Nifty Disclaimer - This story is a work of fiction and contains scenes including sexual relations between people of the same gender. If this isn't your cup of tea, or is illegal where you live, please do not read. Any relation between fictional characters and real people is purely coincidental.


Chapter 14 Note - This chapter, as originally posted contained the wrong text. It has now been fixed. Thanks to those readers who pointed that out!


Do Over

Chapter 14

By DK Stories


Tuesday morning, as Trevor and I finished chores and walked back into the house, I was surprised to see Mary Lou sitting at the kitchen table talking to Tyatya and Dyadya. Both of them were frowning at what she was saying and they went silent as Trevor and I entered. It was Tyatya that broke the silence.

[Why do you not tell us about your trouble at school?] She demanded in Russian, waving the spatula she was using to fry eggs at me. Luckily, no hot grease went my way.

[I not remember.] I answered in Russian.

[How you not remember something like this?] She asked disbelievingly.

['Remember' maybe wrong word.] I said quickly. [How do you say English word 'forgot' in Russian?]

It was Dyadya who answered and I nodded.

[I am sorry, Tyatya, I forgot.] I said correctly and they both nodded.

[You not forget again, young man.] She said, still slightly angry. [We may not be your parents, but we care and will help if you share with us.]

[Thank you. I will remember.] I said somewhat humbly and they both nodded.

"You speak Russian?" Mary Lou asked me with some surprise.

"He learn some from books in your County Library." Dyadya said with a shrug. "We are teaching him to speak it properly."

"I see." Mary Lou said with a shake of her head. "Davey, did you also forget to call me yesterday?"

"Yes, ma'am." I said guiltily. I had forgotten to call her. "Sorry."

"Well, be glad your principal did call me yesterday evening." She told me. "I called Judge Thompson and he wants to see you this morning. You're probably going to miss a few of your classes."

"Okay." I said softly. "Let me get showered and dressed."

"We have to be in his chambers at seven-thirty." She told me and I nodded before heading upstairs. That gave me a half-hour to shower and change. Luckily, I didn't really have to shave yet. I was getting some peach fuzz on my face, but a quick bout with a razor had taken care of that on Saturday. Brian was already getting more facial hair and shaving almost three times a week. I dressed in slacks instead of jeans, and a nice button-down blue shirt before heading back downstairs. I grabbed my backpack with my books and Mary Lou motioned for me to go ahead and sit down. Tyatya had a plate of food waiting for me, which I scarfed down quickly, to disapproving frowns from all three adults. I gave Dyadya and Tyatya a hug before leaving.

"Judge Thompson is in quite a mood right now." Mary Lou warned me as we headed downtown in her car.

"Is he mad at me?" I asked her very worriedly. Having a judge who held your future in your hands mad at you was not a good thing.

"He's upset you didn't call, but he's not mad at you." Mary Lou said firmly. "He's mad at the people trying to get you kicked off the team. I swear, what it is with men and football; I will never understand."

"You're probably right there." I agreed with her, earning me a friendly scowl.

"There's also the matter of this Dr. Grayson sending private information without the court or Social Services approving it before hand." She said and I winced. I hadn't thought of that, and it could get the doctor in trouble. "The good news is that I talked to him this morning and he did call Brian's mom and get her approval, and he got your mother's approval through an associate of his that has a practice here."

"Mom works for him." I said and Mary Lou nodded.

"That's good enough that the judge decided no action was necessary except to advise the doctor that any further releases of information must be court approved or approved by Social Services." Mary Lou said. "I've heard about Doctor Grayson and he seems like a good man. It's a good thing he won't get in trouble over this."

"I didn't even think about that." I admitted, and Mary Lou seemed to approve of that comment.

"Well, remember it for future reference." She told me in a no-nonsense tone.

"So what does Judge Thompson want to talk to me about?" I asked her.

"Your principal indicated you wanted to talk to a reporter about a story the newspaper is working on, a story that involves you." She explained and I nodded. "Well, that's the main thing, and he wants to talk to you about this situation in general. It could get very sticky for everyone involved and he wants to make sure you understand what you can and cannot do."

"Okay." I said softly and she nodded. We were pulling into the court parking lot where she paid the meter and led me at a fast trot towards the court building. In 1983 it lacked the security I'd seen when I entered it at the age of thirty-two for a family court matter about my grandparents, and seemed much friendlier to the public. Mary Lou talked briefly to a clerk at a front desk and we were soon shown back to the judge's chambers by a bailiff.

"Davey, get your butt in here." Judge Thompson said after the bailiff had announced us. His chambers were comfortable, but reflected 1950's décor. He motioned both Mary Lou and I to seats near his large oak desk and frowned at me over steepled fingers.

"I trust Mary Lou has already given you the lecture about keeping her informed from now on?" He said after a long moment's silence.

"Yes, sir, and I want to apologize for not having done it this time." I said softly and he nodded.

"Son, remember that you are not in this alone, no matter how much you may feel like you are, and you are not in this with your friend alone either." He said in a fatherly tone, his eyes meeting mine comfortably. "You have impressed many people, including Ms. Hacker and myself. You've impressed me not just with your football, although that does carry a lot of weight with me, but by your actions and your bearing. Don't spurn our respect by not coming to us when you need help."

"I won't sir." I promised him and he nodded acceptance of that promise.

"Now, about the situation you're looking at right now." He said. "My role in this is very limited. Your guardianship rests with Social Services and your foster parents, not directly with the courts. My main role is to oversee how your case is handled, so I am not your advocate. My goal, and those of Social Services, is to do what is best for you in lieu of your parents. Do you understand that?"

"Yes, sir, I do." I assured him and he seemed satisfied with that.

"Now, a young man of your maturity should have a healthy say in major decisions in his life, but the final decisions are up to your foster parents, your case worker, the Social Services Director, and to me. Do you understand that?"

"Yes sir." I answered, not sure where this was heading.

"I talked to your principal last night about the phone calls he has been receiving." Judge Thompson said, opening a file and looking at it closely. "This morning I received copies of the letters sent on your behalf from San Francisco, and you can rest assured that the court will accept them at face value and not allow the Social Services Director to deny your continuing visitations to the AIDS patients."

"He wants to deny those trips?" I asked with some surprise. I hadn't heard that before.

"I received a phone call from him last night telling me to direct your foster parents to not allow any more trips." Mary Lou said. "I mentioned it in passing to Judge Thompson."

"And the court is overruling that decision." Judge Thompson said sternly. "It's admirable that a young man like you would think of others so much that he makes these trips like you do, and it's something I wish more of our foster children would think of doing. In fact, I'm hoping someone like Mary Lou might organize coordinated visits with sick people here in town."

"I'll bring the idea up at our next general meeting." Mary Lou said with a smile and Judge Thompson nodded.

"Now, as for you wanting to meet this reporter, I have some serious concerns." The judge continued, looking at me sternly. "You've never met with a reporter before, have you?"

"Not really." I said, and it was essentially true because in this life I had not.

"Reporters can be very tricky." Judge Thompson said carefully. "You have to be careful in what you say as well as how you say things. Despite my misgivings, you are a very intelligent young man, and I'm willing to allow this if, and only if, Social Services are present during the interview. The only reason I'm not going to just approve it is I want to know why you want to talk to him directly instead of letting others do it for you. You have some very capable advocates on your side."

"The problem with all of the advocates I do have is that they have other loyalties that could conflict with what I want said." I told him carefully. "Mary Lou can not contradict Social Services policy, even though the situation may warrant her to do so, and she is firmly bound by privacy laws as well. My foster parents are likewise bound by privacy laws. My principal must be careful for his position, and to be honest it would do me no good to have him fired because he was too vocal on my behalf. That would probably be worse for me in the long run. He's supportive, but he cannot risk his position which he might have to do in order to squarely face the issues being thrown at me. You've told me this morning that you cannot be an advocate because of your role as presiding judge on my case. Brian's parents are advocates for him, but they have no real standing to speak for me. That leaves no one but me to act as my advocate. The good news is that I do have people like you and Mary Lou who I can turn to for advice and guidance, as well as my foster parents, my friends' parents, my principal, and others."

"Ms. Hacker, I'm approving Davey's request to be allowed to speak to the press on the condition that a representative from Social Services is present at all times." Judge Thompson said with a wide smile before looking at me. "You, young man, had better go to law school."

"I plan to, sir." I said with a smile.

"Now, tell me how the team's doing." He said next, leaning forward with an avid smile that was contagious. We ended up talking football for twice as long as we'd talked about the business at hand, and it took Mary Lou's pointed observation that I was supposed to be in school to end the conversation. We left, with his admonition that he expected the team to win the Regional Championship or I'd be toast.

"I'll notify the Director that the judge has approved the meeting with the press and set up a meeting along with Brian's parents." Mary Lou told me as she headed towards school. She was smiling, which was a good thing. "I'll notify your foster parents of when and where the interview will take place."

"Thanks." I told her and we continued the drive in silence. I thanked her again at the school and went into the attendance office to let them know I was back. At least my absence from classes would be an 'approved' absence. It was third period, and Brian looked up with a relieved smile as I walked in late to class, handing a pass to the teacher, who just frowned before continuing his boring lecture.

Okay, it was boring to me. I could pass that class in my sleep.

At lunch, I was bombarded with questions by my four friends (Sean was now included regularly in our group) about what happened with the judge. They laughed at most of it, and nodded at the rest. Brian said he'd talked last night with his parents after I'd left, and they were furious as hell about the crap that was being said. About halfway through lunch we were surprised by Thomas, from the team, sitting down at our table. There was a healthy space between us and other students and he leaned forward after sitting down.

"If anybody asks, I'm here talking about football." He said so softly he was almost inaudible over the buzz of hundreds of other conversations.

"Okay, so what are you here to talk about?" Brandon asked him with an arched eyebrow.

"It's about what's going on with you guys." Thomas said as softly as before. "My parents go to First B, and last Sunday there was a lot of talk about AIDS and stuff, both in bible school and during service. They were really ragging on you people, you know, gay people, and said that you were out to infect everyone with your disease."

"They actually said that from the pulpit?" I asked in surprise.

"No, but the Sunday School teacher said that." Thomas answered. "The preacher just talked about how it was a danger to all god-fearing people and we needed to do something about keeping it from spreading. They did urge people to call politicians, the schools and everything to let them know we weren't going to stand for it being allowed in our schools. The preacher even mentioned you two by name, Davey and Brian."

"Shit, we're famous." Brian joked, and it fell flat on its face.

"What did he say exactly about us?" I asked Thomas.

"He said something like 'we're seeing it now with two lost youngsters by the name of Davey Jones and Brian Breckenridge, right here in one of our own schools. They've been cavorting with diseased perverts in that din of inequity, and now they've been brainwashed to bring their evil here, into our home.' He went on about that for a while."

"He really said that?" Brian asked with wide eyes and a scowl.

"Yup." Thomas answered. "I got sick of it half-way through and started tuning him out, which is why I can't remember everything he said."

"You remembered enough, bud." I told him gently. "Thanks for telling us as well, I appreciate it."

"Don't take this the wrong way, but I really don't like what you guys are." Thomas said sourly. "I don't think it's right, but I don't think they're right saying those things about you and making you all out to be evil, either."

"Dude, we can't ask for more respect than that." Brian said with a broad smile and Thomas nodded before standing up.

"Well, we'll kick their asses anyway." He said a little more loudly and moved to dump his empty tray at the back of the cafeteria.

"Dudes, that is just wrong." Brandon said and then looked at Sean who was sitting next to him. "Dude, don't you go to that church?"

"Unfortunately." Sean said with a frown. "Mom and Dad have stopped making me go, but they did. They didn't say anything about this crap either, just smiled at me like they knew something I didn't."

"Dude, how's things going for you?" I asked him and he shrugged. It had been some time since I'd heard anything about what was going on with him.

"It sucks, but it's not as bad as it was." Sean said with another shrug. "Mom and Dad aren't making me go to church anymore, and they stopped making me do those prayer things at the house after last week. Thanks for that, by the way. I think what happened with you made them stop."

"Glad it helped you out." I told him and he smiled slightly.

"They're still keeping me grounded, and some woman from Social Services came by yesterday." Sean continued. "I had to quit the chess club, but that's not really a big deal. What sucks is they won't let me go out and do anything with anyone, especially Brandon."

"We still see each other at school, little guy." Brandon said fondly, reaching out and hugging Sean briefly. It looked like Sean was a little uncomfortable with that, but he also seemed to appreciate it at the same time.

After practice that day, Dyadya picked up Trevor and I, telling us he needed some help in the orchard. He did need the help, but he also wanted to talk to the both of us about stuff at school. The conversation was stilted because he was using Russian and many of the words I didn't know, but we eventually got through things to his satisfaction. He also told me that Mary Lou had called to say the interview would take place with the reporter on Wednesday after practice. Mary Lou would pick me up and take me to the Social Services center where the interview would take place. Brian would be there with his parents at the same time.

Bill McCloud came over about seven-thirty. Bill went to our school, and played baseball, but not football. He looked over at me a little nervously as I was sitting on the couch reading Russian poems, but didn't say anything. When Trevor escorted him outside, to show Bill the new pitchforks Dyadya had bought the other day, I shared a knowing smile with Trevor's parents.

[You did not tell him we know why he goes out to the barn?] Dyadya asked me with the barely visible smile most Russians would use.

[No, I did not.] I said smoothly. [I am waiting until the good time.]

[You do like your jokes.] Tyatya said with a chuckle and I laughed aloud. Trevor returned about an hour later, while Dyadya was listening to me recite Derzhavin. It's a Russian thing, about poems. When you read them, you're supposed to memorize them; it's almost a cultural thing. Being able to recite dozens of poems at any time, in their entirety is a mark of being 'cultured' in their society. For me, it was a good memory exercise, and I was surprised at how much easier it was to learn them without having years of alcohol and drug use cluttering up my brain.

[Where is Bill?] Tyatya asked Trevor.

[He left for home.] Trevor said with a shrug.

[Did he like the new pitchforks?] I asked Trevor and earned myself a very scathing look from my friend.

[Yes, and then I showed him how you messed up milking the cow and left her teats so sore she cried all day.] Trevor shot back and earned himself a few chuckles. I let it drop then, not wanting to push him any further yet. I was waiting for Brian to come over and then we'd go out to the barn, and I'd say something that would give Trevor a great big shock.

I went to bed a little earlier than normal. For some reason I was feeling fairly tired so I just hugged Tyatya and Dyadya good night, then gave Trevor a hug, which I think surprised him slightly, and headed up for bed. It wasn't more than ten minutes before I was asleep.

Wednesday marked a change for the worst. Twice while walking in the crowded halls between classes, I had someone bump into me and then say "Keep away you sick pervert" or "Fuck, I hope I didn't catch anything from him". Brian heard all of them, and was frowning as deeply as I was when we sat at the table for lunch. I noticed Jay, and Mike Sells walking by, and they made it a point to curve away from the table where we were sitting, with Mike saying "Watch out, Jay, wouldn't want you to get sick."

I actually had to hold Brian down from going after them. Mike Sells was a skinny runt, and the current 'leader' of the Bible Club on campus. It appeared a low-grade whisper campaign was beginning, focused on us. I knew over-reacting would only makes things worse for us, but we would have to do something soon.

Or maybe not, because the entire freshman football team got up after Jay and Mike Sells had passed by, and they sat down at the table where we were at, forcing a dozen students at the other end to leave. Nothing was said about the comments that had been made, but I smiled broadly while Reynolds talked to Brian about the team we were facing on Friday, and making bets on how many sacks we'd get between Brian and I.

After lunch was over and we were heading back to our classes, I noticed Jay and Mike Sells grabbing Thomas and another player, whispering fiercely into their ears. Both freshman shook themselves loose from the Senior and Junior, and walked off without saying anything I could hear or see. Jay noticed me observing them closely and shot me an angry look before heading off to his own classes.

It was after German that I bumped into Bill McCloud. I started to smile, but he looked at me with fear for a moment before saying "Fag" and moving away. A few people around us noticed and I had to control the urge to 'out' him after last night. I didn't believe in doing stuff like that, but I made a mental note to mention this to Trevor later in the day.

When Brian and I entered the locker rooms for P.E., Coach Halpern called us into his office. I wondered exactly what he wanted, figuring it had to do with the AIDS issue, but wasn't sure exactly what he wanted to say. His expression was carefully neutral as he shut the door behind us.

"I just wanted a quick word with the two of you." He said in a neutral tone. "I've been getting a few phone calls myself, and Mr. Borsch showed me the stuff your doctor sent. Also, I've been doing some reading on my own and I want to assure you both I'm not going to let them get two of my best players kicked off the team when we're getting ready for the championship."

"Thanks coach." Brian said and I nodded my agreement.

During practice, I found myself standing alongside Thomas who kept on looking at me with a worried expression. Every few seconds he'd turn to look at me, start to say something and then turn away. After the fifth time he did that, I got a little exasperated.

"What is it?" I demanded in a harsh tone and he jumped slightly.

"You won't like it." He warned me.

"I don't like a lot of things, that doesn't mean I don't want to know." I countered and he frowned.

"I could get in trouble for telling you." Thomas said, and then sighed. "But, you'll find out soon enough anyway. Man, our parents are getting pissed. They've been calling the school board all day to get them to force you two off the team."

"What do you think about that?" I asked him.

"It fucking sucks." Thomas replied. "I've even talked to a lot of the guys, and we're all getting pissed. It's not like you and Brian are going to try to rape us or anything, and we don't think you're going to make us sick because you're not sick, so it's no big deal, but the folks just don't seem to get it."

"Have you tried telling them that?" I asked him and he let out a sigh.

"My old man accused me of being a fag because I stuck up for you last night." Thomas said with a shudder. "I had two guys from church tell me I was going to be a fag if I hung around you and my girlfriend told me if I stuck up for you guys again she'd dump me."

"Now that sucks." I said softly and he nodded. "Dude, you have to do what is right for you."

"That's the thing, it's fucking wrong what they're doing." Thomas said. "I mean, I've told you how I feel, and that's not changed. I still think you're going to burn in hell, but it's your choice, dude. I don't like seeing people do stuff like they're doing to you, it's even more wrong."

"So, what are you going to do?" I asked him again.

"I don't know." Thomas said with another sigh. "Dude, I'm so pissed right now. I'm ready to dump my girlfriend because of what she said, but I like her too, you know?"

"Man, I have to ask, if you're relationship is on the rocks because you do what's right, is it worth it to keep her?" I said softly and we were silent for a good minute.

"No, and it's like I've always been told to do the right thing, stick up for what's right and all that." Thomas said with a sigh. "They preach that every Sunday at Sunday School, and well, I'm not going to give in to them."

"Thanks, bud, I appreciate it a lot." I said, giving him a slap on the shoulder pads. He smiled miserably.

"They're trying to get a special school board meeting together." Thomas said in a very soft voice. "If they do, they're going to try to ban you two from playing sports. I think I'm going to see who else on the team will show up if they do to support you. Maybe if we all threatened to quit, they'd back down."

"Don't threaten to quit." I advised him softly. "All that will do is get their backs riled up and they'll move forward just to call you on that. If you all do quit, we get blamed for ruining a winning season. If you don't quit, you lose any credibility you had. If they have this meeting, which since Mr. Borsch is walking this way I think they will be, show up as a group, wearing your jerseys. Have two people appointed to speak for you, instead of everyone trying to speak. Make sure they express what you guys think, and let it go at that. If you guys want us on the team and aren't worried about this 'AIDS' scare they're making up, then tell them that and leave it there. Don't make threats, don't promise you're going to quit, just tell them what you think and what you feel."

"Dude, where'd you come up with that?" Thomas asked me and I shrugged.

"I spend a weekend a month in San Francisco listening to the stories of dying men." I told him in a soft voice. "Some of them are pretty wild, but some of them are about stuff like this and the mistakes they made in the past. I just listen to them and they give me ideas."

"What's it like when you go visit?" Thomas asked me in a very quiet voice.

"It's sad as hell." I said honestly. "Most of the time the guys we visit one month are dead by the time we visit again, and we know the guys we're visiting that month are likely going to be dead the next time we come up. A lot of them don't have any visitors, much less family coming to see them, so they're all depressed and they all know they're dying so it's just worse for them."

"How the fuck can you stand it?" Thomas asked with a note of horror in his voice.

"It's like you were just saying about doing the right thing." I told him. "Dude, they're up there, dying all alone. They feel like they're outcasts, pariahs and that no one cares about them. We go up there and show them someone does care, we let them know before they die that someone cares enough to spend some time with them. Believe me, it makes a difference most of the time. You can see it in their eyes when we leave."

"Dude, that's the kind of thing churches should be doing." Thomas said firmly and I couldn't help but agree."

"Yeah, they should." I agreed. "The only problem is, most of the church groups that have gone have tried to preach at them and tell them they were sinners and going to hell, sent by the wrath of God himself."

"They didn't." Thomas said in horror and I nodded.

"That was about six months ago." I told him. "There's two catholic priests that come by every now and then. They sit, and talk, and listen, like Brian and I do. Every now and then a patient will ask about God, and the priest will talk about that with them. They don't force it on the patients, but the patients know they're priests, and they know they'll talk to them about God if they ask. I think that's the right way to handle things."

"Yeah, it sounds decent." Thomas said with a shrug. That was when Coach Halpern's voice yelled out for Brian and I to come talk to the principal. Brian was on the field, so we met each other as we trotted off to the end of the field where the coach was standing with the principal.

"Boys, I've got some bad news." Mr. Borsch said when we stood in front of him in our practice gear. "Davis High's principal called me twenty minutes ago to tell me that she won't be allowing her team to play Downey on Friday. She said she was worried about her students being infected with 'sick diseases' from some of my players. A minute after I hung up with her, the chair of the district board called and told me to have you off the team so this didn't erupt into a big scandal. I refused, telling him I had no grounds to kick you off the team, and went over the letters from your Doctor Grayson and all that. He was pissed and told me that there is going to be an emergency board meeting tomorrow night to discuss the issue."

"Can they do this?" Brian asked worriedly.

"Well, if they issue an order taking you two off the team, it will have to be enforced." Mr. Borsch said. "If you sue them for it, I don't know if you'll win or not, and as a school official I strongly discourage such action."

"Are they going to hold it as a public hearing?" I asked him quietly.

"I'm not sure." Mr. Borsch answered. "If they think it's going to be big news, they'll probably try to hold it closed session, saying that since it concerns specific students they're allowed to do so. If you're there, though, it will be hard for them to do that or to not allow you to speak and observe the closed session with your parents or guardians."

"Coach, I need to leave practice early." I said with a slight wince.

"You've had enough practice for the day, Jones, both of you have." Coach Halpern said with a nod. "Hit the showers."

"What the fuck are we going to do now?" Brian asked as we were showering in the empty locker room. I looked at him for a long moment with sadness.

"I'm sorry I've gotten you involved in all this." I said softly and he snorted.

"Bullshit, Davey, don't even think I'm going to let you get away with that one." Brian said deprecatingly. "I'm the one who got all hot and bothered by your ass, got you into that singlet and made you my boyfriend. I don't care how many memories you have of another life-time, here and now, I made you mine and you're going to be mine forever."

"Okay, okay, sorry I said anything." I said defensively, but I was smiling broadly. He just nodded shampooing his hair.

"So, what are we going to do?" He asked me again.

"Do you want this enough to fight hard, and fight publicly?" I asked him softly.

"You mean like this paper interview we have today, going to the board meeting and all that?" Brian asked scoffingly. "I thought we were already doing that."

"That too, but more stuff." I said as I shampooed my own hair. "I mean taking them to court, maybe forming a gay club here on campus, pushing the issue forward instead of just responding to their actions. We both know the best defense is a good offense, and when we go on the offensive, it's going to be noticed. Probably we'll get national attention, which means people will know our names and what's going on here."

"Think we'll make the history books?" Brian asked and I shrugged while rinsing my hair out.

"Maybe." I said aloud.

"Good, let's do it." Brian said and I looked over at him. He was smiling and I let out a sigh.

"Okay, we'll do this." I agreed as he turned off his showerhead and stepped next to me, wrapping me in his arms.

"Looks like we're going to change history after all, lover-boy." He said gently, kissing my ear. I just leaned into his embrace for a long moment. Truth be told, I wanted this fight. I'd started to fight like this in the time before, when I was in college, but I became disillusioned with it for several reasons. By the time I'd realized I shouldn't have quit the fight, it was too late for several personal reasons, and I'd gone into the eventual slide downhill that had left me broke, homeless and penniless, and thus led me here.

After several minutes of the quiet hugging in the shower, I turned off my showerhead and we headed out to dry off and get into our regular clothes. We dressed quickly, and in silence, and were soon heading out of the locker room towards the pay phones. We didn't make it more than three steps though before I saw Mary Lou, my mother, and Trevor's parents heading our way from the football practice field. Mr. Borsch was walking with them as well, and they all looked pretty grim. Brian and I steered towards them and he put his arm across my shoulders again. Mom frowned at that, but quickly changed her expression to something more neutral.

"What's up?" I asked as we all came to a stop, facing each other.

"A lot of things are happening real fast right now." Mary Lou started off. She looked particularly worried. "First of all, I believe your mother has some things to tell you."

"Hi Mom." I said to her and she smiled briefly.

"Davey, your father and I got into a fight last night." She said and I tensed up. Brian squeezed me closer to him and I relaxed a little as she continued. "He wanted us to go to Social Services and to tell them you were welcome back in the family. What he was wanting to tell them was that you would be grounded for two months for defying us, and then would be allowed to play team sports if you wanted, but you could have no contact with Brian."

"What made him change his mind?" I asked warily. That would have taken me out of football for the rest of the season, and left a lot of open ended things, leaving Brian to face things on his own.

"He…he's been working with Dr. Darnell and Dr. Mills and members of the school board to figure out how to take you off team." Mom admitted softly. "They want to take you out of the picture so that Brian will back down and they'll win. Then, in a few months, once things had died down, we'd move to another city, and send you to a psychiatric center. I couldn't do it, Davey, it wasn't right what he wanted to do, and I told him so."

"He didn't like that." I said and she nodded.

"Your dad got mad and started yelling and screaming." Mom said. "I yelled back and well, he hit me. That's when I got Jenny and we went to Nanny's. We're staying there and I'm thinking I'm going to divorce him."

"I'm sorry, Mom." I said softly, moving to give her a hug. She took the hug, and cried against my chest for a moment while the rest of the group watched in silence.

"Davey, your Nanny, she doesn't like the idea of what's going on." Mom said softly after she was done crying against me. "I'm sorry, but she doesn't want you living with me right now."

"It's okay, Mom." I said softly and meant it.

"Well, that's where some more problems come in." Mary Lou said softly and I looked at her questioningly. "The Director has come under a lot of heat the last two days and he's folded to the pressure. I've been removed from your case, and the most… religious caseworker we have is being assigned to you. She's going to be going over to your foster house later today. They're revoking the temporary foster license, placing you with a religious family in another school district, and you're going to be taken out of football. If your parents are separated, your mother would have no problems with custody, but she's said she doesn't have a place for you stay."

"But there's no reason to keep me from her custody anymore, is there?" I said quickly, an idea coming to me very quickly. "As my legal guardian, my parent, she can designate other relatives, or even friends of the family to act as my daily caretakers while she resolves her housing situation, can't she?"

"If she had custody of you, yes." Mary Lou said thoughtfully. "The problem is, her custody rights were temporarily suspended."

"Reverse the suspension." I said firmly. "Social Services couldn't object to her designating someone to act as my caretakers in order for me to remain in the same school. Mom, if we did that, would you let me stay with the Rush's?"

"Would you be willing to do that?" Mom asked the Rush parents directly.

"Of course." Dyadya said firmly and Tyatya nodded.

"I talked to the Principal at Jenny's school already." Mom said. "He said we'd have to take her out of school if I moved in with my mother. Jenny's a little upset about it, but two of her friends moved last week so she's not really against going to another school, especially since her boyfriend broke up with her yesterday. Davey though, I know you wouldn't want to have to change schools."

"I hate Ceres High." I said firmly, remembering another lifetime and an awful half-year at that school. Plus there was the generations old Downey/Ceres rivalry going on.

"Well, it's not common, but not unusual for parents to do that on a temporary basis to allow their children to finish a school year at their current institution." Mary Lou said very carefully. "The sticking point is going to be your father if he tries to assume custody, and of course, Social Services. However, the director really hates the whole situation and might just go with this to move the whole thing out of his department. He didn't really have a problem with things until he started getting put under pressure, and he'll realize he can get rid of the pressure by getting your case out of our office."

"So, we need to get Judge Thompson involved?" I asked Mary Lou and she nodded.

"Yes, I think you should call him directly, Davey." Mary Lou advised. "Tell him you've spoken with your mother and have no objections to her regaining custody. Don't tell him this is so you can stay with the Rush family. Just tell him your mom is going to let you finish your year at Downey by living with them during the week. He can accept that at face value. He'll probably schedule a hearing for tomorrow morning, knowing him."

"Do I have to get an attorney?" Mom asked and Mary Lou looked thoughtful.

"I'd be ready to get one if I were you, but tomorrow you should be okay." Mary Lou said carefully. "The Director… well if he does object he'll bring in an attorney, but I doubt he will do that. Your father might, Davey, but you've got a secret weapon to bring up."

"I do?" I asked with no little confusion. She smiled at me.

"Yes, your family went through counseling for several issues over the last few years." She reminded me. "The issues included physical abuse when you were younger, an attempted molestation of your sister, and several physical altercations between you and your father. By law, the psychologist you saw as a family is required to report these things, but she reported that there was very little likelihood of continued abusive behavior based on your family's efforts to work through these things. Social Services didn't follow up on it because of that opinion, but it was in your file when I checked with the state records office. If your father shows up and tries to get custody of you, bring it up and Social Services will have to confirm those records."

"Will that be enough?" I asked her.

"Yes." She said. "Unfortunately, that means you will have to spend tonight with the foster family your new case worker will take you to. Just bear with it for one night. Now, go call Judge Thompson. You have his number?"

"Memorized." I said firmly, trotting off to make the call. Twenty minutes later, we pulled into the Rush home where a pinch-faced social worker waited, complete with police escort to take me to a new home. She barely let me pack anything, standing guard over my bedroom window, and told me not to bother with the picture of Brian and I together. I stared at her and put it firmly in my bag, silently daring her to do anything.

We drove in silence across town to where she stopped at a small house on the west side. The family she introduced me to were the Barringers, and they did not even smile as I was introduced to them. The mother, a short, stocky woman showed me to a very small bedroom with a single bed, pine-board dresser, and nothing else. When I set my bag down on the bed, I heard the door click shut and lock from the outside. Inside I smiled knowing this was a violation of the foster care rules. I didn't fume, didn't shout or scream, instead I opened my bag, pulled out the picture of Brian and I, and placed it on the cheap dresser before lying back in the lumpy bed and staring at it with a small smile.


As with all my stories, E provides immeasurable input, grammar checking, and all those other lovely editing thingies that make the story so much better!


Feedback, an Author's Lifeblood

A/N - Several Readers have asked if I have a website or other stories on the net. Some of my early stories, including MIsts of Fate were posted here to Nifty and to . Most of my later stories are now posted on in the Hosted Authors section (just look for DK Stories). Enjoy!