The chronometer chimed a third time before Kyle finally let him out of the bed. Julian staggered a bit as he rose, and had to catch himself on the wall. Kyle’s ‘discipline’ of the previous evening had left deep bruises. He exhaled before reaching for his small healing kit. “What are you doing?” Julian froze at the sound of Kyle’s voice.
“I have a shift in the infirmary today, Kyle.” He turned toward the man. “I will need to be functional to undertake my duties.”
“Yeah, alright.” Kyle nodded before climbing out of the bed. “You can uh…” He gestured to the healing kit before catching Julian by the back of the neck and pulling him forward for a kiss. “I love you. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
“I know, Kyle.” He made himself smile and stroke his fingers through Kyle’s hair. “I love you too. I am sorry I did not tell you earlier.”
“It’s alright, Jakob. Just be more careful.” Kyle smiled at him. “I can’t protect you if you don’t do what I tell you.”
“Yes, Kyle.” Julian nodded before turning and injecting himself with the nanites. It was strange to realize it had been almost a month since the last time he’d used them. Still, they did the trick. A few moments later, the dull throb from the beating had faded.
He headed into the refresher unit, only for Kyle to follow him. The big man pressed him back against the wall, kissing him as the hot water poured over them both. Julian put his arms around Kyle’s neck, letting the other man lift him slightly before shifting to put his legs around Kyle’s waist. Kyle groaned as he claimed Julian’s body again, lowering his head to nuzzle Julian’s neck and shoulder. Knowing what Kyle liked and expected, Julian moaned in response, arching his back to allow Kyle to drive deeper into him.
Kyle braced himself on the wall so as not to stumble when he came a few minutes later. He set Julian down before pressing another kiss to him. “CSO wants me to run through some simulations after my shift, fix some of the holes in my training. Shouldn’t take me more than a couple hours.”
“I will see you then.” Julian stood up on tiptoes to kiss him again before going to get dressed.
“Didn’t you say something about being effective and efficient, Doc?” Anson glanced down at where Doctor Jakob was scanning the patch. The wound beneath was healing, but still on the ugly side, and the doctor was apparently concerned about the possibility of infection.
“I believe I also implied something regarding highly unpleasant side effects.” Doc narrowed his eyes. “It would, however, be more efficient if you ceased moving about. And this would have been unnecessary had you not repeatedly thrown yourself about while wearing a medigel patch.”
“Remember the part where they were shooting at us?”
“Vividly.” Doc rolled his eyes. “Adan and Velik here have already been cleared for active duty. You, however, will remain on light duty —”
“I can’t —” He started shaking his head.
Doctor Jakob narrowed his eyes, and his voice became firm. “You will remain on light duty until I have cleared you.”
“Technically you can’t —”
“I have been reading up on military protocols.” Doc met his eyes. “My actual rank or even status as a member of the military is irrelevant. As I am the only medic on this ship and have been authorized to act as the medic by the captain, I am the de facto chief medical officer, granting me the authority to remove any mentally or physically unfit officer from duty if I deem it medically necessary as in that situation I am the superior officer. I believe the consequences for disobeying an order from your superior officer means I can ask Adan and Velik to throw you into the brig.” Doc glanced at the two men. “And judging by the smiles currently on their faces, I believe they would happily comply.”
Anson glanced at Velik and Adan, who both immediately started nodding in addition to grinning. “He said active duty. Which means I can assign you both to vent sweeps.”
“Not if you’re in the brig, you can’t.” Adan shook his head. “That makes Lieutenant Donat the acting CSO.”
He turned back to Doctor Jakob. “We shanghai’d you less than a month ago, and you’re already arranging a mutiny.”
“I believe in being effective and efficient, Commander.” A smile played around the edges of the doc’s mouth.
“Fine. Light duty restrictions.” He turned to glare at his subordinates. “Stop being amused.”
“Sir, yes sir.” Velik saluted.
He put aside the scanner, then turned to see CSO Anson had not yet left the infirmary. “Was there something else?”
“Yeah, a bit.” Anson chuckled. “Your husband dragged you off yesterday before we could buy you a round. You’re off duty now, right?”
“I had a few things to —” Julian started to demur.
“Doc.” Anson gave a small shake of his head. “Join me in the rec room for a couple rounds.” Julian felt the fear start to rise just a little, and Anson must have picked up on some portion. “Come on, the hooch isn’t that bad.”
“I am not much of a drinker.” He kept his face friendly, controlled his breathing. This was not the Silverfish, but if he raised suspicion then…
“Not the point at all, Doc.” Anson put a hand on his shoulder. As much as Julian hated being touched, he dared not flinch or move away. If he did, he’d risk Anson wondering why. “Look, I know you…” Anson sighed. “I know you don’t actually want to be here and we sort of kidnapped you, but…” He shrugged. “You could have left me to die down there. You didn’t. You risked your ass to save mine, and at the very least I owe you a drink for that. So, come on.”
Anson could have let him take that round. But he hadn’t. He’d given his word that he’d protect Julian. And unlike everyone else who’d ever made that promise, Anson had kept it. Hiding in his quarters left him entirely at Kyle’s mercy. “Let me finish putting this away and…” He nodded. “I will join you.”
The smile on Anson’s face was warm and genuine. “Good. I think if you give us a chance, you might actually start to like us.”
“I will give it a try.” Julian returned the smile, playing his role. Doctor Jakob Narel.
He had to steel himself to enter the rec room, and hope no one noticed. Or that if they did, they’d just attribute it to him being nervous about meeting new people. It was somewhat the truth, after all. If Anson hadn’t been right there next to him, he wasn’t sure he could have done it. Almost immediately upon entering, he heard several people call out his fake name in greeting. The smiles were friendly. Anson led him over to a table, and those already present budged over to make room for them. “Doc, you met Norah yet? She’s our communications officer.”
“I have not yet had the pleasure, no.” He gave the woman a small nod as he sat down. An outsider would always be viewed with suspicion. If he looked at each of these people as a shield between him and harm then… Then it made sense to be here. Jakob Narel wasn’t their ship’s whore. He was their doctor. These people needed him. And so, he could pretend. For at least a little while.
Norah extended a hand, and he shook it. “So, you’re the guy technically kidnapped.” She gave him a sympathetic look. “Let me buy you —”
“Nope.” Anson shook his head. “Doc’s first round is on me.” He signaled the man at the commissary. “What do you want, Doc? Just plain bad, way too sweet, or remove your throat lining?”
“If you mix half way too sweet with half remove your throat lining, it almost doesn’t taste like cat urine.” One of the other members of the crew winked at him.
“Well, with such a glowing testimonial, how can I possibly resist?” Julian rolled his eyes.
Anson pounded him on the back. “That’s the spirit, Doc.”
Kyle was startled at learning Jakob was in the rec room. He’d been trying to get the man to mingle since they’d arrived, but Jakob much preferred to keep to the two of them. He smiled when he saw Jakob sitting with some of the other crew. Jakob looked up at him when he walked over, then smiled when Kyle planted a kiss on the top of his head. Another crewman promptly moved to another chair so Kyle could sit next to Jakob. “What are you drinking?”
“It is almost…” Jakob passed the glass to him. “But not quite…” Kyle took a drink and immediately grimaced. “Like cat urine.”
“That’s terrible.” He wiped at his mouth.
Jakob took his glass back. “And yet oddly enough, this is my third.”
“It helps that after the first couple swallows all your taste buds are dead.” A crewman on the other side of the table, Ismael if he recalled correctly, held up his own glass.
“Unfortunately…” Anson sighed. “The stuff in storage unit 7A that I know absolutely nothing about got damaged in the recent mess. Brekin got it working again, but we’re at least another two weeks from anything decent.”
“I uh…” Kyle gave an awkward shrug. “I’ve got six bottles of Branthon whiskey.”
“Well hello my new best friend in the entire universe.” The communication officer leaned toward him. “Name your price.”
“The buying and selling of contraband is prohibited —” Anson started shaking his head.
“Commander Anson, I am growing concerned about the state of your mental health.” Jakob tilted his head at the CSO. “Perhaps it would be best if I relieved you of duty for the next…” He glanced at Kyle. “Ten minutes?”
“Yeah, that should about do it.” Kyle grinned and leaned toward the communication officer. “What do you got?”
“Better question, smuggler boy.” Her smile was full of avarice. “What else you got?”
Anson sighed, and tossed back the rest of his drink.
“Got you something.” Julian turned to see Kyle smiling at him. “Norah had a few luxury items, and I know you don’t really have much so…” Kyle held out a wrapped package. “I traded for this.”
“What is it?” Julian kept a smile on his face.
“Open it and find out.” Kyle ruffled his hair.
He opened the package to find a light sports jacket, one bearing the insignia of the Spectres. Somewhat to his surprise, he found himself actually tearing up a little at the gift. “Thank you.”
Kyle put an arm around him, pulling him in close and kissing his forehead. “Try it on.”
It fit well, and the material was comfortable where it touched his skin. He was becoming used to the uniform, the disguise he had to wear every day. After being kept naked for… Julian fingered the jacket cuff. The jacket was just so perfectly normal. “I like it.”
“It looks good on you.” Kyle laughed a little, then kissed him again. “It was nice seeing you unwind a little today. You’ve been working too hard lately to…” He cupped the back of Julian’s neck, then kissed his forehead. “To make sure we have a place here. Thank you, for that, it…” He smiled. “Being a soldier again is…”
As long as Kyle was happy, the man would not turn him over. He would be safely hidden in the last place anyone would think to look for Julian Vendral III. He laid his hand on Kyle’s cheek, and smiled up at him. “I do appreciate that it means you shave every day.”
Laughter came from Kyle as he caught Julian and swept him up into his arms. He carried him over to the bed and half tossed him onto it before pouncing. “Alright, lose the clothes…” Kyle began stripping his own off. “Neither of us is on duty again for hours.” His smile was evil. “I’m going to make you squeal.”