Chapter Forty-nine

“I can’t go w-with you, Raythe!” Galen exclaimed. “I already told you, w-we’re supposed to help set up things in the glen as soon as w-we finish our chores. There is a lot to get done today.” He wished the other man would stop badgering him.

“The livestock is all taken care of and we’ve enough time, Galen. Brock will be leaving any minute now and if we do too, we’ll be able to catch up to him and find out where he’s been making moonshine. We might even get a chance to sample it.”

“Sorry, but I still have to check on my w-wild-berry wine.”

“You’re just making excuses because Thomas won’t let you go anywhere. Treats you like a baby, he does.”

“That’s not true!” Galen hollered at the unfairness of the statement.

“It is too, and what’s more…he’s a mini-dictator, is what he is!” Raythe hollered in return.

“That’s a lie! You take it b-back!” Galen glared at his provoker. His shoulders were squared and his fists clenched at his sides.

“You gonna make me?” Raythe sneered, leaning down slightly to get his face close to Galen’s.

Galen gritted his teeth, lowered his head and butted Rathye as hard as he could in the stomach, causing him to fall to the ground and gasp for breath. Galen immediately threw himself down on top of the bigger man and a scuffle was underway.

Thomas and Brock were on their way from different directions to fetch the young men and hearing the commotion, both picked up their pace. They arrived at the paddock simultaneously to find Raythe trying to push Galen off him and Galen tenaciously hanging on while each of them took swipes at the other.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Brock demanded. He reached down, hauled both scrappers to their feet and separated them.

Thomas took Galen from Brock’s custody and looked him over critically. Seeing no obvious damage to his fiance, he sighed with relief. “What in heaven’s name is going on here?”

“Alright, I want to know who threw the first punch.” Brock glared from one miscreant to the other.

“Nobody,” Galen responded in a small voice as he gazed wide-eyed at the big man dressed in only a loin-cloth.

Brock was somewhat taken back by Galen’s answer and he looked to Thomas for an explanation.

“Galen, please explain what happened.” Frustration was evident in Thomas’ voice. 

“There was no p-punch, Thomas.” Galen squinted up at the taller man. “I head-butted Raythe,” he sheepishly admitted.

Thomas’ eyebrows climbed up high on his forehead. He couldn’t imagine what would set Galen off like that.

Not for a moment did Brock think his partner had been the epitome of innocence in all this. “I expect you to tell me exactly what led to Galen doing that, boy.” His stern voice clearly indicated he wouldn’t put up with any deceitfulness.

“I wanted him to come with me so we can see what you’ve been up to. I just bet you’re making moonshine out of the potato peelings you’ve been taking from the kitchen.” Raythe stared accusingly at the big mountain man, undaunted by the man’s uncompromising stance.

“Let me see if I can figure out on my own what happened next. Galen wisely refused your invitation and you tried to coerce him into doing what you wanted. Whatever method you used resulted in getting him upset enough to retaliate.” As if he wasn’t intimidating enough, Brock stood even straighter and demanded, “tell me just off far off the mark I am, Raythe!”

Seeking any means of vindication, Raythe rashly blurted out, “Well, it’s all Thomas’ fault. He doesn’t let Galen go anywhere. Like who made him the kid’s boss?”

“Any understanding Thomas and Galen have between them is no concern of yours, my boy. However, the pact that binds our relationship should at this moment be uppermost in your mind. But in case it isn’t, we are going to take a walk and discuss it once again.”

Beginning to grasp the seriousness of the situation he had put himself into, and hoping to appease the others involved, Raythe turned to his friend and humbly offered an apology. “I’m sorry for the things I said, Galen. I shouldn’t have tried to pressure you into coming with me.” After a brief hesitation, he softly added, “and I-I think Thomas is really an okay guy. I am sorry for the nasty things I said about him.” He hung his head, too embarrassed to look at Thomas.

“I really do not see the need to involve the council in this,” Brock suggested much to the relief of his partner. “I am in no doubt, Thomas, that you and I are capable of dealing with our respective charges without the aid of anyone else.”

Thomas nodded. “I think we can handle this on our own, Brock.” As partnerships had formed and strengthened, it became obvious that the necessity of taking up the council’s time to sit in judgement and decide the penalty for these smaller skirmishes was diminishing. He then turned and glared unhappily at Galen. “You and I need to have a talk.”

Brock took Raythe’s hand to lead him away from the others. “Seeing as you are so anxious to see what I’ve been up to; you can accompany me to the still where we can discuss this trouble you started in greater detail.”

Raythe trudged forlornly alongside of the irate mountain man, feeling worse as each minute passed. He knew he was wrong in trying to browbeat Galen into falling in with his plans. He had been warned about doing so in the past and yet he had done it again, not only upsetting his friend but also angering the big man now leading him into the woods for a well-earned reprimand.

Although he had apologised to Galen, Raythe was aware that it in no way exonerated him from having disobeyed his partner in regard to what Brock considered bullying. His guilt continued to intensify as he and Brock walked further into the forest.

Raythe appreciated the fact that his partner had been rather lenient in the past but was now very conscious of having finally tried the older man’s patience just once too often. As much as Raythe wanted this to be over, they seemed to have arrived all too soon at the well-hidden site of Brock’s moonshine-making activities.

Brock stopped and turned to face the troubled young man beside him. He let go of Raythe’s hand and enfolded him in a loving bear-hug. They had been partners for going on four months now and both understood the dynamics of the relationship they were building together. Both realised this day would come sooner or later.

“Have we or have we not discussed your tendency to pester your friends into doing things you want even when all of you know it could lead to trouble? And haven’t we also talked about you mean-mouthing others simply because you disagree with them?” Brock felt the slight nods of agreement against his bare chest. “Hmm, but you continue to do so, don’t you?” Another affirmative head movement from his young lover had him sternly saying, “then it is time I impressed upon you the need to do as you’re told.”

Brock walked over to tree stump and sat down. Next, he lowered Raythe’s trousers and guided him over his lap. He wrapped a beefy arm around the slender waist and sucked in a deep breath. There was no need for further talking, so he set about enforcing the rules in a brisk manner. He soundly spanked the upturned bottom, turning it a rosy red. They had thrashed out this subject several times in the past and now he was going to clarify the issue once and for all. Raythe would not be sitting comfortably for the rest of the day but hopefully would remember what this spanking was for.

When the remorseful cries began in earnest, Brock landed only a few more spanks and gathered a sobbing young man into his arms and rocked him gently as he kissed the wet, tear-streaked face over and over again.

“Alright, sweetheart, it’s over now. The slate is wiped clean and we start fresh. Shh, my boy. I love you,” Brock crooned, even while knowing few of his words were being heard and not too concerned about it.

It was some time later, after Raythe had settled and come to grips with what had happened, that the two men were able to move on with their day. Brock patiently explained how he had made the moonshine and together they transported it back to camp. Leaving four covered buckets to cool in a nearby stream, they joined the others in preparing for the upcoming festivities.

Thomas looked at his young combatant. Although a small part of him was tempted to smile at the rather nervous wide eyes returning his look, he knew he had to make a serious point here. So speaking rather sternly, he said, “before I make any decisions about this situation, I’d like to hear exactly what happened between you and Raythe.”

“Well, he w-was saying things I didn’t like so I had to head-butt him. It w-was the only w-way I could get him on the ground so I could sit on him, Thomas. Raythe is m-much b-bigger than I am, you know.” This all seemed perfectly rational to Galen and he fully expected Thomas to understand why such an action was necessary.

Closing his eyes, Thomas drew a deep breath and silently asked the powers that be for the strength to maintain his composure. “Galen, do you not think there was a better way to respond to Raythe’s taunts than to attempt to physically restrain him?”

After carefully pondering the older man’s question, Galen slowly shook his head. “I couldn’t think of any at the time, Thomas. I just w-wanted to m-make him take b-back what he had said.” Galen preferred not to tell Thomas what Raythe had been repeating yet again, as he did not want his fiance’s feelings hurt.

“What could Raythe have said to you that you lost control of yourself in that manner?” Thomas knew that Galen was not normally one to be the aggressor so he wanted to understand what set his young love off.

“I don’t w-want to tell you the exact w-words but .......” Galen sighed and resigned himself to explaining further. “He was m-mean-mouthing you, Thomas, and I w-will not put up w-with that.....I w-will fight anyone who does it.” This last was added as a quiet after-thought.

“Galen, though I appreciate in the extreme that you want to defend me, just as I would defend you from someone’s verbal abuse, I will not allow you to get into physical fights over vocal taunts. It was not that long ago that you stood before the council and received punishment for being involved in a brawl. You know how the council and I feel about it. It is never acceptable to get into a physical fight unless in self-defence. You must learn to use your head and your voice to defend what you feel is right and if that doesn’t work, you walk away. Do you understand that?”

Galen hung his head and regretfully murmured, “Yes, I understand, Thomas.” And he did. He knew he had acted impulsively and was now being made to answer for his misdeed.

Thomas pulled Galen into a hug and placed a kiss on the curly head. “I love you so much, but now we need to deal with this objectionable behaviour, don’t we?”

Wrapping his arms around his mentor, Galen sadly nodded against Thomas’ broad chest.

Thomas guided Galen over to an empty barrel beside the animal pen. He turned it over, took a seat and helped Galen undo his overalls and lower them to the ground. He gave a small smile at the lack of underwear. ‘All the more convenient,’ he thought. He pulled Galen’s unresistant body over his lap and settled him as comfortably as possible. 

“No more fighting, young man,” he stated as he began to pepper the sun-kissed skin with sharp smacks.

Galen squirmed to evade the painful swats. When that didn’t work, he reached around to try and block them. “Ow, stop Thomas!” he wailed. “I p-promise not to fight anymore!”

Thomas took the impeding hand in his and held it away from the targeted area. “Stop reaching,” he commanded as he continued to spank. He kept up the assault until Galen’s wails turned to pitiful sobs and he slumped in resignation over the older man’s lap. 

Deciding the lesson had been taught; Thomas stopped and pulled his young fiance up into his arms. He kissed the tear-stained face gently. “It’s alright, baby. It’s over now.”

Galen clutched onto Thomas’ shirt and cried out his pain and remorse. Soon only intermittent hitches and sniffles could be heard. He gazed up at his chastiser through glistening, gray eyes surrounded by long, black eyelashes. “I still w-will not p-put up w-with anyone talking bad about you, Thomas. I’ll just f-find another w-way to m-make them stop,” he whispered his promise.

“That’s the way it should be, my love,” Thomas replied. Then, his curiosity getting the best of him, he asked, “Just what did Raythe say to set you off?”

“Do I have to tell you, Thomas? ‘Cause I’d rather not.”

“No, you don’t have to tell me,” he answered. Still curious but unwilling to force the issue, Thomas just kissed his young love. “How about we go and get a cool drink and see if Walker has something to snack on?”

“Okay, then w-we have to get the others who are supposed to help us get the glen ready,” Galen reminded the other man and got off Thomas’ lap. He hissed as he pulled his overalls up over his sore bottom. “W-we are alright now, Thomas?” he asked, needing that final reassurance.

“Yes, love, we’re alright. As a matter of fact, we’re great. We’d better get a move on. We have a wedding to get ready for. And soon it’s going to be our wedding to prepare for,” he added with a wide smile.

“Uh-huh, and I can hardly w-wait.” Galen slipped his smaller hand into Thomas’ large warm grasp and contentedly strolled alongside his future husband as they made their way back to camp.

“Please stand still, Spyke,” Nathan patiently instructed as clearly as possible around the pins sticking out of his mouth. “I’m almost finished so you’ll be able to take these pants off in a couple of minutes.”

Mitchell and Larry grinned at the expression of long-suffering on the face of the young man being fitted for his wedding suit; a new suit that Nathan had made out of a slightly larger one of Seth’s.

“When you’re done here, Spyke, we’ll head for the cave,” Larry offered in hopes of encouraging his partner. “It is going to take the better part of the day to get everything ready for our wedding night so we can surprise Aiden.”

“Hmm, I am still questioning your insistence that it is one of my duties as your best man to prepare a honeymoon suite,” Mitchell teased and winked at Nathan when the tailor glanced up at him.

“Well, we are glad of the help despite your reservations, Mitchell. We’d never get it all done on our own. There is too much to do and keeping it a secret makes it all the harder,” Larry commented.

“But the sneaking around is a lot of fun,” Spyke piped up, “and Aiden is sure to like it.”

Nathan slipped the last pin in place, pulled the pant leg straight and sat back. “Alright, Spyke, step out of those trousers and you’re ready to go. After they’re hemmed, I’ll press the entire outfit along with Larry’s uniform, and hang them in your tent.”

“Thanks, Nathan. Me and Larry really appreciate all you’ve done to get so much clothing fixed up for our special day.” Spyke hastily shed the newly tailored clothes and put on his work pants. “Come on, guys, let’s go!” he hollered as he ran out of the tent.

Larry and Mitchell shrugged their shoulders, bid adieu to Nathan and followed at a slightly more leisurely pace.

Nathan smiled sadly as the men left his work space. He certainly didn’t begrudge them their happiness, he just wished he could enjoy it more himself. Unfortunately, such was not the case as he would be attending the wedding without a partner.

The kitchen was bustling with activity. Walker was going back and forth between the mess hall and the fire pit, overseeing the food preparations. Even in the oppressing heat, he was wishing they had another oven or two. Fortunately, most the baked goods had been made last evening thus taking advantage of the cooler temperatures. Scottish oat cookies were made in abundance and the fruit-filled wedding cake was waiting to be cut.

“Keep the spit turning evenly, Samuel, and make sure the meat gets well basted, Yancey,” the ex-magistrate instructed and hastened back to the mess hall.

Samuel and Yancey glanced at each other, slowly shook their heads and merrily chuckled at the chef’s edginess.

“First wedding on the island and he wants everything perfect,” Yancey groused affectionately.

“I don’t imagine having inexperienced help will set his mind any more at ease,” Samuel mused. “At least we are fortunate enough to be working out in the open, although I’m inclined to wonder if we are really any cooler than the rest of the cooking team.” He gave a low rumble of laughter at Yancey’s snort of consensus.

They paused a moment to listen to the music coming from the beach. Levi was doing some last minute practising with Troy looking proudly on.

“Levi’s getting much better at playing that thing,” Samuel commented, wiping the sweat off his brow with his shirt sleeve.

“He’s improved dramatically in only a few short weeks,” Yancey pointed out and went back to turning the spit.

At the beach, Levi had made it more than three-quarters of the way through Scotland the Brave, keeping his breathing and fingers moving at an even pace, when a mosquito chose that moment to land on his nose. He instinctively reached up to swat the annoyance, causing his arm to squeeze the bag too hard and it let out a sound reminiscent of a injured cat. “Damn it!” he swore. “I almost had it right! Bloody mosquitoes!”

Troy frowned and gave Levi a serious look. “Watch the language, young man.”

“But Troy, what if that happens during the wedding?” 

“You’ll do fine, my love. Just concentrate on what you’re doing and forget about the distractions around you. You have become extremely good at playing that thing and I know Aiden will be very proud of you, just as I am.”  Troy gave his husband a hug. “Now a few more minutes of practice then we go help with the preparations.”

In the meantime, Quentin wasn’t faring too well in the mess tent and felt somewhat inadequate. Cooking wasn’t a talent he bragged about. He watched as Walker and the others went about the task of preparing the large meal while seeming so at ease with what they were doing.

He walked over to Walker and told him he felt he was just being in the way. When asked if he knew how to handle a knife, he replied in the positive. Walker handed him one, pointed to the pile of potatoes and told him to start peeling.

Kevin let out a little snicker while Thad began applauding when Quentin picked up the first spud. The lightheartedness and teasing manner were sure signs of the joyful feelings in anticipation of the upcoming wedding.

As Quentin began to peel, he started to softly hum Mendelssohn’s wedding march. Before long, others joined in perfect harmony and soon the humming could be heard throughout the camp, causing smiles of happiness to form on many of the men’s faces.

The atmosphere was one of gleeful expectation. The whole island was abuzz with activity, but the decorating team seemed the most excited; and if not that, at least, the noisiest. Appointed the official decorators for the first-ever wedding ceremony on the island, Brodie, Seth, Wayne and Gille met early to go over their carefully laid out plans.

“Where’s Wes?” Seth asked, looking around. Then he grumbled under his breath. Wes had hardly joined them during their nightly meetings and now on the day itself, seemed to have gone missing again. “Sulking again, I guess,” Seth complained.

Wayne gave him a little shove. “Shut up, leave him be. He’ll come when he is ready.”

Brodie exchanged a glance with Gille and quickly stepped in. “So, have you collected all the candles?” he asked Wayne.

Giving Seth one last glare, Wayne held up his bag before laying it carefully on the ground. Inside was a heap of tiny little candles, all in different shapes and sizes. There were not a lot of colour choices, but they had used what they could get their hands on and had managed to get a good mix of green and brown and plain white candles with tiny wicks sticking out. One of them had wanted to mix in some rabbit blood to get red but the others had shot down the idea. The chatter became louder as they began to execute their decorating ideas.

“Okay, half of these candles go into the clay pots – where are those pots?” asked Seth.

“Over here,” Brodie answered.

“Oh, good, be careful!” Wayne loudly admonished.

“Alright, don’t shout,” Gille patiently requested. “Just bring the candles; the other half we’ll tie with strings and hang them from the arch Thomas’ team is erecting in the glen, okay?”

“Yes! Just don’t let it burn down!” Seth’s joking resulted in giggles from Brodie and Gille.

“Hey, with the flowers and all it will look nice, don’t worry,” Wayne assured them.

“Yes, but we’ll need more string,” Brodie reminded them.

Satisfied, they began to fit the candles into tiny pots. They had spent the most amount of time making the pots, but they all felt it was worth it when they were done. The pots were made from clay they had dug up in the hill and the guys had had great fun pushing their fingers into the sides of the pots, making holes all around.

Once the candles were lit, the little reddish-coloured pots would look charming. Some were positioned on branches; some were hung up on nearby shrubs and others were just placed on the tables which had been moved out for the wedding feast.

Soon, they had several neat rows of little candles hanging from the various trees surrounding the area where the festivities were going to take place and they stood back to admire their handiwork. By the time they had completed these tasks, it was time for lunch.

Thomas looked at his three helpers Galen, Jordan and Dallas, wondering what he had got himself into. “Right,” he said. “Let’s sit down and discuss what we need to do to make the glen look more like a chapel.”

“Count me out for any suggestions,” Dallas replied hurriedly. “I never went to church; always thought looking might be catching.” His grin was crooked. “I’m willing to help with the work though.”

“I’ve got some ideas,” Galen said. “We n-need an aisle for the guys to w-walk down.” He glanced up at Thomas for support as he was still a little shy around Dallas. “That m-means we n-need to have an equal amount of seating on either side of the aisle.”

Jordan laughed. “We only have to seat twenty-one men,” he teasingly mentioned. “How the hell do we make an aisle?”

“I was only p-pointing out what we n-need,” Galen replied, a little heat in his voice.

“Lay off the kid, Jordan. Unless you’ve got something helpful to add,” Dallas said, sticking up for Galen and surprising himself more than a little.

Thomas stepped in, sighing to himself. “Less scrapping and more doing,” he suggested calmly. “Let’s start by getting the benches from the mess hall. We can put six benches on each side.” He winked at Galen. “And take note that Lakota and the others are moving the tables out for the after party, so we’ll have to try and stay out of each other’s way.” He fixed a stern look at Dallas and Jordan. “One more thing, there’s to be no larking around, we’ve all got lots of work to do.”

Dallas frowned. Although his reputation had obviously preceded him, he shrugged and grinned. “Hey, give us some credit. Just cause you’re Aiden’s best man doesn’t mean we don’t want to see the wedding go off without a hitch as much as you do,” he said, nudging Jordan who nodded in agreement, and led the way back to the mess tent where they all set to work.

About two hours later, they had everything satisfactorily situated in the glen; including a roughly fashioned archway where the vows would be exchanged. It would look lovely with the final touches of flowers and candles provided by the decorating team.

Thomas looked around and smiled at his three helpers. “Well, I guess we’re done for the moment,” he declared. “Let’s go get something to eat and see where we can be of help this afternoon.”

Meanwhile, Lakota, Preston, Aiden and Hendrik were carrying tables from the mess hall and arranging them under the trees that would be decorated later. Freshly laundered sheets were used as tablecloths, and large hand-crafted wooden platters and serving bowls were set out to be filled that evening.

Next they cleared a large space for dancing, getting rid of unnecessary undergrowth and clearing the entire area of debris. Firewood was piled in readiness for tonight’s bonfire.

Satisfied with their labours, they joined the others for their noon meal. They would be available to help with the final food preparations this afternoon.


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