The Scars Above My Heart

by Sean English

Chapter 7

Come Camp With Me (Part I)

"Branham, Alex… Edwards, Brett!" a voice called out aloud.

Brett raised his hand and waved. "We're both here!" Both teens then began making their way toward him, as he continued and called out other names within the crowd.

It was a typically warm, but breezy Friday morning for an early summer day. Both Patty and Brenda had just dropped the two off at Brett's high school, where already a swarm of boys was beginning to gather. Many vehicles from all over the county were still threading their way through the drop-off lanes, blocking in places only minimally as they kissed or bade farewells to their boys about to undertake the adventure. Others found parking places in the school lots, however, and were going about their own farewells, albeit at a much slower gait. Many of the boys could be heard promising to write or call, and then collecting their packs and moving toward the masses.

The week had turned out to be easier on both on Brett and Alex. Although Alex was still out of commission on Monday, by Tuesday he and Brett were working once again on detailing more vehicles. Before the week ended, they pocketed three more jobs overall, pleasing Alex as he was getting his head back into the game. By Thursday afternoon, however, both boys had got together to prepare and be ready for the next day's departure.

As names were called and various other boys were gathering, it became clear that the older volunteers were being summoned together. Once assembled, Brett raised an eyebrow. "Wow, nowhere near as many as we had last year," he muttered under his breath to Alex. They stood and waited until the man began glancing around before addressing the group.

"Okay, boys, first let me welcome you and say thank you for volunteering your time for this. For those of you who don't know me, my name is Albert Jacobs, and I'm one of the coaches at the high school here. I'm happy to meet you, and I hope to get a chance to personally chat with each of you over the next few days." He then waved over the larger crowd of boys assembling then. "I think we all know and understand how important it can be to give these younger boys an opportunity to get out and away from home, go exploring and get in touch with nature for a few days. The only problem though, as you might surmise, is that this year we don't seem to have as many volunteers as we've normally had in the past. In fact, there are 26 of you here if I counted correctly, which is less than the usual 40 or so."

Mr. Jacobs crossed his arms. "Overall, that doesn't change things much, other than some of you may pull extra duty helping out with the various events. We've lost a few regulars, like my son Graham, but that is just the way it is with things this year."

"What happened to him, coach?" someone from the crowd asked.

"He had an accident and had to have surgery on his ankle last week," Mr. Jacobs replied. "He's fine, but on the flipside, it means the groups he usually helps with will have to get coverage. We're probably going to end up shifting several people around this year, so that no one person ends up handling it all. At least, for a majority of the events. One group up for grabs, for example, that we have to think about is swimming. I don't suppose any of you have taught swimming before, have you?" When no one replied, Alex timidly raised his hand just as Mr. Jacobs was about to continue, surprising the man as he turned back to address the teen. "Yes, son?"

"Uh, I have sir, some anyway. I used to teach a bunch of kids at the YMCA, back in Idaho before I moved here." At that moment, Alex felt all eyes in the group turn upon him, including Brett's, who was surprised.

Coach Jacobs raised his eyebrows in delight. "Really? Then that's perfect! We may set you up to help the beginners out, if you don't mind. What's your name, son?"

"Alex, sir. Alex Branham," the teen replied.

"Then welcome aboard, Alex!" Coach Jacobs looked down on his clipboard. "Ah, here you are. My notes say it's your first time to the camp, right?" When Alex nodded, the man continued. "Edwards? I'll assign you to help him, then. That alright?"

"Sure, coach," Brett replied, more than pleased.

The man shook his head. "Uh, not out here boys, please. I may be one of the school coaches, but this is camp, fellas. Out here, I'm just simply Albert, or Mr. Jacobs," the man replied kindly. "I'll get with you once we arrive, and we'll work out the assignments and accommodations for everyone then. Right now, listen up: there are 7 busses, which will hold roughly 48 people each. What I would like each of you to do is pair up three to four per bus and get your gear stored in the very back. Then as we get these boys loaded, two of you sit in the back and the others in front, if you will. Help these kids get their gear settled and into seats, and then we'll be off. When we pull out, mind you, there will be total and utter pandemonium cut loose. They'll be excited and all, but don't let them get too loud, okay? Not all these drivers have ear plugs!" The group laughed at that, then drew in closer as the man lowered his voice. "Be on the lookout, though. You'll have a few in the group who will have anxiety, feel uncertain or nervous - especially if it's their first time ever getting away from their family like this. Be patient with them, okay? Try to be kind and cheer them up, if you can. If nothing else, try to be a friend. Once we arrive at camp and they've spent their first few hours, almost everyone overcomes their separation anxiety and ends up having the time of their life. Though, fellas, it's still important to always be on the lookout, okay? We have to be on alert, and make sure that no one is left feeling alone. That's the worst thing that can happen to these kids, and it's the best thing that you're the most suited for, all right? They'll relate and believe you, far more than they will with us grown-ups. This is a time for getting away, and being encouraging to them. They'll have a blast in the end, but only if we make sure they're fine from the beginning. Okay?" Seeing the nods in acknowledgement, he waved them away. "Okay, get your stuff stowed. I'm going to call the others together over by the flag pole."

As they started heading toward the busses, Brett fell into step beside Alex. "Really? I didn't know you were in the Y! I learn more about you every day, I think!" he stated simply, still obviously impressed.

Alex turned and shrugged. "It's not a big deal, Brett. Mom just thought, well, it would be a way to keep me from becoming a couch potato or something. So, yeah, I got into a few things while I was there."

Brett scoffed and leaned in closer, bumping his best friend's shoulder.

When they arrived at camp, a mighty crescendo of voices and cheers erupted amongst the busses, as they each pulled in and stopped side-by-side. The boys then began a mass exodus to get out, dragging their packs with them. In the warm summer sunshine, many had already removed their shirts before stepping into the lot and letting loose whooping war-cries into the air. As Mr. Jacobs and several other camp counselors gathered at the camp's flag pole, many of the boys began to gather with them in anticipation, their energy and excitement building. Other adults, already present in the camp, came forward to stand with them, grinning as they greeted returning faces they recognized, while introducing themselves to other new faces as they arrived.

Over the course of the next hour, all boys were designated to a cabin group, and the activity of entering, choosing bunks, unpacking and doing general setup consumed most of their time. Some who had worn jeans or longer pants, changed into shorts like their peers, ecstatic at having finally arrived. Cabin windows were opened, and ceiling fans were turned on at a moderate rate. Although the temperature was initially warm inside, a steady breeze continued to flow from the outside, which helped to keep things tolerable. Alex and Brett ended up as expected, sharing one of the bunkhouses together, and as they stowed their own gear away, Brett remarked. "Wow! This must be one of the newer buildings. Look, we've got more room than what I've been used to before!"

Alex looked about and nodded. "Well, I admit, it's bigger than I thought it would be, from the way you made it sound." Seeing his friend blush, he laughed. "It's fine, Brett, don't worry about it."

"Uh, are you sure you don't want me to find us a sleeping bag? I think we could get one in here pretty easy, if you wanted," Brett announced, timidly.

Alex stopped and turned. Glancing quickly to make sure they were out of sight, he leaned in close. "No way. I said we'd bunk together, and that's exactly what we'll do," he whispered. "Unless, of course, you just want to separate and-"

"No fucking way, man," Brett whispered, grinning. "Come on, let's get some food!"

As they returned to the main room, several of the boys were gathering and waiting for them, so Brett shooed them out the door. "Go! We'll chat later! I'm hungry!" he declared, which brought a round of war cries from the group. As they filed out the door quickly, they headed down the hill toward the mess hall, which happened to be a large building that housed the camp's food and dining services.

As they began the trek, several of the younger boys hung back to walk with the older teens, chattering away and asking a variety of questions, mostly fielded by Brett. One of them, a slim but tall, lanky kid named Brad, asked about the upcoming swimming group. "When are we going to learn how to swim and everything?"

"You don't know how to swim yet?" Brett asked. Seeing the kid blush and shake his head, Brett nodded. "Hey, nothing to be embarrassed about. Alex here is probably going to be teaching you, you know. Coach told us we may even get started with the first class this afternoon. I guess it kind of depends on what the counselors have planned first, though."

Brad's eyes grew large. "Really? That would be awesome!" he exclaimed, then immediately adjusted his course to fall in closer beside Alex. "So, you'll be teaching us, huh?"

Alex shrugged. "Probably. Have you ever tried to learn before?"

"Not really. My grandparents have this big pool and everything, but my Mom is always afraid I'll drown or something." Brad lowered his voice. "She'll makes me wear these plastic things on my arms."

Alex nodded. "Yeah, I've seen the floats before. I'm surprised though. You're pretty tall, and yet she thinks you'll drown?"

Brad rolled his eyes. "You don't understand, my Mom like, smothers me sometimes - whether I need it or not. My grandparent's pool is like, six feet deep on one end, or something like that," he replied in a hushed voice, making Alex halt up.

"I get it now, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking. Listen, if you really want to learn, then yeah, I'll make sure you go home swimming much better than when you got here," he replied, before continuing their trek.

Brad grinned widely before putting his fist up mid-air, which Alex met and bumped. "That would be ssoooo cool! I told my grandparents that's what I wanted to do more than anything at camp this year!"

"First time here?" Alex asked. When the boy nodded, he added, "Me, too."

"No shit? I mean, my brothers have been here, but they're older now. One is heading off to college, and the other is a senior this coming year," Brad offered. "They've always told me its fun out here and everything."

"What's your brother's name? The one in high school, I mean?" Brett asked, joining the conversation.

"Steven Gates," the young teen replied.

"Seriously? You're Steven's brother? I know him! We were in gym class last year!" Brett exclaimed. "He and I played ball on the same team most of the year, too!" He suddenly gave Brad a quick sizing-up from head to toe, and then grinned. "What is it with your family? I mean, do you guys take growing herbs or something? You're a lot like him, only he's like a beanstalk!"

Brad laughed. "Yeah, he's like six foot six or so. I'm five feet and ten inches almost. Darren, my oldest brother, is like six feet four inches, so yeah, Steven is the tallest so far!" He shrugged. "No, no herbs or anything, just tall I guess."

As they walked on, Brad moved ahead to some of the other boys and started chatting with them. As they neared the building, Brett leaned in closer to Alex and whispered. "Are you sure you can handle him? He's a monster to be in the sixth grade, isn't he?"

Alex shrugged. "He'll be okay. It's the heavier kids who are the hardest to work with, anyway. It's a lot harder to teach them how to float and not be afraid of the water."

"You're kidding! Really?" Brett paused a few seconds before asking, "How long did you do it? The teaching thing, I mean?"

Alex slowed down at the bottom of the steps, thinking. "Well, I guess I was around eight years old or so when we first joined. I learned how to swim right off, but it was a couple of years after that before I started helping out. It started mostly with just little kids, like four and five years old, but then I was working with 10 to 12 year old kids, too, like, last summer. Mostly boys, though. The 'Y' had girls to teach girls and stuff."

"That makes sense." Brett smiled, shaking his head. "I honestly think that is awesome, man! By the way, did you, uh, bring any swimming trunks?"

Alex shook his head. "I figured I would just wear some shorts, if that's okay. You said it was a lake, not a pool, right?"

Brett nodded. "Yep. Well, if you decide you need some, I brought mine along, and you already know I don't mind sharing."

Alex grinned. "Somehow, I expected you to say that!" he smirked. They entered the building to find a loud burst of noise greeting them, then joined a long line that was moving through the serving area. As Alex glanced about, he was surprised at the spaciousness inside, and the large number of tables that were spread across the floor. Many of them were already occupied by excited boys, either eating or carrying on with their friends in a variety of ways.

The line to the food moved fairly quickly, to Alex's surprise. When he and Brett reached the serving tables, both boys found plenty of hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and tater tots, along with a side bar containing a wide variety of condiments and other items to dress their sandwiches as desired.

At the end of the tables were a host of bottled waters and jugs of iced tea, which initially caused Brett to frown. "I hope they don't do the 'we-don't-need-soda' thing like they did last year," he remarked. "A lot of parents are now on this anti-soda bandwagon, for some reason. Which, I agree that at breakfast we should probably be drinking something else, but man – a lunch like this? Or dinner? Sometimes tea and lemonade just don't cut it."

Alex nodded his understanding, taking a burger and loading it with cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. He grinned when he found a large assortment of dill pickle spears, then pulled an ample portion of them onto his plate. Brett saw the stack and laughed. "I take it you like those things?"

"Oh, yeah! These are what I snack on at night time and everything! Mom has to sometimes buy me two to three jars a week!" Alex replied.

Brett laughed, shaking his head, but said nothing more as he extracted a bottle of water from a nearby cooler. With Alex following, he headed toward an empty table not far away. Once they sat down, Alex took his first bite. "Hey, these actually taste pretty good!" he exclaimed.

Brett nodded. "Most of the food they fix here is awesome. They mix it up throughout the week pretty good, too. You'll see!"

Before they could continue any further, however, Mr. Jacobs approached the table with one of the other counselors at his side. "You're Alex, right?"

"Yes, sir. Guilty as charged," Alex responded, smiling and causing both men to laugh.

"This is Mr. Walters. I was telling him about you having taught people how to swim, and he wanted to meet you," Mr. Jacobs explained. Alex reached out and shook hands with the man then, noting he was sizing up the teen quickly.

"So, Albert tells me he thinks you can handle these boys. What we usually do is start all the boys down at the lake and make everybody swim out to one of the floating platforms anchored there, oh, about 30-feet or so from the shore, and then return. If they do it without any signs of trouble, then they get one of these." Mr. Walters held up a small, multi-colored wristband. "This allows a free pass for anyone to go swimming, but only as long as they have a buddy with them. Those who don't go, or have trouble doing the lap, we give them the option of learning if they want to. You get to take their names and decide how you want to do it from that point on. Make sense so far?"

Alex furrowed his brow. "So far so good, yeah, but – what do you mean, I decide what I'm doing and all? I mean, how do you usually teach guys to swim? How did you guys do it before?"

"Well," Mr. Walters replied. "You see, it all kind of depends on how many boys are in the group. Every year the group is a little different. You could get too many to deal with all at once, see, so you could break them up into groups if you wanted. You know, just work with one group and then the other afterwards, in a separate session." He turned to Coach Jacobs, who had been standing there and listening in. "I think, wasn't it your son who did this the last couple of years, Albert?"

"Yes," Mr. Jacobs answered. "If I'm not mistaken, Graham split them into two groups last year, around 12 to 15 in each group. Then he set times, like starting at 7:30 in the mornings, for the boys to get together and swim for a while until they learned to do it on their own. Most of the time they were swimming like fish by mid-week." He looked down at Alex, still seated but listening closely. "You haven't been in a camp before, have you? I think I saw that note somewhere."

"That's right, sir, I haven't. Brett kind of talked me into coming along and helping out this year," Alex answered, which made both men smile.

"Nothing wrong with that. We're shorthanded as it is, this year. Listen though, this is totally up to you, son. If you don't want to get involved at that level, then there are plenty of other things you can get mixed up with. When working with boys this young though, I have to admit it generally goes a lot smoother if they're working with someone closer to their own age. You can have a helper too, if you want," Mr. Walters explained.

Alex shrugged. "I don't think there will be any problem, really. And yeah, Brett said he would partner with me, so that will help a lot. Is there, like, a dock or somewhere we can work from?"

"Oh, yes. There's a section of the lake over near the canoes, that goes down to about four feet of water for a way, then gradually gets deeper. That's where we usually teach people to swim," Brett explained.

Mr. Walters nodded. "The main docks for the canoes extend out into the water about 20 feet or so, too, so there is plenty of space to work in for a large group."

Alex smiled. "That's all I need then, really." Looking up, he nodded at the men. "When do you want me to get started?"

Mr. Jacobs laughed. "Well, right after you finish eating, if you want. I'll make an announcement, and then we'll get the lot of this whole group down to the water. I'll hand out some clipboards for us to use, with all the names of everyone in attendance. We'll go through the trials, crossing off the names of those who pass, and giving them their wristbands. When it's over, anyone left out then has the option to get with you, and as a group you can do your thing. How's that sound?" When Alex nodded, the other man spoke up again.

"Then, it's all set. Go ahead and eat, we'll give these boys some time to relax and get their bearings while I go collect the clipboards and set them up," Mr. Walters replied, before nodding and walking away, Coach Jacobs following by his side.

Alex surveyed the crowd. "Do we really have all the guys in here, right now? Like, 300 or so?"

"Yeah, mostly. There's some picnic tables outside on the other end of the hall, so there are probably some guys out there too," Brett replied. They sat and chatted quietly for several minutes, eating their lunch, but anticipation for the coming afternoon was slowly building. Before long, the two older men returned and stepped up on a platform near the door.

"Okay boys - listen up!" Mr. Walters began, using a wireless mic that boomed his voice over the room. When the group hushed, he smiled at them. "This afternoon we're going to allow you to go swimming, but with some restrictions. There is some weather moving in early this evening, so if it starts to get rough, once we call you to get out, we expect you to do just that. No exceptions, are we clear?" A resounding chorus of acknowledgements was loudly received. "Now, before you can go swimming on your own, you have to pass the trials and show us you can actually do it without any difficulty. No one will be allowed into the lake at any time in the next week, unless you pass and get a wristband from us. Now, believe me boys, you can dream all you want, but this is the one rule in this camp we cannot and shall not break. Any time any of the volunteers or counselors catch anyone in the lake, without wearing one of these wristbands, you'll be banned from the lake for the rest of the week, period. I'm serious, so please make sure you understand this. There are NO exceptions - are we clear?" Another round of acknowledgements, followed by silence.

Mr. Jacobs then took over. "Now that you've been given the deathly chills, and remember the seriousness of that warning please, let's look at the brighter side of life. For starters, no skinny-dipping in the trials, boys!" A round of giggles ensued, and the man smiled while waiting patiently until they hushed. "You can, of course, go with or without a t-shirt, but you must have either a swimsuit or shorts. If you're not already ready to go at it, then you can go back to your cabins and change. Otherwise, simply meet us down by the docks when you're prepared. The way this works, is that you find one of the supervisors with a clip board. When they give you permission, you jump in the water and swim out to the platform and then swim back. If you make it without any issues, then you get the wristband. If you don't, or if you simply can't swim yet but want to learn, then after the trials you'll get your chance to begin."

"You mean, the swim class will start this afternoon?" someone asked from the back of the crowd.

"That is correct. Just meet at the docks further up the shoreline near the canoes, and someone will be there to get you started. Are there any other questions?" No one spoke, so the man finished up. "Okay, then let's go!"

For the next two hours, boys of all shapes, sizes and colors flooded into the docks, each finding either one of the adults or the volunteers, and awaiting their turn at the trials. Alex was beside himself at how smoothly it progressed, including his interaction and making new friends with some of them. A total of eight volunteers watched and tracked an average of three to four boys at a time, who jumped into the water and swam eagerly, hoping to show their skill at navigating through the water. Some moved quickly through the water, while others lazily moved along at a slower pace. The camp counselors themselves rowed out to the floating dock, and watched from their perch there, carefully monitoring each life that moved up and touched the woodwork before turning and making their return trip. They were readily available to jump in, should anyone find themselves lacking the ability to complete the circuit. Alex thought it was one of the more fun jobs he had ever done, keeping up with his charges separately as they moved to stand beside him, until he found their names and sent them along.

Luckily on this occasion, no one who participated in the trials failed, which according to Brett was a remarkable milestone. He told Alex there were usually some over-eager and/or over-confident youths who wanted and tried to pass, but were unable to complete the basics of the test. As the trials were concluding, Alex found several had started gathering around him and Brett already, having been pointed out to or guided by their other mentors. Like himself, Alex noted that a few still wore t-shirts while they were in the water, something that made him feel more at ease. As he took their names, he noted that many of them looked longingly down at the far docks where they had just come from. There in the distance, after the adults had disappeared, the other boys had stripped and were jumping in the water, having the time of their lives racing and playing various games without any clothes at all.

Although Alex could have giggled or shook his head, he felt like he understood their feelings. There was a certain allure to being counted among the accepted like that, even if they were all in the buff. This was one group though, who could not add their name to that list… yet. "Hey guys, don't worry. You'll make it, soon. By the time I'm done with you, you'll be fish in a pond, and then anyone who wants to go skinning can do it all you want." He heard a few suppressed giggles, but then seeing their faces light up, he knew he had guessed it right. Even Brett gave him a thumbs up, obviously adding his stamp of approval.

Alex and Brett then led the group off to the side and onto a short sandy shelf that dropped into the water gradually. Alex whispered something to Brett, who then moved into the water, submerging himself until the surface reached just to his naval. "Okay you guys, look where Brett is at – that means the water is about 3-1/2 to 4 feet there, I think. What I want you to do is walk into the water until it reaches right around the same level as it is on him."

"You mean… what, our belly buttons? Or his?" someone asked.

"Yours," Alex explained, nodding. Then, for the better part of the afternoon, he took the group of about 25 boys and met personally with each one, talking and taking mental notes of what they knew and didn't. He quickly learned such things like whether they knew how to float, or had they ever tried to swim before. As he worked through the group, he began separating them into smaller clusters so he would know how to design their practices. Most were complete newbies, which actually made his and Brett's job a lot easier. He discovered who could float the right way, and then separated them out. Enlisting their help, he worked with the ones who couldn't by having them held up in certain ways and lying on their backs. It was a feat to get them to relax and not panic, but with his patience and soothing instructions, he found them to be quick learners. In the meantime, with Alex's help and guidance, Brett also led others in a chain by holding hands and wading out deeper into water, until it reached just below the neck of their shortest participant. The purpose was, as Alex explained, to get them in deeper water and to dunk underneath - all without panicking.

When they made it with everyone having reached that point, Alex smiled and then waded over to tread next to Brett. "Listen everyone, I'm going to let Brett hold me up, and I want you to watch and listen, because before we quit, I want you to learn how to kick. It's an easy thing to do, but mind you, you're not going to go anywhere. You see, I want you to find someone to partner up with, and then while one of you holds the other up so they can breathe, the other learns how to properly kick through the water." Grasping Brett by the hands, he moved them both out into some deeper water and then floated, kicking his legs behind him slowly so that the others could see. "You see how I'm using Brett to keep my head above water? You do the same, then use your entire leg to kick with. You don't have to beat the piss out of the water, either, just easy, even strokes." Several snickers could be heard, as he grinned at them and then stood up. "Just make kicks that are in rhythm with your feet going back and forth. Learn to make the kick first, then learn to try and let your legs sink into the water as you do it." From that point, each one partnered up with someone and began to follow Alex's instructions, as he waded around, giving pointers here and there. Occasionally he reached his arms underneath the stomachs of some of the boys, pulling them back to the surface when they began to fall too low. "The idea is to get used to the water, guys. Even though it can be dangerous, it can also be like one of the best friend's you'll ever have - as long as you just don't panic!" He heard more giggling, which made him raise his hands. "Yeah, I know, it sounds kind of goofy, but here's the thing - the hardest part of learning to swim is to trust yourself to the point the water doesn't scare you. Probably nine out of ten times people fail to swim in the beginning is because they get scared. You're used to walking all the time on hard ground, right? And then you get in the water and all of a sudden, there is nothing hard holding you again. You have to teach your brain to think differently see, and to not panic about it when all of sudden you're sinking under where you can't breathe or anything. Once you do that, everything else you learn is just kind of mechanical, you know? And when you practice it enough, you'll soon forget about whether you're in 4 feet, or 40 feet of water. That's when it will cease to be scary, and then it'll be well, kind of friendly, I guess. Learn to feel it flowing around you, and I swear, over half of the battle is done."

Finally, as the evening wore on, one of the boys asked, "Hey, Alex? How long will it be before we can actually start swimming?"

As the others turned their attention to him, Alex nodded. "Probably next lesson. By doing these kinds of things today, your getting used to being in the water and everything, right? Some of you are already used to it, but when everyone gets the same chance and all, it's a whole lot easier to do it as a group. So, tomorrow morning, at 8:30 or so, before or after breakfast, meet me back down here. Brett and I will then give each of you the chance to push forward again against us, but we'll try and do it a little different. We'll let you try and knock us down while in the water."

Several laughed, but others looked up confused. "Huh?" one of them asked.

"You'll see. When you can push against us without having your feet on the bottom, that means your feet, legs, butt and everything else are ready for the next stage. You'll dunk your head in and out of the water a lot, get thrown around some, and more - but you'll also be learning how to control and keep yourself up, with your head on top of and out of the water. Then it'll be the last steps: getting your arms to grab and pull the water toward you. Not splash, or look like a maniac thinking he's on his way to Davy Jones' locker. You'll actually be swimming by then! Then, anyone who wants to stay with me for one more round, I'll show you how to run and dive and stuff like that, without getting scared with a bunch of water forced up your nose and stuff."

"You'll do all that in, what, 3 or 4 lessons?" Brad asked, astonished.

Alex grinned. "Look, I promise that by the time we've gone through our third lesson, most of you will be swimming out to that dock and back here, without being tired or worn out."

"What if we don't make it by then?" one youth asked.

"You will, I promise. Just don't get scared of the water, okay? And don't get scared of me or Brett, either. We're both here to help you. We may be putting our arms under you and stuff, but we're just getting you used to everything, that's all. It helps us make sure that you don't fall under just yet, okay? You understand that, right? We won't let anything happen to you that you're not ready for, we promise."

"You're sure?" another asked somewhat dubiously, once again peering at the boys on the other docks in the distance.

"You'll be surprised at how much you'll be doing by the time we finish tomorrow. Listen guys, this isn't rocket science. You'll be fine, and even if you're a little slow, so what? I won't give up until you're ready, I promise," Alex reassured them. They all then started wading back up on the shoreline, but still looking off to the other boys in the distance. In the late evening light, they started snickering as they watched. Brett glanced at Alex and then winked.

"Hey, listen, if you guys want to do that, we'll make you a deal. When you all get your wristbands, Alex and I will take you up to the north side of the lake by yourselves first. There's another dock up there, along with some tire swings and ropes and stuff, and we'll let you skin and dip all you want," Brett announced. "That way you can be comfortable amongst yourselves first, and then know you're really ready for it before you come back down and skin with everyone else out there."

Surprisingly, none of them seemed to fear that idea at all. As they started to leave and head back to their cabins, Brad pulled the two instructors aside. "Were you serious? About taking us up there, and, you know…"

"You don't have to do it, Brad. I just offered it, in case anyone wanted to, that's all," Brett replied softly.

"What? Fuck yeah, I want to!" the kid said loudly, causing a few others to join him. "I just… you won't take us unless we're ready, right?" the younger boy announced in a quieter tone. One of the other youths passing by turned and paused to hear the answer.

"Brad," Alex stepped in and started, before lowering his voice. "You won't be nervous when we get finished with you. You'll be out there trying to dunk someone, or maybe even throw them over your shoulder, or swinging out and jumping into the lake - all of that. Believe me, you'll be fine."

"And you're going to do that, make us where we can do it, in just three or four lessons, right?" Brad asked again in a dubious tone.

Alex laughed. "Yep. Now, you might not swim the fastest yet, okay? I'm not promising you'll be a speed racer or anything. But you will definitely learn to tread and not be afraid of the water when you're in it. Like I said, that's half the battle, man."

Brad observed their instructor for a moment, and then nodded, his smile widening. "Okay, I believe you," he stated. "But on one condition: if we're going skinning up there, you have to come strip with us and do it, too."

Brett laughed. "Of course, we would!" he replied, giving the kid a high-five. That seemed to be good enough, as several others murmured their approval. Then the group began heading off toward the cabins, each tired but fully satisfied at what the day had brought thus far.

One of the smaller boys sauntered up to Alex, and then spoke in a low voice. "By the way, as to you guys putting your arms under us, we don't care. It's not like you're doing anything bad to us, you know."

Alex smiled at him before putting a hand on his shoulder. "Then I'm glad, because I wouldn't want anyone to feel uncomfortable with me around. Most guys don't care, I know, but some could."

The boy shrugged. "Only if they've been badly handled, I think. You're did fine, as far as I'm concerned." He then hurried his footsteps in order to catch up to the others. As the two older teens walked up the bank, Brett looked at his friend and grinned.

"See? You're already making a lot of friends here, you know that?" Brett looked outwards to the end of the docks just then. "I think you've won their trust already."

"Maybe, we'll see," Alex replied. "I may have overdone it, though, about it being easy. For some people, it's not a quick thing to get through."

"Meh, as long as they make progress, they'll be happy. Hey, want to go shed some shorts and join the others?" Brett asked, indicating the romp party in the distance. "I'm sure you could keep your t-shirt on, if you really wanted to," he added.

Alex shrugged and then picked up his watch from where he had laid it earlier. "It's going to be time for dinner before long, right? You think, well, you think it would be okay if we just walk down there and watch them for a few minutes? Would we get in trouble, or accused of being pervs or anything?"

Brett laughed. "NNoooo… We're guys, just like them, Alex. They'll be cool with it, trust me." With that, he walked up beside his friend and gently steered them in the direction along the shore. Soon they set foot on the pier and walked to the end, before sitting down and letting their feet dangle in the water.

All around them, they watched various groups playing games in the water. Several boys were pulling themselves out and moving over to a set of diving boards near them, where they stepped and took running jumps into the lake. Alex grinned as he and Brett sat there watching, with many of the guys waving or calling out to them, several of whom Brett recognized from years past. For Alex's part though, he had never seen so much naked skin in his life, and although he tried not to be too obvious about it, he couldn't help but observe some of them closely as they ran or swam about.

"Hey, Brett! You gonna join us?" one guy called out. He was one of the volunteers with a cabin group several doors away.

"Nah, you guys are gonna have to get out soon. We'll join you next time," Brett answered.

"How did it go with the newbies? Any of them get boners yet?" another teen called out. Several of the boys snickered at the remark, but continued their play.

"Only when they started watching you guys out here," Alex replied, teasing. "Actually, they did okay. We just have to get them to not be afraid of you guys is all."

"Afraid of us? What do you mean?" asked yet another, coming up close to them and pulling himself from the water. "We won't be mean to them, honest!"

Brett nodded. "He's right, Alex. The guys know pretty much that they were beginners once, too. They rarely make fun of anyone just starting out." Just then the boy walked over and extended his hand.

"I'm James," he said simply, as Alex took the hand and shook it. From his sitting position, he was eye level with the boy's plumbing practically right in his face. The kid, however, had no reservations about it as he stood there.

"Hi James, I'm Alex," he replied. The two chatted for a moment, and then two to three others began pulling themselves from the water and repeating the performance, introducing themselves. Alex was surprised, but at the same time pleased with the openness they displayed. When they eventually stepped away to return to their fun, James held back and then squatted down beside the older teen. "You see?" he whispered. "Piece-of-cake, man! So, don't be nervous - unless you're hiding a pussy down there between your legs!"

Brett overheard the remark and burst out laughing hard. Alex joined him, but not without blushing a deep red, which in turn made James giggle before he stepped back and took a running jump. Using Alex as a prop, he pushed and jumped over his head, throwing himself back into the water.

After a few more minutes, Brett and Alex rose and waved to everyone before heading toward the cabins again. Brett glanced over and saw Alex was still blushing. Leaning close, he bumped shoulders with him before speaking. "So, ARE you hiding a pussy down there I haven't seen yet?"

Alex turned and elbowed his friend in the ribs. "Shut up!" he hissed, making Brett laugh all that much harder. He was happy when Alex finally joined him. "You'd know better I guess, as much as you've been around, poking and drying me off down there."

Brett smiled. "Wait until tonight bro, and I'll make sure again. After all, you never know, maybe I might need some extra convincing."

Alex scoffed and shook his head, blushing again. As they rounded a turn, he changed the subject. "Um, so what do we do now?"

"Well, they'll announce dinner in about 15 minutes or so. Unless you just want to go put on dry clothes, what say we walk around and let me show you some of the camp?"

"Sounds good to me," Alex acknowledged.

As the evening began to draw to a close, both Brett and Alex spent time with the boys in their den, answering questions, chatting, playing cards or more. Most were in good spirits and still excited about the adventures of the day thus far, even though it was just the beginning. When darkness encased the cabin, all of the overhead lights were extinguished, but the room still had various areas illuminated by night-lights and smaller lamps. A few of the boys had retired to their bunks and were playing hand-held electronic games with others bunched around them. Some had stripped to their underwear, however, and lay on top of their bunks, quickly falling asleep as the room's noise level gradually dropped.

When Brett and Alex finally retired to their own room, they closed the door, but not before informing their charges they could knock at any time if anything was needed. Brett turned and observed that his friend happened to be staring out their single, opened window to the world outside. Walking over, he glanced out as well and noted they were several feet from a stretch of ground that happened to be sloping away from the outer wall. The expected weather had finally arrived some hours before, but the rain thus far had only been light drizzle and minute showers. Distant rumbles of thunder could be heard to the West though, signaling that more inclement weather might yet be in store for the camp during the coming night.

"So, your first day is done now. Fess up - what did you think of it?" Brett asked his friend quietly.

A smile formed as Alex replied. "You were right, it really is kind of an awesome place. No parents, hardly any adults at all. Just guys going absolutely crazy, mostly. All out here in the middle of the woods, practically nowhere. It's… awesome, I think."

"See? I told you, right? There was no way I could really explain it to you, though. It's kind of one of those things you have to just experience, you know? In order to understand it, anyway," Brett replied. Alex nodded in the silence that followed, until Brett observed him closer. "Hey, are you okay? Not getting homesick or anything, are you?" he teased.

In reply, Alex simply leaned in and bumped shoulders with his friend. "I'm fine, really. I just, all that stuff today. You know, the swimming lessons, the skinny dipping and everything else, it just threw me, that's all. In a good way, though. I didn't really think guys did stuff like skinning now, you know? I thought it was just something from older days and everything. Don't get me wrong, I was fine with it, but… that's the kind of stuff I would hear my grandpa talk about when he was young and all. It's not something you hear anything about anymore, because I think people are so crazy about it being something gay and everything. I guess that's why, I don't know."

Brett nodded. "I know what you're saying, yeah. But just so you know, it doesn't happen everywhere, mind you. Especially in other camps. But here, Alex… think about it this way: most of us are just rustic guys who live in small towns, or on farms and everything. You know, places where there aren't a lot of people around. We don't get stand-offish like some city people do. We also don't freak out because some kid ends up showing his crack to the world, or if someone has a fat boner showing up in gym class or something. Oh, and even though we're kind of in a bible belt, guys still take showers together after team sports, or even after gym sometimes. They might see each other, but they don't give a crap about being naked in a shower with other guys or anything. Does that make sense?"

"Yeah, I think so," Alex replied quietly.

"It's kind of like you and me, bro. We're not shy or anything with each other," Brett whispered. "Right?"

"No." Alex hesitated only slightly before smiling. "I understand what you're telling me, though. Don't worry about it. You know something else? Not one single kid made fun of anyone else today. Even the guys with woodies and all, I didn't see anyone even pay attention. In fact, I don't even remember seeing anyone with a swim suit. Did you?"

"Nope. It does happen though, but even the guys who don't skin with the rest of them, they don't get teased. Most guys don't really care. They strut their stuff out there, knowing they are going to be seen, but also knowing they'll see everyone else, too. You know, it's kind of like a rite of passage, between being a kid and then growing up." Again, a silence ensued, so after a moment, he asked again, "Alex? I kind of feel like I'm doing a fucked-up job explaining this. If you had grown up in the schools and everything, you might have a better understanding, but right now man, I know it's not that easy. Talk to me though, are you sure everything is okay?"

Alex raised his fist mid-air and bumped the one that met his own. Staring at Brett, he sighed before threading his arms and bringing him into a warm hug. "There is nothing wrong, Brett, I promise, and you did just fine. It's only that I didn't expect any of this, that's all. That doesn't make any of it a bad deal." He hugged tightly. "There is one thing I am certain of, though. If you were not here, and I was going through this alone? I probably wouldn't have made it this far. I'd have freaked out before now, I think."

"Maybe, but I think you would have made out okay. I think at times you're a lot stronger than I am about some things, you know?" Brett pulled back and noted the weariness in Alex's expression. "Come on, you're exhausted, and I'm tired, too. I think it's time we figure out this bed thing once and for all and turn in, don't you?"

Alex grunted. "There's no figuring it out, Brett. I know exactly how we're going to do it." When Brett's eyebrows shot up, Alex took him by the hand and pulled him over to the bunk. Pulling the lightweight covers back, he then turned off the nearby lamp. Silently he kicked off his shoes and removed his socks, before pushing Brett to sit down on the side of the bed and encouraging him to do the same. Once completed, Alex leaned in and whispered, "Tonight, it's my turn, Brett." Grasping his friend's t-shirt, he peeled it up and off before removing his own. When Alex then tugged his friend to stand up, a surprised Brett watched as he grasped hold of both garments at his waist and dragged his shorts and underwear together to the floor. As Brett stepped out of them, Alex stripped himself in a similar manner until they stood facing one another yet again. Alex didn't hesitate though as he reached out and grasped Brett's hand. With a slow assuredness, he guided his best friend into the bunk with him. There they lay in silence for a moment, as Alex threaded and locked fingers with the teen. "Ok, it's your turn to say something."

Brett giggled. "What, though? I honestly don't know what to say."

Alex giggled, too. "Well, did I guess this wrong? Isn't this kind of what you were hoping we would do? Or should I but our underwear back on and then turn over and go to sleep?"

Brett withdrew his fingers and instead caressed Alex's scarred shoulder, staring at it in the moonlight that streamed in through their window. "Alex, you have no idea. I mean, this… it feels awesome, you know? I could almost cry, honest," he whispered. "You know me so well, maybe even better than I know myself anymore." He sighed. "There are so many things I want to do sometimes, and so many things I'm still scared of, though."

"Like what?" Alex asked.

"Just … I'm afraid of what it might cost us, you and me. I don't want to lose any of this freedom we have with each other," Brett replied, his voice suddenly thick with emotion.

As Alex looked on, his felt his heart melt as he smiled at his friend. Closing the distance between them, they now had full frontal contact with one another, creating a newer dynamic for their intimacy than before. "Hey, come on, I'm still figuring some of this out for myself, Brett. Don't worry about it, okay? You're not losing me, I promise," he whispered. He then thrust his groin even further into Brett's to emphasize his point. "Do you honestly think I would do this if I wasn't okay with it?" Each teen was already partially boned up, and rapidly getting harder as they rubbed together. As Alex could pushed further, he found the contact both warm and stimulating. "See? I'm not ashamed or anything. It… it kind of feels good, you know?"

"Good? It feels awesome…" Brett murmured. He reached down and pulled the small of Alex's back toward him so they could effectively grind together even harder. "MMMmmmm…" he whispered, then buried his nose into Alex's shoulder. "God, I wish… I hope it feels as good to you as it does to me." Alex's only response was to mimic his friend, pushing his own hand onto Brett's back to lock them together. They lay together for minutes, each becoming more actively aroused, until Brett finally leaned back enough to whisper into Alex's ear. "Can I, like, jack you off again tonight? If you want?"

"Only if I can do it to you, too," Alex whispered in reply. With that, Brett rolled back in order to take hold of Alex's shaft, which was pointedly waiting for him. He freely palmed it in his hand and squeezed tightly. Alex gasped at the touch, rolling back only enough so there was more freedom in the space between them. In no time, Bret worked up a slow rhythm, feeling the skin as it slipped up and down. As he gradually began pumping faster, Alex shut his eyes and rolled onto his back, immersed in the feelings now coming from his groin. "Yeah, like… that…" he whispered. "Oh fuck, that… is… yeah… like that…"

"Give it up when you're ready, bro," Brett whispered.

Alex didn't answer, instead flattening himself out on the mattress even more. It was not long before he found himself reaching a climax, much sooner than expected. His breathing hastened, as he lay there surrendering himself to the moment. He opened his eyes to find Brett watching his groin intently. It was then he started to erupt, emptying himself into his friend's firm grip. After the first couple of bursts, however, Alex suddenly moaned and rolled into his friend, squashing themselves together and sandwiching Brett's hand between them. Thrusting forward to meet the press, Brett felt the cum cover his hand and other places, all the while Alex was alternately humping and squeezing their groins together. He didn't let go, as he listened to Alex swear quietly under his breath, choosing to let the teen ride out the ecstasy as far as he could. Brett felt the cum spurt and squish between them, and somehow it gave them both an immense satisfaction. His own cock was super hard, as it rubbed against his friend everywhere below, feeling the intensity there.

The experience was electrifying, but it also nurtured a closeness they both were feeling. As Alex retreated from his high, he groaned ever so softly into Brett's ear, before taking the ear lobe between his lips and sucking on it, surprising and making Brett giggle in response. "Fuck, that was a good one," the teen whispered, before finally letting go and rolling onto his back once again, seemingly exhausted.

After a moment, Brett sat up and used his hand again to reach down and cup Alex's testicles together. Lifting them up, he prodded the area underneath with his finger before declaring, "Nope, no pussy hiding behind them. You're an all-natural, 100% boy, I think!"

Alex broke out laughing, as he grabbed Brett's hand. But instead of pulling it away, he pushed on it harder to keep it in place. "That actually felt pretty good, almost as good as you gripping my dick!" he alleged. Feeling the wetness though, he grunted. "Sorry about the mess, but it felt sssoooo awesome…"

"You know I'm not worried about it," Brett whispered back.

Alex grunted again and lay there a moment longer, feeling the gentle fondling between his legs. He was in a state of ecstasy, but he knew he needed to turn the tables, and quickly. He suddenly sat up and pushed Brett onto his back. "Okay, my turn now!"

Brett was still rock hard as Alex grasped him firmly. The teen grunted, shaking his head slightly. "Damn, you're going to have to be careful when you get laid one of these days, I think. Your dick is so huge it might actually hurt someone!" he teased. Brett blushed, but said nothing as he lay back. Alex felt around more, before adding, "I haven't had this to play with in a while, you know?" Alex's own cum notwithstanding, he knew more was about to be produced, and that he was going to bring it out. Touching, feeling and caressing Brett's private parts briefly, he immediately felt the difference the lack of foreskin made. Alex pivoted until he sat up completely, and then guided both of his hands freely across Brett's entire groin and lower belly. "I wonder if I'm going to get as many pubes as you," he whispered quietly. "You know, as thick and growing all over."

Brett nodded. "Probably, but… not everyone gets a lot, you know," the faint reply came back. Alex grinned and then started working on pumping his best friend, while continuing to feel all over. He took his time in different ways though, continuing to play his fingers across the nipples and navel, and exploring the soft hairs of Brett's tiger tail that migrated between his lower belly and the pubic patch below. Each action caused Brett's breathing to hasten, as he found himself enjoying the attention in more ways than one. When he slowly started gyrating and thrusting his hips forward, moving in synch with the hand massaging his dick, Alex then quietly scooted back and lay his head down upon Brett's lower belly.

"D-don't get t-too close, bro… When I c-cum, it's going to be a l-lot…" Brett warned his friend.

"Do you think I care?" Alex whispered back. With only inches separating the glans from his lips, Alex continued to pump away, gradually increasing speed. He slowly lowered his grip to the base of the shaft and then made his move, swiftly latching onto the head and sucking the shaft inside his mouth. Maintaining the action underneath, he took as much of the shaft as he could inside, gliding down on it with just his lips until he could almost feel the pubic hairs at his nose. Then within seconds, he started using his tongue in imitation of what Brett had done to him only weeks before. It was a new world for them both, as Alex relaxed and made himself a new pillow in Brett's groin. He could smell his friend's scent, mixed with his own in there from the earlier cum, and for some reason that pleased him immensely.

Alex hadn't brought himself to move up and down on the shaft yet, but in all respects, he didn't need to. Between the astonishment at realizing Alex was sucking him, and the ensuing hot wetness that now engulfed him and was encasing his glans, Brett lost control. He had purposefully refrained from masturbating for the last two days, hoping to save and build up a climax for this moment, although he didn't expect his friend to go down on him. The teen was glad he didn't disappoint though, as he sucked in his gut and followed it with wave after wave of cum, all gushing into Alex's waiting mouth. His friend tried to take it all inside. He could feel the tenseness change underneath him as spurt after spurt shot forward. He was quickly overpowered, however, and he had to pull back in order to swallow. In his attempt to keep up, trace amounts escaped around his lips and into Brett's pubic bush. After the first few seconds however, Alex then found he had to pull off completely, which he did with a grin before quickly engaging his hand to finish the job.

Turning to face the other direction, he observed that Brett had somehow buried his head under a pillow again. From underneath, there was no mistaking the muffled moans and cries of elation he heard. As Brett thrust himself up hard into Alex's hand, he grinned as another smaller amount of cum made its way out and onto his hand. He finally slowed down and thought about what had just happened. All week he had been fighting with himself, over whether he could bring himself to suck his friend's dick like he had just done. He had hoped he would do it, and do it well enough for it to be worth something. Not that there was much variation in the technique, he figured, but he wanted it to be good for Brett. Right now, all indications proved that it had been just that. He relaxed his head again against Brett's lower belly, waiting for his friend to come back down from his own climax. While he waited, Alex silently sampled the remnants of Brett's cum, swirling his tongue around his mouth experimentally. Like his own, there was a certain nutty flavor he detected, but also there seemed to be a different texture. Then he detected something else, something that made him suddenly smile when he realized it was an overall zest that matched Brett's underlying scent. 'So, it is kind of unique!' the teen thought to himself. 'At least, unique between us.'

When the pillow was finally pulled away, Brett stared down at his friend with a sloppy grin. Even in the shadows, Alex could detect an expression of longing and sweetness behind it. He still held Brett's softening member, lightly massaging and playing with it in his hand, despite the remnants of a mess the two of them had made only moments before. Brett watched for a full minute before he found and grabbed Alex's free hand and squeezed it hard. With an effort, he then sat up and pulled Alex to sit up with him. They were close then, Brett holding an arm around his friend's tummy, but he still pulled them closer and let their foreheads gently meet. That was when Brett slowly leaned in and brought their lips together, kissing Alex lightly. When he didn't pull away, Alex relaxed and pushed back, forcing their contact to reach a fuller state. Both boys initially had closed their eyes, but Alex decided to peek. What he saw moved him, especially when he noticed a tear escaping and rolling down Brett's cheek.

That was when Brett finally broke the kiss between them and pulled back. Opening his eyes, he the blushed profusely. "I'm sorry, Alex," he whispered. "I- I didn't mean, I… I'm sorry…"

"Sorry for what? This?" Alex leaned in and repeated the kiss, before speaking again. "Is this one of those things you're afraid of?" When Brett nodded, Alex shifted and brought their foreheads together again. "Then don't be. As long as it stays between us, I promise, it's cool." Then to prove his point, he leaned in and kissed the teen yet again, but this time he separated his lips ever so slightly and waited. Brett felt the invitation, and nervously reciprocated, pushing his tongue forward. He was both surprised and pleased when it met Alex's tongue doing the same from the other side.

What ensued for the next minute was purely magical in nature, with two boys for the first time ever in their lives finding something between them so sensual. Pushing the stigma of boys kissing boys rather than girls aside, the kiss was so welcomed it created a feeling of jubilation that was unmatched yet, connecting them both in new ways to explore. Brett hungrily pressed on, and Alex met him with equal force, until both were exploring each other deeply and fully. Brett found little remnants of his cum still inside, but he also thought he found Alex himself. When they turned their heads to opposite sides, each found they could lock down even further, and with Brett taking the lead, he pushed Alex gently onto his back before climbing on top. They both pressed and locked together, sucking gently but also feeling around everywhere they could reach with their tongues, all the while grinding against each other. Neither had a single care that at that moment, despite the fact that they loved it, though knowing the world would not approve. Each new action created a wave of electricity between them, instilling a tingling feeling that traversed from their tongues to their cocks and balls, as well as throughout the rest of their bodies. It was a surge of longing with lust, but also something else born of need. It was a joining, tantalizing because it just felt right, capping the evening and making it grow beyond mere fun.

It continued for several minutes before Brett groaned and finally pulled back, gasping for breath. He collapsed, resting his head against Alex's shoulder as the teen nuzzled inward toward his own. "Oh fuck!" Brett whispered over and again, causing his best friend to giggle.

"Yeah, wow!" Alex whispered in reply. Then to the teen's surprise, he suddenly detected a new wetness between them. "Wow is right! No way! Did you just do it again?" Alex asked softly. When Brett nodded, Alex noted he was holding his head tightly against him, riding through yet another climax. When he relaxed, he finally nuzzled in close again, exhausted. Alex hugged him warmly, giggling. He was admittedly somewhat stiff again, but nowhere was he in the state of mind to produce another orgasm yet.

It was some time before Brett gathered his strength and rolled off onto the side, pulling Alex with him. When he spoke, his voice was so soft that Alex had to struggle to hear him. "If this is what sex gives someone, then I'm annoyed, Alex. All these fucking adults and their rules, keeping sex away from us as we grow up and everything!" He then opened his eyes and met Alex's in return. "I don't know why you did all of that for me, but … oh … my … God!"

Teasing, Alex whispered back. "Really? You didn't like it, or something? Does that mean I shouldn't do it again?"

In response, Brett reached out and found Alex's left nipple, then thought better and moved to the right one side instead. As he started to twist it, he murmured, "Don't do that to me! I'm trying to be serious here!"

"Okay! Okay! Don't …" Alex hissed.

Brett let go and snuggled closer. "Thank you," he whispered.

Alex hugged him. "It was as much for me as it was for you, Brett. We don't have to thank each other all the time, you know. At least, not anymore." He pulled back and propped his head up. "So, first time for a blow job, huh? Was it as good for you as when you did it for me?"

Brett opened one eye and stared back at him. "Do you really have to ask?" He then propped his head up on the pillow and pushed it over so that Alex could share it with him. "I don't know what it was like for you, but for me, it blew my mind into a thousand directions! My Oscar Mayer also loved it!" he added with a smirk.

"Oscar Mayer? Oh, the hot dog company! Oh, uh…" Alex suddenly giggled, making the connection. "That's funny! Is that one of yours, or something Gina made up?"

Brett grinned. "Nope, it's all mine, bro."

Alex nodded. "Cool." He lay back and relaxed. "That's the way it was for me, too. Feeling all the warmth and wetness, it was like nothing I've only ever imagined," Alex whispered. "I'm glad, you know. I wanted it to be good for you, even with me swallowing your, you know, your cum."

"What made you decide to do it?" Brett asked.

Alex shrugged. "You, mostly. I mean, I knew what it was like for me, being pretty awesome and all, so I wanted to see what it felt like for you."

"Yeah, but... but getting blown is one thing, Alex. You went all the way, taking me and swallowing my jizz and everything," Brett whispered.

"So? You did it for me too, remember?"

"Yeah, but only because I wanted to do it. I didn't know what it would be like, though I've seen some of them around here go down on someone a couple of times. And after listening to the guys at school, I knew it was supposed to be something really good. I just… I wanted to do it for you, you know? You didn't have to do it for me," Brett explained, sounding apologetic.

Alex relaxed. "Did you like it?" he whispered.

"Oh, fuck yes! It was fucking awesome!" Brett replied.

"Then stop overthinking it, okay? After you told me you had tasted your own cum, I decided to try it, too." He paused, finding Brett's hand and holding onto it again. Seeing the surprised reaction, he explained. "I admit, I was kind of squeamish at first, but since then I've kind of gotten used to the idea, just like you said you did."

Brett acquired a knowing look. "When? I mean, when did you do it?"

"Right before I got sick, and then a couple of times since then, too," Alex answered. Seeing another surprised look, he shrugged. "Honest, I was curious, and I wanted to be okay with it before I tried it out, with you especially. It's kind of, I don't know, dirty or naughty or whatever you want to call it, but then again, that's what makes the adventure so cool, I think. Right? Was it like that for you?"

"Oh, yeah, definitely," Brett replied, then giggled. "I honestly don't remember much, though. I did it when I was like 12 or so, when I first started to cream and everything."

Alex laughed. "Seriously?"

"Yep!" Brett returned with a grin. "I was really, uh, super active when I found out my dick could be jacked off. I walked around school half the time with an erection and everything, which was NOT fun, believe me!"

"How come?"

"Alex… think about it. Try hiding your boner during class, or in the hallways. If you're not careful, somebody will see and notice, and then the whole class or hallway will be laughing at you for the next week, or worse!"

Alex thought about that for a second. "So, what did you do, then?"

"A lot of times I went to the bathroom and found a stall, closed the door and then just, you know, did it. I'd beat off until I cummed, and it would go down, then I went back to class. That usually took care of me for a while, at least," Brett explained, blushing some more. "Then, somewhere along the way, I got curious about it and everything. Then one night I smelled it, then tasted it. It kind of went from there, I think."

"Wow," Alex whispered, then offered the boy a fist bump between them, which Brett met with a grin. He relaxed his head upon the pillow again. "I almost wish I had known you back then," he added.

Brett cocked his head to one side. "I wish you had, too. At least, I wish we had become friends a whole lot sooner than now." He paused and then grinned again. "I would have done all this stuff with you back then, too, you know."

"Yeah, right," Alex intoned, but then shook his head. "You know, you keep saying you did it all for me, because you wanted to."

"Yeah, so?" Brett replied.

"Well, why won't you believe me when I tell you I did it for the same reason? I'm doing things now because I want to, too."

"I do believe you, Alex. I'm… I'm just not used to it, that's all."

"Used to what?" Alex asked.

"I'm not used to anyone thinking and feeling stuff about me, or to want to do things like this… with me," Brett whispered.

"Brett, all we did was just…"

"You're not listening, Alex. Like… that kiss. I've seen lots of guys kiss girls, but even though I've had a few friends here and there, girls too, none of them would ever do something like that and kiss me that way. Not like we did, anyway." Brett squeezed the hand again. "Let me ask you something: when we kissed, did you feel it? It was like my dick was working overtime again! It wanted so much to make out with yours, you know? And… and… did you feel this thing between us, like I was feeling?"

"Fuck, yeah, I felt it! Just as much as you did," Alex intoned, grinning.

Brett buried his head in his side of the pillow, giggling. "Don't swear, Alex. Trust me, it's just not like you, man."

Alex giggled. "You keep saying that, but I'm just as human as you are, you know!"

Brett shook his head. "Maybe so, but the more I get to know and be around you and everything, it's just - it's not you. You're a clean kid, as we call them in school. There is nothing wrong with that, believe me, but it does kind of fit a certain persona and everything, you know?" He laughed, before stretching ever closer until their foreheads met again. "Oh God, Alex, I wish I could tell you how I feel right now. I wish you could feel just a tiny little bit of what I feel, inside of you. I almost want to cry, I'm so happy..."

Alex shifted ever so slightly. "Brett, all we did was get boned up and jerked each other off," he teased. Brett however, wasn't going to let that stand.

"Don't say we just beat each other off, Alex, okay? We did a hell of a lot more than that, bro, and you know it! It's like, ever since you've started understanding me and my trust issues, and then letting me inside this shell of yours … and then your finding a way inside mine – it's, like awesome and all! We've built this thing between us that I can't explain. I almost hate to say it, but it makes me love you even more. I know, that's totally fucked up, we're not supposed to love this way, but-"

Alex quietly shook his head. "It's not fucked up, Brett. I feel it between us, too." He brought his hand up onto Brett's chest, letting his fingertips reside just over his heart. "Listen, I'll make you a promise, if it helps. I'll let you do anything you want, bro, as long as you'll let me do it, too. I'm not afraid of you, remember? Don't you know why?" When Brett lay there in silence, he whispered. "Because I love you, too. Even more than before. So, stop being afraid of me, okay? We're in this together, right? We can have some fun, but we can have something more between us, too."

As if by magic, the two came together simultaneously and embraced, but this time there were moistened eyes and happy feelings between them both. How long they stayed that way was uncertain, but when they finally parted, Alex whispered for his friend to roll over. Once Brett complied, Alex gently pulled his friend back so that they spooned their still naked selves snuggly together. "Don't worry, I won't poke you back here or anything," Alex whispered, nestling his softened member between the folds of Brett's buttocks.

Brett half-turned his head back so he could see his friend. "I wouldn't care, Alex. I honestly would not fucking care anymore. I trust you, remember?" he whispered.

Alex settled his chin upon the shoulder he was tucked into, noting that Brett's arm was already hugging his own again. "So, does that mean we get to do this some more? Or is it a kind of one-off thing?" he teased.

Brett squeezed harder. "If you want, and if you'll let me, you're gonna find out the answer to that every night we're here before we go home, bro. You get it, right? While we're here, this is our time to be us, you know? Out there, I know we have to be careful around the other guys, but in here… this is our time, okay? Just you and me."

Alex smiled, then nuzzled in before spooning up again. "Touché," he whispered, acknowledging and agreeing with his friend. Although the night was warm, their being deep in the woods and next to the lake turned out to not be all that bad. On occasion, a breeze found its way through the open window, and both boys found they could comfortably reset with each other upon the bunk. Before long, they easily slipped off to sleep.

Neither had a fear or care in the world.

When Alex awakened the next morning, the sun was just breaking the horizon and beginning to stream its bright rays across the valley and in through their window. The rains from the previous evening had disappeared, leaving in its wake a pleasantly cooler breeze, along with a distinct freshness in the air they breathed. As his senses responded to the environment around him, he involuntarily shuddered and pulled the cover around himself closer. He then noted a warmth from behind and realized Brett was snuggled up with his arms around him. It felt nice, so the teen burrowed backward to take advantage of it.

Alex could not hold out to enjoy it for very long, however. A growing urgency began building in his bladder, and could not be ignored. The teen eventually sighed, resigned to the fact he was going to have interrupt their snuggling and get up. Yawning, he slowly extracted himself from his friend's care and sat, looking about for his clothes from the night before. Finding his shorts, he pulled them on along with his t-shirt and then headed for the door. Quietly letting himself out, he walked the short distance to the bathroom and entered, crossing to a set of urinals nearby. As he began relieving himself, he closed his eyes and noted the coolness of the room there wasn't that bad. As he stood, he imagined his bladder was actually thanking him as it transitioned into a state of relief. Although he hadn't consumed that much in drinks the night before, his body was obviously telling him something different. Nearing the end, however, he re-opened his eyes when he heard the sound of someone pulling up next to him on his right. Glancing, he saw one of the messy-headed, younger boys step up and pull his own shorts down in front, before emptying his own load. There were no barriers between the urinals, which numbered at least half a dozen along the wall, and Alex clearly caught a glimpse of the younger, almost hairless boy beside him. He quickly averted his eyes, however, but needn't have worried, as the boy obviously did not seem to care.

As Alex finished, he stepped back and turned slowly toward the sinks, where he quickly rinsed his hands and grabbed a paper towel as his younger companion joined him. Looking in the mirror, Alex relaxed as the kid was obviously in a groggy state, evidently having been forced awake similarly as had Alex. Alex reached and grabbed another towel, handing it to the boy just as he finished. "Thanks," he murmured sleepily, after which Alex nodded before walking back out into the main room.

Glancing over the group, Alex saw that most of the boys were still sacked out in various states. All of them were now, unlike the evening before, pulling their covers tightly around as the change in temperature had caught them by surprise. Noting the ceiling fans were still on, Alex walked over to the switches and turned them off, before returning to his and Brett's room again, closing the door behind him.

Yawning, he stretched before sitting back down on the edge of the bed, where he took a moment to look out the open window again. He not only heard the light snore of his friend in that moment, but also the massive musical feast playing outdoors. Various birds were beginning their morning song, combined with the deep throbbing sounds of frogs and other creatures. It was as if a chorus of life rose to greet the camp and its visitors, and that made the teen pause and reflect as he listened. In its own way, the effect was calming, but he knew it would not remain that way for long. Others would be rousing for the day soon, and then the campsite would come to life all on its own.

For some reason, Brett stirred just then, rolling back into the wall side and stretching out. As he slowly opened his eyes, he saw his friend sitting there. "Wh-what time is it?" he asked in a hoarse whisper.

Alex reached for his watch on the shelf. "Just after 6:45," he answered, buckling the strap around his wrist.

Brett grunted. "Too early… we've got another couple of hours before we meet the guys at the lake again."

Alex nodded. "Yeah, I know." He then decided to stretch out and lie down, cuddling in close once again, but this time laying his head into the crook of Brett's shoulder. Brett welcomed the change, wrapping his arm under and around before pulling Alex close again. They lay in silence for some time, the sounds of the great outdoors lulling them to relax and doze again. At one point, however, Brett stirred and moved to envelop his friend fully. A deep contented sigh escaped him as he hugged the boy next to him, their intimacy unchanged only by the fact Alex now wore his clothes again from the previous day. "You know… last night was fucking awesome," he finally whispered.

Alex, awakened by the change, nodded in return. "Yeah, I know. I thought so, too."

As the sun continued to rise, Brett finally sighed again, but this time for a different purpose. "I don't want to get up. I wish we could just stay here all day, and we could keep each other warm and all… but I can't. At least, not without a trip to the bathroom. Of course, by then I'll probably really wake up," he explained, a note of dejection in his voice. Another sighed followed a yawn before he asked again, "What time is it now?"

Alex grunted. "A little after 7:30."

"That's more like it, I guess. At least, I can live with that, maybe," Brett replied, and then moved to sit up. Pulling the covers back, he noticed Alex's change of attire seemingly for the first time. "What's this? Were you afraid I might pork you or something?" he teased, thumbing the leg opening of Alex's shorts.

Alex giggles. "NNnnooooooo… I went to the bathroom a little while ago. I didn't want to go out there naked, you know!"

Brett pulled the garment's waistband up and noticed the lack of underwear inside there, then let go and shrugged. Standing up, he found his own shorts and donned them before heading to the door. "I guess I can understand that. Don't want the critters to get any ideas…"

Alex rolled over and grinned, watching his friend as he disappeared through the door. Minutes passed before his return, and as he approached, Alex moved over to give him room to sit down. Brett stared at the teen. "Think you can put up with me for the rest of next week now? Especially after last night?" he whispered.

"Think you can put up with me?" Alex retorted with a knowing look.

Brett then leaned in and stretched out on top of his friend. "No," he replied. "But I think we can put up with each other, though."

"Fuck yeah," Alex whispered, which made Brett giggle once again before shaking his head. He rose to the side of the bed again, pulling Alex with him. "Come on, breakfast should be ready by now, then afterward you can prep me by explaining what lesson number two is going to be like."

Alex nodded. "Sounds like a plan. When does the camp stuff begin? I mean, how do we find out what's going on today and all?"

"Oh, I guess I've never explained that, have I? The counselors should have the whole weekly schedule up in the mess hall by now. You see, the goal is for all the campers to complete a minimum of eight badges before they go home, out of like 25 or so that they can choose from," Brett explained. "There's things like swimming, the one you're already filling in for, and sometimes diving, too. Then there's model rockets, radio control stuff, computers, canoeing, fishing, archery, ropes and knots, real camping - like in a tent and everything… just stuff like that. Heck, even the field trip can count as one if they need it."

"That doesn't sound so bad, then," Alex remarked.

"It isn't, and honestly, it's not mandatory. No one ever has a problem with it though, and lots of these guys will end up with a lot more than eight badges before they go home. Most of the activities have multiple sessions, too, so it gives everyone a chance if they're interested in something." Brett found and pulled on his t-shirt. "We're going to be in the water again, right? You might want to keep your one shirt set aside just for that, if you're planning to wear it while you're in the water and all. I mean, the lake is clean for the most part, but still-"

"Yeah, it can still leave behind a kind of odor and all. I already noticed it," Alex agreed. "It's a good idea though, thanks."

Brett grinned at him. "We can come back up here afterwards, rinse off and put on clean duds if you want. Some guys do, some don't. Kind of just depends on what they get into and everything." He reached for his shoes, and Alex sat up and did the same. Once finished, they both made their way into the bigger room of the den, where they saw most of their charges up and moving about by then, all in various states of getting dressed. One of them nearest Alex, happened to be trying to pull on a pair of shorts that somehow hung at his ankles. As he pulled on them, he toppled over into the older boy, who caught him with a grin and helped the younger teen stand steady until he could finish the task. Clearly embarrassed, he mumbled a thanks to Alex and then left quickly; all the while Brett watched with a grin. It was then the teen whistled to get everyone's attention. "Listen guys, just head on over for breakfast when you're ready. Then make sure to check the boards, okay? They should have all the schedules and everything up by this morning. If not, I'm sure they'll be up within a few hours." Several acknowledged him, then headed out the main doors and onto the grounds.

Upon arriving at the cafeteria, Brett immediately led Alex over to a huge bulletin board, now covered with several pages of announcements and sign-up sheets. Searching for one in particular, Brett found it and started reading. "Okay, you've got 4 days set aside for swimming, and - whoa! We both have canoeing for tomorrow and Monday! That will be kind of awesome! Oh, and it looks like we've got archery, too, on Monday and Tuesday."

Alex noted the change in his friend's voice. "Something wrong? Do you not like archery or something?"

Brett shrugged. "Not really, I've just not done that one before. My first year here they didn't have it, and my second year I was too busy with other things. Always wanted to try it, though."

"Well, here's your chance, I guess," Alex remarked.

Brett grinned before. "Coach Jacobs is going to teach it, we're just helping, so it'll be cool. He's a good guy." As he and Alex continued reading other sheets posted, Alex suddenly felt a hand clasp his shoulder.

"Swimming go okay yesterday for you fellas?"

Turning, Alex grinned as he recognized the source of the voice. "Oh, Hi Mr. Jacobs! Brett was just mentioning you!"

The coach paused, grinning. "Oh, is that right? I knew my ears were burning for some reason!" he quipped good naturedly, causing Brett to blush. "Still, how did things go yesterday?"

"Everything went just fine," Alex answered. "They'll probably start learning to actually swim on their own some today, if all goes as planned."

"Good, good. I watched you for a little bit. It looked like you knew what you were doing, getting them used to the water and all. Say, I have a new student for you, if it's not too late," the man replied. He turned and waved one of the campers to step forward. "He was a little nervous yesterday, but I think we've convinced him to give it a try."

As the boy stepped forward timidly, Alex smiled but then suddenly froze. Brett turned around in time to join his friend, but then noticed the sudden shift in mood. "Hey, what's up?"

Alex recovered quickly before sticking his hand out. "So, you want to learn how to swim, huh? I'm Alex."

The younger boy, however, stood motionless by Mr. Jacobs' side. Puzzled, the older man addressed the youth. "What's wrong, son? Have you two met before?"

When the boy remained silent, Alex cleared his throat. "Uh, yeah. I mean, yes sir." Alex then stepped a little closer and gave them the best friendly smile he could. "How's it going?" He glanced up to Mr. Jacobs. "We, uh, met at his Dad's car lot, not too long ago."

It clicked then, and Brett understood. The boy was none other than the youth they met, while leaving Harry Spalding's parking lot.

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