Val 'n Tyne

by Hans Schreiber and Flip McHooter

Chapter 11

Warning! This story is a work of fiction written by a legal age adult. Any similarity between the fictional characters and any live person is purely coincidental. This story contains fictional descriptions of sexual activity between consenting minor youth. If you are under the age of 18, and/or if you are offended by this content, and/or if it is illegal in your jurisdiction to possess or read such material, please leave now and do not read this story as neither the internet host nor the author can be responsible for your actions. Please, always practice safe sex; no momentary thrill is worth your life.

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be transmitted or reproduced in whole or in part in any form or by any means, mechanical or electronic, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the Author or Publisher, except where permitted by law. Copyright © 2012 by Hans Schreiber and Flip McHooter.

Special thanks to our editor, Pablo.

It was a gorgeous afternoon when the boys finally stopped kissing and drove off from the front of Noah's house towards the art gallery at The Commons. Noah took over control of the bad-ass stereo and played some of Nick's vast selection of songs. He didn't stick with one tune for very long though, because he was astonished at the crazy types of music that Nick liked. Everything from rap to soul to Coltrane and Miles, and a little bit of Pat Metheny. Even some country like Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss. He was truly amazed and had a new appreciation for the cute jock sitting next to him. He was obviously a little deeper than he let on.

"Damn, it's a freakin' beautiful day," Nick said, pulling into the fancy outdoor mall's parking lot just on the outskirts of Hartsdale. It was in a richy area called Pierpont, and Nick started searching for the perfect parking place for his beloved Mustang. The late afternoon sky was a beautiful, dazzling deep cerulean and it seemed to both Noah and Nick that the air felt like it was super-charged with pure energy. It tasted sweet, and the colors seemed so intense. It made both boys feel totally giddy.

"Don't I know it, Nicky. And look at those big thunder clouds way off over the mountains. Cool, huh? They're so big and ominous, heavily weighed down with big droplets of moisture desperately aching to be released and set free to splatter forth upon the parched body of the terra firma." Noah was beside himself with joy. He smiled over at Nick.

"Oh my God, that was almost erotic poetry. Only you could make a raincloud into something sexual sounding. You're a freakin' crackup."

"I've got talents you've only begun to discover, sweetie."

"Yeah, well I'm pretty good at erotic poetry too. It's sort of like rappin'. Wanna hear some?"

"Oh, hell yeah, play it for me, Homie," Noah bubbled.

"Okay, here goes: there once was a man named Kent, whose penis was so long that it bent. To save himself trouble, he stuck it in double, and instead of cumming – he went!" Nick cracked himself up at the punch line and asked through his laughter, "Well, what'cha think?"

"Oh Nicky. Baby, that brings tears to my eyes, but not in a good way." Noah started laughing too, and gave Nick a playful shove on his shoulder. He couldn't believe he was out on a real date – a date with this cute boy-jock that he'd crushed on for so long. And he was sharing one of his favorite things to do, going to an art gallery with him and he didn't even care! In fact, Nick didn't even put up a fight. So what if the paintings were of sports figures? Noah figured that there would be other art pieces that he'd enjoy and get to share with Nick. He was so excited that he had to work triple-time to keep himself from dancing all around in his seat and sliding off onto the floor boards.

"But yeah, those clouds are an awesome sight all right. I just hope Val and Tyne have started to head home by now. Those clouds could be splattering tons of water on them up there at the lake. That could make the roads slippery and maybe even dangerous."

"They'll be fine in that big-ass ol' truck of Val's." Looking back over at Nick, he noticed that Nick hadn't lost the big-ass smile on his cute mug. In fact, he was grinning like crazy. That made Noah tease in a dour voice, "What's up Nicky? Please don't cry. Why the grumpy face?"

"Smart ass. It's nothin', really. Just happy, that's all. It's a beautiful day and I'm out having fun. I'm with a handsome guy that I really like and who likes me back, I think. Plus, I'm going to do something new I've never done before. Can't a guy be happy for a change?" He whipped the fiery red mustang into an open parking slot away from all the other cars.

"Oh, all right, if you have to." Noah reached over and pinched Nick's tight bicep. "You're my favorite space ranger, Buzz!"

"Woody, behave!" Nick yelled out with a laugh. He shut the car off and then after looking all around, leaned over into Noah and whispered, "There's something on your lip."

"Oh no! What is it, Nicolito?" he said, fighting back a grin and slapping the palms of his hands to his cheeks. "What's on there?"

"I think it might be … my lips," Nick said huskily. "Let me double check to be sure." Both boys leaned in further towards each other in the tight cabin of the car. They pressed their mouths together and started to taste and suck on each other's soft red lips. Then, parting his lips, Nick took Noah's tasty bottom lip between his and started to lightly chew on it like he did the other night. He loved doing that to Noah. Both guys boned up immediately and when they broke the kiss, they both had to re-arrange their packages around inside their pants. "Yeah, it was my lips all right," Nick said, and then they went at it again.

Noah was in heaven, but he was winded from not being used to sucking face like this. It seemed like Nick had gills or something and didn't have to breathe. Regrettably, Noah was the one that finally broke the long, sexy kiss. "Whew! That's so gosh darn good!"

"I know. C'mon. If we do any more of that in here, I'm gonna have to throw you in the backseat and ravage you're cute little body with my Woody!" Nick said.

Noah could only let out a slow moan of pleasure. Finally, knowing that this couldn't go any further in the car, he looked out the window and said softly, "Okay."

They got out of the car and walked across the broad expanse of the asphalt parking lot, occasionally bumping into each other's shoulders and giggling like crazy. When they got closer to the buildings they straightened up, but didn't stop smiling. "So, how often do you go to art galleries?"

"Once in a while. Usually when I'm feeling blue or bored. All the colors cheer me up and then I get inspired to do something creative. I haven't been here to this one before. I read that they have expensive stuff. I think we'll like it."

"Well, this is a new experience for me. I've only gone to the museum downtown to see art on a school field trip when I was like in fourth grade. That was so boring, but at least we got out of class. I remember that Val and I kept getting in trouble because we were fooling around so much. There was this one real expensive one, I guess, because it was all roped off. We wanted to look at it closer up so we ducked under the ropes and all these alarms went off. Wow, I thought Mrs. Woodruff was gonna shit a brick. Her face was as red as a tomato. I remember thinking she really did look like a tomato and I laughed and that really pissed her off. It was great."

"Shit! I totally remember that! One of the guys in your crew gave Tyne a wedgie. That wasn't very funny. And I remember all you guys got sent back to the bus, so the joke was really on you."

"Yeah, I know. It was so hot on that fuckin' bus and we were there forever. It was miserable. I think Tyrell was the one that did it, but we all got in trouble for it."

"Serves you right, mo-fo!" Noah said in his Mr. T voice again, making Nick laugh.

"You're funny, Woody, really funny." Secretly, he was thinking that he actually was funny – and adorable, too. "You know, now that I think about it, I feel bad for all the bad shit we did to you guys. You and Tyne are all right and we had no right to pull some of the shit we did on you. I'm sorry for that."

"No worries. I always knew you'd get it in the end," Noah said with a laugh. "I just never thought I might be the one making the delivery!" Noah grasped an imaginary waist in front of him and gave a couple of thrusting motions with his hips, then winked at Nick.

"In your dreams, handsome, in your 'mo-fo' freakiest dreams, as you like to say. C'mon. Let's go inside and check this place out."

"Cool. Lead on."

The boys walked into the cool, stark white gallery. It was a big loft-like space, divided into separate areas by artist. They were both surprised that no one was there, besides a somewhat elegant looking, middle-aged lady and a nattily attired old man on the phone sitting behind a big, ornate desk. Both adults eyed the teens suspiciously. Noah and Nick both spotted the LeRoy Neiman paintings right off and headed in that direction. The first one they came to was a vibrant painting of Magic Johnson.

"Wow! Look at that. It's like you're right there on the hardwood, but you're seeing it through a kaleidoscope," Nick said, somewhat in awe. "I never thought you could mix sports with paint. And look at all the color. How freakin' awesome."

"I know. It even makes me want to throw the ball around," Noah said.

"Really?"

"No. Just funnin' ya. I wouldn't know which end to hold."

Nick furrowed his brow and stared at Noah for a long several minutes, then smiled his infectious grin, "Basketballs don't have ends, you looper."

"They don't? Hmm. Shows you what I know." Noah grinned.

"Hey! Look at this one." The one next to Magic's was a painting of Michael Jordan when he played with the Bulls as number 23. Nick stood there in awe for a moment. "Why is this so expensive, Noah?" It was on sale for 12 grand.

"Because it's so collectable. And because they're so good. Plus, he's old and when he dies there won't be any more. It's sad that most artists make their big money after they're dead. Check that one out over there. Even I know who that is," Noah said with a laugh. "It's Wayne Gretzky."

"How did you know that?"

"My dad's a huge hockey buff. When he's home from the hospital and its hockey season, the TV is always on. I like watching those guys slam into each other." Then, leaning into Nick and lowering his voice, he said, "I'd like to be slammin' you against the boards and show you what high sticking's really all about!"

"Hmmm. I bet you would. Down, boy. We're in public, you horny little bitch." After turning back to the painting for a minute, Nick started to think out loud, "I would never have thought to paint the ice that shade of blue. And it's so abstract, and yet you can totally tell what's going on. And look how the other team disappears into the net. Wow. I wish I could paint like that."

"I'm impressed. Maybe you can. I could see you doing that since you love sports so much. Have you ever tried before?"

"Not painting, no. I like to draw things but I never thought to draw sports stuff. I'm gonna try it. Thanks for bringing me here, Noah. This is chill."

"No problem. Glad to inspire you. Hey – maybe you could draw me!"

"Yeah, maybe. It would have to be at your house though. Maybe a nude study," Nick giggled, but seemed serious.

"Boner or no boner?" Noah inquired with a straight face, totally turned on at the thought of posing naked in front of Nick while he sketched him.

"Better make it no bone; I might have trouble concentrating otherwise." Just then, the art dealer on the phone hung up, got up and walked over to the boys.

"Hello, gentleman. My name is King. King Oleg de Rossi. Please call me King. May I be of assistance?"

"Hello, sir. I'm Noah and this is my friend Nick. And, um, no, not right now. We're just admiring the great works you have in here," he said. "You have quite a few."

"Why thank you. You have exquisite taste, Noah and Nick. LeRoy Neiman is one of my favorite artists and I was lucky to assemble these prints. I had a wonderful artist's proof, but I sold it last week. Is there one in particular that interests you?"

"No, not really. It's not like we have any money to buy anything. We're just checking them out. Nick here likes to draw with pen and ink. I like the Gretzky and he likes the basketball ones. He plays forward on our high school team. He's amazingly good at being forward. Not like forward, forward, but like in the basketball sense of the word because that's his position. He blocked this shot at the end of the last game to save the win and I got Spalding'd. That's where the ball hits you in the face and since the balls are made by Spalding, they call it getting Spalding'd, but maybe you already knew that. Anyway, we've never seen these artists before. I saw your ad online and thought I'd show him," Noah rambled.

"That's wonderful! I don't get very many young men in here. And it's terrific that you saw us online. And thank you young man, for the Spaulding tip. I'll be sure to watch out for flying balls. It's a pleasure to serve you. Feel free to take your time and look around. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I'm just going to pop over there and see if that woman needs my assistance. Between you and me, she looks rather angry today, doesn't she? Oh well, all in a day's work, I guess." And with that, he trotted off to help the other customer.

"He's quite the character, isn't he?"

"I'll say," Noah said. "But he seems nice. It must be cool to work in a place like this, surrounded by all of this art."

"Yeah, I guess. You'd fit in for sure. What the fuck was all that forward, forward shit? You crack me up, dude."

"I don't know, it just popped into my head. Yeah, I could probably do an art gallery thing, but it might get boring after a while."

"I guess. Let's look around and see what else he's got."

They spent the next few minutes wandering around the large gallery looking at all of the different artists King had for sale. There was quite an eclectic collection. They both enjoyed looking at Dr. Seuss' Secret Art prints and his Unorthodox Taxidermy. They both thought his stuff was cool and each vowed one day to buy one. Noah's favorite was the mallard duck/turtle with the toucan beak thingy and Nick liked the bear with antlers.

By the time they made it into the back, the lady was just finishing up a question with King and he left to go back to his desk. Noah took a good look at her and decided that she wasn't that old of a lady, but she looked beaten and tired, even if she was all dressed up. And even though she obviously had some plastic surgery done not too long ago, it didn't look like it took. He hoped that she got her money back, but doubted that she did. Then something strange happened.

"Nick? Is that you? Of course it is. You're Val's good friend, the young man with the politically connected parents. What are you doing here? And who is your little friend?"

"Oh, hi, Mrs. Borden. I didn't recognize you all dressed up. This is my new friend, Noah," Nick said uncomfortably. "It's nice to see you again," he lied.

"Uh-huh. Hello Noah. Why do I know that name?"

"I work with your daughter, Emma, at Whole Foods. She's fun to work with," he said, politely lying.

"I seriously doubt that she is fun to work with. Even I wouldn't want to work with her. But that's not it. I'm certain Emma has never spoken of you. Let me see, let me see. Are you on the student council at Hartsdale High School?"

"No ma'am, I'm not on the student council. I'm in the drama club. Maybe you saw me last fall when we did Footloose. But I don't think you and I have ever met, unless you came into the store sometime."

"Oh no. Never been there. Hmm. Oh yes, now I remember. You're one of the little faggots that framed and vilified my daughter, Lizzy, at school. I should have you arrested."

"Are you kidding me? Seriously? For what?"

"For getting my innocent, baby doll expelled!"

"Are you serious? I didn't do anything. Your precious baby doll deserved everything she got. After all that shit Lizzy pulled on everybody, you're mad at me? Sister, you need to wake up and smell the cappuccino! She's the one that orchestrated everything with her conniving little drama. How's that reform school working out for her, by the way?" Noah struck a defensive pose, and while he rarely challenged adults, other than his parents, he wasn't going to take shit from this old hag.

"How dare you!" She hissed through her puffy Botox fish lips.

"How dare I what? I'm just telling you the truth. The whole truth and nothing but. And you know it. Your daughter is a messed-up drama queen in the worst sense of the word. And you know I'm right. It's too bad you spawned her."

"You're a little creep, you know that? She told me about how you and your little friend are trying to turn everybody queer. Did he turn you queer too, Nick?"

"Um, uh, no, not really."

"Are you sure? What are you doing in HERE with HIM ?" she said as she pointed a wrinkly finger at Noah.

"We, uh, came to look at the, uh, basketball paintings." Nick stammered. First he was amused, then he became scared, but then he started to get mad. "It's really none of your damned business," he added, manning up.

"It is so my business. He hypnotized you, I bet. I just know it. I heard all about how you queers do that from our Pastor and one of the youth group members that goes to your school. We have to stop this travesty. Stop it right now!" The art dealer was sitting casually at his desk with a big smile on his face, bugged-eyed and watching the crazy exchange. This was probably the most action he'd seen in the gallery in many years.

"Oh my God! We're dealing with a psycho woman here. I didn't hypnotize him. That's the biggest load of crazy ass bullshit I ever heard. But you know, now that you mention it, maybe it is true. Why don't you come closer and look into my eyes? Let's see if I can turn you. I bet you'd make a great lesbian. After all, you already got the looks for it," Noah said quite calmly, but he was pissed and his face was red hot. "I haven't done a woman before." He suddenly realized what he'd just said and snickered then added, "But I guess that's obvious since I'm supposed to be gay."

"Ahhh!" she yelled. Then, dropping her eyes quickly and looking back at Nick, she said, "Do your parents know what's happened to you, Nick?"

"Um, no. Why should they? Nothing's HAPPENED to me." He was really starting to get pissed now.

"Because he turned you all gay! I really think they should be made aware of that."

Nick started to giggle at the absurdity of the whole thing. He'd never been on the receiving end of any kind of bullying or bashing by someone so completely idiotic before and it was infuriating and absurd at the same time. He tried to cover his mouth but then he started to really laugh. Noah just looked over at him with amusement. Noah sensed what Nick was experiencing because he was, unfortunately, highly experienced in the whole bashing scenario. He was both surprised and happy that Nick hadn't backed down from this wretched old lady. Nick shook his head slightly and said, "I see why Lizzy and Emma are such bitches. The rotten apple didn't fall far from the tree."

"Maybe I should tell your parents where I found you and who you are hanging out with," she threatened.

Just then, before Nick could respond, the front door to the gallery opened with a jingle and a nice looking, well dressed, younger man stuck his head in and asked, "Lauren, are you almost done, honey? We're going to be late. The front desk called and our room is ready. We have early dinner reservations and then the play starts at seven so if we're going to have any time together beforehand, we need to hurry."

"Yes! Just go wait in the car. I'll be right there, dear." She was starting to twitch a little and her eyes were blinking really fast.

"DEAR? That's not Mr. Borden!" Nick yelled out. He remembered meeting him a couple of times when Val took him to see Lizzy when they were dating. Her husband was a fat, bald guy who wore black socks with his sandals.

"You shut-up. That's none of your concern."

"Oh… My… God. You're cheating on your husband! And you're screaming morality at Nick and me? What a picnic basket of donkey turds. You know what, lady? You should just get your bad face lift and saggy boob job out of here and head back to The Real Hillbilly Housewives of Hartsdale. That's where you belong. Either that or in a padded cell along with your homophobic Pastor."

Nick started laughing again, and so was the art dealer. King was convulsing with one hand across his stomach and the other pressed to his mouth. Then Nick did something that he never thought he'd do in his wildest dreams. He stood straight up, pushed his shoulders back, wiped the tears from his eyes, then looked straight at her and said, "For your information, he didn't turn me gay. I turned him!" Then he grabbed Noah by the arms, pulled him in tight and plastered a big, wet, sloppy kiss on him.

"I'm going to tell your parents," she seethed.

"No, you're not!" boomed King, who had stood up from his desk and came over to the screaming little group. "Madam, I suggest you rethink that statement. See those cameras up there? There are quite a few. They have been recording your whole tiring tirade, sound and all. One little peep out of you about these boys and I'll make a copy to send to your husband. Edited, of course. There's a camera outside too, and I'm sure we have a good picture of your boy-toy. Maybe your Pastor would like a copy too? "

"How dare you. I'll never set foot in this gallery again," She seethed.

"Please, madam, don't tease me. Over the years, you have returned every piece of art you have ever purchased from me. I know your type. You buy it, take it home to impress people for some cheesy cocktail party and then return it, only paying the modest restocking fee. Customers like you I can well afford to do without."

Mrs. Borden shrieked with horror and ran out of the gallery, but not before she caught her spiky heel on the corner of a rug and practically fell on her ugly face. She wobbled over to the door, took off her shoes and sprinted down the sidewalk in her bare feet to her boyfriend's charcoal gray Lexus.

"Here, here! What a spirited exchange, gentlemen. You were both truly magnificent. I've wanted to get rid of that horrid woman for years. She's such a handful," King said, turning away from the door and looking at the boys.

"Thanks, I guess. I feel sorta bad. I've never been so rude to an adult like that before," Noah said quietly.

"Yeah, me either."

"Rude? That's hogwash, boys. You have every right to stand up for yourselves. Times are different today and nobody has to take crap like that. In my day, we had to leave town and go to someplace that was friendly to people of our, shall we say, persuasion. In many ways I envy you. How long have you boys been together?"

Nick coughed into his hand and turned a little red, but the question didn't bother Noah. "We're not really together, yet. This is sorta like our first date."

"Marvelous! Simply marvelous. Young love. How wonderful. I can't wait to go home and tell my husband about you two. You're so cute together. You know, you remind me of when my Yanis and I first met. Ooooh, so much in love. And we still are. Next month, we will be together 47 years and we're both still madly in love," King gushed. "Truly, madly, deeply."

"Wow! That's great," said Nick. "That's a long time. How did you guys meet?"

"Oh, that's such a long and sordid story. Maybe sometime you boys could come over for dinner and Yanis and I could tell you all about it. We so love to entertain. But no cocktails; you're too young! Well, maybe just one." He winked. "Anyway, our house is filled with fabulous pieces that we've collected over the years that I'd simply love to show off to two budding, young art collectors. Yanis is a wonderful cook. And you know, if this little spark of yours ignites into passionate flames of true love, we would love to be your Fairy Godfathers. That would be such an honor."

"Um, okay, I guess," Nick said, hesitantly. "But we're like just friends right now, okay. We're not like picking out carpet and drapes or baby names."

"No, no, of course not," King responded waving his finger, "I hope you didn't presume me to be too forward. I'm just so taken to see an obviously happy young couple. How did you two meet by the way?"

"Well, that's kind of a long, sordid story like with you said with you and Yanis. Basically, we hooked up because our two best friends got this whack school assignment to go on a date experience with someone of the same sex. If we end up coming to dinner, we'll swap stories."

"Sounds intriguing."

Changing gears, Noah asked, "Hey Nick, have you heard anything from Val? I've been trying to text Tyne all day and he hasn't responded. I'm dying to know how things are going on their date. It's not like Tyne to ignore my texts. I hope they're okay."

"Don't worry. I'm sure they're fine. I doubt they even have service up there. I'm sure Val wouldn't bother texting me from the lake. I haven't bothered texting him. That's not something we'd do, really."

"Trouble?" asked King.

"No. I hope not. Our friends went fishing together on their 'mock date,'" Noah made quote marks in the air with his fingers. "One of them is my BFF and I'm a little worried he hasn't responded to my texts."

"I'm sure they'll be just fine. Speaking of fishing has sparked an idea of something you might like to see; come back here with me for just a second. I just received a new book about Henry Scott Tuke, painstakingly researched and filled with beautiful copies of all his works. The paintings he made of young men, much like yourselves, are simply, well, words cannot adequately explain their beauty."

The boys followed King back to his big desk and were surprised at the pictures in the large book. Almost all of the pictures were of male nudes, and almost all of them were at the beach or in boats. While the images were exciting and sensual, they weren't sexy or pornographic. Neither Noah nor Nick had seen anything quite like them, and they flipped through the pages in awe.

"Wow. These are beautiful," Noah said. "He just went around painting nude boys? They look like they were done a long time ago. You surely couldn't do that today."

"He started painting fishermen and fishing boats in England around the turn of the last century, which is why the mention of fish triggered my thoughts about it. But his real passion was of the male form. It caused quite a stir at the time, and actually still does to this day. But they are so remarkable, so pure, so innocent. It was a time when a boy could be a boy." King said wistfully.

"Hey look at that one. It almost looks like you and me and Val and Tyne," Nick almost shouted.

They had stopped on a page with an image of Tuke's 'Midsummer Morning, 1908'. "Damn, it does. That looks like Val with that fish between his legs. That could be Tyne pointing down at it if he had a little bit longer hair."

"And that looks like you in the background, Noah. It figures you'd be wearing skinny jeans while everyone else is almost naked," Nick laughed.

"Yeah, and that's you with that big naked ass, standing on the rock. But who is that guy sneaking up there on the left?"

"It looks exactly like Dane. See the dark red hair and the big muscles?"

"Oh my god. Too funny."

"You know boys, this is one of my favorite paintings by him. The original last sold for $430,000 dollars. And you know, I heard that Elton John collects these."

"Wow-wee! See, I told you artists make most of their money after they're dead," Noah said.

"I'd freakin' fake my death for that kind of bank," said Nick.

"Unfortunately, that is so true," King opined.

Just then, Nick's stomach growled. "Oh, man, pardon me! Noah, I'm freakin' starving. You ready for a late lunch or an early dinner?"

"Yeah, I'm kind of hungry too. My dad's breakfast has totally worn off. It was nice meeting you, King. And thanks for showing us that book. I think it might have inspired my handsome artist." Noah smiled over at Nick, who didn't respond but reflected on his face that it was true. Then Noah added, "Come on, Nicolito, let's go find us some linner."

"Linner?" Nick questioned.

"Yeah, it's not lunch and it's not quite dinner, it's linner."

"Wow. I thought that was called lunner. Whate ver. You can be so loopy sometimes," Nick said, then turned to King, "I really was inspired here today. Thanks so much. I want to get back to my art. I really think I might try drawing the nude male. It's a challenge I think I'd like to take on."

"Certainly. It was my pleasure. Well, here, let me give you my card. Honestly, we'd love to have you boys over for dinner. I'm sure you'd have a wonderful time. But even if you can't make it, or if you ever need help or have a question, please let me know. Especially if that horrid woman causes problems for you, enlist my help. I was serious when I said we'd love to be your Fairy Godfathers." He chuckled then added, "And Nick, I would love to see some of your work. I do hope you will bring it by and show it to me."

"Thanks, King. We appreciate it. Maybe we will come for dinner sometime," Noah said. He really did like the old man.

"Splendid. Take good care, boys. It was a pleasure meeting you."

"Same. Thanks again for showing us those pictures," Nick said, as they went out the door to find a nearby restaurant.


Val felt very odd hiking up the trail half nude. He felt a little more like a forest creature than a human being because of it. As he worked up a small sweat, the evening air created a chill on his southern exposure. His balls pulled up tightly in their sac and his dick shriveled. Even when shriveled up from the cold, Val's penis was enviable. He picked his way carefully, watching where he stepped and silently cursing himself for leaving his shoes upstream along with the clothes. He didn't care if the water might ruin them when he had to walk in the creek. Besides, they were probably already ruined and they were last year's practice shoes anyway.

Soon the trail faded and Val moved down into the flowing creek. He grew even more cautious, testing each step for any rocks that might roll under his bare feet and send him sprawling into the water. He didn't want to soak his sweatshirt since it was the only dry bit of clothing left to him. He pulled the flashlight from his sweatshirt pocket since the daylight was now completely gone and only the pale moonlight was available. He took a careful step and as he shifted his weight, the rock he'd placed his foot on rolled. He reached down to steady himself on a fallen log lying partially across the creek but in doing so, lost the flashlight.

"Dammit!" Val exclaimed as he twisted and reached for the light. He had to backtrack several feet to where the flashlight had settled under the water. He pulled his sleeve up and reached in for it. It was not waterproof and no longer worked. He shoved it into his pocket and cursed his misfortune again.

Using both hands wherever a branch or a large rock permitted, he made his way carefully upstream in the dim moonlight. Fortunately, the moon was full or it would have been pitch black. The breeze blew a little harder into his face as he picked his way along upstream.

Suddenly, he sensed something and stopped. Then he heard it. Then he saw it wading in the middle of the creek just above him. It took his breath away as his focus revealed a good sized black bear staring back at him. He swallowed hard and didn't move. It was obvious that he had startled the bear as much as the bear had startled him. Val cautiously glanced about looking for any cubs. He didn't see any evidence of them to his great relief. All the things he'd ever heard about how to act around a bear started flooding through his head: Don't run. Look as big as you can. Don't make eye contact since the bear might consider that a challenge. If it charges, hold your ground. Talk in a low voice.

Val stood as tall as he could, raised his arms high and said, "Hello, Mister Bear. I hope you're as worried about me as I am about you right now." The bear cocked his head as if trying to understand. Val stood his ground and concentrated on keeping his balance in the current. He feared if he fell, the bear would take it as a sign of vulnerability. "You just down getting a little drink? I'm just headed up to the hot spring to get my clothes."

The bear turned and keeping Val in sight, took two steps forward. Val gulped but held his ground. He could smell the wet fur on the breeze. "You're probably wondering what the hell I am, aren't you big guy? Or are you a girl? No offense either way. Well, I'm an Eskimo nudist. You'd have to talk to your polar bear cousins to know what that means, though." Val smiled and thought that might just well be his last lame joke he ever cracked. "Look, I'm half bear myself. I got a bare ass and bare feet." Val reached slowly down and slapped his ass then lifted his feet and showed them to the bear, but quickly had to step back into the sandy bottom of the creek to stabilize himself. The bear flinched at his sudden motion but quickly relaxed and flared its lips exposing large teeth, visible even in the moonlight.

"Didn't like that one? I'm sorry. Well, do you know why Eskimos bathe in Tide? Because it's too cold out-Tide. Get it? Too cold out-Tide." The bear made a low snort and cocked it's head to the side as if it was wondering what this tall white animal was. It seemed to Val that it was staring at his dick. Val reached down with one hand and took it in his hands and held it up. "You curious about this big trout?" The bear snorted again. "So what are you so interested for? Are you a gay bear or a female in heat? To tell you the truth, I'm not sure myself which it's meant for. The bear rose up on his hind legs and let out a low growl.

"So you're a gay bear, I see. That's a cute little pink penis you got there, dude." The bear dropped to his haunches, turned slowly, and lumbered out of the creek and up the trail. "I'm not your type I guess. It's okay, no hurt feelings, you just run along then." He stopped and turned to look at Val one last time, who remained completely frozen in place still clutching his dick and waving his other outstretched arm slowly overhead. "That's it. Run you fool, before I start on the knock-knock jokes." The bear ran on up the trail and out of sight. Val stood in his spot for as long as he could stand it to be sure the beast was gone. Finally, he gained the courage to move on. He considered just going back, but decided the bear could have as easily gone downstream as upstream if he didn't completely leave the creek area.

Moving a little more quickly, but stopping often to check the surroundings, Val continued up the creek until he reached the fork of the water from the hot spring. He enjoyed the warmer water on his cold feet and was glad that there were fewer rocks in the bed. When he reached the hot spring itself, he sat on the rock edge and held his feet in the steam just above the water to warm them. Eventually, Val dangled his legs into the hot pool and enjoyed the warmth of the spring water. He replayed the wild experience he'd shared earlier with Tyne and leaned back on his elbows, closed his eyes and smiled. His dick steadily bobbed into a full erection and somewhat unconsciously he began flexing it. He tightened then relaxed his sphincter over and over causing his large staff to jerk in time. Val lowered his chin to his chest and peered at his formidable sex organ and it lured him in. He sat up and grasped the base of it with his left hand just above his balls and capped it with his right hand such that his thumb and forefinger formed a ring over the ridge of his expanded, spongy head.

Val leaned over, aimed, and dribbled a long string of saliva onto the tip of his dick for lube and started stroking himself with both hands. While he stimulated his dick, he closed his eyes and thought about Tyne's tongue sliding over his balls and up his shaft while he had sucked himself off. The fantasy was powerful and tantalizing. The image of the big black bear and his fleshy pink dickhead peeking out of his fur flashed through Val's head and he imitated the low growl the bear made when Val took hold of his own penis. It took no time at all for the urgency to build. The head of his dick was on fire from the nerves firing in rapid succession. He clenched his asshole tight and squeezed his eyes equally as tight while the orgasm flooded through him. The tingles raced madly around his skull like a fish on a hook and then shot down his spine as he jerked forward and aimed his rod toward the hot spring and away from his sweatshirt.

Val opened his eyes and watched his cum swirl around in the hot water in odd shaped clumps, barely visible in the moonlight. The light of the moon had increased in intensity as it rose in the night sky. Val released his dick and pulled his sweatshirt off and placed it on the rocks behind him. He lay back on the sweatshirt with his long arms to his sides and his third arm lying flat against his belly still engorged and twitching. He was breathing long, slow breaths and enjoying the lingering effects of the orgasm he'd just given himself. Staring into the star filled, night sky, mellowed from the wine, and reveling in the sexual high of his fantasy with Tyne, Val felt overwhelmingly happy. He felt as much connected with God's world as he'd ever felt. Like the bear, he too was part of nature doing what came natural to bare boys of all species. He was one of God's creatures seeking his way in life and finding his spot in the natural order of things. He stared up at the night sky in awe of the universe spread before him, expanding infinitely out into the blackness of space. It never ceased to amaze him and fill him with wonder. He felt immensely important and completely insignificant all at once as he pondered the incomprehensible expanse of the cosmos and his place in it.

Realizing that Tyne was probably worrying, he reluctantly sat up and pulled the sweatshirt back on. He stood and walked to the clothes. Finding his shorts, he pulled them on even though they were damp. It just felt worse having the damp cloth against his skin than being naked so he pulled them back off. Val located the truck keys and transferred them into his sweatshirt pocket. He did, however, pull his shoes on without socks and left them untied. He stuffed the excess laces into the sides next to his ankles. The rest of the clothes he rolled up together with his t-shirt on the outside as a cover. That worked great to make them all easier to carry. He even included Tyne's shoes in the bundle.

Wearing shoes made the trip down much faster and safer. The better light from the moon was also helpful. When Val reached the trail alongside the main creek, he climbed the bank and ran down the trail at a fast jog. His wet shoes without socks rubbed a couple blisters but he didn't even care. He was anxious to get back to the truck and share the blanket with Tyne again.

Tyne was relieved to see Val jogging toward him. He unwrapped himself and rubbed his sore neck. He'd twisted around to look back and see if Val was coming so many times that his neck was really sore from it. Val popped open the door and tossed the useless flashlight into the backseat along with the rolled up, damp clothing and climbed into the cab with Tyne. They bundled back up in the blanket and pressed their bodies together.

"Hold on, let me lose this sweatshirt," Val said. He leaned up and struggled out of it, tossing it on the driver's side and then snuggled back up to Tyne completely naked. They held each other and Tyne rubbed up and down Val's cold body vigorously, as well as he could in the confines of the blanket at least, to help warm him up. Tyne took Val's cold hands and pressed them between his thighs. The coldness of them in that sensitive region sent a shudder through Tyne's body. Val rubbed his icy feet against Tyne's legs and feet.

"You were making me nervous," Tyne confessed. "I was really starting to worry about you at the end there before you finally showed up. Did you get lost or something?"

"No, actually I ran into a bear."

Tyne chuckled. "Sure you did. I suppose he gave you directions to the hot spring."

"No, I seriously ran into a big black bear in the creek. I dropped my flashlight in the creek and it stopped working so I didn't even see him until I was right up on him. I guess I was downwind of him because I startled him as much as he startled me."

"You're not shitting me, are you?"

"No, I really did almost walk right into a big ass bear. I think he was in the creek for a drink and maybe some fishing. When he saw me, he stood up on his hind legs and I almost violated one of the seven rules."

"Which rule is that, flashing the wildlife?" Tyne cracked up at his joke.

"No, that's not part of the Outdoor Code. I almost shit my pants, only I wasn't wearing any so it would have gone straight into the creek."

"Ohhhh, that rule. But dude, seriously, what did you do?"

"I remembered hearing that as long as you're not being stalked and considered food, you should make yourself look as big as possible and hold your ground. But you shouldn't look the bear directly in the eye so it thinks you're challenging its territory. You're also supposed to talk to it in a low calm voice. So I raised my hands and started telling it stupid jokes. It turned and took a couple steps toward me and then I really almost shit but it stopped. No shit, I swear he was staring at my dick, so I took it in my one hand and he sort of cocked his head toward me. Then he stood up and I could see the fleshy, pink head of his dick sticking out of the fur and I called him gay. He finally dropped back down, turned around, and wandered off. I'm thinking he got a glimpse of my big dick and decided anything packing a monster like that was probably dangerous."

"Yeah right. As impressive as that thing is to me, I'm guessing it's not even worth honorable mention amongst the bears. It probably just got close enough to get a look at your ugly face and ran off in terror." They both laughed and snuggled against each other. "Whatever made it leave, I'm just glad you made it back safely."

 After a comfortable period of silent snuggling, Tyne asked, "So did you find the keys? You didn't go off and forget the keys after seeing the bear did you?"

"Oh shit. What am I doing?" Val unwrapped and leaned over Tyne and pulled the keys out of his sweatshirt pocket, stuck them in the ignition and turned on the truck. After a minute or two he set the temperature on the maximum level and cranked the heater fan up to high. Soon, heat was pouring out of the vents and the two boys reveled in it. They each stuck their feet against the floor vent and cupped their hands around a dash vent.

"That's so nice," Tyne cooed.

"Definitely. Although, cuddling with you to get warm is more fun," Val commented with a playful little grab at Tyne's package. Tyne smiled. He looked over and saw Val's nipples standing out and couldn't resist. He reached over and tweaked the protruding nub causing Val to cry out and squirm away.

"Oh, game on." Val launched himself on Tyne and started twisting his nips and then tickling his ribs until Tyne threatened to soil the seats.

They ended up with Tyne stretched out across the front seat and his head by the steering wheel. Val was lying over the top of him, his thick loins pressed into Tyne's hip. Val smiled at Tyne, who was lying trapped beneath him breathing heavily from being mercilessly tickled. Tyne smiled back and stared into the big jock's eyes. Val leaned in, but then he hesitated. Tyne reached up and put a hand behind Val's neck and pulled him lightly toward him. Val succumbed and they kissed long and slow and tenderly.

When the kiss was broken, Tyne whispered, "As much as I hate to say this, we should get going. My mom probably has the National Guard out looking for us."

"To be honest, I'm not sure that's such a great idea. The roads will be a mess from all that rain and hail. Plus, I'm probably okay and all, but I did drink … I mean WE drank a whole bottle of wine earlier."

Tyne didn't want to hear that. He knew his mother would already be totally freaking out and he always tried to do anything he could so she wouldn't have to worry about him. After losing her husband, he knew she was terrified of anything happening to him also. "Please. My mom will be freaking out and she worries a lot over me after my dad, you know? What if I drive?"

"Dude, I don't think that's a good idea with the muddy roads. It's not the same. If you really have to get home, then fine, I'll drive us. You can get the clothes and hold our boxers, at least, in front of the heater vents so we have something to put on when I take you home."

"You don't want to show up at my house naked?"

"Not really. What would I say? 'Uh here's Tyne back. We had a great time together. He got me drunk on wine and I got him naked in the hot spring. He licked my balls while I sucked myself off and then we got caught in a freezing rainstorm and nearly died of hypothermia. It was a total blast - can't wait to go again.' That should go over with her like a lead ball sac."

"You're such a freak. But I like you anyway. So let's go. And if my mom does ask how it went, the answer is simply, 'good'. Now get your naked ass off me and let me up."

Tyne leaned over, unbundled the clothes and pulled the boxers free. Val got out and trotted to the driver's side, pulled on his sweatshirt, and climbed in. Tyne rolled up the blanket up tightly and stuffed it between his seat and the door. He put it in reverse and then forward and headed down the dirt road back toward home, leaving the lake full of gay fish behind.

The truck did okay in the mud. It fishtailed a few times in particularly low spots, but Val handled it adeptly by steering into the slide. Before long, they came to the washed out portion of the road. Val stopped. "I don't know dude. Doing this in the dark and with muddy roads is kind of sketchy."

"Come on. You can do it. Please. I know my mom is freaking out for sure. She may never let me go again if we don't get home tonight."

"Okay. It's your funeral if we don't make it. Well it may be mine too, but whatever." Val put the truck into four wheel drive, shifted into gear and drove up onto the hillside concentrating hard on what he was doing. When he hit the large rock, the front tire got traction and the rear slid down in the mud. The left rear tire went off the edge and Tyne cried out in fear. Val let off the gas and lost his momentum. The back of the truck slid further down and picked up speed. Val tried to turn the wheel the opposite way, but that was a mistake. Doing so accelerated the sideways slide and then the rear left tire hit a rock or tree stump or something and the front end slid down across the road and over the washed out section.

The next thing Tyne knew, he was watching the trees and hillside through his window disappear until he realized they were going over. The words, "OH SHIT," rang in Tyne's ears as Val yelled out. "Hang on! Here we go!" Then there was crashing and rolling and flopping and more yelling and splashing and then nothing. No, not nothing, rushing water. There was the sound of swift rushing water. Tyne was dangling from his seatbelt with the cross strap practically choking him looking down at Val's limp body.

As Tyne registered the bizarre image, he went into panic mode. The top of the cab had crushed down but the roll bar had saved them from being squished to death. Small chunks of shattered glass were lying everywhere. Somehow, the truck had rolled all the way over and then landed in the stream, resting on the driver's side. Val had apparently been knocked out cold and water was rapidly filling Val's end of the cab. Even though the light of the full moon was all he had, Tyne could see Val's blood discoloring the water.

"Oh dear God, NO! I've killed Val. Why didn't I listen to him? Why did I push him to do something he didn't really want to do? Oh God, Val! Val, please wake up! Val, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." Then Tyne switched from panic mode to take charge and survival mode. He found the release for the seatbelt and pushed the latch. It popped free and sent him sprawling on top of Val. He maneuvered around and pulled Val's head out of the rising water. He unlatched Val's belt and dragged him upright by his hoodie. It took all of Tyne's strength to accomplish that much. The blanket was still wedged up by the passenger door where Tyne had stuffed it.

Val jerked and snorted but didn't wake. That small sign of life was such a massive relief to Tyne it made him cry for joy. Val was alive and breathing. Tyne could feel his warm breath on his cold fingers when he held them under his nose, which he repeatedly did to reassure himself. The next problem was getting Val out of the truck. Val's side of the truck had taken most of the crushing and Tyne's side was in better shape. Tyne waited for the water to fill as far as it was going to, which was about halfway up the side windows. Tyne was relieved they hadn't landed in too deep of a pool. Then, pulling Val by his hoodie, Tyne slipped out of the passenger side window and dragged Val's body out behind him. Tyne found footing in the stream bed and struggled against the current to pull Val to shore by dragging him by the arms. Just as Tyne cleared the worst part of the current and Val entered it, the force of the flowing water ripped Val free of Tyne's grasp and he began floating downstream. Tyne was not a strong swimmer but instinctively he plunged back into the current. Fortunately, Val's unconscious body snagged on some low hanging trees, slowing its progress. Tyne reached him and held onto a fairly sturdy branch with his right hand while he pulled Val by his hood once more over to shore.

Once Val was firmly planted on a small patch of sand near the pool where Val's body had gotten snagged, Tyne checked for his breath and then collapsed in exhaustion next to him. Tyne's body attempted to recover, but his mind was still racing. He was shaking from the cold but it barely registered to his brain since he was so focused on Val's safety. The first thing he needed to do, he decided, was to stop the bleeding. He forced himself up and found the gash in Val's head that was bleeding. Tyne walked back upstream to where the truck was at and waded back into the cold water without any hesitation. He found his t-shirt floating in the back seat and took it along with the blanket that had been stuffed between the seat and door and was still mostly dry. He was very careful to maneuver the dry blanket out of the portion of the window that was not submerged in order to keep it from getting soaked. They desperately needed it for warmth.

Tyne made his way back to Val, and with the use of a sharp rock, tore the t-shirt into strips. Tyne folded one strip of wet cloth into a patch, squeezed it as dry as he could, and pressed it to the wound on Val's forehead. Then tying several strips together, he had one long enough to wrap around the big guy's head and hold the makeshift compress in place. He tied it as tightly as he could. Eventually the flow stemmed and then stopped. Meanwhile, Tyne wrapped himself and Val up in the blanket to shield against the plummeting temperatures. Tyne dozed in and out of restless sleep. Each time he stirred, Tyne checked for Val's breathing. Tyne silently thanked heaven that no more rain fell on them. He had no idea what he would have done if the rain had started up again.

The moon had moved steadily across the sky and each time Tyne woke, he checked its position. It was well into the western half of the sky when Tyne heard a noise. It was a unique noise, not like the sounds of the night he had been spooked by earlier. Each time a twig snapped or bushes rustled, Tyne had imagined Val's bear lumbering onto their private beach for a Val 'n Tyne treat. This, however, was a noise not found in nature, a mechanical noise. It grew steadily louder until Tyne realized it was the sound of an approaching vehicle. Excitedly, Tyne peeled himself free of the warm blanket and began pulling himself up the embankment using tree roots and rocks. He suddenly realized that he was bare-naked. He looked around for something to cover up with, but there was nothing except the blanket, which he was not willing to take from Val. Tyne shivered from the cold.

As the beige Hummer came around the corner and flashed its headlights, overhead spotlights, and a handheld searchlight onto Tyne, he covered himself with one hand and waved with the other, shouting. The Hummer pulled up to him and stopped. Two uniformed Sheriff's deputies with 'Search and Rescue' emblazoned across their backs jumped out. One of them reached back and pulled a blanket from the rear of the vehicle and wrapped Tyne up in it. "My friend is down there. He's unconscious. Please help him."

The two men scrambled down the bank and then one of them came back up and pulled a rescue board from the Hummer's rear compartment. They strapped Val to it and carried him up to the road. The third row of seats in the Hummer had been removed and there were various types of rescue gear in boxes and bins. The deputies folded the seat directly behind the driver's seat down and shuffled some bins around to make space to slide Val into the back of the Hummer behind the driver. Tyne got shotgun and when he slid into the seat, the warmth of the heater vents was welcomed relief from the cold. He opened the folds of the blanket and let the warm air blast onto his chilled, naked body. The deputy who was not driving sat in the other second row seat next to Val and monitored him as they all made their way back down the mountain. The driver called in that the boys had been found and that one was injured and unconscious.

Along the way back down the mountain road, Tyne provided a full explanation of how they had come to end up crashed in the stream, upside down and naked. They asked Tyne if they had been doing any drugs or alcohol and warned him that it could be valuable information for the medical personnel who would be working on Val when they got him down. Tyne admitted that they drank a bottle of wine earlier, but that was all they'd done. He described the rest of their lunch to the deputies and told them about the clothes getting wet while they were skinny dipping in the hot spring. He left out the other hot spring activities, of course. He explained that he was trying to dry the clothes in front of the heater vents when they rolled over and that's why Val only had on a sweatshirt and Tyne had nothing on at all. The two men smiled at him condescendingly with a 'yeah, sure kid' look that infuriated Tyne. He held his tongue, though, because he was just so completely grateful for being rescued.

When they reached the highway, a traditional ambulance was there to meet them. They transferred Val onto the ambulance gurney after a brief examination of his naked body. Tyne got out of the Hummer and pulled the blanket more tightly against his body. He watched with concern as they checked Val over. Meanwhile, a woman from a news crew van shoved a microphone in Tyne's face and a brightly lit camera blinded him. "We are here live on the scene of a dramatic rescue by the Sheriff's Search and Rescue team at the base of East Canyon where two young high school age boys have been plucked from a rushing mountain stream after their vehicle rolled over into it," The woman breathlessly said into the camera. "Here is one of the survivors. What is your name?"

"Umm, Tyne." He squinted into the bright light.

"Tell me, Tyne, what exactly happened up there tonight?"

"Well, we went fishing up by Mother Lode Lake and we got caught in the rain and hail. When it ended, it was dark and late and the roads were muddy, but we tried to come home anyway so no one would worry about us. Then while we were trying to get past the part where the road was washed out, the truck rolled over and down the bank into the stream."

"And what happened to your friend, what's his name?"

"Val. He was knocked unconscious and I had to drag him out of the truck and then we got washed downstream a ways until some branches stopped us and I could get him to shore. Luckily, I'd tucked a blanket between the door and the seats and it stayed dry. That saved us from freezing to death, I'm sure."

"That must have been very scary for you. I understand from the deputies that the two of you were found naked, can you tell me how that came about?"

Tyne was dumbfounded. He clutched the blanket around himself more tightly than ever and said, "Well, uhh, our clothes got all soaked from the rain and hailstorm and we were trying to dry them by the heater vents when the truck rolled over and they floated away in the river. But Val had on his sweatshirt still that hadn't gotten wet. I took that off after we got onto the beach because it had gotten soaked in the stream."

"I see. So then the two of you had to huddle together under the one dry blanket that you had to stay warm?"

"That's right. Yeah. Just to stay warm though. You know?"

The interrogation was interrupted at that point and the paramedics asked Tyne to ride with them in the back of the ambulance alongside Val. They wanted to check his vitals en route to the hospital. In order to climb into the back of the ambulance, Tyne had to unwrap from the blanket. He could feel the white light of the camera filming his naked backside as he did so. "Fucking assholes," he mumbled.

When they reached the hospital, Tyne was put in a wheelchair and Val was rolled in on the ambulance gurney into the ER. Tyne started to dress in a pair of baggy PJ bottoms and a hospital gown while a nurse stuffed the blanket in a large plastic bag with his name on it.

"Any other belongings?" the nurse asked.

Tyne looked at her, with one leg in the PJ's and his naked body otherwise exposed, with that 'did you really just ask that' look that he was so incredibly good at giving people.

"Oh, no, of course you don't," she said, blushing and pulling the curtain closed on his cubicle.

Val was left naked and transferred into the bed next to Tyne. Only a thin curtain separated them. A handsome, young physician's assistant came into Tyne's room and asked him a million questions in rapid fire about what he had been exposed to and whether this or that hurt. He pinched his fingers and toes and took a rectal temperature. Tyne felt a little foolish over that. While his pants were down, the handsome PA examined Tyne's penis. He explained that in cases of exposure and possible frostbite, the extremities, including the penis, fingers, toes, ears and nose, were the most likely to sustain damage. Another person came in later and drew blood, and then he was invited to go sit by Val until his mother showed up, since they needed the bed Tyne was occupying. Tyne was instructed to go see his regular doctor in three days for further tests to determine if he had been affected by frostbite. It took that long for the blood vessels to normalize and for the tests to be conclusive. Tyne had no sooner stepped onto the floor than a gloved orderly quickly stripped the bed of the sheets and had it remade before Tyne could even leave the space.

Val had been dressed in a hospital gown and was under the covers when Tyne stepped in and sat next to him in a red vinyl chair. Tyne just sat by his bedside and watched hopefully for Val to wake up. He worried whether Val's big dick and other extremities had been frostbitten. Val had been taken for a head scan and they had come with a portable X-ray machine to check his torso with. Tyne questioned all the nurses and the staff physician about Val's condition, but no one would provide him with any information which really frustrated him. He really wished that his mom was on duty, or maybe even Mr. Silverstein. But neither one of them worked in the ER, or even at this hospital, so it didn't really matter.

The ER was a jumble of noise and mild confusion. People in other curtained off stalls were moaning and complaining. A stabbing victim spent twenty minutes in the stall next to Val's and when they wheeled him off to surgery, Tyne noticed his hand was cuffed to the bed rail and a policeman followed them out. Someone across the room was puking after being induced to do so because of a dangerous drug cocktail they'd willingly ingested in hopes of attaining a higher high than the last one. Tyne mused on the various ways people put themselves in harm's way and how Val had fallen victim to nature's wrath. Or was it that Val had fallen victim to Tyne's stupidity? Tyne had supplied the wine. Tyne had been the one who had to be carried back to the truck so the clothing had to be left behind. Tyne had insisted that they drive home in the dark on the muddy roads. Val was lying unconscious in bed because of Tyne's actions and he beat himself into a mental bloody mess over it.

"Dear God," Tyne prayed, "please forgive me for what I did to Val. Make him better, please. I'll never be selfish again. I promise I'll think of Val's and other's welfare over my own from now on. Please just let him wake up."

"What?" a groggy voice croaked out. "Where … am I? Tyne?"

"Oh God, thank you. Thank you." Taking Val's hand and with tears of joy trickling down his cheeks, Tyne said, "You're in the hospital. We rolled your truck into the stream. You hit your head really hard and have been unconscious ever since. Honest to God, I just barely prayed that you would wake up and you did. It's like a miracle or something."

"Is my truck okay?"

"Are you serious? You just woke up from a coma, nearly having died and all you can think about is your truck? No, it's not okay. It's pretty much destroyed, but I'm fine, thanks for asking." No sooner had the words escaped his lips than he realized he was already thinking of his own self again. He gritted his teeth and silently apologized to God. Val squinted hard and then reopened his eyes. "My head is killing me. If I was knocked unconscious, how did I get out?"

"I pulled you out the side window and dragged you to shore. Then I wrapped us up in the blanket until the Sheriff's department rescued us."

"You saved my life then."

"I guess. But it was no big deal."

"Bullshit. I think saving my life is a huge F'n deal."

"No, I didn't mean it like that. I just meant I just did what anyone would do in those circumstances. If it wasn't for me, none of this would have happened in the first place. This is all my fault. Will you ever forgive me?"

"What are you talking about? How is it your fault? Were you driving?"

"No, don't you remember? I insisted that we go home in the dark and on the muddy roads. I'm the one who brought the wine and impaired your reflexes. It's my fault we got away so late since you had to go back for the keys by the hot spring and then I insisted we rest before you went for them."

"Yeah, I remember the hot spring." Val smiled and gave Tyne's hand a squeeze. I remember, kind of, going to get the clothes. Wait. Yeah, I saw a bear in the creek. I think. Did I? Is my truck okay?"

"Yes you saw a bear and you were very brave to stand up to it, but Val, your truck is destroyed. You really don't remember rolling it?"

"No. Damn. I loved my truck. Is my Banshee okay?"

"No. I don't think so. It was in the bed of the truck when we rolled it."

"Damn. I loved my Banshee. Are you okay?"

"Yes, I'm fine. Just some cuts and scratches."

"At least one thing I love is okay." Val closed his eyes and rolled his head back straight. Tyne was left speechless by his last comment. Tears trickled from his eyes again.

"Val, are you still awake? Are you okay? Should I get a nurse?"

"Yeah, my head feels like a giant testicle that just got kicked really hard, though. I need some pain meds. But first, you better pray again that I don't get better."

"Wait. What? Why would I do that?"

"Because, if I do, I'm going to have to take you back to Mother Lode Lake and hang you from a tree by your balls and cover you in honey to attract that F'n gay bear. I warned you that would happen if my truck and quad both got wrecked. There's no telling what that gay bear might do to a cute little morsel like you. Usually it's dinner first and then sex, but in your case, the bear may do it the other way around."

Tyne shook his head in relief and laughed. "Same old Val, you're a hot mess, you know that?" Val lifted one eyelid and peered at Tyne as that big, shit-eatin' grin spread over his face.

"Yup. And right now, I actually feel like a hot mess. Now get your skinny ass out of here and hook me up with some serious F'n drugs, Little One. If they work, I might reconsider the whole bear thing."

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