Tales from the Refuge - 3. Gus
"Hello, Francine!" Laura smiled over the phone. "It's great to hear from you. How's the family?"
With a smile of his own, Dan dropped onto the couch beside his wife as she listened.
"Aww, well wish Gus a happy early birthday for us! What are you guys planning?"
Her brows knit into a thoughtful frown. "Oh. Oh, that … hrm. That might work." Laura glanced at him.
Dan cocked his head, bemusement creeping into his expression. He took and held her hand resting in her lap.
She nodded. "I think it's a great idea. They'd love it. Gus knows you're taking him camping?" Her eyes narrowed in thought. "Okay. The boys text all the time, so that means Harry knows it too. He'd be too excited to keep it quiet, so even if we can figure out the time off, we'll keep it secret."
Chuckling as he realized, Dan grinned.
Laura locked eyes with her husband. "Okay. Yes, we'll do everything we can to make it there." Dan nodded in agreement, and she smiled. "We'll let you know tonight if we can swing it. Yes, we're all doing fine. Well, I mean a certain someone really misses Gus, but it sounds like we're probably going to take care of that."
Dan grabbed his phone and pulled up their shared calendar.
"Okay. We'll talk soon. Bye, Francine." She hung up.
"What date is it?" Dan couldn't stop grinning at her, and Laura laughed.
"Next Thursday. It's pretty short notice, but do you think you could take Thursday and Friday off?"
Pulling up the days in question, Dan checked the schedule. "I have two meetings with clients scheduled on Thursday - one in the morning." He tapped his chin. "We had good reception there; I could teleconference. But we'd have to leave after work on Wednesday, so I'm ready to go by nine on Thursday."
She only considered a moment. "You know, let's do it." Laura laughed. "Oh, Harry is going to freak out!"
The following Wednesday, Gus lay on his bed and frowned at his phone.
Harry - mom and dad r weird. making me give them my phone. said theyll give it back tomorrow so I can wish you a happy bday.
Gus wet his lips and typed out a reply.
Gus - Ok. u dont think theyll look through our pics?
Harry - Crap. deleting them!
Gus - Delete these msgs too
Harry - LOL good idea.
Sighing, Gus continued.
Gus - wish we were all camping again. His fingers hovered over the phone, then he finished. miss you.
Harry - me too. all of it
The ache in his chest when he thought of Harry hadn't let up. It had been almost a month since they’d met, and they had texted daily since. They even called one another almost every evening, and Gus didn't call anyone, no one but Harry.
Harry - gotta go. I'll call tomorrow for your bday. wish I could get you something
Gus - Just call. thats enough
Harry - Ok. have fun camping. talk to you tomorrow.
Groaning, Gus let the arm with the phone flop down on the bed. "God, if I just had a car!" While he had recently acquired his license, Gus still didn't have his own wheels. Otherwise, he'd have bargained with his parents to go visit Harry three hours away on the coast.
Thinking about Harry always elicited a reaction, and Gus looked at his bedroom door.
Getting the lotion out of the bedside table drawer, he pulled down his shorts and found his favorite picture Harry had texted him. Gus then settled in for the next best thing to being with him.
Without his phone, Harry had no way to know exactly how much longer he had to wait. He lay in the tent, trying to relax, but every car driving by on the paved loop became a reason for anxious anticipation.
They'd arrived yesterday at Camp Refuge, and Harry almost couldn't wait for today. He'd awoken early, gotten up, and while his parents slept, he puzzled through the tent set-up himself.
He grinned as he thought about it. His parents had managed to get the cabin right next to Gus's folks. He had to admit, their idea had been pretty clever.
"Why don't you have Harry pitch a tent at our site, where Gus would normally?" James had asked. "I'll let the camp hosts know it's fine."
So, that became the plan.
God, they should be here soon. Harry squirmed atop the sleeping pad and bedding. It has to be about time for— He cocked his head, listening to yet another engine idling slowly as it crept along the loop. The vehicle slowed, then pulled into the parking pad beside the cabin.
"Hey!" Gus's voice, and a car door slamming made him snicker. "There's a tent in my spot!"
"Calm down, son. We'll figure out what's going on," Francine said.
Harry rolled to his feet and quickly unzipped the tent. He grinned at his friend's stunned expression. "Happy Birthday, Gus!"
While Francine and James stood beside their car, the boys met and crushed one another in a hug. And with the ruse over, Dan and Laura appeared from around the corner of their own cabin, both smiling.
Unable to help himself, Harry kissed him. He held Gus's head in his hands, tasting his lips, and Gus returned the favor.
His dad's voice brought him back to the ground. The pair chuckled, flushed with embarrassment, but still holding one another.
"I can't believe you're here," Gus whispered.
"I'm here." Harry gave him one more little kiss. "I really missed you." Oh, I'm glad I wore jeans. His penis stirred at the contact with Gus, and he smirked at his friend's awkward squirm to reposition things in his cargo shorts without using his hands.
Gus's folks greeted Laura and Dan warmly, then the boys grudgingly parted to endure hugs from the adults too.
"Gus!" Harry grinned. "Let's head to the river!"
"Ah, I have to help unpack."
"You know what?" James gave the pair a cocked smile. "You boys go on. Your Mom and I will manage it."
"All right!" Harry put an arm around Gus's shoulders. "There's this rock I like jumping off; you can watch me!"
"Be careful!" Dan frowned at the pair.
"We will," Gus assured him. "I won't let him get hurt."
Dan grinned. "Well, you're the seventeen-year-old now, so I'll trust you with him."
Gus's smile changed as the full meaning of what Dan said sank in. "Thanks." After a moment, he laughed. "You ready, Harry?"
"Yes. Come on!"
The two boys started for the river, walking as close as a pair could.
"He seems so much happier," James said to Laura and Dan after the boys had disappeared down the river trail. "And open too."
"I think Gus has a lot to do with that," Laura replied. "Harry is a bit lovestruck. He tries to pretend it's nothing or that they're just friends, but—" she rolled her eyes, and they all grinned.
"Yeah, no missing that kiss." Francine pulled her camp chair from the back of their car.
"Oh, that's how I greet all my friends!" Dan quipped.
"Really?" James cleared his throat, looking expectantly at Dan. Laura hid a giggle behind her hand.
"Err. It's a good thing we're all just acquaintances." Dan bit his lip. "Ah, so can I help get the car unloaded?"
"Hrm." Francine arched an eyebrow. "I don't know. Wouldn't want to put out an acquaintance."
"Oh my god." Dan threw up his hands. "I'm only making out with my wife, people!"
"Hey, you were the one to get my hopes up." James snickered, then moved to take out their cooler. "Maybe a couple of beers will loosen you up."
"Beer?" Dan frowned. "I'll have you know if you want a shot with this then wine will have to be involved." With a haughty toss of his head, he marched to the back of James's and Francine's car to help.
Laura shook her head. "He doesn't know when to quit."
"Yeah." James rummaged through a cooler in their back seat. He made a little sound of victory and emerged with a chilled bottle of white wine. "Me neither."
"Haha!" Laura's glee made Dan peek around the side of the car.
"If that's Chardonnay, then you'd best have a breath mint handy." Dan crossed his arms over his chest.
"Aww. Sauvignon blanc."
"Oh." Dan snapped his fingers. "So close!"
"You two are awful." Francine clucked her tongue at James. "Stop flirting and help me, goofball."
This is fun. James smiled to himself as they chatted and unloaded the car. All of their Redding connections leaned toward the socially conservative side and most only tolerated Gus. That meant Laura and Dan were a breath of fresh air for both himself and Francine.
We really gotta get out of Redding.
Harry's hair in the sun became something akin to black silk - dark yet reflective and waving gently in the breeze blowing in from the water. He'd gotten it cut recently, and the crisp borders looked amazing on his relatively pale skin.
God, he's so cute.
"What?" Harry lay back on the sand next to the river. He smiled easily and poked with a finger as Gus joined him. "What are you grinning at?"
"Nothing." Gus poked him back. "Well, you."
"Oh, so I'm nothing, huh?" Harry's expression seemed playful, but his voice had wavered ever so slightly.
Gus rolled onto one elbow to face him. "No." He pulled on Harry so that they both lay on their sides in the warm sand. "You could never be nothing, not to me."
Tentatively, Harry met his gaze. "You're in Redding. Lots of people there, and probably lots of guys interested in you." He shrugged. "I figured you'd get a boyfriend there and forget about me."
All I want is you. Gus avoided blurting out his thoughts, but just barely. He slid a hand down Harry's arm, pleased to see chillbumps rise under his touch. "I don't think I could ever forget you. Ever." He shook his head. "There's nobody else, Harry. There hasn't been since I met you."
Softly running his fingers along Gus's hand, Harry watched them track over Gus's skin. "I just figured you'd want to be with someone closer."
"Do you?" Gus asked. He glanced at the other campers down by the riverside. Three men and a woman lay on the riverside beach, while a teenage girl splashed in the sunlit river. Confident they couldn't overhear, he refocused on Harry. "Do you want to find someone in Eureka?"
Harry swallowed loudly and shook his head once.
Gus pulled gently on Harry's chin. The boys kissed softly, eyes closed, their skin prickling with sensation. Gus pulled back, then smoothed Harry's black hair. "Do you wanna be boyfriends, Harry?"
Harry grinned. "Yeah. That sounds all right."
"'All right?'" Gus rolled on top of Harry, pinning him to the sand. "I just asked you to be my boyfriend, and that's your answer?"
A tongue appeared at the corner of Harry's mouth. He shrugged, dark eyes sparkling mischievously.
"Well, sorry. But you leave me no choice."
Harry frowned. "What are—"
"Rharrr!" Gus lunged for Harry's throat with a relatively gentle bite.
"Ahhh! Hahaha!" Harry thrashed under him. Gus continued gnawing on the sensitive skin under Harry's jaw. "No! No! Hahaha! Get off me!"
"Grrr," Gus growled, his lips and teeth still pressed against Harry's neck. The others by the water chuckled at their moment. "Tell me what you learned and I'll let you up."
"That my boyfriend is mean!"
Gus chuckled and pulled back. He smiled down. "I like that. 'Boyfriend.'"
Harry giggled. "Yeah. Me too." He wet his lips. "Uh … things are happening, so I think we need to be good."
"Yeah, same for me." Gus bent and whispered, "And I can feel that things are happening."
"Haha." Harry shrugged. "Yeah. Same."
Gus rolled off and pulled at his shorts. "Let's let things calm down and go get our trunks."
They sat together on the sand, watching the water. Harry laced his fingers with Gus's and sighed. "I'm glad we got to come here."
"Me too." Gus turned to him. "You know, this is the best birthday I've ever had."
Harry glanced at him and nodded once. "Camping makes it nice."
"Yeah." He squeezed Harry's hand. "The company is okay too."
Harry smirked. "Just okay?"
Shrugging, Gus bumped him with his shoulder. "We'll see if that changes later."
"Oh." Harry eyed him. "Sounds like you have plans."
"You're here; of course, I have plans." Gus pointed. "And since I'm the birthday boy, you should give me what I want."
"Haha." Harry grinned along with Gus. "We'll have to see about that."
"Yeah." The fluttery way his heart thudded in his chest made Gus jittery in the best way. He leaned, and there by the river, lying in the sun, he kissed his handsome, dark-haired boyfriend.
"It's only two p.m., and I'm buzzed." Dan shook his head from his camping chair. "I feel a bit dysfunctional right now."
"It's camping." Francine stared up at the swaying treetops. "You're allowed." To punctuate her statement she took a sip of her iced White Claw.
James lay in a hammock stretched between two redwoods. "That assessment might involve some self-excusal."
Francine replied by raising her cup. "I make no argument there."
"Hey, no guilt." Enjoying the dappled sunshine, their friends, and her chilled white wine, Laura sighed. "I had no idea how much I needed this trip until I got it."
Murmurs of agreement made Dan smile. "Yeah." He sat up. "I wonder if the boys are done with their swim?"
"They didn't come by for lunch, so they've got to be hungry." James carefully got out of the hammock. He stretched his lean frame, joints popping. "Mmm. Anybody who wants the hammock can give it a shot."
"I might take you up on that after my drink," Laura said. "You looked comfy."
"I was. Almost went to sleep." James covered a yawn with his hand. He shook himself awake. "I'm going to hunt for the boys, see if I can drag them back for some of our leftovers."
Dan pushed to his feet and assessed his balance. "Okay. I'll be back too." He made his way along the paved loop, nodding at campers he passed on the way. He entered the bathroom facility, took care of his business, then exited. Directly in front of the door, the camp kitchen had a few folks milling around, and he spied a couple of familiar guys.
Gus and Harry sat at the bar counter on the side, chatting easily with one of the hosts. Dan smiled and walked toward them.
The boys openly held hands, their arms resting on the countertop. A plate sat before them, crumbs littering the area around it, while a half-glass of milk was positioned within easy reach.
"There you guys are." Dan made certain his approval showed in his tone and expression. "I was gonna ask if you're hungry, but it looks like you took care of that."
"Hey, Dad." Harry's hand flexed, but he continued holding on to Gus. "Yeah, I bought Gus a birthday waffle."
The big man behind the counter wiped his hand on a hand towel. "It's wasn't a cake, but we had whipped cream and some blueberries."
"It was great." Gus grinned, his teeth showing some of the mentioned blueberries. He squeezed Harry's hand. "I have a sweet boyfriend."
Dan's grin happened unconsciously. "Boyfriend?" He took the stool beside Gus. "Is that what you guys are now?"
"Dad, don't make it a thing, okay?" Harry looked around Gus at his father with a desperate 'don't embarrass me' in his eyes.
"Okay. I'm not." Dan smiled reassuringly. "It's up to you guys who you tell, and what you say." The camp host quietly cleaned the counter, then let them be, finding something to do on the other side of the kitchen. "I'm glad you boys have each other, so this is fine with me." He put a hand on Gus's shoulder. "Just be good to one another, okay?"
"Yes, sir," Gus replied.
"Also," Dan eyed them. "We need to make sure you are both being safe when it comes to sex."
Harry groaned in pure misery. "Noo. No, no, no." He put his face in his hands.
Snickering, Gus nodded. "We've both had the sex-ed class through school. We'll be safe. We, ah. We're still officially virgins, and if we're only with each other, we'll be okay."
"I want to crawl into a hole and die." Harry nodded. "Yep. Thanks, Dad."
Opening his mouth, Dan thought better of clarifying the word 'officially.' He smiled instead. "Okay. I'm trusting you guys." He reached around Gus and pushed his son. "See? No dying required."
"We'll see," Harry grumbled.
"Hahaha." Dan got to his feet. "I guess we will!" He patted their backs. "Come check in with us soon, okay? Your dad is looking for you, Gus."
"Oh. Okay. Thank you, Mr. Garner."
"No, none of that. Call me Dan." He took a step toward the pavement. "See you guys later."
Dan started on the walk back to their campsite. On the way, he met James. "I found 'em." Dan jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "They got themselves fed at the kitchen."
"Good." James fell into place beside Dan. After a moment of silence, he cleared his throat. "So, I want you to know that we think Harry is a great kid, and that we approve of him and Gus."
Dan stopped on the road and turned to James. "We feel the same way about Gus. And," he chuckled and shook his head. "No. I promised I'd not say anything."
"What?" James cocked his head. "Say anything about what?"
"Oh, just something the boys said." Dan motioned toward their campsite. "Let's get back. I'm sure they'll give you the news themselves."
A spark of dawning realization lit in James's eyes. He grinned. "All right. Fair enough." They resumed their walk, and James snorted. "You're terrible with secrets."
"What?" Dan pushed at him. "I didn't tell you!"
"Tell him what?" By now they were next to their two campsites. Laura lay in the hammock with her head poking up, while Francine sat in a camp chair, one leg draped over the arm and a fizzy drink of some sort in hand. Both eyed them, and Francine loudly slurped on her beverage.
The men stared blankly at the women, looked at one another, then burst into laughter.
A few days later, early on Sunday morning, Harry peeked past the partition inside the cabin. His parents lay sleeping, and the room was still mostly dark. He grinned and took out his phone.
Gus: good. Wont have much time
Harry: wont need much
Harry smirked and put the phone away. Already anticipating his time with Gus, successfully sneaking away the last two mornings had made him brave. He opened the door, slipped out, then closed it as gently as he could behind him.
"There he goes." Laura lay on her back, blinking at the ceiling.
"Mmm. Yeah." Dan pulled close, his face against her neck. He nuzzled, then shifted so more of his body pressed into her.
"What are you doing?" She giggled when Dan kissed her throat. "You're tickling me. Aren't we going to talk about this?"
"We can." Dan let his hands travel down her back to her rump, then he pulled her in tight. "But boys are gonna be boys. There's no stopping that."
"That's the truth." She smiled at his erection pressed against her. "Speaking from experience, are we?"
"Yes. And I don't hear you complaining." Dan rolled her onto her back. "Okay. He's a teenager, so we won't have much time before he comes sneaking back."
"We don't need much."
Dan grinned down at her. "Nope."
Laura laughed, then enjoyed the best start to a morning a woman could want.
Here's the other side of the Harry/Gus coin. While these stories are supposed to be "stand-alone", it'd make more sense if you read at least the first chapter in this series titled "Harry".
This chapter is edited by myself (with some great teenager fact-checking by molly!), so if there are mistakes they are mine and mine alone. Feel free to point them out and I'll fix 'em up.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate your time spent on my work.
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