Kenny rocked back on his heels, grimaced, and pressed both hands into his abdomen. "Aw, shit!" he grumbled.
Jimmy stopped digging at the base of a building foundation and stuck his hand trowel into the sandy soil. He rose to his knees and rolled his eyes. "Now what?"
Wynter slipped into diagnosis mode, frowned at Kenny's face, and placed the back of her hand, which was mostly clean, against his cheek and peered into his eyes. Still frowning, she pressed her fingertips against his carotid artery. "No, Jimmy. Something's wrong. What is it, Kenny?"
Suzie had been smirking, thinking Kenny was planning to slip away for "a little action," as he'd started calling their sessions. At Wynter's words her look shifted to sincere concern. "Kenny, are you okay? Are you hurt? What's wrong? Can I help?"
The internal rumbling intensified. "I just told you what's wrong. Just my luck that there aren't any outhouses left." He looked around and found what he wanted where the ground started rising to the south. "If you need me, I'll be over there in those pines."
All four rose together. Jimmy shook a finger at him. "Remember, you're not a bear in those woods. Dig a slit trench."
Still grimacing, Kenny reached over one shoulder and slapped his backpack. "Got a folding shovel in here."
"Good," said Wynter. "Then use it."
"Hey! I'm a Future MD, too. I know about field sanitation."
Jimmy rubbed his hands together to remove some of their dirt accumulation. "Then practice what you know. Okay, Doc?"
His guts rumbled again, and he prayed that it was a fart he felt trying to seep out. "Okay, already!"
Suzie grabbed the straps of his backpack and pulled him into a quick kiss. "That's to make you feel better until you can.... Well, you know. Get the problem out."
The Patented Shit-Eating Grin slid into place. "You wanna come wipe it for me?"
Suzie stepped back and glared at him. She stamped her right foot. "You're disgusting!"
"That's why the whole world loves me." He turned as Jimmy said, "Uh, Doctor Field Sanitation, you _do_ know what leaves to use and not use?"
"I plan to use the leaves of the Charmin plant," he said, patting the side of his backpack and frowning. He tried to calculate the best running speed to get him there in time without causing himself to lose control and make the trip unnecessary.
He began slipping off the backpack as he reached the trees. A dozen feet in he spotted two downed trees among some scrub brush. He dropped the pack and pulled out the shovel and toilet paper. Both had been on top, just in case. The second log seemed more comfortable. He crammed the shovel into the ground twice to make a hole and then dropped the shovel and grabbed for his belt.
He sighed with relief as the pressure eased. He sure was getting tired of gastrointestinal problems that nobody could diagnose. All they ever did was treat the symptoms, usually with results that were worse than the symptoms. He didn't mind the other medicine, the one that made him burp, but this stuff was worse. It could trigger, apparently at random, sudden bouts of diarrhea. He briefly wondered if he should become a research specialist in gastrointestinal problems out of motivated self-interest, but he quickly abandoned that idea. _It's a shitty job with no opportunity to get my hands on some cootchies. Or in some_.
He laughed at his little joke, then grimaced as another wave shot through his guts.
_Wish I'd brought a magazine_, he decided. _Shovel, toilet paper, magazine. If I had to forget something, why couldn't it have been the shovel?_
After the next wave passed he looked around. Something glinted in the sunlight off to his right. He couldn't tell what. He thought maybe it was gold lost by one of the town residents.
He waited a couple of minutes after the last wave, decided he was finished, and reached for the paper. He filled in the hole and put the shovel and toilet paper back in the top of his pack. Then he went looking for the source of the reflection.
He had no trouble finding it. It was as big as a Chevy. That's because it was a Chevy, one with cut tree limbs covering it. He noted the Wyoming license plates and looked in the side window.
His blood turned to ice water.
He turned and raced back toward the others, stopping just before he reached the tree line. _No! Think, damn it!_
Kenny moved to his left until some scrub brush was between him and the town, and then crouched and hurried forward. He peeked through the brush and saw the others disappearing into the mine, followed by Dick Sarrel. Dick was holding a revolver and pointing it at the others. Before he stepped into the mine shaft, Dick looked around one last time, as if searching for...
_Me_. Kenny gulped. _Now what?_
He should grab his bike and run for help.
Kenny didn't like the idea of running. He was always running away. Besides, in the time it would take him to reach town and bring help, those two bastards could make Wynter blow them. Suzie, too. And they'd probably have time to rape them as well. And Jimmy couldn't do anything about it. They'd probably do something to him to keep him from interfering. Something painful. And Kenny's guardian Angel wasn't there to prevent it. Only one person stood any chance whatsoever of helping his friends.
He took a deep breath and let it out. There was a new guardian Angel in town. This one didn't have Ron's speed, didn't have Ron's agility, didn't have Ron's knowledge of martial arts. All this one had was his intelligence. And his determination. It would have to be enough, because if it wasn't, he was fucked along with everyone else.
Kenny searched. _That way_. That path would take him to a ravine where he could approach the ghost town unseen. He could leave it over there to approach the mine. That would provide the best of what little cover there was. _What then? They could be watching from the mouth of the mine_. Kenny pieced together his route and hoped he could remember it once he was in the middle of things. He sure couldn't run out in the open area and look around.
With a deep sigh he crouched, said a silent prayer, and sped off. He dropped into the ravine, wondering whether, if he could pull this off, Wynter would be grateful enough to show him her tits.
~ ~ ~
Wynter forced herself to remain calm. She had done it before; she could do it now. After all, she hadn't expected Ron to save her that first time, and she sure didn't expect him to save her this time. She hoped Kenny had seen Dick take them into the mine. Jimmy had whispered to Suzie and her to stall as long as possible so that maybe Kenny would see their capture and have enough sense to go for help. They were at least forty feet back in the mine, past the point where the actual mine shaft extended inward from a small natural cave. The two thugs were between them and the entrance in the cave. A Coleman lantern provided some light.
"I'm getting tired of asking," Dick snarled before slapping Jimmy. "Where is Pencildick?"
Wynter gasped when the force of the slap turned Jimmy's face toward her. She saw tears in his eyes, but he gritted his teeth, turned his head to look up at Dick. "I don't know where he is. Maybe he went to set up another practical joke. Maybe his leaving _was_ a practical joke, and he's hiding somewhere waiting for us to go look for him. Or maybe he went back to town. I don't know!"
"No." Will's nasal voice was quiet and seemed much more threatening for being so. A revolver that looked like her mother's .38 Special pointed around the front of the sling on his left arm and toward Suzie and her. Wynter knew that if he fired it, the pain in his shoulders would be terrible, but he could easily kill either Suzie or herself. And the pain would be a whole lot worse if he relaxed his aim and shot himself in his left arm, too.
"There's four bikes out there," Will said. "Long Dick counted 'em. Now, maybe I can't hit you, thanks to that walking dead man Lopez, but you tell me where he is or I'll kick you in the fuckin' nuts. I can kick a hell of a lot harder'n you landing on the bar of that goddamned bike."
Jimmy sneered. "So I've heard. You can kick hard enough to kill a man who's down and helpless and not a threat to you. Big brave tough guy, aren't you, Will?"
Dick rocked Jimmy's head with another slap. "Last chance, Bugboy, or I'm gonna let Will crush your nuts and stomp you to death, and then I'll beat it out of one of your cock hounds. Nobody ever comes in here any more. We can throw your body in that hole back there and no one will ever find it. In fact, we'll let these cock hounds join you after we're through with them. Now _talk!_"
"_LEAVE HIM ALONE, YOU SANCTIMONIOUS ASSHOLE!_"
Wynter jumped. What was Suzie doing? _Think!_ Time displacement settled in and she began analyzing alternatives.
Jimmy licked at a trickle of blood seeping from the corner of his mouth. "You're gonna _let_ Will? Gee, Dick, I thought Will was still in charge. So, he's taking orders from you now that you've gotta wipe his butt for him?"
Dick's eyes bulged. A vein throbbed under the layer of crud on his forehead. "Shut up, Bugboy. It's your last chance to talk."
Suzie stamped her right foot. "He can't tell you what he doesn't know! Kenny didn't tell either of them!"
Both thugs turned to look at Suzie. So did Wynter and Jimmy. Jimmy gave Wynter a slight frown and a shrug. Wynter understood. He had no more idea of what was about to happen than she did, but he knew Suzie was about to invent something.
"And I suppose he told you?" Will sneered in his nasal voice.
"He went off thataway." She waved her hand in a northerly direction. "Over in those rocks somewhere. He was supposed to put down a sleeping bag or something, and then we were going to slip away for a quickie. We hadn't done it outdoors before."
Wynter gasped, and then saw Jimmy give a slight shake of his head. Suzie was making it up. Then he nodded, flicked his eyes toward Will and Dick, then back to Suzie, and then to her before nodding again. He turned a glare to Dick.
"I told you I didn't know, didn't I? But I guess you weren't smart enough to understand me. It doesn't take much brains to be Will's butt wiper, does it? Just a good tongue."
Dick backhanded him, causing Jimmy to stagger and almost fall. He turned to Suzie. "Well," he sneered, "isn't it lucky you have us here instead of Pencildick. We can show you a _really_ good time. And with a lot more than what Pencildick has hanging there."
Movement at the entrance caught Wynter's eye. She gasped, and then looked back toward Jimmy, hoping that Will and Dick hadn't noticed. They hadn't. Kenny was creeping into the entrance, holding his shovel like a baseball bat. He might be small in stature, but he was big enough to dim the light. She had to be sure Will and Dick didn't notice that. What could....
She understood. They didn't have a chance as things were. Suzie and Jimmy were aggravating Will and Dick, trying to make them angry. If they got mad enough, they might make a mistake that would let them escape. If not, it wouldn't make any difference in what would happen anyway. She had to keep their attention on them.
"Don't worry, Suzie," Wynter said. "They're just bragging. Remember, I've seen what Will has. He calls Kenny 'Pencildick' because he's jealous. It's not even half the size of Kenny's. He can't hurt you with it. If he wants you to blow him just push your lips out and it won't even reach your teeth."
Jimmy turned wide eyes to her. She desperately hoped he'd understand that she was trying to save their lives and not be too upset with her because of the yucky words she had to use. Maybe he'd give her a chance to explain if they survived. Then she saw his head start to follow his eyes to the entrance, only to snap back to her. _He saw Kenny!_
Suzie's reddening face was a mask of fury. Wynter realized Suzie thought she was being serious about having seen Kenny's penis. "Remember that party at your house last week, when we were swapping boyfriends? While you were doing Jimmy, Kenny told me that the reason this one's called Long Dick is because it's longer than a mosquito's, but not by _much_."
Suzie's anger faded, and she turned her head slightly, like Dragon in his 'curious pose.' Jimmy barked out a laugh. She hoped that meant he understood and wasn't mad at her for what she'd had to say.
"That's true," he agreed. "When these two rape you, you'll have to ask if it's in yet. I hope you brought a book to read for entertainment, because you won't get any sensation from Dickless and Where's-My-Willy."
The thugs turned savage, brutal faces at him. Dick saw Suzie's attention focus behind him and her eyes go wide. He ignored her and started to draw back his fist. Then he remembered what happened when he ignored Kenny as he drew back to hit him. Dick started to turn.
The flat of Kenny' shovel slammed into the back of his head. "_RUN!_" Kenny shouted. Suzie made an immediate sprint for the entrance. Wynter and Jimmy hesitated for a moment, and Dick's unconscious form pitched forward onto them. Unbalanced by their heavy packs they fell backward and were pinned under Dick.
Kenny saw the revolver in Will's hand swinging toward him. He yanked the shovel upward as hard and fast as he could, aiming generally in the direction of the pistol. The edge of the shovel took off two of Will's fingers as he fired. Kenny staggered from a hard impact as Will screamed and lurched backward, into a support beam.
The rotten wood snapped and the upper beam crashed down. The ceiling of the tunnel began collapsing as Wynter and Jimmy struggled out from under Dick's unconscious form. Kenny had to get to Wynter and Jimmy and help move Dick off them, but Will stumbled toward him. He lifted the shovel and then lost sight of everything in the dust. All he could see was the glow from the entrance, a glow that wavered as if someone were coming back inside.
"Suzie!" he yelled as he turned and moved toward her. "Go get help! Hurry! Don't stop for anything! _Get help! NOW!_" He tripped over something and crashed down. He felt another impact, this one to his head. The glow faded to a pinpoint and then blackness swallowed him.
~ ~ ~
Suzie hesitated. She knew that she should go for help, but she didn't want to leave Kenny in there. The cloud of dust billowed out around her. If Kenny, or the others, needed medical help, and if she were caught by Dick, she'd never be able to save him. Them. She hesitated another moment as her body tried to go in both directions at once. Then she stamped her right foot.
She slid out of her backpack on the run to her bicycle.
The journey back to Hargus Road took forever. She stopped at each of the houses on Hargus Road. Nobody was home. And not one damned car was on Dunne Drive! Had somebody declared this to be No Driving to the Stupid Mountains Day?
As she approached Buffalo Road she saw dust from the construction crew to the east. She hesitated and then swerved right at the last second. She was pedalling so hard her lungs hurt as she raced toward the construction area. She had specks in front of her eyes when she spotted a knot of men ahead. Things were blurring and twisting. She hoped she didn't pass out before she reached them.
The house phone rang. A light on the telephone base said that Angie was on her line, so Richard answered it.
Ellen Carter didn't waste time with preliminaries. "_I go on a road trip with Dusty for three weeks, and I come back to find that our girl has had a nasty adventure. Kevin says she wasn't injured. Not physically, anyway. How's she handling it now? Is she still okay? Is it okay if I talk to her?_"
Richard leaned back in the chair and put his feet on the corner of his desk. "Why, yes, I'm doing fine, Ellen. Thanks for asking. Seriously, you'll be proud of her. But she's not here. She went exploring Hargus City with Kenny, Jimmy, and Suzie. However, I can tell you that, according to her, I have you to thank for the fact that she stayed level-headed." He told her how Wynter had handled the situation and her plans if Will had been able to carry out his threat.
"_Well, I, for one, am not surprised. She is the brains of the family, after all._"
"I, for one, can tell you that the brains certainly don't belong to Diane or Bob." He was halfway through that story when Ellen suddenly interrupted him.
"_Hang on._" She covered the mouthpiece and spoke with someone for several seconds. When she returned, her voice was urgent. "_Didn't you say that she was with Suzie?_"
Richard straightened and put his feet on the floor. "Yes. Why?"
"_I'm down at the ER desk. A couple of highway crewmen just brought Suzie in. Let me put you on hold._" Richard fretted over why highway crewmen would be bringing her in. Had they stopped at a construction site on the way back? Maybe they'd stopped to see Keith, who worked many Saturdays during the summer construction period? If so, what had happened to Suzie? An eternity later she said, "_I'm in the treatment room. She came rushing up to a work crew, but fainted after she said, 'They're up there.' Looks like heat exhaustion. Hold it. She's coming around._"
Richard fussed and fumed while Ellen covered the mouthpiece and spoke to someone. Should he tell Angie? Tell her what? She was still on her line, and besides, he didn't know anything yet.
Ellen returned. "_Will and Dick were there, hiding in the mine. They captured them and took them in. Kenny tried to rescue them while she and Wynter distracted those two little bastards. Suzie got out, but then the mine collapsed. Kenny had told her to forget about them and go get help. He said that if she tried to help, she might get caught, and then nobody would know. You'd better get up there. Take the stuff. I learn anything else, I'll call you on your cell phone._"
Richard replaced the handset with numb fingers. For a moment he didn't know what to do, but then he mentally kicked himself. If his eleven-year-old daughter could remain calm in an emergency, then damn it, he could too.
He punched the intercom button. "Angie, hang up. Call Marti and get Keith's cell number, tell her we'll pick her up, and then meet me at the truck. _Now!_" He cut off without waiting for questions. There wouldn't be any, he knew, because Angie was too smart to waste time after that final instruction.
He heard Angie talking to Marti as he reached the entrance hall and made the one-eighty to the family room steps. He punched the garage door button and began loading several metal cases into the pickup bed.
Angie's eyes widened when she saw what he was doing. "What happened?"
"Will and Dick were hiding out there. They captured Wynter, Jimmy, and Suzie. Kenny managed to get Suzie out, but the mine collapsed. Gimme a hand with this one. Suzie had enough sense to follow Kenny's instructions and went for help. She fainted when she found a work crew. Heat exhaustion. She came to in the ER while I was talking to Ellen. You know as much as everyone else at this point. Put Dragon back in the house and let's go."
The Labrador retriever had his own plans. Richard relented and put him in the bed of the truck. He'd be relatively safe because the boxes were strapped in place. They picked up Marti and sped away, relating the known facts enroute. They raced down Ninth. Richard had Angie call Keith, brief him, and ask him what road equipment he had available on the Buffalo Road project. Richard told him to get up to Hargus City with a bucket loader and grader, make sure that ten-ton vehicles could reach the mine via the Turtle Mountain Road back trail into the ghost town, and then keep the equipment handy.
At Aspenleaf Circle the blue lights began flashing behind them. Richard slammed on the brakes, pulled to the side, and jumped out, waving the car alongside.
"There's been a cave-in at the Hargus mine," he explained. "Our kids may be trapped."
Patrolman Evan Peters nodded. "Just heard it on the radio. Get in and I'll take you there. It's not safe for you to drive there."
"No. I've got emergency equipment they might need. You break a trail for me. Marti McCauley can ride with you. I need Angie to make phone calls for me."
"You got it."
Marti scrambled out of the truck and into the patrol car. She'd rather have stayed with Angie and him, Richard knew, but she wasn't about to waste time protesting. Richard grabbed Dragon and stuffed him into the cab before climbing in and roaring off behind Peters' patrol car.
He had Angie call the police station and ask for Joe. He was already enroute to Hargus City because Will and Dick were his case. The dispatcher patched her through to Joe, and then Angie held the phone up to Richard's ear.
"Joe? I've got some emergency equipment. Don't let anybody, and I mean anybody, into whatever's left of the mine entrance. If you don't know what you're doing you can make the situation worse, probably cause an additional cave-in that will make things take even longer."
"_Ron's on his way, might even be there by now. People with sense won't try to go in. He won't let those with no sense in. I'm turning onto Hargus Road now. You think you can get your truck up there?_"
"There's that back trail off Turtle Mountain Road. I should be able to get in that way. Keith's bringing some road equipment to bring it up to ten-ton standards initially."
"_I'm at Panner's now. A four-wheeler could cross the creek, but won't be able to make it up the switchbacks. Too unsafe. That you behind Evan?_" When Richard said he was, Joe said, "_I'll have him set up a traffic control point at the end of Hargus Road. Might as well cut off the lookie-loos there, before they get up above and fuck up the works. Don't worry. She'll be okay. She's much smarter than you are, so she'll avoid injury. And if Jimmy gets hurt, well, at least he was smart enough to bring along his own doctor._"
"Thanks, Joe. And you'd better tell Peters that we're going to Turtle Mountain Road. I forgot to do that." He nodded, and Angie shut off the phone. She gave him a worried look, but said nothing, waiting for her next instruction. This had to be tearing her guts out, but she was remaining mostly calm and certainly rational. He said thanks once again that he was married to her instead someone like her lunatic sister and told her that he loved her.
Then he had her call the Smackover Mine and the Lucky Goose Mine and alert them to stand by for rescue operations.
~ ~ ~
Richard stopped next to Peters a dozen feet from the mine entrance, and everyone erupted from the vehicles. Ron was standing with his arms crossed and feet apart in front of the open gate. Someone Richard didn't recognize was lying on the ground at his feet. Several people talking in excited voices were nearby, but not too close to Ron. Dragon sniffed the man and then started into the mine entrance. "Dragon, no! Sit!" Dragon sat, his eyes fixed on the dark tunnel and his nose working furiously, ears up and head twisting. His tail flicked dirt onto the man's face.
"Hi," Ron said, then followed their eyes to the unconscious man. "Mr. Mims here is in the slow group. He needed an explanation of why he couldn't go inside and look for... uh, look around. It's been quiet in there since I arrived. No sounds, natural or otherwise. I don't have a light, and it's too bright out here for me to see much in the gloom with the sun still overhead."
"Thanks." He turned to Angie and Marti, who looked like they wanted to bolt inside. "I can use some help dressing."
A few minutes later, hard hat on, flashlight in hand, and various items clipped to the belt around his yellow suit, he attached a line to his waist and left the coil of rope with Ron, along with instructions to have people start dismantling the fence and gate as soon as possible. A distant siren cut off to the south as he kissed Angie, handed her a radio that matched the one connected to his headset, and pulled on the breathing mask. He turned on the flashlight and swept it around the entrance as he stepped inside. He fought the urge to rush to the end and, instead, examined the natural cave as he moved forward.
"Cave portion seems undamaged. Shoring should be replaced just in case. Stand by."
Something small lay in front of the debris pile. A pair of black, heavy-framed rectangular glasses and a bloody folding shovel lay beside it.
Angie's voice spoke through his earpiece. "An ambulance just arrived."
Richard sighed in relief. "Their timing is impeccable. I found Kenny. He's breathing but unconscious. There's some blood here, but it doesn't appear to be his. His legs are partially buried. Tell the medics to bring a stretcher and for God's sake not to touch anything except the floor, and that includes the dirt and rock over his legs. _I_ will move that and they're not to help unless I tell them precisely what to do. I'll repeat that when they get here, but maybe hearing it twice will keep them from doing something stupid. Hang on."
Something to the side had caught his eye.
"Well, the blood most likely is either Will's or Dick's. There's a hand missing a couple of fingers sticking out of the rubble next to the wall. It's probably Will. I think I see part of a sling, though it's too dirty to be sure."
"What about...." Angie couldn't finish the question.
"Nothing yet. But that doesn't mean anything."
He certainly didn't want it to mean anything.
"Suzie's here," Angie said in a broken voice. "She got out of the ambulance."
"I hope that's good." Richard turned his attention back to Kenny. He examined the way the rubble had buried the boy's legs and then slowly, carefully, began uncovering them.
~ ~ ~
Suzie raced to Mrs. King and Mrs. McCauley and Ron and Dragon near the entrance of the mine. "What's happening? Is everybody okay? She looked at Patrolman Peters and some other man carrying an unconscious man to the ambulance. "What happened to him?"
Ron gave her a slight bow and a warm smile. "He just needed a little convincing to stay out of the mine."
"Richard has found Kenny," Mrs. King said. "He's unconscious but doesn't appear to be harmed." Suzie turned and bolted for the entrance.
Ron caught her in one arm, swinging halfway around as he lifted her off the ground. "Suzie, no! If you bump into something you might cause more to collapse and crush him. Mr. King is in there and he knows what to do. And the medics are about to go, too."
Suzie looked around. Mrs. King was talking to the medics. "Hurry!" she begged. "What are you waiting for?"
Ron's voice was gentle. "She's telling them to be careful, Suzie. They can't help if they cause more to collapse, you know. Look, I'm as anxious as you for them to get Kenny out of there, but they have to know what to do before they go in."
Suzie tried to keep from crying. "But he might have been the one shot!"
All talking stopped. Everybody was looking at her. Mrs. King was white as snow. "Shot?" she mumbled. Then, louder, as she grabbed Suzie's arm, "Somebody got shot?"
Suzie nodded, then shook her head. "I--I don't know. After Kenny knocked out Dick, he... I mean, Will, I guess, shot his gun. Then somebody screamed, but it sounded sorta like Will. I think. My ears were hurting from the bang and I couldn't hear good." She couldn't see good, either, with the tears now filling her eyes.
Mrs. King pushed a button on her radio. "Check Kenny closely. He may have been shot."
After several long seconds the radio crackled. "Not exactly. Went through the backpack but didn't touch Kenny. I'll have him freed in another minute."
"Dad!" Ron waved with his free hand as Officer Lopez emerged from the ghost town and ran toward the crowd. Then he looked at Suzie. "Want me to put you down? Will you stay here?"
Suzie gulped. She really wanted somebody to hold her or else she knew she'd start really crying. She might anyway. "Do you have to right now?" she squeaked.
It felt really good to have Ron squeeze her and kiss her cheek. "Nope. If I have to keep somebody out of there, I can always do it one-handed, you know. And I'm sure Dragon will help me."
Suzie glanced down. Dragon looked up at the sound of his name, then turned his attention back to the mine, turned his head and lifted his ears, and whimpered. It sounded to her like he was crying, and that made her own brimming tears overflow. Ron cradled her head in his neck and rubbed her back. "Where are your parents?" he asked in a soft voice.
"They're coming in the car." She sniffed. "Nurse Carter told the ambulance driver to let me ride with them if they knew what was good for them. And they did."
She felt Ron's laugh more than she heard it. "Darned smart of them. Ellen's the one person that I wouldn't want to fight."
Another hand pressed against her back and a soft voice with a faint Mexican accent asked, "Are you okay, sweetheart?"
She turned her face to Officer Lopez. "Yeah. No. Well, yeah, I'll... I'll be okay if Kenny and the others...." And then she lost it.
~ ~ ~
Angie looked around. Fire rescue was arriving. Another ambulance pulled in, too, along with a police car. The patrolmen were herding the few onlookers away from the site. Marti had started crying when Suzie did and had let a patrolman escort her back to his car. Angie wished she could afford to sit down and cry, too. But Richard and her daughter and Marti's son needed her. If Richard could still function, then she could, too, for the children's sake.
Two SUVs and a van were coming down the back trail. The van had the local radio station's call letters plastered on the doors. One SUV belonged to Maynard Sillerman, a reporter for the local paper. She didn't know the young reporter for the radio station, but Maynard was an older man descended from the miners who had settled the area. He knew to stay out from underfoot in this situation, and he would help Ron keep the radio reporter under control. The other vehicle carried Kevin and Candis.
Ron told the fire rescue team to remove the guard fence and gate per Richard's orders and then turned to his father. "Dad, do you have TCPs at both entrances?" When Joe said that he did, Ron asked that he alert them to let Don and Carolyn through.
"They should know that, but...." Joe reached for his radio as Angie's came to life.
"He's free and coming around," Richard reported. "Medics think it's just a mild concussion and bruised legs. We'll be on our way out in a few seconds."
On Joe's radio Sam Peters, who had been told to substitute for his brother as the Hargus Road traffic control point, was saying that the Middletons had been redirected to Turtle Mountain Road, where Evan had been told to set up.
Joe turned to an approaching patrolman and started pointing. "Bill, you've got traffic control. I want a general parking area over there, and set it up using your judgment. I want this line, call it red route, thirty feet wide, kept open for emergency vehicles, and have the ambulances park over here, where they'll be handy. When the equipment transports arrive, park them here, with nothing in front so they can offload and then pull straight out. Loop back to red route this way, call it blue route. Junior can set up wherever he can get the best signal back to the radio station as long as it doesn't interfere with emergency traffic flow."
Angie watched Kevin and Candis speak briefly to Marti and then hurry toward them. Angie spoke first. "Kenny's coming to. He doesn't appear to be hurt other than a mild concussion. They're bring him out." They thanked her and clutched each other. Kevin had the presence of mind to express wishes for Wynter's safety. Candis looked pale, dazed, and ready to faint.
When the lead medic appeared in the gloomy entrance, Suzie demanded to be put down. Ron did, but kept his hands on her shoulders restraining her. He continued to hold her back when the medics put the stretcher down in front of them. Ron bent to whisper something in her ear.
Kenny's hand lifted and felt his face, as if he were checking for his glasses. Richard emerged from the mine, holding them in his hand. Richard gave them to Angie and then began ordering supplies and equipment on his cellular phone.
Dragon got up, sniffed Kenny, and licked his cheek, leaving a clean streak.
"Dragon. Here. Sit." Dragon looked at his secondary charge, sniffed Kenny one more time, and obeyed, once again turning his head, perking his ears, and sniffing in the direction of the mine. His tail stirred up small intermittent clouds of dust.
One medic handed Kevin a stethoscope and began reporting while the other went to the ambulance for a gurney.
Kevin and Candis knelt beside the stretcher. Before Kevin could warn Candis to stay out of his way, Kenny opened his eyes.
"Headache," he mumbled.
Everyone breathed a sigh to release some of the tension. Kevin smiled at his son and rested the fingertips of one hand on the boy's shoulder. "You seem to have a minor occipital concussion, Doctor. We'll get you in for some x-rays and, as a bonus, discover whether there's anything inside that skull. You also have some leg contusions and a couple of abrasions, but nothing serious. We'll x-ray them, too, just to be sure there are no partial fractures."
Angie turned to wave Marti forward. She was halfway there. Behind Marti she saw Don and Carolyn approaching from the parking area. Behind them was an incoming police vehicle carrying a fat man. Richard whispered a few words that she knew were meant to be a comfort and dialed another number.
Kenny's voice was stronger. "I lost my glasses."
"They're here," Angie said. "Want them?"
"Yeah. I mean, please. Dad, I don't wanna go to the hospital. I want to know what happened to Suzie and Wynter and Jimmy. Mom, please!" He raised a weak hand to push her away before she smothered him in kisses.
Suzie pulled away and dropped to her knees beside Candis. "I'm here. I went to get help like you told me to do."
"You done good," he said, taking his glasses from Angie and shoving them onto his face. "Real good!"
Suzie straightened the glasses and kissed him. Then she removed his glasses and smothered his dirty face with kisses. To nobody's surprise, except maybe Candis', Kenny didn't object. She stopped long enough to whisper something in his ear, let him whisper, "Okay!" and started over. Candis gave up and rose to her feet.
Angie turned to Carolyn's shocked face and Don's look of mild concern. "I know what you mean, Carolyn. I want her to hurry up so I can have my turn!"
Carolyn frowned at her, while Don's grin on his round face made him look more than ever like a younger Mickey Rooney.
"And then I want to kiss Suzie, too. Listen, Kenny told her to go for help, and she did. If she hadn't done what he asked, we might not have found them..." her tightening throat cut off her words for a moment, "...in time. You have a very special daughter there."
Joe knelt beside Kevin. "Can he wait long enough to tell us what happened? We need to know."
Kevin shrugged. "If we can get Suzie to let him."
Suzie froze and looked up at everybody. She blushed, put his glasses on straight, and said, "You tell them, okay? I'll be with Mom and Dad right here if you need me."
Kenny gave her a strange grin. "Uhhh.... Okaaaay." Angie thought his reply carried several messages and that Suzie had understood all of them because her blush deepened and she quickly looked at everyone's faces to see if they noticed.
Kenny winced and then told them how he'd seen Dick herding the others into the cave, and how he'd decided it was a good thing he'd not forgotten the shovel instead of the magazine after all. From the looks on their faces Angie knew everyone else, including Suzie, had no more of an idea of what that meant than she did, but nobody interrupted to ask. He told them how the others had distracted the two thugs until he was close enough to knock out Dick, who fell on Wynter and Jimmy. He said that Will had turned and pointed a gun at him, and that the gun had gone off as Kenny chopped off a couple of Will's fingers with the edge of the shovel and that Will had staggered into a supporting beam.
"_WHAT?_" Angie staggered as she was shoved sideways. The fat man stormed forward to tower over Kenny on the stretcher. "You _maimed_ my son? Taylor, I'm going to sue you for every penny you earn for the rest of your life! Lopez, I want you to arrest this juvenile delinquent on charges of wanton criminal assault with a deadly weapon, battery, maiming, mayhem, anything else I can think of. Well, why isn't somebody in there bringing Will out?"
Joe's voice was strained but respectful. "Judge, we have to dig his body out carefully or the mine could collapse some more."
Wilson's ruddy face blanched and he staggered. He spoke in a small voice. "Body? Will's.... He's dead? But... he was just a boy!" Angie could sympathize with the anguish in Judge Wilson's voice, but then her anger flared as Wilson snarled at Kenny. "You _killed_ him, you sniveling little reprobate! Lopez, make that charge _murder!_ I'll see to it that you never see the light of day again, you hooligan! And Lopez, I want your son arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder! It's _their_ fault that Will is dead! If they hadn't...."
Everybody turned in stunned silence and looked down at the source of the high-pitched scream.
Suzie's red face made her hair look blonde. She jerked away from Don's restraining hands, stamped her right foot, and stormed forward. "_SHUT THE FUCK UP, YOU SANCTIMONIOUS ASSHOLE!_"
"Young lady! You do _NOT_ use...."
Suzie paused long enough to stamp her foot again. "_Goddamnit, shut UP you obnoxious old BASTARD!_"
Judge Wilson took a step backward and almost tripped over the stretcher. Angie actually saw fear in his eyes. "Don't you _dare_ blame Kenny for what happened! You wanna blame somebody, fine. Blame yourself. It's _your_ fault! If I fuck up, my parents punish me. I don't like it, but it makes me think before I do it the next time. But nothing _ever_ happens to Will because _you_ won't let it, so he just does whatever he _wants!_ The _only_ one who ever tried to teach 'em right from wrong was Ron! I'm gonna be _grounded_ for the rest of my _life_ after this, but _I DON'T CARE_, 'cause I'm not gonna let _Kenny_ take the blame 'cause you're too _stupid_ to be a parent! I can't vote, but next election I'm gonna ask Mom and Dad to payroll me from restriction long enough to tell everybody what a _stupid fuckin' shithead_ you are and tell them to _kick you out!_ They were gonna make Wynter 'n' me _blow_ them, and then they were gonna _rape_ us and _kill_ us and throw us in a stupid hole in the floor! You'da got 'em off on a _jaywalking_ charge or something 'cause _you don't care!_ Kenny cut Will's fingers off? He shoulda cut his stupid _pecker_ off! This is _ALL YOUR FAULT!_"
Everyone stood in stunned silence as Suzie turned and looked up at her parents. "So go ahead and ground me already. I _don't care!_" She stamped her right foot. Angie admired the look of stubborn defiance on her still-red face.
Carolyn's mouth moved soundlessly behind a clawed hand, her eyes wide in horror. Don looked down at Suzie and shook a finger. "You said to Judge Wilson what everybody else here has said, only we said it behind his back because we were too afraid to confront him. For that part, you are not to be punished, especially since you were braver than we were. But for the language you used, young lady, you are hereby grounded for five seconds with no time off for good behavior."
Three of those seconds passed before Suzie realized what her father had said.
Wilson threw off his shock and started to say something. He looked at the microphone pointed at him in Junior Arnold's hand and at Maynard Sillerman furiously scribbling notes. Then he finally noticed the looks on everyone's faces. Several onlookers broke into restrained applause, three policemen and most medics and firemen among them. He sagged.
Joe leaned toward him and spoke softly. "Your Honor, you don't want to be here when they bring his body out. Go home. You don't want to see him until McNair's has prepared him. I'll send a car to take you there."
Tears streamed from the judge's piggy eyes and down his jowls. "But... he was just a boy," he sobbed.
As a patrolman led Wilson back to the parked vehicles, Angie tried to feel sorry for his loss. She couldn't. She knew that Suzie was right. The best she could feel was pity.
~ ~ ~
Joe Lopez dropped to one knee beside Kenny. "I apologize for the interruption. You said Dick fell on Wynter and Jimmy, pinning them down, and that Will then triggered the cave in. Where were they in relation to the collapse?"
Kenny had been frowning at Dragon. There was something about him.... He rubbed his dirty forehead and looked at Joe. "They were right under it."
Joe looked up at Richard and Angie for a moment. They had blanched and were holding each other up. "It collapsed on them?"
"No." Kenny thought for another moment. "They got out from under him just as Will shot me and I cut off his fingers."
Several people gasped and muttered.
"He didn't hit you," Joe said. "He hit your backpack."
"Aw, man!" Kenny grumbled. "I'll bet he ruined the toilet paper."
Joe snorted a laugh before continuing. "Did... did Wynter and Jimmy try to follow you out of the mine?"
Kenny paused and tears began collecting in his eyes. "I dunno. I don't think so. I heard Wynter yell something, but my ears were ringing and Will was screaming and I didn't understand her. I think I remember a log landing between us. Behind Will, too, and he started after me. I turned and ran and didn't see anything. Something hit me in the head, and next thing I knew I was here."
Joe looked up. Richard and Angie were still holding each other, clinging to the one tiny thread of hope that Kenny had provided. He looked at Ron, standing quietly at the entrance, and felt an overwhelming, irresistible urge to hug his son. As he rose he noticed Dragon, head cocked and still sniffing in the direction of the entrance and whimpering softly as his tail began stirring the dirt again.
Kenny watched Dragon, too. _Something...._ "Oh! I almost forgot. Did you find the car behind those trees over there?" He pointed with a wobbly hand. "There's a dead guy in the back seat."
Joe grimaced, rose, and gave orders to two patrolmen.
Kenny twisted to look at Dragon again. He frowned. Somewhere deep inside his throbbing head a thought--he was sure it was an important one--was again trying to push its way to the surface. _Something...._
Kenny Taylor was in shock. No, not medical shock. Emotional shock. He listened to Suzie telling off Will's dad with eyes so wide he thought he'd never be able to close them again. He'd been amazed that Suzie had gone for help instead of going home and hiding under her bed. And now here she was, screaming her lungs out at Judge Wilson in behalf of _Studman_ himself, and not caring what happened to herself afterward.
An invisible hand threw an internal switch, and his feelings toward Suzie, without his conscious knowledge, changed. Revenge schemes and payback plans winked into nonexistence.
After Kenny finished answering Officer Lopez's questions, Ron embraced his father before kneeling beside Kenny and extending a hand. When he took it, Ron gave him a gentle but firm squeeze and shake. "Looks like I'm out of a job as your guardian Angel. You did a damned fine job without my help. You don't need me any more."
At last Kenny really and truly understood what Wynter meant whenever she said her heart felt too big for her chest. Ron released his hand and rose. Suddenly Suzie was there. She took his hand in both of hers and pressed it to her chest. Kenny frowned at her. She'd been wearing a bra when they were exploring the ghost town, but she certainly wasn't wearing one now. She noticed his frown and winked at him, sliding his hand slightly to one side so that he could feel the rising curve of softness. She released it when her parents moved beside her and knelt.
Mrs. Middleton kissed his dirty cheek. "Thank you from the very bottom of my heart, Kenny. You did a very brave thing in rescuing Suzie for us. I don't know what we'd have done if.... Well. I'm so very glad that you got out in time. You'll always be the guest of honor in our home."
"Kenny," said Mr. Middleton, shaking his hand, "I want to thank you for what you did for Suzie and for us. I have no doubt whatsoever that you saved Suzie's life, and for that I will always be grateful. I'm glad you're okay, too." Kenny noticed a tear in the corner of Mr. Middleton's eye, but he ignored it the way Jimmy would do.
_Jimmy_. Kenny's breath caught, the same the way it did when he'd heard about... about Chipper. _Poor Jimmy and..._
It was the moment the lights came on for Kenny. As the Middletons rose, he lifted himself on his elbows, ignoring his father's protests, and stared at Dragon. His head turned slightly, mimicking Dragon's "curious pose." He resisted for a while as his father gently pushed his chest and said words Kenny did not hear. Finally he grinned and lowered himself, wincing and whimpering as his head touched the small, soft pillow.
"May we?" It was Mr. King's voice asking his father.
"Of course." His dad rose and moved back so that Wynter's parents could kneel beside him.
Mrs. King made a futile attempt to straighten his hair. Her face was streaked with tears, and her voice trembled as she said, "Kenny, you're the bravest boy I know. I'm so glad you saved Suzie. I hope...." She couldn't continue and turned to bury her face in Mr. King's neck.
Mr. King tried to say something as he wrapped his arms around her and squeezed. He pulled one hand away briefly to pat Kenny's. His own tears began to trickle down his dusty cheeks.
"Hey," Kenny said. "She's okay, you know."
Mr. King nodded. "We certainly hope you're right, son."
"No! She is! Can't you tell? Hey, the proof's right in front of you."
Mrs. King's head snapped around so hard Kenny was surprised her neck didn't crack.
Mr. King frowned down at him. "Proof?"
Kenny lifted a hand and pointed. Everyone looked at Dragon. "He knows she's okay. He's wondering why she doesn't come out to him. Watch the way he's acting. He wants to go in to see her because she won't come out to him. I don't know about Jimmy, but I know Wynter is okay."
Mrs. King looked down and gave him a grim smile. "Oh, Kenny, I do so hope you're right."
Mr. King straightened and wiped his cheeks dry as he continued to watch Dragon. "I _know_ he's right." He reached for his cell phone and punched the keypad as he rose.
~ ~ ~
Suzie was thrilled that Her Man was able to use his "professional influence" to get her a ride with him in the ambulance. Her parents followed in the car. She wished she could crawl in beside him and hold him on the trip, worrying every time a stupid bump caused him to groan or whine. Once they were on the paved county road it was a smooth trip and he stopped whimpering, and for that she was grateful.
They had briefly stopped where the road crew was working so that Mr. McCauley could say something to Kenny. Except for that the trip was uneventful. She insisted on staying until the results of the x-rays were back. Doctor Taylor, who wasn't needed at the mine, and his wife had returned to the hospital. Doctor Taylor said that he'd see to it that Suzie got a ride home, and that he would drive her himself.
Doctor Taylor sent Kenny to x-ray. He told Suzie she couldn't go to the x-ray room but he'd be honored to have such a sweet and lovely lady accompany him while he arranged a room for Kenny. Her feet didn't touch the floor for an hour. He wanted to keep Kenny for observation at least overnight. He kissed Mrs. Taylor and told her she could go back to her office and that he'd let her know as soon as he knew something. He also told her not to be jealous because he was in the presence of such a beautiful....
Doctor Taylor frowned at her hair. "Well, I don't know what to call that color. But whether she's a blonde or a redhead, don't worry. She's not competition for you. Not _too_ much competition."
Mrs. Taylor looked at her and shook her head. "Watch out, honey. He's a smooth-talking asshole, but he's still an asshole." Then she bent down and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "And thanks again. Without your help, we might have lost Kenny. You like chocolate chip cookies best, don't you?"
"I sure do!"
Mrs. Taylor laughed at the excitement in her voice. "I'm going to bake you three dozen. And when they're gone, I'm going to bake you another three dozen, just for you."
Suzie was still speechless when Mrs. Taylor disappeared behind the elevator doors. Her mother and Caroline could have their stupid Fig Newtons. And she wouldn't have to share with her dad because he didn't care for sweets. Six dozen chocolate chip cookies, and they were all just for her!
Okay. She'd share them with Kenny if he asked.
~ ~ ~
Kenny adjusted his pillow so that it didn't put too much pressure on his injured head, though it wasn't bothering him very much because of the shot Nurse Carter had given him. He had been pissed off because Dad had insisted he take a shower before he'd let Suzie in to see him, but, he realized, he sure did feel a lot better now that he was clean. In fact, the only thing that could have made him feel better would have been having Suzie in the shower with him. He filed a mental note to try that with her as soon as they had a chance to do so.
He recognized his father's knock. The door swung open immediately. Suzie bounced in ahead of him.
"What do you think, My Lady?" his dad asked. "Does he look better clean?"
Suzie looked at him the way she used to look at Jimmy and... and Chipper. "I think he looks great!"
Kenny worried about the way his dad looked at Suzie, but he relaxed when his dad burst into a laugh. "You know, honey, I think so too. Why don't you sit here and act as his bed rail, so that he doesn't fall out. He's somewhat clumsy, you know." He lifted Suzie and put her on the edge of the bed. "Son, the x-rays were surprising. There's actually something besides bone in that thick skull of yours. But it's a good thing you're as hard-headed as your Mother. It's all soft-tissue injury. I can't believe you don't even need stitches. If there are no complications tonight, you can go home tomorrow, but I mean _home_. Okay?"
He started to moan, but Suzie turned to him and winked the eye that his dad couldn't see. "Okay!"
"Now, I have to get back to work so I can pay your doctor's bill. He's one expensive S. O. B. I'm sorry to say, Suzie, that I'm going to be doing extremely boring stuff. Son, I wonder if you'd be so kind to entertain my lovely escort so that she won't have to be admitted with an acute case of advanced tedium?"
He felt his Patented Shit-Eating Grin slide into place. Dad had stolen most of that speech from Officer Lopez. "I can do that."
His dad took Suzie's hand and kissed it as he bowed from the waist. "I'm sorry that you'll have to settle for second best, but you really would be bored to tears following me around. Oh, and son, when you order dinner later, order for two. I'll tell Don and Carolyn they've given their permission for Suzie to eat with you."
Kenny was acutely aware of the grumbling in his stomach. "We haven't had lunch and we're starving now, you know."
His father threw up his hands. "Then order lunch! If you can't figure out such a simple treatment, you're not much of a... Future MD."
Kenny noticed the hesitation in his father's final words. "Dad, she's okay. And if anybody can get them out of there safely, it's Mister King."
His father drew a deep breath and let it out. "You're right about that." He bowed to Suzie, patted Kenny's shoulder, and closed the door as he left.
Suzie looked at her hands. The silence grew uncomfortable. Kenny broke it. "Suzie, weren't you wearing a bra this morning?"
She grinned at him and flashed him a quick look at her tits. "It's that bulge in my pocket. I took it off in the ambulance. The attendants were riding up front and I was in the back. I knew you'd be okay, and I wanted you to be able to play with my boobies if you wanted to."
Suzie's grin faded. She adjusted the top of his sheet. When she had it just right she suddenly began twisting it around a finger. She had the most serious look that he had ever seen on her face. "Kenny, if it hadn't been for you, I'd be dead now. Or worse."
He shrugged. "Hey, if it hadn't been for you, I'd still be trapped in those rocks and would probably starve to death there."
"Yeah." She unwound the sheet from her finger, smoothed it, and then began twisting it around the same finger on her other hand. "We, um, we made a good team watching out for each other, didn't we?"
"Yeah. We did."
"Yeah." She unwound the sheet and smoothed it again. This time she stopped herself from twisting it around a finger and, instead, twisted the fingers around each other. "Um, you don't have a girlfriend, do you?"
It was more of a statement than a question. Kenny grinned at her. "I didn't until now."
She looked at him from under her raised eyebrows. "Really?"
He grinned. "Yeah!"
"And do I have a boyfriend now?"
Suzie gave him a big smile and looked at the door. She took a deep breath and sighed. "If that stupid thing had a lock, I'd let you do me as long as you want right here on this bed."
Kenny sighed. "Just my darned luck. I finally get a chance for a little action today, and we're here where somebody could come in at any moment. Since we can't, you wanna grab that phone and dial 303 and order us some lunch?"
Instead of getting the phone, Suzie looked at the door, scooted down a few inches, checked her alignment between Kenny's crotch and the door again, and then grinned at him. "You know, I could give you a handjob under the sheet while we're waiting."
~ ~ ~
Angie looked at her watch. Eight-Thirty. No wonder it was dark. She sat with Keith and Marti McCauley inside a large tent that some relief organization had provided. Joe and Maynard were supposed to be keeping track of all the ones who were helping them. She looked out the open tent flap, past Ron. Richard was at the mine entrance, talking to one of the heavy equipment team from the Lucky Goose. New shoring was supporting the natural cave. An emergency-shaft boring machine had arrived, and Richard was coordinating its use. The Lucky Goose crewmen didn't know the Hargus Mine. Richard did. He'd done a study of it for his Master's thesis. The last person who knew more about the Hargus Mine than Richard had died half a century ago.
Ron uncrossed his arms and refolded them with the other arm on top. Two hours ago a Denver television crew that had been doing a fluff piece on skiing areas had arrived. The television station pressed it into service to cover the unfolding drama, and the third-string reporters had realized this was their ticket to the big leagues.
First they insisted on taking a camera into the mine. Ron wouldn't let them in. Not knowing exactly who Ron was, they complained to Joe, citing the press's so-called "rights." Joe explained to them in no uncertain terms that they had absolutely no right to get themselves killed, possibly cause further collapse of the mine shaft, and certainly divert rescue efforts away from saving two "more important" lives. Then he apologized for being such a horrible father that he couldn't control his son, and that should his son decide to follow through on his threat to see how many screws could be removed from the inside of the camera, well, there wasn't much he could do about it until Ron was finished.
By that time the equipment flunky had sorted out who the key players were. The male reporter signalled the cameraman to follow him. Ron tagged along. The reporter shoved a microphone in Marti's face, and asked her how she felt knowing that her son might be dead under tons of rock.
The medics said that the reporter's arm wasn't broken, but he wouldn't want to use it for a few days. The reporters had to do some fast talking and make some heavy promises to get their camera back. Ron and his Swiss army knife had already removed several screws.
For some technical reason that Angie didn't understand, the crew's truck wasn't linked to a satellite, but was instead saving everything to video tape. Ron had a few quiet words with the cameraman, the equipment flunky, and the female reporter, assisted by reporter Maynard Sillerman. The tape suddenly vanished, and Angie knew it would never reappear.
Junior Arnold was still wandering around with the radio station's microphone, but he knew better than to key it without the permission of everyone within reception distance of the mike. Adrian Black, the station owner, was friends with both Ron and Joe. Any equipment repairs would come out of Junior's pay.
Marti still hadn't recovered from her "interview." Keith was doing his best to comfort her, but she refused to let him take her home. Angie felt very sorry for Marti. Richard had his job to keep his mind occupied. She could always assist him in small ways. Keith could always return to the road improvement project, even though he'd turned it over to one of his subordinates. But Marti was alone with her thoughts. Her fears. Her personal terrors.
Angie now believed Kenny. She could see Dragon sitting to the side of the entrance, out of the way of the rescue work, and could watch his expression and his actions. But she wasn't sure that Dragon was letting them know that Jimmy was all right too. What if he really was under a ton of rock, and Wynter was in the dark, alone?
She was still worrying about that when Richard entered the large tent and looked wistfully at his cot and sleeping bag. Then he took a cup of coffee from one of the volunteers and sat at the table between Angie and Keith, squeezing the shoulder of the latter and hugging the former.
Angie kissed him, nuzzled his neck, and whispered her concern to Richard. He jerked back, looking surprised. "Haven't you figured it out yet?" he asked.
"Shit, I'm sorry. I figured it out an hour ago, when I was in there with the shoring crew. Keith, Marti, I sincerely apologize for being such an idiot. I got too wrapped up in what I was doing, and have absolutely no excuse. All of you, look at Dragon. Keep watching. He's waiting for Wynter now. Keep watching. Keep--_there!_ See that? He only does that when Jimmy's around. He knows Jimmy's alive, too."
~ ~ ~
Richard was too exhausted to dream, but something was bothering him. He opened his eyes. It wasn't dawn yet. Joe was gently shaking his shoulder.
"Richard," he whispered. "Shhh. Don't wake the others. Outside. Let's talk."
Richard pulled on his boots and followed Joe out. Ron was standing just outside the tent. "Have you slept?" Richard asked the self-appointed guard.
"Us young people don't need as much sleep as you old guys," he said. "Besides, it's good luck to watch the sun rise on your birthday."
"It's your birthday?"
Joe snickered. "You can't slip anything past Senor Klutz if it's blatant enough, son."
Richard sighed. "Well, Happy Birthday, Ron."
Ron looked him in the eye and nodded. "You rescue them and it will be."
Richard couldn't argue with that. He turned to Joe. "What's up?"
Joe glanced toward the mine. "They found Sarrel. They'll be bringing him out in a couple of minutes. He was alone. Nobody was trapped under him. He wasn't all that far back under the rubble, so perhaps that means they'll reach the other end of the fall soon."
Richard breathed a sigh of relief, but he knew that when the ceiling went, it was more likely to continue to the interior for some distance. "They escaped. I told you so."
Joe looked pained. "Well, we can still think so." He looked at Dragon and then back to Richard. "Are you sure about him?"
Richard draped an arm over Joe's shoulder and looked down at him. "Joe, the only person I'd trust with my life more than you is Dragon."
Joe's eyes widened. "That's a pretty freakin' high compliment for a dog!"
Richard grinned. "He's a pretty freakin' special dog."
~ ~ ~
Kenny felt the bed move and then lips press to his. He whined. He was exhausted and wanted his mother to let him sleep. A tongue forced his lips open and raked across his teeth.
His eyes exploded open and Suzie pulled back. "You need to brush your teeth," she giggled.
"Who'd you think it was? Nurse Carter? Anyway, I brought breakfast." She pointed over her shoulder at her backpack. "You want the bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit or the Egg McMuffin?"
"What time is it?"
"Almost six-thirty. I hope orange juice is okay. I brought two." She handed him his glasses and straightened them after he crammed them on his face. She slipped out of her pack's straps.
"Yeah. Sure! Hey, how'd you get your parents bring you _this_ early?"
She shrugged and opened the pack. "My bike was home when I got there and so was my backpack. I left a note on the kitchen table and snuck out. I had to wait a half-hour for McDonald's to open." She removed the food and put it on the rollaway table.
Kenny frowned. "They open at six this time of year."
"They were two minutes late, so my boyfriend got an extra two minutes of sleep."
"The nurses let you in this early?"
"Caroline always says, 'If you don't ask, they can't tell you no.' By the way, I got something special from her for your dessert."
Kenny waited, but she began unwrapping the breakfast sandwiches and said nothing. "And?"
She giggled and whispered in his ear. "Strawberry douche."
_Studman_ looked at the door and its absence of a lock. He wondered how to jam a chair under the handle to hold it closed.
~ ~ ~
Richard removed his mask as he neared the entrance of the mine. The dust wasn't as bad here. Breakfast had worn off an hour ago, but he'd convinced himself that he couldn't break away to eat. The gnawing in his belly eventually won the argument. The radio sprang to life and Angie asked if he was planning to join her for lunch or if he was going to do his Diane imitation.
"If you'll look toward the mine, you'll see my manly form emerging in two seconds. Please refrain from throwing yourself at my handsome bod when you see me. It makes the other men jealous."
He removed his finger from the transmit button as one of the workmen behind him yelled his name. He turned around, and Dragon rocketed past him.
Jimmy rose first. Wynter was still struggling to her feet. He grabbed her arm and pulled her away, staggering back as she broke free. He saw Will turn so that his pistol was pointed toward Kenny, and then Kenny jerked the shovel upward, edge first. The blade hit Will in the hand and the gun fired. Kenny jerked, but he didn't seem to be hurt. He didn't scream the way Will did, though Jimmy could barely hear that because of the ringing in his ears.
A rock rolled under Wynter's foot and she almost fell. He struggled to hold her up. As she got her balance, Will fell against a post, snapping it. The beam on that side swung downward and rock began falling from the ceiling. Wynter started to break for the entrance, the way Suzie had.
Jimmy, still holding one wrist, grabbed it with his other hand and yanked her to a stop. The beam crashed to the floor and the ceiling began collapsing. She turned to him with wide eyes, realizing that she'd have been under it when it hit. Rocks began falling faster. She said something and began running deeper into the mine. Jimmy followed. Light dimmed as the rubble quickly filled the passageway. Wynter started to slow.
"Keep going!" he shouted, unsure of how well she could hear. "Don't stop until you think you might run into something!"
She nodded and picked up the pace.
The mine shaft went black. They continued on. Wynter suddenly screamed, and he felt her hand pulling him downward. His next step found nothing but air. A second or two later he landed in cold, waist-deep water. He could hear Wynter splashing and coughing next to him. His ears were clearing.
"Jimmy? I think this is that hole they were gonna throw us in!"
"Well, don't move! We might fall into a deeper spot. I have a flashlight in my pack. The pack's sealed and the flashlight's waterproof, so it should work. Do you think you can get it out? I'd kinda like to see what we're doing before we get out of here."
She said she could. He talked her through opening the pack and told her approximately where to grope for it.
"Um..., Jimmy?" she asked as she searched the interior of the pack. "Are, um, you mad at me for what I said out there?"
He felt stunned by the question, like he did when she asked if his mother could stay while he opened his present. "Why would I be mad at you? They were gonna kill us. And do worse to you and Suzie first. If you hadn't distracted them, you know what they'd be doing right now. It was an emergency. You can't follow normal rules in an emergency. I'm smart enough to know that, you know."
He heard her gasp.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that, and I didn't mean it the way it sounded. I'm scared and I didn't mean to take it out on you."
"That's okay. I'm scared, too. I know you're still my best friend."
"I think this is it." A glow suddenly appeared behind him, growing brighter as she pulled the flashlight out. A beam of light sprang forth. They were in a hole half the width of the tunnel and against one wall. He couldn't believe that neither one of them had hit the sides of the hole when they fell. The mine shaft's floor was about at his chin's height. They looked back toward the entrance. Ten feet away the pile of rock began. "We better stay on that side of the hole, in case more falls," she said.
"I agree. Listen, I'll help you out and then you can help pull me up."
She wasn't sure she could be much help, but she stepped into his hands and he lifted her up. He gave her his pack and then struggled out as she pulled on his arm. As he straightened she gasped. "Jimmy! We have to get out of our clothes right now!"
"That water. It might be acid runoff. We need to get out of our clothes before prolonged contact causes dermatitis, or worse! We should flush our eyes, too, if we had any clean water."
"I have four bottles in my pack. Let's do our eyes first."
She gave him a smile, though fear and worry stayed on her face. "I was about to say that."
He flushed her eyes, because she'd fallen in first, and then she flushed his. That took almost a whole bottle.
Then she grabbed the hem of her pullover blouse and yanked it upward. He was startled to see her in her bra and couldn't think of what to do, so he closed his eyes.
"Good. Keep 'em closed until after you get your tee shirt off. Then wipe them and we'll flush again with what's left in this bottle."
His mind raced as he pulled the tee shirt over his head. What was he going to do? He had an idea while he was wiping his eyes. "I'll turn off the flashlight. We need to save the batteries anyway."
"No! We need to save the water. With the light off, we might miss and have to open another bottle."
He kept his eyes shut. "But.... But you're not wearing your blouse."
"Jimmy! It's an emergency! My best friend said you can't follow normal rules in an emergency. Jimmy, I don't want you to go blind. I... I want to be able to look into your eyes. They're the nicest eyes I know. Besides Daddy's." The last was hesitant and sounded like an afterthought.
He opened his eyes and focused on hers, trying not to see the pale white skin and the sheer white material over the gentle swells and pointed bumps. When he flushed her eyes he had to get closer, losing the sight from his peripheral vision. Then she flushed his eyes with the remainder, and he tried to twist them away so that he couldn't see her exposed chest and bra.
She surprised him with a gentle kiss. "Hey! You aren't Kenny, okay? I don't want you to be embarrassed, because I really don't mind. You're my best friend, and you're not going to run out and tell everyone what you saw. And, um, I don't mind if you see. I mean, well, I'm a Future MD and you're a scientist and, well, it's an emergency and all."
He felt better, but he reminded himself not to stare as they rose to their feet.
"Wynter, I just thought of something. I have a blanket and a space blanket in my pack. They should be dry since the pack was closed."
"Uh huh," she said, as she unfastened the belt of her shorts. "There wasn't any water in it."
He reminded himself not to stare again. "I can hold it up as a screen for you to undress behind."
She stopped with her shorts around her knees and straightened. "Jimmy, the longer you wait, the longer any acid can cause skin damage." She frowned at him. "Do you want me to turn around because you're embarrassed? I will."
_Didn't take her long to figure the second half of that one out_. She really was the smartest girl he knew. "No. I mean, yes. I mean, um, do whatever you want. It's just that...."
She shook her knees and the shorts dropped to her feet. She reached for the front clasp of her bra and said, "This is doctor's orders: _get undressed!_"
When the pale white mounds topped with hard pink berries suddenly appeared, he reminded himself yet again not to stare and looked at his belt, fumbling with it.
Under his brows he saw her panties land atop her shorts, and she stepped out of them. She bent to untie her dirty white shoes. He closed his eyes and dropped his shorts and underwear in one move, then yanked the Velcro fasteners of his own shoes. He left them at the bottom of the pile as he pulled his feet free and fumbled with his socks.
"Jimmy!" Two hands grabbed his arm. "Watch what you're doing. You almost fell back in the hole!"
"Um...." He didn't know what to say! He turned aside and finished removing his socks.
"We need to flush with the rest of the water. There's not enough for a total rinse, but there's enough for, um, the, um, sensitive places."
"But what will we drink?" he asked while staring back up the tunnel to the pile of rubble blocking their way out.
"I have some juice in my pack. You have some lemonade. How long do you think it will take to get us out of here?"
Jimmy had been studying in his spare time the past few weeks. He thought for a moment. "Well, if they don't discover what happened until we don't come home, say they don't come looking for us until eight or nine tonight, then however long it takes to get some equipment here and then.... I'd say we're stuck here for two, probably three days. Maybe four, but I doubt it."
"Then we can ration the juice and the food. The stuff in my pack's dry, too. But we've got to flush _now_ or landing on the bar will be a more pleasant experience. Okay?"
He heard liquid splashing and realized she was already flushing.
"Okay. You, um, wanna hand me a bottle?"
"Sure." A moment later one appeared beside him. He took it and began washing his equipment, which was mostly back to its normal color after the bruising, and his butt. The last was used on his hands and arms. A little was left, so he rinsed his chest and his thong and arrowhead, bending and arching his body to keep the runoff from recontaminating what he'd already cleaned. It was too quiet when he finished. He forced himself to peek over his shoulder, ready to jerk his eyes back in case he saw something he shouldn't. Wynter was squatting beside his pack, pulling out the fuzzy polyester blanket and the metallic space blanket. He jerked his eyes around again and stared up the mine shaft, but his mind's eye could still see the slender back, the ripple of her rib cage above the sharp points of her hip bones, and each knob of her spine that led down to the separation of her two cheeks mostly out of sight except for the beginning of her butt crack.
_Butt crack?_ He regretted thinking about something that nice in those words. Well, he didn't mean "nice" the way it sounded. Okay, so he did, but.... Well, he didn't know what to think.
He looked around without thinking. She was holding the open fleece blanket at arm's length, forming a curtain behind which he could see only her head. "Now you don't have to look at me."
A sudden pang showed on her face, as if she regretted the tone she'd used.
"Wynter, it's just that you're a girl and I'm a boy."
"Well, you don't think I'd kiss a girl the way I kiss you, do you?"
He just knew the blush went to his toes. "No. But, well, I mean...."
"Jimmy McCauley! B!"
He shook his head, trying to jar loose a meaning for that statement. "B?"
"I'm tired of wasting so much time saying 'It's an emergency, and you can't follow normal rules in an emergency.' From now on, I'm abbreviating that as 'B.' Okay?"
Her face looked pissed off, with an underlayer of school teacher sternness. He thought it was the prettiest thing he'd ever seen in his life. The sight of her squatting next to the pack sure was a close second, though.
"Okay. You wrap in that one and I'll wrap in the space blanket and we'll go back there to wait."
Of all the things he expected her to say, that was at the bottom of his list. "No?"
"It's chilly in here, and we're wet and already covered in goose bumps. The, um, in a situation like this, um, well, we shouldn'... I mean, well it's best to share body heat."
He paused to fit that together. The blush went to his toes again. "You mean share a blanket?"
"The space blanket will keep you warm. This won't be enough for me. Sharing this blanket will probably be enough, and if it's not, adding the space blanket will be. And after we get settled, we can turn the flashlight off to save the battery and you won't have to look."
"But then we'll be naked and touching!"
He sighed. "Okay. But I don't want you to think I'm taking advantage of the situation or something."
"Do I have to make 'C' mean, 'I know you're not Kenny'?"
He grinned and nodded.
And his nervousness left him. Temporarily, at least.
~ ~ ~
Twenty feet back from the pit they found a flat section mostly free of small rocks. A thin trickle of water seeped along the left side to disappear into the pit. They spread their clothes out to dry, even though they couldn't wear them again afterward. Wynter spread the space blanket near the right wall, at the mid-point between two uprights, and then put the fleece blanket atop it. The metallic space blanket would reflect their heat back toward them and keep the chill of the mine floor away. Jimmy thought it would be a safe spot. If the mine wanted to collapse some more, he had no idea of how far back "safe" was. _Maybe there is no safe spot_, he decided as he dug into her pack for a sandwich and a juice bottle. They were saving the last bottle of water for emergencies.
"I need a little more light," she said.
He pulled out a sandwich and flicked the light toward her, then raised his head to tell her he had the food. She was on her hands and knees, smoothing down the fleece blanket, and he was looking directly at her butt. More specifically, he was looking at the pucker of her anus and at the twin pillows of her lips and the sparse cornsilk curls that partially covered them. His throat constricted around a sound, and he jerked his head aside, but the image remained. Wynter barely had a butt because she was so slender, but it was the cutest one he could imagine. He tried to force that thought and the image from his mind.
"Jimmy, I need...." And then she gasped.
He glanced sideways and saw her looking over his shoulder. She quickly pivoted and dropped to sit on the blanket. Now he was looking at her... her breasts and the thin blonde curls around the front end of her crack. He just knew he was so red that his hair must seem white.
"Jimmy, this isn't going to work if you...." Her eyes dropped to his crotch and widened.
He knew she'd seen her father's equipment when she was his nurse. He guessed that she must have been startled by the faint remainder bruises on his nuts. And then he realized.
"Oh, my god!" he said. He wanted to dive headfirst back into the hole. He was sitting there with a boner. His greatest fear had come to pass. He slapped his legs together and put his arm across his lap. Why, oh why did he have to embarrass Wynter, of all people, like this?
Wynter's head dipped slightly and she smiled. "Jimmy, that's nothing to be embarrassed about, okay? It happens. It's a natural bodily function. I've, um.... I've seen one before, you know. I mean, when Daddy woke up and needed the urinal, you see." She seemed to be struggling for words. He guessed it was because she really was embarrassed despite what she said.
But... if Wynter really was embarrassed, then why wasn't her face red? She was the one who was always blushing.
"Jimmy, can I ask you something?"
He didn't know what the heck to say, so he reminded her of the rules. She could ask anything as long as she was willing to accept no answer as an answer.
"Do you like me?"
"Of course I do. You're my best friend."
She smiled at him. "Yeah. But do, um, you like me more than, um, just as a best friend?"
Did he ever! "Sure. You're the most special person I know."
She looked around, like she was seeking words to say what she was thinking. "Do, um, you think it might help you not be so embarrassed if, um, well, if, um, you thought of me, um, sort of as a girlfriend?"
"Gosh, Wynter, I, um, well, I already _do_ think of you sort of as a girlfriend."
She gave him a big smile, all coral lips and bright teeth. "Then would it help if, um, I told you that I, well, that I think of you as a boyfriend?"
He felt his mouth sag. "You do?"
"Uh huh. Really and truly. So, if I'm your girlfriend and you're my boyfriend, then you shouldn't be embarrassed by our seeing ourselves naked. Especially since it's an emergency. We're doing what we have to do to survive, and we aren't responsible if our bodies obey auno... au... auto-nom-ic reflexes we have no control over. Okay? I don't think any less of you for having an erection. Do you think any less of me if I tell you that seeing it made my natural lubrication increase?"
Jimmy was stunned. The thought of a girl getting wet looking at him was even more inconceivable than having one as pretty as Wynter kiss him. "It _did?_ I mean, no, I--I don't think any less of you. Never."
She shrugged. "There you go. Now, bring the sandwich over here and we'll share it. Let's save the juice until after we eat, and then we'll drink just a little. Sit here and then we'll turn the light out to save the battery."
Suddenly Jimmy didn't want to turn out the light. But, as he well knew, it was an emergency.
~ ~ ~
Jimmy had used his belt knife to cut the sandwich in half. He used some toilet paper to wipe it dry, breathing on it and letting the condensation help clean it. He didn't want to put it back in the contaminated wet sheath, so he placed it aside next to the wall, putting some rocks around it for protection in the dark.
They sat side-by-side, their thighs and hips touching. He held his food in his left hand, she in her right. Their entwined hands rested atop the blanket over their knees. Wynter had pulled one end over their laps and brought the other up over their shoulders. While it covered her _down there_, it still left her breasts exposed. At least it covered his boner, which kept jumping back up at weird intervals.
He was halfway through his share--a thin layer of tuna with a lot of lettuce, which explained how Wynter stayed so slender--before either of them spoke. It was as if the impenetrable darkness had isolated them with their thoughts.
"Do you think Suzie and Kenny are okay?"
That was what he'd been worrying. "I don't know. I'm sure Suzie is. She had time to get out. I hope Kenny did, too."
"I don't want anything to happen to either of them."
Jimmy didn't really want to say what he was thinking, but he did. "I'm sure Suzie is okay. She probably ran straight home. I hope she had enough sense to tell her Mother what happened."
"Jimmy, Suzie's not like that!"
He shrugged, causing the blanket to almost slide off his shoulder. "I sure hope not. It's that much sooner we'll get out of here if she told somebody. Of course, if Kenny's hurt, I'm sure she'll send somebody up here immediately."
"Well," he said after thinking a moment, "I guess she's no longer that mad at me and you, so maybe she'll send help. Of course, if Kenny's okay, then we know he'll send help."
"He was awfully close to the collapse, wasn't he?"
"Yeah. Closer than we were."
There was a long silence. Then, "Do you think Will shot him?"
"Hunh uh. I've been thinking about that. I think Will just startled him, and that made him jerk around. Maybe he felt the bullet go past or heard it or something."
Her hand squeezed his. "I hope so. I don't want anything bad to happen to him. Or to Suzie."
Jimmy felt embarrassed that Wynter was showing more concern about Suzie than he was. After all, distracting Will's and Dick's attention away from Kenny so that he could attempt to free them was Suzie's idea. It wasn't fair to her to assume that she'd done it out of selfishness. He hoped he'd be able to apologize to her. "I don't either," he whispered.
"Are you ready for some orange juice?" Her voice sounded as if she were seconds from crying.
"In a second. You go ahead, and then I'll be ready."
"I need my hand back for a minute." He felt her moving through his contact with her leg. He popped the remainder of the sandwich in his mouth, and then she rested the bottle on their knees. "I drank just two sips," she said.
He drank the same. He turned on the flashlight and put the bottle back in her pack. She picked up the plastic wrap, folded it, and put it in a side pocket.
"I'm glad you're wearing my arrowhead," she said.
He grinned at her and nodded. "That's to keep me always thinking about you," he said, hoping she wouldn't think it sounded silly. "Not that I need much help doing that."
The unexpected admission startled him. "Well, I am, too. I'm sorry you have to be trapped here with me, but if you have to be trapped, I'm glad it's with me. Did that make sense?"
She turned and wrapped her arms around him. The feel of her bare left breast pressing against his side was indescribably wonderful, even more than the way her clothed right one felt against the back of his hand when they read his book. "It made sense to me. Since nobody else is here, I guess that's all that matters."
"It's all that matters to me. We really should turn out the light."
"Okay. As long as you hold me and don't go away."
"I'll never do that," he said and flicked the switch off. He placed the flashlight against the wall straight out to his right so that he could find it easily. Then he wrapped his arms around Wynter. The blanket slipped off their shoulders. "Uh oh."
He waited but she didn't say anything else. "What?"
"Well, I was just thinking. You know. How we could, um. Well, the blanket. We could, um, lie down and curl it over us."
He'd been thinking the same thing but was too embarrassed to say so, wondering what Wynter would think of him for suggesting it.
"If you want to," she added.
"I was sorta thinking that myself. Okay."
They lay flat in the center of the blanket and wrapped the edges around them. That left a gap between them that wouldn't stay overlapped if either one moved. Then Jimmy scooted over to his left, to near the edge. Wynter moved next to him and pulled her side over both.
That worked, but they weren't holding each other except for their hands and entwined arms. But Jimmy couldn't think of another way to lie without... well, without being in a _very_ embarrassing position.
"A pillow sure would be nice," she said.
He thought a minute. "I can take some of the hard stuff out of my pack and then you can use it."
"Or you can use yours and I can use mine. I didn't think of that. I should have."
"Well," he said with a grin that he was sure reflected in his voice, "this is your first cave-in. You'll get better with practice."
"Smarty pants." She moved and he suddenly felt her breath on his face. Her lips touched his eye, then found their way to his, and she kissed him, hard and deep. She finally pulled back and said, "As long as I have you to practice with."
She threw an arm across him and squeezed him tight. Her breasts pressed so hard against his chest that they weren't distinguishable any more. But he had no trouble distinguishing the feel of the soft curls that suddenly pressed against his hip. And the warmth accompanying them. Her leg moved partially around him, and he felt the swelling explode. Surely she could feel his boner pressing into her calf.
But maybe she couldn't as the tears she'd been fighting to hold back finally escaped. He squeezed her and rubbed her back. He wished so very desperately that he knew what to say to her, but he didn't, so he kept his mouth shut and worried about his ignorance.
Maybe he was the putz instead of Kenny.
With her pent-up emotions and tension finally released, Wynter began to relax and calm down. She was sorry she'd cried like that in front of Jimmy, but since he was her boyfriend--and since it was an emergency--she guessed it was good to rid herself of the emotional baggage, as Mother called it, so that she could think straight. Doctors had to stay calm in an emergency, but sometimes they had to release the safety valve so that they could stay calm. She sure hoped that didn't sound like she was making an excuse for her behavior.
Jimmy had been so kind and understanding while she vented her fears and tensions. He held her and rubbed her back the way Daddy and Mother did, and he didn't bother her with possibly false stories to make her feel better. He just lay there silently and held her while she let it out. He was he most thoughtful person she knew.
She slowly became aware of his boner under her leg. She could feel its hardness and the small amount of pubic hair around it. He had to feel her own pubic hair--she couldn't quite make herself think "her pussy" since it was Jimmy--pressed against his leg. And the wetness of her natural lubrication. _Now what?_
She had to think. She didn't want to jerk away suddenly. He'd get embarrassed again, and she'd told him repeatedly that it was an emergency and normal rules didn't apply. The last thing she wanted was to make Jimmy think she was a hypocrite. She guessed she should move her leg away, but make it look like a natural motion. But she really didn't want to do that. Jimmy's erection wasn't as big as her father's, but it felt every bit as good pressed against her leg. Somehow it made her feel--she tried to think of another word besides "loved," but she couldn't. Maybe that was because that was exactly how it did make her feel. She wondered if Jimmy would mind....
She gasped with the realization. Too late to stop it, she tried to make it sound like it was one of the last gasps of her crying. Maybe it worked, because Jimmy continued to hold her, cupping her face in the curve of his neck and rubbing circles on her back while he slowly, ever so slowly, rubbed his hardon--his _erection_, she corrected herself--against her leg!
Her heart suddenly felt _way_ too big for her chest.
She squeezed him tighter in her arms and kissed his neck. She felt her pussy hump against his leg, and fire exploded in her vaginal region.
She heard a short moan from Jimmy and dragged her lips up to his. She kissed him with a passion she'd never felt before except with her father, and he responded in kind. He stopped humping his hardon against her leg, but he didn't need to hump it for stimulation. She was squirming and rubbing her leg up and down on it. Too late she thought of his testicles. He hadn't complained of any discomfort on the bike ride to Hargus City. She hoped that she wasn't suddenly making them hurt. She lifted her head and imagined his face in the blackness.
She worried when he didn't reply immediately, but then he gasped for air. "Uh huh?"
"Are, um, you angry with me?"
"Gosh, no! It's natural for people to turn to each other for support when they have shared anxieties."
It seemed to her like it had been forever since she'd said those words in the movie theater. "I want to tell you something." She realized how quietly she'd spoken. She wondered if he'd heard her, even in the stillness of the cave with her mouth inches above his.
His voice was gentle and reminded her of her father's when they cuddled. "You can always tell me anything you want. You always could, you know. That sure doesn't change now that you're my girlfriend."
"Um...." She didn't know how to say it. What if she said it the wrong way and made him mad. But, he was her boyfriend and she was his girlfriend, so they shouldn't ever get mad at each other. The best way to say it was to just say it. "We may not get out of here." She put a finger over his lips when he started to reply. "The roof may collapse some more, or something we never thought of could go wrong. And I, well, um.... I don't want to die without... um, well, without letting you know how much I love you."
She couldn't _believe_ she'd said that! She meant to say how much she _cared for_ him!
"Really?" The touch of awe in his voice made her heart seem too big for her chest again.
"Wynter, I've loved you since the day I helped unpack your room. You really feel that way about me?"
She giggled and gave him a quick kiss. "I guess I wouldn't be much of a girlfriend if I didn't."
When he didn't say more she said, "Well, if I have to die, I don't want to die without.... Um.... Well, I don't, um...." _Anxiety disorder!_ "I don't want to die without making love with you first. If that's okay with you, I mean."
"_Really?_" His hardon had been slowly shrinking. It suddenly exploded to full size. She giggled when it happened.
"Really. It feels to me like you agree."
"Well, I, um, I mean, uh, well... yes."
"Are you sure? You don't sound like it."
"It's just that.... Well.... Okay, I'm not Kenny. As long as you haven't forgotten that. I just don't want you to think that I'm like him and only interested in what's for me."
"I wouldn't ask Kenny, silly."
"You know what I meant." His tone, if not his words, called her a smarty pants.
"Yeah." She pushed her bottom arm under his neck, lowered her lips to his, and kissed him with a fervor that grew every second. Her hand slid over his arrowhead and down his body to her knee. She slowly pushed her leg down and followed her knee with her hand.
And then she was holding him. He gasped around her tongue and then hummed, "Um _hmmm_!" That made her giggle. She wrapped her hand around the shaft and slowly stroked him. It wasn't as big as Daddy's, but she knew it would do the job quite nicely. In fact, it was about the size of the vibrator that she liked best. She moaned in anticipation.
His hand slid from her back to her side, over her arm, and settled around her breast. He sighed again. "Wynter?" he mumbled around the dueling tongues. She lifted her head so he could speak. "This is the most wonderful thing I've ever felt in my life! But I've never played with one before. Tell me if I'm hurting you, okay?"
"You're doing great! And there's more to play with, you know." She rubbed a hot, wet trail up and down his hip and thigh.
"Um, I'm not sure what to do."
"Just do whatever you feel like doing. There's no wrong way to do it, unless it something uncomfortable. I'll let you know if you do something uncomfortable, and you do the same for me."
"Okay. Um, can I kiss it?" The eagerness in his voice sent cold chills tingling throughout her body.
She lifted her body, pressing the hard little nipple against his lips. He kissed her breast all over and then gently sucked the nipple. Her desire flamed higher. She sure hoped her pussy wasn't giving his leg steam burns.
While he kissed and sucked, he released his hand and slid it down her side to her hip. His hand slid back until his fingertips were just brushing the top of her crack, and then, with his cupped hand, he gently stroked her cheek. They both gasped at the same time. He switched nipples, pausing between to say, "Wow! It feels as good as it looks!"
"Thank you." Only her father had ever told her she had a cute butt. Well, and Kenny, of course, whenever he was trying to get her to show it to him. And Uncle Bozo a couple of times. But her father was the only one who said it and sounded like he meant it. Until now. "This," she said, turning his erection to point straight up, "looks and feels pretty darned good, too!" She made her hand vibrate.
"Uh oh!" His body went rigid, and a sound tried to fight its way out of his throat. Wynter hadn't meant to trigger his orgasm yet, but she understood. She had to hand job-_fuck_ him before she could _make love_ with him. After all, Jimmy had years of pent-up sexual need to vent first.
His body shook a moment and then relaxed, freeing a long sigh as his hand caressed her butt. He gasped. "Oh, Wynter! I'm sorry! I...."
"Shhh!" She pressed her lips to his. "Your body needed that. It's okay. It's not like we have to go home now, you know. It's the difference between _fucking_ and _making love_."
She felt her heart suddenly shoot to her toes. How could she have used _that_ word with someone as nice as Jimmy? What would he say about her language? He wasn't saying anything. She must have made him mad. How in the world could she have been so....
"What's the difference?" he asked in a very puzzled tone.
_He'd been trying to think of the answer!_ She told him.
"Oh. I guess that makes sense. How'd you know?"
"Oh, Daddy told me...." Too late. The words were out. If she didn't learn to control herself, their secret would be out, too.
"Wow! You can talk to your _father_ about stuff like that?"
The only thing to do, she decided, was to tell him the truth. Just not _all_ of the truth. "Uh huh. I can talk to Daddy about anything, as long as I accept the rule about questions. We talked about lots of things while I was his nurse."
He was quiet for a moment. "If I asked Mom about something like that, I think she'd faint. I have no idea what Dad would do." He was about to tell her that his dick was getting too sensitive to rub, even if it was lubricated with his jism, when she stopped and just held it. It had shrunk until it just barely filled her hand.
She kissed him. "Was it a good one?"
"Yeah!" he sighed in a breathy whisper. "I _never_ had one that felt that good before. Well, I mean that... well, counting the ones I, um, gave myself, you know."
She giggled and kissed him again. "I know. We sorta told each other what we did the day we found your arrowhead, you know."
"Yeah. But you haven't had one yet. Don't you need to, um, _get off_, too?" The concern in his voice made her kiss him again, this time with a lover's kiss.
"Yeah. When you're ready. Sounded to me like you needed to catch your breath first after that one."
"Yeah. Oh! I'm sorry about the, um, the mess. There's some toilet paper in my pack to wipe your hand and my di..., um, you know."
She wasn't about to get up for such a small amount. She kissed him and pulled her arm from behind his neck and then slid down under the cover to suck him clean.
"_Oh my god!_" he moaned as her lips slid around the soft tube. When he was clean she licked her hand clean and then took him in her mouth again. "Oh, Wynter, I never thought you'd ever do _that!_"
That stopped her. "You're not mad at me, are you?"
"Are you _serious?_" Then he did Kenny's weird voice. "_Earth to Wynter! Duh!_"
That made her laugh, and then all doubts left her mind. After all, Daddy liked to do all these things, and he was kind and polite and a gentleman just like Jimmy....
It was the moment the lights came on. Here she was, being afraid that Jimmy might not like what her father did because Jimmy was such a polite gentleman. All this time she'd inadvertently been insulting her father because that implied he _wasn't_ one! How could she have been so stupid! She would apologize to him the first time she had a chance.
Of course, that meant that she would have to tell him that she and Jimmy had been indulging in sexual activities. _But he knew we'd been kissing just by looking in my eyes. He's sure gonna know about this when he looks. He's sure seen me like this so many times before._
She slid up beside him, pressing her pussy against his leg and slowly humping it while she put her arm under his neck again. "Huh?"
"Did, um, did I make you mad when I imitated Kenny? You didn't say anything for so long."
"I didn't? Oh! I must have gone someplace else, like Daddy does. Or like your dad did when he saw your present. I'm sorry."
"Oh. Well, you don't have to be sorry for natural reactions, you know. The best girlfriend a guy ever had told me that."
She was amazed that her head stayed up and that she didn't blush down to the ends of her toenails. "Wow! She must be pretty special."
His hand found her hip and pulled her tighter against his leg. "She is. Would you like me to use my fingers? Or do you want to use my leg? Or..., well, I'm not sure what to do."
"The best sex happens when you don't plan ahead. You just do whatever you feel like at the moment and surprise each other."
"Your dad told you _that_, too?"
"Maybe," she grinned, knowing that he could see it even in the darkness. "But I decided that if you could quote Kenny, then so could I."
"I'm sorry," he said with a hit of mischief in his voice. "I didn't realize you were quoting an eminent national authority."
They laughed and then he said in a quiet voice, "I really hope he's okay."
Her heart felt heavy. "Yeah. Me, too. But there's nothing we can do for him now. We're on the wrong side of the rocks. We have our own problem to worry about instead of ones we can't control."
"Yeah." He stopped stroking her hip and tentatively slid his hand to her butt. "Um, do you want me to... um, now?"
She rolled back slightly and lifted her leg to give him access. "Whenever you want."
His voice was hesitant. "To tell you the truth, I'd really like to know what it feels like. If you don't mind."
"Let's make a new rule, like the asking questions one. From now on we don't have to ask because we're boyfriend and girlfriend. We just do it. If the other doesn't want to do something, then we just say so and nobody gets mad or upset or anything and we do something else. Okay?"
She heard the grin. "Yeah. Okay."
Jimmy's hand slid over the front point of her pelvis and around until his fingertips were combing through the soft cornsilk around the front of her split. "That feels really good," he said.
"Feels even better from my side."
He grinned and gave her a quick kiss. It landed on her cheek, beside her nose. He adjusted and kissed again, hitting his target. As his fingers crept down and around the curve, she opened her legs a little more to give him better access. His middle finger followed in the groove of her split while the fingers to either side caressed the fat little pads of her outer lips and their cornsilk curls. She moaned slightly and said, "_Yessss!_"
He seemed to fumble in the dark for a moment, and then her lips parted and he found the wetness within. His middle finger stroked through it, feeling all of her there was to feel. "Oh, Wynter! I had no idea it felt like _this!_"
"Maybe you should have felt Suzie's when she offered it to you," she teased. "Then you'd already know."
"Nah. That's okay. I'm sure it doesn't feel as good as yours. This was worth the wait."
Her reply was instantly forgotten when his fingertip stroked the hard little stick of her clitty. After a moment he asked her the best way to rub it. She talked--and gasped--her way through several exercises. Then she said, "You do it the way you like, or try to invent something new. If it's uncomfortable--_Oooohhhh!_--I'll tell you. Surprise me."
Two minutes later she was shaking and convulsing. He slid his finger into her tight little cunny. She squeezed his finger.
"Wow! I didn't know girls could do that! I thought it was just a story Kenny made up!"
She couldn't stop the happy giggles. Around them she said, "We have plenty of time to learn a lot of new things about each other."
Her giggles stopped when he whispered, as if to himself, "I sure hope so." Then, aloud, he asked, "Is it uncomfortable if I do this after you get off?"
"Unh uh. Just for a few seconds if you keep rubbing my clitty. Like if you keep rubbing your dick. Um, I guess. Anyway, after that it's okay. In fact, you can rub it some more whenever you're ready now."
"I'd, um, really like to, um, rub it with my tongue."
"Sure! I love oral sex!"
She wondered if she imagined the hint of accusation in his voice. "Well, um, in... in my fantasies. I like to think about it when, um...."
"Wanna find out if it's as good as you imagined?"
She could at least find out if it was as good with Jimmy as she had imagined it would be. "Sure!"
He kissed his way down her body and then hesitated as he found the soft cornsilk curls around the front of her split. "Ready?"
His tongue was tentative, hesitant, the kiss of someone licking his first pussy. It was the most exciting thing she'd ever felt, and Daddy had certainly given her some extraordinary thrills. Her second orgasm occurred a minute later. As she calmed down she remembered something. "Did I bump your nose?"
"That's okay," he said, kissing her mound and the outside of her split. "It didn't hurt. Um, do you, um, well, um... well--now?"
"Do I want to make love?"
"Oh, yes!" She thought she could hear him grin at her eagerness.
"Um, it's not going to be very comfortable on this floor, is it?"
"If it's not, we'll find a position that is. Okay?"
He positioned himself over her, pressing his erection against her mound and poking her slit with the head. He seemed to be hesitating.
"You want me to put it in for you?"
He sighed with relief. "Please. I don't want to hurt you if I do it wrong. I mean... well, I can't see in the dark."
She positioned the head between her lips, right over the flooded entrance to her aching cunny, and whispered in his ear, "Push."
He eased it into her. She was so wet that he went in with just one stroke. And then she felt his balls bumping against her butt. Daddy had never been able to get all of his in, and this was the first time she'd felt balls against her butt while she was having intercourse.
She amended that to _making love_.
Jimmy needed a couple of minutes to determine the best way to thrust without hurting her and without slipping out of her hot, wet little cylinder on the outstroke. Soon he was thrusting with a steady pace. "Do you want me to go faster or slower?"
"If I do, I'll tell you," she gasped. "Okay?"
She experimented with positions, lifting both legs around his back, over his shoulders, one leg up and one leg down, and each time getting moans of happiness from Jimmy. She had him pause and then flexed her internal muscles around his dick. When he let out a long guttural moan, she said, "I guess there are advantages to listening to Kenny, huh?"
He wrapped his arms under her shoulders and squeezed the side of his head against hers. His body jerked with short strokes. "I'm gonna," he groaned through a constricted throat.
Her heart suddenly felt _way_ too big for her chest. Not only was she making love to Jimmy, he was about to cum inside her, in _her_ pussy, for the first time he'd ever cum inside one.
She knew a big orgasm inside her when she felt one. Daddy had had some massive ones, but she never felt him cum as hard as Jimmy did. It made her cum, too, as she crossed her legs under his butt and tried to squeeze his whole body up inside of her.
The mine tunnel grew quiet, the only sounds those of two giggling young people gasping for air and of water slowly trickling into the hole in the floor.
It sure was dark. And her bed wasn't very soft, either. It was like sleeping on the floor.
And then Wynter remembered where she was. Jimmy was spooned around her, with one arm under her, between her shoulder and the backpack-turned-pillow, and the other over her. His breath felt warm between her shoulders. She wondered what time it was, but she wasn't wearing her watch. She felt safe while snuggled by Jimmy, the same as she felt when Daddy snuggled her. Unfortunately, her distended bladder wasn't going to let her sleep much longer, and then she'd have to wake Jimmy. The blankets folded around her, and he was holding her. The best she could do was squeeze out like toothpaste from a tube, but then she wouldn't be able to find the flashlight without maybe waking him.
She turned over in place. His breathing changed, and she knew she'd awakened him.
He mumbled something, yawned, and said, "Hi."
"I gotta go again. Sorry."
"Me, too. What time is it?"
He really wasn't awake very much, but she guessed she understood why. "How should I know? You have the watch and flashlight on your side."
"Oh. Yeah, I do." He rolled onto his back and searched in the dark. Then he moved again and suddenly the glow from his watch face hovered above her. "Almost seven. Time for breakfast." The glow vanished and the flashlight came on.
She giggled. "Breakfast in bed?"
He grinned and nodded. "Unless you want to freeze your butt sitting on the cold floor of this tunnel, since we better not build a fire."
She leaned over him and kissed him. "You'd warm it up for me if I froze it. Did you sleep good?"
He pushed her long blonde hair back from her face. "I had the strangest dream. I kept dreaming this beautiful blonde girl kept waking me up and asking me to make love to her."
She punched his arm. "That wasn't a dream, silly. That was me!"
He grinned at her again. "At least I got the beautiful blonde part right."
"Smarty pants!" She stuck her tongue out at him. He took that as in invitation for another kiss. When he finished, however many seconds or minutes or hours later that was, she said, "I love you, but I gotta go _now_," and flipped the covers back.
He gasped. "It's cold out there!"
"No kidding." She grabbed the toilet paper and then put it back down while she used her scrunchie to make her pony tail. "You want to keep this flashlight and fix breakfast?"
"No. We better save the batteries in yours. I don't know how long those will last."
She had to have one more kiss before she left. She bent over him. He cupped one hand over one of her breasts--her _tits_, she decided--and caressed it while giving her a short peck on her lips.
She didn't feel quite as cold as she headed back to the small side tunnel that Jimmy had designated "The Ladies' Powder Room."
~ ~ ~
Jimmy watched her slender naked form silhouetted by the circle of light in front of her. He couldn't believe his good fortune. If you considered almost getting buried alive and then being trapped in an abandoned mine to be good luck, that is. Not only did he get to kiss Wynter, he also got to make love to her. She was right: _making love_ and _fucking_ were two different things, and he definitely made love with her. He'd thought he be in college before he ever kissed a girl, and he had no hope of ever having sex with one. Of making love to one. And now he'd made love to the prettiest girl he knew five... five or six? He couldn't remember how many times. He decided the number of times wasn't important. What was important was that it was with Wynter, the answer to all his prayers.
He sure did hope that Kenny was alive and safe. He hoped that Suzie was safe, too, he guessed.
_No, I'm sure. I don't want anything bad to happen to her. She has Kenny and I have Wynter. I feel sorry for Kenny. He thinks he's happy because he's getting to pork Suzie. I _know_ I'm happy because I'm getting to make love!_
The light turned sideways into the side tunnel. Wynter followed it. Jimmy lay back in the darkness and thought of how good she felt to touch. Not just her breasts and... and her _pussy_, he decided since she'd called it that several times. No, he marveled at how good it felt just to rub his hand over her tummy while he curled around her naked body. How soft and silky the inside of her thighs were. The soft firmness of her breasts... her boobs... her tits... the soft firmness of all the places he'd never dreamed of seeing was so exciting that thinking about it was enough to cause his dick to tingle and twitch. _But_, he decided, _nothing compares to the feeling of the hot and juicy inside of her pussy. I couldn't describe it if my life depended on it_.
He pushed the backpack aside and stretched out, working all the kinks out of his muscles. Then he rolled over on his stomach and stretched again. He was lying there with the side of his head pressed to the blanket when the tunnel brightened. He wanted to see Wynter again, to look at how beautiful her naked body was, but he knew he'd see only the light blinding him, so he relaxed and waited for her to arrive. He'd kiss her and hug her before he went to the Men's Relief Room.
And then he tensed. The fluffy blanket wasn't helping. He pulled it aside and pressed his ear to the space blanket.
"Wynter!" he cried when he was sure. "They're coming! I can hear vibrations!"
He heard her gasp and then the patter of her feet rushing across the tunnel floor to him.
~ ~ ~
They didn't dare put their wet clothes back on. They would just have to be found naked and try to explain their way out of it. Wynter knew Daddy would understand. She hoped Mr. and Mrs. McCauley would, too, but she was sure Daddy could explain the danger to them. Just to be safe, it might be best if the rescuers didn't find Jimmy with a hardon, so she volunteered to cure his embarrassing condition, this time having Jimmy experience his first doggie-style sex. Around ten o'clock she had to lie back and cure it again. He said she was a dedicated doctor to go to such trouble for a patient. She called him a smarty pants but didn't threaten him with "loss of sexual privileges." She was afraid she'd sound too much like Suzie, and she didn't want a reminder to worry about whether Suzie and Kenny were safe.
By noon they thought they could hear a faint grinding noise without listening at the floor.
They had a half-sandwich each, some trail mix, and an apple for dessert, all washed down with four sips of juice. They were starving, but they continued to ration their food in case something went wrong.
And they talked. They talked about a lot of things--movies and music and school and animals--but especially about whether they would continue their sexual activities after they were rescued.
"Would you think I was like Suzie if I wanted to keep doing it?" she asked.
"Heck no. Would you think I was like Kenny?"
She grinned. "Okay. Then when and how? I mean, our parents would freak." Maybe Mother would, but she was sure Daddy would be able to handle it. She hoped.
"We'll find a way. Suzie and Kenny do."
A cold hand clutched her heart. "I hope they still get to."
He sniffed in the darkness. "Me, too."
An hour later they were sitting on the blanket, holding hands, listening to the loud grinding noise. Rocks and dirt fell away from the end of the blockage. Jimmy turned on the flashlight as a drill pushed through, followed by a five-inch pipe, five feet above the floor. The drill head retreated, and soon thereafter a man's voice echoed down the pipe. Before he could say more than "Hello!" he was drowned out by the sounds of loud barking.
The barking changed to whining and whimpering. Then: "_Wynter?_"
"Daddy! I'm okay!" she shouted down the pipe. She wondered how many times she'd have to say "A" to convince him.
They waited, nervously dancing around and clutching each other in the cold darkness that was attenuated only by the flashlight and the faint glow in the pipe. Then the latter disappeared. They heard something scooting down the pipe and a whirring noise. A wheeled basket powered by an electric motor suddenly popped partway out of the end of the pipe and stopped. Inside was one of her father's radios and a note, "Use radio at end of pipe for best signal." That made sense. She switched the radio on and held the antenna near the pipe.
She pushed the transmit button. "Hello?"
"Wynter! Are you two okay?"
"Well, we're cold. We fell in a sump and our clothes got wet. And it's dark 'cause we save the flashlight batteries."
"You need to get out of those wet clothes. You could catch pneumonia, and the water could be acidic."
"We did that. And we used Jimmy's bottled water to rinse off. We've been using Jimmy's blankets to stay warm. Daddy, what about Kenny and Suzie?"
"I think you better let them tell you that part. I don't want to spoil their story. Or the surprise."
"Surprise?" She giggled. She and Jimmy had asked that together.
"Let's just say that they're both being treated like heroes now."
"What about...?" She couldn't finish it. Jimmy put an arm around and squeezed her shoulders.
Daddy's voice was quiet. "Neither one will bother anyone else again."
Wynter knew that as a Future MD she should feel sorry about that, but she just couldn't. A glance at Jimmy told her he couldn't, either.
"Give me a minute to give this phone to Mr. Chang and patch a relay to your mother's radio so you can talk to the others. 'A', you know."
Wynter grinned. "Yeah, I know." And then she had to explain that to Jimmy.
~ ~ ~
Richard was on his way to supper when the television crew stopped him for yet another live update for broadcast. He almost lost his temper when he snapped that nothing had changed from his original forecast of twenty-four hours to dig an escape route through the collapse, and that if anything had changed, they'd have already known about it. Fortunately Joe rescued him. Joe, assisted by Ron standing just outside the camera's view and signalling for them to wrap it up.
While he was eating they approached him again, but this time they had a mine engineer "expert" in the studio, one who knew the right questions to ask in order to fully explain the situation to the viewers. Of course, he had to endure more inane questions from the local talking heads first. He thought the studio's talking head was going to ask more, but instead he offered his and his station's best wishes for a safe and speedy recovery. It was something the two on-the-scene clowns had never done. He was pleasantly surprised to discover that the expert was one of his former college professors. It was the only enjoyable interview he'd experienced.
He was impressed with both Wynter and Jimmy for not building a fire from scraps of the timbers lying about. Even though they had a butane lighter as well as flint--Jimmy's arrowhead--and steel--his knife--they were concerned about using up the oxygen. With the pipe through the debris, they could afford to use a propane lantern and a small propane radiant heater that had been designed to fit through the emergency pipe.
Dry clothes, of course, were also keeping them warm. He chuckled. If they were wearing them. There was a faint almost-giggle in Wynter's voice that he knew all too well. She had been busy while they were isolated together. He could hear her saying, "The sharing of body heat is necessary for increasing the probability of survival."
He was sure that Angie had picked up on that probability when Wynter said to send them dry clothing. Keith had tried to control a sly smile, obviously not wanting to offend Wynter's parents with his thoughts. Marti had been confused at first about why they were wearing wet clothing in a cold mine shaft. Richard stopped her from keying the microphone and whispered, "They aren't."
"Oh." And that was the end of discussion for Marti. Richard realized that she would have responded the same way if it had been his son and her daughter. She was concerned with the necessities of reality, not trivial appearances. Keith had a prize in that woman.
Marti and Angie had returned home for the replacement clothing as well as toothbrushes, more bottled water for a thorough rinsing, and towels. He was glad that Marti finally had something to do besides sit and fret. When they returned he'd asked Angie how the trip went.
"Oh, we just talked," she had said. The look on her face said several things, one of which was that she wasn't about to say more. He'd have given a half-year's pay to have a tape of that conversation. Maybe he should have made the second trip back home with her when she went to clean up. He might have been able to get something out of her if they'd showered together.
He pushed his empty plate away and wondered what he wanted to do next. He really wasn't needed in the mine. The rescue teams knew their jobs better than he did, and with the maps he'd already provided in their hands, he'd be more hindrance than help.
"Got a moment, Senor Klutz?"
He looked over his shoulder at the beaming face. "So, how's your birthday present?"
Ron scratched his head and flashed a five-kilowatt smile. "I consider it half-received. I'll collect the other half around noon tomorrow?"
"That's our best estimate. You know how these estimates are."
"According to Dr. Britt, you examine all the evidence and then you open your mouth and hang your ass out in public."
Richard nodded. "For a biologist, he's pretty smart."
"We're all like that. Which is why I'm here, butting in where I have no business being." He signalled to the two firemen and the miner at the table. They took their coffee and moved to another table.
Richard indicated the seat beside him and spoke softly while Ron sat. "You're here to ask me if I realize what's probably been going on there in the dark?"
Ron looked surprised and then nodded. "For a mining geologist engineering-type gringo, you're pretty smart yourself, except for that word 'probably'."
Richard laughed. "We're all like that. Are you concerned that I'm going to go ballistic and attack Jimmy once he's free?"
"Nope. You're too afraid of me."
Ron was joking, of course, but both knew that it was a true statement if Richard were dumb enough to attack Jimmy. "If I were any other father, or if it were any other daughter of mine except Wynter, I might. But I trust her, Ron. I trust him, too. Whatever they did is between them, and I can deal with it."
Ron grinned. "Good. Dad doesn't want to wait on the Jaws of Life with you again."
"Yeah. Let me ask one thing: how do you know anything went on?"
Ron waved a dismissive hand. "It's in her voice, if you pay attention. You don't have to be a pretty smart biologist to hear it."
"Oh." That, he realized, could be a complication for his relationship with her, assuming he still had one. He wasn't aware that others could also hear the difference.
"Have you thought about possible consequences as a result?"
"Yes. And if it were any two except Wynter and Jimmy, I'd be concerned. They're the two I trust most to consider the consequences first."
~ ~ ~
Wynter stretched and sighed. She had food in her stomach, warm clothes on her back, love in her heart, and Jimmy's finger making lazy circles in her pussy. If she had to be trapped somewhere, she sure could have done a lot worse than this.
Jimmy lay beside her, his head propped up by his other hand. Their discussion had migrated back to movies. They had discussed the _Harry Potter_ and _Lord of the Rings_ series. Jimmy said he wanted to get the extended DVDs of the latter series and then watch them nonstop from the beginning to the end with a barrel of popcorn in his lap and his girlfriend at his side. Or the girlfriend and popcorn could trade places. Wynter called him a smarty pants and then took it back, saying that switching places wasn't such a bad idea.
He was talking about the next _Star Wars_ movie and the ways that nice young Anakin might be changed into the yucky old Darth Vader. She said she was sorry that Luke and Leia would have to be separated after they were born and that the beautiful Miss Padm -? wouldn't live to see them grow up.
Jimmy stopped talking in mid-sentence. His eyes went wide, and he seemed to pale in the light of the propane lantern. "Oh, damn!"
The tone of his voice scared her a little. "What's wrong?"
He turned worried eyes to her. "Babies," he said as he looked at where his hand was slid down the front of her unbuttoned jeans.
"Oh, no!" She remembered her father saying more than once that he trusted her to do the right thing in a sexual situation with Jimmy, or whoever she finally decided on. She had let him down. What would he say if she announced she was pregnant?
_Wait a minute! Think. Doctors don't panic about a problem that may not exist!_ She thought for a second. "What day is this?"
Jimmy looked over his shoulder. "Sorry," he said and withdrew his finger so that he could reach his watch. "The seventh."
She counted while he replaced his watch. "Uh oh. It's not a problem, and you may find that out before we're rescued. I gotta talk to Daddy or Mother." She grabbed the radio and asked for a private message, meaning that her father should switch to his headset instead of the speaker. When he did, she asked for some tampons. She was sure she heard her father breathe a sigh of relief.
~ ~ ~
Suzie reached for her calendar, in case she'd miscounted on her fingers. Math never was her strong suit. She looked at the tiny checkmark in the September second box. She was right.
But she'd been taking the pills Caroline had given her. She was sure they were the real thing because they were in the original packaging. She made sure her parents were absorbed in their stupid television news program and knocked softly on Caroline's door.
After Caroline invited her in, she closed the door and said, "I'm five days late."
Caroline frowned for a second and then raised her eyebrows. "Oh. Well, what day did you quit taking them?"
Suzie stamped her right foot. "I didn't quit taking them! They didn't work!"
Caroline waved her over and indicated that she should sit on the edge of the bed. "No, I mean when.... wait a minute. You've taken one every day since I gave them to you? Including today?"
"Yeah. And they didn't work!"
Caroline tried to hide a laugh behind her hand. "No, they worked all right. Didn't you read the instructions carefully? You have to quit taking them for your period to start. That's why I use those. They help me decide when I want to be 'inconvenienced'."
Suzie frowned. "You mean...."
"I mean you take them for three weeks and then you skip a week. You haven't skipped, so you haven't started. That's not good for you. You can adjust a couple of days either way, but you shouldn't take them this long."
"Oh. Well, I guess it's a good thing I talked to you before I called Kenny, huh?"
~ ~ ~
Jimmy was lucky. He's been awakened with a super-nice kiss and then he got to make love to Wynter one last time before they were rescued. He brushed his teeth as he watched the flashlight disappear into the Ladies' Powder Room and reflected on how lucky he'd been. He wasn't sure that almost-twelve-year-olds could knock each other up, but he darned sure didn't want to find out the hard way.
He groaned when he realized the pun. Then he grew upset with himself. He should have thought of that. He knew Suzie was taking the pill, but he'd never thought about Wynter taking them because he wasn't doing it with her. He had so tuned it out of his mind that he never thought about it when he should have. This was a lesson he'd better remember. The next time he had to think before he acted on something--anything--and didn't, he probably wouldn't be as lucky.
He sure was happy that they were about to be rescued and that they wouldn't have to be stuck in this cold place much longer. But he was sorry that he would be separated from Wynter. It wasn't just that he'd miss getting to make love to her whenever either of them felt like it or being able to touch each other everywhere to make the other happy. It was that he'd also miss the kissing and snuggling and the talking. And the hand-holding, just like in the movies. Despite all the new things they were now free to do with each other, he still enjoyed her hand holding his as much as her pussy holding his dick.
Well, maybe almost as much.
He guessed he understood now what it was like for Mr. King whenever his wife was out of town. Jimmy felt sorry for him when that happened.
He jerked his head around. Wynter was sitting beside him on the blanket. He was on the blanket? Wasn't he over by the drainage pit brushing his teeth? When did he finish and sit down? "I think I went somewhere else. Big time."
She nodded and then turned down the corners of her mouth. "I was right. If you get another embarrassing erection before we're rescued, I'll just have to blow it away."
She couldn't keep the sad expression on her face when he gave her a Kenny-type grin and chuckle. After she broke up laughing he kissed her and said, "I wish I could do something for you in return."
"Well," she said with a sly smile, "the nice thing about tampons is that your fingers can still reach my clitty." A little frown creased her brow. "Unless you're embarrassed about that or something."
He shrugged and took her hand in his. "Why should I be? My girlfriend says you shouldn't be embarrassed about natural bodily functions, and she's always right."
She kissed him again. "You're special. How much longer now?"
He glanced at his watch. "Nine o'clock. About three more hours, I guess. But they lost some time when they found Dick."
She sighed. "You know what's going to be the worst part of being rescued?"
"Sure. Being separated from you."
She looked surprised. "Yeah. Okay, I meant second worst. Interviews." They'd already talked to several reporters over the radio. They were getting tired of answering, "What are you doing in there?" This morning Wynter had answered the last idiot with, "We played chess for a while, then had a few sets of tennis and chose up sides for a game of football. We're going skiing after this."
The interviews ended rather abruptly. For some reason he thought maybe Ron had something to do with that. But Wynter's reward for giving that answer was to be pinned to the blanket while he kissed her from head to toe. That was so much fun he wanted another interview so he could reward her again.
Well, they had three hours to fill. Slender as she was, there was still plenty to kiss, even if he couldn't kiss her pussy this time.
"What?" she asked when she saw the look on his face. And then the giggling began, followed by the gasping, the moaning, and the groan of pleasured release.
The rescue team didn't break through until almost two. They were surprised to find Wynter and Jimmy wearing their backpacks and holding the trash that wouldn't fit in the packs.
Richard waited in the mine, trying to hold Dragon in place. He fared only slightly better than Canute holding back the sea. Angie, Keith, and Marti fidgeted at the entrance, in front of several television cameras. Behind those waited Ron and Joe Lopez, Ellen Carter, Kevin, Kenny, and Suzie, along with a few other people Wynter knew and a lot of people she didn't. They broke into applause when Wynter and Jimmy appeared. After a tearful reunion, with the tears on the faces of the parents and not the rescuees, the reporters began. The questions were brief, and Wynter couldn't resist a grin when she saw the reporters glance at Ron several times. One reporter asked Wynter about the trash she was carrying. Wynter lectured her on the consequences of being a litterbug.
When Ron cleared his throat the reporters suddenly found an interest in interviewing the rescue team members who had found them, the parents, Joe Lopez, the EMT medics, and anybody else, including Kenny and Suzie. Wynter heard one reporter refer to the latter as "the heroes who were responsible for the successful rescue."
"Did you hear that?" Wynter whispered to Jimmy.
Jimmy nodded. "Yeah," he whispered. "I'm glad they aren't being ignored."
Kenny had a different opinion when he finally got to hug the rescuees and murmur in their ears. "I haven't been able to do anything with Suzie since I left the hospital. I hope I never have to speak or do anything with those asshole reporters ever again."
Wynter was so grateful for what Kenny had risked to save her from what Will and Dick had planned that she kissed him right on the lips, stunning Kenny so much that it was several seconds before he put on his Patented Shit-Eating Grin. One television crew caught it. Word got around and the other crews wanted her to re-enact the kiss for them. Kenny, naturally, was only too happy to help out his best friends, the reporters.
Then they wanted Jimmy and Suzie to re-enact their kiss, even though the two had only hugged each other. At the reporters' urging they staged the kiss, but neither's heart was in it. Wynter scowled at that, not because Jimmy was kissing Suzie, but because the reporters had created a fake incident for their stories. She wondered how much other news she'd seen was also faked.
Kevin Taylor saw no obvious problems with the rescuees but had them moved to the hospital for a quick check-up. The four friends rode in the ambulance together after a short argument with parents who didn't want to be separated from the rescuees. The parents relented when Kenny explained that it was a medical necessity in case they went into "stress-related post-traumatic collapse followed by dissociative hallucinations, advanced cardiac arrhythmia, gastric reflux, hyperaccelerated flatulence, non-cognitive rejection of peripheral stimuli, and a bunch of other crap." Keith shook his head as if to clear it and said that he hoped Kenny never went into politics.
Kenny and Suzie each told them what the other had done after the cave-in, and for the first time they heard about Suzie's tirade to Judge Wilson. This time Jimmy meant it when he kissed her, and Wynter hugged her so tight that she thought she wouldn't be able to breathe. But she glowed with the sudden attention and adulation.
They erupted from the ambulance, did a group hug, and then marched size-by-side in random order through the Emergency Room door. Wynter caught Ellen Carter as she entered a minute later and took her aside for a quick question.
Ellen gave her a sly smile. "No, I don't expect you'll even have to undress. So, Jimmy is your Dusty now?"
Wynter giggled. "Yeah. He's my boyfriend. How was your trip with Dusty?"
"Oh, we had a lot of fun. I suspect you had more than us, though, and we weren't even stranded."
Wynter's knowing smirk could be equalled by few of the grown women Ellen knew. "As long as you know you're going to be rescued, you should try it."
Ellen shifted into professional mode, knowing it was the best way to ask the next question. "What about birth control?"
Wynter also shifted. "It wasn't necessary this time. Mother Nature's timely birth control started five or six hours ago."
Ellen snorted a laugh at the term combined with the professional voice and shook her head. "You're going to be more like Kevin than Richard when you're a doctor, you know. But what about next week?"
"I think Daddy knows I'll need it, and I think he's okay with that. We've already discussed what might happen if Jimmy and I decided to engage in sexual activities. I'm not sure about Mother, though."
Ellen glanced to see Kevin Taylor approaching with the four anxious parents and patted Wynter's arm. "If he needs help convincing her, have him call me."
The physicals were mercifully short. Kevin knew exactly how the parents felt and didn't want to prolong the separation one second more than was necessary.
~ ~ ~
Kenny had warned them that all four were the talk of the school. The reporters were gone, but the incessant questions from everybody at school the next day, from their classmates and teachers to the lunchroom workers and even the janitor, more than filled that void. By the end of the week they were mostly left alone, though both Wynter and Jimmy noticed that girls seemed to be paying more attention to Kenny now. Some asked to see his bruised legs and hugged him after he complied. And word of Suzie's tirade had directed more attention from boys to her. Suzie, however, had eyes only for Kenny, and he seemed to have eyes only for her. At least, that's how he acted when she was around.
By the end of the month things were back to normal, except for the attitudes toward Kenny and Suzie. Wynter and Jimmy were happy that both were finally being treated as people. Jimmy was especially grateful to see that nobody picked on Kenny now.
People grew used to seeing Wynter and Jimmy holding hands or standing side-by-side with an arm around each other. Unlike with Kenny and Suzie, they never saw a furtive grope when either thought nobody was looking. But it was clear that each couple was boyfriend and girlfriend. Some of the boys teased Jimmy, apparently out of jealousy of his relationship with one of the prettiest girls in the school, but Jimmy eventually noticed that the teasing stopped if Kenny was with him. He told Wynter that he couldn't stand the thought of having to call Kenny his "guardian Angel."
The four friends were seen together so often that people began calling them "The Hargus Four," and soon just "The Four."
Kenny cornered Jimmy at school a few days later when both were alone and asked in a low voice, "So how do Wynter's tits compare to Suzie's? Since I saved your life, it's only fair that you tell me."
Jimmy snorted. "It's not fair to Wynter if I tell you what hers look like."
Kenny finally had confirmation of what he'd suspected. "So you _have_ seen them!" He was barely able to keep his voice down where others couldn't overhear him.
"What do you care? You have Suzie's to play with, I have Wynter's. I'm happy with what I have, and you should be happy with what you have."
"Hey, just because I have a Playstation doesn't mean I don't want to check out an Xbox."
Jimmy frowned at him. "X-_box_? Is that a joke at Wynter's expense?"
Kenny was puzzled for a moment, then made the connection. The Patented Shit-Eating Grin arose. "Oh! Hey, that was a good one! No, I was just making a comparison while talking about her tits, but I don't mind if you tell me what her box looks like, too. That's something else of Suzie's you've seen, you know."
Jimmy gave him a Patented Shit-Eating Smirk. "Yeah, I know. That's how life is: you get to be the hero, I get to see the girls' charms. Life's a bitch and then you die without ever knowing what Wynter's look like. It's not easy being a putz, is it?"
Jimmy decided that having Wynter for his girlfriend was the only thing better that day than revenge. And Kenny couldn't even detonate because other people, including a couple of teachers, would hear him.
~ ~ ~
Angie explained to Kevin that she wanted Wynter on the pill because someone might try to rape her again but be successful the next time. She knew in her heart Kevin didn't believe that, but he was gracious enough to pretend that he did. Whenever she felt anxiety about Wynter's sexual relationship with Jimmy she quelled it with a reminder that it was distracting her away from Richard.
On the days that Angie was in Denver, Richard kept finding excuses to be either downstairs or completely out of the house after school. Both Wynter and Jimmy agreed that her bed was much better than the floor of the mine shaft, but they also decided that her desk chair wasn't bad, either, especially when she sat in his lap and held him inside her. Neither was her desk when she sat on the edge of it and put her heels on Jimmy's shoulders as he stood in front of her and thrust. And that was almost as good as when he had her bend over while standing and did her from behind.
The latter happened on a Thursday. The next night was Friday, Richard's night.
"Nobody's eaten my pussy all day," she grumbled as he slid next to her on the bed.
"Really? Well, what about yesterday?"
She closed her eyes, smiled, and said, "Aaaahhhh...."
"Oh really?" Richard tweaked a nipple, causing her to jump and giggle. "Well, I'll see if I can do as well." He gave her a father-daughter kiss and then kissed his way down her body, burying his face in her sweet, wet pussy.
She decided it was a pretty darned close second.
~ ~ ~
On September 20th, Suzie began serious training for the spring swim meets. Kenny swam some laps, too, but mostly waited for an opportunity to slip his fingers through the leg opening of her swimsuit and into her.
On the same day, Mrs. Evers loaned Kenny the _Beyond Words_ album by Exchange. She said that since they'd been trapped in the dark together, they might like "Into the Night." Within a week they were doing a good version of it, with Wynter on the piano and Jimmy on his synthesizer.
The first time they heard "Stonewalk," she turned sparkling eyes to Jimmy and said, "That'd be good background music for doing it doggie style." Jimmy tentatively agreed, but said he needed to run a laboratory test to confirm the conclusion. Wynter locked his door, hopped onto his bed, and pushed her jeans and panties to her knees. By the time the piece was over, Jimmy was convinced.
But it was the romantic-sounding "No Borders" which became "Our Song." They agreed that no borders would ever separate the two of them or divide their love for each other. Jimmy said that it would be worth learning the guitar just to play that with her. Unfortunately, they would still need a bass player and a drummer.
~ ~ ~
On the last day of September, William Wilson the Third resigned his post as a District Judge and moved to the west coast.
The Sarrell family had moved to parts unknown a week earlier.
~ ~ ~
When Jimmy arrived on October 11th to work on a project for Mr. Shelby's science class, he was treated to a flute recital along with Wynter's parents. Wynter said that his idea of "feeling the music in her fingers" had helped her overcome her mental block and allowed her to relax and enjoy the music as she played it. She rewarded him with a cartoon of the two of them opening a mummy case. Inside the case were Kenny and Suzie, complaining that couldn't find any place to make out where they wouldn't be interrupted. Both of her parents howled at the look of exasperation on Suzie's face and frustration on Kenny's.
Later, in her room, she rewarded Jimmy with a different kind of flute recital.
~ ~ ~
October twenty-sixth fell on a Sunday. The McCauleys hosted a joint birthday party for the two new twelve-year-olds, Jimmy and the younger-by-eight-hours Kenny. Several of their friends from school attended, an even number of boys and girls. The girls decided to have a contest to see whether Jimmy or Kenny was the better kisser. Jimmy was hesitant, but before he could speak Kenny agreed for both of them. To his surprise Wynter told him he should go ahead.
She rested her wrists on his shoulders. "This way you get to see that you made the right choice," she explained.
When he tried to tell her he already knew that, she countered with, "This is the laboratory experiment to confirm that your theoretical data is correct. Now, go sit over there beside Kenny and pucker up."
He gave her a short kiss and whispered, "I love you."
"I know," she said with a big smile as the touched his shirt over the arrowhead. "That's why I'm not worried."
Suzie seemed a little hesitant at first, until she noticed that Wynter wasn't bothered by the idea. "Okay," she said in Kenny's ear. "Just don't enjoy it _too_ much."
"I promise I won't enjoy it too much," he replied and crossed his heart. Suzie never thought to ask whether Kenny's idea of "too much" was the same as her own.
The girls held a conference afterward. They decided the results were inconclusive and that they should repeat the contest. After two more repeats they finally decided that Kenny won by one vote. A couple of the boys said that they sure didn't want to have _that_ contest at their birthday parties. The rest began counting their remaining days on their fingers.
The party ended at three. The Four wished the others farewell and then collapsed in the McCauleys' living room while Keith and Marti watched a movie in the family room. Kenny looked at the cartoon Wynter had given him. He thought he looked rather dashing as Indiana Jones. He had a whip in one hand and shovel in the hand of the arm around Suzie, as Marion Ravenwood, while he protected her from the snakes in the Well of the Souls. Wynter had had trouble deciding whether Jimmy should be Sallah or Marcus Brody. She finally settled on Sallah because he was at the tomb site. Since there were no other primary female characters in the movie, she'd drawn herself as the monkey, but with a blonde ponytail. Wynter had captioned it, "Colorado Taylor and the Raiders of the Lost Mine."
Marti McCauley was responsible for the cartoon. Indiana Jones was one of the ideas she'd considered for Keith's birthday present before settling on Humphrey Bogart as Rick from "Casablanca", with Marti as Ilsa. Fortunately, that was one of her parents' favorite movies, and Wynter was able to ask for their help in choosing a scene. Since "Casablanca" was in black & white, she did the cartoon the same way, her first attempt at using ink, much to the delight of the McCauleys. Keith still greeted her with "Here's lookin' at you, kid!"
Suzie had given Jimmy a small statue of a mounted knight with a lance. "That," she had whispered in his ear, "is to remind you to keep your 'lance' up for Wynter while you're being shiverous for her." Then she gave him a quick kiss and said that was to help.
Suzie had given Kenny a plaque. One of her father's co-workers at the bank did woodworking as a hobby. It was an ornate, beautifully detailed walnut shield with a folding shovel in the center, Kenny's name arched across the top, and "Hero" across the bottom.
Wynter curled up next to Jimmy on the sofa, careful to keep her shoes off the seat, and rested her chin on her crossed hands atop his shoulder while he paged through his new book on mummies. He finally turned bright eyes to her, grinned and nodded, and then whispered that he loved her before giving her a kiss.
Kenny, sitting on the love seat with Suzie, one arm snaked around her and caressing the side of her breast with his hidden hand, perked up. "Did I just hear the 'L' word? _OW!_"
Suzie grinned and then punched his arm a second time. "Don't you dare make fun of them, you dolt! It wouldn't hurt you to use that word with me more often, you know."
"Yeah," he whispered back. "I do love you, you know." He glanced toward Wynter and Jimmy and saw them smiling back at him. He groaned, knowing they'd heard him.
Jimmy looked at his watch. "We hate to kick you out, but we're going to Wynter's house now."
Kenny frowned. "What are you going to do there that you can't do here?"
Suzie punched his arm a third time. "What do you think, you dolt?"
Kenny rolled his eyes, while Jimmy made eyeglasses circles in front of his with his fingers. "_Earth to Kenny! Duh!_"
Wynter kissed Jimmy and rose. She put her head between Kenny's and Suzie's and whispered so softly as to be almost inaudible, "Mother and Daddy went shopping in Denver. They're having supper at some place Daddy took her when he was in college. They'll be back really late."
Suzie and Kenny exchanged glances. He raised an eyebrow. She grinned and nodded, and Kenny whispered, "Can we sorta tag along? Mother and Dad are having some Doctor Brees from Boston over for dinner. He's trying to get a job at the hospital. And Suzie's folks are having the Jacksons over. I'd, um, we'd like to have a little action time to ourselves, too. And besides, we're still waiting for an opportunity to shower together."
"_What?_" Wynter flinched when she realized she spoken aloud. Very much aloud.
"Oh, come on. Please? You know I'd let you guys if it were at my place."
Wynter shook her head and tapped her foot. "You just want a chance to get a look at my tits," she whispered.
"No, I don't. Honest!" he whispered as he crossed his heart. "I wanna have some fun with Suzie _and_ look at your tits."
In the end Kenny and Suzie won. They decided to leave Kenny's presents at Jimmy's house, and he would pick them up on his way home.
By the time they reached Wynter's house they had decided that Kenny and Suzie could use the spare bedroom. "If there's any problem, I'll just blame it on Aunt Dumb and Uncle Bozo," Wynter explained. "Nobody'd argue with that."
After they greeted Dragon and removed their coats, Kenny shoved his tongue down Suzie's throat and his right hand down the back of her jeans.
"Geez!" Jimmy moaned while Wynter closed and bolted the door. "Don't you two have any self-control at all?"
"Unh-uh," grunted Kenny as he pulled the front of Suzie's blouse out of her jeans and ran his free hand up under it. He pulled his head back long enough to ask, "Don't you think you've made your girlfriend wait long enough?" and then tried to resume kissing while Suzie laughed and agreed with him. Then her tongue exploded into his mouth and she started fumbling with his zipper.
Wynter circled her arms around Jimmy's neck. "Kenny's right for a change. I think I have waited long enough." She pulled his face to hers. Some seconds or hours later he realized she was squeezing his butt and he was moaning softly as her tongue fought back-and-forth with his. He kissed his way free and together they turned to face Kenny and Suzie.
They were watching, of course. Both were wearing Kenny's Patented Shit-Eating Grin as they stood there with her jeans unbuttoned, her blouse open, and Kenny's left hand shoved up under a bra cup and moving. Her eyes glazed over, and she cooed at whatever his right hand was doing down the back of her jeans. "We didn't want to interrupt you since it sounded as if you were having a really great time," Kenny said. "We were going to give you thirty seconds more and then use the couch."
"Smarty pants!" Wynter said and stuck out her tongue.
The Patented Shit-Eating Grin widened. "Hey! Is that in invitation for a French kiss?"
"Sure is," she said. "For Jimmy. Let's go upstairs before you scare Dragon."
Suzie giggled and pointed. "You think he can walk with that stiffy?"
Wynter shrugged and pointed at Kenny's crotch. "I know Jimmy can if he can."
~ ~ ~
Jimmy reached up to cup his hands around the soft, firm mounds with their hard little berries while Wynter rode him. She threw her head back and moaned deep in her throat and then convulsed several times. She moaned louder when he lifted his head to suck and flutter his tongue over one of her nipples. After the throbbing around his dick stopped, he lowered his head to the pillow and gave her his special nod and grin.
Wynter braced her hands on his shoulders and let her head sag while she gasped for air. Her long blonde hair cascaded over her shoulders.
"You know," he observed, "I really do love seeing you in your ponytail, but you're just as beautiful with your hair down."
She clamped her cunny tighter around him and smiled. "You'd say you liked seeing me bald if I were," she accused.
"I doubt it. Then I couldn't run my fingers through your hair."
She straightened, took one of his hands, and placed his fingers on her cornsilk patch. "Here's a substitute," she said with a giggle.
She jumped when Suzie shrieked, "_KENNY!_" and broke up in a fit of laughter. "What the heck do you think they're doing in there?" she asked, frowning down at him.
He slid his finger to her clitty and tickled it while he humped up into her hot wetness several times. "They're trying to have as much fun as I'm having, but I doubt they are."
"Ooooh!" She wiggled her butt. "I sure don't see how they could."
A loud banging on the door startled both of them and caused Dragon to jump to his feet. Wynter called him over to the side of the bed and told him to sit.
"Hey! Give it a rest and open up, you two!"
"Yeah!" agreed Suzie. "Take a break. You don't wanna wear him out too early."
"C'mon, open up!"
"Yeah! C'mon! It's important!"
Wynter slid off of Jimmy's erection and pulled on a tee shirt as he turned down the covers.
More banging. "Hey! Come up for air! You shouldn't muff dive that long without scuba gear!"
"Yeah! You might get Ben's or something."
They slid into bed and pulled up the covers. "_Okay!_" Wynter said in a very annoyed tone. "Come in before you break the door hinges."
Wynter and Jimmy were astonished when one naked barely-twelve-year-old and one naked still-eleven-year-old burst into the room. Suzie towed Kenny by his built-in leash.
"Aw, man!" whined Kenny. "You covered 'em up!"
"I told you she would, you dolt," Suzie said with that look of righteous certainty that women get when they have been proven correct. It was a strange look when combined with the hickey opposite her birthmark and the thin, wet, matted hairs plastered to her glistening thigh and the pearly drop seeping from between her pudgy lower lips.
"Look out!" Jimmy said, pointing at Suzie's cunny. "You're gonna drip cum on the carpet."
Suzie surprised them all by glancing down while hunching her pussy forward, scraping a crooked index finger across her pussy lips, and popping finger with its collected liquid into her mouth. She smiled and swallowed.
"What the heck to you two want?" Jimmy sounded very upset to Wynter. She glanced at his ears, expecting to see steam venting.
"Hey, we need a ruler!"
"Yeah!" Suzie agreed. "Kenny thinks his stiffy has finally started growing." She glanced down to the erection in her fist. "We need to check it out."
Wynter shook her head as the naked couple moved between Jimmy and Wynter's desk. "You couldn't just get one from Daddy's office?"
"We didn't want to mess with his stuff," Kenny explained. "And besides, I knew I wouldn't get to see your tits in his office."
She crossed her arms over her covered breasts, so that he couldn't see even their outline. "You won't get to see them in here, either."
"Shit." He shook his head. "Well, we need the ruler anyway."
Wynter sighed in exasperation and pointed to her desk. She and Jimmy watched in morbid fascination as Suzie grabbed the ruler and then placed it on top of Kenny's erection. "Is this right?" Suzie asked.
"It's faster if I do it," he said, marking the spot with a thumbnail and then letting out a whoop. "_YES! Almost a quarter of an inch!_"
"We're thrilled for you," Jimmy said in a dry voice. "You wanna get outta here now, so we can get back to what we were doing before we were so crudely interrupted?"
Suzie held the ruler toward him with a grin. "You want to check yours?"
Suzie straightened as if she'd been insulted. "I was gonna let Wynter measure it for you, you dolt."
"I don't need to measure it," Wynter said. "It's just right."
Jimmy gave her a grin and then changed it to a smirk as he glanced at Kenny. "I guess you'll let us know when it's big enough for Suzie, won't you, putz? Until then, get the hell out."
Suzie wrapped her hand around it again and pumped it twice. "Well, what do you know about that? It's perfect right now! Let's go put it to good use." She turned and led the way to the door.
"Hey, Kenny," Jimmy said as the door was almost closed.
Kenny stopped and pushed the door open. "What?"
Jimmy smirked. "If I were you, I'd get used to her leading you around by your dick."
Wynter laughed and then whispered in Jimmy's ear. He grinned and nodded while Kenny called him an asshole and again pulled the door toward himself.
"Hey, Kenny," Wynter said as the door was almost closed.
He sighed, pushed the door open, and half-snarled, "What?"
Wynter grabbed the bottom of her tee shirt and pulled it up for precisely one second. She tugged it back down and said, "Don't go away mad. Bye!"
Suzie had to tell him to shut his mouth and close the door.
~ ~ ~
The next day, Kenny asked Wynter if she'd draw the _Studman_ cartoon for him. She listened to what he wanted and then explained the difference between a caricature and a blatant lie.
~ ~ ~
November twenty-third was also on a Sunday. The thunderstorm, while unusual during a snow storm, wasn't unheard of, but it closed Wizard Basin. The temperature almost rose to zero outside. In the Middletons' basement, Suzie's birthday party was quite warm and cozy. Suzie was almost glad that the closure of Wizard Basin meant she couldn't have a skiing party. She'd had Kenny invite her to go skiing the day before, and she was still recovering from that heavy day of activity, both on and off the slope. She wasn't too tired to dance, but she spent the least amount of time on the dance floor.
Since there was only one guest of honor on her birthday, the boys decided that Suzie would get to decide which of them was the best kisser. She received a round of applause when Kenny kissed her and she warped her face, saying, "Oh, _YUCK!_"
Kenny promised to "get" her after that, but she wasn't worried. All she had to do was whisper that she was horny and he'd do anything she asked. She did just that after everyone had left, and he muff dived her on the basement couch. Then he did her standing up and leaning over the back of the couch. Next she sat on the back of the couch until he got it inside her. Then she wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist and he stood in the middle of the floor and did her.
After that he forgot all about "getting" her.
~ ~ ~
On the day before Thanksgiving a "Sold" sign appeared in the yard of the former Hamilton house.
~ ~ ~
The morning of Saturday the twentieth of December was clear and sunny, but the barometer was falling. More snow was predicted to start that night and to continue through Wynter's birthday on Monday. The Four met at Kenny's house to celebrate the Christmas break from school. They worked together to build a large snowman and then built two snow forts for a snowball fight. Suzie proved to have deadly accuracy and was steadily pounding Wynter and Jimmy when a moving van turned the corner at Seabridge Trail and crept down the street. After it passed them the driver switched on his turn signals and pulled alongside the left curb, stopping at the old Hamilton place.
A Mercedes SUV with a Massachusetts license plate drove past. In the back seat, behind the man driving, elbow on the arm rest and chin in her hand, sat a pretty girl with long red hair. She looked like she'd have to cheer up to cry. The Four waved at her. Her face exploded into a round-cheeked, bright smile and she furiously waved back, turning to keep waving at them until the vehicle pulled into the driveway behind the moving van. She jumped out of the vehicle and waved again, until her mother said something to her. Her arm dropped, her head lowered, and she trudged into the house.
Wynter and Jimmy joined the opposition at their fort on the end of the yard closest to the new neighbors. Suzie spoke first. "She's beautiful!"
"Yeah," Jimmy agreed. "But I don't think I've ever seen a sadder face on anybody in my life."
Wynter put an arm around Jimmy and leaned against him. "Did you see how she cheered up when she saw us? I think we should ask her to join us."
Suzie snorted. "Do you think her stupid mother would let her? She sure seemed like a stupid bitch to me the way she barked at her when she got out of the car."
Jimmy turned his head to Wynter. "Maybe you should invite her to your birthday party."
"Yeah!" Suzie said. "We should go meet her and find out what she's like. Then you could invite another boy so she wouldn't be the only one by herself. Right, Kenny?"
But Kenny hadn't heard a single word anyone had said. He was still standing wide-eyed and slack-jawed, staring down the street at where the gorgeous little redhead had waved at _him!_
Kevin Kenneth Taylor, Junior, was completely, totally, hopelessly head-over-heels in love.
© Russell Hoisington 2005