Thanks to J.A. Fletcher for the review, and urging me to write more for this story. Who knows, maybe I'll continue. :)
Jake lay in the tent, slouch hat under his head as a pillow. Burl had managed to appropriate the shelter from somewhere awhile ago; Jake hadn't asked where from, but he strongly suspected it was of former Federal issue.
Sleep hadn't found him yet tonight, though. He rolled to his side, glancing at the firelight flickering through the canvas walls and the silhouettes beside the flames. He listened, recognized his father and Burl's voices.
Ben Axton was pacing back and forth as if he was a mule tormented by gnats. The two men's voices were too low for Jake to catch full sentences, but he heard a few phrases.
" –gonna get himself killed out there…"
"He's as stubborn as you are… mind's made up, there's no goin' back."
An exasperated sigh from Ben. Jake bit his lip, instantly recognizing they were talking about him. He slowly sat up, feeling a vague flash of guilt for listening in.
"D'you have to make everything that much more complicated?!" Ben's voice suddenly rose and Jake flinched. Although Ben had never raised his hand to his children, it wasn't unfamiliar for Jake to hear his father's raised voice. And even then, outbursts from the senior Axton were rare. Ben was normally a taciturn man, keeping his thoughts hidden behind a stern mask. It was that silence that hurt Jake the most. At least when Ben yelled, Jake knew his father was paying attention to him.
The 16-year-old shook off his thoughts and began listening again. The two men's voices had quieted. A slight chuckle came from Burl, followed by a snort from Ben. Jake relaxed, knowing his father was in a better humor than a few minutes ago.
A few more words were exchanged, then footsteps approached the tent, and Burl slipped inside, blowing out the candle. He and Jake shared a tent, as they were enlisted men and Ben was an NCO.
Jake had quickly ducked back down, feigning sleep as Burl entered. He smelled fragrant tobacco smoke from Burl's cigars clinging to the older man as Burl lay down next to him.
"Burl?" Jake mumbled, as if just waking up.
"Heard all that, did'ja?" the older Confederate raised a brow in the dark; he'd known Jake for too long to be fooled. Jake bit his lip and nodded. "A bit," he admitted quietly.
Burl sighed and rolled over, his hands behind his head, didn't reply. Jake hesitated to ask further; the night before battle was uneasy for most everyone. He didn't want to make it worse.
"Speak your piece, boy," Burl said at last.
Jake blinked, he'd thought the older man was asleep. He was silent for another moment. "Does Pa really care about me?"
" 'Course he does," Burl replied. "You saw how worried he was after you nearly drowned that time." He glanced over at the teen. "Fact is, he don't always know how to put his thoughts to words. But he tried to show it."
"By yellin' at me, 'n' ignorin' me?" Jake's question had clear bitterness laced into it.
"Might seem odd, but it is. He don't know how to show it, say it out loud, quite. When he scolds you, it's his way of sayin' he was worried about you. You see what I mean?"
Jake slowly nodded, mulling it over. "Wish he could say it, though…" he said quietly.
Burl nodded. "I know, boy. But he'll say it when he's ready and no time but. Just wait 'n' see."
Jake nodded silently.
"Tomorrow'll be a hell of a fight, from what I know," the older man continued. "Better get what rest we can before then." He yawned enormously and rolled over again, drawing his blanket snugly around himself. Within moments, his snores filled the tent. Jake was not long behind him.
The near drowning incident Burl mentions is a nod to both the RP and history itself. In our scenario of the CS crossing of the Potomac after Gettysburg, Jake was swept away by the high river water and subsequently rescued by Burl. This incident is based off an anecdote from Gen. Longstreet's memoirs, where a wagon was nearly swept off the bridge in a similar fashion, but recovered safely.