Chapter 13: Forever

Charlie and his Dad joined Chief Andy and the rest of the village in helping to dispose of the bear carcass the next day.

As Cam had predicted, the fur was useless; matted, tangled, and dirty, staring and unkempt, it wasn't worth keeping. The long, curved claws were carefully harvested, however, and left to dry in Andy's shop; so were the teeth. Then they tied ropes around the bear's legs and tied them off to the bumpers of Charlie's jeep and one of the other villagers' 4x4, and they towed the dead bear out of the village, high up into the mountains to a small cave. The cave had a large boulder rolled in front of it; not enough to obscure the opening but enough so that nothing could get in and eat the contaminated bear; when Charlie helped two other men roll the boulder back he saw the litter of bear bones within; one of the other braves explained. "We leave them to decompose here naturally when we find one that's sick so the sickness doesn't spread, and so that we have a supply of bone for various projects later, like carved bone handles for canes and the like. We don't waste anything."

Charlie helped them roll the bear carcass into the cave and the boulder back over the opening, then they all returned to the village. By afternoon more food had been prepared , and that evening the feasting and celebration picked up where it left off the previous evening, this time without the interruption of a rogue bear!

Saturday a group of the village women elected to carpool to Buffalo to go shopping, and Charlie and his father spent most of the day helping Chief Andy and the other males of the village prepare their houses for the winter. Extra caulking around doors and windows, nailing down loose shingles and roofing material, replacing shingles and siding where necessary, and at the end of the day Andy offered his help to Jimmy and Charlie to get Cam's house ready. "How long are y'all going to stay?" he asked.

"General Hawk said to be back at the beginning of the New Year."

"So you're going to spend the holidays with us. Wonderful." Andy grinned. "Really making yourself at home with us, huh?"

Charlie grinned. "I realize I'm not technically a member of your tribe—"

Andy interrupted him. "Of course you are. You married our future medicine woman, that makes you part of the tribe. And your parents, too. All are welcome."

"Really?" Jimmy paused, looking seriously at Chief Andy. "Because Myra and I were thinking about moving."

Charlie stared at his father open-mouthed. Andy raised an eyebrow. "From what I understand, you are one of the desert tribes. What makes you want to move? Especially up here, where we have harsh winters with a lot of snow?"

"I'll admit Myra isn't too thrilled about the snow part. She hates cold. But here is as good a place as any. Life is difficult where we are now, and many of our tribe are moving. There are many who see the color of skin and jump to conclusions, and those conclusions are a violation of everything we believe. Some are determined to wait it out, thinking it will get better but many are moving."

Andy thought for a moment, then pushed his hat back on his head. "Cameron is part of our tribe. You, as her parents by marriage, are now also a member of our tribe and Myra Ironknife can hold property in her own right. If you choose to move here you will be welcome. If we do not have a home in which you can live we can build you one—I have no doubt Cam would let you live in her house until it is done. I am Chief and my word is law unless the headwoman of the tribe chooses to remove me from my position, and somehow," his lips quirked in a smile, "I doubt very much that she would do so at this point. So if you want to move here, be welcome."

"Thank you. I'll talk to Myra about it."

After Andy left Charlie turned to his Dad. "Are you serious?"

"I am serious. One of the People was stopped on his way back to the reservation by police officers, who checked his license and registration, then asked about his citizenship. He gave the officer his tribal registration card, which the officer clamed was fraudulent and arrested him. He was not given an opportunity to call his wife or anyone else; she found him when she went to the police station to file a missing persons report when he didn't come home. When she found out what he was being held for, she produced his birth certificate and the chief of their tribe to confirm his registration. It is a very, very different place now that it was when Myra and I chose to settle on the reservation and had you, and those changes are not for the better, and we have decided that we don't want to live there anymore."

That evening over the dinner table Charlie, Jimmy, Myra and Cam discussed it. "Of course you can live here until they have a home for you," Cam said, smiling. "It'll be nice to have family that close. When are you moving?"

"We haven't decided we're actually moving yet," Myra objected.

"Well, just know that if you do decide, you're welcome to live here. Don't forget, I was in that deportation camp in Otero County, I know what it was like and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy." Cam's eyes were haunted, and Myra and Jimmy nodded soberly—they remembered what Charlie had told them about her brush with immigration.

The rest of the weekend passed uneventfully, and Sunday afternoon when Charlie's parents packed up their things to leave it was with real regret. Myra and Cam hugged, crying, promising to write each other emails and letters, and then they were gone.

When Charlie came back from dropping his parents off at the airport he found Cam sitting on their bed looking slightly lost. "Having them around kind of felt like family," she said to Charlie. "I know they were only here for four days but it felt so comfortable, like this was how it was supposed to be, and now they're gone, and suddenly the house just seems…emptier."

"Well, it's not empty now, I'm home."

"Is this home or is the base home? I'm not sure anymore." She sounded unsure of herself, suddenly.

He cuddled up next to her in bed as he turned out the light. Lying skin-to-skin, with nothing if sexual desire in the contact, was the most wonderful feeling in the world, and he told her that. "Cam, I don't care. This is a house. It's our house yes, but it's a house. And the base, while it may have been home for a while, is also just base. Home, for me, now and for the rest of my life, is going to be right here with you. Forever."

He felt her sleepy smile against his chest. "Home is wherever you are too."

"Forever?" he asked her quietly.

"Forever," she snuggled happily against him as they drifted into sleep.

Author's Note: All right, that's it for this one. Thanks for sticking with the story thus far, we're right about halfway through. Thanks for taking this little side-trip with me; I know it seemed like we were digressing from the Joes, but I promise the next book, we're definitely getting back on track. It's called GI Joe: Secrets, and the first three chapters will go up concurrently to this one, and there are going to be some major life-changing events for many of our favorite Joes. I put this novelette in here because understanding the relationship Charlie and Cam have developed is going to be absolutely critical to the next two books…er, three.

So look for GI Joe: Secrets! And thanks for reading!