TAGS: slash, gay romance, erotica WARNINGS: contains explicit homoerotic sex scenes
Freeman thumbed through the report without any real interest. Routine stuff. Just another fuelling schedule and maintenance survey. Boring but necessary for the day to day running of SHADO though they were, Freeman had too much on his mind to give them any more than a cursory examination.
They were usually Straker’s job. His analytical mind soaked up the facts and figures like some human computer, and like a computer, he never got bored.
Freeman was different. He did his best work with people, flying combat planes, just being where the action was, and he had to admit it, being at Ed Straker’s side, ready to back him up, with muscle or fire power, if necessary. And they worked well together – one cold and logical, the other warm and emotional, they struck the perfect balance. Although that was not to say there were no fireworks every so often, Freeman reflected wryly. When Straker wanted something bad enough, there was not a damn thing he could say that would make any difference. On those occasions, when Straker got his own way and Freeman considered that the cost had been too high, he would set his lips tightly and just get on with it, maybe even hate the infuriating man for a little while, but it never lasted. If he belonged anywhere, it was as Ed Straker’s second in command and when circumstances forced that to be different, Freeman felt strangely out on a limb.
The worst thing about it, was that there was absolutely nothing he could do, except let his people do their work without him breathing down their necks. As far as they knew, the situation on Moonbase had not altered and him pacing up and down anxiously would do nothing to change that.
He was just about to force himself to pay more attention to the reports, when Ford’s voice came over the communicator.
“I’ve got Moonbase on for you, sir, full strength. It’s Commander Straker.”
The reports forgotten, Freeman felt his insides lurch with relief that Straker was alive.
“Put him on, Lieutenant,” he said calmly, thinking that he should have perhaps been an actor instead, as the welcome face of Ed Straker filled the screen.
“Ed, what happened up there? You look dreadful, are you all right?”
Straker smiled faintly. “One at a time, Alec. God knows how, but we were attacked by a UFO, although it didn’t do that much damage.”
Freeman frowned. “I know it attacked. Nina got a message through before the power went. We’ve been virtually helpless to do anything. How many were there?”
“Just the one.”
“One UFO against Moonbase?” Freeman questioned incredulously. “They wouldn’t have a hope in hell of destroying it with just one.”
“I know, but it looks like they weren’t going for destruction, this time.”
“That one I can answer,” Straker told him tiredly. “Somehow in the confusion after the attack, one of them got in here and put a bullet through our captured alien’s brain.”
“They did what!” Freeman exclaimed. “I don’t believe it.”
“Believe it, Alec. After that, the UFO tried to take off, couldn’t and then blew itself into a thousand pieces. Ground defences didn’t even come close.”
“Bloody hell. Do you know why?”
Straker gave a small impatient shrug. “All I can do is guess, Alec, but I’ve been thinking about it and I figure they put so much power into blocking our radar that they drained their energy completely. There wasn’t enough power left to take off, so they self-destructed.” He paused for a moment before delivering his bombshell. “Alec, I think they expected that to happen. They were prepared for it.”
Freeman gave a low whistle. “A suicide run?”
“It looks that way, yes.”
“Then that suggests that your alien, whoever he might have been, was someone important for them to have gone to so much trouble.”
“I know. They must have been terrified of what we’d learn from him.”
“It was an expensive mistake,” Freeman commented. He did not explain that remark, but he watched as Straker’s mouth tightened.
“It was more expensive than you think, Alec. We lost Lieutenant Markham.”
Freeman felt old, suddenly sickened by this game they seemed to be playing at the expense of young men like Jim Markham. It had happened too many times before and the worst thing was that it would keep on happening, until they were all dead, or the aliens finally gave up. And of that, there was more chance in hell freezing over.
He didn’t ask how it had happened. No doubt the report would be through soon enough.
“Jim wasn’t married, but he had a fiancee. Do you want me to tell her?” he asked heavily.
Far away, Straker rubbed his eyes in a gesture that looked like tiredness, but might not have been. “No, Alec, I feel responsible for this. Markham was a good man and I recruited him personally. I’ll tell her. I’ll be back with Foster tommow, I don’t suppose the delay will make much difference now.”
Freeman felt slightly guilty at his relief, but of all the jobs he sometimes had to do that was the worst. He was not sorry to let someone else do it for once.
“No, I don’t suppose it will. So what happened to you?” he asked. “Nina said that you and Paul were missing.”
“We were. When they attacked, we were in the corridor they hit. We only just managed to get into the airlock and then with the power failure we were struck in there until it was all over.”
Taking in Straker’s almost deathly paleness and his sweaty, straggly hair, Freeman nodded to himself. No wonder he looked dreadful. Freeman was one of the few who knew about the Commander’s claustrophobia and how bad a problem it could be.
“Were you all right? Those airlocks are bloody small.”
“I survived, Alec, but it wasn’t pleasant. Let’s just say that Paul had his hands full.”
I bet he did, Freeman thought wryly. “Well, thank God, you’re both alive. You’ll be back the day after tomorrow?”
“That’s the plan. Is Gay Ellis back yet?”
“She’s due in first shift tomorrow morning.”
“Right, the minute she gets in, brief her about this and get her up here straight away. Someone’s got to sort through this mess and get Moonbase on its feet again.”
“I’ll see to it,” Freeman confirmed.
“Good. Oh, and Alec, you may as well call it a day and get some sleep. You look shattered. Straker out.”
Freeman leaned back, relief that Straker was all right, uppermost in his mind. No wonder he looked tired.
“It’s spending an afternoon worrying about you,” he told the blank screen acidly, but it did not deign to reply.
So that was it, emergency over, and two casualties. Jim Markham and some poor bastard who got his brains blasted out by his own side. It was really all so bloody stupid.
Leaving the office, he remembered something that he still had to do.
“Keith, has that Carrier taken off yet?”
Ford shook his head. “No, sir, it’s scheduled for five minutes. Shall I cancel it now?”
“Please, but have it kept on stand-by for Lieutenant Ellis in the morning. Commander Straker and Colonel Foster are returning tomorrow, so I’m going home to grab some sleep and I don’t want to be disturbed for anything less than a nuclear holocaust.”
“Yes, sir, and if Commander Straker wants you?”
“That’s worse,” Freeman grinned. “In that event, you have my permission to disturb me.”
Ford chuckled. “Right. Goodnight, sir,” but the Colonel was already on his way to the lift.
Out of the control centre, Freeman was about to head for the lift when he remembered the events that had taken place earlier and he changed his direction, heading instead for the medical centre.
He was surprised to find the door half open. Inside the tiny office the lights were dimmed. Looking in, Freeman could make out a shadowy figure, back to him, feet up on the desk, and by the looks of it, nursing a drink.
Not stopping to think if he was doing the right thing because that way he might have resumed his former path, Freeman went in.
“You on your own?”
Staring into the depths of his glass, Jackson shrugged, not turning around. “I always am, Colonel. It’s the way I was made.”
Uninvited, but not one to worry about such things, Freeman perched himself comfortably on the end of the desk. “There’s a difference between alone and lonely,” he pointed out. “You look lonely.”
“That’s none of your business,” Jackson replied, his grey eyes flickering up to Freeman’s face for a moment, before returning to his drink.
Listening to the emotionless drawl, Freeman wondered exactly what he was doing there, but it was too late to go back now.
“What’s that got to do with it? You looked like you needed some company,” he took a deep breath. “Besides, you interest me.”
Without looking up, Jackson chuckled at the remark. It was the first time that Freeman had heard anything near to laughter from the Doctor and although it held a trace of mockery, the sound was strangely soft and intriguing.
“I thought you considered me slippery. That was what you called me, I remember, not so long ago.”
Freeman remembered too. “I did,” he admitted, “but maybe I’ve had a chance to revise my opinion since then.”
“All right. Not maybe.”
He had the sudden impression that Jackson seemed to be pleased by that, although characteristically, nothing showed on his face.
“I see,” Jackson reflected. “And my opinion of you, does that interest you?”
“It might, depending on what it is.”
“Oh, let me see. You are a compassionate man, sometimes over emotional, ruthless when required to be, headstrong, a little self centred and perhaps a touch arrogant about your own sexuality. Is that enough for you?”
Freeman was stunned for a moment. It was quite enough.
“That’s some opinion,” he said dryly.
Jackson chuckled again and this time the mockery was gone. “But I’m right.”
“Some,” he admitted, not willing to concede just how right Jackson had been. “But tell me – is that your observation as a psychologist, or as a man?”
“A little of both, Colonel. Why do you ask?”
“I was just curious. If you dropped the psychology for a minute, what you would think then?”
Interested, Jackson’s eyes came up to his. “Of you?”
“Yeah, of me.”
“As a man, I’d say that you held…. possibilities, but then, I think you already know that.”
“Meaning what exactly?” Freeman demanded, warming to the unpredictability of this verbal fencing, feeling an undercurrent of something, a spark of interest between them.
Finishing his drink in one mouthful, Jackson set the glass down noiselessly and stood up. He leaned casually against a tall cabinet, wanting to be more on a level with this man, although he was aware that Freeman was several inches taller than he was.
“Credit me with a little intelligence, Colonel,” he replied mildly. “I am a psychologist, a psychiatrist, and the best interrogator SHADO has. I know what you want and why you walked in here. Your relationship with Commander Straker has not worked out and now you are looking for something a little more casual. No strings attached. Is that not right?”
Looking across at the cool, maddeningly unshakeable figure, Freeman blinked in surprise, amazed by his confidence. “I won’t ask how you found that out.”
“I know everything that goes on in SHADO, Colonel, it’s my job. I would guess,” Jackson continued, pointing a long almost boneless finger at him, “that you saw poor lonely Jackson sitting there and thought, a-ha, he’ll do. Not that you knew if I would be interested.”
“If I hold possibilities, then you’re interested,” Freeman retorted.
“Nevertheless, you assume a lot.”
“But you’re not denying it.”
“Why should I?” Jackson smiled hollowly. “As you say, if I was not interested, I would not be here now. There is no doubt that it could be…. enjoyable. Is that what you want?”
For the first time, Freeman paused to consider just how far this might go. Was that what he really wanted, to take this strange intense man to his bed? He must have been mad to even think about it. The Doctor was a complete mystery to him, and always in his presence, Freeman got the impression that he was very, very dangerous.
“You make it sound cold,” he said.
Jackson frowned. “That is because I am cold, Colonel. There is no room in my life for emotion.” For a moment he remembered back to a time when it had not been so, but that had been another country, far away, and many years ago, before death had touched him and he discovered how beautiful coldness was.
“You didn’t answer me,” he pressed. “Is that what you want?”
Freeman paused before answering.
“Yeah, that’s about it. Something casual. I don’t want to use you, if that’s what you think.”
“Is that so,” Jackson mocked.
“Stop it,” Freeman flared angrily, suddenly regretting that he had started this. “I’m not some bloody experiment, stop analysing me. I’m not here to be interrogated.”
The grey eyes studied him steadily for a moment and then Jackson nodded slowly.
“You’re right. I’m sorry,” he murmured to Freeman’s amazement and leaned his head back against the cabinet, staring out at nothing.
“It’s late, Colonel, and I’m tired. I am going home.”
Remembering how the sight of the lonely figure had drawn him and the hunger the man aroused within, Freeman came close and laid a softly restraining hand on the thin arm, regretting no longer.
“True,” Jackson acknowledged, with a sidelong glance. “What are you offering?”
Freeman gave a small shrug. “Whatever you’ll accept. A welcome, if you’ll have nothing more.”
“And your bed – is that welcome to me?”
“It must be, or I wouldn’t be here,” Freeman echoed the Doctor’s earlier phrase and earned a weary smile.
“Then let us go. I am tired of today, Alec. I had thought myself beyond pain, but even I can be surprised, it seems.”
In his mind were thoughts of Alexei and how he must have died, his heart ripped out of his body to sustain an alien life. The alien that he had examined today.
He was favoured with an odd look, but Freeman did not question him further.
“I’ll drive. You look half dead.”
“Maybe I am,” he murmured, as he tidied the reports on his desk, wondering what another psychologist would make of that remark, not that it really mattered. He had been robbed of everything – Alexei, his humanity, even his ability to care. What was left other than the here and now?
He looked up at Freeman, reading the intent in his blue eyes and warmed to it. Oh yes, it might just be very good indeed.
He smiled, a crooked smile that changed his gaunt face into something impishly different.
“You are sure about this? I do not seem to be the best of company tonight.”
Freeman’s attractive grin surfaced in answer. “I’m no psychologist, but I may just have a cure.”
“What’s that?” he asked curiously.
“Wait and see, but I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.”
They were out of the door before Jackson noted mildly. “I said that you were arrogant about your sexuality, didn’t I.”
But it was Freeman who got the last word.
“With very good reason, sunshine,” he announced softly. “With very good reason.”
It did not take them long to reach his flat. They had driven there in silence. Jackson was quiet and seemed to be brooding about something and he guessed that it had something to do with the report that had shocked him so much.
Earlier, while sitting through the seemingly interminable wait before Straker had been found and Moonbase had contacted them, Freeman had ordered full security reports on the last two names on the list. All he had to do after that was wait twenty four hours for them to come through, then maybe his curiosity would be satisfied,
It was quite late by the time he pushed open the door to his flat and stood aside for Jackson to enter first. Once inside, Freeman lit only a small side lamp. It made the room subtle and shadowy.
“This is nice,” Jackson noted approvingly, his grey eyes everywhere, measuring, analysing. “And very Alec Freeman.”
He chuckled lowly. “Tell me what that is.”
“Sophisticated and comfortable,” came the immediate answer, as hands in pockets, Jackson walked slowly round the room. “Tasteful, but typical of a military man, there is little personal here.”
“Is that still the psychologist’s opinion?”
“Of course. That was what you wanted, whether you will admit it or not. I like it though, if that matters to you.”
Strangely, it did.