Summary: Chad and his father have a discussion. This is a sequel to The Talk. (Part of the Falling for You series).
Shortly after finishing his homework, Chad went looking for his father. He wasn't in his study or the kitchen, so Chad decided to check the backyard, thinking that his father might be hiding out on his hammock. As he headed out the door, he heard a noise coming from the garage and followed the sound until he found his father in the workshop area at the back.
"Hey, dad," he said as he approached. "What are you doing?"
"I decided that it was high time I fixed this thing," he said, gesturing at the bi-fold door that was lying on his workbench.
"Funny; mom decided that two months ago," Chad quipped. His father shot him a look and then resumed fiddling with the roller hardware.
"So you went to see your friend," he said conversationally. "How's he doing?"
"He's bored out of his skull," Chad said, automatically reaching out to hold the door when it began to shift. "We watched a movie and hung out."
"Did you two talk?"
"A little," Chad said diffidently. His father looked over at him and frowned. Chad sighed and licked his lips. "He kissed me." Mr. Danforth picked up the door and set it aside. He reached for the second door and set it on the workbench. When it became apparent that his son would say no more, he spoke.
"Did you kiss him back?"
"Yeah," Chad said, his voice cracking slightly. His father smiled wryly.
Chad shrugged awkwardly.
"He's a pretty good kisser, I guess. It's not like I have any basis for--."
"Chad, you know that's not what I'm asking."
"Oh." Chad hazarded a glance at his father, whose attention was on the screw he was driving into the door. "What are you asking?" Mr. Danforth set down his screwdriver and looked at his son.
"Did you come out here to talk or to get me into a game of twenty questions?" he asked mildly. Chad averted his eyes.
"Sorry; I guess I--. I don't know what I'm supposed to say."
"What do you want to say?"
Chad looked up.
"You know you don't have to tell me anything you don't want to," Mr. Danforth said. "If you aren't ready to talk--."
"It's not that I don't want to--."
"Well, maybe you're just not ready. That's okay, Chad. Sometimes it takes a little while to sort out your feelings."
"I'm feeling--. I like him."
"We knew that before, didn't we?" Mr. Danforth asked, sitting down on a crate next to his son.
"I mean I really like him. When I kissed him--."
"You kissed him?"
"Well, he kissed me first and I kissed him back," Chad explained, blushing.
"I see. Go on."
"I--." Chad sighed. "It was like a scene in that stupid romance novel mom's reading," he said guiltily. "The first time he--."
"How would you know what's in her 'stupid romance novel,' Chad?" his father asked amusedly. Chad blanched.
"I was bored, all right?" he answered defensively. "You and mom went out to get groceries and left me lying on the couch. I was waiting for the game to start and there was nothing good on TV and I wasn't about to climb the stairs again with these sore ribs... It was just lying there and I picked it up and--." Chad made a face. "Does that mean I'm gay?"
"Reading a romance novel? No, I don't think so," Mr. Danforth said, suppressing a grin.
"But kissing a boy does."
Mr. Danforth sighed and considered his next words carefully.
"Why are you so eager to label yourself?" he asked gently. Chad shrugged.
"I guess I'm just trying to understand what's going on in my head."
"Declaring yourself to be gay or bisexual--or even straight, for that matter--won't clarify anything. It's just an answer to a question. The only way to really figure out who you are is to, well, figure out who you are."
"That's deep, dad."
"But it's true," Mr. Danforth said patiently. "Life is full of questions. Not all of them will be so unsettling, but they'll always be there. Sometimes the answers are simple but most of the time they won't be. Sometimes the answers just raise more questions. Sometimes there are no answers."
"All right, all right, I get it," he said wearily.
"I'm sorry, son, but I can't do this for you. This is something you have to figure out for yourself."
"Yeah," he said glumly. "I just wish I knew."
"So do I, son. So do I." Mr. Danforth wrapped an arm around his son's shoulders. "It'll come to you. Don't rush it. And even when you think you have the answers you'll find out that they don't make things any easier."
"Did Ryan tell you how he felt about you?"
"I didn't ask," Chad replied. After a few seconds he looked up. "He said he's had a crush on me since the sixth grade."
"That long," his father said thoughtfully.
"Not really; I had a crush on your mom for seven years before I asked her out."
"Why'd you wait so long?"
"That's what she wanted to know," Mr. Danforth said with a laugh. "I thought she was the prettiest thing I'd ever seen. Still do," he confided. "But I thought she'd never give me the time of day until I got up the courage to ask her out. Maybe Ryan felt the same way about you."
"He didn't ask me out."
"Do you want him to?"
Chad colored profusely.
"Guys don't--. I don't know." He glanced up at his father. "Do guys date?"
"Why not? How else would a guy find Mr. Right?"
"I never thought about it that way," Chad admitted.
"How have you been thinking about it?"
"I haven't!" he exclaimed. "I mean I--. I just like Ryan." His father elbowed him in the ribs.
"Then maybe you should ask him out."
"You're not telling me to date a guy."
"No, I'm not," his father said, growing serious. "We talked about homophobia and how some people might react if you were to come out as a gay man. So if you and Ryan should decide you want to be together you'd have to think long and hard about what you're doing and you'll have to be careful. But that doesn't mean you should allow fear--yours or anyone else's--to stop you from being who you are or doing what you want. You have the same right to happiness as anyone else on this earth."
Mr. Danforth returned to the workbench and began reassembling the door. Chad rose and helped him.
"How do you think mom would feel about it?" he asked after a few minutes. "Me liking a guy, I mean?"
"You'll just have to find out," Mr. Danforth said cryptically. Chad gazed into his eyes for a moment.
"You haven't told her, have you?"
"No, Chad. Whatever you and I talk about is kept in the strictest confidence. I respect your privacy the same way I expect you to respect mine."
"But you two do talk about me, right?"
"Of course we do; we're your parents."
"Does mom think I'm--you know, different?"
"She's never said anything to that effect, no."
"She doesn't suspect I might be gay?"
"Why should she?"
"I don't know," he said. "I don't want to upset her. I don't want to disappoint her."
"I don't think you should worry about that, Chad."
"Were you listening to what I just said? First and foremost, you have to be true to yourself. Regardless of what your mother and I think, you have to do what's right for you. If that means loving another man, then so be it. If you are true to yourself and stand up for what you believe in, there's no way in hell either of us could be anything less than proud of you. That's the sort of man we've raised you to be. And second of all, there isn't anything you could do--not one solitary thing--that would make me love you any less than I do right now. I'm certain your mother feels exactly the same way."
"She certainly does," Ms. Danforth said from the door. Both Chad and his father turned to look at her.
"How long have you been standing there?" Chad demanded.
"I just got here," she replied calmly. "Why?"
"Nothing," he said, averting his eyes. She frowned suspiciously but didn't challenge him. "Dinner's ready, if you two can tear yourselves away from that door." She headed back to the kitchen as Chad and his father shared a look.
"Do you think she overheard us?" Chad asked. His father shrugged, but he doubted that she'd heard anything more than his last two sentences. "I'm going to wash up," he said, leading the way into the kitchen. He passed his mother and gave her a wary glance on his way to the lavatory. Mr. Danforth washed his hands in the kitchen sink.
"Do I want to know what brought on that fierce declaration of unconditional love?" she asked quietly when she was certain that Chad was out of earshot.
"You might, someday," her husband replied cryptically.
"I might? What does that mean?"
"You'll understand if and when the time comes," Mr. Danforth said as he reached for a towel. He dried his hands and joined her at the table. Chad reappeared a few seconds later and the three members of the little family joined hands around the table to bless their meal. Chad's mother gave his hand a squeeze and looked at him affectionately. He smiled back at her uncertainly and released her hand. But his father held his hand a second longer and affirmed, with a surreptitious nod, that all would be well.