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Only In My Dreams
Rating: NC13+ ish
Archive: Yes, please.
Dedicated to Dusty: It's all your fault.
Here is the wonderful story that started it all: http://www.chaelyndra.com/fiction/index The Beloved Barbarian stories. A wonderful read and a marvelous inspiration.
Copyright: Actually I really am infringing on someone elses copyright, but I mean it in the best possible way. If youd like to archive, please leave my name and email and everything else intact, and let me know where. Thank you.
PK: Without whose words, inspiration, and determination, this story and the ones that follow would never have happened.
Comments and concerns to: email@example.com
To Sleep Perchance to Dream
The heat was oppressive and going outside only made it worse. Hannibal squinted his eyes as he left his tent and surveyed the encampment. BA, his Sergeant at Arms, was only a pace or two behind him.
"I hate these meetings," Hannibal grumbled.
"Yes, my lord," BA replied almost wearily. They had had this same discussion for weeks. Each day, a leader of one of the many recently conquered rebel bands came to meet with the mighty General, and swear his allegiance, and offer gifts to make peace.
"I'm sick of translating and thinking of the right words. They should leave diplomacy to the diplomats. I've won the war leave me out of it."
"Yes, my lord," BA replied automatically. He'd stopped listening.
"If you say "yes, my lord" again, I'll have you working in the kitchens faster than you can think," Hannibal growled.
"Yes, my . This isn't my fault," BA snapped back. "You are the greatest general these people have ever seen. If you don't want to discuss peace with them, delegate it."
Hannibal laughed. "To whom do you suggest? Perhaps Captain Murdock?"
BA laughed with him. "Perhaps not the best choice."
"No," Hannibal sighed. "This is something I have to do myself, but I don't have to like it."
"Yes, my lord," BA responded with enough dramatic pity in his voice that it made his general laugh again.
Reaching the tent of their destination, Hannibal stood outside and straightened his blue tunic while BA adjusted his leaders armor. This was not his battle armor, scarred from years of wear with the leather bindings supple from use. This was show armor, highly polished, carved with intricate inlays and miserably uncomfortable.
BA grunted and went first, one large hand resting on the hilt of his battle sword. Two guards held open the flaps of the tent, and they made their entrance.
Usually in these situations, a seasoned leader of the conquered family was kneeling on the carpeted rug awaiting Hannibals arrival. A gift of some sort, pottery, jewelry, or something of the like, was on the low table. But in this case, a young warrior stood looking at the paintings done on the inside of the tent skin, glancing back over his shoulder as they entered. BA growled low in his throat and gripped his sword tighter at the insult.
The boy blushed, and dropped down to one knee. "I'm sorry," he stammered.
Hannibal was instantly intrigued by this change in procedure. "What brings you here, boy?"
The boy, tall and skinny and probably not a day over 16, rose to his feet and headed over to the general. BA growled again and stepped between them. The boy swallowed, fear evident on his face, his overlarge Adam's apple bobbing in his skinny throat. "The, um. My lord, um." He thrust a scroll at BA and knelt again.
BA shook his head at the display and passed the scroll back over his shoulder to his commander. Hannibal took it, and sitting in the large, fur-covered chair set out for him, unrolled it.
The boy, still looking down, found it easier to find his tongue. "My lord prays for peace and sends you this gift." The boy gestured to a very large lump set at the back of the tent wrapped in an expensive carpet.
"And why didn't your lord come himself?" Hannibal inquired reading the treaty.
"He was injured in battle. May I go?" The boy was clearly terrified.
Hannibal handed the scroll back to BA. "Get the boy some food and drink. Have Murdock mark this with my seal and send it back with him."
"Yes, my lord." BA shook his head again, clearly amused by the proceeding. At least this meeting was over quickly. He grabbed a pale skinny arm in his big beefy hand and helped the boy to his feet. "Kahder, take this," he said, shoving the boy out the tent flap, and into the arms of one of the guards, "to the mess hall and feed him, twice, I think. Take this," he handed him the scroll, "to Captain Murdock. It is to go back with the boy when his leaves." BA saw the look of gratitude on the boy's face. "You have safe passage here, boy. Understand?"
"Yes, my lord. Thanks be to you, my lord."
"Get him away from me, Kahder."
"Yes, my lord," Kahder said with an amused smirk on his face.
BA merely growled and turned back inside the tent.
Hannibal was standing over the large bundle in the corner of the tent. "Your knife, BA."
BA pulled a large knife from his belt and passed it over, hilt first. Hannibal cut the leather cords smoothly with the very sharp blade. One side of the bundle opened, but exposed nothing of the package within. Hannibal grabbed the carpet with both hands and pulled, hoping that whatever was inside wasn't fragile as it unrolled halfway across the tent.
What appeared before their eyes was indeed something fine to look at. A boy, actually a young man, maybe 19 or 20, with thick blonde hair, and wild blue eyes looked up at them. He leapt to his feet, his eyes frantically looking for either a weapon or an escape. Both Hannibal and BA were stunned.
No one had ever sent a naked man as a peace gift before.
Instinctively, BA went for his sword to protect his leader from this new threat, but Hannibal instantly realized, this boy was no threat. Not yet anyway. "BA." His commander stopped the draw of a sword with the soft-spoken word. "Do you understand me, boy?"
The boys eyes narrowed, his lips compressed into a fine line, his nostrils flared, and his breathing continued to labor, both from adrenaline and being confined in the stuffy carpet. Those blue eyes gleamed with a light that told Hannibal he had been drugged to get him into the carpet and delivered. The boy had to be angry and confused.
Hannibal lifted his hands to show he meant no harm, but then realized he still held BA's knife. He passed the weapon back to his sergeant and reached up to unlatch the gold medallion that pinned his cloak to his shoulder. He passed the heavy garment across to the boy, who looked at it blankly for a moment before realizing he was naked.
It seemed the boy didn't bother to blush. But his jaw clenched and the muscles showed in his face and neck as he grabbed the cloak and wrapped it firmly around his torso.
"Can you understand me?" Hannibal asked again.
The wild-eyed boy looked first at BA and then at Hannibal. He nodded his head.
"How did you come to be wrapped in a carpet and delivered to me as a gift?"
The boy said nothing only continued to flick his gaze back and forth from BA to the General.
Realizing the boy was either stubborn, or that he'd had his tongue removed, Hannibal shook his head in dismay. "BA, take the boy out, get him some clothes and food."
"General, he may be a spy."
"There is nothing his masters couldn't have learned just from looking down on this encampment. We've been here for months, BA. The boy is no threat."
BA growled his disagreement, but said nothing further. "Come on, boy."
The blond boy hesitated. It was one thing to be wrapped in only a cloak here in the confines of this tent, but to go out, among this Carthaginian Army. Hannibal realized the boy was not a pleasure slave, despite his first assessment. This boy was modest.
"BA, go fetch clothes and bring them here."
"Rahdan " BA started to call for one of the guards.
"No, BA, go get them yourself."
"I'll not leave you here unprotected, my lord," BA growled.
"I don't think this boy will harm me. Will you, boy?"
The boy looked over at BA, then back at the commander. Some of his earlier fear was leaving his face and the reality of the situation was beginning to sink in. He shook his head and clutched the garment tighter around him.
"Go, BA, we'll be fine."
BA hesitated for only a moment before turning on his heel, mumbling something his commander was certain was quite unflattering.
"So." Hannibal edged around the tent toward his chair as the boy moved in the opposite direction. Their positions were now reversed and Hannibal reached for a pair of pewter mugs. He set them on the low table and picked up a heavy urn of mead and poured some into each mug. He set down the urn, and picked up his mug and made himself comfortable in the large chair.
There was only one other place to sit, a smaller chair that would keep the visiting dignitary slightly below the conquering General. The boy eyed the mug, but didnt pick it up, and came to stand behind the chair. It kept them at a level and helped to cover the boy from the commanders eyes.
"I find myself in a dilemma," Hannibal began. "You have been given to me as a gift." He could see the boys jaw tighten and his eyes narrow. "But I think, perhaps, you are not a slave?"
"I think, perhaps, I am now."
Hannibal smiled. The boy could talk and in wonderfully warm tones despite his obvious anger.
"How come you to be here, boy?"
"My name is not boy," he ground out between clenched teeth.
"Then what is it?" Hannibal asked indulgently, sipping his mead.
"I'm called Templeton."
"Boy of the Temple," Hannibal translated. "Not much different. How come you to be here, Boy of the Temple?" Hannibal liked the way he could read the displeasure on the young mans face. This was not a diplomat either.
"I guess I angered the wrong god."
Hannibal laughed. It was a big hearty laugh and Templeton found himself chuckling along. "We Carthaginians have a few. It seems if you please one, you are destined to anger another."
"Well, they seem to mostly all be against me," Templeton said with a dismissive air. "So I try to leave them all alone."
"A wise plan." Hannibal again indicated the waiting mug with his head and continued, "So are you a spy as my sergeant thinks? Or is there some other reason you are here?"
Templeton thought that over. Even white teeth gnawed at his bottom lip for a moment before he brought his eyes up to meet the commanders watchful gaze. "I have nothing." He laughed at himself. "Not even the clothes on my back. But I tell you this, my uncles treaty of peace is not worth the scroll it was written on."
Hannibal leaned forward listening to every word.
"He sent me so that you would believe that he would not attack with me here -- not wanting to risk the death of his own nephew. But we are not truly related by blood. I was a foundling taken in by the high priests and given to my uncle. I was considered a good luck charm. But he wanted to bed me and I refused. He will attack you, probably just before dawn, and with my death, he will inherit the wealth he holds in my name given from the church. It is not much, but will more than compensate him for my stubborn refusal of him."
Hannibal was intrigued. "You believe he will attack?"
"Yes, from the South will be his strength, and then a small contingent from the East will come to eliminate me. He hopes that you will be," he waved a hand down his torso, "otherwise occupied and not be considering an attack so soon."
"How do you know this?"
"I don't know for sure, I only suspect."
Hannibal leaned back and mulled over this new information. "Rahdan, send for Captain Murdock," he called out, and then pondered the boy before him again.
"And what do you want for this information, boy?"
Templeton frowned. "Firstly, not to be called boy."
Hannibal chuckled and nodded his head.
"And to join your army. I want no special treatment. A foot soldiers position, anything that will get me away from Parion and his cronies."
"I will consider your offer, if you will sit. Your standing behind the chair makes me nervous."
Templeton came from behind the chair and sat, taking great pains to insure everything was covered when he did. As he reached over to pick up the mug, the cloak slipped and allowed his chest muscle to come into view. He was torn between quenching his thirst and keeping his modesty. He shook his head in dismay and grabbed the mug. He drank half of it down and then wiped his lips on his wrist. "Not like you haven't seen it all anyway."
Hannibal was gracious enough to avert his eyes while the younger man attempted to cover himself again. But that image of the dusky nipple had burned its way into his mind. Good heavens, he was feeling like a callow youth. Hannibal took a heavy gulp of his mead and realized he'd finished the mug. He got up and poured himself some more.
Their awkward silence was broken by BA's return. Relieved to see no harm had come to his commander, BA presented the bundle of clothes to the young man.
"Thank you, kind sir," Templeton said with relief. He turned, but there were no barriers in the room. So he stood, turned his back and dropped the cloak.
For some unknown reason, Hannibal didn't want to let BA see the boy in this condition, so he stepped between the two men. BA growled at the maneuver, but Hannibals position still allowed him to keep an eye on the back of the boy's head. He frowned at his commander. It wasn't as if any of them hadn't seen every other man in camp without clothes. They'd been campaigning for years, and modesty was the first thing lost in battle.
Templeton had barely gotten the shift settled and the tunic of leather over his shoulders when Captain Murdock entered. "Commander," he saluted then turned his attention to the man standing behind the General. He turned and half whispered to BA, "Is that new? I don't remember that being here before?"
BA growled even as Templeton turned and bowed slightly to the new officer and then pushed the heavy blond hair away from his features.
"Good afternoon," Murdock said with a grin.
"Captain. Increase the guard. Prepare for an attack before dawn."
"And take this boy," he hesitated. "Take Templeton with you. See that he eats, and get him a bunk with the other officers."
"Yes, sir. Come on, kid."
"Great," Templeton muttered. "I've gone from boy to kid."
"Dont worry," Murdock flung open the tent flap with exuberance. "We'll find a name for you better than Templeton. Heck of a mouthful, don't you think?"
"Lunatic," BA muttered as they exited.
"Is that directed at the Captain or me?" Hannibal inquired.
"I'm not sure," BA groused. "Ones as bad as the other."
"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, BA. Until we know which this boy is, we will keep him close."
Evening came and went. Dinner conversation was animated and friendly. The blond man seemed to fit in with only the mildest awkward moments, but Hannibal noticed he stayed very close to Captain Murdock, and that his officer in charge of transport didn't seem to mind the company.
After supper, games of Wari and dice began to appear. Templeton didn't join in, only watching each player and game intently. Hannibal came to his side and asked quietly, "Don't you play?"
The young man jumped, as if startled. "I, um. . . "
Hannibal only watched him, one eyebrow raised in question.
"I know how."
"But you don't play?"
The younger man grinned. "I tend to cheat," he said with a laugh. "I didn't think it right to insult my hosts on my first night."
"You admit you cheat? How interesting."
"Sleight of hand, change one piece for another, drop a stone, things like that. I hate to lose, so it's better if I don't play." Templeton's smile was both abashed and proud.
"I agree. It's better if you don't play . . . At least with them. I have a chessboard, care to give me a game? I cheat, too."
Templeton laughed. Hannibal realized it was the first real laugh he'd heard, and it was warm and full. It also made a knot in the commanders stomach.
"I'd love to play with you," Templeton said softly, then blushed madly.
As was usual with soldiers, they were quick to jump on any ribald slip of the tongue, and they began to tease him unmercifully. It was a testament to the young man that he had been taken into the trust of Hannibal's troops so readily.
"I'm sorry, my lord, I didn't ." Templeton blushed.
"Don't say another word," Hannibal admonished. "Nothing you can say at this point will be taken the way you mean it." He mock glared at his men, his fists on his hips as if daring them to say anther word. They did, loud and long and lewd. He grinned at his men and escorted the young, blushing man out of the tent.
"I " Templeton started.
"Don't," Hannibal cut him off. "I know it wasn't meant the way it came out."
"Thank you, my lord."
They entered Hannibals private tent. The floor was covered with rich pelts. The walls were painted with scenes of his home in Carthage. A table and two chairs were set up directly under an oil-burning lamp. Hannibal moved a map from the table and rolled it tightly. He opened a black chest and put the map in, and pulled out a dark box that contained a beautiful chess set. Each piece was wrapped in a soft skin. The board was made of ebony and ivory.
Templeton ran his fingers over the smooth board, before helping to set up the intricately carved pieces.
"How well do you play?" Hannibal asked as he poured two mugs of wine.
"With or without cheating?" Templeton asked, taking one mug with a grateful nod of his head.
"Let's play the first game without cheating. See if we can do it?" Hannibal grinned studying the man. From his looks he probably wasnt Iberian by birth. With those entrancing blue eyes he was most likely a Gaul or perhaps from the countries from the north.
Templeton played a good game. A little straightforward, but with some surprising twists, but he still lost to the Generals skill at strategy. They began to pack up the board.
"I should get some sleep. My uncles army will be here soon."
"Yes, if you're right, tomorrow will be a long day."
"I hope I'm wrong, but I fear I'm right," Templeton said pushing back his long hair from his forehead. It was a gesture that was both enticing and innocent.
"And if you are right, tomorrow you will win your freedom. I reward loyalty, Templeton."
"Well, then, lets hope I live through tomorrow, and my uncle does not succeed."
Hannibal found himself stepping closer. He wanted to touch the young man, to run his fingers over the smooth contours he'd seen so briefly this afternoon. Had it really been only this afternoon? It seemed he'd been thinking of nothing but this bronzed beauty for months, not merely hours. They were close, so very close. Hannibal could feel the younger man's breath on his cheek.
'If he didn't want this, he'd step back,' Hannibal tried to convince himself. He gently raised a hand, longing to touch the cheek, run his fingers through the blond hair, taste those lips. He leaned in and heard a breathless whisper, "General?"
"Colonel Smith?" A hand was shaking his shoulder harshly. He sat up, abruptly and put his feet on the floor.
"VC are attacking from the south!"
He blinked, not quite awake and looked up into those vivid blue eyes of his newest lieutenant. "What the hell?"
"Colonel, are you in there? The VC are attacking!"
"Yes, Lieutenant, I'm in here. Prepare for a small contingent to hit us from the East, near C barracks."
"Yes, sir." A furrow appeared between the brows that covered the blue eyes.
"Get going, Lieutenant!"
"Yes, sir!" The younger man turned on his heel and left the hut with a bang of the door.
Hannibal could hear weapon fire and the sound of hand grenades. But his mind wasn't on the battle. His memory still held a picture of that handsome bronzed man, naked in his tent, and he wondered why he was thinking like this. He'd never before felt attracted to one of his subordinate officers.
Another grenade went off and he shook his head. No! He needed to nip this in the bud, right quick. Maybe it wasn't a good idea taking on this particular supply officer, no matter what his reputation. He'd ship the kid off first chance he got and eliminate any chance for . . . or then again, maybe not . . . no need to be hasty . . . after all, it was just a dream.
But what an odd dream.
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