by Grasshopper

Chapter 6

The long hot summer days of June slipped away. Cole hated the summer months because there was no school and most of his time with Wes was spent sitting with him during Wes' lunch break at the wheat silos.

Summertime was just another way of showing them how different their lives were. Wes worked all day and, unless his father was gone, he was home. He spent much of his time reading and working on his drawings. Father, at first, had forbidden him to draw, but, for once, Wes had won by saying that it was a gift from God and how could Father deny him.

His favorite time to draw was at twilight, the time between day and night when everything in nature is tinged with a bit of magic. He would sit out on the roof and, using an old piece of wood he had found in the barn and sanded smooth for a support, Wes would draw whatever caught his eye...... a squirrel gathering his last jawful of acorns, a bluebird resting on a branch before his flight home to his family, an eagle coasting on a downwind current. All of his drawings were charcoal. When Cole asked why he never used colors, Wes simply replied, "I like the contrasting black and white of it."

His drawings all contained a small elaborate capital C hidden in the curled fur of the squirrel's tail, the lapped feathers of the bluebird's wing, the etch of the eagle's beak. You had to look hard to find it, but once you did, you realized that all the drawings were for Cole.

Cole spent his summers riding fence with his dad and swimming in the pool. Dad had told him that when he reached sixteen he had to get a summer job, but for now to just enjoy being a kid. Cole and Callie played video games and went to the movies and did all the things fourteen years olds do to waste away June, July and August until it was time to go back to school.

Wes and Cole had never spent time together just being boys without a care in the world except fishing lines and tadpoles and cherry bombs and swimming holes. Time with Wes had to be planned and executed and most times fell through. They had secret places that they met, signals that they left, notes in tree stumps and stuck in the hidey hole at the cave. These were the first secrets they kept from Callie.

For the first time since they had met in Kindergarten, Wes and Cole began to feel differently about their time together. Back when they were little boys, they would just miss each other like crazy over the summer months and be way past excited to get back to school. Then, it began to change. Last summer, they had met at the cave several times and played with Cole's Gameboy and eaten sandwiches Cole had brought. Wes would draw and Cole would watch him and they felt whole.

Now, this summer, there was a difference, even an awkwardness to their times together. Where they had always been totally open, shared everything, suddenly, there was a weirdness in the air. Where before, they had wrestled and thrown their arms around each other's shoulders without giving it a thought, all of a sudden, they would accidentally touch and say 'Sorry' and almost jump away.

Cole had always loved Wesley, but had never given thought to what that might mean. Wes was totally devoted to Cole and just took that for fact. Their lives spun around each other and, as boys of thirteen may tend to be, they were clueless as to the changes going on inside and out.

Cole saddled his horse, Whistler, and left a note for his mom saying he'd be back for dinner. Taking the worn path up through Cutter's Pas following the bend in the river, he pulled Whistler up and sat still just looking out over toward the horizon. "Wes would love it here," he spoke outloud, "Look at that old gnarled tree." He saw Whistler lift his head and inhale loudly. "What?" he asked, then giving Whistler his head, they headed for a huge stand of cottonwoods across the way. Sliding down out of the saddle, Cole pushed his way through the underbrush and found that the cottonwoods dipped their long roots into a weed covered pond and shaded it with their branches.

"Amazing!" he whispered, the quiet surrounding him. "I bet nobody knows this place is even here. Wait til I show Wes."

That afternoon, as usual, Wes cut across Mr. Harrelson's pasture on his way home. He heard Cole before he saw him. Cole was trying to learn to play the harmonica and Wes could hear the pitiful rendition of 'She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain' as he climbed over the far fence. Laughing, Wes began to walk faster. The best part of his day was always Cole.

""You're scarin' away all the birds," he grinned as he sat down on the split rail fence beside Cole.

Cole laughed, "Now you know I'm gettin' better all the time." He frowned when he saw a long bloody scratch across Wes' left cheek. "What happened?" he asked, reaching out to touch the line of blood.

"Aw, nothin'. I got caught by that big branch that sticks out over the creek as I was walkin' the log. No big deal."

Cole pulled a wadded up blue bandana out of his back pocket, licked his finger, ran it over the worst of the scratch and then wiped gently with the cloth. "Make sure you wash it out with soap. Don't let it get infected."

"Yes, Boss," Wes grinned. Cole shoved him just enough to put him off balance and Wes tumbled over the fence onto the dry ground.

Laughing, Cole sat down beside Wes and they leaned back against the split rail fence.

"You are not gonna believe what I found today," Cole babbled.

"You're not gonna make me guess, are you? I hate that."

"Nah, cause you'd never guess this in a trillion years. I found a place, a secret place."

He caught Wes' attention with the word 'secret'. "What kind a place, Cole?"

"I was riding down through Cutter's Pass and then Whistler caught a scent and I let him lead. It is so cool. Wait til you see it. We can clean it up and make a hut and it's real hidden and no one will find it and .....................,"

Wes laughed at how excited Cole was. He always got this way when there was something fun for them to do together. Wes watched the animation in Cole's face and put it all in his memory. Another picture of Cole he needed to draw. Wes had notebooks full of Cole's face, his hands, Cole standing, Cole sitting, laughing, crying, dreaming. Wes had captured almost every emotion Cole had shown him and many he had never even known he had.

Lately, Wes had been daydreaming and nightdreaming new emotions though. Feelings he hadn't felt before, even for Cole. Cole had always been in all of his daydreams, but recently, Wes found him stepping into much more erotic nightdreams. He wasn't sure what to think or what to do. He wanted to talk to Cole about it, but, somehow, that became awkward. How do you tell your best friend that you're dreaming about him differently? Who can you talk to except your best friend about stuff like this? But, he couldn't talk to Cole about Cole.

Just the other night, Wes had waked up covered in sweat, hard and aching, breathing in short heavy gasps and all he could do was finish what the dream had started. Stroking himself in a frantic rhythm, he came in quick heavy bursts. All he could remember was that the dream was about Cole. It excited him and it frightened him at the same time.

"Where did you just go?" Cole asked, his blue eyes questioning. "I'm telling you very important stuff here and you went to spooky world." Cole always called it spooky world when Wes turned inward and went silent. Cole swore that Wes' eyes faded almost white and it always scared him.

"I was just thinkin' about somethin'," Wes smiled. "No sweat. Now, where is this great place and when can I go see it?"

They made plans to go investigate on Saturday when Father was busy getting ready for his Sunday sermon. Father would rant and rave for hours in his room and, if Wes and Mercy were lucky, he wouldn't miss them until dinner time.

Saturday came bright, early and hot. Both boys, clad in old jean cutoffs, t-shirts getting way too short and way too tight as Wes and Cole sprouted like weeds in the warm summer months. They met, as usual, at Harrelson's rail fence. Wes stood on the top rail as Cole stretched out his hand to pull Wes behind him up on Whistler's strong back. Riding together was one of the times they felt easy and at peace like nothing could separate them while they flew like the wind on their magical horse.

The story of Pegasus, the winged horse, had been their favorite when they studied the Greek mythology in school. Whistler, they decided, was a direct descendant of the mythical horse, so when they rode together, it was as if Whistler would take off at any moment, his wings spread, to soar above the clouds.

Up Cutter's Pass and around the bend in the river, Cole was nearly bouncing with excitement. "Wait til you see it! It's perfect!"

Wes laughed, Cole's excitement pulsing through him. "Are we almost there?"

"We're here!" Cole grinned, sliding down off Whistler and looking up at Wes, squinting his eyes against the harsh Wyoming sun. "C'mon, this is so cool." He practically dragged Wes across the final few yards and into the tangle of underbrush and low hanging cottonwood branches. "Look, see! What did I tell you? It's dang perfect." Cole stood with his arms outspread, the pond and shady coolness of the trees standing beautiful behind him.

Wes was speechless for a few seconds. "This is like Eden in the bible," he whispered. "How come nobody's ever found this before?"

"I think," Cole murmured, "It's been waiting for us, all quiet and peaceful for a long time. Listen, Wes." They stood, side by side, arms just touching, as the breeze blew gently through the leaves and the soft call of birds filled the air. "No one can find you here."

Neither boy thought too much about Cole's words then. It was only much later that Cole remembered what he had said.

It took two weeks of dragging old boards, smuggling cans of food and kitchen stuff, and carrying treasures to their secret place, but they finally had their small hut built and the pond cleaned of the worst of the pond lilies.

Wes had been the first to dive deeply to find the spring. The water spouted ice cold from a crevice just off center. They would swim in the warm water and then suddenly, their feet would be caught in the frozen gush from deep within the black water.

They had always gone swimming naked; never thought anything about it. They were the same after all; same guy parts. It was only this summer that things began to change. Wes, as hard as he tried, could not keep himself from cutting his eyes toward Cole's tanned body. He had to turn and hide his erection that just popped up uncontrollably. He would jump in to the pond and swim fast for the ice cold spring water. The quiet companionship they had always shared was no longer quiet. Where they used to swim in the river and then lay side by side finding castles and wild animals in the clouds, now Wes struggled with these new feelings. Why couldn't he just tell Cole what he was feeling? Cole would understand, wouldn't he? Cole loved him.

But, everytime Wes started to admit his secret, his thoughts refused to collect and he chickened out. If he said it outloud, it might, probably would, ruin everything and Cole was the one person he could not lose.

The scorching hot afternoon that everything changed, Cole had smuggled Callie's portable CD player out of her room and they were lying on the grass drying out and listening to Cole's favorite Willie Nelson CD. The blades itched their backs and the sun felt as if it was sucking the moisture from their tanned bodies. It was heaven!

"You ever slow dance with anyone?" Wes asked. They were keeping time to the music by swaying their feet side to side and Cole's fingers were playing guitar chords on Wes' arm.

"Just Mom," Cole smiled, "She is always wanting to dance and Dad isn't much into it. You ever?"

"Nah, there's no music in my house." Wes sighed and Cole reached over to rub a few small circles of comfort on Wes' shoulder.

"You ever want to?" Cole's voice sounded funny.

"Yeah," Wes said softly. "It's kinda like hugging somebody, but with music."

The song changed and Willie began to sing Cole's favorite song. He had never told Wes, but the words made him want to hold onto Wes so tight and never let anything hurt him. Willie's low gritty world worn voice made Cole hold back tears.

"If you had not fallen
Then I would not have found you
Angel flying too close to the ground
And I patched up your broken wing
And hung around a while"

And suddenly, the sky was bluer and the grass was greener and, as Cole peeked at Wes from the corner of his eyes, he realized that all the stuff they sang about in love songs was stuff he felt about Wes.

"I tried to keep your spirits up
While you were feelin' down
I knew someday that you'd fly away
For love's the greatest healer to be found"

Cole stood up and, in the shade of the cottonwood trees, he held out his hand. "Dance with me." Wes squinted up into the bright sun and saw Cole's face alight with feelings they shared. He reached out and Cole pulled him to his feet.

"So leave me if you need to
I will still remember
Angel flying too close to the ground"

Embarrassed, shy, hesitant, skin touching warm skin, just two beautiful half grown boys, friends for so many years and now, something was changing. Their bodies were reacting somewhere between child and adult, somewhere new and special. As one trembling hand touched bare skin, as one throbbing penis rubbed against the other, as they looked straight into each other's eyes:

"Fly on, fly on past the speed of sound
I'd rather see you up
Than see you down
Leave me if you need to
I will still remember
Angel flying too close to the ground."

Cole cupped Wes' face in his hands. "Are you okay with this?"

Wes let out the deep breath he'd been holding. "More than okay." He moved closer and rested his forehead on Cole's.

"Can I do something I've been kinda thinking about for a long time?" Cole asked, his voice breaking with nerves.


Too nervous to answer, Cole leaned in and pressed his lips against Wes'.

"Oh," Wes sighed, "I knew it would feel like that."

Cole pulled his head back and looked deep into those silver eyes, "Like what?"

"Don't laugh."

"I'd never."

"Kinda like if my mother kissed me only much much better."

Cole smothered a giggle. He knew what Wes meant. "That's okay, I guess. But, I'm not your mom."

"Let's try again."

They spent the next half hour experimenting and their hands began to wander and their bodies reacted. Lying in the late afternoon sun in the shade of the old cottonwoods, their strong young bodies covered in sweat, they brought each other to places they hadn't known existed.

Wes felt Cole roll toward him and then he felt warm breath on his stomach. Wes' fingers tangled in Cole's wet blonde curls as he felt Cole's mouth fumble. Then, Wes felt a flash of lightning deep in his belly as Cole's hot wet mouth took him in and, quickly, an explosion. Collapsing, he pulled Cole over with him and they lay still, heads together, eyes tightly closed and felt their universe shift.

"What does this mean zactly?" Wes asked. shyly "Are you my boyfriend now?"

Cole thought for a minute, "I think so. It's what boys and girls do together, so that would make you my boyfriend." They both started to grin, but then Cole said seriously, "But we can't tell anyone, okay?"

"I know," Wes sighed. "We'd be in so much trouble and Father would probably kill me."

"I know, we don't want him getting angry with you."

Wes looked at Cole sadly. He had really meant that. Father would kill him. Father preached that there was no room in the world for sinners who did the stuff he and Cole had done today. Father preached that they should be killed so they don't pollute the pure of heart.

"Not Callie?"

Cole shook his head, "Not even Callie. You know how she feels about you. She would probably go wacko on us."

"You think we'll ever be together like regular people?"

"Sure," Cole smiled, hiding his fears behind shining blue eyes.

"So, you're my boyfriend and I'm your boyfriend and we're like ummmmm,"

"Yeah," Cole laughed, we're like ummmmm."

Jumping up, they ran for the cool water, swam and dunked and felt freer than they ever had before. Being able to touch was the last wall between them and now that wall had been taken down, brick by brick, kiss by kiss, and touch by touch. Tomorrow would take care of itself and one day, they'd be able to be together.

Wes was floating on his back in the water, not wanting to go home. Cole had gone to check on Whistler after they heard the horse whinnying. Wes grinned to himself as his thoughts ran back over the afternoon and how their world had changed.

Suddenly, he felt an intense stab of pain in his temples. He lost his balance and sank like a stone in the cold water. Panicked, he opened his eyes wide and felt his pupils expand. He wasn't seeing the bottom of the pond. Squeezing his eyes shut, he reopened them and saw, not the water, but the dust, the ground and Whistler rearing back on his hind legs, snorting in fear. Cole! Something was wrong with Cole!

Wes shot to the surface and swam quickly to the pond's edge. Rattler! He could see it now, a ten footer, rattle beads clattering out that eerie sound.

Where was Cole? The rattler coiled, its tongue licking out. Had it already struck Cole? Wes grabbed up Cole's shotgun and ran, skidding to a stop at the edge of the copse of underbrush and scrubs.

Cole was standing, rigid still, about three feet away from the snake. Whistler had pulled loose from his rope and was dancing fearfully a few yards away, snorting, his eyes rolling.

"Don't move," Wes murmured. He shook his head to clear his eyes and then, taking aim, blew the sucker in half.

Neither boy moved for a few seconds and then, relief set in and Cole sat down on the ground ... hard. "God!" he muttered, "I thought that was it for me. I couldn't yell or run or anything."

Wes walked over and kicked the snake. Reaching in his pocket, he pulled out his Buck knife and cut off the rattles. "Damn big snake."

They hung the rattles above the open door to their hut. Cole held Wes tight one last time before they left. "Thank you."

Embarrassed, Wes blushed, "Like you wouldn't have done the same thing."

"I owe you," Cole said softly.

"What a day! I'm gonna remember July 9th forever."

"When are we coming back?" Cole grinned.

"Soon, I hope. Real soon."

Everything felt different on the ride home. The way Wes held on to Cole's middle, the way Cole could feel Wes' heart beating, the newness, the shyness, the smell of sweat and release.

Only when Cole let Wes off at Harrelson's rail fence, they snuck one last kiss behind Whistler and Cole rode off towards home, did Wes think about what had happened. He hadn't just seen what was happening with the snake... he had seen what was happening through Cole's eyes. He didn't know what any of this meant.

Wes knew he had, as Cole called them, spooky eyes, but they had never done anything spooky. Cole had been terrified and Wes had seen it, felt it. Was it just Cole? Maybe it would never happen again. Wes was patient. He'd learned to be patient and still and strong by waiting in the pit. This was something new. Was it a good thing or a really bad thing? Time would answer him.

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