Pawn Takes Knight
They dressed quickly and opened the tent. The cool, late morning air rushed in, sweeping the tent as they came out. Max stretched and felt all of his muscles harden and tighten as the cold kissed his exposed skin. A breeze through the thick swath of elms, oaks and white birches tried to lift Max's hair, but it was still damp and clumpy, clinging to his forehead and the nape of his neck. His body tingled as his warmth mixed with the coolness around him and the generally relaxed feel of his muscles shifting let him feel more in touch with nature.
He cast his senses about, letting his telepathic power sweep through the area. He couldn't feel anyone around, aside from Cameron, and Cameron filled his senses in so many ways. Cam stood beside Max, stretching his arms out. Max dropped to a knee, tying his shoe laces. His skin felt springy and refreshed in the morning air, and the squishy feeling in his butt started to tighten up as he moved. His body was still charged and relaxed at the same time.
Max turned over his shoulder and smiled back at the older boy. "That race still on?" Max asked, his grin turning competitive. The immortality of youth quickened in his eyes.
"Uhhhh, you're on!" Cam shouted suddenly, dashing forwards. He took the first turn around a boulder three steps ahead of Max, flying over the ground. He leapt high over a boulder and dropped nearly three feet down the slope of the bank, cutting harshly to the left as he landed.
"Hey! No fair!" Max charged over the lip of the ledge, dropping straight down three body lengths before hitting the ground. He let his legs take the shock, sinking nearly down to his butt before rising and taking off after Cam, in hot pursuit. He rounded a small pile of boulders and found himself back on the winding trail that led down to water's edge.
Not gonna catch up to those long legs this way, Max realized. He stared down the slope, watching as Cam raced down the constant switchbacks of the trail and made up his mind. Standing like a skier, he leapt over the steep side of the bank and half slid down the carpet of fallen leaves. He kept popping his hips as he'd touch the ground, changing direction and bouncing back against the slope. Nearly catching up with Cam, he risked a blind leap over a low, flat boulder. He passed right over Cam's head and took a three step lead around the corner of the next switchback.
But he had too much speed and slipped, tumbling a good twenty feet down the embankment before fetching up short against a leafy pile, just shy of a thick, rounded chunk of weathered granite. Cam came over, shouting his name, a worried look on his face. Cam rolled Max over only to find the younger boy laughing hysterically.
"You should have seen the look on your face as I passed you," Max said through a giggling fit. "Ah, classic!"
"That's not funny!" Cam said, slapping his hand on Max's jacket sleeve. "I was worried."
"Sorry, Eeyore," Max said, sitting up. "I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing at me. I was the one dumb enough to try down hill leaf skiing, without the skis."
"It was kinda awesome watching you do that. I had no idea you could even make it work like that."
"Me neither. Let's go wash up so we can get dirty again."
"I like the way you think, Elf," Cameron said. You too, Max nearly thought back, but he held his telepathic powers in check.
They clambered down the rest of the way to water's edge, where a fall of time and water worn boulders formed a natural alcove, screened from the farther bank by low hanging branches and the rocks themselves. The sheltered spot was well known to most of the local kids as a good fishing spot, a place to go swimming in the summertime, a convenient bathroom should the need occur in the forest and as a good place to lace up skates should the river ever freeze solid enough for good old fashioned pond hockey in the winter.
Cameron and Max headed to this spot because of its access to the water and its privacy. It would also keep them out of the wicked winds that hawk across the river in late October. Once at the spot, they cast their jackets onto a nearby rock and shrugged out of their shirts. Max had brought a fresh shirt and a clean set of underwear down from his pack. Cameron simply brought the whole backpack with him, pulling a washcloth and a face towel out as he similarly shucked his shirt.
"You came prepared," Max noticed. "We aren't gonna do anything down here are we. It's a bit nippy out."
"From the looks of it, it's a bit nipply out as well," Cam said, his eyes flicking briefly down Max's chest.
Max looked down to see his tiny nipples hard and tight. "It's from the cold. Let's hurry and wash."
Cam brought out two large beach towels from this pack and put them within easy reach of the water before sitting on a granite stump to take his shoes off. Max simply stepped on the heels of his tenny-runners and kicked them up onto the thick, pebbly surface of the river bank. His socks came off next, followed by his jeans, ripped off, as it were. He had left his underwear off from the night before, more interested in just getting the sticky sweat off his skin than in covering up. Besides, he had few secrets left that he and Cameron didn't share. Their bodies were definitely not strangers to each other. Not anymore.
Max waded into the water, a few steps, while Cam sat lookout. His blood was thick, used to the cold by living all his twelve previous winters beside this river, but the shock of the water was almost painful. His ankles immediately went numb as he stepped into the muddy shallows. Still, the river was mostly fed by melting snow run off from the mountains in New Hampshire. It might be melted snow, but not melted by much.
"Geeze, it's frigid!" Max called out, quickly settling himself down into the water, letting it rise just above the tops of his thighs. As cold as it was, he wasn't going to risk going too deep. It would be much easier to just splash the water up over his body where it wasn't already covered by necessity. His shivering started almost at once, his small muscles shaking visibly along his rib cage. His hairless penis started to back up inside his body, shriveling into the protection of his foreskin.
"Well, hurry up and I'll help you stay warm," Cameron said, picking up a towel. His feet were bare now, but he had kept his jeans on, his bare chest turning red with a tracing of blood vessels in the chilly air. He looked less like Eeyore this morning. His smile seemed more alive and awake then contented with being gloomy.
Max quickly splashed and rubbed the gift of the river over his body, gasping as the icy water traced around his skin, infecting him with more shivers and tickles from the icy droplets. It didn't take him long to feel that he had done enough cleaning an now needed some warming. Standing suddenly, and gasping as cold air touched skin just getting used to cold water, he dashed up the slight bank and practically jumped into Cameron's arms, the outstretched towel easily wrapping him in terrycloth warmth.
"You forgot to wash your hair," Cam teased, sniffing in Max's clean sweat scent.
"Not that you'd notice, eh?"
"Well, I'd notice. You look totally cute like this. Wish I could take a picture."
"Wish it weren't so freakin' cold today," Max said, watching an errant breeze stir leaves higher up the river bank.
"We'll be warm again soon enough, Maxy," Cam whispered into his ear.
Max quickly dried himself, with plenty of help from Cameron and got his fresh boxer briefs on. He watched as Cameron slipped out of his own jeans and headed for the shoreline. Max quickly dressed, pulling his socks on in one swift motion, cheating just a bit with his telekinesis while Cam splashed about in the icy waters below. He slipped into his fresh shirt and was just tugging his jeans up when Cam came out of the water, dripping wet, hair to toes.
"Towel! Quick!" Cam shouted. Max held the second towel open as his lover sprinted the last few feet from the river's edge. Cam collapsed into Max's arms, wrapping himself deep in the towel's thirsty terrycloth. "Now that," Cameron began, his words breaking the pattern of his chattering teeth, "is what the Fins call bracing cold!"
"You don't look like you need braces," Max quipped.
"That was a bad joke, Maxy. Surely you can do better."
"Let's get you dry and into something suitable for hiking back up the Watch," Max said, a twinkle in his eye. "Then I'll show you something I can do better!"
"I've created a monster," Cam said with mock drama. "Fuckenstein!"
"Oh, for that I may have to torture you," Max replied, using the other towel to help dry Cameron's shaggy mop of hair. "I guess we should have thought about soap and shampoo as well, huh?"
"We'll know better next time."
That brought Max's hair drying to a halt. He suddenly looked very upset. Cam noticed the change and immediately turned his head. "Maxy? Hey, you're off in the distance again. What's wrong, my love?"
"Just thinking," Max replied, almost on automatic.
"I don't smell any smoke," Cam quipped back, trying to lighten Max's mood. It didn't seem to phase the younger boy. "No, really, what's the deal?"
"I was just thinking about the future. Not like the Star Trek future or the holidays future, but just Monday."
"Yeah," Max said, his face scrunching up into his thoughtful mode. "Like what we do when we pass each other in the halls now."
"Oh," Cam said, his Eeyore expression coming back, a sad little smile that barely moved his face. "I see."
"I mean, other couples can touch and pass notes and even kiss in the hallways at school, as long as the teachers don't see. We can't even do that. And we see each other all the time. Especially in gym."
"Oh, geeze, you're right. We'll actually see each other naked in gym at least twice a week," Cam said, grinning ironically. "How can we stand the strain?"
"Would you not make fun of me, for a moment, Eeyore. I'm serious. I don't know if I can contain this anymore. I mean, sooner or later, something we do will tip people off about how we feel about each other. The kids at school might be dull at algebra, but they can probably do simple math really quick."
"I know," Cam said. "And it'll kill me not to be able to hold you every time I see you, but, what can we do? If we show off around school… it'll be like Pembrooke all over again."
Max knew exactly what Cam was talking about. Pembrooke Regional High School was still dealing with the repercussions of a football camp scandal from the previous year. One of the boys on the team was found out, talking to another boy in hopes of the two of them getting together. But it turned into a set up. Five members of the football team trapped the kid and forced him to do things, even cramming foreign objects into his rectum. Then they beat him within an inch of consciousness, group raped him and left him for dead.
The boy had been brave enough to name his attackers after he had recovered and several school officials were suddenly without jobs because they failed to supervise the football players properly. It was a sad day for local schools, but even sadder for many of the local kids. Those who were gay were now even more frightened of coming out, and those that weren't were terrified of being branded as such and then attacked.
"I know. There are no coincidences," Max said, and he looked deep into Cam's eyes. "I will be strong for you, you know. I'll never let anyone know."
"I know. You are my strength, Max. As much as I am older than you,"
"And wiser," Max interrupted.
"That remains to be seen," Cam joked. "But you are why I can be so brave."
"I'm glad I took a chance on you," Max said, kissing Cam's forehead. "I know where I belong now."
"Right here?" Cam asked, taking Max in a tight embrace.
"Something like that, yeah," Max agreed. "Enough loafing, Eeyore. Get some pants on so we can go get our pants off again."
"Sir, yessir!" Cameron said, rubbing the towel over himself rapidly. He dropped the towel, bent over at the waist and slowly pulled his jeans on, giving Max a leering glance and wiggling his butt as he pulled them up. Max smiled, all his concentration on Cameron. His smile, his dour expression that could shift so easily into that shy smile. The flash of brilliance as he smiled fully, teeth showing. He wanted to find out everything he could about his lover. He wanted to know Cameron from all aspects, his light side and his dark one. He wanted it almost as much as he wanted Cam to know all his own secrets.
Max suddenly felt that all could be right in the world, once they got older, once they got through the messy business of growing up. He could trust Cam, with everything. Perhaps in a week, once he had a chance to talk to Michael, he could actually tell Cam about his powers. He smiled at the thought that he could be growing up already in love, with someone who was already in love with him. And all of it, the world, his powers, his brother's happy concern and his own feelings for Cameron seemed to fall fully into place. His fears for the future would wait. For now, Max found that he was happy with life, for the first time in a long while. And that, for now, was enough.
Cam had pulled his socks on, and was sliding into his shoes when Max felt it. A stirring in the ether, as it were. Not so much intruding thoughts, but the type of screen against intruding thoughts that Michael had helped him build. And it was moving!
Someone was walking towards the sheltered cove; no, several some ones, and with a purpose. Max stretched out his senses, straining to reach past their screen. Their feet were silent on the well worn path of switchbacks, but their mental intent was clear. They had evil on their minds, violence in their hearts and…
They're coming for me?! Max realized. He quickly ran at Cameron, scooping up their jackets as he moved. The danger was real, and he was about to find out exactly what it was that Michael had been trying to prepare him for.
"Cam, we got to get going! Now!" Max said, hurriedly as Cam tied his last shoe on.
"What's the rush, Maxy. We've got all day to…"
"No, Eeyore, we aren't alone. Hurry! Here, take your jacket."
"I don't understand. What's the matter?"
Max was about to respond when he felt his senses dull down, going flat. His ears seemed to be listening through a long sewer pipe, his vision almost lost color, going dim. He even had trouble sensing up or down.
"The matter is, gay-boy, that you're about to be in a world of hurt." The voice had all the cruelty and malice of a mafia street thug. Cam glanced around, trying to figure out where the voice had come from. As he turned, he saw Max starting to fall to the ground and rushed a step in to catch him.
"Maxy?!" Cam shouted, trying to ease his lover to the ground. Max was dizzy, his senses sending him through a chaotic loop of hyper sensitive impressions and dulled down reality. Nothing made sense. He felt as though he were being twisted and spun, ripped, stretched and torn all at once, and then squashed into a cube, as though trapped in a giant car crusher.
"Max, come on, snap out of it," Cam said, reaching for his shirt as he tried to heft Max up onto a shoulder.
"It's no use, kid. He wont be able to hear you for a while. Our boy has done his job well." Three men stepped out of the trees, from behind boulders. All had on ski masks and wore long, black trench coats. Cameron gulped in fear. One of the men held a leather strap tied to the neck of another young boy, about 14 years old. The boy wore no mask, but his face was wholly inhuman. His features were wreathed in a feral snarl, and his attention was riveted solely on Max.
Cam turned trying to pick Max up and was struck from behind, his knee bending in from the force of the blow. But in that second, Cam managed to break the feral boy's gaze on Max. It was all the help Max needed.
He activated his body focus, the power roaring in his ears. Cam hit the ground, yelping in pain as a second blow was coming at him. Max saw the baton and it's wielder as a unified whole and reacted. His eyes blazed with energy as he lashed out, a wave of telekinetic force slamming into the masked man like a wave breaking on rocky shoreline.
"You'll not touch him again!" Max shouted, barely keeping his rage in check. Winds howled about him and he felt nearly as though he was bursting with energy. The three other long coats stepped forwards, batons held menacingly, the one holding the feral boy's leash let it go, grabbing out his own baton as well.
"Sic 'em, Zeke!" the handler shouted. The feral boy grinned evilly and charged. Max realized that he was severely out numbered and likely to get killed if he and Cam resisted too hard and didn't win. But he wasn't going to just stand by and let things happen to Cam either.
"Run, Cam! Run!" Max shouted, hoping that Cam could at least get clear enough to let Max unleash his powers without worrying about hurting his lover. But, before he could formulate a plan, the feral boy was upon him, leaping, bearing Max to the ground.
"I'll eat your mind, yankee-boy!" the feral screamed, his southern accent dripping in hate.
"Try this first, fucker!" Max shouted, blasting up with a straight thrust of telekinetic power. But something happened, and the power of Max's shove was blunted. Max barely managed to roll out from under the feral's grasp, the boy's breath stinking in his face.
"Surprise! You ain't the only one with the magic!"
"Maybe not, but I'm the only one walking away from this fight intact," Max said low. Behind him, he could sense Cameron trying to get to his feet, only to have them knocked out from under him again. Max's hate spiked and he was about to use his powers to rip the feral limb from limb when Cam cried out.
"Max, behind you!"
The blow struck his temple just as he was turning. Had he still had his back turned, the truncheon would have put his lights clean out. Dazed, Max fell to the ground, feeling his power slip away again.
They have the power too, Max thought. *MIKE! HELP!* he sent, but he heard it echo. Somehow that didn't seem to be a good sign. Max concentrated as a fresh kick landed against his back. He brought up his body focus just after the kick and managed to barely keep it up as the attackers gathered around. He could hear Cameron whimpering in pain and yelping as the masked men gathered around them and kicked repeatedly, occasionally deigning to reach down and smash into Cam's ribs with their batons.
Max rolled over, trying to turn towards the feral boy, intent on taking out at least one threat before he passed out from all the hits. But instead of using his telekinetic power, which was focused on shielding his body from the rain of heavy boots and baton strikes, he went to his telepathy.
Max reached out and stabbed his own thoughts into the feral's mind. It wasn't as hard as he'd thought it would be, after the feral had so easily blunted his direct force attack. Once inside, Max simply surged all of his anger, his rage and his pain into the other boy's head, pushing as hard as he could.
The feral looked up and then arched his back in pain. His hands flew to his head and he cried out. Max kept the pressure up and then snarled, low, "burn in hell, you bastard!"
The feral pitched forward, blood streaming down his nose and ears, his eyes tightened in a look of shock and pain. And then he twitched a few times and was silent.
"He's burned Zeke out! Smash 'im up good, boys! We're takin' both of 'em back."
Max fell over, suddenly feeling terribly weak. His body focus was drained and barely held off the worst of the kicks. His eyes began to de-focus as he rolled over, looking at where Cam was getting much the same treatment. A kick came right at Max's eyes and the lights went out.