The sixteen year old wanted to know everything about Joshua's life in the south and he gawped open mouthed as Joshua described the loneliness and solitude that he had been forced to endure.
“You have lovely hair,” Boris said one night as he stood behind Joshua brushing it for him. “Not many men grow their hair long in the north. Is it a southern thing?”
Joshua looked at the curious boy in the mirror. “It’s a breeder thing. We are not allowed to cut our hair.”
“I wish I could have long hair,” Boris said wistfully.
Joshua studied the adolescent soldier. He was vaguely attractive with short blond hair that reached his collar and big hazel eyes that shone excitedly and made his too long face light up.
“I always wanted to be a soldier,” Joshua said his voice dropping to a confiding whisper. “To fight for my country and make my father proud. I hated being hidden away beneath veils and robes. I wanted to run and play with the other boys.”
Boris chuckled. “And I always wanted to be a breeder, to have the respect that you have.”
Joshua snorted back a laugh. “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”
Boris pulled the brush down the length of Joshua's hair. “I know that it was different for you, living in the south and all. But in the north it is different for breeders. They are cherished and pampered and never abused. Abusing a breeder carries a jail sentence.”
Joshua gasped and clutched his belly, panting heavily until the pain eased.
“Sir I’ll get help.” Boris started to run towards the tent’s door flap.
“No … no I’m ok. My daddy said they are practice pains and not to worry.”
Boris hovered uncertainly. “Sir I have to tell the captain.”
Joshua got up awkwardly from the chair he was sitting on in front of the dresser. “Really there’s no need to bother Captain Fatone. It’s passed now.” He yawned. “I think I’d like to sleep now. Thank you for brushing my hair. I can braid it myself.”
Boris chewed his lip. “If you need me I will be right outside.”
“Thank you but I will be just fine.”
Joshua crawled between the sheets of the narrow cot that had been provided for him. Boris had said that it had been commandeered especially for him and that the rest of the troops slept in sleeping bags on the ground. He yawned again and lay on his back his eyes fixed on the dirty green canvas above him. His stomach tightened again and he breathed though the pain. He wasn’t worried he had been experiencing the same thing for the last week or so. The field doctor wasn’t concerned either when he had stopped by to examine him earlier. The medic apologised for not being able to provide a scan but he had him put his legs in stirrups and performed an internal and he had been happy that Joshua hadn’t started to dilate yet, so the birth wasn’t that imminent. The doctor had also listened to the baby’s heart. He had moved the stethoscope around a lot, listening carefully with a slightly puzzled look on his face. That had worried Joshua and he voiced his concern. The doctor patted his hand sympathetically and reassured him that he had nothing to worry about and promised that he would be back in the morning with a better listening device. Now he was alone Joshua was beginning to worry again. Not just about the baby but about Justin. What if Justin went back for him and he wasn’t there? What if the southern army overran the northern troops, would he find himself in a breeding farm and his baby, Justin's baby ripped from his arms? His mind tortured him and refused to let him rest so he got up and slipped on his coat and pushed his feet into his boots; maybe a walk would help to settle him.
Nervously he pushed back the tent flap and stepped outside. Almost immediately he was pounced on by a young corporal.
“May I be of assistance sir?” he asked.
Joshua looked at the young dark haired man and shook his head. “I couldn’t sleep,” he whispered. “I just thought a walk might help.”
“I’ll come with you sir,” the corporal said. Joshua started to shake his head again. “I insist sir,” the corporal said firmly. “Captain Fatone has given strict orders that you be guarded.”
Joshua sighed with resignation. “What is your name?” he asked.
“I’m corporal Murphy sir, Robert … Rob sir.”
“I’m Joshua, please don’t call me sir it brings back memories I would rather forget.”
“No problem sir … Joshua.” The corporal gave a slight laugh. “You know it’s going to take some getting used to, so if I slip I apologise now.”
Joshua shrugged. “Its amazing what you can get used to.” He was still uneasy with being face stripped in public. Although the robes of his office were cumbersome and sometimes overly warm he felt safe hidden beneath their layers.
The two men walked in silence, Joshua bristling beneath the blatant stares directed in his direction.
“They mean no harm Josh; they just haven’t seen a pregnant man before. Most of them are career soldiers; men like them are at the bottom of the breeding list.”
“I thought the north was more liberal than that.”
Rob laughed at Joshua's display of innocence. “Even in the north we have restrictions,” he confided. “To qualify for breeding rights you have to complete at least ten years in the military. The thing is there are not enough breeders to go round, everyone knows it. That’s another reason the south are so desperate to invade. We have raided so many of their farms and stolen so many of their breeders that they have no choice.”
Joshua digested the new information silently and blushed when a man of about thirty rushed up to him and gave him a pink rose. The man backed off at Rob’s scowling face.
“Maybe we should get you back to your quarters.” Rob suggested.
Joshua sniffed the blush pink bloom in his hand. “Where did he get a rose around here?”
“Some of these guys could get you anything for the right price. You want a bale of fine Chinese silk, you got it. You want a gallon of malt whisky from Scotland, no problem. It’s called the black market.”
“That’s amazing. Is it legal?” Joshua asked prompting laughter from anyone close enough to hear his question and making him blush with embarrassment.
“Fuck off you lot, don’t you know a man of real breeding when you see one. Joshua isn’t one of the dirty street rats you mangy lot are used to mixing with.” Rob put a guiding arm around Joshua's shoulder. “Ignore them, boredom makes them into the idiots they are.”
“Yeah and you are so much better than us,” a stubble faced man sniped.
“Well I know how to behave in front of a breeder that’s for sure,” Rob snapped back.
Corporal Murphy escorted Joshua back to his tent. “You should go back to bed now Joshua, I’ll bring you a glass of hot milk to help you sleep. Please don’t leave your quarters again tonight. Boris will come to you in the morning and accompany you to the wash room.”
Joshua reluctantly agreed and went into his tent. A few minutes later Rob Murphy brought him the promised warm milk and left. Half way through the creamy drink Joshua started to feel strange and groaned. He should have known. The drink had obviously been spiked with a sleeping compound. Unable to keep his eyes open any longer Joshua slipped into a drug induced sleep.
Joshua blinked and stretched, yawning. Beside him on the bedside table was the remains of his bedtime drink and seeing it reminded him that he had been drugged. He swung his legs out of bed and got up, wrapping a robe around him. He was incensed and was going to give captain Fatone a real piece of his mind. He strutted to the tent opening and was startled to meet Boris coming in.
“You are awake sir! I was just coming to wake you and take you to the wash room. I have two men on guard there so you can shower and carry out your daily ablutions in privacy.
“I want to see captain Fatone,” Joshua demanded. “NOW.”
Boris shrugged. “Wash room first sir. Captain Fatone is in a meeting and cannot be disturbed. As soon as you have bathed I will accompany you to the mess tent.”
Joshua stomped his foot angrily but followed his guard to the small wooden building. “Do you need help sir or shall I wait outside?”
“Wait outside please,” Joshua said sulkily. “I won’t be long.”
It was much later in the day when Captain Fatone finally pulled back the tent flap and walked into Joshua's quarters.
“You wanted to see me Joshua?” the captain sat wearily on a padded chair.
“I thought you wasn’t going to see me,” Joshua said pouting.
“I have things to do Joshua I can’t baby sit you all day.”
Joshua jumped to his feet. “I didn’t ask to be here,” he screamed. “I was safe where I was. First you rip me from my home then you drug me.”
“Corporal Murphy informed me of his actions. He acted in what he saw was your best interests. He cleared the medication with the doctor first.”
“How dare he presume?” Joshua was furious. For the first time since he had been liberated he felt confident enough to take on the men that seemed to be controlling his life. Maybe it was due to the raging hormones that surged through his body, he didn’t know. But he wasn’t going to let his anger be filtered away with lame excuses.
“I’m sorry Joshua. I will make it clear that no more sedatives are to be administered to you without your consultation.”
Captain Fatone’s concession took the pregnant man by surprise and left him speechless momentarily. “And I want word sent to Justin so he knows where I am.”
“No?” Joshua gasped. “You have to let him know.”
“I have to do no such thing. Don’t you understand this is war boy? There is no ‘have to’ you will do what ever I tell you to. Now sit down and read your book like a good little breeder and do it outside.” Joey got up and started to leave. “No more demands Joshua, obedience is what I demand now and you will behave. I promise you no more drugs and that is it.”
“General the northerners have a breeder in their camp.” The young soldier placed an envelope on the general’s desk. Chasez picked it up and pulled out the observation photos.
“Joshua,” Chasez breathed. He quickly dismissed the soldier and picked up the black and white prints, studying them once more. What was Joshua doing in the front line and so obviously pregnant too. He poured himself a brandy and slumped back into his chair. That traitor Lance had promised that Joshua would be kept safe, he should have know better than to trust him. He drained his glass and refilled it taking a large gulp. He had no choice he would have to get Joshua back himself. He would hide him away until his child was born and then take the child as his own. He would then carry out his original plan, making it look as if Joshua had committed suicide and then Joshua would be at peace where no one could ever hurt him again and with luck his child would not be a breeder and would be able to live his life happily.
General Chasez made his plans. The intelligence report pinpointed the precise tent that Joshua was staying in. it also reported a tall bearded captain that spent hours inside the tent with the breeder. “That must be his husband,” Chasez reasoned. Why else would Joshua be so close to the front line? The northerners seemed to let Joshua wander around willy-nilly with no protection what so ever, so confidant they were that their camp was impenetrable.
Well they would find out the truth when he snatched his son back from under their union noses. Satisfied that he had god on his side Chasez reclined back in his chair and finished his drink.