Chapter Twenty-one



With the dismantling of his sleeping area taken care of, his one and only outfit along with his bed linen washed and drying on the line, and his pallet airing in the sun, Raythe couldn’t get away fast enough. He’d take care of the rest later. He hurriedly grabbed up his puppy and headed for the woods. He wanted nothing more than to find a place of sanctuary in which to nurse his injured pride. Hugging the little dog closer, he ran further into the forest. Out of breath, he eventually lowered himself to the ground before his shaky legs collapsed beneath him.

Wrapping his arms around bent knees, he clenched his fists and squeezed his eyes tightly closed in an effort to prevent the earlier scene in the infirmary from playing over and over again in his mind. He was absolutely mortified! He could not recall ever feeling this humiliated and there had been plenty of occasions to feel so in the past that didn’t bear remembering. He let his pet sniff in the nearby bushes while he worked at getting his rioting emotions under control.

Totally oblivious to his surroundings and to the passage of time, Raythe was startled when he felt someone sit beside him, wrap a beefy arm around his shoulders and pull him against a barrel-like chest covered in buckskin. The more he squirmed to get away, the tighter the embrace became. Finally he gave up struggling and relaxed enough to listen to the deep voice rumbling comfortingly above his head. He concentrated on keeping his tears at bay.

“It is going to be alright, boy. You’ll move past this,” Brock encouraged as he repeatedly rubbed a large, calming hand over the trembling man’s back. For a large, rugged mountain man who spent a great deal of time alone, his compassion, gentleness and easy-going manner came as a surprise to many.

“Why would you say something like that when you know nothin’ about it?” Raythe muttered angrily.

“I’m aware of the problem you’ve been having as your scratching has kept me awake nights. I also have a pretty good idea of what is required to eradicate it.” Brock sadly shook his head at the drawn-out groan of misery that escaped the younger man’s throat.

The embarrassment Raythe experienced earlier was nothing compared to the shame and anguish he was feeling at this moment. ‘I’ll never be able to live this down,’ he thought dejectedly.

Sensing the other man’s heartache, Brock lifted him onto his lap to rhythmically rock him.

Raythe put up a half-hearted effort to escape before submitting to the stronger man’s will. As he resigned himself to the situation, the disheartened man was amazed at the sense of security he discovered in the big, mountain man’s embrace. He found the rocking motion oddly soothing and briefly recalled a similar feeling of contentment as a very small child when alone with his mother, but never had he felt such a sensation of total abandonment of all his worldly concerns and fears. Had he finally found a safe haven with someone he could trust and rely on? Did he have what it would take to risk a chance for happiness, reach out, grab it with both hands and hold on for dear life? He fervently hoped so.

All defences down, Raythe finally let go of the tight reign he’d had on his heightened emotions and let the tears fall freely. His quiet crying quickly turned into deep shuddering sobs as he clung to the soft leather shirt and nestled in closer. The outpouring of pain eventually subsided into sporadic gulps and sniffles as the young man exhausted himself.

It was during the dream-like aftermath that Brock’s words began to make an impression. “I know how very young you are, Raythe, and I have a fair grasp of what your life has been like for the past several years. I fully realize you’ve been given scant reason to trust others, but it is very important to me that I be extended the opportunity to prove I will stand by you no matter what happens, now or in the future. I would like with all my heart to care for you and protect you. Mostly I want to give you something you’ve had very little of; love and happiness. I believe you are brave enough to put it all on the line and take a chance on me; on us. Do you think you are?”

“Uh-huh,” Raythe hitched. He was unable to say more but desperately wanted a new start and more importantly, knew he wanted it with this man. “How-how did you find out what was wrong? Who-who told you?” he mumbled accusingly, falsely assuming the doctor or nurse had spoken about his predicament.

“No one told me, boy. No one had to tell me. When I saw your bedding had been removed from the tent, I merely put two and two together. It wasn’t difficult.”

“Oh, God!” Raythe moaned. “That means everyone will know.”

“I doubt it! Not too many are as clever as I am,” the big man lightly teased. “After all, none of them was smart enough to grab you up before I did.”

“Yeah, right!” the other scoffed with a snort. He rubbed at his crotch and bitterly complained. “I hate what they did to me.”

“Ah-ha! But there are some advantages to it.” Brock boldly slipped his hand into the front of Raythe’s trousers to softly stroke the freshly shaved skin and gently cradled hair-free genitals. “Discover the deliciously enhanced sensations, boy, and you may prefer to remain hairless down here.” 

Raythe arched upward as his body responded to Brock’s explorations. “Don’t stop!” he whined when the hand was removed.

“Now is not the time or place to pursue this, boy. It is time we were heading back for supper.” Brock set Raythe on his feet and limberly stood up. He looked down at the younger man’s expression of uneasiness.

“I don’t think I’m ready to talk with anyone other than you yet,” Raythe shyly admitted.

“You won’t have to. The others will have finished eating and moved on to the evening’s activities. We will collect the plates Walker will have put aside for us and go someplace private to enjoy our meal before I join Hendrik for guard duty tonight”

“Okay,” Raythe conceded and gave a sigh of relief. After a couple of contemplative moments, he tentatively voiced an observation. “You know, for a man who spends little time conversing with others, you’ve done a fair amount of babbling since tracking me down.”

“Fancy that! And me following you, instead of the other way around.” Brock’s soft chuckle cut off the words of denial the other man was about to sputter. “I talk when it’s important and to me, getting to know someone as intriguing as you is very important.”

“Intriguing, huh?” Raythe taunted. “I’m a whore, Brock! And the son of a woman who was called a whore by almost everyone including the man who unknowingly sired me!” he spat. “It’s how I made my way in the world.”

“When did you turn eighteen, Raythe?”

“Almost three months ago, just before my arrest.” Raythe answered through clenched teeth, the recollection of that terrifying night causing him to shudder with revulsion. “Why?” Raythe was curious to see where this was leading.

“Back then, you were but an adolescent.” Brock rubbed his large hands soothingly up and down the other man’s arms. “Now, you are an adult who’s been given a chance to begin again with a clean slate and the opportunity to do so with someone who cares about what happens to you,” Brock murmured as he looked steadfastly into the wide, dark brown eyes.

“Thank you, Brock,” Raythe whispered and sent a shy grin of hope up to the taller man.

Brock reached out and affectionately caressed the other man’s cheek before leaning in to place a tender kiss on his lips. Pulling back, he saw a smile that made his heart skip a beat. “Is it too soon for you to decide if you’d like to be my partner, Raythe?”

“No, it isn’t,” Raythe answered quietly as he shook his head. “I do want to take that chance. I do want to be yours and I want you to be mine.”

The two men sealed the commitment being made to each other with a searing kiss that obliterated all but their awareness of each other and their own heartbeats. It took a couple of minutes for their breathing to return to normal and their pulses to stop racing as both reluctantly accepted that this moment in time had drawn to a close.

“By the way, boy, I should warn you here and now, that should you shy away from me in the future, I will make my displeasure known by applying a sharp smack to the seat of your britches.” Brock winked at the piqued expression on the other man’s beautiful face.

“Well just remember, these aren’t my britches I have on; they’re Lakota’s.” Raythe stated with a toss of his long black hair. He tried to decide what surprised him the most; Brock’s blunt promise of retribution or his own subtle acknowledgement of it.

“Humph!” Brock grunted. “Pick up that little creature of yours, boy, so we can get back and have something to eat before this day is over,” he gruffly ordered. “We still have to make up that new bed of yours.”

“Hey, are you gonna keep calling me ‘boy’?” Raythe inquired, running to catch up to the older man.

Brock appeared to be giving it some thought. “Even though I am completely aware you’re a full-grown man,” he mused, “I just might, my boy, I just might. Do you mind?”

Raythe didn’t mind at all and he gave the man walking with him a heart-stopping smile; a smile that would forever be meant for him alone.

Thomas stopped poking at the fire and glanced up to see Galen standing beside him with a lantern and book in hand.

“Because of the sanctions p-placed on Wayne and Wes by the council, there isn’t going to be a sing-song, so can you read to us instead? I b-borrowed this from Brodie.”  Galen sat down next to Thomas and squirmed in search of a comfortable sitting position as his bottom was still a little tender. 

Smiling at the younger man, Thomas reached for the book. “Dickens; A Tale of Two Cities. I read this a few years ago. It was very good. How about we wait for others to arrive, then we can begin?”

“Okay. I really like b-being read to but I don’t m-mind w-waiting.” Galen willingly agreed in anticipation of his request eventually being fulfilled. Then he settled down and silently stared into the fire.

Thomas’ looked intently at Galen’s face and taking in the swollen nose, he noted the right eye was definitely blackening as Lakota had predicted. He also noticed the way the younger man was chewing on his lower lip and could see something was going on in Galen’s mind. “Is there something you’d like to talk about, Galen?”

Galen shifted and glanced up with a thoughtful expression on his young face. “I was just thinking about how you punished m-me earlier and although I didn’t liked b-being spanked, I think it was b-better than what w-would have happened had I b-been at home,” he quietly commented.

“You mean what would have happened when you were in trouble at home?” Thomas asked for clarification.

“Uh-huh. I was n-never spanked b-before but there was always a lingering anger after any m-misdeeds because my grandfather and father w-would often be at odds as to how the m-matter should have b-been handled.” Galen answered sadly. He thought for a moment before continuing with an unperturbed shrug. “Pappous w-wanted Papa to p-punish me the way you did, but Papa wouldn’t b-because he didn’t want to get in an argument with Mama. So instead he argued w-with Pappous. They w-would holler and yell in Greek at each other, but they w-would direct their anger at me b-by not speaking to me until they calmed down some. And that could take a while.”

"What did your father do to punish you that would put him and your grandfather at odds?"

“M-mostly by scolding, sometimes a loss of treats or p-privileges, every now and again I was sent to m-my room or p-put to bed w-without supper. But I really hated the silent treatment. To m-me it was kind of like p-pushing me aside. Will you p-promise to n-never stop talking to me, Thomas?” Galen waited patiently for his plea to be answered, soft gray eyes searching the face of his guardian.

“Galen, I cannot ever envision something which would make me stop talking to you. Even if I’m angry with you, I would always talk to you about it and I hope you would do the same for me.”

After receiving the requested pledge and returning same, Galen turned a cheeky grin up to the older man. “Hmm, m-maybe you don’t have to do either; you know, the silent treatment or spanking,” he suggested optimistically.

Thomas chuckled. “I’ve already said I won’t do the one and as for the other, well that’s kind of up to you, isn’t it? Stay out of trouble and it won’t happen. But if it does, Galen, don’t ever feel you’ve failed or done bad. It is only human to make mistakes and get into some trouble. That’s what I’m here for though; to help you and guide you out of that trouble.”

“Well at least you can’t send m-me to bed w-without supper, b-because then you’d be in trouble with Lakota.” Galen giggled hysterically when Thomas retaliated by tickling him.

“You’re an imp!” Thomas laughed.

For once the twins found it no hardship to wake up early the next morning. They had slept fitfully and long before the sun rose, Wayne’s eyes were already opened. He finally decided it was a decent enough hour to get up. His twin stirred and pulled himself up from his narrow pallet as well. 

Wes touched Nathan gently on the shoulder, planted a quick kiss on the stubby chin and then followed his brother out into the chilly dawn.  Silently they washed up and went back into the tent shivering and feeling decidedly depressed. 

Wayne particularly was not looking forward to the day. Besides the apology he had to make to Kelby, there was still the matter to be settled with Samuel. The man had been a rock the day before, standing close by him and offering unspoken support. But Wayne did not miss the severity in Samuel’s eyes when the council had gone over his list of transgressions and inwardly he trembled at the moment of reckoning between them. For a reckoning there would be, he was sure of that.

Samuel and Nathan had also gotten up and Samuel put out a hand to touch Wayne briefly before he slid out to refill their water bucket. He knew Wayne was worried and wanted to offer some comfort, yet he had to make sure the other man understood how seriously he was taking this matter.

Nathan started tidying up for both Wes and himself. The tent was cramped and hardly comfortable for six grown men, but everyone had to make do until the lodge was ready. Nathan was a wizard at adding little touches here and there to make the tent more cozy and snug. He went out to join Samuel.

Finding a moment alone, Wayne turned to Wes and whispered, “Hey, thanks for sticking up for me yesterday.”

Wes looked at his twin in surprise and then shrugged. “It’s okay!”

They had to keep their voices low because Seth was still curled up asleep and Preston was snoring gently next to him in their corner.

Wayne hesitated before continuing, “Did you get into trouble with Nathan?”

A quick flush crept up into Wes’ face. “Um, well he wasn’t very pleased with me. But it’s okay now.”

Wayne was not quite sure what his twin meant and he didn’t want to ask. They went out and waited for Samuel and Nathan. Then together, they headed for the mess tent where Walker and his team were setting out items needed for the morning meal. The other men began to slowly filter in, attracted no doubt by the aroma of frying eggs and baking biscuits that was filling the air.

After breakfast, everyone began to disperse for his respective duties and chores. Preston and his tree-felling team were anxious to get the chopping completed so they could begin the construction of the lodge within the month. That had been the main topic of conversation amongst the men for several days as everyone was impatient to see their new home start to take shape.

Thomas came over to Wes and Wayne’s table to briefly remind them of their promise. “I know you won’t forget to make your apologies to Kelby and Galen before starting the laundry. Both of you,” he spoke to the subdued twins, before taking himself off.

Samuel waited until most of the men had disappeared and then spoke in a low voice to Wayne. “Let’s get this over with. Kelby left his table some time ago. We’ll catch hold of him outside.”

Wayne nodded sulkily but felt slightly comforted as Samuel gave his arm a squeeze.      

They spotted Kelby the minute they exited the mess tent. He was feeding scraps to his recently returned puppy on a patch of grass, with Galen hovering over them and giggling at the puppy’s antics. 

Nathan signaled for Wes to follow as he nodded at Galen meaningfully. He and Samuel stood a little distance away while the twins hesitantly approached the younger men. It was mortifying to have been ordered by the council to apologize as if they were children, but both knew they were in the wrong and were determined to make amends. The small number of spectators made it a little easier.

Kelby saw them drawing near and turned his back, deliberately keeping his attention on the little dog. Galen smiled distractedly at their approach but was more engrossed in throwing food for the pup to catch.

Swallowing hard, the twins waited. Had Samuel and Nathan not been standing watch, they would probably have fled. After watching for a few minutes, Wayne coughed politely and asked if he could talk to them.

Kelby’s eyes flashed and he compressed his lips tightly together. Galen waited for Kelby to respond and when he did not, looked a little troubled.

“Sure!” Galen sociably invited, although his misgivings were noticeable as he glanced from one identical twin to the other.

Wayne took a step closer. “Um … Kelby, I want to say I am sorry for … ahem …”

“For stealing?” Kelby asked coldly.

Wayne turned red but he pushed on. “Yes, I am sorry for taking your puppy. It was wrong of me. I didn’t mean to steal it,” he paused and glanced at the cute little ball of fur only to find himself wishing it was his. He looked back at Kelby and corrected himself. “Well, actually I did, but I don’t know why. It was a stupid, selfish, impulsive act. All I can say is I am very sorry!”

Kelby saw how uncomfortable Wayne looked and lowering his own head, he mumbled. “I have him back now. It’s okay.”

Wes swallowed uncomfortably as Wayne stepped back, knowing it was his cue. “Er, Galen?”

“Yes?” Galen looked at Wes expectantly. The young man’s face bore the marks of Wes’ assault and caused his attacker to experience a sharp jab of remorse.

“I guess I owe you an apology as well, for punching you. It’s because I thought you had snitched on Wayne, you know.” There was a warning grunt and Wes glanced back over his shoulder. He caught Nathan’s eye, sighed and continued. “Well even if you had snitched, I should not have picked a fight with you. I know fighting is not allowed here and I am sorry.”

“It’s all in the p-past now, Wes. N-no hard feelings, okay?” Galen graciously offered. His eyes followed the twins as they rejoined Nathan and Samuel. “I’m glad that’s over, aren’t you?” he whispered without the slightest hint of rancor now that the apologies had been made and accepted.

Kelby nodded. “Yeah,” he responded shortly.

“You okay w-with their apology?” Galen asked uncertainly.

Kelby thought for a moment. “They sure were uncomfortable, weren’t they? I would have died if I had to apologize like that.”

“M-me too!” Galen wholeheartedly agreed. “I’m going to p-put this b-behind me. I think they w-were genuinely sorry.”

“I think so too. Actually, I feel pretty good right now, so I am ready to move on as well.”

Galen grinned. “Guess we b-better find Raythe and get about our chores, huh Kelby?”

“Yes, the animals are hungry and sound restless,” Kelby agreed, getting up and taking his puppy with him.

The two young men began to walk over to the pens, soaking in the sun and talking amiably. True to their words, there was no hint of resentment in either of them. They were taking great strides to move forward. Whether it was due to their inherent gentle natures or the despair of their situation which forced a group of strangers to live together, it was nonetheless a blessing that within the confines of that small island, much could be forgiven.

Wayne, you and I have something to talk over, don’t we?” Samuel softly inquired as Nathan walked Wes towards the laundry facilities the young men would be working with most the day.

Wayne nodded his head reluctantly. He knew it was time to face the music and it clawed at his insides.

Samuel led him deep into the woods, wanting to have as much privacy as possible in which to carry out the impending discussion. He was still trying to come to grips with what Wayne had done.

Wayne found some measure of comfort with Samuel’s large hand clasped tightly around his own, as the older man tugged him along. Once Samuel was satisfied with where they were, he stopped to turn and look at the other man. Knowing Wayne must be very nervous, he made a strong effort to keep his voice calm. He didn’t want Wayne to be any more fearful than he already was.

“Okay, Wayne, it’s time to talk,” he said with more composure than he felt.

Wayne gulped once then dropped his head. ‘No way can I look in his eyes,’ he thought. ‘He thinks pushing and shoving my brother is bad, what’s he gonna feel about this?’ Wayne was suddenly afraid Samuel would tell him things weren’t going to work out between them anymore. His eyes stung at the thought.

“Wayne, look at me please. I’ve told you in the past that I don’t like talking to the top of your head,” Samuel reminded the younger man, his tone hardening just slightly due to exasperation, not anger. .

The younger man slowly raised his eyes, steeling himself to what Samuel might say. Because he felt so vulnerable, he looked defiant. He was determined not to let Samuel see how frightened he was.

Samuel pretended not to notice the defiance. “Wayne, you’ve done several things wrong that go against what we talked about and I am very unhappy about it.”

While a nod was the only response, at least eye contact was upheld. “Look Wayne, I am not interested in a one-sided conversation. I expect you to participate verbally. Do you understand?”

“Just say it! Say it and get it over with!” Wayne loudly spat out.

“What exactly are you expecting me to say?” Samuel was surprised by the outburst. “We need to discuss your upcoming punishment. One, I might add, that you brought on yourself.”

“Whatever!” Wayne was now past caring. Neither was he listening at all. He just wanted to crawl into a hole somewhere and be miserable. “Just say it! Why don’t you just tell me this is it? I can take it!” The young man’s eyes burned with tears and indignation.

Samuel placed both of his hands on Wayne’s shaking shoulders. “I don’t understand what you’re expecting, Wayne.”

Wayne took a few deep breaths and blinked angrily. “Aren’t you going to tell me you no longer want to be ...” he could not finish the sentence.

Finally grasping what the young man was worried about, Samuel set about reassuring him. “Are you really afraid I’m going to tell you we’re through when we’ve hardly begun our relationship? Oh, my pet, come here,” he said as he pulled Wayne into a hug. “Why would I tell you that? I would not discard you over a situation like this. Never, nor will I stop caring about you.”

Wayne pushed into Samuel’s arms and let out a stifled wail. “I’m sorry for what I did, Samuel,” he cried as he laid his head on Samuel’s shoulder. “I didn’t mean for it to turn out so bad. I really didn’t!”

“Shh, I know. But it did and now there are consequences to face.” Samuel gently rubbed Wayne’s back.

“But I’ve apologized,” Wayne protested. “And we were not allowed to join the campfire last night or for the next two nights and we have to do the laundry by ourselves for a whole week. We’ve already been punished by the council, so what else is there to discuss? Can’t we just let it go? Move on? I promise this won’t ever happen again.”

Samuel pushed Wayne a little ways from him, held his arms and glazed down into his face. “That was handled as a kind of civil matter. This is between us, just you and me. We have to discuss the rules you broke and the consequences for those actions.”

“But I took the puppy before you laid down those rules!” Wayne wailed.

“It might have been before, but you must have been aware of just how unacceptable your behavior was. Isn’t that so?”

Wayne nodded his head slowly. “Yes, of course I know. But I’d already done it! And it was before we agreed upon the rules.”

“Yes, you stole and you lied. Yet you still agreed to the rules and consequences I laid down. You did that knowingly, didn’t you?” Samuel sternly questioned, one eyebrow rising.

“Yes.” Wayne’s stomach clenched.

“You should have talked to me sooner about your misdeed instead of making it worse by keeping it from me. That was lying by omission, Wayne. Do you understand that?”

“I do,” Wayne acknowledged begrudgingly.

“And what is the consequence for stealing?” Samuel probed as he ran his hands up and down Wayne’s arms.

Wayne shrugged helplessly.

Samuel pushed on. “What did I say would happen if you stole, fought or lied?”

“You said you would punish me. But only if I did it a second time, not the first!”

“Really? Are you sure?”

“I’ve never been spanked before.” Wayne’s face was white. “I promise never to steal again. Please, I promise!”

Samuel stared into the beseeching eyes for a moment, but still shook his head resolutely. “There’s always a first time for everything, my pet,” he said as he towed Wayne over to a log, sat down and quickly had the young man face down across his lap. He spanked hard and fast.

Wayne could hardly move, much less struggle. He felt the heat quickly build up; both sides of his bottom receiving stinging smacks which made him gasp and plead for the spanking to stop. When his pleas went unheeded, he began to cry in earnest as the heat transmitted into intense pain.

“Ow! Ahh! Please!”

Samuel spoke not a word while he spanked, simply focused on the job at hand.

“No more! Please stop!” Wayne kicked and cried as the hard hand continued to press the message home.

After what seemed forever and a day, Samuel’s hand finally stopped falling. “Okay, we’re done. Shh, now. Consider yourself punished and forgiven.” Samuel soothed the very bottom he’d just finished chastising.

Still in shock, Wayne lay still for a long while before scrambling off Samuel’s lap. “That really hurt! I don’t want you to spank me ever again!”

“Young man,” Samuel said matter-of-factly. “That was a mild spanking by any standards and it was with your pants on. If you ever steal again, I will take your pants down and then you will know the meaning of a real bare-bottomed spanking.”

Wayne stared at him in horror. “No!” he cried as his face flamed. They had yet to see one another naked and he flushed at the thought of Samuel taking his pants down, never mind what it was for.

“Yes! You need only learn the rules and abide by them. No more stealing, no more lying, and no more fighting!” Samuel pulled his whimpering partner into his arms and kissed his head. “We’ll be okay, my pet.”


TBC….

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