Tuesday finally arrived and Trevor couldn't wait to get home. This was the night he was going to go to his first Scout meeting with Jake. He quickly put his bike away and hurried into the house. He got a quick snack, and then got to work on his homework. He finished everything just as his mom got home.
"Hi, honey. How was your day?"
"Fine. I'm just finishing my homework."
She looks at him speculatively.
"Who are you, and what did you do with my son?"
"Mooomm! I just wanted to get it done, so I don't have to do any later tonight."
"Why, what's so special for tonight. I thought we could sit and enjoy a good movie together."
"You know that tonight is the Scout meeting."
She gave him a quick hug and kissed the top of his head.
"I know, I just wanted to mess with my favorite guy."
Trevor smiled as he finished up his homework and then put everything back in his backpack. He went to his room for a while. His mom called him for dinner. After everything was cleaned up, Trevor gave his mom a goodbye hug and kissed her on the cheek, and then went out the door and across the street. He knocked on Jake's door. Jake opened the door and invited him in.
"Good evening, buddy."
"Hi, Jake. Thanks for doing this."
"I'll be ready in a few. How about you, all ready to go?"
"Yep, I can't wait."
Jake finished what he was doing and rejoined Trevor in the living room.
"Okay, let's go."
They went out to the Jeep and got in. As they backed out, they saw Sandy at her front door. She waved to them as they drove away. They got to the church where the troop met and went inside a small hall. As soon as they got inside, they saw that the troop was assembling for the start of the meeting. While they were standing and watching, Trevor was suddenly engulfed from behind by four arms and jumped. Jake was clapped on the back. They both turned around and saw Tom, Zach and Jared. Jared and Zach were in their scout uniforms.
"Hi Trev, glad to see you could finally make it. We have to go get with our patrol for the start of the meeting, so we'll see ya in a little bit."
They rushed over to get in their patrol line. Tom turned to Jake and Trevor.
"Hey, guys. Glad to see you here. I'll bring Mike Helman over after they get things going. He's the Scoutmaster."
The meeting was started with the Pledge of Allegiance and a short prayer. After the scouts got busy with the meeting, Tom brought over a guy who looked about the same size as Jake, except he was a little older; he looked to be in his early 40's, with some white in his red hair. His skin was tanned with some lines just starting around his blue eyes. He appeared to spend a lot of time outdoors a lot.
"Jake, Trevor, this is Mike Helman, Scoutmaster for Troop 76. Mike, this is my business partner Jake MacLaren, and this is Trevor Garrity. Trevor is the one that I told you about that is interested in joining the troop."
Mike smiled and shook their hands.
"Hi, guys. So Trevor, have you ever been in Scouts before?"
"Yes sir. I was a Cub Scout when me and my mom lived in the valley, but haven't been in it for a couple of years."
"That's a good start; we'll get you set up and ready in no time. Why don't you go get with Zach and Jared and see what's going on while I talk with your Dad here."
Trevor smiled and ran off; he deliberately didn't correct Mike. Mike, Jake and Tom went over to a table that had a portable file case on it and sat down. Mike opened the case and looked through it, and then took some paperwork out and handed it to Jake.
"Mike, before we go any farther, I think you should know, I'm not Trevor's father. I am a friend of him and his mom, and I told her that I would be glad to take Trevor to these meetings for her. His dad died in a car accident a couple of years ago. I just didn't want there to be any expectations of me signing official forms and things like that."
"No problem. It's good that you're taking the time to help him."
"I'm happy to. He's a great kid. I do have some papers that his mom already filled out."
Jake handed over the paperwork that Sandy had signed. Mike took them and looked them over. He then went to the forms that he had pulled out and took a few of them out and put them to the side. He put the few that were left in a stack and attached a paper clip to them before he handed them to Jake.
"Ok, I have just a couple that need his mom's signature. If you can fill out the others that don't need a signature, then that would be helpful; if not we can wait. For the rest of the papers, can you get these papers to his mom, so she can fill them out and sign them, and you can get it back to me at next week's meeting? One of them is also a physical form. He'll have to get that filled out before he can go on an outing, so that's pretty important. The rest is just some personal information."
"Sure, be glad to."
Jake started filling out the forms that he could and put the others to the side. Tom and Mike talked for a bit with Mike glancing over to the troop activities from time to time; occasionally another adult came by to ask about something or one of the scouts came by. When Jake finished what he could, he handed them to Mike. Mike gave them a quick glance and smiled.
"Great, thanks, that'll help. So, Jake, you an outdoors person? Hiking, backpacking, that sort of thing?"
"Yeah, I've done a bit of that."
Tom cracked up. Mike looked at him with a quizzical look on his face.
"Ignore him, Mike. Tom and I were in the military together. We had to do a bit of that from time to time."
"Yeah, you could say we've done a bit of hiking."
Jake gave Tom a dirty look, which he ignored.
"I don't do much hiking anymore, but I have done some in the past."
"Good, we can always use someone with experience to help on some of the outings. We have a ten mile roundtrip backpack trip coming up soon. You're welcome to come along; we can use the help. Not a lot of the other parents have experience and not many of them go along, especially backpacking. Tom's gone with us a few times; you're welcome to go also. We'd need to get you certified for Youth Protection but that shouldn't be a problem. There is some training coming up in a couple of weeks, which you could attend. It's on a Saturday, if that's all right. I have the contact information with me."
"Sure. I see no problem doing that."
"Good, here's the stuff."
Mike reached into his case and pulled another form out, and handed it to Jake.
"We also need to have you registered with the troop, so you need to fill this form out and return it to me."
Mike handed Jake the paperwork, then left to oversee the meeting. Jake started filling out the registration form for himself, while Tom went to watch the boys. Trevor was over with Zach and Jared and their patrol getting to know everybody. Zach was handling the introductions.
"Okay guys, this is our friend Trevor; he is just joining the troop, and Mr. Helman said that he can be in our patrol, since we have been one down for a while. Trevor, this is the patrol leader John Howard, that's Beauregard Richards, but he prefers Beau, that's Stuart Gordon and of course you know us. Welcome to the Wolf Patrol."
"Good to meet everyone. So what do we do now?"
"Well, we are working on learning some knots. Beau and I are helping to get the rest of you guys up to the next ranks. Why don't I start working with you, Trevor, while Beau works with the others?"
"'Cool, John, thanks."
John grabbed a couple of pieces of rope and started teaching him the square knot, until he got it down, then started working on a couple of the easier ones. Mike and Tom watched as Trevor was incorporated into the patrol. The meeting eventually ended. Trevor stayed with the patrol as they ended the meeting. Jake walked over to where Mike was standing and handed him the paperwork. Mike looked it over and nodded.
"You'll need to get that physical form filled out too and returned as soon as you can."
"Sure, I should be able to have it at the next meeting."
Jake went back over to stand next to Tom as they watched the end of the meeting. When the meeting ended, the boys went over to where Jake and Tom were waiting. Mike came over to the group.
"Thanks for coming, guys, it was nice to meet you and welcome to the troop. Trevor, I think you're going to have a pretty good time with us. See you guys next week."
"Bye and thanks, Mike."
"Yeah, thanks Mr. Helman."
They got in their cars and drove back home. Trevor was excited as they drove home. He told Jake about the patrol and what he had learned. Jake smiled as he listened. They pulled into Jake's driveway and got out. Trevor ran around and hugged Jake.
"Thanks, Jake. Thanks for taking me."
"I was glad to do it. I know you'll like it."
Trevor let Jake go. Jake gave him the paperwork to give to his mom. He took it, then ran across the street. Jake watched as he went into the house, and then he went inside. Dee greeted him as he entered. A couple of minutes later the phone rang. Jake went over and answered it. Sandy was on the other end.
"Hi Jake, thanks for taking him. He is so wound up with excitement, I hope I can get him to bed on time. I'll get all this paperwork filled out and give it to you in time for the next meeting. There was a list of the uniform and equipment that he will need, some right away and some later. You want to go with us when we get it?"
"He really looked like he was having a good time. I'll be glad to go with you guys when you get the stuff. Why don't you let me look at the list tomorrow or whenever, and I'll see what he may need now and what we'll need to get him later. They told me about a backpack trip next month, so he might need some stuff for that if he wants to go. We can get that kind of stuff too. Some of the stuff we can rent until we see if he really likes it, so you aren't putting out a bunch of money, then he finds out that he doesn't really like doing some of this stuff. I doubt he'll dislike it, but you never know."
"That sounds good. Thanks again for the help. Bye…oh wait a minute, Trevor wants to talk to you."
There was a pause as the phone changed hands, before he heard Trevor come on.
"Hi, Jake, thanks again for taking me. Can I come over tomorrow after school and show you the list?"
"Sure, come on over. See you tomorrow."
"Goodnight Jake, love you."
The phone hung up. Jake smiled at the enthusiasm of the boy and put the handset back in the cradle. He settled in for the night with some TV, before he went to bed.
Jake was just getting out of the Jeep the next afternoon when he was almost knocked back into the car by a hurtling body with arms. The arms wrapped around Jake from behind.
"Hi, Jake. Glad you're home."
"Yeah, I guess so. Where'd you come from? I didn't even see you. It's good to see you too."
"I was waiting for you to come home."
"Well, if you haven't crippled me with that tackle, we can go inside."
Trevor let him go and they went inside. Jake led him into the kitchen; he got some ice tea from the fridge and poured two glasses.
"I'll be right back. Let me go get comfortable."
Jake went into his bedroom and changed into some shorts and a t shirt. He came back out and saw Trevor looking over a paper that he got from the troop the night before. He took a sip out of his drink and went back to reading the paper. Dee was sitting next to him and he was absently petting him. He looked up as he heard Jake returned to the kitchen.
"Dee was pawing at the back door so I let him in, was that okay?"
"That was fine, thanks."
Jake came over and patted Trevor on the back, then gave him a quick kiss on the top of his head. He reached over to his glass and took a big drink.
"Aw good, I needed that."
Jake looked over Trevor's shoulder at the list. They both studied it for a few moments.
"That looks easy enough. We can go to the scout shop for the uniform and the patches that you will need, and then take them to a tailor who can put them on for us, unless your mom wants to do a lot of sewing. The camping things we should go to REI for them."
"That sounds all right. How do you know all this stuff?"
Jake smiled as Trevor looked up at him and Jake crooked his finger with a 'come with me' motion. Trevor got up and followed Jake. They walked into Jake's office, where Trevor had never been before, and Jake silently pointed at something on the wall. Trevor came into the room and looked at what Jake was pointing at. There on the wall were some shadow boxes. Two of them looked like they had a shirt in them. Trevor recognized them as a Cub Scout uniform shirt with a lot of badges on it. The other was a Boy Scout uniform shirt, there on the pocket of the shirt was an Eagle Scout badge. Trevor looked at Jake.
"You were an Eagle Scout? Cool."
"Yep. I got it when I was 17. My mom had these made. She gave them to me when I moved in here, so I hung them up with the other stuff from my job and when I was a sheriff and in the military."
Trevor walked around the room looking at all the pictures and things on the wall. Every so often he pointed at some of the pictures that showed Jake standing with different actors and other celebrities that Jake had on the wall, all of them signed by the person in the picture, and then he looked at Jake with a questioning look. Jake smiled and nodded.
"This is pretty cool, Jake. You've done a lot of stuff."
"Yeah, it can be pretty cool sometimes. Sometimes the people I protect are real ass…uh…jerks, but for the most part they are pretty nice people."
"This is pretty neat in here."
"Well, I like it. I sometimes work from home. I can keep up with what I need to keep an eye on. So it is real handy having this office."
They went back into the kitchen and looked at the list again.
"Well, buddy, I guess it's probably time for you to get back home for dinner and I'll see you this weekend."
Trevor gave Jake a quick hug and left for his home across the street. He went inside and got to work on his homework. That night in bed he said a prayer as he lay in bed.
"Thanks, God, for Jake. He is the best thing that has happened to me since my Dad died. He is real cool and I really love him. I'll never forget my Dad, but maybe Jake and my mom will get together and then we'll be a family. If that happens, that will be a big one I owe you. Let my Dad know that I love him. G'night."
That weekend Trevor, Jake and Sandy went to get his uniform and equipment. They went to the Scout Shop first to get the uniform and patches that he needed. After that they went to REI. Once there Trevor ran around looking at everything. They got him a sleeping bag, hiking boots, plates and utensils, headlight and everything a boy would need for a campout.
"This is really nice of you, Jake."
"Well if he's going to be a Scout, he should be doing it with good equipment, and they have some of the best stuff here."
"Well, I will pay you back, you know."
"Don't worry about it, I call it an investment in his future, and if it is okay with you, I would like to be part of that future. I feel great just being with him. It's like there was something missing and he fills it. Course… you help a bit yourself."
She laughed and took his hand, giving it a squeeze. They helped Trevor get his stuff and left. As soon as they got home, he ran to his bedroom and looked over all the stuff that Jake had gotten for him, while Sandy and Jake sat in the living room for a while.
"I'll take the uniform and patches and get them all sewed on. Tom told me of a place down off the 405 near Valley View and Chapman where they can do that."
"Well I guess I'll get going. I have a couple of things to look over for work. I'll see you later."
"See you, Jake, and thanks again."
They got up and went to the door. Before he left, he turned to her and gave her a quick kiss, then walked back home.
At the next meeting Trevor was proud to be in his uniform, and they had a good meeting, Trevor learned what he needed to do to get the rank of Scout, the beginning rank in Boy Scouts. They also did some planning and talking about the upcoming outing. Mike Helman came up to Jake and Tom where they were sitting in the back watching the boys.
"Jake, Tom, nice to see you again. I have a favor to ask: I need some people to go with us on the outing? I am kind of short on drivers to get all the boys to the trailhead for this weekend, and it would also help, since you've been backpacking before, if you could go along with us. It's not a real far hike, we're just going up into the Angeles Forest, so it wouldn't be a long trip to go on. I could really use your help if you're up to it."
"What do you think, Tom? It's been a few years since we last hiked. We don't have anything pressing this weekend that we have to be in town for, do we?"
"I don't think so. Sure, Mike, I guess we could dust off the old packs and join you guys. It should be fun."
"Great, you guys are life savers. I thought I might have had to cancel, because we have to have at least two adults on the trip and the Assistant Scoutmaster, Jim, couldn't make it. This way we won't have to ask many parents to drive up and back. We will meet here at the church Saturday morning and drive up to the trailhead; it should only take about an hour or so to get there." "Jake and I will get a couple of the company Suburbans, that should help."
"Yeah, great. Thanks for the help. We'll see you Saturday."
The meeting ended and the boys said goodbye. Trevor got into Jake's jeep and they drove home. When Jake pulled into his driveway, he and Trevor got out. Trevor came around the jeep and gave Jake a hug.
"Thanks for getting me the uniform and stuff."
"I was happy to do it, buddy. In a few days we'll go and get a backpack rented for you, so you're all ready for this outing, okay? Make sure you let your mom know; we'll stop and get some hamburgers or something after we get the backpack."
"Sure, thanks, Jake. See ya then."
He waved as he ran back across the street. Jake watched him with a smile on his face until Trevor went inside, then he entered his house. He grabbed his backpacking equipment out of the garage and brought it into the house. He made sure he had everything he needed and that it was in good condition. Then he went to bed.
On Thursday, as soon as Jake pulled into his driveway, Trevor came running across the street.
"Hey, Trevor. How's it going?"
"Fine. Are we still going?"
"Yep, did you tell your mom?"
"Yeah, she said it was okay."
"Okay, come on in. I'll get Dee some food and get changed and we'll get going."
They went inside and Dee was right there at the back door, waiting for attention. They both played with him for a bit before they went to the kitchen for his food.
"I'll feed him, Jake, while you get changed."
Jake went to his room and got changed while Trevor fed Dee. He came out in a few minutes wearing jeans and t-shirt. Trevor met him in the living room.
"Okay, let's go."
They got into the jeep and left. They went to Sport Chalet at the Long Beach Town Center and went to the rental counter. In just a few minutes they had a backpack and it was adjusted for Trevor. Trevor was smiling the whole time. They decided instead of hamburgers to have barbeque, so they went to Lucille's, since it was right there in the center. The meal was good and they eventually pushed themselves away. When they got back to Jake's, Trevor got the backpack out and put it on. He hugged Jake again and started across the street.
"Remember to pack everything like they talked about. If you have any questions, don't forget to call Zach or Jared, they'll help you out."
"Okay, thanks, Jake. See you Saturday."
Jake waved and then went in for the evening, once Trevor had gone inside his house. They followed what had become their standard ritual of waving to each other before going inside. Trevor showed his mom the backpack and then went to his room. He leaned the backpack against the wall and went to his computer and booted it up. He logged onto the chat site and saw that Zach was on.
Tgar: Hey Zach.
ZachWonDo: Tigger. How's it going?
Tgar: Everything's cool. Jake and I went to Sport Chalet and he rented me a backpack for this weekend.
ZachWonDo: Cool. You're going to love it.
Tgar: Yeah, I can't wait. Well see ya tomorrow. I just wanted to tell you about it.
ZachWonDo: Yeah, cool. See ya
Trevor signed off, shut down the computer and stripped down for bed. He read for a little while. His mom came in and said goodnight. He put the book away and turned off the light.
Early Saturday morning, Jake had his backpack loaded into the back of one of the company Suburbans. He had already gotten Trevor's packed backpack the night before and loaded it in the truck, so that they were ready to go Saturday morning. Trevor still didn't know that Jake was going along, and Jake wanted to surprise him when they got to the church. He was dressed in a t shirt and hiking pants himself. He went across the street and knocked on the door. The door was opened immediately by Trevor, who greeted him with a grin. His mom was coming from the kitchen as Jake entered the house.
"Good Morning, Jake, I'm all ready to go."
"Okay, then grab your jacket and we'll get going. Hi, Sandy."
"Hi, Jake. Thanks for giving him a ride there."
"I was going that way anyway, so it wasn't a problem."
"Well, thanks anyway. Have a good time, honey."
"I will, Mom, thanks."
Trevor started out the door and across the street, Jake looked back at her as they left and pointed to himself and then at Trevor. She looked at him puzzled and mouthed, "Are you going?", while pointing at Trevor. He smiled, nodded and waved bye to her. She smiled as she shut the door. She thought to herself 'Trevor's going to flip'.
They got into the Suburban and drove off. When they got to the church, a lot of the boys were there already. They were busy getting their backpacks out of their parents' cars and into a pack line. Zach and Jared were there, and Tom was standing near Mike Helman talking to him; he was dressed in his hiking clothes ready to go. Zach and Jared started over to Jake. Jake pointed to Trevor, pointed to himself, and then shook his head. They looked at him puzzled, and then nodded when they figured out that Trevor didn't know about Jake going. They greeted Trevor. Jake got Trevor's backpack out of the SUV as if he was just dropping Trevor off, while the twins were talking to him, and then he shut the rear door. He handed the pack to Trevor and the twins brought him over to where the pack line was, and then over to where the boys were gathering in their patrol lines. Food and troop gear was distributed and everyone was gathered back together for final instructions. Mike was up front with the Senior Patrol Leader, Jeff Hunt.
"Okay, everyone give me your attention. We are all ready to head out. When you are dismissed, go to the pack line, pull out your packs, and go to one of the drivers that are going with us. Just so you know who they are, they are myself, Mr. Browning here to my right, and Mr. MacLaren back there."
When Mike said Jake's name, Trevor whirled around and looked at Jake with his mouth dropping open. Jake was just standing by his truck with the back door of the Suburban open, grinning. Inside you could see Jake's backpack loaded up. The boys went to their packs and then to the drivers. Zach and Jared waved to their dad as they joined Trevor, who was almost running over to Jake's truck. Jake was still grinning as he took their packs and loaded them in. After he turned to put Trevor's pack inside, he felt a punch to his back; he whirled around
"Oww, hey, what was that for?"
Trevor looked at him with a mock angry look.
"That's for tricking me and not telling me you were going."
"Sorry, I wanted to surprise you."
Jake was suddenly enveloped in a strong hug that he returned.
"Trev, buddy, can't breathe, must have air."
"Thanks, Jake, this is way cool. You're the best."
"No, you are. Let's get everything loaded up and get going."
Trevor released him and he loaded the last few backpacks for the rest of his passengers. He was mildly surprised to see that two of them were Zach and Jared. The others were the rest of Wolf Patrol, John, Beau and Stuart. They all got in and followed Mike as he left the parking lot. The radio under the dash crackled to life once they got moving down the road.
"Hey, Jake, did you see what traitorous sons I have. They wanted to ride with you instead of their dear old dad. See how I rate?"
Jake picked up the mic.
"Hey, buddy. I don't blame 'em; they've seen you drive. They're safer over here, Terry would never forgive me if I let anything happen to them by riding with you."
All the boys in Jake's car cracked up. When the radio crackled again, you could hear laughter in the background.
"Keep it up and I'll hang you as a bear bag tonight."
There was more laughter in both cars as they drove to the trailhead. It was a pleasant drive, especially when they left the city behind and drove up into the forest. They got to the trailhead and everyone got out. They unloaded their packs from the cars, put them on and headed out on the trail. It was a nice hike. They went down by Switzer Falls and stopped for lunch, then took the trail up Bear Canyon. There were leaves all over the ground as they walked along the stream to the campsite. It was great hiking weather. They eventually got to the campsite and set up camp quickly. The boys had two-man tents so they were all teamed up. Zach teamed up with Trevor, and Jared teamed up with Stuart. The boys played around in the water of the nearby stream and the general area. A few of the boys worked on some rank advancement requirements. All of them were having a great time. The three adults sat back and sipped some coffee and talked while they watched the boys play. Eventually it was time for dinner. The scouts got to work putting the meals together, while Tom worked on cooking up the dinner for the adults. Mike walked around the campsite just in case anyone needed help. The dinners came out good and everyone was sitting around the campfire ring after dinner. Since this year had been a wetter than normal year, they were able to have a small campfire in the fire pit that was at their campsite. Jake was sitting against a rock, Trevor came and sat between his legs and leaned back against him. He took Jake's arms and wrapped them around him and put his hands on top of Jake's clasped hands, then sighed contentedly. Jake bent down a little and gave Trevor a quick kiss on the head. The twins were sitting next to their dad. Tom looked over at Jake and smiled at him and Trevor. The scouts told jokes, and sang some songs. Pretty soon some of them got up and went to play cards at one of the tables. Finally Mike got up and got everyone's attention.
"Okay, guys. We need to make sure the bear bags are secure and since it is almost ten, we need to get to bed. Get all the smellables out of your packs and tents and get them into bear bags. Jeff, get a couple of the guys to put out the fire and get the campsite secured for the night. If any of you aren't going to go to sleep right away, at least keep the noise down. Good night, everyone."
The scouts made sure everything was done and secured for the night, and then got into their tents. A few stayed up for a little while, but most went to sleep quickly enough. Zach and Trevor were both tired, so when they got in the tent, they quickly stripped down to their underwear and t-shirt and got into their sleeping bags. Zach turned on his side facing Trevor and watched as Trevor settled down into his bag and got comfortable. His back was facing Zach. Zach reached out and tapped Trevor on the back while he kept his voice down.
"So, Trev, what do you think about the trip so far?"
Trevor turned over and faced Zach smiling.
"It's pretty cool. I've never been backpacking before."
"I knew you'd like it. I'm real glad you joined the scouts with us. It lets us get to see each other more."
"Yeah, and I'm glad we are in the same classes at school too."
Trevor unzipped his bag a little and tentatively reached over and took Zach's hand, which was lying outside his bag. Zach unconsciously intertwined his fingers in Trevor's.
"Thanks for being my friend, Zach."
"No Tigger, thank you for being mine."
Trevor smiled at Zach's use of the name and they looked at each other in the dim light coming from the moon shining through the tent wall.
"Thanks, Zach. I've been thinking and I don't think I mind if you call me Tigger, but keep it to yourself. I don't want the whole troop calling me that."
"Cool, I like calling you Tigger and I want to keep that just for me. I know some people might call it a kiddy name, but I like it."
"I like hearing you call me that too."
"Now anytime I see Tigger, It's going to remind me of you."
"Cool. Night, Zach."
They looked at each other for a few minutes smiling. Zach saw Trevor bite his lower lip and then open his mouth like he was going to say something, but he closed it instead. Zach wanted to ask him what he wanted to say, but he decided to keep quiet. Trevor looked at him for a few more moments and then sighed; smiling at Zach he closed his eyes. Zach was conscious of the fact that Trevor had not released his hand. Zach felt a stirring inside himself as he felt Trevor's hand in his. He smiled as he watched Trevor lying across from him. In a few minutes, Trevor's breathing changed as he fell asleep. Zach gave a contented sigh and closed his eyes for sleep. He didn't release Trevor's hand.
During the night there was a loud yowl that woke Jake from his sleep. He quickly got out of his tent and saw Tom and Mike do the same. They were looking around the campsite, and heard some of the boys start to stir as well. There were low cries of "What was that?" from some of the boys. Mike walked around to calm them down.
"Nothing to worry about boys. It sounds like just a bobcat doing some hunting nearby. Just go on back to sleep. Everything is fine."
Several of the boys acknowledged what Mike told them.
"Okay, Mr. Helman. Night."
The murmurs from the tents started to die down and the adults were standing together talking quietly.
"Mike, that was no bobcat. That was a mountain lion. I know, I've heard them before."
"Yeah, Jake, I know. I didn't want to frighten the boys. Since there appears to be a mountain lion in the area, you guys want to take turns on watch? I'll take the first watch, then Tom, then Jake."
"Works for me. You have a problem with mid watch, Tom? If so, I'll take it."
"Nah, I'll get you up when it is time, just make sure you have some coffee going by the time you wake us up in the morning."
"No problem, buddy. See you later."
Jake and Tom went back to their tents and got back to sleep. Jake was awakened by a slight shaking of his tent. He heard Tom's voice outside his door.
"Jake, time to get up."
"Thanks, Tom. Anything?"
"Nope, quiet as a grave. It's probably moved on. They are usually more afraid of us then we are of them."
"Yeah, you're probably right. They don't like it around a bunch of people. I'll be right out."
"Okay, bud. Don't take too long, I need my beauty sleep."
"Yeah, ain't it the truth."
He heard Tom chuckling as Jake finished dressing and got out of his tent. He put his fleece jacket on and patted Tom on the back. Tom handed him a cup of coffee.
"Thanks for the coffee, bud."
"It was getting a little cold so I put some hot water on and made some coffee. Nothing to report. All quiet on the western front."
"Okay, I got the watch. Get some sleep. I'll have some coffee going for you when you get up."
"Okay, see ya in few hours Jake."
After he took a couple of sips of the coffee, he put it down on one of the tables and made a circuit of the campsite, looking and listening. As he passed tents, he heard the occasional light snore or movement from the boys sleeping inside. He finished his circuit of the camp and picked up his cup, sat down, and looked around as he sipped the coffee. He glanced up at the ridge and though he saw a quick glow of eyes from the top. It disappeared quickly. He studied the area, but he saw nothing further. After a couple of hours, the sky began to lighten up with the dawn. He watched as it got lighter before he went to awaken the adults. Tom and Mike came out and joined him for some coffee.
"Anything last night, Jake?"
"Nah. I thought I saw something up on that ridge, a couple of hours ago, but I haven't seen anything else. No movement or anything."
"Well, I'm going to get the boys up and working on breakfast. Then we'll break camp and get on back to the cars."
Tom and Jake got working on breakfast while Mike went around shaking tents to roust the boys. Boys slowly started coming out of the tents, hair sticking up every which way and in a variety of sleeping clothes, like sweats or shorts, some didn't come out until they were dressed. They moved off into the woods to pee. Inside Zach and Trevor's tent, Zach woke up feeling real warm. As the fog of sleep left him, he realized that he was partially out of his sleeping bag and Trevor had moved up next to him and had an arm around him. He could feel Trevor's breath on the back of his neck. He slowly turned around, trying not to dislodge Trevor's arm and looked at the boy still sleeping in front of him. He slowly moved his arm so that it was around Trevor's back and quietly studied Trevor's face. He looked at the blond eyebrows and the long lashes of his eyelids. Trevor's mouth was slightly open and Zach could feel his breath as it came out. He looked closely and then he closed the couple of inches between their faces and very gently kissed Trevor and then moved back. Trevor started to stir as they heard the others move around in camp. Zach watched as Trevor slowly blinked awake. As he opened his bright blue eyes, and saw Zach only inches away from him, smiling. He smiled in return and then realized that he had his arm around Zach and he started to pull it back, and move away, but he couldn't. He then felt that Zach had his arm around him and was keeping him next to him.
"Uh-uh. This is fine. I could get used to this."
"Uh… look, Zach… I'm… uh sorry. I didn't mean to. It must have happened while…"
"Shhh. Tigger. I don't mind. Maybe that's why I slept so good last night. I sometimes have a hard time sleeping when we camp, because even with these ground pads, the ground still is a bit hard. But last night a slept real good and when I woke up I felt good and cozy. I can get used to this. How about you, did you sleep good?"
Trevor blushed a little, but he smiled and relaxed at Zach's words.
"Yeah I slept good too. Thanks, Zach."
Trevor tentatively moved his arm back over Zach and moved closer. He put a little pressure into the hold that was answered by Zach, and he laid his head over Zach's as he hugged him. When he moved back, he looked at Zach and had a nervous smile.
"Was that okay… you know… to give you a hug?"
"Anytime, Tigger, anytime."
"I wanted to do that last night, but I didn't want to make you feel weird."
"I like this kind of weird."
"(giggle) Yeah me too. I gotta get up or I'm going to ruin my new sleeping bag."
"Yeah, me too."
The boys got out of their bags and couldn't help but notice each other's tented briefs. They blushed and smiled shyly as they got dressed before they left the tent. They went off to find a place in the woods to pee. Jared watched them from the door of his tent as they left. They were walking close together, bumping shoulders as they walked. They found a secluded place away from everyone else and opened their pants to pee. Both of them glanced down at each other's package, and smiled as they started to pee, the inevitable happened and they started sword fighting, both giggling. When they were done, they headed back to the tents, walking next to each other and bumping shoulders once again.
When they got back, the boys tended to their morning duties by getting everything ready for breakfast. Water was pumped from the stream and the designated cooks started preparing the meals. After eating, everything was cleaned up, and they broke camp and packed everything up. Then with their packs on, they started hiking on the trail back to the parking lot. The day turned out to be just as nice a day to hike out as it was to hike in. The only difference was now they had to go uphill to get out. They got to the trail split that led back up to the trailhead or down toward Switzer Falls. They took a lunch break there. When they finished, one of the boys, Robbie Ansell went up into the woods to pee. Suddenly there was the high-pitched scream of a young boy and Robbie came running back down out of the surrounding woods, trying to get his pants done up. Behind him there was a long tawny body chasing him. The adults got up and ran towards the boy. Jake grabbed a branch off the ground as he moved forward; he yelled to Tom.
"Tom, watch the boys."
Jake and Mike moved forward as the cat slowed down, as they got between it and the boy, Robbie had run back to where the others were. The cat slowed down more and growled at the two adults. They both yelled and waved, trying to scare it off. It slinked forward a little, and then it started to get down into a crouch. Jake saw that it appeared to be gathering itself to spring when a rock suddenly struck its side. It yelped and jumped back a bit, looking at where the rock had come from. Standing there with another rock was Trevor, and behind him were the twins with rocks in their hands. The lion looked at them, and then started to slink forward towards them. Jake started to move forward to hit it with the branch. The lion suddenly stopped moving forward and got what could be best described as a surprised look on its face, and then it stood back up, looked around, and ran off. Jake looked over and saw a look of determination and concentration on the boys' faces. He turned back to see the lion disappear back up the ridge it had come from. Jake looked over to Mike and smiled.
"I guess we scared it off."
"Yeah, looks that way. Let's get these boys out of here."
"Yeah, good idea."
They headed back to the boys. Several of boys were a little scared, but the older ones helped calm the younger ones down.
"Okay, boys, it's gone. You okay, Robbie?"
"Fine, Mr. Helman. But that really scared the sh…piss out of me."
His remark was followed by stunned silence, then everyone started laughing and the tension was released. Mike clapped him on the back as he laughed. Everyone was feeling better as they got their packs on and ready to head out. There were glances from time to time up the canyon, but the lion did not appear.
"Mike, I'll take the sweep position."
"Okay, Jake. Keep your eyes and ears peeled."
"No worries there. It won't get to the boys, if I have anything to say about it, if it is still out there."
They started on the trail and eventually made it back to the trailhead. They got the cars loaded. A ranger was making his rounds and they told him about the encounter with the lion. He thanked them and radioed it in. Zach, Trevor and Jared got in the far back seat of the Suburban. Zach looked over at Trevor and slowly moved his hand to Trevor's. When Trevor didn't stop him, he took it and they entwined their fingers together, keeping their joined hands between them on the seat partially hidden from the others in the SUV. They smiled at each other. Jared noticed and rolled his eyes quietly at them. When all the cars were loaded, the troop headed for home. On the drive home, the boys fell asleep in the cars. Trevor and Zach didn't let go and Zach leaned over and put his head on Trevor's shoulder. Jared leaned against Zach and that was how they slept all the way home. They got back to the church parking lot and started to roust the boys. Jared looked up when they stopped and nudged Zach. He opened his eyes and looked around, as did Trevor. Jared smiled at the two of them before he got out of the car. Everyone got out and unpacked the cars. The boys' parents were there waiting for the return of their sons. All the boys started telling their parents about the trip, including the mountain lion. Now it had become a great adventure instead of the frightening experience that it was. Some of the parent's were a little concerned, but Mike assured them that they had been able to scare it off and the incident was reported to the ranger. Most of them were calmed by that. Robbie's mom took a little more convincing that he was all right, but he calmed her down. Zach and Jared gave Jake a goodbye hug.
"Bye, Uncle Jake. See ya."
He shook Tom's hand and Trevor gave Tom a quick goodbye hug. Trevor, Zach and Jared bumped fists goodbye. Zach left his against Trevor's a few moments longer, before he let it drop. Jake and Trevor said goodbye to everyone and drove off. Jake pulled into the driveway and walked with Trevor back across the street to help him get his stuff home. They went into the house and met Sandy coming out of the kitchen drying her hands on a towel. Trevor rushed over to her and gave her a hug, after he put his backpack down in the living room.
"Hi, Mom. I missed you."
"I missed you too. But pew, you stink. Go get a shower and out of those dirty clothes."
"Okay. Guess what, Mom, we saw a mountain lion on the hike this morning. It almost got one of the other boys."
She got a shocked look on her face. Jake put his hands up to calm her.
"Is that true? Did one of the boys get attacked."
"Not exactly. One of the boys came running out of the woods after going to the bathroom and a mountain lion was following him. It never got close, Mike Helman and I got between them. Then Trevor and the twins pelted it with some rocks from the side, and it ran off. So no one was hurt or in any real danger. It was a freak occurrence. They are usually more afraid of us. We told the rangers about it. They'll probably search for it and if they catch it, they will relocate it as far from the area as possible."
"Trevor, you should have been more careful. That cat could have turned on you quickly."
"It was okay. Jake was there, and when we hit it with the rocks, it… uh… ran off after a… uh, few seconds. So we were safe as we could be."
"Well, okay. But you still should be careful. Now go take a shower."
"Okay, Mom. I'll go get cleaned up."
He went over to Jake, pulled him down, and put his arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek.
"Thanks for going with us, Jake. Are you going to go on other trips with us too?"
"I don't see why not. I had a great time."
"Me too. See ya later."
Trevor went to his room to get his dirty clothes off and get cleaned up. Sandy came over to Jake and gave him a hug and a quick kiss.
"Ugh, you stink too. Why don't you come have dinner with us tonight?"
"Sounds great. I'll get cleaned up and get my stuff put away and be over later."
"Okay, see you then."
She hugged him again and showed him to the door, holding her nose as she pushed him with a finger on his back. He laughed at her as he left. He got his gear out of the Suburban and into the garage. He unpacked everything and put it to the side to give it a good cleaning the next day. Then he went inside and got cleaned up. An hour later he was back across the street, as he walked up to the door, it was flung open by a smiling squeaky clean boy. He went in and ruffled Trevor's hair as he passed him. Trevor closed the door, and then came up to Jake and put his arm around his waist. Jake dropped his arm over Trevor's shoulders, as they walked to the dining room. Trevor directed him to a seat, and then went to his own seat across from Jake. His mom was putting the food on the table.
"Welcome. Jake. I hope you like it. I made comfort food. Meat loaf, mashed potatoes, corn, dinner rolls. Just the thing for hearty backpackers like you guys who have just gotten off the trail."
"Looks great, thanks for having me over."
They enjoyed the meal. Trevor regaled his mom with stories about the trip and everyone had a very nice time. Jake helped Sandy clear the table, while Trevor took out the trash.
"I'll wash them later. Would you like to stay for bit and watch a movie?"
"Sure. That sounds nice."
He put his arms around her from behind as she stood at the sink. She leaned back into his hug, and let her head rest back on his shoulder, smiling.
They whirled around and saw a grinning Trevor with the empty trashcan in his hands. Jake stepped back and both of them blushed at being caught. Trevor didn't say anything as he put a new liner in the can, grinning all the time. Jake and Sandy quickly cleared the rest of the table. Then they all went into the living room. Sandy sat in a chair. Jake sat on the couch, and Trevor sat next to him. Trevor took Jake's arm and put it around his shoulder, then settled in and sighed, once more content with Jake sitting next to him. They watched the movie, Sandy looked over at them and smiled at Jake; he smiled back. About halfway through the movie, Jake felt the dead weight of Trevor leaning against him, his head resting on Jake's chest. He looked down and saw Trevor completely out. He looked over to Sandy and she nodded. He carefully got his arms under Trevor and picked him up. Trevor turned in Jake's arms and put his arms around Jake's neck, laying his head on Jake's shoulder. Jake felt the soft breathing of the sleeping boy against his neck. Jake carried Trevor to his bedroom, with Sandy following him. Jake laid the boy down and they started undressing him down to his briefs. They got him covered up and tucked in. He smoothed the boy's hair from his forehead and then kissed him.
"Night, son. Sleep well.'
Trevor turned over on his side after mumbling his reply. Jake stood up with his eyes shining. He looked at Sandy, who was also a little misty. They went back into the living room and sat down next to each other on the couch.
"He kind of got to you, huh?"
"Yep. I love him. I can't seem to help myself."
"I know. He is a special kid. I feel so blessed to have him."
"Yeah, he is. You should have seen him and the twins, when they were confronting that lion. They were standing there with determined looks on their faces and rocks in their hands. Thinking about it now, they were ready to do anything necessary to help fight it off. They were very brave, I'm proud of them."
"Were they in danger, really?'
"There was some danger, but I was right there. No way was that cat going to get near those boys if I could help it. Anyway, one of them had thrown a rock to distract the cat and it had started to turn toward them. The three of them were standing there with rocks in their hand, and for some reason the cat just stopped moving toward them, got kind of a strange look on its face, and then ran off."
"Well, I'm glad they're okay, and nobody was hurt. What about the other boys?"
"I think they'll be fine. By the time we got back, it had become a big adventure rather than something scary."
They sat quietly and watched the rest of the movie. Sandy leaned up against Jake and he put his arm around her. When the movie ended, they got up, and Sandy walked him to the door. At the door, they hugged and Jake gave her a long kiss. He held her a little longer, before he gave her one quick kiss and then went home. She watched him as she leaned against the door frame as he walked across the street and into his house.