Camp Refuge

Chapter 26 - Camp Refuge

 June 30, 2018 (Saturday, 5:14 AM)

"Mmmm." Greg made a sleepy, comfortable sound as Clay gently slid his trunks down. Clay could tell Greg wasn't quite awake yet, and he grinned as he pushed his naked body up against Greg's.

"Hey, lover." Clay rubbed his lubed cock up and down Greg's crack. "You awake enough for me to avoid a rape charge?"

Now awake, Greg chuckled. "Such a romantic." He arched his neck and Clay moved to kiss him from behind.

As they made out, Greg's member responded and filled out. Clay's hand found it, and he stroked Greg as they lay on their sides. He meant to make things last a while, but he was impatient. He positioned himself, and he pushed. Clay grunted when he felt his dick enter Greg.

Greg broke their kiss and breathed as he tried to relax. "Ah … easy." Clay backed off a bit. Only the first inch or so was inside Greg, but he had moved pretty fast. "You really need this, huh?" Greg grinned at Clay's insistent hips.

The big man growled behind him. "Maybe." He rubbed his stubbled face against the back of Greg's neck. "You turn me on, Greg. You turn me on, and I love you." Clay kissed the skin of the nape of his neck. "I get to make love to my best friend."

"And your best friend gets to make love to you." Greg had adjusted, and he pushed back a little. Clay took the hint and he helped things along. Soon he was completely inside, and Greg groaned.

Clay took charge, and he pushed Greg's hand off when he tried to handle himself. Instead, Clay stroked Greg in time to his hips, and he smiled at the noises Greg made.

His body was primed already, and he felt his orgasm approach. "I'm close." He whispered in Greg's ear.

In response, Greg gurgled out a gasp and a curse. He came in a mess all over the sheet and Clay's hand.

Clay followed shortly after and speared himself deep into Greg. He held still a moment as he shot into his lover, then he continued to pump. Both of them emptied, and then they lay there - still connected. They were messy, smelled of sex, and both wore small satisfied smiles.

"Good morning." Clay grinned and kissed the side of Greg's face.

Greg laughed. "Good morning." He sighed, and Clay slipped out of him. "For the future, THIS is the way to wake up."

Clay snickered. "Noted. Though, I think we should trade off 'driving'."

Greg nodded. "Deal." He checked his phone that lay on the bedside table. "Well, we might as well get up." He started to move.

Clay put his arm around him and pulled him back down. "Not yet." He pushed back up against Greg. "Lay with me, just for a little bit."

Greg turned and kissed him. "Let me clean up a little first. Then I'll be back." Clay released him. Greg disappeared into the small bathroom in the Airstream. Then he returned a few minutes later.

Greg lay back down, careful to avoid the earlier mess he made on the sheet.

The men lay there, warm and comfortable. It wasn't long before they both fell back to a contented sleep.

___________________________________

June 30, 2018 (Saturday, 7:18 AM)

Orson strapped on his leg and looked carefully at the device. It looked right, and it felt good on his body, so he stood up.

Joseph was right beside him as he rose from the futon. His blue eyes watched carefully for any sign the dark-haired man was in trouble.

Orson looked at him and smiled. "Wow. So much better than crutches." He took a few steps around the cabin. "Yeah, so much better."

The two of them stayed in the cabin last night. Elias was already asleep on the futon when they went to bed. And though Orson was nervous, Joseph convinced him that they could get away with sex if they were very quiet.

"He's asleep." Joseph had gently rubbed his rear against Orson's groin. "We'll just be quiet," he whispered in the darkness.

Joseph had also been tested during the week. Apparently, the man had planned for this. Orson had his results from his outgoing physical with the police department in Huntsville. So they both knew their status.

It was the first time Orson had ever had unprotected sex. And he had to admit to himself, it was a very fulfilling experience with Joseph. Though he wasn't sure how quiet they were.

Joseph grinned at Orson. "Man, you look like you've been on that leg all your life. I think those exercises you do have helped a lot."

Orson agreed. The leg didn't feel like his own, and he knew it never would. But it was a lot easier than the crutches.

The two exited the cabin. Orson wanted to find Elias. The boy was gone this morning when they woke, and he had a pretty good idea of where he would find the young man.

"I see Greg and Clay over at the patio table. Go on over and get some coffee. I'll be there in a minute."

Joseph smiled at Orson and nodded. "I'll save you a cup." The blonde man ambled off toward the two men beside the Airstream.

Orson continued on to the Clay cabin. He knocked on the half-open door. "Elias?"

"Come in."

Orson went inside. "Whoa." The man blinked.

Elias stood in front of what looked to be a solid block of clay that was four feet across at the bottom. It stretched up and tapered a bit as it rose. Orson could easily make out feathers in the block, as the boy shaped the clay into his vision.

'Tailfeathers of a bird.' It was extremely easy for Orson to see it now, the detail was so good. 'He's building a HUGE bird.' He gaped a bit. "Elias … wow." He shook his head. "Is this all one piece? One big chunk of clay?"

Elias wore his work clothes, and he was covered in smears of the material. He shook his head. "No. That'd be way too heavy and expensive. I shaped a lump of sand on a plywood base, covered it in plastic, then built on top of it. The bottom is a lot thicker than the top though, to hold the weight." He turned back to the clay and looked at it carefully. "I will need to split it up into four parts, probably. So that they'll fit in the kiln. I'll have to do that after it dries a little bit, but before it hardens."

Judging from what he had seen so far, Orson realized this bird would be almost 6' tall and stretch eight to nine feet from wing tip to wing tip.

"Elias, this is crazy!" He grinned and rubbed his head. "Wow!" He shook his head. "What … why are you doing this?"

He looked at Orson and he bit his lip. "I want to do it for Mr. Adams." He turned back to the sculpture. "I'm building him a Raven."

Orson connected the dots. "Oh, the Raven Project." He felt an inner glow of pride in the boy. He stepped forward. "Elias, this is really nice of you." Orson put an arm around Elias' shoulders. "I don't know where Jeremy will PUT this, but it's really nice of you."

Elias made a face. "Yeah. I thought about that after I started." He shrugged. "He can do what he wants with it. But now that I've started I have to finish it." Elias looked down at Orson's leg. He had already seen it, but it was still a novelty. "Is it working good?"

Orson grinned. "Yes. It works really well. Thanks for asking, Elias."

He smiled up at Orson. "You're welcome." He went to the sculpture and he began to carve more detail in the tailfeathers. "I'm glad you have your leg and Officer Wells."

"Ah, yeah, about Officer Wells," Orson blushed a little, "was it okay that he stayed with us last night?"

Elias nodded. "Yeah." The boy looked over his shoulder at Orson. It was the first time Orson ever saw this particular expression on his face, but he appeared very smug. "It sounded like you had fun with him."

Orson felt mortified, and he must have looked it. Because Elias grinned.

___________________________________

June 30, 2018 (Saturday, 9:43 AM)

Harlan sat by himself down beside the river. There were other campers at the water, but Harlan chose a spot that was a bit out of the way, and further upstream to be away from them.

Among others, a couple of men were there. And between them, they wrangled a rambunctious toddler - a girl with pigtails and light blonde hair. They looked happy and took turns running after the energetic, laughing girl.

Finally exhausted, the girl was tired and reached up for one of the men to carry her. Almost as soon as her head hit his shoulder, she was out, in that way only children can go to sleep. Harlan was too far to hear the conversation between the guys, but as the man with the child sat on their shared blanket they spoke to one another. Then the couple kissed.

They pulled back and smiled with such affection and love that Harlan could see it from where he sat. And they gently lay their precious cargo down on the blanket between them. Then they each lay on either side of her, and they settled in for a nap.

Harlan watched. Then he frowned. He reached up to swipe at something on his face.

He looked down at his hand, at the clear fluid he had wiped away. He blinked, and another tear rolled down his cheek.

He made an irritated sound and he got up.

'Fuck this place.'

Harlan walked back up the river trail. On the way to his tent, he saw families, couples, men together, women too. Every mix of couples he could imagine was represented. No one cared. No one was bothered or offended.

He got to his tent and he sat heavily in his camp chair. He frowned at his knees. 'Why is this bothering me?' Harlan had to be an expert on the emotions of others. So his trouble with his own was not only aggravating, it could spell real repercussions in his line of work.

Harlan rolled it over in his mind. 'It's not fair. That's why. I never had this.' He watched another couple, this time a pair of women, laughing and walking arm in arm down the paved loop in front of his tent.

'You could though. You could have it here, now. Just like them.' He flinched.

His thoughts were interrupted when the one-legged man, Orson went into a cabin to fetch Elias, the potter. Harlan watched them go, Orson's arm around Elias' shoulders. The boy seemed resistant, but Orson insisted.

"You have to eat, Elias." He heard the man say to the boy. "Come on. You can go right back after you're done, okay?"

He waited until they were down the loop a bit, then he stood and walked over to the cabin.

Harlan slipped into the building and he goggled at the mass of clay.

His eyes took in the work, and he shook his head in amazement. This boy was in the process of creating a real work of art. Harlan was not a hayseed. He had culture, art appreciation, and language drilled into him for years. And what he saw now was a masterful work of art in process.

'This kid … I think he's a savant. A functional savant.' Sometimes the Family would find such people. And they would give them a place and work, depending on their particular skill-set. The textures on the art were so real. Harlan had to resist reaching to touch the wet clay. He could almost 'feel' the feathers there.

He stepped back and took a picture of the large base. That base was obviously a raven's tail feathers, flared out as it slowed in the air. Harlan could see it as plainly as if he looked at a photograph. After a few photos, he leaned in and got some close ups of the textures the boy had used.

He stepped back and shook his head. 'This is going to be wasted here. Utterly wasted.' That pained Harlan in a way few other things did. He had a deep appreciation for art, and he despaired over the fate of the finished piece.

He left the cabin after a careful look up and down the loop. He made it back to his campsite with no one the wiser he had looked in at the artwork.

He sat in his camp chair at his tent, and he tapped his finger on his phone as he thought. As he did, he watched the boy artist walk back to the cabin. He must have wolfed down his food and come right back to his work. 'Driven little guy.' Harlan mused. 'He's going to finish it.'

Elias disappeared back inside, and Harlan turned his phone over and over in his hand. He set his jaw and decided. Harlan unlocked his phone, started an email, and attached the photos.

He only wrote a subject line, 'I think you should see these'. Then he sent the email. Satisfied that he had done what his sensibilities demanded, Harlan put away the device.

'All right. I should pack for tomorrow's trip to the city.' Harlan got up, and he began to pack a bag for the trip south with his dad. He always tried to prepare for everything, and he had done some research on leukemia treatment options. As a result of that research, Harlan asked to have the Family doctor send his own medical records.

'Yep. Real name this time, doc. No aliases.' Harlan flinched as he remembered the conversation he had with the Family doctor yesterday.

He was taking a risk. Harlan knew that. But then he thought of his dad.

'Can't be helped.' Harlan sighed.

The reason for his record request was he remembered and internalized a phrase his old Don used to say. "When a man goes to war, he needs to be prepared for every battle."

Harlan knew that his dad was in for a war. And he knew that Gary would have to do most of the work. Though he wasn't sure it would happen, but if it did, one of the potential battles was one Harlan could help his dad win.

Grimly, Harlan ensured he had all he needed. Then he zipped up his travel bag.

___________________________________

July 02, 2018 (Monday, 11:15 AM)

Gary stared across the desk at the oncologist. "What does that mean?"

Harlan drove both of them down to San Francisco yesterday. His son handled everything - the gas, driving, the expense of the hotel, their meals, all of it. Gary tried to protest, but he found Harlan completely ignored him. He finally gave up. Though, secretly he was very thankful.

The doctor, a man in his late forties named Dr. Sparks, had a pensive, focused expression on his face. Gary almost felt as if he were a project of some sort and not a person to the man.

"Well, it means you only have one good option. Your type of cancer doesn't typically respond well to chemotherapy or radiation. Even the combination often isn't successful. And so the only real choice is a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately, the tests have shown your own marrow can't be used. So it will have to come from another person - a donor."

As soon as the doctor said the words, Harlan, who sat quietly in a chair next to Gary started to rummage in the leather case he brought inside with him.

The doctor cast a distracted and slightly annoyed glance at him, then went back to Gary. "The next task is to find any potential donors, and the best option is to take samples from any family you mi …"

Harlan slapped a thin manila record on the desk. "I'm his son. Here are my records." He motioned at the folder. "If it looks like it'll work, I know what's involved and I'll do it."

Dr. Sparks looked a little taken aback. "Ah, okay. Well, it's not quite as simple as …"

"We have the same blood type, A2B Positive. Yeah, I said it right. We have the weird, A2 type. Both of us." He cast a slightly irritated look at Gary. "Thanks for the mutated gene, Dad."

Gary stared at Harlan. He had never seen such a confidence and sureness from his son before. But, it had been a while, and Harlan did a lot of growing up over the years away from Gary.

The doc looked back at the manila folder. "Okay, that's a good start. Do I have permission to call your provider for more information if required?"

Harlan hesitated only an instant. "Yes. You can call for any information pertinent to the potential of a bone marrow transplant for my father."

Gary noticed the very specific stipulations on what information Harlan was willing to allow Dr. Sparks to request. The doctor seemed to notice as well.

"Ah, very good." He pulled the record on the desk over to rest in front of him. "I'll have a release of records request for you to sign. You can stop at the front desk, and Sarah will help you with that."

Harlan nodded. Gary felt a little overwhelmed. His son had just taken charge, and the doctor treated him as if he were the one making the decisions.

"Let's say I'm a match. How fast can this happen?" Harlan sat forward, his elbows on his knees.

"Your father's condition is a fast moving cancer. So we would need to do this as quickly as possible." The doctor seemed to warm up to Harlan when he realized how willing the man was to donate to his dad. "There are quite a few steps to take though. We would first have to irradicate all of Gary's blood cell producing tissues, as they're the ones making those troublesome cancer cells. Then, if you're truly a match, we'd replace it with yours. We'll know within two to four weeks if it worked. If it does we'll find healthy white blood cells in his bloodstream."

Gary faded out a little. He felt so bad and weak, it was hard to focus and hard to contribute to the conversation.

He listened to Harlan's voice, and his memory went back to when he was a little boy. Harlan didn't learn to ride a bike until he was 11 years old. He was scared to fall. But eventually, the idea that one of his friends might find out was too much. Finally, he agreed to let Gary teach him.

Gary smiled. He recalled the fear of failure, and then finally the trust Harlan had to find in him. He could see it so clearly - that moment. It was a day on Harlan's summer break. The sun was out, and it was warm for Crescent City. Their street was a quiet one, and Gary took him out in front of the house for their practice. To get him to wear a helmet Gary had to put a Transformer sticker on it - Harlan demanded something called a Decepticon symbol because the Autobots were "lame". There were birds in the trees and the scent of evergreens that lined the street. Gary gripped the bike seat with one hand and the other rested lightly on Harlan's back. He could feel the cracked, vinyl material of the old bike seat under his hand.

After a few attempts, and after a few runs with his hand to steady the bike, he let go, and his boy was free - sailing down the pavement. Harlan was totally unaware that he was doing it on his own. That he had done it. Gary felt a flood of accomplishment for his son - for Harlan.

"You're riding, son." Gary smiled in his memory and in the present. "Look at you ride."

Gary wobbled in the chair, and he felt the sensation of toppling over. Then he heard alarmed voices, hands grabbed him, and he was gently laid down on a hard surface.

The memory went on and he continued to live it.

___________________________________

Harlan sat beside Gary's bedside. He watched the red bag above the bed as drop by drop the lifesaving blood entered his body.

His dad was grossly anemic. Leukemia had depleted almost all of his healthy red blood cells. His body had almost shut completely down because of it.

'You didn't fucking notice he was fucking dying right beside you.' Harlan swallowed and he shook his head, angry and upset with himself. 'Fucking idiot. Fucking idiot.'

He looked at Gary's face. He was so pale. Though he looked a little better now than he did at first. 'You gotta do better than this, Harlan.' The man narrowed his eyes. 'This is your job right now. You gotta do better.'

His eyes widened. "Fuck."

He pulled out his phone, unlocked it, and dialed a number from memory. It picked up after a ring.

"Hello, Harlan."

"Hello, my Don." Harlan took a breath. "Things are … complicated. I think I will need another month away." He cringed a little when he said the words. He had never asked for such a thing before.

There was a quiet moment on the phone. "Harlan, do you need help?"

The brown-haired man sat back in his chair. "My Don … I … this is a personal matter, and I don't wish to involve you in my problems."

"You're one of mine, Harlan. Your problems are my problems. I won't force you to accept it, and you can have your month, but … I will ask once more - do you need help?"

Harlan looked at his dad. He knew, at this point, Gary wouldn't be able to leave until the procedure was finished. 'Don't let pride get in the way of his recovery.' Harlan sighed. "My Don … I do. Right now I could use help with my father's business. It's handled this week, but I fear we will be in San Francisco for at least a few weeks."

The man on the other end of the line made a thoughtful sound. "Give me the details of the business." He made a sound of epiphany. "Was this business the place selling the item you took pictures of? Because from the photos you sent, it is a masterpiece."

"No, my Don. But there is a connection. I will explain."

Harlan went on to detail the campground, Elias, his father's partnership with the boy, and the policemen who ran the campground.

The Don promised help, and when that man made a promise, it was as good as fulfilled. Harlan hung up and he sighed in relief.

"Harlan?" He looked over, and his eyes met those of his fathers. Gary blinked slowly. "What's happening, son?"

Harlan stood up and took Gary's weak, cool hand in his own. "You're getting the help you need, dad. We're going to get you taken care of."

Harlan's eyes took on a determined gleam. "I've got you. And I'm going to make sure you get taken care of."
___________________________________


July 02, 2018 (Monday, 6:28 PM)

It was hour number eleven for Jeremy at work. He had already seen all of his scheduled patients, and he now called potential funders for the Raven Project directly vs emailing. He propped his head upon his hand and left another message - one in a string he began on Friday.

"I'd really appreciate hearing back. If you have any questions about our mission or our results through the program, please, just call. Thanks again for considering."

He hung up, and he leaned back in his chair. The redhead closed his eyes and breathed. "What am I going to do?" The amount of stress he felt around the potential loss of the program was huge. He almost felt as if he couldn't quite take a full breath, it weighed on him so much.

Jeremy's eyes slid over to the only locked drawer in his desk. He licked his lips and he took out his keys.

He opened the drawer, and there inside were a few folders. Jeremy took them out, and hidden beneath was a metal flask.

He stared at the container. 'Don't. It won't help. Don't.' A desperate little voice in his head tried to reason with him.

Jeremy took the flask out of the drawer and could feel the coolness of the metal in his palm, and how the weight shifted when it moved. His hand shook, and he struggled.

Slowly, he unscrewed the cap. The smell of whiskey hit him almost instantly when he inhaled. It sparked the memory of his drunken father in his chair.

'You're not him. Don't be him.' He bit his lip and frowned. A part of his mind screamed at what he was about to do.

His arm rose, and the volatile vapors from the liquid inside burned his nose.

He jumped as his phone vibrated. He licked his lips and he put the flask down on the desk.

'Hey. I want you to know I love you. Hope you had a good day, and I'll see you soon.' Mason must have just gotten home from his work in Gary's shop.

Jeremy frowned with emotion at the text from Mason. "God, what did I do to deserve you?" He smiled, and texted back, 'I love you too. I'll see you soon, Mason.'

He put the phone away and looked at the open flask. He thought a moment, and he screwed the textured metal cap on. Then it went back into the drawer, unsampled.

He picked up his messenger bag, and he left for home.


Author's Note:

Please let me know your thoughts on the chapter at the following email address link.   Wayne Gray

And thank you for reading! 

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