Chapter Twenty-four

Lakota once again sat at his makeshift desk to record the information from the two exams he had just finished. Both these patients wanted the earliest possible appointments of the day so they could get about their assigned duties. Fortunately, everything had gone smoothly. One of the men arrived before the sun was even up and the second one just before breakfast. There were only two physicals left to do and he’d have medical information updated on all twenty-eight members of their little community.

Brock Foxx: age thirty, six foot four inches in height and solid muscle. He is taller here to all but Aiden Shea, though he certainly rivals Aiden in robust health. He bears a few scars from his life in the outdoors, but all are well healed and cause no issues. Although a no-nonsense type of man, I find Brock to be a very personable individual, most especially for someone who spends the majority of his time alone in his pursuits. He will make an excellent member of this new community.
Hendrik Van Der Berg, age twenty-six and six feet tall. This young man is healthy but slightly rundown from his time in jail and on board ship. He is used to the life on a ranch and I feel he suffered a great deal from his confinement. He confessed to me that he is mourning the loss of his long-time partner and I fear this is causing him a great deal more pain than he is willing to admit. He seems a bit lost here and in need of someone to make him feel wanted and useful. Despite his need to mourn, I think he would do well with finding a partner sooner rather than later as he is very lonely.

Notes done for the time being, Lakota headed for the mess hall to enjoy his morning repast. He met up with Yancey and reminded him of their upcoming plans to perform physicals on each other. After a leisurely meal they returned to the infirmary together

“Yancey, you’ll do fine I’m sure. You certainly know all the rudiments. The only thing I’ll need to walk you through is the rectal exam. It is after all, a little difficult to perform on oneself,” Lakota chuckled. “Though I no more relish the thought of it than you or any other man here, if we’re to have an accurate health baseline for everyone then we must include ourselves.” 

“Of course, you’re quite right.” Yancey nodded his agreement with the doctor’s logic.

“I appreciate you doing this for me, as I do believe in the saying ‘the doctor who practices medicine on himself has a fool for a patient’. Would you prefer to do my physical first or get yours out of the way?”

Yancey’s reply was interrupted by a new arrival.

“Hellooooo! I’m here early!” Galen merrily announced as he skipped into the infirmary, catching Lakota and Yancey off guard.

“Why would my most reluctant patient arrive early?”  Lakota asked.

’Cause Thomas has had to drag me here for every other visit and last time you said I only had to come one m-more time. So today I came on m-my own first thing to get it over w-with.” Galen climbed up onto the examining table and undid the top of his overalls, letting the bib fall to his lap. So accustomed was he to the routine Lakota had established, he automatically began undoing the buttons on his shirt. Glancing up at the silence, he stared in wide-eyed innocence at the bemused expressions on the older men’s faces. “Well?” he demanded and grinned up at them.

Neither the doctor nor his nurse could stop themselves from responding with smiles of their own.

“Did you finish eating breakfast?” Yancey inquired.

“Of course.” Galen rolled his eyes. “W-what do you think the chances w-would be of Thomas letting me leave the table b-before cleaning my p-plate of every last b-bite?”

Yancey chortled his understanding. “Well, Doctor, I think we better see to him, don’t you?” he suggested.

“Okay, young man, we may as well get this taken care of.” Lakota placed the stethoscope against Galen’s chest and had him breathe deeply. “Your lungs sound clear,” the doctor announced. He examined the recently injured nose and found it healing as expected. Checking further, he was pleased to note the lad had regained much of his badly needed weight. “Looks like you are well on the road to excellent health, Galen. Keep up the eating regime you were put on and you should have no future problems.”

“So I’m free to go?” Galen asked, doing up his clothing. Getting a smiling nod, he jumped down. But before he could head for the door, the doctor laid a firm hand on his shoulder.

“However, I still want to see you once a month for a while longer, alright?”

“I guess,” Galen mumbled reluctantly. H flashed the men an impish grin, threw his arms around Lakota waist and hug him, then followed suit with Yancey.. “Thanks, guys.” His whispered words hung in the air as he hastily exited the tent.

“I think we might have won him over.” Lakota laughed. “I’ll just take a moment to update his medical report before we proceed with our physicals.”

Galen Deon Manara, although small in stature is presently in good health having gained weight since arriving here. Chest infection has completely cleared up. He continues to eat well and thrive under the watchful and caring guidance of Thomas Fields. As always, he maintains a sunny, positive disposition.

“Now let’s get our exams done and recorded, Yancey,” Lakota instructed as he put aside his pen.

Meanwhile Spyke had waylaid one of his partners. “Larry, have you got a few minutes, or do you have to rush off to the logging site right away?” Spyke asked as he wiped up the last of his egg yolk with a crust of toast. He washed the final morsel of his breakfast down with a mouthful of coffee and waited for his partner’s answer.

“I reckon I can spare you a couple of minutes, kid.” Larry re-seated himself and laughed at the tongue that was stuck out at him.

“I kinda wanted to talk to you about last night,” Spyke mentioned hesitantly and looked around to make sure they had some semblance of privacy in their corner of the mess hall.

Accurately guessing what was on the younger man’s mind, Larry hastened to assure him. “Everything was absolutely wonderful, Spyke. And while Aiden is a well-endowed man, he is able to make love without any of the expected pain we were both fearful of. Trust me, there was very little discomfort. You’re in for a grand experience, my friend.”

Spyke blew out a long sigh of relief and smiled up at the other man. “So tonight’s my turn, huh?”

“It sure is! And by the way, Spyke, thanks for giving Aiden and me some alone-time last night.” Larry leaned in and gently kissed his friend’s cheek. “Oh, and one more thing….it was more than worth waiting for.”

“It better be,” Spyke hotly declared. “He made us wait long enough. Seems like we’ve been in a relationship forever,” he exaggerated with a sassy grin. He held up his hand when it looked like his partner was about to argue that point. “I know, I know, it has only been a couple of weeks. Aiden wanted to give us plenty of time to change our minds. Yeah, like that was gonna happen,” he scoffed.

Larry ruffled Spyke’s hair and headed out for a morning’s labour at the building site.  

Lakota smiled as he took up his pen once again to fill in the last notation on the physical exams; that of his nurse, Yancey.  He had requested the other man to write up the notes for the doctor’s own physical, as the nurse had performed it. 

Yancey Hayes, age twenty-eight, height five feet and eleven inches (though he tried to tell me he was six feet tall). This young man is in excellent health. He has obviously learned the value of solid nutrition and physical exercise from his nursing practice. He had the usual assortment of childhood illnesses with nothing out of the ordinary to note. I anticipate no problems for him. 

Yancey sat on a log behind the infirmary to write up his report of the doctor’s physical. He recalled with amusement his feeling of intimidation at the prospect of examining someone as renown throughout the medical society as was Lakota Evans. But with the guidance provided by his mentor, everything had gone smoothly.

Lakota Evans, age thirty-five, six feet in height. This is a well-built man in exceptional physical condition. Although extremely ill at one time during his childhood, he suffers no aftereffects from either the illness or the medical treatment provided at the time. He sets an example for the rest of us to follow. He not only utilises his knowledge of herbal medicine to care for his patients but also to maintain his own well-being.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

Dallas whirled around to meet the icy blue eyes of Kevin. He flushed at being caught red-handed rummaging through someone else’s bag. He desperately searched for an answer that would satisfy Kevin but finding nothing, compressed his lips and refused to meet the older man’s eyes.

“I’m sure thieving was on the list of things not to do!” Kevin’s voice sent shivers up Dallas’ spine “And do not even begin to say you have never stolen anything! I just caught you before you could actually steal anything this time.”

Dallas kept his mouth shut to silence his protests.

“March!” Kevin began to steer Dallas away from camp down to the beach.

“Where are we going?” Dallas had finally found his voice. “I don’t have to listen to you!” He recoiled as Kevin whirled him around.

“You really don’t understand, do you?” Kevin was almost beyond anger. “If you continue the way you’re going, you’ll alienate everyone on this island. This is going to be our home for the rest of our natural lives and you’ve already made a lasting impression. And let me tell you, it wasn’t the best! Look here, I care for you and I’m determined to make sure you have boundaries you don’t cross and too see to it that if you do cross them, you answer for it.”

“Who made you my boss?” Dallas whined.

“You did,” Kevin replied calmly.

Dallas had no answer to that. “Where are you taking me?” he asked again.

“Far enough from camp that the other men don’t hear you yelling,” was Kevin’s response. “Thieving will only ever earn you one thing so before you ask, you’re going to get a bare-ass spanking that’ll make you think twice if you ever have an urge to steal again.”

Dallas blushed again. ‘I asked for this,’ he thought to himself. ‘I admitted I needed boundaries. Why did I go along with that idea? I knew Kevin was watching me. God, did I actually want to find out if he was going to follow through?’ Dallas was appalled at the thought.

Kevin found a place just off the shoreline, which seemed perfect. A large tree had fallen there and seemed secure enough for him to sit on with a young man over his lap. “Last chance, Dallas! I’ll give you the choice of taking down your trousers and laying yourself over my knee or of leaving and we’ll never talk of us having a relationship again.”

Dallas looked into Kevin’s eyes, which had lost their iciness and saw a glint of resolve he hadn’t seen before. Unsure of exactly what he expected from a relationship, he strongly felt the urge to at least explore the idea and find out one way or another.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” he mumbled as he approached Kevin with fingers fumbling at the buttons of his trousers. He followed Kevin’s instructions and quickly found himself bare over the bigger man’s lap. He wasn’t a total stranger to the position as his father had occasionally punished him this way when he was a much younger. He soon found out that Kevin had a much harder hand than did his old man.

Kevin spanked steadily. He smiled grimly when about halfway through Dallas began to make promises he’d never steal again. It was only when Dallas’ bottom glowed red and his cries of pain had mutated into remorseful sobbing that Kevin finished the spanking. He lifted Dallas off his lap and helped him stand up. He watched him re-arranging his pants carefully to avoid the material scraping too roughly over his hot bottom.

Dallas felt well reprimanded and hopefully having paid the price.

“When we get back to camp you’re going to apologise to Yancey and accept whatever punishment he gives you,” Kevin firmly informed the penitent young man.

Dallas looked up appalled.

“Not another spanking,” Kevin assured him. “But be prepared for extra chores.” He laughed when Dallas groaned audibly. “Now let’s get back to camp.”

Fifteen minutes later, Dallas was walking stiffly and in obvious pain, but Kevin had no sympathy. Theft was not negotiable. It would mean a spanking every time he even suspected Dallas of thinking about it.

“Yancey is probably in the infirmary,” Kevin said. “Now is the best time to apologise.”

“Can I clean up first?” Dallas asked meekly.

Kevin looked at Dallas who had tear tracks running down his face and very red eyes.

“Wash your face,” Kevin replied, unbending slightly.

Dallas tried to drag it out as long as he could. There was no way he wanted to apologise to Yancey in the Infirmary where anyone could walk in or overhear.

Kevin had no patience with Dallas’ attempts to delay and a swat to his already painful rear got him moving. They found Yancey straightening up the examining room.

“Yancey, I need to apologise to you,” Dallas embarrassingly mumbled. “Earlier when I was alone in our tent, I went through your bags. I know there’s no excuse and I am willing to take any punishment you decide on.” Dallas braced himself for what Yancey was going to say.

After taking a few moments to absorb this information, Yancey quietly asked, “just what were you expecting to find, Dallas?”

“I swear I wasn’t looking for drugs, if that’s what you’re thinking!” Dallas answered, looking Yancey directly in the eyes “I don’t really know what I was looking for. Something small and valuable I suppose. You squealed on me to the doctor about my showing signs of drug usage, remember?” he spat angrily. “I just wanted to get even.”

Not responding to the young man’s anger, Yancey patiently stated, “I am sorry you felt that way, Dallas. I was merely concerned about your health and well-being.”

“Kevin already punished me,” Dallas awkwardly admitted. “That’s because we’ve made an agreement that he would make sure I had boundaries and if I crossed them, he’d deal with me. The reason I’m apologising is because I offended against you and he threatened to punish me again if I didn’t.” Dallas hastily reacted to Kevin’s growl. “I really do mean my apology though. I had no right to go through your belongings. I know you were only doing your job and looking out for me. I do appreciate what you did.” Dallas lifted pleading eyes to the nurse’s face.

“I admire you coming to me like this, Dallas. I really do! I know how hard it must have been.” Yancey paused for a minute as he thought about his response to the situation. “Starting next week when your strength has returned, for one full week I will expect to see you here at the Infirmary each day immediately after breakfast and again right after the evening meal. To make your amends, you will see to it that the wood box is filled and our water supply replenished. Do you agree to do that?” he gently asked, smiling kindly at the apprehensive young man.

“Yes Sir,” Dallas agreed with a sigh of relief. He realised he was getting off easily. A week of extra chores was not too bad, and he was pleasantly surprised that the nurse had not demanded he go before the council. He looked up into Yancey’s warm brown eyes. “Thank you for everything,” he added sincerely.

 Kevin stayed silent throughout the exchange. This was something Dallas and Yancey had to sort out between them. He smiled at younger man’s exhalation when they left the tent; the nurse had been far more lenient than either of them had expected.

With all the medicals finally behind them and a little over an hour before the noon meal, Lakota slipped off in search of medicinal herbs as was his habit whenever he had free time on his hands.

Taking advantage of their free time, Yancey was sitting in the mess hall, enjoying a cup of coffee and mentally mulling over Dallas’ confession, when three young men sat down at another makeshift table a short distance away from him.

“What’s up, Yancey?” Galen inquired.

“Not much! I am taking a well-deserved break after completing the final physicals which just happened to be the good doctor’s and mine.”

“And I bet you passed with flying colours,” Raythe grumbled sourly. He was still holding a grudge from several days ago for what he felt had been an intimate assault on his person.  

“I did, Raythe. Thank you for asking.” Yancey smiled pleasantly and resignedly accepted that the young man needed time to deal with the results of his own medical exam. He was happy to observe Raythe was no longer scratching and appeared rather comfortable.

“Lakota too?” Galen asked with a smirk.

“Yes, Lakota too.”

“Where’s Brodie?” Kelby glanced around the tent in hopes of seeing the injured man.

“He’s reading in his tent,” Yancey informed them as he smiled up at their approaching chef.

“Here you go, fellows!” Walker announced as he set a large plate in front of them and took a seat at the far end of the table Yancey was sitting at. “Morning snacks for everyone.”

Jordan joined them with another plate of finger foods while Thad carried over a tray of drinks for everyone. They sat down between Walker and Yancey, looking forward to this routine morning break.

When passed the tray, Galen immediately reached for the only mug containing milk while Raythe grabbed a coffee; black just the way he liked it. Kelby picked up the same but added a splash of cream and two teaspoons of brown sugar. Little by little, the men were beginning to learn one another’s likes and dislikes. It wasn’t a big deal, but it offered them comfort in finding a little piece of home amidst their eating habits and brought a degree of normalcy back into their lives. 

“Whatcha m-making for dinner, W-walker?” Galen asked around a mouthful of bread and jam.

 “I don’t see the point in my answering that question, Galen, as you habitually turn your nose up at everything on the menu,” Walker commented dryly. “And don’t talk with food in your mouth.”

The sparkle in Walker’s eye belied his stern reproof. He was actually rather fond of the sweet-tempered lad and he took special care to tempt him with nourishing food. He was well aware of most the men’s eating preferences or lack of them as the case may be. As per Thomas’ request, the ex-magistrate had been setting out these extra mini-meals to encourage Galen’s adherence to Lakota’s orders.

Walker glanced up as Yancey wrinkled his nose. They both looked around with questioning expressions on their faces.

“Are you baking something? Yancey asked carefully, not exactly thrilled with the possibility.

“No,” Walker replied, equally curious about the unfamiliar odour he was breathing in. “And I take umbrage at that question, young man! Nothing I bake would ever smell like that!”

Yancey grinned and pretended to look apologetic.

No one else seemed to notice anything amiss and the conversation flowed smoothly as the men polished off some of the biscuits Walker baked daily, the homemade preserves, the feta cheese made by Galen from goat’s milk and the slices of dried apples.

Walker noted with satisfaction that Galen ate a little of each and he would report such to Thomas. He smiled as he watched Raythe polish off what the others left behind.

“Well I gotta go see Nathan about some clothes,” Raythe grumbled as he got up to leave. “Ah, thanks, Walker,” he shyly murmured.

Raythe had returned the borrowed shirt and pants to the doctor, and since his one and only outfit was about to disintegrate, Brock had made arrangements with the tailor for new ones. Raythe made sure to let the big mountain man know he was getting measured under protest, but Brock hadn’t been at all troubled by the younger man’s objections.
The departing man’s opening of the tent flaps stirred up a small gust of wind and caused the unidentified smell that had been permeating the room to intensify.

“Where in the name of God is that stench coming from?” Yancey groaned, wrinkling up his nose again.

“Huh?” Kelby and Galen were the pictures of innocence.

“Just what chore did you boys get accomplished this morning?” Walker suspiciously demanded, glaring over at the two young men sitting a short distance away from him.

“We mucked out the pigpen,” duel voices responded simultaneously.

 “OUT! Get out of my mess hall!” Walker shouted, getting to his feet. He hauled up each of the miscreants and sent them on their way with a resounding wallop on the seats of their pants. “And don’t come in here again until you’ve cleaned up!” He turned his glare on Thad and Jordan who were unsuccessful in stifling their mirth at the sound of the departing boys’ giggling.

“Your mess hall?” Yancey chuckled as Galen and Kelby ran out the door. “Kinda possessive, aren’t you?”

“Precisely! I have assumed the responsibility of overseeing our meals and therefore consider this area mine, which I share with Thad and Jordan. Are you refuting it?” The imposing blond man raised one eyebrow as he crossed his arms and waited for a reply.

Yancey threw up his hands defensively, still chuckling. “No, no, not at all. It is exactly how Lakota and I feel about the infirmary. And I do want to compliment you on the homey atmosphere you’ve established in here.”

Walker eyed him warily.

Yancey executed mock salutes to the guffaws of laughter and encouragement from the others present. He slowly swung his arm around to encompass the entire space consisting of several uneven tables that were formerly packing crates, and rough boxes and various sized tree stumps serving as chairs. “Using the extra bed sheets for tablecloths is indeed a nice touch,” he added with a grin.

“Humph! Glad someone appreciates it.” Walker growled as he returned the light bantering.

It was mid-afternoon when Troy stretched his aching back after dumping yet another sack filled with rocks from the field. It was gruelling, back breaking labour; however, there was satisfaction to be found in the work. He was looking forward to setting up classes in hopes of providing the men with the opportunity to take a break from their manual efforts and enjoy some mental stimuli. He would have liked to start his school sooner, but the council had chosen to agree with Thomas’ suggestion to wait until the fields were planted and all the trees needed for the various buildings cut down.

The ex-tutor raised his hand to shield his eyes from the sun as he searched for the one who meant the most to him. Spotting his partner across the field working alongside Spyke and Seth, he felt a swell of pride. Levi had been raised in a home of affluence and privilege. Before arriving here, the young man had never known hard physical toil. His life had revolved around his studies and his parents’ carefully cultivated social connections. One would have expected him to be a spoiled little rich boy. However, Levi was anything but. He gave his all into everything he did, sometimes to his own detriment.

It was a very warm day and time to take a break. Troy called out to the others. “I say we take twenty minutes for water and some of those biscuits Walker packed for us.” 

The other men nodded or called out their approval as they deposited their loads of stone on the side of the field and headed for the shady spot where the canteens of water and container of biscuits had been left. 

Levi approached his lover with a happy grin. “Lord, I’m thirsty. This is hot work,” he exclaimed as he accepted the embrace and quick kiss he was given.

“It will be worth it, my love, when the fields provide us with a bounty of produce and grain.” Troy led Levi over to a place of soft grass under a large tree. “Sit here and I’ll bring you refreshments.”

“You’ve been working just as hard as I have,” Levi protested. “Besides, if anyone should sit it should be you, old man,” he teased.

“Old man!” Troy responded in mock horror. “I’ll show you ‘old’!” He scooped up his lover and threw him over his shoulder. He applied four swats to the upturned bottom before falling to his knees and rolling the two of them onto the soft grass. Troy sat straddling his partner between his legs and tickling him along his very sensitive ribs. “Do you take back that ‘old man’ remark?” he asked his laughing husband.

“Never!”  Levi shouted between howls of laughter.

Finally, Troy stopped tickling and leaned forward to capture his partner’s mouth in a deep kiss. When the two men ultimately came up for air, they noticed the others were watching them; some with expressions of gentle understanding and others with airs of sad envy.  

“Come on, my love,” Troy invited as he stood and pulled Levi to his feet. “Let’s get some of those biscuits before they’re gone.”

The two lovers sat together enjoying cool fresh water and the large tender baking-powder biscuits slathered with preserves. After they ate their fill, Levi lay on his back watching the large white clouds float overhead. Soon his eyes started to grow heavy and before he knew it, he had fallen into a light doze. 

The other men began returning to the field, but Troy was suddenly overtaken by the guilt he’d been feeling since they had been arrested. ‘Levi shouldn’t be here, wouldn’t be here,’ he thought, ‘if it weren’t for me.’ He stared down at the slender fingers that had only a few months ago been well manicured and smooth. Now the nails were torn and the palms were developing calluses.

Troy was a practical enough man not to dwell on such things that could not be changed. Where possible, however, he would do what he could to ease things for his beloved and right now he could at least allow the lad some extra rest. So he returned to the field to dig in beside Quentin and Gille, leaving Levi to dream.

An hour later he was bent over digging out a particularly large rock, when a shadow appeared over him.  Glancing up he saw Levi standing over him with a very unhappy expression on his face.

“How could you do that?” the young man demanded incredulously.

Troy stood up and faced his lover. “Do what?” Troy asked, somewhat confused.

“Leave me laying there taking a nap like some over-grown child!” Levi snapped.

Troy drew a calming breath. “Watch your tone with me, young man,” he warned. “You were obviously in need of a rest or you would not have fallen asleep. I simply did you the favour of letting you gain the sleep you needed.”

“Favour? How is it a favour to embarrass me by treating me like a baby? What do you suppose the others were thinking of me, being coddled like that? If that’s your idea of a favour, don’t do me anymore!” he yelled. He then turned his back on his lover and began to head back across the field.

Levi didn’t get three feet away before he felt a strong hand take him by the arm. A soft voice spoke very slowly into his ear. “Firstly, I will not be spoken to in that manner. Next, I do not give a tinker’s damn what the others think and neither should you. What you need to care about is what I think and right now I think you need to be reminded just who is in charge in this relationship.” Troy turned them both towards the woods. “Let’s take a little walk, shall we?”

With the certainty that comes from hindsight, Levi realised the trouble his little outburst had gained him. Part of him wanted to stop and apologise to his partner in hopes of at least mitigating the trouble he was in, if not getting out of it all together. However, another part of him was still seething with righteous indignation over his partner’s coddling of him. For some reason he could later not explain, the indignant part won out and he tried to pull his arm out of his lover’s grasp. “No! I’ve done nothing wrong here! I just told you how I felt. You’re always telling me I should be honest.”

Troy stopped and looked Levi in the eye. “You never have been, nor will you ever be in trouble with me for being honest about your feelings. What you are in trouble for is the manner in which you chose to express those feelings. I will not tolerate disrespectful or rude behaviour and you know this well.” He again turned and headed to the woods, his young partner firmly in his grasp.

Levi went along quietly, knowing further argument would only dig him in deeper. He thought back on how he’d spoken to Troy and knew his lover was right; his words had been rude and thoughtless. 

They made their way silently along the trail in the woods for a few hundred yards until Troy spotted what he’d been searching for; a second smaller trail to the left of the path. They wound behind some dense brush to a small clearing where the sun filtered through the trees overhead.

Troy stopped about two feet from a large tree. “Drop your trousers and bend over with your hands against the tree trunk,” he ordered.

With trembling hands, Levi complied. Slowly, he unbuttoned his pants; he knew he’d earned this punishment, but still it was hard knowing it was coming. Once bent as instructed, he felt a gentle reassuring hand come to rest on his back. A second later his partner’s other hand cracked down hard against his right buttock; the sound echoed in the little clearing. Within a few moments both his buttocks and the tops of his thighs were a burning mass of pain, and tears of contrition were sliding down his cheeks.

As quickly as it started the ordeal was over and Troy was gathering the younger man into his arms.

“I’m sorry, Troy,” Levi sobbed out. “I was horrible to you.”

Troy gently wiped the tears from his beloved’s face. “All is forgiven, my love. It’s over with now,” he murmured with tenderness as he held the sobbing man against him. After Levi calmed a bit, Troy knew it was time to return things to normal. “The brook winds through this clearing. Why don’t we get your face washed off and head back to work?”

Levi nodded and followed Troy over to the small stream. He could never bear to be out of touching distance with his lover after he’d been punished. He felt the need to keep in connection with him for hours after, just to reassure himself that all indeed was forgiven and well again between them. Not that Troy ever made him feel otherwise. On the contrary, Troy doted on him. But residue uncertainties made Levi crave the physical presence of his partner until the burn of the punishment left his backside.

The two men soon returned to the field to take up the work again. Much to Levi’s relief, no one either noticed or cared about their absence. 


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