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Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John


Shortly after our return from Montreal I got a message from Hamilton to come by his office. "It's important," the note ended. I buzzed his secretary and was told he was in and could see me. I headed out to his office just down the hall. "Hi, what's up?"

"Did you have a good trip in Montreal? I see Tim didn't set the world afire like he did at two previous Games, but no medalist needs to be ashamed of his performance."

"Tim isn't. But he certainly was correct that it was time to retire."

"It think he could still get a lot of diving medals if he wanted. I never understood why he stopped competing."

"That's simple. He won't compete against Billy Carson. We all agree that Billy is now the better diver, but Tim won't compete against Billy because he knows that Billy won't ever win against Tim. It's a strange relationship, but those facts are non-negotiable for both of them."

"Both of them are amazing young men. You're lucky, Charlie."

"I know."

"Well, I don't have good news. Just after the Olympics ended I got a visit from Professor Carleton Schmidt. He presented formal charges of plagiarism against you. He insists that I present his charges to the Faculty Ethics Committee. His claim is that you stole his idea of searching court records in the Illinois circuits for Lincoln documents. He claims that he has proof, but - quite properly - is waiting to present that to the Ethics Committee."

I said, "Wow. You remember that you suggested that this might be a possibility when the Lincoln research was first under discussion. I assumed that since nothing had come up by now, that nothing ever would."

"Wait for just a moment, Charlie. I need to get my formal duties as Dean out of the way. I asked Prof. Schmidt if he was certain, and warned him that unproved charges could destroy both of your careers. He insisted that he could prove his charges, and insisted that the case go forward. I advised him that my first step would be to inform you of the charges, and then present the matter to the Ethics Committee. Here is a copy of his charging letter. I'll be convening the Ethics Committee the day after tomorrow and giving them the letter. I can delay that action for up to a week, if you request me to, and provide a reason. You may submit whatever you wish to the Ethics Committee at any time. They will, of course, want to talk with you very soon. Do you have any questions?"

"Yes, of course. But they are outside of your official capacity. So, in answer to your formal question, no, I don't have any questions."

Then the matter is closed for now, as far as Dean Fry is concerned.

I said, "Hamilton, could we go to lunch? I don't think we should be real public about it, so why don't you come by my house in about an hour, and I'll have lunch ready for us."

"Good idea, Charlie. I'm looking forward to a good meal and a totally uncalled for conversation."

"Any objection to Tim's being present?"

"None. It's a good idea."

I headed home, defrosted some vegetable soup we'd made just before the Olympics, and got ready to toss a couple of little steaks into a skillet to make three steak sandwiches. I cut three wedges of lettuce, got out a couple of bottles of different salad dressings and we had a nice lunch ready to go. Hamilton and Tim had met walking off campus and had walked over together. Hamilton admitted that it was technically a breach of confidentiality, but he told Tim the whole story.

After we'd gone over the details, and reminded ourselves of the history of my research [see Episode 35 - Lincoln], and the letters that had been filed away against just such an accusation, I said, "Hamilton you're in a difficult situation. You're aware that there's proof to support my counter-claim, in fact you're in possession of a copy of that proof. In fact, you participated in the collection of that proof. You're going to be attacked by Schmidt for not warning him of the dangerous ground he was walking on."

"I know. I can easily become the man in the middle. Since at this stage, I'm only the messenger, I didn't feel the need to recuse myself in regard to my duty to staff the Ethics Committee. But I will do that formally to the Committee when I present Schmidt's charges to them. I will also advise Schmidt. I would like us to try to craft a letter to Schmidt which goes as far as I can to warn him without violating confidentiality with you."

Tim said, "Charlie, it seems to me that there are two different courses of action you can take. You could go directly to Schmidt, tell him what you have, and advise him to withdraw the charges before it gets to the Faculty Ethics Committee. Alternatively, you can do nothing until the Committee contacts you and invites you to tell your side of the story."

Hamilton said, "Exactly. If he chooses the former course of action he risks tipping his hand and giving Schmidt the chance to alter his 'evidence' to take what you have into consideration. We haven't seen his evidence, you know. He's going to have to present some kind of evidence that he had the idea before you. If you remember, you sat on the idea for quite a while before you went public with it. I think it's very likely that he may claim a date after the date of your letter. Well, not exactly. He'll claim he had this idea way back in college in Galesburg. But he has to claim two things: first he had the idea a long time ago, and also that he shared it with you. It's the date of the alleged sharing with you which he's likely to set later than your letter in the file. But if he knows the letter exists, he'll try to claim a much earlier date. He'll also claim that you knew you were plagiarizing his idea, and set me up to provide the letters, etc.

"On the other hand, if you let it go to the Ethics Committee when you have such slam-dunk evidence, you could be accused of sandbagging Schmidt to make yourself look good."

Tim asked, "Why do you suppose he's doing this now?"

Hamilton said, "I think he's madly jealous of Charlie's advancement in the Law School. He's had, quite unrealistically, his eye on the deanship, and he's seeing the handwriting on the wall that Charlie is my likely successor. If he could prove his case, it would certainly end Charlie's career at UND, and probably yours too, Tim."

I said, "I know. I don't think we have any choice but to pursue the second course of action. That is, say absolutely nothing until he puts all of his cards on the table with the Ethics Committee. At this point, I think that I should specifically request that you, Hamilton, keep everything you know from our previous conversations confidential until you're requested to share them with the Ethics Committee. I'm certainly not going to claim any attorney client privilege in this, I don't think we had such a relationship. However, as a student my student records are private information which must be held in confidence until there's a proper formal request. That would have to come from the Ethics Committee."

Tim said, "You're going to need a lawyer."

"I know exactly who I'm going to get."

Hamilton said, "Don't tell me that you're going to have the Chief Justice of the United States represent you with the Ethics Committee."

"No, but I might call him as a character witness."

"That would be spectacular. Who'll be your lawyer?"

"It shouldn't be anyone from the faculty. I'm going to get Chrissy, the clerk that preceded me as Clerk for Judge Sherman Wilcox. He's in private practice in Chicago."

Both Tim and Hamilton nodded approval.

Hamilton said, "I would normally ask the Assistant Dean to fill in if I recused myself, but I don't think that works in this situation. Virtually all of the senior faculty have had you in class, Charlie. Technically, that isn't a conflict of interest, but I hate to put anybody in the middle of this fight. I think I'll ask Hank Lever, the University Counsel, to act for me. How well do either of you two guys know him?"

"We worked pretty closely with him setting up the faculty endowment. He wrote me a letter of recommendation to Sherm Wilcox."

"How about the Assistant Counsel, Sven Olav?"

"I hardly know him. How about you, Tim?"

"Complete stranger."

"He's never involved with financial issues, he works mainly on safety and liability issues. He'll do fine. I talk to him."

Hamilton thought for a while and continued, "I can't be your lawyer or advisor, Charlie. It's time for me to get out of the picture and let your man from Chicago take over. I'll be your witness when needed. Your letter is in my office safe. Every time the safe's opened it's logged by my secretary. It hasn't been opened since Schmidt came to my office, and I'll make sure there're two witnesses that we haven't disturbed the letter if we have to open it before you call for the letter."

"Thanks, Hamilton."

"I do need to compose a letter to Schmidt. I don't think there's much I can say by way of warning except to stress the seriousness of the charges and note that I'm certain that you, Charlie, will contest the charges vigorously."

"That'll be fine; I doubt it's going to deter him," I said.

"Thanks for lunch. I wish it could've been under more pleasant circumstance."

I called Chrissy. He immediately agreed to represent me. I offered to come to Chicago, but he declined. "I'll be on the next plane," was his reaction. I met him in Fargo the next morning. It was like old home week as we compared notes on our lives since he had left Washington. He and Orville enjoyed Chicago where they had found it easy to be gay and out. Their law practice was doing well. To their delight it had not become a gay practice, but they'd successfully attracted a broad spectrum of clients, including a number of gays and lesbians who often brought unique legal problems.

I gave Chrissy the complete background on my present situation. I said, "We have two decisions that we have to make immediately. Then the time pressure is off. This'll go to the Faculty Ethics Committee tomorrow. If I want to negotiate with Schmidt before it becomes an official case, I have to do it before it goes to the Committee. Also, I can request that the Dean, now represented by the Assistant University Counsel, hold up giving it to the Committee for a week. If I do that, I have to give a reason. I would assume that almost any reason would be accepted."

Chrissy said, "While I think I agree with your tentative conclusion that you shouldn't negotiate with Schmidt, why don't you ask for the week's delay? Simply say that you've retained an attorney and he needs the time to review the case and advise you. That will justify the delay."

"I'll send Sven Olav a letter by messenger immediately. I don't want to hand deliver it myself at this point."

"Good thinking. I need to get a temporary admission to the North Dakota Bar. I'll get that moving."

"For this administrative business you need to be admitted to the bar? I wouldn't have thought so."

"Since it's the state university, technically, this Faculty Ethics Committee is an administrative governmental agency. According to my contacts in Chicago, precedent goes both ways on whether I need a bar admission, but I'm going to play it safe. It's no big deal."

We headed two different directions and agreed to meet at dinner at our house, where he would be staying. He took my car and headed to the court house. Both Tim and I always had the option of using a university car. We would take advantage of that if we needed a car while Chrissy had ours.

At dinner Tim got a full report on Chrissy and Orville; roughly the same that I had gotten in the morning. Chrissy did provide one additional detail. "You know, Orville has mellowed in his attitude toward sex. He's so damn cute he can have his choice of the sexiest partners. He decided that he guessed it was OK for us to loosen up a bit. There are about four different gay couples that we like to swing with, usually one couple at a time. The last thing he told me when I left this morning was that it was OK to sleep with my client. This client, only. Also my client's partner."

Tim had a big grin on his face and said, "And which client is Orville going to be sleeping with?"

"No client, but I'm sure that one of our friendly couples will feel sorry for him and invite him over."

I said, "Well, this is an unexpected delight. I know how Orville gets these couples to swing with him, he dangles your good looks in front of their faces. When I first described you to Tim the word I used was knockout. You still are, Chrissy. And Orville is obviously good for you, the little paunch you were starting in Washington is gone."

"Orville and I run and work out together. I'd hate to think what this body would look like if I hadn't met Orville."

"Does he still look like a teenager? Do you still get accused of running around with a little illegal fuck-toy?" That was Tim.

"I could get arrested for what we do together if he didn't have his driver's license. Just like Charlie with you, Tim."

I said, "Next time you come up, bring Orville and we'll trade fuck-toys."

Tim said, "On the contrary, I think Orville and I will trade dirty old men."

Chrissy said, "It's all in your point of view. I hope you guys are up to showing me a good time tonight."

We were. We were.

Tim, Chrissy and I talked most of the next day about the case. We did finally agree that I would say nothing until Schmidt had laid out all of his case to the Ethics Committee. The only question we had a hard time settling was whether we should press for a public hearing or let it be handled in a closed hearing. We decided that as the accused party I was under no obligation to keep the papers and documents from the hearing private, and they could be released at any time. Likewise, there was nothing to stop Schmidt from going public with his charges. However, we didn't see any point in making any part of the matter public at this stage. Understanding that that could change, we elected to request a closed hearing and asked the Ethics Committee to keep the matter private unless and until they determined that there had been ethical violations. Then, of course, the charges and their findings had to be public.

Chrissy headed back to Chicago and we waited in Grand Forks for things to develop. The Committee asked if I would come in and talk with them informally. After consulting with Chrissy I agreed to do that, provided I could bring an advisor (who would also be a witness). They agreed and Franklin went with me. The Committee, composed of seven law school faculty members of all levels of seniority, advised me that they had received the charges, and asked me to affirm that I had received a copy from Dean Fry. I compared the copies and indicated that I had a copy. They asked if I wished to deny the charges, and I said that I did.

I was advised that the Committee would meet with Prof. Schmidt and review whatever evidence he wished to present. If they found the evidence sufficiently incriminating, they would proceed with a formal hearing. At that point I would be provided a complete transcript of Schmidt's charges and copies of all the documents. Originals of the documents, or whatever evidence there might be, would be made available if needed for forensic purposes.

It was all pretty routine, following established and published procedures. Ten days later I was advised by the Committee that they would proceed with a hearing. A copy of the complete file was made available. Chrissy came back from Chicago and we started our detailed analysis of Schmidt's case. The key question was the date. We were in luck. Schmidt was claiming that he had suggested the idea to me in a conversation in the coffee shop about a month before my initial contacts with the Illinois State Archives. This date was three days after the postmarks on the letters in Hamilton and Prexy's offices. The conversation was supported by a copy of a letter written to me, and another written to a colleague in Arkansas. There was also a copy of an unpublished student paper Schmidt had written while he was at Knox College. In a footnote Schmidt had talked about the possibility of their being Lincoln papers in the courthouses.

While the paper from Knox, if legitimate, certainly showed that Schmidt had thought of the idea before me, his purported conversation in which he told me his idea was easily provable to have taken place, if it took place at all, after I had documented my plan of research with Hamilton and Prexy.

I was convinced that the purported conversation with me had never happened. I would've remembered it. I was also certain that I had never gotten the letter in which he allegedly had reviewed our conversation. I was convinced that whole thing was a fraud.

Orville set out from Chicago for Knox College to do a little checking. Knox is in Galesburg, and it was an easy train ride from Chicago. The professor to whom the paper was supposed to have been submitted had retired, and was completely senile. His wife had none of his old college papers and knew nothing about them. But Orville got lucky in the college archives. They had a substantial Lincoln collection, and they had kept copies of student papers relating to Lincoln. The Archivist found the original of Schmidt's paper. His professor had given all of his papers to the Archives upon his retirement. They had routinely pulled out the Lincoln stuff and accessioned it in the Archives. Here it was. Footnote 7, which in the copy Schmidt had given to the Ethics Committee talked about the possibility of Lincoln papers in the courthouses, was a listing of the present condition of all of the court houses, whether they were still standing, and how they were currently being used. It said nothing about papers in them. Schmidt had produced an altered copy for the Committee.

Orville got the Archivist and two of the college Librarians to certify a copy of the original paper, and to separately certify a copy of the page on which Footnote 7 appeared. These certifications were notarized, and Orville put the whole thing in the mail, Special Delivery, to me in Grand Forks. He asked the Archivist to please place the original copy in secure storage until the matter was concluded in Grand Forks. That was easily agreed to. Orville hoped that there would be no need for the Archivist to testify, but if that was required, two members of the Committee would come to Galesburg.

Chrissy was ready for the rebuttal hearing.

And, just as I had suspected, Chrissy was really good. He challenged both the contention that Schmidt had had the idea while he was a student at Knox, and challenged his assertion that he had shared the idea with me over coffee and in a letter.

He handed Professor Schmidt a copy of his student paper from Knox. It was a copy of Schmidt's altered version. Schmidt was asked to read footnote 7, which he did. Then he handed Schmidt another copy of the paper and asked him to read footnote 7. It was the original note, which talked about buildings but said nothing about Lincoln papers. "How do you explain the different notes?"

"Somebody has altered this copy," he said, pointing to the original.

"There's no possibility that the copy you presented to the Committee had be altered?"

"Certainly not."

"Where did you get the copy you submitted to the Committee?"

"From my files."

"It's a carbon copy of the original you submitted for your class at Knox College?"


"Where is the original?"

"Long gone, I'm sure."

"Didn't you get it back from your professor?"

"No, he kept term papers."

"What did he do with them?"

"I have no idea."

"We had a documents expert look at the paper you gave us. May I tell you what he found?"

"You will anyway."

"The paper that footnote 7 appears on is original. The typewriter for the entire paper is the same. But the ink from the carbon paper is slightly different on the page on which footnote 7 appears. That would be consistent with the idea that someone had changed the footnote, wouldn't it?"

"No one changed anything."

Chrissy handed the certified copies of the original to the Committee, assuring them that the original was in safe keeping in the Knox Archives, and that the Committee could talk to the documents expert from Fargo, and/or the Archivist in Galesburg. There was no doubt that the original paper submitted by Schmidt as a student at Knox never suggested Lincoln papers in the court house.

Before he gave Schmidt a chance to respond he called Prexy. We had decided that it would be better to call on Prexy's copy of my letter rather than Hamilton's. Prexy was asked if I had given him a letter to hold in regard to this matter. The date and nature of the letter was established. Prexy advised that it had been in his office safe, to which no one other than he had access, since I had handed it to him. At Chrissy's suggestion the entire Committee accompanied by Sven Olav who acted as their Secretary, Schmidt, Chrissy and I followed Prexy across to his office. He opened his safe, withdrew the letter, and handed it to Sven Olav. We went to a copier and the front and back of the envelope were photocopied before it was slit open. There was my letter, and Hamilton's. The dates on the envelope and letter made it completely clear that I had the idea before the date that Schmidt claimed. Hamilton's letter, which recited his conversation with Schmidt, made it seem very unlikely that Schmidt had ever had any idea of looking for Lincoln papers in the courthouses.

When that was added to the obvious alteration of the paper from Knox, Schmidt was crushed. We went back to the Law School where the hearing was being held, and were reconvened. Sven Olaf spoke. "I believe matters have completely changed. I am advising the Committee to suspend this hearing and convene privately. Professor Schmidt, please remain available, I am sure that the Committee will want to meet with you shortly."

Chrissy, Tim and I left and headed to our house, planning a victory celebration in the best place for such a thing - a very big bed! This was followed by a visit to Jerry's Restaurant for good steaks and a victory celebration with Fred, Marty, and several others from the Gang.

The next morning Professor Schmidt resigned and left town. His wife remained a short while to place their house on the market and bring in movers. I have no idea where he went and have never bothered to check into it. The faculty minutes noted the conclusion of the Ethics Committee that Schmidt had brought false charges of plagiarism against Associate Professor Charlie and had been asked to resign. It did not make the newspapers.

I asked Hamilton why he hadn't been allowed to resign quietly.

"Charlie, that used to be a common approach to problems. Out of sight and out of mind. But then the same thing gets repeated somewhere else. It is now a matter of public record, and has been noted in Schmidt's personnel file. A copy of the faculty minutes would be sent along with any response to an inquiry about Schmidt's employment here. He'll never get another teaching job, and he shouldn't."

The story slowly made the rounds of the faculty. Any number of persons came up to me and asked how I'd ever had the presence of mind to so carefully document my work. I credited Hamilton with the details of the idea, but I indicated that my background checking on Schmidt had suggested the possible need. A common reaction from many faculty members was that I was "One smart cookie," or some similar thing. It didn't hurt my reputation one little bit!

We wanted to see Orville, so both Tim and I flew to Chicago with Chrissy the day after the hearing. Orville met us at Ohare Airport with the words, "Here come the conquering heroes." Chrissy picked him up, moved out of the flow of traffic leaving the gate, and hugged him tight. Then he handed him to me and I hugged him as well. I put him down in front of Tim. He had a couple of inches in height on Tim, but he looked younger. I think Orville was fated to be carded in bars until he was fifty! We took the helicopter shuttle downtown and a taxi to their condominium in the John Hancock Center near Lake Michigan. They were on the 67th floor and their law office was on the 38th. They commuted by elevator. "Hell, Charlie, we can go for a month at a time without leaving the building. Everything we need, food, shopping, work, home, health club, it's all here. Court dates are what force us to leave."

It was a rainy day in Chicago as we moved from the taxi to the magnificent building they called home. We rode the residential elevators to their floor, entered their condo and looked out the window on a sunny day! We were above the clouds that were raining on Chicago! We could see the lake in the distance, but nearby, nothing but clouds.

Tim asked, "How did you ever land in this fabulous building? It has to be one of the prestige addresses in America."

"Lots of luck," said Chrissy. "You know, my dad was backing us. The building was just being completed when we moved to Chicago in 1969. It was popular, but with 49 floors of residences, they hadn't sold out. Believe me they wanted to - very badly. And the small apartments were harder to sell than the big ones. We told then we'd buy two of the smallest apartments and lease interior office space as well. We were a three-fer. They were delighted, and we got a good deal. Within a year every condo was sold and the price skyrocketed. Orville decided that he really didn't like living alone, so he sold his condo and moved in with me. The profit on his condo enabled us to repay Dad. Our mortgage is reasonable, and we signed a very long-term lease on the office, so that we're protected against rent increases beyond cost of living for a long while."

We got an elevator tour of the building, including their law office, which was stunning. We ended at the Signature Room on the 95th floor for dinner. We could've fed the whole Gang in Grand Forks for what that dinner cost Chrissy. Add to that the fact that he refused to bill me for his legal services, and we were really feeling guilty. Chrissy would have none of it. "Charlie, if it hadn't been for you and Tim really putting it to me, I'd be the managing partner of a good firm in Boston, making a mint, married to a nice woman that I didn't love and who deserved better, and miserable. I'm doing just as well now, well, almost as well, am partnered with the man I love, and am happy as a lark. And both Orville and I are fully aware that if it weren't for you two it wouldn't have happened. We can never repay you. We aren't going to try. But you aren't paying for dinner, and that, as they say, is that."

We didn't try.

We were their overnight guests that evening at their apartment and in their king size bed. Their swinging adventures with other gay couples nearly always involved anal intercourse. They knew that we weren't into that with other people, and I think they were glad to be forced to explore other options. Since we'd slept with Chrissy in Grand Forks, we decided to start with Orville. He found two tongues to be a pretty exciting experience, and we enjoyed his quid pro quo. Chrissy watched and then said, "OK, what about me?"

"Oh, you'd like to be something other than a spectator?" asked Tim.

"Of course."

"Name your poison."

"I want six hands, thirty fingers, all over my dick and balls."

He got it. We sort of got in each other's way, but it wasn't long before his cum was messing up all thirty of the fingers. Orville pushed his legs up into the air and we played with his ass with our cummy fingers. [I thought you might like that word.] He got well lubed and Orville pushed in with two fingers and found his prostate - a game they'd obviously played before. Chrissy was excited and then content. We all were.

We all slept wrapped up together, a very contented sleep. With two of our four being quite small, we had plenty of room in the bed.

Chrissy and I were awakened the next morning by Tim and Orville who had both gotten up ahead of us and fixed breakfast. We were invited to the dining room where breakfast was served in front of a beautiful picture window showing the shoreline of Lake Michigan extending south to Indiana. We sat eating, looking out, totally naked. That high, no one was going to see back in through the window. It was kind of eerie to have complete and total privacy, looking out the window at the city. Orville fooled us with, "It's the best place I've ever found to masturbate, especially at night looking out at all the lights. Whenever Chrissy is away this is where I spend my late evening. Sometimes Chrissy and I do it together."

I looked over and Chrissy had moved his chair to face the window and was, indeed, beginning to jack off. We all joined in, sitting in a row, looking out the picture window at South Chicago and Lake Michigan. After I finished, the window needed Windex!

Soon we said goodbye, skipped the helicopter and took a taxi to the airport, and headed back to Grand Forks. Despite some nice moments - victory in the hearing and good times in Chicago - a not very pleasant chapter in our lives drew to a close.

Tom was the last of the original eight Gang members to move to Grand Forks. With his arrival, we were complete. Except for our original two weeks at Camp White Elk were all living together for the first time in our lives. With the permission of partners, we decided to celebrate with a weekend camping trip at a site north along the river that Jim and Andy had discovered a while back. It involved about a two mile walk from where we could park cars, and we were assured a natural setting and privacy. Well, we couldn't guarantee that no one else would hike in, but Jim assured us that they'd never encountered any other humans, except that every now and then a boat would pass on the river. If we wanted to "mess around" we ought to stay back from the river bank.

It was late fall, and it would be chilly camping. Swimming would be out of the question - we told Tim that if he suggested it he'd be thrown in the river and made to stay in his wet clothes until he shivered so hard you could hear him across the river. He got the hint.

We headed out from Grand Forks late on a Friday afternoon, driving two cars. The hike in with our packs took about 45 minutes. We'd discussed tent arrangements and regrettably decided that we'd better stick with small tents, as we didn't want to try to carry large ones. So half of us set up our four two-man tents while the other half started a fire and prepared dinner. We each cooked our own steaks, dug baked potatoes out of the coals, added some raw veggies to our plates, and settled in for a feast.

Hal started the conversation. "You know, I can't believe how lucky I was to wind up in this group back at Camp While Elk."

"That goes for all of us."

"It was special for me."

"It was special for all of us. Forget the 'new Hal' business. That summer changed eight lives."

"It's still changing those eight lives."

"I think it's 48 lives now."

"It's more like thousands."

"Why are we here? We can't go back to that summer."

"We're not trying to go back. We're just trying to remember a very special time. Very special people."

"Very special loves."

"Very special sex."

"No, not really. Yeah, there was sexuality in the air at camp, but never any sex that summer. Sex came later."

"There was love that summer."

"Just ask Tim and Charlie!"

"Sure, but not just their love. And not just Jim and Andy. We all truly learned to love each other. I think that was the greatest lesson of the summer."

"Not so much a lesson as an achievement."

We all sat and stared silently into the fire. It'd gotten fairly dark and cold. We all snuggled up to the person next to us - in random pairs. I ended up paired with Andy, and we hugged tight to keep warm. Tim was with Hal, and Hal lifted him between his legs and sort of wrapped around him. Franklin and Jim shared a blanket over their shoulders. Tom and Ronnie were hugging like they were lovers. I noticed Ronnie turn and gently kiss Tom on the cheek. Others noticed it two, and soon the kiss was being repeated in each pairing.

Ronnie said, "Let's sleep paired just as we are."

No one answered, but we all knew that we'd follow Ronnie's suggestion, and probably pretty soon.

Andy said, "Four out of eight Olympic medalists. Not bad."

"No, the important thing is eight out of eight really nice guys."

"No, one out of one really extraordinary Gang."

Franklin said, "We all know that Tim is the truly extraordinary guy here. It rubs off. We all bask in his glow. But that's not what's important. I would trust any of you with my life, and would give my life for any of you. I truly hope that none of us is ever put to that test, but I know that we all would pass. God, I love you all."

"Very true," or a variant, came from all the rest of us.

Not much later the fire was down - and doused - and I was sharing a tent and sleeping bag with Andy. He said, "You know, we haven't spent too many nights together. But I do remember the few we've had. I'm really looking forward to this."

We were both naked, and Andy was backed up to me, taking Tim's spoon position. Andy continued, "Is it OK with Tim that we're sleeping like this?"

"Once it wasn't, but it is now. He's probably doing the same thing with Hal."

"Hug me, Charlie. Tight."

I did, of course.

Andy continued, "Do you ever feel you're second fiddle to Tim? Like eighteen Olympic medals to two. Sometimes I did, when Jim was the big Olympic wrestler and I was just a spectator."

"No, Andy, I don't feel like second fiddle. Tim would never let that happen. He makes me feel like the most important person in the world."

"Jim's good to me as well. But it's Kara that really strokes egos in our group. She makes us all feel like the Marvel family."

"You've been good for Jim, Andy. And the other way around. Likewise Kara and Amy."

"Can I suck you, Charlie?"

"Of course. I'd like it, Andy."

I did, too.

When he'd finished, Andy said, "Thanks, Charlie. You know, starting that first day at Camp While Elk, you've been the glue that held this Gang together. No Charlie, no Gang. We all know that. We all love you for it."

"Thanks, Andy. Everybody had a part. Can I suck you, now?"

"Because you want to, or because it's payback time?"

"I want to, Andy. Because you're Andy. Member of the Gang. One of the nicest guys I know."

"I love you, Charlie."

I wiggled down in the sleeping bag and he wiggled up. I started to suck him gently. But before I could accomplish my goal he'd drifted off to sleep. I slid back up, wrapped myself around him, and joined him in slumberland.

The next morning Andy was embarrassed. I told him, "Don't be silly. It just shows how comfortable we are around each other. Let me at you now."

Sleep had charged him up. I quickly got quite a load.

We heard others beginning to stir, and Tim was out and building a fire. Andy's hand was massaging my dick and accomplished its goal. We hugged together to get my cum on each other and not the sleeping bag. With his clean hand Andy pulled the bag down and we got up to face the day. And the Gang's scrutiny as we cleaned ourselves up!

Tim started the day by announcing that he was going to take Carl's role and police the maudlin conversation. We strung a rope for a volleyball net and played till we were pretty well exhausted. After lunch Jim announced that the afternoon activity would be tree climbing. That suited everyone but Franklin, who preferred to stick close to the ground. But Jim knew where there was a strong oak that Franklin could climb, and he joined the party. Tom was the hero of the day, managing to get way up into the canopy where he got a tree swinging so that he could grab the next tree and come down a different tree. It's a miracle no one fell, but we didn't even think of the danger until dinner when Hal pointed out just how silly we'd been. We decided that that was what made the Gang the Gang, and vowed to do it again another time.

I ended up sleeping with Tom that night. He reminded my of the first time we'd slept together, quite naked and quite chaste. We repeated one out of two!

Sunday morning we left the campsite almost as reluctantly as we'd left Camp White Elk that first summer. We weren't separating, but somehow this reunion trip had been special. We all kissed, which we hadn't been able to do at our first separation. We all cried a little - or at least had moist eyes. The hike back was pretty much in silence. Back at the cars the real world seemed to return, and we drove back to the world of jobs, partners, and an expanded Gang. We vowed that once a year we would hold a reunion of the eight.

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