“You really didn’t know.” Anson leaned in the door of the infirmary’s office.
Doctor Narel was sitting at the desk, his head bowed, and his hands clasped behind his neck. “I thought it a defensive facility.” He didn’t look up. “Not an offensive…” He took a deep breath. “Not an offense.”
He entered, shutting the door behind him. Then he took a deep breath of his own before sitting down across from the doctor. He removed the datachit from his vest pocket and set it on the desk halfway between them. “I downloaded their…” He sighed. “Pull the information on the vaccines and treatments off this, then dump the rest.”
For a moment, Jakob stared at the chit. He slowly lifted his head to meet Anson’s eyes. “Commander?”
“I…” Anson swallowed. “Would appreciate it if this stayed between us. We can tell them it was separate files, or the rest got corrupted, or…” He shook his head. “I can’t take the chance some asshole with more rank than decency will get notions about poetic justice and…” He shrugged. “Can you do that, or should I dump the chit entirely?”
“If anyone learns of this, Anson…” Jakob picked up the datachit.
“Fuck…” Anson twitched his shoulder and managed to smile. “What’s a little light treason between friends, right?”
Jakob laughed softly. “It was a spur of the moment operation, chance rather than planning. You grabbed what little data you could before the Alliance came to investigate…”
“And blew the place to deny them a resource.” Anson nodded. “Not like we had orders regarding it to disobey.” He leaned forward again, resting his arms on the desk. “You alright, Doc?”
“I am…” Jakob nodded. “Reevaluating ideals.” He looked away. “I did not pick up a weapon, Anson. Yet I gave orders that may have resulted in deaths.”
“You gave information.” Anson shook his head. “I gave the orders. You let me —”
“It does not work that way.” He rubbed his neck again. “There was a time I believed all lives had value. That all lives were worthwhile, worth saving. That everyone deserved to live.” He set his arms on the desk.
“Being in command means having to make decisions. Kill one man to save ten. Let ten men die for the chance to save a thousand.” Anson swallowed. “Order one man to die, so the rest might live.” He reached over and put his hand atop Jakob’s. “Don’t lose sight of those ideals, Doc, because they aren’t wrong. Our job in all this is to save as many as we can.”
The other man’s hand turned over to briefly grip his own. “Yes.” Jakob nodded. “Our job is to save as many as we can.”
Ships were moving, going back to investigate the facility. Mateo closed his eyes, then opened them again, watching the movements. Then he heard Lukas’s voice, still a little weak and hoarse. “We’ve got a course, Captain.”
Mateo looked at the display, then at the smiles on the faces of his crew. “Alright, people…” He lifted his head. “Let’s go home.”
Kyle caught Jakob and swung him around in a circle before kissing him. He laughed softly as he put his lover down. “I haven’t forgotten I promised you a beach, love.” He put his hand on the back of Jakob’s neck. “Sun and sand.”
“And warmth.” Jakob nodded up at him. “I was also promised warmth.”
“Don’t worry…” He grinned. “I’ll keep you warm.” He swung Jakob up into his arms and started for the bed. He tossed Jakob onto it, then pounced, pinning the other man to the mattress. His lips found his husband’s, and he probed his tongue into Jakob’s mouth. Jakob raised his head to meet the kiss. Kyle sat up to strip off his own shirt before pulling Jakob’s tunic off.
Gently, he nibbled at Jakob’s neck, then sank his teeth in just a little. Just enough to leave his mark. He heard Jakob groan in response. The sound made him moan, then he lifted himself up and finished pulling the uniform off Jakob. He smiled down at the naked man on the bed, then lay back beside him. His fingers stroked Jakob’s body, making the other man start to squirm before catching hold of the back of Jakob’s neck. Kyle grinned as he guided Jakob’s head down, then he moaned when Jakob’s lips encircled his cock.
He lay back, eyes half closed as his lover’s mouth caressed him. “That’s good. Just like that, love. Just like that…” Kyle smiled. He let Jakob’s mouth moisten him thoroughly before reaching over to play his fingers over Jakob’s ass. Jakob moaned around Kyle’s cock. “Oh yeah, just like that.”
After a few more moments, he pulled Jakob’s head away, then grinned before pulling Jakob atop him. Jakob got the hint quickly and moved into position to straddle Kyle. Kyle grabbed hold of Jakob’s hips, then entered his lover with a thrust that made Jakob cry out. He kept a tight hold of Jakob’s hips, guiding the other man’s movements and rhythm as Jakob rode him to orgasm.
When they’d both regained their breath, he pulled Jakob in close to him again. “We’ll spend the night on the sand. Make a campfire.”
“That sounds fun.”
“Yeah.” He kissed Jakob’s forehead before letting himself drift off to sleep.
He stared out the viewport. The sound of the door opening made him look over his shoulder. Julian gave a small smile, then looked back out. “The stars refuse to move.”
Anson exhaled before coming to stand beside him, folding his arms as he looked out. “If we engage full engines, we’ll be detected. And they’ve got ships close enough and fast enough to run us down.” Anson nodded. “Crew is on edge. We’ve been out here…” He twitched his shoulder. “We’ll be getting a hero’s welcome.”
“I suppose we will also be debriefed.” Julian folded his arms. The tunic’s collar hid most of the mark Kyle had left on his neck. When he’ gone to apply a little medical gel, Kyle had taken it out of his hand. He’d called the mark a trophy when he’d kissed Jakob again. A couple of the crew had given him knowing looks when they’d caught sight of it. If Anson noticed, he didn’t give any indication. At least the bruises on his hips weren’t visible beneath the uniform.
“Yeah.” Anson looked down, then shifted to lean on the wall so he could look at Julian. “Captain and I have your back, Doc. You’re part of our crew. We couldn’t have done this without you.”
Half the problem was that he knew that. They couldn’t be back on their way across the border with information that could potentially devastate the Alliance if not for him. At the very least, the information would insure that Palindor would never surrender. It could also lead to renewed rebellion, both in and outside of the zones. “I have never been to Palindor space before.” He looked up at Anson. “Which planet are you from?”
“Technically…” Anson shrugged. “None of them. I was born in space, on a little freight hauler, halfway between systems.” He rested his arm on the top of the viewport and looked out into space. “I visit planets, but I can’t say I’ve ever called one home.” He shifted a little as he looked out at the stars. “I grew up on a merchant craft, never staying in one place for long.”
“Where did you study?” Julian raised an eyebrow. Anson had proved surprisingly knowledgeable on a wide variety of subjects.
“Tutor program.” When Julian gave him a disbelieving look, Anson grinned at him. “And I spent a lot of time reading anything I could get my hands on. Space, even data storage, is precious on a ship. A datapad full of text file books doesn’t take up much compared to vids.”
Julian clasped his hands behind his back. He hesitated a moment, then shrugged. “I was born on a passenger shuttle, two weeks ahead of schedule. My mother was very annoyed. She wanted me to be born on her ancestral planet.”
“Instead…” Anson smiled. “You’re another citizen of the galaxy.”
“A citizen of the galaxy.” Julian returned the smile. “I like that.”
He held his breath, like a child. He wasn’t the only one to exhale loudly when the display changed. They weren’t out of danger yet, but they were over the border. “Engage full engines.” Mateo sat down. “I want some decent beer with my dinner.”
“Yes, captain.” The helmsman grinned as he put his hands on the controls.
Someone let out a cheer. Rather than call them back to order, Mateo just leaned back in his chair and smiled.
His fists clenched a little. They were finally back on Palindor soil, and Jakob wasn’t with him to see it. The officers had gone to meet with various higher-ups, and the grunts had been herded into a section of the station. They weren’t allowed to leave until the debriefing was done, but beyond that he couldn’t fault the accommodations. The crew was enjoying the first real food they’d had in months.
There was even a garden and fresh air. Kyle shook his head, then looked up as Adan sat down on the bench across from him. “Air that doesn’t smell like the crew’s ass.” Adan took a deep breath. Then he tilted his head. “You don’t seem to be enjoying yourself.”
“I’ve been promising Jakob a nap on a beach.” Kyle shrugged. “Kind of eager to get there.”
Adan laughed. “Can’t blame you. If I had a piece like that…” He let out a low whistle. “So how the hell does…” He waved a hand at Kyle. “Score something like…” He waved his other hand in the general direction the officers had gone.
“We just clicked.” Kyle smiled. “This bond and then…” He thought back to Jakob’s first shy smiles. “Sort of fell for each other. Then he said he’d come with me anywhere and…” He spread his hands. “Here we are.”
“Damn storybook.” Adan stood. “Alright, I’m going to go stretch my legs a bit more in an area where the gravity stays constant.”
Julian kept his face composed and stuck to the story Anson had provided him. Fortunately, the interrogator did not seem inclined to be suspicious. The debrief appeared to be a simple formality, and if anything, the interrogator was more eager to get it over with than Julian himself.
Still, he exhaled as soon as he was free. “Doc.” Anson straightened from where he’d been leaning against a nearby wall.
“Were you waiting for me?” Julian raised an eyebrow.
Anson chuckled as he nodded, then gestured for Julian to follow him. He kept his voice low. “I was a little concerned you might arouse suspicion by getting lost.” He shrugged. “Most military bases have a kind of pattern to them.”
“The thought is appreciated.” He smiled. He was on a military base, in Palindor space. It was something of a relief to have a familiar face beside him. “What happens now?”
“The ship will be in dry dock a few days, undergoing repairs. We will probably get some new crew, and folks are going to try to poach some of the folks we have. Captain will fight transfers though, unless a crew member wants one.” Anson touched his shoulder. “You might actually get a staff, doc.”
He put a hand over his heart and made a show of staggering. Anson laughed. Julian twitched a shoulder. “Jemma deserves a raise and promotion.”
“She’ll get it. So will a few of the others. And we’ll all have a nice heap of backpay.” He shrugged, then lowered his voice again. “I don’t want to lose you as a crewmember, Jakob. Or as a friend. But if you want out, your pay will be enough to get you an apartment somewhere.”
“I…” Julian blinked. It was tempting. Find a place, hunker down, and wait things out. He shook his head. “I want to stay aboard the Onager.” With his crew. With his friends. With the people who’d kept him safe. Another thought struck him. It wasn’t as though Kyle would let him leave anyway. At least on the Onager, Kyle’s options for harming him were limited.
To his surprise, Anson pulled him into a hug. Perhaps to even greater surprise, Julian found himself returning it. “Glad to hear that, doc.” Anson released him. “Nobody else on the ship dumb enough to play board games with me anymore.”