This is the end of Harvest Quest. I've loved creating this world. I'm not sure if I'll write again in this universe, but I wanted to thank everyone who has been so supportive as I learned how to create a new world.
Title: Harvest Quest Chapter 7
Characters: Joel/Teegan; Lars; Arvad
Series: Another Life
A blast of excitement, nervousness, and a hint of fatigue exploded in Joel’s body. He concentrated on reducing the flow of the link between him and Teegan. Joel had been trying to discreetly gauge his sub’s tiredness before they started on their trek. The night before, the four men had taken turns keeping watch. Lars had explained that as warriors they had trained to have their sleep interrupted, so he and Teegan had taken the middle two watches. Arvad had taken the first and Joel had taken the last, given them longer stretches of sleep.
“I’m fine, agape.”
Joel met Teegan’s eyes. The smiling reassurance in his sub’s eyes had Joel smiling back. He popped some dried fruit in his mouth and adjusted the satchel on his back. He turned to Lars. Joel watched as Lars meticulously cleared their camp.
“The planet is healing. We must only help Earth in its recovery. Wherever we travel, whenever we rest, we will not leave any scars on her. She has been through so much already,” Lars said.
Lars was right, he thought. If the generations that had lived on Earth had been so conscientious, maybe the planet wouldn’t have died. Joel looked around. He saw a few pieces of the dried fruit they had been eating for breakfast. They must have fallen out of their hands. He walked over and picked them up. He didn’t know if the fruit was one that had been on Earth before but it wasn’t there when they stopped for the night. Joel picked them up. There were already enough scars on the planet, he wouldn’t leave anymore.
The golden globe of the sun was shining brightly against the lavender sky, baking the scorched ground as they started walking. Lars walked a few feet ahead with Joel and Arvad sandwiching Teegan between them. The higher the sun rose, the higher the temperature grew, creating wavy mirages in front of the men. Dust and dirt swirled around them with each step they took on the dry ground. They traveled without a path, but they knew their destination. Or the story of a destination.
When Teegan would try to step outside the boundaries of the triangle Lars, Joel and Arvad formed around him, the dominants would tighten the lines, guiding Teegan to stay in the middle. A few hours into their journey, Teegan came to an abrupt stop.
Joel could feel the emotions coming from Teegan. The anger inside his sub burned almost as hot as the sun above them. Joel threw his shoulders back. He widened his stance. Whatever was angering his beloved submissive would have to get through Joel first.
“Stop it!” Teegan’s face was red and sweaty. “The way you are surrounding me. Do you not think I have the brains to figure out what you are doing? I’m a warrior! I do not need to be protected.”
“Agape.” The warning in Joel’s voice didn’t break through Teegan’s anger.
“No! I’m stronger than you and him!” The dust that had been disturbed by Teegan stomping swirled as he pointed a finger at Arvad. “I’m stronger and I’ve had training. But you keep maneuvering around so I’m always in the middle! It’s not fair! Look around! There’s nothing here.”
Joel held himself still and looked at his submissive. Teegan’s face was red, sweat was dampening his hair, and his hands were balled into fists. When his breathing slowed, Joel asked, “Do you feel better? Did your outburst release the poison that was inside of you?”
Teegan lowered his head. “I don’t need to be protected.”
Joel waited as Lars silently handed the repentant man a flask of water. After Teegan took a few swallows, Joel asked again, “I asked if you feel better after your outburst. Please answer me.”
“The poison has been released, yes. But I don’t need you coddling me.”
Joel pointed to a fallen tree. “Let’s rest a bit. Wearing ourselves out won’t be a benefit to anyone.”
Arvad and Lars agreed. Once the men were seated with their backs resting against the tree, Joel took a few sips of his water flask. After quenching his own thirst, he turned to Teegan. “All my life, I was driven to protect those I love. Sometimes I didn’t have the means to protect them. Most of the time I had to bury that drive deep inside me because the power exchange wasn’t fully accepted here. Then on the last night of life on Earth, these blue lights took me to another planet. Another life. A life where I don’t have to suppress this need inside me. A life where I can guard and protect the one I love. And I will do so with everything that I have in me.”
Teegan’s face now flushed with shame. “I’m sorry, my agape. I am so sorry.”
Joel leaned over and kissed him on top of his bent head. “I do not want you to apologize for how you feel.” When Teegan opened his mouth to speak again, Joel gently laid a finger over his mouth. “You are entitled to your feelings. However, you are not allowed to talk in that tone. I think your backside isn’t quite ready to feel my displeasure again after the other night.”
Joel stifled his grin as Teegan vigorously shook his head no. “Then allow me the privilege of protecting you. If there is a threat that needs the skills you have trained for, I will step back.” At Teegan’s nod of acquiescence, Joel gave him another kiss.
“If all is well here, I’d like to start going again. There’s something there that may be nothing, but something is worrying me about it.” Lars pointed to a dark smudge on the horizon.
Joel squinted to see it better, but couldn’t determine what it was. In silent agreement, the men stood up and started walking. They walked away from the darkness, but each time they looked back, the darkness seemed to have grown larger.
The heat became oppressive, stealing the breath from the travelers. The dark smudge that had been chasing them became thunderous clouds. Right before the clouds covered the sun, a fierce wind swept down. The wind stirred the dust around, clogged their noses and mouths. The men quickly pulled out blankets from their bags. They continued to walk as they wrapped the material around their body and faces.
Suddenly, a loud clap of thunder released the rain. Lars shouted something that Joel couldn’t hear over the raging storm. But then Lars pointed. When Joel looked at where the warrior was pointing, he could barely see the outline of mountains. Maybe they could take shelter in some rocks. All four men ran toward the mountain. The ground beneath them became slick as dried earth became mud. Joel stopped only once-when Arvad fell.
By the time he helped the other man up and started to run again, Lars and Teegan were at the foot of the large, rocky mountain. Joel could barely make out the figures as they climbed the large boulders. Then they were out of sight.
“Come on,” Joel shouted to Arvad. “I’ll help you!”
Though the mud kept trying to capture their feet, Joel and Arvad finally made it to the mountain as well. Joel looked up where he’d last seen the two warriors. He saw Teegan standing on a ledge calling to him. Climbing up, Joel saw Lars was at the mouth of a cave. They all scrambled inside to take shelter.
The thunder and rain echoed inside the chamber, but it was dry and protected from the wind.
“There’s no fuel for a fire. We must stay warm. Change into dry clothes,” Lars ordered.
In the dark cave, the men changed their clothes and then sat down to wait out the storm. Joel wrapped his arms around Teegan taking as much comfort as he gave. The passage was dark but narrow, so Joel could just make out Lars and Arvad across from him.
“Rain,” Joel said in wonder. “I can’t remember the last time I saw rain on Earth.”
Arvad leaned forward. “I remember rain. Too much of it. The rain that fell, ate through everything-trees, houses, metal. The acid rain destroyed all that I knew.”
Joel heard the despair in the other man’s voice. But before he could offer comfort, Arvad leaned back and disappeared from sight. The wall he and Lars had been resting against had given way.
Jumping up, Joel and Teegan ran over to peer into the hole that had taken Lars and Arvad. Joel’s heart started beating again when he saw that the two men had fallen only a few feet into another chamber. The chamber was small. It had a small spring of water running through it. There was something odd about the area. Like it had been carved out by man, not nature.
“We are unharmed,” Lars called out. “Can you climb down?”
Joel and Teegan carefully crawled through the hole. By the time, they climbed down to the other chamber, Lars and Arvad were picking up square rocks.
Joel stepped over the small spring of water to see that they weren’t rocks at all. They were wooden boxes. He watched as Lars pried opened one. Then he stared in stunned silence at the packages that filled the box.
“The seeds? The seeds that we are searching for?” Joel knew that it was the seeds that they had come to Earth to find, but he couldn’t believe that they found them so soon. Or in a cave. “But I thought you said they buried the seeds in a well-house on a battlefield.”
Arvad shook his head. “I don’t know how they’ve come to be here. There’ve been so many mudslides. Earthquakes. Volcanoes. Maybe the earth shifted. I just don’t know. But here they are.”
“The stars knew what they were doing when they guided us here,” Teegan said.
Joel didn’t know if it was the stars or pure luck, but it seemed these were the seeds. Joel looked at each package. They were labeled with the type of seed, the nutrients, and the planting information. “These could have saved so many lives.”
“No, they couldn’t,” Arvad said sadly. “That is why they hid them so long ago. But they will save those of us who are now on Gliese.”
Joel nodded. In silence, they looked through the boxes. Some had been damaged and the seeds were no good. The packages that were still sealed went into their satchels. By the time they were finished, the men were exhausted.
“Let’s climb back into the main passage. The spring water here might rise,” Lars said. “We can sleep through the night and when the rain is done, we will head back to where we started.”
Later that night, lying with Teegan wrapped in his arms, Joel laid awake listening to the rain. He knew this would be the last time he stepped foot on Earth. In the morning, forces that he didn’t understand would carry them back to Gliese and he would become the farmer he had always dreamed of being. With thoughts of the life he would live, a soft smile of contentment spread across his face as he fell asleep.
Joel sat at the head of the table. He looked around at all the smiling faces. Some of the faces he knew. Archer and Ryder. Nica, Sophie, Kyra, and Astrid. Chandir, Wryn, and Enoch. Arvad, Albric, and Perry. And the love of his heart and soul, Teegan.
There were so many he didn’t know. People from Earth and Gliese alike, people who came together to celebrate. He’d come full circle back to where he first came to Gliese. It was harvest time for the apple trees. Many had come to help with the harvest and many others came to take part of the celebratory feast.
It had been over a year since they’d returned to Earth. In that year, Joel had carefully tended the crops in the greenhouses he had built in Tarvos. And his reward had been an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Food the planet he had left had given to him. Earth wasn’t his home anymore, but it’s last act of giving had ensured Joel and the others a chance in their new life.
You can read more about Gliese at the Another Life blog.