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Protection in a Wild Land ~ Chapter 15

Title: Protection in a Wild Land ~ Chapter 15 (The Orders)
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: Taylor finds something in Prior's desk
Rating: G 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 15 ~ The Orders

He found them hidden away in Prior’s desk, tucked beneath the other stacks of papers flooding the drawers. He was sorting things out, didn’t expect to find them, didn’t expect to read words that made his stomach twist. For a moment, he didn’t know why he had had such a reaction, but then he read them again, and he knew. Without any other thought, he quickly shut all the drawers again, tidied the desk so Prior wouldn’t realise, and ran to Major Bailey’s quarters.

~~~

Bailey had woken that morning with the sun pouring in horrid streams through a gap in the curtains. He moaned, tried to turn away from it, but his head was pounding and he couldn’t find any position to relax in. The night before was a blur to him, as if nothing had actually happened. Presently, he couldn’t even remember the current day let alone the events of the last evening.

Exasperated, he tried to pull the covers over his head but a knock on the door jerked him back into the luridly lit bedroom. Though his eyes felt like they were soon fall out with the pressure behind them, he made an attempt to sit up and regain some composure. ‘’Yes?’’ he called, finding his voice husky and low.

‘’Major?’’ It was Taylor. At least it wasn’t the general. He could allow some of this poor self-control show. ‘’Can I come in – I have something I think you’d like to see – are you awake?’’

He sounded agitated and Bailey wondered briefly how he had this type of energy at this time of the morning. What was the time anyway?  ‘’Yes, come in, Taylor…’’

The door burst open and the lieutenant came rushing in, a whirlwind of liveliness. He stopped for a moment when he saw the state of his friend, a hand over his eyes and head twisted away from the sunlight. ‘’Gosh, Major…’’ he started. ‘’Are you alright?’’

Bailey tried to nod and shuffled a little way up the bed to rest against the wall. ‘’Well, Taylor…’’ he croaked. ‘’Let’s start with saying I can’t remember anything of last night.’’

‘’Oh.’’ Taylor looked down at the piece of paper he had held in his hands and his expression changed as if something had just come into his mind. ‘’Oh, goodness... Oh…’’

‘’What is it?’’

‘’I found you in the general’s office last night, Major. Very, very drunk.’’

‘’I thought as much,’’ Bailey groaned. ‘’…in front of the general?’’

‘’Well…I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the one who got you drunk, Major.’’

Bailey opened his eyes, staring up at Taylor. He almost laughed at the suggestion. ‘’Taylor, why would the general get me drunk?’’

Taylor’s eyes went down again to the papers. ‘’I found this, Major…Just now, in the general’s desk, underneath many things, like he didn’t want anyone to see it…’’

He handed them over to Bailey but with the harsh morning sun making his head spin, he couldn’t decipher anything written on them. ‘’Taylor…’’ he said despairingly. ‘’I can’t read any of this…’’

Taylor was quickly at his side, the bed dipping a little as he sat down next to him. ‘’They’re the orders.’’

‘’The orders? For the offensive?’’

‘’Yes.’’

‘’Well, what’s wrong about that, Taylor? We sorted things out with him – this is what we were doing.’’

‘’No.’’ The answer was firm and quick. ‘’No, this isn’t what we sorted out with him.’’

Bailey wiped at his eyes, tried again to see through this bright light. The scrawled words gradually began to untangle and make sense. He skimmed through them, reading aloud. Most of it sounded familiar until he suddenly paused. ‘’Early next week?’’ he asked, not sure who to. ‘’But the reinforcements aren’t due to arrive until after that…We won’t be ready.’’

Taylor nodded.

‘’Does he know how many Indians could be out there? Even when the cavalry joins them, it’s going to be…’’ Bailey was going to say impossible. He stopped himself. ‘’…very hard. We’ll be outnumbered more than I can think.’’

‘’I think he imagines that the Indians will gain strength if we leave it any longer. The scouts have reported that they appear to be making alliances.’’

‘’We have to wait for the reinforcements though! Why can’t he see that? It’ll be an extra company of infantry and cavalry. Around 170 more men.’’

Bailey paused, almost too shocked to continue. He’d seen some stupid decisions in his life as a soldier before but this was up there with the worst. The original plan they had made involved the reinforcements. Now, the infantry and cavalry would leave the fort, split up and then join in a proposed trap on the Indian camp when they weren’t expecting it but Bailey didn’t think even surprise would be on their side this time. They needed numbers too. He sighed, beginning to shake, and handed the orders back to Taylor, who was watching him, waiting.

‘’Taylor,’’ he said, turning to him. ‘’Is Colonel Dawes still commanding it?’’

Taylor looked at him for a moment, eyes flickering over his face. He eventually nodded. Bailey groaned and immediately leapt out of his bed. He hurried out of the room, already dressed. Taylor abruptly followed him.

He rushed after him as he exited his quarters, called at him to stop, but ended up having to grab his arm to do so. ‘’Major,’’ he said as quietly as he could, as if someone was listening. ‘’Major, if you’re going to Colonel Dawes about this, I’d advise you not to. If the general finds out you have been speaking to him about these orders, he’ll know you’ve seen them, for one – and we’re obviously not meant to until he has completed the final version – and he won’t be very pleased about you telling Colonel Dawes either.’’

‘’Taylor,’’ he said, shrugging off his hand. ‘’I’m not scared of General Prior. And I think Colonel Dawes has the right to know about this.’’

‘’Major –‘’ Taylor tried again but Bailey had already gone.

~~~

Bailey knocked loudly at the door as he reached Dawes’ cabin. He knew he would already be prepared for the day, probably had been for a couple of hours now, so he was quite confident he wouldn’t be interrupting him as he was dressing. He hoped he wasn’t already out.

He stood there waiting for a couple of moments, knowing Taylor was still hurrying behind him, and when the door opened, he immediately entered. ‘’Major,’’ Dawes said, sounding surprised. ‘’Is everything alright?’’

‘’No, everything is not alright, Will.’’

Dawes frowned and went to close the door. Taylor hurried through before he could. ‘’Lieutenant,’’ he said. ‘’What on earth has happened?’’

Bailey turned to Taylor. ‘’Show him the orders, Taylor,’’ he said. Taylor hesitated, looking between the two men. He still held the piece of paper in his hands.

‘’Major –‘’ he started.

‘’Will, this plan is going to fail,’’ Bailey chose instead to say, seeing Taylor’s unwillingness. Dawes frowned again.

‘’Which plan is this, Major?’’

‘’This offensive mission, Will. The one that meetings have been held over, the one Taylor and I have been planning with the general and now Taylor has shown me these orders and they are different to what we had been discussing with him. And, Will, he found them at the bottom of one of the drawers of the desk, hidden, like he didn’t want anyone to see them.’’ Bailey was emphatic, his gestures starting to become more exaggerated. Dawes took it in calmly.

‘’Major, it is a silly idea for him to not want anybody to see the orders. They will be official and everybody will know of them when the time comes. He can’t have wanted you to not see them. They were probably just put there and he didn’t think anything of it.’’

‘’These aren’t the official ones though, Will. He’ll rewrite them and he’ll probably word them to deliberately disguise…’’ Bailey trailed off. Dawes and Taylor both waited on him.

‘’I think, Will, that this plan he has made up is designed to make you fail out there.’’

Dawes sighed, as if he had been expecting this. ‘’Major, I know that the general and I don’t have the most amicable of relationships but I hardly think that the man would go so far as to deliberately design offensive missions that will go wrong. That would be, if I may say so, very stupid of him. It would ruin his reputation – even if no one did find out his original intentions – and would also possibly kill many of his own men. And all for trying to satisfy a dislike of me? I don’t think so, Major.’’

‘’Will, you at least have to consider it as a possibility. Some of the men think he is jealous of you and that he would love to…to see you do something wrong for once. He’d probably word the orders and make sure that he can’t get the blame – only you can.’’

‘’And you believe this, do you?’’

Bailey nodded. ‘’I believe that he definitely would be attracted to the proposition of it going wrong on your part.’’

‘’How about you, Lieutenant?’’ Dawes turned to Taylor now who seemed surprised at suddenly being included. ‘’You know the general well too. Does Major Bailey’s suggestions seem plausible to you?’’

‘’Well…’’ Taylor looked over at Bailey who was watching him and waiting for his answer. ‘’I’m not entirely sure, if I’m honest. I know the general has some differences with you, Colonel, and yes, the orders are different but I still think that he would consider them carefully and think of how they will affect everybody involved.’’

Taylor saw the look on Bailey’s face. He quickly turned away. Dawes nodded. ‘’Thank you, Lieutenant,’’ he said.

‘’Will, ‘’ Bailey sighed, exasperated. ‘’He is sending you out before the companies are going to arrive here. He thinks that the Indians will grow in numbers if he waits too much longer.’’

For a moment, Dawes paused. Bailey watched him for a different reaction but he eventually just shook his head again. ‘’Major, in these times, caution and contemplation is key and both General Prior and I know that. As Lieutenant Anderson just said, I am sure he has considered the situation carefully –‘’

‘’-Will-‘’

‘’-now if you don’t mind, Major, I would like to get to breakfast.’’

Dawes acknowledged Bailey one more time with a nod and then exited. Taylor saluted him as he passed. When he finally saw there was no use trying again, Bailey also left.

~~~

General Prior finally cleaned out his desk that evening and while doing so, he kept opening up the drawer on the left just to have another look at the orders, now written out officially, ready to be put into operation. He had just recently completed them and he felt warm with pride, and even excitement, bigger than the previous time with the drafted orders, every time he read them over again. The same concerns were still there as last time, but now they weren’t as nagging. This time, they were more hidden beneath the words.

He smiled and turned his chair to look out the window. It was another beautiful evening, an end to a good day. Colonel Dawes had been drilling the men again and they were going to be fine out there. He just wanted these annoying pushes and remarks to end from the higher command. If they wanted an offensive, he’d give them an offensive. Dawes would lead it, as Prior knew he always would. He was a capable man and would follow the orders.

Follow them to the letter.

Prior shook his head to relieve it of the thoughts that would next come but as he glanced again across the parade ground, he saw his own men, the sentries up on the banquette, the guards patrolling. Then there were the cavalry in their barracks, their horses in the stables…He wondered how many. The reinforcements…How many would there be?

Prior felt a stab in his chest and he moved his hand to rub at it. Outside, the sun was setting and he watched it to calm the rushing in his head. Beyond those hills, how many Indians were there? How fast were they growing in strength? Again, the stab came.

It faded as he reached for one of the cigars he had in his desk. Dandy made sure they were always in there. As he thought of him, the rest of the anxiety flowed out of his chest. He knew he would be beside him with these orders. Major Bailey might not be so willing. The air between them had been a little tense that day, as if he knew something. He might have some words to say, especially as Colonel Dawes was involved. But that would be dealt with. He would want the high command to stop their persistent telegrams and messages about a ‘decisive’ offensive too.

Yes, Prior smiled again, blowing warm smoke into the room and momentarily clouding the setting sun. Overall it had been a good day, and tomorrow would be another.


TBC