His transcript lay closed on his pillow and he picked it up and reclined back, picking up the narrative where he had left off. He let his mind wander and stared off into the distance down the long drive that led up to the house, his eyes unfocused. Suddenly a movement caught his attention and he concentrated his vision on the cause of disturbance. Panic pricked at him as he recognised the uniform trudging towards him.
He whimpered a cry of fear and moving as fast as his pregnant body would allow he made his way into the house screaming a warning to Ben and Trystum.
Trystum came galloping down stairs a rifle in his hands and a pale faced Ben cradling Caleb against his heavily pregnant figure no more than a few steps behind him. He rushed out the front door and stood on the porch his gun levelled at the southern soldier’s chest.
“Stop right there Boy,” Trystum shouted and cocked his rifle to show he meant business.
The southern soldier removed his hat and beamed a white toothy smile at him. “Now truly is that anyway to greet your son’s adopted daddy?”
Joshua yelped and pushed past his father. “Lance,” he screamed joyfully and rushed up to greet the returning soldier.
Trystum sighed with relief and lowered his gun, nodding reassuringly to Ben.
“What are you doing here?” Joshua demanded as soon as he had stopped covering the dirt stained man with kisses.
“Well honey child I could ask you the same question. Shouldn’t you be in Madison with your husband?”
“Justin sent me away. The bombing was really bad and he said we would be safer here. Chris’ family owns the house. Why are you in a rebel uniform?” Joshua suddenly asked.
“I’ve been undercover but now I have to get back to Madison. Do you have a car or a phone?”
Trystum stepped forward, baby Caleb wriggling in his arms and Lance gasped. “Oh my lord, he has grown so big!”
He reached out and took his adopted son from the maternal father and kissed his little head, moisture forming in his eyes. “Hi sweetie, I missed you so much.” Lance sniffed and chuckled though his tears. “Phew, welcome home daddy.”
Ben stepped tentatively forward. “Should I change him for you sir?”
“Call me Lance. You’re Ben aren’t you?”
The pregnant man nodded nervously.
“We have met once, Chris brought you to my house,” Lance said kindly realising that the breeder was eyeing his uniform warily. “I didn’t know that you were with child though, Chris must be really excited.”
“He doesn’t know sir. My lover brought me here and left before I knew myself,” Ben explained.
Lance stared at the heavily pregnant man and then at Joshua. “Just how long have you been alone?” he asked.
Trystum placed a big pot of stew on the table and all four men bowed their heads to give thanks to the lord. It was early evening and the familiar sound of distant explosions had started again.
Lance had spent the afternoon first trying repeatedly to get a phone call though to Madison head quarters and then an equally futile four hours attempting to get the antiquated truck that was in the old barn to work. Eventually Joshua had gone out to him and insisted that he took a bath and came eat dinner.
The smell of the stew filled the room and Lance’s stomach rumbled reminding him that he had eaten nothing but field rations for the past week.
“There’s not much meat I’m afraid,” Trystum said apologising as he spooned the meal into Lance’s plate.
“The bread is good though,” Joshua said passing a plate of home baked bread to the blond soldier. “Ben makes it. His family allowed him to learn to cook, it’s come in handy.”
Lance took a bite of the offered baked goods and a slow smile spread over his face. “Oh my,” he sighed blissfully. “Just like our cook used to make.” He dipped the bread into his stew and munched on it contentedly. “How long have you been here alone?” he asked halfway though the meal.
“A long time,” Joshua said chewing a small piece of meat. “I was still flat bellied when Justin left me here and so was Ben. I don’t have long to wait now before my baby is born. Lance do you think Justin will come back for the birth?”
Lance sighed wishing he could say yes. “I don’t know sweet pea. What I do know is the sooner I can get to Madison the sooner everyone will be able to go home.”
“Does that mean you are leaving us too?” Trystum asked glumly.
“I’ll leave in the morning.” Lance picked up his plate and carried it out into the kitchen. He opened the refrigerator and saw the meagre supplies that the three breeders had left. “You should have told me,” he said as he heard footsteps behind him.
Trystum leaned against the kitchen counter. “What and worry the young ones, they are both frightened enough. I wanted to keep the prospect of starving from them as long as possible.”
“It won’t come to that Trystum I’ll get fresh supplies out to you as soon as I get to Madison. What about Caleb, does he need anything?”
“Some powdered milk, mine is starting to dry up and although we have started him on solid food I worry that there isn’t the right vitamins he needs.” Trystum placed a pile of dishes in the big ceramic sink and turned on the faucet, filling it full of hot water before leaving them to soak. “Lance can I ask you something?”
Lance leaned back against the fridge. “Sure.”
“You have been south haven’t you?”
“I can’t discuss that.”
“You arrived wearing a rebel lieutenant’s uniform. It’s obvious where you had been even to a stupid breeder.”
Lance grabbed the older man’s arm. “Hey, you are not stupid, none of you are,” Lance snapped. “What I meant was I can’t discuss anything that happened there, not yet anyway.”
Trystum exhaled deeply and sadness shrouded his face. “I just wanted to know if you saw the general.”
“I saw him.”
“And did he mention Joshua, are they looking for him?”
Lance gave a mental groan. “No they are not looking for him. The general already knows where he is.”
“How?” Trystum cried.
“I told him,” Lance admitted as he looked up to see a white faced Joshua enter the kitchen.
It had taken Lance nearly an hour to convince Joshua that the whole southern army wasn’t going to descend upon him and drag him back to the south and to the dreaded breeding farms. Finally the exhausted pregnant teen fell asleep, his head resting on his daddy’s lap.
“I didn’t mean for him to hear that Trystum. I’m sorry.”
“If you are so sorry why did you tell them where to find him?” Ben asked accusingly.
Lance dragged his fingernails over his scalp and heaved a sigh. Things were getting out of hand and suddenly he felt like he owed the three men an explanation. “I wish I could tell you, really I do. There are … things, things that I just can’t say … not yet. Just believe me when I say that Joshua is in no danger at all, none of you are.”
Trystum played with his son’s hair and caressed his face. “We really have no choice but to trust you.”
“You can trust me Trystum.”
The older man nodded resignedly. He bent down and kissed Joshua's forehead. “Can you carry him to bed please? I slipped a sedative in his drink; I didn’t want him to get worked up.”
“No problem,” Lance said and lifted the teen effortlessly from his daddy’s lap. “Did you sedate Ben as well?” he asked nodding towards the other pregnant man who had all of a sudden slipped down and was now spread out over the other big couch.
Trystum nodded and grinned. “They both need the sleep even if they won’t admit it.”
When the three breeders woke the next morning Lance had gone. The only reminder that he was ever there was the rebel uniform that had been thrust in the trash and a note pinned to the fridge promising to send supplies as soon as possible.
Compared to the distance he had already travelled thirty kilometres felt like a stroll in the park, couple that with the fact that he no longer had to dodge southern scouting parties he quiet enjoyed the walk. The closer he got to Madison the more the horror of what had been happening hit him.
“No wonder they sent Trystum and the others away,” he muttered under his breath. By the time he reached the location of his HQ he was in shock. Nearly sixty percent of the surrounding buildings had suffered sever damage. And about 30 percent had been demolished altogether. The headquarters themselves consisted of little more than a third of the building the rest was a pile of rubble.
He approached what was left of the gatehouse and passed his identification papers to the guard. The thirty something soldier read them carefully and then picked up the phone. He whispered softly into the mouthpiece, careful not to let Lance hear what was being said. Lance was under no illusions though. He was a southerner and no matter how much he tried to cover his accent it was still prominent so naturally he would be treated like the enemy until someone who knew him came and clamed him.
He stifled a chuckle as he was surrounded by three armed guards. He lifted his arms and put his hands on his head. “You have my papers,” he said bluntly. “Now get Lieutenant Commander Forbes down here. He will verify who I am.”
“Lance.” the shout made him jump.
He looked around and smiled brightly. “Well well fancy meeting you here.”
He went to lower his arms and was prodded in his ribcage by a rifle barrel. Sighing he lifted them back above his head.
“Come on CK tell them who I am.”
Chris used his knife to cut through the strap of Lance’s message pouch and he grinned. “Take him away for questioning boys.”
“You asshole!” Lance took a step towards Chris fuming at the fact he wouldn’t back him up.
“Don’t forget the cavity search lads,” Chris smirked.
“I will get you for this Kirkpatrick.”
Chris blew him a kiss and strode towards the entrance.
Chris spun on his heel. “What did you say?”
“Nothing, take me away boys,” Lance said smirking all over his face. “I’ll only talk to the Lieutenant Commander and Timberlake.”
“Lance quit the kidding around what did you say about Ben? Lance!” Chris jostled against the armed guard in an attempt to get to Lance. “I was kidding really, he’s one of us,” he said desperately. “Lance tell me what you said about Ben.”
The southern undercover agent grinned as he walked away in the custody of the union army.