Camp Refuge

Chapter 11 - Camp Refuge

May 24, 2018 (Thursday)
Jeremy unzipped his tent and he stood up. The morning mist was still thick and lay over the quiet campground. All sound, even the river to the south was softened and dulled by the water vapor. It made for a serene start to the day.

The redhead needed serenity right now. As soon as he woke the first thing on his mind was Mason. He quietly chided himself and he made his way to the nearest restroom building. After he took care of that business, he went into the kitchen. It was now stocked with coffee and a french press. Jeremy dropped a buck into the "coffee donation fund", an honor system box attached to a support post, and he heated some water.

He found the french press draining beside the sink and picked it up. "Huh. It's wet." Someone else had already gotten up and made coffee. Though there was no one visible now.

Jeremy shrugged and went back to making his brew.

He tried hard to push Mason out of his head. Instead, while his water warmed he looked down at his notebook, and searched for a distraction.

Last night when he went to bed he sat up amongst his sleeping bags and pillow and he wrote. He felt inspired, and he learned to take advantage of inspiration whenever it struck him. Highs and lows of emotion tended to do that for Jeremy, and last night he rolled through both.

He sat at the counter and scratched with his pencil in his notebook. Soon he had another few lines and he soundlessly mouthed the words. Then he nodded slightly to himself.

He heard his water begin to boil and he got up. Soon he had a strong, dark mug of coffee in hand. The rest of the coffee he poured into Greg's thermos which was under the counter.

Notebook tucked under his arm, the redhead walked with the thermos in one hand and his mug in the other. He quietly sat the thermos on the patio table - Greg would have some hot coffee ready for him when he woke this morning. Then he walked south along the asphalt loop.

The sky was just lightening to the east. Jeremy didn't know the time, and he didn't really care. The point of camping was to sort of forget the regular schedule imposed by the world. And he could use the lack of a set schedule for a few days. True, he had to supervise his Raven Project kids, but that wasn't really work to him.

Jeremy smiled to himself as he started down the path to the river. He had his coffee, notebook, and he was dressed comfortably in sweats and his favorite fuzzy sweater. He even put on wool socks with his tennis shoes. He was ready for the coolness and looked forward to the quiet.

He walked the path and he stopped on the sand, frozen in place.

"Hi, Jeremy." Mason looked over his shoulder at him. He held a steaming cup of coffee, and he sat on a colorful horse blanket on the sand. His knees were up and his arms circled around them in an attempt to stay warm. He had on a flannel shirt and a pair of jeans, but now he wished he had brought a jacket as well.

"Hey, Mason," Jeremy nodded. Outside he was calm, but internally he was rattled by the boy's presence. Whenever Jeremy knew he was going to see Mason he could mentally prepare himself. He could rehearse what to do and say. But now he felt blindsided. "Ah, I'll leave you alone," he turned to head back up the path.

"I wish you wouldn't," Mason said, barely loud enough for Jeremy to hear over the babbling of the river.

Jeremy swallowed and he looked back toward Mason. The teen stared openly at him then he smiled. "I've got plenty of room." He scooted over a bit on his blanket. Then he turned back to the river, his mug held in both hands, and he took another sip of his coffee.

Jeremy looked at Mason as the young man stared out over the river. An internal voice screamed a warning at him, but his legs carried him over to the edge of the blanket.

Mason smiled up at him as Jeremy stood beside the blanket edge. "Here." He reached and took the mug of coffee from Jeremy, and the redhead sat next to him. Mason handed it back once Jeremy settled beside him.

The two young men sat wordlessly for a time. Then Mason looked over at the notebook in Jeremy's hand. "What are you working on? More stuff for the Raven kids?"

Jeremy shook his head. "No. It's just … ah, it's just some writing," he took a nervous sip of his coffee.

"Yeah? What are you writing?" Mason's eyes roamed over the profile of Jeremy's face. He also shifted a bit. Jeremy's proximity and the warmth of the smaller man's body next to his own caused Mason to react. He grimaced slightly as his penis filled out in an uncomfortable position. 'Soap and coffee.' Mason licked his lips as the slight scent he associated with the redhead came to his nose.

Jeremy smiled, the expression a little pained. "It's silly," he blushed and looked down at the notebook in his hand. Then he glanced over at Mason's green eyes. They were open and seemed to bore straight into Jeremy's soul. He quickly looked back down. He had his own fair share of an autonomic reaction, thanks to the closeness of Mason. 'Well, I won't be standing up anytime soon,' he thought. He cleared his throat. "Sometimes I write poetry or little songs." He shrugged as if it were nothing important.

"Really?" Mason smiled and continued to stare at the redhead.

"Yeah. This time it's a song. Though, it's not finished," he made a face, "and it's not very good. Too repetitive."

"Well, the kids were right - you've got a great voice. You really blew me away last night," Mason said. He smiled at Jeremy's blush. Mason wet his lips. "Will you sing it for me?"

Jeremy struggled. "But … it's not done."

"Just sing what you've got. Honestly, you could sing anything and I'd want to hear it," Mason said, and he meant it.

The redhead swallowed. He was quiet for a bit, then finally he nodded. "Okay. I'll sing it for you." Jeremy took one last sip of coffee, then he put the mug aside in the soft sand beside the blanket so it wouldn't spill.

Mason turned slightly and crossed his legs under himself, so he sat comfortably on his rump. The two of them were so close his knees nearly touched Jeremy's legs which were folded up. Jeremy sat on the ground, knees bent, and his feet flat on the ground.

Jeremy took a breath, intended to calm himself, and he looked at Mason's face.

The young man wore a slight, encouraging smile. And when Jeremy's eyes found Mason's the teenager nodded slightly.

'God, I can't look at him.' Jeremy closed his eyes. He took another breath, pretended he was alone, and he began to sing. (Author's note: You can hear the melody of the song here if you like - Don't worry.  Thankfully Jeremy sings better than I do!)

"Just the illusion of your love,
That I even stand a chance is enough,
To keep me holding on, for so long,
Cause this illusion that I have is just so strong.
Tell me dear is my illusion true at all.

I sit down and let out a sigh,
And slip into the picture in my mind,
I see you standing arms, open wide,
I run to you to stay forever by your side.
But I know it's an illusion and I cry.

Just the illusion of your love,
That I even stand a chance is enough,
To keep me holding on, for so long,
Cause this illusion that I have is just so strong.
Tell me dear is my illusion true at all.
I need to know is my illusion true at allllll …."

The last note died away, and Jeremy breathed then opened his eyes.

Mason had risen up on his knees while Jeremy sang and now he looked down at Jeremy. His eyes held wonder, longing and a measure of fear.

Jeremy stared up at him. "Mason? What's …"

The teenager reached for him. He gently slipped a hand on the back of Jeremy's neck, took one more searching look at the redhead's face, then he leaned down.

The sweetest, softest kiss from Mason seemed to electrify Jeremy. Everything stopped. Everything but that singular moment.

Mason gently lay Jeremy back onto the blanket and followed him down, never breaking their kiss. And the lanky teenager lay half on top of him as they continued.

Jeremy's mind felt as if it were on fire, and his whole skin tingled. The teenager's kiss became more insistent, more needful, and Jeremy couldn't help but welcome it.

He felt Mason's hand as it began to wander, and it trailed down his front. It teased his neck, then Mason reached under the material of the shirt to touch Jeremy's bare, hairy skin. He brushed his nipples - first one then the other. Mason continued down his furry abdomen as Jeremy breathed rapidly. To his belly button. Then Jeremy inhaled when Mason's fingertips slipped under the waistband of the sweats.

"No." Jeremy pulled his lips away and managed to gasp out the word. His cock was painfully hard and tented his pants. "No … I can't." He reached and put a hand on the back of Mason's neck. "I want to, but I can't. You know that."

"You can. You're undetectable." Mason pulled back a little so he could look into Jeremy's eyes. "And … I'm taking PrEP." He rubbed a hand on Jeremy's bearded face. "I'm taking it for you."

Jeremy suddenly remembered Mason's visit to the clinic. And despite himself, he smiled a little. "You did that for me?" He shook his head. "Why?"

"Jeremy … you have to know that I really care about you." Mason gazed down at him and ran a hand through his hair, then down his face to rub his beard.  "And I want to be with you like this."

Jeremy let his eyes half close under Mason's touch. It had been years for him, and the teen treated him so gently - as if he were a precious, breakable thing. "We … we still can't." He strove for control. "You're underage."

Mason knew Jeremy could get in trouble for having sex with him, and he cared enough about him to not want that. He gave a disappointed sigh. "I won't be soon." He grimaced. "But … yeah, you're right."

He rolled to the side and lay on his back beside the redhead. Jeremy silently thanked whatever god was in the heavens. He wasn't sure he could actually say no if Mason tried to convince him.

They both lay there, and Jeremy caught movement at the edge of his eye. He sat up and watched as Mason slowly rubbed his thumb along the impressive tube trapped in his jeans. "Sorry … this is killing me. I've got to jack off." The teenager unzipped his pants and he looked up at Jeremy. "Is kissing allowed?"

Jeremy swallowed. "I … I don't know."

Mason lay there, and his hand slipped past the waistband of his underwear. Jeremy watched as Mason's hand slid up and down his long, fabric covered shaft.

Jeremy looked behind them and checked the path. It was clear. He lay back on one elbow and copied Mason. His hand disappeared down his sweats, and he began to stroke himself. He was so turned on as he watched Mason.

Then he leaned down, and he kissed the teenager.

The two young men were already extremely aroused and in need. So it was only about thirty seconds before Mason stiffened. He grunted, and a flood of warm fluid spurted out of his cock, into the material of his boxers, and onto his hand.

As Mason finished Jeremy too went to completion. He never stopped kissing Mason, and he groaned around the young man's mouth. He hadn't worn underwear, so the semen shot into the crotch of his sweats and made a warm, sticky mess in his pants.

Breathless, they parted, and they looked into one another's eyes.

Jeremy pulled his hand out of his sweats and grimaced at the sheen of semen on it. Mason grinned up at him from his back. "That was really hot, Jeremy," Mason said. Then his expression changed, and he stared up at Jeremy's face - his eyes moving around from spot to spot as if trying to really see it.

Jeremy looked down at him. "God, Mason …" he shook his head, "I shouldn't have let this happen."

Mason sighed. "Why? Because I'm underage?" He sat up and eyed Jeremy. "Does that mean you'll be open to it when I'm not?"

The redhead frowned. "I … I don't know."

"Why don't you know?" Mason stared at him, his eyes intense and challenging. "Tell me why."

"I don't," Jeremy bit his lip and shook his head, "I don't deserve this."

Mason looked at him. Both of them were quiet long enough that Jeremy finally raised his eyes to Mason's. The teen's expression had grown soft and kind. "I don’t know why you would think that. But I think you do deserve it." Mason reached and put a hand on the back of Jeremy's neck. "And … when it comes to what I do with my heart, I get to decide. Not you." His warm hand pulled on Jeremy's chin and angled his face up toward Mason. And he gave the redhead another slow and tender kiss.

Too soon for Jeremy, he pulled away. Jeremy's eyes were closed and he licked his lips. He finally opened them and looked at Mason. He smiled. "You're a stubborn young man, Mason Jameson."

"I am when I want something." Mason grinned.

Jeremy laughed softly. Then he made a decision. He leaned forward, and he gave Mason a kiss of his own.

_______________________________________

Jeremy and Mason both managed to get back and change out of their clothes before anyone could see the wet spots on their groins. Mason had something he wanted to do, and Jeremy had to prepare some things for his Raven Project kids, so Mason left him to it.

The lanky young man walked with his lukewarm coffee over to the patio table. He took a towel off of Greg's clothesline and dried a chair of the morning dew, rehung the towel, and had a seat. He noticed the thermos. Curious, he opened it. The welcome scent of coffee hit his nose, and it steamed in the cool air. He realized Jeremy had left it here and he smiled.

'That was nice of him.' He closed the thermos and he sighed. He couldn't stop smiling, and he basked in the euphoria of his experience with the redhead. He just started to replay it in his mind when the Airstream shifted.

Mason sat up to hide his growing erection just as the door to the trailer opened. He looked over his shoulder at Greg. "Hey. Morning."

The hazel-eyed man looked at him. He was obviously sleepy, and his hair stuck up in a disheveled mess on his head. Mason smirked at him over the lip of his coffee mug.

"Morning." Greg glowered at him. "Stop it. You don't look so hot either right when you wake up." Mason laughed and Greg gave him a lopsided smile. Then he noticed the thermos. "Oh … tell me there's coffee in there."

Mason nodded, and Greg made a relieved sound. "Thanks, Mason."

"Wasn't me," Mason pointed his chin toward the kitchen. Jeremy sat at the counter there, and worked studiously at some activity he planned for his Raven kids.

Greg got his mug and sat it beside the thermos. "Well, then I'll have to thank him instead." Greg scratched his belly under his long-sleeved t-shirt. "Gonna hit the bathroom. I'll be back soon."

"Okay." Mason watched Greg go into the restroom, and he debated what he wanted to do. He still weighed the pros and cons as Greg returned, and pulled out his seat.

"Greg …" Mason had decided, and he tried to figure out how to proceed, "I need to tell you something. But it needs to stay between us."

The man looked at Mason. He blinked slowly, then he reached for the thermos. "I can tell, I'm gonna need this."

As Greg poured his coffee Mason nervously waited. Finally, the man took his first sip, and he sat back in his chair. "Mason, I'm going to say right now, there are secrets I can keep, and those that I can't. If you're doing anything illegal, or dangerous, then those are bad secrets. And I can't keep those."

Mason nodded. "I know. I don't think it's either of those things."

Greg took another drink of coffee and he nodded. "Okay then. Go ahead."

Mason licked his lips, obviously unsettled. "Okay … so I like Jeremy." Greg nodded. Mason continued, "and I want to pursue something with him."

Greg took a deep breath. He turned his head and looked across the campground at Jeremy, where he sat under the roof of the kitchen. "That sounds risky to me, Mason."

"But, it's not." Mason went on to explain the U=U, the Undetectable = Untransmittable movement, and the science behind it. Greg listened attentively, then he looked thoughtful for a long moment.

"Okay. Well, how do you know he's undetectable?"

"He gets tested every three months," Mason said, excited that Greg didn't simply shut him down. Mason made the decision to reveal another bit of information. "And … as a little insurance, I started taking PrEP."

Greg eyed Mason. "PrEP? The anti-HIV med?"

"Yeah. It's preventative. Has a really good success rate." Mason made a face. "Makes my stomach upset, but it's not as bad if I eat before I take it."

Greg looked at Mason, then he stared down at his coffee. He knew Clay would not like any of this. Mason watched him, nervous and invested in his response. "Greg?" The man looked up at Mason's eyes. "I know dad wants you to watch me. But I want you to know … I'm GONNA do this." Mason's face was determined and hinted at his stubborn streak.

Greg sighed. "Mason, if your dad finds out you're having sex with Jeremy …"

"I'm not. And … and I won't. Not till it's legal for him."

Greg worked his jaw. "Then, you've not messed around with him?"

A guilty look flashed across Mason's face. "Ah … not exactly." He squirmed under the hooded gaze from Greg. "We kissed. And we … uh, we both made messes. But we handled that ourselves." Mason blushed powerfully, and he looked down at his mug.

Greg sighed again. "Mason, if he exposed himself to you, then that's an offense and he could be prosecuted for it."

"Ugh … you guys being cops sucks." Mason slumped. Then he glared at Greg. "But, for your info, he didn't expose himself. And neither did I." Mason smiled. "Though we both had to change out of our clothes when we finished."

Greg got the idea. "Ahhh." He thought, then he laughed quietly. "Well, it sounds like you guys BARELY avoided a prosecutable offense." He pointed at Mason. "By the letter of the law, only." He shook his head. "You're definitely violating the spirit of it … all over the damn place."

Mason and Greg were both quiet for a bit, both thinking. Then Mason tentatively cleared his throat. "So, can this stay between us? I know you're responsible for me right now, and I wanted you to know because of that. Otherwise, I wouldn't have told you."

Greg thought about his promise to Clay and he chose his next words with precision. "You will continue your medication, you will continue to avoid sex with him - including oral sex, and he must stick to his appointment schedule." Greg shook his head at himself. "If you promise me that then it'll stay between us."

Mason grinned, "I promise." He stood up. "I'm gonna go hang out with him. I'll let him know we talked."

Greg nodded. "Okay." He watched Mason as the teenager turned to go. "Mason," the young man looked over his shoulder at Greg. Greg forced a little smile. "I'm happy for you. But … be careful, okay?"

Mason's face showed his genuine appreciation. "Thanks, Greg. I will be. Really." He smiled reassuringly, then he walked away.

Greg blew out a breath and looked down at his coffee. One thought came through loud and clear as he stared at the black liquid.

'Is it too early to switch to alcohol?'
_______________________________________

Clay entered the car, hand extended with a strong and sweetened black coffee for Orson. Then the big man buckled himself in and took a sip of his own coffee.

Orson lay his head back against the headrest in the patrol car. "Clay … why do you have to go, man?" His voice had a whining tone, and Clay laughed.

"You know why." He looked over and grinned at Orson. "Because I've got a hot number waiting for me in California."

Orson smiled. "Yeah, I know. Damn it." Then he took a drink of his coffee. He lowered the cup and he made a satisfied sound. "Oh, that's good. Thanks, Clay."

The big man nodded at Orson. They were currently parked in front of a coffee shop in downtown Huntsville, on a little break during their patrol. It was just after 9 AM, and they were a few hours into their shift. "Did your run with Boggs go that bad?" Clay was curious and hopeful yesterday went well for Orson and Boggs.

Orson sighed. "It wasn't bad. But Boggs is definitely a curious bastard. He wanted to know my life story as soon as we got in the car."

Clay laughed. He knew Boggs pretty well, and that was classic for the man. "He's a good guy. But yeah, he's a bit nosey. That's the reason Greg avoided him."

Orson nodded. "I can understand that. But it could have been worse." He shrugged. "I think it'll be fine."

Clay smiled. "Good." He looked over the street as Orson began to resume their patrol. "I don't want you to feel like I'm just leaving ya high and dry."

Orson's face shifted into a smile. "You gotta do what you gotta do. And I get that. Don't worry about me, I was just giving you a hard time."

The two men continued their work. A couple of hours passed uneventfully, and Clay was just about to ask where Orson wanted to go for lunch when their radio crackled to life.

'16 in progress, Wells Fargo, Williams, and Madison. Request all available units to respond.'

"Armed robbery at the bank?" Orson licked his lips and breathed excitedly. He flipped on the lights.

Clay picked up the radio. "Unit A-3 in the area, responding."

As soon as Clay stopped speaking Orson turned on the siren, and he expertly navigated the two blocks between them and Wells Fargo.

In less than a minute he came to a stop in front of the bank, and patrons streamed out of the building. They ran out of the doors and down the steps. Some fell and got up again to continue their flight, others leaped clear over railings in their haste.

Clay radioed that they were on site. Orson got out, quick but careful, and positioned himself down, and just forward of the patrol car door - so the body of the vehicle protected him. Clay did the same at the back of the car. They could hear sirens, but so far they were the only law enforcement on scene.

They didn't have to wait long.

Two men in black ski masks and with handguns opened the doors. They both stopped to stare at the car. One wore a backpack that was stuffed to the gills.

"Police! Hands up! Now!" Clay bellowed. His gun was trained on one of the men. But people still ran and interfered with his line of fire.

Instead of complying both men began firing at them. People screamed in fear as the shots rang out, and the two policemen ducked. One woman between the car and the gunmen crumpled, and she fell to the ground bleeding from a wound in her back.

Clay's face was a study of controlled fear and anger. "Shots fired. One injured civilian in the area. 10-52 requested to standby." He cut his radio and glanced at Orson as the shots continued. He could feel the car shake as lead slugs impacted the body, and they lost a back window.

Orson took a quick look over the car at the woman on the ground. She crawled feebly, and he heard her gasp in pain. He saw wild shots from the two desperate men impact the concrete near her. "Clay, I'm going for her."

"Orson, wait." Clay rose up. He felt the sensation of heat and wind as a bullet missed his right cheek by less than an inch. He focused and squeezed the trigger. The man with the backpack screamed and dropped to the ground. A wound in his upper thigh bled profusely. He held his hands on the injury and rolled around in agony.

The younger officer looked at the woman again. She had turned her face, and her eyes locked with his. "I'm going. Now!" He stayed behind the vehicle as much as he could, and then he hunched low and covered the distance between the car and the injured woman. The rate of fire from the remaining robber increased when Orson moved, but they all went wide of the young man.

Clay cursed and fired two more shots. These struck the gunman in his torso, and he jerked from the force. But he didn't appear to be actually injured. 'Wearing a vest.' Clay ducked back into cover and the masked man recovered from the impacts.

Orson had the woman, his arms under hers, and as quickly as he could he dragged her over to the car. Her face was a mask of pain and terror.

Clay rose up again, just as the gunman aimed. Orson gritted his teeth and lay the woman behind the car in relative safety.

Another shot cracked across the courtyard.

And for one man nothing would ever be the same.


Author's Note:

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

And thank you for reading! 

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