Blackberry Winter
Chapter 5
By John Yager
Copyright 2004

Usual stipulations apply. All my stories can be found in the NIFTY Prolific Net Authors section.  I also maintain a notification list.  If you'd like to be added to it just let me know at the e-mail address below.

As always, many thanks to Andrew for proofing.

The sun was shining brightly when they woke and when Dan rose and looked out the windows, most of the snow was gone. The spring cold snap had passed as quickly as it has come.

Dan stoked the fire and returned to bed while the cabin warmed up.

"We'd better get moving, buddy," he whispered half an hour later, then on a whim, leaned over and gave Steve a soft, but quick kiss squarely on the lips.

"What time is it?" Steve moaned.

"After eight," Dan said, rolling out of bed.

"Shit," Steve groused, tossing back the covers and sitting up on his side of the bed.

By some unspoken mutual agreement, neither boy got dressed. They stripped the bed, folding the sheets and blankets, and packing one of each on each of their backpacks along with the few other items they'd brought. Their load would be lighter on the trek back down to the trail head. The food they'd brought with them had been eaten and the few other expendable items had been used.

"Are you okay?" Dan asked as they worked.

"Yeah, great," Steve grinned.

"What we did last night isn't bothering you?"

"No. Well, maybe a little. I guess I still have a lot of questions," Steve smiled, giving Dan as friendly slap on the butt. "I sort of wish we'd gone further."

"Maybe that will happen sometime."

"Soon, I hope."

"Well, maybe, when you're comfortable with it."

"Yeah," Steve said, his voice low and serious. "I guess I need to think through all that stuff my dad's always saying."

"Yeah," Dan agreed, "come to your own conclusions." It would be hard, he knew, for Steve to go against all the indoctrination he'd received over the years.

They ate their breakfast of cold cereal and reconstituted milk, finally, with some reluctance, pulling on their hiking clothes, and extinguishing the fire in the cast iron stove. Almost as an afterthought, Dan went out to check the stove in the sauna and was back quickly to report that it was out and the stove was cold.

"Next Friday, Dan . . ."


"The Freshman party at school, you're taking Jennifer, right?"

"Yeah," Dan said, looking at Steve with a quizzical expression.

"And I'm taking Ann. I guess we can double, right?"

"We usually do."

"Could I spend the night at your house?"

"Sure, great," Dan said. "Why don't you just stay for the weekend. My folks will be fine with that and then we can take you home Sunday afternoon."

"I guess my folks would be okay with that if I promise to get my homework done."

"Yeah, and maybe a little more practicing, too," he grinned.

"Yeah, we need to do some more practicing," Steve said with a smile.

"This was really fun," Steve said as they closed the cabin door behind them.

"Maybe we can go camping a few times this spring or over the summer," Dan said.

"Oh, yeah," Steve agreed, "that would be great."

The hike down was easier than the way up had been and they were at the trail head a little before noon, the time Steve's folks were expecting to pick them up.

They'd only been waiting a few minutes when the SUV pulled up.

"Hey, guys," Steve's dad called out to them as they walked across the parking area. "It looks like you two survived."

"Yeah, we had a ball," Steve called back. They loaded their backpacks in the rear of the vehicle and climbed into the middle of the three rows of seats.

"Hi honey," Steve's mom said from the front passenger seat, turning to greet them. "You two okay?" she added, giving Dan a warm smile.

"Yes, ma'am," Dan grinned.

Steve's father climbed back into the driver's seat and they were off.

"We figured you guys would be starved so we'll stop in Granger for lunch," Mr. Oliver said as he pulled back onto the main road.

"Great," both boys echoed.

"Did you get any snow?" Steve's mom asked. "We heard a report of snowfall at higher elevations."

"Yes," both boys said at once.

"About a foot," Steve added, "but it was mostly gone by this morning."

"Well, you know these late storms," his dad said. "They usually make for a wonderful spring. Maybe you two can get some more camping in."

"Yeah," Steve agreed as he reached over under the cover of his parka to take Dan's hand. "We're counting on that."

The end.