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Protection in a Wild Land ~ Chapter 14

Title: Protection in a Wild Land ~ Chapter 14 (Inhibitions)
Author: bubble_cake101
Genre: Historical, romance, slash, war
Summary:  Major Bailey travels West  after the US Civil War to an isolated little fort commanded by a general whose intentions become increasingly suspicious. While there, he also meets a young lieutenant who appears to be hiding something.
Chapter summary: Prior invites Bailey to have a drink with him...
Rating: PG for this chapter
Warnings: Eventual m/m relationships, violence (individual warnings in chapters) None for this chapter
Feedback always appreciated! Thanks for the feedback so far!

 

Chapter 14 ~ Inhibitions

Taylor joined him the next morning, resting on the porch of HQ, and looking out across the parade ground. Colonel Dawes was out there, again patrolling around the routinely drills, making sure they were nothing short of perfect, or at least exceptional. Bailey had once more wondered how the junior officers felt about this, having their superior constantly watching over their shoulders. He had never brought it up with Dawes though – it was nothing out of the ordinary now anyway.

He greeted Taylor with a smile as he sat down next to him on one of the old creaking chairs. He seemed better now, much to his relief, the hints of exhaustion passing from him. They didn’t talk about it however, partly because Bailey knew he would never get any information from Taylor, not this close to when it had happened at least. He instead turned to implications, smiling and putting his hand on his shoulder and other such things. Taylor understood. Bailey wouldn’t let him go down the same route again.

Across the parade ground, the men were beginning to still, turning away from their sergeants and lieutenants. Bailey momentarily thought it was a little early to be stopping but then he saw they were turning to Dawes, now standing and looking straight at his companies. ‘’Men –‘’ he said loudly, hands folded behind his back and head lifted slightly to the sun. Bailey felt a brief wash of pride to know him. ‘’ – I’m going to make this brief but I want you to understand the importance of what I am about to say. I’m sure each and every one of you know what happened last December to Captain William Fetterman and his command. We now have a new offensive mission around the corner and I will not have a similar thing happen to us.’’ There were brief shuffles and fidgets amongst the men, as if they hadn’t thought of that, hadn’t expected anything serious could happen after all the slow monotony at the fort, the only action being the brief appearances of Indians every now and then. Dawes silenced them, then continued.

‘’To prevent this, I want each and every one of you to follow your orders down to the letter. I don’t want anyone to get overenthusiastic out there and run straight to his slaughter. I don’t want anyone to be tricked by decoys. Now, I’m not one to believe gossip, but that is what they are saying destroyed Fetterman’s command. So you will follow orders, you will stay together if that is what they say and you will not act on any reckless mindset you may have. Is that understood?’’

There were nods throughout the companies and a few ‘’yes sir’’s. ‘’That’s good.’’ He paused and gave a brief look to the hills beyond the fort. He returned to the men with a more sombre look in his eyes. ‘’Because, if what has already happened is to be believed, there are many, many Indians out there, maybe even more than we are aware of. I do not have any certain statistics but I can say that there are more Indians than us. However, the late War taught us much about numbers, not always did the larger force win. I believe that this will apply again, but not if orders are not followed.’’ He stopped again, a short glance to HQ. Bailey waited, saw his head go down for a second. ‘’Well. That’s all. Continue with the drill.’’

Dawes nodded to his men once more and then turned, starting his patrol again as the sergeants and lieutenants regained command.

~~~

He left Dandy with Captain McDowell that night, then returned to the office. Major Bailey was there and when he entered, he was searching through the desk, stacking various sheets of paper and documents up into ever increasing piles. Prior felt a sudden stab as he thought of the orders in the drawer. If he had seen the strong implications of them, then Major Bailey surely would. He would really have to take some time to reword them… But maybe Bailey hadn’t come across them. Yet.

‘’Major?’’ he asked, closing the door behind him and making the young man raise  his head. Ah, he was still on the first drawer. He would have to go through a couple of others before he reached the orders. Good. ‘’What are you doing?’’

‘’I took it upon myself to tidy this office, sir,’’ he replied in a matter-of-fact tone. ‘’I’m astounded than Lieutenant Anderson and I can find anything in here.’’

‘’My office is always tidy, Major,’’ Prior smiled. He had to find some way to detach Bailey from the desk. ‘’I wouldn’t have it any other way.’’

‘’Well, it may look so, sir, but these drawers…’’

Prior shook his head and moved closer, flicking briefly through the stacks of paper already on the desk. ‘’Major, I insist, everything is where it should be. And if it’s not, I will be the one to clean up.’’

Bailey looked up, though his hands were still mechanically shifting through the sheets. ‘’Are you sure, sir? There is an awful lot packed away in these here drawers!’’

Prior smiled again and took a pile of paper in his hand. ‘’Put them away, Major. If you insist, we will go through this office together one day soon.’’

Bailey paused for a second then nodded, taking back the stack and beginning to shuffle them again into the desk. ‘’Yes, sir.’’

Prior nodded, feeling the weight lift off his shoulders. He took the seat by the window and peered out across the darkening parade ground. He’d seen Dawes out there earlier that day, standing before his men, making some grand speech no doubt. They acted like he was some decorated, four star general, as if Ulysses Grant had wandered over to them. Prior looked away, beginning to think of the orders again. Yes, he would reword them. But he wouldn’t change them.

Over by the desk, Bailey suddenly stopped. Prior turned, thinking for a long moment that he had stumbled across the orders. ‘’Major?’’ he asked.

‘’Sorry, sir, I was just wondering about the orders. I couldn’t find them.’’

Prior realised he was holding his breath. He made himself let it out. ‘’I have them, Major, don’t worry,’’ he replied quickly. ‘’They are coming along nicely. I just need to adjust them a little and they will be complete.’’

‘’Would you like some help, General?’’

‘’No, Major, it’s quite alright.’’

Bailey nodded then continued tidying. Prior’s nerves began to fray again as he once more returned to the orders after a minute or two. ‘’I understand Colonel Dawes will be leading the mission.’’

‘’Yes, that’s right.’’

‘’I heard him this morning. He said he doesn’t want another Fetterman Massacre.’’

‘’Nor I.’’

‘’Right. Of course. I still understand they’re blaming Colonel Carrington for that.’’

Prior tried to go back to looking out across the parade ground. He didn’t want to hear this. Not now. He had gone through this with himself what felt like a million times. He didn’t want to hear it from Major Bailey about his precious Colonel Dawes. ‘’Yes, that’s right.’’

‘’…though Captain Fetterman is coming under some scrutiny too.’’

Prior wondered why Bailey was talking about this. ‘’It will not happen again, Major,’’ he said simply and got up, stretching slowly. He made his way over to the drinks cabinet, feeling a strange detachment now. He wasn’t thinking much, apart from of the newspaper articles that had arrived in the mailbag earlier this year, the grossly exaggerated pictures of the Indians slaughtering those men. He was surprised when he poured himself a drink and then offered one to Bailey.

He found, after a little while though, that it distracted the major away from the papers and the desk and the orders. They settled down, away from all that, and sat in the large chairs by the fire, sipping at the whiskey. Prior would never have said that he was slack on the rules about alcohol in the fort. He was not slack on any rules but within the four walls of his office and his quarters, he allowed himself a drink or two. Dandy and Bailey both knew about it, there was no real use in hiding it from them – especially now he was aware of Bailey’s penchant for it too, and it was a nice luxury, especially that evening with the fire and the comfortable chairs and Major Bailey sat next to him.

He watched him as he drank and within the next hour, all talk of Captain Fetterman and Colonel Carrington and the Indians had fizzled away. Within the next hour, Major Bailey was also getting tipsy, his head starting to roll back against the back of the chair and eyes fluttering. Prior insisted to himself that he had nothing to do with it but knew, inside, that he was fuelling it by offering the major more and more glasses.

‘’No, no, General,’’ Bailey finally said. ‘’No, I shouldn’t. No more.’’

‘’Sure, Major?’’ Prior had moved closer as Bailey had began to lose his sense. He now leaned forward, placing a hand on his knee and rubbing gently. ‘’You know it will be only for this night. I won’t tell anybody.’’

Bailey giggled quietly, his head rolling to look at Prior. Prior looked into those lazy eyes then down to that long, extended throat, bobbing a little as he swallowed the last of his current whiskey. ‘’One more then, General. Just one more,’’ he slurred and Prior smiled. He poured another glass from the bottle he had moved closer onto the table and handed it over. Bailey tried to take a sip, spilling some of it down his front. Prior was quickly at his side, shaking his head.

‘’Oh, Major. I see dignity is not your first priority right now. Here, let me help you out of your jacket.’’

Bailey giggled again, such a wonderful sound, and leaned forward, head tipping. Prior grasped his shoulders and felt his warm weight fall back into him. ‘’Major, really!’’ he laughed and Bailey began to try and shuffle out of his jacket. Prior happily complied and slid it off, unbuttoning his waistcoat also, which came off despite still being dry. ‘’How is that?’’

‘’Good,’’ he smiled and took another sip. He spluttered immediately, obviously trying to swallow it the wrong way. Prior massaged his back, not being able to stop himself thinking of the bare skin beneath his thin cotton shirt. He thought of Taylor back with Captain McDowell, wondered how long he would be. He wondered about going to check on him but the look and the sound of Major Bailey so very, very drunk was too entertaining to leave.

He smiled again, feeling the heat in his cheeks, and slid his hands back up to Bailey’s shoulders. He was briefly back again to that night a short time ago when he had stood behind the major and massaged his tense muscles after he came into the office, fretting and worrying about Dandy who was still in the hospital. The silly boy had fainted again in the heat. Bailey had surprised Prior at being so overtly concerned about him. They really had taken to each other, much more than Dandy had to Captain Hamilton.

Now, as he stood behind him again, he rubbed those strong shoulders once more, feeling that they were much more relaxed. Bailey sighed softly and chills ran down Prior’s spine. He had to restrain the shudder, pushing out all the energy and frustration he felt with himself through his hands. The result was the red marks he could see appearing on Bailey’s skin around the collar of his shirt. Fascinated with them and feeling his composure weakening once more when he considered them as his own marks on the major, he couldn’t resist pushing back the collar a little, revealing more of that soft-looking skin. He was darker than Dandy, from years on the field and he could see jagged scars across his shoulders too, another reminder of those years.

He noticed Bailey’s fingers tightening on the arms of the chair as he brushed a finger along those scars. He wondered how much he was registering what was happening, how much he’d remember the next morning. Not much. The thought made him smile slightly.

However, before he could expand on it anymore, he heard the door creak open and his instinct was to pull his hands away from Bailey’s shoulders. Dandy stood there and for a moment, he just stopped, hands full of papers and his eyes too wide for Prior’s liking, as if he had just considered something that was disturbing him. Prior spoke first, relaxing and smiling again at the young boy. ‘’Hello, Dandy,’’ he said softly. ‘’Are those for me?’’

Dandy looked briefly down at what he was holding, mouth still open, and then back to the general, then to Major Bailey sprawled in the chair. ‘’Y-yes, sir,’’ he said.

‘’Put them on the desk then, my dear…’’

Dandy did this slowly, moving to the desk and putting down the papers as if under gunpoint. His eyes flicked again to Bailey and Prior shook his head. ‘’Dandy, Major Bailey is fine…’’ he sighed. ‘’…just a little drunk.’’

‘’I think I should probably take him to his quarters then, General.’’

‘’He’s fine, Dandy.’’

Bailey abruptly made a show of stretching and yawned, turning to look at Dandy. ‘’General,’’ he said slowly. ‘’I-I think that’s probably enough for one night…’’

He tried to stand up, unsteady on his legs, and Dandy moved to catch him before he stumbled and fell. ‘’I think that’s a sensible idea, Major,’’ he said. ‘’If you don’t mind, General…’’

There was a pause and Prior looked at them, saw Dandy struggling slightly as Bailey fell against him, head on his shoulder. They were his aides, his very own… he thought then mentally shook it out of his head. ‘’No, of course not, Dandy,’’ he said.

‘’Sir.’’ The boy tried to salute but was weighed down by Bailey, slumped against his side. He instead made for the door, only stopping when Prior spoke again.

‘’Dandy,’’ he said. ‘’Can you join me in here after Major Bailey is safe in bed?’’

Another pause. ‘’Yes, sir.’’

Prior smiled again and watched Dandy hobble out with Major Bailey. His aides, his very own…

TBC

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
haldoor
Jul. 22nd, 2011 11:18 am (UTC)
Are we finally heading for the crux of the matter? I hope so!
bubble_cake101
Jul. 23rd, 2011 08:56 am (UTC)
We're certainly getting there! :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )