Captain Laria glanced at Kyle, then glanced at him again. “You shaved.”
“Itched.” Kyle waved a hand. “Besides, we’re soldiers again. Seemed time.” He shrugged. “Hey, I was thinking if we hit…”
“Kyle…” She chuckled, then patted his shoulder. “I don’t need you thinking, I need you shooting. Gear up, we’ve got a target.”
He grinned. “Yes, ma’am.”
“And then one of the charges didn’t go off, so Rand tried to shoot it. He missed three times…” Kyle held up his fingers. “Before Goose smacked him upside the head and shot it herself.”
“And your role in this endeavor?” Julian raised an eyebrow.
“Making the guards keep their heads down.” He rolled his shoulder. “One of them winged me a bit. Should probably go to the doc but he’s busy pulling bits of glass out of Cole, who apparently thinks the word ‘duck’ means ‘make a giant target of yourself’.”
“Allow me?” Julian moved closer.
“I uh…” Kyle blinked, then nodded. “Yeah, okay.” He stayed still while Julian gently cleaned the wound before applying the nanite gel. A smile came to his face as Julian leaned in and gently kissed the area near the wound. He caught Julian by the side of the neck and pulled him in for a kiss.
After they’d broken apart, Julian sat back, leaning against the wall. “May I inquire as to the manner of the target?”
“Some kind of training facility.” Kyle shrugged.
“You do not know the specifics?”
“Captain said to hit it, we hit it.” Kyle leaned back himself. “Thanks for…” He gave Julian a defensive look. “It wasn’t a med warehouse, it was…” He stood up and went to the computer. It took him a few minutes to find the newscast, and then he narrowed his eyes.
“Go back to your room.”
“Is something…” Julian started to shake his head.
“I said go back to your room.” Kyle glared at him.
“Yes, Kyle.” Julian nodded before slipping out of the room.
He stared at the newscast, taking deep breaths. A school. They’d hit a school. On a planet that had just joined the Alliance. Terrorists sending a message. Kyle shut off the news cast, and punched the wall. He started to turn, and saw Julian standing in the doorway. “I told you to…”
Julian crossed the room, and laid a hand gently on Kyle’s chest. “Please do not do anything that would end in the captain throwing you out an airlock, Kyle.”
“I…” He exhaled. “Yeah, yeah.” He put his arms around Julian, pulling the younger man in close.
Kyle had shaved. Julian sat on the edge of his bunk. He’d been angry about the captain’s activities. Julian tried not to smile, to keep his face in its usual calm expression. If he could convince Kyle to turn on the captain, to send a message to his father or brother. He could promise immunity, promise Kyle the reward. The problem was going to be convincing Kyle to go against Palindor. The man was, in his way, a patriot.
And he wasn’t sure he had that much time remaining. With Kyle, it had been a conscious decision, but day by day he was finding himself occasionally smiling at other crewmen. Finding himself accepting what they did to him. His body no longer rebelled, no longer needed the drugs to give the crew what they wanted. His body betrayed him with frustrating regularity now, accepting the cruelty and degradation as normal.
Being turned over to the Palindor government was no rescue, not anymore. Not when the war was getting vicious on both sides. It was not unlikely he’d be accused of being aboard the Silverfish willingly, joining in their terrorist activities. He’d be executed, and his family disgraced. The idea that his siblings or parents might even believe such a possibility was more than he could bear.
He sat at the computer, pulling up newscast after newscast. Reading the stories. It had all seemed so reasonable when it started. Strike a blow, make a stand, show them we can’t be pushed around. Kyle sighed. When had it all gone wrong? He’d known they all had markers, but that was the price of fighting back. Of standing up for themselves. Wasn’t it?
Things had made so much more sense when he was in uniform. Captain told you what to do, and you did it. You didn’t ask, you just picked up your rifle and went.
But that was when you could trust your captain.
Kyle shook his head, and turned the computer off. He lay on his bunk, staring up at the ceiling. Off this ship, what the hell was left for him? A pair of blue eyes floated in front of his mind. And it wasn’t like there was no reason to stay. He closed his eyes, and let sleep claim him.
“I love you.”
It was all Julian could do not to laugh at the words Kyle whispered into his ear as they twined together on the bed. He kissed the man and ran his fingers through his hair before whispering back. “And I you.”
He dusted off his hands, and crawled back out of the maintenance chute. Four down, two to go. Kyle headed down to engineering, cleaning the vents as he went. The last was went into the shield battery.
Frank had taken a belt to Julian in the rec room. Julian hadn’t done anything. Hadn’t fought or argued. Just hadn’t been lively enough. The rest of the crew had laughed and jeered, then taken their own turns. He’d taken a turn as well, but the words they’d said to each other the previous night had rung in his ears.
Loading the crates didn’t take much time. The captain was confident in her hold over the crew. She knew as well as they did there was nowhere else for them to go. No lives for them to go back to.
Except now he had what he needed to change that.
Kyle limited himself to caresses and the occasional kiss during breaks while the playoffs were on. When the game was over he expected Kyle to lead him towards the bed. Instead, the man shut the screen off and stared at the blank space. “Kyle?” Julian felt fear growing in the pit of his stomach.
“I stocked a shuttle.”
It took a moment for the words to register. “What?”
“I stocked a shuttle. I, uh…” Kyle sighed. “It’s not right. Some of the others hurt you, and…” He swallowed. “And what the captain’s been doing…” He shook his head. “Hitting soldiers is one thing. She’s going after civilians. So, I’m out. But…” He turned towards Julian. “Leaving you here don’t feel right. I…” His smile was hesitant, and his face almost looked vulnerable. “Come with me.”
Blood rushed to his head. For a moment, he felt like he was going to black out. It took him a few moments before he could respond, long enough that Kyle was starting to give him a concerned look. “Kyle, I will go anywhere you ask.”
“You…” Kyle’s face broke into a huge smile, and then he yanked Julian into his lap, holding him tightly. His fingers stroked through Julian’s hair before pulling him in for a kiss. “You mean it?”
“Where are we going?” Julian smiled at him, trying to keep his voice light. Almost any planet would do, anywhere he could get to a communication device. He remembered enough codes that he should be able to get directly in contact with a family member, and there would be agents. A way out. He had a way out. It took almost everything he had left not to cry.
“I don’t know. Away. Start a new life, somewhere.” Kyle kissed him passionately. He smiled. “We could go now. I mean, the sooner the…” He shook his head. “The sooner we go the less chance of anyone catching us. Most of the crew is asleep or drunk. We could…” He ran a hand down Julian’s cheek. “Are you ready now? Do you have everything you need?”
“All I need is you.” Bloody hell, the man was asking him that? He didn’t even have clothes to wear. He didn’t wear anything except… His gaze went to the cuff. “Kyle…”
“What…” Kyle followed his gaze. “No, I can get that off you, no problem.”
“Tampering will set off an alarm. The captain was very clear about…” So close. He was so close. “But triggered all it will do is stun me. You can remove it when the shuttle is clear of the ship. They will be alerted at that point anyway, but you will have more time.”
“It’ll hurt you.”
“It will be worth it to keep you safe, my love.” Julian kissed Kyle again. He could take it.
“Alright.” Kyle stood, then set Julian down. “Let’s go.”