The Scars Above My Heart

by Sean English

Chapter 9

Come Camp With Me (Part III)

"Okay, listen up guys," Alex called out to the group, currently gathered at the end of the pier overlooking a deeper portion of the lake. In the distance, the floating platform sat empty under the now partly cloudy sky. It was unseasonably warm again, with little air stirring around them this time. The humidity was also quite high, causing people to feel both gummy and sticky, a normal state for the time of year. All of that pointed to signs of a change in weather on the way, even without knowing a thing about the forecast. Regardless, both Alex and Brett checked at the mess hall that morning, and found that a new system wasn't due to move through until nightfall, with some potentially heavy precipitation. That meant all the groups throughout camp would have to plan their activities with caution that day and the next, but for the time being Alex knew their group was relatively safe for their last outing together.

"In a minute, we're all going to walk off the end of this pier, one at a time, and do something you've probably never done before. The water here is about six to seven feet deep, so it's going to be well over your head. Mentally prepare yourself for that, okay? But also know that Brett and I are going to be in the water, watching out for you no matter what. Remember what I've been telling you: DON'T PANIC. Sure, no matter how much you're prepared, it's going to surprise you, and I understand that because it's just human nature. You're going to feel like you're going down, and it might even feel like you've been sinking for a long time, even though its probably only been seconds. The truth is, you won't be sinking down and thinking it's been forever. Remember what I said about holding your breath? Take a deep one before you jump. You can hold it for almost two minutes on average, right? Some of you longer, some of you a little shorter, but it doesn't matter. It won't even take you a half-minute to do this part, believe me. More like 10 to 15 seconds, maybe. I mean, think about it: you can go all the way to the bottom if you wanted, and walk toward the shore, and then break the surface in anywhere from 40 to 50 seconds! That sounds okay, right? So, bottom line, there is absolutely nothing, NOTHING to be scared of!"

Alex made it a point to look around and make eye contact with each of them. He was looking for uncertainty or fear, but was happy when he didn't detect it anywhere amongst his charges. "This is like being in the deep end of a swimming pool. How you fall or jump in makes a huge difference. One way is if you end up going in flat, like on your stomach. That's what people call a belly-buster. It stings a little, but it can be a blast of fun if you're trying to make a big splash on people. Just make sure, if you ever do that, you're no more than, say, five or six feet above the water."

"How come?" somebody asked.

"The further up you are, the faster you fall and the harder the sting sets in, and at a certain height it can really hurt or knock the wind out of you," Alex answered. "Your body can only take so much of a shock in hitting a floor of water like that on the surface. So, you can do it higher, but make sure you're comfortable with it first, okay?" He saw general nodding, so he continued. "Another way is to run and jump, and pull your knees up to your chest. You can go in at an angle if you want, but most people try to enter the water butt-first." He heard some snickering off to the side, and he turned to see Brad blushing. Alex smiled in return though. "That's what we call a 'Cannonball', and it creates this huge wave and splash, too. It's probably the biggest splash of any out there, because when it's done right, it'll make this geyser of water pop-up like a spout. On the side of a pool, most people get annoyed having the water splash up on them with it." That brought a bigger round of laughs. "That's the one either I or Brett will do here in a minute, to show you what I mean. Seriously though, the only trick to it is to try and land butt-first in the water."

"Won't that, like, make you feel funny, with water and everything rushing up your butt?" one boy asked timidly.

Alex grinned. "You might think that, but it really doesn't. You'll go under quick, but then you'll also slow down the quickest once you're submerged in the water. If you wait until you slow down, usually after two to three seconds, you can then stretch out, and you'll find out your body is already beginning to move back up toward the surface."

Clearing his throat and taking a deep breath, Alex continued. "The last option I can think of is an outright dive. Feet first, it's just like taking a step off the dock, or a boat, or the side of a pool. It's the easiest, and probably most natural way to get used to plunging into the water, though it can take you down deeper sometimes. That's because your body has the least resistance meeting the water as it rushes by you."

"Will you go all the way to the bottom?" Brad asked.

"Not always, because your body does have some resistance and all, like between your legs and everything. And no, it won't crush your nuts going down, either." Alex got another round of laughs from them, and he couldn't help but smile. He liked this group. "If you go head first, or if you're running and jump, and enter the water at an angle with your arms extended out over your head, that's the best part of diving. I really suggest you don't try that one though until you're comfortable about jumping in first. Same for running and going in feet first, because both of those dives will take you the deepest most of the time. Still, coming out of them is no different – you keep your head, and you don't panic. When you've stopped and you're ready, you just start stroking your way upward until you reach the surface."

Another round of giggles sounded just then, and as Alex realized what he said, he blushed. "Alright, you wankers. Come on, you know what I meant," he mused good-naturedly.

A round of laughs followed, and then Brad raised his hand. "So, are you saying like, to just basically don't end up going in flat?"

Alex nodded. "Exactly. See, that's the most resistance your body meets when it hits the top of the water, and I've seen it take the breath out of people by surprise. The higher up you start from and that happens, the more it can sting. In fact, if you do it from too high up, it's almost like hitting a wall when you fall. Liquids are like water, they're not solid, but they surround you and swallow you up as you break the surface. Water still has weight, and that weight can be crushing in the right circumstances. If people jump or fall into it the wrong way, especially from very high up, that's what makes it sting. Down low it doesn't matter, but the farther up you are then the more it hurts."

"How high is too high?" Ethan asked.

Alex thought for a second. "Well, the coast-guard used to say never drop a man into the water over 80-feet from the surface. So, I would say, belly floppers are fine from eight to ten feet at most. The rest is at your own risk." He looked around again. "I'm not trying to scare you guys, it's just the way it is, and you'll learn what your limits are all on your own, okay? Even diving boards at the pools don't usually extend more than, say, 3o feet from the surface, or something like that. The point is, just learn to be comfortable and everything first as you get more practice and experience, that's all. Falling from too far out, then it's, well, you get surprised and shocked, and some people usually forget everything they've been told about how to dive up to that point. I can't teach you how to high dive or anything here, but as you get more daring and self-confident, there might come a time you'll want to try it, see. Then, if you do, just try to remember what I've told you: don't hit the water flat, and try for either head-first or feet first. Like always, relax until you're in the water and you slow down, and DON'T PANIC! That's the biggest one of all – just don't panic. Not even here, because Brett and I are going to be in the water watching out for you if anything goes wrong, okay? Just start breaking for the surface as you stretch out, and before you know it, you'll be floating and treading water just like we've been teaching you all along. Does all of that make sense?"

The circle of boys began nodding, so Alex took one final deep breath. "There is one more thing about all of this, and that is to watch your nose. Take a deep breath just when you think you're going to hit water, and hold it, but don't be surprised when you go in if your nose kind of feels funny. Water loves to make its way into your nose, your ears, and everywhere else you have a hole to the world. The nose is usually the most sensitive though. Oh, and you can wear ear plugs, if you want, but water in the ear doesn't surprise you as much as water going up your nose. Still, it's not bad at all. Like I said, it surprises you a little, that's all. After you're in the water, force yourself to stay calm for the first couple of seconds, okay? Then everything else will be like normally swimming around, just like the stuff I've been trying to teach you. Any questions?"

Although no one spoke, he and Brett suddenly saw a lot of uncertainty in the group. Alex lowered his voice. "Listen, no one is going to make you do this, including me. You do not have to do this step to pass the class, I promise. I'm doing it though, so that you get an idea of how you should do it, if you ever decide to. Okay? But consider this at least - here and now, if you'll trust us, for even just a little bit, then you have me and Brett watching out for you. No one else in camp has to know anything; it just stays in our little group - period. Anyone who does jump will also stay in the water, so there will be plenty of people around if you need help afterwards. Believe me, the first time, maybe the first two times, it will be a little strange for you. After that though, you get over the initial fear of just trying it, and then you'll have the biggest blast you can imagine. I'm telling you - it'll be a LOT of fun! So, if you'll just trust us and try, it's all anyone could ever ask of you."

There was a silence that followed, until Brad stepped forward. "Trust you? All of us have trusted you from day one, man. You haven't led us wrong yet, have you?"

Another boy spoke up behind him. "Fuck no, he's been great!"

Brad glanced behind him, but then faced forward and grinned. "Come on, I'll be your first guinea pig, I'm not scared. Well, mostly not, anyway." His words encouraged some of the others as well, and they began nodding in agreement.

Alex grinned at Brett and then turned, calling out loudly. "Okay guys, but let me and Brett go first, okay? Everyone, watch how I do this - I'm going to do the cannonball splash!" Then with a short run, he leapt off the end of the dock and pulled his legs up under him, entering the water almost perfectly butt-first, and creating a huge splash in his wake. Each of the boys looked on in astonishment as the teen disappeared, but resurfaced only seconds later, flinging his dark-brown hair out of the way and treading the water easily. The group cheered as he looked up at them, grinning. "See? Piece of cake!" he called out, and then nodded to Brett.

"You think he made a big splash? Watch me!" Brett declared. Like his best friend, he gathered his speed with a short run to the edge and then duplicated Alex's maneuver. The only difference this time, however, was in the process most of his splash water came right down on top of Alex. Laughing in his wake, Alex wiped the water away from his face and then waited. Once Brett surfaced, he moved himself beside his friend, only to have Alex splash water back at him. Both started laughing then, but turned their attention to the group still standing on the dock. Some of the boys were starting to get excited by then, and it showed. Looking up, Alex called out once again. "Listen, only one at a time, okay? And remember, anyone who doesn't want to jump, or just step off the end, can just watch. No one will make fun of you, I promise, unless they want to get a super tit-twister from me and Brett!" The group laughed again.

"Remember, don't fall flat, and don't panic! Just get used to the water being around you and then stretch out, like Alex has been teaching us," Brett called out. "Brad, you first, since you volunteered, bud."

Brad grinned and walked up to the edge. After hesitating only slightly, he grabbed and held his nose before he took a hop, pulling his feet underneath him. He entered the water with plenty of room to spare, and both of the older teenagers followed him with their eyes as he went down fully dunked, but only leaving a nominal splash behind. It took about 10-seconds or so, before the younger boy came back up and broke the surface, letting out a big yell. "Hey, hell yeah! Fuck guys, that was awesome! Wait till you try it!" he shouted, then started encouraging others in the group to follow him. There was still some hesitancy amongst the boys, but then Ethan, surprisingly, stepped up and repeated Brad's performance. Once he surfaced, the boy pumped a fist into the air before turning and high-fiving Brett. "Shit yeah, guys! You know if I can do it, so can you!" he called out. Others then soon followed, and before they were finished, all the boys in the group were filling the air with shouts of glee and accomplishment, as no one stayed behind.

What followed thereafter were several re-tries by everyone, each gaining more courage than before, and each finding the exercise to be a blast. The two older teens stayed in the water, watching each closely to make sure they didn't overreact or strain something in the process. Truth was, however, that Alex had no more coaching or pointers to give. The entire group had followed his instructions just fine – no one panicked, they learned to tread water back until they surfaced, and no one seemed to be scared anymore. His job was now done, and he couldn't be happier with the new friends he had made in the process.

A half-hour passed before they all finally surfaced and climbed back onto the pier. Gathering them together in a circle, Alex grinned and held up the wristbands. "They're yours, now. There is nothing more I can really teach you anymore. You've all earned them, and I want to tell you, as goofy as it might sound coming from me, that I'm proud of you. I really am. Nothing could make me happier than seeing you here, and now, with these. You've all been great to work with, even better than anyone I've ever taught before." A sudden chorus of whooping and cheers erupted from the group then, as they each stepped in and received their bands. Some gave him a quick embrace, among others who took a whole lot longer, rocking him from side to side. That feeling, and seeing their happiness, made the teen smile and swell with pride. The last one to step up, however, was Ethan, who took a few seconds to observe the bigger boy curiously. "Maybe you're alright, after all," he said, before suddenly giving him a toothy grin for the first time since they had met. To top it off, the youth gave his teacher the biggest hug of all, too, something which brought another round of cheers from the group gathered there.

"Okay, so when are we all going up to the other side of the lake?" It was Brad who had spoken, a wide grin splitting his freckled features.

"Right now, if you want to," Brett answered. "I've already gotten permission to take you guys up there for a few hours so you can celebrate. There's a trail," he informed them, pointing north of the mess hall, "just beyond there that we can take. It's about a 25-minute hike or so." The boys cheered heartily again, making the older teens grin. "Did everyone bring shoes like I told you to do yesterday?" All of them nodded, so as a group, they retreated to the head of the dock and quickly donned them. Then following Brett, the cluster of boys began making their way on their short hike, chattering constantly about the fun they had already had. Some of the boys, including Brad, made sure to drag Alex along, not wanting to leave their teacher behind.

When they reached the north side of the lake, they worked their way down to the shore of the inlet. The boys quickly noted and commented on the privacy the cove enjoyed from the surrounding land, which made it ideal for what they were about to do. Alex also noted how well they were concealed from the rest of the main camp, having rounded a bend into the inlet before arriving at its base. When they reached the small dock they had seen earlier, the group made their way out, quickly removing their shoes and setting them ashore safely, before walking to the end of the pier.

Once there, a sudden quietness fell over them as they hesitated. A level of uncertainty hung in the air, one which Brett observed with amusement. He walked ahead of them to the edge. "So, what are you waiting for? I thought you wanted to have some fun!" he called out. Then, finding Alex coming up, he grinned widely and, in one unusual move, shucked his shorts completely before them, dropping the garment nearby. Already shirtless, he stood there for a few seconds completely in the nude, and then turned to face the water. After contemplating for just an instant, the older teen then hopped off the end of the pier in an arch, effectively mooning the guys behind him with nothing but his untanned butt stuck in the air. That move caused the rest of the guys to snicker and giggle, if not outright laugh out loud. Still though, they hesitated with a level of uncertainty.

It was Alex, who stood mostly in their center, who turned his attention to them. "Listen, you don't have to skin, guys. It's only if you want to. I mean, up here it's just us, nobody else is coming in here. If you don't want to strip, then just jump in like you are. I promise, nobody will care either way."

"Are you going to?" asked one of the smaller boys nearby.

Looking around, Alex paused. "I will if you want me to, yeah. I mean, I'm not scared of being naked around you guys, but maybe there's something I should tell you about first. About me." Seeing their look of curiosity, he took a step out of the center so he could face the whole group. "I guess you've noticed that, when we practice, I never really take my t-shirt off. Right?"

"Yeah, well, we figured you didn't want anyone seeing your tits," another boy called out, causing several others to giggle around him.

Alex smiled, but shook his head. "No, that's not it, I promise. There's another reason." Slowly, he took a deep breath and grasped hold, peeling his shirt up and over his head. In the full light of the sun, his scars were completely displayed for the entire crowd to see. Seeing their look of surprise, he then turned slowly and without hesitation, so that all of them could view him. Some gasped, but he kept smiling. "You see, my nips are no different than yours. I just, I'm kind of shy when it comes to this, and maybe you can understand why now."

"Shit! How? I mean, what happened to you?" Brad asked in a hoarse voice. Alex explained in short, simple statements about the house fire, and how he had been caught by a part of it before he could escape. Some of the boys in the group whistled while others nodded in understanding, but all were basically speechless. Brad, the seemingly most courageous one in the group, even stepped forward and raised his hand, but hesitated. Alex understood though and stepped closer, letting the younger boy touch and feel around as he pleased. "Wow, that must have really hurt. You're okay though, right?"

"I'm fine, honest," Alex answered. Looking around at the group, he smiled. "Seriously, I'm fine, guys. It's just, it happened not that long ago, and I'm still kind of healing from some of it, that's all. I was just, you know, kind of afraid it might freak you out or something, that's why I was being shy," Alex explained.

"Us?" another boy scoffed. "Why would you be afraid of freaking us out?" A chorus of agreements followed him, making Alex sigh in relief.

"You guys are great," the teen responded softly, as several others began reaching out to touch him, too. He stood there, letting them feel all they wanted, all the while relieved that they were not frightened of him. Perhaps, to Alex, that was one of the biggest assets these boys had, being able to empathize with him in the end.

After they talked amongst themselves for another moment, it was Brad who once again broke out of the group. Looking around, he grinned wickedly. "Aw, fuck it, fellas. I'm not afraid to skin with you guys - just don't get blinded by my white ass is all!" With that declaration, he soon had removed his own shorts and followed Brett into the water, his willy bouncing from one side to the other hysterically as he ran. Before long, several more joined him, and then more of the group followed, splashing one another, laughing and goofing off. Alex watched them closely, his mentoring role still surfacing briefly as he made sure each was handling the water well. Then glancing at those few still remaining on the dock, he was suddenly surprised by Ethan joining him at his side. "So, are you going to do it?" the boy asked, glancing up at him.

Alex grinned, and then suddenly there were calls coming from the water, encouraging him. "Come on, teach!" "Yeah man, don't be scared of us!"

Glancing back at Ethan, he suddenly shrugged and then unsnapped his shorts. "Yeah, why not?" he stated, pulling them down and off quickly before walking to the edge. Those in the water got a full look at him just then, but no one teased or made fun of the older boy. Alex dived headlong into the lake, and Ethan, grinning wildly, noticed he was now the only holdout as the others had also followed their teacher. Standing by himself, he quickly stripped before taking a running jump and joining them. No one had turned down the offer by that point, as all of them celebrated their newfound freedom with a renewed spirit.

As Alex watched Ethan closely, he noted how the youth still needed to refine parts of his swimming technique. So, while the others played about, he quietly slipped beside the boy and started instructing him, in the hope it would help him adapt quicker from his shortened introduction to the sport thus far. Not surprisingly, the youth listened and followed proudly, seemingly without fear, even as Alex pulled him into shallower water and began using his arms strategically at times to hold the youth in place. Their lack of clothing aside, the boy had no inhibitions, which made the older teen feel a lot more at ease about their building friendship.

The group played for over an hour, several finding the hanging tires and ropes to swing from. At one point, two of the boys even climbed up onto the dock and stretched out in the sun, soaking in its warm rays while still in the nude. Others learned they could gang up on their friends, dunking, pushing or tossing them about over or through the water. Brett, the biggest instigator, had fun just showing them all the tricks and pranks he had learned, which many found hilarious. They were having the time of their lives, and it showed.

At one point, Alex decided he wanted to do a stretch across the north side of the lake and back. Pointing it out to Brett, and seeing his acknowledgment with a thumbs-up, he then started. Unlike his charges, whom he had been teaching to swim at a slower and more methodical rate, Alex instead opened up completely in his race. As if turbo charged, he began swimming rapidly, reaching for each stroke in a rapid succession while his entire body moved in a synchronized motion. With his legs mostly straight, crossing in rapid succession as he kicked powerfully through the water, he glided toward his destination in no time.

Pulling within roughly 20 feet of the other shore, he finally stopped and paused, treading water and catching his breath while looking around. Having executed the swim for that distance almost flawlessly, he suddenly grinned at himself with another level of pride and self-accomplishment rising inside. He had never had as much room to do this before, never this much distance. Although he had no way of knowing how quickly he had accomplished his task, he knew it had to be reasonably swift. After resting momentarily, he turned back and saw the others in the distance, noting that some had climbed up onto the pier to watch him. In the distance they waved, some jumping up and down to get his attention, to which he waved back before setting off once again. He took off, repeating his performance yet again, closing the lane in their direction and rapidly moving through the water.

As he approached, several others had also pulled themselves up onto the pier to watch, as the older teen's speedy form propelled himself toward them. When he was within a few yards he stopped, meeting a very surprised Brett who swam over to join him. "Damn! Are you training for the Olympics or something?" he asked.

Alex blushed, but did his best imitation to shrug in the water. "I just wanted to see how fast I could go, that's all. I've only ever been around pools and stuff, nothing as open like this is." He then glanced up to the group who were still standing and watching from the pier. "So, what are you guys staring at? It's only two naked teens in the water out here!"

One of the boys retorted. "Hmph, and a bunch of naked cocks up here!" The others laughed while Brad added, "He's right, you guys should have seen yourselves, jumping all around. Your dicks looked hilarious trying to jump with you!" To prove his point, he stepped back and did his own imitation of jumping and waving, showing them the effect. His own half-erected member twisted and flopped about wildly, causing the group to all laugh at his hilarious antics and start teasing him. He just laughed and eventually dived back into the water.

His long swim now over, Alex pulled himself up and sat on the edge of the pier, resting as he overlooked the others returning to their play. Brett had joined them shortly thereafter, continuing his fun as he had before, and Alex paid attention to his best friend for several minutes before he felt someone joining him at his side. Turning, he saw Ethan had pulled out of the water and was plopping down, their legs and hips pressing against each together as he settled. "I owe you," the boy said simply, sitting there and catching his breath while gazing across the group.

Alex shook his head. "You don't owe me anything. You've earned your wristband, now you can go swimming anytime you want, as long as you have someone with you."

"No, you don't understand," Ethan explained. He hesitated only a moment before trying again. "I owe you an apology, for me being such an ass. I'm sorry. I know I was a dick-head to you the other day, and I didn't honestly mean to be. Sometimes it's just kind of hard for me to sort things out, though. When you hear a lot about something, and it's repeated over and over, then… I don't know, you just sort of get this idea and everything in your head. That was part of my problem, you know. You didn't live up to anything my Dad raved and ranted about you, and I know that now."

Alex thought about that for a moment. "I don't know what you've heard or seen Ethan, but it really doesn't matter. At least you know a little more about me now, and that's all that's really important. You know enough to make your own judgement, I guess." He hesitated slightly, then added, "I'm sorry about your Dad, too, by the way."

The young boy scoffed. "I'm not. He's a real bastard, most of the time, but… Mom won't leave him, and me and my sister are stuck. So, it is what it is, and we get by." When Alex remained quiet, he looked up. "You understand, right? I took you to be some fucking screwball or something, really. But you're nothing like that. I mean, you have a dick and balls just like the rest of us do, and you're not afraid of being around us any, even though you're a couple of years older." He suddenly grunted. "Most of the high school guys I know are nothing but jerk-wads and jackasses. They couldn't care less about hanging around a bunch of 6th and 7th graders. They'd be riding us hard about being naked and all that shit, you know? But you're not. You're even out here with us, too, and that makes a difference. Not just to me, mind you, but to all these guys out here. You're not a jerk like older guys are, or can be."

The last was spoken with a smirk, but the effect wasn't lost as Alex suddenly giggled. "Other than not being a jerk Ethan, I'm uh… not really any different than the rest of you guys," he replied softly.

"Yeah, that's what I'm saying. I know that now." The younger boy hesitated, thinking aloud. They watched two boys suddenly climb onto the pier again before taking a running jump, right in front of them, splashing back into the water. Ethan smirked. "I've never done anything like this – I mean, skinny dipping with a bunch of guys. But since you two did it, it doesn't seem so … shameful, you know?" Ethan mused aloud.

Alex shrugged. "There's nothing shameful about it, as long as you're okay with it. Not everybody is, and that's okay, too," he added, recalling what others had mentioned before. He stole a direct glance down and saw that the youth had the beginnings of a pubic bush developing, as well as a nice-sized, though soft, penis hanging there. "It won't be long before you've caught up with me down there, you know," he observed. "If I'm normal and everything, then so are you."

Ethan blushed. "You? You're more like us than anyone I've seen yet, other than you've got the extra skin stuff, like Will does over there," the boy commented, nodding to someone out in the water not that far away. "If anyone isn't so normal-looking out here, then my vote it's Edwards. He has everybody beat, I think, with a whole flippin' farm of hair around his dick! Not to mention that he's huge when he's boned up!" He grinned at Alex's raised eyebrow. "Earlier, he was boned up for a bit. Most of us saw it and laughed. Like I said, he's huge!"

Alex cracked up, both laughing and snorting. "Wow, if you say so. Maybe to most of you it would be," he remarked before glancing at Ethan's wide grin that met him. "I didn't think you or the guys really noticed stuff like that, though!"

"Fuck, how could we not?" the youth retorted. "I mean, face it. I'll bet every guy here is staring at everyone else, getting an eyeful in some way or another and checking each other out. Shit, whether it's here now, or in camp, a lot of the guys are letting it hang out this week. Even in my den, some of the guys walk through practically every night with nothing on. Just the other night, one guy walked up to me totally naked while I was in my bunk, and just stood there talking to me and everything, even though he knew he was right in front of my face! It was almost like he was putting himself on display and all, and… and…" Ethan suddenly stopped, frowning. "You don't think that makes us gay or anything, do you? You know, to look and see, and … I don't know, notice and everything? I mean, sometimes I kind of want to reach out, but…"

"No," Alex replied firmly. "What's gay about it, Ethan? It's not like having sex or anything. Even if you were messing around a little, to me that's just being curious is all." He paused, then asked, "Did he have a boner while he was standing there?"

"No, not exactly, but he wasn't exactly soft, either. Like I said, he was really close and everything, and I think he was getting a kick out of me just, you know, looking at him some and all. Afterwards though, he was cool about it, and we even bumped fists and all." Ethan wrinkled his nose. "That's a part of what made it so confusing and everything. Sometimes, I don't know, the guys and me might touch each other, like down there or something. Like out there right now, in the water and all," Ethan mused, indicating the guys goofing off just then. "Mostly if we do, it's by accident, but you know with as many bodies messing around as it is, we're all like, touching everything anyway, and everywhere."

Alex shook his head, however. "So? Does that make you think its gay-ish or something? What about when I was helping you learn to swim? I reached out and probably touched pretty close to your junk a time or two, while trying to hold you up and all. With or without shorts on, does that make me gay?"

"Huh? Hell no, but… that's different."

"Exactly! It IS different, and that's what I think you need to realize," Alex explained. "Just like if your goofing off or playing around, not meaning anything by it. If you want to know what I think, then… it comes down to whether or not you trust the people you're around, Ethan. Like I said, there's nothing wrong with being curious, with whatever you or someone else does, boy or girl - as long as you're both okay with it. Understand?" He lowered his voice. "Think about it this way: I'm not scared of you. If I were, do you think I would stay here, with us pressed together so close like we are right now, and let you keep staring at my dick so much?"

Ethan blushed a deep red just then. "Sorry," he whispered. "I- I didn't mean to. It's just, you're… well…"

Alex laughed and then leaned in close. "Sorry for what? See? I don't care, really. Besides, how do you know I'm not checking you out, too? I'm the one who just told you that you'll be catching up to me and Brett before long, remember?"

That statement seemed to surprise the youth. A wide grin replaced his embarrassment, as he giggled. "God, I hope not! I don't want to be a hairy freak like him!" He glanced up and then brought his fist up mid-air, which Alex met and bumped. "You're alright, man. I don't care what my old man says about you, you're alright." He hesitated, staring up close at Alex's scars. He started to reach up and touch them, but like most people, he hesitated.

"Go ahead, it's okay," Alex encouraged him, leaning in closer. Ethan closed the distance and felt around the skin, prodding and then tracing the ridges along their length before whistling.

"I think Terry said it the best a while ago, when he said this must have really hurt like hell," Ethan remarked. "Wow."

Alex nodded. "It did, for a while." He exchanged a knowing glance with the youth, and suddenly felt something change between them. "You know something? If there wasn't a bunch of these guys around here, I'd give you a hug right now."

Ethan looked out across the water. "If they care man, then they can go fuck themselves," he mused softly.

Alex grinned, then slipped an arm behind the boy, drawing him in while holding on between his waist and lower hip. Ethan smiled, but understood the significance there as he glanced up and grinned at the teenager. When Alex finally let go, a thought occurred to him. "Listen, can I ask you a favor? These scars, my shoulder and everything, would you kind of keep it to yourself? It's not that I'm afraid of people knowing about it, but at the same time…"

"At the same time, it's really no one else's fucking business. I understand," Ethan replied, nodding. "Plus … the more people that know, they'll be trying to steal a look and everything, at any chance they get. Believe me, that is one thing I understand better than most people would think I do." The young boy then looked up and nodded. "I promise I won't tell anyone, and I'll let the other guys know it, too. It may be kind of hard to keep it totally quiet, but we can try at least."

The two bumped fists yet one more time, as Ethan then rose and stepped back into the water. Alex watched after him, thinking about that remark. 'That is one thing I understand better than most people would think I do.' He pondered its meaning for a bit, but then had to let it go as suddenly he was accosted from behind by a group of hands who lifted and threw him, but not without warning, back into the water.

"So, did you and Ethan kiss and make up?" Brett teased, bumping shoulders with Alex again. "I saw you giving him a 'bare' hug. Get it? Bare, as in naked?"

Alex shook his head, giggling. "Yeah, I get it, doofus." He grinned at Brett's intended pun, but then discarded it. "We're okay, I think. He keeps talking about being confused, though. Exactly what that means though, I'm not sure."

"It's probably his old man filling him full of lies and everything. We both know now the man is a jackass, and he treats his family like shit, too." Brett glanced thoughtfully after Ethan, who was at the moment farther ahead of them. "It's probably not the best place to be growing up. In that family, I mean."

"You've got that right, for sure," Alex replied, looking up and watching the others ahead as they moved along. "I've got to confess Brett, I like these guys. They're okay."

"See? I told you, Alex. Nobody freaked out about you. And when you stripped down and jumped in with me, that was the thing that tipped them. In that moment they saw you were no different than they were, and that you were not afraid of them seeing you and everything. When they knew we were both okay with what we were doing, and doing it with them, then they were okay with us. See what I mean? That's what it takes to let your guard down sometimes, you know? Oh, and one more thing - you were their teacher, but at the same time you became their friend. You didn't let anyone cut corners, and they saw what it made them in the end. They can go back to camp and swim with anyone they want to now, or even skin if they want to. They're going to go home on top of the world, and they know it's all because of you."

"No Brett, because of us. You did just as much as I did."

"Sheesh, shut up Alex, and take some friggin credit for once, will you? All I did was what you told them, helping you out! You did the teaching, and they look up to you for it – every last one of them!" Brett told him, exasperated.

"Okay, okay! I'm sorry," Alex replied softly. "I get it!" They walked several feet along before he continued. "You know something else? I think I'm going to be okay now, with all this stripping naked and everything."

"I hope so." Brett then leaned in again and lowered his voice. "So, did you get some more memories to, you know, jack off to when you get back home?"

Alex suddenly laughed out loud. "You're crazy, Brett! God, you're so… I don't know!"

"Nutty? Well, as long as it's my nuts or yours doing the white stuff between us, I can live with that!" he teased, before bumping shoulders again.

"What about you?" Alex asked after a few more steps. "Did you take enough mental pictures to go home and nut a few times? I suppose you felt a few up or something too, because Ethan said you got a boner earlier."

"Fuck yeah, of course!" Brett hissed with a wicked grin. "But honestly, I like messing around with yours a lot better! It makes all the good creamy stuff!" he whispered before bouncing away, leaving Alex shaking his head even more.

Monday afternoon brought about their second excursion with the canoes, and although there were indeed a few repeats from the day before, most of the faces were new. The drill varied little, and as both Alex and Brett were now more familiar with the task, everything flowed easier than their first outing. By the time they returned though, it was becoming cloudy outside, and a stiff breeze began picking up from the northwest that foretold the approaching front. By evening, as they gathered for dinner, even with hours to go before the approaching sunset, the clouds turned darker, threatening to dump more rain at any minute. In the distance, they heard the occasional rolls of thunder, soft at first, but gradually growing louder as time passed. When the dinner bell sounded, many of the boys arrived and ate hurriedly, or gathered food to take back to their den. Others were less concerned, taking their time and chatting with friends.

The full brunt of the storm broke just as the daylight finally receded completely, leaving the camp mostly in darkness except for the various nightlights scattered about. Having been forewarned by the counselors, each of the volunteers gathered their charges into their dens, and kept a close eye on the rains as they fell. When the winds shifted and brought water through the windows, they would close the shutters as needed in favor of leaving other windows open, and thus cooler air circulated throughout the den. Since their main door was sheltered with a porch and roof, they left it open, and at times various boys would wander out onto the porch to overlook Mother Nature's call to attention. The rain fell in such heavy sheets, it often made it difficult for anyone to see any of the camp's other nearby buildings.

Alex had walked out at one point, standing at one of the posts and overlooking the downpour. He had no desire to repeat his performance of only weeks earlier, as this storm was much heavier and more concentrated than most he had experienced. It didn't keep him from imagining, however, what it might feel like to be down on the lake, stretched out upon the pier, and enduring that kind of freedom with nature yet again. Only this time, he was certain he would lie there totally nude, with arms and legs outstretched, so that he could completely feel nature's massage.

The teen was surprised when he felt the presence of his friend come up and stand beside him. Glancing back, he saw Brett give him a nod. "Pretty good storm, I think. We don't get them like this very often, except maybe in the early spring."

Alex nodded. "Yeah, it was like that where I moved from in Idaho. Thing is, we were on the backside of the Rockies, at their northern tip. The weather there would get a little strange sometimes. Like, it could thunder and rumble for hours, like it was coming from the valley and all around, but we'd never end up with any rain. Sometimes, anyway."

"You like the rain, don't you?" Brett asked presently, after observing his friend's expression. "This is not the first time you've talked about it, and I know for a teenager, you seem to get an awful lot more out of the weather than most of us do."

"Do I?" Alex contemplated that and then shrugged. "Mom and Dad always did, along with my grandparents." He stared across the campsite. "I guess I do, too. I mean, maybe it's not normal, but I like being able to get out and just walk in the rain. Like a nice summer shower or something, just to feel it, you know? It's like saying to nature I'm not afraid of it. Weird, I know," he grunted, responding to Brett's chuckle.

"No, it's not weird, not really. Just be aware though, most teens don't give a crap about weather like that. I have no idea about girls, but at least guys don't. If we get in a drought, you might hear some grumbling all around, because that usually means trouble for farmers and all. Otherwise, most of us like it when it's hot." Brett grunted. "That's because you then get to wear shorts, go swimming, see babes in bikinis, all kinds of stuff like that."

Alex laughed out loud, before another individual suddenly joined them. "Babes? Bikinis? Where at? Come on, don't leave me out of this!" Brad spoke rapidly, giggling along with them. "Seriously!"

"Sorry spud, none of those around here this week," Brett replied humorously. "You'll have to wait until you get home to satisfy that surge of your hormones!"

"Damn!" Brad replied before sighing. "Why does sex have to be so limited to us guys anyway, especially at my age!" That brought another round of chuckles before he motioned out into the downpour. "Oh well, I guess there's plenty of sex going on out there tonight, at least."

That statement caught Alex's curiosity. "Huh?"

"Well, my Grandpa, he has this saying of his. It makes Mom really mad, too, when he tells it. Still…" Brad then suddenly grinned slyly. "He says that water is made up of two-parts hydrogen, and one-part oxygen, right? Well, according to him, rain is the effect of them having 3-way sex. Get it?"

"Oh my God!" Brett let loose before doubling up with laughter.

Alex joined with him, sputtering while the younger boy grinned looking onward. "I a-agree. Where the h- hell? That's hilarious!"

"Makes you w-wonder though, right?" Brett chimed in. "Like, which one is the boy and w-which is the g-girl! Or 2 boys, or two girls, right?"

"Nah, not really," Brad mused. When the other two quietened down, he went on to explain. "Well, think about it. If it's 2 girls and one guy, then how can they have full-on, three-way sex, right? He can plug one girl up, but then the other one…"

"Crap, makes sense to me," Alex said, suddenly surprising Brett. "I get it, though. At least with two guys, one plugs the girl up, and the other… well…"

"The other plugs the guy up too, or something, yeah. Unless, two guys can get their dicks into the same pussy at the same time, I mean," Brad finished for him quietly, holding his own chuckling down. "That's what I mean, 3-way sex. Get it?"

As Alex appraised the teen, he immediately noticed Brad continued to have no fear or embarrassment around himself and Brett. Some of the boys were timid, and somewhat unsure of themselves, but others were a lot more comfortable. "That's a good one, Brad. I don't think I'll ever forget that one," he mused, holding a fist mid-air, which the younger boy happily bumped.

"I'm not a stranger to sex, guys. Being on the farm, I think I've seen or heard of just about all of it," the younger boy mused, leaning back against one of the porch's post. "That, and having two bigger brothers who have been into just about everything."

"What do you mean?" Brett asked, curious. "Steven never talked dirty around me or the other guys. As far as any of us knew, he was like a monk or something for the most part."

Brad studied for a few seconds before he replied. "Sometimes he can be like that, I know. Still, both of my brothers have told me some interesting stuff. Like, think about Steven, since he's so super tall and all. He was always getting lots of guys trying to sneak looks at him in the dressing rooms, or the showers and places. That's because they all wanted to see his dick and stuff. I guess to see if he was as proportional between his legs as he is to everything else."

Alex giggled. "Are you serious?"

Brad grinned. "Scouts honor, fuck yeah! It's the one reason he didn't take a lot of showers at school unless he absolutely had to - and he did take at least a couple, I know. He always told me it felt weird, having people try to purposefully get a peek at him and all."

Brett nodded thoughtfully. "I can back that up, I think. I remember some of the guys talking about it. They thought for a long time he was like, well, like I said, a monk or something, but they were all curious as hell."

"Did you ever get to see him?" Brad asked, but Brett shook his head.

"It really wasn't my thing to go into the showers, especially when others were already in there. I mean, don't get me wrong, I wasn't afraid to do it; I know I even wanted to a few times. As for your brother, I would have nutted I think, just to check him out, kind of like you said. But… I just didn't do it though, because I had more respect for him, and other guys, who were in the showers, I think," the older teen acknowledged, stealing a glance at Alex and hoping he would understand the silent message being exchanged there. "If I had had a reason to shower myself, well, then sure, I would have done it. But just to go in there because others were in there, well - that's just different. It's like going in for the wrong reason."

"Yeah, I understand that, totally. It's different, I know. I mean, there's times I think I wouldn't mind taking a shower with others, but then there's other times I don't think I would want to do it, too." Brad made a face. "I mean, skinning around here is kind of different, but when you're in school, you don't always know who you're with and everything. Some peeps, they can make a lot of trouble for anyone like that if they wanted to, you know?"

Alex nodded in return. "It's more of a trust thing that you build with people. Like here, you're in the middle of a bunch of people who trust you as much as you'll trust them back, because you're all doing it for the same reason. In school though, it's more about people gawking at you than anything else, unless you're in sports or something. That's where everyone kind of knows one another more personally, like if you're on a team. Otherwise, for people just showering and all, if someone wants to make life hell for you, then it doesn't take much to set it off."

"Exactly! That's a great way to explain it, too!" Brad exclaimed with a smile, giving his teacher yet another mid-air fist bump. When they fell silent again, the younger boy shrugged. "I can tell you both though, I've seen Steven and Darren both lots of times, full up front and everything, even with boners. You're right, being tall, Steven is kind of big down there, but I'm not so sure it's anything really super-sized At least, from my point of view. He's … well, he's kind of like you are Brett, I guess, as far as his dong goes, but maybe a little longer," he admitted. "If anything, Steven does have nuts that hang like, way low. I mean, compared to the guys here, or even the two of you." Alex snorted just then, but shook his head in silence, causing Brad to grin again. "Yes 'Teach', I checked you out, too. All us guys did, you know? We checked you both out, and even talked about you some."

Alex blushed even deeper. In the darkness, the other two could still sense it though, and giggled. "You okay over there?" Brett teased.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just… wow," Alex answered, shaking his head again, before looking in the direction of their young charge again. "All the guys?"

"Yeah, all of us. I'll even tell you up front, the guys talked about how you seemed to be a lot more like us mostly. You know, even though you're older and all, you still don't have as much buzz down below, or seem to have that big of a dick like some of the other older teens do in camp. Including Forrest Gump here."

Brett snorted. "Wait… who?"

Brad laughed before lowering his voice. "Forrest Gump. You know, the Tom Hanks movie? He grew this beard thingy while he was running all over the country supposedly for a year or so, remember? You have a LOT of wild-looking hairs around your dick, and around those heavy jewels of yours. Not that its gross or anything, just – like I said, you're only three years older than we are, right? Well, you've got more hair down there than anyone we've seen in this camp, period. You look like you could be 10-years older than the lot of us! Surely, you've heard this before now, right?"

"He has some of it, yeah… from me," Alex admitted, sparing Brett a retort. While the other teen grinned wickedly, Alex shrugged. "Well, I'm no judge for stuff like that, because I've never seen much of anyone before coming to camp here. At least, not until we all went skinning today. You guys looked pretty normal to me though, and I'm not bashful about admitting it. If anything, it was kind of a relief."

Brad laughed. "A relief? How's that?"

"Well, I don't know. Just seeing that you and, well, others are really no different than I am, I guess," Alex explained.

"Ah. Really? So, you did check me out, then!" Brad mused quietly, grinning. When Alex blushed again, the younger boy moved closer to lean up against the rail next to his teacher. "I don't care, teach. Do you see what I mean, though? Everyone checks everybody out, I think, in one way or another." He shrugged. "I honestly don't care, and hopefully you didn't either. It was just us guys being guys, that's all. The way I figure it, why not have some crazy fun while we're out here, right? I mean, it's not like we're making some kind of a statement for eternity or anything, right?"

"Exactly," Brett answered. "That's what I've been trying to tell him."

Brad exchanged knowing looks with them both, then settled on Alex again. "So, you've never been around any naked guys and asses or whatever, before you got to come here? Seriously?" Seeing the teen nod, Brad continued. "I have, at least with my brothers. In the bedrooms, bathrooms, showers, basement, and other places. I've even seen animals going at it full throttle and everything, too, so that's nothing weird to me." He shook his head. "Hey… Alex? Don't sweat it, seriously. You can see me anytime you want to. At least you're not a prude."

"A what?" Alex asked, laughing.

"A prude. Someone who hates even the thought of being around naked people at all. Shit, most of them are even the kind that's afraid of handling their own dick, or scratching their balls or anything. You know the type, they get squeamish at even seeing another guy with his shirt off, I think." The younger teen scrunched and rubbed his nose. "You'd be surprised, really. A LOT of people are that way. But the rest of us, meh." Brad paused, looking through the doorway into their den. "Lots of these guys, away from camp, they're the same way and all. But when they're here, they'll do all kinds of crazy stuff just for the hell of it, as long as they don't get teased about being gay or anything."

"I thought this was your first year," Brett interjected, amused. "You sound like you've been here before."

Brad just shrugged. "Nope, first time. I'm just telling you the things Steven has told me, and some others. I mean, you know what it's like out there and all, man. Some places you can't even go to the bathroom and pee without someone making a face, or hurrying up to get away from you. Let alone take a crap in a stall that has no door or anything. Here, you don't have to worry about that kind of stuff. People can look at each other, dance around, jerk off, sometimes touch each other in places, whatever. You know, do almost anything they want to – as long as the other guy doesn't mind it. Even skinning in the lake is considered double-okay, if you want. Nobody is a prude when they come to camp. Some are a little shy maybe, but meh, we all are like that at some point in life. Out there though, get away from this lake and camp and all, it changes. Guys can be absolute dicks and assholes about it."

"I'm glad you're not one of them then, Brad," Alex offered quietly, causing the young man to grin.

"Me? I don't care, really. I know, I'm kind of the exception, but meh, peeps here can look at me all they want to for the most part. I've got nothing to hide, except maybe a shiny-white ass that might blind them if they stared at it too long," Brad mused. Turning to look out into the rain, he became thoughtful again. "It's kind of like the skinny dipping up here. Steven warned me that guys did it at camp, but I never really believed it until the other day, when we all saw the guys doing it up at the end of the dock. Then, when you told us once we learned how to swim that you'd take us up to that cove and everything, a lot of us were like 'Fuck yeah!'" He laughed. "Hell, you should have heard the other guys talking about it afterwards; they couldn't wait to get up there! They knew it would be like a warm-up, or a teaser before they did it with the big crowd and all. They knew they could judge from that if they wanted to do it with the others."

"I believe it," Brett answered. "It was like that for me, the first year I was here and all. Do you know if, well, did Steven do it?"

Brad laughed. "Sure, he did! Maybe not all the time, but he told me he did it at least once." Seeing Brett blush, he lowered his voice. "You know, you might still get your wish someday. He's not as, um, not as bashful as he used to be."

Brett sighed. "I admit, I would be curious, but I wouldn't go out of my way. It's just…" Brett hesitated. "It's different, that's all. Here, there's nothing to really hold guys back or anything from being free and crazy, especially when there a large group of us together like this. You either skin or you don't. Nobody is going to pick on you if you don't."

"Yeah, I know. It's an eye-opening experience for most all of us though, when they do," Brad added, then glanced at Alex. "You know, if it were not for my brothers, and some of my cousins, that would have been my first time too, I think." He laughed, then changed the subject as he suddenly stretched. "Well, you two can watch all the sex you want out here with the rain, but I doubt you'll see much in the way of dicks and pussies in action. I think I'm gonna go in and find me a book to read or something." With that, the younger boy fist-bumped them both, but lingered with Alex at the end. "Seriously, no sweat, okay? You were cool – with all of us. Even your shoulder thingy, it's nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. It was different, we all agreed, but none of us thought it made you look freakish or anything. You were cool, Teach, trust me. Honest."

Alex nodded. "Thanks, Brad. I think all of you were cool, too. I mean it." The younger boy smiled, then re-entered the cabin while Alex and Brett continued to stare into the storm, both watching and listening.

The terrain in and around the camp was muddy the next morning, and although the heavy rains had moved off by then, occasional showers still fell throughout the morning, leaving much of the camp wet. Many of the day's activities were either modified or rescheduled, some moving to the latter part of the afternoon. Many of the boys strolled about the camp site listlessly, finding other ways to entertain themselves with games in the various dens or elsewhere.

When the early afternoon arrived, one event that did not get canceled involved the archery lessons. Several volunteers came out with Brett and Alex to help, as a considerable number of campers decided to join them in light of the weather conditions. Most were allowed to work their way into the lessons, although the number of archery sets was limited and had to be shared. Others who attended mostly stood off to the side as curious spectators.

To Brett's genuine surprise, he discovered that Alex was already quite knowledgeable about the sport. "Sheesh, another one?" he mused under his breath, which Alex heard and smiled at, but ignored for the time being. While testing near the front of the class, Coach Jacobs was astounded when the teen found his mark within the bullseye on most every attempt. "Good Lord! You've done this before, haven't you?" the man asked Alex.

Alex simply shrugged. "A little, I guess. I learned about it a couple of summers ago at the YMCA," he replied shyly, blushing.

Coach Jacobs nodded in approval, grinning widely and then enlisted the teen's help along with Brett, to divide the groups up. For the next two hours, everyone began running through the line to try their luck, including some of the spectators. They were shown how to hold the bows, how to aim the arrows and more. Alex loved the opportunity of teaching yet again, finding it strangely fulfilling. He stood behind and close with most of the boys, helping by seeing what they were doing from their point of view. He often reached out, drawing their elbows in, planting their feet and more – all of which the guys didn't seem to mind at all as it gave them the sense of how to treat their weapon and get the most out of the sport.

When it was over, Brett clapped his friend heavily on the shoulder. "You know, I'm beginning to get annoyed with you, I think."

"Oh? How come?" Alex asked, curiously.

"Don't you know, already? I mean, here is another part of you I didn't know anything about," Brett quipped with a grin, causing his best friend to blush. Brett then lowered his voice. "Are there any other outdoor things you know how to do, or am I going to have to just wait and find them out all on my own like this?"

Alex suddenly slowed and bumped shoulders with his friend, before lowering his own voice to an almost whisper. "Well, I don't know about outdoors, but um, someone has been telling me I do pretty good at night time in the bed, under the covers and all."

Brett stopped and, surprisingly, blushed deeply himself. "Oh man, do you ever…" he replied in an identical whisper, before leaning back and bumping shoulders himself. "Hey wait, did I just hear you make a … you know, with…"

Alex laughed. "I'm not admitting to anything on the basis I will probably get incriminated," he hissed as they began walking back in the direction of their den. "Come on, let's try and give our parents a call again, if you want."

As Wednesday evening approached, exhaustion was beginning to creep up on Alex. The events of the past few days had flown by rapidly, keeping all the boys busily involved in the camp. Both he and Brett were sitting on the end of the docks, watching a plethora of bodies running around and jumping in the lake. Many of the campers were playing games in the water, racing about and more, and because most were naked yet again, none of the adults was allowed to be around. As Alex looked about, he saw other older volunteers like himself gathered as kind of supervisors, but smirked as most of them were also in the water, in their own birthday suits, joining in the fun. Yet again, all of the boys were exercising their rights to complete freedom, for what might become their last chance in the week. Although Monday's storms had long passed by then, the forecast revealed more heavy rains were on their way and expected to arrive by Friday evening. There was talk that the counselors were considering shutting the week down early and sending everyone home on Saturday. Little could be gained by staying, they said, as most boys would be holed up in their cabins and dens anyway if Saturday ended up a wet mess as it had turned out the day before. The decision had not been finalized yet, but it certainly looked like the busses would be called back in on Saturday morning for the dreaded trip home.

Alex had allowed Brett to talk him into joining them, for a short while if nothing else. Sitting naked themselves, Brett had slid up beside his friend just moments before, and stared with him out over the group. Alex had been resistant initially, but once arriving and finding the boys from his own swimming group, and others who welcomed him cheerfully, he soon forgot about his shoulder and the dreaded scars he wore, as he stripped and joined them in some of their games. Tiring after a while, however, he had decided to pull up and sit, resting for a bit. As Brett and many of the others, no one had teased him or voiced any remarks about his shoulder, although he could feel the eyes of some of the boys observing him. In a nonchalant manner, however, he mostly just ignored them.

At least that was the case until James, the boy that had climbed out and introduced himself that first evening they were together, suddenly wound up sitting on his other side unexpectedly, up close. "So, is it okay if I see what all the baloney was about?"

"Huh?" Alex asked, confused.

"Your scars. The guys told us you have some deep shit messed up in your shoulder and all. Is it okay if I have a closer look?" James explained, craning his neck forward to take a closer look.

Brett started to say something, but Alex nudged him into silence. Looking into the freckled face, Alex saw a warmth and friendly curiosity there, so he turned toward him. James observed him up close and made a low whistle. "Ah, fuck, man! That had to have hurt like hell!" He instinctively reached out, but unlike most people who hesitated, he ran his fingertips across the ridges gently, probing and tracing them around to the side. Alex was amused by his boldness, but also very pleased, as here seemed to be at least one person who wasn't all that bothered by politeness. Maybe it was because they had already built the beginnings of a friendship of sorts. Alex didn't know though, or at the moment care, as he leaned closer and let the fingers continue their soft dance. "Man," James, declared after a moment. "I'm glad you weren't hurt any worse than this, honest."

"Thanks," Alex replied, turning forward yet again when the fingers withdrew. Unsure of what to say, he was spared when he saw James grin widely again before leaning in harder, making them both fall over into Brett. "It's also good to see you aren't hiding a pussy down there, either," the younger boy whispered.

For some reason, Alex blushed, but ended up laughing out loud. Brett joined him, and all three ended up bumping fists mid-air with the younger boy. Alex recovered quickly though, and after a directed glance at James' crotch, he retorted, "Good to see you haven't had a sex-change operation, too." It was all he could think of at the moment, but it was enough.

James fell into him again, laughing hard. "I'm completely, all-natural, 1000-percent boy," he hissed back. "Totally ready to do some fucking, too, when the call comes."

Alex laughed, then decided to be a little more adventurous, tickling the youth under his arms, which caused him to squirm and fall the rest of the way into both his and Brett's lap. Brett added his own hands to the frenzy, and for a moment, they were cradling the boy as he turned and writhed about hysterically, trying to get free. Other boys around them snickered, until two boys climbed up on the deck and added their own fingers to the task, making the activity four against one.

James, beside himself, laughed and gasped hysterically. He was good-natured about it, and at one point, Alex felt his new friend was actually enjoying it. That is, until someone grabbed his nuts and tugged at them. "H-Hey n-now, that's my j-jewels!" he swore under his breath.

"Yeah, so?" one of the blond headed youths hissed at him. "Wait until I get hold of them tonight!" Others nearby laughed and then pulled away, finally letting James rest from the onslaught. He was still in Alex's lap, staring up at the teen with a silly grin, heaving huge breaths of air until he recuperated. Alex wondered briefly what that remark implied, but then tossed it aside. He and Brett were not the only ones having fun, it seemed.

Brett leaned close to Alex and whispered aloud. "So, do you want to throw him into the lake?"

Before Alex could answer, however, James spoke up quickly. "No, don't do that, PLEASE! I can swim fine, but I'm still getting used to things like diving and everything!" When Brett nodded, the boy looked up closely at Alex. "You see man? Do you believe me now? Like I told you, about all this naked stuff... remember? Piece of cake. You got nothing to worry about."

Alex smiled before replying in a low voice, "Several of you guys have been telling me that, so yeah, I'm beginning to believe you. Thanks though. It helps, honest. Even with you being here in my lap and everything."

James lay still a moment longer, staring up into Alex's face before he finally nodded. The two other teens, still standing over him, reached out and helped him climb upright again to stand. Before he walked over to the side of the dock though, he placed his hand on Alex's shoulder and squeezed it. He then silently stepped back and dropped into the water with the other guys. "See Alex?" Brett spoke in low tones beside him. "Come on, have some fun, man. No one here is going to freak out at you." He looked onward toward James. "I'm not sure what his story is, but he obviously likes you, and he's a complete stranger, I think. Neither he or his friends freaked out any."

Alex grinned and then stood, offering a hand and pulling Brett to his feet. "Well, you're the exhibitionist here, I think. Go on, have some fun."

"Aren't you coming?" Brett asked.

"In a minute, yeah. First, I want to go and check on Ethan over there. He's been sitting on that corner by himself for a while," Alex answered.

Brett looked where indicated and then nodded. "Oh, okay. Let me know if there's anything I can or need to do." With that, he let out a war cry before taking a running jump into the fray, folding his legs and creating the biggest, splashiest cannonball any of them had witnessed thus far.

Alex walked over to the other side of the dock and stood next to the younger youth. "Uh, care if I join you?" he asked. Ethan looked up and, seeing who it was, smiled and nodded. Alex sat down, observing the youth. "So, you're skinned over here, but you're not over there with the other guys. Something up?" He purposefully glanced down into Ethan's crotch. "Nope, no boner, so you can't be embarrassed by that, right? Or, as James likes to say over there, no pussy either."

Ethan shook his head, laughing aloud. "Nope, no boner or girls junk for me." He gazed across the lake before speaking again. "James is a nut case, I think, but he's not afraid of anything."

A thought occurred to Alex just then. "Is he in your den?" When Ethan nodded, he inquired further. "Was he the one who, like, talked with you that night, with everything hanging out?"

Ethan laughed. "Yeah, it was him, and one of his friends later," the boy admitted. "That was the night we talked about you a little, too. The three of us eventually played some cards in my bunk and all."

Alex suddenly started to understand why the other boy had seemed so friendly and all now. "Thanks," he whispered.

"For what? I didn't do anything. Not that I know of anyway," was the muttered reply.

"I don't know," Alex responded. "I guess just for being cool about it and everything." He glanced at the younger teen again. "Are you okay? Is something wrong?"

"Not really, Alex," the boy replied. "Just kind of dreading when Saturday gets here and all. From the sounds of it, we'll all be going back to our miserable everyday lives again."

"I can understand that, yeah," Alex answered. "Brett said they did the same thing his first year here, calling camp off for the last day and heading home." Alex shrugged. "Hey, we still have all day tomorrow and Friday at least, and we're going on the field trip tomorrow, right?"

"Yeah, I know." Ethan fell silent again, and Alex, sensing something was still bothering the youth, tried once more.

"Okay, fess up. What is it? What's eating you?" When silence followed, Alex lowered his voice. "Come on, Ethan. Surely you know you can trust me by now."

Ethan smirked. "We're both naked again, Alex, sitting together and practically ready to make out. That alone should say how much I trust you." He then shook his head. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that quite the way it sounded, but meh, I admit I'm off my game a little anyway."

Alex giggled. "Maybe so. I was about to say that didn't count so much though, since everybody else out here is pretty much as naked as we are anyway." Alex paused, then bumped his shoulder with the boy. "I won't push, Ethan. You don't have to tell me anything. So long as you know I'm here, that's all the really matters."

Ethan looked up at him hesitantly. "I do. I think you've been the one most willing to be with me out of all these guys, Alex. I'm glad for that, honest." Turning his gaze back to the water, he quietly continued. "When I get home, there's going to be hell to pay, man. For me, anyway. See, my Grams kind of sneaked me out so I could come here and all. Mom had brought it up to Pops before, but he was dead set against it. I mean, he kept saying all kinds of shit against going to any camp and everything. But Grams told me it would be good to get away for a while, so she signed me up anyway and paid for it all and everything. Between her and Mom, they got me out of the house and up to the busses."

"Okay, I see what you're getting at now," Alex replied softly. "So, you think when you get back, your Dad is going to have a fit and everything."

"Fuck yeah, Pops will be angrier than a rabid dog trying to steal a rare steak out of a butcher shop! There's honestly no telling what he'll do when he sees me," Ethan whispered. "You know, I can take spankings and being slapped around and all. But…"

"You shouldn't, though. I mean, he shouldn't be beating on you for any reason, Ethan. I know how he looks - big, scary, even mean. But seriously, your Dad just seemed to me to be more of a big bully than anything else. Maybe he doesn't mean to be, or-"

"No, he does, Alex. You don't understand, man. Our home is like living in a shit-house. He knows what he's doing, to my mom, to me… even to my sister. He never smiles or laughs at anything, unless it's one of his jerk-wad, shitty-assed jokes he thinks is funny. He and my uncle both, they hang out together all the time doing that stuff."

"Really? At home, too? How much?" Alex asked cautiously.

"Pop's is mostly home just on Sundays, but then all the other days he goes to the lot and stays there until he's ready to come home. Most of the time my uncle is always with him, even at our house." Ethan grunted. "That's if Pops even comes home. Sometimes we don't see him for days," Ethan answered. He sighed. "I'm sorry, Alex. You were right, I didn't know you when we first got here. Other than from all the shit he's mouthed off about. I should have known better, but…"

"That's behind us, Ethan. Don't worry about it." Alex paused, thinking. "You know, I don't know what to tell you, other than I feel for you. It sounds bad, but all I can think of, at least right now, is just to tell you I'll help you in any way that I can."

Ethan smiled. "That means a lot," he announced, before letting go a deep sigh. "Oh well, we might as well go yank on a few human hot dogs while we can." Seeing the confused expression on Alex's face made the younger boy suddenly laugh. "You're too serious, man! Come on, let up! Human hot dogs, get it? Dicks?" When he saw Alex blush, he laughed and climbed to his feet, offering the older teen a hand. "Hey, I do have one thing I want to ask you about, if you're willing to tell me."

"I don't know, what is it?" Alex asked.

"Do you ever feel, like, that skin of yours gets in the way or anything?" Ethan asked, subtly indicating Alex's crotch.

Alex laughed, before leaning in close. "Nah, I think it just gives me extra protection when I'm not jacking off."

Ethan laughed hard. "So, you do jerk off then. Honest?"

"Yeah, I do. Like most boys do, I suspect," Alex reasoned.

"A lot?" came the curious whisper. When Alex looked down at him, he nodded. "Sometimes, yeah."

Ethan grinned and then relaxed. "I bet it's pretty cool for you, then. Different than for most of us, at least."

"Maybe. I guess it is a little, yeah," Alex agreed in an equally low tone. "Not that I know about what it would be like not having it, but meh. I guarantee you though, the end result is just as sticky and creamy as anyone else's is."

Ethan laughed. "Alex, you're cool man. Most guys would have given me all kinds of shit for asking that, you know?"

"Really?" Alex replied, surprised, before shrugging. "I don't care, you can ask me anything you want, Ethan, and not just at camp, either," Alex offered. "If we ever meet up again out of here, or if you ever call or something, you can still talk to me about anything you want to, okay? I won't care, I won't hide anything from you."

"Really? That would be… awesome!" With that, Ethan led the way back to the others. When they reached the edge of the dock, Alex suddenly found a pair of hands on his butt pushing him into the water. "Head's up! Teacher coming down!" he heard someone yell, and in the next second, he found himself twisting and hitting the water directly, going under. When he surfaced seconds later, a chorus of laughter could be heard all around.

Looking up, he gave Ethan a sly grin to match the one greeting him. As Brett swam up beside him, Alex called out. "So, are you coming in for your punishment, or not?"

Ethan grinned wickedly. "I doubt it would be punishment," he called back, before taking a running jump and landing in the water next to them.

The next day had been pre-planned for quite some time, and the camp bustled with excited energy at an earlier hour than usual. As Alex walked out onto their porch, he saw many of the boys already up and heading for breakfast. They were in varying stages of dress, but overall their attire was much nicer than common. It was the day of the field trip, and the night before all had been warned to anticipate going up into Indianapolis. No one in the camp had been told yet where the trip was planned for exactly, or any of the details. The only responses they received were that this year it was a special outing, and that everyone should be sure to eat a good breakfast.

Alex and Brett both looked at each other with curiosity as the latter joined his best friend, looking out. He was untying his shoes in preparation for donning them when he spoke. "Well, ready for the big mystery trip?" he asked, bumping Alex's shoulder purposefully with his own, and subtly maintaining the contact for a short bit, which Alex seemed to enjoy.

Alex nodded. "Will they tell us anything at all?"

"Yeah, all of us helpers usually get the news first, then we pass it on when we get aboard the busses. From what Coach Jacobs hinted at the other night, it's supposed to a big deal this year, something none of the camps have ever done before." Brett turned then and sat down on the edge of the porch steps, where he pulled his shoes on. "Want to go get something to eat? Most of the guys in there are already getting dressed. I figure they'll join us in a few."

Alex nodded and, once Brett had tied his trainers, they set out for the mess hall. When they arrived, Coach Jacobs was already there, and upon seeing them, he waved for the two to join the other boys already gathered around. The man counted the number of those in attendance, then halted. "We're missing three. Does anyone know where - Aha! There's Mr. Castle coming in now, and I think, yes, Mr. Benningfield is right behind him. That's good enough!" The man then set about handing out sheets. "Alright boys, today is intended to be nothing but pure fun, but each of you needs to be on the lookout. Don't let our young charges get too wild out, okay?"

Brett and Alex both received a paper and then turned it over. Both registered expressions of pure surprise on their faces as they began to read, as well as did the other teens in the group. One of them blurted out. "Is this serious? We're going to go to…"

Coach Walters finished the sentence for him. "Yes, we're going to Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Indianapolis Colts play. They're holding a special event for the boys today, a sort of late Spring practice, where their players are going to work with everyone in our camp group. Then we'll get to have lunch with them, maybe pick up some autographs, and tour their facilities and everything before we leave."

"Holy, shit!" exclaimed another teen off to the side. Coach Walters sought him out and stared at him disapprovingly, causing the teen to blush deeply. "Sorry, Coach!"

The man suddenly grimaced. "Well, the sentiments are the same for most of us, I'm sure, but uh … let's watch the language out there, okay guys? I want us to keep these kids on their best behavior as much as we can, because these are major sports figures they're going to be around today. There may even be some press out for a while, I don't know. Bottom line is, if we leave a good enough impression, the Colts might invite us to come back again next year. Understand?" All of the boys murmured in agreement. "Mind you something fellows," he continued. "You don't have to make these guys act like angels out there. They're going to be excited enough as it is, so let them have some fun, alright? I want you lot to have fun, too, as this is just as much of a treat for you as it is for them. Just make sure none of us get overly rowdy or anything, that's the important part. Okay? Off with you then, and get some breakfast. We're going to load the busses in about 40 minutes or so."

The day flew by quickly from that point forward. True to form, many of the regulars on the football team, along with their trainers and support personnel, greeted the group upon arrival with wide smiles. The boys were then split into numerous smaller groups, where they traversed the field in squads, hearing and experiencing - actually playing with the burly men who made up the NFL team. They learned how different positions were allocated, how the men studied and trained to work professionally. Some of the Colts gave pep talks, talking about their various backgrounds of growing up - some in seemingly normal families, while others in deep poverty. Eating lunch with the teams and various coaches was also unlike anything any of them had experienced before, and before the day was finished by mid-afternoon, each camper was given an official NFL football, covered all over with various signatures of the players who participated. The Colts coach even joked at one time how the players had spent a good portion of their week signing the footballs and wearing their hands out in the interim. It was a fast-moving day, but one met with and uncanny excitement, many of the campers awed with their luck and experience. Many hugs were given, along with fist-bumps and high-fives, and the ride back to camp was filled with ecstatic jubilation, with everyone jabbering loudly and erupting in cheers from time to time.

That night, Alex and Brett watched from the doorway into their den, as their own campers continued to banter with unrestrained excitement, as they shared stories and retold events throughout the day. It made Alex smile watching them, thinking he too had had an adventure that would never be forgotten. Brett approached him quietly up close at one point. "You know, these guys aren't going to go to sleep for hours, I bet."

Alex nodded. "Honestly, I don't blame them. Today - that was almost as big of a thing for them as having ten birthdays all rolled up into one. They may never get a chance to do anything like it again." He glanced at Brett closer. "I, or we, may never have the chance to do that again, either."

"Yeah, I know, but it was still awesome," Brett whispered, then turned and retreated into their room. After a moment, Alex followed, closing their door. His friend had already stripped to his briefs and lay down on their bunk, so as Alex approached, he turned off their light and stripped as well. Then standing in front of Brett, who was watching him closely, he also dropped his briefs and stood naked in the room. He waited patiently for a few seconds until he could see Brett smiling, then reached in and removed his best friend's underwear, too.

Alex carefully stretched out on top of Brett, then looked deeply into the eyes watching back. "You know something?"

Brett, too tired to come up with a retort, just raised an eyebrow. "No, what?" he whispered.

"Remember our first night here? I told you I loved you. I think I've known it all along, but right now, after being here with you this week, and living all of it with you, like this? I can't help but feel it even more, bro. Before we go home, I want you to know it, too. I want you to feel it, with me," Alex whispered.

Brett felt moved by the moment, such that he extended his hands and threaded them around Alex. Holding him gently, he relished having his best friend against him, breathing him in. "I already do, Alex. You're my best friend, my bro. I love you, too."

That was when Alex smiled at him, and whispered again. "So, is it like they say? What happens in camp, stays in camp?" When Brett giggled and nodded, Alex leaned a little closer. "Then I want to do something again, for us," he whispered ever so softly. Closing the distance, he softly brushed his lips over his best friend's lips, and held them there before gently pressing in with the most sensual of kisses he could create.

Brett whimpered and pressed back, surprised but relishing the feeling he was experiencing with Alex. When he didn't pull back or resist, Alex parted his lips hesitantly, with which Brett reciprocated in kind. Both boys brought their tongues forward then, meeting simultaneously. Both hesitated briefly, knowing and understanding this was not so much new territory for them by now, but it was still mesmerizing all the same. Alex didn't care, and he knew his best friend understood that, too. After assuring himself Brett wasn't going to reject him, he pushed further inside, hearing Brett's happy growl that followed in return. Both took turns sucking gently on each other's tongue, before they started probing around and feeling the shape of everything inside again. Brett moaned multiple times, only to eventually pull back and tilt his head to one side. Once done, he locked his lips around Alex's open mouth without their noses obstructing one another.

For the next several minutes, both boys hungrily devoured the other, kissing deeply and affectionately. It was like an electrical current traversed their bodies down to their groins, where both were rapidly gaining a hardness that matched in intensity with what was happening above. Their attack was breathless on all fronts, Alex grinding himself down onto the boy beneath him, all the while Brett lapping excitedly around Alex's teeth and wrestling with his friend's tongue. The intensity built, and both were breathing hard and moaning, gurgling with each other, as Alex gently wrapped his friend's head within his fingers.

"Oh my God," Brett breathed heavily, whispering into Alex's ear. "I'm going to cum, I think. I'm going to fucking cum, and we haven't even touched each other yet!" he moaned again. "I love you, bro. I love you… so… much…"

"So? That's the whole idea anyway, right? Just do it, I don't care. Make us a sticky mess, and I might do it with you," Alex whispered back. With that, he clamped his own mouth over Brett's like before, and in seconds both reached a climax worth waiting for. As they both spurted, erupting together, Alex relaxed, gently sucking Brett's tongue and releasing everything he had built up. All the while Brett met him in like manner, grabbing his friend's butt and holding it hard to his groin.

There was something about the moment they both felt, a deeper exchange of not just passion, but a different kind of hunger, one of need. Neither had expected it, but both welcomed it as they giggled, feeling the gooeyness between them. When Alex pulled away, he nuzzled into Brett's shoulder, sucking and playfully biting as they squeezed their cum between them even tighter.

Brett was grinning all the same as they pulled back to observe one another. "See? We did it," Alex whispered. "We actually did it! Without touching, or jacking or sucking each other off or anything!"

Brett nodded. "I know!" He reached up and touched the end of Alex's nose. "You know, that was fucking fantastic," he whispered, before pulling Alex into another hug. "God, you don't know how good that felt to me, you know?"

"How do you know I don't? I cummed, too, remember?" Alex giggled and then relaxed. "I'm just glad you didn't beat me away."

That made Brett lean back again. "If you wanted to do that before, then why didn't we? I mean, we did it, kind of, our first night here, remember?"

Alex pondered, smiling as he detected the happiness in Brett's eyes. "Well, because I think we were both afraid to do it." He wrinkled his nose, and then went on. "I know, I know… But honestly, you haven't kissed me again since, and I kind of figured, well… Maybe you might be having second thoughts, you know? That's why I asked about if what happens in camp stays here. Just in case."

"Alex, hush," Brett whispered. "There is no fucking way in hell I'm going to not do that with you, even after we go home! As long as you want to, that is." He giggled. "We might need to be careful, but hell, we're always careful anyway, aren't we?" When Alex giggled, Brett pulled him in. "Fuck, man, I love you so much. I honestly never thought we'd do that, though. Now that we did, it just makes what we have all that more special between us, you know?"

Alex nodded. "Yeah, I feel that way, too. This whole camp thing, it's made me realize a lot of things. Not just that these guys have cute butts and all, either!" he paused, staring into the eyes meeting his own. "It's made me realize I'm not so nerdy, or screwed up, especially when it comes to sex and everything."

"Is that all?" Brett whispered.

Alex giggled. "Well, that - and that your butt is the one I like the most. Or rather, all of you, especially in front down here," he added, grinding gently into Brett.

"Good answer!" Brett replied, laughing. "I bet though, it's only because you know you've got me for the long ride, don't you?"

"Well, yeah, there's that," Alex answered. "But no, that's not the only reason. It's like we've said, we've got each other, for as long as we want. Right?"

"Fuck yeah!" Brett whispered back. "Can I ask you one more thing?"

"Sure," came the ready reply.

"Are you worrying about anything, like, when we get home, or with school or stuff? Because if you are, don't," Brett hastily added.

Alex just shrugged. "Honestly? Nope, nada, zilch. Listen, don't take this wrong, okay? But right now, one way to look at it is we're kind of like best friends with benefits, when it comes to this sex stuff, right? But if we stick to what you've been telling me all along, we both know it's a lot more than just … what, getting off, I guess. We'll be brothers forever. Understand? So, no, I don't worry about it. If we never do anything again, I've got a lifetime of everything I need right now." He paused, and then lowered his voice. "But, I kind of hope we're not finished, you know? Because… I still need you, Brett. I still need you."

Brett smiled widely. "I need you, too. Sometimes I keep asking myself how I got so lucky to find you, you know?" he whispered, then leaned in and rubbed noses with his best friend. "So, tell me, can I kiss you again? Like, right now?"

Alex pressed. "Not if I end up kissing you first…"

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