The Navigator

by Cynus

Chapter 14

The trees were a blur as they sped down the highway, and Silas lost himself in thought. The discussion with Amy about abuse had been interesting, and left him with a lot of questions to sort through. He had never thought of himself as an abuse victim, and he wasn't sure that he could perceive his upbringing in that light. There was pain, sure, but as far as he had understood his parents had done the best they knew how.

Their best just hadn't been good enough, and they had been consumed by a need to live up to the image the Church and the community thrust upon them. That was the only way that he could see it; he was sure that his parents had never tried to hurt him, but they had definitely tried to control him.

"Are you still thinking about your family?" Amy asked, breaking his thought process. He turned toward her and saw that she was watching the road and not him. "I don't mind you being silent, but if we aren't going to talk then I'd prefer to listen to the radio. Is that okay?"

"Unless it's country, sure," Silas replied. "Well, I'm not all that fond of rap either, but I'll put up with it."

"I like listening to the radio station that the college puts on," Amy said with a grin as she turned the dial on her radio. "They play new music from lesser-known artists, and I like discovering new things." Silas nodded and Amy turned the dial up all the way, and Jack's voice immediately came on over the window, singing a song that he had never heard.

"What the fuck?" Silas asked as he reached for the dial and turned it up even louder. Jack's voice was clear, as was Stacey's guitar, Theo's bass, and Brady's drums; the whole sound of the band was as unmistakable as it had always been, but he knew all of their songs, and they hadn't made it big enough to get noticed yet. The song was ending, and by the time that it was over he realized that he hadn't been listening to the words at all.

"What's wron . . ." Amy asked, but Silas cut her off with a sharp whistle through his teeth and a raise of his hand to stall her.

The DJ's voice came over the radio and confirmed Silas' suspicions, "That was Demons of the Crossroads with their single, Navigator . It's brand new, folks, and we'd love to hear what you think."

"Wow . . ." Silas whispered as he turned the dial back down to a lower volume. "That was unexpected. Wickedly cool but totally unexpected."

"Now are you going to tell me what that was all about?" Amy asked.

"I know that band," Silas explained. "They were the ones who dropped me off here in town, actually. I was traveling with them for a few weeks and then I decided to split with them here. I can't believe that they're on the radio now."

"Well, they're on college radio," Amy replied with a chuckle, "That's not quite the same thing. It's easier to get on college radio than it is to get on the normal airwaves. It's a start, certainly, but that doesn't mean they're the next big thing yet."

"Doesn't matter," Silas said. "They were completely unknown last month, and now it seems that things are heading in the right direction. I'm happy for them. Jack, Stacey, Theo, and . . . and Brady."

"Brady? You stumbled over that name a bit. Brady mean something more to you?" Amy asked with a grin.

Silas shrugged and looked out the passenger window. "Not anything I want to talk about. He was a good guy, and those aren't all that common in the world, it seems. Not really good people like Brady anyway. He had a heart like no one I've ever met."

"That's a lot for not wanting to talk about it," Amy said with a chuckle.

"Maybe I want to talk about it more than I thought I did," Silas said with a shrug. "Yeah, I'll admit that I liked Brady. He was definitely someone I wouldn't have minded getting to know better."

"Then why didn't you stay with the band?"

"I think I've already answered that question before, though it was in regard to something else entirely."

"Oh, because you don't like to tie yourself down because you're afraid of getting hurt?"

"That wasn't what I said," Silas grumbled, turning back to Amy and expecting to see her smug grin, but instead he found her eyes filled with nothing but concern for him as she glanced his way briefly.

"I know that isn't what you said, but I think it's what you meant," Amy replied. "I think that the same reason why you don't want to stay with Ian and I is because you're afraid that things will be the same as they were with your family. You loved your family, and still do, and then they did terrible things to you; inexcusable things that forced you to leave. You're still dealing with the pain of losing the people you cared about. You've buried it behind all of this time of being on your own, but it's still there, and every time you're faced with an opportunity to build up a relationship again, you run."

Silas was about to get defensive again when he realized that everything Amy was saying was true. He hesitated and then asked, "How do you know all this?"

"Because you aren't the first Drake I've come across," Amy replied with a supportive smile. "Ian was a lot like you when I met him. He had a lot of pain and confusion about what happened with your parents, and he didn't really know how to get through it all. He never lived on the streets like you did, at least not for any extended length of time, but he did have a hard time forming relationships with anyone. It took me three years to get him to finally come around and ask me to marry him, and even then I had to drop hints the whole time to let him know that I was interested."

"Are you comparing me to Ian again?"

"If you'd stop being so alike then I'd stop comparing you," Amy replied dryly.

Silas harrumphed and turned his attention back to the passenger window, watching the scenery fly by. This was the same drive into town that he had taken with the band, and he remembered some of the scenery and the shapes of the mountain that were near the road, but the last time he had come this way it had been the darkness of early morning, and he hadn't seen the large lake in the distance near the town of Crow's Lake. He had known it was nearby, but he hadn't taken the time to explore out that far. His campsite had been in the opposite direction from the lake, but the small stream that he had used as his water source likely fed into it.

He had explored a great deal over his lifetime, but something had kept him rooted in the town. At any other time in his life, the lake would have been one of the first places that he would have gone to, but instead he had spent his weeks with Chelsea, Tara, Adam, and then Ian, Amy, and Jenny. For the first time since he left home, he had chosen people over solitary exploration, and he didn't have the faintest idea why.

No, it wasn't the first time. There had been the band first, but that had made logical sense. They had been moving, traveling from place to place in search of the gig that would make them famous. Silas had rationalized spending his time with them because he was still covering ground, but he was forced to confront the possibility that there had been a different motivation behind his choice to stay with them. They had also been real, and they had never forced him to tell his story. They had never tried to force family or friendship upon him; instead they had simply offered it and left it there, like the package of boxers that he saw every morning on the coffee table.

"Why did you decide to stay here, Silas?" Amy asked after several minutes. They were still several miles away from Crow's Lake, and it wouldn't be long before they were back at the house. He wasn't sure whether he wanted to respond to the question or not, and considered waiting it out to avoid having to talk about it.

But then he found his mouth moving against his will and he began to open up to Amy. "I don't know for certain, really. Maybe it was the way that Chelsea seemed to need me. Maybe it was the fact that the scenery was calling to me. I spent three weeks with the band and wanted to stretch my legs for a while instead of staying cooped up in that van."

"All of that is possible, I'd suppose, but then why didn't you keep running when you came across Ian? Why did you build a shelter instead of catching a ride out of town?" Amy asked. "I think you've been wanting a chance to find a place to settle down, even though you claim that you don't. I think that seeing Ian triggered something for you that you've been denying this whole time; the fact that there are people who care about you and want to make you happy."

"You really think so, huh?" Silas replied, scratching his head. "I don't know about that. It might have just been the fact that I was tired of running."

"Maybe, but I don't think so," Amy said, but before she could begin speaking again Silas interrupted her.

"Could we talk about this later?" Silas asked with a sigh.

Amy glanced at him for a moment before nodding and saying, "I'm going to hold you to that 'later', but sure."

Silas closed his eyes and leaned back in his seat as Amy reached out and turned the radio back on. Adelaide pressed her head up between the seats and into his elbow, and he reached back to rest his hand on her head as she stuck her head forward even further. Silas continued to scratch her behind the ears as she rested her head up against his side.

He listened to the sound of the car rolling down the highway and not the sound of the music, and then felt the car turn down the exit toward the town. The car took a turn that didn't feel right, and Silas opened his eyes and blinked several times. "Where are we going?" He asked as he looked up and found them on a street he didn't recognize.

"I'm taking you to get a haircut," Amy explained as she pulled up against the curb and parked in front of a barber shop with an old-fashioned red and white barber pole. Silas looked at Amy funny and then back at the shop with old faded lettering on the front window that read: Hatch's Haircuts . "You need one, and don't tell me that you don't," Amy said with a challenge. "Your hair is messy and hasn't seen a lot of care in the past two years."

"Fine," Silas said with a roll of his eyes. "I've been cutting it myself when it got too long, I don't really see why I need anyone else to do it."

"Well, if you're going to work off the clothes I bought for you since you won't accept it as a gift, then you're going to have to look professional. I'd like you to get a haircut."

"I said 'fine' didn't I?" Silas said defensively. "Let's just get it over with. Come on, Adelaide."

Silas got out of the car and opened the door for Adelaide who hopped outside excitedly. Amy climbed out of the car and looked at Silas as she said, "Adelaide can't sit in the chair with you. I'm going to have to take the leash while you're getting your haircut."

"Whatever," Silas said as he looked down at Adelaide, but when he tried to reach out and hand Amy the leash he was frozen in place. He clutched on tightly as Adelaide stared up at him seeming to sense his concern. Amy reached over and put her hand on top of his and he flinched, but then relaxed his grip and let her take the leash. "Take care of her, please."

"I will," Amy said softly. "Now come on, the sooner we get this over with the sooner you can have her back, okay?"

Silas nodded and started toward the door of the barber shop, glancing down to see that Adelaide was following along at his side with Amy right behind him. As long as she was still with him, it was going to be okay. He opened the door and stepped inside, and Amy stepped in immediately after Adelaide. They were greeted by an older man in a white service coat who was busy sweeping the floor of the quiet shop.

"Hello, welcome! What will it be today? Just a standard haircut?" The barber asked as he walked toward them after placing his broom and dust pan against the wall.

"Yep. Silas here wants to look good, and I told him you're the best man in town for the job," Amy said with a grin. "Whatever he wants, give it to him, and I'll take care of it."

"You've got it, Amy," the barber said as he stuck his hand out to Silas. "Name's Hatch. And you're Silas?"

"That's right," Silas said with a nod. "Just don't make it too short, all right?"

"Whatever you want, Silas," Hatch replied with a grin. "Just come over this way and I'll take care of you."

Silas followed Hatch to the chair and sat down, but then glanced nervously up to see where Adelaide was. He didn't know why he felt so vulnerable without her, except that the last time he had given her away for someone else to look after it had led to Chelsea getting pulled away by an out of line cop and Adelaide being passed off to Adam. Even though the situation had resolved without anything happening to Adelaide, he couldn't stand the thought of her being so far away from him.

"You're going to have to look away if I'm going to cut your hair," Hatch said with a bemused expression. "Don't worry, she'll still be there when we're done."

Silas nodded and took a deep breath before turning to face the mirror, but then he glanced back and saw Amy smiling at him, and Adelaide watching him with her mouth hanging open and a content look in her eyes. Amy scratched her behind the ears and she settled down onto the floor, watching Silas intently.

"All right, let's get this over with," Silas said as he looked back to the mirror.

Hatch laughed. "You sound like it's torture!"

"It is, sometimes," Silas replied. And then closed his eyes and tried to focus on his breathing.

"Ian, what are you doing home?" Silas asked as he walked through the door to find Ian sitting on the couch with a glass of water in his hands. He was sweating and red in the face, and he had a tired look in his eyes as he turned to regard Silas with a smile.

"I had some other things to take care of. Wow, did Amy really get all of this stuff? I really have got to put a handle on how much shopping I let her do with my credit card," Ian said as he looked at the bags in Silas' arms. "Did she really rope you into carrying all of her junk?"

"No, she bought these for me . . ." Silas replied as he lifted the bags, "Wait, you didn't know?"

"Of course he knew!" Amy said as she stepped in after Silas. "He's just yanking your chain." Silas looked between them and Ian burst out laughing as he set the glass of water on his table and stood to take several of the bags away from Silas.

"What did you get, huh? Oh, I like these," Ian said as he peered into one of the bags. I like your sense of style, brother."

Silas winced at the use of the word brother, but he mumbled a quick, "Thanks, I suppose."

"Nice haircut, by the way," Ian said with a half-smile. "I bet you want to shower and get rid of all the loose hairs."

"Yeah, that would be nice," Silas admitted. "I suppose I could put on some of the new clothes too."

Ian nodded and said, "After your shower you should come and find me. I've got something to show you."

Silas nodded and set the bags down before digging into them to retrieve a pair of brown jeans and then looked up to see Amy standing with the package of boxers in her hand. He rolled his eyes and took them from her before walking up the stairs toward the bathroom. As he closed the door behind him he sighed in relief. Ian was acting weird, and he was hiding something from him, but he didn't know what. Amy and Ian seemed to be going out of their way to make him feel welcome in their house, even more than they already had, but he didn't know why there had been a change in their behavior.

He turned toward the mirror and found himself staring at the new haircut. It looked good on him, though it was shorter than he was used to. He ran his fingers through his hair and watched the loose hairs fall down on his shirt. He considered brushing these off but then when he looked down at the shirt he realized just how worn it was. There were holes in the seam along the shoulder, and a large one that had been slowly expanding underneath his right arm. In knowing that it was his only shirt he had ignored the tears with the intent to make the shirt last as long as it possibly could, but now that he had other options he could no longer ignore them.

Other options. He had other options other than just survival. His legs became weak and he collapsed against the sink as the realization struck him. Tears began to well up in his eyes and his breathing quickened until he began coughing into the sink. He managed to regain control of his breathing a moment later as he clutched at his shirt and looked up to the reflection in the mirror. He was finally able to meet the desperation in his own eyes, the fear and anxiety he had been bottling up ever since he left home.

He hadn't been able to rest securely since he abandoned his family. He had spent both days and nights looking over his shoulder, waiting for his old life to catch up and try to control him again, and he had considered his only option to be to keep moving. All he could do was focus on survival, but that wasn't the way it was anymore. Now he could rest; now he could take care of himself and find a home.

The truth was liberating, but it was also painful. He knew that to stay, to accept this new chance at life meant taking the time to reconcile himself with his past. That meant facing the fact that his family had never looked for him after he disappeared; that he had been unwanted. He had come close the night in the diner when he had spoken to Ian, but now he knew that Ian cared. Now he knew that Ian and Amy were willing to support him; to give him the love that he desperately needed. He remained blind to it on purpose, not wanting to be open to the pain that he was convinced he'd suffer as soon as he lost it all.

He straightened and looked at his face again, smirking before reaching both hands to his collar as he pulled up on his shirt, throwing it to the side after it cleared his head. Silas studied his chest, seeing the scars he had acquired. He traced one thin line on the side of his ribs, remembering the time that the drunk homeless man had attacked him because Silas was on his turf. It had been a painful lesson, but Silas had been lucky to get away with only one cut. The three smaller scars at his collar bone had all happened at once, when he had sold his mouth to an old creep at a rest stop and the man had pulled a knife on him, threatening to cut him if he didn't sell his ass as well. Silas hadn't struggled at first, but the creep had cut him anyway to show that he was serious, and that was when Silas had kicked him hard to the side of his knee and then stomped on the man's balls once he was down. Adelaide bit down on the man's wrist and had earned her own scar for her trouble, but they had both healed after Silas got a chance to take care of the wounds.

The other scars on his arms were all from the wilderness. Most had been earned by trying to survive without the proper tools and running into problems, but a few had come from the occasional stumble on a rocky trail. He had been lucky enough to have never broken a bone in the process of hiking through unfamiliar territory, but his skin hadn't always been as fortunate. He rarely took the time to look at his scars. He had always considered them trophies for being able to survive, but now he looked at them differently. They were signs of how he had been forced to fend for himself when the world had turned against him, but now he had a chance to avoid acquiring new ones.

He unbuttoned his pants and slid them down to the floor, and then stepped out of them toward the shower stall. He turned the water on and let it heat up as he traced the long scar down his thigh. It was his biggest scar, and one that he had acquired before he left home. He had been running through the woods on a camp out and collided with a low hanging branch that he hadn't seen. He had collapsed to the ground, calling out for help as he bled all over his jeans, and one of the other scouts had found him. Jason had been one of his best friends for years, and they had gone through all of their scouting experiences together, and that night he pulled out his first aid training and stripped Silas out of his pants so that he could bandage the wound. Jason tore from his own shirt to make a temporary bandage for the wound, and he had limped back to camp with his arm wrapped around Jason's shoulder. Even though it had been one of the scariest moments in his life, it had also been one of his most intimate.

Over the course of the next year he developed a crush on Jason that had led to his eventual coming out, and that was when everything had turned upside down for him. Jason sold him out to their leaders and the leaders sold him out to his parents, and he was faced with the decision to leave or have them evict him. He shook his head as he pulled his fingers away from the scar and reached out to the water, feeling that it had reached an appropriate temperature. He stepped back from the tub and slid out of his boxers and then stepped into the tub, pulling the curtain closed behind him.

The water hit him squarely in the chest and he loved the warmth of it against his skin. For a moment he was able to relax and let the water take him back to simpler times. A warm shower had always been his favorite part of coming back from a long camp out, and even though he had been showering at Ian and Amy's house for three weeks it was still the best feeling in the world. He adjusted the shower head and then stepped under it, letting the water flow through his hair and down his back as he reached for the shampoo.

He took his time cleaning his hair, justifying the use of water by thinking he had to be thorough in getting rid of the loose hairs left over from his haircut. In truth he wanted to stay under the water as long as possible, letting it relax his body and in turn relax his mind. By the time he turned the water off and reached for the towel hanging on the wall he was feeling much better. His anxiety had all but disappeared and he was ready to face the next stage of his life. He didn't know where it was going to take him, but he did know that he was ready to let Ian and Amy in. They had been nothing but kind to him, and it was time for him to face that and accept their generosity.

As soon as his skin was dry he stepped in front of the mirror again. The tiredness was still there in his eyes but the desperation was gone. He smiled as he ran his fingers through his hair, and laughed lightly as the smile reached his eyes. He reached down to where he had left the package of boxers and ripped them open, pulling out a light sea green pair and sliding into them. He followed by sliding into this new pair of brown jeans and then buttoned them up, and then reached for his old jeans, cleaning out the pockets and putting his wallet and house key into his new pants. He gathered up the rest of his clothes and then reached for the doorknob.

Amy and Ian were talking just down the hall from the door to Amy's study, and Amy walked toward him when she saw that he was standing with his old clothes in his hands. "I'll take those," she said as she reached out for them and he smiled at her and let them fall into her waiting arms. "Did you get everything out of the pockets?"

"Yeah," Silas replied with a nod. "Um, Amy . . . Thanks, for everything today. It was good to have someone to talk to for once."

"Of course," Amy replied with a grin. "That's what sisters are supposed to do. Your brother is waiting for you in the study. He has your backpack."

"Thanks," Silas said and then waited for her to step past. After she headed down the stairs to the first floor he continued toward Amy's study and realized that Amy had shut the door as she left. He could still see bright light coming from the crack at the bottom of the door, and he knocked hesitantly.

"Who is it?" Ian asked melodically, and Silas was hit with a memory of his childhood. Ian's tone and words matched the way that he had always responded to a knock when he was younger, especially when he was trying to hide something.

Silas smiled and replied, "Your annoying little brother. Let me in."

The door opened a crack and Ian pressed his face into the space. "Are you sure you want to come in, Silas? I heard that you weren't sure you wanted to stay."

Silas crossed his arms over his bare chest and replied, "I want in. Let me in, Ian."

Ian nodded solemnly. "Yes, yes, if you insist, Silas." And then he opened the door wide and Silas gasped at the sight that awaited him. A twin sized bed with a thick red blanket sat against one wall, directly under a small light on the wall and across from the window. A desk with a brand new laptop computer sat in the corner with a desk lamp behind it, and a comfortable computer chair on wheels sitting tucked into the desk. A bookcase sat in another corner near the foot of the bed, and though it wasn't fully stocked, there were a number of books on the shelf and one he recognized as his old scout book, a memento he had kept from his scouting days. Sitting on the floor in front of the bed was his backpack, and it appeared otherwise undisturbed except for the open pocket on the side that had once held the book.

"This, this is . . ." Silas said as he stepped into the room, but his words failed him and he just stared at Ian with wide eyes that were threatening to unleash his tears at any moment.

"This is your room, Silas," Ian said with a wide smile. "Happy birthday, little brother."

"Happy birthday, what . . .?" Silas asked as he turned to Ian with surprise. "It's not . . . Is it?"

"March twenty-fourth, isn't it?" Ian said with a grin. "That's today, little brother. I've missed out on celebrating eight of your birthdays with you, but I'm not going to miss anymore. You're seventeen now. Have you really lost that much track of time?"

"I suppose when you skip one you start to forget that you're supposed to have birthdays," Silas said with a shrug as he surveyed the room and then turned toward Ian. "I don't know what to say, Ian. Thank you . . . I don't know if I deserve this."

"Of course you do," Ian said as he walked up and wrapped his arm around Silas' bare shoulders and pulled him in close. "You deserve a great deal more than all of this."

"You really do, Silas," Amy said from the doorway as she came to his other side. "I think that you're worth this and so much more. We want to you be part of our family. Will you accept this one gift, for your birthday?"

Silas looked between them and then nodded as the tears came and he turned to hug Amy. She held him tight and then released him, and he turned the embrace on Ian who held him for even longer. Silas cried into his brother's shirt for nearly a minute as Ian rubbed his back, but when they parted there wasn't a dry eye in the room. Ian wiped his tears away and then said, "We'll let you get settled. I hope we'll see you at dinner."

"I'll do my best to make it," Silas said with a grin as he wiped his own tears away. "Looks like you still have a few things to move out, though. You left your computer behind, Amy."

"That's actually a gift to a special friend of mine who needs to study for his GED," Amy replied with a chuckle. "It's yours, Silas. Just don't lose yourself in gay porn, all right? You may be seventeen now, but that doesn't make you legal. Still, I know boys and . . ."

"Are you accusing my brother of being a voyeur?" Ian asked as he led Amy to the doorway. "Seriously, my Mormon little brother would never do such a thing!"

"You're serious? The computer is mine?" Silas asked as he stared at them in awe. "Why would you go to all this expense?"

"Because believe it or not, little brother, I love you," Ian replied as tears threatened to stream down his cheeks again.

"And I think I do too," Amy added. "Enjoy your room, Silas. See you soon."

And then Ian and Amy were gone, and Silas was left alone in the new room. The door opened a moment later as Ian let Adelaide in, and she quickly ran over to him and put her paws up on his legs. Silas reached down and scratched her behind the ears and then moved over to the bed and sat down. Adelaide nestled between his legs as he surveyed the room again. It bore little resemblance to the room that he had left behind at his parents' house, but the blanket was his favorite shade of red. Ian had somehow remembered that, or else had guessed very well.

He hadn't given Ian enough credit and he laughed as he realized just how much Ian had invested in the gift. The laugh quickly became a yawn and he leaned back into the bed, noticing how comfortable it was. Adelaide stayed on the floor as Silas swung his legs up onto the bed and lay on the bed, raising himself up on one arm as he reached down with the other to pet Adelaide.

"Well, girl," He said before he was interrupted by another yawn, "It looks like we've finally found a place to call home." Adelaide barked at him and he giggled before laying down on his back and letting his other arm reach out to continue petting her. Within seconds sleep found him as he sank into the covers, finally able to rest.

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