Chapter Forty-five



Galen woke up and stared at the recently vacated spot in the tent. Glancing over at Raythe, he saw his tent-mate doing the same. Their eyes met and brimmed with tears; the sadness almost overwhelming. He watched as Raythe rolled over and cuddled into Brock’s waiting arms. Galen turned and peeked at the sleeping man on the pallet to his left. He knew if he woke him, Thomas would provide any comfort Galen was in need of but the young man didn’t want to disturb his mentor.

Seeing Quentin’s empty bed, Galen quietly scrambled out of his and exchanged his nightshirt for overalls before tiptoeing out to find where the ex-shopkeeper had gone. This was the third consecutive morning that the grieving man had risen so early and Galen was concerned.

The morning sun was just creeping over the horizon when Galen found Quentin sitting on a large rock with a small dog on his lap, and staring out at the ocean. He knew who the older man was thinking about and allowed his own thoughts to go back to the previous Friday and the accident that had temporarily turned their world upside down.

A favorite haunt of the men was a fresh water pool, made remarkable by a graceful waterfall cascading down from an impressive height of forty feet or so. Situated a short distance to the right of the construction site and about a twenty-minute walk from the main camp, the pool was deep enough for them to dive off the rocks. This closer, smaller pool was one of two that Galen had stumbled upon the morning after their arrival on the island when he had run off.

The logging had long been completed and the stronger, more skilled men were engaged in the arduous task of constructing the lodge. Over time many of less experienced men gradually developed the abilities needed to do their part in the creation of their new abode. The plan was to move into it by the end of September, so that everyone had sufficient time to prepare for winter. As the lodge took shape, a kind of fever overtook the building crew. Beyond the beams and wooden floor, the men saw their dreams materializing. Talk at dinner and the campfire was often centered on their daily accomplishments.

Many times partners found themselves working in separate locations. Kelby, Raythe and Galen had been assigned the permanent task of caring for the livestock. Walker, Thad and Jordan consistently prepared the bounty of food needed to keep the men well-nourished and healthy, with Brock provided a steady abundance of meat for the table. Other chores, involving the tending of the crops and doing general repair work around base camp, were rotated among men less able to carry on full days of the physically-taxing labor required at the construction site. Clothing was left completely to the discretion of Nathan, while laundry was usually overseen by Yancey and Lakota. Troy’s classes had been cut back to one afternoon a week for the summer.

Long days fell into a routine of sorts as chores were kept up and construction maintained at a steady pace. Although leisure time was limited, some had managed to find opportunities to steal away and had started to build a diving-board at the pool. Soon, the thrill of adventure consumed the group, just as the lodge had consumed them. They took turns playing truant and two or three of them could disappear for an hour or so when the sun was at its highest. After more than a week of hard work the diving-board was just about finished.

Friday had been Raythe, Jordan, Spyke and Kelby’s turn. So they had waved goodbye to Galen and headed for the swimming hole. The next time Galen saw his friends was after the tragedy when Aiden hastened into camp and directly to the infirmary carrying Kelby’s limp body. The young man had apparently been bleeding profusely because both he and the large Scot were covered in blood.

According to Raythe, the four of them had been diving when Kelby lost his footing and fell. While he and Jordan cared for their injured friend, Spyke had run to the building site for help.

Aiden exited the medical tent at the same time Quentin barged his way into it after having heard of the accident when Jordan had raced into the mess hall to inform his partners of what had happened. Men steadily began to gather and stood around in pairs or small groups, solemnly waiting word; most having missed the silent exchange between Aiden and Thomas.

A short while later Lakota appeared, glanced around at the crowd and sadly shook his head. There was nothing he could do, he gravely explained, as Kelby’s death had occurred within minutes of him falling and hitting his head.

Supper that night was a somber affair. Breakfast the next morning wasn’t much better and shortly before noon on the seventeenth of July, Kelby was gently laid to rest while the mournful sound of bagpipes floated through air.

Noticing the slumped shoulders, Galen silently slipped up to Quentin and softly laid a hand on the other man’s arm to attract his attention.

Quentin was deep in thought and didn’t hear Galen’s approach so the gentle touch startled him. He turned quickly and for an instant his mind played tricks on him, making him think it was Kelby but of course that was impossible. His throat constricted with sudden pain but he was happy to see that the person who drew him out of his thoughts was one of Kelby’s friends, maybe even his best friend.

“Hello, Galen, what’s got you up this early in the morning?”

“I w-woke up and once again found you gone. I w-was kinda concerned?”

Quentin’s shoulder slumped further. “That is very thoughtful of you. I appreciate it even though there is no need to worry. I’m okay. I just have some things to work out.”

“W-would talking about it help?” Galen asked tentatively as he took a place next to the older man and reached over to pat Copper.

Something in Galen’s sweet-natured face and patient eyes touched a spot deep within Quentin. Maybe it was Galen’s sincerity, or maybe he saw Kelby through those eyes. Whatever it was, it suddenly made it easier for Quentin to put his thoughts in some semblance of order. “Emotions are hard to put into words and mine are all mixed up. I feel sadness, anger, regret, and not a little guilt over what happened.”

“Quentin,” Galen spoke softly and tenderly patted the older man’s shoulder. “I know you m-may think I’m too young to understand what you’re going through b-but I really do. I’d like to share w-with you something Kelby and I talked about recently. At the time, I p-promised I wouldn’t tell anyone, but now that he’s gone I think he’d w-want me to b-break the p-promise.”

Quentin moved his body a little so he could face the young man and look directly into his eyes as he encouraged Galen to continue.

“Kelby told m-me about his feelings for you, Quentin, and about how relieved he w-was that the two of you had m-moved p-past your little falling-out to develop a deep friendship. He realized it w-was the love you gave him as a friend that he really n-needed and not the love one gets from a p-partner. He said deep in his heart he knew there w-was something m-missing b-but he didn’t exactly know w-what it was. He also confessed he felt b-bad for acting the w-way he did when you finally told him your true feelings.” Galen paused and peered at Quentin shyly, afraid he had said too much but wanting to finish what he started. “He w-was happy, Quentin, for having you in his life so you shouldn’t regret that circumstances b-brought you together.” 

Galen closed his eyes tightly for a moment, until the pressure in his eyelids subsided. When his voice was steady again, he continued. “I can see how sad you are about his p-passing. W-we all feel sad too, so you are n-not alone. P-perhaps if you reach out to someone for comfort and support, it m-might help, cause sitting and w-wallowing in your sorrow isn’t gonna do you any good at all; at least that’s w-what m-my grandfather used to say. He also said a person could find it turning into self-p-pity and that w-would b-be a shame.” 

Quentin marvelled at the words of advice coming from this young man. Galen was wise beyond his years and what he was saying made perfect sense. Quentin knew the truths spoken in his head but it took this young man to make him accept them in his heart. 

The tears began to stream down Quentin’s face and he didn’t try to hide them. He placed an arm around Galen and pulled him close, needing to feel and touch. “Galen, I want to thank you very much for breaking that promise. It has helped me sort things out and now that I know I never let Kelby down, I can move on with my grief. He had briefly told me so himself, but hearing it from someone else reaffirms his declaration. I will always miss him and be eternally grateful he had friends like you and that he was happy. The best way to honor his memory is to move on with our lives.” He smiled in spite of his sadness when Copper stood on his hind legs and licked the salty tears from his cheeks.

Patting the little dog, Quentin seemed to come to decision. “You know, I really don’t have the inclination to care for a pet and I know Seth is still missing his. Do you think Kelby would mind me giving Copper away?”

“N-not at all,” Galen enthused. “And I’m sure Seth w-will love and care for him as w-well as Kelby did.”

Quentin wiped his face and blew his nose before standing up with the puppy cradled in one arm and offering a hand to his young companion. “What do you say we begin moving on by having a good breakfast? I don’t know about you, but suddenly I’m starving!”

Galen grinned up at the older man, happy to see him smiling again. Even if the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes, it was a start. He looked up to the heavens, feeling sure Kelby was grinning down at them both. With arms lightly draped around each other, the two men slowly made their way back to camp while sharing amusing tales about their dearly departed friend.

Immediately upon entering the compound, Galen spotted his mentor waiting next to the entrance of the mess tent and letting go of Quentin, ran over to him.

“W-were you w-waiting for me, Thomas, or have you already had b-breakfast?”

“No, I haven’t had eaten yet. I was wondering where you were as you usually wait for me in the mornings,” Thomas replied.

“I w-was talking to Quentin. We w-were sitting on the rocks and w-watching the sunrise.”

“I hope Quentin is feeling better. This has been so hard on all of us, but for Quentin, I think, hardest of all,” Thomas answered, giving Galen a gentle hug.

“I think so too, b-but he likes to talk about Kelby and it helps him.” Galen returned the hug then turned to enter the big tent, expecting his mentor to follow him.

Quentin quietly stepped up to Thomas, momentarily forestalling him at the entrance. “If I were you, my friend, I would make that young man mine before someone else did.” He winked and smiled at the surprised expression on the other man’s face; then nonchalantly strolled into the mess hall.

Thomas was lost in thought throughout the meal. Though he made enough effort to follow Galen’s conversation, his mind kept wandering through the myriad of events in his life from the time of that fateful day he’d been arrested. He had originally believed that nothing could be more significant than the loss of his beloved Jacob, but so many things had happened since. Being exiled to this place; taking on his council responsibilities as well as heading up the farming effort, all of which was paramount to the survival of this community, had helped him heal without him fully realizing it. They had been here only three months and yet they had managed to get a man through drug addiction, deal with prejudices, hunt down a rogue wolf, cope with a snake bite and various injuries, and deal with their first death.

Yet of all that, nothing stood out more in his mind than meeting and mentoring this wonderful young man beside him. Galen had become his first thought in the morning and his last thought as he fell asleep each night.  Thomas began to realize the Galen was filling the void left in his heart when Jacob had been taken from him. It was now time for him to move on and let the memory of Jacob become a treasured thing of the past rather than the almost all-consuming pain of the present. 

Later that evening when the supper was finished, Galen had made plans to meet with Seth to play cards and Thomas took the opportunity to slip away from the main campsite. He found a quiet place on the beach, far from the noises of the community. He took a notebook and pencil from his pocket and began to write.

July 20, 1880

My Dearest Jacob,                                                                                

            Can it be that you are gone from me now for only a little over five months?  I miss your smile and laughter more than I can begin to say. I take comfort in the knowledge that you are in a better place where they do not judge a man by whom he loves, but by his capacity to do so.

         You taught me the meaning of unconditional love, Jacob, and I know they have a very special place in Heaven just for you.

Life in this place of exile has been difficult and yet we are progressing. There are many good men here and we are working hard to build a better life. You would like these men, Jacob. Aiden is a huge Scot with a stern visage and a tender heart, and would you believe, he’s taken two partners. Larry is an ex-marine and Spyke is a spit-fire with a mouth that would earn him a trip to my daddy’s woodshed. They plan to marry soon, a unique and wonderful thing for all of us here to think about. Open acknowledgement of marriage between two men; I’d like it to be one of the first things we deal with when we write the constitution of our small nation.

Walker was a magistrate before he was found out and now serves as our chef. He also has taken two partners, Thad and Jordan, nice young fellas who don’t suffer from the guidance he provides them.

To our great fortune we have a doctor, Lakota. He’s half Sioux and knows a lot about the use of herbs in healing. He’s partnered with Gille, a bit of a lonely young man who is slowing beginning to realize that he has a place here. We also lucked out getting a nurse, Yancey. I wouldn’t want to argue about doctor’s orders with him. He’d soon have you knowing who’s in charge; just as he has with his young partner, a rather clumsy but nice fellow called Brodie. 

We’ve got a pair of identical twin brothers. Actually, I think you’d have heard of them; Wesley and Wayne Bentley, the singers. They’ve partnered up with Nathan, a tailor and Samuel, who was a miner in his past life.
 
Life here started out pretty hard for our young Dallas, as he was addicted to Morphine. But with the help of our doctor and a good man named Kevin who took a shine to him, he got through it and is now a productive member of our community.

We’ve another rather large fellow, Brock. He’s become our wild game hunter and keeps us well stocked in meat. He’s taken a rather damaged young man called Raythe under his wing. I’ll be darned if I don’t think the two of them will be very happy together.

Troy is a teacher and he arrived on the island with his young partner Levi in tow. The lad suffers from what we always called fits, but the doctor has taught us the proper words are epileptic seizures.  From what I’ve observed, Troy keeps Levi pretty close at hand. He’s madly in love with him and they’ve declared themselves married.
        
Preston is a strong of back and mind woodsman who, to the blessing of us all, has taken our young gambler, Seth, as his partner. Not that he’s a bad young fella, he’s just in need of some serious guidance.

So far Mitchell who is a carpenter and Hendrik, an ex-assistant ranch foreman, have remained unattached but one never knows. 

Our other single man is Quentin, a former shopkeeper who is now our quartermaster. For some time I thought he’d partner with a sweet young fellow by the name of Kelby, but things didn’t turn out that way. Now they never can as we lost dear Kelby a few days ago to a senseless accident. He fell while swimming and struck his head on a rock. There was nothing the doctor could do as the poor boy had broken his neck. 

Now all this rambling about the men I am here with brings me to the one I as yet haven’t mentioned; Galen Deon Manara. He turned the ripe old age of eighteen the day we landed here. Can you believe they sentenced a boy of seventeen to this place? A virgin at that, as he hadn’t even made the sin of lying with another man. He’d only confessed his feelings to his parents and was overheard by someone outside of the family. Yet still the authorities chose to exile him to this place. How can I despise them for their heartlessness and yet thank God for having the lad here? For I do thank God. Never has there been a sweeter, more tender-hearted young man, though he can amaze me at times with his wisdom. He is filled with curiosity and a touch of mischievousness that can leave me both breathless with fear for him and laughing with the joy of his discoveries.   

My dear, dear Jacob; I know that you know me well enough to tell my description of Galen speaks of more than friendship. At first I offered only to mentor the lad, to offer guidance to someone younger and less experienced, but my feelings have grown, Jacob. They have grown to love. I have not yet made this confession to the object of my desires, for I do desire him more and more each day. However, before I can talk to Galen, I must let you go.

I will always carry you with me in my heart, beloved, and I hope you will forgive me and perhaps even feel happy for me that I have been given the chance to love again. 

I sign this with love and bid you rest in peace,

Thomas
           
After he finished reading the letter through, Thomas pulled a small empty bottle from his jacket pocket. He carefully rolled the paper and slipped it into the narrow opening and pressed a cork deeply into the neck to seal the contents. About two hundred yards further along, the beach ended at a steep rock face which at its top was about sixty feet above sea level. Thomas had been to the precipice with Aiden and Brock a few weeks earlier when they were trying to get a better feel for the lay of the island. He walked back to the wooded area behind the beach and made the long slow climb up the hill that lead to the cliff top. It took nearly an hour to reach his destination and he was somewhat breathless as he stood looking out over the vast, seemingly endless ocean. 

He removed the sealed bottle from his pocket and ran a finger along the shape of the glass container as one might caress a lover’s face. He stood silently for a moment, eyes closed as in prayer, then with great determination he flung the bottle as far out over the ocean as human strength would allow. He watched the bottle as it spun end over end, glittering in the light of the evening sun. Then suddenly it vanished from his sight, almost as if it had been snatched in mid-air. He knew it was just lost to his vision by the flickering of sun light off of the water, but a small part of his imagination fancied that it has been caught and carried to heaven to be delivered to his Jacob. 

A single tear made its way down Thomas’ cheek as he turned from the summit, and yet with each step he grew lighter of heart. Time had come to move on. If Galen would have him, then he was going to take Quentin’s advice and make that young man his own. 

“Can we go for a dip at the pool sometime this afternoon, just for fifteen minutes or so? It’s so hot!” Wes asked hopefully the next afternoon. It was nearing the end of July and the heat each day was becoming more oppressive.

Nathan looked up distractedly from his work. “Sorry, Minx, I have to finish this by week’s end. The crew is in dire need of a change. Then I will have to start work on some dress clothing for the upcoming wedding. Plus there are still alterations I need to get to.” He pointed to another heap of clothes hanging over a wooden rack.

Wes pouted. “Same story every time; you haven’t gone to the woods with me for days!”

Nathan was stacking the bales of cloth neatly into a chest. These would have to last them a long time and frankly he was worried. What if they ran out? What if the winters came early or were too harsh? He loved spending time with his young partner but right now he was very concerned with their clothing needs.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart. But Dallas and Kevin are ill with chest colds; Aiden just getting up to par since the snake bite and many of us are still coping with Kelby’s passing. From the day we landed here, we knew losing even one member of the community would make it harder for those of us left behind as there were so few of us to begin with. Kelby was a wonderful young man and will be greatly missed. In the meantime, while we’re rather short-handed it is necessary for us to cover for one another. If you wish, you may go to the pool with your brother for a quick swim, but please don’t be gone long. I can really use your help and your company.”

“It’s no fun without you.”

“I know you’re disappointed but there are other priorities.”

Wes’ chest heaved with indignation. “Of course, other priorities,” he scoffed.

“There is no need to be snide, Wesley. If you can’t accept facts or speak to me in an acceptable manner then I suggest you return when you are able to,” the older man said firmly as he frowned his disapproval.

Wesley looked undecided for a moment. He had expected Nathan to lay the law down, perhaps even ordered him to help out with the sewing and he would have accepted that. He would have grumbled of course, but secretly he would be glad that Nathan needed his help and wanted him around. But Nathan was always distracted and disinterested these days, which made him feel terribly insecure and unwanted.

A little thought, like unwelcome mischief, crept into his mind. Nathan had made it clear at the time of Troy’s switching of his students that he would not fight any man, not even if it was for him. To Wes, mistakenly or otherwise, that meant Nathan would not put him above others. Yet look at how he had jumped into Samuel’s place to take care of his brother. Priorities indeed. Wes suddenly realized where he stood with Nathan.

Without a word, he turned on his heels and left the tent.

Aiden, Mitchell and Preston sat huddled around a crate in the far corner of the mess hall. They had managed to squeeze a few minutes out of their busy day to prepare an update on the progress of the lodge. Aiden was to present it to the council by the end of the week. It would then be brought up at Sunday’s weekly community meeting.

“Well despite a few setbacks, we still appear to be on schedule,” Mitchell commented as he checked off another job that had been completed that afternoon. “All the long slabs for the roof are now pit-sawed and piled. They’ll be ready to place bark-side up on the rafters when the time comes.”

“The rock foundation ‘tis holding up good with o’er half the floor planks now securely nailed to the joists,” Aiden announced. “We should be ready to start setting the logs in place for the walls by this time next week.”

“The last of the trees for the infirmary should also be downed and trimmed by the end of next week,” Preston reported, a pleased look on his face. “That will free up Hendrik, Samuel and I to work with everyone else on the construction of the lodge.”

“Aye, we’re carrying out a huge task.” Aiden’s grin widened with gratification. “And ’tis proud we should all be with our accomplishment.”

“Yes, especially when we take into count the fact that so many of us had never even handled tools or the like before coming here. I must say, a couple of the younger men are showing a good aptitude for carpentry and are making excellent apprentices.” Mitchell’s praises were for two young men in particular who had been learning the trade under his patient tutoring.

“At least the men are becoming proficient enough to cut back on the injuries Lakota and Yancey have had to deal with,” Preston chuckled. “Of course, minor cuts, bruises and splinters will always be a hazard.”

“I do believe our establishing a workable schedule and routine has been a big help in moving things along,” Aiden pointed out, then added with pride. “Aye, and most the credit for that goes to Larry.”

“The man does have outstanding organizational skills,” Preston agreed. “It’s probably a throwback to his military training.”

“The completion of the planting was a boon as it increased the manpower at the building site,” Mitchell stated, nodding his head along with the others.

“Well, gentlemen, if ye nay have more to add to our report, we best be getting back to the work we’ve just been discussing,” Aiden suggested, getting to his feet and gathering up his few sheets of paper. He neatly folded them and slid them into his sporran. “Besides, from the scowl on Walker’s face, I’d be thinking he’s wanting this area back to set up for the evening meal.” 

Together they good-humouredly headed back to join the rest of the men at the site of their future home.

After his return to the campsite on Monday evening Thomas had spent much of the next twenty-four hours gathering his thoughts. It was an incredibly freeing feeling that he could now allow himself to admit his love for Galen. Now he had only to get the courage up to admit it to the young man himself

When he spent a second dinner hour barely able to concentrate on a normal conversation with Galen, Thomas knew the time had come to do something about it. Being mid-summer, the sun was still shining brightly long after dinner so they’d have plenty of time for an extensive walk and the talk he had planned and still get back before dark.

“It’s a beautiful evening, Galen. Would you like to take a walk out to the site and see how the work on the lodge is coming?” he asked as they were clearing away their dishes. “Though mind you, you’d have to wear your boots,” he teased.

Galen looked up in surprise. They so seldom had time to themselves lately. “I w-would really like that, Thomas. I haven’t b-been there for a while.”

“Okay, then go get your boots and I’ll meet you by the trail,” the older man replied.

Galen didn’t have to be asked twice. He ran out of the mess tent and was at the designating meeting place, boots in hand, in less than two minutes. He stood waiting eagerly while catching his breath. A few moments later he began to hop from one foot to another as he waited for his mentor. “W-why does everyone have to talk to him?” he muttered impatiently under his breath.

Thomas paid a visit to the latrine and then went to meet Galen. He was stopped by two people wanting his attention along the way but made a couple of hasty excuses and finally reached the trail-head. He laughed at the happy, breathless young man waiting for him. “You didn’t need to run; the site isn’t going anywhere, you know.”

“We b-better get outta here, Thomas, b-before someone else b-bushwhacks ya.”

“We’ll get going once those boots serve their purpose on your feet,” Thomas laughed and pointed to the footwear dangling from the younger man’s hand.

Galen sighed but did as he was told. Then taking Thomas’ hand, he started pulling him towards the path.

“It’s not a race, Galen,” the older man teased as he pulled back on the hand dragging him forward. “Let’s just enjoy a bit of leisure. It seems we’re always rushing to get things done.”

Galen reluctantly slowed down and as serenely as possible walked next to his friend.

Wanting to save the more serious reason for this walk until they reached the building site, Thomas tried to make light conversation as they strolled along. He wondered if Galen could detect any of the nervousness he was feeling. “How are things with the livestock?” he asked.

“Everything is going w-well, Thomas. Raythe, Spkye and I m-make a good team.” Galen sensed a difference in the older man. His step seemed lighter as if a burden had been lifted from his shoulders. ‘Or was it from his heart?’ the young man silently wondered. He dug in his heels causing Thomas to stop walking.

“Did you forget something?” Thomas asked when Galen halted so suddenly.

Galen threw his arms around Thomas’ waist and pressed his ear against the bigger man’s chest. “Yep, it’s sounding b-better, Thomas.” He glanced up and grinned broadly at the expression on Thomas’ handsome face.

Thomas was utterly perplexed by this move. “What are you talking about?”

“My grandmother always said an unburdened heart beats stronger,” the young man explained. Laughing merrily, Galen skipped off down the trail, leaving Thomas to follow at his own pace. He kept looking back over his shoulder, expecting the man to pick up on the game and chase him.

Thomas was momentarily shocked by Galen’s words, but he realized that he shouldn’t be. This young man was very perceptive and wise for his years so it should come as no surprise that he had picked up on Thomas’ mood change since he’d cast his letter out to sea.

“Come on, Thomas, catch me if you can!” Galen shouted.

Realizing he was being left behind, Thomas took off after his young love. “You’ll not escape me so easily,” he joked as he caught up with Galen. Then passing him, he ran on towards the site. “But can you catch me?” he laughed.

Galen accepted the challenge and picked up speed. The two of them arrived at the site together, breathless and exhilarated. They stopped to look at the large foundation with its nearly completed planking.

“Well what do you think so far?” Thomas asked, knowing Galen would be surprised with the progress and size of the building.

Galen’s eyes widened as he took in all that had been accomplished since he’d last seen it. He looked up at Thomas, his eyes sparkling with delight. “When w-will it b-be finished?”

“If all goes according to plan, we can move in by the end of September,” the older man replied with a smile.

“Gosh, if Aiden w-would wait a b-bit longer then he, Larry and Spyke could get m-married in it. B-but they want to get hitched next m-month.” Both men had cause to remember that the original wedding date had been delayed due to Kelby’s passing.

“Yes, I think they are anxious to do so. But you are right; it would be a wonderful place to be married in.” Thomas slowly replied as he tried to think of the right words to say next. “Galen, I’d like to talk to you about something very important to me.”

Galen opened his mouth to comment but saw Thomas hesitating and waited expectantly for what the man had to say.

“Actually it’s more someone very important to me rather than something; that someone being you.” He drew in a long breath while searching his heart for the right way to do this.

“Important? Me?”

Thomas took Galen’s hand and falling down to one knee, he smiled up at the brightly shining eyes before him. “Yes, you! You see my head has suddenly come to realize what my heart has known for some time now; that you, Galen Manara, have filled it with joy. I’ve fallen in love with you, Galen, and if you will have me, I’d like you and me to be the first to be married in this lodge.”

Galen mouth dropped and for a moment he was speechless. “For real?” he whispered, afraid to think he might not have heard correctly or that he’d misinterpreted the movement of Thomas’ lips.

“For real, my love, if it is what you want,” Thomas replied, kissing the hand he held.

“Yes, yes, Thomas, it is what I w-want.” Galen could hardly speak over the lump in his throat.

Thomas stood and pulled his beloved into his arms and pressed his lips to Galen’s in a deep kiss. “I love you,” he whispered when he broke the kiss.

Galen leaned into the kiss. He wanted more, knew there must be more yet wasn’t sure what that ‘more’ was. He only knew he felt bereaved when Thomas ended the kiss.

“You’ve made me very happy, Galen, and I promise to do my very best to make our lives together just as happy,” Thomas promised and then gave his new fiancĂ© another kiss. “I’d like to discuss a few things with you though, so we both know where we’re going and what we want from all of this.”

“I don’t w-wanna just talk, Thomas. I w-want m-more action,” Galen pleaded.

Thomas laughed. “Action?” he asked. “And just what kind of action do you have in mind?”

“W-well, it sure doesn’t involve a lot of chatting and it m-means taking off our clothes.” Galen smirked up at the older man.

Though prepared for this, Thomas hadn’t expected it quite so soon. “Galen, there is nothing on this earth I want more than to make love to you. However, that is a big step and not one to be rushed into. I know this is going to sound terribly old-fashioned to you, but I want us to wait until we are married,” the older man replied, trying to convey his seriousness.

Galen leaned closer and stared into Thomas’ eyes. In a serious voice of his own, he stated. “Ya know, Thomas, doing it to yourself p-pales after a while.”

Thomas cringed slightly. This lad was nothing if not forthright. He drew a bracing breath. “I know it’s not easy, Galen, but I also know you’ve never been with another man and I want our first time together to have a deep and special meaning. I think that if we can both be patient, in the end we’ll be happy we waited.”

Galen sighed but relented. “Okay, I trust you. If you say it’s b-best to w-wait and you’re sure it will b-be w-worth it, then I’ll try to be p-patient like you ask.”

“Thank you. Galen. I just want us to have the best of everything and that includes our love life. There are so many things I want for us to share and I’d like to hear about all the things that you want as well,” Thomas enthused.

“Okay. B-but, Thomas, while we’re w-waiting, can we do other things?” There were times when Galen could be rather tenacious.

“Other things; such as?” Thomas was almost afraid to hear the answer

“W-well, touchy-touchy kinda things like cuddling and kissing...I really like kissing.” Galen smiled. He secretly suspected Thomas liked it too.

“I also like kissing,” Thomas readily admitted as he leaned in to demonstrate, pressing his lips firmly onto the soft moist ones before him. “And cuddling,” he mumbled while wrapping his arms around the lithe body. He pulled back a moment later. “However, I don’t want the touchy-touchy going too far, so we need to go easy. Okay?”

Galen rolled his eyes. “Alright, w-we’ll take it easy.” He wasn’t overly happy with the decision yet strangely enough, he liked the idea of Thomas being in charge. “Papa w-was the head of his household and Pappous b-before him. W-will you b-be the head of ours, Thomas?”

“That was one of the things I wanted to talk to you about. I feel that the direction we took with our friendship should continue into our marriage. We would continue to have rules that we agree upon and consequences if they are broken. It will always be with your consent and all decisions will take your feelings into account. But yes, I want to be head of our household. Is that something that you would be happy with?”

“Yes.” Galen nodded. “It’s what I w-want too.” The young man had already experienced too many unsettling changes in his young life and relished the feeling of security such a marriage would give him.

“I promise to love you and care for you to the best of my ability all the rest of my life. I am an old-fashioned man who believes a family needs one person in charge to keep things going smoothly and I’m glad you are happy to go along with that.”

“I am happy, Thomas, honest.” Galen let out a blissful sigh and smiled contentedly.

Thomas felt so relieved that Galen wanted the same things he did. Now if he could only get them through the next two and a half months until their wedding.


TBC….

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