Rebuilding Paradise
(The Changing AU)

by Lokemele

Disclaimer: Magnificent Seven characters are copyright MGM, Mirisch, and Trilogy Entertainment. The ATF AU, and the ATF versions of the seven, were created by Maria Mogavero. (Her webpage: http://www.angelfire.com/ms/atfau/index.html) Other original ATF AU characters were created by Winter and Derry. X-Files characters are copyright Chris Carter, 20th Century Fox, and Ten Thirteen Productions. The Changing AU and its original characters were created by Nicole. (Want to read it? Go to: http://www.parkers-place.net/roundXFslash/NicChangingPage.htm . I personally recommend it: I may leave out details of that universe [I'll try not to], but you can figure out what's going on from her.) Characters original to this story are mine. Please don't use them without giving me credit. Thanks to Mog and Nicole for letting me play in their universes. This is the sequel to The Changes That Come. It deals with attempting to rebuild a viable post-Change civilization, and how the guys and rest of the people under Josiah's protection adjust to the changes in their world and themselves. This story starts 1 month after the end of "Changes".


Part 1 Beginnings

Nathan awoke to the sound of Rain vomiting in the bathroom. Morning sickness again. At least the doctor isn't worried about it. She'd been ill nearly every morning of their three week marriage, and the guys teased him she was developing an allergy to him. He was thankful Josiah had thought to include the wastewater treatment plant in the things he was providing power to. He was fairly certain Dr. Stokes had warned him about the dangers inherent in the lack of proper sewage disposal. If people had to take a candle to the bathroom, at least they could flush the toilet. As if conjured by the thought, the sound of the toilet flushing heralded Rain's emergence from the bathroom. "I hate mornings." she moaned. "How much longer is this going to last?"

He got out of bed and pulled her into an embrace. "Remember what the doctor said? It usually goes away after the first three months." He kissed her on the temple, and whispered, "I can think of something that will take your mind off it." as his hands cupped her breasts. She giggled, her nausea forgotten, as her hands traveled across his body.

He picked her up and carried her to the bed, laying her gently down and joining her. Their hands and lips explored each other, touching, tasting, caressing, nibbling, sucking, and fondling. They masturbated each other, and enjoyed a round of 69 before he plunged into her sweet depths. He sped up and slowed down until neither one could stand another moment of it, and as she cried out his name and orgasmed, he pumped a few more times into her and filled her with his seed, shouting his own release. She sighed, "Umm, that's the best treatment for nausea I've ever had." as they cuddled in the afterglow.

In another part of the resort, Josiah was waking up alone in a second story room in one of the 25 villas that made up the bulk of the resort, a small condominium completing the accommodations. The villas were what had drawn Josiah to this spot; he'd wanted houses for his families. The thought brought tears to his eyes: the "family" he'd hoped to create had died in a resort outside of Denver. Though Ezra's physical wounds had healed, he hadn't spoken a word since he'd been brutally and repeatedly raped, and flinched away from Josiah's every attempt to comfort and reassure him. He'd finally given up last night when Ezra had left their bed and tried to sleep on the floor to get away from him.

Josiah hoped Momi would have better success. Ezra seemed to respond well to the young woman, as she was trying to teach him to sign while learning herself from a book she'd found somewhere. He often saw them, on a blanket in a shady spot, their heads together. Occasionally Ezra would touch her, and yesterday he got bold enough to kiss her cheek, an innocent peck, like a young boys'. Though he immediately shied away, it gave Josiah a measure of comfort, and hope. Perhaps Momi could give him the love he couldn't accept from the big man. He'd hoped to include the young woman in his family all along, as he'd longed to hold a child of Ezra's in his arms. He wanted them to have a large and loving family; to see the Southerner surrounded by children. If he couldn't have Ezra, he at least wanted him happy.

In the stables adjacent to the property, Nettie Wells was checking a pregnant mare with her niece and assistant, Casey. The veterinarian's skills had come in handy this past month, as they'd located sick and wounded local stock to add to the ones they'd brought with them. Chris, Vin, Buck, and JD had enclosed and modified a parking structure to accommodate the animals when it became obvious there wasn't room enough in the stables. After Josiah had cleared and shielded the island, what few locals who'd survived had come out of hiding, and they'd included a trained blacksmith. Josiah had looked so sad when he saw how few had survived, but he smiled when he heard about the smith. He told him his skills would be in great demand, and he'd have to start training others right away.

Since Josiah had told them it would be safe to go anywhere on the island, Chris and Vin had spent the time not needed to tend the stock looking for a place to set up a ranch. They'd checked several sites, and had finally selected one near the center of the island. The place already boasted a house and barn; it appeared to have been a dairy farm. Josiah had encouraged them to start ranching, as horses were the only form of transport beside magic and walking. He'd promised them any assistance he could provide to get them started.

Buck and JD were still debating whether to raise dairy cows or sheep. Nettie and Casey had explained the merits and drawbacks of both, but the two were still undecided. Milk or wool? Lamb or veal? The debate raged on. At least JD didn't have to choose between Buck and Casey. They both understood his love for the other, and while neither cared to make it a threesome, they were both willing to share. And JD shared Buck with several ladies, though there weren't any threesomes there, unless it was Buck with two ladies.

Miriam Stokes had set up a small clinic in the villa she shared with Nathan and Rain. They'd told her even with children there would be more than enough room in half the villa for their family. So she'd moved into the upper floor and devoted the lower one to her patients. She just hoped she could train enough nurses to help when the flood of maternity cases hit in another 8 months.

Ezra was catapulted from sleep by a nightmare. He was in that room, in that bed, and Clay was hurting him, tearing his guts and throat, and he couldn't stop him. He sat bolt upright in the bed, breathing heavily. Alone. Blessedly, thankfully alone. He loved Josiah dearly, and knew with absolute certainty the big man loved him with all his heart and soul. He just couldn't stand being touched, especially by a man, no matter how much love was behind it. The memories were too clear, and too painful. Josiah had never pressed him to make love, beyond a few kisses and a nibble or two. Ezra suspected it was because he knew the most shameful part of the ordeal: he'd come while being raped. Not as often or in sync with his attacker, but he'd experienced orgasm and ejaculation from the stimulation to his prostate.

Then there was Momi. She was so sweet, kind, and patient, and he didn't mind being close to her. He might even be able, eventually, to make love to her. Is that what he wanted? Is that what she wanted? She hadn't minded when he touched her, or even the one time he'd kissed her. He loved Josiah, but couldn't tolerate his touch. He could touch Momi, and wanted her to touch him, and while it wasn't what he felt for his love, he was coming to care a great deal for her. He needed to communicate, either by speech or by sign, to learn how she felt.

He threw off the sheet, rose, and walked naked to the bathroom. After relieving himself, he turned on the shower and stepped inside. He washed his hair and lathered his body, the motions of soaping turning, as they often did these days, to caresses. Soon he was fondling his balls with one hand and stroking his penis with the other. He wondered if Josiah ever masturbated in the shower, and an image of him jerking off while water sprayed across him sprang to mind. The idea made him so hot he came so hard his knees buckled, and he dropped to a kneeling position in the shower. He stood, rinsed off, and stepped out of the shower. The image came again, and he was instantly hard and stroking himself once more. It took a little longer to come, but it was just as intense.

Ezra considered a possibility: he still wanted Josiah. Could he touch him? He'd never initiated intimacy, being content to follow his lover's lead. Maybe if he controlled the action, they could make love. The idea gave him a pleasant tightness in his groin. He'd have to try it and see. He shaved, dressed and went to find breakfast.

Bern MacLeod heard him coming down the stairs, and poured a cup of coffee. While Josiah and Ezra shared the upper floor, the MacLeods lived in the lower. Josiah had suggested it, Ezra had seconded the motion, and the MacLeods had carried it unanimously. Her husband, who everybody called Choy Mac, had even set up his shop in one of the front rooms, though his only customer so far had been Ezra. Speaking of whom, he appeared in the kitchen as she finished the thought, and she handed him the coffee and told him to sit down while she made him breakfast. She didn't mind cooking for two more, but getting three meals a day into Ezra was a major challenge. The man ate like a bird; hadn't his mother ever told him to clean his plate? She buttered the toast and added it to the plate. Well, he wasn't going to get away with that at her table. He'd eat, or she'd know why.

Ezra sipped at his coffee and looked out on the day. A few clouds on the horizon whispered of rain later in the day, but for now the sun shown down. The front door opened and closed, and a familiar tread came down the hall to the kitchen. Josiah said good morning as he passed, on his way to the coffeepot. He was the only man Bern allowed near the stove, claiming most men didn't know squat about cooking. Bern passed him on the way, carrying Ezra's breakfast, which she set before him. "Make sure he eats that." she told Josiah with a glare, and exited the room, leaving the two men alone.

Josiah gave him a "Well?" look, but inside he ached to take his face in his hands and give a long good morning kiss. He'd tried it a few times, but Ezra had always turned away. He didn't even sit at the table; he leaned against the fridge. He feared getting even that close would cause his love to bolt. He tried not to stare as Ezra ate, and spoke of Chris and Vin's search for a good spot to start a ranch, and other tidbits of news. Ezra nodded as he ate, to show Josiah he was listening. The conversation faltered as the Southerner finished eating, and the other man ran out of things he could safely say. Seeing he was out of coffee, Josiah picked up the pot and offered him a refill. He slowly crossed the room, watching to see if Ezra got too uncomfortable, and poured coffee into the cup.

As he turned to go, a hand on his arm stopped him, and he looked down into a pair of wide, uncertain, jade green eyes. Josiah knelt down to Ezra's level, and set the coffeepot on the floor. He held perfectly still as the smaller man reached out with a tentative, trembling hand and touched his face. He dared not even breathe as Ezra leaned forward and gave him a quick, gentle kiss on the lips. The Southerner immediately pulled back, fearing Josiah might ask, or demand, more. Instead, the big man gave him a gentle smile, picked up the pot, and very slowly and carefully got up and returned it to the stove.

Ezra watched him go, and slowly relaxed. So far, so good. I can touch him, at least a little. It was a start. He got up, taking his dishes to the sink and rinsing them off before putting them in the dishwasher, remembering to check if the "Dirty" sign was out. He turned and walked to Josiah. #Would you - could we - sleep together tonight?# he thought at him.

Josiah looked down once more into those jade green depths, and saw the fear, uncertainty, determination, and -- was that hope? -- shining there. "I don't want to rush you." he demurred.

#You're not; I - might ask you to do some things you might find - difficult.#

"The only difficult thing you could ask me is to leave you." Josiah whispered. "Tonight, then?" he asked with another gentle smile.

#Tonight, yes.#

Josiah left then to speak to Judge Travis about some things, and Ezra went to find Momi, but both carried a little seed of hope in their hearts.

"I still think we ought to have sheep." JD argued.

"I'm telling ya, JD, cows are easier to work with," Buck replied, "and you don't need near as many. Look at all the stuff you can get from a cow: milk, cream, butter, cheese, yogurt -- and that's just from the milk! You get veal, calfskin, and other products as a side benefit!"

"Buck has a point there, JD." Casey said.

"I agree." joined in Josiah, coming into the barn where the discussion was taking place.

"There's a riding stables near Fredricksburg that should do nicely for a small dairy farm, and I can help you get the cows out there." Cows weren't the only thing he hoped to get out there: he also wanted them to take some chickens, 1 or 2 pigs, and some of the ladies to help out. "You'll also want a few horses, for transportation."

He had spoken to Judge Travis about putting out a basic legal code, and locating any sailboats and folks who knew how to sail. He'd also asked Mary Travis and the Potters to work with the locals to start planting crops and grain, or tending ones already in the ground. He wanted to establish some sort of order quickly, get trade and communications set up between islands, and be able to provide food for man and beast. He needed trade because he knew the island they were on couldn't provide all the things they would need or want. Coffee, for example. Cotton and flax for clothing. Herbs for medicine.

There was also the problem of the male/female ratio among the Changed. 9 men and 40 women: an over 4-to-1 ratio, and the Changed women didn't care for normal human males. They only wanted Changed males, and, of course, the sole Ascended in the area. He'd taken advantage of a few offers, while Ezra was recuperating, but knew he needed to come up with a long-term solution to the problem. He decided to invite all the guys to dinner this evening to discuss it.

Ezra and Momi were in the middle of a lesson when the rain hit. They were both soaked by the time they reached the nearest villa. They slipped in the door, Momi giggling and Ezra grinning, trying to wring the water out of their clothes.

"Come here, and get out of those wet things." Andrea Robbins called, pulling them into a back room.

Shirley Tatum appeared with towels. "Here, dry off."

"They'll need something warm to drink." Juanita Clemente added. "I'll go heat up some soup in the kitchen."

Before the pair could object, they were undressed, dried, and wrapped in towels. Andrea and Shirley had somehow ended up on either side of Ezra, and they started to get uncomfortably friendly. "You're very handsome." Andrea remarked, running her fingers through his hair.

"And very cold. Do you mind if we warm you up?" Shirley added, running her fingers up under the bottom of his towel nearly to his balls. Both women snuggled closer, trapping the Southerner between them.

Ezra panicked. #JOSIAH!!# he screamed mentally.

The big man was in the room instantly. He didn't need more than one look to realize what was wrong. "Let him go -- now." he said in a voice Ezra had only heard from Chris before.

"Oh, come on." Shirley whined. "We weren't going to hurt him."

"Yeah," put in Andrea, "most guys say they'd enjoy that sort of thing."

"We aren't asking for any kind of commitment." commented Juanita as she entered the room with mugs of hot soup. "Just a little consideration and assistance, if you know what I mean."

"Ladies, I'm aware of your desires," Josiah retorted, "but forcing the issue, particularly with the man I'm committed to love and protect, is a very unwise move. I'd just decided to invite all the Changed men to have dinner with me tonight, so I could explain the problem to them, and possibly work out a solution." He smiled and opened his arms. "If you're that badly in need, I'm available."

He got an immediate response, but not the one he expected. Ezra threw himself at the larger man, wrapping his arms around his waist and shaking his head no before burying it into his chest. Josiah carefully put his arms around his love, one hand stroking his hair while the other lay on his back. "I'm afraid I'll have to withdraw that offer; it seems I've been pre-empted."

"You and most of the other guys." snorted Shirley.

"If they aren't gay, they're married!" pointed out Andrea.

"As I said, I'm working on it." Josiah remarked, before disappearing with Ezra.

"Well I like that!" grumbled Juanita. "They didn't even stay for soup."

"You like it?" spoke up Momi for the first time. "I was hoping to get some time alone with the guy, and I don't mean Josiah!"

As Josiah and Ezra reappeared in the bedroom, the smaller man realized what the larger man was doing, and immediately stiffened. Josiah felt it, and released his love. "Are you all right?"

Ezra had both stepped away and turned away. #How can I be? I can't even defend myself!# He put his face in his hands and started to weep.

Josiah moved to stand in front of him. "Ezra, love, if you're going to cry, at least cry against me. I can't stand not being able to comfort you." The Southerner put his head on the big man's shoulder and let the tears come.

He continued to cling to Josiah after he'd cried himself out. Ezra looked a question at his love, and received a yes in reply. #Don't move unless I move you, and please don't touch me! I think I - we - can do this, if you're completely passive and let me do everything. That's the difficult part.# He started to unbutton Josiah's shirt, pulling it out of his trousers. He reached up and pushed the shirt off the big man's shoulders, letting it slide to the floor. Ezra licked his lips and paused to look at what had been revealed. Wide shoulders. A hairy chest, the hair tapering to a single line that disappeared under the waistband of the trousers. Ezra ran his fingers through the hair as his lips brushed Josiah's neck. His fingers caressed the big man's nipples as he kissed, nibbled, and licked his way across neck, jaw, and shoulders.

Josiah's hands clenched into fists as he struggled to remain still and passive as Ezra's lips and fingers left trails of fire across his skin. Don't move, and don't touch, he whispered to himself like a mantra. He relaxed and let his love pull his head down for a kiss, and opened his mouth when Ezra's tongue slipped across his lips. He let the smaller man control the kiss, and discovered something interesting: being passive like this was exciting him. Ezra pushed backwards, and his knees hit the bed and he sat down. His love bent down and removed his boots and socks, and raised him back up to unbuckle his belt and undo his fly. Ezra ran his hands under the waistband, pushing it out and down as he caressed Josiah's ass through his boxers. The big man moaned as his love pulled him closer and started licking and sucking his nipples. Ezra's hands came around to the front of Josiah's shorts as the trousers slid to the floor. He undid the fastenings, and the shorts joined the trousers. Josiah gasped as Ezra touched his scrotum and rigid penis. "Oh, baby, yes, please." he begged.

Ezra let go of him, and he feared he'd broken the mood, but the Southerner took his hands and drew him into the bathroom. The smaller man removed the towel that was all he was wearing and started the shower. He pulled Josiah into it, and guided the big man's hand to his penis. #Do you ever masturbate in the shower? I was imagining you this morning, doing that with the water spraying on you, and I came so hard I couldn't stand up. Do it for me now, please!# Ezra moved their hands, stroking Josiah's penis, and moved his hand away and across the big man's skin as he stroked himself. He ran fingers down the crack of Josiah's ass, toying with his asshole. The big man gasped and arched his back, wanting more. #What do you want?# The thought came clearly into Josiah's mind.

"Your fingers inside me." the big man gasped out. He arched his back once more, trying to get what he so desperately wanted. Josiah moaned as Ezra's fingers entered him, and he placed one hand on the wall as he stroked himself harder and faster in response to what his love was doing. He came with a shout, and felt Ezra spurting against his legs. He leaned against the wall, getting his breath back, and a moment later opened his eyes as Ezra turned off the shower.

#Stay there.# Ezra gestured to reinforce the thought and stepped out of the shower. Josiah watched hotly as Ezra dried himself, wishing to be those hands, that towel, but obediently stayed put. The Southerner took him by the hand and pulled him out of the shower, slowly toweling him dry. Ezra took his time, touching, kissing, caressing, fondling, licking, nibbling, and sucking as he made sure his love was thoroughly dry. He hung up the towel and pulled Josiah into the bedroom, stopping just short of the bed to give him a long, passionate kiss.

Ezra pulled him down to sit beside him on the bed, then gently pushed him again to lie down on his back. He pushed Josiah's arms away from his sides, straddled his waist and returned to slowly driving him insane with need. Josiah started to moan, then to beg, but never once tried to move or touch his love. Ezra's hands and lips had done their work, and his love was a raging torrent of carefully controlled passion. Beads of sweat stood out on his skin, and his penis was engorged and throbbing with the need for release. The Southerner carefully lubed himself, making sure his love was watching, and repeated the process with Josiah's erection. Josiah warned him not to hurt himself as he straddled the big man's hips before slowly impaling himself on that hot, hard cock.

Ezra stayed perfectly still for a moment, reveling in the feeling of Josiah inside him. Oh, God, that feels so good, like being whole! He moved his hips slightly, not up and down, but forward and back. Oh, yes, so good, so good, so good, he moaned in his mind as the penis inside him rubbed his prostate. He speeded up, reaching down to stroke himself. He rode and stroked faster and harder until he came, screaming in his mind and feeling Josiah shooting hot sperm into his clenching asshole. He fell forward a few moments later as Josiah slipped out of him, landing limply across his love's heaving chest and slipping to his side. Ezra spent the next several moments catching his breath.

"God, Josiah, that was so good. I love you so much."

It was Josiah's turn to stiffen in shock. "Ezra, you spoke!" He sat up in the bed and looked down at his love. "Say something else, please, so I don't think I imagined it!"

Ezra gave him a mischievous grin, dimples showing and green eyes twinkling.

"Something else, please." he deadpanned, but couldn't hold it at the look on Josiah's face. He burst into laughter, and his love joined him. Josiah moved to hug him, and stopped. Ezra saw the aborted move and said, "I think it's all right, my love." He held out his arms. "I want you to hold me."

Josiah gleefully and gently complied, but stopped before things got too far. He reminded Ezra he needed to invite the rest of the guys, plus the other Changed males, to dinner that evening. They exchanged a few more kisses, then showered together and parted until dinner.

Josiah made the rounds and managed to get everyone to agree to come to dinner. He told them to be at Dr. Stokes' by dark. There was some grousing, but by dark everyone was present. Josiah had made a pretty good meal, considering how little time he had, and now they were sitting around drinking rum punch and chatting when their host cleared his throat.

"Gentlemen, a problem has come up which I hadn't foreseen. It seems the women are getting a little restless --"

"A whole lot 'restless', Josiah, meaning horny as hell and not gonna take 'no' for an answer!" interrupted Buck. "I've been trying to help, but some of them seem set on some of you others!"

"It isn't just horniness: they all seem to want to start families, right NOW, and appear to have specific mates in mind." Dr. Stokes clarified. "I'm feeling it myself." She looked over at Vin, who immediately tried to hide behind Chris.

"I'm a married man." Choy Mac stated. "My wife's not going to like this."

JD agreed. "Casey's all right with me and Buck, but I don't think she'd like me being with other women."

"There are plenty of guys around for these ladies to be with. What about them?" asked Nathan.

"They just don't appeal to us. It's like they lack something." answered Stokes. "Look, they - we - aren't looking for a long-term commitment; just someone to father a child, or maybe more than one."

Jake Nelson spoke up for the first time. "I'm like Buck; I've been doing my part. But the ladies I'm with keep asking me to help their friends get set up with one or another of the rest of you." The attorney had tried to keep a low profile since his unsuccessful defense of Aaron Clay.

"Shouldn't there be some sort of lead stallion or alpha male effect? Why can't you take care of the problem yourself, Josiah?" Chris asked.

"I resent your attempting to place the onus entirely on my fiancÚ!" Ezra bristled.

"It wouldn't work anyway." pointed out Stokes. "At least half of them would reject him."

"And there's another factor to consider." added Josiah. "I'm sterile. It's a side affect of the Change." No need to tell them the sterility stemmed from Nature balancing the scales; in return for virtual immortality, his ability to procreate had been sacrificed.

"So that leaves - what? Each of us standing stud for 4 or 5 women? I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that." Vin remarked.

"My wife won't be comfortable with that!" complained Choy Mac.

"Or mine." agreed Nathan.

"I'm beginning to see why you were so insistent about the wording for the laws regarding marriage. " Judge Travis told his host. "There are no bars to gender or numbers; the only rules are that all parties be adult, consenting, and able to provide support for any children in the household."

"It's not just for the Changed; life just became very uncertain, and the more adults protecting a group of children, the better." Josiah stated. "Did you notice among the survivors the ratio of males to females is nearly 3 to 1? If I didn't legalize polyandry I'd have some very unhappy, and eventually very violent, men. The old joke about sex being a misdemeanor is literal fact. One that also applies to our women."

"An interesting experiment: polygamy as a survival strategy. It might work." Dr. Stokes observed. "Your wives might not object to having one or two junior wives to order about." she told Choy Mac and Nathan.

"And women could marry each other. Or you could have a mixed group." Josiah said.

"I'm going to have to keep careful track of parentage, to avoid inbreeding." Stokes noted.

The guys caved in and agreed to make themselves more available to those women who wanted them, and the evening broke up with Buck and Jake forming the centers of clusters of guys wanting to know which women they should accommodate. Josiah stood off to one side with Judge Travis, but soon felt a hand slip into his own. Ezra looked up at him with sad jade eyes.

He bent down and gave him a gentle kiss. "Don't be sad, love. I'll help you and Momi raise your children, and any others you father through the years. I want you to have a big family, with lots and lots of love. You know, while we have the judge here, we could set the date for our own wedding." He smiled at the thought.

"How about 1 week from tomorrow?" Ezra suggested, and Travis said he was free that day. JD overheard, and promptly shouted the news to everyone, who circled around to congratulate the grooms, and wish them luck.

"Wonder what we're gonna do for a bachelor party?" Buck commented.

~~~

Chris

Chris woke the next morning the same way he had every morning for the past month: snuggled in the arms of Vin. They kissed good morning, relieved themselves, and showered together, using the opportunity to explore each other. They took turns brushing their teeth and shaving, then returned to bed to relieve another pressing need. They made love in an almost desperate fashion, as if to reassure themselves of each others' love. It was good; it was hot; but it was also quick. A quick rinse off in the shower and they dressed for the day.

Chris broke the ice as they were having breakfast in the kitchen of their condo. "I'm not real happy about this. Losing Sarah and Adam nearly killed me: I'm not sure I could take losing another child, even if I weren't married to its mother."

"I don't think Josiah is going to let anything happen to any of our children. You heard what he said last night: he's sterile, so our children will be as close as he gets to having his own." Vin pointed out. "I'll admit, he'll probably favor Ezra's over everyone else's, but he'll watch over ours as well." He paused, and added, "It's all right. I'm not going to love you any less if you're with someone else. You know, marrying some of them might not be a bad idea. We're going to need some help with the ranch, and some of them have already offered that."

"Slow down, cowboy! I'm not ready to get married just yet, except maybe to you." he answered. "We'll let them help with the ranch, and see what happens from there." He finished his coffee, kissed his lover, and the two of them walked over to the barn to help feed and water the stock. A fair number of the women were there helping out as well, and Chris ended up, as he'd intended, near a pair of the ones Buck and Jake had mentioned last night. Not entirely coincidentally, as they'd been working to the same purpose. He looked at the pair, and attempted a smile, which looked more like a death's head grin.

"Do either of you ladies ride? We've been trying to make sure the horses all get some exercise. Would you care to go riding, since all the stock's been fed?" The two women, Paula and Kathy, both said they could ride, and asked if they could fetch the lunch they'd packed and some blankets. He nodded, and half an hour later, they started off, headed for Cramer Park and Point Udall on the easternmost part of the island.

They found a picnic area near the beach, and a grassy spot for the horses nearby. Chris hobbled them while Kathy helped and Paula set up their lunch. After lunch Chris suggested a swim, but the ladies said it was too soon after they'd eaten. "Still, it's a hot day, and there's only us here." Kathy observed, starting to remove her clothes. Paula joined her, while Chris sat, uncertain. I don't think I can do this, he thought. The two naked women sat near him, one on either side, and started undressing him. He stiffened, but didn't stop them.

"Relax, will you? We're not going to hurt you." Paula murmured, kissing his ear. She was now behind him, running her fingers over his back and kissing, nibbling, and licking her way across his shoulders. Kathy was in front, doing much the same, except her lips were slowly working their way down his chest and belly to his groin. As Kathy's lips reached their destination, Paula's fingers came around to play with Chris' nipples, and he started thinking this wasn't going to be all that bad. He decided to return the favor, and reached down for one breast and behind him for another. They laid him down and Kathy straddled his hips, slipping him into her hot, wet pussy as Paula sat on his face, facing Kathy. Now he could fondle both women, and they could caress each other. Their moans mingled as they moved closer and closer to orgasm.

Kathy came first, being stimulated both vaginally and clitorally, quickly followed by Chris, whose stifled screams drove Paula over the edge. The three of them rested for a little while, kissing and cuddling, until afterplay turned to foreplay. Chris took Paula from behind while she ate Kathy, and they spent the rest of day finding new combinations. It was a sore and satisfied trio who rode into the resort a few hours after dark.

~~~

Vin

Vin watched as Chris rode out with a blonde and a redhead. He turned and saddled up a mount of his own, intending to ride out to the ranch. He paused as he heard someone call his name. Oh, no, he thought as he saw who it was. Well, here goes.

Miriam Stokes was dressed for riding, as was Juanita Clemente. Vin knew the two ladies were interested in him. "May we ride with you? We heard the horses need exercise." said Miriam.

"I packed enough lunch for at least three." added Juanita.

Vin conceded, and they were soon on their way. They rode south, toward the center of the island. The trio reached their destination just before lunch. Vin showed them around the barn, and they ate in the kitchen. After lunch Miriam asked how many bedrooms there were, and if they could see them. Vin blushed to the roots of his hair and stammered out they hadn't really gotten around to counting except to make sure there weren't any dead bodies in any of them.

They went down the hall to look at the rooms. Most were small, but the master bedroom was fairly spacious, with an absolutely huge bed. Miriam and Nita decided to see if it was big enough for three, and pulled Vin along, undressing as they went. They fell into bed together, and pulled each others boots off. Then the trio lay down side by side. "It is big enough for all three of us." giggled Nita. She turned on her side to look at Vin in the middle and Miriam on his other side. She reached out a tentative hand and stroked the marksman's chest, noting the light dusting of hair. Miriam caressed his arm, her fingers trailing down to touch his thigh. She brought his hand up to kiss his palm and fingers, turning her head to kiss his lips and placing his hand on her breast. The ladies relaxed Vin by touching, kissing, caressing, fondling, licking, nibbling, and sucking any part of him they could reach, and he gave as good as he got.

He spread the doctor's thighs and slid into her tight, hot channel, thrusting like a wild thing as she howled for him to go faster. Nita rode him to a screaming climax. Those ladies showed him things he'd never imagined, and he came again and again in them. If they don't get pregnant from all this, I'M sterile! he thought as he came for the umpteenth time. He begged off, pleading fatigue, and they let him nap for an hour.

When he woke up, they pulled him into the shower and showed him a few more things.

"What did you ladies do the past few nights," he moaned, "memorize the Kama Sutra?"

"And the Perfumed Garden." Nita giggled.

"Seriously, we wanted to make sure you enjoyed yourself." Miriam added.

"I've 'enjoyed myself' to exhaustion. If you ladies don't get pregnant from all this, I don't know what more I can do." Vin commented. He looked out the window. "We'd better be heading back. It'll be well after dark when we get to the resort as it is."

"We could stay the night here." pointed out Miriam.

"There's enough food, between our leftovers and what's in the cupboards." Nita said.

"We need to get the horses back." Vin stated, reaching for his clothes.

"The horses are fine in the barn, and wouldn't it be dangerous to ride them in the dark?" remarked Miriam, pulling the clothes away.

They compromised, letting Vin dress long enough to check the horses while they fixed dinner. They ate and returned to the bedroom, where the ladies undressed Vin while covering him with kisses, and led him back to bed. He'd just plunged into Nita's warm wetness when he felt fingers between his asscheeks, rubbing something warm, wet, and slippery across his anus. Miriam slipped her fingers into him, knowing precisely where to rub from Anatomy classes. "You like that?" she whispered. "You want more?"

"Oh, God, yes, please!" he begged, pushing his ass against her fingers. She pulled them out, much to Vin's distress, but replaced them with something much larger: the 10" strap-on dildo she'd pulled out and strapped on while he'd been busy with Nita. Vin shouted as he felt the huge, ribbed object slide across his prostate. He hadn't felt like this since that one night with Chris and Josiah, when he'd been simultaneous filled and filling. He thrashed back and forth, wanting the pleasure from both, and howling incoherently as he neared release. He shuddered and spasmed repeatedly, screaming as he came. He hadn't noticed both Nita and Miriam had orgasmed at the same time from his wild thrashing.

The next thing he remembered was Miriam asking if he liked her toy, and did he mind if Nita wore it this time while he was inside her? He nodded, eager to be filled and filling, and was hard almost instantly. He spent the next several hours with Miriam's toy up his ass, as it rubbed and pleasured him to many more orgasms. He wondered if he could borrow it for his time with the other two ladies he had to be with. Maybe he should borrow Miriam, too; he knew she wouldn't mind.

~~~

JD

JD woke in Casey Well's arms. He pulled her to him and kissed her good morning, which woke her. He started to fondle her breasts, but she stopped him. "I have to help Aunt Nettie with the stock, and so do you." They settled for a quick kiss and a shower together, and Casey fixed breakfast while JD shaved. They ate quickly and headed for the stables.

They'd been up most of the night discussing the problem with the women and JD's part in the solution. Casey was surprisingly sympathetic to their plight, but wasn't happy about what JD had to do to alleviate it. "Look, Casey, I love you." JD had told her. "What I do with those women is just sex; they want to have babies, and some of them want to have mine. They don't want a commitment, like I have with you." Any that do are just gonna be disappointed, he added mentally. Between Buck and Casey, he had enough commitments, and he was looking forward to raising a family with those two and whatever ladies (he was certain the plural was correct) Buck decided to marry. That seemed to mollify the young woman, and JD decided to add a little insurance. "Casey, will you marry me?"

"What?" came the reply. JD hadn't expected that.

"Will you marry me? Ezra and Josiah are getting married, Nathan and Rain are already married, so why don't we tie the knot? You know how much I love you."

"Well . . . yes. I love you, and I want us to be together." They sealed their engagement with a long, passionate kiss, and a bout of sweet, hot lovemaking.

Now he faced the task at hand, and the two ladies who'd been working their way closer to him as he helped with the stock. Lisa and Maggie were on either side as he finished his last few tasks, and they invited him back to their condo for some refreshments. He took a last look around. Chris had already ridden off to the east with a pair of ladies, and now Vin was leaving with a pair of his own. He supposed he might as well get this over with now, too. He followed them to their home.

Lisa opened a bottle of wine after they arrived, and they shared it before going into the bedroom and undressing. Lisa and Maggie took their time arousing JD before he slid into their hot, wet vaginas, first Lisa and then Maggie. Missionary, woman on top, doggie style, every position JD'd ever heard of and a few he hadn't. There wasn't much conversation beyond "Yes, there!", "Oh, please!", and assorted moans, panting, grunts, and an occasional shriek, shout, or scream. By lunchtime, he was pleading for a break, so they stopped to eat and take a short nap.

After they woke, Lisa and Maggie showed JD why they'd moved into this particular unit: the extra large tub in the bathroom with the installed Jacuzzi. They filled the tub and spent the afternoon in watersports. JD'd never spent that long in a tub in his entire life, or enjoyed it so much, even if he did fear he would drown on three separate occasions. The trio was thoroughly wrinkled by the time they reluctantly left the tub and took a long time drying each other off, which led to another session in bed.

It was nearly dark by the time JD returned to his rooms. He was almost too exhausted to eat, but decided to make something for dinner anyway before falling into bed to sleep.

He stepped into the kitchen --

and found a candlelit dinner awaiting him. A candlelit dinner for two, and Buck, grinning from ear to ear. "I had Inez fix us up something, since I figured you'd be too tired to move, let alone cook." He pulled out JD's chair, and fixed him a plate. After eating, Buck led him into the shower and helped him bathe, and then to bed. JD was asleep almost before his head hit the pillow, but remembered to tell Buck he'd gotten engaged to Casey the night before. He ended the day as he began it: in the arms of someone he loved.

~~~

Buck

Buck watched as Chris rode off in one direction, Vin went in another a short while later, and JD was led off to the condominium. Three down, and two to go. I hope everything goes well for all of them. He turned towards the diner/cantina Inez had set up, with the notion of having her make a good dinner for JD and him, as he knew the younger man would be too tired to cook and he'd need a big meal after the day he'd put in. Buck knew about the tub, having been in it, and he hoped they didn't drown JD in all the fun.

He asked Inez about cooking something and she told him to stop by in the afternoon and pick it up. He turned to go and ran into Sheila and Becky just coming in, so he sat and had coffee with them.

"I suppose we should enjoy this while can; there's no more where this came from." Sheila sighed.

"You're forgetting Josiah claimed Columbia among his lands. All he needs now is to find a way to transport goods from place to place, and he's been working on that for the past two weeks." Buck replied.

"Getting to Columbia isn't going to do any good if there isn't anyone there to harvest the beans." Becky pointed out.

"There'll be people there; that's what Josiah spent the first two weeks here doing. He stretched his shield across all the lands he claimed, and most of the monsters cleared out on their own. As soon as he gets transport, we'll be going around and taking out the ones that won't leave." the scoundrel added.

"We heard you and JD are planning a dairy farm. How are you going run it if you're off fighting monsters?" Sheila asked.

Well, Casey Wells'll be there, and we'd planned on hiring some help." Buck commented.

Becky slid closer to Buck. "Why hire help when you can marry it?"

Sheila slipped closer from the other side. "Why indeed?"

Buck started getting distinctly uncomfortable. "Now, ladies," he temporized, "how could I ever choose between such lovely things as yourselves?"

"Oh, but you don't have to, now. We read the marriage laws, and there's nothing in them to keep you from marrying all three of us." Becky purred, running her fingers up his inseam under the table.

"Three?" the ladies' man squeaked, whether from the surprise or the fingers was hard to tell. "Let's not rush into this, now. I need some time to think. Who's this third person you're proposing for me to wed?"

"Jenny;" supplied Sheila, "she's home cooking lunch for us. Why don't you join us and we can discuss this further?" And after lunch the three of us can use some special persuasion to get your approval.

Buck considered their offer, and not just the one for lunch. We do need help with the farm, and Casey'd probably enjoy some female company. "I'd be honored to join you for lunch." And I'm looking forward to how they're going to convince me to marry them! Hell, if they do a good enough job, I might just agree to do it right away instead of having them live at the farm for a few months.

They went to where the three ladies were living, and after an excellent lunch flavored with lively discussion, two of the ladies volunteered to do the dishes while Buck and Jenny occupied themselves. They went into the living room, and Buck asked, "Why are stopping here?", so the pair moved on into the bedroom. He slowly undressed her, kissing and caressing her, and she did the same for him. He carried her to the bed and gently laid her down. After asking her favorite position, they got into it and he entered her, and they moved together in that rhythm as old as time itself. They were later joined by the others, and Buck spent a pleasant afternoon loving and being loved. He brought his hostesses to orgasm time and time again, and the ladies didn't stint in returning the favor.

Late in the afternoon, Buck told them he had to leave to get JD's dinner and set it up. They all sighed, and asked him if he'd made a decision. "I've decided, " he said, " we should all move into the farm together, pending JD and Casey's approval, and see how it works out. How does that sound to you?"

They agreed that sounded like a good idea, and asked him to let them know if JD and Casey agreed. He left, stopping at Inez's for the dinner she'd cooked. He'd just gotten everything set up when JD came through the door. Buck lit the candles as his lover crossed the living room, and was grinning from ear to ear when he saw JD's startled expression. They ate, and Buck helped JD get ready for bed and tucked him in, hearing about JD's engagement just before the younger man dropped off. He wondered what he'd say when Buck told him about his trio.

~~~

Nathan

Nathan was holding down the clinic for Dr. Stokes while she was on some personal business. He'd tended to a few minor injuries in the early morning when an interesting pair came into the clinic. Niara Stevens was the daughter of a Peace Corps volunteer turned lobbyist and the Nigerian villager he'd fallen in love with and brought back to the States: 6' tall, 150lbs, the color of dark chocolate with the darkest eyes he'd ever seen. Her partner, Frances "Fancy" Harris, was 5' 2" and barely more than 100lbs, a mocha-colored child of a Vietnamese mother and a black father and a veteran of the DC police force. "Something I can do for you ladies?" he asked.

"That depends," said Fancy, "On whether or not you can leave this clinic."

"I can't leave until Dr. Stokes gets back, and I don't know when that will be. She said she had some personal business to take care of, and didn't say when she'd be back." Nathan replied.

"Take them upstairs and give them what they want." Rain told him, entering the clinic. "I can keep an eye on things. If I need help, I can get you, or yell for Josiah to fetch the doctor back here."

Nathan crossed the space separating them, took her head in his hands and kissed her. "You're sure you're OK with this?"

She returned his kiss, and wrapped her arms around him. "Let's just say I admire their taste in men." He hugged her back, and kissed her once more.

Slipping from his wife's embrace, Nathan turned to the other two women. "If you'll follow me . . . " he said, gesturing out the door. They complied, and he took them to an empty room on the second floor.

The three entered the room, unsure of how to proceed. Niara and Fancy had never been attracted to men, though Fancy had dated to keep rumor from ruining her career. Nathan was too worried about Rain to start anything. They undressed and sat on the bed. Niara decided to try what Nathan had done downstairs, and took his head in her hands and kissed him. He reached out and started fondling her breasts, noting their substantial size. Fancy didn't want to be left out, so she starting caressing Nathan's chest, paying special attention to his nipples. They spent some time exploring each other before Nathan entered Niara, moving gently at first, but then speeding up as passion took him. Fancy continued to fondle and caress them both the whole time, and Niara's hand found her clit and stroked her to orgasm as she climaxed around Nathan's penis, driving him to release. He pumped his sperm into her, hoping she would become pregnant.

When he finished, he rolled off her, but she turned to him and gave him a gentle kiss. Fancy added her own kiss, and started to gently stroke his skin after his breathing slowed. The strokes turned to caresses, and Niara and Nathan started moving their hands over her as she brought him back to hardness. Fondling led to kisses and nibbles, and Fancy straddled Nathan's hips, impaling herself and riding his engorged shaft while both people stroked and fondled her. He felt her muscles clenching as she cried out and climaxed, and he shouted as his seed shot into her.

He rolled them both quickly to their sides, knowing it wasn't really necessary but still wanting to give her every chance at getting pregnant. He hoped what Josiah had said about the Changed's increased fertility was correct. "Anything more you ladies need?"

"A shower, maybe. But you go first, since we know you want to go back to the clinic." Niara told him. He padded into the bathroom, and after the water started, she turned to her partner. "You know, he wouldn't make a bad husband: attentive without being demanding. If anything happened to one of us, he'd take care of our kids."

"We'll have to have a long talk with Rain, to explain to her we wouldn't pose a threat to her and Nathan's relationship, and the benefits of having more than two people to watch the kids." Fancy commented. "So, how does 'junior wife' sound to you?"

"Not bad. Not bad at all." Niara remarked as they heard the water in the bathroom stop.

~~~

Ezra

He jogged down the beach, as he did daily since they'd arrived. The sun had burnished the ivory skin to gold, as he wore nothing but shorts, socks and running shoes. He ran three miles down the beach to a small cove he'd found the first week he was there. Walking to cool down after his run, he explored the tidal pools and marveled at the quiet solitude. He'd needed this place as a balm for his troubled soul after what he'd suffered at Clay's hands. He skipped stones across the water, watching them hop two and three times before sinking.

Feeling rested enough, he doffed his clothing and waded into the water for a swim, as he did several times each week, alternating swimming with workouts in the gym. Last week he'd acquired a swim buddy, and he was glad to see him (he assumed it was male) already frolicking in the water. At first he'd worried about the dolphin being so close to shore, as he feared it was trying to beach itself, but he stayed safely away from the beach and shallow water. They swam together, the dolphin staying near but far enough away to keep from impeding the human. Ezra tired and left the water for a rest, laying across a conveniently placed flat rock to dry off and soak up some sun. He dozed for a short while before turning over, as he didn't want to burn. He felt perfectly safe and content here, as Josiah had hoped when he'd fixed up the place just for him.

He sat up as he heard someone call his name, feeling annoyed that someone else had found "his" place. Momi was on the shore, undressing as she prepared to enter the water. She stood for a moment on the beach, and he felt himself harden at the sight of her. The sun had giver her dark brown hair -- a legacy from her Hawaiian ancestors -- reddish highlights, and painted her body a rich golden tan, her nipples a perfect chocolate contrast. She waded, then dove into the water, headed for the rock Ezra sat upon. He pulled her from the water and into a passionate embrace, wanting inside her but willing to wait until she was ready.

He covered her with kisses, tasting her mouth and breasts as he gently lowered her to the rock, kissing his way down to her clitoris and devouring her with lips and tongue. She moaned and bucked her hips as her fingers tangled in his hair, urging him on. He slipped two fingers inside her, and felt her clamp around them as she cried out her orgasm. Ezra climbed up her and positioned himself to enter her, needing to be inside her so badly it was almost painful. He pressed against the opening of her vagina, and she arched up and captured him. He gasped and moaned at how hot and tight she was, and worked his way deeper into her, moving faster and harder as she matched him stroke for stroke. She came again with a howl, clenching him so tight he couldn't move, and he answered with a shout, shooting hot, thick semen into her in quick, intense bursts.

Ezra balanced himself on his elbows and kissed her deeply, not wanting to pull out of her and wishing he could recover quicker so he could make love to her again. "I love you." he whispered, realizing he loved her as much as he loved Josiah. Momi smiled up at him and pulled him down for another kiss, her lips and tongue telling him she loved him in a way that didn't involve words. He felt himself starting to harden in response, and started to kiss and fondle her again.

Sprays of cold water dampened his ardor as he discovered the two were no longer alone. Andrea and Shirley had joined them on the rock. As he sat up, kneeling between Momi's legs, Andrea took his head in her hands and claimed his lips in a savage kiss that left no doubt about her intentions. She wanted him, now, and she wasn't taking "no" for an answer. Neither was Shirley, who pulled Momi away, saying, "You got yours, now it's our turn." She reached between Ezra's legs for his penis, trying to stroke it to hardness.

Ezra moaned, not in passion but in terror. He pushed against Andrea, trying to free his lips long enough to beg them to stop. Her response was to move his hand to her breast, moving to position herself against him and pulling him down on her body as she laid down on the rock. He managed to catch himself on his elbows, scraping them bloody on the rock's surface. Shirley's hand was replaced by Andrea's as the woman attempted to guide him into her, but he was too soft to do anything with beyond rubbing against her opening and clitoris. She finally released his lips to hiss in his ear, "What the hell's wrong with you? You were hard enough for her!"

He sucked a shuddering breath. "Please, stop." he moaned. "Give me a little time - you're moving too fast."

"Everybody else is getting theirs; we want ours!" Shirley retorted. "Maybe you need a little help -- like this!" She shoved three fingers into his ass with no warning whatsoever.

He cried out as he was violated, and started to sob "Oh, God!" over and over as the fingers were repeatedly shoved into and pulled out of him. Ezra was far too distraught to respond to even the stimulation he was receiving from Shirley, no matter how fast or deep she went. He was terrified she would start using her fist out of sheer frustration, and that fear kept him soft and both women stymied. Momi had tried to pull Shirley away, and had received a well-aimed right cross from Andrea for her efforts. Her head had hit the rock hard, and she hadn't moved since. Unable to help either her or himself, and unwilling to call Josiah for aid, he closed his eyes and tried to hold on until they gave up and left.

It seemed to take forever, but it probably wasn't more than an hour before that happened. Hurling curses, epithets, and blows at him, they let him know just how useless he was before diving in the water and swimming back to shore. He lay there in pain, both physical and mental, for some time before sliding into the water and starting to swim: not toward the beach, but out to sea. It didn't take long for Ezra to wear himself out and sink below the surface.

~~~

Josiah

Josiah saw Ezra start off on his morning jog and Momi follow soon after, and smiled to himself. Be gentle, Momi, he thought, and remember what he's been through. He thought the cove would be a good spot for lovers; he'd fixed it up with that idea in mind, though he imagined himself there with Ezra. He'd even called the dolphin, after Ezra had started swimming: he didn't want his love drowning, and the dolphin was happy to have a companion since his pod had been wiped out by some of the many sea monsters the Change had brought.

The thought brought a grimace to the big man's face; it was those very same sea monsters that had kept what few remaining sailors the island boasted in port. Even the 70 miles to Puerto Rico was deemed too dangerous to risk, or the 40 to St. Thomas. He started off to the docks to once more try to persuade the reluctant seamen to attempt the trip, now he'd cleared the area between the three islands. He'd assured them he would personally ride on any boat that would make the trip, and had high hopes of getting one salty old Cruzan to risk self and crew.

Andre Vorhees was midnight black despite his name, taken from his ancestors' Dutch masters. His crew was a mixture of English- and Spanish-speakers, and the captain could speak (and swear) fluently in both languages. His sloop, the Queen of Hearts, had been primarily used as a charter tour boat for vacationers wanting to get a little taste of actual sailing. It had, prior to the Change, made day trips out to Buck's Island. Josiah smiled at the ladies' man's reaction to discovering there was whole island with his name on it, until he found out how small it was, and there were no permanent inhabitants.

He spent the whole morning debating the issue with Captain Vorhees and his crew, drinking the strong, bitter brew the locals drowned in milk and called coffee. It was just before lunch when he started feeling uncomfortable, but he put it down to Ezra simply being nervous about making love to Momi. He stayed for lunch with the sailors, and got them to agree to take him to St. Thomas next week for his and Ezra's honeymoon. "How can I turn down a couple on their honeymoon?" Vorhees conceded. Josiah thanked him and started back to the resort, intending to tell Ezra at the first opportunity.

#JOSIAH!!#

He was instantly alert, homing in on the call and willing himself to the caller. To both his surprise and distress, it was Momi and not Ezra he found on the rock he'd shaped as a resting spot and tanning bed. She was bleeding from a cut on the back of her head, and there was no sign of his love. "Momi, where's Ezra?"

"I don't know - I can't remember anything after swimming out here." Had Ezra panicked and attacked her? The bruise forming on her face gave its own mute testimony.

Josiah was torn: he needed to get Momi to the clinic, but he needed to find Ezra as well. He reached for the mind he was coming to know as well as his own --

and his heart nearly stopped at the faint, distant reply. Ezra's dolphin was screaming in distress, trying to keep his companion afloat, while Ezra kept pushing him away, each push weaker than the last. The dolphin was also trying to push him back to shore, as he was well out to sea and the tide was taking him farther out every minute, but he was fighting even that effort. Dear God in Heaven, Josiah thought, what had happened to make Ezra actively suicidal?

He willed himself to Ezra's side, just as he slipped into unconsciousness and water began to fill his lungs. Josiah pulled his love to him and sent a quick reassurance to the dolphin before popping back to the rock and snatching up Momi, and bringing both of them to the clinic. He threw the woman at Nathan and dropped to the floor with Ezra, sending four quick breaths into his lungs. Getting no response, he started mouth-to-mouth respiration. Ezra coughed, choked, and started throwing up seawater. Josiah rolled him on his side and breathed a sigh of relief, making sure his love was in no danger of aspirating the water he'd so recently brought up.

Ezra moaned and opened his eyes, closing them almost immediately and crawling away from Josiah to curl into a trembling fetal ball. When the larger man tried to pull him into a comforting embrace, he made an inarticulate squeaking sound and batted away the hands reaching for him. Nathan stopped Josiah from a second attempt, asking him to let a trained medic handle it. The black man took a soft flannel blanket and draped it over the figure curled on the floor. He waited a bit while Ezra got used to being covered, and then slowly and gently maneuvered man and blanket until the former was wrapped snugly in the latter. Nathan lifted the blanket-wrapped bundle and carried it to a nearby bed, laying him down and adjusting the covers over the now-relaxed and nearly asleep former agent.

Josiah waited until Nathan had stepped away from the bed to ask about Momi. "She's concussed, but I don't think there's a fracture. The best thing to do is keep watch on her and make sure she doesn't slip into a coma; that's what Dr. Stokes would do." the medic advised. "If Momi's condition worsens, you can find Miriam with Vin. But I suspect she won't want to be disturbed for anything less than a major emergency right now."

"We may have one." the big man replied. He knew better than Nathan exactly what the doctor was doing at the moment, through his link with Vin. He stepped quietly over to the bed holding his love, and placed a large, gentle hand on the sleeping man's head to deepen his sleep. "You'll have to put Ezra in restraints, and have him watched continually." He closed his eyes against the pain of unwelcome knowledge. "He's suicidal, and his mind is so chaotic I can't reach him."

"Useless fucking piece of shit!"

Who had said that? It didn't matter; it was true.

"What the hell's wrong with you?"

Wrong. He was wrong. Useless. A failure. He'd failed, failed . . .

The memories -- or were they nightmares? -- started again. He was 15, and they were buying him, and Oh, God, it hurt, they were too big, they were hurting him. It didn't matter, though; he'd failed, and he deserved what they were doing. They hadn't failed, they'd done what they had to do, not like him, he'd failed, he was useless.

He was kneeling naked, handcuffed, and bleeding, and someone was standing over him with a huge erection, forcing it into his mouth and down his throat. The monster penis was choking him, he couldn't breathe, but the man just kept ramming it down his throat, he could taste something liquid and coppery in his mouth and knew he was bleeding from the pounding his throat was taking. He felt himself getting dizzy from the lack of air, and knew it didn't matter since he was useless, and nobody cared if he died.

Finally, there He was, huge and strong and perfect, the man he loved, and had disappointed so badly. He was happy when one big arm wrapped around him and lifted him off his feet. His smile never dimmed as the fist on the end of the other was shoved up his ass, followed by the forearm to the elbow. It was agony - and penance. He wanted it so badly, to make up for what he'd done, or more precisely, what he hadn't.

Somehow there was something under his knees and he could raise himself up, and he did so, only to impale himself, hard, driving the fist up inside him and tearing his guts. He cried out in pain and joy, his hands on his love's shoulders as he moved faster, and looked into the face of his beloved. He saw the love, approval and forgiveness there, encouraging him to further efforts, and he moved even faster, feeling the blood pouring out of him and down his thighs. His life's blood, a bright red torrent to remove the failure and uselessness. He stopped, too weak to continue, and as he slipped into that final darkness, he felt his love giving him a last kiss goodbye.

Josiah couldn't understand the images coming from Ezra's mind, or the thoughts that accompanied them. What failure, and what disappointment? Why did he feel useless? What had he done -- or not done -- that warranted dying, and like that, in agony, to earn forgiveness? He needed professional help; though his own degree was in Psychology, he was too close to the patient. Could he find the therapist who'd worked with Ezra before? He doubted it: even if the person was still alive, he or she was probably somewhere on the U.S. East coast; far too close to Murdoch for comfort. And Josiah didn't even have a name as a starting point.

Momi still couldn't remember anything after swimming out to Ezra. Dr. Stokes had given her a thorough examination after the doctor's return, which revealed she'd had intercourse, but there were no indications it had been forced. Momi herself had stated she had wanted sex with Ezra, and had followed him for that very reason. That had ruled out rape and impotence as causes for the Southerner's condition. It would appear that Momi and Ezra had made love on the rock: so what the hell had happened afterward to drive Ezra to suicide? Guilt for being with someone beside his fiancÚ? Was his perceived "failure" inconstancy? That didn't make sense, as Ezra knew Josiah wanted him to be with her; he'd even said he wanted them to have children together.

The cove had been examined by Vin and Chris the morning after the incident. A hard rainfall during the night had removed any footprints, not that anyone had expected to find more than Ezra's and Momi's. All evidence had been removed by the action of wind and water.

Feeling frustrated by his inability to understand his beloved's condition, he left the clinic and walked the three miles to the cove. Should I obliterate it to remove something that might give him painful memories? He enjoyed this place so much; I could see it shining from his face when he returned to the resort. He sensed the little life forms in the tidal pools, and wondered if Ezra ever noticed them. He doffed his clothes and swam out the rock, pulling himself up on it. Ezra's dolphin approached, cautious of the power he sensed in the man.

Podmate survives? He meant Ezra. Josiah assured the cetacean his companion did.

Bad others hurt. Podmate swim away.

Bad others? How many others? Tell me about them. Josiah sent to the dolphin. The mammal complied as best he could; but his senses were configured differently from a human's, so the description he gave Josiah was of only limited help. He could give mass/density/size of the people who'd been in the cove's water, but couldn't say what their faces had looked like. He could taste Ezra on the two who'd come later than the first one, and the first one on them as well. He could taste all three on his companion when he entered the water. The dolphin noticed the two who swam back to the beach were upset by the way they moved through the water.

Josiah thanked the dolphin and swam back to the beach. He digested the new information as he dressed: two other people had been in the cove, and at the rock, at the same time as Ezra and Momi. From the mass/size information he'd received from the dolphin, they were probably female. Two females. Oh, God, he thought, as the horrible possibility hit him. They wouldn't have been patient or gentle. They'd have demanded what he'd just given Momi. What had they done when he'd been too upset to perform? What had they said? Who were they, and what would he do with them when he found them?

Josiah found Buck sitting with Ezra. All the Seven had been taking turns watching their fallen comrade, and right now Buck and JD were in the clinic. He drew the ladies' man aside and asked him how many and which women had wanted Ezra. Buck creased his brow in thought and grabbed pen and paper, scribbling down the names as he recalled them. Josiah wasn't surprised to find six names on the list.

Since he was there, he looked in on Ezra. The Southerner was awake and begging JD to release him from his restraints. When he saw Josiah, he pleaded with him for the same thing: "Let me go, Josiah." The expression in the jade green eyes nearly broke the big man's heart.

Josiah sat on the side of the bed, brushing back Ezra's hair and giving him a gentle kiss. "I can't risk you hurting yourself, love. Can you tell me what happened?"

Ezra turned away from the hand on his head. "I failed."

"Not with Momi. Who else was there?" But Josiah received only silence in reply. He sighed: why was Ezra hiding the identity of his attackers? He left after giving his love another kiss and assuring him he'd return as soon as he could.

The next person he sought out was Jake Nelson, for the same reason he'd gone looking for Buck. He got Jake's list, and compared it to Buck's. Most of the names were the same, but Jake's list had two which weren't on Buck's. Josiah asked the rest of the Seven to help him round up the women, and bring them to Inez's.

The eight women, along with Chris, Vin, Nathan, Buck, Jake, Judge Travis, and a crowd of curious onlookers, gathered at the diner/cantina. Josiah scrutinized the women, knowing without a doubt which two were guilty, but he wanted to get them to confess. He stood and walked to the center of the room. "Some of you know why you're here. For the rest, I'll explain: someone attacked Ezra Standish yesterday, in a cove a few miles from here." He held up a hand as several people started asking questions. "His injuries aren't physical, but he's been badly traumatized, by someone who forgot what he's been through in the last six weeks. I have reason to believe his attackers were female, which is what you eight are doing here." He turned to the women. "At some point in the last month, every one of you expressed interest in having sex with Ezra. I'm going to ask each of you individually where you were late yesterday morning."

Questioning eliminated half the eight, as they could provide witnesses to their whereabouts at the time of the attack. They were thanked and dismissed. "Do any of you have anything you want to say?" Judge Travis asked. The four looked at each other, and Josiah added, "It's only a matter of time until we know."

That was enough for Shirley: "He managed well enough with her! We saw them, out on that rock, doing it in front of God and everybody!"

"Shut UP, you stupid bitch!" Andrea yelled at her.

"Why should I? You wanted it as much as I did! Hell, you were the one who grabbed him first!" She got no further, as the other woman slapped her face. The pair started fighting, punching, kicking, and pulling hair, and the guys were forced to separate them.

Travis turned to Josiah. "What are you going to do with them?"

"The same thing we did with Clay: exile." Josiah sighed as the two women were led away, to be secured until Josiah took them away.

The next day, Josiah found a helicopter and flew them to Florida, leaving them on a golfcourse, knowing it was unlikely they'd live through the night. It depended on what found them first. He pushed the chopper as fast as he could on the return trip, wanting to get back to Ezra.

Josiah woke up alone on the morning of the wedding. He'd told Ezra to spend the night with Momi: "I'll have you to myself on the entire trip to St. Thomas and back. Besides, I'm sure there's some sort of tradition that grooms shouldn't see each other the day of the wedding until the ceremony."

"How could there be?" Ezra inquired. "This has never been done before. There aren't any traditions to go by."

"We'll make our own traditions, love," he replied, "and that will be one of the first, along with wearing white satin tailcoats." Josiah was surprised at how good he looked in his finery. He could manage well enough in a suit and tie, but a formal "monkey suit" usually made a monkey out of him. He didn't care if he looked like a buffalo while reciting his vows, but he knew Ezra wanted him to look his best, so he'd endured fittings with the same patience he'd had during surveillance.

His vows. Another new tradition; he and Ezra had gotten together with the judge and spent some considerable skull sweat working out vows for the ceremony. This would, after all, be the template for all ceremonies to come. He'd teasingly warned Ezra to keep the polysyllables to a minimum, as they'd have to be recited by generations of young, nervous, tongue-tied grooms and brides. Actually, they hadn't changed the ceremony all that much, a word here, a phrase there, but for the most part it was just as it had been.

He rose, showered, and, taking a great deal of care, shaved before dressing. He donned underwear, the silk shirt, and satin trousers before pulling on the white socks Buck had pressed into his hands the day before. "Something borrowed," he'd said, "it's traditional, for luck." He'd thanked the man, touched by the gesture. Shoes followed, and before fastening the top button of his shirt and adding the tie, he slipped on something old: a crucifix his father had given him for his graduation from high school. He wondered what Ezra would find to fit that requirement.

After several tries, he gave up attempting to tie his tie. He touched his love's mind, and quickly withdrew. No, Ezra wouldn't see him if he sneaked down and had Choy Mac tie it for him. He left the room and trotted downstairs, searching for the tailor. He found him in the kitchen, and held up the ends of the tie with a helpless expression.

Choy Mac chuckled, seeing such a small-boy look on such a large face. He had Josiah sit down and quickly tied the tie. "Let's see," he commented, looking at the big man, "you have something new -- do you have something old? Something borrowed? Something blue?" Josiah nodded at the first two, but frowned at the third. "Something blue, huh? Wait here." The tailor disappeared, returning in a moment with two blue silk handkerchiefs, one of which he folded and placed in Josiah's left breast pocket. "I'll give the other one to Ezra. Do you need anything else?"

"I'm worried that Ezra might not have something old: do you think you could help him with that?" the big man asked.

"Don't worry; if he needs something, I've got it covered. I have cufflinks that belonged to my great-grandfather; that should cover borrowed and old both." Choy Mac assured him.

"You'd better get out of here, before he sees you."

Josiah nodded, and left for Inez's, to check on the reception banquet and wedding cake.

She let him look at the food and the cake, even let him taste most of the menu, after swathing him in tablecloths to protect his finery. The diner owner then fed him breakfast, claiming she didn't want him passing out during the wedding.

Ezra had awakened shortly after his fellow groom, but had stayed in bed with Momi for a time, enjoying a last round of love making. He rose to shower, shave as carefully as Josiah, and don his wedding finery. Momi showered with him, dried her hair and put on her face in the bedroom while he shaved in the bath, dressed, and helped him with his tie. "I can't understand it: I've never had any problem tying one of these before." he told her.

"Nerves, no doubt." she responded. "Do you have all the traditional things: something old and something new, something borrowed, something blue?"

"Something new would be my outfit, but I'm afraid I'm out of luck on the others." Ezra replied.

"Let me check with Dad; he might have some things that'll help." Momi offered. She ducked out of the room, returning shortly after and leading him into the kitchen.

Bern and Choy Mac were both there, and Momi's mother draped Ezra in a sheet as she sat him down and made sure he ate breakfast. "You need your strength today." she reminded him, setting a full plate down in front of him. After he cleaned his plate (Bern insisted), Choy Mac presented him with the blue silk handkerchief and the cufflinks, saying he'd be honored to have him wear them. The tailor made the additions to Ezra's finery, and was warmly thanked by the Southerner, both for the outfit and the cufflinks.

A knock came on the door, and Choy Mac went to answer it. He came back leading Mrs. Potter and Angie Velasquez. The grooms had originally planned on walking down the aisle together, but Angie had insisted on giving Ezra away, and the pair had laughingly conceded. "Are you ready for the wedding?" asked Angie.

"It is nearly time. Let's get down to the beach." The group left, walking down to the ocean and separating into two groups. The first, consisting of Ezra, Angie, and Momi, entering one of two tents set up on either side of the chairs, and the others being seated.

JD poked his head in through the flap. "You ready?"

"As ready as I'll ever be." Ezra replied. JD nodded, and ducked back out. A few moments later, the sound of Garth Brooks' "To Make You Feel My Love" told them it was time. With Angie holding his hand, and proceeded by Momi, Ezra stepped from the tent.

The sun shone brightly from a cloudless sky, sparkling on white sand and blue water. The trio walked on a red carpet behind the chairs on one side, turning to walk down the center aisle to where Josiah and the rest of the Seven were waiting. Nathan, Chris, and Buck stood on one side of Judge Travis, and Momi joined Vin and JD on the other.

Several people in the front row were making sketches of the ceremony for posterity, as cameras were non-functional. Angie placed Ezra's hand in Josiah's, and sternly warned the big man he'd better take good care of him. Josiah solemnly promised her he would. They turned to the judge, and the ceremony began.

"We are gathered in this place to join these people, by their own free will and consent, in the loving harmony of marriage." Judge Travis intoned. "Marriage is something that should only be entered into after much thought. It was designed for the comfort and safety of the people entering it, and any children that might result from the union. It's a grave responsibility, not to be taken up lightly. If there is anyone here who believes these people should not be bound together, speak now, or forever remain silent." He paused for a moment, hoping nobody would speak, and continued, turning to Josiah.

"Josiah Immanuel Sanchez, do you freely consent to join with one you love, here present, in marriage, vowing to love, honor, cherish, and protect both him and any children he may have, until those children are fully grown, to the best of your ability, and with every resource you have?"

"I do."

"Ezra Percival Standish, do you freely consent to join with one you love, here present, in marriage, vowing to love, honor, cherish, and protect both him and any children he may have, until those children are fully grown, to the best of your ability, and with every resource you have?"

"I do."

"Josiah, the ring." The big man turned to Chris, who handed him Ezra's ring. "Place it on Ezra's finger, and repeat after me: I, Josiah, join in marriage with you, Ezra,"

Slipping the ring on his finger, Josiah repeated, " I, Josiah, join in marriage with you, Ezra,"

"Pledging to you all the love I have,"

"Pledging to you all the love I have,"

"All that I am,"

"All that I am,"

"Everything I own or will ever possess,"

"Everything I own or will ever possess,"

"For the comfort, safety, and protection,"

"For the comfort, safety, and protection,"

"Of you and your children,"

"Of you and your children,"

"For as long as we both shall live,"

"For as long as we both shall live,"

"And until our children reach adulthood."

"And until our children reach adulthood."

"Ezra, the ring." The Southerner turned to Momi, who handed him Josiah's ring. "Place it on Josiah's finger, and repeat after me: I, Ezra, join in marriage with you, Josiah,"

Ezra slipped the ring on Josiah's finger, and repeated, "I, Ezra, join in marriage with you, Josiah,"

"Pledging to you all the love I have,"

"Pledging to you all the love I have,"

"All that I am,"

"All that I am,"

"Everything I own or will ever possess,"

"Everything I own or will ever possess,"

"For the comfort, safety, and protection,"

"For the comfort, safety, and protection,"

"Of you and your children,"

"Of you and your children,"

"For as long as we both shall live,"

"For as long as we both shall live,"

"And until our children reach adulthood."

"And until our children reach adulthood."

Travis smiled at the couple. "It is my pleasure, as these people have, of their own free will, agreed to this marriage, and symbolized it with an exchange of rings, and pledged themselves to each other and their children, to pronounce them joined in marriage. You may kiss."

Josiah took Ezra's head in his hands and covered his lips with his own, as the crowd cheered and applauded. Ezra slipped his hands inside Josiah's jacket, pulling him closer. They could have stood like that for the rest of the day, but the others started patting them on the back and congratulating them. They broke apart, and Judge Travis introduced them to the witnesses.

"I give you Ezra and Josiah Standish-Sanchez."

Josiah and Ezra led the procession to Inez's, and stopped just inside the door to form a receiving line. Momi and Angie were the first to congratulate them, and each gave both the grooms a kiss (Angie while being held by Josiah), setting a precedent for everyone else. Chris waited while Josiah put down Angie, and gave him a quick but thorough kiss on the lips, repeating the process with Ezra. The rest followed, kissing both the grooms, though some limited their kisses to cheeks rather than lips.

They started in on the banquet after that, and after everyone had served themselves and gotten a drink (both champagne and non-alcoholic beverages were available), Chris rose and proposed a toast to the happy couple. Ezra and Josiah linked arms as they drank to Chris' toast, both looking radiantly ecstatic. They spent the meal chuckling, whispering, and feeding each other, much the same as any other newlyweds. When they brought out the cake, the grooms disappointed some people by cutting the cake and carefully feeding each other small pieces without smooshing cake on each other. Ezra had told his love he thought such things were undignified, and he didn't want to do it. Josiah had agreed, but had warned him that disappointed guests might engage in cake-smooshing on their own. They served out the cake, Inez saving the top layer.

Several people started playing music, having found or brought instruments. Ezra and Josiah were pulled out on the floor, which had been cleared for dancing. "You have to start the first dance; it's tradition!" someone said. The impromptu band started a waltz, and Josiah held open his arms.

"I'm not sure how good a follower I am." whispered Ezra, coming into his brand new husband's embrace.

"Don't worry; I'll go slow." Josiah whispered back, wrapping his arm around his beloved husband and taking his hand. They started dancing, slowly at first, then picking up the pace as they adjusted to each other. Their eyes met, and the music and the room faded away; there were only the two of them, and it didn't matter how they danced. The next dance saw Josiah paired with Momi, Angie having claimed Ezra before anyone else could. The danced a number of dances with various partners, both male and female (Ezra was surprised at how well Chris danced). They slipped away soon after that, to change for their honeymoon sail.

They were kissing and fondling each other as soon as the door was locked behind them. Ezra pulled back and began to carefully remove his finery, advising Josiah to do the same. "We have time, love. We have all the time in the world."

"Actually, we only have until the tide turns. The Queen of Hearts, and her captain, want to catch the tide for the best start." remarked Josiah as he undressed. He picked up his nearly naked husband and jumped on the bed, rolling over on top of him. "But we do have some time." he quipped, running hands, lips, and tongue over Ezra's skin.

Ezra responded in kind, and soon both of them were nude and writhing in passion.

Josiah swallowed the smaller man's penis and sucked it as though he'd never have access to it again. Ezra thrashed as he came, shooting sperm down his husband's throat, disappointed he couldn't last longer. Josiah seemed to sense this, and cuddled him while telling him how much he loved him. Ezra reached down and fondled his husband's penis, saying how much he wanted it inside him. Josiah was only too happy to oblige, teasing his anus as he lubed it prior to inserting his shaft into the tight, hot hole. It was so sweet he never wanted it to end, but knew they had a boat to catch so he speeded up and felt Ezra nearing his own release. The Southerner's clenching muscles brought on his orgasm, and he shot semen into him as Ezra spurted onto the sheets.

They shared a quick shower, dressed, and walked down to the harbor, where their friends were standing by to see them off. More kisses were exchanged before they boarded. Josiah started to introduce Ezra to Captain Vorhees, but the skipper held up a hand. "I remember the lad. He spent some weeks as a member of my crew when he was -- what? 16? -- along with one of his tutors."

"Si," said Santiago, the first mate, "Bonito."

Ezra blushed at the nickname, and told Josiah he'd explain later. His husband merely chuckled and told him there was no need, and asked if he wanted to help get underway. Ezra shook his head and snuggled closer, saying they really should get belowdecks and out of the way. Josiah simply grinned and told him to lead the way to their cabin.

Anyone not on their honeymoon would have called their cabin "cramped", but the newlyweds thought of it as "snug". It was a good thing they were both in excellent shape and very flexible, especially Josiah. They stowed their bags under the bunk, which took up most of the space in the low-ceilinged cabin. Josiah quipped it was a good thing they intended to spend most of their time in here horizontal, and pushed Ezra down onto the bunk. They undressed each other, the contact necessitated by the close quarters making them hotter. The action of the waves made a perfect counterpoint to the movements of the pair as they made love.

Josiah could feel the bond between them deepening and strengthening, as they made love and even after, as they lay quiescent against each other. He could feel how much Ezra loved him, and marveled at the depth and scope of it. No wonder he wanted to die rather than disappoint me. I'm going to have to make sure he never wants to die again. As for his own feelings, he only knew this was the love of his life, to be cherished and protected above all others.

Josiah came up on deck about an hour after they got underway. "How goes it?"

"It's going well," replied the captain, "but shouldn't you be below, with your groom?"

Josiah colored slightly. "He's asleep. I thought I'd come up here and make sure everything was well."

"Wore him out, eh?" Vorhees chuckled. "Ah, well. The lad never had much stamina, though he tried so hard to keep up with the crew. Wore himself out and strained muscles I bet he didn't know he had before. Crawled up on the deck the next day, wanting to impress us so he could be accepted. Fought being carried back to his bunk, and started howling when I tried to massage out the soreness. His tutor pulled me off him, said not to bother him, he'd do it. Kid was nervous for a week after that, flinching away, but he settled down after awhile, though he was always standoffish, as if he thought he'd ruined his one chance at acceptance."

Josiah nodded. "He's like that; he's been hurt, and rather than be hurt again, he'll back off at the first opportunity." He hoped Ezra would stop doing that now he was married; he should know how much he was loved, and that Josiah wouldn't leave him or send him away. Momi and children -- a family of his own -- should heal the wounds of the past.

Ezra chose that moment to poke his head out of the hatch. "Anyone interested in dinner?" As they ate, Ezra got reacquainted with the crew, and the meal was relaxed and enjoyable.

They pulled into the harbor at Charlotte Amalie the next morning, and spent the next week establishing order and beginning trade routes. Josiah organized a local militia, and they combed the islands, armed with incendiary grenades, flame throwers, and other items. He showed them the best ways to fight, and then they went monster hunting. Josiah had to deal with the dragon personally, using his powers as it was impervious to every weapon they had. They moved on to St. John, and cleared out the monsters there.

After they returned to St. Croix, Josiah gathered the Seven and any others would wished to volunteer and set out to clear the other islands of entrenched monsters. Their first stop was Roosevelt Roads, PR, to see how the military was faring. They found the base nearly deserted, as sailors and Marines realized the government that had been paying them no longer existed, their equipment no longer functioned, and there would be no assistance coming from anywhere. Josiah started training the few who remained in monster-fighting. They resisted at first, since he made no secret of his marriage to Ezra, but eventually decided his sexuality was secondary to his ability. They spent the next month moving from east to west, clearing out monsters as they went. Once they cleared the island, they encouraged people to refit ships with masts and sails to establish trade with other islands.

It went like that for the next several months, as they moved on to Hispaniola, Cuba, Jamaica, Bermuda, and the rest of the islands. Clear an island, establish trade, and move on. They nearly lost Buck on Aruba, and JD was wounded as well. They remained behind on the next foray, and when the others returned, JD had married Casey and Maggie, and Buck was engaged to Sheila, Becky, and Jenny, who had moved out to the farm to help when Buck was injured.

Their next pause was a bit longer; the birth of Nathan and Rain's child, a son they named Obadiah after Nathan's father. Ezra and Josiah also married Momi, who was visibly pregnant, as were a number of the female wedding guests. Chris and Vin announced their engagement to Paula, Kathy, Juanita, and Eve; most people would have thought this was two trios, but it was actually three couples: Chris and Vin, Paula and Eve, and Kathy and Juanita. Miriam Stokes had married Lisa, Amy, and Rachel a few months earlier. Nathan and Rain announced their engagement to Kiara and Fancy, who'd been staying with Rain while Nathan was off-island.

Not all the women were married or engaged to the men who fathered their children. While Casey and Maggie were carrying JD's children, so was Lisa, who was married to Miriam, who, along with Juanita and Louise, was carrying Vin's child. The other two of that marriage, Amy and Rachel, were carrying Chris' and Ezra's children, respectively. Paula and Kathy were also pregnant by Chris, and Eve as well as Momi carried Ezra's child. Kiara and Fancy were pregnant by Nathan, and Buck had fathered children on Sheila, Becky, and Jenny. Choy Mac and Jake Nelson had also made contributions to the population explosion, fathering three and four children respectively.

As Josiah looked around at people gathered for the wedding reception, he smiled to himself. There were folks from all around the Caribbean, Cubans rubbing elbows with Barbadans, Grenadans chatting with Jamaicans, and people making deals to trade goods throughout the islands. The islands were slowly recovering from the Change, and adjusting to the notion of Josiah being an absolute, if benign, ruler.

He watched Ezra and Momi dancing around the floor, Ezra still looking splendid in his white satin tails, and Momi absolutely radiant in her silk and lace gown. He'd explained to both of them about bonding to Momi the same way he'd bonded to Rain, and they'd reluctantly agreed. He'd taken her last night, being extremely careful to be gentle and not risk damage to the twin fetuses she carried. Tonight was Ezra's, as every night with Momi would be; although he admired her beauty, and would protect her and her children, it was Ezra who held his heart.

In a few days, a week at most, they would start clearing the mainland of northern South America. It was a far more daunting project than the one they'd just completed, and far more necessary.

THE END

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