Chapter 1: Chapter One
Jeff sucked in a breath. The air was thin and the heat from the water rolling down their skin made him a little light headed. Usually onboard a ship, they had to take ultrasonic showers. Which were even more effective than the old-fashioned water kind, but deadly boring. Basically, you just stood there in the stall with your arms out at your side until you heard the beep that let you know that you were all clean. Once every two weeks, though, he got to take a real honest to God hot water shower for ten minutes. All other crew got one water shower a month.
He always shared his showers with Jensen, especially the water ones. The last almost always ended up like this. Jensen pressed against the shower wall with one leg lifted to hook over Jeff’s hip to give him ample room to bury his dick deep inside the younger man’s hot body.
He loved everything about this. The sounds Jensen made; the feel of smooth, hot, wet skin under his hands. The tight clinch of muscles around his cock. The look on Jensen’s face when he came. It was so easy to fool himself that he was the only man Jensen had ever looked at like that and usually he went with the delusion. Today, especially. Today might be the last day he got to see that look, hear those noises. To feel like this.
He was a selfish fuck. He never should have brought Jensen with him. He should have dropped him off at home on the way to the front. Let him spend his money on the house Jensen bought for them. Told him he wanted him to have everything ready for him when he returned. But there was no going back now.
Jensen stared at his reflection after Jeff left the bathroom. He was nearly thirty and there were lines starting to form around his mouth and near his eyes. Being a pleasure slave was for the young. He wasn’t young anymore. Some owners kept their pleasure slaves despite their aging, or granted them freedom, but a slave could never be sure. They could end up anywhere when they got too old. Maybe this was why his previous master had given him up so easily. It was cleaner then deciding for himself how to unload his aging pleasure slave. He’d never thought about that before and a brief frown flitted across his face before he banished it lest the lines cross the threshold to actually become wrinkles.
He’d have to get some better moisturizer and wear cream when Jeff was on the bridge. His current master didn’t seem like he was becoming displeased, but that didn’t necessarily mean anything. Then again, his current master was always doing things ass backwards. He gave an amused snort at the thought that Jeff just might not actually realize that he should be dissatisfied.
He sighed and dressed for dinner. When he came out into the main room of Jeff’s cabin, he found his master brooding over the star charts again. He paused in the doorway, watching him. He wanted Jeff to keep him. He didn’t even want freedom if it meant he had to leave Jeff. As if he’d heard his thoughts, the admiral looked over his shoulder and smiled at him.
“Hey,” Jeff said, his voice a rumbling purr that gave Jensen goosebumps.
“Hey,” he said with a slight smile as he crossed the room. Jeff kissed him. He wondered how much persuasion the older man would need to stay in the cabin while they waited for the Navy. His stomach was in knots and he knew it would only be worse once Jeff left for the bridge. He wanted him all to himself until that happened, but the Admiral needed to have dinner with his staff and crew tonight. It was important for moral.
“Did you ever get your package?”
“Yes, Admiral.” Jensen murmured. It had been on the special envoy ship that rendezvoused with them the day before, carrying sealed communiques and supplies.
“I opened it by mistake. I’m not used to you gettin’ things.”
“It’s okay. I don’t get anything that you can’t see.” He looked in the box. It was his auto fill prescription. He’d actually run out of the pills and found that he didn’t need them at all… at least not with Jeff. But he couldn’t stop taking them any more than he could take off his collar. The laws were clear.
“What’s the prescription for?”
“It’s… just something I have to take.”
The Admiral frowned, concern drawing his eye brows together. “Are you sick?”
“No… nothing like that. It’s not for illness. It’s required for pleasure slaves.”
Jeff blinked at him in undisguised curiosity. “What does it do?”
Jensen felt his face heat. He had to remind himself that Jeff was new to this, that he’d never had a pleasure slave before and had probably never even known anyone who had. “It… it increases libido, Admiral.”
“Libido?” Jeff looked like he was going to be ill. “You mean… Oh.”
“Is there a problem, Admiral?” Jensen moved towards him, but Jeff took a step back. That could not be a good sign. The last time Jeff had avoided physical contact with him was before they’d left Terra. Well, there was the space sickness incident, but this felt different. Jensen thought they were beyond this.
“I just thought…” he trailed off and laughed softly. “You know what? I’m an idiot. I got no idea what I’m doin’ runnin’ a goddamn space ship, let alone an entire invasion.”
Jensen frowned. Something had just gone really, horribly wrong with this conversation and he had no idea what the hell it was. “Did I do something wrong?” Normally he wouldn’t be so blunt, but Jeff was scaring him.
Jeff cupped his cheek and kissed him gently. But there was still something really, really wrong with his behavior. Something off about the way he was touching him. “Never. You’re prefect. Com’ on. Let’s go eat.”
In the months since they left Terra behind, Jeff’s fleet had gone the long way around to slip behind the Crimson Empire’s line of defense and punched through their space at lightning speed. They’d had a few skirmishes, but they had been able to skate by most opposition and let the slower moving but more heavily armed Navy boys bringing up their rear mop up any resistance they left behind. Now they were just outside of scanning distance from the capital planet of the Empire, waiting for the Navy ships of the line to catch up.
Jeff didn’t believe that there were no defenses around the planet and he wasn’t about to attack without heavy ships. A dog fight was one thing, but attacking an entire planet required heavier ships with big guns and Marines one the ground. All of which were on the Navy ships.
The word from the Navy Admiral was that they would be arriving at their location in less than four hours. Jeff had no doubt that the planet knew there was a Federation presence in Crimson space, even if they were still clueless about the invasion, and he was prepared for the possibility of a nasty dog fight in the meantime even if he wasn’t about to start it himself. He hoped the Navy wasn’t late because if this was going to work, they would have to start the invasion with the next five hours. He estimated that was the head start they had on the Crim fleet they’d bypassed. Crim ships were also considerably slower, giving them hopefully the better part of a day for their attack. If they weren’t in control of at least ninety percent of the planet by that time, the entire plan was sunk. They’d have to resort to Plan B. Jeff didn’t like Plan B.
He needed to focus on tactics instead of thinking about the fact that Jensen was taking pills to increase his libido. What kind of idiot was he to believe that Jensen actually wanted him for him? If he weren’t a slave, the kid would be completely out of his league. Even as a slave he had Jeff outclassed. Having sex with Jeff wasn’t something he wanted, it was his fucking job. Actually it wasn’t even his job, because he wasn’t getting paid for it and he couldn’t just quit and do something else. It was his… what? Duty? Obligation?
Jeff huffed out a breath, nails biting into the palms of his hand, and forced his mind away from the subject. This was how he’d started to spiral out of control when his last relationship had fallen apart. He needed to focus on his damn job before he got his people killed. There’d be plenty of time to deal with this later. Jensen was already giving him sideways glances. The boy was also quieter than he’d been in months, like he was afraid to say anything. Jeff’s sudden distress was probably scaring him. He couldn’t help it though. This whole situation made him sick when he really thought about it.
He’d kept Jensen because at the time it seemed like the only sensible thing to do. Keeping his ship and his command had been all that mattered to him at the time, and the way to ensure that was to avoid offending the President. He was going to let Jensen do whatever he wanted. He wasn’t even going to touch him. Until he did. And he had already been in over his head with the kid before then. Now that Jensen was the most important thing to him, up to and including his ship, the idea of giving him up terrified him.
But he had to give him up, right? Keeping him was wrong because no one should own another human being. Especially one you were supposed to love. Jensen had to take pills to get it up. If nothing else pointed to an underlying problem with this situation, that should. Jensen could walk around in a paper sack and Jeff would want him. But Jensen needed chemicals. His stomach heaved.
“Shit,” he hissed softly.
“What’s wrong?” Jensen asked from his spot by his side as they made their way to the officer’s mess, looking like he was afraid of the answer. The younger man’s hands were clinched together, white knuckled.
“Just somethin’ I need to work out.”
“Sir! Admiral!” Misha’s voice called out to them from the corridor just outside the officer’s mess, the heavy thump of his combat boots echoing behind them. The sergeant was running towards them from the direction of the bridge.
“Sergeant?” Jeff replied with a raised eyebrow.
“We got bogies, sir,” as he spoke the alarms came on, signaling all hands to battle stations. “Looks like several companies approaching from in front of us and on both flanks. We’re outnumbered and outgunned.”
“Damn it. What’s the Navy’s ETA?”
“They’ll be another twenty to thirty minutes, sir.”
That was better than their original ETA, and Jensen wondered if it would be fast enough. He felt a rush of fear as Jeff turned to face him. He shivered at the intensity in the older man’s eyes. Without a word, Jeff cupped his face and kissed him. When Jeff finally pulled away, Jensen was breathless.
“Get to the nearest escape pod now, Jen. You hear the evac sirens, you hit the eject button. Am I clear?”
Jensen swallowed hard and nodded. “What about you?”
Jeff gave him an easy smile. “I’m just goin’ to work sweetheart. Don’t look at me like that. I’ll get off if it comes to that. You’re not gettin’ rid of me that easy.”
With that he walked away as Jensen stood watching him and feeling like his world just might be coming to an end. Somehow this was worse than first contact had been, the first battle in Crim space. Then he’d sat in Jeff’s cabin listening to horrific sounds that he somehow instinctively knew were the screams of dying ships. But they’d been expecting it then. This was an ambush, and they were outnumbered, and the Navy might be too late to save Jeff.
He did as he was told, found an escape pod and sat inside. He could hear the ordered chaos of the crew inside the ship. He prayed that there would be no evacuation siren, that there would be no hit to Jeff’s ship at all. He felt the vibrations from the heavy guns firing repeatedly. He’d spent time on the bridge with Jeff, but never during a firefight before. He wondered what it looked like, what it felt like, to be there now. His mind wondered as he thought of how magnificent Jeff must be, decisive and in command. That was how he liked Jeff best and he wished he could watch just once.
Suddenly, the hatch opened on the pod and Jensen frowned at the unfamiliar face that appeared. He didn’t recognize the man and he was pretty sure he knew all the crew by now.
“You still are a pretty one,” the man said, his voice a thick mucus-filled rasp.
Something about this scared him. The man had a plain, average face but something about it was hard, unfriendly. His eyes glinted with a cold light. And that voice sent anxiety crawling in his stomach “Who are you?”
“I’m just here to set you free, boy.” The man reached in to push the eject button and withdrew before the heavy doors closed.
“Admiral, an escape pod was just released.”
An escape pod? Why the hell would anyone do that? Their position was precarious, but it was unlikely to find any raptor crewman who would abandon ship before an evac was ordered even if they believed they were going down with the ship. “Can you identify who was on it?”
“I’m trying to now, sir…” the crewman uttered a curse under her breath. “It’s… Jensen?” She looked up at him from her workstation, confused.
“Jensen?” His confusion echoed hers. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one who thought it was more likely for a crew member to desert then for Jensen.
A soft metallic ping drew her attention back to her console. “A second escape pod is away, sir! The person aboard is unidentified.”
This didn’t feel right. Jensen wouldn’t run away… would he? And what about this other guy? The computer couldn’t identify him, so that must mean he wasn’t a member of the crew, or he was skilled enough with computers to erase his own records before escaping. This could just be a coincidence. But Jeff didn’t believe in coincidences. “Where are the pods headed?”
“Jensen’s is on course for Utopia. The other is headed in the opposite direction.”
“Track them both, but make sure you don’t lose Jensen’s. Pull the footage from the corridors before the launches and review it. I wanna know what the hell happened.”
“Admiral,” Jared interrupted. “Not to put too fine a point on it, but we’re in the middle of a situation here.”
Jeff clenched his teeth and nodded. Jared was right. Before he could do anything to help Jensen he had to save his own bacon. “Duly noted, Commander. The lieutenant can work on that separately.”
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
Last day on earth. The term was an anachronism, Jensen knew. Archaic and usually inaccurate, from a time before Terra was Terra, when it had been known in some cultures as Earth. Now, with most of humanity off world on other planets and flying around on starships, it was a sentimental throwback to when their species had been stuck on that one planet. It was just another way of saying that one might die, or would die, soon.
But despite all that, it still held meaning. Especially to him, right now, hurtling through space in a little bubble of air and metal. Every second took him further away from the relative safety of the Intrepid and, more importantly, Jeff. He didn’t know where the pod was going. He’d never asked. Didn’t know if it was automatic or if one of the buttons the stranger had pushed determined it. Or, worse, if he could somehow determine it himself and was simply failing to do so. Worse because he didn’t know how and if he ended up in the heart of a freaking supernova it would be his own damn fault on some level because he could have saved himself. In theory at least.
The outer surface of the pod was spinning, using centrifugal force to create artificial gravity inside. It made the small vessel vibrate even worse than the Intrepid. His stomach began to roll violently and he closed his eyes and clinched his teeth in an effort to stave off the sickness. In the end, though, he’d ended up heaving the sparse contents of his stomach onto the floor of the pod. He pulled his legs up and curled into a ball on the bench, partly to avoid the puke on the floor and partly in an effort to subdue the churning in his belly. His was sweating and shaking and the stink of his vomit was making his nausea worse.
He had a death grip on the edge of the bench with one hand as he wondered how long it would be before Jeff realized he was missing. He wondered how long it took to die drifting around in an escape pod and if Jeff would miss him. The ship started to shudder and he realized that he was entering atmosphere. There was no turbulence in space. Was he caught in the gravitational pull of a star? Would he feel the effects of the atmosphere before being burned up? The engineer had for some reason decided to make him her special project and explained to him that, contrary to popular belief, many stars did in fact have an atmosphere. He should have asked her if you’d burn up before you felt it or after. Or was he landing on a planet… which, considering where he was, could be worse? He groaned and pressed himself tighter against the side of the pod, trying to brace himself for impact.
“I didn’t ask either of you to come with me.” Jeff was just finishing putting on his mechanized battle suit when Jared and Misha entered the locker room and began pulling the parts of their own out of their lockers. The suits were so heavy that they had to be put on a piece at time, and a network of internal sensors and motors had to move the suit with the wearer. Jeff didn’t have a head for mechanics so he didn’t know exactly how it worked and he really didn’t care as long as it did work.
“We’re not askin’ permission, Jeff,” Jared said easily as he began snapping together his own suit. The kid wasn’t that much taller than Jeff, but something about the length of his limbs made him seem half a giant. The heavy black metal suit, built especially to fit each individual, only emphasized the perception.
“I gave you an order,” he said in exasperation as he pulled his helmet from his locker, the hydraulics of his suit sighing quietly.
“You gave me the bridge. Until you take it back, you’re not the boss of me.”
Jeff rolled his eyes. “This ain’t exactly the smartest thing I’ve ever done, kid.” No, it was desperate and very likely to end in disaster. The only reason it had a chance to succeed was the very insanity of it. No one would ever suspect anyone with half a functioning brain would try something like this. Especially for a slave.
Misha shrugged and grinned at him, wide and guileless. “We’re Marines, sir. We do stupid desperate shit every day. And get away with it. I think it’s actually part of the job description. Now, are we gonna get this done or just stand around arguin’ about it?”
Jeff blinked at them, unable to figure out why they would risk their asses for him like this.
“We’ve been through a lot together,” Jared said as he pulled his helmet out and slipped it under his arm so he could close his locker. “We’re not gonna let you do this alone. And… Jensen’s one of us now anyway. Never leave a man behind.”
“Ar-wah, boys,” Jeff said with a smirk.
“Ar-wah,” the two barked back in response.
According to Lieutenant Tanaka, Jensen’s escape pod was entering the atmosphere of Utopia when a large Crim ship of the line caught it in a tractor beam and pulled it aboard. As disturbing as that was, what the footage from the ships surveillance cameras revealed was even more disturbing. Some man who obviously wasn’t part of his crew had ejected Jensen’s pod and then escaped inside a second pod. Why he’d done it, or how he’d managed to get aboard and remain undetected in the first place, was a mystery. Jeff put Tanaka in charge of riding herd on someone from security to get to the bottom of it.
He wished he had blown the mysterious bastard to bits when he’d had the chance, proof of guilt or innocence be damned. Why anyone would hurt Jensen was beyond him. Yes, half the crew lived in mortal fear of him but none of them actually hated him as far as Jeff could tell. In fact, they’d accepted his presence a lot easier than he thought they would. They didn’t even mind occasional displays of affection, like when he’d kissed Jensen outside the mess hall earlier.
He thought that was mostly because, unless they were alone together and the younger man was doing it on purpose, he didn’t come across the way holos portrayed pleasure slaves. He was serious and intelligent and courteous to a fault, even when he was scolding someone. Helpful and straightforward, “boy scout” would probably come to mind way before “wanton slut” when most of them thought of the kid. Jensen had become just like any other member of the crew and everyone seemed upset that this had happened to him. Despite that, he wasn’t really a member of the crew and Jeff knew that he’d never get away with ordering a rescue mission to get him back. The brass would likely see that as a miss use of his authority. But if he did it himself, he wouldn’t have to tell anyone and what they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. So that’s when he’d thought of this crazy plan.
They managed to hold off the ambushing force until the Navy caught up. The butcher’s bill was high – he’d lost twenty of his ships, four of them with all hands on deck. Most of the crew had been able to escape from eighteen and half or less from the remaining twenty. They’d made the Crims bleed for every loss, though and once the Navy arrived, they made short work of the ships that were left. The dust had barely settled before Jeff was giving Jared the bridge and heading for the lockers and his suit. He hadn’t told them what he was up to, but Jared and Misha knew him well enough to know that he was up to something.
The battle suits were capable of short range independent flight. But the good thing about space was that once an object had momentum in any direction, it generally kept going unless something stopped it. So they set the extravehicular navigation of their suits to the coordinates of their destination and let themselves drift out into space. It felt like hours before they made it to the ship where Jensen was being held. It wasn’t, of course, but being extravehicular in space like this always lent an air of timelessness to whatever was going on. What felt like a snail’s pace was actually much faster as their suits employed small bursts of their boosters to first propel them and then keep them on course for the ship. Despite his impatience, Jeff forced himself to allow the suits to move them at a speed that would make it more likely that they would be dismissed as space junk rather than recognized for what they were.
Once they reached the ship, they engaged the electromagnetic soles of their boots so they could walk along the metal shell. The magnets engaged and disengaged automatically as they walked, so there were no loud vibrations or stress that could be detected on the hull. As long as another Crim ship didn’t notice them, they should be fine. The scanners in their suits had detected a gap in the hull that lacked sensors. They headed for the area and found a waste disposal vent.
“These people are disgusting,” Misha hissed through the comm. “Don’t they recycle anything?”
“Don’t be xenophobic, Mish,” Jared chided good naturedly. Though Jeff was definitely on Misha’s side with this one. He wasn’t prissy by any stretch of the imagination, but sloshing through human excrement and God only knew what else so they could sneak into the ship was gross.
“Xenophobia has nothing to do with this. I’m covered in raw sewage that is going to be unceremoniously dumped into space! And you Terrans call out-worlders rubes.”
“Boys,” Jeff hissed sharply. Both men stopped speaking.
“Think we’re gonna come up in someone’s privy?” Misha asked after a few seconds.
Jeff had no problem locating Jensen’s signal. Whoever had him hadn’t thought to check for his chip. Or maybe they just didn’t realize that anyone would be coming for him. That was their mistake. He left Misha and Jared to keep an eye on their escape route. He might have to come out hot, and he needed to make sure that they had a clear way to escape. He didn’t have time to wonder if they’d waste heavy ammo on trying to kill them once they got off ship. That was something he couldn’t control, and was irrelevant to his goal.
He walked around the ship like he belonged and, since a Terran battle suit didn’t look all that different from a Crim battle suit and he’d covered up the Terran Marine crest with black duct tape, all he got was the occasional curious glance and a lot of wrinkled noses. It gave him a sort of morbid satisfaction to track excrement all over their ship.
Jensen’s signal led him to the brig. That surprised him. He’d thought they’d try to turn him against his ‘Terran masters’ if anything. Put him in an interrogation room to get information or give him nice quarters to ingratiate themselves in the hope that he’d feel grateful volunteer something. Not lock him up. Maybe they had a prejudice against pleasure slaves? There was no one outside the door, so he went inside.
He saw Jensen almost immediately, crumpled in the corner of a cell, clearly injured. His heart rose to his throat, choking him. He needed to get him out of here, get him medical attention. He was so still and pale. Was he even alive?
“I thought the Princess was joking when she said she was going to vent him,” came a voice from behind him. Jeff turned to see the jailor leaning against the wall casually, drinking something that his suit told him was coffee. The suit also helpfully gave him a threat assessment on the jailor, as it did with everything and everyone he focused on long enough. Height, weight, body mass index, likely weaknesses. “But then, I guess I can see her point. It’s gonna take us a week to get this ship moving again. With those Fed bastards lurkin’ around here, sendin’ their slaves to sabotage shit, that ain’t good.”
“What?” Jeff frowned at the man.
“You heard what he did to the engines, didn’t you? One of the engineer’s assistants told me all about it,” the man said in a knowing tone. “Just flipped out when they told him they were gonna kill his master. Burned half his own damn face off. Like the son of a bitch would want him now. What do you suppose they do to their slaves to make them want to do something like that?”
Jeff blinked at the man, uncomprehending. Before he could even begin to make sense of what he was being told, the intruder alarms went off. Shit. He told Misha and Jared to lay low. Jeff raised his arm and blasted a hole through the jailor, and then through the bars. When push came to shove, he was a definite fan of overkill.
If it hadn’t been for the obvious signs of a firefight, Jeff would have thought that his two subordinates had never left the airlock outside the waste vent where he’d left them. As it was, it wouldn’t be long before their position would be overrun. Or maybe they’d just open the lock and flush the vent. Something about being flushed down a vent full of shit struck Jeff as oddly funny. He wasn’t surprised, though, to find Jared with a girl. She was unconscious and Jared and Misha were trying to stuff her into a maintenance suit like the one he’d found for Jensen. The suits had life-support systems built in just in case things went wrong.
“What the hell, Jare?” He hissed through the comms, having switched his suit back to external silence.
“She’s the Princess!” the kid hissed back in undisguised excitement.
He frowned. Maybe that explained why they weren’t shooting or flushing yet. Jeff had to shoot at least two dozen people just to get here, including the jailor. They had to know there were armed and enemy combatants aboard, and they also had to know their at least their approximate location. “How the hell did you get your hands on her?”
“She was headed for the bridge. I just grabbed her and shot her guards. I had to knock her out.” The boy sounded hyper. Adrenaline. “Think she’ll be pissed when she wakes up?”
“Gee, I dunno, kid. Women don’t generally take to being kidnapped. Hurry it up, we gotta go.”
“Is he alright?” Misha frowned at the dead weight draped over Jeff’s shoulders.
“He’s hurt pretty bad. He sabotaged the engines. Got burned in the process. We need to get him back and in the med bay as soon as possible.”
They made it back to the ship, a small Crim fighter following them like an escort. But they had the princess… no one was going to risk hurting her. He wondered why they just didn’t send a larger ship and pull them all onboard, but he would probably never know that answer to that question. Frankly, he didn’t care. All he cared about was getting Jensen help.
Jeff had only been seated for half an hour when the fleet’s doctor came out of the isolation room. The frown gracing the man’s kindly, weather worn face did not make him feel any better, especially since he’d expected to be waiting for hours. The burns on Jensen’s body looked… bad. He winced. That was an understatement. They actually looked pretty horrific.
“What’s goin’ on, Doc?”
The older man heaved out a heavy sigh. “I want to put him in suspended animation, Admiral. If I don’t, he’ll heal if he pulls through, but he’ll be badly scared. The hospital on Tartarus III has an excellent trauma unit. I’ve already sent them a coded message and they’re on standby.”
Jeff swallowed and nodded. He knew the hospital well. It was where they’d sent his father after the Crim attack. His brother had been killed instantly, but his father had lingered just long enough to give his mother false hope. “Do it. Now all I have to do is get us through this invasion in one piece and we’ll be on our way there.”
“There may be some… issues with him being a slave, Admiral.”
Even though Tartarus III was an outworld planet, it considered itself ‘sophisticated’. Which meant that despite not having many slaves on planet, it was at least anti-abolitionist if not outright pro-slavery. He dared them to refuse to treat Jensen because he was a slave. “Let me worry about that.”
It took a week to fully subdue Utopia. They had control of ninety-five percent of the surface within four hours. By the time the forward fleet that they’d bypassed at the border between Crim and Terran space arrived, they were fully entrenched. The Crim fleet had taken another three days to defeat. The next four days was devoted to putting down internal rebellions on the planet. The Emperor had fled after finding out that his only daughter had been taken prisoner and it was anyone’s guess where he’d gone.
Jeff spent most of his time in the suspension antechamber watching Jensen though the glass lid of his pod. The doctor had covered his burnt skin as a further way to prevent infection. He could almost fool himself into thinking that Jensen was just asleep, when he wasn’t thinking how the pod looked too damn much like a coffin. He spent entirely too much time talking to him even though he doubted Jensen could actually hear him. He told him how the battles were going and how the ground troops were faring. He told him about Princess Genevieve and how they were sending her back to Terra as soon as Utopia was secured.
What he wanted to do was touch him. Kiss him. His cabin was unbearably lonely without Jensen. He rarely slept in his own bed anymore, choosing to fall asleep curled up on his couch and wishing that Jensen was around to bitch at him about ruining his back. Jared and Misha practically chased him down to force feed him at least twice a day. The doctor just rolled his eyes when he saw them heading to the antechamber with trays of food.
Once the worst of the fighting was behind them, Jeff had one week before his fleet was on the move again to take Jensen to Tartarus III. Once they got there and he made sure all the paperwork was in order, he’d only had time to put in a call to his mother to come watch over Jensen while he went back to the front before the lead doctor of the trauma team that took charge of Jensen came into the waiting room.
“You’re ship’s surgeon didn’t tell us that Jensen was a slave. And his collar is missing.”
“He was attacked. It was taken from him. There some reason any of this matters?” He wanted to shake the man, demand why he wasn’t in there doing his damn job.
“You’re the owner?”
Jeff clenched his jaw, had to work it loose to respond. “I am,” he acknowledged in a clipped tone.
“Your slave is badly damaged, Admiral. We can send him to a special clinic and if he survives, they’ll help him adjust to life as a free man. Or you can sell him. One of the mining companies would probably take him. If he recovers well enough, they can use him for a few years. Then at least this won’t be a total loss.”
He snorted out a breath and shook his head. “You’re supposed to be a doctor. Don’t you people still take an oath to save people? ‘Do no harm’ or some shit?”
“Of course. We’re not going to deny him care. We’ll do everything in our power to save his life… but an owner’s insurance only covers so much and people in your situation usually want to cut their losses.”
Jeff had a brief, bloody vision of himself bludgeoning the doctor. He took a deep breath, pulled himself back from the edge of violence and checked his anger. When he finally spoke, his voice was calm, almost conversational. But there was an unmistakable threat in it. “This is what you’re gonna do, doctor. There will be no ‘he’s just a slave’ type of patchwork shit going on here. You’re gonna behave like it’s me in that fucking room, and you’re gonna do everything medically possible to fix every single thing that’s wrong with him. Skin grafts, nerve grafts, reconstructive surgery, whatever else he may need. It doesn’t matter how much it costs… I’ll pay it.”
“That would be… several hundred thousand credits.” The doctor was looking at him in disbelief, as if what Jeff was demanding was almost insulting.
“I don’t give a flying fuck how much it costs,” Jeff ground out, on the edge of losing his shit all over the good doctor right in the middle of the hallway. His voice echoed against the walls and people were starting to stare, but he didn’t really give a damn. “It’s my money and I’ll do with it whatever the hell I want. Just do your damn job. And if you ever mention cutting my losses again? I will not be responsible for what I do to you.”
By the time his mother arrived, the doctors were sure that baring some strange occurrence, Jensen would live. There would be extensive damage and a few scares on his back would probably be unavoidable. But the rest could be fixed. They were harvesting some of Jensen’s stem cells to replicate skin and nerves for grafts when Jeff’s mother joined him in the waiting room.
“You can’t go back to the way things were, Jeff,” she said after a few minutes, handing him a cup of coffee that she’d gotten from a vending machine. “This thing between you and Jensen… it’s just not real. It can’t be. You need to set him free.”
He sighed heavily. He couldn’t really blame his mother. He had been… inconsistent through this whole thing. She’d been saying the same thing from the beginning – that he had to set Jensen free. At first, he said that he wasn’t going to lay a hand on him, that he was just keeping him so he wouldn’t offend the President, and that he would emancipate the kid as soon as possible. In the meantime, Jensen would practically be free.
Then the very next day, he’d had sex with him for the first time. He’d tried avoiding his mother as long as possible after that, but there was only so long that anyone could avoid Katherine Morgan. It hadn’t taken long for her to get to the truth. She had been disappointed and then exasperated when she realized that Jeff had developed feelings for his slave. Since then, she’d renewed her campaign for Jeff to free Jensen. So he should have expected this.
He sighed and rubbed his tired eyes. It was bad enough he’d just had to deal with the possibility of Jensen dying because he was too stupid and selfish to leave him on the surface, now his mother was insisting that he deal with the collapse of all his carefully built up illusions about their relationship too. But he knew she was right. The poor kid had to take pills just to have sex. Of course she didn’t know that, but he did. An ensign took that moment to show up and tell him that it was time to return to the fleet. He nodded and told him he’d be right there.
“I know, Mom, okay? Just, let me do it when I come home. I can’t do it ‘til he’s back on his feet anyway. Someone who cares about him needs to make medical decisions for him while he can’t. Will you just… take care of him while I’m gone?”
“Of course I will. You be safe, okay?”
Jeff snorted softly. He had possibly the least safe job in the known universe. Maybe being selectively delusional ran in the family. He kissed his mother on the forehead. “Yeah. I will.”
He went to Jensen’s room before leaving and sat next to his bed. The boy looked so fragile and pale, his freckles standing out in stark contrast to his colorless skin. Jeff had spent hours mapping those freckles. He took one of Jensen’s hands in his and gently touched the unmarred part of his face with the other. The skin, muscle and bone grafts would begin as soon as he regained consciousness. It would be a long, painful process to put everything back together and Jeff wanted desperately to be there for him… but he couldn’t. He still had a war to win.
“New standing order, Jen. You aren’t allowed to die on me. You had damn well better be alive and recovering when I get back.” There was no response. Jeff hadn’t expected one, but it still hurt to see Jensen so still and quiet. He leaned forward and kissed Jensen’s forehead. He didn’t smell the way Jeff was accustomed to now and he snorted at the idea that the boy would be mortified when he awoke to find that he reeked of industrial soap, generic shampoo and hospital sanitizer. “I’ll be back as soon as I can, sweetheart. I promise”
He left, confident that he would be back. Nothing the Crimson Empire could throw at him was going to keep him from coming back to Jensen. Even if it was only to let him go. He paused just long enough to tell his mother to bring Jensen’s toiletries.
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
Jensen traced the scars on his arm. A pleasure slave with scars… he felt tears sting his eyes. No wonder Jeff left him behind. He stopped that train of thought. Jeff hadn’t left him for good… he’d had to go back to the front. Jeff had taken care of him, had left his mother to watch over him. Had spent all his money on him. It was a damn foolish thing to do, but he had done it. That had to mean something. Of course it was possible that it just meant that Jeff felt guilty. Jeff was strange like that. Either way, any other master would have cut Jensen loose, and if he survived he would have either been freed and penniless with all his goods seized to offset his medical expenses or on a mining planet to offset his previous master’s losses. And disfigured and disabled, being worked to death as they squeezed every bit of usefulness out of him that they could. He couldn’t forget that part.
There were no scars on his face, at least. If Jeff hadn’t paid for the skin grafts and plastic surgery, he’d be horribly disfigured. He’d worked himself into a panic attack when he woke up in the hospital and saw himself. A disfigured pleasure slave was worthless and he didn’t know how to do anything else. The doctors had to sedate him and then Katherine Morgan was there, explaining to him that her son hadn’t abandoned him and that the doctors were hopeful that they could restore his face. He could barely believe it was true. It shouldn’t have been true. He’d never heard of a master doing anything like this for a slave before. He’d never been so grateful that Jeff made no sense at all.
The next day the skin grafts began. They’d used skin, bones and muscle grown in a lab from his cells to replace the ruined areas of his face, neck and shoulder. It took five surgeries to complete and another four to repair all the nerve damage in his shoulder and back. It was long and painful, but he refused to be anything but grateful.
The pain of the grafts and of old damaged nerves being replaced with new ones was nothing, though, compared with the early stages of therapy. But he wouldn’t allow himself to complain about that either. The only lingering evidence of his injuries, other than a bit of weakness on his left side that the doctors said would go away in time, were small scars on his shoulder and back. The work on his face had been flawless. His worst fear now was that Jeff would see him and be disgusted. Pleasure slaves were supposed to be physically perfect. One with scars was worth little to nothing. And he was too thin now. He’d already had the age lines to worry about.
He had to admit what he’d known for a long time now – he was in love with Jeff. For the first time in his life, he was in love with a master. If his master came home and didn’t want him because he wasn’t perfect anymore… he shuddered. The holophone indicator startled him out of his morose thoughts. He had finally convinced Katherine that he could handle being home alone, so he had to pull himself up and rush to the phone, covering his scars as he limped towards the unit. He smiled when he saw who it was.
Jeff smiled at him, his cheeks dimpling and Jensen felt a deep ache in his chest. He wanted Jeff here, with him. “Hey… I see you’re on your feet. Good.”
“I’ve been working really hard. They say I’ll have full strength in my left side soon.” I might not have been worth it, Jensen thought, but I’m not going to squander what you did for me. I swear I won’t.
“That’s great. You scared the hell outta me, baby. I just… I wanted to see your face. I miss you. Didn’t realize how used to having you aboard I was ‘til you weren’t here.”
Jensen swallowed hard and smiled. “I miss you too.” But you shouldn’t have done it. You’ll regret it one day. You’ll want your money, and all you’ll have is a scarred pleasure slave to show for it.
“I’m on my way back to Cyrus IV. I’ll be there in a couple of days.”
He’d been thinking about it – obsessing, really – and he finally realized what had upset Jeff so much that last day. The books that Mrs. Morgan had given him to read helped him understand better. He couldn’t say it all made sense to him, or that he agreed with much of it. But he thought he understood it. “I don’t… I don’t take the pills anymore. The ones for my libido.”
The Admiral frowned. “That’s good, Jen.”
He knew what he wanted to say, but he didn’t know how to say it. He wanted Jeff to know that he wanted him… that it wasn’t the chemicals he’d been taking since he was nine anymore. He bit his lip, took a deep breath and just blurted it out. “I… I want you.” And damn it, that sounded so much cooler in the halos that Jeff forced him to watch. Not that he'd never said it before, and not that he wasn't capable of reducing whoever his current master was to a drooling pile of goo with a throbbing hard on. But saying it with that level of earnestness just sounded lame. Left him feeling exposed and anxious.
“No, really. I understand now why you didn’t like the pills, why you acted the way you did when you found out about them. I need you to know that the pills don’t make me want you. This house is empty without you. The bed… me. Everything here is empty without you.”
“Oh, Jen.” Jeff bit his lip and shook his head. Jensen couldn’t figure out what he was thinking. Maybe he should be more worried about what was in his own mind. He was older, he was scared, he was practically skin and bones now. Why would Jeff want him? But he couldn’t stop hoping that he would. “Sweetheart. I’ll be home soon, okay?”
Jeff knew what he had to do, but seeing Jensen again made him ache, made him long to let the boy take all his loneliness away. That and the whole ‘I’m empty without you’ speech. He never should have introduced the boy to romantic halos. When Jensen practically threw himself into his arms and kissed him, his self-control went straight out the airlock. He cupped Jensen’s ass and pulled him tighter against him, pressing their erections together. He was suddenly grateful that the younger man had gotten him a ranch style house as he navigated from the foyer to the bedroom with the boy wrapped around him like a damn limpet. He placed Jensen gently on the bed and lay down next to him.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t here for you when you had the surgeries. I had Mom send me all the status reports, but I should’ve been here.” He ran his hand along the bare skin of Jensen’s side.
“You didn’t need to be here. It wasn’t… pretty.”
“That’s exactly why I needed to be here for you. You don’t have to be perfect for me all the time, Jen. That’s not what I want.”
“What do you want?”
“You. Just you,” Jeff breathed out as he kissed him on the temple. Jensen cried out in surprise when Jeff flipped him on his stomach. He shivered and buried his face against the comforter in shame as he felt strong fingers gently tracing the scars on his back and shoulders. “I want your scars, especially the ones I can’t see.” Jeff pressed kisses against them and Jensen shivered again, tears stinging his eyes. “Turn over, baby.”
Jensen obeyed immediately even though the last thing he wanted was for Jeff to see his tears. The older man frowned down at him and caressed his cheek. “It’s okay.”
“Everything. You shouldn’t have kept me, you shouldn’t have used your money to fix me.”
“I chose to do that. Don’t apologize.”
“I’m older now. I was worth less than half what I was ten years ago before the injuries. Now…”
“Fuck what the Terran Exchange says you’re worth. I would have spent every penny I have on you without an ounce of regret. It’s just money. You’re worth more than that to me.”
Jensen frowned up at him. He wasn’t sure anymore which of them was wrong. Maybe they both were. He was just a slave. He couldn’t think of himself as anything else. His life meant nothing otherwise. If he was more than a slave, if he was meant to be more… then all his training, everything he’d had to submit to, everything he’d been taught and found purpose in meant nothing. What Jeff didn’t understand, what he couldn’t possibly understand, was that it was far better to be a thing that found purpose in being useful than a person who was used as a thing. Anger flashed through him, hot and painful. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath as he shoved it back down.
“Hey,” Jeff said softly. “What’s wrong? Are you in pain?”
Yes. “No,” he lied and smiled. He reached up and tangled his fingers in Jeff’s unkempt hair. “I just… I missed you.” That was true. “I want you.” That was true too. I wish I could be a person for you. But I’m just a slave.
Jeff leaned forward and kissed him. “Missed you so much,” he murmured against his lips, kissed him again until they were both breathless. “Couldn’t stop thinkin’ about you, wantin’ you.”
Jeff stood up and quickly undressed, leaving his clothes in a messy pile. He pulled off Jensen’s loose pants as he lay and stared up at all that olive skin. Jeff was hairy and muscular. His cock was thick and hard, curving up towards his stomach. Jensen’s mouth watered at the sight of it, but he didn’t make a move. He knew Jeff would let him give him head, but he wanted Jeff to take him the way he wanted to.
Jeff lay next to him and ran his hands over his body, kissing him. Jensen begged for more with his body, pressing against him. He’d prepared himself carefully for Jeff. It had been a long time since anyone or anything had been inside him and he was tight. That would be nothing compared to what would happen with his hip. Just about any position would hurt, probably a lot. He welcomed the pain, though. It would ground him. Jeff rolled him on his side, opposite the one that was injured, and bent his leg. Like he’d known the entire time that was possibly the only position that wouldn’t hurt him.
He felt Jeff’s tongue sliding over his opening. He whimpered and clutched at sheets. The tongue dipped inside, shallowly at first, but soon it was sliding deep inside. It was driving Jensen insane. He pulled the sheet off the mattress. By the time Jeff slid inside him, he was practically sobbing with need.
He let out a groan that was half pleasure and half pain when Jeff entered him, his fingers digging into Jeff’s thigh. Jeff kissed him on the eye and fucked him slow and gentle, his large hand stroking Jensen’s impossibly hard cock. It made him love Jeff more, made him want to scream. I’m not a person… you don’t have to treat me like a person.
Jensen clung to him like he was trying to merge them into one person. He was paler than usual, his freckles standing out in stark relief against milky skin, and too damn thin. The boy needed sun. Sun and fresh air and good food and lots of pampering. Those thoughts were fleeting in Jeff’s head, though. Jensen was so tight and the noises he was making were so sweet. He went slow because he could tell that Jensen needed time to adjust. He was big and it had been a while since Jensen had anyone inside him. He’d rolled Jensen on his side to make sure not to put any strain on his injured hip. Most other positions would likely be painful for him for a while.
“Cum for me, Jen,” Jeff murmured against Jensen’s lips. Right on cue, the kid grunted and came. Jeff groaned and pressed his forehead against Jensen’s. Breathed in the boy’s scent, his breath. Once the Intrepid had been his home, the only one he’d needed. But something had changed. This was home now, this was where he belonged. Didn’t matter what planet he was on or if he was aboard a starship. The Intrepid would always be the only girl he’d ever love but Jensen was his home. And he was giving him up. He felt his balls tighten and pulled away enough to look Jensen in the eye. “Say my name, Jen. Please… wanna hear you say my name while I’m inside you… Just this once.”
“J-Jeff. Jeff, please.”
Jeff came with a loud groan. Jensen cradled him as they caught their breath, stroking his jaw with a thumb, the metal of his ring cool against his flushed skin. He kissed his lips, his eyes, his cheeks. How was he going to live without this? Without Jensen?
“You never told me how it happened,” Jeff said softly. “Your injuries.”
“Oh,” Jensen said with a blush. “They thought I was running away. That I’d ejected on purpose. They said that I was free and that they were going to destroy your fleet and I’d never have to worry about being a slave again. They knew you were coming and sent the ambush to engage you as a feint while hiding the main part of their fleet behind the dark side of the moon. They were going to attack when the Flag Ship gave the signal.”
Jeff let out a soft breath. They must have thought that his raptors were the main body of the invasion. If they had been, it would have been a good tactic. It would have probably wiped them out completely. Of course they would have sacrificed a lot of ships and men to do it. “I remember those ships. The Navy pretty much decimated them…”
“I sabotaged the communications array on the Flag Ship.”
“I thought it was the engine?”
“I did that later. That’s why they never noticed the damage to the array. That and the radio silence.”
“So… you sabotaged the communications and the engines?”
Jensen shrugged like it was no big deal. “I guess more of what the engineer keeps trying to tell me sunk in then I thought. Although… breaking the containment glass on an engine might not be the best way to sabotage it.” Jensen winced.
Jeff shuddered. Plasma. Very hot plasma. “It touched you?”
He shook his head. “It didn’t have to. The escaping air was super-heated. The force of it threw me across the room. I think I must have slammed into something.”
Jeff nodded in agreement. That would explain the shattered hip and dislocated arm. “So they just threw you in the brig rather than givin’ you proper medical attention?”
“I don’t think they really wanted me to live, Admiral. I mean… I sabotaged their ship. I’m shocked they didn’t kill me outright,” he said matter-of-factly, like that’s what he’d been expecting. For the first time he realized that Jensen had been willing to trade his own life for Jeff’s. “They probably just wanted me out of the way until I died. I don’t even remember anything after the blast of hot air from the exposed plasma. Not until I woke up in the hospital.”
“You were in suspended animation until we got you there. The doc didn’t want your body to start healing before the trauma doctors could perform the first surgery. He wanted to make sure you weren’t disfigured.”
“Yeah. That would completely destroy my retail value. It’s bad enough I’m scared.”
Retail value? Fuck… was that all the boy thought he was worth? “I had emancipation papers drawn up for you.” He closed his eyes when Jensen stiffened in his arms. He hadn’t meant to just blurt it out like that. He had to find a way to make Jensen understand that he was worth more than whatever value the Guild and the Exchange placed on him. He wasn’t a fucking piece of property. He was a man who meant everything to Jeff.
The words made Jensen feel like his blood had been replaced by ice water. Jeff didn’t love him. He was… he was finally unloading him. After spending all that money, after telling him that all he wanted was Jensen. That couldn’t be true because you kept the things you loved, held on to them until you couldn’t anymore. That’s what he wanted to do with Jeff, but Jeff obviously wanted him gone.
“You can do whatever you want now,” his soon to be former master was saying. This was the first time since he was sixteen that he didn’t want his freedom; that he truly wanted to stay with a master.
“I can be gone as soon as you want me to be.” He pulled away from Jeff and sat up. “I’ll pay you back your money once I get my pleasure palace.” If he sold everything, he could have enough. The gifts from Jeff and his previous masters. He tried to tell himself that this was a good thing, this was his dream and he wouldn’t even have to pay for his own freedom.
“I don’t want you to go at all,” Jeff said, sitting up next to him. “But you can if that’s what you want. Whenever you’re ready. Or… you can stay… here. With me.”
He frowned, uncomprehending. “Stay?”
“If you want, as long as you want. But it’s completely up to you.”
Jensen’s breath hitched. He was being given a choice and he didn’t know what Jeff wanted to hear. He seemed sincere in the offer but was he just offering to let him stay as a kindness? He didn’t want Jeff’s polite offers… but if there was a chance that he really wanted Jensen to stay… “I don’t want to go.”
“Really?” Jeff smiled hopefully. Jensen could clearly see his relief and couldn’t help the smile that curved his own lips. “What about your pleasure palace?”
“That’s what I used to want. Now I want… I want this.” Jensen placed a tentative hand on Jeff’s thigh.
Jeff nuzzled his shoulder. “Then stay with me.” Jensen shivered at the warm breath gliding over his skin.
“After you free me? And do what? I mean… if I’m not your slave anymore… then what would I be?”
Jeff’s smile widened as he rested his chin on Jensen’s shoulder. “Be my lover. Be the man I come home to and who spends all my hard earned money when I’m not around.”
“What money?” Jensen asked, still upset by how much of Jeff’s savings he’d wasted.
Jeff snorted. “I’ll earn more. And the rest, we’ll figure out as we go along. But I can’t imagine my life without you. You’re lectures are so much more enjoyable than my mother’s.”
“Then why emancipate me at all?” Jensen asked, bewildered.
“It was the only way to make sure you were really mine. That this was real.”
He started to say that made no sense, when he realized that until just a few minutes ago, he’d thought the only reason Jeff kept him around was because he was a gift from the President. It wasn’t until Jeff let him go and asked him to stay of his own free will that he really understood that Jeff loved him. “Oh my God,” Jensen gasped, his eyes wide.
“That… actually made sense.” Jeff’s warm laughter rumbled through him. “Admiral?”
“Emancipate me in your will.”
“Why? I already have your papers.”
“You certified them?”
“No… I was gonna do that first thing in the morning.”
“If they haven’t been certified, it’s not legal. Just tear them up.”
“But… why would you want to remain my slave?”
Jensen smiled and shook his head. He loved Jeff, but the older man was so straight forward that he often missed most things that were too nuanced… unless it had to do with war somehow. “Because… a lover can’t stay on the Intrepid with you. But a pleasure slave can.”
“You’d be willing to do that? After all the shit that already happened to you?”
“Wherever you are is where I want to be. Unless… unless you don’t want me to?”
“Course I want you to! I was startin’ to dread goin’ back to my own damn ship for the first time since I got her. The idea of spendin’ more time away from you… I wasn’t sure I could do it.”
“I hated being away from you. Hated every minute of it.”
“Okay. I’ll emancipate you in my will. On two conditions.”
Jensen narrowed his eyes in suspicion. “Which would be?”
“No collar in bed. You call me Jeff when we’re alone. Jeff or the pet name of your choice.”
“Pet name?” he repeated incredulously. Jeff wasn’t exactly stodgy, but he couldn’t imagine calling him by a pet name. Of course, Jensen couldn’t imagine calling anyone by a pet name.
“Yeah. Like I call you baby or sweetheart.”
Jensen rolled his eyes. “I know what a pet name is, Admir- Jeff.”
“Just makin’ sure.”
“How about honey bear?”
Jeff looked horrified. “Really?”
Jensen snorted. “No. Not that you’re not hairy enough, but no. I just can’t think of any at the moment. I’m sure something will come to me. Maybe. Jeff?”
“What if I wasn’t?”
“Then… I needed to let you go for both our sakes.” Jeff’s arms tightened around him slightly. “But I’m damn glad you are. As long as you want to be mine, I’m never, ever lettin’ you go.”
Jensen felt something warm in his chest. He’d finally found someone who wasn’t letting him go. He could only hope it lasted this time.
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
“You never asked,” Jeff said one day. They were back on the Intrepid, wrapped around each other in Jeff’s bed. Being back on the ship was odd. He’d missed it and feared it all at once. Once being on this ship had been the closest thing to hell that Jensen could imagine, but now it was home as long as he was with Jeff.
The crew seemed happy to see him and even threw him a welcome back party on his first day back. He’d never had a party before and he didn’t know how to handle all the attention. Thankfully, it was brief and when it was over, everyone went back to business as usual. There wasn’t much time on a raptor for parties.
“Who ejected your escape pod and why.”
Jensen shrugged. “I just assumed you’d handled it and didn’t think it was any of my business.”
“Not your business? The son of a bitch nearly killed you.” Jensen blinked at him, unsure of what to say. Jeff sighed and continued. “He wasn’t a member of the crew. He stowed away somehow and after he ejected you, he took an escape pod himself. Best we can figure, he met up with a ship. By the time we could track him, he was long gone. We didn’t have anything on him in our ship’s databanks, or in the main databank.”
“He… he didn’t do anything to the ship? Or anyone else?” Jensen frowned. That made no sense.
“No. Apparently, he wanted you off this ship pretty damn bad. Got any idea why?”
“I’m just a slave, Jeff. Slaves don’t have enemies.”
Jeff sighed, a flash of irritation rippling over his face. Jensen was reasonably sure it was because he’d referred to himself as a slave, but the truth was the truth no matter how much Jeff seemed to dislike it. “Well, this guy was clearly after you. He went to a lot of trouble to get to you.”
“He said he was setting me free. Maybe he was just an abolitionist?”
Jeff ran his fingers through his unruly hair, making it even more unruly. Jensen didn’t ordinarily like anything to be disorderly or unkempt but for some reason he liked the Admiral’s messy hair just the way it was. “I don’t know. I guess it’s possible. My mother’s done crazier things.”
Somehow, that didn’t surprise Jensen. He turned Jeff’s face towards his own and kissed him. “I’m here, you’re here, and he’s not. We’re not going to figure anything out right now. Besides,” he said with a slow, sexy grin, “there are a lot more fun things we could be spending our time on.”
Jeff chuckled and pinned him to the bed. “The man has a point.”
“What do you know about the Ackles?” Jeff asked Jared the second Jensen left the table in search of a bran muffin.
Jared snorted as he chewed a mouthful of eggs. He washed it down with a sip of orange juice and wiped his mouth with a napkin. The kid tried hard to fit in with his fellow Marines, the majority of whom were rednecks, but his breeding came out in the oddest ways. Jensen was still trying to get Jeff to at least stop talking with food in his mouth. “What do you wanna know about the Ackles? My father was obsessed with them. I remember way too much.”
He leaned forward and spoke in a soft hiss. “Why the hell would they offer to buy Jen yesterday for four times what his market value was before his injury?”
Jared blinked at him, forkful of hash browns frozen halfway to his mouth. “What? Really?”
“Yes. Their solicitor made the offer via an encoded deep space transmission.”
Jared sat up straight and huffed out a soft breath, his fork slowly lowering. “I wouldn’t think they’d want to spend that kind of money on a slave, not with their only remaining son…” Jared stopped midsentence, his fork hovering an inch above his plate and looked over at Jensen. His face went pale. “Oh, my God.”
Jeff’s heartbeat sped up. Why, he couldn’t say, but Jared was spooking him. “What?”
“I have no idea how I didn’t notice it before. He even still has the same damn first name.”
“What?!?” he repeated through clinched teeth. He was an inch away from grabbing the kid and shaking the answer out of him.
Jared looked at him with wide, unblinking eyes. “Jensen Ackles,” he said as if that explained everything.
“Kid, you’re still not makin’ any sense.”
“You seriously never heard the name Jensen Ackles?” When Jeff shook his head, Jared finally put down his fork and pushed away his plate – which meant this was serious. Anything that could get the kid to stop shoveling food into his mouth had to be. “We need to continue this conversation in private.”
Jared headed straight for the computer console once they reached Jeff’s quarters. “Computer, search Jensen Ackles.”
“Searching. Parameters: Jensen Ackles.” A screen full of links appeared before the computerized voice finished speaking. Jared touched one of the links and a news reel popped up. It had to be at least twenty years old, since it was old school 3D rather than holographic. It was a story about the tragic death of a child. He was a beautiful kid – blond, green eyed, smile that lit up the screen. Jeff blinked at the image. The resemblance to his Jensen was creepy.
“Is that… that’s not…” he stuttered in disbelief.
“I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. It’s just like something my father would do. And this is what the Ackles did to cover it up.”
“Still not makin’ sense.”
“My father hates the Ackles. He blames them for losing the woman he loved and their unborn son. The woman apparently miscarried in an accident that he believes the Ackles were at fault for. I think whatever happened must have changed my father because he may have loved her but God knows he never really loved anyone else, especially my mother. Not that I have firsthand knowledge of this, but I used to eavesdrop on the servants when I was little. Dad became obsessed with hating the Ackles. I didn’t have to overhear that part. He would rant about how arrogant they were and how he was glad he could finally knock them off their high horse; that he’d taught them what it was like to lose something precious. When I got older I started to believe he’d actually killed Jensen. I hated him for that. No matter what the family did to him, Jensen was innocent.”
Jeff frowned at the kid. He’d known that he was related to one of the Five with the name and all, but he had no idea that he was actually the son of one of patriarchs. A second son, from what Jared had told him about his older brother, but still. He was supposed to be gallivanting around the Federation spending his family’s money, dating holo stars, making public appearances and staying safe just in case something happened to his older brother. Not out here in the middle of a damn war on a raptor. “This why you left home and joined the Corps?”
Jared nodded. “I didn’t want anything to do with a man who could kill an innocent kid.”
“But now you don’t think he really killed him.”
Jared looked at him with red rimmed eyes. “This was worse.”
“What in the hell could be worse than dead?”
“Oh, I dunno. Bein’ sold off to the highest bidder who might force you to walk around naked in public. You know how young he probably was when he had his first fellatio lesson with a dildo? Or when some asshole held him down and fucked him for the first time? ‘A slave can be used for sexual purposes at any age as long as there’s no permanent physical damage.’ That’s exactly what the law says. Jensen hit the freaking lottery with you, but what the hell happened to him in the meantime? He goes from being the second son of one of the five ruling families on Terra to a fuck toy over night with no clue what the hell happened.”
“Alright. Let’s back up a step here. If this boy is really Jensen – and we haven’t really established that he is – why would your father make him a slave and why would his own family cover it up instead of tryin’ to get him back?”
“I don’t know. I tried to learn as little as I could from the bastard. Maybe his family didn’t know what happened to him and by the time they did… they thought it would be better to cut their losses. He’d be considered damaged goods by then. For it to become public knowledge that a second son was being trained by the Guild as a sex slave would make them a laughing stock and erode their power base. But there’s something else. Computer, search Joshua Ackles.”
“Searching. Parameters: Joshua Ackles.” The news broadcast, still paused at the last frame, disappeared and another list of links appeared. Jared studied them and tapped the second one. A holo appeared in front of the screen this time. An attractive red haired woman was speaking.
“In a tragic turn of events, Joshua Ackles has been diagnosed with Ander’s Disease. AD, as it’s known, is a rare viral disease that damages internal organs and alters DNA. Most people can live full, productive lives with the disease, but the strain that Ackles contracted has attacked his heart. Because of the damage to his DNA, all attempts to clone a new heart from his own tissues have failed. The family has begun a desperate search for a donor. With billions of people in the Federation that wouldn’t’ normally be a daunting task, however Ackles has rare proteins in his blood that must be found in a donor for the transplant to work. These proteins are only found in 1 in ten billion freemen. And as you know, Brent, the law strictly prohibits cloning a heart for one person using another person’s tissues.” The picture of a man was floating over her left shoulder. He was attractive, sandy brown hair and distinctive green eyes. He looked a lot like Jensen, only a little older and less… beautiful. More what would be called ruggedly handsome. Though Jeff would never say that to Jen.
“Tragedy just keeps striking this family, Deneane,” said a man with black hair done in a timeless conservative style.
“Yes, it does Brent. Who can forget the sad death of Ackles younger brother, Jensen, as a child?”
“So… what happens if a donor isn’t found?”
“That’s hard to say at this point. Anyone else with claim to the family’s name and fortune has stronger ties to other houses. This may well be the end of House Ackles.”
Jeff finally understood. “Son of a bitch. They want his heart.”
Jared nodded sadly. “They’d never let a pleasure slave inherit all that power. They need him to save Joshua.”
“With all the billions of people in the universe…” Jeff’s voice trailed off. He was remembering something the doctors had said to him in the hospital. Jensen had rare proteins in his blood. So rare, that only one out of every ten billion people would be a match. To find one of those ten billion and have them be dying or dead, with a viable heart just waiting for transplant… the odds were staggering, even with the number of humans in the universe. Most slaves didn’t have medical records on file. It had led to countless preventable deaths, but the justification was that the wealthy couldn’t find slaves that matched their genetic profiles and then buy them to use as a source of spare parts. But if a slave was in the hospital being treated, like Jensen was just before the Ackles made the offer, their information would be briefly entered into the universal health databank. And since Jensen had been in critical condition, Joshua’s doctor would have been alerted to a possible donar.
“You cannot sell him to them, no matter what they offer.”
“But if it’s illegal to kill, maim or disfigure a slave, surely it’s gotta be illegal to harvest his freaking vital organs while he’s still alive!”
“It is. But when has that ever stopped the powerful from doing exactly what they want? I mean, it’s illegal to kidnap a free kid and sell him into slavery too. Did that stop my father?”
Jeff felt cold. “Say nothing about this to Jensen.”
“No buts, Jared! You want me to make this an order? Fine. It’s a fucking order. Jensen doesn’t find out about this or I so help me I will put my foot so far up your ass you’ll be coughing up my damn toes.”
Jared shrank away. “He has a right to know where he came from. To know who he is.”
“He has a right to be loved and feel safe. I don’t want him to know that not only does he have a family, but they’re raving assholes who want to chop him up for spare parts!”
Jared lowered his head. “Yeah. Okay.”
Jensen chose that moment to walk in carrying a tray. He paused in the doorway and looked from Jeff to Jared and back again, frowning. He had to feel the tension in the room. “Should I be jealous?” he joked as he sat the tray on the table.
Jeff wondered briefly what he’d do if he’d actually walked in on something sexual. Would he actually be jealous or was he too desensitized for that? He was sure he’d be jealous if Jeff loved someone else… but he wasn’t sure how he’d feel about sex. For some reason, he got the uncomfortable feeling that Jensen would be okay with Jeff fucking a different guy every night as long as he came home to him. And didn’t neglect to fuck Jensen too. “Nah. Just goin’ over some boring logistical shit.”
“With old news transmissions?” he asked as he lifted the cover from the tray to reveal a platter laden with breakfast foods. Mostly fruits. Jensen was always trying to get him to eat better. It was clear that he wasn’t sure he believed Jeff, but he didn’t wait for an answer. “You rushed out without finishing your breakfast. I figured whatever was going on was important, so I gave you twenty minutes before following you.” Jensen took his bran muffin off the tray and started picking at it, pinching off small pieces and eating them slowly.
“Jared and I are done now.”
“Yeah,” Jared said. “Computer close holo, clear recent history.”
“Closing holo. Clearing history,” it echoed back to him in its too human voice.
“I’ll see you two on the bridge,” he said as he left, looking only slightly guilty over his new secret.
Jensen watched him go, and then herded Jeff to a chair. He straddled Jeff’s lap, a small smile on his face. “What’re you makin’ him do now?”
“Just somethin’ important that he doesn’t see the need for yet.”
“He’ll come around.” Jeff pulled him down for a kiss. How could anyone want to harm a hair on Jensen’s head?
They were crushing the last of the Crimson resistance. Jeff had explained to him that the quicker it was over, the fewer people would die. Getting it over quickly meant being ruthless. He’d called it being cruel to be kind. It made an odd kind of sense. After all, it was working. The planets were falling to them faster than they could install military governors.
Jeff only stayed long enough to ensure that there was enough food and clean water for the civilian populations and that there was some sort of military police presence to deter crime and violence. Then he moved on to the next planet. Clearing a planet of insurgents was hard. Clearing a solar system was ten times harder… and they had twenty solar systems to worry about.
Acts of sabotage abounded and the Intrepid itself had been targeted by ships hurtling towards it in hopes of crashing into her and killing Jeff. Both times, they’d been able to blow up the attacking ship before it achieved its goal.
In keeping with the tradition that a pleasure slave was an extension of his or her owner, Jensen had more duties around the ship then he did the first time. He was an unofficial part of Jared’s staff and helped keep the fleet running smoothly. He had come to respect the fact that Jeff had no desire to run the universe, or at least the Marines. He still felt that being too casual with those under his command, especially the more traditional Navy who were mostly from the inner planets, would lead nowhere good. He’d lived in the Federation’s capitol long enough to know that it was easier to lead people who thought you were worthy of it. That Jeff had made it to Admiral was something of a fluke considering that he didn’t want the rank or the responsibility. It was stressful for him but he was good at it and Jensen was determined to make his job as easy as he could.
The decay and corruption of the Crimson Empire was a shock to Jensen almost as much as to the raptor crews. Abolitionists like Jeff’s mother, who had been enamored with the idea of a free society, thought that it was some sort of utopia just like their capitol’s name had implied. But most of the people lived in squalor. Everything, even the art, was utilitarian and lacked any of the grace that was found in Terran art and architecture. And it all seemed to be falling apart slowly, crumbling and cracking as if the buildings themselves were too tired to stand for long. There was an air of desperation and depression over most of the cities, as if the people had given up and were only trying to figure out how to get from one day to the next. The government attempted to take care of its people’s most basic needs. But, there still seemed to be a shortage of services, supplies and food.
Except among the people in political power who seemed to have far more than they needed. The disparity was obscene. It seemed to Jensen that the majority of the Crimson Empire had simply exchanged one type of slavery for another.
The Crims usually stared at them like they were a different species. Jeff explained to him that the propaganda coming from the Empire was that Terra was going to enslave them all and asked him not to wear his slave collar until they left the occupied territories. He’d even given him an ensign's uniform. Whenever he left the ship with Jeff, the Crims were openly weary and suspicious. It disturbed Jensen from the beginning, but he didn’t understand why at first. Then one day he realized what it was. There was no real anger there, none of the resistance you’d expect in people who had been conquered. Even he, a slave, had fought back. Yes, he’d done it for Jeff… but didn’t any of these people have something they thought was worth fighting for? Their nation, their emperor? Their freedom?
Jeff would explain to them that their unlawful rebellion was over and they were being annexed by the Terran Federation; that a military governor would be installed to bring them back into submission to Terran law; and that once they were able to rule themselves completely again, they would be able to pass their own laws in regards to slavery just as the other out-world governments had. Terran federal law only made slavery possible and regulated it through the Slaver’s Guild. It didn’t mandate the practice, and each planet was free to choose.
Jeff would always be tense after meeting with the Crims, or going to the surface of some world or other. Today had been worse than most. The existing planetary governor had insisted that Terra provide for his people’s needs. Jeff had insisted that they learn to take care of themselves. Jeff had been accused of deliberately attempting to drive them into slavery. The governor had been accused of being too stupid to realize that they were already slaves and that Terra was, ironically, freeing them. Eventually, Jeff had just gotten fed up and declared that ‘this is how it’s going to be because I said so and if you don’t comply I’ll shoot you.’ To say that it hadn’t ended well was an understatement.
Jensen silently followed him to his cabin. Once they were inside, Jeff pressed him against the wall and just held him.
“Fuck,” he muttered against Jensen’s neck. “I feel like I’m losin’ my damn mind.”
“You’re not, Admiral.”
“Jeff,” he corrected.
“Jeff,” Jensen agreed. He kissed Jeff’s cheek and kneaded his shoulders. Jeff hummed happily, but didn’t move. Jensen wondered if this was one of those times when Jeff just needed something to hold on to or if he actually needed some encouragement. Jeff snorted against his neck, interrupting his train of thought. “What?”
“We probably look like a bad holo right now. The Adventures of the Admiral and the Ensign or some shit.”
Jensen laughed. That had been a really, really bad holo. They’d mostly laughed at it, making fun of the dialogue and over emoting. “You’re a much better Admiral then he was. Your job was to break the Empire. You did that. The Emperor is on the run, his daughter is our prisoner. Planets give up to us the minute they see us coming. You’ve ended a two hundred year conflict in less than two.”
Jeff pulled away and looked at him with a small smile. “Yeah. Well… winning the war might have been the easy part. These people have been trained not to think for themselves, not to fight for themselves. The state is everything. It’s going to be like carrying twenty planets full of dead weight.”
“I admire you for caring, but that’s going to be someone else’s problem. Unless you want to go into politics.”
“Politics? God, no,” Jeff said vehemently as he finally walked deeper into the room. “That’d kill me for sure. I don’t know what I want to do. Once we find the Emperor and what’s left of his fleet, the war will be over. What the hell am I if I’m not a soldier?”
Jensen followed him into the room, wrapped his arms around Jeff’s waist and laid his head on the back of Jeff’s shoulder. “We’ll figure that out together. I mean… you can stay in the Marines. Patrol the boarders. Or, you can work private security or go into law enforcement or start writing bodice rippers.” He’d gotten that phrase from Jeff and he liked it. Not that he knew what the hell a bodice was, but it sounded really naughty. Ripping one sounded even naughtier.
“Bodice rippers?” Jeff repeated, laughing.
“The point is, this isn’t an end. It’s a beginning. You can do anything you want.”
“Yeah,” Jeff said sadly. Jensen didn’t know what else to say, didn’t understand why the idea of being free to choose his own destiny would make Jeff so sad when that was all he ever kept trying to get Jensen to do.
“I always knew you had issues, Commander, but seriously?” Jensen felt frozen. He couldn’t even remember what he’d come in here for now. He couldn’t be getting that old. Could he?
Jared looked up to see Jensen standing behind him. He tried to hide the combination of disgust and disbelief he knew was on his face, but he was pretty sure he’d failed. “What? She’s a beautiful, intelligent woman.”
“She’s also a prisoner of war and the only child of the Emperor of the Crimson Empire. You know, the people who keep trying to kill us. Hell, she was trying to kill us before you knocked her out and took her prisoner. Is this some sort of caveman fantasy? Hit her over the head with your club, and then drag her back to your cave by her hair. Me Jared, you Genevieve.”
“No, of course not. She forgave me for that.”
Jensen had wondered if he was still dreaming when he first walked into the locker room, but finding Jared sitting on a bench while mooning over a holopic of Princess Genevieve was so outside the realm of what he was capable of imagining that it was a sure sign that he was awake. “You’re in contact with her?”
“She sends me transmissions when she has privileges.”
This was not good. “Does the Federation know that she’s transmitting to you?” And really that was a stupid question. Of course they knew exactly who she was in contact with and how often. Probably had recordings of every exchange and conversation. “Does the Admiral know she’s transmitting to you?”
Jared sighed and turned his attention back to the image. “You think she’s using me too, don’t you?”
“Either she’s manipulating the holy hell out of you, or she has Stockholm syndrome. Commander, you punched her. You took her prisoner.”-
“The punch was justifiable and it wasn’t even that hard.”
“She lost consciousness and had a bruise. That’s plenty hard enough.”
Jared sighed, his broad shoulders sagging. “You’re right. She’d never love someone like me.”
“You… you’re serious about this. You do realize she was trying to kill you, right?”
“That’s why I had to punch her. But we were trying to kill her too.”
“And you don’t see how this might end badly?”
“The Empire’s fallen. There’s no reason for us to be enemies anymore.”
“Other than the fact that you helped kill it, took her prisoner and helped the Admiral decimate their navy. No. No reason at all.”
“She’s perfect. Look at her.” Jared held the holopic up and gave Jensen a beseeching look.
Jensen squinted at her image. Yeah. He still saw a psychopathic homicidal bitch. But he might be a little biased. She had promised to kill Jeff, after all. He sighed. “I’ll help you if I can. But you are aware that the two of you have enough obstacles for five or six Greek tragedies? Plus, I’m not exactly sure what you think I can possibly do to help.”
“You’re a pleasure slave, right?”
“You… want pointers?” Jensen asked, caught somewhere between incredulity and horror. “You’re not exactly a blushing virgin.”
“No, not about sex. I think I got that part down. I just… I’ve never had an actual, you know, relationship.”
“I’m hardly an expert on those either. You’d probably be better off asking the Admiral or Collins.” Jeff had had relationships before, and Misha was married.
“I tried. Jeff threatened to court martial me if I mentioned it again, and I’m only half convinced he wasn’t serious, and Misha wouldn’t stop laughing.”
“Can the Admiral actually do that? Court martial you for having a relationship with her?” Although, Jared may be safer in a brig somewhere on a penal colony then in the Princess’ clutches.
“I don’t think so.” He said, looking worried. “But… he wouldn’t. Right? Even if he could?”
“I doubt it. Kidnap you and have you deprogrammed, maybe. But he wouldn’t have you thrown in a brig.” Jensen sighed. “I’ll help you as much as I can. But when this blows up in your face, I reserve the right to remind you that I warned you. And shit like this always blows up in your face.”
Chapter 5: Chapter Five
“Are you sure about retiring, Admiral?” Jensen asked, looking up at Jeff through his lashes. Later he’d wonder how Jensen managed to look up at him when he was barely an inch shorter, but right now there were too damn many people around for his tastes. They were celebrating the capture of the Emperor and the official end of the war. There were insurgents, of course. But there were enough Crims who were wise enough to see the opportunity for better lives in the changes that the Federation brought to them to give him hope. Whatever growing pains might occur, the Empire would eventually be a fully integrated part of the Federation again. Minus the slavery. Businesses could be started, profits could be made. The whole idea of autonomy could take root.
Being on Terra again, at another celebration held at the presidential palace, was actually welcome under these circumstances. There would likely still be isolated instances of bloodshed, but the worst was over. And now, looking into Jensen’s beautiful green eyes, all he wanted was to go home. “I’m sure,” he answered. “They’re talkin’ about puttin’ me behind a desk. Or worse, making me a planetary governor and stickin’ me on one of the Crim planets.” He rolled his eyes. It wasn’t the first time he’d complained to Jensen about it, but it bore repeating.
Jensen snorted and brushed away imaginary lint from Jeff’s shoulder. He wasn’t sure he’d ever actually had any lint on him since the day he’d been given Jensen. It was probably as afraid of the kid as everyone under his command was. “I can see why you wouldn’t want to do that. But I can’t see you retired either. Maybe they’ll let you stay on your ship if you ask?”
“No, sweetheart. They won’t. I’ve proven too capable to keep where I was. It’s like that old saying about being promoted to the level of your incompetence.”
“You wouldn’t be incompetent at it,” Jensen said with a certainty that made Jeff raise an eyebrow. “You just wouldn’t like it. It would make you unhappy.”
“I got an offer to run security details on aid convoys to the liberated planets. It won’t be the Intrepid,” he said with a shrug, “but there’s only one of her. I’ve got you, though, and that’s all that matters.”
The President’s private office was luxurious, but tasteful. None of the grandeur of the Capitol building that housed his official office, both chambers of the legislature and the high court. But something about it was even more intimidating. Jeff stood at attention while the President closed the door behind them and began pouring them glasses of Brandy. He would have done anything for a beer.
“Now, none of that, Admiral. You and I are old friends. At ease, sir. At ease.” The older man smiled as he handed Jeff the glass.
Jeff relaxed his posture a little and took the offered drink. “Thank you, sir.” He cleared his throat.
“You have something you want to say, Admiral? Like I said… we’re old friends.”
“I just… I spoke to my superiors about this, but there was no response. The mother ship guarding the Crimson home world, Utopia. Jensen sabotaged it. If it hadn’t been for what he did, they may have been able to turn the tide of the battle, or at least killed far more of our men and ships. I think he should be credited for that. Possibly even given a civilian medal.”
The President frowned. “Jeff… may I call you Jeff?”
“Of course, sir.”
“Jeff, Jensen is a slave. According to our laws… slaves can’t be publicly acknowledge individually. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
Jeff clenched his jaw so tightly that he had to work it loose to speak. “He nearly died. He deserves recognition.”
“My hands are tied. I am just as bound by the law as every other citizen. I understand that you paid for his medical care. I’ll make sure that you’re reimbursed. The least we can do is take care of the wounds he received in service of our nation.”
“Sir, that’s not-”
The President smiled and waved him to silence. “It’s fine, Jeff. We owe it to him. You had the right of that. Most people wouldn’t have gotten that, but you did. And I understand that you’re in the process of emancipating him as well. I’m sure that’s reward enough for him, though I’m sure that you’ll be sorry to lose such a faithful slave.”
There was a bitter taste in the back of Jeff’s mouth. He swallowed hard in an attempt to get rid of it. “Jensen is… irreplaceable,” he finally said, not even attempting to correct the erroneous conclusion that Jensen would leave him once he was free.
“Then maybe you should keep him. Some people do, you know. He’s still attractive despite his age, though I’m sure the scaring may be bothersome. You don’t have to keep him as a pleasure slave. Certainly he’s bright enough to learn other skills. There’s precious little an emancipated slave can do to make an adequate living. Many end up on one of the outlying colonies trying to make a go of a small homestead. For a slave like Jensen, that would probably be something like hell. Making all his own clothes, growing all his own food. But enough of that, let’s get on to serious business.” The President moved away to stand behind his desk. Jeff pushed back the sudden urge to do his Commander-in-Chief physical damage. Jensen was serious business. Why didn’t these assholes get that? “While I wish I could talk you out of retiring, I do understand. I do still have something for you, though.”
Jeff raised an eyebrow. He barely stopped himself from saying, ‘as long as it’s not another slave.’ Instead, he said. “It’s not necessary. I was just doing my duty.”
“That’s what I like about you, Admiral. You actually mean that. We could use more like you. Just think of this as a gift from a grateful nation.” The President pushed a button on his desk and the holographic image of a planet appeared between them.
“You’re giving me a planet?” Jeff asked in bewilderment.
“A colony. Osiris IIX.”
He should have run screaming as soon as the president said he had a gift for him. The admiralty had made his eventual retirement necessary with the threat of being taken off his ship. The situation with Jensen had turned out better then he deserved, but owning a slave had almost been a complete disaster. If he’d been given anyone but Jensen, it likely would have been. And now… now he was responsible for an entire planet full of slaves. Not pleasure slaves like Jensen – that would have been bad enough. He’d been to the Federation’s lone pleasure planet before. It had reminded him of a story his mother told him about a land that seemed perfect. But it was only perfect because the imperfect, the old, the infirm – everyone who didn’t measure up – were murdered. He hadn’t been able to enjoy it at all.
No, this was a mining colony. The men had two purposes, to impregnate the women in the hopes of producing more slaves and mine fodder and to be worked to death in the mines themselves. The women were there to have as many children as they could and to grow enough food to make the colonies self-sustaining. The Guild would take the children, buying them from the colonies in lots, and raise them. Trained them for various functions. The most attractive ones were trained as pleasure slaves. The ones that were not deemed attractive enough but not too imperfect were trained as household, business and surrogate slaves. The rest were destined for the agricultural and mining colonies.
Once a slave was on a mining colony, they could look forward to a short, harsh life. Bad air, inadequate safety controls and equipment, too little food and rest and too much work. Their only pleasure was their breeding duties and Jeff wasn’t sure what joy could be found in being bred like livestock.
“You could always turn it down,” Jensen said once they got home and Jeff told him everything. They were actually staying with Jeff’s mom for a few days. Their house had flooded and there was mold damage. Jensen was unhappy about the arrangement, but he didn’t say anything. His room felt curiously small, especially with Jensen here, curled up against him in his old bed. “You’re retiring. You don’t have to worry about offending him anymore.”
“Yeah. I could. But then, what would become of the slaves? What good are convictions when you never do anything about them?”
Jensen pulled back to look at him, his eyebrows nearly touching his hairline. “Do something?”
“Don’t look at me like that. I’m not talking anything subversive. I’m not gonna do something that would land my ass in a penal colony.”
Jensen seemed relieved by that. “Okay. But, what are you planning on doing?”
“I dunno. But something. I’m too tired to think right now.”
Jensen woke up feeling sore in all the best ways. It had taken him over an hour to get Jeff’s mind off the mining colony that he’d been given as a retirement present. He smiled when he remembered what happened once he’d gotten Jeff’s full attention. Jeff was sprawled out on his back now, his morning wood pressed against Jensen’s side. Jensen liked watching him sleep. He looked almost… innocent. Of course, he hadn’t looked bad the previous day all clean shaven and wearing his dress uniform. Jeff was handsome all the time, but he cleaned up damn good.
He positioned himself between Jeff’s legs and took the older man’s cock in his mouth. Jeff woke up with a gasp and a strangled groan.
Jensen hummed and was rewarded with a spurt of precum. He swallowed it and took Jeff’s entire length in his mouth. He held him there until he couldn’t go another second without breathing. He pulled up and took a deep breath before beginning a slow, deep blow job. He felt blunt fingertips pressing against his scalp and Jeff was gasping underneath him, slowly coming undone.
“Jeff...” Jensen rolled away from Jeff at the sound of Mrs. Morgan’s voice. She stood staring at them in the doorway with wide eyes. “Oh.”
Jeff covered his hard, spit slicked cock with a pillow. “Mom!”
“I’m sorry,” she stuttered out as she retreated, slamming the door behind her.
Jeff collapsed back onto the bed. “Well, that’s one way to kill a mood.”
“I’m calling the contractor right after we shower. They need to finish repairing the house today.” Jensen didn’t feel embarrassed but he knew Jeff did. His mother usually tended to have a chilling effect on their sex life even when she wasn’t walking in on them in the act.
By the time Jeff finished dressing and left the bedroom, Jensen was already cowing the poor contractor into submission over the holoport. He winced in sympathy as he closed the door behind him. He found his mother in the kitchen preparing breakfast.
“Mom… you can’t just walk in my room without knocking like that,” he said as he poured himself a cup of coffee, trying to sound calm and reasoned despite the blush burning his cheeks.
“I’m sorry. But it’s not the first time I’ve walked in on you having sex.” She said just as calmly as she beat eggs and milk in a large bowl.
Jeff cringed. That was a memory he wouldn’t mind leaving dead and buried. He’d been fifteen, and it was the first time he’d ever given head. The coolest guy in school turned out to be gay and interested in him. After weeks of innuendo and flirting, he finally had the boy right where he wanted him and in walks his mother just when things were getting interesting. “Yes, mother. I’m very aware of that. The only thing this proves is that it’s no less horrifying when I’m in my forties then it was when I was a teenager.”
His mother sighed. “I know you said you gave him a choice, but are you sure this relationship is good for Jensen?”
“You want me to tell him he’s free to choose, but then not accept the one he makes? Besides, he’s not gonna be any less fucked up if I sent him packing. If he feels the way he tells me he does, it would do more harm than good. He’s a freed man now and he has enough money to start his own pleasure palace. He can leave anytime he wants.”
She frowned at him. “And how much does that take?” she asked incredulously.
“Near as I can figure, enough to get a permit, rent an apartment and pimp yourself out until you make enough to buy a pleasure slave or hire a freed pleasure slave to pimp out. If you’re successful, you eventually end up with a whole brothel and pimping out a whole lot of ex-pleasure slaves and only pimping yourself if you really like it.”
“Oh. That sounds… horrible.”
“I know. I mean, ‘Pleasure Palace’ sounds great, like a really awesome section on Disney Planet. Imagine my surprise when I realized the only ride would be Jensen. But it’s the only thing he thinks he knows how to do. I think in his mind, it represented autonomy and control. He’d be in control of his own destiny. He’d get to choose who he had sex with and when, and he would actually profit from it. So it makes sense that it would be his plan for making his own life as a freed man.”
Katherine sighed, pouring the egg mixture into a large frying pan. “I guess there is no easy solution.”
“No. I don’t think there is. And now I don’t just have Jensen to worry about. I’ve got a whole damn mining planet full of slaves.”
His mother cringed. “You can’t possibly be thinking of keeping it.”
“If I sell it or give it away, that changes nothing.”
“You… you’re going to free them?” she asked hopefully.
“Of course I am. I just don’t know what the repercussions will be. If I sell the planet, the new owner will just resupply it with slaves. If I don’t, I’m on the hook for a hell of a lot of taxes with no income. And what about the slaves? What will they do to live?” He shrugged, took a sip of his coffee. His mother was right about there being no easy solutions. “I just don’t know. But doing nothing isn’t an option.”
She laughed and shook her head. “I guess you are my son after all.”
He laughed, too. “Oh, God. Don’t say that in front of Jensen.”
“What are you still doing up?”
Jensen looked up from Jeff’s desk. He glanced at the chronometer. It was nearly two in the morning. “I’m sorry, Jeff. Did you want me?”
“I always want you,” he said as if it were a silly question. “But you can stay up as long as you want. Just wonderin’ what you were doin’. You never stay up late.”
“I’m going over the numbers for the colony, trying to find the right balance.”
Jeff raised an eyebrow, intrigued. “The right balance?”
Jensen nodded. “Look here,” he held out the accounting book for Jeff to take. “Do you see how much the average slave costs them? If we took that money and made it a salary, we would be able to pay them ten percent above a living wage for a little over a year. But the colonies are so understaffed and the slaves are so overworked that many don’t last a year. The turnover is at least ten percent per annum. I calculate that we could free them all, increase our workforce by twenty percent, and modernize the entire planet and still be in the black – at least in the first two years as long as we provide lodging and food as part of their income. After that, we’ll increase the current profit margin by at least twenty eight percent.”
Jeff was silent for several minutes as he reviewed what Jensen had written. When he looked at Jensen again, his brow was furrowed. “And you just came up with all this tonight?”
Jensen blushed. “Yes. I know it was presumptuous. If you doubt my calculations…”
“No. In fact, I want you to fire the overseer. I’m replacing him with a damn good business manager.”
Jeff smiled at him. Jensen wasn’t sure he trusted that smile. “You, Jensen.”
And yes. That smile was definitely a harbinger of evil. “Me?” his voice came out high pitched and squeaky.
“Yes. You know me and you know exactly what I want to accomplish here and you’ve figured out a way to do it. Who would be better?”
“Jared,” he said immediately. He was just a slave, even if Jeff had filed his emancipation papers almost the minute his retirement was signed off on and he was technically free. He didn’t know anything, certainly not enough to make big decision involving so much money and so many people. “He’s resigning his commission too.”
“Yeah. To marry the princess,” Jeff said with a shudder. “Jared is a genius when it comes to logistics, no doubt about that, and there’s a place for him if he wants it. But logistics and coming up with business plans are two different things. If he wants to work for me, you’d be working with him, and maybe even with Misha when he retires in a few years.”
“Do you… do you really believe I could do that?”
“Yes, sweetheart. I do. Now, come to bed. It’s late. We’ll go over this in detail tomorrow.”
“So, Admiral, where’s your better half?” Misha asked as he sat next to Jeff at the bar.
“Jensen? I assume he’s torturing the contractor.”
“Did you hear about Chad?” Jared asked as he sat on Jeff’s other side.
Jeff grimaced. The news was all over Cyrus IV. Chad had been accused of embezzling money from government accounts. There wasn’t enough evidence to bring charges and soon it started to look like the allegations were all smoke and no fire. But the damage had been done. Apparently there wasn’t enough love between him and the governor for the relationship to survive the whiff of scandal and Chad had burned too many bridges. The man had been left with nothing. Jeff couldn’t muster up any real ill will towards his ex. Maybe before Jensen, he’d be buying drinks for everyone in celebration. But now… now it just made him sad.
“Yeah, I heard. I think he moved back in with his mother.” He huffed out a laugh. Jensen had been right about that. A grown man living with his mother was kind of pathetic.
“Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy,” Misha said as the bartender placed his favorite beer in front of him.
“I didn’t ask you two here to talk about the trials and tribulations of my ex.” He pulled a small box out of his jacket and placed it on the table.
“Is that…” Jared began.
“My father’s promise ring. I’m going to ask Jensen to marry me. Now that he’s free and there’s no war.”
“So, are you gonna get your mother’s promise ring resized for you?” Misha asked with a smirk.
Jeff threw the younger man a glare. “No, jackass. Jensen’s gonna have to pick one out for me. But I’m aimin’ for a short engagement. I mean, just my family and my command crew. A few friends. Somethin’ simple.” He took a sip of his beer. “You know, my brother was going to ask his girl to marry him before he died.”
“Well, if anyone belongs together it’s you and Jensen.” Jared said, lifting his own beer in a toast. “Congrats, Admiral.”
Jeff hadn’t expected Jensen’s reaction. He’d set up a romantic private dinner, complete with candle light. Jensen had spent the entire time giving him odd appraising looks. Okay, so maybe he had gone overboard. They weren’t the romantic candle light supper type of couple. The only time they used candles was when Jensen was giving him a message and that was just a relaxation technique. When he actually proposed, Jensen went white as a sheet and damn near hyperventilated. Yeah. Just what a guy wanted to happen when he popped the question.
He dragged his chair around the table and pulled Jensen against him. “Sweetheart…”
“I’m just a slave.” The younger man gasped into Jeff’s shirt.
“No, sweetheart. You’re free now.” He ran a finger along Jensen’s bare neck. “See, no collar.”
“You don’t understand,” Jensen pulled away and Jeff saw tears in his eyes. He looked frightened. “I’ve never heard of a pleasure slave getting married. Not even after they’re free. It just… doesn’t happen.”
Jeff sighed. “I don’t care about other ex-pleasure slaves. I care about you. I love you and I want… I want forever.”
Jensen blinked at him, like the concept was foreign. And to Jensen it probably was. Even Jeff knew that pleasure slaves had a short shelf life. Few stayed with the same owner for longer than four or five years and were usually no longer valued when they hit their thirties or were somehow damaged. Jeff wasn’t sure he wanted to know what happened to them then. “Forever?”
“Yeah. Marriage means we belong to each other forever. That’s what I want.”
“I don’t know how to be a husband. I’m just-”
“I swear to God,” Jeff cut him off, “if you say you’re just a slave one more time, I… I don’t know what I’ll do but I’ll probably regret it.”
“That’s all I know how to be,” Jensen practically hissed, sounding angry. It startled Jeff a little because Jensen had never really sounded angry with him before. Maybe this was progress. Maybe this meant that he was beginning to understand that anger was okay.
“Then I’m asking you to learn to be something else. You learned how to sabotage a communications system and an engine. You learned how to run a colony. You can learn to do or be anything you want to.”
Jensen lowered his eyes. “What if I can’t do it right? The way you want me to?”
“All I want? Is to be with you. You love me, right?”
“Yes, of course I do.”
“Then that’s all I’m askin’ for. Just love me.”
The next few weeks were like a blur to Jensen. He had accepted to Jeff’s proposal, and helped plan a small, quick wedding. It was almost like it was happening to someone else until he was standing before the minister. He realized, with a sudden sickness in the pit of his stomach, that Jeff wasn’t marrying someone else. Jeff was marrying him.
He’d wanted to run and hide somewhere. But he didn’t. He sucked it up and said his vows. For Jeff. The Admiral was so damn happy. Had been happy since the moment that Jensen let him slip the promise ring on his finger. He couldn’t ruin that. So he’d never mentioned his misgivings again and faked anticipation of the marriage.
He distracted himself with the details of planning everything. Even a small ceremony meant dozens of details that needed to be attended to. The venues, the catering, the cake, the tuxes, the rings, the wedding party, the invitations and guest lists and seating charts, the honeymoon, making sure the house was secure before they left. Trying not to think about the fact that not one of the dozens of invitations he’d sent out was going to his family.
But first he had to buy Jeff a promise ring with his newly acquired salary. He found a simple one that would suit the Admiral. White gold to match the one Jeff had given him, fashioned in an eternity knot. He’d never thought of it before, but the idea of marking the Admiral so no one else would look at him (in theory at least) was appealing.
Jensen sat up watching Jeff sleep. Their wedding had been small and intimate. He’d pushed past his near freak out at the altar. Swallowed down the pain at having Jeff’s mother and uncle and cousins there when his own family was missing. The further he got from slavery, the more their complete absence from his life hurt. They hadn’t wanted him and he had never really understood why. What could he have possibly done at that age to deserve being given to the Guild? It had to be enough to say that he was a slave and slaves didn’t have families. Didn’t have last names or children. The only purpose for a slave was to serve.
He’d found meaning in that. He’d had to in order to survive, to keep himself from longing for things that he knew he’d never have. Now Jeff was offering him those things like he deserved them. It scared the hell out of him. He wasn’t sure he deserved any of it; that he wouldn’t screw it up somehow the way he’d managed to screw up everything else. His own family wanted nothing to do with him. And since then, every time he forgot that he was just a slave, bad things happened. Being sterilized and the horrible things that happened right after that. Being given away to a Marine (although that didn’t turn out badly at all, it had the potential to be a disaster). Being ejected in the escape pod and nearly killed. A shiver ran through him.
He didn’t want anything bad to happen to Jeff because of him. So he had to remember what he was, no matter what happened. He lay down next to Jeff and covered them both up. Jeff sighed and pulled him closer, murmuring some indistinct nonsense. Jensen smiled and curled up against him. The diamonds running along the center of his wedding ring flashed in the light. It was a sign of ownership just as much as a slave collar. Jeff was wearing one too, but Jensen couldn’t bring himself to think of Jeff as belonging to him. That wasn’t the way things were supposed to work for him. He yawned and stretched, and finally allowed himself to fall asleep.
Jeff’s favorite day of owning the mining colony had to be, by far, walking into the Slaver’s Guild office with a stack of emancipation documents. The undisguised glee on his face told Jensen that much as the officials sputtered over the paperwork. Of course he wasn’t carrying them all and he didn’t need to come himself, but he’d said that he wanted to see the looks on their faces when they realized that he was freeing hundreds of thousands of people.
They outfitted all the miners with rebreathers to filter out pollutants in the mines and new, safer equipment. They slowly rebuilt the living spaces, adding recreational areas and modern conveniences. A living wage for someone who was provided with a house was significantly lower, and covered the extra expense of modernization. If Jared was good at logistics, Jensen was good at budgeting. He made every credit bleed before he gave it up and almost every project came in far under budget.
The filtration systems meant cleaner air and water. Food production rose and the colony become truly self-sustaining. As fewer workers were needed, they were trained in other fields. Soon there were bakers and seamstresses and technicians. A thriving economy. They encouraged marriage and the formation of stable families. They had to be taught how to be spouses and parents. It was a painful process and Jensen often had to calm Jeff down whenever someone had to be taught the smallest things about child rearing or conflict resolution. He’d hired counselors to move to the planet and help with the transitions.
One day, about a month after Jeff freed the slaves, the Guild sent a representative to gather their allotment of newborns. Jeff had told the woman to kiss his ass. It probably wasn’t the most prudent response, but the woman had gotten the message and left, never to return again. It had taken months for it to sink in to all the women that they were going to get to keep their children. Some didn’t want to, so they’d had to find someone to foster them.
The women got pregnant with the goal of raising their children. The men could find a woman they liked and marry her, or even decide if they were actually straight and wanted a woman. Jensen wondered how a person figured something like that out after it not even mattering for so long. Surnames were a problem. Many took their father’s name, adding ‘son’ on the end. Some took Jeff’s (Jeffreyson rather than Morgan, though Jensen was sure that wasn’t a real name). A lot more made up their own. There were many who styled themselves Freeman, Newman, Charles, Charleston, Freemont and Frank all in honor of their newfound freedom. That was thanks to Misha, who’d made a list of all the names that would denote their new status.
None of the slaves could read or write and many were willing to pay for lessons. This led to teachers and tutors moving there. Which, in turn, led to schools and learning centers. The need for quality medical care brought doctors and at least one hospital. Becoming a large population center mandated the establishment of a court system which meant police, lawyers and judges. Eventually they had a booming economy on their hands that was threatening to become a full member of the Federation. It pleased Jensen to think of Jeff as founder of a ruling family. But if that happened, they’d have to worry about him having offspring.
Most of the slaves had serious problems adjusting to their newfound circumstances. Jensen understood that all too well. After a lifetime of being bent to the will of the Guild and various owners, it was hard to suddenly be a freed man. He had nearly two years on them, and he was still getting used to the idea of making his own decisions. His work was easy because it was all for Jeff. It was a simple thing to be decisive and take the initiative when it was for the benefit of his former master and current husband. But when it came to thinking of himself for himself… he just couldn’t get into the habit. If four years wasn’t long enough to change that, two most definitely wouldn’t be.
“I want to have kids.”
Jensen stopped mid-movement putting away the last of the dishes. “Oh. With who?”
Jeff frowned at him. After two years of marriage, did Jensen really need to ask that question? Sometimes he felt like they were speaking two different languages. “You.”
“I… I was sterilized,” Jensen stuttered out, his eyes downcast.
“How?” It couldn’t have been from his injuries, could it? Surely the doctors would have told him.
“Surgically,” he said, his tone clipped and his face pale. “Nearly ten years ago.”
Jeff could read him better now, could tell that this wasn’t his favorite subject. He could feel the anger churning in his stomach, anger at the people that exploited people like Jensen and at a system that made it possible. “Why?”
He shrugged. “Most male pleasure slaves are. That way there aren’t any questions about who fathered a woman’s offspring,” he said as if he were reading it from a script, his voice a little flat. “I’m sorry.” That at least sounded true.
“Don’t be. It’s not your fault.”
“We could just use the DNA from the donated eggs. You were thinking of using an artificial womb, right?”
Jeff nodded. “I know someone who runs a facility. But we won’t need the DNA from the donated eggs. We can just use yours.”
“But… we can’t clone me,” Jensen protested, looking horrified at the idea. “They would be genetically flawed and live half as long as they should. Besides, then they wouldn’t be yours. Biologically at least. And it’s illegal.”
“I’m not talkin’ cloning, baby. I know someone who can… splice your DNA. And replace the genetic clock with one from the egg. That way, they would be both of ours and there would be no genetic or aging problems.”
“Jeff… that’s illegal too.”
“And what they did to you should be,” he growled out. Jensen flinched.
“I’m okay with it.” It wasn’t completely true, Jeff could tell, and he wondered just how upset Jensen was about it. Wondered what the back story was. He also knew he’d never get it from Jensen. At least no time soon. Sometimes, he could go days without remembering what Jensen had been. The younger man was even a lot more comfortable with being the aggressor sexually. Other times, it was difficult for him to forget.
“Well, I’m not. I want to be able to see both of us in our kids. These bastards have no right to own another person, to use them, to decide for them whether they ever get to have kids of their own. They had no right to do that to you.”
“Alright,” Jensen blurted out. Jeff knew part, if not all, of the younger man’s motivation for giving in so quickly was to diffuse his anger. Jensen never seemed to know what to do with it and that helplessness always unnerve the younger man. In truth, Jeff wasn’t sure what to do with his anger himself. He hated slavery more with each passing day and the longer he knew Jensen the better he understood his mother. That was definitely scaring him as much as his anger obviously scared Jensen. “Just don’t get caught. As much of a badass as you can be, I don’t think you’ll fair well on a penal colony. I know I won’t… I won’t fair well without you.”
Chapter 6: Chapter Six
“So, where you a Trojan horse?”
Jensen frowned at Genevieve from his spot behind his desk. His desk in his office. Sometimes he still couldn’t believe it. It was almost as surreal as the fact that Jared had actually married the Princess or that he had married Jeff. It was after hours and the Princess was standing in his doorway. He was surprised to see her there. They rarely spoke beyond pleasantries and he couldn’t figure out why she would seek him out. Jared must be working late too. The reference she made sounded familiar. “Trojan horse?”
“Were you sent to my ship on purpose? A pleasure slave fighting for the land of his captivity?”
“I… I told you the truth. My ejection was a mistake. Jeff was always afraid that I’d die if something happened to the ship, so he’d make me wait out attacks in or near escape pods, so that I could get away quickly. I didn’t sabotage your ship for Terra. I did it for Jeff. You said you were going to kill him.”
“Ah. So this is true love?” she asked incredulously as she studied him. “With your owner?”
“I’m free now. I don’t have an owner. I have a husband. I have an office, I make a salary. I can leave if I want.” He paused. He rarely called the Admiral his husband. Yes, that’s what he was, but it felt like it lead him too close to forgetting. And forgetting never lead to anything good.-
“And you don’t want to?” she asked, looking genuinely curious.
“I have exactly what I want, Princess.”
She sighed heavily. “Don’t call me that. I’m not the princess of anything anymore.”
“Since this is obviously motivation questioning day, do you really love Jared?”
“Does it matter?”
“Yes, it does. He’s a good man. I don’t want to see him hurt.”
She looked down at her big, sparkly ring. “I have no intention of hurting him.” She smiled up at him. “On my honor.”
Jensen wasn’t sure how to respond to that. He wasn’t entirely sure that she had any honor. “I hope you’re telling the truth. I don’t want to see Jeff end up on a penal colony for killing you.”
She gave him a slight smirk. “No, we can’t have that. I didn’t come in here to argue or question your motivations.” He raised an eyebrow at her. She chuckled softly. “And they say I’m tough. I wanted to apologize. I should have done it a long time ago. I should have gotten you medical attention after you were burned. I was angry and my home was being threatened.” She shrugged. “I behaved badly.”
Jensen blinked at her for several seconds. He hadn’t expected that. It had never occurred to him to be angry with her over throwing him in the brig rather than taking him to the medical bay. He had expected to die that day. That he lived was all that mattered to him. Jeff had taken care of him. “I don’t hold that against you.”
“Then what are you holding against me?”
He mulled that over for a moment. It wasn’t her threat to kill Jeff. He had been frightened and more than a little desperate to stop her, but it was war. Good people were capable of horrible acts during war. He had never really hated her for it. Had never really given her a second thought until finding Jared mooning over her picture in the locker room. “I think you’re using Jared.”
“We’re back to that again?”
“We’ll always be back to that. Everything else that happened between us was just war.”
It was illegal to use a free person as a surrogate, and Jensen knew Jeff would never buy a slave to carry their child. Artificial wombs were actually much safer than people gave them credit for being, and getting safer practically by the day. In fact, the mortality rate was lower than with a surrogate. He’d learned that from Robert during the fight for their approval. The propaganda by the Slaver’s Guild had been full of half-truths and outright inaccuracies, but most people still believed it. Apparently, slaves sold for breeding were a lucrative submarket and the Guild feared a large portion of it would dry up if the artificial womb industry took off.
Jensen spent hours watching their children grow. He couldn’t exactly see them, especially not at first. There had only been one egg implanted in the artificial womb, which hung suspended in a white, sterile room among rows of other artificial wombs holding fetuses in various stages of development. But it had split into twins. After that, they learned that something even more amazing happened. They were obviously identical twins, but one was a girl and the other a boy. The doctors said it was incredibly rare for that to happen.
At first Jensen would watch them on the special monitoring software installed on their personal network out of a sense of disbelief. He’d never even thought about the possibility of being a parent. Pleasure slaves who got pregnant rarely got to actually give birth. Even when they were allowed to carry the baby to term and keep it, the child still belonged to the master even though it was mostly likely his own child just like every other baby born to every other slave. The baby could be, and often was, sold on a whim or out of necessity if the owner couldn’t support the extra mouth to feed or just needed a quick infusion of cash. Male slaves had even less rights to any child they happened to father if they weren’t sterilized out of hand, so it wasn’t something he thought of with any real anticipation except as some distant thing that might happen when he bought his freedom. But then he’d been sterilized and there was no longer anything to look forward to.
The fact that Jeff, the biggest boyscout he’d ever met in his life, had broken the law to make this happen just added to his sense of amazement. Sometimes when the image came up on the viewscreen, he’d heave a sigh of relief that it was really there… that they were really there. His children. He didn’t understand why Jeff would want to use his DNA so badly, why he’d taken this huge risk. He was just a slave. Yes, Jeff had freed him, married him, was in love with him and wanted him around for now. But that didn’t change the fact that his own family had given him to the Guild to get rid of him.
Now that it was actually happening, he couldn’t help feeling a kind of elated dreamlike anticipation. He was afraid too. If anyone found out what Jeff had done the children would be destroyed, Jeff would be on a penal colony and all his property sized. Jensen would be left with nothing and no one even if he somehow escaped the same fate. If he didn’t, they wouldn’t put him in the same colony as his husband. Either way, he’d be separated from Jeff for at least ten years.
It also made him remember that he had been happy with his family once. Not all of it was clear, but he did remember that. Remembered how everyone was afraid of Grandma but him. How she would give him gifts and let him sit on her lap and play games on her data reader. How she always had a special smile just for him. He remembered his big brother and the new baby. Remembered how it was all just gone one day. Then there had been the mess surrounding his sterilization. He didn’t like to think about that, didn’t like to dwell on what a fool he’d been. But he’d been happy then too, before it all went up in smoke. He couldn’t help wondering if this would too. Of course it had all been an illusion. But these babies… they weren’t an illusion. They were real and they were his.
Then as it got closer to the time that they would be born, he started to get excited. He could see them moving inside the womb, which was opaque with the blood rich lining. He’d stare at their vitals at the bottom of the screen when they were asleep just to make sure they were still alive. He would keep the program open while he was working on the nursery or during his workday and steal glances at it periodically. Even take breaks just to sit and watch them. He wondered what they’d look like and what it would feel like to hold them. He read everything he could get his hands on about child development. And he worried that they would hate him when they realized what he was.
Jensen had Jeff's power of attorney and normally signed everything, but there were a few things that he insisted that Jeff come take care of himself. When the call came in, he was in his office scribbling his name over the stacks of paper Jensen left for him, his handwriting becoming increasingly illegible.
“We’ve got a problem, Admiral.” Misha’s voice hissed through the port. The anxiety in it increased Jeff’s tension. It was odd enough that it was audio only.
“You’re gonna have to expound on that, Lieutenant.”
“Well, it seems that you’ve started a shit storm, sir. All the slaves have revolted on five different mining colonies. They’re all demanding their freedom.”
Five different colonies? At once? Holy shit. There was a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. “And how is this my fault?”
“They’re crediting you for showing the way. They’re even calling themselves Morganites.”
“That’s not the worst of it. They’re holding free men hostage. Mostly overseers but a couple owners. The Slaver’s Guild has been screeching. They want to send the Navy.”
“So, a hammer to swat a fly?”
“Pretty much. I think this is going to get very ugly, sir.”
“What about the raptors?”
“Most of the crews don’t know what’s happening. Jared just found out from his brother.” Jared’s older brother sat on the defense counsel.
“Well, maybe it’s time they did.”
“Jeff… are you talkin’ mutiny?”
“Just what did you expect when you called me with this little bit of news?”
“I dunno.” Jeff could hear the slight smile in the younger man’s voice. “Mutiny?”
The last place that Jeff ever expected to find himself again was the bridge of the Intrepid. And he had to admit that he missed it. It felt right to be here in a way that nothing else but being with Jensen did. His heart was still divided between his ship and his husband. Of course he had stolen the ship. He and his crew. They were, in fact, stealing the entire raptor fleet. He had no idea how this would play out, but practically the entire space flight wing of the Marine Corps was mutinying.
“Where’s Jensen, Admiral?” Misha asked.
“He’s got his own mission to accomplish. Time to interception?”
“Approximately one hour and seven minutes.”
Jeff nodded curtly. “I’ll be back in forty five minutes. Commander, you have the bridge. Call me if anything interesting happens.”
“Why is it that I only get the bridge when it’s boring?” Jared asked with a smirk.
Jeff chuckled as he left. He found himself in the greenhouse. He was lost in his thoughts when Jensen arrived. He felt hands on his back and knew instantly who it was by the intimacy of the touch. He smiled and turned to face him. “How’d it go?”
“Everything’s all set.”
“Good. Let’s go do this.”
“The commanding officer of the Navy fleet is hailing us, Admiral,” Misha said the minute they stepped foot on the bridge. “Admiral Henry Jordan of the TFS Dauntless.”
“Well, don’t keep the man waiting,” Jeff said as he sat casually in his chair. “Open a channel.”
“Aye, sir,” Misha said with such undisguised glee that Jeff rolled his eyes the instant before Henry Jordan's square face filled the screen. He was a bull of a man with sandy hair liberally sprinkled with gray and startling blue eyes.
“Admiral Morgan. We are here under orders from the President of the Terran Federation.” The man said without preamble.
“Yes. I know why you’re here. I’m afraid I have to object strongly to the use of force against defenseless civilians.”
“Defenseless,” the admiral scoffed. “They’re holding freemen hostage, Morgan.”
“And what will happen to those freemen if you destroy the planets?”
“I’m following orders here.”
“I understand that. But maybe you shouldn’t have brought your full complement of Marines. If you’re planning on murdering a bunch of slaves, women and babies included.”
“I’m not planning on anything of the sort! They may well capitulate!”
“They may, but how likely is that? I think even they know that their owners and the Guild aren’t just gonna pat them on the heads and send them on their way after this.”
“You don’t-” Jordan’s attention was drawn to something off screen. “I’ll be damned.” He turned back to face Jeff, his face flushed with anger. “This is mutiny!”
“Yeah,” Jeff said a little sadly. He knew the ground troops had surrounded the bridge, out of sight, their rifles drawn. Jensen had gotten them his message. Normally, this would result in spending a lifetime on a penal colony. That was likely how he’d end up, but the entire Marine Corps? Hopefully this could all be pinned on him and everyone else would be allowed to go free. “So I’ve been told. But these are human beings. We’re not just going to allow you to kill them. I strongly suggest that you contact Command and Control and advise them of the situation.”
“They have hostages.”
“I’m well aware of that. We’ll get them back.”
“What do you think is going to happen here, Morgan? These slaves have rebelled, lifted their hands to their masters.”
“I don’t know. I just know there’s going to be no slaughter, no Plan B,” he bit out the military euphemism for indiscriminately destroying a planet. “Not today. We’re soldiers, Admiral. Warriors. Not butchers. Not mass murders.”
“Soldiers follow orders.”
“When they don’t conflict with our consciences. How many people have tried to explain away their atrocities throughout our history by saying they were just following orders? Some orders… just shouldn’t be followed.”
Erin Ackles sat straight and proud in the president’s private office. The seats here were meant to give an advantage to the president, but that was impossible with Erin. She was the matriarch of the powerful but fading Ackles family, one of Terra’s fabled Five.
The Federation had two legislatures of equal power. The lower house with almost a thousand officials elected by the freemen of the Federation and the upper house with five members each from every populated planet not including the colonies – mining, penal and agricultural. The seats in the upper house were held hereditarily and the families that held them became something of royalty in a system that claimed no royalty. The five families representing Terra itself were the oldest and most powerful, despite that no family could hold more than one seat, and they were known throughout the Federation simply as the Five.
Even so, the president was the most powerful single member of government. He shouldn’t feel so intimidated by an old, frail woman. Only there was nothing frail about Erin. In her youth, she had been nicknamed the Gorgon despite her beauty because it was said that those cool green eyes could turn a man to stone. It was obviously not literally true, but the president swore he could feel his joints stiffen as he sat under that imperious gaze .
Today had been a disastrous one, one that needed his undivided attention. He hadn’t had time for interruptions, but Erin had shown up uninvited and unannounced and demanded an audience.
“What are you doing about the slave rebellion,” she demanded. At least she didn’t waste time on empty pleasantries.
“I didn’t realize that you were so interested in domestic policy.”
“I’m always interested in domestic policy, especially when it so intimately involves the future of my family.”
He frowned at that but didn’t pry. He may not like her intrusion here, but he didn’t want to alienate her. “I’m sending ships of the line to bring things into order on the colonies.”
“War ships?” she said with undisguised disapproval. “Yes, I’d heard. Are you going to threaten them into submission, Edsel?”
He cringed at his first name. Nobody called him that anymore. Even his wife called him Ed. “Madam Ackles,” he began but she waved him to silence.
“Is the Guild behind this?”
He frowned, not because the accusation was untrue but because it rankled him to be in the position of kowtowing to the Guild. It was bad enough to be taken to task by Erin, but at least she had honor. She wasn’t some self-serving self-satisfied toady like the emissary from the Guild. “Why would the Slaver’s Guild have anything to do with my decisions?”
“Because they have too much to do with everything.”
He raised an eyebrow in surprise. Her husband had been a president of the Guild and had built up much of their current political power. There had been rumors that she been opposed to him taking the position but there had never been any proof. And she owned slaves… more than any of the other Five. “Just what are you proposing, madam?”
“That we take their power.”
She smiled then, her eyes glittering with laughter and he found that he was more afraid of that than her usual icy demeanor. “Abolish slavery.”
He gapped at her. “Surely you aren’t serious?”
“Dead serious, Edsel. It violates the personal rights clause of our constitution. Everyone knows it, yet no one does anything about it. Too much money entangled in it.”
“It would bankrupt half the Federation.”
She made a noncommittal sound. “It hasn’t bankrupted Osiris IIX. Admiral Morgan seems to be doing just fine, financially speaking.”
“Morgan,” he growled softly. He wished he’d never heard that man’s name. But… he had saved his life and he did owe him a debt.
“It turns out that contrary to what the Guild has been telling us, paying these people a decent wage is many times more inexpensive then buying them. And when you’re speaking of household staff it becomes even more affordable when you provide them food and board – something you’re already bound by law to provide your slaves.”
“That’s just the best case scenario.”
“I’m not saying it will be all wine and roses for owners. Many of us will lose money, make no mistake. But that doesn’t make this any less right. Or necessary. And it won’t completely beggar us either, contrary to what the Guild would have us believe. It will, however, completely destroy them.”
“And you’re willing to lose all your slaves?”
Erin smiled and cocked her head. “Would I have suggested it otherwise?”
“How does freeing the slaves involve the future of your family?” he finally asked, his irritation at everyone marching into his office and demanding that he handle things their way finally getting the better of his manners.
“It doesn’t. But averting a war does. What do you think will happen should these slaves refuse to return to their drudgery? Will you destroy the colonies? Kill hundreds of thousands – millions – of people? How do you think you could possibly get away with such barbarism?”
He sighed as sagged back in his chair, feeling impossibly old and tired. She was right. There was no easy, painless way to resolve this. To give in to the slaves on the colony would be to invite rebellion among all the other slaves, and God only knew how many would die because of that. To not give in… would mean a slaughter. More than half Terra’s population were outworlders, and almost all their Marines – raptor crews and ground troop contingents of Navy vessels – were outworlders. Killing the slaves would likely spark another war. Not that it wasn’t fraught with its own problems, but the sanest way out of this conundrum was Erin’s suggestion.
“They will say that I don’t have the authority.”
“They will. However, you are the head of the governmental branch that enforces law. It would take years for this to wind its way through the courts. Even if they invalidate it, by the time it gets to the High Court, the die will be cast. The Guild will be dead and the slaves will have lived as freemen for years. Putting that genie back in the bottle won’t be so easy. For better or worse, this society will never be the same.”
He rubbed a hand over his face and started to answer when the Secretary of the Navy burst into the room followed by the much more subdued looking Secretary of the Marine Corps and the president’s flustered assistant.
“They’ve mutinied!” the first secretary blurted out.
“Probably because they object to wholesale slaughter. You can hardly blame them,” the second secretary said.
“Are you accusing my men of being butchers?”
“If the shoe fits,” the stout, balding man said steadily.
“Gentlemen!” the president bellowed and both stopped talking. “It’s alright, Peter,” he said to his stammering assistant. The man gave the two secretaries one more reproachful look before leaving. “Would one of you care to tell me just what the hell is going on. Pardon me, Madam.”
Erin gave him a wry smile. “Not at all, Mr. President.” She was all poise and etiquette now. At least she wasn’t going to call him Edsel in public.
“We temporarily lost contact with the fleet after they made contact with Morgan. The Marines have taken over the Navy ships. Morgan sent his slave to incite them to mutiny. And now he’s negotiating with the slaves for the safe release of the hostages. As if he had a shred of authority. He claims that he can get them to stand down in exchange for their freedom. They want to be allowed safe passage to the outer planets.”
“Is that all?” the president muttered.
“We can’t give them what they want. We can’t negotiate with terrorists.”
Edsel glanced at Erin Ackles. She was watching him silently. He took a deep breath. “Tell the Navy to stand down. I want Admiral Morgan to see this thing through.”
“No buts. I don’t like it anymore then you do. But Morgan has the right end of this. I’m not going to let pride push me into tearing this Federation apart now that we finally have peace. We can’t just slaughter millions of men, women and children. The Crim insurgents would have the perfect recruiting tool. The outworlders and newly reintegrated Crimson planets would rebel. Even many on the inner planets would turn against us. Slavery is only truly popular with the elitists and affluent, and not even among fifty percent of them. Everyone else just accepts it. If we destroy five planets full of slaves, they may well stop accepting it.”
The men blinked at him, but Erin smiled.
“What are you saying, sir?” The Secretary of the Navy asked.
“I’m saying, order your ships to stand down, sir. And patch me through to Morgan. Also, send Peter back in here.”
“That was one hell of a chess game you played.” Genevieve jumped at the sound of Jeff’s voice. He’d been called to Terra to deal with his mutiny.Luckily for him, the government wanted to bury the entire incident. The President had made it clear that he’d want his pound of flesh at some point. He cringed to think what it might be. It had been less painful and over quicker than he’d expected or likely deserved. The Princess probably hadn’t expected him to catch up with her so soon if at all. And especially not on the veranda of Jared’s family ranch.
The princess raised an eyebrow at him as he stepped out of the shadows into the waning daylight. She wasn’t like the princesses in the fairytales. She wasn’t delicate and proper and she likely wouldn’t feel an entire sack of peas under her mattress. No. Genevieve was more of a boiled leather and chain mail type of princess. But for all that, she did have an air of… majesty that not even most of the members of the Terran Five Families had. “What are you talking about, Admiral?”
“I didn’t even realize I was a pawn ‘til about halfway through the game. It just all felt so orchestrated.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. Sometimes the pawn can be the most valuable piece on the board.”
He chuckled. “I don’t particularly like playing word games, so can we just cut the crap, Princess?”
She smiled wryly. “Are you implying that I had anything to do with internal Terran politics?”
“I’m suggesting that strangers showed up on those mining colonies. That they sowed the seeds of rebellion among the slaves, helped them disrupt the security and communications systems and capture the freemen on planet. That they even named them. It didn’t make sense to me at first. Terran abolitionists aren’t exactly known for organized rebel rousing. Nor would they be likely to name themselves after someone who saved the government sanctioning the system they’re tryin’ to change.”
“Maybe they decided what they were doing wasn’t working and tried a different tact.”
“And maybe they got some help from a certain princess from a militantly abolitionist nation. Someone who already had insurgents and arms ready to go. The only thing I’m trying to figure out is how you found your way around our systems so quickly. Maybe you did have help from our abolitionists… but I think you were the catalyst and it was your people on those colonies. How else would they have known about my colony? They don’t have radios or holos.”
The princess laughed. “You really think that your abolitionists were just sitting on their hands until I came along and talked them into being naughty?”
“I think the Federation has done a damn good job of disrupting their operations and keeping them disorganized ever since the Crimson Rebellion.”
Genevieve sighed and looked away. “There was a lot wrong with the Empire. The only thing that kept me going was the belief that the Federation was greedy and evil and that if we let you win the war, you’d enslave us all. If you didn’t kill us first. The choice that was given to our people was a broken system or slavery. Maybe it was even true at some point, and no one questioned if it was still true. I didn’t know how to make my own system better. All I could do was try to make sure the Federation didn’t make it any worse. Then I was taken prisoner and I discovered that you weren’t evil. Slavery is evil, yes. But… somehow it didn’t taint everything else. In every other way your form of government is superior. All the people here, save the slaves, were free. Free to choose their own vocations, to assemble as they wish, to say what they want. The only flaw, besides the natural crap you find when people are in charge of anything, was that one evil thing that sours all the rest.”
“So, you decided to remedy that?”
“The Slaver’s Guild had so much power, and anywhere people weren’t free they were behind it. They even had the power to have freemen banished from the inner planets.”
“You’re plan to ‘fix’ us was to start another war?” he asked incredulously.
“No… of course not. The logical choice would have been for the government to give in.”
“Logical? Slavery isn’t logical, especially in a society that’s supposedly based on human rights, and yet we’ve had it for the past four hundred years. What in the world made you think any response to a slave uprising would be anything resembling logical?”
She folded her arms. “It worked,” she said stubbornly.
“Barely!” Jeff hissed, angry. Yes, Terra could be a bitch, but she was still his nation. And this woman, in her hubris, had come close to destroying it from the inside in a way that her Empire never had.
“The Slaver’s Guild was a cancer that was going to eventually destroy your society.”
He scoffed and shook his head. Were all royalty this arrogant? “And you just thought you’d do us a favor and destroy it?”
“And slavery right along with it. This is my home now too, Admiral. My children will grow up here. I did it for myself and for them.”
“This could have ended badly. Do you know how many people would have died if we hadn’t come to stop the Navy? Or if the Navy had been set loose on us?”
“I didn’t anticipate that. How would the Guild have covered that up?”
“Hell if I know. But that doesn’t make the danger any less real. You can’t just manipulate people like this.”
“Even if it worked?” Jeff scowled at her and she raised her hands in surrender. “Okay, okay. I get it. I do. I thought… I thought Jared was…” her voice trailed off and she bit her lip. “He was in the middle of all that and I don’t want to see him hurt.”
He frowned at her, gauging her reaction. To his surprise, he found that he believed her. “You really care about him, don’t you?”
“Is that so surprising?”
“Knowing him? Not really. Knowing you? Absolutely.”
She snorted out a laugh. “I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize what I have with him. From now on, I’m going to concentrate on helping the freed men adjust. I think that might have been where the Empire went wrong. We freed millions of people but never taught them how to really be free.”
“Good luck with that.”
“I figured out Princess Gen was behind the rebellion. She promises that she won’t pull anything like this again.”
His mother looked up at him with a raised eyebrow. “She admitted it?”
“Yes. Are you going to do the same?”
“Jeff… what are you talking about?”
“To be honest, none of this added up for me, even after I figured out her part in it. I mean, the organization was hers. But how would she pull such a plan together so quickly? She mentioned the Guild getting freemen exiled. I thought that was a little odd and I looked at your record. This was the plan you came up with that got you exiled. Really, you should have been sent to a penal colony because that’s industrial sabotage. But you had friends in high places and they pulled strings… even so, you couldn’t get away without paying your pound of flesh. You still had to leave your home. Your lover. You even miscarried and the baby’s father blamed the president of the guild, who happened to be an Ackles.”
She closed her eyes and sighed, a tear ran down her cheek. “So… you finally know everything.”
“I’m not judging you, Mom,” Jeff said softly. He’d always hated it when women, especially his mother, cried. He never knew what to do. “That’s the last thing I wanna do. But you have to stop now.”
“All I ever wanted was to end slavery. It’s a terrible, horrible thing.”
“And you’ve done that. You need to let it all go now, Mom. Everyone does. Innocent people have gotten hurt.” He wished he could say the same thing to Jared’s father. That he could make the man see reason and put away his vendetta. He wished he could get Jensen’s family back for him. He wished a lot of things.
She let out a sob that threatened to break his heart. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight against him and she clung to him, pressed her face against his shirt as she cried. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I nearly got you killed. I never would have survived that. You’re all I have left.”
“I’m right here, Mom. And I’m about to have kids. You’re grandchildren. They’re gonna need you around to spoil them rotten. We can’t have them visiting Grandma in a penal colony.”
“Do we have to stay on Cyrus IV?” Jensen asked once Jeff finished telling him everything.
“You just finished decorating the nursery. The twins will be born any day now.”
“Yes, I know Admiral. It’s just…” He did love the nursery. It had taken him months to get the colors and stenciling just right. There had been times when he thought his obsession with it was going to drive Jeff to completely snap. But it was beginning to dawn on him that maybe living in such close proximity to Katherine might not be such a healthy thing. He glanced at the artificial womb on the large monitor.
“You want to move back to Terra, don’t you?”
Jensen shrugged. “I don’t know. I’d go anywhere you wanted to be.”
“Just not Cyrus IV? Is this about my mother?”
“Jeff… she was exiled, nearly broke us up and just almost started another civil war before the dust settled from the last one.”
“But, babe, she’s my mom. We can’t just leave her here alone.”
“We’ll visit. And you can always holoSkype. But I say we move. Without leaving a forwarding address.”
“She’d eventually find us.”
“Why does that sound like a threat?”
“I thought you liked her.”
“I do. But she’s like a tsunami. The only sane thing to do is get the hell out of the way. It’s not personal… I mean, no one actually hates a tsunami even though they run from it screaming in terror. It’s just a matter of self-preservation.”
Jeff chuckled and kissed him on the forehead. “I think she’s already done her worst.”
Chapter 7: Epilogue
It was a little after two a.m. local time when their twins decided to make their entrance into the world. Jeff and Jensen had rushed to the facility, Jensen clutching the little bag that held their babies’ clothes in a death grip.
They watched the entire thing and Jeff wondered if he looked anything like his husband did. Jensen watched silently, his eyes wide with wonder and his skin pale. Their daughter was born first. She came into the world red faced and screaming indignantly. Then their son was born, silent and so still that they’d worried until the doctor cleaned out his throat and the baby screamed at him until he stopped.
Their agreement was that Jeff named the girl and Jensen named the boy. Jeff named their daughter Katherine Amanda, after his mother. When he heard what Jensen was naming the boy, it dawned on him for the first time that maybe Jensen did remember who he was. Or at least that he’d had a family once. Eron Joshua. He wasn’t sure that he wanted his son named after those people… but he couldn’t object. Not when Jensen had taken him naming their daughter after his mother so gracefully. And not without revealing that he knew who Jensen’s family was.
Jeff could see Jensen in their children’s faces and he knew he’d made the right decision. Even if what he’d done was discovered, they couldn’t be destroyed now that they were born. He and Jensen would still have two children in the universe, even if they ended up on a penal colony for it. Now if only they would have Jensen’s eyes once the blue changed to their real color. Their wispy hair was golden, barely there at all. His mother was blonde, and Erin Ackles was blond as well. Jensen had been towheaded as a child if the news reels were anything to go by.
He was only slightly more comfortable holding the babies then Jensen was. It was clear that they were probably going to need some help from his mother. Just until they were both more relaxed about it. Jensen was obviously in love with the children, even if he did seem to be afraid that he might hurt them. They were so small.
“They’re so tiny… but they’re heads seem disproportionately large.” Jensen said once the nurses finally took them away to do a more thorough examination. “I mean, I know they’re supposed to be disproportionate, because their brains are large, but are you sure they aren’t too big?”
Jeff chuckled. “I think the doctor would have said something. They’re perfect. Completely healthy. Ten fingers, ten toes.”
“Yeah. I know.” Jensen bit his lip and frowned. “But… what if something’s wrong and the doctors missed it?”
“Sweetheart,” Jeff cut in gently. “Breath. They’re fine. I think we should take Mom up on her offer to stay with us for a few days until we’re comfortable.”
Jensen raised an eyebrow at him. “As long as she promises not to give us any relationship advice or incite any rebellions.”
Jeff chuckled. “Deal.”
Jensen sighed and leaned his head against Jeff’s shoulder. Jeff wrapped an arm around him, glad he’d finally gotten the younger man to relax. “They’re really ours?” Jensen asked in a soft voice.
“They’re really ours,” Jeff confirmed. “And in a little while, they’ll bring them back out all dressed in their nice clothes and we can take them home.”
“I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this is illegal.” The small, fidgety man told Erin Ackles. Her mouth tightened in disapproval. She hated being told what she already knew.
“Do you think I give two wits about legality?” she hissed. “This is my grandson’s life.”
She looked down at the note that came with the little biological materials containers.
I would give him my heart if I could.
A sharp pain raced through her own and she took a deep breath. She raised her head and pierced the doctor with a withering gaze. “It will at least prolong his life for another year or two, correct? Even if it doesn’t save him?”
She waved a hand dismissively. “It may not cure him. Only a new heart can ensure that. Yes. I know. Just do it, doctor. If a year or two is all we get, that will just have to be enough.” She folded the slip of paper and hoped she was right.