Camp Refuge

Chapter 8 - Camp Refuge

May 20, 2018 (Sunday)

"I need you to make sure he's going to be okay."  It was early in the morning, and Clay's vibrant green eyes looked at Greg.  They lay in bed, face to face. Greg's arm was around Clay's waist, their hips pressed together, and Clay's arm lay over Greg's back.  The big man rubbed Greg's back, the action nervous.

 Greg patted Clay's hip.  "He's gonna be fine." Greg smiled and hoped it reassured his lover.  "Mason's a smart kid. He's not going to do anything stupid."

 Clay nodded.  "I agree that he is a smart kid."  He breathed and tried to find his calm.  "I've just never seen him act this way about anybody.  He's totally into Jeremy, and he doesn't even seem to care about the … about the HIV."

 "Hey," Greg shook him a little and Clay looked back at his face, "Jeremy isn't a bad guy.  He's not gonna put Mason at risk." Greg stretched and planted a soft kiss on Clay's forehead, then he pulled back and stroked Clay's face with his hand.  "You've got two guys, who are both decent people." He shrugged. "At some point we've got to trust them to do the right thing."

 Clay bit his lip.  "Yeah." He stared at Greg and pulled him close.  Clay hugged him, and as much of their bodies as possible were pressed together.  His lips were right next to Greg's ear. "Promise me. You'll watch him. Please."

 Greg heard the need for reassurance in his voice, and he rubbed Clay's back with his hand.  "I promise. I'll keep him out of trouble while you're gone." The trust between them from years on the force together was absolute.  Greg meant what he said, and Clay knew it.

 Clay seemed to relax in his arms and he released a breath he didn't know he held.  "Okay. Thank you." He swallowed and squeezed Greg. "I see the same look on Jeremy's face as I do Mason's.  Two guys, the same thing on their mind …" He didn't finish his thought. He only lay there and breathed while Greg held him.

 Greg could admit he wasn't an expert on HIV.  He knew the basics, and he knew people were living longer and healthier with the condition.  He didn't know Jeremy's particular situation, but he had to assume the young man was being treated.  He worked in a medical clinic after all. But he also decided he couldn't afford to assume. Clay depended on him to keep Mason safe, so Greg promised himself that he would find out whatever Jeremy would tell him about his particular situation.

 Clay's flight left at 8:30 AM.  He was already packed, though some stuff was staying behind since the plan was for him to return in twenty days or so.  Greg picked up his phone on the nightstand and checked the time. "We're looking at 5:25, Clay." He put it back down. "Alarm is going off in five."

 Clay squeezed him again.  "I really don't wanna go."  He sighed. "This has been the best week I've had in years."

 Greg smiled.  "Me too." He rubbed the hair on Clay's head.  "But you'll be back soon." Greg snuggled up to Clay, his face against the big man's neck.  "That's what I keep telling myself - 'he'll be back soon.'"

 They lay together until the alarm went off.  Even then Clay wouldn't release Greg, and the men stayed tangled up in the sheets for another ten minutes.  Finally, they got up, and they walked across the quiet campground in the early dawn. Each wore only a towel, shower shoes, and carried their clean clothes and shower kits.  They both took a shower together and fed coins into the apparatus until each of them were both clean, and both satisfied from the ministrations of the other.

 "You probably cost me $2, Officer Jameson."  Greg grinned at Clay as he shook his cock clean of semen in the warm stream of water.

 "I'm worth it."  Clay laughed and kissed Greg.  He pulled back and smiled at Greg, then his smile slipped.  "I'm gonna call you every day."

 "You'd better,"  Greg responded. The shower stopped and Greg grabbed his towel and handed Clay his.  He didn't want to think too much about Clay leaving. They'd both do what they had to, but they didn't have to like it.

 The men dried off and dressed for the day.  They exited the shower room and began the walk back to the Airstream.

 Mason just came out of the trailer, and he held the filled french press in his hands.  Yesterday, Greg showed him where the coffee supplies were, and told him he could make it whenever he liked.  Clay made an approving sound. Coffee was always a welcome thing in his world. A sleepy, yawning Jeremy was walking toward the men from his tent, on his way to the restroom.  He had his toothbrush in hand, a towel over his shoulder, and he was dressed in comfortable, soft clothes - sweats and a long sleeve thermal shirt.

 The barely-awake redhead only nodded at them and blinked tiredly.

 "Mornin', Jeremy."  Greg smiled at him. He got a grunt in reply.  Both Clay and Greg laughed quietly as the young man entered the restroom.

 "Not a morning person.  Got it." Clay snickered.  They continued on to the patio table and Mason had just poured himself a mug of coffee.

 "Hey, dad.  Greg." Mason smiled at the men.  He put his regular cream and sugar into his coffee and he sat.  Clay noticed Mason had changed seats. He now faced toward the restrooms and the rest of the campground so he could see the space.

 'He wants to watch for Jeremy.'  Clay only barely kept a frown from his face.  Instead, he forced a smile. "Hey, son." Clay nodded at the French press.  "Thanks for making coffee."

 Mason nodded.  "You're welcome."  The teenager sipped his coffee and sighed.  He watched as Clay and Greg got some of the liquid for themselves.  "Dad, are you for sure coming back for my birthday?"

 Clay sat with his mug and nodded.  "Unless something drastic happens with my retirement request, or with the house in Alabama."  He took a sip and looked at Mason. "I've already got a realtor to list the house, and I've talked to our HR guy about the retirement."  He smiled. "The wheels are in motion." He took on a thoughtful expression. "I'll be driving back instead of flying. But I still think I'll make it."

 Mason smiled broadly.  "Good." He looked around the campground.  "I REALLY like it here." He swallowed and glanced at Greg.  "I think … I think maybe I'd like to work for you here." Mason stared down at his coffee.  "I mean, more than just the summer."

 Greg pressed his lips together and drummed his fingers on the table.  "Well, that's fine with me." He picked up his mug. "But you need to decide what you're going to do with the rest of your life, and make sure you're working toward it."  He shrugged. "You can work for me here as long as you like. So long you're either going to college or enrolled in some kind of program. A trade school. Something."

 Mason grinned.  "I've already looked at the College of the Redwoods' Annex in town.  They've got basic classes I can take. Though I'll need to spend a year in the state, so I can get residency."  He looked hopefully at Greg. "That okay?"

 Greg nodded.  "Yep. Though I want you doing something to better yourself during your year off."

 Clay elbowed Greg gently.  "Make him restart his Spanish.  He took a couple years in high school.  So he's got a jump on it." Mason made a face at Clay.

 Greg only looked at the boy.  After a minute Mason sighed. "Fine.  I'll get Spanish on Duolingo." He pulled out his phone and downloaded the language app, and shot his dad another look.  That only made Clay grin at him.

 Greg nodded.  "All right. I'm gonna check your progress every week."  Greg winked at him. "Keep you honest."

 "Esto es una mierda."  Mason said, and grinned.

 "Yep.  Total bullshit."  Greg smiled back at him and Mason goggled.  "Oh yeah. I speak Spanish. Handy in police work."

 The boy laughed and shook his head.  He also started his first Duolingo lesson while he drank his coffee.

 A short time passed and Jeremy walked from the bathroom/showers.  As soon as he was visible Mason put his phone away and smiled as he watched the young man approach.  Clay eyed Mason with some obvious worry.

 "Hey, Jeremy!"  Mason smiled at him.  "I made some coffee."

 "Thanks."  Jeremy shook his head back and forth and tried to clear his morning cobwebs.  He poured a mug of the black liquid, and he sat with a sigh.

 "You sleep okay?"  Mason asked. The boy's full attention was on Jeremy.

 "A lot better than the night before, yeah.  Thanks for asking," Jeremy took a sip of his drink and he closed his eyes.  Both of his hands wrapped around the mug, and a smile pulled at his mouth. "Mmmm … coffee."

 Everyone chuckled, even Clay.  Jeremy opened his eyes and looked at the policeman.  "What time is your flight?"

 "8:30,"  Clay answered, and Greg made a face.

 "He'll be back for my birthday though,"  Mason said, trying to be helpful and upbeat.  Mason's eyes widened. "Oh!" He turned to Jeremy, obviously excited.  "Do you think you can come to the campground for my birthday? It's a Monday, June 11th."

 Clay and Greg glanced at one another.  Clay's face was stony as he worked at keeping it expressionless.  Greg smiled slightly at him, 'Calm down, big guy,' he silently willed Clay to relax.

 Jeremy thought about Mason's question.  "I'm not sure," he smiled. "I will if I can get the time off, and if it's okay with Greg."

 "Fine with me,"  Greg answered easily.  Under the table, he patted Clay's leg reassuringly.  "Mason can have whoever he wants to come celebrate with him."

 "Are we having a party?"  The lanky teenager's eyes lit up.  "Like, a cake, candles, and music kind of party?"

 Greg laughed.  "It's your 18th birthday.  Of course, we're having a party!"

 Mason grinned and chatted excitedly to Jeremy.

 Clay looked over at Greg while the young men talked.  "Thanks for taking care of him." He leaned over and put his head on Greg's shoulder.

 Greg put an arm around his shoulders and kissed Clay's head.  "Of course." Then very low, so only Clay could hear. "Don't stress.  Okay? He's going to be fine."

 Clay took a deep breath, then finally nodded.  "Okay," he whispered back.

 It was time for Clay to go.  As they loaded his luggage into the truck Mason hugged him.  "I'm gonna miss you, dad."

 Clay patted his back as they embraced.  "I'll miss you too, son." He squeezed Mason.  "Be good. Okay? Be careful."

 "I … I will, dad."  He pushed back and smiled at Clay.  "Don't worry."

 Clay would definitely worry.  But he gave a small smile back and nodded.

 Jeremy waited for the Jameson men to finish and he stuck out his hand.  "It was really good to meet you, Mr. Jameson."

 Clay reached and took Jeremy's much smaller hand in his own.  He gave the young man a nice firm shake and was mildly surprised to discover Jeremy had a strong grip.  Clay nodded and he slowly smiled. "Nice to meet you, Jeremy." He narrowed his eyes slightly. "Remember what you said, on our walk."

 Jeremy nodded tightly.  "I remember." He dropped his hand to his side.  "You don't have to worry about that."

 Mason watched with a puzzled expression, but he didn't ask.

 Greg and Clay climbed up into the cab of the truck, and they pulled onto the highway, headed toward Crescent City.

 Clay was quiet on the way, and he stared out of the window.  Greg glanced over as he drove, and he put a hand on Clay's leg.  The big man kept looking out at the world as it passed, but he moved his hand to cover Greg's.

 Once they arrived, Clay looked over at Greg.  "See you soon."

 Greg nodded.  "Yeah." He leaned over and gave Clay a kiss.  A few other passengers exiting cars saw them, but the men didn't care.  Greg pulled his lips away and whispered, "Be safe. Come back to me."

 "I will."  Clay's eyes were bright.  "I love you."

 "I love you, Clay."  Greg shook his head and jerked his chin at the airport doors.  "Go on. Before I make a scene."

 Clay smiled, and he got out.  Greg watched as the big man grabbed his bag, shut the door, and Clay waved.  Then he walked into the airport.

 Greg pulled away and swiped at his face.  'Least I held off till he got out.' He laughed at himself, and he drove back to his home.

 ______________________________________

 Jeremy slowly packed up his tent.  Greg had returned not long ago, and he busied himself by doing some last minute projects.  Jeremy could tell Greg didn't like that his policeman was gone. 'That's so nice.' Jeremy thought as he stuffed his tent into its bag.  'He's got someone to miss … and someone who misses him.' He sighed and continued to pack.

 Mason came back from the restroom, and he wore a tremendous frown when he saw Jeremy packing.  "You're going now?" He looked at his phone. "But, it's only 9 AM. You really can't stay any longer?"

 Jeremy straightened and gave him a smile.  "I should get going. I've got a bit of homework to do for my project kids."  He had left out his notebook so he could look over the information on the campground and the Raven Project.  He picked it up and scanned his notes. "I've got four kids who I think would be interested in camping, and what will be offered here," he scratched his head.  "Though, I'll have to accompany them. So I need to schedule that with the clinic."

 "Wait.  You can get paid to camp?"  Mason grinned. "That's the best job ever!"

 Jeremy laughed.  "Well, I'm salary.  But … yeah. I guess I would be getting paid to camp."

 Mason helped Jeremy finish packing.  Then the two slowly walked back to the Airstream.  Mason really didn't want the time with the young redhead to end.  "When do you think you'll be back?" Mason's tone was obviously hopeful.

 Jeremy noticed, and it made him smile.  He turned to Mason as they got to the patio table beside the Airstream.  "I'm not sure. Probably this week, if the clinic can handle that."

 Greg just exited the trailer, and he glanced at the young men.  "Hey, guys." He was very clinical, and business-like in his manner.  It was obvious that he missed Clay, and Jeremy found that incredibly sweet.

 "Hey Greg," Jeremy began, "how much per night for camping?  I'll need to set funds aside for the kids out of my budget," he turned and looked at the grounds.  "Plus, how many tents are you okay with at each site?"

 Greg followed his gaze and he too looked at the campground.  "Three tents per site is probably about right. But people can cram however many they want into a site.  Though each one only has parking for a couple of cars, and no more than that." He looked back at Jeremy.  "It's $20 for each night, each site. Cabins are $35 a night, and can easily sleep six - as long as the futons get used."

 Jeremy jotted down his notes.  "Okay. This is really cheap in terms of activities for the kids."  He looked up and smiled. "Thanks for the hospitality, and letting me stay over."  Before Greg could answer he dug into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. "Here's my payment for the two nights."  He held $40 out for Greg to take.

 Greg waved his hand.  "No, this was on the house."

 Jeremy shook his head.  "Nope. I want to be your guys' first paying customer."  He held out the money again. "Come on. It's a little thing.  Give this to me."

 Greg smirked at Jeremy, but he took the money.  "All right. Thanks." He put the money into his pocket and held out his hand.  "It really was good to meet you."

 Jeremy shook it.  "Same here." He looked over at Mason, then back to Greg.  "Though I think you guys'll get sick of me. I'll probably be back mid-week with four kids in tow."

 Greg's eyes slid over to Mason.  Almost on cue, the teenager said, "No way!"  He grinned at Jeremy. "Let us know when you're on the way.  I'll make extra sure the campground looks good for you," he blushed, "and … and the kids."

 Jeremy smiled.  "Thanks, Mason. Will do."

 Mason walked Jeremy back to his car.  He felt the loss of the redhead even before it had happened, and he stuck his hands in his jean pockets as he stood next to the silver Saturn.  Jeremy tossed his notebook in on the passenger seat, then he turned to Mason.

 "I had a good time here."  Jeremy looked at him - his blue eyes open and honest.  "You were a big part of that." Jeremy nodded. "So, thank you."

 Mason shuffled his feet.  "You're welcome." The two of them stood there a moment, and finally, Jeremy took a breath.

 "Okay,"  he nodded, almost to himself.  "Okay … so I've gotta go." He turned and opened his car door.

 Mason put a hand on his shoulder and gently turned him around.  Then the teenager leaned down and pulled Jeremy in for a hug. He clung tight, one hand on the back of Jeremy's neck, and the other on the small of his back.  Mason liked the feel of Jeremy's beard against his neck.

 Jeremy closed his eyes and enjoyed the extended and unhurried hug.  A part of him screamed that he shouldn't, but it had been so long, and he craved human contact so much.  Jeremy ignored that part of his mind, and he let Mason hold him, inhaled Mason's scent, and he hugged the teenager back.

 Both of them finally pulled apart.  Jeremy had a painfully hard erection, and he blushed as he adjusted himself.  Mason grinned and did the same. Jeremy laughed. "Okay. I have to go. Really."  He grinned back at the lanky boy. "Bye, Mason."

 Mason nodded.  "Bye. See you soon."

 ______________________________________

 Jeremy drove around the loop and he pulled out of the campground.  He drove toward Crescent City, and he shook his head at himself. "What am I doing?"  He knew it couldn't happen. Nothing could happen between him and Mason. "Why am I torturing myself?  Both of us?"

 He drove into the city, and his mind still wouldn't veer from Mason.  He could see his face, hear his voice, and he even remembered his smell.  He gave an exasperated sigh as his dick hardened in his pants.

 He arrived at his apartment and he began to unload his car.  Though he only put the gear on his living room floor. He would load it back up again in a few days, so there wasn't any need to put it away.  He finished quickly and he went to his fridge.

 Jeremy went back to his living room and he sat on the couch with his glass of orange juice.  He took a sip, and he stared out of his window. His mind continued to relive every moment he had spent with Mason, and he shook himself.

 He downed the rest of his juice and stood up to wash the glass.  Then his phone vibrated. He walked into the kitchen and he put the glass on the counter.  Jeremy reached into his pocket and pulled out the phone.

 He grinned at the message from Mason.  'Hey. Hope you made it home safe.'

 Jeremy tapped out a reply with both thumbs.  'I'm home. Thanks for checking on me.' His fingers hovered over the screen.  He rejected the additional text he was going to send and quickly responded with his original reply.

 He could see Mason got his message, and that the boy was already typing a reply.  The typing stopped. Then started. Stopped. Then started again. Finally, another message came through.  'I know it's dumb, but I wish you were here. I already miss you.'

 Jeremy stared down at the message and he swallowed the lump in his throat.  He took a shaky breath. 'It's not dumb.' His fingers again hovered over the screen.  Again he shook his head, and he sent the text.

 Jeremy suddenly made a sound of surprise and he felt himself tear up.  "Someone to miss." He shook his head. "I'm someone to miss."

 The redhead made a frustrated noise, and he swiped at his eyes.  He walked back into the living room and he looked down at the camping supplies stacked neatly beside the door.

 He stared at the pile, and he laughed at himself.  Then he inhaled, and he closed his eyes.

 "I really wish I didn't … but, I miss you too."

 _______________________________________

 Greg made his bed with his freshly laundered sheets, and he tightened them up so his bed was completely smooth.  He looked down at it, and his eyes moved over to the other pillow - Clay's pillow.

 Greg picked it up.  He held it in his arms, and he leaned down to put his face against it.  He inhaled deeply. All he could smell was the laundry detergent. Greg slumped.  Dejected, he dropped it back into place on the bed.

 He sat down at the little table inside the Airstream, and he stared out of the window.  Mason had retreated to his cabin, and now both of them were holed up inside while a beautiful day wasted away.  Greg sighed.

 "I miss you, Officer Jameson."  He whispered. Then he checked his phone again.  He downloaded a tracking application for flights, and he watched for a little while as Clay's plane inched east, across the country back toward Alabama.

 He sighed heavily again.  Then his spine straightened, and his eyes went wide as he remembered something.  He got up, and he exited the Airstream.

 Greg didn't plan to rent out the "Clay" cabin anytime soon.  So he hadn't made it ready for new occupants. He opened the door, and he looked at the bed.

 It was made, but slightly rumpled.  Greg walked over and he sat on the edge.  He pushed off his shoes with his feet, then he lay down.

 His head was on the pillow Clay had used that first night, and Greg smiled.  He could smell the very faint scent of the man, and he wrapped his arms around the pillow.  He knew it was silly. He knew that. But he didn't care. Greg inhaled deeply, repeatedly, and piece-by-piece he relaxed.

 For a little while, he could pretend his policeman was here.  And though it was only about 11 AM, Greg soon dropped off to sleep for a restful nap.

 And he dreamed of Clay.

 _______________________________________

 Mason stood in his cabin, and he read the reply text from Jeremy, 'It's not dumb.'  The boy smiled and he licked his lips. He thought about saying something more, but he made himself leave Jeremy alone.

 'You don't want to say something stupid.'  He still felt those same butterflies in his belly when he thought of  the redhead.  Mason sat on the bed then flopped onto his back. He stared at the ceiling, held the phone against his chest, and he tried to think about how he felt, and what he was going to do about it.

 'I can't do anything,' he frowned and that felt incredibly sad to him.  'He's got HIV … I can't do anything.' His expression turned thoughtful.  'Right?'

 He couldn't really answer the question.  And the conversation with Greg taught Mason to take less for fact without proof.  Mason sat up and unlocked his phone. He went to his search engine.

 "HIV prevention."  He murmured the words as he typed them, and he hit enter.

 He flipped over on his belly, settled himself on the bed, and put the pillow under his chest.  He found the CDC's website and selected that one from a list of those which came up.

 Finally comfortable, the lanky teenager began to read.

 _______________________________________

 Clay arrived back in Alabama in the early afternoon.  It was hot, sticky, and he sighed unhappily as he walked from the plane across the tarmac to the airport terminal.

 He only had his carry-on and he fast-walked his way through the airport.  He left his car in long-term parking a little over a week ago, and he quickly found it.  Clay loaded his bag into the back, and he got into the driver's seat.

 He sat behind the wheel, and he pulled out his phone.  'On the ground.' He hit send, and he started the car.

 Clay drove to his house.  He walked in and he let his bag crash heavily onto the floor.  He looked around the space and he pushed back on the deep loneliness he suddenly felt.  It reminded him of the first few months after he and Mason had lost Kathy. Though, he knew this time it wouldn't last.

 That gave him a little jolt of happiness.  Then his phone buzzed and the smile that had started became a grin.  He pulled the machine from his pocket.

 'Glad you made it safe.  I miss you, Clay.' Attached to the text was a selfie of Greg.  He lay on the cabin's bed, and he made sure to include the empty pillow next to his head.

 Clay laughed quietly.  'I miss you too.' He sent the message and looked over at the kitchen table.  There were a few pieces of paper there and he stepped over to take a look.

 While he was gone Clay set things up for a realtor to show his house to prospective buyers.  Apparently, there were already a couple of offers, even before a week had passed since he listed it.  Clay nodded and smiled. The offers were based on a favorable estimate, and he was definitely happy with the amounts.

 It looked as if the house would sell easily.  That was a good start to his exit from Alabama.

 The only thing left was to get his retirement going, and plan the drive across the nation back home.

 Clay knew it was going to happen.  And to cheer himself up he sat down with his road atlas.  Highlighter in hand he slowly marked his planned drive back to Greg.

 And as he finally traced the highlighter over that tiny little dot on the map, Hiouchi, he smiled.

 "Home."


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

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