Chapter Forty

Brodie tentatively peered through the opening of the infirmary. For several moments he watched as Yancey straightened up the room, rinsed out and hung up a small basin, and smoothed out the sheet on the examination table. He gave the nurse a crooked grin when his presence was noticed.

“Anything I can do for you, Brodie,” Yancey asked with a warm, welcoming smile that lit up his eyes at the sight of his lover.

“Ah, Thad persuaded me to come see you,” the other man murmured as he hesitantly entered the tent. His voice was strained, and his face was pale with a slight pinched look to it. He had his right hand hidden behind his back.

Recognising the stance, Yancey sighed in loving exasperation and softly inquired. “What have you done to yourself now, love?”

“Burned my hand,” Brodie answered in a small voice and held out his arm.

Yancey drew him closer and inspected the reddened fingertips. “Come sit down while I get a basin of cold water. You can tell me how that happened while the burn area is cooling.”

A few minutes later, Brodie sat twirling his fingers through the water and wishing the pain would dissipate faster.

“The burn is only superficial, love.”

“But it really hurts,” Brodie griped.

“That is due to the location and the nerve endings in the tips of your fingers,” Yancey explained.

Brodie glanced up to see his partner patiently waiting to hear his sad tale. “Thad asked me to take the bread out of the oven, so I did.” He expected Yancey to at least be displeased if not out and out angry, but all he saw in his partner’s handsome face was love and assurance that it was going to be okay. He swallowed the lump in his throat and continued. “I remembered to use potholders but didn’t know they were worn enough to need doubling up and Thad forgot to warn me. I was nervous about coming here because I figured you would spank me for being careless.”

Yancey gently pulled his partner to his feet, took his place on the stump and settled the younger man on his lap. “This was clearly not a punishable offence, Brodie. You took precautions; it was the not knowing something that caused the injury, not carelessness or inattentiveness. Do you not trust me to know the difference?”

“Yes, I trust you completely, Yancey. It is just that people can have varying perceptions and I guess I was unsure of what yours would be.”

“I am proud of you for taking the time to think before acting and for exercising care when touching the hot bread pans.” Yancey tenderly dried the injured hand. “You had no need to fear. I promise you, my treasure, that while I’ll spank for negligence on your part, you’ll never be chastised by me for a lack of knowledge.” Yancey hugged his partner and choked on his laughter when Brodie’s arms tightened around his neck.

The older man’s rumbling stomach had Brodie chuckling. “Perfect timing; Walker just rang the dinner bell. I think we better go feed this beastie,” he teased, patting Yancey’s stomach before getting to his feet and holding out his left hand.

It had been darkening rapidly as the men gathered for the noon repast. Halfway through the meal, lightening flashed and thunder rolled overhead. Spyke, Jordan and Galen immediately jumped to their feet and headed for the entrance, unmindful of demands that they return to their seats.

“Ya wanna go out and watch?” Spyke invited, excitement lighting up his face as they stood looking up at the heavens to see the storm let loose with a vengeance.

As much as they would have liked to do just that, Galen and Jordan wisely decided their still tender backsides couldn’t handle another lesson in obedience.

“Maybe later,” Jordan murmured as he turned to follow Galen back to the table where their partner and mentor waited.

Spyke was about to step through the flap when a large hand on his shoulder deterred him. Looking up, he found himself gazing into the stern expression on Aiden’s face and thinking he should seriously consider returning to his seat. The swat on the seat of his pants made him wish he had thought to do so quicker

Plans were made to spend the greater part of the afternoon inside. Lessons were held as usual with men who didn’t normally attend sitting in on some of the classes.

Brodie was pleasantly surprised at the number taking part in the literary discussion he headed up on the works of Charles Dickens. He especially enjoyed a feeling of deep pride when teaching while Yancey was present. Troy certainly didn’t mind the extra students attending the Greek mythology discourse he was giving. Between the on-going dialog and the noise caused by the storm, Kelby chose to cancel his mathematics class as some of the younger men were unable to concentrate.

“School is even b-better with you here, Thomas,” Galen whispered, leaning against the older man. “I like hearing about the Trojan W-war and the giant w-wooden horse.”

“Shhh, we’ll be in trouble with the teacher for talking in class,” Thomas teased.

Galen giggled at the idea of Thomas getting in trouble for causing a disturbance. “And just who w-would Troy report you to?” he asked rhetorically.

Thomas chuckled. “Oh definitely Aiden; he’s very strict and a lot bigger than I am.”

Galen wasn’t the only one enjoying the presence of the additional students. Thad, Jordan, Raythe, Gille Larry and Spyke were cuddling up to their partners and oddly enough they were actually listening to what was being said. Seth was also unexpectedly quite comfortable with Preston being there. Dallas, on the other hand, was undecided as to whether or not there were benefits of having Kevin in attendance.

“I don’t remember school being this interesting,” Wayne muttered under his breath to his brother.

“Probably because we didn’t have our lovers for company at the time,” Wes quietly pointed out, grinning up at Nathan to gauge the man’s reaction.

“Sssh,” Nathan cautioned and lovingly kissed Wes’ smiling mouth.

“Yeah, and it sure beats waiting out the storm by napping in our tent,” Wayne commented, nestling into Samuel’s side and feeling a strong arm hugging him even closer.

“Although I guess we could have done something other than sleeping,” Wes whispered and winked provocatively at his partner only to have the arm around his waist tighten to hush him up.

Classes over for the day; everyone pitched in to set the big room to rights in order to participate in other activities for an hour before getting an early supper on the table.

Walker asked if anyone was interested in baking cookies and soon found he had more than enough takers when several of the men rolled up their sleeves in anticipation of playing in dough.

The ex-magistrate watched as Galen, Jordan, Spyke and Kelby each flattened a fair size ball of the mixture to form one rather large cookie. “Those four cookies are each going to require a whole cookie sheet of their own, guys,” Walker commented. “And will take longer to cook.”

“Yep,” Galen responded nonchalantly and continued what he was doing.

A muffled sputter was heard, and Walker glanced around to see Thomas stifling his laughter.

“We got fed up making a bunch of regular size ones,” Jordan explained as he patted his into shape.

“It is much faster this way,” Kelby added.

Walker rolled his eyes and walked away. “I shouldn’t have even bothered asking,” he muttered under his breath and shook his head.

A few of the men relaxed with a good book. Kevin was reading to Dallas while Samuel and Nathan played checkers. Preston joined Seth and the twins in a game of poker using wooden chips as ante. Having reached an understanding just a couple of days ago, Quentin had happily filled Kelby’s request to participate in a game of chess. Lakota and Gille braved the storm and slipped out of the mess hall to find entertainment in the privacy of their tent.

Yancey surreptitiously kept an eye on Brodie while pretending to read. His partner, having decided he’d had his fill of baking for the day, was learning how to whittle. Mitchell and Hendrik were holding a mini-workshop on the art of woodcarving; their avid pupils consisting of Brodie, Levi, Raythe, and Larry.

The nurse had made sure to wheedle a promise to exercise due care out of the accident-prone young man before allowing Brodie to even pick up a block of wood and have a go at it with a very sharp knife. But, to his relief, his injured partner had trouble holding on to the cutting instrument properly and eventually got frustrated enough to put it down.

The time passed quickly, the storm almost forgotten by some, and soon everyone was gathered around the tables, fellow-shipping and partaking of their evening meal.

Levi had just finished carrying his and Troy’s dirty dishes to the washing-up pile. He looked to where Jordan was working over the wash-basin and stopped for a moment to talk to him, noting the way the light from the lantern was reflecting off the soap bubbles. When Jordan picked up a wet soapy pot, the light flashed over Levi’s face and before he could react, he was assailed by the odour of something burning; then his world went blank.

From where Troy sat, it all happened in the blink of an eye. One second Levi was smiling and talking with Walker’s partner and the next he was toppling over, his head making sharp impact with the washstand on the way down. The world moved in slow motion as he ran to his husband’s side. Levi lay on his back, blood pouring from a gaping wound on his forehead and his body shaking with a grand mal-seizure. Troy heard nothing of the shouting voices around him nor saw the look of horror on the faces of many of the men in the room. His thoughts were all on his beloved. It had been so long since Levi had had a big one like this and Troy had actually dared to hope he would have no more of them.

Troy was on his knees attempting to roll Levi on his side when two large hands joined him in the job. Lakota had grabbed a clean kitchen towel and was pressing it against the wound on the seizing man’s head. “Troy, get his shirt undone at the neck,” he instructed.

The teacher carefully undid the buttons and then waited helplessly for it to be over.

Yancey had appeared at Lakota’s side and was providing him with more towels and instructing the other men to stand back.

In less than two minutes the seizure had stopped, and Levi began to groan as awareness returned to him. His head hurt terribly, and someone was pressing on the pain, making it feel worse. He tried to turn his head away, but the hand followed him. He reached up to push the annoyance off, but his hands were restrained by large stronger ones. 

“Levi, it’s okay, sweetheart. Just lie still; you’ve hit your head,” Troy soothed.

“Hur-hurts…” was all he could manage to mumble.

“I know it does. We’re going to help you. Please just try to relax.” That was the doctor’s voice. 

Levi suddenly realised what had happened. He opened his eyes to see Troy’s face swimming before him as the sight and smells of the mess hall assailed him. ‘Damn, I’ve had a seizure in front of everyone. What must they all be thinking?’

Troy, I need to get him moved to the infirmary.” Lakota turned to Yancey. “Can you get the stretcher for me?”

“No need; I’ll carry him,” Troy replied as he gently scooped the limp figure up into his arms. 

Lakota maintained pressure on the head wound as they made their way out of the communal tent.

Levi found himself relaxing in Troy’s strong arms. It was the one place in the world he knew he was safe. He kept his eyes tightly closed, not wanting to see the looks on his friends’ faces, afraid they would think him some sort of freak.

Within moments he felt himself being lowered on the padded examination table in the infirmary. Troy gently held his hands as Lakota examined him. 

“Yancey, please make up a tea with a morphine powder and prepare a suture tray.” The doctor collected his stethoscope and listened to his patient’s heart rate and breathing. “Levi, I’m going to need to use some stitches to close this wound on your head. We’ll give you something to numb the pain and it will help you rest,” he explained.

Levi looked frightened and Troy wanted nothing more than to take that look of fear from his lover’s face. “He’ll be alright, won’t he, Lakota?”

The doctor smiled and looked at both his patient and his patient’s husband. “Yes, yes Levi is going to be just fine. He’ll need to have some quiet and bed rest for a couple of days, but I anticipate no complications.”

It took some effort to get Levi to drink the bitter tea, but once the morphine kicked in, he relaxed and had no difficulty getting through the suturing process. Troy however, felt somewhat faint and had to sit down as he watched the needle pierce his husband’s skin. Levi was then moved and settled into the ward for the night, with Troy maintaining a quiet vigil at his side. 

Yancey had the examination room cleaned up just in time to welcome two more patients who walked in accompanied by two older men. Galen and Jordan needed their arms tended to.

It was early evening and the storm had been raging the better part of the day, saturating the ground and blowing debris around. But here in their tent Spyke and Larry were safely cuddling together. Their rugged partner had decided to conduct yet another security check of the compound and they were taking advantage of having the tent to themselves. They knew Walker, Thad and Jordan would be joining them soon to wait out the storm by sleeping if at all possible.

“Okay, Larry, just to be sure I got my facts straight. Last night at the cave, Aiden took turns making love to each of us three different ways, and he got it up and climaxed every time, right?”

“Yes,” Larry slowly answered as he looked at the young man spooned against him, a little taken back by the topic of conversation. “Where are you going with this, Spyke?”

“So that makes a grand total of six times!” Spyke exclaimed, ignoring the question. “Holy shit, no one is gonna beat that number and if anyone says different, they’re fucking lying.” His eyes were sparkling as he rubbed his hands together in absolute glee.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Huh?” Spyke figured it was time for a bit of damage control. “You don’t want to know, Larry. Trust me, you really don’t.”

“Yes, I most certainly do want to know. Did you trick Aiden into participating in some kind of contest?” Larry hoped his guess was way off the mark.

“Hm, not exactly,” Spyke hedged.

“You better tell me or else. ‘Cause I’ve got ways of making you talk.” Larry waited all of ten seconds and when his younger partner remained tight-lipped, began tickling him.

“Fuck off, Larry!” Spyke hollered as he tried in vain to push the bigger man away. He was soon giggling so hard; he was barely able to speak. “Uncle, uncle, I give up,” he gasped and drew in a deep breath when the torment ended. “It-it’s a stamina test,” he panted as he lay there with a look of unadulterated joy on his animated face.

“A stamina test!” Larry exclaimed in disbelief. “Whose crude joke was this and who else is in on it?”

“You’re not gonna squeal on us, are you?”

“No, but it’s going to get out sooner or later. There are no secrets around here.” Larry chuckled. “So now that my curiosity is aroused, fill me in on all the sordid details.”

“Well it kinda got started a week ago last Friday when Wes and Seth were hanging up the laundry. Wes sorta bragged about Nathan’s sexual prowess and then it just mushroomed from there. Seth and Preston spent most of Saturday night in the woods and you can probably guess what they were doing.” Spyke smirked and suggestively wagged his eyebrows.

Larry tried not to laugh. “So you decided to give it a try, right?”

“Not just me; Raythe also tested Brock one night last week and you should be able to figure out what Walker and his partners were doing when they had the tent to themselves while we three were busy somewhere else. Levi, Brodie and Gille weren’t interested, and I don’t know about the rest. Except Galen; Jordan and I dared him to ask Thomas how many he was up to.”

“Do you really think he will?”

“Hmm, possibly!” Both men burst out laughing just as the tent flap opened, heralding the arrival of Thad and Jordan. Their entrance was accompanied by a gust of cold wind and a lot of dampness.

“What’s so funny?” Thad demanded as he secured the entryway while Jordan began stripping off his wet clothes.

“Spyke’s been telling me about the stamina test,” Larry laughingly replied.

“Oh, brother,” Thad groaned out and rolled his eyes. “I take it you didn’t know beforehand. I did and although I refused to help the cause, I didn’t hinder it,” he admitted, slightly embarrassed by the subject. He quickly changed into dry clothing, gathered up all the soaked items and chucked them out the back of the tent to be laundered tomorrow when the weather cleared. Then he and Jordan cuddled up on their bed to relax and get warm.

“Get this. Apparently these two partners of ours have goaded Galen into asking his mentor some rather personal questions.” Larry almost choked at the expression of incredulity on Thad’s face.

“He’s joking, right?” Thad asked the young man in his arms.

“Nope!” Jordan eyes twinkled with mirth and mischief.

“He probably won’t do it,” Thad muttered, crossing his fingers and hoping such would be the case.

“Bet he will!” Spyke and Jordan cried out in unison mere seconds before melting into gales of laughter.

“So how m-many times do you think you can m-make love in one night, Thomas?” Galen bluntly asked through the nightshirt he was pulling over his head in preparation for bed. He took care not to disturb the bandage on his right arm. The last thing he wanted was a third trip in one day to the infirmary.

“What?” Thomas was rather shocked at the forthrightness

“How m-many times, huh?” Galen repeated. “Four, five, or m-maybe even six?”

“Why would you want to know something like that?”

“Just curious.” Galen shrugged his shoulders, feigning indifference. He certainly wasn’t going to be the one to let the cat out of the bag.

“Is this some kind of test or experiment?” Thomas fluffed up his pillow and stretched out on his bed.

“Huh?” Galen stared down at the bigger man, wide-eyed and innocent while secretly enjoying himself.

“Is there a bet going on amongst the lot of you? Who else is going around asking this question?”

“M-maybe you’re too embarrassed to tell me ‘cause you are not very gifted in that area,” Galen teasingly avoided the queries as he lay down and searched for a comfortable position on his pallet.

Thomas choked as he drew in a surprised breath. “Didn’t your father ever teach you not to ask such impertinent questions, especially to someone you are not intimate with?”

“Nope! But then I don’t think it ever crossed his m-mind I’d even consider asking anyone something like that.”

Thomas began laughing loudly. He shook his head at his young friend and leaned over to wag a finger in his face. “Oh no, you’re not going to trick me into anything. What’s with all this inquisitiveness? Tell me!”

“Can’t!” Galen cheekily replied as he rolled over and pulled a blanket over his head. He failed entirely to conceal his snickers of mischievous delight at Thomas’ unappeased curiosity.

Thomas’ musings over Galen’s question soon had his mind wandering to the subject at hand. What would it feel like to make love to this beautiful young man? Was he ready to take that step? Was Galen ready? He knew the answer to those questions was ‘no, not yet’. But the kiss they had shared this morning had him thinking that perhaps such a relationship with Galen was becoming more likely and more certainly desirable. ‘We shall see what time brings,’ he thought. He then reached for the book he had been reading in hopes of taking his mind off of the sudden stirrings of his flesh.

Gille hated thunderstorms. Nothing could set his heart pounding in his chest faster than a crack of thunder or flash of lightning. After his mother’s death, he’d lived in one rickety hovel or another, but always found his way into a solid building during a storm, even if it meant breaking in and hiding until the fury had passed. Now here he was on this island during a brutal storm with no place to hide but a canvas tent and without even the strong arms of his lover to reassure him. Hendrik and Mitchell were lying together on the other side of the tent. Mitchell had asked him if he was doing alright and he had quickly assured the other man he was fine, not wanting anyone to think him a coward.

Lakota was in the infirmary with Troy and Levi due to the younger man having had one of his epileptic seizures after dinner and hitting his head when he fell. The doctor wanted to keep him under observation for the next twenty-four hours and had told Gille to go to their tent without him. Sometimes he hated that Lakota was a doctor because it meant he had to make himself available at any time, leaving Gille to his own devices. He had made the mistake one day of accusing his lover of caring more about his patients than he did about him. Lakota quickly sat him down and very firmly explained that he had a responsibility to these men that sometimes took precedence over their time together, but it never meant that he cared more for the others. 

A flash of lightning lit up the tent and was followed immediately by a crack of thunder so loud it made the men’s ears ring. ‘That’s it,’ Gille thought. ‘I’m not staying another second in this death trap.’ He leapt up from his pallet and tore open the tent flap and ran right out into the storm. The rain was coming down in torrents, but he could still hear Mitchell calling him to come back. He ignored the older man and ran towards what he thought would be the infirmary tent, but the driving rain in his eyes and the darkness disoriented him and he ran past his destination.  

He found himself standing in front of the privy he’d help built shortly after they’d arrived here. Figuring it to at least be a more solid structure than the tent, he clambered inside and slammed the door. He was soaked to the skin, shivering and standing inside an outhouse. Thank God, they’d dug a new hole and moved the wooden structure over it that morning. Although it didn’t reek as badly, it was hardly an ideal place to ride out a storm. 

Mitchell peered out of the tent but could see no one through the dark and the pouring rain. It was foolish to try and go out with lightning striking around them so he decided to wait for a few minutes to see if the storm would abate. He only hoped Gille had made it to the infirmary safely. 

Gille sat shivering on the seat of the privy, jumping with each roar of thunder. Gradually the thunder grew more distant and he began to calm down. He stuck his head out and noted the rain had slowed to a light drizzle. Deciding to go to see Lakota, he exited the outhouse and walked towards the infirmary which he could see was lit up from within by lanterns. 

As he approached the tent he could hear his lover’s distinctive baritone voice. “If he’s foolish enough to run off in this weather then let him be. I’m sure he’ll make his way back on his own when he’s good and ready.”

Gille froze his forward momentum. ‘Lakota is talking about me,’ he thought. ‘Mitchell or Hendrik must have told him I’d run off in the storm and he doesn’t even care.’ Too shocked with what he’d heard to listen further, the young man turned and ran off. He entered the woods and began a stumbling journey in utter darkness. The pain he felt from Lakota’s words overshadowed any fear he felt of the storm. 

He held his hands out in front of him, feeling for trees in his path. About fifteen minutes in, a low hanging branch caught his forehead and knocked him backwards. Gille lost his balance and landed hard. He cried out in pain as he felt something puncture his right arm. Completely disoriented, demoralised and in pain, he lay on the sodden ground, bleeding and sobbing.

Lakota was not happy that young Jordan had chosen to run into the infirmary and yell out to his quietly resting patient that Levi’s dog had run off in the storm. It had taken Troy and the doctor quite some time to get Levi settled and now the young man was arguing with his husband that he must go in search of his pet.

“If he’s foolish enough to run off in this weather then let him be. I’m sure he’ll make his way back on his own when he’s good and ready,” Lakota had said in hopes of calming his patient.

But the young man took great offence to the comment. “First of all, Cherry is a girl dog and secondly, she is not foolish. She’s only afraid of the thunder,” he retorted.  

Troy placed a hand on his beloved’s shoulder, restraining him. “Hush, Levi,” he admonished.

Lakota realised his words had been too harsh. “I’m sorry to have called her foolish, but I can assure you she’ll be fine. Dogs are quite good at finding a sheltered place to ride out a storm. Now I really want you to lie back down and get some rest. You have a mild concussion from your fall, and I will not have you getting agitated.”

“You don’t understand, either of you. She’s frightened. I have to go find her.” Levi struggled against the restraining hands of his husband. “Let me go!”

Troy looked up at Lakota. “Doctor, will you excuse us for a moment?” 

Lakota nodded. “Of course,” he murmured as he turned and left the curtained-off ward, going to his makeshift desk to write his notes. Another flash of lightening and crack of thunder shook the ground and lit up the tent as the storm increased in strength once again. Even the normally rock-steady doctor jumped at the sound. It was quickly followed by another familiar-sounding crack, that of a hand against flesh and a muffled cry. 

Behind the curtain Levi had his face pressed against Troy’s shoulder, trying to hold back his tears. “I’m sorry,” he choked out. “I’m just worried about Cherry.”

“I know you are, my love, but not as much as I am worried about you. You’ve had a seizure, a fall causing a blow to your head and a concussion that is a lot more concerning than a dog hiding in the woods during a rainstorm. Isn’t it?”

“But I’m fine; Lakota said so. We don’t know that Cherry is safe,” the young blond pleaded.

“The doctor said you will be fine if you rest quietly and allow your body to heal. Searching for your dog in a storm hardly qualifies as resting quietly.”

“Will you go then? I’ll promise to stay right here if you’ll go and look for her. Please, Troy!”

The entreaty was followed by another flash of lightening and the sound of heavy rain once again pelting the canvas overhead. Troy shook his head at the sound. “I thought it was easing up, but the storm is heavy again. I’ll go look for your dog once the lightning has moved away.”

Tears formed in Levi’s eyes and he brushed them away before they could fall. He knew Troy was right. It simply was not safe to go out searching in the storm, but he was so afraid for his pet.

Gille huddled into a ball on the sodden ground. Though the canopy of trees provided some shelter, the rain still fell in heavy splashes off the branches above. He lay shaking from the cold and wet, but all his heart could feel was the pain of Lakota’s words. He didn’t know how long he’d been there when he felt something nudge against his arm. He yelped, terrified that some wild animal would find him a tasty treat, but then he felt a warm wet tongue lick his arm. He tentatively reached out and felt the nose of a small dog. Feeling a little further, he found the poor creature was shaking as much as he was and just as wet.

He drew the dripping ball of fur into his arms, mindful of the pain from the puncture in his right forearm. “Hey there girl, what are you doing out here?” he asked in an unsteady voice. As if to answer, the dog whimpered and licked his face. “You just stay with me and we’ll be okay.”

Once again, the sky was rent with lightning and thunder, leaving the two runaways trembling with fear. However, the momentary flash of light had afforded Gille a closer look at squirming bundle in his arms. “You’re Levi’s dog, aren’t you? And he’s in the infirmary with Lakota, so we’re both on our own.” The two provided each other with some badly needed comfort as the storm passed over the island.


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