Chapter Thirty-nine

“I dinna like the looks of that sky, Thomas,” Aiden muttered worriedly. The two men were standing on the shore next to the tree-line separating the beach from the encampment and looking out over the horizon.

“I’m afraid I have to agree with you, my friend. Those are serious storm clouds if I’ve ever seen them,” the farmer replied. “I wonder if this is a normal occurrence here for near mid-July.”

 “Whether ’tis or not, all I can say ’tis a bad sign, I’m afraid. We best be prepared for the worse and get as much as possible tied down.”

Both leaders took their responsibilities for the well-being of the community very seriously and their concern over the approaching squall was well warranted.

“Thomas!” Galen had quietly come upon his mentor and was vying for attention by pulling on the older man’s shirt sleeve. “How come it looks so w-weird out there?”

“We’re in for a bad storm. See those dark clouds, how high they rise up into the sky? They are waterspouts caused by temperature changes. Fortunately, many will lose most of their power once they hit land but are still going to bring us a good downpour I’m afraid,” he explained.

“Is it going to get really w-windy? Do you think there’ll b-be thunder and lightning?” Galen was bouncing with excitement and hoping for an affirmative response.

“’Tis best I be returning to camp while ye play the endless question and answer game with this wee scamp of yers,” Aiden chuckled, walking towards the trees with a farewell wave.

“Yes, I think it will be windy with thunder and lightning. I believe we’re in for quite a blow,” Thomas answered patiently after letting Aiden know they would soon be following him.

“Great! W-wait ‘til Spyke and Jordan hear the news!” Galen turned to run back to camp but was waylaid by a large hand on his shoulder.

“Hold on there. Storms are not a game and I do not want you or anyone else to be running about playing in it.” He took hold of the younger man by the upper arms to emphasise the point.

“Oww!” Galen cried out in pain and tried to remove Thomas’ hand from around his right arm.

Thomas pulled his hand away. He suddenly realised his young friend was wearing a shirt and had been for the last couple of days. This was unusual as Galen only wore overalls, and sometimes boots when made to. “What’s wrong with your arm?”

“I can’t tell you yet. It’s a secret.”

“Galen, if it is hurting you, I want to know why.” He pulled up the sleeve of the younger man’s shirt and was shocked to find a red patch of his upper arm oozing a small amount of puss.  He could make out what looked like a drawing under the hot swollen skin. “My God, Galen, what is this!” he demanded, already dreading the answer.

“It’s a unicorn! B-but you w-weren’t supposed to see it until after it’s healed.” Galen’s disappointment was obvious in the pout on his face. “Jordan did it for m-me and I did one for him.”

The older man shook his head in dismay. “Galen, this is infected. You could get very sick from something like this. What were you thinking? And Jordan, is his as messy as yours?”

“It was b-but I’m not sure if it still is ‘cause I haven’t asked him yet this m-morning.”

“Alright, we need to get Lakota to look at this right away. We’ll go find Walker and Jordan first to see if he’s in the same condition as you are,” he said as he began to lead the younger man back to the campsite. “Once the doctor has seen to you, we are going to have a talk about this.”

Arriving back at the compound, Thomas wasn’t surprised to see it bustling with activity. A talented organiser, Aiden had divided the men into teams and assigned various responsibilities. Everyone was busy; most of the day’s activities well planned out.

Having already re-located the outhouse, Gille, Larry, and Levi made up a team under the leadership of Troy. They were presently engaged in clearing the immediate vicinity of objects in danger of becoming missiles should the winds prove forceful enough.

Quentin, Yancey and Lakota were re-enforcing the ropes and pegs holding the tents in place while Brock worked side by side with Raythe and Kelby to ensure the safety of their livestock. They were double checking the hen house, pig pen and another much larger enclosure that housed the sheep, goats and mule.

Kevin had been given a team comprising of Dallas, Seth, Samuel, Wayne, Nathan and Wes with instructions to gather and store extra firewood as well as filling all the water barrels. Meanwhile Mitchell, Hendrik, and Preston together with Aiden had gone to the building site in order to gather up all tools and secure as much of the area as possible.

Brodie and Thad had just finished lowering and tying down the canvas sides of the large communal tent and were heading inside to assist Walker, Jordan and Spyke with the on-going preparations of the day’s meals.

Thomas followed them into the mess hall, keeping a tight hold of Galen’s hand in order to prevent the young man from taking off and joining his friends in caring for the animals. He approached Walker and apologised for disturbing him.

“I was wondering if you knew anything about the tattoos Jordan and Galen gave each other. I am also worried that Jordan’s, like Galen’s, may be infected.”

Walker’s eyes narrowed dangerously as he turned to his youngest partner. “Jordan, roll up your sleeves please.”

Jordan glanced uncertainly at Galen and took in the shrug of resignation. Knowing nothing could be gained by feigning innocence, Jordan did as he was told and brought his artwork into view.

“This looks rather sore, my little mouse,” Walker softly commented, his anger having rapidly changed to concern as he gently touched the reddened area on Jordan’s right bicep. “Thad, can the three of you keep things under control here while I accompany Jordan to the infirmary?”

“Of course, Walker. Brodie, Spyke and I will take care of the noon meal,” Thad quickly assured his older partner while anxiously studying his younger one. “You needn’t worry about anything here.”

Black clouds were rolling in and the wind was picking up as four not-so-happy men made their way to the infirmary where they had to interrupt the medical staff and take them away from their task of securing the facility.

Glaringly aware of Thomas and Walker’s presence, Galen and Jordan struggled with mixed feelings of gratitude and trepidation as they stood on shaking legs before Lakota, trying not to squirm under the doctor’s questioning gaze.

“Now what do we have here?” Lakota asked, wondering what mischief the young men could have gotten themselves into that would require his expertise.

“Tattoos!” Walker answered when neither culprit seemed prepared to do so. “Infected tattoos!” he impatiently clarified.

“Up here, both of you,” the doctor ordered, patting the examination table. “Let’s get a good look at what we’re dealing with, shall we?” He wanted to better read their facial expressions.

Galen and Jordan exchanged worried glances but hastened to obey rather than court additional displeasure.

“Please show me where these tattoos are,” the doctor requested.

Both of the young men slowly removed their shirts to reveal their failed attempts at body art. Lakota examined each arm closely, clicking his tongue in disapproval. “Well you two have made a fine mess, haven’t you?” he asked, not really expecting an answer. 

Turning to his nurse, who had been waiting patiently to assist him, Lakota requested, “Yancey, can you go to the mess hall and get some day-old bread please. We’ll have to make a poultice to draw out the infection.”

“There are a few slices of yesterday’s bread in the box beside the larder,” Walker offered.

“Thank you; I’ll be right back with it,” Yancey replied as he headed out.

“While we are waiting for Yancey to return, I’d like to hear just how you went about doing this to yourselves.”  The doctor put a pot of water on the small stove as he listened.

Once again, Jordan and Galen glanced at each other; this time to issue silent challenges as to who was going to speak up first.

“It got started on Saturday w-when Jordan and I w-were w-waiting to get our hair cut,” Galen nervously ventured forth with an answer for the first of what they knew would be numerous demands for the particulars.

“That was two days ago,” Walker stated, frowning in consternation when both miscreants responded with ‘huh-huh’ and wide-eyed nods. He rolled his eyes and sighed. “Go on!”

“We w-were getting a b-bit b-bored, so w-we decided to look through some of the b-books on the shelves. W-we found some p-pictures of eagles and I remember m-my brother’s tattoos and told Jordan about them.”

Galen was beginning to warm up to the story-telling. “We found a p-picture of a unicorn and thought it w-would m-make a nice one. Dino has two; he got the eagle at the summer fair b-back home; it’s m-much b-bigger than ours and really b-beautiful. The second one he did himself; it’s a small heart w-with his wife’s name next to it.” He continued babbling, quite oblivious to the frown appearing on Thomas’ face. “Mama didn’t like them, and Papa was angry, b-but they got used….”

Thomas put a quick halt to the young man’s jabbering. “Galen, that’s enough about the past. We need to know about you and Jordan here in the present.”

Galen immediately closed his mouth, turned to Jordan and shrugged his shoulders as if to say, ‘I tried, it’s your turn’.

“Galen told me all about it. Ah, we liked the unicorn best.” Jordan’s statements were rather disjointed and didn’t really provide a lot of information; at least none that the older men were looking for.

“Whose idea was it for you to tattoo each other?” Walker asked in an attempt to get nearer to the heart of the matter.

Jordan fidgeted uncomfortably while Galen found something fascinating on the floor to concentrate on. Three big men stood with arms folded and allowed the heavy silence to convey their expectations for further discussion.

Finally succumbing to the pressure, Jordan quietly admitted, “it was mine.” He was doomed, knowing full well Walker’s opinion on the subject; it having been debated at length not too long ago. He hung his head and blinked back tears when he felt Galen’s supportive hand on his back.

“How did you even know how to go about doing this?” Thomas inquired, still baffled by the very notion of them inflicting these injuries on one another.

“Dino taught m-me how,” Galen readily responded, referring once again to his older brother. “You just-need to take two needles and tie them together w-with thread, m-making sure the p-points are almost touching, but not quite. Then you m-mix a little soot from the oil lamps in a drop of m-milk to m-make the ink.” He was surprised at none of the others knowing this. “Choosing a p-picture was the hardest p-part, w-wasn’t it, Jordan?”

“I guess,” the other young man groaned, fully aware that the hardest part of this little escapade was still ahead of them.

“I am going to have to be more suspicious when I see the chimneys on the lamps cleaned without my having demand anyone do it,” Walker muttered partly under his breath.

Knowing now what he was dealing with, Lakota took the simmering water and added a mixture of dried herbs to the pot. It filled the tent with a strong but not unpleasant aroma. Yancey returned just as he finished. He was carrying a bowl containing several slices of slightly dry bread. The doctor placed two slices in a small tray and poured just enough of the herb mixture over them to soak the bread. 

Next the doctor divided the remaining mixture in half while Yancey carried the first part over to the exam table along with some clean squares of cloth.  The doctor requested Jordan get down while he attended to Galen first.

“Galen, I’m afraid yours is worse than your partner-in-crime here but both are going to need treatment. Before I apply the poultice, I’ll have to clean the area. Then I will be placing the warm, moist bread on the wound site and wrapping it in gauze. We’ll change it twice a day until the infection is cleared, which will probably take two or three days.”

Galen cringed as the doctor and nurse took possession of his arm. Although he trusted Lakota not to intentionally hurt him, he was still frightened by any medical procedures. He relaxed slightly when Thomas stepped up behind him and place a calming hand on his shoulder.

“I’m here, Galen; you’ll be just fine,” Thomas intoned softly.

Galen glanced up at Lakota and Yancey. He sighed in relief at seeing only concern in their kind faces instead of the censure he expected. He leaned heavily against Thomas’ chest and closed his eyes, not wanting to watch what was being done to his arm.

“This will only take a few moments, Galen; please try and stay still,” the doctor requested.

Galen held his breath and clenched his teeth in an effort to undergo the treatment in silence, feeling he had only himself to blame for the situation he found himself in. But try as he might, a whimper or two escaped his lips and a tear slowly made its way down his cheek.

Thomas slid his arm around Galen’s waist and stroked his head soothingly with his free hand.

Soon Galen felt the gentle hands of the nurse wrapping the bandaging around the poultice. Though it still stung a bit, it was quickly beginning to feel more comfortable.

“Alright, young man, we’re done for now. We’ll need to change that again this evening after supper,” Yancey informed him with a kind smile.

Galen expelled a long, drawn-out breath, wiped his eyes on the shirt he had scrunched up in his hand and hopped down from the examining table. He sent a sympathetic smile Jordan’s way as they passed one another and received a fretful grimace in return.

Jordan reluctantly climbed back up on the table. He didn’t want to do this, having seen the way Galen cringed, but knowing Walker was with him helped.

Unlike Galen, who had kept his eyes closed, Jordan was curious enough to watch the entire procedure; although he too flinched a few times.

Soon it was over and done with and the two tattoo artists were sent on their way with admonishments to keep the bandaging clean and in place. 

Thomas guided Galen out of the infirmary. “How is your arm feeling now?” he asked with concern.

Galen stretched the injured limb to test it. “M-much b-better now,” he grinned happily.

“I’m happy to hear that. Let’s take a walk, shall we? I’d like to discuss this whole tattooing business.” Thomas’ voice had an edge of seriousness to it. He led the younger man along a path towards the stream a short distance from the encampment.

“Ah, shouldn’t w-we be helping the others p-prepare for the storm?” Galen was just now beginning to grasp exactly how much trouble he might be in.

“The efforts are well underway and I’m sure we can be spared for a while longer,” Thomas responded, holding onto the hand of Galen’s uninjured arm.

There was something familiar going on and Galen was getting a not-so-good feeling of familiarity. He tugged ineffectually at Thomas’ grip, but it held fast.

“Tell me something, Galen?” Thomas asked as they walked. “When your brother got his tattoo, you said your parents were not happy about it. Do you remember some of the reasons they gave for objecting to it?”

Galen chewed his lower lip in thought. “Well, Mama didn’t like him trying to m-modify his b-body like that.”

“Modify his body? What did she mean by that?” the older man inquired.

“Mama thought everyone should b-be satisfied with the w-way they were b-born. She said tattoos and p-piercing and the like were unnatural.”

“And did she have anything else to say about the process of tattooing and its risks?”

“I don’t think so b-but Papa m-might have.”

Thomas chuckled slightly at the younger man’s evasive manoeuvres. “Just what did your Papa say about that?”

“Umm, something about getting sick and b-blood p-poisoning,” Galen murmured before speaking up. “B-but nothing b-bad happened to Dino.”

“So when you and Jordan sat down to discuss giving each other these tattoos, did you think at any time about what your parents had said to your brother and how those things might apply to what you were doing?”

“Nooo. M-mostly I just thought how nice it w-would look once it healed,” Galen answered cautiously. “Jordan did tell m-me Walker didn’t w-want him to have one though,” he quietly disclosed.

“Mostly you thought about it. But at least it occurred to you that there was a valid reason for your parents’ concern?” Thomas asked.

“I guess it did,” Galen softly admitted, not too keen on the direction this conversation was heading.

Jordan also told you his partner didn’t want him to have one and yet you still decided to go ahead? Am I correct?”

“Yes, Thomas.” Galen hung his head under the older man’s disapproving bearing.

Their walk quickly led the men to a small clearing by the stream and Thomas guided them to sit on a fallen log there. “Though you and I did not specifically discuss tattoos when we had our talk about rules and reasons for using discipline, we did discuss you doing things that were potentially harmful or dangerous. We also discussed you coming and talking to me first before you made decisions that could affect your health or well-being, didn’t we?”

“Yes, b-but I didn’t really think anything w-would go wrong.”

“That is not the point, Galen. You had been made aware in the past of the potential risks involved in tattooing, and yet you decided to go ahead and do this thing without even discussing it with me first. Also, you were made well aware that your friend’s partner objected to tattoos and you still decided to assist him in this,” Thomas stated. “I am not at all pleased with these decisions you made. You have risked your health, as well as the health and well-being of a friend.”

“I didn’t m-make Jordan get a tattoo, Thomas. He w-wanted one.”

“I know that, Galen, but you knew it would not make his partner happy. I would think that you should have told Jordan you wouldn’t do this thing until after he had at least discussed it with Walker.”

Galen looked intently at his mentor, slowly accepting that Thomas wasn’t about to let this issue go without consequence. “I’m sorry, Thomas. I w-wish I hadn’t even m-mentioned the tattoo to Jordan in the first p-place,” he sorrowfully murmured.

“I’m sorry too, Galen, but you did do something that broke the rules we agreed to.” He soothingly rubbed the younger man’s back. “Stand up, please, and lower your pants. Let’s get this done.”

“I don’t w-want you to spank m-me, Thomas.” Galen turned sad, pleading eyes up to the older man who meant the world to him.

Thomas gave him a reassuring smile. “I know you don’t, Galen. That is the point behind the punishment. It is not something you want; it’s something unpleasant that will hopefully help you learn not to repeat certain behaviours. Now off with those pants. The sooner we start, the sooner it will be over.”

Galen reluctantly got to his feet and obeyed the order, trusting in Thomas to take care of things.

Thomas pulled the young man gently over his lap. He smiled at the bottom laid out before him. The first time he had held Galen in this manner the cheeks had been pale white, but the lad’s inclination for running on the beach unclothed had coloured the globes the same golden brown as the rest of his skin. He pulled himself from his musings and got down to business. 

Galen shifted to get as comfortable as possible knowing full-well he wasn’t going to be so for long.

Thomas wrapped one arm securely around Galen’s waist and brought the other hand down in a sharp slap that echoed in the clearing. He continued to rain down the spanks for several lengthy moments until that golden brown was over-toned with crimson red.

Galen struggled to escape and finding that impossible, kicked and squirmed to evade the punishing hand, causing his overalls to fly off and land in a heap on the grass. Then ultimately accepting the futility in fighting the inevitable, he settled for just trying to breathe through his sobs of pain.

Finally feeling the lesson had been well taught, Thomas stopped the spanking, slowly lowered the younger man to his knees and rubbed soothing caresses on his back. He hated seeing this special young man so upset but he hated more the thought of him endangering himself. He tenderly pulled Galen up into his arms and held him as the last of the sobs left the trembling body.

Galen wrapped his arms around Thomas’ neck, seeking the comfort he desired and the assurance all was forgiven.

When Galen had at long last quieted, Thomas placed a light kiss on his cheek. “I’d like to say one more thing about this tattooing and then we’ll forget about it, okay?”

“Uh-huh,” Galen tearfully hitched.

Thomas pulled his face back to look deep into the large grey eyes before him. Stunning grey eyes made even more exquisite by long, wet, spiked eyelashes. “Galen, you have a very beautiful body and no amount of man-made art put upon it could improve your looks. If anything, I think it would detract from them. After all, you wouldn’t draw a unicorn upon Michael Angelo’s David, would you?”

“I’ve never seen it but m-maybe a tattoo m-might have added to it in case David w-wasn’t at all good looking,” Galen hiccuped.

Thomas laughed aloud. “The David statue is one of the most magnificent in the whole world, and almost as delightful as you.” He followed that comment with a tender kiss to Galen’s lips.

Galen gazed into warm brown eyes and fervently wished that the kiss would have continued.

Knowing he needed to move before he got carried away, Thomas put the beauty in his arms on his feet and quickly said, “let’s get back to the camp. We have a storm to prepare for.”

Galen sighed out his disappointment as he picked up his overalls and stepped into them. He hissed as he drew them up and over his very sore bottom.

Thomas drew several bracing breaths to calm his body’s desires and took Galen by the hand. “Ready?” he asked.

“As I’ll ever b-be,” Galen shyly smiled up at the older man.

The two made their way back to the hub of activity; both thinking of that kiss as they walked. 

“You and I are going to find a private spot to hold a badly needed discussion, young man,” Walker firmly informed Jordan as they left the infirmary and walked across the compound.

After checking with Thad to see the noon meal well underway, Walker placed a heavy hand around the back of Jordan’s neck and firmly steered the younger man around the big tent, past the herb garden out back, into the forest and along the path leading to a well-known glen that would afford them some privacy.

Upon reaching their destination, Walker immediately turned Jordan to face him. “Tell me, Jordan; did we or did we not recently have a conversation regarding tattoos?”

“Yes, sir, we did,” Jordan mumbled, looking down at the ground and shuffling uncomfortably from one foot to the other.

“Look at me please, my little mouse,” Walker softly requested. “What conclusion did we come to at that time?”

“Ah, I-I think I might of forgotten,” Jordan hesitantly answered in an attempt to avoid the inevitable.

Walker didn’t believe it for a second. “Then allow me to refresh your memory,” the ex-magistrate insisted in a voice turning rather stern. “If I am not mistaken, we were discussing your admiration of Larry’s tattoo and your desire to obtain one of your own. I am absolutely positive I made crystal clear to you my opposition to either of my partners getting tattooed. Is any part of this beginning to sound at all familiar, young man?”

“I guess I’m kinda starting to remember,” Jordan forlornly responded.

“Why was I against you or Thad getting a tattoo, Jordan?”

“Because of the chances of infection?” was the uncertain reply.

“Yes! That and the possibility of permanent scaring,” Walker pressed the point home as he stared down at his partner, not at all looking forward to teaching the lesson in obedience that needed to be taught. “I will never stand back and ignore either of you placing your health and safety in jeopardy. Nor will I tolerate blatant disobedience.”

“What’s going to happen now, Walker?” Jordan asked nervously, not a little frightened by the state of affairs he currently found himself in. His apprehension increased as he watched the bigger man walk over to a fallen tree, sit down and calmly pat his knee.

“Come here, Jordan.” Walker’s softly spoken request acted like a homing signal beckoning his young partner closer.

When Jordan was within arm’s reach, Walker took his hand and gently manoeuvred him to sit on his lap. Gazing into the youthful face, he patiently explained, “I am a firm believer in discipline, Jordan, and happen to know that at times a firm hand warmly applied to the seat of a problem can get the message across when other methods are less effective. In other words, I fully intend to put you over my knees and soundly spank your bare bottom.”  Walker bit the inside of his cheek to prevent himself from smiling at the wide-eyed expression of disbelief.

Jordan’s speechlessness lasted all of ten seconds. “You can’t be serious! I’m not a little kid, you know!”

“I am fully aware of you being a full-grown man, Jordan, but we’ve discussed this. In fact, over the last few weeks since becoming partners with the understanding that I was in charge, the three of us have discussed this in minute detail. You appear to have selective memory down to a fine art, young man. However, that attribute is not going to save you from my displeasure.” Walker patted Jordan’s hip. “Up you get, Jordan, and lower your trousers please.”

Jordan reluctantly got to his feet, loosened his clothing and waited for Walker to make the next move. The older man’s matter-of-fact way of handling the situation had a calming effect and although certainly not looking forward to what was about to happen, Jordan was no longer afraid of it. He realised this had a lot to do with the trust he had in his older partner.

Walker placed his wayward lover over his thighs and uncovered the intended target. He didn’t lecture; both of them were well aware of the committed transgression. He merely raised his right hand and proceeded to deliver a well-earned spanking. He listened closely to the younger man’s wails; first of indignation, followed by regret, then finally of repentance and a resolve not to repeat the offence. Accepting that Jordan had learnt the lesson being taught, Walker ended the spanking with a resounding wallop to the centre of the sobbing young man’s very red backside.

Sitting on the same lap he had moments before been lying face down over, Jordan nestled into the strong arms holding him and gradually got himself under control. “I’m s-sorry,” he tearfully stammered, burrowing into the junction of Walker’s neck and shoulder. “I-I’ll never get another tattoo. H-honest!” he solemnly vowed.

“I believe you, my precious little mouse, and all is forgiven,” Walker assured the still quietly crying man in his arms. He kissed the damp, light-brown curls as he rocked back and forth in a soothing motion. Eventually the heart-rending sounds tapered to hitches and sniffles, ending with a long drawn-out sigh.

“How are you feeling, little one?” Walker tenderly inquired, gently smiling into sad, hazel eyes surrounded by dark, wet eyelashes.

“I’m alright,” Jordan murmured after thinking it over for several moments. He didn’t quite understand why, but he felt safe and at peace with the world. “So we’re okay now, right?”

“We, my little mouse, are always okay!” Walker categorically stated. Another reassuring hug and Walker moved to set the younger man on his feet. “We need to get back, sweetheart. Thad requires our assistance both with the noon meal and with securing the mess hall.”

“Not yet, please.” Jordan was not ready to face anyone this soon.

“Alright, a few more minutes won’t hurt.” Walker slid off the log and lay down on the soft grass, pulling Jordan on top of him. “Do you want to straighten out your clothing?”

“No way,” Jordan muttered, vigorously shook his head. “I like the cool breeze blowing over my bare butt.”

Walker chuckled understandingly and settled in to give his young partner all the time he needed.

Twenty minutes later, they entered the mess hall, hand in hand. Jordan immediately let go of Walker’s hand and ran over to Thad. The walk back had caused his clothing to rub against his sore backside, re-igniting the blaze.

Thad caught Jordan to him and held him tight. He had seen the fresh tears forming in his partner’s eyes and flashed a brief glare of accusation at their older partner. He quickly dropped the attitude when he took in Walker’s raised eyebrow and concentrated on his younger partner.

“Got yourself in a bit of trouble, eh bud?” Thad murmured in Jordan’s ear. He felt a warm sigh and a nod against his neck. He smiled sadly and whispered, “guess we all have to learn the hard way now and again.”


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