Series: Another Life
Snow crunched beneath their boots as they walked off the battlefield. Joel felt the weight of the world pressing down on him. No, he corrected himself as he looked at the man walking beside him. It was not the weight of the world, but the weight of one soul-Teegan’s. And that was in part due to Joel.
Joel had listened to the men and women of the village talk about the power exchange freely. He’d come to understand that the exchange was a scale that was balanced by dominance and submission. Yet, even though he often felt the surge of dominance in his veins, Joel had held back. He hadn’t wanted to mar the start of their life together, but by holding back, Teegan didn’t have the security he needed.
“I have let you down,” Joel stated. “That will be rectified now.”
He watched as hope and fear brightened Teegan’s eyes. However, his sub’s shoulders were still rounded with the weight of the words he’d flung so carelessly. Joel’s pace quickened and became more sure. They walked through the village and on the outskirts up to their small cabin.
Once inside, Joel silently pointed to a corner of the main room. After the cabin had been built and they were placing their newly made furniture inside, Carrick had strongly urged one corner of the room be left empty. Carrick was Teegan’s battalion leader and friend. Joel had come to call him friend as well.
While Teegan stood in the corner, Joel took off his coat and hung it beside the door. He then walked into their bedroom. On the wall by the bed’s headboard hung a solid wooden paddle. The craftsmanship was beautiful. Carrick had made it and, during a welcoming feast, presented it to Joel. He hadn’t used it up to this point. Tonight would see it put to good use.
He took the paddle down and went back to the main room. He laid the paddle on the table and started a fire in the fireplace. During the summer, the crystals gave off enough heat to fight the cold, however, in winter, only the blaze of fire would beat back the frigid temperatures. With the fire starting to roar, Joel pulled out a chair and sat. His sub had had enough time to think. Quietly, he said, “Teegan, go ahead and hang your coat up.”
When Teegan had done as asked and walked up to him, Joel continued, “Teegan, I’ve come to learn that a community is woven together by the people in it. It’s a fabric that warms us. But if there is tear in that fabric, it will fray and become bigger which lets in bitter cold. Your words to your squad leader is the start of a tear. If we don’t mend it quickly, that tear will grow until there is a rift in our community that can’t be mended.”
Joel stopped. His words had speared his lover’s heart. He watched as tears of remorse flowed down his sub’s face. He reached out and untied Teegan’s pants. The repentant young man reached out when Joel offered his hand, and then he stepped out of them. With his hand still in Joel’s, the young man moved to Joel’s side. A slight tug and Teegan was over his lap.
“I’ve not used the paddle before, but tonight it is needed.” Joel lifted up the paddle. But before he could bring it down on the waiting backside, an urgent knock came from the door. Hastily, he set Teegan back on his feet as he stood up.
“Go to the bedroom,” he said striding to the door. Joel had to raise his voice to be heard over the continual knocking.
When Teegan was safely in the room, Joel opened the door to see two unfamiliar faces. One, a woman with red hair, and the other, a pale, thin young man.
“Please, let us in!” The woman demanded as she pushed her way past Joel. “It’s an emergency!”
“Sorry, but it truly is,” The fragile looking young man said, entering behind her.
Joel looked at them bewildered. He thought he’d met everyone in the village at least once, but he didn’t remember these two.
As if reading his mind, the young man cautiously held out his hand and said, “I’m Enoch. And this is Astrid. We are Historians and have come a long way to talk with you.”
“Hurry up! They are right behind us,” Astrid, the fiery-hair woman said impatiently.
“What? Who is right behind you?” Joel knew Gliese was mostly peaceful, but he’d heard stories of other planets wanting to take what they had. Wars had been fought as those who called Gliese home refused to relinquish their planet. Lars, Teegan’s squad leader had lost his legs in such a war.
Before the two strangers could answer, the door rattled in its frame. Something, or someone, was banging on it, demanding entrance.
Astrid sighed. “There’s no other way. They’ll never leave. Go ahead and let them in.”
Joel wanted to argue with the young woman, but at that moment two giant men stormed into the cabin.
“This time there will be no reprieve! You will feel the sting of my belt tonight!” A behemoth of a man growled threateningly as he stalked toward the young man, Enoch.
The second giant seemed to be in agreement as he quipped, “No reprieve at all! I’ll hand him my belt once his is worn out on your butt!”
“Sitting will be a far distant memory, my girl,” a tall, lean woman said striding in behind the men.
Two more women marched in behind her. “Far, far distant!” One promised while the other shut the door behind them.
Joel knew his silent prayer to the stars that Teegan would stay in the bedroom went unheard when his sub opened the door. The impatient sub had at least slipped on new pants before disobeying him. Heading to protect his love, he stopped when the front door burst open.
Lars stood on the threshold, sword drawn, ready for battle. The warrior slowly lowered his weapon upon recognition. “Chandir? What do you here?”
At that moment, everyone started talking at once. The noise increased as each person in the crowded room tried to be heard over the others. Lars maneuvered his way around to embrace the giant called Chandir. The young woman, Astrid, was trying to convince the other three women that she had to leave them. Even Teegan had joined in the ruckus, placing himself in front of the pale young man.
Joel had had enough. He didn’t know where it came from, maybe the stars that had ignored his earlier prayer were trying to make it up to him, but in a voice that carried strength, Joel commanded, “Silence!”
Everyone stopped and stared at him. Though the room echoed in quiet, he continued in the same voice, “Sit down. Now.” Had he not been so focused on gaining answers, he would have chuckled at the large men suddenly dropping to their hind ends.
Weaving his way through the unexpected visitors until he reached Teegan. He pushed his sub behind him. Once he was assured of his safety, Joel looked at everyone.
“Now that I have your attention,” he said sardonically. “I want answers. Starting with you two.” He pointed to their first unexpected visitors.
All that were gathered in the small room turned when Enoch and Astrid stood and started to explain.
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