Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fertile Domain by Jude Mason

Jax watched for a moment, deciding what he should do. The man was most likely a traveler like himself, looking for the same thing he was. But, he could be dangerous, very dangerous. Starving men, even bands of them, roamed what remained of civilization, taking what they wanted and destroying whatever they didn’t.

Another moan set him into action. He lowered his gun but didn’t unload it, and approached the man. The cloth covering the man’s back and legs smoldered, but the exposed flesh and the dark mop of shoulder length hair seemed undamaged. Beside him lay a pack very similar to the one Jax carried, but it wasn’t as well rounded. That meant the man had few provisions. He did have a water bottle that looked clean, and was hopefully full.

“Help me,” came a soft, demanding voice. The man’s head rose, and a smudged face with a pair of deep set, brilliant blue eyes turned his way. Pained eyes, beseeching eyes that somehow urged him to a decision.

Jax squatted beside the man, taking stock of him and his gear. He was thin, but not emaciated, so possibly a little food would bring him around. On his belt he carried a compass, a long knife, and two pouches that Jax couldn’t guess at their contents. Neither was large. His clothing, although ragged, might have been functional before the rains. His boots, however, were almost new, and that was the deciding factor. Good footwear was essential, clothing was necessary, but it didn’t have to be pretty.

Sliding the .45 into his pocket, he reached down to help the man up. It was much too easy, and when he finally stood straight, Jax understood why. He wasn’t as tall as Jax’s six feet, possibly six inches shorter and had a very slender build. With his arm wrapped firmly around the man’s waist, they made it into the safer, drier back room. Easing him down beside the fire, Jax went back to retrieve his pack, and anything else he might have dropped.

Beside the pack was a bow, much like his own, but he couldn’t spot a sheath or any arrows. He grabbed the pack by the straps and, after a quick check around, went back to his little sanctuary.

Entering the room, he found his “guest” sitting cross legged and his hands held out to the fire. He’d taken off his outer wear. “Thank you.” The man’s voice was stronger. “I ran one hell of a long way to get here before the rain set in.” He turned, and again those piercing blue eyes focused on him. “You have food?”

The bluntness might have been out of place a thousand years ago but, in the world of pollution and acid rain, it was the norm. Survival wasn’t assured. Men died easily. They were expendable. It was the women who weren’t. Jax shrugged that thought away and replied, “Yeah, I have food.” He nodded to the man’s pack and the bottle hanging from it. “You have water?”

A smile crept across the mud-dabbed face. “Yeah. I crossed a creek on the way. It’s clean.”

“Good.” Jax went to his pack and unfastened the small bag holding his food. Going to the opposite side of the fire, he handed it over and settled down. “Name’s Jax. Yours?”

“Trev.” He took the bag, and with no further ceremony dug into it. Pulling out a small slab of rabbit, he eagerly sank his teeth into the light brown meat. Sharp teeth and grimy fingers tore a chunk off and the sigh of pleasure came from knowing he wouldn’t starve, not that day at least.

Jax had felt the same, on numerous occasions, so he smiled at the man. “You from here?” he asked when Trev had chewed and swallowed a few more morsels of meat.

“From the crèche north of here. Been out for nearly two years, but never seemed to go far. Had a few run-ins with men who thought I’d be easy prey because I’m not huge. As you can see, I did okay. You?”

“South. Two weeks walk, I reckon, if you walked it straight through.” He allowed his eyes to take in the slender man facing him. Lean, but with hard muscles beneath the tattered clothing, he was well worth looking at. The shirt might have been red at one time, but was now threadbare and a pale orange. His jeans had holes in the knees. “I’ve been heading north for about two months. Wanted to check out the countryside. Animals are coming back. Saw a pack of wild dogs yesterday. Got a rabbit the day before.”

Trev dug a piece of hardtack out of the bag and gnawed on it, finally freeing a marble-sized chunk. Chewing, he sat looking thoughtful for a moment. “There’s a breeder looking for males inside the walls at the southern edge of the city. She’s young, and from what I’ve heard, good looking.”

“That’s where you’re aimed for?” Jax reached for his food bag. It was much lighter when he palmed it. Thoughts of trapping a rat or two crossed his mind again, but only for a moment. Rabbit was better, and maybe he’d find better game. “Water.”

Trev nodded, pulled the bottle loose, and handed it over. “Take your fill.” He rubbed his belly and smiled. “Yeah, I’m heading for the fortress. I heard tell that tomorrow she’ll be looking at new men. I plan to be among them.”

Unscrewing the cap, Jax nodded, then drank deep. The water was fresh and sweet, much better than the stale draft he had, and he savored it as it slid into his stomach. Dragging the back of his arm across his mouth, he capped the bottle and handed it back with a quick, “Thanks.”

Trev’s hand brushed his and he glanced down at the smaller one, the fingers shorter but strong looking. He didn’t pull away. And neither did Jax. “It’s going to be a cold one, what with that rain and wind.”

Trev’s eyes found his and both men smiled. “Yeah, I know,” said Trev.

“You have a good blanket or bag?”

“It was before it got wet. Don’t know what the rain did to it.” His smile broadened and he pressed his hand even more firmly against Jax’s. “You?”

“Mine’s a good bag, and it’s dry.” He released the water jug and sat back, giving Trev time to get a good look at what he had to offer. The sky had darkened. Rain beat heavily down on the roof and hissed on contact. The fire crackled between them, needing more fuel, but was bright enough nonetheless. He was already getting hard. Just thinking of the smaller man sharing his bag was enough to bring back memories of men he’d had sex with over the past couple of years. In the crèche, they were encouraged to explore and enjoy the company of their age-mates. There was no guarantee any of them would have anything but male companions. When he left, or had been tossed out, even that release was mostly denied him. He assumed it was the same for Trev.

“Do you want to share?” Trev asked, his voice trembling.

Jax lowered his eyes, and saw the nice bulge showing between his slender thighs. “Yeah. When I like someone.” He glanced up and caught the other man’s eyes. “And I like you.”