After the Apocalypse
Chapter 84: Reunion

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

Dave, Lou and Mark pulled into camp and went directly to the Trout Lake building. There had been some debate about where they should go but ultimately the fireplace in the Trout Lake building was the deciding factor. They unloaded most of the truck then got back in and headed over the dam to Beaver Creek. They were so intent on their upcoming plans and so glad to know everyone was back in camp they never even noticed Harig watching them from the shadows just off the road.

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The trio pulled into camp moments later causing John a moment's consternation since the alarm hadn't gone off and Harig hadn't radioed them. As Lou and the others got out of the car, Harig's voice crackled over the radio with the message that the alarm was reset. John absently acknowledged the transmission, then turned off the portable radio to conserve batteries. When he saw they were unloading something from the back of the truck his heart sank. Had they found Steve? He, Dave and Joe all rushed to the car only to discover that the payload was mostly candybars and snack foods.

"Did you find Steve" he asked, not bothering to comment on their decision to bring back candy over real food.

"Sort of." said Dave noncommitally, "We're pretty sure he was in Metamora and we think he found a snowmobile and headed west towards Port Huron, but that's all we know. We stopped following him at 69 when we fond out Joe and Dave were in trouble."

"Damn. Well, we can talk more about it tomorrow. Dinner's ready and everyone's waiting for us."

"Sure they are," said Mark. "When has Winter Camp ever held up a meal to make sure the goons got something to eat?"

"Good point. Maybe we'd better hurry."

The six of them came up the stairs and opened the door to the cabin to find that everyone was, indeed, waiting for them. There was a moment of awkward silence as if someone should say something. Finally, Roger Horn began to speak:

"Heavenly Father, we thank you for the safe return of our friends and pray that you can provide those who are not with us today with the same blessings - life, health, shelter, safety and food - you have bestowed upon us. Amen."

The group mumbled its own amen and the complicated process of feeding 113 people in a building designed to house twenty-five began. Less than half the contingent at any meal had a chair with many people sitting on bunks to eat. There had been a few "spilled food" incidents, but most people accepted the risk in exchange for the chance to gather at least once a day. Winter Camp was more of a family than it had ever been before and this was the equivalent of the family meal.

Following the meal, there was a bit of commotion. Jeff was trying to get the five of them into the main area and when he finally succeeded, he had Neile and John bring out a very large sheet cake. The cake was decorated with a map of D-A on the left side and the words "Welcome Home" on the right. It was beautiful, provoking a lot of excited oohs and aahs from the assembled crowd. The pair stopped in front of Jeff so he could light the candles they'd placed on it.

"HOME! HOME? This isn't my home, this is some stupid scout camp. My home is gone and no bs cake is going to make up for it!" screamed Dave as he suddenly grabbed the front edge of the cake and flipped it up and back into the still-smiling Jeff. "This is just nuts!" he yelled as he stormed out of the building and into the road. A stunned silence once again filled the room.

"Can I have Milon's piece?" asked Dr. Beast, breaking the silence. Everyone laughed, as much out of nervousness as at the actual joke. The cake was mostly salvageable, having flipped up and back with remarkable speed. Mostly all that was damaged was the decorations. Jeff forgot about the candles and began cutting and serving the cake.

"Don't you think someone should go after him," asked Melissa.

"No, he just needs to cool down. He'll be fine," replied John. "He just needs to blow off some steam."

Melissa heard his words but she wasn't sure she believed them. She didn't know any of the campers very well, but she was coming to understand that they didn't know each other very well either. In some ways, she was certain they were denying how much they cared about each other, fairly typical behavior for men. She excused herself and found her coat and boots so she could go after Dave. She knew, from her training, that it was important that he be brought back in as part of the group as soon as possible to avoid fragmentation and reduced morale. She called out to him, but he didn't seem to hear her, so she followed him.

Out on the road Dave almost immediately regretted his outburst. He knew deep down that nothing had been meant by the word home, but it bothered him. D-A wasn't his home and he wasn't ready to call it that yet. It had a certain air of finality to it, a sort of admission that they couldn't go back again. Intellectually, he knew that was probably true, but emotionally he, like many other campers he was sure, wasn't ready to give up on mom and apple pie just yet. He thought about turning around and going back in to apologize, but then he heard the laughter in the cabin and realized they were laughing at him. Rather than face them again, he decided to go down to the Trout Lake building and hang out for a while; along the way, he passed Harig, who was just returning from resetting the alarm. He had taken a long time to complete that trivial task, but Dave didn't even think about it.

It took about ten minutes for Dave to get to the Trout Lake building, his anger making him walk very fast. Melissa tried to catch up at first, but eventually gave up. Dave never looked back, so she just followed him, figuring eventually he'd slow down enough and they could talk. She didn't know much about him, but she did like him. Except for his tantrum of a moment ago, he seemed like a decent guy - concerned about his friends, helpful, maybe a little headstrong. He was by far the most stylish of the Winter Campers and she'd always loved a sharp-dressed man.

She caught up with him after he went into one of the many buildings in camp. It always amazed her that a Boy Scout camp would have so many cabins. Did these guys ever sleep outside? Nervously, she knocked on the door of the cabin. When there was no answer, she opened the door and walked in.

"Hello? Is anyone here?"

"I'm here."

"Would you like a little company?"

"I've got my buddy Jose here, that's all the company I need at the moment," replied Dave.

"Well, I could use a little company," she said. "Can I join you two?"

"Sure," said Dave, a slight chuckle punctuating his response.

Melissa came into the room and found Dave busily trying to light a fire. Next to him on the ground was an open bottle of Jose Cuervo.

"Where'd that come from?" she asked, more than a little shocked to find alcohol at a scout camp.

"Town," said Dave, "not everyone wastes their time picking up dog food and kleenex."

"I see. I don't suppose I could have a sip."

"Sure can, I got a few more bottles in the kitchen."

She sat on the ground near him and watched him start the fire then sit back up. They passed the bottle back and forth a few more times, gradually loosening up in their conversation which ranged from the events of a few moments ago to Winter Camps and other events in the past. Melissa found Dave to be an excellent conversationalist. He was witty, smart and informed; she was almost certain she had felt that way before they were both drunk.

"All we need now is a bearskin rug," she said.

"A rug?"

"Well, we've got a beautiful fire, some fine liquor, great conversation, it's all very romantic. A girl could loose her head."

"We wouldn't anyone to loose that... yet" said Dave, quouting Willy Wonka despite his better judgement. "I'm sure we could manage something," he said.

The fire burned merrily for several more minutes, but was reduced to naught but ashes by the time the two awoke in the morning.

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