A door was held open for him and he stepped inside, waiting politely to be introduced.
“Lieutenant Bass, General,” the young clerk that had shown Lance to the office announced. General Chasez looked up from his pile of paper work and nodded, indicating to his clerk that he wanted him to leave.
“The prodigal returns,” he said sarcastically.
“General,” Lance said in reply, nodding his head in an informal greeting.
“You look like shit soldier.”
Lance chuckled. “Well that’s what working for the Yankees does for you.” Lance slipped easily back into his lazy Mississippian drawl, an accent he worked hard at hiding when in Madison. “Besides I could hardly come back here looking like I had been on vacation.”
The General grunted and tapped the edges of a pile of papers on his desk as he straightened them. “I guess not,” he conceded. “What of the wound?”
“It’s real enough. I had to make it look like I had escaped.”
The General grunted his approval even if it was begrudgingly. He hated everything that Bass stood for. He was nothing more than a traitor but that traitor had given him a way to save his son’s life. Hesitant to ask but needing to know he asked. “Joshua … is he … is he well?”
Lance hobbled over to an easy chair and lowered himself into the padded comfort, breathing a grateful sigh as he took the weight off his tired feet. “Joshua is settled.”
“The north … they are treating him respectfully like you promised me?”
Again Lance nodded. “My own husband was a party to choosing him a life mate. Joshua accepted the choice.”
“This man, this northerner, is he good to my precious?” The General‘s voice almost broke as he discussed his only son.
“He’d kill to keep him and he’d die to protect him.”
General Chasez breathed a relieved sigh and closed his eyes, resting his head in his hands as he composing himself before looking up to meet the cold green eyes of the turncoat once more. “I was worried, I do admit that. You hear so many things about how the northerners treat their breeders.”
“It’s only the south that does that General.”
“Still one can’t help but listen to the rumours. I thought my plan to save Joshua had failed when I received news that he had been found and was being returned south.”
Lance yawned and stretched, he’d had a long journey though difficult conditions to get back to Carolina and his fatigue was beginning to catch with him. “Just ask me outright General.”
The General scowled at the traitor sitting in front of him and wished that he could call for his guard right now and wipe that conceited smirk off that pretty face, but he knew if he did that he would be incriminating himself. Swallowing his pride he asked. “What happened to Richardson and his attachment?”
“Joshua's husband killed them; he took out the whole lot single-handedly and took back what he saw as his.”
“He took on a whole attachment for one southern breeder?” The general was shocked that a trained soldier would take such a risk for one teenage boy.
“General to keep Joshua, Justin would take on the whole southern army.” Lance stood up and yawned again. “We will speak later General, right now I need to rest, take a bath and change into a new uniform. I presume dinner will be at 6 as usual?”
The General seethed with hatred, not really wanting to share his table with the man in front of him. “Yes,” he said begrudgingly.
Lance’s room was the same one he had occupied the last time he was in the south and his clean uniforms still hung in the closet. He opened the window and let the clean floral scent of South Carolina waft over him, the north had never smelt this good. He surveyed the gardens, remembering the last time he was here. Then he had watched Joshua as he swung on the wooden framed swing, reading a book of poetry or some such scholarly thing. He had been hidden under his robes of office then, hidden away and secluded from real life, from the war. Reluctantly Lance pulled himself away from the view of the garden and the vision of the breeder. He had been an innocent child back then. Now the child was expecting a child of his own. Briefly Lance considered telling Chasez that he was to be a grandfather then pushed the notion from his mind and went into the bathroom.
He knew he looked stupid standing in the lavender decorated room with a massive grin plastered across his face but he couldn’t help it. The sight of his cast iron bathtub that stood alone in the middle of the room on its big brass clawed feet filled Lance with joy. Hurriedly he opened the faucet and taking a small bottle from one of the glass shelves that lined on of the walls he tipped a small amount of bubble bath into the hot stream of water. As the aroma of honeysuckle and orange blossom filled the room he considered briefly the detrimental effect the oils could have on his wound then dismissed it almost immediately. It was a risk he would take to soak away the journeys grime and relax his tired bones, besides the wound was really only a graze; the bullet had been well placed by an excellent shot. Lance’s mind wandered once more as he remembered the few snatched moment s he had shared with his husband Joey at Madison’s army HQ. He had been flown in specially, knowing that Lance would trust no one other than the gruff dark haired captain to shoot him.
Lance went back into the bedroom and smiled as his gaze landed on his drinks cabinet. He opened the ornate carved maple doors. He reached in and removed a cut crystal decanter. He pulled the stopper and inhaled the fiery liquid inside. “Ahh,” he sighed. “The other good thing about the south, the ability to purchase a good French Cognac.” He poured himself a large goblet and went back to take his bath swilling it around the glass as he warmed it in his hand.
Joshua was bored, pissed and bored. Every time he tried to do anything for himself he was descended upon and forced back to his resting place on the couch or porch swing. True to his word Justin had fixed the rickety old piece of garden furniture before he and Chris left. The teenager heaved a heavy sigh and tried to concentrate on the book Trystum had brought for him to read from the houses extensive library. It was pre war and called Lady of Hay. Set in England it was about a woman who was hypnotised and relived a past life and although it was well written and very engrossing, Joshua was having trouble focusing. Dusk had started to fall and in the distance he could hear the familiar sound of the muted blasts that were rocking Madison thirty kilometres away. He said a silent prayer, begging god to protect his husband and to watch over Chris too.
“Justin knows what he is doing Joshua.”
The pregnant teen looked up to see his maternal father standing over him.
“I don’t understand why he had to go back. He’s not in the army anymore. He should be here with me.”
Trystum sat on the tiled porch floor. “In times of intense need former soldiers are expected to volunteer, Justin explained this to you before he left.”
“But we had so little time.”
Trystum placed a comforting hand on his son’s knee. “I know darling but you have to have faith. Justin will come home to you and together you will raise your baby boy. Have you thought of any names yet?” he asked in an attempt to shift Joshua's attention from the regular distant explosions.
“I was thinking Gabriel or Danilo, Darius maybe; I really would like to decide with Justin.”
“They are all good names, strong names; although I have never heard the name Danilo before.”
Joshua blushed. “I stole it from a book I read as a child. It was tucked at the back of my father’s bookcase. It was called The Heritage of Hastur and it invoked such romantic notions in me. The two heroes were two boys, only 16 years old, but they fell in love. One was a lord and the other his sworn man, and although they were forbidden to love they did anyway.”
“It sounds sad; does it have a happy ending?” Trystum asked genuinely interested.
Joshua shrugged. “I don’t know, father caught me reading it and took it from me. He said it wasn’t educational and I should not fill my head with such nonsense.”
“I’m sorry Joshua. Maybe we can find you a copy in our library?”
An embarrassed smile spread across Joshua's face. “I wrote my own ending, I so wanted to read that they loved each other for the rest of their lives.”
Trystum nudged Joshua's leg with his shoulder. “You old romantic you. You should write a romantic novel; after all you have nothing else to do until you are past your second semester.”
Joshua blushed again. “I couldn’t … could I?” Joshua frowned, deep in though.
“Joshua baby you could do anything you put your mind to.” Trystum said proudly.