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    Wayne Gray
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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. 

Tales from the Refuge - 4. For the Love of Dane

"Uh, no?" Brandon flexed his hands on the steering wheel and replied to the graying, forty-something guy at the entrance. "No, we don't have problems with gay people."

"Great. I'm Greg. Welcome to Camp Refuge. If either of you needs anything, let me know." He bent and pointed down the paved loop. "Your rental is the one on the end, but you've got your choice of three cabins, really. If for whatever reason number six doesn't work, just poke your heads in another, and let me know you'd like to switch."

"That sounds great. Thanks, Greg." Dana smiled from the passenger seat, her hands folded in her lap.

"You're welcome. We're nearing the off-season, so it'll probably be fairly quiet." He tapped the top of the car. "Enjoy your stay with us."

Brandon kept the window down, letting some of the late September air into the vehicle. He drove slowly past cabins and tent sites, though only a few tents had been pitched, thanks to the cooling, wetter weather.

He stopped at their assigned cabin. Dana opened her door, getting out almost as soon as the car halted. She wordlessly opened the trunk and pulled out her duffel bag.

Brandon put it in park and got out. "Hey." He gently rested a hand on her back. "Didn't you want to check it out first? Maybe we'd like another one more."

She glanced at him. "I'm sure it'll be fine." Dana stopped, then chuckled. "Sorry. I just, ah. I just need this. I need to be here, and I need to be away from everything else in our life.

"Okay." Brandon rubbed between her shoulder blades. "I know you've been stressed, and I want to be here for you. Just talk to me, okay? Tell me how I can help. You're my wife, and I want to."

She tensed under his hand. "I … I will."

Dana stepped away and into the little cabin leaving Brandon's hand hovering in the air. He let it fall to his side.

She said she'd talk to me. I just have to trust her on that. Brandon took a breath and joined Dana in unpacking their car.


"I'm going to go for a walk, hon." Dana forced a smile when Brandon looked up from his efforts to build a campfire. "I won't be long."

Brandon nodded. "Okay. I think we can buy into the dinner tonight - they're serving beef stew and sourdough bread."

"Yeah, that sounds great." She maintained the smile only through huge effort. "I'll be back."

Dana walked to the nearby trail leading to the river. Early evening had fallen, and with the lower sun, coolness began to creep in. Most campers had migrated to the large, central firepit near the kitchen, and Dana found herself alone by the riverside.

She clambered onto a large stone that jutted over the water. Folding her legs under herself, she put her hands in her lap and watched the stream.

You have to tell him. Closing her eyes, Dana breathed to calm her heart. He needs to know, and you have to tell him. She reached up and straightened the ever-present ball cap on her head. Annoyed at some hair that had escaped, she tucked it back under the headgear. The distraction couldn't last. We can't do this anymore, and you know it.


Dana jumped. She'd not heard Brandon coming down the trail, and she laughed in nervousness.

Brandon sat beside her. "Sorry." He smiled, and his eyes searched her face. "I didn't mean to scare you."

"It's okay." She patted his hand.

Closing his fingers over hers, Brandon leaned in. "I don't mean to push you, but please talk to me soon."

Dana rubbed her mouth. "I … I'll try."

"Okay." He squeezed her hand. "Do … do you still love me?"

The tiny, meek voice he'd used broke something in her chest, and she began to cry. "Yes. More than I can ever say."

He pulled her hand into his lap. "Then tell me. Please, tell me. What's going on?"

Dana bit her lip. She looked back at the water, trying to find some point of calm in her mind. "I'm so afraid. I have to tell you something, and I'm so afraid that it will be the end of us."

"What? What is it?" Brandon put an arm around her. "There's nothing you can say that will make me want to end our marriage." He hesitated. "Even … even if you've messed up, let's just talk about it."

Dana got the implication and wiped her face. "No. No, it's not that. I'd never cheat on you."

"Then what? You're my wife, and I will go to war for you if you'll let me."

"That." Dana stared out across the water. "That's what's wrong."

"What?" Brandon gently turned her so they faced one another. "Just say it."

Gazing into his concerned eyes, she nodded. "Okay. I don't want to be your wife, Brandon."

He frowned in confusion. "But, you just said—"

"I know." She interrupted and breathed deeply. "I don't want to be your wife." Straightening, he looked Brandon in the eye. "My name is Dane. And I want to be your husband."


Brandon stared. Say something. She just— He blinked. "I, I uh."

Dane waited. He seemed to know Brandon would need time to process.

"I don't," Brandon ran a hand through his hair. "Wow. I don't know what to say."

"Yeah." Dane chuckled nervously. "I know it's a big deal."

"How long?" Brandon shook his head. "How long have you known?" He motioned toward the campground. "Is that why you wanted to come here, to this gay campground?"

"Yes, that's why. I couldn't lie to myself anymore, starting about nine months ago." Dane smiled sadly. "I tried so hard to be what you needed. To be the woman, the wife." He shook his head. "I just couldn't do it anymore." He focused intensely on Brandon. "I love you. I love you so much, and so deep. I thought, maybe I could do it for you." He swallowed. "But I can't. I can't live a lie anymore." Dane's face relaxed in resignation. "Not even for you."

She's so upset. Brandon flinched at his thoughts. He. He's so upset. "I don't want you to live a lie." His head swam and he stood. "I … Dana," he gritted his teeth. "Dane. I, ah. I need to ah, I need to think." He nodded, trying to function. "I'm glad you told me, I just need to think."

He turned. One step at a time, he walked back to the trail, trying for all the world to understand what had just happened.


Darkness fell over the campground, and still, Brandon sat in front of their cabin in his camp chair. Dane had brought him a bowl of stew and some bread, then entered the cabin to leave him to his thoughts.

He put the cold, half-bowl of food aside, unable to choke any more down.

Listening to the river and the wind, Brandon lay back in the chair. He closed his eyes. What would it be like? He'd already researched what transitioning to a man does to a body. If Dane decided to go the route of hormone treatment, then things would certainly change. What does a beard feel like against the lips and skin? What will people think? Does that mean I'd be gay? He frowned unconsciously, his hands flexing open and closed.

"Unn!" He sat forward and put his face in his hands.


Brandon jerked upright.

A slim, red-haired fellow with a thick, closely-trimmed beard had stopped on the pavement in front of the cabin. "Everything okay?"

No. Everything's not fucking okay. "Yeah. Everything's fine." Brandon told the lie, though his voice lacked the inflection to make even himself believe it.

The man eyed him, then nodded slowly. "Okay." He walked over and extended a hand. "I'm Jeremy."

Brandon rose and shook with him. "Brandon."

"Nice to meet you, Brandon." Jeremy glanced at the cabin. A light burned inside, illuminating the area around the little structure.

"Yeah, same." Brandon rubbed his hands on his thighs.

Jeremy tried a smile on him. "If you'd like to be social, a few of us are over at the kitchen firepit. You don't have to be alone if you don't want to be."

"I'm not alone," Brandon replied quickly. "I, my, ah." He motioned at the cabin behind him. "My—" his eyes widened. Just say it. SAY it. "My ..." His voice wavered.

"Hey." Jeremy stepped close. "Look, it's obvious you're going through something. If you want to do that on your own, then that's okay." He reached and put a hand on Brandon's shoulder. "But you don't have to."

Brandon looked over his shoulder at the cabin, then back to Jeremy. "I don't think talking about it will help."

"Okay," Jeremy said. "If you change your mind, I live in the Airstream. Just come by."

"Oh. You're one of the hosts. Yeah, I will." Brandon forced his spine to straighten. "Thanks for the offer."

"You're welcome." Jeremy waggled his head. "I'm not exactly a host, but I might as well be. I live here with one of them, but I work at the clinic in town as a case manager." He smiled. "Anyway, I'll let you be. Have a better night."

Jeremy turned, and Brandon cleared his throat. "Wait. What does that mean? 'Case manager?' What do you do?"

"I get people hooked up with resources they might need," Jeremy said. "Social services, counseling. I find ways to get things paid for, or find specialists for—"

"Do you know someone who can talk to me about trans stuff?" Tension across Brandon's shoulders imparted the sensation that someone squeezed him.

"Sure. What exactly are we talking about?"

"I'm trying to understand it." Brandon's voice cracked. "I'm trying to know what to expect when my wife …" He closed his eyes. "When, uh, when Dane starts to transition." He laughed, though it rang with hollowness. "If he decides to do that. I don't even know what he'll do. What he's planning."

"Well, it sounds like you guys need to talk more." Jeremy nodded. "But yes, there are resources like that. Though we'll have to wait for Monday before we can do much official."

"Nevermind, then." Brandon shrugged. "We've got to head back on Sunday."

"That's too bad." Jeremy considered. "You know, we've got a regular here who is deep in his Masters of Social Work program. He only has a bit of clinical rotation left to do, and then he's done, but he's already better than most I know. Would you want to talk with him? He's not a counselor, exactly, but he might be able to help you get your mind around this." He gave Brandon a smile. "He might be able to help you both."

That's why Dane is seeing the counselor, I bet. The pieces began to click into place for Brandon. He's been working up to this moment. Brandon nodded. "Sure. That sounds fine."

"All right," Jeremy replied. "I'll talk with Orson, and if he's okay with it, he'll be by, probably sometime tomorrow."

"Yeah, sounds good." Brandon had to remember his manners. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." Jeremy waved. "Have a good night."

Brandon watched him go then turned when the cabin door behind him opened.

Framed by the light, Dane had dressed in a t-shirt and jeans. His bare feet, always so petite and cute, stood out against the wooden floor of the cabin. Can I handle beautiful turning into handsome? Brandon stared.

"Hey, husband." Dane smiled.


Walking over, Dane slid arms around him. Brandon embraced him tightly.

"I'm sorry," Dane whispered. "I know this is hard, and I'm sorry."

Brandon squeezed his eyes shut. "Don't be sorry. It is hard, but I'm trying." He breathed, cradling Dane in his arms. "I'm probably going to talk to someone about things tomorrow. Someone here."

Dane pulled back to look at him. "Here?"

"Yeah. Some social worker who lives here." Brandon pushed a wisp of hair up under Dane's cap. "Will you come with me?"

Dane stared at Brandon, and tears slowly filled his eyes. "You're really going to try."

"Of course I am." Brandon pulled him back in. "I don't know if I can do this; I've never had to wonder before." Brandon held on tight. "But I love you, and I'm going to try."


Sunlight from the dawn crept through the windows, diffusely illuminating the little dwelling. Dane woke in increments, awareness sparking as the room brightened.

He rolled, then smiled at Brandon's sleepy noises and his tired frown.

"Time is it?" Brandon mumbled and pulled Dane back against him.

"I don't know." Dane enjoyed the warmth and the smell of his husband. "Probably sometime close to eight."

"Mmm." Brandon snuggled closer. "I'm going to get up, go see this Orson guy."

"Okay." Dane kissed Brandon's neck. "Did you want me to go with you? I will if you want, but I think, maybe, you should just have someone to talk to."

Brandon rubbed Dane's back as they lay in their embrace. "If you think that's what I should do, then I will."

"I do. I already have that with Linda." Dane sighed deeply. "I've spent a long time with her, processing, and figuring this out." He grimaced. "Sorry. For not including you earlier, and Linda said I would have to, but I just couldn't make myself."

"Not until now." Brandon seemed to understand. "It's okay."

"Is it?" Dane asked. Something tightened in his chest when he asked the question. "Brandon, I'm going to transition. I have to. I'm going to change, and you're like the straightest guy I know." Dane sighed. "Sweet, loving, and great, but straight."

Continuing to softly rub Dane's back, Brandon gazed at him. "Yeah. But I know one thing won't change."

"What's that?"

Brandon smiled and pushed Dane's unruly hair back out of his face. "Your eyes. They were the first things I noticed about you." Brandon ran a gentle thumb over Dane's cheekbone. He leaned until the warmth from his lips made goosebumps rise on Dane's skin. "And if you want, I am willing to see if I can take this journey with you."

Dane nodded once. "Yes."

He'd not felt like having sex for a while. Dane couldn't help that. He'd been living a lie and pretending to be something and someone he wasn't. That takes a toll. Brandon had been so patient with him. Now, wrapped in Brandon's arms, and with the lie replaced by truth, he kissed his husband.

Brandon hardened and Dane rolled him onto his back. He climbed on, while Brandon stared up at him.

"I love you, husband," Dane said.

Brandon sighed as he entered Dane. "I love you … Dane."

Dane's name fell from his lips as if he were trying it on—seeing how it fit.

That'll do for now. Dane leaned down to kiss him. He's trying, and that's better than I had hoped.


An hour and a shower later, Brandon knocked on Cabin #7's door. It opened to reveal a man with dark eyes and wavy jet black hair, save for a slim streak of silver running from just to the side of his widow's peak, back over the top of his skull.

"Hello, Brandon. It's good to meet you" The man smiled and extended a hand. "I'm Orson. Jeremy said to expect you."

Shaking his hand, Brandon replied, "Good to meet you, too." He shifted foot to foot. "Uh, did he say why I ah, why I needed to talk?"

"He did." Orson motioned to usher him inside. "Come in. Let's sit and chat."

Brandon followed him in. Whoa. His leg. The bottom half of Orson's right leg had been replaced by a prosthetic. The limb, though artificial, didn't seem to hinder Orson much, if at all. He moved smoothly through his cabin and sat on one of two chairs set up across from his futon.

"Please, have a seat."

Brandon settled on the comfortable couch.

"Now, before we get started, I want to ask you something," Orson said. Brandon nodded and his host continued. "Would you be okay if I had someone talk to you - someone who has transitioned?"

"This … this is somebody who was a woman and is now a man?"

"Yes. His name is Patrick. He's a wonderful person and a friend of mine."

Shrugging, Brandon replied, "Sure. I have to admit, I'm curious what someone looks like after transitioning."

"That's very natural - to wonder." Orson pulled out his phone. "Okay, he's already around, just in case you were okay with things, so I'll have him come see us."

A short time later, Orson let in a slim, short man. His spiked brown hair, neatly trimmed beard, and expressive eyes conjured the description "cute" instead of what Brandon would call handsome.

"Hi." He lay a dazzling grin on Brandon and shook his hand. "I'm Patrick. Great to meet you."

"I'm Brandon. It's nice to meet you, too. Thanks for coming to talk."

"Yes, thanks, Patrick." Orson patted his shoulder. "You guys sit, and I'll get us something to drink. You both want coffee, or something else?"

"Coffee works," Brandon replied. Patrick agreed with a nod.

"All right, coming up." Orson stepped into his small kitchenette and the pair in the living space settled on their seats.

"Well, while we wait," Patrick began, "do you have any questions for me? Nothing is too personal, and nothing is off the table."

Rubbing his hands over one another, Brandon laughed uncomfortably. "Are you sure?"

"I am."

"Okay. Here goes." Brandon straightened. "Did transitioning change your attraction? Did you go from liking one sex to the other after?"

"No. I've always been attracted to men." Patrick leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. "Something testosterone did do, was it made me, ah. Well, it made me want sex. A lot. So that's something to keep in the back of your mind when your partner starts."

"Huh." A smile flickered on Brandon's lips. "Okay, that doesn't sound bad."

Patrick snickered. "No, not at all."

Brandon's shoulders relaxed. "So, what … how do you think of yourself? Like, are you trans and gay?"

"That's exactly what I am. I'm a trans man who likes men." Patrick shrugged. "Just because I didn't look like a man to most before hormones and surgery, it doesn't mean I was less of a man. I was still a man. I always have been."

Orson joined them, a platter with three steaming mugs of coffee, cream, and sugar in his hands. He carefully put it on the coffee table. "Sorry for the interruption, guys."

"No problem," Brandon said. He reached for a mug and held the warm ceramic in both hands. "And, the men you were with, even before you transitioned, you'd consider them gay?"

Patrick smiled. "In the past, that's a personal definition my partners decided for themselves. But now, this is a line in the sand. For many, part of being recognized as our true gender comes from validation through our relationships." Patrick wrinkled his nose. "I have to admit, if I had a committed partner, it'd be important that he recognize me as a man, in every way. Including how he viewed himself."

Brandon sipped his coffee, considering.

"Does it bother you," Orson began, "that your partner may need you to identify as gay or bisexual?"

Does it? Brandon stared. "I … I don't know."

"It wouldn't be surprising if it did," Orson said. "I'm making an assumption here, that you've only thought of yourself as straight; is that right?"


"Then this isn't just about your partner transitioning; this is about your identity too. Even if you don't take on the gay or bisexual label, you'll be with someone who very likely will." Orson stirred sugar into his coffee. "As the male-presenting partner of a queer man, people are going to assume things. Regardless of how progressive you might be, that's going to be a change in thinking for you, and it will change how many in the world see you."

"I'll tell you," Patrick chuckled. "It was a real shift going from someone who looked like a tomboy out with a guy on a date, to looking like I do now on one." He shrugged. "The guys I date are used to it, but it was new for me."

"Yeah. Wow." Brandon exhaled. He lay back and looked at the ceiling. "You know, when I first walked in here, I thought my problem was wondering if I'd be able to … well, to be with Dane, physically, after he began changing." Brandon closed his eyes. "But, and I hope you don't take this the wrong way, Patrick - after meeting you, I am pretty sure I can."

Patrick smiled. "Thanks. That's a compliment."

"So, what's your biggest worry now?" Orson asked.

"You pretty much said it." Brandon sighed. "I guess I'm just not as evolved as I thought I was." He sat up and nodded. "I have to decide if I can have a husband, and if I can give him what he deserves - a partner who is proud to have him."


Brandon had been fairly quiet over the remainder of their time at the campground. Dane refused to ask any specific questions about the conversation he'd had with Orson, but in truth, he wondered.

They packed their things and loaded the car. Once they'd finished, Brandon drove them around the loop and stopped, the key to the cabin in his hand. That same host, Greg, walked to the door with a smile.

"We hope you and your wife had a great visit." Greg took the key from Brandon and peeked into the car. "Brandon and Dana, right?"

"We did, and I'm Brandon, yes." Brandon reached for Dane's hand. "But this isn't my wife." He turned, his eyes locking with Dane's. "This is my husband, and his name is Dane."

This one is a little different for me, and I do not claim to be an expert on the matter presented within. However, I have the capacity for empathy, and so relied heavily on that to try and imagine how both Brandon and Dane (and Patrick too!) would feel in this situation.

Again, this one is posted under my own editing skills, and @mollyhousemouse's beta reading.

Let me know what you think of it. I've had this one in my head a while, and I needed to write it. These stories are just as valid as any others, and there are very few which deal with the feelings of both partners in this situation. True, I focused more on Brandon, because I understand him more. Still, I hope you liked my depiction of their new journey.

Copyright © 2021 Wayne Gray; 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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