Danny forked a couple of hamburgers off the griddle. 'I guess it's only natural. You go to all the dern trouble of saving someone's ass, you don't want them to go get bust up or all your efforts were for nothing.'
'Yep. That's right. Then there's something else.' Johnny looked sidelong at Danny who immediately caught the drift of his thoughts.
'Whoa Johnny! You ain't thinking 'bout the ceremony?' But Johnny was, and Danny knew it. 'The hell you are!'
'Sometimes you get a feeling about it. I reckon he's a good candidate.'
'But Johnny, a white boy?'
'Danny. His blood's still red ain't it?'
'Sure Johnny, but I thought you liked the guy, and here you are talking about putting him through the ceremony.'
'Turn the chicken leg before it catches.'
Danny flipped the chicken from the grill and scraped at the blackened skin. There was something in Johnny's last command that held a clear warning; further talk of the ceremony was off.
Would the afternoon and evening have passed so well for Mike had he known Johnny's plans for him? Definitely not. But wait - maybe they would. Mike enjoyed himself so much that events in the future - even the immediate future - may well have been blotted out. Here were people who liked him, or so it seemed; people who wanted no more from him than his company. Chew the fat, fool around, splash about in the river. Yes, Mike even took the plunge, quite literally, and in the past he had avoided water like it was acid. Sure, he stuck to the shallows and was ever vigilant for early signs of an attack, but Johnny wouldn't let anything happen to him, so he felt safe. Safe. Good and safe - and happy.
Mike didn't feel all that comfortable with 'happy'. It was a sure sign disaster would soon strike. So let it strike, but let it wait at least a couple of weeks.
Warm evening drew it's veil over the friends, but was held at bay by an ember-chucking camp fire. Danny and Summer held each other close - and Cody probably held Lianne closer and more intimately for they had taken to the privacy of the darkening shadows. But there was still no sign of intimacy between Kate and Johnny. In fact it seemed to Mike that she drew closer to himself in the loose circle about the fire while Johnny sat, elbows on knees and chin in hands, staring into the flame. Mike stared at Johnny staring into the flame until Johnny's face was like a disembodied globe glowing red against black. He felt someone at his side. Kate.
'A penny for them, Mike,' she whispered.
'Eh? What?' Mike snapped out of it.
'You seemed a million miles away just then. Floating out there somewhere with Jean-Luc,' she said, sweeping a hand toward the heavens.
'The bald Brit?' Mike chuckled. 'Yeah, or James T.'
'You know what the "T" stands for? In "James T. Kirk"?'
'Nope. I mean... wait a minute: it came up in the last movie. "Tiberius"!'
'You got it! We'll make a Trekker of you yet. Let's try you with another. What's the Enterprise's fleet number?
''s easy. "NCC 1701".'
'Okay. So what does "NCC" stand for?'
Mike looked up to the stars, checking out the Big E's medium for inspiration. 'Got it! "No Cruddy Cargo".'
They laughed softly, and then Kate giggled as the sound of Cody's and Lianne's lovemaking caressed the night. Mike looked over to Johnny who sat immobile, still lost in a swirling world of hot gasses.
'Kate. Are you and Johnny, like, going together?'
'No. Funny, but I was about to ask you the same thing.'
The reflected light of the fire colored Mike's face red, so the deep blush was indistinguishable. He didn't try to speak - he knew confusion and embarrassment would twist his words into something less than coherent speech.
'It's alright if you are, Mike. I didn't just step out of the fifties. I don't believe in validating a relationship by the nature of the sexual acts by which it is expressed.'
'The answer is a big fat NO! Me and him ain't.'
'Okay,' said Kate, beginning to wish she had kept her mouth shut. 'I wasn't prying. I was just curious.'