The Golden Rivet

by Iron Eater

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/286832.html)

Logan had been an enlisted man for a decade and a half, and fifteen years in the illustrious United Sectors Navy had taught him two things: one, that he was extremely satisfied spending most of his adult life working up to his armpits in moving parts, and two, that his patience with the average hotshot baby officer was maybe half as far as he could throw one. Working in the hangar meant that his life was an endlessly grimy affair, too, the kind where he brought his work home with him under his fingernails, so it was hard to escape the black streaks on his coveralls or the oily rags tucked in his belt whenever some cocky pilot sauntered by in a too-crisp, too-tailored dress uniform. It never helped when said uniform was filled out by an ass with the perfect ratio of curve to muscle.

One such ass belonged to Lieutenant Bajram Talay, fighter pilot and all-around thoroughly irritating human being, and a good deal of Logan’s deployment (the start of which had been when he first met the man, and therefore when things had officially started going downhill) had gone to alternating between refusing to have anything to do with Lieutenant Talay and furious masturbation at the thought of ruining that nice jacket of his. It made times like these especially nerve-wracking. Pilots could get very, very protective, especially during those long non-combat stretches of a deployment when they mooned about the ship with nothing to do but cause trouble for the rest of the crew. Matters were not helped by the fact that Logan’s assigned pilot had an amazing knack for making his aforementioned wracked nerves fray like cheap rope.

“So this is what you snipes do all day, huh?” asked Lieutenant Talay, peering at the exposed landing gear that Logan had been servicing. He was so close that Logan could smell his cologne. What kind of man wore cologne while deployed in the middle of nowhere? “They tell us how to make these things go and how to make ’em stop, but not what exactly other crew do with them. I thought it was mostly, like, refueling and detailing and maybe bolting on something that fell off.” He talked very quickly. Most pilots tended to, thanks to the implants.

Logan bit back what he wanted to say; minding his tongue was a skill he’d learned back when he was still a junior wrench-wrangler. He’d remained successfully enlisted this long for knowing when not to share what he thought of some snot-nosed toddler simplifying a complex, yet invaluable, position. “Sometimes it is, lieutenant,” he said, instead. He wiped his hands on a rag to try to burn off some of the sudden spike of nervous energy that had set his brain to humming. “We still dedicate most of our time to basic maintenance so we can trust everything to behave in the event of a scramble.”

Lieutenant Talay walked along the side of the fighter. His fingers trailed along the tidy insignia groupings painted just underneath the cockpit; he was one of those pilots that kept a tally of how many enemy units he’d shot down and wasn’t shy about showing it off. Logan found the practice barbaric. Logan would’ve found the thought of prints getting on his hard work to be unacceptable, too, but the lieutenant was wearing his white dress gloves at the time—because of course he was, he was a pilot—so Logan settled for being angry at generalized bravado. It would have to do.

“Well, you certainly do a nice job of keeping my baby looking her springtime best, and for that I thank you, sailor,” said Lieutenant Talay, who seemed cheerfully oblivious to Logan’s fuming. His baby? Maybe if he started changing fluids or repairing surface damage or spending three hours figuring out the source of that weird smell that showed up when the oxygen pumps were running, certainly. Until then Logan would rate him a negligent uncle at the most.

Negligent Uncle Talay craned his neck up to peer through the cockpit glass. “So you’re my assigned mechanisms guy. Who do I thank for keeping all her instruments properly unfucked?”

“That’d be me as well, lieutenant.”

“I thought structures and electricals were different divisions.”

Logan huffed. They probably still taught officers fire was made by banging rocks together, too. “Not since everything switched over to the Meers interface in ’09, lieutenant. You get two different people working on that, you get problems.

Lieutenant Talay nodded. “Problems that’d ruin my sparkling combat record,” he said.

“Wing-falling-off problems,” agreed Logan. It wasn’t entirely an exaggeration, though there was some creative license involved with describing a total transformer malfunction due to digital/analog communications errors as a wing-falling-off problem. He wouldn’t wish it on the lieutenant; death by decompression was nasty business no matter how you sliced it, and the thought of someone coming to harm due to his own negligence was one of Logan’s deepest concerns, right up there with public speaking.

“Well, I’ve never had an issue with my darling while actually flying, so it looks like you’re to be thanked twice over for keeping her so nice, sailor.” He was leaning against the fighter’s metal side now. It was just as well it hadn’t been detailing day or that nice uniform of his would’ve ended up in a terrible state, and in Logan’s opinion there were far more interesting ways to ruin a uniform. “Don’t let me stop you from getting anything done. I’m just here to look around.”

“Of course, lieutenant,” said Logan. He adjusted his prescription goggles—after four rounds of laser surgery they’d given up on him not needing corrective lenses—and tried to get his head back into the familiar, happy place of making machines talk to electronics and vice versa. It would be like any other day in the hangar, since it wasn’t like he worked alone there, except this time there happened to be an officer nearby. No big deal. Officers were the reason these things had pilots in the first place. Maybe it was a good thing the lieutenant was here, since it’d mean he’d understand just how much work it took to put those medals on his chest and those tally marks on his fighter, and didn’t the other snipes always go off on how they could use a little more respect from the brass? All he had to do was pick up his tools and concentrate.

It was hard to concentrate with someone hovering.

That cologne was inescapable. It cut through the usual funk of engine grease like a knife and made it impossible to forget that an officer—a pilot, to be precise, one with a strong chin and a devilish smirk and dress pants that had to be a size too small because Jesus—was pretending to check his nails through his gloves a few feet behind Logan. Matters weren’t helped by the fact that it was actually a very pleasant, leathery scent, the kind of thing Logan appreciated on a man. It was just the sort of smell he liked to find traces of when nuzzling the side of someone’s neck, caught up in beads of sweat that trickled down their skin while he no no no this wasn’t helping.

He gritted his teeth. He’d been polishing and refitting the same two parts over and over again for the past few minutes, which was the sort of shit he chewed out apprentices for when he caught them trying to puff out their shifts. Disgraceful. Logan had once completely stripped and reassembled an entire engine back when he was fresh out of basic, just to see if he could do it, and during his last deployment he’d taken a half-scrapped fighter from garbage to flying fitness in the space of forty-eight sleepless hours. Fifteen years he’d been able to keep it in his pants when they weren’t on shore leave, and here he was, skittish as a teenager about to get his first head. He wasn’t so much angry as disgusted with himself.

Logan thought of calm blue oceans like the anger management class he’d taken years back had advised him. It was entirely possible the lieutenant wasn’t trying to antagonize him, even if that was exactly what was happening, and Lieutenant Talay could hardly have gone bothering one of Logan’s old boyfriends, since Logan hadn’t gotten laid (much less been in a relationship) since before they were deployed. Maybe this was all just a case of missed cues on someone’s part. He hunted for his most patient voice. “Is there something else I can help you with, lieutenant?”

Lieutenant Talay shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know. How about telling me a bit about what you’re doing? Try to keep it plain English if you can.”

“There’s not much to tell, lieutenant,” said Logan. “Not without an engineering background, anyway.” He waved a hand vaguely at the mess of exposed parts he’d until recently been fine-tuning, his tools still spread out around it in a peacock’s train of engineering paraphernalia. “This particular bit is primarily concerned with the afterburners, but there’s some elements of the cooling apparatus involved, and that doesn’t count the electricals. The P-7 and P-12 sections connect here and here, and you’ll note that the wheel-well has a few auxiliary den-refs that trail this far up the chassis….” He didn’t need to look at Lieutenant Talay to know he was getting a blank look. Logan sighed. “Basically, lieutenant, if I fuck up anything in this general area, the wing falls off.”

“See? Plain English! Was that really so hard, St. Claire?”

Logan knew his last name was embroidered on his jumpsuit just like any other mechanic’s, but it was still weird hearing it coming out of Lieutenant Talay’s mouth. He’d half-expected to hear it pronounced “street” instead of “saint.” “I’m glad I was able to clear that up for you, lieutenant.”

“Oh, definitely,” said Lieutenant Talay. “This was educational. They don’t tell us much about the bits not directly related to making ’em go, making ’em stop, and making sure we don’t run out of O2, and most of that isn’t related to, you know.” He gestured at Logan’s mess. “Wing-falling-off aversion. Helps explain why it looks like snipes always have three somethings they’re in the middle of doing, anyway.”

It was recognition and praise, of a sort, but Logan was in no mood to enjoy it. “Will that be all, lieutenant?” he asked. The calm blue ocean was very calm and very blue. It had to be, otherwise he’d start thinking about all the time he was losing to Bring An O-3 To Work Day. Officers, honestly.

Lieutenant Talay clucked his tongue in time with his wagging finger, his teeth white as a toothpaste commercial as he grinned. Logan had never encountered someone who could actually pull off making their eyes sparkle with mischief before. That wasn’t a good sign. “Not so fast, sailor,” said the lieutenant. “I said I needed to thank you twice over, didn’t I? You, me, the mess at twenty-one-thirty. We are going to bond, my friend.” It was hard keeping track of time during a deployment, but according to a nearby wall clock that was only a little over an hour away. Logan glanced down at his filthy uniform and shot him a disbelieving look.

“Lieutenant, I am fairly certain anyone else eating that late isn’t going to want to be around a man that smells like an engine block’s locker room.”

“So take a shower beforehand? There’s enough time for it if you’ve got sufficient pep in your step.”

“With all due respect, lieutenant,” said Logan, who didn’t really feel as though Lieutenant Talay was due any such thing, “this is the sort of thing that takes some serious time to get out.”

Lieutenant Talay shrugged. “Just make sure your hair and nails are clean enough and nobody’ll care. They probably won’t even say anything about that chinrest you’ve got there.”

Logan stroked his tidy goatee reflexively. It was within regulations, which the Navy had been easing up on over the years—hell, he was out as a horse through a barn door and aside from a few altercations with other sailors when he was a younger man there’d not been a whiff of trouble about it—but he still got a bit of static about it from the more traditional set. If Lieutenant Talay was a tradition-minded man, though, Logan would’ve eaten his spanner.

“Don’t tell me you suddenly have a problem with authority, St. Claire?” asked Lieutenant Talay. His eyes turned sly while his grin never wavered for a second.

So this was how it was going to be: the world’s most frustrating human being was actually pulling rank to get Logan to agree to sit at the same lunch table. This was some serious middle school shit. Fraternization regulations had been evolving along with everything else, so it wasn’t like he could hide behind the old standard of not getting involved with too-friendly officers. Social progress could be such a pain in the ass sometimes.

Logan sighed. Enduring a dinner’s worth of the lieutenant’s needling would be worth the peace it’d buy him afterwards, and his stomach reminded him how he’d already missed his usual late-shift meal. If someone had a problem with him eating at odd hours they could take it up with the uniformed jackass dragging him out in the first place. Logan found it suddenly very important to keep his tool pouch in front of the boner that had no business being there.

“Fine. Twenty-one-thirty. I’ll change into something clean.”

“I knew you’d come around, sailor. Don’t be late!” Bajram clicked his tongue, winked, and pointed two finger-guns at Logan, then turned on his heel and vanished into the depths of the hangar. Logan was left wondering how anyone could be so painfully ridiculous without exploding.

Fifty-five minutes later (give or take a few seconds) Logan’s hair was still damp from the shower but he’d managed to scrape off the worst of the gunge; add in a clean set of coveralls and he looked almost presentable. He leaned in to scan the galley’s tables. There were a few night owls huddled around—there were always night owls, since the ship never truly slept—but no sign of Lieutenant Talay. Logan didn’t have a bead on Lieutenant Talay’s character beyond the broadest strokes, and yet this didn’t strike him as terribly out of place. No better way to be the center of attention than to keep the other person waiting, after all.

Seven minutes and thirty-seven seconds later, going by the clock on the wall, Logan was working to keep his temper in check by reviewing everything he’d need to do in the morning, and he was so lost in thought he jumped when a familiar voice greeted him.

“Petty Officer St. Claire!” said Lieutenant Talay from entirely too close to his ear. He sounded cheerful. There were people with him, as well, and judging by their insignia they were pilots, too; Logan only vaguely recognized them. Clearly this wasn’t meant to be a date (although it was definitely fraternization, though presumably the legal kind of fraternization, not that it really mattered this deep in the middle of nowhere, because would they really put him in the brig for just having some company at dinner, and why couldn’t it have been a date, and Logan had let his mind wander again). The other pilots smiled politely at him from over Lieutenant Talay’s shoulders. Neither looked much more than twenty-five. He had a sudden, unpleasant moment where he felt incredibly old.

Logan straightened up and tried to reclaim his dignity. “You’re late, lieutenant.”

“Just catching up with some friends!” replied Lieutenant Talay. He thumped Logan on the shoulder. Logan had complicated feelings about being thumped on the shoulder. “Chinook, Pogonip, this would be the man who takes care of my lovely.” People actually used the cutesy callsigns off of radio chatter? For fuck’s sake. Logan was absolutely not going to start calling the lieutenant “Meltemi” unless threatened on pain of pain. “Mobile fighting unit structural mechanic, first class, and those chevrons of his are golden. Lucky me got one of the fancy ones, right?” It was also weird hearing anyone call an MFM1 the full thing when they weren’t dealing with paperwork.

“Evening, Petty Officer St. Claire,” said Chinook, and Pogonip bobbed his head in acknowledgement. They were much better at the game of don’t-touch-the-sailors than Lieutenant Talay was.

“We’ll catch up with you later, Meltemi,” Chinook continued. “Virga’s hosting a poker game and I’m under strict orders from my sister-in-law to make sure Pogonip gets enough R&R between skirmishes.” She gestured at Pogonip, who grinned sheepishly. Logan noted that they both had the same name on their tags and looked similar enough to be siblings, so that explained that.

Lieutenant Talay waved them away as though they needed his permission to do anything. “Don’t let me keep you. I’m still broke from the last game, and I promised St. Claire here a meal.” That didn’t even make sense; everyone had access to the same three meals a day as everyone else, and the galley workers had dire opinions of people trying to double up. The other pilots didn’t comment on this, though; instead they waved and headed off in the direction of wherever they planned on losing money that evening. Logan waited until they were out of earshot before speaking his mind.

“What was that about?” he hissed. He strained to keep his voice low. There might not have been many diners at that hour, but all it took was one person gossiping at the wrong time to threaten his hard-earned good record, and just because Lieutenant Talay played fast and loose with the chain of command didn’t mean someone else would overlook an E-6 hassling an officer.

The lieutenant shrugged, his shit-eating grin never fading a moment, before he invested far too much interest in reading the day’s menu.

Logan narrowed his eyes. “You didn’t answer my question, lieutenant,” he said. He stepped halfway between Lieutenant Talay and the galley’s big double doors, not quite blocking the way but not exactly out of it, either; it was a bit more threatening than he’d meant, and this was the kind of behavior he’d worked very hard to shed since enlisting, but there was something about dealing with his designated pilot that brought back bad habits.

“Oh, that?” said Lieutenant Talay, entirely too brightly. “Like I said, just catching up with some friends. They’d wanted to see why I kept saying you were hot shit.” Given how Logan hadn’t so much as tightened a screw in their presence, that didn’t seem likely. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get dinner and you’re right where I need to be.”

“You are making this very difficult, lieutenant.”

Lieutenant Talay laughed. It was short and happy, as though he’d been given a particularly delightful compliment. “Cheer up, Charlie….” he sang as he shouldered his way through Logan’s personal space. He drew out the syllables of the last word to unnecessary lengths. Logan could’ve throttled him.

In the interest of not making a scene Logan took a minute to cool down outside. That part of the carrier was not exactly full of windows or he would’ve glared out at the stars and whatever ball of rock they were orbiting at the time; he instead returned to his calm blue ocean again, and while that wasn’t perfect it helped him get his head on right way ’round again. Logan centered his thoughts. It was entirely possible that the lieutenant was just putting on a show for some reason or another, like a bet with his fellow dickhole pilots or because he just didn’t know how to interact with men he outranked, or maybe he just didn’t realize how much everything he did bothered Logan due to Logan’s raging, out-of-control hate-crush on him. A few deep breaths helped make everything seem a lot more manageable. Logan adjusted his coveralls and stepped into the dining hall.

Galley food was galley food no matter where you went, but the USS Wendy Davis was blessed with a surprisingly nice exhibit of the breed: hot things were kept hot (or at least warm enough to notice), cold things were kept cold, and they managed not to burn the food. These three things were worthy of one Michelin star each as far as Logan was concerned. He loaded up on not-too-limp vegetables and not-too-gluey carbs before scanning the seats for Lieutenant Talay. A familiar head of short-cropped black hair lurked at one of the tables in a far corner, devouring a brick of what was either meat or something very much like it; Logan braced for the next round of middle school shit and made his way over to join the lieutenant.

Like most pilots, Lieutenant Talay kept his gloves on when he ate; it was something about not getting food in the interface ports, though Logan suspected the real answer was that seeing gaping mechanism passageways stuck on human flesh wasn’t very appetite-friendly. What was impressive was how those nice white gloves stayed nice and white despite the gravy apocalypse happening on the lieutenant’s plate. Maybe they taught you that in officer school.

They ate in relative silence for a while, the quiet filled by the sound of silverware on plates and the droning of a TV screen tuned to a looping government-sanctioned war report. Logan ignored it; anything it had to say was either out of date or something he knew already. They only bothered playing morale-boosting programs when there were more than a dozen men whose morale needed boosting. At least the calm summaries of orbital bombardments kept the conversation that wasn’t happening from feeling like it had to change any time soon.

It ended up being Logan who spoke first. “So, Lieutenant Talay—”

“Please, call me Bajram,” interrupted the lieutenant, who never stopped finding new ways to piss on established protocol.

Logan held back a snort. This was probably some elaborate form of pulling rank in and of itself, wasn’t it? Might as well go along as best he could. “Bajram, then. So, Bajram, you said back in the hangar that you owed me.” Bajram—it was going to be strange thinking of him as that, and Logan ignored just how nicely that name rolled off the tongue—nodded. “That really isn’t necessary, you know,” Logan said. He paused to eat a forkful of moderately edible succotash before continuing. “I’m just doing what my rate says I should. You don’t really owe me anything, lieutenant.”

Bajram scoffed. “Of course I do. I’m not your typical clueless ozone, St. Claire. I’ve done my share of flights and those kill marks on the paint didn’t get there by magic. I know the only thing between me and the void is a thin envelope of steel, plastic, and your good graces. Every day without explosive decompression is a good one.”

illustrated by Iron Eater

This, Logan figured, was what it must be like to be a master painter getting praised for a napkin doodle.

“It’s no more than what they expect me to do, and you’re really making this more awkward than it already was, Bajram,” he said. Logan cursed internally; he didn’t intend for that to come out as icily as it did. This was weird, but pilots were weird even for officers, so maybe Bajram couldn’t help it. Put that much tech in someone’s head and it was bound to nudge something out of place somewhere it wasn’t supposed to. Maybe changing the subject would help. “So what is there for a pilot to do when you’re not out saving the world?”

It turned out the answer was “not much.” Bajram took his time actually getting to that answer, though, going on about calibrations for much longer than Logan deemed necessary, but at least that meant there was time to finish the rest of dinner.

Somewhere in the middle of talking about all the exciting things you could do on shore leave with no one expecting you to drop everything and fly, Bajram said something that snapped Logan back to attention. It was shortly after something about the charming company he’d kept last time they’d been planetside, back before the occasional clash had escalated into the mess it had become. Bajram had gone on at length about techniques for chasing tail that Logan was pretty certain either didn’t work or only worked if you were a handsome young man with a little authority and a lot of money. Then came the important part:

“That said, there’s something to be said for being the tail that gets chased, if you get my drift.”

That was interesting. Very, very interesting. It was also surprisingly subtle for a man who came off as having the deft social graces of a fog horn. Logan allowed himself a bit of grudging respect; it wasn’t enough to completely flip his mood, but it did give him a reason to stay at the table after finishing his last mouthful of dinner roll.

It was the last truly interesting tidbit for a while, since after that the conversation turned towards their respective histories. Neither really bucked the trends much: Bajram came from a well-to-do family that was swimming in lawyers and scientists, Logan was from mining stock; Bajram had a pedigree that could be accurately traced back to the second century, Logan was one-quarter vat-grown on his mother’s side; Bajram had private tutors that urged him towards greatness, Logan had started one fight too many and enlisted to keep himself out of trouble. They might as well have been stock characters in an old war movie. Logan found comfort in the familiarity of it all.

He could only trade small talk with someone he didn’t know that well for so long before getting antsy, so halfway through a story about some no doubt hilarious thing one of Bajram’s roommates did back in school Logan cut him off.

“Why bother trying to set up this little tête-à-tête?” he asked. It wasn’t until after the words had left his mouth that he wondered if that had been a bit much; if things went sour now, things could go very badly for him, indeed. It was entirely to easy for him to imagine Bajram’s face wearing the creases made by a furrowed brow and a curled lip.

Bajram didn’t do either of these, thank God, but instead wrinkled his nose in a devastatingly charming way. The man seemed unfazeable.

“Like I said, I wanted to let you know I appreciate what you do before and after each time I take my fighter out. Wouldn’t dream of heading out to meet an adrenaline-rush-slash-potential-horrible-d

eath without someone like you running shit in the background. You’re a lot more together than the assholes I met planetside.” He sounded sincere, which was nice but also made things even more complicated.”Thank you,” said Logan. “I’m just trying to figure out why you’d go to such great lengths to sit me down for fucking galley food. You can’t be starved for company with that type-A personality of yours.”Bajram gave him a look. Logan had seen that look before but couldn’t remember where. It was the kind of look a predator used to keep its prey from bolting. “I’m more of a type-triple-A personality,” he said, “and I’m very attracted to people who pay attention to me. And you pay a lot of attention to me. Word gets around, St. Claire, and word has it you think I talk too much.” He scooted in closer and lowered his voice, his eyes still boring straight into Logan’s cerebellum. A sly grin spread across his face. “But you’d be able to shut me up good, wouldn’t you?”This was dangerous ground. Logan had to tread carefully, which was going to be difficult thanks to the sudden rush of blood to the head he didn’t need to be using when talking to an officer. There was always the (highly unlikely) chance that Bajram simply wanted Logan to prove him wrong about something, because that was a reasonable motivation and not a come-on that catered to Logan’s dormant-since-port dominant side. It wasn’t like Bajram had been flirting with him all evening, except that was exactly what had been happening. Dammit.

“I’m not entirely clear on what you mean by that,” he lied.

“I,” said Bajram, pointing at himself with both index fingers, “am interested in sucking your cock.” He punctuated this by turning his pointing hands at Logan. “That clear enough?” His grin never vanished for an instant.

Logan’s mouth went dry. Yes, that was very clear; there was no part of him that didn’t like the idea of getting some peace and quiet while simultaneously getting sucked off. He nodded, which made Bajram’s Cheshire smile somehow grow even wider.

“So, if you’re interested in comparing notes on that idea this evening, why not stop by the parts storage room out by your part of the hangar? You’ve probably got…I don’t know, some MFM shit to finish up. I can be patient.” He stood up and arranged the contents of his tray. “Thanks for your time, Petty Officer St. Claire,” he added in a louder voice, and Logan watched the back side of his form-fitting pants disappear into the sea of empty chairs and disinterested diners who’d probably seen this a dozen times before.

Something chirped in Logan’s pocket. He pulled out his utility phone—the name was a misnomer since most of their communication functions were locked down at wartime, but why call it anything else?—and swiped the screen; his medical records app had a new content indicator on it. A few taps later he was reading the recent health and immunization history of one Bajram Ridvan Talay, who was, as expected, healthy as five oxen riding a sixth. At first he couldn’t find much of a reason said knowledge had been shared with him; it took him a moment to realize that Bajram was just answering a few very important questions that had a nasty habit of killing the mood. It’d been so long since he’d been with a new partner he’d almost forgotten about checking the other guy for crotch rot. Unforgivable. Now, though, he at least had something to be properly irritable about while checking to see if he even owned a box of condoms anymore.

The hangar was where Logan spent most of his time; while the lion’s share of those hours went towards keeping a few hundred million dollars worth of government property in fighting condition he was quite familiar with the parts room. He was particularly familiar with how densely packed it was, thanks in no small part to regularly taking inventory. He’d flushed out more than a few younger sailors who made the mistake of thinking nobody would look for them among cans of oil or boxes of loose electronics. Fooling around in supply closets was a tradition that’d been around basically since the invention of supply closets.Bajram was loitering in an aisle dedicated to the chemicals they used to clean the majesty of space off the fighters after each flight. He was reading something on his phone while conspicuously not reading any of the packaging or rummaging through the shelves. Logan had to give him credit for that: anyone dressed in a pilot’s uniform would’ve looked out of place in the first place, so why bother drawing attention to that? There wasn’t a clear view from there to the door and there also weren’t any boxes or sheet metal hauled out to make a barrier; nothing screamed “something suspicious is going on” like blocked visibility, and he’d made more than his share of busts simply by checking the surveillance cameras for awkwardly-placed barricades. Bajram had certainly done his homework when it came to arranging spontaneous blowjobs.First things first, though. “We’re here to fuck, right?” asked Logan, leaning against the rack next to Bajram. It was always important to establish a baseline for this kind of thing.Bajram smiled but didn’t look up from the debriefing app he was studying. “Right.”

“And you were serious about wanting my cock in your mouth, right?”

“Right.” Bajram licked his lips and ran his thumb against the lower one. They looked soft. Logan liked a man with a soft mouth. “I might’ve been thinking about sucking you off for a while, St. Claire,” he said as he scrolled through part of a star chart. “I might even have been thinking about more than that. Who can say if that’ll pan out, though, right?”

“Who can say,” repeated Logan with a nod. Much as he liked the idea of a longer-term arrangement it was safest to assume this would be a one-time thing, at least for now.

Logan stared at the opposite rack of circuit boards for a while. It was late enough that they’d have several hours to themselves assuming nothing went terribly wrong, and sounds carried so well in the nighttime stillness he’d be able to pinpoint footsteps long before they got to the closet, so privacy wasn’t going to be much of an issue. He wasn’t about to get up to anything too exciting, at least not for an officer he mostly knew as a source of irritation and with whom he might not even be compatible, so checking how much weight the shelving could support wasn’t something to worry about, either. They wouldn’t even have to worry about whether their clothes would pick up stray marks since Logan had no plans to get naked that evening. Blowjobs were elegant that way.

Of course, that was assuming Bajram would be fine with little more than that, and that sort of assumption was a fast track to things going sour. Logan looked him over as casually as he was able. The lieutenant was serene on the outside; the only sign that he was doing anything but killing time in an out-of-the-way nook on the ship was how his posture made no attempt to conceal the raging boner that distended his trousers. It was flattering having someone so casually attracted to him again. Best to ask what Bajram wanted to do with that, though.

Bajram spoke up before Logan could say anything about what Bajram wanted for himself. “So am I going to be sucking you off or not?” he asked, tucking his phone into one of the many little pockets sewn on the inside of his uniform jacket. He and his cologne leaned into Logan’s personal space again. “I was expecting a mean guy like you to just show up, shove me to my knees, and hold my head in place until I felt you dribble down my chin. You have a weird idea of foreplay, St. Claire.”

Logan snorted. That answered a few questions. “Fine, we’ll get started,” he said, carefully relaxing a few key social barriers. The calm blue ocean went back on the shelf. If the lieutenant wanted mean, mean was something Logan could deliver.

He shifted his weight and pushed against Bajram—who had not technically been touching him until then—until he had the lieutenant boxed in against the shelving, Logan’s weight braced against one arm. This sort of thing hinged on the right body language. They could’ve started making out, or grinding, or any other activity usually honed in bathrooms and back alleys. They did none of these things, but the knowledge of how easy it would’ve been made Logan’s heart beat just a little faster.

He palmed a foil packet from his coveralls and held it up between two fingers. That got Bajram’s attention. “We use one of these this time,” Logan said, holding it up so they could both read the branding printed on either side. Bajram’s sigh was a masterpiece of conspicuous disappointment, just perfectly petulant, and Logan liked where this was going in spite of wanting to slap the sulk off that model-material face. Which was probably the point. “Don’t you fucking pout at me,” he growled, and Bajram flinched back in a practiced stage cringe. Ah, yes, that was the stuff. “I don’t make a habit of getting my dick wet in people I barely know.”

Logan tossed the condom to Bajram, who caught it with a movement so fast it would’ve been inhuman on anyone other than a pilot; Bajram’s hand was little more than an afterimage. “You’ll be putting that on for me when I tell you to,” said Logan. Bajram nodded. His usual cocky stance had been traded out for something a lot more vulnerable. For Logan, it might as well have been catnip.

Coveralls weren’t Logan’s first choice for sexy clothing. They were designed to be comfortable and to keep his bare skin from touching hot, dirty metal, not for attracting a mate. Bajram didn’t seem to mind that Logan was dressed in something only one step up from feetie pajamas, though, and his eyes were locked on Logan’s hand as he undid the little plastic neck fastener to take the zipper pull in hand. The sound of the zipper parting was loud as thunder against the soft whir of the ventilation system. Logan kept the sleeves firmly in place as he coaxed his coveralls open; first his standard-issue undershirt, then a small line of exposed skin where it’d ridden up a little, then the outline of Logan’s cock itself. He pulled himself out of his briefs (also standard-issue, because who wore fancy underwear on a carrier in the middle of a war zone?) and gave Bajram a meaningful look.

“On your knees,” he growled. He pointed at the ground with his non-load-bearing hand for emphasis. Bajram was happy to comply, complete with an expression that was half bullshit awe and half genuine want. Logan leaned back at just the right angle to make his cock loom over Bajram. “Wrap me up,” he said, his voice still stern. “Don’t use your hands. I want to see if you can prove this is worth my time.”

Bajram quickly tore open the wrapper. He took a moment to position the condom between his lips and tongue, then reared up to ease it over Logan’s cock at a nice, gradual pace. It was the first time Logan had anything other than his hand there in far too long, and even through a layer of rubberized polymers he could tell how warm and moist Bajram’s mouth was. If Logan hadn’t had a persona to maintain he might’ve whined in dismay when Bajram pulled away.

“I guess that’ll do,” he said, instead. “Now, I’m going to inspect where my cock’s going, so sit still and look sweet for me.” Bajram put his hands on his knees and looked up at Logan mischievously, his mouth wet with just the right amount of spit; he looked like an advertisement from the back pages of certain magazines. The two silver bars gleaming on his collar made it all the better.

Logan hummed in approval. He grabbed Bajram by the chin and turned his head this way and that, really looking at him for the first time. Chiseled jaw, strong nose, soft-looking lips still pulled up in a confident little smirk even while on his knees, and oh, but those were some long, pretty lashes framing his dark eyes. Metal and plastic gleamed at his temples. Some people thought the modifications your modern career soldier had to get were gruesome, but Logan put them in a tier just below the one that breathed heavily any time someone had to break out the dress clothes. He traced the chromed curvature of one of the input ports, which made Bajram hiss like he’d had a nipple tweaked. Maybe there wasn’t real nervous feedback going on and Bajram wasn’t really feeling anything, but maybe Logan was pushing a delicate implant up against something that was more than happy to take up the slack. Probably best to be gentle with those.

So here he was with his dick out, a raging hard-on, a kneeling officer in front of him, and as-of-yet undisturbed privacy. Logan considered himself agnostic at best, but he thought a little prayer of thanks just in case. He nudged Bajram’s mouth open with his thumb, and the way Bajram’s tongue pressed hungrily against the skin of his knuckle was simply obscene. Perfect.

He took his hand away to brace himself against the shelving with both arms, more for the look of it than out of any real need; Logan had done this sort of thing standing straight up in the middle of a hotel room before, and he’d yet to see any sign of the decrepitude he’d been promised would set in once he hit thirty. You started going a little gray around the temples and suddenly everyone assumed you needed help chewing your own food.

Logan realized he’d gotten caught up in his own thoughts again when he noticed how Bajram’s fingers kept impatiently tapping against his knees. It was the sort of pissant behavior Logan saw from apprentices now and again. Well, if Bajram was going to make a show of things, Logan could do something about that; he glared over the top of his lenses and leaned in a bit further.

“Get to work.”

The lieutenant approached sucking cock the way he approached everything, which was to say he threw himself into it with endless reserves of confidence; the last syllable had scarcely left Logan’s lips before Bajram was upon him. His mouth was hot, his breath control was remarkable, and his tongue was fast and clever. Thank God Logan had grown out of that awful teenage habit of shooting off immediately! Bajram worked his gloved hands into Logan’s coveralls, the fine, unfamiliar fabric cool against Logan’s skin, and Logan was pleased to discover that having an officer grab his ass while sucking him off was just as nice as his imagination had hoped.

The big question was whether or not he should thrust back. As a matter of politeness, a gentleman generally didn’t stick his dick any further down someone’s throat than he knew they could handle without gag reflex terrors kicking in, but as a matter of hotness, he’d had partners tell him they liked it when a top grabbed them by the hair and made them feel used. You risked either choking someone or making them feel like you didn’t care one way or the other about them sucking you off. Dilemmas like this were generally why he didn’t bother with one-night stands anymore.

In the end it was the way Bajram’s fingers clawed against Logan’s sides that encouraged him to take Bajram by the hair and push back a bit. Judging by the happy (if muffled) gasp this got out of Bajram it was the correct decision, and the only downside Logan found to more actively fucking the lieutenant’s mouth was how it was probably the reason why he came only a minute or two later.

Logan was not the kind of man to make much of a scene when he came, though he hardly tried to hide the way his breath hitched and the groan-sigh that accompanied an orgasm. Bajram responded to both sounds admirably: he grabbed Logan by the root and milked him within an inch of his life while simultaneously swirling his tongue along Logan’s tip. Had there not been a condom between them it would’ve been quite the sight. Shame about that, but you just couldn’t tell with some people whether swapping fluids was a good idea.

With a shimmy of his hips Logan pulled away. Your average blowjob didn’t last too long if either guy involved knew what he was doing, but he was still a little surprised it was already over. He stripped off the used condom and tucked it in a baggie before taking a wetnap to himself. It was more fun letting his partners take care of this part, but again, you just couldn’t tell if that was a good idea with some people.

“Well?” asked Bajram as he wiped his mouth on his sleeve. He looked pretty unrumpled for a man still on his knees.

Logan tucked himself away and zipped himself back up. “I still think you’re insufferable, but lucky for you I tend to get wood for insufferable,” he said. “That was the best head I’ve gotten in years.” Bajram preened. That was another thing Logan had missed, he realized: seeing someone else bask in the happy afterglow of a job well done. He cocked a thumb at Bajram’s lingering hard-on. “You have something in mind for your own situation?”

Bajram’s grin returned. “Surprise me.”

“That’s dangerous ground, lieutenant,” said Logan. He wasn’t bullshitting, either; it’d been far too long since he’d been with someone he felt like he could actually challenge without breaking, and he had a bit of a backlog of ideas. The thought of having Bajram’s life—or at least his cock, which in this situation was basically the same thing—in his hands left him feeling giddy. At this rate he’d have to jerk off back in his quarters or he’d be hard all night.

“Lucky for you I get wood for dangerous,” said Bajram. So he was parroting Logan’s words now? That cinched things.

Logan grabbed Bajram by the collar and hauled him to his feet. It was a strain to keep Bajram’s cock from brushing against his own, but Logan was still tender, and the angry-bastard persona didn’t quite work if he was wincing and hissing each time he tried to assert his dominance. He held Bajram’s gaze with his own and took just a few seconds too long to release his jacket.

“Okay, then,” he growled. “You’re going to head back to your nice little quarters in your nice little uniform just like this. You’re not going to brush the dust off your knees or wait for your cock to get soft. You look just fucked enough that anyone can tell what you’ve been doing, but not so much they can say shit about it.” He thumbed at a bead of sweat rolling down Bajram’s cheek. If Bajram was that worked up in spite of how cold as they kept the storage rooms, Logan had to be doing something right. “Once you do that, you’re going to take out your nice little phone and message me exactly what you wish I’d done. Then, and only then, I might give you permission to get yourself off.”

Bajram licked his lips. This time it looked nervous, not sultry. “I might be able to do that.”

Logan shrugged. “Your call,” he said. That just made Bajram fidget in place. Shit. Had he misjudged Bajram’s interest? Best to make things clear if he didn’t want this blowing up in his face. “Nothing’s stopping you from ignoring everything I say. You don’t like the idea—”

“I do,” said Bajram, quickly cutting Logan off. It was weird seeing an officer not totally in control of the situation; even when he’d had Logan’s cock in his mouth Bajram had seemed nothing less than content and confident. Bajram ran his fingers through his hair, which did nothing to hide the fact that he’d had someone messing it up not a few minutes ago. “You much of a kissing man, St. Claire?”

That was not the question Logan had been expecting. The answer was yes, of course, since if you didn’t like the idea of kissing and cuddling someone coming down from letting you fuck them roughly that changed you from being dominant to being a real piece of shit. Logan decided not to bring up just how much thought he’d given the concept of pinning Bajram down and making out until their mouths went numb, since that could give the wrong impression.

“You could say that,” he said. “Why? You need some luck?”

“Yeah.”

Before Logan could parse what was happening Bajram had his hands on Logan’s ass and his tongue in Logan’s mouth, the buttons on his uniform pressing coolly against the coveralls’ embroidered patches. Damn pilots’ hyper-accelerated reaction time! The faint taste of the lube lingered chemical-sweet on Bajram’s lips. Logan kissed back, but tried to do so as angrily as he could manage. There was kayfabe to uphold. He was definitely going to have to take care of himself when he was back in private, though, and no amount of play-acting was going to change that little detail.

Whatever uncertainty had plagued Bajram before had evaporated by the time they parted, replaced with more of the perfectly vexing attitude Logan was used to. “That should be lucky enough for now,” Bajram said. He reached to adjust his rumpled jacket, paused, then tucked his thumbs in belt instead, leaving himself looking happily disheveled. His tan cheeks carried a hint of red. It was an image Logan was going to hang on to for a while.

“Messages once I get in, hands off until you say so, right?” asked Bajram, rocking on his heels as if to prove that he was still as erect as a marble column. Logan nodded. Bajram flashed him a thumbs-up, saying, “I think I can manage. See you around, St. Claire.” He already had his phone in his hand before he hit the door, and if Logan hadn’t known any better he would’ve assumed Bajram had every reason to be poking around in a secluded corner of the hangar in the middle of the night.

Logan took a moment to huck his clean-up baggie in an incinerator tube and make sure they hadn’t pushed any supplies out of their proper places. The petty officers (and just about anyone else who got stuck with babysitting duty, really) made a lot of noise about the junior sailors getting into nooks and crannies to fuck, but it was an unspoken truth that they cared a lot more about stray body fluids and messy shelves than the fact two fresh young E-2s wanted to touch each others’ tits. It wasn’t like there was much else to do while deployed. Over time the sailors learned to clean up after themselves and everyone’s blood pressure went down, and then a new shipment of idiot newbies would show up to start the process all over again. Logan, always one to put his money where his mouth was, did his due diligence: he fixed some bad alphabetization, left a note in the access log, and slipped back into the hangar with the supply room in a slightly nicer state than he’d left it. It really wasn’t fair at all to expect anything from fucking in a glorified broom closet, but he still held out hope it wouldn’t be the last time he had reason to.

Logan had long since mastered the art of walking quickly through any crowds the carrier could throw at him, and nobody in his part of the ship was inclined to stop an angry-looking petty officer with a clipboard in one hand and a tool pouch still slung around his waist as he speed-walked back to his quarters. His rate was high enough that he had a room to himself, thank God, though it was so small the thought of having company over was laughable; there was a reason sailors tended to go a-roaming in search of places to fool around. The standard-issue phone tossed in among his gear vibrated the moment his ass hit the chair.I had fun, said the message from Lt. B. Talay, callsign Meltemi. Logan waited a moment for the typing-notification icon to pop up; when it didn’t, he busied himself with getting out of his boots instead. He’d almost finished putting his tools away when his phone finally buzzed again.I thought you’d be meaner. Same source.Logan growled to himself in irritation. That could mean a lot of things! He unlocked the keyboard and tapped in a response: Mean how? This time the typing indicator lit up almost instantly.

Good, you’re somewhere private, typed Bajram. Didn’t want you to get stopped by someone important with a fuckload of sexts on the screen. That was…surprisingly astute, actually. Logan really needed to shake the habit of assuming the lieutenant had all the institutional self-preservation of a damp oyster cracker.

Smart thinking, he sent. Bajram replied with a string of alphanumeric garbage that Logan could only assume was some sort of goddamn emoticon. No typing indicators after that, though, which wouldn’t do. Clucking his tongue, Logan goaded him a little: So how was the walk back?

Type, pause, delete. Type, pause, delete. Watching someone twist in the wind in text format wasn’t quite as satisfying as watching them in person, but it was fun in its own muted way. Once the typing icon had remained solid for a few minutes Logan gave up on waiting for Bajram to finish and got up to piss. By the time he returned, a small novel waited for him.

I passed Pogonip on the way back and we talked some. Pretty sure he could tell we fucked, and that means Chinook knows we fucked, and if she doesn’t know now she will soon. I’m fine with that. I’d probably have told them about it if they didn’t figure it out, because we’re close like that. It was Pogonip who said since I talked about you so much I should just get a room already. I got the eye from a few other people but nobody said shit to me. I felt bulletproof. It read stiffly and didn’t sound very much like Bajram’s breakneck patter at all, but Logan could let that slide. Some people came off better in person.

He wasn’t sure how to reply, though, because as happy as he was to feed an exhibitionist it might not have been the best idea to send Bajram out into the world if he was going to be shaking his ass at everyone short of (or possibly including) the captain. Don’t expect to make a habit of it, he sent, aiming for a combination of truth and surly-asshole posturing. That got more weird, emphatic gibberish out of Bajram, so it must’ve worked.

So are you going to tell me what you wish I’d done or not? he typed. That sent the activity icon in a frenzy of activity. Heartened, Logan kicked up his feet and made himself comfortable. A little light reading would be a great backdrop for orgasm #2.

Bajram opted for a string of rapid-fire responses instead of one single chunk this time. Keeping up with them all as-is would’ve been an exercise in futility, so Logan toggled the message combination display option and let the feedback roll in.

You do a good job of giving no fucks and taking charge, Bajram typed. I wanted more like when you had me by the chin. That was hot. I almost came when you grabbed my hair. You do orders great, you really make them sound good, it’s like you were always just an inch away from really ripping into me. It was like that little twist in the guts you get just before hitting freefall. I like that. Not a bad kisser, either. I told you you’re hot, right? You have that older-guy thing going for you and actually have the experience to pull it off.

Well, that was all nice to hear, but it wasn’t answering the question he’d asked. It all felt a bit florid for an encounter where he’d shown up, Bajram had sucked him off, they made out a little, then they both left. I thought this was supposed to be about what you wanted and didn’t get, typed Logan. He paused, then added, Give me some actual fucking feedback or I’m closing this connection right fucking now. Maybe keeping in character would help keep Bajram focused.

The typing in progress paused, deleted itself, then started again. You were a lot less hands-on than I expected, typed Bajram. I can see why you were being careful, but it was weird. I wanted to go back tasting you. You got my records, right? I’ve been to the vet and I’ve got all my shots and what I really wanted was to feel you come in my mouth. It’s not the same with a rubber.

It was all valid criticism, even the parts he didn’t entirely agree with, but Logan found his mind wandering a little bit. Good thing Bajram couldn’t see his attention waning. It would’ve been okay if you wanted to rough me up some, said the letters on his glowing screen. That got him right back into the game.

Tell me how, he sent.

More pause-delete-retyping followed. I wanted you to push me down and hold me there. It was hot when you told me to get on my knees but it would’ve been even hotter if you did that instead. When you had me by the chin I wanted you to shove your cock in my mouth so bad. Logan liked that idea. He stroked himself gently as he waited for the next message. I wanted to get taken down a peg. I wanted you to remind me you’re why I get all the medals. I wanted you to remind me I’m nothing without a man keeping my fighter together, and that you’re that man, and that every time I fly out and back it’s the least I can do to suck you off until you get tired because you’re the reason my mobile unit doesn’t fall apart the minute I get up to speed. I wanted you to come in me, or on me. I wanted you to tell me how to get myself off and I wanted to do it. This? This was good. It was detailed, it was heartfelt, and most of all it was hot. Logan amused himself with the thought of Bajram, texting furiously while still dressed in his coat and trousers, and…there was an idea.

How bad do you need to come right now? he sent.

Real bad, sent Bajram.

Surely he could do better than that. Logan decided to provide a little encouragement: Use your fucking words.

More garbage text, which one day Logan really would look up, then Bajram did as he was told. I’m soaked. I’m going to have to wash these pants twice. I might have to burn the underwear. Please, St. Claire, I’ve been good.

Debatable, he sent back. I’m getting tired, though, so you’re going to finish yourself off now. Don’t bother stripping down until you’re done. You have to clean your uniform anyway, right? He allowed himself another thought of Bajram, half-dressed, with his phone in one hand and his cock in the other. It was like being in basic training all over again. Of course, this was a long way from there, and security had made the damndest advances, even on standard-issue bricks like his own. Send me a picture once you’re done so I can be sure you did it right.

The outgoing text was maybe thirty seconds old when Logan’s inbox chimed the arrival of an encrypted mail. It opened up into a magnificent sight: a flushed and boneless Bajram, his eyes happily hooded, lay on his back on a bed that looked a great deal nicer than Logan’s. One leg was propped up, the other straight, and one gloved hand lay across his chest while the other busied itself with holding up his phone for the picture. His jacket was unbuttoned and his undershirt had been hiked up enough to show off his sculpted midsection, while his softening cock reached nearly to his navel. Trails of murky white jism marched across the dark fabric; a few beads glimmered on his cheek. He looked like a wreck. It was easy for Logan to put himself just off-camera, out of range of Bajram’s selfie-taking arm, and even in that little scenario it was difficult to say whether Bajram had been performing or following orders, or even who had come on him in the first place. That thought marked the point where Logan stopped trying to hold himself back. He rubbed himself just underneath his glans until he came up his own stomach, and while his was hardly as copious at what Bajram had on display he was still amused by how similar their poses had ended up.

The filename read “wishyouwerehere” followed by the date. Logan saved it to a folder on his phone that required a lot more passwords than the rest of it did.

His phone buzzed again as he finished tucking away the gift. Did I do good? Bajram sent. It was like dealing with a puppy, all awkward affection and eagerness to please and unashamed need for approval. Luckily for Bajram, Logan had always been a dog person.

Very good. I’m saving this. He recognized the mysterious glyphs Bajram replied with as ones that had seemed happy—sort of, anyway—the last time he’d seen them. That counted as cultural progress in Logan’s book.

You going to use it any? asked Bajram. He didn’t need to specify how, exactly, one might use a picture of a not-exactly-naked officer with his dick out.

Maybe later, Logan sent. It wasn’t exactly a lie, after all, since he’d long since gotten tired of the porn he’d brought with him when they’d first left port. It’s late. Some of us actually have things to do in the morning. He thought for a minute, then added, I’ll see you when I see you, lieutenant.

Goodnight, St. Claire.

He waited a bit to see if Bajram had anything else to say, but his screen remained still and then went dark as it switched itself into sleep mode. Logan took only a few minutes to clean himself up before he followed its lead. He was asleep the moment his head hit the pillow.

To no great surprise, a few days later they found an excuse to arrange a repeat performance in one of the maintenance runs. Logan still insisted on condoms and Bajram still complained a little about them; as this left their options as “have sex” and “don’t have sex,” Bajram grudgingly relented. At the end of things Logan had pinned Bajram against a wall and jerked him off while he kept one hand over Bajram’s mouth to quiet him, which they later agreed was pretty good for both of them. They left separately, just like the first time. Nobody bothered either of them.One repeat performance became two, and then three, and then they ended up fucking so regularly that it was hard for Logan not to think of them as a couple. It was never anything fancy, just a handjob here or a blowjob there sprinkled liberally with highly suspect use of Navy internal messaging services; when they weren’t in each other’s pants they kept to their own respective circles, Bajram with pilots and Logan with hangar rats. They didn’t talk about it because there wasn’t really anything to talk about: they liked fucking each other, they had jobs to do, they were still in the middle of a war, and there was the whole loaded issue of officer/enlisted canoodling that Logan could almost ignore if he focused on his work enough of the time.Things got interesting the day he was forced to stop ignoring it. He was busy welding at the time, which also meant singing at the top of his lungs, so between the noise, his ear protection, and the fact that his face shield wrecked his peripheral vision he didn’t notice Chinook until she was almost standing on top of the fighter. The sea chantey died in his throat when she gestured at him to remove his mufflers. Her own fighter was where it was supposed to be a few spaces over, where he could clearly see another petty officer making sure an apprentice only pressure-washed the fighter’s exterior and not anyone’s flesh, so what she needed with him was a mystery.”What can I do for you, lieutenant?” he asked after quickly checking her insignia to make sure he used the proper title. He didn’t have many dealings with other pilots.

“Petty Officer St. Claire,” she said, nodding politely to him. “I’m here about Meltemi.”

He glanced up at the eponymous mobile unit before he realized she probably meant Bajram. Pilots going by their callsigns like they were goddamn superheroes was still one of the stupidest ideas he’d ever heard. “Has there been some trouble with Lieutenant Talay? I replaced some of the wiring on the left-central transformation engine last week but he hasn’t reported anything out of the ordinary to me.”

She shrugged. “He hasn’t been on his game during the last two maneuvers. I’m not going to ask what kind of thing you two have going on, because it’s not my fucking business, but whatever it is, it’d be a good idea to use said thing to figure out what crawled up Meltemi’s ass before he gets sent off into a hot zone while he’s…distracted.” Logan could feel how badly she wanted to use air quotes. He could respect someone who refrained from that practice.

“I’ll contact him ASAP, Lieutenant Degaw,” he said. He hoped him reading her name off her tag didn’t come off as too obvious, or at least not too rude. Things were not helped by him thinking of her as “Chinook” first thanks to Bajram referring to her as nothing but.

“Appreciated, sailor.”

Logan bore down to finish his metalworking once she’d left. That was probably how you were supposed to to it, he reflected: keep it courteous, keep it short, keep the officer at arm’s length. All as professional as you could get when working for the government. There were dozens of ranked officers on the carrier even if you didn’t count the pilots, and he had a pretty good track record of not fucking any of them, so it averaged out in his favor in the end, didn’t it? Aside from whatever was up with Bajram at the moment their thing—it was undeniably some sort of thing at this point, though further definitions were hazy—hadn’t affected either of their performances. Snarling more at Bajram and less at the junior sailors probably helped his popularity among the crew, even. Chinook tracking him down was just a very Navy way of handling whatever problems came along: you went to the specialists first.

He ran through the lyrics of “Star of the County Down” in his head until he found his place, then raised his voice in song once more. Singing was useful because it kept him from muttering while he thought. The best way to deal with Bajram was to be direct, which was nice, so they’d want to meet somewhere he had the luxury of being direct, which might be tricky, and he couldn’t assume it was a sex thing, because Bajram was actually pretty decent about asking for what he wanted even if Logan was likely to say no. Probably best to approach this as a not-quite-friend-because-they-didn’t-really-talk-much-outside-of-sexy-texts-but-what-else-did-you-call-it. It’d take a little doing to figure out what was up with his pet pilot, of course, but that was what being an enlisted man was all about.

The light of Logan’s torch cast harsh shadows across his shielding as he reinforced the fighter’s leg, and his plans clarified with each dropped spark.

illustrated by Iron Eater

Half a dozen songs later, Logan was done with maintenance. His bulkier protective gear returned to the hooks where it lived, but he didn’t bother cleaning up aside from making sure he wouldn’t leave footprints all over the hangar. It’d make things feel more off-the-cuff if he showed up with a little fresh soot on his front.

He dug out his phone. Are you available, lieutenant? he sent, his words calm and neutral. It was the same written tone he used whenever he needed to bring Bajram in to test something he’d diddled with in the fighter-pilot interface, and given how often some asshole kept insisting on firmware updates while they were busy drifting towards contested territory that was a lot more than one might think.

Logan loitered by one of the snack machines on his side of the hangar as he waited for a reply. He popped in a pair of small-rations tokens and pushed a button at random; the machine rewarded him with two packages of something that promised peanuts, chocolate, and nougat, which was good enough. The day Logan cared about what he got out of a vendor was the day he actually read the labels before putting money in. He was waffling over which pocket was least likely to get the chocolate parts of the candy melty when his phone thrummed at him.

I’m done with maneuvers for the day, Petty Officer St. Claire, said the reply. It was also neutral, which didn’t mean anything, since unless they were holed up in their respective quarters there was an understanding that they typed like someone was watching.

Another pilot approached me today and asked me to speak with you, lieutenant, typed Logan. When and where works for you?

Bajram took his time answering the question. Meanwhile, Logan guessed that his tool belt probably wasn’t that warm from his body now that he wasn’t welding anymore and tucked the candy bars in the carryall flap next to some of his drill bits. It was a whole five minutes before his phone buzzed again.

Starboard viewing deck, sent Bajram. It’s not busy this time of day.

Be there in ten, Logan replied. He could make it in five, but God only knew where the lieutenant had put himself.

The starboard viewing deck was, as Bajram had said, sparsely populated, in no small part because it didn’t face anything interesting. The port-side deck had a gorgeous view of the planet they were orbiting, a really good next-to-Earthlike one with different weather patterns that swirled picturesquely across its surface, and sometimes you’d see fighters whizzing by as they ran through practice drills. Starboard just looked out into the starry void, and most career sailors got tired of the void after their third month without so much as a visible nebula to navigate by. Logan found Bajram leaning on a pillar and staring off into the nothingness.

“Lieutenant,” he said. He waited for Bajram to nod at him before he took a seat nearby. Nothing looked immediately wrong to Logan, but it wasn’t like cabin fever came with a rash. He offered one of the brightly-colored snack packages to Bajram.

“Want some geedunk?”

Bajram shrugged. “That shit rots your teeth.”

“That’s nature’s way of telling you it tastes good.”

That got a distracted laugh out of Bajram, which was promising, and he somehow used the same motion to both snap the candy out of the air and peel away the top half of its packaging, which was more so. Even mopey pilots just couldn’t help themselves. Logan unwrapped his own and took a bite out of it. It did taste good.

“Lieutenant Degaw asked me to talk to you,” said Logan once he finished chewing.

“Which one?” Oh, right, she and her brother served on the same vessel.

“Chinook.”

“Ah.” Bajram crunched on a mouthful of peanuts. “So what’d she say?”

“She says you’ve been off lately, and she seems to think I’m the best person to bother you about it. You seemed fine last time we spoke—” which was one hell of a euphemism, “—so I’d like to know what’s changed since then.”

Bajram exhaled through his nostrils and ran his gloves through his hair. “Ahhh, goddammit, you’re going to think I’m being a fucking teenager about this,” he said. When Logan remained quiet, Bajram continued. “Does it ever bother you that you’re so much older than me, and you’ve done so much more useful shit than me, and you’re still expected to follow my orders in spite of it all?”

So that was what this was about. “Not really, lieutenant. Most officers know not to pull rank around me because they understand that experience means fucking everything when it comes to the Navy. When I get orders it’s because they need me to do something, not because they’re trying to swing their dicks around, and when it’s favors like this little conversation here, they ask me respectfully, because I’ve spent fifteen years not taking any bullshit and I’m not shy who knows.”

Finishing the last of his candy, Bajram balled up the wrapper and tossed it, perfectly, into the trash can across the seating aisle from them. “For some reason that doesn’t help much,” he said.

“I know what’s bugging you,” said Logan. He didn’t even try to duplicate Bajram’s stunt. A working man had pockets for a reason.

“Yeah?”

Logan smirked. “You got a classic case of rich boy guilt.”

“I don’t follow,” said Bajram with a little frown, but this wasn’t Logan’s first rodeo and he could pick out all the signs that meant Bajram did follow, and probably a lot more than he wanted to admit. It all dovetailed nicely into what he’d said about his family back during their first maybe-date. This called for the direct approach or they’d never get anywhere.

“It’s a pretty common officer story. You’re raised with more money than God on payday, which means good food and good schools and seeing wealth so often it just fades into the background. That lasts all the way up until you get your first insignia. Then you actually mingle with the enlisted kids for the first time and at some point you get it through your head that you’re surrounded by people who, surprise surprise, didn’t get the solid gold diapers to shit in when they were babies. Some people puff up about it and get all shitty, others try not to think about it, others get all weird about it like they somehow had a hand in whose vagina they came out of.” He cracked his knuckles one at a time. “I figure at some point in the recent past you moved from column B to column C, that’s all.”

He didn’t look over at Bajram but he could feel those pretty eyes on him. That was fine. Having someone shut you up and explain things the way Logan liked to could be a lot like being hit by a bucket of ice water, so getting stared at like he was some kind of bug at least meant Bajram was thinking things over. Sure, the previous times he’d given someone this talk he hadn’t been fucking them, but this was hardly time to split hairs.

He lunged in for a second conversational salvo. “Listen, lieutenant, I joined the Navy because I picked too many fights as a kid. They sat my ass down and said I had to shape up or expect to spend my life sitting in a cell somewhere, so I decided to go to the awful fucking anger management classes they offered with basic training, and both of those actually stuck. Now the government pays my all bills and I’ve managed my shitty temper well enough to get the little eagle and his three golden chevrons riding around on my shoulder to tell everyone how well I play with others these days. I work on motherfucking transforming robot jets for a living, lieutenant, so if you’re going to try to find some sob story about the poor little sailor who just can’t catch a break, try looking for someone who didn’t grow up eating potato flakes on a fucking mining station.” He opted to leave out the parts about uniform envy and being more than a little jealous of the glory Bajram basked in. They would just muddy the point.

“So what about the thing we’ve got, then?” asked Bajram, quietly. His tone of voice definitely wasn’t referring to the pilot/mechanic side of their situation.

Logan shrugged. “I’m fine with my rate and I’m fine with respecting your authority when it comes to warfighter business. I get off on switching that up a little when we’re alone, and apparently so do you, so we do one thing in public and another in private just like millions of other people manage every day. It’s not really a big deal.” He leaned back over his seat, looking up at Bajram. “Any more questions, lieutenant, or are you ready to go back to being an annoyingly competent space ace?”

The pensive look had vanished from Bajram’s face, which was good, since neither it nor jerking off over how unfair his privileged home life was really suited him; instead he’d found his old devil’s grin again. That was…concerning. “Yeah, I got one, St. Claire,” he said.

“Well?”

“You ever heard the legend of the golden rivet?”

Oh, Christ. At least now Logan was certain Bajram was on the mental mend. “Yes, and I think it’s a crude artifact of an even cruder era. ‘Legend’ is far too fucking lofty a word for it.” You went far enough back in naval history and you never failed to find someone making nasty jokes about awful things happening to cabin boys. The meaning had changed over the years—sometimes there were even women involved in later stories, wonder of wonders!—but if you heard a sailor was going to show someone else the golden rivet, someone was probably getting fucked later on. It really was a wonder sometimes that the Navy got anything done at all.

“Did I say something wrong?” Bajram replied with patently false innocence. “It’s just for good luck, isn’t it?”

Logan could feel his brain trying to give itself a headache. “Where are you going with this, lieutenant?”

“I’m just saying, I might’ve overheard someone saying there’s one such rivet in my quarters.” He leaned in closer. “Engineering-minded guy like you, you could probably show me where it is.” Bajram pulled a keyfob from one of the many little pockets in his uniform jacket and slipped it into Logan’s hand. “I was thinking it’d be a good time to talk some more about…authority,” he said. Logan’s skin prickled. He’d been meaning to suggest they find somewhere more accommodating than side pantries for a while, now, and maybe it was time to try something a bit more involved in said accommodating space. The kind of involved thing that worked best with a free day coming up for both of them and guaranteed privacy.

He cleared his throat. “I have some engine work scheduled after dinner tonight,” he said, now painfully aware of the smattering of other stargazers on the opposite end of the deck. Just because they couldn’t possibly hear him from such a distance didn’t mean he wasn’t self-conscious. “Once that’s taken care of, though, I should be free until oh-six-hundred the day after tomorrow.”

“I’m sure that’ll give us plenty of time to find it,” said Bajram, and his laugh stayed with Logan for a long while afterwards.

Logan was vaguely familiar with how officers’ quarters looked, but had never been in any himself; the amount of space was startling. He would’ve taken the time to study everything and silently resent how small his own room was in comparison—there was a private shower booth, for God’s sake!—if the second the door swished closed he hadn’t been pressed against the threshold by a certain troublesome pilot, and as much as he wanted to complain Logan did like making out while grinding, so he let it slide.

There was a hunger to Bajram’s kisses that Logan hadn’t felt before, and when they finally parted Logan realized he was out of breath. Bajram was fine, no doubt due to some bullshit about the oxygen filtration mods anyone who did a lot of void flying needed, but his hair had the decency to be slightly mussed. Normally this was the point where Logan would wrap up one way or another and put Bajram to work while Bajram’s lips were still slick with two people’s mingled saliva, but that seemed like a waste of an opportunity. For now Logan might as well play along.

“So, this rivet of yours…?” he asked.

“It’s the damndest thing, St. Claire. I just can’t find it.” Bajram leaned his head to the side and cupped his cheek in mock dismay. “You think if I bend over I might see where it is?” He bent at the waist to mime peering under his desk. Those pants of his went from distractingly, contour-accentingly tight to borderline reflective at that angle, and there had been far too many days between then and the last time Logan had been able to help himself to a handful of sculpted ass. Playing along suddenly seemed much less important than getting his hands on Bajram as soon as possible.

“I have a better idea.”

“Yeah?”

Logan grabbed Bajram by the collar, spun him around, and hauled him up until they were nose to nose. “How about we cut the bullshit and figure out how I’m going to fuck you?” he growled.

Bajram smiled. “I was hoping you’d ask. You remember what we talked about on Wednesday?” he asked, his eyes bright with purpose. Logan nodded. Wednesday had been a bad day in the hangar but a good day once he’d curled up with his phone for the evening to coax a new fantasy out of Bajram’s stiff typing. It had Bajram on his knees, except this time it was his ass doing the work and not his mouth, which was not something they’d tried yet, and he’d been very clear that in this scenario he was completely naked. Much as Logan liked the look of tailored wool he had been hard-pressed to deny the appeal of seeing the ports that marched along Bajram’s lower spine—ports most people never saw unless they helped a pilot suit up for flight—and how he had spent that entire evening jerking off at the thought of Bajram gasping beneath him. All things considered it had ended on a high note. “I want Wednesday, but I want it in person,” continued Bajram. “Will you give it to me?”

Giving Bajram his Wednesday also meant no condoms. It was a very specific part of the little script they’d written. Logan had given it some thought before, since they’d certainly been fucking enough for their thing to become a serious thing and a modern man was smart enough to know how getting serious changed everything, but he’d always written the idea off as too messy under the circumstances. Having an entire officer’s room at their disposal changed that. Just the shower alone brought with it a wealth of possibilities.

Logistics aside, he’d also gotten tired of not feeling Bajram swallow him when he came, and that counted for a lot.

“Yeah. I can give you that.” He busied himself with stripping down, and with a single look convinced Bajram to do the same. Uniforms were great, uniforms were the best thing since business formal, but he was starved for skin-on-skin contact. Once they were finally naked he was able to appreciate details that were harder to take in with clothes in the way, like how Bajram was actually a few shades lighter than he was or how the pilot ID tattoo on Bajram’s bicep was pretty hot in a dystopian-chic kind of way. There was also the way he still looked like an underwear model despite being sans underwear, which Logan was not going to complain about too much.

Logan stretched like he was preparing for a marathon. “How rough do you want it?” he asked.

“Pretty rough.” Bajram licked his lips. “I woke up this morning and I knew our usual thing wouldn’t be enough. I need to be put in my place by a guy who knows what he’s doing.”

Logan nodded again. “And your limits?”

“I have to be able to fly afterwards. I’m a bottom, but I’m still grown-ass man, so treat me like one. I only say ‘stop’ or ‘no’ if I mean it. Don’t fuck up my face or damage my ports. Nothing that’d get me shitty looks during a debriefing physical. Other than that?” Bajram stroked Logan’s cheek with a smile. “You can do whatever you want.”

“Good,” said Logan. This was going to be a very interesting Wednesday, indeed. He steepled his fingers and smiled. “There’s one last thing.”

“Yeah?”

“You call me sir.

“Yes sir!”

Logan was hardly the kind of guy to put a black bar in his dating profile back when he bothered with a dating profile, since that attracted the kind of guy who was a lot more into props than he was, but he’d learned all the way back in basic that he was happiest when he was paired with someone who liked getting shoved around or smacked on the ass. Funnily enough he’d figured a lot of it out with another guy in the motherfucking anger management class. You didn’t pull someone’s hair hard enough to make their eyes water unless they asked you for it, you didn’t gag them with your cock if they just wanted a little lick, and you didn’t see how many times you could run your nails down their back before you broke the skin until you had their permission to really fuck them up; you also learned how to scent out someone who would say yes to all of the above and more, and that made the world a magical sunshiney place of scratches and bruises and people who said “thank you” when you socked them kindly in the side. He could respect someone who stepped into that kind of narrative with a punish-me state of mind, and as a man of modest authority who loved himself some motherfucking bad language, playing the strict disciplinarian came naturally.

It was a pretty fun way to go about actually swapping extra fluids with somebody. Bajram’s tongue was wet and heavy against Logan’s skin wherever Logan allowed him to touch, and as nice as that had felt on the inside of a layer of latex it was so much better feeling every little texture of his mouth. Somewhere along the way they played out a disjointed little scene where Bajram talked too much (true) and the only way he could be shut up was by having him suck Logan off (probably less true), and if Logan was a little rusty actually playing a role in person nobody minded.

The average pilot’s spinal ports had little plugs they could put in them to prevent gunge from accumulating, and Logan took great interest in what Bajram looked like with said plugs removed to expose the delicate connectors embedded there; whether the toasterfucker thing had led him to becoming a snipe, or if being a snipe just made it easier to be a toasterfucker, or if it was just yet another weird thing people with vat-grown genetics were prone to, Logan didn’t know, but show him a guy with a nice smile and a metal arm and Logan would show you someone he wanted to buy a drink. So long as you remembered the cybernetics were attached to another human being you’d be fine. Bajram was too annoying for anyone to forget he was a person, though, and he made the nicest little noises when Logan’s skin brushed against the chrome or he fingered the larger ports, so it was nice being able to explore a mutual interest with an obliging friend.

There was also the business of Bajram wanting very badly to be held down and fucked. Logan hadn’t skimped on the lube—because what kind of shithead skimped on the lube?—and it was still a bit of a snug fit with just his fingers, so despite the complaints it earned him he took his time loosening Bajram up before nudging himself in place. Nobody had ever died because their consensual sodomy had been too slow to start. He’d barely inserted himself when Bajram cried out and begged him to go faster and deeper, which earned Bajram a smack on the ass to get him to be quiet, and that just made Bajram even worse, and one thing led to another until the sheets beneath them were a mess, Bajram’s head was pressed down into a pillow just shy of actually blocking off his airflow, and Logan had come so many times he didn’t want to think about what it’d look like when they finally parted. Having someone panting and sweaty underneath him felt very right.

While the spirit was willing, the flesh eventually needed to lie down with a cold cloth on its forehead, so after coaxing out one last orgasm each they staggered into Bajram’s shower. Logan was so exhausted he couldn’t even find it in him to fool around when Bajram soaped him up, and he felt like he could’ve melted into a puddle if his mind wandered too much. The tiles he leaned on were his best friends. Bajram’s bed was a bit too small for two people to share normally, but Logan managed to brace himself against the wall to give Bajram just enough room to cuddle up against his front to get his hair petted. The post-coital aftercare was just as important as making sure the other party liked playing rough in the first place, after all.

Bajram sighed happily. “I’m sore everywhere. That was great.

“You’re welcome. I enjoyed myself, too.” Logan yawned like a hippopotamus. “And see, that’s the magic of working up to a goal in action. You do a little fucking planning and you get to enjoy planned fucking.” He polished his lenses on the pillowcase and replaced them. “Let me lie down for a while and I might even have enough in me to help out with another plan or two.” He could feel Bajram’s grin more than see it, and had he not been exhausted it would’ve worried him greatly.

“There was this one other thing I’ve been thinking of….” Bajram said.

“Name it,” said Logan. “How bad could it be?”

Two hours later, with his back pressing up against a bunch of connectors that expected ports that weren’t there and his legs trying to fit in a space meant for a single smallish occupant instead of two, Logan cursed himself for being so gullible. The cockpit of Bajram’s fighter—and there were about five hundred million “cockpit” jokes that could be made about things, some of which Bajram had already shared in spite of being told not to—was going to be enshrined in the terrible-places-to-fuck hall of fame, assuming they didn’t end up getting stuck. Logan was pissed, which of course meant Bajram was getting off on it.

It had been a bad idea when he first heard it, and continued being a bad idea when he realized how easy it’d be for them to ruin an entire array of expensive electronics, and it kept on sucking the entire way to the hangar, and right up until Bajram popped the canopy Logan had thought he’d have a concrete reason to tell the lieutenant no. Then he found himself in the awful pilot’s seat with his fuckbuddy impaled on his cock. Bajram had a way with people that made Logan suspect he’d do very well as a luxury goods salesman, or maybe in politics. The Talays were certainly rich enough to support either.

His lenses had fogged up so badly he couldn’t see anything but blurry starbursts of light from the hibernating consoles on every side of them. The canopy glass had probably fogged up, too, which meant anyone stopping the hangar by would know what they were doing. Great.

Actually having sex was harder than it should have been. Bajram threw his arm around Logan’s neck as they sat chest-to-back; Logan stroked him with strong, no-nonsense motions and he tried not to bang his head into anything. They’d both come recently enough that it took some doing to get there again, and Logan was caught so off-guard when he felt Bajram tensing up around him he almost didn’t cover Bajram’s glans in time. Better a sticky hand than a sticky control panel, though. He wiped the mess away on the towel he’d insisted they bring, then scooted Bajram into a slightly more convenient angle that wasn’t pressing quite so much on his kidneys. It was a wonder they hadn’t gotten tangled up in Bajram’s pants yet.

Logan had agreed to actually come inside the lieutenant before they ended their little stunt, and he was a man of his word, so he bounced Bajram in place until friction and a lingering sense of smugness that your typical best-behavior MFM1 would never know what this was like combined to push him over the edge. Bajram moaned dramatically as Logan emptied himself, which wasn’t necessary, but nice. Logan was not the kind of man to keep a bucket list, but if he ever changed his mind he knew he already had something he could cross off.

They sat together, Bajram still impaled in Logan’s lap, and since there wasn’t room to put Bajram off to the side Logan was at a bit of a loss to do much other than hold him and nuzzle at his neck a bit. Logan breathed in the familiar sweat-and-cologne scent that lingered there. Was there much of a script for when you’d just finished fucking someone in this situation? Thanks for letting me sit in your big metal thing I maintain all day, my foot’s falling asleep, have luck storming the castle? What happened if someone accidentally activated the fighter’s transformation protocol while people were sitting around like this, anyway? Whoever designed these things had not exactly had cuddling company on the mind when they drew up the blueprints.

“So do you have any plans?” asked Bajram, breaking the silence. Logan made a sound through his nose that didn’t convey anything aside from ruffling the hair on the back of Bajram’s head. Bajram was quick to clarify: “After the Navy, I mean. Like once your time’s up.”

“Dunno,” said Logan. Growing up as a shitty little troublemaker hadn’t gotten him in much of the habit of thinking about the future, and just being able to mentally organize the rest of his commission as “situation normal, still working” had been enough for him. He wracked his brain for anything that sounded appealing. “Maybe I’ll find someplace that needs a guy who can fix anything from little civvy Redtail models all the way up to a Huitzil like this one, and then go be that guy until I get bored and mean enough to retire.” It sounded nice enough. “You?”

Bajram laughed. “Not a fucking clue.”

That wasn’t fair. Still, Logan’s answer was basically the same thing, he was just better at bullshitting when it seemed like he needed to be a good example. Maybe shorter-term plans would be easier. “How about once the war’s over? A handsome guy like you with all those medals has got to be popular in port. You think you’ll find yourself a wife or a husband or whatever?”

“Uh….”

“What do you mean, ‘uh’? That’s not a yes or a no or even a chickenshit maybe. Are you going shy on me, lieutenant? Need I remind you you’re still sitting on my dick?”

“It’s just that, ah. You know.” Having Bajram squirm in place felt very nice, but not so nice Logan was about to let him off the hook, especially not after going through with this ridiculous-ass stunt.

“Either spit it out or let me up.”

“I was expecting to follow your lead, okay?” said Bajram, and for the first time Logan could remember the lieutenant sounded bashful about it. It seemed out of character for someone who lived by taking life by the throat and shaking it until candy came out to be all flustered about plans still many years out. “I wasn’t expecting this to last as long as it did and I don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to going home from a war with a guy about ten years my senior on my arm, you know.”

Logan sighed. This was what happened when you got involved with young people. Good thing he thought it was kind of cute. “Bajram. Listen.” He wriggled in place in an attempt to relieve the pins-and-needles feeling in his toes, which only succeeded in moving it to his other toes. Just what he needed. “I seriously do not give a shit whether you want to stay together and get a house with a yard and a white picket fence or if you’d rather disappear the instant The Powers That Be sign an armistice treaty that sends us back to familiar space. I don’t care if you demand your family invite me over for Thanksgiving or if I’m some deep dark secret they must never know. I like our time together, and I mean to enjoy it as long as you want to be a thing and you don’t chap my ass too badly, and that’s that.” Logan was bad at romance, but he liked to think he was passable at commitment.

Neither said anything for a while. It was Bajram who broke the tension again.

“A white picket fence? Really?”

“I grew up around them. Little Astroturf lawns everywhere, too. Mining stations are weird like that.”

“You’ll have to tell me more about them some time.”

Logan nodded. “Can do, lieutenant. Now pass me a towel so I can pull out without getting filth all over this nice seat.”

His back was sore and he still felt like he was wearing somebody else’s boots, but as Logan clambered out of the fighter he found himself looking forward to years from now when telling a story about the time he fucked a guy in a mobile unit’s cockpit would be hilarious and not risk military discipline. He never wanted to do it again, of course, but what was the point of a story like that if you followed through on a bad idea and found out everything was perfect? Running scans on the internals was going to be a lot weirder than usual for the next few days, that was for damn sure.

He circled the fighter out of habit, because you never knew if someone had left tools in the way or if you’d spy a weak spot nobody else had seen, so he heard more than saw Bajram vault over the side to land on the ground with all the spryness of a gymnast. Pilots, honestly.

“Hey, St. Claire, look over here?”

Logan turned and was promptly half-blinded by a phone-camera flash. He swore creatively. Blobs of color swam in front of his eyes as he blinked them away, but somewhere in the mess he could barely make out Bajram looking proudly at his phone’s screen.

“The fuck was that for?” Logan spat. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, how in the world had they managed to give a standard-issue anything the power to rival the devices he had to endure at every eye exam?

Bajram flipped his phone around. He’d managed to snap a remarkably crisp, clear picture of Logan with it, though Logan’s expression was his usual lightly disgusted sneer-scowl that served as the Navy’s angriest-looking neutral state. The flash had found grit on him he swore he’d already scrubbed out. At least his hair didn’t look quite so much like he’d been fucking somebody, not that that was much comfort. Against all odds he hadn’t been captured with redeye. “Now I’ve finally got something for my dashboard,” said Bajram, brightly. “Neat, huh?”

“I look like shit,” said Logan. “If you want to retake it, I could at least try to smile for the camera.”

Bajram turned his phone so he could see the screen again. “Nah,” he said. “It looks more like you this way. How am I expected to recognize you without the Bitchy Resting Face?”

Logan’s scowl switched over from passive to active. “Without the what?

Bajram kissed him instead of giving him a proper answer, which was so textbook rom-com that Logan had no idea how to react. It didn’t help that Bajram didn’t bother explaining himself, either, and as he sauntered out of the hangar he had far too much of a spring in his step for a man with countless dermal abrasions and a thoroughly well-fucked asshole hidden underneath his clothes. Logan watched him go a little wistfully.

So there he was, alone in the hangar with his thoughts and a crick in his neck. Usually mentioning the un-suburbs was usually domestic enough to send people packing, yet this time a hot piece of ass who could bend in all the right places actually wanted to hear more about what kind of place could spit out a St. Claire, and maybe that meant something and maybe it didn’t. Maybe he’d get a mail tomorrow explaining how it’d all been a mistake and they shouldn’t see each other anymore, and maybe he’d get an entirely different mail asking if he minded staying for the holidays once they actually had a holiday off the ship again. He found himself unusually optimistic about the future.

Maybe there was something to that good-luck rivet bullshit after all.

 

 


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2 thoughts on “The Golden Rivet

  1. I really liked this. It did seem to end a little abruptly, though – I would have like to have seen the end of their deployment.

  2. adorable. bajram is INSUFFERABLE. i love their dynamic. the ending rly got me. and that triple-A talk was indubitably triple-A in itself. loved it!!

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