Chapter Forty-seven



Dallas and Kevin’s chest colds had cleared enough for them to leave the infirmary and return to their tent, provided they didn’t overdo it. They were permitted to work at the site in the mornings but had to rest in the afternoons. Unfortunately, much to Dallas’ chagrin, rest was exactly what Kevin insisted they do.

Wayne peered into the tent. Seeing his friend wide awake, he grinned and slipped inside. “Hi!”

Dallas scrambled up on his elbows. “Thank God you came. I am dying of boredom! Kevin has gone for more of that god-awful tea.”

Wayne dropped down onto the next pallet and held out a handful of berries. “Here; I just picked these. They’re the sweetest things I’ve ever tasted.”

Dallas was touched. His eyes closed as he savoured the taste of the fruit. After his bout of illness, he was a little dehydrated and the berries were everything Wayne had claimed. “Man, these are really good. You’ll have to show me where you found them. I wonder if Walker would make jam out of them. Want to hang out a while with me?”

“I can’t stay long. Samuel wants to get back to the new lodge to help pile the trimmed wood for the roofing and I said I would help.”

“Yeah, the lodge must be really coming on. I haven’t seen for almost a week now.”

“The lodge is coming along real fine. You’ll get a chance to go back soon enough, I guess. Kevin’s just being careful.”

“You don’t have to tell me that.” Dallas rolled his eyes in exasperation. “It’s not like I’m the first person who’s ever been sick in camp. After all, he got sick first and gave it to me, but I’m the one stuck here every afternoon until he says otherwise.” The men’s eyes met and the ‘or else’ did not need to be vocalised. “Hey, where’s Wes?” Dallas asked. “He said he might drop by later.”

“Actually, I haven’t seen Wes around today. He wasn’t at breakfast, or lunch either for that matter,” Wayne replied shortly.

“You two having problems?” Dallas enquired, skirting around the subject. He remembered how loyal the twins could be when the other was under attacked.

“I don’t know. I think something is bothering him, but it can’t be anything I did or said.”

“Why don’t you ask him what’s wrong? Can’t you feel anything? I thought twins could do weird stuff like that.”

“Of course I don’t feel it, stupid! It doesn’t work that way; at least not with us!”

“Okay, okay; I didn’t know. Hell, what I know about twins you can put on a nail-head and have space left over.” Dallas’ eyes sparkled with mirth.

Despite himself Wayne laughed; then he got sombre. “Yeah, some twins do that but not us. We hardly ever confided in one another before we got here. But here, somehow…I don’t know,” Wayne shrugged. “We get on much better and I ‘sense’ him more than I did before. So yeah, maybe you are right. I could be picking up on what he is feeling. Who knows?”

“That stinks,” Dallas said after some thought. “I mean you two not confiding in each other. Like nobody knows you as well as your brother does, not even Samuel. I guess you’ll just have to wait him out if he’s in a huff about something. You just have to remind him you are here if he wants to talk.”

They heard footsteps and looked up as Samuel appeared.

“See you around, Wayne. At least I’m allowed out for dinner.”

Wayne clapped Dallas lightly on the back. “Yep, and I’ll see if I can get Wes to join us.”

Raythe, Jordan, Galen and Spyke were sitting side by side a large log. The evening meal over, they were ready for some entertainment and had found it on the beach.

“This should be good,” Raythe muttered, making no effort to hide his belief in the opposite.

Levi placed his fingers along the eight small holes of the chanter; leaving the last one open in the manner he’d been taught. No longer as intimidated by the instrument as he had been a week ago, he squeezed the bag under his left arm, puffed up his cheeks, gripped the blow-pipe gently between his teeth and blew into it.

“He’s getting better at it,” Jordan commented, moments before they all cringed at the high-pitched screech that ensued from the bagpipe their friend was attempting to play.

Spyke leaned behind Galen and quietly complained to Raythe. “God-damn thing sounds like it’s in heat.”

“He’s only b-been doing it for a few days, Spyke,” Galen reminded his friend. “Don’t w-worry, he’ll have it down p-pat in p-plenty of time.”

Spyke glanced at the younger man and huffed. “You’re always the optimist, aren’t you? It’s not your fuckin’ wedding that’s gonna be ruined.”

“Come on, Spyke,” Jordan intervened. “Levi was the only one willing to give it a try, so the least you can do is give him a chance to prove whether or not he can actually do it.”

“Yeah, I guess he’s trying his best,” Spyke relented. “Besides, Aiden is a good teacher.”

“That’s true,” Raythe offered his two cents worth. “And the big day isn’t for another three weeks.”

Spyke glared over at the man sitting on the other end of the log. “Is that supposed to make me feel better? Cause it didn’t!” He pouted, not at all gratified by the others snickering at him.

Levi finished the refrain and sighed in relief as he lowered the bagpipe.

“Yer doing grand, laddie,” Aiden enthused. He chuckled when Levi merely sent him a frown of scepticism. “Aye, tis true; and ye’ll improve steadily with daily practise.”

At the sounds of clapping, Levi turned slightly, grinned broadly and bowed to his appreciative audience of four. Encouraged by the applause, he began to play again.  

Meanwhile, Larry was gathering up the last of the tools he and Mitchell had been using that afternoon when a loud painful moan was heard reverberating through the trees that separated the site from the ocean. It sounded like a wounded moose. He chuckled to himself while shaking his head in disbelief that his older partner could actually love that sound. He was about to fling the tool bag over his shoulder when his friend and workmate came down the path.

“Hey, LT,” Mitchell greeted. “Do you think it’s safe to be out here alone with a wounded animal running amuck in the woods?”

Larry fondly looked up at the handsome black man standing before him. Mitchell had a huge grin spreading across his face. Larry had moved around a lot during his military career and as a result had found it hard to make friends. Throughout the years, he met few with whom he could strike up an alliance because of the pain of losing the camaraderie to either death in combat or to a transfer, so he had decided it was easier to remain isolated. But maintaining a similar distance was not possible on the island, so he had allowed the walls to slowly come down and had soon struck up a strong bond with the big man. It both amused and pleased him that Mitchell called him LT, which was a short military term used by soldiers for their lieutenant. The use of the nickname gave Larry a sense of belonging and sharing with someone other than his partners.

“Mitchell,” Larry laughingly replied. “You know damn well that’s not a wounded animal. It’s just poor Levi trying his best to make our wedding a little more special than it already will be.”

“I don’t know, LT. If it was my wedding, I sure wouldn’t want to hear the sounds of two cows mating as I walked down the aisle.”

Larry let out a hearty snort. “Don’t worry; it won’t sound like that on our wedding day. Levi will make sure he gets it right. Besides, if he can’t master it, Aiden won’t force him to play it.”

“You hope,” Mitchell retorted.

“Yeah, I do hope,” Larry mused. 

As the two men made their way back down the path to join those gathering around the fireside, Larry stopped in mid-stride and turned to Mitchell. With a slight blush coloring his cheeks and a sudden attack of butterflies in his stomach, the young ex-marine cleared his throat and asked his friend the question he had been practicing for a week or so. “Mitchell? Uh, I was wondering…..that is, I was hoping…” Suddenly the speech he had prepared failed to materialize.

Mitchell slipped his arm around the young man by way of encouraging him to continue.

“What I’m trying to ask, Mitchell, is would you do Spyke and I the honor of standing up for us at our wedding?’

“Are you asking me to be your best man, LT?” Getting an affirmative nod, Mitchell grinned. “Larry, I’d be truly proud and honored to stand for you boys. It will be my greatest pleasure.” he didn’t even try to hide his delight.

Larry threw his arms around the bigger man. “Thank you, Mitchell. Thank you very much. Come on; let’s go share the news with Spyke and Aiden.” With that, the two men made their way back to camp.

The next evening found Nathan looking around and wondering where Wes was. Time for the evening fireside was drawing close and he’d been looking forward to spending some time with his partner. The past week had been gruelling and except for the odd meal and bedtime, he’d hardly seen Wes at all.

Moments later he spotted Wes coming out of the woods from the direction of the swimming hole. Hendrik was walking beside him. They were chatting amiably but for some reason Wes appeared a bit uncomfortable as Nathan approached them.

“Good evening, Hendrik.” Nathan nodded at one man before turning his attention to the other. “I’ve been waiting for you, Minx,”

“Hope you don’t mind me and Wes here spending some time together, Nate?” Hendrik said pleasantly as he threw an arm about Wes and tousled the younger man’s hair.

“Please, the name is Nathan, and I have no problem with it at all.” Nathan replied smoothly, keeping his annoyance well hidden. Secretly the tailor was beginning to wonder if Wes and Hendrik had been together more often than he knew of. Was there more to what was causing Wes’ mood swings than what he had originally supposed?

“Sorry, Nathan it is.” Hendrik grinned unrepentantly. “See ya around, Wes.” He waved at them and casually walked off, leaving the two men to sort things out.

Wes held his breath. Would Nathan be angry or maybe even show some sign of jealousy? Seeing Nathan’s calm profile, Wes felt a stab of disappointment. He stomped over and threw himself down a little ways from the fire.

Nathan sighed and followed. “Had a good day, Minx?”

Wes nodded his head sourly.

“I’m glad then,” Nathan sincerely commented as he dropped down next to his partner. He was bone tired and fervently hoped to avoid another unpleasant confrontation. In fact, he just wanted to be able to go to bed soon. “Where did you disappear to? Up at the pool?”

“Yeah,” Wes responded rather shortly. “Hendrik was already there. He started telling me all sorts of funny stories and we lost track of time.”

“Well, I am glad to see you developing a friendship.” Nathan’s eyes were hooded and Wes was staring into the fire. Neither was quite sure what the other was thinking and Wes looked positively gloomy.

Nathan gritted his teeth. This was a far different Wes from the one who emerged from the woods with Hendrik.  “So you two went swimming?”

Wes turned to face Nathan, his eyes gleaming like hard shards of glass. “Hell yes! He was even naked in the pool with me. It was kinda awkward at first, but I got used to it. Anyway, it’s big enough for more than one at a time you know, or have you forgotten?”

Nathan kept his voice even. “No, I haven’t forgotten as each time we’ve gone has become a special memory for me.”

Wes swallowed the lump in his throat while conflicting emotions warred in his chest. There was so much love in Nathan’s reply, yet the man hadn’t batted an eyelid about Hendrik or his nakedness. “We didn’t plan to go there together. We just happened to run into one another.” Wes hated himself for wanting to explain.

“Hey, it’s alright, sweetheart. I want you to be able to enjoy yourself.”

And then Wes hated himself more for needing to hurt Nathan. “He’s goes there practically every day so we plan to meet up again tomorrow. I didn’t realize he had such a great sense of humour. That guy can sure make me laugh!”

“That’s good to hear because God knows we could all use a good laugh, especially during these trying times.” Nathan thought agreeing with the younger man would prevent another falling out. He could not have been more mistaken.

“Don’t you care!” Wes hotly hissed. “I could be fucking another man for all you know!”

Reaching up, Nathan tried unsuccessfully to prevent Wes from storming off once again.

“Is something going on with your brother?” Samuel asked softly as he watched Wes get up and walk away.

Wayne shrugged. “He’s not telling me a thing. I tried to talk to him earlier, but he just brushed me off.”

“Hmm.” Samuel looked thoughtful. 

“Why don’t you ask Nathan? He might tell you,” Wayne suggested hopefully.

“If he has anything he wants to share with me, he will tell me in his own good time. It isn’t my place to pry.”

“How come it’s okay for me to ask Wes, but not for you to ask Nathan?” Wayne asked crossly. “And how come sometimes it’s prying and sometimes its concern?”

Samuel’s chest rumbled with a chuckle. “Sometimes, that’s just the way it is.”

Not knowing what to do with himself, Wes went and sat behind their tent to brood over his failing relationship with Nathan. He drew his knees up, folded his arms over them and dropped his head. A few minutes later, he was softly crying. He didn’t hear Nathan come up until the older man slid down beside him.

“Why are you crying, Wes?” The timbre of Nathan’s voice was far from harsh, but his frustration was clearly noticeable. He’d had little rest in the last few weeks and his constant bickering with Wes had further taken its’ toll on him. His mind was numb with fatigue and frustration.

Hearing the tone, Wes immediately withdrew into himself. “None of your business,” he muttered.

“What’s eating you? There’s no pleasing you these days.” Nathan was fast losing whatever patience he had left.

“Then go away!”

“Look, I am as tired as hell and totally confused by your behaviour. I would appreciate some understanding ...” He stopped as he watched Wes’ dark eyes brim over. Suddenly he was filled with guilt and sadness. “Oh, Minx, why are we doing this?”

“Go away!” The words were muffled and full of hurt.

“I am not going anywhere. We need to talk.” Nathan attempted to put an arm around Wes’ shoulder but it was roughly shrugged off.

“You don’t care, remember?” Wes muttered into his folded arms.

“How on earth did you form that opinion? I wouldn’t be here trying to converse with you if I didn’t care.”

“Well, you sure don’t show it. I don’t even know what you think so how the hell am I supposed to know how you feel?”

“Wes, I have been here for you almost from the first day we arrived on the island. I have not spent private time with anyone but you. I have loved and made love to only you.”

“Hendrik and I never did anything. We could have, but we didn’t!” Wes cried; a challenge in his dark eyes.

“I believe you,” Nathan answered truthfully, knowing he did in his heart. “I am not saying you’ve been unfaithful.”

“Oh, don’t you be too sure of yourself, Mr. Know-It-All. Ow!”

“You’ve snapped at me just once too often, Wesley, and I’ve overlooked it; but I draw the line at name-calling, however mild. If you want me to come right out and order you not to have anything further to do with Hendrik, then say so.” Nathan calmly scolded, after having delivered a hard swat to Wes’ thigh.

“I thought you didn’t give two hoots about me. You’re supposed to tell me what to do. I needed you to put the brakes on, to show you cared what I did and with whom.”

“Minx, honey, you are a grown man and as such are more than capable of making your own choices. I do not feel it is my place to make them all for you and I am sure you’d soon resent it if I did.”

Wes felt the sand shifting beneath his feet; nothing felt right any more. Everything was upside down and he had no idea why. His mind grasped the only tangible thought he had picked up and he said the only thing he could.  “You are absolutely right. I am a grown man. Stupid of me to be needing you; so sorry ... my mistake!“

Nathan looked grimly at Wes. “Don’t do this, Minx.”

“Do what? Grow up?”

“No; please don’t say something we may both find very hurtful and will regret,” Nathan pleaded for both their sakes.

Wes was going under with no idea how to stop. “You know what, Nathan? You are a real genius. How did you know I would resent you making decisions for me? ‘Cause you’re right, I am resenting it and I want to thank you for making me see the light!”

“I can’t talk to you like this.”

“Ha, that much is obvious!”

Nathan took a deep breath, trying to curb his annoyance and not quite succeeding. “Once again, we both seem to be experiencing difficulties in communicating,” he said tersely. After a long pause, he continued in a slow deliberate voice. “I can’t help but question if maybe we jumped the gun and moved into a relationship before we were fully prepared to do so.”

Wes felt the breath knocked out of him. “What’s that supposed to mean?” Wes’ belligerent attitude was fast becoming one of alarm, not that he’d let Nathan see it.

“At the time, the majority of us were still reeling from all that had led up to our being here. Many of us desperately needed comfort, companionship and someone to belong to. It is possible,” here Nathan paused again, his reluctance to continue painfully obvious, “that in our haste to find these things, we may have lacked the patience to allow more time to get to know not only one another, but also our own hearts and minds.”

“W-what? What are you saying?” The panic was swiftly replaced by anger.

Nathan schooled his features and plunged ahead. “I feel I may have inadvertently coerced you into a relationship you were not ready for so I am suggesting we seriously consider going our separate ways for a while.” He didn’t want this but felt he had to give the man he loved a way to back out gracefully if he so wanted.

A strangled choke rose to Wes’ lips. “And just how long are you talking about?”

“I have no time frame in mind, Wesley. I want and need a life-partner, a lover, a best friend; if that person is meant to be you, and I hope with all my heart that it is, then we will find out when the time is right.” Nathan gazed steadily into the younger man’s ragged face, searching for answers but finding none behind the antagonism. His heart sank.

“Oh sure, whatever you say. You think this is best? Fine, .no regrets. By the way, the sex was great! Ha!” The words were tumbling out in short broken sentences, hollow, bereft and horribly insincere. 

“Wes, Minx…..this is not how I want us to part. In fact, I wish we didn’t have to part at all but I truly believe we need the time and space to determine our truly feelings for one another and whether or not it is each other we want to commit to.” Nathan was at a loss as to how he could better explain himself.

“As usual, you are right!” Wes spat out, the statement was accompanied by a short bitter laugh.

Nathan sighed and murmured what would seal their fate. “Then I guess there is nothing left to say except I would hope we can at least remain civil to one another.” At that very moment, a little part of Nathan wavered. He wondered if he had just made a terrible mistake.

A wave of nausea surged through Wes as he picked himself up and slipped into the dark night.

Nathan’s chest tightened; the pain of his heart-break intensifying as he watched the irascible and impossibly petulant young man run away from him. Well, what was done was done and it was probably for the best, Nathan told himself. Somehow the thought didn’t help one bit to convince him of that as hot bitter tears slowly coursed paths of despair down his cheeks.


TBC….

2 comments:

  1. Ok, who wrote this chapter and made me cry?

    ReplyDelete
  2. The scene with Nathan and Wes was co-written by Teri and Jodie. Sorry we made you cry. Thank you for commenting; it is appreciated.

    ReplyDelete