Chris’ hand closed over his shoulder, gripping him unnaturally tightly. “Justin think; I know you are worried but rushing in there will only get you killed.”
Chris squeezed his hand tighter making Justin dip his shoulder in an attempt to escape the uncomforting grip. “Fatone is influential; I would lay bets that he has the best protection against air raids.”
Justin spun on his heel and strode away from the roadblock his face contorted with the agony he was feeling. He screamed loudly and began kicking at a nearby fence, smashing it bit by bit until it was a pile of rubble. Chris stood silently behind him watching as the young man vented his frustration. Justin stopped and his shoulders sagged, his head fell forward and he began to sob into his hands.
Chris took him in his arms and hushed him softly, rubbing at his back.
“Why CK? Why do these things keep happening to us?” Justin's breath hitched. “Why can’t we just be together, is it because I took him from his home by force? He forgave me why can’t God?”
Chris gulped back the lump that had formed in his throat. “It’s the war Justin. We think we’re used to it, immune, but we’re not. It destroys and consumes, rips lives and people apart. It’s not god that keeps you and Joshua apart its men.”
Another bomb exploded raining its destruction down on Madison and Justin sagged to the dirt trembling. He had spent almost seven years in the forces; he had thought he was hardened to the horrors of war. But this was different. This was the first time someone that he loved was involved. He covered his head with his arms and hands trying to block out the sounds of the missiles screaming over his head and the massive bangs as they hit their targets. How did Joey Fatone cope with knowing that James was undercover in the south, knowing that he was constantly in danger of being discovered? Silence filled the air and then a loud wailing replaced the falling bombs.
“That’s the all clear Justin. They are letting us through now.”
Justin looked up at CK and then rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes. He held out his hand and Chris helped him up. He brushed down the back of his pants and climbed back into the passenger seat of the jeep, keeping his eyes fixed on his hands so that Chris wouldn’t see that he was crying again.
Trystum hugged Joshua to him as they shivered terrified in the bunker. The bombardment had lasted for hours. The electricity had failed some two hours ago and they had scrambled around in the darkness until Lance had found an oil lamp.
“We’re safe down here,” Lance said confidently as Joshua whimpered and hid his face in his daddy’s chest. “It won’t last much longer.”
“How often does this happen?” Trystum asked.
“Not as often as it used to. A lot of the time the missiles are intercepted before they get this far. Something must have gone wrong with the tracking system.” Another explosion rocked the shelter sending Joshua scurrying to the far side of the room, his hands clenched protectively over his unborn child.
Lance passed Caleb to his natural father and moved over to the cowering teenager.
“Look at me Joshua. Do you trust me?”
Joshua nodded and caught his bottom lip between his teeth. “The bombs will stop falling in about an hour or so. As I told you we are safe down here but I want you to take this pill for me.” Lance took a small vial out of his pocket and tipped a tiny white tablet into his palm.
“What is it?” Joshua asked worriedly.
Trystum stepped to where he could see what was going on. “James it won’t hurt the baby will it? On the farms they wouldn’t let us have any medicine at all; they said it would damage the foetus.”
Lance grimaced and shook his head. “I’m amazed any babies survived. You got no medical care at all?”
Trystum shook his head. “No. it wasn’t unknown for breeders to die. The baby was always saved.”
“Well this tablet is a mild sedative. I asked doctor Griffin to prescribe them for Josh for exactly this sort of situation. It’s important that we keep him as calm as possible.” Lance turned his attention back to Joshua. “Will you take it for me?”
The pregnant teen nodded and dutifully swallowed the pill.
“Good lad. Now let’s get you settled on those cushions over there.” Lance winked at Trystum and pretended to yawn indicating to him that Joshua would soon be asleep.
Chris and Justin drove through the ruins of Madison neither one willing to voice the fear that was growing in their hearts. The city was in ruins; fires burned out of control as fire fighters battled to extinguish them.
“Maybe he was in a shelter,” Chris said reassuringly.
Justin gulped and stared stony faced as a body was pulled from the rubble that used to be a house. Chris kept driving, turning his face away from the devastation. He turned into a wide street and was stopped by soldiers.
“I’m sorry Sergeant I can’t let the jeep though.”
Chris nodded his appreciation of the situation and turned off the engine. “We have business at the Fatone residence.”
“The Fatone’s have been hit hard sir but if you want to go down and see what you can do to help I’m sure it will be appreciated.”
“Soldier was anyone at home?” Justin asked in a whisper.
“We’re not sure yet lieutenant. We haven’t found any bodies and the fire is out. Lieutenant Bass Fatone is an important man I’m sure he would have an escape route for him and his people.”
The house was blackened where the flames had taken hold and as Justin and Chris approached the porch a fire fighter came out with a charred crib.
“OH shit, Caleb … he wasn’t …” Justin stammered his hand clamped over his mouth in horror.
“The house was empty sir,” the uniformed man said quickly pushing away any fears that the two soldiers might have had.
The soldier spun around at the sound of his name being screamed and locked eyes with his young husband. Justin began running, he swept Joshua off of his feet spinning him around and around, smothering his face with kisses a mixture of happiness and relief consuming him.
“Justin,” Joshua wept. “It’s you it’s really you.”
Justin tangled his fingers in his husband’s curls and pulled his head back, smothering his mouth with his own as he kissed him passionately.
“My work is done here, now I must go to whence I came,” Chris joked. “Always remember he who reunited the lovebirds.”
Justin gave him the finger never breaking lip contact with his husband’s sweet mouth. “I thought I’d lost you. I thought the south had you.” Justin was vaguely aware of a deep bass laugh but ignored it as he languished in his euphoria.
Joshua rubbed his cheek against Justin's, relishing the stubbly roughness. He inhaled deeply re-familiarising himself with his lover’s scent.
“I thought so too. I was so frightened when Lance came to see me. I thought he had come to take me back. To take me away from you forever.” Joshua buried his face into his husband’s neck and licked softly at the sensitive skin.
“I would have torn the south apart to find you,” Justin whispered venomously leaving Joshua with no doubt that he meant every word.
“Mr Timberlake I assume.” It was the same deep voice that had just chuckled at Chris’ stupid joke.
Justin lifted his head to see a green eyed sweet faced man looking at him with his hand held out in an offer of friendship. “I’m James Bass-Fatone.”
“Justin,” Justin said offering his own name. “I don’t know how to thank you. Thank you for keeping my sweet angel safe.”
Lance smiled “It has been an immense pleasure I assure you. And it’s good to meet you at last. Joshua has told me so much about you.”
Justin hugged the teenager in his arms tightly to him and grinned back. “Joey gave me a message for you. He said he loves you and will be back as soon as he can.”
Lance nodded thankfully and beckoned the small group to follow him. “I’m afraid the house is a bit damaged,” he said in his thick southern accent. “But fortunately the guest house was untouched. We will move in there for the time being. Come Joshua, you need your rest.”
“Rest, why? what’s wrong are you ill sweetheart?” Justin asked in a slight panic.
Joshua blushed and ducked his face back against Justin's shoulder. “Not ill Justin, pregnant. I’m having your baby.”