Chapter 6 - 'Jason! Your nose!'
Jason picked himself up off the ground and looked behind him. The door was gone. Only the rough bark of the tree met his searching eyes.
"Guess I should have thought of that first." He said to himself. He craned his neck up and could just make out what looked like a wooden walkway circling the tree, high up in the branches. He shielded his eyes from the sun and then with a start realized it was nearly noon.
"Right, well... now I'm down here, I might as well have a look about." He said to the surrounding trees. He opened his mouth again and then slapped himself lightly on the cheek. "Stop talking to yourself, you crazy bastard!"
He jogged through the forest aimlessly, until he heard what sounded like a bubbling brook. He followed the sound of rushing water until he came to a cool clear pool with a small spring running into it. "Thank god!" he sighed as he stripped his clothes off and dashed into the water. He gasped as the cold water reached his loins but he dove under the surface anyway. The water banished the last remnants of grogginess from his head.
After scrubbing himself thoroughly, he pulled himself back onto the grass and lay in the warm sun as the water on his body dried. He sighed happily and folded his arms behind his back, enjoying the moment. The gentle rustle of leaves in the canopy was hypnotic, and he was soon lost to time as his mind drifted.
The leaves gently undulated and then a double image formed over them, making ghostly, wispy patterns in the air. A woodpecker flew by overhead, flying seemingly with two pairs of wings and trailing green dust that dissipated after a few moments. Time crawled to a near standstill as Jason turned on his side to observe the trees. A squirrel hopped from the tree line in search of acorns and a ghostly after image darted along behind it. The squirrel scanned the ground and hopped closer to Jason, seemingly oblivious to him.
It came closer still and Jason could make out tiny tendrils of green mist twisting about its feet and spreading across the ground. A few feet away from him, the squirrel suddenly halted in its tracks and stood on its hind legs. Its ears twitched and it sniffed the air. And then it was gone, darting back into the woods.
With a jolt Jason came back to reality and blinked his eyes as the forest was plunged into twilight. Somehow, evening had already fallen.
"Great." Jason said hollowly into the evening light. "Twice in one day. 'The fuck is wrong with me?"
"Jason?" Someone was calling him. They repeated his name loudly to the forest, and it became obvious that they had woken Jason from his revere. Jason also realized with a sense of apprehension that they had been calling for some time. The calling became louder and then suddenly more intense.
"Jason!" Matt's voice echoed around the clearing as he ran to Jason's side. He was still lying prone on the ground.
"Where the hell have you been?" he demanded as he knelt by him. "I've been calling you for four hours!"
Jason could feel his motor neurons slowly re-activating as he forced his answer. "Sorry, I guess I didn't hear you."
Matt looked at him strangely. "Are you alright?"
A look of irritation flashed across Jason's face, "I'm fine."
"How long have you been out here?" His voice was steeped with concern.
"I don't know, since noon I guess." Jason managed to answer. He felt a cool evening breeze blow across his exposed skin. Too much exposed skin. Jason started as he realized he was still naked from his mid-day bath. He grabbed his nearby clothes and tried to cover himself up, blushing deeply. Matt seemed not to notice.
Matt stood and as he did so, the long black coat he was wearing opened briefly and Jason caught sight of gun in a belt holster. Then the coat swung back and covered it up.
"Come on," Matt said as he began to walk towards the trees, "Lets head back and I'll fix you something to eat."
Jason sprang to his feet and struggled to pull his clothes on as he followed after him. Jason almost lost Matt at one point, as he seemed to drift seamlessly through the evening shadows, as if he were camouflaged.
When they arrived back at the tree, Matt walked to the trunk and withdrew a gold key from beneath his coat. He pressed it into a barely visible hole in the trunk, turned the key and pulled with it to open the door. The stairwell lay beyond. Jason stepped through and found himself back in the stairwell. Matt stepped through behind him. Jason meant to ask him about the door, when Matt brushed past him into the living room and Jason noticed that was once again the only door in the stairwell.
As he walked into the living room, Matt called over his shoulder for him to light a fire as he departed down the corridor. When Jason had a fire roaring in the hearth, he made his way down towards the kitchen. There he found Matt, setting a tray with another bowl of the porridge stuff and a cup of tea. Jason picked up the tray and carried it back to the living room.
Matt followed him in a moment later, dressed now in kaki slacks and a tight, pale blue t-shirt that displayed his bulging arm muscles. They resumed their positions on the couch from the previous night and Jason swallowed a mouthful of the porridge, savoring the sweet taste.
After a while, he realized Matt was watching him intently. He looked up and their eyes connected. "D-do you have something to eat?" Jason stuttered.
Matt gave a short laugh, "I'm fine, thanks." There was an uncomfortable silence and then Matt said, "I was just wondering what it's like, eating." He flushed and looked at his lap. Jason just sat, staring at him and pondering the strange comment.
Eventually Jason resumed eating and then paused again to ask, "Where were you today, anyway?"
"Uh, visiting. I was visiting someone."
"Oh." Evidently, Matt wasn't going to elaborate.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be gone so long." Matt apologized.
"It's OK," Jason smiled. "It gave me a chance to walk about."
Finishing his meal, Jason set the bowl on the floor and sipped at his tea. The evening seemed to fly by, and before he knew it, he was beginning to doze. He carried his tray back to the kitchen and left in on the counter, for lack of a better place to put it. When he entered the living room, Matt was crouching by the fire, scattering the coals.
"Goodnight." He said as Jason passed by.
"Goodnight." He answered and closed his bedroom door.
Jason lay in bed, staring up at the flowing wood ceiling. It had been at least a few hours since he'd bid goodnight to Matt, and yet since then, he'd not been able to stop thinking about him. He thought about Matt's body, his gorgeous face, and finally the enigma that surrounded him. Jason realized he didn't actually know anything about Matt. Matt was a complete unknown to him, a stunningly gorgeous, undeniably straight, unknown. But unknown all the same.
Sighing exasperatedly, Jason finally gave up on sleep and rolled out of bed. He pulled on his shirt and boxers and then wrapped the blanket around him again for good measure. He made his way from the room and headed towards the stairs, hoping to cool off in the deck.
* * *
Matt sat on the wooden deck platform, cross-legged, attempting to meditate. The day had been almost unbearable. He'd arrived back at the house mid-afternoon and panicked when Jason was nowhere to be found. He'd searched everywhere and was about to alert the council, when he found the doors in the stair well. Realizing what must have happened, he had used the gold key to unlock the door and had raced out into the woods in search of Jason.
He'd been beginning to think that Jason would be lost forever in the forest, until he'd discovered Jason's tracks. He's been running, but gently. Matt had sighed with relief to know he hadn't been chased.
He'd wandered for several hours, calling Jason's name before he finally found him, around sunset, asleep on the soft grass by a clear pool. Matt had run to him calling his name in relief. And when he knelt beside Jason, it had taken all of his willpower not to just lean forward, taste his luscious lips and caress his beautiful body. Jason had seemed confused and a bit dazed, so Matt had taken him back to the house and had fixed him a meal.
Matt had been so concerned about Jason that he forgot what he was saying at one point and revealed that he didn't eat. He'd hoped that Jason had passed it off as a joke; at least he'd made no comment about it.
He struggled to clear his mind so that he could meditate, and was finally settling into the depths of his unconscious mind when he caught a scent on the air.
It was just a whiff, but it brought him quickly back. It was a whiff of Jason. The personal scent that Jason seemed to exude at all times. He turned his head and looked over at the stairs. There he was. Wrapped in a blanket, to stave off the chill air, beautiful as moonlight filtered down onto his face.
"Hi..." he said.
Jason had silently made his way up the stairs and found Matt sitting on his platform with his back to him. He was about to go back down, not wanting to disturb him, when Matt had turned around.
"Hi..." he said.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you" Jason said as he turned to go.
"No, it's ok." Matt looked at him intently. "Are you alright?"
Jason shrugged. "Yeah, I just couldn't sleep."
Matt smiled and swung his legs off the platform and slid along, making room for Jason. He beckoned for him to take a seat.
Jason sat down, their sides almost touching. "How did you know I was there?" he asked jokingly.
"I smelled you." He said quite seriously, and then sniffed the air like a dog, ruining the moment. Jason burst out laughing. When he'd calmed down, he settled back onto the platform and their arms touched lightly. Neither moved their arms, both of them relishing the sensation.
Jason sighed. "This place is wonderful. I haven't had a chance to relax like this for a long time."
"Yeah, this is one of my favorite places in this world." He turned his face towards Jason, "I-Jason! Your nose!"
"What?" Jason asked startled. He bought his hand to his nose and touched it. It felt wet. His hand came away covered in blood. "Well that's interesting!" he said, disbelieving. He stood and then his head was filled with an agonizing throbbing. He gasped as his eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed onto the deck.
Matt leapt to his side and tried to staunch the flow of blood with the blanket. "Shit. Shit. Shit!" he swore under his breath.
"I- I think I screwed up, Matt," Jason managed a weak smile before his body started to fail. Jason had gone limp and Matt picked him up in his arms. "It's gonna' be OK Jase, we’re going to get you some help."
Matt's voice echoed in his ears as if he was talking from far away. "It's gonna' be OK Jase..."
Jason felt his heart flutter in his chest. He'd called him 'Jase!' Only his best friends and his sister called him that. God! He loved it when Matt said it.
Jason was vaguely aware of being carried through the house as Matt ran. They passed through the living room and into the hall, but Matt stopped at the first door. He raised his foot and kicked the door. It splintered and Matt dashed through. Jason just saw stars swirling past him, and then he closed his eyes and they would not open again.