Aitan stood up, his stool clattering to the ground. "What class?"
His tone of voice seemed to confuse Yanek, his eyebrows rising as he opened his mouth— perhaps to answer Aitan, before Saul held his hand up. "No," came the deep-voiced command. Saul was on his feet, walking over to Yanek. "Escort Mr. Leser back to his room," he said, nodding back towards Aitan, "and then meet me at the bridge."
Feeling a twinge in his stomach, Aitan also took a step forward. "Is it a warbird or—"
"Aitan." His name was said with finality.
Squaring his shoulders, vaguely wishing he was still in his overseer's outfit, he narrowed his eyes. "—or a jackknife?"
Yanek glanced from Saul to Aitan, "A jackknife," he said, just as Saul glared at him.
Nodding, Aitan crossed his arms. "This hunk of metal doesn't stand a chance against a jackknife."
"I wouldn't sound so pleased about that," Saul growled, turning on Aitan. He looked surprisingly furious, and Aitan found himself backing up. He stumbled on the overturned stool, and almost fell backwards when a hand grabbed his arm, and steadied him.
When his eyes met Saul's, he looked back down.
"There isn't time for this," There was a jerk, and Aitan was suddenly closer to Saul. "You will do as I say." He had stressed each word, keeping his eyes zeroed in on Aitan.
In the heat of the moment, Aitan didn't really have time to compare and contrast how he and Adley would have handled this situation differently. He only knew how Aitan would act, and seeing as how he was Aitan, he acted accordingly.
Prying Saul's fingers away from his arm, he straightened his back, and kept his jaw stiff. "I am an officer in the grand overseer's office," he hissed through his teeth, "I would think my knowledge about the region four armada should hold some weight."
Saul considered Aitan's unflinching gaze, the corner of his lip sliding upwards, his hazel eyes narrowed. Saul opened his mouth to speak, but his jaw was left hanging. Finally, he closed it, and let out a rough laugh. "Fine," he said, placing his hand on his chest, and bowing as he gestured for the exit, "By all means, princess, I shall follow your lead."
Feeling the corner of his own lip curl, Aitan tilted his head. He wouldn't give Saul the satisfaction of being indignant. He held his chin high, and stepped past Saul and Yanek. It wasn't until he hit the hallway that he realized he had no idea where the bridge was.
He stopped and looked over his shoulder. Saul was leaning against the doorframe, his arms crossed, smirking at Aitan. He cocked an eyebrow. "Problem?"
Aitan swallowed, his jaw tightening. "I see you have the time to be an ass," he said. He looked back around, unable to keep eye contact with Saul's smug face.
There was a bark of laughter behind him, and then the clanking of boots on the grates coming closer. His eyes widened when Saul suddenly slammed an arm around his shoulders, and looked at Aitan with a jovial grin. "To the bridge," he said, his eyes dancing.
"To the bridge," Aitan breathed, stumbling as Saul pulled him forward.
He found it hard to keep up with Saul's long strides, but he could hear Yanek puffing behind him, so at least he wasn't the only one. They were already halfway across the ship, Aitan presumed … or hoped, rather. He couldn't imagine it being any larger.
Saul had kept a firm arm around his shoulders the entire time, which made them appear as two buddies out for a lovely stroll. Every couple of steps, Saul's hip would hit Aitan's at rather suspect intervals. Aitan didn't comment on it.
"The bridge, as ordered" Saul said, his breath hitting Aitan's ear.
They had come to a large entrance, and walking through, Aitan was surprised by the amount of decorum as the crew all stood, and turned to salute Saul. Stepping towards them, Sax
looked down at Aitan with a slight frown. "Captain?"
"Overseer Leser has decided to join us," Saul replied, smirk evident in his voice. He shoved Aitan towards Sax. "Take him, will you?"
Stepping past Aitan, Saul strode to the center of the bridge, where a man was sitting at the helm. He leaned over, resting his hand on the edge of the console, and looked up at the spaceview. There seemed to be a palpable tension in the room, as everyone on the bridge stared at him.
"Have they tried to contact us?"
The man at the helm shifted. "No."
"What have they done?"
"Just followed us, captain," Sax cut in. Aitan looked over at him, taking in his stiff posture.
"Fantastic," Saul growled, standing straight. He crossed his arms. "Open a comm."
There was some static, and the loud beeping of the comm connecting. Aitan tensed- it would be a fourth region officer speaking from the other end. He watched Saul's back, frowning at his confident stance. Didn't he know he was playing with fire?
"Don't speak," Sax barked at Aitan, just as the static cut out.
"This is the F.R.A. Stanislaus, overseer Rosha at comm."
Aitan felt his mouth run dry. He knew Rosha- Jacoby Rosha. He had trained with Aitan and Adley at the academy.
Going entirely rigid, he nearly bit his tongue off when he felt a gentle touch at his elbow. He looked over to find Benji staring up at him, eyes round and warm. He was smiling and nodding, and Aitan was pretty sure he would be murmuring comforting words if only the situation had permitted it.
Saul's booming voice cut in, making both Aitan and Benji look around. "Rosha, buddy," Saul said, "You must really like my ass, since you've been on it for the past hour." His voice had lowered to a slight growl as he ended the sentence.
Aitan winced. Jacoby Rosha was not the type to tolerate teasing. One time at the academy, Aitan had hid his training outfit before a huge practical exam, and Rosha had nearly punched his lights out. The only thing that stopped him was Adley's pleading … Aitan had been too proud to plead for himself.
"Identity, and ship registration," came Rosha's terse voice. Whatever patience had been there before was now gone.
"Hold up," Saul replied, chuckling, "We've just been floating along here, what's with the attitude?"
"Identity. And ship registration."
Aitan froze. Over the top dome of the spaceview, he could see the jackknife looming above them like a wraith. It was a newer class, which explained why Rosha was at the helm- he had always been angling for a position off-planet, and the idea of being stationed on a brand-new jackknife must have had him salivating.
"Yeesh," Saul was saying, crossing his arms, and throwing a look at Sax, "Buy a girl flowers first."
There was a pause, and Aitan could practically see Rosha sliding his tongue over his teeth in the way that he did. Like a jackal. "A ship of your make has been cited in a serious crime," Rosha said, his voice crackling over the comm, "It would be in your best interest to allow our officers to board and search your vessel."
Saul glanced over his shoulder, his eyes meeting Aitan's. His mouth slid into a hard smile.
Wanting to laugh, Aitan covered his mouth with his hand. This idiot just said no to a direct order from a fourth region overseer. He really must be a pirate. Aitan saw Saul quirk an eyebrow at Aitan's quaking shoulders, and immediately tried to subdue his mirth. He straightened his back, and brought his hand back down to his side. Saul narrowed his eyes, his mouthing spreading into a grin.
"No?" blared Rosha's voice, "You are violating my order?"
Saul turned back around to the spaceview. "Can't violate an order from someone who has no authority over me, now can I?"
There was silence on the other end. Frowning, Aitan looked down at the ground as he tried to do the calculations in his head. They had left Persa at least half a day ago, so if the ship was moving relatively fast … it was possible that they had moved beyond the fourth region territory. Still, there wasn't exactly anything out there on the other side that could uphold border law.
Rosha seemed to be banking on this. "I don't think I have to explain myself when I say authority isn't an issue." There was a slight tilt to his voice. "It is imperative that we find the vessel connected to this crime."
That almost sounded like begging, and Sax must have noticed when Aitan unconsciously jerked his head back.
"A serious crime, eh?" Saul chuckled, "What kind of crime?"
"Aiding and abetting a prisoner escape," came the terse reply.
Saul whistled, "Prisoner escape?" Leaning against the console of the helm, he looked over his shoulder at Aitan. "Someone stole a prisoner from the fourth region? That must have been extremely daring, I wonder what kind of badass pulled that off?"
"For fuck's sake," Sax muttered beside Aitan, who simply found himself returning Saul's gaze with an irritated twitch of his eyebrow.
After a pause, Rosha's voice came through again, and this time he was speaking slowly. "Stole?" he said, "What an … interesting choice of wording."
"It must have hit the fourth region right in the balls to lose their new, shiny murderer in front of the entire solar system," Saul crowed.
Aitan shut his eyes, and then knelt to the ground. He felt Benji's hand on his shoulder, but he ignored it as he started to unlace his boot. He could hear Rosha breathing unevenly on the other end of the comm.
"Do you … " Rosha muttered, "This man, do you realize the extent of the crime he committed?"
Aitan's fingers paused on his laces.
"He caused the death of a beloved overseer, a man who trusted him," Rosha continued, his voice going dangerously quiet. "A man he didn't deserve to even look at." There was a pause, as if Rosha was trying to collect himself, "Adley Daughton was gifted, intelligent, and had a bright future, and Aitan Leser … "
He didn't finish the sentence, but Aitan could fill in the blank.
"He sounds like a monster," Saul replied, staring at his hand and flicking his fingernail.
Aitan grabbed Benji's shoulder for support, and pulled his boot off.
"Enough-" Rosha barked.
Pulling his arm back, boot clutched in his hand, Aitan smirked.
"I mean," Saul continued, cutting over Rosha, "it couldn't have been easy pulling such a complicated heist, but still … I thought the fourth region was a little more prepared than that. It was almost disappointing-"
He stopped when Aitan's boot hit him square in the back.
Looking down at the boot, and then back up at Aitan, Saul's eyebrows rose. Aitan barely acknowledged him as he walked forward to the helm. He glanced down at the screen with a frown, pressed a few buttons, and then turned his head to Saul, raising his own eyebrows.
"What is this?" came Rosha's voice, and immediately everyone in the room tensed except for Aitan. The silence stretched for a minute, and then: "Cargo ship A-Seven-Seven, captain Teehan at helm. Why couldn't you have just given me this information from the beginning?"
"Uh … " Saul replied, still staring at Aitan. Aitan stared back. He had given Saul an out, but Saul would have to be the one to use it. "My apologies," he said slowly, "I'm known for taking my joking a little too far."
"That's hardly an excuse."
Saul smiled, and looked down at the ground, rubbing his eyebrows. "What can I say, it gets boring out here in the cold."
There wasn't even a response, just the click of the comm cutting out. Everyone on the bridge looked up and watched the jackknife zoom by them, turning back around and heading for fourth region territory.
Aitan sighed, wondering why he felt like he had just been abandoned.
"And then you threw your shoe at him!"
Aitan pulled out another shirt, and unfolded it. It was barely long enough to hit his belly button. "Mmhm," he murmured.
"I thought Cap was going to freak out, but then you did something at the helm! What did you do?"
Aitan shrugged, throwing the shirt over his shoulder, and grabbing another.
"That guy sounded dangerous," Benji continued, "but you made him go away!"
Sighing, Aitan realized he had reached the bottom of the drawer. He turned around to face Benji, who was currently ensconced on Aitan's bed, covered in a pile of rejected shirts. Tossing the last shirt on Benji's head, Aitan sat down next to him. "Indeed," he said, "I did."
He undid the lacing on the shirt he was wearing, and slipped it off. Falling back on the pile of ridiculous shirts, he wished that there had been at least one normal one among them. Well, at least his overseer's outift would be dry at that point, but it would probably be crusty and stiff from the ocean salt.
After a moment, he realized Benji was being silent, and he glanced over at him. He was staring at Aitan's chest, a slight blush tinging his cheeks.
"I'm not attracted to children."
"Ah," Benji choked, his eyes jerking to meet Aitan's as his blush deepened. "I didn't … I'm not …" After a second, he frowned. "I'm sixteen!"
Aitan snorted, and rolled to his side. There was some shuffling next to him. "So," Benji said with a small cough, "Who's Captain Teehan?"
"There is no Captain Teehan," Aitan replied, "He was a false entry I created when we were testing out the new ship database at the grand overseer's office."
"Wow," Benji breathed. "I always knew you were smart."
Aitan looked up from the corner of his eye. "What does that mean?"
"Just that … during your trial, they kept trying to make you seem crazy."
"Those two things aren't exactly mutually exclusive," Aitan replied with a grin, but then he blinked. "You watched my trial?"
"We all did! Every sunday, the whole crew had to gather in the cargo bay and watch it together."
"What?" Aitan laughed, leaning up on his elbow, and resting his head on his hand.
"Cap ordered it," Benji replied.
Immediately, Benji's face paled. He was licking his lips, and twiddling his thumbs as his eyes darted around the room, looking at anything but Aitan. "Uh," he said, scratching the back of his head, "So that … the crew …. could bond?"
Aitan considered him for a moment. "Are you asking me?"
"No," Benji replied, his eyes widening, "That's what it was. Crew bonding."
"Crew bonding … " Aitan repeated. "Why are you lying to me?"
He frowned when Benji's back went rigid. Sitting fully up, he scooted forward until he was next to Benji, and crossed his legs. Aitan could see the backs of Benji's ears going red as he ignored Aitan's presence. He was really restraining himself, Aitan thought. "Benji," he said slowly, "You know why I'm here, don't you?"
There was a slight exhale of breath. "We all do."
Aitan bit his lip, and leaned closer, resting his hand on Benji's knee. "Then tell me."
He felt slightly ridiculous capitalizing on Benji's obvious attraction, mostly because he didn't have the self-confidence to believe he was actually suave enough to seduce anyone. Adley had always been the one who could throw a subtle pout, or bare the nape of his neck to get what he wanted. Aitan mostly had the sexual cunning of a baby horse on its first legs.
When he saw the way that Benji flinched at his touch, and covered his groin with both hands as his entire face glowed red, Aitan couldn't help bursting out laughing. "Don't laugh!" Benji squeaked, but Aitan kept giggling, falling back down on the clothes.
"You really are a teenager," Aitan said, wiping tears from his eyes. When Benji ignored him, Aitan kicked him playfully against the back. "It's nothing to get embarrassed over, all boys have moments like these."
Benji looked down, his hands still over his crotch. With a jerky movement, he grabbed the chenille blanket, and threw it over his lap. "How could this not be embarrassing?"
Shrugging, Aitan threw a languid arm over his eyes and rolled to his back. He heard a 'tsk' from Benji, and then, "Forget it," as the bed shifted. Aitan moved his arm, and curled around, grabbing Benji's wrist. He hadn't thought about that fact that Benji couldn't see him shrug before.
"Hold on," he said, "I know it's embarrassing, but I'm just saying you're not the only one."
He was having a little too much fun with this, watching Benji blush. He also figured sounding like an unasked-for advice dispensing parent was the best route to derail Benji's arousal towards him. He smiled, tilting his head. "It must be hard on you here, with all these men around. They don't touch you, right?"
Blanching, Benji flushed even more, if that was possible, and his wrist fell limp in Aitan's grip. "No!" he breathed, "I would burn their balls off!"
Aitan's eyebrows rose when Benji suddenly smacked himself in the face. "Sorry," he said, "That must have sounded really crude to you."
"It's just you," he continued, his eyes pinned to the ground. "You're so refined, especially compared to the assholes on this ship. During the trial, you just always looked so cool."
Aitan blinked, thinking back to the trial. For the first half, he was still in shock over the dawning acceptance that he would never again in his life speak to Adley, and then the second half was more him wondering how the hell it all turned out that way.
"Ok," he said with a light laugh, "Leaving how cool I am aside for a moment, can you please sit back down?"
Benji acquiesced, and plopped down beside Aitan, carefully avoiding any touch to Aitan's skin. Grabbing the tank top from before, Aitan slid it over his head. "I'm sorry I teased you, Benji," he said as he straightened it, "I just … you have to understand, I don't have anyone I can trust here, but at least you seem open to talking."
"Don't think I'm easy," Benji replied, jutting his lip out, "You're the pretty one, I want to tease you!" He was looking at Aitan with his over-eager eyes again, and Aitan had to remind himself not to laugh in Benji's face.
"I'm not easily teased," he said, lip curling upwards. He reached forward, and wrapped his finger with one of Benji's orange curls. "I'm also not nearly as pretty as you are."
"Leave the kid alone."
Aitan's eyes flicked up to his doorway, and he frowned he saw Saul leaning against the frame of the porthole, arms crossed over his muscled chest. A small frown was playing on his lips, his eyes dark. He was swathed entirely in blacks, making his appearance even more ominous.
"How long have you been standing there?" Aitan asked, even as he felt Benji quickly shift out of reach.
"Long enough to see you try to silver-tongue your way into bedding little Benji."
Aitan's lip twitched, but before he could say anything, Benji jumped in front of him. "It's not like that, cap," he stuttered, "he was just teasing me."
Quirking an eyebrow, Saul cocked his head. "Benji," he said with a light tone, "When you said you were going to make him feel more comfortable, this wasn't really what I had in mind when I gave permission."
There was a quick inhale from Benji. "I'm sorry, cap-"
"It's alright," Saul cut in, raising his hand, "I just want you to remember your place next time. Now, do you mind giving me some alone time with Aitan?"
Benji nodded, his head bobbing up and down even as he skittered past Saul, leaving the room without so much as a passing glance to Aitan. As his steps echoed down the hall, Saul stepped inside, and hit the button, closing the door. He stood almost awkwardly for a moment, before taking Benji's place on the bed.
"You didn't have to scare him away," Aitan said, picking at a loose piece of thread from the chenille blanket.
"Oh?" Saul replied, his deep voice rumbling, "Are sixteen year old boys really what you go for?"
"He does have a certain charm."
There was a chuckle. "Like what?"
"Soft, pouty lips," Aitan said, ticking off his fingers, "slender waist, graceful fingers-"
He was cut off when a large, rough hand covered his mouth. Glancing up, he found Saul staring at him, a scowl marring his rugged features … or perhaps accentuating them in a dark, lustful fashion. Aitan frowned against Saul's hand. He didn't want to associate Saul with the idea of lust.
"What?" he said, muffled.
"Is that really what catches your eye?" Saul growled, his hand flexing against Aitan's cheeks. "The pretty ones?"
The only thing that caught Aitan's eye was Adley, but that wasn't something he would be delving into with Saul. Reaching up, he wrapped his fingers around Saul's wrist, and pulled it from his mouth. "You have an interesting way of shutting people up."
"It's effective," Saul replied, a slight crack in his dour mood showing as he smiled. The crack quickly closed as his eyes flickered. "So," he said, "Answer me."
Aitan waited for a moment, watching Saul stare at him with an unfettered gaze. "Is there something wrong with pretty?" he said, finally.
"I see," Saul replied, a small smile curling its way across his stubbled face. "You should remember, despite all appearances, Benji is still a pirate." Leaning forward, he placed a hand on the slope between Aitan's neck and shoulder, slowly massaging the tender skin at his throat. "His crush is the crush of wanting to hold someone, not to be held by someone."
Aitan frowned. "For a pirate, you're using awfully coy phrasing." His jaw tightened. "Why not just say it, the kid wants to fuck me."
An undeniable surge of triumph made him smirk when Saul's massaging faltered for a moment. Saul looked down, a long exhale escaping through his nose. "Right," he said, his voice breathy with amusement. "You are not what I expected at all."
Aitan shrugged. "That's not my problem."
"It could be," Saul replied, looking back up at him with hazel eyes. "I saved you under the presumption of a few things, but I'm starting to see I was way off base." Removing his hand, he leaned back, and Aitan started feeling the slight hints of trepidation in his stomach.
He could picture Adley throwing a fit at him in this moment, calling him an idiot for giving away too much. He should have remained completely silent, hidden everything about himself until it was known what they expected of him- because, according to Benji, he was ice cool, and refined.
"Ah, well," he said quickly, "I did help you with that jackknife."
"Yes," Saul replied, dragging out the word. "What an experience, having someone throw a shoe at me in front of my crew, and then usurp my authority by sending out false identification."
"My apologies," Aitan purred, leaning towards Saul. "It may have been a moment of panic, you see. I happen to know Jacoby Rosha, and he … has a bit of a temper."
"Does he?" The hand on his neck moved down to the small of his back. "So do I, as it so happens."
He found himself pulled forward to his knees, his hand hitting Saul's chest as he fell into Saul's lap. The way Saul held him, making him arch forward with his ass sticking out, was more than a little emasculating. "So tell me, Aitan," Saul said against his ear, "What trick do you have up your sleeve to get out of this situation?"
What trick, indeed.
"Saul," he replied, swallowing, "What am I doing here?"
Ok, so that wasn't really a trick. In fact, if Aitan had to label it, it was more of a panicked and desperate plea for answers, because he honestly hadn't expected Saul to proposition him so directly. Yes, he had seen the way Saul's eyes lingered on him, but he had been wearing provocative clothing, and probably would have gawked too if he had seen some clown dressed that way.
He found himself pushed down on his back, Saul looming over him. Their eyes met, but then Saul snorted as his gaze moved to the side. "What were you doing?" he asked, fingering one of the shirts piled under Aitan.
Aitan felt something pop in the back of his mind. "Just tell me!" he growled.
Saul looked back at him, a small frown playing on his lips. "Aitan," he said slowly, "I bought these clothes for you … well, more importantly, I saved your life." His hands had balled into fists beside Aitan's head, and suddenly Aitan realized how uncomfortable Saul looked.
"Say it," Aitan said, barely above a whisper. "Just say it out loud."
Saul's eyes went flat. "It's because I want you." he shouted, making Aitan jerk. "Do you understand? I've been watching your face for months, and every day it's just been building up. And then I thought to myself, I'm a fucking pirate, I take what I want."
He closed his eyes, running his tongue over his lips. "So, I did."
When he opened his eyes again, Aitan found himself paralyzed by the sincerity. "I'm sorry I had to do this to you Aitan," Saul said, his voice kept at a placating murmur, "but that's what you're here for. Because you belong to me."