AN: I received a few questions on LJ that I thought I'd take a few sentences to explain (since I think I epic failed at explaining it in the novel! Sorry about that!). There are only a handful of people in Demestris who know the exact circumstances behind Joshua's induction into the military. Lord William Dartey, General Edward Montgomery (Nathaniel's father), Nathaniel, Joshua, and a few other very high ranking officials know the whole story. Several other officials working on Dartey's Twelve Children Project (mentioned in chapter one) only know that Joshua is one of the survivors of the Revolution, but not the circumstances of his new identity. Everyone else believes the cover story - that Joshua is the bastard son of Lord Engdahl.

Warning: This chapter contains a potentially triggering scene involving corporal punishment (with a junior cane). Please PM me if you want a short summary of this chapter instead.

Chapter Five: Reminders

Nathaniel waited until the colonel had left before rounding on his wayward student. Engdahl wasn't a problem student – far from it. What the boy lacked in discipline (and tact) he made up for in stubborn determination, but it was that same stubbornness that, when combined with his lack of tact, resulted in frustration for Nathaniel. Most Cadets entered the military or the academy already knowing the basic etiquette of officers and therefore it would have gone without saying that back talk of any sort was not tolerable, especially during a formal affair such as the colonel's visit and inspection.

"My office, now." He told the Cadet, just as soon as the colonel had excused himself for the night.

The boy stared at him for a moment before nodding. "Yes, sir." At least there he had some respect, Nathaniel mused. He followed the boy up the stairs, to his office where he shut the door behind them and locked it. No one should be coming in this late at night, but he didn't want any interruptions. The boy needed a lecture on etiquette whether he wanted one or not, and Nathaniel had a feeling this could take a few hours.

It was already a quarter past seven. Nathaniel stood by the window, putting as much space between himself and the boy as possible. "Would you care to explain yourself, Cadet?"

The boy, for all his stubbornness, was at least a decent liar. Too bad Nathaniel could see right through him. "I meant no disrespect towards the colonel, sir. I merely thought he might like one of the older girls more."

It might have sounded plausible to anyone who didn't pay attention to Joshua's actions every day for the last three weeks. Joshua was sleeping with one of the slave girls, the one the colonel had chosen. Nathaniel was sure of it. While it might have been the norm for the soldiers, Nathaniel had found it odd that Joshua would so quickly adopt a practice Nathaniel had been sure he'd find distasteful.

"It's not your place to offer advice, Cadet. You don't have any right to even speak to the colonel." Nathaniel reminded him coldly. "Letting your jealousy show like that when the colonel takes an interest in your toys is childish and reflects badly on not only yourself as an officer but on me as your teacher."

"With all due respect sir," Joshua began, in a tone so cold he clearly meant the opposite, "but Imiya is not a toy. She's a girl."

"She's a slave, Joshua."

The boy froze at his words and Nathaniel turned to regard him carefully, searching for a reaction in him. Anger boiled just beneath the surface, frustration and rage warring as they so often had in the last three weeks. Nathaniel continued, "You let passions blind you where you must exercise caution. Imagine if that had been Lord Dartey you'd spoken so rudely to."

"I have more than a few things to say to Lord Dartey, many of them considerably ruder than what you seem to think was rudeness at the dinner table." The boy informed him, crossing his arms like the insolent teenager he was.

Nathaniel forced himself to breathe in as he walked around the desk and came to stand in front of the boy. Cadet Engdahl, at sixteen, should have been fairly close to grown, but if that was so then he was destined to be a short man, barely reaching up to Nathaniel's chin in height. Nathaniel might have been blessed with stature by the very fact of his Alsemprian heritage, but even then he still didn't tower over most men, just this boy. This boy with his dark brown eyes and curly brown hair, looking like the imposter he was in his blue uniform. Calmly, and reminding himself that this was for the boy's own good, Nathaniel did something he'd never had to do with a subordinate officer ever in his ten year career.

The sound was piercing in the silence, just as loud as the red mark that formed on Joshua's olive skin. "You should be grateful to Lord Dartey for saving your worthless life, boy."

"I owe him nothing. You're the one who didn't shoot me in the head when you had a chance." Joshua replied, seemingly unfazed. Nathaniel hit him again. This time with enough force to split the boy's lip, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth.

He reached up to wipe it away but Nathaniel grabbed his arm. "Stand at attention, soldier. I didn't give you permission to move."

Joshua ignored him and wretched his arm free, wiping the blood away on the nice coat of his dress uniform. "I'm not a slave." He told Nathaniel defiantly.

Nathaniel stared at him, momentarily stunned by the boy's audacious stupidity before he recovered. Fine. If Joshua wanted to play, then he was long overdue for a lesson in discipline. "Now that you've ruined your uniform, take it off." He told the boy, stepping back and crossing his arms, daring the boy to disobey.

Joshua's face paled, "All of it?" He asked.

"Your jacket and your shirt should suffice." Nathaniel responded. He watched as the boy's eyes darted between him and the door. Nathaniel's office locked with a key on both sides. Joshua was as trapped in here as others were out there. He hesitated long enough that Nathaniel leaned back against his desk and told him, "We have all night if need be, Cadet. We're not leaving until this is finished."

Joshua was smart enough not to ask what this was and Nathaniel didn't tell him. The boy slowly unbuttoned his frock coat and laid it over the back of chair closest to Nathaniel's book shelf. The white shirt followed after until Nathaniel had a good view of his chest. Young, just on the edge of manhood, still hairless but Nathaniel doubted it would stay that way for long. Growing up working hard had left him with a very strong, handsome body, and Nathaniel forced himself to look away before he did something he'd regret later.

He reminded himself that some things were written in the officer's handbook for a reason, and that no one would blink twice at him for what he was about to do. If anything, his superiors were likely wondering why he hadn't yet done this. Nathaniel's real reason – that he found the practice as archaic and distasteful with officers as he did with the slaves – was hardly an excuse he could use if Joshua's runaway mouth were ever to get them both into serious trouble.

Nathaniel had always been well behaved enough at the academy to never require formal punishment like this, but he remembered, well enough, what it had been like when his father had done this to him, when he'd been much younger than Joshua was now. It had only taken once for him to learn, and if the God of Fortune and Strength was merciful, it would only take Joshua once for him to learn as well.

Nathaniel crossed to the cabinet behind his desk, opening it to pull out the cane kept there for just such occasions. Caning was the standard punishment for minor infractions, but Nathaniel set the implement on his desk while he grabbed the officer's handbook off the shelves to double check the number of strikes warranted, all while Joshua looked on, finally for once looking at least a small bit pensive about what Nathaniel was doing.

Still, no one had ever accused Nathaniel Montgomery of not being by the book in his matters, even when it came to dealing with the wayward young cadet placed, unwillingly, under his command. He found the line he was looking for and checked the information quickly before he handed the book over to Joshua, who accepted it with some confusion. "Article C, section 17." Nathaniel instructed, returning to his desk and picking up the cane. "Read it."

The boy took a moment to find the line and in a slow, hesitant stutter read, "In matters of insubordination not pertaining to orders but rather a grievous lack of respect for superior officers, younger and lower ranking soldiers who have not been convicted of other disobedience should, on first offense, be stricken with the c-cane no more than fifteen times across the lower buttocks." His only stutter was over the name of the implement, though Nathaniel spared no moment to wonder why.

"No more than fifteen." Nathaniel repeated, and hit the cane against his palm lightly, testing its weight. "So, then, Cadet. How many times should I strike you for arguing with a superior officer and slandering the leader of our great country?"

As he'd expected, the boy drew his shoulders up and away, straightening his spin even as his eyes tried to find anywhere else to look but Nathaniel's face. "I don't know, sir."

"You don't know, Cadet? That's most definitely not the correct answer." Nathaniel chided. "What have I told you about incorrect answers?"

"That they're unacceptable?"

"So they are. I suppose you'll be running extra laps tomorrow morning as well, then." Nathaniel briefly debated adding on more strikes for Joshua's incorrect answers but that struck him as just a bit more sadistic than was palatable, even when training a cadet. There was a fine line between punishment and abuse, and Nathaniel refused to be one of those officers who crossed that line.

"Yes, sir." The boy replied.

Nathaniel waited in silence for a few more minutes, until Joshua started fidgeting. He supposed there must be a psychological aspect to all this - the boy's fear of punishment would be greater than the punishment itself - but in truth Nathaniel was trying to gather his own wits about him. He hated the cane. He hated that the soldiers of the manor used the cane on the slaves here, he hated that his father had used the cane on him when he was a boy, and most of all he hated that he was standing here now, honestly about to cane his subordinate. "I'm still waiting for an answer to my first question." He reminded the boy. "How many strikes?"

Ten. Nathaniel's mind supplied. If they hurt as much in actuality as they did in his memory, then ten would be more than sufficient for teaching Joshua a lesson.

He was surprised, therefore, when Joshua quietly, hesitatingly told him, "Fifteen."

Instead of letting his emotions show, Nathaniel nodded. "A fair amount, given the headaches you've caused me these last three weeks." He took the book from Joshua and put it back on the bookshelf. "Lean over the desk and spread your legs." He ordered. His desk was free from clutter, the hard wooden surface at the perfect height for Joshua to brace himself against.

Nathaniel snapped the cane against his hand again. Fifteen hard strikes would leave bruises, but not scars, and with luck that temporary reminder would be enough. He stood back and got himself in a position where he could aim and get the full stroke of the cane in. He intended to make these fifteen strokes Joshua wouldn't soon forget.

The first one fell with a swoosh and a snap, landing higher than Nathaniel had anticipated. Joshua grunted in pain, his hands clenching at smooth wood that would give him no purchase, but otherwise kept his silence. The next one fell lower, where Nathaniel wanted it to, and he focused on repeating that blow. He counted ten seconds between each strike, and for the first ten Joshua mad the barest noises, even as Nathaniel felt the blows increasing in strength as he gained more confidence and aim.

It was easy, oh so easy, to hit Joshua, who looked so lovely laid out like a sacrifice, olive skin blending with mahogany.

Nathaniel brought the cane down especially hard, willing those traitorous thoughts away. He did not expect Joshua's ensuing scream as the boy pushed himself hard off the desk, his full weight still resting against it as he fought to catch his breath. Nathaniel waited. A glance at the grandfather clock near the door informed him that it had been over an hour since he'd brought the boy to his office. Everyone in the manor would be abed or in their rooms preparing for bed by now.

"No more." The pained whisper brought Nathaniel from his thoughts and he turned his attention to the cadet, who was slumped down over the desk, most of his weight supported by his elbows as he buried his head in his hands. "Please, no more." He begged breathlessly.

Nathaniel set the cane on the desk and put his hand on the boy's shoulder, squeezing lightly. He considered agreeing to the boy's pleas. Joshua was in pain and Nathaniel no more wanted to see him in that state than he wanted to be the one who put him there, but he couldn't slacken. The cadet was severely lacking in military discipline and Nathaniel wouldn't help him by being equally slack in discipline.

"Four more." He told the boy, not unkindly.

Joshua sobbed, collapsing against the desk, and Nathaniel decided that small mercies could be afforded. He told the boy, "Move back and lay back down, but keep your arms at your side." He'd seen cane strokes dealt to the upper back before on rare occasions, and had heard that is was more painful than when administered lower, but in this case Nathaniel wasn't intending to hit hard. These last four were about reinforcing that the cadet could not get out of punishment, not about making sure a physical reminder took.

Once the boy was settled, Nathaniel picked up the cane – such a thin wooden rod, so small and stiff in his hands – and laid it against Joshua's shoulders, making sure his aim was precise. Too low and Nathaniel could damage internal organs. Too high and he could hit a nerve. The last four strikes were precise and sharp, and though Nathaniel had been careful not to strike too hard, red still bloomed across the boy's shoulders – the welts a reminder that would fade far sooner than the bruises. When it was done, he took a step back and waited for Joshua to catch his breath.

Nathaniel set the cane aside, to be cleaned and oiled later, after he'd dismissed Joshua, and ordered the boy to put his shirt back on. Joshua's eyes were red and swollen but he had not let a single drop of water fall from them, despite his earlier pained cries, to Nathaniel's pride. Still, he felt like he should say something to the boy before he left for the night. So he said, "Remember, Joshua. I'm doing this for your own good. If not for me, you'd be a slave too."

Joshua shook his head as he pulled his shirt up over the reddening stripes. "No, sir. If not for you, I'd be dead. May I be excused?"

Stunned by the boy, once again, Nathaniel nodded and unlocked his office door. Joshua wasted no time in brushing past him, his uniform coat draped over his arms as he fumbled with his shirt buttons. For once, Nathaniel didn't chastise him. Instead, he shut the curtains on his window and relocked the door, and sat in the silent darkness alone until the midnight bells began to ring.