" "-dialogue
/ / - thoughts
Fandom: Caroline In The City
Pairing: Del/Charlie
Rating: PG
Archive: Slashcom, other- sure, but ask me first
Series/Sequel: sequels are good
Spoilers: Right after "Caroline and the Little White Lies"
Summary: After Del's speech on a gay pride rally Charlie is missing and Del needs to find him.
Disclaimer: They belong to... not to me anyway. I'm not making any money out of it. Don't sue me, ok? Note: Big Thx to El for being my beta :), to Cecilia J for being great Charlie/Del fan and big inspiration ;) and to Emka for being herself :-*

Not a Matter of Choice


Del was scared. It was the middle of the night and Charlie was nowhere to be found. Del searched in every place he could think about, in the park, in their apartment, at Caroline's, Remo's, Richard's and still nothing. Shit, he even called all his new gay 'friends'. Nothing.

And it was all his fault.

After his infamous speech on that meeting Charlie just disappeared somewhere. Told him that he wanted to be alone. Del, instead of going after his friend, ran to Susan, trying to explain to her why he'd lied. Not very successfully. His face still hurt him in the place where she punched him.

He understood his mistake far too late. How could he be so self absorbed, so egoistical, that he preferred talking with some chick he'd probably never see again to his best friend? He couldn't understand that. Maybe he had just thought that Charlie would be all right few minutes after the whole accident.

Until now it was always like that. Del had done something stupid, Charlie had been mad at him and ten minutes later everything was ok. Well, this time it didn't happened that way.

Now, pacing like caged animal in their living room, Del tried to remember other places where Charlie could go but unfortunately failed miserably. There weren't many places like that or he just didn't know about them.

He considered calling the police but at the end decided that it wouldn't be the best idea. What he would tell them anyway? Charlie was a grown up and could take care of himself. Sort of.

Deep in his thoughts he didn't hear phone ringing till the third ring.

/God, Charlie, it'd better be you,/ He thought answering finally.

"Yes," He said impatiently.

"Del, it's me. Is Charlie still missing?"

It was Caroline. She was the first person he called when he realized that Charlie wouldn't come home tonight. She was very sympathetic but unfortunately didn't help a lot.

Del sighed, hearing her instead of his best friend, "yes. Seven hours almost. Jesus, Caroline, and if something happened to him? He fell under a bus or was robbed or..."

"Del! Calm down. He's ok. Probably riding on his rollerblades somewhere. It wouldn't be the first time." she said as comforting as she could.

Del nodded to himself, "yeah. You're right. I mean, it's not like I've broken his heart or anything." It was meant to be a joke but it sounded weak even for his own ears. He was the one that should know best how valuable Charlie sometimes was - and this time he'd screwed up badly.

"Look. Maybe he needs some time for himself. You're gonna see him tomorrow at work and then explain to him..."

"That's it!" He shouted happily, interrupting Caroline in the middle of her sentence.

"What! Del, what are you..."

"I don't have time to talk to you right now. I think I know where Charlie could be. Bye."

Before Caroline could say a thing he slammed phone's receiver down and ran towards the door. He just hoped he was right.


Their office was dark and empty. No Charlie. Just what Del was afraid of, another bad hint.

Now, getting out of the building, he was on the edge of hysteria. Never in his entire life was he so afraid for someone. He knew it was irrational but he couldn't help it. He always felt very responsible for Charlie, treated him almost like a son, not an equal-aged friend. He chuckled when he remembered Charlie's jealousy about his daughter. Grown up or not, he had mentality of a five-year-old boy.

And now that five-year-old was somewhere out there, alone in the big city, scared and...

He *definitely* needed to calm down. Thoughts like that wouldn't help him or Charlie. It was warm, even for an April night, so he decided that he could go for a walk, clear his mind a little. If there was something really important going on, he still had his cellphone. Caroline knew the number. So did all his friends, including Charlie, so there was nothing to worry about.

Yeah, nothing to worry about.

Del wandered through crowded streets without any purpose. Now he had so much time to think he tried to understand Charlie's behaviour. Sure, he was mad at him for messing up at that meeting but was that all? He sighed. That wasn't leading to anywhere. All he really needed was a hot shower and some sleep. Caroline was right. They'd meet tomorrow and explain everything to each other.

Sighing again he decided that it was time to go home. Besides, maybe Charlie was there by now, completely oblivious about Del's state.


Next day Del was at work half an hour earlier than he should. Even through he didn't have a good night sleep he was more than awake. Adrenaline was rushing through his veins, giving him a heart attack every thirty seconds. He couldn't calm himself down. All he could think about was Charlie. Was he safe, would he come to work and, the most important, what made him so upset the day before?

He waited till eleven but Charlie didn't show up, didn't call - did absolutely nothing to prove he was still alive.

If Del was scared earlier, now he was terrified.

"I don't care where are you, Charlie," he said aloud, in a shaking voice, almost like his friend could hear him, "just be ok. I won't survive if something will happened to you because of my stupidity. Be mad at me, hate me even, but be ok. Please." The last word he said quietly, whispered almost, like a prayer.

Half an hour later he was ready to climb the walls. He practically jumped when the phone rung.

Del looked at it scared. He was afraid to check who it could be, too afraid that he would hear a police officer or someone like that. Someone that would tell him that Charlie was hurt.

He picked the receiver with shaking hand, praying silently for Charlie. But it wasn't him. It was Caroline again.

"Hey, Del," she greeted him quietly.

"Hey, Caroline. Did Charlie call you?"

/Please say yes, say yes, say yes.../

"No, he didn't," she almost whispered, and hearing Del sighing on the other side of the line she quickly added, "he's here."

"What?!" Del shouted loudly enough to alarm everyone on this floor. "What do You mean he's there?"

"Calm down, Del. He's asleep. He came here ten minutes ago. It looks like he was up all night."

"Jesus! I'm coming right away. And if he'll wake up and want to get out, tie him up or something. Just *don't* let him go."

"No problem, he could use a month of sleep. He won't wake up for the next hour or so."

But Del wasn't listening to her. Actually, he wasn't at the other end of the line anymore.

Caroline sighed. Second time in the last 24 hours someone hung up on her. Well, not someone, Del. So, not that bad after all.


Del drove the distance between his office and Caroline's apartment in record-short time. It was a real miracle that he didn't kill anyone or wasn't arrested.

When he was running up the stairs (he didn't have time to wait for an elevator) all he could think about was Charlie. He wanted to hit him, for what he put him through last hours. But he knew he wouldn't. He could never purposely hurt Charlie. Hurting him by accident was another matter. Lately, they had lots of that 'accidents'. That had to be changed.

When he entered, or rather bursted into Caroline's apartment, he suddenly realized, that he didn't have a slightest idea what to tell him. Never mind, all he now wanted was to see Charlie.

"Well, you didn't took your time." That was Annie. She was sitting on a stool in the 'kitchen section' and was drinking some coffeine filled poison.

Del didn't have time to talk with her. "Where's Charlie?!"

Caroline hushed him. "Quiet, Del. He's here, sleeping."

She montioned toward the couch. Del looked in that direction and indeed, Charlie was lying there, tucked under the blanket, only the top of his head visible. Del let go a long relieved sigh and fell on the chair.

"Thank God."

"So... You'll tell us what happened between you two?"

It was Annie again. Her voice was high-pitched and annoying. Nothing new.

Del just looked at her and shrugged. "I told Caroline. Ask her."

"I did. She told me your version. Now," Annie smiled in her most evil way "we wanna know the truth."

"It *is* the truth."

She put her mug down and snickered "suuure. Charlie disappeared for all night because you told him you're not gay. Funny."

"I don't care if you believe it or not." He snapped angrily. "All I know is that I spent half of the night looking for him and now he's here."

"Wow! Don't be so violent. I just asked." She took her mug and demonstratively left the apartment.

Del looked at the floor. He knew that he didn't have right to be so aggressive but he felt worned out and annoyed. Tiredness that had been masked by adrenaline and nerves decided to say hallo.

"It's ok." He heard Caroline's soft voice. He looked up. She was standing right next to him. "We know you are tired. Look, I'll go to Annie now, you should wake Charlie up and talk to him."

He nodded gratefully. "Thank you."

"No problem. It's going to be fine." She patted his arm slightly and then went after her friend.

Del sit there for few more minutes. He tried to think what he should tell Charlie and, most important *why* he should tell him that. He still didn't understand his behavior fully.

Finally, he stood up quietly and approached Charlie. He felt bad for waking him but he knew the sooner they will deal with their little problem the sooner it will end. At least he hoped so.

He gently shook Charlie's shoulder and seeing no reaction he did it again, more powerful this time. Nothing again. That wasn't unusual. When Charlie was tired he could sleep through earthquakes and explosions.

Finally, after minute or so, Charlie stirred in his sleep and mumbled something that sounded like 'I wanna sleep, mummy'. Del smiled to himself and shook him again.

"Charlie, wake up. It's me Del. We need to talk." This time it worked. Charlie opened his eyes and looked hazily at Del. His expression slowly turned from sleepy to angry.

"How could you do this to me?" He asked accusingly

Del was shocked "Charlie?"

"I don't want to speak to you." He quickly stood up from the couch, threw a blanket on the floor and started to walk or rather ride towards the door. Del was too scared to lose him again to let him go out. He ran after him, blocking his friends way out.

"Charlie, I *had* to tell them. It was..." He started to explain but was cut by Charlie's angry hand gesture. That was strange. Charlie was *never* angry. Sad, pouty, yes. But angry?

"Just when I started to make some good friends."

"Just listen to me! We were pretending that we are people, we are not."

"Well, maybe *you* were pretending."

Del looked at Charlie a little shocked "What are you talking about?"

"Nothing," He mumbled and strode towards the couch. Del ran after him again and grabbed his arm roughly. Charlie tried to release himself but it was no use. Del wanted answers and when he wanted something...

"Why are you so mad about? It not like we were a real couple."

Charlie looked at the floor, "no, we weren't," he said sadly

Del let him go and smiled softly. "Ok. Explain it, 'cause I don't have a clue what you are talking about."

Charlie sighed and sat on the couch he'd been sleeping on. Del did the same. He spoke finally and his voice wasn't angry anymore. More like dreamy, "I liked us that way. When everyone thought that we were together."

Del eyes winded, "you... You did?"

Charlie just nodded.

"But why, I mean, how..." he stuttered

"It was nice. I had someone I could lean on, someone that loved me," he looked straight into Del's eyes, "you." And then, like he just realized what he said he cast his eyes down to the floor.

Del swallowed nervously, "what are you talking about? You can always lean on me and I *do* love you..."

"But not the way I would like you to," he whispered

Del held his breath. He couldn't believe his own ears. He had misunderstood. "What way it would be fine with you then?"

Charlie just shrugged "You know."

He got all of his strength and asked "Like in a ...gay way?"

His friend nodded again.

"But, but you are not gay, Charlie. You are not. Right?" Del felt less sure with every second passing.

Charlie sucked his breath "You remember in the park when I told you that it's not a matter of choice?"


"Well, it is for me."

If Del felt shocked before now he was far beyond it. He looked at his friend not sure what to say. Charlie was still sitting next to him, gazing at the floor and looking completely dejected, so lost. He decided that maybe not saying anything will be the best, so he just put his arm around Charlie's shoulder and held him close.

What could he do? His best friend, his best *male* friend, just told him that he was bi and in love with him. Ok, so maybe Charlie didn't tell that exactly but it sounded like that. In this moment he was the one that should decided what next.

That was a *very* good question.

"Charlie?" He asked suddenly. "Do you really love me?"

"...yes" he sniffed

Del removed his arm from around Charlie's shoulder and for a moment Charlie was sure that he would go out or tell him that he was sick but instead, he felt Del's hand on his cheek.

He looked at him uncertainly, not sure what to expect.

Del just smiled reassuringly and bent down to kiss him. It was soft, friendly lips meeting, nothing sexual. But then Charlie opened his mouth and in became very sexual. They started to kiss passionately.

"Oh my God!"

They both jumped from each other and looked panicked at the door. Richard was standing there, his eyes wide from shock. He looked like he was trying to say something but could only stare.

Del took a step toward him. "Richard, we..."

"No, no, no... don't... don't..." He put his hand up stopping him. "I don't wanna know. That isn't any of my business. Just... don't..."

"You won't tell Caroline, will you?" It was Charlie's worried voice this time. He walked to Del's side and took his hand. They both looked at Richard questioningly.

He shook his head, "no. Like I said it's not any of my business."

Del looked at him sheepishly, "then I think, umm, we will go now."

"Sure, no problem. Besides, you two look like you could use a room."

Del and Charlie nodded happily and got out, still holding each other hand.

They decided to go home. They were deadly tired and besides, Del wanted to cuddle.

Home. What a nice word it became suddenly.

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