hearted sarcasm having its intended effect on my attentive fellow students. "This is one of the first big tournaments for us this year. Representing us this Saturday is Sarah Leo. Im sure shed appreciate it if you turned up this weekend and gave your support. I know I would. Aside from that we also have grading coming up in a few weeks and well also begin working towards the next few tournaments coming soon. Of course I dont need to remind any of you about the Cross Regionals coming up. Its the big one. Which as you all know will be held at the soon to be completed, Merlow SuperDome. You all put in a good training today. Sensei Takada will be back on Thursday. See you then." I said bowing as everyone else followed suit and then quickly dispersed.
"Youre evil, Storm." Marty Lee said approaching me, his face flustered and his breath heavy. "Pure evil."
"Yes I am. Enjoy the class?"
"Loved it." Marty Lee said with a broad grin. "Youre a natural leader. Or maybe I should say dictator."
"Youre just barely in my good books." I said grinning wickedly. "Dont tempt fate now."
"Dont worry, I wont. Great class." Marty Lee said winking at me before he headed off to the showers.
I took a deep breath, sighing happily to myself. Life seemed to finally be getting back on track. I could honestly say that I had no enemies. No Marty Lees. No Brads. Nobody. Both Brad and Marty Lee were now people I could actually have a civilized conversation with. My jeep had been stolen. Id lost my boyfriend. But things were good. At least I felt like they were good right now.
That is of course until I think about my lack of close confidants right now. Sure I had a lack of enemies but I also had a lack of friends. Or at least a lack of best friends. Out of all the people Id been hanging out with lately, not one of them were Sarah, Mike, Lucas or or even Dade.
"Hey wheres Dade?" I asked Wendell with concern as I realized what Id just thought. "I just realized I didnt see him in here tonight."
"He was here. Didnt you see him?"
"I guess I didnt."
"He was at the back most of the time. Seemed pretty quiet tonight."
"Where is he now?"
"Hes probably in the showers."
"Ok thanks, Wendell. Listen, youre an excellent competitor. A great athlete. Youre honest and you have integrity. I expect to see you make the Cross Regionals Team this year." I said patting Wendell on the shoulder. "But just keep working on your forward defensive stance."
"Thanks, Boss." Wendell said with a smile before he too headed off to the showers.
"Well, youre looking happy for once." Sarah said as she spoke directly to me for the first time tonight. "I hope you stay that way. I still dont understand why youre not competing this weekend."
"I figure Id rather stay aside this time and see someone else in the spotlight."
"I guess. Youre getting soft."
"Youre one to talk."
"Uhh Storm, you still angry at me?"
"About the jeep? No. Im not. Im just glad youre ok."
"Then why have you been avoiding me?"
"Because youre friends with Lucas. Im not going to tell you who to hang out with but the bottom line is and I know thisll sound selfish. Im not sharing you with Lucas. You and Lucas are close now. Theres nothing I can do about that."
"So what youre saying is as long as Im best friends with Lucas, you and I arent?"
"Basically. Selfish but true."
"Well at least youre honest. It always has to be all or nothing with you doesnt it?"
"Im not having this conversation with you. Lucas needs a friend. You obviously want to be his friend. Thats all there is to it. And as far as the jeep goes, its just a jeep. A very cool jeep but Id rather lose the jeep than have you or Lucas hurt. Ill have a new one soon enough once the insurance comes through."
"So thats it for us then is it, Storm?" Sarah said becoming visibly angry, her face taking on a very serious and staunch tone. "Its over is it? Just like that."
"This conversation is over." I said exiting out of the training room and into the showers.
I quickly stripped naked and moved under the showers, wanting to just get out of there as fast as I could. I took a deep breath and leaned my body underneath the showerhead. I rested my hands against the wall to support my weight and closed my eyes.
"Hey, Storm." Dade said as he stepped up beside me.
"Oh man you scared the shit out of me." I said as my eyes shot open. "I thought I was the only one in here."
"You were. But I thought I should tell you that Dads outside waiting for us."
"He wants to take us to dinner. Hes in town for the week. Says he wants to spend some time with us." Dade said with little emotion.
"How do you feel about that?"
"I dont care." Dade said shrugging his shoulders. "If the old man wants to make himself feel good by spending a little time with us. Good for him. I dont care. Ill wait for you in the car."
I quickly turned the shower off and rushed after Dade. I pulled my towel out of my bag and yelled out to Dade to wait with me while I got changed. He agreed half heartedly.
"Listen, Dade. I know I havent spent much time with you lately."
"Yeah, youve been too wrapped up in your own life to worry about me."
"I deserve that. Youre right. Youre always there for me. But lately, I havent been there for you. And I get the feeling you needed me. I havent been a good friend or a good brother to you lately. Im sorry. I wanna make up for it." I said as I pulled my tracks up and threw my bag over my shoulder, the night being too hot for me to care about putting a shirt on. "Im sorry, Dade."
"Screw you." Dade said as he walked off in front of me.
"Well thats nice." I sighed. "Pack? What Pack?"
* * * * * * *
"Have you spoken to Dade lately?" Claire asked Josh as they spoke on the phone.
Josh lay on his bed playing with the phone cord with his fingers as he let out a deep sigh. "No, I havent. Hes been kinda quiet."
"Im worried about him."
"I try talking to him but he just seems distant. I dont want to force anything in case he gets even more distant. I dont know what to do."
"This will sound really weird but I think Dade is avoiding both of us because we spend so much time together now he thinks threes a crowd."
"He has this idea in his head that you and I belong together. Isnt that the craziest thing youve ever heard?" Josh said forcing a laugh.
"Uhh I dunno. Is it? Whats wrong with me?" Claire said sounding slightly offended.
"Oh no I didnt mean it like that. I just meant you know Im gay and all."
"Yeah, so you keep saying. Anyway, I have more work I need to finish before the Fundraising Awards Ceremony on Friday. Ill talk to you tomorrow, Josh. Bye."
"Bye." Josh said reluctantly as Claire hung up.
Josh laid his head down and covered his face with his hands. Life seemed so much easier when he truly believed he was gay as odd as that sounded to him. Lately he had begun to have doubts. Particularly when it came to Claire. His emotions were genuinely conflicted. He loved being with her. He loved spending time with her. He admitted hed become jealous when he saw other guys flirting with her. There were so many things about Claire that he loved and admired. Including raw physical attraction. Lately hed found hed be paying more and more attention to the way Claire walked, the way she talked, the way she held herself, the way she looked in that white two piece swimsuit she loved wearing.
Another thing Josh had noticed about himself is that since hed broken away from Brad, hed become more of an individual. More confident in himself. More assured of who he was. Stronger. Physically but also more importantly mentally. And Josh had actually begun to like who he was which he believed was an important thing in anyones life. He attributed his change to his two best friends, Dade and Claire.
"The last thing you need right now is to be confused." Josh said shaking his head as he sat up. "You need to fix thi "
Josh was interrupted mid sentence by the sound of knocking at the front door of his house. He figured it was his parents and little sister, back from their dinner outing. Josh had arrived home too late from baseball training to go with them.
"Why didnt they use their keys?" Josh said to himself in bewilderment as he left his room and headed to the front door to open it.
"Dade!" Josh said in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
"Can I come in please?" Dade asked with a pensive look on his face.
Josh looked at Dade and realized he was completely soaked. He also seemed especially forlorn and gloomy as he stood on the doorstep in front of Josh. Josh pulled Dade in and closed the door behind him, leading him straight towards his room.
"Whats wrong, Dade? Did something happen? Youre all wet. Here let me help." Josh said as he undid Dades shirt and threw it into his laundry hamper. "Youre going to have to take your own pants off. But Ill get you a towel and some clean clothes of mine. You can wear the clothes you picked out for me. At least then youll know theyll be stylish."
"Anything you wear is stylish." Dade said feigning a smile. "Its all in how you hold yourself. And you hold yourself pretty well these days."
"You still didnt tell me what happened. Why are you wet?" Josh asked as he grabbed a towel from the hallway closet and began unconsciously drying Dade off.
"Thanks." Dade said with a small genuine smile. "Its nothing I should be talking about with you. I just needed a friend."
"Well thats what I am." Josh smiled. "Put these on."
Josh handed Dade a clean shirt and pair of jeans for him to wear. Dade smiled back at Josh and pulled his shoes and socks off before he finally pulled off his pants. He threw his socks and pants into the hamper on top of his wet shirt, leaving him standing only in his boxers.
Josh tried to not look like he was ogling Dades strong feet and legs but he couldnt seem to help himself. He gulped awkwardly and shook his head, this was something hed seen dozens of times before in the changing room at school or at the pools. Why was this time any different? It wasnt any different, Josh realized. All those other times hed been ogling Dade just as much then as he was now. From the way Dades lips curled and dimples showed to the way his eyes sparkled. His muscular shoulders, built chest, buff arms and strong stomach. Dades body had the tone and power that made Josh swoon but it was more than that. Dade just seemed to ooze sexuality. He just had this attraction about him that whether people liked to admit or not, drew them to him. In raw physical terms, Dade had become many a focus of Joshs good times.
"Youre staring." Dade said smiling wryly at Josh.
"I know. Im sorry."
"Dont be. It kinda turns me on to know I turn you on. Dont think I dont notice all the other times you stare at me. But I want to ask you something."
"You say youre gay right?"
"Why do you get a hard on when you watch Claires ass?"
"Oh." Josh said blushing. "Uhhh I dunno. Shes attractive isnt she?"
"And a bag o chips." Dade said giving Josh a strange look. "But you dont just think shes attractive. You want to make love with her. Admit it. Were two guys. Were buds. Just tell me. You fantasize about her sometimes dont you?"
"I gotta sit down." Josh said letting out a deep breath as he tried to awkwardly cover his growing hard on.
"Youre getting hard right now just thinking about it!" Dade said trying not to laugh as he sat down beside Josh.
"So what? Its not funny you know. Im having a hard time dealing with all of this." Josh said as out of nowhere he burst into frustrated tears. "It was hard enough admitting to myself that I was gay. But at least then I was sure about what I was. Then I met Claire and I started having these feelings about her. I think about her all the time, Dade. I just dont know why I cant admit it to myself. Its like I feel Im so confused. I dont know what Im supposed to be. One minute Im gay, the next Im buying tickets on the T and A express. Im so confused. What am I supposed to do?"
"Its ok, Josh. Im sorry, I never meant to make fun of you." Dade said trying his best to comfort Josh in one of the rare instances that Josh broke down and showed his vulnerable side.
Dade put his arm around Josh and tried to rub his arms reassuringly. Josh just kept crying in frustration. His face covered in tears and racked with sobs. Dade squeezed Josh tighter and just held him while Joshs sobs began to subside. Dade knew that this was something Josh needed to do. It was a form of release from all the pent up conflicting emotions he had inside him.
"Its ok, Bud. Just let it out. Im here for you."
"I wish I could be like you." Josh said as he stiffened up a little and tried to compose himself.
Josh wasnt as good at expressing his emotions or being as physically close to other people as Dade and everyone else seemed to be. He felt awkward when people hugged him, whether it be in the middle of a game after a touchdown or home run or whether it was a friend just being a friend. But lately since being friends with Dade and Claire and even Lucas. Lucas was a touchy feely kinda guy which made Josh feel awkward but since they werent friends anymore it didnt matter. Claire seemed to have no problem giving Josh a hug or kissing him on the cheek at the strangest moments but that was just Claire. If she liked you, that was how she acted around you. And Dade was someone who wasnt afraid of anything you wanted to do to him. Hug him, kiss him, whatever you wanted, hed let you do it if thats what you wanted to do. Dade would show you how he felt by the kindness in his presence and the sincerity of his friendship.
Josh tried to emulate aspects of his closest friends but obviously still had trouble sometimes. When Josh had realized hed stiffened up and away from Dade, he let out a small smile and simply put his arm around Dade and leant his head gently on Dades shoulder.
"Im trying, Dade. Im trying."
"I know, Bud." Dade said smiling back. "Youre doing just fine."
"I wish I could be like you. Youre so secure in yourself."
"Thats the biggest understatement of the year." Dade said frowning as he sighed. "You have no idea."
"What is it, Dade? Whats wrong?" Josh asked as he perked his head up.
"I have a confession to make."
"I came here for a reason."
"To seduce you." Dade said matter of factly.
"To what?" Josh said reeling back in surprise, instantly breaking any physical contact with Dade.
"I needed someone to want me." Dade said with a sigh. "I figured you could be that person but I realize you cant be."
"To want you?"
"I just need someone to want me, Josh. So bad. Marcel doesnt want me. Storm doesnt think Im a priority anymore to spend time with. Lucas said he wished I were never born. My Dad came to town today to spend time with me and Storm. Except he tells us that hes moving to Canada and he wants Storm to go with him. Just Storm. There was no me in there anywhere. Its always been about Storm to my Dad. He said he needed to make up for lost time like Storm was the only one who suffered. He doesnt want me. Just like Marcel doesnt. Just like Lucas doesnt. Just like Storm doesnt. And just like my Mom doesnt." Dade said as silent tears streamed down his face with not a sound or whimper coming from Dade himself, just tears. Silent tears.
"Your Mom?" Josh asked finally as he tried to absorb everything Dade had said.
"Do you remember when Storm was in hospital?"
"Yeah. What about it?"
"Mom was up there too for a little while. While she was gone I was cleaning up her room. I never meant to pry or anything. I was just cleaning it for her while she was gone. I was packing some things away in her wardrobe when I accidentally knocked down one of her old boxes where she had a lot of her old papers and junk. When I went to pick them all up, I found an old diary. I didnt even mean to read it but when I picked it up I couldnt help but notice the word Abortion. I never knew that Mom had an abortion in her life. I had to find out more so I checked the date of the entry and it was over six months before I was born. I read further on and found out that she planned to have me aborted on more than one occasion. She never said why she wanted to or why she never went through with it. Just that it could be a big mistake if she went through with having me. Apparently Dad was the one who was pressing her even more to have me aborted. Makes sense. Abby was the love child. Storm was the planned one. I was the inconvenient one."
"She never wrote down why?"
"No. It wasnt a personal diary, just notes in her planner diary. But it was her handwriting."
"This is why, isnt it? This is why youve been so down for so long. You think your Mom wished you were never born."
"I dont think it. I know it. She wrote it down herself. I cant have this baby. No two ways about it."
"But she did have you. And she still raised you. Maybe there are things you dont know about. Have you ever spoken to her about it?"
"No. Because shell just try and explain it away. The fact is I was a mistake."
"I think your Mom would really be hurt if she knew about how you felt."
"I know she would be. I tried talking to her about it before, tried to tell her it was ok that she didnt want me. But before I could she just broke down. I didnt want to hurt her anymore after that so I swore I wouldnt say anything to her. Im just trying to deal with it. Its just really hard sometimes. It gets to me and eats me up inside. I just feel totally unnecessary. Like if I werent here tomorrow then no one would give a shit. I thought Storm did but I dont think so anymore. Marcel doesnt. My parents dont."
"Do you want to stay over the night?" Josh asked concerned. "I can call Storm and tell him."
"Thanks." Dade smiled. "But Id better get home. I need to talk to Storm. I need to sort this out or itll kill me."
"Look, Dade. About your Mom. Whatever may have been going on at the time, she still had you. She still raised you. And whether you want to believe it or not, she still loves you and never regrets having you. I see pride in her eyes when she looks at you. Shes proud of you. You need to hear this from someone whos not connected to your family. Trust me on this."
"Thanks, Josh." Dade said letting out a huge sigh of relief as his eyes began to well up again, this time with a sense of joyous relief. "I think I did need to hear it from someone unconnected. I knew there was a reason I chose you to be my best friend. I told you that you had potential when we faced Brad on the field. I was right. Youve changed a lot."
"Thanks a lot to you. Dade I "
"I Im really glad were friends and I really appreciate you a lot." Josh said awkwardly.
"I love you too." Dade grinned. "And as far as your inner turmoil goes, this is the truest piece of advice, Ive ever been given. Follow your heart. Not your dick."
"This is something Storm said to me one time. Dont be gay. Dont be straight. Dont be bi. Just be you. Just be you. Everything else will work itself out. It did for me anyway. I quit worrying about who I was supposed to be and just concentrated on being me. Dont lock yourself into a label. If you feel for Claire, tell her. If you want to be with a guy, be with him. Just be. Ok? And quit worrying about everything else."
"I guess you and I are even tonight right?"
"Yep." Dade said smiling. "Except I feel like I owe you one."
"You dont. Trust me you dont."
"Have you ever kissed anyone before, Josh?"
"Uuuhh no not really."
"Well " Dade said leaning forward till his lips were just inches away from Joshs. "I wont be your first. Thanks for making me feel better."
"Youre welcome." Josh said blushing with embarrassment before he picked up his pillow and smashed Dade across the head with it. "Punk."
* * * * * * *
I lay awake in bed. Eyes scanning the dark interior of my vaguely moonlit room. My hands behind my head. The covers draped across my midsection, barely covering me. The cool night air nipping at my chest, arms and feet. I rubbed my feet together in a vain attempt to gather warmth. Probably an action performed more for psychological reasons than practical. I performed no other movements to try and warm myself.
My mind. My heart. My spirit. The cold seemed to reverberate there the most. Right now my state of being was in a total flux. Totally fluxed up.
I had no idea where to begin to decipher everything. To put it into some discernable form of logic. Some reasoning for why my life was the way it was right now. Not so much miserable. Just lacking.
Right now my biggest worry wasnt Lucas. Or Mike. Or Sarah. It was Dade. 3am and still no sign of him. We didnt exactly have the best night last night. He seems angry with me. And I dont blame him. I just havent been giving him the attention I should have been. The incident at Reese Bridge rattled me and made me realize I needed Dade more than I thought. I needed to be there for him more than I thought. That was the perfect opportunity for me to solidify my relationship with him and to help him get through what was obviously a difficult period. I realize now that I didnt use that opportunity. As soon as Lucas and I started falling apart, I completely neglected Dade. It wasnt just that I neglected him. It was that I neglected him at a time when he needed me. Thats something I cant quite forgive yet. But now I know its something I have to take care of.
"Dade!" I said with surprise, shooting my eyes towards my open door to see Dade standing there with a somber but more relaxed look on his face than the last time I saw him.
"Have you been waiting up for me?"
"I was worried." I said sitting up and moving back against the wall, leaving a free space for Dade to sit at the foot of my bed if he wanted it. "Im sorry about last night. Where have you been? Are you ok? Are you hungry? Do you want a hot drink?"
"No thanks." Dade smiled, his trademark dimples grinning at me. "Im sorry for last night. And Im sorry for keeping you up."
"Im sorry for being a jerk lately. Im really sorry."
"Its ok." Dade said with a reassuring smile as he sat down at the end of the bed. "You werent really a jerk. You just werent anything lately."
"You needed me. I wasnt there. I know it sounds lame to say I want to make up for it but I do."
"Its ok, Storm." Dade said putting his hand on top of mine and clasping it. "I love you anyway."
"Who have you been talking to? You seem in better spirits than last night."
"Josh. He helped me work out a few things."
"Oh, I see. So Im already too late to be of any assistance huh?" I asked regretfully but still raising my eyebrows in hopeful anticipation.
"Ill always need you, Storm. But in this case, I think its better that Josh was the one who helped me out rather than you."
"Ok." I said feeling rather rejected but still ok with the whole situation. "Is there anything I can do for you before you go to bed then?"
"Just talk to me. Tell me whats on your mind. Just us. The way we used to talk."
"I miss Lucas." I said flatly.
"Well thats obvious."
"Give me the brutal truth on what you think. No holds barred."
"Lucas. You two are made for each other, Stupid. Cant you see that yet? Yeah so Lucas is a fucking dumb idiot sometimes. And yeah even I want to knock him out sometimes. But hes the one, Storm. Hes the one for you. Im sick of seeing you two pussy footing around and denying the painfully obvious. Youre stupid for each other. I mean come on. Tell me what youre feeling, Storm. Honestly."
"Ok well to be honest. Youre right. I miss him like crazy. I miss him so bad, Dade. But I cant take him back. I cant."
"Take him back. Give the monkey another chance. Dont be so damn stubborn and proud."
"Dade, I took him back before. If I do it again then hell think Ill take him back every time he fucks me over."
"He wont do it again, Storm. He wont. Not intentionally."
"He never does it intentionally. He never thinks about what hes doing. Sometimes I think hes so selfish all he cares about is himself. If he wasnt so selfish hed think about what he was doing to me. Or to Ashley. She didnt deserve the shit he put her through. His dick literally fucked up her whole life." I said angrily. "Hes an idiot!"
"Youre just making yourself angry again, Storm. Calm down."
"I know, Im sorry." I said taking a deep breath as I swept the flecks of hair off my forehead with my fingers. "We shouldnt be talking about this."
"Just listen to me, Storm. I hate Lucas. I really do. Hes nothing but an asshole to me. But I know real love when I see it. And you have it whether you like it or not. You wouldnt be angry if you didnt still care."
"Thats what Lucas said too. And I know I love him, Im not denying that."
"I would die for what you have. What you have is a once in forever thing. You guys are so intense. Thats your problem. You dont know how to control what you have. Its so big and daunting. Youre both not sure how to deal with it. But its real. And its not unbreakable. Dont lose it because of your stubborn pride."
"How do you know so much?" I asked giving Dade a puzzled inquisitive look.
"Just trust me. Believe in me, Bro. When it comes to you, Ill never ever lead you wrong. If I wanted to do what I wanted, Id keep Lucas away. But I honestly believe he is the best thing to ever happen to you. You guys will work through all of this. And ten, twenty years from now youll realize I was right. Please, Storm."
"Ill think about it, Bro. I will. But still it seems like youre helping me again." I said with a sigh. "I want to be there for you as much as youre there for me."
"Long as I know you love me." Dade smiled as he stood up. "Ill be sweet."
"Well you know I do. Always."
"I know. I love you too. Big time. Ive just been angry about a few things but Ive managed to sort some of them out tonight."
"Dads one reason right?"
"Yeah." Dade sighed with disappointment. "I guess Im a little ticked off that he thinks he can just ride in whenever he wants and try to make up for lost time in a week. You think youre the only one who had a beef with him. He left me too you know. Ive just never been as vocal as you about how I felt."
"Well nows your chance."
"We both know he pays more attention to you too. Mind you everybody seems to. But thats not my problem with him. Id just appreciate something from him. Some sort of lifeline that makes me believe he cares about me. Or some sort of reasoning for why he left us alone for so long. He always seemed more interested in how you felt about him even when you werent talking than how I felt when he and I were."
"I never thought Id be defending him. And Im not going to. He has to tell you himself those answers you want."
"I know. I know. Look, Im going to let you get some sleep now. Sorry for keeping you up so long. But thanks for waiting up."
"Youre welcome. Well talk some more tomorrow."
"Night, Bro." Dade smiled as he walked out and headed towards his own room.
"Night." I replied.
* * * * * * *
So the next morning came and Id had time to think more about what Dade had said. It still amazed me that even at his low points; Dade would always come through for me. Now came dealing with Lucas. Or more to the point deciding how to deal with Lucas. To be quite honest, I dont even know whether or not Im someone hed want to see right now. We havent spoken to each other since I got back from the weekend with Ashley. I wasnt so much angry with Lucas anymore. I was more disappointed now and sad about how things had worked out.
"Josh!" I yelled, catching Joshs figure in the corner of my eye walking down the hallway. "Barrett!"
I walked up to Josh and shook his hand with a sincere smile on my face. "Thanks."
"For?" Josh asked seemingly disinterested.
"Being there for Dade. I think you know what I mean. Im sorry if it seems like youre picking up my slack. I just want you to know I appreciate what youve done for Dade. Youre a good friend to him. Hes lucky to have you."
"Im just as lucky. Hes my best friend. Ill be there if he needs me."
Josh looked me over semi intently, seemingly studying me as if to assess my psychological state of being or something along those lines. Probably trying to figure out what was affecting my relationship with Dade. He never appeared judgmental, just blankly inquisitive.
"Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks. Youre a good guy, Josh. But I think you already know that now. Its good to see." I said with a smile. "Ill see you around."
We nodded at each other and parted ways. Josh had changed a lot in the period of time since hed stopped hanging out with Brad. I have to say he really impresses me. He appears to have a very by the book attitude which I think is quite rare these days. Mix that with his sense of duty, loyalty, fairness and lack of dramatics and you have a level headed great guy.
Too bad hes not Dades type. Least I dont think he is. Wonder if he could ever be my type then?
"Storm, if you dodge me again, I swear Ill hit you."
"Morning, Sarah." I said with a wry smile.
Sarah just glared back at me before breaking into a somewhat wry smile of her own. "You seem better."
"How are you?"
"You mean you actually care?"
"You know it. Wheres Lucas?"
"Standing around the corner. Respecting your space while I speak to you. Pretty stupid I think."
"I agree." I said with a sigh. "Its been pretty stupid of me to brush you off lately too. Im sorry for being a jerk. Is there something I can do for you?"
"The Intermix. I need you in my corner. Will you be there please?"
"You got it." I said with a smile. "Ill be there. Do you mind if I have a word with Lucas?"
"No." Sarah said giving me a quizzical look. "And you dont need to ask me if you can speak to him. Im not his protector."
"Thanks, Sarah." I said as I walked down the crowded hallway and around the corner that Lucas was leaning against.
I stood there just looking at him. He was oblivious to my presence. He just stood there leaning against the wall in his own little world. It had been a long time since Id actually looked at him. Sure, Id seen him around a lot but never actually looked at him since wed broken up. Never watched him and tried to figure out what he was thinking or how he was feeling. Or just looked at him for the sake of looking. It felt good to be able to do that again.
He looked good. Well he always looks good but he looked good as in more than just physically. I can tell when Lucas is stressed or under pressure or feeling low. Today he seemed mostly okay.
I would have liked to have just stood there for a while looking at him but he turned his head in my direction and saw me looking at him. He looked back at me with a puzzled look on his face, trying to figure out what it was I was doing looking at him. He never said a word and neither did I, I just smiled back at him and tried to alleviate any tension between us. That just made him look at me even more strangely as if he thought I were nuts.
"Hi." I said softly as I walked up to a now stiffened and slightly tensed up Lucas.
"Uuhh, hi." Lucas said nervously but with an underlying smile evident on his face. "Hi, Storm."
"How are you?"
"Uuhh, Im ok. Im doing ok. How about you?"
"Im doing ok too. Im doing pretty good actually."
"Yeah " Lucas said regretfully. "I bet you are. Is there something I can do for you, Storm? You havent spoken to me since that weekend which was a while ago now. Figured youd never speak to me again actually so you must have a reason for coming up to me today."
"I came to apologize for acting like a lughead throughout all this. And for ignoring you. I just couldnt deal with speaking to you without getting all worked up. I just want to say that I dont hate you and I hope you dont hate me either. We used to be friends. Surely we can get past everything to at least acknowledge each other again."
"Because youre ready now huh." Lucas said with just the slightest hint of annoyance. "Fine, Storm. Anything you want. You say jump, I say how high. Thats how it works isnt it? Youre ready to stop being a stubborn jackass so now I have to be ready to be all accepting and submissive. Thankful to the benevolent Storm for gracing me with his presence. Well things change, people change. I changed. Fuck off." Lucas said sharply as he walked right past me towards Sarah.
I stood there a little dumbfounded, a little surprised but mostly impressed. Lucas had just knocked me on my ass, metaphorically speaking.
"Cool." I said smiling to myself. "Theres hope for you yet, Sheridan."
* * * * * * *
Coming Soon - SF24: Flipside Upside
I hope you like this chapter and stick around for the next one. This marks a turning point for Season 3 that will lead into the finale, Dissipating Storms. Mike is making some headway with his own problems. Both Lucas and Storm have resigned themselves to empty fates or denial states. Josh is coming into his own and trying to overcome his own inner turmoils. Dade is just flipside upside downside everyside. But at least we finally know some of the motives for a lot of his actions since SF13: Paths Not Taken & SF14: Redemption right up until now. Sarah is trying to reestablish herself. And June and Daniel Sr are finding old habits die hard but Daniel has other motives. That just sounded like a summary. That was a summary. Why did I do that? Who cares, anyway. Take care everyone! Until next time...Stay Tuned for SF24: Dissipating Storms and send me a note** to let me know what you thought of Chapter 23: FlipSide