Chapter Fifty-four



Thomas woke in the middle of the night with dreadful cramping in his stomach. He lay awake for some time, hoping it would pass. Thinking perhaps it would help if he relieved himself, he quietly slipped out of the lean-to. However, he returned a while later still having terrible pains. He wondered if he might be suffering from food poisoning but the only thing he had eaten that his companion had not was the clams. He was fairly certain they had not been tainted. However, he also knew it was quite possible that he was mistaken.

He did not want to disturb or concern Galen unduly but eventually realized that this was not going to pass any time soon when he felt his stomach began to heave. He leaned as far out of the shelter as he could while his stomach emptied itself onto the ground. 

By the time he stopped retching, he was shaking and feeling incredibly chilled. Thomas knew something was very wrong but hardly had the strength to move. 

Galen couldn’t say what woke him up. He had not heard anything, but somehow knew all was not as it should be. He got up quickly when he spotted Thomas bent over at the side of the tent.

“Let m-me help you, Thomas.” He soon had his companion back in bed and was washing his face with a damp cloth. “W-would you like a sip of w-water?” he softly inquired, holding up the goatskin bag that contained their supply of fresh drinking water. It would soon be empty but Galen figured he could find more in the morning.

Thomas was getting worried. He was feeling more ill by the moment and was fighting to remain lucid and calm. He was grateful for Galen’s assistance and comfort, but they were a long hike from the camp and he was concerned that Galen might not be willing to leave him if he became incoherent.
 
He accepted the sip of water which lubricated his throat enough that he could talk. “Galen, I need you to listen to me and do what I say.” He paused to catch his breath. “As soon as it’s light, I want you to head back to the camp and get some help. I cannot make the walk.”

His stomach chose that moment to cramp again and he began to retch. He brought up only bile but was left exhausted and shaking with chills when he was done.

Galen spent much of the next few hours until the sun came up, watching Thomas become weaker and less lucid as time passed. Although he tried to do what he could, Galen felt powerless in combating whatever was ailing the older man. At the first signs of daylight, he put the plan he had been formulating into practice. He had no intention of leaving Thomas for any longer than it would take him to find fresh water, but he was going to get help.

“Okay, Romeo, you have to take this m-message b-back to camp,” Galen said as he securely tied the long piece of material around the dog’s neck. He stood up and pointed down the beach towards the path they had taken to come here. “Go, Romeo! Go find Walker!”

Galen watched the beautiful Irish setter disappear from sight and turn to its’ mate. “You’ll have to stand guard over Thomas, Juliette, while I go fill this w-water b-bag.” Kneeling down beside Thomas, he gently wiped the man’s face one last time and whispered, “I’ll b-be back as soon as I can, Thomas. We are out of fresh w-water and I have to find m-more. We’re going to be okay. I sent for help.” The young man bit his lip and tears filled his eyes as he sadly gazed down at his companion. He didn’t even know if the man he loved had heard him.

Placing a light kiss on Thomas’ forehead, Galen grabbed up the water bag, patted Juliette and quietly slipped into the forest behind their make-shift lean-to. It was the start of several long, frightening hours for Galen.

After returning to the shelter with the fresh water he’d found, Galen spent the early morning hours maintaining the fire and caring for his mentor by helping Thomas whenever he had to move to be sick yet again; cleaning up after him, gently washing the sweat from his body and lovingly patting him dry. As frightened as he was, Galen willing did all this for the man he admired and loved to the depth of his heart and soul.

Walker shoved the pans of biscuits into the oven. Glancing around, he nodded his approval at the large bowl of cookie dough Thad was mixing while Jordan finished drying the dishes, mugs and cutlery from their morning meal. He was just checking the freshly brewed coffee when a large dog ran into the mess tent.

“What are doing in here, Romeo?” Thad scolded. “This tent is off limits to four-legged creatures during meal preparations.”

“I thought he and Juliette had gone on the camping trip with Galen and Thomas yesterday,” Jordan commented.

“He did,” Walker concurred. “Come here, Romeo; that’s the boy,” he summoned the animal and squatting down, petted the roughed-up coat. “Where have you been, boy, and what’s this you got around your neck?”

Removing the long piece of cloth, Walker smoothed it out on a nearby table and in a worried voice, read the scrawled message aloud. “Thomas sick! Need help!” He looked up into the shocked expressions of his two partners. “You boys carry on in here while I round up some of the council.”

In less than fifteen minutes, plans for a rescue mission were underway and the men involved packing up what they felt would be needed.

Lakota requested a stretcher be made and Mitchell immediately volunteered to make one. Yancey assisted the good doctor in packing a medical bag. They included a large number of herbs and first aid equipment as they were unsure of the problem Lakota would be facing when he got to Thomas.

“I have a pretty good idea of their location as I gave Thomas directions on how to get there, so I will lead the way,” Brock insisted and no one even considered turning the big man down.

“Aye, and we’ll be needing at least four able-bodied men to carry Thomas home. I suggest Walker, Preston, Mitchell and myself be the stretcher bearers. ‘Twill leave two council members here at camp should anyone be requiring assistance.”

After gathering up the supplies they felt were needed, the six men scoffed down a hasty early lunch and headed out. They reached their destination in just under four hours since the time Walker’s Irish setter had been sent for help.

Romeo’s re-appearance at Galen’s side was the first indication the young man had to let him know help was on the way. He enthusiastically embraced the dog and mumbled into the animal’s fur, “You m-made it, Romeo.”

Galen was never so happy to see anyone. “They’re here, Thomas! Help has arrived!” he exclaimed jubilantly, getting to his feet and running towards the group of men walked along the shore towards them.

Grabbing Lakota’s hand, Galen started pulling to get him over to his stricken fiancé faster. “Thomas has b-been sick m-most the night, Lakota. He has b-been throwing up and talking w-weird. He is really hot and his stomach hurts real b-bad.”

Lakota knelt down beside Thomas and placed his hand on the ill man’s forehead. He could feel the abnormal heat radiating from the skin. What concerned him was the lack of perspiration. Thomas was dehydrated and that could quickly become life threatening. He gave Thomas a gentle smile. “My friend, I want you to try and sip some tea for me. I know you’re feeling very ill but you need to take this in. Do you understand?”

Thomas nodded and whispered a weak, “I’ll try.”

Galen sat silently taking it all in; totally confident that Lakota would do what had to be done.

Lakota poured some water from his canteen into a tin cup and set it over the little fire to warm. He took some herbs from his pouch and mixed them into the heating water. Once the water had warmed enough to infuse the herbal mixture, he pulled it off the heat and poured it into another cup. “Galen, help me to get Thomas sitting up,” he requested.

Galen quickly moved forward to assist in any way he could. They pulled Thomas into a sitting position with the younger man supporting him from behind.

Lakota held the cup to Thomas’ lips. “Just a few small sips at a time, my friend,” he instructed.

Thomas felt the nausea rising again but fought it down and sipped at the warm liquid. It had a vaguely minty flavour and went down fairly easily.

After Lakota was able to coerce about three quarters of the cup down the throat of the gentle farmer, he nodded to the men who had been restlessly waiting, signs of concern noticeably marking their faces. “Let’s get him back home.”

Soon the ailing man was on the stretcher, the make-shift shelter taken down, remaining supplies packed and the group heading back to camp where the others were worriedly awaiting their safe return and where Thomas could receive the medical care he was in dire need of.

Whenever space would permit, Galen walked by his mentor’s side. The rest of the time he took his place in line to walk in single file behind the stretcher, his silence an obvious sign of his growing anxiety. The young man’s fears only began to lessen when Thomas has finally been settled in a bed in the infirmary under Lakota and Yancey’s constant professional care.

It was Monday and Yancey was once again taking stock of the infirmary’s supplies. He had a gut feeling that something was amiss. He had emptied the footlocker and its’ various items were spread out around him on the floor. He counted everything for the third time and knew beyond a doubt that he had not miscalculated. There was definitely a shortage. He carefully replaced each article in the trunk, securely locked it and stepped over to the blanket that separated the examination room from the small ward. He chose not to interrupt Lakota’s morning assessment of Thomas, waiting instead for it to be finished. He couldn’t help but smile at the sight of Galen quietly watching the doctor’s every move. The young man had refused to leave Thomas’ side since their return.

As soon as Lakota was free, Yancey called the doctor over and quietly shared his concern. “I have discovered a discrepancy in the drug inventory, Lakota. We are short a vial of morphine and a syringe.”

Lakota felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. “Damn, I don’t suppose it could be a miscount?” When Yancey sadly shook his head, Lakota knew there was only one person who could be responsible for the theft. Not that he wanted to believe it, but he’d seen addicts fall backwards before.

Dallas was euphoric. He was in the tent he shared with his partner and another couple, and had finally found a moment when he felt safe in taking his second dose of the morphine he’d stolen three days ago. Kevin was at the infirmary and involved in a deep conversation with Thomas. It felt so good and it washed away the low he’d been experiencing from the first dose. He wasn’t thinking past this moment in time.

A short time later, Kevin had finished checking the fields as per Thomas’ directive and was on his way to the mess tent. He had a feeling things weren’t right with his lover. For the past couple of days it had seemed as if Dallas had been avoiding him again. The few times he’d managed to pin the man down, his lover had a hard time forming a coherent sentence. Suddenly Kevin had a dreadful premonition. ‘Was Dallas taking drugs again?’ That was when he saw Lakota walking towards him and waited with a feeling of trepidation to intercept the doctor.

“Lakota,” he called out a little apprehensively. “Are you missing anything from the infirmary? Say a vial of morphine?”

“Yes, I’m afraid we are,” the doctor answered sadly.

“The reason I ask is that for the past day or two Dallas has been withdrawn and jumpy,” Kevin explained. “And from memory, that’s the way he acted the last time he was under the influence of drugs.”

“I didn’t want to believe he’d taken it. But I’m afraid this isn’t uncommon for drug addicts to fall back into needing it again. Where is he now?”  

“I believe he is in our tent,” Kevin answered after a moment’s thought. “We need to confront him.” 

When Kevin and Lakota entered the tent unannounced, Dallas looked up and blinked owlishly. “Hey, guys.” he greeted. “What’s up?” He was unaware that the now empty vial of morphine lying next to him was clearly visible to the two men.

The doctor bent down and picked up the tiny bottle, shaking his head at its empty state.

“Boy, you’re using drugs again!” Kevin was blunt and to the point.

Dallas just giggled and looked up into his partner’s cold blue eyes. “Yep,” he readily agreed. “Man, it feels soooo good.”

“And tomorrow when you no longer feel so good?” Kevin asked.

“Tomorrow can take care of itself,” Dallas replied dreamily.

“Oh no, tomorrow is when I take you in hand, my boy!” Kevin’s voice could have frozen water and it was the voice that finally penetrated Dallas’ drugged haze, causing him to become nervous.

Lakota looked to Kevin. “I’m sorry, Kevin, but this is going to have to be reported to the council. We can ill afford to have a theft of this nature go without consequences.”

As would be expected, Kevin could not deal with Dallas as soon as he would have liked. He was too busy comforting his lover as the withdrawal symptoms hit. The watery eyes, insomnia, diarrhea, runny nose and yawning. Fortunately it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the last time, but when the body aches hit Kevin ask Lakota for some of his herbal remedies.

“Lakota, while I can’t really feel too sorry for Dallas,” Kevin informed the doctor of his feelings, “I was wondering if you had something that could help him. I think he’ll probably be over the worse within the next twenty-four hours but if we could minimize the discomfort he’s in, I would appreciate it.” He was relieved that they had the ward to themselves as Thomas had been well enough to leave the infirmary yesterday afternoon just after the drug shortage was discovered.

“I’ll get him some of the tea that helped the last time. As you recall, it was bitter and unpleasant but it did help alleviate some of the symptoms.”

The herbs Lakota prescribed helped Dallas who, as Kevin predicted, felt a great deal better later the next day. A little shaky and slightly hung over, but better. “How much trouble am I in?” he asked Kevin bluntly.

“Let’s see; drug use and thievery,” Kevin replied. “I believe that’s two of the automatic spanking offences.”

“Two!” Dallas gasped in shock. “You’re going to spank me twice?”

“That’s one option,” Kevin admitted. “But I do have another you might want to seriously consider.”

“What’s that?” Dallas was suspicious. He didn’t like the steely glint in Kevin’s eyes.

“Let’s take this away from camp, shall we?” Kevin suggested and the two made their way to the shore. Kevin stopped at the same area where he’d administered Dallas’ first spanking. The significance was not lost on his young lover who paled slightly. “We need to discuss what happened over the last few days,” Kevin insisted.

“I don’t know what happened,” Dallas said, his eyes brimming. “Friday morning I was filling the infirmary wood box and saw that Lakota wasn’t in his office. I’d been feeling poorly for a couple of days and then I noticed the lock on his box was a piece of sh..... hmm not very good,” Dallas decided not to add swearing to his list of sins. “The next thing I knew, the morphine was in my hands.”

“And the needle,” Kevin added dryly.

Dallas blushed. “By the time I found the needle, I’d decided to go ahead and do it,” he whispered. “I thought I could handle it.”

“And now?” Kevin inquired.

“Never again.” Dallas shuddered. His body was reminding him of how he’d abused it horribly and the taste of Lakota’s herbal teas still lingered.

“Now to the punishment for what you did.” Kevin got down to brass tacks. “You need to understand I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and I really don’t think a spanking would be sufficient considering the seriousness of the things you did and the rules you broke. When I really stepped too far over the line at home my father would take me out to the barn and use his strap on me. I can tell you I rarely did the same thing again.” Kevin looked directly at Dallas. “I think for the drug use and thieving, a strapping would be an appropriate punishment.”

Dallas looked up in shock and his mind was whirling. “And if I don’t agree?” His voice shook.

Kevin shrugged. “I told you this would take some thinking about,” he reminded his lover. “It’s an option to get this over and done with. The other options include two spankings, lines and grounding. I think when you end up in front of the council you’ll be getting enough of some of that to last a lifetime.”

Dallas thought it over. He loved Kevin and trusted him. He knew without a doubt that a strapping would hurt but at least it would be over quickly. He hated the thought of getting one spanking and then waiting to get the next one. That would be like torture when he just wanted this episode over and done with.

“The strapping,” Dallas answered and looked up into Kevin’s intense blue eyes. “I choose the strapping.” He momentarily hesitated before blurting out, “Except you don’t have a strap.”

“True,” Kevin responded, his voice steady as his hands unbuckled his belt. “But I do have this.” He showed Dallas the broad well-used leather belt.

“Oh God,” Dallas groaned. He couldn’t take his eyes off the belt. He had never been so scared. He took a deep breath and clung to one thought, ‘trust Kevin, trust Kevin,’ and started to ease his trousers down.

“No,” Kevin’s voice was calm, “we do this with the trousers up.”

Dallas risked a glance round and saw that Kevin had the buckled end in his hand and the belt doubled over.
“Over your knees?” he asked, not quite believing he was really doing this.

“No, bend over that log with your butt in the air.” Kevin waited until Dallas had taken the position. “You need to stay down, Dallas,” Kevin cautioned. “I won’t lie; this is going to hurt but if you move that will only extend the punishment.”

Dallas managed a muffled agreement. The strap cracked down and less than half a second later, Dallas let out a cry of pain but stayed down. As the strap came down again and again, he stayed bent over but the tears and howls continued throughout the strapping.

Kevin used the belt steadily, listening intently to the sounds Dallas was making. When the cries eased into remorseful sobbing, Kevin landed the last two strokes in a place that Dallas would feel every time he sat down for the next couple of days. Then it was over.

Dallas clung to Kevin, sobbing. The older man didn’t say anything. He just gently rubbed his young lover’s back in soothing circles.

“I’m sorry,” Dallas said through his sobs.

“It’s all over between us,” Kevin said quietly. “You’ve paid as far as I’m concerned. You have to face the council but I’ll be beside you all the way.”

Dallas slowly calmed down and when his sobs had tapered off the two men walked back to camp holding hands.

Spyke didn’t know what made him awake so abruptly but when he did, he realized he was alone. ‘Where are Larry and Aiden? They promised to spend some time with me,’ he thought as he quickly dressed and made his way to the mess tent.

He had been made to take a nap after his morning chores were done due to fighting a cold for the last couple of days. Taking Lakota’s advice to heart, Aiden was forcing his youngest partner to get as much rest as possible. Not finding either of his partners in the mess tent, Spyke grabbed a piece of bread and sat down next to Brodie.

“Hey, Brodie, any chance you know where my husbands are? They said something earlier about a special council meeting but it must be over now ‘cause none of the council members are here.”

“As a matter of fact I do,” was all the other man offered.

Letting out a long sigh of frustration, Spyke impatiently demanded, “And just where the hell would that be?”

“They’re working at the inventory tents,” Brodie chuckled out his reply.

“Holy shit, Brodie, it’s like pulling teeth to get any answers out of you, isn’t it?” Spyke coughed and wiped his nose on his shirt sleeve. “So what are they doing there?”

“You’ll have to ask them because that’s all I’m prepared to say at this time.”

“For fuck’s sake, some of you guys like to maintain an air of mystery, don’t you?” Spyke stood up and grabbed another piece of bread from the table. “Well have it your way, friend, but I bet I can guess it has something to do with what happened at the council meeting right?”

Brodie remained silent. Shaking his head, Spyke turned on his heels and left the mess hall in search of his partners.

He found them, shirtless and sweating with the effort of dismantling the smaller of the two supply tents. Quentin was overseeing the piles of articles that lay in orderly fashion on the ground.  

“Hey guys, what are your plans for that tent?”

“Well, look who’s finally up,” Larry teased

“Hey, husband number two, don’t get your nose out of joint that I had the opportunity to sleep while the boss man over there put you to work.”

Larry, who had been crouching down in order to pull one of the pegs out of the ground, stood up and walked over to the young man. “Well, if I would have wanted to, I could have faked a cold too, but I figured one actor in the family was enough.”

“Faked? You think I was faking it? I’ll fucking show you faking!”  With those words Spyke threw himself at Larry and with a greater strength than Larry expected, knocked him to the ground and began to tickle him mercilessly.

Aiden stopped what he was doing and began to laugh as Larry tried to fight off his younger and smaller partner but soon discovered it was losing the battle. Quentn merely smiled at their antics.

“Okay, Spyke, ye’ve  made yer point,” Aiden stated with a touch of authority in his voice. “Now get off Larry so he can get back to work.”

“I’ll get off him only if you tell me what you two are up to,” Spyke replied.

“Spyke, I’m no going to ask ye again. If ye dinna want a sore backside to match yer sore throat ye’ll mind what I say. Now!” Aiden ordered, making his point with an opened-palm gesture.

“Fine, fine, don’t get your kilt in a knot; I’m getting off! You don’t have to tell me what you’re doing anyway, ‘cause I already know.”

When Larry was free of Spyke’s weight and torture, he jumped up while at the same time picking the young man up, throwing him over his shoulder and giving him several light swats on his backside.

“Tickle me will ya? Well take this,” Larry said as he laid down three more mild slaps. Spyke’s squeals of laughter let the former Marine know he wasn’t inflicting any real pain on his young lover.

Aiden walked over to his two lovers and placed a huge hand on Larry’s shoulder.Lawrence,” he spoke in a low but powerful tone. “If ye dinna want to be at the receiving end of a skelping, ye’ll cease what yer doing right now and put our wee partner down.”

Not having to be told twice, Larry walked over to a pile of bags holding wheat and placed Spyke gently down on them.

As the two men got back to the task of dissembling the tent, Spyke took out the piece of bread he had placed in his pocket and slowly nibbled on his snack.

Larry looked over his shoulder and inquired, “Spyke, you hinted you know what we were up to. So, what do you think we’re doing and how do you know?”

“Come on, Larry. It’s not like we live in a big city or something. We live on an island in a very small community. You know if someone farts around here, we all smell it.”

Aiden let out a chuckle at that comment but remained silent, allowing Spyke to continue. “It’s quite obvious what went on at the council meeting. We all figured Dallas would have to get some kind of punishment for taking stuff from the infirmary and since you’re cleaning out and moving that tent, I can only come to the conclusion it’s for Dallas. Am I right or what?”

Larry looked over at Aiden who just nodded his head to give Larry permission to tell Spyke that he was indeed right.

“Okay, Spyke, you figured it out. But please don’t tell anyone else until Thomas has addressed the community tonight at the fireside. Can we trust you with this secret?”

“You know you can,” Spyke answered indignantly. “After all, if we can’t trust each other, we may as well give up.”

Aiden walked over to his young partner and pulled him into an embrace. “I thank ye for yer discretion, laddie. Now I think it’s time for you to go find something to keep ye entertained for a while longer. If anyone should ask ye what we’re doing, just tell them Quentin came to the conclusion ‘twas only the huge inventory tent needed at the present time and that Larry and I volunteered to help him with his task of relocating the supplies.”

“Yep, makes perfect sense to me,” Spyke declared as he jumped off the wheat bags. He gave his two husbands a loving kiss and then left them to their efforts of moving and rearranging.

Seth and the twins met in their tent for a private discussion.

“Everyone is now aware of items being pilfered from the infirmary, including our partners. What I want to know is if Nathan or Samuel got wind of you knowing about it before it became public news?” Seth was pretty sure that if his friends’ partners knew it wouldn’t be long before Preston found out.  

“We didn’t tell them,” Wes assured him seconds before his brother took the wind out of Seth’s sails by announcing that they had both admitted the truth when asked outright.

“But we didn’t get in trouble,” Wes jumped in when he saw his friend’s face dropped. 

“At least not this time,” Wayne reminded his twin. “But next time we know of something unacceptable happening that affects the whole community, we better not keep it to ourselves.”

“Yeah, that’s true. Nathan said he understood about us not wanting to tattle on a friend. Guess Samuel also understood. Isn’t that so, Wayne?” Getting a nod, Wes confidentially added, “Bet Preston will understand too, Seth.”


Much to Seth’s relief, Preston’s view on the issue was very much the same as Nathan and Samuel’s. Of course Preston had clarified the seriousness of the situation by explaining that should something similar take place in the future, those withholding information could be charged as accomplices. To Seth, the consequences did not bear contemplating.

Although others had been in this position before, it was the first time for Dallas and even though Kevin was by his side, he was frightened. He had paid his dues to his partner, but now it was time to hear what the council had decided with regards to his having stolen from the community as a whole.

Thomas looked at the young man in front of him and felt only compassion towards him. True, the young culprit had just owned up to committing a serious offence but it had not been done out of malice. The facts had been made known and discussed at length by the council and it was now Thomas’ duty to pronounce sentence. He squared his shoulders, cleared his throat and began to speak in a firm voice.

Dallas, the crime you have admitted to is extremely grave. You did not steal something belonging to only one other person, but items that are badly needed for the welfare of everyone here on this island. Due to the seriousness of your transgression, it is necessary that the sentence be severe. You are hereby placed under arrest and will be confined for a period of two weeks. In lieu of our not having an appropriate cell in which to imprison you, we have set up one of the smaller tents a short distance from the main camp. It is here that you will be kept under guard until your sentence has been served in full.”

Thomas paused to give both Dallas and Kevin a few moments to comprehend what had just been said. The younger of the two men continued to stare wide-eyed at the head of the council while the older one gave a nod of acceptance.   

“This is how the next two weeks will go for you, Dallas.” Thomas resumed speaking when he realized no words would be forthcoming from either of the men in front of him. “Beginning at seven o’clock each morning until noon, Troy will be guarding you. He will be assisting you in keeping up with your studies and any written assignments you are given. He will also be bringing your morning meal. At twelve o’clock, Troy will be relieved by Nathan who will bring your noon meal and remain with you until five. It is during this time that you will be learning how to mend clothing and be expected to assist our tailor with this chore.” Thomas worked to keep his smile hidden when he saw a grimace of distaste pass over Dallas’ face.

“Your supper will be brought to you at five o’clock by either Yancey, Hendrik, or myself. It is at this time that Kevin will be permitted to accompany your guard and visit with you for one hour. From seven PM until seven AM, either Quentin or Mitchell will be on duty. Dallas, all these men will be there to watch over you; to see you are cared for and that all daily necessities are met. You need never feel abandoned by the community,” Thomas added kindly. “We, the council, all hope you will use this time to re-evaluate your behaviour and work out ways to correct it where needed. Aiden will now take you to gather up whatever items you will need over the next couple of weeks, and then to your place of confinement. Of course, Dallas, it is understood that from this time forward, the infirmary is off limits to you unless medical care is required. The rest of the community will be informed of the council’s decision at this evening’s fireside and all will be instructed not to go near the area where you will be staying.”  

And so began the island community’s very first penalty involving incarceration.


TBC….

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