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On Grandfather Mountain

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Link hefted his heavy knapsack off his back and breathed a huge sigh of relief, letting the cool mountain air fill his lungs. Rhett followed suit, and so did Ben and Gregg, leaving their bags in a heap as they took in the view from the top of Grandfather Mountain. Below them, only forest could be seen, the dark green of pines poking their heads above a smattering of light yellows, oranges, and greens of early October in North Carolina. It was a bright day, the sun still sharp and warm, but with an occasional chill coming in gusts as they mounted the peak. On the far western horizon they could see a bank of dark grey clouds, an unexpected rainstorm moving in.

“Well, guys, looks like we shouldn’t spend too much time taking in the view. That storm looks pretty nasty,” Rhett announced.

“We gotta take a breather, man. I feel like I needed one when we passed that fallen tree about a mile back, but none of you would listen to me,” Ben panted. He was the smallest of the four, so it was hard work keeping up with the long legs of the other three while hiking up a steep slope.

“Yeah, of course. Link, get out the map, and we’ll try and pinpoint a stop along the route where we can build a shelter. We might actually get to test our survival skills tonight!” The eagerness was apparent in Rhett’s voice. He and Ben had enthusiastically discussed methods for building shelters out of natural materials on the drive to the national park, and they had decided to leave the tents behind in favor of lighter packs in order to make it to the summit and back in less than 48 hours. They all had to be back to their respective dorms on Monday, so the hike was a challenge of efficiency and speed in their backpacking skills -- a quick weekend trip along a trail through a beautiful, rugged landscape that they typically would take at least three days to savor, but Ben, Rhett and Link had all been on it at least once before.

Leaving Rhett to pore over the map, Link checked in with Gregg, the only newcomer to the trail. “You doing alright, man?”

“Yeah, I’m good,” he replied, chugging down some water and swiping at the drips on his chin with the back of his hand. He was breathing hard, and red in the face, but toughing it out better than Ben. His build was similar to Link’s, just a little stockier and an inch or two shorter. “This is why I train!” he flexed and grunted, putting on a display of machismo for the three other guys.

Link punched him in the arm and settled onto the rocks between him and Ben, Rhett at their backs with the map, still sauntering around, taking stock of their location in relation to where they needed to be. Finally he settled himself beside Gregg, pulling out some granola bars and jerky.

“We better refuel and then we can get going again. I’ve got the spot, we just need to head down the southeast trail about a mile and a half and there’s a good spot with an overhang I spotted on our trip last year. We should be able to gather materials right nearby… there are plenty of small pine saplings at that altitude that will be perfect for the poles of the lean-to,” Rhett rambled, stuffing his cheek with jerky as the other three caught their breaths, rehydrated, and took in the view.

Once they all had their fill of protein and vista, they swung their packs back on and continued down the rocky southeastern trail. Evergreens dotted the mountainside and grew thicker into copses as they made their way down. After about 20 minutes of swift hiking, Rhett announced they should be coming on their destination for the evening, a rocky outcropping with an overhang of about 5 feet.

“It looks a lot smaller than I imagined it,” Gregg pointed out. “I was hoping for more of a cave… this is just like a small depression in the rock.”

“If we had a cave we wouldn’t need to build a shelter!” Rhett replied indignantly. He was injured by the lack of impression his selection had on the other guys, and retaliated by assigning them all to the duties of gathering firewood, pine branches, and kindling while he selected the straightest saplings to cut for poles.

“Ugh, who made you the boss, Rhett? Ben’s the one with the most survival knowledge, here…” Link muttered as he rounded the group of pines Rhett was de-branching and gathered up the largest of the scratchy branches to interweave on the roof.

“I don’t mind! The idea guy doesn’t have to be the leader, as long as the leader listens to corrections if he’s got something wrong. Rhett, don’t use that tree, it’s got a rotten spot.” He pointed to a growth of fungus on the base of the second tree Rhett was about to start hacking into with one of the dry twigs in his hands.

“Noted, Ben. How’s this one?” He pointed to the next nearest sapling, as Link trundled his load off, bemoaning the scratches on his bare arms and wishing he had thought to put his hoodie on before loading them up.

“Can’t win them all,” Gregg commiserated, as he swung his hatchet into the dry limbs he’d gathered for firewood. “This would be fine if I had a real axe. This thing is like a baby axe.”

“Yeah, but ten pounds more of axe would mean that much less water we could carry, and then we wouldn’t have enough for making ramen and coffee. How could we survive without ramen and coffee?!” Link pitched his voice dramatically, clutching a branch to his chest and then fanning himself with it. He’d amassed enough pine boughs for the lean-to roof, so he assessed what else he could do to help the other three.

“You can help me weave these together once I get this one felled,” Rhett told him. “In the meantime, maybe work on clearing the ground. 7 feet from the side of the cliff and as wide as you can make it… try for at least 10 so we’re not bumping into each other.”

So Link went to work on that, but as he was sweeping out the area, a flash of lightning made him flinch, and a rumble of thunder came shortly after.

“5 miles away… if I can time the next one, I can calculate how long we have before the storm hits us,” Ben shouted over to the group from the spot that he had scrambled to on the cliffside. He could see the line of gray approaching over the ridge they had climbed earlier. Another lightning strike. “One Mississippi, two Mississippi…” at 15 a loud crack split the air, and a rush of cool, ozone-scented air flooded the camp. “3 miles away guys! It’s coming fast! Get the bags under cover and then let’s all get this lean-to up as quick as we can!”

Ben leaped from his perch and bounded down to help the others. Rhett was dragging in the last pole, and Link and Gregg each grabbed one to align with it. Ben snatched the cord he’d brought out of his backpack and began lashing them together as tightly as he could.

The rain hit their backs before they got any of the needly pine boughs woven into the structure. Raindrops disturbed the patch of dust beneath it, shielded only by their bodies.

“Ffff--crap, the firewood is getting ruined!” Gregg attempted to bite back his curse, a habit he’d been working on since learning his two roommates were campus ministry-attending, church-going, disciplined guys who took their elementary school teacher’s lesson on profanity to heart. He wasn’t very good at it. His dad had been a foul-mouthed, beer drinking, sports watching, typical man’s man and Gregg grew up with plenty of f-bombs in his ears and on his tongue. Nonetheless, he made an attempt, because he loved his dorky, charming roomies. After all, they filled his college experience with adventures like getting drenched on a mountainside in the middle of October.

He scrambled to scoot the pile of firewood in closer to the cliffside and unfurled one of the sleeping bags from the packs to cover the pile. “Maybe we can dry it off once we get a fire going, but somebody might get a wet bag, sorry!”

“It’s gonna be you if it’s gonna be anybody!” Link shouted through the pouring rain. He was shivering, his thin arms slick with rainwater and his dark hair plastered to his forehead, dripping in his eyes. He swiped his bangs to the side and shook the water off his hand before binding another branch to the lean-to. The structure was looking pretty miserable, in his eyes. A floor of mud, one wall of stone, and a pathetic tangle of sticks and pine needles that could keep about ten percent of the rain off their sleeping bodies, if the downpour continued into the night. The sky had already darkened significantly, and it looked like twilight despite being about 3 in the afternoon. He was not looking forward to the next 18 hours, and he was already feeling anxious and uncomfortable and knew he was coming across as whiny. “Keep it together, Neal. You don’t want to be the baby, here,” he cautioned himself silently.

“Put your hoodie on, Link. I can see your goosebumps from over here!” Rhett tossed him his hoodie from his pack, and pulled out his own windbreaker. “You’ve done a good job weaving those, so just lay the rest of the branches over the top and come inside,” he offered graciously.

Link didn’t think his efforts were worth much praise, but his numb fingers were grateful for the permission to rest, and his buzzing head was grateful for the gentle tone that Rhett’s voice had taken. Rhett tended to notice he was using his boss-tone just long enough after it had started to grate on Link’s nerves to reel it back in before it did any real damage. After all, they had long ago agreed to be equal partners in everything they do, but that didn’t mean they never had the urge to take the reigns. In fact, part of how they worked well together was knowing when to let the other be in charge and when to take charge… and when to relax and just let things be.

Ben and Gregg soon huddled over the wood pile, Ben with his flint and steel chipping away, but every spark was carried away by the wind. Fifteen minutes of that wore on Gregg’s patience, but his lighter didn’t prove to be a magical answer, either, as the once-dry kindling was now very damp. Fifteen more minutes of Gregg cursing into the pile of wood and Rhett gathered whatever paper he could out of their bags: a couple pamphlets, an unnecessary piece ripped off of the trail map, and a paper bag that held some old-fashioned root beer candy. A couple of pieces of toilet paper finally caught the rest on fire, and it lasted just long enough to dry out some of the twigs and birch bark so they could catch. It was 4:30 PM. There was no way their fire would last the night, but they were soaked and didn’t care at this point if they had jumped the gun with the fire.

“Ahhhh…” Link sighed with relief as the feeling began to return to his fingertips as he warmed them over the fire. Of course, he put them in too far in his eagerness for warmth and ended up burning them, causing him to yelp and jump back and everyone else to laugh. The mood lightened considerably, but the dark was already closing in around them.

“Anybody else starving?” Rhett asked, as he pulled out two cans of beans, four packs of ramen, a pack of hotdogs and a bag of marshmallows.

“Yeah, we better cook everything now. Who knows how long we can keep the fire going, even if someone’s always watching it,” Ben answered. They had scrambled to block as much rain from hitting the fire as they could, and ended up spreading another sleeping bag along the inside of the lean-to… the fire probably dangerously close to the branches and fabric, but at the rate it was burning, not too big of a threat. This put them down to two dry sleeping bags, but they had a plan.

As Rhett set two open cans of beans and a kettle of water on a thin metal rack over the fire, poking at it occasionally, Ben and Link zipped the two remaining sleeping bags together to form one large bag.

“I don’t want to get hypothermia any more than y’all do, but if we’re all spooning together in that thing we better agree that no one else will ever hear about this, alright?” Gregg grumbled from where he was huddled with his back to the rock wall, arms crossed.

“Sure thing. Do you want us all to shake on it? No embarrassing stories ever to be told about that one time on Grandfather Mountain that we shared a sleeping bag,” Rhett turned to Link and they shared a little smirk, then each stuck their hands out to shake the other’s in turn. It didn’t really matter to Rhett and Link… they’d slept beside each other in a variety of arrangements since they were kids. What was the worst thing that could happen? Someone drooling in your ear or kicking you in the shin in the middle of the night? Well, there was that time that Link had kneed Rhett in the groin, and also that time Link had sleep-walked and gotten himself lost outside Rhett’s bedroom… but both had become funny memories of a shared childhood that they loved re-telling. It was going to be hard to keep this one to themselves, but they would try.

So, four young men in damp jeans gathered around the tiny, flickering fire, surrounded by the pounding rain and deep, rumbling thunder, slurping noodles out of blue metal camping ware and shoveling down beans straight out of the can. Once the noodles and beans were completely gone, they competed to see who could fit the most root beer candies in their mouths so they wouldn’t go to waste… nobody wanted the now-sticky candies floating around loose in their knapsacks. Link won the contest, fitting seventeen in his mouth before he gagged and spit them into the fire, which gave him rights to first choice of their sleeping arrangements.

“‘Kay, Gregg takes first watch by the fire, and I want the middle spot… I’m freezing!” he explained when Rhett gave him a raised eyebrow at his choice.

“We should switch after an hour and a half. I read that the typical sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes, and it’s not too long to stay awake by yourself,” Rhett informed them in his patented know-it-all voice.

“Ben, do you want to take second watch? I’ll take third, and Rhett, you can take the fourth. That will bring us up to four and a half hours sleep, each, so we may need two more rounds of watches, if the fire lasts that long,” Link calculated in his head as he was speaking, and looked to the others for confirmation that his math was right.

“Yeah, that sounds good. If the fire is threatening to go out at any time, go ahead and wake me up and I’ll see what I can do to get it going again. I sleep pretty lightly, anyway,” Ben said. They all unanimously agreed that Ben would get the middle position after his watch, since he, like Link, was shivering hard on and off, the two of them clearly holding onto less body heat in their thin frames. The threat of hypothermia was starting to feel real in their bones.

“And if the fire fully fails, I think we can all squeeze in here, but we’ll really be like sardines,” Rhett announced as he had been analyzing the dimensions of the zipped-together sleeping bags.

“Well, it’s 6:30 now, and I’ve got 8 cans of beer with our names on them… and a flask of whiskey with my own name on it, but I might be willing to share with anyone who promises not to poke me with their weiner,” Gregg chuckled, brandishing a hotdog on a stick, his crass joke earning him a few snickers and offers to help him polish off the whiskey from each of the guys.

“Hey, at least your pack will be a lot lighter on the way back. But did you even bring any water or food, dude?” Rhett asked, rummaging in Gregg’s pack for one of the beers.

“Hey, you covered the food department pretty well, man, and I did bring a big bottle of water… that wasn’t vodka I was gulping down on the way here! God, I would be smashed out of my mind if it was, though… can you imagine?” Gregg did his best impression of his drunken self, teetering around, eyes rolling back in his head as he slurred his words and took a swig of whiskey. The boys’ laughter echoed off the rock wall, blending with the sound of rain battering the branches in the forest.

They managed to pass three hours with burning marshmallows, banter and as much tomfoolery as they could manage in the tiny space behind the lean-to, and thankfully the wind and rain died down to a light shower around 9 PM. A fairly buzzed Gregg pulled out his walkman and his mixtape of Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, and Nirvana, arranged the packs behind him so he could settle back into the corner of the rock wall by the fire, and the other guys stripped off their wet jeans and t-shirts and got ready to bed down. Thankfully they each had thought to bring clean t-shirts, and Ben had brought a pair of sweatpants, but Link had only his briefs and Rhett his boxers, since they had been prepared to sleep in their own bags, and the forecast had been for low temperatures in the 50’s… which was not what it felt like after that storm. Though they had no way of knowing how cold the temperature had dropped, it felt no warmer than 40 fahrenheit. Not cold enough for frostbite, but easily cold enough for hypothermia.

“I’m really sorry, guys… I should’ve brought sweatpants or something. I’ll try not spoon you in my damp whitey-tidies. With the three of us, we can fit side-by-side in this thing, at least,” Link said as he slid into the center of the bag, glad to hide his lower half from view and also grateful for the soft warm inside of the bag on his goose-pimply legs. He had brought a pair of warm, dry wool hiking socks, at least, which were also a relief, but from mid-calf to upper thigh his skin was numb, which quickly turned to chill-blains that made him want to claw his skin off, once the body heat of Rhett and Ben began to warm him a little. He was proud of himself for only complaining a little before dropping off to sleep, his mouth falling slack, the crackle of the fire and trickle of rain down the rock walls eventually lulling the other two to sleep as well.

Rhett felt like he had been asleep for five minutes when he snapped awake to the sound of Gregg jostling Ben and the two of them conversing in whispers.

“Hey, man, sorry, I’ve still got 15 minutes of my shift to go, technically, but the fire is going out. There’s still red in the coals but I can’t get any of the wood to catch. Help me out,” Gregg whispered rather audibly to Ben, and Ben shook himself awake and quickly joined him by the fire, peeling bark off some of the wood and working his magic until he got some semblance of a fire going.

Link shivered and woke groggily as soon as Ben’s warmth left them. “‘Wus happening?” he muttered, and Rhett patted him on the chest.

“Ben’s helping Gregg with the fire; we can still sleep, bo,” Rhett reassured him, rolling onto his side to face Link, the fire, and the other guys, his back to the cold, open corner where pine boughs attempted to meet stone. A strong shiver ran through them both simultaneously upon his movement.

“Brrrr, I’m freezing. C-could you-- c-could we…?” Link stuttered. Rhett shushed him and scooted closer, pulling Link’s frigid body against his chest with one arm.

“I’m freezing, too,” Rhett mumbled into the top of Link’s head, already feeling a small measure of relief from the cold with Link’s back pressed against him. “You don’t have to say anything,” he whispered, resting his forehead on the nest of soft black hair, now reasonably dry and warm to his chilled nose and cheeks.

The fire soon began to warm the small space again, and Gregg slipped into the space once occupied by Ben, noting the two cuddlers but too exhausted to make any more off-color jokes. He soon passed out, and Ben was left to tend the fire, borrowing Gregg’s headphones and curling into the knapsack nest for the duration of his watch.

12:30 rolled around, and the fire was going strong. Ben decided to let the others sleep for another half an hour, but by 1 AM he started having trouble keeping his eyes open, so he made his way over to the sleeping trio and attempted to extract Link. He reached to shake his shoulder but Rhett stirred first, batting Ben’s hand out of the way.

“Let him sleep,” Rhett whispered to Ben, and carefully untangled his arms from Link, who was dead to the world, always a heavy sleeper. Ben gave Rhett an update on the fire status and a few tips that would help him keep it going, and when he returned to the sleeping bag Link had curled himself in a ball on the far end where Rhett’s warmth had lingered, so Ben managed to slip into the middle between the ball of Link and a sprawled out Gregg. Ben first had to delicately lift Gregg’s left arm and placed it on Gregg’s own chest to get it out of the way, earning a snort from him but not waking him.

Rhett listened through Gregg’s rock mix-tape, switched it out for a Merle Haggard tape Link had brought, and ate about 15 marshmallows, before ditching the headphones to listen to the rain in the trees. He had brought along a book to read, so he squinted through the firelight at John Muir’s “The Mountains of California,” pausing after the essay, “A Windstorm in the Forests” to imagine himself in Muir’s place, riding the top of a swaying pine tree in the middle of the storm that was all around him. Every element of the experience was before him to help him imagine it vividly, and add it to his bucket list. He seriously considered going out in the woods right at that moment to do it, but then no one would be left to tend the fire. He sighed at his dreams being put on hold once again, and checked his watch. 3 AM. He had managed to extend the length of his vigil quite a bit with his imaginings, so he figured it was time to wake Link up for his turn.

He found the three guys all aligned like peas in a pod, Gregg facing the fire with Ben smashed between his back and Link, who had wrapped his arms all the way around Ben to grasp Gregg’s shoulder. Ben and Link both seemed to be trying to hide their faces from the cold, Ben by burrowing into his own arms that were pressed into Gregg’s neck in a way that looked uncomfortable for both of them, and Link with his face hidden in the back of Ben’s sweater. Ben really had packed the most logically out of them all, with plenty of warm clothes, but still the smallest of the three was shivering occasionally. Link also still had goosebumps raised all along his exposed arm. Rhett grabbed his hoodie from where he had hung it from the frame of the lean-to where it angled over the fire, and shook Link awake.

“Your watch. Your hoodie’s dry now,” he whispered in Link’s ear from behind him.

“Hehe, tickles,” Link said, as he felt Rhett’s bit of facial hair and warm breath on his ear. His giggling stirred Ben enough to make him shiver a second time, and Link realized his arm was wrapped around the two other guys, quickly pulling it off, rubbing his eyes, and groggily extracting himself to take his hoodie from Rhett.

“Shhh. The fire’s still going pretty well. Wake Gregg up at 4:30, and wake Ben up if the fire starts to go out. You okay to do it?” Rhett asked, ruffling Link’s hair and pulling his hood up over his cold ears for him.

“Yeah, I’m fine. How are you?” Link blinked the sleep out of his eyes, appreciating Rhett’s concern and hoping to return it somehow.

“Cold. Tired. Okay. Ready to hit the sack.” Rhett replied, pulling his still slightly damp jeans he had been wearing by the fire back off before climbing into the spot Link had evacuated.

Link watched as the long legs disappeared from view and made his way over to the campfire, picking up the Walkman and the book Rhett had left. He opened to the spot Rhett had marked and read, “The slender tops fairly flapped and swished in the passionate torrent, bending and swirling backward and forward, round and round, tracing indescribable combinations of vertical and horizontal curves, while I clung with muscles firm braced, like a bobo-link on a reed. . . .”

“Sounds like something Rhett would read… also sounds like it would make you dizzy,” Link mused to himself silently. He breathed in the moment. Cold, damp air with the scent of pines hit his nostrils, mixing with hints of warmth and wood smoke. Blue flames licked the blackened edges of roughly hewn branches in a low pit. Cold stone sat firm and impassive at his back, as well as some lumpy knapsacks and damp, hard ground beneath him. A light drizzle of rain continued its patter against the branches forming a crude barrier between him and the wild night forest, which he could catch glimpses of around the edges. A few pines swayed in the breeze just down the hillside, and pale leaves fluttered occasionally to the ground from maples. That’s when he realized the full moon had poked its head out from the clouds… a sign the storm might be ending soon. It tinted everything a soft blue and occasionally the hoot of an owl or the caw of a crow could be heard in the treetops.

“This is actually kinda nice. Maybe we won’t die tonight,” Link thought to himself grimly, wondering if his fingertips were blue from the cold or from the moonlight. He stoked the fire as well as he could, adding another log. They still had five good pieces to add, and it had dried reasonably well in the corner of the shelter by the fire. He could still see water dripping down the back of the sleeping bags they had put up as barriers, so there was no hope for either of them to be dry before morning. He turned the Walkman on and settled into his spot for the next hour and a half.

His back was cold, his legs stiff, and his eyes itchy from the smoke by the time he went to wake Gregg up. The guys had settled into a different sleeping pattern: Gregg was on his back, his arm flung over Ben, who was turned away, into Rhett’s enormous (in comparison) back. Gregg snored loudly when Link disturbed him, startling Ben and Rhett awake. Rhett rolled back, pinning Ben’s shoulder underneath his larger one, and a bit of commotion ensued.

“Ow! Rhett, get off!”
“Oh gosh, Gregg, your breath smells like death!”
“Ack, sorry Ben!”
“Ugh! Ow! Was that your elbow?” Gregg rubbed his shoulder, where some flailing limb had hit him. “Well, I’m awake now…”

Gregg headed over to the spot by the fire, and Link stripped off his pants, trying to decide where to squeeze into the bag. Gregg’s side was kind of damp, because he hadn’t taken his wet jeans off when he got in… Link ended up wriggling into the far side behind Rhett, and Ben got the damp side, which at least had the benefit of being nearer the fire, plus he had more clothing as a barrier between him and the wet sleeping bag.

Rhett assumed his “sleeping with Link” position, as he had dubbed it, which was to lie on his back with his arms crossed over his chest, like some Egyptian pharaoh laid to rest. Ben faced the fire, and Link tossed and turned. He couldn’t decide if facing the cold void was better, or leaving his back exposed to it. The hooting and cawing that had been pleasant by the fire had taken on a more sinister sound once the camp grew silent as the other two fell back to sleep. Facing outwards put the moon in his eyes, so he settled on facing Rhett, eventually burying his face in Rhett’s shoulder to keep his nose warm. He smelled of a woodsy deodorant, which really fit the setting… and was a lot more pleasant than Gregg’s stale whiskey breath he had gotten a whiff of. Link finally fell asleep and dreamed of climbing pines with Rhett, as they rocked in a storm.

Ben slipped out of his spot quietly when his turn came at six, and Gregg replaced him fairly seamlessly, leaving Rhett and Link to snooze pretty peacefully until 7:30. Rhett’s position remained unchanged, but it didn’t take long for Link to wrap himself entirely around Rhett’s body. Rhett woke to warm breath at his neck, a mass of hair obstructing his own breathing, and a hand gripping his waist underneath his t-shirt. There were also legs -- so many bare legs tangled against his own. He didn’t know which were Link’s and which were Gregg’s. Gregg was face-planted into his small pillow, at an angle with his head pointing toward the fire, whereas Link was nearly on top of him.

Rhett spent the next few minutes just trying to figure out which body parts belonged to whom. That was definitely Link’s hand around his waist. It was cold. He lifted his face out of the pile of black fluff and drew in some fresh air. Well, smoky air. The fire had filled the small space with smoke throughout the night, and it was getting harder to breathe. Or maybe that was because Link’s face was pressing down on his neck, and his body weight was pressing the air out of his lungs. Rhett was about to shove Link off, until Link lolled his head back onto his own pillow, his jaw slack and his mouth open. There was a patch of drool on Rhett’s collar. Nothing new.

Rhett checked his watch. 7:30. He made eye contact with Ben, who shook his head and motioned that it was okay for Rhett to go back to sleep. He looked wide awake and had a pot of coffee brewing on the fire. Shortly after, Gregg woke up and ran outside to pee.

Rhett dozed in and out, and Gregg re-joined Ben by the fire, pouring the last shot of whiskey into a mug of coffee to take the edge off of his hangover. Link continued to squeeze Rhett in his sleep, as well as mouth and drool over his neck several more times, before waking to the smell of coffee around 8 and finally releasing his death grip on Rhett’s waist. They disentangled their legs without acknowledging anything about it… the loss of heat, the tickle of hair, the brush of dry skin or damp fabric, or any other sensations. It was time to forget that ever happened.

“Mmm, dang, that coffee smells good. I guess we all survived the night, huh?” Link observed as Rhett hastily pulled his pants back on. Link claimed the sleeping bags for his own and inched over to the fire wrapped in his cocoon, earning comments from Ben about his newfound identity as a caterpillar and from Gregg about his many odd deep sleeping habits, at which he retorted cheekily that they had agreed never to speak of the spooning again.