This is the final chapter of `Bear Hunter'. A new chapter will come out every week. Any comments or questions can be directed to the author at nothlit(at)hotmail(dot)com

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people or events is entirely coincidental.

Bear Hunter
Chapter 9

    There was a moment when I thought for sure that Matt was a goner. Everything had happened too fast: Matt breaking down, throwing his rifle away too far for him to use it to defend himself; the bear, roaring threateningly; and now, the charge. There was nothing to stop the bear as it half-rolled, half-ran down from its cave, right in Matt's direction. At that moment, I knew real fear.
    I fired a shot wildly, but my aim was off and I missed the animal entirely.
    "Matt!" I yelled. "Matt, look OUT!"
    Matt didn't seem to hear me. He was looking at the mud-stained cap he still held in his hands, as if he didn't know that he was seconds away from being attacked by the bear we had been trying to kill for so long. It was as if he didn't care, and I felt my gut clench with terror at the thought that he was just going to let the bear take him out.
    The bear dropped something like five feet from the rocky ledge where his cave was, down to Matt's level. I saw the animal was limping slightly from the shot I had landed on one of his hind legs, but he didn't seem to be feeling any pain. If anything, he looked madder than I had ever seen him yet.
    The bear let out another threatening growl, and the sound seemed to finally shake Matt awake from the thoughts he had been lost in. He looked up at the bear as the animal began to approach him, not charging anymore that he had gotten so close but rather stalking forward, head hung low, its claws clicking on the rocky surface and its deadly teeth clearly visible in a display that was very similar to a wolf's snarl.
    Seeing the bear approach, Matt stood up. I was ready to shoot again, but by then the bear was too close to Matt and I didn't want to risk shooting him by mistake. All I could do was watch, powerless, as Matt stood his ground and let the bear reach him, a numb look on his eyes.
    The bear stopped a couple paces from Matt.
    "Go ahead," I heard Matt say. "Do it."
    The bear reared up on its hind legs, but Matt didn't flinch. He just looked up at the bear, defiant, angry, but also indifferent to his fate. I held my breath. For the two or three brief seconds that animal and man looked at each other, there was perfect silence in that forest.
    "Come on," Matt challenged it, fists clenched. "DO IT!"
    Surprisingly smoothly for an animal that size, the bear dropped back on all fours, turned around, and left.
    He just left.
    Neither Matt nor I moved a muscle while the bear walked back into the forest, leaving his cave behind and disappearing behind the tree trunks, leaving only a faint rustle of leaves to mark the way he had taken. I couldn't believe it. I had been certain that it would be over for Matt, and maybe for me too. Instead, that bear had spared Matt's life.
    I hurried over to Matt to make sure he was okay. When I reached him, he was still looking at the place where the bear had disappeared. From his face it was obvious that he couldn't believe it either.
    "He left," he said softly. "He had me right here and he... left."
    I wasn't sure what to do, or what to say. It looked as if Matt wasn't even fully aware that I was there.
    "He forgave me," Matt said, almost to himself. A single tear rolled down his cheek. "He let me live. He knew I couldn't kill him, not after everything my father did to protect him and all the other bears around here. It's... it's like my father used to say: animals are nobler than you think. Many times they will surprise you."
    He smiled a sad smile and put on his father's cap, even though it was all dirty with mud. I didn't say anything, but when his shoulders started shaking with the sobs he was trying to hold inside, I reacted instinctively, pulling him to me in a rough, hard embrace. At first Matt stiffened, but then he just melted in my arms, holding me tight and crying on my shoulder, his entire body shaking every time he sobbed. He let it all out, finally, murmuring things about his father and how much he missed him, about how sorry he was that he hadn't reached out to him during his last days, and many other things. He gave voice to all his grief, and even though all I could do was stand there and hold him, I sensed that was the right thing to do.
    I don't know how long we stood there, but by the time Matt finally calmed down enough to talk, my shirt was wet with his tears and his eyes were all red.
    "Sorry about that, Sven," he said, wiping his tears with the back of his hand.
    "You okay?" I asked him, my arms around his waist, not letting him go yet.
    "Yes." He took a long, deep breath. "Yes. I think that for the first time since he passed away I really feel okay."
    "I'm glad to hear that," I said sincerely.
    Matt looked into my eyes. "Thanks for being here, Sven. I mean it. I don't know how to tell you how much it means to me that—"
    I kissed him, cutting short his speech. I had meant it only as a short kiss with nothing more to it, but I should have realized that Matt was feeling very vulnerable and emotional right then. His reaction to my kiss was instantaneous. His lips parted, and his tongue sought mine, answering my kiss with a sudden passion that caught me completely off guard.
    My surprise was quickly gone, though. I felt myself getting hard as we kissed, and when Matt began to run his hands through my hair, kissing me deep, it made me so horny that I all but tore Matt's shirt open, exposing his beautifully sculpted torso to the sun that shone overhead and the cool breeze blowing through the trees of the forest.
    I ran my hands over Matt's hard, ripped pectoral muscles, rubbing my thumbs over his nipples in slow circles that made him moan deep in his throat. After I did that, I knelt in front of him, running the palms of my hands on his smooth skin and over his hard six-pack, feeling the slight fuzz of hair that led from his bellybutton down to his hard dick, which I could see clearly now, straining against the fabric of his jeans, its outline begging for me to touch it.
    I did exactly that. Matt moaned when I grabbed his dick through his jeans, squeezing on it, following its shape with my fingers. I rubbed it, pressing hard against it with my right hand, while with my left I began to unbuckle Matt's belt, fumbling with it a little until Matt helped me undo it and then unbuttoned the fly of his jeans. Seeing that, I pulled his jeans down below his knees, and now all that stood between me and Matt's huge cock was fabric of the briefs he was wearing. I leaned forward and pressed my mouth against his crotch, breathing in Matt's smell and using my lips to follow shape of his dick through the briefs. I kept going until I felt a wet spot on the fabric near the tip of Matt's dick, where his precum had begun to soak through. That was my cue. I yanked his underwear down, and his cock sprang forward, fully erect.
    I took a moment to just look at it, the thick, veined shaft framed by Matt's dark pubic hair, his hairy balls hanging between his legs, and the head of his cock as it glistened with the precum that oozed out of his pee slit. I grabbed the base of his dick with my hand, parted my lips and took him inside my mouth.
    I heard Matt sigh as he felt the touch of my tongue all over his cock. My mouth was filled with his taste, and I began to suck him off slowly, enjoying the sensation almost as much as he was. My head moved back and forth in smooth, repetitive motions as my lips slid over Matt's shaft. Soon it was slick with spit, and when Matt grabbed the back of my head and pushed my face forward, I didn't resist. I let him shove his cock down my throat, fighting against the urge to gag, and was rewarded when Matt moaned in satisfaction, taking his dick out only to shove it back down again. I took it for as long as I could, and as Matt began to get into the rhythm of it, his urgency seemed to grow—he became rougher, harder in his thrusts, until I gagged for real and I had to stop, still on my knees in front of him, panting for breath and wiping my lips with the back of my hand.
    Matt grabbed me by the shoulders and motioned for me to lie on my back on the grass. I complied, not even caring that the grass was a bit cold. When I was ready, looking up at Matt's cock hanging right over my face, I saw him kneel down over me and drop down on all fours, facing my feet, as if we were about to do a 69 with him on top of me. That wasn't what he did, though. He grabbed his cock with one hand and guided it to my mouth. I opened up for him right away, and took his cock into my mouth in the new position.
    It was soon obvious Matt loved throat-fucking me this way. He began to shove his dick down my throat, and all I could do was lie there and take it, feeling how Matt's huge cock was able to go even deeper in this position.
    "Yeah," Matt whispered, his hips moving with short, hard thrusts. "Take it. Fuck yeah. You're so fucking hot, Sven."
    He used one of his hands to reach forward and began to caress my chest, although he couldn't reach very well. I tried to answer him, but the only sound I could make was a choked, muffled groan. He was going faster now, and my eyes began to water as I tried to stop from gagging on Matt's big, hard dick. I kept still for as long as I could, letting him fuck my face, but eventually I had to turn my head around, coughing, swallowing my own spit. After a long breath, I was ready to go again.
    Matt worked my throat hard. At one point he pinned both my arms down with his hands, so I was completely at his mercy with his dick deep in my throat and his balls slapping against my face every time he thrust. My own cock was rock-hard, dripping precum, but I couldn't reach down and touch it. Not yet. Matt let me have it until he began to sweat, but then he broke off suddenly, panting a bit.
    "Not yet... don't want to come yet," he said. Then he grinned. "Your turn now."
    I sat up to a kneeling position, some grass blades falling off my back as I did. Matt approached my cock, still on all fours, and opened his mouth eagerly. I caught his head, though, holding him off.
    "I've another idea," I said. "Turn around."
    He obeyed, exposing his smooth, round ass to me. I could see his balls hanging between his legs, below the crack between his buttcheeks and the puckered asshole that beckoned me to get closer. Which I did. I parted Matt's cheeks with my hands, feeling the hard, supple muscle on each, and then bent down, burying my face between them.
    Matt gasped, taken by surprise. Then I stuck my tongue out and touched his hole with it. He moaned.
    I grinned, and dove fully in, using my tongue over his hole, flicking it in and out, then running it up and down his crack in slow, gentle motions that drove Matt wild. He pushed back against me, begging me to lick his hole, and I granted his wish. I used my tongue in every way I knew how, pushing against his asshole with the tip, then running it in short circles around it, feeling Matt move in inviting, pleasure-ridden motions that let me know just how much me was enjoying having me work his hole with my mouth. I was so horny that was I afraid of touching my cock and coming right there. Instead, I used one hand to cup Matt's balls, squeezing them in a firm grasp. Matt moaned, louder this time, and he spread his legs wider, giving in completely to the pleasure I was giving him.
    "Fuck me," he said suddenly, his voice low, grinding his ass against my face. "Do it, Sven. Fuck me."
    I knelt, my eyes darting to the pack. I fucking wanted to, but—
    "We didn't bring any..." I began.
    "I know," Matt said. "I don't care. You're the first guy I've been with in... I don't know. A very long time. I'm clean. And I trust you."
    The sincerity in his words hit me like a sledgehammer. Nobody had ever trusted me like that before. I'd always been very careful whenever I was with other guys—I was sure I was good, too. Seeing Matt's ass like that, ready and waiting for me, with my own cock throbbing between my legs, I could barely force the next words out, but I had to.
    "We don't have to do this right now, Matt. I want to. I really do. But I also want to know you're sure." I swallowed. Fuck he was hot. "I can wait."
    Matt turned around and looked deep into my eyes with that completely disarming look of his.
    "Sven. I'm sure."
    I leaned forward and kissed him, long and deep.
    "Okay," I whispered, turning him around.
    I lubed up hastily, then worked on Matt's hole with my tongue some more to make sure it would be nice and slick for me. Seeing Matt on all fours like that, waiting to take my dick up his ass, made it very hard to be patient, but I went slow. I didn't want it to be over in two seconds.
    I stuck one of my fingers inside him, and Matt grunted, taking it easily. I moved it out and plunged it back in, deeper this time. Matt answered me louder. The way he moved his big, strong body to impale himself on my finger drove me wild with desire. And right then I knew I couldn't wait anymore.
    I took my finger out, got into position behind Matt and rested the slick head of my cock against his asshole. I thrust forward lightly, guiding my dick with my hand, rubbing Matt's crack with my dick. I then rested it between his cheeks and pumped a few times, dry-humping him, getting myself even more worked up. I was practically leaking precum, and when I pushed against Matt's hole for a second time with my dick, I didn't stop there. I slid inside him, forcing his tight hole to widen and take my swollen, rock-hard dick.
    "Fuck!" Matt grunted between gritted teeth. I saw his fingers dig into the grass, unthinkingly tearing out a chunk of grass and dirt even as he let me in deeper, my cock slowly plunging all the way inside his ass. I kept going, steadily, smoothly, and I felt the resistance around my cock give way ever so gradually as Matt relaxed and took it.  
    I leaned forward, resting my upper body against his back, feeling the warm smoothness of his skin, and the tightness of his hole around my cock. I kissed the back of his neck, using one hand to steady myself and grabbing Matt's throat with the other. I didn't squeeze or choke him. I merely held on, and he surrendered willingly to my grasp. I had him completely now. And he gave himself to me like no one had before.
    I began to move inside him, driving my cock deeper and then backing off, sliding in and out of his warm asshole with slow, deep thrusts. Matt moaned with pleasure mixed in with a little pain as he tried to get used to my big dick inside his hole so fast. He didn't tell me to stop, though. In fact, the way he moved his body against mine, on all fours like he was, practically begged for me to fuck him harder.
    I fought hard to pace it so both he and I would enjoy it as much as we could. I had fucked Matt once before, but this time it was completely different. It was more than the way we were doing it, too. I had never fucked a guy without protection before, but the sensation wasn't all that different. It was the emotions involved right then, between the two of us, that were making it so amazing. I felt a connection this time, something strong. As I knelt back upright and grabbed Matt's hips with both hands, preparing to hit him hard with my dick, it suddenly dawned on me. This wasn't just sex. We were making love.
    I began to hammer Matt right as the realization hit, thrusting savagely inside him, giving him everything I had. Matt's deep moans of pleasure only enticed me further, and I let him have it. I rammed him with my hard cock and pulled him to me, my hips slapping against his butt in a fast, hard rhythm.
    "Yeah," he moaned, his body jerking forward every time I pounded him. "Fuck yeah. Your cock feels so good, Sven."
    "Yeah?" I panted, going harder.
    "Yes! Unhh—fuck!"
    I wiped some sweat from my brow with the palm of my hand. I saw Matt reach between his legs with one hand and begin to jack off furiously, grunting, moving in time to my thrusts as if we were one. I felt the sweet, almost painful tension building up in the base of my dick and I knew that I was close.
    "Yeah!" Matt cried, arching his back. "Don't stop, Sven!"
    I didn't stop, or slow down. I hammered his hole like a madman. And a few seconds later I was rewarded with Matt's sudden, loud cry and I felt his body shudder underneath me.
    "I'm coming!" he panted.
    It was too much. Even as Matt came, spurting his hot cum down on the grass underneath him, I pulled out of him just barely in time to cum all over his butt and lower back, grunting deep in my throat as my entire body tensed up in a mind-blowing orgasm. I came explosively, shooting my load high up in the air the first time, then landing the next hot ropes of sperm on Matt's smooth, sweat-slick skin. I emptied my balls completely, the incredible orgasm lasting for so long that I actually thought for a second I'd come twice. At long, long last, when it stopped, I collapsed back on the grass with a sigh. I was sweating; my legs were cramped; a pebble had dug painfully into my knee in the last moments, a bug might have bitten my ankle. And I couldn't remember feeling happier.
    I rested my head in my hands, and looked at Matt. He turned around and moved closer so he could lie next to me on the grass. I didn't feel the cold of the wind. When he rested his head on my chest, wrapping his arms around me as if he didn't want to let me go, all I felt was his warmth.
    I don't know how long we stayed like that, just lying together, surrounded by the quiet serenity of the forest. The trees rustled with the wind, a sound like water falling. I saw a bird flying high overhead, getting lost behind the clouds that floated weightlessly above us, white against the deep blue sky. I could feel Matt breathing next to me, and touch the smoothness of his skin.
    I kissed him. It was a long, tender kiss, and I hoped it would convey to him everything I didn't know how to put into words. It was a little of everything I was feeling, which I couldn't even understand well myself. A sense of gratefulness, I guess, and of happiness too. The way I felt about being close to him. And a silent assurance that his trust was well placed.
    Matt returned the kiss just as intensely, and when it was over he looked into my eyes, caressing my beard with his fingers. I wanted to say something to him, but I couldn't think of anything that would express the way I felt. So in the end, all I said was, "We should probably get cleaned up. Which way to the nearest stream?"
    Matt smiled, as if he'd been expecting such a thing from me. He sat up and brushed some grass off his skin.
    "This way, Sven. Follow me."
    We gathered up our things and Matt led the way back south. I wasn't worried about the bear anymore, even though I knew he was still out there, and probably closer than I thought. Somehow, though, I knew it didn't matter anymore.
    We found a little stream soon enough, and we washed up as best we could in there. The water was awfully cold, but once I was dressed again and we resumed walking in the direction of Matt's house, I warmed up very quickly. Matt walked next to me, but we didn't say much on the way back, although it was several hours' hard hiking. The only time I said something was when I noticed that Matt's wound was bleeding again, but he said it didn't hurt him all that much, and that it looked much worse than it actually was. I wasn't sure I believed him, but I resolved to make him go to have it checked out once we had returned to his house.
    That train of thought led me to the other, more personal but inevitable conclusion I had reached. It had a lot to do with the fact that I'd seen Matt deal with what, for him, had been the greatest threat he'd ever had to face. He had been strong enough to face his past without fear, and he had survived. Now, I had to do the same.
    I wouldn't run away anymore. It wasn't right, and I realized that ever since I'd let Matt go free, and all through the time we'd spent here in the forest, I had recovered something that I hadn't realized I had lost. My self-respect. I hadn't been raised to run away from my problems, and the fact that I had been trying to escape the consequences of my actions back at the farm would have shamed my grandfather immensely. If I had to go to prison for having killed a man, then so be it. I had done the right thing. Now I just had to be brave enough to face it.
    With those thoughts running around in my mind, I barely noticed all the terrain we covered as we returned to the area around Matt's house. I first realized we were there when we broke out of the forest and started walking on the rocky peninsula that I had come to know so well. At the far end, surrounded on three sides by the sea, stood the house that had been in Matt's family for many generations. That, too, reminded me of my grandfather's farm, and the way I had simply abandoned it.
         As we approached the house, I took a deep breath, and sighed. I wanted to go back in very badly, maybe relax in one of the chairs and pretend nothing at all had happened before I came to this town, but I couldn't. I wasn't going to hide anymore.
    "Hey Matt?"
    "What's up, Sven?"
    "I think we should head back to town right away. You fixed the boat, right?"
    "Yeah. It's good to go," he answered, confused by the suggestion. He looked at the house, then back at me. "Don't you want to go inside first, though? We could take a shower, maybe. Have something to eat. We don't even have to go today at all. We could just relax."
    I shook my head, fighting the temptation. "I'd feel better if you had a doctor have a look at that bear scratch today. I know it doesn't look bad, but you never know. Better have that cleaned up by a professional."
    "Well... I guess you're right. We could go and be back before nightfall if we hurry. And once we're there, we can maybe have dinner at Mandy's. She may be old, but she makes the best damn grilled cheese I've had anywhere. You'll like the sandwiches."
    I tried to smile. "That sounds great."
    We dropped the backpack in the house, and Matt made a quick stop in the bathroom. I didn't go in at all. Then we went down to the coast, where Matt's boat was tied firmly. It looked slightly dirty, and there was a small water puddle inside, but the boat worked fine, as I saw for myself when Matt yanked the engine to a roar and the boat sped away over the waves with both of us inside.
    As I saw the town grow bigger and bigger the more we approached, I thought about what I would say to Matt about what I was about to do. I wasn't even sure he would care—maybe I was reading too much into our last days together. Maybe I felt there was something there, when there really wasn't. Maybe our time together in the woods had been more about the difficult trial Matt had endured and less about the two of us. I didn't know, and it was too complicated for me to figure out. Instead, I thought about different ways of telling him that I planned to turn myself in to the police and in the end decided on just saying it bluntly if it came to that. It would be quickest.
    The smell of the sea and the faint spray of the waves as the boat crashed among them, bobbing slightly up and down as we approached the town's dock, reminded me of another time I had been on a boat, just a few days ago but a lifetime away. It had been dark then. I'd had a gun in my hand. I had also been scared, but I wasn't. Not anymore. That, at least, would make this goodbye a little easier to bear.
    Matt brought the boat to a stop smoothly, parking it with the same ease with which I would park a truck. He tied it to the dock, made sure everything was good, and then he signaled for me to get out. I went first, trying not to fall and to make a fool of myself, showing that I really wasn't a seagoing kind of guy, but I didn't trip or anything and soon Matt was walking next to me us we headed for the town, our footsteps making the old wood of the pier groan with each step. Overhead, a seagull squawked loudly. I put my hands in my pockets, and followed Matt as he led the way to the doctor's office.
    The town was familiar this time, yet strange. There were people walking around in the streets, and several of them called or waved to Matt as we passed. Quite a few of them looked at me curiously, but none of them said anything to me. From the way everybody greeted Matt, it was obvious that he was well-liked in the town. It was strange, in a way, seeing this other side of Matt's life. I guess I had stupidly thought of him only as a guy who lived all alone in his house by the sea. As we walked, it dawned on me that I didn't know very much about him at all. I didn't know if he liked sports, for example. I had no idea what he did in his free time, who his friends were, or even what he really did for a living. The thought was surprising, but not unwelcome. It made what I was about to do a little bit easier. It reminded me Matt that and I were essentially strangers.
    We didn't walk far, and soon we had arrived to a small office in the center of town, a partition of a bigger building that bordered the park that sprawled across the street. The park was relatively full of people at that hour, many of them walking their dogs, running or just chatting. Ignoring them, Matt rapped on the door to the doctor's office. A few seconds passed, and then the door opened.
    "Matt?" a voice asked, and then a woman came into view. She looked like a typical cartoon doctor: lab coat, glasses, hair tied back in a bun.
    "Good evening, Dr. Rivers," Matt said. "I was wondering if you could have a look at this?"
    Matt showed her his wounded arm, and the doctor's eyes widened.
    "Animal attack?" she said, not as surprised as I might have thought. I guessed that, around here, getting mauled by an animal was more common than where I came from.
    "Yes," Matt said. "A bear, actually."
    "Well, come on in. Come on in. We should disinfect the wound. How long ago did this happen?"
    Matt stepped through the threshold, and beckoned for me to follow.
    "Come on, Sven. This won't take long, I promise. Then we can go eat."
    I shook my head. "I got some place else to go, Matt."
    "Huh? What do you mean? You don't know anybody here."
    "I know. I'm going to the police station."
    Matt frowned for a second, trying to puzzle it out, and then it hit him. I saw him open his mouth to say something, but I didn't give him a chance to speak.
    "Goodbye, Matt," I said, grabbing the door and closing it firmly after him. From inside, I heard the doctor calling him. I turned around and left.
    It wasn't hard to find the police station. In a town as small as this one, there weren't many buildings to choose from. When I saw it, I stood up straighter and made a beeline for it. I had to get this over with. The sooner, the better.
    When I got there, the door was closed. I had no idea if I should knock or something. I had never been inside a police station before. In the end, I simply knocked.
    "Coming!" came a voice from the inside. A second later, a middle-aged man with a goatee opened the door. He was wearing a uniform, and I stared involuntarily at his badge. I also caught the glint of metal on his belt, where his pistol was tucked in.
    "My name is Sven Madison," I said, walking past him into the station. "I would like to report a crime."
    The officer shut the door behind me, a little more alert now. The station was small, and there was no one else in sight at the moment. Near the back, I saw one of those small holding cells they use to keep petty offenders in. It was empty.
    "You don't say?" the officer said. "I'm officer Rogers. What's the nature of the crime you want to report?"
    I looked at him square in the eyes. I kept my voice flat, emotionless. "Murder. I'm here to turn myself in."
    Officer Rogers was pretty good at hiding his reaction, but it was noticeable to me. He rested his hand ever so casually on his belt, ready to take out his gun should he need it. I didn't give him any reason to use it. I followed his instructions to sit down on a chair next to his desk, and gave him my statement of what had happened nearly three months ago in a farm a world away.
    He was efficient. He didn't handcuff me or anything, but when I was done he led me to the holding cell in the back, still playing nice but also ready to act if I tried anything. I supposed he wasn't sure if I was just making everything up, or if he had really stumbled across a murderer come from another state. I wondered if he had any experience dealing with a case like this. I supposed it wasn't very likely.
    I let him lock me up, and sat down on the bunk that was provided. I stared out at the wall, thinking. Now, it was all out of my hands. I only had to wait.
    I heard the officer make a phone call, heard his footsteps coming closer, then the sound of a heavy door being closed, and then nothing. I looked out slightly from my cell, and I saw that he had closed a dividing door I had not seen before, isolating the holding cell area from the rest of the station. I supposed that whoever had answered his phone call had probably confirmed the details of the crime, since he didn't come back or let me out. Now it was official: I was a caught criminal. I wondered why it didn't bother me as much as it should have.
    I thought about where they would send me to prison. I also wondered if there would be any attenuating circumstances when they gave out the sentence since the murder had been in self-defense, or kind of. I had no idea, but I refused to freak out and I kept calm as the hours crept by and night fell. Lots of things occupied my thoughts during that time. I mostly thought about my home, and about the fact that I had let one of those guys escape. That was probably the only thing I regretted about the entire incident. They had all deserved to die. What they had done had been unprovoked, and unforgivable. I was glad I had had the chance to at least make those murderers regret ever having come to my home to kill the only father I had ever known. If there was a hell, I hoped those men were there.
    A couple hours after nightfall, a female officer I hadn't seen before came in with a tray of food. She passed it over into my cell, but she didn't say anything. I didn't either. There was nothing to say; whenever my fate was decided, they would let me know. So I ate, and then lay down to sleep in the clothes that Matt had given me, and I crossed my arms over my chest for warmth. Then I slept.
    Nothing happened the next day. Three meals were delivered to my cell, but I wasn't told what the stated of matters regarding my case was. I thought briefly about asking for a lawyer or a phone call or some of the other things I had seen on television that you were supposed to have when they convicted you, but I didn't bring myself around to asking for any of them. I guess I was too busy thinking. Also, I was tired of fighting whatever the consequences for my actions would be. I had come to the point where I was just willing to let it happen, whatever it was.
    I thought about what my life would be like in prison. From the movies, I had a vague idea that you had time to exercise and maybe do something productive if you behaved well. That didn't seem too bad, at least not for a little while. If it turned out I had to be there for life, though, I guess things would look a lot different. I wasn't afraid of prison, not really. I knew I was big enough and strong enough to make sure nobody messed with me, even if it cost me a tooth or two. I wasn't bothered by having to be alone for so long, either. After all, I had always been alone, more or less. I didn't have any close friends. I had never had what you could call a relationship with anyone. In fact, the closest I'd ever been with another person had been with Matt, but now that was done. I had known it would happen, but it still hurt a little. I tried not to think about him, but that night, as I tried to fall asleep, I couldn't help it.
    He hadn't come, not even once. I supposed it was to be expected. Matt was probably glad I had been man enough to turn myself in, but I really couldn't blame him for not wanting any part in the mess that was sure to come once the legal stuff pertaining the things I had done was done and it was time to assign the blame. I tried to tell myself that it was for the best, that by having come on my own I had spared Matt from having to explain everything that had happened in his house. After all, he hadn't turned me in after I had set him free, so I guessed he could technically be called an accomplice in hiding me. Or not. I had no idea, but I was glad he was willing to move on. It didn't make it any easier to bear, but it was something. As I slept that night, though, my dreams were mostly of him.
    I woke up on day three to the sound of somebody calling my name. In the first brief second after waking, I stupidly thought it was Matt. As I sat up, though, I realized it was Officer Rogers.
    "Hey Madison," he said, unlocking the door to my cell. "You got a call. Your attorney. Long distance from Kansas, so hurry up."
    I got up and put on my shoes, intrigued and a little confused. As far as I knew, I didn't have an attorney back home. Even so, I followed the officer out into the main station. The other female officer was also there, and she looked briefly at me as I passed. Then she went back to reading her newspaper. Not the kind of reaction I would expect in the presence of a soon-to-be convicted killer.
    "Here you go," Officer Rogers said, handing me the telephone.
    I held the phone up to my ear, not knowing what to expect. Definitely not the voice of my great-uncle Harold when I said hello and he practically yelled, "Sven? Sven, is that really you?"
    "Yeah," I said. "What is going on, Uncle Harold? Are you supposed to be my attorney?"
    "Oh God! Man, I'm so freakin' glad to hear your voice, kid! You have no idea what everybody has been through back here for the past few months! We thought you were dead; we honestly thought those sons of bitches had killed you and dumped your body in a ditch somewhere. Randy from the gas station found your overturned truck; he was the first one to notice something was wrong. Then he called the police and they went to the farm... when they told me what they had found there, Sven, I almost fainted. I'm not kidding; you know I have a heart condition. I just couldn't believe they had killed Pete like that, gunned him down in his own house, and you were missing. I feared the worst. Everybody did. The way you disappeared... you left no trace, kid. The police even gave up searching for you. I had honestly lost all hope.
    "And then, last night, this call comes in. Saying you're alive, but in Alaska. I swear to God, at first I thought it was a prank. It was only when I realized it was Sheriff Williams telling me this that I dared to hope. Said she'd got a call from Alaska herself. I spent all night calling other lawyers, the county police and a hundred other people. We finally got everything sorted out, and I was allowed to call you and tell you only today. I actually called a little bit earlier, but they said you were still sleeping. Apparently you guys are a few hours behind us over there. Jesus Christ, kid. What were you thinking? You've scared everybody down here half to death."
    "Uncle," I cut in, to stop his seemingly never-ending stream of words. "What's going to happen to me? What about the man I killed?"
    "The man you k—for God's sake, Sven, is that why you ran away? Because you thought you'd killed somebody?" There was a loud sigh at the other end of the line. "Listen to me, Sven. They found two men at your farm that morning. One of them, the older guy, was dead. After the investigation, it was clear he had been shot by his accomplice by accident, and the accomplice's testimony confirms that. He said you came at them like a madman. He got so scared that he shot blindly, and got the old man by mistake."
    "Wait," I said. "That other guy is alive?"
    "If you can call it that," my uncle answered. "You left him in a bad shape, Sven. He'll probably spend a few more weeks in the hospital before he can even be moved to jail."
    I blinked. "So he's been convicted?"
    My uncle sighed with exasperation again. "Haven't you been listening, boy? The guy confessed. Everybody knows what happened. The wounds you inflicted on the men were ruled as self-defense. You're not being charged anything. That was part of why it took so long for me to reach you. Since we thought you were dead, finding out you weren't meant a whole new process had to be started to process the new information. But now it's done. You're clean, Sven. You can come home."
    "I... I can come home?" I repeated stupidly, unable to make myself believe it.
    "Did you hit your head on an iceberg up there?" My uncle asked me. "Yes! Of course you can come home! The farm is yours, now, you know. Pete left everything to you in his will. I am taking care of it for now as the family attorney, but it's here, waiting for you."
    I felt numb. It felt like a dream, but I knew it wasn't. It was just... too good. Too good to be true.
    "I can't believe it, Uncle," I said. "I've spent the last three months... well..."
    "I can only imagine what you must have gone through, kid," my uncle said, his voice softening. "You saw Pete get murdered. Then you ran away thinking you had to escape. It's all over now. Trust me. Everything's okay."
    "There was a third man," I said suddenly, remembering. "He got away."
    "We're still looking for him," he answered, "but it'll take some time. It's not a priority case anymore, now that it's been proven you're alive. Still, the police are doing everything they can. We'll get him someday, don't worry."
    I was silent for a long time, just holding the phone to my ear. It was finally dawning on me: I was free. I wasn't going to prison at all. I was free.
    "Thank you, Uncle," I said, finally. "For everything. I'll stay in touch. There's a lot I need to think about."
    "Take your time, kid. You know where to reach me. And if you need any money for the ticket back home, just let me know. I'll wire you some cash as soon as you tell me to."
    "Thanks," I repeated. "Goodbye, Uncle."
    "Goodbye, Sven. Take care."
    "I will."
    I hung up. I looked at Officer Rogers, who nodded. "You're free to go, Mr. Madison. Sorry it took so long. I guess your uncle brought you up to speed."
    "Not a problem," I said. "So... this means I can go?"
    "You're free to go, sir. And... if I may say so. That was mighty brave, what you did. I read the case file while we were working on the logistics of your declaration yesterday. You take care, now."
    I nodded, heading for the door. Nobody stopped me. And then I was out.
    I walked through the town, not really paying attention to where I was going. My mind was a whirlwind of conflicting thoughts. I could go home. This was all over. Finally, the fear, the sense of pursuit, the anger... I could just let it go. I was free.
    I took a big, deep breath. A gigantic weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and I felt light. What my uncle had told me wouldn't bring my grandfather back, but it was a measure of justice. And it felt good. It felt right.
    I guess I should have been happier, but even though I felt free, there was a shadow in the back of my mind, something that dimmed the great life-changing news I had just received. Nothing was stopping me now from going back home to the life I had abandoned when I had thought there was nothing there for me any more; there was nothing was keeping me back... but I wished there was. I wished there was a reason for me to stay.
    Without realizing it, my steps had led me back to the water's edge. To my right, the sea extended out over the bay, the water reflecting the bright sunlight of the morning. If I squinted, I would probably be able to make out the tiny house on the other side of the bay, but I didn't. It would hurt too much.
    He hadn't come. He had decided to move on. And maybe... maybe I should do the same.
    I kicked a rock that was on my way, and heard the plunk as it sank beneath the waves. I stuffed my hands in my pockets, and sighed.
    "Hey, bear hunter," a deep voice said.
    I looked up. Standing just a little bit ahead, arms crossed over his chest and a warm smile on his lips, was Matt.
    I stopped. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out.
    Matt approached slowly, as if he wasn't sure what I would do. I briefly noticed the new bandage over his arm, the tank top he was wearing, showing off his beautiful body, the way his hair gleamed in the sunlight. But most of all, I saw his eyes. And when he broke into a run to bridge the gap between us and extended his arms, a smile of pure happiness on his face, I opened my arms and caught him, embracing him, holding him tight, certain that know I was never letting go.
    "I was so fucking scared," he said, his voice muffled as he buried his head between my neck and my shoulder. "I followed you as soon as the doctor was finished with me, but when I got to the station they wouldn't let me in to see you. I came back the next day and it was the same thing. I waited outside for hours. Then I came back that night and Rogers told me that they were working on something to set you free, but he wouldn't let me inside either. And this morning, he called, and I came as fast as I could. I'm so glad Sven. Really. I just..."
    He ran out of words to say then, and simply held me in a hard embrace that was almost painful, reminding me of how strong he was, and also of just how happy I was to see him.
    We stayed like that for a very long time, and then Matt looked up at me, and kissed me. I didn't care about the world then, and neither did he. For that long, perfect moment, all that existed was us.
    "I love you, Sven," he said, his voice husky. "I don't care how long it's been since I've known you. You're the one. I know it."
    "I love you too, Matt," I answered, smiling, and I meant it with every fiber of my being. Once, a lifetime ago, I would have never imagined that I would be able to say those words to anyone. Now I couldn't imagine how I had lived without knowing what love was.
    We kissed again, and then Matt led me back to the town. We had breakfast at the place Matt had promised to take me the day before, and I had to admit that those really were the best grilled cheese sandwiches I have ever had. Matt ignored the many curious glances that were directed at the two of us. We didn't speak much as we ate, but we didn't need to, not anymore.
    When we were done, we left and headed straight for the docks. I spotted Matt's boat right away, and I saw it was loaded with stuff. In fact, I could barely fit near the prow. Matt sat in the back, untied the boat and set off, back toward his house.
    During the brief trip back, couldn't help remembering that the last time I had come this way, Matt had been ready to throw me overboard as violently as possible if he ever got a chance. Things couldn't be more different now. Things couldn't be better.
    After we docked, I helped Matt carry all the stuff he'd bought back into the house. It looked like he had finally gotten some shopping done, and I was glad to see that there were lots of six-packs of beer in the mix, along with actual food that was fresh, not canned like everything we had been eating for the past few days.
    On the last trip back to the house from the boat, I told him about the farm.
    "So my grandfather left everything to me," I said.
    "That's great," Matt said, struggling under the weight of a large sack of potatoes. He didn't sound as enthusiastic as I would have thought, and didn't say anything else until we reached the house.
    I dumped the groceries on the table, and he did the same.
    "So. That means you're probably going to leave soon, right?" he said, his eyes on the floor.
    "I... I don't know," I said, confused. Not sure if he meant that I should leave. "I do have a lot of things to take care of back there. I suppose I will have to go eventually."
    Matt nodded, heading upstairs quickly. I wondered if I had said something to offend him as I saw him climb, and I considered leaving him alone for a while, but something made me follow him.
    I climbed the steps two at a time, and I reached the upper floor a few seconds after Matt. He was standing next to the door of his room. When he saw me coming, he averted his eyes.
    "I guess I forgot you had a life elsewhere," he said. "I don't know what I was thinking. Of course you have to go back."
    I approached, slowly.
    "I only got the groceries done today because I was so busy yesterday," Matt explained confusingly. "I had to practically threaten the damn movers to help me get the new stuff in. Charged me extra for the short notice, but I managed to get rid of the old stuff and put in some new things. I thought you might... well, I thought you might like it."
    With that, he looked across the hall at the door that had always been locked before. I followed his gaze, looking in, and stopped, dumbstruck.
    "Matt..." I whispered, surprised, touched, amazed.
    I stepped into the room that had so recently been his father's, except that now it was completely transformed from whatever it had been before. All the old stuff was gone. There was a bed set against the far wall that practically had the price tag still attached to it, and a closet with a couple of very nice shirts hung from the pegs, new also. A stylish rug in a bright red color covered the center of the room, contrasting nicely with the worn, warm look of the wooden floor and walls. Matt had even bought a little rack that stood by the side of the bed, where he had put the gun I didn't even know I had forgotten there. He had prepared the entire room for me, so I could stay.
    "I'm sorry if I read too much into... well, us," Matt said, coming into the room. "I don't—"
    "It's perfect," I said, surprised I was actually choking up with emotion. "This is better than anything I could have imagined." I turned around, looked right at him. "Matt, I want to be with you. For as long as you will have me."
    Matt blinked quickly, almost as if he couldn't bring himself to believe what I had just said. Then he nodded, unable to speak, his eyes slightly moist. He looked away, wiped them, and then came forward to kiss me. We held each other for a long while, giving in entirely to simple, pure happiness.
    "There's something else I bought," Matt told me, walking to the bed and kneeling down to get something from underneath it. "In case you decided to stay. I thought... well. I thought we could have some fun with it."
    He was actually blushing. He stood up, holding a thick, braided rope in both hands. It looked new, but it was the kind that is easy on your skin if it ever gets wrapped too tightly, unlike the old scratchy kinds that were sure to give you a rash.
    Without a word, I walked up to the bed and threw myself down on it, making the mattress creak under my weight. I kicked off my boots. Then I held my hands over my head, tantalizingly close to the headboard.
    "Well, what are you waiting for?" I told Matt, grinning with desire and anticipation, emotions I saw burning in his eyes as he approached. "Tie me up."
    The End

This is the end of 'Bear Hunter'. Hope you guys enjoyed this story. Thanks to all the readers that sent in feedback as I was writing it, week after week. It's been fun. I'm working on another story now, and hopefully I'll be able to post the link to it here in a few days, once I submit it to Nifty. See you!

    If you liked this story, make sure to check out my other Nifty story, `Learning with a Man' at: