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    AC Benus
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Campfires and Starlight - a novella - 6. Chapter 6

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Campfires and Starlight

Chapter 6

 

Lee ducks through the tent flap with the two wine coolers in his hand. He gives one to Chuck, then sits next to him. “Cheers, buddy.”

They clink bottle necks, and Lee watches Chuck’s eyes get large as he slams the fizzy pink wine cocktail.

His best friend chuckles. “Whoa, dude! What’s the hurry?”

He guides the bottom of Chuck’s drink closer to his buddy’s face and says, “When last together like this, you said ‘time’s short’.”

“Did I?”

Lee nods. “You did, bud.” He resists adding “…and now I get why.”

Once his soldier friend has taken a healthy swig, Lee tells him, “You know, it wasn’t bullshit before, when I said I admire you. Admire your willingness to jump in with both feet and be brave.”

Chuck simply bobs his head like he gets it while playing with the wet label of his Bartles and Jaymes.

Lee adds, “I wanna be like that when I grow up.” That draws Chuck’s attention to him, so Lee quickly continues. “I knew you were pretty much fearless when we first met, and especially after that day we had the long talk in the assembly room.”

“It was awesome,” Chuck says.

“It was. The stuff we talked about then, the way we made each other think and question things. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about that conversation a lot, ever since we left that partners’ rock. It seems to all tie in somehow.”

“All of what?”

“What we’ve been through together. The stars, waters at night, of Jefferson Lake, the Lake of the Bays, and here and now with the ocean crashing right outside our tent. Plus, seeing images of you in my head jumping off that bridge, and…and…doing something else brave. It all made sense to me this afternoon, hearing those ‘voices’ in the trees.”

“Did it?”

Lee can tell by his buddy’s faraway gaze that it means something to him too. “OK—on the count of three, we’ll both say what we heard up there. Yeah?”

“You mean the actual words?”

“Yes. At least what they sounded like.”

Chuck nods, and both drain their drink to steel their nerves.

“One. Two…. Three.”

Simultaneously, the teen boys murmur, “Trust him.”

Chuck stays quiet, fiddling with the label again as Lee watches. But by the bobbing of his best friend’s Adam’s apple, Lee can tell Chuck is deep in thought; perhaps it’s anguish he’s witnessing.

Lee gets up and moves to a kneeling position right in front of his buddy. “Hey, Chuck, before—when I asked you if you had any questions for me about being Gay and all, you didn’t want to ask about Monty Python, did you?”

Chuck shakes his head with painful slowness.

“Then what? Don’t worry, I can take it. I promise you that.”

Chuck becomes slightly cold, but his voice turns emotional, asking plainly, “If you’re Gay, then why didn’t you kiss me?”

Tears threaten to well in Lee’s eyes; he had hurt his buddy but never intended to. “Man—it’s not that I didn’t want to. It’s just that, you’re like my brother. I feel so close to you—so close. And if back then, I like made you want to give me something just because you sensed how much I wanted it, then I’d feel like shit. Like I forced my brother to do something for me, against his will.”

“I—”

“I mean, let me try and explain, you know, finish it, because it’s kinda embarrassing, but Chuck, if you had kissed me back then, in like friendship, I wouldn’t have been able to take it that way. If you…if I couldn’t take it the right way, then I’d feel guilty for taking it from you the wrong way. Does that make sense…?”

Chuck sets his bottle down. He rises on his knees too to match his buddy’s position. “No? So, you tell me, what would it be then?” He takes Lee’s hand. “For you?”

“You gonna make me say it—”

“Love? You kiss me, and it’d be from love?” Chuck leans in.

Lees swallows and can only nod very slowly. His buddy’s blue eyes have never appeared so sensual, so beautiful. In reaction, Lee draws his head back slightly from Chuck’s advancing face.

Chuck halts and says sadly, “Who said it would be any different for me?”

Lee’s eyes close from heaviness, and a moment later, the taste of his friend floods his palate. His heart beats so fast, he feels faint. Faint and happy, as if a cosmic wrong had been settled and put right.

All distance between them evaporates: hands explore backs, necks, and wind up in the nape of hair to drive the other boy yet closer.

Like shooting stars on the inside of eyelids, a specter of light and dance—and perhaps connection itself—plays out; the noise of silence is deafening.

But then, by slow degrees, as if waking from a deep slumber, craggy sounds return. At first Lee isn’t sure, or at least he resists the notion that he knows exactly what they are.

At the same time, the boys part and open eyes. Flashes of light are penetrating the nylon walls of the tent. The sound heard resolves into goonish laughter. It’s coming from outside, coming from the men standing nearby with military-grade flashlights.

Lee’s attention shifts to the lantern overhead, realizing their lip-locked silhouette had been projected through the fabric shelter’s sides.

The two wipe mouths, push down their growing bulges, and slowly exit the tent.

Instantly, bright, searing-white light shines directly in their eyes to immobilize them; they have to raise hands to shield themselves as they gradually make their way around the side of the shelter. More brusque chuckles, bordering on catcalls, originate from the light source too.

Finally, the glare lessens. The flashlights lower enough for Lee and Chuck to be able to squint cautiously at their intruders.

A central voice announces, “Military Police. What are you two—boys—doing out here?”

Chuck responds in staccato efficiency, “Field, Charles S. Private First Class. 25th Infantry Division, United States Army; Schofield Barracks. 586-99-6428.”

The lights lower a little more, and now Lee can make out there are only two of them. The MPs lean together for a moment and exchange a quick word. Lee regards his buddy, and sees him looking set-jawed and determined.

For the briefest of instants, Lee acknowledges the wind had completely died down, and the clouds rolled away to parts unknown. The sky was crystal-clear.

Chuck chants to the intruders, “Guys camp here all the time.”

The second MP responds with sarcasm, “Guys, yes. Homos, not so much.” The pair of soldier police exchange evil smirks.

While they are doing it, Chuck lowers his head and tells Lee softly, “I didn’t stand up for you that day at Lake of the Bays, but I’ll make up for it. You’ll see.”

Lee glances up. The night is alive with stars.

Chuck plasters on false mirth and goes up to the MPs like they’re all buddies.

“That’s a good one, fellas. But you and I know today’s Army requires sensitivity training for all personnel.” He gestures casually back to Lee. “My friend here is a civilian, so he probably doesn’t know soldiers nowadays are taught not to belittle people for something as insignificant as who they dig. Am I right?” He laughs in a way inviting more from the MPs.

They don’t.

Instead, the uniformed pair assume a wide stance, and keep hands paused above their sidearms.

The second one rattles off in a report-like manner to his comrade, “The copter called in a disturbance at the beach. We reported to the site and encountered two hostiles.”

The stars in Lee’s eyes stretch from one horizon to the other.

“Yeah,” the first MP tells Chuck, “so, if you want a night in the brig, and a bad conduct report to your superior office, keep flapping your jaw.”

What he sees in the sky makes Lee silently gasp. The splendor of the full Milky Way is banded over the heads of Chuck and the intruding men. His heartrate increases.

MP number two clucks cruelly, “Pack up and leave, or we’ll show you how sensitive we can be when we do an intake on you.”

Lee can hear Chuck is deeply incensed, but his buddy keeps his voice within reason, pleading, “That’s not fair. Guys camp out here all the—”

Lee calls out, past his best friend, to the military cops, “Yes, sirs. We’ll pack up and be off the beach right away.”

Stunned, Chuck stalks back to his buddy and glares at him. “We have a right to stay.”

“Make a wish.”

“What?”

“Make a wish, I know I have.” Lee points up, and enjoys the dawning awe he witnesses on Chuck’s face. He smiles, telling him quietly, “We may have a right to be left alone, but we also have a nice, private motel room, complete with a Do Not Disturb sign for the door.”

When Chuck glances down at him again, it’s with a different kind of awe. Grinning, he turns to the MPs and practically sings, “We’ll be out of your hair in ten minutes, boys!”


 

· ~-~ · ~-~· ~-~ · ~-~ · ~-~ · ~-~ · ~-~ · ~-~ ·

 

Giggling, Chuck felt his new friend deliver a leaping piledriver on his left shoulder, but it was controlled and playful.

Chuck hammed it up, groaning like the blow had been crippling, and staggered laughing down the hall. He thought he was really starting to like this kid from a neighboring town, but then again, the two fourteen-year-olds had only met a few months ago at the start of their high school careers.

Now heading toward the open door of Assembly Room No. 3, the pair were continuing an interesting conversation they’d begun in the cafeteria. They had forty minutes of their lunch hour remaining.

They got into the quiet room and closed the door. Basically a large rectangle, the accordion partition to Assembly Room No. 2 was extended and locked. A pair of lanky windows let in natural light along the narrow wall opposite the door they’d entered, so the boys didn’t bother switching on the lights.

Instead, they veered to the right and headed to the back wall, for here were stored stacking chairs. The variously colored plastic seats interlocked to form towers five or six feet tall close to the wall, but stepped down in height as the rows of assembly chairs extended into the room.

Chuck staked a claim on a stack about four feet off the ground, smiled and propped his sneaker heels on an equally high seat opposite him. From there, he watched his new buddy climb into a similar ‘throne’ across from him. Lee’s feet landed in the chair next to his side, and they picked up the strains of their conversation where they’d left off in the cafeteria.

“So, I don’t know if you’ve seen any,” Lee asked, “but that Morgan Freeman show is called Through the Wormhole. They feature all kinds of cosmic shit on there.”

“They have episodes on YouTube?”

“Probably. Want me to look now?”

Lee was reaching for his cellphone, but Chuck held out his hand. “Nah, dude. I’ll look later on the ride home tonight. Why don’t you just go on telling me about it.”

“Yeah, so on this one, they interviewed this guy whose specialty is black holes—”

“Like a doctor or something? A professor?”

“Yeah, I guess he teaches somewhere. He’s a physicist. So, on television he did a demo with a cardboard box. He opened the lid and stepped inside, saying being pulled into a black hole is probably similar. That gravity and crap stretches everything into basically one dimension—like a piece of cardboard. But he said, everything is still there. It’s like a giant chalkboard he’s envisaging. Even though it’s flattened, all the information is stored on the walls of the black hole itself.

“Whoa, that’s deep. So nothing is ever really erased, or destroyed, even by a black hole?”

“Yep. That’s what the science dude is saying. Black holes may be like cosmic libraries, just stacks and stacks of books, recording everything that’s passed before.”

“Savage, man.” Chuck could hear the wonder leaking from the edges of his own tone.

This Lee was an interesting guy. Chuck admitted to himself that at first, this awkward, brown-eyed, brown-haired kid wasn’t much on his “friends’ radar” because Lee seemed too much in his own head, carrying around too much of the world on his shoulders to be much fun. Now Chuck wondered if Lee just took on an unfair share of other people’s problems. He’d have to play it cool and find out more about him.

“Yeah,” Chuck said grinning, “I’ve seen some shows like that. One I remember seeing was on the”—he made air quotes—“true life aspects of the Star Wars series.”

“You mean the technology?”

“No, I mean the Jedi religion.”

“Oh.” Lee shifted on his tower of seats and drew his knees up a bit.

“Yeah, it was about The Force, and how several real religions have believed in it all along.”

“Wow. Like, which ones?”

“Like Polynesians. You’ve heard of that thing they call mana. That’s what they think of as a universal connection. The people with the greatest amount of manu are able to exert their will right back to the start of everything—the Big Bang—and influence a change on creation just a tiny bit to make things get effected the way they want it now.”

Lee looked puzzled.

“Think about it,” Chuck said. “That’s how The Force works in Star Wars. The Jedi use their minds to tap into The Force, or The Mana, and bring about an outcome that they want now.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I see. Do you think it’s possible?”

“Have no idea.” Chuck pulled up his legs too. Now the boys were hugging their knees and basically sitting on the edge of their seats. “But if you ask me if I believe in ‘connection,’ in all things being joined, counter-dependent on each other, then yes. Definitely.”

“Yeah,” Lee admitted slowly, grinning. “I’ve always believed things don’t happen by accident. They go on at their own pace and occur when the time is right. Events happen when and where they need to.”

“True. I don’t believe in randomness either. Too many freaky coincidences to think it’s all up to chance.”

“Exactly. I remember back in the 6th grade asking our priest why we’re supposed to pray if God already knows and quote, ordains things.”

“What’d he say?”

“Some churchly bullshit about praying being good for the soul blah blah.”

Chuck broke out in laughter, muttering in appreciation, “Churchly bullshit. That’s a good one.”

“Ever since then,” continued Lee, “I’ve thought about it. At first, it seemed like God was an improbable convenience, coughed up way-back-when by the powers that be to lull people with notions of hell and stuff. But then I began to wonder, what if by ‘creation’ we actually mean imagination.”

“Huh?”

“It’s like, well, kinda like The Matrix lore. What if our reality, our concrete matter and energy was like a thought experiment by a being infinitely smarter than us. It would be possible to ‘create’ then if he could think ahead to all possibilities and their outcomes. It’d be like 3D chess-playing, knowing how each move affects the next, and so on, and so on. Thinking of all the possible outcomes at once just might spark life on its own. You feel me?”

Chuck nodded. It was an awesome thought. “Yeah. So, it is his world then—a reality he creates out of himself—but his so-called control of the experiment is limited to making decisions trillions of steps before they are needed.”

Lee busted out, “Fuck, man! That’s exactly what I mean. Infinite, benevolent, but far removed and maybe too impossibly beautiful to understand.”

“Yeah. What seems random and hurtful to us, works out in the big picture as simply the least harmful choice. If it’s true, then we shouldn’t fear God so much as pity him.”

“That sounds about right.”

Lee stretched his limbs out again, this time locking fingers behind his head. If Chuck had to guess the meaning hidden in the expression he saw now, he’d have to say it was the triumph of connection. Maybe they’d had this conversation where and when the time was most correct.

“Hey, man,” Chuck said. “I got a place where I can crack a cold one open with the boys.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yes. It’s behind my parent’s back yard, but don’t worry—they’re cool with drinking a little beer.”

“Oh. Nice.”

“Anyway, I was thinking, once the weather warms up enough, you and me can camp out sometime and watch the stars.”

Now what was the look on his new buddy’s face? Happiness, Chuck supposed. That and an element like gratitude.

“Thanks, man. That’d be awesome.”

Something in Chuck suspected they were going to become really great friends.

 

· ~-~ · ~-~ · ~-~ · ~-~ · ~-~ · ~-~ · ~-~ · ~-~ ·

 

Never Comes the Day plays on a soft loop in Chuck’s car as he drives Lee and himself to their motel room. His best friend doesn’t seem to mind the song repeating, and inside Chuck’s head, it all falls into place. Each time the chorus starts, he feels so happy he can shout for joy.

Their camping trip had ‘failed,’ but if it were such a flop, why was he this jubilant? He guesses it’s all true, the interconnectedness of places and events, and things not happening till the right time. Yes, the day had come, and the stars, water and wind had all spoken to them with the same message. They had heard it together and the connection had been proven by a kiss for the ages.

The driver glances over at Lee. He finds him watching Chuck again with that slight smile of wonder and contentment. “You doing OK over there?”

“Yep. Hard to imagine how I could be any better. You know, before I came back in the tent, and before we…well….” He grinned hopelessly. “I mean, I looked up and saw some star, and I made a wish on it, buddy.”

“You did? Care to share what it was?”

“Um, maybe not quite yet, but it involved you. And I can tell you, it’s the same wish I made that first night we went camping together.”

Chuck’s stymied. Had Lee loved him all these years…? “Well, thanks to you pointing them out to me, I made a wish too.”

“Gonna tell me what it was?”

Chuck’s words are carefully weighed before he delivers them. Perhaps if he’s honest with himself, Chuck had loved Lee all these years too; how could he not? “I don’t think I’m allowed to say it yet, cuz it might—”

“And just now, when I said I don’t know how I could be better? I lied. There’s one way.”

“What is it?”

“I’m gonna transfer schools out here.”

After a dry-mouth swallow, knowing his own voice is getting clogged with emotion, Chuck confirms, “You’d do that? For me?”

“Well, for me too, but yes.” Lee’s tone is smiling. “That is, if it’s all right with you.”

Chuck cranks the volume; the chorus had just started again. He knows his friend will never believe him if he confesses his wish has come true right now, the wish to be with Lee. So instead, he picks up his boyfriend’s fingers and places them on the hard bulge the sexy guy had raised in Chuck’s cargo shorts. “Yeah. It’s cool with me, cuz I don’t want to miss another summer with you ever again.”

           

                    

~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

_

Copyright © 2018 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments



1 hour ago, Parker Owens said:

I am smiling. My smile will last a month, at least. In fact, as long as I can read this story, I think I’ll grin and consider what joy there may be in campfires and stars and young men who can take leaps of faith together. Beautiful. 

Thanks for reading, Parker, and for leaving these wonderful comments. Leap of faith -- yes :) 

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1 hour ago, Mikiesboy said:

what a wonderful story.  beautifully told. no one .. NO ONE writes men in love like AC Benus.  Inspired, beautiful. This is not the first time your work has brought tears to my eyes. Loved it  AC.

Thank you, Tim, for your wonderful comments here and your story review. Both are greatly appreciated. :) 

 

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51 minutes ago, deville said:

Just awesome. A beautiful story. 

Thank you very much, deville. Your support is greatly appreciated. :yes:

 

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Wow!! I absolutely loved this story!!  Absolutely beautiful and a great not so ending!! Thank you!!

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Damn cliff hanger. But I think we know where it goes. They'll be together. However Lee moving out there may it be the smartest move asChuck  could be moved anywhere unless he's only doing one tour.  

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Finally, those lose strings of twine have reached the point of connection. Their experiences have made these threads strong enough to hold even when faced with bigotry and I think their combined strength will be their guy wires securing them a long way into the future. 

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On 7/9/2018 at 8:53 PM, MichaelS36 said:

AC your stories are like a warm blanket on a cold night. I do not want to step out of it and back into the real world. This was a wonderful story. Filled with love, vivid pictures and fine, fine writing. What an excellent story. Thank you!

Thank you. These are wonderful comments, and I appreciate them deeply. I do think about providing 'a world' for my characters to inhabit, which may be why I think setting is important for the reader to be seeing it as well as feeling it all. Thanks, @MichaelS36, and for the Story Review as well :glomp:

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On 7/10/2018 at 10:42 AM, mfa607 said:

Wow!! I absolutely loved this story!!  Absolutely beautiful and a great not so ending!! Thank you!!

Thanks, @mfa607! Someone once observed that I tend to end stories at new beginnings, and for Chuck and Lee, it's certainly the case :) Thank you for reading and commenting, I really appreciate it. 

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On 7/10/2018 at 9:44 PM, Hunter of Porn said:

Damn cliff hanger. But I think we know where it goes. They'll be together. However Lee moving out there may it be the smartest move asChuck  could be moved anywhere unless he's only doing one tour.  

Thanks, @Hunter of Porn! We can see Lee and Chuck have set out on a new chapter in the story of them, and I'm rooting for a HEA like everybody else :) Thanks for reading and leaving comments; I really appreciate the support. 

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On 7/11/2018 at 11:19 AM, Puppilull said:

Finally, those lose strings of twine have reached the point of connection. Their experiences have made these threads strong enough to hold even when faced with bigotry and I think their combined strength will be their guy wires securing them a long way into the future. 

Thanks for reading and supporting, @Puppilull, I really appreciate it. They are stronger as individuals and as a couple for having gone through what they did. But when the time was right, things fell into place for them. Thank you again :yes: 

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That was just beautiful. Thank you AC, for yet another richly rewarding story. Lee and Chuck’s future could not be any more promising.. 

Loved it.. 

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On 7/16/2018 at 5:50 AM, Defiance19 said:

That was just beautiful. Thank you AC, for yet another richly rewarding story. Lee and Chuck’s future could not be any more promising.. 

Loved it.. 

Thanks for reading, Def. You're the best!

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Beautiful story, great guys, so much left unsaid and unspoken, but nothing that needs any further explanation.  Thanks very much.

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1 hour ago, Sam Wyer said:

Beautiful story, great guys, so much left unsaid and unspoken, but nothing that needs any further explanation.  Thanks very much.

You are welcome very much. Thanks for reading! 

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Firstly and most importantly, an apology. I don't know what becomes public and what is directed only to the author. My intent was to be helpful, not snarky, to apply many years of knowledge of the military and army to make your story as true to life as possible, certainly not to embarrass you.

Will H.

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On 7/26/2018 at 5:00 PM, Will Hawkins said:

Firstly and most importantly, an apology. I don't know what becomes public and what is directed only to the author. My intent was to be helpful, not snarky, to apply many years of knowledge of the military and army to make your story as true to life as possible, certainly not to embarrass you.

Will H.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you got something out of the tale :)

Edited by AC Benus
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Love conquers all, endures all, forgives all. Their fated connection was finally made with that kiss. :heart: 

What do they care about bigoted MPs who are probably jealous and scared, so they have to build themselves up as 'men' by trying to intimidate boys. A comfortable hotel room is a much better place to explore intimacy for the first time, and they will have many summers together, and winters, hopefully for years and years. But of course I'd love for Chuck to rise in the grades in the military until Major Field one day is facing those same MPs and asks them if they can recall a certain starlit night and two boys in a tent. ;) 

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that last paragraph is like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

 

thank you, AC

for sharing your imagination and your talent with us all

may we all treasure it as the gift it is  ♥️

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On 7/29/2018 at 11:08 AM, Timothy M. said:

Love conquers all, endures all, forgives all. Their fated connection was finally made with that kiss. :heart: 

What do they care about bigoted MPs who are probably jealous and scared, so they have to build themselves up as 'men' by trying to intimidate boys. A comfortable hotel room is a much better place to explore intimacy for the first time, and they will have many summers together, and winters, hopefully for years and years. But of course I'd love for Chuck to rise in the grades in the military until Major Field one day is facing those same MPs and asks them if they can recall a certain starlit night and two boys in a tent. ;) 

Thank you, Tim. Yes, I seem to write about one theme and one theme only: connection. Here, a good amount of time passed before both were ready to take the risk with open eyes and clear heads.

As for Major Fields calling those badge-wielding bigots to task, I like it :yes:  Thanks for reading and for all of your support   

Edited by AC Benus
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