Raise The Stakes, Event File 02

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   Event File 2

File Tag: R&R

Timestamp: 12:00-2-23-2156

They rolled Aidan’s bed into the recovery ward around lunch the next day. He didn’t feel all that into food, but he managed to get a nutrient shake down. He was happy when they left him alone to sleep.

Kevin was across the room chatting with the surgeon when he woke again. A man with a cast on one arm, skin peeling from a truly vicious sunburn across his face, and a handful of IV’s going into the other arm nodded amicably at him from the next bed over.

“Shrapnel, man? That’s what I heard. Me too, sucks balls donnit? Name’s Jack.”  

Aidan nodded, lying easily about the reason he was in recovery. He watched as the surgeon showed his boyfriend a few arm movements.

Ah crap, he’s learning my PT regimen. Now he’ll bug me about it.

Realizing that he was being rude, he gave his neighbor a smile. “Aidan,” he replied, glad to interact without rank for a little while. “And yeah, shrapnel. It’s a bitch.”

The wounded man glanced the way Aidan had been looking. “Yeah,” he muttered in an undertone, “I been watching that guy too. Officer off one of the lowland bases is what I heard. Call me crazy, but he almost looks—” his voice dropped to a grating whisper, “—almost Citizen Excellent, you think?”
Aidan shook his head, smiling. “Chill. He’s a guy off my base. And he’s not CES.”

The other patient gave him the fish eye. “You sure? Sure looks high-standing.”

Aidan shrugged. “Nah. I know him. He’s not CES. Just good-looking.” That was true as far as it went. Kevin was definitely not Citizen Excellent Standing, though he had been born into that class. But this guy didn’t need to know that.

The man shrugged and started to stretch, then cried out. Holos fizzed into life around his bed with warnings reminding the patient that moving was a bad idea.  The surgeon was at his bed a moment later. “What is it with you logistics and requisitions guys? You really can’t sit still.”
Jack shrugged ruefully. “Sorry, doc. Tell me I get to eat a real lunch?”
“Yes, you get to eat a real lunch,” Surgeon Lawston replied with a wry smile, “but you’re going to do it in here. Food cart will be in soon.”                                                                                                                  

She glanced at Aidan, and her smile grew a little more gentle. “You’re in shape to have a real dinner tonight, by the way. No more nutrient shakes.”
“Hallelujah.” Kevin added behind her, smiling softly.
When the surgeon had gone, Kevin grabbed a spare chair and dropped easily into it beside Aidan’s bed.

 “The surgeon has some stretches she wants you doing right away to make sure those tissues stay supple; she walked me through it. So, what did Hall have for you?”

Aidan drew a finger across his throat in a kill-this gesture. Kevin blinked, then nodded.
“Oh, on the subject of having something for you—” Digging in his pocket, he extracted two thin wafers of black plastic. Passing Aidan his data tab, Kevin tapped his own. The holographic screen fizzed into life in the air above the tab, which Kevin laid on his lap and used as a keyboard. He drew a deliberate line upwards in the air above the screen with a forefinger, and the hologram resettled itself at his eye-level.

Aidan’s tab blipped, and the holographic screen slid smoothly into the air in front of him, the keyboard projected on the device screen outlining his fingers in light. Kevin laid a pair of ‘buds in his lap.                                                                              

“I’m syncing you with an audio book,” the logistics officer remarked, “you’re going to love this. Two famous authors did this one together, and it’s hilarious. It’s about an angel and a demon trying to stop the Apocalypse.  We’ll play this new Battleship program—I finally got it to start working—and enjoy the story, shall we?”
Aidan gave him a sidelong grin, grabbing the distraction with both hands. “Kev? How old’s the book? More important, how old’s the game?”
Kevin blushed. Aidan had found out the man’s skin was gene-modified to produce its own sunscreen, and it really showed when he blushed; he looked like he had a warning beacon on each cheek as he spluttered. 

“Oh come now Aidan, it’s—”
“How old?” Aidan prodded.
“A hundred and sixty for the book and a hundred seventy-five for the game. At best guess. It may be older,” the redhead muttered eventually. 

Aidan rolled his eyes, a smile tugging at his lips. “Knew it’d be something like that. Where’d you even dig up the rules for a two-hundred year old game to use for the program?

Kevin shrugged, wearing that eager little smile he always had when he’d found some ancient thing. “I’ve got my sources. And I’ve been wanting to test this game against a live opponent for a while. Please?”
Aidan chuckled. “If it’s as bad as that Oklahoma thing was, I’m giving you shit.”

“And the Pope’s a Catholic.” Kevin grumbled good-naturedly. Aidan wasn’t sure what that was supposed to mean, so he let it slide.

The earbuds muted the sounds of the medical bay, closing him in a cocoon of quiet with the story for company. Kevin was right: it was a nice way to spend time.

A holographic window of blue appeared in front of his main screen, and 3-D images of a bunch of old-fashioned ships floated in the air beside it. Following the instructions, Aidan chose places for all of them and hit ‘play’. 

A miniature explosion symbol immediately filled one of the blue dots on a little two-dot ship. A second one followed. The image of the ship broke in half and sank.

Five minutes into the game, a side window floated up to his eye-level, showing a private message.                                                                     

Shall we talk about the conversation you had with Hall like this? You’re looking a little nervous. 

A little nervous. Was that ever an understatement. Aidan typed quickly in reply, half trying to figure out where he should drop his next bomb. He’d tried the two top rows already.

Better not. We’ll talk at home. 

In fact, they both needed to get off the subject of the insanity Hall had dropped on their plate. Aidan turned to a smaller worry instead as the audio book introduced an angel and a snake. 

You and Damian are sure the records on our base look legit, right? 

Finally, he scored a point. Now he had to decide: was Kevin’s ship going across, or down? 

Kevin read, sighed quietly, and typed. Another one of Aidan’s ships sank on the game screen, and a message popped up.

         Yes, the records show you coming up here for a routine gallbladder surgery. We used your serial number rather than your name and rank to get you this slot, so the records won’t sync. Commander Magnum signed off on it, with Commander Hall’s approval. It’ll never appear in the official record at 1407. Cross my heart.

Kevin glanced up, caught his eye and smiled gently as he typed.

But you know our crew wouldn’t care in the slightest if they did find out. In fact, life might be easier if you let them know about you. It would let you relax.

Aidan’s gut clenched. So much for getting off onto an easier subject.

Another one of his ships sank, one of the long thin ones. Kevin was kicking his ass at this game.

Carefully, he typed.

I know you’re probably right. I’m probably being a chickenshit. We could probably talk about it out loud here and nobody would care. But I need some more time before I go there. Okay?

Kevin raised his eyes, holding Aidan’s for a few heartbeats. He typed something, then bit his lip. He erased what he’d been typing, wrote something else. The message popped up for Aidan to read.

Well, when you’re ready let us know. Damian and I will keep it under our hats until then.

Kevin shot him a sly smile as he typed.

Besides, I rather like typing clandestine messages with you. Takes me back to our first proper conversation. Me, you, a nice quiet corner…

Aidan smiled as the quiet British-accented words of the book filled his ears. He typed.

Yeah, and a drone over our heads ready to drop a bomb if we made a sound.

Kevin shrugged, winked, and typed.

Danger adds spice to romance, they say.

Aidan rolled his eyes, lips quirking crookedly. Glancing at Kevin, he typed a few words.

Thanks, Kev.   

Kevin reached over and laid his hand on Aidan’s. It wasn’t the smartest thing to do in an open ward with company they weren’t sure of. Even in the Dust, there were people who had problems with anyone outside their version of ‘normal’. His own father had been proof of that.

 But the touch was what he needed if he was going to forget how deep in the shit they were, for now. So he didn’t pull away as Kevin typed one-handed. 

Any time, love. Oh, by the way. I think the character of Crowley was my first crush. I assume you’d like to know about the competition.  

The goofball added a gif of two cats snuggling after that. Aidan rolled his eyes. He typed for a moment.                                                          

You geek.

Grinning, Kevin shrugged. “Oh, and your last battleship just sunk.”

Aidan glanced at the screen. “Damn it!”

 

By the time they rolled into their own base on the 28th, Aidan was feeling more energetic than he had since his op. He waved at Dozer and Topher as they walked inside. Topher grinned and dropped his oily rag, making his superior’s diagnostic holos blip and shudder in the air as he jogged through them.  He was halfway through clapping Aidan on the back when Kevin gently caught the boy’s wrist. One copper brow quirked up.
“Surgery, Topher.”
“Shit, sorry,” the skinny young man groaned. He mimed smacking himself on the forehead, disarranging the bandanna holding his black hair back as he grinned at Aidan.

“It’s good to have you back man. Liza about had a cow yesterday.” The boy grabbed Aidan’s hand and shook it instead, then froze again. “Shit, was that okay?
Aidan couldn’t help but give the junior transport specialist a smile. “No worries, they worked on my guts, not my arm. It’s good to be home. Anybody get in trouble?”
Topher shrugged. “Just Laz.”
“Topher! Ratchet!” Dozer called under the truck he was working on. Topher shot Aidan a last quick grin and a casual salute, jogging back to his officer’s side. 

                                                            

The two returning officers had barely stepped into the hall when Lazarus caught sight of them and hurried over, wearing a huge grin and a gorgeous black eye.
“Hey guys, thank god you’re back!” Lazarus remarked when he drew level. 

Kevin pointedly gave him a look from straw-blonde hair to scuffed boots, smiling thinly. “Hello to you too. What happened to you?”
“Eh.” The munitions officer grinned shamefacedly, shrugging. “I kinda tried to prank Janice. Stuck a can of expanding foam in one of her water quality check valves so that it would hit the water when she opened it and started expanding and…yeah well. I didn’t check the water temp. Can expanded in my face, basically.” he gestured at his eye. 

Kevin stared at Lazarus. Then he took off his glasses and covered his face with one hand. “Laz,” he sighed, “sometimes your stupidity reaches levels of absolute perfection, you know that?”
“Yeah…” Lazarus agreed shamefacedly.

Aidan blinked at his munitions officer for a long moment. He’d tried to prank their hydroelectrics officer. The toughest, most badass woman Aidan had ever met. Never mind the fact that she’d helped bring the munitions officer up; about the only reason Laz was alive was the fact that his stunt hadn’t actually gone the way he’d planned. If it had, Aidan was pretty sure Janice would’ve cracked the guy’s skull with a wrench. 

“You do know that being named ‘Lazarus’ won’t save you, do you?” Kevin continued in that tone that made him sound like a pissed off teacher. Laz rolled his eyes. “Only got the middle name ‘cause I lived through a bombing on my first day alive. Get off my ass Kev, it was just pranking Janice.”

“Just?” Kevin exclaimed.

Aidan settled for allowing himself to laugh. “I guess any discipline I could dole out would be nothing compared to what Janice already gave you…”
“Yeah, Aidan. She’s scarier’n you.” Lazarus agreed, shrugging. “Liza wrote me up?” he added, as if that made it okay.                                                                            

Aidan bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing about that. When he got himself under control again, he said, “Well, at least someone remembers how to do their job when I’m not here.”
“Oh, she does.” Lazarus agreed with a roll of the eyes. “Trust me.”


A half-joking cheer sounded when Aidan walked into breakfast. Liza smiled wearily as he sat down.
“Good to have you back,” the personnel officer remarked, her severe face softened with a smile. “I have a disciplinary write-up to turn into you Commander. Laz—”
“We heard,” Aidan interjected. 

His second in command sighed deeply. “At least he was the only one who started crap this time,” she muttered in resignation. Sitting on her left, Sarah and Yvonne shared a grin that made Aidan wonder about that.

  It was surprisingly good to eat breakfast in his own canteen with his own crew again; Aidan hadn’t realized just how much he’d gotten used to the cheerful Wildcards banter in the last nine months. 

Over the meal, Damian’s black cybernetic eyes caught his, glittering.
“Let’s do a clinic check before you get back to work,” the doctor stated, “I want to see if I’ve got anyone to pick a bone with at Regional.”

 

Damian closed the door of his examination room and turned to Aidan half an hour later. “Okay, strip and let’s see how things are going.” 

Aidan took a deep breath and nodded. He turned away out of habit to unbutton his pants, tug off his jacket and shirt. He turned back and hoisted himself onto the exam table, glancing at the skin of his chest through the clear plastic of the epithelial auto-pad. The incisions were barely visible anymore.
Carefully, Damian pulled on surgical gloves and detached the three simple auto-pads, peeling them back. Underneath, healthy skin barely showed a sign of its new growth.

 Damian checked over the sites carefully, using an electrometer to check the signals the nerves were sending as the doctor’s fingers prodded the skin. “Okay, full innervation, the nipples reattached fine, and everything’s good on the muscle reconstruction. How’s the pain level?” he asked after a moment, looking up to gauge Aidan’s reaction. His black plastic eyes reflected the overhead lights.
Aidan released the breath he’d been holding. He’d half-expected to hear that something wasn’t healing right. He gave Damian a genuine smile. “Feels great, honestly. Still a little sore, but that’s PT more than anything, I bet.”
“You’re actually doing the PT, I’m impressed.” Damian remarked dryly. 

Aidan rolled his eyes. “Kev won’t let up on it. Keeps making me run through exercises.” Damian gave a bark of laughter. “Well at least he cares when it’s your health. Medically you’re all set. Aside from the twinges, how’s it feeling? Doesn’t have to be physical.”

Aidan couldn’t hold back his grin. “Really great.” 

Slowly, Damian nodded. “All right then. And you ought to have fewer mood issues, now that the feminizing glands are removed and you’ve got fewer conflicting signals going through your brain. That doesn’t mean get lazy about monitoring yourself.” he added, pointing one knobbly finger at Aidan. “But it does mean things should get steadier. Other than that, we’re done here. Got any questions?”

Aidan grabbed his shirt. “Any activities I should still stay away from, or am I cleared for going back to normal?”
“Don’t start lifting more than fifty pounds or running marathons for another week. But yes. For everything else, you’re clear. Including the bedroom.” Damian agreed, his lips quirking at the corners. “Be honest, that’s what you meant.”

Aidan laughed as he wriggled into his shirt. The fabric felt rough against his tender chest, but it was oddly exhilarating. All he needed was a shirt. He didn’t have to wear the binder any more. 

He zipped his pants up. “Yeah well, I gotta keep Kev in a good mood one way or another. Part of my duty’s keeping morale up, right?”
Damian shook his shaved head, working to repress a smile. “Go do your job, Headly.”

 


That night Aidan spent way too long in the shower, admiring the work that had been done on his body.  He looked so much more right this way. And they’d cut the three planned surgical dates down to two with all the specialists up at Regional, which was a bonus.

Things weren’t perfect, not yet. But the final bottom surgery was going to take some time to organize. Right now, that didn’t feel so bad: he and Kevin could use a prosthetic in bed for a while longer. Living in a body that was so much closer to right was good enough, for now. 

Assuming Janice let him live after he’d spent more than fifteen damn minutes in the shower, wasting her water. “Crap,” he whispered when his eye caught the hygiene room clock above the thin slat of a stall door. He hastily shut the spigot down.

He toweled off and pulled his clothes from the wash-dry unit that had used the water he had been washing with to clean his clothes before it was sent into the water-recycling system. Even getting dressed was easier now. No more damn binder to make getting dressed a fight. 

Stepping into the room that had been Kevin’s and was theirs now, he smiled broadly. “Hey.”
Kevin sat up from his reading slouch on the bed with a smile, the light from the holo on the wall catching in his hair. “Hey yourself. So, what’s the verdict from The Lord of Intimidation?”
“Well, I’m not allowed to run marathons.” Aidan laughed, shutting the door behind him. He crossed the room and leaned down to kiss Kevin.
He’d intended to jump right into a talk about the new mission. But the kiss decided him. They couldn’t do much work this late. All he’d manage to do was freak them both out.
He’d take one night to enjoy this. One night for some fun. Tomorrow he’d break the news.
“Who said anything about running?” Kevin asked with mischief in his voice when Aidan let him up for air, grey eyes dancing. “We can have a perfectly good marathon without leaving the bedroom.” Reaching up, he ran his hand through Aidan’s damp hair, trailing it down and across Aidan’s chest. “Speaking of that, let’s have this shirt off.”

Aidan’s breath caught at Kevin’s touch, nervous tension spiking through him. Would Kevin be okay with the way he looked?
It was a completely stupid question, and he knew it. Kevin had seen his chest immediately after surgery. Hell, the guy had seen him with breasts. Why would this be any different? 

Forcing down the nerves, he kissed Kevin again before pulling away to grab the hem of his shirt. He half-expected to get caught in it, but it slid off smoothly. He stood awkwardly in front of his boyfriend, wishing he didn’t feel so unsure. 

“Um. What do you think?” 

Standing, Kevin looked him over with soft eyes. Then he stepped in and tipped his head down for a kiss.
“I think I love you.”

Aidan smiled, letting out a breath as the tension in his gut eased. “I love you, too.” 

Kevin’s kisses were long and slow.
“Now that your shirt’s off,” Kevin whispered against his skin, making his pulse jump. But the brat finished the sentence with, “let’s see how your arm rotations are shaping up. And you need to stretch your pectorals.”
Aidan groaned. “You’re going to make me do PT now? Kev!”
Kevin tipped his head up, adopting his teasing-haughty expression. “Yes, yes I am. The surgeon told me that I was your PT coach, and I take my duties very seriously sir,” he agreed in his most sanctimonious tones. “It’s for your own good. Besides, God forbid I take advantage of the feeble and convalescing.” He crossed himself, lips twitching with a repressed smile.                                                                                                              

Aidan crossed his arms, playing along with a glare. “I’m looking forward to healing enough that ‘fuck you’ is taken literally. Because fuck you, Kev.”
Kevin burst out laughing, tipping his head back. “Well fuck you too then.” he murmured, leaning in for another kiss.

Once the goddamned PT was over, it was going to be a good night.

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