Chapter Twenty-nine

“Watch what you’re doing, Brodie!” Yancey called out.

Brodie grinned and waved off the warning as he retaliated against Jordan for splashing him. Backing out of range from another attack, Brodie stepped on a rock. He lost his balance and went down with a splash when the rock slipped from under his foot.

He remained seated in water up to his chest as the pain seared a path up his leg. He could hardly catch his breath. He thought he was going to throw up.

Having seen his partner fall, Yancey quickly waded into the centre of the creek. “Now what have you done to yourself?” the nurse asked, his voice tinged with exasperation.

Receiving only a whimper in response, Yancey picked up the lighter man and deposited him on the grassy bank.

Brodie’s ankle was already starting to swell and developing to a varied mauve tinge. The young man jerked it away when Yancey tried to touch it. “Nooo,” Brodie moaned. “I think it’s broken.”

Fortunately, a quick examination proved otherwise. “It is not broken, love. However, it is badly sprained,” Yancey informed the self-proclaimed, accident-prone man. “Let’s get you back to the infirmary so I can provide better care. You do realise the ward is quickly becoming your home away from home, don’t you?” he lightly teased and was rewarded with a weak smile for his efforts.

Knowing he was unable to carry Brodie any great distance, Yancey asked for help and Mitchell kindly volunteered. Between them, they transported the injured man back to the campsite in as short a time as possible.

“I think I’m going to locate a stout branch and a comfortable spot in the shade. Then I am going to begin whittling something you may find very useful, Brodie,” Mitchell announced, a wide grin spreading across the big man’s handsome black face.

“Thank you for helping me, Mitchell,” Brodie sincerely murmured.

“I thank you as well, my friend. I would not have been able to get Brodie here without your assistance.”

“My pleasure, gentlemen,” and with that Mitchell quietly left the tent.

“Well, Brodie, let’s see what we’re dealing with,” Yancey proposed, picking up the injured foot. “Fortunately, it doesn’t appear to be as severe as I first feared.” The nurse gently manipulated the ankle, eliciting a wince from his patient. “There seems to be some mild tenderness and swelling but very little functional loss.”

“Mild tenderness!” Brodie was shocked. “Easy for you to say! It bloody well hurts, Yancey!”

“I know it does, love, but it could have been much worse.” Yancey laughed at the young man’s pout of indignation. “Wait here while I get a pail of cold water.”

Yancey quickly returned and soon had Brodie sitting on a stump with his foot and ankle immersed in water.

“How long do I have to leave it in there?” Brodie complained. “It’s cold!”

“Twenty minutes, then I’ll wrap it with a compression bandage from the top of your toes and ending halfway up to your knee. After that, it is off to bed for you.”

“This is getting so boring!” Brodie exclaimed two minutes later.

“Well let’s talk about something to take your mind off waiting,” Yancey patiently suggested with a knowing smile. “How about the new school Troy is starting up?”

“Yeah! Have I told you all I plan to do with the class I’ve been given responsibility for?” Brodie asked excitedly, his blue eyes sparkling with pure joy.

“Only about a dozen times, but I’d like to hear it again.” Yancey leaned back to enjoy the animated expressions parading across his partner’s beautiful face.

Half an hour later, Yancey finished tightly wrapping Brodie’s foot. He carried the younger man into the ward and set him down on one of the cots before helping him change into a nightshirt. The older man’s expression turned serious. “I believe we have one more item of business to take care of, Brodie.”

“I hope it is not that God-awful medicine Lakota gives for pain.” Brodie grimaced at the memory of the foul tasting drink.

“Something before that,” Yancey inform him. “What did I tell you should happen if you continued to carelessly pay no heed to what you were doing, thereby causing yourself unnecessary injury?”

“Huh?” Brodie gulped. ‘He can’t really be talking about what I think he is,’ he silently hoped.

“I distinctly recall recommending a sound spanking to help you improve your concentration abilities.”

“But-but, Yancey, I’ve been hurt!”

“Exactly! But it could have been prevented.” Yancey paused and lovingly gazed at the younger man. He sat down on the bed next to Brodie’s and quietly asked, “tell me, Brodie, don’t you agree that something has to be done before a really serious accident befalls you? Don’t you think you deserve to be disciplined for not complying with my warnings to watch what you were doing?”

“Well, I admit you may have a point, but…” Brodie couldn’t go on. He was feeling confused. On one hand he wanted the safety net Yancey was offering to set in place; on the other he wasn’t sure of how much control he was willing to give the other man.

“Do you trust me, Brodie?” Yancey inquired in a gentle voice, capturing the younger man’s undivided attention.

“Yes, I do.” Brodie sighed in relief at having found something to hold on to; his trust in Yancey was absolute as was his love for the man. “And you’re right. I do need consequences I can rely on to give me the incentive to exercise better care and to pay more attention to what I’m doing,” he woefully admitted, even knowing what in all likelihood would happen next.

Brodie somewhat reluctantly went along with Yancey helping him off the bed and positioning him face-down across the older man’s lap. He was aware of the care taken to ensure his injured foot was placed out of danger of hitting against anything.

Yancey lifted the nightshirt and glanced down at the white bottom in front of him. Bracing himself for what had to be done; he raised his right hand and brought it down with a resounding smack. The first dozen swats resulted in a motley-looking pattern of deep pink splotches; the next dozen evened out and darkened the colour.

Taking for granted he had gotten the message across; Yancey landed one last smack to the centre of Brodie’s now red bottom and ended the spanking. Drawing his chastised partner up and into his arms, he began rocking him while waiting patiently for the young man’s crying to abate.

“That really hurt!” Brodie tearfully accused, rubbing his face against the soft cotton of Yancey’s shirt.

“As long as it helps you remember why you were spanked in the first place, love.” Yancey knew it had been a mild spanking compared to what it could have been, but he also knew Brodie was a little overwhelmed by all that had happened.

Yancey used this period of cuddling to think over what he’d just done. ‘This was even harder than I imagined it would be.’ He closed his eyes and tightened his hold. “I love you, Brodie, and I will do anything necessary to keep you from harm,” he murmured and was rewarded by the arms around his neck squeezing tighter.

Eventually, the last of the sniffling and hitching turned to silence. Yancey felt Brodie go limp in his arms and glanced down to see that his partner was sound asleep. He lovingly kissed the sweat-dampened hair, lifted and re-settled the younger man on the other cot. He elevated the sprained ankle on an extra pillow and draped a light blanket over the softly-snoring man. “Sleep while you can, my treasure,” he whispered. “I’ll have to wake you in a couple of hours to repeat the cold water treatment.”

Yancey walked into the examining room just as Mitchell entered the infirmary carrying a newly-constructed crutch.

“I figured that young man of yours might find this useful,” Mitchell explained, handing his well-crafted gift to Yancey. “Hendrik provided and attached the leather to the armrest and handle.”

“Thank you, Mitchell. This was very thoughtful of you both. I’m sure Brodie will appreciate your kindness and be able to put this to good use.” Yancey smiled as he gracefully accepted the gift on behalf of his partner.

Seth unconsciously stuck his tongue out the corner of his mouth and concentrated on the fifteen-inch stake approximately forty feet in front of him. He drew back his arm and in one smooth motion, brought it forward and released the iron object from his hand.

A split second later, he jumped for joy when his horseshoe wrapped around the stake and at the same time knocked over Preston’s leaner. “Ha! Gotcha ya!” Seth crowed as he hopped around. “That ringer makes the final score twenty-one to eighteen, so I win!”

“Congratulations, Slick!” Preston laughed and slapped his partner on the back before setting the puppy in his arms free. “What do you feel like doing now?” he asked as he collected up the horseshoes they’d been playing with and handed two to the other man.

“I don’t know.” Seth shrugged and turned towards the tent their meagre supply of sporting equipment was stored in. “You got anything in mind?”

“I’d rather like to continue our earlier conversation until we reach a mutually satisfying conclusion.”

“Man, you sure have high hopes.” Seth smirked at the big lumberjack. “I say we just agree to disagree on this school thing.”

“But that doesn’t help you improve your lot in life, does it?”

“Hey, I’m perfectly fine with the way things are!” Seth responded belligerently and earned a scowl of disapproval from Preston. Seth looked down at the ground and squirmed uncomfortably. “Sorry,” he muttered.

“I’m hungry!” Preston announced. Wrapping his heavily-muscled arm around Seth’s shoulders, he suggested, “How about we check out what Walker left for us to eat?”

“Sure; I’m starving too.” Seth whistled for the pup and followed Preston to the mess hall. He was grateful for the change of subject, knowing his rude manners had been forgiven.

“I would really appreciate you giving more thought to attending classes before rejecting it out of hand.” Preston re-introduced the topic Seth preferred to avoid. They were seated across from each other, wolfing down the sandwiches they had made.

“But I already know how to read and write. I can even do a bit of basic arithmetic. Okay, I know I’m not very good at it, but good enough to get by.” Seth stubbornly stuck to his original argument, weak as it was. He drained the last of the milk from his cup. “Here ya go, Joker.” He fed a small piece of leftover meat to the pet Preston had given him at the beginning of their partnership.

“It never hurts to develop one’s intellect and gain new knowledge,” Preston patiently pointed out.

“Yeah, well are you going back to school?” Seth scoffed, taking a pack of cards out of his pocket and shuffling them.

“As a matter of fact, I am giving serious thought to attending some of Brodie’s classes,” Preston answered as he cleaned and put away their plates and mugs.

“You are?” Seth looked up in surprise. He automatically, out of long habit, started dealing the cards. “Tell you what; we’ll play poker for it. If you win, I go to school. But if I win, I don’t!” Seeing his partner’s quirked eyebrow, Seth wisely withdrew his offer. “Okay, bad idea; forget I said it.”

“I won’t gamble over it, Slick, but I’m willing to make a deal with you.” Smiling at the interest showing on the young man’s face, Preston sat down again and picked up the cards that were dealt to him. “I’d like you to give school attendance an honest chance, say for a month. If after that you feel you are wasting your time, you can stop attending. What do you say?”

Seth looked up from studying the cards in his hand, scrunched up his face and gave Preston’s offer several moments of serious thought. He slowly nodded his head and grinned. “It’s a deal!”

The older man showed his approval by reaching across the table and ruffling his hair.

“You really think I need more schoolin’?” Dallas asked, turning incredulous eyes towards Kevin “You’ve got to be kidding. I’m way too old for the classroom.”

Kevin sighed and closed his eyes to silently pray for patience. They had been unhurriedly walking along the beach for over an hour and enjoying the ocean breeze. But this discussion had been going around in circles ever since Dallas had learnt Troy was setting up classes.

Dallas had been adamant he didn’t need to attend, but Kevin had noticed how adept his partner was at hiding his lack of reading and writing skills. Dallas would do anything to avoid writing lines and he was usually able to coax Kevin into reading to him rather than reading himself. Mathematics, Kevin felt, had been developed through Dallas’ life on the streets; calculating odds and assessing stolen items had been essential in his way of life.

“There are going to be plenty of men older than you in this school,” Kevin commented.

“I can already read and write,” Dallas changed tactics.

“Okay.” Kevin smiled “If you sit down and write an essay explaining why you shouldn’t go to school; I’ll re-think it.”

Dallas grimaced fiercely. “Sadist!” he accused, which caused Kevin to laugh. “You know I can’t do that.”

“The day you can do that, we’ll sit down and talk about whether you want to continue with school. How is that for a plan?” Kevin offered.

“I’m going to feel stupid,” the younger man complained.

“I guess some of the men will be worse than you and some better, but they all want to learn. That’s what’s most important. It won’t be like the schools you’ve been in before. Troy is an experienced tutor who knows how to set work to your level and guide you through it. Also, if you get stuck you can come to me. I’ll never judge you,” Kevin firmly vowed, looking directly into Dallas’ worried eyes. He was pleased to see the apprehension subside.

“Okay,” Dallas grumbled in a resigned voice. “I’ll go but if I hate it, I’ll leave.”

“I’m glad you made that decision,” Kevin teased as his eyes twinkled. “I’d hate to have had to hunt you down and carry you to school.”

Lakota and Gille lay in the soft grass of the meadow, basking in the afterglow of their lovemaking. Gille had been thinking a great deal about the educational classes that were going to be available and been considering joining them. He had had no formal education and had learned only the basic rudiments of reading and writing from his mother before her death. Now he was in a committed relationship with a highly educated man and wanted to at least be able to speak intelligently with his partner. He knew that improving his reading skills alone would make a big difference.

Rolling over to snuggle closer to his lover, Gille spoke up. “Lakota, I would like to take some of the classes that are going to be offered. I’d really like to learn to read and write better. What do you think?”

The doctor’s face lit up. “Tahila, I am so glad you want to do this. I was going to ask you about the school this evening and was prepared to push you into going, but it seems you have come to the correct decision on your own.” He laughed and pulled his beloved against himself, kissing him deeply. 

It took little time for the lovers to become aroused again and Lakota found himself being guided into the warmth of the younger man’s body for the second time that afternoon. God, how he loved this man who was so beautiful and open to him. The trust Gille showed him was awe inspiring. The lad never hesitated for a second to accept Lakota into his body and into his heart.

When the doctor had laid down the rules and expectations he had for his partner, there was not a word of protest. Oh, he wasn’t fooling himself into believing there would be no conflict or difficulty within their highly structured way of life, but the loving acceptance would go a long way to make dealing with any problems a great deal easier. 

The two men lay in each other’s arms for almost an hour longer until the sun began to slip lower into the horizon and the cooling air spurred them to return to the comfort of the campsite.

Troy and Levi worked side by side in what was referred to as the library. It was really one corner of the mess hall that had been designated for the storage of books, writing materials and school supplies.

Levi placed all the slates in a neat pile and set a couple of boxes of slate pencils on top along with a dozen or more small squares of soft cloth for erasing. He sat back on his haunches and watched as Troy sorted through the bookshelves, choosing those books covering the various subjects to be taught in the new school.

“Ah, Troy, can I ask you something about the school?” Levi ventured hesitantly.

“Of course, Levi, what is it?”

“Well, if I were to misbehave during lessons, would I get punished? But would you actually punish any of the other students if they misbehaved?”

“Levi, lessons are for learning. We do not waste time and effort in foolery! Anyone who attends my classes must pay attention or else they are wasting my time, and I will not stand for such nonsense.”

“So if they do not want to behave, you’ll kick them out?”

“I would deal with any miscreants in an appropriate manner. Why this curiosity?” Troy looked searchingly at his young husband. “Are you nervous about the classes?”

“No, well yes, kind of. I just wondered if we’d all be treated the same by you as the schoolmaster.”

Troy laid a hand on the fair head and smiled indulgently. “My love, in the schoolroom, you are no different from my other students. There will be no preferential treatment. In our bedroom however ...” he let the sentence hang in the air, a smug smile on his face.

“I realise that,” Levi blushed, “but you believe in using corporal punishment in the classroom.”

“Yes, that I do. What faster way to learn than when the motivation is right! It’s amazing sometimes how the sight of a switch can produce wondrous results when dealing with unruly youth.”

“Do you think your other students will agree though? After all, they are grown men and come from different backgrounds.”

“Grown men or not, when they are in my schoolroom, they will listen to me. I do not intend to lose control of my students; of that you can be assured. However, if you are concerned that the students would not understand my expectations, you have no need for worry. I will explain the rules and consequences of the classroom quite clearly for all those in attendance. Then if they chose to break those rules, I will have no hesitation to follow through with the consequences.” Troy firmly spoke his mind; his stand not much different than most educators of the time.

“Hmm, it will be interesting to see what their partners have to say on the subject,” Levi quietly commented. He had overheard whispering and was worried about rumours spreading. Some didn’t want to be in Troy’s class because they considered him to be too strict and possibly others might be influenced to think or say the same.

This was a new situation for Levi to find himself in. He was rather apprehensive as he pondered the future. He was fiercely proud of Troy but knowing the man he loved was considered alarming by some was not a pleasant feeling.

Troy watched the emotions flitting across the young face and gently said, “I am sure all will be fine, Levi. Once the rules are addressed and understood, things will fall smoothly into place.”

At the moment, Troy’s confidence greatly outweighed that of his partner’s but, unbeknown to them, some interesting events awaited them.

Their day off had passed pleasantly for Quentin and Kelby. Now as they relaxed over a game of chess, a small copper-coloured dog curled up at their feet, Quentin brought up the subject that had been on everyone’s lips throughout the day.

“I saw you talking to Troy earlier. Did he ask you to assist him with some of the classes?” Quentin inquired of his friend while never taking his eyes off the board.

“How did you know he was going to ask me to teach?” Kelby responded with a question of his own, moved his Queen and turned to look into the other man’s face.

Troy approached me to ask if I knew your whereabouts and happened to mention his plans,” Quentin explained, smiling at Kelby’s exhilaration.

“So is it okay? I can help out?” Kelby excitedly sought permission, patiently waiting for Quentin’s next move.

“By all means, if that is something you’d really like to do; but you do not need my consent, Kelby.” He studied the board carefully and grinned.

“Yes, it is something I’d like to do and although I know I don’t have to, I wanted to check it out with you first. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve dreamed of teaching but was expected to follow in my father’s footsteps and go into banking. It will only be one or two afternoons a week,” Kelby informed the older man before adding hopefully. “If you can spare me, that is.” Kelby enjoyed the time he spent with the ex-shopkeeper, updating the supply lists. Although nothing had ever been said or even hinted at for that matter, he dreamed of the day when Quentin would ask him to be his partner.

“Well, although I appreciate your assistance and enjoy your company, there is not a lot of work in maintaining the inventory records, so it looks like your dream is about to come true,” Quentin assured him and chuckled when Kelby squealed his delight. “You seem to have lost your concentration, my friend.”

“Even so, you still won’t win because you haven’t when we’ve played before,” Kelby teasingly reminded him.

“There is always a first time for everything,” Quentin countered. “Checkmate!” he jubilantly exclaimed and laughed uproariously at the look of astonishment on the other man’s face.


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