Camp Refuge

Chapter 3 - Camp Refuge

May 12, 2018 (Saturday)

Mason woke.  He was a little disoriented at first, and he blinked in the dark cabin as he got his bearings.  The time difference meant he was awake at 5 AM, even though the sky was still dark outside.

The lanky young man got up and stretched beside the bed.  It was a bit of a morning ritual now for him to sit at the table with his dad and have a cup of coffee before Clay went to work.  Mason was well aware police work was dangerous, and he wanted to spend as much time as possible with Clay.

He loved his dad.  And Mason worried about him - but that worry encompassed more than the danger of Clay's job.  Ever since Mason's mom died Clay had totally cut himself off from any kind of emotional connection with anybody else.  Yesterday when they met up with Greg, it was the first time Mason had seen him smile in weeks.

He put on some comfortable jeans and a sweater.  The air in the cabin was cool, and Mason knew the outside would be the same.  He put on his shoes, and he exited the cabin. His dark hair was a little wild, but he didn't care.

The morning was misty, still mostly dark, and the whole campground was totally quiet apart from the sound of the river.  Mason liked this time of the day. It was peaceful, and it was when he did his best thinking. He stood and looked over the grounds, and breathed.  He smiled a little.

He looked over at the Airstream and his smile slipped.  He couldn't get over that Greg was gay. And more, that he had hidden it for so long.  He clenched his jaw. 'People like him are why I have such a hard time.' He sighed. 'Doesn't matter.  Not everybody is strong enough to be out.'

He decided he'd try to play nice for his dad.  Clay was in the best mood Mason had seen in a long time.  He'd keep his disdain to himself for his father's sake.

And, speaking of his dad … Mason turned his head and looked at Cabin #1.  His smile returned and he walked the short distance between the cabins. He knew there had to be some coffee around.  Clay should be up soon since he was on the same schedule as Mason. They could get a little time to themselves, and hang out before Greg got up.  They'd have their coffee and just get their time together.

He stopped at the door and knocked.  "Dad?" He waited. No answer. He knocked again.  Still nothing. He remembered his dad had quite a few ciders last night, and he grinned.  'Gonna be a tough morning, but coffee will help.'

He tried the door and it was unlocked.  He opened the door. "Dad?" He stepped inside and looked around the dark space.  He could barely make out the little bed, with a blanket covered lump on it. He smirked.  'Wow, he's sleeping hard.' He walked over.

"Dad?  Let's find som …"  Mason stopped a step away, and his breath caught in his throat.  His dad lay with his arm around Greg. Both men faced toward Mason, and his dad stirred.

Clay's eyes opened, then they focused on Mason and they widened.  "Mason …"

The young man gaped at the two men.  Greg continued to sleep. "Dad? What …"  Mason struggled to process what he saw.

"Mason, son…"  Clay sat up on his elbow.  "I…"

Mason turned and walked out of the door, a thoroughly stunned expression on his face.  Clay cringed. "Fuck. Fuck." He rubbed his face. Clay looked down at Greg. He slept on.  It was still early for Greg, and the cider hit him harder than it did Clay.

Clay knew Mason wouldn't want to talk to him.  Not right now. The boy needed time to think. Clay shook his head and he sighed.  Then he lay back down and put his arm back around Greg. 'Already got caught. Might as well enjoy laying here.'

It took a little while, but eventually, Clay dropped back to sleep.  And for a time he didn't have any worries weighing on his mind.

____________________________________

"Hey.  You gonna sleep your day away?"  Greg woke to Clay's voice. His mouth tasted of sour apples, and it was pasty from a need for water.  He groaned, then he inhaled as his memory allowed him to recall what happened.

Clay's warm body pressed against his own from behind, and his big, strong arm was across Greg's chest.  'Not a dream.' Greg's mind churned. 'Not a dream. Whoa.' He swallowed, and he turned over to face Clay.

The big man lay and looked into Greg's hazel eyes.  "There you are." He smiled. He patted Greg's naked hip and left his hand there, warm and comfortable.  "How are you feeling?"

"Like I need to drink a gallon of water and coffee.  Each." Greg made a face at the taste in his mouth. Then he looked at the window and could see that the day was well underway.  He frowned. "I should get back to my trailer. It's daylight. Mason will be up soon." He sat up.

"Oh, you're wayyyy too late for that."  Clay sighed. Greg looked down at him. Clay shrugged.  "He walked in here early this morning. Caught us in bed."

Greg's face fell.  "Shit." He wiped his mouth.  "This is totally my fault." He shook his head.  "Never should have come inside."

Clay looked at him, bemused.  "Yes. My getting you drunk and seducing you was totally your fault."  Clay sat up with him. "I PLANNED this." He grinned at Greg. "You didn't really have a chance."

Greg eyed him and laughed.  "Okay … fine." He licked his lips.  "But what are we going to do now? Was he upset?"

Clay shrugged.  "Not much we can do but talk to him.  Ball's in Mason's court. And … yeah, he was a bit upset."  He put his hand on the back of Greg's neck. "I don't regret what we did."  He leaned forward till his lips were only an inch from Greg's. "I hope you don't either."  He stretched and kissed Greg.

After a moment they pulled apart and Clay made a face.  "Mmmm … rotten apples."

Both men laughed.  Greg's eyes were mischievous.  "You don't taste so hot either!"

"Okay, fair."  The big man swung his legs over the edge of the bed.  "Come on. Let's see if the teenager will talk to us."

They got up and dressed.  Both of the men left the cabin and Greg heard the sound of a blade as it impacted vegetation.  He knew that sound well. He walked around the cabin, Clay in tow. Mason was dressed in a t-shirt, rough-looking work pants, and boots.  He swung a machete at a cluster of blackberry vines behind the cabin.

Greg grunted with surprise.  Mason had cleared a big chunk of what used to be impassable terrain.  It looked as if he had worked on it for a few hours. Mason had to have seen them, but he continued to hack away at the vines.

Clay stepped around Greg.  "Mason."

He stopped, mid-swing.  He breathed hard, a frown on his face and he dropped the machete to his side.  Mason took a breath and he turned around to face them. "Yeah?" Sweat ran down his face and his expression bordered on insubordination.

Clay noticed.  He straightened and his voice deepened.  "Son, let's talk."

Mason's eyes flicked to Greg, then he looked away.  "Okay."

Greg cleared his throat.  "I can go. Let you guys talk."

"Good,"  Mason said in a petulant tone.  He still didn't look at Greg, but his face was screwed up into an intense frown.

Clay reddened.  "Mason!" His voice snapped across the campground.  "I didn't raise you to talk that way to a friend!"

Mason stared at the ground, and he clenched his jaw.

Greg put a hand on Clay's shoulder.  "It's fine. I'm going to get some coffee started.  I'll make enough for all of us."

Clay glared at Mason for a moment, then he glanced at Greg.  He nodded silently. Greg left them and walked to his Airstream.

Clay turned back to his son.  Mason was now looking at him. He wore a hurt and angry expression.  The boy shook his head. "So … you're … what? You're bi?" He waved a hand toward the Airstream just as Greg disappeared inside.  "Is that why you wanted to come here? Is Greg … your boyfriend?"

Clay was angry at Mason's tone, but he could see the boy was hurting, and he didn't quite know why.  "Mason … Greg is my BEST friend." He shook his head. "And, I don't know if I'm bisexual, or what. But, I know I like him."  The big man took a step toward Mason. "What's wrong? Why are you so upset?"

Mason shook his head, and he couldn't help but to cry.  Clay's face fell when he saw the tears. Mason was a tough kid.  He didn't cry often. His voice softened. "Son, tell me what's wrong."

He looked up at Clay and he rubbed his face.  "Did … you guys do this when mom was alive?"

Clay was shocked Mason would even ask such a thing, and it showed on his face.  "What? No! Mason, I would never have cheated on Kathy!" He shook his head. "This was the first time with Greg.  With any man. EVER."

Mason looked back down at the ground.  Mason knew he told the truth, and he'd never known his dad to lie to him.  Clay approached, and he put his hands on Mason's shoulders. "Was that what was bothering you?"  Mason looked up at Clay's face. The big man squeezed his shoulders. "Was that all of it?"

Mason felt some relief, but he was still reeling.  "I … I don't know. It's just so strange." He shook his head.  "I guess I never thought about how I'd feel if you …" he didn't quite know how to finish the thought.

Clay still held onto him.  "If I moved on from your mom?"  His eyes gazed at Mason, and understanding seemed to dawn in them.  "Mason, I don't even know what I'm doing right now. But is it okay if I try to find somebody new?"

Mason knew the unselfish thing to say.  So he said it. "Of course, dad." He managed a smile and wiped his face.  "Sorry. I'm just surprised. I mean … I didn't know you liked guys."

"Well, neither did I, not for sure at least."  Clay put his arm around Mason's shoulders. "And so far, I only like the one."  Both of them watched as Greg exited the Airstream with a full French Press in his hands.  Greg put it down on the patio table, then he went back inside the trailer. Clay squeezed him again.  "I don't want to hurt you, Mason. But I'd really like to try this. Okay?"

His son nodded slightly.  "Yeah. Okay, dad." He took a deep breath and let it out.  "I want you to be happy." That was an easy truth for Mason to say.

Clay smiled at Mason.  "Thanks, son." He pulled Mason's head down and kissed the top of it.  "Okay, come on. Let's get some coffee."

Mason let his dad lead him over to the patio table where the French Press sat, steaming in the coolness of the morning.  He still felt conflicted, but he would try his best. 'I owe dad a lot. I'll try to be happy for him.' Greg came back out of his Airstream, cream, and sugar in hand.  Mason pushed back on the instant anger that flared up and managed some success.

 Mason sat at the table.  He reached for the coffee and his eyes met Greg's for a moment as he sat down too.  Mason forced himself to smile slightly. 'You need to try. Dad deserves to be happy.'

____________________________________

 Where there had been a comfortable silence in the evening between the three, now the morning's quiet was awkward.  Greg and Mason looked down at their coffee, or into the trees, or simply sighed heavily.

 Clay let it go on for 5 minutes then he made a noise of frustration.  Both Greg and Mason turned to look at him. "Okay, guys. Enough of this."  Clay turned to Greg. "Greg, are you okay if Mason wants to ask you questions about what happened?"

 Greg licked his lips, looked over at the teenager and nodded.  "Yeah. Whatever he wants to know."

 Clay nodded and looked at Mason.  "And you okay if both Greg and I ask you questions?"

 Mason frowned, his eyes still on his steaming cup of creamy and sweet coffee.  But he nodded.

 "Okay then."  Clay waved a hand at Mason.  "Go ahead."

 Mason swallowed and looked up at Greg.  He took a breath and straightened in his chair.  "So … do you like my dad?" He glanced at Clay, then back to Greg.  "I mean, more than just … ah, for fun?"

 Clay nodded at the question and he too looked at Greg.  Greg could tell the big man was interested in his answer.

 Greg made a pained face.  He really didn't want to do this right this second, and not with Clay as an audience.  But he committed to answering Mason's questions. "Ah, well your dad is my best friend. And that is never gonna change."  Greg's eyes found Clays for a moment, then he looked at Mason. "Honestly, I always thought your dad was off-limits. And … thinking about him this way is totally new to me."  Greg looked at Clay again. "But, I'd like to try it on for size. See if it fits, for us both."

 Mason looked thoughtful.  He took a sip of coffee then he nodded.  "Okay. So … what changed your mind? How'd you know dad would be interested?"

 Clay cleared his throat.  "Ah … that one is all me."  He wore a chagrined expression.  "I sorta made it tough for Greg to say no."

 Mason looked at Clay, his face incredulous.  "You … what did you do?"

 Clay sighed.  "Son, I've known I wanted to try something with Greg for a couple of years now.  It never seemed like the right time. And when we were planning this trip here, I realized there's never gonna be a 'perfect' moment for something like this."  He looked at Mason, his eyes honest. "So, last night I made a move on Greg."

 Mason sat back, stunned.  "YOU made a move?" He looked at Greg, then back to Clay.  "I just assumed that Greg …" Mason made a sound of disbelief and shook his head.  "Wow."

 Greg grinned.  "What? You thought I got him drunk and seduced your dad?"

 Mason nodded empathically.  "Yes! That's exactly what I thought!"

 "Other way around."  Clay winked over his coffee cup at Mason and took another drink.

 Mason couldn't help but laugh.  He looked at Clay and shook his head.  "Wow." Mason smiled. "Well. Okay." He nodded, mostly to himself.  "Thanks for talking to me about it."

 "You're welcome, son."  Clay patted his back. "Drink your coffee.  We've got work to do."

 The three of them finished their coffee, and they stood to get on with their day.

 "What are we doing, boss?"  Clay smiled at Greg. "Point us at what you want to be done."

 Greg nodded.  "Already thought that through."  Greg pointed at the next two cabins.  "Clay, I know you can do carpentry. Can you get those next two cabins squared away?  They need some trim work, and Cabin #4 has a couple of floorboards that are rotten and need to be replaced."

 Clay nodded.  "Yep. No problem."  He began to gather the tools, supplies, and equipment he would need.

 Greg turned to Mason.  "You were doing a hell of a job on the blackberries.  You want to keep working on those?"

 Mason nodded.  "Sure." He looked at Greg, his eyes curious.  "What are you doing today?"

 "I'm going to work in the kitchen area."  Greg ran a hand through his hair. "That concrete should be set up by now.  I need to go into town and get the posts for the roof structure, then I'll set them in place with lag bolts."  He smiled. "Probably overkill, but we'll never have to worry about the kitchen falling down."

 "They have earthquakes here.  No such thing as overkill." Mason said.  He bent and picked up the machete. "Gonna get started.  See you when you get back." The teenager turned and started to walk toward the same patch of vines he was chopping down earlier.

 "Hey."  Mason turned and Greg licked his lips.  "Mason, I'm sorry for the shock this morning."  Greg swallowed. "Thanks for being understanding."

 Mason glanced at his dad as Clay entered cabin #4, then he looked back at Greg.  He nodded. "Long as dad's happy, then I'm fine." He narrowed his eyes and pointed the machete at Greg.  "But you better not hurt him." He smiled, the expression only half in jest.

 Greg put his hands up in mock surrender.  "You got it." He smiled at Mason. "Go use that machete on something other than me."

 The youth smirked and then walked away toward the blackberries.  Greg watched him go for a moment then he turned. He got into his truck and was soon on highway 199.

 He drove, and while on the way to Crescent City he let the happenings of the guys' visit roll through his mind.  "Wow. What a crazy … what? Day? It hasn't even been 24 hours." He shook his head and laughed quietly.

 Soon he pulled into the Home Depot parking lot.  He got out and checked the list he had in his pocket. 'Okay.  Focus on the work.' Greg walked in and headed for the lumber yard, ready to get busy.

 ______________________________________

 The sun appeared and burned off the early morning fog.  It made for a great day to be outside, and the three men spent most of the day working on their various assignments.  Greg managed to set all of his posts, and the next item on the agenda for his project was to get the crossbeams up. For that, he'd need both of his helpers.

 Clay got the floorboards replaced on cabin #4, and he finished the trim work on the little place.  He also cleaned it of all the detritus inside. By the time he finished the space looked almost ready to go.  It needed mattresses for the bed and the futon, but the rest of the furniture inside could be salvaged.

 Mason cut down a huge swath of blackberries.  He also found a picnic table that was completely covered by the vines.  The table was made of steel and covered with a tough plastic coating to protect it from the weather.  So despite the time spent out in the elements, it was in great condition.

 They ate a quick lunch of sandwiches around 10 AM.  The Jameson men were both still on central time, so they were hungry early.  They got right back to their work shortly after.

 After they finished with their respective tasks they pitched in to move the table Mason found.  It took all three of them, but they managed to get the heavy table over next to the kitchen space.

 It was about 3 PM, and they just finished moving the picnic table.  Mason sat heavily on it and panted a little with exertion. "Break time?"

 "Absolutely."  Greg sat on the same side as Mason, and Clay looked at them as they caught their breath.

 Clay had some sawdust in his hair, and a little on his face from his time doing woodwork.  He rubbed his hair and made some fall out, then he glanced at the pair. "I'll get us some water.  Stay there." He walked over to the spigot under the E-Z Up and dug through the three drawer filing cabinet Greg used for his kitchen supplies.

 As Clay ran water into the cups Greg looked over at Mason.  "You did good work today, Mason." Greg smiled. "Thanks for the help."

 Mason looked over at him and shrugged.  "It's why I'm here."

 Greg only nodded.  Sounded like Clay hadn't told Mason the real reason he wanted him out here - to protect him from the potential of hate crimes in Alabama.

 Clay stepped around the table and he handed the guys a cup of water.  "Here you go. We've all sweat a lot. Drink up." He sat between the two of them and took a big swallow of his water.  Greg did the same, and he noticed that Clay's leg touched his own. He looked over at the big man. Clay lowered his cup, turned his head and grinned at him.

 His son noticed.  "Ugh." Mason made a face, then he cracked a smile.  "Get a cabin."

 "I plan to."  Clay smiled lewdly and growled at Greg.

 Mason pushed him, a disgusted look on his face.  "Dad! I don't wanna hear you saying stuff like that!"

 Greg laughed as the two Jameson men grappled with one another.  Both were soon laughing as well, and Greg shook his head. But he also marveled at the difference in Mason.  The boy was really trying. He knew Mason understood the challenges of being different. Maybe that's why he was able to get past his shock early this morning.

 That, and Clay's refusal to simply let things go unsaid.  He was a firm believer in airing what needed discussion and leaving the rest alone.  It meant Mason didn't have any lurking worries about his father and Greg. Sure, there was adjusting to do.  And it would take more time. But there was no reason it couldn't work out for all of them.

 Greg already knew Clay better than anybody else.  That included Clay's own son. When you spend your working life together with one person, you grow close in ways that can't be matched.  So it wasn't a question of if he could handle a relationship with Clay. He KNEW he could. He was already in one with him and had been for 20 years.  And now that he had time to think about it, adding a sexual component felt … natural.

 Greg watched the two of them as they finished horsing around.  They stood up and he smiled at them. "You guys are probably hungry.  It's about dinner time in Alabama."

 Clay seemed to assess his hunger.  "Yeah, I'm getting there."

 Mason nodded.  "Same."

 "All right.  Let's put the tools away, clean up, and I'll get an early dinner started."

 The men had everything squared away quickly, and Greg started his charcoal grill again.  This time he prepared everything for various kabobs. There were beef and chicken versions planned, with the meat already cut up and marinating in two different sauces.  The chicken was lemon, mustard, olive oil, and honey. The beef was lime, garlic chili paste, and Italian dressing.

 He set Mason and Clay to work assembling kabobs while he prepped a clay pot.  It was soaking in clean water in his sink, and he pulled it out. Then he put in two cups of rice and the same amount of water.  He brought the pot out and put it beside the grill. Both of the Jameson men looked askance at it.

 He saw them.  "It's a clay pot.  I mainly use it for rice."

 Clay smirked.  "Yeah, I remember that thing.  You used to bring it to potlucks."  He shrugged as if acquiescing a point.  "Though, the stuff was always really good."

 Greg helped them finish the kabobs, and they waited a bit for the coals to whiten a little more.  While they did Mason went into the Airstream and got them drinks. They didn't ask, but he brought them each a hard cider, and he dug out the other bottle of kombucha in Greg's cooler.

 Greg sighed as he took the cider.  "This is what got me in trouble last night."  Then his eyes slid over to Clay who only grinned.

 "Drink up."  Clay laughed and then took a slug from his bottle.

 Mason shook his head and sat down.  But he smiled at the pair.

 Greg put his clay pot on the grill, off to the side where it could gently warm.  The middle, where the heat was highest got the first set of kabobs - loaded with meat, chunks of veggies, and mushrooms.  The scent of cooking meat and spices hit his nose and his mouth salivated.

 "Mmmm.  Okay, now I'm really hungry."  He smiled and put the lid on so it was still cracked open.  Then he sat down in a chair across from Clay.

 Mason looked back and forth between Greg and his dad.  Then he sighed. "You know … you can sit next to him, Greg."  The teenager opened his kombucha and took a swig.

 Greg looked at Mason, then he turned to Clay.  The big man smiled broadly. "You heard him." Clay patted the side of his chair.  "Come on over."

 Greg dragged his chair and put it right next to Clay's.  Mason watched the two of them, his face a study of thoughtful amusement.  Clay patted Greg's leg. "Much better." He looked up at Mason, and Clay's expression changed.  "Thanks, son." His eyes were serious and showed his appreciation.

 Mason sighed and shrugged.  "Well … I'd be pissed if my boyfriend didn't sit beside me."

 Greg smiled at Mason, then he turned to Clay.  "So … that what we are? We boyfriends?"

 Clay cocked his head and inhaled through clenched teeth.  "I don't know. Maybe. If you play your cards right."

 Mason snorted with a laugh and Greg turned to glare at him.  Though he quickly smiled to let Mason know he was joking. Soon all three men smiled and chuckled.

 They calmed a bit and Clay put his hand on Greg's leg.  "Well, let's go with boyfriends. And we'll see where we end up."

 "All right."  Greg smiled at him.  "Sounds good."

 They sat and relaxed while their food cooked.  Greg had no idea what the next few weeks would bring, but one thing was certain - Clay would remain a part of his life.  And that filled his soul with something he didn't know he was missing.

 It filled him with hope.


Author's Note: Please let me know your thoughts about the chapter at the following email address link.   Wayne Gray

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