Chapter Fourteen



Dallas lay on his pallet pondering ways to get Kevin to notice him as a possible sex partner. He’d tried everything bar striping himself and saying ‘take me’. Sitting around the bonfire last night and leaning against Kevin’s legs while letting his hands wander had seemed to be working until Kevin gently grabbed his wrists and restrained him. Dallas was wondering why this had excited him so much. Heat from the bonfire could not be used as a valid excuse. He had feelings for this man that he’d never felt before and it scared him. He felt himself hesitating. ‘Settling on just one man probably wouldn’t work for me anyway,’ he tried to reason it out. ‘Better keep my options open. Bet that’s what he’s doing as well.’

“God,” he groaned, “time to get up.” He rolled over and reluctantly got to his feet. He slowly dressed and then walked out of the tent to face another day. He grimaced when the early morning sun hit his eyes.

He was feeling the effects of withdrawal due to having used up the last of his morphine two nights ago. He shivered again as he fingered the knife in his pocket. ‘The tent was only canvas. I could probably cut it and gain access without anyone being the wiser,’ he thought as he trudged over to the mess hall knowing he’d have to at least pretend to eat breakfast. ‘I’ll just keep my eye open for an opportunity to sneak in and get a couple of vials of my drug of choice.’

Kevin realized he seemed to be watching Dallas most of the time now. He’s been shocked when he’d finally realized the cause of the man’s erratic behavior. The violent mood swings; one moment enthusiastic with an activity, another moment utterly bored with life in general. Kevin knew the signs of opiate withdrawal and Dallas seemed to be showing many of them; uncontrolled shivering, apparent body aches, possibly a slight temperature and most definitely irritability. He also had a good idea of what Dallas would soon be going through. Rugby was a tough game and Kevin had seen men addicted to morphine and had witnessed the symptoms of withdrawal. He shuddered and silently prayed that the young man he was coming to care for, would be one of those who came through the ordeal of withdrawal intact.

After the dishes had been put away and when he was sure no one was watching, Wayne quickly scrapped some leftovers into a tin container. He’d been doing this for three days now.
    
“Hey, Wayne, w-what are you doing w-with the leftovers? I n-need them for the m-mother pigs.” Galen stood behind him with a bucket in his hand, patiently waiting for an answer.

Wayne jumped guiltily. “W..what?” he asked as he turned around to face the younger man.

“Do you n-need those for something or are you gonna start helping me w-with the livestock?”

“Um, yeah, I will help you. I need to do something first. You go on ahead. I’ll be right there.”

Galen eyes narrowed and a look of disbelief crossed his face as he watched Wayne leave the tent. Out of curiosity he decided to pursue him.

Wayne looked over his shoulder once and then sprinted quickly into the woods. His hand was still tender from the burn and he was filled with worry about what he had gotten himself into.

For almost ten minutes, Galen stealthily moved from tree to tree in case the man turned and discovered he was being followed.

Suddenly, Wayne stopped and glanced around before squatting down and moving a branch out of the way to reveal a small copper-colored animal.

Galen tiptoed up and startled Wayne for the second time by asking, “W-what have you got there?”

Wayne yelped as he fell back on his haunches. “Ow! You asshole! You scared the shit out of me!” He nursed his sore hand gingerly.

“Sorry, b-but I just w-wanted to know what you w-were up to.” Galen stepped back.

Wayne stared at Galen, his mouth hanging slightly open.

“I didn’t m-mean for you to hurt your hand,” Galen apologized.

“S’okay. What are you doing here? Did you follow me? And if so, why!” Wayne’s eyes narrowed dangerously.

“Yes, I followed you b-because you were acting so secretive.”

Wayne was about to retort when a little yelp brought their attention to the bush behind him. He inched closer, trying to block the view from Galen. “Go back to camp, you busybody! Stop following me. It’s none of your business!”

“Hey, you got a p-puppy there! Where did it come from?”

“It was an extra that crawled away from the others,” Wayne lied.

“How come you’re keeping him hidden? Is it a surprise for someone?”

Wayne blinked at the young man before him and said the first thing that came to his mind. “Yes, it’s a secret! So don’t tell anyone. I’m giving him to Wes as a present!”

“Okay, your secret is safe w-with m-me. W-want any help taking care of him?” Galen offered.

Wayne let out a breath in relief. ‘Honestly, this kid’s is just too naïve and gullible,’ he thought smugly. “Sure, but you gotta promise, not a word to anyone. Can you promise me that?”

“Of course! I’ll keep aside some of the leftovers and w-we can either come here together or take turns coming here to feed him.”

So the pact was made and their fates sealed.

In the mess tent, Kelby hung up the last of the wet dishtowels and resignedly watched as Quentin slowly approached him. He knew it was time for his doctor’s appointment. He really preferred not to go. It wasn’t because he was afraid nor was it anything personal against Lakota. No, his dislike of doctors in general was a feeling shared by a large percentage of the population.

The main reason he had for wanting to avoid this particular physical was to prevent his secret of being beaten before being forced unto the ship by his own father. He was sure his back would tell the tale of the violent assault at the hands of a man who had completely lost control of himself when he discovered his son was attracted to his own gender.

Corporal discipline had never been a common occurrence in Kelby’s home, much less abuse. Yet, when his father had found him in the stables in a compromising situation with his best friend, the older man had laid into his son like someone gone mad.  Each blow of the riding crop across Kelby’s back had cut deeply into the boy’s heart. The knowledge of what he had done and the admission that his actions had driven his father to such insanity had crushed him.

Right now though, Kelby couldn’t help but smile up at the approaching man who was quickly becoming a close friend and confidant.

“Hello, Kelby!” Quentin pleasantly addressed the younger man. “I volunteered to find you and remind you that it is time for your physical.”

“I really shouldn’t have to go, you know. I’m feeling perfectly fine!”

“Well that’s great! If you’re feeling fine, the examination won’t take long at all. You do remember the council stating everyone was to have one. That, my young friend, means you as well because if I recall correctly, the council didn’t say everyone with the exception of Kelby, did they?”

Kelby smiled at Quentin’s attempt at humor and instinctively knew he didn’t stand a chance of winning this debate. Taking a deep breath, he made his way toward the Infirmary. As he passed the bigger man, he looked up and shyly requested, “Ah, Quentin, would you be willing to come with me?”

“Of course, Kelby, I’ll accompany you. Come on, let’s go!” Quentin agreed, remembering the lad’s sad tale of all that had lead up to his exile.

As they made their way down the path, Quentin kept the conversation light and in an attempt to reassure the young man, he placed a comforting arm around his shoulders. When they were in front of the tent, Kelby stated he was fine now and would go in by himself. Quentin agreed but knowing the young man wasn’t as brave as he was trying to let on, decided to remain within earshot just in case he should be needed.

Kelby lifted the flap and stepped in. Glancing around, his nerves calmed a bit at the welcoming expression on the nurse’s handsome face.

“Hello, Kelby!” Yancey greeted. “You’re right on time. The doctor will be with you momentarily.”

Lakota came out from behind the hanging sheets that separated the infirmary into its two sections and greeted his patient.

“Good morning, Kelby; thank you for coming. I’d like to explain a few things to you about what this examination will entail and then we’ll get it done as quickly as possible so you can get back to what you were doing.” Lakota gave his patient a warm smile in hopes of calming the obviously nervous young man. They discussed Kelby’s history and what Lakota would be doing during the exam.

As Kelby undressed he unsuccessfully tried to hide the fading welts on his back, but the doctor was very observant.

Although startled by the sight of Kelby’s back, Lakota didn’t want his words to upset the younger man. He placed a gentle hand on the lad’s shoulder and spoke very softly. ”Kelby, these marks on your back are certainly not that old from the look of them. Did they happen at the hands of the guards before you were sent here?”

Kelby bashfully started his explanation into what had taken place and found, much to his amazement, it wasn’t as difficult as he thought it would be. In fact it was almost as easy as when he had told some of it to Quentin a couple of evenings ago. Maybe it was the fact that Lakota had reassured him the remaining marks were not permanent or as bad as he had imagined. Maybe it was the fact that Lakota did not judge or condemn; instead he was very calm and comforting in both his words and actions. Kelby even found himself telling the doctor about his childhood friend, Jonathan, as well as when they had become lovers.

“Thank you for sharing that with me, Kelby. You were very brave to do so. Let’s get the rest of this exam done, shall we?”

Kelby worked at mentally preparing himself for the next part of the exam. Although he’d had anal sex with Jonathan, he was still rather inexperienced in that area. The thought of anyone else, be it a doctor or not, penetrating him was more than a little overwhelming. When he began to struggle, Yancey gently placed a hand on his shoulder and encouraged him to turn on his side. Even though his protests grew louder, the nurse still insisted he do as instructed and get into position.

Lakota placed a reassuring hand on Kelby’s arm. “Just roll onto your side for me and bring you right knee up towards your chest. We’ll have this over and done within a few seconds.”

With the exam over and Lakota satisfied all was well, Yancey helped Kelby stand up. After getting dressed and thanking the doctor, Kelby walked out of the tent to discover Quentin waiting for him.

As they made their way down the path to the mess tent for a cookie or two as a reward, Kelby realized Quentin must have heard the few remaining details of the whole sordid tale of what his father had done to him; details he had neglected to mention earlier.

“Quentin, as you were outside the tent all along, you must have heard me tell Lakota all the circumstances of my banishment. Even the ones I didn’t tell you about the other night,” Kelby quietly intoned, keeping his eyes on the ground in front of him.

“Yes, I did and I want you to know I understand your feelings of guilt and embarrassment. However, I hope I make myself perfectly clear about this,” the older man said as he stopped walking to gently turn Kelby to face him. “You have nothing to be ashamed of! It was your father who acted wrongly, not you. You cannot help who you are; be proud that you were brave enough to take a chance on love and don’t let the fact that your first affair ended badly cause you to give up on trying again. And remember, I’ll always be here to befriend you, no matter what!” Quentin silently chided himself for offering advice he wasn’t particularly interested in following himself.

Kelby was so touched by the older man’s words that he threw his arms around his companion’s waist and standing on tiptoes, tenderly kissed Quentin’s lips. Quentin gently pushed Kelby away and ruffled the young man’s hair before they companionably continued on their way.

Quentin had never truly fallen in love, had never be part of a steady relationship, nor had he even meet anyone he felt capable of committing too. He was convinced he would in all likelihood never have a soul-mate. Reminding himself of this, he realized he would have to tread carefully so as not to mislead this young man who he truly wanted to have as a good friend.

Kevin was becoming concerned. He had noticed Dallas hanging around Lakota’s surgery and knew Yancey had already chased him out once. Kevin didn’t want Dallas to be facing the council for thieving; it would not be a good way to start settling in and could mark him for the rest of his life.

Dallas could almost feel Kevin studying him “Why don’t you just go away!” he snapped. “I don’t need a bloody nursemaid.”

“You’re coming down hard, boy.” Kevin was calm but his voice had hardened. “And you are going to need all the help you can get.”

“Who the hell do you think you are?” Dallas sneered. “My mother?”

“No! I’m just a man who is interested in your health and well-being and who is willing to help you through the hell of opiate withdrawal, if you’ll let him.” Kevin’s voice had softened during this speech. He acknowledged to himself that he wanted this man as a lover and more. At the moment he wasn’t going to say anything to Dallas about his feelings as he wanted him clean and sober before discussing anything to do with their future.

“Why are you so worried about me?” Dallas was genuinely confused.

“Because you’re a young man who’s got some troubles and they need to be dealt with before you can go ahead with your life. We need to talk to Lakota or Yancey to see if they can help you recover.”

Dallas was momentarily shocked into silence as another shiver ran through his body and his head continued to pound. He turned on his heel and walked away. “Mind your own business,” he shouted over his shoulder.

Kevin pursed his lips in annoyance, shook his head and moved away in the other direction. As much as he might wish it was so, he had no right to coerce the other man into doing something he didn’t want to do.
 
“There you are!” Samuel said, coming to a stop before one of the twins. “I’ve been looking for you all morning.”

Wayne straightened up. “Oh? Did you want me for something?”

“Nothing important,” Samuel replied, hoping Wayne would volunteer to share his activities. Instead, an awkward silence fell between them.

Samuel finally cleared his throat. “Are you done with your chores or do you still have more kitchen duties?” He meant that as a joke and was therefore unprepared for the look of apprehension that crossed Wayne’s face. He quirked an eyebrow and waited patiently while observing the younger man closely.

Wayne laughed a little self-consciously, apparently trying to gloss over the moment. “Yes, all done! Did you have something in mind?”

A dimple made an appearance and Samuel forgot his concerns for a moment. “Yes. Come walk with me. We’ve hardly talked lately. How’s your hand?”

Wayne happily fell into step beside the bigger man and their arms brushed lightly against one another. “Oh, it’s not too bad now.” Wayne chatted easily. He was happy to push his troubles to the back of his mind; at least for the time being.

Lakota was able to finish up for the day by mid-afternoon. He meticulously made note of the re-occurring headaches Quentin suffered from. He had strongly suggested the ex-shopkeeper spend less time doing paperwork and a bit more time pursuing activities that would provide him the opportunity to get some sunshine and fresh air.

Checking over his notes on Kelby, Lakota noticed with satisfaction that all was in order. At 5’ 6”, the young man was slightly below average height but in reasonably good health. The Doctor had been happy to see the affection developing between young Kelby and Quentin, believing a strong friendship would prove beneficial to both of them.

It was during the evening meal that Yancey’s eyes were repeatedly drawn to Dallas. The nurse was picking up signs of distress from the young man and recognized the classic symptoms of morphine withdrawal. He stepped up to Lakota’s side and waited for the man to end his conversation with Thomas before stating his concerns.

“I believe we may have a medical emergency on our hands, Doctor. I fear we have a young man in the early stages of withdrawal. What would you have me do?”

Lakota's eyes widened in surprise. “Who is it, Yancey?” he asked with concern.

“Young Dallas Carter, sitting over there next to Kevin McCaw. Remember I caught him creeping into the infirmary a few days ago and acting suspicious.”

Lakota looked towards the young man in question. Yancey was right, the lad didn’t look well. “What makes you suspect withdrawal?”

“He appears to be in pain and is shivering badly.”

“Let’s see if we can discretely persuade him to come to the infirmary. I’ll need to examine him.”

The two men made their way over to where Dallas and Kevin were seated. Lakota crouched down in front of them. “Dallas, you don’t look to be feeling very well. I’d like you to come to the infirmary with Yancey and me as I think we can help you.”

“No way, man!” Dallas spat. “I don’t need to see a doctor! Not now, not ever!”

“Dallas!” Kevin's voice was cold. “Be polite! Lakota and Yancey are just concerned about you, as am I.”

Dallas was confused. He was not used to people caring about him. It was all too much. He didn’t resist when Kevin hauled him up and they started off in the direction of the infirmary.

While Lakota lead the way, Yancey and Kevin walked on either side of Dallas to keep him from stumbling. The men entered the infirmary and Lakota closed the flaps while Yancey lit the lamps and added some wood to the low burning fire in the small stove.

“Wonder where they’re off to and why?” Seth murmured as the four men walked past him and Hendrik. “Bet Dallas is on something,” he muttered his suspicions.

“Best not to speak of something you know nothing about,” Hendrik sternly suggested. “That’s how rumors start which could eventually lead to trouble.”

Preston and Mitchell returned from putting their respective pets outside in time to hear Seth’s comments and both frowned their disapproval.

In the infirmary, the medical staff was preparing to examine a very unenthusiastic patient.

Dallas, why don’t you sit up on the table here?” Lakota indicated the large padded crate.

“I don’t know why I’m here,” Dallas grumbled. “I’m fine. I’ve just got a cold.”

Kevin merely grunted. “Just get up on the table so the doctor can examine you. And stop lying!”

Dallas’ head shot up and he opened his mouth to say something, but the look he got back made him think twice, and a third and fourth time as well. He got on the table without further comments.

Lakota washed his hands at the stand and then retrieved his stethoscope. “How old are you, Dallas?” he asked kindly.

“Nineteen.”

“How long have you been feeling like this?” Lakota asked as he took a lamp with a shiny reflector and shone the light in Dallas’ eyes. This made the young man flinch and turn away, but not before Lakota could note the hugely dilated pupils.

“Bloody hell! Why did you do that, you bastard?”

Kevin instinctively reacted. He grabbed Dallas, pulled him off the table and landed a hard slap on his bottom. “You keep a civil tone with the doctor, boy! He’s trying to help and if you continue acting like an ill-mannered kid, I’ll treat you like one.”

Dallas was shocked. The smack had hurt and he felt somewhat ashamed of himself. It was a rather unique feeling. “Sorry,” he mumbled and got back on the table.

“Please take your shirt off for me so I can listen to your heart and your breathing, okay?” Lakota asked the young man. 

Dallas obediently took his shirt off. He didn’t hear Kevin’s gasp of horror.

Kevin felt bad at the swat he’d just landed as it was obvious that Dallas had been beaten up recently. Bruises multicolored and starting to change to yellow, covered his upper body. “What the hell happened to you?” he asked.

Dallas shrugged. “Some of the sailors thought I’d stolen something off them,” he shrugged. “They weren’t mistaken. They believed in summary punishment. A few punches and kicks in the ribs seemed to satisfy them. I’ve had worse.” He turned to Lakota. “Ready when you are.” Dallas tried to sound confident even though he really didn’t like doctors.

After listening carefully to the rapid heart rate and shallow breaths, Lakota felt more concerned. “Lay down for me please and undo your trousers,” he instructed his patient. “Yancey, would you bring Dallas a blanket, please?”

“Yes, Doctor.” Yancey stepped behind the curtain and returned seconds later with a wool blanket and pillow.

With the shivering young man covered, Lakota slid his hands under the blanket and palpated his abdomen gently. “Dallas, I need to get an accurate temperature reading from you. You’ll need to slide down your trousers and underwear for me.”

“Why the hell do you want my trousers down?” Dallas’ voice was panicked. This was the reason he hated doctors. That pervert back in his old neighborhood had started just like this.

Kevin caught the panic in Dallas’ voice and left the comment he was about to make about his language unsaid. Instead he sat next to his friend and pulled him into a hug, which the younger man at first resisted but then snuggled into. “It’s fine, Dallas. Lakota won’t hurt you and I’ll be right here.”

“Promise?” Dallas voice was muffled.

“Promise!” Kevin helped Dallas lower his trousers and lie down.

Yancey brought over the thermometer and lubricant, and handed them to Lakota.

“Now just turn onto your side away from me, please. I’m going to but some petroleum jelly on the thermometer to make is slippery, then I’ll put it gently into your rectum. It might feel a slight bit uncomfortable but there will be no pain. However, it must stay in place for four minutes in order to give me an accurate reading, okay?”

“Guess I have to be,” Dallas couldn’t help grumbling. He caught Kevin’s exasperated look and nervously grinned at him. Kevin just looked back and Dallas rolled over.

Lakota exposed the young man’s buttocks as little as needed. Separating the cheeks, he slid the prepared instrument into place. 

“That’s cold!” Dallas was trying to be brave. The sooner he co-operated, the sooner he’d get out of this place.

“Yancey, will you please take some notes for me?” Lakota asked the nurse quietly. “Dallas, I need you to be very honest with me. I am a doctor and I have seen this sort of thing many times. I will not be shocked or angered by the truth.” He paused for a moment before asking, “How long have you been taking morphine?”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dallas said, trying and failing to sound innocent.

The doctor placed a gentle hand on the young man’s shoulder while still holding the thermometer in place. “Dallas, would you like to reconsider that answer? Remember that I both Yancey and I are educated men and recognize the signs of morphine addiction.”

“Okay, maybe once or twice I used morphine to kill some pain,” Dallas admitted. “But I’m not addicted. At least not like before.”

Kevin silently took note of the last comment. He was going to have to keep an eye on Dallas even after his withdrawal was over.

“Thank you, Dallas. I know that was very difficult.”  Lakota pulled the thermometer from the younger man’s bottom and handed it to his nurse to read. “You can roll back now.”

Yancey cleaned and checked the thermometer and recorded his findings in the notebook he kept his records in. “Doctor, the patient has a low-grade fever with a temperature of 99.6,” Yancey informed Lakota.

“Thank you,” Lakota nodded to Yancey. “I’m not going to lie to you, Dallas. The next few days are going to be very difficult. However, once you are through them, you will be free of the need for morphine. Yancey and I and I think Kevin here too will be with you all the way. We will provide you with as much comfort as we can, but I warn you we will not provide you with any morphine.”

“I’ll make sure this young man keeps his hands well away from your medical supplies,” Kevin promised, glaring at Dallas who glared back. There was a silent battle of wills between the two.

Dallas finally dropped his eyes and shivered. “I don’t need your kind of help!” Dallas snarled at Kevin.

“Hard luck, boy, I’m here to stay.” Kevin’s voice was firm “And we need to have a talk later about where we’re headed.”

Dallas lay down and turned his back to Kevin, who again looked skyward for inspiration.

The good doctor stood up, patted Dallas on the shoulder, nodded to Kevin and step over to the small stand to once again wash his hands.

“Let’s get you settled in a nice, clean bed in the ward, Dallas. I’m sure you’ll feel more comfortable there than in your tent as it will afford you added privacy.” Yancey assisted their patient down from the examining table and steered him toward the curtained-off area. “Why don’t you go and find him a nightshirt to wear, Kevin?” the nurse suggested as he gently but firmly guided Dallas into the other room.

“He didn’t come with any luggage. I’ve a nightshirt that’s a bit tight on me, so it will be a bit big for him. I’ll go and fetch it.” Kevin headed off to their shared tent.

He returned to find his friend sitting in his skivvies on the side of the cot he would be spending the next several days in. Yancey had helped him undress and was presently wiping a damp cloth over the young man’s flushed face. A basin of water, a small pile of cloths, a glass and pitcher sat on a small crate next to the bed.

“A bit big? It’s huge!” Dallas looked very vulnerable in the nightshirt with his black hair obscuring part of his face. He looked up at Kevin whose hand unconsciously swept the hair away from his face “I’m scared. I’ve done this before and it’s not nice.”
Kevin silently sighed; the young man’s mood swings could be trying. “I’ll be here all the time, Dallas. I won’t leave you.”

“What he needs now is care and support. Care in the form of holding his hand, sponging him off and rubbing his back.” Yancey smiled down at Dallas. “You’ll get through this, young man. You’ve got people who care about you and are here to help as much as possible.” Turning to Kevin, he added, “He’s your concern now, but the doctor and I will be checking in on him regularly. In the meantime, if you should need me, I’ll be right on the other side of that curtain.” With that, the nurse quietly left the room.

Kevin settled down next to Dallas, who slowly drifted into an uneasy sleep.

TBC….

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