Camp Refuge

Chapter 13 - Camp Refuge

May 25, 2018 (Friday, early AM)

Yesterday Greg went to bed a little worried. Clay didn't call as he had planned to. But Greg knew his lover was likely busy with the young, injured officer. So when the phone began to ring at 4 AM, instead of being annoyed, Greg was happy to have his sleep interrupted.

"Hi, Officer Jameson." He held the device against his ear as he lay in bed and rubbed his eyes.

"Hi, Greg." Clay sounded very tired to Greg's ear.

"How's he doing?" Greg sat up in bed.

"He's alive." Clay sighed. "They had to take his leg."

"Fuck." Greg closed his eyes. "Fuck, I'm sorry, Clay."

Clay was quiet for a moment. Then Greg heard him breathe, long and slow. "He's got nobody. No family. No friends. Just the department and me."

Greg began to think about all the things an injured person would need help doing, and it quickly became overwhelming. There was support for this sort of thing, but mainly it was targeted at a person's family. The focus was to provide support to the family of an injured cop, so they could, in turn, provide care to their loved one.

Greg straightened, and his head came up. "What's our plan, Clay? Does he need to come here?"

Greg heard something faint over the receiver. It took a moment, but he realized it was Clay crying. Clay took a calming breath and he laughed quietly. "I … I was trying to figure out how to ask if he could. Because it's a big deal. He'd need a lot of help, especially at first."

"I know. Is this what you want to do? It sounds like Orson could use the help, at least till he heals a bit."

"I do. This is what I want. I still need to ask what he'd like to do, but … honestly, he doesn't have many options. Boggs is gonna handle the first few days after he's discharged from the hospital, as his place is ground level. No stairs. He's even got safety rails in his bathroom from when he took care of his grandma."

"Wow. That's decent of him." Greg's mind spun with the implications and he got out of bed. If Orson accepted their offer, he was suddenly going to be busy with a project. "Clay, find out what Orson wants to do. If it's gonna happen then I'm going to need to start working on renovating Cabin #8. It's closest to the Airstream, and I'd want us to be able to keep an eye on him."

Clay made a noise, a little happy sound of disbelief. "You're … you're amazing, Greg. I love you so much."

"Back at you, big man." Greg flipped on his bedside lamp and squinted in the yellow glow of the old, incandescent bulb. "Call me, as soon as you know. Okay?"

"Will do. I'll call you soon."

Greg hung up and looked toward the stove. 'Time to heat some water. It's gonna be a coffee kinda day.'
_______________________________________


Clay hung up. He had slept very little last night, and it was now 6 AM local time. He walked from the hallway outside of the recovery room back inside the nearly dark space.

Orson lay still, only his chest moved up and down as he breathed. Clay looked down at him. He hated to wake him, but that couldn't be helped.

He gently put a hand on the younger man's chest. "Orson." He shook him slightly.

Orson's eyes rolled beneath his eyelids, then they opened and he looked up at Clay. He blinked, then he frowned. "Not a dream." He swallowed and he nodded to himself - as if reaffirming his new reality.

"Hey." Clay smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring way. "Sorry to wake you up, but I have something I need to tell you."

Orson nodded. His eyes were filled with a soul-crushing sadness, and he looked to Clay as if he were a condemned man.

Clay started with what Orson needed to know for the next few days. "Boggs is gonna help you out after you're discharged. He'll be able to do that until next Friday. He's been assigned to by the department. He was going to take vacation to do it, but HR thought it'd be a shitstorm if the media caught wind that the 'hero cop' at the bank robbery wasn't being taken care of properly."

Orson actually laughed. "Hero? Really?"

"That's what they're calling ya." Clay smiled at him, his affection for the man obvious.

Orson smiled a little and seemed to relax slightly. "Well, that handles next week. I guess that's something." His dark brown eyes shifted as he thought. "I … I wonder if there's a vet program in the city that'd make an exception? Maybe take me on till I can get some PT, get fitted with a prosthetic." As he spoke about the prosthetic his face darkened. "God, this is like a bad dream."

"I know, Orson." Clay took a breath. "I have a question for you."

The young officer nodded at Clay, and the big man got to it.

"I talked to Greg. And we'd like to offer you a place at the campground. It'd be yours. Long as you need it. Greg and I'd be there to help you out. And Mason too, my son. There are cabins, and Greg is going to fix one up for you - make it easy on you." Clay looked at him hopefully. "Would you be interested?"

Orson stared up at Clay. He didn't move at all, but his eyes slowly filled with tears. He blinked and they streaked down the sides of his face. His Adam's Apple moved as he tried to find his voice. "That's really nice." He shook his head. "But, no. I can't do that to you guys. I can't be a charity case."

"Hey." Clay leaned over the bed. "You're not. You won't be." He reached and gripped Orson's hand. "We'd put you to work. Whatever you wanted, and could do. We'd have you doing it."

Orson continued to stream tears but he laughed. "You'd put a cripple to work?"

Clay reached and gripped with his other hand too. His eyes held nothing but his regard and respect. "No. I'd put my friend and partner to work."

Orson couldn't help the sob that escaped him. He looked up at Clay, unable to speak. But finally, he nodded.

"Yeah?" Clay smiled. "You'll come?"

Orson nodded again. "I'll come." He shook his head. "But just till I get things figured out. Till I can get on my feet."

Clay's eyebrows went up and he slowly grinned.

Orson realized what he just said, and the two men burst into laughter.

_______________________________________

Greg and Clay finished talking and Greg hung up.

"Okay. This is happening." They would have a young, one-legged officer at the campground soon. Clay thought he could make the drive in 3-4 days. So that'd put the two of them at the campground by June 5th or the 6th.

Greg sipped his coffee and looked at the time. '4:30.' He would need Mason's help with the renovations he planned for Cabin #8.

He dressed in his work clothes and took his time with his coffee. After his second cup, and after he had a nice fire burning in his site's fire pit he checked the time again.

'A little after 5.' He nodded to himself. Greg knew Mason was interested in the fate of the young officer and worried that Clay hadn't called back yesterday. Though it was early Greg walked over to Mason's cabin.

He let himself in. He noticed the guitar from the thrift store where it lay on the futon and a couple of piles of clothes on the floor by the bed. Greg walked quietly through the small space to the bedside.

Mason's back was to him, and the teenager slept hard. Greg smiled slightly. He started to reach for the boy's shoulder when he noticed Mason's arm was around a smaller form.

He was curled, almost protectively around Jeremy. The two slept soundly, and Greg pulled his hand back. He clenched his jaw and he slowly shook his head. And now that he was right by the bed, he could also detect the distinct odor of semen. 'Damn it, guys.'

He forced himself to calm down and he looked at the two piles on the floor. Pants, shirts, socks … no underwear. He sighed. Maybe it was okay. He reached again for Mason.

"Mason." He whispered and gently shook the boy.

Mason woke, but he didn't move at first. He lay there a moment then he finally turned his head to look at Greg.

Greg's arms were crossed over his chest and he looked down at Mason.

Mason swallowed and gave Greg a weak smile. "Mornin'?" he whispered.

Greg let a smile pull at his lips and he shook his head. He pointed at Mason, then at the door, and held up five fingers.

Mason gulped and nodded.

Greg left the cabin and he stood outside the door. He tapped his foot and tried to decide how he was going to go with this.

The door quietly opened and a very sheepish Mason stepped outside. He gently closed the door and looked at Greg.

"Come on." Greg turned and walked toward the patio table.

Mason trailed behind him, nervous and unsure.

Greg disappeared a moment into his Airstream while Mason stood at the patio table. He came back out with Mason's mug and he handed it to the teenager.

Mason took it from him. "Thanks," he mumbled. He quietly sipped the liquid and eyed Greg.

The older man let him take his drink then he sighed. "Okay. I need to be able to look your dad straight in the eye, and tell him you didn't do anything risky." Greg looked meaningfully at Mason. "Can I say that and not be a liar?"

"Yeah!" Mason looked earnestly at Greg. "We didn't do anything risky! I swear."

Greg folded his arms over his chest. "Mason, I'm just gonna break this down - if either of your cocks went inside the other's body then it was risky. AND it means Jeremy is guilty of statutory rape."

Mason looked incredibly pained and embarrassed to have to talk about this. "We didn't!" He let his head roll back and he stared up at the slowly brightening sky. "We just … dry humped each other."

Greg almost snickered at Mason's tone and words. But he managed to keep it together. "That's it?"

"Yes. That's it. We both still had on our underwear." Mason made a face. "Though … it … ah, it still worked out."

"Yeah, I could smell it." Greg watched a powerful blush hit Mason.

"You could NOT." The lanky young man looked as if he wanted to crawl under a rock.

"Yep. I could." Greg smiled at the mortified teen. "But … you've done all right." Greg nodded at Mason. "Thanks for sticking to your word."

Mason looked sideways at Greg. "You're welcome." He seemed to think something over and he folded one arm across his chest, while his other held on to his mug of steaming coffee. "And, even if we had screwed each other, it wouldn't have been risky." He shook his head. "He's undetectable, and I'm on PrEP. It would have been safe."

Greg thought about what Mason said. Finally, he nodded. "Okay. I read the U=U stuff you sent me. I think you're probably right. It's just a shift in thought for me," he conceded. He pointed at Mason. "You're gonna have to tell Clay. I'm not doing it."

Mason went a little pale, but his expression changed and his stubbornness was obvious. "I will."

"Okay." Greg motioned at the patio table. "Let's sit. I need to talk to you about Orson, and what we need to do before he and your dad gets here."

Mason's eyes widened. "He's okay? And he's coming here? Is he coming with dad?" He took a seat and looked at Greg.

"Yep. He'll need to stay here for at least a few weeks. We're going to help him out with whatever he needs. He was hurt pretty bad, Mason. He lost his leg."

Mason's face fell. "Oh shit."

"Yeah. I second that." Greg refocused the conversation to something they could do. "Before they get here we need to do quite a few renovations to Cabin #8."

Mason leaned in his chair and looked past Greg. They could see Cabin #8 from the patio table. "Okay." The boy sat back in place and took a gulp of his coffee. "What do we need to do?"

_______________________________________

Jeremy got up to an empty bed. He had set an alarm, early enough to get back to his tent before anyone found him and Mason in bed together. Well, that was the goal at least.

He grimaced down at his boxers. They were damp and he could smell the faint odor of spunk on himself. But his expression quickly shifted to a grin.

Mason convinced him to sleep in the cabin. And as soon as the door was closed the teenager convinced him to do other things as well. Jeremy was thankful Mason didn't push for more than rubbing and kissing.

'I'd give that cute fucker whatever he wanted.' He sighed. Jeremy knew he wasn't exactly keeping his word to Clay, and that bothered him. He determined to settle up with the big man when he returned.

It was just after 6 AM when he carefully poked his head out of the door. He could hear talking at the patio table and he frowned. It would be hard to get by without someone seeing him. It couldn't be helped. He had to try.

He stepped out and turned to look at the table.

Greg and Mason were both looking directly at him. Mason grinned and Greg took a sip of his coffee. Though Jeremy was pretty sure he saw a smile on Greg's face before it was hidden by his mug.

The redhead sighed. Then he walked up the loop to the table. At least there was a full french press of coffee waiting for him.

"Hey. Morning." He dug a mug out of Greg's camping box.

"Morning." Greg eyed him. "Sleep well?"

Jeremy looked askance at Greg. He didn't expect pleasantries, and that threw him off. "Uh, yeah." He glanced at Mason who smirked at him. "Thanks … thanks for asking." He poured a cup of coffee and took a seat beside Mason.

Greg was thoughtful as he looked at Jeremy, then he turned to Mason. "I changed my mind. You're not telling your dad. You BOTH are. Together."

There were two audible 'gulps'. Mason and Jeremy glanced at one another. Mason then licked his lips and turned to Greg. "Okay." Jeremy only nodded, and looked pale and concerned.

Greg nodded, satisfied, then he turned to Mason. "Soon as Home Depot opens in Crescent City I'm going for our supplies." In front of him, Jeremy could see a list of various building materials.

Mason shifted mental gears. "Okay. I'll work on prepping the cabin. We've got a bit of work to do inside and out before we can really get started. I'm probably gonna wait till 8. I'll wake up the campground if I do it earlier."

Jeremy looked back and forth between them. "What's going on?"

They quickly filled him in on Orson's status, and the plan to house the injured man.

"I wish I knew more about what was available here in terms of medical care, assistance for him, and programs he might be able to use." Greg set his jaw and looked at Jeremy. "Do you think you can dig up some information for us when you go back to work?"

Jeremy smiled. "You guys do know I'm a case manager, right?" Both Mason and Greg looked a little lost. "It's not quite social work, but my job is to hook people up to resources that are available to them that they may not know of. I help them navigate all the bureaucratic systems between them and the benefits they deserve." He took a sip of his coffee. "You're already talking to the right guy. This is right up my alley."

Greg nodded, a satisfied expression on his face. "That's handy." He looked back down at his sheet, mentally double checking it. "Okay, it sounds like we've got a plan." He glanced up at Mason and Jeremy. "Thanks, guys. Both of you."

Mason smiled. "No problem." His face got serious. "It could have been my dad. And I'd want someone to help him."

Jeremy felt such a surge of pride in Mason, and from Greg's expression, he felt it too. "Same here," Jeremy said and looked at the two men. "I've got to deal with getting the kids packed up and back to town. But soon as that's done I'll head to work and start on this."

Greg nodded and downed the last of his coffee. "All right." He stood up. "I've got a few things to prep for breakfast. We'll all have full bellies for our day of work. Then it'll be time for me to head to town."

They split up and Jeremy walked to his tent site. He quickly had all of his bedding and padding packed in his trunk. His tent now empty, he bent and started to pull the tent stake out of the ground.

"Hey." Mason had just exited his cabin and he walked over to Jeremy. "I was wondering if you'd wanna stay over the weekend." His expression was obviously hopeful.

Jeremy hesitated. It was so hard for him to say no to Mason. And … he didn't really want to in the first place. "I … do you think Greg would mind?"

"We talked. He knows he can trust us." Mason took another step, and now he was within arm's reach. "If you've got other stuff planned, then that's fine. But I thought I'd ask."

Jeremy looked into Mason's green eyes. And the redhead's lips involuntarily smiled. "If it's fine with Greg … okay. I'd like that."

Mason grinned. And he reached down to pull out Jeremy's tent stake. Jeremy frowned. "What are you doing?"

Mason looked up at him with a devilish smile. "You won't need the tent."

Jeremy processed that for a moment, then the redhead laughed.

_______________________________________

01 June 2018 (Friday)

The next few days were a blur of activity. Clay couldn't quite believe it, but he had managed to get everything done. The house sold and was in escrow. Most of his items were packed up and on the way to a storage unit in Crescent City. He also handled most of the work to get Orson's apartment packed, and the man moved out. The landlord was more than willing to allow Orson out of his lease. Everyone knew the circumstances, and nobody wanted to give the injured man a hard time.

Orson was medically retired from the force. Though his doctors weren't overly happy with a long trip so soon after his surgery, they understood the scenario was unusual. Clay learned his wound-care, and he had the supplies. He'd be fine doing it until they arrived.

In California Jeremy even set something up with a physical therapist who specialized in amputees and prosthetic adjustment. Despite Clay's reservations about Jeremy, he had to admit that it was a load off of his mind to know Orson had medical care waiting for him.

Earlier in the morning both he and Orson were at City Hall. Councilwoman Blevins, her right arm in a sling and bound against her chest presented them with their retirements. They were both in their dress uniforms and Orson was in a wheelchair. Clay wheeled Orson to her during the ceremony. Press took their pictures and statements, and it made for a great feel-good story in the local papers. Though, it was obvious to both of the men that Mrs. Blevins was genuinely thankful.

At the time of the shooting, neither of them had any idea the civilian Orson saved was a Councilwoman. This ramped up the public's interest in Orson's fate, and the city was determined to put on a good show. So what was normally a quiet affair in the police department HR office became a very public one.

As soon as it was socially acceptable Clay wheeled Orson out of City Hall and into a waiting patrol car. Officer Russell grinned at him from behind the wheel as Clay helped Orson get in. "The dog and pony show over?"

"Thank god." Orson blew out a breath and settled into the seat. He cringed a little when his injured leg brushed against the dash. He still took pain medication, but he was slowly tapering down on the dose. So the injury hurt, and he tried hard to protect it.

Clay noticed, but he didn't say anything. He knew Orson would tell him if he needed help, or if he was genuinely injured. Orson didn't need any extra reminders of his condition, and so Clay didn't provide them.

The three men rode to the station. After a quick goodbye to the men and women there, Clay helped Orson into his van. Clay had traded in his car for a vehicle that would be easier on Orson, and one that could take quite a few of their items as well. Boxes of last minute packing were in the back, along with a few changes of clothes for each of them.

And by noon they were on the road.

The younger man had his window down, and the warm humid air of Alabama blew through his black hair. He looked out over the scenery as they rode, and seemed lost in his thoughts.

Clay glanced over at him. "Doing all right, buddy?"

Orson's hand gripped the door and he licked his lips. He nodded. "Yeah. I'm just … I was thinking about what I'd do if you weren't helping me." He turned his head and looked at Clay. "And I didn't come up with many good options."

Clay shrugged. "You've got your retirement. You'd have figured it out."

Orson nodded. "Yeah, I'd have made it work." He continued to look at Clay. "But there's nothing I can come up with that approaches what you've set up for me." He shook his head. "I owe you. And, I don't know if I can ever pay you back."

"I don't want you to pay me back, Orson. And you don't owe me shit." Clay glanced at Orson as he drove. "Seriously. It's fine. Greg and I both want to do this for you. Okay?"

Orson stared at Clay for a long time then he nodded. "Okay."

They rode for an hour in near silence, eating up the miles.

Into the quiet, Orson said, "I'm going to pay my way." His jaw was set and he had a stubborn look on his face. "How much is it to rent a cabin?"

"Orson, that's not …"

"CLAY. How much is it to rent a cabin?" Orson's tone left no argument.

Clay sighed. "$35 a night. Utilities are included, as the whole campground is hooked up to one meter."

Orson did some quick math in his head. "That's cheaper than my apartment. That's not a problem." He seemed a little more satisfied. "I guess that's something. You guys will know one cabin will always bring you income."

"That's not why we're doing this."

Orson made a noise. "I know that." He shook his head. "Just … let me have this. Okay? This one thing. I … I NEED to do this for you."

Clay took another look at him and Orson wiped at his face. He refocused on the road. "Okay. You got it. I'll let Greg know when we get to the campground."

The younger man smiled a little. "Good."

The two men drove until late in the night. Finally, in Kansas City, Clay stopped at a Holiday Inn right off of the freeway. He went inside the hotel office and got their room situation squared away.

He helped Orson out and onto his crutches. After he ensured the young man was safe inside their hotel room he went back to the van for his medical supplies.

Orson sat in one of the overstuffed chairs and he looked up as Clay entered with the medical pack. He went to the bathroom, washed his hands with hot water and soap, then he returned to the main space of the hotel room. The big man smiled at him. "You ready for this?"

Orson sighed and shook his head. "Not really." Clay gave him an understanding look, put on a pair of latex gloves, and walked over to Orson.

He knelt and he gingerly began to unwrap Orson's leg.

Orson watched as the big man worked. He had a determined and grim look on his face. Clay knew this process could be painful, no matter how careful he was.

Clay glanced up at him. "Let me know if I hurt you." Orson nodded at him then Clay went back to his work.

After about 15 minutes it was done. The wound was clean, treated with antibiotic ointment, and wrapped up again in sterile gauze. Orson hadn't made a sound, though there were a couple of times the young man flinched.

"It's looking good. Not infected, and healing." Clay returned from the restroom after washing his hands, nodded in satisfaction and smiled at Orson. "Feeling alright?"

Orson nodded. "Yeah." He looked up at Clay and licked his lips. "Thanks. For everything." He hung his head. "I don't think I can say that enough."

Clay knelt in front of him and put a hand on Orson's shoulder. "You're very welcome, Orson." He rubbed Orson reassuringly. "I am well aware … this could have been me." Clay's eyes were honest and expressive. "So this? Helping you? It's my duty. It's what I need to do. I understand that. So does Greg." He shook Orson slightly. "You should too."

Orson closed his eyes, bit his lip and he nodded. Then he leaned forward and hugged Clay.

The two embraced.

'You're gonna have a great life.' Clay thought to himself and he squeezed Orson. 'I'm going to make sure of it.'


Author's Note:

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

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