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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Beard - 15. Chapter 15

“Have a seat, Dale.” Senator Pritchard said, and Dale tried not to look nervous as he took a seat on the opposite side of the small table. They were sitting on the patio of the Pritchard home, just as the sun was beginning to set over the distant ocean. The view was spectacular, as always.

“Welcome back from Washington, sir.” Dale said after the man had remained silent. The Senator had just gotten back from his first two weeks as a U.S. Senator, and was enjoying a day of rest before heading out on the campaign trail. No Democrat was opposing him in the upcoming primary, but he needed publicity to increase his name-recognition, and was making campaign stops all over the state.

“Thanks, son.” The man said gruffly. “How do you like your new job?”

“It’s not bad at all.” Dale said with a smile. “Sean’s not around much and most of it is research. I have to go to a retreat out in Nevada as soon as school is out, but I like it so far. They opened up an office here in town, with a secretary and everything that I use when I’m not out doing research at city hall or with the county.”

“That’s good.” Mr. Pritchard said with a nod. “I’ve known the people behind the Leadership Foundation for a while. They’re good people. By now you’ve figured out they’re all gay?”

“Yes, sir.” Dale said. “They don’t try to hide it or make it a secret.”

“I’m glad to see you’ve managed to get involved with them.” He told Dale. “It’s important you have your own achievements.”

“I think I know what you mean.” Dale said with a slight smile.

“This relationship between Cole and you, it‘s grown a lot more than I expected.” Cole’s father said. “Frankly, when we had that first dinner, my first thought was that the timing of Cole’s coming out was a little too convenient. I’ve always known that Cole was a little different when it came to dating, and him coming out wasn’t as much a surprise as the timing. It was just perfect, too perfect, really. I always suspected there was something fishy about you two getting together.”

“Really?” Dale asked, managing to keep his voice steady even though his legs were threatening to start shaking any second now. He hadn’t been sure what to expect when Cole said his father wanted to talk to Dale, but this had not been on the list.

“Really.” Senator Pritchard said shrewdly as he looked over at Dale instead of at the horizon where the sun had finished setting. “I know my son, Dale. Look me in the eye and tell me that my campaign didn’t have anything to do with Cole choosing that time to ask you out.”

“I…I…” Dale stammered as conflict warred within him. Part of him wanted to keep the lie going for Cole’s sake, but another part didn’t want to lie to this man who had never done him anything but good.

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to mention it to my son.” Cole’s father said with a little chuckle. “He is a far better liar than you are and can stonewall with the best of them.”

“I…ah, you have to know, sir, it’s not just an act.” Dale stammered out after a moment.

“Oh, I have no problem believing that, even if my son convinced you to go out with him by saying it was all just to help my campaign.” Cole’s father continued, still chuckling softly. “When he worked on that project with you last year, that was when I first really knew. My son has dated some very fine young ladies, but he has not talked about any of them the way he talked about some kid he was working with as a partner on a project. His mother and I had more than one conversation after that, and we knew it would just be a matter of waiting for him to figure it out on his own.”

“It took him long enough.” Dale said grumpily and the Senator laughed.

“So it was that night at the convention, the one where he gave you the hicky.”

“Yes.” Dale admitted as he blushed. He was thankful for the growing darkness that at least partially hid his reaction.

“He’s never, ever done that with anyone he has dated.” Cole’s father informed him rather soberly. “Sometimes I wonder what we’ve done to the poor kid, raising him in such a political environment.”

“He loves you a lot.” Dale said, responding to the urge to defend his boyfriend. “I mean, there’s not a lot of people I’ve met who would do what he did for his father, even if he had ulterior motives. Sure, from what he’s said, and you said, he had his eye on me for a while, but it was the idea of helping you that pushed him over the edge and into action. He would probably have never even asked me out, much less done the whole coming out thing if it wasn’t something that helped you as well. Cole told me one time that he’s always dreamed of the ‘wife, 2.5 kids and white picket fence’ kind of life.”

“He should know he doesn’t have to give up that kind of dream to be true to himself.” Cole’s father said in an irritated tone. “It’s more important to live one’s life true to your own principles than to live it by a set of principles imposed from the outside.”

“You know, I’ve always thought that was your philosophy.” Dale said with a chuckle of his own. “From the way you vote on different issues, it’s obvious you don’t like telling other people how to live their lives, or having the government do it. That’s why you opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment and the hate crime laws at the same time.”

“Right up until Baldwin and Frank saw some sense and took out the provisions of the Brooks Hate Crime Act.” The Senator, who had been in the House at the time the bill came up stated. “When they changed those sections that extended employment provisions to religious organizations they swung more than enough votes to pass the bill, mine included.”

“Religion: the last great bastion of hatred and intolerance.” Dale said with more than a little bitterness in his voice.

“Even there the tide is turning, don’t forget that.” The older Pritchard man said sternly.

“It may be turning, but it’s doing it at the pace of a glacier.” Dale countered.

“It might seem that way to someone who isn’t even old enough to vote yet.” The older man said with a chuckle. “When I was your age, the whole debate was whether gays should all be sent to some island so they didn’t spread the gay plague anywhere else.”

“I can’t even imagine it was ever that bad.” Dale said.

“I’m exaggerating a bit, but there were quite a few who advocated for just that.” Mr. Pritchard said in a far gentler tone. “Those times are long gone now, at least. Speaking of AIDS, at least obliquely, did you know it was one of the Foundation’s research facilities that came up with the cure? Brian had an uncle that died from the disease and it was one of their earliest achievements.”

“I thought it was…” Dale said, trying to remember the name of the scientists that had become famous across the world for their anti-viral AIDS-killing regimen. It didn’t cure everyone, but those recently infected, or whose immune system was still in decent shape could expect to be cured.

“Drs. Westman and Haverly did develop the cure, but they did it at a Foundation research facility.” Cole’s father said. “Most of the time when a Foundation protégé succeeds, the Foundation insists they stand on their own work. It’s why the Foundation isn’t exactly a household name for all the good they do nowadays. Some of their people have already started getting elected to Congress, and you won’t find a more ethical group of legislators anywhere in the world. Still, they don’t put the Foundation on their resumes, and that is what the Foundation wants.”

“I’ve learned that much already.” Dale said with a chuckle. “They don’t hide what they’re doing, but they don’t announce it with trumpets either.”

“Exactly right.” Cole’s father stated. “I’ve hoped for the past few years they might pick up Cole for their development program, but they haven’t seemed too interested in him.”

“It’s not that they don’t think he’s worthy, but more that they don’t think Cole needs anything from the Foundation.” Dale informed him. “Sean says the Foundation helps those who need it, and who will make the world a better place. They’re fairly confident Cole will work towards making the world a better place, no matter what career he follows, and they definitely know he doesn’t need their help to do that.”

“Whereas you do need help.” Mr. Pritchard stated. “Is there something more we should, or can, do for you and your family?”

“No sir, not really.” Dale said cautiously. “Things are going pretty good on the home front for the first time in a while.”

“I never knew your father, except from what I read in the papers and I know how much to trust that for an impression.” Cole’s father said gently.

“I miss him.” Dale said with a far heavier sigh than he’d intended, and he felt tears welling up in his eyes. It had been a while since he’d cried about his father, or even felt anything but angry. Somehow, with Cole’s father right here, he couldn’t summon any of the old anger to push back those tears.

“You were rather young when he died.” Cole’s father said in that same gentle voice. Dale looked over to see the man studying him closely. “Was your family able to get you counseling afterwards?”

“Yes.” Dale answered bitterly.

“Ah, didn’t help much?” The man asked.

“No, it helped.” Dale said with a sigh, wiping the fledgling tears from his eyes before they could multiply. “I just… after all this time it still hurts. People say time heals, but I guess I haven’t had enough time yet.”

“There are situations where not even time can fully heal the wounds we receive.” Mr. Pritchard said gently. “I think a life-changing experience like you had might be one of those.”

“Funny.” Dale noted with a half-smile forming on his face. “Davey said something similar the other week when I was talking to him on the phone, only it wasn’t about my dad, or anyone’s dad. It was something else.”

“Mr. Jones has had his own problems with his father over the years.” Mr. Pritchard told Dale gently. “Sometimes I wonder what traumas I’ve inflicted on my own son.”

“Not many, unless you count stunning good looks, a nice personality, and a habit of driving too damn fast.” Dale answered the rhetorical question, earning a laugh from the older man.

“It’s amazing he still has a license with all the tickets he’s gotten, and I haven’t lifted a finger to help him there.” Cole’s father said as he chuckled.

“He’s a charmer.” Dale said confidently. “I should know. He’s charmed me.”

“He has, has he?” The man asked, suddenly serious again.

“Is that why you asked me here?” Dale asked with surprise. “You’re worried about how I feel in regards to Cole?”

“Should I be worried?” The man asked coyly and Dale frowned.

“No.” Dale said flatly. “Where’s this coming from, sir?”

“What are your intentions with my son?” Mr. Pritchard asked and Dale stared at him like he’d suddenly grown a second head. That’s what it seemed like, and Dale felt the tears from moments ago start to turn into anger.

“My intentions?” Dale asked in a voice that expressed some of his growing anger. He was no longer sitting relaxed in the chair, but leaning forward and with his head turned to face the older man. “If you’re asking if I’m going to marry him, I’ll remind you we’re not even finished with our junior year of high school yet. I don’t even want to think about getting hitched to anyone, even your son until after I’ve finished high school. If you’re asking about something else, could you just tell me? I’m not really into guessing games.”

“Two days ago I had a reporter approach my campaign, shopping a story about someone close to my son looking to sell illicit pictures of him.” The Senator said in a very business-like voice. “I trust my son not to do something stupid, like taking pictures of himself with his phone and sending it to you.”

“Hell no!” Dale snapped. “That’s stupid.”

“So it’s not you?” The man asked. Dale felt offended by the question.

“How can you think I’d do something like that?” Dale demanded.

“Did you?” He pushed. “I haven’t heard you deny it yet.”

“Senator, I have nothing to do with whatever that reporter told you, and I would never do something like that!” Dale said loudly, and angrily. “How could you think something like that about me?”

“I didn’t really, but I had to ask, just to cover the bases.” The Senator’s answer wasn’t all that pleasing. “Besides, you did lie about the true nature of your relationship to my son when we first met.”

“I…I…” Dale wanted to protest, but the man was right.

“If you were willing to lie about that, I can’t automatically assume you wouldn’t do something like try to sell your story for more money than you have now.” The Senator was still business-like, but he wasn’t frowning as much. “It’d be easier if you had, because it’d be a lot easier to solve if it was you.”

“Does Cole know about this?” Dale asked.

“Yes, and he’s pissed off as all hell that I decided to talk with you directly and forbade him to even be in the house when I talked with you.” Cole’s father said with a shake of his head.

“I’m surprised he obeyed.” Dale said with a laugh.

“He knows when he can get away with something, and when crossing a line would have dire consequences.” Cole’s father said. “He might emphasize the love we have in our family, but he also enjoys his creature comforts. Not being able to drive his flashy little car until he turns eighteen can still motivate him to obey his old man.”

“You can be a cruel man.” Dale said with smothered laughter, imagining the pained look on Cole’s face as he realized his precious car was on the line.

“Dale, one does not make it in the halls of Congress without learning how to use the stick as well as the carrot.” Senator Pritchard laughed.

“I guess not.” Dale said.

“Can you think of anyone who might have had opportunity as well as motive to do this?” The Senator asked.

“Glen.” The name came out of his mouth as soon as the thought formed.

“No, Glen has too many skeletons in his own closet to try something like this.” The Senator said. “How about that boy he’s been seeing? I seem to remember someone saying that boy was interested in you until Glen set his sights on him.”

“Jer would never do something like that.” Dale said immediately, backing up his friend. Jeremy would be the last person to do something as low as selling pictures, or whatever of Cole. Besides, the last time they’d talked he was genuinely happy, and much to Cole’s surprise, the infamous bed-hopper Glen had settled down for the last few weeks.

“Do you have any other ideas?” The older man asked Dale with a hint of hope in his voice.

“Not really.” Dale said with a slight shrug. “I’ll try and think about it, but I can’t imagine anyone who’d want to do that to Cole.”

“Don’t forget I’m the main target in this, or at least my campaign is the target.” Cole’s father said pragmatically.

“I don’t think I grasped the difference before I worked on the congressional campaign.” Dale said politely.

“It’s not something most people ever think about, and egocentric politicians never understand the principle.” Senator Pritchard said with a soft snort of derision at the end of the sentence. “That’s another difference between the Senate and the House. There are far fewer who can’t tell the difference in the Senate, but all of the egos are bigger.”

“Really?” Dale asked with some surprise. He’d never had a conversation quite like this with the Senator, and he realized the man had just changed the topic.

“Yes.” Cole’s father said with a sigh. “I’m still getting use to how the Senate operates, but everything’s more institutionalized, more formal, and much, much slower than the House.”

“Isn’t that what was intended by the founders?” Dale asked. “I mean, they teach in school that the Senate was supposed to be like a speed brake, to take things slower and a longer view than the House.”

“Yes, but I don’t remember learning that until college.” Senator Pritchard said, a small smile forming on his face.

“Um, maybe it came up with Cole in a conversation.” Dale said as he realized the man was right.

“I don’t know about you and my son.” Cole’s father said with a shake of his head as he sipped on his drink. “When I was your age, I had better things to do than talk politics with someone I was dating.”

“Yeah, well, you’re not the son of a congressman.” Dale said with a shrug, and then tried to bite back the laugh that came as the older man started to choke on his drink.

“You’ve got me there!” The man said as he tried to get his breathing back under control, and stop the coughing fit that came from the drink going down the wrong pipe.

“Sorry.” Dale said with slightly false chagrin.

“No you’re not.” The Senator said as he grinned at Dale. “You timed that on purpose. I know a schemer when I see one. Speaking of which, I think that’s part of why you and Cole get along so well. You’re both prone to schemes.”

“I’d protest if it would do any good.” Dale said.

“No, it wouldn’t so save your breath.” Cole’s father said with good humor. “Thanks for coming to talk to me. Now, why don’t you go find your boyfriend and have some fun?”

“Thanks.” Dale said, biting back the more risqué comment that came to his mind. As he left the patio, he felt like he’d been through a rough interrogation, but also felt good about the conversation. He was a lot more comfortable with Cole’s father than he had been even a few weeks ago.

Mrs. Pritchard nodded at him as he passed her in the hallway and he gave her a return nod as well as a smile. She had a drink in her hand, and a look on her face that he could only describe as concerned, but she didn’t stop. He knew her well enough to know the look she wore was for her husband, and to know that when she had that focused expression it was best to not bother her. The Senator must be really worried about those pictures for her to be so focused.

“Hey.” Dale said as he walked into the basement and saw Cole playing pool. His breath almost hitched at the beautiful form of the guy and once again he couldn’t believe that Cole was really his boyfriend now. His old insecurities came back as he fidgeted in the doorway, not quite certain how to proceed. Cole made his shot, and the crack of cue ball hitting the 12 ball into the side pocket almost made Dale jump.

“You okay?” Cole said as he stood upright, leaning on his favorite cue stick. He had a look of concern on his face that was eerily like his mother’s, only it was now focused on Dale.

“I survived the grilling.” Dale answered with a shrug.

“That’s good.” Cole said as some of the concern flickered off of his face. “Are we okay?”

“For my part, yeah.” Dale said with a deep breath as he took a step further into the room. Cole’s cue stick clattered to the floor as he dropped it and came around the table to envelope Dale into a hug.

“I love you.” Cole whispered into his ear, and Dale stiffened. He’d never heard those words before, not from someone who wasn’t family, and not meant like this. They were the last thing he’d expected to hear right now.

“Cole, your father has pictures of us humping each other on the beach, photos someone has sent to the press, who are going to print them.” Dale said with disbelief. “Your response is to tell me you love me?”

“Don’t you love me?” Cole asked as he broke the hug and leaned back to stare into Dale’s face with concern.

“Don’t tell me you’re about to propose to me.” Dale said with disbelief.

“Do you want me to propose?” Cole asked him with a serious look as he held onto Dale’s upper arms with his arms fully outstretched between them.

“I…not right now, no.” Dale said with exasperation. “Where the hell did this come from?”

“You are so damn handsome when you look confused.” Cole said with a fond smile on his handsome face, showing his perfect white teeth. Dale’s teeth looked a hell of a lot better after the recent treatment he’d gone to, but they were nowhere near that perfect. The dentist wanted him to get braces, and he could afford it now, especially with the Foundation’s insurance program, but he hadn’t made a decision yet.

“I…uh…” Dale stammered. “Huh?”

“What are you thinking about?” Cole asked him with an amused tone.

“Dentist.” Dale admitted as his cheeks blushed. “I hate it when you do that.”

“You always think of the funniest things when you’re flustered.” Cole teased him lightly and Dale started to relax. He hadn’t even realized he was standing so stiffly. “I love you.”

“Why now?” Dale asked him.

“So you know where I’m standing on us.” Cole said firmly. “I won’t be ashamed of those pictures, not like I might have been before. I love you and there’s nothing wrong with what we did.”

“We were humping each other.” Dale said, blushing even more. “That picture shows our faces when we came.”

“It sucks someone took pictures and is going to send them to the press, but I’m not ashamed.” Cole repeated. “We were at least wearing board shorts.”

“Yeah, but it was still a public place up at the lake.” Dale insisted.

“On private property.” Cole asserted. “I want to make sure you and I are going to be okay, that you’re not going to run away because of this.”

“It’ll take a hell of a lot more than this to send me running.” Dale assured him. “You don’t have to use those words to keep me around.”

“I’m not using them for that.” Cole assured him. “I want you to know I’m serious about this relationship between us.”

“I am too.” Dale assured him.

“You’re not going to tell me you love me too?” Cole teased him.

“I want to save it for a special time.” Dale teased back.

“Any time we spend together is special.” Cole said.

“God you’re getting sappier every day.” Dale said with a roll of his eyes.

“And you’re getting more jaded every day you spend with that Rule guy.” Cole said with a shake of his head.

“We need to talk about who took those pictures and sent them to the tabloids.” Dale took them back to the important topic and Cole sighed as his arms dropped to his side.

“You know I don’t blame you.” Cole assured him. “It had to be Jeremy. He and Glen were there at the cabin with us.”

“Yes, they both were.” Dale said in a tone Cole should recognize as being dangerous. Sure enough he did by the concerned look on his face.

“That’s why I wanted to make sure you know I love you and don’t blame you.” Cole said quickly before Dale could continue. “I know Jeremy thinks he’s in love with you, and I can understand why he did it out of jealousy.”

“He’s over his crush on me.” Dale said in controlled tones. He didn’t want to let his anger loose at the moment. “I’m worried about Glen.”

“Glen?” Cole’s voice went up almost a full octave. His eyes were wide and Dale had to fight down the feeling of defensiveness that filled him. “Why would Glen even think about doing something like this?”

“Because he’s in love with you.” Dale said with conviction. He didn’t think Cole’s eyes could go wider, but they did, and he ran his hand through his perfect, dark hair.

“You’re joking right? This is a joke.” Cole said with disbelief as he stepped away from Dale, turned around and then began to pace. “There’s no way Glen’s in love with me. We’re friends, that’s it, nothing more.”

“Cole, think about this for a moment.” Dale urged his boyfriend. “What does Glen do every time you get a girlfriend?”

“He was just testing them, out of loyalty to me, not because he was jealous.” Cole said, totally on the defensive. Dale just crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. “He did it to you, too, and you passed.”

“Yes, I passed his little ‘test’, and I’m a guy.” Dale said firmly. “Don’t you think it was kind of convenient that he went and sought out Jeremy right after that? My friend, the guy who you told him had a crush on me? Maybe it wasn’t just one of them, maybe it was both of them, but I think Glen was involved in some way.”

“Are you jealous of Glen?” Cole asked with a frown on his face. “Is that why you’re doing this?”

“What?” Dale asked with shock.

“Dale, I’ve known Glen all my life.” Cole said confidently. “He’s been my best friend long before I ever met you, and he’ll be my friend long after...”

“Long after what, Cole?” Dale interjected harshly and he could see the look of shock come over Cole’s face. There was no holding his temper back anymore. “Long after I’m gone?”

“That’s not what I meant.” Cole said immediately. Dale felt his temper flare even higher, and he was ready to turn around and storm out, but he remembered something Sean Rule had told him recently about his relationship with Brandon. Instead of storming out, or saying what was on the tip of his tongue he took a deep breath.

“What did you mean?” Dale asked after exhaling that deep breath he’d just taken. Cole looked surprised, and worried.

“I thought you were going to storm out of here.” Cole said gently.

“I almost did, but you better explain.” Dale said through a clenched jaw. “I’m still pissed about what I heard.”

“I… this isn’t the first time I’ve had an argument about Glen with someone I’ve dated.” Cole said nervously, running his hand through his hair again. “When it happened, I always broke up with the girl.”

“I’m not a girl.” Dale said tersely.

“No, and I’m in love with you.” Cole said as after taking a deep breath of his own. “Okay, you think it’s Glen.”

“I think it might be Glen.” Dale said. “It could be Jer too, or could be just Jer, or it could be someone else entirely.”

“That’s fair.” Cole said and he gave Dale a very direct look. “I think you’re wrong about Glen being involved.”

“I can deal with that.” Dale said as a slow smile filled his face. “Are you sure about the no sex yet thing? You did say you love me after all.”

“I do, and…oh fuck it.” Cole said as he stepped closer and pulled Dale into a deep kiss that had him shaking when Cole released him. “I love you Dale.”

“I love you too Cole.” Dale whispered before reaching up and pulling Cole’s face closer for another kiss. Maybe they could do a repeat of the beach here in the basement…

Copyright © 2012 dkstories; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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I've already said in a previous chapter review that I love this story. I continue to love it. The one thing I'd point out though, is that I feel like the lake trip was too important to the plot to not have us be a witness to it or at least to the planning of it and then maybe a mention about how it went when they 'get back.' When you suddenly point out that this trip is what the pics are from and they went with Jer/Glen, I went back to see if I missed a chapter where they went. It kinda came out of left field that they had done this and now there were such great repercussions. Hell, I'm wondering if you're going to respond that I did miss the chapter :) I think the reason it also felt strange was the fact that they went with Jer/Glen. Here, they were so sure Glen was up to something b/c he was suddenly dating one guy consistently and he's suddenly changing from a top to bottom for him too. They were wary and then we are to think they went away together. I just picture it being a bit awkward. Hell, the loud sex alone would be a bit awkward for a couple who isn't sleeping together or doing more than heavy petting, ok and grinding too lol.

Looking forward to the rest.

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I feel like I missed a chapter or something. Interesting talk with the senator, I thought he was a bit hypocritical accusing Dale on the basis of his previous misrepresentation of the truth given he's a politician and misrepresents the truth for a living. Too bad they both have such little faith in one another's friends. I do like that Cole has gotten over some of his hang ups.

Thanks again.

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