Ever wonder how come I, Wes Janson, get stuck with doing the math for this little party? I mean, the Wraiths have Piggy, who's definitely a mathematical genius. Smarter than I am, really. So, I hear you say, how come I'm doing it? I'll let you in on a little secret.
I haven't always been a pilot.
Back on Taanab, I was at the University, working in the Mathematics department, no less. I wasn't a graduate student or anything -- I was far too young. But I loved my work, and I was having the time of my life as a research assistant under Professor James Trebonna. Quite literally under, and that was the problem.
See, Taanab is, well, provincial. Old fashioned. Stuck out on the outer rim, but too pretentious to admit it. Even before the Empire they were positively Imperial when it came to prejudice.
Unlike the other faculty members, Professor Trebonna was young -- only a few years older than me -- and unmarried. Most people thought that was simply due to his age and to the hordes of females chasing after him. I thought the same thing for the first few months we worked together. I had a lot of respect for him -- he was smart, witty and didn't mind the odd practical joke. Even now no one knows that it was the two of us who covered the Dean's landspeeder with bright pink adhesive. Took him about a month to get it all off and it's a prank that went down in campus history.
I guess I knew all along that I liked him in a more-than-friendly way. But I couldn't admit it to myself; back on Taanab, guys liked girls. That was that. End of story. You knew about the other option, but, it was always spoken about in whispers, a great scandalous piece of gossip. It wasn't something that happened to young men of good family...
But then one night, and gods, this sounds so cliched when I remember it now, we were working late. We'd gone back to his apartment, and were eating a hurried dinner – some unidentifiable meat thrown into the heat unit with some equally old and unidentifiable vegetables.
We just bolted it down, not caring in true human-male style what we were eating, before grabbing a few cans of lomin ale and crashing out in front of the tri-D viewer for a break.
I can remember that night so clearly. My feet were up on the coffee table, crossed at the ankles, my hands loose by my side, totally relaxed, flopped on his couch. Jamie, not James, never James to me, even before, sprawled easily next to me.
Watching some terrible movie, laughing, talking. Drinking some more. Watching him surreptitiously out of the corner of my eye. My gaze lingering on his ass, admiring the curves of his body, the tantalising glimpse of his tanned chest through the vee in his shirt. Eyeing him hungrily as he stood to take the plates back to the kitchen. Aware, guilty, of the inappropriateness of my thoughts.
Shouldn't do this. He's my teacher. My friend. He's a guy. Constantly switching between looking at him and at the tri-d. My attention not divided at all -- focused totally on the warmth of his body near mine.
Thinking I should leave before I lose my control, try something I'll regret.
Laughing at his jokes, breathless as his hand brushes mine. Another lomin-ale. Two. Not drunk, no, not really, but the alcohol is loosening inhibitions, fuzzying the edges of my perceptions and soon I'm spending more time watching him than the movie. His hair curling into his eyes, just a touch over-long. I'm aching to brush it back, to feel the silky strands cling to my hands as I bury them in his hair, as I-. I choke the thought back, belatedly realising that I'm staring. And then he looks at me, and I blush, panic, because this is wrong, you don't do this, but even as I'm flushing, stammering something, I see the same desires reflected in his face, his eyes sparkling with suppressed lust.
"Wes." My name on his lips, his voice low and husky. It's the most erotic thing I've ever heard.
My heart jumps within me, nerves screaming for caution, that I could be reading this wrong.
"Jamie." My voice is pleading. I don't know what to do, but he sees my dilemma, reads the incoherent thoughts swirling through my mind and does the best thing he could have done.
He kisses me.
Lips, warm against mine, and this feels so right. He hasn't shaved for a while, stubble scratches across my face as I breathe in deeply, inhaling his clean masculine scent. My lips part, and his tongue slides between them, rubbing against mine, showing me in a bare second why people make such a fuss about this act. Every kiss, every experience before then pales instantly in comparison.
Groaning, my arousal finally batters down the last few thoughts in opposition, and I kiss him back, pent up emotion lacing the kiss so that when it does finally end, I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted from me.
Of course, it's instantly replaced by weight of a different kind. I can laugh at the irony now. But then? I suppose I panicked. As good as that had felt, as positive as the feelings that had surged through me at the touch of Jamie's lips on mine were, I wasn't quite ready to deal with it then. I was too afraid of what this meant, of what would happen if people found out. So I ran. I stumbled out of his flat, found my way home somehow and proceeded to get really, really drunk. I didn't go into the University at all the next day. For starters, I spent more than half of it sleeping off the hangover...
Jamie was very understanding about the whole incident, when I finally got up enough courage to face him again. Though, knowing what I know now, that's not too surprising. I wasn't the first student he'd seduced.
Do I sound bitter?
I shouldn't. I don't feel any bitterness towards him. We were friends to begin with, and he didn't have any ulterior motive when he picked me as his assistant. It was something that just happened, some inexplicable chemistry between us. But, to a certain extent, he did take advantage of me. I don't hate him for it, but -- I don't think we'll ever be friends again, either.
I was young, naive and well, hormonal. I was in throes of puppy love, but at the time, I truly believed I loved him. Of course, now I know how wrong I was. Love feels different. But I'm distracting myself...
Nor was I the first one who had panicked when they came face-to-face with who they really were.
He talked to me, comforted me as I worried about what would happen, as I railed against the unfairness of our customs and traditions. At least I was smart enough to know that something that felt like that couldn't be wrong. I could see where the wrong lay, and it was in Taanab, not me. But at the time, I was too wrapped up in myself, in him to think much about it, or even care.
And then he kissed me again, and I couldn't think at all.
Lips, warm and firm against mine, the taste of his mouth overwhelmingly intoxicating. His arms around me, holding me close to him, the heat radiating from his body and soaking into mine.
Practised hands slid my shirt off easily, began to trail over my back and shoulders, rubbing hard circles into my skin, branding me with his touch. Squirming slightly as his breath tickled across my neck, his tongue slipping wetly across my skin, nuzzling into the sensitive spot under my ear. I clutched him closer to me, began to pull off his shirt in turn, feeling hazily that I should return the favours he was bestowing upon me in some way.
I ran my hands over his chest, confidence growing with every second. His chest was smooth, virtually hairless, except for the fine dark hairs that began just above his waistband and arrowed down beneath his trousers. My fingers danced lightly over his nipple, watching eagerly as it hardened at my touch. Daringly, I bent and dragged my tongue over it, before pressing a kiss onto his shoulder. Jamie muffled a groan before pulling my mouth up to his again, for another one of those mind-melting kisses. He stepped even closer to me, one foot nudging mine apart as he moved even more securely into my embrace. The change in position brought us even greater physical contact, and for the first time I felt another man's cock pressing against me, hard and hot and all on my account. The knowledge that I could have such an effect on him shot heat into my belly, sent fire racing through my limbs.
Oh, boy, did that feel good. Part power trip, part egotism and partly the pure sensation of what he was doing to me, it all combined to make me far bolder than I had reason to be. So I slid my hand down to his navel and unzipped his pants.
My hand brushed over his cock and he jerked reflexively against me, and I felt an answering heat growing in my own groin. I tugged the pants down over his slim hips, before my fingers fastened on the silk of his boxers, and began to remove them as well. His hands covered mine as my fingertips slid under the waistband, pulling them gently away.
"Not yet, Wes." His voice was a low whisper, reassuring. And then his hands were on my hips, drawing down my pants, removing my underclothes before bearing me down onto the couch once more. He lay over me, the skin to skin contact frying all the thinking centres of my brain, kissing me breathless before sitting up, and straddling my body, the tent in his boxers tormentingly close to my own erection. His eyes were bright, mischief mingling with the heated desire, and his fingers played teasingly across my cock, lightly brushing the head and spreading the pre-come over it, his blunt nails running lightly across my belly and making me quiver with need.
"Is this what you want, Wes?"
I couldn't answer. All my concentration was on him, on what he was doing to me -- and on trying desperately to control myself enough that this wouldn't be over before it started. I moaned as his fingers curled around the base of my cock, pressing gently and stroking in counterpoint.
"Or maybe this?"
He bent, and took my cock into his mouth, just the bare tip of it, his tongue grazing over lightly over the slit, sensation driving an electric charge straight to the centre of my body, before raising his head once more, his eyes unerringly catching mine.
"Oh, gods, Jamie - please-"
He took pity on me, a devilish grin playing on his face before he bent once more, took me fully into his mouth, lips and tongue working expertly on me, pleasure spiralling through my body, and then the world spun away and sent me flying.
The rest of that day passed in a haze of sensual pleasures, Jamie showing me things I'd never felt, and a few things I'd never even imagined. He found an eager pupil in me, and we reached mutually satisfying conclusions. Several times. I spent that night in his bed -- for the first and last time -- after that time he always chased me home, no matter how late it was. Strangely, I never resented it.
The first couple of weeks were pure bliss, we were both happy and totally wrapped up with one another. He'd kiss me in his office between classes and nibble on my ears as we tried to work. We didn't get much work done. More often than was probably wise one thing would lead to another and one of us would have to dash over to lock the door of his workroom, opaque the windows, before we would stumble blindly to the mercifully flat -- and empty -- space of the worktable.
His moans in my ears, the feeling of him inside my body; I couldn't get enough of either. It was new and wonderful and I couldn't think of much else. It was almost a month before we began to have our first problems, a month of heated sex and constant touchings and subtle flirtations in public. His foot brushing mine under the table at the department dinner party. His hand slipping down my pants in the darkened theatre. My triumphant payback by teasing him into wild abandon, then sending him off to a faculty meeting five minutes late and wholly unsatisfied.
But then, I don't know, maybe he started to get bored. Something changed between us. Even backed by the original friendship, our relationship had never been as strong as it should have been. I noticed his eyes following other young men, his attention wavering from me, and he was no longer as keen for non-lecture trysts. The sex was still good, but that spark from the beginning, when all he saw was me, well, that was definitely gone. I caught him once; kissing one of the other students, in a one-on-one 'tutorial' and that was when I knew he'd been cheating on me. I was hurt and angry -- I think I threw a textbook at him before storming off, actually -- but not all that surprised. Somehow, he talked me back, apologised and begged and then took me to bed again, but it was just a temporary reprieve. Then the real bombshell hit.
My family found out.
Turned out some smarmy little git -- one of the more obnoxious C-grade students -- had started wondering just why the Professor wasn't responding to their advances -- or those of any of the other women on campus. So she paid a private investigator to find out. And he found me. And a few other little boy-toys that Jamie had around the place...
So she told my father he should turn up on campus that day. Where he saw me walk up to Jamie's office, and be greeted with a kiss that could not at all have been mistaken for brotherly, before being dragged into his office.
I got home that night to find my parents sitting in my room waiting. My father was dangerously red with rage and my mother white and shaking.
He told me that they'd found out, told me in no uncertain terms that I was sharing Jamie's affections with more than one other person and while this news was still ripping me up inside, carried on to inform me that they were deeply ashamed of my behaviour. That my allowance and tuition were being cut off. That they were sending me to the Imperial Academy to 'get some sense knocked into me.' That they didn't want to see me again unless I could find some nice girl to settle down with. My belongings were already packed into boxes -- someone had been busy while I was away -- and they strongarmed me onto the shuttle to Carida. Numb, dead inside, I barely felt my mother hug me goodbye. My father wouldn't look at me. That hurt more than what Jamie did. To have my own family reject me, for something that wasn't my fault, something as natural as breathing, was just devastating.
I spent that whole long flight in my bunk, thinking. Crying sometimes, but mostly just pulling inside myself. Hiding away from the world. Healing. And then I decided. Screw them. If they couldn't handle me, well, that was their problem. I liked me and that was damn well good enough. Training started and I settled down quickly. I began to be more like my old self, pulling pranks again, learning the drill at the academy. Making friends -- good friends, like Hobbie. Like Biggs. Learning my way in a much bigger world than Taanab. Finding the courage to question my training, to make my own choices and to join the Rebellion. To fight for freedom.
I have only seen my family once since. The war touched even Taanab eventually, and things are beginning to get better there. My family were quite civil to me, but there's always going to be some stilted awkwardness there. My poor mother did so have her heart set on grandchildren. Maybe when this war is done. Yeah, that'll be the day. Wes Janson with kids. Right.
Gods, that'd be a riot. Imagine the food fights...
Where was I?
That's right. I was thinking about Jamie. Huh. Nostalgia. At my age. It's almost embarrassing. I always thought that only the oldsters thought about the past all that much, and let's face it, I'm not likely to grow all that much older. Eventually, the statistics will catch up to me. But, if I die, at least I'll know I lived. And found the great love of my life. No, it isn't Jamie, although I suppose you've gathered that. It's not that hard to guess, really. I know some of the others on the Mon Remonda have suspicions. And there was that time that Solo caught me sneaking out of his quarters -- that was more than a little awkward -- and I thought I was the one with no shame?
I really am one of the luckiest men alive. To find such a love, and to have it returned, to be with a person who I adore and who by all accounts adores me with equal measure. However much I may annoy him sometimes. But, really, what better gift is there to show your love how you feel than a stuffed toy?