Jump to content

dkstories

Classic Author
  • Posts

    2,532
  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won

    56
View Author Profile

dkstories last won the day on July 8 2018

dkstories had the most liked content!

Reputation

13,973 Adept Scribe 1st Class

Story Reviews

  • No Story Reviews

Comments

  • Rank: #0
  • Total: 223

About dkstories

Profile Information

  • Interests
    Reading, politics, and baseball

Recent Profile Visitors

59,318 profile views
  1. dkstories

    Chapter 28

    The KGB was an organization not hemmed in by stupid considerations like the Geneva Convention, the International Agreement on Human Rights or any of the other numerous considerations in how to treat a prisoner. When Brian arrived at Lubyanka prison they made it clear to him that he would tell them what they wanted to know, and they started the process with their fists. Part of him hoped that Davey would somehow come for him, but on the second day they gave him copies of Pravda, the main newspaper. Later that day they threw in copies of the New York Times. Yeltsin was dead, Gorbachev had ceded power to the men who had started the coup, and their hopes for a better future were dead as well. If they thought that news would break him, they were wrong. Nor did he believe the claims that Davey and the others had been captured. He wouldn't believe anything they told him about Davey until they showed Brian his lover's body, alive or dead. The beatings continued for several days, and then they began the next course of treatment. Brian remembered the War on Terror and the secrets that came out of the second Bush that caused him to be a one-term President. Davey's father had spent a great deal of time rebuilding the US reputation after the extent of how America had tortured people became widely known. The man had barely been able to prevent the former President from being tried on War Crimes charges, but eventually the furor died down. These men didn't care about any of those things. Nor were they constrained by the semantics that limited the United States in its interrogation of terrorists. There were worst things than waterboarding, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation and loud rock music. They worked faster too, and before a week was out, Brian was ready to tell them everything he knew, give them every answer that they wanted. They didn't believe him. As he stuttered out his confession of time travel and the intention of forging a stronger, more independent Russia in the years ahead, his interrogators didn't bother stifling their laughter. Brian would have laughed too, but it wasn't that type of situation. That was when they decided to start on his fingers, tearing his fingernails off with a device that had probably been invented by the Spanish Inquisition. The same men laughed at his screams of pain, and his stuttering insistence in Russian that every word he said was true. He didn't know how long the next phase of torture lasted, but when it ended he was little more than a bleeding wreck of a human being. That was when they started giving him morphine for the pain, and even after his fingers started healing, they kept giving him the wonderful, blissful pain medicine. Brian knew he was becoming addicted, but the desire for the sweet feeling of numbness and total release from the physical confines of his body had him craving for more, begging for more when they suddenly stopped giving him the drug. All sense of time had left him when the pains of withdrawal began to cramp his stomach, and he lost the tasteless gruel they had fed him for breakfast. For days he went through withdrawal, nausea, cramps, and the awful sweats filled his days and nights while he begged for some form of relief. When the worst of the withdrawal symptoms had passed, his wishes were granted and a soldier came in to give him another shot of the drug. "You will wash yourself today." The guard said as he left Brian's small cell. The door opened a little later, and another soldier brought in several basins and washrags that Brian used to clean himself. His body was beginning to recover, and even his fingernails were beginning to grow again as he washed the crusted blood off of them. His hair had been shaved off to guard against lice in this place. The bruises on his face had largely healed, leaving only the palest of splotches on his once-pristine skin. Davey might not have liked what he saw if he could see Brian at that moment, but with the morphine in his system, Brian cared little about his lover's thoughts. All of that hurt, and only the numbing drug coursing through him let him look at himself in the small mirror they had provided. "He will shave you." A guard said after Brian had dressed in the faded black jumpsuit they provided him. They shoved in a kid with a shaved head like Brian's, wearing faded jeans and a dingy shirt. The boy was barely eighteen, if he was even that old, and his hands were only slightly steadier than Brian's would have been on the razor. Still, he managed to shave off Brian's growing beard with only a few nicks, and then the guard was taking him away. They came for Brian a few minutes later, leading him through the narrow concrete hallways up into the ‘proper' area of the complex. The room they left him in was small, with bare concrete walls and a chair on either side of the table. He followed their instructions to sit in one of the chairs and didn't move as they chained him to it as they'd done before. He sat in the room for a long time, long enough for the effects of the morphine to start fading, and he was preparing himself once again for the withdrawals that would come when it left his system. It was obvious this was done on purpose, so that whenever his interrogator came in, he would be more cooperative, hoping they would give him more of the drug. That was what the small corner of his brain that still worked objectively told him while the greater part of him began plotting how he could make them happy so he would stop hurting. "Greetings, comrade." An older man said in Russian as he entered the room. Brian had not seen the older, overweight man with the slightly bald head before. "Privyet." Brian replied, also in Russian. He wasn't sure if he could even speak in anything but the most basic English anymore. "You are looking better, comrade." The man said as he sat down across from Brian and placed a stack of papers on the table. "Thank you." Brian said as politely as he could manage. "I believe you should be a writer of fiction, comrade, with the story you have spun for your interrogators." The man continued. "I am Colonel Bradikov, and your case of treason has been given to me to handle. Cooperate with me and you will find me a much better person than your previous handlers." "I will cooperate." Brian murmured and hated himself for the words as soon as they left his mouth. The shakes were beginning again already, though, and he knew cooperation was the only way to get more. "Yes, you will." Bradikov agreed. "Even in your stories, there are grains of truth, and together we will work out those grains of truth. There will be no more interrogation sessions. Just you and I here in this room. Work with me, and you will be given better food, allowed to clean yourself, and of course, medicine for your pain." "What do you want from me?" Brian asked sadly, knowing he would do whatever the man wanted now that he had promised Brian more morphine. Part of him wondered how he'd gotten to this point so quickly, but most of him didn't care. "Truth." Bradikov said simply. "Your story is a sad one, of course. You were born to Soviet dissidents, raised in the United States and sent here as a spy to undermine the Motherland. Almost you succeeded and manipulated Comrade Yeltsin into betraying the People. Now you have seen the error of your ways and beg for the opportunity to serve the People in some way to make amends. Your confession will earn you your life, and the opportunity to work hard for the good of the Soviet Union." "I… that's not…" A spark rose in Brian, trying to resist, but it faded as the shakes grew worse. "It is the truth, comrade." Bradikov said gently. "The Soviet Union is strong, despite your treason. Your confession will help the People see the truth, and know their true enemy, the United States and its greedy capitalists. You are a product of their lies, but acted out of a true desire to better the people. That is commendable, and you will live out your life in the forests of Siberia with many others of your fellow misguided anarchists. Together you might one day earn your way back into the grand society of the Soviet Union." "I… I…" Brian stammered and then frowned. There had been nothing said about Davey, or the others, and he felt a glimmer of hope. If they were free, they could build another time machine and go back in time again. They could obliterate this timeline and start afresh. He held little doubt they would find the Brian of that timeline and he would help them, so it mattered little what he did now. "Okay. You are right." "Very good, comrade." Bradikov smiled and he got up, crossing over to Brian's side. With a key he took out of a pocket, he unlocked Brian's shackles. As Brian rubbed his wrists, the man took a needle out of his pocket, setting it down in front of Brian with a gentle smile. "Here, comrade, for your pain." "I…thank you." Brian stammered out as he blushed, ashamed for the greed that filled him. He did snatch the needle though, and injected himself so that he could feel the sweet release of the drug coursing through his system. "You are very welcome, comrade." Bradikov said gently as he watched Brian closely. Brian was lost in the sweet numbing sensations of the drug, and didn't mind when the guards came to escort him back to his cell. Every day after that, Bradikov would summon Brian and they would go over his ‘confession' in detail. Certainly it was as filled with fiction as anything, but Brian only protested when they tried to pin everything on Davey. That protest earned him a week in his cell going through the pains of withdrawals, and then they dragged him back to Bradikov who demanded that Brian agree with the confession that would place most of the blame on Davey. When Brian didn't break, he was sent back to his cell for another week. After a month of this, when Brian had made it through the worst of the withdrawals and his head was beginning to clear up enough that he could almost think straight again, Bradikov realized his approach wasn't working. The beatings resumed, and his fingernails that had almost finished re-growing were ripped off again. Then they forcibly injected him with more drugs, stronger drugs this time. Having to guess from the effects on him, they were stepping him up to pure heroin or something similar. "I always assumed that perverts like you only cared about the physical things." Bradikov said after doctors had spent a month nursing Brian back from the brink of death. His body still craved drugs, but his mind was clearer than it had been since he'd been taken to this hell hole. There had been times in the last few weeks that he couldn't remember his own name, but he'd never forgotten Davey's. "You have no idea what we have been through together." Brian murmured in Russian. "You have chased each other across time and space according to your story." Bradikov huffed. "Your friends have tried to free you, by the way, with the backing of the new American President, but to no avail. It would have been easier on you to have another to blame, but we will proceed with your confession." "Nyet." Brian protested. "It is too late for anything else." Bradikov laughed. "We have recorded your confessions, and you look quite healthy and convincing on the video. It will be better if you stand before the court and repeat your confession, but either way, it will be done. Cooperate, and you will lead the rest of your life in a work camp. Resist and you will face the firing squad for your treason." "It doesn't matter." Brian murmured. "You believe your friend will build another time machine and erase all that has happened?" Bradikov laughed. "We have learned the Australians believe their wild story, even if the Americans do not. We know better. Our top physicists assure us that it is impossible. Truly though, if you believe we will all cease to exist when they are done, what does it matter if you cooperate?" "I will do it." Brian murmured and ignored the smile on Bradikov's face. When the Colonel set a full needle in front of him, Brian turned his face away from the small thing. "What, you have beaten your addictions?" Bradikov laughed and Brian frowned. Oh how he wanted that needle, but he knew better than to take it now. He'd never, in all his life used drugs like this, and he knew he never would again. "Not all of them." Brian sighed, yet he did not take the needle that was offered. "You are a man of many surprises." Bradikov laughed. The work camp he went to after his trial was deep in the Siberian forests. Warm during the summer, freezing cold in the winter, he lived in one of five long barracks buildings with others that had been arrested and exiled following the pro-democracy demonstrations. They were well-guarded day and night, although the work of cutting trees and preparing them for shipping left Brian too tired to even contemplate escape. The food was horrible, and the company even worse. Brian found himself facing angry people that blamed him for their being here. When he fought them off one against one, or two against one, five of the toughest brutes in the camp jumped him. Still, he injured three of them badly enough they were in the primitive medical clinic alongside him. By the time his broken ribs healed and he was put back to work with the logging crews, he'd earned grudging respect. Most of the camp drank the home-brewed alcohol every night, passing their lives into oblivion. Brian stayed away from it with the well-earned aversion he now held to all types of drugs, not just heroin or morphine. The idea of being drunk was as abhorrent now as getting wasted on a needle full of heroin which was somehow plentiful in this place. His biggest hope, as the months and then the years went by was that Davey and the others would one day finish their time machine and end the misery of this existence. Even that hope grew dim as the years went by and many of the camp's worst drunks began dying in the harsh winters. He'd long ago taken young Misha, the thirteen-year old boy that was the youngest inmate in the camp under his wing and to his bed. Not for sex, but rather to stay warm during the freezing nights that claimed so many lives. Without his protection, Misha would have long since died although he did drink himself into a stupor nearly every night. He wasn't even a legal adult, and knew he'd die in this place. The few times he'd reached out to Brian for sexual release, he'd been gently rebuffed, but never strayed from Brian's bed. When Misha began to cough at night, Brian grew worried. Part of his mind warned that he should not let Misha sleep in his bed if he was sick, but Brian cared for the boy, the one bright spot in this miserable existence. Misha was a symbol to him, a symbol that even here in this hell hole he could make the world a slightly better place for even one person. Three weeks later, Misha was in the hospital wing as pneumonia claimed his life, and Brian was soon in a bed there as well as pneumonia took root in his own lungs. Modern antibiotics could have healed both of them, but the camp's doctor would not waste them on prisoners. Only guards got that sort of treatment. Even the food rations of sick prisoners were cut so that the food would go to other, stronger workers. Brian knew he was going to die, and welcomed the delirium as his fever began to grow. They were sweet dreams in the delirium, dreams of Davey and a few other men raiding the camp, freeing him and somehow sneaking him out of the camp. Dreams of a time machine, and whispered assurances that everything was going to be okay. He had the dream several times, and when the last one happened, he knew it was going to be the last dream ever. His body was weak and he no longer even tried to cough up the fluid that was filling his lungs. As he drifted off to sleep, he hoped that he would drown from the fluid in his lungs and die dreaming of his Davey. "Brian." Oh great, instead of dreams about Davey, he was now having dreams about his mother. At least they would distract him from the realities of the cold Siberian winter, and he could feel the warmness of his childhood bed. Hearing his name in English sounded odd, after all these years though, and he wondered why he was dreaming in English. He hadn't dreamed in that language in a long, long time. "Wake up, Brian!" "Nyet." Brian murmured as another male voice was added to the dream voice of his mother's. He told them in Russian that he loved his dreams more than reality. "What language is that?" His mother's voice asked as he dreamed of feeling her cool hand on his forehead. "He has a fever. Feel his forehead. Oh dear, he's sick on the first day of school." Thinking of the first day of school made him think of Davey. Ah, this was better after all. His last dream before he died would be about the first day of middle school, where he and Davey always seemed to meet for the ‘first time' in a timeline. That would be a wonderful thing to dream about, to dream about the future of their lives together in a new timeline, even if it never came to reality. "Now who could that be?" Brian's father's voice sounded worried and Brian thought he could hear the chimes of the doorbell. "Oh, hello." Brian's mother's voice was filled with surprise and worry. "Brandon, Trevor, we didn't expect to see you here. Brian's not feeling to well." "That's what we figured." Came the familiar voice of Trevor. "Mrs. Breckenridge, these are some of our friends, Sean Rule, Todd Williams and Davey Jones. They came with us to get Brian and take him to school." "I'm afraid he's too sick to go to school." Brian's mother said. "Beloved, open your eyes." Davey said in Russian, and his voice sounded much younger. This was a good dream, Brian decided and opened his eyes to see a twelve-year old Davey Jones smiling at him. "Young again, you look so young again." Brian said and was surprised that his chest didn't hurt. Naturally he spoke in Russian. "What language is that?" Brian's mother asked in a slightly high voice. "It's Russian." Trevor answered. "Brian doesn't speak Russian." She snapped. "He does now." Trevor answered. "Look, there are some things we should probably share with you. Why don't we go into the living room and we'll try to explain while Davey helps Brian." "What's wrong with him?" Brian heard his mother ask. "He's had a rough couple of years." Brandon answered sadly, but Davey was taking all of Brian's attention. "This is a nice dream." Brian said as he lifted his hand and ran a finger along Davey's cheek. His lover was always a little overweight at this age, but he still looked wonderful. "It isn't a dream." Davey whispered in Russian. "Yes it is." Brian said. "It's my last dream. The pneumonia is going to kill me, I know it and I'm okay with it. You'll finish the time machine and make this awful timeline go away. Just don't mess up the next one, okay? I'd hate for that version of me to go through this hell. Still, I didn't betray you. Never you." "I know love, I know." Davey whispered softly as he bent down and planted a kiss on Brian's nose. "We did build the machine, and before we used it, we got you out of that damn place. It was close, and you were right, the pneumonia was killing you. Still, we were able to bribe the right people and found out where you were being held. The mercenaries we hired were good, and we got you out with the KGB hot on our trail." "They didn't believe me about the time machine." Brian murmured. "They figured it out in the end, and they believed alright." Davey laughed. "They tried assaulting the facility, but we held them off, with the help of the Australians. Who would have believed it, the Australians helping us when our own country turned their backs on us?" "What did you have to give them?" Brian asked, playing along with the wonderful dream. "Our solemn promise to not try changing the course of history again." Davey laughed. "I expected them to demand one of their own go back, but they laughed and said they knew better than to mess with history. The only reason they helped us at all was because the Soviet Union was starting to duke it out with Europe and the United States. Their economy was still shit, and they had to stir up trouble in order to keep things under control." "Sounds awful." Brian murmured, just letting himself get lost in those wonderful blue eyes that he'd dreamed about, and was still dreaming about. "Your temperature is dropping." Davey said softly. "Sean was worried that your fever in the other timeline would be replicated here because you believed you were sick. At the end you were delirious, and even though your body is healthy in the here and now, the mind has an awful lot of control over how the body works, and I know you've been through hell." "We've all been through hell." Brian murmured, letting himself feel Davey's hand on his chest, and relishing the smile. This was definitely the best of his delirious dreams. "This is the last time, I promise." Davey whispered. "We set it so we got back here a week before you, and we had time to prepare for today." "What do you mean?" Brian asked with a frown and something deep inside began whispering to him that this was real, not another dream. It certainly felt more real than any other dream he'd had. "We made a promise to the Australians, and we're going to keep that promise." Davey said with a firm expression. "No more mucking with the timeline, for the most part. No more trying to save people from AIDS, or stopping Osama bin Laden, or getting rid of the second Bush Presidency. If people are stupid enough to vote for the man, then they're going to have to live with the consequences." "But…" Brian's voice trailed off and he realized that Davey had said the last in English. The language was coming back to him, slowly but surely. "No buts, love." Davey said in a soft whisper. "Some things will change. The others are telling your mother and father right now. They need to know because we'll need their help making sure my father doesn't do… some of the stupid things he's done before. Papa knows too. He's a smart man and he's proven in the past he can help us, and he is, you know." "Let me guess, he won some money on a bet." Brian laughed softly, and English felt a little odd on his tongue, but good as well. This was how it should be. "It worked, and it's enough to get things started." Davey said. "No one will be rich, but we will be able to get our families off the ground in their own businesses. There will be fights when they figure it out about us, but we can win those fights as well. No going to the President though, no warning him about the future, or the next President, or the one after that. We let those events play out as they will." "Is that not a little selfish of us?" Brian asked as he sat up and leaned against his headboard to look at Davey. "I think we've earned the selfishness." Davey sighed. "What about making the world a better place?" Brian asked determinedly. "I didn't go through all that to just give up." "What would you have us do?" Davey asked with exasperation. "I don't want to lose you again." "Maybe, maybe there's another way." Brian asked with a shrug. "I don't know, but if we really are here, well there has to be a way. We've always tried changing things from the top. Maybe we can change them from the bottom." "It's worth trying." Davey said gently and he leaned forward until their lips met. Brian's mind was still hazy, and he knew there would be a lot of issues for him to overcome. His treatment at the hands of the Soviets had been bad, and would require a lot of time to undo all the problems he had experienced. As their kiss deepened, and he felt his love and passion for Davey grow again, he knew that it was something they would be able to do together. Together they could conquer the world.
  2. dkstories

    Chapter 27

    They were angry, and yet at the same time they were happy. The crowds that surged around us were a veritable flux of emotions ranging from extreme anger to almost giddiness about the things going on around them. Certainly it was far more emotion than we had ever seen before from the normally stoic Muscovites. So far, everything was going pretty much as we had expected. Senior members of the Soviet leadership had arrested Mikhail Gorbachev and declared an emergency across the nation. Boris Yeltsin was leading popular protests here in Moscow that started out somewhat muted, but when the army failed to open fire, erupted into full-scale public outrage the likes of which Russia had not seen since 1917. Of course there were differences. Those differences included our presence among the senior staff advising Boris Yeltsin. Say what you will about the man, and historians have always had plenty to say about him, but Boris Yeltsin understood opportunity, politics, and the feelings of the average Russian citizen. He knew that no matter what happened, from this point on his political nemesis Mikhail Gorbachev was ruined as a leader. The Russian people didn't follow weak leaders. They admired strength, dedication, and would often overlook political ideology if the leaders were strong enough. Because of the coup, Mikhail Gorbachev would never be viewed as a strong leader. Boris Yeltsin, by standing up to the coup plotters, was granted an aura of strength that resonated with the general public, and they were listening to his calls for meaningful reforms. Davey, our friends, and I made only a few contributions to the events of those days. In the five minutes the two of us had alone with him in the first day of the coup, he listened to our passionate speech about dealing with corruption. We spent three of those five minutes doing our best to convince him corruption was a big enough problem that it must be dealt with quickly once the coup was ended. "Do you have plans on how to do this?" He asked us with a shrewd look when we were done. "Da." Davey said firmly. We were seated in Yeltsin's office and had brought briefcases with us. My lover took a large folder out of his briefcase and put it on the Russian President's desk. Yeltsin frowned before picking up the file that was five inches thick, and leafed through the first set of handwritten pages barely skimming over the text. "You have detailed plans." He said simply as he shut the file and handed it back to Davey who took it quickly. It was a good thing Yeltsin had not looked past the first fifteen handwritten pages, because most of the rest was just filler, used to make it look thicker. We had counted on his disinterest in details and the thickness was really meant to just impress him. "Give me a one-page paper with talking points." "Will these do?" Davey asked, pulling another piece of paper out of his briefcase and handing it to the President. Yeltsin looked over the handwritten paper quickly and then nodded. "You come prepared." He stated gruffly. "We believe this is a very important issue." I said firmly and he nodded again. "Many of my closest advisors will not be happy with this." He stated. "In the interest of moving forward into a new era, it might be good to offer a general amnesty for past wrongs." Davey suggested with a shrug. "Include Black Marketers and others in the amnesty." I added. "We can use their skills. They are able to move goods past the borders, under the noses of security while we cannot move goods from farms or factories to the markets on the legal roads." "You two will organize this." He said firmly, giving us everything we had hoped for, and more. "I will see you outside." "Thank you, Mr. President." Davey said as we stood and left the room. The other contribution that we made came on the day Boris Yeltsin stood on the tank in Red Square. There were tears in my eyes, and the eyes of our friends who stood with us, near Yeltsin himself as he climbed on the tank. Here was history being made, and we hoped that with only slight changes it would truly make the world a better place. In the last timeline, our children had never really understood the concept of the Soviet Union and the threat that it posed to the world. They grew up in a world where the Soviet system of government had been thrown on the trash pile of history. For those of us in the previous generation, and the generation before that, we understood the danger represented by the Soviets. It was about more than just nuclear weapons being pointed at each other, and global games of brinkmanship. For as long as there had been countries and governments, such games were played. The dangers of the Soviet era were about more than just geopolitics. It represented a philosophy, an outlook on life that was antithetical to all the principles most Americans held dear. At its core, communism eliminated the ability to make a better life for yourself through your choices and actions. Yes, you were allowed some choices, but it regulated your choices, and your rewards for excellence. It eliminated the rewards inimical in doing a job to the best of your abilities. Whether you were a doctor, a factory worker, or a farm worker, it left you in the same situation. What motivation was there for a person to excel in their field? Further, it required a strict adherence to the communist philosophy. Those who dissented, or believed otherwise where shunted aside, and not given the opportunities of others who at least mouthed loyalty to the communist party. That was one reason for the inherit corruption that existed in the Soviet government. "This is absolutely amazing." Todd whispered in English as we watched Yeltsin berate the troops for supporting the corrupt coup plotters. Around us the crowd surged again, and I smiled at Davey, wanting to hold his hand, but knowing better than to make such a public display of affection. His smile told me everything I needed to know, although when it turned into a frown, I began to grow worried until I noticed he was looking over my shoulder. "What is it?" I asked in English and he shook his head, his eyes scanning the buildings behind me. When he turned, I was surprised by his actions and started to turn and look in the direction he'd been looking, but was distracted by him running towards the tank. Davey leaped into the air, tackling Yeltsin and pulling him to the ground. For a wild moment, I thought he'd gone crazy, but I'd caught the flash of something hitting the tank, and heard the grunt from Brandon. "Sniper!" Davey yelled in Russian as he covered Yeltsin's body with his own while the President's security people swarmed the two of them. Sean was trying to hold up the much taller Brandon, and Todd, Trevor and I rushed over to them. Brandon was bleeding from his left shoulder, and I figured out what had happened quickly. Davey had seen the flash of a scoped rifle in the buildings behind us, figured out there was a sniper there, and acted, figuring the target was Boris Yeltsin. The bullet had ricochet off the tank, and hit Brandon. Fortunately, the wound wasn't bad, and appeared to have missed anything vital. Around us, the crowd went wild as they realized someone had just tried to shoot Yeltsin. What had been a relatively peaceful demonstration turned into a full-scale riot, and the soldiers as well as the policemen who had been standing by were suddenly fighting for their lives against the angry civilians. Somewhere another shot rang out, and then another. "We've got to get out of here." I said as we were jostled by the crowd that was swaying in every direction. Trevor nodded, picking Brandon up and putting him into a fireman's carry as the rest of us tried to clear a path. Yeltsin, and Davey, were already being hustled out of the area by security people loyal to Yeltsin, and we were left to fend for ourselves. It took nearly two hours to reach a hospital, and only my government identification got Brandon in to see a doctor. The hospital was overcrowded in the extreme, and Moscow was literally on fire from the rioting. While we waited for word on Brandon, and tried to comfort a very worried Sean, we watched the sky glowing red with distant fires. A ring of militia had cordoned off the hospital, just as they were doing with important locations throughout the city. All the television and radio stations were silent, and I was wondering what had gone wrong when a black car was admitted past the security ring. Several uniformed KGB officers got out, and I knew instinctively they were here for me.
  3. dkstories

    Chapter 26

    We buried Mikhail Verakov twelve days after I returned to Moscow. Like so many other Russian men, he died from lung cancer and pneumonia. Over the last few years, I had seen the close bond that had developed between Davey and this man, and so I wasn’t surprised at how hard Davey took the man’s death. Mika was not Davey’s real father, and Davey knew that, but he loved the man anyway for a variety of reasons. Part of it had to do with the unconditional love that Mika had always given him. Even at its best, Davey’s relationships with his parents had always been conditioned by a variety of factors. They had certain expectations of him in every timeline, and he was constantly struggling with them in one way or another, even when they accepted him, and our relationship. He had to prove to them that he wasn’t a disappointment even though he was gay. With Mika, there had been none of that. The old man had accepted Davey, or Sergei as he’d always called Davey, as Davey was, without condition. Davey did not have to do anything to please the man, or to be loved by the man. All he had to do was be there. It was certainly a far easier relationship for Davey. Davey spoke at the funeral, which was attended by a lot more people than we had expected. It wasn’t a religious service of course, and many of the people were dignitaries of the Soviet government. After the funeral, we even spoke a few words with the Secretary-General of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev. That was quite an eye-opening experience for both of us since we had rarely even seen the man before and certainly never spoken to him directly. Davey and I didn’t speak about the future after the funeral, but rather I comforted him while he cried. I’d been there with him in my original timeline after his parents had each passed away, and knew he took these types of situations very hard. The future could wait while he grieved. We spent that night at Mika’s dacha out in the foothills instead of at our apartment. There, on the mantle over the fireplace, new pictures had been added in recent years, pictures of Mika and Davey, and even a few of me up there as well. In all of them, Mika’s lips were curled upwards. “You have a visitor, Sergei.” Lina, Mika’s older housekeeper said on the morning of the third day. Mika’s driver was no longer around, but she was still here, taking care of the house and helping to fix our meals while we stayed. She was a widower, and her children were grown and had families of their own now. Her work here had been a semi-retirement for her, and I idly wondered what would happen for her now. For that matter, what would happen with this house? “Who is it?” Davey asked in a soft voice. “Comrade Maslyukov is here.” She responded. “Please, bring him in.” Davey said quickly, turning from the picture on the fireplace and straightening his shirt. We were both wearing dark slacks, and Davey was in a white dress shirt while I was wearing a light green polo. Both of us straightened our hair a bit before heading down the stairs. “Comrade Maslyukov, welcome.” Davey said formally as we came into the living room. “Comrade Verakov, you have my condolences.” Maslyukov said with a short nod to Davey before he turned to me. “Comrade Breckenridge, you have honored our agreement over the last few years. I am here to honor my part now.” “You are referring to the fact that Comrade Verakov was not really my father.” Davey said calmly and Maslyukov shot me an accusing glare. “Please, Comrade, I knew from the beginning that he was not. Yuri did not have to tell me anything. I think in the end, even he knew that I was not his other son, but it did not matter. Family is more than blood, sometimes. Mika needed family, and he was a good man who deserved to have a family. I was honored to give him that.” “Interesting.” Maslyukov said as he sat down hard. Davey nodded and crossed to the small bar, pouring three shots of vodka and handing one to me before giving one to the older man. We toasted the memory of the departed and Maslyukov downed his quickly. “I liked him the first time I met him, and knew he was a good man.” Davey continued his explanation calmly. “He seemed so lonely, and did not deserve that. When I saw how he was able to accept me as I am, without judgment, I knew I would give him what he wanted: a son.” “This is a copy of his will.” Maslyukov said after he had digested Davey’s words. He took out a folded paper from his suit coat and handed it to Davey. “You will see that he has left you all of his possession. They are not as much as your American father has, but you can live comfortably in the USSR with this.” “Are we still welcome here?” Davey asked. “It is a fiction that I am a son of the Soviet Union.” “It is fiction, yes, but the records all say now that it is a fact.” Maslyukov shrugged. “If you wish to stay, if both of you wish to stay, you will be welcome. I am worried for the future.” “Why?” I asked, speaking for the first time in this conversation. Maslyukov held out the tumbler he had emptied, and waited while Davey filled it for him. The older man downed it again and looked out the large windows behind us and motioned for both Davey and I to sit. We did, sitting next to each other on the couch. “I fear the Union is crumbling.” Maslyukov’s voice was faint. When both Davey and I looked nervous he chuckled. “The listening devices were removed last year. Neither of you have said, or done, anything that our spies have disapproved. They were quite upset that you were not spies.” “There were no military secrets for us to steal.” Davey shrugged and Maslyukov chuckled again. “It is possible the American government has been looking in the wrong places for our secrets all these years.” Maslyukov stated in a sad tone. “I never thought to see the day when the Union would be crumbling. The Germans talk of reunification with the capitalist brothers. The European states talk of independence, and even the Baltic states are grumbling that they were once sovereign. I fear that only tanks and soldiers will keep them in the Union, and this is not the 1950’s. Gorbachev is not Kruschev, to crush them under his boots and force them to comply. As things stand now, the Union will not survive more than five years.” “I would give it two at most.” I said, taking a risk. Maslyukov gave me a hard look and then nodded abruptly. “That is a bet I will not take.” He grumbled. “You have proven to be quite intelligent, both of you.” “Thank you.” Davey said. “Sergei, I fear for what comes.” Maslyukov stated. “I wonder what will happen to the Rodina if the Union dissolves. Will we become capitalists only concerned about making more rubles and discard our principles?” “That is a possibility.” Davey said with a frown. “Mika and I had many conversations about the dangers of unfettered capitalism. I do not agree with communism, I believe you know that.” “Yes.” Maslyukov agreed. “Mika said you might make a socialist, but never a communist.” “True.” Davey agreed bluntly. “Even socialism though, does not work, in my belief. It is more accurate to say I believe in controlled capitalism. A field where any man may achieve his dreams, but all have the chance to play the game.” “Yes, Mika told me of this.” Maslyukov said with a shake of his head. “That is why I would ask you two to stay. You will never rise to a position like mine, or even that of Mika, but I would listen to your ideas as we struggle to keep the Union alive. Can you stomach that, even though you were born American?” “What if the Union does not survive?” Davey asked with a raised eyebrow. “What then?” “Then, you will help build a new Rodina.” Maslyukov said with a shrug. Before coming to Moscow, I’d have never expected to hear a Russian say something like this. Davey and I hadn’t spoken about the future, but he obviously had been thinking about it, and reached some decisions. I knew him, and could reason out what his thinking might be without having to talk it out. He knew I was always worried about the days after the fall of the Soviet Union. As Sean had said, my plans for trying to help from the outside had failed. Maybe working from the inside would see a different result. The long range plans would be affected of course, but they had been centered on more than just the United States. They were not about setting up a third political party in the United States, or getting any one individual elected. No, the plans were about changing how people looked at the world, and about the role of government and the individual. It was about taking responsibility for ourselves as individuals, and as a society. “I am willing to stay.” I said after we had all remained silent for a long time. Davey nodded, and Maslyukov nodded. “Then I will see the two of you in my office next Monday.” Maslyukov as he stood up and prepared to leave. “We have much work to do.” He wasn’t lying, either. There was a lot of work to do. Over the next few weeks, and months, we butted head with several different factors. First of course, was that this was still the Soviet Union, and its bureaucracy was filled with loyal communists. Gorbachev said he wanted private ownership, but those who had to implement such things considered private ownership anathema. Then there was corruption. Corruption had always been a part of the bureaucracy. To one extent or another, it was always a factor no matter the form of government. That was why, in the United States, anti-corruption laws were so important. One of the reasons America’s form of government worked was because corruption was limited, kept under relative control. The fact that every year there was at least one corrupt lawmaker getting caught was a testament to how well the system worked, not necessarily to its failure. Failure was when corruption happened and was never caught. In the more authoritarian USSR, corruption was far more rampant. Those in authority had more power, and in many cases investigators were either hamstrung in their ability to root it out, or had no interest. Blatant corruption of course was dealt with, and every so often the government would trot out an excessively corrupt bureaucrat as an example, but few of those in power feared being hauled off to prison. The changing rules on property and business ownership meant that more and more people were seeing opportunities to make a quick ruble, and many of them lacked any sense of ethics. We were still outsiders for the most part, and while they called us ‘Sergei’ and ‘Yuri’, and we all spoke mostly Russian, those we worked with and for rarely forgot that we were not really Russian. It was a barrier for us, but not an insurmountable one. Davey’s relationship with his family back in the States continued unchanged. They didn’t speak to him, and he didn’t speak to them. My parents told me that Mr. Jones had patched up his relationship with them, and gone back to work at the company that Dad still ran. When I visited them towards the end of Spring, they questioned me intently on why I was staying in the USSR. At Mr. Rush’s house, Mr. Long was waiting expectantly for me. I had another long series of reports for him, and he was most interested in hearing about Maslyukov’s statement regarding the USSR crumbling. He explained how he was filtering our reports through several different channels, making it almost impossible to track down where they came from, which was a good thing because I knew of at least one spy that was operating within the CIA at this time. I could have warned him about that person, but I had not come up with a way to explain how I knew about that person, while not creating the expectation that I would know of other things. Davey and I continued a comfortable existence in Moscow by and large. Occasionally, some woman from work would express an interest in one of us, but would look somewhere else when we showed no interest. At night, we would occasionally go out with groups of co-workers, or Russian friends from University. Both of us enjoyed the many theaters in Moscow. Not the movie theaters, but the stage plays, ballets, and even the opera, although Davey didn’t like operas nearly as much as I did. Back in March of 1990, Gorbachev had sent tanks into Lithuania to prop up the communist government. Later in that same year, Latvia and Estonia began the process of declaring their independence, and the tanks did not roll in to stop them. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, we watched along with the rest of the world as the United States rallied together an impressive coalition to throw Iraq out of that small country. When the battle began in early 1991, our friends in Moscow reacted with shock at the total collapse of Saddam’s largely Soviet-supplied and trained military. While the world was occupied watching what was happening in the Middle East, the KGB and Soviet Army troops again took to the streets in Lithuania. Their nationalist media was going further than the other states in pushing for independence. Maslyukov remained tight-lipped about the meetings of the Central Committee, but we could tell they were growing more and more intense and fractured. There were days that Davey and I held our breaths, or had to bite our tongues to keep from revealing too much knowledge of what was right around the corner. While US troops mopped up operations in Iraq and Kuwait, the Soviet Union voted. Davey was technically a citizen, and actually got to take part in the vote. It was in March of 1991 that nearly eighty percent of Soviet citizens voted to keep the Soviet Union, albeit in a reformed manner. Most of the ‘breakaway’ states didn’t want to lose access to the larger Russian markets that full independence would bring. What they wanted was less central-control from Moscow, and more local control. Maslyukov breathed a sigh of relief that his Soviet Union had passed a major crisis and survived. I didn’t tell him what was right around the corner. Boris Yeltsin was running for the office of President of the Russian SFSR against Nikolai Ryzhkov. Mikhail Gorbachev was supporting Ryzhkov, but we both knew it was Yeltsin that would win, and in a few months stand up to the tanks of the Soviet Union. Davey and I, still using our system of tapping out messages just in case there was someone listening, discussed whether we should get involved in the campaign or not. In the end we went to Maslyukov with the matter. “Why do you want to support Yeltsin?” Maslyukov asked. Just a few years ago, elections like these, where you had several different candidates, and only one of them a member of the Communist Party would not have been possible. “I believe he will win.” Davey answered. “Yes, but why do you want to support him?” Maslyukov pushed and Davey looked at him with a confused expression for a moment. “This is not America, Sergei. Supporting the wrong candidate here is much more dangerous, especially for one who works for the Soviet Union. No, don’t get that look on your face my young friend. This is no longer the old Soviet Union. Lefortovo will not be graced with your presence just for supporting Yeltsin. Still, I might be told that your work is no longer needed here, and I will find it hard to disagree.” “We will miss working for you, comrade.” Davey said quietly, but firmly. “There are other jobs in Moscow, though.” “Especially if you helped with the right campaign.” Maslyukov nodded and then he sighed. “We will have to keep in contact.” “Of course.” Davey said with a smile. With that we left the office, and returned to work for the afternoon. That night we went home to the large townhouse that we had purchased, partly with money from Davey’s inheritance, and partly through selling some of the stocks we had received via our parents. It was one of those old eighteenth-century homes, with huge rooms, carved borders, and tall, narrow doors. Lina had dinner ready, as usual, when we got home. She had accepted our offer to live with us after Mika had died. She was now retired, receiving her pension from the state, but stayed with us for free, as well as received a small stipend to supplement her income. In return, she cooked dinner for us, and did most of the basic cleaning. Here she was close enough to her adult children that she could visit them, and her grandchildren nearly every day. It was a good arrangement that worked for all of us. The timeline was moving along so smoothly, heading straight in the direction that we expected, and even I had to admit that being where we were, at the center of change in Russia and the collapse of the Soviet Union was a breathtaking experience. Moscow was flooded with more foreigners than ever before, many of them ‘consultants’ brought in to help with the reforms of Gorbachev. It was amusing watching them struggle with the Soviet bureaucrats, so stuck in their ways, and yet knowing that change was on the horizon. Davey and I were both welcomed into the Yeltsin camp with open arms and many shots of vodka. Both of us were quite surprised that on our first day we got to sit down with Boris Yeltsin himself for nearly thirty minutes, talking about his vision of the future. Neither of us was surprised by his continued dedication to communism. The collapse of communism was by and large an accident of fate more than anything else. In order to understand how it happened, it is necessary to understand how the ordinary Russian perceived leadership. Maybe it was because of the repeated Mongol invasions, followed by Hitler’s greatest mistake of World War II where he invaded and devastated Russia before being thrown back, but the average Russian prefers strong leadership. Ideas and concepts such as communism or democracy, or feeding the poor, or even justice often take a second seat in who a Russian will support compared to the ‘strength’ of the candidate. Will the candidate be strong? Will they be able to lead Russia (or the Soviet Union) against all enemies? This theory of Russian electioneering was originally something I’d learned from the first Davey I had met. However, it had been proven over several lifetimes. The Soviet Union collapsed, according to this theory, not because of a failure of communism so much as a failure of leadership. Gorbachev took a fatal blow in public opinion when his own deputies managed to seize control from him. His deputies who took over failed to garner enough support from the public, and from the military. Yeltsin was able to seize the initiative, and because both Gorbachev and the coup plotters were pro-communist, the only alternative was to do away with the crumbling system. The only winners in that showdown were Yeltsin and his supporters, and Yeltsin won because he was seen showing strength and being victorious. Years later, when Putin took the reins of power from an ailing Yeltsin, it was his strength that allowed him to stay in power long after he should have left the position. His strength gave his viewpoints an air of legitimacy, and so he stayed in power. No one could muster the appearance of strength for many years in order to challenge him. Working on the election was an invigorating experience for both of us. It was different from American elections, but at the same time there were some core fundamentals that were unchanged. Controlling the message of the campaign was just as important, if not more important in these elections, and that was where I found my niche in working with Yeltsin’s senior advisors. Davey’s gift for writing found him working with the speechwriters for Yeltsin’s addresses, and after his victory (which was unsurprising for us), we found ourselves in middle-level positions of the administration of the Russian state government. It wasn’t too difficult for us to obtain visas for our friends to come out and visit us the week before the coup we expected to happen. Trevor was the most difficult to arrange, mostly because his parents were defectors, but even he was able to obtain a visa in this age of perestroika. They arrived on a British Airways flight in Moscow’s main airport, and Davey and I were there to meet them. The changes in our friends over the past several years were shocking to us in many ways. We had kept in touch by letters, and the occasional phone call, but seeing them after all these years was different. Trevor’s brown hair was cut short, and he was in great physical shape. Todd’s hair was longer, and paler red than it had been years ago. Brandon’s hair was longer, nearly touching his shoulders, and he was slimmer than I had expected. Sean’s hair was darker, and his freckles had started to fade, but he was actually more built up than Brandon. “Look at you two.” Trevor said with a smile after we had all hugged in the middle of the airport’s concourse after they had passed through customs without too much trouble. “What?” Davey asked in English. “You look… Russian.” Trevor said, also in English. He alone of our friends had any fluency in Russian. “We have been here for a few years.” I replied with a slight smile, and found it odd to be speaking English after using Russian almost exclusively all these years. Actually, I’d used English on my visits home, but speaking it here, in Moscow, felt truly odd. “Let’s get out of here.” “You’re going to love our house.” Davey promised them as we made our way out and found two taxis that would take us to the house. Davey rode in a car with Trevor and Todd while I went with Brandon and Sean in the other taxi. “Wow, it’s nicer than I thought.” Sean said as we drove down the road. “Moscow is very beautiful, especially in the summer.” I replied to his statement and heard a grunt from the driver. He was trying to take us the longer way to our destination and I spoke to him briefly in Russian. The driver frowned, but nodded and turned back to the shorter path. “Are we really going to the ballet tomorrow night?” Brandon asked with a slight grin on his face. “Yes.” I assured him. “That will be fun.” Sean agreed. The chatter continued like that, with no references to the real reason for their visit. I played the good tour guide, pointing out important historical sights along the way to the house, and when we reached it, I paid the driver off with a very slight tip since he’d tried to cheat us. “Can we talk freely here?” Trevor asked in English once we’d gotten inside the house and were all sitting in the living room. Lina was visiting her grandchildren today, and so we had the house to ourselves. “Yes.” Davey assured them. “Why’d you want us here?” Brandon asked with a frown. “Not that it’s not good to see you guys again. I mean, we haven’t gotten together at all in years, so why now?” “You know the coup is about to happen.” Davey said with a frown. “We thought you’d want to see it in person.” “Well, kind of.” Trevor shrugged. “But, what does this all have to do with our long-range plans? Why are you two here instead of in the U.S.?” “I think I overlooked something important in those plans.” I said with a sigh and looked up to see their expressions of surprise. “What would that be?” Sean asked with a little half-smile. “I’ve made the typical mistake of American hubris.” I said with a shrug. “In the planning, I looked at things too much from a solely American perspective, always at changing things from the outside, not the inside of other nations. Look, this has always been about changing the perspective of people so that they look at the world from a larger perspective. How do we think we can make that change from solely within the United States?” “So you’re going to try to make changes here in the Soviet Union?” Trevor asked in a tone of disbelief. “No, from the Russian Federation.” Davey countered. “The Soviet Union must end, that is obvious. History records its fate over and over again. It is an unsustainable system. What we’re going to do is try to cut down on the initial corruption and growth of the crime syndicates after the Soviet collapse. We’re in position now to do that, all we have to do is wait for the change in power to happen by the end of this year.” “What we’re going to need though is your help.” I added. “Here we have influence, and frankly we are well off enough that we can lead comfortable lives, but we won’t have the capital to really make some of the differences we need to make.” “How are things going on your end?” Davey asked them. “We’re good.” Trevor said with a smile at Todd, and the two of them clasped hands briefly. It was sweet to see their fondness for each other had not changed. “I’ve been picked up by the Rams, and I’ve already had the conversation with the coach. If the story breaks about us as a couple, they aren’t going to drop me. We don’t plan on breaking the story anytime soon, but it’s a good contract.” “I’ve got good news for you as well.” Todd said with a grin. “You might actually get to see some original movies for once without having to wait for the 21st Century. I’ve signed a good deal for a script I found, and if it works out, well, we’ll be well on the way to having a comfortable financial base between what I make and what Trevor makes.” “We’re doing damn good too.” Sean said firmly with a wink at Brandon. “None of us are going to have to turn to the lottery trick this time around, that’s for sure.” “So you’re wanting to take our hard-earned money, are you?” Brandon asked with mock severity. “We’re wanting you to invest it wisely.” Davey countered with a smile for Brandon. “It’s a perfect opportunity to get in on the ground floor.” “There’s more to the world than just Russia and the United States.” Trevor replied with a frown. “Yes, but maintaining the balance of two superpowers is important.” I countered. “Let’s face it, nature abhors a vacuum, and the unbridled supremacy of the United States during the 1990’s and early 21st Century is part of what got our homeland into so much trouble in those later years, during my original timeline. A stronger Russia on the international stage in the mid to late-1990’s and early 21st Century can make a huge difference, like it did in the 2020’s and 2030’s before the vacuum after Putin’s assassination.” “Do you really think you can accelerate Russian growth and domination so quickly?” Trevor asked with a frown. “It’s not a matter of accelerating its growth so much as it is stopping its decline.” Davey countered with a grin. “The 1990’s, under Yeltsin, was a time of massive decline, especially in the first five years. Yeltsin couldn’t be bothered to handle the little details, and those were what killed the Russian Federation. He cared only about the ‘big picture’, not all the little things that let the crime syndicates gain too much power, and slowed the economic growth of the country. Along with the associated corruption that was allowed to happen, well it was a mess in those early years.” “That is where Sergei and I will make the difference.” I added. “Sergei?” Brandon asked. “Who is Sergei?” “That’s my Russian name.” Davey shrugged and I blushed. Normally I didn’t slip up like that, but for some reason it was happening more and more lately. “Sorry.” I said with a blush. “Being here, now, gives you a reason for helping to invest in Russia’s economy in the near future.” Davey added. “Now will be the time that a little bit of money can make a huge difference, and Trevor, your public sports position will be helpful too, especially if your parent’s story comes out in public after the collapse.” “They won’t like that.” Trevor frowned. “No, but it will help.” Davey countered. “Part of the initial problem is that every bit of help the United States offers at this point in time comes with a price tag that the Russian government cannot pay. Instead of treating Russia like a potential partner, they try to treat this country like a defeated enemy, and that’s something on your end that needs to change.” “I’m just a sports figure.” Trevor countered. “Hell, right now I’m not even on the ‘A’ list of things.” “No, but you’re in the best position to get the press to look at you and to listen.” I countered and Trevor frowned. “You’re asking a lot, you know.” He said with resignation. “We know.” Davey assured him. “What about Shevardnadze?” Sean asked. “Any sign he did come back in time?” “None.” I answered quickly. “It appears the jamming of the frequency he and the scientist used did work, without affecting the frequency you used, or the one that we all used the last time.” “That’s good.” Sean said with a sigh. “He’d have been back for a few years by now.” “Yes.” Davey agreed. “Look, I know this isn’t easy for any of us, but remember, this is why we did come back. We need to make the world a better place, and the only way to do that is to make sure it stays balanced.” “I agree.” Todd said with a frown. “Part of me doesn’t like it, because it feels like we’re being disloyal to the United States, but you’re right. In the long run the best thing is for the United States to have competition in the international stage.” “The same goes for any country.” Davey said. “No matter what we do, the United States must remain strong and independent.” “We agree on that.” Sean said with a nod of his head. “Now that we’ve got that out of the way, how about showing us some of Moscow?” Trevor asked. “Have you two taken up smoking?” “No!” Davey nearly shouted. “But I bet you drink vodka.” Todd laughed. “Konyechna!” I said, slipping back into Russian without even thinking about it, and Davey translated for me with a laugh. He got up and brought a bottle of vodka along with several glasses, and we proceeded to teach our friends some of the best Russian toasts we had learned over the years. It was funny watching Todd and Sean stagger around, barely able to walk as we went to dinner at a nearby restaurant later than night. They were all tired from the flight, and the plan was for them to go to bed after they’d eaten. Trevor ordered for himself, but we translated for the others and after dinner everyone was asleep within minutes upon our return to the house. “I love you.” Davey whispered as he curled up against me and fell asleep. It felt surprising good to be surrounded by our friends, and the nervousness that had been growing in me over the last few weeks faded away. Knowing the coup was coming, and that the end result was going to be good for everyone was one thing, but I kept worrying that something could still happen to Davey and I, caught in the middle of the coup. Having our friends here made it seem a much more remote possibility.
  4. dkstories

    Chapter 25

    “I do not think you understand the importance of being able to dream of a better life.” Davey said to his ‘father’ as we rode in the car back into Moscow. For the past week we’d stayed in the dacha while the old man took the time ‘off’ from work. Not that he did no work. He had an office in the dacha, and spent many hours on the phone when he was not entertaining the two of us. It had now been a few days more than three weeks since that first trip out to the dacha, and we were now heading back into Moscow for the official ‘results’ of the test. Davey and I were both nervous, since we couldn’t see how the CIA would have been able to fake those results. “You do not understand the importance of knowing your place in life, and being assured that you will have safety and security when you are old and infirm.” Verakov countered Davey’s assertion. “What good are silken dreams when they do not put food on your table or a roof over your head?” “What good is a roof over your head when you know your children will never achieve more than you have?” Davey retorted. This particular argument had been raging for two days now, and both of them were enjoying it immensely. If I had to be honest, I was enjoying it too. “In America you can have both.” I added my voice to the argument, drawing looks from both of them. There were smiles on both their faces. The truth was I liked Verakov, probably more than I liked this timeline’s version of Davey’s father. “Social security guarantees the elderly will have money in their retirement, although they do not have to depend on that alone. They can save, have their own pensions to supplement what they get from the state. If they are smart enough to purchase their own home while they are working, they will have paid it off by the time they retire, and are even more free to enjoy the fruits of a life of labor.” “But you have millions of homeless.” Verakov pounced with a wolfish smile. “Millions of your elderly, and your mentally ill roam your streets and sleep in doorways while trying to stay warm! Your Social Security does not save them!” “There is no homelessness in the Soviet Union?” Davey shot back. “None worth mentioning.” Verakov snorted. “Again, I ask what use are there dreams of yours when you can not feed your hungry or shelter your homeless?” “How much grain is being imported this year from the United States?” I asked and the man blinked at me before laughing. “No system is perfect, but we are getting there.” He countered with a slight shrug. It was true the Soviet Union imported grain every year from the United States. Their collective farming system was…inefficient in the extreme. They should have been able to grow enough food to feed their own people, but they didn’t. In some cases, it wasn’t the collectives that were the problem though. Some grew more than enough food, but that food rotted in storage because there were no trucks to take it where it was needed. It was facts like these that had ultimately led to the fall of the Soviet Union, and while we might argue about them with Verakov, we didn’t want them to change anytime soon. In less than six months, the beginning of the end would happen for the Soviet Union with the first elections in Hungary and Poland. Then the Berlin Wall would fall, and within two years of that, the Soviet Union would cease to exist. An idea was beginning to form in my head, an avenue of opportunity that had never been available to us before, but was now opening. One of the things my original Davey had always tried to change was the fallout of the Soviet collapse. He had achieved some success with that in my original timeline. Sean had told me that I had been less successful in the last timeline. Maybe, just maybe, this opportunity here with Verakov could be translated into better success down the road. “Not even the United States is perfect.” Davey admitted with a shrug of his own and Verakov nodded. “Too many people are too blinded by their patriotism to see the need for improvement in their own system of government.” Verakov stated flatly. “Maybe they fear being arrested here.” I added in as a jibe and Verakov frowned at me. “For some that is a concern, but not for those who belong to the Party and seek to further the goals of the Party.” Verakov’s voice was flat as he spoke. “To look at the Party with a critical eye, seeking to improve the dialectic is the responsibility of all Party members. We are here.” “Amazing.” Davey said as we got out of the car and looked around at the Kremlin. We had been to Red Square when we first arrived, and seen the Tomb of Lenin with its long line of tourists, but to actually be in front of the working Kremlin, where the Soviet Union, and later the Russian Federation were governed was absolutely amazing. “Do you actually work here?” “No, my offices are nearby, not in the Kremlin itself.” Verakov said kindly. “Come, you have your papers?” “Da.” Davey said as he pulled the green passbook from his suit pocket. We were both wearing our best suits today. Davey’s passbook was new, something given to him just last week by Verakov. I had received a similar one. Neither were our American passports. These were documents that actually allowed us more freedom in Moscow than most of its own citizens enjoyed. A middle-aged officer looked them over carefully before allowing us entry into the building itself. Walking through the building was different than walking through the Capitol in Washington, or even the White House. Those buildings were full of history, and you knew they were the center of power for a mighty government, but the Kremlin had even more history, and at times like now, just as much power. It was more ostentatious, and in a way more humbling. We were led to a room deep in the Kremlin, where Verakov introduced us to Yuri Maslyukov, his ‘superior’. I recognized his name as the head of the State Planning Committee, and was surprised because I had been led to believe that Verakov worked for a different branch of the government. The State Planning Committee was responsible for implementing the long-range economic plans of the Soviet Union, and was one of their most important economic bodies. “They are waiting for the two of you.” Maslyukov stated after polite words had been exchanged, and Verakov led Davey into another room while I remained, as it was clearly intended with Maslyukov. When they were gone, the man turned to me, looking me over twice before speaking again. “Walk with me.” “Yes, comrade.” I said with a slight nod as he led the way out of the room and back down the hallway of the Kremlin. “In that room, a doctor and an official from the Foreign Office are telling your friend and mine that the young man is indeed the lost twin son.” Maslyukov said in Russian after we had turned a corner. He stopped walking and gave me a very direct look. “It is of course, a lie.” “Excuse me?” I exclaimed in English and he nodded before starting to walk again. I had to hurry a few steps to catch up. “Why are they telling them this if it is a lie?” “Mika has worked hard for the Rodina all of his life.” Maslyukov stated in a matter-of-fact tone. “The Rodina likes to repay those who serve it, and the last few years have not been kind to him. For the last year, his work has not been as it should, and I was considering replacing him. It was only a few months ago that I took this position, and we have important work to accomplish. I need him, his knowledge, and his skills, but only if he is able to work hard. Your… friend has given new life to him. Mika believes the boy is his son, and his work the last few weeks has never been better.” “Then why are you telling me the truth?” I asked him with incredulity. So the CIA hadn’t been able to fake the test. But… how did they get this result? Or did they just expect it to happen and hope for the best? My incredulity was real right now. “You are both very smart young men.” Maslyukov began his explanation with a compliment. “The fact that the two of you are perverts would normally be a barrier, but in this case we will overlook this fact.” “Why?” I asked directly and got a direct answer. “Mika, with his new son at hand, will do valuable work for several more years before he retires.” Maslyukov’s answer was simple. “When he retires, you can tell your friend the truth, and the two of you can return to your country, or stay. If you stay, honorable work will be found for the both of you, and as long as you do not make your perversion public, we will overlook it and not punish you as the law requires. In staying, at least until Mika retires, you will live comfortably and have the gratitude of the Soviet people.” “Aren’t you worried we might be spies?” I asked him, just to see his response. “Nyet.” He snorted in the negative. “You are too young, although we do know you wished to work for the CIA but were rejected. Mika has already told you we know this.” “I don’t want to give up my American citizenship.” I stated flatly. “I do not think Davey will either. I do know I will want to be able to visit my family from time to time.” “All that is being arranged.” Malsyukov stated. “You will both be granted diplomatic passports. The American State Department does not wish an international incident, although they deny any switch in babies was ever made.” “They’re right.” I reminded him and he chuckled. “But we will never tell them that.” He replied. “Sergei Mikhailovich, as your friend is being told his real name should be, will be granted Soviet citizenship. You will be a legal resident of the Soviet Union. Tomorrow you will visit the American Ambassador and tell him that these arrangements are acceptable to you. Both of you will be granted visas to return to the United States for a few weeks each year, and naturally any foreign vacations you take with Mika will be permitted. When Mika is retired, you will tell your friend, but not before! Then you may decide whether to stay, or leave forever.” “Why are you doing this?” I asked him sharply, and with a deliberately suspicious tone. “You believe the Soviet Union is this gigantic creature that does not care about its people.” Maslyukov stated flatly. “You are wrong. You Americans claim your government, what is the phrase? Oh yes, ‘Of the people, by the people, for the people’ but it is not the people your government serves, it is your economy. We run our economy so that it serves the needs of our people, not some corporations or a select few. Spend the next few years learning the true Soviet Union, not the villain your propaganda has shown you. We truly care for our people, and Mika has served us long and faithfully. In some ways, we have failed him. Our doctors failed to cure his wife of cancer, but then even your doctors often fail with that. Americans die all the time in accidents like that which took the life of Dmitry Mikhailovich. The difference is that we will give him something to replace those losses.” “By lying to him.” I stated and he chuckled again. I realized that we were essentially walking in a big circle as we passed the doorway that led to the room where Davey was right now. “Some lies are not wrong.” Malsyukov shrugged. “Some lies can do more good than harm. Do you not lie to your parents about your relationship with Sergei Mikhailovich?” “My parents know.” I said with a shrug. “His do not.” It was a statement, not a question. Yes, Davey had told Verakov that. “No, they don’t.” I stated. “Why not?” Maslyukov asked. “They wouldn’t understand it.” I said sourly. “So for you two, telling the lie to them is okay?” He asked with another chuckle. “When is a lie acceptable to you and when is it not?” “We’ll be lying to them when we tell them this story is true.” I stated and he nodded. “It will hurt them a lot.” “Will they not hurt when they learn their son will never give them grandchildren?” Maslyukov retaliated, and I had to smile at his persistence. He was right of course. Everyone lied, and we always believed our reasons for lying were valid, even necessary. “I am not Russian, or Soviet, or Communist.” I said with a shrug. “Why should I care to help you maintain your form of government?” “Ah, a real question at last.” Malsyukov said. “We will give you and your friend a comfortable life, more comfortable than you would have in the United States even.” “I don’t care about that.” I said with a shake of my head. “You are not interested in money?” He asked with a raised eyebrow. “Are you sure you are American?” “We can have all that in the United States.” I answered. “Then what if I were to tell you that you and Sergei Mikhailovich have broken Soviet law?” He said in a sterner voice. “You can be sent to the gulag for five years for the things you have done in the bedroom of Mika’s dacha. Not even your State Department would seek to stop such a sentence.” “You will lose Verakov’s services if you do that.” I retorted. “We will lose him anyway, to depression, if you do not cooperate.” He countered. That should be enough protesting to make it look real. “Okay.” I said after meeting his stare for several minutes. “As I said before, you are a smart young man.” Malsyukov said more jovially, clapping me on the shoulder. “Now, why don’t you join your friend and his father? Remember, he must believe what he has been told.” “I won’t tell him the truth, not until Verakov retires.” I said firmly and the man nodded once before opening the door for me. Davey was sitting in the room, in a chair next to Verakov, but smiled and leapt to his feet when he saw me. “Brian, it’s true!” He said in a tone of disbelief, but there was a smile on his face. “Can you believe it?” “I don’t know what to believe.” I answered in Russian. “This sounds like some story out of a Tom Clancy novel.” “Pravda.” Davey agreed with a chuckle. Verakov also stood and turned to face me. “Let me introduce you to my son, Sergei Mikhailovich.” Verakov said with a hand on Davey’s shoulder. “That is the name we would have given him if he had come to us, as he should have, eighteen years ago.” “I understand.” I said calmly. “What happens now?” “I don’t know.” Davey said with a frown. “How am I going to tell Mom and Dad? And Jenny? Do we stay here?” “I would like to get to know my son, if you are willing.” Verakov said firmly. “Both of you will always be welcome in my home.” “The Soviet Union will welcome one of its own sons home, and his friend.” The older man who was in the room said gravely. “I am Yuri Andreiich Nerov, from Foreign Affairs. We have already spoken with the American State Department. I believe you have been told of the agreements made, if this remains quiet and out of the Western media?” “Yes.” I agreed. “What do you think, Brian?” Davey asked me in English. “He says we can attend Moscow State for our degrees, if we wish. We’ll even have an apartment near campus, together! They will honor our credits from Arizona State.” “I’ll do whatever you want.” I said simply. “You should get to know him better if he really is your father.” “I think… it’s not like we won’t be able to go back.” Davey said. “I just don’t look forward to telling Mom and Dad.” “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.” I replied in English and he nodded. “Come, this calls for a celebration.” Nerov said as he walked over to a low credenza with several bottles on it. He poured Vodka of course, and we all toasted father and son. Two nights later we were at the U.S. Embassy in a rather uncomfortable situation. At first two mid-level State Department officials grilled us over and over again on what was really going on, and on our decision to stay in the USSR. Then the ambassador himself got us alone in his office and pulled out the big guns. The long-distance telephone call to Davey’s parents, and then my parents, was anything but comfortable. They wanted us home, especially Davey’s parents who didn’t understand why he wouldn’t believe that they knew he was their son. This whole situation was stressful to them, and Davey knew through our secret tapping system that the test results were really a lie. Fooling his parents wasn’t easy, and it was only the promise of a visit over Christmas that kept them from going to the media immediately. Verakov took us to the Black Sea resort that was the favorite of members of the Politburo and their senior staff. Whatever his humble beginnings, Uncle Mikhail, as he insisted I call him, was one of the elite of Soviet society now, and lived a fairly comfortable life. Even while relaxing on the beaches of the Black Sea, though, he was working and Davey and I learned a lot about his work just from overheard conversations. We learned even more from the philosophical conversations that Davey had with the man while we settled into life in his dacha. The man was intent on convincing Davey that communism was the right way to govern a society, and Davey was proving a capable debater. He deftly steered their discussions into areas where the man actually revealed quite a bit about economic production in the Soviet Union, and the problems they faced. Occasionally I would get involved in the conversations, but I tended to give ground easier than Davey did. When classes began again at Moscow State, we were enrolled the same as any other students, or at least any other students of the elite. The required courses on Marxism-Leninism were non-negotiable, as were the math requirements harsher than their American counterparts. Davey was chagrined to learn he would be taking more math than he would have at Arizona State. Then there was the fact that everyone now called him Sergei. Even I called him by that name, only using his real name when we were having sex. It took him two weeks into the semester until he answered to it as he would to his real name. My name was also ‘russianized’, with people taking to calling me Yuri for some reason. I never quite got the connection, but Davey insisted that if he had to go by Sergei, I would answer to Yuri. When December rolled around, we learned just how cold a Russian winter could be. Both of us were happy to get on the Aeroflot flight that would eventually take us back to California. It was a long flight, with a stopover in Japan before we landed in San Francisco where both of our parents met us. His folks whisked him away with barely a word for me, while my mother kept on touching me to make sure I was really there. “What is really going on, Brian?” Dad asked when we were in the car and driving back towards Modesto. Davey had called, and written his parents every week, just as I had done, and their responses had become more and more distressful as time went by. Mikhail Verakov had not been happy to let us go, but seemed confident we would return. “You were told about Davey’s birth.” I answered in English that was actually a bit rusty. “Don’t tell me you believe that story?” Mom snorted. “Does it matter if we do or not?” I asked. “The Russians do, and Verakov believes it. You know how bad the story would make our government look if it ever got out. It’s just easier to let things happen this way. It’s not like they’re going to make Davey live there forever.” “What do you mean?” Dad asked. “And that’s Davey. Why are you staying?” “Would you leave Mom?” I asked him with a snort and he shook his head. “As for what I mean, well, when Davey and I graduate from college, things will change. Verakov will have gotten to know Davey for a few years, and he’ll be less… needy is the word I think. He’s just asked Davey for a few years to get to know him. He’s lost all his family you know.” “That doesn’t mean he has a right to take other people’s family.” Mom said sternly. I could only imagine what Davey was getting. “Well, both you and Davey have appointments with psychologists who specialize in dealing with Stockholm Syndrome. We’ll get you set right.” “You think we were taken hostage?” I asked, surprised by my own parents. “What other explanation is there?” Mom said and I laughed. This was going to be fun. In the end, it was Trevor’s father who took both parents aside for several long conversations. When he was done with them, our parents gave us dirty looks, but didn’t protest when we packed our bags to return to Moscow. Davey’s parents were downright frosty to both of us, not even taking him to the airport. It was on the flight back I learned that they finally knew exactly what our relationship was, and they’d threatened him with being disowned if he didn’t dump me. Then they blamed my parents for the whole mess, and I wasn’t sure how that was going to affect the business they all operated as a group. Mika was happy to see Davey when we landed in Moscow. It was even colder than it had been when we left. Oddly, Davey looked more comfortable here than he had the entire time in California. This whole thing was going to take years to smooth over when everything was done. I’d left nearly two hundred pages of hastily typed notes for Mr. Rush before we left, and I hoped whatever information was in there was worth the cost Davey, and to a less extent, I, would be paying for this – emotional as well as physical. Twice over the next year, I met Alexei Shevardnadze. It was eerie standing in the same room with the person who had caused so much trouble in previous timelines. The scientist was dead, though, and there was no need to kill the Russian this time. Still, it was interesting to know that I could have done it if it was necessary. As 1989 progressed, the discussions between Mika and Davey became less and less frequent. If you read Pravda, or watched the government news, you might not know that Hungary and Poland had elected non-communist governments. Nor would you truly understand that the Berlin Wall no longer existed. Still, news of those events percolated on the campus of Moscow State, and on the streets of the city itself. Knowing what was coming, and seeing the effects of those events on the populace was interesting. The signs were everywhere of the cracks in the foundations of the Soviet Union if you knew what to look for, but its leadership went along like nothing had changed. That year I went home for two weeks in the summer, and had several long talks with Mr. Rush, as well as leaving him a two-hundred page book on everything Davey and I were observing. In those notes were predictions that within the next few years, major changes would be seen in Soviet government. They didn’t come right out and say the Soviet Union was going to crack like an egg, but they hinted at it. That summer, we went to Samarra with Mika, and Davey got to meet several ‘cousins’ that still lived in the region. It was a closed region, where few if any Westerners had ever visited, and when I went back for Christmas, again alone, Mr. Rush seemed quite enthralled with my notes from the visit there. 1990 was going to be a long year for the Soviet Union, and I had front-row seats with Davey for the excitement. The 1988 reforms of Gorbachev, allowing for the first time since 1922 private property, private ownership of business and manufacturing plants were starting to have their effect on the national economy. Mika was at the heart of the storm, and while we stayed in the Moscow apartment that had been provided, we barely saw him during the week. On the weekends he looked like he was aging every week, growing older and older. Davey took to worrying over his health more than anything else. One thing I’d always underestimated was the news programs. As time went by, the reforms of Gorbachev relaxed the Communist party control over the media. For the first time, the Soviet people were learning some of the sordid history of their nation. From Stalin’s purges to the abysmally high suicide rate, information that had been kept from them was becoming public, and shaking the faith of the average citizen on the street. Since the early days of the cold war, the United States had tried telling Soviet citizens about these atrocities and problems, but their broadcasts reached few people inside the nation, and were believed by even fewer. Several of those we met who were near our age group could sing every song by American (and British) rock bands that they heard over the pirate American broadcasts, but would laugh about stories of Stalin’s atrocities, until they heard about it on Moscow news. By the time we were ready to graduate with our degrees from Moscow State, I was quite certain that I wanted to stay and watch this all the way through. It was still winter outside, and there was a lot of snow on the ground when we went to a dinner at Mika’s house. Maslyukov was there, with his wife, as were several other apparatchiks who worked with the two men. It was a semi-formal affair, but the discussion took a surprising turn after the dinner itself was over, and we sat in a room sipping cognac in front of the fire. “Do you know what our work is right now?” Maslyukov asked Davey and I after taking a puff on his cigarette. So far Davey and I had both resisted taking up smoking, which all these men did with relish. “I have a few thoughts.” Davey admitted. “There is much privatization of businesses going on now and you play some role in that.” “We are supposed to be supporting the private ownership of business and manufacturing while still maintaining control.” Maslyukov stated sourly. “It does not go well. Production is still down, and our economy worsens instead of improves.” “Maybe you have the wrong people buying the businesses.” Davey said quickly, hitting a key point I’d shared with him about the problems of post-Soviet Russia. “What do you mean?” Maslyukov asked. “Who is buying these businesses?” Davey asked him. “Those with the resources to do so, Sergei.” Mika stated with a chuckle. “You know this already, or should.” “Yes, but why are they buying these businesses?” Davey asked him. “What is their motivation for owning them?” “To make money.” Maslyukov, a true communist said it with a frown. “That is the problem. They do not care about the good of the nation, they care first about making more money.” “That is always the problem with capitalism, but it does work.” Davey said. “The problem is not just with production, it’s with distribution, which is still state-controlled, and it is with the ownership. Here in Moscow, the small restaurants and other types of businesses that are opening are flourishing. That is because they can buy the goods they need to sell, and because they live here. They care about not only making a profit, but doing right by their neighbors who are their customers. A person in Moscow who buys a factory in Samarra does not care about the people in Samarra. He cares about his factory making money.” “So how do you solve this?” Maslyukov asked with real interest. “No one in Samarra has money to buy the factory.” “No one.” Davey said with emphasis on the second word. “Establish a fund to help the workers in the factory take out a loan and collectively buy the factory. If the workers of the factory own it, depend on it for their lives, and receive back the fruits of their labor from dividend payments, they will work harder. They will vote to hire managers that know what they are doing, and get rid of those who do not.” “But that does not solve the transportation problems.” I added. “What good does it do to make more automobiles if you cannot move them to where people can afford to buy them?” “How would you improve our transportation, my young man American friend?” Maslyukov asked. Should I reply honestly, and take the risk of actually helping the Soviet Union? No, the suggestion would only speed up its end, or be a contributing factor to that end. “Much the same way as what Sergei suggested.” I explained. “Truck drivers do not care if they arrive on time if they are not being rewarded for their work. Enable them to achieve their own control over their own work. Establish a fund that will loan them the money to buy their own trucks. You won’t really be spending any more money than you already did to buy the truck the first time. You are just moving money around on paper. Charge them a little interest. They will own the truck, and be able to offer their services to those who have goods to move at a fair price. Monitor their prices, and those that cheat too much can be punished. In English we call it ‘gouging’. “But there isn’t really infrastructure to support all that.” Davey said with a sigh. “The roads are awful, and fueling stations are not all that common. They would have to be privatized too in order to make this work.” “That is the problem.” I agreed with him. “You cannot just turn one part of the economy into private business without also converting those that support such businesses. A puzzle is only little pieces until you put them all together to form a whole.” “Yes, it is as you have said, Mika.” Maslyukov said. “Looking at only one tree has blinded us to the whole forest.” “It is something we should think about.” Mika added, and the conversation changed to the weather and when we thought spring would finally arrive. By summer, Davey and I found ourselves in positions I had not expected: working as assistants to Mika. Certainly we were very junior, and watched very, very closely, but we found some of our suggestions actually being considered, and one or two implemented. I was certain they would not help strengthen the Soviet Union, but held my breath just the same. That summer Davey did not go back to America at all. His family was still not speaking to him, and my parents explained that David Jones Sr. had quit working for their budding corporation, even though he still owned a fair amount of stock. It wasn’t quite clear what he was doing, but he wanted nothing to do with us anymore. Mr. Rush was not alone when I went to visit him this time. Mr. Long was there as well, and I had a direct debriefing that summer that lasted almost all of the two weeks. I barely had time to spend a day with Trevor and Todd as well as Brandon and Sean, all of whom were busy with their own lives. Todd was working on movie sets, trying to become a director. Trevor was drafted by L.A. and playing professional football as a backup quarterback. Brandon and Sean were starting up their own computer firm and had settled in Massachusetts. Before I returned, there was one more meeting with Mr. Long, who told me to keep doing what we were doing. There were several people at the CIA who now believed it was entirely possible the Soviet Union could collapse any day now, and they were looking forward to seeing it become reality. He was even more excited about our new jobs, and was considering setting up a system whereby we could sneak information out more frequently. Davey was happy to see me when I returned, and he had a very worried look on his face as he met me at Moscow’s airport. “What’s wrong?” I asked him, switching back to Russian easily now. “It’s father.” Davey said with a frown as we walked to the waiting car. He had started calling Mika that last year. Never any shorter name, always ‘father’. “What is it?” I asked him. “He is in the hospital.” Davey said sadly. “The doctors say it is only a matter of time.” “I’m sorry.” I said as we got in the car. “Are we going to see him?” “Yes, he’s been asking for you.” Davey said with a slight smile. “He misses his ‘third’ son.” “I missed him too.” I said, and was only partly surprised at the truth of that statement. 26. Chapter 26 We buried Mikhail Verakov twelve days after I returned to Moscow. Like so many other Russian men, he died from lung cancer and pneumonia. Over the last few years, I had seen the close bond that had developed between Davey and this man, and so I wasn’t surprised at how hard Davey took the man’s death. Mika was not Davey’s real father, and Davey knew that, but he loved the man anyway for a variety of reasons. Part of it had to do with the unconditional love that Mika had always given him. Even at its best, Davey’s relationships with his parents had always been conditioned by a variety of factors. They had certain expectations of him in every timeline, and he was constantly struggling with them in one way or another, even when they accepted him, and our relationship. He had to prove to them that he wasn’t a disappointment even though he was gay. With Mika, there had been none of that. The old man had accepted Davey, or Sergei as he’d always called Davey, as Davey was, without condition. Davey did not have to do anything to please the man, or to be loved by the man. All he had to do was be there. It was certainly a far easier relationship for Davey. Davey spoke at the funeral, which was attended by a lot more people than we had expected. It wasn’t a religious service of course, and many of the people were dignitaries of the Soviet government. After the funeral, we even spoke a few words with the Secretary-General of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev. That was quite an eye-opening experience for both of us since we had rarely even seen the man before and certainly never spoken to him directly. Davey and I didn’t speak about the future after the funeral, but rather I comforted him while he cried. I’d been there with him in my original timeline after his parents had each passed away, and knew he took these types of situations very hard. The future could wait while he grieved. We spent that night at Mika’s dacha out in the foothills instead of at our apartment. There, on the mantle over the fireplace, new pictures had been added in recent years, pictures of Mika and Davey, and even a few of me up there as well. In all of them, Mika’s lips were curled upwards. “You have a visitor, Sergei.” Lina, Mika’s older housekeeper said on the morning of the third day. Mika’s driver was no longer around, but she was still here, taking care of the house and helping to fix our meals while we stayed. She was a widower, and her children were grown and had families of their own now. Her work here had been a semi-retirement for her, and I idly wondered what would happen for her now. For that matter, what would happen with this house? “Who is it?” Davey asked in a soft voice. “Comrade Maslyukov is here.” She responded. “Please, bring him in.” Davey said quickly, turning from the picture on the fireplace and straightening his shirt. We were both wearing dark slacks, and Davey was in a white dress shirt while I was wearing a light green polo. Both of us straightened our hair a bit before heading down the stairs. “Comrade Maslyukov, welcome.” Davey said formally as we came into the living room. “Comrade Verakov, you have my condolences.” Maslyukov said with a short nod to Davey before he turned to me. “Comrade Breckenridge, you have honored our agreement over the last few years. I am here to honor my part now.” “You are referring to the fact that Comrade Verakov was not really my father.” Davey said calmly and Maslyukov shot me an accusing glare. “Please, Comrade, I knew from the beginning that he was not. Yuri did not have to tell me anything. I think in the end, even he knew that I was not his other son, but it did not matter. Family is more than blood, sometimes. Mika needed family, and he was a good man who deserved to have a family. I was honored to give him that.” “Interesting.” Maslyukov said as he sat down hard. Davey nodded and crossed to the small bar, pouring three shots of vodka and handing one to me before giving one to the older man. We toasted the memory of the departed and Maslyukov downed his quickly. “I liked him the first time I met him, and knew he was a good man.” Davey continued his explanation calmly. “He seemed so lonely, and did not deserve that. When I saw how he was able to accept me as I am, without judgment, I knew I would give him what he wanted: a son.” “This is a copy of his will.” Maslyukov said after he had digested Davey’s words. He took out a folded paper from his suit coat and handed it to Davey. “You will see that he has left you all of his possession. They are not as much as your American father has, but you can live comfortably in the USSR with this.” “Are we still welcome here?” Davey asked. “It is a fiction that I am a son of the Soviet Union.” “It is fiction, yes, but the records all say now that it is a fact.” Maslyukov shrugged. “If you wish to stay, if both of you wish to stay, you will be welcome. I am worried for the future.” “Why?” I asked, speaking for the first time in this conversation. Maslyukov held out the tumbler he had emptied, and waited while Davey filled it for him. The older man downed it again and looked out the large windows behind us and motioned for both Davey and I to sit. We did, sitting next to each other on the couch. “I fear the Union is crumbling.” Maslyukov’s voice was faint. When both Davey and I looked nervous he chuckled. “The listening devices were removed last year. Neither of you have said, or done, anything that our spies have disapproved. They were quite upset that you were not spies.” “There were no military secrets for us to steal.” Davey shrugged and Maslyukov chuckled again. “It is possible the American government has been looking in the wrong places for our secrets all these years.” Maslyukov stated in a sad tone. “I never thought to see the day when the Union would be crumbling. The Germans talk of reunification with the capitalist brothers. The European states talk of independence, and even the Baltic states are grumbling that they were once sovereign. I fear that only tanks and soldiers will keep them in the Union, and this is not the 1950’s. Gorbachev is not Kruschev, to crush them under his boots and force them to comply. As things stand now, the Union will not survive more than five years.” “I would give it two at most.” I said, taking a risk. Maslyukov gave me a hard look and then nodded abruptly. “That is a bet I will not take.” He grumbled. “You have proven to be quite intelligent, both of you.” “Thank you.” Davey said. “Sergei, I fear for what comes.” Maslyukov stated. “I wonder what will happen to the Rodina if the Union dissolves. Will we become capitalists only concerned about making more rubles and discard our principles?” “That is a possibility.” Davey said with a frown. “Mika and I had many conversations about the dangers of unfettered capitalism. I do not agree with communism, I believe you know that.” “Yes.” Maslyukov agreed. “Mika said you might make a socialist, but never a communist.” “True.” Davey agreed bluntly. “Even socialism though, does not work, in my belief. It is more accurate to say I believe in controlled capitalism. A field where any man may achieve his dreams, but all have the chance to play the game.” “Yes, Mika told me of this.” Maslyukov said with a shake of his head. “That is why I would ask you two to stay. You will never rise to a position like mine, or even that of Mika, but I would listen to your ideas as we struggle to keep the Union alive. Can you stomach that, even though you were born American?” “What if the Union does not survive?” Davey asked with a raised eyebrow. “What then?” “Then, you will help build a new Rodina.” Maslyukov said with a shrug. Before coming to Moscow, I’d have never expected to hear a Russian say something like this. Davey and I hadn’t spoken about the future, but he obviously had been thinking about it, and reached some decisions. I knew him, and could reason out what his thinking might be without having to talk it out. He knew I was always worried about the days after the fall of the Soviet Union. As Sean had said, my plans for trying to help from the outside had failed. Maybe working from the inside would see a different result. The long range plans would be affected of course, but they had been centered on more than just the United States. They were not about setting up a third political party in the United States, or getting any one individual elected. No, the plans were about changing how people looked at the world, and about the role of government and the individual. It was about taking responsibility for ourselves as individuals, and as a society. “I am willing to stay.” I said after we had all remained silent for a long time. Davey nodded, and Maslyukov nodded. “Then I will see the two of you in my office next Monday.” Maslyukov as he stood up and prepared to leave. “We have much work to do.” He wasn’t lying, either. There was a lot of work to do. Over the next few weeks, and months, we butted head with several different factors. First of course, was that this was still the Soviet Union, and its bureaucracy was filled with loyal communists. Gorbachev said he wanted private ownership, but those who had to implement such things considered private ownership anathema. Then there was corruption. Corruption had always been a part of the bureaucracy. To one extent or another, it was always a factor no matter the form of government. That was why, in the United States, anti-corruption laws were so important. One of the reasons America’s form of government worked was because corruption was limited, kept under relative control. The fact that every year there was at least one corrupt lawmaker getting caught was a testament to how well the system worked, not necessarily to its failure. Failure was when corruption happened and was never caught. In the more authoritarian USSR, corruption was far more rampant. Those in authority had more power, and in many cases investigators were either hamstrung in their ability to root it out, or had no interest. Blatant corruption of course was dealt with, and every so often the government would trot out an excessively corrupt bureaucrat as an example, but few of those in power feared being hauled off to prison. The changing rules on property and business ownership meant that more and more people were seeing opportunities to make a quick ruble, and many of them lacked any sense of ethics. We were still outsiders for the most part, and while they called us ‘Sergei’ and ‘Yuri’, and we all spoke mostly Russian, those we worked with and for rarely forgot that we were not really Russian. It was a barrier for us, but not an insurmountable one. Davey’s relationship with his family back in the States continued unchanged. They didn’t speak to him, and he didn’t speak to them. My parents told me that Mr. Jones had patched up his relationship with them, and gone back to work at the company that Dad still ran. When I visited them towards the end of Spring, they questioned me intently on why I was staying in the USSR. At Mr. Rush’s house, Mr. Long was waiting expectantly for me. I had another long series of reports for him, and he was most interested in hearing about Maslyukov’s statement regarding the USSR crumbling. He explained how he was filtering our reports through several different channels, making it almost impossible to track down where they came from, which was a good thing because I knew of at least one spy that was operating within the CIA at this time. I could have warned him about that person, but I had not come up with a way to explain how I knew about that person, while not creating the expectation that I would know of other things. Davey and I continued a comfortable existence in Moscow by and large. Occasionally, some woman from work would express an interest in one of us, but would look somewhere else when we showed no interest. At night, we would occasionally go out with groups of co-workers, or Russian friends from University. Both of us enjoyed the many theaters in Moscow. Not the movie theaters, but the stage plays, ballets, and even the opera, although Davey didn’t like operas nearly as much as I did. Back in March of 1990, Gorbachev had sent tanks into Lithuania to prop up the communist government. Later in that same year, Latvia and Estonia began the process of declaring their independence, and the tanks did not roll in to stop them. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, we watched along with the rest of the world as the United States rallied together an impressive coalition to throw Iraq out of that small country. When the battle began in early 1991, our friends in Moscow reacted with shock at the total collapse of Saddam’s largely Soviet-supplied and trained military. While the world was occupied watching what was happening in the Middle East, the KGB and Soviet Army troops again took to the streets in Lithuania. Their nationalist media was going further than the other states in pushing for independence. Maslyukov remained tight-lipped about the meetings of the Central Committee, but we could tell they were growing more and more intense and fractured. There were days that Davey and I held our breaths, or had to bite our tongues to keep from revealing too much knowledge of what was right around the corner. While US troops mopped up operations in Iraq and Kuwait, the Soviet Union voted. Davey was technically a citizen, and actually got to take part in the vote. It was in March of 1991 that nearly eighty percent of Soviet citizens voted to keep the Soviet Union, albeit in a reformed manner. Most of the ‘breakaway’ states didn’t want to lose access to the larger Russian markets that full independence would bring. What they wanted was less central-control from Moscow, and more local control. Maslyukov breathed a sigh of relief that his Soviet Union had passed a major crisis and survived. I didn’t tell him what was right around the corner. Boris Yeltsin was running for the office of President of the Russian SFSR against Nikolai Ryzhkov. Mikhail Gorbachev was supporting Ryzhkov, but we both knew it was Yeltsin that would win, and in a few months stand up to the tanks of the Soviet Union. Davey and I, still using our system of tapping out messages just in case there was someone listening, discussed whether we should get involved in the campaign or not. In the end we went to Maslyukov with the matter. “Why do you want to support Yeltsin?” Maslyukov asked. Just a few years ago, elections like these, where you had several different candidates, and only one of them a member of the Communist Party would not have been possible. “I believe he will win.” Davey answered. “Yes, but why do you want to support him?” Maslyukov pushed and Davey looked at him with a confused expression for a moment. “This is not America, Sergei. Supporting the wrong candidate here is much more dangerous, especially for one who works for the Soviet Union. No, don’t get that look on your face my young friend. This is no longer the old Soviet Union. Lefortovo will not be graced with your presence just for supporting Yeltsin. Still, I might be told that your work is no longer needed here, and I will find it hard to disagree.” “We will miss working for you, comrade.” Davey said quietly, but firmly. “There are other jobs in Moscow, though.” “Especially if you helped with the right campaign.” Maslyukov nodded and then he sighed. “We will have to keep in contact.” “Of course.” Davey said with a smile. With that we left the office, and returned to work for the afternoon. That night we went home to the large townhouse that we had purchased, partly with money from Davey’s inheritance, and partly through selling some of the stocks we had received via our parents. It was one of those old eighteenth-century homes, with huge rooms, carved borders, and tall, narrow doors. Lina had dinner ready, as usual, when we got home. She had accepted our offer to live with us after Mika had died. She was now retired, receiving her pension from the state, but stayed with us for free, as well as received a small stipend to supplement her income. In return, she cooked dinner for us, and did most of the basic cleaning. Here she was close enough to her adult children that she could visit them, and her grandchildren nearly every day. It was a good arrangement that worked for all of us. The timeline was moving along so smoothly, heading straight in the direction that we expected, and even I had to admit that being where we were, at the center of change in Russia and the collapse of the Soviet Union was a breathtaking experience. Moscow was flooded with more foreigners than ever before, many of them ‘consultants’ brought in to help with the reforms of Gorbachev. It was amusing watching them struggle with the Soviet bureaucrats, so stuck in their ways, and yet knowing that change was on the horizon. Davey and I were both welcomed into the Yeltsin camp with open arms and many shots of vodka. Both of us were quite surprised that on our first day we got to sit down with Boris Yeltsin himself for nearly thirty minutes, talking about his vision of the future. Neither of us was surprised by his continued dedication to communism. The collapse of communism was by and large an accident of fate more than anything else. In order to understand how it happened, it is necessary to understand how the ordinary Russian perceived leadership. Maybe it was because of the repeated Mongol invasions, followed by Hitler’s greatest mistake of World War II where he invaded and devastated Russia before being thrown back, but the average Russian prefers strong leadership. Ideas and concepts such as communism or democracy, or feeding the poor, or even justice often take a second seat in who a Russian will support compared to the ‘strength’ of the candidate. Will the candidate be strong? Will they be able to lead Russia (or the Soviet Union) against all enemies? This theory of Russian electioneering was originally something I’d learned from the first Davey I had met. However, it had been proven over several lifetimes. The Soviet Union collapsed, according to this theory, not because of a failure of communism so much as a failure of leadership. Gorbachev took a fatal blow in public opinion when his own deputies managed to seize control from him. His deputies who took over failed to garner enough support from the public, and from the military. Yeltsin was able to seize the initiative, and because both Gorbachev and the coup plotters were pro-communist, the only alternative was to do away with the crumbling system. The only winners in that showdown were Yeltsin and his supporters, and Yeltsin won because he was seen showing strength and being victorious. Years later, when Putin took the reins of power from an ailing Yeltsin, it was his strength that allowed him to stay in power long after he should have left the position. His strength gave his viewpoints an air of legitimacy, and so he stayed in power. No one could muster the appearance of strength for many years in order to challenge him. Working on the election was an invigorating experience for both of us. It was different from American elections, but at the same time there were some core fundamentals that were unchanged. Controlling the message of the campaign was just as important, if not more important in these elections, and that was where I found my niche in working with Yeltsin’s senior advisors. Davey’s gift for writing found him working with the speechwriters for Yeltsin’s addresses, and after his victory (which was unsurprising for us), we found ourselves in middle-level positions of the administration of the Russian state government. It wasn’t too difficult for us to obtain visas for our friends to come out and visit us the week before the coup we expected to happen. Trevor was the most difficult to arrange, mostly because his parents were defectors, but even he was able to obtain a visa in this age of perestroika. They arrived on a British Airways flight in Moscow’s main airport, and Davey and I were there to meet them. The changes in our friends over the past several years were shocking to us in many ways. We had kept in touch by letters, and the occasional phone call, but seeing them after all these years was different. Trevor’s brown hair was cut short, and he was in great physical shape. Todd’s hair was longer, and paler red than it had been years ago. Brandon’s hair was longer, nearly touching his shoulders, and he was slimmer than I had expected. Sean’s hair was darker, and his freckles had started to fade, but he was actually more built up than Brandon. “Look at you two.” Trevor said with a smile after we had all hugged in the middle of the airport’s concourse after they had passed through customs without too much trouble. “What?” Davey asked in English. “You look… Russian.” Trevor said, also in English. He alone of our friends had any fluency in Russian. “We have been here for a few years.” I replied with a slight smile, and found it odd to be speaking English after using Russian almost exclusively all these years. Actually, I’d used English on my visits home, but speaking it here, in Moscow, felt truly odd. “Let’s get out of here.” “You’re going to love our house.” Davey promised them as we made our way out and found two taxis that would take us to the house. Davey rode in a car with Trevor and Todd while I went with Brandon and Sean in the other taxi. “Wow, it’s nicer than I thought.” Sean said as we drove down the road. “Moscow is very beautiful, especially in the summer.” I replied to his statement and heard a grunt from the driver. He was trying to take us the longer way to our destination and I spoke to him briefly in Russian. The driver frowned, but nodded and turned back to the shorter path. “Are we really going to the ballet tomorrow night?” Brandon asked with a slight grin on his face. “Yes.” I assured him. “That will be fun.” Sean agreed. The chatter continued like that, with no references to the real reason for their visit. I played the good tour guide, pointing out important historical sights along the way to the house, and when we reached it, I paid the driver off with a very slight tip since he’d tried to cheat us. “Can we talk freely here?” Trevor asked in English once we’d gotten inside the house and were all sitting in the living room. Lina was visiting her grandchildren today, and so we had the house to ourselves. “Yes.” Davey assured them. “Why’d you want us here?” Brandon asked with a frown. “Not that it’s not good to see you guys again. I mean, we haven’t gotten together at all in years, so why now?” “You know the coup is about to happen.” Davey said with a frown. “We thought you’d want to see it in person.” “Well, kind of.” Trevor shrugged. “But, what does this all have to do with our long-range plans? Why are you two here instead of in the U.S.?” “I think I overlooked something important in those plans.” I said with a sigh and looked up to see their expressions of surprise. “What would that be?” Sean asked with a little half-smile. “I’ve made the typical mistake of American hubris.” I said with a shrug. “In the planning, I looked at things too much from a solely American perspective, always at changing things from the outside, not the inside of other nations. Look, this has always been about changing the perspective of people so that they look at the world from a larger perspective. How do we think we can make that change from solely within the United States?” “So you’re going to try to make changes here in the Soviet Union?” Trevor asked in a tone of disbelief. “No, from the Russian Federation.” Davey countered. “The Soviet Union must end, that is obvious. History records its fate over and over again. It is an unsustainable system. What we’re going to do is try to cut down on the initial corruption and growth of the crime syndicates after the Soviet collapse. We’re in position now to do that, all we have to do is wait for the change in power to happen by the end of this year.” “What we’re going to need though is your help.” I added. “Here we have influence, and frankly we are well off enough that we can lead comfortable lives, but we won’t have the capital to really make some of the differences we need to make.” “How are things going on your end?” Davey asked them. “We’re good.” Trevor said with a smile at Todd, and the two of them clasped hands briefly. It was sweet to see their fondness for each other had not changed. “I’ve been picked up by the Rams, and I’ve already had the conversation with the coach. If the story breaks about us as a couple, they aren’t going to drop me. We don’t plan on breaking the story anytime soon, but it’s a good contract.” “I’ve got good news for you as well.” Todd said with a grin. “You might actually get to see some original movies for once without having to wait for the 21st Century. I’ve signed a good deal for a script I found, and if it works out, well, we’ll be well on the way to having a comfortable financial base between what I make and what Trevor makes.” “We’re doing damn good too.” Sean said firmly with a wink at Brandon. “None of us are going to have to turn to the lottery trick this time around, that’s for sure.” “So you’re wanting to take our hard-earned money, are you?” Brandon asked with mock severity. “We’re wanting you to invest it wisely.” Davey countered with a smile for Brandon. “It’s a perfect opportunity to get in on the ground floor.” “There’s more to the world than just Russia and the United States.” Trevor replied with a frown. “Yes, but maintaining the balance of two superpowers is important.” I countered. “Let’s face it, nature abhors a vacuum, and the unbridled supremacy of the United States during the 1990’s and early 21st Century is part of what got our homeland into so much trouble in those later years, during my original timeline. A stronger Russia on the international stage in the mid to late-1990’s and early 21st Century can make a huge difference, like it did in the 2020’s and 2030’s before the vacuum after Putin’s assassination.” “Do you really think you can accelerate Russian growth and domination so quickly?” Trevor asked with a frown. “It’s not a matter of accelerating its growth so much as it is stopping its decline.” Davey countered with a grin. “The 1990’s, under Yeltsin, was a time of massive decline, especially in the first five years. Yeltsin couldn’t be bothered to handle the little details, and those were what killed the Russian Federation. He cared only about the ‘big picture’, not all the little things that let the crime syndicates gain too much power, and slowed the economic growth of the country. Along with the associated corruption that was allowed to happen, well it was a mess in those early years.” “That is where Sergei and I will make the difference.” I added. “Sergei?” Brandon asked. “Who is Sergei?” “That’s my Russian name.” Davey shrugged and I blushed. Normally I didn’t slip up like that, but for some reason it was happening more and more lately. “Sorry.” I said with a blush. “Being here, now, gives you a reason for helping to invest in Russia’s economy in the near future.” Davey added. “Now will be the time that a little bit of money can make a huge difference, and Trevor, your public sports position will be helpful too, especially if your parent’s story comes out in public after the collapse.” “They won’t like that.” Trevor frowned. “No, but it will help.” Davey countered. “Part of the initial problem is that every bit of help the United States offers at this point in time comes with a price tag that the Russian government cannot pay. Instead of treating Russia like a potential partner, they try to treat this country like a defeated enemy, and that’s something on your end that needs to change.” “I’m just a sports figure.” Trevor countered. “Hell, right now I’m not even on the ‘A’ list of things.” “No, but you’re in the best position to get the press to look at you and to listen.” I countered and Trevor frowned. “You’re asking a lot, you know.” He said with resignation. “We know.” Davey assured him. “What about Shevardnadze?” Sean asked. “Any sign he did come back in time?” “None.” I answered quickly. “It appears the jamming of the frequency he and the scientist used did work, without affecting the frequency you used, or the one that we all used the last time.” “That’s good.” Sean said with a sigh. “He’d have been back for a few years by now.” “Yes.” Davey agreed. “Look, I know this isn’t easy for any of us, but remember, this is why we did come back. We need to make the world a better place, and the only way to do that is to make sure it stays balanced.” “I agree.” Todd said with a frown. “Part of me doesn’t like it, because it feels like we’re being disloyal to the United States, but you’re right. In the long run the best thing is for the United States to have competition in the international stage.” “The same goes for any country.” Davey said. “No matter what we do, the United States must remain strong and independent.” “We agree on that.” Sean said with a nod of his head. “Now that we’ve got that out of the way, how about showing us some of Moscow?” Trevor asked. “Have you two taken up smoking?” “No!” Davey nearly shouted. “But I bet you drink vodka.” Todd laughed. “Konyechna!” I said, slipping back into Russian without even thinking about it, and Davey translated for me with a laugh. He got up and brought a bottle of vodka along with several glasses, and we proceeded to teach our friends some of the best Russian toasts we had learned over the years. It was funny watching Todd and Sean stagger around, barely able to walk as we went to dinner at a nearby restaurant later than night. They were all tired from the flight, and the plan was for them to go to bed after they’d eaten. Trevor ordered for himself, but we translated for the others and after dinner everyone was asleep within minutes upon our return to the house. “I love you.” Davey whispered as he curled up against me and fell asleep. It felt surprising good to be surrounded by our friends, and the nervousness that had been growing in me over the last few weeks faded away. Knowing the coup was coming, and that the end result was going to be good for everyone was one thing, but I kept worrying that something could still happen to Davey and I, caught in the middle of the coup. Having our friends here made it seem a much more remote possibility.
  5. dkstories

    Chapter 24

    It was going to be another hot, bright, glorious day. Davey and I made our tenth and final lap around the track, and slowed from our slow run to a fast walk as we began to cool down. Both of us were wearing the red and gold sweat suits of ASU, as we normally did on our morning run. There were a few other students around, but most of them stayed far away from us. “It’s going to be hot, today.” Davey said in Russian. It had been four weeks since the last time we spoke English, just before getting on the plane that brought us here, to Moscow. That first morning here, at Moscow State University, when we’d gotten up for our regular morning run had caused quite a stir. Our ‘minders’ weren’t too thrilled with the fact that we’d managed to slip out in our red and gold sweats and make our way to the track where we ran two and a half miles before anyone knew we were gone. Our sweats had blended in with the communist red fairly well. Now though, a young man no older than us, wearing the uniform of the Moscow police, stood near the stands keeping a close eye on the two of us. He, or someone like him, was there every morning, and I was pretty sure that attractive woman who always started her run ten minutes after us, and finished right behind us was also assigned to keep an eye on us. It was almost funny, the way they kept a watch on Americans here in Moscow. You’d almost think we were all spies or something. “Who is doing the guest lecture today?” I asked Davey as I stretched out while we turned back towards the ‘dormitory’ we American students shared. It was more like an Army barracks, a piss-poor one at that. Whoever said communists didn’t know anything about making a buck got it wrong, considering the outrageous amount we’d paid for ‘lodging’ in a barracks the Army would consider sub-standard. “A man named Verakov.” Davey said with a shrug. “I heard he is some sort of economist or something. Professor Vernon wasn’t sure.” “Another lecture about the great triumphs of the working people.” I said with a little eye roll. He laughed at the comment and shook his head. “They do beat the drum a lot.” Davey said in what was probably a mangled translation of an American expression. We were studying ‘conversational’ Russian, and learning just how much even our education was lacking when it came to sounding like a native. “Verakov.” I said with a frown as we neared the barracks. “Didn’t we meet him at that party two weeks ago? He’s older, in his sixth decade.” “Yes, I think we did.” Davey said with a frown for whoever was watching or listening. There was a hint of mischief in his eyes. We had indeed met our target two weeks ago, and the man had not taken his eyes off of Davey for the rest of the night. Two days later we noticed a few new faces in the entourage that followed us whenever we left campus. We entered the building where most of our fellow students were just getting up, endured the cold showers since hot water never seemed to work, and quickly got dressed for the day. One lesson learned early on was to make sure our clothes were firmly locked up. Brad Wilson had lost three pairs of jeans because he didn’t lock his locker. Our American Professor met us in the dining hall where we were subjected to food that was about the same as could be expected in any cafeteria, and took the regulatory head count along with one of his Russian colleagues. After Jennifer Armstrong had managed to sneak out one night with a young comrade, they were extra careful about making sure we were all where we were supposed to be. The morning propaganda began after breakfast with a course in ‘Reading Russian Literature’. Naturally all the material we were reading dealt with Marxism/Leninism, as currently defined by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Davey and I had been playing a subtle game in this class, starting off with vociferous skepticism and scorn for the reading material. As the weeks went by, we kept asking questions, and getting interesting answers. Instead of tearing the sometimes weak answers apart, we pretended as if they were making us think. It had created a slight rift between us and the other American students who sometimes sniggered at the material we were given to read, but it set what we thought might be the right image. We had to be careful to not go overboard with the whole thing, but to keep it believable. Obviously we were well-watched as a group here on campus, but whether anyone took really detailed notes on us we weren’t sure of yet. “Today we have a special guest who will be able to answer a few of the questions posed by comrade Jones and comrade Breckenridge.” Professor Natasha Borisnaya Karesova said proudly. She was a tall woman, with brown hair and a well-connected father. On the first day of class she had proudly told us that he worked at the KGB. Professor Vernon had warned us that her father didn’t just work there, but was very senior in that organization’s structure. “I am honored to welcome to my classroom, Deputy Assistant Mikhail Markovich Verakov.” Davey barely hid the smile that flittered onto his face as we clapped for the man who entered the room. He was old, in his sixties and looked older yet. Verakov had straight, white hair that oddly enough reminded me of Davey’s hair as he grew older in the last timeline. Almost, looking at this man, I could believe he was Davey’s real father. The only thing was, I knew for a fact that Davey was the son of David Jones Sr. There could never be any doubt of that in my mind. “I understand this class has asked questions on how the Five-Year plan handles consumer products.” Verakov said, in Russian of course. His eyes were latched onto Davey already, and the entire time he spoke, his eyes never wandered far from my husband, even when others were asking questions. His answers, truth to tell, were not very illuminating, and certainly nothing important enough that the U.S. government would itch to know, but at the end of the class, when all the other students were leaving, Comrade Verakov made his move. “Comrade Jones, can you give me a moment of your time, please?” Verakov asked politely, and several other students paused to look at Davey before pushing past him. “You may remember, we met several weeks ago.” “I remember, sir.” Davey said politely. Verakov’s gaze flickered in recognition that I was standing behind and slightly to the right of Davey. “This would be your friend, Brian Breckenridge.” Verakov stated, more than asked. “I understand the two of you often come as a pair.” “True.” Davey said while trying not to laugh at the double entendre of those words. The slight flutter of Verakov’s lips made me wonder if maybe he’d intended them that way. Every time I’d seen the man so far, his eyes had looked haunted, but now, there was something else there. “What can we do for you, sir?” “Please, call me Mikhail.” The older man said politely. “I was curious. Where are you from?” “I attend Arizona State University.” Davey answered. “No, no, I know which school you attend, but where were you born?” Verakov asked. “I was born in Modesto, California.” Davey said. “My family still lives there. It is a small town, about 136 kilometers south of Sacramento, the state capitol.” “I know where this Modesto is located.” Verakov’s voice was tight now. “My son was born there.” “Seriously?” Davey said in a tone that expressed disbelief. “Yes, yes, in January of 1967.” The man said in a very sad tone. “Ya Tojhe!” Davey exclaimed excitedly, ‘me too’. “Come, we will eat lunch together.” Verakov said and he paused with a look towards me. “Your comrade as well.” “Uh…” That came out in English from Davey and he looked at me with a slightly worried expression. Maybe he should have become an actor, because he even had me fooled. “Do not worry, it will be okay with those who might worry.” Verakov said in a kindly, almost fatherly way. “Come, both of you, I believe you will enjoy this lunch.” It was barely an hour and a half after breakfast, and nowhere near lunch time, but we followed the man out of the building and into a waiting car. There was a uniformed driver to hold the door open for us, and we both got slightly nervous looks on our faces as we joined the man in the back seat. “One of the privileges of serving the Rodina.” He said with a soft sigh as the vehicle drove off. “Tell me of your parents, David Davidovich.” Davey talked, in Russian, talking about his parents, his father’s early career as a preacher, now abandoned in favor of business. Their constant moving when he was younger, his sister, and so on until he talked about being advanced in schooling so that we finished high school at sixteen. Verakov rarely interrupted, and I realized we were outside Moscow as Davey talked about graduating and beginning Arizona State. That was when he looked out the windows at a large monument we were passing. “What is that? Where are we?” “We are outside Moscow.” Verakov said and Davey got a worried look on his face. I hoped my expression looked as genuine. “That is the monument built to honor the place where Heroes of the Soviet Union stopped the Nazi pigs in the Great War.” “We aren’t supposed to leave Moscow…” Davey said in a worried tone the monument faded from view. “You are authorized for today.” Verakov said firmly. “We will be in my dacha soon, in the foothills, where we will eat lunch. Tell me Brian Emmetovich, what about your family? Were you born in Modesto as well?” “Yes, even the same hospital as Davey, but a week later.” I answered, and now it was my turn to tell my life’s story. He nodded politely, but clearly was not as interested in me as he was in Davey. Several times his hand lifted, as if to touch Davey, but he put it back down in his lap until we pulled up in front of a medium-sized house, more like a cabin or lodge, in a wooded area. After the driver opened the door, we followed him inside the dacha. It was fairly spacious, and well-made. The wood walls were covered in pictures, and the furniture looked comfortable, if slightly worn. He showed us into what looked like a living room, with a fireplace, empty in the heat of summer, and we sat on a couch while he sat near us in an armchair. “My wife, Ilianya.” He said with a wave of a hand to a picture on the mantle of the fireplace. “She passed away several years ago. Dmitry was heartbroken, as was I.” “My condolences.” Davey said softly in Russian. “You speak Russian well, for someone not born Russian.” Verakov complimented Davey who blushed at the praise. “You said your son was born in Modesto?” Davey asked. “Your wife and you were visiting?” “My wife and I never journeyed to the United States.” Verakov said sadly. “Then how…” Davey started to ask, but Verakov stood up and went to the picture of his wife, looking at it fondly. “No matter how we tried, we never did have children.” Verakov began his story in a sad tone. “During the Great War, I worked in a factory at Samarra. After the war, I became a manager, and from there was promoted quickly. Several years before you, and my son were born, I was promoted to work with the Foreign Office on issues of Trade. While there, I spent many long weeks away from my wife. “No matter my excuses, I was unfaithful to my wife.” He sounded like he truly regretted that. “I love her, loved her, very much, but that was not enough to keep me from straying. Mina was a lovely girl, and she was ambitious. When she found I would not leave my wife for her, she helped her brother defect to the United States and joined him there. When it happened, I did not know she was pregnant with my child, my children.” “Children?” Davey asked. “I thought you said you had a son.” “She died in your Modesto, giving birth to my son, Dmitry.” Verakov continued in a very flat tone as he looked over at another picture, of the now-dead Dmitry. He picked it up and crossed the room to hand it to Davey. “Dmitry had a twin, who I was told died in childbirth, along with Mina.” “He’s a handsome man.” Davey said cautiously while I looked over his shoulder at the picture. “He looks like you Davey.” I said with what I hoped sounded like genuine surprise. “Yes, I believe were he alive today he would look much like you.” Verakov said with a look of anticipation in his eyes, and a look of pain. “If he were alive?” Davey asked. “He died in an accident over a year ago.” Verakov’s eyes were slightly wet. “The doctors tried, but could not save him.” “It’s amazing how much he looks like me.” Davey said. “Yes.” Verakov agreed again. “I think there is a reason for that.” “My parents…” Davey began cautiously. “When I was twelve, I believed I was…what is the word? Adopted.” Verakov had to correct him on the word he used, or at least the correct tense, but Davey just nodded. “Yes, adopted.” Davey continued. “They are both shorter than I was at that age, and have dark hair and dark eyes. I look very little like them. They showed me my birth papers, showing I was their son.” “Papers like that can be forged.” Verakov said flatly. “When I saw you, it was like looking at my Dmitry again. You have a smile much like him.” “But I’m not exactly like him.” Davey said as he looked at the picture. “We look similar, but not the same.” “Not all twins look exactly alike.” Verakov answered. “There is a way we can tell with much more certainty.” “You think I’m…how would they have done that?” Davey asked. “Mayhap the woman you know as mother did give birth, but the child died during or right after birth.” Verakov said slowly. “That is very possible, and Mina died after giving birth to two boys, fraternal twins. She wanted her children to live in the United States, with her brother. This way at least one child would do that.” “Who’s her brother?” Davey asked. “I don’t know any Russians in Modesto.” “You would know him as Mr. Rush, father of your friend, Trevor.” Verakov said and we looked at him with mock surprise. He smiled at us. “Yes, since I first saw you I have been asking many questions, and our intelligence services have found many answers very quickly. I know much about you, David, and your… friend next to you. Do you know why your CIA refused your application to work there?” “No.” Davey whispered with wide eyes. “It is because the two of you are… to be polite, involved.” Verakov said without showing any discomfort. “It is not something appreciated in the Rodina, either, but for those with enough rank, their children are often allowed their own… pleasures. I do not… approve, but we do not shun you because of that. We would not have known if your government had not found out and rejected you for their service.” “You know our government would be interested in knowing that you were able to find this out.” I said with narrowed eyes and he smiled at me. “Yes, they would.” He said with a shrug. “You may tell them, if you wish, as long as you agree to some things.” “What things?” Davey asked suspiciously. “What do you think of a government that would hide a son from his father?” Verakov asked. “We don’t know if I’m the other son.” Davey stated flatly. “I will have a doctor here soon who will give us a preliminary test first.” Verakov said with a wave of his hand. “It will at least tell us if it is possible that we are related. A more detailed test will be taken later. All I ask is that you agree to take the first test. If it proves we cannot be related, you will be free to go.” “You mean to test the type of his blood.” I said calmly. “Yes.” Verakov replied. “What if it says we might be related?” Davey asked. “Your classes here end in two weeks.” Verakov stated. “That is correct.” Davey confirmed. “The test will take at least three weeks.” Verakov said. “If the first says it is possible, I will ask you to stay until the second test is done. Please understand, I am an old man. If you are my second son, stolen from me on the day you were born, you are all the family I have left.” “I already have a family.” Davey said flatly. “They love me. Do you expect me to turn my back on them?” “No.” Verakov said stonily. “But, they are only your family because you were stolen from me!” “If I am your son.” Davey insisted. “If.” Verakov allowed. “Please, as I said. I am an old man. My family is gone. If you are indeed my second son, I would like to get to know you.” “What about Brian?” Davey asked defensively. “As long as you visit with me, he is welcome.” Verakov said. “Do not… flaunt yourselves and no one will say anything or do anything to either of you.” “I almost wish I could be your son.” Davey said softly as he looked at the picture of Dmitry again. “I always wondered what it would be like to have a brother. No, I do not think I am your son.” “We will see.” Verakov said firmly. “Now, are you hungry? Let me show you my home.” In the United States, it might have been considered a slightly above-average place, but by the standards we’d seen in Moscow, the place was quite spacious. In addition to the driver who waited with the car, there was also a housekeeper/cook who took care of the home for the elderly man. Lunch was the best food we’d eaten since coming to Moscow, if you didn’t count a few of the parties we’d attended. Verakov might not be at the top of the ‘elite’ of Soviet society, but he was rather far up the ladder. After lunch was when a doctor came, with a syringe. Davey barely winced as the man took two samples of blood before doing the same with Verakov. Ten minutes later, he and Verakov were holding a hushed discussion just out of earshot. It wasn’t long before Verakov escorted the doctor over to where I sat with Davey, looking out the windows of the living room at the woods behind the house. “Your blood type is within expected range of Comrade Verakov’s.” The doctor said in a thick accent that I recognized now as being Ukrainian. His words were really unnecessary because for the first time since we’d met him, Verakov was smiling. An American wouldn’t recognize it quite as a smile, but for a Russian he might as well have been grinning from ear to ear. “It is possible the two of you are related. Your samples will be taken to a facility in Moscow where we will run further tests. The results will take at least three weeks.” “Thank you, comrade doctor.” Davey said with barely a nod of his head. Verakov himself escorted the middle-aged man out while Davey shared a look with me. My lover reached out and touched the back of my hand, quickly tapping out a message in Morse code. When we had known exactly what type of game the Agency wanted us to play here, we had thought of ways to communicate that couldn’t be overheard by microphones, caught by camera, or intercepted and read. In the end, we’d come up with tapping out messages with fingers against skin, hidden from view. It wasn’t perfect, and long messages took a while, but at least we could ‘talk’ without others hearing. ‘Do we?’ Davey asked in his tapping. Four letters with the interrogative quite clear from the look on his face. “You pick.” I tapped back quickly as Verakov reentered the room. My eyes told Davey, even as our hands separated that I would support him in whatever decision he made. A little voice inside of me was saying that Davey was having doubts about trying to fool this man. Not likely because we couldn’t do it, but rather because he was a nice man who had been given a series of hard blows by fate. I knew Davey, and his conscious had to be tearing him up inside. “If you wish to have another doctor confirm this, I can make sure it is arranged.” Verakov said calmly to Davey as we looked up at him. “I…I can’t believe this is happening.” Davey said quietly. “It is hard to believe. How do you know it is not a trick? Maybe… maybe the CIA is trying to trick you, or both of us.” “They would not be interested in the likes of me.” Verakov said with a snort. “I know nothing of military secrets. My work is in determining what our factories can produce, and not even our military factories. What does the West care how many cars we can make, or how many radios, or how many cooking pans for our wives to use?” “You would be surprised how important those things can be.” Davey said with a sigh, but Verakov shook his head. “No, it is not likely.” Verakov said with a look at me. “The Americans do not trust boys like you. They believe our evil agents will seduce you and use you for our own evil designs.” The look on his face as he said that, and the tone of his voice is what caused both Davey and I to laugh slightly. Verakov’s smile reappeared on his face, little more than the edges of his lips quirking up, but combined with the look in his eyes, it was easy to understand he was feeling happy. That caused a slight feeling of guilt but I pushed that aside. No matter my feelings about doing this, no matter whether it was a waste of time or not, we were expected to perform a duty here, and I would perform that duty well. “What happens now?” Davey asked in a quiet voice. “Do you expect me to call you father?” “No.” Verakov said as he sat down in his armchair again. “Now, I believe, you should return to University. You have both missed most of your classes today. I would expect my son, and his friend, to earn good marks in class. You have the weekend off. I know your group was planning several tours, and to see the ballet. If you do not mind, instead you will come here. Until we have the results of the final test, we will learn about each other.” “What about after?” Davey asked. “We’re supposed to leave in a few weeks.” “After your classes are done, you will be invited to stay with me.” Verakov said calmly. “We have missed eighteen years and have much to catch up on.” “What if I want to go back to the United States?” Davey asked. “I am an American you know. I was born there, raised there.” “Yes, you were born there, and raised there, but you are also Russian.” The man said sternly. He was tense, but relaxed slightly as he took a deep breath. “You are an adult. From you was stolen the opportunity to know your brother. He would have liked you. I suspected he was like you, you know, preferring boys to girls, but he never said anything.” “My parents don’t really know, either.” Davey said with a rueful chuckle. “They keep asking when I’m going to date a girl.” “Ah, I see.” Verakov said slowly. “You will never have to hide anything from me. I am lucky to have this chance to know you, and would rather know you as you are instead of as my dreams would make you. Just knowing you will be enough for me. That is all I ask. Spend time with me, allow me to get to know you, and you me. If, after some time has passed, you wish to return, you will be able to return to the United States. If, as I hope, you choose to stay here, you will attend Moscow State, and you will find many opportunities open for you in the Soviet Union. We are not the villains your government would have you believe we are.” “I–I can do that much.” Davey said with a sigh. “Brian?” “I’m not going anywhere without you.” I said to him and Verakov nodded. “I will look forward to getting to know you too.” Verakov said. “I confess I am confused. I always thought among your kind one of you had to be the woman and one the man, but you both look fine young men.” “Oh god, how do we talk about this in Russian?” Davey asked in English as he laughed quietly. “Very, very carefully.” I answered him in the same language before shifting back to Russian. “I think we will all have a lot to learn.” Poor Professor Vernon was fit to be tied when we arrived back on the Moscow State campus. He was pacing back and forth in front of a building when the vehicle we were riding in came to a stop near him. The uniformed driver got out, opened the door for us and the Professor gaped at us as we got out. Unfortunately for us, the vehicle had barely pulled away before he started in on the two of us. “What is going on here?” He screamed in Russian. “Where have you been? Who was in that car?” “We were invited to visit a relative.” Davey said calmly and the man stopped his ranting to stare at Davey. “Who are you related to?” He asked in English. “Apparently to Comrade Verakov.” Davey answered with a shake of his head. We left the good Professor standing there, gaping with a mouth wide open as we entered the barracks that we called home here. There were a lot of questions from our fellow students, but we managed to brush them off while working on the ‘assignments’ that we had missed. We tapped out a rather long discussion, our longest yet that night. Davey shared my concerns about the old man. He, like me, felt bad for deceiving him, but was not deterred. If he was younger, had not lived at least part of one lifetime already, he would have been facing a bigger moral quandary, but he had learned some simple truths that most people learned as they got older. Very rarely were opponents, or enemies, ‘bad’ people. They are merely people, human beings with good traits, and bad traits. Their actions can be bad, or evil even, but those actions do not necessarily make the individual themselves ‘bad’. Davey’s father was a prime example. His molesting his daughter was an act of evil. That alone did not make him a bad person. In a timeline where that was prevented, Davey’s father ended up being one of the best Presidents in United States history. In this timeline, he was fast becoming an important businessman, achieving great things. Davey could understand that Verakov might be a nice old man, worthy of sympathy, and maybe even respect for the things he had achieved in life. Still, by his actions, he was a person contributing to a bad system of government. His contributions propped up a government that abused its own people, and threatened the liberties of people all over the world. Men who held certain beliefs in what a government should, and should not be for its people founded the United States. They rebelled against a near-tyrannical King and Parliament in order to establish a government that had, at its core, certain beliefs. The Declaration of Independence stated it best: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Davey and I both understood these core principles, and knew that the Soviet system of government was wrong. That was why it had to fail, as history had already determined it time and again. Making sure that it happened again in this timeline was a worthy goal, even if it meant deceiving a nice old man who had suffered great loss already. Classes the next day were interesting in several ways. Our fellow American students were still burning up with curiosity about what had happened with us the day before. The Soviet Professors treated Davey, and me to a lesser extent, with a little more respect. How much did they know? What had they been told? Or were they just reacting to us leaving and returning in a government vehicle? Thursday afternoon, Professor Karesova invited us to attend a meeting of the campus Party with her. Professor Vernon’s eyebrows shot through his fading hairline when he was told we would be attending with her. The meeting itself reminded me more of a Bible Study than anything else. An older man ‘preached’ about the historic dialectic and its inevitable victory over capitalism. Davey and I received several side-long looks from those there, mostly faculty, but remained silent for the most part. We did remember to thank Karesova for inviting us afterwards though. On Friday, we’d no sooner walked out of our last classroom than a young man in Soviet uniform met us. He was very polite in inviting us to follow him, and he led us to a waiting vehicle much like the one we’d ridden in earlier in the week. He even held the door open for us as we got inside. There was no one waiting inside for us, but the young soldier got into the driver’s seat and quickly sped off campus. Neither of us relaxed until we passed the monument we’d seen last time, and were certain we were heading for Verakov’s dacha. I wasn’t sure about Davey, but this whole spy business was just a little bit hard on my nerves. When it was all over, I was going to make sure we never did anything like this again.
  6. dkstories

    Chapter 23

    When we graduated from the Robinson Academy, we were part of a graduating class of sixty-three. All sixty-three graduates of the Academy went on to college, something not quite unusual for that school, but unusual in most public schools. Fourteen of those graduates went on to one of the four military Academies. Five (including Sean and Brandon) went to MIT. Most went to Ivy League schools like Yale or Harvard. Davey and I were the only two going to a little school in the heavily wooded area of Washington State where Whitman was located. Or rather, where we had planned to attend when we graduated. “This is weird.” Davey said as we unpacked our bags in the dorm room, two weeks before school started. “Yes, it is.” I agreed with him. We were both halfway through our sixteenth year, and freshmen about to begin our first year in college. “Did you see the house?” Davey asked me and I nodded. The dorm room was one of those on the top floor of the building, providing a spectacular view of the surrounding area. Well, it would be spectacular if you were the least bit interested. At least the dorm room we had been assigned was just the two of us instead of one of the bigger rooms. We had gotten here about an hour ago, and after doing our check-in were almost unpacked. “I did.” I said after taking a deep breath and letting it out as a sigh. I had not realized until I’d seen it how much I’d loved that house. “This is going to suck.” Davey said as he finished connecting the last connection on his computer and he sat down to boot it up. He had gotten his buzz cut freshened up back in Modesto before we’d left for college. We were supposed to let our hair grow out a bit more, but he’d complained about it itching too much and decided to see if he could get away with one more haircut before the fall semester started. “You want me to remind you it’s your fault?” I said in a tight voice and he actually laughed sharply before shaking his head. “Would it help if I said I was sorry?” He said as he turned around in his chair and gave me a pouting look. “Oh stop that.” I said with irritation and he smiled, knowing I’d already forgiven him. Damn it, what were they thinking? We were only sixteen! “Don’t worry, it’s not like we’re really sixteen.” He said after seeing the expression on my face. I gave another sigh, and nodded my head in agreement. Instead of arguing further I went over and hugged him, giving him a kiss on the top of the head. “I’m going to go for a walk.” I said gently and he nodded as his computer finished booting up and he turned back around. He’d already hooked up the phone line to the 4,800 baud modem and would be making sure everything worked just fine. Shutting the door behind me I went out and took the elevator down to the first floor. With a nod for the sleepy student at the front desk I left the building, barely wincing as the heat hit me like a wall. I’d survived Arizona before, and while I wasn’t happy to be back here instead of nice, cool Washington, it wasn’t going to kill me. We were here early, and except for some athletes, most of the campus was still fairly empty as I walked around the familiar environs of Arizona State. To be honest, I was feeling a little lonely without Trevor, Brandon, Sean, and Todd around. We had made other friends at Robinson, but the six of us had been a fairly insular group for all those years. Now it was just Davey and me here at this school. Both Sean and Brandon had been remote ever since Spring Break, when the two of them had left our campsite for the mission in Livermore. They’d returned very quiet, and had barely spoken a word the rest of the weekend except to say that they were successful. We’d all been quiet for the rest of the week with the realization that we’d all contributed to the killing of another human being, who had not yet done anything. Trevor had confirmed it for us, by speaking with his father when we returned. Trevor had brought up a story in talking with his father about how a student at the Academy had been caught smoking in his room. His father had shaken his head, and commented that smoking was stupid and dangerous. One of his co-workers at the lab had died just a few days before when his pilot light had gone out during the night, and the man had woken up and lit a cigarette. That was all the confirmation we’d needed, and towards the end of summer we’d all breathed a sigh of relief when we’d not heard anything more or any whisper that the death had raised suspicions. After making a circuit of the central part of the campus, I made my way up, past the dormitories and by the stadium. Memories of Trevor playing football there came to the forefront of my mind, and I shook my head while a half-smile flitted onto my face. As much as I wanted to be mad at Davey for getting us into this… situation, I could not really blame him. The Davey Jones I had first met in my original timeline had over a century of experiences behind him, and he’d done just about everything he’d ever dreamed of doing, except maybe making it into space. When I came back in time, I’d known that there would be a lot of challenges, and one of those would be that the Davey Jones I was meeting would not have had those experiences. Davey had told me, in the original timeline, that he’d craved adventure and excitement when he was younger. That had led him into many interesting experiences. In my first trip back in time, Davey had been patient, but after Sean had come back he’d gotten a taste of being involved with ‘the big picture’ in a direct way, and I knew that deep down part of him craved something similar in this timeline. That was why I’d pushed him and my friends to the Robinson Academy. I’d hoped it’s ‘military’ elements would keep him satisfied, but they’d just fed his hunger for something more, and so now here we were, involved with America’s spy agency. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and I hoped it wouldn’t have too many effects on the long-range plans for the future. It shouldn’t, but as I’d already learned, the future wasn’t written and even the most prepared or experienced time traveler could run into the unexpected. “You’re back!” Davey said when I came back to our dorm room. He got out of the chair in front of the computer and crossed over to hug me as soon as I’d closed the door behind me. “You smell good.” I said as I caught the scent of the cologne he was wearing. “You’re sweaty, and you smell good too.” Davey said in a familiar, husky tone. Even as I leaned forward a bit more to kiss him comfortably, I could feel him hardening in his jeans. By the time we were done, we were both sweaty, and feeling very good as we laid together on one of the narrow dorm beds. It was a good thing we had four years of practice sleeping together in small beds at the Academy. “I like it when you greet me like that.” I said as I ran a finger along his side. He shivered slightly at the touch. “So you forgive me for getting you into this?” He asked in a very soft tone. “Yes.” I said without hesitation. “Sorry, you know how I get when plans get changed.” “You and your plans.” Davey said with a slight chuckle. It was probably his biggest frustration with me. I didn’t react well when my plans were de-railed or sidetracked. “I’ll get over it like I always do.” I said as I reached around discovered to my joy that he was ready for another round. He sighed as my hand began to stroke him gently. “I love it when you do that.” He said quietly, and it was another hour before we were walking down the hallway to the showers. Two football players were in there, and greeted us with nods before heading out. That night we ate at a restaurant on Mill Avenue before heading to the theater where we watched a movie both of us had already seen in another timeline. Then we headed back to the dorm room. We could have easily afforded the house, or other off-campus living quarters, but our ‘handler’ at the CIA wanted us to live on-campus. Thus we were going to get the ‘full’ experience on campus this year. We were even being encouraged to pledge a frat if the opportunity arose. Davey seemed to like the idea, and if he wanted it, I’d go along with him. “Brian, I’m excited.” Davey said later that night as we lay together in one of the two beds. “Excited?” I asked. “Yeah, excited.” Davey said with a sigh. “Sorry, it’s just, you know, I’ve got this feeling like anything can happen. I know you put a lot of time and effort into your plans, and they’re good plans, but I feel like right now anything can happen and that excites me. Part of me feels like we’re going to be getting to go to school for real now, unlike last time. With all the others around, last time felt like just an extension of high school, but now it’s just us and that’s exciting.” “I understand.” I told him gently and he snuggled up tighter against me. His breathing became regular as he drifted off to sleep, and I was falling asleep soon after. The next morning we had our interview with Professor Lee. He looked no different than he had in the last timeline, and we spent a good hour sitting in his office talking in nothing but Russian. That had been one of our courses for the last four years, giving us both a good reason for being proficient in the language. After we were done, he had signed off on putting us in the advanced-level language courses. With that mission accomplished, we headed back downtown to the coffee shop that we’d enjoyed with our friends in the last timeline. Then, our families showed up in the late afternoon, and we went out with all of them. Jenny was fourteen now, getting ready to start high school. Her parents had offered to send her to a boarding school, but she insisted on going to Downey. Last year, the company our parents started had gone public, and at least on paper they were now millionaires with their stock options. By and large, they hadn’t changed how they lived much, and even Davey’s mother was trying to live her life as if not much had changed, but they did enjoy a few things, like staying at the more expensive Biltmore Resort while in Phoenix, and going out to dinner at the more expensive restaurants in town. They stayed for three days before heading back, and Davey and I got down to business preparing for the upcoming semester. The truth is, I love school. I enjoy learning, even if it’s learning something over again. Each time is a little different, and the classes I had that first semester were all slightly different than those I’d had in the last timeline, and of course different than those I’d had at Stanford. Another thing I had discovered is that while some schools have a deserved reputation for excellence in education, the quality of any education, at any school depended on two primary factors: The desire, or motivation, of the teacher to actually teach and the desire of the student to learn. The finest teacher, with the finest materials, the best-prepared curricula and lessons plans, and the absolute finest in teaching aides is wasted if a student has no desire to learn. Likewise, the best-prepared, highly motivated, eager student is wasting his time if the teacher in front of him has no desire to really teach. Good textbooks, lab equipment, support staff, office hours, money for extra materials and other supporting mechanisms are important, but given two bare essentials: a good teacher and a good student, it is possible to achieve the best in education with little else. That was one of Arizona State’s greatest resources: their professors. For the most part, their professors were eager to teach, and knew their subjects very well. While at many other institutions of higher learning, research was the main goal of professors, here there was still a strong ethos of instructing amongst the professors. By carefully selecting certain professors, both Davey and I managed to construct a course schedule for the first year that kept us interested in our courses. We also developed friendships with several other students. By its very nature, the university’s foreign language programs tended to produce tight-knit groups of students. Studying a language effectively took more than going to class and doing the assigned homework. Watching movies in that language, reading literature in that language, and actually holding conversation in the language was necessary to move from a basic proficiency into actual competence. Many of the students we joined that year had been studying the language together for three years already, and while at first we were interlopers, they quickly grew to accept us as part of their group. Of those students, they were all in their early to mid-twenties, and so there was a slight age gap between us at first, especially when they would go out drinking on the weekends, but as the semester stretched on, it became less of a barrier. Davey and I went home to Modesto for Thanksgiving, and our families seemed to enjoy the tales we had to tell of life at ASU. Davey’s father practically beamed with pride at having his son go to that school. The man was not the same as the David Jones Sr. who had become President, but he was closer to that man than the one in the previous timeline. Davey was understandably proud of him. It was Davey’s mother who cast a little cloud over the holiday with a single comment. “Now that you boys are at a school with girls, have either of you started dating yet?” His mother asked us with a piercing look. My parents looked a little uncomfortable, having figured us out long ago, but his parents were still largely in the dark about the true nature of our relationship. “Mom!” Davey exclaimed with a slight blush. “The youngest girls at ASU are all eighteen or older! I’m jailbait to them!” “Oh.” His mother said with a worried frown. “What about girls from one of the high schools?” “I go to college.” Davey said with a shake of his head. “What mother is going to want her daughter dating a college student?” “That might be a problem.” His mother said with a shake of her head. “Don’t worry, son.” Davey’s father said with a smile. “In just over a year you’ll be eighteen. Plenty of time for that.” “Thanks dad.” Davey said with a shake of his head. His hair, like mine was growing out a bit, and we both needed at least a trim to keep our hair looking neat. We managed to hook up with our friends the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and we all spent most of the day up at Don Pedro Reservoir, sitting in a rented boat in the middle of the lake and talking about the last few months. None of us were extensive letter-writers, and e-mail was still a few years away as a means for us to communicate. Davey and I had a phone in our dorm room, but we were the only couple that had that luxury. So, we spent the day catching up with our friends. “We miss you guys.” Todd said about halfway through the day. “But, well, it’s like we’re learning how to make other friends at school. It’s kind of weird, like maybe that when we were all together we didn’t really need other people so we shut them out. Don’t take it the wrong way, but it’s nice making new friends again.” “It is.” Davey agreed. “Just don’t think we’re going to forget you guys, though.” “No, we’ll always be the best of friends.” Sean agreed while everyone nodded. When we returned to Arizona, almost everyone was focused on the upcoming finals. They were weeks away, and there were still parties every weekend that we both managed to attend. We had gotten invitations to pledge several frats on campus, but Davey had decided (wisely in my opinion) that he didn’t really want to be a ‘frat’. Both of us were certain we’d done well on our finals, and we left Arizona for the extended winter break. Unlike the last timeline, we weren’t taking Winter Session courses, and so we stayed in Modesto from late December all the way until the weekend before Spring Semester started. Our parents now had a big office in downtown Modesto, and we began to realize just how big their business was growing. Dad had mentioned they’d taken the company public a few months ago, but our Christmas presents included stock in their company. When we realized the stock we had been given was valued at nearly a million dollars for each of us, I was floored. This was far better than providing a winning lottery ticket had been. The one troubling point was Davey’s mother and grandmothers both throwing girls at him the entire time we were back in Modesto. He even went on two ‘dates’, and I’d commiserated with him over the awful time he’d had on the dates. Davey wanted to wait until he was eighteen though, before telling them the truth about our relationship. It would make dealing with any fallout from them easier. When school started up, it was proving to be a hectic semester. The other students in our Russian courses were by and large preparing to go to the Soviet Union for the summer. The university’s Russian language program had managed to once again obtain approval from both governments for a summer-length study program at Moscow State University. Many of the students from our classes would be spending the summer there. Davey and I were still too young, by a year, to go, but we knew that next year would be our year to take part in the program. That was why we’d been sent to ASU in the first place. By the end of the semester, we’d managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA, and fully establish ourselves as regular, if a little young, students at ASU. During the summer, Davey and I spent several weeks at an ‘intensive’ Slavic-language program being offered by Rutgers. Davey was in a staged ‘accident’ that resulted in him needing to have some plastic surgery. At first I didn’t like the way his nose had been changed, or the slightly different shape of his eyes, but the changes grew on me after a while. “Dude, I like the new nose.” Trevor said when we met up with him and Todd over the summer. Brandon and Sean were taking summer session courses at MIT, and we’d just missed them by two days. “Shut up.” Davey responded to Trevor sharply. He’d always been a little sensitive about his nose, and now that it was narrower, and no longer had that little ‘hump’ halfway down, I could see him staring at himself in the mirror a lot. His eyes were more almond-shaped now as well, but the changes were less immediately noticeable. “So, other than your face getting smashed up, everything else is alright after your car accident?” Todd asked in a slightly worried tone. “Yes, everything’s fine.” Davey assured our old friends. Not even they were to be told yet about the real reasons why the surgery had happened. For that matter, we didn’t even know the full story yet. Phoenix was still hot when we returned for the new semester. Sure, Modesto got hot during the summer months, but it never got quite as hot as Phoenix. Once again we got a good dorm room and went through the typical routine of unpacking and setting our room up for the next year. Within a few days we were settled in and ready to begin the next round of classes. Last year, we’d finished the highest level of undergraduate Russian language courses that were regularly offered, so this year we were given special upper-division classes where we studied under two professors. We also were assigned as ‘assistants’ to the beginning-level courses, and as the months wore on, found ourselves making a fairly lucrative business in tutoring some students. Most of the students we tutored were freshmen, and were usually only a year or two older than us. That led to a situation that had me very nervous, and caused one of the most serious arguments yet. Matt Stoler was a handsome young man, eighteen, and he kept looking at Davey in a way that made me very nervous. Worse yet, Davey responded to his smiles with smiles of his own, and the body language between the two of them was far more friendly than made me comfortable. “Brian, you worried about me and Todd when we first got together.” Davey said with a hint of scorn in his voice when I broached the topic. “After all these years I’d have thought you could learn to trust me by now.” “I do trust you.” I told him. “I don’t trust Matt.” “It takes two to tango, Brian.” Davey said in a warning tone. His statement worked both ways, really. He was telling me that nothing would happen because he wouldn’t let it, and he was telling me that it took both of us to make our relationship work, or to not work.” “You’re right.” I said with a sigh. “I’m sorry. It’s just that, well, you look so damn good I know you could have any guy you wanted…” “I only want you, Brian.” He said in a tone that made my heart melt. That night I was sure our neighbors heard what we were doing, but we didn’t really care. It was too much fun. It was the day before we left for Thanksgiving when something happened that affirmed my reasons for worrying. Davey was tutoring Matt in our dorm room while I was out supervising a make-up exam for Professor Lee. It was an oral exam, with the students having to recite several poems, and afterwards I spent an extra half-hour with two of them, helping them to fix their pronunciation of certain words. After I was done, I headed back to our dorm room, and was just opening the door when I heard the familiar sounds of two people kissing. There was Davey and Matt, whose back was to me, kissing on my bed! Instead of erupting and making a scene, I started to close the door with a sinking heart when Matt fell to the floor. With the door just open a crack, I couldn’t see much, but I could hear what was being said, and my heart started to climb back out of my feet. Matt was on the floor because Davey had pushed him there. “What do you think you’re doing?” Davey snarled angrily. “I… uh… I thought you were…” Matt stammered with real fright in his voice. “You thought what?” Davey snarled again. “I thought you were… you know… like me.” Matt stammered even more. “You know… gay.” “Yeah, I’m gay.” Davey stated with anger dripping off of every syllable. “What makes you think you can kiss me, though?” “I’m sorry.” Matt said softly. “I just thought if you were gay, you wouldn’t mind hooking up. I mean, everyone says you and Brian are both gay.” “We’re a couple.” Davey said firmly. “I’m not interested in anyone but him. If you knew that we were gay, what made you think I’d cheat on him?” “You’re a guy, aren’t you?” Matt shot back and Davey laughed. “Just because I’m a guy, don’t think that means I’ll cheat on someone I love.” Davey said around his laughter. “Brian and I have been together for longer than you’d believe, and I’m not about to risk my relationship with him, no matter how cute someone is.” “You think I’m cute?” Matt said in a pleased tone. “You’re easy enough on the eyes.” Davey said. “Brian’s better though.” “Oh.” Matt said softly. “I’m sorry I misunderstood.” “Just don’t try something like that again.” Davey said firmly, and I walked away from the room. When I came back an hour later, Davey smiled as I handed him a dozen red roses. “You heard, didn’t you?” Davey asked with a smile. “Yep.” I admitted with a slight blush. “What did you see?” Davey asked curiously. “I opened the door when he was kissing you.” I was blushing furiously now. “And you didn’t make a scene?” Davey asked with a tilt of his head. “I heard you push him to the floor, and stayed around to hear the rest of the conversation.” I admitted, looking at the floor. “So you know you can trust me, don’t you?” Davey said softly, but there was an edge to his voice. “Yes, and I’m sorry I ever doubted you.” I said softly. “You were right though, too, about what he was after.” Davey gave me that much. “Thanks for the roses.” “They’re not half as beautiful as you.” I said, and that got me a very deep, passionate kiss. It was the day after Thanksgiving when Trevor’s father called Davey and invited us to his house that evening. Davey and I were both a little confused when we arrived and found that Trevor and Mrs. Rush were both gone, and two men were waiting with Mr. Rush. We recognized one of them as the ‘handler’ we’d been working with from the CIA. “Mr. Breckenridge, Mr. Jones, this is Walter Ameson, my supervisor.” Richard Long, the handler introduced us to the older man with white hair. “I was surprised when Mr. Long called me and said he needed my help.” Mr. Rush said as we all sat back down. “It has been some years since I had contact with the Agency. I was more surprised when I found out you two boys were involved with them. You have not gotten Trevor involved in whatever this is, have you?” “No, sir.” Davey said cautiously while Long nodded. “What’s going on?” “You two young men have expressed an interest in working with the Agency while you were still in High School.” Ameson explained. “I believe you both remember your summer internships. Your group of friends and you had some strange ideas, but they are starting to appear not to be as far-fetched as we first assumed. Unfortunately, our operations are not geared towards obtaining the kind of information we would need to verify some of the theories that are now being kicked around by our analysts. That is where you come in, Mr. Jones.” “Me?” Davey asked with surprise. “Yes, you.” Mr. Long added. “You’ve been very good about doing what we ask without demanding an explanation. Now, your patience is about to pay off.” “We were quite nervous when Mr. Long brought up this idea, especially since it centered on such a young person.” Ameson said with a shake of his head. “Still, you appear to be quite an unusual young man, very mature, and we are going to take this risk.” “What risk?” Davey asked cautiously. “Davey, you were born here in Modesto, right?” Mr. Rush asked. “Yes, at Modesto City Hospital.” Davey stated. “Trevor was born at the same hospital.” Mr. Rush stated. “It was six weeks after you, as you know.” “Yes.” Davey murmured. “My wife and I were at the hospital the same night you were born.” Mr. Rush said and Davey’s eyebrows rose. “In fact, I think I remember seeing your mother brought in to the Labor and Delivery area. She was quite…vocal about wanting you out of her.” “I can imagine.” Davey said with a slightly stunned look on his face. I was surprised too, since this was the first I’d heard of it in three timelines. Trevor’s parents had been there the night Davey was born? “Do you not wonder why we were at the hospital?” Mr. Rush asked and Davey nodded. “You see, my sister was pregnant at almost the same time as my wife. They were only a month apart.” “I’ve never met your sister.” Davey said quietly. “She died in childbirth.” Mr. Rush said sadly. “I’m sorry.” Davey said immediately and Mr. Rush shrugged it off. “She went into labor three weeks early.” Mr. Rush said sadly. “She didn’t know it, but she was bearing twins. Something went wrong inside of her, and she went into labor prematurely. The first boy was delivered without too much trouble, but the second had gotten the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck during the birth process. The hospital was a mess that night with your mother and three other women, all giving birth at the same time. The twins were fraternal, not identical. You do understand the difference?” “Fraternal are from different eggs inseminated at the same time instead of one egg that splits into two separate embryos.” Davey said automatically. “Yes.” Mr. Rush continued. “The second twin died before he could be delivered by emergency cesarean section. My sister also died later that night.” “I’m very sorry.” Davey said quietly. “What happened to the one that survived?” “He was returned to his father.” Mr. Rush frowned. “I am still sorry about that.” Mr. Ameson said to Mr. Rush. “He found out about the delivery and there was nothing we could do to prevent it when he made the demand.” “What does…” Davey began to ask, mostly to cover the fact we already knew Mr. Rush was a defector. In this timeline we were not supposed to know that. “I was not born in the United States.” Mr. Rush said, in Russian. Davey and I both managed to put appropriate expressions of surprise on our faces. “Sereosna?” Davey asked in Russian, the word for ‘seriously’. “Pravda.” Mr. Ameson replied with a slight smile. Simply put, he was saying it was ‘truth’. “My wife and I came to the United States because we did not want our child born under communism.” Mr. Rush continued in English. Then he told the story we’d heard before, except this time we found out that his sister had come with him. From the expression on his face, I could understand why that had never been mentioned before. It seemed the memory was very painful for him, and it explained why he had very rarely spoken of it in any of the timelines. His sister had been a secretary for a mid-level bureaucrat in the Foreign Affairs office. She had helped them arrange their defection, and gone with them. The father of her unborn children was an older man, who would now be in his early sixties, and had not had any children by his wife. After the mother had died in childbirth, he had demanded his son be returned to him, and legally there had been no way to stop him short of creating an international incident. “The boy, Dmitry Verakov, died about a year ago in an auto accident while vacationing in Eastern Europe.” Mr. Ameson continued the story after Mr. Rush fell silent. He took out a picture from a briefcase next to his chair and showed it to us. Several things fell into place at once. “You want to use Davey to get close to this man.” I said while Davey stared at the picture. The young guy in the picture was handsome, and he looked a lot like Davey, in fact, with the changes to Davey’s appearance, I’d have very few doubts they were brothers. “Did the other twin really die?” Davey asked in quiet voice, and Mr. Long chuckled. “Are you thinking maybe you were adopted?” He asked Davey with a very amused expression. “This guy looks a lot like me.” Davey said, pointing at the picture. “Not only that, he has the same blood type as you.” Mr. Ameson added. “Although, if a genetic test were to be done, you’d find that you do not really share his genetics. It is just a fortuitous resemblance, and the fact that your blood type is the same is an even bigger stroke of luck.” “So I’m not really…” Davey’s voice drifted off. “No, you are no relation to Mikhail Markovich Verakov, although when he sees you we believe that he will suspect a great deal.” Mr. Ameson stated. “A check of your blood type will prove that you could be his son, and that will likely be enough for him. He is currently a high-level assistant to the Politburo member responsible for overseeing domestic production of consumer goods in the Soviet Union. As such, he has access to much of the economic data that we have failed to acquire.” “You want me to get him to defect?” Davey asked. “If it’s possible.” Ameson stated. “If not, wiggle your way into his life, his home, and learn as much as you can. Pass that information to Mr. Breckenridge, who will bring it back to the United States. Make Verakov believe that you are his lost son. His wife died two years ago, and his son last year. He is a very lonely man right now.” “And the whole idea is just plain insane.” Davey said with disbelief. “What makes you think I can do this?” “Please, Mr. Jones, you’re quite capable of hiding secrets.” Mr. Long said with a snort. “It took us until two months ago to verify that you and Mr. Breckenridge are homosexuals in a long-term relationship. We still have not been able to find out when that relationship started. Three FBI agents doing background checks on you both failed to uncover that information.” “Matt.” Davey said flatly and Mr. Long grinned. “He didn’t know who he was doing it for, just that he was being paid to see if he could seduce you.” Ameson said with a shake of his head. “That is why we are including Mr. Breckenridge in this. We assume you will not wish to go without him.” “Aren’t you worried that Verakov will find out and get mad?” Davey asked. “When it comes to the children of powerful men like him, the Soviet Union will often turn a blind eye.” Ameson stated. “Well, that or they’ll seek to use it as a hammer hanging over his head if he steps out of line. No, both of you should be quite safe when they find out about your relationship.” “You make it sound like it is for certain.” I stated. “Yes, Mr. Breckenridge.” Long said with a grin. “Both of your files will indicate that you were rejected for service with the Agency because of your sexual preference. It is the policy of the United States that homosexuals are not to be trusted.” “But you trust us.” I stated with a raised eyebrow. “Call me an enlightened individual.” Long said with a shrug. “You both are very unique individuals.” Ameson added. “We would not normally even think of such a hairbrained scheme as this, but you are both fairly mature, obviously able to keep secrets without looking like you’re keeping secrets, and have shown yourselves to be dependable. If you accept this plan, this will be the last time we officially meet. The two of you will apply for the Study Abroad program that is scheduled for next summer. You will both be eighteen by then, and legal adults.” “While you are there, you will be invited to attend several events.” Long continued. “At least one of those will be attended by comrade Verakov. He often gets sent in the place of his boss. Make sure that you meet him, and if possible speak to him. Let him take things from there. Mr. Jones, you will use Mr. Breckenridge to pass any information learned out of the Soviet Union. We suggest that if an offer for you to stay with comrade Verakov is made, that you accept. Mr. Breckenridge should be able to pass back and forth between the United States and the Soviet Union every few months.” “Mr. Breckenridge, you will pass your information along through Mr. Rush.” Ameson took up the explanation. “We suggest you write nothing down, nor take any incriminating photographs. Both of you have shown that your memory is near-perfect. That is the safest way for you to pass information to each other. Mr. Rush can put it in written form, and send the reports in through his regular channels.” “You will both be paid for your work, if this succeeds.” Long finished. “We will protect your identities by listing you as being denied for service, but Mr. Rush will receive a significant raise in his living allowance that we pay him. When this is over, I believe you both trust him enough to pay you appropriately.” “We trust him.” Davey didn’t hesitate to reply but he got a worried look on his face. “How long am I supposed to do this for?” “Until Mr. Verakov dies, retires, or the Soviet Union ceases to exist.” Ameson stated and Davey looked at me with a worried expression. “Brian?” “It’s up to you.” I told him. “You’re the one who wanted to get involved with the bloody Agency.” “I… you know… I… uh… I can’t do this. Sorry.” Davey stammered after a moment. “Why not?” Ameson asked with a frown. “I… Brian doesn’t really want to be involved in this cloak and dagger stuff and I won’t drag him along.” Davey said. “You’re right, we are a couple, and we’d have to do this together or not at all.” “Thank you, Davey.” I said quietly, putting a hand on his shoulder and not caring about the other men in the room. “But you know you want to do this, don’t you?” “Yes, but…” Davey protested. “We’ll do it.” I said to Ameson who nodded, although he was obviously trying not to look at my hand on Davey’s shoulder. “Why?” Long said. “It’ll help our country, and Davey really wants to do it.” I said with a shrug. “I like spoiling him.” “I love you.” Davey breathed out in a whisper, and he was smiling from ear to ear.
  7. dkstories

    Chapter 22

    “I don’t know quite what to say, Brian.” Uncle Rich’s voice was weak, and he looked like death warmed over in his hospital bed. An I.V. line pumped liquids into him, but it was only a matter of time, hours, maybe a day or two if he was really lucky. He knew it as well as I did, sitting in this ward of the hospital in San Francisco. Outside it was Christmas, and people were celebrating the holiday with their families. I was too, in my own way, but it was a far different celebration. “I’m sorry, Uncle Rich.” I said softly, still holding his hand. His grip was weak, but he squeezed my hand as tightly as he could. “Don’t be, boy.” He said before a coughing fit took him. He punched the button on the morphine drip, and sighed as more of the drug flowed into his system. I knew he’d be asleep before long, and it would be wrong to keep Mom out of the room for much longer. Her, and her sister, and my father were all here, but I’d begged a few hours alone with him, and gotten them. “If we’d come back earlier, I might have warned you in time.” I said softly. “But we couldn’t quite arrange it perfectly.” “It’s almost too hard to believe, but you sound like you’re serious, so I’m going to believe you.” Rich said weakly, his voice relaxing as the drug eased his pain. “It certainly explains your sudden stroke of genius and them wanting to skip you ahead a few grades.” “It does, doesn’t it?” I said with a small smile. “Thank you, Uncle Rich. The last few months have been wonderful seeing you so much, you know.” “You’ve been a good nephew, and I like your friend, a lot.” Rich said with a chuckle. “Brenda doesn’t quite see it, but I was damn sure you two were a couple before you told me all this time travel stuff. Fated lovers. Got to love that. You be good to each other, you hear me? Stay faithful to each other too, with this damn disease. I wish you could do something about that.” “We’re trying.” I assured him. “We have to be subtle, but we’re pretty sure we found a way to get the right information to the right people without raising too many questions.” “That’s good.” He said before closing his eyes. His breathing was still shallow, but it was pain-free, and he was obviously asleep. I stood up, kissed his forehead and walked out of the room. “He’s asleep.” I said to Mom, who was standing outside with Aunt Linda and Dad. “Did you two say goodbye?” Mom asked and I nodded, letting the tears slide down my face. We really had said goodbye, and I’d had to ask forgiveness for not coming back further in time to save him. At least he’d given me that forgiveness. “Why don’t we go for a walk, son?” Dad said in a gentle voice as the two women went back into the room. I nodded, and we walked out of the hospital into the cool San Francisco morning. It would have been nice if Davey could have been here, but his parents had firmly put their foot down against his visiting over Christmas. There had been a big enough fight when they’d found out that Uncle Rich was sick, and with what. That had nearly shattered the budding friendship between our parents, but we were working on it. “How are you feeling, son?” Dad asked after we’d gone a few blocks. “Better.” I told him. “So much is changing.” Dad said sadly. “Your mother is going to be grieving for a while. You do understand that it isn’t likely…” “He’ll be gone in hours, or maybe a few days at most.” I said sadly. “I’ll miss him.” “I will too.” Dad said. “He’s a good man. It’s a shame he’s dying.” “It is.” I agreed. “How are you feeling about starting your new school?” Dad asked, changing the subject. “Are you sure you want this? You’ll be far away from home. I don’t know how your mother will deal with you being gone to a boarding school.” “I’ll be coming back every couple of months, and all summer.” I reminded him with a smile. He just shook his head. “I know, it’s not the same, but really, I can get a better education there, and I think that’s what I should do. It’s not like I’m going to be alone, either. That’s why we all decided to stop pretending on our school work, because we realized we weren’t alone, and we had friends.” “You do have an amazing group of friends.” Dad agreed. “Still, your mother and I are going to miss having you around.” “Do you think this… argument over Uncle Rich is going to scuttle the plans you’ve been making with Mr. Jones?” I asked him and Dad looked surprised. “No, oddly enough, I don’t think so.” Dad said. “We even talked about that before we drove up here. You were already in bed, but he called wanting to make sure that I wasn’t so pissed off I was going to pull out. It’s a good idea, a good business plan, and we’ve already gotten the loans approved to get started. He may be a little stuffy about social stuff, but he’s a good talker and will make a good face for the business while I handle all the financial issues.” “Plus Mrs. Jones is a pretty good organizer, isn’t she?” I asked, pleased at how Davey and I had pulled off the project of getting our parents into business together. The combination of all four of them working together would help a lot of things, especially with his sister. His father was going to be too busy, and too happy to fall into the emotional state that had led to him molesting his daughter. “She is, she is.” Dad agreed. “The more I get to know them, the more amazed I am by them as a family. Sandy’s father is a blast.” “Dad, stop trying to use cool words.” I told my father and he laughed. By the time we had returned to the hospital, Mom and Aunt Linda were ready for dinner. After a good meal, everyone returned to Uncle Rich’s room, and it was time. I could feel it in the room, and part of me fell apart as his two sisters each held one of Uncle Rich’s hands. He’d been awake, but not really coherent when we came back from dinner. He’d quieted down and smiled though when they held his hands, and so they stood like that for several hours, none of us moving at all until his eyes closed for the last time, and his lungs exhaled for the very last time. While Dad held Mom, I held Aunt Linda who was crying just as hard as my mother. We cleared the room while nurses and a doctor filed in to do all the official things they have to do, and we tried to comfort the two women. My own eyes were filled with tears, and I had to struggle to remember the forgiveness I’d been given for not stopping this. It really was a sad Christmas, but at least there was some more healing to be done after we returned home to Modesto. We’d pulled in and I was still unloading the car when a familiar brown Buick pulled up in front of our house. Mr. Jones was dressed in one of his best suits, and Mrs. Jones was wearing what looked like a new dress as they got out of the car. Even Davey was wearing a suit, and Jenny had on a very pretty dress as well as they walked up the driveway towards me. “Davey told us of your loss, Brian.” David Jones, Sr. said in a quiet, deep voice. “How are you holding up?” “I’m well, sir.” I said quietly, returning his politeness with politeness of my own. “It went as well as one could hope. Uncle Rich was surrounded by his family up until the very end.” “As it should be.” He said with a slight bow of his head. “Do you think your parents would be up for visitors?” “I think they’ll be happy to see you.” I offered and he smiled slightly as Davey took the suitcase I was holding and I led his family up to my house. Mom and Dad were talking quietly in the dining room when we walked in, and at first they looked wary, but that quickly changed to grateful appreciation for their visitors. “You have no idea how much preaching I had to do.” Davey whispered to me as we stood out on the back porch while the adults were still inside, talking over coffee (and tea for Sandy). Jenny was in the living room watching television. “I took his own damn bible and started pulling out every bible verse I could find about love and forgiveness. Considering we were at Nanny’s, and all the family was there, it turned into a free-for-all bible study session. When Papa came in on my side, I knew I’d won. “I knew you could do it.” I congratulated him softly and he blushed slightly. Making sure our parents stayed on good terms was important to both of us for a variety of reasons. My last time around, I’d taken the approach that I had plenty of years to make changes, but Sean had disabused me of that notion with our failure to stop the mad scientist and the power-hungry communist. Instead of just enjoying our collective new teenage years, we were going to take steps. Besides, as Trevor remarked, it got kind of old after a month. Even I’d forgotten the big differences between being twelve and being seventeen. We all had bed times that were far too early, our parents watched us a lot, a lot more than we were used to having to deal with, and of course none of us could legally drive. What had been a short car drive over to someone’s house turned into twenty or thirty minutes of bike riding, jogging, or begging for a ride from a parent. Sure, the school we were going to had a lot more restrictions in some ways, but in other ways it also had a lot more freedoms for us, and it would accelerate us on the path of making some changes. It was shortly after the New Year, 1982, when we all flew up to our new school with our parents. The school was a very private, very exclusive Military Preparatory Academy in the backwoods of upstate New York. I know most kids get threatened with being sent off to a military school if they are bad, but in this case there couldn’t have been a better fit for all of us. I had heard of the school in my original timeline because I’d worked with one person who had gone there. The man was a career diplomat in the State Department and one of the best at what he did. He had given full credit to the General John Cleveland Robinson Academy for giving him many of the skills he used in his work. As a private school, it accepted only students that it had invited to attend, and I was surprised when we received invitations in late November. Almost never did any school of this type offer mid-term admissions, and for all six of us to receive invitations was an opportunity I hoped we, as a group, would not pass up. After looking at their academic offerings, most of us were onboard with going there (especially since there were scholarships involved so that all of us could afford to attend), but the deciding factor for Trevor was the fact that they did have a football team. The school was your typical private boarding school, located on fairly large grounds that were well maintained, circled by a wall, and had uniformed guards at the front gate. There were four main large, multi-story buildings, and several smaller buildings as well as what looked like a fairly impressive sports complex all visible through the trees as we drove up the main drive. At the main building, an older man dressed in the uniform of an Army Colonel met us, and pleasantly greeted our parents before greeting the six of us who would be attending the school. “I am Colonel Barry Reynolds, the Deputy Superintendent of the Academy, and Professor of Military History.” He said by way of his own introduction. For the next hour, he personally led us on a tour of the facility, mostly directed at our parents. Then after introducing another man who was also an instructor there, we were separated from our parents and the real introductions began. “Each of you should be honored that we are accepting you as students here.” He told us in a stern voice. “You will be the youngest students in our school at this time, and you will have a lot of catching up to do from the beginning. That is why you are here a week before the term begins. We will cut you no slack once the term begins. For the next week you will be drilled in all the things you would have learned since last August regarding how this school operates. Four upper classmen have graciously volunteered to cut their leave period short in order to help prepare you for the new term. You will show them your appreciation by following all their directions to the utmost of your abilities.” He went on like that for several minutes, with all the typical things one might expect about the history and honor of the school. Then he introduced us to the upper classmen, who seemed a little taken aback that three of us were as tall as they were, even though we were five years younger. After a short period of their attempting to establish their dominance with typical bluster, our parents were returned for a lunch served in the dining hall of the school. That was where we were introduced to General Robert Lingstrom, the Superintendent of the school. He was a retired three-star Army General, who listed as part of his resume having worked for ten years at the National Security Agency. That was what had made us go from merely liking the idea of this school to doing my best to make sure everyone signed on with going here. After lunch, our parents gave us all a teary-eyed farewell; at least they were teary eyed while we all sighed with relief to see the rental cars leave. Then the upper classmen descended on us and gave us their version of a military boot camp. I wasn’t sure which disturbed them more, the ease with which all of us handled the push-ups and sit-ups they kept on requiring, the fact that all of us had already perfectly memorized the “General Orders” that all cadets were expected to know, or the fact that later that night none of us were homesick or crying, wanting to go back home. Todd and Sean were the two of us least accepting of the military mindset. I had been in the military myself, albeit as a reserve JAG officer, and Davey took to it like a fish to water. Trevor and Brandon accepted it with mild enjoyment, and although they didn’t really like all of it, Sean and Todd both tolerated it overall. The only thing they really complained about was the haircuts. They did not like having their hair shorn off, but even that they tolerated although I heard quite a few grumbles from them. The only real mistake the school had made was in the room assignments. All cadets lived in a two-person room. Each cadet had his own bunk, locker, wardrobe, and desk. Normally the school assigned cadets to the room, but during the first semester several cadets had ‘dropped out’ of the school, and the cadets left without a roommate had been moved, so there were more than three rooms available. No one had made room assignments for us, and that first day we were led to three available rooms, ordered to select our rooms and stow away our gear. That was a BIG mistake, but one we were extremely happy about because we were three couples and had been worried about how to get the right people to be rooming together. Since they had warned us that whoever we roomed with would be our roommates all through the rest of school, unless one of us dropped out, we were all extremely happy to make sure we roomed with our partner. At least now we would not have to be sneaking between rooms every night. “I don’t know if I can do this, Brian.” Davey moaned halfway through the first week. We were re-folding all of our clothes, mostly uniforms the school had provided. Like the real military, they expected everything folded in a very precise manner, just like our ‘bunks’ had to be made with tight corners precisely at a forty-five degree angle. “Do what?” I asked him. “Make my bed every damn morning, and fold my clothes like this.” Davey sighed. “What about all the other stuff?” I asked him and he laughed. “That shit is easy.” Davey said while laughing. “This is the hard shit.” For a week, the upper classmen tried to run us through what they thought would be hell. They got us up at three in the morning, and kept us going until late at night. There was a lot of physical exercise, but also a lot of mental drills as well. Marching was a big part of every day since it was a big part of the school’s daily routine, and we were drilled constantly on things like every little fact about the school’s namesake, Civil War Union General John Cleveland Robinson. Sunday was a little different for four of us since we were not used to dealing with ‘chapel’ or church services, but it was a requirement that all cadets attend. Davey and Sean snickered at the rest of us over that little aspect. Soon enough the term started, and the real schoolwork began. It took a few weeks for our fellow first-year cadets to warm up to us. At first they were standoffish with us new guys, but the first inter-house game competition in February broke the ice. We beat the sophomore team at nearly every event, and a large part of that was thanks to the athleticism of Trevor, Brandon, Davey and myself. The actual schoolwork was a mixture of easy and difficult subjects. We had no problems in the regular History, English, Math, or various Foreign Language subjects, but the Military History and other military-centered classes proved challenging. By the time Spring Break rolled around, everyone had expressed that they were generally happier at the school than they had been back home in Modesto. Still, it was good for all of us to go home over Spring Break and spend time with our families. For a week, we barely saw each other as we spent time with our individual families, but near the end of the week, it was our families who brought all of us together for a barbecue at a local park. There were about fifty of us altogether, as various grandparents, including my own grandparents who were still alive in this time line, all gathered along with our immediate families. When we returned from a very relaxing, and fun, Spring Break, each of us was called into the Superintendent’s office for one-on-one meetings. Overall, the General was pleased with how we were fitting into the school, but apparently some of the instructors were concerned that portions of our school work were ‘too easy’ for us. He did not like the idea that we were not being ‘challenged’ to develop to our full potential, and wanted to have us be given in-depth assessments by his faculty. That suited all of us just fine, because while some of our courses were challenging, we all knew that most of it was far too easy, and none of us liked the idea of not learning as much as we could. I think part of that was because of the last few years of the last timeline, where we’d raced against the clock to end a situation that threatened the stability of the world in which we lived. We all felt some personal level of responsibility to keep something like that from happening again, and mentally at least, we were all adults. Sure, we still had fun like any other teenagers, and a great deal of sex in the privacy of our own rooms, but we had a purpose, a mission, and we wanted to succeed in that mission. Summer was a fun time for all of us. We were thirteen, and had finished what was effectively our ‘freshman’ year of high school two years early. During that summer we spent a lot of time camping, hiking, fishing (including several trips with Davey’s grandfather), and all the typical summer activities of teenagers. Occasionally we’d have arguments, and fight, but we’d get over it when our tempers calmed down and usually end up laughing over what we fought about. The ‘business’ being started by my family and Davey’s was actually doing quite well. Parts of the idea had come from Davey’s father’s business in the last timeline. David Jones Sr. was proving to be quite a good salesman as he took the idea to companies like Microsoft, which was just starting to rise as a major player, and established giants like IBM. According to their business model it would still be another year before things actually got off the ground, but already they were doing quite well even though they had not yet delivered any finished product. We all ended up going back to the Academy several weeks early for the start of the football training program. The Academy took football quite seriously, and there was quite a bit of grumbling when Trevor ended up on Varsity as second-string quarterback even though he was so young. Davey and I were good, but not quite good enough for the main squad, so we were on the J.V. team along with Brandon. Sean and Todd didn’t arrive until just before school started along with everyone else since they had no interest in playing on the team. Sean’s relationship with his parents was actually better off now than it had been in any other timeline. The distance from them and their not looking over his shoulder all the time was helpful and he actually expressed a grudging change in his desire to see his father meet a grisly fate. Sometimes, distance does make the heart grow fonder. Our term as “Second-Class Cadets” went a lot smoother than our first half-year. We were now accepted by our year-mates as part of their class, and although we only took about half our classes with them, we were no longer strangers. The academic work was much more challenging, largely because our ‘core’ classes were taught in special classes with just the six of us, or sometimes some smaller mix (we all had varying levels of skills in mathematics, so Davey and I ended up in classes with Fourth-Year cadets while the rest were in their own special classes). Trevor enjoyed the football season, even if he only got to play in three games, and only for a total of three quarters. Not everything was perfect. Halfway through the year, Sean ended up before a disciplinary review board for fighting with a Third-Year cadet. The cadet in question was a bully, and had been physically harassing the smaller Sean when Sean unleashed his full fury on the older student. The bully hadn’t stood a chance and ended up in the infirmary with a broken nose while Sean suffered a few bruises. The end result of the disciplinary hearing was that both of them were punished for fighting, but the upper classman received the harsher punishment and a warning that further incidents would result in his removal from school. A much more serious situation arose in the middle of the baseball season. Todd played with us on the team, as did Davey, Brandon, and Trevor. After practice one day, Todd and Trevor disappeared into a little-used shed near the baseball fields and were in the middle of oral sex when a Fourth-Year cadet walked in, finding them. He threatened them with revealing what he’d seen to the faculty if they didn’t ‘service’ him on demand, but was interrupted by the sounds of Davey and I calling out for our friends. Hastily he told them to meet him back there the next day or he’d tell. Naturally Todd and Trevor told us what had happened, and we concocted a plan to deal with the upper classman. I ended up talking with an upper classman on the team after practice, one who we all suspected was gay from the way he took slightly longer looks at everyone in the shower, and we just happened to be walking by the shed as Trevor and Todd were pretty much pushed into the shed by Jason Howell, the cadet who was trying to blackmail them. “Oh no.” Bill Lindstrom, the Fourth-Year I was talking with growled. “What?” I asked. “Wasn’t that two of your friends with Howell?” He asked me. “Yeah.” I agreed, trying to hide my smile. “I can guarantee he’s up to no good.” Lindstrom stated and walked purposefully over to the shed, where we could hear an argument going on inside. “No, we won’t do it!” Trevor’s elevated voice was clearly audible. “I don’t care what you say to people, it’s your word against ours.” “You’ll damn well suck me off, you stupid cocksuckers!” Howell growled at them and Lindstrom got an angry look on his face as he threw the door open and stormed inside. Howell was standing there, his practice pants unbuttoned and half-hard cock flopped out while he stood facing Trevor and Todd. He turned around with a sneer on his face but blanched when he saw Lindstrom. “It’s not what it looks like! I caught these two…” “Stow it, Howell.” Lindstrom growled. “I covered for your ass when I caught you and that First-Year two years ago. Put that fucking thing back in your pants and I better never, ever hear of you harassing anyone again.” Howell stormed out, and I was amazed at our good fortune until Lindstrom turned back to my two friends who were smiling and he managed to give all three of us a glare. “Thank you.” Todd said quickly but was cut off by Lindstrom shaking his head. “Look, let me explain something to the lot of you, and you better sure as hell share it with your friends.” Lindstrom growled. “I know you six think you’re the hottest shit on this campus, but we’re not blind. It’s obvious as hell what you guys do with each other, but as long as you fucking keep it hidden, no one’s going to say anything. Guys like Howell, they’re just looking for a chance to fuck you guys over. You need to be more fucking careful where you do your shit, get it?” “Uh, yeah.” Trevor said with a slightly scared look on his face. “Um, thanks.” “Don’t fucking thank me.” Lindstrom growled. “Someone should have told you guys already. Just fucking tone it down and keep your shit private.” With that he turned and walked out. Later that night, we all had several long discussions and decided to try and tone things down a bit. We had been getting carried away, doing things in places where we could, and in this case, had been caught. After that, we kept it to our rooms, long after lights out for the most part, or managed to use each other as lookouts while the others had some fun. Christmas break of 1982 was fun, and 1983 rolled around without any big surprises for anyone. Davey was growing increasingly worried as the time frame got closer for when his father had started molesting his sister, but he’d done just about everything possible to forestall that from ever happening. He and his sister were a lot closer than they’d ever been before, and they actually corresponded by letter a lot during the school year. By the time summer rolled around, we were all ready for an extended break from the Academy, but Davey and I were a little unprepared for the changes the summer brought. First off, his family was moving in to a home just three doors down from my parents. Then, both of our fathers were gone most of the summer as their business began to take off, and they landed several major contracts with rental firms across the nation. They did take two weeks off towards the tale end of summer, and we were surprised by the trip to Europe. That was when we learned just how well the business was doing. Our families were on the verge of becoming millionaires, and were considering ‘going public’. This time around, there wasn’t likely going to be a need for us to win the lottery. Our families were going to handle that for us just fine. Our third year at the Academy went exceedingly well. In fact, it went way beyond our expectations. Academically, we were very challenged, and for the first time since coming back to this timeline, we all felt like we were being pushed to the full extent of our abilities. Our days were busy, and our nights were spent doing more studying than anything else. During the Spring semester of 1984, there was an elective course that we were allowed to take. The instructor was a retired analyst from the Soviet desk of the CIA. His course was “A History of the USSR and the Future of Communism.” One of the last assignments he gave us towards the end of the course was to write an essay, using full citation of at least eight sources, on what the future held for the Soviet Union. All six of us managed to independently write six essays on the fall of the Soviet Union. None of us collaborated, and although we used some of the same sources for citation, when we reviewed each other’s finished papers, they were different enough that it was obvious we’d each made our own efforts. While all of our conclusions were the same, each of us had reached them in slightly different ways that showed our different way of thinking. Two weeks before the end of the semester, and two weeks after we’d turned in the essays, we were all called into the Superintendent’s office. “Mr. Alstrom was very impressed with the papers each of you wrote.” The retired General said when we were all standing before him. “At first he suspected you’d helped each other with the papers, but after reviewing them he realized you had probably all discussed this topic with each other without having collaborated on what was to be an individual project. Is that correct?” “Yes, sir!” We all answered in unison. “That’s good, I’d hate to think of any of my cadets cheating.” He growled with a warning look at all of us. “Now, Mr. Alstrom was so impressed with your work, that he’s called a few of his friends. I know each of you are much younger than our normal Third-Year cadets, but that shouldn’t hamper your opportunities. When you graduate here after your fourth-year, you will be more than ready for whatever University you choose to attend. Mr. Alstrom has been good enough to cut through the red tape and get an offer extended for each of you to intern with his former employer over the summer. It won’t take up your entire summer, but will be for all but a few weeks. None of you are obligated to accept, but I would consider it a personal favor if as many of you as possible will accept. Young men your age rarely have an opportunity such as this. I won’t lie. Most of what you will be doing will be grunt work, delivering files, making coffee and the like, but you will still learn many things, even if none of you choose it as a career.” “I’ll accept, sir.” Davey said without hesitating. “My parents may not like it all that much, but Dad’s going to be pretty busy except for a few weeks towards the end of summer where he wants to go for another trip. As long as we don’t have to change that, things should work out.” “I’ll contact your parents to make the arrangements.” The General said with a nod and then he looked at me with a raised eyebrow. “Cadet Breckenridge, does this mean you will be going?” “Yes, sir, it does.” I said, and knew from the small smile and nod on his face that he damn well knew Davey and I were a couple, but said nothing. Maybe he thought it was ‘just a phase’, or didn’t even think about it at all, but he did know where one of us went, the other was not far behind. “Count us in too, sir.” Trevor said after sharing a few looks with Todd, whose eyes were bright at the idea of actually getting into the CIA building. “Good choice, gentlemen.” The General said with another short nod. “We might as well go too.” Sean said with a slight sigh. “Excellent.” The General said with a wider grin. “I’ll let Mr. Alstrom know all six of you have accepted. You can expect to receive further details over the next week. Dismissed.” The ‘further details’ amounted to a lot of documents about secrecy that we had to sign, and since we were minors, had to be signed by our parents. Most of what we did that summer really was grunt work. We delivered files, we made coffee, and similar things, but we also talked to several people whose job it was to analyze every bit of data collected about the Soviet Union. Most of them thought we were foolishly naïve children, but we laid some important seeds over the summer. That summer, Davey and I went with our families to West Germany, France, and Italy. It was odd, having traveled to a lot of these countries in other timelines, mostly after the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of the European Union. The checkpoints at different borders that no longer existed after the mid-1990’s were a unique experience, especially after having spent most of the summer at the CIA. Our last year at the Academy was the toughest yet, with our instructors having spent most of the last few years learning our strengths and weaknesses. The school wasn’t really a big one, so they got to know all of their students fairly well, and they used that information mercilessly to challenge us in a variety of ways. In sports, Trevor was the starting quarterback, and even managed to attract the attention of a few college scouts, our faculty members had tipped off the scouts to this amazingly talented fifteen-year old who would be eligible for college next year. Nearly every week, we got at least two or three brochures for several top-notch universities and we began to discuss among ourselves what we would do for the future. That was why in late November of that year, after spending Thanksgiving at home with our families, we all met over at Trevor’s house the day before we were to fly back to school. His parents were both out, visiting some friends, and so we met in their dining room. We had all brought the tons of brochures and letters we’d received from various universities, colleges, and from various other institutions offering scholarships. “First off, I think we need to make a final decision on what to do about our dear friend, the mad scientist.” Sean said with a sarcastic drawl after we were all settled in at the table. “We can plant evidence that points to him working with the Soviets.” I offered. In the last timeline they had been hesitant to kill people, and even though they’d been on board for removal after coming back, offering this way out might be a better option for them. “He can’t invent time travel if he’s in jail for the rest of his life.” “Not good enough.” Sean disagreed with a shake of his head. “He can still do the mathematics, and we all know that with enough money anything is possible. Guys, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. None of you know the man the way I do. He’s obsessed with this, and nothing short of death will stop him. The only way I can see that we guarantee he and Shevardnadze do not meet up would be to make sure he is dead.” “Or Shevardnadze.” Davey added grimly as he nodded his head in agreement. “Of course, we won’t be able to get near Shevardnadze.” “No, which is why the man who first invented time travel is the one who has to die.” Sean said, taking back the discussion. “I think I know just how to do it too. A story in the news last year gave me a good idea. One of the things that bugged me about the guy is that he smokes like a chimney. There were a few times I had to go over to his house first thing in the morning. He’s had the same house since the 1960’s, this little two-bedroom thing built during the depression. The place stank like you wouldn’t believe, and the first thing he did when he got up every morning was to light up a cigarette even before he was out of bed.” “So?” Trevor asked with a confused look. “We know he doesn’t die of cancer.” “No, but he does have a gas stove.” Sean said grimly. “If we got in there, turned off the pilot light at night, made sure all the windows were closed, and left a burner on, he’d blow up when he had his morning smoke.” Davey said with a little grin on his face. “That’s a lot of if’s, there Sean.” “He has bad allergies some times.” Sean said with a shrug. “Part of the reason why the place stank so bad was that he never opens the windows to air it out. It’ll work. I know it.” “If it doesn’t, we can work on a fallback plan.” I offered. Everyone looked uncomfortable, but no one objected. “Now, which of us will do it, and when? We should make sure whoever goes has a good alibi just in case.” “What about his neighbors?” Todd asked with a frown. “Won’t we be risking hurting them too if his house just blows up?” “His nearest neighbor is several hundred yards away.” Sean said with a shrug. “They’ll be fine. And I’ll do it. I know the house. I’ve been in there in the other timeline.” “Won’t he hear you breaking in?” Trevor asked. “I’ve been thinking about this.” Sean said with a grin. “In the nineties, he always kept a spare key under the back door. I bet it’s there in this timeline too. He likes to make his assistants go get things that he might have left at home so he just leaves a spare key where they can find it easily. I’ll wait until he goes to bed, maybe an hour after that, and then I’ll go in, blow out the pilot light and leave the burner on. He’s always making tea in a kettle, so I’ll put the kettle over the burner, make it look like he’d left it on and didn’t realize it or something. That should be enough to throw any possible suspicion off it being foul play.” “What if you’re seen?” Brandon asked. “I don’t want you going to jail.” “I can do it without being seen.” Sean said confidently. “Besides, you guys will be my alibi, right?” “Yeah.” Davey said thoughtfully. “How about we do this over Spring Break? We’ve got that camping trip planned. All of us are planning to go to the DMV together and get our licenses right? And then we’ve already told our families we’re going camping for three days. That’ll give Sean one day to watch the place, and then another to actually do it.” “I’m going with him.” Brandon said fiercely and no one objected. “We’ll be able to give you both good alibis, especially if we go up on a back trail for most of the day.” Trevor added. “Okay, sounds like that’s settled. What’s next?” “College.” I said and everyone looked around nervously for a moment. “Look, I have to wonder if we’ve all been thinking along similar lines.” Trevor said after the silence had almost become uncomfortable. “Don’t get me wrong, I love all you guys. The thing is, we’ve been together, living together, working together, in each other’s pockets for damn near ten years now over two timelines. I’d like to be out on my own for a while, at least the four years it’ll take to finish up an undergraduate degree.” “What about me?” Todd asked with a mock pout and Trevor smiled while Brandon and Sean chuckled. “You know I don’t mean you in that.” Trevor said softly. “I’d just like it to be you and me for a bit, you know. Focus on us more, instead of the group.” “I’d like that too.” Todd agreed. “So would I.” Davey added as he looked at me. “No offense guys.” “It sounds like we’ve been thinking along the same lines.” Brandon chuckled. “So, what school have you picked, Trevor?” “USC.” Trevor said. “They offered me a football scholarship, and they’ve got that film program Todd’s been interested in since the last timeline. Brian, you always said you could work that into your plans.” “I can.” I agreed. “Good.” Todd said with a determined look. “What about you guys, Brandon and Sean?” “MIT, full-ride scholarships for both of us.” Sean said proudly as he held up two letters that he and Brandon had brought. “I’ve got engineering. It’ll be a nice change from Physics now that I don’t have to babysit that bastard again.” “Computer science for me.” Brandon added with a slight shrug. “This time I can get a proper education in the subject.” “Sorry about that.” I said quietly and he chuckled. “Wasn’t your fault, Bri.” Brandon stated. “They just didn’t have a halfway decent program.” “What about you two?” Sean asked with a slightly worried look. “You said you went to Stanford in your first timeline. You going to go there again?” “No.” Davey said with a shake of his head. “He went there so that I could pitch on the baseball team.” “Now there’s a joke.” Trevor chuckled as everyone else laughed. “Davey Jones pitching!” “Shut up.” Davey said defensively. Sure, he could throw a ball halfway decently after years and years of practice with us, but he was nowhere near being pitcher-quality in an amateur league, much less college ball. “We’re going to Whitman College.” I said to cut off the teasing Davey was getting. Everyone looked confused. “I’ve never heard of it.” Brandon stated. “It’s a CIA school.” Davey said. “Well, it’s a school with a program specific for the CIA.” “I thought you were staying away from the CIA after our little internship?” Brandon said to me with a confused look. “He’s doing it because I want to do it.” Davey said. “I like it. I want to do it.” “Which is why we’re going there.” I stated firmly. “But what about the long-range plans?” Trevor asked with a confused expression. “We abandoning them?” “No.” Davey said with a sigh. “I’ll have a couple years in by the mid-nineties, and Brian and I can go back to school, get our Masters degrees and then go over to State. It’s not like the mafia, really.” “If you think you can pull that off.” Brandon said with a shake of his head. “Well, I guess that was pretty easy to do.” “Yeah, but don’t worry, we won’t lose touch with each other.” I assured them. “We’ve been through too much for that.” “No fucking shit.” Davey snorted, and we all laughed together before Trevor’s parents got home.
  8. dkstories

    Chapter 21

    I opened my eyes and smiled at the sight of my old bedroom. Sunlight was just peaking in through the drapes, and I could clearly make out the football and wrestling posters on the walls, the comforter Mom had changed out when I’d reached fourteen, and the older, smaller dresser I’d had until I entered high school. Yep, I’d come back for a third childhood, and the preliminary evidence showed we’d hit it around the right timeframe. I got out of bed slowly, knowing from the last experience it would take a moment to get accustomed to the younger body. Certainly it felt weird being several inches shorter, and about forty pounds lighter, without quite as much muscle buildup as I had in my early twenties. My morning woody was a little different as well, a little smaller, and a lot more sensitive than I remembered it being even at twenty. After turning on the room light, I got a good glance at the calendar and smiled at the pile of books on my desk while the brand new backpack sat on the chair, waiting to be loaded. Yep, it was the first day of seventh grade, and I’d stayed up late last night getting ready, but not loading my backpack until the morning. “Brian!” Mom’s voice was accompanied by a knock. “You better get a move on or you’re going to be late for your first day!” “I’m up mom!” I shouted back, surprised at how my voice cracked right in the middle of that. Oh yeah, I wasn’t out of puberty yet. I’d been spared that particular curse, for the most part, the last time I’d gone back, but as I began to wake up a little more, I could feel how… unbalanced things felt inside of me. This was going to be weird. “What do you want for breakfast?” She yelled back, and I opened the door, forgetting I was wearing nothing but a pair of boxers and that the front of them was tented a bit. She gave me a look that almost made me blush. “Sorry, pancakes would be nice.” I said with a slight smile and she nodded before moving towards the kitchen while shaking her head. For my part, I grabbed a towel from the hall closet and went to take a shower. It was nice being home, and I felt so relaxed as I cleaned up, and took care of the morning business while wondering what Davey was going to look like at this age. Sure, I could call up a memory, but that had been a different Davey. I was going to get to see the original twelve-year old Davey. “Are you excited, honey?” Mom asked me twenty minutes later after I’d dressed in a new pair of jeans, a nice blue button-down shirt with a sleeveless checkered sweater over it, and my loaded backpack was sitting on the floor next to me as I ate breakfast. “You wouldn’t believe how excited I am.” I told her as Dad came into the room, dressed for work. “Morning Dad!” “Morning Brian.” Dad said with a slight smile. “Oh, I don’t know, I can remember the first time I went to Junior High.” Mom said with a wide smile. “Just don’t forget to say hello to your aunt.” “I won’t.” I groaned playfully and she laughed softly. Fifteen minutes later we were walking outside, towards her car, and I remembered why I’d almost been late on the first day of school. “The tires flat!” Mom groaned as she noticed the driver’s side tire. “You’re going to be late for school!” “If you don’t mind getting Dad to change it for you, I can jog and make it to school on time.” I offered and she frowned. “I don’t want you showing up to your first class all sweaty.” She stated. “Don’t worry mom, get dad to fix the tire and I’ll get to school.” I said as I leaned in to give her a kiss on the cheek. I still had to stand on my tiptoes to do that. “Okay, but you be careful!” She yelled. It wasn’t that bad of a jog to school, and I passed the familiar faces of Ronna and Jeanette on the way. They looked young, and were happily talking away to each other, but Davey was nowhere in sight with them as he’d been before. How many times had he told me the story about me bumping into him that first time he came back in time? It was a little disappointing to me that he wasn’t there now, but the sight waiting for me at the end of the bike path more than made up for that lack. “Heya, Bri.” Trevor said with a smile as I came to a stop next to him. “Yo Bri, glad you could make it.” Brandon added with a smile, and then turned back to tickle Sean who was too busy giggling to do more than wave. Todd was laughing at their antics from where he stood next to Trevor. His red hair was longer than I remembered, and he looked like a stoner, but otherwise was very much the Todd I remembered. Davey was standing there, on the opposite side of the circle of friends from me, giving me a very welcome smile. It was so hard not to take him in my arms and kiss him right here and now. He was only slightly overweight, and there was a nice-sized pimple on his right cheek, but he was my Davey, and the best part was the Davey looking out at me through those eyes. It wasn’t the twelve-year old, but the slightly older, slightly more mature Davey from the last timeline. The one who’d managed to make it through the challenges of rough teenage years and become a good man. “Looks like we all made it this time.” Davey said softly. “Yup, just like Brian planned.” Todd added. “You come up with good plans, Bri.” Trevor added with a sigh. “So what happens now? We never got enough time where they weren’t listening to go into too many details about what happens when we all get back.” “We’ll discuss it after school, okay?” I offered. “You mean after flag-football practice.” Brandon pointed out. “Well, what are Sean and I going to do while you boys get all hot and sweaty?” Todd asked. “What about me?” Davey pointed out. “I’m not on the team.” “Like hell you’re not.” Trevor snorted. “You’re signing up today.” Brandon said as he got Sean into a headlock and proceeded to give him a noogie. “As for these two, we could use some pretty cheerleaders.” “I’d watch that if I were you.” Sean growled as he slipped out of the headlock and managed to kick the back of Brandon’s knees, sending him to the ground. We all laughed as Brandon looked up in surprise at his boyfriend. “I learned wrestling in the last timeline, remember?” “Yeah, I remember.” Brandon laughed. “Just checking to see if your runt of a body could still get out of it.” “Runt of a body, you really don’t want any do you?” Sean teased him. “Um, about that.” Brandon said and he looked over at me. “Aren’t we like twelve now?” “We’re all twelve now, right?” I asked and got nods all around. “Should we be having sex?” Brandon asked. “Well, it’s not like we weren’t playing around at this age anyway.” Trevor said, but then he gave me a look. “Well, most of us were anyway.” “Aren’t we all like virgins again?” Todd asked. “I know I am.” “So am I, physically.” Sean said, but he was grinning at Brandon. “For right now, at least.” “So am I, but I don’t see why we shouldn’t have fun.” I said with a shrug. “I mean, we’re all pretty established in our relationships, right?” “Yeah, that’s for sure.” Davey said with a smile. “Just remember, coming out right now isn’t going to be fun or easy.” Sean reminded all of us. “My parents, and Davey’s at least will have conniption fits and we’re too young to get emancipated yet.” “I hate being young again.” Davey moaned. “You lose so many privileges that being an adult gets you.” “It takes some adjustment.” I agreed. “Some of us have it easier than others, and we should make sure our families get used to us spending a lot of time together. For now, my place, or Trevor’s will be the best place to get together as a group.” “Oh yeah, a lot of trips to the barn.” Brandon said with a leer at Sean. “You really are cute at this age, you know. Then again you’re cute at any age.” “You’re just saying that because your twelve-year old hormones are talking.” Sean teased back, but he was smiling as the bell rang. “Ah, crap, we got class.” Trevor groaned, and we all headed into the school as a group. A few of our ‘friends’ from this time gave us odd looks because Todd, Sean and Davey weren’t normally part of our group, but they’d get used to that in time. Time. We had so much time to plan now, and while it was true I hadn’t been able to do more than lay out the basic elements of how to secure access to the time machine and get us all back here, but I had spent plenty of time over the last years in that other timeline planning on what to do when we got here. First off was to get reestablished in our younger bodies, and our younger lives. There were other things to take care of, but that would take a little bit longer. I intended to make sure that no other time machine could be built, and to do that someone would have to die. The easiest would be the scientist. While my friends had by and large balked at the idea of killing the soldiers and others that would be in the chamber with us, I had been able to adapt those plans to non-lethal means. Sean and Davey, though, had shown no squeamishness at killing, and they would be the ones to help me with the plans for the scientist that had started this whole chain of events. We had years, though, before we needed to take those steps. For now, the most important thing was to just enjoy the fact that instead of being a lonely time traveler, we were all in our younger bodies, and we all remembered our friendships and relationships with each other. There would be no dancing around, trying to reestablish what had been begun in a previous timeline. I just did my best to not think about certain things that couldn’t be changed. Uncle Rich already had AIDS, and he’d die around Christmastime this year. Going back earlier might have changed that, but the fact was we knew that at this age our bodies were able to handle the adult memories of past lives. Going back further endangered that, as Davey learned in my original timeline. Saving Uncle Rich just wasn’t worth that risk. First period English was fun, but jock math was absolute hell for me. By whispered agreement, those of us in that class (Trevor, Davey, and I) agreed we’d get out of it after the first week and into a more advanced math. Davey joined Brandon, Trevor and me for lunch, while Sean and Todd visited with some of their old friends. While we were all good friends as young adults, the truth was that we moved in different circles during Junior and Senior High, and while we were going to be making many changes, they didn’t all need to start on the first day. After practice we all met in a nearby park, sitting together at one of the wooden benches that dotted the area. We had the area pretty much to ourselves, and wouldn’t have to worry about a parent coming in and hearing us talk about things they wouldn’t be prepared to understand. It was pretty obvious the younger hormones were kicking in, because there was a lot of physical contact between the various couples as we sat down to talk. “Ugh, this is going to drive me insane.” Trevor groaned as Todd sat next to him. “You’ve got a barn, invite me to dinner.” Todd teased him and Trevor growled. “You’re coming to dinner.” “Geez, twist my arm, why don’t ya?” Todd laughed. “Where are we going?” Sean asked Brandon. “There’s some bushes over there.” Brandon said with a jerk of his head. “We have those reserved.” Davey added. “Business first?” I asked, hating to break up the horny banter. I knew only part of it was from actual horniness. Most came from the fact that we’d succeeded in fooling several powerful people over several very tense years. “Yeah, okay, how do we prevent World War III?” Davey asked in a mock-serious tone. “We kill the bad Russian.” Trevor offered. “Better yet, we kill the scientist.” Todd offered. “Um, didn’t you guys hesitate at…” I started to suggest but Brandon shook his head. “That was different.” Brandon said. “Those guys were innocent.” “Yeah.” Trevor agreed. “Yup.” Todd added. “Well, we’ve got years before that is necessary.” I pointed out. “In fact, we should probably wait until we’re at least sixteen or seventeen and don’t have to depend on others for transportation.” “But you have an idea about how to do it, right?” Davey asked. “I’m thinking either a car accident, or poison.” I admitted. “I’d lean towards car accident but we have to make sure it’s fatal. We’ll spend a few months observing him and his movements, and work out a more exact plan once we’re older. They don’t come back until 1988, remember?” “That’s right, so there’ll be in plenty of time.” Sean smiled. “Okay, so what about between now and then?” Trevor asked. “Do we just lay low, be normal students or whatever, keep the fact that we’re fucking like bunnies a secret and just live life or do we do something?” “Sean, you said when you came back that my plans to help alleviate the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union didn’t work.” I stated. “Is it fair to say the problem was what I expected, that there wasn’t enough time between 1988 and 1991?” “That was what you decided before I came back.” Sean answered. “You said ground work would have to be made several years earlier in order to get a better impact.” “So, a question for all of us.” I said and was glad that the playfulness had died down. Everyone was as serious as could be right now. “Do we live our lives as normally as possible, not showing we already know what we’re learning in classes, or do we do something different?” “You’re not talking about admitting to the government we’re time travelers, are you?” Davey asked suspiciously. “Hell no.” I snorted. “That’s just asking for trouble, especially once they believe us. No. You know, we’re just an extraordinary group of geniuses who manage to learn very fast and learn at a very accelerated rate. If we play it right, we can be finishing up high school by the time we’re fifteen, and we can be in the right schools, at the right time to advance the right theories to the right people a few years earlier.” “But, our friends…” Todd started to protest and then he sighed. “Why do I see your faces being in my future for decades?” “We’ll make other friends along the way, but at least we’ll always have each other to fall back on.” Davey said with an appreciative look on his face. “I mean, think about what we’ve been through, what we’ve done. I know all of you will always be important to me for the rest of my life.” “Aw, how sweet.” Sean said in a mock-moan, but everyone had embarrassed smiles on their faces. “So how do we do this?” Trevor asked. “I mean, is there anyone who isn’t onboard with this idea?” “Nope.” Several of them said at once. Then everyone looked at me again. Even though Sean had come back in the last timeline, I was still the ‘oldest’ of them, and had all the knowledge of the original Davey Jones at my recall. “For now, we just ace every quiz, every test and we make it very obvious to our teachers that we’re extremely bored with their work.” I explained easily. “They should get the hint within a month, and if any of them don’t we’ll take other steps through my aunt. Their next step should be to give us new assessment tests, where we’ll do everything but the absolutely most difficult questions. I don’t think any of us except maybe Davey and Trevor will have problems with the math parts.” “Yeah, I might fail that part.” Davey said with a chortle. He’d always hated math. “That should give the teachers a conundrum to deal with, and we’ll probably be accused of cheating.” I continued with a laugh. “So, we’ll probably end up taking the tests again, and we should perform about the same. After a lot of head scratching, our parents will probably come talk to us about skipping a grade or two. Maybe even sending all of us to a special school. We should end up freshmen somewhere, and from there it’ll be a few years until we get our high school diplomas and move on to college.” “No sports then.” Trevor said with a frown. “Well, we might be able to figure something out there, although we’ll definitely be at a disadvantage with our lack of development.” I said with a shrug. “We can always do three-on-three.” Davey said, and then blushed as a few of the guys chuckled. “Sorry, not on our backs.” “Don’t get kinky, Jones.” Todd grumbled playfully. “What careers do we get this time?” Sean asked. “I mean, I like physics and all, but I’d really like to go into computers.” “I really want to focus on computers too.” Brandon added. “Some of the stuff that was coming out there before we left, it was pretty damn cool.” “I want to do the political stuff again.” Davey said with a smile and then he shrugged when everyone groaned. “Hey, I like it!” “I know.” Todd added. “I’m not sure what I want to do right now.” “Me neither.” Trevor added. “We don’t have to decide now.” I reminded them. “You’ve got a year or two. Remember, we’re going to know more than other kids our age, but that doesn’t necessarily make us geniuses. We’re still going to have to learn things, but we’ll have a head start. That’s the main thing to remember. When we get back into college, it’ll be slower going again.” “Got it.” Trevor murmured. “Now, if you’ll excuse us, Todd needs to see my barn and what it looked like in 1981.” “Have fun.” Davey leered at them and he grinned at me. “Want to walk me home, Brian? You might not know this, but your place is on the way to where I live now.” “Sure.” I agreed while Brandon and Sean got up, heading for some bushes without even a word to us. “I do love you.” Davey said softly as we began the walk home. “You know, I’ve got some changes to make with my father.” “Stopping him from molesting Jenny, yes.” I agreed. “If we leave too soon for some advanced school, I won’t be able to do that.” Davey said. “Any suggestions on how to go about this?” “Start with Jenny.” I offered and he nodded. “You mean talk to her about inappropriate touching and stuff, and how even if it was your parent you should tell someone, or better yet, scream as loud as you can to stop it from happening?” He threw out several ideas, all of them good. “I think we’re on the right track.” I replied as we kept walking and talking. When we got to my place, we walked up and in the front door together, and for a moment we both totally forgot that my parents had not met him yet. “You’re home late.” Mom said a little tightly. “And who is this?” “Oh, um, yeah, sorry mom.” I said with a wry grin. “This is my new best friend, Davey Jones. I thought you should meet him since you’re going to be seeing a lot of him from now on.” “Well, that was quite an introduction.” Mom said with an odd look on her face, but she smiled at Davey and shook his hand. “I think my son might have just fallen in love.” “It might be puppy love.” Davey said dead-pan. “I better watch it in case he decides to start humping my leg.” The look on mom’s face was priceless, and I couldn’t decide if she was going to not like Davey, or fall over laughing. She ended up laughing so hard there were tears in her eyes. “Oh my, your Uncle Rich is going to love hearing this.” Mom said to me as she began to get control over herself. “That’s your uncle in the City, right?” Davey said to me with a wink. “You’re going to have to take me to meet him sometime.” “How about this weekend?” I asked and looked at mom who was looking at us with surprise. “Do you think Uncle Rich might like some visitors?” “I’m sure he’d love to have you guys visit, but um, Brian, are you sure that…” Mom’s voice trailed off as she looked uncomfortably at Davey. “Don’t worry, ma’am, Brian’s already told me about his gay uncle, and no it doesn’t bother me at all.” Davey said with a smile. “My dad’s the hellfire and brimstone preacher, not me. I tend to take a more relaxed view of the world.” “I see.” She said with a twinkle in her eye. “Brian, where did you find this guy?” “On the way to school.” I answered. “Well, would you boys like a snack or something?” Mom asked as she recovered. “No thanks, ma’am.” Davey said with a smile. “I need to get home before Mom gets off work. She probably expects me to have done my chores instead of goofing off with this lug.” “Well, it was nice to meet you.” Mom said with a genuine smile. “I’ll have to meet your parents some day.” “I’m sure you will, ma’am.” Davey said with a twinkle in his eyes and I walked him to the door. She was still watching us, so we couldn’t kiss, but he did mouth ‘I love you’ before turning and walking away. “He’s quite a character.” Mom repeated when I shut the door. “I take it you had a good first day of school?” “You wouldn’t believe how good of a day.” I told her with a smile. The night was odd, I realized as I had nothing to do, really. The few chores I finished before dinner, and something in me wanted to be out, celebrating with my friends, and with Davey, but I knew that could not happen just yet. I spent several hours watching television with my parents, talking with them a little before heading into my room for bed. Twice while I thought about Davey I managed to jerk off, amazed at the sharpness, the almost overpowering level of sensations that rushed through my body. It really was different. “I don’t mind walking, mom.” I told my mother the next day as I waited for Davey. He showed up with his sister in tow. She really was a cute little girl, but she was giving Davey the oddest looks. It wasn’t until we left her at El Vista and headed on to our own school that I found out why. “When I got home last night, I found she’d gotten into my room, taken all my Star Wars action figures and had them in her room playing with her Barbie dolls.” Davey chuckled. “You should have seen her face. She was sitting there, fully prepared for me to launch into a tirade and for us to get in a fight.” “What did you do?” I asked with a smile. Oh yes, younger siblings could do such challenging things all the time. “I told her that when she was done, she’d better put them back where she found them.” Davey laughed. “Then, later, when Mom got home she whined that I was telling her what to do!” “What did your Mom say?” I asked. “She asked what I’d told Jenny to do, and Jenny told her that I was demanding she put away my toys.” Davey laughed with a shake of his head. “Mom turned to me and before she could say anything, I said ‘The toys she took out of my room and was playing with in her room.’ Mom turned right back around and told Jenny if she didn’t do what I told her, she would be grounded. I swear, if I’d known I’d get that sort of reaction, I’d have done that the first time around.” “It is nice having an older perspective.” I said. “Yeah, but there’s nice things about being younger again, too.” Davey said with a look I knew all too well. His voice dropped an octave. “I thought I was about to leap out of my body when I came last night thinking about you.” “Yeah, me too.” I admitted with a slight blush. “So, when are we going to sneak off somewhere?” He asked me. “Come over to my house after school.” I told him. “Mom’s going to be gone to her sister’s.” “Sounds good to me.” Davey said with a smile. “We can break your bed in again.” “I like that idea.” I said before we met up with our friends at the end of the bike path across from the school. We were fifteen minutes early, but everyone was there. “We need to talk some more about this whole idea.” Trevor said after we’d gotten the greetings out of the way. “I’m not sure if I want to go this route, and Brian, you’re always talking about how our biggest problems stem from us not fully thinking our way through things. We need to be careful about this.” “I agree.” I told him. “Good.” Todd added his agreement and everyone nodded their heads as well. That afternoon, in my house void of any parents, Davey and I managed to get our clothes off and explore our younger bodies. The equipment wasn’t full grown yet, but oh the feelings they generated! Both of us were far too noisy when we climaxed, and we lay there on the bed, together, panting and totally drained afterwards. “That was too good.” Davey said softly. “I’d forgotten what it was like. No wonder people get screwed up having sex too young. It’s just too intense for thought.” “Yep.” I agreed with him before slipping into a light doze. Fortunately Mom’s car in the driveway woke us both, and we got dressed in plenty of time before she made it inside. “Oh, hi Davey!” Mom said with a smile when we came out of the bedroom. “I didn’t know you were here.” “Brian and I were doing some homework.” Davey said with a theatrical sigh. “Those darn teachers! They’ve already got us doing homework!” “I’m sure you’ll survive.” She said with a little laugh. “Were you serious about going to the City this weekend?” He asked both her and me at the same time. “I did talk to Rich today, and he’s free if you boys wanted to visit.” Mom said with a look at me. “That sounds good.” I agreed. “My parents said I could go, but they want to meet you and Mr. B first.” Davey said to her. “Do you think your parents would like to come over for dinner on Thursday?” Mom asked. “As long as we bring my brat of a sister, they’ll probably be delighted.” Davey said and she laughed. “Oh, you have a sister?” She asked and he answered, talking about Jenny for a good five minutes. Poor Mom, Davey had her number already and she didn’t stand a chance against his manipulations. He’d have her eating out of his hand by the end of the week, and it was fun to watch. Oh yes, this was going to be the best timeline ever.
  9. dkstories

    Chapter 20

    “I’m tired.” Davey said to me as I entered the medium-sized room that had been hastily turned into sleeping quarters for all of us. Six cot-beds had been arranged with typical military wool blankets and thin pillows. Davey and the others, except Sean, had gotten here first and already the six cots were now arranged in pairs right next to each other. Our bags were at the foot of each set of cots. “So am I.” I said softly, knowing full well our hosts would be listening to every conversation in this room. It was just after two in the morning by the time our interviewers had called a break. Already I’d been through the basic outline of my story, and filled in quite a few details about my plans for this timeline without giving away too many details about the future, or my original timeline. Davey and I sat down on the cots he’d claimed for us while I looked over to where Trevor and Todd were asleep already, and Brandon was half-dozing as he waited for Sean. “Did they say what time they were going to come get us again?” Davey asked around a wide yawn. “Five o’clock for me.” I answered sourly. That was less than three hours away. “Well, let’s get some sleep.” He said as the door opened again and Sean came into the room. Brandon got up and made a beeline for him. They hugged, as Davey and I had, and then chatted quietly before settling down together on their cots. We knew better than to try and trade notes between us. There had always been a possibility that something like this would happen, and we had planned for it in detail. We all knew what to say, and what not to say. Above all, we were always to tell the truth, and if something should not be answered, just refuse to answer it at all. Questions like “Who will win this year’s election?” would be readily answered, while questions about 1992 would receive no comment whatsoever. What the goals of other time travelers were would also be readily answered, but questions about what happens in 2000, or other years would be met with silence. So far, they were going rather easy on us, although the lack of sleep we were going to experience was deliberate. It was precisely five in the morning when we were woken up and taken for a quick breakfast in another room. Then we were shown to a shower that at least helped us wake up a little more before they once again separated us for individual questioning. Some people might have bothered complaining about the treatment, but I knew it was actually rather mild compared to what could be happening right now. “Mr. Breckenridge, please have a seat.” A middle-aged man I had not met before said as I entered the interview room with two soldiers waiting outside as guards. The room had a small table, and six chairs. Five of those chairs were occupied, and I sat in the sixth. None of the men, and they were all men, were those who had questioned me into the early hours of the morning, but I recognized two of them from another timeline. “Mr. Hoskins, Mr. Thornbull, it’s a pleasure to see you.” I said to the two of them and enjoyed the shocked looked on their faces. “You know these men?” the first man who had spoken asked. “Yes, and no.” I said with a slight smile while openly yawning. At least I was twenty now instead of eighty, where the short amount of sleep would have left me stupid with mental fatigue. “I knew them in my previous timeline, but I’ve never met them in the here and now. Mr. Hoskins would have been working in the State Department around this time, if memory serves, and Mr. Thornbull was an expert at the Hungary desk in the CIA.” “Your memory is accurate, Mr. Breckenridge.” The first man said while everyone looked startled while making notes. “Frankly I didn’t know what to believe this morning as I read through the transcripts of your debriefing last night. I trust you got at least some sleep?” “Not enough, but I’ll sleep when there’s more time.” I said with a shrug. “We have a lot of work to do, I believe.” “I am Will Lerner, and I work for the White House.” He said with a nod. “You already know Mr. Hoskins and Mr. Thornbull, and you were right about their current assignments. With Mr. Hoskins from State is Mr. Eldridge, and from the Department of Defense is Mr. Wolfowitz.” “I thought I recognized you, sir.” I said to the last man. Maybe I was more tired than I thought. He was a man I should have recognized, but then again I’d never actually met him in person. “You must imagine how skeptical we all are about what you and Mr. Rule claim to be.” Lerner said carefully. “Still, you have both shared knowledge that should not be known to college students, and given enough examples to lend credibility to your claims. We have some more questions for you this morning.” “Please, I will answer what I can.” I stated. “Good, now why are you refusing to answer certain questions?” Wolfowitz started aggressively, leaning forward as he asked. “Certain questions of a political nature I will refuse to answer.” I shrugged. “I’m not going to see time travel information used for the personal gain of certain individuals.” “But you’ll use it for your own personal gain?” Wolfowitz countered. “Did you not use your knowledge to buy a winning ticket for your… lover’s mother?” “Yes.” I admitted. “Did you not plan to do something similar with an even bigger lottery in the near future?” He continued. “Yes.” I admitted. “So you’ll use your knowledge for your own personal gain, but not for anyone else?” Wolfowitz spoke in clipped tones. “Isn’t that hypocritical?” “Yes, but I’ve never claimed I could not be hypocritical.” I said with a shrug. “But there’s more to it than just financial gain. This country faces issues, and days ahead, that are vastly different than what we are accustomed to facing today. In past timelines, we were ill prepared to adjust our worldview to the new paradigms as they arose. As a result, we stumbled badly in our foreign policy decisions and greatly hurt American interests even though we thought we were doing the right thing. The lottery winnings will be used to help establish a foundation that will hopefully, over the course of several decades, help our country adjust to the changing world and not make the same mistakes. I certainly do not want to see the United States held hostage by foreign nukes planted off our shores, or our soldiers chased out of once-friendly countries.” “And you believe you’re wise enough to make these kinds of decisions?” Lerner asked. “I’ve worked for the United Nations, and the U.S. State Department, as well as on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for most of my adult life.” I replied with a very slight shrug. “For sixty years I was heavily involved in this nation’s foreign relations. For ten years I was the spouse of the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom, and turned down two direct offers of Ambassadorships for myself. Two different U.S. Presidents asked me to be their Secretary of State, and I refused both times.” “Or so you claim.” Wolfowitz spat out. “We’ve just met, gentlemen, but you will find that nothing I’ve told you so far, or will likely tell you anytime soon is a lie.” I countered. “Proving you’re a time traveler isn’t the easiest thing in the world, nor is knowing how to make the most effective use of information. Sure, it’s possible to change things like who becomes President in a given election, but doing that does not necessarily fix long-term problems. To really fix long-term problems requires a different approach than any real, direct change to the timeline.” “But you are not the only time traveler.” Lerner pointed out. “Not anymore, which is why I’m sharing so much with you now.” I said with a slight shrug of my shoulders. “The Russian time traveler does not have the experience with previous timelines that I have.” “But you claim this is the first time you’ve actually traveled in time.” Hoskins pointed out. “That is true.” I answered. “My husband though, had experienced several different timelines. We were together for around seventy years, and during that time I learned a lot about his experiences. Sean, a different Sean if you will remember, had experienced a similar number of alternate timelines and also contributed to my understanding of the complexities of time travel and changing the future.” “You’ve stated the goal of the Russian time traveler is to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union?” Eldridge spoke up for the first time. “Yes.” I confirmed. “You’ll know better than I how effective we were at changing what happens after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but Mr. Shevardnadze was the original funder of time travel that started all of this. His goal then, and I cannot imagine it has changed, was to prop up the Soviet Union and keep it alive past 1991. I would imagine his first steps will be to replace Gorbachev, and to stop the relatively free parliamentary elections in Hungary and Poland early next year.” “Mr. Rule’s debriefing mentioned those events and stated that your efforts to ameliorate the effects of the collapse were less than successful.” Wolfowitz said in a tone of superiority. “I’m still in college, I can’t expect to be able to shift the course of the planet just yet.” I shrugged. “It takes time.” “That’s pretty much what he said.” Lerner noted. “He says that your plans were largely focused on the world after the turn of the century, and even after the first decade of the next century.” “That would be accurate.” I agreed. “My goal isn’t to see any specific person elected or not elected, but to change how we look at the world and our role in the world. Hopefully, people will look at the situation differently, and make different choices, but ultimately it will still be up to them to choose. I will not use my knowledge to force change.” “That is a fine line to walk.” Lerner said with a frown. “Still, you are right about the Soviet time traveler. We are hearing rumblings that a coup is happening as we speak. When we first received Mr. Rule’s strange call, we at first didn’t fully believe it, but we did investigate. Then we started hearing rumblings that something was going on in Moscow, and the agents sent to have a discussion with the scientist Mr. Rule identified encountered him being kidnapped.” “They did?” I stated in surprise, and started to worry as I thought about the timeline where the Chinese had sent assassins after Davey’s family, and mine. That made me really worry. “If they went after him, our families…” “Are under observation and are fine for the present.” Lerner stated. “A massive manhunt is underway at this time. The KGB was forced to use agents from their San Francisco mission, and were easily identified. They are hiding somewhere in the Napa Valley, but we’ll find them and retrieve the scientist. Mr. Rule states that his loyalty to the United States is questionable at best.” “I wouldn’t know for sure, but from what I’ve been told in other timelines, I’d tend to agree with that opinion.” I answered the unspoken question. Lerner noted as he checked something off on his notepad. “How do we counter the moves this Shevardnadze will make?” Hoskins asked after the room had been silent for several moments. “Kill him.” I answered emphatically without hesitation. All four men looked shock at the answer. “In the last timeline, Davey arranged a subterfuge. He convinced President Reagan and his own father that he was a time traveler, and then he convinced them that his young brain couldn’t completely hold the ‘advanced’ knowledge and that he would soon lose it forever. They acted on the information and managed to assassinate all the enemy time travelers before they came back in time, effectively ending their ability to go back into that timeline.” “Doesn’t that create a paradox or something?” Eldridge asked with a pained expression. “The way it was explained to me by another Sean still gives me a headache.” I said honestly and with a bit of sympathy. “Supposedly only one timeline can exist at any given moment, but all the instances of time travel coexist simultaneously, so if a time traveler from 2004 goes back to 1976, he creates a new timeline by any changes he makes, but a time traveler from a previous 2004 still exists and will still arrive in 1981. With enough time travelers, and time lines, it gets very confusing. Sean created this chart that showed all the time travelers and their originating time lines one time. I could recreate it for you, but it doesn’t really help. Why it doesn’t create a paradox I don’t know, but the jamming device we developed in my originating timeline was supposed to stop all other time travel, effectively erasing their ability to affect this timeline. Obviously it failed.” “Yes, it did.” Wolfowitz gloated, but settled down after the other men in the room gave him reproachful looks. “In every time line that Shevardnadze has been allowed to impact, a war has happened that caused huge losses of American life.” I pointed out. “Killing him might prevent that from happening now.” “He has already begun changes in the Soviet Union.” Wolfowitz argued. “Killing him now won’t do any good. We need to stop him from ever coming back. The Rule kid states that he might be able to recreate a time machine and a jamming device.” “That will work.” I agreed instantly. “I could help him with the jamming device.” “Even if it means you won’t be able to come back in time again?” Wolfowitz asked with a gloating expression and I paused for a long moment before meeting his eyes directly. “I’d rather… I’d rather a time line where I did not go back than a timeline altered by Shevardnadze.” I said in a firm voice, but I spoke slowly as if the words pained me greatly. “You know, I almost believe that.” Wolfowitz said after looking at me for another long minute. “Why?” “I’m not selfish enough to put my happiness over the lives of thousands, or millions.” I said with a shrug. “But what about the changes you think need to be made?” Lerner asked. “One thing about history is that it shows us there will always be conflict.” I said with a shrug. “The–the things that happen do cost lives, sometimes even thousands of lives, but none of them are as bad as a possible all-out nuclear war, or a direct war between the Soviet Union and the United States.” “Why is that?” Hoskins asked as he leaned forward slightly with obvious interest. “It’s difficult to believe, but the world really does change tremendously after the collapse of the Soviet Union.” I started carefully. “Twenty years from now, an entire generation will have grown to adulthood who do not remember what it was like for two juggernauts like the United States and USSR to stand opposite each other, both capable of wiping out all life on Earth with one decision. Sure, there are still threats. A city might be nuked, or airplanes might be hijacked and slammed into towers, but a war that ends all life on Earth is a science fiction story usually involving aliens instead of a very real possibility. Kids learn about the Cold War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis and other events and they don’t really understand that all life on Earth really could have ended in the blink of an eye while the Soviet Union and the United States faced off against each other. “Likewise, those of us who lived during the Cold War have a hard time adjusting to a world where the biggest threat to our country is that we might lose a skyscraper, or at worst a single city.” I continued. “We remember the perspective of losing our entire planet, and we subconsciously escalate the threat we face then with the threat we face now. So we react out of proportion to the real threat at hand.” “You say that in the future terrorists manage to strike our cities with nukes?” Wolfowitz asked with a shocked look. “In part because we badly handled the breakup of the Soviet Union, yes.” I confirmed. “Which you are trying to change.” Lerner added. “Yes.” I agreed. “I know on the surface it looks like what I was doing seems solely selfish, and I won’t deny there is a selfish aspect to it, but in the long run it was to be for the betterment of our country, and by extension our world.” “I see.” Lerner nodded. “Thank you for your candor, Mr. Breckenridge. We’ll take a short break for now, and begin again in about an hour, over lunch.” “Thank you for listening.” I said politely as they left the room. A soldier poked his head into the room and I followed him out, back to the room I’d slept in with the others. Sean was there already, as was Davey, although the rest of our friends were gone. “Where’s everyone?” I asked. “Getting a tour.” Davey said with a frown. “I wasn’t invited.” “Why not?” I asked. “For some reason they think I know more than I’m telling.” Davey said with a groan. “They seem to think I’m responsible for all this time travel mess, but it was that other me, wasn’t it?” “You’re right.” I assured him. “It’s not fair.” “Nothing in life is fair.” Sean muttered with a shake of his head. “So, Brian, did they bring up the idea of rebuilding a time machine and another jammer?” “Yes.” I said and Davey let out a groan. “They asked me about it too, like I knew anything!” He moaned. “Still, I told them it was probably for the best, to solve this situation, but that maybe someone should go back just to make sure there wasn’t another time travel device, like you’d planned.” “Which is how I’m here, and we’re all here in the Pentagon instead of in the hospital room.” Sean muttered. “What hospital room?” I asked in alarm and Sean frowned. “I didn’t want to tell the others, but on that night, on the way home from the game, there was an accident.” Sean said sadly. “Todd got hit by a drunk driver while they were walking back, and spent six days in a coma before he died. It was weird seeing him after all these years, but that’s at least one good change, although if we do this plan of building another machine, I don’t know what good it will be in the long run.” “Gentlemen.” A voice called from the doorway and we looked up to see an Army Colonel standing there. “Would you please come with me?” We followed the man through the bowels of the Pentagon and up into the actual halls of the regular portions of the building. Our friends were waiting outside a set of doors that I recognized as leading to the Secretary of Defense’s office, all of them looking a little worried. We waited there, not saying a word until the doors opened and we were escorted inside to find a room mostly empty except for a few Secret Service agents, and the President. “I thought I’d come over here and take a look at you myself.” Ronald Reagan said in a slightly cheerful tone as I stepped forward a pace from my friends and moved to shake his hand. “Mr. President, it’s an honor to meet you.” I said. “My name is Brian Breckenridge. These are my friends.” He shook hands as I introduced each of my friends, and then invited us to sit down in chairs that had been arranged in a circle. He took one of the chairs, and I ended up sitting on his left hand. Sean sat on the other side of him. “I find all this hard to believe, but my people assure me it is genuine.” He said after a moment of silence while we all got settled. “One thing that is bothering me: Why would supposedly smart young men like you be working on the Dukakis campaign?” “He’s a loser, Mr. President.” I said with a chuckle as Davey laughed and gave me a knowing look. “There’s no way he was going to win this campaign, but working on it gave us the start of certain connections that will be needed later on. I hate to tell you this, but Republicans don’t hold on to the oval office forever, and well, the Democrats need a lot more help than the Vice-President.” “They always are in need of help, Mr. Breckenridge.” The President laughed before turning serious. “There appears to be open fighting going on in the Kremlin, and we’re not sure which side is going to come out on top. My advisors tell me that the two of you can make another one of these infernal machines, and put an end to this time travel business once and for all.” “Yes, Mr. President.” Sean said in a slightly awed voice. “I believe the problem was that a frequency was left open for Brian’s transport back. With his help, we can isolate all remaining frequencies and jam those too.” “Are you willing to do this, young man?” He asked me with a very direct gaze. “I understand you have some issues.” “I do, but they pale besides the comparison of a war between the USSR and the USA.” I said after taking a deep breath and letting it out. Davey let out a small whimper that drew his attention. “Do you have a problem with this, Mr. Jones?” The President asked him. “It’s just… my life is better than it would have been without his changes.” Davey said slowly but he shook his head. “Still, put up against a possible war with the Soviet’s, it’d be better for my life to go the way it was than for people to die in a big war.” “I can sympathize with that feeling young man.” The President said with a kindly smile. “I asked myself, just to get an idea of what I was going to be asking you young men to give up, how I would feel if such actions meant I would never be President. In the end, I decided that it would be a price I was willing to pay in order to stop a World War.” “We don’t know a World War is going to happen.” Todd argued and then he blushed when the President turned his attention to him. “What do our two time travelers believe?” President Reagan asked. “There will be a war.” I said at once and Sean nodded his agreement. “If you’re sure about it.” Todd said at last with a sigh. “Now, how long will it take to rebuild this time machine, and what resources will you need?” The President asked us directly and I looked over at Sean, who would be the one doing most of the work. I didn’t know half of what was needed, no, not even a quarter! In the end it took five years to build the machine, and the world was a nightmare. Shevardnadze’s hard-line faction won the shoot-out in the Kremlin, and the Soviet Union was ruled with an iron fist. Protests at the ending of Glasnost and similar Gorbachev programs were brutally crushed, and Hungary never voted out the communists. In 1989, the Berlin Wall never fell, and we came damn close to losing West Berlin itself. The scientist who had invented the time machine was never found, until a CIA agent caught wind of him in Moscow during the final days of 1989. Our agents couldn’t get anywhere near Shevardnadze, but they managed to poison the scientist before he could build another machine for the Soviets. The expected response, a KGB attack on Sean and his family only succeeded in killing Sean’s father. Sean shrugged it off as ‘no big deal’. There was an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, but this time it was backed by the full might of the Soviet Union. Thanks to information we had given our government, and the focused efforts of our intelligence agencies, the Iraqis and Soviets had a little surprise as Iraqi troops barely paused to consolidate Kuwait before pushing into Saudi Arabia. An entire carrier battle group surged into the Gulf, and its planes began bombing the Iraqi troops as soon as they were outside the city of Kuwait. American fighters surged from Germany (after being refueled by planes staged in Israel and Saudi Arabia) engaged Iraq’s air force, slaughtering them in a great air-to-air battle that lasted for twelve hours. It took nearly two weeks for two Marine Amphibious groups to arrive, and by then most of Iraq’s armor in the area had been crushed. The US Marines landed in Kuwait with enough force, and complete air coverage, and the remaining Iraqi troops fled Kuwait like rats from a sinking ship. The Soviet Union, with a bloody nose, pulled back for a little while, licking its wounds while the KGB fomented problems for us in South America. In 1992, George H. W. Bush easily won reelection in a Cold War that wasn’t quite so cold anymore. By the end of 1993, we were conducting our first tests with the new machine. The truth was that Sean was right about me. When it came to the theory behind time travel and its operations, or actually putting it together, I couldn’t help much. However, when it came to operating the machine, or the new ‘jamming’ device, figuring which frequencies, and similar things, I ended up being a lot of help. Poor Davey, Brandon, Trevor, and Todd were stuck being with us, acting as moral support most of the time, although each of them helped in their own way. Todd and Brandon helped with different aspects of the computer components or software, working with the experts the government had assigned us as if they had already completed a full college education in their specific fields. Since they spent the first two years of the project going to classes at Georgetown, that was pretty much the case. Trevor helped in other ways, by helping relieve tension when it built up too high, or asking really basic questions when we were stuck, forcing us to think again in much simpler terms. (He called them stupid questions, but they were far from stupid and helped us solve several problems.) Together, all of us made an impressive team, and when the machine was ready for testing, the military took precautions, but did not deny us all a place in the chamber where the machine was waiting. “You understand, no time travelers.” Roger Sazar, the President’s point man on this project said while we waited for the airlock to cycle. We were actually located in a remote facility in the backwoods of Virginia. This was the bunker built for members of Congress in case of nuclear attack, and had everything needed for our experiments. We had a good, strong, dependable power supply, plenty of food and water, and most importantly in the eyes of the government, hundreds of soldiers to make sure no one went back in time. Our mission was simple, power up the machine, activate the jammer that would keep me, and the others, from going back in time, and then wait to make sure the outside world survived. We had plenty of antennas and other equipment that would allow us to monitor the outside world for a long time before we shut down the bubble and ended our own existence. “We understand.” I repeated for my friends one last time as the huge airlock door, nearly five feet of reinforced steel and concrete swung open. Sean and I led the way in, barely looking at the MRI-type machine surrounded by twenty armed soldiers. Davey and the rest followed us into the control room where a bank of control machines waited for us, and a thick glass window allowed us to monitor events in the machine room. There were more soldiers standing guard in here, and two Generals who nodded at us as we entered. “General Crowley, are we ready to begin?” I asked. As head of the scientific team, I was to have the honor of actually giving the orders, but he was here to countermand anything I might do to stop events. Sure, I’d said I was willing to suffer the consequences, but the government was making sure. “You may proceed.” He said as the airlock door closed with a thud. The room was sealed, and my ears popped as it pressurized to prevent any form of attack from outside. We knew the Soviets had gotten wind of our program, and my knowledge of the timeline where they used nukes in an attempt to stop Davey from going back again warned us that if they knew we were acting today, there would be nuclear war. “Power her up.” I said with a nod to Davey. All of my friends had roles to play today, at the controls of the machine. Sure, we admitted it could be operated with fewer people, but the more hands on deck today, the more likely we could succeed. “Um, General, you might want those soldiers to stand further away from the machine.” Sean said with a bit of muffled laughter. “Why is that, son?” The General asked with a frown. “The machine is a Magnetic Resonance Imager, General.” Trevor reminded him. “It creates a very high-power magnetic field that will…oops, too late.” There was a great clatter, and muffled curses coming from the machine room as soldiers lost bits of metal, and their weapons to the magnetic field of the machine. The equipment flew across the room and attached itself to the machine, and the soldiers cursed as they tried to retrieve their gear. “Damn it!” The General cursed as he turned to the other soldiers in the room. “Go help them. No! Leave your gear here! Can you shut the machine down?” “Begin reducing power to the machine, gradually.” I ordered and Sean began moving a lever on the controls as the remaining soldiers in our control room dropped their weapons, and every bit of metal on their body before heading into the other room to help their comrades. It was a shame really, they were just following orders but it was necessary. “What’s happening?” General Crowley asked as the door between the control room and the machine room closed. “We’ve got a breach in the coolant system!” Todd’s voice sounded alarmed and the two Generals and Sazar, the only men in the room besides my friends, rushed to the control panel and looked out the window to where the soldiers were now choking as some gas spewed from the machine. “Get them out of there!” Sazar shouted, looking around the control panel frantically. “Sorry.” Brandon murmured as he, Davey, and Trevor turned around with small stun guns in their hands. All three men received several shocks before they passed out. Then they were tied up, gagged, and sedated with some drugs from a military first aid kit that would guarantee they would not wake up for a while. Outside the last of the soldiers had succumbed to the gas. “I feel…dirty.” Todd murmured as we looked out at the collapsed soldiers. “None of them should be dead.” Davey murmured softly. “C’mon, we’ve got to clean up in there.” Everyone except Sean and I left the control room after the gas was vented from the other room, and the door opened. The machine was powered down just long enough to remove all the weapons and gear attracted to it, and the collapsed soldiers from locations near the machine. Then it was powered up again to full power. “How much power do we have?” I asked Sean who smiled happily. “More than enough.” He answered. “Let’s get this show on the road then.” I replied and went out to the main room, where Davey kissed me before helping me onto the machine’s platform. He handled the needle himself, and kissed me one last time before my eyes closed and I prepared for another trip back in time.
  10. dkstories

    Chapter 19

    “Remind me why we’re doing this again?” Davey asked with a heavy sigh as we sat down for lunch. It was a little restaurant just off of Indian School Road, and we both were tired, sweaty, and hungry. We managed to get a sneer from the waiter when he saw the t-shirts we were wearing, but he took our order just the same. “Because it’s important to build the right connections from the beginning.” I reminded him as the waiter left. “You know I support the other guy, right?” He leaned in and whispered with a conspiratorial smile. “Even after all the crap that I told you about in other timelines?” I asked him and he frowned before shaking his head. “I don’t believe I’m really a Democrat.” Davey muttered for the fiftieth time. “Wait until 1992.” I assured him and he shook his head again. Sure, Dukakis lost, and he lost big, and here in Arizona he was wildly unpopular, but working on the campaign built up credibility for later. Davey and I weren’t talking in the fall of 1986, so he hadn’t worked with me on the California gubernatorial election, but I’d been there with bells on. “I know, I know.” Davey said with a sigh. Walking precincts was the basic level of work, along with phone banking, and we were doing both for the doomed Dukakis for President campaign. It helped build credibility for things I wanted to happen down the road, and in Arizona, along with a few thousand dollars in contributions from our trust funds, it had gotten us delegate positions to the national Dem convention this year. Todd and Trevor showed up before we ordered, and they both griped at me for talking them into this. Brandon and Sean both were phone banking today, and probably getting nasty comments and hang-ups, just like we were getting doors slammed in our faces. Four years from now it’d be a totally different story, but this was the here and now, and besides we likely wouldn’t be in Arizona then. After lunch, it was back into the one hundred plus degree heat for more precinct walking. Sure, it was late September, but the heat lingered here well into October sometimes. It was days like this one that made me think I’d picked the wrong school. Dinner reaffirmed my having made the right choice, though, as we showed up at Professor Lee’s house. It was a private dinner, with some of his fellow professors, two graduate students, and then Davey and I. While we were technically in our second ‘year’ of attending college, both Davey and I had accumulated enough credits that we were on the border between Sophomore and Junior status. It wasn’t exactly easy going on either of us. Davey had nearly had a mental breakdown over the summer, and so we’d taken a lighter load for the second half of summer. The truth was I needed that lighter class load too. Then, instead of visiting family in Modesto, we’d taken off for Hawaii and spent nearly two weeks there before the fall semester started. We’d returned a little more tanned, and a lot more relaxed. After dinner, we were sitting around Professor Lee’s living room, sipping cognac and discussing some of the finer points of Stalin’s Five-Year Plan when the Professor got around to the purpose of the dinner. It wasn’t the first dinner we’d been to at his house, and we were always the only undergraduates there, although he had thrown a big party at the end of the year for all of his Russian language students. He had these dinners at least once a month, though. The difference was that he’d just hosted one two weeks ago. “Brian, Davey, I hope you remember the discussion we had when you first came to Arizona State about what you see as the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union.” Professor Lee began, and there was actually a few giggles from the graduate students. “Yes, Professor.” I said while Davey cautiously nodded. “You two did a joint report for me last year where you provided some good supporting facts.” Professor Vikten, a wrinkled, bald man in his late sixties added with a nod towards us. “You had quite a lot of interesting facts in there that I have never seen added up quite that way before. It was either a work of genius or sheer stupidity.” That got more giggles, and a few chuckles from the other professors in the room while Davey blushed and I tried not to laugh. Knowing the Soviet Union was going to collapse, and why it did from evidence after its fall was one thing. Trying to find the evidence to point to it beforehand, without talking about time travel, or having access to classified information was even more difficult. Thankfully the library here kept up to date on a lot of periodicals that had the information we needed for the paper. “I hope you thought it was genius because we both got an A on it.” I finally said after getting the urge to laugh under control. This time there was a lot more open laughter. “Yes, whether it was right or wrong, it was well researched and well written.” He praised us, and from him it was high praise. “It was well written enough that it formed the core of a grant request that we submitted over the summer.” Professor Lee added and this time I was surprised. I had not expected that. “The grant has been approved, and we are forming the research group that will work on the grant. All the people here tonight have expertise in the areas we need, and the idea came from the two of you. I took the liberty of submitting your names to the government already, and the preliminary security clearances were approved for both of you, despite, um well I believe we do not need to go into that.” That did surprise me a bit. It wasn’t until Bill Clinton took office that the rules were changed regarding gay people having security clearances. In this time, merely being gay usually classified someone as a security risk and they would not be given any sort of security clearance by the government. Some strings must have been pulled on this, and it showed I had indeed picked the right school. “We’re going to be studying the economic conditions in Eastern Europe with a focus on how it might bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union?” Davey asked in the silence that followed. “Are you sure we can contribute to that?” “You’re both four-oh students, this was your idea to begin with, and your research papers have shown you know how to conduct proper research.” Professor Vikten said bluntly. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you both were graduate students already. You will of course receive a small stipend, not that either of you need it from what I hear, and you will receive course credit for your work, as upper-division credit. Is it correct that you’re both only taking eighteen units this semester?” “Only eighteen?” One of the graduate students gasped. “That’s right.” I confirmed. “It was getting a little bit much for us over the summer so we decided to lighten the load a bit. It’ll mean graduating after summer school in ’91 instead of Spring ’91, but it’s better than having a breakdown.” “Yes, it is.” Vikten agreed. “Do you think you can handle the extra work if you join us on the grant team?” “We can.” Davey said excitedly. I nodded my agreement. “Good, then let’s start talking details.” Professor Lee said as he finished off his drink and started into the details of what the grant covered, and what each person’s role would be. Honestly, it was more than I could have hoped for, although some of the preliminary conclusions would come too late, I knew, at least it’d be on record that we were part of the team predicting the fall of the Soviet Union when it actually collapsed. A problem cropped up the next week though, when two FBI agents interviewed Davey and me separately. In my interview, it quickly became apparent that the agent didn’t like gay people, and didn’t believe either of us should have a security clearance of any type. Most of the information we would have access to was economic in nature, not military, but it still was sensitive information. “You’re a homosexual.” The agent, a middle-aged man in a dark suit said as he sat across from me at a small table. He looked unpleasant in the extreme. “Yes.” I answered simply and honestly. “Homosexuals can’t be trusted with government secrets.” He stated succinctly and started to stand up. “Why not?” I asked him calmly and he looked at me with a little surprise at the challenge to his statement. “You’re too easy to blackmail.” He grunted. “Blackmail?” I laughed softly. “What is there to blackmail me about?” “The communists could threaten to reveal your perversion publicly.” He said sourly. “Hmmm.” I said while tapping my finger on my chin. “Who would they threaten to reveal it to that would scare me? I just told you, an FBI agent, that I was gay. My parents know. My friends know. My professors know, and many students I go to classes with know or at least suspect. They could shout it from the rooftops, take an ad out in the New York Times, or announce it on television for all I care. How can they use it to blackmail me when I don’t care who knows?” “They could seduce you.” He said flatly. “They could seduce anyone.” I pointed out. “It’s a constant threat, isn’t it? That someone with sensitive information will fall into bed with an agent and give up everything they know for love. Sorry, but I already have someone I love. We’re in a relationship together, and we have been for years. I’m not going to risk that for some random romp in the hay no matter how cute the guy might be.” “It’s easy to say that, but reality is different.” He said. “You’re a guy, a guy who sleeps with other guys. Fidelity isn’t in your nature.” “You don’t know me well enough to say that.” I snapped. “You’re married, and you’re a guy. Aren’t you a risk because some pretty woman might try to seduce you? That happens all the time in this country, you know. Married men cheating on their spouses.” “Don’t try to switch this back on me.” He fumed, but he looked like he was at least thinking. “The purpose of an investigation for a security clearance is to determine if the person will be a risk, right?” I asked him in a neutral tone. “It’s your job to find out as much about me as you can to help you decide if I will reveal classified information to people who should not have it.” “Your explanation is a little simplistic.” He said, but he wasn’t hostile. “How thorough have you been?” I asked him with a raised eyebrow. “What about that bitch, Marcie? Do you have that incident in my file?” “Your ex-girlfriend who tried to trap you into marrying her.” He grumbled. “So you’re not really a homosexual, are you?” “More bi-sexual, but I’m in a homosexual relationship and never plan to leave that relationship.” I shrugged. “I don’t get how you can just blabber about being a pervert.” He grumbled. “You know, I could arrest you for violating the sodomy laws here in this state. How can I give someone who is knowingly breaking state law a security clearance?” “Can the FBI arrest me for violating a state law?” I asked him. “Well I can have you arrested by a state trooper.” He corrected. “The Supreme Court just upheld sodomy laws in Texas a few years ago.” “Yes, I know.” I smiled. “Um, have I admitted to having sexual intercourse in violation of the law?” “You’ve said you were a homosexual.” He stated. “But did I admit to any sexual activity while in the state of Arizona?” I pushed. “No.” He frowned. “So you can’t have me arrested for violating state sodomy laws when I haven’t admitted to violating them.” I pointed out. “Just being gay doesn’t mean I have to have sex here in this state. Davey and I could drive across the border to California if we want and it’s perfectly legal there.” “This is getting us nowhere.” He groused. “No it isn’t.” I agreed. “If you believe I’m a security risk, deny me clearance. All I ask is that you base it on a real judgment about me, not because you believe I’m a pervert. Which I disagree with, by the way.” “Fine.” He grumbled. Davey’s interview went much the same as mine, except Davey really tore into his agent who got decidedly uncomfortable at a few things. My lover’s luck was with him as always, and he had been able to guess the man was a closet case. He’d used that mercilessly to rake the poor agent over the coals without flat out saying he was sure the man was a closet case. The next day word came down that we had received our clearances. Normally we would have gone to the game that night and cheered our school’s team on (and Trevor), but Davey and I wanted a private celebration. I cooked a romantic dinner for two, and we ate over a candlelit table. These moments were important for both of us, because they helped keep our relationship as more than simple friendship. Sean hadn’t gone either since he had a class tonight. After dinner, we put the plates in the dishwasher and moved upstairs to our room, the master bedroom for the house. We had moved Davey’s king-size waterbed out here, and on nights like this one, I was glad I’d insisted we get one of the new wave-less water mattresses. We must have spent a good half-hour doing nothing more than kissing and slowly undressing each other, covering each other’s bodies with our hands and our mouths. Making love with Davey was always different. Sometimes it was quick and dirty, and other times, like tonight it was slow and sensual. We’d achieved another victory, overcoming the homophobic prejudices of the FBI agents, and that made our lovemaking all the sweeter. An hour after we’d begun, I was buried deep inside Davey, his legs over my shoulders, and he was leaning up so we could kiss while I fucked him with long, slow strokes. Everything was so perfect, and that was when the door to our bedroom flew open. We were playing Davey’s radio, one of Asia’s albums in case Sean came home after class and so we hadn’t heard the noises of the black-clad officers entering our house. Until they surrounded us with weapons drawn and pointed at us, we didn’t even know they were in the house. “What the fuck?” Davey yelled at the interruption, and I felt a moment of fear. Had the FBI agents set this up so they could try and get a prosecution of us under the state’s sodomy laws? Would the state even bother prosecuting it since it could result in bad publicity. “Uh, you both need to get dressed.” One of the officers in the black swat gear, his face hidden by a ski mask and his helmet, said in a voice that almost sounded like he was on the verge of laughing. “What’s going on here?” I demanded as I pulled out of Davey. Already I’d gone soft, but I made no move to cover myself. I’d be damned if I’d let these motherfuckers think I was ashamed. “You need to come with us, immediately.” The same officer said in a slightly calmer voice. “Are you arresting us?” Davey demanded as he raised himself up on his elbows and glared at them. “On what charge?” “You’re not under arrest.” The agent said as he signaled with his hands for the other men to leave the room. A few of them were snickering, and one was muttering something that sounded a little disgusted, but that was all. “We’re actually here for your protection, by order of the President of the United States.” “What?” Davey exclaimed in surprise while I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I immediately suspected that somehow, our secret had gotten out. With a sigh I nodded at the officer. “Can you give us a moment to get dressed?” I asked him. “I’m not supposed to let either of you out of my sight.” He said with amusement in his voice. “How much time do we have?” I asked him, trying to think quickly. “Could we take a quick shower so we don’t smell wherever we’re going?” “As long as you leave the bathroom door open and don’t take too long.” He said after thinking for a moment. “C’mon Davey.” I said to my lover. “We’ll shower together to save time.” “Okay.” Davey said in a shaky voice as we got off the bed and headed into the bathroom, leaving the door open. As the hot water gave us a little privacy, I leaned in to whisper to him. “I think somehow they know about time travel.” I whispered. “No shit.” Davey murmured. “What else would get us this much attention? The shit in Eastern Europe doesn’t happen for several more months. How could they know and how in hell do they even believe it?” “We’ll probably find out soon enough.” I said. “We don’t have all night.” The officer called from the doorway, and we finished the shower in a hurry. When we were both dry and headed over to the dresser to pull out some underwear, he spoke again. “You might want to dress comfortably and pack a bag or two with some nicer clothes in them. It’s a little cold where you’re going.” “Where are we going?” Davey asked as he slipped on a pair of red bikini briefs I had bought for him. He looked so damn good in them. “Let’s just say back east.” The officer said with a shrug. “There’s a plane flying in to Sky Harbor right now to pick you and the others up at the National Guard hangar.” “Can we leave a note for our roommates?” I asked as I pulled on a pair of white briefs and a t-shirt. Davey was already pulling out white socks, dress socks, extra t-shirts, and our ties. I went over to the closet and pulled out two pairs of jeans, some polo shirts, and two light jackets that we almost never used here in Arizona. We were dressed quickly, and while Davey packed the small clothes in to a duffel bag, I put some dress clothes into a garment bag. “There’s no need for that.” The officer said. “You almost done?” “We’re done.” Davey said as I zipped up the garment bag and folded it over for transport. “Good, you don’t waste any time.” The man said as he waved for us to lead the way out of the room. We moved in a circle of armed men as we left the house and got into several vans marked with ATF and DEA. I noticed a large group of onlookers, mostly fellow college students and wondered what stories would circulate now. Probably how we were drug dealers or something, since it was the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. I did notice that several regular Tempe Police officers were standing guard outside the house as we pulled away. Davey and I were in the back of one of the vans, and once inside we could see nothing. We were alone here, and Davey’s hand found mine, squeezing it tightly. “What do we do now?” He asked me in a scared voice. “I don’t know.” I admitted. “This wasn’t something I’d planned for, really.” “Then you’ll want me to take the lead, eh?” He asked with a little smile. “You’re always saying I think better on my feet.” “You do, love.” I assured him, and part of me actually relaxed a little. Having Davey stepping up to the plate like this, where it would be me leaning on him for a bit was nice. It felt more like the old relationship I’d had with the other Davey, the more experienced Davey. Fifteen minutes later the doors of the van were open, and we got out at the airport. We were in front of the National Guard hangar, and quickly escorted inside. That was where we found the rest of our friends waiting for us. Poor Trevor was still in his football uniform, although he’d managed to ditch his shoulder pads. Brandon had the red and gold paint he’d worn to the game still on his face, as did Todd. Sean was standing with them, talking quietly with them as we arrived. “We brought some clothes for you.” The agent who’d spoken in the house said and I noticed for the first time that a few of the agents had some familiar-looking duffel bags. Trevor let out a sigh of relief, although he looked damn hot in his football uniform. “Took you guys long enough.” Brandon muttered as we joined our friends. “Hey! Your hair is wet! You got to take a shower! That’s not fair!” “Yeah, well, since Brian was plowing my ass when they broke in, I think it’s better we don’t smell like sex.” Davey murmured. “Oh shit, you guys were bumping when they showed up?” Todd laughed while Sean chortled before frowning. “Sorry.” Sean said. “I… I didn’t remember what you guys were doing tonight. Hell, I wasn’t even sure what night it was.” “You came back in time!” Davey exclaimed in a startled voice. “Keep it down.” Sean said quietly. From their reactions, our other friends had already been told. Brandon was giving him a slightly odd look. “Which Sean are you?” I asked quietly with narrowed eyes. “Huh?” Sean asked with a look of confusion. “Are you the Sean from my timeline, this timeline, or another timeline?” I asked him. “I’m the Sean from this timeline, or what was this timeline until I created a new one by coming back.” Sean said with a shake of his head. “The fucking scientist.” Davey growled. “You’re studying physics now so you can get in with him and keep an eye on him. That’s the plan.” “Yeah, and it kind of worked.” Sean said with a shake of his head. “I’m going to go get changed. Wait until I get back. Sean hasn’t told us much more than that.” Trevor said as he headed off. “Excuse me gentlemen.” The agent who’d talked to me before came over to us. He was no longer wearing his ski mask. “There’s a shower facility here if you would like to utilize it before your plane arrives. You will need to be quick, no more than fifteen minutes.” “Hold the explanations, I’m going to get cleaned up.” Brandon said firmly, giving Sean a penetrating look. “I promise.” Sean said softly and then waited until Brandon and Todd followed one of the agents into a side room. “Damn I’d forgotten how suspicious he could be at this age. Jesus, you weren’t lying when you said you could remember everything better after going back, Brian.” “Yes, well I want to know why, scratch that, first I want to know how you did it.” I said firmly. “Sean, the other timeline’s Sean, he swore it would be next to impossible to beat the jamming device.” “From all the stories you’ve told me about time travel, you should know by know that it’s always up to me to come back and save yours and Davey’s butts.” Sean said with a slight smile and then he frowned. “Ouch.” “Are you hurt?” Davey asked in a worried tone. “Not now, but the crystal-clear memory does have a downside.” Sean answered with a frown as he ran a hand along his flat belly. “Getting shot three times really does hurt, and remembering it as clear as day really sucks.” “I can imagine.” I said with a shake of my head. “So, you came back in time…” “I’m not going to say anything until they get back, Brian.” Sean said with a shake of his head. “Brandon is really big on people keeping their promises, remember? I fucked up one time too many and he dumped me ten years ago. I’ve got a chance to fix that and I’m starting now. If I tell him I’m going to do something, I’m damn well going to do it.” “That’s fair.” Davey said with a stern look at me. He didn’t need to give me that look, but neither did I protest. Sean had a good reason. I hadn’t told him about the breakup between Sean and Brandon in my own timeline, but it had been because of something similar. Everyone was back, dressed in casual clothes, and cleaned up by the time a sleek business jet pulled up in front of the hangar. It had Air Force markings, and a Lieutenant Colonel got out as soon as the plane’s door was open. He had a brief discussion with the agent in charge, and we were quickly bustled aboard. “Gentlemen, please take a seat.” The officer said as we entered the fairly well-appointed jet. There were eight seat, and the Lt. Colonel took one near the front after the rest of us were seated and buckled in. “If anyone’s hungry, the steward will prepare a meal as soon as we’re airborne, or you can just have a snack and something to drink. I haven’t been briefed on why you’re flying to Washington, and was given strict instructions to pass along that there should be no discussion of the reason for your flight. We will be met at Andrews by some people from NSA, CIA, FBI, and DoD who will then debrief you.” “Well, there goes the chance at an explanation.” Davey muttered sourly from the seat next to me. I reached out and squeezed his hand while the plane taxied for an immediate take off. Flying across country was never short, but the plane rumbled with the sounds of its engines going at maximum speed the entire way. I was far too nervous to sleep, and did not feel like joining in on the conversation the other guys started up. Apparently Trevor had been pulled off the sidelines where he was waiting his opportunity to get in the game (he was the backup quarterback still) when two police officers had come up and talked to him at the same time as several more officers found the others in the stands. They’d been taken directly to the hangar where Sean was waiting for them, and there had been only a brief opportunity for him to explain he was from the future, our future, before we’d shown up. Something must have gone really, really wrong. My plans had included placing Sean with the scientist who had first invented time travel in order to keep an eye on him. Sean had agreed to this readily. With the jammer in place, it should have looked like the time travel theory was wrong, and the scientist should have been discouraged, or at least his funders should have been discouraged enough to stop funding his experiments. Apparently that had not happened. The entire trip my mind tried to figure out what exactly had gone wrong. Sean was only a few feet away, but I knew better than to try to get him to tell me with the officer so close. He would follow his orders as all good military men do, and would stop any such conversation before it had more than started. There were unmarked vans waiting for us as we landed at Andrews, and I wasn’t surprised that we were being taken to the Pentagon. What exactly had Sean already told them, and more importantly how had he gotten them to believe him so quickly? We all rode in one van, and with a partition between us and the driver, we could at last talk. “So, you’ve got a lot of questions, right?” Sean asked. “In case you haven’t placed the timing right, everyone here knows your role was to be keeping an eye on the crazy scientist.” I stated and he nodded. “Yeah, I figured that.” Sean said with a shake of his head. “They do tend to get jumbled up at first, don’t they? They’re all so clear and fresh. Well, anyway, your plan’s a good one, Brian, as far as it goes. By 2004, the scientist was ready to try his experiments again, and they didn’t work. The Russian guy pulled his funding at first, and the scientist folded up shop. Then two years later he calls me and said he’d made a breakthrough and gotten more funding. I, of course, volunteered to help him out again, except it was a trap.” “A trap?” Davey asked. “Yeah, somehow he’d figured out about the jamming, and he figured out a counter to it.” Sean stated. “Something about the jamming reminded him of some calculations I’d done when I’d worked with him, and he was waiting for me with the Russian, who’d brought a couple of hired thugs with him. Since I’d called you all beforehand, you were waiting outside, ready to storm in and stop things before they went too far. That part didn’t go too well. They were ready to send someone back, and they were just making sure there weren’t other traps. I’m sorry, but they got the truth out of me with some drugs that had me kind of loopy.” “It happens.” I shrugged. “Yeah, well let’s just say the firefight of you guys trying to break in didn’t go too well.” Sean grimaced. “Their thugs were better than us, mostly I guess since none of us really had any military training. Davey did best, wounding the last thug before the guy killed him.” “Ouch.” Davey grimaced. “Yeah, I got hit in the process too.” Sean added, rubbing his stomach again. “So anyway, the scientist went back first as a test. Shevardnadze had a goon assistant who sent him back. When they verified it was successful, the goon sent Shevardnadze back. I was lying there pretty much bleeding to death. They thought I was dead and ignored me. At first, I was just to out of it to really understand what was happening, and by the time I figured out I had to do something, Shevardnadze had gone back. I got the goon with Davey’s gun, and set the time machine on auto before dumping out Shevardnadze’s body and climbing in myself.” “You came back in the middle of class?” I asked with a little confusion. “The machine is supposed to pick a period where you’re asleep…” “I fell asleep in class.” Sean mumbled with a red face. That got all of us to laugh. I seemed to remember Davey having done something similar on one of his trips back in time. “When I woke up, I went right for the nearest phone. I called Mr. Rush like you’d told me, and explained things to him. Somehow he believed me, and more importantly, he got the right people in government to believe him.” “That would make sense.” I said with a look at the surprised Trevor. “He does have many of the right contacts.” “Well, Shevardnadze and the scientist have been back here in time now for three months.” Sean said. “I don’t know for sure if they’ve done anything overt or not, but they could be planning on taking us out.” “How do they know about me?” I asked with a raised eyebrow and Sean ducked his head. “It was one of the things they tricked out of me.” He mumbled as the van pulled to a stop. The door opened a moment later, and a group of soldiers along with a three-star General were waiting for us. Sean and I got out first, and the General frowned at us. “This better not be someone’s idea of a practical joke.” He grumbled to us. “I wish it was.” Sean retorted and the General nodded. “If you will follow me, we’ve got some people waiting inside to have a little chat with the lot of you.” He said in a tone that left no room for argument. Davey squeezed my hand as we followed the senior officer deep into the bowels of the Pentagon. Once again the world had taken a turn for the worse. Could we put it back on the right track?
  11. dkstories

    Chapter 18

    I remembered the last timeline quite clearly, and the reactions of Davey’s family to his sexuality. An older, wiser Davey had years and years to prepare them in subtle ways. Sometimes I think he did it almost without even thinking or planning it, just presented his family with ‘learning experiences’ that nudged them in the right direction. Unfortunately, he had none of that in this timeline. He didn’t have the experience of his first disastrous coming out, nor the memories of years of arguments and discussions that had finally led to grudging acceptance. Nor did he have the years of preparation based on those memories. Instead, he just had me, my parents, and his Aunt Bev. As it turns out, Aunt Bev was all he needed anyway. The woman was a force of nature with an indomitable will. According to her family, she’d always been strong-willed, but recovering from the accident that had left her paralyzed from the neck down had transformed her from merely strong-willed to something else, something more. She might not be able to get out of her wheelchair without someone lifting her, but she was more than capable of lifting anyone by the figurative neck and slapping them around verbally until they saw things her way. The first person she set her sights on that night of Davey’s ‘coming out’, was Davey. She grilled him for nearly an hour over the phone, and at times he was angry, blushing from embarrassment, or silent as she let him know what she thought. The second person to benefit from her opinion was me. That conversation was far shorter, and after a few questions that started with “When did you know you were homosexual?”, most of the conversation was her warning me to not hurt her Davey. “I really don’t want to go to school today.” Davey said early the next morning when I went to his room to wake him up for an early morning run. “I think I’m going to be sick.” “Your stomach is all tied up in knots.” I stated flatly and he nodded with a miserable look on his face. “I feel like I’m going to puke.” He really did sound miserable. “You always feel this way when things are like this.” I said with a shrug. “You told me that it just got worse as time went by and you had to learn to ignore it, to just move forward despite the yuckiness. You told me that if you hadn’t learned to do that, you’d have never succeeded in making anything better in your life.” “I hate that me.” He said with a shake of his head before climbing out of bed and stumbling around to get a pair of sweats on. “I bet that me liked getting up early too.” “No, he hated it with a passion.” I laughed. “Good, at least he didn’t go totally crazy.” Davey sighed. “Let’s get the show on the road.” After stretching out, we jogged at an easy pace for two miles. He actually managed a smile on his face when Mom served us breakfast, and we headed out the door a little early for school. Today we both went in my car, and we pulled into the parking lot nearly a half-hour early. “Oh shit.” Davey mumbled as we got out of the car and saw Heather and Riley standing nearby. Heather had a very determined look on her face while Riley looked uncomfortable. His girlfriend was nowhere to be seen, which I couldn’t decide if that was good or bad. As they walked towards us, I watched Davey take in a deep breath before letting it out slowly. “Well?” Heather said in a stern voice as she crossed her arms and stopped just a foot away from Davey. “I’m sorry.” Davey blurted out and managed to look surprised at his own words. Heather cocked her head to the side and raised an eyebrow but otherwise remained silent, obviously waiting for more. “I’m sorry for misleading you, Heather. You’re a good person. Bright, funny, and very beautiful and you deserve to be treated better than I treated you.” “Oh, I don’t know.” Heather said sarcastically. “You treated me pretty good except for the whole making me think you were interested in me thing.” “I do like you, as a friend.” Davey said defensively. “I almost… I almost wish things were different so I could really be interested in you that way, but I’m not and it was wrong of me to lead you on.” “So you really are queer?” Riley said in a neutral tone and then he looked at me with a very direct look. “You and him both.” “Yes.” Davey said after taking a deep breath and letting it out. “Why?” Heather asked. “Why what?” Davey responded. “Why did you go out with me, and the others as well if you knew you were queer and obviously have nothing against it.” Heather asked. “It was my mother.” Davey said with a heavy sigh and he put everything on the table, although he didn’t mention Sean’s name. While he left that out, he told just about everything else in about fifteen minutes. People walked by us while he talked, but something about how we were standing kept them from approaching, even Brandon and Trevor who arrived just before Davey finished. “I accept your apology.” Heather said when he was done while Riley stood there shaking his head. “I don’t quite understand why you’re queer and don’t have a problem with it, but at least you’re man enough to stand up for yourself. I won’t say anything to anybody, on one condition.” “What’s that?” Davey asked. “Homecoming is tonight.” Heather said with a steely gaze. “We made plans.” “I know.” Davey said softly. “Good.” She said firmly. “You’re going to carry through with them. After tonight, you and I will break up, but for the rest of today we’re still a couple. Anyone have any problems with that?” “No.” Davey and I said in unison while Riley shook his head. “What about you, Riley?” Heather asked. “You got any problems keeping quiet about this stuff if Davey follows through with tonight?” “I don’t understand this whole queer thing, but I’ll keep my mouth shut as long as you don’t try anything with me.” Riley said quietly. “Good, now Davey, put your arm around me and walk me to class.” Heather commanded with a questioningly look at me. I just smiled and waited for them to move off. When they were gone, Riley stayed put, giving me a searching gaze. “You know, I’d have never thought you were a queer.” He said with a disbelieving shake of his head. “Then again, after that shit you went through with Marcie, I might have given up on girls altogether too.” “Yeah, well, it’s a little more complicated than that.” I said with a shrug. “You going to be okay?” “Yeah, I’ll be fine.” He said before walking off. As soon as he was gone, I was swarmed by Trevor and Brandon, who had hooked up with Sean and Todd. Everyone wanted to know what was going on, and when they heard that it sounded like we weren’t going to be outed to the entire school, they all looked a little relieved. As expected, Heather won Homecoming Queen, and Davey was King. She seemed to be very happy with the day’s events, and the fact that we won the game that night made it even better. What was best of all was the fact that she kept her promise, as did Riley (and his girlfriend). There was no public outing for us at Downey that year, although there were whispers and by the time baseball season rolled around, we were pretty sure everyone guessed that Davey and I were a couple. No one brought it out in the open though, and as long as we didn’t do anything too public, it seemed like people were fine with leaving it as just a rumor. I heard a few rumors about Sean and Brandon towards the end of the year, and even I was surprised about Todd and Trevor. The two of them somehow became thick as thieves, and by the time of Davey’s eighteenth birthday it was readily apparent they were a couple. Davey’s family more than made up for the lack of drama at school. Frantic middle-of-the-night calls from an angry Sandy woke all of us up several times until Mom took the phone off the hook. In November, Davey’s father stepped into the mix, at Sandy’s request, and the fireworks really exploded between father and son. We all did what we could to support Davey, but he would fluctuate between being overly happy and depressed. It was after Thanksgiving that things really came to a head. Both of Davey’s parents insisted that he get ‘counseling’ at a local church. Davey kept refusing, and his parents pulled the law into the fight. They reported him as a runaway, and we got a visit from the local police department one night. Legally there was nothing we could do immediately, and Davey left with the two officers who took him back to his mother’s house where his parents were waiting with the pastor of the church offering counseling for ‘troubled youth’. The next morning, both Mom and Beverly ‘quit’ working for Sandy. Dad, at my urging, called the local Social Services department and a figure familiar to me made a visit to Davey’s home, just in time to see the action. After Davey had rudely rebuffed the efforts of the pastor the night before, the man had convinced Sandy to order Davey committed for ‘treatment’ as a ‘rebellious, out of control teenager’. They made up all sorts of things about drug and alcohol abuse, that might have been true two years ago, but were not true now. Mary Lou Hacker walked in just as three burly men were attempting to subdue Davey and get him into a van that would take him to the ‘treatment center’ in another state. Sean, having been subjected to a similar treatment by his own parents had done more than enough to warn Davey, who fought as hard as he could. Mary Lou, hearing screaming and shouting, had entered the house and immediately called the police to come and sort things out. It was Pete who entered the scene and ended the chaos of that day. Sandy had called her mother in tears and the two of them had driven over immediately. By this time the police had arrived and Mary Lou was trying to figure out exactly what was going on there. Pete walked into the house while Monta went right to Sandy who was crying. Mary Lou, a shrewd judge of people, immediately focused on him. “Who are you?” She asked Pete. “I’m Sandy’s father.” Pete said gruffly as he eyed the woman. “Who are you?” “I’m Mary Lou Hacker, with Social Services.” She said and then quickly explained how she’d gotten involved. “Those idiots.” Pete grumbled at once, giving a glance over to where Sandy and David Sr. were sitting. Davey’s father looked offended, but stayed silent. “If the boy’s a queer, he’s a queer. Trying to beat it out of him ain’t gonna do no good.” “What do you mean?” Mary Lou asked him sharply. “The complaint is that he’s been rebellious, drinking, using drugs, and running away from home.” “Hah!” Pete laughed. “Sandy told the boy to get the hell out of her house when he told her he was a queer and he’s been staying with some good people since then. Hellfire, one of them works for Sandy!” “Not no more she doesn’t.” Sandy interjected at that point with an angry tone. “Your loss, girl.” Pete told her with no sympathy. “I’ll admit Davey had a little spell with drugs and alcohol a couple of years back and I was mighty worried about him, but since he met up with this new group of friends he’s finally gotten his life put back together, even if he’s decided he’s a queer. Hell, I can live with him being a queer if it means he ain’t going to piss his life away. There’s worse things in this world than fudgepackers.” That last he said with a glare at Davey’s father. “You’re saying he’s not a runaway?” Mary Lou asked Pete. “That’s what I said, lady.” Pete grumbled, hating to have to repeat himself. “As far as you know he hasn’t been using alcohol or drugs?” She pushed further. “Well, I know he’s had a beer when we go fishing, but just one.” Pete admitted gruffly. “Once in a while we’ll have some wine with dinner at Brian’s.” Davey added, gambling that honesty would win him more points rather than get him in trouble. “That’s definitely not alcohol abuse.” Mary Lou said with a sigh. “Now, what’s this about him being gay?” “I am gay.” Davey said sharply. “They don’t like that and they’ve been insisting I see this Christian counselor. They made up all the other shit so they could commit me the same as Sean’s parents did to him.” “Sean Rule?” Mary Lou asked with a sharp look at Davey. “Do you know him?” “He’s a friend of mine.” Davey said simply and she nodded. “The boy is lying.” The Pastor of First Baptist broke in at that point but he got a stony stare from Mary Lou in response and eventually closed his mouth. “Mr. Barrow, in your opinion is there any need for Davey to be committed?” Mary Lou asked his grandfather. “Hell no.” Pete said firmly. “Do you think you might be able to take him in while his case is reviewed by Social Services and he’s seen by a professional?” She asked. “Wait a minute!” Sandy exploded. “There’s no need for that.” Pete shook his head. “The boy has himself some good people to stay with where he has his own bedroom, which he wouldn’t have at my place. What’s more, he’s got money in a trust fund that Sandy set up, and she named me as the trustee on it so she can’t cut him off.” Sandy didn’t even bother trying to protest against her father. She just started crying again. Mary Lou took all that in, before nodding and suggesting that Pete call these ‘people’ so she could talk to them. An hour later, Davey was back at home, and I was holding him while he cried. We were all lucky that day. Somehow it stayed out of the local papers, and outside of the families involved, no one seemed to know what happened (except for our friends, of course). Davey was less than two months away from his eighteenth birthday, and so he got a lot of leeway that Social Services wouldn’t have been able to give him otherwise. It was the week before Christmas before Davey spoke to his parents again. Bev and Pete had harangued everyone until they had all agreed to apologize to Davey. What’s more, Bev had talked them into family counseling, with a counselor recommended by Mary Lou. By the end of the school year, they had all changed in some surprising ways. In February, Davey moved back in with his mother, at the same time that his father was invited to move into the home. Jenny had been the one to make the final call on that decision, and while she would forever be affected by what had happened to her, the family counseling had done a lot to heal her of the worst affects. She was a lot closer to the young woman I remembered her being than when I first had arrived in this timeline. High School Graduation came around far sooner than I had ever imagined possible. Davey and I celebrated together, along with our friends at a private party. The next day we spent a lot of time saying goodbye to our families in the typical teary-eyed farewells that happen when kids finally grow up and set off on their own. It was my father who drove us to San Francisco where we boarded a plane that took us on a two-hour flight. Todd, Sean, Brandon, and Trevor would all be following us to the same school, but they weren’t coming until later. Davey had insisted we share everything with them, and all of them had demanded they wanted to be a part of our plans. Trevor had turned down the USC scholarship and instead gotten one for ASU. Sean had qualified for several academic scholarships, as did Todd. Davey’s father, who was becoming more like the man I’d known as time passed and he mellowed out, was overjoyed that his son would be going to Arizona State University. The man had been born and raised in Phoenix, and was already planning a trip out to visit. Luckily he wasn’t planning on staying with us. With all of us pitching in together, we were more than able to afford an off-campus house. Truth be told, Davey and I could have afforded it by ourselves, but with all the others coming, there was no reason not to share. Together we leased a four-bedroom home that was six blocks from campus, and Davey’s mother had helped us furnish it. Her business had nearly collapsed when Mom and Bev quit, and I think at least some of the reconciliation with Davey had been to get those two women back to work with her. She’d been lonely without their company, and although she hated to admit it, she needed them far more than they needed the work. “Jesus it’s hot!” Davey murmured as we walked out of the air-conditioned baggage claim area. The heat hit us like a brick wall, and both of us immediately started sweating. I’d been to Phoenix a few times in the last timeline, mostly to visit Trevor and his family, but I’d never gotten use to this heat. “Just wait.” I mumbled. “It gets worse.” “Why the hell are we going to school here instead of somewhere colder?” Davey muttered as we hailed a taxi. Instead of answering I just gave him a withering glare and he had the grace to shrug off his own question. Fifteen minutes later we were at our new house, a fairly nice two-story home, and we unloaded our bags in the room that would be ours. “I bet our air-conditioning bills are going to be horrible.” Davey complained as the air conditioner brought the house down to a reasonable temperature. “Just during the summer, and it’ll only be the two of us most summers.” I reminded him. “Do you really think I can cram in enough classes to graduate in three years?” He asked me with a worried look. “If we both study hard, we can.” I assured him. “It will mean that we won’t be able to party as much as everyone else.” “You mean we won’t have as many opportunities to get in trouble.” Davey laughed with a shake of his head. “No thanks. With my luck I’d get drunk off my ass and thirty years later someone will come up with pictures of me puking on the sidewalk. I can live without all that shit.” “Glad to hear that.” I said with a smile. “As long as you and I get to fuck like bunnies.” He leered at me. “We’ve got an hour before we have to be on campus.” I reminded him. “You want to break the bed in?” “Let’s.” Davey said with a grin. We made it on-time, barely, to the special orientation the school had set up for the few freshmen who were getting an early start to their college education. It was a Saturday, and we had most of the afternoon to look around the school and surrounding area. On Sunday, we spent several hours on the phone to family and friends back in California, most of whom thought we were crazy for going to summer school. Then on Monday, we started our first day of classes. That summer wasn’t easy on either one of us. We had selected our courses for that first semester with great care. I had been through college before, and could remember what a difference it was from high school. In high school, much of the work was memorization of facts, dates, information, etc. with very little ‘opinion’ thrown in the mix. College was more about the ‘why’ and the ‘how’. That was why our first courses were the introductory political science course necessary for our major (International Relations) and the six-week intensive Russian Language course. ASU had one of the best Russian language courses in the nation, and many of their students were recruited by the U.S. State Department for work in their embassies and other facilities. The NSA also recruited heavily from the school, another reason for why I picked that school for undergraduate work. In many ways, it was better for what we wanted than the bigger-name Ivy League schools with more prestigious programs. After the first summer session, Davey was about ready to tear his hair out, and even I was tired. Still, we signed up for another intensive language course for the second summer session, which would put us a full year ahead in the foreign language requirements. We didn’t take any other course, and so by the time our one-week break between the second summer session and Fall semester arrived, we were both only half-crazy. Trevor showed up by himself several weeks into the second summer session for his football training camp, and complained non-stop about the heat. Davey’s parents, and his sister showed up for that one-week break, and we spent the entire time following his father around to all of his old haunts. The home he’d grown up in was now an apartment complex, but his school was still there. It was odd seeing his parents back as a couple, but both of them seemed happier. His father had used some of his wife’s lottery money to open up a rental car company in Modesto. Instead of focusing on just the rental car market, he also rented larger trucks and multi-purpose vehicles. After just a few months, he was already in negotiations to open franchises in three other towns in California. Jenny talked about going to ASU, but I had a feeling she was really thinking about going somewhere else for college. My parents made it out for the weekend, along with Brandon, Sean, and Todd. It was nice having our friends around again, although the late August thunderstorms put a damper on our sightseeing both Saturday and Sunday. Davey and I knew to do our runs very early in the morning, when the temperature might get down to a cool ninety degrees. Trevor did too, and we all laughed the one time our roommates tried to go running as late as eight in the morning when the temperature was inching into the mid-nineties and above. The first day of the regular semester started early for both Davey and me. Davey had an eight o’clock three-day a week political science course while I had a math course at the same time. Then there was an hour break for us before our five-day a week Russian 201 course. This was an important one, mostly because of the instructor, Professor Lee. The Professor was a tall man with a wild shock of white hair that still had a few streaks of brown in it. We actually had him for two courses, the grammar-focused 201 course, and the culture/speaking focused 211 course. He was also the professor for a two-day a week course on Soviet History that we were taking. It was part of the Soviet Studies Certificate that was highly prized by the U.S. State Department in potential employees. “Brian, and David, please stay after class for a moment.” He told us in Russian towards the end of the 201 course. After the bell rang, we waited and he nodded briefly to us. “I do not normally see freshmen in this course.” “We took the summer course.” Davey replied to the statement in the language it had been spoken in, Russian. His accent was still off, and the phrasing a bit clunky, but it sufficed. “Do you speak?” Professor Lee asked me. “Of course.” I replied, using the word konyechna. He smiled before grilling us for a few minutes to make sure we really did have a decent grasp of the language. “You will do fine.” He said with approval in English. “What other courses are you taking this semester?” “We are in your 211 course.” Davey answered. “And the Soviet History course as well.” I added. “How interesting.” He said in Russian before switching back to English. “Are you going to major in Russian?” “International Relations with the certificate in Soviet Studies”. Davey answered. “I’ll probably take all four years of language though.” “Same with you?” He asked me and I shook my head. “I’m majoring in Economics with a minor in Russian and of course the Soviet Studies.” I answered. He cocked his head. “Interesting choice.” He said. “Why?” “I know this is going to sound crazy, but I think that within five years the Soviet Union will no longer exist.” I stated in English with a shrug. He just blinked. “What gives you that idea?” He asked slowly and carefully, as if speaking to someone he was worried might go crazy at the drop of a hat. “Gorbachev’s reforms are a starting point.” Davey began our argument. He and I had been over this time and again over the last year. Oddly, it was our favorite topic after sex, and we’d spent a lot of time lying in bed, the room smelling like sex, and discussed the end of the Cold War. “He’s playing with fire in a forest that hasn’t seen a drop of rain in seventy years. Sure, he’s dug a fire pit, ringed it with stones, and is trying to clear away any nearby underbrush, but he doesn’t realize that all it’s going to take are a few gusts of wind and a few sparks, and there’s going to be a forest fire so big nothing can stop it from burning down the forest of communism.” “Nice alliteration.” The Professor said with a slight smile. It was a good alliteration. Davey always had a way with words. “I think it will start in the Eastern European Republics.” I added. “Most likely it’ll be Poland that starts the ball rolling. Solidarity is gaining in strength, even if it is still mostly underground and being supported by the CIA and the Catholic Church. From there it’ll probably head to Hungary, and eventually to Germany. That will really be the death knell of communism, if Germany can reunite.” “Hard-line communists in Russia will probably try to stop it from happening, maybe even try to take down Gorbachev.” Davey added. “But, it’ll be too late.” “That’s what we think, at least.” I said with a shrug. “If you think this, why are you studying Russian and the Soviet Union?” The Professor asked. “If you’re right, any careers you might have planned will not really be needed.” “Russia, and the former communist states will need to adjust to a post-communist form of governing.” I said with aplomb. “They’ll need to learn the basics of a capitalist economy, and they’ll want advice. There will be plenty of opportunities for work, and for making money.” “I think I’m going to enjoy having you two in my classes.” He said after shaking his head. “Maybe we’ll find a few holes to poke in your theories. The Soviet Union has been around a long time, and they’ve gone through periods of reform before. I’ll want you to pay close attention to the sections between Lenin and Stalin, and the Khrushchev years.” “Thank you.” I said with a nod of my head while Davey smiled at him. We talked for a few more minutes before heading out for lunch. Todd was shaking his head after his first lessons in Arabic. Sean was babbling about something from his physics class, Trevor talked about football, and Brandon was mostly silent. Of all of us, his courses in Computer Science were the least developed at this school, and he could have done a lot better by going somewhere else, but this was the school that seemed to allow us all the best opportunity to attend as a group. Our first year in school was tiring for all of us. While no one else was taking eighteen units like Davey and I were, we all had a great deal of focus on our studies. Trevor, Brandon, and Todd attended a few parties, and Trevor was offered to pledge one of the fraternities, but he turned them down. Because we were all in fairly steady relationships, we did a lot less partying than most freshmen, and were slower in making new friends. That wasn’t to say we didn’t have new friends. Of all of us, Trevor was in the most delicate situation. He played ASU football, and they were a team that got a lot of attention. There was intense pressure on him to have a girlfriend, but he quietly refused and people quickly began to realize what was up when they always saw him in Todd’s company. One of the coaches even pulled Trevor aside and made a few ‘suggestions’ that Trevor didn’t even pause to consider. “You’ll never be picked up professionally if you don’t at least play that game.” The Coach warned him. Since I remembered Trevor as having fallen in love, gotten married and having kids with a woman, I was surprised by how he stuck with Todd. Not that it was a bad thing. It was just unexpected. “You know, I could dump Todd and date women, maybe even get married.” Trevor said after he’d come back from that meeting with one of the coaches. We were alone in the house, since Davey and the others had all gone out to see a movie. I’d stayed behind to re-work an essay for my English Lit course. Having lived a whole lifetime already didn’t necessarily provide any assistance when it came to writing this damn essay, and Trevor wanting to talk was a good diversion. “Why don’t you?” I asked him. “I know you’ve always dreamed of being in the NFL, and it’ll be next to impossible if you don’t at least appear to be hetero.” “Do you think I should?” He asked me with a raised eyebrow. “Are you happy with Todd?” I asked him. “I mean, you know most high school romances don’t last forever.” “Look at Davey’s parents.” Trevor countered with a shrug. “His mom married his dad right out of high school, and then he went and did all that shit. Now they’re back together and planning their re-marriage during winter break. Look at my parents. They met in college and they’re still together.” “But do you think that you and Todd have what it takes to last that long?” I asked him. “The last timeline, you and Davey lasted that long, didn’t you?” He asked me. “Yes.” I agreed. “Do you think the two of you will last that long again?” He asked. “I mean, for you it’s going to be two lifetimes with the same man. Don’t you get bored?” “No.” I said emphatically. “I could never get bored with Davey.” “I don’t think I could get bored with Todd, either.” Trevor stated. “He’s fun to be with, and we’re constantly doing things together. He loves football, or at least watching it, and we both love music. There are so many things we have in common, and some things we don’t. It’s like we fit together.” “Okay, if it makes you happy, then I say go for it and damn the consequences.” I told him with a smile. “You know, I think that might have had something to do with me coming back in time. I was looking at the end. Davey was probably already dead, and we’d had such good times together that I didn’t want it to end. So I came back to start over again, to have another lifetime with him.” “Kind of selfish, huh?” Trevor said with a smile. “You say you came back to save the world, but you really came back just to be young enough to pork Davey for another sixty years.” “I’ve been caught at last!” I laughed and we both chuckled before he went to find something to do while I went back to that damn essay. Was I really that selfish? Well, maybe I was, but then a part of me believed that Davey had come back over and over again for me, so why shouldn’t I come back for him?
  12. dkstories

    Chapter 17

    I was lying on the ground with a sharp pain in my midsection. My ears were ringing from the force my head had hit the grass with, despite the helmet, and it was hard to even breath at the moment. It was the last practice before our Championship game, and we were only wearing shoulder pads and helmets instead of full gear, and we most definitely were not supposed to be hitting each other this hard. “Jones, what the fuck is wrong with you?” Coach Cole snarled as he reached me and knelt down. Davey stood over me, probably glaring daggers at me like he’d done every time we’d seen each other for the last few months. Part of me had hoped he’d not play after all, and another part wanted to quit the team, but he was there and I wouldn’t quit just because of him. “Sorry coach.” Davey said around his mouth guard before turning and walking away. “You okay, Breckenridge?” Coach asked as he helped me sit up. “Just got the breath knocked out of me.” I said weakly. “What is it between you two?” Cole asked me with real concern. “Last semester you two couldn’t be pried apart with a crowbar.” “Yeah, well, things change.” I said as I got to my feet. Coach had to support me as I limped to the sidelines and Brandon went in to take my place. Two hours later I was pulling into the driveway of Davey’s house. I hadn’t been there since that day he’d ended our relationship to keep his mother from figuring out he was gay. If I had any choice, I wouldn’t be here now. “Yes?” The Housekeeper, a middle-aged Mexican woman asked when I rang the doorbell. “I’m Brian, Brenda’s son.” I said holding the box Mom had asked me to pick up at the airport. “Oh yes, come in.” The woman said with a slight smile. “She’s in the office. I’ll show you the way.” “I know it.” I said grimly. It felt weird being in here, like I was an interloper. At least Davey wasn’t here. Neither was my mother, I discovered as I entered the room that had once been President Jones’s study. Davey’s mother was in there alone, doing some paperwork. “Brian!” She exclaimed with a smile as I entered. “Good, you got it. Why don’t you put it over there on the table?” “Sure, Mrs. Jones.” I said softly as she pointed to a side table. I put the box down, wiping my hands on my jeans and turned, preparing to leave. “How have you been, Brian?” She asked me before I could escape. “I’ve been well, ma’am.” I said simply, hoping she’d let it go at that. “I haven’t seen you in ages.” She said and I realized I was in for the full questioning. “I’ve been busy.” I said softly. “That’s what Davey’s said.” She stated with a frown. “He’s been miserable, you know. He won’t tell me what caused you boys to fight.” “It’s a guy thing.” I said quickly and she frowned. “I haven’t seen that Sean boy around here much, either.” She said. “Did that have something to do with it? I thought it was agreed it would be okay if he came over as long as he didn’t… do anything.” “He isn’t comfortable over here.” I said, hoping this was a way to get her to let me go. “I think he knows he’s not really wanted over here and he’s nice enough to not push himself where he’s not wanted.” “I see.” She said with a deeper frown. “You know that had nothing to do with you, right? I’d hate to think that Davey’s best friend abandoned him because of something his mother said.” “I…uh…” I stammered, not able to find anything to say that wasn’t a lie or too close to the truth. “You know that Davey does miss you, don’t you?” She asked. “I mean, he’s been doing poorly in school without someone to study with, and all those girls he’s been dating haven’t done much to help him concentrate on his books. I’m starting to worry he might not be able to get into a good school if he keeps this up.” “With all due respect, that’s his problem.” I said a little more forcefully than I should have. Davey had dumped Julie two weeks into the school year, and was now dating Heather, one of the cheerleaders running for Homecoming Queen. Davey was rumored to be the favorite for King this year. “Why are you so angry with him, then?” She asked directly. “After everything he went through where you supported him, I can’t understand why you would turn your back on him when he’s finally getting his life put together.” “Maybe because I disagree with how he’s going about doing that.” I said with a shrug. It was time this conversation ended. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some more errands to run. It was nice seeing you again.” “Don’t be such a stranger, Brian.” She murmured as I left the room. Unfortunately I didn’t make it out of the house in time, because Davey was walking in with Riley from the football team, and both Heather and Riley’s girlfriend, Marsha were following behind. “Oh, hi.” Davey said as he saw me in the entranceway. “I was just leaving.” I said shortly and moved to push my way through them, garnering a glare from Riley and a look of confusion between the two girls. “What is it with him?” I heard Heather ask from behind. “Brian, wait!” Davey called out before I’d gone three steps to my car. He said something under his breath to the others and shut the door behind him as he caught up with me. “I’m sorry about the hit today. It was wrong of me.” “Apology accepted.” I said simply, not looking at him. “Is that all you have to say?” He asked in a hurt tone. “What else is there to say?” I asked him. “You made it quite clear already. You don’t want to risk your mom knowing about what used to be between us, I don’t want to live a lie, watching you make out with some girl all the time.” “It doesn’t have to be this way.” Davey said in a hurt voice. “I miss you.” “You’re right, it doesn’t have to be this way.” I said turning around to look at him. He looked shocked by the anger in my eyes. “You chose your path, I chose mine.” “Are you and Todd really going out or is it just to make me jealous?” He asked. “We’re planning on going to Arizona State together.” I said with a shrug. “Why?” He asked with a frown. “You remember my plan for the future?” I asked him and he nodded. “Well after the incident at the mall, I decided I could trust him and I told him everything. He’s going to help me, and that’s why we’re going to Arizona State. It’s part of the plan.” “I was going to help you…” Davey’s voice drifted off and his hurt look deepened. “You know, this is just until after high school, or maybe after college, once I don’t need Mom’s support anymore. We can get back together then.” “Have you fucked any of those girls yet?” I asked him pointedly and he blanched. “Have you fucked Todd yet?” He demanded of me. “No, we’re good friends, not lovers.” I replied. “Todd wants more, and who knows, maybe after you’re out of my life once and for all, I might like him that way, but for now, no.” “I haven’t had sex with any of the girls.” Davey said softly and there were tears in his eyes. “That’s why I keep breaking up with them. They want to go further than I’m willing.” “Just how far are you willing to go with them?” I snapped, not really wanting to know the answer. “Julie’s the only one to get so far as her hands down my pants.” Davey said defiantly, as if daring me to disbelieve him. “Why not?” I asked him. “Do you really have to ask that?” His voice quaked slightly. “Yes.” I answered. “Because I’m still in love with you and I don’t want anyone but you!” He nearly shouted, and then looked horrified at how loud he’d reacted. With fear, he looked around and only relaxed slightly when he realized no one was around. When he turned back to me, he looked slightly ashamed, but also determined to say something. “Why? Brian, why did you react like this?” “If you love someone you don’t dictate to them.” I said softly. “When you decided this was what you wanted, you were dictating to me the terms of our relationship. I’m not stupid enough to let you turn our relationship into a one-way street.” “I didn’t… that’s not what I wanted to do!” He protested. “It’s what you did.” I replied. “If you wanted to make it a one-way street, well two can play that game, Davey. I love you, I love you a lot, but that love does not give you the right to treat me like a doormat.” “You still love me?” He asked with a look of hope. “I will love you until the day I die, and probably even beyond that if there’s a way.” I said to him with all my heart. “But you’re still not going to take me back?” He asked. “Not like this, no.” I said. “I’m sorry Davey, I’d be willing to come up with something to work around your fears with your parents, but I won’t be dictated to, and that’s what you wanted.” “So, if I said it differently we could still work things out?” He asked hopefully. “Not at this point.” I said with a sad shake of my head. “Maybe back when this all began. No, don’t say anything. I made a couple of mistakes too, like that trip to the mall. It takes two to tango, and we were both ready to dance. But, now we’ve made our beds, separately, and we’ll have to live with them.” “I don’t want a life without you.” He said miserably. “But you put your mother and family as being more important.” I said simply. “I understand that, Davey, I really do. They mean more to you than anything else, including your own life. That’s fine, really, if you want to live your life as a slave to their expectations, their goals, and their desires, that’s your prerogative. Just don’t expect me to go along for the ride.” “I…” He started to say before he fell silent. “Goodbye, Davey.” I said before turning and heading back to my car. It had a feeling of finality to it, and my eyes were clouded with tears by the time I pulled out of the driveway and headed home. When I saw Todd’s car already there waiting for me, it was actually a relief, and he followed me inside the empty house without bothering to say a word. He’d seen the look on my face, and knew I’d spend the next thirty minutes with his arms wrapped around me while I soaked his shirt with more tears. It had happened often enough, and we didn’t even bother going further in the house than the entryway before I bent over and cried into his shoulder. He was a lot shorter than me, which meant that by the time I was done, my neck and back was sore, but I was grateful. When his lips locked on mine as I tried to straighten up, I was caught totally by surprise. Sure, I knew he still carried a torch for me, but he’d never tried this before. Still, there was something in that touch, that kiss that lit a fire inside me. I had been without this since Davey and I had… broken up, and it felt good as we kissed. Not nearly as good as Davey, but still… “No.” I said as I finally broke away from the kiss. “No, what?” Davey’s harsh voice surprised me and I turned to see him standing inside the doorway, a look of anger and pain on his face. “Oh shit.” Todd said softly, moving out of my embrace even as I stepped back as well. “So, I thought you said the two of you weren’t more than friends.” Davey snarled at me as anger totally replaced the look of hurt. “It’s nice to know I can be as stupid as my mother when it comes to believing the men I love.” “Davey, it’s not like that.” Todd said before I could even think of a single thing to say. “I kissed him. It was the first time!” “How was it?” Davey snarled his question at me as he clenched and unclenched his fists. “Not the same.” I said with a sad look at him. “I’m sorry Todd, but I don’t love you.” “It was worth a try.” Todd said with a shrug. “But then, I didn’t expect to get caught by him.” “Of course you didn’t.” Davey sneered. “Why should I come over here anymore? Tell me Todd, how much of this has been your idea?” “Davey, stop that.” I said sharply. “We’ve got enough problems between us that you don’t need to make new ones.” “Yeah, well I was coming over to see if that offer of always having a place to stay here still stood, but I don’t know now.” Davey snarled again. “I don’t know if I can stand to see all of our friends trying to get down your pants.” “Like you expected me to stand around and watch all those girls do the same to you?” I snapped back at him before the import of his words hit me. “What do you mean if you could stay here?” “Mom’s kicked me out.” Davey snapped with a look of hurt. “Why would she do that?” Todd asked with a perplexed look. “Because I’m a fucking pervert as bad as my father.” Davey snarled angrily, but there were tears in his eyes. “What happened?” I asked with real concern as my anger washed away in the blink of an eye. I took a step towards him, and he responded by stepping towards me before he fell into my arms, crying on my shoulders. It was a long time before he could make any sounds that were intelligible. Todd helped me guide Davey towards a couch, and got a box of tissues for Davey to blow his nose once he calmed down. “She confronted me after you left.” Davey said softly as he clutched my hand. We were now sitting side-by-side with Todd in a chair across from us. “About what?” “About you, about me, about what I did to keep you away.” Davey said sadly. His shoulders shook a bit more, and his voice was quivering. “She kept harping on me in front of Riley and Heather and Jennifer. I snapped. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I told her, right there in front of everyone.” “You what?” Todd gasped in shock while I blinked. Yes, trust Davey to let his anger get the best of him and tell everything, or nearly everything. “I told her.” Davey said with a rueful chuckle. “I told her that Brian and me had been a couple, as in lovers, that we loved each other. Then I told her that after I heard her talk about Sean that way that I knew she’d never accept us, so I broke things off and started dating girls to make her happy, but that I’d never sleep with any of them because I loved Brian.” “Holy shit.” Todd said with a hint of respect in his voice. “What happened then?” “Heather slapped me.” Davey chuckled but he was on the verge of tears still and he squeezed my hand tightly. “Riley just shook his head and the three of them left before my mom started to tear into me. You know, she has no problem believing I’m a ‘fucking pervert’, but she says I seduced Brian, turned him into a pervert and she’s going to warn Brenda to keep me away from him. Then she kicked me out. Told me to pack my car with stuff and get the fuck out of there. Last I heard, she was on the phone to Nanny and Papa after she called Dad and blamed him for perverting their son.” “Jesus fucking Christ.” Todd muttered while I pulled Davey into me closer. “I’m so sorry, Davey.” I said softly. “It’s not your fault.” Davey said with a sigh. “I don’t know why I thought pretending would fix anything. All it did was make her madder when she found out. I think that’s what she’s so angry about, not that I’m gay so much as the fact that I lied about it to her all this time. Imagine if it had been years and years of my lying to her before she found out.” “Oh believe me, it would have been bad.” I chuckled softly. “The other me tell you about that?” Davey asked and then he looked at Todd for a moment. “You said you told him, right?” “That he’s some weird kind of time-traveler and really a perverted old man in a young body?” Todd asked rhetorically. “Yeah, he told me. I told him he was wasting his second youth. He should be out there screwing everything in sight that he knew would bend over instead of pining after… oh, um, sorry.” “I… I thought the same thing at first.” Davey said with a blush. “Sometimes I wonder if he’d have been better off without me in his life.” “No, never that.” I said with a shudder as I remembered Davey telling me about that life in another timeline. “So, my other self, he told you about her finding out one time?” Davey asked with a little half-smile. “I can tell you later.” I said. “Is it funny?” He asked. “Yes.” I answered. “C’mon Davey, you know your life. Do you think the story would be anything but funny?” “I need to hear it, please?” Davey asked in a needy voice and I had to sigh before giving in to him. I should still be angry at him, part of me said, but I loved him. “It was in the original timeline.” I began to tell him a story of an alternate version of his life. “You’d joined the Navy after dropping out of Downey. Three years later you were in the Gulf War.” “Gulf war?” Todd asked. “Yeah, in 1990 Saddam Hussein, the leader of Iraq invades Kuwait and we not only stop him there, but kick his ass back to Baghdad.” I answered. “So anyway, on the way back, this ship you were assigned to stopped in Hawaii. You flew your boyfriend, Keith, out to see you there, planning to spend a whole week on that tropical island with him.” “Sounds fun.” Todd murmured a little jealously. “How’d I afford that?” Davey asked. “You saved up a lot of money for him.” I answered with a shrug. “Anyway, two weeks before you pull into Hawaii, you call your mother from Hong Kong. Somehow her and Jenny scraped up enough money to go to Hawaii at the same time you were going to be there.” “They didn’t know at the time, did they?” Davey asked and I grinned. “That sucks.” Todd groaned. “Vacation ruined.” “Yup.” I chuckled. “You spent the week trying to find time to have sex with your boyfriend you haven’t seen in six months. Your sister kept trying to trip him into her bed, and your mom wanted to spend every minute she could with you. Needless to say it was a very frustrating week for everyone. After it was over, you went back to San Diego where you were stationed, and you lived with him.” “That must have been nice.” Davey said wistfully as he relaxed against me. It felt so natural for us to be like this. “I’m sure it was.” I murmured. “Anyway, you were planning this big birthday party for your sister. Your family was all going to come down, and you hired caterers and everything. You told me you got a second job as a bouncer at a bar in order to get enough money to do all this. Then, the night before your sister and mother were to fly down, your mother called. There was another roommate you shared the apartment with besides your boyfriend, and his boyfriend answered the phone. When he told your mom you were at work, she asked for and got the number.” “This doesn’t sound good.” Todd added. “Nope.” Davey agreed, but he was smiling. “Anyway, your mom called the bar, and got the answering machine.” I continued the story. “It said: Hi, you’ve reached Rich’s, the biggest Gay Bar in San Diego…” “Hah!” Todd started laughing while Davey shook his head. “What did she do?” Davey asked. “She left a message.” I chuckled. “She said ‘Tell David Jones Jr. to call his mother this instant!’ It was an hour before he got the message and he rushed to a payphone to call her. The first words out of her mouth were “Are you fucking Keith?” “No, he’s fucking me.” Davey muttered the punch line of his own story from a time he never knew, shocking me. “Well, that’s what I would say.” “That’s what you did say.” I laughed softly and Todd shook his head. “It was months before the two of you ever talked again, but she called Keith each and every night for two weeks.” “I wonder what ever happened to him?” Davey asked. “If I loved him, why wasn’t he around later when…” “I asked about that.” I admitted. “He… he was partying with some guys and flew off to San Francisco with one of them who was really rich, and that was the last that Davey ever saw of him. Two months later, you moved back home with your mother to go back to college. Keith had taken all the money you’d saved up, and you didn’t have enough for rent, and by that time you were out of the Navy.” “That sucks.” Todd shook his head. “I hope I end up with someone like Brian. He’d never do something like that.” “But I would, I did.” Davey said glumly. “Davey, there’s always a room here for you.” I said softly. “I don’t care if we’re talking or not, boyfriends or not, there is always a place here for you. My parents would kill me if I didn’t support that.” “They’re probably as pissed at me as you are.” Davey said miserably. “I certainly hope so.” I said with a laugh and he looked at me like I was insane. “Doofus.” Todd said to him. “You don’t get it, do you? Brian’s saying he’s forgiven you.” “You are?” Davey asked me and I nodded after a moment. “Why?” “Because I love you, and, well, you came right to me after your mother kicked you out.” I said with a shrug. “You got kicked out because you told the truth about you and me, and the only reason to tell the truth would be because you want us to be back together.” “You figured all that out, eh?” Davey asked with a shake of his head. “Yeah, I did.” I acknowledged. “So where do we go now?” Davey asked. “Shit, Heather! It’s going to be all over the school now.” “You never do anything halfway.” Todd said with a grin. “It’s all or nothing with you.” “Shut up.” Davey growled. “My god, we can’t go to school tomorrow! It’s Homecoming!” “We will go, and I’ll be right there with you.” I assured him. “Me too.” Todd added. “Oh, don’t glare at me like that, Davey. I like Brian a lot, maybe too much, but I know a lost cause when I see one. Without you in the picture I might have a chance, but if there’s even a hope of him being with you, he’ll never look at me as more than a friend.” “Damn right about that.” I growled. “Okay, fine, but I’ll be watching you, Todd.” Davey glared at his friend. “Davey, Brian, are you in here?” Mom’s voice announced her arrival, and her worried tone said she’d spoken with Sandy already. “We’re in here!” I half-yelled and she entered the room, stopping as soon as she saw Davey in my arms. “Well, that’s at least one problem solved.” She said and then she looked at Todd with an inquiring look. “I’m pissed that Brian’s not on the market anymore.” Todd said to her with a shrug, which was a little brave of him. He smiled when my mother shook her head at him. “Brian, dear, do you have any boy friends who are actually straight?” Mom asked me with mock exasperation. “Not that I can name off the top of my head, no.” I laughed. “How are you holding up, dear?” Mom asked Davey as she reached the couch and put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m better now than I have been in a long time.” Davey answered with a relieved sound. “I hate to have to ask this but…” “We’ll get your room ready for you later tonight.” Mom said. “Sandy’s still in the yelling mood and won’t listen. I’m going to pick up Bev in the morning and we’re going to tag-team her. You won’t have to stay here for more than a day or two.” “I’m sorry, Mrs. B.” Davey said softly. “It’s Brian you need to apologize to, and those poor girls.” Mom answered him. “The girls?” Davey asked with confusion. “Yes, dear, those girls.” Mom said with a shake of her head. “You’re a smart enough young man to figure out why.” “I used them.” Davey said after a moment. “I led them on, made them believe that more was possible than there really was.” “Yes, dear, you did.” Mom’s tone made her feelings about that crystal clear. “This is not going to be fun.” Davey said with a heavy sigh, causing Mom to chuckle a bit. “Well at least things are back on the right track.” She said with a light tone before looking over at Todd. “You going to stay for dinner?” “I better be getting home.” He said a little reluctantly. “I’ll see you two at school. This is going to be fun.” “God I hope not.” Davey said miserably, but there was a little smile on his face as Todd left the house. “Brian, your father should be home in time for dinner so we’ll fill him in on the day’s events then.” Mom said. “Why don’t you help Davey unload his car? It looks like it’s filled.” “Okay mom.” I said. Davey and I got up then and started to unload his car. He’d packed it mostly with clothes, and a few other odds and ends, which made quite a pile on the bed in the guest room. We were taking in the last load when Dad’s car pulled up in the driveway. Davey and I paused as he got out of his car and looked at the two of us. “Well, this is a surprise.” He said after a moment. “A pleasant one at that. I take it Davey’s finally come to his senses?” “You might say that, and my Mom doesn’t want me around at the moment.” Davey said with a heavy sigh. “Well, why don’t we all head inside and you can fill me in on the details?” Dad said in a kindly tone that seemed to relax Davey a bit. We finished telling the story over dinner, and Dad was just reiterating his support for Davey when there was a banging on the front door. “That would probably be Pete.” Dad said with a wry chuckle as he got up. Sure enough, it was Davey’s grandfather who stormed in the house, glaring at Davey who was looking a little sheepish. “What kind of tomfoolery are you getting yourself into now, boy?” Pete demanded angrily. “Your mother tells me you’ve gone and decided to be a pervert. You know your soul will burn in hell?” “That’s enough of that, Pete.” Mom said sternly. “Don’t give me no lip, Brenda.” Pete half-snarled. “You don’t know the bible. It says…” “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Mom interrupted him, and for the next twenty minutes I learned something about my mother that I had never known before. She held her own against Pete, quoting a bible verse to counter every one he threw at her. Halfway through Pete relaxed from the angry stance he’d had to something more like his normal self. Finally, he just grunted at her. “Well, we’ll know which of us is right on Judgment Day.” He said flatly before turning back to Davey. “You know I don’t approve of this no matter what she says.” “I know.” Davey said in a firm voice. “I don’t tell you how to live your life, though, Papa.” “Damn right you don’t.” Pete groused and then he nodded. “Fine, you’re going to do what you want to do. Just don’t make me ashamed to be related to you.” “I won’t.” Davey said sternly and Pete nodded before turning to leave without saying another word. “I have no idea what that means.” Davey admitted as the door closed behind his grandfather. “It’s a start.” Mom said softly. “Don’t worry Davey. Your family will come around given time. If he didn’t care, he’d not have come here, and he’d not have stayed as long as he did, or left like that.” “I hope you’re right, Mom B.” Davey said with a heavy sigh as he leaned against me. “She is.” I assured him.
  13. dkstories

    Chapter 16

    The silence in the room was deafening following Davey’s statement to his mother. The way she kept opening and closing her mouth made me think of a fish. My mother had gone pale, and Bev was staring at him with wide eyes. What surprised me the most was the calm look on Davey’s face. I had to wonder if he was going insane at that moment. “What are you saying?” Sandy asked Davey at long last. Her voice was weak, and I thought she might be on the verge of passing out. “If just being around Sean was a danger to me, then I must be a danger to Brian or anyone else I’m around, like Jenny for instance.” Davey said calmly and now I was growing more confused. What was the point he was trying to make? “Huh?” Bev asked in a voice that sounded every bit as confused as I felt. “What does Jenny have to do with this?” His mother asked sharply. Her temper was starting to flare up now. “Look at what Dad did to her.” Davey said softly. “I’ve been around Dad all my life. I idolized him, and he was molesting her all those years.” “That… that’s different.” Sandy said defensively. “That… what made your father do those things isn’t something you catch from just being around him.” “But Sean being gay is something I can catch?” Davey asked with a slight tilt of his head. “No, it’s not that.” His mother said defensively. “It’s the AIDS thing. You can catch that from him.” “Then I shouldn’t be around you either.” Davey countered and her face flushed with more anger. “Why do you say that?” She snapped. “You’re just as much at risk as Sean is, well more really.” Davey said to her and she looked stunned. “Sean isn’t having sex with guys, which is how he’d catch it. You had two blood transfusions during your surgeries. Look at that Ryan White kid. That’s how he got it, from a blood transfusion.” “I… how dare you?” She fumed, and she was starting to shake badly as she turned so she didn’t have to look at him. “Mom, I’m sorry.” Davey said softly and she turned back to look at him. “I know you don’t like to think about that, but it was a danger they told you about before the surgery. I know it worries you, but it’s there. If Sean being gay isn’t what puts me in danger from being around him, and you say it’s AIDS, you have to admit that your surgery makes you every bit as much a danger.” “It’s different.” She asserted. “How?” He asked her softly. “It just is.” She insisted, but she looked like she even knew the inanity of that argument. “I know that Sean being gay isn’t something you like, Sandy, but isn’t it his life?” My mother said in a gentle voice. “He’s Davey’s friend, Sandy.” Bev said softly. “I’ll admit, it doesn’t make me comfortable thinking about that… part of his life, but isn’t Davey the person who should decide if they stay friends or not? Davey’s almost an adult now, and he’s proven that he’s more than capable of acting like an adult.” “I wonder about that sometimes.” Sandy muttered as she looked at her son. “You don’t have to like him, Mother.” Davey said gently. “But he’s my friend and I’m not going to abandon him just because you don’t like him. If you don’t want him coming over here, fine. We’ll all go someplace else.” “That’s reasonable.” My mother said at once. “There’s no reason you boys can’t come over to the house, or go somewhere else. We don’t have a pool, but there are plenty of other things to do.” “I… I like having all of you come over here.” Sandy said defensively. “Either all my friends are welcome, or we can go someplace else.” Davey said firmly, but still in a gentle tone. “It’s not fair to any of them to be excluded like that.” “You’re really fine with Sean being a… homosexual?” Sandy asked my mother. “I loved my brother very much, Sandy.” My mother said gently. “Most of our family rejected him, but despite that he was still there for me when I needed help the most. No one else from my family lifted a finger to help me, but he did. I gave him a chance, and what I found was that he wasn’t really all that different because he preferred men. He still wanted to love someone, and to be loved. It’s not like what you see on television, at those parades you know. I mean sure, some are like that, but most gay people I’ve known in my life aren’t really like that. It’s just the news shows those people because they’re so…” “Outrageous.” I said when my mother faltered while looking for the right word. She nodded at me. “If he tries anything, you’ll tell me, right?” Davey’s mother asked him gently as her shoulders sagged in defeat. “Yes.” Davey promised and I sighed with relief of my own. For a moment, I had thought he had gone insane, but once again Davey had proved he could think better in tight situations than I could imagine. “Fine, why don’t you and Brian go do something?” She said with an air of defeat while she looked at my mother. “Brenda, I think the three of us should talk.” “Yes, we should.” My mother replied while Davey and I left their office. It struck me as odd that this was twice now, in two different timelines, that Sean’s father had caused an argument over his son to be fought out in this room. Davey sighed with relief as we headed up to his bedroom, not really saying anything until the door was shut and he was pulling me into a very tight hug. “Jesus that was close.” He mumbled against me while I put my arms around him even as his shoulders began to shake with gentle sobs. We stood like that for a while, he and I standing with our arms wrapped around each other while he cried into my shoulder. Finally he stopped crying and pulled back while I lowered my arms to my side. He wiped his eyes and gave me a small smile. “Thanks.” “Anything for you.” I said softly. “Do you mean that, Brian?” He asked me and I nodded my reassurance. “Good. I almost fucked up there big time.” “For a moment I thought you were going to tell your mother about us.” I said quietly and he chuckled softly while shaking his head. “That’s what I was going to do until I saw her face.” Davey stated. “When I saw her face I knew it’d be a mistake so I made up that other shit.” “That’s something I’ve always admired about you.” I told him. “You’re able to think so quickly on your feet like that. I’d have never been able to jump on that track about your father and her blood transfusion without having a lot of time to think about it first.” “Thanks.” Davey said as his smile slipped. “So you’ll understand what needs to happen now.” “What are you talking about?” I asked as a sliver of fear wormed its way to my gut. Where was his mind going now? “You and me, we can’t keep doing this, at least for now.” Davey said with a frown and I felt like I wanted to start shaking as my stomach dropped to my feet. “We can be friends, but nothing more. She can’t have any reason to suspect us.” “If you’re worried about her kicking you out…” I started to say but he shook his head. “That’s not it.” He said sadly. “I know your parents would give me a place with them. It’d kill my mother though, if she knew. I can’t have her looking at me like that, thinking those things about me. We’ll still be friends, though, and maybe after high school, when we’re in college we can pick up where we left off, but I can’t do this.” “You’re going to let your mother rule your life like this?” I asked him as my anger started to kick in and regretted it instantly. “You just said you’d do anything for me.” He shot back angrily. “Were they just words or did you mean them? I’m not kicking you out of my life, I’m just saying we need to keep it at the level of just being friends. What, you can’t stand the thought of not having sex?” “It’s not the sex I’m worried about, Davey.” I said sharply and he shook his head again. “Then what are you worried about?” He asked. “Davey, it’s wrong for you to put your life on hold for your mother and sister.” I argued. “That’s what you think.” He said with a hurt tone. “Look, you’re the one who said you always have to think things through. Well, go think about this. You’ll figure out I’m right. All we’re stopping is the sex, and the hugging and kissing stuff. We’re still going to be friends, right?” “Right.” I said with a heavy sigh. “I don’t like this Davey. What are you going to do next, date a girl?” “I might have to do that.” Davey said with a shrug. “Mom and Nanny are always asking me when I’m going to get a girlfriend. Nanny keeps pushing this Julie girl at me. Her mother is a volunteer at the hospital with Nanny. She goes to our school, so maybe I can date her and throw them off the track.” “She’s going to expect you to kiss her.” I warned him and he blushed. “It won’t mean anything, Brian.” He said with a heavy sigh. “It’s just maintaining my cover.” “I’m going to go.” I said abruptly as a feeling swept over me to get the hell out of there. The thought of Davey kissing anyone, whether he meant it or not, was too much for me to deal with right now. “Brian, please…” Davey’s voice trailed off with a hurt tone and I turned back to look at him. There were fresh tears in his eyes, but then there were new ones in mine too. “Don’t be mad. Just think about it.” “I will.” I said softly. “I’m not mad, though. I’m hurt, and I’m a little confused as to how you think this is best, but I’m not mad. I love you, Davey.” “I know.” He said softly, looking down at his feet as I shut his bedroom door behind me and made my way out of the house. It was a good thing that I didn’t run into anyone on the way out because by the time I got into my car, I was bawling like a little child. Several hours later my crying had turned into sniffling as I lay on my bed, clutching a pillow to my chest. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was going to lose Davey. No matter how similar this Davey was to the one I’d known and loved, even I had to admit they were very different people. My Davey had decades of experience this one didn’t have, and he’d told me the type of person he’d been at this age. How could I have been foolish enough to expect that this Davey would be faithful to me, would be willing to defy his family and risk their approval of him? “Brian, are you in there?” Mom’s voice from the other side of my door forced me to push back a few more sniffles, wipe my puffed-up eyes and focus back on the present. “I’m in here.” I said and was surprised at how much my voice shook. “Is everything alright, dear?” She asked in a worried tone and before I could say anything, she opened the door and took a very long look at me. “I thought something was up from the way you stormed out of there, and now I have a better idea of what’s going on.” “You do?” I asked in surprise. “What has Davey done now?” She asked with a sigh. “I swear, sometimes that kid can get as mixed up as his mother and grandmother. Does this have something to do with that Julie girl he’s supposed to be meeting for dinner tonight?” “Huh?” I mumbled in surprise as my heart dropped back down into my stomach again. Yep, that was Davey alright. Once he made a decision, he moved forward with it at full speed, and damn any of the consequences. “I was wondering why he was calling a girl to go out.” Mom said sadly. “Let me guess, he doesn’t want his mom to figure out about you two so he’s going to date this Julie girl. Do I have that about right?” “Yes.” I mumbled with a shake of my head. “Did you tell him how messed up that was and how much heartache it could cause?” She asked me. “No, not really.” I admitted softly. “I told him I don’t like it…” “Brian, for a guy who supposedly had experienced having grandchildren, you can spend a lot of time thinking like an ordinary teenager.” Mom said in an exasperated tone. “I’m not good at reacting to surprises.” I muttered miserably. He was already going out with Julie? A fresh batch of tears welled up in my eyes. “Oh my poor Brian.” Mom said sympathetically as those tears dribbled down my cheeks. She crossed the rooms and took me into her arms, where I cried hard enough to soak her blouse. I cried like that for a while, and when I slowed down, she started to dab my cheeks with a handkerchief. “Why don’t you go wash up while I start dinner. Don’t worry about Davey. We’ll all start working on talking some sense into him.” “Thank you, Mom.” I said, grateful once again to have my parents around. No matter how old I ever got, they were always a source of comfort and support for me. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night, and the next day was a rough one for me. Trevor and Brandon showed up at my house, but they were surprised when I showed no interest in going over to Davey’s, or in doing anything else really. All I wanted to do was mope around for the day. They left after barely an hour, leaving me alone to work out on the weight machine that I had barely used in the last few months. We’d been using the sets at Davey’s. “What the hell is going on?” Todd’s voice interrupted me as he stormed onto the back patio just after noon. “What do you mean?” I asked him in a quiet voice. “I mean what’s up with you and Davey?” Todd spat back angrily. “He’s got some stupid girl named Julie over there making calf eyes at him and you’re nowhere around. His mom’s treating her like she’s the future daughter-in-law!” “Oh, Davey decided he’d rather pretend to be straight.” I muttered and Todd’s mouth hung open for a long time. For some reason that put a small smile on my face. “What are you smiling about?” Todd finally demanded. “You should be over there telling him he’s being an idiot!” “I was wondering if a fly really would fly into your mouth.” I chuckled and he shook his head. “Don’t change the subject.” He said sharply. “What are you going to do about that idiot? He’s already kissed her in front of everyone!” “He has?” I asked as my heart sank again. That was getting to be all too familiar a feeling. “Yes.” Todd said with disgust. “Then I guess he and I really are over.” I mumbled and Todd crossed his arms. “You’re only over if you let him do this stupid shit.” Todd said with determination and his foot was tapping on the cement. “Now I’ll ask it again, what are you going to do to stop his idiocy? He doesn’t belong with her, he belongs with you. Then again, if you’re available now, I think I might try pursuing you. You make a good boyfriend.” “I’m honored.” I said with a mocking bow of my head. “Sorry, Todd. You’re a good friend, but I’m not interested in you that way.” “Your loss.” Todd shrugged. “Do you want Davey back?” “Don’t be stupid, of course I do.” I growled. “He’s mine.” “Then you got to get him back.” Todd said as he started to pace. “Now, Davey’s as stubborn as his damn mother, so just talking to him won’t do any good. You’re going to have to make him jealous. I know! You can pick a girl and start dating her! Kiss her in front of him and let him see how it feels!” “I’m not going to lead some poor girl on that way.” I said with determination. “Well then, how about another guy?” He asked. “It’d have to be someone we already know, and you’ll have to do it carefully so no one outside our group knows. I see two choices, really. Me or Trevor.” “Why you or Trevor?” I asked with real curiosity. “Well, after they saw that there was a girl around, Brandon and Sean took off together.” Todd said with a sly grin. “I think they’re really hitting it off good.” “Good for them.” I said with genuine feeling. “I’m not sure about this jealousy thing though. It could really backfire.” “It won’t.” Todd said quickly. “You’d be willing to do this for me?” I asked him with a little surprise. “In a heartbeat.” Todd smiled. “Although if it was real, it’d be even better. You’re a good guy, Brian. But, if I can’t be your boyfriend I’ll take being your friend that helps you out whenever you need it.” “We don’t need to take it that far!” I said quickly as my cheeks blushed. “I know.” Todd teased me. “Davey doesn’t need to know that until later, though, right?” “No, no he doesn’t.” I agreed and Todd held out his hand. We shook then and he gave me a simpering glance. “So, should we practice kissing just to make it look real?” He asked with a hopeful tone. “Not just yet.” I said sternly. Now I had butterflies in my stomach. Part of me said this was stupid, that it could backfire so easily, but I also knew Davey and I didn’t want him sticking his dick in some girl just to secure his cover with his mother. It was three more days before I saw Davey again. After the second day where it was becoming evident Julie was a semi-permanent fixture, along with three of her girlfriends, everyone started meeting over at my house. >From there we’d go and do whatever we felt like that day, without Davey. The phone rang one morning, just after Mom had left for Sandy’s house and Dad had headed off to his work. I picked it up, and pretty much regretted it instantly when I heard Davey’s voice on the other line. Part of me wanted to hang up at his cheerful tone, but I didn’t. “What do you want?” I asked a little more harshly than I should have. “I… I want to see you.” Davey replied in a slightly weak voice. “I miss having you and the guys around. Did you tell them not to come over anymore?” “No.” I answered immediately. “Davey, they can’t be themselves with your… girlfriend and her friends around so they go where they’re more comfortable.” “So you didn’t tell them to stay away from me?” He asked plaintively. “No.” I replied. “I wouldn’t do something like that.” “Can we do something today?” He asked me in what was almost a whine. “I miss you already.” “What do you want to do?” I asked as the desire to see him overcame my anger for a moment. “We could go to the mall.” He said in a slightly happier tone. “Julie’s birthday is next weekend and I was thinking of getting her a necklace.” “Let me get this straight.” I said sharply as anger welled up inside of me. “You want to take the guy you dumped because your mother might guess we were a couple, and have him go with you to buy a necklace for some bimbo you’re seeing?” “Julie’s not a bimbo.” Davey said defensively. “No, I guess she’s not, but then neither am I.” I practically yelled into the phone before slamming it down. For several minutes I fumed, cussing out Davey and his idiotic thinking before deciding I really did need to do something. Trevor was doing something with his father today. Brandon was with his siblings and had Sean over, so that left Todd, whose crazy idea wasn’t sounding so bad just about now. “Hello?” Todd said as I called his number. “Hey, it’s Brian.” I said in a neutral tone. “Yo, dude, what’s up?” He asked in a happier tone. “I was wondering if you wanted to do something today.” I sort of asked him. “Uh, yeah, I was just sitting around.” He replied. “I’ve got the day off.” “Cool, how about I pick you up?” I asked. “About an hour?” “Fine by me.” He said happily and I hung up the phone. Almost exactly an hour later I was showered, shaved, and wearing a pair of khaki pants with one of my tightest blue t-shirts. “Where to?” He asked me as he got into the mustang. “How about the mall?” I asked with a perverse idea. Davey would probably be there, and even though I knew better, I wanted him to see me there with Todd. “Fine by me.” Todd said. “So, you hear from Davey lately?” “Yeah.” I said as my good mood evaporated. “Oh, how’d that go?” He asked. “He accused me of telling you guys to stay away from him.” I started off and Todd shook his head. “I told him you guys probably just weren’t comfortable with his girl and her friends there.” “That’s for sure.” Todd grumbled. “So, do you think Sean and Brandon are going to hook up?” “It’d be nice.” I answered. “You think they’ve actually done anything yet?” “They’ve fooled around.” Todd said with a shake of his head. “Sean spent the next day praying on his knees for forgiveness, but as soon as Brandon called him he went right over. That boy is still mixed up in the head.” “Yeah, well, he has us to support him.” I stated. “Yup.” Todd agreed as he smiled at me again. “You think anymore about my idea?” “Yeah, I thought about it.” I said with a sigh. “And?” Todd asked with a tilt of his head. “Davey asked me to go to the mall with him to help him pick out a necklace for Julie.” I said sourly. “That stupid son of a bitch!” Todd exclaimed and then he started laughing. “We’re going to the mall, right?” “Yup.” I answered with a knowing grin. “You can be an evil man, Brian.” Todd smirked as he reached across the seat to rub my leg. “Todd, don’t take it too far.” I warned him with a little growl. “I know, I know.” Todd said with a shake of his head. “Just remember, if Davey never fucking wakes up and smells the coffee, you’ve got lots of options.” “I know, and I appreciate that, Todd.” I said with a sideways glance at him. “I like you. You’re a good guy, but I don’t feel that way about you. Maybe we shouldn’t do this. You’ll only end up getting hurt.” “No, I won’t.” Todd said with a slightly pained expression. “Yeah, it’ll suck if it works and you two get back together, but for a little while at least I can pretend, and maybe I’ll have an idea about what it’ll be like when I do meet someone as nice as you.” “Fine, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.” I said a little fiercely and he smiled as we pulled into the parking lot of the mall. Vintage Fair mall hadn’t been remodeled since it was built in the 1970’s, and still reflected some of the psychedelic décor of that time period. It’d be another fifteen years before it was remodeled and would get stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, or Hollister. Many of the same jewelry stores were there, and I couldn’t help but stop and point out a nice gold chain meant for a man to Todd. “I like that one.” He said to me just as Davey walked up to us. I’d noticed him on the other side of the mall and he’d been watching us as we went up to the jewelry store. “Is this why you wouldn’t come with me?” Davey snarled without any preamble and I turned to see him with a face reddened by his anger. “You decided to get yourself a new boy-toy and you’re going to buy him something now?” “What does it matter to you if he is?” Todd snarled back. “You’re the one who broke things off with him so you could pretend with that Julie girl.” “Don’t get in the middle of this.” Davey snarled at him while I looked around to see if anyone was close enough to hear us. “Davey, you might want to be careful or someone will hear us.” I said calmly. “You know what, fuck you Brian Breckenridge.” Davey snarled. “Not anymore.” I growled back at him and he stepped back while his eyes widened and Todd chuckled. “What do you mean?” He asked. “C’mon, Davey, you know exactly what I mean.” I told him. “It didn’t take you long to go from just using her as a cover to kissing her all over the place. Sean told me how she had her hand down your bathing suit the other day.” “I didn’t want her to do that!” Davey snarled defensively. “I told her to take it out as soon as it happened!” “No you didn’t.” Todd sneered. “You waited at least a minute until you noticed other people were seeing it happen.” “We used to do that stuff all the time and no one ever thought it was a big deal.” Davey said defensively. “You’re right, you can do it all you want.” I snarled at him, finally letting the anger I was feeling really vent out. “Just don’t expect me to sit around and wait for you to get bored.” “I thought you said you’d always love me.” He almost whined. “I will always love you, Davey.” I answered honestly, meeting his hurt gaze with a hurt gaze of my own. “What you have to understand is that I don’t have to live my life with you even though I love you. Sure, I wanted to live my life with you, but, you know, I don’t know if you’re worth it.” “What?” Davey nearly shrieked. “You come back in time for me and don’t think I’m worth it anymore?” “Huh?” Todd said in confusion and I stared at Davey as realization dawned on his face. “It’s a private joke.” Davey temporized quickly and Todd shook his head in confusion. “Brian told me one time he’d even come back in time for me if he had to.” “You guys can have some weird conversations, or at least you used to have them.” Todd said with a shake of his head. “Shut up, dirtbag.” Davey told him sharply. “You couldn’t even wait a week before trying to sink your claws in Brian.” “Why not, you took less time than that to dump him for some cunt.” Todd sneered and Davey lashed out with a fist, catching Todd in the stomach and doubling him over. “That’s not what I did.” Davey said fiercely, but his eyes were pleading with me. “I have to do this. You understand, don’t you, Brian?” “I understand why you want to, but I don’t understand why you are stupid enough to think it’s the right thing to do.” I countered him while reaching out to support Todd who was clutching his gut. “I also don’t understand why you think it’s okay to hit Todd. I thought you were better than that.” “Maybe I’m just a stupid kid without decades and decades of growing up.” Davey sneered and I gave him a narrowed-eye look before shaking my head. “C’mon Todd, let’s get you out of here.” I said sadly as I walked away, supporting Todd and not even looking back at Davey Jones.
  14. dkstories

    Chapter 15

    It was amazing what a simple apology could do. Some people have made a science of apologizing, both now and in the future. Certainly for anyone in the public spotlight knowing how to give the correct apology at the correct time was an important thing to know. Sometimes a bouquet of flowers with a simple note saying “I’m Sorry” would heal over a spat between lovers. It could be a box of chocolates, or a special trip including a favorite activity of the person being apologized to would work. Other times, giving a good apology required a complicated series of events, or endless repetition. There were people who didn’t want to hear a simple “I’m Sorry.” They want to hear you explain why you’re sorry, and what you did wrong first, and then the words. Still others wouldn’t listen to any apology at all, but rather required a long series of actions before they would accept the apology. David Jones Sr. had a lot to apologize for in this timeline, and he had a lot of people to whom he needed to apologize. Each of them required a different style of approach, a different form of apology, and none of them were inclined to forgive him anytime soon. The little stunt with the aborted attempt to get some of Sandy’s lottery money had only made the hurdles higher, and I was both surprised and pleased when he started making overtures right away. The next Saturday after Davey confronted him, he walked over to Pete and Monta’s house. Dad and I had been invited by Pete to join him and Davey on a fishing trip. It had been a good trip, and we’d come back in the late afternoon with the legal limit of fish. Davey’s father showed up just as we finished unloading the van, and Pete tensed up, as did Davey, but it was Davey who went to confront his father while Pete watched warily. “What do you want?” Davey asked sternly. “I… I would like to speak to your mother.” David Sr. said in a cautious voice. “Why?” Davey’s voice dripped with suspicion. “These are the official papers dropping the lawsuit.” His father answered while holding up a sheaf of papers in his hands. “I’ve also got papers filed for starting the divorce proceedings, if she wants. This way she doesn’t have to pay for anything.” “Okay.” Davey said with a hint of anger in his voice and he turned back to look at his grandfather who stared at the two of them for a long moment before nodding. “I’ll go get her.” Pete said gruffly and walked into the house. Sandy came out a few minutes later with an apprehensive look on her face. “Pete says you have something for me, Dave.” She said frostily and her husband handed over one set of papers. “Here’s the papers dropping the suit.” He said to her. “It was wrong of me to file them. I have no right to any of that, and I’m sorry.” “You’re damn right you have no right.” Sandy snarled, but she also relaxed a bit as she took the papers. “What made you do it?” “My mother.” He said with a heavy sigh and she actually laughed briefly before shaking her head. “That doesn’t make me any less responsible. I’m the one who did it, even if she was pushing me. It’s my responsibility.” “It’s about damn time you took responsibility for your mistakes.” Pete grumbled from where he stood behind Sandy. David Jones Sr. just nodded, agreeing with Pete and forcing a look of surprise to the older man’s face. “I… I also have papers here to start the proceedings for a divorce.” David Sr. said and Sandy gasped slightly. “You want a divorce?” She said in a voice that sounded horrified. “No, I don’t, but you might.” He said softly. “I’ve made so many mistakes, done so many things wrong I can’t blame you if you want one, but I know that before you couldn’t afford one. You can now, but I am the one who’s brought us to this point in our relationship, I’m the one who destroyed our family, and I’m the one who should take this step, or at least offer it to you if it is what you want. You’ve done nothing wrong. In fact, you’ve been doing things right, the way I should have. You’ve put the needs of the kids first, and put a stop to–to the things that I was doing that were wrong.” “I… put those away.” Sandy said to him with a weak voice. “I’m not saying I won’t want a divorce, but not right now. You’ve never… you’ve never accepted responsibility for what you did before. Your daughter needs to hear you say that.” “She will, whenever you and she are ready.” He replied in a voice that shook only a little bit. “Thank you, Dave.” She said in a quiet, but clear dismissal. “You deserve it, and more.” He said before turning to go. He took two steps before stopping and turning back. “Sandy, I almost forgot. Bev wanted me to say she misses you and Jenny. Would it be okay for her to come and visit?” “Anytime.” Sandy replied evenly and he nodded before resuming his course back to his mother’s house. When he was out of sight, Sandy turned and buried her head against Davey’s chest while she shook with her sobs. Dad touched my shoulder and nodded towards the house. I followed him and Pete inside while Davey comforted his mother. As spring turned into summer, that day marked a turning point for Davey and his family. It took another three weeks for them to move into the new house. During that time, Davey would stay with us during the week, and my room often reeked of the sex we would have in there at night, but on Friday night he’d go back to Pete and Monta’s house and not return until Sunday night. I found that I was okay with that, because it gave me time to rebuild my friendship with Brandon and Trevor, as well as to continue getting to know Todd better. The weekend where Sandy, Davey, and Jenny moved into their new home saw all of us showing up to help out with the move. Sandy had bought a bunch of new furniture for the house, and had spent the last few weeks totally revamping not only her wardrobe, but her childrens’ as well. Davey looked quite good in the matching outfits she bought for him, as did Jenny. To my surprise, David Sr. was also there, helping out with the move, as were Bev’s son Bryan and Bev herself – although she spent much of the time in her wheelchair directing everyone where to put things. When our Junior year of high school ended, Davey had a big party at his house with most of his friends, and several of mine. Sandy wasn’t there that weekend, and Davey shocked me when he told me that she was in San Francisco for the weekend with his father. I knew that they had started going to counseling with Jenny’s therapist as a family, but I hadn’t known things were going in the direction of his parents getting back together. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but both Davey and his sister seemed to be happy with that development. In July, Davey got to spend two weeks with Brandon, Trevor, and me at a football camp in Minnesota. At first he was the worst player at the camp, but by the end of the two weeks, he had progressed so far that I was confident he’d make first string on the Varsity team at school. We made a good team on defense together, and while I knew he’d never been into baseball the way it was in the last timeline, I could see the abilities that had made him a good player shining through with some concentrated training and attention. It was a few days after we got back from football camp that things changed yet again. His mother had bought some excellent weight equipment and put it on their spacious back patio just like in the last timeline. Three days a week, I’d go over and we’d work out together. Most of the time, Brandon, Trevor, and Todd would meet up with us as well, and we’d go out for milkshakes or just hang out after the workout. That day, it was just the two of us until Todd opened the sliding glass door and walked out on the patio, followed by a familiar face. “Hey!” Davey called happily from where he stood spotting me on the bench press. While I put the bar back on its rest, he crossed over to meet Todd and hug him tightly. “We didn’t think you were coming!” “I had a guest come over.” Todd said and stood out of the way as I stood up and went to stand by them. “Davey, you might remember Sean from La Loma.” “Oh, yeah, hey Sean!” Davey said with a genuine smile as he held out his hand. Sean looked uncomfortable, but shook Davey’s hand. “I haven’t seen you since before we moved to Nevada. How ya doing?” “I’m okay.” Sean mumbled before looking at me with a look that wasn’t exactly pleasant. “Sean, do you know Brian?” Todd asked and Sean hung his head slightly. “Yeah.” He mumbled. “Hi Sean.” I said as cheerfully as I could. He looked so young. While he wasn’t as tall as I seemed to remember him being in the last timeline, he was still taller than he had been our freshman year. His face was paler though, far more freckled, and he had almost no muscle on him at all. In fact, he was as slender as a bean pole. “Hi.” Sean mumbled back. “I think I owe you an apology.” I said in as soft a voice as I could. Davey looked at me sharply while Todd nodded politely and Sean looked at me with bewilderment. “What do you mean?” Sean mumbled in confusion. “Back in Freshman year, you got stuffed in a trashcan at school.” I stated carefully, mostly because “I” had not been there, but the “me” of this timeline had been there. “I didn’t stop it from happening, and that was wrong. No one should be treated like that.” “Oh man, I’d forgotten about that.” Davey said sympathetically and he looked back at Sean. “Sean, I am so sorry I didn’t do anything to stop it either. Brian’s right, that was wrong of us.” “I deserved it.” Sean mumbled. “You don’t have to apologize to me.” “Bullshit.” Todd snorted. “No Sean, you’re wrong.” I said firmly. “No one deserves to be treated like that, and I hope that one day you might be able to forgive us for that. I just hope we can be friends from now on.” “You don’t want to be friends with me.” Sean mumbled and then he looked angrily at Todd. “You brought me here on purpose, didn’t you? You set me up.” “Hold on, Sean.” Davey said as the smaller guy started to walk away. Davey went up to him and put his hand on Sean’s shoulder. The guy flinched at that, but he stopped and turned around. “What?” Sean snapped angrily. “Why do you think you deserved what happened back then?” Davey asked him calmly and Sean’s shoulders slumped. “You’ll probably hear about it anyway.” Sean mumbled and then hung his head, probably trying to hide the tear that dripped down his cheek. “Dad already warned the pastor at the church and he told the youth pastor so by the time school starts everyone will know. I’m queer.” “So?” Davey asked in a voice that didn’t sound anything but confused. Sean had stiffened as he said the last part, and now he was staring at Davey in total confusion. “So, I’m a fag.” Sean snapped angrily. “I’m a fudgepacker. They’ve sent me to all sorts of quacks to make me straight but it doesn’t fucking work!” “Of course it doesn’t work.” Davey shrugged. “If you’re gay, you’re gay. Shame on those quacks taking your parents’ money for something they can’t change.” “Then again maybe his parents deserve to lose their money like that for trying to make him change.” I added and now Sean was staring at both of us with wide eyes while Todd practically split his face in two with his smile. “I… you… you’re all crazy!” Sean exclaimed. “I told you that you’d be better off back here in Modesto.” Todd said with an I-told-you-so expression on his face. “What are your friends going to say if they see you hanging around me?” Sean muttered. “You don’t even know me!” “We used to know you years ago, Sean.” I said in a gentle tone. “You were a good guy back then, and I’d be downright shocked if you weren’t still a good guy. If any of our friends have a problem with you, they have a problem with us and aren’t worth being our friends.” “Brian’s right.” Davey said firmly before looking back at me with a smile. “You think we’re done, Brian? I could use a milkshake. It’s getting hot. Then maybe we could come back and go for a swim.” “I don’t have any money for a milkshake.” Sean said. “It’s on me.” Davey said firmly. “I was your friend back in Freshman year and I totally dropped the ball on being a good friend back then. I’ve got a lot of making up to do for that.” “I don’t have a swimsuit.” Sean mumbled. “Then I’ll get you one on the way back.” I said firmly. “It’s the least I can do…” “You don’t have to do this.” Sean mumbled. “No, we don’t, but we want to do this.” I said firmly. He just shook his head, which Davey and I took as consent. When we got to the Snowy’s that made the best milkshakes in town, Sean had started to come out of his shell just a bit. I wasn’t surprised to see Brandon and Trevor there, and when they came over to join us, Sean started to go back into his shell a bit. Trevor didn’t remember him at all, but there was something in Brandon’s eyes that told me he remembered Sean. My two oldest friends joined us in heading back to Davey’s pool, even stopping at the sporting goods store to get Sean a set of swimming trunks. To my surprise, Brandon had whispered something to Trevor while we were walking into the store, and the two of them came up to Sean and apologized to him for the incident in Freshman year. Then they both pitched in for Sean’s swimsuit. “I can’t wear this!” Sean muttered as he looked at the dark green Speedo that Brandon was holding up for him. “Dude, it’d look good on you.” Brandon insisted and I caught the look in his eyes. So did Davey, who gave me a little smile while Sean continued to protest. “We all should get Speedos.” Todd suggested with a bright grin as he looked at Trevor. Oh yeah, I knew what the red head was thinking, wanting to see the school’s star quarterback in a Speedo. “Okay.” Davey said with a leer of his own. “No way.” Sean protested weakly, but his eyes almost bugged out as Davey held up a pair of white Speedos with red stripes on the hips. It was very difficult for me not to start drooling right then and there. Regular workouts had helped Davey shed those extra pounds and the thought of him in that was absolutely worthy of a bucket of drool. I was starting to laugh until Davey threw the white Speedos at me. “These are for you.” Davey said emphatically while pulling out another white Speedo, although this one had blue stripes. “These are for me.” “Cool.” I said while Brandon picked out a blue Speedo. We all paid for our Speedos, with Trevor having picked out a black pair and Todd a red pair that was going to clash madly with his hair. All of us pitched in for Sean’s over his continued protests. Then we set off for Davey’s house. “Let’s get changed!” Davey’s voice showed his excitement as we all rushed up to his room and started to change. Sean turned white and fled out of the room, down the hallway to the bathroom. “What’s his problem?” Brandon said in an offended tone. “He’s shy.” Todd said defensively with a warning look at Davey and me. “He’s not a jock like you guys.” “We’ll get him over that by the time summer’s out.” Brandon said confidently. When Sean reappeared with a towel wrapped around him, no one said anything. By the time we reached the pool, he was a lot calmer, and although he waited until he was next to the pool before taking off the towel and slipping into the water. At first he hung back while Davey and Brandon got into a splash war, but soon he was swimming around and playing like the rest of us. It was good to see that, as my conscience was screaming at me. Sean had been a good friend in the last timeline, and had sacrificed much over the years, as much as Davey had, if not more. He deserved to be happy now, even if he didn’t remember those times. Seeing the way Brandon reacted to him was another good thing as far as I was concerned. It was very obvious to me, and probably to Davey that Brandon was interested in Sean as more than a possible friend. Watching them dance around each other was going to be fun. The weeks that followed were as close to perfect as anything could be in life. Every day I was over at Davey’s house, and Sean was there almost constantly with Todd. Brandon was there quite a bit too, and while Trevor was still spending time with his newest girlfriend, he was there more days than not. Mom and Sandy were moving along with their Event Planning business as well. They had three clients already, and were deep in working with those people. Two of the clients were weddings, both referred by Sandy’s family members, and the third was actually a political fundraiser for a City Council candidate that my mother knew from one of the local charities she worked with. Sandy had even ‘hired’ Davey’s Aunt Bev to help with the planning and arrangements. The woman may have been confined to a wheelchair, but she was ecstatic with the work, and was over nearly every day, forcing her husband, or Davey’s father to get her ready and drive her to the house. On the phone she was a living terror to the different vendors they were using. Her quick wit, and ample vocabulary meant that anyone who didn’t perform up to her expectations got a tongue-lashing they would not soon forget. Whoever was over when she started in on someone over the phone would gather outside the office she used and listen. After she was done, she’d start in on us for giggling while she was on the phone. Like all good things, though, it eventually came to an end when Sean’s father paid a visit Davey’s mother while we were out on a day trip to Sonora. On the way back home, we’d dropped Sean off with Todd at Todd’s house, and Davey and I had gone back to his house. We’d planned on spending the night since Pete was coming by the next morning to take us fishing up in the mountains. “Davey, Brian, I need to talk to both of you now.” His mother said in a stern voice as we walked in the front door. It was obvious she was pissed about something, but we shrugged and put down the bags filled with the things we’d bought for our mothers, and Davey’s sister. She shut the door behind us as we entered the office that had been President Jones’s in another timeline. There were three desks in here, and while it was still wood-paneled, it had a much more feminine feel to it now. “What’s up, Mom?” Davey asked in a slightly nervous voice. Both Bev and my mother were in the room, and while they didn’t look happy, their looks were directed more at Sandy than at us, which made me even more confused as to what was wrong. “What do you know about that Sean boy?” She asked and everything suddenly made sense. It was with a sinking feeling in my stomach that I guessed what had happened. “We went to La Loma together, and Downey until we moved to Nevada.” Davey began after a quick look at me. “He’s a good guy.” “How do you know that?” His mother asked sharply. “Did he tell you why his family moved to Southern California? Did he tell you that he’s been seeing a therapist for years now?” “Mom, Jenny’s been seeing a therapist for years, and for that matter, we’ve been going with her!” Davey retorted hotly. “What does that have to do with Sean?” “We’ve been seeing a therapist to help your sister recover from what was done to her.” His mother shouted. “He’s seeing one because he’s the one who’s perverted! Has he tried to touch you?” “What do you mean ‘has he tried to touch me’?” Davey asked with a sharp edge to his voice and I almost winced. “We goof around all the time, but then again so does Brian and me.” “Don’t try to play coy with me!” His mom shouted while my mom turned a bright pink and tried to suppress a bark of laughter. I had a sinking feeling in my gut as Beverly looked over at her, then at Davey, and finally at me. Her direct gaze caused a slight blush to my cheeks while Sandy kept yelling at her son. “You know damn well what I mean! Has that boy tried to touch you sexually?” “Not that it’s any of your business if he had, but no, of course not.” Davey said with a snort and the room reverberated with the sound of her slapping him. “Don’t you dare talk to me like that!” His mother shouted. “His father came over and told me what a little pervert he is! You’ll have nothing to do with him any more, and I never want to see him over here again. People like him should be locked away from the rest of society…” “Sandy!” Bev shouted as my mother’s face began to grow red, not from the earlier humor but from real anger. “What is it?” Sandy snapped as Bev turned on her electric wheelchair and maneuvered herself to Sandy’s side while mother stood up. “What’s wrong with you?” Bev snapped as she hit Sandy in the side with her arm. Davey’s Aunt had been crippled from the neck down in an auto accident years ago, but she was still able to move her arms. Her hands she really couldn’t do much with, but she was deadly when she lashed out with her arms like that. “What’s that for?” Sandy growled, rubbing the spot where Bev had hit her. “How dare you talk about Sean that way!” Bev snapped. “He’s a good boy and you know that.” “I thought my husband was a good father and you see where that got me!” Sandy snapped back. “I’ll not have my son put in danger that way.” “Please tell me you don’t really feel that way.” Mom said sadly. Her anger was gone, replaced by a deep sense of sadness. “What does it matter if Sean’s gay?” “What?” Davey’s mother nearly squeaked with her surprise. “How can you say that Brenda? Homosexuals are perverts, one and all! It says so in the bible! What’s more, they’re all sick! Look at that AIDS thing! All homosexuals get AIDS and they die. If that Sean boy is a homosexual, he’ll have AIDS and I’m not going to risk my son being infected by him!” “Brian, get your things.” Mom said with a note of finality and I knew better than to argue with her right now. “What’s going on?” Sandy demanded imperiously. “I’m sorry, Sandy, but I cannot associate with someone who believes those things.” Mom said with a strong hint of sadness in her voice. “My brother Rich died of AIDS, and I will not listen to you insult his memory.” “You see!” Sandy said in a triumphant tone. “He probably got infected by homosexuals! That was his apartment, right? The one mom stayed at? He probably got it from them! Those homosexuals deserve every last bit of suffering God delivers to them.” “My Uncle Rich was the kindest, most caring person I’ve ever known.” I said through gritted teeth, remembering this woman caring for a young boy named Jeremy in another timeline. Suddenly I was homesick for that timeline, and I didn’t blame Sean one bit for not wanting to come back to this world. “I’m sure he was, but that’s what happens when you associate with homosexuals.” Sandy said. “I am ending our business relationship effective this moment.” Mom said through gritted teeth. “Why?” Sandy demanded with narrowed eyes. “Because Uncle Rich was gay, mother.” Davey said with a snort. “You can be so dense at times.” “I… um… look, I’m just overreacting.” Sandy began in an insincere apology. “Save it, Sandy.” Mom said angrily. “Right now I’m so angry nothing you can say will make a difference.” “But can’t you see that this is for the good of our boys?” Sandy asked in almost a whining tone. “We can’t have them perverted by that boy…” “Stop right there, Sandy.” Bev practically snarled, cutting off Davey’s mother who looked at her in shock. “Bev, you know that…” She started to protest. “I know that you’re not thinking, just reacting.” Bev snapped at her. “If you were thinking you’d have noticed something.” “What’s that?” Sandy snapped at her in frustration as she crossed her arms over her chest and glared at her sister-in-law sitting calmly in the wheelchair. “Doesn’t it strike you as odd that your son isn’t reacting in surprise at hearing that his friend is a homosexual, or that he knew that Brian’s uncle was one?” Bev asked and I cursed for not remembering how quick Davey’s aunt was. Sometimes I think he got the ability to think so quickly from her, instead of his mother or father. “What?” Sandy exclaimed in surprise while she turned to face her son who had gone slightly pale. “You knew about this and kept it from me?” “I… it wasn’t any of your business.” Davey said weakly and I had to flinch at the reaction on Sandy’s face. Part of me wanted to jump to his defense, but I knew this was his battle to fight, and I knew that I would not have been all too happy if either of our boys had spoken to me like that. “What do you mean it wasn’t my business?” She shouted and Davey did flinch in a major way this time. “How dare you say it isn’t my business? You’re my son and if something puts you in danger, it damn well is my business.” “I haven’t ever been in any danger, mother.” Davey said with sarcasm dripping from his voice. That did not bode well either. “Go to your room.” Sandy ordered. “I’ll deal with you later.” “No.” Davey said in firm, and flat, voice. “What do you mean no?” She demanded angrily. “You’re my son and as long as you live in my house you will do what I tell you!” “I’m seventeen, mother.” He said flatly in a voice that I knew foretold a lot of trouble. Unfortunately, his mother was so angry she probably didn’t recognize the tone. “If you want to go down this road, fine. I can leave.” “You leave this house and you’ll be cut off!” She shouted, growing flushed in the face. “Davey.” My mother said in a calm voice. Her face showed her worry. As she spoke the single word, she gathered the attention of everyone in the room. “What?” Davey asked in a harsh tone. It was obvious he was trying to not snap at her, which was a good thing. “I think everyone needs to take a deep breath.” My mother said in a slightly calm voice. “I thought you wanted nothing to do with me?” Sandy snapped waspishly at her. “I don’t, but your son and his relationship with you is a little more important than my anger at you for the moment.” My mother replied. “I don’t need your help to manage my son, Brenda.” Sandy sneered at her. “Don’t talk to her like that.” Davey snapped at her and she turned back to him and opened her mouth to deliver a tirade when Bev ran over her foot. “Ow!” Sandy shouted as she hopped around on her other foot, glaring at Bev who shrugged her shoulders. Davey had a tough time not bursting out in laughter, but he was hiding a big smile behind a hand. “I swear, Sandy, I get enough of this at home from my mother.” Bev said with an exasperated sigh as Sandy hopped around for another moment. She was glaring fiercely at Bev now, but her mouth was staying shut. “I’m sorry, Aunt Bev.” Davey said in a slightly meek tone. “You need to apologize to your mother.” Bev told Davey sharply. “For what?” His voice almost cracked and he looked stunned. “I thought you were on my side!” “I’m on no one’s side.” Bev retorted. “No matter what, she is your mother and deserves more respect than you’ve shown her tonight.” “You’re right.” Davey said after a long moment of thinking. He stood a little straighter and turned to face his mother. “I’m sorry for the way I spoke to you.” “What about what you said?” His mother retorted in a voice that sounded just as angry as before. “I’m not going to apologize for that.” Davey said firmly and she looked like she was about to go off on him again before Bev moved her wheelchair in a warning gesture. “We’re all intelligent people in this room.” Bev said softly and then she looked over at me with a penetrating stare. “Brian, you’ve been awful quiet. What do you have to say?” “I don’t know if anyone wants to hear my opinion right now.” I said with a shrug, trying to stay out of this mess. “I do.” Davey said softly. “I’d like to hear what he has to say.” My mother said just as softly and everyone turned to look at Sandy who stared at me for a long moment before also nodding. “If I was your parent and you spoke to me like that, I’d be pissed as hell.” I said to Davey and he looked hurt for a moment, before nodding slightly. Sandy looked triumphant until I turned to stare at her. “If I was your son, I’d be ashamed to be related to you.” “What?” Sandy gasped in surprise. “Have you given any thought to what Sean’s father hoped to accomplish by coming over here?” I asked her and her eyes widened in surprise. “Have you given a moment to think that there might be more to this story than you’re hearing from the man? If you had, you might have started this by asking some questions instead of assuming you knew everything you needed to know. If you’d done that you might have realized you were being played by that man.” “What do you mean?” Sandy asked with a hint of anger in her voice, but her eyes told me she was at least thinking. “Davey and I know a lot about Sean and what he’s been going through for the last couple of years.” I said softly. “Did you know that his father had him committed to a mental institution? Did you know that at that place they put electrodes on his penis and shocked him every time he showed any reaction to a picture of a man instead of a woman?” “That… that’s barbaric.” Sandy said with a shudder. “That’s what his father had done to him, and that was the nice stuff.” I continued mercilessly and she shook her head in disbelief. “He’s been kept isolated, he’s been forced to do so many disgusting things I don’t even want to think about them. That man hates his son and won’t rest until he’s made every minute of his son’s life miserable. In the last few weeks, Sean has actually had a few happy moments, most of them over here, and his father is trying to take that away from him.” “But… but the boy is a homosexual.” Davey’s mother protested. “Does that mean he deserves to be treated badly by his own parents?” Davey asked her and she looked at him for a second before turning back to me. “They realize that Sean’s old enough now that they don’t have long to control him.” I continued. “If he ran away again, and he’s done that a few times, they’d end up in trouble because Child Services down in Southern California investigated them. That’s one of the real reasons they moved back up here, so they wouldn’t be watched so much by the government for abusing their son.” “You’re kidding.” Sandy commented, but her voice showed she was believing me. “No, I’m not.” I stated. “Mom, Sean hates his parents now as much as they hate him.” Davey said in a much calmer voice. “The day he turns eighteen, he’s leaving their house. He doesn’t care if has to live on the street to get away from them, but the second he’s of legal age he’s walking out their door with nothing but the shirt on his back.” “And he’ll be better off for it despite having nothing.” I added and she looked horrified. “He’s just a boy, though.” Davey’s mother said. “It happens all the time, Sandy.” Brenda said softly. “Young men like him get thrown out of their homes, or leave because the situation is so unbearable, like it is for Sean, that they would prefer to be homeless than to live in that horror. Sean’s lucky, though. He’s got friends who are willing to stick up for him like Davey and Brian.” “But he’s a homosexual.” Sandy protested again, looking at her son. “I can’t have him putting you in danger.” “I’m in no more danger from him than Brian is from me.” Davey said and I had to do my best to not react to the implications of his words. Unfortunately, his mother caught them too, and the look on her face was filled with surprise, horror, and disbelief. Oh shit.
  15. dkstories

    Chapter 14

    “Why’d you do it?” Davey asked me yet again as we stood looking out the window of his bedroom. Below us, his sister and her two friends were hanging over the railing of the back porch, looking at the river churning in the small canyon below. The room was empty, because we were officially just ‘looking’ at the place while his mother contemplated buying the house with her new wealth. “Davey…” I started to say but he shook his head and looked at me with sad eyes. He’d barely spoken to me for the last three weeks, and part of me couldn’t blame him too much for that. “No, Brian.” He said softly. “You didn’t even ask me what I thought. You just did it. What about those people that won the lottery the week after? We took money from them. They were supposed to win all of what Mom got.” “They still won three million.” I said with a sigh. “That’s still a lot of damn money.” “But it’s wrong that you took it away from them and gave it to my mom.” Davey said again, repeating the same thing he’d said last time. “Things would have worked out, you know. I had that job at the cannery and now Mom won’t even let me think about working. She wants me to study and do sports and all that stuff. That’s what you wanted, wasn’t it?” “Yes.” I answered honestly and he frowned, not expecting me to be so blunt. “That is exactly what I wanted, Davey Jones. I wanted you to be able to concentrate on school, on learning the things to get into a good school where you’ll study the things you need – that we need for the future.” “You did it so I could follow the damn path you’ve laid out for me in your head.” Davey snarled with a look of anger. “I thought you wanted to help me, to help make things better in this world.” I said softly and he frowned. “I do, but I don’t want to cheat in order to do it.” He said in a much softer tone. “Davey, I learned a lot of things in my last life.” I said gently, catching his blue eyes in mine and holding them. It struck me again how his eyes were blue, like mine, but a different shade, and they practically glittered with his emotions at this age in a way that they almost never did in the last timeline. There was still true innocence there, innocence long since gone by the time I’d ever met him. “One of the things I’ve learned is that sometimes you have to take what you need, even if it causes some harm to others. In this case, yes, what I did took money from people who would have gotten more otherwise. Still, they won, and they won a decent amount. Maybe they won’t be able to waste as much of it as they did in the last timeline, but they still got a lot of money. What your family got from it is going to be used to do a lot more than they ever would have done. With it, we’re going to change the world, make it a better place.” “But how does that justify it?” Davey asked. “How can we say we’re good people if we stole that money?” “Davey, I remember the numbers for four lottery drawings in my life.” I said after taking a deep breath. It was time for him to hear this part of my plan. “In five more years, there’s going to be a drawing worth over twenty times what your mother won. We’re going to win that one too.” “Why?” He asked with narrowed eyes and suspicion in his tone. “Because the world doesn’t run on good intentions.” I said with a hint of bitterness in my voice as I looked out the window again. It was strange, I’d had nothing to do with picking this house, but like in the last timeline, Pete had picked it out for Sandy, and she had fallen in love with it at first sight. I was certain she’d buy it, and it was in the Downey district. Even Jenny wasn’t complaining about having to leave Ceres, although she was talking about getting a transfer to let her stay in Ceres High, which was almost certain. She’d have a license soon, and her mother now had plenty of money to get her a car of her own. “What do you mean?” Davey asked me and I sighed. “In the last timeline, your father ran for President, twice, and he won both times.” I said softly and he made a snort. “Yeah, you told me about that.” He said with a hint of scorn. “It won’t happen this time, though. No one is going to vote for a convicted child molester.” “No, you’re right, it won’t happen, but that’s not my point.” I said patiently. “How much do you think he spent on those two campaigns?” “A lot.” Davey said quietly. “Millions of dollars, probably.” “The two campaigns totaled over five hundred million dollars.” I told him and looked back to see his eyes widening and he made a slight coughing noise. “Yeah, your father had to raise half a billion dollars to get, and keep the Presidency. All of his campaigns in total probably came to nearly a billion dollars. Think about that Davey. In the decades after his Presidency, he was widely acknowledged as one of the best presidents in our country’s history. He won the Nobel Peace Prize, not once, not twice, but four times. His acts as President, and later, changed the course of history for this country, and our world. I remember our grandchildren coming home from school, laughing and reading the entry on him from their history books.” “That’s still hard to believe.” Davey said with a whisper and wet eyes. “I can’t believe my father would be so… good.” “But he didn’t become President because he was a good man.” I pushed on. “Sure, that’s part of what got him in office, and made him the great President he was, but this world is as full of good men like your father as it is full of bad, stupid men. Without having the ability to raise that billion dollars for his campaigns, your father might have never been more than a preacher, or a truck driver. In order to change the world, he had to have money to do it. Think about it though, because he took a billion dollars people gave to him, and because of his policies, billions of people lived better lives, and many made more money than they would have otherwise. That billion spent on him yielded results that can never be measured.” “Does it matter?” Davey asked bitterly. “That’s all gone now, destroyed by your time traveling.” “Yes, it does matter.” I said with a sigh. “You may not remember them, no one may remember all those people, but it doesn’t change the fact that they existed or that they had better lives.” “What you’re saying is that it takes money to make things change, to make the world a better place like you want to do, and we have to have that money.” Davey summarized and I smiled while nodding my agreement. “Nine million paid out over twenty years won’t do all that much.” Davey said softly. “No, but a couple hundred million, well around a hundred million after taxes and all that will be enough seed money to make a start.” I said and he nodded. “There are other things, like certain timely investments, that will take that money and turn it into something close to what your father raised for his campaigns.” “So in order to do the good you want to do, we have to take money from others.” Davey said succinctly. “What do most people do when they win the lottery?” “Pay off their bills, quit their jobs, and spend it on themselves or their family, maybe some family friends.” I said with a shrug. “We’re going to do more than that though. You and I, if you want, we will change this world like your father did, although I hope to make it last longer than he did.” “How did he fail to do that?” Davey asked and I smiled. “Cult of personality.” I answered and he frowned. “Huh?” He stated. “It’s something I first learned in college.” I said with a shrug. “Okay, maybe I heard Davey and his father talking about it in high school, but they were discussing Ronald Reagan. But, when I learned it in college was when Davey and I first really started discussing it in the context of our national political history.” “So you’re saying I need to go to school to learn about this?” Davey asked with a slight chuckle. “Yes.” I answered him honestly and he nodded. “I still don’t like it.” He sighed. “You don’t have to like it.” I said with a shrug. “Most of the time I don’t like it either, taking money from people like this, but it is necessary.” “How did you get so… jaded?” Davey asked and I had to laugh. “I’m not jaded compared to some people.” I shrugged and he gave me that look that I now knew to mean he was thinking about time travel. “How did I get so jaded?” He asked softly. “You already know the answer to that.” I replied and he stared at me for a long moment before nodding slowly. “Oh, good, you’re both up here.” Sandy Jones said from the doorway to Davey’s room. My mother was right behind her, and both of them were smiling. “What do you think, Davey? Is this place good enough?” “I love it Mom.” Davey said with a gentle smile. “It’s like we were meant to live here.” That bastard! He said that on purpose, since I’d already told him the history of the house in the last timeline. It was all I could do to not burst out in laughter. “What do you think Brian?” She asked and I had to take a deep breath before answering. “I like it a lot.” I answered her. “Good, then I’ll let Dad haggle with the realtor and get the price down a bit.” She said before turning and walking away with a determined stride. “She’s happy.” Davey smiled softly. “No matter what else, this is making her happy, and your mother… why did they turn down half the money?” “We don’t need millions of dollars.” I said with a shrug. “Besides, our moms are talking about going into business together and your mom is providing most of the start-up funds for that.” “True.” Davey said with a shake of his head. “If I didn’t believe you already, I’d believe you came from the future now. Wait, I just thought of something. You said the timeline was already changing. Aren’t you worried the cumulative effects of the changes you’re making will change the lottery numbers of that big jackpot you want to win?” “Nope.” I answered confidently. “Why not?” He asked. “I don’t understand the physics myself, and I know you’re not much on the mathematics.” I semi-answered and he frowned, but didn’t protest. It was true, even after a hundred years of life, Davey was mediocre at best with math. “What it comes down to is that changes can effect the world in a lot of ways, but certain events are largely unchanged unless there’s something really massive that happens. Random events, like the random drawing of the lottery numbers stays random. If you want to change them, your best bet would be to change things so the lottery is outlawed and the drawing never held, for example.” “Or start World War Three and get everything nuked.” Davey said with a slow nod of his head and I nodded my agreement. “Yep, like that.” I agreed. “In some weird way it makes sense.” Davey said with a smile. “So, did I hear right, that the last game of the baseball season is this weekend?” “Yeah.” I answered the question easily. He often did that, totally change tracks when he felt a particular topic had been fully discussed. “I think I’ll go.” Davey said and I laughed. “Sounds good.” I said. “We can do something afterwards, if you want.” “I’d like that.” He replied with a shy smile. Oh yeah, he was thinking much along the same line as me. I was surprised though when he got a pensive look on his face. “Brian, can I ask you something?” “Sure.” I said casually, but there was a sudden tightening in my gut. That look on his face meant he was thinking of something unpleasant. “You’re from a future, but you say the future isn’t set in stone.” Davey said slowly as though he was thinking aloud more than anything. “Some things will be the same, but other things will be different, right? That’s how… that is how you can plan to make some changes, to make the world a better place.” “That’s right.” I said softly. “But you can’t guarantee it will work.” Davey continued his thought process aloud. “You mentioned how one of the other timelines the other me created, it ended in nuclear war, which was when they created the timeline you came from.” “You got it correct.” I confirmed for him. “The same thing could happen here, if we’re not careful, although it’s pretty late in the timeline for something like that. It was other time travelers that really precipitated that war, and their attempt to control the secrets of time travel. That secret’s dead now. I don’t know nearly enough to make another machine. In a couple of years, the Soviet Union will cease to exist, and while there’s still threats of a city being blown up, or minor stuff like that, it’ll be decades before China gets close enough to having the technology to instigate a war that could threaten the entire planet.” “Yeah, but doesn’t that mean that you can’t absolutely predict certain things?” Davey asked slowly. “You can’t tell me my mom will live to be an old woman, or that my sister won’t die in a car accident, or even that you or I won’t die in an accident.” “Life would be kind of boring if we knew everything that was going to happen, wouldn’t it?” I asked him and he chuckled softly. “Uh huh, but really, Brian, what makes us any better suited to changing the world?” Davey asked me in a quiet voice. “Anything can happen, right? How do we know we’ll be happy, and that we’ll do what we set out to do?” “Right now the Governor of Arkansas is biding his time, waiting for an opportunity to go after his lifelong dream of becoming President.” I said in a firm, but quiet voice. “He’s going to win in 1992, ending twelve years of Republican rule from the White House. There’s many things he will want to do in office and while he’s President, this country – and the world will change from the Cold War era into a new era. He’ll succeed at a lot of things while in office, and fail at others, but in the end his most memorable feat in office will be that he was impeached because he lied about getting a blow job from an intern.” “You’re kidding!” Davey’s voice cracked and his eyes were wide. “Nope.” I said smugly. “Well, that’s what he’ll be remembered for if he doesn’t get some good advice and follow it while he’s President. Still, the guy’s been dreaming since he met John F. Kennedy that he would one day be President, and he’ll succeed, but he’ll be remembered for being impeached over a lie, more than anything else.” “What does that have to do with…” Davey’s voice drifted off while I smiled. “It means I don’t know if we’ll succeed, but I know we should try, and I know that we should be careful not to get tripped up by stupid things along the way.” I answered. “I also believe that if Bill Clinton didn’t run in 1992, we might have been worse off than we were with him in office. The bottom line is that we have to try, and no, we’re not guaranteed to win, but if we don’t try, there will be no chance that things are better. I can’t promise you anything, except that I’ll always love you, and I’ll always be there for you.” “Unless you die in a car accident.” Davey pointed out and I had to nod. “Well, I’ll just have to make sure that if you are in an accident, I’m there with you so I won’t have to see what happens without you around.” “I…” I lost my voice at that and he smiled before stepping closer to me and kissing me on the lips. “We better go see what Mom’s up to.” He said with an impish grin before walking out. I followed him, thoroughly confused about the whole point of all this talking, but decided to just stop worrying and see what was in store for me. “This will make a great office for the both of us.” Davey’s mother was saying to my mother as we found them standing in front of the room that I had always thought of as President Jones’s private office. For some reason her words sent a pang of regret through me. I still had not met the man in this timeline, and part of me didn’t want to meet him. “If you think so, Sandy.” Mom answered with a grin. “This house is wonderful, and it is so close to ours.” “Good, then it’ll be easy for us to get together here.” Mom said as Pete came around the corner with the realtor trailing behind him. “You sure you want this place?” Pete asked Sandy who nodded. I knew it was an act on Pete’s part as he sighed before turning to the realtor. “If she’s so set on the place, I guess we’ll take it, but we’re not paying a dime over four-twenty.” “I’ll have to talk to the seller, but I think he’ll agree.” The realtor said with a slightly oily smile. That was a good thirty thousand less than the asking price, so Pete must have done some good bargaining, but it looked like the deal was made. “We’d better get heading back.” Pete said. “Mom should be home with the baby by now.” “Let’s go.” Sandy said before calling out for her daughter. Sandy and Mom took Sandy’s RX-7, while I got to drive Davey and the girls back and Pete took his own van back to Ceres. “Can we stop at Foster’s Freeze on the way?” Jenny asked petulantly as we neared Ceres. Her and her friends had done nothing but chatter away the entire time, while Davey and I had pretty much remained silent. “Sure.” I said with a sigh. She was always wanting something extra, no matter what we did, and as I expected, it was Davey who paid for the slushies at the Foster’s Freeze. We got back to Pete and Monta’s house just in time to see a strange man get out of his car, wearing a suit, and walk up to Sandy, who was standing in the driveway talking to Pete and my mother. “Who’s that?” Jenny asked as I parked and we got out of the car just in time to hear Sandy start shouting at the man, who walked away quickly, holding a clipboard and shaking his head. Davey rushed forward to his mother’s side. “What’s wrong?” He asked her. “Your good-for-nothing father!” Pete snapped while Sandy held out a packet of papers to Davey. “The bastard is suing me!” Sandy snarled angrily. “What?” Jenny half-screeched. “Why?” Davey asked as he took the papers and started riffling through them. I looked over his shoulder and read that Sandy was being sued by her estranged husband for half of the lottery money. “Just because I haven’t gotten around to divorcing him yet he’s saying he deserves half of my money!” Sandy half-yelled, but she was near hysterical as my mother put a comforting arm around her. She turned and started crying into Mom’s shoulder. “He can’t do this.” Davey snarled angrily as he shoved the papers at his grandfather who was giving him a stern gaze. “Davey, don’t do…” Pete started to say, but Davey wasn’t listening. Instead, Davey was storming away, half-running down the street. With a glance at Mom I started after him. “Davey…” I called out when I got close to him, halfway to his other grandmother’s house. She lived right around the corner, and it was a very short distance. “Don’t try to stop me.” Davey fumed without slowing down as I pulled abreast of him. “I’m not going to do that.” I said firmly. “Still, let’s walk, okay?” “Why?” He asked. “So you have a few extra minutes to think about what you’re going to say instead of just spouting off at him.” I answered. He stopped suddenly and gave me a long look. “You’re not going to try to stop me?” He asked. “No.” I answered simply. “I’ve got your back. This is wrong of him to try to do this.” “Oh.” Davey said softly and then cocked his head as he looked at me. “What do you think I should say?” “I don’t know.” I shrugged. “The man I knew would never do something like this, so you know him better than me. Plus, I always like to think things through before I do something. You’re the one who things on his feet really well, as long as you take a few minutes to run things through your head first. Me, I’d take a day or two to get something half as decent as what you can put together in a few minutes.” “Okay.” Davey said with a curt nod of his head. “He’s doing this because… well because money has always been tight for grandma. He’s living there with her, Aunt Bev, Ron, and Bryan, and he’s having to work at McDonald’s, which I know he hates. He thinks it’s beneath him. Mom’s got this huge pile of money, and if she shared it with him, he’d not have to do that.” “Do you think he’s even talked to her?” I asked Davey and he nodded. “She told him no way in hell was he touching any of her money.” Davey answered. “What can you do?” I asked him and he took a deep breath. “He loves me.” Davey said softly. “Dad hates the fact that we don’t get along like we used to, and that I hardly ever go visit him.” “That’s not your fault.” I affirmed and he shook his head. “That still doesn’t change the fact that he misses that.” Davey said. “Okay, I think I know what I’m going to say.” “Good.” I said as he started walking, but he stopped again and turned to look at me with a little smile on his face. “Thanks.” He said quietly. “You’re welcome.” I replied with a return smile. “It’s… I know we don’t talk about… about being in a relationship a lot, mostly because it makes you uncomfortable, but this is what I want. I want us to be able to depend on each other for advice, and to help each other out.” “I… I think I could get use to this.” Davey said with a husky voice and he squeezed my arm once before turning to walk towards his grandmother’s. “You coming?” “I’m right behind you.” I said affectionately and he chuckled. Soon enough we were walking up the driveway to his grandmother’s. Her old white and brown Chrysler was parked on the right of the driveway, while an ugly brown van was parked on the left and a boat was in the grassy area next to the left side of the driveway. The little red 1979 Toyota pickup that Davey’s father had bought years ago from Pete was parked on the side of the road in front of the house. It seemed everyone was home. “Davey!” Davey’s paternal grandmother nearly shouted when she answered his knock on the door. “What a surprise! Oh look at you!” “Hi Grandma.” Davey said as the woman pulled him into a tight hug. She was shorter than him, and looked a lot younger than the last time I’d seen her in 2007. “Is Dad home?” “DAVID!” She shouted before releasing Davey. “Oh Davey! We haven’t seen you in weeks! What have you been up to? Who is this?” “Grandma, this is my friend Brian.” Davey said politely. “Brian, this is my grandma.” “It’s nice to meet a friend of Davey’s.” She said excitedly to me. “You boys come on inside and let me fix you something to eat!” “I’m just here to talk to my father.” Davey said firmly, letting his anger show a bit and she frowned immediately. “It’s about your mother, isn’t it?” She said sourly. “She got her papers today. Well, if that’s what it takes to bring you over here, I say your father should sue her every damn day! I swear, that woman! First she ruins our family, airing our dirty laundry for everyone to see and then she goes and wins the lottery and refuses to share the money like a good wife should! If I had that bitch in front of me right now I’d…” “Stop it.” Davey growled and she frowned at him. “Well, if that’s the way you’re going to talk to me, your grandmother, I don’t want you coming inside this house!” She snarled and stepped back as the sound of footsteps could be heard coming down the hallway. Davey’s father appeared behind her, his hair still wet from the shower he must have been taking when we showed up. “Davey!” He said with excitement and a broad grin while I took in the differences between this man and the one I remembered from another time. This David Jones Sr. was overweight, and had a bushy mustache that he’d never worn in the time I’d known him in that other timeline. “I need to talk to you.” Davey said firmly, ignoring his grandmother’s noises of distaste and staring at his father. His entire body was tense. “Who is this?” His father asked, nodding in my direction. “This is my best friend, Brian.” Davey answered. “Can we talk out here?” “Uh, sure.” His father said as Davey and I took a few steps back and down so we were off of the front porch. As he stepped outside he turned to his mother. “I’ll be just a few minutes, mother.” “You put him in his place, David!” She snarled before slamming the door behind him. He shook his head and turned to look at Davey. “I take it your mother was served?” He asked and Davey nodded. “You want to talk about this in front of him?” “He and his parents bought Mom the winning lottery ticket as a gift.” Davey said through gritted teeth as he stared his father down. “His family let us use their apartment in the city when Mom was going through her surgery. I’ve stayed at his place for the last few months, and his mother his going into business with Mom. As far as I’m concerned he’s a part of my family.” “I see.” David Jones Sr. said as he gave me an appraising look. “I appreciate everything your family has done for my son and my wife.” “She’s only your wife because she hasn’t gotten the nerve up yet to actually file for divorce.” Davey snarled. “Maybe now you’ve finally pushed her far enough she’ll file the damn paperwork.” “Watch your language young man!” Davey’s father snapped at him. “You’re still my son!” “You may have sired me, but you’ve long since given up any right to be a part of my family.” Davey shot back angrily. “Only because your mother refused to…” David Jones started to say, but Davey cut him off. “She refused to forget what you did to Jenny, how you did what no father should ever to do to his daughter, and she refuses to live a lie just so you can save face.” Davey shot back. “We were married before God, and you can’t just turn your back on that when things don’t go right.” His father retorted. “This is a little beyond ‘irreconcilable differences.” Davey snorted. “You don’t deserve her.” “How dare you say that?” Davey’s father nearly shouted as his face turned purple. “I don’t know how you think you can talk to an adult, much less your father that way but I won’t stand for it!” “I can talk to you this way because you’ve long since lost any right to deal with me as a parent to his child.” Davey’s voice dropped an octave and his hands balled up into a fist. “When you touched my sister the way you did, you gave up any and all rights to deal with me as a parent. The most you can ever hope for is that one day I’ll be ready to forgive you and we might develop a relationship as adults. When you did what you did to Jenny, you did more than just molest her. You destroyed our family. You forced Mom to make decisions no wife or mother should ever have to make, and you forced me to assume the responsibilities of an adult. Or have you forgotten that it has been me, not you, whose been paying the bills for Jenny’s psychotherapist?” “I haven’t… you can’t blame me that no one will hire me after it was in all the papers…” His father said weakly. “Now you try to take what Mom has luckily been given thanks to Brian and his parents?” Davey continued in that low, vicious tone. “Is that how you plan to prove to me that you’re worthy of being a part of my life?” “What?” David Jones Sr. asked with real confusion in his eyes. “You do want to earn my approval, my respect, and maybe have some reconciliation with me and Jenny, don’t you?” Davey asked calmly. “Of course I do…” His father replied, but stopped as Davey stared at him silently. “Is this the best way to do it?” Davey asked him and the older man stared at his son for a long time. “When did you get so wise?” David Jones asked his son. “I did listen, you know.” His son stated in a voice that was void of the anger that had been there earlier. It was still quiet, but there was a softness to it that had not been evident until now. The older man’s head jerked up a bit and he gave his son a quizzical look. “When you were preaching. I listened. When I was younger, I remember you preaching about Jesus and how he acted when the Roman soldiers came to arrest him. Remember in Waterford when Sampson was beating me up? I could have fought back anytime, I could have pummeled him, but I didn’t because I remembered you teaching how violence was not the answer according to Jesus.” “You did fight him eventually, and you won.” David Sr. said with a slight smile while I stared in surprise at Davey. I’d never heard this story before. “You and he were the best of friends for a long time, until we moved back to Modesto.” “Yes, but I didn’t fight him until he hit April.” Davey said with a slight chuckle. “He’s in Modesto now.” David Sr. said calmly. “I saw him the other day. His parents moved to Modesto last year.” “Oh.” Davey said softly before shaking his head. “My point, Dad, is that I did listen to your sermons. There was a lot of good in them, and I’m a better person for having listened to them. When… when we came back and I was old enough to work, I got a job so we could afford Jenny’s sessions. No, don’t look like that. This is not an attack on you for not being able to pay for it. I do understand why you couldn’t, but because of what I learned from your sermons I didn’t hesitate to do the right thing when it was needed.” “I… I can’t say how proud of you I am for that.” His father said in a quiet tone and Davey cocked his head to the side while looking at his father. “Then why don’t you practice what you use to preach?” He asked his father and the older man flinched before frowning. “I… I… you don’t understand.” David Sr. replied softly. “Your grandmother’s had to take a second mortgage out on the house because of the legal bills, and Bev’s medical bills. Your Aunt was in the hospital for a few weeks there, you know.” “No, I didn’t, and I should have.” Davey said softly. “She’d like to see you.” David Sr. said softly. “Maybe I will, before I leave.” Davey said quietly. “Still, does any of that justify you doing this to Mom?” “I… no, it doesn’t.” David Sr. said softly. “It’s just… you know how your grandmother can be.” “Yes, but that doesn’t justify you giving in to her.” Davey said firmly. “I have to live here, damn it!” His father snapped and Davey did look sympathetic for a moment. “I’d be ready to kill her if I had to live here for more than a few months.” Davey snorted and his father chuckled softly. “Look, Dad, I didn’t know about the mortgage and all that. Maybe I can talk Mom into helping with that. She loves Bev still, you know.” “I know.” Dad sighed. “Sometimes I feel guilty because the two of them have been friends since high school and now Sandy can’t even talk to her on the phone.” “Dad, you don’t deserve half the money, but Mom won’t ignore a real need over here like this.” Davey said in a quiet but firm voice. “Let me talk to her, give me some time.” “Okay, son.” David Sr. said with a sigh. “Your grandmother might kill me, but I’ll drop the suit.” “Thank you.” Davey said. “Now, why don’t you come and say hello to your aunt?” His father asked. “Brian, you’re going to love my Aunt Bev.” Davey said with a bright smile as he turned to me. “Just be careful or she’ll run you over with her wheelchair.” “Okay.” I said with a smile of my own while my feet winced in remembered pain. Okay, maybe these feet didn’t remember the pain of her wheelchair running over them, but I did have those memories, and the woman could be quite vicious when she wanted to make a point.
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..