Jared the Paramedic II ~ The Family Gathers

Chapter 18: Downriver

Main Character ListMain Character List ("<\/p>\r\n<h3 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Main Characters<\/h3>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Jared<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 29<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 6'3\", 230 lbs of solid muscle, trimmed dark black hair and deep chocolate brown eyes<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Paramedic (Partner: Liam) \/ Shift Supervisor \/ Paramedic Field Trainer<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Boyfriend: Liam<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Mathew Bear (grandfather), Melanie Bear (cousin)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Spirit Guide: Bear<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Nicknames: Masqua, Standing Bear<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Titles: Sacred Medicine Man of the People, President and CEO Bear Investment Group (secret)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 1<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Liam<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 22<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 6'0\", blue eyes, curly blond hair, nicely toned and tanned<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Paramedic (Partner: Jared)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Boyfriend: Jared<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Spirit Guide: Eagle<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Nicknames: Mikisow, Soaring Eagle<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 1<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Troy<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 25<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'11\", brown eyes, blonde hair, solid but not overly muscular.<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Paramedic<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Boyfriend: Tyler<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Spirit Guide: Wolf<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 1<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Tyler<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 25<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'11\", brown eyes, dark brown hair, slim<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Police Officer (Partner: Josh)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Boyfriend: Troy<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Spirit Guide: Wolf<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 1<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Josh<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 25<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'8\", blue eyes, light brown hair, solid. He and Darrin could pass for cousins or even brothers,<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Police Officer (Partner: Tyler)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Boyfriend: Darren<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Spirit Guide: Wolf<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Nickname: Ditch Pig<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 1<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Darren<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 26<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 6'0\", green eyes, light brown hair, solid. He and Josh could pass for cousins or even brothers.<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Fire Fighter<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Boyfriend: Josh<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Spirit Guide: Wolf<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Nickname: Hose Puller<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 5<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Jesse<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 32 (looks 22)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'10\" 160 lbs, blonde hair, clear blue eyes, light olive skin (darkens considerably when tanned). Has an eidetic memory.<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Lawyer, McCoy &amp; Associates (owner, President, CEO), McAdam Construction (owner, President, CEO)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Husband: Marc (deceased)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Boyfriend: Zane<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance:&#160;Jared II, Chapter 1 &#160; &#160; | &#160; &#160; Jared, Chapter 16 (phone)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Zane<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 26<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'8\" 140 lbs, brown hair, brown eyes<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Director of the LGTBQ2 Centre<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Boyfriend: Jesse<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 11<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Conner<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 18<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'10\", 150 lbs, slightly built, brown curly hair, hazel eyes<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Student<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships:&#160;Frank (surrogate father)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 11<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Mark<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 18<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'11\", 150 lbs, slightly built, dirty blonde straight hair, grey eyes<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Student<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Sgt. Frank Myers (father)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 15<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Adam<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 19<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'8\", 145 lbs, black hair, chocolate brown eyes, olive skin<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Tom (grandfather), Frank (surrogate father)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 17<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Patrick<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 17<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 6'0\", dark shaggy hair, large soft brown eyes, contagious smile, and a light mustache<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared II, Chapter 11<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Mathew (Grandfather)<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Jared and Melanie (grandchildren), Liam, Tyler, Troy, Darren, Josh, Jesse, Zane, Conner, Mark, Adam (adopted grandchildren)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared II, Chapter 12 &#160; &#160; | &#160; &#160; Jared, Chapter 2 (mentioned); Jared, Chapter 8 (astral)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">")

Recurring Character ListRecurring Character List ("<\/p>\r\n<h3 style=\"text-align: justify;\"><span style=\"text-decoration: underline; color: #999999;\">Recurring Characters<\/span><\/h3>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Sgt. Frank Myers<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Police Sergeant<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Mark (son) and a daughter, Conner (surrogate son), Adam (surrogate son)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 1<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Rob<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Ambulance Base Manager<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 4<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Melanie Bear<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'6\", with olive skin and jet black braided hair to her waist<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Executive Assistant to the CEO\/President, Bear Investment Group (3rd in command)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Mathew Bear (grandfather), Jared Bear (cousin)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 10 &#160; &#160; | &#160; &#160; Jared, Chapter 2 (mentioned)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Jack<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: COO of McCoy &amp; Associates<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Molly (wife), Jesse (surrogate son)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared II, Chapter 5 &#160; &#160; | &#160; &#160; Jared II, Chapter 3 (phone)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Molly<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Jack (husband), Jesse (surrogate son)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared II, Chapter 5<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Julie<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Office Manager for the local McCoy &amp; Associates office<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Used to babysit Jesse and Marc when they were young<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared II, Chapter 3<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">John<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: CFO and Acting CEO, Bear Investment Group (2nd in command after Jared)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 10<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Amanda<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: A pleasant woman, shorter, plump, eyes full of life, and&#160;grandmotherly. &#160;Also a sensitive.<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Hospital Social Worker<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 13<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Marcie<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Paramedic<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 14<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Tom<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 75<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Owner and Operator of Tom's Marina<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Adam (grandson)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 17<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Trevor<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 23<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'8\" 130 lbs, long blonde hair, very fine facial features with delicate hands<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Works at the LGBTQ Centre<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared II, Chapter 4<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Nikita<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 19<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'9\" slim, blonde hair, crystal blue eyes, muscular<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Works at the Chinese Resturant<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared II, Chapter 14<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">")

The weekend after the events of Career Day and the cleansing, Grandfather wanted the family to spend a couple of days together canoeing in the wilderness.  It was a way for the new members to begin thinking as a group instead of as individual people.  After some discussion, the group decided to ask Conner, Mark, and Patrick if they would like to join them.  With Josh, Tyler, Darren, Troy, and Adam all coming, they would be able to use the big canoes Jared had in the back of a shed.  These were canoes developed by the tribe and adopted by the Courier des Bois and were a larger freighter, or war, canoe.  With twelve men planning on the trip, they could use two of the 20' canoes with room to spare.  The canoes were designed for multiple people paddling at the same time and carrying heavy loads.  Traditionally, the tribe could use them for hunting trips, or moving warriors quickly for an attack.  The Courier des Bois were Frenchmen who trapped and traded with the tribes and filled large canoes with thousands of pound in furs to be sent back to Europe.  Those canoes could be up to 26 or 28 feet and have ten-twelve people paddling in each boat.  The distance these men could travel in one day was phenomenal.  The canoes Jared had were 20' in length and designed for six people each with three paddling on each side.  The canoes could be used on this trip with three paddlers who alternate sides.  The new guys would begin to paddle as they felt more comfortable in the canoes.

It was to be a relaxing trip for a weekend.  They could actually start at the cabin and follow the river system around to where their new homes would be finished in the next couple of weeks.  Jared had spoken with Grandfather, and the crew was building a large boathouse off the river bank so they could store some of the watercraft inside.  It also gave them the option of using the jet boat for the run down the river as well.  There would be a dock to moor to, but the main structure would be above the high water and ice marks.

Jared and Liam designated people in the canoes for the first day, but that would change.  The most experienced paddlers were Adam, Liam, Zane and himself; so he spread them around the canoes.  Next, he split the somewhat experienced the same way, leaving the newbies Jesse, Mark, Conner, and Patrick to spread out as well.  Once the newbies had shown they could at least paddle in a reasonably straight route, they would be allowed to switch canoes. Both Jared and Liam liked the idea so the older brothers could get to know the newer ones.

Jared stood in the clear area just above the beach.  "Ok guys, let's collect up here for a moment before we start."

Each one of the men was dressed in a pair of leather leggings with a t-shirt.  The leggings could be untied, leaving a loin cloth in place.  Jared had indicated for the men to form a circle.

"First of all," started Jared, "I want to wish a happy 18th birthday to our little buddy Patrick.  Happy birthday, little man!"

The rest of the group also congratulated him and he got a few pats on the back.

Troy spoke up, "Your mom gave us strict instructions that you have to get the birthday bumps sometime today as well."

"Aww shit, guys," said Patrick with a smile.

Jared took over again.  "You new guys, the paddle you are holding is your life.  The canoe is the vessel, but you and the paddle are the motor.  You have all been given what we call a Beaver Tail paddle, has the largest blade and which is the easiest to use.  This is the most efficient paddle for this type of canoe.  I want you to look at Adam and Zane to see how they are standing with the paddles."

The men all looked over to see them standing with the grip on the top of their foot with the blade being held upwards.  To the inexperienced, it would seem like they were holding the paddle upside down.

Jared smiled.  "Adam, please explain the proper handling of the paddle on shore."

"Yes, Masqua.  The handle is the part of the paddle that the palm of your hand is always in contact with, so we protect it on our foot.  The blade is very thin, so we need to protect it as well but in a different way.  If it is pushed into the sand or into rocks, they can cause damage to the blade.  Maybe not the first time, but as the wood dries at night, and is used during the day, the paddle blade can split and become useless."

Jared spoke up, "After this, if you stick the blade onto or into the ground, your ass gets a swat from the nearest paddle."

"Darren might like that too much," stated Josh with a smile.

"Only from you, little man," replied Darren as they kissed quickly.

Most of the group rearranged themselves to hold their paddles the way it had been demonstrated.

Liam continued, "There are four long ropes on each of the canoes, two on the front or the bow and two on the back or the stern.  The ones at the front are always one on each side and the ones at the stern trail behind while we paddle.  These are in case the canoe flips or you fall out.  It gives you a chance to grab onto something so you can pull yourself back to the canoe."

The new guys were listening intently to everything.  Jared stood still and raised his hands, palms up towards the sky.  His head lifted and looked skyward and when men in the circle saw this, they quietened down quickly.

Jared dropped his hands and looked slowly around at the men about to commence the trip.  "The circle has strong healing power, for everyone." Jared's eyes were making contact with every person in the circle as he continued to speak.  "In a circle, we are all equal.  When we are in a circle, there is no one in front of you or behind you, no one is above you or below you.  The circle is sacred, and it is a gift from the Creator to create unity.  We always stand side by side in a circle, the way it should be."

Jared continued, "Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds, and whose breath gives life to all the world, let us walk in beauty and let us learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.  So when life fades, as the fading sunset, our Spirit may come to you without shame.  We are starting a journey today, a journey of peace, healing, and brotherhood.  Creator, we ask for your protection and guidance in our travels.  The way it is, the way it was, Amen."

After a moment, Jared said, "In the words of John Wayne, let's get rolling, pilgrims."

"John Wayne never said that," said Tyler.

"John Wayne was on the wrong side in the Indian war movies," stated Troy.

"Depends who you speak to," retorted Josh.  Their voices disappeared as the group of men started towards the canoes.

"That was the worst John Wayne imitation I've ever heard," stated Adam as he laughed.

"Oh yeah???" said Jared as he started to move towards Adam.

Adam yelled, "Oh, shit!" and ran quickly towards the canoes.  Jared had managed to fake him out and quit running.

Jesse, Conner, and Patrick were lagging behind the group.  Liam and Jared caught up with them.

"You guys are going to have fun on this trip, and experience new things you could only dream of," explained Jared.

Jesse smiled and replied, "As long as I'm here with Zane, everything is good.  I've always wanted to do something like this, but just never had the time."

Zane moved next to him and took Jesse's hand into his.  "I enjoyed these trips when I was younger and now I not only get to do it again but with you.  We have the young ones too, eh?"

Conner smiled.  "Yeah, I guess we really are the kids with all you old guys around."  His head moved as Liam slapped the back of it.

"Oww!" yelped Conner as he was rubbing his head.

"Old guys?  Old guys!?  They are the old ones!" said Liam pointing at Jesse, Zane, and Jared. He knew it was coming but didn't see it.  Liam felt the slap and looked at Jesse who had the biggest smile on his face.

"I learn fast, ditzy," replied Jesse.  Jared started to laugh.  Liam exaggerated a pout.

"Has anyone here got a cell phone?" asked Jesse.  "I mean, in case of an emergency."

Zane smiled at Jesse.  "Have faith Jesse, there is nothing which will happen that we as a family cannot handle.  Jared also has a satellite phone attached to the canoes.  If the canoe sinks, it releases by a pressure switch and floats to the surface.  Even has an orange marker flag on it."

"You guys really do think of everything," answered Jesse.

"We try Jesse, but no one can think of everything," replied Jared.

"I am so excited about this trip," blurted Patrick.  He looked around and then at the ground.  "Sorry, didn't mean to cut in."

Zane put his arm around Patrick's shoulder and pulled him in tight.  "No worries, little man.  I'm beginning to think you and Liam are both squirrel chasers."

Liam perked up, "Someone saw a squirrel?  Where!?" Jared pulled him for a hug and a kiss.

"We better get down to the canoes before they leave us behind," said Jesse.

The men all walked down to the two beached canoes.  The others had just finished making sure the equipment and food were there and secured, and that everyone had a life preserver.  They also made sure everyone knew which canoe was theirs, and where to sit.  Everyone got into position and lifted the canoe into the water.

Everyone got in and the stern men in both canoes pushed them off.  It was a beautiful day with just enough of a breeze to keep the sand flies away.

Jared's canoe had five paddlers, with Conner sitting on his butt in the middle and gripping the gunnels of the craft tightly.  Jared, Jesse, Tyler, Troy, Zane, and Conner were in the first canoe.  Conner had never been in a small boat, let alone a canoe. He could swim quite well, but he was also wearing his life preserver tightly.  Looking over his shoulder, Zane smiled reassuringly at the young man as he maintained a death grip on the canoe.

The second canoe held Josh, Darren, Adam, Patrick, Liam, and Mark.  Mark and Patrick had assumed the same position in this canoe as Conner had in his canoe.  The canoe wasn't out very far, but there was a problem with the movement.  Josh was in the bow paddling, and Darren was at the stern. The problem was Darren was positioned and paddling as if he was in the bow.  The two of them were paddling against each other, the canoe was rotating slowly in a pinwheel direction, Adam was on his back laughing and Patrick was holding onto the gunnels screaming for his mommy.

Jared's canoe slowed to watch the spectacle.  The inexperienced canoeists were shifting their weight carefully to get a better view of what was going on with Josh and Darren.  Soon enough they had all figured out the freighter canoes were fairly stable and were moving around more freely.  Darren and Josh had quit paddling and Adam directed them to the correct seated positions.

"You said you were in charge and told me to start paddling," said Darren loudly.

"But I'm in the bow and you are in the steering end," started Josh before he was cut off by Adam.

"Stern, Josh, it's a stern. Not the steering end thingy," said Adam as he laughed.

"Bitch!  I didn't say thingy," replied Josh.

"You were thinking it, Joshie," interjected Darren.

"Was not," said Josh with his hands on his hips.

Patrick was beginning to smile at the antics, and more importantly, he was beginning to relax in the canoe.  The other newbies were smiling as well and releasing their death grips on the gunnels as they relaxed as well.

Jared cleared his throat, "Ok you two, ditch pig and hose puller – MOVE IT.  If I was closer, I would cuff you two."  

Darren and Josh both stuck their tongues out at Jared as they started to paddle fast.

Josh yelled over his shoulder, "Hey, freeloader in the center, get to work."

Adam started to paddle and replied, "Josh, you have the wrong side of the paddle forward."

Josh stopped paddling and started to look at his paddle, flipping it over a couple times before he asked, "Which is the front? You never told me there was a front and back."  

Jared yelled over, "Adam, quit picking on the dumb cop.  You'll get him confused and then we will have to retrain him."

Josh looked at Jared, and then at Adam.  "Payback is a Tyler."

Adam looked puzzled for a moment until he heard Tyler yell back, "I heard that, you bitch."

The canoes were a bit of a spectacle for the other people on the river as most of them had never seen this type of craft anywhere except in a museum or in pictures.  Jared's canoe was leading the two large craft as they glided through the river water.

"So Jess, what do you think about this type of trip?" asked Zane.

"I could get used to activities like this," he replied.  "This thing moves pretty well for a watercraft.  Pretty stable actually."  Jesse moved from side to side causing the canoe to shift.

"STOP THAT!" yelled Conner as he grasped the gunnels tightly.  Troy reached forward and massaged Conner's shoulders.

"You're ok, buddy, this is pretty safe and don't forget these guys would never let you get hurt," explained Mark.

"I know, I'm sorry guys," said Conner as he relaxed.  "I've never been in a little boat let alone something like this before.

In the other canoe, Patrick was enjoying his first time in the wilderness and a canoe as well.  Unlike Conner, Patrick was now having no problem being on the water in the small craft.  Josh had him helping to paddle to keep him occupied and burn off some energy.

"This is pretty cool being out here," said Patrick.

"Patrick, isn't there somewhere else or doing something else you would have preferred for your 18th birthday rather than hanging around with us?" asked Darren.

"You got to be kidding, Darren.  How many guys on their 18th birthday get to go paddling on a canoe trip for a weekend with his friends?"

"This was actually your first choice?" asked Josh.

"Damn right, it was.  I'm not sure how to say it, but I really enjoy hanging with you guys.  I know a couple of you are pretty old…"

Jesse yelled over from the other canoe, "Watch it, you little bastard."

"Don't even think it," Jared chirped in after Jesse.  "Adam, do it."

Adam leaned forward and smacked the back of Patrick's head.

"Damn it, I thought I was safe with you guys in the other canoes," said Patrick laughing.

"What I really mean to say was the age doesn't matter with you guys.  You have never treated me like just a kid." He thought for a moment and then said, "Except when I needed to get straightened out a bit after I screw up."

"Patrick, you never screwed up that bad and it didn't take much to get you back on the right path," said Troy from the neighboring canoe.

Patrick stopped paddling for a moment.  "I should say thank you."

"What for, little man?" asked Troy.

"Well, you guys know I don't have a dad cause he died, and no brothers.  It's just me and Mom."

"You're family to us," said Tyler.

"That's just it, guys. Thank you.  If I could have had big brothers, I would have wanted them to be like you.  So this being my birthday weekend, I'm getting the best gift ever and being with my friends."

"If I was closer I would give you a hug, little buddy," said Troy.

Patrick smiled.  "I'll remember when we stop for a break so you can do it."

Each canoe began to chat amongst their own occupants, and the new people began to settle down as they got used to the movement of the craft.  Jared was paddling in a rhythm, but his mind was beginning to wander.  It was one of the reasons he liked this type of trip.

Jared was thinking back through his life and growing up on the reserve with his grandfather and cousin Melanie.  He was thinking about going to school, learning about investments and business practices from John and his grandfather.  He also fondly remembered when he started to work at the ambulance company, and finally meeting Liam.  Jared could feel the raw emotion from deep inside of him rapidly build and explode in his heart.  Whenever he thought of Liam this way, the feelings of love he held for his boyfriend overtook his body, and Jared didn't mind at all.

The group paddled for a couple of hours and stopped for lunch.  They dug into a large box of lunch they had picked up at Gus's restaurant.  In it were bags of fresh vegetables, fruit, cheese, and roast beef sandwiches.  In the corner of the box, wrapped very safely to prevent it from being damaged was a gift to Patrick.  The box held a chocolate cheesecake, and Gus had written 'Happy Birthday, Patrick' in icing on the top.

Patrick was speechless when he had opened the box and saw what was inside.  As he was staring at it, the group sang happy birthday to him.  Patrick had tears of joy rolling down his cheeks as he looked up at his friends.

They all had a piece of the cake, and Patrick licked the plastic plate it was on clean with his tongue.

"Darren, do you realize we forgot something?" asked Tyler as he nodded his head towards Patrick.

"Oh it was not forgotten, buddy," replied Darren as they both started to move towards Patrick.

"Oh, shit!" screamed Patrick as he tried to get away.  They readily caught him and proceeded to give him the birthday bumps.  After the bumps, he got a 'pinch to grow an inch' from every brother on his cute little butt.  After they were done, Patrick stood there massaging his ass cheeks from all the pinches.

"Thanks... I think," Patrick mumbled.

Tyler and Troy came up along each side of him and each put an arm around his shoulder.  "You love it, brat," said Tyler.

Liam stepped forward and reached for a box in pant's pocket and took a box out.  He opened it and showed the young man a beautiful gold chain and medallion for around his neck.  Liam lifted it out of the box and unclasped it.

Jared spoke, "This is a gift from us as a family, Patrick.  The medallion is for St. Christopher who protects children, bachelors, travel, and travelers.  This medal has been blessed by three of the most powerful medicine men, and is ready for you to wear."  After placing it around Patrick's neck, Liam closed the clasp and stood back to look.

Patrick was stunned at the beauty of the gold chain and medallion.  He had never owned anything this valuable before left alone receive it as a gift.

"Jared, Liam – it's too much. I can't accept it; it's too much for me."  

Tyler stepped in front of Patrick quickly and gently grasped both upper arms because he knew the young man was about to panic.  He had seen it before.

"Patrick," he said gently.  "Look into my eyes, little man."

Patrick lifted his head and looked into his friend's eyes.  Tyler and Troy were his mentors, brothers and sometimes even acted like fathers to him. He trusted them completely.  He lifted his head, and Tyler saw the tears.

"Little squirt, we give you this gift because we love you.  The gift is yours with the love of your friends, nothing more."

"But it's so expensive."

"Patrick, haven't you figured out by now we buy what we need, and give things to others who need as well. It's what we do as a family, little man. What good is money if it can't be used to make someone happy.  Now, look at the back of the medallion."

Patrick reached and turned the medallion over.  It was small print, but read "To Patrick - our brother."  He dropped the medallion and grabbed Tyler tightly.  Troy grabbed the two of them in a big hug as well.

Jared motioned for the rest of the group to clean up the site and stow the gear back in the canoes.

Jesse leaned over to Liam, "Those two are pretty close to Patrick, aren't they."

"Very close.  Their apartment is like a second home to Patrick especially since his mother works so much and they welcome him.  His mother works so hard to make a living and she was really happy to find out how well the three of them got along."

"Do you guys ever stop picking up strays?" asked Jesse with a smile.

Liam started tapping his chin with a finger while looking up at the sky, "Let's see... everyone here is a stray including you and me... so probably not."

"Ok, I hear you, Liam," replied Jesse laughing.

"Am I included in the strays," asked Adam.

Zane put his arm around the young man's shoulder, "Yes, you are.  Look over there at Conner, Mark, and Jesse.  Them too."

Darren stepped forward holding Josh's hand, "Me and Joshie, too.  We're both strays they brought in."

"We tried to throw the fireman back a few times but just like the cat, he kept coming back," added Liam.

Darren reached to grab Liam but missed.

They were joined by Tyler, Troy, and Patrick by the canoes.

Adam walked over to Patrick. "You ok, Patrick?"

Patrick smiled at him, "Never been better Adam, and thanks for asking."

Jared started to remove his leggings.

Conner and Mark were already standing in their loincloths as they folded the leggings they took off.  Patrick didn't hesitate and soon was just wearing his loincloth as well.

"This is so cool," said Patrick.  He looked down at the cloth, "It just barely covers me, though."  Jared looked at the young man.  What a cute looking young guy, and impressive package barely contained within the leather.

Josh walked over, "You look so cute like that.  Get a little sun on that skin for a tan and you will feel better.  Do you feel ok like that?  You know it's what we do but you don't have to do it.  We don't force people like that especially if they're uncomfortable doing it."

Patrick smirked at Josh.  "I don't mind, it's sorta cool.  But, if I get a puffy – there's nothing to keep it hidden."

"So, what's the problem?" asked Josh.  "We don't care and you know we would never ridicule you beyond fun."

"I know, you're right."

Jared was beginning to move the one canoe when he yelled over, "Hey, you two – get your cute little asses over here and help."

Tyler and Jesse ran over, "Coming, Dad." 

Everyone was paddling the canoes now.  The new guys were all feeling more comfortable in the craft and were actually enjoying the paddling.

On one of the drifting breaks, the guys all helped each other to put sunscreen on their backs.  A drifting break is where everyone stops paddling for a rest and the momentum continues to carry them forward.  They also shared some water, and trail mix.

As they coasted down the river, the group passed by a couple of large elk standing on the banks of the river for a drink.  It appeared to be two young does to Jared, and although they would be tasty, he never hunted does that young.

Jared called over to Zane and Adam, "Steak on the hoof, but a little young."  

"Maybe not Jared," said Adam.  "Tender."

"You guys eat those?" asked Mark.

"Yes, we do and they taste great on a BBQ," stated Zane.

"We eat a lot of elk," explained Jared.

"The tracking and hunting is part of the challenge and takes skill.  Moving through the forest quietly, looking for animal signs and reading the marks.  Listening to the sounds, smelling the odors, and becoming one with nature is such a natural high...  just like a wolf, the predator looking for a meal," explained Adam.

Conner and Mark were surprised at what Adam was saying but listened with interest.  Jesse was interested as well.  They continued to talk back and forth about hunting for a few minutes as everyone resumed paddling.

The group stopped on an island in the mid-afternoon.  The island had a small cove area which was shallow with sand.  The water was very warm in the sun.  The three canoes pulled up and beached.

"I thought we would stay here tonight.  This trip is not about distance, it is about being out here in the wilderness to enjoy life and be with friends," said Jared.

"Where do we set up for the night?" asked Zane.

"Come on, I'll show you guys. I haven't been here for years," explained Jared as he led the group up an old path which led around the cove and up an embankment.  The top of the embankment was a large open area surrounded by trees.  The men moved to the end and were astounded by the view up and down the river valley.  There were a few large rocks the men could climb onto to sit and enjoy the view.

Tyler was behind Troy with him pulled in tightly to his body.  Troy felt safe with Tyler's arms wrapped around and holding him.

Jesse and Zane were standing holding hands and facing the route they had just come.

"This is such a beautiful view up from up here," said Jesse.

"We can start a fire up here and lay our sleeping bags out around it," said Jared.

Patrick looked concerned.  "Not even in a tent or anything?  Like, under the stars?"

Darren looked at Josh.  "Like, are we going to camp out?"

Josh stood right next to Darren. "Like, yeah man, like under the stars."

Troy slid next to Josh, "You mean like around the campfire?"

Jesse smirked and said, "You mean like with no walls or roof?  Like nothing?"

Tyler swaggered into the middle of the guys and with as feminine of a voice as possible, "Like leave the little guy alone.  It's like his birthday today so give him a break."

Jared was trying not to laugh at the antics.  Jesse was smiling and shaking his head as Zane stepped towards the group.  "You guys are such bitches to pick on our little guy here.  Like, you know, he's only like 18."

Patrick was standing there with his hands on hips, his face showing shock until he saw Jared.  "Daddy, they're picking on me!  Make them stop."

"Alright children, play nice," said Jared as he stepped forward.  "Conner, Mark, Jesse, and Patrick come with me, please.  There is a great view for you guys to see on the one rock over here."  

The group moved to the rock and stood by the edge.  "What are we looking for?" asked Jesse.

"The water!" Jared yelled as he moved forward and shoved them all off.  The four of them screamed as they dropped five meters into the river.

"Guys, if you go straight off the rock, its deep below for jumping only," explained Jared.

The group rushed him and they grabbed him as they went straight over the edge.  The guys swam, ran up the to the rock and jumped off for the next couple of hours.

The bedrolls had been hauled up to the clearing and fire started as well.  Patrick was trying to help everyone as much as he could, but he had never been in this type of environment before and was getting frustrated.

Adam came over and tapped Patrick on the shoulder.  "What do you say we go lie on the beach for a while and soak up the sun?"

Patrick looked at Adam for a moment, "You sure?"

"Yeah, let's go lie in the sun until they figure out we're missing and supper's ready."

Patrick smiled, "Seeing you put it that way, let's go."  The two wandered away quietly.

The two young men walking down and onto the beach didn't go unnoticed by Troy, Tyler, and Jared.

"Come on guys, he's with Adam.  Don't let your imagination get away with you, after all – Patrick has never talked to us about his sexuality.  They are just two friends," said Troy.

"Guys, I said it before, be careful and no matchmaking," cautioned Jared.  "You have a lot at risk here with Patrick. Let things move with him driving, and you guys just supporting him as passengers on the trip.  This is important."

"I know," said Tyler.

The men looked at the two younger men laying on their backs, eyes closed but obviously talking to each other.

"It's good they're becoming friends," said Troy.  "Patrick really doesn't seem to hang around with a lot of friends."

As they were talking, Conner and Mark walked over to them and lay down in the sun as well.

"Those are four nice young men, and pretty hot too," said Tyler.

"You pervert," exclaimed Liam.  "You are right though, all four of them are pretty good looking."

Jesse started to laugh.  "You old fucking queens buzzing around the young cuties."

"Excuse me?  Who you calling aged, you old goat?" retorted Tyler.

The four young men on the beach heard screams and laughter as well as yelling from up above them.

"What the hell is going on up there?" asked Patrick as he sat up and looked towards the camp area.

Conner, Mark, and Adam didn't even move as the sounds of roughhousing continued.

"They're wrestling and terrorizing each other.  Just be thankful we aren't the targets this time," said Adam with a smile.  The rest of the young men agreed.

End of Chapter Eighteen

Comments Appreciated at Snowblind

 

Other stories I have written:

The Break In

The Wilderness Canoe Guide

The Extraction