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    Wayne Gray
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Broken - A Camp Refuge Story - 8. Over

Chapter 8: Over

14 November (Saturday Evening)

Greg sat in the Emergency Room. It had been hours since they'd taken Lee.

Clay rubbed his back from the spot beside him. "Hey. We're not doing him any good by losing sleep." He shook Greg gently. "Come on. Let's go home, get a little rest, then we'll come back."

"I have to stay." Greg nodded. "You go. This one is mine, and I have to stay." Clay began to argue, but Greg silenced him with a smile. "Really. I want you to go. I'll be fine here, and if I need you, I know you'll come to me."

Clay took a deep breath. "You know, I'm just gonna go stretch out in the van." Clay draped an arm around his shoulders. "You come wake me if anything happens, or if there's news. Okay?"

"I will, I …" Greg and Clay stood as the doctor entered the waiting room. "Dr. Cain, how is he?"

The tall, lanky guy smiled warmly. "Hello Mr. Hanson, Mr. Jameson. Lee is stable, for now. We got some fluid in him, and that helped." The smile disappeared. "But we've got to get him into surgery on that leg. The infection there has to be handled fast. It's poisoning his bloodstream with bacteria—and he'll die if left much longer."

"They won't have to take the leg, will they?" Clay asked.

"No, that's really unlikely. The bone seems fine, untouched by the infection." The doc looked at the men. "I'm sending him to the O.R. They'll do some debridement and drain the wound. Then we'll give him some antibiotics. I figure that will take at least five hours." He shrugged. "After that, it'll be up to Lee."

"Okay." Greg rubbed his eyes. He turned to Clay. "Maybe we should head home, sleep a bit. But I want to be here when he wakes up."

"Yeah, we can do that." Clay smiled fondly at his husband.

"One more thing." Dr. Cain seemed puzzled, and he handed a brown paper bag to Greg. "He was wearing this under his clothes. Even barely conscious, he insisted you have it. He said to 'keep it safe'." The doc wrinkled his nose. "Not the cleanest thing in the world, but we didn't see any blood or other body fluids on it."

"Thanks, doc."

Greg waited until he walked away, then he opened the bag. He looked inside. "Oh. Oh, Lee." Reaching inside, Greg pulled Lee's apron into view. Greg stared down at the dirty article of clothing. "I'm sorry." He closed his eyes, hands tight on the apron. "I'm sorry."

"Hey, come on." Clay put an arm around Greg's shoulders.

“I don’t wanna leave.” Greg shook his head. “Let’s just sleep in the van.”

“Ok, that’s fine. We can convert the back seats to a bed. We'll unzip and share that sleeping bag in the back.”

Clay steered him outside to the van. Once inside, Greg pulled the apron into his lap. He gazed down at Lee's name.

Clay got their makeshift bed ready and sighed. “Come on. Lay down.”

Greg did. But he never let go of that apron.

⟽⟾

14 November (Saturday Night)

A few hours later, Mason watched from their bed as Jeremy sat on the edge and spoke on the phone. "Do you guys need help? We can be there, just say so." Jeremy glanced at him. "Okay." He hesitated. "Have you guys told the Mercers that you found him?"

Reaching, Mason rubbed Jeremy's bare leg and continued listening to the one-sided conversation.

"I do think they'd want to know, yes." Jeremy inhaled. "Okay. I'll call them. And Avery's probably gonna ask if Lee can have visitors; do you know if he can?" Jeremy listened, then nodded. "All right. That's good."

Mason sat up and hugged Jeremy from behind, his legs bracketing his boyfriend's. Jeremy rested a hand on Mason's arm.

"Okay. Yeah. I'm glad to hear he made it through surgery all right." Jeremy wet his lips. "Hey, Greg? You know this isn't your fault, right?" Jeremy leaned back into Mason. "No, it's not. Okay, fine. We'll just have to disagree."

He's so good. Mason smiled against Jeremy's neck.

"All right. Say hello to Lee for us. Bye." Jeremy hung up and sighed.

"He's stubborn," Mason murmured.

"Yes. I hope Lee recovers, or Greg might carry this around for a long time."

"I get why." Mason remembered Greg's past, how he had come from a broken, unsupportive home. "Greg could have been Lee. If things had been just a little different, he could have been Lee."

"We're all just a few steps away from being Lee," Jeremy said. "Sometimes, all the difference in a person's life is the willingness of those around them to either help or look away."

"Yeah." Mason kissed the back of Jeremy's neck. "And you. You're such a helper. I love you for that."

Jeremy smiled. "Thanks. That goes for you too."

"You, Greg, Dad. You all make for good examples of how to be."

“Thanks, Mason.”

A few quiet moments passed, then Mason nuzzled the nape of his neck. "So, are you ever gonna ask me?"

Jeremy froze. "What?"

"Are you afraid I won't say yes?" Mason whispered.

Turning, Jeremy faced him. "I think," he shook his head, "I think I'm more afraid you will. And that you'll regret it."

Mason nodded. "Okay." He slid off the bed. On his knees before Jeremy, he grinned. "You're the love of my life. I know that." Mason opened his palm revealing the engagement ring Jeremy'd had made. "And part of loving you is checking your pockets before I do laundry."

Jeremy laughed. "Damn it!"

Mason's smile remained. "So." He put the ring in Jeremy's hand. "You let me decide what I will and won't regret. Trust me to make the best choice I can." Mason's eyes glittered. "Trust me."

Somehow, Jeremy held his voice steady. "I trust you." He presented the ring. "Mason, will you marry me?"

"I thought you'd never ask." Mason grinned, an odd counterpoint to the tears he began to shed. "Yeah. Yes, of course, I'll marry you."

The pair kissed, and Mason squeezed him tight. "Oh, man." He chuckled as they embraced. "Okay, you need to talk to my dad; he's a bit old-fashi—"

"That's done," Jeremy said. "It has been done for a while."

"Wow." Mason leaned back. "You really planned this."

"Yeah." Jeremy shook his head. "Really, I didn't expect how easy that would be."

"He knows this is good." Mason gave him an affectionate squeeze. "Hang on."

Jeremy frowned as Mason got up to rummage in the bedside table. "What?"

Reaching far into the back of the drawer, he pulled out a small, nondescript cardboard envelope.

"No." Jeremy stared at him. "You did not get me a—" Mason interrupted by grabbing his hand, and dumping a slim, gold band in his palm.

"And now I know why when I called Dr. Wade to ask if I could get his blessing, he laughed before he could stop himself." Mason smirked.

"Oh my God." Jeremy shook as Mason slipped the gold ring on his finger. After staring a moment, he did the same for Mason. Now they both wore their rings.

"I want to wait," Mason said. "I want to wait until I graduate. But I will wear my ring till then."

"That works for me."

Again, they kissed. Mason's hand rested gently on the back of Jeremy's neck, and the kiss drew on. Both began to respond to the stimulation.

"Mmm!" Jeremy pulled back. "I have to make a phone call before we get that started."

"You'd better hurry." Mason stood, his cock stiff and swinging to his movements. He waggled his hips and it slapped back and forth.

"Stop that!" Jeremy laughed and Mason clambered into bed. "Okay, be good, I'm calling the Mercers."

Jeremy dialed and Mason pressed himself, erection and all against his backside. "I'm always good."

"You are n—" Jeremy cleared his throat. "Hi, Avery!"

Mason grinned and rubbed lube on Jeremy. His fiance pushed feebly at him, but there was no real intention in it. "Are the Mercers around?"

Pushing forward, Mason began a slow entry. Jeremy covered the receiver and groaned. "Oh! Yes, Mrs. Mercer. I'm fine." He bit his lip as Mason bottomed out. "I ah … I just had some news concerning Lee."

Mason chuckled. Deciding to have mercy, he held still.

"Yes. They found him. He's at the hospital with Clay and Greg. He'd injured his leg, and they're getting him taken care of."

Jeremy gripped Mason's hip. "He'll be able to have visitors tomorrow. I'll text his room number to you after this. Yes, we're all really relieved too. Of course. You're welcome. Take care, and we'll probably see you soon. Goodbye."

Mason immediately began to hammer away eliciting a moan from Jeremy.

"Bad." Jeremy gasped.

Mason reached around to help Jeremy along. "That's me. Your bad fiance."

Jeremy grinned and let Mason control the pace. Everything about the moment was fast—loving but needful.

"Ah!" Jeremy arched his back. "Close."

"Good." Mason's breath came in gasps and he held himself as deep as he could go. Releasing with a grunt, Jeremy followed him in short order.

"Mmmm." A final few thrusts and Mason lay still behind his lover. He kissed Jeremy's neck. "I love you."

"You'd better." Jeremy looked at him over his shoulder. "You're marrying me!"

Mason laughed and squeezed him. "Yes. I am."

⟽⟾

15 November (Sunday morning)

"Watch. Your. Teeth."

Orson chuckled as he nuzzled Joseph. "But you like it." He gave a feather-light kiss on the faint mark still visible on Joseph's neck. "I wouldn't do it if you didn't like it."

"Well. An addict likes drugs, but you shouldn't give them to him." Joseph groused. Yet Orson noticed he didn't move.

"Are you really comparing my little love bites to a drug addiction?"

"Yes." Joseph smacked Orson's naked hip. "The guys still give me hell over it."

"That's how you know they love you." Orson laughed when Joseph twisted to spear him with a glare. They'd just had wonderful sex, and in the moment Orson had left a little reminder of their coupling, which had elicited groans of approval from Joseph while it was happening. "Maybe they're jealous."

"Harrumph."

"You're pretty cranky for a guy who just had a," Orson wiped his semen-covered hand on Joseph's belly, "really messy orgasm."

"Eww!" Joseph squirmed, but Orson locked arms around him and held on. "We already gotta change sheets, was that necessary?"

"Yes!" Orson laughed as Joseph thrashed. The sheets were now hopelessly tangled, and Orson cackled as he held on.

"You're in so much trouble!" Joseph laughed, unable to turn around and face him. "Ah! I rolled in my own spunk!"

"What was that?" Orson gritted his teeth as he strove to hold his stronger partner captive. "Did I hear a bottom crying?"

"You are so screwed. Literally!" Joseph flexed his shoulders and arms, finally parting Orson's failing grip. It wasn't long before a sweaty, exhausted Orson lay on his front, pinned to the bed.

Panting, with a grin on his face, Orson lay there.

"You stopped fighting?" Joseph rubbed himself against Orson's rear. Youth was on their side, and they both had responded to the new positions. He began to push his already slick penis into Orson. "Who's the bottom now?"

Orson grunted as Joseph entered him. "You." He smirked. "But we can pretend for a while."

"Yeah, that's what you're doing?" Joseph pressed down, holding Orson in place. He slowly pushed. Once inside, he lay on Orson's back. "You're pretty convincing."

"I'm a good actor." Orson's mouth hung open.

The tables turned, both men enjoyed each other one more time.

⟽⟾

15 November (Sunday afternoon)

Frowning, Lee struggled to open his eyes. Finally managing it, he blinked against the brightness of the sun as it streamed through a window in his room.

Everything was a bit fuzzy. He recognized the effect of powerful sedatives and strove to push through it.

Looking at what he could view from his perspective, he'd been placed on his left side and could only see half of the room. But that was enough. Hospital. Lee searched his memory, his eyes widening. "Greg." Only the barest whisper, it was still heard.

"Lee?" Greg entered his field of view. He must have been seated behind him. Greg's shoulders relaxed when he saw Lee awake. "Hey."

Lee swallowed. "Hi." He stared, unsure of what to say.

Greg smiled. "I'm glad you're awake." He nodded. "You, ah, you did a number on your leg."

"Yeah," Lee agreed. "I fell."

For a long moment, nothing was said. Then Greg cleared his throat. "So, I have something of yours." A tan piece of cloth was folded in his hands. "We couldn't get all the stains out, and if you want, I'll have another made." Letting the apron unfold, Greg held it up. His voice was rough. "It belongs to you. If you want it."

"Is Avery …" Lee began, "Is Avery okay?"

"He is." Greg smiled. "He really wants to see you, but his parents wanted to give you time to come around first."

Profound relief hit Lee like a physical force. He put his hands over his face. A sound between a groan and a sob escaped, and he curled in on himself until he lay in the fetal position.

"Hey." Greg rubbed his back. "It's okay. It's gonna be okay."

Unable to speak, Lee reached.

Greg seemed to understand. "Here." He put the apron in Lee's hand. Lee drew it close, holding it against his chest. "It's yours. As long as you want, okay?"

The implication wasn't lost on Lee. He nodded, still crying.

Lee, Camp Cook.

⟽⟾

16 November (Monday afternoon)

The next day, Bill and Anna walked along the hall with Avery. He clutched his laptop against his chest, tension and eagerness in his manner.

"Hey. Relax." Bill patted his back.

Avery nodded. "Yeah. I am."

Smiling, Bill didn't correct him. "Okay. Here we are. Room four-oh-five."

Avery faced the door. He stared at the wood, shifting foot to foot.

"Go on," Anna said. "He knows you're coming; he'll wonder if you take too long."

Nurses and orderlies passed behind them in the wide hall as they went about their work. But Bill's attention remained on Avery.

"What if he's mad at me?" Avery wet his lips. "I'm the reason he ran away. The reason he got hurt."

"Were you mad at him?" Bill left a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "When you had to go to the hospital, were you mad at him? You wouldn't have taken those drugs if Lee hadn't wanted them. Does that make it his fault?"

Avery shook his head. "No." He straightened. "Can … can I call if I need you?"

"Of course." Anna hugged him. "Always."

A little smile flickered on Avery's lips. Then he squirmed away. "Okay." He knocked on the door.

"Come in."

"See you in a couple of hours, Avery." Bill grinned. "Don't scare him too bad with those movies."

Avery pushed the door open and giggled. "No promises." He entered, closing the door behind him.

Bill and Anna waited for a few minutes. She took a deep breath. "Well, I think he's okay."

"Yeah. I think he is." Bill looked with unstinting affection at his wife. "Come on. Let's go get some dinner."

"With cake?"

Bill threw up his hands as they walked down the hall. "What has happened to you? That kid has turned you into a sweet-hound!"

"Don't blame Avery!" She leaned into him. "I've always loved sweets."

"Really?" Doubt and playfulness both saturated Bill's voice.

"Yep." They entered the elevator and she looked slyly at him. "I married you, didn't I?"

Bill laughed. "Wow. Okay, that was good."

She responded with a kiss, and Bill closed his eyes, lost for a moment in the arms of the woman he loved.

⟽⟾

"Hi, Avery." Lee was sitting up in bed. He had been dressed in one of those cloth hospital tops, one with little designs of some sort. His hair was wild, probably from all the lying down, and his lower half was covered by a sheet and blanket.

"Hi, Lee." Avery tentatively smiled. "I … ah, I'm glad you're okay."

Lee nodded, his eyes locked on Avery. "I'm glad you are."

"I'm sorry."

They'd both said it at once. Avery snickered and Lee grinned.

Lee looked at the laptop. "A movie?"

"Yeah." Avery waved a hand. "If you want."

"Yes."

Avery pulled a bedside table over to the bed. "Okay, let's get it set up." In minutes, the laptop was open, on, and a movie queued.

Dragging a chair so he could sit beside the bed, Avery settled in.

"Is this one scary? Will I have to hold your hand?" A bit of mirth in Lee's voice made Avery smile.

"No, it's Pacific Rim. One with big robots fighting monsters."

Lee nodded, then turned his hand, palm up next to the edge of the bed. "I don't know. That sounds pretty scary."

Avery looked down. "Yeah." He slipped his hand into Lee's and squeezed. He looked into Lee's eyes. "Maybe so."

The boys leaned until they met in a kiss. The movie began to play and Lee smiled against Avery's mouth. He pulled away. "Movie time."

Avery grinned. "Yeah." He wiggled his fingers till they interlaced with Lee's. "Movie time."

⟽⟾

18 November (Wednesday evening)

A couple of days had done wonders for Lee. Though far from healed, the antibiotics administered by the hospital began to work on the infection in his leg. With rest and nutrition, his body began to mend, and he was released with additional antibiotics and a care regimen for his leg.

"Easy!" Anxiousness rang in Greg's voice, and his hands hovered just over Lee as he hopped up from the wheelchair on one leg. "Use the crutches!"

"I hate them." Lee pivoted, his wrapped right leg held just above the ground. He gripped the side of the van, a look of determined concentration on his face as he stood at the slider. He crouched slightly, his body tensioning like a spring.

"Don't you dare try jumping in. You mess up that drain and it'll mean another surgery. Hang on." Greg got a shoulder under Lee's arm. With both Greg's and Clay's assistance, they safely deposited Lee on the van seat.

"See? It's fine." Lee positioned his leg with his hands.

"Seatbelt." Lee sighed but complied when Greg pointed at him.

Clay started the van, patiently waiting for Greg to stop fussing over Lee. Finally, his husband climbed into the passenger seat. "Ready?"

Greg glanced back at their passenger. "You ready to go home, Lee?"

Lee kept his face pointed away, looking through the window. "Yeah." He nodded. "Sounds good."

"You heard the man." Greg patted Clay's leg. "Let's go."

The journey was quiet. Lee seemed introspective, while both Clay and Greg were happy to let him be. But as they neared the campground, Lee sat straight, his eyes searching for that first glance of his cabin in weeks.

Clay turned in and drove down the loop. As they neared Cabin Seven, Greg watched Lee.

Lee stared. The Easy Up had been deployed outside his door. 'Welcome Home, Lee’ hung from a banner between the posts, and the whole campground huddled under the shelter in the misty weather.

Smiles and waves from those gathered elicited a disbelieving laugh from Lee. The van stopped by the cabin, and Avery opened the door.

The teenager grinned. "Welcome home, Lee."

Anna and Bill Mercer smiled as they looked on. Elias, Joseph, Bailey, Orson, and Harlan stood around a folding table.

"What is this?" Lee fumbled with a crutch.

Avery helped him out and got him under the shelter. "It's your party. Your welcome home party."

Lee turned shocked eyes on everyone, one by one. "I …" He shook his head, still confused. "A party? For me?"

"Come on." Greg's arm was warm across his shoulders. "Let's get you parked inside where you'll be comfortable."

"Yeah!" Avery followed. "I'll bring you cake."

Greg helped him to the futon, and most of the party moved inside. Bailey turned on some music, and different campers took turns chatting with Lee while they snacked on sandwiches, chips, and cake.

Standing back, Greg watched. Lee looked as if he were a man in a dream. Terrified of waking up.

"Good job."

Greg hadn't noticed Harlan. Somehow the man just … showed up, and there he was, leaning beside him against the wall of the cabin. After Greg got past his surprise, he sighed. "Not really." He looked back to Lee as he laughed along with Elias. "I almost cost him his life."

"Almosts and nearlys will drive a man mad," Harlan said knowingly. "Look at where he is now. That's because of you."

Greg considered. "Maybe." Greg shifted on his feet. "So, would you happen to know how Lee's hospital bill got paid? The folks there said they got an eleven thousand dollar deposit wired directly into Lee's medical account—it'll cover all the work they did, and probably the bit left to come too."

Harlan shrugged. "Huh. Isn't that odd." The man turned green eyes on Greg. "What would you have done if that money hadn't shown up?"

"I'd have figured it out. I'd have figured a way, so Lee didn't start with that debt."

"Yeah, I thought so." Harlan pushed off the wall. "See you around." He headed toward Bailey who grinned at something Clay had said.

Watching Harlan and Bailey leave the cabin, Greg worked his jaw. He shook his head, then looked at Lee.

He caught Lee staring. There was something undefinable in those eyes. Greg stepped over and sat beside him. "Your leg okay?"

Lee nodded. He'd continued to look at Greg, and now, up close Greg saw the confusion, gratitude, and deep emotion in his gaze. "Why'd you do this?" Lee looked around and motioned at the campers, the food, and the cabin. "I'm a nobody. I'm just a whore."

Greg shook his head. "No. You're wrong." He put a hand on Lee's knee. "You are Lee Sloas. And you're the camp cook."

Lee smiled, then looked away as tears started. "You just …" He wiped his face. "You just don't wanna cook."

"That's right." Greg leaned into him. "You figured me out."

Lee turned and embraced him. Avery, who'd been standing nearby, sat on Lee's other side. He leaned over, joining their hug.

Greg patted Lee, then looked up into Clay's eyes. His husband smiled down, then raised his head. "All right, people." He made a shooing motion. "Let's leave Lee be."

As folks meandered out, they bid goodbye, until Avery and Greg were all that remained with Lee.

"Come on, Avery." Anna smiled gently from the doorway. "Tomorrow's a school day."

Avery nodded. "Okay." He glanced at Greg. "Thanks. For letting me come tonight."

Greg smiled. "Yeah. Of course, Avery."

Lee pushed to his good foot and hugged Avery. "Bye." He frowned, emotional, but trying to control himself.

"Bye." Avery smiled. "It's okay. I'm glad you get to stay."

Together with Jeremy, Greg had decided that Lee had the greater need. He would be the one who stayed, while Avery was disenrolled from The Raven Project for violating their drug abuse policy. Through it all, Avery had been a trooper and held to his word. He'd accepted the decision and punishment with far more grace than Greg had expected.

With a final hug, Lee and Avery parted. Then the boy left under the arms of his foster parents.

Lee seemed to deflate as the door shut behind them. Greg rubbed his back. "You okay?"

He nodded. "Bill and Anna, they love him."

"Yes." Greg smiled. "Yes, they do."

Lee turned to him. "Can he ever come back?"

"Well, he can rent the campground spots on his own, if he likes. He's not forbidden from the grounds," Greg said. "Would you like that?"

Leaning, Lee gingerly lowered himself to the futon. Greg sat beside him. "They love him. I mean, really love him."

Greg was confused. "Well, yes." He cocked his head. "Why does that change anything?"

Lee's eyes shifted.

What is going on in that head of yours, Lee?

Lee straightened. "No. I don't want him to come back."

Greg sat back. "What? Why?"

With absolute certainty, Lee spoke. "Because he can live a normal life." He nodded. "Bill and Anna, they can make sure he gets a normal life." Lee flinched. "I can't. He needs to stay away from me."

Opening his mouth, Greg hesitated. He's giving him up. Lee's giving Avery up for his own good. "Lee, are you sure? You really want me to forbid Avery from the campground?"

Lee responded with a slow nod. "I want to see and be around him. I want … I want him." Lee closed his eyes. "But I shouldn't. And I don't trust myself." Before Greg could reply, Lee gripped his hand. "Don't say it would be okay." Lee's intensity was alarming. "I need you to help me do the right thing. And … and maybe this way, he'll be around Anna and Bill more."

Stunned, Greg held Lee's hand. "I don't kn—"

Lee's eyes sparked with desperation. "Please."

The tremendous need in Lee couldn't be ignored. Lee has a point. Maybe Avery will finally realize what he has in his foster parents this way. Greg exhaled. "Okay, Lee." He nodded and gave voice to what Lee needed to hear. "He already knows he can't return through the Raven Project. But if he ever asks, I'll tell him he can't come back."

We're nearly to the end of this one.

There's one chapter remaining. I do like how things end up, so stick with me just a bit longer.

Let me know what you thought of this one. I have my own thoughts, concerning Lee and Avery, but I will keep those to myself in favor of hearing yours instead.

Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment.

Copyright © 2021 Wayne Gray; All Rights Reserved.
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Great chapter as always. It always seems to be wet and/or raining at Camp Refuge. I presume the sun does shine some days? Maybe in the next chapter as things wrap up.

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11 hours ago, frosenblum said:

A sweet chapter. However, emotions are still roiling.

My guess is that it won't be until the next installment in the Camp Refuge series before we find out if and how Lee & Avery's relationship develops. Please don't make us wait long for that next story, Wayne. 

Thanks for the comment.

Maybe you guess correctly, or maybe I'm going to do something completely wild and crazy. That'd be so unlike me! *chortles*

Okay, seriously now. Whatever I do, I want it to feel satisfying. At least until we can pick up the tale later. At least until we can check in, and see how everyone is getting on. That's the goal.

Stories that don't end don't satisfy me. Stories that don't end well don't either, so I'll try hard to avoid that.

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11 hours ago, Hawgdad said:

Thank you Wayne, what an incredible chapter.  Some things fixed and settled, some things nearly, and we've ended up at another cliff.  Then there was the apron.  That one object nearly undid me.  Life experience has taught me that in times of trouble seemingly small material objects can have overwhelming emotional significance.  In an incredible chapter working in that one object was an absolute emotional blockbuster.  Thank you so very much for allowing us to join in experiencing your stories and the insightful readers' discussions.

I keep flirting with those damn cliffs, and I can't seem to help it in this story. :-s

That apron. It became an anchor of sorts for Lee. It is proof of Greg's love and regard for him, and Lee clings to it with everything he is. A $19.99 piece of embroidered cloth, but something invested with emotion, hope, and dreams.

You may buy the item, but you can't purchase what comes after. That's earned and it is given. There's no other way.

Thanks, Tom. See you next week.

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10 hours ago, Sunshine said:

Great chapter as always. It always seems to be wet and/or raining at Camp Refuge. I presume the sun does shine some days? Maybe in the next chapter as things wrap up.

We ARE in a temperate rain forest up here. And winter is our rainy season. 80-90% of the time it'll be misty/rainy. You find ways to deal with it, and just continue living life despite the weather.

But, yes. Maybe that sun will shine indeed.

Thanks for reading and for the comment. 🙂

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10 hours ago, Philippe said:

Oh @Clancy59, you hit so many good points in your analysis of Lee’s state of mind. He’s still saying “I’m just a whore” while he has chosen beyond that label in several cases; avoiding dipping into the kitchen till jar again, in learning to be a chef, and spending his money to care for himself for the first time ever. Avery was key to Lee learning new behavior, value, and pride. Avery covered for Lee’s huge mistake of the till jar, a test no less, but then given friendly championship, challenges, and routine, Lee found himself walking a path of his own choosing.

While Avery was instrumental in establishing contact with the real Lee, no doubt, Greg was a huge enabler of drawing him out beyond his initial curiosity and dependency on Avery. With critical observations and rewards, Greg taught life skills and self worth to a broken boy, a lost and desperate man-child.

So the recognition that Lee needed Greg’s support is just as likely a test by this still fragile man-child of Greg’s level of support, sincerity,...love?; of a disruptive, recovering addict, man-child. Changing from pimp to father type guidance, then accepting new perspectives, significant changes.. and more in the works.

Reevaluating what happened; he left his money, he tried for honest work, he walked away from drugs and the pimp, and he did it while accepting blame but also protecting Avery. Now he believes he is still protecting Avery from the old Lee, but is the old Lee still there?

On multiple occasions Lee chose the harder, longer goal choice. He has Greg showing beyond employer support, and even at his request. Now he has only to learn through coaching to see the old Lee is no longer running his life and he is capable of protecting Avery, and himself, from that old Lee; he is already doing it. Of course everyone needs support along the way, but less so when already making critical decisions for other than immediate reward for self.

I’m confident that Avery and Lee will remain important in each other’s lives and their continued growth as the family and community of Camp Refuge continues to work its magic... @Wayne Grayis just the tailor of the suits required for these boys!

My, what a chapter; deep wounds, bite marks, penetrating phone calls, marriage proposals, critical recoveries, redefining families and friends, settling accounts, and an invitation that takes us home to Camp Refuge. Now we just need to look into that mirror of self, enhanced by another’s perspective, to bear witness of who we have become, who we now truly are, and just how far we will go to not lose ourselves to those giving us no value.

Thanks for another uplifting life tale Wayne!

Yes, that comment ... "I'm just a whore", it told us a few things. It told us the event with Avery and Greg damaged him a bit. It told us he's got more to go before he's finally ready to accept his own value. All those things you mentioned though, they tell us he's trying. That he's not hopeless, and that he's trying.

I can't express how important Greg has been to Lee. In just a couple of months, Lee found in Greg authority he doesn't fear. He found someone he trusts, values, respects, and yes ... someone he loves.

When Lee fled the campground, the money didn't even enter his mind. He'd been so utterly distraught, so Broken, so wounded, he just ran, as fast and as hard as he could. This is a huge difference in the boy/man he'd started when we first encountered him. Before, he'd have checked Avery's pockets prior to getting help for him. He'd have watched dispassionately as Greg tried to help him. He'd have been numb to the suffering of others. But not now. Lee has changed.

Lee is still afraid of the monster that Eddie forged. Lee fears becoming him again, and that's telling. Only good people fear being evil. I heard that once, and man ... it is TRUE. It'll just take time and reassurance that Lee is his own man now, and that he doesn't have to fear slipping back into that dark place. Now that he is on a brighter path, Lee can just be who he really is.

I've said it earlier, but Lee isn't the only one who fears what he can do to others. Avery accepted his punishment easily, and he did because he blames himself for what happened with Lee's injury. That too will take time to heal.

Thanks for the comments and for taking the time to read. I appreciate it.

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Well done with this chapter, the following sent me from Kleenex to paper towels...damn you😭!!

Greg waited until he walked away, then he opened the bag. He looked inside. "Oh. Oh, Lee." Reaching inside, Greg pulled Lee's apron into view. Greg stared down at the dirty article of clothing. "I'm sorry." He closed his eyes, hands tight on the apron. "I'm sorry."

"Hey, come on." Clay put an arm around Greg's shoulders.

“I don’t wanna leave.” Greg shook his head. “Let’s just sleep in the van.”

“Ok, that’s fine. We can convert the back seats to a bed. We'll unzip and share that sleeping bag in the back.”

Clay steered him outside to the van. Once inside, Greg pulled the apron into his lap. He gazed down at Lee's name.

Clay got their makeshift bed ready and sighed. “Come on. Lay down.”

Greg did. But he never let go of that apron.

While Harlan may...just barely...redeemed his miserable self...the jury is still out on that one!

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8 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Great chapter. I just loved Mason and Jeremy's wedding proposal.

Lee has come along way. He is  slowly processing everything and is beginning to realise that Greg, Clay and the other people at the campsite are trying to help him rebuild his life, so he is not so Broken. That was Shown by Harlan who mysteriously had Lee's medical bills settled, also making sure Greg was helped at the same time, by preventing him facing debt.

Asking Greg to ban Avery from the campsite, shows that he has come along way but he doesn't want to risk hurting Avery anymore. Whilst in the future Greg may realise that the decision needs looking at again.

Avery has finally realised that his Foster Parents do love him and for the first time in his life his actually has parents that care about him

Mason and Jeremy are cute, aren't they? They're sweet, and they just fit so well.

Lee is trying to be a good man. Right now, he equates being "good" with cutting himself off from Avery, and there's little anyone can say to convince him otherwise. He's getting help, though. Greg, of course, and then Harlan too. But there are many pulling for him in the background.

Avery is finally figuring things out. Anna and Bill had to be patient, but he's getting there.

Thanks for the comments, Chris!

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7 hours ago, BryanC said:

As I was considering the title -- 'Broken' -- and in getting to know Lee, I thought the title fit a single character. It was a mistake of focus, as every individual in the camp, is or was at one time or another, broken.

This latest chapter served to bring that heart of the story back into focus. Broken pieces can be mended, but it takes a tender hand, a subtle touch, a lot of care and understanding, and trying to understand what you missed. Then the mending agent -- kitsukuroi: that precious material that only the best of us have to give. Like, Avery: caring for someone he'd never met before; Greg: shelving his apprehensions and trusting his heart and good nature. Kindness.

Kindness and maybe love.

I genuinely hope  that Lee doesn't push helping hands, also a particularly invested helping hand and a loving heart, away because he believes himself to be too damaged. Doubting his own worth. We're all worth helping. We just need the helping hand.
...
In closing, definitely glad to see Greg back to himself. I think a lot of people are.

🙂

You know, there are certain themes I love. Primary among those is the fact that nobody is perfect. Yet, there's more to it than that. Imperfections lead to interest. They lead to rough edges. And when multiple imperfections are in close proximity, we could end up with something precious - with those broken pieces fitting together in ways utterly unforeseen. Harlan said it well, back in A Silent Song. "Sometimes a broken piece is the only one that will fit."

To fit with that theme, the kitsukuroi, the mortar holding it all together isn't the action of a single person. It's Greg's drive to do his best. It's Harlan's belief Lee is worth helping. It's Avery's recognition of Lee's desperate need for a friend. It's Lee ... and the slow birth of his belief that he is worthwhile. All of those fit into that theme of kindness you mentioned above, either acceptance of it or giving it.

Lee's hurt. The others can try to help him, but some things need time to heal. If he's able to do that remains to be seen.

Greg lost himself for half a day, and look at what that cost, and worse, what it could have cost. When a man is the keystone, he can't break without repercussion. I think we saw that plainly here.

Thanks for the great comments, Bryan.

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6 hours ago, Clancy59 said:

I was rereading some of the commentary people left.  There are some very insightful people here!  We really seem to enjoy dissecting the psychological aspects of these stories. 😉

I had another thought about the apron. The apron also acknowledges Lee’s inherent talent at cooking, something he had no idea he could do before.  He took to inspirational cooking like a duck takes to water!  With a bare minimum of instruction, he knew instinctively how to prepare a variety of dishes, adding various ingredients together in ways he had no idea went together.  He added spices in new ways to add flavor and interest to the dish.  The campers all raved about his efforts, some even taking additional helpings (there is no greater compliment to a cook).  Earning the money from his efforts was a bonus that shocked him.  At first, he added the money to the funds he ‘owed’ Eddie.  Later, he planned out his budget (he divided his monies into $120 packets to pay for his cabin rent), starting to take responsibility for his own life.

Now, he has had the experience of looking for employment without sufficient references.  Hopefully, this, with the encouragement of Avery and others from the camp, will enable Greg to get Lee into a GED program and, maybe, even a culinary arts program at a local community college.

Greg just needs to get him over this initial hump and Lee will thrive under the auspices of the camp and the campers.  Harlan even got Corbin involved (😉😉)

There are indeed some insightful folks commenting on the chapter, and the story overall. It's nice to read.

Concerning cooking and Lee ... Lee has a natural talent when it comes to flavors and textures - the combination which we call taste. But he still had to learn technique. I wanted to show that with the omelet scene at the campground with Greg. That natural talent can't really be taught, but technique can. Greg was more than happy to help him master it. With Lee's talent coupled with Greg's training, he quickly surpassed anything Greg could do. Greg is a good cook thanks to his mastery of technique, but Lee? Lee has a creative spark with flavors Greg doesn't. That is what Greg saw in him - the potential to be greater than Greg himself could possibly achieve.

I will comment on nothing else you've written, as I don't want to give anything away. 😛

See you next week!

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2 hours ago, drsawzall said:

Well done with this chapter, the following sent me from Kleenex to paper towels...damn you😭!!

Greg waited until he walked away, then he opened the bag. He looked inside. "Oh. Oh, Lee." Reaching inside, Greg pulled Lee's apron into view. Greg stared down at the dirty article of clothing. "I'm sorry." He closed his eyes, hands tight on the apron. "I'm sorry."

"Hey, come on." Clay put an arm around Greg's shoulders.

“I don’t wanna leave.” Greg shook his head. “Let’s just sleep in the van.”

“Ok, that’s fine. We can convert the back seats to a bed. We'll unzip and share that sleeping bag in the back.”

Clay steered him outside to the van. Once inside, Greg pulled the apron into his lap. He gazed down at Lee's name.

Clay got their makeshift bed ready and sighed. “Come on. Lay down.”

Greg did. But he never let go of that apron.

While Harlan may...just barely...redeemed his miserable self...the jury is still out on that one!

Thanks! Making people cry ... pretty funny goal to have, eh? lol

That's a good scene. I can feel Greg's pain, him twisting the material in his hands, just ... suffering. Yeah. He's hurting.

Harlan is who and what he is. While I'm glad you view him a little more favorably, I do know this: Harlan wouldn't give a damn what either of us think of him, and he's just gonna do what he wants to do. 😛

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What a lovely gritty story filled with so much humanity! Thank you, Wayne, for writing and thinking so beautifully.

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You did it to me again.  I think I balled through the entire chapter.  Just like you have made me do before.  And I am grateful for it!

I've been away from GA for a while and when I came back and saw you had a new "Camp Refuge" story, I had to dive in.  You already know I'm a huge fan of your writing.  This story is every bit as wonderful as your others.  Thank you for your greats stories.

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Yes I have to agree -  the "apron" brought moisture to me as well!  Very well written Wayne - thank you so much!

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Lee getting back the apron, is Greg holding out a lifeline to a drowning person. Sometimes they (Lee) grab on and can't ever let go, believing that connection will keep them safe from physical and emotional harm. Then discarding the person, (Avery) who put him in that position (intentional or not in the case of Avery who had no idea what 1 wrong pill could do to him), Lee believes or hopes he is saving Avery.

Nice in theory, often lousy in practice. As many times as people think that works, all parties (Lee and Avery) feel as if an important piece is missing. Have seen this first hand as a counsellor, and in personal circumstances. 20 years after cutting off someone off in the belief it was in their best interests (get off drugs, figure out / get their life in order), I wondered from time to time how they were doing. A few months ago, while waiting at a clinic for a CT-scan, I heard his name called. I looked up, caught his eye, and instantly saw a look of confusion, anger and sadness. As he passed by, his comment was "thanks for 20 years of making me feel guilty and unwanted".  By the time my scan was finished 30 minutes later, he had already left, (and of course the clinic couldn't release contact info). 

Do Lee and Avery need time apart to find themselves, to figure out what they need to survive and grow? Yes, but most councillors, psychologists, etc will tell you that some time together can also help mend. IMHO, Greg's could have been, "You guys need some time apart to figure things out. Let's see about getting together in X months" if there's any interest".  That's my 2 cents worth. 

Edited by Anton_Cloche
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On 2/20/2021 at 2:16 PM, Ford48 said:

What a lovely gritty story filled with so much humanity! Thank you, Wayne, for writing and thinking so beautifully.

I love that description: ... lovely gritty story ...

I guess it is gritty, isn't it?

Thanks for reading and commenting, Ford. 🙂

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22 hours ago, Quixo said:

You did it to me again.  I think I balled through the entire chapter.  Just like you have made me do before.  And I am grateful for it!

I've been away from GA for a while and when I came back and saw you had a new "Camp Refuge" story, I had to dive in.  You already know I'm a huge fan of your writing.  This story is every bit as wonderful as your others.  Thank you for your greats stories.

I'm happy you found your way back to the story, Quixo. 🙂 Thanks for letting me know you're reading and enjoying it.

There's more coming.

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7 hours ago, KayDeeMac said:

Yes I have to agree -  the "apron" brought moisture to me as well!  Very well written Wayne - thank you so much!

Thanks, KayDeeMac!

That turned into quite the symbol. It's important to Lee, and to Greg too.

We'll see it again. 🙂

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1 hour ago, Anton_Cloche said:

Lee getting back the apron, is Greg holding out a lifeline to a drowning person. Sometimes they (Lee) grab on and can't ever let go, believing that connection will keep them safe from physical and emotional harm. Then discarding the person who put them (Lee and Avery) in that position (intentional or not in the case of Avery who had no idea what 1 wrong pill could do to him), Lee believes or hopes he is saving Avery.

Nice theory, lousy in practice. As many times as people think that works, all parties (Lee and Avery) feel as if an important piece is missing. Seen this first hand as a counsellor, and in personal circumstances. 20 years after cutting off someone off in the belief it was in their best interests, I wondered from time to time how they were doing. A few months ago, waiting at a clinic for a CT-scan, I heard his name called. I looked up, caught his eye, and instantly saw a look of confusion, anger and sadness. As he passed by, his comment was "thanks for 20 years of making me feel guilty and unwanted".  By the time my scan was finished 30 minutes later, he had already left. 

Do Lee and Avery need time apart to find themselves, to figure out what they need to survive and grow? Yes, but most councillors, psychologists, etc will tell you that some time together can also help mend. IMHO, Greg's could have been, "You guys need some time apart to figure things out. Let's see about getting together in X months" if there's any interest". Here's my 2 cents.

Lee is trying to do something good for Avery. Is it, though? I agree with you, that totally cutting him off to "save" him isn't the right way. Greg feels similarly, but he wanted to calm Lee down and let him relax a bit.

The personal situation you mentioned was unfortunate. It sounds as if you had done your best at the time. Lee is in a similar headspace, but with the addition of guilt over Avery's reaction to the drug. Lee spent weeks wondering if he'd killed his only friend. That has to do something to a guy.

I think you're right. I think they need time to figure things, and to think through the situation free of so much emotion. Could Greg have done better? Certainly, yes he could have. But again, he is just a man and he is trying his best.

Thanks for the nice comments and for sharing your own personal insights. I appreciate that.

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