"Where are we headed for dinner?" Silas asked as he climbed into an old, rusted sedan with Adam. Adelaide crawled into the back while Silas took the passenger seat and looked over at Adam with a grin. Adam seemed genuinely happy to see him, but there was a nervousness in his eyes as well that gave Silas pause.
"I was thinking of going to Mom's Diner," Adam said with a shrug, "It's this . . ."
"Anywhere but there," Silas interrupted quickly, "Sorry. I realize I've only been in town for a few days, but I already have history with the manager and I don't really want to go back at the moment."
"Okay, well the only other place in town that I really eat is the Wendy's. Is that all right?" Adam asked with an encouraging smile.
"Yeah. Trust me, I've done much worse," Silas said with a chuckle. "Wendy's is perfect."
Adam nodded and pulled away from the curb, doing a quick U-turn and then taking a right at the intersection. He was silent as he drove and Silas watched him fidget by drumming his hands against the wheel. After a minute of driving in silence he reached down and turned on the radio, filling the car with country music.
"God . . . I'd prefer the awkward silence to this," Silas said with a groan. "You like country?"
"Yeah, doesn't everybody?" Adam said with a smile. "I used to dream about becoming a country musician. I played acoustic guitar when I was younger."
"Can we please change the station?" Silas begged, looking back to Adelaide who seemed to share his opinion. "Something rock oriented?"
"Ugh, I hate rock. Okay, no radio then," Adam said with a laugh as he turned the dial back to the off position. "So, did you find out what happened with your friends?"
"No. Tara refused to tell me anything and I haven't seen Chelsea yet. It looks like I'm going to be left in the dark until I see her again," Silas said with a shrug. "Did you find out anything on your end?"
"Yeah, but . . . I don't want to worry you," Adam said, and his nervousness was back. "You know that the girl is a member of The Church of Light and Truth, right?"
"Yeah," Silas replied as he focused in on Adam's words. "What does that have to do with anything?"
Adam laughed nervously and glanced at Silas before saying, "The church is led by a man named Pastor Simms. At least a quarter of the town goes to his church, and the rest of the town can't be bothered with his nonsense. He's a homophobic prick, and he loves telling everyone all about it. A lot of his followers are decent people still, who really don't do much more than talk, but some of them are downright awful human beings."
Silas nodded and gestured for Adam to keep going. "Well, at least one of those awful human beings turns out to be Officer Higgins," Adam continued, "She was in there when . . ."
"When Tara found out I was gay and blasted that to the entire room?" Silas interrupted. "Are you saying this is my fault?"
"No, actually," Adam said cautiously. "Calm down. We'll talk inside." He pulled into the Wendy's parking lot and turned off the car. He opened the door and then realized that Silas wasn't following and turned back to say, "I assure you that this is not your fault, at least not directly. It's something else, all right? This is why I didn't want to tell you, because I knew you'd start worrying."
"Okay," Silas said as he opened the door and stepped outside. Adam closed his door and leaned over the top of the car as he watched Silas retrieve Adelaide from the back. "I'll calm down and wait for you to explain," Silas said as he wrapped Adelaide's leash around his hand. "Let's get our food, but then I want you to tell me everything."
Adam nodded and led them to the building before holding the door for Silas and Adelaide and following them inside. Silas stepped up to the counter and his stomach growled. The rabbit hadn't been enough food to tide him over for the whole day, and the smell of grilled hamburgers and fried foods tantalized his nostrils. "Order anything you'd like," Adam said as he came to stand beside them. "I can afford to splurge for a special occasion."
Silas nodded but remained reserved despite Adam's offering. He ordered off of the value menu and added some extras for Adelaide before turning to Adam so that he could order his own food. Adam requested two separate combos and an extra-large fry before turning to Silas and saying, "I don't know if I can eat all that. Will you help me?" Silas rolled his eyes and walked away as Adam grinned at him mischievously.
The Wendy's was nearly empty, with only a family of four with two young children sharing the space with them. The drive-thru was much more popular, with a five car line that Silas could barely see through the window. He made his way to the opposite corner of the restaurant from the family, and took a seat in a booth that gave him a clear view of both the road and the drive-thru. He released Adelaide's leash and let her sit calmly beside the booth as Adam slid in across from him.
"So, what happened?" Silas asked, but then the cashier called their order and Adam stood up and shrugged before retrieving the tray full of food. He slid it onto the table and divided the food he had ordered between them.
Silas' stomach growled but before he ate anything he took the bacon off of his burger and put it on the floor in front of Adelaide who ate it quickly. "Seriously, you're leaving me hanging in suspense here," he said as he looked back up to Adam who had just taken a bite of his burger. "This isn't fair to me. You have to tell me." He took a bite of his sandwich as he waited for Adam to start speaking.
"Okay," Adam said as he swallowed. "I guess I might as well get to the point." Silas nodded and took a drink of his water as Adam continued, "So, Officer Higgins caught your two friends kissing." Silas sprayed Adam with the water as he started choking. He leaned over and hacked into his fist, trying his hardest to recover as Adam wiped his face and then reached out to lay a hand on Silas' shoulder. "Hey, are you all right?" He asked as Silas raised a hand and started to breathe.
"Y-yeah," Silas stammered, looking up to meet Adam's eyes. "That was just the last thing I expected to come out of your mouth. Are you sure that's what happened? Chelsea and Tara were kissing? That doesn't make any sense!"
"That's what my patrons said," Adam said, raising his hands defensively. "Or at least that's what Officer Higgins accused them of doing."
"No kidding," Silas said, shaking his head. "I would have never believed that of Chelsea. She's too churchy."
"There's more to it as well," Adam went on. "Someone said they were certain that Chelsea is Pastor Simms' daughter."
Silas stared at Adam for a moment before he shook his head solemnly, "Then she's in for an awful day. Christians never seem to be on the right side of the gay issue."
"My mom goes to church," Adam offered, "And she's always supported me being gay. I haven't told a lot of people in this town, but she knew before we moved here. I still need to know how you figured me out. That's a trick I'd like to have so that I could finally find a boyfriend."
Silas grinned and said, "It's all a matter of who you check out. I could tell that you wanted me at first, and I went after it. You brushing up against me like you did was very telling, too."
Adam blushed and returned his focus to the sandwich in his hands. There was an awkward silence between them that they both ignored as they ate. Silas kept himself busy by feeding an occasional tidbit to Adelaide, but otherwise he kept his focus on Adam, watching him as he ate. He had the distinct impression that Adam was still uncomfortable with his sexuality, or at least with talking about it, and he wondered why that was.
But he also knew that it wasn't his place to ask Adam about it. That was something personal that Adam had to choose to address on his own, and so Silas chose to ask a different question. "How old are you anyway? We can't be that far apart in age. You still look pretty young."
"I'm twenty-two," Adam said, "But yeah, I've always had a bit of a baby face. It helps that I've never really had thick facial hair." He shrugged and added, "I guess my immaturity helps too."
Silas balked at the strange comment and said, "Immaturity? You've been nothing but professional with me, well, except for that grind against me I guess." He grinned to show that he meant no offense when Adam shot him a dirty look. "I'm just sayin', you're talking down about yourself for no reason. And earlier you were talking about feeling guilty for not helping me. Why are you so hard on yourself?"
Adam stared at him and shook his head. "I don't know. I guess I've got some shit in my past that I'm still dealing with." He smiled sadly and added, "I think we all do. Why are you running from home?"
"Who said I'm running from anything? How do you know I wasn't kicked out?" Silas asked defensively.
"Well, maybe it was both, but you're definitely running from something," Adam said with an understanding smile. "I know what it looks like to run, and you can't tell me that you aren't trying to escape something."
Silas opened his mouth to respond when the cashier spoke into the microphone by her register. "Severe snowstorm warning. Repeat, Severe snowstorm warning."
Silas looked to Adam for an explanation and Adam shrugged and said, "We try to look out for each other in this community, at least to some degree. When someone hears about a storm coming we tell each other about it so that we can all prepare. The weather can get kind of wild up here in the Rockies."
"I better get back to where I'm staying then," Silas said with a sigh. "Thanks for dinner, but if there's going to be snow then I need to make sure I'm ready for it."
"Are you sure you won't reconsider staying at my house for the night?" Adam asked with concern, "I'd hate the thought of you staying outside in a potential blizzard."
"I'll be all right, really," Silas replied with a grin, "but if you can drop be off closer to where I'm staying that would be great."
Adam nodded and sighed, "If you're going to be that stubborn, at least let me give you the blanket out of my car. That way I won't feel guilty, all right?"
Silas laughed and raised his hands helplessly. "If you insist, Adam. I'll take a little extra warmth." His smile faltered as he saw the look in Adam's eyes. Adam was genuinely concerned for him, and his eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas morning when Silas accepted his help. It almost made him take Adam's offer of staying at his place.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Thanks again for the blanket," Silas said as he stepped out of the car and opened the door for Adelaide. The snow was already falling thick around him, and the dark clouds were obscuring the fading sunlight as it neared the horizon. It was a lot darker than he wanted it to be, and the woods were going to be difficult to traverse if he didn't move quickly.
"Don't mention it," Adam replied warmly. "And, Drake, if you need anything then don't hesitate to stop by. I mean it. I'll be happy to help."
Silas waved and Adam pulled away from the curb, driving off into the snow. He was at the base of the hill that would lead him up to the dirt road at the base of the trail that led to his campsite. He started up the hill with the blanket bundled up under his arm, and he released his grip on Adelaide's leash and let her run along beside him.
As he passed by Chelsea's house he paused to see if there was anything going on inside. He could make out the lights from every corner of the house through the thickly falling snow, and could also hear muffled shouting. He took an involuntary step toward the gate that led up to the house, but stopped as he realized there wasn't anything he could do to help Chelsea. As long as she was inside of her house the only thing he could do for her would be to hope that she made it out all right.
He sighed and turned back to the hill, resuming his climb toward the dirt road and his shelter. There were already several inches on the ground, and if the storm picked up at all he'd be under a foot of snow by the time he reached his campsite. The wind wasn't helping either, and his face stung with the snow that was blasting into his face.
It took longer than he wanted to reach the top of the hill, and took longer still for him to see through the blinding sheets of white to find the marker that indicated the trail he needed to take. That was when Adelaide started barking and running away from him, and Silas chased after her, expecting her to lead him to the trail. He rushed to catch up with her, and she outdistanced him again, running down the trail. She stopped just inside of his field of vision and kept barking until he almost reached her.
"Addy, slow down!" Silas called, "I can't move as quickly through this as you can!"
Despite his order, Adelaide only seemed to become more agitated, and continued to lead him at her heightened pace, glancing back toward him expectantly. She continued in that pattern for fifteen minutes until she finally let Silas catch up to her, but when he started down the trail again Adelaide started off to the side and into the trees. "Where are you going?" Silas asked, "Camp is that way!"
Adelaide continued into the woods, looking over her shoulder and barking at him. Silas growled in frustration and followed after her. He had only taken a few steps when he heard a soft groan coming from within the trees and he quickened his pace. He stepped around a tree and gasped as he saw who was waiting on the other side. Chelsea was leaning up against the tree wearing unsuitable clothing for the storm. She was shivering in her light jacket, and was cradling her arm tenderly. "Chelsea! What the hell are you doing out here?" He started tucking the extra blanket that Adam had given him around her form but then pulled back when she shifted and cried out in pain.
"Drake?" Chelsea asked as she opened her eyes and looked up at him, squinting into the fading light. "Drake, I was hoping to catch up to you before the storm got too thick, but . . ."
"Shush, don't speak anymore, conserve your strength," Silas said gently. "Let's get you home."
"No!" Chelsea said forcefully. "No, I can't go back there! My father did this to me," she said as she lifted her arm to show him. Silas couldn't see exactly what condition her arm was in, but from the way she was holding it he assumed it was broken. "Don't take me back there. Let me stay with you tonight."
Silas looked at her and nodded. "Can you stand?" He asked and reached out for her uninjured arm. Chelsea placed her hand in his and let him pull her to her feet. The blanket fell to the ground and Silas stooped to pick it up so that he could wrap it around her shoulders again. "Keep this tight around you. You've got to keep warm if we're going to make it."
Chelsea nodded and pulled the blanket close and followed Silas back to the trail. "Which way do we need to go, Drake? I got lost in the storm."
Silas turned toward his campsite and started walking, but as soon as he took his first step he knew that something was wrong. He had already been trying to work out how he would survive the night in his shelter by himself, and an injured person to take care of only complicated the matter further. There was no way he'd be able to help Chelsea and keep himself out of trouble; not if he wanted to do what was best for both of them, anyway.
He turned back toward the dirt road and started walking, knowing what he had to do. He couldn't run anymore, at least not when he was responsible for someone else. It was time to ask for help from someone he knew he could rely on. "It's this way," he said as he turned back to make sure Chelsea was following him. "I'll take care of you tonight. I promise."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Ian stood from the table and looked at him, his eyes filled with uncertainty. Jenny was sitting with Ian and turned to regard Silas, smiling warmly. There was a third woman who looked like a younger version of Jenny, though her hair was a darker shade of brown and framed her face as she looked at Silas with curiosity.
“Oh my, what happened to you, Chelsea?” Jenny exclaimed as she looked down from Silas’ face to Chelsea’s as she clung close to Silas’ side. She was still shivering, and her face was red from the cold. Jenny was the first to move forward and take Chelsea in her arms, pulling her gently from Silas’ grasp and guiding her to the table.
“Amy, go get her the first aid kit,” Jenny said, and the younger version of her got up quickly and walked toward the back. “I’ll get you a cup of hot chocolate, dear,” Jenny said and then followed her daughter into the kitchen.
Neither Silas nor Ian had looked away from each other’s eyes until Jenny was gone, and then Silas glanced down at Chelsea and then back up to Ian before turning around and laying his hand on the door handle. He could feel the eyes of the other patrons on him, and they seemed to be anchoring him to the spot; at least that’s what he told himself when Ian spoke again.
“Silas, please don’t leave.”
Silas didn’t trust himself to turn around, but his legs weren’t moving either. He looked down at Adelaide, who was staring at him with her bright eyes. Those eyes brought him back to his center, and he took a deep, calming breath. And then he turned around and stared at Ian again, though he kept his hand on the door handle.
“Please,” Ian pleaded, pulling out a chair from the table. “Please, stay. At least for a moment?”
“I don’t owe you anything,” Silas replied, glancing at the chair.
“I never said that you did,” Ian said. “I’m just asking.”
Silas hesitated and then nodded slowly, but his hand remained where it was and his feet stayed rooted to the floor. “And you’ll let me leave afterward if I want to?”
Ian blinked and looked at Amy who was coming back into the dining room with a first aid kit in her hands and paused briefly when she saw the state of the conversation. Ian turned back to him and said with a sigh, “If that’s what you want, then yes.”
“Excuse me,” Amy said as she stepped between them and set the first aid kit on the table in front of Chelsea before she started looking at Chelsea's arm.
Silas sighed and looked down at Adelaide. “I guess we’re staying, girl,” he said with a grimace. He let go of the door handle and stepped further into the restaurant just as Jenny was returning with a cup of hot chocolate. She looked at him and smiled as he walked toward the table, arriving at the same time that she did.
He glanced at the few patrons in the restaurant. There was only an elderly couple, who had paid no notice to what was going on, and a lonely trucker reading a newspaper who glanced up when he felt Silas’ eyes on him. Silas quickly looked away and continued his way to the table, watching Ian cautiously until he stood next to one of the empty chairs.
"Thank you for staying, Silas," Ian said as he gestured to the seat. "Please, won't you sit down?"
Silas took the chair and sat, keeping his eye on Ian as he pulled Adelaide close to him. She was watching Ian just as cautiously as he was. Jenny returned from the kitchen with two cups of hot chocolate and placed one in front of Chelsea and the other in front of Silas.
"Thank you, but I'm going to have a long night," Silas said as he glanced up to Jenny, "Do you happen to have any coffee? I'm going to need the caffeine."
"Of course, honey," Jenny said with a smile. "Drink the hot chocolate while I get you a cup. You've gotta warm up first." Silas nodded and took a sip from the cocoa, smiling despite the situation as the sweet and creamy chocolate slid down his throat. He set the cup down and turned back to Ian who was doing nothing but watching him.
"Ian, her arm is broken," Amy said, drawing Silas' attention. "I'm going to have to splint it, but we need to call someone."
"Don't call the cops," Silas interjected, "They're on the side of the person who did this to her."
"Who broke her arm?" Ian asked as he pulled his cell phone from his pocket and set it on the table.
"Her father did, a man named Pastor Simms," Silas replied as Chelsea stared numbly at the cocoa in front of her. "She ran away from home after that and came to find me. I knew that we'd have a hard time surviving the storm together so I brought her here."
"I need to call Child Protective Services then," Ian said as he picked his phone back up. "Hey, mom?" He asked as he looked at Jenny who was walking back into the room. "Have you kept up with your foster parent license? Looks like Chelsea's going to need a place to stay tonight."
Jenny nodded and set a cup of coffee in front of Silas with cream and sugar on the side. Silas picked up the cup and took a sip of it black and then turned back to Ian. "It would mean a lot to me if you can make sure she's going to be all right. There's not a lot that I can do."
"This is the right place for her right now," Jenny said as she stood behind her chair and held her hand out for the phone. "Ian, honey, let me call them. They already know me. I can make sure that they take Chelsea's case seriously. Not to mention that I have a friend in the police department." Ian nodded and handed her the phone and she walked off toward the back as she dialed the number and put it up to her ear. "Ian, would you check on the tables really fast while I'm back here?"
"Yes, mom," Ian said, grinning as he looked from Jenny to Amy where his smile faltered. "Is she going to be all right for now, or do we need to get paramedics here?" Amy shook her head and Ian said, "I'm going to go check on the tables really fast and then I'll be right back. Silas, please don't go anywhere."
"No promises," Silas said as he took another sip of his coffee. Ian turned toward him and hesitated, but when he saw Silas smile he turned around and headed toward the elderly couple's table. "Is she really going to be all right?" Silas asked as he turned to Amy.
"Should be, at least physically," Amy said with a forced smile. "Chelsea, could you drink your cocoa for me? That blanket is warm I'm sure, but you need to warm up from the other side too."
Chelsea nodded and reached for the cocoa with her free hand and took it in her hands but didn't drink from it. Instead she turned toward Silas and said, "Thank you, Drake, for saving me. I know you didn't want to come here."
"Don't mention it," Silas replied with a forced smile. "It could be worse; you could still be stuck up against that tree. Thank Adelaide, she's the one that rescued you. Why didn't you call Tara?"
"My dad took my phone and threw it against the wall," Chelsea explained as she took a sip of her cocoa. "I didn't know what else to do. She lives across town now, and I thought you'd be closer, and I thought . . ." Silas placed a hand on her shoulder and she stopped speaking.
"It's okay, Chelsea. We'll get this taken care of," he said gently. "You're going to be all right. We should call Tara and get her down here. Do you have her number memorized?"
"Let's hold off on bringing anyone else into this for now," Amy suggested, "At least until we've spoken to CPS to find out how they want us to handle this."
Jenny returned and set the phone down on the table, "They're sending someone over as soon as they can, but the storm is going to make it difficult for anyone to get here quickly. They've also contacted the police."
"I thought I told you that was a bad idea," Silas growled.
"It's what they have to do, Silas," Jenny replied with a shrug, "What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to at least make sure that Officer Higgins isn't the one that they send to investigate. She's part of this mess, and she'll probably protect the pastor," Silas said glancing at Chelsea, "We can't let her sweep this under the rug."
"Okay, I'll do that. You should have told me that right away," Jenny scolded, "I would have told them that in the first place. Can I ask why all of this happened?"
"From my understanding they did this to her because she kissed a girl," Silas replied. Chelsea looked up at him and met his eyes as hers widened in surprise. "That's true, isn't it?" Silas asked, and she nodded in response and then looked back at her cocoa.
"And here I thought the two of you were a couple," Jenny said thoughtfully. "Don't worry, I know just what to do now. And Chelsea," she paused until Chelsea looked up at her, "none of this is your fault. You need to know that, because it's true. Don't start believing that this is anything other than your father's doing, okay?"
Chelsea didn't look convinced, but Jenny turned away with a sigh and put the phone back up to her ear again. Ian returned as she left and took his seat at the table again. "The tables are fine. The Phelps asked for their check and Barry's content to read the paper for now. He said he doesn't have to be back on the road for another half an hour and he intends to enjoy it."
Amy smiled at him and said, "Well, at least someone is having a good night."
"And what about you? Where are you going to go tonight?" Ian asked as he turned toward Silas. "You can't tell me that you intend to stay outside in this?" He gestured toward the blizzard outside and shook his head in bewilderment. "At first I thought you might have come through town with Mom and Dad, but you showing up like this kind of breaks that thought."
"You don't know what happened?" Silas asked. "You haven't had contact with Emma or anyone?"
"The last time I talked to Emma was three years ago," Ian said with a shrug. "She told me that she couldn't keep hiding from Mom and Dad anymore and that she had to break contact with me. What exactly was I supposed to do? I couldn't force her to speak to me."
Silas growled and pounded the table with his fist, causing Chelsea to jump. "Sorry," he said as he turned to her. She nodded and he returned his focus to Ian. "What the fuck is up with those assholes? I'm so glad they aren't in my life anymore," Silas muttered.
"Well, I see that we have at least one thing in common now," Ian said with a chuckle, and Silas shot him a confused look. Ian shrugged and explained, "I'm sure from the fact that you just dropped the F-bomb and that you requested coffee that you aren't exactly Mormon anymore."
"No. Definitely not," Silas said with a weak smile. "It's part of why I left."
"And why did you leave?" Ian asked, "Last time I spoke to Emma she said that you were heavily into scouting. Don't scouting and the church kind of go hand in hand?"
"Yeah, but neither goes too well with being gay," Silas said bitterly. Ian's eyes widened and Silas rose to his feet. "I think I've overstayed my welcome. This conversation has been fun and all, but I really have to get back to camp and . . ."
"Silas, sit your ass back down and tell me what our shitty parents did to you," Ian demanded. Silas was startled enough that he listened to Ian without hesitation and sat back down. "I can't believe they fucking kicked you out too! Especially for something so trivial that you can't even change."
"They didn't exactly," Silas replied, "They confronted me about it and I lied to them, but then I ran away that night and left them a note that explained everything. They never looked for me, so I assumed that was as good as them kicking me out."
"I can't blame you, honestly," Ian growled, "They never could tolerate a difference in opinion."
"Amen," Silas said as he took a long draw on his coffee, which only enhanced the bitter taste in his mouth. "So, you don't care that I'm gay?"
"Do you even have to ask?" Ian replied incredulously, "Do you realize that the argument I had with our parents that led to me getting kicked out was because I supported marriage equality?"
"No . . ." Silas replied in wonder, "I never knew that. But yes, I did have to ask."
"Why? Why do you keep running away from me?" Ian asked quietly. His eyes welled up with tears as he continued, "Silas, why can't you stay?"
Silas stared at Ian for several seconds and felt as if nothing existed except his older brother's eyes. When he spoke, his voice cracked with emotion but he spoke slowly to make sure every word was heard clearly. "I had to be certain you wanted to find me. I had to know that I was wanted . . ."
"Silas," Ian said as he stood and knelt on the floor next to him, wrapping his arms around Silas and hugging him tightly, "Silas, I never wanted to leave you, and I've wanted you back in my life every single day since they kicked me out. They never let me see you, they changed the number so that I couldn't call, and you never showed up on social media or . . . Silas. Please. Please stop running."
Author's Note: What's next now that Silas and Ian are talking? And what will happen to Chelsea?
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