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The Sharecroppers Boy

By Jullian Gray

 

Rating: NC-17

WARNING RACIALLY DEROGATORY NAMES ARE USED IF THIS BOTHERS YOU PLEASE DON'T READ!!! , Pre-Slash, H/F

Summary: What if Hannibal and Face meet in a different time period. *History note at the end*

 

 

***********

 

"You need to get out of here before your father sees you and whips your hide again." Bosco Baracus stated to his young friend as he helped him pick apples in the orchard of his mother's boss.

 

"He's not my father," Templeton spat out as he pitched an apple down at Bosco from his perch on the top of the tree.

 

"I'm sorry," Bosco held his hands up in surrender when he noticed that the young blonde was about to throw another apple at him.  "But you know it's true.  That man got a mean streak a mile wide, he can't find you he's going to beat you."

 

Templeton Peck sighed as he let the apple in his hands roll off his fingertips so that BA could catch it.  His mother had been in love with his father, and the two had become romantically involved.  Realizing that he had little opportunity to provide for their future his father had gone up north to seek employment. Little did either of them know that his mother was pregnant with him at the time his father had left.  Though his father had promised to send money to support her not a dime was ever sent.  When it became apparent to everyone around that she was with child and worse yet without a husband his mother had been cast out by her family. In desperation, she had married a sharecropped a few counties over from where she had been born and raised.  His mother Samantha had been a small, fragile woman and the burden of caring for a young child, and dealing with an abusive, alcoholic husband along with the heavy farm work quickly took a toll on her health.  By the time Templeton was five years old, he was helping to dig her grave in a field not far from their shack of a house.  

 

Templeton had inherited his mother's small frame and stature which did nothing but infuriate the man his mother had married.  David Phillips had tried time and time again to get his wife pregnant so that he could have real boys who could work the fields.  Instead, he had been left with a bastard's child. For the transgression of being born fair-haired, thin boned with high cheekbones and a beautiful face Templeton was regularly beaten for being unable to work as hard as a man twice his size.  If David Phillips felt that he had been slighted in any way it was a guarantee that he would take it out on his stepson.

 

"He's gone to the capital getting supplies, which we both know is code for getting drunk." Templeton picked up two more apples and tossed them down to Bosco.  "Besides even if David was getting food like he says he is he won't be back until tomorrow night."

 

"You got anything at your place to eat?" Bosco asked as he quickly caught another apple that Templeton tossed down to him and put it in his bag.  He watched as his young friend moved from one branch to another and marveled at how agile the smaller boy was.

 

"No, but I figured I'd catch a rabbit or a squirrel on my way home. Templeton shrugged as he picked two more pieces of fruit. "If I can't snag anything I know where there is a big patch of dandelions."

 

"Why don't you come home with me, my momma always has extras."

 

"I don't know; won't it make your momma's boss mad and get her in trouble?"

 

"She works for Mr. Smith, he doesn't own her, she can have anyone she wants at her table; even if it is a skinny white cracker like you." Bosco laughed and then moved quickly to snatch the apple out of the air that Templeton threw at his head.

 

"I only need a couple more to fill my bag," Bosco called up as Templeton shifted to another set of branches.  Several more pieces of fruit fell down from the tops of the tree before Bosco saw his friend's head appear through the leaves.

 

"You have enough?"

 

"More than enough, come on down," Bosco tucked the last of the apples in his sack before pulling the drawstring closed and tossing it over his shoulder.

 

"Heads up!" Templeton called out before he jumped down from the branch he was sitting on. "Here, I got this from the very top," he smiled pitching the black youth a bright red apple before pulling another out of his tattered pants pocket.

 

"You going to get hurt doing that one of these days," Bosco grumbled as he looked at the apple in his hand. "Those top limbs aren't that strong."

 

"One of these days, but not today," Templeton smiled as he took a bite of fruit and picked up the second bag of apples off the ground, hoisting them over his shoulder.

 

***

 

"Templeton, how are you doing sweetheart."  Abagail Baracus smiled at the blonde-haired teenager as he came through the door with her son.

 

"I'm doing good ma'am." Templeton allowed himself to be wrapped up in her arms as she hugged him to her chest.

 

"I was wondering if Templeton could eat with us tonight." Bosco moved to sit the bags of apples they had picked down by the door.

 

"Of course, he can," Abagail stepped back to look at the blonde. "Boy is nothing but skin and bones."

 

Bosco chuckled as he watched Templeton blush under his mother's intense gaze.

 

"I eat," Templeton protested.

 

'Not near enough,' Abagail thought but didn't say anything for fear of hurting the boy. She knew that Templeton's stepfather was a mean drunk that beat the younger man regularly and left the teen to fend for himself.  She was pretty sure that the only time he ever got a decent meal was when Bosco brought him home or when her son shared his own lunch when they met up.  

 

"You two go wash up and while I take Mr. Smith's meal to him." She gently pushed Templeton towards the small washroom at the back of the kitchen. "And don't forget to get the dirt out from under your nails."

 

"Yes ma'am," both teens said at once as they scrambled out of the kitchen to the back room.

 

Smiling and shaking her head she moved to the large cast iron oven to pull out a roast with potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery.  Carefully she fixed her employers plate with a large portion of everything before moving to the window to retrieve a loaf of bread that was cooling. She cut several thick slices of bread and placed them on a separate plate with a generous amount of fresh churned butter.  She loaded the plates on a serving tray along with a pitcher of fresh spring water before picking the entire thing up and started toward the dining room of her employer as the boys came out of the back room.

 

"Do you want me to take it for you, ma'am?" Templeton asked as he came up beside her.

 

"No sweetheart, you go ahead and sit down." She smiled at him as she left the room.

 

When she entered the dining room of the house, she noticed that her employer was not around.  Shaking her head she set the tray down and placed the meal on the table before moving to his study.

 

"Mr. Smith, your meal is ready."

 

"How many times do I have to tell you to call me Hannibal?" The silver haired man looked up from his paperwork with a kind smile on his lips and a twinkle in his blue eyes.

 

"It's called good manners sir."  She smiled back at him.  She and Smith had been having this conversation ever since he had employed her and she was sure they would continue to have this same conversation for some time to come.

 

"If you insist," Hannibal chuckled as he looked back down at his work.

 

"I'm also going to ask that you stop working and eat before your meal gets cold." She glared at him as he looked back up at her.  "I didn't fix you a nice meal for it to get cold on the table."

 

"Yes, ma'am." He shook his head as he placed his pen back in its holder before standing up. 

 

When his company asked him if he would be willing to transfer from the home office in the north to a small town just outside of Charleston he hadn't been too sure, but now that Hannibal was here he was happy that he had made the move.  Shortly after he had purchased his home and small farm he'd hired Mrs. Baracus on a recommendation of a local merchant after only having her in his home for a day Hannibal realized that he'd made the right choice; she was a sweet woman that made sure that he took care of himself. 

 

As he sat down at the table, he heard the sound of two male voices coming from the kitchen.

 

"Is Bosco home?"

 

"Yes, he's in the kitchen with his friend Templeton."

 

Hannibal racked his brain to see if he could ever remember meeting a Templeton in the six months that the Baracus family had lived in his home.

 

"Have I met him?"

 

"No sir, he lives with his stepfather on the ridge."

 

"What does he do?"

 

"He's a sharecropped but if you ask me he doesn't do anything but drink and beat that poor child." Mrs. Baracus shook her head as she poured Hannibal a glass of water.

 

Hannibal's head snapped up to stare at the older woman.

 

"What do you mean beats the poor child?" Hannibal had always been a man who believed in justice, and the thought of a woman or child being injured at the hands of a man did not set well with him one bit.

 

Abigale sighed as she looked back to the kitchen to make sure that Templeton could not hear her.  The last thing in the world she ever wanted was to cause the teen pain.  Moving closer to the table, she told Hannibal the story of Templeton's mother and how he was treated by his stepfather. 

 

"That man is nothing but poor white trash," she shook her head. "How that boy has stayed as sweet as he has is beyond me. You should have seen his mother Mr. Smith; she was the prettiest thing you have ever seen even after what that man did to her. She should have been treated like a piece of fine porcelain," Looking back at the kitchen she whispered. "The same as her son,"

 

"How did you meet her?" Hannibal had followed her gaze before he asked.

 

"She was selling eggs trying to get enough money to buy some sugar to make her boy a cake.  It was Templeton's fourth birthday, and her husband had run off with the little money she had saved to go and get drunk in the city.  I will never forget the first time I saw her, she was so beautiful even in her homemade dress and little Templeton was holding onto her skirt." Mrs. Baracus took in a deep breath and let it out slowly.  "I agreed to buy her eggs and invited her in while I got my money.  Bosco was sitting in the kitchen playing with some blocks his father had made for him, and he asked Templeton to join him.  It took a little bit of encouragement from both of us, but the two started playing and while they played Samantha and I talked.  That afternoon we baked a cake at my home and celebrated Templeton's birthday.  Bosco even found a toy for him to take home with them.  Samantha would visit from time to time, and I could see her health declining, just little over a year after we met she passed away.  I tried to visit Templeton to see how he was doing, but his stepfather wouldn't allow it, and we lost touch with him.  About four years after his mother died some boys were trying to beat up Bosco and Templeton jumped right into the middle of it helping my son."  She smiled. "You should have seen the two of them; they were both messes with ripped and torn clothing.  After that, I started seeing Templeton more often, and the two became even closer friends.  They try to spend as much time as possible together which is anytime Templeton can get away from his stepfather."

 

Hannibal turned his head to look at the kitchen before back at Mrs. Baracus.

 

"You made plenty of food for dinner?"

 

"Yes sir," Mrs. Baracus raised an eyebrow at the question.  Mr. Smith often ate the leftovers from the previous night instead of having her fix him something new for lunch.

 

"You make sure that boy gets his fill, and if you don't have plans for the leftovers send them home with him."

 

"Yes sir," Mrs. Baracus smiled; happy in the fact that she worked with such a generous man.

 

***

 

Mrs. Baracus watched as Templeton carefully selected each and every bite on his plate before eating it; she was always amazed at the younger man's manners.  Though his mother had only been alive for a few short years in the boy's life, she had instilled a great deal in him.

 

"Would you like some more carrots or meat?" she asked when she noticed he had finished both.

 

"No ma'am," he shook his head as he cut a piece of potato in half. "I'm going to be lucky to finish what I have."

 

"You don't eat enough to keep a squirrel alive," Bosco mumbled as he took a bite of his own meal.

 

"Leave him alone Bosco," Mrs. Baracus scolded. "Not everyone has your appetite. Remember your friend Murdock, he could out eat both of you put together, but he didn't weight much more than Templeton."

 

"He really could pack it away couldn't he?" Templeton laughed. "Remember that time when he ate all those crabapples."

 

"I didn't think he would ever get out of that outhouse." Bosco chuckled.

 

"And when he chased old man Bates dairy cow all over the pasture insisting it would make the milk creamy."

 

"Then he thought if you could put ice on her utters it would come out like ice cream." Bosco laughed so hard he had to put his hand over his mouth to keep from snorting.

 

"Is he still trying to invent a flying machine?" Mrs. Baracus asked as she refilled Templeton's glass with milk.  As the blonde looked down at his glass wondering how on earth he was going to drink another glass as Bosco started snickering.

 

"He sure is momma, in the last letter, he sent Murdock said that he was saving his money to buy a bicycle so that he could go faster and get in the air.

 

"I miss him," Templeton sighed as he put his fork down and wiped his mouth with a napkin.

 

"Me too," Bosco nodded.

 

"When is he coming home from school?" Mrs. Baracus asked.

 

"If his grandparents can earn the money for a train ticket he'll be home this summer."

 

"That will be nice, the three of you together again."

 

"It will," Bosco nodded but he knew as well as Templeton that the three of them wouldn't be able to spend much time together.  While he and Murdock would be free to do just about whatever they wanted once their chores were done, Templeton would be working in the fields from sun up to sun down.  If they were lucky, they might see him a few times before Murdock had to go back.

 

"I'm going to check on Mr. Smith," Mrs. Baracus stood and took her plate to the counter where she would wash them when they were all finished.  "You two finish eating, and when I get back, I will cut each of us a slice of pie."

 

While Bosco quickly polished off the rest of his meal, Templeton pushed the remains of his around the plate wondering how on earth he was going to finish it.  He loved Mrs. Baracus' s cooking, the woman was the best cook he had ever known, but he wasn't used to such large portions.  His meals frequently consisted of a squirrel or a rabbit if he was lucky, some nights he went to bed hungry.

 

Abigale smiled when she noticed that her boss was still sitting at the dining table finishing off his meal.  Many a night he would go back into his study and eat it at his desk.  She had no doubt in her mind that if she did not insist he eat at the table, he would spend every evening in his office hardly eating a thing.

 

"Are you ready for a piece of peach pie?" She asked as she placed his dishes on the serving tray.

 

"I don't think I could eat another bite." He sighed as he leaned back in his chair. "Excellent meal as always,"

 

"Thank you, sir," She smiled at him. "Can I be of any other service to you tonight?"

 

"No, I'm fine thank you, if you should need me I'll be in my study."

 

***

 

Mrs. Baracus couldn't help but smile as she entered the kitchen and noticed that Templeton and Bosco had cleared the table and were now busy washing and drying the dishes.  As the two continued to wash and clear away the nights meal she cut them each a large piece of peach pie and poured them both another cup of milk.  As soon as they finished their work she shooed them outside with their desert.

 

  The sun was starting to sink low in the sky when John Hannibal Smith decided that he needed a break from his work.  Standing up he stretched his back before heading into the kitchen to see if Mrs. Baracus might have left the coffee on the stove.  As Hannibal entered the kitchen off the back of the house, he noticed that it was empty, but the door that led to the back yard was open, allowing in a cool night breeze.  Moving to the stove, he poured himself a cup of coffee before stepping out on the back porch through the open door; looking out at the sky he noticed a streak of lighting in the distance.   

 

Sitting on the bottom step was Mrs. Baracus, peeling apples, her son was sitting beside her talking quietly, the other boy that Bosco had brought home earlier was nowhere to be seen.

 

"Do you mind if I join you?" Hannibal asked as he made his way down the stairs.

 

"Not at all sir," Mrs. Baracus moved over a little bit so that Hannibal could sit down on the step beside her. "It looks like we are going to have a real nasty thunderstorm this evening."

 

"It sure does," Hannibal took a sip of his coffee before turning to the younger man beside him. "Where's your friend Bosco?"

 

"He just left for home,"

 

Hannibal looked at the rapidly darkening sky, listened to the sound of thunder with the streaks of lightening moving closer and frowned.

 

"Is it safe for him to walk so far in the dark with a storm rolling in?"

 

Bosco just shrugged, "He does it all the time."

 

"Why didn't he just stay here for the night?"

 

"He doesn't want to be a burden to anyone," Abigale answered as she looked across the now dark yard. "The boy has always been that way; he does things for himself and doesn't take handouts."

 

"How long ago did he leave?" In the few minutes that he had been sitting with Abigale and Bosco, the wind had started to pick up, blowing the limbs of the large oak trees.

 

"About ten minutes ago," Bosco answered.

 

"You said he lived on the ridge?"

 

"Yes sir," Mrs. Baracus nodded.

 

"There is no way he's going to make it anywhere near his home before that storm hits."

 

"He'll find some place to wait it out," Bosco looked over at Hannibal before he started peeling another apple. "Templeton might be a lot of things, but stupid isn't one of them."

 

Another streak of lightning lit of the sky followed by a loud clap of thunder that shook the house.

 

"I still don't like it, Bosco; do you know which way he would take to get home?"

 

"Yes sir," The teen looked at the lightening as it danced across the darkening sky. "But honestly, you don't have to worry about Templeton he knows how to take care of himself."

 

"That might be, but if something were to happen to him when I could have prevented it, I would never be able to get it off conscious.  So if you don't mind, please tell me which way he went."

 

"I can do better than that I can show you," Bosco was sure that Hannibal Smith would always be a mystery to him.  He could have bought slaves to run his house and farm for a fraction of what he paid his mother, but he didn't.  When Bosco didn't have any money of his own Smith would find a few chores for him to do so that Bosco could buy candy or other items he might want.  Mr. Smith always treated him and his mother with the same respect he would show any white person that came into his home.  Now here Mr. Smith was going out with a thunderstorm rolling in fast to bring back a friend of his who he had never met; a young man that most people wouldn't give the time of day to.

 

As the wind started to pick up, Hannibal increased his pace from a fast walk to a jog.  He could feel the pressure starting to drop, and he knew that this was going to be more than a mere thunderstorm.  Hannibal knew that the Charleston area was not prone to tornados, but they had happened in the past.  Through what he was worried about the most were the straight line winds that could blow down buildings and most certainly injuring a teenage boy caught out in the open.

 

"Are you sure he would have come this way?" Hannibal asked Bosco as they continued to jog into the oncoming storm.

 

"Yes sir, he won't cut through the woods for another two miles."

 

The two had continued on another mile before Hannibal started to think that perhaps he had made a grave mistake by trying to find the other teen.  The wind was getting so high that he was having trouble standing on his own feet, and there had been several occasions that he'd had to catch Bosco before it shoved the teen to the ground. 

 

"Bosco, what are you doing out here?" A voice rang out over the top of the howling wind.

 

"Templeton!" Bosco turned in a circle to trying to see where the voice had come from. "Where are you?"

 

"Look up!"

 

Bosco looked up to the top window of the old saw mill, and there was his friend looking down at him.

 

"Your momma should have called you squirrel."

 

"Why's that?" Templeton asked as he leaned farther out the window to hear his friend over the wind.

 

"Cause you always looking for higher ground, you nut."

 

"You're calling me a nut, that's a laugh; you're the one about to get soaked to the bone in a thunderstorm, not me."

 

"Gentlemen, I hate to break this up, but we need to get back to the house."

 

"No offense sir, but it's dry here, and it's going to continue to be that way when the rain starts," Templeton yelled down to the man standing a few feet from Bosco, though the only thing he could make out was his silver hair.

 

"I can see why you would want to stay where you are considering what is coming." Hannibal looked up at the broken window and the dark silhouette leaning out of it.  "But I can promise you, kid, when this storm hits you don't want to be in that structure."

 

The figure in the window didn't move for a moment then disappeared a few seconds later the teen reappeared in the doorway.  When a streak of lightening lit up the sky and allowed Hannibal to see the boy for the first time his breath caught in his throat; the kid was absolutely beautiful.  Templeton's blonde hair was highlighted from the sun; his eyes were blue with a slight hint of green that reminded Hannibal of the ocean before a storm. The boy's body was tan and lean with a slim waist, and narrow hips thought there was no mistaking that the teen was all muscle.

 

"So do you have a suggestion where we should go that will be safe?" The wind whipped the blonde's hair around his head, and Hannibal felt the urge to run his hands over it to smooth it back into place.

 

"Back to my house,"

 

"Your house?" Templeton asked as he looked the older man up and down.

 

"Yeah," Bosco came up behind Templeton, "This is my mom's boss, Mr. Smith."

 

"I don't know, Mr. Smith, I really should be getting back to my house."

 

"Why?" Bosco asked as he moved closer to Templeton.

 

"What if David gets home before I do."

 

"You said he wouldn't be back until tomorrow if then."

 

"I know but," Templeton looked back down the road towards the ridge where he was heading. "You know how he is."

 

"Yeah I know all too well." Bosco frowned as he remembered all the time his friend had shown up with a black eye or was so stiff from a beating he could hardly move.

 

"How about this," Hannibal moved to place a hand on Templeton's shoulder before he could put any more thought into returning to his home.  "First thing in the morning right after breakfast, I'll take you back.  If you stepfather is there I will explain that I asked you to wait out the storm in my home with Bosco and his mother."

 

"No!" Templeton yelled over the top of the wind as he took a step backward, fear filling his eyes. "No, you can't let him know I was with Bosco, he doesn't approve."

 

"Doesn't approve…" Hannibal cocked his head to the side.

 

"I'm a negro." Bosco let out an exasperated sigh.  It was great that his mother's boss didn't see the color of people but at the same time, he seemed to forget that others did.

 

"Alright," Hannibal nodded as he quickly thought of another plan. "You come to my home and spend the night if your stepfather is home in the morning I will tell him that I hired you to do some work for me would that work?"

 

"I guess, as long as I could do something to earn some money to give to him as proof."

 

"I'll take care of giving him the money, don't you worry about that. Now, what do you say we get back to the house before we end up soaked to the bone?"

 

"Sounds like a plan," Templeton smiled, and Hannibal had to make himself breathe again.

 

The three were halfway back to Hannibal's home when the heavens opened up and pelted them with rain and sleet.  By the time they arrived at the back door, the three were drenched and shivering with cold.

 

"Thank heavens you found him," Mrs. Baracus sighed as she looked at the dripping wet men standing in her kitchen. "You took like a bunch of drowned rats, all of you get out of those wet clothes, and I'll get warm bath water started for each of you."

 

Mrs. Baracus hurried out of the room when she came back in a few minutes later she was carrying an armful of thick towels.  She handed then out to Bosco and Hannibal, who already had their shirt stripped off and were working on getting their shoes and socks off, she was about to hand one to Templeton when he noted he was still standing there shivering, completely clothed.

 

"Templeton, darling, you need to get out of those wet clothes before you catch a cold."

 

"I'll be alright," Templeton tried to smile but his teeth were chattering, and his lips had a slight blue cast to them.

 

"Nonsense child," Mrs. Baracus took a step towards him to remove his shirt, but Templeton took a step back.

 

"Please, I'll be alright,"

 

"What's wrong with you?" Bosco asked as he looked at his friend. "You can't be shy, Momma saw you without a shirt before."

 

Hannibal watched the scene playing out in front of him, while he wasn't entirely sure about what was going on he had a pretty good theory about why the teen was reluctant to remove his clothing.  If the boy's stepfather had beaten him recently, he would be ashamed of the marks on his body.

 

"Templeton, why don't you come up to my room for a minute, I have a night shirt you can use you're waiting for your bath and your clothes dry."

 

"I'm alright sir," Templeton put his hands under his armpits, and that was when Hannibal noticed the bruises on his forearms confirming his suspicions.

 

"That might be a kid, but I insist, now follow me."

 

"Both of you take a towel before you drip water all over my clean floors," Abigale demanded as she shoved a towel in each of their hands as they passed her.

 

***

 

Hannibal lead the way up the stairs to his bedroom, as he entered the room Templeton stopped at the doorway.  Moving to one of his dressers he rummaged around until he found a thick flannel nightshirt, and robe. 

 

"I brought these from Michigan with me," Hannibal turned to face Templeton, "I didn't think I would ever need them as hot as it gets during the summers, but I guess I found a use for them after all. Why don't you go wait in the bathroom and I'll help Mrs. Baracus bring up some water for your bath?  Once you get cleaned up, you can put these on until the morning when your clothes are dried out."

 

"I really don't need them, sir," Templeton shook his head as Hannibal approached him.

 

"Kid, you're so cold you're turning blue." Hannibal sighed as he held up the clothing. "Wait in here until we're finished filling the tub, take a nice long bath and get warmed up.  I'm going to put these in the bathroom when you're done put these on.  No one is going to bother you while you're undressed, I'll make sure of that."

 

"It's not fair to you, you should go before me, it's your home."

 

"You let me worry about me," Hannibal smiled as he squeezed the younger man's shoulder.

 

Twenty minutes later and with a bit more convincing Templeton sat in the large tub full of steaming water washing the grime and dirt out of his hair and off his body.  He was sure that Mr. Smith was going to be mad when he saw how dirty the tub was once he got out but there was nothing that Templeton could do; it wasn't often that he got a chance to take a real bath.

 

 As he let the heat warm him, he wondered what it would be like to take a bath whenever he wanted instead of boiling water on the stove and washing himself that way.  He remembered when he was younger his mother would fill the wash tub with warm water and bathe him that way, but he long ago outgrew that.  He was just starting to get sleepy when there was a soft knock at the door, and it opened just a crack.

 

"Hey kid, I just wanted to check to see if you were doing alright." Mr. Smith's voice came through the door, but he didn't step inside as he'd promised.

 

"I'm okay sir; I was just getting ready to get out so you could have your bathroom."

 

"Take your time, I was just checking to see if you needed anything.  There is more hot water ready if you want."

 

Templeton sighed, he would love to have more hot water and to lie in the bathtub longer, but he knew it would be rude.

 

"I'm going to get out sir."

 

"No, kid, stay in there as long as you like, you don't have to get out because of me; I've already cleaned up."

 

"I'm sorry I shouldn't have stayed…"

 

"Templeton, relax." Hannibal pushed the door open just a little more but stayed outside. "If you're enjoying yourself then stay and as long as you want."

 

"Are you sure?"

 

"Positive," Hannibal couldn't help but smile when he heard the hopefulness in the younger man's voice.  "If you're comfortable enough with me coming into the bathroom I'll even pour the water in for you."

 

There were a few moments of silence and Hannibal thought his offer was going to be turned down when he heard the younger man's voice.

 

"Would you mind?"

 

"Not at all," Hannibal smiled as he pushed the door open the remainder of the way.  He made his way over to the bathtub and making sure not to stare at the boy, who was sunk down as low as he could get below the water.  Hannibal quickly poured that water in before going back to the door. "If you need anything else just yell."

 

"Thank you, sir."

 

"You're more than welcome kid." Hannibal nodded as he pulled the door closed.

 

 

"If you were about a foot taller that might halfway fit you." BA snickered at Face as he came into the main living area of the house.

 

"Leave him alone," Mrs. Baracus shushed her son as she looked up from her sewing. "You can have a seat over here by me sweetheart."

 

"Where's Mr. Smith?" Templeton asked as he looked around the room a little disappointed that the older man wasn't there.

 

"He's in his study," Abigale shook her head. "He spends way too much time in there by himself."

 

"Do you think it would be alright if I went in and told him thank you?"

 

"Of course, it would, I can't imagine anyone, especially Mr. Smith getting mad at someone for saying thank you."

 

 

***

 

Hannibal looked up from his papers when he heard a light knock on the door casing.  He couldn't help but smile when he noticed it was Bosco's friend standing there in the nightshirt he had given him instead of Mrs. Baracus.

 

"I'm not disturbing you am I, sir?"

 

"Of course not, come on in and sit down if you'd like." Hannibal motioned towards the sofa that sat near the fireplace.

 

"I just wanted to say thank you for everything."

 

"You're more than welcome kid," Hannibal leaned back in his chair to study the teen. "If you need anything don't hesitate to ask."

 

"Thank you, sir," Face dropped his gaze to the floor as the older man's blue eyes looked him up and down.

 

"Maybe I should have Mrs. Baracus cut a few inches off the bottom of the nightgown to keep you from tripping over it," Hannibal smiled as he noticed the material pooled at the bottom of the younger man's feet.

 

"It is a bit long," Templeton laughed as he took a handful of fabric and picked it up so that his feet were exposed then turned around in a circle before moving to sit down on the couch. "I guess now I know why the ladies walk like that."

 

"I always thought it was to keep their skirts and petticoats clean, but I can see where your theory has more merit to it."  Hannibal chuckled.  "So tell me, Templeton, what do you and your stepfather grow?"

 

"Mostly weeds," Face shrugged.

 

"How do you pay for the farm?"

 

"The landowner takes just about everything, I think the only reason we haven't been thrown off the property is that he used to take pity on my mother, and now me."

 

Hearing the contempt in the younger man's voice Hannibal studied him closer and realized what the implications the boy's statement might mean. Hannibal thought about telling Templeton he was sorry, but something told him that it wouldn't be appreciated.  Instead, Hannibal kept on with his questions trying to find out more about the teen but also trying to keep the conversation lighter.

 

"Do you have any livestock?"

 

"We had a cow up until a few months ago, but David sold her. Though it was probably for the best, it was getting kind of hard to take care of her."

 

'Well you put your foot in your mouth again didn't you Smith.' Hannibal thought as he tried to come up with a safe topic; before he could embarrass himself, further Templeton spoke up.

 

"Can I ask what you do Mr. Smith?"

 

"First off, you can call me Hannibal instead of Mr. Smith; it makes me feel older than I am."

 

"You don't look that old…" Templeton started then stopped as a blush crept up into his cheeks. "That really didn't come out the way I meant it to."

 

"It seems I'm not the only one having trouble with their communication skills this evening." Hannibal chuckled. "How about we start over?"

 

"That would be good," Templeton smiled, and Hannibal's heart started beating faster.  "My name is Templeton Peck, I live on the ridge with my stepfather David Phillips, and he's a mean drunk that doesn't have two cents to his name.  My mother died when I was young, but we stay on the farm because we manage to grow just enough cotton and corn to pay most of the rent and the land owner really likes the way I look because I remind him of my mother.  When David leaves for a few days, I sneak off and spend as much time with Bosco and when he is in town my friend Murdock. I also like to hunt and fish when I have time, I'm really good with a bow and a black powder rifle."

 

"Nice to meet you, Templeton," Hannibal returned the younger man's smile. "My name is John Smith, but my friends call me Hannibal.  I was born and raised in Michigan; I am the middle son of seven children; two brothers and a sister older than me, and two sisters and a brother younger.  My parents were farmers, but I decided that I wanted to do something different with my life.  So as soon as I finished school, I went to West Point for a formal education. When I graduated, I joined the Army where I spent fifteen years in the service when I left I had achieved the rank of Colonel.  After I left the army, I started working with a trading company in New York that deals in commodities such as cotton, rice, and wheat. We buy different raw materials from around the United States and sell them to various countries around the world.   My company asked if I would be willing to transfer to the south since I was the only one in our office that wasn't married.  I decided that a change would be good so I moved here where I hired Mrs. Baracus to be my housekeeper.  Who other than Bosco are really the only people I know outside of work in this lovely little town."

 

"I'm not much, but you know me now." Templeton offered with a soft smile.

 

"I am more than happy to make your acquaintance Mr. Peck and look forward to seeing you around the house for many years to come." 

 

"Thank you, sir,"

 

"Hannibal," The older man corrected.

 

"Thank you, Hannibal." Templeton's smile widened, and Hannibal's heart started beating faster again.

 

Hannibal was just about to speak again when there came a soft knock at the door, and Mrs. Baracus appeared holding two cups of steaming mugs.

 

"I thought you two might like a cup of hot chocolate."  She moved sit one mug on Hannibal's desk before handing the second one to Templeton.

 

"Thank you," Face took a small sip before letting out a contented sigh.  It was a very rear treat for him to get anything sweet and he almost never got chocolate.  

 

"You're welcome, sweetheart." Abigale reached down to brush the hair out of his eyes before leaving the room.

 

"So tell me, Templeton, what do you plan on doing when you finish school?" Hannibal asked as he picked up his own mug.

 

"I don't go to school anymore, so I guess I'll end up working in the fields."

 

Hannibal was about to ask why Templeton was no longer in school when he remembered what Mrs. Baracus had told him.  As sad as the boy's circumstances where he knew that Templeton wasn't the only child that was going without an education in the south.  While wealthy families could afford to send their children off to get a formal education most of the poor had to work in the fields to scratch out a living.  He had paid the local school teacher handsomely to take in Bosco so that the boy could get a better education than what he could be taught at home.

 

"Would you like to go back to school?"

 

Templeton studied him over the top of his mug for a moment before he answered.

 

"Yes sir, I would, but there is no use hoping or wishing for something that's not going to happen."

 

Hannibal didn't say anything else, but his mind was already starting to make plans on how he could give this beautiful young boy a better life than the one he currently had.

 

"How well can you read and write?"

 

"My mother taught me how to sign my name, and I can read a little bit out of the Bible."

 

"What about arithmetic?"

 

"I can add up the things I buy in the general store, and to make sure that Mr. Humphries gives me the right amount of change back."

 

"That's good," Hannibal nodded as he picked up his own cup and took a drink. "Boy, I have to say that no one can make a cup of hot chocolate like Abigale Baracus."

 

"She can cook too," Templeton added.

 

"That she can," Hannibal agreed.

 

"I guess I better leave you alone so you can get your work done."

 

"You're more than welcome to stay if you want," Hannibal watched as the teen's eyes lit up at his offer.

 

"Are you sure?" Templeton didn't know why but he really wanted to stay close to the older man.  Typically men made him nervous, they seemed to sense that something was different about him and often treated him different from other boys his age. However, there was something about John Smith that made him feel comfortable and at ease.  As he looked into the older man's blue eyes, he thought about what it might be like to spend every night sitting across from Hannibal Smith.

 

"I'm sure,"

 

The two talked about the town and the different people that lived in it for some time.  As they spoke Hannibal worked on his papers, it wasn't long however before he noticed that the conversation was starting to become more and more one-sided.  Looking up from his work he noted that Templeton had fallen asleep sitting up on the couch.  Getting up from his desk he moved over to the sleeping teen, carefully he removed the now empty mug from the boy's hands before repositioning him on the couch and covering him with a quilt that was lying on the back.  Being unable to help himself Hannibal brushed Templeton's hair off his face before stepping back to return to his desk.

 

Hannibal wasn't sure how long he had been working when he noticed movement out the corner of his eye, turning his head he saw Bosco standing in the doorway.

 

"Momma said it was time to go to bed so I came to get Templeton."

 

"I think he beat you to sleep by about two hours," Hannibal responded quietly as he pointed to Bosco's friend on the couch.

 

"I'll wake him up and get him out of here." Bosco sighed as he moved toward Templeton.

 

"Just leave him be," Hannibal held up his hand stopping the teen. "I'll put him in bed when I get finished. If you would, please have your mother turn down the bed in the guest bedroom."

 

"I was going to have Templeton share my bed."

 

"You two don't need to share a bed when I have a guest room that no one ever uses."

 

"Sounds good to me, he likes to hog the covers, have a good night Hannibal."

 

"You too, Bosco."

 

Hannibal continued working for another hour before he decided that he'd had enough for the evening. Standing up he popped his back before moving to stand in front of the couch where Templeton lay sleeping.  Kneeling down he placed a hand on the boy's shoulder before gently squeezing it.

 

"Templeton, time for bed."

 

Templeton slowly opened his eyes to look at the man kneeling beside him.  Again he was struck by how handsome the older man was with his tan skin, silver hair and bright blue eyes.  He didn't know why but he had an overwhelming desire to run his fingers through the silver strands to see how soft it was.  He wondered what it would be like to be held in such strong arms and to rest his head on the broad shoulders.  

 

 "What time is it?"

 

Hannibal looked over at the mantel clock are realized just how late it truly was.

 

"Well past the time I should have sent you to bed."

 

"Come on kid, up you go," Hannibal moved his hand from the top of the younger man's shoulder to under it so he could help Templeton sit up.  As Templeton got to his feet, he tripped over the extra fabric pooled around his feet.  Hannibal quickly grabbed him around the waist and lifted him up to his chest before Templeton could land flat on his face.

 

"Thanks," Templeton sighed out as he rested his head on the older man's chest for a brief moment, wishing he could stay exactly where he was at. "That could have been painful."

 

"I have no doubt it would," Hannibal closed his eyes as he took in the wonder smell of the blonde hair just under his nose. Oh, how he could get used to having the delightful smell fill his nostrils every day Hannibal thought then sighed as he set the teen back down on the floor.

 

***

 

"Where in the hell have you been!" David Phillips yelled at his stepson the moment the blonde slid off the back of Hannibal's horse.

 

"I was helping at Mr. Smith's house." Templeton took an involuntary step backward as Phillips started to advance on him.

 

"You should have been here doing your chorus!"

 

"If you have a problem with the boy not being here, then you need to take it up with me." Hannibal declared as he swung down from his horse, putting himself between Templeton and his stepfather.

 

"Just who the hell are you?" Phillips drew himself up to his full height which made him an inch taller than Hannibal.  

 

"John Smith," Hannibal stared the other man up and down. He had seen people like Phillips all his life, bullies that were tough when it came to pushing around people that were smaller but cowards when they were confronted.  "I hired Templeton yesterday afternoon to do some work when the storm hit I insisted that he stay the night for his own safety."

 

"How much did you pay him?" the drunk quickly switched gears.

 

"Twenty-five cents, this time, because of the amount of work he had to do." Hannibal wasn't sure but could have sworn the other man actually licked his lips as he looked at Templeton.  "And I would like to hire him on full time, every day at the rate of five cents a day.  I will need him at my home at 8:00 in the morning and he will not be arriving home until late in the evening.  I will make sure he is fed before I return him home so that you don't have to worry about that."

 

"Keep him as long as you want just make sure his wages are paid directly to me,"  Phillips growled out as he looked at Hannibal then at his stepson.

 

"Agreed," Hannibal reached into his pocket, pulling out a few coins he tossed them at the drunk. "Here is from yesterday.  Make sure he is at my home by eight tomorrow and ready to work."

 

"He'll be there."

 

Hannibal watched the way the drunk stared at Templeton, and he didn't like what he was seeing.

 

"If the boy is unable to work I won't pay you, do I make myself clear?"

 

Phillips turned his attention back to Hannibal. "Are you implying something, Mr. Smith?"

 

"No, I'm just making sure that we are clear on the condition he needs to be in when he arrives at my home."

 

"Templeton, get to your chores, so you can be ready in the morning."

 

"Sure," Templeton started to move off when Hannibal called out to him.

 

"See you in the morning kid,"

 

"Yes, sir," Templeton offered him a sad smile, and it was everything that Hannibal could do not to put the boy on his horse and take him back to the house.

 

***

 

Hannibal was sitting on his front porch drinking a cup of coffee when he noticed someone walking down the still dark road, as the individual got closer he recognized the slight build of the person and realized it was Templeton. Pulling out his pocket watch he looked at the time and was shocked to see that it was only six in the morning.  He waited until the younger man was almost at the front of the house before he waved which Templeton quickly returned.

 

"You're here extra early."

 

"David was passed out, so I thought I would get going before he woke up with his usual hangover."

 

"What time did you leave your house?"

 

"I don't know about an hour ago." Templeton shrugged, "I would have been here sooner, but I stopped in a field by the house to pick some blackberries for Mrs. Baracus."

 

Templeton held out a bag to Hannibal, which was full of the fruit.

 

"That was really sweet of you kid."

 

"She fed me last night, I figured it was the least I could do." Then without warning the younger man dropped his head hiding his face with his hair. "Though I wish you hadn't told David you paid me, I don't know how I'm going to pay you back for it."

 

"Templeton, you don't owe me anything, if fact there is a jar in the kitchen with fifty cents in it for you."

 

"No," the younger man shook his head as he took a step back away from Hannibal. "I can't pay you back for what you gave David and I defiantly can't take any more money from you."

 

"Don't worry kid; I have a way for you to earn it and more if you choose to." Seeing the wariness creeping into the younger man's blue-green eyes Hannibal continued. "I want you to go to school and get your education."

 

"What?" Templeton looked at him completely stunned.

 

"You and I both know that without a good education you will spend the rest of your days doing manual labor for someone else, putting money in their pockets instead of your own.  I don't want that for you."

 

"Why do you care?" Templeton eyed him suspiciously.

 

"Because I can tell you're an incredibly smart young man that can go far in life. You're an individual with a generous heart which means you are will be willing to help others in need." Hannibal offered Templeton a soft smile.  "I don't want to see you grow old and bitter like your stepfather when I know you can be so much more."

 

"I will never be like him," Face shook his head.

 

"Then take the opportunity I'm giving you, go to school to give yourself an improved chance of having a better life."

 

"So what all do I have to do?"

 

"You get yourself to school on time," Hannibal stopped for a moment when he remembered the boy's home life. "You come here first thing in the morning, eat breakfast then you go to school with Bosco when you get finished the two of you will do any homework that the teacher assigned to you here.  After that, I'll have a few things for you to do around here if it's not too late.  You'll eat dinner here with us, and I will make sure you get home safely. For every day you go to school and do your assignments I'll give you a nickel which I will put in the jar in the kitchen so your stepfather can't touch it.  That money will be for you and you only Templeton."

 

"What about the money you're going to give David?"

 

"I'll take care of him."

 

"That's not fair to you,"

 

"Templeton," Hannibal walked to the front door of the house. "You let me worry about him."

 

"But,"

 

"No buts, that's the deal." Opening the front door, he turned back to look at the teen. "The choice is up to you, walk through this door and take a chance for a new life, or go home and live the way you have been. It's completely up to you."

 

Templeton looked at the open door, and the silver headed man holding it.  Though he hated the idea of being indebted to anyone the chance to get away from the fields and his abusive stepfather was too good of an opportunity not to take.  Not to mention the chance to see Mr. Smith every day was really something he really didn't want to pass up.

 

***

 

Hannibal couldn't help but smile as he watched Templeton and Bosco sitting at the kitchen table doing their schoolwork.   Every day since Templeton had taken his offer to get an education the boy had been at his home bright and early, ready to go.  Mrs. Baracus would make sure the two ate a good breakfast as she packed them each lunch.  Around two in the afternoon they would arrive back at the house, on days they had no extra school work Templeton would help Bosco do his chores or run a few errands for him.  Days that they had homework the two would work side by side in the kitchen until it was done.  Every evening no matter what the day brought Mrs. Baracus would fix a good meal for them all before Hannibal would take Templeton home.  Though as the summer turned to fall and the days started to get shorter he was considering telling Phillips that he would be keeping Templeton overnight at his home for the boy's safety.  Something he was sure the other man wouldn't care about as long as he got paid.

 

  "Why are there so many rules that even more exceptions?" Templeton sighed as he ran his hand through his hair in frustration. "The teacher tells us I before E except after C and then there are all these exceptions to the rule like species, science, sufficient, or seize, weird, vein, their."

 

Hannibal was just about to step forward and see if he could help when the other teen responded.

 

"Don't know what you are complaining about you could have to deal with this stuff." Bosco huffed. 

 

Leaning over Face looked at the math problem that Bosco was working on and rolled his eyes.

 

"You have to be kidding right?"  When Bosco scowled at him, Face rolled his eyes again as he took the other boy's paper. "Look all you have to do with division is see how many times you can squeeze one number into a bunch of other numbers. Look you have ten here now how many times can you fit it into five hundred?"

 

"I don't know that's the problem." Bosco glared at Templeton.

 

"All you have to do is take the five drop down a zero figure out how many times ten goes into fifty then add the other zero up at the top."

 

"Yeah, that's as clear as mud," Bosco growled.

 

"Here let's try it this way." Templeton got up from the table and moved to the shelf where Hannibal kept the jars that contained their money.  Pulling down his jar, Templeton walked back to the table and started pulling out nickels. "First, pretend that each one of these is a dime, okay?"

 

"Yeah,"

 

"Now let's say you want to buy something that costs five dollars, how many dimes would it take to buy it?"

 

"You don't expect me to count out five dollars' worth of these do you?"

 

"No, we can do it a whole lot quicker and easier if you do this.  How many dimes does it take to add up to fifty cents?"

 

"That's easy five."

 

"Right," Templeton nodded. "So put the five up here that takes care of these two numbers." Face put his thumb over the top of the five and the zero on the sheet.  "But now you have to do something with this zero, and the easiest thing you can do is put it up with the five at the top of you answer.  That gets rid of all the numbers in your problem, ten does into five hundred, fifty times."

 

"You sure?" Bosco looked over at Templeton then back at his paper.

 

"Yeah, and there is a way to check it too," Templeton smiled as he pulled Bosco's scrap paper over to him.  "If you take the ten here that you were using to divide your problem by and then multiply it by your answer it will add up to the five hundred that the ten was going into; see."

 

"That's cool, but what about this one.  It doesn't have a zero at the end of it, can I just move the two up when I figure out the first two numbers."

 

"No, those are a little different." Templeton shook his head as he picked up the coins and placed them in the jar before moving them out of the way so he could help Bosco with next problem.

 

Hannibal looked at the jar on the table; every time he saw it, he was amazed.  Since he had started putting coins in the jar for Templeton, the boy had only taken money out of it one time, and that was to buy Mrs. Baracus several yards of taffeta fabric for her birthday.  Bosco had tried to get Templeton to go to the general store with him several times to buy candy, but the blonde had just told him no thanks.  When Bosco had asked him what he was saving for Templeton had just said "Something special," and left it at that.

 

"You two about finished?" Hannibal asked as he moved to the stove to pour himself a cup of coffee.

 

"Yeah, I just have one more sentence to finish, and the lummox here only has three more problems."

 

"Who are you calling a lummox?" Bosco growled.

 

"You," Templeton smiled back ignoring the other teen's glaring look.

 

"Just checking," Bosco laughed as he shoved Templeton so hard he fell out of his chair.

 

***

 

"You can't mean it," Templeton looked at Hannibal in complete awe.

 

"I do," Hannibal smiled as he held the reins of his dapple gray mare out to the younger man.  "You can feed and stable her here during the day and tether her at your home at night until you can get that small paddock I saw out back of your house fit for her."

 

"Why are you giving her to me?"

 

"I don't mind taking you home kid, but I worry about you walking here so early in the morning.   If you take Sosa, then I know you have the ability to get away from things that will do you harm."

 

Though David's name was not spoken Templeton knew that Hannibal was giving him a way to escape more than just animals he might encounter on the road.

 

"I don't know what to say,"

 

"Say thank you, and take good care of her," Hannibal smiled. "Just remember when she gets something stuck in her head she can be a real bitch."

 

"Thank you," Templeton reached up to rub the horse's muzzle. "But what are you going to do without her?"

 

"Let me show you what I just had delivered from a friend in Kentucky,"  Hannibal smiled as he placed his arm around the younger man's shoulders as he led them to the pasture on the other side of the barn.  "Templeton, meet Damascus Steel."

 

"Wow, he's magnificent," Templeton gasped as he got his first look at the gray stallion prancing around the paddock throwing his head back and forth.

 

"He is isn't he," Hannibal smiled.

 

Tired of being ignored Sosa shoved the teen forward with her nose before stomping her hoof and pawing the ground beside at him.

 

"I think she's jealous," Templeton laughed as he turned his attention back to her, kissing the end of her nose and running his hand up and down her neck before running his fingers through her mane.

 

"I can completely understand how she feels," Hannibal mumbled as he watched the teen shower the mare with affection.

 

"You seem to like things with silver gray hair." Before Hannibal could answer, a smile broke out on the younger man's face as he added. "Me too,"

 

*** Months later***

 

'My God he is beautiful' Hannibal thought as he sat on the back steps of his home watching Templeton chop wood for the kitchen stove.  The late evening sun was shining on the younger man's bare back giving it a dark tan color, the light shown off the boy's hair lighting it up like a golden halo around his head. He watched as several beads of sweat collected between Templeton's shoulder blades before rolling down his back and into his waistband.  Hannibal longed so bad to chase those droplets of sweat with his tongue.   He tried to turn his gaze away from the younger man to keep from embarrassing himself as he felt his trousers getting tight but it was no use; he couldn't help but turn his attention back to all that tan skin.

 

Over the last few months, Templeton had really started filling out, while the blonde would never be a large framed man, he becoming more muscular, his shoulders a little broader, looking less like a scarecrow and more like a Greek God.  The kid was going to make some woman a very lucky lady one day.

 

"Hey kid, you probably need to head for home."  As the words left his mouth two things happened, one he regretted saying them and two he watched as Templeton's shoulder slumped.

 

"Yeah," the younger man sighed as he dropped the ax blade into the stump he had been chopping wood on.

 

"Would you want to spend the night tomorrow?" Hannibal asked as he rose from his seat on the steps.  "I can tell your stepfather that I need your help Saturday and Sunday."

 

"Sure," Templeton's face lit up with that smile that Hannibal couldn't get enough of. "What do you need me to do?"

 

"Help Bosco carry the picnic basket," Hannibal returned younger man's smile. "Mrs. Baracus wants to go into the country and spend the day collecting herbs and flowers.  There's a rumor that she's going to fix fried chicken, potato salad, and a chocolate cake."

 

"Count me in." Templeton beamed at him, and Hannibal felt his heart skip a beat.

 

***

 

"Happy Birthday kid," Hannibal smiled as he handed the younger man a package wrapped in plain brown paper.   Templeton looked at the box in the older man's hands before looking back up at him. "Go ahead, I promise it won't bite you."

 

Hannibal watched as a smile broke out on the younger man's face before taking the package from him. Carefully Templeton pulled the paper off the gift a Hannibal watched as the boy's eyes went wide before a huge smiled broke out on his face.  The younger man's long thin fingers caressed the fabric before they moved to touch the ivory buttons.

 

"I've never had a store bought shirt before."

 

"Do you like it?"

 

"I love it, Hannibal, thank you!"

 

Hannibal was taken by surprise when the blonde threw his arms around his neck and hugged him tight.  It took just a moment before he wrapped his arms around the boy and returning the teen's embrace.

 

"You're more than welcome kid," Reluctantly Hannibal pulled out of the hug but made sure that he placed his arms over Templeton's shoulders as he guided him towards the dining room where Mrs. Baracus had prepared a meal of Templeton's favorite foods.   

 

***

 

"Mrs. Baracus, can you sew this on for me please?" Templeton asked as he walked out on the back porch carrying his jacket in one hand and a cloth patch in another.

 

"Of course," she smiled as she took the jacket from him. "Darling this thing is more patch that coat."

 

"I know, but I have to make it last a little longer before I get a new one." He stated as he sat down next to her on the top step.

 

"Now young'un I know you have enough money saved up you can buy yourself a decent winter coat."

 

"I can't," Templeton shook his head.

 

"What is so important that you can't buy yourself a coat?" Abigale frowned at him.

 

"I'm saving for a stone for my mother."

 

"That's sweet of you, but you need a good coat."

 

"No," the teen shook his head. "You don't understand, I have to get this for her, it's my fault she's dead."

 

"Templeton, her death was not your fault."

 

"Yes, it was, if it weren't for me, she wouldn't have been thrown out of her home. She would have had people to wait on her instead of having to work in the fields that killed her.  It's because of me she's dead." Templeton choked out.

 

"That's enough child," Abigale pulled the teen into her arms, hugging him tight. "Your mother loved you deeply; you were her whole reason for living.  Do you hear me, young man? You're right when her family found out she was going to have a baby they cast her out, but that is on them not you.  She also made her choice to keep you, there are ways to get rid of an unwanted baby, but she didn't do it, you understand, she loved you with all her heart, she loved you."

 

Feeling the boy sobbing in her arms, she held him tighter to her body as she rubbed his back. After several minutes Templeton calmed, but she kept him wrapped in her arms.

 

"How much is her stone going to cost?"

 

"Mr. Hanson said he can carve me a nice one with her name and a lily on it for $8.35. I've only got seventy cents to go before I have enough."

 

"I'll loan you the money sweetheart."

 

"No," Templeton shook his head as he leaned back to look Mrs. Baracus. "I have to do this for her, I have to do it."

 

Seeing the tears building in his eyes Abigale pulled him back to her body as she rocked him in her arms.

 

 "I understand, sweetheart."

 

If either one had turned around, they would have seen Hannibal standing in the doorway wiping the tears from his cheeks with the palm of his hand. He would make sure that the boy earned the money that he needed long before winter arrived.  

 

***

 

Templeton smiled from ear to ear as he looked at his report card.  Mr. Smith had promised him and Bosco a dime for each A+ they received when their grades came out.  By buckling down and studying harder than he's ever studied before Templeton aced all of his classes giving him the money he needed to pay for his mother's gravestone and a little extra to purchase Bosco some candy, Mrs. Baracus a pound of sugar and Mr. Smith a couple of the cigars he liked.

 

"I can't believe you managed to pull it off." Bosco shook his head as he looked at his own report card.  His grades weren't bad, but he'd only managed to get four A+ marks the rest were B's.

 

"I worked my butt off,"

 

"So you still going to Mr. Hanson's after you get your money from Mr. Smith?"

 

"Yeah," Templeton smiled as he thought about getting a headstone for his mother after all the years that had passed.

 

 

***

 

David Phillips stumbled out of the local tavern his mood was foul, and his temper was running high.  He'd spent most of the day drinking and gambling away the money that Smith had sent home with his bastard stepson last night.  Though Phillips was more than happy to take Smith's money he resented the other man and all that Smith was doing for the boy.  Since Templeton had started working for Smith, Templeton had begun putting on weight and his once thin frame was now filling out with solid muscle.  The boy still kept his mother's fine-boned features, and he would never be a large sized man, but he was going to be beautiful like his mother and that just stuck in Phillips crawl.   

 

As he made his way down the street, he noticed his stepson leaving the funeral home with the nigger boy, Bosco.  He had told Templeton countless times to stay the hell away from the other teen.  Phillips didn't like the boy's or his mother's attitude.  They always acted like they were just as good as a white and he didn't like it one bit.  He waited until the teens were out of sight before he crossed the street and entered the funeral home to see what they were up to.

 

***

 

"So what else have you been hiding from me, boy?" David Phillips growled at Templeton the moment he came through the front door of the shack they called home.

 

"I don't know what you're talking about." Templeton eyed the other man warily, it was evident that he was drunk, but that was nothing new.

 

"I'm talking about the money you paid for a piece of rock." Phillips stood up and advanced towards the teen, his large hands clenched into fists. "Money that you should have brought home to me you little bastard!"

 

"How…" Templeton started, but his words were cut off when Phillips grabbed him by the throat and slammed him against the wall.

 

"I saw you coming out of the funeral home you little sneak."  Templeton clawed at the hand cutting off his air supply, but it only caused Phillips to tighten his grip until his vision started to gray around the edges. "Imagine my surprise when he told me that you gave him $8.35 for a piece of rock! It's a damn good thing that I was able to get the money back from him." Phillips snarled as he shoved his stepson to the ground before kicking him in the ribs. "Or your punishment would be a lot more severe than what you're about to get."

 

***

 

Hannibal sat on his back porch waiting for Templeton to arrive at his home.  As he looked at his pocket watch, he was surprised to find that there was only five minutes before the boy's had to leave for school, well after the time he generally arrived.  Hannibal started to wonder if perhaps the boy was sick, but as the retired colonel thought back to last night, he remembered how happy and upbeat Templeton had been at dinner.  A small part of him contemplated the idea that since Templeton had bought the one thing he really desired that he was no longer interested in going to school or spending time at his home.  Hearing movement behind him, Hannibal turned to see Bosco stepping out onto the porch with his books in his hand.

 

"Where's Templeton, Mr. Smith?"

 

"I was hoping you could tell me." Hannibal motioned for Bosco to take a seat next to him. "Did he say anything about feeling sick yesterday?"

 

"No, he was good when he left."

 

"Did he say anything to you about not wanting to go to school today?"

 

"No," BA shook his head, "He even did his homework before we went to Mr. Hanson's yesterday. You don't think something's wrong do you?"

 

"It's probably nothing," Hannibal offered Bosco a quick smile as he squeezed his shoulder. "Why don't you head on to school before you're late.  I'm sure Templeton is fine."

 

"Sure," Bosco stood up and walked down the steps before turning to look back the older man. "Don't yell at him too much Mr. Smith; I'm sure he has a good reason for being late."

 

"I'm not going to yell at him," Hannibal laughed as he realized that the teen already knew that he was planning on riding out to where Templeton lived. "Now get out of here before you're late."

 

Bosco laughed as he headed across the back yard towards the school, he was walking past the dry goods store when he looked across the street at the tavern and stopped dead in his tracks.  Quickly he turned back around and ran as fast as he could back to Hannibal's home.

 

Hannibal had just finished putting the saddle on his horse when he noticed someone staggering up the lane.  He watched as the individual stumbled and fell, they lay on the ground for several minutes before getting back up taking a few more steps and falling again.  He dismissed the individual as a drunk and finished tightening the tack on Damascus when Bosco came running up to him as fast as he could.

 

"Mr. Smith, I saw Sosa hitched out in front of the tavern."

 

"Sosa, you're sure?" Hannibal asked as he turned to look at the drunk laying on the side of the road a sinking feeling growing in the pit of his stomach.

 

"Yes sir,"

 

"I'll be right back," Hannibal started out the back gate and was partially down the road when the sun came out from behind the clouds and fell on the figure lying on the road, and he broke out into a run.  He was only a few feet away from the body on the ground, and he knew without a doubt that it was Templeton.  Dropping down beside the teen he carefully rolled the boy on his back and heard a gasp behind him, turning he saw Bosco with his hand covering his mouth.

 

"Bosco, I need you to tell your mother that Templeton is hurt and then get Dr. Charles as fast as you can."

 

"Yes sir," The teen looked back at his friend one last time before he took off running.

 

"I swear to you kid, that son of a bitch will never lay his hands on you again" Hannibal vowed to the unconscious teen as he gently ran his finger's over the dark bruise on the slim throat before he gently picked the teen up in his arms and carried him towards the house.  He was almost to the house when Mrs. Baracus came running out to meet him, she took one look at Templeton and tears filled her eyes.

 

"Oh sweet Jesus, what has he done to you?" Abigale asked as she gently touched the blood-soaked blonde hair.

 

"I'm going to take him to my room, can you bring up a bowl of hot water and clean towels."

 

As they went up the steps, Mrs. Baracus quickly opened the back door for Hannibal before she went to her take of heating up a large pan of water on the stove.  As she went about her tasks, she couldn't help but think about Templeton and the state he was in.  She had seen him on a number of occasions when Phillips had beaten him, a black eye or a bruise on his face, but she had never seen him like this.

 

Hannibal carried Templeton into his bedroom and gently laid the teen on the bed before sitting beside him.  With the utmost care he started to remove the tattered remains of the teen's clothes; as he uncovered more of the battered and bruised flesh, he felt his anger rising.

 

"Mr. Smith," Abigale called out as she entered the room carrying a large bowl of water and towels as he had asked. Placing it on the nightstand beside the bed she wet one of the towels before handing it to Hannibal. "Has he woken up yet?"

 

"No," gently he started to wipe away the blood that covered Templeton's body.

 

"I can't believe that anyone would do this to a child." Mrs. Baracus wet another towel and traded it with the blood stained one.

 

"That bastard is never going to touch him again," Hannibal growled as he ran a gentle hand over Templeton's bruised chest.

 

"Mr. Smith, there's not much you can do; David Phillips is Templeton's legal guardian."

 

"I don't give a damn." Hannibal snarled as he glared at her his blue eyes full of rage.

 

Abigale had been employed with Mr. Smith for some time and while she had seen him upset before she had never seen him as angry as he was now. Knowing that she needed to get him to calm down, Mrs. Baracus did something she had never done before; she called her employer by his nickname.

 

"Hannibal," she moved to place a hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, but that is how things are here, Templeton is little more than property in the eyes of the court."

 

Hannibal closed his eyes and took in a deep breath before letting it out slowly and turning his gaze back to the young man in his bed.

 

"He will not get away with this."  

 

Any further discussion about the law or how Hannibal planned on righting the wrong perpetrated against Templeton stopped when Bosco led Dr. Charles into the room.  The older physician took one look at the teen and instantly went to work assessing his condition and what his most urgent medical needs were.

 

***

 

"I'm looking for the coward and thief who stole the money from his dead wife and her child," Hannibal growled as he stepped through the door of the saloon where Bosco had found Sosa tied. The bar became silent as all heads turned to look at him except one, which he instantly recognized as David Phillips.

 

"A coward that beat a boy half his size and left him for dead," Hannibal started walking across the bar where Phillips sat, his back to him.

 

"His mother was a whore," Phillips slurred out as he turned his head sideways.

 

"Even if that is so, which I do not believe, it is no fault of the boy's, he did nothing to warrant the abuse you heaped upon him."

 

"As his father, he is mine to do with as I please." Phillips turned to face Hannibal full on.  "That little bastard belongs to me."

 

"And now your ass belongs to me!" Hannibal snarled as he grabbed Phillips around the throat and started to squeeze. "You just didn't steal money from that boy you also took a horse from me."

 

"Templeton brought the horse home…"

 

"The horse I let him use to get to and from my home where he works; the horse that you stole from him which left him to stagger for miles on the road until he collapsed fifty feet from my house!"

 

Phillips started to claw at Hannibal's fingers in an attempt to break his hold, but there was no way it was going to happen.  Because just as the drunk managed to get one of Hannibal's finger's free the retired Army colonel punched him square in the face.  He didn't stop until he had knocked all of David Phillips teeth down his throat and the man was unrecognizable to anyone that knew him.  While stealing his horse gave Hannibal the right to beat the man to death, he had other plans in store for Phillips.  Dropping the unconscious man on the ground, Hannibal walked out of the saloon, and no one moved to stop him.

 

***

 

"Hey Kid," Hannibal gave Templeton a gentle smile as he watched the younger man's eyes open for the first time in two days.

 

"Mr…. Smith?" the younger man choked out as he tried to sit up only to be quickly restrained by the older man sitting on the bed next to him.

 

"Whoa there Templeton, take it easy." Hannibal placed both of his hands on the blonde's shoulder and gently pushed him back down onto the bed.

 

"David… took Sophia,"

 

"I know, and it's okay,"

 

"It's… not… okay," Templeton shook his head and instantly regretted it as his vision started to go gray around the edges and bile rose up in the back of his throat. "I need …to get her…back….and get to school…"

 

"Templeton be still," Hannibal gently took the younger man's head in his hands. "Sophia is safe in the barn, in her stall, happily eating the oats that Bosco took her.  So you need to stop worrying about her and school so you can concentrate on getting yourself well."  Moving one hand upwards he brushed the blonde hair out of the younger man's eyes as his other hand moved down to his cheek.

 

"I need…" Templeton started to protest again.

 

"You need lay still." Hannibal shook his head. "I know what Phillips did, and I've taken care of him."

 

"I have to earn…"

 

"You don't have to do anything." Hannibal brushed his thumb over the younger man's bruised cheek. "I've gotten the money back that Phillips took from you."

 

"Thank you," Templeton croaked out as tears sprung to his eyes.

 

"You don't have to thank me kid, but I'd like to talk to you about you moving into my home and having your mother moved to the city cemetery."

 

"You don't mean that,"

 

"If I didn't mean it, I wouldn't have said we need to talk about it." Hannibal ran his hand through the younger man's hair again.

 

"Why?"

 

"I want you here."

 

"I don't understand,"

 

"It's complicated kid," Hannibal offered the teen a soft smile.

 

"Please Hannibal, I need….I need to know why?"

 

Hannibal looked in the teen's blue-green eyes and realized that the younger man was begging him for the answer that he desperately wanted to give.

 

"I love you, kid, from the moment that I first laid my eyes on you I fell in love with you. I need to know you're safe; that no one is going to hurt you again.  I need to know that you have a roof over your head, you're getting a good hot meal, a soft, warm bed, and more importantly that you are some place where you're loved."

 

"You mean it?" Templeton asked as the tears filled his eyes.

 

"I mean every word of it," Hannibal smiled as he wiped away the tears as they fell over the boy's lower lid. He was quiet for a moment before he spoke again. "I love you Templeton, and I want you here with me."

 

"I love you too," Templeton reached up to touch Hannibal's cheek. "And I want to stay with you for as long as you will have me."

 

"I want you with me always," Leaning forward Hannibal placed a gentle kiss on the younger man's bruised lips.

 

***

 

David Phillips looked at the note in his hand as he tried to comprehend why his life had gotten so screwed up in the last two weeks. After waking up on the saloon floor, he had gone to the sheriff to press charges against Smith. Instead, he was thrown in jail for stealing Smith's horse.  The sheriff had released him earlier this morning along with the letter he now had in his hand. 

 

It appeared that Smith had gone to a local judge and gotten custody of his bastard stepson and an order that he was to stay away from Smith and the boy.  When he had arrived back at his shack, he found that all of the boy's possessions along with his dead wife's were gone.  Though the two things that disturbed him the most was that there was a hole in the ground where his whore wife had been buried, and there was a notice on the door telling him that his new landlord was Mr. John Smith, and he wanted him off the land by the end of the week.

 

***

 

Templeton Peck sat on the bench across from his mother's new grave wondering how his life could have changed for the better so fast.  Since Hannibal had confessed his love to him, the older man had moved him into his home and given him his own room across the hall from him. While Templeton wanted to stay in Hannibal's room on a permanent basis, he knew that it wouldn't be appropriate.  Though Hannibal did promise him that once he was better, the four of them would go house hunting for Mrs. Baracus and Bosco.  Once Abigale and Bosco were moved into their new home, he would move Templeton into his room where they could sleep in the same bed.

 

Hannibal had also moved his mother from her unmarked grave in the field down from the tenant shack to the city cemetery.  He'd had a tombstone carved out of marble depicting a beautiful female angel holding the hand of a small boy about the age of five.  Every time he saw it he felt like his mother was still there with him, watching over him; just like….Templeton turned his head to look up and over his shoulder.

 

"You okay kid? You're not hurting are you?"

 

"No," Templeton smiled as a large gentle hand settled on his shoulder. "I couldn't be better."

 

"I'd be more apt to believe you if you hadn't just split your lip open when you smiled."  Hannibal shook his head as he took his handkerchief out of his front pocket and stepped around the bench to dab the younger man's lip.

 

Templeton reached up to take hold of the older man's wrist pulling it away from his mouth.

 

"You've given me everything I could possibly want or need, but more importantly, I have you, someone, that loves me."

 

"You most certainly do kid," Hannibal returned the younger man's smile as he leaned forward to kiss Templeton's forehead.  "Are you ready to go home?"

 

"Yeah," Templeton looked up at Hannibal.  "Going home with you sounds like the best place in the world to be."

 

Without another word Hannibal leaned down and picked up his still injured lover in his arms before carefully standing him on his feet and helping him back to the place, they both called home.

END

 

 

 

Wealthy and poor in the South

NARRATOR: In the years before the Civil War, the South was a society divided, not only between blacks and whites but among whites themselves. The region was dominated both socially and politically by 1,733 families who owned more than a hundred slaves each. They were called the "Planter Aristocracy" and they lived in a world of opulent mansions and mint juleps. But most white southerners weren't wealthy enough to own slaves. In fact, two-thirds of all Southerners owned no slaves at all. This part of the population was known as "yeoman farmers." They raised their own food and made their own clothes, often eating less and working harder than slaves.

 

Professor CRAIG WILDER (Dartmouth College): Very often, this is a poor population. Very often, it's a population that has little more than the land that they work. They're largely subsistence farmers in many places. For the most part, the yeoman farmer comes to define, they're sort of the lost people of the South in American history.

 

NARRATOR: The Planter Aristocracy owned the best land, forcing the yeoman farmers to scratch out a living in the less fertile backcountry and mountain valleys that remained. Since they didn't own land, they could not hold political office, which meant they had less representation in both national and state governments. Also, people who owned slaves were often allowed to include their slaves when calculating population, giving them a huge advantage in their state legislatures.

 

WILDER: We know this, and we can actually see it in places like South Carolina, the large plantation counties, where the black population actually outnumbers the white population, four to one in some cases. Meaning that the authority of the wealthy is magnified at almost every step in the local, state, and federal government. Giving them extraordinary power in this region. And also silencing non-slave-holding, poor white people, very often, in both state politics and in national politics.

 

NARRATOR: But most poor yeoman farmers didn't blame the slave system for this vast inequality. In fact, most poor whites defended the institution of slavery. Knowing in their hearts that at least they were superior to slaves in one way. The whites had their freedom.


The Sharecroppers Boy by Jullian Gray

 

 


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