|No rights infringement intended. M/F
No infringement of the following characters and situations is intended. Warning: Slash content. Rated [MA] Mature Adults only. May contain strong sexual scenes, violence, coarse language, drug use, horror and adult themes.
Anon. Aug 1998.
Another perfect Indian night, the sky clear, the air now cool after the stifling heat of the day. The camp was at rest, fellows idle, talking, sleeping, eating, amusing themselves and each other, just getting on with their soldiering lives, far from home.
Tom Garrard glanced at Dick Sharpe. He was sitting on a stool, head tilted back, lolling against the tree. Sharpe took no notice of the card game his mates were wrapped up in, or the bottle being passed around the table. Tom couldn't quite describe the look on Dick's face, innocent and insolent, both at the same time. But he knew what he was up to. Scheming, cunning little bastard. Not a penny in his pocket, as usual, but he'd be wanting to go out on the town with them, on the razzle, when the lads were let loose in two days time.
Sharpe sat there, his legs sprawled wide, one hand dangling between them, the other tucked into his belt. He looked almost half asleep, tipsy even, but he wasn't. The lazy look in his eyes was well calculated, thought Tom, he was just waiting to turn them on a desperate man. Even a not so desperate one. Tom had seen it before, Sharpe, with just a fleeting glance, could make a man turn round for a second look at him, confirming, assuring them of the offer made. If they weren't interested, he'd look away, bored. Dismissing them, even officers. Take it or leave it.
He watched him now, and wished he wouldn't do this. He hated it when Dick wandered off, knowing he was going to a tent, or off into the bushes, or some other secret, ugly place. How he could bare to touch or be touched by some of the men he picked up, Tom just didn't know. Sharpe was a toughie, that was for sure, hard as bloody nails when he wanted to be, but even so. For the few coins he got, it just couldn't be worth it.
Then Sharpe looked up, not at Tom who was still watching him, and the look in his eyes changed. Only his eyes, no other part of him changed or moved at all. The laziness in them went, replaced by a faint glint of pure wickedness. Tom glanced to see who Sharpe had spied. A fat slob of a Sergeant, who slowed his pace, thinking about it, then walked on, head down, away. Tom looked back to his friend. Sharpe gave him a slow smile, shrugged his shoulders, with a 'you win some, you lose some' attitude. The glint went as he waited for his next punter.
Tom wondered why Sharpe wasn't on the prowl himself if he was that desperate for money. But when he thought about it, Dick probably didn't need to. He could just sit there and let them come to him. He'd ask him later how much he'd made. Just out of interest. How much for a night sinning.
Garrard dug into his pocket for a coin and joined the card school. He was lucky with cards, usually made a small profit, depended on who you played with of course, and how much you'd had to drink, but usually he did OK. Perhaps he should teach Dick a few of the games, it was an easy way to make money if you watched the cards, and were smart to the cheats. He'd never seen Sharpe gamble, though, never. He spent his money like most soldiers did, on women and drink. Both killers , in Garrard's opinion, pox and poison, and you could overdose on both. Not that Garrard didn't indulge, he did, but he liked to think he could control it.
He'd won a couple of hands when he noticed Sharpe move. This time he was up and on his feet. Unhurried, but on his way, of that Garrard was sure. He looked to see who had picked up Sharpe, but couldn't. There were folk milling about the bustling camp as always, he looked again. Who was it? Sharpe was walking, could be following Timmins, thought Garrard, or maybe Old Man Gregson, he wasn't sure. He didn't know why he did it, but Garrard threw his cards down, "I'm out. But I'll be back". He was curious.
He had no trouble trailing Sharpe, that careless saunter of his was unmistakable. He watched Sharpe duck into a tent. Blimey, it was Gregson! Garrard slunk off to the shadows of the tents and hung around, wondering how long Sharpe would be. Not long! Couldn't have been more than ten minutes at the most. Sharpe slipped out the tent, totally composed, not a hair out of place, totally unruffled. He sauntered back the way he'd come, presumably to take up his post again. Garrard wondered what had gone on. Not much, he reckoned. He trailed Sharpe back, who never reached his pick up post, as an officer, from one of the Scottish regiments thought Garrard, stopped him, spoke a few words, and the two of them disappeard towards, where, the picket line?
Garrard followed again. Another bloody tent! But the officer was only a Lieutenant, so his tent wasn't in the thick of things. Infact he had a lousy pitch. Wonder who he's upset, thought Garrard, as he waited, this pitch was only one up from the rankers pitches, the ground wasn't even very flat, sandy, too. Rotten place. He waited. No sign of Dick Sharpe. This bloke's getting more than ten minutes, he thought.
Garrard, curious, swiftly looked round and made his way to the back of the tents. He crept as near as he dared, then listened. He couldn't hear anything. Damn. He checked to see if it was the right tent. Then stood up quickly and looked to see if Dick was walking away. No sign of him. Must be still there. He crept closer, and crouched down. The lamp had been turned down really low. Very clever. Almost no shadows. Then some idiot nearby started singing! Well, if he couldn't hear anything, maybe he could......?
A sudden movement from inside the tent made him first freeze, then dash back out of sight. Gingerly he stood up, and saw Dick walking away, back towards his own part of camp. Damn it, thought Garrard. He made off after Sharpe, letting him go on ahead, not wanting him to know he was following him, checking up on him. He wondered what Sharpe would do if he did find out? One of two things, thought Tom, thump him or laugh.
Sharpe slumped down on his stool again, and Garrard pushed his way back into the card game. So far this night, he'd won four copper coins at the cards, not bad. He glanced at Sharpe, wondering how much he'd made. His lack of concentration reduced him to three coins, and he cursed himself. "Running out of luck, Tommy?" asked Gatley grinning, scooping his winnings towards himself. Garrard scowled at him, and dealt the next round. He glanced over to Dick, still sitting there, just waiting. They were both out of luck, thought Garrard.
A smile spread over Garrard's face as he noticed William Lawford out of the corner of his eye. Mr Bible-Thumping Lawford! Always on the lookout for Dick these days. Garrard reckoned the young Lieutenant was a bit starry-eyed when it came to Dick Sharpe. Smitten he was, and too damn scared to come near! Tom looked across to Sharpe, nodded his head in Lawford's direction and Sharpe noticed him, too. A smirk appeared on Sharpe's face, nothing less, he knew Tom was laughing at him. Sharpe quite liked Lawford, he was different, a bit soft, but then many of the officers straight off the boat were like that. Give him a couple of months, he'd toughen up. Or turn to drink.
Lawford melted away. Garrard was right, there was no way the young, shy Lieutenant would approach Sharpe. Not the way Dick was sitting tonight, anyway, that would be too obvious! Garrard grinned at Sharpe, " Think we should tell him what the Eighth Deadly Sin is?" he asked.
This was lost on Sharpe, he didn't know what Garrard was talking about; "You, you little bastard" Garrard told him playfully, "You're the Eighth".
"Best tell Mr Lawford, then" said Sharpe "He don't know what he's missing!". That produced much laughter from the table and a few rude comments. Sharpe didn't care, he knew what he was. So did everyone else.
Tom saw the laughter slip from Sharpe's face, he turned, looked back over his shoulder. Morris. He looked back at Sharpe, wondering if he was going to go with him. Don't, Dick, he thought, don't go with him, he's a right bad lot. The group round the table were still laughing, saying stupid things. Sharpe didn't move, he looked away from Morris for a moment, but when he glanced up again he was still there. Garrard looked between them both, wondering why no-one else could feel the tension, the dislike. He looked back at Morris, who was staring Sharpe out, willing him to get up. Morris wouldn't approach him directly. Garrard understood Sharpe's dilemma, if he didn't give in Captain Morris could give him Hell.
Then Morris reached into a pocket, dropped a coin to the ground, or was it two, scuffed his boot to kick up the dust to cover it, and walked off, though not too far. Garrard looked to Sharpe, he'd not seen business done like this before, but then, he'd never watched Dick so closely before. Sharpe got up.
"Dick!" called Garrard quietly from the table, but Sharpe ignored him, this was nothing to do with Tom. He saunterd over and crouched to find the money. Garrard lost his hand of cards, another coin gone, he threw his cards on the table once more. He got up. "I'm off to the latrines" he told the lads, and followed Sharpe.
Morris was leading the way, Sharpe trailing behind, Garrard well out of sight. No tent this time, off to the trees. Bit bloody dangerous, thought Garrard. Morris seemed to know where he was going, and headed for a remote, dense area. Then Garrard lost sight of him, but he could still see Sharpe. Then he disappeared, too. Garrard walked as quietly as he could, though the noise from the camp was loud enough for it not to matter how heavy footed he was. Then he saw them. Sharpe on his knees, Morris behind him, holding him by his hair. Christ, Dick, thought Garrard, how can you let him do this to you?
He watched for a few minutes more, then having seen enough, turned away, and went back to his cards. It seemed an age before Sharpe came back. Garrard thought he didn't seem quite so unruffled this time, but maybe he was. He nearly asked him if he was alright, then didn't. It was his own bloody fault if he wasn't. He lost another game, and cursed himself once more for not concentrating, he'd thrown his money away tonight.
He decided on one more round, see if he could make up what he'd lost, then he was off to bed, and Dick Sharpe could do what he liked. He was beyond caring. He looked over to Sharpe, he seemed to have given up for the night. Garrard watched as Sharpe lay down on the scrap of yellowed, sun burnt grass by their tents, as he wriggled onto his side, curled himself in slightly.
He finished the full round, picked up his money and went over to his friend. Sharpe wasn't asleep, just sort of lying there, thinking about sleep. Garrard flopped down, undoing his belt, loosening his clothes. "How much did you make tonight, then?" he asked Sharpe, surprised at his own directness.
" More than you, I bet" grinned Sharpe.
"How much?" asked Garrard again.
Sharpe pushed himself up onto one elbow, fished inside his shirt and pulled from somewhere close to his skin, a handful of coins. Tom counted them. "Yeah, you're right, more than me", he sounded depressed.
Sharpe looked pleased, "Easy money!" he told Garrard, as he hid the coins away again.
Tom Garrard lay on his back, gazing up at the stars. Easy money? After what he'd seen tonight, he didn't think so. That money came at too high a price. Or so he thought. He looked over to Sharpe, eyes closed, sleeping peacefully? He wished Dick thought so, too. But he didn't, poor stupid bastard.
Part Two: A Bloody Good Night
From early evening onwards the dusty dirt track of a highway led groups of young, and not so young, scarlet jacketed soldiers from their camp to the next Indian town. They were rowdy for the most part, high spirited, high hopes for a good night out ahead of them. Most had money in their pockets, some already had drink inside them, a few loud-mouthed ones boasting of what they were going to get up to.
Tom Garrard gave Dick Sharpe a hard shove, making him stumble and then twist awkwardly, his feet scrabbling to stay upright, trying to avoid the pile of elephant dung Tom had tried to push him into. "Bastard" muttered Sharpe, the grin on his face warning Garrard that the next pile would be for him to side skip. They walked on. Two minutes later Sharpe swiftly caught Garrard round the neck, wrestled him to the ground, and sped off up the road leaving him sitting in a cloud of dust. Sharpe, still running, turned to see the effect, and laughed as he skipped backwards, ready to turn again and speed off.
Garrard sat dusting his trousers off, cheeky comments and advice raining down on him from passing comrades. He got up, after several pats on his head from the passers by turned into more playful clouts. He saw Dick Sharpe waiting for him just up the track and joined him, together they made their way to town. Mates.
A massive bird, wings spread out, glided on the heavy evening air, round and round high above them, it's eagle eyes spying the sparse colony of red ants beneath it, hurrying along, the men of the 33rd, let loose to run riot, and to cause mayhem and to bring money to the small Indian town.
The drinking rooms of the taverns were alive with soldiers already as Sharpe and Garrard entered the town, they heard laughter and shouting, some men already senselessly drunk. "Stupid buggers" said Garrard pushing his way into a room, "Can't enjoy yourself if you get that drunk". Sharpe grinned at him, catching his meaning as he followed him. Some of the men they knew, some they didn't, they threw bawdy greetings at the ones they did, and got equally bawdy ones thrown back at them. Everyone was in high spirits, all after the same thing. A good night out.
Sharpe and Garrard made their way to a table, jostled all the way, as they took in all around them. The room was full of local Indians as well as the soldiers, drink was flowing, small dishes of beans and sweetmeats were on the tables, Sharpe grabbed a handful of salted nuts and rammed them in his mouth. The air smelt of sweat, and musty incense, and, more importantly, women.
The whores of this squalid little town were as pretty and painted as others they had seen. Small and dainty, their hair so black, sleek, and incredibly long. They wore cheap trinkets and jewellery, their flimsy saris garish in colour. Their smiles were welcoming and coy. Garrard grinned at Sharpe, they'd come to the right place.
Drinks appeared before them, the boy waiting to be paid before moving off to another table. Sharpe's eyes roved round the room, picking out the girls he wanted to spend money on. His hard earned, easy money. He'd spend it the same way as he'd earned it, and he had no problem with that. Without a thought he squared the equation easily in his mind, let it all fall neatly into place.
The days of marching, parading, drills, kit inspections, of being yelled at, pushed around, and bored out of their minds, all disappeared in the bustle and excitement of this drinking room. This was life! A few hours off the leash to do what they liked. And like what they'd do. They'd see to that, alright.
Sharpe caught the eye of a brazen little bibbi. Dressed in flaming orange, she was his idea of a good time. Her Indian watcher never took his eyes off her as she made her way to his table, and flashed him a shy smile, touching his face. Pretty and dark, eyes so brown, he pulled her down onto his lap, making her giggle. She said something to him. He couldn't understand, but it didn't matter, the noise was impossible, he couldn't hear her anyway. He held her tightly and ran a hand over the gaudy cloth. She giggled again, and pulled away to stand up, holding his hand, tugging him.
Garrard was laughing at him and reached out to give the girl a pinch as she stood up. "Get yer hands off!" Sharpe told him, grinning "Mine, this one!". The girl led him away, and he followed eagerly as she slipped behind a curtain, to where there was a recess in the wall, big enough to take a wide settle covered in cushions. "How much?" he wanted know, although he wasn't really bothered, these tavern bibbi's usually came cheap. He was right, he'd have plenty of money for the rest of the evening.
As the evening wore on the tavern keeper started to believe the rumours he'd heard of British troops. He looked about him at the wild men in scarlet, they swarmed over the tables and over the women, control of themselves and everything else, gone. They no longer bothered with the privacy afforded by the curtains and he watched as his drinking room was turned into a public brothel.
Tom Garrard pushed himself from the woman beneath him, the room out of focus around him. he grabbed at a beaker full of drink, not paid for, not his, but who cared? He gulped it down, spilling half, and kneeled up, not sure what he wanted to do next, not sure if he was capable of doing anything next. He giggled helplessly at the thought and clutched at the table edge before he slid to the floor. He pulled himself up and swayed, then lurched as he took a step forward. He looked for his mate, his comrade in arms, wondering what that rogue was up to. Was up to! He spluttered, laughing, and pushed his way past Private Tupman who looked dead but probably wasn't.
He looked around him, and suddenly saw the mess the place was in. He smiled drunkenly, bloody good night, he thought, one of the best! His eyes lit on the flaming orange sari, same girl he'd seen earlier, but not the same soldier atop her! Where was he, then? Garrard staggered round the room, peering at the men, lifting the curtains or dragging them back trying to find Dick Sharpe. Where was he? Gone back to camp? No, he wouldn't do that, not leave old Tom on his own, not leave his best mate behind. Then Garrard spied him, over in the corner, his blonde hair almost out of it's queue, falling into his eyes. He was still at it, Tom was pleased to see. That's it Sharpie don't let the side down, show these Indians what the British are made of! Garrard made his way over to him, watching proudly as Sharpe thrust and thrust again into the bibbi lying on the hard floor. He bent down, swaying slightly as he did so, and tapped Sharpe on the shoulder, "You nearly finished?" he called to him, as though he was cleaning his musket. Sharpe looked up, a little surprised till he saw it was Tom, he caught his breath and stared at him a second. Garrard crouched down to carry on the conversation, not bothered at all as Sharpe kept his hips moving, "Think I've had enough. I'll wait for you outside. Alright?" Sharpe, his breathing hard, eyes glazed with drink and more, couldn't answer, he nodded his head and returned to what he was doing. Garrard staggered off outside and hoped he wasn't going to be sick as the night air hit him. He flopped down on the ground, resting his head back against the wall and smiled to himself. Bloody good night! One of the best. He hadn't been there long before he saw Sharpe lurch out of the tavern door. "Over here, Dick", he called waving an arm rather feebly. He tried to get up, and then waited for Sharpe to give him a hand up. "Bloody good night, eh?" he asked Sharpe as he put his arm round his neck. "Aye", Sharpe grinned back at him. "Where's the camp, then Dick?" "What camp?" Garrard started giggling at that, and that in turn started Sharpe giggling. "It's this way" one of them said. Decisively. "No it's not. Can't be. We came from.....over there", a finger drunkenly pointed in the direction of Madras. "Right. Quite right!" and off they went, walking unsteadily, holding on to each other as they started on the long twisting road that led to Madras. Which was unfortunate as the men of the 33rd Regiment, under the command of Sir Arthur Wellsley, had only just recently marched from Madras and were due any day to march on and invade Mysore, further south and west. "You sure this is the right way?" asked Sharpe after a while. "There ain't no-one else but us on this road?" "Course it is!" Garrard assured him, and they staggered along boldly, listening to their boots thumping and crunching along the dusty track, heading north and east. "Bloody good night, eh, Dick,?" "One of the best, Tom!". "Good mates, good drink, plenty of women, them nut things to eat. I wasn't sick, were you, Dick.........?" The End. Anon. Aug. 1998.