On the way back to El Paso, Ari dozes, and he finds the drive back mostly peaceful. He dreams, but they’re not bad dreams. His mother asks him if rain reminds him of the accident, but he says it only does sometimes. By the time they get back, the rain is pouring down, and Ari starts thinking again—this time about things like sex and kissing and masturbation and Dante and about their relationship to each other. He thinks about how all of these things confuse him, especially. He thinks that he might have a darkness inside him. He goes to sleep and dreams about kissing someone. When he wakes up, he wants to touch himself, but takes a cold shower instead.
Ari gets a bad feeling in his stomach all of a sudden. He walks to Dante’s house to pick up Legs, only to be told by Dante’s dad that Dante is in the hospital, after being beaten up pretty badly the evening before. Sam asks Ari how well he knows Dante, which causes Ari to realize that Dante’s parents have figured out he’s gay. Ari confesses that Dante told him before they left for Chicago, and Sam reflects that he thinks that he always knew, because of the way that Dante looks at Ari sometimes. Sam is upset that Dante didn’t tell him, but Ari assures him that Dante was just nervous. Sam reasserts that he loves Dante no matter what.
Ari goes home to drop off Legs, tells his parents what happened, then heads straight to the hospital to see Dante. Mrs. Quintana asks him if he’ll continue being Dante’s friend considering everything, to which Ari insists that he will always be Dante’s friend, no matter what. Mrs. Quintana then shares the full story, which is that an old woman called the police after Dante was caught kissing another boy by a group of older boys who proceeded to beat Dante up. Dante’s parents disclose that they also know that Dante is in love with Ari.
After leaving the hospital, Ari gets in the car and drives to the drugstore where Dante works, where he forces Daniel (who ends up being the boy Dante was with) to tell him who attacked Dante. He gets the names of two of them, and goes to find Julian, who he beats up until Julian’s father stops him. After he gets home, he gets reprimanded by his father, who tells Ari that he broke Julian’s nose. Ari’s parents are upset by Ari’s behavior, but begin to understand when he explains why. After some time, Ari’s mother comes up to him and finally shares that the reason Bernardo is in jail is that he killed someone with his bare fists, but that she understands why Ari did what he did. Ari finds a photo of Bernardo and asks if he can put it up, and after that, to Ari at least, it feels as if his brother has come back into their house.
In the last days of this particular summer, Ari and Dante see each other every day but talk much less. Neither see the point of going back to work, and even though they’re getting closer, Ari also feels like they’ve never been farther away from each other. One day, Ari shares the full version of his brother’s story: his brother picked up a sex worker who turned out to be transgender, and, angry that he had been “deceived,” killed her, and then later, while in juvenile detention, killed somebody else. Ari has to come to understand that this was why his parents were so worried about him, and he confesses to Dante that he went after Julian, but Dante says he already knew.
The summer is coming to a close. Ari and Dante continue on, although Ari remains firm in his dislike of Daniel. Ari mopes for a couple of days after not talking to Dante after Daniel goes to visit him; things come to a head when his mother confronts him about it, and during a conversation about writing to his brother in prison, Ari punches a wall. His mom, in response, calls a family meeting, during which Ari’s dad is finally open about what happened in Vietnam, telling Ari about how he had to leave a close friend behind to die, and the guilt he still carries from that. The lesson, Ari’s dad says, is that Ari has to stop running, or it will kill him. Ari is confused, but Ari’s dad clarifies that Ari has to stop running from himself and Dante. Ari acknowledges that Dante is in love with him, but Ari’s dad replies that the real problem for Ari is that Ari is in love with Dante, as seen by the fact that he jumped in front of a car for him—and, to be blunt, everything about their relationship. Ari struggles with this and starts crying, saying that he’s ashamed, but his parents insist that they love him and accept him for who he is.
After, Ari calls Dante and tells him that he wants them to tag along with their parents, who plan on going to the bowling alley. To their parents’ surprise, they both go and have fun, then leave to hang out in the desert. They park in the usual spot and are just chatting when Dante admits that he feels like he can’t just be friends with Ari. In response, Ari confesses to Dante that he lied about not liking the kiss they shared, and that he’s scared of what his relationship to Dante might mean. He asks him to try again, but Dante insists that he be the one to initiate this time. As they lay under the stars, Ari thinks to himself that he finally feels free, and wonders how he could have ever have been ashamed of loving Dante.
The rain occurs again, but this time the dreams that come after are pleasant. But even so, Ari still believes that there is something dark inside him. This could refer to the fact that he likes to fight, but liking to fight doesn't bother him, except when it alienates him from people he loves. But he does struggle a lot with shame, and he closely associates sex and kissing with shameful things, which is why he goes out of his way to take a cold shower as soon as his thoughts about Dante turn romantic. Ari rejects the messages of his body because he views his thoughts and his body (as we saw in an earlier part of the book) as something to be ashamed of. Because these things are a part of him and can't really be changed, he feels like the darkness is permanently with him.
When Ari is asked about how well he knows Dante, his first instinct to protect Dante. Like a true friend, he's not willing to out Dante to his parents. This is partially an extension of Ari's general tendency to keep mum about things, but it's also a demonstration of solidarity with his friend. Only after Ari can semi-confirm that his dad already knows does Ari acknowledge the elephant in the room. In the end, however, there's nothing for Ari to worry about on that end, as Dante's parents love him exactly as much as Ari though they did. Similarly, Ari pledges to always stick by Dante's side because he also cares about Dante.
It's this deep caring that leads Ari to go and try to find the person who hurt his best friend. Ari's reaction has always been to defend Dante after he gets hurt. To him, fighting is a satisfying way to resolve conflict, but more importantly, Ari feels that it's important to show that Dante has people who care about him. Keeping his promise not to run away from Dante, for Ari, involves sticking up for Dante in public and ensuring people know they can't treat Dante poorly just because Dante is gay. It's also a method of working through the immense anger that Ari has because of the whole thing.
Fighting, however, scares his parents into finally explaining the context for their fear of Ari getting into altercations: namely, the fact of his brother being in prison. The news that Ari's brother murdered someone is shocking, but it clarifies much of the Mendoza's family's actions surrounding Ari. For so long, the unspoken past of his brother has been haunting their family. Telling the truth, instead of driving a wedge between them and causing shame, instead frees them from the resentment that has been building between the three of them. What Bernado did was horrible, but for Ari, it is better to deal with the awful truth of what he did than it is to pretend that he's effectively dead. The truth, no matter how painful, is the better option.
As for Ari and Dante, Dante's assault makes things awkward between them, especially since Dante doesn't disavow Daniel. Even at this point, Ari does not understand why he dislikes Daniel so fiercely. But just as the secrets about his brother begin to ruin the relationship he and his parents have, the truth that Ari refuses to face begins to ruin the relationship between him and Dante, as well as put a lot of stress on Ari. When Ari's dad finally shares what was difficult about the Vietnam War, it is important not just because he is finally opening up about a difficult past to Ari, but also because he's teaching Ari to be vulnerable. Ari's dad realizes that the only way for him to teach Ari to be honest with himself is to set an example, and be honest with Ari first.
Ari has to stop running. All throughout his relationship with Dante, Ari has been running and pulling back from his love for Dante. He hides the truth—not so much from other people as from himself. The fact that his parents are the ones to encourage him to accept the truth shows how deeply Ari has buried this possibility inside him, but with this revelation, things become clear: his difficulty with boys, him feeling like he belongs to the rain, his deep shame. Ari's parents, however, let Ari know that loving boys, and loving Dante in particular, is nothing to be ashamed of. And as Ari realizes that, he finally lets go of his shame and allows himself to be fully free—after all, how could it be shameful to love Dante?