“Lonnie will look after you my love,” Justin said softly.
“Why do you have to go?”
Justin kissed Joshua's forehead, brushing the unruly brunette curls away from his husbands steel blue eyes. “Chris would come with me if it was you.”
Justin covered his sleepy husband’s mouth with his own, playing his tongue over Joshua's plush moist lips and dipping inside to play with his tongue before breaking away sadly.
“I have to go my love, they are waiting for me.”
“Keep safe,” Joshua murmured as Justin walked away. He curled back up in the quilt inhaling the lingering scent of his husband as he drifted back to sleep.
It was nearing mid day when Joshua woke again. He sat up suddenly realising the time and stumbled out of bed wondering why Jemima hadn’t woken him. He caught his breath as he spotted the empty crib and for a split second panicked before remembering where he was. He tip toed down the stairs and poked his head into the kitchen; sure enough there was Trystum with Jemima. The older breeder had the little girl on his lap and was feeding her under the watchful eye of Lonnie.
The big dark skinned man’s face was split with a massive grin as Joshua came all the way into the room, almost tripping up over Caleb who was developing a talent for getting under his feet.
“Trystum thought you could do with a lie in this morning so we let you sleep,” Lonnie said kindly. “But I warned him that you would be worried if you woke up and saw Jemima was gone.”
“I was for about a second and then I remembered that daddy was here and I knew he wouldn’t be able to resist playing with his granddaughter.” Joshua stepped softly in his bare feet over to the refrigerator and got out a carton of peach juice, going to drink it directly from the package.
“Ahem,” Trystum cleared his throat and shook his head frowning at his son.
Joshua sighed and walked over to the cupboard where they kept the glasses. He gave his daddy a sweet compliant smile and poured himself a drink.
“I’m thinking of cutting my hair,” he said suddenly.
“NO!” the chorus from Trystum and Lonnie reverberated around the room and Joshua's eyes widened at the force behind the word.
“Why not?” he asked timidly. “I’m a northerner now, how many northern men do you see with hair down to their waists?”
“None baby that is the point,” Trystum replied. “Your hair is what depicts you as a breeder and a southerner. Don’t banish your identity because you want to blend in.”
“That’s not the reason I would have given you,” Lonnie said joining in the discussion. “You have beautiful hair; many must be envious of it. As you said how many men have locks like yours? I think I might cry to see it go.”
“Justin would cry,” Trystum pointed out. “I have lost track of the times he has told me how much he enjoys stroking it.”
“So it’s a no then?” Joshua said pouting.
“It’s a no,” Trystum said smiling.
Joshua looked to Lonnie. “A definite no,” the big man said reinforcing the older man’s decision.
Joshua sighed. “I suppose I had better go and wash it then. I may be some time.”
Trystum hid his laughter as his pouty son dragged his feet wearily towards the exit. Joshua turned, “you’re sure it’s a no?” he asked.
“It’s a NO,” the two older men snapped back hiding their smiles.
As soon as Joshua had gone Lonnie grinned. “You know he will cut it anyway don’t you?”
Trystum sniggered and laid Jemima in her crib. “Of course he will, he’s my son but hopefully he won’t cut it all off.”
“He’s very wilful. I thought southern breeders were meant to be subservient and pliant?” Lonnie said observing the total opposite behaviour in his young charge.
“He takes after me, unfortunately. I was a defiant little thing when I was a child. I drove my daddy to the brink of desperation. I only learned my true status when I was thrust into the farms. All defiance got me there was a whipping and starvation. Good breeders kept their heads down and opened their legs when demanded.”
“If anyone ever touched Joshua like that I’d kill them,” Lonnie said venomously.
Trystum smiled and patted the big man on his back. “I thank god that he has you. Justin loves him and can protect him to an extent but he can’t be with him all the time.”
Lonnie nodded understandingly then he grinned again. “How short do you think he will take it? I think to his shoulders.”
As the truck pulled out of the compound Justin leaned back in his seat. Worry marred his face, the thought of leaving Joshua and Jemima alone haunted him. The twenty or so security staff that was stationed to protect the breeders were all seasoned soldiers but still it rested uneasily on Justin and if it wasn’t for the fact that Lonnie was so dedicated to Joshua he doubted he could have left his young husband at all.
Chris sat opposite him, his face emotionless like cool alabaster. The sight was disturbing; Justin was used to the manic humour of the older man and the wild ride that he took anyone around him on.
“Have there been any sightings?” Justin asked Joey wanting to take his attention off of the knife that Chris was meticulously sharpening.
“There have been the usual reports; you know the ones. Ben has been spotted everywhere from Louisiana to Turkey.”
“Don’t tell me, he was in the company of Elvis,” Chris snipped sheaving his knife.
The dark haired man forced a smile. “Joke okay, granted a bad one but a joke never the less.”
Joey grinned and Lance snorted. “The peace is over,” he retorted. “It speaks once again.”
Chris gave the younger man the finger and continued. “I have been thinking.”
“I wondered what that constipated look was,” Lance quipped.
Joey slapped his annoying husband around the back of his head. “Carry on Chris,” he said encouragingly.
“I’m thinking that if we don’t find them that I’m leaving the states. There are places that are crying out for experienced fighters.”
“Become a mercenary you mean?” Justin took a deep intake of breath at the road that his friend was contemplating.
Chris didn’t answer; he just stared at the floor of the truck they were travelling in.
“That’s some serious shit to get into CK,” Lance said apprehensively. “As a mercenary you have no rights. If you were to be captured there is nothing the union could do to help you.”
“I’ve got nothing to lose. Without Ben and Declan my life is worthless, at least as a soldier I’m some use to someone.”
“You want me to come with you?” Justin asked.
“What the fuck!” Chris exclaimed. Justin couldn’t be serious. “You’d leave Joshua and Jemima!”
“I would if you asked me to. Josh would understand.”
“Josh would not understand. I can’t believe that you would even consider it. Do you know how dangerous being a mercenary is?”
Justin grinned triumphantly. “Yeah I do and so do you; so stop being an asshole and find your lover and son.”
Chris glared at his younger friend as he realised the trap he had been led into.
“And for the record Chris I wouldn’t leave Joshua and JJ for anyone, not even you.”
Joey pursed his lips and gave a low whistle. “Thank god for that. Dude I didn’t want to be the one that told Joshua that you and CK had gone off to be soldiers again.”
“Captain. Radio message,” A young private said, sticking his head through the curtain that separated the drivers from the troops in the back. “Raiders have been spotted on what’s left of the I-55 heading south. Sir they have a baby with them.”
“Declan, it has to be Declan.” Chris’ bottom lip trembled as he waited to hear Joey's decision.
“Turn around.” Joey's eyes fixed on Chris’ as he spoke the look intense. “It might not be Declan, you know that don’t you?”
“It’s him and where my son is that’s where I will find my lover. They will need Ben to look after the baby, he’s a newborn.” Chris grabbed hold of the side of the truck as it swung around, steadying himself. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a new pack of cigarettes, peeling off the cellophane and popping the top open. He banged the pack on his knee and then pulled out the loosened cigarette with his teeth before offering the pack around.
“Thought you had given up?” Justin said as he took one from the packet.
Lance laughed out loud. “What again CK you have to be kidding me. What is that the twentieth time this year?” still he took a cigarette and waited to be offered a light.
“Twenty-sixth but who’s counting,” Chris said shrugging as he lit up.
Joshua sighed and hung his legs over the edge of the chair. He had got used to being able to go where he pleased and now suddenly his new found wings had been clipped. He got up and walked over to the window, looking out over the court yard. Armed guards stood around some talking in small groups, others scrutinising the surrounding area their rifles at the ready. He watched as Lonnie lumbered across the tarmac towards the house. The big man had been out getting Joshua the cotton candy he had been craving for the entire night and half the morning. Now it was available he really didn’t fancy it anymore. What he had really wanted was to go out and buy it himself. Lonnie had been getting overprotective since Ben had been abducted and even worse since Justin had left.
The door opened and the big bodyguard came in, a bag of pink and green cotton candy in his hand.
“Here you go angel. Don’t eat it all at once your daddy told me I wasn’t to get you anymore.”
”Then why did you?”
Lonnie grinned showing his huge white teeth. “Because it might just stop you from trying to go and get it yourself.”
Joshua took the offered bag, tore it open and ripped off a handful and stuffed it into his mouth sulkily. “Has there been any word of my husband?”
Lonnie shook his head. “Not yet,” he replied. “You are worried for his safely?”
”We don’t have a very good track record,” Joshua snorted. “Whenever we are apart either he gets into trouble or I do.”
Lonnie sat down on an over padded chair opposite his young charge and exhaled slowly. “There will be no getting into trouble while I am in charge of your welfare.” He studied the young breeder for a long moment before he spoke once more. “What did your daddy say about your hair?”
Joshua's hand went automatically to his head and he had the decency to blush scarlet at the results of his disobedience.
”He told me that if I wasn’t a married man he would put me over his knee and spank me. But as I was married he would leave that task for my husband to do when he returns.”
Lonnie grunted in agreement. “I am quite tempted to spank you myself. You must have cut off more than two foot, what did you do with it?”
”It’s in my dresser. I plaited it first and then sawed it off.”
”Did you cry after you had done it?”
Again Joshua looked sheepishly at his bodyguard and nodded. “I regretted it straight away.”
”As your daddy said you would.” Lonnie leaned back in his chair and lifted his booted feet onto the table and yawned. “Read to me from the story you are writing. It will pass the time for both of us.”
Joshua huffed and reached down the side of his couch and retrieved the tan leather bound manuscript that he had been working on for the past year.
“The garden was in full bloom and was heavy with the fragrance of the Magnolia that grew in abundance. It gave the slight breeder the impression of peace but he knew that his country was still at war, the south was still at fighting with the northern states; fighting for his freedom and his right to chose his own life mate.” Joshua read the opening paragraph of his novel. He had decided to write his own love story and actually put into words the adoration that he had for his soldier husband. It’s not as if he had to make it up, it was the stuff romantic novels were made of after all.
Lonnie sat and listened to his charge’s life so far, hanging on every word as the young breeder described in detail his meeting with Justin, or should he say Jason as Joshua had reamed his saviour.
Joshua read for about an hour and then was forced to stop by the dryness of his throat. He was about to request a drink when his father entered carrying a tray of orange juice. He scowled annoyed at his son’s haircut making the slim man flush in embarrassment once more.
”I said I was sorry,” Joshua mumbled as he took one of the glasses. Trystum grunted and offered Lonnie a drink too.
”I put Jemima down for the night, Caleb too. The poor little mites were unable to keep their eyes open.”
”But JJ needs feeding,” Joshua started to protest.
”Jemima has been fed. I used the milk you expressed earlier. She has been fed and she has been bathed so there is no need to worry.”
Lonnie yawned again and stretched before standing up. “I think you should go to bed too Joshua it’s late.”
The breeder started to protest and was silenced by his father’s disapproving gaze. He heaved a huge sigh and got up slowly knowing that he had no choice but to do as he was told once more. “I had better go to bed then,” he grunted. He kissed his daddy on the cheek and then kissed Lonnie’s cheek before retiring for the night.
As soon as Trystum heard his feet on the stairs he got up and walked over to the liquor cabinet and poured himself a scotch. He held the bottle up offering the bodyguard one too. Lonnie grunted his approval and accepted the offered beverage.
Trystum clicked his glass against the bodyguards and downed the golden fluid. “Did you talk to Corporal Tompkins?” he asked.
”They think that the rebels are heading south again and they are pretty sure Ben is with them, Declan defiantly is. They are heading after them as we speak.”
”I take it you haven’t told Joshua this.”
Lonnie shook his head. “No it’s best he doesn’t know the same way as its best he doesn’t know that he is a definite target.”
”You never said how you know that,” Trystum pointed out. He had wondered how the bodyguard seemed to be un-phased by the information that Joshua was targeted for kidnapping.
”No I didn’t, did I.” the big man yawned again. “I think I’ll turn in for the night too. Goodnight Trystum.”
The older breeder watched the bodyguard go as he sipped his scotch. He had an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach and although he felt in his heart that the African man would never hurt Joshua he wasn’t sure that for the right price he wouldn’t sell him. He forced the feeling to the back of his mind and finished his scotch then went to bed.