Chris placed a calming hand on Justin's shoulder as the commander explained. “Calm down Timberlake, Joshua is safe. He’s not here anymore but he is safe.”
“What do you mean he’s not here? Where the fuck is he? If you have hurt him, so help me I’ll...”
“You’ll what soldier?” the officer asked, standing up and getting into Justin's face.
“Sir, JT is just upset that’s all. He never meant anything sir.” Chris tried desperately to calm the situation.
“I suggest that you calm your friend down Kirkpatrick or he will be spending the next 60 days in the brig.”
“You can’t do that!” Justin said in shock.
The commanding officer sat down smiling nastily. “I can do what ever I god-damned please. I’m in charge of this HQ and my word is law so sit down and shut up.”
Justin opened his mouth to retaliate then thought better of it, deciding instead to do as he had been told.
“Now lieutenant, do you have your papers that confirm your discharge and your right to the breeder.”
Justin glared at the older man that sat on the other side of his desk, peering over the rims of his glasses at him. He pushed his hand into the inside pocket of his jacket, pulled out the bundle of papers and handed them over.
The officer went through them, taking his time and checking them carefully before folding them up and handing them back. “They seem to be in order,” he said. “The breeder has been transported to Wisconsin.”
“He has a name, It’s Joshua Timberlake.” Justin grunted. “Where in Wisconsin is he? It’s a big state.”
The officer leaned back in his chair his fingers laced together and resting on his desk. “Madison. Lieutenant Bass-Fatone took him and his father to his family home.” The older man rummaged in his desk drawer and fished out a letter. “The breeder … Joshua left you this. I suggest you find Timberlake somewhere to sleep Sergeant.”
The officer turned to address Justin, “It’ll be a couple of days before I can give you a pass to travel north until then you are relieved of duty.”
“But sir, it’s already been three days, Joshua isn’t used to being alone. He’s been protected all his life, he depends on me.” Justin pleaded.
“Regardless, I have to do this officially. Besides Sergeant Kirkpatrick’s discharge papers need to be prepared.”
“Discharged? Why?” Justin was taken aback by this new information.
“I came to the end of my tour of duty, I decided not to sign up again didn’t I tell you that I have breeding rights now?” Chris grinned. “I’m going north with you and to my future husband. His name is Ben. He’s a southern breeder too. I picked him up a couple of months back. He wasn’t as lucky as Joshua; he’d been in a breeding camp for ten years. But he has me now.”
Justin gave a tiny smile. “I’m happy for you Chris but that doesn’t mean that I have to hang around here while my husband is in Madison.”
The commanding officer stood up and come from behind his desk. “End of discussion Timberlake,” he snapped as he opened his office door.
Justin stormed out, Chris hot on his heels. “Justin wait up will you.”
The younger soldier stopped and leaned against the wall, the heels of his hands pressed into his eyes, warding off the tears that were building and threatening to fall. “I just miss him so much. He’ll be scared I know he will.”
Chris reached around Justin and pulled him to him, offering what little comfort he could. The younger man rested his head on his shoulder. “I met James Fatone once.” Chris said. “He’s not what you would expect. He’s blond, boyish. He looks like he wouldn’t say boo to a goose but Joey tells me he could slit your throat and then sit down to dinner without blinking. Yet Joe says he’s as gentle as a lamb.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
Chris lifted Justin’s face so he was looking into his eyes. “So that you know that Joshua is in the best possible company. James won’t let anything happen to him or Trystum. Three days JT, that’s all three days. Then I’ll drive you there myself.”
Justin listened silently then nodded. “Three days Chris then I’m going papers or not.”
Chris arranged for a spare cot to be put in the barracks he shared with three other officers. It was a bit cramped but the northern soldiers were sociable and made Justin feel welcome. They pumped him for details of his journey so far and begged him to describe his wedding and how he felt seeing his teenage bride naked before him at the altar.
Justin blushed as he described the way Joshua’s long hair had been woven with lily of the valley and how his father had stood behind him and removed the long white gown, baring the slight pale youth for all to see.
Chris’ eyes glowed with envy and he sighed. “Will I ever see Ben looking like that? I had no idea the southern ceremony was so beautiful.”
Justin looked at his hands then back up at the older man. “It’s not, not really. The southern wedding ceremony doesn’t exist for breeders. It’s a lie made up so that the young breeders won’t rebel and try to run away before they are incarcerated for the rest of their lives. You’ve been to a breeding farm CK. You know what happens in there.”
“Ben told me he used to have long hair. He said it was past his waist, thick and strong. He said within minutes of arriving on the farm he had been stripped and forced to kneel while his head was shaved. To him it was the end of the world and a symbolic indication of his nothingness.” Chris’ eyes clouded with anger as he remembered his fiancée’s sadness. “He said the keepers told him his hair was worth more than he was. How could someone say that to a breeder? All his life he was told he was special, that he was a savior of mankind. That after he had done his duty he would be free to live and love.”
“Joshua was told the same lies,” Justin whispered. “It’s getting late; I think I’ll turn in.”
Justin crawled under his thin grey blanket and rested his head on his forearm, staring into nothingness.
“JT are you okay?” Chris’ concerned voice broke the silence.
“I was just thinking about Joshua. Trying to remember his smell, the feel of him.”
“Three days isn’t that long.”
Justin sighed and turned to look at his friend. “I know. It’s just … what if he finds someone else, changes his mind about being with me?”
Chris rolled his eyes. “Oh shut up! The boy loves you. It’s all we heard day and night. Him howling and wailing about how his husband would be looking for him and how much he loved him.”
Chris chuckled. “He wailed a lot. That was until Trystum calmed him down.”
Justin sat up abruptly. “I forgot to ask about Trystum. How is he and the baby?”
“They are both fine. Caleb wails a lot, just like his brother.”
The other three men in the barracks sniggered in their bunks as Chris turned out the lights.
Joshua sat at the French style dressing table in his bedroom brushing his hair. His long nimble fingers worked free a knot that had formed just above his shoulder. He smiled into the mirror as he saw the reflection of his father enter the room.
“Let me help you darling,” Trystum said taking the brush from his son’s hand. “I love brushing your hair.”
Joshua watched his father through the gilded mirror as he brought the brush down in long powerful strokes until his hair started to crackle with static.
“You look pale darling,” Trystum observed. “Are you unwell?”
“A little nauseous, I think it is the change in climate and the food. I’m really not used to eating such a rich diet.”
Trystum carried on brushing his son’s hair his forehead lined in thought. “When was the last time you bled?” he asked casually.
Joshua met his eyes in the mirror. “I don’t understand your question daddy?”
“Sweet heart,” Trystum said, coming around Joshua's chair, crouching in front of the teenage boy and taking his hands. “Your last bleed, from below.”
Joshua blinked in his naivety.
“You don’t know do you? Was it never explained to you, the changes that would take place as you reached your age?”
Joshua shook his head. My father told me nothing he said the farm would teach me all I needed to know.”
Trystum squeezed Joshua's hands. “So you have never bled?”
Joshua shook his head.
“Don’t worry about it darling. It’s time for you to go to bed.” Trystum helped his son to his feet then walked him over to the four poster bed and pulled back the quilt.
Joshua slipped between the satin sheets and didn’t quite contain the contented sigh that slipped from between his lips. The older breeder pulled the covers up around his son’s neck and kissed his forehead lovingly.
“Goodnight my darling. I love you.”
Joshua yawned and snuggled down in the silky softness of his bed. “I love you too daddy,” he murmured as his eyes closed already half asleep.
Trystum crept out of the room and went downstairs to the living room where Lance had Caleb in his arms rocking in a big old wooden rocking chair that looked out over the beautiful gardens that surrounded the house.
“Joshua has never bled,” Trystum said as he sat down by the younger man’s side.
“Never?” Lance repeated concerned. “But he is a breeder! He was confirmed before we liberated him.”
“All I can think of is he must still be too young to have started ovulating.”
“Or he started but has been impregnated before he experienced his first bleed.” Lance stood up and placed his sleeping child in his crib. “I’ll phone Dr. Griffin, get him to come and give Joshua a physical tomorrow. Has Joshua lost his virginity? I’m sorry to ask such a personal question but is it possible he could be pregnant?”
Trystum gazed lovingly down at his baby boy sleeping peacefully in the polished wood cradle. “He hasn’t said, but I think that maybe Justin has made love to him. They were alone for weeks and Joshua has come out of his shell a little. He doesn’t cower away when touched anymore.”
“Justin is a good man but I don’t think even he could have resisted Joshua's charms, I know I was hard pressed to.” Lance smiled dismissing Trystum's frown. “I never touched him Trystum. I love Joe. Get some sleep and don’t worry. I’m sure Joshua will be just fine.”