No rights infringement intended.

No infringement of the following characters and situations is intended.
Warning: Rated [MA] Mature Adults only. May contain strong sexual scenes, violence, coarse language, drug use, horror and adult themes.

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.
Not done for profit just for fun.
Rating: MA, m/m references.

Down By The Riverside

India 1799.

A quiet, secluded spot, away from the main British camp.

"Hold still, damn you, I need to go in deeper" insisted Richard Sharpe as Private Tom Garrard tried to free himself from his grasp.

"No,stop! I've changed my mind" said Garrard in a voice of near panic.

Sharpe stopped. "What? You were begging me to do this a minute ago, remember?" said Sharpe, somewhat desperately.

"I know, but it bloody well hurts. Sorry mate" said Garrard apologetically.

"Well, I'm being as gentle as I can" continued Sharpe "Just keep still, it'll hurt less".

"Yeah, I know, but I think we should stop. I didn't know it would, did I?" stammered Garrard.

Sharpe paused, but determination was written all over his face, and he looked down at his friend. "Look, we've started now, let's see it through, eh? It was your idea. You asked me to do it". And with that, Sharpe increased his hold on Tom.

"I'm not sure, Dick........" Garrard started again, as Sharpe moved closer.

"Well, I am. Now stuff yer hand in yer mouth if you're going to start yelling, or you'll attract a crowd. Don't want people watching, do you?"

Garrard shook his head and stuffed his fist into his mouth as Sharpe drove in deeper, bringing tears to Tom's eyes. Sharpe glanced at him. "I'm nearly there. Just a few more times and then I'll be done. OK?"

Garrard nodded his consent and Sharpe went deeper still, again and again. He could hear Tom whimper, then suddenly he let go his grip on him and fell back on the grass with a gasp. Sharpe brushed the hair out of his eyes and with a sigh of great satisfaction said "Great! Look at that bastard!" He was holding up a huge,vicious shard of glass that had buried itself in Tom's foot. The needle he had used to get it out was bloody. He glanced at Tom lying next to him, examining the hole that was now in his foot, oozing blood. "That'll teach you to keep your boots on!" laughed Sharpe "I never take mine off". That was true, mused Garrard, he'd seen Sharpe go to bed in his.

Without looking up Garrard said "Thanks, Dick. But God, that hurt".

"You're alright" said Sharpe, grinning at him "What are mates for, eh?".


The routine of the British Army in India continued, mostly at a leisurely pace but with moments of intense activity, too. For many of the soldiers there were long periods of time when nothing much happened and they were idle. The heat of India, too, made the men indolent and quickly fatigued. When not busy with drills, chores and parades,they slept.

Richard Sharpe was dozing in the shade of one of the few trees in the camp, when Garrard gave him a kick.

"Come on. Get up!" he said "I need you".

"What for?" grumbled Sharpe, without even opening his eyes as he recognised Tom's voice.

"I'm going for a swim. Bathe me foot in the river, keep it clean. Might make it better. Come on".

"Why have I got to go with yer?" complained Sharpe "I don't want to go swimming".

"To guard my clothes, of course" said Garrard "Make sure no thieving sod pinches 'em. Come on, get up!".

The third kick, well aimed, made Sharpe move and they headed for the river. He flopped down on the sandy, stoney bank and asked miserably "Why can't you just hide 'em under a rock or somewhere?"

"Don't be daft" said Garrard, and he started to get undressed. As the clothes fell, Sharpe rammed them behind where he was sitting, using the jacket as a pillow for his head.

"This reminds me of that story" said Garrard "You know, the one about a man who goes swimming in a river, and his servant or somebody keeps hiding his clothes. It's a kid's story. What's it called?"

"Eh?" grunted Sharpe, squinting up at him, the bright Indian sun full on him.

Garrard looked at him in disgust "Pig ignorant you are, to quote Sgt Hakeswell" he said.

"Now I know a story about pigs" began Sharpe "There were three of 'em, and the biggest bugger amongst 'em were called Tom......" But Garrard wasn't listening, he was on his way to the river, hobbling gingerly over the stones.

Sharpe watched him go and was just about to stretch himself out, when he heard a voice behind him say very quietly, "Having a good look are you?"

Sharpe started, and looked round quickly to see Jeremiah Wilks standing there. Wilks walked forward and crouched down next to him. "That's what you was doing, wasn't you?" he asked and he nodded his head in Garrard's direction. "Having a good look? Got a nice arse, your mate".

Sharpe said nothing but just looked at Corporal Wilks, the swagggering Londoner who liked to play with the small ammount of power his rank gave him.

Wilks continued, his eyes on Garrard, who was wading into the river naked. "Not as nice as yours, mind, Dick Sharpe" and a smirk spread across his face "I'll have you one of these days, my lad, you see if I don't".

Slowly Sharpe managed to say "No. You won't", though his mouth had suddenly gone dry. Wilks just grinned at him, gave him a wink and walked off.


Tom Garrard insisted on going to the river most days, claiming it was it curing his foot and keeping all infection at bay. He insisted, too, one day, that Sharpe actually go into the water with him. Sharpe protested, agreeing to guard his clothes but refusing to go in the river.

"You could at least wash your feet, they stink!" complained Garrard, who now that he was bathing regulary was starting to notice this about his friend.

Sharpe shot him a look "Thought I was supposed to guard your clothes?"

"Look, it doesn't bother me that you can't swim, you can just .........paddle" Garrard went on.

"What makes you think I can't swim?" said Sharpe affronted."What d'yer say that for? 'Course I can swim" and he glowered at Tom.

"Well, if you're afraid of the water, just say so. I can understand that. I had an uncle who drowned in a pond. He was afraid of water. Mind you, he was drunk that night........."reasoned Garrard.

"Shut up" snapped Sharpe "I'm not afraid of water, you daft beggar".

"Just stay close to me........and if you go under.......I'll come and get you" said Garrard helpfully.

The last remark nearly cost Tom a black eye, but instead resulted in Sharpe ripping off his clothes, too. He shoved them, with Tom's, rather ineffectually, under rocks and bushes, and jumped defiantly into the river to prove he could swim. He was out within minutes, making a very ungainly exit, stumbling, whilst trying to get water out of his eyes, ears, nose, and everywhere else he'd let it rush in. His untidy blonde hair was dripping and bedraggled. But he'd proved his point. He could swim.

Garrard laughed at him as Sharpe went down on all fours to retrieve his clothes. What ever did Sharpe remind him of? Something........

Sharpe, still damp, bedraggled and now scowling because he was wet, pulled on his boots and trousers, and when Tom was eventually ready, they both grabbed their remaining clothes and crossed the short distance back to the tents. There they parted company, Garrard to his tent, Sharpe to his, just acrosss the way and a few tents down.

Sharpe sat down and emptied the wet, clinging sand from out of his boots. He looked up to see Tom do the same, watched as he started fussing over his foot again. He smiled.

The smile faded as Wilks appeared at his side. He came close and spoke quietly. "Sgt Hakeswell's orders. Kit inspection. Six o'clock this evening".

"So?" enquired Sharpe warily. He waited, wondering what was coming next.

"So. We've just got time. You and me".

Sharpe found his voice "I said no, remember?" Wilks threw an ammunition pouch into Sharpe's lap. He leant forward and said "Flogging offence if you've not got your pouch during an inspection".

Sharpe glanced to where his jumble of clothes lay. His belt was there with his pouch. He looked at Wilks, who smiled and said "Don't want to get your mate in trouble, do you?"

Sharpe swallowed and picked up the pouch. He turned it over. The initials TG were clear where Tom had scratched them into the leather with the point of a knife. He looked back at Wilks, the words forming on his lips, when Wilks threw down something else in front of him. Sharpe looked, it was a dog-head screw. Wilks snatched it up and the pouch before Sharpe could grab them.

"Both flogging offences" said Wilks reasonably "And you know what Hakeswell is like, don't you? If he's in a good mood your mate might get away with one piece of kit missing. But two? Don't think so, do you?"

Sharpe looked across to Garrard, now busy trying to bandage his foot, his clothes still in a heap next to him, oblivious to all, his musket leaning against a tent pole. " Bloody fool" thought Sharpe of himself. He'd been in the river less than five minutes, but long enough for Wilks to strike. He should have seen this kind of trick coming.


Garrard had searched his tent a dozen times and been back to the river as many, when he finally spotted Sharpe."Where the hell have you been?" Garrard yelled, stomping over to him.

"What's up?" asked Sharpe mildly.

"I've lost my bloody pouch, that's what up and the inspection is in half an hour" wailed Garrard.

Sharpe pretended to rummage through his belongings from the riverbank, before producing the 'missing' pouch. "Here it is, yer silly bugger. You want to look after yer kit. Must have slipped off your belt".

Garrard's anxiety turned to relief and he went off to find his belt. Sharpe walked across with him. He casually picked up Tom's musket. "This ready for inspection?" he asked.

"Course it is. No need for you to check it, it's as clean as a whistle. As always" said Garrard proudly.

Sharpe's fingers felt for where the dog-head screw should be. It had gone. He nimbly slipped the one from his pocket back into place.

Garrard suddenly looked at him, his voice full of concern, he didn't know why. "Anything the matter? Where did you go? Not worried about the inspection are you?"

"Me? Nah." said Sharpe, and he wandered off to his own tent.


There was mounting tension over the next month as the Tippoo Sultan's forces teased the British with small scale attacks and skirmishes. Everyone was waiting for a big assault to hit. Most of the attacks had been in the daylight, but now came the first one to strike at night. As with all fights and battles there was order and chaos. As the officers on both sides were hit, the ordered troops started to break, and the lack of leadership and light made every man seek his own survival.

Into this chaos Sharpe found himself running wildly. Tents had been trampled, wagons overturned, the officers and sergeants were as scattered as the men they tried to lead in the darkness. He ran on and suddenly found himself almost cannoning into the red jacket of Cpl Wilks. Wilks grabbed him and quickly pointed at an Indian officer, splendid and garish in his uniform, who was clearly lining Wilks up in his sights.

"Shoot, damn you!" yelled Wilks to Sharpe " Shoot if you're loaded!"

Sharpe raised his musket and fired his ball. The Indian officer fell, and Sharpe turned to Wilks, who shouted "Well done, Sharpe, well done, lad".

But then, from out of the darkness, loomed a huge figure, his vast curved sword raised, and with one violent slash, Sharpe watched in disbelief as Wilks was decapitated in front of him. It seemed an age before the headlesss body dropped to the ground, and Sharpe just gaped in frozen horror as the sword was raised again, to take his head.

Unaware that he was even moving, Sharpe turned his musket to use it as a cudgel, and at the moment he moved to strike, the huge Indian slumped forward, blood pouring from the back of his head. Only seconds had passed.

Sharpe looked up from the dying figure, to see Tom Garrard standing there,musket in hand, his face blackened by powder stains. Garrard ran forward and grabbed the stunned Sharpe by the arm, and together they ran away from the slaughter and chaos.

The night went to the British and eventually the Indians fled. It was too dark for much to be done and the men and officers who had not fallen looked after themselves and waited for the dawn to reveal the horror of the night.

Sharpe and Garrard had found themselves a safe hiding place and had slumped down exhausted. Garrard had talked of Wilks. "Poor bugger. What a way to die. No-one deserves that".

"Aye, he was a poor bugger" said Sharpe "Yer not wrong there, Tom. But at least it were quick". A damn sight quicker than what Sharpe had had to endure at Wilks's hands.

Sharpe found sleep difficult that night. Everytime he closed his eyes he saw the huge, curved sword and the headless body of Wilks. He felt tense and still shocked by what he'd seen. He moved closer to Tom. It was comforting to be near him. He desperately wanted to sleep but couldn't. Tom felt his restlessnes, reached out and asked softly "You alright?"

"Yeah" came the reply. Then without a word, Sharpe eased himself hard up against his friend. Tom didn't move away, but let him push against him. As the movements got faster, Garrard put his arms tight around him, until he felt Sharpe shudder, and the tension go from his body, then he ran his fingers through the straggly blonde hair and gently cuffed him, before saying "Go to sleep now". And together they slept until the morning sun woke them.


As they lay there, Garrard suddenly said "That story about the river. It's called Puss in Boots".


"I know now why I thought of it".

"Why?" asked Sharpe.

"It reminded me of you".


"Yes, it's the story about a cat and a poor millar's son. The son becomes a prince. The cat keeps hiding the son's clothes when he bathes in the river, and steals him better ones".

"Oh, aye, and am I the handsome prince?" grinned Sharpe.

"What?" said Garrard puzzled "No, not that part of the story".

"What then?" asked Sharpe.

But Garrard couldn't answer, he was starting to laugh.

"What are you laughing at?" asked Sharpe, smiling, ready to join in the joke.

Garrard was helpless, and could only shake his head.

"Come on, tell me" urged Sharpe

Garrard tried to talk, but the laughter wouldn't let him. All he could think of was Sharpe ramming clothes under rocks and bushes hiding them, and looking unhappy and bedraggled, his scruffy long blonde hair dripping as he dragged himself out of the river.

"I always wondered why you hated water" spluttered Garrard, when he finally found his voice "And now I know!"

Sharpe looked blank. He blinked his green eyes, then said "Oh come on, Tom, tell me. What are yer laughing at?"

The End.

Anon. March 98.

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