This story is posted for the exclusive enjoyment of readers of the Nifty Archive. While you are free to make a personal copy, no copy of this manuscript may be published, copied, posted to another web site, or otherwise disseminated without express permission from the author.

The contents of this story are fictional. Any resemblance of characters to living or lived persons is strictly coincidental. Certain characters engage in sexual acts which may or may not be legal in the state or country in which a reader may reside. Any reader with objections to graphic descriptions of sexual encounters between males who may not have reached the legal age of consent, or whose local, regional, state or national jurisprudence prohibits such descriptions, should not read further.

Chapter XXII

Friday, July 9, 1993

We "talked" while we did the wineglasses -- about little things. I could feel Brad opening, probing, wanting to come into me but not sure if he should. When he went to open the bedroom door, I just opened to him completely and . . . sucked him in? I'm not sure how to describe it. He was there instantly, wrapped into my "head," and knew what I wanted. We walked hand in hand into the room, to the big bed my grandparents had used to conceive my Dad, the one in which Brad and I had probably been conceived.

Things are rather blurred as to which one of us was doing what, which always seemed the case when we went into each other at Reston. We used our imagination to add touches to the room, like candles, and the scent of cedar, and the sounds of the forest slightly increased in volume, the room a little cooler. I don't think I can explain in words how intimate we became at this point. Every single thought he had was as if it was mine, and he thought what I think I originated, as if it was his. We felt and sensed everything through both pairs of eyes and ears as if they were our own, and I had twenty fingers and toes, four knees and two noses, tongues and mouths, melded into one set of sensations.

We didn't say a word aloud, not even in our heads, because we were each other, so we knew what we thought. I wanted him inside me, he wanted me inside him, I wanted to be inside him and he wanted to be inside me, but because we could "be" either one of us at the same time, it didn't matter who was on which end of our love-making. But I can't tell you about it from "our" point of view, there is just no way of explaining it, so I guess the best way is to pretend I was only "me," and that we "talked" as we made love that amazing night.

When I put Brad on the bed, I pulled my lips from his face for an instant, and saw the beauty of his strong and unreserved love flowing over his features. His eyes were boring into mine, his whispered thoughts caressing me from the inside. His hands roamed over my body, making me feel the tingle on my skin as well as that in his fingertips, and I knew exactly where he would touch me next, increasing the anticipation of sensation to unbearable levels, even though there was the certainty it would come.

Our lips brushed, our tongues crept, flicking trails from cheek to ear to shoulder to nipple. I licked his underarm, inhaling his musk, and was surprised that I also had a musky scent, almost as nice as his, just slightly different, with less hair, deeper recess. He smelled me and his level of excitement grew, slight buzzing in my --his -- ears. I shifted a little wrong for my shoulder and there was a first hint of stabbing pain, but he went there and made the pain stop. I can go into him and stop his, too -- it's like massaging a muscle, except it's not a muscle, it's a . . . something like it, but long and hot feeling, with a deep rumbling sound, and kind of jagged on the corners with little . . . I don't know the words. I can't do it to me, only to him. It takes a lot of concentration, but it doesn't hurt back.

We gradually moved around, and I buried my nose in his pubic hair, inhaling his rich and penetrating odor, kissing the skin just above the little patch of reddish blond hair. His dick was pushed off to my left cheek, looking huge, the follicles of the hair stopping just a millimeter from where the column leapt out of his body. His sack hung loose, but I could see the ropes of the vessels, leading down. His balls moved a little, up and down, without being touched.

His tongue lapped at the side of my dick just as I lapped at his, and I looked closer at his balls, hidden under the soft pink and hairless skin of the sack. At the same time I could feel them through him, feel the tingle of my nose as it pressed into the sack, the warmth of my breath on my . . . Brad's . . . skin. I thought of how they had worked tirelessly to make the seed of his body that he would soon be giving me. I bent lower to kiss them, take each between my lips and suck it gently into my mouth, feeling him take mine into his, laving and lavishing love on them, full of wonder that they could make so much for us to enjoy.

I traced down the tiny trail of fine blonde hairs running crosshatched from the base of his ball sack towards his hole, watching as he spread his legs to give me better access, lifting them a little, then rolling us so that I was on my back, to protect my shoulder. His movements had the effect of opening the cleft of his butt to show me the pink volcano, ridges radiating from the center towards the slightly darker border between hole and skin, a few wispy hairs surrounding it, maybe five or six, barely visible. He lifted my legs up a little, and I felt his tongue flickering at my hole. I smelled of soap and muck, but nothing dirty, and I'd cleaned myself good down there. I followed his lead, and laved under his ball sack as I moved my right hand to the edge of his hole, pulling it to one side. It tried to open to me, but I had to put a finger on the other side to stretch it a little, to see the moist pink skin inside only a little. He reached around and helped me, his tongue already moving inside my hole, sending shivers through both our bodies.

His hole opened a little more, and I moved the tip of my tongue to it, smelling only more of his musk, a tiny trace of his funkiness, as if left over from a fart, sweet and . . . like moist leaves under an oak tree. I pushed my tongue into him, and felt the silken lining of him try to open to me, as he relaxed his muscle as much as possible to me. His dick was against my chest, pressed between us, and I felt the slickness of it as it got ready for whatever use it was to be put to.

"I can come like this," he whispered into me. "But I want your seed inside me and mine inside you. You have to stop."

I went inside him a little, and searched for his orgasm, finding it spread out under his backbone, building strength, and I caressed it back into docility, letting it know that its time would come, but not yet, wait for a better moment.

"How did you do that?"

"I don't want you to come yet, Brad. There's so much more to do."

"Me too," he sighed into me. "Do that again so I can see how. Oh, I see. Yes. Here."

He took my orgasm back down a notch or two, and I plunged my tongue into him as far as it would go, even a little past the tight ring of him, and I felt the shiver go through his body, as it went through mine.

He was ready for me, and I felt his need grow, felt the spot inside his ass that wanted touching by the head of my dick, felt the longing inside of him for the fullness that I could bring to him, the place all the way inside, at the very bottom, that wanted me to enter and claim.

Brad took his tongue from inside me and moved back a little, freeing my dick between us as he traced the line back along my ball sack, to my balls, then up the underside, as I was kissing the tube that would bring me forth his seed, watching it plunge down -- up -- into the center of his dick as it moved to the slit in the head. I looked at the way the skin gathered under the head, how the head from underneath looked like a blunt heart or spear.

The tip was smeared with his lube, and I kissed it into my mouth, enjoying again the sweetness of it, the slipperiness on my lips, on the tip of my tongue. I could wait no more, and took the head into my mouth, tickling the . . . top of my dick with his tongue as he just held me in his mouth, softly sucking more of my lube from me. He went deep into me again and soothed my orgasm, no longer responsive to my commands to sit and stay. It lay down, but it was stronger now, and took more persuading.

The head of my dick moved back into his mouth, his lips sealing around the shaft, the skin so soft and supple. . . I sighed as the head hit the back of my throat, and my arm went around his waist, pulling him slowly into me, past the place where I once gagged. I watched as his balls roiled, more animated than before, and crept closer to my nose. His shaft looked impossibly thick at the base, as if my lips could never open so wide as to get him all in, and I asked him to fuck into me a little, just to let me watch the muscles of his legs quiver with the excitement of the impending eruption. He rolled us on to our right sides, and I watched as his balls rolled over his inner thigh, now hanging down over his right leg a little.

I fucked into his mouth slowly, only a quarter inch deeper each time, withdrawing just far enough to let him breathe as I unblocked the airway, but not enough to come all the way out of his throat. Each time I pushed in, it was a little farther, and his throat began the swallowing movement along the length of the dick as it . . .  went deeper and deeper into my throat, not at all uncomfortable, as we established the slow rhythm that was perfectly timed to the breaths we took.

I kept the restraints around his orgasm, holding it back despite the increased urgency of its need to be free, and enjoyed the sight of his balls getting closer and closer to my lips, the feel of my throat opening to the head of his dick as it went further into me. His thrusts became longer, as he had to pull farther back to let me breathe, and his orgasm strained against me, filling him with a fire that could only be quenched if . . .

. . . if he let me come. My belly was now becoming a pit of fire, a heat that built little fires in my legs and chest, my dick feeling swollen beyond its normal size when erect, the head impossibly sensitive to the thrusts. My chin now hit his pubic hair on the deepest part of his in-stroke, and then the hard flesh, and the tempo picked up a little more, but still as slowly as our passion for each other would permit. His balls bounced, not hanging down loosely between us as before, but drawn up closer to his shaft. I watched them, fascinated at their movements, almost independent of his movements back and forth, now very long, as . . .

. . . I was all the way inside his tight throat, feeling my balls hit gently against the side of his face at the same time as his slightly smaller but just as beautiful orbs brushed gently into mine. The smell of him was an intoxicant, and I was glad he had my orgasm locked down, because I would have missed these moments, these sensations in the midst of an orgasm.

My fingers went to his hole sometime during all this, and the middle one gradually plunged into him, seeking the little spot that I knew would . . .

. . .drive me over the edge if he didn't do a better job of holding back my orgasm, now like a raging bull, ready to smash through the corral wall and into the Ring. It now occupied the whole of my abdomen, from throat to butt hole, down my legs to my knees, and needed more room. I watched my finger, plunging into him in opposite rhythm to his thrusts, and felt him touch my nut with the ball of his finger, and the Bull snorted . . .

. . . and stamped his feet, the chains around it threatening to snap at any second, watching his balls, as they began to tighten up to the shaft. I was glad that his dick was a little smaller than mine, because it gave him an idea of the difference, how little it meant to either of us when we were making love, that it was probably easier for me to take completely inside me . . .

. . . because his dick was bigger, and I had to keep my throat straighter for him. I was giving him as much pleasure, as he strained to hold me back from the orgasm we were building together, which seemed to recede slightly as it fused between our two bodies, becoming a single Taurus, stronger than the sum of its parts.

"I'm getting to the end," we said in unison, unable to hold back the other's half of the huge beast within us. We pulled back one last time to let us take a very deep breath, tickling my/his nut gently, and entered one last time, slowly and deeply . . . into my throat and I let go of his half of the orgasm just as he let his half go, and the shock of the sudden freedom must have thrown it a loop. It hovered there a second, unsure of what direction to take, then just went in all directions at once, engulfing me in an ice-cold chill and a lava-hot cloud all at the same time, the base of his dick visibly expanding as the first shot of his seed was cannoned down the length of his dick, deep into the pit of my stomach.

"AaahhhhhGod!" We yelled into each other as I began the swallowing motion of my throat to milk more of his orgasm, even as my dick exploded into his body, trying to drown him in my love, and he milked me for every seed he could coax from me. The Dark started to come for me, but Brad pushed it back, and I felt it all -- for the first time felt . . .

. . . the whole orgasm as it wracked our body, making his legs twitch almost uncontrollably, as I held back the blackness that came up into him from inside his head, where there were some connections that were missing, and that I could fix, but later, not now. His seed pumped through the tube underneath, and even in the throes of The Orgasm, I marveled at the fortune God had brought to me in my brother, my partner, my Love, my Loon.

"I love you, Loon," was I think the only thought I said "aloud" during the whole thing, just as I felt the last spurt of his dick in my throat, and he pulled out a little to let me taste him as the flow of his seed followed the great ejaculations of the first part.

"I love you, Brad," I thought at him, just as he pulled back and I tasted his semen, swallowing rapidly to keep up with the flow, let no single sperm wiggle its way out of my mouth save into my body. I sucked greedily at the teat of his dick, rewarded with the constant flow, the glow of orgasm beginning to overcome the explosive release.

When the last sperm finally exited from our bodies, and I had thoroughly washed his now-less-sturdy shaft deep inside my mouth, he withdrew and replaced his dick with his tongue, after moving us around on the bed so we were under the duvet, our heads on the pillows. I pulled "away" from him slowly, reluctantly. We snuggled together like all lovers do, touching gently, talking nonsense. This part is always better when we aren't merged, we think. In fact, sex is sometimes better, too. I think it's because there is more mystery.

We lay like that for almost an hour, I guess, semi-dozing, touching, holding.

"I want you inside me," Brad said. We merged again, easily, with no restraint, and he squeezed me back to hardness with his mind, showing me what it felt like when I made love to him, how his body felt inside when I was plunging into him, how I hit his prostate just right..

My dick became like a tiny Vesuvius, lube flowing onto his fingertips as he spread it over the head. He pulled me on top of us, and his legs surrounded me, his hole lifting to my dick, held in position by his hand, a pillow appearing under the small of his back. Our mouths were joined, and I teased his nipples with my "inside fingers," making them tingle with anticipation. The melding of our thoughts became more intense, and other than feeling this slight difference in our bodies, the outside dimensions, the color of our eyes, it was impossible to tell which of us was feeling the sensations we felt.

I eased into him, feeling the sensations he felt as I moved through the ring, and I made it relax and not cramp, and took the pain part away but left the thrill part, and turned up the volume a little. He did something inside my head, sort of like . . . closing a tiny door, or something. My dick was so sensitive it threatened to overcome my resistance and shoot before we even got started, but Brad felt that, just as I felt his prostate react to my dick inside him, and we managed to push the orgasms back down in their lairs. Brad's wasn't ready, anyway, just stretching, but there was a power there.

I had to work hard on Loon's orgasm to keep it under control. He was so excited with lust and love, he could hardly concentrate, barely managing to keep my orgasm from building too fast. When I fixed the switch that kept making him black out when he came, he . . . got stronger, and I almost had to fight to keep from being submerged, but only for a second, until he turned down the {volume? power?} to equal mine. He figured out how to keep me from hurting as he moved into me, and when his dick hit my prostate for the first time, on the way in, he did this little desensitizing thing to it to keep me from spewing on the spot.

I won't bore you with a repeat of the details of what happened, except that when he came in my mouth while I was inside him, we had held back the orgasm for so long that it was uncontrollable, and he shouted for both of us loud enough that people in Clear Lake probably heard the echoes. He clamped down so hard on my dick that I thought it was going to keep my semen from spurting into him, but there was no need to worry -- I think it was under so much pressure that even a stainless steel condom couldn't have restrained it. It was by far the most intense of any climax I'd had, because it was our climax, we'd held it back for at least twenty minutes to increase it's power, and we both felt everything, right down to the tiny difference in the timing of our orgasms, as I was shooting just a tad faster than him. The most amazing part was that I didn't black out. Brad closed the little {?} - I don't know what to call it. It's a chemical thingy up in the cerebral cortex that overloaded during synapse data transfer. I know what it means, but there's no point in turning this into a medical text.

I hope Boo was a deep sleeper. We made love again a little later, our libidos released by the restored intimacy. We prayed together, too. We sent one thought to God of thanks, and another of hope for good things for everyone. Our last prayer was for His blessing and support in the years we were to stay in the Garden. I think He heard.

Brad separated from me as I fell asleep, his mind slowly fading away, just as his dick slipped from inside me. I was too tired to keep him from leaving. I knew even then that I could "draw him into us" and push "me into him" far more easily than he could draw me into "us" or push himself into me, except of course we never knew where "we" were when we were "together." That afternoon, in fact, I found that if I really wanted to, and he didn't object except in play, I could draw him into "us" almost instantly, even when he tried his hardest to hold back. Moreover, I could hold him there even when he tried to get away. It was a good thing, but we didn't know that yet. It scared him a little at first -- that Alpha Male instinct that refused to accept domination without a fight. Then we just accepted it, because we knew I'd never take advantage of him like that. I mean, he could "read" every thought of me, so he knew it was true.

When the birds hit full volume, somewhere around five or so, Brad surprised me by coming into my dream. It was just a routine dream, nothing special. I was in an open car of some sort, riding around in a city I'd never seen before, but which was nonetheless familiar, as I had dreamed it so many times. Traffic jams, one-way streets, freeways, and all sorts of stuff. I was always alone, driving around looking for something or someone, always repeating the same pattern, around and around, while the streets changed shape, or direction, or moved up and down the hills.

Brad was suddenly in the seat next to me, the first time I'd ever noticed that there was a seat, except it was on my left, not my right, but I had the steering wheel, accelerator and brakes on my side.

"I love you'" he said to me, looking at me. I felt myself get bigger, almost the same size as him, and my eyes turned that beautiful green of his eyes.

"No, Loon," he said as we passed the Cathedral. "I love your eyes so much like they are. Please don't change them. I want the kaleidoscope back, the little green tidal pool."

My eyes went back to their original color, and I stopped trying to be him, and the streets somehow disappeared and we were swimming under water, but breathing the water normally, as if it were air. We swam over a reef, these amazing fish of every color playing about us, and I felt his arms go around me, his dick slowly entering me from behind, right in front of the fish. They all stopped and watched us, and I was about to draw the curtain when I realized Brad was really inside me, and holding me in his arms, and I was horny as hell, and Brad soothed me with his "tendrils," and said "I love you" again into my soul. The fish were gone, and I opened my eyes to the peacock feathers in a vase on the little table, where mom put them all those years ago when we had a pair of breeding peacocks.

He was deep inside me when I woke, but only with his dick, no longer his mind. We made love without the link, and it was just as good in many ways, adding a little mystery to it. He was pretty far gone, so he just stayed still inside me, petting me, nuzzling my neck and whispering what he felt through the telephone.

"You feel so warm and tight inside, like a glove made just for me," he said. "I can feel your heartbeat right at the tip of my dick, and the second sphincter is wrapped real tight around the head, right behind the ridge."

My heart was as full as my hole, maybe more, and I was so happy I wanted to cry, which I thought was silly, I mean why cry if you're happy? So I laughed a little to keep the tears from coming and then coughed from choking on a laugh, and he told me that I was massaging him inside me when I coughed, and he was going to come really quick if I didn't stop. I wanted him to come, but I wanted to come with him, so my muscles would grip him, make his orgasm even better, so I stopped all movement.

His hand was on my dick, milking it a little, getting out some more lube to make me slippery, and he started to stroke me very, very slowly. I snuggled back into him, his right arm underneath me, holding me to him. I just relaxed and went along for the ride, and he took me very slowly to the brink, back, to the brink again, back one last time, then moved inside me, four or five strokes right against my prostate, and the Feeling raged from my insides into my dick, and I moaned deeply as I felt him pulse with the first ejaculation of his orgasm, all the way inside me. The duvet had long disappeared, and we were right at the edge of the bed, so my semen shot straight out and down in a graceful arc to the rag rug on the unpolished wood floor.

"I love you Loon," he said as he filled me. "I love you more than I love life. Not even Death will stop that."

"Better not," I said. "I'll never let you go."

He milked the rest of my semen from me, into his hand, and raised it to his lips. I kissed his arm, wishing the moment would never end.

The smell of freshly ground coffee sneaked through our fog of post orgasm, and Brad slowly pulled out of me, whispering on the back of my neck that he'd be back soon. Breakfast beckoned, though - being hungry was not an option, so we got up.

Naturally, Jeremy and William slept late -- I guess you do that when you get older -- so we got to shower and stuff before they got up. The water pipe only clacked once, when we turned the shower on, and by that time, we'd done all the rest. This may sound a little sick, but I actually missed having Brad poot next to me while I brushed and shaved. I was glad he had to dump first, because at least that way I could smell him when I went into the toilet to do my business -- it made me dump my load faster that way, and I jumped into the shower with him just as he was rinsing off. He washed my back for me, not skipping my hole, which was a little tingly still..

William and Jeremy made it to the kitchen just in time to share the remnants of the first pot of coffee, and Boo put another pot on right away. We had what Boo called her "Boofly Pie:" eggs, ham, onions, Swiss cheese, home fries, garlic, nutmeg, chives and a little cream, all baked together in a pie shell, coming out of the oven like magic just as we took our vitamins.

Jeremy and William decided to take a quick run over to Shasta to let William see the mountain and have lunch in McCloud. I wasn't interested and neither was Brad - we had the ashes to scatter, and that was something we wanted to do alone anyway. Brad suspected William and Jeremy deliberately took a hike to give us space.

The two set out at around ten, and Boo went into "Clean" mode, so we took the cardboard containers out to the porch to map out where we wanted to scatter them. I got the baby spoons out of my fanny pack and polished them while we "talked' about the route we should take.

"First, I'd like to take them both up to the crest of Reston Hill, and scatter some into the wind," Brad said. "Then maybe down the slope to the creek, by the swimming hole, and put a little on each of the old redwoods."

"I'd like to put some around the rocks on the Ridge, where we used to picnic and sunbathe," I mused. "Maybe go down the other side a little to where Mom and Dad made love when we were little and didn't know we could see them from the rocks."

Brad laughed silently. "I remember! We thought Dad was trying to blow her up like a life raft, and it was funny that his butt was so white!"

"I thought Mom saw me," I said. "That's why I got so scared about us spying on them. I thought she'd give us a spanking for sure."

"When did you ever get a spanking from Mom?"

I thought a while . . . and realized that the answer was only once, when I got caught stealing the candy bar from Stan's Market, the corner shop near our house when we lived on the Peninsula. I think I was five or six, but I'll never forget the shame I felt, as Mom cried like a baby while she spanked me with the Ping-Pong paddle. Naturally, I cried as well, but it wasn't from pain. It was shame that did it, shame that I'd done it, shame that I got caught, shame that I dirtied the name Weston. I showed Brad, and he understood, accepted that I had done it, that I was genuinely sorry, that I hadn't done anything like that ever again.

He even showed me where he'd done something like that when he was the same age, but didn't get caught, and lived in terror for months that any day the police would come and arrest him and throw him in a foster house, never to see Mom and Dad and me again. He resolved that one by scraping together the money to pay for the comic book and going in to the store to pay them, telling the manager that he'd "forgotten" to pay for it when he left the last time he was there. He still had twinges of guilt, just like me. I guess Reverend Alexander did a pretty good job.

We put the canisters into each other's backpack, as well as a couple of thermos bottles of ice water, and started off, up to the crest. I had to carry my backpack over my right shoulder, of course, so Brad carried both Thermos bottles, thank God. We wore only shorts and socks under hikers. As we went past the big Incense Cedar at the base of the crest, a couple of ground squirrels scrambled away, and we stopped for a second to scatter the first spoonfuls around the base of the cedar. We "merged" for a minute to pray, and opened the canisters. There was no wind, and the ashes made a dry fog as they drifted to the bark of the cedar's trunk, then to the needles on the ground, turning them a pale gray. I thought it would hurt, but it felt all right to do it. This was their home, after all.

We climbed up the hill to the crest, putting a spoonful here and there, under a rock to nurture a seedling pine, under the big oak halfway up the hill. Then we were on the big boulder on the crest, and the ever-present breeze blew over the forest on the other side, forest that had once belonged to the Weston family, but that was now either part of the National Forest, or belonged to the logging companies.

We took off the backpacks and put them on the ground between us, facing each other, with the wind gently brushing my right hand. We then spooned ashes into the wind, and watched them blow down and away over the rocks and up and away over the trees.

After almost a third of the ashes were gone, Brad and I merged again for a minute to pray, then went down the hill to the stream, where we scattered more into the waters above the swimming hole. We started the trek up to the Ridge, a line of of rock on the other side, after deciding not to take a swim for a while (I couldn't, anyway -- and Brad wouldn't.)

The climb isn't all that bad - it's only two hundred feet or so, but pretty steep, and the rocks are a little treacherous, because of all the volcanic lava rock, which shatters in deep frost, and gives way underfoot, as it's held together only by moss sometimes.

Just as we got to the last ledge before the top of the Ridge, a couple more ground squirrels dashed from the ledge and into a crevice behind moss-covered Big Boulder, and we both laughed at their antics. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Brad suddenly leap forward, as if shoved from behind, and he crashed into a rocky outcropping, face first, without putting his hands in front of him in time to protect his face. There was a little series of tiny volcanoes erupting from the outcropping in front of us, and I was completely confused. No sound, just . . . wasps! I heard the crunch of his impact, and pulled him into me without asking. He fell to the ground, almost bouncing down, moving too fast, and . . . I felt my arm scraped open by the rock, as I rolled into a sharp rock, blood in my right eye from a cut, I guess. My right shoulder was numb.

"Something hit me from behind."

I felt the hurt on my . . . on his shoulder, and I looked at his backpack, all dark with liquid. Streaming water. No blood . . . yes, blood, not much, pinky. I finally got through the molasses that separated us, and threw myself down next to him, over him. The wasps followed, but above our heads, then they stopped.

I went and looked into his shoulder. It wasn't his shoulder, but a rib, the fourth one down. Cracked, not broken. A wound on the outside, nothing inside the rib. His heart was right inside the rib. I shivered. Another wasp overhead.

I made us crawl together behind Big Boulder, into the big recess under the overhang of the Ridge where we'd played cowboys and Indians -- and a couple of times, I remembered, "doctor" -- as kids.

I pulled off his backpack. The canister fell out, rolled a foot or so, and stopped. There was a mess of blood under the backpack, but it was oozing, not pumping. I saw no bullethole, just the rib. I prayed that it had glanced off the rib, not gone inside him. I ripped the inside flap out of the backpack and plastered a piece of the canvas against the wound, then tied the backpack back on his torso, real tight, sans thermos, dumped hastily on the ground. They both had a hole straight through, almost but not quite centered. The holes were bigger on one side than on the other. One hole was almost an inch in diameter. There was a big hole through the nylon support that runs between the top and bottom of the shoulder strap.

I backed us towards the other side of the boulder. If we could get past the ten-foot space between "our" boulder and the next one, we could maybe creep down the trail on the other side of the ridge. There was a cleft in the ridge there.

"BOO!" I/we shouted at the tops of our voices. As if she could hear us from inside the cabin. Another pair of wasps. In front of us. I scrabbled farther into the recess, and my foot hit the canister, setting it to rolling again, right towards the "entrance" we'd come through. It accelerated down the rock to the shelf, out into the sun, rolling towards the edge of the ledge, then just exploded, creating a cloud of ashes, which lazily drifted over the ledge and down..

I went inside Brad again, and tried to stop the hurt. It wasn't real bad, but it was bad, because when he moved, his rib muscles spasmed. The cut over his eye wasn't that deep -- lucky for him he still had the bandage over the crease. The bleeding stopped gradually. My -- his arm ached, and the cuts in his palm stung like the devil. We made it to the space on the other side of the boulder, and agreed to make a quick dash for the next boulder. We crouched, then sprang out from behind Big Boulder, ready to run the ten feet to Small Rock. No wasps. Crouching low, we made the ten feet as if Scotty had beamed us across. Still no wasps.

We were through! We made it to the other side of Small Rock, and I looked out. Clear path to the cleft in the Ridge. I looked around the boulder a little. No sign of anybody. We crouched again, then crept through the space behind Small Rock, towards the cleft, ready to run like blazes if we heard anything. Nothing.

We got to the cleft, and turned into it, still creeping, keeping down. Nothing.

Brad went in front, down the storm-carved gravel bed, our boots making little nose on the big stones. He went into the narrow part of the cleft, where two pinnacles of whitish granite rock held back the water, got through, then stopped. In front of him, I saw a man, very slim, all in dark brown, the color of tree bark, knit ski mask as well. He had a very big military-style rifle pointed at my -- Brad's -- chest. He was on the top of the ridge, looking down at us from maybe a hundred feet away.

"Freeze is a good word," said a voice. It sounded southern. "You don't, you die slow."

"Go back! He hasn't seen you!" Brad screamed into me. It almost hurt my "ears."

"Both of you, lie flat! Now!" the Spectre, Hood, commanded.

"So much for that," I thought as we fell to lay down on our stomachs. My shoulder winced. Brad's, now, too.

"Who he?" Brad said. He took the pain out of my shoulder, as I did his.

"No idea," I spit back. By this time, of course, we were melded again, so the thoughts didn't really happen out loud.

"What do?"


"Hands straight out in front of you!" came the command from the hooded man. "Legs spread!"

We were at a loss. He was above us, there was no way to go but forward and back, and both meant that the gunman would have a dead shot at us. We did as asked, except of course I couldn't move my left arm.


"What did we do?" I cried in as little boy a voice as I could manage.

"Got born, fucker!" the Hood spat back. "Your fuckin' father knew."

"Knew what?" I think we had Brad say that, in a higher pitch than he really has.

"Why you're gonna die," Hood said, in a voice that sent chills through us. It carried scorn, anger, rage, pain.

"He's dead," I said. We made my voice sound like it was no more than eleven or twelve years old. "You killed him? My Mom?" We put tears into it.

"Shut the fuck up!" Hood barked. "Weren't for your fucking father, I'd have kids of my own, and they wouldn't be fucking spoiled little shit-head cock-suckers like you two," Hood said. He was right over us, on the top of the rock. I could see his shadow against the rock face. He had the muzzle of the rifle pointed down.

I tried to move my head a little to see him. A wasp hit the dirt just in front of my nose. There was a funny whoosh sound, not like the silencer sounds you hear in the movies. More . . . solid.

"Keep still, mothafucker!" Hood barked. "Unless you want to die real, real slow."

"Brad?" called out Boo, from not far away. "Tim?" I waited for the bullet to crash through my head.

"Can we move fast enough?"

"No way."

"We're gonna have to if we're gonna have any chance at all."


"Roll out on three!"

"One Two Three!"

We each rolled away from the center of the cleft, quickly, and because I was on the opposite side of the rock face, where Hood could easily see me without leaning over the edge like he would have to in order to see Brad, I did a somersault backwards to get behind the pinnacle where we came through.

No wasps. The guy could have cut me in ribbons with that thing in his hands, but he didn't. We waited, crouched against the rock. Brad looked all down the side of the cleft where the sun struck. There was no shadow, no sound.

"Boo! Be careful! He's got a rifle!" We called out at the top of our voices.

No wasps.