“You’re talking about full on war.” Leon’s eyes widened as he stared at his grandfather.
“I fear it is not merely inevitable, Leon.” He sighed. “It has already begun. Palindor warships engaged our vessels in the Kyer system several hours ago.”
“What?” Leon blinked. “Why?”
“From what we have learned thus far, a freighter had an engine failure and drifted across the border. Whatever it was carrying…” Vendral shook his head. “Palindor apparently didn’t want our ships to get their hands on it. When Alliance vessels moved in, Palindor warships crossed the border to drive them back and recover the ship. They destroyed an Alliance vessel in the process.”
“Surely we can…”
“It was the Harmonium.”
“Oh.” Leon let out his breath. Captain Regin’s ship. Captain Regin, whose father was one of the loudest voices on the council. “Survivors?”
“Most of the crew, Captain included.” Vendral’s eyes narrowed just a little.
Leon started shaking his head. “You think it was intentional. You think Regin moved in with the intent of getting the Palindor warships to fire upon him.”
“What I think at this point is…” Vendral sighed. “Irrelevant. Palindor is claiming we invaded, and their own warships are massing. With the council up in arms…” For a few moments, the Prime Minister vanished and it was only his grandfather standing there. “Regin is claiming Julian’s abduction was a sanctioned operation and that the only reason I am advocating for peace is that the Palindor government is —”
“You’re going to write Julian off.” He stared at his grandfather.
“You’re going to write Julian off and go to war to protect your position.”
And the Prime Minister was back, eyes cold and hard. “Captain Vendral. War has already begun. I expect you to do your sworn duty.”
“Yes, Prime Minister.” Leon glared back at him. “I will do my sworn duty.”
He kept his hands braced against the wall as the man responsible for his capture slammed into him, over and over. The man made sick little grunting sounds as he drove his cock repeatedly into Julian. After weeks of such treatment, he was becoming numb to the pain. However, he’d already learned not to let his assailants on to that fact. It just resulted in escalation.
So, he cried out in pain as the man yanked at his hair, pulling his head back before slamming into him one final time. He felt the man’s twitch inside him.
The rape wasn’t the worst part.
With a final grunt, the man withdrew. He yanked Julian back, pulling him away from the wall and flinging him to the ground. “Get on your knees, whore.” Julian obeyed. The man caught his hair, yanking him up until his head was level with the man’s waist. The man smiled, and shoved his cock at Julian’s face. “Clean it.”
Julian fought the rising nausea. He let his mind drift away, to another place and time. Then he bent his head to do as he was told.
Kyle entered Julian’s quarters, and smiled at the man sitting on the bed. Julian had started smiling back when he entered. The expression looked good on the man’s pretty face. He set up the jammer, then walked to the bed. “May I make an inquiry?” Julian raised an eyebrow.
“Sure, I guess.” Kyle shrugged as he started unzipping his space suit.
“Would you happen to know who won the opening match of the Ulama season?”
A wide smile came to his face, and he sat down on the edge of the bed. “Marvels beat the Regents, thirty-seven to fourteen.”
“The Regents actually scored against the Marvels?” Julian gave a small shake of his head. “And I suppose next you are going to claim they have recently discovered a planet with oceans of aged bourbon.”
“The Regents actually managed to acquire a decent player. He scored twelve of the points by himself. Pity they couldn’t muster a defense.” Kyle shrugged. “Of course, the Marvels were playing their second string, giving their new acquisitions a trial run.”
“You are a fan?” Julian sat up a little straighter. “May I ask which team?”
“Well, the Marvels, definitely, who doesn’t? But the Spectres are my team.”
“Best defense in the league.” Julian nodded.
“Oh, definitely. Did you see last year’s playoff match?” Kyle began gesturing adamantly as he sketched out the play with his hands. Several of the other crewmen watched the game, but none of them really cared. Julian listened to him with rapt attention, occasionally laughing at an observation or making a joke of his own.
It was nice.
He watched as Kyle took the jammer and left. His brief privacy was over, and the doctor was watching again. Julian ran his hands through his hair, and hunched his body. Once he’d gotten Kyle talking, it was like a flood gate had opened. He’d guessed at the meaning of the badge on Kyle’s boots correctly. Fortunately, what little knowledge he’d picked up of the game from overheard conversations at school had been enough. Once Kyle had gotten started, all he’d had to do was smile, nod, and agree.
Julian laid down, facing the wall, going over what little else he’d learned. The crew was fairly loyal to the captain. No existing wedge was present that he might be able to drive deeper. There was a bounty out for his return, but all the crew had markers and the bounty did not carry a promise of immunity for other crimes. He had to stop his fists from clenching. Were it not for that oversight, at least one might have turned already.
Kyle believed they were fighting for a cause. Likely some of the others did as well. Championing the underdog and maybe… Julian swallowed. Maybe he could work with that. There had to be some angle he could play. Kyle wasn’t exactly making a secret of his attraction, but he seemed satisfied with the status quo. If he saw himself as a vigilante rather than a terrorist…
Timing would be important. And even if he was right, there was no way around the fact that he was really going to hate the next stage of that particular plan.
It took him a moment to realize the comm unit was blinking again. A message over a secure, secret channel. He took a deep breath, and accepted the communication. “Gregori.”
Captain Thorne nodded to him. “Leon. You’ve heard.”
“As of eighteen hundred hours today, you and I are officially enemies.” Leon shook his head. Over the last couple months, he’d grown to respect the other Captain. Three times they’d chased smugglers back and forth to each other, and the last time Captain Thorne had sent half the contents of the smuggler’s ship back over for Leon to pick up. High quality foodstuffs and some rather fancy wines. Under any other circumstances, they’d have docked their ships together and thrown a party for their crews. That, however, they couldn’t justify with creative report writing.
“Pity.” Captain Thorne sighed. “I was rather starting to like you.”
“Perhaps the war mongers will grow weary of rattling sabers, and sense will prevail.” Leon ran a hand through his hair. This war was the result of political maneuvering and nothing else. Soldiers were going to die for the pride of councilmembers.
“Those who declare war are never those who pay its costs.” Captain Thorne hesitated a moment, then squared his shoulders. “I will not seek you on the battlefield, Captain.”
“Nor I you, Captain. May both our crews make it home to their families.”
“Leon…” Captain Thorne’s hand hovered over the switch. The man met his eyes. “I will continue the hunt.”
“Thank you, Gregor.”
The opportunity didn’t come before Kyle’s next visit, so he made a different play. It had taken him most of the time he had prior to the man’s arrival to work up the nerve, but when Kyle sat down next to him on the bed, Julian moved just a little closer. And when Kyle leaned in, Julian shifted to meet him, initiating the kiss.
He went to his knees when Kyle released his lips, moving without being directed. Kyle wanted a willing partner. If the man believed he was exactly that, then maybe… It wasn’t a good option. It was just the only one he had. Last time they’d only talked. Today he put his mouth to another use, moving his lips and tongue in the way he’d learned Kyle liked best. Bringing the man to orgasm took only a few minutes. Normally he pulled away, or tried to. This time he left his mouth where it was, forcing himself not to show the slightest sign of revulsion at the warm saltiness in his mouth. He swallowed before he withdrew.
Then he looked up at Kyle, and smiled, his expression just a little bit shy and hesitant. Kyle caught him by the arm, and pulled him up onto the bed, smiling.
They lay together, bodies intertwined. Kyle talked, and Julian listened, filing away key points and prompting occasionally. He offered a few stories of his own to keep Kyle sharing. And when Kyle’s hands begin moving along his body, Julian didn’t fight. Instead, he guided, showing Kyle where and how to touch.
Teaching his rapist how to make his body betray him.
Julian shuddered when he came and softly called out Kyle’s name.