Street of Dreams
by Lasha Lee

"Gerry? What are you doing way out here?"

The older man jumped slightly and turned around. "Sorry, I didn't hear you come up."

Gage entered the stable, and the setting sun lit his hair from behind, making him seem almost ethereal. It was back to white again, Gerry noted with some relief. The mixture of colors had made him slightly dizzy.

"Why do you have a stable?" Gerry asked, curious. "I've been meaning to ask ever since I got here."

Gage laughed, and it echoed in the empty building. "I don't have time for it now, but when I'm out of school I want horses. Shan's never ridden a real one, but I showed him how in the VR. He wants one too."

"You were a natural." Gerry remembered. "You were three when we put you on your first pony. I thought you'd be terrified, but you just laughed the entire time."

"Goldilocks." Gage sat down on the ground, laughing now at the memory. "I remember her. You taught me how to ride her. When she died, I kept asking for another horse, but you never bought me one. You made me ride the ones at the riding school."

"We never thought you were responsible enough for your own horse. Then when the riding school kicked you out...? well, we thought it was best not to bring it up again."

"That's why I want one now. I haven't ridden a real horse since I was twelve. VR just doesn't count."

"Gage...?" Gerry sat down on the floor next to him, trying to gather his thoughts. "That wasn't the only reason. You were so reckless; we were afraid you'd take too high of a jump or go to fast, and that would be the end of you. We weren't trying to be mean; we were just trying to keep you alive."

"I know." "Gerry...? I know how much trouble I was for you and Mom. Believe me, I've heard it enough. I've told it to myself enough." The young man leaned back on his hands. "You did what you could do. Stuff that happened that you don't know about...? but it wasn't your fault. It's in the past."

"I love you. I can't make you believe that, but it's the truth. I miss you." Gerry admitted. "And I'm so proud of you."

To his surprise, Gage blinked quickly, but did not meet his gaze.

"Anyway, I should get back to your Mom now." Gerry stood up and patted him on the shoulder. "But when you decide on getting a horse, let me know. I can make sure you and Shan get a couple of really good ones."

"Thanks. I'd appreciate that." Gage tapped his fingers on the floor, and then suddenly gave his foster father a true smile. "See you at the party, okay?"

"Yeah. See you there."

She was an amazing woman, Gerry thought, watching his wife dress for the party. No matter what the situation, she always fit the theme perfectly. Tonight she was dressed simply; soft black slacks and a white silk blouse that shimmered around her. To his eyes she was ageless; she could be 90 and still look as young and vibrant to him as he had the day they'd met.

His parents had been well into their 40's when Gerry had come along; he'd been their only child and a completely unexpected one. Because of this, both his mother and father had doted on him fiercely.

This only increased when he'd become deathly ill at the age of five. He barely remembered those dark, terrible months. The hospitals, the constant pain, crying for his mother and father in the moments they couldn't be with him. It was the stuff that still affected his nightmares.

But his parents had the money to fight his illness, and in time the boy had recovered. However the illness had taken its toll; besides being sterile (which he would not learn about until much later in life), it had also left him much smaller and weaker than other boys his age. He wanted to play with them, but he simply couldn't keep up and was left behind each time. The other children weren't cruel to him; no one really teased him, he recalled. He'd just never been very welcome.

So he'd focused on his brain instead of his brawn, trying to develop that the best he could.

He wasn't a gifted student; he was thoughtful and practical and was the first to admit that he didn't have much in the way of imagination. But he kept his grades high, and he was well respected by his teachers. When he'd expressed an interest in politics, his parents had encouraged it cautiously. His father had told him, not unkindly, that he lacked the charisma to ever be a great leader. "Some are meant for the limelight, Gerry. But for every man in the spotlight, there are two behind him unseen, that make sure he doesn't mess it up. They're every bit as important, and there's no shame in being part of the background.

The first problem with that was that Gerry, while not exactly outspoken, was a man who believed firmly in being honest. If someone asked him what he thought of their clothing, they were going to find out what he really thought. His mother had chided him for being tactless, but Gerry couldn't change that any more than he could change the color of his eyes.

The second problem with his father's advice was that Gerry had married a woman who refused to let him lurk in the shadows for long.

He'd been hired as her adviser, one of many. By then his parents had been gone for several years, and his life had taken on a surreal quality. Each day he went to work and wrote up pages of notes that would be passed along to the front end. Each night he returned home to a huge, empty mansion that still smelled of his mother's perfume and his father's cigar smoke.

He wasn't happy, but he was content. He knew that he was lonely; and he even tried to remedy that with a date here and there, but there was never anyone he brought into his home. Sometimes he could tell they were after his money; they didn't even try to hide it. Sometimes they were interested in him because they assumed he was more important in the Darlian offices than he truly was. Sometimes he could see something in their eyes that matched his; a desperate neediness. He fled those women the fastest.

He'd been working in his office one afternoon, his mind half on his report and half somewhere above the clouds, when the door had opened, and the Lady of the Lake herself had walked into his domain for the first time.

"Ms. Darlian." He got to his feet. "An honor. What can I do for you?"

She was shorter in person than he'd expected; the dark blue business suit she was wearing should have enhanced her, but she looked puny within it. She also looked much younger than he'd considered, in spite of the early age she'd taken on these responsibilities. She looked like a child.

"Mr. Drummond, I'm speaking before the assembly tonight." She began. "You were given a copy of my speech to review this morning, and you submitted your comments."

"Yes, ma'am." Gerry tried to stand proudly. He'd half expected this. He was going to miss this office.

"Everyone else thought it was wonderful. You didn't exactly call it crap, but you came very close." She laughed.

"I was hired to give you advice, Ms. Darlian." Gerry resisted the urge to shrug. "My advice is to fire your speech writer. If you actually go up there and say those things, no one will take you seriously. It's idiotic."

"Thank you. That was my thoughts on it as well, but it means a lot to me that someone here actually had the courage to say it. I appreciate it."

"So you're not going to fire me?"

"Fire you? I want to promote you. I need you! Please, rescue me from well-meaning idiots."

And it began.

He'd hoped to develop a friendship with her, but it had gone beyond that. When she traveled, Gerry joked that he was the very first thing she packed. She trusted him completely; seeking his advice not simply on matters of politics, but eventually in personal matters as well. In hotel rooms around the world, while everyone else slept, they stayed awake for hours talking and playing games, and eating far too much room service.

It built slowly, their relationship. He couldn't say exactly when it had become clear to him that they were going to be together. It was just that as time passed, their lives become more and more interwoven until the idea of being apart was more than either of them could take. There was no whirlwind of romance, but in the end what they'd built together had been enough to last a lifetime.

She turned around now and smiled at him, sitting down on the bed at his side and clipping in a tiny emerald earring. "You look a thousand miles away."

"No...? I'm right here. I promise." He took her hand and kissed it. "Right where I belong."

"Did something happen? You seem calmer...?" She studied him carefully.

"Gage and I had a talk, that's all. Relena, I'm trying not to push, but I want a relationship with him again. I never thought I had a chance, but I was wrong. He doesn't hate me."

"Of course he doesn't hate you. I told you that; he never hated you!"

"It felt like he did. He just cut me off so completely...? but it's going to be better. I feel like I'm getting my son back. Not that I don't want Milliardo to recover...?" He added quickly, but Relena raised her hand. "I know what you mean, Sweetheart. It's okay; Milliardo will understand. He's tried and tried to get Gage to go see you; he feels guilty about everything that happened. Like he gave you a son and then yanked him away. Our boy has a heart big enough to love all of us, you'll see." She leaned on his shoulder, and his arms closed around her.

"He mentioned Chester."

She stiffened.

"Not by name...? he more like hinted at it. I knew what he was talking about."

"Chester is dead. He needs to stay dead. Gage is happy now here; he's managed to rebuild his life. He doesn't need to be thinking about what Chester did to him." She whispered fiercely.

"Relena, he was eleven. What drives an eleven year old boy to sell his virginity for toys and comic books? What did I do wrong with him? It's my fault he did it; if he'd been able to come to me and talk to me...?"

"Gerry, stop! Don't do this again!" She pulled back and stared into his eyes. "No one is responsible for what happened to our son except for Chester. Little boys do very stupid things all the time and they're easy to take advantage of. Even ones as smart as Gage. We can sit here all night and try and figure out what went wrong, but it's over. It's over, and Gage is fine now. He's fine; it didn't ruin his life."

"I keep thinking that I should talk to him about it...?"

"No. I'm begging you, don't. Don't bring all this up again. Nothing good can come out of it, not now. Promise me you'll never mention it again."

"I promise. You're right. What good is it going to do now?" He hugged her again and rubbed his cheek against her hair.

Neither of them saw Meg, her face chalky white, slowly step away from the crack in their bedroom door.

In the dark of a hotel room, Vickie sat in the window and stared out at the swaying tops of the trees below. She was nude; if anyone had looked up they would have noticed that, but the beach had long ago been deserted by even the most nocturnal lovers.

She could hear Rachael snoring in the bed not far away. Sleep apnea, she noted, even though Rachael wasn't overweight. Not severe, but enough to notice.

Her entire body was aching, but not in an unpleasant way. Rachael had been an aggressive lover, but not a cruel one. Certainly not without a lot more skill than Vickie had anticipated. Not the best she'd ever had, but definitely not the worst. She was a...? complete lover, Vickie decided. Rather than focus on simply one thing she'd managed to bring Vickie's entire body into the act. She'd managed to surprise her, and after the life she'd led that took a lot.

Vickie sighed and rolled her neck.

She wanted her again. Surely there couldn't be any harm in waking her new pal up for another round.

She got up from the window and walked over to where her clothing had been flung, and began to dress herself.

Rachael rolled over in her sleep, and threw a bare arm above her head.

Vickie watched her for another moment, cursing herself for not already being gone. She told herself that it was just the sex that she'd enjoyed, that Rachael's biting wit and sense of humor had nothing to do with it, the companionship had nothing to do with her reluctance to leave.

Finally, the woman knelt on the floor and removed Rachael's laptop from the leather traveling bag. Without a sound she slid it into her own shoulder-case and moved her clothing on top of it.

"Sorry Rach but I need this. No hard feelings." She mouthed at the sleeping woman. "Thanks for a great time."

And as Rachael snored, Vickie slipped out the door of the hotel room.

On to part thirty-one. Back to part twenty-nine.