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It Takes a lot of Water

Chapter Text

 

It was Jared's chore to tend to the gardens.

They needed to be weeded, watered, picked, and trimmed.

In eighty degree heat at noon, while six months heavy with a litter, the chore was becoming increasingly difficult for Jared. He was filthy—covered in old layers of sweat, dirt, come, and blood—and had spent his morning outside longing to turn the watering can upside down on his head.  Breeders were not allowed the luxury of wasting water intended for their Master’s land. Master would know and it is not worth the risk; neither was it worth mulling over and wasting time. Jared forced himself to stop thinking about his own comfort.

Vegetables for dinner don’t pick themselves.

Hands rough, cracked, and bleeding, Jared dug into the soil, small grunts with every movement. He paused every few minutes to catch his breath and adjust himself. His belly wasn’t as big as it should be with the litter he was carrying, but it was big enough to get in the way and make his chores painful. The last Doctor to visit had paid him two minutes of attention; enough to proclaim to Jared’s Master that they would make the yearly quota for pups, and that he expected Jared to carry to term. There were supposedly six heart beats inside him. Jared sat back for a moment to wipe the sweat from his eyes. He placed a hand on the top curve of his belly. Six new lives for the government.

Six hearts he would never see or feel again after birth.

The sound of a carriage pulling up snapped him back to his present task. His bin was almost full.

Hurriedly, ignoring the pain, he dug up three more carrots and wrestled them from their roots. It required creative maneuvering to stand and pick up the bin, but he managed. Waddling as quickly as possible, he slipped into the kitchen from the back porch door. The soft silk slippers he wore made no noise as he padded over to the largest sink. With effort and a somewhat loud grunt, he managed to dump the vegetables in. Three buckets of water had been pulled earlier in the day—before the sun had too much of a chance to burn—and one was used to wash his harvest.

This was all part of what he had been born to do.

Despite their handicaps, his hands completed the task efficiently.

The only sounds in the kitchen were of his peeling, scrubbing, and labored breathing. By the time he finished he was drawing ragged breaths, shaking slightly.

He had attended one of the best academies for breeders, where he had excelled at all of his studies. High marks had been given to him in cooking, cleaning, sewing, service, and obedience. Most of his peers had admired him for being so talented and eager to please. He gave his best at everything.

It was better not to think about those times.

Jared sighed and sank to the floor, promising himself he would rest for only a moment—a small moment, just one. He closed his eyes and tried to access a calm place inside his mind. It was hidden away and locked from him, but eventually found. As he began to settle, he heard himself wheeze.

Cutting through the sound of anything else, the front doorbell rang. Panicked, Jared awkwardly stood up, beginning to slice the vegetables into appropriate sizes. They were having guests tonight. A menu had been given to him to follow exactly, with threats that if it was not up to standard, he would spend the night in the trash bin with the failed food.

A few glances over at the trash bin, the bottom of which had turned into a murky green color, were motivation enough. Cut faster. Light the oven. Do better.

These were his chores and he would see them done properly, as Master wished it so.

 

“Jared! I want to change the entrée.”

“Change it?” Jared asked hastily, without thought. “Yes, of course.”

“These are extremely important guests, Jared,” Nathaniel said, excitedly clapping his hands together. “We should have something grand! Rich! We want to impress our guests, not feed them some paltry country dish.” The country dish on the original menu Jared had painstakingly put together called for every vegetable he had spent the entire morning digging and pulling from the earth, but he was forbidden from questioning the first breeder’s decision. Nathaniel walked over and handed Jared a revised menu, declaring, “I am sure you can manage just fine.”

With only glance at it, Jared’s mouth hung open in shock and panic. “But… but sir,” he gasped. “A meal like that will take hours and I still need to…”

Nathaniel smacked him once across the right side of his face, stinging and causing his vision to falter.

“You make things so difficult, Jared! Do as you are told! It’s not my responsibility to manage your time. Get to it.” With that, the first breeder marched out of the kitchen, towards an unknown destination elsewhere in the household.

Alone, Jared nodded to no one and set the piece of cream-colored cardstock down on the nearest and cleanest countertop. He dipped a rag into the dirty pail of water he had used to wash the vegetables and held it to his cheek, carefully reading through each course, assessing what he had on hand and what he might have to stretch. If he used stronger wine on the roast, he hoped it would be enough to make the beef as tender as possible. He would need to prepare a simple side dish for such a heavy entrée, but he figured roasted vegetables might balance it out nicely.

As he leaned against the counter, a few of the pups kicked and shifted, causing him to shudder. It felt strange, even though he had carried them this far. The sensation of life inside him was difficult to get accustomed to. They were getting more active by the day—a good sign, but their movements were sometimes painful. Think positively, Jared chided himself, rubbing the underside of his belly and taking as deep of a breath as he could. At least he wasn’t throwing up every hour anymore.

Being the first breeder of the household, Nathaniel only carried one child per term, and the two breeders were nearly the same in the number of weeks along they were. Jared often wondered if it felt better to only have the weight of one pressing down on his ribs.

Jared forced his emotions aside and ignored the bitter taste in his mouth. With a scrub to his face and an adjustment to his robes, he decided that it was time to get to work. He would make this menu work no matter what.

 

The rest of the afternoon was spent in a dizzying blur, spent cleaning, preparing, cooking, and serving Nathaniel. The first breeder didn’t allow Jared to touch anything on the table, preferring to set it himself, but he did order Jared to polish the silver thoroughly before placing it on the delicate tablecloth, which Jared had hand washed the previous day.

Polishing every piece of silver until it shone was the most peaceful part of Jared’s day, after all of his running around. He focused on the forks the most, concerned about each prong.

Working in the dining room, Nathaniel chatted, not caring if Jared was listening or not. “Madison and I are dining with Meridian’s newest Doctor tonight.” Jared did listen, in case something was brought up that he should know about, but paid more attention to the time. He would have to check on the beef soon. “Madison says he’s extremely well-connected and wealthy, perfect for our acquaintance, naturally.” From his place on the floor, rag in hand, Jared glanced up at the first breeder, who had set out stationary to write out elegant, gold place cards. “If Madison decides he likes the Doctor, he will become our family’s physician, and from what I hear, he’s quite handsome. I’ve also heard that he hasn’t taken a first breeder yet, so I suppose it will be my duty to properly introduce him to the few adequate ones I know. We are so rare these days, I swear. Quality is quite uncommon.”

Nathaniel continued on, pleased by the sound of his voice, gossiping about the first breeders in town and who he thought might make a suitable match. Jared took an opportunity to crawl over towards the kitchen, unnoticed once again, to check on the beef.

Any breeder could be a first breeder—the only breeder who held a position of any power and command in a household—but it was a title fiercely fought for. Many first breeders came from families of wealth and connections, so that a match would be advantageous to their Masters and future offspring.

Thinking of this, Jared burned himself on the oven, but hardly reacted to the pain.

 

Once the beef was tended to and the vegetables slid in alongside, he prepared a large salad and a light gravy. Master would be in charge of the wine and liquor for the evening, but Jared had a pail of cold water ready to be poured into a crystal pitcher alongside the alcoholic selections. The icebox held dessert, which had thankfully not been changed from the original menu. Jared had spent the better part of yesterday preparing it. All he had to do now was melt chocolate and drizzle over the tray of creamy napoleons.

Finished in the kitchen, prepared as much as he could be, Jared tread lightly back into the dining room. Nathaniel had stopped chatting, and had started humming contentedly to himself, finishing the place cards. He had an elegant hand for it, one that Jared knew he could not pull off. There were only two guests for the night—making the party four total—but Jared gathered that tonight was particularly important to his Master, judging by the amount of trouble the household was going through for the evening. Befriending this new Doctor would be beneficial to their household, but most importantly to their Master. Jared wasn’t exactly sure how this would bring them all profit, because second breeders didn’t need to know such things, but he was determined to be on his best behavior for the evening and serve his household well.

Only six months had passed since Jared was purchased and brought here from the kennels. There had been many opportunities for him to learn, but he still found himself making mistakes. As the doorbell rang again, Jared resolved himself to be more like Nathaniel. He could learn a lot from the first breeder, who got up from his chair elegant and without having to pause for breath. Answering the door was Nathaniel’s responsibility, but Jared followed, in case he was needed. As he approached the door, Nathaniel thrust a large bouquet of flowers into Jared’s arms. He winced, as it hurt his belly, but managed to carry the flowers into the dining room.

“Don’t touch them any further,” Nathaniel snapped, motioning for Jared to leave. “I’ll handle them.”

Jared nodded and went to finish the rest of his chores for the day. At six, he had everything that needed to be warm inside the oven at a low temperature. The salad, starters, and finished dessert were sitting in the icebox, ready and perfectly arranged. He was trembling with fatigue, but he had managed to complete everything required of him and more. He hoped someone would do the kindness of taking notice of the quality of the food, even if it was a small mention of how perfectly cooked the beef was. There were cheese and pear soufflés for starters, a light salad tossed with shrimp, beef wellington for the entrée, roasted vegetables for a side, and napoleons for dessert. His stomach rumbled with hunger as he dragged himself away from the kitchen at Nathaniel’s call.

“For god’s sake Jared, wash up! You’re a disgrace looking like that!” the screech of displeasure caught Jared off guard.

Flinching, Jared bowed slightly and muttered out, “But Master said not to…”

“Leave that to me,” Nathaniel sniffed. His nose scrunched at the scent of Jared. “I am ordering you to wash up! I won’t be serving. I can’t in my condition. You can do it. Provided you that you don’t spill anything. Now go, they’ll be here any moment!”

Though he wanted to protest, or at least ask Nathaniel to consider, Jared didn’t have the energy. He had been looking forward to spending the evening out of sight and unneeded, but something in his head told him that the opposite would happen.

 

Leaving the kitchen, Jared reprimanded himself. He should be proud to serve his household in any capacity needed. He could get through this dinner. He could.

Chapter Text

There were two places Jared was allowed to occupy in the household: a pallet at the foot of his Master’s bed and small closet tucked away in the back of the house.

The closet was big enough for him to sit in, but nothing more. When it came to space, he much preferred the pallet, even if Nathaniel protested his presence most nights. Jared didn’t care if he had to listen to Master and Nathaniel during their intimate time with each other. The pallet allowed him to stretch out more so than the closet.

Inside the closet, shadows crept in from underneath the door--they frightened Jared. He could never guess whose shadow it was that he saw throughout the night.

The tub in Master’s bathroom was one of two in the entire household that had running water. All others required pails of water to be brought up.

Jared found running water fascinating. He had never seen such a thing in a household before arriving here last year, not even at the academy. His only recollection of water without a well was part of a series of memories he had blocked out and pushed back in his mind.

There were many memories like that.

In awe, Jared smiled as he watched the tub in Master’s bathroom to fill up with warm water. He didn’t have to draw up pails of water for his Master’s bath, it simply happened with the twist of a few knobs.

Master permitted him to use the bath once a month.

Jared thought back carefully, and knew that he hadn’t yet used his turn—most days a pail suited him for a quick wash.

However, now seemed like an appropriate time. The knobs did their magic and soon the tub was ready to be used. It hurt to submerge himself, but gradually, the water around him felt exquisite. This was the closest he could get to indulgence. Jared massaged his belly with one careful hand.

The constant pain in his back from carrying the litter eased up enough for him to relax.

After a minute of sitting contentedly in the water, he made quick work at scrubbing away at himself. He felt like one of the potatoes he had washed and peeled earlier—slippery, raw.

The household had eight bedrooms, a dining room, a drawing room, a small library, and a cellar. It was Jared’s responsibility to keep all of them tidy every day, with a proper cleaning once a week, usually on Thursdays, though sometimes Nathaniel would change it to Fridays.

Every layer of dirt and dust from a week of chores washed away, leaving the bathwater cloudy.

The blood, come, and sweat were a more stubborn set of stains to remove, but eventually yielded. Even the knots in his hair worked themselves out with attention.

Relieved, Jared shut his eyes.

Being clean was the best feeling. The pups had settled. He even dared to wiggle his toes.

The blade of a voice carved through his tranquility.

“I thought I had told you not to wash.”

Jared’s eyes and mouth snapped open. He flinched at the sound of his Master’s voice and could not stammer out a proper response. It wasn’t that his Master was bad—Masters could never be bad.

Second breeders were bad.

And in their household, only Jared was bad.

Five minutes later, one of the memories he had locked away crept up and became searing, brutal, crunching reality. Having his head held underwater did not numb him to the sensation of his arm being broken.

Snap. Crack. Pop.

By the roots of his hair, Master lifted him up, out of the water, and dragged him over the side of the tub. Jared screamed and sobbed, aware of the slap his wet skin made against the tile. His face was red from the lack of air and the struggle. He cradled his useless arm underneath him, the only thing between his belly and the hard, unforgiving floor.

Using nothing but force, Master shoved Jared's legs open and jammed his cock inside Jared.

Master showed not a single ounce of hesitation. Nothing was held back.

All Jared could see was the white ceiling above them.

Fucked on the bathroom floor, no prayer or distracting thought could be summoned.

As his fingers began to twitch from pain, Jared felt his Master come inside him. For a moment, Jared felt happy because of it. He was performing one of the most crucial duties in this household.

For that, he should be grateful.

Master left him on the bathroom floor, bleeding, wet, and broken. 

Chapter Text

Nathaniel complained about Jared’s arm.

Master snapped at the first breeder to make do.

As they prepared for the evening in Nathaniel’s dressing room, Nathaniel hissed to Jared, “Don’t think that this gets you out of serving.”

The first breeder was kind enough, however, to provide Jared with a sling to place his arm in, so that Jared could work without it being in the way. He made no comments on Jared's overall haphazard appearance.

“Yes, sir,” Jared whispered.

He picked up the first flower to place in Nathaniel’s hair.

Second breeders healed in a short amount of time. Jared had his fingers broken before, but never his arm. The purple marks all over his arm told Jared this would be an extensive injury.

He guessed it would take at least a week to heal, if he kept it in the sling as much as possible.

Jared felt gratitude that Master had seen it best to break his left arm instead of his dominant right.

Despite only having one arm available, Jared finished styling Nathaniel’s hair and decided that it look quite lovely.

Wearing his own standard robe, Jared slowly walked down to the kitchen to practice lifting things, trying to find a balance. His movements were delayed, but he didn't drop anything in his first few attempts.

Pride bloomed, but faded quickly as he heard the doorbell ring and Nathaniel’s hurried footsteps following after.

Jared caught a quick glimpse of Nathaniel before he turned a corner, towards the door.

Beautiful.

Nathaniel was dressed in gold silk robes, draped in a manner that signified their class and household rank. Slim gold bracelets decorated his arms so that he jingled in a pleasant, happy way.

Jared also noticed that Nathaniel was also wearing gold powder on his face, to accentuate his eyes.

Breeders were made to be beautiful—pleasing in every aspect of their existence.

Jared knew he wasn’t beautiful, nor was he charming, but he still clung to a small hope that maybe one day he would fit into his role. Somewhere, a Master might see him for the value he could bring to a household.

Until then, he would continue to be grateful for all that Master and Nathaniel provided him with, and their guidance as he grew into maturity.

Yes, it was best to be appreciative.

In the kitchen, in his place, he focused on serving and garnishing plates. He had constructed two trays of delicate appetizers, little things that could be eaten without making a mess. Their assembly had required steady hands, so he felt glad that he had prepared them before the situation with his arm occurred.

Positive. Stay positive, he instructed himself, breathing in and out as he carried one tray at a time to the sitting room.

With the utmost care and attention to detail, he set them down and disappeared as his Master and guests entered.

Jared was not to look at the guests. No direct eye contact—he was to keep his head down in a respectful manner, as was appropriate for a second breeder. If he performed well tonight, he would never see the faces of their guests. Serving them would be done according to the inflection of their voices, the sounds of their silverware on their plates, and his instinctive knowledge that they were thirsty and required a refill.

These were basic skills taught at every breeder academy.

Master, Nathaniel, and their two guests spent half an hour in the sitting room before moving to the dining room.

Jared did not linger in the dining room, since there was nothing to refill for that moment.

Instead, he spent that time plating the starters, garnishing as best he could with one hand and his belly in the way. He took two plates at a time, one precariously balanced on his belly and the other in his good hand.

Obediently, he kept his head lowered as he walked into the dining room. The set-up was beautiful, with candles strategically placed throughout the dining room. They cast a warm, soothing glow over everything.

Tradition dictated that he serve his Master first, then the guest to his Master’s right, then the next guest, and then Nathaniel.

The first course was a simple soufflé he had prepared early this morning, before the sun was up. They looked delicate, airy, and inviting, simply arranged on Master’s best china set.

Jared bent, left, right, left right, maintaining his balance as he set down the plates. Attentive, he listened to the party chat and pick up silverware.  He knelt down on a pillow in the corner of the room, one hand under his belly, trying to keep his breathing as quiet as possible.

As the first course progressed, Jared kept watch of Nathaniel’s feet under the table. There was a system first and second breeders were supposed to follow, small signs that they could make to each other to help communication.

So far, Nathaniel made no such moves, but Jared was ready for them.

His stomach rumbled in hunger—when was the last time he’d eaten?—and the pups kicked. Jared did his best not to make any sound or movement. Good second breeders were neither seen nor heard during dinner.

Two bites into the soufflé, Master served wine. He then tossed over a piece of bread to Jared’s corner, which could be taken as a sign that the soufflé was up to standard.

The highest form of praise came a few minutes later, when Master tossed a few more pieces. Jared ate them all without a sound, picking them up off the floor with care and gratitude.

If he was lucky, Master would toss him a piece of beef tonight.

An unfamiliar voice posed a question. “He doesn’t eat with you?” 

“Of course not,” Nathaniel laughed in response, his easy voice floating through the room. “My dear, you really are out of sorts here! Did you not have second breeders back East?”

“No… no such practice, I assure you,” the same guest replied, their tone more reserved.

Did someone need more wine? Jared wished Nathaniel would signal something.

“What strange customs,” the other guest chipped in. This guest’s voice was lighter, less serious.

“No stranger than yours,” Nathaniel teased in reply.

Just then, Jared heard his Master put down his fork with a different weight to it. It signified that he was done with his first course.

Heaving himself up, Jared stood and checked everyone’s plates, his eyes only on the table before him. He cleared everyone’s plates and returned to the kitchen.

Busy with more serving, plating, and garnishing, Jared could hardly feel the pain radiating from his arm or between his legs. The oven had kept the beef warm and tender without drying it out; he was pleased and relieved by this.

As he wiped the edges of each plate for presentation, Nathaniel walked in, practically dancing.

“They are absolutely gorgeous,” Nathaniel cooed. “Neither of them attached. I may have some fun with this.”

Jared pretended not to listen. The plates needed attention.

Breeders were property.

Masters did not share ownership unless it was their decision to loan their breeder out. Even then, the proceedings were complicated.

Exchanges occurred with with some delicacy, between two Masters who could trust each other. Breeders had no say about who they did or did not sleep with.

A flash of the bathroom tile stung Jared’s memory, but he squashed it. He had to get dinner served.

Nathaniel pranced back into the dining room, clutching a bottle of wine, and handed it to Master to pour.

Jared followed behind, carefully balancing two plates the same way as before, only this time he had a rag under the plate on his belly.

As he approached the table, he felt a pup give an exceptionally hard kick to a sore spot on his ribs. It nearly winded him, so suddenly it happened, but he kept his composure.

He set one plate down in front of his Master and moved to set the other down in the same order as before.

Standing on the first guest’s left, Jared’s belly barely brushed against the guest’s arm, who flinched at the contact and lifted his arm in surprise, as if he were going to apologize.

How strange, Jared thought in that second, that a Master would want to apologize for something that was clearly a breeder’s fault.

Jared thought that much before everything erupted.

Imagine that, Jared remembered thinking again, a Master apologizing to a second breeder.

The abrupt flinch and odd response from the guest caused Jared to tip and miscalculate his footing. He fell to the floor with a loud crash and a yelp, landing on his already broken arm. More than the plates he had been holding shattered—his arm took another hit and the final snap of it caused him to seize.

But the food. Oh no. The food. It was everywhere, all over the floor. And when he managed to look up, he gasped as his worst fears were confirmed: the perfect portion of beef wellington was sitting on the guest’s lap.

Before Jared could move, speak, or think—a whip came down on his back.

Scorching. Stinging. Burning.

His mouth hung open in a silent scream and he inhaled, stunned.

Another crack and another hit came down with rage. His Master yelled, but Jared could barely hear it. His back was ablaze.

When air could be pushed in and out of him, he begged his Master—reminded him about the pups—but none of it did any good.

He received a blow to the back of his head with a boot and kicked aside.

“Breeders,” his Master sneered and threw the whip down, where it looked innocent on the floor. “I bought this one because Nathaniel felt some kind of pity towards him. Lousy investment. I apologize, Doctor. Let Nathaniel take you into one of my rooms and clean up. You are welcome to him and my household.”

Jared tried to focus on breathing.

He couldn’t lose this litter—he could withstand the pain. It had only been ten lashes and he fully understood that it should have been more. He was lucky. His Master was merciful.

“I…” the guest faltered in speech, as if confused on how to react. “I thank you kindly.” He got up from the table and Jared dared not to look.

Jared only heard the scrapes of chairs and feet moving.

“No need for your thanks, Doctor. I assure you, this breeder will be reprimanded.” Those were Master’s promises for later.

The guest said nothing.

Two pairs of footsteps left the dining room. Jared wondered if Nathaniel would take over serving when he returned.

Master gave another command to Jared, accompanied with another kick, this time at his backside. “Get back to the kitchen. You are dismissed.”

Only by crawling was Jared able to comply. He curled up as much as he could and hid in the corner of the kitchen where his bin resided. Nathaniel returned and wordlessly began plating dessert, his motions showing how irritated he was.

But nothing could be said between them at that moment; dessert had to be served and the evening had to be recovered.

With a hiccup, Jared gently reminded Nathaniel to put strawberries on the sides of each napoleon. 

Chapter Text

A week passed and Jared’s arm did not heal.

No matter how he tried to bandage it or adjust the sling, it lay limp. It turned into an alarming array of shades of purple, red, and yellow. What was worse, it hurt constantly, and made his already limited movement more difficult and restricted.

Chores were nearly impossible and took three times longer.

To add to his discomfort, in the span of a week his belly swelled and hung lower.

The pressure on his back haunted him--a familiar, dull presence.

Nathaniel, on the other hand, looked more beautiful and full of life with every passing day. His term created a sumptuous glow to his skin. He fulfilled his duties as first breeder by carrying their household's future heir—the next Master.

Jared knew that there was some pride in providing the government with the pups he carried, but he sometimes wondered what it felt like to be so valued in a household. He did his best not dwell on those thoughts very often. He was grateful for his position in a household that provided so much for him and only asked that he do his best in return. Though, in his current state, he could not complete his chores to his best abilities and it pained him.

There were few things more awful than a useless second breeder.

If only he could tell someone that he was not lazy, that it wasn’t the duties that gave him trouble--it was the lack of his body’s cooperation with his mind. Strange things were happening to his body as it swelled for the litter it carried. He could not explain all of it, and the movement inside him unsettled him the most. The pups kicked endlessly, at all hours of the day and night. They kicked even when his Master was buried inside him.

The pups had no idea what was happening to Jared.

More than once, he prayed they never would.

Jared eased himself down on his pallet, squatting before landing with a soft thump.

It was a Friday, and he finished a deep cleaning. Everything in their household shone and smelled fresh. He was exhausted, but proud of his work. For the moment, the pups were still and the house was uncommonly silent.

Master and Nathaniel had gone out to a social function, having left early in the afternoon. Jared helped Nathaniel dress by handing him tiny pins for his golden hair. Nathaniel’s golden hair and bright blue eyes were his prize features, according to him, but Jared was more awed by his smooth, unblemished skin. When Nathaniel was fully dressed and ready for the evening, Jared stepped back and complimented the first breeder, who smiled and replied that he knew he was beautiful.

On the pallet, a tired sigh escaped Jared’s lips. He had been instructed not to wait up. However, fatigued as he was, he could not fall asleep immediately.

He enjoyed being able to occupy the house without anyone around to witness how sluggish and clumsy he moved. And, being alone afforded him the luxury to take his time with his chores, pausing here and there for rests or drinks of water.

His stomach rumbling interrupted his thoughts. He was hungrier lately, which partially explained his girth. He knew he was nearing the end of his term. Something had to be done about the rumble, and the pups would soon start moving if he didn’t take action.

Once he managed to get up, he made his way to the kitchen, and dug around in the bin marked for him.

Nathaniel, under Master's strict orders, prepared Jared an allowance of bread and vegetables at the beginning of every month. The contents in the bin had to last until the next month. No more would be added if he ate all of it too quickly.

Jared had learned to count each vegetable carefully.

At the moment, although he wanted to be conservative, his hunger won out and he gorged himself on two carrots and a raw potato, not bothering to slice any of it. It wasn’t enough in the end—and his discipline caved. He rummaged through the bin and selected one of the smallest crusts of bread, then devoured it within seconds.

Sitting beside his bin, Jared sighed, his mind clearer now that he had eaten. He hoped that someone might scrape their dinner into his bin one night soon.

For the next hour, he walked through the household, dusting with his good arm. Comfortable with the company of only himself and those he carried inside him, he sang softly. This was the most that his pups would get to hear of his voice at its best. He wondered if they found it soothing, because they had stopped wiggling and squirming around after dinner.

The thought of birth did not scare him.

Breeders all over the country gave birth every day—every hour. Giving birth was an honor and a privilege for a breeder of any station. It brought good things to each household, to their government, and to their country.

It was failure that scared him.

A breeder was fertile from the age of twelve to the age of forty, though very few lived past the age of fifty. Jared had only met one breeder in their forties, and they had been an instructor at the academy.

Masters, however, could live to be more than a hundred years old, and usually bought and sold several breeders in their lifetimes, especially when a breeder failed to meet quotas.

Every one of Jared’s pups had to be born alive and stay alive for one hour after birth to meet that quota. The yearly quota for Jared’s age and rank was six. At fourteen years of age, and on his second litter, he had been told this birth would be difficult. His hips were not as wide as they should be, nor was his body fully prepared for the physical stress of carrying such a large litter.

The optimal breeding age was eighteen years old, and breeding before the age of sixteen was widely known to carry an increased risk of complications. The younger their age, the more likely the breeder would lose their litter. Some breeders from long bloodlines or in larger households could be bred successfully at fifteen--however, it was still considered rare.

Jared glanced at himself in a mirror. He didn't feel young. 

His forced his thoughts towards something more pleasant.

Tomorrow, their entire household would be going into town for business. Master had matters to attend to, Nathaniel would be buying clothes and fabrics in preparation for the new little one, and Jared’s chore was to purchase weekly supplies. He had a list of his own that he made with Master’s approval, and one that Nathaniel supplied him with according to the his needs.

Going to the market meant being outside with so many different people and noises and things Jared had not yet seen. Town always excited him.

Secretly, Jared hoped his Master would treat him to a piece of chocolate as he had done on a previous trip a month ago.

At this hopeful thought, Jared finally decided he was tired enough to try sleeping again.

He awoke only when his Master and Nathaniel returned, the two of them sounding happy and lustful. When they were settled and in bed, Jared was able to fall back asleep once more. 

Chapter Text

At dawn the next day, Jared woke up in earnest and dressed in his travel robes.

Frustrated, Jared huffed when his robes did not fit over his belly. After a fraction of a moment in thought, he managed to fasten them to stay on, even with the use of only one hand. It would have to do. Let it not be said a second breeder couldn't adapt. 

As fast as he could—which admittedly wasn’t fast at all—he watered the gardens, swept the kitchen, made a light breakfast for Master and Nathaniel, and set the table in the sitting room.

Master was the first to rise.

“Good morning, Master,” Jared chirped happily, bringing Master his paper. Master nodded and took the paper from Jared’s hands, not making eye contact.

Nathaniel made an entrance half an hour later, dressed in travel robes that fit him, though his middle was significantly smaller than Jared’s. Jared served him plate of breakfast, then knelt on his pillow.

Trying to be sly, Nathaniel tossed two pieces of bread and bacon over to Jared in the corner, until Master gave him a look. The saltiness of the bacon stayed in Jared’s mouth until they got out to the stables an hour later.

“Up we go, darling,” Master murmured to Nathaniel, helping him into the carriage. “Come now, don’t give me such a face. We will be there in no time at all. You’ll see.”

Jared watched and waited anxiously beside the carriage. A little bit of help up would be a kindness. He looked at his Master, unable to control his fidgeting.

Master barked at Jared. “Get to the back.”

Confused, Jared had no idea what back Master meant. There was no back seat on the carriage. He stumbled to stand behind the carriage regardless, hoping that the command might be clarified.

From a nearby stable wall, Master took a length of chain. He slipped a collar out of his pocket--thick, black, and lined with small teeth on the inside. Jared’s eyes widened and he clutched at his belly with his good hand. He pieced together the choker and chain’s purpose.

“We are meeting the Doctor today and you will,” his Master spoke as he fastened the collar, “behave, do you understand? This is your punishment for the embarrassment you have caused this household."

Master looked at his work, judging that the chain and collar were tight enough. Pleased, he nodded.

"Try to keep up.”

For a split second, Jared wanted to beg for forgiveness and reconsideration. His voice died in his throat at the first yank of the collar and chain. 

Dragged behind a carriage in this state meant he had earned severe punishment. His belly was heavy, round, and at its most vulnerable. Making matters worse, he had one arm completely useless in helping defend his stomach, and his balance was completely thrown off by the weight of his middle.

But those thoughts were soon smothered by his training.

Punishment from a Master was a firm reminder that failure had hurt his household. He had failed them. Whatever happened to him was nothing compared to the shame he had brought to his Master.

Jared was a bad breeder. That was it.

He kept up for a mile.

His slippers did little to protect his feet, especially when they hit a muddy patch of road. The speed of the carriage picked up two miles into their journey and Jared could not hold on any longer.

The teeth of the collar dug into his neck as he was yanked forward. Master had chained his wrists together and tied them to the length of chain that went from his neck to the carriage. Jared managed to twist himself so that he was dragged belly up instead of down, towards the dirt road.

Somewhere, on some stretch of their journey, he threw up from pain and cried out in agony, but learned to keep his mouth shut or risk swallowing mud.

His robes had fallen off somewhere, and sweat dripped into his eyes, which stung and left his vision blurry.

Bruises, cuts, and blood covered him as he was dragged the ten miles to town.

Each mile of road created extreme torment. He hit against the carriage quite a few times, knocking into it hard. Three times he slipped in mud and lost complete control of himself, going limp. The sun bore down on him with an intensity he had never felt in the garden, despite his time spent out there.

Even the noise of the carriage wheels bothered him.

The loud, repetitive crunching and turning sounds were reminders of what would happen if he got caught underneath one of them.

When the carriage stopped, Jared threw up once more. He cried into a puddle of filthy water.

Master went around to help Nathaniel down and to pay for the carriage spot. Jared weakly lifted his head and saw Nathaniel looking down at him, shaking his head.

Nathaniel knelt down close to Jared, then slapped him twice across the face, and roughly grabbed his hair. 

“I hope this teaches you something more permanent about manners, Jared. You will stay here until we are finished with our appointments and business in town. You are not to speak or interact with anyone. Do so and you will be begging me for mercy.”

Master returned and threw down a canteen of water, which landed in between Jared’s spread out legs. He and Nathaniel turned away without a glance over their shoulders, elegantly walking down the main avenue of Meridian.

Nathaniel leaned into Master’s touch, and said something that made Master laugh heartily.

Under the sun, Jared groaned and closed his eyes, shifting and turning until he could throw up again. As soon as he gathered the strength—which wasn’t for quite some time—he hid underneath the carriage to be out of the sun as much as possible. He also did not want any other Master or breeder to see his shame.

From his place, he peered out, watching and observing happier breeders who passed by.

He closed his eyes and tried to focus on the movement inside his belly. The pups were active and causing him additional pain, but he was glad for their company.

Two lines of song was all he managed before he passed out, sinking into glorious darkness. 

Chapter Text

A splash of cold water woke Jared up, gasping and sputtering.

It took some time before his eyes could adjust to the brightness of the sun. He looked up and Nathaniel’s face came into delayed focus. Jared calmed for a moment and groaned, twisting in the chains, closing his eyes as he shifted.

When he opened his eyes again, he noticed that there were two unfamiliar faces next to Nathaniel’s.

Straightaway, he tried his best to get into a proper position of respect—on his knees with his head down.

“My god,” one of the strangers gasped. “How…?”

“That doesn’t matter,” Nathaniel snapped. “Tell me you can fix his arm.”

“It isn’t… my god. It isn’t just his arm, you do understand that?”

“Of course I do! But I need his arm to work again.”

The two strangers stood back and whispered among themselves. Their voices were somewhat familiar, but Jared couldn’t place them. A wave of nausea assaulted him, causing him to hold back a groan. He was accustomed to pain, but he could barely stand the embarrassment of being so filthy in front of two Masters and Nathaniel.

“How far along is he?”

Jared’s vision swam, but he tried his best to follow the voices.

“Last trimester. How is that important?”

“How is it possible he hasn’t…?”

The stranger didn’t finish the sentence but even in his state, Jared understood the implication. A Master thought he looked so weak that they questioned his ability to carry a litter. The mention of miscarrying a litter was avoided at all costs among breeders. It caused Nathaniel to produce a shocked gasp.

“We are made for this,” Nathaniel snipped. “We are breeders. Our bodies can tolerate extremes. But his arm should have healed on its own by now and it hasn’t. And don’t speak of that matter again in the company of breeders, it’s bad luck. I don't know how you could possibly not know this!”

Nathaniel crossed his arms over his own belly, as if warding off lingering negative energy from the stranger’s remark.

“Madison is coming. Play along,” Nathaniel directed the strangers. “Darling! Look who I have run into!”

“Doctor, how good to see you,” Master greeted, shaking one of their hands. “And Judge, what a pleasure. We were just going to your offices, Doctor.”

Jared kept his head down and made a concerted effort to stop shaking. The ground beneath him felt hard and the sun increased the stench of vomit, waste, and mud that surrounded him, pressed into every pore. His head lolled and he heard himself breathe out with a rattle.

“Well,” someone replied and cleared their throat. “We were out for a walk when we… had the happy occurrence of bumping into Nathaniel.”

“My dear, you know what these gentlemen have told me?” Nathaniel chirped, his tone light and playful. He was probably touching their Master’s left arm, a sign of intimacy. “They have moved into the old Dorrey Place—you remember it, surely—and it is in dire need of a deep cleaning!”

“That so?” Master rumbled. “Not like the realtors in this area to leave things in such shape.”

“We were quite hurried in moving,” one of the strangers added. “I did have some urgent cases to oversee and needed the place to be available for our things as soon as possible. That did not leave much time for a proper cleaning, I’m afraid. The good Doctor here is allergic to dust. His sneezing keeps me up half the night.”

A pup jerked at Jared’s bladder and another moved against his stomach, causing two awful sensations at once. His thighs trembled as he tried to keep from having an accident in front of so many important people.

Nathaniel spoke up, though his voice contained a nervous edge to it. “When I heard this, dear, I was so alarmed! Shocked! It’s not proper for our new Doctor and Judge to live like that! Absolutely scandalous, don’t you agree? I mentioned to them that our household just received a deep cleaning yesterday.” 

It wasn’t like Nathaniel to have doubts, though Jared knew none of the Masters would pick up on his tone. It was too subtle.

“Yes, my goodness, this won’t do. Tell you what, Doctor. I’ll send over my second breeder and have him set up your place.”

There was a moment’s pause and Jared knew that Nathaniel was silently communicating with the strangers. His blue eyes were expressive when needed to be.

One of the strangers stammered out a reply. “Oh, oh… I couldn’t… inconvenience you like that, sir. Really.”

“Nonsense. No trouble or inconvenience at all. Nathaniel and I will be gone the weekend—to visit my parents before the child is born—and he might as well be of good use to you. After all, for his actions last week, this would be an excellent way to not only extend our apologies, but for you to see what you should look for when selecting breeders of your own.”

Master sounded pleased and proud. Jared felt a small amount of happiness that Master knew he could be useful at cleaning a house. The happiness faded when his chain was yanked and he was pulled out from under the carriage.

“He doesn’t need to be fed through the weekend and I’ll give you my whip. Don’t hesitate to use it, Doctor, he’s quite used to it.”

Another awkward pause passed before a stranger, one with the deeper and more serious voice, asked, “What about his garments?”

Master laughed, deep and sincere. “My good Doctor, I know he’s heavy but don’t let that dissuade you from getting your use out of him. I trust him to you.”

The chain passed from his Master to the stranger, who Jared assumed was the Doctor.

“I will collect him on Wednesday. Four days’ time should be enough to set things right, yes?”

Nathaniel chimed in again. “Of course darling. More than enough. You’re so thoughtful, oh, I’m so glad we could fix this for you two! Now, Jared doesn’t know much about décor but he can arrange your furniture and paint well enough. I’ll give you the name of a lovely interior designer when we return. For now, this will do.”

“Yes, excellent. This is settled then.” His Master and the Doctor shook hands. A sign of trust. “Should we get on with our appointment?”

The Doctor looked around as he awkwardly held the chain.

“Oh,” Master laughed, putting an arm around Nathaniel’s waist. “Just tie him there. See?”

Jared winced as the Doctor led him towards a public breeder post, where two other breeders were tied and waiting for their Masters to finish shopping. Less than a second after his chains were secured to the post, Jared could no longer control his bladder or the pup kicking it, and relieved himself.

“What a disgrace,” Master muttered and reached into his coat pocket. “Here, Doctor. My whip. This is a good instance for you to try it out. I can give you pointers as well. Let’s see your form.”

“Darling…”

“Not now, Nathaniel. Let the Doctor practice.”

Jared braced himself, head down. He kept his good arm clutching his belly to block any blows or lashes. This was to be his Master for the time being and Jared wished he could take his punishment with grace. He wanted to prove to this new Master that he was good and capable and would need no further correction from here on out.

It seemed like an eternity passed before the whip rained down—strong and sure—on his thighs. Crisscrossed lashes bit at his skin on both thighs but Jared did not cry out.

“Wonderful! Very good. See, you are getting the hang of it already, Doctor.”

The party of four left right after. They walked along the sidewalk in no hurry.

When everyone's errands and business ended for the day, Master was kind enough to come back to the breeder stand with the Doctor. Master untied Jared and dragged him towards the Doctor’s carriage, where he was promptly chained in the same manner as before. The teeth in the collar worked themselves into Jared’s neck and refused to unlatch.

The two Masters spoke business and details, but Jared was half conscious and their voices sounded as if they were all underwater. He could not decipher much. With his eyes half lidded, Jared watched his Master and Nathaniel link arms and walk away, towards their carriage.

This new carriage jolted forward without warning, which made Jared yelp.

He could barely keep up with the pace the Doctor had set the horses to. His muscles ached, and crouching at the stand for hours hadn’t helped. Fairly certain that he had sprained his right ankle, Jared tried to compensate for it by putting most of his weight on his left side, but then the carriage took a sharp turn.

Knocked against a wheel, Jared cried out. 

The carriage came to an abrupt stop.

Either the Doctor heard him or he had come to his destination, Jared wasn’t sure. He only knew that the sudden stop caused him to slip under the carriage. Jared was grateful that he had managed to twist so that he was laying down belly up. Sweat and dirt mixed into his eyes, leaving him unable to clearly see, but he heard the sounds of boots on gravel.

“Misha!” The Doctor barked out this name and walked around to the back of the carriage. He got on his knees and looked under.

Jared whined and tried to kneel, tried to do anything, but not only was he unable to move, he could hardly breathe without panic thick in his chest. He couldn’t tell if the Doctor was angry or upset, and if he was about to hit Jared for being stupid enough to get caught under the carriage.

“Yes, no need to yell,” someone else replied, crouched down alongside the Doctor. “Did you have to go so damn fast?”

“I had to get the fuck out of there.  Help me get him out.”

“Ease the carriage forward, then. Nelly will listen.”

Jared's heart pounded against his chest. The gravity of his situation for the next four days hit him. He was under the care of these two Masters who knew virtually nothing about breeders, since they had never owned any, which the more Jared thought about, the more peculiar it seemed and the more frightened he became.

What would they have him do? In what state would he return to his Master?

The carriage creaked and eased forward until Jared was once again behind it, only this time, he felt exposed in a way he hadn’t before, not even tied to the breeding stand for hours.

“Hello,” a light voice called out. “I realize that this is no proper introduction, but my friend and I are going to untie and put you inside for the rest of the ride. Does that seem agreeable to you?”

Blinking, Jared froze. He stared hard at the two Masters standing twenty feet away from him. The Doctor moved back, standing next to the Judge, hands on his hips and feet set apart. Jared had no idea what to reply with. How was he supposed to respond? This had never been covered in the academy.

“S-s-sir? I... I can walk."

Of all things, that was the best he could come up with. His throat was so dry with nothing to drink all day. He hadn’t been able to reach the canteen Master had provided.

The Doctor seemed to bristle at Jared's inadequate reply. “Jesus fucking Christ, Misha, he can’t make decisions. Surprised he’s still conscious. Just get him in.”

“I thought it might be courteous to ask.”

“This is beyond polite conversation on the side of the road, you ass.”

“Fine,” the man with the lighter voice huffed. “Just take care with him. Don’t move too quickly.”

“I am a Doctor, I think I know.”

Hands reached for Jared's neck. He flinched, but quickly knelt into a submissive position, fearful they might view it as resistance. The chains were released from the carriage, but not his hands or neck. Jared had no idea what to make of this or the conversation between the two Masters. Their conversation centered around Jared, but neither Master included him and he didn’t expect them to.

Both Masters raised him up and lifted him into the carriage, setting him down on a plush nest of pillows. Jared moaned in pain and confusion. What was going on? He flailed—feeling off balance—and protected his belly with his arm once more. He didn’t want to stain their things or be punished for doing so later.

Desperate to communicate that this wasn’t necessary, that he would be fine as he had been, he tried to speak but ended up coughing.

“Do we have water?”

“No, Misha, we don't, and we have to get moving. Hey. Listen. Calm down.”

“He’s big, what if he…?”

“I don’t know!”

“Have you even delivered more than two babies at a time?”

“Misha! Can we just get on with this?”

A pup kicked. Jared shut his eyes tightly and tried to curl up. Everything hurt. He reached the point where he could no longer tolerate more pain. The Masters thought he was going into labor, but that was not the case; his body had just reached its limit. It wasn't as simple as calming down. But he could keep quiet. These new Masters would not be burdened with the knowledge of his pain. 

The carriage shifted forward and moved at a fast pace.

Someone put their hand on his belly and rubbed circles, which Jared understood as a precursor to a Master desiring service. How could any Master want him in this state? He chided himself for asking such a horrible question. It was not up to him to question the wants or needs of a Master.

If they preferred him this way it was his duty to please. Silent and obedient. 

Weakly, he spread his legs and shifted his hips.

The hand on his belly disappeared. Jared waited for it to appear between his legs. It never did.

Before he passed out, Jared felt a twinge of disappointment.

Chapter Text

Master let Jared ride him once during service.

The entire time, Master had his hands on Jared’s belly. It was an effort to move, but his Master enjoyed him, so Jared kept up the pace.

When his Master came for the first time, Jared smiled, pleased with himself. He made soft, purring sounds as Master lifted him up and positioned him belly down, on his knees. Master pushed into Jared once more, growling praise, and began thrusting hard, one hand on Jared’s hip and the other on the swell of his belly.

Panting, Jared flexed his muscles and arched his back. Master made an approving noise.

Jared had no idea what first breeders felt when servicing their Master, but Jared usually felt content and secure in his abilities. A second breeder’s cock was not meant for pleasure, but for providing milk for the litters they carried. Master never touched it, except to brush it out of the way, and Jared had never questioned that. 

What pleasure he got out of servicing his Master was based in a determination to feel useful.

He expected to wake up in the middle of servicing these strange, new Masters.

They had never had a breeder before, Jared thought they must be eager to try one out, especially one that had ruined one of their garments. It would be a good opportunity to be rough.

Instead, he woke up in a tub full of warm water and soap. He jerked in shock and grabbed for the nearest edge, slipping and falling underwater. A firm hand grabbed his left shoulder and pulled him up. Jared coughed and sputtered, grasping for the edge with his broken arm and clutching at his belly with his good one. With his hair plastered to his forehead, he opened his eyes and struggled to see.  For a split second, Jared looked into the eyes of one of his current Masters.

This Master looked concerned, which startled Jared.

Why was he concerned? Was Jared not doing something?

Before Jared could ask, the Master thrust a towel at him.

“Dry and get to bed. This suite is yours.”

With his vision back, Jared could finally assess this Master’s body language. He heard the tones and inflections in his voice--and a soft drawl that Jared had never heard before, but it sounded pleasant and new.

This Master had green eyes.

It was all Jared could take in before the Master turned away and walked out of the room.

The conversation over, Jared focused on following his orders. Shakily, he stood in the tub—a massive thing that seemed more like an indoor pond—and dried his hair, using his good arm. The water went up to his belly, so he thought it would be best to step out and then keep drying.

Climbing out, however, was much easier said than done. Between his useless arm, his belly, and the depth of the tub, he could not maneuver himself to scramble over the edge. On his third failed attempt, he slipped and slid underwater. He continued to brace himself on his bad arm, mewling as he panicked with the water sloshing around him.

Exhausted and frustrated when he surfaced, he shut his eyes and breathed hard.

There had to be a way to do this.

He had to believe that he could heave himself over and out without causing harm to his litter. Though the water was soothing for his back and feet, he had his orders.

A second Master walked into the bathroom and Jared gasped, unprepared.  

“Oh, my apologies,” the Master said, and walked over. His voice had a higher pitch to it. “I don’t mean to interrupt or intrude, but I’ve made dinner and I thought you might like to join us.”

Jared nodded, then tried and failed again to exit the tub. Not a day in their presence and he had already failed these new Masters. He closed his eyes, shrunk back, and braced himself for a blow to the head.

Except.

When nothing happened, Jared opened his eyes.

The second Master stood there, at a distance, and looked at Jared curiously.

“You…? Oh! Damn! I’ve misunderstood. Of course you need help. Damn tub is too high, even for me. Here, allow me to help you.”

This Master stepped forward and put his arms out for Jared to take, which he did, only after a moment of hesitation. There were too many things to process, learn, and memorize about these new Masters. He couldn’t possibly do it all at once.

As the Master helped him out, lifting him up slightly, Jared moaned at the movement.

Pain cut through his arm, back, and ankle. He feared slipping again and he knew from experience that the tile would not be forgiving.

“Easy there,” the new Master cooed. “You’re there already, see? I brought you a robe as well. Let me help you into it.”

Jared had more time to study this Master. He was shorter than the other, with a darker complexion. His eyes were bright blue. These two Masters were handsome, but then, Jared could never call any Master ugly or unappealing. Still, he admired this Master’s somewhat lopsided smile.

The Master gingerly slipped a plain cotton robe over him, though it refused to fit over Jared's middle. Jared began to stammer out an apology and an offer to fix things, but the Master simply shrugged.

“It's alright. I thought it looked small when I bought it. Can you wear it for the meantime? I'm sure you must be hungry?”

Jared stared at him, trying his best to give a neutral expression. When the Master said and did nothing, Jared looked away, at the floor.

“I forget, you don’t like questions. That’s okay, we can work around it.” The Master kept his tone light. “Accompany me to the dining room, Jared, and let’s serve food.”

Those were orders he knew how to do and he was eager to prove his skill. These Masters, though strange, had been kind and thoughtful enough to give him a bath—in their tub!—and to supply him with a robe. They had even allowed him inside the carriage!

Jared’s head spun at the thought of all these new things in such a short period of time.

He followed the Master into a large, spacious kitchen. Everything appeared new, and there were a few boxes scattered around. The oven was on and fresh bread sat out on the counter cooling.

Patiently, Jared looked at the Master for instruction.

“Ah, well… uhm, I don’t… do you know your way around a kitchen?”

Jared nodded. "Yes, sir. Of course, sir."

“Wonderful. Why don’t you serve some plates and bring them into the dining room? I’ll get a bottle of wine.”

With that, the Master left and Jared moved into action. He was slower than the previous day because of his ankle, but found that he could at least remember how to do things properly. Carefully, he took dishes out of the oven and set them on a counter, where he proceeded to find plates and utensils. The Master had prepared a casserole of some sort. Jared looked at it oddly. He knew that some Masters enjoyed cooking as a hobby, but this didn’t quite match up.

Of course, it wasn’t his place to question such things.

But he did find it strange.

He served two plates without a stray string of cheese or splash of cream sauce anywhere.

As he entered the room with two dishes, both Masters sat at the table, awaiting their food. 

The taller Master's expression changed the second he noticed Jared. He kicked his companion in the shin, under the table, and hissed, “Why is he serving us?” 

“It’s what he knows,” the shorter one replied, kicking his colleague back. All the while, he smiled at Jared. “And he's quite good at it, I must say. You’ve plated this so well, it almost looks like someone else made it.”

“Yeah,” the other Master snorted, “it looks edible.”

"Do you mind? Could you be polite for a change?"

Jared set their plates down and took his place in the corner. Squatting, he eased himself down on his knees and both Masters looked at him, their mouths hanging open slightly as if he had done something incredibly rude.

The blue eyed Master cleared his throat. “Jared… do you not want to eat with us?”

Anxiety spiked in Jared's chest. "Sir?" 

“Apologies,” the Master said lightly. “I mean, come sit at the table with us. Let me get you a plate.” He smiled again, but it didn’t soothe Jared’s apprehension.

Sit with them? Eat at their place? But he was not a first breeder or a Master, so why should he have any reason to sit with them? The Master got up from his chair for the sole purpose of retrieving a plate of food for Jared.

Clearly this was some form of punishment they had brought with them from the East.

“Let me help you up,” the blue eyed Master remarked, and moved to Jared’s side and once more eased him up by the arms. Jared made a small noise as he stood up. He looked at the two Masters before him, waiting for someone to take out a whip for daring to think that they were serious.

It never happened.

He sat down and joined them at their table.

It was then that Jared knew something was very wrong.

Chapter Text

Masters and first breeders determined the diet of a second breeder.

Jared ate a diet mostly consisting of root vegetables, bread, and water while in residence with Master and Nathaniel.

Occasionally, either Master or Nathaniel would toss pieces of beef or chicken to Jared in the corner—and on special occasions he would be given a piece of chocolate. At the academy he had been fed more fruits, cream, and fish, and it was told to his class not to expect decadent food as a second breeder.

At the end of the day, Jared felt content eating a potato or a carrot. Vegetables filled him up when he had to stretch out his bin.

Given all of this, it did not surprise Jared when he threw up what he had been fed at dinner.

The casserole was made up of some kind of pasta noodles with tuna, cheese, and a heavy cream sauce. It was like nothing he had ever eaten or served to anyone else. He retched as quietly as possible in the same bathroom he had taken a bath, heaving until his throat was completely dry.

The pups shifted and kicked, upset by what he had tried to digest.

Jared groaned and pressed his good hand to his belly, trying to soothe them.

In just a few more weeks, Jared would give birth. It was his duty to help Nathaniel through his delivery of the Master's heir. However, nothing had been said to Jared in regards to his own birthing process. From his time at the academy, Jared understood that a litter of six would render him immobile for a week before birth as he grew to his largest size. Already, his belly was wider than his actual frame, curving from the top of his chest outwards, where it hung near his hips from the weight.

The idea of immobility frightened Jared, since it meant that for a week he would be useless to his household.

He didn’t know if it was better for him to give birth before or after Nathaniel.

He hoped that whatever happened, it would work out for the best interest of the household.

“Jared?”

His name echoed throughout the hallway in the light voice that could only be the Judge. Jared lifted himself up from the toilet and moved towards the suite. The Judge—Jared knew his title now—stood in the doorway, holding a basket.

“Yes sir?”

The Judge's eyes immediately went to Jared’s arm and then his belly.

Masters were allowed to look, of course they were, but Jared have never felt so transparent.

“I thought we might take a look at your arm and perhaps your middle? Make sure that you’re doing well?”

Such unease in the Judge’s tone made Jared nervous. There was more to this than was being said.

How could they have never seen a breeder heavy with pups? Six wasn’t even that many. Jared knew that when he reached the prime breeding age of eighteen, he could expect eight to ten in one litter. Some breeders were exceptional and had up to twelve, but they often came from wealthy families and extensive breeding lines. Those were breeders with access to care and bins overflowing with food. Not that Jared wasn’t grateful—he was, very much so.

If he could hold an average of eight pups per litter, per year, he would be regarded as a good second breeder, despite his previous actions and situations.

None of that seemed to matter at that moment.

Obedient, but not completely understanding, Jared followed the Judge to another room, which was more organized and put together than any of the others.

The Doctor sat in a simple wooden chair without a cushion, at an old desk as he went through papers. Jared noticed that the Doctor wore modest clothes that had been mended in a few places more than once. This was a distinct difference from his own Master or any other Masters Jared had seen before. One of the buttons on the Doctor’s shirt didn’t match with the rest. It struck him as peculiar, but interesting. He wanted to ask where the button had come from, and if the Doctor had sewn it on himself, or if someone else had taken care of it.

Jared silenced his thoughts. He was being childish. No one cared about his thoughts concerning a button.

The Judge guided Jared over to a wooden exam table, something he had only seen twice before in his life. Second breeders often didn’t meet the requirements for Doctors to visit them. There was simply no justification for the expense. If a breeder suffered an injury, it was the breeder's fault.

At the edge of the table, the Judge kindly helped Jared onto it. He then placed a soft pillow under Jared's head, much to Jared's surprise and eventual delight. Exhaustion from the day started to settle in and he was glad to lie down for more than a few seconds.

“Great. All ready. Jared, the Doctor will be taking a look at your arm first. Right, Doctor?”

Finished with his papers, the Doctor nodded and walked over to the left side of the table. He seemed hesitant about touching Jared, which the second breeder understood. Although they had been so kind to wash him and give him clean garments, he was still covered in bruises, cuts, and scars.

To make matters worse, Jared knew that he had none of Nathaniel’s appeal or charm.

Despite the inconvenience of having to look at Jared, the Doctor proceeded. Everyone needed his arm to work if they wanted a properly cleaned household in a few days. Jared figured that if they allowed him to sleep at least two hours, he could start painting the main sitting room, followed by the dining room.

The Doctor made sure never to make direct eye contact with Jared. To avoid displeasing him, Jared kept his sight focused on the ceiling. He went through a small list of chores in his mind to prepare for the next day. Creating a list felt soothing, and it kept him calm as the Doctor’s fingers pressed against painful spots on his arm. Jared made no noise and willed himself to stay still, praying that the pups follow in his example.

For once, they listened and he received no internal kicks or sudden swings against his ribs.

Feeling bold, Jared risked a quick glance at the Doctor's face. He noticed a smattering of freckles all over, which reminded him of stars. Attention still on Jared's arm, The Doctor frowned, then muttered to the Judge, who stood nearby.

“It’s broken in four separate places, Misha. For fuck’s sake, how has he even been coping with it? If I broke your arm in four different places—never mind all of the god damn fractures on top of them—you wouldn’t be able to stand that kind of pain.”

“Please don’t speak about breaking my arm in four different places, especially with that tone of yours.”

“Excuse me? What tone?”

The Judge rolled his eyes and shrugged. “Like we haven’t got the MedLight.”

Jared winced as the Doctor’s hand gripped over his arm. Noticing the reaction, the Doctor flinched and let go quickly, recovering his composure. He moved towards the Judge and away from Jared to speak in hushed tones. Jared tried to tune out, but he couldn’t help but listen to the accent of this Master.

“We agreed not to use it.”

“Of course, but these aren’t normal circumstances and you know it. I approve, I don’t mind.”

“It’s against policy and you know it. It could be detected.”

“Oh, like you have so much more to lose. Just by coming here you’ve risked and lost everything. We won’t do much more than heal his arm, if you are still unconvinced. Anymore healing with the MedLight might attract attention.”

“I told you I didn’t want to get involved with… this.” The Doctor made a cold gesture towards Jared.

From the table, Jared must have made some noise; the Judge looked over.

“You’ve hurt his feelings, Jensen.”

“He doesn’t have feelings, Misha. You told me not to get emotionally involved in this, because we could be wrong, but here you are! It’s always like this with you. I’ll set his arm and put it in a cast, but I won’t use the MedLight. I don’t know how it’s possible to withstand an injury like this, but I don’t care right now.” The Doctor turned and walked away to grab supplies from somewhere else in the room.

Standing by himself, the Judge offered Jared a small smile. “He’s just a bit on edge, Jared. Do forgive him.”

“Yes, sir,” Jared answered, in a voice much smaller than he expected to hear.

He hadn’t been entirely nervous about being propped on an exam table because it was an honor to be given medical attention as a second breeder. Receiving medical attention meant that the second breeder was worth the trouble. But Jared felt so wrong and twisted up on this table and under this Doctor’s attention. Jared had heard awful stories from breeders in the academy of strange people from foreign lands who had never heard of second breeders. These foreign Masters would kidnap especially bad second breeders while they were heavy with a litter, and cut them open. Images of his belly sliced open and his pups dead and exposed caused a bout of nausea.

Would this Doctor—so disgusted by yet curious about second breeders—be willing to do the same?

Jared didn’t have more time to think. Before he knew it, his arm was grabbed and stretched out flat on the table. The Doctor’s strong hands bore down, fingers pressed into Jared’s skin, and pushed the broken bones back together. A sick, crunching noise echoed throughout the room, but did not drown out Jared’s screams.

“Stop! Please! Oh, please, Master,” Jared sobbed and tried to get away from the Doctor’s hands.

“Stay still, I can’t set it if you keep moving.”

“No, no, oh please, please!”

“Misha! Hold him down!”

Another twist and snap of his arm had Jared moaning, eyes rolling back. The pups sensed his distress and pain shot through his lower back. He felt a gush of liquid between his legs.

“He’s bleeding! He’s in shock, Jensen!”

“I know that! Just hold him down. I’m almost done. Fuck. Shit. Fuck.”

The Doctor continued to yell to the Judge, but Jared couldn’t make any sense of it. He took a deep breath and gave into the darkness that had been creeping up in the edge of his eyesight. His pups were the last thing he thought of before he completely sank under.

Would they ever remember his voice?

Or just the sounds of his screams?

Chapter Text

Pain was easy enough to deal with, especially if Jared understood why the pain had to happen.

One of Master's best qualities was that he provided explanation whenever punishment occurred. Sometimes pain was as simple as being shut in the closet for two days, or doing two deep cleanings in one week. There were the occasional punishments that caused Jared to black out, but he didn’t like to think about those or relive the memories.

Punishment existed as a tangible, inevitable part of life. Discipline helped him become the best breeder possible.

As the Doctor caused him pain, Jared understood it as punishment.

Jared could not remember the offense he had committed.

He tried to think of how he might have slighted these Masters. Consciousness came back to him gradually, but he had no enthusiasm waking up. He missed his pallet, his bin, and all the familiarity of his household. He missed the comfort of rules he knew, the touch of his Master, and the garden he tended to.

Leather strips bound tightly against his wrists and ankles. He found himself still on the exam stable. 

A heavy, seemingly wooden object securely clung to his bad arm. So they had set his arm inside a cast. But why? 

Why the effort for a second breeder? They took time and effort to do this just for him?

Something didn’t feel right.

He held a breath and waited, prayed for a pup to move or kick. Panic rose by the second, from both his situation and the lack of movement from the pups. At least one of the six were always making themselves known. He whimpered as he fought against the straps to his wrists. He wanted to rub his belly, press his hand down and feel the reassurance of life inside.

Desperately, he made an attempt to work one hand free. Pain from a different source manifested itself in the small of his back. Jared moaned and lifted his hips, shifting them up to relieve pressure.

Something entirely new began to happen between his legs.

He wished he had Nathaniel for company and answers. Nathaniel came from a long line of first breeders, and while this child was his first, he knew much of what to expect and what would happen while carrying and delivering. Jared moaned again and closed his eyes. A gush of liquid seeped from somewhere deep inside him, curling and spiraling all the way up his usually dormant cock.

Second breeders did not experience erections like their Masters. The sensations pierced his nerves, then suddenly shifted to brief, frightening hits of pleasure.

Pleasure was something given to him by his Master and only his Master. Pressure built in his cock. He needed friction and release. He also needed to shove down these feelings and forget about them. Quiet, still, unseen--a second breeder's entire purpose in life.

Unfortunately, the excitement and panic woke up some of the pups. They moved around and pressed against him in random, uncomfortable angles. The pressure stopped for a moment, providing respite, and Jared sighed in relief, grateful for all those things. He noticed that someone had left the pillow underneath his head. This was as comfortable as he was going to get.

Freed from physical pain, his mind turned back to the worry that these Masters would cut him open and perform experiments.

Further thinking led him to the idea that at least if he died, he would be with the pups until the very end.

There would be no use in surviving something that horrible.

Yet he knew panicking and worrying did nothing for either him or the pups. There was absolutely nothing he could do about his current situation. Taking several deep breaths, he tried to access the space in his mind that radiated a sense of calm.

In his limited time at the academy, he heard stories of good, pure, legendary breeders who fulfilled their duties to their Masters in every way possible, for as long as they lived. They performed every action with quiet grace. Their households ran so naturally, so warmly, that their Masters’ company always looked forward to visiting. Fertile and excellent at breeding healthy pups, these breeders gave everything they had to their households.

At the end of their lives, these breeders asked for nothing.

They received the eternal love and respect in the memories of their Masters.

Jared yearned to be one of those breeders.

He didn’t ask to be famous or to be talked about in stories, but he wanted to be remembered with affection by his own Master. Every day was a new opportunity to prove that he was good enough.

And though he hadn’t been able to stay at the academy long enough to graduate, it had taught him some valuable lessons.

A pup kicked his stomach and painfully brought him back from his thoughts. He couldn’t tell if it was one pup or several, but his stomach took a riotous, repeated beating. With repeated and determined force, they bullied several tender spots. Jared whined, trying to muffle any noise, and struggled to remain silent. Nausea came over him and bile quickly seeped into his mouth. It wasn't long before he threw up and started crying. 

Frustration burned in his throat. 

He spend his life constantly covered in any combination of blood, sweat, tears, vomit, or waste.

His stomach rolled once more, but he had nothing left.

Footsteps sounded in the hallway, only a few paces out. Jared immediately shut up. Milk meant for the pups had dropped, where it would be stored in his cock until he could be milked. His cock hung soft, yet flushed and swollen, between his legs. He prayed the Masters did not notice and comment on it. He needed the milk and more to give to the official who took his pups. Without it, the pups wouldn’t survive long.

A voice called out his name. 

It was the Judge.

He entered the room cautiously, as if afraid to startle Jared, and his eyes landed on the mess Jared had made.

“My goodness, let me help you.”

Previous caution forgotten, he rushed to get a towel and a wastebasket. Jared apologized as the Judge wiped him down first, then the table. The Master left momentarily to retrieve another towel, this one slightly damp. Jared avoided direct eye contact and respectfully held his head down.

“There, much better,” the Judge murmured and put away the towels. “Oh, shit. Let me undo these. We had to make sure you didn’t hurt yourself, I do apologize. How does the cast feel? A little pressure is normal. The Doctor took his time to make sure it fit.”

Unsure how to respond to any direct questions about his own opinions or feelings, he stammered out the only appropriate response available to him.

“F-f-fine,” he managed to stammer out.

With a nod, the Judge finished untying the leather straps, and gently took Jared’s hands to ease him up to a sitting position. Jared gasped as the pups kicked, protesting the shift in movement.

“Every time you gasp, I am afraid you are in pain,” the Judge spoke, in a soft voice, barely above a whisper. His blue eyes appeared almost affectionate. Their gaze reminded Jared of the way Master would sometimes look at Nathaniel.

“No sir,” Jared replied just as softly, blushing and looking away.

He put his hand on his belly and felt the weight of panic gradually disappear. Spurred by the Judge's interest in his pups, he did something unorthodox considering that the Master before him was not actually his owner.

He reached forward with his good hand and took careful hold of the Judge’s hand and placed it on his belly--directly above where the pups usually kicked.

The Judge’s breath hitched, but whether it was in surprise, pleasure, or shock, Jared couldn’t tell. All he was certain of was that the Judge was not angered by the action, bold as it was. They only had to wait a few moments before true to their habit, a pup kicked and bumped against the Judge’s hand. Another moved near, causing a series of tiny movements.

“Incredible,” the Judge whispered, eyes gone as wide as Jared’s had before. “I… thank you. Thank you very much.”

Jared nodded and put his hands down beside him. He allowed himself to relax into the Judge’s touch. The Judge asked if he could use his other hand in addition. Jared gave another nod. How odd to be asked. How strange and unfamiliar to be addressed with so much care.

With two hands, the Judge felt more movement. A look of awe and wonder never left the Master’s face. He crouched down and pressed an ear to Jared’s belly. This was the most interest a Master had ever shown towards the pups inside him, and Jared was unsure of what to make of it all.

“Do you know how many?” the Judge asked.

“Six, sir.”

“That many! How wonderful! Do you know the sexes?”

“Sexes…? Sir?”

“Ah… boys or girls? Are those the correct terms?”

They traded puzzled looks.

He thought about this Master’s question for a moment before answering. In the end, he defaulted and replied, “I don’t know."

There were some Masters and breeders without cocks, but genitals were not important in the selection process. As long as couples produced pups for the government, that was all that mattered.

The Master nodded and chewed on his bottom lip, contemplating something. “Do you carry breeders or… Masters?”

This time, Jared understood the question, but felt uncomfortable answering it.

How could this Master not know? If he did not know, then his companion must not know either. How would the Doctor deliver pups if he didn’t know what breeders carried and how?

The Judge rubbed his hands on Jared’s belly in the motion of a clock. Sensing the motion, the pups quieted down and Jared sighed, relieved, and his concern temporarily vanished.

Just as Jared reached a point of relaxation, the Doctor walked in.

He frowned at the sight before him--his eyes intense and accusing.

The Judge removed his hands from Jared and cleared his throat. His tone changed. “Doctor, is dinner ready?”

“Yeah,” the Doctor grunted, arms crossed over his chest. “It’s getting late, Misha.”

“I know that, how gracious of you to report the time." He turned to Jared and offered a warm smile. "Thank you. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that. It was truly special.”

Placing his good arm over his belly, Jared nodded again.

He sat in front of the Masters, naked, and waited for orders. Despite spending most of his time in his household naked, he felt more exposed than ever in front of these Masters.

Something about their gaze deeply unsettled him, despite the smiles and seemingly warm affections of the Judge.

Something he could not yet name. 

Chapter Text

Seamlessly, the Judge guided them into the dining room and handed Jared a robe, which he promised would fit this time.

He helped Jared put it on over his arm and belly, and seemed pleased that it not only fit, but gave Jared some room to move around. Jared put his head down to signify his obedience, and issued a hushed thank you.

Sitting at the table proved to be as disorienting as before.

If anyone had told Jared that he would go from being dragged behind his Master’s carriage to sitting at an actual table, he would have gasped at the suggestion.

For this meal, the Judge served plates, handing out one to the Doctor first and Jared second.

Jared almost stood up to say that he didn't need to eat, he could kneel in the corner. This protocol made him extremely uncomfortable.

Ultimately, despite his unease, he swallowed his complaints.

These Masters were increasingly difficult to understand. One moment he and the Judge were sharing something intimate, and the next moment the Judge did things to imply Jared could not carry out his responsibilities.

The Doctor grumbled at Jared, "We made you soup."

Jared looked down at his bowl. It was a simple broth, but it smelled delicious. A crust of bread sat next to the bowl--at last, something familiar.

He waited for the Masters to eat first before picking up his spoon. Unused to handling utensils, he felt awkward in his motions, and spent quite a bit of effort to manage without spilling. In addition to the stress attached to eat, he tried to space out his sips in an attempt to make the bowl stretch.

In the end, he caved to his hunger and consumed the entire bowl. He had to quiet his purring as warmth from the soup coursed through him. Even the pups were content.

“I’ll go into town tomorrow, pick up paint,” the Doctor said, in a deep voice, with the same distinct drawl. Once again, his tone possessed a slight edge to it. “I expect you’ll be working on your notes.”

“Of course,” the Judge replied, his tone much lighter. “I’m sure Jared can assist me in copying a few of the longer cases.”

Both Masters looked towards the breeder in their company. Jared blushed and dropped his spoon. Fear seized him.

The Doctor took care of the silence. He snapped, “You can’t read. Can you?”

Shrinking in his seat, Jared wrapped an arm around his belly, his stomach rolling in anxiety. He kept his head down. “Some, Master. Only basic ledgers and words.”

The Doctor cradled his face in his hands. “Fuck. Fuck this.” 

Jared's eyes welled with tears. Most Masters never gave a second thought to his inability to read. He was a second breeder, which meant he was taught only the basics of literacy and no more. Nathaniel had waved it over him on occasion, but everyone knew Jared, like other second breeders, didn’t have any legitimate reason to read. He could help his Master in basic dictation and he could read instructions if they were penned well and kept simple.

However, he knew this was nothing in comparison to what Nathaniel and first breeders knew, and minuscule in comparison to what Masters knew.

The Judge sighed and rolled his eyes. He snapped at The Doctor. “He can’t help it, Jensen. You’re being too hard on him. He’s a product of this… this environment.”

“Damn it, Misha! Would you shut up? I’m rethinking this entire trip right now. He’s not supposed to be in this 'environment.' Why the hell can’t we just let him loose and try some other place?!”

“He cannot leave so easily! Don’t you understand?” The Judge’s tone became forceful and direct. “He’s got a chip. They’ll track him wherever he goes and he’ll be worse off. And he could lose the litter…”

“How is that our problem? We aren't supposed to be interfering!” 

"How is that our problem? Do you even hear yourself?"

In his seat, Jared made enough sound to interrupt the conversation between the Masters. He looked at the Judge and then at the Doctor, clutching his belly with both arms. Unable to control his emotions any further, Jared pushed himself off the chair and stumbled away, trying to move as quickly as possible before anyone could bring out a whip, push him down onto the floor, and open his legs.

The Judge called out for him. Instinct tugged at Jared to stop, but fear kept him moving--directly disobeying the commands of a Master.

Everything hurt.

His failure to obey. The indifference towards the litter he was carrying. His arm, his ankle, the black bruise on his shoulder from when he knocked into the carriage wheel.

He managed to hobble outside, praying for his Master to come back early—for Master to somehow know that his second breeder wanted to go to their household more than anything in the world. Jared looked up to the evening sky and cried as he saw the stars, which only reminded him of the freckles on the Doctor’s face.

All breeders had chips. It was protection. It guaranteed that they could never be taken from their household or their Master.

It was designed to protect them, not to hurt them.

Right?

At a difficult angle, Jared hefted himself down onto the ground and chose to sit by a willow tree in the front yard near the road. Breathing heavy from the effort and his own anxiety, the pups moved around.

With a trembling hand, he rubbed his belly to try and calm them down.

Every household had a Master, a first breeder, and a second breeder.

Masters could receive the service of any breeder, but he could only have pups or children with the two of his household.

The first breeder provided him with an heir and the second provided him with a filled quota of pups for the government.

Second breeders never outlived first breeders; it was their duty to give birth until they had given their household everything.

It was an honor to die serving.

That’s what Jared wanted.

An hour passed and no one came to retrieve him or punish him.

For a moment, Jared debated walking to his household. In the end, he didn’t want to disappoint his Master or bring disgrace to his own household by failing this one. He vowed to not let these strangers affect him so much. He had to obey.

Without a sound, Jared slipped into the dark house. He found the kitchen and eased himself down in an empty corner, nearly ready to sleep when the Judge walked in with a candle to light his way.

“Jared, I’m so sorry,” he murmured and crouched down. “The Doctor… May I sit with you?”

Jared turned away and kept his head down. The Judge sat beside him.

“My goodness, we are just rife with miscommunications, aren’t we? Yes, that’s most of the problem here. You see, my partner isn’t the best at adapting to new places. He… he wasn’t expecting this. Any of this.” The Judge spoke with unease in his voice. “And we certainly weren’t expecting to meet you. Not that that’s a bad thing. He just… I’m not making any sense, am I?”

A moment of awkward silence passed over them. The Judge sighed.

“Guess not. It has been a long day. I should let you rest. Are you sure you don’t want to sleep in a bed?”

Jared shook his head no. He felt shame from rejecting the offer of a Master, but he couldn’t bear to sleep on their furniture. They just didn’t understand that.

“Alright, if you need something, please let me know. Good night, Jared.”

The Judge got up and walked out, the candlelight following him.

Settled into his corner, Jared nursed a brief moment of contentment. The space felt a lot like his closet. The pups shifted once and did their own settling in. Before he closed his eyes to sleep, Jared sent out a small prayer for the next day to be fortunate for his household.

He fell into a troubled sleep, both arms over his belly.

Chapter Text

The next day dragged along, with an immense weight tension and awkwardness.

The Doctor ignored him and the Judge both, and stayed shut in his study for the entire day. Even when Jared served him a tray of food for a midday meal, The Doctor refrained from acknowledging Jared's presence.

Jared knew he wasn't as smart as any Master, but he did know the difference between being ignored and being unnoticed. 

Early in the day, the Judge asked Jared if he would like to cook for the day—if he felt “up to it”—and Jared nodded. It was not only his duty as second breeder, but it provided him with a sense of routine and familiarity.

As he prepared dinner at midday, after serving a light meal of sandwiches and salad for the Masters, he gradually felt more peaceful. There was still an ever present edge of anxiety, but he managed it better.

Preparing dinner made time go by in a more pleasant way. With great care, he washed, peeled, and cut the vegetables. The cast made it difficult to peel as quickly, but it was better than when his arm had hung loose or in a flimsy sling.

The Judge set up a small, portable table in the kitchen and did his own work in Jared’s company, which Jared found peculiar, but certainly made no comment on. The Judge could follow him around with only an inch of space between them and there would be nothing Jared could say or do about it. 

However, the kitchen was a breeder’s domain.

Jared shifted on his feet, switching his weight from one foot to the other as he worked on the counter tops, a new sensation began in his belly. He felt a dragging, expanding pressure that sank and rested on his hips. The pups moved endlessly, running out of room to continue their activities. These signs told him he was rapidly reaching the end of his term.

Though he was proud to fulfill his duty to his Master, household, and government, Jared harbored a secret.

He would miss the pups.

Already, they had personalities of their own. He often wondered what childhoods they would have. What would they look like? Would they be happy? Would they wonder about who gave birth to them? Jared rubbed his middle before he returned his focus on dinner.

Based on the supplies the Masters had, Jared kept the meal simple, but hearty. He managed to scrape together enough to include a chocolate cake for dessert, though mixing required frequent breaks. He started to tire much easier, much to his dismay.

As he twisted himself to place the cake pan into the oven, the Judge stood up, stretched, and went to the icebox. He retrieved a handful of baby carrots with one hand, then helped Jared with the oven with the other. He then ate a carrot and passed one after another to Jared, who happily crunched away as he washed the dishes and pans he’d used. Not a bit of conversation passed between them, though the silence remained somewhat comfortable. It wasn't the tense, foreboding silence Jared received from the Doctor. It felt more like the silence that would sometimes pass between Jared and Nathaniel during long days in each other's company.

The Judge eventually helped Jared with some of the dishes, then gave Jared a few more carrots before sitting back down to his work.

With dinner in the oven, the Judge invited Jared to sit next to him, wherever he was most comfortable. Jared found a place on the floor at the Judge's feet. Little by little, Jared felt the muscles in his shoulders temporarily unwind. Every few minutes, the Judge would run a hand through Jared’s hair, and give small, soothing pets. Jared purred and leaned into each display of affection and kindness.

This was the kind of praise he understood.

Masters could touch him all they wanted—it was his duty to make them feel as good as possible in all situations. But he welcomed the attention and buried his sense of unease for the time being. 

Time passed in a much more pleasant manner than Jared supposed either of them had expected.

At the Judge's suggestion, they dined outside, with food set on two portable tables the Judge dragged out and propped up. Meanwhile, The Doctor took his dinner tray in his study. The Judge pointed out that he often did that, preferring to eat as he worked so as not to waste a minute, and to pay his odd habit no mind.

Jared understood, of course, but his sense of unease bobbed to the surface.

After dinner, the Judge cleaned up. He insisted that Jared rest and watch the sunset--a direct order. Jared obeyed, but found himself restless in his seat. What use did breeders have for sunsets? He should be doing more, helping more, accomplishing more. These Masters should be taking advantage of his services. There was still so much to do to set up their household, and they had lost so much time. The absence of hard, physical labor troubled him. Did they think him weak? Yet, if he rose from his chair, he would disobey direct orders, so what could that prove?

Questions created a whirlwind of anxiety for Jared, until the Judge came back to the porch holding a book and two plates of chocolate cake.

“We might as well enjoy ourselves,” he said, sitting down. He wasted no time in taking a large bite of cake, then smiled and gestured for Jared to take a bite. “It’s delicious, Jared. Never had anything so good.”

Jared returned the smile in an effort to continue their peace, and dared to take a small bite from the plate offered to him. It seemed like such an insignificant thing to praise. He had to know how to bake, it was simply good breeding and training. Still. Any praise from a Master about his cooking felt intensely pleasing. Jared agreed that it had turned out well, but he stopped at two bites, afraid to eat more and seem greedy.

Breeders loved chocolate, and it was often used as a reward, but it was also given sparingly.

He couldn't imagine eating an entire slice, even if he had been the one to make it.

The Judge, however, cleaned his plate, and proclaimed that he could never possibly be hungry again. He then opened the book he had brought and read it aloud to Jared. After a page or two, he apologized that it was all legal jargon, but he preferred to read out loud.

“I understand things better this way,” he said, with a glance over to Jared, who nodded in agreement.

Three or four pages passed with the gentle harmony of the Judge's voice. Words and phrases accumulated in the open air. The sun continued its descent and the property enjoyed a long stretch of peace. Jared closed his eyes and took in the sound of the Judge’s voice. He asked for permission to stretch out on the floor of the porch, which the Judge agreed to without any trouble. Jared curled up at the Judge’s feet, and fell asleep within a few minutes.

When he woke up again, he was tucked into the same corner of the kitchen he had occupied the night before.

Sensing that the household was still and quiet, Jared fell back asleep, and for once he dreamt of nothing.

Chapter Text

The next day was not so fortuitous.

Jared woke up with a start in the morning. The pups kicked and moved in painful fashions. Sweating, he felt his belly, which seemed to have expanded overnight.

Daybreak brought with it the knowledge that he would soon be giving birth--perhaps in a matter of a week or two. With effort, he sat himself upright, which made breathing slightly easier. However, he soon found it impossible to stand up on his own from the floor. He struggled and tried a few ways to heft himself off the floor--using the walls as support. The muscles in his legs began to cramp as he shifted from position to position.

More than once, he mewled his distress out of carelessness. The sound of movement from inside one of the bedrooms spurred him to keep as quiet as possible.

Panting, Jared tried one last attempt. There were chores to do. Breakfast to start. In fact, he should have been up before sunrise.

It shamed him to think that something like this would prevent him from being as useful as possible to these Masters.

Failure and exhaustion hit him at the same time. He stopped moving, and bit down on his lower lip to stop from moaning as a store of milk dropped. Storing wasn’t painful, even as his genitals expanded. In truth, it might even be pleasurable under different circumstances. But his position on the floor caused everything to take on a harsh feeling. Pressure ballooned in his hips. Jared took a deep breath--his heart raced and his face felt flushed. He groaned as he felt a spurt of milk leak out, thick and warm. Before he could control it, a small stream gushed out, onto his thighs and the floor.

Quickly, he pushed his legs together as much as possible and concentrated on holding it in. He needed a ring. Or a container. He needed his Master or Nathaniel to milk him and save what they could. Government officials collected any milk a breeder collected during their term. Any collected would help the pups in their infancy.

But why? Why did a store of milk have to drop when he was a guest in someone else's household? 

The Judge walked into the kitchen and found him.

Alarmed, the Judge rushed forward, and helped him up, mindful of the wetness on the floor. He kept one arm around under Jared's shoulders and pulled him to his feet, then hurriedly brought over a chair. 

"Don't worry," the Judge whispered, kneeling down with a towel. "Nothing we can't clean up."

Jared fought to control his breathing and stop the tears rolling down his face. "Please, let me do it. I'm sorry. I'm very sorry."

"You need to be in bed," the Judge replied and shook his head. "I may not be as knowledgeable in these things as some, but I can handle a towel." 

The Doctor walked into the kitchen. He gave a hard look at the Judge, sighed, and grabbed a towel--his movements fraught with inconvenience. "What did he spill?"

In a tone different than the one used with Jared, the Judge kept his words clipped. "Nothing. It's nothing. I got this." 

"It's..." The Doctor ran a finger through the spill. "Milk?" 

Jared stammered out a string of words meant to insist that he was fine. He would be fine. He only needed a minute. If they would just allow him to clean up and never mention this again, things would be fine. Words in some kind of order left his mouth, therefore, he would be well enough to carry on. He even managed to stand up on his own.

His entire body raged at the movement, heated and sensitive, bent on dragging him down back to the floor.

The Doctor collected the damp rags and tossed them into the sink. “He’s burdened by the weight he’s carrying,” the Doctor muttered. “People aren't meant to have babies like this.”

Jared wanted to protest. A breeder’s body was made to carry litters like these. He just hadn’t expected his term to advance until the week after this.

He could no more think these thoughts than he could voice them. Exhaustion caused him to tremble and sway on his feet.

The Judge placed an arm around him and braced him, held him firm. 

"This seems normal here," the Judge countered. "We should do what we can to help."

“He will stay in bed for the rest of the day,” the Doctor commanded, his tone curt. He turned his sharp, green eyes to Jared. “You are not to move from this bed, for any reason, understood?”

Dizzy, Jared nodded. The Judge helped him to the nearest guest room, where he carefully hefted Jared onto the bed. Jared moaned in pain as he rolled slightly from the movement. The Judge propped him up with many pillows, fretting almost as a breeder would.

“I have to go into town for a case,” the Judge spoke to Jared. “I wish I didn’t, but this business is urgent and must be handled by myself directly. I must leave you with the Doctor. I know…” He looked at Jared and a gave him a knowing smile. “He isn’t your favorite person, but we can’t have you stay alone and he would do well with some company just the same. I will see you tonight.”

The Judge placed a hand on Jared’s shoulder and gave a slight squeeze before leaving, his boots sounding firmly on the floors.

Jared lay back and closed his eyes, intending to do so for but a moment.

He slept all day--clear through midday and into the afternoon. He woke up to find the Doctor sitting on a chair beside the bed.

Startled, Jared flinched. The Doctor put a hand up.

“Don't move,” he murmured. “Are you any better.”

“Better, sir,” Jared replied, his voice raw, barely above a whisper. He kept his head down as a sign of deference and respect. 

“Fine…”

The Doctor cleared his throat and rubbed his hands together, as if trying to think of something to say. Jared glanced over at him, trying not to stare. Fatigue and hunger weighed down on him, but he had to be on watch to make sure the Master didn’t require anything.

He briefly wondered, if with the absence of the Judge, the Doctor would require his service after all.

“I’ve been reading about the customs here,” the Doctor grumbled, shoulders tense as he sat opposite Jared. “The law states that breeders are not to begin carrying litters before the age of fifteen. How old are you, Jared?”

Without any hesitation, Jared replied, though afterwards he regretted doing so that quickly. He couldn’t refuse to answer a Master’s direct question, but he wished he at least had some say in the information he gave out, especially to someone he didn’t know that well.

“I’m fourteen, sir.”

The Doctor nodded and looked away, towards the doorway. He held his hands against his chin, contemplating something.

Jared shifted, trying to alleviate the pressure in his hips. Every movement took effort, even something as small as adjusting his weight on the bed. Thirst and nausea plagued him. He could also feel a headache coming on, but nothing could be done about that. It might be nice to sit outside and take a deep breath of air. However, Jared dared not to ask until the Judge returned.

Once more, the Doctor spoke. “Would you tell me why you are carrying two years before it is safe or legal for you to do so?”

He asked that question as if it were nothing, as if he wanted to know the weather outside, or if Jared had finished his duties for the day. The casualness of it upset Jared further. He struggled to hide any and all emotion.

Without an answer, the Master asked the question once more, this time with more force to his voice--a command and not a suggestion.

“S-sir,” Jared mumbled. "Please… I…” Tears welled in his eyes. He held onto his belly.

“Tell me,” the Master demanded. He rose up and advanced so fast, Jared braced himself for a blow to the face. Instead, he whimpered as the Doctor grabbed his chin and forced eye contact. 

Jared breathed in shakily, panic rising in his chest. The pups kicked, sensing his rising discomfort. “I… at the… academy…”

“Spit it out!” The hand on his chin squeezed and Jared yelped.

“I was offered marriage, sir!” Jared blurted out, tears spilling over. “And a position as first breeder in a large household. I… he… this Master… promised… p-promised me… but he said it was necessary… had to get his money’s worth…” Jared panted in distress. “I wasn’t… please… Master… I wasn’t… acceptable, sir.”

The Doctor let go of Jared's face, clearly disgusted. He stood at the edge of the bed, fists clenched, shoulders trembling. Jared tried to make himself as small as possible, not an easy feat. The best he could do was stay silent. This Master now knew the extent to which Jared was forever marred. He had been sold at a steep discount at auction.

Everything he had learned at the academy had gone to waste on him, because he had been so weak. 

It was his burden to bear for the rest of his life.

All he could hope for was a household that would forgive his disgrace. 

Turning back to Jared, the Doctor sighed and shook his head. “And what happened after? You carried? You were expelled from that academy? What?” The Doctor’s voice possessed an edge of desperation to it, with an undercurrent of potent rage. His handsome features were twisted by the anger, green eyes burning. “What happened?”

Jared could no more stop his tears from falling than he could stop the Master in front of him from yelling at him and demanding him to relive painful memories.

“Stop it,” the Doctor hissed and grabbed Jared by the shoulders, hands rough and grasping hard enough to leave bruises. “Stop crying and tell me already.”

With a sob, Jared choked out, “I… I lost… m-my first litter…” There’d been so much blood and so little explanation. “I was sold… they… sold me… no one… no one wanted to buy… m-me… please, sir.”

“No. Keep going.”

“I… I...” Jared hiccuped. “They put me at a discount auction. Nathaniel recognized me. From… we… the academy… Master bought me…”

Jared broke down and began to sob into his hands. Memories of his shame, the repeated public auctions he had been put through, and the breeder kennels he had been forced to stay at in between flooded back. He trembled like a leaf in the Doctor’s grip.

The Doctor roughly shoved him away before he stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind him.

Jared cried harder, in relief and in pain. His entire body ached. He couldn’t breathe.

Second breeders had to be good. There were so many other breeders that might take their place. A Master could sell his second breeder if the breeder proved to be difficult, disrespectful, or a disgrace to the household.

Once a second breeder received a bad reputation from a Master, it was difficult to be sold to a decent household. The breeders who went to auction three times without being purchased were sent to a breeding farm, where they stayed attached to mechanisms Jared had only heard about in whispers at the academy. They lived out the rest of their days breeding and providing milk at accelerated rates, until their bodies gave out.

Jared had been on his second auction—deeply discounted—when Nathaniel spotted him.

Lost in his past, uncertain about the present and the future, Jared fell asleep. He preferred numbing unconsciousness to the pain of being awake.

The next two days passed easily. Jared slept for most of it.

The Doctor completely ignored him and did not visit his bedside again. The Judge offered Jared meals—which he did not take—but beyond that, kept his conversation and company to a minimum. Jared knew that the Doctor had informed the Judge about his past. It explained the difference in behavior. Jared tried not to think about it.

On Wednesday morning, his Master returned.

The Judge and the Doctor led him to Jared’s room, where Jared failed to get up on his own and assume position for his Master. He shook with excitement. He wanted to be in his own household, with his own Master and Nathaniel, with his own sense of rightness in the world.

Even when the whip struck him, Jared was grateful.

Master dragged him out of the household and whipped him on the lawn—twenty lashes on his back. The Doctor and Judge watched.

Master apologized for such a lazy, useless breeder that should not have been lying about like some kind of pathetic slug. Jared took the first five lashes without crying out. By the time Master had tucked away his whip and dragged him into the carriage, Jared could only speak nonsense, dazed and in shock. Master allowed him to ride in the carriage, because he was too big to properly keep up.

Even still, Jared was grateful.

Chapter Text

Later that night, Nathaniel ran a wet rag over Jared’s back. 

“You’re still expected to do your chores,” Nathaniel muttered, wringing out the rag. Jared watched the rag drip a dark red. “And you will do so until you or I go into labor. Understood?”

“Yes, of course,” Jared whispered, then closed his eyes.

Tucked away in his closet, sitting on a chair, he slept in startled fits throughout the night.

Two days later, Nathaniel went into labor. It came on sudden in the middle of the day. Jared hurried out of his closet and into Master's bedroom, where Nathaniel lay screaming in pain. An alert triggered in Nathaniel's chip to inform their Master, who even from a distance could access their controls. Master needed to hurry back from his business in town. 

Screeching at the sight of blood, Nathaniel swung and clawed at Jared if he drew near to help. Panic rang out in shrill, piercing shrieks. First breeders had less tolerance for pain, not being as intimately connected to it as second breeders were. Jared managed to fit a damp towel into Nathaniel's mouth in order to give him something to bite down on. He ignored the insults and accusations from Nathaniel, who trembled, delirious in agony. 

Training and instinct kicked in--Jared moved as fast as his frame would allow. 

From the kitchen, he dragged three pails of water into the room. His lungs burned from the effort and muscles in his lower back threatened to destabilize his balance. Thick humidity hung in the air, making the scent of blood cling to it. Nathaniel grabbed for Jared's hand. Jared held on. 

With his free hand, he pressed a cold rag to Nathaniel's forehead, and encouraged him to breathe. 

It wouldn't be much longer. 

Master would soon arrive. 

Jared learned many of the birthing instructions in the academy, then received a small refresher from a government official three months ago. He had them memorized down to the smallest detail. Master would call upon the Doctor through a messenger or courier. Once the Doctor arrived, Jared was to assist with the birth, then nurse the child until Nathaniel properly recovered.

The entire birthing process for a first breeder remained distinctly different from that of a second breeder's. 

Second breeders knew their place. 

Master arrived an hour later, and remained at Nathaniel’s bedside, holding his hand and murmuring comforting words. He ordered Jared to get another three pails of water, as three was unacceptable and insufficient.

Jared stumbled towards the well outside, near the garden, and set his two pails down. Nausea poured over him in tandem with the harsh sun. Why was it so difficult to catch his breath? They had a plan. There were things set in place for this. He knelt down, exhausted. Get up. He barked orders at himself. Get. Up.

An immense pressure in his hips swelled. It pulsed. It boiled. It wrapped itself all around Jared like a snake. Knelt against the well, he seized, muscles vibrating with tension. Pressure. Pressure. Something inside him snapped.

Fluid gushed from between his legs onto the dry grass. 

Nothing was going to plan.

Chapter Text

Every breeder possessed a chip.

From birth, they were sorted out from the Masters in a litter by a simple blood test, and sent to a mobile infant station. Inside these stations, high-ranking Masters would implant chips, and maintain control until breeders could be assigned to a household option. Baby breeders born to second breeders almost always went to farms. Only a small percentage of those babies landed in the care of household families or academies. 

Breeders were forbidden from tampering with their chips. 

The locations of their chips was kept from them and any questions were immediately smothered. The government kept the location classified, even from Masters. The chip served several important purposes, one of which was location and tracking.

A breeder could never truly be lost to its Master.

If a breeder had enough luck, they would undergo years of training at an academy. On the first day, breeders would eagerly wait to be sorted into two classes: first and second breeders. Selection for each class had its own requirements and aesthetics. Those with exceptional abilities, attractive physical attributes, and high rates of fertility made the first category. Breeders who had disciplinary problems, came from lower class backgrounds, or had histories of miscarriages were placed in the second category.

However, the academy’s standards were only suggestions for future Masters.

It was up to each Master to select two breeders for their household.

This was a decision each Master was prepared to make very early on in their lives. It was a decision that would impact the future of their blood lines and the stability of their households.

The first breeder they selected had to have the genes to provide a healthy, intelligent child—the future heir. In conjunction, second breeder had to be submissive to the first breeder, follow directions, and provide enough pups to fulfill the government quota. Second breeders were given two chances within five years to miscarry, but it would forever be marked on their records. First breeders were given one chance within ten years to miscarry.

In many households, abuse against second breeders thrived. First breeders were often encouraged to assert their dominance, their strength. However, theirs was a relationship bound by the Master they swore to serve.

Masters held the highest positions in government and in their respective households.

It was an honor to breed pups or children that would go on to be identified as Masters.  

First breeders could only carry up to two children at a time. Second breeders had their own systems and ranks of reproduction, and because their offspring did not stay in the household, they were considered pups, not children.

Masters were taught that second breeders should never think of their offspring as belonging to them. Their pups belonged to the government and they should be glad for it.

The chips controlled a breeder’s category and placement. It changed the makeup of their bodies. Because the children of first breeders were valued, a first breeder’s health was valued. They could heal faster but Masters understood that the health of their future heir depended on the health and well-being of the breeder that carried that heir. Second breeders were designed to endure great amounts of physical pain—partly to accommodate the number of births they had—and they quickly became an outlet for a Master’s frustration.

However, a second breeder had an individual limit. Healthy second breeders could withstand extraordinary amounts of pain. A poorly treated second breeder did not have this advantage.

Pain sliced through Jared as it never had before.

He limped, half bent over, and dragged one pail of water back to Nathaniel’s birthing room. Master looked up and gasped, seeing the wetness in between Jared’s naked legs—the robes the other Masters had given him had been taken away immediately after.

Jared fell on his knees to assume position, shaking as he his body subjected him to another contraction. Nathaniel’s screams filled the room.

Master rose up and grabbed Jared by the hair.

“This is fucking unacceptable!” he hissed into Jared’s ear.

“I…”

“I don’t want to hear your excuses!”

Before he knew it, or could even protest, Master dragged him down the hallway. Panic raged through Jared. No matter how much he pleaded, begged, or cried for a second chance, Master ignored it all. Master paid no mind to the various scrapes over Jared's body from being dragged outside.

Master threw Jared into the underground cellar--shoved onto his back, unable to get up or move from his new, abysmal place. 

“Master, please!” Jared screamed in desperation, crying, his voice raw. “I can still help! I can still…”

The cellar doors slammed shut.

Chapter Text

All breeders—regardless of class or station or rank—were taught to honor the act of giving birth.

Producing healthy pups was the most beautiful, worthy act they could hope to achieve in their lives. From an early age, breeders learned the concept of sexual service, impregnation, and delivery as a means to provide for their government. If a breeder so happened to die during the process, they died with honor. 

The lifespans of second breeders were often short. 

Jared's training told him to stay quiet, obey his Master, and accept his fate. Master had made a decision and Jared had to cope with it. A truly good second breeder would be thankful. Master had not tied him to a chain outside. Master hadn't beaten him beforehand. This would be as good an end as any. 

One problem remained.

Jared didn't want to die.

There was nothing wonderful or beautiful about the pain. Contractions slid into him like blazing hot pokers. Darkness hung all around him, smothering his sense of time and depth perception. Screaming made everything worse, as it cost him energy, gained him nothing, and created harsh echoes against unseen walls. On his back, desperation drove him to rock side to side. No position felt comfortable. Nothing worked. 

He dug the heels of his feet into the dirt floor beneath him. Each contraction multiplied, branching out, extending brutal pain. Every movement from the pups caused him agony. He knew the steps to assist Nathaniel, but could not remember them for himself. Too much pain. Too much darkness. Something felt odd. Through the layers of pain, heat, and pressure, there something twisted, something at the apex of his belly.

Drawing in deep breaths in between screams, Jared trembled and shook in panic. How could this be what his life was worth? How had it all come to this? 

No pail of water. No robes. No clean towels. 

His thoughts receded as the pain took over every inch of his mind. Contractions punctured him, closer and closer together. No amount of breathing could steady his breathing or settle his panic. The cellar seemed to close in on him. In his bones, he knew the odds of his survival. The pups had a good chance of making it through, if he could manage. But he had hoped for a bed. Or a pallet.

Or company.

Past the point of crying or screaming, he moaned as time churned on. The sounds his body made disturbed him.

Squelching. Rumbling. Heaving.

He spread his legs open and felt a puddle form beneath him. The liquid felt sticky and thick. Was it birth fluid? Was it blood? Whatever it was, he felt it continue to pool. The puddle extended, rippling out. 

There was no way to tell how much time passed, but it felt like a slow, prolonged, tortuous eternity. Delivery for the average second breeder could take anywhere from one to eight hours. Would he last that long? 

Breathless, Jared shut his eyes tight and attempted to sit up. He twisted his hips and tried to roll onto his side. His hands dipped into the puddle and he knew--he knew he was lying over a patch of blood and dirt. He had no idea what to do if the birth took longer. Or even what to do with the pups once they were out. Sweat poured down his forehead as he grunted, gritted his teeth, and went through another series of contractions. Not only were the contractions painful, but his entrance stretching to accommodate the birth burned, as if he was tearing open.

A pup suddenly moved lower. It dropped down and stayed, pressing uncomfortably near his hips. He decided to try pushing, but stopped once the result was another output of blood.

The sound of his breathing pounded in his ears.

What would he do? How could he get through this? Any more blood and he’d pass out.

Another pup moved in such a way that caused Jared to howl in desperation.

Pushing accomplished nothing. Screaming accomplished nothing. The darkness of the cellar threatened to swallow him and the pups whole. Here they would stay, forgotten and buried beneath dirt and blood.

In the middle of a scream, Jared heard what he thought sounded like the cellar door being ripped open. Light poured in.

Could it be?

Master? 

His eyes could barely focus. Another contraction shot through, followed by more blood.

The person, the shadow in front of the light, disappeared, if they had been there at all. Jared sobbed, his chest heaving, one hand on his belly. How much longer he could survive doing this, he didn’t know. He had always hoped someone would be with him as he gave birth to his first successful litter. Faces from his past haunted him whenever he closed his eyes. The day he had been forced to leave the academy, he’d been told repeatedly that they had had such high hopes for him.

When he opened his eyes again, the Doctor appeared before him.

Knelt down in front of him, the Doctor pushed his legs apart. 

“Stay conscious,” he ordered, his voice tense and commanding. “You have to stay awake. Jared. Can you hear me.”

Jared twisted and gasped for breath, struggling to decipher what was real. Of all people, why would this Master appear in his desperate hallucinations? It had been clear to Jared that neither strange new Master truly cared for him or what happened to him. He served as a minor event in both of their lives.

When he tried to push and kick the hallucination away, his foot struck the Doctor in the chin. 

Immediately, Jared tried to apologize.

A contraction interrupted his apology and shook his entire body. Sweat and tears dripped down his face. The Doctor propped Jared's feet against his chest to use as a stabilizing force.

In the dark, the Masters whispered between themselves. The echoes of their whispers sounded like beetles scratching at walls. 

“We should move him, Jensen.”

“No, he’s too far dilated. Jesus. Can you get a basket or something? Somewhere to put them?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Jared,” the Doctor shouted over Jared’s moaning. “Calm down. You need to breathe.”

Eyes closed, Jared tried to remain quiet--and failed. “It hurts! It hurts! Master, something… something’s wrong!”

“Nothing is wrong. You’re fine. You need to focus on pushing. You’re nearly ready.” 

Anger built up inside Jared's chest. Anger and grief. Desperation. All of it raged on inside him as he felt his vision fade. The second a warm rag touched his forehead, Jared started to sob. He heard the Doctor and the Judge's rough, nervous movements, and the sounds of their tools clinking together in the dark. 

“You’ve got my bag, yeah?”

“Yes, right here.”

“Good. Might need forceps.” The Doctor took his shirt off, raised Jared’s hips, and placed it underneath him. The Judge crouched beside Jared and held his hand.

“Jensen. They’re less than a minute apart.".

“Breathe. Keep breathing. Almost ready.”

Something else was said, but Jared didn’t hear it. He felt himself open up and a new kind of pressure began. He felt the need to push. He closed his eyes and let out a scream, a contraction coming out of nowhere. Even the damp rag on his forehead wasn’t helping. The pain was worse and he felt himself bleed onto the Doctor’s hands, which were pressing at his entrance.

“Fully dilated. Ready with that basket? Put your shirt down in it.”

“Already done. How is he?”

“Fine. I’ll fucking kill him. I swear to god, Misha, I’ll kill him.”

Jared moaned and whimpered in between a contraction. His back hurt. The pressure was breaking him in two. And the Doctor had just admitted he would kill him. No one would question it either.

“Not you, Jared, not you,” the Judge blurted out, sensing Jared’s panic. “Jensen.”

“Fuck. Sorry. Just breathe, Jared. Breathe. You’re ready to start pushing. I need you to push after a contraction, not during, okay? Do you understand?”

“Yes, Master,” Jared groaned and squeezed the Judge’s hand. His back bothered him, but he didn’t know what to do. His breathing became labored and his hands started to tremble.

“What’s wrong? Jared? What’s wrong?” The Doctor had his hands on Jared’s thighs.

“M-my back… hurts…”

The Doctor looked towards the Judge. They talked among themselves, then decided to try re-positioning Jared.

First, they tried propping Jared up, half sitting, half squatting. At that angle, Jared fought harder to breathe. Then, they turned Jared to lie on his left side, with his right leg pushed up.

This worked for a few minutes, until pain caused him to roll onto his back.

Finally, the Judge and the Doctor placed him on all fours.

Jared held onto the Judge’s shoulders and Jensen worked from behind.

“If it wasn’t so fucking dark in here,” the Doctor muttered. “Okay, push. One, two, three!”

It went against his instinct to push after the contraction, but Jared focused on obeying orders. He pushed with muscles he never knew existed. Clinging to the Judge’s shoulders and screaming, Jared pushed as long as he could, gasping and panting for breath when he stopped. Another contraction hit, but he was unable to scream, his throat shot. The Doctor’s hands pressed on his stomach, feeling for something, but Jared didn’t know what. He trembled with effort as he was commanded to push again and again, with only a minute or two of rest.

“Crowning, first one’s crowning. Fuck. Just a good push and the head will be out. Got that? Push!”

Jared dug his fingers into the Judge’s shoulders, and slumped forward as he pushed. A great amount of pressure built in his hips, and a continuous burning sensation at his entrance. He wanted to stop. He wanted this to be over. The Doctor spread his legs out and heard him shout for another push.

What seemed like an eternity later, the Doctor yelled out at the Judge.

“First one! Misha, Jesus…”

“Don’t Jensen.”

“I know, I know. Just… shit.”

Something felt off. Jared knew the Doctor had to work quickly. He didn’t know what exactly the Doctor was doing, but the relief in pressure was a miracle. The Judge informed him that the first pup was out and in the basket. Jared nodded weakly and braced himself for another contraction. Two contractions later, and he blindly moaned through another crowning.

The next three births were faster, barely two minutes apart, yet they each took their toll on Jared.

“Keep him awake, I need him awake.”

“He’s cold, Jensen!”

“Misha! Just keep him awake! This one’s sideways. Fuck. Gotta turn it.”

Firm hands splayed over the wide expanse of his belly. He wanted to push them away. As the hands pressed and pushed against his belly, Jared weakly protested. His insides scrambled. He floated in and out of consciousness, in his body one second and out of it the other. The Judge whispered things to him, things that sounded vaguely soothing, all the while wiping his forehead. Jared slumped forward, against the Judge's chest. He was underwater. Exhaustion dragged him down further, unable to respond to the garbled commands.

Everything around him--sound, touch, sight--started to fade away from him.

The Doctor shouted repeatedly, his voice booming and crashing against Jared's consciousness. 

Tides turned as a few words pierced through.

“You’re not giving up,” the Doctor shouted. “Jared! You push right now or I’ll whip you myself!”

To be whipped in this state? And likely left on the cellar floor to bleed out? The threat itself felt like a lash against his back. Weakly, he gave two more pushes, desperate to avoid more pain.

Another pup slipped from him and into the Doctor’s hands with a squelch. Jared shuddered and moaned, arching against the Judge as he felt the last pup move down. Eyes wide open, Jared stared into nothingness. His body seemed out of his control. 

The Doctor continued shouting. “Breathe! You have to breathe! Stop panicking! Misha! Hold him down!”

Jared started begging. If they would just make it end... 

Pain sharpened its claws and speared him in the spine, then dragged itself slowly up, all the way to the base of his skull and back down again. He struggled to push in time with the Doctor's commands. Every push only seemed to cause the next pup to slip back further inside.

At his breaking point, Jared seized up, then gave the last push he was capable of.

The last pup left him and the world went dark.

Faintly, Jared could hear the Masters' conversation around him. They spoke in hushed tones and rolled Jared onto his side, the Judge then wiped his face. Invisible hands painfully pressed down on his stomach. Blood pounded in Jared's ears and his breathing took on a raspy wheeze. 

As his heart beat slowed, Jared struggled with the weight of something on his chest. 

Once his eyes adjusted to the darkness of the cellar once again, he witnessed the cause of that weight.

It was a single, healthy pup.

Jared turned from it, crying out, and tried to push it away. The Doctor pushed it back.

“Hold it, it's fine,” the Doctor insisted, scooping it up into his hands.

“No!” Jared moaned and curled in on himself, like a flower dying from exposure to the sun. 

The Judge placed a hand over Jared's arm and cautiously asked, “Why don’t you want to hold him?” 

Him.

It should be 'it.' 

Not a single pup was his to hold. Forming any kind of attachment with them--more than he had already--would only bring him more pain. Holding pups was the government's job, not his. His job was to breed them. 

From their basket on the cellar floor, the pups started crying, their shrill noises filled the cellar. Jared recoiled and covered his ears. He laid in a pool of his own blood, disoriented, confused, drifting in and out of reality. Could this be a bed instead of a dirt floor? A comfortable, plush bed of his own? Was this perhaps his room, filled with sunlight and flowers picked fresh from the garden? 

Was this a handmade blanket specially crafted for the arrival of his litter? 

And was this not a beautiful, ornate bassinet for the little ones to spend their first few hours of life in? 

He could be in bed, surrounded by pillows and quilts, tired, yet satisfied that he had won his household honor. A little one occupied his attention as he held it close, protective and with nothing less than complete adoration. Look at its nose. Its tiny fingers. 

Look how small, helpless, and innocent. 

Jared shoved it away from him the second time the Doctor offered. With every fiber of his being, Jared hoped that his pups would be Masters. 

He wished them a life of success and good fortune. 

He prayed for his pups to forgive him.

Chapter Text

The Doctor had done a good job--considering the conditions he had been forced to work in.

He managed to take care of several things, including cutting all the pups from their cords.

There was only one thing he did not do, which was odd for a Doctor or any Master--he did not tell Jared about the dead pups. The ones that had been born blue, curled up, and unresponsive. Every one of their small bodies provided proof of Jared's failure to carry out the most basic of breeder tasks. What worth could he possibly hope to bring to any household if he could not carry and breed an entire healthy litter? Was there a word for a breeder who didn't breed? 

The Judge and the Doctor tried to hide the evidence. They swaddled the stillborn pups in pieces of shirts, so they would look like the others, but Jared knew.

He knew it when he peeked into their basket and witnessed their frail, wrinkled bodies. Their mouths hung open slightly. The Doctor had tried to resuscitate them.

None fo their little hearts and lungs had responded.

This one.

Jared reached for it.

The smallest of the stillborns. It seemed pained. Jared wondered how long they had been like that inside him. There must have been something he could have done differently. Or perhaps he was made for this purpose. He was something defective. Something rotten. Something unnatural. 

“Cords were wrapped… around their necks…” The Doctor's voice broke through Jared's hazed train of thought. Sadness seemed to tint the Doctor's voice, as if he too felt ashamed to be in Jared's presence. "I tried. I'm sorry. I did try."

Reality began to set in.

Failure didn't lie within the Doctor, it was buried deep inside Jared. It always had been. In his bones, he knew his next destination: the auction block. 

So why not?

Why not hold one?

Why not hold the smallest one? Who could it tell that he had broken a rule? He picked up the smallest stillborn and held it in his hands. Had it suffered? Had it known pain? Was it always this cold? It had some weight to it. And a face. Its eyes were closed and its body felt surprisingly stiff, yet its skin retained a softness to it. Maybe. Maybe these pups were the lucky ones. They would never know this existence. They'd never know how deep Jared's failure ran. 

The Judge reached out towards Jared, his movements purposefully slow and cautious. "I'll take it," he offered, his voice breaking. "It's okay. We will get through this." 

Jared hesitated. Pain and exhaustion settled into him, unending and cruel. He held onto the pup, turning away from the Judge, and curled up. Stifled sobs escaped his mouth. Tears broke free from his eyes. He thought he had cried everything there was to cry during delivery. An enormous, cavernous well of pain he had not experienced before this moment made a home in his chest. It broke through his ribs and cracked against his spine. It extended far beyond any measure of physical pain he had been through. And he was certain it would only ever keep growing. 

The pup in his hands seemed to move. He thought maybe it had made a noise. Perhaps the Doctor had made a mistake?

Or perhaps his mind desperately wanted to blend the noises of the living pups with the silence of this once. 

Minutes later, four government officials stormed into the cellar. Dressed in heavy, sleek, black suits--and their standard full-face masks--they worked with cold efficiency. 

One of them turned on a handheld light. The cellar revealed its contents: two Masters covered in blood, a vegetable bin with pups, and a second breeder holding a pup as if they had laid claim to it.

With their thick black gloves, two officials reached for Jared. One held him down and the other wrenched the pup away from Jared. Once they realized the pup was not alive, they tossed it into the basket along with its littermates. Tossed. Thrown. To be discarded. In its place, an official threw a rag doll onto the ground, then yanked Jared into a half-standing position, held by his throat. 

Behind their mask, the faceless official announced, “Second breeder number seven nineteen. This is your second miscarry within the allotted span of five years. This will be documented and reported. You are no longer a member of this household. You will be put to auction and sold for the first offer.”

Jared barely heard anything. Everything moved at a snail's pace. Everything except the two officials lifting and taking the bin outside into the light. Into the world. Beyond his reach forever. 

The Doctor yelled. He raged and tried to gain the attention of the official holding Jared, then the official overseeing the removal of the bin. Not a single official listened. It was their job. Just as Jared's job was to produce healthy pups. Met with continued silence, the Doctor snapped. He shoved the overseeing official. The official dropped their paperwork. Within a few seconds, the Doctor began beating the official, punching through their mask. 

The Judge attempted to break up the fight. He dragged the Doctor away from the official. By then, the bin faded from Jared's sight. 

He sent three pups out into the world. He would never see them again.

They would be taken to a training facility, sorted--hopefully as Masters--and sent to a facility for dispersal to a family or a training center. The town of Meridian was known for providing a substantial number of new recruits for the government. Meridian officials prided themselves on sending the highest number of pups to government centers within three counties. Meridian second breeders were the best in the area--dedicated to service and their government.

No second breeder got to keep any of their pups. Their entire lifetime would pass without more than two minutes with each litter.

Jared closed his eyes and pictured the sweet, still face of his smallest pup.

Numb, he did nothing to fight back when an official returned and thrust his legs apart. He kept his eyes closed, unwilling to watch the next part of the official's duties. The official grabbed Jared's cock, their black gloves harsh and cold. Jared groaned as the official started pumping with a rough, aggressive motion. Pressure in his hips and genitals grew. The sensations overwhelmed him and he bucked in resistance. Struggling to continue their work, the official clamped a machine over Jared's cock, then slapped him hard across the face. Dazed, Jared's eyes fluttered open. He stared at the light pouring in from the cellar door.

Incredibly, the Judge appeared, and quickly knelt beside Jared, then ran a hand through Jared's hair.

Attached to a tube and a labeled container, the clamp milked Jared with precision. It worked on a setting dedicated to finishing the process as quickly as possible. As it suctioned and pumped, Jared recognized twinges of pain in his hips, genitals, chest, and head. What more of him could possibly hurt? 

The machine took every drop of milk from Jared in a matter of minutes. It took the last ounce of his strength with it, too. Another thing gone from him.

The Judge wiped Jared's face with a rag. 

Marking the container, the official then took the clamp off of Jared. They held up the container, seemingly impressed by the amount, and made a comment--their voice empty of feeling. “Good thing about stillborns,” the official muttered. “Always enough milk for the ones that made it.”

Jared watched as the Judge attacked the official, beating him to the ground.

Hardly anyone noticed when Jared closed his eyes and stopped moving.

Chapter Text

Intimately entwined in pain, time passed in strange ways for breeders. 

Outside the cellar, the Doctor made a generous cash offer for Jared.

With the deal on the table, Master apologized and informed the Doctor that any attack towards a government official carrying pups automatically banned a Master from the purchase of a breeder for six months.

“My hands are tied, Doctor. I can’t sell him to you. Why you would want to invest in such bad stock? He’ll be useless when I’m done with him.”

The Judge urged the Doctor that they should take their leave at once.

Jared remained in the cellar--for three days.

Weak from delivery, blood loss, and a lack of food, he didn’t fight back or try to cover himself when the Master’s whip laid into him. The lashes were ones Jared knew would turn white and never completely fade, despite his healing rate.

Each lash would follow him--spidery and thin ghosts of his failure.

Master stuck to punishing Jared with only the whip, as he made sure to point out that Jared wasn’t even worth fucking anymore. Jared agreed.

Jared drank dirty water from a pail someone had left behind in the cellar. He saw no sunlight, smelled no fresh air, and didn’t move more than he could crawl. Sometimes, he swore he could hear a child laughing or see the Doctor’s eyes in the darkness, watching over him, commanding him to breathe. Sometimes, he swore there was a time in his life when he knew he was worth more than the dirt underneath him, soaked in his own blood.

His arrival at the auction house was a relief.

He was dragged again, which he found easier this time without his belly.

For ten miles he didn’t even try to keep up with the carriage. Filthy from head to toe—covered in mud, blood, and sweat—Master chained him to a post, then sought out an auctioneer. The only thing Jared had to his name, beside his chip, was the tattered doll the government official had thrown at him days before.

The doll was as dirty as Jared, covered in dirt and mud. He clutched it near at all times, and even managed to hold onto it through those ten miles. He held it close as Master and an auctioneer talked about his teeth, muscles, and scars.

No one could take that doll from him.

No one tried to, either.

Government officials gave crude dolls to second breeders who had trouble detaching from their litters when the time arrived. It hurt Jared that it was the same size as the pup he had held. In the black button eyes of the doll he saw his own frail pup.

Just before the auctioneer and the Master shook hands, Jared gave the doll a gentle nuzz. He promised it that things would be okay.

Master handed over control to Jared’s chip and they shook hands, sealing whatever deal had been made. Master gave Jared one last look over before backhanding him, knocking Jared to the ground. Two auctioneers roughly dragged him to the kennels immediately after.

Jared knew the steps. He knew the layout of the kennels and all the terrible things that happened within. 

He briefly thought about his pallet and his closet. Two safe spaces, one he could withdraw into pleasant darkness and come to terms with the world on his own. In the stark brightness of the kennel, the thought died quickly. He was led to the arrivals cages and shoved in, still chained.

Gray and cold, every aspect of the kennels was meant to break down the spirits of those inside. Large swathes of tiles showed dark red stains from previous tenants. All breeders that ended up in the kennels were the same. 

There had been some hope that he would never end up back in the kennels, that he would never relive any of it, but all hope died with his pups.

Auctioneers grabbed him and threw him against a wall near a single drain in the floor. With large hoses, they blasted Jared with torrents of cold water. Upon impact, Jared screamed. He choked on water and blood. Begging did nothing. Crying did nothing. 

Who suffered the worse fate? The pups who had survived or the ones who hadn't? 

Chapter Text

The auctioneers sprayed Jared down with ice water for a brutal eternity.

Every new spray hit his skin in waves like jagged glass shards.

In the end, even Jared's doll left the wall clean.

Breeders in the kennels did not speak to one another. It was an unspoken rule each breeder followed, even when they came back from an auction. There was no talking and therefore no formation of any friendship or sense of connection. Silence served as their only defense against the horrors of the kennel.

Why talk to someone who would be sold in the next hour?

A breeder's life could be filled with impermanence.

Auctioneers ran the kennels with deliberately rough precision. In their white suits, with black gloves, they guarded the walls and rows of cages throughout the building. Poor behavior was swiftly identified and brutally punished.

Jared shivered in his cage. His bones rattled and teeth chattered as he sat, twisted and contorted to fit. He kept one eye on the bars of the cage and the other eye on doll. 

The staff who walked through the aisles were able to access his cage easily, hurting his jaw as they demanded service. It was illegal for the guards to fuck the kennel breeders, but their mouths were fair play. Many of the auctioneers used him, but he noticed they didn’t use him as often as some of the other new arrivals.

He suspected it was because the doll bothered them.

As if doll reminded them the possibilities of their fate had they been born breeders.

Doll was the only thing Jared cared about. He tried to feed it gruel from the bowl shoved in through a slot in his cage. When he felt anxious, he pet doll to provide her with some comfort. He cradled it in his arms when the lights went out at the end of the day. He covered its eyes when the auctioneers visited through the bars. He promised doll that things would get better.

For three days—possibly longer—they fed him three portions of gruel a day and punished him if he didn’t finish. The kind of punishment wasn’t important, just that it would happen and Jared was a fast learner. Auctioneers hosed down every breeder twice a day, more if necessary, and sometimes in their cages instead of against the wall. If the auctioneer didn't feel like taking them out, each breeder would sit for hours, soaked and cold in their enclosure.

Once a day, at noon, the Head Auctioneer took out three or four breeders at a time for a walk around the kennel. Chained and leashed, the walks were the only opportunity to stretch for an extended period of time. The lack of movement took its toll on their muscles and movements. Some breeders tried to maintain elegance and pride as they walked. Jared only insisted that he carry doll with--in his mouth if he had to. 

What felt like a week later, one of the auctioneers sawed off Jared's cast and discarded it without checking to see if the arm had healed. Jared watched the guard toss it into a trash bin.

Maybe, Jared thought, that's how Masters essentially saw their breeders: disposable the minute they stopped performing. 

After the cast removal, an auctioneer ordered a shower for Jared.

Immediately after the shower, Jared followed an auctioneer outside of the kennels and right to the auction block.

His first auction did not go well.

An assistant forced Jared into a complicated muzzle, then into chains that restricted his moment by forcing his legs spread for inspection. Stress had caused Jared to lose the weight he had put on carrying his litter. However, he lost the weight in a cascade--his ribs and hip bones jutted out. Further evidence of his treatment in the kennels appeared in the gradient of bruises that covered his body.

Before dragged towards the block, Jared left doll in his cage. He promised his return.

Eligible Masters could attend auctions and purchase breeders at a discount. Some Masters reserved their seats in advance—often, these were Masters who owned government sponsored breeding farms searching for breeders strong enough to withstand the work, but disposable enough to be bought on the cheap.

In the auction hall, reserved seats occupied the first few rows nearest the auction block. Behind the seats, Masters could stand from a slight distance and place their bets. An auctioneer and an assistant stood on the platform with the breeder on the block.

Nearby, guards kept a careful watch on all proceedings and transactions. Masters could call out questions about the breeder, and could ask for the breeder to be turned this way or that, but no one could touch the breeder until a sale was made.

Each breeder had three rounds of auctions. One per day. It kept the kennels full and without any strays or forgotten ones.

If a breeder was not sold after three rounds, they were shipped off to a breeding farm of random selection.

Jared had never met or heard of a breeder who made it back from those farms.

Blinded by the lights high above the platform, Jared stumbled forward, sluggish and clumsy. His eyes refused to focus. Disoriented and dizzy, he shuddered as he gradually realized the number of Masters in the hall. Immediately after the auctioneer shoved him down on a raised platform, the room erupted in shouting and yelling. The assault of sound caused Jared to start quaking in his chains.

Demands ranged from positioning Jared ass up to holding his mouth open to gauge the quality of his teeth. 

The assistant walked over and complied with the wishes of the audience. Jared gave a dull moan as the assistant planted a large plug inside him. He bucked against the auctioneer when the plug abruptly twisted. Resistance did not make him an appealing bid and he couldn't muster the energy to care. He couldn't tune out the sound of shouting around and about him. 

“How’re his teeth?!”

“Scrawny! Is he discounted?!”

“Can he be used for outside labor?!”

Jared lay on the platform and tried to remain calm. The assistant poked and prodded him, twisted and turned him in a variety of positions. The bidding started and Jared prayed. He prayed for a Master that would recognize his training and obedience. He prayed to for this auction to end, so he could find a household with a pallet, a bin, no more cellars. 

The auctioneer set a price for Jared.

No one bid.

Not one Master in the entire crowd bid on him. Not even after all the questions and inspections and positions.

The assistant took hold of his chains and leash, then dragged him off the block. Another auctioneer took him to his cage and hosed him down.

He did not receive his regular portion of gruel that night.

Chapter Text

Kennel management pulled aside the lead auctioneer before Jared's next opportunity on the block.

“You need to do your fucking jobs and put some spirit into him! He just laid there like a dead fish! You want your bonus this quarter? Yeah? Do something about this one. You're fucking dying out there.”

The lead auctioneer delegated this responsibility to the two guards on duty. Jared watched their shadows stretch and boots move closer. He curled up in the corner, trying to make himself as small as possible. Doll hid behind him.

Black gloves unlocked his cage without hesitation and roughly dragged him out.

Chained, cuffed, and gagged, Jared watched as the lead auctioneer bent into Jared's cage, rummaged around, and extracted doll from her hiding place. 

Small in his hands, she seemed to tremble. 

The auctioneer ripped her in half. 

Then threw her on the ground.

Jared’s heart broke into fragments. His mind snapped. His training crumbled. He screamed and raged against the guards.

In vain, he reached for doll.

He could mend her. He could still love her. If only she would forgive his failure.

Silent, she stared back at him.

Explosive, his screams echoed through the kennel. Four guards rushed forth to subdue him with a mixture of whips and electric rods. He bucked against each blow and tried to get back to the ruined remnants of her body scattered along the dirty floor.

She couldn’t die without him.

He’d promised they’d die together if he couldn’t protect her.

A wretched electric shock pierced down his spine. He made a noise so wracked with pain, the auctioneer had him dragged off the platform and sent back to his cage.

No one bid on him that day.

Chapter Text

Without Doll, Jared suffered.

On his last auction, Jared growled at anyone who came near him. He twisted in his chains and fought against being positioned or inspected. The auctioneer, anxious to get rid of Jared, cut his auction time short. Soon, Jared would be thrown into a cart and hauled away to a farm--never to be seen or heard from again. 

Throughout the hall, the auctioneer's shrill voice echoed.

“Any bids on number seven nineteen? Fourteen years young, plenty of potential. Two miscarries, however, we are assured that when it turns fifteen chances at carrying successful increase ninety-three percent! Tame him, take him home today!” the auctioneer crowed and spoke quickly. He started the bid at a deep discount. Silence. After another minute he dropped the price.

Another minute passed and the room was filled with silence.

Jared closed his eyes and lay his head down on the cool, steel platform.

He flinched when somewhere in the room, doors burst open. He heard the Masters turning and murmuring among themselves.

“Hold on, sir! I have a bid for that breeder!” an unknown voice called out. “I’d like him for my farm. As a breeder to experiment on. Is he useful for such a purpose, sir?”

The auctioneer grinned so wide, it could be heard. “Why, of course! This breeder is optimal for experimentation of all kinds. It has excellent healing time and a high threshold. Shall we start the bid at four?”

“Wait!” The strange voice rang out with a commanding tone, the sound of a Master used to getting his way. “I would ask for a quick inspection, sir.”

“Yes, of course. Any particular part you would care to see?”

Quickly, an assistant placed Jared into proper inspection position. Hands forced his limbs to twist this way and that. He didn’t have the strength to growl or protest. The sooner they got the auction over with, the sooner he could meet the end of his life. At least he had been able to live long enough to experience breeding. He could still hold some gratitude for holding a pup. 

The weight of it in his hands would carry him through to the end. 

Unable to see the face of the Master making inquiries, Jared tried to tune out his voice. However, the Master briskly asked, “Perhaps I may take a look at the face? The jawline in particular.”

Jared shuddered. This Master and the auctioneer spoke at length about the components related to transactions, breeding history, and other information drowned out by Jared's gradual focus to drown out their voices. The Master asked the assistant to run a hand down Jared's jaw.

What would he be made to do with his jaw? What kind of work would require a strong jaw?

“I’ll take him.”

For a moment, Jared saw the Master who bought him before he was dragged back to the kennels.

It was not the Doctor, nor was it the Judge.

Of course it wasn’t.

Jared didn’t blame them one bit as he was thrown into a processing cage to wait for his new Master.

Chapter Text

Auctioneers processed sold breeders quickly, as they never wanted a Master to be kept waiting for their purchase.

The instant the Master's credentials were verified and he transferred all appropriate funds, someone behind a counter allowed the transfer of control to Jared's chip.

Jared sat in a cage, curled up, making his best efforts to not to move or make any noise. He could hardly see the face of his new Master, who spoke to the auction house staff.

"Is there any guarantee attached to this one?” 

“Of course, sir. All breeders come with a one month guarantee. If anything should happen to him within that period, bring the body back and we will set you up with a new one, complimentary.”

“Hmm, I see. Has he had a medical evaluation? How soon can he be bred?”

“We’ve taken care of his basic needs here, sir, I assure you. If you would like we can recommend the name of a new Doctor in town.”

New Master waved off the offer. “No, that won’t be necessary. I trained as a vet for a while, I should be able to conduct a basic assessment. Are we done here?”

A rustle of papers, a few more signatures, and a handshake--an auctioneer pulled Jared from out of his cage. Jared resisted and he looked up in an attempt to get a clear view of this new Master. The auctioneer started to pull on Jared's hair as punishment, but Master intervened. He stood tall, wide-shouldered, with a beard the color of amber, and mahogany hair. His violet eyes held an air of intellect and shrewdness. 

“It's fine,” Master said with a dismissive tone. “He should take the time to memorize my face." Master reached out and forced Jared to tilt his head up further. "There you go. Let’s get you hooked up to the carriage.”

“Will you be needing any additional chains, sir?”

"You've provided plenty and I have a set in the carriage, thank you." 

Jared wore chains around his neck, wrists, and ankles. He was naked, as all kennel breeders were, and he wondered if the Master would even give him clothes. Masters were not obligated to provide breeders with anything if they did not wish to. Jared couldn't be certain Master would take off his muzzle.

Master connected a thick leather leash to the steel collar around Jared's neck and tugged. Jared's memories flooded his mind. There had been that time Old Master discovered Jared's errors cleaning the tub and dragged him by a chain attached to Jared's neck. Jared ended up outside, chained to a post for the entire night.

Pain faded as he followed Master out of the auction house. Fear seized him at the sight of Master's carriage outfitted with spikes on the outermost wheels.

The past could no longer hurt him. It was over, gone, inconsequential. He feared for his future as part of a breeding farm and what he would be made to do. 

Jared left the kennel the same way he had left it the last time: bound, chained, and silent.

Chapter Text

Master chained Jared to the back of the carriage, which had a bar attached to it specifically for this use.

The carriage started forward and Jared yelped through his muzzle, struggling to maintain a balance. As the carriage turned, Jared made sure not to knock against a wheel or get caught underneath. He had learned.

Keeping his mind clear of any and all thoughts not associated with the carriage, Jared followed it on foot for hours. They passed a ten mile marker and did not stop--signifying that they still had a far way to go. It was common for farms to be kept twenty to thirty miles out of town.

At every other ten-mile mark, Master stopped the carriage and gave water to the horses and Jared.

The first stop came as a complete shock to Jared. He feared he had somehow, in some way, angered Master and caused the delay.

Instead, Master stopped the carriage only to gently remove Jared’s muzzle and hold up a pail of water for Jared to drink out of. At a thirty-mile mark,  Master fed Jared an apple and a slice of plain bread. No whips. No shouts. No slaps to the face. 

Nothing.

These actions did nothing but confuse Jared further. He ate everything Master gave him and drank from the pail each time, fearing punishment if he did not. But why treat him as good as the horses that pulled the carriage? 

On the third stop, Master encouraged Jared to eat another apple and piece of bread. He acknowledged Jared's apprehension and spoke, though he kept his words plain and simple. 

“Eat it all,” Master said. “Lots of work for you when we get there.”

The warning sent a chill through Jared. He foresaw a difficult existence with this Master. Perhaps this fate would prove better than any others, and at the very least he had been given clean food and water.

Jared counted eight ten mile markers by the time Master pulled the horses towards a large estate. Their pace had not been breakneck, and for that, Jared gave thanks.

From behind the carriage, Jared caught glimpses of the main house, situated on a large piece of land. The house loomed on the crest of the horizon, larger than his previous household, with stately columns and a veranda in the front. Many windows shone in the light. How many rooms would there be to clean? How many times would Master insist on a deep cleaning of the household? Would Jared even be allowed inside the main house, since he was destined for the farm? He couldn’t see the farm from this place, but his anxiety rose as a breeder emerged from the front door of the house.

The drive up the lane to the house felt like an eternity. Fatigue began gnawing at Jared, as the soles of his feet were open and bleeding from the rough patches of country road they had been on. Sweating and panting, he strained to get a better look at the breeder who stood outside, leaning against a column at the front entrance.

Master slowed the horses to a stop with a gentle call and tug to their reins.

He stood up in the driver’s seat and waved at the breeder. “Nicky! I told you to stay inside!”

The breeder laughed and waved in return before replying, “Since when have I ever listened to you?”

What type of response was that to give a Master?

This breeder ran down the steps and towards the carriage. She walked up to the driver’s seat, where Master promptly picked her up to sit beside him. Laughter from this breeder rang out, light and casual. Jared shied away, tucking himself behind a wheel.

“I have everything set up, just like you asked,” she reported, arms around Master's neck. 

“Good girl,” Master said, a lightness in his voice. “Now. Go back inside. I’ll untie this one and we can start.”

Jared took one last peek at the breeder. She had long, sleek black hair, flawless pale skin, and shining, almond shaped eyes. She was dressed in a dark red robe, tied in a simple, country style, but it fit her well and looked new. She was obviously well taken care of. Jared thought her to be the first breeder of the household, from the way she looked to the way she interacted with the Master. She even had on a pair of black slippers, which he saw when she ran back inside.

Master descended from the driver’s seat and walked around to the back, where Jared was kneeling against a wheel. He looked down at Jared and frowned, rubbing his chin with one hand. Jared kept his head down but couldn’t help the tremors that ran through him as his fate unfolded.

Before Master said anything, Master unchained Jared from the carriage, then took off the chains.

“Go inside. Nicky will show you where you can clean yourself off,” Master commanded, hanging the chains onto the carriage. “I expect you clean and dressed for dinner. Then we will discuss your assignment and your place here. If you give Nicky any trouble—any in the slightest—you will answer to the whip I keep in my pocket, do you hear?”

Master grabbed Jared by the hair and forced him to make eye contact.

“Is that understood, little one?”

“Yes, sir,” Jared blurted out, nodding as best he could.

Master let go and pat him on the head, pushing him towards the house. “Go on then. Nicky will see to you.”

Jared wasn’t sure what was worse. Being at the mercy of this Master or the breeder who could say and do anything to Jared as they pleased.

It was his duty to always obey the first breeder as he would his Master but he couldn’t stop the feeling of dread in his stomach as he walked towards the house.  

Chapter Text

This household would be radically different from his previous one, Jared could tell that as he stepped into the ornate entryway.

Light spilled everywhere from the many floor to ceiling windows. To his immediate left there was a grand staircase that wound around and led to a far off hallway, where he supposed the private rooms were tucked away. For a country home, everything in the main house was sophisticated, modern, and carefully decorated down to every last detail. In the center of the entryway, was a round dark cherry table with a crystal vase full of fresh roses. They were a dark red, almost the same red as the robe the first breeder wore. Jared wanted to touch the roses; he hadn’t thought about the garden he tended to at his previous household but now he did, and he hoped that someone remembered to water it. Especially the roses, because as pretty as these were in this large house, he knew he could grow ones with a fuller body.

The overall color theme was a delicate eggshell white, accented with dark woods and wrought iron. Hints of color were artfully positioned throughout the household, mostly in dark reds and rich violets. Tasteful paintings hung in a few spots, but nothing gave the impression that whomever lived here was trying too hard. A chandelier sparkled above him. All the floors were marble, cool, sleek, and polished underneath Jared’s bare, bloody feet.

He wondered what he looked like, caked in dirt and blood from the long journey, in contrast to the wealth around him. He knew that he would not be seeing much of the main house. He couldn’t even imagine the rest of the household. How did it all stay so clean? Every detail was immaculately tended to; not a speck of dust anywhere. He felt a small swell of pride for the second breeder who kept such a beautifully run household. However, that pride quickly died as he realized the amount of backbreaking work it would have to take to keep the entire household in such a state.

Stepping carefully through the entryway and into a cozy sitting room, Jared wondered how many pups and breeders had been sold from this household. How many had passed through here in the same condition as he, and how many more would there be after him?

“Your mouth is open,” a voice giggled. “Kind of like a fish.”

Jared flinched, turned around, and froze. He immediately threw himself down on the ground, assuming the proper position of respect for his new first breeder. He bared his neck and looked up.

“Oh my goodness. You are a flighty one, aren’t you? Eli said you would be. Get up, no need to do that here.” The new breeder walked over to him and touched his shoulder. Her hands were silky soft, the same as Nathaniel’s. She urged him to stand up and Jared complied, getting up with a wince. They were almost the same height, Jared was perhaps an inch taller. At five foot ten, he was tall for a breeder, and some auctioneer had once crowed that Jared would continue to grow as soon as he hit maturity.

The breeder in front of him, though tall like him, was curvy and smelled like vanilla.

“My name is Nicky,” she said with a smile, slipping a hand into his and giving a small squeeze. “What’s your name?”

He had no idea how to respond to her holding his hand—Nathaniel had certainly never touched him more than necessary, to dress his wounds at times or punish him—so he didn’t move at all. “Jared, mistress,” he murmured.

“Jared, well, Eli has asked me to look after you for now. Let’s go take a bath and get you dressed for dinner.” She pulled on his hand and they walked down a wide, open hallway and then up a flight of stairs in the back of the house. “These are breeder stairs. We take these stairs when there’s company over so we can go through the house unseen and unheard. That’s always very important. When Eli has guests over he expects us to be invisible. Are you clear on that?” Though her voice was light and cheerful, Jared heard the threats underneath it. Behave or pay.

A nod was given in response as she led him through another hallway and into a series of rooms. It disoriented Jared. He realized, looking around in awe, that he could get lost in this household. He had no idea how to get back to the main entryway. The thought frightened him. He could be shut away and entirely forgotten about at any moment. At least in the cellar, someone had heard him. Even his closet hadn’t been so isolated.

 

Eventually, they reached an opulent bathroom, with a tub in the center, surrounded by four grand pillars. Again, everything was marble and in the same color scheme as the rest of the household. There was a vase of the same roses on a countertop, which had a small velvet seat in front of a mirror. Jared let go of Nicky’s hand as he stared and took everything in. An orderly row of bottles were arranged at the edge of the tub. Two dark red robes were neatly folded on top of another extensive countertop. A smaller, more practical tub was situated next to a window, which faced the lawns in the back of the property.

It all left Jared breathless.

“Let’s get in?” Nicky suggested, her voice as soft as her skin.

“In?” Jared gasped. He started to tremble. “I… I only… need a bucket, mistress…”

She frowned and he worried if he had said something to offend her. He tried to gauge her favored method of punishment. Nathaniel had always gone with slaps but he would sometimes shove Jared if the situation called for it. Jared doubted she would want to harm her hands though.

“Take a bath with me, Jared,” Nicky said in a firm voice, much like the way the Judge had at first spoken to him. “It’s already filled and heated and I can dress whatever wounds you have. Don’t worry, it’s not that deep.”

“Yes mistress,” Jared mumbled. He walked to the edge and waited for her as she undressed. He blushed as he realized how lovely she looked next to him. Didn’t she realize how dirty the water would get with him in it? She stood in front of him and smiled, taking his hands into hers.

“C’mon, I have peach scented bubbles I’ve been saving.”

 

Initially, the warm water stung at the various open sores and wounds Jared had throughout his body. It also hurt his entrance, which was still not fully healed, nor were the muscles in his lower stomach. The journey to this new household hadn’t helped; he felt pain become new and raw after a minute in the tub.

Nicky held him to her chest and soothed him, lightly washing him off with a hand towel. She poured a mixture of salve on it and wiped over the lashes on his back and between his legs.

With great care and patience, she cleaned his entrance, cock, and balls. Jared noticed that she looked nearly the same as he, only she had a female chest. Her breasts were full, pert, and pink. Her cock was large but hung in the prettiest way. She was a rare form of breeder and he tried his best not to stare or look too long. She was beautiful in every aspect and it made him nearly cry when he realized the tub water had turned an ugly color.

“That can be fixed easily, don’t worry,” she whispered into his ear, her breath warm. “I push this button and the water will drain and be replaced within a minute. Ready? Here we go.” With a click, the tub did exactly as she said would happen. Fresh, warm water surrounded them and this time, it didn’t hurt Jared as much. He sighed and allowed her to clean the rest of him without too much shame.

“You’ll need a plug,” she said after a while. “You’ve recently had a litter, I can tell. You can borrow one of mine until we get you one. Just to make sure your muscles heal properly. Have you ever worn a plug before?”

Jared nodded. She swam over to the edge of the tub that had the bottles of soap. He could hear her moving a few things around and opening a box. When she came back, she carefully inserted a plug into him. He shuddered and clenched against it, groaning when pain hit him.

“It’s not that big so it won’t cause you additional discomfort. If it does, you will let me know. C’mon now, this tub is big, don’t you want to move around?” It was indeed large enough for them to be able to actually swim in small laps; certainly large enough for her to float next to him.

“I… mistress?” Jared asked, confused. He was grateful enough for the bath and the care she had taken with him. One of the first baths at his previous household had been memorable because he had been dropped into the tub without any warning.

“Don’t worry,” she replied with her usual smile. “Would you wash my hair for me? Oh, wait, let me put in bubbles first. Eli bought it for me on his trip to the northern states. Did you know that breeders there bake the best bread? Eli says mine is better but the way he couldn’t stop talking about it, I didn’t believe it for a second.” A drop of liquid from a glass bottle was added and Jared held in a sigh. It made the water smell like fresh, ripe peaches. She handed him a bottle of soap and dunked her head in to get her hair wet. Jared worked her fine hair into a lather with great care, afraid to mess up, while she talked. Her voice was soothing, even when she spoke quickly, excited by whatever subject she was on.

At some point, Jared wanted to ask her how the household ran, and more importantly, where was he to be placed within it. But that wasn’t appropriate behavior. At any moment this first breeder could decide that Jared wasn’t worth her kindness, time, or patience. At any moment she could be threatened by his presence. Perhaps he had disturbed her lovely household by merely existing. Sometimes at the academy, he had heard whispers of first breeders poisoning second breeders who caused too many problems for them and the households. It was a terrible thing; breeders were supposed to—ideally—support each other and do the best they could to fulfill their duties to their Master and the government.

Those fears, combined with the fact that Jared had no idea where he was in this household or where the nearest exit was, caused his hands to tremble. Nicky must have noticed because she said they should get to dinner soon, and promptly went back underwater to wash the soap out. Jared waited for her to say he could do the same, which she did, and he relished the feeling of stepping out of the tub clean for the first time in a long while. Being hosed down was not the same as sharing a large tub with his new first breeder.

“You have such lovely features,” she announced when they were getting dressed. “You’ll be quite handsome when you’re my age.”

Jared looked at her, questioning with his eyes as best he could. She laughed, easy and natural. “I’m sixteen. Eli bought me when I was your age. Some of the same circumstances, you could say.”

For the first time since they had met, her eyes darkened. She was quick about moving on. “Anyway, yes, I knew it! This color is wonderful on you. I’ll tie yours differently than mine to suit your frame.” Her hands expertly retied his robes. They held hands again as she led them downstairs through the main staircase and into the kitchen. She had taken the time to bandage his feet and provide him with a pair of his own black, silk slippers.

 

Still on edge, he gasped when they reached the kitchen.

Master was serving plates.

Jared fell to his knees and waited for a whipping. He had been so lazy, so careless, so selfish that Master had gotten hungry and had to feed himself.

“Goodness! Don’t do that so quickly, you startle me every time,” Nicky clucked. With a gentle tap, she had him stand up again, though he was trembling. Master looked at the two breeders carefully, a questioning expression on his face. He looked to Nicky for an answer.

“He’s still getting settled in. You must have shocked him, standing there like a giant in our kitchen. Dear god, what are you doing? Feeding bears? Your presentation is atrocious.” Though she barely reached Master’s shoulders, she managed to push him out of the way and take over serving. Jared gaped at the open insolence that was being displayed. His heart was beating frantically as he waited for punishment for each of them.

“Maybe if you let me do it more often, your highness,” Master grumbled and shook his head. “Let’s set the table, Jared. Nicky doesn’t like to be bothered while she plates, as you can tell.”

At last he was able to breathe, but he still didn’t stop eyeing Master from time to time, trying to gauge his emotions and body language. Jared moved as quietly and quickly as possible, following Master’s lead. They set down simple placemats and table settings; Jared arranged the silverware and Master poured himself a glass of wine. He poured two glasses of what looked to Jared to be iced tea.

He only noticed that there were three places at the table when they had finished.

He stared, dumbfounded.

“Your mouth is hanging open again,” Nicky giggled as she set down Master’s plate first, then one nearest to Jared. She balanced three plates perfectly and served herself last.

“Sorry mistress,” Jared stammered. He kept his head down and fidgeted, waiting for direction.

Master cleared his throat. “Well? Sit down, Jared. It’s not a difficult concept.”

“Hush!” Nicky snapped. She looked at Jared. “Go on, you can sit. I know it’s unusual, but we are free to dine at the table when it’s just us. When there’s company we have pillows.” She gestured towards a corner of the dining room where there were indeed two silk pillows. “And we are expected to serve from there, as I’m sure you’re familiar with. But for now, let’s eat. I thought it’d be best to make something simple. It’s chicken pot pie with a little less cream—Eli, don’t eat so fast—so it shouldn’t upset your stomach. And the tea is herbal, isn’t it, Eli?”

Master merely grunted and nodded, shoveling a chunk of pie into his mouth. Nicky sighed and rolled her eyes. Jared only tried not to keep staring at either of them as he sat down and looked at his plate. The portion was huge. The food smelled wonderful. He could tell that the crust had been handmade. All of the ingredients were fresh. Though Master had a bigger portion than either of the breeders, it was still more than Jared had seen given to him since his time at the Doctor or Judge’s household.

Throughout dinner, Nicky chatted while Master replied in his usual manner. Jared ate as much as he dared, not wanting to upset the first breeder if he should throw any of it up later on. He started to feel pain again and all of what had happened to him in the past day sank into him with sharp teeth. It was a struggle to stay awake or sit upright.

“Why did you have to make him walk behind, Eli? Wouldn’t have killed you to put him in the carriage,” Nicky muttered as she cleared the table. Master was now reading a newspaper and smoking a pipe which he had packed and lit himself.

He took a drag and replied, “Had to make sure no one was watching and you know that. He did just fine, anyway. Take him to bed. We’ll continue this tomorrow. He give you any trouble?”

“None at all. We had fun. I used my peach bubbles.”

Master pulled her near even though her arms were full with plates. He buried his face in her slim belly and she laughed. “Get off me, Eli. Jared, tell him that’s not fair. Really, while I’m carrying plates!”

“Ignore her,” Master said with a deep laugh and let her go. “Maybe you shouldn’t wear such tight robes.”

“Of course not. We’ll see how long you last without them. Jared, would you help me with the dishes? Eli, go smoke that in your study. I’ll not have it stinking up the dining room. Go. So Jared and I can speak without your odor.”

It never ceased to appall Jared the manner in which Nicky spoke to Master. He didn’t know what bothered him the most—what she said, how she said it, or how she called him by his name. Not even Nathaniel had done the latter directly to their Master. Even more shocking was that this Master listened to Nicky. He got up, said a terse good night to Jared, gave a kiss to Nicky, and disappeared into one of the many hallways that led to one of the many rooms.

By lamplight, the two breeders washed and cleaned the kitchen. Nicky asked Jared few questions, making sure to stay away from his past, mostly about what foods he liked to eat and dishes he was good at preparing. She enthusiastically requested that he make napoleons for dessert the following night. When they finished, she opened a drawer and pulled out two chocolate coins, wrapped in shiny gold foil.

“This isn’t every night, but it’s your first night with us so I thought it might be appropriate. You can take a piece any time you like, but I think it’s always best to save them for something special. Then they don’t lose their specialness.” She unwrapped hers and urged Jared to do so with his. He did, after marveling at it, and he gave her a small smile as he ate his treat. Chocolate was especially delicious to breeders; he’d only had it a handful of times before. He closed his eyes as the last bit melted in his mouth.

Finished, Nicky took his hand again and led them up the grand staircase. Master had locked all the doors and done a sweep of the property before he had disappeared into his study. With a candle in front of her, Nicky guided them down a hallway and into a suite. She obviously knew the household very well, as no turn or hallway confused her.

The suite they arrived at was simply decorated. It had one painting of a fruit basket hung above the plain bed. A small but spacious nightstand was next to the bed, with a jug for water already on it. A window with seating was opposite the bed and a desk placed on the left of the window. The room was smaller than most Jared had been able to glance at on his way up, but to him it was the grandest thing. It had been tended to with care, as there was no dust and the bedding looked fresh.

“This is your room, Jared. There’s a bell there, next to your bed. It’s attached to a line that goes directly to Eli’s suite. If he ever requires your assistance at night, he’ll ring once. If there is ever an emergency, he’ll ring three times and you are to take our staircase to the attic, which I’ll show you tomorrow. I’m staying with you tonight, to help you settle in. I hope you don’t mind sharing a bed.”

“N-n-no mistress, I don’t m-mind,” Jared blurted out and began to cry. “I… I…”

Nicky placed an arm around him and pulled him close, whispering in his ear, “Shh, now. Don’t cry. I’ll be here all night with you.”

She nudged their foreheads together and placed a gentle kiss on his nose.

 

Together, they undressed and slipped into the bed, which had room for both of them and then some. Jared curled up and made no protest when she curled up around him.

They slept pressed head to toe, tangled together, deep and easy, beneath two layers of quilts that kept them warm through the night.

 

Jared fell asleep waiting for himself to wake up.

Chapter Text

A breeder’s life was documented and recorded from the moment they were proven to be breeders.

Their progress and status was continually updated on their chips. Not all breeders were born in government facilities. Jared had had a family and he knew of many breeders who came from families as well. The structure could be confusing and learned to never question it. Select second breeders throughout a district were chosen at random and were given the responsibility to raise a family of their own. The Master had to approve this selection, and the amount of second breeders that got to keep their litters was still very small, but that is how Jared had been raised. He met breeders from government facilities—raised by older breeders from various positions and places—and while they came off sometimes as cold and distant, there weren’t too many differences.

Jared frequently wondered what it would feel like to keep a litter and the logistics of it. Would he be allowed to keep all the pups or would some be taken away? He had never asked his mother questions. He barely remembered her or his family household and he preferred not to think about his past. It never did him any good. It wasn’t as if he would ever get to see her again.

Most breeders agreed that it was best not to form any attachments to other breeders, beyond what they absolutely had to in order to serve the household. Their attachment should be focused on the household and their Master.

 

Apparently Nicky did not think this way.

She hadn’t woken Jared up until it was almost time for a midday meal. When he panicked, she assured him that Master had ordered her to let him sleep.

“I got to stay in bed too,” she chirped as she prepared a light salad. “I just got up an hour ago myself.”

Jared chewed on his bottom lip, chopping up vegetables to roast alongside the pieces of beef Nicky had set out. He took a deep breath and asked, “Where is Master now?”

The first breeder flicked her hair back, tossing it over her shoulder. It moved like silk.

“Eli’s in the stables. He’ll come in for lunch and then go back out until it’s time for supper. Unless he decides to take care of some paperwork, but then he’ll just be in his study.”

“Should I… go help him?”

Nicky stopped what she was doing and looked at Jared, puzzled. “What? No. Why do you ask that?”

Immediately, Jared stammered out an apology, his hands shaking. Nicky put down the bowl she had been holding and put her hands on Jared’s shoulders. “Jared, you’re not here to work on the farm. There isn’t even a breeding farm here. Haven’t you noticed that?”

He looked at her and then put his head down. “No mistress… I… I didn’t…”

“I’m not a first breeder, Jared, so you don’t have to address me that way. It’s flattering you think of me that way, but my title is officially second breeder of this household.” She tucked a stay curl of hair behind Jared’s ear. “Even if I were your first breeder, I’d beg you not to call me that. We don’t need such formalities between friends, right?”

“Friends?”

“Yes, of course. It’s been ages since I’ve had a breeder close to my age to talk to. Everyone Eli brings here is usually older.”

“I… I don’t… I don’t understand,” Jared breathed, panic rising in his chest. If he wasn’t here to work on the farm then what were the comments about his jaw? What were the comments about the work to be done at the household? Where was his place? A breeder without a place was useless and things here were already strange enough. The same kind of dizzy, tipping feeling he felt at the Doctor’s household he felt here, only it was magnified. He would be staying here for the foreseeable future. He was property here.

Everything he thought he knew, once again, was incorrect.

He wished Doll was there.

He wished he had gotten one more minute with his pup. The weight of it on his chest he would never forget.

“Let’s go outside,” Nicky said, breaking his silent panic. She slipped her hand into his, as if it were the most natural act in the world. Through a door in the kitchen they exited out onto a large deck, which had a simple table and a set of six chairs for outside entertaining. He thought they might sit there, but instead, she led them down the stairs, which led them out onto the lawns.

There was a garden, expansive and beautifully kept.

A fountain was near, with sculptures of cherubs and harps. The sound of the water running was meant to be soothing but Jared only found it added to his nerves. The water reminded him he was supposed to be doing something, always supposed to be moving.

 

Nicky’s hand was firm on his and her paces were quick, which were somewhat difficult to keep up with after a few minutes. She slowed occasionally, even she was panting short, fast breaths, but overall, she kept them going. On and on they pressed forward, through another garden and over a small bridge that was built over a pond. Jared wondered just how vast the entire property was. He hadn’t even seen the stable, though they were moving too fast for him to focus on anything for too long.

 That sense of anxiety rose again, lodged in his throat, as he thought how far away from the main house they were getting. He could see the house in the distance but anything could happen to him out here and he would have no explanation.

 

Finally, they stopped in a clearing.

A grave was there.

Jared gasped and fell to his knees. He put his forehead on the ground and bowed before Nicky, first breeder or not.

 

The grave had on it the same dark red roses the rest of the household had and Jared knew, before anything was said, that this was the grave of a breeder.

Of someone like him. 

Chapter Text

“Please, you have to stop doing that,” Nicky begged.

She knelt down on the ground with Jared.

There was a light breeze that wandered through the clearing, but it did nothing to calm Jared down. All he could focus on was the grave of the breeder in front of him.

A dark question appeared in his mind: were there pups buried with that breeder? Were their tiny bodies somewhere under there, forever lost to darkness as his surely were?

The thought of his pups packed in dirt, in some unmarked, mass grave, broke his heart. Never before had he questioned what happened to stillborn pups; the first time he miscarried it had been in his first term and there hadn’t been anything more than blood and cramps. But he had seen the bodies. These weren’t cells or half formed things. They had been as their surviving siblings had been, just less fortunate. Or more fortunate.

Because somewhere out there were his pups, breathing and crying and maybe they had finally developed the ability to see.

A sob broke through him.

He was supposed to carry litters and serve the government. He was supposed to be happy about that, to be honored and proud of his work.

But he wanted to know what was so great about carrying around grief as deep, dark, and unknown as any ocean.

“Jared? Look at me, please,” Nicky whispered, tears in her eyes. She didn’t dare touch him, even though he was shaking and crying in the dirt. She could surely feel the hurt that radiated from him. “Jared, please let me explain. Everything is happening so fast and I…” Shouting from beyond interrupted her.

Both breeders sat up and listened carefully, keeping themselves hidden within the clearing.

“Nicky!” The voice belonged to Master. “Nicky!”

She gave a sad look to Jared, quickly stood up, hurriedly took a few steps forward and put her hand up to shout a reply. Jared knelt down; he felt the sounds of a horse’s hooves beating hard on the ground, rapidly closing in. Master appeared half a minute later. On a horse he looked regal, but his expression was stern and hard. Even Nicky seemed anxious.

“My dear, what is it?” Nicky asked, her voice soft, careful.

“Get in the house. Go to the attic at once. Take Jared with you,” he commanded, his tone like Jared hadn’t heard before, especially when addressing Nicky.

“Yes, Master,” Nicky answered and looked back at Jared. “Can you run?”

“Hurry! The both of you, now!” Master’s voice boomed and the breeders snapped into action.

Master charged ahead on his horse. Nicky and Jared ran as fast as they were able, Nicky led but slowed down whenever Jared fell too far behind. Jared still had the plug inside him, and although it didn’t hurt when he was walking, it caused him pain at that pace, not to mention all the other wounds and bruises he still had.

They took a path through the garden as not to be seen.

Their slippers hardly made any noise.

Into the main house, they slipped into a small door that required both breeders to crawl through and into a thin hallway. It led them to a set of stairs Jared supposed were more breeder stairs. He saw that Nicky was taking care to step quickly, keeping her footsteps light so as to not make any noise at all. He tried to do the same but found that he simply couldn’t step as elegantly or easily as she did.

His heart pounded against his chest and he could not find a moment to catch his breath or relax his burning muscles.

Finally, they reached a doorway that opened without a sound. It opened to a large, open space. There was no marble here, only a dark hardwood flooring, a small bed, a few chairs, a desk, and a chest.

A window on the left faced the outside of the house, towards the drive. Nicky rushed towards it and waved Jared over. He knelt beside her and they watched, neither of them knowing what was going on.

Jared knew that if Master was worried for their safety, then something was terribly wrong.

“There, I’ve never seen that carriage here before,” Nicky whispered, panting. She was as out of breath as Jared was. “Flashy thing and those horses look tired. They’ve come a long way.”

They stayed at barely eye level against the window, even though heavy drapes cloaked it.

Nicky reached over and slipped her hand into Jared’s as they kept watch. Jared still wasn’t sure what to make of it but it wasn’t like it hurt him.

The carriage was too far away to properly see the Master that walked out from beside it. Nicky muttered something and crawled over to the chest. She returned with a small pair of what looked to Jared like opera glasses. She squinted, chewing on the bottom of her pink lip.

“I don’t know him or the breeder with him. Do you?” Without any hesitation she passed over the glasses, which Jared was sure must have been expensive. He took them from her, thinking that he would protest later.

As soon as the glasses focused, he gasped.

“That’s…” Jared gaped, his mouth hung open, watching as Master walked up to the pair and led them up the drive towards the main entrance.

“Who? Oh dear. They’re your previous household, aren’t they? Jared?”

He nodded.

That was indeed Master and Nathaniel.

As soon as everyone outside disappeared from view, Nicky crawled over to a corner of the attic. Jared stayed put near the window until she waved him over. She fiddled with a floor board, lifted it up, and pulled out a metal shell, about the size of a bread roll, attached to a thick string.

“We can hear everything that is said in the sitting room if they’re sitting where they should be,” she murmured, glancing up at Jared. “Lay down, Jared.”

He carefully laid himself flat on the floor as she was and they huddled over the shell. Master was asking the guests if they would care for something to drink. His voice was as calm and confident as Jared had ever heard it, but Nicky looked nervous, so Jared knew there was something more. Jared himself was fraught with anxiety and fear but he needed to remain focused.

He had lost it out in the clearing but he promised himself he would not lose it now, even if they were hidden away in the attic.

“He better not serve them with the good china,” Nicky mumbled, flicking her hair over her shoulder, a move Jared was beginning to recognize as a tic.

“I understand that you made a considerable journey here,” Master spoke, his voice easy to hear through the shell. “However, sir, I don’t see how I can possibly meet any of your requests at this given time, or ever, in fact.”

Jared tensed up. What requests? What business did his previous Master have with his new Master? He couldn’t recall ever having met Master at his old household, at parties or galas or as a dinner guest. He would remember. No matter how many mistakes Jared knew he had made, he always remembered the guests. It was his responsibility.

“Look, Elisha…”

“The last name’s Smith, I thank you.”

“Smith, then. I hardly see how such a commodity is of any worth to you. It doesn’t produce anything viable—never has, most likely never will. The price you purchased it for couldn’t have made a dent in your wallet, allow me to compensate you three times what you paid.”

Nicky adjusted the shell, her slim fingers careful not to cause the line to jiggle. It was a moment before Master replied, a moment that made Jared’s breathing come a little shorter.

“I will overlook the fact that you presume to know the uses I have for my property,” Master rumbled, his tone short. “I made a purchase based on my knowledge of breeders and my eye for quality. Yes, when I received my purchase, he was worse for wear, but I don’t blame the breeder for that. I blame the Master.” Another pause. “Every purchase I make, sir, is an investment. In a few years’ time, with the breeding methods my family has perfected over generations, he will be worth twenty times what I paid for him at auction. So, I must again decline your offer, sir.”

The breeders pressed against the shell, listening as closely as possible.

“That’s ridiculous!” Old Master shouted. “He’s worthless to you!”

“Then why do you wish to buy him? If he is so worthless, as you say, then what is the difference? Surely you could go to auction as I did and purchase a replacement. For, isn’t that the very reason you sold him in the first place? To find a replacement?”

Jared realized they were speaking about him. He shut his eyes and covered his head with his arms. 

“I needn’t tell you every detail,” Old Master said, with an audible sneer. “But my first breeder was a classmate of his. They are very dear and very old friends, practically family. I didn’t realize this until I had already sold him. Now I mean to amend that and reunite them. Where is he? Why does your household have no breeders present?”

Both breeders in the attic froze at their mention.

Jared wanted to cry and shout. Nathaniel had never referred to them as friends. And while Jared had always been grateful to his previous first breeder while he was in the household, he couldn’t go back to them.

He couldn’t go back and raise Nathaniel’s child after what happened in the cellar.

“Sir, it must haunt you that you made such a critical mistake,” Master declared. “And your breeder continues to pay for your oversight. But I have no obligation—personal or professional—to you, your household, or your breeder. It is not your business to know what I do with my breeders or where I keep them. Now, I have milking to tend to and I must insist we part ways.”

Movement could be heard and Jared hoped, prayed for this to be over.

“Please, sir. I… I beg you to reconsider.”

Nathaniel’s voice.

“Jared and I are like brothers. I… if you would only let me say goodbye to him…”

Jared looked over at Nicky, whose eyes were narrowed. She huffed and leaned into the shell.

“I have already answered your Master, breeder. I don’t recall addressing you or asking you to do anything more than behave like the breeder you are. This way, please.”

More movements and a few muffled sentences were exchanged, but it was all out of range for the shell, wherever the receiving end was in the sitting room. Nicky crawled back over to the window, Jared followed immediately.

Together, they watched the pair of guests walk down the lane. Old Master helped Nathaniel into the carriage and took his place at the driver’s seat. Within a minute, they were gone, down the drive and turned a corner that led off the property and onto the main road Jared had once walked.

They sat up and stared at each other for a long moment.

Just as Nicky was about to speak, a bell tucked away in the corner rang once. It was their cue.

Without another word, they descended the breeder’s staircase and walked until they reached the sitting room.

Master paced, smoking a pipe. He looked at the two breeders, then looked away. Nicky linked their hands together and gave a small squeeze. Hers was warm while Jared’s was cold and clammy.

It was several minutes before Master said anything. And what he did say surprised Jared.

“Jared, excuse us, please. Go to your room. I’ll send for you when we are done speaking.”

The command was clear but it took Jared a second to react. He bowed and didn’t chance looking at Nicky before he left. He decided to take a chance and try to find his room through the main staircase. Perhaps he could trace their footsteps from the night before.

He wanted to know what they were talking about. It obviously had something to do with him. What decision would they choose? Where would he be in a day’s time? Jared wrung his hands together as he walked through a maze of hallways. Several times he was disoriented and had to loop back. He thought twice that he had found his room, only to be mistaken. In the last room, he did see something that caught his attention.

It was a room much like his, decorated in the same simple, sparse manner. On top of the desk in this room was a small picture frame.

Jared walked up to it.

The portrait was in black and white. A younger Nicky stood in the shot, next to Master on his left, while another breeder stood on Master’s right. A child was in the middle of all of them, laughing and carefree, completely disregarding the photographer. Dark red roses were in the background, on a table much like the one in the entryway.

Where was this breeder now?

He had seen a good portion of the main house with Nicky and it was clear to him that they were the only breeders and occupants, besides Master himself.

Could they have the breeder in the picture locked up somewhere? Serving time for an unspeakable offense? Or was this the breeder in the clearing? Whose child was that?

“Jared.”

With a flinch, he turned around, eyes wide. He tried to stammer out an apology but his voice wouldn’t work.

“You’re fine,” Nicky said, with a small, watery smile. She joined him, standing next to the desk. “If we didn’t want you in a particular room or place in our household, we would have told you. Or locked the door. Can we talk for a moment? I realize you must be… upset, but I was hoping to clear up a few things. Let’s take a bath?”

He wanted to get on with the explanations but he couldn’t reject her invitation. He followed her to the same tub as before, watched as she lit a few candles and undressed. She really was beautiful, in a way that was effortless and sincere. Even with the sad look in her eyes she was lovely. Jared thought of her as a truly valued breeder. Master had made a wise decision in purchasing her.

“Don’t leave me by myself,” Nicky called out to him from the tub. “Step in.”

Slipping his robes off, Jared joined her. She wrapped her arms around him, pressing them close together. Her breasts pushed against his chest. Their foreheads touched and she kissed his jawline, leaving light, watery nips. When she began to stroke his hair, Jared purred. He couldn’t help himself. He was holding everything in just to keep so much out. His world narrowed to her, wet and slick in front of him.

“His name was Cody,” she murmured, their cheeks pressed together. “You’ve never met anyone like him. He was so… full of light. Shone in a room like a brand new pane of glass.” She sighed and Jared closed his eyes. “He had been Eli’s first breeder for many years and all of their children were grown by the time I came here. The… the little boy in the picture? That’s Charlie. Was Charlie.”

There’s a pause as she takes a deep breath and composes herself.

“I wasn’t supposed to keep him. I really wasn’t. But I wanted to. He was my first of a large litter. Eli bundled him up and gave him to Cody before the… those people came. I was fourteen and in so much pain, but it was so worth it. I had two years with him, Jared. Two whole years. The three of us raised him. He… he wasn’t even Eli’s but you should have seen the two of them together.” For a moment she’s lost in her memories and Jared doesn’t have the heart to interrupt her.

He knows a small portion of her feelings.

Another sigh and she continued. “Eli had him registered to Cody, then he had him as the heir to this household. I couldn’t believe what… what a beautiful life we were able to give him. That someone I gave birth to would be able to have.” She pushed away gently from Jared and looked at him. “It was a carriage accident on a rainy night. Eli had been so careful. The other driver wasn’t… he didn’t… see them in time.” Her composure fell. “Of course I grieved. My heart broke. But Eli… he was never the same. I begged him to bury them here, so I could visit often. He didn’t have to listen to me but he did, that fool.” 

Jared nudged her and moved closer to her.

“No, no,” she protested. “I’m not the one who needs comforting. It’s been two years and it gets a little more bearable every day. Especially when I have such great company. I just… Eli will purchase breeders like you, like me. Beaten to our last straw, rejected and unwanted by whatever households we came from.” She spat the last part out. “We will take those breeders in for a period of time, usually a month, for the breeder to heal and rest. Eli then finds a household like ours amongst his network and pairs the breeder with another Master, for free.”

All of this information had made Jared dizzy. He had wanted answers but he hadn’t anticipated any of this. “How?” 

Nicky smiled and pat his head. “Eli was able to find Cody’s chip. I think Cody knew all along. But he was able to copy parts of it and attach it into those breeders’ chips so that they would be deactivated. The new Master would then provide a new chip but I don’t think we’ll be doing that for you.”

Fear gripped Jared’s heart. His stomach rolled. “Why not?”

Though she had barely gotten a chance to be in it, Nicky stepped out of the tub. She wrapped herself in a large, soft towel.

“Because unlike the others, someone asked us to buy you specifically. We were told to identify you by the moles on near your jaw. For now, you are legally Eli’s breeder, but at the end of a waiting period, you’ll be turned over to your actual Master.”

“Who? Turned over to whom?” Jared asked, a demanding tone to his voice. He was desperate and shaking, trying to get out of the tub without slipping.

Who would go through all this trouble? And for what? This was a serious investment on their part, to contact someone as risky as Eli, who was breaking several laws already. Who had Jared met that would have that kind of attachment towards him, more so than his previous Master?

Jared briefly thought of the Doctor and the Judge, but those Masters had made it clear that they had no desire to own a breeder. It wasn’t their way and they had only rented their household in Meridian. Nothing was permanent. Everything was so frustratingly temporary.

The more Jared searched and longed for answers, the more questions he had.

He asked Nicky again, repeated his question, doubled the desperation in his voice. Didn’t he deserve to know something about his future?

She wrapped a towel around him.

“That,” Nicky murmured, returning to drying her hair. “I cannot share, Jared. I’m sorry.”

Chapter Text

A month passed.

Nicky slept with him every night. Sometimes they would open the window to let in fresh air, but as time moved forward, they began to bring out winter supplies and robes. The seasons were changing and there was much to be done in preparation for winter. Master was very busy and the breeders did their best to take care of the household.

For all that Jared thought he knew about taking care of and running a household, he learned something new every day while in Nicky’s company.

They tended to a large vegetable garden for two hours each day, weeding, watering, and picking. Master was in charge of planting and seeding, so their tasks were mostly maintenance. The first time Jared knelt down to pick carrots for supper and storage, he missed the weight of his belly. He had pressed his hand to the flat plane of his stomach and closed his eyes for a moment.

He still didn’t completely understand everything. It was still a struggle not to fall apart whenever he made a mistake.

They were never outside for more than two hours at a time, and never during the hottest times of the day. Frequent breaks for rest were had, with pitchers of tea and sweet lemonade at their disposal, but when they worked, they worked hard and fast.

Later on, after some time spent inside—either cooking or cleaning—they tended the gardens in much the same way. That was Jared’s favorite part. Nicky noticed and gave him his own section to specially take care of and mentioned that it had been Cody’s. Jared was grateful.

The chores they shared between them and traded off every day. Even though Jared would have to take a longer break, at the end of the day he wasn’t exhausted.

Nicky dutifully took care of his remaining wounds, most of which were scars at this point.

One day, when Master told them to finish their chores early, they had laid out in the sun, on lounge chairs on the deck.

Jared had asked what they were supposed to do and Nicky had simply replied, “Get some sun, of course. C’mon. Let’s see which of us tans better.”

And that’s exactly what they did.

For three hours they sipped sparkling juice and passed a bowl of strawberries back and forth, soaking up the last of the summer sun. When they went back inside, Master commented that they might as well be lobsters.

Time passed faster than Jared thought it would.

At the end of that first month he was fully physically healed. He could run alongside Nicky through the grounds and even outpaced her most times. With three good, fresh meals a day, he put on some weight and no longer felt as awkward standing next to Nicky. She trimmed his hair, but kept it long, saying that she needed something to play with when they bathed and slept.

Evenings were perhaps Jared’s most treasured part of the day, aside from taking care of the garden.

The three of them would occupy a small study off the west wing. Master would smoke a pipe while reading a paper or a book, sometimes reading things out loud.

Nicky could read, but preferred the soft, steady rumble of Master’s voice. Jared found that he too preferred that. Master read beautifully.

Sometimes he would fall asleep at Master’s feet, curled up, warm and lulled to a light doze. Nicky said he didn’t have to sit on the floor, that Jared could join them on the lounge, but Jared found some of his habits were still difficult to break. On a few occasions, Nicky joined him on the floor and they curled up together.

“Might as well be kittens, the two of you,” Master said, giving each of them a pat on the head.

One night, Jared and Nicky slipped out of their bath and dried each other off, giving playful gropes and pinches at each other’s curves. Touch was something completely new for Jared, at least touch that wasn’t prodding or painful. He still wasn’t used to the little touches Master gave him, but Nicky was different. He spent all his time with her and though he still worried that she might get sick of him, he tried to trust that whatever happened, he could adapt.

Tumbling onto Jared’s bed, they continued to tickle and grope. Jared threw his head back and laughed, loud and clear. Nicky nuzzled him and pushed him into the bed, pressing them close so that not an inch of air was between them. Both breeders looked at each other and smiled. He pressed a kiss to her lips, the boldest he had been.

“Thank you,” Nicky whispered, one hand ever tangled in his hair.

She purred and showered small kisses all over his face—over the bridge of his nose, on his eyelashes, on his jawline, and the dimples on the edges of his mouth.

She was about to turn them over so they could huddle underneath the covers for warmth, when the bell beside Jared’s bed rang once.

Jared froze.

That had never happened before.

“Don’t worry,” Nicky cooed into his ear, her breath warm. “That’s for me. I’m in heat.” She said the last part with a slight blush on her pretty face. “I won’t be with you until morning, if that’s all right with you?”

He let go a breath he hadn’t been aware he was holding. He nodded. She looked at him, searching his eyes, and sat up, straddling his hips. He realized that she was hard, her cock full and leaking slightly against her stomach. His eyes went wide and she smirked down at him.

“Jay,” she whispered. “It’s all different here, darling. We’re allowed to feel pleasure. Desire. I want him. More than anything right now. Don’t worry.”

She dipped down and kissed him lightly, then got off the bed.

“I’ll see you in the morning but if you need anything, you know the way to his suite.” She tied on a robe in a different way, one he’d never seen before. It showed off every lush curve on her body. Boldly, she winked at him and walked away. “Now, excuse me, I’m off to have some fun.”

Jared didn’t sleep well that night. His stomach churned with so many different thoughts and memories. Tossing and turning, he spent half the night dazed and completely out of it.

He wondered if he would ever be able to feel the way Nicky did about Master.

It troubled Jared that his mind flickered over to the Doctor.

The thought of those green eyes caused him to shudder underneath the layers of quilts.

He also wondered when his next heat would be and what would happen. He pressed a hand to his stomach and sighed, finally finding some sleep.

He could only worry about so much.

Chapter Text

It happened on what seemed to be an ordinary day.

While both breeders were in the kitchen, canning and preserving a haul of vegetables, Master walked in. He had been making repairs on the carriage and was cleaning his hands off with a rag. Jared and Nicky glanced over at him but ultimately kept at their work. Jared had never canned anything before, he was eager to learn and Nicky was a patient teacher. They ate strawberries as they worked and chatted about the new types of flowers that might look best in the garden for the year to come.

After a minute, Master announced a piece of news.

“We’ll be having visitors tonight,” he said calmly as he leaned against a counter.

Both breeders noticed the way his attention was on Nicky’s form. She looked at Jared and rolled her eyes, then went back to work.

“Behave yourself, Eli,” Nicky warned him.

“Ain’t doing a damn thing wrong,” Master grumbled, placing his arms over his chest.

It had been a week since Nicky had started her heat and every night she slept with Master. Jared didn’t mind this. As much as he was grateful to Master for being so kind and generous, Jared had no desire to service anyone. He had physically recovered but he still woke up during the night, screaming into the quilts.

He was sure that Master would treat him well in bed, and be sure to take care of him, but Jared would not volunteer any action on his part. The way Master looked at Nicky told Jared that Master was, for now, more than satisfied.

“Any specific menu, Master?” Jared asked as he stirred a pot of peaches.

“Hadn’t given it much thought, really.”

“Oh, imagine that,” Nicky quipped with a smile.

Master sighed and shook his head. “Anyway, Jared, can you recommend something?”

A month ago, Jared would’ve had a meltdown at such a direct request for his own opinion. While it still made him a bit anxious to be asked any sort of direct question, especially one from Master, he was able to think about the question at hand and reply. He suggested a simple meal with a light starter, a hearty main course, and chocolate mousse with fruit for dessert. Master agreed and left, but not without giving Jared a pat on the head and Nicky a pat on her ass.

“I have a good mind to preserve that hand!” she shouted out after him, laughing.

“You’d miss the hand,” he shouted back from the hallway he had disappeared into.

“That’s what he thinks,” she muttered to Jared. “Well! We can finish up hear and start supper, I suppose.” The older breeder leaned forward towards the window and peered out, frowning. “Looks like rain. Do you think we should cover up the furniture on the deck?”

Jared looked out and saw the same dark, heavy clouds that she had. He liked the sound of rain in this house. On rainy days, after chores, they would curl up in one of the smaller rooms and mend Master’s shirts or work on a quilt together. Master always set them up with a fire going and hours passed that way, with a comfortable silence between them and the sound of rain around them.

“It’d be best. I can do that.” Before she would or could protest, he made his way out to the deck. He took in a deep breath and a small smile came out of nowhere.

 

There were some days when he didn’t feel quite so much. Or, at least, he didn’t feel so much weighing down on him. The things that haunted him rested and gave him a few moments of peace. He touched his stomach and sighed. All he could do was try, every day.

Quickly, the furniture was covered with large tarps and he headed back inside to help Nicky.

They had supper warming in the oven just in time for them to run upstairs and take a quick bath. She pulled him close in the water and kissed him, long and sweet. Jared gasped. They each smelled like the peaches they had been canning.

“Don’t pull away,” she whispered, eyes closed. Though she said it like a statement, he knew there was nothing commanding in her voice. He relaxed in her arms.

The kisses they shared didn’t have heat to them; rather they had a closeness and familiarity Jared hadn’t felt before. He opened his mouth to her and she licked in, hungry and hopeful to be closer. Her hands were in his hair, his hands were on her back. The water lapped at them as they moved slowly, pushing and pressing against each other, seeking more and more warmth. Jared heard himself purring.

There had to be words for this. For whatever was happening between them. But Jared couldn’t find any.

And he didn’t really need any, because he saw them all in her eyes as they looked at each other when they broke for air. She smiled and laughed, then pulled him underwater.

Bath time was another of his favorite times in the day.

 

Guests in the household made things run differently than usual, but Jared was more or less used to it, having had experience at his previous household. They dressed up, which was different, but pleasant. Tonight their robes were a midnight blue with a tiny line of pearls that wrapped around their waists. Nicky tied his robes, stood back, and appraised him.

“Very good. More than good. Stunning, actually,” she declared and handing him a pair of more formal slippers. “Should I do your hair? Will you do mine?”

“You don’t have to ask every time,” Jared replied with a smile.

“Then you’ll do my hair for me every morning?”

“I didn’t say that.”

Master didn’t often have guests over. Mostly because he was a private man and preferred to keep to himself and his household. When he wanted to socialize, he usually went to town or to the household of another Master instead. But he also didn’t want any Master to potentially question the way he treated his breeders or where his farm was. Nicky had explained to Jared that Master’s family was very old and established, with much of their wealth coming from where the family used to reside, which was further south. Ten years ago, Master had broken off from the main family and moved here, near Meridian, to settle down in a household of his own.

And though the privacy was a great benefit, Nicky confessed that she did get lonely in between times when they took breeders in or had guests. Jared hadn’t ever felt that way at his previous household. Guests and company came in at all hours of the day and old Master had loved to entertain.

Jared was grateful for the break from rooms full of strangers.

 

Dressed and ready, both breeders made their way downstairs through their staircase. Jared set the table while Nicky checked on supper. Master had already selected two bottles of wine, so Jared only had to place them in a silver bucket of ice. The table was set for three. Their pillows were ever ready in the corner. When Jared went into the kitchen to help, he found Nicky humming happily.

“It’s good to have guests over now and then,” she said with a happy sigh. “He hasn’t even told me who is coming but they must be good friends. Eli’s not much of a talker, you know that. In any case, I think we’ll have a good evening, don’t you?”

“I hope so,” Jared replied. “Will Master need us all evening?”

She thought about that for a moment. “No, most likely not. They’ll probably retire into one of the libraries or studies or wherever and do their own talking. We can set them up with a nightcap and disappear.”

Jared nodded. He heard the bell at the door ring out, signaling that the guests had arrived. Nicky squealed and moved about the kitchen in a flurry. They heard Master’s booming voice greet his guests and usher them in. Within a few minutes, the group was in the dining room. Jared tried to remain calm. He could do this. He could get through tonight and be as elegant and lovely a breeder as possible.

The two breeders made eye contact before Master called them into the dining room. They shared smiles and walked out to greet their guests.

The moment Jared saw who the guests were, he was incredibly grateful he hadn’t been carrying anything. He stumbled though, and he knew his mouth was gaping open yet again.

There at the dining room table, were the Doctor and the Judge.

 

Nicky nudged him.

Jared quickly shut his mouth and put his head down.

“This is my lovely second breeder, Nicky,” Master introduced. “And I believe you both know Jared. They will be happy to assist you in anyway while you are in our household.”

“Yes Masters,” Nicky said smoothly. “If you are in need of anything, please do not hesitate to ask.”

“W-we will be… happy to… to help,” Jared stammered out. He couldn’t make eye contact with anyone. He was struggling to keep himself together. Of all people! Of all Masters to sit at this table!

He could feel the weight of his pup on his chest again. He saw his own blood on the Doctor’s hands. His stomach churned; he could feel his midday meal rising up. Wouldn’t that be a scene? At least there was no beef wellington to drop on the Doctor this time.

“Well, we will start serving,” Nicky blurted out and grabbed Jared by the arm, pulling them into the kitchen. She placed her hands on Jared’s shoulders. “Jay, what’s wrong? You look sick.”

“I may be,” Jared whispered, trembling in his fancy dress.

“Sit down then, calm yourself. Let me get you a glass of something.”

“No, no, I’ll be fine. I’m able to manage it.” He picked up plates and set them down on the countertop so they could plate the mushrooms that were part of the first entrée. Nicky was watching him carefully but stayed silent. When the plating was done, she insisted that Jared stay in the kitchen. He didn’t bother arguing and eventually took her offer and sat on the floor.

He wanted to know why the Doctor had been so cold to him during his stay at their household. He wanted to know what had changed between that time and when Jared had given birth. Had the Doctor merely felt bad for him? The Doctor confused Jared to a dizzying degree. He couldn’t help but think of the Doctor and immediately feel the weight of his pup. The pups that had survived were now a little over a month old. What was the color of their eyes?

“It’s very tense in there,” Nicky reported, sitting down next to Jared when she returned. “Eli’s avoiding a subject but I can’t tell what. When they get close to it, he switches conversation.” She sighed and placed an arm over Jared’s shoulders. “Is he the Doctor that delivered your litter?”

Jared simply nodded.

“And… is he who you wish would buy you?”

That question was not so simple.

“I… I don’t know,” he answered honestly. “I can’t… speak of this, I’m sorry.”

The other breeder gave a nod and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Nor do you have to, Jay. It’s alright. I can take over serving for the rest of the evening. Why don’t you go upstairs and wait for me?”

“No,” he said, as firmly as his voice would allow. “I can’t do that to you.”

“It’s not a problem. Three is hardly a full house.”

“No,” was his final answer. He led them out to the dining room and they took their places on their pillows.

 

The Doctor watched him often, green eyes flickering from the table to Jared. Jared had no idea what the expressions on the Doctor’s face meant. But he did know that the Doctor was not smiling.

The Judge, as always, was lighter and kept up good conversation. He and Jared made eye contact once and the Judge gave him a small nod and smile, which made Jared feel a fraction better. When the Masters finished their first courses, Nicky and Jared moved swiftly to take their plates and replace them. Nicky was sure to take the Doctor’s plate and for that, Jared was grateful. They moved in and out of the kitchen with precision, serving flawlessly.

Master and the Judge praised the food. The Doctor remained silent in his seat.

At the end of the meal, the Doctor finally found words.

“Why don’t you let them sit with us?” he asked Master, his voice rough but with the same drawl as before. “I thought… I thought you were different.”

Jared couldn’t help but bristle at the questioning of his Master’s rules. Nicky placed her hand over his without looking at him, helping to calm him. Master leaned back into his chair.

“Nicky, care to answer that?” Master asked.

“Yes, Eli. We don’t sit at the table when guests are over, sir. It is easier for us to serve you from here.”

“So, what? Do you throw them food from your plate, too?” the Doctor prodded, narrowing his eyes at Master. “Or do they have a bowl of food somewhere?”

“Doctor,” the Judge muttered.

“No, no,” Master intercepted. “The Doctor isn’t accustomed to our way of life. I welcome questions such as these.” Master leaned forward in his chair to speak directly to the Doctor. “What you saw before, at that wretch’s house, is not what transpires here, nor has it ever been. My breeders are well taken care of and it would do you well to notice. Neither is sick or injured or half frightened to death. Though you do make Jared nervous and for that, I will have my own questions later. And yes, I am different. But not so different that I will completely change everything. These are breeders, Doctor. This is what they know how to do. This is what they are meant to do. If I were to take all of it completely away from them, it would do more harm than good. I can change certain things here and there but I cannot deny that they are who they are.”

There was a moment of very tense silence.

The Doctor broke it.

“Let me buy him.”

Master sighed and looked at the Judge, who seemed alarmed by the conversation. Master cleared his throat. “That’s generous, Doctor, but I’m aware that you cannot purchase any breeder for another five months. And I already have an offer for Jared, which has been told to him. He is aware of what goes on here.”

“Damn the law!” the Doctor shouted, slamming a fist down on the table. Both breeders flinched. “We could make a cash transaction and you know it!”

 

Another moment where no one said anything. Jared noticed that he was still trembling. Nicky squeezed his hand.

Standing up, Master paced the dining room as he spoke. “There are some things that I can overlook, Doctor, because I know you are not from these parts and these are not your customs. But now you are asking me to break the law and I cannot tolerate that. Especially coming from you. What if I relented and allowed you to purchase Jared? Do you know anything about taking care of a breeder? Do you know anything about what they need, what they want, what they believe? What would you do with Jared if you would not have him serve you? Sit there? For you to humiliate him by taking away his entire sense of purpose? You have caused enough damage without even realizing it, Doctor, and that is not only careless, it is irresponsible. You know what makes a truly good Master? Not just the care of the breeder but the responsibility that Master takes for his breeder’s well-being. You sir, have no idea about the true well-being of a breeder. Were it that I did not have that offer, I still would not sell you this breeder nor any other breeder. It would be irresponsible of me to do so.”

The Doctor was stunned. His eyes were wide and his face was flushed.

“Jensen,” the Judge said carefully. “He’s right. We all know you mean well—truly, I do—but we are very out of our element here. A breeder needs particular care and we just… haven’t understood that yet.”

“No, Misha! What do you mean particular care? What could possibly be different? They’re human, god dammit!”

“If you would listen to what your companions are saying, then maybe you would have some chance at understanding,” a voice rang out.

Nicky stood up from her pillow and stood at Master’s side. Jared watched with surprise. “You cannot take us and change who we are, no matter how good your intentions are. Do you know that alcohol poisons us? Do you know that we have heats based on our individual cycles? Do you even know what to do for a breeder when they are in heat? And would you be willing to do it? And if you were, would you be prepared to face the consequences? Could you have a breeder carry your pups and could you, when the time came, give them up? No.” Nicky spoke with a firm voice, never wavering. “No you could not do any of those things because you simply don’t know. And I can see that you are unwilling to take him as a breeder. I can tell that our customs cause you great discomfort. But we won’t have you take him and subject him to your customs because that has not been his reality. You are being selfish and entirely thoughtless, like a child begging for a toy. We aren’t toys, Doctor. You aren’t much different from the other Masters I’ve met who think they know what’s best for us. And that doesn’t surprise me and I hope it doesn’t surprise Jared.”

Nicky finished speaking and turned to Master. He nodded and she knelt back down, rejoining Jared with a tight hug.

 

The Masters at the table were quiet for a long while.

They did not stay for dessert.

In fact, they left minutes after.

 

As Jared helped clear the table he gave some small thanks that at least this time, when the two foreign Masters left, he was not in a cellar. 

Chapter Text

When the Doctor returned the next day, it surprised Jared.

The first chill of autumn had arrived and the Doctor wore a soft, dark green coat that brought out the color of his eyes.

With a slight blush, Jared took the coat from him, handling it with care as he tucked it into the coat closet. Besides his unexpected visit, he was also alone. At once he asked for Master, barely acknowledging Jared’s presence other than to hand him his coat.

As Nicky went to fetch Master, who was working in the stables, Jared anxiously led the Doctor to the nearest sitting room off the entryway.

For someone who had helped Jared deliver a litter of pups—and who had himself become upset when they were collected—the Doctor very rarely looked directly at Jared for an extended period of time. He looked in quick, measured glances, just like at dinner, as if the sight of Jared hurt him.

He put every ounce of his training into becoming as invisible and unnoticed by the Doctor as possible, which was much easier this time without a belly full of pups.

Kneeling down on a pillow in the farthest corner of the room, Jared fidgeted and smoothed out his robes, feeling incredibly foolish. When the Doctor’s carriage had been spotted coming up the drive—as they had been cleaning out one of the guest rooms—Jared had rushed to his room and changed robes. He only had four and he didn’t want to be caught wearing the ones from the night before or his every day one, so he chose one in a deep violet color. He tied it more like Nicky’s, trying to accentuate certain features, not entirely sure he had succeeded but he made do. With a quick brush at his hair, he had run down the main staircase and met Nicky at the door. She had given him no audible comment, just a quick lift of her eyebrows.

Now though, the Doctor wasn’t even looking at him, and Jared wished he hadn’t been so hasty. Maybe the Doctor wasn’t even here to visit because of him.

Jared couldn’t entirely explain his feelings towards the Doctor.

He knew that logically, he had more affection towards the Judge, who had been more understanding and accommodating in the time Jared had spent at their household.

It had been the Judge who eased him into their company and helped Jared up and around when he could not move. The Doctor, however, had always been consistently cold and distant with the breeder, except for their period in the cellar. He had been attentive and concerned, though Jared now understood it as cool professionalism. The Doctor had been doing his job and Jared couldn’t keep his emotions in check.

Still, their present situation was very awkward.

The Doctor did not sit; he stood at a window, looking out, his broad shoulders tense and his jaw set. Jared tried not to breathe too loudly, should it disturb the Master. He wished Nicky would hurry. For someone so keen on buying him, the Doctor showed such little interest in him. Why go through the trouble of tracking Jared from the kennels to his new household? Breeders were all trained in much the same manner, with a few variations according to their educations, so Jared had no idea why anyone would take trouble to single him out.

Especially since a visit to his new household meant an eighty mile journey from town.

There was something that the Doctor wanted him for but had not yet revealed and it was something worth more than a very long carriage ride in cold weather. Jared repressed a shudder. He felt his eyes well up and scolded himself. This Master, with his lovely eyes and drawl, couldn’t possibly care anything about him and it would do Jared well to keep his emotions out of this.

He didn’t understand all of his feelings, but he knew they wouldn’t do any good.

At last, Nicky arrived and announced Master’s presence. The two Masters shook hands and quickly left the sitting room to go to one of Master’s studies. Master asked Nicky to bring in a tray of things.

Together, the two breeders went to the kitchen to fix the tray. Nicky poured coffee, juice, and a crystal pitcher of water while Jared cut some meats and cheeses. They worked in silence until Nicky spoke.

“Jay, I must be honest with you. Something—multiple things, if I’m really honest—strike me as not quite right about this Doctor. Less so about his companion but there’s… just… many little things that I notice. I’m not sure Eli does, but I certainly do.”

As always, they worked while they talked.

“I… like what?” Jared managed to stammer out, plating what he had cut already.

The older breeder frowned for a moment and sighed. “Do you notice that he holds his silverware differently than other Masters? The Judge does it as well, though I think he’s better at mimicking Eli than the Doctor is. I know that’s a very tiny detail but it bothers me. Then there is the glaring fact that wherever he comes from, which he’s never specifically said to Eli or anyone from what I hear, they don’t have breeders. Have you ever heard of a place without breeders? How were they born? How did they get here? And why stay here if we bother him so much? I can’t understand any of that.”

Jared began slicing more cheese to balance out the meat while Nicky plated crackers. He looked at her.

“That’s… I’ve heard of stories of Masters who don’t have breeders.”

“Those are stories we tell to children so they behave,” Nicky grumbled with a pout. “I’ve never met a Master who didn’t know a breeder or what we are.”

Done with the tray, they paused in the kitchen for a moment before heading out. “I understand, Nicky, I do.”

She hugged him, pressing them close as always, and kissed his cheek.

She looked up at him with concern. “I know you do. Well, I hope you do. I just don’t want to see you get hurt.”

Jared gave her his best fake smile. “I won’t be.”

Imagine that, he thought as he followed her to deliver the tray, a breeder saying they wouldn’t get hurt. Jared might as well eat his own words.

It was a full hour before the Doctor and the Master appeared in the library the breeders were occupying. They had curled up together in front of the fireplace, a blanket around both of them, Nicky reading aloud from a story book. Simultaneously, they looked up at the Masters with questioning eyes.

“The Doctor will be staying the night. He’ll require a room and a change of clothes. I trust you to take care of the other details. Jared, come with me.” Master turned to the Doctor. “Nicky will show you to your room, I trust she’ll take good care of whatever you need.”

The Doctor nodded.

Jared quickly followed Master through a hallway and into a room near his suite. He used this room to look at the stars through a telescope—that’s what he called it—and chart their movements. Jared found it fascinating; Master had let him watch one night and explained a few things here and there.

If there was something Jared wanted to know more of, it was anything to do with the skies above them.

Master shut the door and sat down on a chair near the window. Jared knelt at his feet and looked up, obedient and ready to serve. When Master put a hand on his head, Jared purred and leaned into the touch.

“Jared, the Doctor has requested to spend the evening with you.”

“Yes Master,” Jared replied immediately, though he tensed up.

What did an evening mean? What would they be doing? The sound of his bell ringing made him more anxious than he wanted to think about. How could he service the Doctor if he didn’t want to look at Jared?

Master frowned. “He makes you nervous, doesn’t he?”

Jared kept his head down and curled up. “Yes sir.”

“Why?”

It took a moment for Jared to quietly answer, “I don’t… I don’t understand… why he wants me.”

It was best to be honest with Master, though Jared didn’t tell him many of the smaller details. Master knew a lot about Jared; he knew that the Doctor had delivered his pups and he knew that Jared had spent a few days at the Doctor’s household.

“I think this Doctor is a conflicted sort,” Master said, his voice deep. “Can you be patient with him?”

“Of course, Master.”

This time it was Master who took a moment before saying, “He’s only requested your company this evening, not your service. It is my intention that no one will have your service until you leave here. Is that understood?”

Jared replied that he understood. Master cupped his chin gently.

“I assented to his request tonight, Jared, out of courtesy from one Master to another. But if you are in anyway bothered or hurt by the attempt, you’ll tell me or Nicky. And that will be the end of it. I will provide you with a bell to ring if you need assistance tonight. I pray that you don’t and that I haven’t misjudged this Doctor.” Master let go and stood up. “Well, let’s not keep him waiting any longer. You leave Nicky to attend to dinner and take the Doctor for a walk in the gardens. I’ll return to the stables while there’s a bit of daylight left.”

With that, Master gave Jared a final pat, and left, his boots sounding firmly through the hallways.

Jared walked to the kitchen, his slippers making no sound.

There was no such thing as courting for breeders of Jared’s class or situation. A breeder put to auction could never hope to be courted. It just didn’t happen.

Some breeders of wealth and connection had several Masters vie for their affections, hoping to present a generous offer to the breeder’s family. Jared hadn’t come from such a family. In fact, his family, as far as he could remember, had often struggled with finances and income. Though they weren’t completely destitute, they had definitely been hoping for Jared’s exceptional marks at the academy to secure a Master with some means. Generous Masters would sometimes help a breeder’s family, if they had one. The day Jared lost his first litter was the day everyone found out what had happened, and was the day his family rejected him.

It had all happened so fast.

For the Doctor to be doing something similar to courting was strange and unsettling to Jared. He couldn’t imagine hours of silence peppered with moments of volatile anger and frustration with the Doctor. Some small part of him was excited at this new prospect—this new opportunity he had never experienced—but mostly, his stomach was in knots as they walked out to the lawns.

Nicky had slipped a bell into his pocket before they had left. He glanced back at her, staying three respectful steps behind the Doctor, and tried to give her his best reassuring smile.

She promised him she would make his favorite meal for supper.

The Doctor wore his coat outside and his cheeks turned pink from the slight chill. Jared had no coat yet but he was working on making a sweater with scraps of fabric leftover from quilting. The cold didn’t bother him, he had known much worse for much longer periods of time. In silence they walked, until the Doctor stopped. Jared nearly bumped into him.

With a shrug, the Doctor took off his coat and shoved it at Jared.

He grumbled, “Wear it. You look cold.”

Stunned and a bit flustered, Jared nodded and did as he was told. He murmured a quick, “Thank you, sir.”

The coat was even softer than it looked and hung around Jared, about two sizes too big. He wrapped it around himself and buttoned it up. It smelled like leather and earth and something spicy he couldn’t place. There were small mints in the pockets that Jared tried not to touch too much, afraid he would somehow damage them.

They continued walking, in the same silence, and reached the fountain, which had been shut off for a week as the weather cooled. The Doctor sat on the edge and Jared took a place at his feet. He didn’t look up  at the Master, but kept his gaze turned towards him.

“Can you answer something?” the Doctor asked, his voice rough as he reached into one of his trouser pockets.

“Yes, sir.”

A charm on a leather strap was pulled out. It was meant to be worn like a necklace, but there was something very rugged and worn about it. It looked well worn. The charm was in the shape of a star.

“Does this mean anything to you?”

Jared focused on the star and tried to think about it. He wanted to say that he loved stars. He loved the night sky. That maybe someday, Master would let him look through the telescope. Or even still, maybe someday Jared could name things and jot down important information about the lights that hung so high above him.

But it was not his place to think such things.

More than that, he had never seen such a charm in his life.

“No sir,” he replied honestly.

For a moment he was afraid he would be struck, but the Doctor just sat there, a crushed expression on his handsome face. He cradled the charm, gripped it tight with one hand, and promptly put it back in his pocket. He stood up and walked ahead of Jared, outpacing him quickly. Jared stumbled to catch up. In his haste, he tripped, falling in a patch of mud with a yelp.

Cursing his clumsiness, he panicked about the stains on the Doctor’s coat. He could wash them out.

The Doctor looked back at him.

Jared chewed his bottom lip and trembled, stammering out a litany of apologies from his place on the ground.

It didn’t surprise Jared too much when the Doctor turned around and walked ahead.

For the next hour, Jared followed the Doctor on a walk through the grounds.

They didn’t go to the clearing, for which Jared was grateful. He kept a larger distance of five steps behind the Doctor and sometimes more when the Master picked up his pace unexpectedly. After this hour, Jared was tired and cold.

Returning inside he was shivering, even in the Doctor’s coat. He had a smudge of dirt on his face that he had tried to wipe away but stubbornly remained. He excused himself and quickly ran to his room before Nicky could see him.

Jared cleaned the coat first, then himself. His hands were red by the time he was done scrubbing. Before he went down to supper, he hung the coat up to dry, hoping that it wouldn’t shrink or warp itself.

The smells in the kitchen were heavenly. Nicky had done a lavish spread for supper. They plated in silence, knowing that they had to wait until after supper to talk.

The table was set for four and Master and the Doctor were already seated. Jared took a deep breath as he set down the Doctor’s plate, then his own. He took his seat and kept his head down.

Both breeders waited for the two Masters to dig in first. Jared glanced over at the Doctor. He did hold his utensils in a strange way. Not overtly so, but enough that Jared noticed it. After that, he kept his sight fixed on his own food.

Master and the Doctor talked about various people in town, with Master giving the Doctor some information on who could be depended on for good credit or supplies. They spoke about the Judge, who had been invited to a social gathering two towns over and would be gone for several days.

Jared took a sip of juice and noticed that the Doctor was looking at him. Immediately, the Doctor looked away, caught in the act. The breeder had no idea what to make of this.

How much more invisible could he make himself?

After supper, Master and Nicky retired to their suite. Nicky gave Jared a hug and whispered that she would slip into his room later on. Master pet Jared’s head and then said good night to the Doctor.

They shook hands and exchanged thank yous.

The Doctor and Jared occupied a room next to the Doctor’s guest room. It had its own small library and fireplace, as well as a desk to write at. A large lounge chair was near the fireplace and a bay window overlooked the front lawns. The chilly night made the stars brighter. Jared got a fire going and settled on the floor near it.

The Doctor took a seat on the lounge for a minute, but then got up and paced around the room.

Obediently, Jared stayed where he was, waiting to be told what to do.

This courting business was very strange to him. One moment the Doctor looked at him as if he was familiar and the next moment he gave a look that questioned Jared’s existence.

Jared couldn’t keep up anymore and  momentarily stopped trying.

Finally, the Doctor said, “Do you know why I asked for your company?”

Politely, Jared replied that no, he did not.

“You remind me of someone,” the Doctor said, flatly. “But you aren’t that person.”

Jared kept his head down and instinctively curled in on himself, trying to make himself smaller. He didn’t know whether to apologize or stay quiet. What was he supposed to do? He decided to stay quiet, worried that any noise from him would further upset the Master in front of him.

The Doctor sat down at the window and cradled his head in his hands.

A sob escaped him and another threatened, but he forced it down.

Jared drew in a sharp breath. He had managed to upset this Master anyway, his very existence a painful reminder of whomever the Doctor spoke of.

“I didn’t want it to be you,” the Doctor growled out, his voice deeper and sharper than Jared had heard it in a long time. “Not here. Anywhere but here.”

“Master, I’m sorry,” Jared blurted out. “I’m sorry.”

An expression of anguish clouded the Doctor’s face. It looked a lot like heartache, but Jared could never assume the emotions of a Master.

It caught him off guard when the Master rushed forward and pushed Jared to the ground, laying him flat on his back. The Doctor knelt down and hovered over him, his larger body covering Jared’s. Before Jared could react, Jensen kissed him.

A rough patch of stubble scraped against Jared’s smooth skin.

His mouth, forced open, slotted against the Doctor's, whose expert tongue expertly swept in, searching and tasting as deep as he could. Jared stayed rigidly still, holding in his breath until he couldn’t any longer. As he exhaled, he made a noise he couldn’t immediately identify.

It sounded a lot like a moan and a purr.

For all the shock and hurt and confusion—and the myriad of other emotions welling up in his chest—Jared felt a spark of something new. Something electric and magnetic at the same time. Something that told him he didn’t know what desire was until now.

“Dammit,” the Doctor whispered, the fire flickering in his eyes.

He looked down at Jared for what seemed like an age. Jared looked up at him, not daring to move. The Doctor didn’t look any happier, just more conflicted. Whatever war he was fighting inside himself, he would not be sharing it with the breeder underneath him.

Jared wondered who the person was.

After a minute, the Doctor turned away and sat on the floor, bringing his knees up to his chest. He hid his face from Jared and the heavy silence returned. Jared cautiously sat up.

He had never been more confused about a Master before. Masters gave direction, orders, and commands. They told him exactly what they wanted and expected and there was no hesitation. There was rarely any feeling involved with orders and following them. Jared did what he was told and that was that. He took pride in being obedient and responding quickly, not needing much clarification.

But this Master threw all of that out the window.

Still, he waited for a command.

In silence, they sat, never once making eye contact, for another hour.

The Doctor got up and muttered a good night before leaving the room. Jared waited until he heard the door to the Doctor’s suite open and shut before he got up and tidied the room. He left things in their place before heading towards his own room and slipped under the quilts.

It upset him that he pressed his hand to his belly.

That night he got very little rest.

Chapter Text

At dawn, Jared woke up and could not get back to sleep, despite his numerous attempts.

He’d dreamt of having pups again, as he knew he someday would—as he hoped he someday would—and while that wasn’t an uncommon dream for him, this one was drastically different.

These pups had had freckles and light, tawny brown hair, nearly blonde in the sunlight. They were all happy and a rambunctious bunch as a tall figure chased after them on a lawn, with everyone falling over in a burst of giggles.

Jared woke up with a start, his face bright red and his mouth dry. He carried with him a heavy feeling in his heart. Whimpering softly, he curled up in his bed and pressed a pillow to his stomach, clinging to it tightly. After a few minutes of this he forced himself out of bed; nothing would be achieved by lying around.

After a quick wash in the smaller tub, he dressed in his dark red robes and quietly made his way downstairs through the breeder staircase. Restless with nervous energy, he fell back into the routine he had established at his previous household. He began in the garden, which didn’t take long, as the weather had gotten colder and all that was left to do was prune and trim. There would be no more fresh flowers every day, which saddened Jared, but he understood that even flowers had to take rests. With great care, he tended to Cody’s section and made sure all would keep well during the eventual frost.

In an hour, he finished half his daily chores and started baking a pan of sweet bread for the first meal of the day.

As he was rolling them into buns, he heard someone in the hallway leading to the kitchen. Expecting Master, ever an early riser, Jared said a cheerful good morning as he opened the door to the oven.

“Mornin’,” came a reply from the doorway, thick with a sleepy drawl. “You always up this early?”

The breeder flinched and froze, shutting the door quickly. He didn’t know whether to get on his knees or not, so he compromised on keeping his head down.

“No sir, not usually,” Jared replied softly.

The Doctor grunted and staggered into the kitchen, taking a seat at the island in the center where Jared had been rolling the dough. His hair was quite a sight, sticking up in all directions. Jared had the urge to reach out and smooth it down but kept his actions in check. The stubble on the Doctor’s face was thicker and had a reddish tint. His eyes were still half closed as he scrubbed his face.

“Fucking early as hell,” he muttered and yawned. “Is there coffee?” The Doctor was dressed in a gray robe over his nightclothes. Jared turned back to his work.

“Yes, sir. Would you like cream?”

“Black is fine, thanks.”

A cup and saucer were prepared quickly and set before the Master. Jared stood ready at attention. The Doctor looked up from his cup and frowned.

“You gonna stand there?”

“N-no sir.”

With a fumble of pans and pots, Jared went back to preparing the rest of the meal. He had sausages and eggs, plus fruit to dice. In ten minutes, he had the fruit salad finished and the sausages sizzling on the grill. As he took the sweet bread out of the oven, the Doctor cleared his throat. Jared set the tray down and placed each bun onto a cooling tray.

As he was making the icing, the Doctor spoke.

“You used to make me pancakes every Sunday morning,” he said, looking into his now empty cup. His voice was still scratchy. “Only thing you could make, really.”

“I can make pancakes,” Jared murmured, not making eye contact, keeping his sight fixed on the mixing bowl in his arms. “I can make lots of things, sir.”

“No, you can’t,” the Doctor huffed. “You’d burn the god damned toast. Cereal was difficult. I did all the cooking. Shit, with the amount you ate it was a fucking miracle we didn’t starve every week.”

Jared wanted to insist that he didn’t actually eat that much. He didn’t have to be fed every day, if that’s what the Doctor preferred. Or he could give Jared a bin every month and he would never have to see Jared eat or think about his meals, if that was too much worry.

He wanted to tell the Doctor that he would be happy with scraps from the table or the trash bins if he would allow that. He wanted to tell the Doctor that he didn’t take up too much space; he didn’t need a closet and definitely didn’t need a room. He’d slept outside more than once, chained to a post, in all kinds of weather.

Instead, Jared remained silent. He clutched the mixing bowl to his chest.

“Say something, dammit. I know you want to. You’d be kicking my ass out by now, Jay. C’mon. Say something. Tell me how much of an asshole I’m being. Say it.” The Doctor got up and walked over to Jared, putting his hands on Jared’s shoulders and squeezing. “Say it!” 

“I… I…”

“Am I bothering you, Jay?! C’mon! Fight back!” the Doctor was shouting now, inches away from Jared’s face, hands pressing tighter.

Trembling and shrinking into himself, Jared clung to the bowl he still held.

“Master, please. I’m sorry. I can make pancakes,” he blurted out, tears falling as he looked up at the Doctor. “I can do it over. Just… please. I can make you pancakes. I didn’t know. I’ll make them now…”

Jared tried to turn towards the counter but he was slammed against it instead. He instinctively brought his hands up to block a blow. He could hear himself rambling on about how it wouldn’t take very long, if Master would just wait two minutes he could make pancakes.

“Fuck!” the Doctor roared and let go. He punched a cupboard above Jared’s head.

“That’s enough!”

Jared flinched at the sharp sound of Nicky’s voice. The older breeder strode forward and pushed herself in front of the younger, forcing the Doctor to take a step back.

“You’re hurting him, don’t you realize?! Haven’t we been yelled at enough by Masters like you? He said he would make you your stupid pancakes!” Nicky turned and grabbed the bowl from Jared’s arms and threw it down at the Doctor’s feet. It shattered loudly. “So why don’t you go wait, like a good little boy, and we will make you your pancakes!”

“Why don’t you let him speak for himself? Why are you always here speaking for him?” the Doctor shouted back. “This is between me and him and I would fucking appreciate some privacy.”

Nicky’s shoulders tensed. She looked as if she were going to scream.

“You don’t get to have privacy if you’re going to treat him like that! Like he’s someone else! That’s not fair, can’t you understand that? Whomever you think he is, he’s not. He is his own person and if you knew how to speak to him, you’d already know that.” She turned to Jared and placed her soft, warm hands on his shoulders where the Doctor had gripped him. “I don’t mean to talk over you, Jay. I don’t. I’m sorry. I just can’t stand there and watch this happen.”

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Jared breathed, still shaking, refusing to look directly at anyone. “It’s okay. I’ll pick it up. I’ll clean it up. And make pancakes. Please.”

He got to his knees and started picking up shards of the mixing bowl.

Both Nicky and the Doctor stood before him, looking at him. He gathered the biggest pieces in a fold of his robes and stood up, dumped them inside the sink, and began wiping up the icing from the floor with a rag. After a moment, the Doctor knelt down and took the rag from Jared, silently finishing the rest.

Nicky left the kitchen.

Wondering if things could be more complicated and confusing, Jared remained kneeling, looking at the Doctor’s hands. He had strong hands, with tiny freckles across his knuckles. Those hands had held Jared’s pups longer than he had.

“Why do you call me, Jay?” Jared asked, his voice unsteady but audible. He fidgeted with his robes and looked at the floor. “No one but Nicky calls me that, not even Master.”

The Doctor sighs and sits down on the floor, crossing his legs. He places his hands under his chin and thinks for a minute before replying. “It was my nickname for you. Always was.”

Jared nodded. He got a little bolder. “Did I have one for you?” he asked, not even knowing who he was talking about. There was obviously someone the Doctor cared for a great deal and Jared happened to look similar.

“Yeah. Jen. Sometimes Jenny, but…” the Doctor cleared his throat. “I didn’t always like that. You did it as a joke.”

“Oh.”

Another awkward minute of silence passed and Jared looked up at the counter. He finally made eye contact with the Doctor, who seemed sad and in the middle of grieving. “What happened? To him?”

It was the Doctor’s turn to flinch. His face shut out all emotion and this time he evaded eye contact.

In a rough voice, the Master replied, “It’s complicated, dammit. I can’t… I can’t say. Nothing and everything. Shit.” He pulled his knees up to his chest and hid his face from Jared. “You don’t have to make pancakes.”

Jared nodded and took in a deep breath. He was going to either ruin this completely or succeed at something, even if it was a very small something. He reached forward and placed a hand over one of the Doctor’s. The Doctor tensed up but allowed it. They both looked at each other.

“Thank you,” Jared whispered, knowing that he was blushing. “I… never got to say that, for before.”

He hoped that the Doctor understood what he was being thanked for.

The Doctor gave the smallest, faintest smile and whispered back, “They were perfect.”

-

Master invited the Doctor to stay for another night.

The day passed quickly, until Nicky and Jared shared a bath before dinner. Time slowed down as they kissed and held each other close in the warm, bubbly water. She nuzzed him and wiped away tears he hadn’t realized had fallen.

“I want more pups,” Jared cried, hiding his face in her the crook of her neck. “It haunts me.”

With a nod, she held him tight.

Nothing could be said to fix what he felt and they both knew that.

Before dinner, the Doctor asked Jared to meet him in the same study near his suite. Jared was told to sit on the couch and wait, as the Doctor dug through a travel bag. Jared smelled like bread and herbs, which he hoped the Doctor didn’t mind. He’d done most of dinner that night, to thank Nicky for the night before, though she had helped with the sides and dessert.

Jared nervously sat on the couch, waiting and trying to think of what the Doctor had to show him.

“Finally,” the Doctor muttered, tossing the bag aside. “Thought maybe I forgot the damn thing.”

In his hands was a wooden box, no larger than a story book. It was a dark cherry wood, polished and well taken care of. The Doctor opened it and set it down between them on the couch. Jared marveled at the box, which had unfolded to a small table of sorts, with black and white checkers. Glass objects in strange shapes lay in a delicate velvet mold.

Jared looked up at the Doctor for an explanation.

The Doctor sighed, a glint of hope fading in his eyes. “It’s chess. You don’t know what chess is?”

“No, sir.” Jared wanted to remind the Doctor that he could barely read, let alone understand something Masters did that involved shiny glass objects.

“You… well. I’ll explain it to you, I guess.”

“Is this for breeders?”

“What? No! This is for…”

Jared pulled back his hand. He was going to touch one of the pieces but quickly composed himself. The Doctor shook his head and started setting up the pieces in a pattern on the table, which he called a board. He started explaining which pieces were called what and what they could do and couldn’t do. He held up one and said it was a pawn, then another and said it was a queen. The purpose of the game was to surround and checkmate the king piece through a series of moves on the board. He was shown all the different moves each piece could make to do so.

“Would you… play a game with me?” the Doctor asked, his voice hesitant.

“Yes sir,” Jared replied and focused on the board. “Can I touch them?”

A nervous laugh sounded out. “Yeah, you can touch them. You can go first.”

An hour passed until the Doctor got frustrated and commanded Jared to stop letting him win. Jared stammered out an apology and the Doctor reset the board for the third time.

The Doctor’s jaw dropped when Jared had whispered a small, “checkmate,” ten minutes later.

“Is that not good?” Jared asked desperately. “I can do it over.”

“No, it’s fine. You usually beat me. Just… you’re good at this. You’re still good at this.”

Jared didn’t understand how he was still good at something he had never played before. A breeder’s spare moments were dedicated to their household by sewing or quilting. Games and cards were not for breeders.

Rubbing his chin, the Doctor admitted defeat and packed up the game. He set the box on his opposite side and moved closer to Jared. They sat an inch apart. Jared felt a thrumming under his skin. The pace of his heart picked up as he felt the Doctor cup his chin and pull them in for another kiss.

Jared opened his mouth willingly and sighed. The Doctor tasted like peppermint and coffee. One large hand stroked Jared’s cheek while the other played with his hair, curling strands around his fingers. The breeder kissed back once they formed a pace. Jared knew how to kiss—he knew how to do everything to please a Master—but he’d never actually needed to use his skills. His previous Master hadn’t bothered with kisses.

The fire crackled the same way Jared’s blood did. He mewled softly as the Doctor nipped at the bottom of his lip, then licked over it. Jared cautiously wrapped his arms around the Doctor’s shoulders and leaned forward into him, pressing them closer.

This Master was terrifyingly confusing. And Jared couldn’t find any capacity to care as long as their mouths were like this.

They paused briefly for breath but the Doctor swept in for a deep kiss that pushed a moan out of Jared.

In one swift motion, the Doctor hefted Jared onto his lap. Jared rocked back instinctively and let out a breathy keen, drawing in a sharp breath as two things occurred simultaneously: the Doctor placed a hand on his belly and Jared felt the Doctor grow hard underneath him. Both things caused Jared to blush and shiver in pleasure. His mind flipped to the Doctor pushing inside him, pounding and thrusting, working those powerful thighs to get deeper and deeper inside Jared. He would make it so good for the Doctor. He would twist and clench in response; he would arch and gasp as wetness slicked the way for them to move together easily. The Doctor would come and fill Jared up.

And then he would have a belly full of the Doctor’s pups.

“Jay,” the Doctor grunted, pushing his hips up. “Jay I miss you.”

Jared snapped back to reality.

He flinched and tensed up, which the Doctor noticed and came back from whatever thoughts he had been having.

In shock, he shoved Jared off his lap. Jared fell to the floor with a yelp.

His robes were falling off and his hair was a mess. He knew what he looked like, and more importantly, he knew what he looked like in the Doctor’s eyes. Like something cheap and desperate.

The Doctor stood up, his face a bright red that went up to his ears, and excused himself, running to his suite.

Jared heard the door slam shut.

He curled up and stayed there until dinner was announced.

How could he compete with someone he had never met?

The evening was tense for everyone and Master noticed. He pet Jared on the head whenever Jared was near. Jared happily leaned into the touch. When Jared was finished clearing the table, Master pulled him onto his lap in the same manner the Doctor had an hour before.

Except Master just kept petting Jared, who started purring. Nicky watched, happy. The Doctor’s eyes narrowed and he avoided looking.

Master gently had Jared get up before he announced, “Perhaps we’ve all been inside too much lately. How does a trip to Maya tomorrow sound? Hmm?” he asked Nicky and Jared. “We’ll leave early, dine there, and see a show. Maybe you two can pick up more fabric for another quilt.”

Both breeders chipped in their murmurs of agreement. Master turned to the Doctor. “Care to join us, Doctor? Have you been to Maya?”

The Doctor hesitated but answered smoothly, “I thank you, but I think it best to return home, sir. The Judge will be back soon and I should be there. I have not been to Maya. Is it much different from Meridian?”

As the Masters spoke of the differences between the two cities, the breeders slipped into the kitchen and began washing the night’s dishes. Nicky vibrated with excitement. “I haven’t been to Maya in such a long time! Jay, you’ll love it. It’s so pretty. We’ll buy some flowers, and these chocolates that I like, and we can finally buy lace for that blanket we’ve been making. And I’ll have to tell Eli to buy you another set of robes. Four isn’t enough, my goodness and you’ll be growing soon!” She clapped her hands. “And a show! I can’t believe Eli thought of this. It’s exactly what we need. An outing will clear all of our heads.”

Jared nodded and half listened to her as she talked about Maya. He thought about the Doctor leaving and felt both relieved and anxious. Would the Doctor call again anytime soon? Or had he perhaps decided that Jared wasn’t worth anymore effort or time? It’s not like Jared could be purchased, either. Spending time with purchased goods didn’t make sense to Jared.

He went through the familiar motions of his nighttime routine. He met the Doctor in the same study and joined him, neither one of them speaking. The Doctor was reading and Jared took his place on the floor, by the Master’s feet. In a few minutes, Jared dozed off lightly. He purred in the warmth he felt for the moment.

He never took heat for granted.

 

When he woke up next, he was in a bed, but not his bed.

He was in the Doctor’s bed.

Panicked, he sat up and looked around, his eyes adjusting to darkness. How long had he been asleep? He looked over to the window—outside was dark but he couldn’t gauge the time. He glanced over at the nearest nightstand. A pair of wire glasses was set there, over the book the Doctor had been reading. Jared wondered what the Doctor looked like with glasses on. He carefully lay back down, next to the warm body at his side.

The Doctor looked much younger when he was asleep. Jared shifted closer, buried under the layers of quilts on the bed. Suddenly, the Doctor moved and Jared held his breath.

“Jay,” the Doctor sleepily grumbled, “ten more minutes, babe.”

Shakily, Jared let out the breath he had been holding in. The Doctor moved, flipped from his side to his stomach, and placed one arm over Jared, pulling him close.

“Jus’ ten more minutes, Jay, I swear,” the Doctor slurred in his sleep. “Uh huh…” A snore appeared and Jared stifled a laugh. It made him sad to hear the Doctor miss his companion, but it also made him happy that the Doctor had deemed Jared worthy enough to share his bed with Jared for the night.

For the next few minutes he was awake, Jared listened to the Doctor’s steady breathing, and studied the freckles on his face. Jared turned on his side and the Doctor followed, spooning him from behind, tangling their legs together. They were pressed close together.

When the Doctor placed a hand over Jared’s stomach, something in Jared’s heart felt lighter.

He slept better that night.

Chapter Text

The morning started out well enough.

Rested and accustomed to early mornings, Jared managed to slip out of the Doctor’s bed, go downstairs and prepare a tray of food and coffee, bring it back, and sneak back under the quilts beside the Doctor without disturbing him. The deep snores from the Master solidified the fact that he was a heavy sleepy and definitely, Jared decided, not a Master who liked to be woken up early. He settled back in with little trouble, pulling the quilts to his chest and burrowing, inhaling the scent of the Doctor and clean bedding.

Jared was warm, comfortable, and not alone. He tucked this moment away for himself.

It didn’t take much for him to drift into a light sleep, but he woke up a few minutes after, when the Doctor moved. He’d been laying on his stomach but shifted to his side, putting them in the same spooning position as they had fallen asleep the night before. Except there was one very obvious and potentially disastrous difference.

Jared mewled a small protest as the Doctor pushed his hips forward, against the curve of Jared’s ass. The hard, rigid length felt good; Jared automatically pushed back. The Doctor tossed an arm over Jared and placed a hand on the center of his chest, long, elegant fingers grazing over his nipples. Jared mewled with pleasure from the touches and friction in general, but his own cock remained soft.

If the Doctor wanted Jared to feel more, he would have to gain access to the control to Jared’s chip. There had been times, one of them now, when Jared wondered what it would feel like to be hard for the purpose of pleasure, not for milking. Nicky described it as liberating, incredibly enjoyable, but also that it was something difficult to explain in words.

In the meantime, Jared was happy to provide the Doctor with pleasure; however he could without breaking his Master’s rules. He managed a small wiggle of his hips and the Doctor moaned, his breath warm on Jared’s neck. His lips—which Jared had begun to appreciate—pressed on a spot just below Jared’s ear, which caused him to whine and shift back. The Doctor's cock was now firmly fitted in the warm space under Jared’s ass, nudging at his balls. Jared cursed the night clothes the Doctor had worn to bed. They were stubbornly in the way. Jared had been clothed when he had first woken up—still wearing the robes he’d worn the day before—but when he slipped back into the Doctor’s bed he’d settled in unclothed. He hoped it wouldn’t be taken the wrong way; he was just uncomfortable wearing anything in bed.

He hoped it wouldn’t be overstepping his boundaries too much, not that pushing the Doctor’s cock between the tight space it currently occupied wasn’t.

Before Jared could prevent it from happening, the Doctor pushed his hand from Jared’s chest to his soft cock and wrapped his fingers around it. Grunting, he pumped it, nipping at the nape of the breeder’s neck with a growl. The breeder squirmed and mewled, caught in the tight grasp. The Doctor’s hand there didn’t hurt, but it was uncomfortable. Pressure built up in his balls and increased with each rough stroke. The Doctor mumbled something Jared didn’t hear.

A minute later, Jared’s cock was still soft, but heavy, and he was panting into his pillow, trying to keep quiet. He bit down on his lip and shuddered as the Doctor started to flick his wrist and thrust his hips with more force against Jared.

“Jay, oh shit,” the Doctor drawled. He nuzzed Jared’s neck and licked a long stripe down. “Ride me babe. C’mon, Jay, please.” From what Jared could catch, it seemed like the Doctor had been very attached to this companion. At least as attached as being very intimate with each other.

Jared wondered how that felt, too.

However, pressure continued to build in Jared’s stomach as the Doctor mumbled on. Jared began to panic, knowing that the Doctor would wake up soon. It felt like he was going to be milked, but Jared didn’t understand it. It’d been more than a month since he’d had his litter. Breathing hard, he groaned as he felt his balls expand slightly and his cock harden. It felt entirely different than when he’d been carrying an actual litter and now that there was a hand there, steadily pumping. Jared thrust into the Master’s hand, desperate now for release. All he could think about was alleviating the pressure. Like a great bubble of air inside him, the pressure increased and Jared flinched.

“Jay?” the Doctor rumbled with a yawn. “What’s wrong, Jay?”

The Doctor’s hand stopped moving and Jared whimpered in pain.

“M-master, please,” he begged softly, clutching the pillow under his head. “It hurts.”

Reflexively, the Doctor’s hand squeezed in shock as he woke up and realized part of what was happening. Jared let out a moan and threw his head back as a gush of milk poured all over the bed.

“What are you doing?! Get off me!” the Doctor shouted and pushed Jared away from him. Jared gasped and tried to sit up and start making his apologies, but his damn clumsiness got the best of him. He twisted in the sheets, panicking because of the situation, the Doctor’s anger, and the fact that he couldn’t stop the gush of milk.

He ended up falling off the bed and onto the floor, dragging the sheets with him.

The Doctor got up from the bed and ran into the bathroom without giving a second look at Jared on the floor. Once again, Jared heard a door slam shut.

He kept his head down and scooted under the bed as best he could, shivering and crying as his cock released the last amount of milk. He was in a puddle of it, thick and warm, but all he could think of was how little control he had over his body.

It seemed like hours before he stopped releasing milk. With a final, large spurt that caused Jared to shout in pain, his cock gave a final twitch before it hung limp between his legs again. It felt like his insides had been twisted up and wrung dry. Worse, he thought of his pups and how they would only ever know synthetic milk after the first bottle had been emptied.

Or worse, the milk of another breeder.

The Doctor padded out of the bathroom and walked up to the edge of the bed. Jared tried his best to stay quiet and still, as if he could hide or escape his present situation.

“Get out of there, Jared,” the Master snapped, his voice tense. “Don’t make me pull you out of there myself.”

Jared didn’t move. He clung to the soaked sheet underneath him and understood why second breeders were taught never to hold or touch their pups after birth. This was a pain so much more intense than anything physical he had ever experienced. Their training never covered what to do with the pups after birth because they were not to have any contact. Contact created unnecessary, burdensome feelings for the breeders.

“God dammit.”

A hand appeared from the edge of the bed and grabbed Jared by the hair. He was drawn out, sobbing and wet. The Doctor was dressed in a robe and holding a whip. Jared immediately panicked and bucked against the Doctor’s grip, blubbering and rambling on apologies and begging to be forgiven. He couldn’t read any of the emotions on the Master’s face, which scared him. He had no idea what would or could come next.

“Is this what you want me to do? Whip you? Because that’s how things work here, isn’t it? I’m supposed to just… use this thing and make you understand?” the Doctor shouted and Jared remained silent. He waved the whip around, letting it get close to Jared’s face once or twice. “You can’t do that while I’m sleeping, Jared! It’s not fucking right! You’re a child for fuck’s sake!”

Finally, the Doctor let go of Jared’s hair and threw the whip down onto the bed.

Jared put his hands up, ready to block a blow.

He wanted to tell the Doctor that he wasn’t a child. He hadn’t been for a long time. Children did not have litters or sleep outside chained to posts while it rained and stormed. Children didn’t run households or trot behind carriages.

But there wasn’t any use to that.

There was no point in telling the Doctor that sometimes Masters did take fourteen year old second breeders for their households and forced them to breed, despite the risks. Or they’d wait the two years, working the breeder hard with manual labor until it could carry a litter with a higher success rate.

Fourteen wasn’t that young for breeders. Especially not ones with histories like Jared’s.

“Forget it,” the Doctor muttered and walked towards the door to the suite. “One minute I see you and the next I don’t. I just… I can’t.”

Jared was sure the Doctor wouldn’t return when he left, but he did. He brought with him Nicky, who rushed to Jared’s side immediately upon seeing him.

“My goodness,” she gasped and ran her hands over his face. “Are you all right? Did you finish?” she asked breathlessly and checked his cock. “Didn’t they milk you at the kennels? Jay? Jay, honey, please…”

“What? What’s wrong with him?” the Doctor asked in a forceful tone. “He was… he was basically humping me this morning and then that just… happened. It got everywhere.”

Nicky shook Jared’s shoulders, trying to get a response. She held him close, against her chest, ignoring how wet she was getting with the milk spilled.

“He didn’t mean it!” she hissed towards the Doctor. “They didn’t milk him at the kennels and he… he was probably… relaxed enough… oh god, how did he end up on the floor? Under the bed? What did you do?!”

“Nothing! I panicked! He was all over me!”

“He was probably trying to make you feel good! Jay, honey, please talk to me.”

Jared heard the voices around him, but they seemed very far away and he was tired. Too tired to reach out to them. So he closed his eyes and slumped against Nicky with a sigh, every muscle going limp as he fell into darkness. It was much better than being awake. And he couldn’t bear to hear anyone call him Jay anymore.

The weight came back on his chest.

-

He spent the rest of the day in his room, ordered to rest. Nicky brought him a light broth and a piece of bread for his midday meal, which he ate half of.

She explained to him that sometimes breeders kept an extra store of milk for a while after carrying a litter. Their bodies were prepared to provide for a recent litter, but Nicky had thought the kennels had milked him before putting him to auction. Nicky lay in bed with him after she cleared the tray. She pressed kisses on his face and played with his hair, humming softly.

Jared leaned into her touch, but didn’t say anything.

He fell asleep again and woke up when it was dark outside.

By then, the Doctor had already left. 

Chapter Text

That night, Jared got up from bed while it was still dark outside. Everyone had gone to sleep hours before but he was restless. Exhausted from the events of the day, but still thrumming with nervous energy.

He knew exactly where he wanted to go.

Navigating through dark hallways he’d once felt so overwhelmed by, he made it to the east wing, where the Doctor had stayed. He found the suite easily after that and stepped in carefully, as if afraid to disturb anyone, even though he knew the suite was empty.

Nicky had already been through and cleaned things up, set fresh sheets on the bed and mopped up the floor. Jared had lost track of the number of times he had apologized to her—and eventually to Master—for ruining the sheets and making a mess. She had given him a sad smile and replied, “It happens to all of us, Jared.” He wasn’t sure if she was speaking specifically about his situation or something else, but either way, he understood.

Stepping over to the bed, Jared lightly touched it with his fingertips.

He had no reason to feel attachment to the Doctor, other than what had happened in the cellar. And even then, the Doctor had just been doing his job. It’s not like he ultimately felt any emotions towards the pups he had held, even if he had called them perfect later on. It was his first time helping a second breeder deliver, so Jared knew that he’d just been overwhelmed with the newness of the experience.

And yet here he was, stupidly standing next to an empty bed.

He couldn’t let go and he realized that that was his problem with most things. He couldn’t let go of the Doctor though he should because the Doctor was not his Master and had no interest in breeders. He couldn’t let go of his pups even though he should because he would never see them again and the same would happen with the next litter and the litter after that. He couldn’t let go of his feelings even though he should because feeling anything besides duty and responsibility and shame complicated everything.

In one fluid motion, Jared tossed himself onto the bed, landing with a small squeak. He curled up on the side the Doctor had occupied. Replacing the sheets had changed the smell of the bed, but Jared could still detect hints of the Doctor, especially on the pillow. He closed his eyes and clung to the pillow.

He wondered what the Master who had purchased him would be like. He wondered if they would use him for manual work until he became of proper age or if they planned on breeding him right away. He wondered if they would allow him a pallet or a closet—or even a room—and how his meals would be given. He had just settled into the routine Nicky and Master expected him to follow; adjusting to another new household would be stressful. He hoped that his new Master would be patient with him as he learned the new set of rules and expectations and standards.

The thought of leaving Nicky hurt, so he never dwelled on it, especially in her company. There would be no more kisses, baths, or quiet time curled up by a warm fire as she played with his hair.

For some reason, one that Jared couldn’t name, he thought of Cody. The first breeder who looked so happy in all the photographs he’d seen of him. But Jared would take second looks and there would be sadness there, a miniscule amount of grief that brief glances would not reveal. He studied Cody’s portraits and came to the same conclusion: smiles could only mask so much.

Breeders didn’t often talk to each other about their feelings or emotions or opinions. They communicated the basic needs and details of the household and that was it. Even the conversation between Nicky and himself weren’t filled with their opinions on the world.

They simply weren’t trained to communicate that way, to form relationships in that manner. Jared understood the relationships around him and could respond to them, if given enough time to adjust, but he also understood the difficulty he had in forming sentences about his own thoughts. It frustrated the Doctor, who was not used to such a thing so it seemed, and Jared didn’t know how to change himself.

With a sigh, he turned to lie on his side, facing the window and the nightstand nearby, where the Doctor had previously placed his glasses. Jared reached out and touched the shiny surface. The Doctor must need glasses only for reading, since he didn’t wear them otherwise. Jared thought they made him look even more handsome, more distinguished.

Something caught the breeder’s attention just then. A corner of a piece of paper was sticking out from where it was wedged under the nightstand. It barely stuck out but Jared had been trained to notice details, no matter how seemingly insignificant. He reached over, stretching, and tugged carefully, mindful not to pull too hard and risk tearing whatever it was. After a few tries, he finally pulled it out and sat up to look at it. It was a glossy photograph that had a few wrinkles in it after being kept in a pocket for so long. There were tiny tears in it as well, which told Jared that this photograph was old and well loved.

On the back of it, Jared could make out a few words. The writing wasn’t the neatest but the words were simple enough for the breeder to decipher.

“Love you  Jenny,” Jared read out loud in a whisper. “Always…”

Jared couldn’t read the last part. His hands started to shake. He thought perhaps he might have it wrong. Maybe he was reading a letter or two incorrectly. But then he flipped the photograph over and he knew he had it all right.

What the photograph was of frightened Jared.

Even in darkness, lit only by the moon, he could see the two figures in the frame, arms looped around each other’s shoulders, grins on their faces.

It was of him and the Doctor.

Except it wasn’t really him and it wasn’t really the Doctor.

Jared tucked the photograph in his robes and ran all the way back to his room. He took a bath and scrubbed at his skin until it was raw and red.

He was being asked to turn himself inside out. The problem was, Jared thought he’d already done that.

Chapter Text

The cold season arrived faster than anyone had anticipated it, even Master.

Two weeks later, seemingly overnight, their entire world changed. A cold snap occurred and Master and Jared spent the entire morning getting the stables in shape for the five horses that lived there. Jared liked working with the horses, even though their size sometimes intimidated him. Master usually allowed him to brush the coats of the two smaller ones, and sometimes Jared would be asked to take them for warm-up trots. Running beside them, Jared would take them through their pen behind the stables. He enjoyed the exercise and the feeling that he was being useful to Master outside of the main house.

Cold set in even during the day and so the entire household was turning over from fall to winter. The pantry was full with enough food to last them all winter and then some, which Master had seen to with great detail and effort.

Most of the guest rooms were closed off now, as maintaining them open would require too much effort when the weather was at its coldest. The breeders spent a few days changing the bedding and cleaning those rooms before Master locked them up until the spring. Nicky showed Jared how to keep rooms smelling fresh and clean even after months of disuse. She tucked small bags of sweet smelling dried flowers under every pillow. She gave one to Jared, who kept one with him every night.

Master announced one morning that they would need to take a trip into town for supplies. He would make two trips—one this week and one the next—but he only needed the breeders for one. They were in charge of buying supplies for the main house while Master would attend to his business and trade.

“You’ll stay with us through the Winter Holiday,” Master added as they were eating supper during his announcement. “By the New Year your new household will be ready to take you in. You learn all you can from Nicky until then.”

“Yes Master,” Jared replied and took a sip of juice. He glanced at Nicky, who refused to make eye contact with anyone. It hadn’t occurred to Jared that she might miss him as well.

He hadn't thought anyone was capable of missing him.

The next day, Master and Jared prepared the wagon for their journey into town. It was Jared’s responsibility to prepare foot warmers for their party. Master would drive the horses and the two breeders who would ride in the back of the wagon. The wagon they were using was the largest that Master owned, wide and deep enough for the breeders to lay in unseen, painted a dark red. The wheels came up to Jared’s chest.

He had prepared foot warmers twice before, at his previous household, but this time Master was generous enough to give Jared gloves. Carefully, Jared picked up hot coals from the oven in the shed next to the stables. He then transferred the coals into metal boxes and wrapped the boxes in blankets. In a few minutes he successfully put together five in total. Three he placed up front where Master would sit and two—one for each—were placed where the breeders would ride.

As they prepared the wagon for the long ride, Nicky was inside airing out blankets, furs, and wraps for the wagon and its occupants. When Master and Jared returned inside, their job done, she had soup ready for their midday meal.

Peacefully, they sat down at the dining room table.

Jared figured he had about two months left here before his entire world changed yet again.

 

The ride to Meridian went well. Master had helped Nicky and Jared into the wagon and made sure that they were settled before tending to the horses. Nicky fussed with Jared’s wraps, claiming they weren’t fastened on right. He let her hands flutter over him. He knew she would be flicking her hair back if it weren’t covered by her shawl.

Kept warm by their layers and foot warmers, both breeders ended up dozing lightly as Master drove. Jared curled up into Nicky, waking up a few times to find that the scenery around them had changed several times, but her hand never left his under their blankets. In the middle of the journey, they lay down completely and Master tugged a blanket over them. Nicky pressed her lips against Jared’s and they kissed lazily, purring at the welcomed contact and additional warmth.

At the end of the wagon ride, Master slipped them each a piece of chocolate for being so well-behaved. Jared ate his slowly, savoring each tiny bite, letting it melt in his mouth a little at a time.

Master gave them something else as well.

“Two pieces of silver each,” he stated simply. “Do with it as you please, but remember that these months will be long and you’ll need some form of amusement. Spend it wisely if you can.”

“Yes Master,” they both instinctively replied at once.

Jared held his coins tightly, then placed them in an inside pocket of his robes. Two pieces of silver was more than he had ever hoped to have. He’d never had his own money before. The fact dazed him and he felt like he was floating on air for a long time afterwards. The food he could buy with two pieces of silver!

“Are we all clear about the rules today?” Master asked as he handed out lists to each breeder.

“Stay together, don’t talk to strangers,” they both rattled off, “find Master if there is trouble and meet back here at dinnertime no matter what. Yes, sir.”

Satisfied, Master nodded and shooed them away. Nicky held onto Jared’s hand tightly and when they were a few steps away from Master, they looked at each other and laughed with excitement. Although they had business to attend to for the household, they would have it finished in time to enjoy the day and spend their gifts.

“Let’s get started?” Nicky asked, her eyes shining.

“Let’s,” Jared replied with a smile.

Crowds of Masters and breeders filled the narrow streets of Meridian. They had arrived an hour or so before midday and all businesses were open, hoping to get as many coins as possible before sunset, when the market shut down. Meridian was a central town because of its location to a large lake Jared had never been to but had heard of from Nathaniel. The lake was about twenty miles to the south, if the information he’d heard had been correct. Though the town didn’t have a river run through it, it was still quite busy for its size.

He didn’t know how many people lived in the town itself or in the outer parts—or in households in the country—but Jared knew it had to be a lot. He’d been to market several times before, but Master had always been with him and they’d only gone to three shops total and always in the outskirts of the market. This time, he followed Nicky into the central stalls, deep amidst the shouts of merchants and customers. He quickly found out that Nicky was an expert at haggling and bluffing.

“They never expect me to be able to read their prices,” Nicky murmured to Jared as they passed from one stall to the other. “See that one? Four bronze for a pound of pears. The other one back there was asking for six. Cheats!” She pouted in her way and Jared just smiled. They kept a small bag of coins between them, passing it back and forth as they crossed items off their lists. Whatever they bought, they placed in knapsacks Master had provided them with, and kept them tied in front of them instead of behind to thwart any potential pickpockets.

Meridian wasn’t as large as Maya—again, this was based on what Jared had heard—but he thought it was still a pretty town. The center of town was antiquated from the rest because it had never kept up with the expansion. The older portions of Meridian had small, hidden alleyways and businesses tucked in nearly invisible places. A theater was centrally located where local breeders would dance or perform plays of obedience and humility to audiences of Masters. Jared had never been to it but he wondered what it felt like to pretend and be someone else for a little while.

Town was loud and they kept close together. For a moment, they ducked into a small jewelry shop to browse and rest from the crowds of people pushing against each other in the marketplace. The owner greeted them and told them of a few sales, suggested a piece or two, and went back to his newspaper.

“A necklace would look lovely on you,” Nicky murmured, her eyes focused on a delicate silver chain.

“I don’t need a necklace,” Jared replied, blushing.

“Sometimes you don’t have to need anything. It’s nice to just want.”

“I suppose.”

Try as he might, he couldn’t think of anything he truly wanted. A new pair of slippers might be nice but the ones he had on were fine, not a hole in them at all. Nicky had already bought him a winter robe. He thought he might purchase a packet of seeds for the garden, but he realized he would not be in the household come spring and who knew if his new Master would even allow him to look at the household garden.

In the end, they visited three shops and Jared couldn’t find anything he wanted enough to part with his silver pieces. Nicky purchased a few bracelets and something for her service with Master but wouldn’t show or explain it to Jared. She merely blushed and placed it in her knapsack with care.

Their lists were finished by early afternoon. Jared had peaches and berries and soaps in his knapsack. He reached in it at Nicky’s request and pulled out two peaches for their meal. At the center of the market, they sat on the edge of a fountain, eating slowly, licking juice from their fingers as they ate.

Jared bit in and savored the flavor, glancing up at random.

Immediately, he saw the Doctor.

His breath caught in his chest and his thoughts turned to the photograph, which was tucked in the same secret pocket of his robe that his silver pieces were in. He hadn’t wanted to leave it alone in the house.

It felt too important.

The breeder watched the Doctor walk from outside his office—which Jared had never seen before—and down the street. For a minute Jared thought the Doctor might recognize him, but the Master walked right past. Both Nicky and Jared had their shawls up. Jared was at first grateful, as he couldn’t think of anything to say at all, but then regretted it. He needed to return the photograph. It was obviously something the Doctor treasured and he would want it back. It was the least Jared could do for him, especially after what happened.

Just as Jared was about to stand, he saw the Doctor stop at a red door on the side of an alley.

“Jay,” Nicky whispered, nudging him gently. “I see what you see but…”

“What does that door mean?” Jared asked, interrupting her, which was not like him.

She hesitated but told him. “It’s a brothel, Jay.”

Of these, Jared had also heard of but never been. Old Master had told Jared—when his service had been particularly poor—that the breeders in brothels were better in bed than him. At the time it had seemed like such a disappointment to Jared, who had been trying his best to please Master in every way he knew how. Nathaniel had never shared with him what kinds of things Master liked or preferred in bed; anything Jared tried on his own, whether it was a swivel of his hips or a well-timed moan, usually caused Jared a beating. Eventually, Jared learned to stay still and shut up. Master didn't go to Jared for pleasure; he used Jared for service. 

He felt a heavy sense of failure now, watching the Doctor knock in some kind of code.

His heart sank. He dropped the peach onto the ground. It landed with a squish.

Masters only went to brothels when their breeders couldn’t satisfy them, or if they were in between purchasing and selling breeders. It was a source of shame for any household breeder because it meant that they had failed in their most fundamental use.

The Doctor was obviously not interested in Jared. He stared until the Doctor disappeared, led inside by a mysterious wave.

Some breeders were randomly selected for brothels, others were sold directly to one by their Masters. The entire system worked differently on the inside, but Jared's knowledge of breeder life in brothels was limited. He knew that a breeder could never choose to work there. Brothel breeders were also not required to have yearly litters. Jared was unsure of whether or not life in a brothel was better or worse than in a household.

He kept his head down and tried to ignore the tight feeling in his chest.

Nicky put her hand over his, their fingers sticky. Not a word passed between them.

Washed up in the cold water of the fountain, the breeders got up and resumed walking around. They circled back to a shop near the red door. Jared couldn’t help his curiosity and Nicky didn’t seem to mind, though she certainly didn’t like seeing him upset. That and he had yet to spend his silver pieces and their time in the marketplace was coming to a close.

Just as Jared was turning to follow her away from the door, it opened and the Doctor walked out in a hurry. He was adjusting his vest, not looking where he was going, and crashed into Jared. The breeder tumbled over and landed on his knapsack, the sick squelch of its contents causing him to cry out. Half a purse’s worth of fruit and soap was now nothing more than a sack of wet, sticky mess.

“Sorry,” the Doctor blurted out and knelt down to help Jared,until he realized who it was he had bumped into. “Oh. It’s you.” There was a tired flatness to the Master’s voice that saddened Jared, but he was panicking too much to realize it.

“S-sorry sir,” Jared stammered out, hiccupping back a sob, scrambling to shove whatever had spilled out onto the street back into his knapsack. Nicky kept her distance but Jared felt her anger radiate in waves off her. The Doctor remained standing, looking down at Jared, not moving to help.

“What are you doing?” the Doctor asked sharply. 

“I…I...” Jared whimpered, tears squeezing out as he realized the Doctor was right to question his actions. All the pears were mush. Not one peach was salvageable. Still, Jared was trying to clean up the mess on the street.

The Doctor squatted down and looked at Jared. “Were you following me?”

Jared’s eyes went wide and he felt himself turn red. “N-n-no! I mean… yes… I… no, sir! I only… I wanted…”

“You were,” the Doctor muttered and shook his head. “Look, I know you’re probably confused—shit, I am too—but I can’t… I can’t deal with everything right now. Especially after… that. It’s just not shit I’m used to. Okay? So stop following me.”

The breeder could only nod, clutching his knapsack tightly.

“Stay away from me, Jared,” the Doctor ordered but his voice sounded distracted and far away. “I mean it.” He stood up and looked at Jared once more before walking away, blending into the crowds of the marketplace. But even the noise of the market couldn’t drown out the pounding of Jared’s heart.

Nicky pulled him up and gave him a tight hug.

As they returned to the marketplace, Jared took out his pieces of silver and paid for new items. They had to carefully load up Nicky’s knapsack but it all fit and Jared still had two pieces of bronze left over.

In the end, he bought a glass figurine that looked like a chess piece. He had no idea why he bought it—it was the most impractical thing—but the weight of it in his pocket helped him forget the events of the day.

“Jared!”

The breeder didn’t respond. He sat in the back of the wagon, waiting for Master to finish speaking with another Master. Jared kicked his feet back and forth. Nicky put an arm around him protectively.

“Jared!”

Finally, the breeder looked up. The Judge was running towards them, waving and smiling. He had such energy; he appeared before them quickly, barely pausing to catch his breath.

“My goodness,” he laughed and stood with his hands on his hips. “It’s good to see you, Jared!”

“You as well, sir,” Jared replied softly. “May I help you?”

The Judge’s blue eyes sparkled from the cold and something else Jared couldn’t name. He looked well rested and happy, which Jared was glad for.

“Yes, actually! I was hoping you might be available tonight? To dine with myself and the ever-cheerful ray of sunshine that is the Doctor? I can drive you back in the morning, we’ll be staying in town tonight, over there at the inn.” The Judge pointed to what Jared assumed was the inn. “I’d appreciate an audience with the both of you, if you would have our company yet again.”

Dumbstruck, Jared didn’t reply for a moment.

Finally, his wits kicked in and he blurted out, “S-sir, you have to ask my Master.”

“Of course I will,” the Judge agreed. “I just wanted to know if it was okay with you?”

The breeder gave a nod in response. What more could he do? He couldn’t say no, didn't the Judge understand that? A breeder was never asked if they wanted or liked something, it was as their Masters wanted it to be. And why would he want Jared's company anyway? There were many other breeders for the Judge to select--better ones with more experience. Maybe the Judge wanted the house cleaned cheaply. Jared could do that more easily now, without his belly in the way. He could use this opportunity to show the Judge that he was a hard worker. Sensing Jared's hesitance, the Judge stepped over and spoke to Master, who had finished his previous business. The two Masters had a conversation for a few minutes before the Judge came back over and helped Jared down from the wagon.

“He said yes!” the Judge declared and gave Jared a wide smile. “I trust there’s nothing else you need?”

Jared looked at Nicky, who gave him a small, weak smile for his own benefit. 

“No sir,” Jared replied. “Nothing else I need.”

“Excellent, let’s carry on, shall we?” The Judge looped his arm into Jared’s and led him towards the inn.

Jared glanced back and saw Nicky watching him nervously, mouthing the words, “Be careful.”

Chapter Text

The Judge carried conversation extensively, whether or not Jared replied back. He talked about everything and anything, and pointed out that he was better at understanding breeders now that he’d spent more time in Meridian. It helped to put Jared at ease a little, but he was still incredibly anxious. The Doctor had made it clear that his acquaintance with Jared was a mistake. And despite the good intentions of his companion, Jared could see the Doctor being upset with these plans. Unease pecked at his nerves.

At the inn, a breeder at the front desk led them towards the suite the Judge had rented out. They walked up three flights of stairs, past other suites and down a hallway to a single door. Jared was surprised and frightened when the breeder provided the Judge with a whip and a set of chains. Left alone, the Judge took the items and set them down on the mantel of the fireplace in the living room.

“The manner of reprimanding breeders with such harsh punishment still seems extreme to me,” he commented and walked around the suite, inspecting the accommodations as any Master would. "Then again," the Judge murmured as he checked behind the curtains of the window in the living room, "many of what passes for normal here seems extreme to me." Jared stood still and waited for directions or some kind of command. He snuck glances at the suite he would be staying at for the rest of the night.

There were two rooms within the suite, in addition to a large shared living and dining room. A balcony was available to them, connected to the dining room, which overlooked the center of town. The suite was only three floors up, but the view was still impressive to Jared. He hoped they would spend some time on the balcony; there did seem to be some chairs set out there to do so. He also noticed a metal post in the corner of the dining room, next to which was a pillow. His stomach gave a small jump. A breeder’s post for extra convenience meant that this inn was ready to provide for a Master’s every need.

He tried to focus, instead, on where he might sleep. He wondered if there were any pallets in the rooms, though anywhere inside that he was allowed to sleep in or on would be more than good enough. He silently admitted to himself that he'd gotten spoiled by having his own bed in Master Eli's household. It seemed like a lifetime ago that he was sleeping in a closet or on the floor of the kitchen.

The Judge returned from his inspection and smiled at Jared. Smiling came very naturally to this Master; it suited him, Jared thought. It added to a rough charm he easily possessed and knew how to use.

“You’re anxious, I can tell,” he said to Jared, closing the distance between them. “Have you eaten? Or would you like to eat? We can clarify a few details over a tray or two. The Doctor won’t be joining us until later, though I don’t exactly call that a damper to our time together.” From a shiny coffee table, the Judge picked up a menu and sat down on one of the larger couches in the sitting room. He looked over the menu for a minute before he politely asked Jared to join him. Jared sat at his feet and listened to the Judge read off selections.

Occasionally, the Judge would ask for Jared’s opinion on dishes he wasn’t familiar with. Jared tried his best to explain them. Not too long after, the Master rang a bell and a breeder appeared to take his order. As they waited for the trays to be brought up, the Judge stared more conversation.

“You look absolutely wonderful,” the Judge cheerfully remarked as Jared sat next to him. “I mean, the difference! You are doing well with Eli, aren’t you? It shows and for that I am immeasurably glad. How has your time been there?”

With some hesitation, Jared formed a simple response. “Very good, sir. I am… my Master is kind and takes care of me very well. Nicky too.”

“I am so pleased to hear that, Jared. I do apologize for not being present as often as I would have liked to. The laws here are very different from what I am accustomed to, extensive study has been required. Though I have had the good fortune to speak with the Doctor about a few things here and there.” At this, the Judge sighed and his smile faded. He turned to look at something, though Jared didn’t know what it was. The unease in his stomach became a heavy weight and he had to keep himself very still to prevent any fidgeting.

The Judge turned back to Jared, his blue eyes sincere and open. “Jared, if I were to disclose some information to you, could I have your word that you would keep it to yourself?”

Breeders were often confidants to their Masters. The best breeders took their Masters’ secrets with them to their graves. A breeder who betrayed their Master’s confidence had no right to air. “Yes sir, of course,” was Jared’s quick reply. He hoped he seemed trustworthy to the Judge. If nothing else, he could always listen and keep things to himself. He could be useful in that aspect.

“I know you will, I just… old habit to ask before I proceed. Anyway,” the Judge mumbled, his hands fluttering around him in anxiety. “Surely you have noticed that the Doctor, whom I call Jensen, had at one point a companion. This companion’s name was Jared and looked remarkably like you, though he was older. I cannot, I’m afraid, go into any more detail about this companion, but…” the Judge took to chewing on his bottom lip just as Jared was prone to. “The Doctor and he were incredibly close. Although the events to which we lost this companion occurred some time ago, the Doctor is still… not handling it well. He has been unable to let go of his bitterness and his grief. Not that I make any excuses for his behavior towards you, but I know that his behavior is directly tied to what he has yet to learn or let go of.”

The Judge paused and stood up, rubbing his hands together. Jared didn’t stop looking at him.

“I think you know more than anyone what it feels like to lose someone, or many someones,” the Judge continued quietly. “Indeed, we all know grief. But I cannot standby and allow him to… to… Jared, there are so many things I wish I could say!” The Judge sat back down with a sigh. “I’m not asking you to replace his companion or be anyone but yourself, because I think you are more than what you give yourself credit for, but I wonder, Jared, if I could ask of you something.”

Jared felt the photograph burn through his robes. He wanted to look at his face in that photograph and memorize what he would look like when he was older. The companion really did look exactly like him, in every way possible, down to each mole and dimple. Even the way his hair curled was reflected in that photograph.

“Yes sir,” Jared murmured, not meeting the Doctor’s eyes.

He would rather be a copy of someone than be an original of no one.

 

There was no denying the way the Doctor made him feel in between the times of anger and shame and confusion and hurt. Underneath all of that was a magnetic pull on Jared’s heart, a running energy that surged in his blood with each kiss or touch. He felt like an infant that didn’t know or care that fire burned it. These feelings were confusing in many ways to the young breeder. Breeders had no emotions towards their Masters other than loyalty and fidelity. Why should this Master be any different? It was clear that this Master missed his companion--not the breeder that merely looked like his companion. But then again, why did Jared feel anything at all? Why hadn't he been able to get through his first litter without tears? Why couldn't he compose himself better, like Nicky did or how Nathaniel had? 

“Please,” the Judge implored, taking Jared’s hands into his. “Don’t give up on him. I know he has treated you in a terrible manner and I have seen to all of that. If you feel anything for him—anything at all—would you be open to spending more time with him and I?”

Jared wanted to point out to the Judge that even as a Master, he still didn’t understand breeders completely; he was missing a few key aspect of a breeder’s situation in life. A breeder could not say no. A breeder was not in a position to say, “no thank you” or “perhaps another time.” Maybe breeders like Nicky could do so to their Masters but those were special, previously established relationships and boundaries. For any Master to ask a breeder something, the breeder could not say no. Although Jared didn’t entirely mind being asked to spend more time with these foreign Masters, he could not deny any request they made.

These thoughts saddened him and he pushed them away quickly.

“Yes sir,” he numbly replied.

Before their conversation could or would continue, they were interrupted by the arrival of their meal. The Judge had ordered three trays full of food and drink. When the breeders who delivered the trays left, the Master invited Jared to eat. They ate on the lounge, though Jared didn’t think it was appropriate, but he followed the lead of his current Master.

The Judge ate two plates and had two large glasses of sweet peach juice. Jared wished he had made this meal and could see the Judge eat as happily as this. In turn, he ate a few bites of salad and fruit, then had half a cup of soup. He drank a small glass of juice and nibbled on a piece of bread as the Judge finished up. He didn’t want to upset his stomach any further but he also wasn’t sure when he would be fed next, so he hoped the bread would fill him up.

He watched passively as the Judge insisted on picking up the plates and trays.

Why were things so strange whenever he was with these foreign Masters?

Why couldn’t the Jared in the photograph provide him with any answers? Why must he be silent and accusing in his happiness, staring back at Jared? The breeder closed his eyes for a moment and nursed his own hurt, wishing he was with Nicky in the wagon once more.

“I have another request Jared,” the Judge spoke when Jared opened his eyes. “And I hope this is not asking too much of you. The Doctor should be arriving soon and I am going to ask him to do something he would have done for his companion. I hope that I can convince him to do it, but I know he will only do so if he knows we are alone. Can I ask you to stay hidden for that period of time? I want you to be able to hear and see what goes on, but I can’t have him see you. Would this be alright?”

If it had been appropriate, Jared could have laughed.

He had been stuck and locked into closets and cages and cellars for days with that simple demand: to remain unseen. He had been chained to a post in the garden during a thunderstorm because he’d made a poor impression on the guests Old Master had had over that evening. He had been trained to be completely invisible. For a Master to ask him to do so as if it offended him was odd. All Jared wanted to do was hide anyway. Apparently his face was too haunting for the Doctor to function properly.

A nod gave his consent and the Judge chatted on nervously about how they very rarely stayed in inns but their household was under construction for something or other and Jared tuned out as much as possible.

The Doctor didn’t want to purchase Jared at all; he wanted to spend company with someone who reminded him of someone he had loved.

And Jared couldn’t entirely blame the Doctor for that. If he could, he would spend time with his pups.

Tears threatened but Jared held them back. He stepped into a coat closet and curled up, blankly nodding as the Judge explained to him how to see and hear out of a few decorative holes in the door. The closet door shut and Jared took in a deep breath. He rested his head against the nearest wall.

He pulled out the photograph and stared at the figure who was and wasn’t himself. He found himself jealous of someone who was more alive now to the Doctor than he had ever been.

 

An hour passed.

Occasionally, the Judge would open the closet and check on the breeder. Jared gave him watery smiles and assured him that he was fine. It wasn’t the smallest place Jared had ever occupied and it was relatively warm. However, the fatigue from the day had started to settle in and Jared began to doze off. He tucked his knees under his chin and attempted to sleep at least a little. A strange, prickling feeling had started to nag at his belly; he blamed it on the soup. Sleep would do him well. He figured this would be his bed tonight anyway.

There was a knock at the door to the suite just as he had started to drift off. Jared heard the Judge’s quick footsteps pass by.

“Jen, you’re late.” The Judge spoke in an entirely different tone with the Doctor than he had with Jared. His tone was impatient and sharp. “We said seven, it’s almost nine.”

“I had an emergency call,” the Doctor grumbled, taking off his coat. “Someone went into delivery.”

“Don’t throw your coat in the closet, just give it here.”

“Fine. It’s all yours.”

“In a good mood as usual, Captain?”

Jared heard the sound of a drink being poured. “Misha, give it a rest, will you? It’s been a fucking long day and I just want my face to meet my pillow.”

“You can do that later. I want to show you something I found on one of my excursions through the market.” The Judge walked over to a case. He had explained to Jared earlier what the case was and contained. An instrument Jared wasn’t familiar with was pulled out. It looked to him like a mandolin, but larger and with different strings. It was a dark cherry red, just like the color at Jared’s household.

“Mish…”

“Jen, don’t. Don’t push this away. Please.”

“You know I can’t.”

“Yes, you can. Try it. I had it tuned and fixed up a bit. It’s been years, Jen.”

“And what would you have me play?!” the Doctor shouted, which caused Jared to flinch in his hiding spot. “The song I sang to him before he fucking… god dammit! Why do you have to do this?! Why do you have to rub it all in my face, Misha? Don’t I seem fucking miserable enough? We come all the way here and this is how we find him? And you want me to play you a song? No!” The glass the Doctor had been holding is angrily thrown down onto the table. Jared couldn't see the two Masters from this angle, which frightened him, but he paid better attention.

“I’m not shoving anything in your face, Jen. Believe it or not I am your friend. Your best friend. You weren’t the only one who travelled here. I followed, I stayed, and now I’m trying to help you. Please. Just one song. Just to see. Just one.”

“No!”

“Fine!" the Judge snapped back, his voice unusually tense. "Since you can't and you won't, I will!”

Jared expected the two Masters to continue shouting at each other or, worse, to begin fighting. He braced himself and held in a breath as their volume escalated. Then something unexpected happened. He heard strumming come from the instrument by the Judge's hands. A rapid melody played.

He let go of his breath and listened.

For a minute, the melody continued, until it was suddenly interrupted.

“Fuck you, you can’t play for shit,” the Doctor muttered. Jared could see them a little better now that they had moved back into his view. The Doctor grabbed the thing from the Judge and quickly turned some knobs on the top portion of the instrument’s neck. He gave it a few experimental strums, a frown of concentration on his face. Finished, he glared at the Judge.

“Which song?” he asked, straining to keep his voice even.

The Judge relaxed and shrugged. “You know the one.”

The Doctor nodded.

 

Jared had never heard this instrument before and he certainly had never heard a Master sing. But even if he had heard either of those things, nothing would or could be as remarkable as what he heard as he sat curled up in the closet.

The melody and the Doctor’s voice melded together effortlessly. His fingers strummed expertly. He played and sang with his eyes closed, which told Jared that this song was kept in his heart at all times. The rises and drops in his voice were perfect.

“Come on, come on, baby don’t cry. Hush now, hush now, it will be alright. Wait for the morning, it will be there. Hang on, hang on tight to this prayer. The rising of the sun, burn away my sorrow. Chase away the night, and pull me to tomorrow. Fill in every part of my heart that is hollow. That’s a prayer that you can borrow.”

There was no other sound or movement beyond the Doctor playing and singing, clear and deep.

As the song continued, his voice grew louder, more confident. His eyes were kept tightly shut but Jared could tell he was lost in memories.

“Sing me, sing me a song from the start. Before, before your head won your heart. Think back, think back now, can’t you find one? Shout it, shout it out loud now, come on…” The Doctor’s voice became more forceful, his hands strummed harder. “Sometimes this world feels so cold. Sometimes hope is all we have to hold. Sometimes a prayer’s our only hope. The rising of the sun, burn away my sorrow. Chase away the night and pull me to tomorrow.” He gave a deep sigh and shook his head. “Fill in every part of my heart that is hollow. That’s a prayer, that’s a prayer that you can borrow.”

Jared couldn’t help the sob that escaped his lips. He buried his face in his hands and began to tremble.

It had been perfect. More than perfect.

 

It also pierced his heart with a thin needle and pulled tight.

The young breeder wrapped his arms around his middle and tried his best to stay quiet. At first he had thought it similar but there was no mistaking it. That was the song he’d sung to his belly full of pups.

Those were the hopes and wishes and love that he had for them.

No one had taught Jared that song; he’d made it up. Line by line he had pieced it together slowly, while working in the garden or cooking meals or late at night in his closet, both hands on his belly. He’d only gotten to sing it all the way through a precious few times. But he’d hoped that those moments had been enough for the pups to know the sound of his voice.

He could still feel their movements inside him; the way they kicked and pushed and fought for room. He had prayed that their movements meant they would grow up to be resilient and strong. That privilege would only be afforded to half of his pups.

He remembered thinking of those lines as he had the one pup on his chest in the cellar. Its small, wrinkled body wiggled and searched for warmth as he looked at it in awe. The small tuft of brown hair on its head and the tiny, somewhat squished nose were some of the first things Jared had noticed. They would be things he would remember always.

 

“Rising of the sun, burn away my sorrow,” Jared mouthed in silence, holding back a cry. “That’s a prayer that you can borrow.”

He barely noticed it when the closet door opened.

Both Masters looked down at him, silently crying and clutching the photograph to his middle. 

Chapter Text

Masters had taken out their anger on Jared in many ways before.

If he had to detail them in the form of a list, he could do so with relative ease. It was never easy to forget about the various punishments he’d gone through. Good punishments worked that way—they taught a breeder enough that they never truly left it behind them. He had learned to actively avoid not thinking about certain experiences and how to push away certain thoughts or feelings. Nicky called it survival.

However, try as he might, sometimes he couldn't hold back memories of a particular event. Like the time he’d been in the garden, sweating and panting with effort as he weeded, his belly round and heavy. Master had come out of nowhere, unannounced, and started tearing into Jared’s back with a spiked whip. For ten minutes and fifty lashes, Master punished Jared for staining one of Nathaniel’s robes in the wash.

In the dust and dirt, blood drying in the sun, Jared could feel how mangled his back had been left.

Though there were many, he could account for every bruise and scar on his body and heart.

The only thing that hadn’t happened to him before happened two seconds after the Doctor’s eyes flickered from Jared’s face to the photograph.

The breeder took a right hook to the face.

The Doctor had excellent aim and he wore a silver ring. His knuckles hit Jared’s left eye with precision and the ring left behind a jagged cut.

A crack was heard as Jared’s head snapped back and slammed against the wall of the closet. He had been caught completely unprepared. Not one spare moment to block the blow, the force of it caused his nose to bleed. Blinded in the eye that had been hit, he moaned in pain, his hands trembling as he lifted them up to weakly prevent another strike. It was of no use. A moment later rough hands gripped his robes and hauled him up and out of the closet. He was picked up and thrown out onto the living room floor, the photograph ripped from his hands.

Gasping and choking, Jared tried to recover from the throw. His ribs were on fire; he felt himself writhe from side to side.

“Jensen! Stop!”

“Where did you get this?! And where did you hear that song! Answer me!”

“Jensen!”

Jared had the wind knocked out of him as a boot collided with his stomach. The same boot stepped on his wrist and pushed down until there was a sick cracking sound. He felt his mouth open but no sound came out. He wished Nicky was there. He wished Master was there. He wished he was in his bed, warm and safe and good.

Slowly, he started slipping away from his body. It was so easy, so uncomplicated. All he had to do was let go. And wasn’t that always his problem? Letting go? But now it felt so easy, as easy as the boot kept kicking his ribs and stomach.

Over and over again, his body was broken.

He gave up struggling.

Something inside him was pierced and began to bleed out. It felt strange. Like a sack inside him was filling with blood. He couldn’t explain it really, except that it caused his breathing to become labored and shallow.

“My god, Jensen! Stop! Please! You’re hurting him!”

“Don’t try to stop me! Get off!”

“No! You’ll kill him! Stop it, it’s him! Can’t you see?! You’re killing him all over again!”

He guessed that at some point, the Judge had managed to drag the Doctor away from him. Because he lay there, sprawled out, sticky with blood and on fire with pain. He knew he’d been through worse than this. A whip was so much more intense than a boot or a fist. In truth, Jared preferred this over the whip or water. Old Master used to submerge him in water until Jared couldn’t draw breath anymore. Over and over again he was shoved underwater, gripped onto by his hair, and pulled up only when his eyes would start to roll back. Yes, that was infinitely worse than being beaten on the floor of an inn.

So Jared let go of himself and slipped away into an unknown yet familiar darkness. He thanked whomever was looking after him that this was his punishment. He was grateful for the Doctor's fist and his black, hard boot.

He was grateful as he closed his right eye and let out a choked, gurgling breath.

 

Some breeders believed in an afterlife where breeders were valued and treasured. They were sent there if they had been good their entire lives. Access was granted if a breeder could prove that they had been obedient to their Masters and the government. A special place was set aside for the breeder who could show that their hearts had been pure, that their minds had been focused on providing for their household above anything else.

Still, there were a few breeders who didn’t believe in that kind of afterlife. But they did revere whatever happened to a breeder after death, as some viewed it as a relief from the lives they led.

Jared had never been sure what he believed in.

Sometimes he’d held onto the fragile hope that maybe, if he was good enough, his afterlife would be filled with the pups he’d given birth to. That they would crowd him with their hugs and smiles and laughter. That they would surround him with happiness and affection and tell him how glad they were to be with him. That he would be able to run with them, through a garden that belonged to them all, chasing and laughing and tumbling down until they were all breathless in the very best of ways.

He had never shared those particular hopes with anyone else. It was too dangerous of an idea to ever admit out loud.

“Jay.”

“Baby.”

“Please. Wake up.”

“Jay, please.”

How was it possible that he was still being called another person’s affectionate name even when he’d passed on into the afterlife?

“God, I’m so sorry Jay. I… I really fucked up this time. All the time. I wish. I wish you… baby, I wish you were here to kick my ass. Jesus fuck… I know she said it’d hurt but… I never expected this, Jay.”

“I’ve been a monster here. I saw you… at that asshole’s house… and I fucking lost it. You were… I couldn’t… I still don’t… Baby c’mon, please, wake up. Please. I won’t ever hit you again. I’m sorry, Jay. Please! God dammit, Jay, please! Please, please, please…”

Finally, the voice faded and Jared was left alone.

He wasn’t sure if that was any better.

 

Eight hours after the first hit, Jared woke up and pitched forward as much as he could.

He threw up all over himself, unable to move much more than a few inches.

Mewling, he closed the only eye that worked.

His throat was so dry he couldn’t speak to ask for water or for help.

Breathing hurt. Any movement hurt. The tips of his fingers hurt.

Pain latched onto his chest and refused to leave.

A familiar darkness wrapped itself around his mind and smothered all of his thoughts.

Exhausted, he allowed the darkness to drag him down.

Down until his life seemed some cruel trick played by the moon on the stars.

“You think you flicker,” the moon sneered, “but it’s only my light reflecting on you.”

Jared crashed and hit bottom.

 

When Jared woke up again, he didn’t feel any pain.

This is it, he thought and took a deep breath before cautiously opening his eyes.

He knew he was dead.

He’d died on the floor of an inn, used up and forgotten.

Maybe they had buried him. Better still, maybe they’d taken his body back to Master’s and Nicky had him buried in the clearing next to Cody and her little boy. Then he wouldn’t be completely alone.

Without a hint of pain or discomfort, he opened his eyes and sat up slowly. He was on a large bed, laid out naked underneath a pile of plush blankets. The room was simple, as he liked it, and painted a fresh white. Sunlight poured in through a slit in the drapes that covered a large bay window.

So this was it, Jared thought as he slipped out of bed. He stood up without any problem and looked around, walking without a limp or a single spark of hurt. Curious, he walked over to the window and pulled back a drape.

He’d been right; this little room was next to the sea.

And how lovely.

The water sparkled and the sand glistened. Jared opened the window with a bit of effort and welcomed the ocean air. It felt cool and comforting against his face and skin. The wind threaded through his hair with a flutter.

Jared threw his head back and laughed.

This was it.

He clapped his hands and squealed, then ran to the door, which opened easily. He burst down a flight of stairs and into the entryway to a modest yet luxurious cottage. What would he do first? See if there was a garden somewhere? Try and find anyone else? Test the water?

It genuinely surprised him when he collided with another body.

A strong arm immediately wrapped around his waist and steadied him. Jared’s eyes went wide and he gaped as he saw who was in front of him.

The Doctor.

And the Doctor was smiling, tears in his eyes.

Jared grinned and pulled the Doctor in for a kiss.

Sweet and tender, chaste but spiced with a hint of a spark, he kissed the Doctor.

This was his afterlife; he could do as he pleased. The Doctor would not be cruel or distant here. He would be perfect. He would have Jared as his first breeder and he would be bred and give birth to as many children as the Doctor wanted. Jared thought him handsome. The magnetic pull between them hadn't lied. It was there still, stronger even, as it had never been with any other Master. Jared could not explain it but he didn't want to. This was his private place and he would steal kisses from whomever he wished.

Thankfully, the Doctor kissed back, his warm, soft lips hungrily pressing against Jared’s, his tongue seeking entrance in seconds. As they continued kissing, the Doctor kept his hands on Jared, one at his hips and the other rubbing soothing circles on his back. Jared purred and bit the Doctor’s bottom lip, tugging playfully. His tongue darted out and licked the spot he had been nipping. The Doctor shivered and let out a growl that made Jared feel heat in his belly. Neither his first nor his old Master or Master Eli had ever kissed him. 

Breathless and both panting, they parted for a moment. Jared leaned in and tucked himself under the Doctor’s chin, purring and wrapping himself around the Master’s solid weight. Everything felt so real. It had to be real.

He could hear the ocean from the entryway, but more than anything he could hear the Doctor’s heartbeat, steady and calm, without any hint of sadness or anger. Jared pushed his nose into the Doctor’s collar and took in a deep breath. The Doctor smelled like seaside air, spiced vanilla, and clean sweat.

“Jay, baby,” the Doctor rumbled, his voice deep and soft. “Get back in bed, you need to rest.” That delicious, addictive drawl was still there, heavy and unhampered. Jared curled his fingers around the light blue shirt the Doctor was wearing.

“I feel fine,” he replied and gave another quick kiss.

“I’m sure, but you’re still healing.”

“Healing?”

“Yeah. You have to take it easy for the next few days. C’mon. I’ll sit with you for a while.”

In a daze, Jared followed, the Doctor’s hand slipping into his. He squeezed and the Doctor squeezed back as they walked up the stairs and back into the little room Jared had woken up in. There were suddenly so many little things in the room now that Jared hadn’t first noticed in his excitement. Propped up in the corner was the strange instrument he’d seen at the inn. He remembered that.

On a plain white nightstand there was a vase full of flowers, a mix of all kinds. They looked so fresh and happy in their place where sunlight fell on them easily.

The Doctor led Jared over to the bed and made sure he lay on it carefully. Jared held his arms out and the Doctor leaned in, fulfilling his silent request for another kiss. Taking his time, the breeder placed sweet, fluttering kisses over the freckles on the Doctor’s nose. He then bumped their foreheads together lightly and gave a small laugh.

“What?” the Doctor asked, green eyes serious and concerned.

Jared smiled, wide and easy. He lay back in the bed. “I didn’t think dying would be so… nice.”

The Doctor froze and gripped Jared’s shoulders. “Jay. Listen to me.”

“What? What is it?”

“You’re not dead.”

“But…”

“No. Just no. You are not dead.”

“I am, look around. Look at me.”

Something went dark in those green eyes. It made Jared shudder. “I broke so many rules, Jay. But it doesn’t matter. I’d do it all over again.”

“I… I don’t understand.” Jared pushed himself away from the Doctor and sat up, holding himself carefully. “Stop calling me that, please.”

“Don’t. Don’t do that,” the Doctor desperately said, sitting up also. “You’re not dead, Jared. All of what you know before... it didn't happen the way you think it did. You’re not dead.”

“But you beat me to death!” Jared shouted, scrambling off the bed and backing up against the window. His chest heaved as he struggled to breathe. “You did! I remember it! Each and every hit, the way the carpet smelled, the way my… my stomach hurt… How? How can you look at me like that? Like you… like you know who I am? Like you care? When you broke my wrist…” Jared touched his right wrist but didn’t feel a thing. The ocean smelled sour now, the salt from it too strong.

The Doctor stood up on the other side of the bed. Jared pressed himself against the open window.

“Step away from the window, Jay. I’ll explain if you just step away from the window.”

“No!” Jared screamed. “I was happy! I was so happy… my pups… where…”

“I don’t know, Jay, I don’t. But I’ll tell you a few things after you step over here. Get away from the window, Jay!”

“Stop calling me that!” Jared sobbed and fell to his knees, a familiar position. He didn’t put up a fight when the Doctor came over, knelt down, and placed his hands on Jared’s shoulders. He merely looked into those green eyes and saw nothing but grief and emptiness.

In a whisper, he asked the Doctor, “How could you do this to me?”

 

The Doctor leaned forward and gently licked away Jared’s tears.

Jared remained frozen.

He wanted to go back.

He wanted to go back to before all of this.

 

“Rising of the sun,” the Doctor whispered, tears falling from his closed eyes. “It’s you, Jared. It’s really you.”

Chapter Text

Second breeders were prone to suspicious beliefs.

Maybe one day it’s the way the bread in the oven rises—wrong and twisted and raw.

Maybe another day it’s the way the water in the wash tub turns a dark red instead of its usual murky brown.

Or another night and the moon is shrouded in an blood orange veil—it warns them. Blood will be spilled.

These are all taken as signs and warnings and symbols of what is yet to come. Second breeders live in constant anticipation for what may come next; whether it’s from their Masters or the first breeders they serve, who could know? So they developed their own system attempting glimpses into their futures. Desperately trying to stay at least one step ahead of the next event in their lives they would have to endure, they paid solemn attention to these signs.

Every second breeder knew these signs. They were passed on in hushed, hurried whispers to them as children before they were sent to an academy. And at the academy, no teacher or older breeder ever proved these superstitions wrong. In fact, they spread new ones to their pupils, letting them know that one could count the tea leaves at the bottom of cups and see how many pups they would miscarry in their lifetimes.

Pups born with their cords around their necks—that never got to cry or breathe any air outside the breeder that carried them—was one of the worst signs. Not only did a stillborn pup mean the breeder was themselves damaged and incapable of delivering healthy pups, it was a warning for the breeder in the future.

Cut off.

Wrung out.

 

A nightmare before going into heat was a warning.

A death warning.

And however the breeder died in that nightmare was similar to how they would pass away in reality. All the signs were there for Jared. The vase of flowers had dark red roses. The case the strange instrument was in was a dark red. Even the carpet at the inn had been a dark red.

The color of the jacket Jared wore in the photograph was the same color.

When Jared woke up, screaming and fighting against invisible restraints, he understood what was happening. This was all his death warning.

Dark red.

Dark red.

The clearing.

The robes.

The colors of the household.

The roses in the entryway.

The roses on the grave.

The moon on the first night he met the Doctor.

 

Jared heard and felt himself groan. He curled up and shivered, old sensations returning full force.

 

The breeder in the photograph, holding the little boy’s hand, smiling to mask something else. Now Jared knew what Cody had been hiding. He’d dreamt his own death warning. He had known. He had known how he would die and had done nothing to stop it.

An older breeder who wasn’t bred while in heat could survive once. But their bodies had to be bred. Jared was certain he was too young to survive a dry heat. The heat nightmare, coupled with the bodies of his stillborn pups… Jared sobbed. He cried and screamed and beat the pillows beneath him.

The Doctor.

Where was he?

“Jared!”

“Where is he?!” Jared croaked out, his voice broken. He scrambled off the bed, falling onto the floor but quickly stumbling forward. He pitched himself into the darkness of an unknown room.

“Jared, please!”

He ignored the voice and kept going forward. He ran into the hallway and chose a random direction. He had to find the Doctor.

The warning thrummed throughout his body. It invaded his blood, overwhelmed every pore. Dark red.

When he collided with a solid force of another body, he thought his nightmare was come true. This would be the Doctor. Jared had no robes on, he was naked and covered in sweat, but he would tell the Doctor about the photograph. If he did anything before he died on the carpet floor underneath him, he would tell the Doctor that he no longer felt sorry for the Master’s grief.

Everyone had grief.

Jared had oceans of grief.

But not everyone was a monster.

 

“Jared! Stop it! Stop.”

Master’s voice was a shock to him.

Jared fell on his knees and stopped struggling. He panted and wheezed, trembling violently. What had happened? Where was he?

“You started going into heat at the inn,” he could hear Nicky’s voice, desperate and sad. “They brought you back, Jared. You’re here. Eli, please, let me hold him. Please.”

She made her way over and pushed Master out of the way as she was prone to do. She knelt down, hesitated, but crushed herself against Jared. She started to cry in long, mournful wails.

“It’s not true. Tell me it didn’t happen,” she begged as they knelt together. “Tell me you didn’t…”

There was no way he could lie to her about this.

Because she saw it in his eyes, heard it in the rapid punches of his heart against his chest.

He shivered as her breasts pushed against his chest, the sensation setting him off. His thighs trembled and he arched up. His cock hung flaccid but he felt a deep fire in his belly and his hips. It was starting. It had started. He would need to be bred soon.

“It’s not true,” she cried, hiding her face in his shoulder.

The weight of his pup on his chest collided with the weight of a phantom boot on his wrist. Over and over again he relived each weight and each emptiness as his body began to burn.

Sweating, exhausted, and terrified, he passed out in the older breeder’s arms.

All he could see before he sank into yet another abyss was a dripping, smeared dark red.

 

It was a warning.

Signs were everywhere.

Chapter Text

She slept with him that night.

In the morning, when he woke up soaked in sweat, she was there. However, unlike any other mornings when they’d woken up together, a doll was cradled between them. Jared ran his fingers over it with care, tears immediately welling up and spilling over.

When she woke up, moments later, she nudged the doll into his arms and held them both as the younger breeder sobbed into her soft, welcoming body. Underneath the protection of quilts in his familiar bed, she purred for his comfort.

 

Being in heat made everything feel different. He had a constant ache in his hips and a pressure in his belly. His skin was hypersensitive and he hissed at any touch, even Nicky’s. And while his cock remained flaccid, he felt his body pushing against the controls placed on it. He tossed and turned in bed, where they lay for most of the day. At times he would grind his hips down onto the bed, seeking some relief, leaving behind damp patches of slick his body was producing more of.

He clung to the doll when his body seemed to light with fire, when he instinctively rolled his hips up and spread out his legs. All he could think about—as his heart pounded in his ears—was a Master’s cock sliding in and breeding him. His mouth watered at the thought of a Master pushing him down and claiming him, being proud to carry his Master’s pups. He buried his face into the doll as the thought of another litter frightened and excited him.

Maybe he could keep a pup this time.

Just one.

 

The older breeder took care of him throughout the day. She spoon fed him broth and bread, forcing him to drink juice and water. Never leaving his side except to refresh the cold compresses on his forehead, she stayed with him, ignoring all her own chores and duties. She let him grind against her, which seemed to provide a miniscule but appreciated amount of relief. Gentle kisses were given from her to him, the doll pressed between them.

Master stayed away. She explained in whispers underneath the quilts at one point. He didn’t want to cause Jared further frustration.

Jared didn’t ask about what would happen to him. Either Master Eli had to breed him or his new Master would have to; it had to be done within the next week. In any other state of mind Jared would have been more concerned about who would do it, but at the moment he only craved release.

As the sun went down, he was able—with Nicky’s help—to get up from bed and sink into the tub. She filled it with cool but not freezing water and joined him, washing him all over with the same care and tenderness she’d shown when they’d first met. She left soothing kisses on his face, nipped at his jaw, and massaged his shoulders. When he was boneless and cooled off, she held him as they rocked in the water.

Stepping out, dried off, dressed in the lightest robe he had and doll in hand, Jared felt a momentary respite. His hips continued to ache but he felt other things now—hunger and fatigue. Still, he followed her to the kitchen and knelt on a pillow, doll cradled in his arms, as she prepared him a meal. After he’d eaten everything she’d placed in front of him, he took her hand and tugged her along.

Running felt good. His muscles and lungs and heart worked hard enough to override anything else as they ran through the grounds and towards the clearing. He made sure to hold onto doll and Nicky tightly. Their footsteps barely made a sound as they arrived. Nicky flicked her hair back. It was cold out, and though Jared didn’t feel it, she did. He placed an arm around her, sharing body warmth, as they each stood before the simple grave.

It was quiet and peaceful out in the clearing. The roses had dried up but they looked even prettier than before. Both breeders hung their heads in a respectful silence for a moment. Jared clutched at doll and wished a prayer. He was sure Nicky was doing the same.

They stood in the light of the moon. It was early still, but their breaths showed in puffs as it got colder.

“Tell me,” Jared whispered. They curled up together at the foot of Cody’s grave. “What happened to me?”

He had doll at his chest as she sighed and closed her eyes to speak.

“They had you hide in a closet so the Doctor could do something without him noticing you." Her voice brimmed with fatigue and sadness. "When they opened it, they thought you were asleep.” She let out a huff in frustration. “You’d passed out. I asked what else and they said they found you hot. You had sweat through your robes. When they couldn’t rouse you, they panicked. So of course, they came here.”

“How?”

She opened her eyes and looked at Jared. “On horseback. A carriage would have slowed him down.”

“Both of them came…?”

“No, just the Doctor. He had you in his arms on horseback for the entire journey. The horse was run down by the time he got here, just before dawn. I was… so… Jared, I thought they’d done something horrible to you. The Doctor kept muttering on about a song and a photograph and he seemed so upset that you knew these things or had these things or something. I thought…” She buried her face into his chest, sharing the space with doll. “They have no idea, either of them, what we… who we are. When I saw it was your heat and no more than that, I was so angry at them both. Eli… he… spoke to the Doctor and… how can he be treating and seeing breeders as patients when he can’t recognize us going into heat? What kind of Doctor doesn’t know this?” Her voice was more forceful and anxious now. “What was it? Now you tell me, what did you dream of? Please, Jared, please tell me.” She cried as she begged him for the truth. “If it has anything to do with those Masters, Jared, you have to tell Eli. They’re not what they seem at all. No matter how far away one might come from, Doctors anywhere are trained to know our bodies. Please, you don’t have to see them again if you don’t want to. You only need to say…”

He interrupted her, bumping their foreheads together. “Breathe.”

With a shaky laugh, she nodded and took in several deep breaths. They huddled closer together. He also took a deep breath and looked over at the grave before them. Some breeders said that their bones turned into a fine powder that looked almost like ground up crystals and glass. Others said their bones turned into nothing, that they would be swept away instantly.

“It wasn’t about the Doctor,” he lied to her. “And it wasn’t for a very long time.”

No more words were spoken after that. Doll was the warmest one amongst them when they headed back.

 

Two days passed in much the same manner. He would be unable to leave his bed during the day but feel well enough to take a bath and slip outside in the evening. Master took his second trip to town, entrusting the household to the breeders. Jared apologized to Nicky for having her do all his chores in addition to her but she hushed him and asked him to knit a new dress for doll.

He worked on the dress by candlelight for two nights. It was a simple pattern but it suited doll, which had the same black hair as Nicky. Her eyes were blue buttons, so Jared made the dress blue to match. Somewhere in his drawer, he found a scrap of ribbon and tied it around doll’s hair.

On the third day of his heat, Jared felt worse. He couldn’t keep anything down, no matter how watered down the broth was or how cool the juice felt on his dry throat. The only solution they could come up with was to insert a plug. At first, as it pushed into him, Jared moaned with want. Nicky was careful and went slow but he was full of slick and ready for it. His thighs trembled as it was fully inside; and at last, the pressure subsided for the few remaining hours of daylight.

But that night, he no longer felt relief after sundown.

If anything, the moonlight irritated him. It caused his skin to itch and feel strained against his muscles. His body would not stop trembling or dripping with sweat. Nicky tried to force liquids into him but he spat it all back up.

He knew, from experience, that he could survive for at least a few days—maybe longer—without liquid or food when he was not in heat. But he was sweating out a lot of his strength, and no matter how much he prayed to doll, it never stopped. Nicky changed the plug every six hours but it wasn’t the same. The older breeder was beginning to panic; Master was not yet back and she had tried everything she knew. Finally, out of any other options, she hauled Jared over to the tub and kept him there, replacing the water every hour, trying to get him to cool down. He insisted that doll stay by the side of the tub, out of danger from the water, but nearby to keep an eye on her.

The bell to the main entrance rang. Both breeders flinched.

“Should I go to the attic?” Jared asked weakly, his voice hoarse.

“No, you’ll be fine here. Whoever it is, I can push them out. Please, please try to drink something.” With that, she left, running down the hallway to answer the door. Jared waited anxiously, shifting around in the tub, trying to seek some comfort. When he heard the sound of boots in the hallway, he assumed it was Master.

Nicky stepped aside in the doorway to the bathroom and looked at Jared with sad eyes. The Doctor stepped in.

Jared was resolute in his determination.

He stood up in the tub and made eye contact with the Doctor.

He pushed his shoulders back and stood as straight as he could, chin thrust out. Taking a deep breath, he boldly asked, “What are you doing here?” On purpose, he left out any marker of respect or deference to the Master in front of him. He could not forget the weight of those boots on his body.

The Doctor seemed different. Jared noticed both smaller and more obvious details. He had not shaved in some time, that reddish beard had grown back. Green eyes were rimmed in red and dark circles hung under them, as if he had not slept for a week. Even his body language had changed. He stood with his legs closer together and his posture was weaker, less rigid. Finally, Jared noticed that his nails were a mess; instead of being neatly clipped and trimmed, they were roughly bitten down and torn up.

“I came to make sure you were better,” the Doctor managed to mumble, avoiding any long term eye contact. “And to speak with you, if you are up to it.”

The breeders looked at each other. Nicky was nervous and Jared surprisingly wasn’t.

“Do you have something that can get him to drink liquids?” Nicky blurted out. “Eli won’t be home until tomorrow but I need Jared to drink something and keep it down.”

Slowly, as if he were fatigued, the Doctor nodded. “I have a bag of herbs in my pack. I could run an IV, but I… I didn’t bring those supplies with me, my apologies. I left in a rush.”

“That’s fine. We’ll try them. Jared, ring the bell if you need me.” She gave him a look, tossed her hair back, and left, running again to get the herbs the Doctor had offered. She was extremely hesitant to leave him alone and he knew she only did so out of necessity. She would rush back as soon as possible. Once she was gone for ten seconds, Jared stepped out of the tub carefully, weak from his heat. The Doctor stood there, looking uncomfortable. Jared ignored him and took his time getting ready. He had no shyness about being naked in front of the Doctor, but the Doctor seemed to mind it, blushing a bright red as he stole glances. Jared wanted to whisper to doll that all Masters were essentially the same.

“We can speak in a study,” Jared muttered as he put on a thin robe, tying it simply around himself. He picked up doll and carried her with, leading the Doctor to a room that had heavy drapes over the windows. He was glad that he’d inserted a plug before the Doctor had arrived. He felt it shift as he sat down on a couch facing opposite the Doctor, who promptly took his place.

Jared placed a hand on the top of doll’s head. He looked at the Doctor, waiting for him to start. It was evening already; he could feel the pull of the moon, threatening to hurt him through the heavy drapes.

 

The Master cleared his throat and fidgeted, wringing his hands over and over again. Jared kept a careful watch on those hands.

“I… I cannot presume to understand you,” the Doctor started, his voice gruff and his accent heavy. “But I would like to. If you would… please… give me the opportunity, Jared.” 

Chapter Text

There were a million things Jared wanted to say to and ask the Doctor. These were things he had rehearsed a few times in his head, told himself that one day he would gather the courage and boldness up to say to this Master. He had a long list of questions and demands for explanations and pleas for clarification.

He clutched doll and tucked her under his chin, curling up on the couch he occupied. Silence filled the study. In the end, he decided to go for the most simple and honest fact.

“I don’t know who you are,” the young breeder stated quietly but firmly, his voice never breaking. He looked up at the Master across from him, hazel eyes glittering in the dimness of the room. The Doctor frowned and scrubbed at his face with one hand. Jared noticed that he wore no silver ring on either hand. What could that mean? He remembered a silver ring, even if it hadn't actually happened.

With a sigh, the Doctor reached into his vest, into the breast pocket over his heart. As always, the Doctor’s clothes were simple—a bit too simple for a Master of his profession and station—but they suited him, just as Jared assumed anything would. Jared monitored the Doctor’s movements carefully, as he always did with Masters; he didn’t want to be caught unaware, especially with doll. Not again.

“I wanted to thank you for returning this to me. I… you must’ve been trying to do that the other day, on the street. My accusation was wrong,” he said, shoulders hunched, holding the photograph tenderly. It seemed as precious as stardust to the Doctor. “This is priceless to me, you know that, I guess. It’s all I have left… of before.”

Jared only nodded his response, which the Doctor acknowledged and accepted. He placed the photograph back into his breast pocket carefully; making sure that it wouldn’t fold or crease.

“I know that it’s got to be confusing to you, seeing that. Shocking maybe. But I can’t. I can’t tell you any specifics. And it’s not just you—it’s anyone. It’s a part of a deal I made. Please, I hope you can understand that. I can’t explain at this moment why such a thing exists and a whole lot of other shit I know you have a right to hear, but I promise, when I can, I will.”

Although he wanted answers about the companion in the photograph, the breeder nodded again. Master had asked him to be patient with the Doctor; he would see to that until the end of his stay at this household.

“Thank you. I… ah…” the Doctor rubbed the back of his neck, feeling, Jared assumed, out of place. “I am glad to see you are doing well.”

Well was hardly the way Jared would describe being in heat with no Master to breed him. He was struggling to keep from shedding the robe over him; his skin was so hot and he felt an itch deep underneath his muscles. His body was beginning to reject the plug inside him. It was irritating sensitive nerves and causing him more discomfort than relief. But he wasn’t sure the Doctor cared or noticed.

“I look like him,” Jared murmured, keeping steady eye contact. “Is that why you’re here?”

A moment skipped between them.

“No,” the Doctor said with a deep sigh. “I mean… partially, yes. I’d be lying if I said no. But that’s not… all of my reasons why I’m here. I know I’ve hurt you in comparing both of you but I… god, how do I explain this?” the Doctor shook his head. “You’re so young, Jared. Where I come from, you’d be a child.”

“I’m not a child,” Jared snapped, trying his best not to pout. He sat up straighter and placed doll back in his lap. “I’ve already had two heats and a litter. I’m not a child.”

“I know, I know,” the Doctor replied gently. “I need to give you credit. It’s just… this isn’t easy for me. And I know this can’t be easy for you. But you’re special, Jared. I mean it. You work hard and I’ve never heard you complain. You’re smart, a fast learner, and you make everyone feel welcome. Even me.”

A week ago, Jared would have been happier to hear this praise. Now, however, it made him feel like a poor substitute for someone else, even if the Doctor said otherwise.

He kept his gaze on the floor and refused to answer the Doctor’s pledges.

 

When it became clear to the Doctor that Jared was not moved by his words, he buried his face in his hands. He looked like a man defeated. Jared wondered what had caused the Doctor to arrive here in the middle of the evening to speak to him like this. He remembered the Doctor harshly asking him about his time at the academy. Or going into the brothels. He said Jared was special but that didn’t ring true to him. It seemed to Jared that he possessed the face of someone familiar and not much more.

This Master could not purchase him and didn't seem likely to do so even if he could, so why were they here, speaking to one another? What did it matter that Jared’s feelings were hurt? What did it matter that he bore a resemblance to someone he'd never met?

“I searched everywhere for some kind of sign that that song existed here,” the Doctor spoke solemnly. “Maybe you’d heard it somewhere else. Maybe someone had sung it to you before or something. Anything. Because I wrote that song and you… there’s no way… only three people knew it and there’s no way… I never wrote it down.”

The Doctor began to tremble, hiding his face from Jared. “I’ve been… awful to you… just as bad as them… and when you knew the words… fuck.”

Jared wondered if the Doctor was singing the words in his head at that moment.

He stood up and walked forward, up to the Doctor.

The Doctor glanced up, his green eyes wide.

 

Jared nudged doll into his hands.

He held her with care, cradling her in a way that Jared forced himself to look away.

“Thank you,” the Doctor whispered, brushing doll’s hair back. “Why? Why do you keep forgiving me?”

It took a moment for Jared to clear his head. Instinctively he wanted to reply that it was his place in life to accept what Masters wanted to do or say to him. That it was his honor as a second breeder to be able to take the pain and take it well, with grace and ease. Jared wanted to regard this Master the way many breeders regarded Masters in general. He wanted to take his resentment and his pain and hold onto it forever because it was all he could ever hope to call his own. But where would that get him? If not this Master to cause him hurt, then it would be the next. If not now, later. Whatever happened, Jared knew his place. All he could do was manage to survive and bring honor to any and all households he belonged to. Wherever he could find pride, he would hold onto it.

“Because I'm not like you,” Jared whispered back, placing his fingertips on doll’s cheek. “You don't understand that.” He took a deep breath and for a moment, he felt clarity from his heat. "You held my pups that way."

He would always be grateful for that moment.

Even if the moment had been taken away, even if that moment should have never existed in the first place.

Most Masters and Doctors, Jared had heard, tossed stillborn pups in the trash or buried them in mass graves on the property to remind the second breeder of the loss. They would dispose of the pups before the officials could get there to save face. He’d heard one breeder cry about how her pups had been picked up by their cords and thrown into a bag, their fragile necks snapping and their tiny bodies landing with a thud. She’d witnessed her Master take the bag and dump it into an open, shallow grave. Somewhere, those little bodies were part of that soil. Even if a breeder never got to hold their pups it still hurt.

But this Doctor had wrapped them up with care, had tried his best to revive them, even though they had slipped out of Jared blue and silent. He’d laid them down in the bin like all the rest, never giving Jared any thought that he might take them and hide their bodies or do anything to hurt them.

“Oh god,” the Doctor groaned and sobbed into doll. His shoulders shook with the force of his tears. “How… how can you… how do you think of having more?”

To this, Jared had to carefully think about his response. The wrong words could be treasonous and could cause his household—current or new—a lot of trouble. He wasn’t sure if the Doctor understood the implication of his question. It was all complicated and Jared didn’t know how to explain something so fundamental in his life. He was a breeder; his duty and his honor was to breed. His first litter carried to full term had been rough and full of pain in more ways than physical, but he was young and had his entire life ahead of him to carry more. It was who he was. The thought of never having a litter again frightened him and not just because he’d be put to auction or unwanted by any Master.

Jared walked over to the door, feeling tired and needing to return to his bed. He wasn’t sure what the Doctor would do for the rest of the night, but he was sure he would manage. He had managed all this time.

“Maybe one day,” Jared murmured, taking doll back and opening the door, “I can keep one.”

 

He stepped out into the hallway and looked back at the Doctor.

“Good night, Doctor.”

“…Jensen," he blurted out, breathless. "Call me Jensen, please.”

Jared nodded.

“Good night, Jensen.” 

Chapter Text

Breeder biology was simultaneously simple and complex.

Most breeders were allowed to know the basics of how their bodies function and what they needed. The academies were careful to teach each breeder a vague sense of how they breed, how litters were carried, and what may happen during a term. Every breeder knew that heats were important; the older the breeder and the more litters they had, the less intense their heat cycles. The younger and more inexperienced breeder, the more difficult their heats were. That was why being bred before the age of fifteen was precarious and looked down upon; their systems were not fully developed and carrying to term successfully was minimal. Masters could never be faulted for breeding a breeder before their proper age. It was always the breeder's fault, their mistake to burden. Breeders like Jared, who had strayed from their training, were seen as damaged goods.

For Jared to endure almost a week without being bred, it was physically and emotionally taxing.

Jared had been damaged for a long time.

 

It took two days for Master to arrive.

In the worst of his heat, Jared spent the entire time in his bed or in the bathtub. Nicky could not touch him without setting him off. He was constantly sweating and couldn’t keep liquid or food down, despite the herbs the Doctor had provided and Nicky’s best attempts.

Being in heat without being bred felt like an eternity.

All Jared could think about was being taken and bred and filled by a Master who understood the relief he sought and needed. No plug helped anymore and the Doctor hadn’t returned doll, which Jared did and didn’t understand. He just hoped—in his moments of lucidity—that doll was being well taken care of and that she wasn’t lonely.

“Oh,” Jared moaned, twisting and turning in his bed, arching his hips up. Slick was heavy between his legs and the smell of his heat was everywhere. His nipples were tightly peaked, turned a bright pink color and unusually sensitive. His cock strained against the control, half hard and swollen. Even though he knew that Nicky was keeping the windows in his room open and the tub filled with ice cold water, he couldn’t escape the oppressive feeling of burning up.

Any contact with the light—sun or moon—hurt him further. He knew exactly when the moon rose and it pulled him towards it, like a magnet. He couldn’t remember the explanation for it, his mind too preoccupied with his heat.

At last, as he lay on his bed, Master entered the room. The first thing Jared noticed was that Master had on thick leather gloves. They unpleasantly reminded him of the kennels. The next thing Jared managed to notice was that the Doctor was with Master. The two Masters walked over to Jared’s bedside and he could not see Nicky anywhere.

“Master,” Jared moaned, shutting his eyes and feeling tears fall down his flushed face. “M-master please. Please, it hurts. Master?” Reopening his eyes, he panicked as a blanket came down on him. Master’s touch burned through the gloves and the blanket. He struggled in panic and pain. He could not see or hear Nicky. In one swift movement, Master picked him up and held Jared in his arms, quickly moving through the household. Jared screamed but could not form words, squirming in Master’s firm hold.

Part of him wanted to grind into Master’s touch and the other part wanted to escape it.

He heard two pairs of boots stomping at a fast pace through the grounds. The pull of the moon, once he was outside, caused Jared to let out a sob. He wasn’t completely sure if he was begging Master to reconsider or not.

When Jared was placed on a hard surface, he was sure it was the bed of a wagon, ready to be taken to town and left at the kennels.

Terror caused him to cry out for doll.

Master held him belly down on the surface, pressed Jared’s face onto it and forced his hips up. The Doctor’s hands pushed Jared’s legs open. Jared whimpered, the blanket still over his head, and braced himself, his thighs trembling. Even if it would be painful he wanted to be bred. He needed it. He could make it good for whoever pushed inside him before they took him back to the kennels. And if they could just let him have doll, he wouldn’t struggle.

Leather cuffs were tied tightly on his ankles and wrists, holding him down in that position. Jared trembled with dread and anticipation. Bred. Kennels. Bred. Kennels. Bred. Kennels.

He shrieked when the blanket was taken off and a collar slipped around his neck.

“Easy, Jared, take it easy,” Master’s firm voice shouted through his screaming. “Stay still or you’ll hurt yourself.” Master tugged the collar enough to silence Jared but not so hard that he caused pain.

Panting, Jared’s eyes couldn’t focus. It was bright, wherever they’d taken him. He felt slick run down his thighs and his entrance flutter open and shut. He turned his head what little he could and his surroundings began to clear up.

The stables? But why?

“You’ll be able to set up an IV shortly,” Master said to the Doctor. “Figure he’ll let you in a moment.”

There were unfamiliar sounds in the background, like something being built or put together. Master kept one hand on Jared’s back. The breeder moaned and pushed his hips back, rocking as much as the restraints allowed. His body temperature soared and once again sweat was dripping down his forehead.  The Doctor appeared at his side, on the left, and tied a piece of cloth around Jared’s upper arm. After several pricks with a needle, which left Jared keening. Confused and disoriented by the touches and pinches of pain, the Doctor stopped, placing his instruments down on the table.

“He’s too dehydrated, Eli. I can’t get a vein without risking a blowout.”

“He’ll be fine.”

“No, he won’t,” the Doctor muttered. “His recovery time is way down, he’ll bleed out. He needs liquids.”

Jared heard Master sigh and felt his hand leave. Jared pleaded for doll. A hand gripped his hair and pulled his head backward.

“Don’t struggle, it’ll only make things worse,” Master commanded, looking down at Jared. He seemed tired but Jared couldn’t completely tell. He only wanted Master to breed him. And then he would be good. He’d be good for as long as Master would allow him. If only he could express to Master how proud he would be to carry his litter.

“Get the water. I’ll hold his nose.”

“This… this is unnecessary!”

“Doctor, do you have any other suggestions?! This will hurt less than his current condition so I suggest you listen and do as I tell you. I know his limits, it’d do you well to pay attention! Your education on a breeder's heat is the only reason I have allowed your assistance. Now,” Master shouted and pinched Jared’s nose. The breeder tried his best to follow the command he’d been given, going completely rigid. “Pour the water!”

The instant water hit his mouth Jared couldn’t control his next movements. He bucked and strained against the straps, choking and sputtering. In between coughs he was gasping and writhing, trying desperately to escape the water and the touch of both Masters.

Master held Jared’s nose closed and forced his jaw open as the Doctor poured cool water into Jared’s mouth via a plastic tube. Jared managed to spit some of it out but ended up biting his own tongue. Master slapped him once, hard and across the face.

“Jared!” Master yelled, pulling on his hair. “I can’t help you if you don’t calm down and drink! Doctor, try the IV now.”

“This is too god damned much!” the Doctor started but was soon interrupted.

“I’ve done this dozens of times, now, get to it or I’ll do it myself! Jared, stay still!”

The piece of cloth was tied onto his upper arm again and the Doctor prepared a needle. Jared couldn’t see much of what was going on; water and tears clouded his vision. He felt a needle stick and heard the Doctor swear but that was it.

“Doll…please… doll…” Jared whined, wriggling in the straps. “Please? Doll?”

“When we’re set up you can have the doll,” Master replied in an even voice. “Will you be good until then, Jared? Then you can have doll.”

“Doll,” Jared cried, scrunching his face up. “Doll!”

“Shh… in a moment, Jared.” The sounds of something being put together returned. The Doctor fiddled with something round and plastic looking on a metal stick. Jared panicked again.

“Doll!” he screamed and twisted violently. “Doll! Doll! Doll!”

“Don’t hit him!” the Doctor gasped.

“He needs to stay still!”

“Yeah, I fucking know that! But don’t hit him!”

“Then you take care of him! I’m nearly done. He’ll be fine once the machine starts.”

Without any warning, the Doctor’s hands were cradling Jared’s face, forcing them to make eye contact. Jared pouted and muttered a weak, “…doll…” The Doctor nodded and ran a thumb over the breeder’s bottom lip, swiping away a small amount of blood from the bite on his tongue. Jared continued to cry as the Doctor played with his hair and whispered that it would be over soon. They were trying to help him. He would feel better in a few minutes. He had to let them work and he had to be good to see doll.

“She’s been very good,” the Doctor whispered, pressing their foreheads together. “But she misses you. Do you miss her?”

“Y-yes,” Jared blurted out with a whine. “Breed me, please, please, please Master, I’ll be good. Please? So good. Please?”

Jared missed the sad look in the Doctor’s eyes, who replied, in a steady voice, “Your new Master doesn’t want you bred right now. So we’re doing the best we can. You just have to be good. Be good for doll.”

“No,” the breeder wailed. “Need it. Please. I’m good. I promise. Oh…”

His cries were stopped when he felt something blunt press against his entrance. He shut his eyes and put his head down on the table, breathing in deeply. The Doctor kept one hand in Jared’s hair and the other on his shoulder. Jared gasped, digging his nails into the table, pushing his hips back. The object—somewhat warm but distinctly plastic—pushed in without any resistance. It was large and filled him with its own pressure, alleviating the burden that had settled in Jared’s hips.

 

The breeder let out a sigh, then moaned and rolled his hips backwards. The object pushed in all the way, squelching from the slick that was present.

“You look horrified.”

“…I am.”

“It’s this or let him waste away.”

“I can’t… I can’t watch.”

“You should. Because this is the nature of his being. He won’t ever stop having heats. The sooner you get used to a breeder’s body, the sooner you can begin to learn. It’s not painful for him.”

“It’s fucking barbaric!”

“What you think about it doesn’t matter! He is what and who he is!”

"You... you didn't even... prep him!"

"How thick in the head are you, Doctor? What do you think slick is for? His body is made for this--he is made for this. All that matters is what we make of it. Your ignorance has made nothing but pain!"

The argument between the two Masters went back and forth above him. Jared closed his eyes and opened his mouth for another moan as he shifted his hips into a slightly better angle. His hair was plastered on his forehead but at last, he felt relief. The object started moving inside him, thrusting in and out slowly at first and picking up a fast pace. Jared keened and threw his head back in pleasure.

Then something odd happened.

He felt a snap in his hips.

He jerked and his movements faltered. His cock was hard. And he could feel it.

“Oh! Oh! Master!” Jared yipped and started pushing back against the object then trying to grind his cock forward into the table. “Ooh!” He maneuvered himself to look down at his cock. He was fascinated by it as it slapped against his belly, thick and red, bloated with a sense of pleasure he’d only felt fractions of before. It was addictive.

“Easy now,” Master soothed, placing a hand on the small of Jared’s back. “Behave, Jared.”

“Yes! Yes, Master, yes! More, oh, more…”

The leather straps on his hands were removed. He immediately sat up and began to ride the object, moving in elegant thrusts and sliding up and down, marveling at his newly awakened cock. Grunting and panting, he kept tossing his head back and gripped onto the table. The object pushed forward, the deepest it could, and Jared gasped. He felt his the muscles in his thighs clench with effort.

Staying buried deep, the object began to vibrate against a spot inside the breeder that had never been touched before. One more string in his hips snapped and Jared lost it. His vision whited out for a few moments and he reached out with his arms for support.

The Doctor held him up as he bobbed up and down, grinding his cock into the Doctor’s shirt.

“S-something…” Jared gasped. “… hurts…”

“It’s an orgasm, Jared,” Master said, standing beside the Doctor. “It won’t hurt.”

“Feels… uhn… no… no… no…”

“It’s alright. Just let it happen.”

"No! It's... it's wrong!" 

Jared clung to the Doctor and trembled all over. He let out a long moan when the object vibrated at its fastest setting. Something was said from Master to the Doctor and then he felt a warm, large hand wrap around his cock and tug. Jared hiccupped and shut his eyes. He felt a heaviness form in his balls and push from the base of his cock to the tip. A sharp sensation struck him at the base of his spine. It felt like he was being milked but it was so different. The hand on his cock kept pulling and twisting and Jared felt himself reach a point from which there was no return.

He felt his cock jerk and twitch. Then he felt the first spurt of milk gush out. At least he assumed it was milk. What else could it be? He rode a wave of relief and bliss. His entire body vibrated with gratification, down to every last fingertip. Over and over again, he shot all over the Doctor’s shirt, twisting his hips as he did so, trying to feel more of the object over that mysterious spot. He screamed himself hoarse, calling out his high.

Finally, Jared felt himself wrung out.

He was left shaking, cold, and exhausted, but he felt so much better.

The object stopped vibrating and remained inside him. Master pat Jared’s head.

“Best separate before he notices the mess on your shirt and fusses about it,” Master said to the Doctor. Jared heard their conversation but was too lost in his own world to understand it in relation to him.

“What… what is that?”

“It’s a milking machine. I modified it to help a breeder through a heat. I don’t breed the ones I bring here. So if they go into heat, I hook them up. This was his first time with such a machine. I’m surprised. His previous Master seemed like the sort to do such a thing.”

“I… what? Milking machine?”

“You really don’t know shit, do you, Doctor?”

“No and this just… it just keeps… whatever. Tell me more.”

“Not much to tell. I allowed him to have an orgasm. He deserved it, or at least Nicky convinced me he did.”

“Is this…?”

“A combination of milk and their own kind of come. Milk is produced even when they are not carrying litters. The quantity is excessive right now since he is young. Jared, I’m going to take out the plug and put in a smaller one now.” Jared felt Master’s hands—rough but careful—and purred when his ass was massaged. He barely felt the exchange of plugs and mewled in thanks as a soothing salve was rubbed over his entrance. The Masters continued to speak as Jared dozed off, drained from the past few days and tonight.

“He... I forced him to tell me how he... why he's so young and…”

“Fourteen is not young for a breeder. I’m sure he’s told you that himself. The more you treat him or any breeder like a child, the more you do them a dishonor. Whatever Master bred him prematurely did so incorrectly, but I assure you, Doctor, viewing him as a child will help no one. We’ll turn him over to Nicky for the night.”

“Can I…?”

“No. It’s best she take him tonight.”

“Then, tomorrow?”

“Let him rest a few days. He was hysterical tonight and I am partially to blame. I could not end my business sooner in Meridian and made him wait longer than necessary. Jared, I’m giving you a piece of chocolate now for your good behavior. You did well.”

Master slipped a piece that was larger than usual into Jared’s mouth. Jared sucked on it until it melted, boneless and purring. Master pet his head again, which felt wonderful. His touch was soothing now.

“What about the moon?”

“Not all answers must be given tonight, Doctor. I’m sure you’re tired as well.”

“Can I give him this?”

“Fine,” Master replied with a heavy sigh. “But I’ve spoken to Nicky already about it. He can’t fixate on an object, especially a child’s thing. It won’t help him in the long run. If it’s ever taken away it’ll devastate him, as she's told me it has before. I don’t want to see it in his hands for much longer after this. He’s capable of surviving without it. Go on. I’ll clean up and you can take him back. Meet me in his room. Don’t linger, it’s not good for him to be cold.”

The breeder heard Master go back to the machine the object had been placed on. His thighs and stomach were wiped down with a wet towel, and then his ankles were freed. Jared lay on his side, eyes closed, breathing in and out steadily.

 

After a minute, he felt something nudged into his arms. When he drowsily opened his eyes, he found doll looking up at him. She had a new ribbon in her hair. He nuzzed her and curled up.

“…Jared?”

He looked up somewhat sluggishly. The Doctor looked just as tired as Jared felt. He’d taken off his shirt, leaving a plain undershirt on. Jared noticed that the Doctor had freckles on his shoulders. He tucked that information away for another time, when he was more awake.

“Are you… are you okay?” his voice was filled with concern as he asked, nervously rubbing the back of his neck.

Puzzled but sleepy, Jared simply nodded. When a blanket was placed over his shoulders, he was comforted this time instead of afraid. The Doctor continued to look at him, as if he were trying to solve a mystery. A moment passed and the Doctor frowned, shook his head, and turned away.

Jared fought the urge to sleep and reached out for the Master.

When that did not get his attention, Jared used the last amount of his strength, giving a soft plea.

“J-Jensen?”

Immediately, the Doctor turned back. His eyes were watery. But he managed to give the breeder a weak, crooked smile. The crinkles around his eyes still showed.

“Yeah, Jared?”

“Stay?” Jared boldly asked. He had no right to ask anything of a Master, especially not one who had just assisted his Master. But it felt right to Jared, despite his lack of energy.

“Yeah buddy. I’ll stay.” The Doctor placed a hand over Jared’s forehead, looking down. “Sleep now, okay? Been a rough night.”

“Yes, sir…” Jared closed his eyes and sank into an easy, restful sleep. He was vaguely aware that someone was picking him up and taking him back to the household.

He knew it was the Doctor when he heard a barely audible murmur.

“I missed you so much.”

Chapter Text

A week passed with Master insisting that Jared be given plenty of time to rest from his heat.

The young breeder spent most of that week doing lighter chores and curling up by Master’s feet in the evenings, dozing off to stories about faraway places and brave breeders who loyally accompanied their Masters. His favorite story—which he often asked Master to read—involved a Master and a breeder journeying to a desert seeking hidden treasure. Faced with all kinds of obstacles and challenges, the breeder never gave up, never failed her Master. She found water because she was clever and resourceful. When they got lost, she guided them by using the stars and the moon.

The treasure turned out to be an oasis, not gold or silver at all. There was a waterfall in its center, surrounded by lush gardens and an orchard full of sweet, ripe fruit. The pair lived out the rest of their days, happy and in the sun, hidden in their own private piece of the world.

Every time Master read that story, Jared dreamed easily of exploring deserts around the world, searching for an oasis to share.

Without any incident, the week passed and the seasons continued to change. Although Master did allow Jared to go outside for short periods of time, it was becoming too cold for any frequent outings. The pantries and cellars were stocked with enough to get them through the next two months or whenever Master would be able to travel the roads without difficulty. It hadn’t snowed much last winter—something Jared had been quite thankful for as he’d spent many nights outside—but this year Master predicted they would not see the same weather.

On a gray, cloudy day, the Doctor arrived at the household, bundled up in layers. Master invited him to spend the night, to save him a long journey back at the end of the evening, and he accepted. Jared tucked away the Doctor’s coat and went to help Nicky with dinner as the Masters carried on conversation about business in Meridian in a nearby study. Jared was anxious and excited; he didn’t remember much of his heat but he knew that the Doctor had helped. He only hoped that he didn’t make too much of a spectacle of himself in that time.

Dinner went much smoother than any other time before, partially because the Doctor seemed more at ease at Master’s table. Conversation stuck to the meal, the weather, and horses. Nicky glanced over at Jared a few times during the course of the evening but he couldn’t decipher her looks. They would speak later.

The Doctor asked Jared for his company after dinner. Jared followed the Doctor to the same study they had occupied before. He waited patiently, sitting on a lounge, as the Doctor dug out his chess set.

This time Jared won all three games. He was hesitant at some points, still afraid to win against a Master, but managed. Refreshed by the end of his heat, Jared had kept doll in his room for most of the time that week. However, he brought her out to show the Doctor. He’d managed to sew together a few scraps of leftover quilting patches for a new dress that matched her new ribbon.

Admiring the dress, the Doctor looked at her with great care. He noticed every detail, even the two buttons Nicky had given Jared to sew on. This amount of attention made Jared feel proud. Of all the things the Doctor could be looking at, he chose to spend his time admiring the work of the young breeder. Jared accepted her back and sat doll beside him. The Doctor looked away, towards the window.

“Jared, may I ask you a question?” he asked, still not making eye contact.

“Of course,” Jared replied softly. “Sir,” he added hesitantly, unsure of what the Doctor expected of him.

His eyes were misted over again. He wore the same simple, brown vest Jared usually saw him in, which meant that the photograph was undoubtedly in his breast pocket. The breeder wondered how often the Doctor took it out and looked at it.

“How often do you go into heat?” The lull of the Doctor’s accent was enjoyable still, despite the question.

Jared took a moment to think. “Uh… so far sir, I have heats every six months. But… I could… it changes. A Master could put me into heat if they needed me to be.”

“Could they also shut it off?”

That question frightened Jared. The Doctor might as well have asked if Jared knew about heat suppressants. “No sir. I have to be bred. Master told me he used a machine this time but… Nicky says…” he fidgeted in his place on the lounge. “Next heat I will need a Master.”

With a heavy sigh, the Doctor closed his eyes and cradled his head in his hands, as Jared had seen him do before. “And you want to be bred? You want to have more… pups?”

It seemed like every question was more alarming than the last. Jared tried to make himself appear smaller. What was he doing wrong to deserve these questions? Had he done something to make the Masters think that he didn’t want to fulfill his duties? “I… yes. Of course. I do.”

“Beyond the reason you gave before,” the Doctor said, this time making eye contact, “why do you want more pups?”

“It’s my duty sir,” Jared blurted out, tears forming. “An honor. It’s who I am.”

“Easy,” the Doctor soothed. He reached over and cautiously placed a hand on Jared’s knee. “You haven’t done anything wrong. I’m just asking. If someone offered you the opportunity to never have pups again, would you take it? Answer me honestly, Jared. There are no consequences whatever you answer.”

This question went too far.

Jared dropped down onto his knees and pressed his forehead onto the floor at the Doctor’s feet.

“No!” Jared shouted desperately. “I would never! I… I… I want another litter. I always want pups. Even if they leave me, I still want to have them. Please, sir, I don’t… I don’t understand.”

“Hey, that’s okay, Jared…” The Doctor knelt down and gently pushed Jared to a sitting position. “We’re having a conversation. Just talking. That’s all. I apologize for upsetting you.” He had them each sit back on their lounges as they had been before. “Well… that’s kinda enough of that conversation anyway. Uh… another game?”

The board was reset and Jared nodded. He clutched at doll for the next game.

He held her at his belly.

 

That night went very differently from their previous stay together.

There were no kisses, no touches, and Jared did not spend the night in the Doctor’s bed. He wasn’t sure how to feel about those things. He thought about them over and over as he lay in bed, trying to sleep. Had the Doctor lost physical interest in Jared? Was he too skinny? Jared sat up and walked over to the bathroom, where he examined himself in the mirror.

True that his ribs did show, slightly. He was an inch taller but he was still shorter than all the Masters he had regular contact with. There were deep scars that wound and twisted all over his body—reminders of his indiscretions and punishments—but most had turned white. Tiny moles dotted his skin in various places but he didn’t think they were too noticeable. He turned around and examined his backside. His hips were growing wider as he aged to accommodate larger litters, but that only made his curves softer and rounder. He thought that was appealing to Masters. But maybe the Doctor preferred breeders that were leaner and had more muscle?

Jared flexed an arm and watched the muscles bunch under his skin. He was strong; he could lift bins full of vegetables and such. But most of his body was kept smooth and curvy; it would stay that way no matter what his age.

With a trained eye, he examined himself over and over again.

Too tall, too awkward, too skinny, too pale.

What kind of breeder or companion did the Doctor seem to like? The Jared in the photograph, although they looked nearly identical, did have several differences. The Doctor’s companion in the photograph was a good four or five inches taller than the Doctor himself. And while Jared was taller than many breeders, he wasn’t sure how tall he would eventually become, especially after he hit maturity. Many breeders were kept shorter than their Masters as a sign of respect; would Jared’s new Master insist that he stop growing? Was there some kind of control on his chip that did such a thing?

The Jared in the photograph—as Jared remembered him—had much more muscle, noticeable even under the coat he was wearing. He was broader as well as taller than the Doctor. Jared was as a breeder should be: slim, curvy, and soft. He was not done growing but who knew what he would look like in two years’ time? How could he fix what he did not know or control?

Perhaps it was his face. Gently, he touched his cheeks and traced the bridge of his nose.

“You’re beautiful.” The voice of the older breeder caused Jared to flinch in surprise. He turned and saw Nicky standing in the doorway of the bathroom, naked as he was. She must have slipped from her bed in the same restless manner. Her eyes shone with another emotion he could not translate.

He had no idea how to reply to her statement. He only sighed and turned away, back to the accusing mirror. She moved closer and wrapped her arms around him, pulling them in the same closeness as ever.

“There’s nothing you need to or should feel the need to change for him.”

“I can’t help but think so,” Jared replied honestly, looking at the both of them in the mirror. He would always remember her face. “You’re different.”

She gave a sad smile and closed her eyes, resting her chin on his shoulder. “I’m carrying a litter.”

It was incredible to Jared the amount of emotions he felt at the announcement. He could not process them all. This would be Nicky’s first litter since the death of the only pup she had been allowed to keep. He wondered…

“He said no,” she whispered, as if reading his mind. “Not this time.”

“I’m sorry,” Jared whispered back and twisted so that he held her against his chest. He wanted to say more, to tell her everything he felt in understanding, but words felt inadequate. When tears on her pretty face appeared, he bent down and licked them away, offering a few, low, comforting purrs. She let out a small laugh then a sob and clung to him in the same way he had done to her so many times before.

“I’m so happy and so…” she sputtered, hiding her face. “So much else.”

“I wish I could be here for you through all of it.” That was the plain and simple truth. A term could last from six to nine months; he would see her through one of them. He had one month left at this household before the New Year arrived and his new Master completed their purchase.

“Oh… don’t make me cry more than I already am,” she murmured and gave him a kiss. “Just think of it this way. You won’t be here to see me become as large as a lounge chair.”

“I don’t miss that part,” Jared laughed softly. “My back hurt so much.”

“I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a breeder who misses that part of it. Though I am looking forward to… well. Enough of that. Did the good Doctor say something to make you question your appearance? Because I’ll have you know, two of the most gorgeous breeders in the district reside in this household and any other statement is incorrect.” She resumed her usual easy tone with him and turned the tub on. When it was full of hot, bubbly water, she slid in. Jared followed and was promptly pressed against the wall. He felt her cock—hard and erect—push between his legs at his own.

Although he wanted to ask questions, he refrained from doing so. He kept his own kisses insistent and hungry against hers. Eagerly they licked into each other, the water lapping around them. When she possessively bit down on his lower lip he groaned and arched towards her. Slick and heavy, her breasts pushed on his chest. Jared felt an overwhelming need to kiss her all over in appreciation.

At this point, with that emotion, he pulled back. “What are we doing?” he asked breathlessly, his hands on her hips.

“Nothing you don’t want to do,” she replied easily, her hands in his hair. “He left it off. I’m…” For all the times that she could carry on a conversation without any aid or talk about any subject, she could not explain this to Jared. And though he felt much the same way, he knew that any action between breeders beyond comforting rubbing or licking was considered punishable. There was no reproduction when breeders played this way, no benefit to the government. Any Master would be—should be—angry. But Jared didn’t think Master would mind or care. Or maybe his head was so clouded with everything else that he couldn’t think properly.

“Okay,” he whispered and opened up his legs, allowing her to slot herself in. She let out a deep moan and trembled all over.

For a while, they did nothing more than kiss and grind against each other in the water, things they had done before, though with less intensity. Despite her best attempts, she could not get Jared hard. His controls had been left on. She continued to try and he ended up pushing her hand away.

“Hurts,” was all he said, panting slightly.

“Sorry,” she said back, kissing him again, trailing nips from his mouth up his jawline to the spot behind his ear. “I’m taking and I… I’m sorry.”

“I’m giving. I don’t mind.” After all, she had convinced Master to allow him an orgasm last week during his heat. She never made him feel like he owed her anything in return for the things she did. She seemed hesitant but a last nudge from him in the form of a wetter, deeper kiss, changed her mind.

To avoid causing him any further discomfort, she stroked herself as they kissed. When he heard and felt a hitch in her breath, he pushed her hand away and took over. This was something entirely different than anything he’d ever done. He wasn’t servicing a Master or being bred. He was giving someone pleasure for the sake of pleasure. Did this make him selfish? Was it so wrong for two breeders to comfort themselves this way? After all, he mused, kissing her neck, he knew every sensitive place on her and how she would react. He thought those were good things, things that made them close.

And he knew that Master was familiar with her—the way Nicky and Master looked at each other fondly never changed in the time Jared had been with them—but this was still different. It was something outside of everything he knew or had learned.

“I’m… I’m close…” she hiccupped and kept her hips away from his, though she continued thrusting into his hand. “I can’t. Oh… I can’t without…” she gasped her frustration and started to push her hips forward faster. A minute later, she groaned and jerked away from him. She angrily swam to the edge of the tub and opened a hidden box. Jared waited, feeling colder in the water. When she returned, she was pushing a plug inside her, moaning and tossing her head back. Situated, she pulled him in for a rough kiss and grabbed his hand to place it back on her cock.

She couldn’t come without the plug. Jared hadn’t known that. He hadn’t expected to be able to come at all. It certainly hadn’t mattered to anyone before whether or not Jared came.

“Ah, ah, yes, oh… oh!” Nicky shut her eyes tightly and her pink, plush mouth formed into a circle. Jared pumped her as fast as he could, using the same techniques for her as he would any Master. A few seconds later and her cock was twitching and she was moaning against his shoulder. Water slushed out of the tub and Jared’s hand was sticky by the end of her orgasm. He held her as she trembled and panted in the aftermath. When her breathing steadied out, he nuzzed her and she kissed him sweetly.

The water was cold and he was ready to drift off into sleep, but he was comfortable.

 

Both breeders nearly screamed when they heard the sound of someone clearing their throat.

They looked over and there was the Doctor, standing in the doorway. He looked angry but his face was also flushed red. The breeders scrambled to get out of the tub; Nicky was out first and handed Jared a towel.

“How long were you there?” Nicky demanded to know, her voice unsteady and unsure.

“Long enough,” the Doctor muttered, looking down at the floor. Jared hurriedly dried himself off, trying not to hyperventilate.

“These are our private quarters. What business do you have spying in on us? What could be so important that you had to violate our sense of privacy? Explain yourself!”

“Your Master!” the Doctor blurted out, this time looking at her and then at Jared. “He sent me to alert the both of you, since you didn’t hear or respond to the bell.” He crossed his arms over his chest in defense, the blush on his face increasing. “There are visitors and not the welcomed kind, so we’re all to go up to the attic. Eli said you’d show the way.”

“Who?!” Nicky gasped. “Who is it? Jared!” She turned to the younger breeder. “Hurry up, get dressed. No, a heavier robe,” she ordered him when he went to pick up a light one. “It gets colder up there. I need to speak to Eli. You remember the way to the attic, don’t you? Go up there with the… the Doctor and I’ll join you in a moment. Please.” In a rush, she tugged on her robe and ran out of the room, her footsteps sounding on the floor as they did when she was in too much of a hurry to put on her slippers.

Left alone with the Doctor, Jared felt exposed. He hurried past the Master and went into his room to retrieve a heavier robe from his drawer.

“I… I didn’t mean to spy,” the Doctor mumbled, standing a good distance from Jared. “I’ve never seen two breeders together.”

“Not together,” Jared managed to reply as he searched for a heavier robe. “It’s… different.”

The Doctor nodded. Something in his demeanor changed. “I get it. You don’t have to look so frightened. I won’t say anything. My apologies for intruding on your privacy.”

“Thank you sir,” the breeder said and finally put on a robe. The Doctor extended a hand out to him, which he hesitantly took. Standing, they looked at each other for a moment before Jared turned away. “This way to the attic.” He grabbed doll from her place on his nightstand and held her tight as they made their way through hallway after hallway.

After a silent journey up the stairs and through the crawl space into the attic, they settled in by the metal shell to the sitting room. Jared picked one up but heard nothing. This meant that either the shell that was hidden in the sitting room had been disconnected or no one was in within hearing range. He found that odd because Master kept all visitors in the sitting room. He looked at the Doctor for some kind of explanation.

“It’s your old Master,” the Doctor grumbled, seemingly upset at the mention. “Arrived here in the middle of the night with some kind of demand to see you and… well.” The Doctor cleared his throat and sat up straighter. They were both sitting on the floor. “Just a bunch of dramatics, anyway. Eli says he’s had this happen a few times before with other Masters. He’ll handle it.”

Silence filled the attic. Jared found that despite his heavy robe, he was still cold. He huddled in on himself, attempting to get warmer. Doll felt warm herself but Jared was shivering.

It surprised him when the Doctor put an arm around Jared’s shoulders and simply pulled them close together.

Neither of them spoke for a few minutes.

Jared focused on breathing, careful not to breathe too loudly. He could not help but notice that the Doctor had begun to look at him differently. Instead of focusing on Jared's eyes, he caught the Doctor's green eyes take glances at his mouth or towards his hips. The Doctor cleared his throat and tugged at the collar of his shirt. Jared couldn't interpret what those gestures meant. Should he be doing something? 

Just as both of them were going to speak—Jared was going to thank the Doctor for the warning and ask if he needed anything—an emergency bell rang. The attic had a similar system of bells as Jared’s room did—two bells hung near the primary shell. Nicky had explained to him the code of rings. One ring meant that it was safe to come down. Three rings meant he should hide. Five meant he should evacuate at soon as possible.

The bell jingled three times in rapid succession.

“I have to hide,” Jared whispered to the Doctor.

“Should I as well?”

“No, just me.” The breeder carefully stood up without a sound. He made no noise on the attic floor as he managed to make his way to the hiding spot.

Master had installed a secret spot in the floor for breeders to seek cover. Under the floorboards there was a small space, large enough though for a breeder to fit in and remain until it was safe. Jared counted the floorboards from the window and found the proper boards. The Doctor watched as Jared quickly lifted up the cover and set it aside.

“I’ll be here when you get out,” the Doctor said and scooted over to be closer. “Is that okay?”

Jared nodded. “Of course.”

He had an urge to lean forward and kiss the Doctor at that moment.

“Go on,” the Doctor murmured, breaking up whatever had been going on. He helped Jared slip into the space and get as comfortable as he could. He wrapped a blanket around the breeder before lowering the boards.

Just as the Doctor had set down the boards, Jared heard heavy footsteps on the stair case leading up to the attic.

The second he took in a deep breath—and sent off a prayer to keep his household safe—old Master stormed into the attic.

 

“Jared!” was shouted with force and anger. “I know you’re in here! Get out!”

Jared stayed curled up in his space, his heart beating wildly, clutching at doll.

“Jared! By the court of law, get out here now!”

Instinctively responding to the orders of a Master, Jared felt himself shift to begin pushing at the boards.

He froze at the sound of the Doctor’s voice.

“I don’t fucking think so.”

Chapter Text

Shouting always frightened Jared. Some breeders could manage it—trained to do so through various circumstances—but Jared had never been able to, despite his attempts. It didn’t help that he was in a small, confined space while people were yelling about him outside and above him.

He was able to detect which boots were the Doctor’s and which ones were old Master’s. The Doctor hovered near Jared, but kept a careful distance, while old Master paced back and forth in wild, random movements. Jared clung to doll the entire time, his nails digging into her dress. He would apologize later.

“I have a court order for that breeder to be released into my hands! And I know he’s here! You are all hiding him and I won’t stand for it!”

“You’re crazy,” the Doctor shouted, his tone sharp and cold. “Coming over here in the middle of the night while decent people are trying to rest, throwing accusations everywhere! We are citizens here—there’s nothing and no one to hide.”

“Then let me see him!” Old Master roared and Jared heard things thrown to the ground. He assumed that old Master was tearing through what little things they had in the attic in an attempt to discover where the breeder was hiding. “I don’t understand! I let you into my home, shared my table with you! And here I find you, defending this piece of filth!”

“You watch that mouth or I’ll knock some manners into it,” the Doctor barked and moved forward, closer to old Master. “You’ve seen what you wanted and found absolutely nothing. Now. Leave.”

Distantly, Jared heard Master arrive in the attic. For a moment there was a lot of movement and shouting—Jared couldn’t make out any of it. He hoped the Doctor was still near.

“You’re rigging something and I will find out what it is! I saw the public records and it’s not possible! It shouldn’t be possible, I don’t care what your connections are! You’ve come into this city and stolen my breeder!”

“You consented to put him to auction and I purchased him in an entirely legal transaction,” Master Eli snapped back, his voice filled with anger. It made Jared shrink in his space, as if he had done something wrong. “You’ve seen the paperwork—there is nothing more to discuss!”

The mention of the kennels caused Jared to shudder. He flinched as someone stood directly above him. He realized—by the sound of the boots and the distance of the voice—that old Master was inches away from him. Jared’s anxiety bubbled in his chest. He began to sweat and fidget, despite his attempts at remaining as still and calm and quiet as possible.

“Whatever your role in this is questionable at best, Eli, but the rest of it! That I cannot understand! Doctor, you’ve seen how worthless the breeder is—you delivered the garbage pups—and yet upon my generous lending out after he gives birth you suddenly purchase him?! How is that not suspicious? You’re technically banned from the purchase of any breeder for a period of six months and yet the sale has a date of next month!”

“What are you talking about?!” the Doctor demanded. “I haven’t bought him…”

You haven’t,” old Master spat out. “But I saw the deed in public records!”

“Who…”

“The Judge! The breeder is the legal property of the Judge as of the New Year!”

The Masters continued to talk and argue amongst themselves but Jared didn’t tune in for any of that. He was too shocked. Had this new Master been the Judge all this time? But why had he not said anything? And how? And why would he keep this information from the Doctor? Did he had other plans with Jared that he wasn’t sharing with the Doctor? Fear made Jared stifle a sob. The sound went unnoticed because there was a scuffle above. Someone charged and someone else fell. The shouting escalated for a few minutes until finally, a pair of boots were dragged away, towards the stairs. To the breeder in the hidden crawl space underneath the floor, it was an eternity filled with desperation and exhaustion as he waited.

He feared that they had forgotten him when no one came after what must have been at least half an hour.

At least he had doll.

Finally, Jared heard boots in the distance. They quickly stepped closer until they reached the proper floorboards. The breeder tried to make himself as small as possible, curling up, trying not to be in the way. The boards were lifted and the Doctor was there. He looked upset. His green eyes were sad but filled with anger.

“Took forever to get rid of him,” the Master muttered and extended a hand to Jared. “C’mon, let’s get you out of this awful thing.”

Hesitantly, Jared accepted the hand and was lifted up with ease. The Doctor replaced the boards and they stood, looking at each other.

“Thank you,” Jared said, holding doll to his belly.

“Yeah. You’re welcome.”

There were many things they each either had to say, had been meaning to say, or could say—but none came out. And it surprised Jared when instead of speech, the Doctor moved forward and kissed him.

The Doctor kissed like no Master had kissed Jared before, yet it wasn't anything like the kisses in his nightmare.

A strong arm was wrapped around Jared’s waist and pulled him in, closing any and all distance between them. The kiss was a mix of rough, possessive, and sweet. It was made sweeter by the Doctor gently cupping Jared’s face when they parted for air. He tilted Jared’s face up. Green eyes searched Jared’s. Jared hoped he found something worthwhile.

“I could do that always,” the Doctor breathed and closed his eyes. Is this what had changed? Could he look at Jared and not see a child any more? Was he looking at Jared with longing now? It didn't entirely matter to Jared if he was looked at as a replacement or as something else. A Master wanted him, truly wanted him.

Boldly, he kissed the Doctor back.

The Master made a pleased noise and moaned softly when Jared’s tongue licked in. Jared enjoyed the taste he found and the way the Doctor kissed like he might not breathe without it.

There were matters that required attention and questions that needed answers.

But for the moment, Jared relaxed as he was kissed over and over again by a Master who treated each one as a fragile gift.

Doll was between them, safe and protected.

Chapter Text

Master wanted to speak to everyone.

Actually, he only wanted to speak with the Doctor, but Nicky told Jared that she had convinced him otherwise. She insisted that the breeders be there—that they had a right to be present—and Master eventually allowed it.

“The discussion involves you so you should be part of it. Or at least present to hear about it,” Nicky muttered as they walked to the main study near Master’s suite. She was not entirely happy with the news of Jared's new Master. She did not trust the Judge or the Doctor. But she did trust Master Eli's decision.

The household was quiet at such a late hour; it would be dawn soon.

“Eli can be so old fashioned sometimes,” she added with a sigh. “Anyway, I’m here for moral support. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Best to get what facts you can now instead of later when it may come from less reliable sources.”

“You didn’t… you didn’t know, did you?” Jared asked, stopping in the middle of the hallway.

She stopped with him and slipped her hand into his—a familiar and soothing gesture.

“No. I couldn’t tell you because Eli hadn’t told me. I had asked but…” She began to mimic Master’s voice. “Some things breeders are better off not knowing, Nicky.” Both breeders shared a secret smile and resumed walking, their soft slippers padding against the cool marble floors.

The household was lit with a combination of electric lighting and candlelight, which often gave it a soft, welcoming glow throughout. Jared wondered who had decorated the household; had Cody done this all himself?

In the study, the Doctor sat on a lounge while Master was at his desk.

Before they parted, Nicky squeezed Jared’s hand. He was grateful but tense. With some hesitation, he took his place at Master Eli’s feet, kneeling on a pillow. Though the breeders were near each other, the distance between them seemed too large for Jared’s liking; it only served to heighten his anxiety.

Master took a deep breath and leaned back in his chair. Papers were spread out before him on the large, polished desk. Master was very organized and kept many important documents tucked away in extensive drawers that no breeder was allowed to look in. All of Master’s drawers and desks were locked at all times and he explained to the breeders that no visitor was ever allowed to go near his personal items. It would be an invasion of privacy and Master liked his privacy.

He cleared his throat and kept his focus on the Doctor as he spoke.

“Both you and the Judge were officially banned from the purchase of any breeder for a probationary period of six months. It’s a standard sentence to any Master that harms or attempts to harm with a government official taking pups.” Master paused to pinch the bridge of his nose, which was something he did when he was very tired and needed to rest. “I don’t know the specifics but apparently your companion has connections in the right offices and the attention of the right pairs of eyes. And he is very persuasive. He was eventually able to reduce your sentences to three months based on your respective places within our communities and because this was a first time offense. I believe it was manageable in more legal terms than anything else. When Jared was placed to auction, the Judge had contacted me hours prior and we struck a deal. I have the contracts here.”

Holding up a few pieces of paper, Master sighed and continued. “The basics were that I would purchase Jared and house him in the same manner I have been doing for some breeders at auction. The Judge would ultimately own Jared when he was legally able to do so, which would be the first day of the New Year.”

Although Master was exhausted, his voice was still pleasing for Jared to listen to. He wished Master was reading the desert story instead of discussing business. It wasn’t Jared’s place to question who his Master was or would be, though he did wonder a few things from time to time. Facts were facts and whoever had his control would be his Master. Jared would do everything possible to obey and honor his that Master.

The Doctor’s desperate, somewhat angry voice pierced through the lull in the room. “Why didn’t he tell me? Fuck it,” he muttered. He roughly pulled out his checkbook from his breast pocket. Jared caught the tiniest glimpse of the photograph. “Just tell me how much.”

Expectantly, the Doctor looked at Master. Jared kept his gaze on the floor, sneaking small glances. He wished he hadn’t left doll in his room at her place on his nightstand. Whatever would happen to him would happen to her and it was only fair that she be with him.

Tone rough and impatient, the Doctor pressed. “Well?” 

Master glanced over at Jared and motioned to join him on his lap. Jared did so immediately, moving quickly and perching himself on Master’s knee. Master pet his head and Jared purred from the attention, leaning into the touch.

“Doctor, Jared isn’t for sale. Not to you or to anyone but the Judge. And even then, I’ve made conditions of my own. The Judge is barred from selling you Jared until I have approved it. And I can tell you sir, I do not see that happening.”

“That’s bullshit!” The Doctor shouted and slammed his fist down on the lounge’s arm.

Jared flinched at the shouting.

“I can see that right now, as you are, the first thing you would do with him in your possession would be to try and conform his body to your traditions. You would convince him to try a procedure that would make him unable to carry any more litters. No breeder has survived such a procedure for more than two weeks. And when you ask questions of the nature you have to him, I can see that you don’t care. You would do it regardless of what may be better for him.”

“It’s a simple operation,” the Doctor blurted out. “It’s done all the time—I’ve seen it done multiple times back in… back at home. No one dies from it, that’s ridiculous!”

Jared hid his face in Master’s chest, trembling as he did so. Where was the calm Doctor giving him kisses from before? That entire time, had he only been thinking about cutting Jared open? He tried to remain elegant and poised as a respected second breeder should be but the mention of someone cutting his belly…

Nicky shouted in desperation. "You'd kill him! Eli! How… what if he had tried?!”

“Silence,” Master commanded. “I’m upset with you as it is, don’t push me.”

“Upset with me?” she snapped from her pillow. “For what? Insisting that we be present for a discussion?”

“No! Nicky, you test my patience.” Master nudged Jared off his lap and Jared joined Nicky on the floor. Everything was happening faster than Jared could process it all. He could barely breathe as the argument between Master and breeder escalated. “You haven’t weaned him off that doll. You shouldn’t have ever given it to him. Now you’ve forced me into a position where I must play the villain and I do not appreciate it!”

“That’s not important right now, Eli! We’re talking about what this Master wants to do to Jared!”

“That’s enough!” Master bellowed and the room went completely still.

Even though Jared knew it was wrong, he still wished for doll. He was almost done making a new dress for her. And he had just finished mending her right arm; she’d become a bit more worn since he started sleeping with her.

When the whip came into view, all of Jared’s previous thoughts vanished and focused solely on Master’s hands. Both breeders knelt so that their foreheads were touching the floor. Jared trembled and began to panic, his breath coming in small hitches. Doll was going to be taken away from him and he could not understand why. He took good care of her. The Doctor—who had just begun to seem nice to Jared—wanted to cut him open and clean out his belly. All of this overwhelmed him. But nothing ever got his complete attention like the whip did.

“Five lashes Nicky. Now.”

“Why are you gonna hurt them?” the Doctor shouted at Master. “It’s just a doll.”

The Doctor covered his mouth a moment later, green eyes wide as he realized his words.

Jared shut his eyes. He held back a sob with all the strength he had.

“I didn’t… I didn’t mean it like that Jared!”

“That’s precisely why,” Master grumbled, “I explained to you the consequences of having a breeder become attached to any one material object. And Nicky, as a breeder, you should know that. Lift up your robes.”

She did as she was told, without any protest, but she turned her head away from Jared so he wouldn’t see her reactions to the lashes. Master was fast—each lash struck after a powerful crack of the whip—and Nicky did not make one noise, even when she lowered her robes back over herself. Her blood dripped onto the floor and she refused to make eye contact with anyone.

“Jared, two lashes. Right now.”

“He didn’t do anything!”

“He isn’t yours to care for, Doctor. Jared, lift up your robes.”

With the same quickness, Jared obeyed. He turned his head away from Nicky, but towards the Doctor. He glanced up briefly but found he would rather not look at the Master right away.

The Doctor continued shouting. “How is this fair?! He didn’t fucking do anything!” Rising from his lounge, he spat, “I thought you were different!”

“If you cannot recognize when a breeder requires discipline, Doctor, you are in no position to purchase one! This—as are all of my rules—is for their own good!”

Unlike Nicky, Jared did cry out as he was whipped. The hiss of the whip and the bite of its lash caught him by surprise. He heard the Doctor continue to yell at Master and Master added a lash for each attempt the Doctor made to argue.

“I can’t take him back like this! He has to have that operation, don’t you understand?! I’m a god damned professional—stop it! Stop hurting him!”

“Every breeder knows their place, Doctor, but every Master knows theirs as well. Know yours and you can stop his pain!”

Twenty lashes in, Nicky cried out for Master to stop. “He’s not moving! Eli! Please!”

Master threw the whip at the Doctor, who let it fall to the ground. Jared’s eyes rolled in his head as he writhed in pain. It wasn’t the worst thrashing he’d ever received but he had been spoiled recently. It had been a while since he’d felt the scorch of a whip. He was grateful for Master’s insight. Discipline was good. Jared didn't quite understand it, but he knew he didn't have to.

“When will you comprehend,” Master shouted, “that when you serve your own purposes you are causing him irreparable harm?! Maybe now you will finally see what you do to him each time you don’t know your place within this world or his life. I am not a cruel Master, Doctor, but I am responsible for these breeders and their well-being and I take that commitment seriously. You would have him in your care, dead by the next full moon, instead of with someone who understands his needs. No, I will not sell him to you and I can void the contract with your companion at any moment. I agreed to this before I knew the extent of your ignorance, a foolish thing for me to do but here we are. However, this is my household and Jared is still my breeder. Remember that.”

There was a moment of heavy silence. Jared felt his blood begin to stick to the floor. He hoped it didn’t make too much of a mess. He hoped he could clean it quickly before it stained Master’s study.

“Eli…” Nicky whispered, beside Jared but not touching him for fear of causing him pain. “Please, can I... can I just…”

“No, you cannot tend to his wounds. He survived without you once; he can do it once more. Jared.”

The young breeder attempted to lift his head several times but failed. He mewled in acknowledgement, the only thing he could do.

“Jared, go to your room. You may attend to yourself.”

“Help him up for god’s sake,” the Doctor pleaded. “Jay, please, don’t crawl.”

Jared didn’t understand that command. How could he not crawl? He could not walk.

“That isn’t his name!” Nicky hissed at the Doctor. “Eli, how do you expect him to move?!”

“Jared,” Master commanded. “Get to your room now.”

“Don’t you dare crawl! Don’t you dare crawl, Jay! Stand up! You can do it! You’ve got pride, Jay!”

Confused and disoriented, Jared tried to stand but his back was raw and exposed. Each movement caused him to feel the ground up mess that was his back. But still, shoulders and legs shaking, he tried to stand. His hair was plastered against his face, dripping with sweat from exertion. He got to his knees and collapsed with a yelp, sobbing when he hit the floor hard on his ribs.

The Doctor kept muttering something but Jared couldn’t hear it. He was focused on obeying Master’s command to go to his room. He had to be unseen immediately, he had to hurry. As fast as he could, he crawled towards the door, trying his best to avoid leaving a mess. He thought he was making good progress. Doll would be waiting for him in his room and he would cradle her and calm her down. He could hold her against his chest and pat her head and insist that he was alright now. He would kiss her little forehead and take her with him to clean up.

“If you have any intentions of purchasing a breeder, Doctor, you’ll have to breed it. No operation, no procedure, and no moral outrage or disagreement will change that fact.”

“You’re wrong. I’m never having pups just to feed your system.”

Jared made it to the doorway and pulled himself out into the hallway. Every muscle hurt and every strip of skin burned. But he heard the Doctor’s comment and slowed before he continued on.

He would tell doll never to trust any Master.

Especially one that kissed so sweetly.

Chapter Text

At dawn, the Doctor came in and applied salve to Jared’s back.

He had managed to pull himself up onto his bed and grab doll, but that was it. He tried to drag himself to the tub, but lacked the strength and the will. His back could wait.

What seemed like hours later, he felt the Doctor’s hands on his back. This alarmed him, but he didn’t respond--he was without energy to do more than moan in pain. The Doctor sang pieces of a song that Jared didn’t know the words to and for that, he was relieved.

“What have I done,” the Doctor said, his words half-muffled with a deep sob. It was the last thing Jared heard before sinking back into a fitful sleep. 

Chapter Text

When Jared woke up, he remembered his dream.

He’d been in a garden—happy and warmed by the sun—picking vegetables for a dinner he would be making that evening. Once again, his belly was full of pups, but he was early in his term and not yet heavy. He could feel the beginnings of their heartbeats inside him. It felt like tiny butterflies fluttering against him, insisting that they were there. Each flutter made him content.

And again, like always, when he woke up he felt his sadness weigh down on him more than any physical pain. Breeders believed that the more a breeder dreamt of pups and litters, the closer they were to being in heat and carrying. Most of the time these were things to be grateful for—to look forward to—but Jared’s mind was so confused and overwhelmed with questions that seemingly had no answers. How could he possibly have a litter now? Master seemed unwilling to do so, as did the Doctor and Judge.

The only one who seemed to want Jared was old Master.

Jared preferred not to think about him.

With doll’s help and encouragement, he carefully limped over to the bathroom. He set her on the window ledge near the smaller tub and got things set up. As gingerly as possible, he submerged himself in a bath full of tepid water, with a towel stuffed in his mouth to silence his screams.

After the initial shock, he exhaled and set to rinsing himself off. The rest of him was covered in sweat and blood, which he didn’t have too much issue washing away. He could not touch his back—Nicky would need to help him apply more salve and bandage it later. Quickly, he finished. When he got out without falling or slipping, the tub water was a dark red. The color caused him to shudder. Signs were everywhere, but which ones were his imagination’s doing?

“I’m alright,” Jared murmured to doll as he dried himself off. “Much better now.”

The salve the Doctor had put on had helped, even though Jared hadn’t even asked for it. But also, after being well-fed and taken care of by Master, his healing ability was back to normal. The lashes would scar over in a day or two and transform into spindly white tracks, tangling with the many others there.

Peering at the scars, gratitude bloomed in his chest. Master had stopped at twenty and that he had kept the lashes on his back. Jared had been whipped all over before—on his legs, thighs, chest, and neck—and he never wanted to repeat those experiences. There was no robe he could wear that didn’t cause him discomfort, so he chose to remain naked, which Nicky had told him was his choice to make each day. Master didn’t mind either way. Most breeders were naked—the academy trained them to be either way, to suit the preferences of their future Masters—and Jared had no strong feels about it.

Doll looked at him, concerned. Jared pet her head and kissed her cheek before setting her down on his nightstand. “He won’t take you away. He won’t. Stay here, please?”

With a final pet, he left his room and took the breeder stairs to the kitchen.

He hoped he hadn’t overslept. It was near midday and no one had woken him up, which meant that someone had allowed him to sleep but he still worried. He didn’t want Nicky doing all the chores by herself, especially now. She would be showing soon; the thought made Jared simultaneously joyful and heavyhearted. He could at least knit something for her before he left to wherever he went.

The one person he didn’t expect to see in the kitchen was the Judge.

“Good afternoon,” the Judge greeted, his blue eyes lighting up at the sight of the breeder. “Nicky is showing me how to make pancakes. I never did master the technique.”

“You won’t if you don’t pay attention,” Nicky sighed. She set down the mixing bowl she had been holding and rushed over to Jared. “Turn around. Please, let me attend to your back.”

“I’m fine,” Jared insisted, blushing at the attention.

“Please,” she begged him, looking up with determination. “I’ll be fast.”

With a nod, she ran off to get her kit, which left Jared and the Judge alone.

The Judge looked tired but not as worn down as the Doctor. He thrummed with an energy Jared rarely witnessed—it was a positive, mischievous energy, like he would burst out laughing at any moment. Jared just didn’t always understand what he was laughing about. He was dressed in neater clothes than the Doctor—with a pressed vest and pristine boots. Jared noticed that the Judge wore a silver ring on his right hand. He stood a distance away from the Judge, cautious and watchful.

“Jared, I’m… I wish to give you my apologies for the last time we saw each other. I needed the both of you to hear that song and could not think of any other way. And…” He gave a weak laugh. “Isn’t it funny how I had just finished telling you that I knew more about breeders, then you go into heat and I couldn’t even recognize that?”

Jared didn’t respond; he kept his head down and stood as still as possible, anxious for Nicky to return.

“I’m sure the Doctor has managed to make a fine mess of things recently,” the Judge continued. “Though I can’t say that I’m not capable of doing the same myself. I suppose that’s why we are such good friends, him and I. Jared, do you know how old the Doctor and I are?”

He did not. He didn’t know the ages of any of his Masters or the Masters he had regular contact with. The age of a Master didn’t matter to a breeder; it wasn’t important information for them to be able to fulfill their duties or honor to the government. Jared gave a quick shake of his head.

“I’m thirty-three years old and the Doctor is twenty-five. You will turn fourteen this coming July, correct?” The Judge's voice held a carefully measured, wary tone.

Jared only nodded. He would only be one year away from maturity, something he looked forward to. He hoped he could provide for his Master adequately as a fully grown breeder.

Nicky arrived in that moment and Jared let out a breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding in. “I had to find the right things for a salve. Kneel down, Jared.”

He knelt down and she went to work, applying fresh salve onto his tender back. Although she kept her touches light, he still felt pain as she cleaned him up. After the salve, she placed bandages over them and gave him a drink of water.

“Nothing is infected but please, stay inside for today,” she murmured, as she put away her kit. “Eli said you could have the day to yourself. Go on, I don’t mind.”

“I was hoping to speak to Jared,” the Judge announced. “If that is okay with the both of you?”

“Finish these pancakes with me and then you can go talk to him,” the older breeder quipped, though without much bite. “You’ve made me do all the mixing anyway. It’s your turn.” She shoved the bowl into his arms before he could protest, then she looked over at Jared. “I’ll send him up to your room, if you’ll allow that?”

“Yes,” Jared murmured. They exchanged a look between them before he left to make his way upstairs again.

He didn’t hear or see any signs of Master or the Doctor when he walked up the main staircase. He wanted to thank Master for giving him time to rest for the day. It didn’t feel right to let Nicky do all the work in the household but Jared had long ago given up on arguing with her about it. She maintained the household in pristine condition at all times—and she had shown Jared how to do so—which was the sign of a respected second breeder. He hoped he could do the same in the future.

Some breeders had one Master for their entire lives. Jared wondered what that felt like.

Some breeders were passed around from Master to Master, never staying very long at any household.

He preferred not to wonder about that.

His hands itched to hold doll in his arms again. Walking into his room, he did not spot her on the nightstand. Panic rose from his stomach. He darted forward and began searching for her everywhere.

Maybe she had fallen behind the nightstand and under the bed. Ignoring the pain in his back as he moved frantically, he started moving aside what little furniture he had in his room. Maybe she was playing. She had to be playing. She had to be playing a game of hide and seek. But she should know—she should know how Jared needed her to be on her nightstand and then in his arms. She had to know.

She just had to.

His breathing came in hysterical pants and he began unconsciously mewling as he searched. Desperation pierced him as he tossed off all the pillows and blankets on his bed. With every minute he did not find her, his heart beat wildly.

A phantom pain appeared in his belly. Jared clung to a pillow and let out a sob.

Shaking, he began to limp towards the bathroom. Maybe he was mistaken and he had left her there. It seemed like something a forgetful breeder would do.

She wasn’t anywhere.

He tore his room apart until there was nothing left to look in or search through.

Stumbling backwards, he collapsed onto the floor. He curled up and tried to understand what was going on. Why would anyone take doll? Master said Jared shouldn’t be so attached to her, but Master didn’t see how much she needed Jared. She was crying, he could feel it, because he was crying too. He grabbed tufts of his hair and gripped tightly, prepared to pull them out in a fit.

Not again. He couldn’t lose her again.

What would Nicky say? He’d failed both of them. The sting in his belly didn’t cease. He felt the weight of the auctioneer’s boot on his face as he was pressed onto the platform for the third time. And any time Jared closed his eyes all he saw was dark red. Signs were everywhere.

The sound of boots in the hallway failed to catch his attention.

“Jared!”

At first he didn’t notice Nicky kneeling in front of him, gripping onto his hands, trying to pry them off his hair before he did any damage. “Jared! What’s wrong?!” She asked this question but she knew the answer to it by looking around at the state of his room and the emptiness in his hands. “No!” she gasped and held Jared down, who was still shaking with panic. “Jared, calm down, please. She… she’s got to be around here…”

Another voice. The Judge. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing! Just… leave us alone!”

“I would surely, but… oh my. Is this about the doll in his room?”

“What about her! Where did you take her?! Where is she? He would never lose her!” Nicky shouted at the Judge, who was standing at a distance in the doorway.

The Judge held his hands up. “I… I didn’t mean to suggest that! The Doctor asked me for a few things and…”

“Get him over here then! Why would you take her?!”

“We had the best of intentions, I assure you! Just… just a moment.” The Judge disappeared, running down the hallway. Nicky hefted Jared up to his bed and lay him down on his side so not to hurt his back any further. She nuzzed him and licked away at the tears on his face. He clung to her and she clung back.

“I’m sorry,” Jared wept, hiding his face in her soft robes.

“Shh, don’t…” she replied and gently stroked his hair.

This time, Jared heard the boots in the hallway and tensed up immediately, as did Nicky. Both breeders huddled together, unsure of what to expect. The Doctor ran into the room, out of breath, his face flushed. The Judge stood behind him.

“I’m sorry,” the Doctor panted. “I… I thought… you’d be gone little longer. Sorry. Here.”

The Master presented Jared with a box. At first glance it looked plain; it was a simple white washed wood. But there were small details to it that made it more elegant. The lock hinge on it was old and beautifully crafted. The whitewash was fresh and shone in the sunlight. When Jared did not move to take it, the Doctor frowned but held it carefully. He opened it and revealed doll on a plush bed of tiny quilts in her size.

She wore a new dress with four gold buttons.

Her hair had been brushed with care and the rips in her hands had been expertly patched up by a fine, invisible thread. She held a felt flower in one hand, extended towards Jared.

“She missed you but she behaved really well,” the Doctor said with a small laugh. “Hated when I brushed her hair. Uh…” He cleared his throat and held up the box. It had a hidden compartment on the bottom, which he slid out to show its contents. “She’s got a full wardrobe here. The dresses you made are in here too. And some hair pins. You know… if… if you’ll accept this. I’m really sorry I caused you panic. I was putting it all together.”

The box wasn’t larger than the span of the Doctor’s chest. But it seemed like so much more than what it was.

“Why?” Jared blurted out, hiding behind Nicky, shying away from doll. “You… you don’t even want pups.” It confused him that he would spend the time to do this for doll when this Master planned to never have pups. If Jared accepted this, would he be accepting the plans for cutting him open?

“This is where I think we should have a conversation,” the Judge interrupted, stepping out from the Doctor’s side. “So we can clear a few things up, don’t you think?”

The Doctor nodded and held the box against his chest, as if he were clinging to doll. Jared wasn’t sure what to think of that.

“Ring the bell if you need me,” Nicky murmured to Jared, though she was hesitant to leave. She leaned forward and whispered in his ear, “Nothing adds up. Take care.” She squeezed him close to her before she walked out of the room, shutting the door behind her.

Jared wished she had stayed. He looked up at the Masters before him and took a moment before he snapped back into his duties. His room was destroyed; he felt a sudden sense of shame.

“It’s alright,” the Judge said lightly, sensing Jared’s discomfort. “Completely our faults, really. Jen, maybe you want to take a seat next to him? I’ll stand. Such a long ride, it’s good to stretch.”

“Can I sit here?” the Doctor asked, still holding the box and doll with the greatest amount of care. His eyes were a lighter green than Jared had ever seen them. Jared scooted over to make room, but held out his hands. The Doctor picked up doll and placed her in them.

“Doll,” Jared cried, shutting his eyes and holding her to him tightly. She smelled sweet and felt soft. He breathed her in and kept her close in the space between his heart and belly.

“Well,” the Judge said with a smile. “We should get started.”

Chapter Text

“We came here to take you back,” the Judge announced to Jared, leaning against a wall. “We had to find you first, which we did much faster than either of us expected. And of course, there are details that neither the Doctor nor I can reveal, but that has always been our end goal: to take you back with us.”

Jared kept his gaze on doll and examined her new dress.

At first glance, the dress looked fancy—certainly fancy for any government issued doll—but there were little things that didn’t seem entirely normal to Jared. Things that didn’t add up, as Nicky had warned. The cloth for her dress was different, even from the robes or Masters’ clothes Jared had seen. The stitching didn’t match any pattern Jared had ever seen before either. It was obviously a dress that had not come from any market stall in Meridian.

“I know it’s not in your nature to ask questions, but perhaps you have some you have wanted to ask? You’re free to do so with us at any time, especially now.” The Judge continued to speak, using a gentle voice while the Doctor fidgeted in his place on Jared’s bed. He had placed the box in between them. The inside was lined with something soft and pink, the kind of pink that reminded Jared of the garden outside.

He had questions. He had a whole list of things he had wanted to ask about.

But of all the ones he could choose, he wanted to know the answer to this one. He needed to know if this would happen or not.

So he asked. In a small, timid voice, he asked, “Can I…can I keep a pup?”

It was a bold question that should have been asked with more finesse and more planning. His heart beat picked up with anxiety as he gripped onto doll and waited for his answer.  

“You never have to have pups again,” the Doctor said in a rush. His accent was thick now; Jared realized that the Doctor usually masked his accent, but not around the Judge. “You’ll never have to give them up again…”

“Jensen,” the Judge snapped and stepped forward. “Pups are important to breeders. He can’t just not have more and whenever you mention that kind of thing he only becomes more frightened of you. That’s not any way to build trust between the two of you.”

“What am I supposed to do then?” the Doctor demanded from the Judge, positioning himself defensively. “We can’t take him back like this.”

The Judge sighed and rolled his eyes at the Doctor. “Jen, there’s a reason why I was the ship’s counselor and not you.”

“The ship never needed a stupid counselor! We ran just fine without your group therapy sessions and shit!”

This is your problem, Jensen! You don’t want to listen! You’re unwilling to even see where he might be coming from and you keep insisting on something that is impossible! Several people here have told you that any such operation is certain death for a breeder, it’s not going to happen.”

“Then they’re doing it wrong!”

“They aren’t, I’ve seen the bodies!” the Judge shouted back, his hands gesturing to emphasize his point. “I’ve been to the morgues and the mass graves—it’s all quality work, sterile and precise, maybe even good enough to match our own! But they die, Jen. Every single breeder that has that operation dies suffering—some last longer but the bodies are still there.”

“Please!” Jared shouted, standing up anxiously. “Stop, please!” He knelt down immediately, in an attempt to apologize for his outburst. The thought of the bodies of breeders piled on top of each other—jagged scars smiling out from their bellies—terrified and disturbed him. Any truly good second breeder would have been able to go without interrupting. But he couldn’t ignore any of what was being said over him.

“I’m sorry, we’ve upset you,” the Judge said quickly, but did not move towards Jared in anger as he had expected. “It was, at first, our idea to take you back after performing an operation that would take out your ability to breed. We don’t have breeders where we come from.”

“What would I do?” Jared asked, keeping doll close but looking at the Judge directly. “I would be the only breeder? But then… what if… how would I live?”

“That’s not what I want to do anymore. I don’t want to take you back,” the Judge stated.

“We can’t stay here!” the Doctor insisted, remaining in his place. “Misha, I can’t… I can’t do this. I can’t live like this. What about our homes? His family is still there. His parents, all his brothers and sisters, the rest of our friends, the crew!”

“It won’t work, Jensen! If we take him back how will you explain the litters? You can’t possibly expect to keep every pup. A breeder could have as many as eight pups a year for thirty years.”

“I can do the operation, Misha. It’ll work, you have to believe me.” The Doctor looked from the Judge to Jared. “I won’t cause you any harm…”

“The sooner you understand that that is not an option,” the Judge barked, “the better for all of us!” The Judge turned to Jared. “Please, I know we seem… quite awful I’m sure… my goodness I’ve never had so much go wrong in such a short period of time.” He took a deep breath and sighed. “Jared, this is made increasingly difficult by the fact that I literally can’t tell you certain things. It’s like trying to talk to you underwater. You know? I’m going to skip ahead to the grand finale of my speech.”

“You’re not supposed to do that,” the Doctor grumbled and folded his arms over his chest. Jared watched the Judge carefully, trying to predict his movements.

Although this was no inn and there was no rug, Jared was still guarded. He could call for Nicky at any moment—or Master, even, if he was in the household—and that was a comfort but who knew what these Masters could do in the matter of just a few seconds. Doll told him to take caution and he agreed. The weight of those boots, the manner in which he woke up by the lake, all of it… the sadness in the Doctor’s eyes… The Judge took out a disc from his pocket, no bigger than the palm of his hand. He held it up to the nearest wall and a light flickered. At first Jared thought it was a light inside his room but it came from the disc. It projected its bright light onto the wall, as if it were a billowing, satiny sheet.

When sound came from the disc, Jared jumped. He watched, transfixed, as an image came into focus on the wall from the curious object in the Judge’s palm.

It was him.

It was Jared in the photograph.

“Say hi Jared,” the Doctor’s voice rang out, clear and crisp, but Jared looked back behind him and the Doctor had not spoken.

“Hi Jared,” the Jared in the photograph spoke from the disc.

“Don’t be such a dick.”

The other Jared made a face then smiled wide, dimples showing without hesitation. He leaned back in his chair and stretched out, looking at the disc with happiness radiating in his eyes. The breeder gasped when his other moved to pick up something. The something was the dark red instrument he’d seen the Doctor play in the inn. The images on the wall bounced a bit as the focus shifted. The Doctor appeared next to the other Jared, who was as he looked in the photograph—taller and broader.

“Go on.” Now that was the Judge’s voice coming from the disc. “Don’t chicken out, Jay.”

“I’m not!” the other Jared insisted with a grin. He picked up the instrument and held it expertly. Jared clung to doll, both hands on her as he watched himself. It was himself, he was sure of it. This couldn’t be another person who looked like him or whom he looked like.

“Yeah, I ain’t got all day,” the Doctor drawled. “Some of us have work to do around here.”

“One day you’ll regret being so mean to me, Jensen Ackles.”

“Fucker,” the Doctor behind Jared muttered. Jared glanced back at him for a moment before looking back at the wall, not wanting to miss a second. The other Jared looked at the Doctor with a fondness that even the breeder could recognize. The other Jared touched the strings of the instrument a few times, playing a light, airy tune.

“Just shut up for one whole song, okay Jenny?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

He played a tune the breeder could almost follow and predict the notes to.

He played and began walking backwards, into a hallway of a place the breeder had never seen before. When the other Jared began singing, the breeder couldn’t believe it.

"Sometimes your touch is so soft I can’t feel it.

Sometimes your voice is all that I could need.

And sometimes your eyes they could pierce through the darkness,when you think I don’t see you looking at me.

Well, a fire burns slow if you know how to build it. The heat travels up from the ground towards the trees.

And when the winds change I know smoke follows beauty. I follow it up til it’s you that I see…"

He played and sang with confidence, tossing his head back and grinning throughout. Playfully he kept going, leading the Doctor and the Judge through the hallway of wherever they were. Sunshine filtered in, making his eyes bright.

Both Masters followed Jared as he played and sang.

“Oh, it’s a shame, it’s a shame. The last one to know is the first to complain.

Oh, beware of the dark.

For all of your secrets are shared with spark.

Well you’re warm to the touch, but you’re bitter as sin…”

Jared changed his smile to a proud, affectionate smirk at the Doctor.

“And I think these late nights are doing you in.

No matter the song it’s the blues that you sing.

But sometimes I wish they were all about me.

Oh, it’s a shame, it’s a shame. The last one to know is the first to complain…”

They all entered an entryway with large, open windows. A group of people dressed similarly to Jared were there, cheering and whooping. Jared kept playing, his fingers moving elegantly on the instrument, which shone in the light.

“Well you can’t help the way that you feel in the morning, unless you can take back the night. No, you can’t laugh long enough. You can’t live hard enough, you can’t hold me that tight…”

Jared looked directly at the Doctor, devotion and sincerity in his eyes.

The disc moved back enough so that the Doctor appeared in the same space as Jared on the wall. The Doctor was smiling effortlessly, crinkles by his green, vibrant eyes. He was so well-rested.

The Doctor threw his head back and laughed, deep and genuine, the most beautiful and soothing sound. He laughed because while Jared was still playing, Jared was also getting down on one knee so that he knelt before the Doctor. The group of people in the background were cheering louder but quieted as the final lines were played.

Jared looked up at the Doctor, who was looking right back at him.

The final notes were played louder and firmer than any others that came before them or would ever come after, of that Jared knew. He mouthed along the words and didn’t realize, that with doll in one arm, he was touching the wall, trying to touch the fragile images before him. Because he understood the message of kneeling in that way, though he’d never seen such a thing done.

He was asking the Doctor to stay. In what way, for all the exact reasons, he had no idea.

But Jared did know those words. Just like the others. But these were different because he’d written this song both times—here and there, wherever there in that hallway was. This was a song he’d written, not a song the Doctor had written and he’d known.

Their voices were different, but at one point they melded so much that doll couldn’t tell the difference.

“Sometimes your touch is so soft I can’t feel it. Sometimes your voice is all that I could need. Sometimes your eyes well they could pierce through the darkness,” both Jareds sang. “When you think I don’t see you looking at me. When you think I don’t know you’re looking at me. You don’t know that I see you looking at me…”

The song ended with a final, joyful strum.

Other Jared set aside the instrument and shrugged, still kneeling on one knee before the Doctor.

“C’mon, Jenny. Say yes.”

“If I do, you’ll never go away,” the Doctor bantered, looking shy for once.

“Never intend to, doesn’t matter what your answer is.” Jared reached inside the vest he was wearing and pulled out a silver ring. He held it up to the Doctor. “Say yes, Jen.”

“Say yes, Jen,” the Doctor laughed and took the ring, sliding it on easily, proudly holding his hand up and shaking his head. “Dear God, you’ve ruined me.”

“You can cry about it later,” Jared muttered and shot up, grabbed the Doctor’s hand and held it up for the room to see. “Okay y’all! Who owes me money?!”

There was a burst of laughter before the images disappeared. The disc hummed softly, the light shutting off, and the Judge slipped the mysterious thing back into his vest pocket. He wore a silver ring but it wasn’t that silver ring.

Jared refused to turn around and face the Doctor. For a moment he wanted nothing more than to run—anywhere, far, far away.

No one said a word. Even though Jared felt grief and bitterness and anger throughout his room, both Masters stayed silent and gave him space. Jared reached forward and touched the spot on the wall where his image had been.

He turned around and met the Doctor’s eyes.

How did any of this explain the inn? His nightmare? How could that Master be this Master be that Master whose boot he still felt? How could he be somewhere else, clothed in trousers and a shirt and acting like a Master? How was any of that possible? Breeders never asked their Masters to marry. Very few first breeders were married; they were owned instead.

“That’s me,” Jared whispered. “That’s me… that’s… that’s me!” He pointed to the empty wall. “That’s me!”

“Yeah, that’s you,” Jensen whispered back, slumped forward now. “Always been you.”

Jared turned again and stared at the wall. He took a step backwards, away from both Masters and the wall. “Something happened to me. That’s why you’re here. I…” Mid-sentence his thoughts turned to his pups. He touched his belly, fingers resting lightly there. “Did I have pups?”

The Doctor shut his eyes tightly for a second, then stood up and moved towards Jared. “No, you didn’t. We didn’t. Jay, please, I know… I wish I could explain but… please, please don’t look at me like that. Please just, listen, I would do anything…”

“No!” Jared shouted. He held onto doll as tightly as he had before, fingertips turning white. “I’d never leave my pups!”

“They’re not even with you! They’re in some government facility hundreds of miles away being brainwashed every day!” the Doctor shouted back. “That’s how it’ll always be if you stay here!”

The Judge stepped towards the Doctor but Jared interrupted.

“That’s me and it isn’t me,” Jared snapped as he moved quickly to the door. He stepped over whatever was in his way, managing the pain in his back, the ache in his belly, the itching underneath his skin, and the feeling of wrong, wrong, wrong in his heart. “You killed me,” he blurted out just before he fled towards the hallway. “I don’t know how but you did! You did and you lost me and now you’re here and I… I can’t.”

Without a second thought, the young breeder ran. He ran down the hallway, steps silent, and down the breeder staircase and through the kitchen and outside to the lawns.

He ran until he reached the clearing.

Breathless and crying, he fell hard on his knees, bowing down before the grave of the breeder who had once lived here.

And then he realized something--Cody had to be alive. His chip was still active.

That was how Master kept Nicky without having to purchase another first or second breeder. That’s how he kept breeders coming in through his household temporarily before they were sold again after auction.

The grave stared back at him.

Jared shook his head.

He wouldn’t let it happen. He wouldn’t die that way. He could change the signs.

Because signs were everywhere.

Desperate, he took off running, doll in hand, his legs stretching, muscles working, lungs expanding. As he breathed in, the sun was high in the sky; it warmed every part of him, to the point where Jared swore he had sunlight wrapped around him. His fingers tingled with phantom knowledge of chords long memorized from another body.

Further and further into the grounds, to the patch of woods Master said he could not enter alone, Jared ran. The simple pounding of his feet on the solid ground, despite any pain, kept him calm and sure. He ran until his lungs were on fire and sweat dripped from his hair. He ran until his body was overcome with agony. He ran until he reached a part of the property he’d never seen before.

Tiny grave after grave after grave filled a clearing.

Pups were buried here.

Jared fell to the ground on his knees. He offered a prayer. He offered himself. He offered his heart.

He offered anything and everything in his being to whatever or whoever might be listening to ensure that these pups and his own pups were at rest.

That they would never know the life of a second breeder.

Chapter Text

It surprised Jared that no one came looking for him.

He spent hours besides those little graves. He tended to each one, clearing brush and dust and leaves away, then finding some wildflowers that were still alive to place on top. At sundown, rested and calm, he picked up doll from her place by a tree and headed towards the main house.

This time he walked and took his time, swinging doll gently as they made their way through the forest and back onto the grounds. It was cold but doll’s dress was thicker and seemed to keep her warm, which was all Jared cared about. Just as he reached the stables, Master was mounting a horse, ready to go for a ride. Jared stepped out of the shadows. Master saw him and shook his head.

“I was about to fetch you,” Master muttered and descended from the horse, his boots solid on the ground. “You’re freezing, Jared.” Immediately, Master took a blanket from the horse and placed it over Jared’s shoulders. “Your back is healing well I take it?”

“Yes sir, thank you,” the breeder replied, hesitant about making eye contact for any long period of time.

“Nicky’s got supper ready inside. Go on, don’t make her wait.” Master busied himself with something else in the stable, though he didn’t put the horse back in its stall. “The Doctor and the Judge have both left. I don’t want them back or in contact with you until the end of the year. Is that clear, Jared?”

Another quick answer and Jared hurried into the house.

The older breeder was beside herself. She scolded him into a warm bath and redressed his back. His room had been picked up, everything carefully rearranged after Jared’s dire search for doll. He set her down near the tub before Nicky all but pushed him in.

“They were about to chase after you,” she reported, drying him off tenderly. “When a messenger arrived from Meridian with urgent news.”

“I saw the graves,” Jared blurted out, shutting his eyes in pain when she touched a particularly tender spot. “Did you know?”

“Yes,” she whispered. “I did. I have for some time. He doesn’t breed any of the breeders he brings here after auction, except for me. The ones who pass through sometimes have litters while they’re here. And you know…not all pups make it. He thought…” she brushed Jared’s hair, getting out the curls and knots. “He thought they’d be better in one place than handed over.”

“Is Master ill?”

“I don’t know. He refuses to speak to me about much these days. He used to tell me everything. He used to return from his visits to town brimming with information and stories… now it’s silence that occupies our time together.” Her tone was heavy with sadness. “Do you think it’s something I’ve done? Pushed him too far? I… Jared… I’ve seen auction papers on his desk.”

“Tell me,” the younger breeder insisted, turning to face her. “Tell me what you think might happen.”

She hesitated, chewing on the pink bottom of her lip. “Don’t panic, please? It’s all just speculation.”

He sat up and held her hands in his. She closed her eyes and kept her head down. “I think he’s sold me, Jared.”

They had precious few minutes together as they held each other fiercely. She kept stroking his hair and kissing him; he insisted on pressing each other as close as possible. Breeders never got close, especially second breeders. The academy had discouraged relationships between breeders of the same station. It would ultimately serve them no good in the end. And it distracted them from their first duty: duty to their Masters. However, Jared found it difficult to find regret in his heart. They were friends. And that meant something he couldn’t articulate but he definitely felt.

Master called them both down to the dining room.

They parted with soft licks and hushed mewls.

He noticed her robes were tied differently; done on purpose to hide her growing belly.

 

Two days later, Jared finished cleaning the kitchen from top to bottom. It was difficult work that left his back aching and his hands red and raw, but it was satisfying. No one rushed him. Nicky offered him help but he protested and for once, she listened.

She looked tired.

Her hand moved to her belly more often than he knew she wanted.

She sat and they chatted about the latest style of robes that were popular in Meridian while he cleaned. Scrubbing and washing, slowly, the kitchen became new again. They never allowed it to get dirty or even remotely disorganized, but a deep clean made everything shiny. Jared looked at his work and smiled. This was easy; this he knew. This was his place, his duty, his role in this household and he was deeply appreciative.

Master even praised his work. He slipped Jared two pieces of chocolate and pat his head before going to his study. Jared shared the second piece with Nicky, who thanked him multiple times.

 

Together, they curled up at Master’s feet in his study, but that did not last for long.

He shooed them out and bid them good night.

Confused, Nicky stood in the hallway, shocked and unmoving. Jared tugged her towards his room. For a moment she hesitated, looking back to Master’s shut study, but she eventually gave in. Jared passed doll to her as they lay in his bed. She clung to both Jared and doll, hiding her face, her breathing unsteady.

“I forgot,” she murmured, wiping away at her eyes. “I forgot to tell you why they left so quickly.”

“They had urgent business you said,” Jared replied, brushing away a piece of her hair from her face.

With a nod, she said, “I did. But I managed to hear something from the messenger. A person claiming to be the Doctor’s brother arrived into town. Both Masters were upset and… frantic, I have to say. Jared, where do they come from?”

“I still don’t know,” he replied honestly.

“Doll’s dress is made out of a fabric I’ve never seen in Meridian or Maya.”

“I noticed.”

“They frighten me, Jared.”

“I… I know… they… I don’t understand so much about them. He makes me play this game on a board with him but he doesn’t take me to bed. He treats doll so well but he doesn’t want pups.”

“They said they’d be back.”

At that, both breeders remained silent for the rest of the night. They settled in Jared’s bed and had no more talk about Masters. Doll slept between them.

 

Jared had frequently thought about the Doctor’s eyes. They were a color green he could not find replicated in anything else. Sometimes he felt like he understood the emotions going through the Doctor—surging and thrumming through a network of experience and wonder—and those were lovely moments. Moments when Jared felt like he could understand exactly what the Doctor was feeling and what he needed. 

Why think of this now? Why hurt more?

Second breeders were specially attuned to the emotions of Masters around them, particularly to their own Masters. It was in their nature to assess what their Master needed not just physically, but emotionally as well. Some Masters took their breeders as reading and writing companions. Jared had no such training—he had been forced out of the academy too soon—but he was sure he could learn. He learned the game called chess well enough to consistently win against the Doctor.

But there were more moments when Jared was overwhelmed with that the Doctor seemed to be battling with or against. He couldn’t possibly sort out everything that passed through those eyes.

And it was every day that the weight of his pup on his chest faded.

Jared slept with doll on his chest and he appreciated her.

But nothing could match those precious minutes.

He thought back to his training. He thought about how different he was now compared to six months ago. He felt entirely different, as if someone had picked him up and whitewashed him into something clean and new. But he had no idea how to work as new. New things got old and faded and worn out.

There were some days when Jared missed his old household.

Because Master and Nicky treated Jared as someone who had an opinion. As someone who deserved a bed and a place at the floor near Master’s feet. When deep down, Jared knew—because his training told him—that he didn’t deserve those things.

The feeling that started in his chest and bloomed outwards when he looked at the Doctor and thought about having his pups and fully understanding who this Master was, was indescribable.

A breeder might meet hundreds of Masters in their lifetime.

In the two weeks that passed, Jared could only really think of one.

 

For the holidays, Master took them to Maya.

Bundled up in the carriage, Nicky and Jared passed heat boxes back and forth. She was heavier now, rounder but still not showing completely. It worried Jared that she looked so tired but she brushed his concerns off and focused on explaining Maya’s society to him.

“We’ll dine with one of Eli’s business partners,” she said as they rocked in the carriage. The clop of the horses’ hooves sounded loudly against the cold ground. There was a frost in the air and Jared felt his cheeks become permanently pink. He breathed in deep. “He has a first breeder, her name is Caroline. You’ll like her. She makes the best gingerbread, Eli can eat an entire tray of it, I swear. And they have this fashion that will suit you so well! Then there’s the market, which puts Meridian’s to shame. Anything you could dream of and they have it.”

The journey was considerable and Jared was grateful that he was not made to walk beside the carriage or dragged behind it. He pushed away those thoughts and chose to concentrate on doll. He’d brought her with—bundled her up extra in preparation. He ran his fingers over her cheek.

Master stopped the carriage at an outpost about thirty miles out from the center of Maya, where they were ultimately headed. He had informed that Jared was to be on his best behavior during their stay at Master Sean’s household. “I keep our household relaxed. Sean isn’t of the completely same mindset. You’ll both be taken care of, however, it will not be like our home. And I expect you to blend in seamlessly.”

At the outpost, Jared helped Nicky down from the carriage while Master went to conduct a business transaction. The breeders huddled together for warmth but decided to duck into the nearest food stall.

“Good afternoon lovelies,” the shop owned crowed, quickly moving towards them. “What luck has brought you to me today?”

“No luck at all, just passing through, thank you sir,” Nicky replied for the two of them. The stall was smaller than Jared’s room and the only other people inside it were two Masters that paid hardly any attention to the breeders. Trays of food were set out, with prices of each item written delicately on a card. As Jared examined a tray of sweet rolls, he realized he recognized that handwriting.

“Is your Master open to sharing your services?” the owner asked gruffly, rubbing the swell in his trousers. He was a thick Master; sweat shone on his forehead in the crowded, stuffy stall. Jared felt Nicky flinch.

“No sir, he is most decidedly not,” Nicky snapped. “We’ll take two of the sweet rolls.”

She pulled out her coin bag and quickly found the proper amount. Jared put his arm around her waist, standing up as straight as possible. A tall breeder frightened no one but Jared did not want anyone to think he was unaware of his surroundings.

“I think he’ll make an exception,” the owner laughed and reached forward to grab Nicky by her wrist. “Come on, I’ve got a pretty one like you in the back, too.”

“Stop it!” Nicky shouted, trying to push him off. “I told you no!”

“Quit struggling you disobedient thing!” It was then that Jared noticed a glint of silver in the owner’s pocket. He was carrying a knife. When Nicky wriggled in his grasp again, the owner’s free hand went towards the knife. Jared rushed forward without much thinking.

He knocked the owner off of Nicky and onto the ground. He heard Nicky gasp.

“What is going on out here?!” a familiar voice screeched from behind the stall. With the rustle of a few sheets and pieces of cloth, a figure made its way into the stall. The owner was screaming things Jared could technically understand but was too shocked to listen to at that moment.

“Jared!” Nathaniel huffed. “You!” The blond breeder charged forward and knocked Jared to the ground, caught by surprise. Out of instinct, Jared submitted to the breeder beating and slapping him. He merely held his arms up to block a few of the blows, but he was in the garden all over again.

“I can’t believe you have the nerve to show up here!” Nathaniel screamed, hitting Jared square in his right eye. “I’ll kill you if it’s the last—ow!”

It took Jared a moment to realize what was going on. His right eye was swollen shut though he could still see Nicky grabbing Nathaniel by the hair then shoving him off of Jared.

“Over my dead body,” Nicky spat and struggled with Nathaniel, keeping the other breeder pinned down. “Jared! Go get Master!”

“It’s fine, I’m here already,” Master grumbled, walking inside the stall, which he towered in. “Nicky, let that breeder go.”

“No! He’s… I’m not done with him yet!”

“Let him go now,” Master commanded. Jared saw how Master’s eyes went back and forth to Nicky’s face and her belly. She either noticed or decided to follow his command because she let go of Nathaniel with a thrust forward, causing him to drop onto the floor. “Get yourself and Jared into the carriage. Right now! Go woman, don’t dawdle!”

Nicky grabbed Jared’s hand and pulled them both outside onto the street. They heard Master argue with the owner and then speak to the witnesses outside.

They left the outpost in a hurry, though Master did not say or given any reason for why.

Jared was grateful he had left doll in the carriage.

Not another word was spoken as they made the last leg of their journey to Maya. 

Chapter Text

Maya was unlike Meridian in nearly every way.

It smelled like the lake it was near, even in the colder weather. The downtown area had expanded with the rest of the city as it became more populated, so although buildings were still close together, they were newer and lavish. The government buildings were kept simple in comparison, but were the well-maintained of any buildings surrounding them. Nothing was out of place.

Despite their late hour of arrival at nearly sundown—after an entire day’s travel—citizens and visitors were out in high numbers. The streets and walkways were packed; breeders and Masters were busy gathering things for holiday feasts and celebrations. Jared watched in awe as a myriad of breeders walked by. Some were pale, others were dark, some had carefully tied robes in fashions he’d never seen before and others were naked except for a Master’s collar. All kinds of languages were being shouted or spoken through the crowds. And even with his right eye swollen shut, Jared took in as much as possible.

He held Nicky’s hand as he practically vibrated in his seat from excitement.

“Get out and walk beside the carriage, Jared,” Master commanded from his post outside. “Do you good to get that out of your system now.”

With additional instructions to stay close to the carriage and to refrain from speaking to anyone, Jared kissed Nicky and quickly followed orders. He hiked his robes up enough so that he could jump from the carriage and onto the street. He landed with ease, even with one eye. Master kept the carriage at a pace that was easy for Jared to match. He wanted doll to see all of this, but Nicky was holding her and that was for the best.

The young breeder smiled widely as he continued to take down as many details as he could of this new place. The streets were beautifully paved; his slippers hardly felt a pebble. Some buildings were like palaces while others were simple but shone with the quality of expensive materials.

Meridian didn’t have many buildings taller than four stories, mainly because of a fire risk. But Maya had block after block of structures so tall to Jared, he had to rest his neck every few minutes. He could study the city without ever looking down at its actual occupants. As he craned his neck to better see a sculpture at the top of a building, he bumped into someone. Immediately, he quickly apologized. The Master who he had come into contact with simply looked down at him and said, “Quite alright.”

There was no whip, no shove to the ground. In fact, Jared had yet to see anything like that occur in his short time in Maya. There weren’t even any visible breeder posts on the walkways or outside of shops. He thought this curious but did not question it. It wasn’t his place and he was grateful enough.

After an estimated three miles, the carriage arrived at a household. A breeder was posted outside, ready to help Master with the horses and carriage. Jared shied away from the new breeder and helped Nicky out from the carriage. She took a moment to stretch and look around, but turned her attention to Jared.

“Doesn’t it bother you?” she asked, pointedly. “Why did your old Master sell his first breeder? What’s he doing in a pathetic stall outside of Maya? Jared!”

He’d looked away from her for a mere moment to watch a shiny, musical cart roll by. For a bronze piece one could select the song and push a button, where small pieces of colorful paper would erupt in bursts.

“Sorry,” he replied, regretting his distraction. “It does, but… I have no way of knowing what happened. Why worry?” They waited beside the carriage for their instructions.

“Because he wanted to kill you, that’s why!”

“So?”

A first breeder was to be respected. And if that respect involved fear, then so be it.

Before Nicky could reply, Master commanded them to go to the breeders’ entrance in the back of the house. Quickly, they followed a narrow walkway. The older breeder led the way since she had been here once before. Jared felt anxious about leaving doll in the carriage—tucked under a seat and covered with a blanket—because he wouldn’t be able to hear her cry if she needed him. But Nicky had assured him, more than once, that she’d be the safest there. Before the carriage disappeared from his sight, Jared offered a small prayer for her safety.

Shortly after, Jared met Caroline, who seemed intent on ignoring his existence as much as possible. She was shorter than Nicky, but wide and heavy with a litter. She had red hair and violet eyes, and wore a dark green robe with a number sewn on the front. Jared wanted to say that she looked severe but that didn’t seem adequate to describe her. He didn’t understand why Nicky had said he would like her. The more time they spent in her presence, the less kind she was.

“Dinner is nearly ready. Can he set a table properly? Serve?” she asked Nicky as the three of them navigated several hallways and corridors.

“He can. I’ve taught him, Mistress.”

“Well, I suppose we’ll see. Master mentioned a discussion in the main library tonight. Do you know if this has something to do with your abrupt visit?”

“It’s not my business to know, Mistress,” Nicky replied curtly. She still kept her head down to show respect.

“Hah!” Caroline sneered. “I know you, Nicky. Any scrap of information you come across you make it your business.”

“Eli has always shared information with me freely. I am no eavesdropper,” she insisted.

“Fine, but that doesn’t happen here in our household. Here are your quarters, unless our Masters require your services tonight.” She showed them a closet with two pallets and a food bowl inside. There was no window or anything extra but it was at least clean, as far as Jared could tell. He pressed himself as close to Nicky as he dared.

Eventually, they walked to the kitchen area, where four other breeders were busily plating and arranging dinner. Jared had never seen so many breeders in one household; all wore the same color robe but only two had numbers sewn on. He’d thought that all households had two breeders, not more.

“Get the mains out of the oven, you,” Caroline ordered Jared. “And you serve the wine,” she added to Nicky. Both breeders moved to do their jobs.

Trying to adapt to a new kitchen, Jared made several mistakes in a row. He’d assumed there were gloves for getting things out of the oven.  Caroline hit his knuckles with a metal rod as she barked at him to stop dawdling and to hurry. One breeder falling behind could mean punishment for all the rest. Finally, Jared gave up and took out two large casseroles from the still-on oven.

In his hurry to put down the dishes, Jared bumped into a breeder, who nearly dropped what she had been carrying. That almost caused a tiny chaotic mess. Plates were then pushed into his arms and he was sent outside to the dining room. He prayed for his hands to still.

“I hope your travel here was enjoyable. Don’t know why you insist on driving that carriage by yourself. A breeder can easily be trained to do the work.” This came from the Master of the house. He was as tall as Master, but had different coloring all together. He was darker and had black hair, which he kept neatly tied. He had a thick beard like Master, but it wasn’t trimmed as neatly. He eyed Jared openly.

“There’s something about tending to the horses and driving them that’s satisfying,” Master replied easily. “But thank you. It was a good trip.”

Jared served the house Master first as he had been taught, and then Master. First course was a hearty salad with shrimp and anchovies. Jared hoped no one heard the protests of his stomach. With a bow, he took his place on the floor beside Nicky, close to Master. He kept his head down and focused on both Masters, trying to anticipate what they might need next. From time to time he caught snippets of their conversation but not enough to piece together anything substantial. The next three courses were served by the breeders in the kitchen. Intricate, delicious smelling dishes were served on silver, glistening platters. Jared licked his lips when he saw a massive chocolate cake set out, with a side of whipped cream and strawberries. He bet that the whipped cream was cool and the cake was still warm.

Usually, if they had company at their household, Master would feed them before their arrival or toss them pieces of food throughout supper. However, neither was done here. Jared felt his hunger rise up to the surface of his skin. He prayed for patience. He could do this. He could.

When both Masters were finished dining, Jared began to clear away a few plates, piling them in his arms and quickly making trips back and forth to the kitchen. He kept out of the way of all the other breeders, especially Caroline, who was busy reprimanding a breeder for the icing on the cake. It had looked lumpy to Jared but he was no expert in such things and Masters hadn’t noticed.

Jared was about to retreat to help with the dishes when Master commanded his breeders to follow him. House Master had just suggested to Master that they retire into the main library. Both breeders followed swiftly and silently. The household was grander and more sumptuous than Master preferred at home. In comparison, their household seemed smaller, but Jared was thankful he no longer slept in a closet or on a pallet. He wondered who had designed this household.

 

It took very little time for the Masters to settle into the library. House Master sat at a desk, while Master occupied a lounge nearby. Master was served something dark by the House Master and they toasted each other’s health and good fortune. Nicky and Jared knelt at Master’s feet without pillows. His knees hurt but he kept his face neutral.

There was some talk of markets and estates and business that Jared was not able to keep up with or familiar with at all. He tried to keep from fidgeting but he was still excited from their brief time in the city. Hopefully, he wondered if Master might give them bronze pieces once more. This time Jared had things he wanted to buy: a pair of slippers for doll, a piece of chocolate for himself and Nicky, and a hair clip for himself. His hair was getting long—it nearly touched his shoulders in soft waves—but Nicky insisted that it suited him well. Still, a hair clip would add a sense of elegance and maturity to his appearance.

“Jared, place yourself on the desk,” Master commanded, his voice firm but distant. “Belly down and legs spread.” Snapped out of his thoughts, Jared scrambled to do as he’d been told. The desk had been cleared of any papers or objects. Although he didn’t like this position—it reminded him of many things—he was grateful that Nicky and Master were still present. He lay on the desk so that his cheek touched down on it, his belly was flat, and his legs spread out. For a moment he waited for something to occur or for any further instruction. He gave no sound or struggle when his robes were lifted. He did yelp when a hand was gripped around his cock a second after.

“Large for a breeder his age,” housemaster muttered. “He a good milker?”

“He’ll be a tall one. Suitable for milking but not optimal. Better at tending to the stables, gardens, and all else,” Master murmured from somewhere Jared could not turn his head to see.

The hand on his cock moved to his entrance and spread him out. Jared bit down on his lip to prevent from crying out as three fingers were shoved in at once, pushed as far as they would go in that one thrust. The young breeder squirmed and breathed out. “Shame you don’t plug him regularly. He’d be a lot looser if you did. I doubt he could stand a milking session. Mind if I plug him to see?”

“No, do as you need. He’s quite young, you understand.”

“Yes, I do. This is a precaution. I need to make sure he could take this. This is a standard size for all my milkers.” Jared heard the sounds of a drawer being opened and things being pulled out and set onto the desk. He mewled when the fingers inside him shifted and held him open. He felt a blunt head of something press against his opening and was about to moan in excitement. Instead, the plug was thrust into him without warning or help. Jared cried out and bucked against the Master’s touch.

“Easy now,” house Master grumbled. “This is nothing.” The plug burned and stretched Jared as he’d never had done to him before. His eyes watered and his throat dried up. He threw his head back in pain and scratched at the desk, trying to get his hips away from the plug. Another push he felt it widen.

It was much larger than the machine that had helped him during his heat and any Master he had ever serviced. It pressed in an awkward way, where he could feel it bulge out from inside him.

“M-master,” Jared sniffed, twisting around. “Hurts…”

A hard slap hit him on the face.

“Silence!” house Master commanded. “It’s not even half way in you pathetic breeder.” The plug was kept in but the Master’s weight was gone. “I cannot take your offer, Eli. He can’t hold a milker plug, his hips are too narrow, and his cock guarantees nothing. There is nothing extraordinary about this breeder that I don’t already have in my household or could acquire through other means. He’s too much of a risk to be purchased right now anyway.”

Jared lay on the desk, hands behind his back, and drifted in and out of dreams and reality. He hoped that doll was doing alright. The dark could scare her but he had told her not to be afraid of the carriage.

“Sean, please, reconsider. Both can be trained.”

“Yes but that is not what worries me, Eli.” The House Master sat back down. No one told Jared to leave the desk so he remained there. “The investigation the government has opened on your name affects us all. I bought Caroline from you because I saw potential in her. That investment has paid off. But if I were to buy not only one—but two—breeders from you at this moment? That sends a red flag; it’s clear you’re unloading and I would prefer to stay out of it.”

Master stood up and moved towards house Master. “Surely there must be someone in our network that could buy them. My alternative is less than desirable, I would give anything to see that not come to fruition. I’ve provided you all with capable breeders in exchange for their safety. You’ve seen a return on your investment. Please, assist me with this.”

“There’s not much I can do, Eli,” house Master sighed. “All of my contacts have responded in the same manner as I. Truly, I wish there were more I could do, but realistically that is not the case.”

“There has to be someone!”

“I tell you that there is not!” house Master shouted. “I have no use for a breeder with pups that are not mine and one that can’t even be milked! What would you have me do with them?”

“Shelter them, Sean! I beg of you.”

“I cannot, Eli. And that is my final answer to your request.”

The room was silent for a moment and it seemed like Master remembered Jared at last. He motioned for Jared to stand and kneel. Jared had the plug half in so he stumbled on his way back to Nicky, who looked exhausted and wrecked. She took the plug out for him and massaged his entrance with her delicate fingers, though they still did not speak words.

“I’ll take my leave then,” Master stated, motioning to the breeders to get to the doorway. “I thank you for your generous hospitality, Sean.”

“What! You don’t need to leave now Eli, surely you can stay!”

“No, I cannot. There is too much for me to do and only a limited amount of time to accomplish these things. Again, your hospitality and generosity continue to do you credit. Thank you.” Master began to walk out the door and his breeders pitched forward to keep up. House Master shoved them each out of the way and caught up with Master.

“Eli, do not throw away our friendship over this matter!”

“I have no other choice! None of you will aid me, now I must aid myself. Call your breeders to round up my carriage, please.” Both Masters practically ran down the main staircase, speaking hurriedly. The breeders waited in the main entryway. Nicky noticed how Jared trembled.

She slipped her hand into his, something he had sorely missed.

“Shh,” Nicky soothed him. “Doll will be waiting for us and you mustn’t upset her.”

Caroline appeared from the kitchen. She smirked at Nicky and presented her with a tray of gingerbread.

“As a parting gift,” the first breeder purred. “May you have a lovely holiday.”

 

In the carriage, Nicky opened the tray, ripped away its wrapping and tore through it. She shook out a piece of paper and something fell from it, dropped onto the floor with a thud.

It was a dead bird.

The note was written in a simple handwriting: Now you are one of us.

Nicky threw the tray and the bird out of the carriage, out onto road.

“Breeders,” Nicky hissed.

 

They were silent for the rest of the journey.

Jared had two weeks left and he dreaded that time for more reasons than he cared to think about.

Chapter Text

Master pushed the horses hard and had them back at their household by dawn.

He tended to the horses alone, ordering the breeders to get inside and go to bed. When Nicky tried to ask if he would like something warm to drink and eat, he snapped at her. She grabbed Jared’s hand and tugged him forward, a blush of anger in her face. Jared held onto doll as they hurried inside.

The older breeder slept with him and doll that night. He was careful with his hands but she noticed. With a small sigh, she placed his hand on her belly.

He felt a flutter.

She nodded and gave him a slight smile.

He pressed his hand back to his belly.

The emptiness accused him and he fell into a fitful sleep.

 

When Jared woke up at midday, he remembered his last dream.

It was like sifting through broken glass, with the shards of two separate but joined windows. Throughout the entire dream he felt himself shift from who he was at the moment and the Jared in the photograph. At first it scared him—because Jared in the photograph spoke to the Doctor in tones Jared would never dare—but he adjusted.

In the beginning of the dream he felt the Doctor’s fingertips skim over his throat, down his chest, and spiral down to his inner thighs. His fingers were rough but his touch was filled with awed adoration. There was nothing experimental with those touches—it was like he knew every part of him, had seen and felt it over and over again. Jared felt himself purr when the Doctor slipped a finger inside the hot, slick part of him. The Doctor seemed to think the breeder needed to be stretched, which he didn’t, but it felt nice and the other Jared seemed to like it. It meant that the Doctor was taking his time. And Jared had never felt that before.

The deep, rubbing movements of the Doctor’s finger were enhanced by firm, biting kisses. The breeder opened his mouth and moaned with a shudder. The Doctor groaned in response, holding himself up and panting, slipping in another finger.

He seemed to search for something, though Jared had no idea what.

Coarse stubble scratched at Jared’s chin and cheeks as the Doctor continued kissing him hungrily, pausing only occasionally to breathe. Jared mewled, puffing out small breaths of air and shifting his hips up, opening his legs to accept a third, thick finger. Slick eased the way, but the Doctor’s gentle movements helped the most. He treated Jared as if he were precious.

He felt his entrance spasm open and shut, with a gush of slick pushing out as soon as the Doctor’s lips latched onto Jared’s neck. He groaned and mouthed at the spot before he clamped down fiercely, teeth pressing into the breeder’s skin swiftly. As he bit he sucked and ran his tongue over the spot. Jared arched up and felt himself split into two people. Other Jared was more vocal—he was loud, with a deeper voice—and clawed at the Doctor. Jared was quiet, as he had been taught, and did not touch the Doctor unless it seemed like the Doctor wanted to be touched.

Other Jared begged the Doctor to stop teasing.

Jared silently begged the Doctor to keep going.

 

Minutes were skipped forward abruptly, without explanation, and Jared felt himself propped up. He was sitting up, on the Doctor’s lap, legs wrapped around the Doctor’s waist. Other Jared had his arms behind his back, lifting him up and down on the Doctor’s cock. Jared kept his arms wrapped around the Doctor’s freckled shoulders, clinging as the Doctor thrust up repeatedly, his pace fast yet deep.

This time Jared echoed other Jared and let out a long, loud moan. He felt slick build and drip out, causing their movements to sound out through the room. The Doctor heard these sounds and made a noise in the back of this throat. His hips lost their rhythm for a moment as Jared pushed out a large amount of slick that covered the Doctor’s entire cock and hips. “Jesus, fuck,” the Doctor moaned and closed his eyes. “You’re… holy shit…” Even with all the slick, Jared was tight. He rolled his hips forward, then pushed backwards and clenched his muscles expertly, pleased that other Jared did not do this.

The Doctor gasped, his green eyes fluttering open. He placed his shaking hands on Jared’s shoulders, then pulled them and pressed their lips together.

“Fuck me Jen,” other Jared begged. “Fuck me, please, Jen, please…”

Jared wanted to say something. Wanted to beg to be bred. Wanted to encourage the Doctor to fuck him until he was full of come and there would be no doubt. But the Doctor was lost. He pounded into Jared for a few thrusts then shifted his own hips. He adjusted Jared’s hips slightly. The angle with which he began to push in at was at first uncomfortable, but then his cock plunged deeper and pressed something still unfamiliar to Jared.

“Oh, oh, oh,” Jared heard himself gasping. “M-master?! Master! Oh!” It was the spot only the machine had touched before. And the Doctor let out a soft laugh, stroked Jared’s back, gripped his ass, and started to pound against it. His thick cock hit it every time. Jared felt his balls expand and fill with something warm. He was in heat. He was going to be bred. It was a heady, intense rush as the Doctor continued to fuck him, grunting and panting with effort. Jared coaxed him on, trying his best to clench around the cock inside him. Pressure was a tool he knew how to use. Even though the pressure of the Doctor's cock was extremely satisfying for him, he could give back just the same. 

“Gonna… oh shit…” the Doctor muttered, biting on a closed fist. “Jared!”

The breeder’s hips were pushed down, flush against the Doctor’s. The first few spurts of come had Jared keening. He rocked back and forth, trying to take the Doctor deeper. He fell back against the bed and started gasping, his hips thrusting in irregular rhythms as his cock continued to spasm and pump inside the breeder.

Jared lost it when the Doctor tugged on his cock. He let out a long, warm stream of milk, covering the Doctor with what would eventually nurture their pups. The thought itself made Jared shudder in pleasure. He rocked through his orgasm then had another as the Doctor flipped them so that Jared was on his back. The Doctor grunted and hitched Jared’s legs up on his shoulders, then began to pound in and out. His cock was still hard and still coming as the breeder moaned to a third orgasm.

“Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes,” the Doctor chanted, then squeezed his eyes shut. Jared felt the Doctor’s cock spurt out the last of his come. Yet he managed to wring a fourth orgasm out of the breeder, who was trembling and crying with overwhelming pleasure. He couldn't process everything at once. 

Eventually, the Doctor licked away Jared’s tears.

He held them close, partially collapsed on the breeder, both of them covered in sweat and milk. The Master’s hands were tangled in Jared’s hair. Jared no longer felt other Jared. He felt bred and full and alive. They could not steady their breathing; the Doctor insisted on more kisses despite their state.

After some time had passed, the Doctor lifted himself up and smiled down at Jared, who was purring softly. “Thank you,” the Doctor whispered and kissed Jared lightly.

He felt other Jared reply for him. “I love you, Jen.”

 

That was when Jared woke up.

He sat up, startled and in pain. His body was pushing against its controls, his cock straining to harden. He had released a small amount of milk on the bed and he was flushed all over. His entrance was leaking heavy, sweet slick and his forehead was covered in sweat. Memories of his last heat made his mouth go dry.

Quickly, he leaned over and woke up the older breeder.

“I’m in heat,” he blurted out, tears welling up. “I… I want him.”

Chapter Text

The moon returned.

Not that it had ever left.

The pull of it hurt and soothed that hurt all the same. Heavy drapes were pulled over the windows and Jared hid under a nest of blankets when he could stand the contact. He was sensitive to everything all at once. Scents that had never bothered him before, now he could not stand. His stomach rolled constantly.

On the beginning of the third day—exhausted and parched—Jared began crying nonstop. Nothing could stop the tears, which scared him, because what would he do if he never stopped crying? Nicky tried to hold him, but her touch turned painful. She slipped doll into his arms but even she hurt him. He kept her on his bed; her sweet expression unchanging no matter how much he cried. Relief did not pass through him, not even when he was tossing and turning in bed, actively trying to ease the pressure in his hips. The slick he was producing was heavier in quantity and thicker this time, which Nicky quietly explained was something that happened as breeders neared maturity.

Shortly after, she slipped him a tiny piece of chocolate, which he managed to suckle on slowly until it melted away completely.

Sometimes he cried because the plugs were frustrating and reminded him of the house Master in Maya, or the auctions at the kennels, or late nights when old Master wanted Jared prepped with a plug that was too big but Jared was good, he was a good breeder and he did it. He took it without questioning it because it was a breeder’s duty to their Master.

Sometimes he cried because he knew no one wanted to breed him.

He began to promise Nicky—in fevered whispers—that if a Master would only give him a chance, allow him the opportunity, he would be good. He’d make it good for them, he promised. He could be good, he insisted, clinging to her robes. If only they’d try.

He offered to cover his face—because maybe that was the problem, he knew he wasn’t much to look at, not like breeders as beautiful as Nicky—but the older breeder silenced him, placing her hand over his mouth.

“Don’t,” she said with anger. “Don’t even think of that.”

“Then why does no one want me?” Jared sobbed, trembling and sweating in the twisted up sheets of his bed. “I don’t need… to keep a pup… I just… wanted one. Just one. A small one. It wouldn’t take up much space. Please.”

He seemed to be running out of air. The moon changed shape. All he could think about was how lovely it had been to be stretched open before being bred. How the scratch of stubble on his face had been pleasantly familiar. The way the Doctor’s handsome face had gone slack in the dream as he came inside the breeder and other Jared. How he finally looked at peace afterwards, playing with the soft tendrils of Jared’s hair. 

The moon told him someone else was in his room. Nicky slipped away from him, from her place on his bed. Jared tried to focus on the Masters in the room and tried his best to assume a position of respect but his limbs would not cooperate.

“He just had a heat two months ago. I thought you have heats every six months?”

“There… we visited someone and they… they plugged him. That might have triggered it. He’s been very attached to doll lately, also. That might account for something. But… I beg of you, your friend is hurting him in his refusal.” That was Nicky’s voice, comforting and familiar to Jared.

“This is difficult, Nicky, please understand that. The age difference… it’s more than a decade between them. In our place of origin this would be considered a crime.”

“Would willful ignorance that led to his death be considered a crime? Or would it be as it is here? Nothing. If he dies because he isn’t bred nothing happens to any of you.” She spat the last part out with venom. “No one pays a fine, no one is sent to a courtroom, no one answers to anything or anyone if he dies. He’d be tossed into mass grave and forgotten and you would leave, not put out or inconvenienced at all.”

This kind of talk from her scared Jared. He knew it was true.

“Stop,” the other voice replied. “You… he’s my friend. He was Jensen’s lover, yes, but he was also my friend. I won’t let any of that happen, despite what you think of us.”

“Prove it,” Nicky dared. “He’s got two days before he either goes mad from the heat or his body begins shutting down. It doesn't matter if you see him as a child because he isn't. Are the ways you have both treated him the way you would treat children? Then why not this? When his life depends on it?” Her breath started to come faster. "You don't get to pick and choose at your convenience how you treat him! Either you both truly treat him as a youth and leave him alone or you treat him as he is and your friend does what needs to be done. It isn't a matter of want anymore."

Jared didn’t know if there was some kind of reply to her or not. He stretched out and got up, then managed to hobble over to the bathroom, where Nicky had a tub ready. Reaching out for the edge of the tub, he was able to heft himself in. The water bothered him at first, but the more he submerged himself, the better he felt. When he rose up, the Judge was standing near the tub. His blue eyes were dimmed and he was dressed in wrinkled clothing.

“Jared, may I speak to you?” he asked, wringing his hands nervously. “Can you understand me?”

The breeder looked him over with cloudy eyes and nodded.

The Judge took a deep breath. “Thank you. I… Jared, would it… We aren’t in a position to keep a pup right now, Jared. Your Master has made us a proposition, one that is very difficult to turn down.”

“You don’t want to buy me anymore?” Jared asked softly and rubbed the water out of his eyes.

Something inside the Judge seemed to break further. It seemed like he had aged so much in so little time. “Of course we do. It’s just that, your Master, Eli, has changed the provisions of our previous agreement.” The Judge took a seat at the edge of the tub. He blocked the moon, which Jared was grateful for. “It seems that your old Master has brought forward allegations of abolitionist beliefs against Eli. He thinks Eli is working to free you and other breeders. The government is taking this claim very seriously and it has your Master very anxious. He wants to sell both of you before the government can take you away.”

“I don’t want to go back to the kennels,” Jared mewled, his throat dry but his feelings clearer after being in the tub. “Please?”

“No, of course not. It’s just that… Eli tried to sell you to others, knowing that we had a standing agreement. He doesn’t think we can take care of you, but now he’s run out of options. Do you understand, Jared? Both you and Nicky must leave here.”

“Where will I go? Can I stay with her?” Images of them on the streets of Meridian, at the mercy of strange Masters, filled him with heavy dread.

“It’s not simple at all, Jared.” The Judge sighed and rolled his shoulders forward. “You used to tell me that nothing was ever simple and yet everything was nothing but simplicity. Jesus. Anyway. I’m upset with Eli for trying to break our contract just because he thinks you’d be better placed with someone else. And now what was simple has become even more complicated. He won’t sell you to us unless we buy Nicky as well. And that… we were not prepared to do.”

The breeder was about to say something—anything—but another Master he had never seen before broke into the room, looking enraged and frantic.

He looked like Jared, like the Jared in the photograph. But he was taller and older than that Jared. He was dressed much like the Judge, in clothes that were worn and wrinkled, with boots that sounded firm against the tile as he stomped towards the tub. The Judge and he exchanged some words before this mysterious Master pushed the Judge out of his way. He reached forward and grabbed Jared by the arm, then yanked him out of the tub.

“We’re going! Right the fuck now! This wasn’t a difficult job, look at him! Look at you!” New Master shouted at Jared, shaking him. “What have they done to you?! How can you… how can you be this way?!”

“I’m… sorry Master!” Jared yelped as he was pushed to the floor.

“Get some clothes on Jared and fucking hurry! Misha, I trusted you! I trusted both of you to bring him back and fucking fix this shit! Stop gaping Jare, get dressed!”

“You were supposed to stay downstairs god dammit! This isn’t as simple as just bringing him back, Jeff! You can’t just take him out of here!”

“Watch me!” New Master roared and threatened to punch the Judge. “You were going to leave him here to be this… this thing! I can’t believe you! And I can’t believe that Jensen would do this. That’s what really fucking gets me. They get married and then this shit happens and what does that fucker do? Get up, Jared!”

Jared had no idea what to do. Did he have to listen to this New Master? But this new Master wanted him to leave and Master had not given Jared permission. Too much was going on and the moon hurt. His hips ached. The weight on his chest left and it depressed Jared, made him numb to everything going on around him.

“Jared!” New Master shouted. “Wake up! C’mon, wake up!”

Large hands set upon Jared’s shoulders. All Jared could do was struggle against the Master’s grip. He felt the bruises form.

“Get your hands off of him.” The new Master moved away from Jared due to the Doctor, who charged without hesitation. “You can be confused and angry and fucking upset all you want, Jeff! But you’re not going to hurt him. I’ve fucking done enough of that already.”

“Jensen,” the Judge blurted out. “It’s nearly midnight.”

“I already signed the papers,” the Doctor snapped, then looked at Jared. “I bought you. Well, technically Misha bought you but you’re ours now. A week early.”

There was no happiness or light in the Doctor’s eyes as he announced that. All Jared saw was a devotion to finish whatever he had come to do in Meridian. And apparently, this was it.

Jared realized that he was curled up on the tile floor, trying to guess who was closest to him and who could be trusted to stay.

He was wet, cold, and tired.

The three Masters argued about Jared for five minutes before the Doctor realized that Jared wasn’t moving. He’d passed out on the bathroom floor.

“Nicky!” Jared could hear the Judge scream. He felt very far away, which was good, because this wasn’t working out.

“Jared!” the Doctor cried out and scooped Jared up. The moon relayed all of this information to him. “Buddy, hang on. Hang on.”

A kiss was pressed to Jared’s forehead seconds before he felt a hand grab his ankle.

Chapter Text

A warm, wet cloth pressed against Jared’s forehead.

He woke up slowly, taking his time to feel himself sink back into his body. He was lying down on a bed that wasn’t his, unclothed but covered in a light sheet. The moon pulled him but he resisted, groaning as he felt how dry his throat was. The cloth was gently eased into his mouth and he suckled, grateful that whoever was near understood.

Closing his eyes once more, he breathed deep, unbothered by the fresh scent of the sheets under him.

Quietly, he tossed and turned, trying to find a comfortable position to lie in. A warm hand was placed on his head and cautious fingers played with his hair. The touch didn’t hurt, though it stung at first. The room was dark and silent, things the young breeder was appreciative of.

No one was shouting, grabbing at him, or commanding him to do things.

Minutes later, he opened his eyes and met green ones.

The Doctor gave him a tender smile but his eyes betrayed him.

Jared sat up to ask, but the Doctor shook his head. “No, no, just rest. Please.”

He was dressed very differently this time, wearing a tailored, fitted, beige suit and fine, shiny boots. The breeder looked on, admiring the lines of the suit and how it hugged at the muscles underneath it. The color of the material and the crisp white shirt he wore brought out the green in the Doctor’s eyes.

Truly, the Doctor was a handsome Master. Jared felt himself flush with want. He was more lucid than before, and calmer, but he felt his heat thrum under his skin.

The Doctor’s freckles stood out, even in the dim room.

The Doctor sighed, then bit on his bottom lip. He did not look at the breeder.

“I had a dream. A nightmare. I…” he turned his head and blocked his face from view. “I killed you. Literally, beat you to death.”

The quiet of the room made Jared’s gasp louder than it actually was. The Doctor’s shoulders trembled.

“I couldn’t stop. I didn’t stop. My god… you’ve… you dreamt this for a while now, haven’t you? Why didn’t you tell me?” He moved to face Jared, his green eyes desperate. “How could you even stand to speak to me after that? Jared?”

His body was starting to press back into its heat at a full force. Heat filled him; pressure pushed into his hips, sweat broke out all over him. He scrunched his face up as he felt slick build up.

“Just… just a… dream,” Jared managed to say, through his discomfort and the drought in his throat. “Not you.”

The Doctor gave a short, cold laugh. “You’re so sweet, Jared.”

The last thing he felt was sweet, but if the Doctor said so, it must be true. This was his new Master. This would be the Master he would serve and obey no matter what—until he was sold again.

Or possibly, Jared bitterly thought, left behind.

He wanted to explain to the Doctor that the nightmares and dreams before or during a heat were important to breeders, but Jared didn’t want to live his life according to superstition. He wanted to ask the Doctor if he could stay with him until he reached the same age as older Jared. Would he be able to love Jared the same? The moon pushed away all those questions and Jared moaned, breathing out heavily. The Doctor’s touch was blazing.

“He gave me your control,” the Doctor murmured, shoulders drooped as if in defeat. “I thought it was something I could hold. But I see it in my head.” He extended an arm forward and swiped at something Jared couldn’t see. “Everything is here. Memories, dreams, the controls to your heat…” The Doctor cleared his throat. “He switched that on a few days ago.” Another bitter laugh escaped the Doctor’s handsome mouth. “He knocked up your friend because he knew we wouldn’t touch her that way. And he pushed you like this because he knew… I could never let you… well… let’s not talk about that.”

Gingerly, the Doctor took the rag and wet it again in a pail of water beside the bed. He cleaned the sweat off of Jared’s forehead and face, then placed a kiss on the tip of his nose. It was a gesture so sweet, Jared couldn’t explain the feelings behind it.

“I’m switching you to first breeder, Jared. And I’m not giving up the baby. I’m going to take care of it and you, so long as you let me.”

With a nod, Jared gave his consent.

Happiness fluttered in his chest and he couldn’t help the smile that bloomed. The Doctor returned the smile and joined him on the bed, holding Jared against him as he made a few movements with his right hand. Jared closed his eyes and curled up, warm and at a momentary ease.

He felt his chip hum.

First breeder. He was going to be a first breeder.

Chapter Text

A breeder’s biology is complicated yet simple.

Jared knew a small amount of information based on his time at the academy and his interactions with other breeders. At the heart of any breeder’s knowledge was the basic fact that breeders bred.

A first breeder, however, was not intended to breed for quantity, but for quality.

A first breeder was chosen based on their ability—judged by their Master and the academy—to breed superior citizens. The offspring of first breeders were not called pups, but children. These children would be future Masters in charge of governing districts, or perhaps successful merchants, or politicians, or high ranking government officials.

The majority of pups that were sent off to government facilities were raised and trained for combat. Jared understood that the government needed breeders to provide soldiers for the army. He knew that he was doing his government an honorable service when he had a litter of pups; he was providing freedom. At least, that’s what he had been told.

A first breeder was usually highly respected in many regards, across all classes. The first breeder of a household was an important and necessary station. A household would provide the government with two crucial elements: future prominent Masters and numbers for the military.

There were hierarchies of first breeders. Sought after for their beauty and their superior bloodlines, some first breeders came from extensive, long-established families. They had lineages that had provided the world with great thinkers and geniuses—Masters who had gone on to do remarkable acts in the world.

Jared did not come from one of those lines.

But he knew some of those first breeders could trace their bloodlines all the way back to the first handful of breeders. These breeders were always in high demand, with some matches made in infancy. They were models to all other first breeders—and to some degree, second breeders—in behavior, manners, responsibilities, fashion, and service. Jared was just proud to be thought of as good enough to be a first breeder to any Master, especially to a Master as handsome as the Doctor. And while Jared knew he had a complicated relationship with the Doctor—with so many things unanswered and unexplained—he was still grateful for the opportunity to be a first breeder. The very thought of it made his thoughts spin.

 

A breeder’s biology could be changed at the discretion of their Master, but it was not as simple as turning a switch on and off. Masters were taught that while a breeder’s body could change, it shouldn’t change too often, as to protect the potential offspring. It was widely understood that the power to change a breeder from second to first—or first to second, which was less common—should only be done once every few years if desired. There were a variety of circumstances that made these changes necessary to each household, but Jared had always been a second breeder, even though he had been promised the title of a first breeder when he was younger.

Being a first breeder meant being respected. And it meant serving a Master in a very profound and personal way. Overwhelmingly, a second breeder’s pups would never know the Master who helped create them—even in a family, they were kept separate. But a first breeder provided a Master with children, who would eventually make up a family.

The young breeder felt his chip hum, but he couldn’t pinpoint the origin of the humming. He felt it all over his body, combining with the sensations from his heat. He leaned back against the Doctor’s chest and closed his eyes, focused on breathing.

The change often didn’t hurt healthy breeders. Some initial discomfort was to be expected, as far as Jared understood and had heard from other breeders. The Doctor pressed his lips in a spot under Jared’s ear and nipped gently, then began to hum a tune, softly and slowly. He pressed his right hand to Jared’s belly and pressed down with careful pressure.

“Does it hurt?” the Doctor murmured, then licked at the place he’d nipped.

“No,” Jared breathed out and tilted his head, exposing his throat in desire and submission. “Feels okay, Master.”

He could feel the Doctor frown for a moment, but it disappeared quickly. The Doctor remained silent as Jared’s chip continued to alter his body.

The best way the young breeder could describe the process was by thinking about a balloon. Hot air filled a balloon deep inside him and pushed the balloon outward, then inward, and around. Then the balloon would deflate and expand all over again. Jared breathed in deep, then let out a long, deep moan, eyes fluttering as he felt pressure increase in his hips and cock. His body strained against the controls still placed on it and he flinched as his cock tried to harden.

“Shit, I don’t know how to turn that off,” the Doctor muttered and sat up a bit. He extended his arm again and swiped at a screen Jared couldn’t see.

He knew very little about controls, because breeders had no reason to know anything about them. But he did know that the control to a chip was not, in fact, an actual control a Master held in their hand. It made the fact that the Doctor was a foreigner stand out even more. All Masters were familiar with the controls to breeders. It was basic education for them, no matter what their station or rank or family. A Master could have the controls to multiple breeders at once, though Jared understood that this required paperwork and special permits. The professors at the academy had temporary control of their chips while they were enrolled.

The controls to a breeder’s chip could be seen in the mind of a Master, played out on a screen. Some Masters were adept at managing the controls with subtle movements of their fingers, so it was barely noticeable. Master Eli had never made a change to his or Nicky’s chips while they were in his presence; some Masters were more discreet that way.

It was almost funny how the Doctor could not get used to the screen in his mind. Jared buried his face in his new Master’s chest and tried to keep from grinding against his leg. The balloon was refilling and his heat was intensifying. It made him dizzy and lightheaded. Somewhere through the fog of everything, he needed to know where Nicky was, where doll was, and what else was going on in their household. He didn’t even know what room they were in, it was so dark. But the moon refused to have his mind focus on anything that wasn’t his heat.

“Please,” Jared mewled, grabbing onto the Doctor’s shirt. “Please?”

With a flinch, the Doctor noticed that the sheets were wet with slick. Jared hiccupped and tried to close his legs, to prevent any more from dripping out, but all movement hurt. His throat was closing up with dryness.

“Uh, yeah,” the Doctor gulped. “Just… I wanna turn this off.”

He continued to swipe at things, moving his hand frantically. “I can’t fucking find the control to your… uh… you know. Jesus… how much is on here? Fuck. Maybe I should go ask…”

Jared began to tremble with desperation and anxiety. Would the Doctor change his mind? He was enamored with the idea of Jared, but could he handle the reality of owning a breeder? Jared was unsure, even though the thought of belonging to the Doctor initially made him happy.

There was soft knock at the door.

Without waiting for a response, the door was opened. Jared stayed still and tried to ignore the Doctor’s abrupt movement away from him, as if they’d been caught doing something wrong. Maybe Jared was doing something wrong and the Doctor didn’t want to be seen with a breeder that did whatever that thing was. Confused, Jared began to silently cry, covering his face with the sheet he’d tossed aside a few minutes ago. The burn of the Doctor’s hand on his belly remained.

“I should have known you’d find some way to mess this up.”

The voice belonged to Nicky. Jared nearly laughed with relief. She moved towards him and wrapped him up in her arms. The touch caused pain but he clung to her anyway. She smelled like vanilla and peaches; she’d just had a bath.

“It’s not like I’m not trying,” the Doctor replied, firmly. “I’m trying my best, here.”

She tensed up and looked at the Doctor from her position with Jared. “You’ve swept in and saved the day, Doctor, who could possibly fault you for that?” she said with bitterness. “It’s not enough to mean well. Not anymore. You’re responsible for us now. He’s too afraid to upset you to tell you what he wants.”

“If I can see his memories and dreams then why can’t I read his mind? Why isn’t that a feature on these things?” he continued to swipe at screens, eyes reading through pages quickly.

Nicky sat up and distanced herself from Jared, so to cause him less pain, but she kissed his cheek lightly. “It’s our one area where a Master cannot see or control, but it’s not like they haven’t tried.” She sighed and had Jared lay down, which he complied. He trusted her. “He’s changed you, hasn’t he?”

The younger breeder nodded, spread out on the bed, flushed with heat and trembling.

The older breeder gave a sad smile. “Congratulations. Now, spread your legs so I can see that all is well.”

He did so without any hesitation. When he felt her fingers press at his wet entrance, he yelped in pain. A push of slick happened involuntarily. She examined him as lightly and tenderly as possible. “You’re fine,” she said to him then turned to the Doctor. “You need to breed him. Are you hesitating for some larger reason?”

Jared looked over to the Doctor, who blushed and fidgeted in his place. “No, I just… I’m so afraid of fucking this up. I have to confess, I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“Well, that’s a start,” she grumbled and tossed her hair back. She smiled at Jared. “Would you feel better if I stayed with you for the first part?”

His throat was useless, so he nodded but gauged the reaction on the Doctor’s face. What if the Doctor didn’t want the extra company? “Don’t worry about him,” Nicky commanded gently. “He wants to make you happy, don’t you?” She looked at the Doctor, who gave a nod. “I’ll leave once he gets a better understanding.”

“Doll?” Jared managed to ask.

“In your room,” she whispered and leaned down to kiss his cheek again. “Wait one moment, please.”

Fluidly, she stood and walked over to the Doctor, then stood beside him. She spoke directly to him with a confidence Jared always admired. “You need to stop thinking you’re doing something wrong by doing this,” she commanded, her tone towards him less than gentle. “It may be illegal where you come from but it’s not illegal here. You’ve purchased him, you’ve promised him things, and now it is time for you to deliver on those things. Flip your screen all the way to the end. Keep scrolling. The controls to our genitals are usually kept in the back.”

With a curt tone, she continued to instruct the Doctor, who followed her every command. “You need to unlock two controls. One for his cock and the other for the ability to orgasm. If that’s what you want.”

“Of course it is,” the Doctor sighed. “I want… I mean, if this has to happen, I want him to feel good.”

“It’s not just a matter of physical need,” Nicky snapped. “For this all to have any chance at working, you need to pay more attention. We haven’t got time for that now. Did you find them?”

“Yeah, both unlocked.”

“Alright. I’ll hold him until I feel that he is safe.”

“How… uh...” the Doctor cleared his throat. “What’s the best way?”

“I pray for patience,” Nicky grumbled and moved over to Jared. “Jared, does your back bother you?”

He reached for her, despite the discomfort. The pressure had grown and the moon was closer. He arched his hips up and mewled. She understood. “He’s fine on his back. From behind is better for optimal breeding, but that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Why?”

“He’s young, getting him bred isn’t an issue. Carrying to term is. You don’t know anything about us, do you? Do you even realize how dangerous that is?”

“Now I do.”

“Hmm. Well, begin.”

“Just… like that?”

Even Jared could feel Nicky’s mounting frustration. “Yes!” she snapped. “My goodness. What kind of Master are you?!”

Jared reached out towards her and tried to refrain from rubbing himself on the sheets. He enjoyed the fact that the Doctor was listening to Nicky, but he could no longer wait.

“Okay, okay,” the Doctor snapped back. “Just… can I do this my way for a moment?” Jared heard the hurried rustle of clothes being shed, which excited him. He kneed and spread his legs for easy access and to show off his heat, which he thought would please Master. Instead, Master just seemed confused for a moment; he treaded forward and eased himself onto the bed, kneeling. Jared was afraid to make any move without cues from the Doctor—he had no previous experience with the Doctor this way, beyond earlier, shameful attempts. He prayed that he would be good at servicing his new Master.

He could learn quickly. Already, he understood that the Doctor preferred not to make eye contact during service. Jared could do that. He kept his eyes focused elsewhere. When the Doctor kissed him, Jared closed his eyes.

Many Masters did not bother with kisses. It got in the way of a second breeder’s ultimate purpose. But he had seen old Master and Nathaniel kiss, even when not in the bedroom. That was, Jared supposed, another gift bestowed on first breeders. They received more physically affectionate attention. Jared heard himself purr; he opened his mouth and let their tongues slip together. The Doctor tilted Jared’s head back and pressed them closer, getting as deep as he could. In between kisses, Jared could feel small bites and nips at his bottom lip, which he enjoyed but found trying. Why was the Doctor so cautious?

“He’s trying to show you affection,” Nicky whispered, behind him. She was kneeling and he was in the space between her legs, propped up against her, his back to her chest. Jared gave a small nod to acknowledge that he’d heard her. It still didn’t make any sense to him. The Doctor breathed out and licked Jared’s bottom lip before he pulled away. Jared stretched out, pushing his hips towards the Doctor, and noticed that the Master was only half hard. The breeder himself was hard but unaccustomed to the sensation, so it was unremarkable for now. More alarming was the fact that the Doctor could not breed him in that state.

“I’m going to try something,” the Doctor announced, his voice heavy and thick. “If you… you don’t like it, you can tell me to stop and I won’t be upset, Jared. Okay? Or tell Nicky and she can tell me.”

The younger breeder nodded and braced himself for whatever the Doctor was thinking to do.

 

He didn’t expect what happened next.

It seemed to happen in slow motion. Even Nicky tensed up.

Scooted down further on the bed, bent down in a submissive position, the Doctor positioned himself so that his mouth was near Jared’s entrance. Before Jared could protest—could tell the Master that this was not something Master’s did—he felt a rough tongue lap at his hole.

This caused the breeder to flinch from a surge of pleasure. He spread his legs out and panted heavily, breaths coming shorter and faster as the Doctor’s tongue continued lapping and licking away at the slick there. Jared groaned a warning and felt himself push out more slick due to his spike in arousal. The Doctor swept it up quickly, tongue moving deftly; the stubble on his face rubbed against tender skin and caused Jared to keen. He couldn’t help but roll his hips and move, seeking more stimulation. He felt his entrance flutter open and shut, begging for something more substantial.

A moment was taken for the Doctor to pull back and wipe his lush mouth with the back of his hand. He licked his lips—which assured Jared he found the taste acceptable—and resumed his work. Jared tossed his head back, rocking against Nicky, groaning when the talented tongue pushed in with a squelch. In and out, the Doctor’s tongue flickered and rubbed in provocative circles. Occasionally, the Doctor would take his lips and press them against the hole, suck, and then press his tongue in as far as it could go.

The stimulation was intoxicating. Jared had never experienced this. He didn’t even know what to call it. He only knew he wanted more of it, more of everything.

It took him a minute to realize that the Doctor was not only moving his tongue faster, but he was also grinding against the bed. The sight made Jared’s heart beat faster. He keened again and bucked up when the Doctor sucked on his tender entrance. This time, the Doctor wrapped a strong arm around Jared’s hips and held him down, diving in deeper, slick covered his mouth, chin, and jaw. Held down, Jared only squirmed and wiggled, moaning louder as he was worked open slowly. The breeder yelped in pleasure as a firm hand grasped his ass and groped, hard enough to leave a mark, he was sure of it. The hand then aided in holding him open. The Doctor pulled back once more, his eyes dark and promising, then resumed without any warning. Jared’s breath hitched and he saw his own cock throb.

“Shit,” the Doctor breathed, pulling away and sitting up, wiping his now red mouth. “Fuck…” he stroked his cock with two swipes of his hand. Jared mewled at the sight, eager and excited for the thick, heavy weight that hung between the Doctor’s powerful thighs.

“Do it,” Nicky snipped, sounding breathless. “Take it easy. Don’t tear him. Pay… pay attention. I’ll go now. Jared, there’s a bell if you need me.” She sounded irritated but off—Jared couldn’t exactly ask at the moment. She placed a bell near him, then a pillow under him to replace her, and left with a quiet shut of the door.

Alone, the Doctor looked at Jared, who looked at him back. He didn’t seem to mind the eye contact now.

“You’ll tell me if it hurts?” he asked, lining himself up between Jared’s legs. “Please.”

“Yes,” Jared managed to whisper back. He pushed his hips up. The moon felt like it was right outside the window.

When the thick, blunt head of his Master’s cock pressed against his opening, Jared thought he wouldn’t be able to do it. He thought his heart might very well beat out of his chest. With a cry, he pushed back and felt the pressure in his hips let up.

“Oh fuck,” the Doctor groaned, pressing in. “Oh god, Jared. Holy fuck. You’re… you’re taking me right in, holy shit. Fuck.”

Solid, firm, and large, Master’s cock breeched him. Jared shook with pleasure. He reached up and placed his hands on the Doctor’s shoulders. The Doctor leaned down and kissed him sloppily; Jared tasted himself over and over again. His opening worked at pulling the Doctor in all the way, slick pumping and muscles clenching. Master’s eyes rolled and his hips stuttered. Jared hiccupped and wrapped his legs around the Doctor’s trim waist.

“Can I move? Oh god, can I move?” Master panted, begging for an answer.

Jared nodded.

He braced himself.

 

He’d never been penetrated this way, facing up, on his back. He’d always been taken from behind, his face pressed down onto whatever surface he’d been on at the time. This way though, he got to see his Master’s reactions. The Doctor’s mouth hung open and his face looked relaxed as he began to thrust. Jared moaned as he felt the Doctor’s cock swell and jerk; he encouraged more of that by clenching his muscles and rolling his hips to meet the Doctor’s thrusts.

A large, firm hand wrapped itself around Jared’s own cock. He gasped and shot up, slick gushing, dripping down onto the Doctor’s thighs.

“God damn,” the Doctor moaned, long lashes fluttering. “Ohh shit.” He reached down and squeezed his own cock with his free hand. Then, he changed their position. He hefted Jared onto his lap, so that Jared was sitting directly on his cock, which was buried to the hilt, twitching and throbbing wildly.

“Ride me, oh fuck, ride me,” the Doctor begged. This seemed familiar to Jared but he couldn’t pinpoint why or how. For the moment, he complied all too eagerly. The Doctor helped him pump up and down, providing deep, hard counterthrusts. Jared nearly screamed when that spot inside him was hit.

“Hold on, hold on.” The Doctor adjusted them so that Jared was kneeling slightly. The Doctor held him open, spreading his ass, and began plunging upwards, slamming his cock against that spot. Jared shook, cried out, and felt two things happen at once: slick pushed out and his cock spurted. He hammered himself down on Master’s cock, squirting milk and come all over Master’s chest and stomach. The Doctor placed a hand on Jared’s cock and began milking him, pulling at the breeder’s cock rapidly, thrusting and hitting that spot at the same time.

“Oh! Oh! Master!” Jared hoarsely screamed, clinging to the Doctor. “Nnngh!” Jared felt another orgasm rip through him, another surge of milk following. His balls expanded some, his cock ached, and the Doctor kept fucking him steadily. They both collapsed onto the bed, Jared on his back once again, and the Doctor pounded him into the soft mattress. The bed started squeaking, the Doctor was groaning and grunting with effort, and Jared couldn’t get enough of any of it. He clawed at the Doctor’s back and held on as a third orgasm emerged. He made a mass of both of them, a large quantity of milk released.

“Again, again, oh shit, again,” Master gasped. “Come for me again. Come for me sweetheart. Again. Oh shit, again.”

Jared wordlessly complied. The spot inside him was firmly hit and he trembled with another climax. Trembling and panting, covered in sweat and his own come, Jared began to cry from overstimulation. It was painfully exquisite. The bed was damp and wet beneath them.

When the Doctor began to pound in without any rhythm or reason, Jared knew he was close. He watched the muscles in the Doctor’s back and stomach work. The breeder felt Master’s cock give a sudden twitch. In a whirlwind of groans and growls, the Doctor began to come. Jared worked the cock as hard and fast as he could from his position. He felt come and slick mix together, then rolled his eyes, and began to come for one last time.

“Yes, yes, yes,” the Doctor hissed, his hips making circles, balls slapping against Jared’s ass. “Come hard baby. Come hard.” Jared didn’t expect a hand to reappear, but it did, and he was milked through his last, hardest orgasm. It hit him with an intensity he had never felt when servicing.

Minutes passed before they calmed down enough to breath steadily.

Boneless, Jared gave a satisfied sigh.

The Doctor gave a similar sigh and collapsed on top of the breeder, who didn’t mind. Together, they lay there, ignoring the mess and state of things around them. Jared boldly pressed a kiss to Master’s forehead, then began to play with his hair.

“Mmm,” the Doctor rumbled. “Good?”

“Y-yes,” Jared replied, shuddering at the thought of servicing Master again. “Thank you.”

“Thank you,” Master murmured. “Don’ thin' I can walk anymore.”

Jared laughed and was about to say something when he was silenced by a kiss, which was lazy and sloppy and sweet.

 

The moon left. Jared was happy.

He closed his eyes and breathed in the Doctor’s scent.

He felt his heat switch out for something else. He fell asleep with the Doctor’s hand protectively placed over his belly.

It was a good change.

Chapter Text

Twice during the night, Jared woke up, distraught and startled.

And each time, despite being a heavy sleeper, the Doctor woke up as well and coaxed Jared back to sleep. They slept pressed against each other, with the Doctor’s right arm slung over Jared the entire night. When Jared woke up at dawn—a long established habit—he began to clean things around them. Before they’d passed out, they had stripped the bed of all its sheets and blankets, which were now in a bundle on the floor. Jared knew he could wash them quickly and have them useable by dinner.

However, things were not that simple.

He was exhausted from his heat and their previous night’s activities, the thought of which made Jared blush. He wondered if he would ever get the courage to ask his new Master to do that thing with his mouth again. Lightly contemplating this, Jared pushed himself off the bed and staggered over towards the bedding. There was no soreness, but he was tired and in need of a few things. The pail of water was thankfully next to the bedding. He took a deep drink from it, finding it an immense relief even if it was room temperature.

Quickly, he gathered up the bedding and padded over to the adjoining bathroom.

Before he disappeared to begin his daily chores, Jared looked back at the Doctor’s still deeply sleeping form. He allowed himself to linger over Master’s body for longer than appropriate. He turned away with a blush on his face, and began to wash the bed clothes.

He couldn’t help but hum softly as he put together a wash in the tub. In a matter of minutes, despite his exhaustion, he had the sheets washed, wrung, and hung to dry. He cleaned himself off with a rag and a pail of water; he didn’t want to risk making any noise by running a tub for himself to bathe. And for all the things that he had to look forward to, he couldn’t help but feel a strong undercurrent of unease.

 

As quietly as he’d slipped from bed, he left the room. The Doctor remained asleep, though before leaving, Jared had covered him with an extra blanket kept under the bed. Master looked peaceful and much younger asleep—like a heavy weight was lifted—which made Jared wonder what Master was like when he was a young boy. Had he had someone like a breeder take care of him? How did things work where Master came from? He thought of all these things as he made his way through the household. They’d spent the night in a guest room in the rarely used south wing, which was slightly isolated. Frustrated with all the things he still did not know, which were rapidly outweighing recent joyful changes, he began to run towards the kitchen. Fatigue weighed him down but he pressed onward. There hadn’t been any spare robes in the guest room, so he was without clothing for the moment, and quite cold, but he had to find the older breeder. The silence throughout the household created a panic within him.

No one had explicitly said what would happen to Nicky. Or if they had, Jared had passed out before hearing it.

She was not in the kitchen. She was not there, making bread or washing fruit or taking a batch of muffins from the oven. She was not there, waiting for him to join her, an easy, affectionate smile on her face.

Always one to wake early, her absence alarmed him. He peered out a window that overlooked the grounds and gardens, but saw nothing, only frost on the grass. Where had she slept the night before? How much had changed in such a small amount of time? Jared’s heart pounded and he struggled to catch his breath. Running, he took the main stairs to his room.

He expected to run in and find her there, sleeping still perhaps, or tending to doll.

He wanted her there—needed her there—with her lovely smile and beautiful black hair swept behind her shoulder.

She was not there.

Doll was, and she felt alone and upset, so Jared hurriedly took her into his arms before running again. He checked everywhere—his bathroom, her room, Master’s empty suite, and the main library. Afraid of disturbing anyone, he did not call out for her, and he didn’t think he could either. His throat was tight with terror. They had sold her overnight. Was that possible? But why? She was ten times the breeder he was or would ever be. She kept a pristine household and often helped Master with business. He didn’t know how anyone couldn’t see her or her skills as valuable to a Master’s household.

 

The last place he looked was the attic.

When he first scanned the attic, he saw no one.

Upon closer sight, he saw her, curled up at the window, looking outside. She heard him and turned to face him. “I thought you’d sleep longer,” she murmured and turned back.

“What happened?” Jared blurted out, scrambling towards her. She was dressed in a black robe, which often signified mourning. Her eyes were red and there was an angry mark on the side of her face, as if she had been struck. He reached forward to touch her but she flinched and he refrained.

She looked so fragile.

And she did not make eye contact with Jared as she spoke. “Eli has left. He left a few hours ago.”

“But why?”

“His family offered him shelter. He’s gone.”

Her left hand was under her belly. She was showing more. Bitterly, she closed her eyes and wiped away at her tears. “He hit me when I tried to leave with him. Said it was for my own good.”

Jared sat next to her and carefully placed an arm over her shoulder. She didn’t flinch away this time, but neither did she cling to him. He hesitated to say anything, but ended up trying. “But they bought us. We have new Masters now.”

It shocked him when she gave a cold, sour laugh. She’d never sounded like that before. “No, Jared. They bought you. And I’m happy for you—you will be a wonderful first breeder—but they did not buy me. I’m just part of the contract.” She took a deep breath and looked at him. The sorrow there hurt him. “They’ll sell me soon.”

“No, they… I won’t… I’ll try to…” Jared stammered out half formed responses, which were all petty, pathetic things he knew weren’t true or wouldn’t happen.

“It’s alright,” she replied with a sigh. She placed a hand on his. “I’ll do fine.”

Jared remembered his first time in the kennels.

He hadn’t been entirely sure what servicing a Master entailed. He’d been taught the basics but no one had taught him or the breeders that some Masters preferred breeders to hurt during service. His first time underneath a Master had been excruciating and confusing. Beyond the physical pain of being held down and bred—whipped and beaten occasionally if his hips moved too much—what had hurt the most was having been promised that he would be the first breeder of a fine household. That illusion of being cared for and desired, when it crashed down on him as soon as the auctioneers dragged him away from the Master’s house, had cut wounds into Jared he’d never completely healed from.

Until he’d met Nicky.

His first night in the kennels he had successfully blocked out, but his second and third nights roamed his memory on occasion, seemingly inexhaustible at causing Jared pain by their presence.

He’d told her—one night when Master allowed them to climb one of the smaller trees near the garden while he sat on the porch—everything that had happened to him in those two days. The first time he’d been hosed down, the first time he’d been tied down on the platform, and the first time he’d been discounted steeply, with silence filling the auction house.

And in turn, she had told him all her own stories back. How a Master hadn’t even wanted to bother taking her to auction; he’d dragged her out of the household and chained her to the side of the road, with a sign that read two simple words: free breeder. An official had picked her up but took two days to arrive; in those two days it never stopped raining, and two strange carriages stopped only to whip her for her unknown crimes.

Like him, she had arrived at the auction house filthy and bleeding. When she was not purchased on her first round, she had resigned herself to a future on a farm, forgotten and milked to death, tossed out in a grave surrounded by any pups she might have managed to give birth to but had been born unmoving.

He knew that was what she was thinking as they looked at each other in that moment.

“Make sure he treats you well, all of them,” she whispered, holding both of his hands although hers were trembling. “Eli said they need to move away from Meridian and Maya, to the East, somewhere near Lee. It’s warm there. You’re free to take some seedlings.”

“No,” Jared sniffed. “No, I don’t want to leave you.”

“Shh. You can keep doll.”

“It’s not just that!” Jared cried and held onto her desperately. “You’re my friend.”

 

Before she could reply, there was a knock on the door to the attic. Neither breeder moved or said anything. The door was then unlocked and pushed open with a thud. The Doctor emerged, green eyes squinting and hair still in disarray. He wore a pair of cotton shorts but nothing else. With a yawn, he heaved himself up.

“C’mon, get your ass up here,” he grumbled towards the floor. “They’re both here.”

“Thank god,” the Judge’s voice sounded. His black hair popped up, followed by alert blue eyes. “I don’t know why we didn’t check here first like I said.”

“It’s six in the morning, shut up,” the Doctor snapped at the Judge. He walked over, taking cautions but heavy steps towards the breeders at the window. Jared searched for signs of anger, waited to be punished. The Doctor yawned again, then looked down at the breeders. “Why are you two crying?”

“Not any reason for your concern,” Nicky practically hissed.

“And you say I’m cranky in the morning,” the Doctor muttered towards the Judge, who was now beside him. The Judge merely waved the Doctor off. Jared tightened his hold on Nicky and she did the same.

“Jared,” the Judge spoke. “Nicky. Do you think we’re selling either of you?”

It was difficult to reply to that question, so Jared took Nicky’s cue and remained silence.

Ever persistent, the Judge spoke again. “Okay, my fault, I do apologize. I just wanted to clarify that although we were not prepared to… have another breeder’s company, we have made adequate arrangements for Nicky to stay with us for the foreseeable future. And if a time comes when we must leave, we will be sure to find a household for Nicky that will provide for her. That part is in the contract.”

Those words should have soothed the tension in Jared’s chest. They should have gotten rid of the memories in Nicky’s eyes.

They didn’t.

Nicky mumbled a thank you to the Judge and turned away from all of them.

Jared pressed doll into her arms.

He looked up at the Doctor, who seemed confused but sad.

“I wouldn’t separate you like that,” he said to Jared.

“What about… if we leave?” Jared boldly asked.

The Doctor shook his head. “Buddy, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t have all the answers.”

Unpleased, Jared looked away. Tense silence surrounded them.

“I’ll make us breakfast,” the Judge announced and began walking towards the open attic entrance. “I believe someone taught me how to make pancakes last time. Let’s hope I don’t ruin them.”

With a sigh, Nicky shook her head. She hugged Jared close to her, squeezing them together.

“Thank you,” she whispered. “Go take a bath.” She glanced towards the Doctor. “Show him your room.”

He obeyed her but lingered behind. “I’ll be down soon,” she promised. “Just a moment.”

Jared left with the Doctor but did not feel better.

 

When she did not reemerge from the attic half an hour later, Jared ran back up there.

He screamed her name this time.

He feared the worst.

The very worst.

 

 

“Don’t scream,” she murmured, stretching as she stood up from the sill. “It’s rude.”

 

He couldn’t help but lift her up and spin her around in relief.

 

 

“Who is that Master who was here before?” Jared asked the Doctor as they both sat on Jared’s bed. The Doctor wanted to spend some time with the breeder before they joined the Judge and Nicky for an early meal downstairs. According to Master, this morning had been difficult.

“He’s… Jeff is… well, he’s very close to me. Like a brother.” The Doctor rested his chin on Jared’s shoulder, holding him securely on his lap. His voice rumbled near Jared’s ear, accent in full force. “Misha sent him back to town for a day. We’ll have to leave tonight. Eli left a detailed letter. Guess he’s given us a place to stay somewhere out of here. Soon as we get there, we’ll figure out other things.”

The breeder nodded and leaned back into the Doctor’s arms and chest. “Do you need anything, Master?”

Immediately, the Doctor tensed up. “Jared. In your head, what do you refer to me as?”

“Uh… M-master? The… the Doctor…” Jared replied honestly. “What should I refer to you as, Master?”

“Jensen. I told you before, call me Jensen,” he chided gently. “It’ll make me feel better.”

“I… I will try,” the breeder promised and bared his throat in submission, hoping the act would be taken as a sign of respect and dedication. The Doctor—Jensen—kissed him there instead.

“I’ve got something for you,” Jensen said in a low tone, mouth near Jared’s ear. “Close your eyes.”

Immediately, without any question, Jared obeyed. He was frightened for a second, but forced himself to remain calm. The Doctor rustled around inside a bag from his spot on the bed. Jared heard the crinkling of something like paper. Something the size of a large potato was placed in his lap.

“Okay, open up.”

The something was foreign and curious. It was alarmingly colorful and brighter than anything that small Jared had seen before. He was afraid to touch it; it looked delicate.

“Uh, well…” Jensen coughed. “It’s a present. For you. They’re your favorite. Well, they were. Are. They are your favorite. You’ll like them. I hope. Maybe. Here.” Jensen sounded flustered, which further confused Jared. Breeders could receive gifts but Jared didn’t even know what this was. The Doctor held up the package and untied a ribbon at its top. It crinkled open and Jensen—the Doctor—reached inside and grabbed two tiny, bright red and orange shapes.

“They’re bears,” Jared said, looking at them closely. Jensen extended his palm in offering; Jared cautiously took one. “Do I eat it?”

“Yeah buddy. You eat it. See?” He popped his bear into his mouth and chewed.

Jared watched with rapt attention, but when he tried the bear, it was very sweet. He nearly spat it out, yet refrained from doing so; the last thing he wanted was for the Doctor to think he would be ungrateful. It wasn’t as satisfying as chocolate, but Jared liked the texture.

He was given another and another and another, all by the Doctor—Jensen. He began to purr as the taste had become delicious. He nipped pieces from Jensen’s fingers, which made the Doctor laugh.

The breeder smiled wide and blushed; he stood up from Jensen’s lap.

He held his hand out.

Jensen accepted.

They started walking towards the bath, but a few steps away, Jared ran back into the room. He placed doll on her nightstand and grabbed the crinkly bag.

“Can I bring the bears?” Jared asked, holding them at his chest.

“Whatever you want buddy,” Jensen replied with a smile. “Just get in here.” 

Chapter Text

The rest of the morning did not go as smoothly.

Nicky held back Jared’s hair as he threw up into a basin in the kitchen. During breakfast, which the Judge had laid out himself, Jared began to feel his stomach protest and a sour taste invaded his mouth. He made it as far as the kitchen, into the basin that they normally kept for trips to the garden.

“What did you feed him?” Nicky snapped at the Doctor—Jensen. “That looks… Jared, what did you eat?!” The color of what he was vomiting alarmed her but he couldn’t exactly explain much when he was busy throwing up.

“It was just gummy bears,” Jensen said, in a tone that sounded a lot like a guilty child speaking.

“And how much of that did he have to eat?”

“Uh… maybe a bag…”

Jared heard Nicky huff. She rubbed a circle on his back, which made him feel better. “We aren’t fed things that are that rich or sweet. Eli only gave us a piece of two of chocolate at a time for a reason. His stomach can’t handle that kind of food, especially an entire bag. Do I have to explain everything to you about breeders?”

“Look, I didn’t know! Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t have given him the whole bag but I didn’t know it’d make him sick!” the Doctor—Jensen—sounded worried. Maybe he was already regretting his purchase.

The young breeder clung to the edge of the basin, exhausted and drained. Nicky held a cup of warm water to his lips and had him drink a few sips. It tasted bitter; she’d mixed in some herbs. He kept his sips down for two minutes before it all came back up. The fatigue that he felt from the previous night, combined with the events of the morning, hit Jared hard. He’d also been changed from second to first breeder and while it hadn’t hurt, it had taken a significant amount of his energy and strength to complete it properly. He didn’t feel any different—other than his heat was gone—but he hadn’t expected the process to drain him completely. He was disappointed with himself; things had been going so well and it had seemed like Jensen enjoyed their time together.

It seemed like the bolder Jared was, the more Jensen liked him.

And the more Jared acted like the breeder he had always been, the more Jensen avoided eye contact. He could not be bold or confident or outgoing while curled up against the basin, mewling for Nicky to stop giving him water. The tips of his fingers tingled, as if he were sewing and pricking himself repeatedly on the needle.

The edges of his vision were beginning to go black when Nicky pulled his hair, forced his head back, and pushed liquid into him. He choked and bucked but her hands were determined.

“Stay awake,” she commanded, her grip firm despite Jared’s meager attempts to struggle. “Jared, listen to me. Jared. Drink the tea.”

He began to tremble and pushed at her involuntarily, trying to get away from the liquid. He didn’t want to throw it up again. When she kept pushing, he cried out and wrenched away from her. Persistent, she followed after him and held him down, despite her belly. Slowly, he started to swallow, and she licked away the tears on his face, cooing as he kept the water down for more than a few minutes.

They lay together on the cold floor of the kitchen and she rocked him to calmness.

Things were foggy around him, but he was aware of speech around him. Jared’s eyes felt heavy. He wanted to sleep. But he also didn’t want to disappoint Jensen. He’d just purchased a breeder who couldn’t even stay awake. He pushed himself to keep his eyes open and tried to follow whatever was being said around him.

“What was that? Has that ever happened to him before?” came the voice of the Judge.

Nicky held onto Jared tighter. “No. It never has. I told you, you can’t feed him just anything. We don’t digest things like you do. And he doesn’t know how to say no to you yet. All he wants to do is please you and that’s… not his fault.” He felt her tense up and saw her flick her hair over her shoulder. “Help me take him to his room and I’ll take care of him from there.”

“I can…”

“No,” she snapped. “You’ve done enough today, Doctor. He needs to rest. It might seem like nothing to you but changing him, then breeding him, and now this—it has exhausted him. He can’t rest if you’re near, he’s too busy thinking about what you need, what you want, what you expect of him, how he can be good. Stay here and finish your business, whatever it is that you have to do.”

The Judge interceded, his tone cautious but calm. “Jen, I think you should listen to her. She knows what she’s doing.”

“I could take care of him just fine,” the Doctor shouted, causing Nicky to flinch and Jared to curl up. “I did take care of him!”

Tense and annoyed, Nicky shouted back, matching the Doctor’s volume, a dangerous thing for a breeder to do. “You obviously can’t now,” Nicky hissed. “And you insist on arguing about this in front of him instead of doing what I’ve asked and letting him rest. He may be your property but I’m still here and I won’t let you treat us like this.”

Again, the Judge stepped in. “No one doubts that you did take care of him, Jen, I know you did. But you have to listen to her,” the Judge implored, his usually happy tone now somber. “Let her do what she needs to and you can visit with him later, isn’t that right?”

A moment passed but Nicky gave a hesitant nod. She stroked Jared’s cheek and tucked a stray strand of hair behind his ear. “Fine,” she muttered.

“Let me help you with him then,” the Judge said quickly. Jared felt himself hefted up. The trip from the kitchen to his room was a blur and he did not remember it, but when he was laid down on his bed, he sighed in gratitude. When Nicky climbed into bed with him, he curled up to her. She had shed her robes before slipping in and covering them with thick quilts.

The room was peaceful, filled with a comfortable silence he had grown used to in his time with her. They had spent endless mornings and nights together. Sometimes their time was spent trading secrets. But sometimes they didn't speak at all and Jared learned just as much. He wondered if that was what Jensen felt about older Jared. He wondered how disappointed Jensen would be when Jared woke up, because he could not keep down a bag of colorful bears as older Jared supposedly could. It felt like Jared made progress then he did something to ruin it.

She seemed to sense his thoughts and growing anxiety. 

“Sleep for now,” she whispered. “I’ll wake you soon to drink more and then we’ll take a bath.”

He gave a nod and breathed her in, his head resting against her chest. She was softer than she had been before, which meant the litter she was carrying was past the most precarious stage. He wrapped an arm around her and shut his eyes.

 

The last thing he heard her say was a soft, shaky, “Oh, Jared. What’ll happen to us?”

He dreamt of a dark red room.

Chapter Text

When Jared woke up, Nicky informed him that he’d slept through the day and into the next. It was almost time for supper when he finally opened his eyes for longer than thirty seconds.

“I woke you twice,” she murmured as they shifted around in their nest of blankets. “Once to give you tea and make sure you didn’t retch it back up. Another time to feed you a piece of bread to settle your stomach.”

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, then yawned and stretched. “I caused you trouble.”

She seemed tired, drained of energy, and he realized that she probably hadn’t slept much herself. “Don’t. Don’t start to worry, Jared. I’m fine, just tired. And the Masters are fine. They took care of themselves last night and this morning. I haven’t smelled smoke so they probably just made sandwiches.” At this, she rolled away from him and sat up in bed.

He admired her form from where he lay.

The older breeder was many things he wanted to be: beautiful, elegant, and strong. Her long black hair fell over her shoulders and dangled at the small of her back. Though her back was covered in the same kinds of spidery scars Jared had, they seemed regal on her. She wore them differently.

“Jared,” she said, her tone soft but serious. She was turned towards the nightstand, facing away from him. “I… I don’t mean to speak over you. But… if I ever had a pup like you, I’d want someone to speak for them if they could not.”

“You don’t speak over me,” he blurted out, ready to prove her wrong.

Her shoulders shook. “Jared, you are always so eager to please those you care for. And sometimes… that is not a bad thing. But for us it can be a dangerous thing.” With a sniff and a swipe at her eyes, she turned back to him. “Promise me you will think twice about eating what he offers you? At least we can start there.”

“Yes, I will be more careful,” he replied quickly. After a moment, he added, “But… they were delicious.”

She laughed and kissed his forehead. “I’m sure they were. And they can be in small quantities. Your puke was rainbow colored.”

“I ruined our basin!”

“Yes, you did. Unless you’d like to keep using it?”

“I would never!” he laughed and playfully nipped at her shoulder. They curled up in each other, underneath the blankets, and for another hour, their lives were much the same as before. It was almost as if Jared would hear a bell and Master Eli would be waiting for them in his favorite study. The fact that Jared hadn’t gotten a chance to say goodbye to Master Eli saddened him, but he pushed those feelings aside. He enjoyed his time with Nicky because she was sweet and familiar and he trusted her. She could press her hands anywhere on him and he would not flinch or move away. And for her it was the same.

When a bell did ring, Jared froze. Nicky flinched but sighed.

She kissed him and pinned him down to the bed, straddling his hips. “We’re leaving tomorrow.”

Jared gasped but she kissed him again, this time harder, more demanding. He gave in and kissed back the same way, biting her bottom lip and tugging.

“They’re taking us to Lee,” she breathed and kissed down the bridge of his nose. “I own nothing but this is what I’ve known for two years. I gave birth to… to… he’s out there…”

The younger breeder understood.

Not only would they be leaving a household they knew intimately—where they each had their own rooms and spaces to call theirs—they would be leaving behind the clearing. And those tiny bodies at the edge of the forest would never be cleaned or taken care of ever again.

When she fell into him, sobbing unlike he’d heard her do before, he panicked for a moment. What could he do? What could he say? There was nothing he could do to make things better.

And that was one of the worst things Jared began to realize: sometimes there was no answer.

 

The two breeders shared a quick bath and dressed for supper. They put on their thickest robes, since the household was warm in only a few places. Jared was once again thankful that he was allowed inside this winter season.

Momentarily, his thoughts turned to the summer.

He would be carrying in the summer this time; he would give birth when there would be sunlight out. These thoughts made him happy.

Nicky and Jared held hands as they walked through the household; each of them tried not to think of the next day. Jared focused on his thoughts about summertime. He would be making lemonade and sparkling drinks for the Doctor—Jensen—in the summer as he was almost to the end of his last term. Lee was supposed to have warmer weather overall, so Jared assumed their summers would be bright and hot. He enjoyed being in the sun, though he did not care for being in the sun for hours at a time picking vegetables. But that was his duty and he would do it again if the Doctor—Jensen—asked him to.

When they entered the kitchen, both breeders were stunned.

The kitchen was a mess.

Pots and pans were scattered everywhere, some with unrecognizable goop in them. Vegetable peels and ends invaded the countertop. Jared thought he even saw something on the ceiling. He held his breath in horror, chewing anxiously on his bottom lip.

He’d be whipped for something like that at old Master’s household. Whipped and dragged outside to spend the night.

“Oh! You’re here!” the Judge said, walking in, oven mitts on his hands. He looked alarmed to see their reactions but gave them both a small smile. “Uh, I’m very sorry. It looks worse than it is! I’ll clean up afterwards, you don’t have to worry. But I just served so let’s sit, shall we?” He was dressed in nothing more than a pair of trousers and a loose, billowy blue shirt. He wasn’t even wearing boots; his toes wiggled freely.

Jared knew his mouth was hanging open at the sight of everything.

Nicky cleared her throat and stood up straight. “This will take hours for us to clean.”

The Judge stopped moving and looked around. He then spoke to her directly. “No. It’ll take me hours to clean. I made the mess, I’ll clean it up. I’ll probably even coax the good Doctor into helping me. So, please, can we be seated? Jared, you must be hungry.”

He was, but he didn’t want to admit that to a Master.

The older breeder frowned and shook her head. She looked like she was going to say something but decided against it. Quietly, they walked into the dining room, where four places were set at the table. But what was different was that no one was at the head. It confused and disappointed Jared. Master Eli truly was gone. Nicky seemed to feel the same way; she squeezed his hand.

The Doctor—Jensen—sat at the table, on the right side, closest to the kitchen. He looked up briefly, then, almost as if he hadn’t been expecting them, scrambled to his feet.

“Jared! Are you… how are you feeling?”

Surprisingly, Nicky gave Jared a gentle push towards the Doctor. Jared stepped forward and squeaked when the Doctor moved and embraced Jared. The embrace didn’t last long—and the Doctor blushed and cleared his throat after it—but Jared found he didn’t mind it at all. A chair was held out for him. Cautiously, he sat down, and watched as Jensen sat down after him, on the same side of the table. He then glanced over and made sure that Nicky was sitting down as well, which she was, looking slightly nervous.

They exchanged the same nervous look.

There was very little time for Jared to adjust to everything that had happened in his life ever since the Doctor had entered it. Before, his life had had its challenges, but it had been consistent and he had known what to expect. He knew his place in the world.

But there was only so much change that the young breeder could take at once. It was all incredibly overwhelming; he had no idea how he was supposed to feel or what he was supposed to do in the company of these Masters. Because as much as he could call the Doctor by his name, Jensen was still a Master. And now Jensen was his Master. The enormity of all these changes was indescribable to Jared. He’d gone from having a stable household in which Master Eli had seen to all their care to being bred for the first time in a year to being changed from second to first breeder to now having a completely new Master. And so little information was given to him that he found it easiest to be as complacent as possible. The energy it took for Nicky to speak out was exhausting her but Jared understood it as necessary. He often shamed himself for his own passivity.

 

At the moment, their supper was very awkward and filled with tangible tension. The Judge presented them with dish after dish of food, which looked strange to Jared. He craved a piece of chocolate or a few slices of apple and cheese, but none of those things were on the table. Instinctively, he reprimanded himself. Breeders should not crave things; they should be grateful for what their Masters fed them.

He was very grateful these Masters fed him at all.

A breeder never forgot the way hunger felt and although the food seemed odd, Jared accepted the plate that Jensen passed him. The young breeder waited until everyone was settled in their places. Both breeders waited for the Masters to begin eating first, which seemed to make the Masters uncomfortable, but they dug in.

“I made you something simple for your stomach,” the Judge said to Jared, who immediately looked up from his plate. “It’s just buttered noodles with a little bit of salt and pepper. And some grilled chicken. I’m really surprised that chicken comes in packages here. Everything else is home grown.”

“Eli said they go to the butcher in town,” Jensen said. He looked at Jared. “Is it okay? Taste alright? I helped. Sort of.”

“You stirred the noodles,” the Judge snipped with a laugh. “Hardly helping.”

“Silence you,” Jensen snipped back, then refocused his attention on the breeder. “I apologize for yesterday. I’ll be more careful in the future, I assure you.”

“It’s delicious,” Jared replied honestly. He was careful not to slurp his noodles. Nicky had made simple things before when he hadn’t been feeling well, and this was very close. “Thank you.” He didn’t know how to reply to an apology from a Master, especially his Master, so he kept to his plate. Nicky had a plate of something different and she asked the Judge to explain it to her.

“Well, I thought noodles would be easier so I made macaroni and cheese. It’s like… a casserole? It’s just noodles and cheese basically, but I added some of the vegetables in the bin. I tried to use up as much as I could find in the pantry. So! There’s that…” The Judge began to list off the names of some of the dishes in front of them. Jared wondered if they would be asked to learn these new dishes. He wondered what the kitchen was like in their new household. He would miss this one.

Silence lulled over them as they all finished up. Jared could not finish what was on his plate, but he tried.

“You don’t have to eat it all,” Nicky said to him from across the table. She then looked up at both Masters. “Or would you prefer that we did?” She also had food left on her plate. The portions had been extremely generous for what they were used to but Jared didn’t want to seem ungrateful. And he didn’t want to be punished—as he had been in the kennels—for not clearing his plate. Maybe Master wanted him to gain a bit of weight. He had no way of knowing, so it was best to assume that he should eat the entire portion of noodles.

“Oh, no, not at all!” the Judge quickly said. “Please, don’t force yourselves. I might have gotten carried away with serving. But I would like you both to eat what you’d like, don’t hold back.”

“Yeah, it’s alright,” Jensen murmured and placed a hand on Jared’s. His green eyes were soft tonight. “You don’t have to finish.”

“Thank you Master,” Jared replied but immediately regretted it when Jensen frowned. He had forgotten that Jensen preferred not to be called Master out loud. He braced himself for something to happen. Anything could happen. He could be smacked, hit, or shoved. He could be shouted at, his hair grabbed, and then flung to the floor. Jared had noticed that unlike the Judge, Jensen wore his boots.

“We’ll work on that,” was the reply that came from Jensen.

It left Jared shocked and confused and grateful. His Master was so good, so patient.

“Uh, anyway,” Jensen muttered and cleared his throat. “We do have to get going tomorrow. Actually, we’ll be leaving at midnight so we can make it to town by dawn. We each have business to close up in Meridian before we can leave.”

“Yes, but we’ve taken care of all the necessary arrangements,” the Judge added.

“And what of your companion?” Nicky asked, pushing her plate aside. She avoided eye contact with anyone, including Jared.

“Jeff? He’ll come with us,” Jensen answered, then added, “…for now.”

“He’s been in town alerting people of our departure. I think the story we went with was that I have a relative in dire need in Lee. Hopefully this doesn’t seem too extreme for the people of Meridian.”

Nicky shook her head. “Doctors come and go all the time as their business dictates. It is more infrequent for a Judge to leave so soon, but it has happened.”

“Can… can I help with the wagon?” Jared asked, looking at Jensen. “Master Eli used to let me.”

“It’s cold outside, Jared. I’d prefer that you stay inside.”

“Oh. Yes, of course.”

He fidgeted in his seat. He wanted to ask what they were supposed to be doing while the Masters packed and prepared. While some things in the household Jared called “his”—like his room and his blankets and his robes—nothing technically belonged to him. Nicky had said it before: they didn’t actually own anything. Everything they had was Master’s.

“It must be difficult leaving so suddenly,” the Judge spoke, his tone gentle. “But ah… Jen, we haven’t even addressed what they can bring with them.”

The Doctor flinched in his seat. “Fuck. I mean. Shit.” He looked at Nicky and Jared. “You can each bring the clothes you have and a pack of your own. Jared, you can bring doll. I… I’d like it if you did.”

A quiet but relieved thank you was said. Nicky gave him a small smile and a nod. She stood up, which shocked Jared, because both Masters were still seated. “If you’ll excuse me, please.”

She didn’t wait for a reply; she left.

Jared knew where she was going and he moved to follow after her.

“Oh, please, let me,” the Judge murmured to Jared, getting up from his seat. “I’ll go speak to her. You two stay here. Jen, maybe you want to move into the living room?”

Rushing, the Judge followed after Nicky, into the kitchen and outside. Jared wondered how the Judge knew she would go to the clearing—and how the Judge knew the clearing existed in the first place. He hoped he wouldn’t punish Nicky. These thoughts were pushed aside when Jensen stood up. Jared’s attention snapped back to his Master.

“Can I interest you and doll in a game of chess?” Jensen asked, his eyes playful. “Maybe she’ll give me some kind of secret at winning against you.”

Jared smiled widely. 

Chapter Text

Their games of chess were playful and enjoyable. Jared set doll up beside the board so she could observe, and Jensen went so far as to pat her on the head. It made the breeder happy. It gave him hope for how this Master would treat their child.

A first breeder provided future heirs for households. Not all of a first breeder’s children were kept at the household—some were still sent off at birth, like the pups from second breeders. However, there were distinctions made between children and pups when they were picked up by government officials, and it was generally believed that children went to higher ranking facilities than pups. Some Masters enjoyed large families, some only wanted one or two children around, it all varied. Jared hoped he could keep as many children as possible, though he would ultimately obey his Master’s desires. He was extremely content with the promise of keeping this one, their first together.

Observing Jensen, Jared learned that he had very little patience for the physical inactivity of chess. So Jared wondered why he bothered. Why not suggest another activity? And, if Jared was being an honest breeder, Jensen was not entirely very… good… at the game. Their matches were over quickly; Jared often won, though he never held the fact over Master’s head or gloated in any way.

On their third game, Jared took some time to notice a few details about Jensen, while he waited for his turn. The freckled on Jensen’s face were lighter, but his hair was darker, almost a coffee with milk kind of light brown. He had a bit of a beard, which had the same red tint to it, which Jared still found charming. He could study the Master’s features for hours. Like the Judge, Jensen was dressed in simple gray trousers and a basic black shirt, with the sleeves rolled up. This afforded the breeder a very generous view of Jensen’s forearms and their own dustings of freckles. Jensen wasn’t as muscular as Master Eli—in fact, his waist was trim and his form, while tall, was mostly lean—but anyone could see the muscles that lay beneath.

A breeder shouldn’t have any personal opinion about their Master or their Master’s appearance. However, Jared wholeheartedly believed that his Master was not only handsome, but desirable. Jared thought himself extremely fortunate to be attracted to Jensen. Though it was confusing to know that older Jared had also quite obviously, felt the same way at some point.

“You… you look really good tonight, Jared,” Jensen said quietly, which eased the breeder back into the moment. “I hope you’re feeling better.”

“Thank you,” Jared stammered out, blushing something fierce. “I am. The noodles helped. They were tasty.”

“I did help stir and strain them,” Jensen remarked with a broad, inviting smirk.

“That was very kind of you.”

“Mmhmm…” Jensen leaned forward, over the chess board. Jared couldn’t read his expression, which unnerved him; a breeder should anticipate a Master’s wants and needs at all times. Jared could guess but he was terrified of guessing wrong, as he had done before with Jensen. So, he waited, still as possible. Master ended up kissing him, firm yet gentle, causing Jared’s breath to escape him.

With the casual, deep drawl Jared enjoyed, Jensen asked, “Is this okay?” When the breeder nodded, their game was nudged aside and the two were sitting side by side.

Jared thought, for just a moment, how odd it was for a Master to ask a breeder’s opinion about kissing. Before Jared knew it, they were kissing freely, with warmth and zeal that Jared was wholly new to. Chess completely forgotten, Jensen only paused to turn doll away from their activities, whispering to Jared that she was too young to see such things. This made Jared purr.

The breeder was pressed into the large lounge as Jensen loomed over him, grinding their cocks together, breathing hard into Jared’s ear. Sweetly, he was kissed again, his bottom lip nipped at.

When his robes were hitched up, Jared whined, spread his legs and lifted his hips.

His heat was over but he felt strange but oddly significant.

Jensen pushed two fingers in without any resistance and he understood what that feeling was. He wished he could tell Nicky; he wished he could whisper to her as she had to him so many nights ago, “I want him.”

Fingered open until he was loose and slick was heavy, Jared keened that feeling, which Jensen immediately responded to with a low groan. A signal was given—a tender touch on his shoulder and a motion with a hand—and Jared rolled onto his belly. He raised his hips up and spread his legs as much as he could without falling off the lounge. He clung to a decorative pillow as he was breeched.

“Fuck,” Jensen moaned, holding onto Jared’s hips with firm, strong hands. Jared breathed in and pushed out, then clenched his muscles in such a way that Jensen gasped and his hips faltered. Continuing these little tricks, Jared thrust his hips back, working his best to pump the cock inside him. The deeper Jensen was, the better Jared felt.

Eventually, panting from easing in slowly as not to hurt the breeder, Jensen took over.

Jared went boneless once the spot inside him was teased then pounded against. His cock no longer strained against invisible controls; instead, it hung underneath him, hard and leaking a small trace of milk.

Thrilled that his new Master found pleasure like this, he felt special and wanted, not only because Jensen wanted service, but because of many little details. It was difficult to believe in the way Jensen only hit that satisfying spot and no other, as if he genuinely wanted to give as much pleasure as possible to Jared. It was the way Jared was never smacked or hit during service, or told he was ugly, or deliberately held down and silenced. It was the fact that Jensen wanted him at all, and seemed to really know it was him.

When Jensen did get rough, Jared didn’t mind.

He allowed his Master to thrust as hard as he needed to against Jared’s hips. When Jared could not hold back his orgasm any longer, he mewled and shifted his hips, actions that Jensen kindly noticed.

A hand wrapped around the breeder’s cock. With three vigorous strokes Jared was spurting over the lounge, moaning loudly, grinding back against Jensen, and trying to feel as much as possible.

“Again, come again,” Jensen’s voice rumbled against his back, completely leaned forward so that they were chest to back. “Tell me when… fuck…”

The steady sound of Jensen thrusting in and out was all Jared could really focus on for a few moments. He tried to make himself as wet and tight as possible. When he felt another orgasm build up, his cock twitching the entire time, he wasn’t entirely sure what he was supposed to do. Jensen placed his hand around him again and began pulling, flicking his wrist at the delicate head. Jared whimpered and trembled, trying to hold off, afraid of coming too quickly. Then his hips were pushed forward at an angle that felt so good—it made everything feel deeper and more intense—and he lost it. With a yelp, he bucked against Jensen and trembled through the sensation. Being able to orgasm was still so new that he tried to hold onto every feeling.

It was strange but exhilarating that Jensen seemed to enjoy Jared’s orgasms as much as Jared did. He understood that a Master enjoyed the service a breeder provided, but he’d only had experience providing a warm, wet hole to fuck. He was always grateful that any Master deemed him worthy of providing that, yet this felt different. And it seemed that Jensen was fascinated with Jared’s ability to orgasm without pause; he didn’t come until the breeder had come four times with very little break. By the time he finally did, Jared was wrecked, sticky with sweat and a mess of come and milk. He tried his best to work Jensen over the edge and through his own climax.

When Master finished, he did not pull out immediately. Jared was thankful for this; pulling out too quickly hurt him. He had to relax from being penetrated but had often never been given such an opportunity. Focused on breathing, he purred when Jensen began kissing the back of his neck.

“I’m still hard,” Jensen murmured, something off in his tone that Jared picked up on immediately.

“I… you can keep going?” Jared offered, though at the moment his hips ached and he was stiff from this position.

Jensen let out a soft, rumbling laugh. He leaned forward and licked Jared’s cheek. “No, but thank you. I’m just not used to… uh… this happening.”

“Is it a bad thing?” Jared asked, wary of the consequences for his question. Jensen eased them on their sides and Jared stretched out, glad for the break from being on his belly and knees.

“Hmm. Not really. I mean, it just doesn’t happen that often. Sometimes I still feel like I shouldn’t be doing this. Like maybe I’m taking advantage of you. Or… you’re so young to me and where I come from if someone was fucking my fourteen year old son I’d… never mind.” He sighed and buried his face in the nape of Jared’s neck, the stubble of his beard scratching pleasantly. “Thank you,” he said just above a whisper.

Jared closed his eyes and nodded. He felt himself loosen up enough for Jensen to slip out without a problem for either of them. Unexpectedly, they didn’t separate. They stayed that way, Jensen’s arms around the breeder, until Jensen was too soft to remain inside.

“Sleep with me tonight?” Master asked, a hand on Jared’s belly. The young breeder hesitated. He wanted to. He didn’t want to leave the lounge, even if it was damp and somewhat uncomfortable.

“I need to see if Nicky is alright,” he confessed gently. “If I may, please.”

“Of course! Shit, I didn’t… yeah. This is your last night here.” Jensen sat up and yawned. “I should pack up the wagon.” He ran a hand through his hair, which made it stick up in odd places. “Are you… do you feel okay?”

The concern in his eyes was sincere. It made Jared smile.

“I am thank you.”

“Yeah…” he coughed and cleared his throat. “But with… you know?” He motioned towards Jared’s belly. Jared smiled and sat up.

“It’s a bit early to tell,” the breeder quipped. “But you did help stir and strain.”

Jensen gave a deep laugh, his shoulders shaking the entire time, and sent Jared out of the room with a kiss and a firm grope on the ass. “Go, try to sleep before we leave.”

 

The younger breeder found Nicky curled up in his bed, the room dark.

He joined her, slipping under the quilts and placing doll in her hands.

Dozing lightly, she woke up, kissed Jared and doll, and then fell back asleep.

Before he drifted off, he wondered what the Judge had said to her.

He could only hope it was something good.

 

A few minutes after midnight, the Judge woke them up gently, taking care not to startle them. With a candle, he helped them find their things to put together.

In a matter of minutes, both breeders had their robes and packs ready. Jared didn’t have much. He took with him doll’s box and a quilt he had been working on. With permission from the Judge, he took a few pots and pans that he favored from the kitchen. In the dark, Nicky helped him find seedlings, and the three of them walked outside to the garden. The breeders chose a few dark red roses and planted them in a clay pot to take with them. The Judge loaded it into the wagon with care, as he did with all their things.

The Masters allowed them both to go to the clearing, but Jensen did not want Jared going to the edge of the forest, which pained the young breeder but he obeyed. Holding hands, Nicky and Jared said goodbye to Cody and Charlie, buried under land that was so familiar, and had come to be sacred.

Neither breeder cried.

However, both looked back as they walked away, towards the wagon that would take them and their new Masters to Lee.

Jared remembered his first day at the household, overwhelmed and frightened.

He wasn’t frightened about leaving with Jensen and the Judge, but he was anxious. Who could tell what would happen? What new things waited for them in Lee?

Nicky squeezed his hand.

Jared held onto doll tightly.

They were helped into the wagon, bundled up, provided with their own heat boxes, and told to sleep as much as the journey to Meridian allowed.

Only when the household was in the distance, did Jared close his eyes.

 

 

 Their arrival to Meridian was at first like any other trip they had made into town.

At dawn, the marketplace was packed with people trying to prepare for New Year celebrations, which were only a few days away. Eventually, the wagon was stopped outside an inn Jared had never seen before. Jared was thankful and wondered if Jensen had done that on purpose.

It was the Judge who helped them down from the wagon bed. He and Jensen had traded turns driving to get some sleep, but despite this, both Masters looked tired. Nicky offered to get them breakfast from a few food stalls, which the Judge reluctantly agreed to. He took out a pouch of coins and tried to figure out how much food to get and what it would cost. In the end, he gave the entire pouch to Nicky.

“You know better than I what to purchase,” the Judge admitted. “I trust your judgment.”

She was speechless, as was Jared. Though old Master had given him his own small pouch with a few coins in it for the week’s purchases, he had never given Jared—or Nathaniel—his personal coin pouch.

Done tying the horses down in their proper places, and securing the wagon, Jensen walked over. He yawned and then looked at both breeders. “Go with Jeff. I don’t want y’all alone. Do not get separated, do you understand?”

“We don’t know this Master and last time, he wasn’t very kind to Jared,” Nicky snipped.

Jensen’s jaw clenched but he took a deep breath, then calmly replied, “No, he wasn’t. But we… we’ve reached an understanding. He wants to spend time with you, Jared, and this is a good opportunity.” Jensen stepped forward and placed his hands on Jared’s shoulders. “He’s my friend, please treat him as you would treat me.”

“Of course,” the young breeder replied with an earnest smile. “He’s very tall.”

“Some may think so,” the Judge grumbled. “He lets that get to his head sometimes.”

“Maybe if you weren’t so damned short, Misha,” a new voice commented. Master Jeff joined their group, dressed in country clothes. “And scrawny. Do you eat?”

“Do you stop eating?”

“Never an occasion to not be eating.”

“That’s wrong. You’re insane.”

Jeff shrugged and looked at Jared. The young breeder was nervous but tried his best to remain as calm and pleasant as possible; those had been Master’s orders. “Jay, it’s good to see you.”

Tense at the name, Jared hesitated to reply. “…Thank you, sir. You as well.”

The Master frowned as Jensen did whenever Jared addressed them formally, but the frown quickly disappeared. He did a small bow towards Nicky. “Miss, it’s good to see you also. I… I apologize for the nature of our first introduction. I wasn’t quite myself.”

“Indeed,” Nicky muttered. “But thank you.”

All three Masters clarified their plans for the morning. Nicky slipped her hand into Jared’s and pulled him close to her. He noticed that her belly had grown; it was clear now that she was carrying, no amount of robes or tying styles could hide it. He questioned if her pups were moving yet. “Not very much,” she replied quietly. “But sometimes at night I feel something. You’ll feel it soon enough.”

It was true, within a few weeks he would at least have a little more weight to his middle. The thought excited him.

After a few more minutes, Jeff finally led the two breeders towards the majority of the food stalls in the marketplace. He seemed to know his way around, though he paused every so often to ask questions about the things vendors were selling and the prices of things and then about the reputation of certain stalls. Nicky answered each question, though Jared could hear the fatigue in her voice. The sooner they were settled into their new household, the better for her. The energy it took to complete each successive term grew, and she would need plenty of rest. He hoped their new Masters would allow this. For the time being, he could do the majority of the chores and cooking.

Stopped at a stall to buy sweet rolls—Jeff had something he called a sweet tooth, though neither breeder understood what that meant—Jared continued thinking about their new residence in Lee. He knew very little about the city, only that it was as big as Maya.

Jeff held out a sweet roll to each breeder.

“Eat it slow,” Nicky warned Jared.

He nodded and took a bite, moaning softly at the warmth and sweetness of it. Jeff laughed heartily and guided them towards a stall that sold individual packs of food that kept up well during longer travels.

As Jeff haggled with the vendor, Jared looked over the crowd in the marketplace. Jensen was trying to get near them, pushing people aside, squeezing through the multitudes of people shopping. They made eye contact for a second; Jared smiled, confused but happy to see his Master.

The young breeder noticed something black move in his peripheral vision.

Before he could react further, a muzzle with barbed teeth on the insides was forced onto him as he was pushed to the ground. He heard Nicky scream and Jeff swear. Hands were beating the younger breeder down, trying to get him to stop moving, but he couldn’t help bucking against them. Someone took out a whip; a black boot stepped on his lower back and pushed down, pinning Jared in place as he was whipped into submission. Ten lashes—Jared was used to counting instinctively—bit into Jared’s back. One landed on his neck, which caused him to throw up in pain. Groaning, his muzzle was ruined. Dirt and blood and vomit mixed together.

Shoved onto his side, Jared saw Nicky tied down and muzzled; a black glove slapped her.

He saw Jeff rage like a madman as he tried to get to the breeders, but a swarm of government officials surrounded him instantly, without any warning, as if they were shadows coming out from the walls.

 

Right before Jared was picked up, he saw something else.

It was old Master.

And he was grinning.

Chapter Text

Water had never frightened Jared before.

Breeders had a special connection to water. They harnessed it from wells into basins and pails and sinks and tubs. A breeder was almost always surrounded by some form of water; from water boiling on the stove to water in the washing basin for laundry.

A household could not function without water.

 

How could water betray him?

Completely alone, he was hosed down in a windowless, stark white room.

Repeatedly, he was blasted with jets of hard, ice-cold water that did not stop; they changed in unpredictable directions.

 

It took some time for Jared to comprehend the reasoning behind this.

It took a lot of water.

But eventually, he understood.

 

Water left no marks. 

Chapter Text

“The Master you knew as Eli is dead.”

“There remains no reason for you to try and protect him.”

“Your cooperation in these matters is to your benefit, seven-nineteen. Our questions are simple.”

“Did your last Master speak of abolitionist views in your presence—to you directly or to any other individuals?”

“Seven-nineteen. Answer the question.”

“Did your last Master speak of freeing you or four-thirteen, or encourage you to seek a life without a Master’s guidance?”

“The questions are simple, seven-nineteen.”

A blast of water hit the young breeder in the face, causing him to gasp and swallow some of it. Freezing water choked him; he sputtered and tried to avoid the jet, weakly holding his hands above his face, but another stream of water collided with his left side. It hit him with so much force and pressure, Jared fell over, onto his back.

His eyes were raw but he could make out the bright, unnatural lights inside the white room. The lights pounded their way inside his head, even if he did manage to close his eyes for a moment in between streams. He had no idea how much time had passed, only that he was exhausted and wrung out. Moving could only be done with a great amount of difficulty and he faintly felt that his right leg was broken. How had that happened? He couldn’t remember. Everything in his mind was flooded with water. Burst after burst of water hit him—often not hard enough to bruise—and it caused him intense anxiety. Constantly, he worried about the next hit, the next rush of water to burst in his ears or at his entrance or near his tender belly.

Above all else, he desperately tried to protect his belly. He knew he wasn’t far along but the idea of damage caused to this child made him feel a heavy, dark grief.

A humming noise reverberated through the room.

Jared groaned, his throat raw from choking and coughing.

“Did your Master have plans to take you and four-thirteen across our country’s borders?”

“Answer the question.”

“Seven-nineteen.”

“No!” Jared shouted as loud as he could, pushing the air out of his lungs, forcing his throat to work. “Never!”

He waited in terror for another blast of water.

Trembling, he tried his best to curl up, shielding his belly with the rest of himself. Whatever was left of himself to offer.

 

The humming stopped and the lights shut off.

A clicking sound was made and the voice—which Jared could only pinpoint as neutral sounding—came back. “Thank you, seven-nineteen. Your government values your cooperation. A breeder without a Master is lost—forever.”

He agreed. He didn’t want to be without a Master—his Master—the one with the green eyes and the drawl and the deep, rumbling laugh that embodied easy happiness.

From seemingly nowhere, a door opened. Jared tensed up; was it another black gloved and masked government official? They’d probed him. A black glove had shoved itself inside him and searched because he’d heard them speak about Masters who hid things inside their breeders, things the government found during autopsies, which was a fancy way of saying “cutting them open.”

Mewling, his sight fading, intentional or not he couldn’t tell, Jared tried to scoot away.

“Jared!”

He tilted his head in the direction of the sound of someone speaking.

It was an honor to give the government pups. It was an honor to run a household efficiently and provide for his Master and his Master’s heirs. It was an honor to contribute, in however way he could, no matter how small or insignificant it seemed. Jared believed this. He had been good. He had been loyal. And although he had not been perfect, he had tried.

“Stay awake, please, stay awake,” the voice faintly commanded. Hands were on his face. “No! Please, don’t. Please, we answered… we were cleared… no!” The hands were wrenched away.

Complete darkness surrounded him. A hood was tied over his head. Once again, he was lifted and carried off to an unknown place. All he could hear was the voice of that someone, pleading that they be allowed to walk on their own, begging for the hoods to be taken off because the darkness was terrifying.

Their journey did not last long; abruptly, Jared was dumped onto a surface. He didn’t have the strength to make a sound, even when he landed on his broken leg. The hood was ripped off.

“They are exceptional, and we do apologize for the inconvenience, but we are proud to have them serve the government.”

“I don’t care I just want them back. They’re mine.

“Of course. The allegations made by another party were completely false. Neither breeder is guilty.”

“I want something done about him. Anything. I want to press charges. He can’t touch what is my property!”

“Yes, sir. We are working with local authorities to ensure that this is looked into. You are welcome to continue on. Have a safe journey to Lee.”

 

Lights were switched on.

Jared expected to see old Master.

Instead, green eyes and freckles came into focus.

And then the young breeder passed out, swallowed up by dry, merciful relief. 

Chapter Text

In the wagon, Master held him close.

And after some time, Master held Nicky close as well. The three of them were pressed together in the wagon bed, swaying as their company made its way on the paved road towards the East, to the city of Lee. At some point, the wagon stopped, but Jared didn’t know what for or how long they had been driving.

A warm hand was pressed to his forehead and another lightly touched his broken leg.

“Jensen, if I don’t tend to it now it’s going to be worse and require surgery. I don’t think that’s an option here.”

“I don’t understand. What did they do to you?”

The young breeder was aware people were speaking around and about him but he was too drained to participate in the conversation or acknowledge that he was listening. Still and unmoving, he kept his eyes half lidded, trying to keep up with the voices and match them to their person, but even that took energy he did not possess.

“I… they… didn’t do much to me. I was kept in a room and they… searched me. It didn’t hurt. It was fast. Then they asked me things. They. They thought I was… telling other breeders… to be free. They said Eli is dead. But I… I can’t.” That was Nicky’s voice, though she sounded so unlike herself it worried Jared. He wished she would lie back down beside him.

“You think they lied?”

“I don’t know. The… government… doesn’t lie. They just don’t… tell breeders certain things.”

“That’s the same thing!”

“Jen, take it easy.”

“It’s treason to say otherwise,” Nicky cried. “I am a good breeder! We are good breeders!”

“No one is saying otherwise.” That calm tone could only come from the Judge. “Please, proceed. You think Eli isn’t dead?”

“He said to Cody and me that if something… happened to him he’d send a red rose. He said a messenger would find us and we would know. But… maybe… he just said that to make us feel better.” There was some silence, with quiet whispers afterwards that Jared did not hear. He shifted as much as he could without moving his leg; a hand smoothed out his hair.

“Tell me,” Master requested, “what they did to him.” His voice was soothing to Jared, even if it was sharp.

There was a moment where nothing was said and Jared wished he could see what was going on. Eventually, Nicky spoke. “I was in a room next to his. I tried… but they… they broke his leg when we arrived. I heard them say his old Master said he only responded to violence. But… please, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I tried to yell from my room but…” Her speech was muffled, like she was crying into something. “They hosed him down over and over again. I… I don’t even know how long we were there.”

The hand on Jared’s head, which he assumed to be Jensen’s, paused. His voice rumbled somewhere near. “Six hours.”

“It just doesn’t make much sense to me,” the Judge commented from further away. “We are the ones who purchased you. Why were we not interrogated?”

A new voice entered Jared’s range of hearing. This one he had to work at remembering. “Because breeders outnumber Masters two to one in that district. Two breeders spreading ideas about freedom and escape could start an uprising. They know they’re outnumbered.”

“Then why didn’t they just kill us?” Nicky asked bitterly. Jared could picture her expression.

“Because—if I may be blunt—you’re carrying investments of the state. Killing you would cost them potential manpower. And cause potential questioning. They praised you for loyalty. Do you understand why?”

“Yes,” she muttered. “I still… I’m proud to have pups.”

“And they want to keep it that way. They were very careful not to push either of you too far. Jen, Misha, standing here on the side of the road isn’t helping us blend in. He’s got a fever and I haven’t heard any noise from him, which concerns me. We need to get to an inn where I can set his leg.” Jared was trying to process the information he had just heard passed between Jeff and Nicky. He didn’t want to be free. He only wanted to be with his Master, with Jensen. He wanted to be good in the eyes of his Master and the government.

Another quilt was placed on Jared. The conversation was at an end.

“You and Misha drive. It’s another fifty miles to the first outpost.” The wagon shifted as Jensen and Nicky climbed back into the bed; both lay on either side of the young breeder, flanking him protectively. Jared felt Nicky lick away tears he hadn’t realized he’d shed. Then a cool cloth was placed on his forehead and familiar lips were pressed to the nape of his neck.

Jensen began to hum and Jared soon fell asleep.

 

Once, Jared thought he was surrounded by black masked Masters. A black glove forced him to swallow his scream.

 

Two seconds later, Jared woke up from that nightmare.

Panting, he sat up and panicked, desperately trying to make out the dark in the room he was currently in. A nightmare. It had been a nightmare.

“Easy sweetheart, easy,” a deep voice murmured. Jared flinched when he detected movement near him. A candle was lit and Jensen stood behind the flame, at Jared’s bed side. “It’s just in here, see?” He motioned to the rest of the room, then carefully sat on the bed. “Can I get you anything? Are you hungry? Sweetheart?”

The young breeder tossed off the blankets he had on and stared at his right leg. It was encased in a wooden shell similar to the one that had been placed on his arm. It felt heavy and odd, but he could wiggle his toes slightly, which felt somewhat reassuring.

“Jeff set it,” Jensen said quietly and placed a cautious hand over Jared’s. “He put you under so you didn’t feel anything. Can… can I check your temperature?” Jared nodded and tried not to shy away from his Master’s hand. Jensen was slow and telegraphed every movement. He smiled and cupped Jared’s cheek. “All gone. I’m glad. So glad, sweetheart.”

Sad green eyes looked at him. Jared closed his eyes and felt his breath hitch.

“Oh, no, no, don’t… don’t try to keep it all in,” Jensen whispered. He set the light down and gingerly settled into the bed beside Jared. He was dressed in his usual night clothes, though they weren’t in any place familiar to Jared. “We’re a day away from a new house,” his Master murmured, placing tiny kisses on the bridge of his nose. “We stopped at an inn to rest the night. Nicky and Misha are in the room next to us and Jeff is out with the wagon. You know… I think Misha has a crush on her.”

Tender touches rained on Jared’s back, Jensen’s fingertips tracing soothing circles.

“He’s a total gentleman though. I’m sure he’s sleeping on the floor tonight, just to be nice. But I’m not so nice, Jared.” Their foreheads were pressed together. Jared opened his eyes. The two looked at each other for a moment. Jared felt something. He felt that he’d done this same thing hundreds of times before, as if some distant thread was piercing itself through his memories and into his chest.

“Can I sleep with you tonight, Jared? Would you let me keep you company?” Jensen asked, his voice just above a whisper, with that rumbling drawl. When rough but loving hands were threaded through Jared’s hair, he could no longer hold back. Jared pushed himself forward and found that he was not shoved away; instead, he was embraced and held tightly, his forehead kissed. The blankets around them provided them with their own nest; their own space in a world Jared didn't want to think about.

“That’s it,” Jensen cooed and moved them so that there was not one inch of space between them. “Let it out darlin’. Let it out.”

Into Jensen’s chest, Jared cried.

Unlike the many times before when he had cried after a beating, Jared felt better.

Chapter Text

Learning how to use crutches was challenging, but Jared was able to manage fairly quickly. Jensen was generous enough to given him two.

“I don’t want to see you on your feet too much once we’re settled in,” Jensen grumbled. Jared was hobbling around in the space of their small room at the inn. “That’s going to be on for at least six weeks, you know that, right?”

The young breeder paused to chirp, “But I’m not that slow on them.” He leaned against their window, which overlooked the main road they had come in on. Looking outside, he basked in the warmth of the early morning sunlight. He’d woken up slow and lazy, pressed against his Master, safe and comfortable, despite his leg and its dull pain. When Jensen had woken up after him, he’d been greeted with gentle kisses that had turned deeper but were ultimately stopped when Jared felt a sharp pain in his leg as he had tried to get closer to Jensen. Insisting that Jared rest, Jensen kept them in bed, side by side, for a while longer. Now that it was nearing mid-morning, they were both up and about.

“Jensen?” Jared asked, keeping his head down in case his question was not well received. “Why… why did old Master want me?”

It was bold of him to ask; it really wasn’t any of his business. What Masters wanted was not to be questioned by breeders. However, Jared wanted to know the answer to his question and the only person he wanted an answer from was Jensen. He didn’t completely understand why, but he felt anxious and braced himself for a whip to appear.

It didn’t happen.

Instead, Jensen sighed.

He’d been sitting on the edge of their bed, doll cradled in his hands. She’d been tucked away in the wagon before Jared and Nicky had left for the marketplace, so she had remained safe and out of harm’s way. But Master treated her with such care, as if she had been through something unnamable. He held her like she was an actual pup. Green eyes looked up.

“All three of the pups you had were healthy… Masters. So your market price went up. He…sent you to auction at a loss. Then he found out who had purchased you—Eli and Misha—and for how much. Guess he snapped. Spent all his money on a lawyer, sold his own child and first breeder. He was convinced Eli was smuggling breeders out of the country and that by turning Eli in, he’d be rewarded.” Jensen sighed and set doll down on a pillow. “As I understand it, the two closest countries have the same systems so smuggling across the border doesn’t do anything. But I guess there aren’t any chips in the North.” He lay on the bed, arms under his head. “Every day I find out something new. It’s kind of overwhelming.”

The mention of his surviving pups hurt; it dug at him deep.

Three Masters was something remarkable. Breeders rarely gave birth to an entire litter of only one kind of pup, most litters were mixed. Jared briefly wondered if the three that hadn’t made it had been breeders. It seemed appropriate somehow.

Sensing sadness, Jensen stood up from his place. He walked over and put a hand over Jared’s.

“Thank you for answering,” Jared murmured. His reply was a nod.

Unsure of what to do with the silence between them, Jared asked another question. “Are things simpler where you come from?”

Sunlight made his freckles stand out, Jared noticed as he coyly glanced at Jensen. “I guess. I mean. Things got hectic but when we were on leave…” Jensen’s voice had started out light enough, but his tone became cold. He pursed his lips and shook his head. “Some days all I wore were some jeans and a smirk.”

Despite this, Jared attempted to smile and make the mood lighter. He could not imagine Master that carefree and casual, but the idea was charming. “What are jeans, Jensen?” he asked and pushed himself off the window, onto his crutches. They weren’t as bad as Jensen had warned him. He was definitely slower than usual, but he could make up for that.

At this question, Master laughed, then sat up again. He embraced the young breeder, minding the crutches. “They’re denim trousers, Jared. When your leg is healed up, I’ll let you try on a pair.” A sweet kiss was placed on his cheek. “Sit now and rest. I better go see what those three are doing. Are you okay? Do you need anything?”

Jared barely had any time to consider the enormity of being offered to wear trousers. Breeders were supposed to wear their robes or go unclothed. Wearing trousers was the sign of a Master; trousers signified the respect and power of Masters. No Master wore robes and no breeder wore trousers. That was the way things were. A breeder wearing trousers—or asking for them at all—was a breeder overstepping their boundaries, being out of their place. But here was his Master, offering a pair to Jared as if it were the most natural and ordinary thing in the world. Jared decided not to comment on this; he would discuss it with Nicky later. He wasn’t sure if this was a test of some sort. For the moment, he thanked Jensen and allowed himself to be lifted up and placed back on the bed. Pillows were promptly propped under his leg, to keep it elevated at all times, as Jeff had instructed.

As Jensen was placing a few blankets over Jared, a soft knock at the door was heard. Jensen went over and opened the door. Nicky strode in, carrying tray of hot food and drink, balancing everything with an elegance Jared was familiar with. She looked as tired as Jared, but she wore new robes. They were made of a fine but simple fabric, dyed a happy blue color. Both breeders smiled at each other; she even gave Jensen a small smile.

“I’ve come to feed him,” she announced. “Master Jeff says he’s tired of your ‘slacking’ as he put it, and has aggressively requested your ‘god damned help,’ sir.” Nicky set the tray down—propped up on little legs—over Jared’s lap. The younger breeder’s stomach rumbled at the spread laid out before him: a mug of tea, toast, scrambled eggs, and a few crisp pieces of bacon. He waited for Master to indicate he could begin eating.

“Those idiots better not have broken anything. Slacking, my ass,” Jensen muttered, putting on his usual vest. With a few licks to his palms, he ran his hands through his hair and flattened down tawny spikes. He checked his pockets, making sure everything was where it should be. “You two gonna be okay here? Should be on the road in an hour, if that’s not a problem.”

“Not at all,” Nicky replied smoothly. She perched herself at the edge of the bed, next to Jared. “Doctor, when a breeder is served food, they need permission from their Master to start eating. Would you mind? His food is getting cold.”

Jensen’s eyes went wide for a second. “What? Yes! Go on, please, sorry…”

“It’s fine,” Nicky murmured, flicking her hair back. “Your breakfast is downstairs. I was told to make fresh coffee for you. Go on, Jared.” She encouraged the younger breeder to begin. Jared began tucking in, trying to eat elegantly, but ultimately was too hungry for the illusion of grace.

“That’s great, thanks,” Jensen said to Nicky. “Did the guys eat?”

She nodded and added, “The Judge made breakfast. I just made the coffee and Jared’s tea.”

“Huh. Well. Y’all let me know if you need anything.” Jensen leaned over the tray and placed a quick kiss on Jared’s lips. Jared laughed at this; his mouth was full of food but Jensen wanted to kiss him anyway. In a few quick steps, Jensen was gone. His boots could he heard going down the hallway and the stairs.

Alone, Nicky let Jared eat. She started picking up the room. He listened to her as she did.

“The new house has twelve rooms, two libraries, eight bathrooms, and an extensive kitchen, so I’m told. It’s about half the size of our former residence, but the Judge says it has just as much land.” Expertly, she folded sheets and blankets and some of Jensen’s clothes, which he had left on the floor in his hurry. Already her movements were slower and she had to bend at a different angle to reach the floor. However, she moved in such a way that one could hardly notice the extra effort. “We are free to decorate as we please. You’re first breeder—what should our household colors be? Cody did always prefer darker colors. But he was so good at decorating. I’ll be of little help to you in that aspect. And many others soon enough.”

Finished with his plate, Jared lifted the tray and set it aside. He watched as she filled a small basin with water from a pitcher. Both breeders were covered in bruises—Jared’s back was still tender, but healing. The basin was brought over, along with a towel, and she began washing him. He closed his eyes and purred, basking in the attention. Carefully, he was undressed and cleaned. He tried not to think about the water.

Eventually, they shared the bed together, as they had always done.

She let him feel her belly. “The… the Master downstairs…” she whispered, nuzzling Jared. “He says he is also a Doctor. He wanted to check on me. So… I let him and he says he heard eight heart beats.”

Eight was a good number. It was more than good. It was wonderful. Nicky would make her quota with this litter. Eight was also a difficult number; it meant she had to rest more often and would go a longer period of time without being able to move very much.

“I’m happy for you,” Jared whispered back. “I will do anything I can to make sure… that…” he closed his eyes and hoped she understood him. Memories of his pups and the ones in the clearing came back to him. She kissed him and nodded, murmured a thank you.

They stayed like that until Jensen came to collect them, declaring that they were all set to continue on.

 

A wheel broke twenty miles out.

All three Masters had no idea how to fix it.

“Fucking outdated piece of shit,” Jensen barked, trying to assess the damage. “I can fix anything. Any motor or engine or even a fucking furnace!”

“Wouldn’t it be like changing a tire?” the Judge asked. The three of them were on the side of the road. When the wheel had broken, it had jostled the breeders in the wagon and spooked the horses. A few of their things had fallen on the road, but Jeff had gone and picked them up. Jared’s leg had been tossed and he was in pain, but that didn’t seem as important as the wagon so he kept quiet, holding onto Nicky’s hand and squeezing, panting as the pain increased.

“Excuse me,” Nicky snapped, sitting up and leaning over the side of the wagon. “One of your passengers is hurt and requires attention. And the other knows how to fix your wheel.” She turned back to Jared. “Did you ever have to fix a wheel, Jared?”

The younger breeder nodded, then gritted his teeth as a sharp pain shot up his leg.

“Focus,” Nicky commanded. “How do I fix the wheel, Jared?”

Slowly, he growled the answer, until Jeff appeared at the side of the wagon. A small gray bag was placed beside Jared and Jeff rooted around until he found a bottle. “I’m sorry,” Jared panted. “It hurts, sir, I’m sorry!” He began to panic, feeling ashamed that his pain should come before the needs of their company.

“Easy now,” Jeff rumbled, examining the bottle, placing it down, and giving Jared a fond smile. “It’s alright. Gives me something to do while the rest are arguing about that wheel.” The Judge was helping Nicky out of the wagon so she could help. Jared wanted her to stay; he hoped Jeff did not have to reset his leg. The pain of how his arm had been set had never left his memories.

“Take him out of the bed, Jeff,” Jensen ordered from somewhere Jared couldn’t see. “Can’t have anyone in there while we’re fixing this stupid thing.”

“Yes Captain,” Jeff replied. He looked at Jared and telegraphed his movements ahead of time. “I’m going to lift you up and set you down over there.” He glanced over his shoulder and looked towards a tree with shade. “I’ll give you some painkillers and massage your leg. I won’t reset it, I promise. This should make you feel better, okay? Ready? One, two, three.” As if Jared weighed no more than a breakfast tray, he was lifted and carried over. Master Jeff worked fast, but he touched Jared with tenderness. Under the shade of the only tree by the road, Jared was given a canteen with cool water and one, tiny gray pill. He swallowed without question.

“That’s baby aspirin, Jared,” Jeff told him as he carefully massaged Jared’s thigh. “It won’t knock you out but it’s all I can give you. The massage should actually take care of most of your pain. You have to tell me if it hurts, okay? Can I trust you to do that?”

The breeder nodded.

Twenty minutes passed and Jared felt boneless. He had been trained how to do massages for Masters but had never actually had one himself, even if it was on his leg. At the end, Jeff checked on his back, applied a light layer of salve, and had him eat an apple. Munching on the crisp treat, Jared was carried back.

The wagon was fixed but both Jensen and Nicky were covered in a dusting of dirt and wheel grease. Her belly stuck out as she breathed hard from the exertion.

“You need to rest,” the Judge said quietly, passing her a canteen and an apple. “Thank you.”

“Thank you, sir,” Nicky replied, keeping her eyes down.

There was something there that Jared couldn’t quite express. Both breeders were helped back into the wagon; Jared’s leg was propped up and Nicky was given an extra apple.

 

She sliced the apple carefully and shared it with Jared, often giving him the bigger, juicier pieces.

Once again, they were on their way.

Chapter Text

A breeder’s training at the academy was one of their foundations for knowledge. The rest of the things they knew, they learned from other breeders. While the academy stressed that breeders were an important part of society—that Masters needed breeders to produce heirs and provide the government with pups—amongst breeders there was a different message.

Jared had learned, at an early age that breeders were in many ways disposable. That was why they had to try their best. Any breeder could replace them; any breeder could make bread or tend to a garden. It was important to a breeder’s survival that they please their Master in any and all ways possible.

Older breeders stressed elegance and refinement as being highly desired qualities in a breeder.

Younger breeders stressed efficiency and obedience instead, preferring to do things faster and quicker than others, with the same quality results.

All breeders agreed on pain.

Pain was a familiar friend. A breeder was often judged by their peers based on how much pain they could tolerate. A breeder who could not stand any pain was seen as weak and undeserving of any Master’s protection and care. This was emphasized at the academy, repeatedly, often with demonstrations. Jared had been one of the best in his class when it came to a high pain tolerance.

He knew that it was his responsibility as a first breeder to help his Master in any way necessary and that included not being bothersome.

It was difficult for him to admit to Nicky that he could barely tolerate the wagon much longer. For the most part, the roads on the way to Lee were smooth, but after hours of being in the bed, any small jolt began to cause sharp stabs of pain to emerge. If he moved his leg, he felt and heard a soft, deep crunching sound from within the thing the Masters called a cast.

By the time they reached the last outpost to Lee, Jared could hardly breathe. He had begged Nicky not to say anything, and she had tried her best to convince him that Master would be more upset if he remained silent, but Jared had been adamant. He did not want to slow their company down; it was important for them to be off the roads by dusk. The little he knew about traveling was that one should prepare for anything and no one stayed out after dusk—it would be like dangling meat in front of dogs.

Relieved that they reached their next stop, Jared finally caught Jensen’s attention.

His green eyes went wide. “Why… why didn’t you say something earlier? Jared! Look at you, you’re half in shock.” The crutches that had been in his hands to give to Jared were dropped on the ground. Jensen moved forward to pick up Jared, but Jared flinched from the sudden movement. Nicky stuck her hand out to Jensen.

“Stop,” she warned, her tone firm. “Think about what you’re doing.”

Both breeders were surprised when instead of whipping them for their mistakes or tones, Jensen did actually stop to think. He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “Fine. I know you didn’t want to… say anything earlier, Jared, but I need you to tell me when you’re in pain. That’s important to me, do you understand that? I can’t have you toughing it out for whatever reason.”

“Yes sir,” Jared quickly replied. It didn’t seem to make Jensen much less upset, but he moved slower and gathered Jared up with care, minding his leg. Jared held on, wrapping his arms around Jensen’s neck. As they walked from the wagon towards the inn, Jensen kissed the breeder on the cheek.

“It hurts me to know you’re in pain sweetheart,” Master confided softly.

“I’m sorry.” He had nothing else to say. He was confused but comforted by the care his Master had. It wasn’t something he was used to, though Jared understood that a breeder in pain couldn’t be a proper breeder. He would never want to become a poor investment for Jensen; he held on tighter. Up some stairs, the inn was quiet and other travelers had just started to turn in, tired from their own journeys. They had passed a few wagons and carriages along the roads to Lee, seen a few people Nicky and Jared thought looked curious. The weather had been kind to them and at one point Nicky had gotten out of the wagon to walk alongside. At first, the Masters had protested, said she should be resting, but eventually, she had won, only asking that they slow their pace a tad.

It genuinely surprised both breeders when the Judge hopped out to walk alongside her. From the bed, Jared heard a few pieces of their conversation.

“Your robes… look…nice.”

“Thank you, you did purchase them.”

“Well, yeah, but… the blue…”

“Are you trying to giving me a compliment, Misha?”

“I am trying!” the Judge laughed. “Failing but trying!”

The pair lasted five miles before the Judge grew tired—“I don’t know… how you can… where do you get all the energy?”—and Nicky had them retire back to the wagon. The Judge helped her back into the bed, checked on Jared as well, and hopped back onto the driving seat to join the other Masters. Jared offered Nicky a canteen, which she took appreciatively and passed back. After that, she smiled easier.

 

Presently, Jared settled into the new bed, and lifted his leg so that Jensen could place pillows underneath it. The room was standard, and Jensen assured the younger breeder that Nicky and the Judge would be next to them, while Jeff would stay with their wagon.

“He doesn’t mind?” Jared asked, tugging his robes up, over his head, and taking them off. He folded them neatly on the nightstand.

Jensen snorted and began taking off his clothes. Jared kept his eyes focused away, though he was tempted. Many hours in the sun had made the freckles on Jensen stand out. He was also slightly sunburned, which Jared thought he should take care of, but Jensen didn’t seem to mind it. “Jeff grew up in a place with its own stable. His family… they own a few horses.” Master sighed and gave Jared a small smile. “Don’t worry about him, okay? He’s happy to be here. Besides, would you prefer I slept out with the horses and he slept here with you?”

Sensing that Jensen was teasing, Jared smiled widely. “He might not smell like a day’s travel.”

There was that brief moment where Jared was desperately afraid he said the wrong thing, however, it was chased away when Master started laughing.

“You’ve got jokes now,” Jensen said in between laughs. He sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled off his boots. “Fine, I guess you have a point. Not everyone can smell like sunshine and flowers, your highness.” He leaned over and pressed a light kiss to Jared’s lips. “I suppose you’ll have me shower before I can climb into bed, huh?”

“Uh…” Jared hesitated. He was not about to have Master think that he was serious or commanding Jensen in any way. Jensen seemed to sense this and shook his head, smiling still.

“It’s fine, we’re joking. We’ll get that back one of these days.” He stood up, some joints popping as he stretched. “You need anything before I take a bath?”

The young breeder looked at himself and hoped he was not too dirty from the journey either. “Should I…?”

“Oh, no, you can’t get the cast wet. I’ll come back with a basin. And some food. Shit, I’m hungry. Just stay there, I won’t be too long.” Jensen padded into their private bathroom and left the door open; Jared wondered if that was so he could hear if Master needed something or if it was for Master to hear if Jared needed something. He did not know nor could he figure it out, since Jensen never once called him for anything. After a few minutes, Jared began to nod off. It was more difficult to keep his eyes open and by the time a warm cloth was pressed to his forehead, Jared had fallen asleep.

Jensen was tender and careful. He asked Jared to sit up so he could wash his back and apply more salve. Fresh bandages were applied and he was laid back down, on pillows so much softer than any pallet he’d slept on. Sometimes Jared missed his bed in Master Eli’s household, but even though the beds at the inns were temporary, they had Jensen. That meant something, though Jared could not put the meaning into words.

“Stay awake to eat something and you can go back to sleep sweetheart,” Jensen murmured, his voice close to Jared’s ear. “C’mon, I brought you soup and a sandwich.”

Coaxed awake, the breeder sleepily opened his eyes and yawned, purring when a mug of soup with noodles was placed in his hands. He sipped carefully, allowing his purr to sound out.

“Is that… something all breeders can do?” Jensen asked, eating his own sandwich. “The purring thing.”

After a sip of soup, Jared replied, “Yes. Do you not like it?”

“Oh, no, I like it. It’s just… new.”

“How else would you know a breeder is happy, sir?” Jared took another sip of soup and felt warm all over. The closer they got to Lee, the warmer the climate became, however, after the sun went down nights were bracing.

Master nodded and shrugged, then finished his sandwich. He passed Jared one and began to do a few things around the room as the breeder continued eating. The sandwich was simple but hearty, with sweet meat and lettuce and something creamy Jared had never tried before. He ate every single bite, though he was careful to eat slowly. Jensen wrote in a notebook, his pen scratching lightly as he made his notes. Jared watched curiously, attentive to the needs of his Master.

Not too much longer, Jensen closed his notebook and tucked it away in one of his bags. He began blowing out candles throughout the room. Immediately, he joined Jared in bed, sliding in with caution. They fit together despite Jared’s awkward leg.

A kiss was placed on Jared’s shoulder, then on his cheek, then on his forehead.

Without any words both fell asleep comfortably.

 

Their last day’s journey went well.

At about midday, Jeff announced that they were approaching their destination.

Little by little, the roads changed from empty to bustling. Carts and carriages and wagons were everywhere, though never as crowded as the main part of Maya. Still, the outskirts of Lee were new to everyone in their company and no one ran out of sights to see. The breeders that Nicky and Jared could see seemed healthy and taken care of, and they did not see any breeder chained to a carriage or wagon, though some were walking alongside their household’s mode of transportation.

“The robes here are different,” Nicky commented, adjusting hers slightly. “They’re shorter. Look! Look how they have theirs tied.” She pointed to a particular breeder, dressed in bright red. It made the breeder stand out, which was unusual but not unheard of. The robes this breeder wore were especially pretty, lined with lace and tied in a sophisticated way that must have taken an hour to achieve.

Somewhat dirty and sunburnt from their travel, Nicky and Jared kept their heads down after that, though they managed to take in more of their new surroundings.

From the roads that circled Lee and led to extensive country properties, Jared could see that Lee was older than Maya, but just as big, if not larger. There seemed to be a very diverse set of people, but what he enjoyed the most about them was that there was no shouting or obvious rudeness. Both Masters and breeders seemed calm and happy, eagerly carrying on with their business.

The Judge turned back towards the breeders, blue eyes bright. “It’s a gorgeous city that merits a day of exploration. However, the Doctor and I are eager to settle in. Just a few miles more.”

They each nodded and resumed looking around. Jared held onto Nicky when they passed a particularly crowded intersection.

An unfamiliar voice was then heard. “Ah, the new Doctor and his company!”

The wagon was stopped. Jensen’s voice sounded out, clear and firm. “Yes sir, just got in.” Jared tried to twist to see who Jensen was speaking to, but ultimately could not. Nicky managed better.

“Well, a pleasure, sir! The name is Rush, I’m a banker in town. Our offices are nearby, I do believe. I’ve heard from my breeder that you’ve taken over the place on Eastings. Do you know the way?” From what Jared could tell, the voice was confident but amiable. Nicky kept a careful watch.

“Some direction would be helpful, thank you,” Jensen responded in a friendly tone and received directions. Goodbyes were said quickly and the wagon started again. The three Masters murmured amongst themselves and to that, Nicky did not listen. She reported to the younger breeder that the banker had been young, with black hair and a full beard. He was plainly but richly dressed, which seemed to be the style for most Masters in the area.

“We did not look lost,” Nicky commented with a sigh, keeping her voice low. “I wonder why he asked us if we needed help.”

There was no answer to that inquiry. Somewhat frustrated, Nicky chewed on her bottom lip. “Maybe we do look a little lost.” As if to ground herself in the familiar, she took Jared’s hand in hers and squeezed. They stayed close together for the rest of the journey.

The new household was ten miles out from the outskirts of Lee. Despite being tucked away from the city, it was still considered part of Lee and they were not the only residents who had that privilege. Several other estates surrounded Lee, often with a fair amount of acreage. Some households had gates with their house initials painted on and others had only winding drives that led up to the main house.

Theirs was like that; a narrow but well maintained road led them up a slight hill and to their new property. So much to take in, Jared tried to focus on one thing at a time.

From the outside, the new household seemed compact. Jared reminded himself that there were only twelve rooms. Vines curled up against the house and grazed a few windows, accenting them perfectly. Jared counted twelve large windows in the front—six on each floor—and wondered which window he would grow most familiar with and which had the best view of the gardens. He was excited to see the rest of the property and nearly bounced in place. He saw two floors but no attic, which disappointed Nicky, but Jared reminded her that perhaps there was more to see. The structure was made out of brick, from what Jared could tell, and surrounded by neatly kept gardens and bushes. Cheerful flowers lined the drive up.

When the time came to unload the wagon, Jared could not believe what was happening.

He was the first breeder to this household.

Chapter Text

“Quit squirming, I’ll put you down in a second,” Jensen grumbled. “Jared! I’m gonna drop you and then you’ll be sorry.”

“But it’s so pretty!” Jared chirped, wiggling in excitement as he was lowered from the wagon and handed his crutches. He wobbled precariously at first, but gained his balance as he waited for the Judge to finish helping Nicky down.

“No one’s going inside until Jeff and I scope out the place and that includes overexcited Jareds,” Jensen said with only a hint of bite. “Misha, stay here while we poke around, yeah?”

The Judge huffed and folded his arms over his chest. “I’m just as capable at ‘poking’ as you two are.”

“Yeah buddy, sure you are,” Jensen grunted as he hefted a large bag onto his back from the wagon bed. “Ship counselor totally prepared you for action on the field.”

“Remember Conversations 101?” Jeff laughed as he finished with the horses. “You had us all learn the art of meaningful conversation. With puppets.”

“Everyone loved the puppets,” the Judge grumbled and went to help with preliminary unloading.

Nicky stayed close to Jared, slipping a hand over his on the crutch. For now, they were invisible, as the Masters continued to banter and bicker between themselves. They all three of them seemed very familiar with each other, with their own stories to tell. It was a closeness that Jared hadn’t entirely noticed before. There was an easiness that appeared on Jensen’s face that Jared was sure he had never had in his company. The young breeder sighed and tried not to listen to the conversation between the Masters. It was not his place.

“It’s a pleasant sort of place,” Nicky murmured, nudging him from his thoughts. “You will do well here, I think.”

He hoped so; his previous excitement had now faded into anxiety. He was about to confide his doubts to Nicky when the Judge came over and suggested they retire in some shade. Six small trees lined the lane that lead up to the entrance, mostly for decoration, but they did provide some protection from the midday sun. Jared made his way over, slightly uneasy on gravel, following Nicky and the Judge. He saw Jensen and Master Jeff walk around to the back of the household, towards the back lawns.

“I’m fine standing, thank you,” he heard Nicky say to the Judge. “It feels nice after so long in the wagon.”

The younger breeder noticed that the Judge was attentive to Nicky’s belly. There was an opportunity for her to speak about her litter, but she did not take it. The Judge offered to help Jared sit but he also preferred to stand, even if on crutches. He found the crutches somewhat enjoyable; they were challenging and different from regular walking. Although he tired out from being on them for too long, he appreciated the feeling of exercising his arms. Building muscles would help him with his chores.

Jared thought that given the Judge’s lively nature, they would spend the time talking. Perhaps he would tell them a story about himself and the other Masters, or ask questions about the breeders, but that did not happen. Nicky kept careful watch on the lane and occasionally, on Jared. They tried a few times to communicate through sight alone, but Jared could not interpret her messages. They would have to find time to speak in confidence later.

Sighing, Jared practiced moving around on his crutches, staying in the shade as had been instructed. The crunch of the crutches and a few birds chirping could be heard. When he paused for breath, he breathed in deep. The air here was crisp and clean; he could vaguely smell something sweet as well, but could not pinpoint the exact scent. Anxious and restless despite his fatigue, he kept making circles, minding his leg. He was not in very much pain, though a dull, steel-like ache radiated through his leg at all times. At first he’d thought he would be able to put a little weight on it but soon found out that that would not be the case at all. Carefully, he wiggled his toes through the cast, enjoying the feeling and the cool, soft grass on the lawn tickled.

There were questions he wanted to ask and felt that the Judge would give him fair, honest answers. But it didn’t seem like an appropriate time to do so. Both Masters had said that their plan had always been to take Jared back, but was that still true? How long would they be here? Was it even worth cleaning and airing out the household? Where would they be going and what kind of place was it? What sort of place had no breeders? Would it truly be so awful if they took Nicky with them, so they would not be separated? Was there someway Jared could assert their friendship to Jensen and convince him that there was room for her, to wherever they were going?

It alarmed Jared that he knew so little about Jensen and this mysterious other place.

Other Jared had evoked that same carefree expression in Jensen that Jared had not mastered.

And for as much as old Jared seemed to mean to these Masters, Jared rarely heard anyone mention him.

Thinking of these things made Jared uneasy. He didn’t like having so much mystery hanging over his head. It was infinitely more soothing to think through a list of chores to be done once the household was opened up. He wondered if the household was already furnished. All he hoped for was a nightstand where he could prop up doll at night to set her at ease. He had left her in her box, tucked in a corner of the wagon where she was the most secure, but now wished he had removed her. He missed her now.

“You’re pale, Jared. Should I fetch you some juice?” Nicky asked softly, rubbing his back.

“No, I’m fine,” he replied quickly with a tight smile. “Just tired.”

She nodded but eyed him carefully. In the end, she did just as he wanted; she stood in front of him and pulled herself close to him. Her belly pushed against his. Arms wrapped around him, she began to purr and stroke his hair. “We have our own stories,” she whispered into his ear. “And now we have the chance to make a few more.”

After a minute, Jensen’s voice could be heard. He waved to them from the wagon. As quickly as Jared could, he made his way back to the wagon, wincing when he miscalculated a step.

“Looks just fine. Jeff’s gonna set up a few things in the back while we take care of the inside. Y’all go on in and make yourselves comfortable for the moment,” he said, the last part specifically to the breeders. Jared was about to follow orders but thought of something.

“Is there something you’d like me to prepare for dinner?” Jared asked, standing up as straight as possible. He was a good cook; he’d gotten better with Nicky teaching him but that had always been a strong point in his training. Although he did not have the ingredients to make something as elegant as beef wellington, he could certainly try to put together a hearty meal for their first night taking residence.

Jensen was busy unloading bags, tossing a few things here and there into piles. “Nah,” he murmured. “Sandwiches will do us just fine tonight. Don’t even think about trying to those stairs, you hear me? You’re supposed to stay off that leg.”

A quick, bland response was given before Jared turned and walked away. Nicky sighed and shook her head. “He’s busy, Jared, give him time,” was all she said before they reached the doors. He nodded and followed her inside to the main entryway.

The house had not been occupied for quite some time, yet despite that, it retained some kind of freshness. Though there was dust all over from disuse, everything was still intact. Just like at their previous household, a table with a vase for flowers on it proudly stood in the center of the entryway. The floors were made of a slick, clean tile. Jared looked all around, trying to take it all in. It certainly wasn’t as delicate or detailed as their previous household, but it still spoke of wealth and investment. Since the entryway looked that nice, Jared wondered what kind of pallet awaited him for the night. Although him and Jensen were sharing a bed more often, it was not a guarantee that that would happen here.

“I am glad I am here with you,” Nicky shared gently, reaching out and cupping Jared’s cheek. “Why are you so sad now? You were thrilled when we pulled up, what has so suddenly changed?”

“I’m scared,” Jared blurted out, ashamed at his admission.

“You are not,” Nicky asserted. “You are only overwhelmed. That’s different. You’re too brave to be scared.”

“I don’t… I don’t know…” He pushed himself forward and took a glance at a little more of the house. It was as quietly elegant as the rest, though most things—paintings and furniture—were covered by sheets. “I certainly don’t feel very brave.”

The layout of the house was simple. He could almost see why Master Eli had chosen it. A main staircase was to the right, but it was plain and somewhat narrow. The walls were painted a light cream color, while the tiles were a pale blue. Although most things they would need were here—chairs and tables and such—Jared was anxious to catalogue things so he knew what they were missing.

“If we felt brave all the time we wouldn’t know what courage required,” Nicky remarked, stepping forward alongside Jared. “What bothers you most? Not knowing how long you will be here or what to do first?”

We,” Jared insisted. “How long we will be here.”

She shook her head. “No, Jared. You. I… I think they are allowing me to stay until the end of my term. That would make sense and it’s very kind of them. This… is the largest litter I’ve ever had.” Gently, she touched her belly, looked down at it. “They’ve started to move more often, you know.”

Jared wanted to protest; he wanted to tell her that two more months together was not enough.

He did not get the chance. Master Jeff walked in and set down a few bags and their packs. He looked at them, concerned. “Uh… everything alright? I didn’t interrupt something, did I?”

“Of course not,” Nicky replied, easily masking her earlier emotions, her voice pleasant. “You know, we aren’t completely useless. We could help with things.”

Master Jeff hesitated. He bit his bottom lip in a way that Jared found extremely familiar. “I suppose, if y’all are up to it. Just take it easy, there’s no rush. And if Jenny finds out you two pushed yourselves too much, he’ll have my ass.”

“Well, we can’t have that, now can we?” Nicky answered, smiling. “Go on. We promise to take it easy. It’ll be good to work.”

He seemed to sense her willingness to be distracted by doing something and he relented. Though he kept his eye on Jared, protective in a way.

Nicky clapped her hands together and turned to Jared. “No more standing around moping, Jared! Let’s get started. I suggest the kitchen, how do you feel about that?”

And just like before, Jared agreed and they set to work, falling in place easily though their surroundings were extremely different.

 

Six hours later and the breeders had the entire household aired out and dusted.

When Jensen discovered this, he gave them a stern lecture in the main entryway. Then he turned his attention towards Master Jeff, who sighed and rolled his eyes. He put up with thirty seconds of a lecture and interrupted. “Jen! They’re not weak china dolls or made out of glass, okay? I saw them both take a few breaks and Misha gave them something to eat earlier. You’re freaking out over nothing! Be fucking thankful you have a clean room to sleep in tonight and shut up!” With that, Master Jeff stormed out of the household, but not without shouting, “You failed Conversations 101, Jen!”

That last comment seemed to bother Jensen more than anything else. Jared tried to make himself look smaller but it was difficult with the crutches. Nicky held her belly but stood slightly in front of Jared the entire time. The Judge sighed and shook his head, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“That asshole thinks he can just show up and… augh! This has always been his problem, Misha! I’m never fucking good enough for his baby brother. He’s always had the stink eye for me! But what if something had happened?!” Jensen was shouting as he paced.

“Jen, I think you need to calm down,” the Judge muttered.

“Oh fuck,” Jensen groaned and sat on the floor, cradling his head in his hands. “Misha, the fuck have I done?”

Thankfully, the Judge dismissed the breeders. “Please, I apologize for… well, for everyone. You two should go to bed. You may choose your own rooms as you see fit. Maybe get a snack from the kitchen before you do that?”

“Yes sir,” Nicky answered quickly. “Jared, let’s go.”

“But…”

“Let’s go,” she snapped.

Unaccustomed to her snapping at him, he stayed silent and followed after her, trying his best to keep up but she was walking fast. By the time he reached the kitchen he was out of breath and shaking from the exertion. He remained silent and watched her as she angrily cut apples, cheese, and bread for them.

“I’m sorry,” she huffed. “I just… he makes me so mad!” She threw down her knife. “All of them! Jared, don’t they seem strange to you? Please, it’s not just me who notices these things, is it?”

He did not know how to reply. On one hand he was very fond of Jensen and wanted to comfort him. On the other hand, he feared Jensen in many ways. Jared never knew what would upset his Master and while that often happened with new Masters, he’d been so accustomed to the clear rules Master Eli had set up. He suddenly wished he was with Master Eli and Nicky in one of the libraries, beside the fire, purring contently as Master read them a story.

“Fine,” Nicky muttered and gathered up the food to put on a tray. “I know that this is difficult for you and I will not push you but one day you will see that this is not at all right.”

She led them out of the kitchen and towards the breeder stairs in the back of the house, balancing the tray partially on her belly, looking back behind her shoulder to make sure Jared was keeping up. When they reached the stairs, they encountered the problem of how to get up the stairs.

“This is intolerable,” the older breeder grumbled, setting the tray down. “I’ll come back down for that. Get on, I don’t want you putting any weight on that leg.” She stood in front of him and crouched down enough for him to climb onto her back. He protested once but she would hear none of it. “I may be carrying a litter but I am not weak. Slow maybe, but not some frail thing.”

Carefully, they made their way up the stairs. Jared held onto her and closed his eyes, praying that he didn’t feel as heavy as he thought he was. At the top of the stairs, she set him down and sat on the top step, panting heavily.

“I’m fine,” she breathed. “Just need a minute.”

He lowered himself to her, keeping his leg straight in front of him the entire time, and began to rub her belly. She purred at the touch and nuzzed his cheek. Soon enough, within a few minutes, her breathing was regular again.

“I’m sorry,” she mewled, tears falling. “I’m… Jared, I don’t want to leave you. And they seem so strange to me, it frightens me. I hate telling you to be brave when I am not brave myself.”

Pressed close together, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her. He purred for her as she had for him so many times.

They stayed like that for some time, until she remembered the tray. With a laugh, she untangled herself and went to get it, coming back up with less difficulty.

The top floor was well spaced out, and bigger than it originally seemed. There were only three hallways, unlike their previous household, and both breeders found their way around easily. Choosing to share a room, they selected the smallest one in the west corner of the household.

In silence, they ate quickly, munching on tart apples and soft bread with salty cheese. After some sips of water from a canteen, they prepared for bed. Nicky had previously left a bottle of salve in the room, so when Jared undressed she cleaned his back and redressed his wounds, which were healing well. In a day they would be gone.

 

Undressed, both breeders slipped under the quilt and held onto each other.

Whatever tears fell, they ignored and did not mention because they understood.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Jared whispered right before he fell asleep.

He hoped that Jensen would sleep well that night, their first night in their new household.

Chapter Text

At dawn, they woke up and it almost felt like they were in Jared’s bed.

This was their bed though, in an entirely new place, with sheets and quilts that didn’t quite smell like them yet. Jared shifted as much as he could, tired and slightly sore from sleeping on his back for the entire night. Six weeks hadn’t felt like a long time with a cast but now he just wanted it off.

“Stop that,” Nicky groaned into her pillow. She had been lying on her side, since she was also limited in her sleeping positions. “Flopping around like a fish, I swear.”

“How else would you know I was awake?” Jared asked with a smile.

Sleepily, she replied, “I’d know because you finally stopped snoring.” She mimicked his snores, drawing them out loudly, snorting into her pillow. The younger breeder giggled and she turned to lie on her back. Carefully, he rubbed her belly and felt a few morning kicks from the pups. Every day it seemed that she was growing. The extra weight on her looked lovely. He kissed her appreciatively until she swatted him away. It wasn’t long though, before she was curled up to him, massaging his thigh above the cast.

“Nicky?” Jared whispered into her hair. “Why did Master Eli keep… keep Cody’s chip active?”

At first she tensed up. “I told you that.”

“I know,” he sighed. “You said he copied the chip and put parts of it on other breeders’ chips.”

“Yes and no. Eli gave Masters an option: they could deactivate the chip and that breeder on file would be dead.” She sat up and flicked her hair over her shoulder. “It was an option, not a requirement.”

“Yes, but why,” Jared pressed, trying to sit up as well. She placed her pillow behind him. “What was the point? Besides not having to buy more breeders?”

“That was the point. It was his way of… of not… how did he explain it to me? He said it was his way of cancelling the system.” She breathed in and out deeply, closing her eyes for a moment then opening them and looking at Jared. “If he didn’t have to buy another breeder, he thought it made him a better person. He didn’t want to… participate in something he didn’t entirely believe in.”

Jared nodded. “He… he really cared for you.”

At this, she laughed.

“Jared,” Nicky sighed. “I loved him. As much as a breeder could love a Master, I did. If I could keep one of these pups and raise them, I would hope… for them to be such a Master as he is.” The tense she used did not escape his notice. He smiled and embraced her. “Jared, Eli was very careful with everything. He knew the system well because he came from a large, high-ranking family from the South.” Her tone was serious now. “He kept the appearance of farming breeders to keep suspicious Masters off his trail. He understood what he was doing. Our Masters currently do not understand what they are doing. This could be trouble for all of us, especially us, which is why I get so upset.” She paused to kiss Jared. “Eli never made promises he could not keep; he was realistic and practical with me at all times. The Judge is kind, this is true, but to what end? He will not breed me, he will not acknowledge me as his breeder. I can see he is taken with me but why? For a night of service?”

At this she rose from their bed. “I don’t want to get attached to a Master that will only put me to auction after my pups are born. He will finish his business here with the Doctor and he will leave. I am realistic and practical about that. Wait here and I’ll bring a basin.”

Before Jared could say anything, she was already in the tiny adjoining bathroom. It had a small tub that only fit one at a time; a far cry from their previous household.

While she washed him with a towel, careful and gentle in her work, he thought about her answers. He thought about how there was now a silence between her and the Judge.

As if on command, the Judge appeared.

“Oh, good, you are both awake,” he said, looking sleepy. “Can I bring you anything? Breakfast?”

“We can manage, thank you,” Nicky replied shortly.

His blue eyes dimmed a bit, or so Jared thought. The smile remained, but it seemed plastered on. “Of course. I did manage to whip up some omelets for everyone, if you’re hungry?”

“Yes please,” Jared interjected. “But can you take me down, please? I… I want to speak with Jensen.”

The Judge moved quickly, happy to hear Jared’s request. Nicky gave him a cautious look but shrugged. She slipped a robe onto Jared and brushed his hair quickly, pinning a few unruly curls back with simple bobby pins. Finished, the Judge picked Jared up, with only a little difficulty. He seemed very proud of his ability to do so, so Jared didn’t mention how Master Jeff seemed to do it as if Jared were a pebble in his palm.

“Will you join us?” the Judge asked Nicky, his tone softer. “Please?”

Her eyes flickered to Jared then to the Judge. “Yes, thank you,” her tone quieter. “I’ll follow down, just give me a minute to find something that fits.”

The Judge took the breeder stairs, which were the closest to their chosen room, and it made Jared smile. This Master didn’t seem to mind which stairs he took. Once downstairs, Jared smelled eggs and bacon and coffee. The Judge sat him down in the dining room, where he was alone until the Judge came back with crutches.

“I’ll let Jen know you’re up,” the Judge remarked, serving Jared a cup of juice. “Would you like to eat now or after your discussion?”

“Uh…”

“I might suggest after, so you can digest properly. But it’s up to you, if you’re hungry now, that’d be best.”

“No, I think… I will wait. Thank you, sir.”

With a nod, the Judge left to find Jensen. He was barefoot again, but Jared heard his footsteps. In a few minutes and a sip or two of sweet juice later, Jensen walked into the dining room. Jared gave him a shy smile; he looked tired but was dressed neatly.

“Mornin’,” he said to the young breeder with a nod. “You sleep alright? How’s the leg?”

“Good morning. I did and it’s fine, thank you.”

Jensen grunted his approval and took a seat next to Jared. “Look… I… about yesterday.”

“It’s fine. May I… May I please ask you something?” Jared felt his chest tighten. Was this being brave? “Please?”

“Of course,” Jensen blurted out. “I mean, yeah buddy. Ask.”

The young breeder breathed in and out before finally asking his question. “How long are we staying here, Jensen?” The boldness it took to ask that astounded him; he’d never asked such a direct question to any Master before. It simply wasn’t done. A breeder accepted everything that happened to them. A breeder followed their Master’s plans without question, with complete trust and obedience. Jared tensed up; the dull pain in his leg increased from his stress.

At first, Jensen frowned. Then he rubbed at his chin, at the tiny red hairs growing there. Finally, he gave his reply, “Long as we can.”

Disappointed by the vague answer, Jared kept his eyes down and replied with a small, “Oh.”

“Sorry…” Jensen murmured. “You’ve got another six or so months, right? So let’s shoot for six months, okay? I mean, I can’t promise shit, but six sounds alright. I guess I should’ve been cleared on that earlier.”

Jared smiled at the reworded answer, the previous day already forgotten. “Thank you!”

Jensen nodded. “Look Jared, there’s still a lot I can’t exactly… say straight, okay? Like, it’s all so fucked up, most times I don’t know what’s left or right.” Jensen’s drawl was out in full force. “Yes you can settle in for at least that much time. No, Misha and I are not selling Nicky as soon as she delivers. He… he said that might be one of y’alls concerns and we wouldn’t… we wouldn’t do that. She can stay as long as we’re here. I can’t… I won’t tell you anything else because I don’t know anything else. I don’t know what’ll happen or what we might end up being able to do or not to do. Do you understand?”

Excited and happy, Jared nodded.

“Is there anything else you’re worried about that you wanna ask about now?” Jensen inquired, leaning forward.

Sensing that he had pressed his Master far enough—and because being brave was tiring—Jared backed off. He said that no, he had his two most important questions answered, thank you.

“I’m still sorry about shouting yesterday. I should’ve have lectured you. Y’all did a good job cleaning up. Better than we could’ve,” Jensen said, leaning in. “Thank you, Jared.”

If anyone had asked, Jared would playfully deny what happened next. Until a smile would creep onto his face and settle there.

 

He leaned forward and kissed Jensen first. He was first.

The kiss deepened and Jared found himself quite breathless. He had missed Jensen’s kisses.

“Ugh, please, not this damn early.”

Jared flinched and looked over Jensen’s shoulders. Master Jeff stood there, a paper tucked under his arm.

“Get over it,” Jensen grumbled, kissing Jared once again.

“Get a room,” Master Jeff heckled, taking a place at the table.

“Gladly,” was said with a smirk and a wink by Jensen to Jared. “I slept well but not as well as I would’ve with you. Sleep with me tonight?”

Master Jeff groaned and covered his ears. Jared laughed.

“Yes, that would be my pleasure.”

“Mine as well, sweetheart.”

The five of them sat down together in the dining room for breakfast and Jared had too many slices of sweet bread with syrup.

This was an improvement. He could not wait to speak with Nicky and start their first full day as the breeders of this household. There was so much to do for the household and Jared looked forward to all of it. He would make good memories while he could; he was determined. 

Chapter Text

It took a week for the household to settle.

The kitchen was up and running, and all the bathrooms were fully functional; the entire house had running water to the breeders’ relief. There would be no pumping water from a well and dragging it back to the household.

The New Year passed with a quiet dinner and evening spent in a large parlor on the first floor. Pieces of colorful paper were cut into tiny pieces and thrown into the air, which Jared was told was called confetti. Nicky didn’t seem to enjoy the cleanup—neither did Jared afterwards—but it was very pretty.

There were a few minor repairs Jensen and Master Jeff continued to work on, but Jared was assured that most of their repairs were cosmetic. The house wasn’t old, it just had telltale signs of disuse. Master Eli had given them a good, solid place. Although Jared was limited in knowing the grounds outside, he began to know the inside very well. The breeders spent most of their time on the first floor, working to make the household comfortable. At night, the Judge helped Nicky upstairs, while either Jensen or Master Jeff carried Jared to wherever he wanted to sleep that night. He switched back and forth between sleeping with Nicky and Jensen, content that he had two beds that would welcome him.

Although Jared sometimes felt awkward and shy around the three Masters if they were all together, the more time they spent around each other, the more pleasant the household was. The Judge and Jensen had gone into town a few times for their business, while Master Jeff stayed in the household. Sometimes he would spend all day outside, coming back only in the evening. Other times he would spend all day inside, lounging in one of the two libraries, taking careful notes and writing in a journal similar to Jensen’s. He always thanked Nicky for reminding him to eat, and invited Jared to a few games of chess. Master Jeff held himself better at chess than Jensen, but Jared still won his fair share, much to his delight.

Just like at Master Eli’s house, at the end of every evening, both breeders were given a piece of chocolate from a drawer in the kitchen that the Judge kept well-stocked. He handed out every piece with a pat on the head, which Jared grew very fond of. It was a routine that soothed him and gave him something else to look forward to at the end of every day.

When another week passed just as quickly, Jensen had something for the breeders. He presented it to them at dawn on the back porch.

The back porch, which led to the grounds, was not as grand as the one at Master Eli’s household, where so long ago Jared and Nicky had giggled in the sun, soaking it up and enjoying the warmth of summer. However, Jensen had fixed it up nicely so that it was one of Nicky’s favorite places to be. When she was done with the chores of the day, she spent her time sitting on the steps of the porch, watching the grounds for something unnamed.

Sleepily, the breeders held onto a crutch each. Nicky had started to have more difficulty moving, but insisted that she could still, just with one of Jared’s crutches. The younger breeder was more than willing to share his crutches but he could see that she was straining to walk even with its aid. The stairs tired her more often and a few times Master Jeff had to carry her up them at night, as neither Jensen nor the Judge could do so.

Jared watched her carefully even through their morning haze.

“What is it?” Nicky asked in half a yawn.

“It’s a porch swing,” Jensen declared, hands on his hips. “You sit on it and y’know… you swing.”

“Does it go very fast?” Jared inquired, inching forward to inspect it.

Jensen laughed and shrugged. “Not really, I guess it depends. It’s meant for relaxing. Here, I’ll show you.” He slid onto the new thing, which looked to Jared like a lounge floating in the air, and stretched out. His lean, long form was on display, which caused Jared to blush.

At an easy pace, Jensen began to swing. The younger breeder was eager to try it and looked at Nicky, eyes wide with excitement.

She was much more reserved. “I’m… I’m a bit too heavy for that,” she said, taking a small step backwards. “Go on, Jared. I’ll watch.”

Hopping off, Jensen shook his head. “It’s solid and sturdy enough for the three of us if we wanted. C’mon, my craftsmanship isn’t that bad.” He smiled cheekily at the older breeder. “Would it help if I got Misha to sit with you?”

“No that would not help!” Nicky stammered and blushed bright red. “Just… help us on.”

“Alright, that’s the spirit. You first now, c’mon.”

Jared watched with a smile as he took great care in holding the swing in place and helping her on. She squeaked when the swing started to rock back and forth. “Don’t worry, it goes as fast as you want, just push with your foot. See? There you go. Okay buddy, your turn.” Jensen stopped the swing again and lifted Jared onto it, propping his leg up on the arm so that he was propped up against Nicky’s side.

The younger breeder couldn’t help but laugh at the first swing. He reached back behind him and held onto Nicky, who in turn held onto him. When she was assured that they would not crash down, she relaxed and began to purr. Jared tilted his head back and saw that she had closed her eyes to bask in the rhythmic rocking sensations. He managed to rub her belly for her, even though the angle was awkward.

Fortunately, the swinging lounge—porch swing, Jared reminded himself—had pillows on it, just like the ones inside that didn’t float. It was very comfortable and deeply calming to both breeders.

Jensen stayed for a while, pushing them until they seemed to adjust completely. He was thanked with yawns and purrs and a kiss from Jared before he left for town.

“I do like this,” Nicky whispered, running a hand through Jared’s hair.

“Me too,” Jared replied and settled in, warm and sleepy. Jensen had given them permission to sleep in longer. “Can we stay out here always?”

“I’d love that,” she murmured and sighed. “Wake me up soon, please?”

Soon ended up being two hours later, but no one minded.

 

That evening, Jared was in Jensen’s room.

It was a simple room, with a desk and the chest nearby it. Jared waited patiently for Jensen to finish his notes. He had his glasses on, which meant he was studying and did not want to be disturbed. The young breeder lay in bed, purring softly, eyes fluttering open and shut, trying to stay awake after an hour had passed.

Finally, he felt a dip in the bed.

Pink lips dusted his cheek, his nose, and thankfully, his mouth.

“Waited all day for this,” Jensen breathed, rubbing the stubble on his chin against Jared’s.

“Mmm,” Jared sighed and stretched out, wrapped his arms around Jensen’s neck. “Did you finish your business?”

A lazy smile appeared. “Yes, I did, thank you. Well, okay, not entirely… there’s other important business I’d like to get to… if you catch my drift.” He waggled his eyebrows, which caused Jared to laugh.

“Maybe.”

“Just maybe?”

“Can you…” Jared squirmed in his place for a moment. “Can you do that… that thing?”

“What thing?”

“The thing,” he whispered, “with your mouth.”

It was difficult to ask his Master for anything because breeders did not ask. They simply gave. But he did it and he was rewarded, because Jensen was kind and thoughtful and obliging. Kisses and playful nips trailed down his chest to his middle, which was still flat. Jared had explained to Jensen a few days before that he wouldn’t start showing for another week or so. Although they had been sharing a bed in the new household, they had not done much while in bed. Jensen said he wanted things to be natural, which he further explained to Jared that there was no rush. Most nights Jensen practiced running his hands all over the breeder’s body, exploring and touching gently, for no other purpose than to become familiar.

At first that had alarmed Jared—full body touches were for inspections. However, he had learned to calm down and receive tender attention.

His good leg was spread out for more room, and his bad leg was minded with care. Jensen crouched low and began with pressing kisses to the insides of Jared’s thighs. The kisses became bites, leaving lovely lavender marks behind. Jared panted as he felt his cock respond to every touch, bite, and lick.

Finally, Jensen’s mouth worked down to Jared’s already wet entrance.

Slick pushed out when his Master’s warm, rough tongue lapped at the tight ring of muscle. The slick was lapped up and the muscle was pushed against with the tip of the tongue. Jared held his breath then moaned as Jensen’s tongue wiggled in, pushing past with eager determination. It didn’t take long for Jared to begin wiggling with excitement, trying to push his hips up. When a finger slid in next to Jensen’s tongue, Jared keened. Fresh slick made things wetter and louder. He listened to the sounds of being opened up slow and deep, enjoying each slurping noise Jensen made.

It surprised Jared when he was pinned down with two firm hands, his ass then spread and held open.

Green eyes flickered, meeting Jared’s.

The hunger there caused Jared to mewl. His cock throbbed and bounced against his stomach, leaking and twitching out larger bursts of come. Jensen dragged a hand through the mess on Jared’s belly, then tasted it. Jared’s thighs trembled.

“Easy, don’t worry,” his Master’s voice rumbled. “I got you.”

That mouth—Jared wanted to cry at the sight of it near his hips—inched towards his cock.

When Jensen swallowed him up, taking Jared’s cock in his mouth and down his throat with ease, Jared began to cry. Trembling and quaking, he pushed his hips forward, into the silky heat of Jensen’s mouth, and begged for more. Those lips wrapped themselves around the sensitive head and suckled, pulling and wringing something out of Jared he had never guessed existed.

“Jensen!” Jared gasped. “Coming, coming, ahh!”

He wasn’t being penetrated but he was coming. He was coming all over the waiting throat before him, coming all over Jensen’s tongue and eventually all over his lips. Milk and come gushed in thick streams. Jared nearly lost it when Jensen began to stroke his cock and cup his balls, applying a light pressure.

“More, oh, please more,” Jared cried, pushing his hips down to find Jensen’s hand. “Yes, there… there! I… I… ahh!” This time Jensen pulled off of Jared’s cock, which was for the best, since Jared came so hard it knocked the wind out of him for a minute.

“You’re gonna come again,” Jensen commanded with a growl. “Come again, c’mon sweetheart. There you go.” Two fingers were pushed into him and Jared felt himself wake up as if scorched with electricity. The spot inside him was mercilessly pounded against, Jensen’s capable fingers curling deep. There were so many sensations; Jared couldn’t sort them all out.

 He caught sight of the muscles in Jensen’s arms working and flexing.

Once more, that mouth was wrapped around his cock, as wet as Jared’s entrance was. When Jensen began hallowing out his cheeks, sucking with full force, Jared felt his spine straighten and go rigid.

“Ahhh!” That was all Jared could manage to shout as he began to release down Jensen’s throat. He bucked and felt his entrance clamp down on the fingers penetrating him. He worked them as hard as he could and watched with pleasure as Jensen drank everything. Every last drop was licked away.

It took more than a few minutes for the young breeder to calm down. He felt like his heart might as well burst, it was pounding so hard. Jensen wiped his mouth with the back of his hand then licked his lips and smirked. Jared felt dizzy.

Panting, Jensen drawled, “’s that the thing you wanted?”

Jared shuddered and nodded, purring as Jensen pulled away, cleaned them up, and kissed him. He tasted sweet, which surprised Jared. He’d never tasted himself before.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” Jensen whispered, his voice rough but his tone gentle. He looked at Jared sincerely, then cupped his cheek, rubbing his thumb along Jared’s bottom lip.

The breeder felt like he could float away; maybe the bed was swinging.

He felt something he could only describe as similar to his feelings for Nicky, for doll, for his pups.

Jared pulled Jensen close. They were pressed together, tangled up as much as they could be, sticky and warm.

When the room went dark, Jared was not afraid.

“I love you, sweetheart,” his Master said, an arm draped over him. “I think I always will.”

For as long as it would be, this was home.

Jared had never had one of those before.

Chapter Text

A few hours later, when it was still dark and quiet out, Jared was woken up by a gentle hand on his cheek.

With a yawn, he curled up closer to Jensen, snuffling as he molded himself around his Master, as much as his leg would allow. It seemed like Master was making sure the breeder was still there. What could make him think Jared might leave, when he knew no sweeter place than this? It had never before occurred to him that maybe… maybe older Jared had left.

Maybe late at night, he had fluttered away from Jensen.

Or perhaps he had been taken.

Either way, these thoughts caused Jared to hold out his arms. Jensen understood; he pulled the breeder in from an embrace that did not end.

They spent the rest of the night tangled up in each other.

 

It took a full month of residence to have visitors from town.

Only a few days before the visitors were to arrive, Jared got his cast taken off. Master Jeff sawed it off and felt Jared’s bones with his careful, expert hands.

“A clean heal in record time,” he commented, taking notes in his notebook. “You might be weak in that leg for a while, so best to take it easy and limit the stairs. Definitely no running yet. But it all feels good. Let’s do a few exercises?” Every day, Master Jeff and Jared spent two hours together. The exercises were simple and amused Jared; he purred during all of them, enjoying the feeling of his muscles working once more. Master Jeff told Jared a story as they worked together on the back porch, Nicky in the swinging lounge, sleeping as she was prone to do lately. The weather was still chilly, especially at night, but she no longer was comfortable in a regular bed; the swinging provided some small comfort and eased the pressure off her back.

She slept as she had never slept before. She no longer woke up at dawn with Jared. Most nights he spent with her, even if she slept and he stayed awake. He wanted to be there if she should need anything. The weight of her belly rendered her mostly immobile. It was a weight Jared remembered.

If she had to get out of the lounge she could not do so on her own. Many times the Judge helped her, with Jensen and Master Jeff alternating, but he could not be there all the time. So, the breeders spent their time on the back porch and Jared often listened to her soft, steady breathing. He would slip into the lounge with her and purr against her back.

Presently, a day before company arrived, Jared was finishing his exercises with Master Jeff. He was flat on his back, with Master Jeff pushing Jared’s right leg up to his chest.

“You’re showing,” Master Jeff commented, his tone light but concerned. “I… I hadn’t noticed until now.”

Jared’s right hand immediately went to his belly, which was now a little rounder. He had noticed a few days prior to getting his cast off but he had hesitated to mention it to anyone but Nicky. Even Jensen hadn’t said anything.

Sensing Jared’s unease, Master Jeff smiled and shook his head. “Congratulations. Are you feeling well?”

“Yes,” Jared replied, returning the smile. “Hungrier than usual.”

“That’s probably good, right? Should you be taking vitamins?”

“Vitamins?” Jared scrunched up his nose. “I’m not sick, sir.”

Master Jeff looked as confused as Jared was. He blushed and set Jared’s leg down. “I’m sorry. Uh. Where I come from… folks who get pregnant take prenatal vitamins. To make sure… that the baby is healthy. That doesn’t happen here, does it?”

“No…” Jared wanted to say more, wanted to ask more, but he wasn’t sure that was his place. They both looked at each other for a moment, each one trying to decipher the looks of the other, when Nicky groaned from her place. Instantly, Jared was up and at her side.

Groggy and uncomfortable, she woke up, blinking awake gradually, hands on her belly. Jared eased her into a sitting position, shifting her with care. Master Jeff stood, ready to assist. The older breeder yawned and stretched, flicking her hair back. “Just a strong kick, right against my rib,” she reported. “They’re playing rough in there.”

“All strong heartbeats,” Master Jeff commented. “It’s a good sign.”

She nodded and gave them both a small smile. “Nearly there. I can feel it.” There were no robes that fit her anymore, so she spent her time unclothed, draped in blankets. Jared thought she still looked lovely.

“Jared,” she yawned. “Did you put together a menu for tomorrow?”

The younger breeder snapped to attention and he grabbed his supplies from under the swing. Jensen had given him a book full of blank pages just for him, but Jared found it so overwhelming. A breeder couldn’t possibly have that many thoughts, that many things to say that it would fill up an entire book. So Jensen had ripped out three sheets of creamy, crisp paper and told Jared to start there. The first piece of paper had his outline of the menu for the next evening. He ran it through with Nicky, who would be awake for an hour or two before going back to sleep. Master Jeff took a seat across from them and wrote in his own journal, occasionally looking up and once going to get water for both of them.

“Careful not to let the beef cook too long,” Nicky said, holding Jared close and kissing his cheek. “Other than that, I think it’s a menu that highlights your skills perfectly.”

He blushed at this compliment. Her praise was priceless. Just as he kissed her back, he felt one of her pups kick against his belly. She apologized and asked if he was eating enough. Jared assured her he was. He thought he was. He didn’t want to overstep his boundaries and begin eating too much. Both breeders did not have a bin and Jensen gave him permission to eat whenever he liked. Still, Jared worried. He ate conservatively and filled up during breakfast to make sure he wouldn’t be hungry during the day.

That evening, Nicky felt a store of milk drop. Jared helped her through it, letting her hold onto his shoulders as she sat on the edge of the bed.

Any day now, her litter would be delivered.

They swung extra slow that night, bundled in blankets and sharing a heat pack, looking up at the full moon.

 

Their visitors were, according to Jensen, high class people. He called them some other words, but Jared didn’t want to repeat them, even in his thoughts.

The Judge was a little kinder in his assessment, though he was worried. At breakfast, Jared heard them speak about dinner.

“We’ve got to be careful,” Master Jeff grumbled. “Don’t know why you invited them over anyway.”

Jensen huffed and loaded his plate up with pancakes Jared had made from scratch. “Wasn’t my fucking idea, Jeff. Besides, if we had said no that would’ve been a red flag. Inviting them over means we ain’t got nothin’ to hide. Ain’t that right, Misha?”

The Judge’s attention was towards the porch, which made Jared smile, but he promptly joined in on the discussion. “Ah, yes. Rejecting their offer would have been seen as strange. It would have been potentially ostracizing. However, Jensen, our household does not run in a traditional manner. This could backfire and cause… well, less than happy consequences.” He sighed and stood up. “Excuse me, please.”

All three of them watched the Judge exit the dining room and go out to the porch.

Jared wiggled in his chair but stopped when he saw the look exchanged between Master Jeff and Jensen.

“Not a good idea,” Master Jeff grumbled, sipping coffee.

“I told him not to get attached but you know how he is,” Jensen replied and went back to sorting through the morning paper. “It’s not good to lead her on.”

“I don’t think she’s expecting anything… I just… Jensen, you can’t just go back, do you understand? It’s so much more than your original plan now, don’t you get it?” Master Jeff put down his cup and looked over at Jared. “Breeders have a litter every year, right Jared?”

“Yes sir,” Jared answered without hesitation.

Master Jeff nodded and looked back at Jensen. “You want twenty-five kids, Jen?”

Jensen visibly bristled. “Don’t ask shit like that, Jeff. Not right now.”

“When then?” Jeff placed his hands on the table. “When you’ve brought him back and you’ve got ten kids in ten years that you can’t take care of? And who are all born with that same ability? What do you think people will say? You think they’ll accept that… that this just happens? I don’t mind Misha getting attached but I do mind you assuming that you could do this. You can’t introduce a new population into a new environment without some serious research, Jen. There are real consequences here!”

At that, Jensen pounded his fist on the table. Food and plates fell, shattering on the floor. Jared yelped and shrunk back, slinking down to the floor to pick up the mess.

“I know that! But what should I do, Jeff? You wanna ask the questions, fine, give me answers too! Should I stay here and let my kids be treated this way? Or stay here and watch them get taken away? Once we’re back I’ll find a way to… to deal with everything. God dammit, Jay, you don’t…”

Jared froze at the name. He looked up, eyes wide, and waited for a command.

With a sigh, Jensen got down and started picking up pieces of pancake and plate. “Sorry. You don’t have to pick up my mess. I’m sorry. Jeff… gets on my nerves sometimes.”

From the table, Master Jeff snorted. He stood up and carried his plate to the kitchen, thanked Jared for the meal, and went after Misha.

Kneeling on the floor, Jared held a handful of broken plate pieces close to him.

“I…” Jared looked at Jensen. “I don’t want to leave her.”

Green eyes hardened. “Not now, Jared. Okay? I know you don’t want to get separated but the way back is not the same way we came in and it’s… fucking complicated, alright? I told you six months and you’re gonna get six months.” Jensen helped Jared stand up. “Tonight is important, we’ve spoken about this. We don’t need the government tracking us any further, so tonight we’ve got to be the most boring household ever. Do you think we can pull it off?”

Something in Jared’s belly turned, causing him nausea. Dutifully, he answered yes, they would get through tonight.

But honestly, he wasn’t so sure.

Chapter Text

When a Master of title moved into a new community, it was customary for them to receive visitors.

Established members of the community were expected to pay a visit, dine with the new household, and welcome them into the neighborhood by telling them how the town worked, the best shops in the market, and the best times to go, etc. Jared had been to a few of these events before but had never been the first breeder of the receiving household—or first breeder at all. He had a whole new list of responsibilities and duties that he had to attend to, things that involved intricate details and careful attention.

There was so much to do in preparation that he would have been excited if the potential consequences of the evening were not so negative. Breeders, Jared knew, liked to gossip. Nicky and Jared would be judged by the breeders visiting that night and their reputation amongst other breeders in town would be formed. They would notice every detail; he knew this because he had watched Nathanial during their outings. Jensen emphasized that this visit went beyond the risk of their social reputation; the breeders may have been cleared of abolitionist connections but their interrogation was still fresh in everyone’s mind. The breeders could not appear too casual, but in turn, the Judge reminded everyone, the Masters could not appear too lenient either.

“It’s the banker and his first and second,” Jared told Nicky at midday. He sat outside with her for the moment, finishing place cards as he’d once seen Nathaniel do. He wanted to finish as much as he could with her company, while she was awake. Even though she was uncomfortable, she insisted on folding the napkins for the evening. It had been decided that she would remain outside during the visit but Jensen and the Judge had informed her of what was going on before they’d left for town.

Draping the napkins over her belly, Nicky folded with precision. “I’m sure they’ll be used to finer things then. I hope you don’t mind that I gave Misha a small list. They’ll be looking for opulence, and as much as I know you are fond of this household, it lacks grandeur.”

“What kind of things?” Jared asked, dipping his pen in the ink well. His script wasn’t nearly as elegant as Nathaniel’s or Nicky’s but it would have to do. He had no extra time to spare for the cards.

“Mirrors and curtains, another silver tray for the coffee later and… supplies. Chains and two posts.”

Jared froze at the mention of chains. He looked at her for clarification.

“I don’t mind,” she murmured, setting aside a napkin on a tray beside her and then picking up another. “I offered, actually. It would seem quite strange if I were out here unchained as I have been.”

“Only for tonight, right?” the younger breeder asked, more desperation in his tone than he wanted to admit.

She calmly smiled and nodded. “Of course. Now, you should probably start cleaning.” Quickly, she finished the last napkin and yawned. “I am due for another nap. I’m sorry I am not more help. I could peel some of the potatoes for you if you’d like?”

He promptly hushed her and took the tray inside, then returned to help her settle in a more comfortable position. Once he had her turned on her side and covered with a quilt, he let her sleep. For a moment he hovered—how he wanted the visit to be cancelled and everyone to leave them alone—but he reminded himself of his duties and his position of honor. This was an opportunity to show Jensen that he was capable of running a household.

A deep cleaning of the household took two hours. It would have taken more but Master Jeff washed all the windows once he returned from his daily outdoor activities. He kept Jared company for most of the time, asking him to pause from working to do half an hour of their usual exercises. Jared relented but was nervous throughout their entire time. They were outside, near Nicky so the breeder could keep a watch on her. He heard her soft purring from his place on the floor and tried to focus on remaining calm.

Master Jeff pushed his right left back and held it in place, counting quietly for ten seconds. He extended Jared’s leg after that and Jared’s breath hitched.

“Oh.”

“What? Pain?”

Immediately Jared placed his hand over his belly and breathed out. He smiled up at Master Jeff, who had very concerned hazel eyes. “I felt a heartbeat.”

Awe was expressed. Master Jeff helped Jared sit up. For a moment, they sat there in silence, before Jared was tugged into a tight embrace. When Jared settled in Master Jeff’s arms, he felt another flutter in his belly; a light tickling, bubbly sensation he recognized. He closed his eyes, the evening before them forgotten, and began to purr when he felt a hand on his head, stroking through his hair.

“I’m sorry,” Master Jeff whispered. “I don’t mean to get all… emotional.”

Unsure of how to respond to a Master apologizing to him, Jared returned the embrace and purred against Master Jeff’s chest so he could feel it properly. The hand on his head never left.

The rest of the afternoon passed by quickly, with Master Jeff staying beside Jared the entire time. He was a great help, even when Jared said he didn’t technically have to help out. Together, they finished cleaning the house, put together the dining room, and started dinner.

The flutter never left. Jared couldn’t wait to tell Jensen.

 

When the remaining two Masters arrived at the household chaos was let loose.

Dutifully, the Judge had purchased all the items Nicky had suggested. However, those items had to be put up and arranged to look as if they had been in the house all along. Jared felt himself pulled in four directions at once; he wanted to talk to Jensen and share his news, but he needed to hang the curtains properly, take a few things off the grill and place them in the hearth to keep warm, and situate Nicky before the guests arrived.

The young breeder hoped he would have a moment later to speak to Jensen. There were just too many things that needed to be done. For the most part, however, the household was in a good mood, with the Judge trying to keep everyone laughing and smiling. He presented Jared with a small piece of chocolate, wrapped in a silver foil so pretty that Jared saved it, tucking it away in his pocket. Suddenly, Jared remembered that he had to change robes.

“I need to wash up,” Jared announced, walking into the living room where the Masters were talking. “Is that alright? Everything is done.” The guests would be arriving in half an hour and Jared still had to check on Nicky.

“Oh, wait up,” Jensen said, getting up from his seat and running over to Jared. “Let’s both go get dressed.”

“No inappropriate activities,” the Judge snickered from his chair. “Wouldn’t that be the best sort of first impression?”

“Anyone who knew you wouldn’t be surprised,” Master Jeff quipped. “Go on. Jared’s got something he’s been wanting to tell you anyway.” Jensen looked at the breeder inquisitively, which caused him to blush. He didn’t think this was that special but he certainly enjoyed the attention. Together, they went up the main stairs and to Jensen’s room, where Jared kept a drawer of the things he’d brought with. He said hello to doll and held her for a moment, squeezing her close to him before setting her back on her nightstand, which Jensen had said was just for her.

Jensen began undressing. He was naked as he rooted through a few of his drawers, searching for an outfit.

“I pressed one for you,” Jared said, his voice soft. “It’s hanging in the bathroom if you’d like to freshen up.”

“Ah, thank you. Now,” Jensen slipped on a long, light house coat. “What’s the news you wanted to tell me? Something good?”

The young breeder proceeded to report the news and was taken by surprise at the reaction. Jensen had a hand pressed against his belly soon after, and when he could not feel anything, he pressed his ear to it. Jared laughed and shook his head. “You won’t be able to feel it yet.”

Jensen pouted. “No fair. Wait… maybe…” He wrapped his arms around Jared’s middle and gave a squeeze, causing the breeder to squeal. “Ahh nope just you. This is great news, thank you for sharing it with me. I’m sorry shit has been so busy today. Maybe we can wind down together when everyone’s gone?” He stood up and embraced Jared completely. The breeder began to purr, loud and deep, his hands at Jensen’s chest.

“I would like that,” Jared whispered and closed his eyes as Jensen kissed him. He thought of how handsome Jensen would look in his outfit Jared had selected. Of how the child he carried now would know the feeling of family and home.

At this, Jared’s eyes snapped open. “I need to check on Nicky!”

With a nod, Jensen gave his approval. He had to dress anyway, but he did not let Jared leave without a firm grope. It all made Jared feel giddy and energetic as he practically skipped down the stairs.

 

His happiness was short lived.

It hurt him to see her chained to the house.

The Judge and Master Jeff had moved her off the swing and carefully placed her down in the corner of the porch, sitting up, slightly laying on her side. Jared brought out as many pillows and blankets for her as he dared, hoping no Master would say anything. With tenderness, he made her a nest and tucked her in, kissing her cheek and brushing her hair back. She smiled at him in return. For a moment, he rubbed her belly and indulged in her purrs and gentle kisses against his face. He wanted to stay with her, safe in her arms, where no one expected anything out of him and no one was watching and criticizing his every move.

“Stop worrying,” she chided, yawning as they parted. “I’ll be fine.” It did seem that she would be alright, at least until dinner was over. The Judge had provided her with three freshly made heat packs and a small tray of her own with water and a plate of hot food Jared had made special for her. “If I need anything I’ll be sure to speak up.”

“How will I hear you?” Jared murmured, kneeling down with her. Before coming down, he had quickly changed into a new robe, dyed a turquoise color that Jensen said made his eyes seem blue. “I wish you would be next to me.”

She snorted and waved him away. “Nonsense. You’ll do fine. And if anything goes wrong, sneak out to see me and I will counsel as best I can. But that won’t happen because you will do fine. Now go, I hear a carriage.”

Obeying, Jared left her, still bothered by the chain around her neck.

 

At long last, after much anticipation, their guests arrived. Jared watched from a window near the entryway, nervously pacing as the carriage wound down the lane. The carriage was ornate, with good horses, but beyond that, Jared realized that a breeder was driving it.

Apprehension built in his chest as he heard the carriage stop and the horses being tied down. This was his first time receiving visitors in a household where he was first breeder. Odd but he hadn’t expected to be so full of concern and worry. Would the beef be juicy and flavorful enough? Were the vegetables seasoned well? Had he helped Jensen select the right wine to pair with everything? He forgot to polish the new tray! But there was no time for that! He could hear their footsteps approach the door and before he knew it, he was opening the front door and saying a cheerful greeting and introduction.

This new Master was tall and broad shouldered, with a black beard and long hair tied back in a simple braid. His face seemed kind and his eyes looked cheerful; he even greeted Jared in return before handing over his coat and gloves. Jared stepped back and the breeders followed their Master, elegant, sophisticated individuals just as Nicky had predicted. Both were dressed in matching gold robes trimmed with glimmering buttons and beads. He shut the door and accepted from them their shawls, which felt like spun clouds and nearly slipped from his hands.

Dutifully, Jared led them out of the entryway and into the nearest sitting parlor, where his three Masters were waiting. At once, Jensen rose from his chair, smiling wide, and shook the visiting Master’s hand.

“Joshua! Welcome! It’s a pleasure to have you here, in our modest accommodations. I hope your travel was pleasant?” As Jensen spoke, Jared motioned to the two breeders to sit on pillows near their Master’s designated chair. He had been careful to select the most comfortable pillows for them. In graceful movements, both breeders knelt and kept their heads down, nodding a thank you to Jared.

Next on his list of things to do was put their things away in a hallway closet. He quickly padded out of the parlor to do so; he heard Jensen make introductions and Master Jeff speak. On his way back, Jared heard the Judge propose a light drink and some conversation before dinner. This was the way visits were done, Jared knew that. They would converse in the parlor for about half an hour, then he would lightly tell his Master dinner was ready if they should so like to dine. While the Masters settled into their chairs, Jared would plate, serve, and attend to their needs. He could do this. He kept repeating that to himself internally.

Jensen listened to the drink Master Joshua asked for. He turned to Jared for a moment and lightly said, “Fix two of those for us, will you Jared?” Turning back to rejoin the conversation, Jensen gave no other order. The Judge and Master Jeff asked for theirs after and Jared slipped out of the parlor again, then headed to the kitchen. As he made the drinks—all ones he had prepared before, thankfully—he noticed that Jensen was working to hide his accent. Jared could only detect small hints of it but Jensen was skilled at masking it. Only when he returned, served the drinks, and settled into his place on the floor beside Jensen, did he get a chance to observe the two breeders.

Although both were quite sumptuously dressed, only one had makeup on. Both were, as far as Jared could tell, much the same as he was with flat chests and slightly broader shoulders. However, their pronouns were something he would not find out until mentioned to him directly or overheard otherwise.

The one with makeup appeared to Jared to be the first breeder, who had not been driving the carriage. They had amber skin and a rounder face, with sparkling violet eyes, highlighted by expertly applied gold powder. They even had earrings, several in each ear. And their slippers, which Jared could only slightly see, were trimmed in the same finery as the rest of their outfits. The younger breeder couldn’t help but fidget, suddenly feeling undressed and plain. Should he have somehow dressed himself better? He didn’t know how to tie his robes in fashionable, fancy ways and Nicky hadn’t been able to help. Now his worry was that he seemed like a breeder not fit for Jensen’s company.

As if sensing the inner war Jared was waging, Jensen laid a hand on Jared’s head, calmly petting him until a purr sounded. Basking in his Master’s touch instantly made Jared more relaxed.

After the proper amount of time, Jared nudged Jensen’s hand, his signal that they could move into the dining room. Jensen pat him once more and announced to the Masters in the room that, “Something smells delicious, let’s eat.” Ignited by the praise, Jared looked up to Jensen, happy and excited.

Without word, the three breeders followed, except that Jared went into the kitchen directly. When he heard the Judge address the breeders and ask them to sit, he was comforted. Usually it was the first breeder’s responsibility to attend to the guest breeders, and for the second breeder of the household to do all the plating (as Jared had once done for Nathaniel). However, Jared was both roles tonight. It had been determined that he should kneel on the floor also, so as not to ostracize the guests. Master Jeff had tried to get Jared to eat a meal before the event, but Jared’s stomach had been too tied up in knots of worry to keep anything down. He assured Master Jeff that he would eat afterwards, when their visit was done.

Plating, he felt no hunger. Instead, he felt oddly calm and focused. These were tasks with which he was familiar with. He knew exactly how to plate the salads and starters so that they looked even more appealing. Not one vegetable or starter was out of place. Proudly, Jared carried in two plates, serving Jensen and Master Joshua first. He didn’t dare do more than two plates at once, even if it was faster. When he saw that all were served and started eating, he took his place on a pillow near the head of the table, where Jensen was. Master Joshua was seated to his left and the Judge to his right, with Master Jeff at the opposite side of Jensen.

It was always considered best that a breeder not listen to the conversation of the Masters present, however, a breeder must always be alert to the refill of a glass or any additional servings. Jared kept careful, focused attention to the sound of their cutlery and how many times each Master took a drink. Jensen was kind and signaled him when they were ready for the main course by giving him a pat on the head. As Jared stood to go to the kitchen, Master Joshua commanded his second breeder to help out.

Both breeders looked at each other and Jared gave a tentative smile which was returned.

Once in the kitchen, the breeder introduced themselves.

“Our names are Matthew and Natan,” they murmured quietly, bowing slightly before Jared. “Natan is my first breeder. Where is yours?”

The question threw Jared off slightly—he thought he had appeared to be the first breeder but perhaps not—but he did not falter as he took the main course out of the hearth. The beef smelled and looked perfect as he cut into it, serving hefty portions. Nicky told him that if he loaded the plate with more meat it would appear that they dined like this every night. In reality, Jared usually kept to making very simple dishes. Some nights Jensen would only ask for tomato soup and a sandwich, which Jared was always happy to make fresh and from scratch.

“I am the first breeder,” Jared replied, keeping his tone cordial. “I’m Jared and my second is outside. Her name is Nicky.” With a towel, Jared wiped the edges of the first two plates, ensuring that nothing looked sloppy.

“You’re very young to be the first,” Matthew commented, allowing Jared to do the plating. “Is she even younger?”

To this, Jared didn’t know what to answer. What if, for some reason, the breeders wanted to see her? What if their company went outside and he was proven to be a liar? In the end, as he finished the last plate, he answered honestly. “She is three years older than I.”

Matthew’s brown eyes widened. “And you are still the first? I’m sixteen, Natan is twenty. I did not think anyone younger would be the first breeder for a Doctor.”

A nod was given before Jared handed Matthew two plates. His patience was wearing thin. “Please take care and do not spill,” Jared murmured. “Thank you for your assistance.” Nicky had told him it would be best for him to thank them at every opportunity, so that he came off as very generous. This was a bit difficult for Jared to do, especially since he sensed criticism in the breeder’s tone, but he did it. He would follow her rules because he trusted her. He thought of her while he placed a plate in front of Jensen and then one in front of the Judge.

With a careful eye, Jared watched Matthew set down the plates for Master Joshua and Master Jeff. Nothing was spilled or moved out of place. Once again, Jared occupied his place next to Jensen.

True to tradition, Master Joshua began telling the Masters at the table about the best times to shop at the marketplace and which stalls were known for fair prices and which, according to him, “Would take the very coat off you!” He suggested a brothel, the mention of which Jared at first tensed up to. However, the Master quickly added, “But you have such a precious breeder there, Doctor. Very fine facial structure. Was he expensive?”

Jensen set down his napkin on his lap, smoothing it out once. He cleared his throat and took a swig of wine. “No, not very. Well, to some his price may be high, but it was no trouble. I’m sure you can appreciate that, Joshua.”

Master Joshua laughed loudly and placed a hand on Jensen’s shoulder. “Indeed I can! For a beautiful breeder no price is too high. My two lovelies were passed down to me from my esteemed, late father. He handpicked them you know. We’ve been very fortunate with quotas. Has your investment paid off?”

There was hesitation in Jensen’s reply. Jared saw the Judge kick him from under the table.

“Not as of yet,” Jensen replied smoothly, picking up his cutlery once more. “Should see in about six months’ time though.”

“Excellent, good to hear. When you are ready for a second, I would ask that you come to me for the purchase. I know of the best dealers and auctioneers in the entirety of Lee. They’ll give you a beauty and a fair deal. None of that terrible stock like they have in Meridian. Not to speak ill of your former place of residence, but I did some trades there and my goodness. The way their breeders are sold! Quite ghastly. Ah, Judge, you too! When you are in need of a first, you will let me know won’t you?”

“I will most happily knock on your door,” the Judge answered, his voice with its usual lightness. “I could think of no better person I would seek advice from. I thank you.”

After that, their conversation turned to business and the layout of Lee. Everything sounded as if it were going well. Jared wished he could sneak out and see how Nicky was doing. Time passed by and Jared was given a signal for dessert. He’d made something Jensen requested specifically. When he cut into the sweet cake—drizzled with icing and topped with pecans—he saw Jensen’s eyes glaze over. With a smile, he served each Master a sizeable piece, then went to the kitchen and brought out coffee on the new silver tray. If he wasn’t fancy, at least the items in the household were. The tray gleamed and the coffee smelled fine; he was proud that his meal was coming to a close on a strong note. The cake was sweet but not too rich to upset their stomachs and the coffee paired perfectly. He knelt down and not too much longer after that, Jensen commented to Jared, “Outside, will you Jared?”

Excited and eager to share the news of the evening, Jared slipped away from his place and went outside. He ran over to the corner Nicky was in. She was burrowed in her nest of blankets but something was wrong.

“Nicky!” Jared gasped, falling to his knees. “What is it?”

Startled, she flinched. “Oh, Jared. It’s… I just…” She breathed out and tried shifting. “I need to walk around. Please? I’m sorry to keep you.”

“No, of course I can help. Here.” He grabbed her hands and together they hefted her up. Her belly was the biggest it would be, hanging low with the weight of it. She struggled to walk but was able to if she held onto Jared. Moaning lowly, she took a few slow, labored steps forward. The chain around her neck dragged behind her; there was plenty of give to it, the Judge had made it long on purpose.

“My back hurts,” she admitted softly, panting with the effort it took to move.

“Did you drink tea? I’ll place a heat box near your hips when we’re done,” Jared said gently, his hold on her firm. “Are you okay?”

It was cold outside but she felt warm to him. He was glad she had kept herself covered. The night was clear and the back lawns looked lovely, painted in moonlight. She assured him she was fine, just uncomfortable and nothing would really help that. For a minute Jared filled her in on the details from the evening, until he heard the porch door open. Both expected Jensen, or perhaps the Judge, and were surprised when one of the new breeders stepped out. It was Natan, the first breeder of Master Joshua. They walked directly towards Nicky and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“You should not be moving,” they said, concerned.

Nicky groaned and trembled, squeezing Jared’s hands. “I’m fine,” she panted. “I… thank you for the concern.” Two more steps forward and she had to pause, leaning against Jared’s side as much she dared. For a moment, an awkward silence lay between the three of them. The visiting breeder broke it by commenting on how interesting it was that Nicky was a second breeder when she had the qualities of a first.

“Jared,” Nicky breathed, her chest heaving. “Fetch… fetch the Judge for me. Do that, please? Set me down here. Yes, that’s it. Go. Please.” The tone in her voice alarmed him, bothered him more than the comments made by their guest. He let her down as easy as he could, leaving her on her side, and asked Natan to follow him. The breeder hesitated but eventually followed Jared inside. The Masters were in the living room attached to the dining room, all of them on lounges, looking relaxed and comfortable.

“Master,” Jared spoke to the Judge, bowing deeply. “I… I humbly require your assistance, please.”

Conversation between Jensen and Master Joshua did not stop, but the Judge looked at Jared with alarmed eyes and hurried up out of his lounge. Jared walked in front of him, leading the way into the kitchen. He felt the gaze of the breeders on him and tried not to worry about them. Nicky was much more important and he needed to focus.

Outside, the Judge broke into a run and knelt beside Nicky, placing a familiar hand on her neck. Jared began to panic when he saw her shaking in pain. The Judge nearly ripped off his coat to place it on her, draping it over her shoulder.

Quietly, Jared checked to see if her water had broken. It had not. He heard her whisper to the Judge that she was having contractions but her back hurt worst of all. He also heard her apologize over and over again and she begged him not to punish Jared for getting him.

“I’m glad he did,” the Judge assured her. “What can I do for you?” His question was genuine and sincere.

It was decided, after a minute of deliberating, that the Judge would help Nicky walk around a little more while Jared attended to the last of the visit. The Judge gave him permission to come back outside as soon as the guests were gone. The last thing Jared saw before going back inside was the Judge’s hand on Nicky’s belly, gentle and reverent. She was at least well taken care of.

 

When Jared returned to the living room, Jensen gave him a concerned look, but it was swept away and replaced by an amused expression as he continued speaking to Master Joshua. Jared dared a glance at Master Jeff, who was taking notes but looked up for a moment and met Jared’s gaze. He nodded and went back to his writing.

Jared tried his best not to fidget on his pillow. The other two breeders were so perfectly still, they could claim statues as relatives. Not another word passed between them for the duration of the evening and Jared was just fine with that.

Finally, the Masters’ conversation dwindled and the Master took his leave, stating he had an early appointment in town that required grave attention. “They found an abolitionist a week ago, pressed the charges, succeeded, and now his things are up for auction. You can imagine it’s quite an ordeal to find a buyer for his property now.” With a sigh, he stood up with Jensen. “My good Doctor, it’s been a wonderful evening. I thank you earnestly for your generous hospitality and engaging company.”

In a practiced way, Jensen shook his hand and began to lead Master Joshua and his breeders towards the entryway. Jared felt his heart rate pick up; the evening was soon over!

Jensen’s answer back was light hearted and sounded genuine. When the front door was finally opened—Jared handed the coats and shawls to the breeders, who took care of them from there—Jared could almost picture the evening over. All he wanted to do was check on Nicky, move her back to the swing, and slip in beside her. Maybe she would want a slice of sweet cake. They could share that before going to sleep. If only their company would leave. He was eager to shut the door and grew more impatient as Master Joshua kept talking. It seemed to take a year before the carriage was pulled to the front step and Master Joshua—mouth and all—stepped into it.

The front door wasn’t completely shut before Jared raced through the house and towards the porch.

Something had changed; he could feel it.

Before he could make it out the back door, he collided with the Judge, who thankfully prevented the both of them from tipping over. However, he looked nothing like his usual self. He was completely flustered.

“Jensen!” he shouted over Jared. “Jensen, where the hell are you?!” When Jensen did not reply, the Judge looked at Jared, holding onto his shoulders. “Jared, her water broke.”

The end of the night was nowhere near.

Chapter Text

A breeder’s body was designed to give birth, no matter what their genitalia. The government taught every breeder that giving birth was the most honored responsibility and privilege they had. The more successful litters a breeder had, the more respected and desired they were. Along with their ability to serve a household, their ability to breed was part of their identity and self-worth. What kind of breeder didn’t breed? Jared didn’t want to know.

Nicky had a quota of seven pups per year according to her age. At eight pups, even if… well, Jared understood that no matter what she had a good chance of making and exceeding her quota with this litter. Two heats a year allowed breeders two opportunities to make their quotas; two chances to bring honor and respect to themselves and their households.

As with Jared, the first difficulty encountered was finding a position that was comfortable for her and accessible for the Doctor. Many positions were not possible due to her size and it seemed that no matter what position they tried, her back still suffered. Very quickly, the older breeder’s usual composure vanished as she was moved and propped up in various angles. She finally snapped at Jensen and Master Jeff to leave her alone until they decided on what they wanted.

“I’m not an egg in a pan!” she had barked at them, scrunching her eyes closed as a contraction hit. Rapidly, Jensen and Master Jeff removed themselves from her and stepped back to discuss things.

Amused, Jared smiled at the Judge, who gave a tentative smile back. He was bracing her right side while Jared was on her left. They were sitting on the steps of the porch, waiting for the two Doctors to tell them what to do.

Sharply, Nicky cried out, trembling and arching her back, “Jared!” She reached out for him, grabbed his robes and pulled him towards her. “Ow, ow, oh! Jared! Please don’t leave me!”

“I’m right here,” he soothed, taking her hand off his robes and holding it in his own. “I won’t leave.” For the most part, Jared did not speak; he let the Judge do that. She seemed to respond well to him but did not let go of Jared for any reason at all. Holding onto her, he dipped a towel in a bowl of cold water and wiped away the sweat and tears on her face. She leaned into his touch and groaned. Jared knew exactly how she felt.

When Jensen dared to make his way back near her, he knelt down between her legs and moved her cock and balls aside. Jared saw that his hands were gentle as if he were afraid he’d cause her more pain. Two quick presses of his hand against her entrance and he frowned, shaking his head.

“She’s not dilated enough yet; all we can do is make her comfortable.”

“Comfortable?!” Nicky gasped. “How can I possibly be comfortable?!”

The younger breeder was quick to place himself over her. If he had thought about it more, he would have known Jensen wouldn’t hit her for talking out, but his instinct was too strong. A tone like that towards any Master was forbidden but he would not see her hurt. Something sad reflected in Jensen’s eyes as he looked at Jared.

“Relax,” he said quietly. “I’m not gonna hurt her.” He then spoke to Nicky directly. “You can cuss me out all you want tonight sweetheart, free pass.”

Nicky was about to say something to retort but hissed in pain, bending over and breathing hard. The Judge gently whispered to her that it was important she steady her breathing, for her sake and the litter.

Master Jeff approached, also cautious, and suggested they move inside. Nicky cried at the thought of moving again, though she relented. It took all three Masters to lift and carry her into the kitchen, where there was the most amount of open space near a source of water. Jared quickly set down towels and pillows—having moved ahead of them—before they set her down on her right side. Immediately, she cried for Jared, clutching a pillow and moaning as Jensen’s hands touched her once more.

“I’m here,” Jared found himself repeating, kneeling down next to her, stroking a few strands of hair away from her face. “You’re doing well.”

Tears welled up and ran down her face. “Jared, it hurts. It… uhn…” She was unable to tell him more, having been struck by another more forceful contraction. Jared wondered what it felt like to deliver with a room full of people concerned about his well-being. This was the exact opposite of the cellar, though he was incredibly grateful for Jensen and the Judge. What if they hadn’t heard his screams through the thick wooden doors? Or what if they had heard and simply… kept walking? His thoughts were prevented from turning darker by a particularly piercing and raw scream from Nicky.

“Mother of… Jeff! Got a crown already. When the fuck did this happen?!”

“Just careful she’s fully dilated, don’t tear anything.”

“How’m I supposed to do that? Push it back in?! Fuck!”

“Stop talking about me like I’m not here!” Nicky shouted, then groaned and bucked. “It’s moving, I can feel it, oh… oh… ahh!”

Fascinated, Jared watched Jensen work. The pup was out so fast and so easily, it seemed to take Jensen a minute to compose himself. After a few light taps to the pup’s flank and the wiping of its tiny mouth and nose, there was a cry. The pup wiggled and squirmed and flailed in Jensen’s hands; it was a good size and seemed very healthy. Though Jared had given birth to his own litter—and had been trained in a basic way of what to expect—viewing an actual birth was different. He could not stop comparing his to hers. This pup made noise, it moved, it insisted to everyone that it was alive and strong.

Jared tore his gaze off of it.

He kept himself distant from it and the special basket it had been placed in. Nicky continued to writhe and moan in pain, with the Judge rubbing her back, keeping her leg pushed up so that Jensen could work. Jared began wiping away at her face once more. They made eye contact and she started crying.

“Too fast, too fast,” she blurted out and he knew exactly what she meant.

Something so precious and frail was carried for months, entirely dependent on them for life and care. They felt its first heart beats and movements. They felt it wake up in the morning and settle in for naps throughout the day. Every day these things happened and they were subtle treasures. But all of it ended so quickly, so abruptly, so without warning. One moment their weight and pressure was there and the next it was all gone, leaving them bereft and empty and alone.

He placed a hand on her cheek and crouched to kiss her lightly. Soon as they parted she gasped and began to follow Jensen’s commands to push. Jensen had her foot propped up against his shoulder and ordered her to push against him, to bear down with all the force she could. He held her steady as she did, silently screaming, straining to obey. When she reached near her limit she cried out and kicked Jensen in the jaw. Fortunately, he thought nothing of it, and reminded her that there was still work to do.

One by one, pups were pushed out, cleaned up, and passed over to the basket. Every pup was alive.

In a small pool of her sweat, blood, and tears, Nicky shrieked and thrashed and begged for it all to stop. The last push she was capable of giving produced two pups nearly at once. The last one was the smallest of the entire litter; it was also number nine.

“Nine,” the Judge announced.

She only closed her eyes and buried her face in Jared’s robes, sobbing with the little strength she possessed. These pups were all she had left of her relationship with Master Eli and they were gone from her too soon. This time, all the Masters knew better than to let her hold a pup, and even Jared understood that it was for the best. Still, Jared found himself wishing for just a fraction of a minute with any of his pups.

A few minutes later, Nicky was pulled away from Jared, mewling and hiccupping, and taken to a nearby room by Master Jeff. Jensen picked up the basket with care and headed towards the front door. The officials would be arriving soon, to pick up and tag the pups and gain a store of milk from Nicky. Jared would go to her in a moment, to be with her while that happened, but for now he found himself unable to move. Towels stained with her blood were strewn before him. The effort of her being was bright red yet fading.

 

The Judge and Jared remained fixed on the floor of the kitchen. When Jared began to cry, the Judge embraced him, held him fixed against his chest. Through his own tears and the pounding of his heart, Jared felt the Judge’s breath hitch.

A quiver was felt deep in his belly, but the breeder could not find enthusiasm for it.

Chapter Text

The government official that came in to take a store of milk was methodical but careful. Their black gloves shone as they hooked Nicky up to a machine. Through their black mask, they told Jared that her entrance would need a plug and that they should expect another store of milk to drop in a week. Their voice was neutral and cold, like any other part of them. Jared nodded and held Nicky’s hands in his.

Milking was not painful; in fact, it was a physical relief. Pressure and weight was lessened. Two large containers were wrung from her, efficiently sealed and labeled.

“Thank you for your contributions,” the official stated before leaving.

The thank you went unanswered.

 

He slept with her that night and for the next three nights.

He took care of her as she had in a similar state. No one but Jared touched her, though the Masters did visit and ask how she was doing every day. It took a week for her to verbally respond.

A week of Jared bathing and feeding her and lying down with her, stroking her cheek and kissing her everywhere she let him, and she was not the same. Into the second week she shut the door on him and though he tried to protest, sat outside the door for an hour mewling and pawing at it, the door did not open. When Jensen tried to convince the younger breeder to sleep anywhere but the floor, Jared did not listen.

Most breeders were able to produce litters and feel nothing.

In fact, a breeder who delivered a litter and mourned for it was strange; feelings towards their litters was weakness.

But these Masters had changed them in ways Jared was only beginning to see.

So no, he did not want to leave or sleep anywhere else but near her.

Doll kept him company.

 

In the morning, when Jared heard no noise from the room, no signal that she was awake, he panicked.

Knocking on the door yielded no response. Quickly, Jared scrambled up, his chest heaving in alarm. On his dash to the Judge’s room, he fell and landed hard on his front, crying out from pain in his leg. He cursed his own uselessness and pushed past the throbbing in his leg, the needling sensations in his hands. At the Judge’s door he knocked. No one had left for town yet. When the door was opened and the Judge stood there, Jared was overwhelmed with gratitude. The Judge helped him up and went with him, not having to ask what was wrong.

Two knocks were tried. No response.

Jared couldn’t breathe.

He clutched at doll and stood back when the Judge motioned to give him room.

One, two, three kicks were given to the door before it was forced open. The Judge shoved the broken door aside and immediately went into the room, shouting her name. He came back to Jared a moment later.

“She’s not here.”

 

Racing through the household, searching for her, seemed to stretch an eternity.

When they found her on the swing, curled up in Jensen’s arms, it was the last place they looked and the last place they expected to find her.

The only good thing was that when Jared looked into Jensen’s eyes, he saw something changed there.

It was going both ways now; the breeders were changing the Masters in ways they had not seen before either. In those green, tired eyes Jared saw grief, yet he also saw something new. It didn’t have to be expressed by words for the young breeder to understand.

She would not be left behind.

Chapter Text

There was only one other time when Nicky felt this way.

Her first Master has been a cruel, deplorable Master. He had three breeders and worked them all to the bone. Every night he demanded her service. At first, she had thought herself lucky to have a Master who looked at or wanted her at all. She had heard of several breeders who had it much worse.

But she could not imagine anything worse than her departure from that household.

After her first miscarriage—she’d lost the pups after a beating—he deemed her unworthy of his investment. Too irritated with her to take her to town, he dragged her by the hair through the household. It was to shame her and it worked. She had failed in the most fundamental way, even though she knew he had something to do with it. What breeder did not breed? Dead ones.

The two other breeders in that household stared at her openly but did nothing. She couldn’t say she would have done anything different at that point.

Beaten to the point where it was difficult to breathe, she was tied to a post with a sign, at the edge of the road, close enough to be trampled if she didn’t move. Though her reading was not advanced, she understood what “free breeder” meant. The hands of faceless Masters in the dark reached out at her from their curtained carriages. Three times she was used for service, pushed down in the mud, held down at one point, a hand clamped firmly on her jaw to lessen her struggle.

After two days of agony, she began to think.

Except she thought differently. She did not think of her survival. Instead, she thought of the opposite. She would place her head under a carriage wheel and wish for the best. The very next carriage to pull up on the road would be the one to do it. It would look like an accident and perhaps her reputation could be salvaged a fraction, though she knew no one would care.

The next carriage happened to be one belonging to a government official, who stopped well before they reached her.

Unable to carry through her plan, she relented.

Those thoughts remained near.

 

When Eli had left she had wanted to try again.

What was the point, she kept thinking to herself, of remaining alive?

The young breeder she had been taking care of had a new Master, and while she doubted his sincerity and his character, she did not doubt Jared’s ability to survive. Jared would eventually be fine. She told herself that repeatedly. There would come a day when Jared would no longer need her and his Masters certainly didn’t need her at all. She did not carry a litter that belonged to any of them and at that point she did not care to.

It hurt her more than she wanted to admit, that Jared would one day see how needy she was of him.

The other breeders they had housed before had all been good company. It suited her, Eli said, to take them in and comfort them for their time at the household. Cody had praised her friendly nature.

The thought of her beautiful first breeder and Charlie caused her heartache.

If she went through with it—once and for all—perhaps Jared could get his Masters to bury her next to Cody and Charlie, in the precious clearing that was always washed in the right amount of sunlight.

When Jared left her alone in the attic, she thought she could do it.

But she could not.

She was carrying Eli’s litter and however she felt about her life and what it meant in general, she couldn’t take away life that had been created by him. He hadn’t asked her to keep them safe; he hadn’t mentioned her belly at all in those moments before he left. It seemed to hurt him to look at her middle, as if he knew what he was leaving her with, as she was sure he did. She started to think that perhaps he had bred her with this in mind; he must have known he would be leaving to a place he could not take her. But this way, full of pups, she would live to carry them to term. How well he knew her.

Another series of thoughts prevented her hand.

Fondly, she thought of the terrified, abused breeder that had landed on their front step. How he had been so hesitant to allow her to touch him, to comfort him, to offer some shelter. And how soon enough he was trying to return her comfort, trying to take her pain and make it his own. How they would do as she had never done with anyone before—lie in bed for hours, talking and purring and kissing and touching and sighing. The trade of a dimpled smile for one of her own, those curious hazel eyes able to wring anything from her.

The fact that if her new Master asked him to lie down and stay still for his boot he would do it…

She was not done taking care of him, her pup or not.

 

Of course, she was not the only one intent on protecting the younger breeder.

And sometimes, she intentionally provoked the Doctor.

Most days she simply tried to avoid him.

Oh, she was cheerful enough, for Jared’s sake, especially at the new household. Yet she had very little interaction with the Doctor. She had more time with Misha and preferred to keep it that way. Sometimes Master Jeff would sit with her and debate about concepts such as fate and destiny, which always amused her because he thought of her as capable of forming arguments. When she grew too big to move, he would read to her from his strange books and explain, in his own way, the matter of souls. Did breeders have souls, he had asked her, pushing the lounge gently.

There was no answer she could give him; she didn’t know what she knew.

What could a breeder do with a soul?

 

Although the Masters had assured the breeders that they would not be split up after she gave birth, she worried still. After her duty was done—nine healthy pups worth of duty—she was overwhelmed, completely taken under and held in a merciless darkness.

There was no use for her now.

They would leave and take Jared with them. Maybe they would set her up in a nice household of sorts, nice enough anyway, but that still meant they would drop her off and turn away. No matter how much time she would be given there would always be a time to leave.

She couldn’t bear to see Jared before doing it.

It was only her now, no pups, so she could do it. She knew she could.

As quietly as possible, in that hour before dawn, she crept out of her room and out to the porch. She would have one more moment in the swing and then… oh, and then… and then…

Her mind busily planning, she hadn’t noticed the Doctor there.

When she saw him, she gasped. He looked at her and his expression grew softer, though his voice was rough.

He said, “You gonna do that to him?”

She refused to answer him. She didn’t have to swing.

An age seemed to pass between them, silence draped over them. She had dressed herself in a light robe and left her hair down. A breeze passed by, brushing through her hair.

“I can’t imagine,” the Doctor nearly whispered, sitting on the swing, “what it’s like. To go through what you go through and still find the strength to do it all over again.”

This Master was a stranger to her. She saw how he lived and what he did and he had delivered her pups. His hands had been gentle and he had handled her pups with care. That was so wrong to her, so unmistakably wrong and out of place for any Master to do such a thing. She wanted to scream at him and tell him that breeders did not find strength; breeders were strong to begin with, from the very start.

She wanted to blame him for every awful thing any Master had done to any breeder anywhere.

What stopped her was doll.

And yet, it wasn’t doll. It was a doll that looked very similar to her, with brown hair instead of black. He was holding her, cradled near his chest, the same way she and Jared did.

When she had given her to Jared, she’d been so tattered and worn. She had no idea if she was talking about the doll or herself anymore. She felt like a pup all over again, crying because she felt ragged and threadbare, because she feared that someone may look at her and discover the ever-present grief inside her. When there was nothing left of her to give, what would she do?

Stumbling forward, he caught her.

“I thought,” he whispered into her hair, “you could use one.”

He placed new doll into her shaking hands. She was dressed in a tiny, pink gown with four gold buttons.

Falling into the swing, she cried as she had not let herself with Jared, wailing and pounding her frustration into his chest, which he did not mind at all. Let loose and wild, he managed to hold onto her steadily.

Nothing was promised but a few things were understood.

 

Lying against his chest, his firm heartbeat underneath her, she prayed she would never feel that way again.

Tenderly, she kissed the top of doll’s head.

She was not naïve and she was not blind to the mysteries these Masters still held above them.

But this? She could allow herself this.

Chapter Text

The rest of the day was declared a day off.

This had to be explained to Jared.

“Stop cleaning,” Jensen murmured, pulling at the young breeder’s robes.

“But…”

“Day off means no work, for me or you,” the Master insisted. “I’ve been up all night and I wanna sleep and you are gonna join me.”

Chores abandoned, Jared was chased up the stairs. Nicky and the Judge were outside on the porch—an arm around her—and Master Jeff left for his outdoor activities. And apparently, sleep meant anything but. Pressed into the mattress of what had was their bed, Jared was kissed and kissed often.

He began to purr when he felt Jensen press his mouth against Jared’s neck and take a deep breath.

“You smell so good,” was drawled out as hands impatiently tugged at fabric. “Can we?”

Before Jared could answer, a possessive bite was given. Sensitive skin was nipped and sucked and licked over with a rough, wet tongue. He could only moan and shudder, clawing lightly at Jensen’s broad back. “Yes,” the young breeder managed to purr out. “Yes, please.” After that, there was very little talking. Something seemed to fuel his Master’s need to the point of desperation, one which did not calm until he was pushing and sliding in between Jared’s legs. Mewling and breath hitching, Jared hung onto Jensen’s shoulders, bracing himself, moaning when a fast, hard pace began. He felt something at one particular angle that made his thighs tremble and slick push out. Keen on this, thrusts were adapted and Jensen began twisting his hips in circles.

It surprised the breeder when he was flipped over, onto his knees.

“Sorry, sorry,” Jensen panted, stroking himself as he changed their positions. “I…”

Having trouble articulating what he wanted, Jared helped him. He spread out his legs, pushed his hips up, and held onto the board of the bed. Open and presenting himself for the taking, he whispered lowly, “Don’t be gentle.”

Of course, what Jensen considered rough, Jared still thought of as kind. As hard as their hips met, the breeder still found pleasure, and was encouraged to voice it. He keened his pleasure loudly as he held onto the board. Slick was running down his thighs. And when Jensen slid his hands from Jared’s hips to his belly, holding onto it as he pushed in, Jared lost it.

“Coming!” Jared gasped, eyes fluttering. He groaned and felt everything at once—the clench of his entrance, the jerk of his cock, the squelch of more slick as he began releasing all over his stomach, Jensen’s hands, and the bed.

By the time Jensen came—and Jared had two more equally profound climaxes—they were both ragged messes of their former selves.

Collapsed onto their bed, Jensen held his mouth near Jared’s, not kissing but just…there.

It was an intimacy the young breeder could not remember experiencing.

Before they drifted off, to really sleep this time, Jensen murmured something Jared tucked away into his chest for safekeeping.

“I don’t know how you survived. But I’m glad you’re here.” 

Chapter Text

A breeder’s life was filled with constant uncertainty.

Even the most loyal, dedicated, well-trained breeder did not have complete control over everything. As much as they could try to ensure nothing went wrong within their household or in general, no aspect of their lives was without some risk. A garden full of blooming flowers was still susceptible to decay, to thorns, to damage. And sometimes, as breeders were taught, thorns were necessary.

Two letters arrived two weeks after Master Joshua’s visit.

Each was delivered by private messenger and each taunted Jared as they lay on a silver tray on the entryway table. The younger breeder did not dare open the envelope without his Master’s explicit permission, yet his fingers itched with intense curiosity. Had he no chores or other duties to see to, he would have stayed all day staring at the letters, trying to decipher them by willpower alone. The contents of one letter could change a breeder’s life forever, in irreparable ways. And no matter how much Nicky tried to calm him, he couldn’t help but feel dread pile on his chest. He studied them as much as possible, delaying the start of his own day to acquire some scraps of information. Both letters were printed on heavy, expensive paper. One was obviously written and stamped by a breeder—a breeder with a fine, elegant hand, Jared noticed. The wax was gold, with a seal Jared couldn’t make out. The other, though also of heavy, high quality paper, only had Jensen’s full name and title stamped on it. Jared read it aloud to himself a few times:

Honorable Doctor Jensen R. Ackles of Lee

The entire title sounded respectful but it did not completely ease Jared’s anxiety. The stamping made the letter seem colder and more formal. It was probably something to do with his business in town, but then why have it mailed here?

“Get away from those and come help me with the beds,” Nicky snapped at him, hands on her hips. “You’ll make yourself sick.”

Ashamed that as a first breeder he had to be told to stop dallying and worrying about things that really weren’t any of his business, he followed after her. Although she kissed him and assured him that they looked like plain, ordinary mail to her, he did not breathe any easier.

 

It was Master Jeff who helped distract the younger breeder long enough throughout the day that he did not spend his time worrying. After their exercises on the porch—which Nicky had joined in on, her body still recovering from her litter—Master Jeff proposed a game.

He sat Jared up and leaned in to whisper the rules.

Wide-eyed, with an intense focus, Jared listened, biting his bottom lip slightly in concentration.

“Don’t get caught!” Master Jeff declared, standing up swiftly. “If I catch you, you have to brush the hair on my back!”

“That’s disgusting,” Nicky snipped playfully. “Go, Jared! You’re playing a game of chase!”

The younger breeder hesitated as he stood up. “But… if you need me to brush…”

“Go!” both Nicky and Master Jeff laughed, shooing Jared away. At last, he turned and began a chase through the household. Every hallway and staircase and room was familiar to him now that they had fully settled in. He knew that the bottom stair on the breeder stairs squeaked in a particular spot; he knew that the second library was smaller but received more sunlight; he knew to be careful at the top of the main staircase because it was always a little slick with his slippers. Laughing and skidding through hallways and up the stairs, Jared narrowly escaped the Master’s grasp. A few times Master Jeff came close, but Jared twisted and maneuvered out of the way. He was surprised at his graceful movements and glad that he had not yet once fallen. He happily continued the chase until he heard Master Jeff’s tone change.

“Stop,” Master Jeff barked, which was unlike him. Immediately, Jared froze, panting from the exercise. Even though his belly was larger at almost fourteen weeks, he still enjoyed being able to move freely throughout the household and the grounds. This was not a litter, so he didn’t expect to be very big, though sometimes he did wonder why he felt so small. He supposed it was all part of being a first breeder instead of a second.

“Master?” Jared called out, walking through the hallway, his slippers not making a sound. Anxiety began to build in his chest. Was something wrong? Had he done something wrong? Had he messed up the game already? Perhaps there were rules he had not realized…

Jared screamed when he was grabbed from behind and lifted up. However, unlike so many other times, Jared started laughing.

“You scared me!” he shouted, tossed over Master Jeff’s shoulder.

“Well, serves you right!” Master Jeff replied, laughing as well. He pat Jared’s behind once. “Thought you could outsmart me, eh?”

Jared felt his face scrunch up in happiness. “I did! You play dirty, Master.” Master Jeff set Jared down carefully, but not before giving him one swing around, which had the younger breeder squealing in delight. When they paused for breath, Jared looked up at Master Jeff. He felt an ease and closeness with this Master even though this Master was not his and had never asked for service.

“Do you really have hair on your back?” Jared inquired in a whisper.

“No, I don’t Jared,” Master Jeff replied with a smile. “Though that would be funny. I’d make Nicky brush it and braid it…”

“I can hear the both of you!” the older breeder called out from the entryway. “Shame on you both, running through this place. Nothing better be broken, Jeff. You move like an ox.”

Conspiringly, Master Jeff leaned over towards Jared’s ear to whisper, “You think I should chase her, too?”

Clear and without hesitation, Jared laughed and shook his head. Master Jeff sighed and playfully frowned, agreeing and saying, “Yeah, I don’t wanna die either. C’mon, let’s take a walk. You’d like that, right? Maybe we can go a bit further this time. We got to the edge of a nice piece of land last time.”

A quick lunch for their party was put together and the three of them headed out to explore the property.

Distracted and happy, Jared ignored the letters for now.

 

“Well, Master Johsua wants to have us over for dinner,” Jensen announced at dinner, the invitation in his hands. “He humbly requests that my entire household come over for an evening. You think this is a good thing? I mean, he’s inviting us over, not asking me to invite him over again. That’s gotta be a good sign.”

Sitting at the table, the breeders looked at each other.

“It’s not bad,” the Judge replied, helping himself to a second portion of stew, which pleased Jared. “Perhaps he will prove to be a valuable connection. In any case, we can’t decline. Unless you have some business that might take you away from here for a few days?”

Jensen snorted and tossed the invitation aside. Jared peeked at it. “No, unfortunately I don’t. Besides, either I go away for a few days or I stay here and suck it up. Whatever. It’s just a dinner, right? We go over there, make ourselves at home, and that’s it. We can all handle that.”

The Judge took a firmer tone in his response. “Don’t underestimate this, Jen. Why he wants our company again we don’t know, but we will all be under even more scrutiny in his own environment.”

“Excuse me,” Nicky said, “but can I please see the envelope?” It was slid over to her without a problem. She examined the inside and pulled out a pressed flower, light in color and thinner than the paper the invitation had been printed on. The Masters all visibly bristled, upset that something had been there and gone unnoticed. Jared flinched at the sight of the flower.

“What? What is it?” Jensen demanded, looking at both breeders. “What’s that mean?”

The older breeder held up the flower and looked at it through the light. “I myself am not sure. Cody never received one of these. Jared, you seem to recognize this.”

Fidgeting in his seat, flinching when Jensen’s hand drew near, Jared stood up. “Excuse me,” was all he managed to blur out before running to the kitchen and throwing up into the sink. He heard the scrape of chairs and the heavy thud of boots on the tile. He hadn’t thrown up in a while, Jared thought as he felt the burn in the back of his throat. All of his dinner came up and he closed his eyes, retching and coughing as someone pat his back.

“Easy, easy,” Master Jeff cooed. “Alright, let’s get you to bed.”

“What about the…” Jensen insisted but Master Jeff cut him off.

“Not now. It’s obviously a trigger. He’ll talk about it when he can. Nicky, a pot of tea please.” Jared tried to protest, tried to insist that he was not that weak, but Master Jeff would hear none of it. With care, Jared was hefted up and carried to the room the breeders shared. Jensen looked on with worry as Master Jeff settled him in. The young breeder was given a cup of water and extra quilts, tucked in with careful attention to his every need. “Nicky will bring you some tea and you’ll go to sleep,” Master Jeff said, firmly. “You need to rest. We had a long day.”

Annoyed, Jensen grunted. “Long day? What did you do?”

Equally vexed, Master Jeff grumbled the answer. “We went for a walk, if that pleases you Captain.”

“Perhaps you should take your conversation out of here,” Nicky snipped, walking in with a tray. She looked at Jared and gave him a small smile. “We’ll be fine, thank you.”

Both Masters sighed and stepped out, closing the door behind them. Jared watched as Nicky prepared the room for the night. When she saw that Master Jeff had taken care of Jared in a manner which was acceptable to her, she began undressing. Her form was quickly returning, though she carried some extra weight still. He thought she still looked lovely.

“Brush my hair?” she asked, holding out a brush.

He brushed and she counted to one hundred. With the repetition and familiarity of it, Jared began to purr. Tea was given to him, which he drank all of, and he felt his stomach settle. However, he did not feel completely at ease until she slipped into the bed next to him, her body pressed against his.

After a few moments of hearing her heartbeat and breathing, he spoke up.

“Nathaniel received one,” he whispered against her chest. Her arms were around him, secure as she always held him. “He said… that some first breeders were jealous and that seconds should know their place. So… so… he whipped me. I was in the garden. I wasn’t… I was doing my chores!” The force with which he said that last part surprised him. He could feel the sting of the whip still, though his wounds had long since healed over. “He said it was a warning but I… that’s all I know. He just… he was not happy.”

She kissed him, firmly and deeply, pushing his mouth open, insisting on the contact.

“What a horrible breeder,” she spat out after their kiss. “He deserves to be in a food stall.”

Afraid to cast any negativity on his former first breeder, Jared remained silent, though he returned her kiss. For a while, they indulged each other as they had not done in some time. She had begun sleeping in the Judge’s bed, though she had confided to him that it was for company and not for service.

“There wasn’t any writing on the petals,” was whispered to him as she stroked his hair. “I’ll tell our Masters what you’ve said and we will hope for the best.”

For the first time in many nights, she sang him to sleep.

He could not imagine a life without her near.

 

The next night, Jared spent it in Jensen’s company. They played a few games of chess after dinner, then retired to his study. Jared sat in Jensen’s lap as he finished writing letters. One was a reply to accept the invitation for dinner. The other was to respond to the second letter, which Jared had entirely forgotten about until that moment.

“Some district official,” Jensen muttered, “sent me a gentle reminder that I am free to select a second breeder at any time and that my position as Doctor would guarantee me a fine selection. Jerk.”

Although Jared himself had been a second breeder, he couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy at the thought of another breeder having the attentions of his Master. He shamed himself for being so petty. It was best to remain silent and keep his emotions to himself.

With a sigh, Jensen kissed Jared’s cheek. “You know, I can feel what you’re thinking. You don’t have to hide it. You don’t have anything to worry about, okay? I came here looking for you. No one else. I've never had another breeder and I never will. Misha told me it’s customary to send out these letters to new residents. There’s no one breathing down my neck about that. For right now, this household has filled its quota.”

It hurt Jared to think of Nicky’s pups.

But what Jensen said was true.

Strong arms were wrapped around the breeder. “If any letter comes for me again, you can open it without me there. I give you permission.”

This was a sign of trust; an honor given to valued first breeders. But the honor felt a little hollow to Jared. He had so many questions and fears and worry chewed at him constantly. It was more and more difficult to shut off his mind or push away his doubt.

“Thank you Jensen,” he replied and kissed his Master, who seemed pleased with the reaction.

The dinner was three days away.

Time moved slow.

Chapter Text

Late that night, after service, sweaty and sticky and sated, Jensen was falling asleep to the sound of Jared’s purr. Usually, the breeder fell asleep with his Master, despite whatever state of cleanliness they might end up in. This night, however, Jared had a great deal of difficulty clearing his mind.

At one point, he thought he fell asleep. The entire household was quiet and calm, with the sound of Jensen snoring the only sound near him. Shifting in their bed, the young breeder felt himself inhale and exhale. He felt that first fog before completely resting. About to close his eyes, he saw something move. At first he thought perhaps Jensen had turned over but that was not the case; his Master lay on his stomach, head on Jared’s chest, unmoved. Eyes wide open, the breeder carefully looked around their room, which was not so large that he couldn’t see the entirety of it in one sweep.

Nothing.

Giving credit to his fatigue and anxiety, he settled in once more, determined for it to be tomorrow. He concentrated on small details: the deep, satisfying soreness between his legs; the marks left on his neck, thighs, and chest; the smell of their come and sweat mixed together on fresh bed sheets.

Nodding off once more and he saw something definitely move. It was fast. It was warped and twisted and capable of changing shape. For sure he saw it and its companions because Jared was certain there were more. Many, many more.

They were shadows in the shapes of people; Masters or breeders he could not determine but they were not animals. They had hands and heads and moved in the same manner. Skittering across the walls, jumping and snaking across surfaces, they raced about the room.

When a hand made its way onto their bed and reached out for Jared’s soft belly, he screamed.

 

“He was having a nightmare,” Jensen explained to Nicky as she held the younger breeder. “There’s nothing in the room. Nothing at all.”

Jared trembled, unwilling to withdraw his arms from his belly.

The hand had had fingers, all of which had moved in different, unnatural directions, guided by something to touch the breeder’s belly specifically, because it had not made any move for Jensen.

“He’s hyperventilating,” Nicky snapped at Jensen. “He wouldn’t do that over nothing! Jared! You need to calm down.” She lowered her voice and whispered into his ear, “You need to calm down, think of the baby.” Her eyes narrowed as she looked at the three Masters in the room, the Judge and Master Jeff having raced to the room at the sound of Jared’s screaming. “You all know something.”

The look the three Masters shared was the same look Jared and Nicky shared when they could not verbally communicate.

About to demand answers, Master Jeff stepped forward before Nicky spoke again.

“It’s a common nightmare where we’re from,” he said. “Children get them from time to time.”

Untrusting, Nicky looked at the Judge. “Misha. Tell me what he saw.”

The Judge looked confused, hurt, and reluctant to answer. He sighed and shook his head. Meeting her gaze, he murmured, “It was a nightmare.”

“See now, there’s nothing to be afraid of,” Jensen whispered to Jared, kneeling down at the bedside. “I checked the entire room twice. We can even sleep with a lamp on.” Jensen extended a hand to touch the breeder’s shoulder and received a flinch. Jared tightened his hold over his belly.

A quilt was draped over Jared’s shoulders. “He can sleep with me for the rest of the night,” Nicky announced defiantly. “You may keep your secrets. Jared, let’s go.”

“How is sleeping with you going to make anything better?” Jensen barked, stepping towards her.

“Because he never had anything like that happen in our bed!” she snapped. “Why are you doing this?! Why not just tell us? We’re loyal breeders, we’ve kept your secrets, your oddities, your peculiar behaviors to ourselves. Not a single word to anyone!”

Jared stood up.

“I want to sleep alone,” he said softly. “Please.”

 

An hour later, in his own room, Jared sat and waited.

He waited for so long he thought dawn might be near.

Exhausted, he began to shut his eyes. Perhaps it had been a nightmare and he had simply overreacted; he should have proceeded to handle things with more discretion.

From his right, from the floor and up towards the window, one appeared again. It seemed to look out at him and realize that he was staring back. It rushed forward and disappeared into a crack in the floor. From that same spot, three more appeared and dashed across the walls, around the room. They moved so fast, so abnormal in their movements. What the breeder found worse was that they all seemed to be staring directly at him. They would pause and then change their angles, as if trying to get a better look at him. Over and over again they strained to peer out at him, lumping together and pushing against each other for a better view. They had no eyes but the intensity of their gaping was relentless. Frantic now, they shifted again and stared from a different angle.

As if he was something new and peculiar to them.

 This time one hand became five.

And this time, Jared was slow to react, worn down by fatigue. The long, twisting fingers touched his belly, went over and examined it, crawling the entire time.

Screeching and batting at them, Jared could not take it anymore. He was not dreaming. This was not a nightmare. When his door opened and Jensen stormed in, the shadows disappeared, retreating back into the walls and floors. Somehow, the breeder found the air in his lungs to shout at Jensen, to demand an answer. He wanted a reply and he wanted one now.

“Please!” Jared cried out, tears falling from frustration. “I have asked nothing but… but this please!”

“They’re time travelers, Jared,” Jensen replied with a broken tone, hands limp at his sides and shoulders slumped. “That’s… that’s all I can say.”

The breeder didn’t entirely know what that meant but he supposed he didn’t have to. All he wanted was his belly left alone.

“They’ll stop,” his Master spoke, moving forward. “Just… just come sleep with me tonight, please?”

There were only two hours left before dawn and the start of a new day. They would then be two days away from the dinner at Master Joshua’s household. However exhausted Jared was, he noticed another shadow. But this one was Jensen’s. His Master’s shadow flickered for the tiniest of moments, as if it were a flame being swayed by wind.

It was then that Jared did as he had never done before.

“No.”

Chapter Text

This was the story told to Jared, a young breeder in a sizeable household in the rural part of Lee.

A breeder whose dearest wish for his entire life was to serve his Master best; to be so good and so dearly beloved that he would not be forgotten when he died.

This was the story told to him as he sat perched on a countertop in the household’s kitchen, with the Doctor’s familiar hands on his hips, lips pressed near his neck as he spoke.

This is what Jensen shared.

Standing on the corner it’s easy to see, forbidden fruit is on every tree.

Oh you can get an apple from a snake on a limb, here in downtown Babylon.

A long, long way from home.

I thought it was the Promised Land but something’s wrong, here in downtown Babylon.

I wonder now if I was born to run, I’m starting to feel like a prodigal son.

A long, long way from home, I thought it was the Promised Land but something’s wrong, here in downtown Babylon…

That’s the song that played when a righteous boy saw a sinning boy.

In a crowded, cheap Southern-style bar on an outpost twenty miles out of his way.

Somebody you cared for broke your heart. You let foolish pride, Lord, keep you apart.

Why didn’t you learn how to forgive someone? So many years passed with the things left undone…

That’s the song that played when that good boy asked the gutter boy to dance. He was cheesy and goofy and introduced himself all wrong—he was trying too hard, anyone could see that. The sinning boy was there to drink and drink himself under. If he could just hide in that outpost forever. He’d spent all night at the same stool, under flickering artificial light, nursing beer after beer after shot after bottle. Slumped over, trashed, red-eyed and about to cry that good boy hustled over.

Like I said, that boy tried too hard. He gave himself away too easy; didn’t bother to hide that smile.

Leaned over and put his hand on the sinner’s shoulder and pulled him back to say:

“I wanna dance with you.”

I know nothing about this woman, everything I do is wrong.

I found a pretty little mood ring at the local five and dime. It’s gonna solve my problems, for a dollar ninety-nine.

I memorized the color charts cause I wanted to be sure. I told her, Baby it’s the thought that counts, when I slipped it on her hand.

If it turns black, I should turn back. If it turns red, she liked what I said. If it turns blue, I should leave her alone. If it turns green, she wants me I know. She wants me I know…

That’s the song that played from the smoke filled stage a million miles away from where they swayed on the dance floor. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t elegant. The sinner didn’t have a scrap of dignity left. He stumbled and grunted and shoved the good boy away. He said some things that were just like his sinning self to say. The song ended and the good boy let the sinner recklessly walk away.

But you know that good boy didn’t know what was good for him.

He waited a few minutes and joined that sinner outside, in the dark alleyway, amongst the vomit and used up condoms. He waited until the other man was done puking against the nearest dumpster. And what did he do, this good boy? He handed the sinner a bottle of water and then he left.

‘Course it had his phone number on it.

The sinner called.

Just to see what it was like. Before he could realize it, his entire life changed. Some people say bullshit but that was the real deal for the sinner. He climbed and clawed his way up from the ocean of guilt and pain he’d resigned himself to because at the surface was that good boy who gave himself away too easy. That good boy who pushed and worked his way into the sinner’s life pretty much overnight.

Stationed at that outpost, the two shared a dirty, meager motel room with more stains on the floors and beds than on the walls. Sometimes it hurt the sinner to see the good boy surrounded by filth.

“I don’t mind,” was all the good boy would ever say when it was brought up, and that was the truth.

Unwrapping the cold part of himself he had once called a heart, that sinner started to think. He thought all day while he worked odd jobs and scraped on by to stash crinkled up bills in his boots. He thought all night while he pressed that good boy against any surface that could hold them. He thought even in his sleep, dreaming of some place he didn’t understand but knew he wanted.

And one day, when the good boy said, “Me too, I want that too,” the sinner had enough of thinking; it wasn’t enough anymore. He had to have it all. So he told the good boy what he could do—what they could do, come hell or high water.

The good boy was younger and didn’t have much training but he said, “Yeah, let’s do it.”

With the help of the few friends the sinner had left, they found two spots on a ship. It took a spell for them to move up but eventually—man, it seemed like forever—the sinner was Captain and the good boy was Chief Engineer. Because even though the good boy pretended he didn’t know his ass from his elbow, he was smart. Smarter than the Captain, though the Captain didn’t fess up to it often, and he still won’t. The good boy liked to play chess and finish puzzles for fun; the sinner was happy with a beer and a… a movie.

That’s all he needed. That was it.

It was never easy. Never as easy as some people thought it was. The Captain could never forget the sinner inside him and the good boy sometimes… sometimes he pressed too hard.

And sometimes the Captain got scared that the good boy deserved someone else just as good. Someone he hadn’t met shitfaced drunk in a bar somewhere like in a shitty Journey song the good boy liked to sing to.

Sometimes the good boy reminded the Captain that not everyone had to leave but everyone needed room to breathe.

The ship and its crew flew for two years with the Captain at the helm.

Two years saw arguments and fist fights and painful misunderstandings. Two years saw the good boy’s older brother come onto the ship and try to convince him to leave the sinner. The good boy had a big family who cared about him a lot; called him every other day. They wanted the best for him. And though the Captain and the good boy weren’t poor, they weren’t rich neither.

But the Captain—desperate to fix things, as always—took the good boy to the surface of a planet they were stationed at. He had saved for months, stashing bills in his boots like he’d done before, and got them a guide. The guide took them to the most beautiful spot on the planet. To some, he thought, maybe it ain’t much; just a bunch of rocks an’ shit. But they climbed and climbed and climbed until they reached the rim of the canyon.

When the good boy saw the view—the sunrise, the river below, the sky above—and was struck speechless, the Captain knew it.

He loved that boy.

Messy, covered in red dust, the good boy pulled the Captain in for a kiss and didn’t once let go.

The Captain could tell anyone a dozen of these moments and a million more understated ones. The way the boy looked when he woke up in the morning. The way he insisted on making pancakes. The way he read out loud to the Captain at night, safe in their bunk. The way he looked at the Captain at any point, even when they were fighting. The million and one little touches between them. How if anyone, anyone at all, sat them down for dinner, the good boy would move their chairs a little closer together.

Good boy sang sometimes.

But the Captain sang more.

Every year, to mark their meeting, they split a bottle of whiskey and got drunk, wherever they were stationed at. No matter how trashed the Captain was, he’d take out his guitar and play a new song.

The Captain was proud of the good boy, who could hold his own against anything. He was proud to call the good boy his, felt like he earned those smiles, those looks from across a room. When the option to study time travel came to their attention, the good boy wanted to do it. He begged the Captain every morning and every night until finally, the Captain said, “Fine. But I’m going too.”

During their first run, with a small team, it was discovered that their forms in other worlds took on the appearance of shadows. They had to be careful not to be spotted. The good boy loved it. Just as he loved seeing every new city in their solar system, he loved witnessing entirely new worlds. He took a special thrill in studying the lives of beings and creatures he had never before seen. In only a few minutes he could put together a rough map of wherever they visited. He never ran out of ideas or things to say about their trips.

When their team was disbanded to continue research, the Captain was relieved. Time travel was new to them still, and could only be done with special licenses and approval. Altering anything in a new world was illegal; bringing anyone back…

Sometime later, the good boy asked the Captain to marry him, to be with him forever.

The Captain said yes.

He said yes because it was right and because he felt it in every part of his being. Loving the good boy was as natural to him as breathing. The way the good boy said his name or looked at him… the Captain had never been an open man. He’d never been an outgoing man. He had been reserved and distant—professional was what he had called it. He had said he believed in all these things—life, faith, family—but it was the good boy who showed him what they really were and what it meant to appreciate every single day, even if it was ordinary.

Years they were together.

Whenever the Captain had a rough time—when he felt like a sinner all over again—the good boy would pull out the guitar and play for him. Especially that one song about… the one about a prayer. The Captain had created it but the good boy was the one who pulled it out, dusted it off and made it his own.

Songs between them were special. Wasn’t nothin’ better to them than a guitar and a moment alone together.

It was in all the little things.

The Captain would never take his eyes off the good boy. The good boy would search for the Captain in any crowded room. Sitting together on deck they were always, at some point touching, in the most basic ways. Their knees would knock together, their hands might meet.

Anyone who knew the Captain before would see the change in his entire being. He threw his head back and laughed with his whole body now because that’s what the good boy did. If the Captain smiled wider and easier it was because the good boy taught him. And if the good boy smiled a little coyer, learned how to express a million words in one look, it was because the Captain taught him.

If the Captain learned how to loosen up and make a fool of himself just to see the good boy laugh, then it was worth it. If the good boy grew up and learned how to carry himself and command the respect of his peers, it was equally worth it.

There was no space between them when they got married, when they chose each other forever.

The Captain couldn’t… still can’t… imagine his existence without the good boy.

And he can’t… say what happened or how he got here but… shit… oh god, fuck. Sorry. Sorry.

The good boy wrote this song for the Captain, gave it to him special, told him:

“For the end and not before.”

Someday you will understand, don’t you lose your faith in me. Every morning the sun rises, I’m madly in love with you. Yes, I’m madly in love with you.

Like a lonely lover waiting by the ocean, I’ll never give up on you. Someday you will understand, don’t you lose your faith in me. But every morning the sun rises, I’m madly in love with you.

Yes, I’m madly in love with you.

That’s the song.

That they played.

At the end.

And not before.

“I would come back a thousand times. Every single time. You… excuse me. I’m sorry. Sorry.”

Left alone in the kitchen, Jared looked down at his right hand.

In his palm were two silver rings.

Chapter Text

The young breeder found his Master curled up on the porch swing.

A bottle of dark liquid was gripped in one hand, pressed to his lips and tossed back, liquid sloshing and spilling, sticky and stinging.

Whenever Jared closed his eyes, he saw dark red. The shadows still frightened him. The moon was near and it was all wrong, he wasn’t anywhere near a heat. Signs were everywhere. What would it all possibly mean?

Stepping forward, the breeder eased himself onto the swing.

The ease of his movements—slipping the bottle from his Master’s hand, setting it down and away from them, grasping his Master and holding him close—suggested that he had done this a thousand times before.

In the bottle’s spot, Jared carefully placed doll.

His Master shut his eyes and held back a sob, clutching at doll and Jared tightly.

The breeder began to purr, pressing his Master to his chest so he could hear it best.

There were many things Jared longed to ask.

How had he died?

Had he died at all?

What now?

But he set aside his questions. He trusted Jensen. He trusted that when he could—as was promised to him before—all answers would be given honestly. Jared could wait a little longer. After all, he had waited all this time.

“Jensen.”

Master shuddered.

 

A kiss to Jensen’s forehead. A hand to his cheek. A tentative smile.

“I don’t know…” Jared breathed, steadying himself, his heart pounding. “I don’t know how you survived. But I’m glad you’re here.”

He slipped his hand into Jensen’s free hand, lacing their fingers together. Jensen flinched in surprise, eyes wide, mouth slightly open, a breath knocked out of him.

Their rings were on.

Jared wore his proudly.

“Sleep now,” the breeder whispered. “I’ll be here.”

 

Chapter Text

The day of the dinner had everyone tense.

There was an ache in Jared’s lower back that he couldn’t explain; it stayed there no matter what position he slept or stood in. It wouldn’t let him forget about it either, even when he was busy doing chores and pressing outfits for the evening. Annoyed and tired, Jared end up burning himself on the iron.

“Exercise time,” Master Jeff announced, though his voice was flat. He strode into the kitchen, where the young breeder had been ironing. “C’mon, we’ll do a short one today.”

It was Jared’s duty to press the Masters’ clothes for the evening, which took time because of all the pieces to their outfits. Nicky was taking care of their boots, coats, and gloves, though she had offered her assistance. There was so much to do and the ache in his back would not ease up, that when Master Jeff suggested a break, Jared snapped. “I am exceedingly occupied,” he grumbled and tried to ignore the burn on his hand on top of what was already going on in his back.

It wouldn’t have surprised Jared if Master Jeff had hit him for his tone.

But it also didn’t surprise Jared when Master Jeff did no such thing.

“I get that,” the Master replied without an edge to his voice, “but we have to stay consistent. And you can have the iron heat up while we do it, yours has cooled already.”

With a sigh, Jared nodded. He placed the heavy iron back on the stove top and lit another fire, hoping it would reheat evenly. Afterwards he followed Master Jeff to the porch and lay down gently, minding his back. Of course nothing escaped Master Jeff, who addressed it and asked Jared to lie stomach down, propped up on his knees so his belly wasn’t pressed on. The young breeder shifted to turn over, his robes wrinkling in the process. As firm hands massaged his lower back, Jared began to purr.

The weather was slightly warmer that week than it had been all winter. It seemed like a glimpse into spring. The gardens Master Eli had had planted here when the household was purchased would begin blooming and Jared would enjoyably attend to it. Their rose would have good soil to call a new home.

“You are very tense,” Master Jeff remarked, now kneading Jared’s shoulders. “Is it all about tonight?”

The breeder sighed and closed his eyes. He took a moment to draw in a deep breath before replying. “No,” he murmured and breathed out. There was a minute of silence between them, though Jared’s purring was still as loud as it usually was whenever he was touched comfortingly. Although things between them were still and silent, Jared was not uncomfortable. He felt his anxiety unwind from his chest and his breathing come a little easier.

“Tell me,” Jared whispered, eyes still closed, “tell me something about me, brother?”

It was a risk.

He had not gone through so much without at least trying.

If he had to be beaten and dragged and chained to the side of the house for the rest of the evening for his insolence, it would still be worth it. Breeders did not ask questions of their Masters.

But maybe the good boy had asked questions.

Master Jeff’s usually steady hands flinched and paused, then started again, massaging the center of where Jared felt the most pain in his lower back. He cleared his throat and sighed. “He told you?”

“As much as he could, I think.”

Gentle pressure was applied and Jared fought back a hiss of pain. The pressure disappeared instantly; Master Jeff’s hands moved to a different angle. “I… what… what do I even begin with, Jared?”

Immediately, Jared felt her presence on the porch. He turned towards her and smiled.

“Join us?” Master Jeff asked, motioning to the spot next to him.

“No,” she replied, hesitant, standing at the doorway. “It… it seems like you were having a moment.”

Scooting over, Master Jeff made plenty of space for her, even though they had the entire porch. “Not one that couldn’t happen without you as well. I’ll assume Jared has filled you in.”

“I did,” Jared replied so that she didn’t have to. Master Jeff turned Jared over onto his back and started the usual leg exercises. His leg ached whenever it rained, but Jared had no other problems with it. Nicky sat down, folding her robes under her. With care, she brushed her fingers through Jared’s hair.

“Something about Jared,” Master Jeff began, in a fond tone as he pushed Jared’s leg up. “Something about Jared… hmm… why, you know, nothing comes to mind,” he teased, with a smile that matched Jared’s own. “Well, okay, if I have to. I guess…I’m the one who taught you how to play chess. Not that it meant much since you won every time. It was something you were and, uh, are still really good at.”

“I beat Jensen every time.”

With a huff and a roll of his eyes, Master Jeff murmured, “That’s because Jensen’s a shit player. And a sore loser.”

“And you are so much more humble?” Nicky tempted with a smile. “I heard you lose against Misha at cards. One would think you had lost a war.”

Master Jeff loudly groaned and mimicked a swoon. “I lost to Misha’s fine eyes and flirting!” When they had all settled, he helped the young breeder sit up. With a more serious tone, he instructed Jared to go to bed with a hot box that evening, pressed against his lower back, and that should help the discomfort.

“Thank you,” Jared replied, eyes meeting Master Jeff’s.

“Please,” the Master countered, his tone soft but sad, “don’t thank me at all.”

After that, the rest of the afternoon flew by faster than any Jared could previously recall. He felt the moon nearby, even though it was all wrong.

 

Jensen and the Judge arrived to the household with two, flat boxes.

Jared was shooed away from helping with the carriage and horses. “Jeff’ll attend to that,” Jensen declared, handing the box he carried to Jared. “You should get dressed. I was told this takes a while to put on properly.”

A look over at Nicky revealed that she too was given a box, though she received it with less pleasure than the younger breeder. With their gratitude and a bow from each, the breeders headed back inside and upstairs, where they began to prepare themselves. Nicky ran a bath and held her arms out for Jared when she was in. Readily, he joined her, promising to do her hair in a lovely twist when they were done.

“Why are you so cold towards the Judge?” he asked her as they dried off, out of the tub.

She gave a frustrated sigh and frowned. “He could have told me part of what the Doctor told you and yet he evaded my questions.”

“It wasn’t his story to tell,” Jared countered lightly. “He cares for you.”

The blush on her face suggested that she did not wholly disagree or that his emotions were unwelcomed. However, she shook her head and insisted that it would be best to withhold her feelings until more information was given. She had all the same questions Jared did and she reminded him that leaving—going back—meant leaving behind their pups. She would be leaving a total of fifteen pups; Jared would leave three.

At this thought, both breeders remained silent.

 

Formalwear was different for first and second breeders. Depending on the household, the first breeder often got to wear finer robes, with more ornate accessories. Jared had seem some breeders adorned with feathers and flowers; some with intricate body paint and piercings. He often had wondered if the breeders had had any input over these ornaments.

Jared himself had always been dressed in the bare minimum, unless it was for company, and even so, he only had one other robe aside from his house robe. The parties and gatherings he had attended with his old Master and Nathaniel had been grand and exciting at the time. There had been so many new things to see and smell from his corner of the room. Occasionally he had been tossed pieces of what was being served at the table, and while some of it was quite strange, some proved to be unforgettably delicious. Despite his experience at dinner parties, Jared did not have any experience as a first breeder at another household. Nicky trained him as much as she could, but she was careful to remind him that she had never officially been a first breeder and that her advice went as far as what she had observed and learned from Cody. When they were dried off, Nicky dusted a light gold powder over Jared’s body, to which he only sneezed once. He insisted she put some on herself, even if it was only around her face.

“You are much too lenient of a first breeder,” she said to him with a smile. “What will they all think?”

“They’ll think we match, as we should,” Jared insisted. “It’s also a little bit itchy.”

“We will itch together then.”

It was decided that their makeup and hair should be done first, before they stepped into their robes and began tying. Nicky had Jared sit and hold a mirror as she worked on him.

Her hand was steady and true; she bit her bottom lip in concentration as she painted around his eyes. “Nothing terribly theatric,” she remarked, applying powder onto his cheeks and nose, “but my goodness, if you were my breeder, I’d never let you out of the household.” She winked and laughed, tucking away her pots and powders, save for two that she handed to Jared. “Alright, just something simple for me please. Don’t get carried away.”

Tradition dictated that a first breeder be more regal and refined than a second breeder. Jared felt that the older breeder fit that description much more than he did—his hand was not as steady and he had to pause several times to make sure his application was even. Still, he sighed in relief when he was finished.

“Perfect,” she murmured, putting away the pots. “Alright, let’s see what they’ve chosen.”

At first, she had fretted over their choice in robes. The Masters hadn’t consulted them one bit about color or size or preference. They didn’t know the latest fashions or trends in Lee; it was very possible they would risk looking even more like outsiders. And, she went on as she untied the ribbon on her box, she was still carrying extra weight. Her fear was looking like a potato, though the younger breeder assured her that in no form would she ever resemble one.

When the box was opened, she gasped and fell silent, eyes gone wide. Jared thought perhaps the robes were as she had feared, but he leaned over and saw that could hardly be the case.

Promptly, Jared removed the ribbon and lid from his box.

Both breeders held up their robes with the utmost care. The robes were made out of fabric so delicate and exquisite, they were nearly tissue. The threading was like webbing, with delicate beads and pearls sewn in. Opulent, refined, and superiorly tailored, getting them on was like slipping into a glove. It was clear that no expense had been spared with these robes; Jared had never worn anything so fine and from Nicky’s look, she hadn’t either. When they put on the shawls they seemed to be dripping with luxury.

“I…”

“I know,” Jared breathed. “I’m going to rip it.”

“You will not. It’s… it’s remarkably well-made.” She lifted up the slippers that had come with the robes. She nearly started to cry when she saw herself in the full length mirror in their shared room. Pushing away her feelings, she marched over to Jared and began tying his robes. Once finished with hers, they checked their makeup once more and left their room. Without giving a reason, she had Jared lead and go down the main staircase. Before they reached it, she took him aside.

“We are going to do extremely well tonight,” the older breeder assured him confidently. “We are going to do so well, these breeders will sing nothing but our praises and all the Masters will be proud to be in such fine company. Do you understand me?”

He wanted to say he hoped so—because the moon pulled at him and the aching in his back had returned and anxiety plopped itself down right above his lungs—but ended up nodding and giving a firm, “Yes.”

When she gently pushed him in front of her and called out for Jensen, he was confused.

Nicky called it, “Making an entrance.”

Slowly descending the stairs so as not to make a fool out of himself, Jared felt his heart race. He prayed he would not mess this up; he could practically see his clumsiness coming out and ending the entire night right there. Through all of his worry, he heard Jensen’s steps on the tile, heard him say his name in question. When Jared looked up, Jensen was standing at the bottom of the stairs, looking up with light and clarity in his eyes.

No Master had ever looked at Jared that way.

But there it was. He could see it. The way the Captain looked at the good boy. That’s what it was like. That’s what the good boy had seen almost every day—that look of awe and reverence and appreciation. Had old Jared known how lucky he had been? How fortunate and loved he was?

Jared could feel it now, even if it was a mere fraction of what it had been before, bleeding through time and shadows and experience.

Reaching the landing, Jared was blushing.

Jensen took his hand and kissed the ring on it, not breaking eye contact, then pulling him in close.

Voice a little rough, his Master stated, “You are… brilliant.”

 

That’s really all Jared could focus on, despite the hurry and anxiety of the entire day. Even when he was being helped into the carriage and then en route, that’s all he could think of. That moment.

That moment when he was sure Jensen was speaking to him.

When he was truly seen.

Chapter Text

When Jared stepped out of the carriage, the moon pulled at him.

A breeder’s relationship to the moon was fact; every breeder felt it, though in different ways. Every breeder had their own version of history about the moon. Their beliefs were based on what the breeders in their lives had told them, the stories that had been passed down to them by their families or caretakers or breeders in their households. If anyone cared to document breeder culture, the moon would be at the center. A breeder felt the moon’s presence before, during, and immediately after their heat. Some breeders even felt it before and during delivery.

Jared considered the moon his particular companion. It had been there the very first time a Master had triggered his heat. It had been there when he’d bled into the dirt as he was chained outside for the night. Through all these things and more, the moon had born witness, even if it too caused him pain.

His mother and Nicky had told similar stories about breeders and the moon.

The very first Breeder was born before any Master and they were born in a lake of indescribable depth. When they reached the surface and took their first breath, the moon was the first wonder of the world they beheld. The moon had waited for them to be born, indeed, it had been very patient. Bathed in the lake and the lily white glow of the moon, the Breeder managed to swim to shore. The first Breeder was exceptionally beautiful and resourceful. When the first Master was born—from the same lake and under the sun—they were considered gifts for each other.

Upon first sight, the first Master bowed down before the first Breeder. He understood that the Breeder possessed an ability that they did not—shared only between the creators of the universe and the Breeder themselves—the capacity to create life.

With great respect, the Master provided for the Breeder. They built a home and he took care of the Breeder, ensuring that they always had enough to eat. When the Breeder provided service the Master was nothing but reverent, in awe of the outcome of their bodies joined together. The first Breeder, in their term, was always close to the moon. The moon helped the Breeder through each term in balance and coordination with the moon’s cycles. When it was dangerous for the Breeder to be outside, the moon sent a firm reminder, felt deep within the Breeder’s body. The moon cared for the Breeder.

As time passed and their family grew to what would eventually become the world, the moon was pushed aside by Masters. The connection was severed to the last remaining thread, which no Master could cut. A breeder would only stop feeling the moon only when they died.

The moon could be a warning.

And Jared knew—he had been taught—that signs were everywhere.

He wished for the first Breeder’s strength as he stepped into the entryway of Master Joshua’s household. The moon had pulled at him on his way out of the carriage but he had mentioned it to no one. Now was not the time to add problems to their already tense evening. Nicky and Jared received their Master’s coats and handed them over to the second breeder of the household, Matthew. Jared had overheard Master Joshua refer to Matthew as he and Natan as she. He had passed along this information prior to their arrival, and it seemed that there were no other breeders in the household.

Matthew seemed flustered but remained elegant as he took the coats and guided their party through the entryway and into a grand sitting parlor. The opulence that surrounded them was astounding; Jared had never seen anything like it. It was true that Master Eli preferred to keep a simpler household but they had not been without their fineries. However, here, their fineries seemed like mere crumbs. Everything was covered in gold or silver, or in rich, heavy, painted fabrics. There were pillars in the room itself, and a small fountain in a corner. It was beyond Jared how they managed to keep everything so clean and orderly. Sometimes it was a challenge to keep their own comfortable arrangements tidy.

“My Master will be down shortly, please be seated,” Matthew stated for the Masters, bowing and motioning towards the stuffed lounges. After asking if the Masters would care for a drink, Matthew informed the two visiting breeders that they could take their places on the pillows that had been provided for them. Only when Matthew was out of the room did Nicky speak.

“This is beyond wealth,” she whispered, kneeling with great care. “This is family money, but how? Bankers are wealthy but not so wealthy. His family must do something else.”

Jared nodded but did not reply verbally. He shifted in his place so that his and Nicky’s knees were always touching. They were both seated between their Masters’, with Master Jeff on Jensen’s left. All three Masters were busy observing the room and exchanging glances.

The Judge whistled and sat back in his lounge. “Cozy, huh?”

Jensen shot a glance at the Judge but smiled tightly. He was, Jared noted, very regal. He knew exactly how to sit and how to carry himself, though Jared wondered if Jensen ever felt anxious or insecure. Of course not, Jared reprimanded himself, Masters never felt that way. Except he had seen Jensen grieve. But wasn’t pain different from insecurity? How must have Jensen carried himself as Captain? Realizing that now was not the time for contemplation, Jared snapped out of his daze and started to observe the parlor. If he hadn’t been so sure that the household had been this way for generations, the décor would have seemed gaudier. Not that his opinions mattered about such things, but still. Everything and anything that could be covered or draped in finery was. It made that Master in Maya’s household look simple and quite basic, never mind their own humble household at present. There was so much gold around—on the drapes, the mirrors, even the breeder pillows!—Jared thought they must have a mine somewhere.

Presently, the sound of boots on marble could be heard. Both breeders tensed and the Masters perked up. It seemed that Master Joshua enjoyed making grand entrances; his first breeder entered the room ahead of him to announce his arrival. Jared could practically hear what Nicky was thinking. Something along the lines of what kind of Master introduced himself to his own guests in his own household? It was a challenge to hold back a smile and keep from distracting her as well.

As the Masters stood up to shake hands and converse—their drink orders were taken, that made Jared a little more relaxed—Jared took the time to notice the two breeders. Both were dressed in the same manner of elegance and style as they had been previously, though Matthew’s robes were a darker shade of gold with a simpler design and draping. Natan held herself nobly, speaking to all the Masters confidently. When Matthew returned with the drinks and served them, the Masters took their seats and the breeders were to take to their own pillows, except that Natan sat on a lounge beside Master Joshua.

This struck Jared as odd. If a first breeder in this household was capable of sitting on a lounge, why had he been given a pillow? He bore his Master’s ring, though only he and Jensen truly understood what that meant. He supposed it was an oversight, though a quick glance at Nicky suggested she had also noticed this.

First breeders were allowed to politely and respectfully engage in conversation with Masters during a visit. This was where their training was distinctly different; a second breeder was trained primarily for service and household duties while a first breeder’s education was more extensive. They were—to Jared’s limited knowledge—taught how to carry conversation, entertain guests, and be lovely, memorable hosts. The more a Master could make connections, the more opportunities the household had for advancement in society. Although Jared was sure Jensen didn’t care for such a thing, he still wanted to represent his household as best he could. It was difficult to do so from the floor.

When their drinks were finished, Master Joshua announced dinner, escorting the Masters towards the dining room. The entire party—Masters in front, breeders in back—walked through a large hall. Paintings of landscapes and beautiful scenery were tactfully hung all over. There was so much to look at that it confused Jared exceedingly. He could not focus. The moon pulled at him from above, reminding him of the ache in his back, overwhelming and insistent.

The one interaction Jared had with the first breeder of the household was brief and tense. Natan asked Jared if he could play the harp.  “Uh… no, I’m afraid I… I was never trained,” Jared stammered out. Nicky inserted that she could, if that was something needed of them. Natan gave them each a curious look and replied with a dismissive, “No, that’s quite fine.” This exchange left Jared anxious.

Thankfully, they reached the living room, where Jared steadied himself on Nicky’s arm for a brief moment. By shaking his head slightly he told her he was fine, just tired. A deep breath or two and he would be fine.

“Doctor, tell me, how did you come to selecting your title?” the younger breeder heard Master Joshua ask as they were seated. “Was it one you always had a passion for? Thank you Natan, you may sit.” It all happened so fast, Jared was unable to entirely notice what happened until he was already kneeling. Once again, he was on the floor in a corner, this time separated from Nicky. He glanced up at Jensen to seek direction; however, his Master was occupied with conversation.

“May I solicit your aid in the kitchen,” Matthew whispered, coming over to Jared.

Unable to say no, that wasn’t part of his duties tonight, Jared nodded and silently stood up. He couldn’t tell if Jensen noticed or not, since the second breeder ahead of him moved so quickly. Once in the kitchen, Matthew moved like a bird, fluttering from station to station. Jared jumped in, trying to help wherever he could. He was setting down a large ceramic pot on a stovetop from the oven when a glass was pushed into his hands.

“You look pale,” Matthew murmured, not looking him in the eye, busily plating. “That will help.”

Was his discomfort showing?

“Thank you,” Jared replied, “this is most kind of you.” There was no reply as Jared started to drink. It looked like sweet juice, though it had a flavor Jared couldn’t detect. He’d never had anything like this before. The juice was crisp and delicious—he was given two more servings before they had everything plated and ready to be carried out. The throbbing in his back seemed to settle.

Arms loaded with dishes for the starter, Jared followed Matthew out of the kitchen and back into the dining room. Focused and efficient, Jared served Jensen and the Judge while Matthew took care of Master Joshua and Master Jeff. Jared tripped over something—he could not see what—but it wasn’t noticed. Taking his place at his pillow he gave thanks for a smooth evening so far.

At one point during the entrée, Jensen glanced over at Jared and tossed a piece of food, which Jared accepted. He found it odd that he usually caught the food tossed but now missed and had to pick it up off the floor. Popping the piece of beef into his mouth before anyone could notice his clumsiness, Jared chewed and swallowed quickly. He regretted it a few moments later, feeling a wave of nausea.

“Master Jeff how goes your mapping? Quite the cartographer you have become, eh? I do say that young Masters should explore their surroundings. I myself have fifty acres here and you are welcome to them.”

“Ah, thank you sir that is indeed very generous. I am nearly done with our grounds. Perhaps I may call on you when I am done.”

Jared tried to focus on what the Masters were speaking of, what they needed, but found that his vision was swimming. He felt warm and fuzzy throughout his entire body, as if he were melting. He had to be spoken to twice by Matthew before he got up and ambled back to the kitchen to fetch dessert.

“Are you alright?” the second breeder inquired, slicing the decadent cake into pieces. “Can you pour the coffee?”

Taking a deep breath, Jared nodded. One reach for the pot and Jared had to lean against the counter. The moon was upon him, pressing down and plucking at his breath. But what did this mean? He was not in heat, he couldn’t be. What signs was he missing? How he wished he had Nicky beside him for counsel. She would know what to do.

“Coffee?” Matthew snapped, his arms full with plates. Seeing that Jared hadn’t even poured one cup, the second breeder huffed and went ahead, muttering that Jared should meet him in the dining room whenever it was convenient for him.

Frustrated by the treatment which was reminiscent of Nathaniel, and of his own inability to do one simple task, Jared grumbled at himself. The kitchen seemed to be turning over and slipping under him, as if he were an egg in a slippery pan. With one last grasp towards the pot, the young breeder cried out. A searing, cold pain lanced through him from his lower back to his belly. Some great needle hooked itself in his tender muscles and dragged downwards, so that Jared could only lowly groan and bend over. Something wet materialized between his legs and dripped down his thighs, legs, and onto the floor.

Blood.

Panicked and frightened, Jared tried to call out for help. He was muffled by another puncture, this time more familiar. It started at the top of his belly and scratched downwards.

The cellar. He remembered the cellar. He remembered telling Jensen something was wrong.

Pain caused his knees to buckle and he fell to the floor, one hand bracing himself on the marble and the other tucked under his belly. This was peculiar; he felt as if he were caught in a wave of water, he could not orient himself long enough to sit upright or call out. Mewling, he curled up and tried to get onto his back. His entire body was tense though he could hardly feel it. The numbness which he felt, the disconnect from his senses, created an intense feeling of dread.

Slippers on tile could be heard distantly, and Jared felt ashamed. He here was, useless and bleeding and failing once again, and whomever it was would bear witness to it all.

“Jared!”

Familiar hands touched him.

A gentle voice soothed him.

“Wait here, do not try to move,” Nicky ordered. “I beg you, do not move. I’ll be right back.”

When she left, cramping began in his lower belly. Breathing became difficult when each and every cramp seemed to knock out the air in his lungs. Unable to help it, he twisted about on the floor, writhing in distress. The marble beneath him was cold and the moon above him was burning.

A bitter taste in his mouth emerged out of nowhere and he began to vomit.

Nicky returned to his side, swiftly pressing her fingers into his mouth, scooping away what he had not been able to spit out so he would not choke. Beside her knelt Master Jeff, though Jared could not focus on either of their faces.

 

The first Breeder had been born in water under the glow of a full moon.

It was a full moon that split him in two.

“He’s been poisoned,” he heard Nicky frantically whisper.

“With what?”

“Alcohol.”

The separation started; Jared’s thighs trembled. He held back his screams; he was still company, he was still representing his Master. He felt his entrance begin to open, start to breach and tear.

He could hear himself softly begging for them to end his misery, to put him down now before Jensen could realize what a poor investment he had made. Jensen had come all this way for a failure.

 

Born under a full moon.

Jared wondered if they had died under it too.

Chapter Text

He lost it.

Whatever it might have been no longer was.

 

Through the night, Jensen rode Jared to their household, working the horse hard through those ten miles. When they arrived, the cramps had escalated to the point where Jared was beginning to scratch as his own skin. There were deep, scraping sensations all across his belly, but mostly near his hips. Just as his Master had set him down on the kitchen floor—the same floor Nicky had delivered on—Jared felt a squelch between his legs and cried out for Jensen.

Staying close, Jensen put on a glove and reached down. He swore once he felt and saw the product. Every cramp produced another push of thick, filmy blood, something Jared had never seen before. He had miscarried early before—his very first litter—but that had been so premature it was all just blood. There hadn’t been enough time to even feel heart beats. This was different. He had a slight belly and it felt like he was delivering but even he knew that couldn’t be happening.

“Jared!” Jensen snapped, grabbing the breeder by his shoulders. “You need to breathe. In and out. You’re losing blood and making it worse by panicking. Breathe.”

How could he breathe when the child inside him was not able?

This blood would stain.

 

He screamed when he felt his water break.

Twisting and clawing at his face from the agony, terror, and shame, Jared couldn’t take it. He would be sold. He would be left behind. He would be sent to a farm and used up until the day came when he was tossed into a pile of other breeders who hadn’t been good enough to remember.

Just as Jensen was reaching over to calm the breeder down, Jared saw movement in the shadows behind Jensen. As the shape separated and became three, Jared screeched in agony.

They wanted to watch.

 

All around the kitchen, shadows were moving and morphing into the shapes of people. Sometimes lights shone through, like glimmering eyes, and a few times hands reached out.

Jensen finally roared and threw the nearest thing he could find at the largest cluster of shadows. A frying pan hit the wall with a loud crash and the shadows silently vanished. The Doctor began to work again, struggling to scoop out the clots of blood between the breeder’s legs.

“Please,” Jensen begged, his voice desperate, “I need you to calm down. Please Jared!”

Vision spinning, the breeder could not orient himself.

Where was he?

One moment he was clear and the next he was behind a gritty screen. The moon was gone and so were the shadows. Replacing them were cold, long instruments poking and prodding at his entrance, slipping in and pushing at an angle that caused him to wail in pain. A rush of clots pushed out, soaking the Doctor’s gloves and tools. The scraping sensation moved from Jared’s belly to his back once more. He cried for relief, for the end.

“I want to try the MedLight, please,” Jensen was saying but Jared barely heard. “Jared? What’s wrong? I can’t use it if…”

“My back,” Jared gasped and tensed up, trying to push Jensen’s hands away from his entrance. He struggled against Jensen’s hold, kicking and bucking, until he shuddered and a large, painful clot passed. His back felt like it was being crushed under the wheel of a carriage.

As gently as possible, Jensen sat the breeder up and knelt with him over a large basin.

It could have been the basin he had been given by old Master. The basin he had fed himself from for months, living off of what he was tossed and thrown.

He’d had dreams of children and pups.

Even now, the weight of his one pup bore down on his chest, squeezing his heart and pushing out any air he might be holding. How was it that grief was so powerful over someone not even fully formed?

The breeder’s heart beat pounded in his ears as the cramps and contractions grew harsher and closer together. He held onto the Doctor’s shoulders, squatting over the basin, screaming and panting as he felt something begin to move down. His face was covered in sweat and tears, while the insides of his thighs were smeared with red. The Doctor’s hands were covered in blood; Jared’s blood and their child’s.

Where did the stillborn pups and children go? Were they silent in some vast space in the sky? Or were they nothing, never anything to feel loneliness?

He couldn’t bear the thought of them being alone and unloved anywhere.

“You can do this.”

“I’ll still be here after.”

“I am not selling you. I’m not angry or upset. Jared, please, listen to me sweetheart. Please.”

“You’re going to pass it in a minute and I need you to stay calm. I’ll take care of it. Jared, please. Listen to me. I’m not giving you up. Ever. Got that? Ever.”

“You just need one push, Jared. Whenever you can. Just one push.”

“I’m not going to let anyone forget it. I will never forget them.”

 

It was like his insides were bruised.

There was no preparation for what happened, for the overwhelming horror of it all.

It took an hour.

He threw up twice in that hour, into a small bucket that had been set aside.

It would never have a name. He hadn’t thought that far ahead.

Clinging onto Jensen, screaming out into the moonless night, Jared pushed. It only took two pushes for it to pass. It was the size of a small melon, curled up, still, and blue.

“Don’t look,” Jensen said hurriedly, moving down to touch it.

The breeder smacked his hand away.

“No!” Jared shrieked, scratching at Jensen. “Mine!”

In the minute that they struggled, Jared could see its tiny form.

How long had it been dead? How long had it been since he felt any flutter? What had been in that juice?

He was hauled up.

Lifted.

And dragged away from the basin, where the child lay, in pool of blood and fluid they had once shared.

He was set down on a lounge and immediately he tried to crawl back to the basin, on his bloody hands and knees.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” the Doctor could be heard saying. Sorry for what? But oh, there wasn’t time to think about the Doctor, Jared had to be with his child. He had to see it and apologize and not have it taken away from him. This was his first child as a first breeder; the first child that belonged to him and Jensen. The Doctor had to know that this was important. But all the Doctor wanted to do was touch what wasn’t his and bury what he couldn’t possibly understand.

 

A needle pierced his left arm. It stung warm.

Moments later, everything went dark.

Chapter Text

Jared’s death wasn’t extraordinary.

It made no headlines; it didn’t stop the world from turning, or the sun from rising.

Jensen still wishes he could say it was during an expedition or on a risky mission where they were side by side on a foreign planet in a faraway solar system. Or maybe it had been some kind of illness that appeared out of nowhere and ate away at Jared’s tissues until they were black and hollow and still.

Maybe he could have accepted those better.

Maybe.

 

They were stationed at the same place they’d met, one year after marrying. The same bar, the same motel, it was all still there for them as if it had all been waiting.

“Some trip, huh?” Jared had said the night before as they lay in their creaky motel bed, bathed in the dark red light of the neon MOTEL sign outside their window.

“Yeah,” Jensen had agreed, returning the easy smile given to him. “It ain’t over yet.”

The good boy laughed at that, then turned onto his side and tossed the blankets over them, making sure to cover Jensen’s feet because he always did complain at night. When he settled, he said, “Jen?”

“Hmm?”

“I can make pancakes for three, you know.”

 

It was just like the good boy to do that—to say what took most people paragraphs in one, breath-taking, life altering sentence.

Jensen rolled over and pressed them chest to back. Somewhere he had kept the label off that water bottle, with a number long since changed, but the start of so many things. He ran a hand through Jared’s hair, tender and reverent, before playfully tugging once and saying, “Make it four, sweetheart.”

Those were the last words he got to say.

 

The good boy liked getting up early and considered himself a disciplined morning person. He did his usual routine in the bathroom and went out for a run in the worn down, shitty as hell neighborhood that surrounded the worn down, shitty as hell motel. He came back, showered, dressed, and left; in all that time Jensen snored on.

They had two more days before their next assignment, so Jared wanted to make Jensen breakfast, even if it meant using the grimy, barely working kitchenette in their room. The note he left said:

“Tired of ship rations and your bitching. Be back in a few. –J”

He’d gone to the store, where he filled the cart with a bunch of snacks and unnecessary junk food. There were two big paper bags stowed in back seat of their rental car on the way back.

Wanting to return faster, Jared took a busier street.

In his mind he thought of names. He had seven total that he wrote down on a scrap piece of paper at a stop light and tucked into his wallet for later. Two mile away from the motel, he saw a car pulled over on the side of the road, a young man desperately trying to wave someone down.

Of course the good boy stopped, pulled over, asked what was the matter?

The young man was with his wife, who was in the backseat, in labor.

He put on some gloves from the first aid kit in the rental, and went to work. He thought maybe they could get to a hospital but the baby was determined to be born right then and there. When it finally made its appearance—a little boy—he managed to pull away and jog back to the car to get his phone.

“You’ll never guess what just happened! Get your ass over here! You should’ve been here anyway, you’re the doctor in the family. Family. Holy shit Jenny! I’m so happy. Fuck. Gotta go. I get to practice being daddy. Get over here!” He listed the intersection and hung up.

 

There isn’t any good way to tell it.

Jensen should be able to just say what happened. Say it. God dammit.

Say it.

 

Drunk driver heading home after an extensive night of binging slammed into the young man’s car—right on the side—at seventy miles an hour. The driver never saw the three adults crouched in the car, one of them holding the baby, cradling it carefully, wrapped in his own shirt.

But the firefighters saw that. They found the baby underneath Jared, who had, in his last few fractions of a moment, tried to shield it with his body.

All four died instantly.

But you know that drunk lived.

Walked away clean, just a few bruises.

Sweetheart, you call that justice? Jay, you think you deserved that? You call that fucking fair?!

 

Jensen woke up at 10:07 a.m. One minute and two seconds after the voicemail.

He’d had a nightmare, but he couldn’t recall what it had been about.

Nothing prepared him for the nightmare that followed.

Chapter Text

She found him.

From a great unknown, she heard him. His grief echoed throughout space and time and places shadows couldn’t reach.

 

Jensen did the only thing he could do.

He made a deal.

Chapter Text

The story was interrupted.

He had been lying in the porch swing with Jensen, listening to the story and his Master’s heartbeat. Jensen’s right hand had been on the breeder’s belly the entire time, with his left threading through Jared’s hair.

It had been one week since Jensen carried their child to Jared’s favorite patch of land on the grounds.

Buried with doll, in her box, wrapped in one of Jensen’s shirts, packed in soft earth and covered with tender grass, there their child would stay. He hoped flowers would grow there one day, maybe daises.

Jensen’s lips were about to move once more—they were warm under quilts Nicky had provided for them—and Jared was anxious to hear the rest. Dazed and distraught from a week of solitude, when Jensen had slipped into the swing and pressed them both near, Jared had hardly believed it. Master should be livid; Master should be upset and disappointed. Master was grieving, Jared knew and understood that. But he could not understand the tenderness, affection, or concern. Why not lock him in the cellar again?

Jensen’s hand on his belly silenced all those thoughts.

As she spoon fed him broth throughout the week, Nicky reported several times that Jensen would disappear for hours and could not be pulled away from the grove. More than once the Judge or Master Jeff had to retrieve him on horseback. For most of the week, Jensen had checked on Jared but they had exchanged no words, speaking too difficult to attempt.

Before Jensen’s story started, he hummed that tune from the inn. The one Jared had sung to his pups and the one Jensen had written in a different time.

The porch swing moved gently and a brisk breeze drifted past.

“Seven sorrows had to pass before I could say anything,” Jensen had sighed at the beginning of his story. “Let me speak truthfully now.”

And so more was told with more yet to answer.

 

The interruption was a sharp scream from the front doors.

It was unlike Nicky to make much noise, even when surprised. It startled both Jared and Jensen when the younger breeder was the first to rise and bolt to her side. He had been so inactive from mourning that his quick movements astonished them both.

The older breeder was standing in the entryway, the front door open, looking out at the lane.

There was nothing there.

“Jared!” she gasped, grasping onto him, trembling and pale. “Oh, Jared!”

“What?” he insisted, his voice strange to him. Jensen hung back, listening and tense.

Flicking her hair back, panting slightly, Nicky shook her head. She shut her eyes then opened them, looking back at the lane. Looking directly at Jared, she spoke softly, “I… I saw Cody. I swear to you he was there. As he must have been when he… but it was him!” In shock she started to pace, wringing her hands. “I heard a noise and thought… Misha might be back but when I opened the door… there was no one. I stepped outside and looked a little more and then there he was, standing over there.”

At this point, Jensen stepped forward, frowning. “Calm down, are you well?”

She did not appreciate the question; Jared felt the tug of a smile on his face.

“Of course I’m well! I was cleaning the parlor and I heard a noise and when I went to see what it was he was there!” She grabbed Jared’s hands, eyes wide and searching his. “You believe me, Jared? Please?”

Without hesitation, he nodded. How could he not believe her? She had taken him in and understood all his hurt, allowed him to set it down and helped him heal.

She had been the one to pummel the truth out of the second breeder at Master Joshua’s household, as Master Jeff had told Jared, without Jared having to ask about her. She had a few bruises and scrapes from the tussle but was otherwise fine. In front of all the Masters, both breeders admitted that they had wanted Jared demoted to second and Nicky promoted to first breeder because they believed that to be the right order of things. Both breeders attested to how inadequate Jared was as a first breeder and thought that Jared must have pushed Nicky out of the way for the honor. It made no sense for a younger, less inexperienced breeder from a common background to be the first breeder of a Master with a title. The flower had been a threat; a promise to restore true order to the breeder that deserved such a privilege. As the second breeder had confessed, after Nicky had slammed him repeatedly to the ground, “we were only trying to help you.” It solidified the fact that their household stood out in society; even breeders could see it. And though they had not heard another word from Master Joshua since that evening, all Masters were concerned.

In the middle of the week, the Judge had announced at breakfast one morning that he had received another letter from the government reminding him to select a first breeder and complete his household. Nicky had told this to Jared in confidence the night it happened, relaying the information to him on the porch, a few tears shed as she did.

Breeders were supposed to work together to ensure the happiness and comfort of their Masters. Some breeders were not above harming others to secure their own comfort and reputation.

It wasn’t like that between Nicky and Jared; it never had been.

Truly they were no longer normal breeders. These Masters had changed everything.

“You’re up,” Nicky murmured, placing her hands tenderly on Jared’s face. “I… I’m sorry I disturbed you.”

“It’s alright,” he replied quietly. “Did he say anything?”

She withdrew from him and hugged herself, grimacing. “No. Not a word.”

Carefully, Jensen walked outside and examined the front lawns and the lane. When he declared things all clear, he firmly shut and locked the doors. There was no explanation for what she had seen but Jensen was convinced both breeders needed to rest. He led them to the swing, where he got on first and extended a hand to Jared, who accepted it with a small, shy smile. Settled, Jared extended his hand to Nicky, who hesitated but took it.

 

“What do you think it meant?” she whispered to Jared as Jensen covered the three of them with quilts.

Jared sighed. In between his Master and his friend, warm and cared for, he replied with what he knew.

“Signs are everywhere.”

Chapter Text

The first thing the young breeder did when he felt better—a full two weeks after—was ask Nicky to cut his hair. Inch by inch she snipped at his wavy, unruly shoulder length hair. With careful attention, the older breeder cut his hair to chin length, styling it and tucking it behind his ears.

“My goodness,” she sighed happily, nudging his chin with her hand. “How you’ve grown.”

He looked in the mirror provided to him and agreed.

 

Three weeks had passed and the household settled back into its usual routine. Although all Masters were tense, at the end of every night they spent it together in the largest sitting room. Both breeders stayed near their Masters and ate their pieces of chocolate while the Judge read stories. Several evenings passed where Jared fell asleep halfway through the story, his mouth sticky with chocolate, and had to be carried to bed. When the young breeder tried to apologize for it, he was told it was not a problem.

“When I first saw you, I didn’t believe it was you,” Jensen confided to him one evening, brushing the breeder’s shorter hair just before bed. “I couldn’t… it was all so overwhelming. We landed in a field and found town, but it took a full two weeks to orient ourselves.”

“Did the Judge have family he left behind?” Jared asked as he patched up one of Jensen’s shirts.

The brush was handled with great care; any knots were taken out carefully. “Not really. He’d been travelling for a while when he joined the crew. Guess it was smart of me to bring him along, huh?”

Thinking of Jensen’s sometimes more… gruff moments in society, Jared smiled and nodded. They couldn’t have blended in as well without the Judge’s engaging personality. Jensen himself could be charming in the right situations, but he often preferred to be a silent observer, as the younger breeder had come to learn.

Every night they fell asleep together, Jensen’s hand on the breeder’s belly and the breeder secure on a soft mattress, underneath plenty of quilts, and beside his Master.

 

When one month passed, Jared began to spend more time outside. He and Nicky were in the garden one day, after their morning chores had been done. Master Jeff was inside the household fixing a few of the chimneys while their task now was to spruce up the garden and make it ready for spring. Jensen had kindly provided them with gardening gloves; Jared was looking forward to working in a garden without subjecting his hands to thorns and weeds.

Side by side they worked in a familiar rhythm. He could hear the older breeder’s steady breathing and from time to time observed her. She was reaching the optimum age for breeding—eighteen—and would turn seventeen in a month’s time. Her features had only grown lovelier. She had decided to keep her hair long because the Judge seemed to take pleasure in brushing and braiding it, which Jared thought sweet and so unlike her just a few weeks prior.

The Judge and Nicky spent more time together, often taking walks through the grounds when he returned from town. He would bring her small gifts of special butter, brown sugar, and exotic chocolates, all of which she used to bake things the entire household got to enjoy. She continued to show the younger breeder more of her recipes and the Judge, noticing this, bought her a blank book to write them all down. At the start she was hesitant to use it, anxious by the blank pages just as Jared had been, but the breeders sat down together and began to fill them up one by one until there were no pages left.

It was astounding to see their training put down on paper, filling an entire book. It had made each of them go silent for a moment, skimming over past memories of using these recipes. Then Jared placed his hand over hers and together they shook themselves out of the past.

In the garden presently, she confided that the Judge wanted to promote her to his first breeder.

“That’s news long overdue,” Jared replied with a smile. “Isn’t it?” he pressed when he did not see her smile in return.

Sighing, she nodded. “It is. I’m very happy. He is a kind Master. I would be proud to… to be any breeder at all to him, especially his first. I’ve never been anyone’s first. But Jared, he talks of it like… he wants me to be his only breeder.”

It took some time to convince Nicky that this wasn’t a strange practice. Although it deviated from society in an extreme way—households must have two breeders at minimum—in their household, with their Masters, it was an expression of devotion.

“I’m not used to having so much attention placed on me,” Jared confided in return. “Sometimes he looks at me like I am all that he lives for and it frightens me. I never expected to mean that much to anyone, especially not a Master like him.” Jared was frequently reminded of the song old Jared had sung to Jensen before he proposed marriage. The responsibility of being loved was something the breeder had never experienced and one line particular stood out: you can’t laugh long enough, you can’t live hard enough, you can’t hold me that tight.

It was interesting and confusing to try and determine the meanings behind what Jared had done in another time and place altogether. But this he could at least grasp; Jensen had the tendency to look at him with so much love, Jared feared that one day that love would consume him. He tried not to think about how it already had once before.

Nicky nudged him. “You deserve every bit of happiness,” she said simply and confidently. “I suppose I’ll try to get used to this idea of being singularly wanted.” She paused for a moment and knelt down on the ground, touching a patch of dirt tenderly and added, “Of being enough.” After a few minutes she talked about how Master Eli had been good to her and she had loved him, but she always knew Cody was the only breeder in his eyes. Though he had treated her with respect and affection and had never been unnecessarily cross with her, she could tell that he never did stop grieving.

An hour passed and their work on the garden was more noticeable. They paused for a break, sitting in the garden, drinking from a jug of sweet tea she had brought out with them. It was almost time for a midday meal, which they would take with Master Jeff. He had expressed an interest in sandwiches and soup, which Jared was planning out in his head. He had just made fresh bread that morning, before Jensen and the Judge had gone into town.

The breeders took a few moments of silence to enjoy the weather. It was getting slightly warmer, though they still wore their shawls whenever they were more than a few minutes outside. Although the day had started out clear, there were gray clouds above, moving towards town. Jared hoped it would start raining after the Masters had returned from town.

“Can I tell you something?” Nicky asked, leaning against Jared.

“Yes.”

“Even if… it’s about…”

He nodded. He wanted to know; he’d been meaning to ask but had no heart for asking. She eyed him carefully and took a deep breath. “He sold those breeders to an auctioneer in town from Meridian. I asked Misha why they would choose that form of punishment instead of any others and Misha said he and the Doctor had no input. They decided to stay out of it and not press charges.” She tried to emphasize that pressing charges would make their household stand out even more. Jared nodded in understanding; accusations of poisoning a first breeder of a Master with a Title would definitely bring unwanted attention to their household. It was also no way to build trust within society, even if the accusations were true.

Nicky flicked her hair over her shoulder. “Misha told me Master Joshua offered Jensen a chance at whipping them publically, having them dragged through the streets. He declined immediately. I haven’t ever heard of a Master do that.”

“Nor have I,” Jared confessed in a whisper. “I… I am not bothered by this. I didn’t… I don’t have anger towards them.”

The older breeder snorted. “Well, good, because I do. How dare they assume anything about us and most of all how dare they endanger your life. They weren’t trying to kill you but they very well could have. They certainly cost you more than a few days of illness.”

At the mention of his child, Jared flinched.

“They did, but it wasn’t their fault,” he murmured and lay down beside her. She joined him. Together they curled up, not minding the dirt around or underneath them. She placed her shawl over him and kissed him as he spoke. “Jen… he told me… the baby died a week before the dinner. Master Jeff looked… looked at it and agreed. I just… passed it that evening.”

He thought he had cried all the tears he could for his child but that was untrue.

He could not hold those breeders responsible for the fate of his child. And in the end, he had too much grief in his heart to have any room for anger or vengeance. It was enough for the younger breeder to be thankful that Jensen was not like any other Master towards any other breeder.

“I did not know that, I’m so sorry,” the older breeder purred and kissed him, then wiped away at his tears. After a moment, she added, “I still got in a few good swings at that second breeder.”

Jared laughed quietly and shook his head. “They will never forget that, I’m sure.”

 

To help him feel better, they tumbled around in the garden, rolling around and pinning each other down for kisses and licks. Pressed together they nipped playfully at the other, rubbing against and pushing into each other’s warmth. By the end of it, they were both breathless and purring loudly. He reached for her and pulled her down into the dirt once more, kissing her tenderly, thanking her for taking such good care of him with the depth of his kiss. She moaned softly and wrapped her arms around him. For a few minutes they were nose to nose, sharing the same content smiles. She kissed him once more.

Only a noise disturbed them.

Both looked up and gasped.

Thirty feet away from them, beside the dark red rose they had planted, stood Cody.

But this was not the first breeder Jared had seen in the photographs around Master Eli’s household. His appearance was awful, Jared felt the impulse to scream, and would have had Nicky not gripped onto him. Cody was covered in blood, dried and fresh, with limbs twisted and broken, his robes ripped and shredded. A large chunk of flesh was missing from his throat.

Instead of disappearing, as Nicky had said he had done before, Cody stepped towards them.

Instinctively, Nicky pushed herself in front of Jared, even though he was two inches taller than her. With one blink, Cody was no longer standing away from them. He stood in front of them.

Jared’s eyes went wide.

No carriage accident had ever left their victim so mangled, so broken. Whip marks covered him, even on his face, where Masters usually never hit. In one broken, swollen hand, he held a child’s boot.

Nicky also noticed this, took a sharp breath, and reached forward.

Cody flickered, as if he were a projection. Through the blood and dirt that covered him, he shook his head, his eyes sad.

The three breeders stood there for a moment. Jared felt his heart racing. The moon was nowhere near but the sky had changed color. It was a foul dark green and yellow; matching the bruises on Cody.

Finally, Nicky opened her mouth to speak, surely to demand what was going on, what had happened?

She was silenced when Cody extended his free hand, his fingers gnarled and warped. Nicky pushed Jared back but Cody only stepped forward again. Jared signaled to her to stay put. If the first breeder had wanted to harm them he would have done so already. Nicky mewled in fright as Cody’s hand was held an inch over her face, then moved down to her neck. He paused there, at a spot on the left side of her neck, making direct eye contact with her, despite his eyes being cloudy and gray.

The same was done to Jared. He held absolutely still, standing up straight, as Cody motioned to his neck, but on the right side. Silent through everything, Cody then moved his hand to his own neck, drawing attention to the gaping hole there.

He opened his mouth and let out a sound so wretched, so filled with agony; Jared never wanted to hear it again.

Cody held the shoe to his heart, cradling it, and closed his eyes before turning and stepping away from them. He limped back towards the rose and disappeared. There were no footprints, no blood stains, nothing to show any hint that he had been there.

Nicky fainted. Jared caught her.

When he was able to finally breathe and put his wits together, he screamed for Master Jeff.

Carrying Nicky in his arms, Jared ran towards the house, pushing through the gardens, stumbling a few times.

 

Signs were everywhere.

Cody had shown them one thing, the thing he had died discovering, the reason for the rupture in his neck:

Where their chips were.

Chapter Text

They had to leave.

That was the only thing all three Masters could agree on.

Two Masters with titles had already mentioned to Jensen their ready and willing assistance to aid him in finding a new, older and more experienced first breeder, or a steady, reliable second breeder. A letter had arrived, right before they all sat down for supper, addressed to Master Jeff informing him that his new residence in Lee allowed him to select two breeders at discounted prices. A Master that the Judge had been aiding in a case gave him a thorough explanation of all the brothels and auction houses in Lee.

The city of Lee was talking about their household.

 

A metal object was held to each breeder’s neck after supper. Jared’s first instinct was to bat it away because it hummed and whirred as if it were alive. However, he remained as still as possible because Jensen had instructed him to do so.

The object was examined by all three Masters while the breeders sat on a lounge in the parlor.

“There isn’t any proof that your chips are located there,” Jensen announced, his voice low. “I’m sorry about what you saw but it’s not enough to get me to operate.”

It was the Judge who spoke first. “It’s possible that whatever material they’ve used to build chips isn’t detectable by our technology. This is the first real lead I’ve witnessed about their locations.”

Immediately, Jensen bristled and shook his head. “A ghost is not proof, Misha.”

The Judge continued to press further, which was unlike him. “Who says so? Time travel was thought impossible two hundred years before our time, an apparition isn’t so far-stretched.”

Jared touched the place on his neck that Cody had motioned towards. Jensen replied back to the Judge, insisting, “That’s not even the only problem! Knowing the general location is fine to start with but that says nothing about the depth of the implant or its exact area. I can’t just cut their throats open and dig around in there. Correct me if I’m wrong but they said the ghost was missing an entire chunk of its throat. That breeder died with its hand halfway into his neck. And even then, we can’t be sure if they were successful or if someone found it after.”

There was no way to know the exact details surrounding Cody’s death.

The younger breeder could not stop thinking about those photographs of him all throughout Master Eli’s household, how carefully they had been framed. It was every breeder’s wish to be loved and cared for like that. Photographs meant a breeder would be preserved forever in that moment.

Jared only had one photograph of himself and it was always carried in Jensen’s vest pocket. Old Jared and Jensen seemed so happy.

Movement snapped Jared back from his thoughts; Jensen sat next to him, opened his arms up as a signal for Jared to move into them, which he gladly did. He purred lightly as his hair was stroked. Though his Master was usually affectionate with him in front of others, he was a deeply private individual. When a moment was taken to bury his face in the crook of the breeder’s neck, a tender kiss placed there, it was significant.

Closing his eyes for that sweet moment, the breeder saw dark red.

He sighed and curled into his Master, who slipped a piece of chocolate to him as the Masters continued to converse.

Master Jeff spoke up this time. “I trust you read the letter the council sent, Jensen.”

Aware of how Jensen tensed up at this mention, Jared looked up from his treat. His Master nodded then allowed Master Jeff to detail the information to the Judge.

“I completed a full report of my findings here,” Master Jeff explained. “I sent a detailed map of these grounds, the city, and parts of Meridian along with an extensive attachment summarizing society in this realm. This was well within the Captain’s knowledge and when the first decision from the council returned, I was open and honest about it with him. They have sentenced you both to permanent exile.”

“And you did not think to inform me?” the Judge snipped. Jared could see that Nicky was beside him, looking tired and ill; she had not even touched her piece of chocolate.

“Easy,” Master Jeff tried to soothe. “I offered to appeal the decision. However, under further discussion with the Captain, a few of the council members, and my continued observation of these two lovely companions in our presence…” he looked at both breeders. “I ultimately rescinded my objection and any intent to appeal.”

These were all new things to Jared, but he knew what exile meant. Anxiety rose in his chest. Where would they go? What would they do?

Sensing the breeder’s distress, Jensen pat his head and began to speak. “It had to be so.”

“Did it?” the Judge grumbled, completely opposite of what his usual manner of speech was. “You were so keen on going back, on insisting you would find a way to make it work, why now the change in motivation?”

A few candles in the room flickered, which Jared noticed. He looked over at Nicky; she had observed the same thing.

“The council,” Master Jeff answered, “made it extremely clear that anyone brought back from any time or place not our own would be imprisoned and studied for scientific purposes. The time traveler themselves would be put to hard labor as a traitor. There is no way to sneak past those check points either. And even if you both somehow managed to go back, what would you do? Hide your companions away for six months out of the year while they were carrying your offspring? And let’s assume that you could pull that off, especially yourself and Nicky seeing as she would be entirely new to our time and had no previous connections as Jared would. How would you explain her rate of reproduction? That is not how our people procreate. But alright, let’s further assume that you chalked it off to a healthy love life. What would you do if her children were born breeders as well? How would you find suitors and explain to them their bodies? Their unique capabilities?”

Here, Master Jeff paused. He seemed to be distracted. Jared looked all over the room for any moving shadows. He could not see anything.

Resuming, he turned to Jensen. “You can return, if you like, but not with him. And you,” he turned to the Judge. “Can also return, if you like, but not with her. Would either of you admit to such a decision?”

“Don’t even ask that!” the Judge shouted, causing everyone to flinch. “We haven’t come all this way to leave anyone behind. Not a single one of us will remain here.”

Jared clung to Jensen. He had finished his treat and it had tasted good but it settled wrong in his stomach.

“I am leaving my pups here.”

That voice belonged to Nicky. She looked at all three Masters and stood up.

“What will happen to them? What will happen to any other breeder? Have any of you thought of this? What about those who are not as fortunate as us to have an escape except for the comfort that one day, death will claim us? Because I lived my entire life believing that dying was my one true freedom. What will you do about those who still feel that way? About those chained to posts in farms far away from any city? About those you’ll find in cellars if you are lucky enough to hear their screams?” Her voice and questions pierced through the atmosphere in the parlor. “Will you do anything?”

There was a moment of tense silence. Finally, Jensen answered her and made his own announcement.

“Jeff and I are leaving. We cannot go back, that is no longer an option, and we cannot stay. We would be hunted in every town, every district, and all your children would be wrenched away from you no matter how large a family we would want.” He set Jared aside gently and stood up. “We did not come here to start a revolution; the sooner you understand that the better. There will not be any tampering or interference with this government while we are here and you will respect that.” Boots not making a sound, he walked over to the nearest window, which provided a view their front lawns. He too, was distracted for a moment, before speaking again.

This time he looked at both breeders. “This government has begun secretly upgrading your chips so that it can crudely track your thoughts in addition to your dreams and memories. No one knows which chips have gone through this or when it might happen. So you both must not think about leaving or anything out of the ordinary. Focus on your chores and on the house.”

Nicky sat down next to Jared this time. She held his hand in hers, eyes wet with tears.

The younger breeder felt a squeeze and a push on his chest.

He barely heard his own gasp when Jensen announced the next piece of news.

“I’m leaving tomorrow evening. I don’t know how long for.”

 

That night Jared had two separate and distinctly different nightmares.

He could not remember what they were, when he was shaken awake by his Master, but it had all seemed very real. More than once he thought the real nightmare might be that all of this had been a fever-induced dream; that in reality, he was still in the cellar, perhaps chained to a post, his belly bruised and hurting.

“I love you,” Jensen whispered at dawn.

Perhaps this was all some terrible illusion.

 

Their mission would be to find somewhere new.

Some place unlike this one.

With Master Jeff beside him, he might be faster at exploring different places, though there was no one like his previous companion in time travel.

Jensen left the photograph behind.

Their last day was spent on the swing, not a word passing between them.

At one point they had started kissing, each of them desperate and hungry and cold. The young breeder was prepared to insist that it was all welcome, that yes, he wanted his Master. He wanted to feel his Master the only way a breeder could truly feel any Master.

But his Master declined.

He said, “It’ll give me something to look forward to.”

 

Hand on the breeder’s belly once more, an hour before his departure, Jensen told the rest of his story.

 

She had one true form.

And he saw it long enough to be horrified by it. Pleased by his fear, she changed into a different form.

When Jensen looked up, Jared was there, whole and healthy and smiling.

There was a flicker of relief, of happiness, but it was quickly replaced by grief and rage. How dare she manipulate his form. How dare she even think she could possess a fraction the goodness he had. She was entertained by his emotions, how they fluctuated and changed and warped into something she called enchanting energy.

Bending down, she reached and grasped at his neck, squeezed it with familiar yet alien hands.

The snap of Jensen’s neck was quick.

It didn’t hurt at all.

What hurt was her laughter, her voice, which was Jared’s, loud and clear in his head.

“I love you Jen.”

 

Even without his life he felt each blow to his body. Every fist that connected with fresh bone was accurate and brutal. Jared had always been able to pack a punch. Like that one time on a mission and a new crew member had called Jensen something foul. Without the slightest bit of hesitation Jared had punched the crewmate in the jaw; he made it look elegant and graceful.

Now those fists were aimed at him.

The crack of his nose stung.

The shattering of his jaw throbbed.

The crunch of his ribs was excruciating.

It went on and on. He did not pass out or lose focus; instead, his focus grew wider, expanded to beyond the desolation of his body.

Every argument blasted in his ears.

Every stupid, heated thing he’d ever said or shouted or threatened was screamed back at him with an unbearable ferocity.

How many times had Jared gone to bed upset.

Alone.

All because of his unwavering stubbornness, his inability to fucking communicate, his deep rooted insecurities, his glaring faults.

And yet how many times had Jared forgiven him.

Dragged the bottle out of his hand and put him to bed anyway, taking the couch in his place.

“I love you Jay.”

 

The funeral had been simple but crowded.

His family had fought with Jensen over how and where to bury their son, his partner. In the end, his family won that argument.

And in the end it was Misha who caught him before he leapt into the open grave.

He could see it all over again.

Closed casket.

Fist after fist connected with his face. He could no longer see and his sinuses were filled with blood and shards of bone.

Everything was dark red.

 

All of those memories stopped.

Like a faucet turned off.

He should be dead. All of his training told him so. Any Captain of a crew had to have two years of basic medical and surgical experience. Death was not difficult to determined. You either were or you weren’t.

But he wasn’t. He could feel his heartbeat, although distant and paltry.

She started speaking again, in Jared’s voice once more.

There was no form of payment, no part of his soul she wanted; this was enough.

Crumpled and broken, that was enough for her.

Love disgusted her and he was dripping with it; her hands were stained with it.

Why him?

It was simple and not simple. Her curiosity was peaked; how far would he go? How far could he be pushed until he said no? Oh but something straightforward would never do, it had to be deeper. What kind of lover could Jensen push away, treat as something no better than trash?

She was intrigued by them; they were her insects.

Feeling returned to him.

He wanted to cry out.

Don’t twist him.

Don’t make him unrecognizable.

But bring him back.

To this she answered no, she would do the opposite. She would even tell him where Jared was, the exact coordinates.

The skin she wore would be born again.

In a town called Meridian.

 

For his arrogance he would pay. For his mere assumption that his pathetic life and love were worth anything, any fraction of her time, Jared would pay.

For his stubborn belief that once found, all would fall into place, they would pay.

In a magnificent open wound of space she shed Jared’s skin.

Her true form was monstrous.

She wanted a kiss.

The deal was sealed.

 

He could not speak about their deal to Jared until seven sorrows passed.

And even then, she promised, it would not be that easy.

Delighting in her masterful scheme she laid out plans, intricate and cruel in her details, carrying over the smallest of specifics from the motel sign to the number of names to the idea of family.

One moment Jensen was watching her write down the coordinates and the next he was in his room on board the ship.

Wasting no time he set to find Misha.

He would prefer company but would do it all the same.

How difficult could it be?

 

On the porch, they said goodbye.

Master Jeff went ahead, Jensen would catch up. It was midnight and they were going into the woods.

A firm embrace was given to each breeder from Master Jeff before he headed out. He reminded Jared of his exercises and thanked Nicky for her hospitality. He said nothing to the Judge; he only shook his hand.

Jared couldn’t recall what Jensen said to Nicky or the Judge, but as soon as they finished they returned inside to give Jensen and Jared privacy.

“I don’t want you to go,” Jared blurted out, a sob in his chest. “Please don’t go.”

This had been explained to him simply: the way they came in was not the same way they would leave. There was no guarantee that either of them could pass through this world once more, as shadows or in any other form.

Jensen held his hands and kissed each of them.

“I love you Jay.”

“No,” Jared cried, shaking his head. “Stay with me, stay here. Jensen, stay.”

“I don’t mind,” his Master murmured, kissing his cheek, then once on his mouth. “I would die a thousand times to make you mine.”

He began to step away.

Jensen had been bled dry.

He had died alone.

They both had died without each other.

 

 “I would come back a thousand times,” Jensen whispered, looking at Jared directly, with every ounce of sincerity in his voice. “Always, Jay.”

There were no regrets about his deal, his decision.

He left.

Chapter Text

It was his chore to tend to the gardens.

They needed to be weeded, watered, picked, and trimmed.

In sixty degree weather at noon, three full months after his miscarriage, the garden was a welcome distraction and exercise. He was messy—covered in a dusting of soil and sweat—kept his thoughts focused on the rewards of his labor. Every so often he paused because he knew an older breeder somewhere near would come out and holler at him to do so. He slowly drank from his own jug of cool, sweet juice during his most recent break. Setting the jug down, he resumed his work, carefully picking the best of the rhubarb that had come in. His anxiety tempted him to stop, to contemplate, to creep back into the darkness of his own experiences—the garden kept him occupied and promised him purpose.

Rhubarb for dinner didn’t pick itself.

Hands dirty from the few times he took off his gloves, Jared dug into the rich soil with small grunts of effort. There were onions somewhere; he only had to find them. Digging around in the earth he briefly thought about what it must feel like to be surrounded by it. He thought of every pup and child he and Nicky had born. He thought of Cody. Saddened, the young breeder sat back for a moment to wipe away at his eyes. He placed a hand on his flat belly, then on his chest, above his heart.

This was all he could ever offer.

The sound of a carriage pulling up snapped him back to the present. He found the onions and tossed them quickly into his second bin. Speedily, standing up in one swift movement, he gathered up his tools and lifted the bins. Walking briskly, he climbed the few porch steps, breathing hard but welcoming the exertion of muscle and energy. He slipped into the kitchen, where he put the bins into the large sink by the window. Nicky appeared and scolded him lightly about lifting heavy things without help, bumping their shoulders together as they stood at the sink. She turned the faucet on, took a towel and wet it, then wiped at Jared’s face in tender motions, taking off all the grime she saw without a word. In comfortable silence, they washed what he had picked.

The Judge joined them shortly after. He chopped the leaves and roots off the rhubarb. The kitchen was large and spacious enough for all three of them to have their own stations and work comfortably. However, Nicky wanted him close to show him how to make the pie her way.

He watched and helped when she directed him to. The egg, vinegar, and water were whisked together; he liked that part the best. Next, she blended the flour, sugar, butter, and shortening, adding some salt at the end. The wet ingredients were added over the dry ones and he saw her muscles work as she mixed it all until dough was formed.

“Don’t overwork it,” she murmured softly, handing the dough over to him, to work on a part of the counter.

When finished, he followed her instructions and split the dough into two, then flattened each out into disks. Carefully, she placed them into a pie dish, and then set them into the icebox to chill.

“I learned this from Cody,” she told him as they started the filling. “Not everything has to be so complicated. Something delicious can be simple. That’s what he said.”

The Judge handed over the rhubarb and leaned against a countertop, watching them work.

The rhubarb, which Jared had never eaten before, was mixed together with flour, sugar, and lemon. Once it was tossed together, Nicky added cinnamon and a few drops of vanilla. She set the bowl aside for the moment and they started on an early supper.

Their supper was adjusted to what Jared had picked that day, so everything was fresh and nothing was wasted. Both breeders spent the majority of their time in the kitchen together, so they worked alongside each other effortlessly. The Judge would help but that evening he observed them, affection clear in his eyes. Before he left to tend to the horses for the night, he kissed Nicky and pat Jared on the head.

The familiarity of the touch sparked an aching longing in the younger breeder’s heart.

There had been no news.

He scrubbed at his face and regained his composure. Nicky kissed him sweetly. It was best to be busy.

 

Two months had passed since Jared and Master Jeff had left. There was no news or communication from either, though sometimes, in the evenings, the Judge’s shadow flickered. It did not frighten either breeder because they had both grown used to his easy, calming presence. However, Jared could not shake off his fear of any other shadows or movements in the corners of his vision.

Pulling the pie out of the oven, Jared inhaled the sweet, fresh smell. It would pair well with the stew for supper, which was one of the Judge’s favorite dishes. He always ate two bowls, which pleased the breeders endlessly.

Some nights Jared slept alone in Jensen’s bed, hugging the photograph close to him. Other nights, in his own way, he asked to sleep with Nicky in their bed, the very first one they had occupied when they moved in. And at least one night a week the younger breeder was invited to share the Judge’s bed, the three of them pressed close together, with Nicky in the middle and the Judge’s arm thrown over them both.

A week prior, the Judge announced that he had purchased Jared in the Doctor’s absence. Legally this was beneficial, as there could be no contest about Jared’s ownership. In the reality of their household, nothing changed. Although the Judge would show affection towards the younger breeder it was never inappropriate and he never demanded service, though Jared knew he could. It seemed that he never demanded service from Nicky either. She had confided that she wanted to give him service, provide him with it, but both were anxious about the consequences and preferred to refrain for the time being. To see them both at the end of the evening, sharing a lounge, his arm around her as he read a story, simultaneously made Jared content and lonely. Though they often included him, there was nothing that could fill the void.

Every evening before bed he would sit on the porch and look out towards the woods. Sometimes he was kept company on his watch.

No one ever emerged from the woods.

Sitting down to dinner, Jared felt especially anxious. Nicky had turned seventeen just a few days ago. Her market price went up and a few Masters in town had made offers on her, asking the Judge if she was suitable at service. The Judge was open about most things that happened in town; however, he did not say what his reaction had been, which was odd for him.

Though there had been talk about their household, things had quieted down.

Then Jared’s file was updated and his market price fell.

It made no sense to have him as first breeder and Nicky as second, especially as a Master with title. The more Jared thought about this, the more concerned he became. During their meal, the Judge made light conversation and Nicky beamed when she was asked for another bowl. Jared tried to share her happiness but he could barely eat his own food.

“Try not to worry,” the Judge said, patting his hand. “I’ll take care of things, I promise. It’s all just the gossip of Masters who have nothing better to do.”

The young breeder nodded respectfully though he did not feel better. When Nicky returned she looked at the Judge and motioned towards Jared. “Don’t you want to give him his gift? The one you brought from town? I think tonight might be a good time to do it.”

The Judge looked up at her and smiled, his blue eyes shining with an affection that comforted Jared. “Yes, you’re right. Let me fetch my bag.” Before either breeder could protest and do it for him, he was up and walking out of the dining room. Nicky took her seat and sighed with a smile.

“I know you miss him but you must have faith, hold onto hope. You know how stubborn the Doctor is.”

“What if he found someone else?” Jared whispered, curling in on himself.

“Someone else lovelier and more well-suited for him than you? That’s impossible.” She leaned over the table and met his eyes. “You must trust him, darling. And for now, focus on the Judge’s gift.”  Not two moments later the Judge arrived with two parcels and placed one in front of each breeder. He resumed eating his second helping of stew as they opened them.

Jared expected another set of custom robes, though he didn’t know where he would wear them. What was actually inside was better than any set of robes he could have dreamed of.

“For me?” Jared whispered in shock, holding the garments up. “This… this is too much…”

“Indeed, you told me these were robes,” Nicky mumbled, taking out hers. “Misha, our chips… if we wear these we could potentially draw attention to ourselves.”

Setting his half-empty bowl down, the Judge sat back in his chair. “I’ve seen a prototype of the upgrade and it’s just as Jensen described it: crude. It is in the early stages of testing in government facilities and in smaller towns. For now you are both safe. Even if your chips were upgraded to include this capability, the image of your thoughts on government screens is rough and blurry. The outfits I’ve purchased are loose and probably too big, so they wouldn’t be too indistinguishable from your robes. Does this help?”

Jared was in too much shock to properly respond; his mouth hung open. He dared to hold the first piece up to his chest.

It was a simple blue shirt. And with it was a pair of soft brown trousers.

He didn’t realize he was crying until the Judge was next to him, patting his back, murmuring that it was okay, it was alright. “Can I try them on?” the young breeder breathed, afraid of being hit or struck for his boldness. The Judge smiled and nodded, then told Nicky she could do the same.

Both breeders dashed to their shared room.

Their robes were instantly shed.

At the beginning, Jared was hesitant and slow to have his skin touch the clothes. He thrummed with nervous excitement and looked at Nicky, who seemed to feel the same way. They laughed nervously and Jared was the first to step into the trousers. Once that was accomplished—heart racing all the while—he threw the shirt on.

Dressed, they ran through the household, up and down both stair cases, laughing and shouting for the other to, “Look! Look here! Watch!”

It was wonderful.

 

Two weeks later the breeders were told they needed to start packing.

They could only take one small pack each. Jared thought it might take longer to pack but he had hardly any trouble at all. The chess set fit amongst a pair of robes and slippers. His next item was a small package of seeds—a varied selection of flowers and vegetables—which he spent two days collecting and sorting.

On the porch one afternoon, he wished he could take the swing. Nicky assured him that Jensen had built this one, so he could build another without too much trouble. Still, it seemed such a shame to leave this one behind, with all its memories and good uses.

When Nicky asked where they would be going, the Judge looked wistful.

“I cannot say, I have received no communications from either of them. I imagine they will be looking for a world where we will all fit in best,” he replied and stretched out on the swing.

“Nearly three months and nothing has happened,” Nicky pressed, anxious herself for some kind of answer. “What could delay them?”

The Judge sighed, playing with strands of Nicky’s hair. “Time passes differently in other worlds and while traveling. One month here may feel like two minutes somewhere else. I am not sure, I am also no expert. Before traveling here I had only gone on three missions and…” he looked at the younger breeder. “Jared had been at the helm of all of them. Even our Captain took his orders from you while on those missions.”

This caused Jared to blush. To think that a Master took orders from a breeder! Well, not truly, but still.

“Why don’t I remember anything?” Jared asked once he calmed his eagerness. “If I am one in the same why do I have no memories of anyone from before? Not even my own brother?”

The afternoon began to turn to evening; Nicky lit a lamp and brought it near. Springtime had just started but the evenings remained brisk. She placed a blanket over Jared and slipped under it with him; both breeders were curled up on the swing as the Judge moved to sit on the edge.

“He’s told you most of it, I gather,” the Judge said in a low voice, looking out towards the woods. “And I assume he told you the deal he made.”

“Not all of it,” Jared said, sitting up slightly. “He never said who he made the deal with, only that she found him and her true form was… monstrous.”

The Judge seemed to pale a bit. “Yes,” he replied shakily, “quite so.” His shadow flickered.

There was a long pause before the Judge spoke up again, and when he did, his voice was hushed.

“He made the deal with a space witch.”

 

What the Judge told both breeders had to be clarified several times.

“What did she want in return?” Nicky asked, breathless. “She couldn’t possibly do anything for free.”

“Yes, she asked for something small in return, but that is… My dear,” the Judge explained, “you are missing the point. A witch isn’t like a demon. You have those here, yes? You know what demons are? Demons make deals for something in return, often unfair and too high to pay. Demons are souls that were once good but become twisted into evil. Witches are different.”

He asserted that the most dangerous individuals were the ones who committed acts of pain for their own amusement.

“No one governs or controls a space witch—she does as she pleases. She rips open space and molds time to her will, when she has enough motivation. The one Jensen attracted had not only enough power to give him what he wanted, but to ensure he got anything but what he wanted.” With a heave of his breath, the Judge buried his face in his hands. “How do I put this? She knows what you want the most and she will grant you the favor.” He wiped away at his eyes. “But that favor ends up being so twisted and warped you end up wishing you’d never accepted it.”

“Am I twisted and warped?” Jared asked, his voice wavering. “Am I too horrible to be understood?”

“No!” the Judge snapped then shook his head. “No, please, forgive me. I didn’t mean it that way. Yes, much of this world confuses and overwhelms us still. And yes, Jensen couldn’t understand who you were, who you are without a lot of time and forgiveness on your part. But mainly, he would have never wished for you to be whipped and beaten on a daily basis by your Master. He would have never agreed to any world where not only did you suffer—but one where he was the cause of much of that suffering. Do you understand?”

Nicky held Jared close to her. She kissed his forehead and asked, “Does she live off of the pain and suffering of others?”

The Judge’s shoulders slumped. “No. She lives off nothing. Her magic and power are innate. She is born with it and dies with it.”

“So what prevents her from destroying everything and anything she crosses?” Nicky inquired. “How could anyone interact with them knowing what would happen? Why couldn’t he leave things alone?”

“You don’t understand!” the Judge sighed again. He stood up from the swing. “You didn’t see Jensen right after. How much he wanted to take Jared’s place; how he ceased to function, how thoroughly he broke. He was desperate. She brutally killed him, brought him back, and promised him he would see Jared again. Wouldn’t you hold out for that? She even wrote out the coordinates for him so he wouldn’t have to look through all of time and space. But this world was beyond our reach, it still is, so she brewed something from a plant we have never heard of and instructed him to drink it on the journey.” The Judge’s shadow wavered again, this time more erratically. “She enjoys watching all who are not like her; we amuse her. Destroying us would be too easy. Twisting the details of the people we love, the people we die for, and watching us interact with them—to try to learn to love them all over again—that is more involved. That provided her with hours of entertainment. She doesn’t care if Jensen and Jared win or lose; we are but insects to her.”

His shadow was moving separate from him at this point. He looked at Jared. “She promised Jensen you two would be joined together again but she by no means said in what way. He was desperate enough to accept what may come. I could not… it is unnatural to bring people back from the dead, in any world, for any purpose. Though I was too late to stop him, I could not let him embark on this journey alone. So we split the brew and came here. As for Jeff… his family, well, your family has connections. The council opened the doors here for him as a means to bring us back as treasonous criminals.”

The Judge shook his head and smiled bitterly. “Not that he would, Jeff is a good man. He took much better to this world than either Jensen or I and in much less time. I would... never condone these actions again but I also do not regret them," he said firmly. "He made a deal. She granted it. We figured the rest out, with some help along the way.” Bristling, he turned to observe his shadow, eyes going wide at the sight of it.

“What? What is it?” Nicky asked, tightening her hold on Jared. “Misha?”

Hurriedly, the Judge ushered them inside and shut the door.

“It’s a warning.”

“For what?” Nicky whispered.

Their Master led them away from the door and windows; it would be a night where they would all sleep together.

Quietly he admitted, “I don’t know but it’s nothing good.”

 

There were only a few more things that Jared learned about this space witch, in hushed whispers before he fell asleep.

She was cruel and self-serving, with a fondness for intricate details and order. Her true form was immense, like a large white lobster without its shell, covered in pale blue, throbbing veins and with many skittering legs. The powers she possessed depended on no one and nothing, with the ability to bring people back from the dead, see the future, heal rifts in time, and bend time itself to her will, though she preferred to remain distant and impartial. There was at least one witch per planetary system and they preferred to stay alone, being very territorial creatures by nature. Though she had no gender or category like Master or breeder, she most often took female forms. The Judge knew this from brief study before they had left; he only knew what she looked like from the harried descriptions Jensen had provided.

“It’s best to think of happier things before falling asleep,” the Judge murmured, brushing his hand through Jared’s hair. “You know of all the things she can hear throughout the solar system? Through all her indifference to our problems, which she finds petty and beneath her, this she hears clearly.” Tonight was different; tonight Jared was in the middle. Nicky had already fallen asleep, her light breathing soothing amidst talk of what roamed space.

Jared shut his eyes and took in a deep breath. He curled into the Judge and purred as Nicky shifted to curl against his back.

“She can hear the sound of soul mates grieving.”

 

The next day, the Judge’s shadow would not stay in place. It morphed into unrecognizable shapes, refusing to remain still for longer than a few minutes at a time. Though he started about his day as usual, when it came time to hitch the horses to the carriage, they refused to go near him, neighing and shaking their heads in protest.

Jared had to step in and calm them down. Even Nelly, the gentlest of the three—the one who had so carefully backed up when Jared had gotten caught under the carriage while heavy with his litter—took time to settle.

“Perhaps I should stay here today,” the Judge murmured, frowning and shaking his head. “I don’t feel right about leaving you two alone.”

“We’ve been alright this entire time,” the older breeder said, handing the Judge his gloves. “You have that case today, remember? The one you prepped for extensively. Your absence would be telling.”

He grudgingly agreed, though he made sure to tell the breeders they were to stay inside at all times. “I’ll be back in a few hours, as soon as the case is done,” he assured them, able to finally mount Nelly with her blinders on. “Please follow my orders, both of you.”

“Yes sir,” each breeder answered.

Looking back twice, the Judge left.

 

The breeders tried to keep to their routine and stay occupied with their chores. Fresh bread was baked, though Jared nearly added too much flour, distracted by his unease. At midday they ate a light meal, and then set about to cleaning. The younger breeder managed to persuade Nicky to letting him check on the garden. She relented, but only for five minutes while she stood watch by the porch.

Pleased to see that his work had yielded strong flowers, Jared smiled as he knelt down. He was wearing his trousers, which continued to thrill him. Just some small upkeep and he would feel better.

“Jared,” Nicky snapped from her place. “I hear a carriage.”

At first, Jared thought it was the Judge returning from town. However, he remembered that the Judge had only taken Nelly, since she was the only horse that calmed down long enough. The carriage and wagon had been left behind. He stood up and heard the same turning of carriage wheels as she did; they were coming up the lane quickly, which spoke of anything but a leisurely visit.

Dropping his gloves and spade, he hurried towards the older breeder. They silently made their way towards the front entryway and peeked out, keeping down.

“It’s Master Joshua,” Nicky breathed. “That’s his carriage.”

As the carriage wound up towards the house the breeders debated on what to do. Should they pretend no one was home? Should they let him in and tell the truth that the Judge was not there?

Their debate was answered when they saw two breeders step out of the carriage.

“He said he sold them!” Jared gasped and pulled Nicky away from the side window beside the doorway.

They scrambled into the parlor next to the entryway, choosing to hide behind a lounge. “They’re not here for a visit,” Nicky blurted out, trembling. “Jared, they have knives with them.”

He nodded; he had noticed. Did they know the Judge was out? It didn’t matter. He could hear heavy boots stomping up to the door. He flinched at the sound of glass breaking and the door being forced open. Nicky tugged on Jared’s sleeve and motioned for them to move to another lounge, one that would not show their feet if they hid behind it.

Gingerly, they moved. The door was forced open.

Over the crunching of glass, Master Joshua shouted. “Come out now breeders, we know you’re here. Don’t make this any more difficult than it has to be.” He paused for a moment; Jared knew he was listening, he hoped their heart beats weren’t too loud. “Alright, if that is the way of it. My darlings, fetch.”

Jared knew that they wouldn’t hear the breeders’ footsteps on the tile, their slippers too soundless for that. The sitting room would be the closest area to look. They had mere seconds before they were discovered. Sweating and shivering, Jared tried to clear his mind long enough to think.

Out of the corner of his eye a shadow moved. He nearly screamed. He did not know what was worse.

But then he saw it move over his foot.

It covered his foot completely in darkness, so that it appeared as part of the shadow of the lounge. Another shadow appeared, this one greater in size, and covered his leg. They were moving slowly, so as not to overwhelm and frighten him.

They were creating a shield.

He clapped his hand over Nicky’s mouth and pulled her near him.

Just as Matthew looked behind the lounge, the last shadow slipped into place, masking both breeders completely.

“Whatever tricks you are using we will find you,” Master Joshua yelled, turning lounges over, destroying their home. “Come now, aren’t we friends? You misunderstand me,” he laughed as he stood in the center of the sitting room. “I don’t want to hurt either of you. You see, I’m being paid to bring you back alive.”

Though the shadows were pitch black, Jared and Nicky could still see out from them. It was his first plan to remain that way for as long as possible, until their attackers moved on to another part of the household. Of course that did not happen. Something caught Master Joshua’s attention. He stormed over to their hiding spot and held up a hot poker, burning bright orange.

His aim was directly above Nicky’s heart. Jared pushed her out of the way, sending her tumbling out of the shadows’ protection and Jared reeling in the opposite direction. He cried for Nicky to run while he dodged the poker and the Master’s boot. The shadows started moving around the room at a terrible, dizzying speed, catching the Master and his breeders off guard long enough for Nicky to pull Jared out of the sitting room.

Running, they made for the kitchen.

Before they could pick up anything to defend themselves with, Jared was grabbed from behind, his hair yanked and a punishing hand on his belly.

The poker was held at his neck.

Nicky was cornered by the two breeders, knives held at her throat and belly.

A disgusting pair of lips pressed to Jared’s ear. “Jared, don’t struggle,” Master Joshua grunted, pressing the poker firmer against the breeder’s throat. “Tell me who your Master is, the one who does not belong here or anywhere I or any Master has ever seen. Tell me what he could possibly see in you, a breeder not even worthy to be milked to death. Tell me or I will stick this poker,” he started to choke Jared, “directly into this cursed little belly of yours.”

Jared began to see black in the edges of his vision.

“Maybe,” Master Joshua snickered, his breath hot in Jared’s ear, “your pups will feel this.”

Two seconds after, Jared shut his eyes.

He focused.

And prayed.

It was the one maneuver he had learned from his time in the kennels. He’d seen a few brave breeders do it just before they were dragged away, pitched into uncertain blackness.

With the last of his fading breath, the back of his head slammed precisely into Master Joshua’s face, more specifically, right onto his nose. The spray of blood against Jared’s neck told him he was successful.

Breeders had excellent reflexes that many Masters underestimated. In one, two, three swift motions Jared perfectly  mimicked what those breeders in the kennels had done. His fist connected with Master Joshua’s stunned jaw, and his elbow dug into the tender meat of his cock.

It had taken several auctioneers to subdue those breeders in the kennels, and through painful, electric means, they had. Jared had watched limp, scorched bodies be dragged away into dark rooms. He reached for a pan and nearly shouted in elation when he managed to grab it without tripping. Before Master Joshua could regain his composure completely, Jared swung.

With a vile thud, the Master dropped to the floor.

Breathing hard, Jared looked at the two breeders standing in front of Nicky. He wielded the pan and held it up, hesitant to cause any harm to any breeder but willing in this case.

Taking one step forward, the breeders dropped their knives.

“You’re too late,” the first breeder spat at Jared. “Government officials will be here in less than five minutes.”

The punishment for any breeder—regardless of status, rank, or background—caught harming a Master was immediate death. They would kill him without question, without one second of pause.

“Shut up,” Nicky muttered and hit both breeders on the back of their heads with a cutting board from the countertop. “Spoiled, detestable breeders.” She stepped over their prone bodies and held a hand out to Jared. “Come, you did not kill him, he will wake up soon. We’ve got to go.”

“But where?” Jared asked, breathless, his throat raw from being squeezed. “What about…” he gasped in shock as his ankle was grabbed and he was heaved down. He landed on his arm, in a manner all too familiar. This time, however, bones did not shatter, though his wrist was sprained.

Twisting desperately, he convulsed and tried to toss the Master’s hand off his leg, being dragged and pulled closer towards him with every second that passed. For a brief moment Jared could see himself pinned under Master Joshua, forced still and motionless underneath his weight, his face pressed flat against the cold tile as he was beaten into final, brutal submission.

But this was not the bathroom and this was not old Master and Jared was not alone.

Screeching all her rage and fear and grief, Nicky bashed Master Joshua’s head in, slamming a heavy pan down until his skull caved in from the repeated blows of the frying pan. The loud crunch of bone echoed throughout the kitchen; her aim was perfect, her retribution complete. Blood and fragments of tissue splattered everywhere, until Jared came to his senses and gently touched her shoulder. Both of them were filthy but that did not stop the younger breeder from embracing her quickly. She held back a sob, hiccupping and tossing the pan away from her. It was over.

When they parted they sprinted, fast as they could, to their room and grabbed their packs. He remembered their first day here, how overwhelming everything had been.

As they raced down the breeder stairs he thought of what they were losing.

At the foot of the stairs he focused his thoughts to what they were gaining.

 

The shadows were gone.

The young breeder had had no chance to thank them. Nicky grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the gardens. Their only option was to go towards Lee in search of their Master. It was a lengthy walk but they could make it, if they managed to stay unseen.

Nearly out the backdoor that led to the porch, they heard two Masters shouting their names.

It was the Judge.

And Jensen.

 

A breeder could go their entire life having spent less than five minutes with their pups. Some breeders were fortunate and given the honor of keeping one or two pups. And some breeders were even more fortunate and treated kindly by their Masters, recognized for their unique contributions in the way of the world. Only a breeder could bear life.

Born under the moon, the First breeder was forever connected to it and passed on that quality to all its children. In that aspect, the First breeder lived on. They were never forgotten.

At the end, the moon was with Jared. It pulled at him, from deep inside his belly to the delicate vessels near his heart. Resilient and unyielding, the moon provided him with renewed vitality.

It gave him the strength to follow Jensen’s singular, desperate command.

“Run!” 

Chapter Text

His Master was wearing a government official’s uniform without the mask.

When the young breeder saw this, he wanted to demand an answer. There wasn’t any time for that.

There was hardly enough time for Jensen to grab the breeder’s hand and pull him forward as the household collapsed. It was like nothing Jared had ever seen or heard of before; as if some thunderstorm were taking place in the center of the household, destroying it completely from the roof down. In horror, he watched, wide-eyed and ears ringing.

Hundreds of uniformed government officials marched around and over the rubble, each of them wielding pronged sticks that sparked blue and white.  

Their footsteps were audible over the sound of their household crumbling.

Wave after wave of them appeared; it was impossible to tell how many there were.

Imposing and vicious, they advanced with one single purpose.

Capture and kill.

 

 

They flew.

As if each of them possessed tremendous, invisible wings they reached the woods.

 

 

At the tree line, hidden behind trees Jared had come to know as sturdy, familiar companions in his walks with Master Jeff, the breeders’ packs were taken from them and peculiar devices were placed on their hands.

Glove-like, each hand was covered in shiny, lightweight silver scales threaded together. On the palms of each contraption was a sapphire, glowing orb with a white center they were instructed not to touch under any circumstances. Each Master bore the weight of their breeder’s pack and quickly told them how to use their new accessories. Halfway through the lesson, an official broke the tree line twenty feet away.

Immediately, they were shot.

Jensen tucked away the concealed weapon he had used—one handed, with confident aim—and gripped onto Jared’s shoulders. Their eyes met.

“I told you I would come back,” Jensen said firmly, honesty in his eyes. Although the uniform he wore frightened the young breeder, Jared had no doubts about the sincerity of his Master’s tone or statement. He nodded in understanding.

It was time to move once more.

“Four are on the right,” Jensen shouted when they began to run. “On my command, Nicky and Jared, aim for those closest to you.”

The forest floor beneath them was rough and their slippers were unsuitable for it or the pace and length of their run. Still, neither breeder faltered. Above the cursed marching behind them and to their sides, above the ringing that lingered in their ears, and through the hammering of their hearts Jensen’s voice rang clear.

“Ready!” Jensen roared, lifting up his weapon, holding it out to his direct right.

“Aim!” Both breeders perfectly mirrored his stance.

“FIRE!”

To each breeder’s surprise, they hit their targets. Hot white orbs of pure, explosive energy were blasted from their palms, striking each official in the chest, sending them sprawling.

Barely one minute passed before Jensen was shouting commands once more. Officials were sweeping in from the sides, long poles stretched out, aimed directly at the breeders’ bellies. Feet pummeling the forest floor, Jared stretched out. He allowed his body to take up the space around him as he hadn’t ever dared do, his long legs lifting him up and over the shadowy roots of trees they passed.

Once more, his Master got their attention. “Ready!” Jensen bellowed, locking on his target and having the breeders do the same. “Aim!” Running at speeds they had never reached before, feet picking up swiftly, moving through the forest in desperate yet elegant movements, each breeder assumed position. “FIRE!”

Instead of shooting only once, the young breeder began shooting in succession. One, two, three targets were hit. Deep in the woods, Jared felt the moon overhead, through the thick greenery. It heaved him forward, lifting him as if he were grasping at and swinging from a vine. It guided him towards their destination, even though he didn’t know where it was. Constant and solid, the moon helped him plan ahead, aiding him in making rapid decisions about footing, pacing, and direction.

Glancing behind, Jared realized he was first.

He was leading their party.

For a second, Jensen grinned, their eyes meeting, and signaled to keep going.

They had to keep flying.

 

Rushing past branches, roots, leaves, and patches of sunlight, they tore through the woods.

Failure was not an option, even when an official mounted on a horse appeared nearby, on the left, closest to Nicky. Every few seconds Jared made sure she was there. Their Masters flanked them on either side, both breeders towards the front.

Jared’s left leg scraped against a sharp and brittle branch. He cried out when he felt a wound open and faltered, slowing down but not stopping.

There were worse things than that wound.

They would not rest until his belly was ripped open and his neck twisted.

They would keep him conscious through it all before the final snap.

With their shiny, spotless black gloves, they would reach out and smother him with the mess of his own blood and tissues. Like the juicy inside of a melon, they would scoop out his tender belly and feed it to him. They would be sure to drag him into agonizing darkness, followed by the bright light of terror reserved only for the worst, most despicable, disobedient, and treacherous breeders.

When they passed the grave of their child—doll’s resting place—Jared was grateful they would not run over it. Veering to the right, the changed their direction; as few boots as possible must pass over in their abominable sweep. They could kill him—they could beat, torture, and render him a bloody, raw mass of flesh and blood—but they would not desecrate his child’s piece of the world.

Jared prayed. He begged for forgiveness. He promised to never forget—to forever honor and love every life he had had the privilege of carrying regardless of the outcome. He had sung to every one of them; he had loved them all. No heart beat would ever be lost.

Muscles burning and chest heaving, he lost sight of it.

But he did notice two things at the site that caused him tears as he continued charging forward.

A child’s shoe and a dark red rose.

 

 

The Judge fell.

He reached out, towards their party, waving them away and shouting for them to keep going.

“Go!” he cried out, an official four bounds away from reaching him. “Don’t stop! GO!”

Turning, Jared saw the moment in the Judge’s eyes where he accepted what was happening, where he reached peace with his outcome.

And he saw the moment when Nicky disobeyed.

She held one hand out to blast the nearest official and the other to haul the Judge up by the front of his shirt, careful with her palm. They were awkward and stumbling but moving forward once again.

Jensen moved to the other side of the Judge and helped her carry him.

The official on the horse drew near.

Hundreds of pairs of boots drove forward, closing in.

“Just… a little more…” Jensen yelled out.

They were all pushed to their limits. Jared could feel his breathing waver, sweat poured down his hair and into his eyes, stinging and blurring his vision. Covered in blood and bruises and dirt and sweat, he felt the moon weaken. He felt a weight on his chest and emptiness in his belly.

When he shut his eyes for a split second he saw dark red, vibrant and searing.

His head hurt and he grabbed at it, hands on his forehead.

Reaching the edge of a vast field, passing over a blur of letters and shapes he could not read but were drawn in silver, a voice reverberated painfully in his head, garish and blaring.

In the field he fell.

Exhausted and stunned, he dropped roughly onto the grass.

The voice continued to speak; it would not be silenced. Disoriented and attempting to right himself, he fell over himself again and again, unable to regain his balance. He grabbed at his neck and let out a howl. He heard Nicky suffering nearby.

This booming, distorted voice announced where their chips were, where the exact locations could be and the depths of the chip inside every breeder. When it stopped—the connection severed—Jared threw his head back and gaped at the wide, open sky above him. The moon was gone.

He looked over, vision swimming, bracing himself for capture, for jolts of pain and slices into his belly.

In one perfect circle, the mass of officials slammed against an invisible wall.

Locked out.

They had reached safety.

Jared reached out for Nicky, who was on the ground nearby, thrashing in pain. They had to find their Masters.  

He froze when he saw that one official had made it through the wall, had somehow been able to pass over the protective, mysterious silver writing.

Looming and terrible on their horse, the official’s gloved hand reached towards Nicky. Jared screamed for Jensen, for the Judge, for anyone. Crying and dragging himself forward, the young breeder nearly reached her but it was too late.

The official dismounted.

They knelt down and raised their hand.

Something raw ripped through Jared’s heart and with the last of his strength, he drove himself forward to cover her body with his.

In those seconds he saw dark red flicker at the edge of his vision.

He hoped Jensen would not leave his body behind and he wished there would never be another deal.

This was good.

This was a good end. Better than he could have ever wished for. He could die making everyone proud.

The gloved hand tore off the official’s mask; Jared prepared himself for the ugly laughter of conquest.

Yes, he could die this way, shielding another body with his own once more.

 

 

Somewhere, the earth was being forced open and Jensen was shouting.

The mask was tossed aside and landed with a thud.

 

Behind it was Master Eli.

He grabbed for Jared’s neck.

Chapter Text

Cody had been caught.

He had volunteered to be Master Eli’s first experimental subject.

For years Master Eli had been testing various chips, attempting to override their functions and controls, especially the location tracker. Cody knew of this work; he was a brilliant assistant, with a mind for numbers and calculations. They waited for the absolute best time to flee.

Their plans changed when they purchased Nicky, and once again when she delivered a successful litter. Charlie had been the light in everyone’s eyes.

Two nights before everything became chaos, Cody discovered the winning code to send his chip and its controls into hibernation. The only permanent way to be rid of his controls was to rip it out physically. But there wasn’t enough time to experiment. There was not enough time to study how the removal of a chip would affect the breeder.

At midnight, two nights after, an immediate order was passed for all of Meridian.

Any breeder over the age of thirty was to be put to death.

Breeders outnumbered Masters in Meridian two to one. Fearful and threatened, the leaders of Meridian had decided that these breeders were acceptable candidates to exterminate. These breeders, it had been argued, were past breeding age and near the end of their lifespans anyway. Simple as that. Within hours the order was drafted, revised, and issued.

Nicky and Charlie knew nothing of this.

Master Eli’s wealth, connections, and community standing could not help. While he pledged his fidelity and faithfulness to his first breeder, breeders were being dragged out of their households. He saw one older breeder torn from the arms of his Master and killed instantly on the streets, body thrown onto a cart without care.

Rushing home, Master Eli found Cody preparing a carriage.

The first breeder announced his departure. His chip was off and if he hurried, he could go undetected long enough to reach the Northern borders. Determined, he challenged Master Eli: move out of his way or help.

Yes, the road was rough and slippery from the rain that evening. And yes, Master Eli had been distracted from driving the carriage. There had been a stowaway: Charlie.

Thinking that Cody meant to play, the toddler had hidden himself in the secret compartment within the carriage. When he revealed himself, squealing and laughing, Cody had screamed in horror. Cradling the child in his arms, he begged Master Eli to turn around. The roads out of Meridian were all heavily guarded, save for the one small sewer Cody had planned to leave from, but even that was perilous.

Master Eli did not listen.

He thought he could drop Cody off and return with Charlie.

Someone betrayed them.

Someone had been watching Master Eli since he purchased Nicky.

The carriage was left by the side of the road. Master Eli carried Charlie along, not wanting to leave him alone. Through the rain, mud, and thunder they walked two miles into the woods. A post of guards was waiting for Cody at the sewer.

They pierced his belly first.

Charlie broke free and ran towards his first breeder, whom he knew as a parent, shrieking and crying. Officials held Master Eli back. Somehow, Cody was able to dodge the guards. He picked up Charlie, pierced belly and all, and ran.

For one mile he clawed at his neck with his free hand.

He found his chip.

He took off Charlie’s shoe and slipped it inside before stumbling and falling to the ground.

Master Eli was told that it wasn’t his fault his breeder had tried to escape.

Master Eli was told that the dogs got them first.

But the smiles of those guards and the blood splattered masks of the officials with them told Master Eli a different story. There were no bodies because there weren’t enough pieces to bring back.

A few days later, distraught and grieving, he returned to the site with Nicky, so she could properly say goodbye to the child she had born. He told her it had been a carriage accident and commanded that she ask no questions. Sobbing and wailing at the still blood soaked tree, the second breeder placed her hand on something.

Covered in a thin layer of earth was Charlie’s shoe.

 

 

The complete removal of a breeder’s chip was more involved than simply taking it out. It meant separating a piece of technology from their every nerve. Under control for so long, it wasn’t known if a breeder could survive without a chip, if their bodies knew how to function with the chip completely gone.

Ripping out a chip before it was properly deactivated could kill a breeder from either shock or government control. There was nothing to go on that confirmed the lifespan or the survival rate of a breeder without a chip.

When Jared held his chip in the palm of his hand, he could hardly believe it.

“I would die to make you mine, bleed me dry almost every time,” Jensen murmured into his ear. “I don’t mind, I would come back a thousand times.” His hand hovered over the chip and Jared felt it disintegrate. He was bleeding, tired, and whole as he held out his hand.

Ashes in the wind and nothing more.

 

 

There were three methods of time travel; this one, through soil, was the safest and most accurate.

“The runes won’t hold much longer,” Jensen announced and looked towards Master Eli. “Come with us.”

One large tunnel had been dug as the breeders recovered from the announcement every breeder with a chip had received. Master Eli removed their chips with an object similar to the weapon Jensen had held before. It had hurt; it felt wrong and the world tilted to the side for a few moments but both breeders continued breathing. Finished bandaging their necks, Nicky pulled herself towards Master Eli. She begged him to leave with them. All around wind whipped and howled; officials were beating at the invisible wall, shouting though silenced by the silver.

Master Eli looked tired.

He kissed Nicky’s cheek and held her close, then walked her over to where the Judge was. “You are in good hands here. Better than I could ever provide.”

“That’s not true and you don’t have to stay,” she pleaded, tears streaming down her face. “What will you do?”

Gently, he led her into the tunnel. Behind the mouth of the opening was a larger extension, one that had been previously dug and covered up. The Judge and Nicky would go first. Master Jeff was waiting on the other side.

With a slight smile, Master Eli replied, “Close the gate after you, seal it off forever. Someone has to do it, isn’t that right Captain?”

Jensen nodded though his eyes were sad. “Not necessary but yes.”

“Well, just to make sure no one follows,” Master Eli added. He turned to Jared. “You’ll take care of her and yourself for me, little one?”

The younger breeder nodded, and then rushed forward to embrace the Master tightly. “Thank you,” Jared breathed. A scratchy kiss to his cheek was given before they pulled apart. He pet Jared on the head and stepped away. Jared dared to take one final look at the world he was leaving behind. He would not have noticed what he saw, had it not been for the sound of the transparent wall cracking. Looking towards it, he saw old Master, his features warped and bloodied. Jared gasped and flinched; Master Eli pressed him forward, their eyes meeting once more. Tears in his eyes, Master Eli nodded. He would once more face his traitor; though now, Master Eli had nothing left to lose.

At the edge, Jared wavered. The passageway was deeper than Jared had first seen. It was large enough for all of them to walk into but narrow and dim. As they traveled through time and space they would appear to all as ethereal shadows.

“I’m scared,” he whispered. Behind him, Master Eli was ready to close them in. He would pack the earth and defend the site until the wall fell.

Jensen reached out and took Jared’s hand.

He placed Jared in front of him and gave him instructions.

He was to run.

Under no circumstances was he to stop, even when darkness covered everything, even when he felt the universe stretching and pulsating, and even if he felt Jensen fall behind. When they hit solid ground, as Jensen vowed they would, he was to continue running.

 

 

“No one’s gonna fool around with us,” were the final words Jared heard before disappearing into obscurity.