Castle Roland

Forever 2 - Changes

by Jack Schaeffer

In Progress

Chapter 11

Posted: 23 Jul 15

FOREVER 2 - Changes
By Jack Schaeffer
Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved.

"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation." - Robert F. Kennedy, Senator and U.S. Attorney General

From the previous chapter:

The creature stopped at the lake's edge about 100 yards away. It had one large eye swaying back and forth, alternating between looking out across the water and then in each direction along the shoreline. A small gasp escaped my lips as the lumbering eye started slowly moving in my direction. The fine hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up as my balls withdrew completely inside my body. I was toast. Crap!

I closed my eyes, waiting for the end. I heard the shuffling of its feet moving through the weeds, and I sensed a light flash over me through my tightly shut eyes. Then I heard it.

"Jack? Is that you?" it yelled. "Jack!" It sounded vaguely like Sam. Was I dreaming? Was this how it ends? You see the one you love the most in the whole world one last time and then...nothing?

Suddenly it was upon me, and I fought back with my eyes still tightly closed. I could feel its breath on my face as it wrapped me tightly in its clutches, my arms immobilized. Realizing it was futile to struggle, I collapsed, the long held tears flowing freely. My last thought was, "Great, I just seasoned myself with salt for the great beast's man meal. I can't even die right."

But he didn't eat me. He held me up in his big strong arms and kissed my neck and my face and my hair. He was crying and kissing me, hugging me so tightly I could barely breathe. He was so warm and comfortable, and I now knew what heaven really was. It was being back in Sam's arms where I belonged.

He held me until I stopped shaking. We said nothing. He pulled out a blanket from a large backpack he had set down on the ground, and wrapped me up in it. It was nice, but I wanted his arms back around me. I literally reached behind me to grab them and pull them around my shoulders. He got the clue and together we sat down, Sam up close against my back, his arms holding me tightly to his chest. Just like the first time on the beach in Hawaii.

We were silent in the noisy forest.

My eyes opened and immediately I knew I was in danger. I was outside. I smelled earthworms and dead fish. And something else - smoke? I wasn't supposed to be outside. I didn't remember going outside. Why would I be outside? I tried to sit up, but my arms and legs were constrained by some puffy straightjacket wrapped all around me. I flailed wildly trying to loosen the bonds holding me down and finally freed one arm, flinging it up and over my head with a loud grunt.

"Easy, Jack. You'll hurt yourself," said Sam with a small chuckle from somewhere nearby. I couldn't see him - my head was still inside the straightjacket. I sighed at the sound of his voice. It all came back to me in a flood. Getting lost in the woods. Being scared, naked and alone in the night. Sam finding me and wrapping me in a warm blanket. He even brought a two-man sleeping bag.

Which explained the device restraining me. I managed to extricate my body from the sleeping bag, only to find myself standing totally nude in the blazing sunlight, with Sam sitting on a log four feet away wearing a strange expression - and a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. I was decidedly uncomfortable - I suddenly felt naked standing in front of him.

"Stop staring at me and help me find my clothes," I said, looking over towards the fallen tree nearby, under which I had thrown my discarded wet clothing in the middle of the night. The ground under the tree was barren.

"They're over the fire, drying out," said Sam. "And why don't you want me to look at you? You look good naked." He was grinning, but for some reason it sounded like he was teasing me. I sat back down and covered myself with the sleeping bag and turned my face away from him, refusing to say another word. It felt like the emotional chasm between us had expanded overnight. We had never talked, we just went to sleep. Sitting there now, I vowed not to cry, no matter what. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction. He could make fun of me all he wanted, but I wouldn't cry.

I heard him get up and start rustling around in his bright orange backpack. He turned and approached, stopping a foot in front of me. I pouted, refusing to look up at him. His hairy legs were sexy though. Crap - my dick started to betray my resolve.

"Here. I brought you some clean clothes. You can put these on. Then we should talk," he said, dropping the pile of items gently next to me on the sleeping bag and returning to his seat by the fire. He busied himself with poking at the dwindling fire with a long stick, causing sparks to fly up into the air, while I quickly donned dry underwear, khaki shorts, and a plain black t-shirt. He'd included a pair of clean white socks, but no shoes, and since my only other shoes were wet, I skipped the socks for now. It's not like my feet were clean anyway.

"Come sit over here," said Sam. He pointed to another log turned on its end like a makeshift chair. It wobbled a little as I sat my full weight on it, but at least I didn't fall over and embarrass myself even further. It's the little things.

"Alright, Jack. What's the matter? You're looking at me like you suddenly despise me or something. What's eating you?"

My mouth fell open as I stared at him dumbfounded. "What's eating me? What the hell has been eating you, Sam? Ever since Sunday you haven't said two words to me. You hardly spoke to anyone on the trip home from El Paso. Todd asked me if he did or said something to piss you off. Then we get home and you go straight to bed with barely a hello to Charles and Maggie." I stood up and started pacing. I was pissed. How dare he make this a problem of my doing.

"And then...the next morning, you're gone. Just...gone. No note, no explanation...nothing. I had no idea where you were or what you were doing, or even if you were okay. Were you sick? Were you upset? Who knows? You just disappeared. What was I supposed to do?" My voice had risen loud enough to startle a flock of birds roosting in a nearby tree. They took flight in a black cloud of squawking feathers, and along with them, took my frustration and will to fight with Sam. Being angry with him felt horrible.

He waited to see if I was done spouting off, and when I hadn't said anything else for a few moments, he sighed heavily. "Jack...I'm sorry. I thought I was handling it the right way. I have some things I need to figure out in my head. I thought it would be easier if I just slipped away quietly and dealt with them on my own so you wouldn't have to bother with me and deal with my issues. I wasn't trying to upset you. Just the opposite. I was trying not to burden you."

"Burden me? How the hell could you ever be a burden to me, Sam?"

"Because!" he shouted. "Everyone wants a piece of you. You've got Todd...and the guys at the office. Sully...and now Andrew and Michael. Oh...and the lawyer, I forget his name...and Billy and his mom. Charles and Maggie. The pilots. And your 'to do' list is never ending! We've been here a week, Jack, and my head is swimming with everything you have to do. I can't be one more thing on your list. My stupid issues are my deal, and I'll handle them. I love you too much to pile on."

"Pile on? What do you mean, Sam? I don't understand." Now that he was talking, I wasn't liking what he was saying.

"I don't want to be a distraction to you, Jack. You have important work to do. People are depending on you to help them. To save them - literally. Look at what you did in Texas. You flew into town with a posse and saved the day. Andrew and Michael are out in the open now, no longer in danger, and the townspeople seem to love them. Those guys change people's lives every day. I can't get in the way of that, Jack."

"You're not in the way! Would you stop it already?" I was shouting again. He could be so thick headed about crap. "I had very little to do with what happened in Ft. Hancock. You were there, too, you know. Whatever we did, we did it together."

"Yeah, right. I was just standing there. Again. You're the one who singlehandedly put an end to Arnold fucking Turner."

"That was a total fluke, Sam."

"Don't downplay it now, Jack. You had one shot, and you made it count."

"Sam! I wasn't trying to kill the guy, I was aiming for the gun! I closed my eyes and swung the stirrup at his hands...and ended up hitting him on the side of the head instead. It was a total accident. I told you I suck at sports. Nobody believes me," I sighed, throwing my hands up in defeat. Sam looked at me, turned red, and then exploded in laughter. He doubled over and rolled onto the ground, practically falling into the fire.

"Sam! Stop it. You'll kill yourself busting a gut at my expense, and I still don't know how to get home." He laughed even harder. I pretended to be annoyed, but I was smiling. It was good to see him laugh. I needed him to laugh. Finally he regained enough composure to speak.

" were aiming for the gun?" he said, getting back up on his log by the fire.

"Yeah...that thing was huge. I couldn't possibly miss. But then it's me we're talking about. The guy who set the school record for strikeouts in P.E. class. I totally suck at sports. And video games. No hand-eye coordination."

"Well...personally, I think your hand-eye coordination is fucking perfection, Jack," said Sam with a smart ass grin, making a stroking motion with his hand and wrist. His deep blue eyes were now sparkling in the sunlight. I blushed and sat down again on my stump.

I looked at the surrounding scenery, not recognizing anything from the day before in the full sunlight. "I guess we can add hiking in the woods to the list of things I suck at," I said with a sigh. Seriously, I still had no idea how to get home. I needed to patch things up with Sam if for no other reason than I was not spending another night in the woods.

"Why did you come out here, anyway?" asked Sam.

"I went looking for you."


"Whadda ya mean, why? Because I missed you...and I was worried about you."

"Worried? Why?"

"Ugh! Again with the 'why'? Why not? Why would I not be worried about the man I love, who was obviously hurting? I didn't know what else to do. All I could think about yesterday was being with you. I just wanted to help. Instead I ended up needing help from you - again."

"Well, you sure had Maggie and Charles riled up. I came back from the sporting goods store and Maggie cornered me in the garage. Said you'd gone up the mountain to look for me and never came back. Charles helped me get my pack loaded and I took off to find you. I searched for hours. Were you moving around or just waiting here by the lake?"

"I got lost running from a moose. Don't you dare laugh at me, Sam. I see that smirk on your face." He was trying very hard not to start laughing again. "By the time I realized he wasn't after me, I didn't know where I was. I kept moving, and eventually found the lake again. I walked the shoreline, trying to find a clue where I should head, but the sun set, and then the mosquitos attacked, so I jumped in the lake to stop the biting." I reached behind my leg to scratch. I was starting to itch everywhere. They'd bitten me good.

"Stop scratching. It'll only make it worse. I have some stuff for the itching. Hold on," said Sam, as he stood up and retrieved a small plastic tube from his backpack with the word "Afterbite" on the side. "Stand up and take your shirt off. I'll get the bites on your back."

I stood up and pulled off my t-shirt. The breeze felt good on my skin. Sam turned me around and gently applied the medicine to my bug bites. It took a while. When he had treated them all on my back, he handed me the stick. "Here, get the other ones. And keep that with you. You're gonna want it again, later."

"Thanks, Sam," I said, looking into his beautiful blue eyes. Despite the laughter which had broken some of the tension between us, he still looked sad somehow. Something was still deeply troubling him.

"You know, you weren't supposed to get your stitches wet, Jack."

"Crap! I totally forgot!" I twisted sideways to try and see the wound on my flank. It was red and angry looking. The bandage must have fallen off somewhere. How could I be so stupid? First I go into the pool, then into the nasty lake. If I contracted typhoid and died, it would serve me right.

"Let me see it," said Sam, stepping closer. He reached for the button on my shorts and stopped, looking down into my eyes, seeking permission to continue. I nodded. He unfastened my shorts and pushed them down onto my hips, then pushed my underwear down, too. Half my ass was exposed to the forest and its denizens. "It doesn't look too bad. The stitches still look tight. Kinda red, though," he said, softly probing the edges with his fingertips. "Does it hurt?"

"It didn't...until you asked," I said.

He smiled. "You're so suggestive, Jack."

"'s a suggestion for you, Sam. Don't go running off into the woods every time you get upset about something, and then I won't have to play stupid and get lost trying to find you." I pulled up my underwear and shorts.

"But that's how I deal with things, Jack. I get alone and I figure it out. Besides, you've got more important things to deal with than me."

I looked at him, instant rage boiling up on the inside. I couldn't stop it - I'd had enough. Standing up I shouted, "Are you fucking crazy? Don't you ever say crap like that to me again! Nothing - and I mean absolutely nothing - is more important to me than you. God, I can't believe how selfish you can be." I turned my head in momentary disgust.

"Selfish?" he yelled back at me. "How is my wanting to handle my problems without burdening you being selfish? That makes no sense."

"Because, cut me out! You left me hanging outside your life, not knowing what you were going through. Well, guess what, big guy, if you're going through something, then so am I, whether you like it or not. You don't get to choose when you fit into my life - you are my life, damn it! Your problems are my problems. You don't get to go it alone anymore. If you need space, ask for it. I'll respect that. I may need it, too, from time to time. But don't cut me out, Sam. It's not fair. It hurts." My voice caught in my throat, and I was breathing heavily.

Sam was on his feet now, too, his hands balled into fists, a silent war waging behind his flashing eyes. He stared into mine with greater intensity than ever before, and I never flinched. Look inside, Sam. See the truth. Believe it. I love you, damn it!

He started to speak a couple of times, but stopped. I said nothing. What else could I say? The ball was in his court now. He kept looking into my eyes, searching for something, but I didn't have a clue what it could be at this point. I waited. And hoped.

Strangely, he didn't nod like he usually does. Instead, he simply looked down in defeat. He suddenly looked so sad and lost. My own eyes welled up as his tears started to fall silently to the ground. His shoulders started shaking, and not knowing what else to do, I walked around the fire, put my arms around him, and held him as best I could while he rode the waves of emotional pain shuddering through him. What the hell was going on?

Sam cried on my shoulder for several minutes, literally clinging to me like a life preserver. I said nothing, trying not to cry any more myself. One of us needed to be strong for the other, and after my little speech I figured I needed be ready to help him when he asked for it. If he asked.

The human body can sustain such intense emotional catharsis for only so long, and then physical exhaustion puts an end to it, at least temporarily. Eventually Sam picked his head up off of my shoulder and tried to wipe his face. He was a mess. I gave him my t-shirt which I had never put back on, and he used it to clean up. I certainly wasn't putting it back on now.

He moved over to the fire, which was now barely smoldering, and sat back down on his log with a deep sigh. I sat across from him on my stump and waited some more. Sam rested his elbows on his knees and looked down at the ground between his feet, but his shoulders had a more determined set to them. I thought he was doing better. More waiting. Finally...he spilled.

"You have to know, Jack, that I love you. I mean...I really, really love you. When I say 'forever', I mean it. I will never, ever leave you, Jack. Not physically, anyway. But I can see now what you mean by cutting you out. I didn't realize you'd take it that way. I thought I was helping you, not hurting you. I'm sorry," he said, looking up at me for the first time. I nodded for him to continue. Apology accepted.

"When I was with Jeremy, we did everything together, except deal with our real feelings. It was like we were great to a certain point, but if I wanted to share my feelings or struggles about something, he would get uncomfortable and try to change the subject or say he had something he suddenly needed to do. I just ignored his reluctance to engage more...emotionally...with me, I guess because I was afraid I'd scare him away. He always acted so bothered by my emotional needs, I decided to hide them from him. A lot of good it did me." He sighed heavily. I wanted to throw myself across the fire and hold him and tell him he could share anything with me and I'd listen for as long as he needed - but I kept silent.

"The thing is, I've gotten so used to dealing with my inner struggles by myself, I'm not sure I know how to share them anymore. I don't want to scare you off, or worse, have you get mad at me. You may be smaller than me, but damn, Jack, when you get pissed off, you're kinda scary, man." He said it only half smiling. Good, at least he took me seriously, although he had nothing to fear from me.

"So...if you really want to know, here's my deal. I feel lost, Jack. I know I belong here with you, and yet I don't feel like I have a place. I don't know what my purpose is or what's expected of me. Following you to El Paso was easy. But then, we were coming home and, I don't know, suddenly I realized I had nothing to do.

"You have 24 hour security now - when you're not giving them the slip like you did yesterday. Ben was crazy pissed at both of us, by the way. We'll hear about it when we get back for sure. But you don't really need me to be a second bodyguard, Jack. I'd just be in the way. I trust Ben to watch out for you. Hector and the other so much.

"I've enjoyed helping Charles around the house. I like yard work and being outside, and it's kinda cool to think I'm taking care of my own home instead of someone else's. I'm not quite all the way to believing this mountain and the house is really ours, but I'm getting there. I do love it here. But...I don't know...somehow landscaping seems unimportant compared to what you're starting to get into.

"And then I get really frustrated, because I start to feel myself getting jealous - of your work, of your money, of your purpose. You have this wonderful reason for being and you're fucking awesome at it, and I'm just hanging out, watching you and maybe throwing in a few pointers here or there. I'm sounding more pathetic than ever. Ugh!"

"Sam, you'll be starting law school in a few weeks. Don't you think once you get back into the swing of pursuing your own dream, a lot of this angst will fade away?"

"I can't do that, Jack. I'm not moving to St. Louis and leaving you here. No way. No...I'll have to find something else to do with my life, I just don't know what yet."

"Wait a minute now. Hold up. What do you mean you aren't going to law school? You have to go. If for no other reason than I promised Tommy I wouldn't do anything to interfere with you going, and he's going to royally kick my ass if you don't. Don't you want to go?"

"Well...yeah...I do. I still want to be a judge someday. But Jack, I can't leave you. I'd be miserable without you, and I think so would you. So it won't work."

"Of course it's going to work, because I'll go with you to St. Louis. Or we can find you a law school here in Denver. It doesn't matter. We'll make it work, Sam."

He stood up and started pacing, his eyes blazing with barely contained anger. He looked at me and then looked away half a dozen times before turning and planting his feet. "Let's get one thing straight once and for all, Jack Schaeffer. I know you have all the money in the world and nothing is ever a problem financially for you now, but you are NOT paying for my education. I won't stand for it. I am not going to be a kept man. And the only way I can afford law school is with my scholarship."

"I'm just saying, we..."

"Forget it, Jack. Look...I love you, and I appreciate everything you've done for me. I'm doing the best I can to handle the fact you're practically a billionaire. But no way am I going to be financially dependent on you. I won't do it." Look who was pissed now.

"Okay, okay. I get it, Sam. Calm down. I understand. I don't want you to be dependent on me, either. If anything, I feel dependent on you. I was so lost yesterday without you, you have no idea."

"Be serious, Jack. You don't need me to do your job."

"Hah! Ask Todd. He finally sent me home. He could tell my head wasn't in the game. He called me out on it and told me to get things straight with you. I was no good to the team the way I was acting."

Sam stopped pacing and looked at me across the fire pit, a thin wisp of smoke rising up and quickly dissipating in the air. He started to say something, but stopped. I could tell I was confusing him with this new information.

"Look, aren't the only one who feels a little lost here. I know we've only been together for a short time, but I realized yesterday I'm already dependent on having you near me. I know you can't be with me physically all the time. But when you stopped talking to me, emotionally it felt like you had totally left me, like you were a million miles away and never coming back, and scared me, Sam. I felt like I was back to the old me, the guy who didn't matter and was no good to anyone. I hate those feelings, and I got mad. Mostly at myself, but it was easier to be mad at you. So I stormed off into the woods and made a huge mess of things, as usual." I hung my head, more than a little ashamed of my stupid, churlish behavior. How childish could I be?

"Jack," said Sam. I didn't look up at him. I was afraid I would start crying again, and I was sick of it. I heard him move around the fire and saw his sexy legs appear in front of me. "Jack...I'm sorry. I didn't understand. I didn't mean to hurt you. Honestly, I was trying to spare you from having to deal with my issues. I'm the one who made a huge mess of things, not you."

Staring at his hairy, incredibly sexy thighs, I said, "Sam, don't. You don't need to take the blame for my screwing things up between us. You didn't feel comfortable sharing your thoughts with me, I get it, but it's not like I made it any easier for you. We've been drowning in chaos and other people's needs since we got here, and I've been so focused on getting the business off the ground and the team and the bank and Turner and...ugh! I wish we could go back to cleaning pools together and just being us."

Sam reached down and lifted my chin gently with his outstretched hand. He looked at me with his deep, radiant blue eyes and I swallowed hard to clear the lump in my throat. God, he was beautiful! I reached up and grabbed his arm and held on, finally feeling we were reconnecting.

"We can't go backwards, Jack. It won't work. We have to move forward...together. We'll learn. We'll figure each other out and find our way. It means everything to me you care so much. I love you, Jack. Forever."

"Forever, Sam," I whispered. Then he kissed me, and we said nothing else for quite a while.

Later, with the sun high in the sky overhead and our stomachs rumbling loudly over the buzz of the insects all around us, I helped Sam pack up everything he'd brought up the mountain with him. My shoes were still a little wet, but yesterday's t-shirt had dried out. It smelled a little, but I figured it was better than the one Sam had wiped his nose on.

I was following Sam's instructions and dumping a cup full of lake water on the fire when I heard a loud, rapid beeping sound coming from his backpack. He extracted a red and black walkie-talkie and pressed a button on the side.

"Yeah, Charles. What is it?" said Sam.

"You guys on your way back yet? Maggie's asking about lunch for you two," I heard Charles say over the speaker. Sam looked over at me and I nodded my headed vigorously. I was famished.

"Tell her we'll be down in about an hour. I want to mark a trail on our way back."

"Okay. I'll let her know," said Charles.

Sam put the walkie-talkie away and looked over at me. "I went out yesterday and bought some camping and hiking gear, including a set of radios so we can stay in contact with the house if we're up here in the woods. Cell phones don't work."

"Yeah, I left mine at the house."

"I know. I tried calling it a dozen times when you never came home," said Sam.

"We must have missed each other in the woods. I was going up to find you and you were already on your way down. But you would have known I had come home. The car was here. Didn't you use it to go to the store?"

"No. Charles had the truck out, moving mulch around the yard. I helped him finish the last bed and then I took the truck to the sporting goods store. I didn't know you had gone up to search for me until I came back right before dinner time. We looked all around the house and the grounds and couldn't find you. That's when Ben got into the act. He wanted to call in the cavalry, but I asked him to wait."

"Why, Sam?"

"Because...I wanted to find you myself. I thought...I just thought we would handle it better if it was just us. I don't feel comfortable with everybody knowing our business, Jack. It's living in a fish bowl. I mean, I'm okay with having Ben around. You need protection. But I didn't think it was necessary to send 30 guys up the mountain and disturb everything. I knew I'd find you. I just didn't think it would take so long. If you ever get lost again, next time don't move around. Stay in one spot and wait. It's always easier and faster to find you."

"No worries. There won't be a next time. I'm not coming up here ever again."

"Don't say that, Jack. It can be fun. You and I can come back up and camp by the lake and I'll teach you how to fish and maybe we can even bring a canoe or kayaks up here on the lake. That would be so cool, wouldn't it?"

I just rolled my eyes at him. "Ahh...not the word I would use," I said. "I don't think I'm the kind of person who belongs in the woods. I'd just get lost again."

"That's why we're going to mark a trail back down to the house. So if you ever do come back up here, and you do get lost, you'll look for the orange markings and you'll know how to get back to the house. Come on, I'll show you." He lifted his backpack in place and set off walking along the lakeshore, a can of orange spray paint in his hand. I followed closely behind.

Every few yards, Sam painted a large orange dot on a rock outcropping or a tree trunk. The overall effect was a crude "path" marked through the woods. How he knew where to go in the first place I had no idea, but he never slowed down. After ten minutes I could feel the ground shift slightly downwards.

"You know, Jack. At the very least, the house is always going to be downhill. If you just head downwards, you'll have to run into the house or go past it and end up at the fence at the bottom."

" you tell me. Last night in the dark I didn't know what was up and what was down. I just knew I was being eaten alive." Sam laughed at my earlier predicament. I'm glad he thought it was funny. He wasn't the one who itched from head to toe.

We settled into a steady pace. It certainly was easier going down than coming up. I kept thinking about Sam's frustration with his lack of purpose. He had to go to law school in the fall. Nothing could stop that. But what could he do in the meantime that would be meaningful and not make him feel like a charity case?

"Sam, can I ask you something?"

"Sure," he said, shaking his can of spray paint, the rattle echoing among the trees around us.

"Would you be interested in helping me more directly with the business - at least until you start law school?" He stopped and turned to look at me.

"I don't know what I could possibly do. I don't know the first thing about running a business. Tommy wanted to teach me his but I wasn't interested."

"Neither do I, Sam. That's why we have Todd and the rest of the team to do the heavy lifting. But I could really use your help, and I'm not just talking about some busy work for you. The guys have several projects going and want me involved in all of them, and to tell you the truth, at this point my head is swimming."

"Like what?" asked Sam, as he held back a branch with huge thorns on it so I could pass by without injury. I smiled in gratitude, getting a sexy grin in return, making my dick stir in my shorts.

"We have to find a building to move our operation to. Simon's working on setting up three site visits for this week. Mason is compiling a list of possible existing business ventures we can partner with. Will has a growing list of legal issues which need to be ironed out. And Danny is starting to look overwhelmed with the accounting and tax implications of it all. And me...well, I hardly understand any of it. I'm trusting they know what they're doing. But I'd feel a lot better if you could jump in somewhere and be another set of eyes and ears."

"I'd love to help, Jack, but really, like I said, I don't have any experience with finance."

"No...but you did pay attention to your dad's work, right? You could maybe work with Will on the legal items. You would at least have some passing knowledge of what they're talking about anyway...the legalese. What I really need is someone to explain it to me in terms I can understand. You do that for me all the time."

"I do?"

"Yeah...of course you do. You explained the concept of team to me, didn't you?"

"Yeah. But that was kind of simplistic."

" was perfect, especially for a guy who'd never really been a part of a team before. That's exactly the kind of help I need. Someone who can take the complex and confusing and...not dumb it down...but make it understandable in everyday terms so I can make a decision without feeling like a moron." Sam laughed.

" are not a moron. And you're getting more and more confident every day, and it shows. I think your team has a great leader in you, and I'm not just sayin' that cuz I think you're hot," he said, turning back to me with a mischievous smile. I probably blushed, but I was already so hot from the hike I couldn't tell.

"Thanks, Sam. You get me home in one piece and clean me up and I'll let you have your way with me." I could be wrong, but I think he started walking faster.

"So whadda ya think? You cool with helping out?" I asked, nearly stumbling over a couple of large rocks.

"Sure, I guess so. Will the guys be okay with me hanging around?"

"I think so. Only one way to find out - come with me tomorrow. Todd will find us both a place we can work with the guys and together we can get the ball rolling. I think everybody's anxious to get moving and get out of the bank."

"If it's okay with you, I'd like to work with Will. I've always been interested in corporate law. It's my dad's speciality."

"Great. It was the least appealing to me. I'm kind of excited to go see the office buildings. I always wanted to work in a high rise building."

"Well, just make sure your office is high enough no one can see in the windows. With a locking door, cuz you never know when a hot young lawyer might come calling and want to get in your pants as part of a legal consultation." I think he giggled, the big goofball.

"Yes, good idea. I wonder if Clyde knows any young lawyers in town who might want to visit." I teased. Sam stopped short in front of me. I immediately knew I'd stepped in it.

"I'm sorry, Sam. I didn't mean anything by it, I promise," I said to his back. Crap! How could I be so stupid, and right after he'd bared his sensitive soul to me? Stupid! Sam slowly turned around, a serious look on his face, his eyes searching mine.

"Sam, really...I'm sorry. I shouldn't tease like that. You know you're the only guy for me. You have to know I would never..." I said. He had a stern look on his face, like he was going to explode, then he suddenly broke out into a huge grin. The jerk was playing me!

"Gotcha, Jack," he said, smiling. I lightly punched him on the arm and he giggled, pretending to rub his bicep like I'd actually hurt him. I pretended to pout. He just smiled larger, then put his arms around me. "I know you love me, Jack. And I'll be the guy who gives you a good reason to lock the office door."

"Promise?" I asked, looking up at him. He leaned down and kissed me gently.

"Yeah, I promise," he said.

"Good. But can you take a shower first? You stink!" I teased, pushing back out of his arms.

"Me? I'm not one who swam with the fish. You reek! Come on, I can hardly stand myself either. Let's get back to the house. We're almost there."

"Thank God," I said. "I can't wait to get out of these woods."

We managed to make it back to the house without further mishap, only to be greeted by Ben, the security Nazi, waiting for us on the back deck. He jumped up from his lounge chair and spilled his water bottle all over himself in the process.

Ignoring the wet spot on his pants, he started yelling. "Just where the hell have you been, Jack? What part of personal protection services don't you understand? You don't drive yourself anywhere! I confiscated the keys, so don't even look for them. You don't leave the house without me knowing where you're going and who you're going to meet. I'll be with you at all times. And you sure as FUCK don't go wandering off into the woods alone, with no flashlight, no radio, and no fucking sense in your head!"

"Hi, Ben. How are you? I've had an interesting night. How about you?" I said snidely.

"Don't be a smart ass, Jack. I'm serious. You could have been seriously injured or worse. Do you want my help or not? 'Cause if you aren't gonna play by the rules, I'm outta here. I can't do my job without your cooperation. Period."

"Okay, okay. Simmer down, man. I hear you. And you're right. Sam and I talked, and we were our comings and goings. I'm just not used to this, alright. It's gonna take some adjusting to have you as my shadow all the time." He sighed heavily, and then must have felt the wetness in his crotch seeping in.

"Shit!" he said, looking down. "That's just great." Sam was trying very hard not to laugh at Ben's wet crotch, where you could just start to see the outline of his dick if you looked closely. Ben tried in vain to wipe at the mess only to have it look like he was intentionally feeling himself up. Sam broke up laughing and I couldn't help but join him. Ben looked at us like we were crazy, then smiled. "You two are gonna be a real pain in my ass." We just laughed harder.

"I'm going to get changed. You both better be here when I get back. Actually, take a shower or something. You guys stink." He turned and went back into the house. I realized I didn't even know what room he was staying in. It's like I had said to Sam. Too much chaos for one week.

Standing on the deck, waiting for Sam to catch his breath, I could smell the stink coming off of me. "Come on, Sam. I need a shower and food in a bad way." He nodded and grabbed my hand. Together we walked into the kitchen from the deck and said hello to Maggie's back as she struggled to truss up a large turkey laying on the island. She grunted a response. Then she smelled us.

"Did something just die in here? Lord, what a stench!"

"Sorry, Maggie. We're headed in to clean up," Sam said.

"Good. There's sandwiches all made up for you in the fridge. Now get out of my kitchen before I have to fumigate." She went back to fighting with the bird carcass. It looked like the bird was winning this round.

In our bathroom, I seriously considered throwing the clothes I had worn into the lake right into the trash. They reeked. The second I was naked Sam pushed me into the shower and under the hot water. It felt wonderful to have his hands washing my body and restoring my soul on some level. He was careful to limit how much water got on my stitches, though at this point I'm not sure it really mattered. We were past the two day mark. Thankfully the wound didn't look as red as it had earlier. Maybe I'd live after all.

When I was reasonably clean I washed him, slowly and sensuously, taking my time in certain places. Our breathing and pulses increased exponentially and before long Sam and I had shared the most physically intimate thing two men can share with each other. All was right in my world again.

To be continued...

Author's Notes: Sam found Jack, sort of in one piece, and Jack has his Sam back. Will Sam fit in the business team? What role will he play? Will Jack and Sam move to St. Louis? Will Maggie win her fight with the dead turkey? Stay tuned for much more to come.

Thank you to our editors who once again put the fine finishing touches on the story. I sincerely would not want to do this without them. My appreciation knows no bounds.

And thank you, dear readers, as always, especially for the hundreds of emails I received after the last chapter. Keep 'em coming!

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