Tuesday, May 9, 2017
TLR CHAPTER 114
James Wesley Harrington sat in his study after leaving his office for the day. Heath was at the infirmary tending to a sick guest and Jax had gone into town with Mutt, Adam and Torren to take in a movie with his blessings. The boys were usually pretty responsible and didn't get into difficulties very often when they went into town together so he hadn't had any problem saying yes when Jax asked for his permission.
He sat back and reviewed things in his mind. He had talked to Dean about looking at the roof of the lodge to make sure no repairs were needed the other night. He began to think about the suggestion he had made about expanding with three more outlying cabins. Dean had promised to draw up some schematics and show them to him soon. He and Jeff would have to decide about that and start the wheels in motion to begin their construction. He was roused from his thoughts by a gentle knocking at his door.
"James?" called a familiar voice.
The resort owner looked up from his musings. "Jeff, come in, just the man I was thinking about."
The other man entered with a smile. "I was thinking that since the guys are all away that we could have dinner together. Just sit and relax for once. Whadda ya say? And I hope you were thinking good things," he joked.
The older man looked thoughtful for a moment. "I was thinking about possible needed repairs and the expansion you and I were talking about,” James told Jeff, ignoring the question about dinner at the lodge.
"Don’t worry about construction right now. Listen, let's go to dinner, I'm starving. We can write off the cost as a business expense," Jeff ribbed his best friend. "Come on, James. Give that melon of yours a little rest, even if it's only for a little while." He thought for a moment and then said, "Mmmmm, melon. I could go for some of that too."
James chuckled at his friend. "You're not going to let me stay here and think myself into a stupor, are you? Are you sure Heath didn't sic you on me?" he teased, leaning back from his desk. "I'll talk to Dean about all that later, I guess.”
"Good idea," Jeff grinned, "Now get on up and let's head out, Marine! There's nothing so important that it can't wait til after dinner and a good night's sleep."
James grinned back, pushed his chair back and stood up. "All right Marine, let's go." He walked toward the door knowing Jeff would be right behind.
When they arrived at the lodge they saw Duke sitting by himself at the bar, apparently lost in thought, hunched over looking down into his drink, still trying to puzzle out how his baby brother had turned out to be a Top and him a Brat.
Jeff walked over to the much taller man and clapped him on the back. "Heya kiddo, James and I are planning to have dinner. Feel like joining us? Looks like you could use a little break from whatever's got you down."
The big man, startled, jumped slightly at Jeff's approach. "I suppose so. It's been a while since the three of us did somethin' together," he replied, glad of the break from his whirling thoughts.
Jeff, setting aside his worry for a moment, smiled again and led the tall man to the table where he and James had just made themselves comfortable. "Want a menu?" he asked. "And have something nutritious," he joked, "you need to eat something besides ribs and chicken."
Duke shook his head. "Naw....I'll just order my usual, Bar-b-que ribs with fries."
Jeff laughed, sat down and waited for Duke to do the same. Once the big man was seated Jeff concentrated his attention on his friend who still looked distracted. "Talk to us Duke. What's going on? I know something's wrong."
James nodded. "Yes Duke, I haven’t seen you this disturbed since you first arrived at Camp Lejeune after you finished MP training at Fort Lenningwood."
Duke looked at his friends. "Yeah...I was worried about bein' the new kid on the block then. You two had already had experience and I had just arrived. I didn't know about you two then and of course I didn't even know I was gay then. I'm just trying to fathom out how Dean turned out to be a Top."
Jeff sat and thought for a moment and then leaned forward to speak in a confidential tone that only the three of them could hear. "I'll tell you what. My cousin Lilah is a brat, first class. She married a guy who is an even bigger brat than she is, if you can imagine that. They have three kids. Two of them are as Brat-like as she and her husband. The middle one is only in her twenties but she has all the makings of a Top. I don't know how it happened," he shrugged. "I have no idea if it's genetics or predisposition, but she's always been like that, ever since she was a young child. It could be as simple as Dean seeing and admiring his big brother's strength and being determined to be as much like him as he could be. Just because you're a Brat doesn't mean you're not capable of being a wonderful role model."
"You had to act, do and say certain things while you were growing up, just to survive," he added. "Dean saw all of that. What you do and say to and around a young child leaves marks in their minds, and you obviously made a positive impression."
Duke listened to James and Jeff both. "I suppose what you say might be true Jeff. Dean always had my back from the time he was old enough to defend himself. He seemed to always be the voice of reason in lots of situations we found ourselves in."
James nodded. "You have a lot of strengths Duke. Remember when you first came to the base? It wasn't long before you earned the reputation of being tough, but fair. If a drunken soldier didn't give you a hard time you would just put him in his bunk and not on report, but if he gave you a hard time you'd cuff him and toss him into the brig."
Duke nodded at James’s remarks about him at the base and gave the older man a little grin. “Yep, if they behaved and did as I told them I didn’t see any reason to get them into trouble, but if they gave me a hard time then I saw to it they got what they deserved.”
"Dean had to grow up tough too, even with you to protect him," Jeff added. "His yin to your yang, as it were. There's nothing wrong with Dean being a Top, or you being a Brat. I mean, James and I are two of your best friends, and you don't mind the fact that we're Tops."
Duke nodded. "Yes, but I've known the two of you as Tops and my friends now for a long time, even before I came to work here at the resort and the two of you told me about things."
Mike arrived, interrupting the conversation for a few minutes while he took the men's orders, grinning at Duke for ordering the ribs again.
Duke smiled up at Mike, glad to see him happy being a waiter and nodded as the young man took his order with a grin.
"Gotcha. I'll be back lickety split," Mike promised.
With a very precise military salute, Mike left to fill the order. He loved to wait on James and Jeff if only for convincing Charles and Gary to allow him to do what he wanted with his life. Plus, they were good tippers.
"Duke," Jeff said softly, "it took you a while to come to the understanding that you were gay, and a little longer to admit that you were a Brat. All the time that Dean has spent here over the years... well, it's quite possible he knew for a while and was worried about this very thing. Don't beat yourself up over it, or let it worry you. You've obviously come to an understanding with Dean. Am I right?"
Duke sighed. "I suppose so...but it's still hard," he shared with the men.
James looked at his friend. "Duke, do you remember when you first came to the base and thought because of your size you could throw your weight around? What happened when you tried to do that?"
Duke flushed. "You...umm...corrected me," he said quietly.
James nodded. "Yes, and when I wasn't there to do that who reined you in?"
Duke bit his lip and looked at the other man. "Jeff did."
James nodded again. "Even back then it was clear to both of us that you needed guidance and discipline. I recall when Jeff and I first met each other..." he smiled at the other man.
“We knew we were alike in more ways than fellow soldiers. We encouraged each other to achieve our best,” Jeff added smiling at the older man.
James agreed, “We watched a lot of the new boots.”
Jeff grinned at the memory. "Yep, I was just out of MP training and you, Duke, were just going in. Everyone knew you'd make your mark there."
Duke blushed a bit at the remark. "You two were watchin' me even then?"
James nodded. "Like I said, we all watched the new recruits coming out of boot camp and we tagged you for the MP's."
"We were watching over you from day one." Jeff smiled. "You had a lot of anger back then, and we knew you'd need someone who cared. We have to watch out for our own, and there was no way we were going to let you, with all your potential, crap out of the service. It was just a matter of redirecting that anger and turning it into something productive."
Duke looked at the two men with surprise. "You did? I never knew. I know you looked out for me once I arrived as a private and newly out of MP school."
"Did you ever wonder how you got into the MPs?" Jeff asked with a sly grin.
Duke looked between Jeff and James. "No, was it you two?"
"In a way, us bending the ears of some of the higher ups as well. Why do you think the Gunny at the time had you working extra hard? Not because you were a discipline case so much as that everyone there could see your potential, and we weren't going to let that go to waste."
James's smoky blue eyes twinkled as Jeff shared their interventions on Duke's behalf.
Duke smiled then and shook his head. "I don't believe you two. I never knew, but I'm glad you were there for me."
"We're glad we were there for you too. And look at you now," Jeff said, gesturing proudly at their head of security.
Duke ducked his head, his face flushed at Jeff's praise.
James said, "I'm not too sure just how we knew about each other, or even you, but there was just a little something different, maybe because none of us had a real interest in dating the nurses or females on the base, but we knew." He then looked at Jeff. "After a while Jeff and I talked privately about some things and we discovered we were both oriented that way and... we could see you were too."
Mike arrived at that point and delivered their dinners with a smile and another salute. "I'm nearby if you gentlemen need anything else."
"Thanks Mike, we're good for now." Jeff smiled, returning the salute which made the young man grin widely before he turned and left once again.
"You weren't the only one, of course," Jeff said quietly, "but in the age of don't ask, don't tell, it was hard to find men like ourselves. That's when James shared his idea of opening a resort somewhere, so that we wouldn't have to hide anymore."
"Actually," Jeff amended, "he'd had the idea much earlier but it wasn't until we found out about each other and James’s Uncle Chet died and he was thinking more strongly about it, that we started making plans, drawings and such. Back then we weren't making a heck of a lot of money so we knew we'd have to start small, but small was better than nothing at all." He patted James on the shoulder with a grin. "And his dream turned into a reality."
Duke smiled. "I was so glad the year I was hired on to provide security for the resort. It wasn't much back then, but look at how it's grown," he reflected.
“Yes, it has, from a dream into a reality and still growing.” James smiled over at Jeff.
The other man grinned back. “I can remember it like it was yesterday, especially the first time I got to come here and see it all in person. I just couldn’t get enough of everything and kept bugging JW here to take me everywhere.”
Duke smiled a real smile and said, “That must have been some journey.”
Jeff nodded. He sat back and glanced at James, seeing the smoky blue eyes with a faraway look in them.
Flash back 1989...
First lieutenant James W. Harrington sat there, a look of shock on his handsome face and tears blurring his smoky blue eyes as he read and re-read the telegram he held in his hand. He thought to himself...'It can't be true...Uncle Chet gone...a stupid ranching accident? What the hell was he doing out there trying to work the fucking cattle all by himself? He knew better than anyone else the danger of doing that! I can remember how many times he drilled safety into me over his lap when I was a kid…I can’t believe he’d do such an irresponsible, dumb thing…he must have been worried about the cattle for some reason…but I guess I’ll never really know what possessed him to go against his own safety rules…, but he still should have had Dan helping him, the fool! A damn black bear spooking and stampeding the cattle and him being trampled… That would never have happened if I had been there!'
Jeff had sat beside his best friend in the office, arm over his shoulder as James read the telegram. He felt helpless to console him. He knew what he would have done if they'd been somewhere where there had been no danger of someone walking in, but even a hug between two men was looked on with suspicion. "It's gonna be ok, JW. Do you think they'll grant you emergency family leave to attend his funeral?"
James said quietly, blinking back the tears. "The Captain has already arranged it and I can leave in the morning."
"I'm really sorry about your uncle, James. You know I'm here for you if you need anything," Jeff said softly.
James nodded. "I know. Uncle Chet always was the one to keep me in line, you know. He wasn't afraid to put me over his lap and warm my bottom good if it were deserved.”
“I know you two were really close. I kind of envied you when you'd tell me stories about the summers you spent with him. You were a very lucky boy, James."
A small smile escaped the other man and he said, "I knew that, too bad that others couldn't have had what I did. Uncle Chet loved me and wasn't afraid to show it in whatever way he felt was needed from a hard hug to a hot bottom. I didn't realize until I was in my teens that he was like me.”
“I really didn't realize it myself until I hit puberty and didn't have the same feelings for girls the other boys did. Uncle Chet was easier to talk to than my dad about those kinds of things and he explained things to me. I often wondered from that point on if it wouldn't be a nice idea for there to be a place where people like me and Uncle Chet could meet and talk to other men who were like us," James confessed to his friend.
Jeff sat quietly for a few moments and then his head snapped up. "That's a great idea, JW!" he whispered. "I have no idea where we'd build it but we can, you know. We can pool our money into a fund for when we retire and in the meantime, we can look at real estate. By the time we retire we should have enough set aside to make your idea a reality," he continued, reaching back onto the shelf for a writing tablet and pencil. "Look," he said as he began to draw. "It can start like a little hotel, you know? And then as you make money you can add to it. JW, this idea of yours… it's brilliant."
James gave his friend a smile as he outlined things. "Yes, I think that just might work!" He gave Jeff a thoughtful look. "That Montgomery kid... I think he's like us too. He also responds to my method of discipline much better than all the pushups in the world, have you noticed that?" he asked as he laid the telegram down on the desk.
"Yep, I did, but I don't think he's come to grips with that about himself yet, so we'd have to be careful if we approach him about it," Jeff replied thoughtfully. "I'm pretty sure there are a few others but again, it would be hard to bring the subject up. They might think we're trying to trap them."
James nodded. "Yes, of course. It's not something that can be forced, but I believe we can just continue to enforce our method of discipline, privately as it's no one else's business."
"Agreed," Jeff replied softly, "the kid's going to go places now that you've got him in hand," he smiled. "But yes, he, and a few others, respond better to that than some others. Where do you want to go from here?"
James looked thoughtful. "Why don't you work on how we can make this idea happen financially while I'm gone, the land we can work out when we have enough put away to begin to look for the perfect place."
"Will do, JW. I wish I could be there with you in person, but I'm only a phone call away if you need to talk to anyone," Jeff replied, eager to begin sketching out plans for their hotel and reaching back on the shelf for a calculator.
James put an arm around Jeff's shoulders and squeezed. "Thank you, Jeff...I'll do that." James dropped his arm and said, "Well, I need to go pack and get going."
"Have a safe trip, JW," Jeff replied, feeling his own eyes tearing up for his friend's grief. As soon as James was gone, Jeff began his drawings and calculations. He calculated the cost of whether to buy an already existing hotel or to build their own somewhere, and while buying an old hotel might cost less in the long run, he realized they'd need to be in a more private place, and he began, on the sly, to look into real estate. He planned to have a cohesive and complete report for his friend when he returned.
One year later...1990...
First Lieutenant Harrington stepped out of his office and the building and seeing his friend Jeff across the parade ground called, "Markham! I need you for a few minutes! Are you available?"
Jeff turned to look at his friend to see if there were anything wrong. Not seeing any of James's tells he jogged toward the First Lieutenant and saluted, coming to attention. "Sir!" he replied forcefully. He had no idea what James wanted but looked forward to their chats. He stood at attention until James saluted back.
"We have some paperwork to go over, Markham. Follow me."
"Sir!" Jeff replied and went into James's softly lit office. Once inside with the door closed, he grinned and stifled a laugh. "I hope you don't expect me to salute you when we're both out of here," he joked.
James chuckled and then sat, gesturing Jeff to have a seat as well. "I have the most exciting news!" He exclaimed with more enthusiasm than he had shown since his uncle died about a year ago.
"Well, out with it, JW! It has to be some pretty great news to get you all fired up." Jeff smiled as he took a seat across the desk from his friend.
James said excitedly, "Our dream has come true! I just received word from the lawyer...Uncle Chet's estate has finished going through probate and I am now the proud owner of his ranch in Maine on Teardrop Lake!" He pushed the legal papers across the desk toward Jeff.
Jeff's jaw dropped in shock. Once he'd recovered he grinned, jumped up and grabbed James's hand to shake it heartily. "That's fantastic news, JW!" He gave his friend a quick hug and released him, eager to look at the papers that James had pushed toward him. He sat back down on the chair to look them over, his eyes getting wider and wider the more he read. "I had no idea how big that place was, JW! It's the perfect spot to build your resort! My God! Look at all that land!" he breathed.
James hugged Jeff back after shaking hands with him and sat back grinning at his friend's reaction. He said happily, "I had no idea either. I knew the ranch had lakefront property and of course I helped him work the hay fields and such, but I really had no idea just how far the property extended. He never told me, he wasn’t a man to brag about such things, we just worked the land and enjoyed it." He added excitedly, "You are so right...it's perfect. I want to keep the ranch house and the barn intact."
"I don't see where that's going to be a problem," Jeff breathed. "You have enough land here to build a small town. And look at the size of that stable! James... it's like your uncle knew..." Jeff said softly. "Now I just have to add the cost of a dozen horses into the mix," he laughed, "feed, stable hands... James, do you realize the potential of all of this land? It'll take us a while to get everything set up, but once it's done... it's going to be a little paradise!"
James grinned. "Yes, and thank you Uncle Chet!"
Jeff got up and gave his friend a quick hug. "James... I'm at a loss for words. I can't begin to tell you how happy I am for you. For us," he said.
"The ranch already has a foreman and vet. They worked for my uncle and have agreed to stay on and take care of things until I retire. I'm going to ask them to stay on after that. I can't wait for you to meet them."
"I'm looking forward to it as well," Jeff smiled broadly. He glanced at the clock on the office wall. "Perfect," he said, "lunch time. We can work on the calculations and..."
James laughed at his friend, "Let's just take a break, have lunch and relax," he said. "There's plenty of time for us to plan later."
Jeff chuffed a laugh, a little embarrassed, "Sorry, you know how I get once I get an idea into my head," he said. "C'mon my friend. Lunch, and as soon as I have some free time I'll work on those calculations. I expect a commendation for this, Captain." It was an old joke between them.
James chuckled then and said, "I'll put in for it, but if I submit it as Captain instead of First Lieutenant I might raise some eyebrows." He rose and put a hand on Jeff's shoulder and said softly, "Thanks for being such a good friend, Jeff. I can't think of anyone else I'd rather go into business with."
"I have the feeling that you're a shoo in for Captain any day now," Jeff replied, "and as far as business partners... same here, JW," Jeff said a little distractedly, already going over numbers in his head.
James trained his smoky blue eyes on his friend and grinned. "Put the calculator in your head away, and let's just relax for now."
Jeff smiled a little sheepishly, "Gotcha... boss,” he laughed as he and James headed toward the mess hall.