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Dave closed the children's book and placed a gentle kiss on the dark
head that was rested against his chest. He and Dylan had spent a
wonderful Christmas in New York, and now that they were back in
Detroit, everything seemed to be catching up to Dylan. Dave had
barely read three pages of "Goodnight Moon" before Dylan fell asleep.

"Want me to take him?" Lisa asked as she looked up from the crossword
puzzle she was working.

"Nah, I got it," Dave replied, but he didn't yet move to get to his
feet. It felt nice to just sit there and hold Dylan while he slept.
If Dave kept his mind on Dylan, then he didn't have time to think
about Carter. At least that was the lie he kept telling himself.
He'd thought about Carter nearly the entire train ride from Chicago to
Detroit. Then, once he'd picked up Dylan and they were on their way
to New York, Dave still found himself thinking about Carter. It was
worse now, since he was one night away from returning to Chicago and
work. What would Carter do and say when they saw each other again?
Would he tell everyone about Dylan? Would Dave show up at his place
and find the cops there, ready to arrest him for kidnapping Carter?
Was there even a statute of limitations on kidnapping? Probably not,
Dave thought, but he didn't dare ask anyone, because they'd want to
know why he wanted to know and he didn't want to admit to what he'd
done back then.

Dave shook off the current batch of thoughts and he smiled at Lisa.
"Thanks again for letting me crash here tonight," he told her. Lisa
never turned him away from her couch, mostly because she felt that
Dylan deserved to have his father around. Plus, they were friends.
Always had been, and Dave found himself suddenly needing to talk with
Lisa, and telling her what had happened. She knew part of the story,
it had come out once when he was drunk, but she didn't know the whole
story, and she definitely didn't know that John Carter was working
with him in Chicago.

"It's not a problem, Dave, you know that," Lisa smiled at him. "Are
you sure you don't want me to take him to his room?"

"I'm sure." This time Dave made it to his feet. "Um, you don't have
to be to work early tomorrow, do you? Because if you don't, there's
something I'd like to talk with you about."

Lisa shook her head. "I'm not on until noon," she replied. "How
about some hot cocoa? I can get it started while you're putting the
rug rat to bed."

Dave smiled as he nodded. "That'd be great. Thanks." He headed
toward Dylan's room while Lisa headed into the kitchen, and once he'd
tucked Dylan in, placed a goodnight kiss on his cheek and turned out
the light, that's where he found Lisa.

Dave sat down at the kitchen table, not quite sure how to begin. Lisa
stood at the stove, stirring the milk and cocoa mixture, and she
glanced over at him, eyebrows raised questioningly.

"You remember me telling you about my freshman year at Penn?" Dave
finally asked.

Lisa nodded. "Yeah. You said that some creep had blackmailed you and
some other guys into doing...stuff."

Dave snorted and shook his head, but inwardly he was glad that Lisa
phrased it that way. He'd been truthful during that drunken
confession, so she knew he'd been working as a male whore. "Remember
my stupid plan for revenge?"

"I remember you saying that you and some of the other guys had done
something to get back at the creep who was blackmailing you. Can you
grab some mugs for us?" She gestured toward the cabinet where she
kept the mugs and glasses, and Dave got to his feet to retrieve them.

"And we ended up finding out that we'd been lied to when we grabbed
the wrong guy." Dave placed the mugs on the counter near the stove.
"I don't know about the other guys, but what we did to him before we
found out the truth...it haunts me, Lisa."

Lisa gently touched his arm. "I know," she softly said. "It happened
around Christmas time, right? So it's only natural for you to have it
more on your mind at this time of year."

"It's not just that," Dave replied. "It's...he's...he's at County
General, Lisa. The guy we kidnapped and assaulted, he's working
there. We work together nearly every day."

"Oh, Dave," Lisa turned fully toward him, enveloping him in a hug.
"That must be rough on you."

Dave felt comfort from the hug, but it bothered him that Lisa was
dismissing Carter from her thoughts. If it was rough on Dave, then it
had to have been Hell on Carter. "He knows. I'm not sure how he knew
it was me, Lisa, but Carter knows. I found out the night before I
came to pick up Dylan." That was the first time that Dave had ever
mentioned Carter's name to her, although he'd mentioned Steve's name
more than once.

"He...he invited me over to his place and drugged me. For some
reason, he ended up going through my things and he found out about
Dylan and that I was taking Dylan to New York, and he let me go. I
don't know what I'm going back home to find, Lisa. I don't know when
he realized it was me. At first I was glad that he didn't recognize
me, but then I began to worry that he'd blocked it all out somehow. I
guess he didn't. Sometimes, when he thinks he's alone, Carter
is...well, it's like some deep sadness just oozes out of his soul,
Lisa. And I can't help but feel guilty over putting that sadness there."

Lisa turned off the burner and poured the cocoa into the mugs, then
handed one to Dave. "There might be an opening in the emergency room
at my hospital," Lisa said, and then she walked over to the table and
sat down. "I can take Dylan to daycare early, and we can go there
tomorrow morning. I don't mind recommending you for the job, Dave."

Dave came over and sat down across from her, shaking his head.
"Thanks for the offer, but I can't take it, Lisa. I can't run from
this. I've been running for ten years, and now it's time to stand
still and see what happens. I just...I thought he was my friend, you
know?" Dave shrugged and smiled slightly. "I'm gonna miss that."

Oh, yeah, Dave thought, he was definitely going to miss that. Sure,
Carter had a quick wit and sometimes a sharp tongue, but Dave knew
that nothing was said out of spite. Hell, the gleam in Carter's eyes
always gave him away. And now Dave wouldn't be seeing that gleam, or
his smile, or hear the laughter in Carter's tone. Dave had heard
Carter when he was being pissy-acting, and he hated the thought that
the same tone of voice that Carter used then would now be used on him.
He lifted the mug to his lips and blew gently on the hot cocoa before
taking a tentative sip, then became aware that Lisa was watching him
intently. And that's when he remembered that Lisa was a psych resident.

Lisa cocked her head to one side. "You like him, don't you?" she
asked. "And I don't mean just as a friend, either. You really like him?"

"Don't be silly," Dave quickly replied, not wanting her to know that
it was true. Hell, he'd had dreams over this vacation about being
naked in front of an equally naked Carter; only it wasn't anything to
do with revenge. No, in those dreams, they were naked because they
wanted to be, and Carter wasn't hesitating when it came to touching
him. It wasn't that Dave didn't want Lisa to know he was bisexual,
Hell she'd already figured that one out, even before he'd told her
about the work he'd done for Steve. He just felt it was a bit, well,
sick, for him to have the hots for a guy who he'd assaulted, even if
it was years ago. And there was no way possible that Carter would
ever feel anything but hatred for him, Dave was sure about that, so he
wasn't even going to let himself think otherwise. No, naked Carter
would just have to stay in his dreams, no matter how much Dave wanted
him in his waking world.

"Okay," Lisa replied, but the smile on her face told Dave that she
didn't believe his assertions. "You really need to talk to him,
though. I'm sure that it would help if you told him why you did what
you did. It would help both of you, Dave."

Dave shook his head. "He's not gonna want to sit down to talk, Lisa.
And I can't even joke about tying him down to make him listen.
Besides, what difference does it make? What we did was wrong, and we
knew it. We just chose to ignore it at the time, because we felt that
what Car...I mean, Steve, had done, was worse. But in the end, what
we did was even worse than what Steve had done. Yeah, Steve
blackmailed us, but if we'd each had balls, we would have stood up to
him, dared him to send those videos to our folks. But, we didn't.
Instead we caved in to his demands."

"You were kids, Dave," Lisa said, her tone firm. "Eighteen years old,
most of you away from home for the first time. You were all scared
and ashamed. None of you had come to terms with your sexual
orientations. What Steve did to you all was unforgivable. I don't
think you'd find many people out there who wouldn't have responded to
his blackmail."

Dave stared into the cocoa. "Maybe you're right. But none of that
changes the fact that each of us was a willing participant the first
time around. I didn't have to do anything with Steve, but I did. And
he didn't force any of the others that first time, either. Hell, I
was horny and more than happy to make out with Steve. But,
Carter...what we did to him, Lisa, he didn't want or ask for."

"And you didn't want or ask for being a male prostitute, either."
Lisa leaned forward and rested her elbows on the table as she regarded
Dave. "You were all victims, Dave. Yes, you can sit there and split
hairs all night long over who was more of a victim, but in the end, it
sill remains that each of you was victimized. The sooner you start
believing that, the better off you'll be. You need to come to terms
with it all, Dave, or else you'll never be able to help him come to
terms with it."

Dave snorted. "You're assuming that he wants my help with coming to
terms with any of it."

"I'd bet good money that he wonders why you did what you did. You
know why Steve blackmailed all of you, but this guy Carter, he has no
idea why he was abducted and then set free. Does he even know what
Steve was up to?"

Dave shook his head. "No. When we confronted Steve with the tapes,
the things he said made it pretty clear that Carter had been clueless.
He was far from home, and didn't have many friends outside of the
wrestling team, and Steve took advantage of that."

"Steve was quite a user, wasn't he?" Lisa softly asked. "He used his
roommate, and he used those he felt were weaker than himself. And
yet, when you all confronted him, what did he do?"

Dave frowned at Lisa's question. "I already told you that; Steve quit

"That's right. Once he was confronted by all of you and knew he'd
lost his meal ticket, he caved in and ran away. But, you didn't. And
Carter didn't."

"You make it sound as if I was strong, Lisa. I wasn't. Yes, I stayed
out the year, but I never went back to Penn. The only one who stayed
there until he graduated was Carter, and he had to have spent every
single day wondering if the guys seated around him in class were the
same ones who'd practically raped him."

"Yes, he must have. And you spent all that time wondering if he'd
stumble across you and recognize you. That's why you left Penn,
right? Because you were afraid that he'd be able to identify you?
Well, now he has, and you don't have to be afraid of that any longer,
Dave. And now he knows that he was never in a class with you."

"God, Lisa, you make it sound so simple." Dave shook his head. "I
can assure you that Carter is not a simple man. He feels things deeply."

"And you're shallow?" Lisa shook her head, but there was a hint of a
smile on her face. "If you didn't feel things deeply, Dave, then you
wouldn't have tried to destroy yourself afterward. You were strong
enough to pull yourself together before reaching the bottom, and
Carter has been strong enough to get this far. You owe it to yourself
and, most importantly, you owe it to him, to tell him everything.
Even if he never speaks to you again, you owe it to the both of you."

"You're probably right," Dave admitted with a sigh. "But I don't know
how in Hell I'll get him to listen to me."

Lisa reached across the table and took Dave's hand with her own.
"You'll find a way, Dave. I've got the utmost confidence in your
abilities where that's concerned."

Dave smiled back at Lisa, touched by her trust. But inside he found
that he didn't have as much confidence in himself as she did. Still,
he knew that Lisa was right. He had to talk to Carter and explain
things. And if the end result was finding himself arrested, then so
be it. The running was over. Dave felt strangely relieved at that
realization, and while the guilt he'd been carrying for the past ten
years remained, it didn't seem as overpowering right then.

Of course, he wasn't seated across from John Carter, either. And Dave
was pretty sure that Carter wouldn't be as understanding as Lisa
seemed to be. Now, Dave just had to figure out how to get Carter to
listen to him, and he suspected that thinking up a way to accomplish
that was going to be much easier than the actual execution.

To be continued
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