Chapter Thirty-one



Galen trudged along under the weight of the milk buckets Walker had sent him for. ‘I’ll be glad when the council comes up with a better idea for keeping the milk cold,’ he thought. ‘This fetching it from the ocean three times a day is beginning to pale even if we do take turns. After all, it’s going on two months since we got here.’

Seeing Seth a short distance away, Galen considered taking a detour to avoid meeting up with his tormentor. Fortunately, that became unnecessary when the other man took another path. As Galen approached the turn-off he noticed Seth had dropped something. He put down the buckets, picked up the fallen object and after a brief hesitation, called out to get the man’s attention. “S-seth, you dropped your p-playing cards!”

Seth turned on his heel and hastily bore down on the younger man. Leaning in close with his eyes glaring, he sarcastically mimicked, “How many times do I have to tell you my name is not S-s-seth, you imbecile? And what’s it to you if I dropped my p-p-playing cards?”

At that moment, Thad put in an appearance. “What’s the hold up, Galen? Walker’s getting impatient.” He took in Seth’s scornful expression and Galen’s combatant stance. “Something going on here?” he inquired, glancing from one man to the other.

“Nothing that’s any of your business,” Seth meanly retorted as he viciously grabbed the pack of cards out of Galen’s hand. “S-s-simple S-s-simon here just had something of mine.”

“What is your problem?” Thad demanded. “Why are you so nasty with the kid?”

“What’s it to you? Unless of course, you’re S-s-simple S-s-simon’s nanny,” Seth sneered.

“I don’t n-need an n-nanny!” Galen disputed indignantly, taking a step towards his antagonize even though Seth was several inches taller than him.

“Come on, Galen. Just ignore him! He isn’t worth it.” Thad picked up the two buckets. “Let’s get these to the mess tent. It’s almost lunch time and Walker’s waiting for this milk.”

“That’s right, dummy, do what he says ‘cause here comes someone else who’s probably looking for you,” Seth mocked just as Spyke happened along.

“Why don’t you just back off?” Thad asked.

“Are you going to make me?” Seth sneered, daring him to follow through.

“If he doesn’t, I sure as hell will!” Spyke got into the big bully’s face.

“Hey, it’s under control, Spyke!” Thad informed the younger man, although in truth he really felt things were actually getting out of control with tempers heating up way too quickly.

“Are you on the half-wit’s side, too?”

“Who are you calling a half-wit? You want trouble, you asshole? I’ll fucking give you trouble!” Spyke pushed the bigger man, who immediately shoved back.

“Come on, Spyke! Better leave pretty-boy alone!” Thad advised just as two more young men showed up.

Wes and Wayne were hurrying to get back to camp but they pulled up short at the sight before them. The air was practically sizzling with tension.

“What’s going on?” Wes asked, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. He easily picked up on the hostile atmosphere and took in the tight stances of the guys as well as the thunderous look on Spyke’s face.

No one answered him and Wes inched closer, full of curiosity. Wayne put a restraining hand on his brother’s arm, only to be rudely shaken off.

“Don’t get involved!” the older twin hissed.

Seth made a grab for Spyke, who immediately retaliated by throwing the first punch and catching Seth off guard. The two combatants tripped and fell while continuing to fight.

“Take that, you fucking shit-head!” Spyke yelled, landing a second punch. He apparently had the upper hand as he was the one on top.

From where Wes was standing, the fight looked pretty one-sided. He often felt as if it was Seth against everyone else. He had seen a few of the others avoiding Seth and whispering behind his back. He was slowly beginning to know Seth and didn’t think he was as mean as he made himself out to be. He attempted to plunge headlong into the fray, while his twin tried to hold him back.

“Wes!” Wayne growled. “Remember the rules! No fighting!” He thought he had managed to waylay his brother but such was not the case as Wes advanced to help Seth.

Within seconds, Wes had jumped in with his arms and legs flailing amidst the heap on the ground. Grunts and sounds of victory were heard as fists found their marks.

Hearing the commotion, Larry raced down the path and arrived to find Spyke, Seth and Wes rolling on the ground and clawing at one another. He ran over to keep the confrontation from escalating, but poor timing on his part resulted in Spyke’s drawn back elbow smacking him in the face. Blinking back tears and wiping his bloodied nose with one hand, Larry somehow managed to maintain his hold on his squirming younger partner.

Everyone backed off as Spyke continued to clamor for revenge.

Then Galen stepped forward and shouted, “I can fight m-my own b-battles!”

“Oh yeah! Bet you can’t!” Seth spat out the challenge and turned his nose up at the person he was most leery of; not that he would ever admit to it. “You don’t have the nerve.”

Galen threw himself on top of the man in an attempt to pummel him into the ground. He wanted to prove to the group that not only did he have the nerve but he was not going to stand for any more bullying.

Wes once again tried leaping to Seth’s aid but Wayne held on tightly to his shirt and hissed. “You are so going to get it this time!”

A round of applause for Galen came from Thad and Spyke just as several older men appeared on the scene.

Larry closed his eyes and let out a groan at the sight of a big Scot thundering down the path towards them.

Spyke, not seeing Aiden’s approach, was still scratching at Larry for release. Larry, hoping to hide the fact from his older partner that he was bleeding, turned his head away. He swung Spyke around so he could see their partner bearing down on them.

“Oh fuck, Larry!”  Spyke whispered. “By the look on the big man’s face, we might be in a bit of shit here.”

“What do you mean ‘we’?” Larry retorted. “I didn’t do anything but try to referee and all I got for my efforts was a taste of my own blood.”

As soon as the older men reached the combatants, Thomas dragged Galen off Seth and placed him on his feet. Without waiting for Galen’s adrenaline-forced breathing to ease, Thomas demanded to know why he was fighting.

“It wasn’t his fault, Thomas,” Thad answered for his friend.

“Then whose fault was it?”  Thomas sternly inquired.

All involved looked towards Seth who had sought protection by sliding in behind Preston. The big lumberjack turned and glared down at the object of attention. His inquiry as to why the others were staring at him met with shrugged shoulders.

“That asshole was just lookin’ for a fight! That’s the problem! Besides which, he’s got a fuckin’ big mouth!”  Spyke spoke up when Seth refused to.

“Shut up, Spyke!” Larry warned. “Don’t aggravate Aiden any more than he already is or you’ll be sorry.”

“Wheesht, enough!” Aiden ordered. He looked at the older men and suggested, “I think ‘twould be best if we separate them all ‘til we get things sorted out.”

The other men agreed as they took their individual charges off to talk with them in private, leaving Aiden alone with his two partners. Thad and Wayne made good their escape, only too relieved not to be among the guilty parties.

Aiden walked over to where Larry and Spyke stood. “Larry, look at me.”

Larry, not wanting Aiden to know he’d been injured, kept his head turned away.

Lawrence, dinnae make me ask ye again. Just turn yer head and let me see yer face, lad.”

“You may as well let him see, Larry, ‘cause he’s going to find out sooner or later,” Spyke advised and got shoved down for his trouble.

Aiden bent over, lifted Spyke off the ground and placed him out of Larry’s reach. “Ye hold yer tongue, wee toerag o’mine. I’ll be dealing with ye in a minute. Lawrence, let me see yer face!” His voice was much sharper this time.

Larry turned and lifted his head. The blood flow had now become a trickle but small amounts had dried on his upper lip.

“How did that happen? Ye dinnae take the first punch that had Seth retaliating, did ye?” Aiden asked.

“No, sir!” Larry was indignant. “I tried to break it up and got struck in the face by a flying elbow.”

“Let me take a look to see if ‘tis broken.”  Aiden stepped closer to Larry and gently examined him. “It doesna seem to be but Lakota’s the doctor, not I. So I want ye to go see him. Then get that cleaned up and go back to our tent so we can have a wee chat.”

“I didn’t do anything, Aiden.”

“Aye, but ‘tis true ye tried to hide from me the fact ye were hurt. I’ll nae put up with that, Larry.”

Larry was about to argue but the look in the bigger man’s eyes, made him swallow his objections. “No, sir. I get your point.”

“I’d be thinking ye might. Now why don’t ye take yerself off to the doctor and get checked out while I deal with this wee spitfire.” Aiden didn’t say another word until Larry was out of sight, then he turned to Spyke and demanded, “Well, just what would be yer rendition of events?”

“Oh shit, Aiden, that prissy was picking on Galen, calling him names and such. I didn’t know if the kid had it in him to defend himself so I took it upon myself to act as his protector.”

“So ye started it even knowing the council’s rules on fighting?”

“Gee, when you put it that way, it sounds like what I did was wrong. But if you look at things from my point of view, you’d see what I did was perfectly acceptable.”

“Yer concept of acceptable behavior is amazing. ‘Tis plain wrong, what ye did. Ye should have taken Galen and walked away instead of brawling about.”

“That’s your opinion.”

“Aye, ‘tis so and ‘tis the only one that matters here.” Aiden took a hold of the young man’s arm and dragged him over to a fallen log, where he seated himself, pulled down Spyke’s pants and hauled him over his knee. “ Just why is the flat of me hand going to be warming this wee bottom of yers, laddie?”

“Cause I was fighting,” Spyke whimpered and clenched his backside as he waited for the first spank to land.

Thomas took Galen by the arm and led him away from the scene of the fight. He was at a momentary loss for words. It came as a shock to him to see this usually genial young man whom he was so fond of, actually fighting. They walked to the beach and Thomas guided them to a large drift wood log where he firmly sat Galen down.

“Before I make any comments, Galen, I’d like you to tell me exactly what lead up to this fight.”

“Seth dropped his p-playing cards.” To Galen’s mind, he had answered the question as that was what had started the whole fiasco.

“Dropped his playing card?” Thomas was left more confused than before. “How could that start a fight between you?”

“Well, I p-picked them up and returned them b-but..." Galen paused to think of how to explain this without causing Seth to dislike him further. “Seth doesn’t like anyone touching his stuff.”

“And what did he say or do about this?” Thomas inquired.

“He kinda complained and that’s w-when Thad showed up, then Spyke.”

Thomas drew a deep breath; obviously getting this whole story was going to be like pulling teeth. “Kinda complained? Galen, what exactly did he say or do?”

Galen sighed. He realized Thomas was going to find out sooner or later, so he did his best to explain. “Not m-much really, but Spyke didn’t like it and told Seth to shut up; when Seth said 'm-make me', Spyke p-punched him.” Galen smirked at the memory.

What Galen was trying so hard not to say concerned Thomas more than what he did say. “I’d like to know exactly what ‘not much really’ means, if you please.”

“Well, he just calls p-people he doesn’t like m-mean n-names. He doesn’t like me m-much. But that’s okay, Thomas; not everyone likes everyone else you know."

“I realize that, Galen, but you also know that not liking a person is not an acceptable excuse for fighting with them. We have been very clear in the council that fighting will not be tolerated here. Name-calling, though a distasteful and improper behavior, is not any reason for fighting.”

“I know and I’m sorry," Galen murmured dejectedly. Looking up, he added, “I guess things just got a little out of hand. A few of us m-might have over-reacted a b-bit.”

“I think ‘over-reacted’ is an understatement for what went on here,” Thomas commented. “Okay, we got to the point where Spyke punched Seth; what happened after that?”

“The twins came along and Wes took Seth’s side. Then Larry arrived and kinda b-broke things up by p-pulling Spyke away.”

“At what point did you enter the fight?”

“I w-wanted to show Spyke I can stand up for m-myself, so that’s when I sorta w-went after Seth."

“I see,” Thomas sighed. “Galen, you do understand that this matter will have to come up before the council, don’t you?”

Galen’s eyes widened and he paled slightly. He hadn’t given any thought to the repercussions of breaking a statute set down by the ruling body of their little group of men. “W-will we get kicked out of the community?”

“No! Galen, we formed the council so the community could work together and deal with the problems that arise. It would take a whole lot more than some fisticuffs to have someone expelled from our newly formed society,” he reassured the young man.

“So w-what’s gonna happen then?”

“You and all those involved will have to stand up before the council. Each will be asked to give their accounting of what happened and then the council will determine the appropriate punishments. I think it is safe to assume apologies will be in order. Would you like me to stand with you, Galen?  I could get someone else to serve in my place on the council if you’d like my support.”

“I think I can do it by m-myself, Thomas. Remember you told m-me we all have our responsibilities to the community and head of the council is yours. Thank you for offering though,” Galen sincerely declined even though he really had doubts about his ability to do this on his own.

Thomas was disappointed. He’d hoped that Galen had grown to want his support. But he was not in a position to demand that Galen accept him. However, he couldn’t help wistfully thinking, ‘Maybe one day he’ll trust me enough.’

"Alright, as long as you’re sure. Just remember that as a council member I cannot allow our friendship to affect the outcome of this matter.”

“I know,” Galen replied before asking uncertainly. “Huh, Thomas, are you going to p-punish me too?”

Thomas was surprised by the question. Up to this point he hadn’t thought of it. He and Galen had formed an agreement that he could punish the younger man for wandering off or not eating properly and following the doctor’s advice. But was he within his rights to chastise the lad for this infraction on top of what he knew would be a difficult outcome from the council session.

“I think we should discuss this after the council has made its’ decision, Galen. Though you broke a rule of the community, you did not break one of the rules you and I discussed. After this is done, I would like to talk about what rules we might further decide on between us though.  How does that sound?”

“I’m okay with that.” Galen nodded and breathed a sigh of relief. He knew in his heart there was one reason he’d have for fighting again and that was if someone ever accused Thomas of being an unfair or unreasonable man.

“Alright, Seth, I want an explanation,” Preston somberly demanded as he took a seat on tree stump and glared up at the fidgety young man in front of him.

“I’m not exactly sure what happened, Preston. Galen and I were kinda exchanging words when first Thad showed up, then Spyke. I think the twins arrived on the scene just as Spyke belted me one and all hell seemed to break loose.”

“Why were you and Galen arguing in the first place?” Preston wanted to know, his little remaining reserve of patience dwindling rapidly. “What is going on between you two? When and how did it start?”

Seth kept his eyes on the ground and shrugged his shoulders. His attention was brusquely drawn back to the older man when a large hand reached behind him and landed a stinging swat on the seat of his trousers.

“I really don’t know the answers, Preston.” Seth muttered, rubbing furiously at the hand-print on his backside. He was unwilling to own up to the feelings he harbored towards Galen. He thought back to the first time he’d laid eyes on the younger man. They had both been passengers on the last large rowboat transporting the exiled men from the ship to the island. Seth shuddered as he pictured the person who sat hunched and motionless on the seat across from him; a wretched filthy little creature with unruly black curls and dark gray eyes staring unseeingly from a gaunt pale face. Seth had determined then and there that Galen was a bad omen and someone to be very wary of. This conclusion was only strengthened when he first heard his nemesis stuttering.

“Well you may not know how it began but rest assured, it is about to end! Fisticuffs have never been an acceptable or successful means of handling differences. Brawling is strictly forbidden here!” Preston scolded. “You, I’m afraid, are about to learn that ordinance the hard way. Drop your pants, Seth!” he ordered and patted his knee.

Seth was in little double as to what was about to take place. They had very few rules in their relationship. First and foremost was the ‘no gambling for chores’ rule, the only other being that Preston expected complete adherence to all regulations proposed by the council and duly voted upon by the community as a whole. Seth had already broken the first rule and suffered the consequences. He fervently wished he hadn’t broken the second one. 

“Come here, you little hellion!” Nathan sternly ordered. “I have a long discussion planned for you!”

“Like I said, Nathan, I thought they were bullying Seth and I was just trying to help.”

“Do we have a rule about public brawling and hitting others?” asked the ever-patient Nathan.

“Before I answer that question, can I ask you one, Nathan?”

“Of course!” Nathan heaved a silent sigh.

“If I were to come across something bad happening, would you expect me to help?”

“Yes.” Nathan let out a long-suffering breath.

“And if the only way to help is to get into the fight, would you fault me for it?” Wes was searching for a loophole.

Nathan kept his face straight and cut to the chase. “Fighting is inexcusable. It is never the answer to any problem and you know it.”

Stumped, Wes ventured. “W-what happens now?”

“What did I say I would do the next time you got involved in a fight?”

Wes kept his mouth shut tightly and refused to answer.

“Think about it while we walk, Wesley. After all, it wasn’t quite all that long ago.” Nathan took Wes’ hand and led him further into the forest to a glen that would offer more privacy.

Arriving at their destination, Nathan turned and calmly inquired. “Have you come up with a proper answer, young man?”

“You said I’d be in trouble if I got into another fight,” Wes begrudgingly replied. “I didn’t mean to get in trouble.” This last was softly spoken.

“Not meaning to and not doing it are two entirely different things, young man. And now you find yourself answering to me and to the council once again; for fighting no less!”  Nathan bristled with frustration

Wes hung his head at the stern admonishment.

“Work harder on controlling undesirable impulses, Wesley,” Nathan recommended smoothly. “As far as I can see, you still need help doing that.” Nathan encouraged no further conversation, as he sat down on a fallen tree and reached to undo Wes’ pants.

Wes gasped and tried to still Nathan’s hands. “NO!” he exclaimed, panic in his eyes. This was the first time Nathan was removing his pants for something other than pleasure.

Nathan easily had the slightly smaller man bare-bottomed and over his knee. “Sooner or later, Wesley, you are going to remember that fighting is forbidden." He lectured, then raised his hand and landed a hard swat on the smooth, white flesh.

Wes jumped at both the sound, as well as the intensity of the smack. Without the protection of his pants, his bared flesh flared into an immediate sting from Nathan’s punishing hand. Spanks rained down in a steady fashion while Wes sobbed out his contrition.

He could not believe how much more it hurt being spanked on his bare bottom than it had the previous time. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he made a vow to himself. Never again would he dive into a fight without thought. This kind of spanking was way too high a price to pay.

Nathan allowed the young man several moments to become aware of the punishment having ended.

"Ssssh, Minx. All is over. You are forgiven. The slate has been cleaned and we start anew." Nathan soothingly repeated this refrain as he rubbed ever widening circles on his partner’s shuddering back.

Wes drew in ragged breaths as he got unsteadily to his feet and pulled up his clothing. How could Nathan spank so hard? The man certainly didn’t fool around when he punished. Most of the time, he was so easy-going. Wes sniffed to himself, feeling totally misled.

Now that the spanking was over; another problem raised its’ head. “Nathan?” Wes whispered. “What about the council?”

Nathan sighed. “It’s a bit late to be thinking of that, isn’t it, Wesley? Because I am pretty sure you’ll be summoned. You better learn that impulse control is a good ability to develop because much as I love you, I don’t look forward to repeatedly appearing with you in front of the council. You hear me?”

Wes nodded and sniffled. “You didn't spank that hard when I punched Galen, but this time you did."

Nathan snorted. “Hmm, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you eventually find that this spanking was somewhat tempered in comparison to what it could have been.”

Wes gulped. “It could have been worse?”

“Although I hope we don’t get to this point, I can see us using a hairbrush if you refuse to conduct yourself properly.” This was said rather sternly.

Wes’ stomach clenched and dipped. “A-a hairbrush?”

“Minx, I spanked harder this time because it was a repeated offense, wasn’t it?”

Wes’ eyes dropped immediately. “Yes,” he whispered. “I won’t be fighting again, I swear!”

“Good!  I mean what I say, Wes. If you want to avoid the hairbrush, then learn to govern yourself in an appropriate manner, clear?” 

“Yes!” Wes replied in a small voice. “That means no more fighting. I get it. I’ll stay out of trouble, Nathan. You won’t have to resort to the hairbrush, I assure you!”

“Good man. No task is insurmountable as long as you are willing to work on it. I firmly believe we make a great team and I want you to know how very much I love you and how proud I am of you for giving me your guarantee.”

Wes squeezed his arms around his partner and crossed his fingers behind the older man’s back.
  
TBC….

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