By Christina Moore
As he walked to his destination, Jordan Kelley had a lot on his mind.
There were, of course, fleeting thoughts on all the repairs still yet to be done to the station’s weapons systems. He had a few thoughts about the alleged saboteur and wondered whether or not the weapons systems were going to be hit again. He wondered what trickery the saboteur had planned next, wondered what his motive was (though he could hazard a guess), and wondered when the hell he was going to be caught.
He understood why Counselor Roijiana was a suspect—she had, after all, defected to the Maquis. The Maquis had been all about fighting the Cardassians and their attempts to repossess their homes, and there were a lot of people on this station who weren’t happy that Starfleet and the Cardassians were being forced to work together. But he didn’t think it was her. There was something… While women were certainly capable of committing acts of sabotage, something about the whole situation just made him sure in his gut that the perpetrator was male.
Kelley also had two particular people on his mind. Felicity Bowman was young and bright and had a stellar career ahead of her in Starfleet. She was gifted and intelligent, and yeah, she was a pretty girl. But she was a girl, as in far too young for him. Even if he had liked women in that way, he didn’t think he could ever date a woman sixteen years his junior. Felicity needed to get over her crush on him and find someone her own age, or at least closer in age than he was.
Transferring to the station was not going to help her at all. If he were honest with himself, he’d been looking forward to the day Captain Wallace recalled her and she was here less often, because then he might not have to actually speak to her about her feelings for him and how he simply didn’t return them. How he couldn’t. He truly hoped she had not requested this transfer in order to be close to him, because that would indicate an unhealthy mentality on her part, and he’d feel like an ass if he was the cause of her—of anyone—becoming unbalanced.
But even when he’d had the opportunity to prevent her staying permanently, he’d been unable to go through with it. It would not have been decent or fair of him to block her transfer just because he wanted to get rid of her, because he hadn’t the stones to confront her and tell her that while he liked her as a person and enjoyed working with her, there was nothing else between them and never would be. For a tactician—a man trained to think in strategies, ways to get into and out of bad situations—he just didn’t like to hurt people. And he knew that telling Felicity he didn’t share her feelings was going to hurt. She was young, though. He kept telling himself she’d get over it quickly enough, but he still hadn’t done what he knew needed to be done.
And then there was Rogan Enek. Rogan had come to Sanctuary on temporary assignment just like Felicity, looking for ways to keep his hands and his mind busy while he waited for his true assignment to begin. He was the first officer of the Excelsior-class U.S.S. Trident, which would be departing Sanctuary in just under twenty hours.
This one, the one who could not stay, was the one he didn’t want to leave.
He sighed heavily, and then suddenly chuckled as he realized he was no better off than Ensign Bowman. Here he was, a man of nearly thirty-eight years, and he could not bring himself to tell the person he liked that he liked him. He didn’t have to be afraid that Rogan would reject him due to differing sexual preferences, as they’d each already admitted that they preferred the company of men.
The problem was that was all they’d admitted. In the two weeks since their mutual confessions, they’d had a couple of conversations wherein both had lamented how hard it was to find someone who they could really connect with. With the war going on it hadn’t seemed important to find a partner—keeping yourself and your comrades alive was what had mattered most. Now that the war was over? Well, now was the time to find someone to share his relief with, his joy that he was still alive and that peace had been restored to the quadrant at last, however tenuous it might be.
Kelley had the feeling that he’d found that person in Rogan. That he was nine years younger and of a different species didn’t matter. Nine years was better than sixteen, and the three hundred thirteen years since First Contact had already proven that love knew no species boundary. Plus, he and Rogan had a lot in common. They were both trained security officers. Both tall, muscled, skilled hand-to-hand fighters. They both knew weapons and defensive tactics. They both knew what it took to keep the people they worked with safe and they were damn good at making sure they stayed that way.
But they were friends before they were anything else, and even though some of the best relationships in history had been founded on deep friendship, Kelley just didn’t want to screw this one up. What if he told Rogan and Rogan said he wasn’t interested? Or what if he admitted how he felt and they got together but it didn’t work out? Sure, they’d be spared the awkwardness of having to continue working together in spite of the failure, but then he’d still have lost a good friend, someone he cared about.
And really, what was the point of saying anything anyway? He was going to be gone by this time tomorrow. Yeah, Trident was part of Admiral Tattok’s fleet and was technically based out of Sanctuary, but how often were they really going to be there? The Triumph, still the station’s primary defense until they got the damned weapons sails in working order, wasn’t even at “home” all the time. If Rogan would hardly ever be at Sanctuary, then how would they maintain a relationship? How the hell did any officer whose spouse, partner, or significant other served on another ship or starbase keep the relationship alive?
Jordan stifled a groan as he rounded a bend in the corridor and caught sight of the man he was thinking about. Rogan was half in, half out of an actuator tower for the lower half of weapons sail three. His jacket had been discarded and lay in a crumpled heap on the floor next to a piece of equipment that had obviously seen better days. The sound of Rogan’s native language floated out of the opening into which he was planted, and Kelley had no doubt he was cursing up a storm—he’d let fly enough of his own profane rants since the first day he’d set foot on this relic to recognize when somebody was speaking obscenities.
At the sound of his approach, Rogan ducked his head out and looked over his shoulder, and for just a moment, Kelley could have sworn he looked happy to see him.
“Man, I hope you’ve got some time to spare, ‘cause I sure as hell don’t,” Rogan said.
Kelley started. “What do you mean?”
The Bajoran backed out of the hole and turned to face him, showing that he’d rolled up his sleeves and drawn the zipper down on his uniform shirt. “Because this damn thing needs another five or six hours of work and I’ve only got two left.”
“But Trident’s not scheduled for departure until tomorrow,” Kelley protested.
“Yeah, I’m aware of that. But Captain Kimura wants me onboard early to get acquainted with the crew and the ship,” the younger man replied.
“Shit.” Kelley swallowed, forcing himself to remain calm. “Well, I guess I see her point.”
“I do too,” Rogan said. “But I’m not ready yet. I still have stuff to do here.”
Kelley’s blood rushed through his veins, and he realized he was feeling a little lost—feeling desperate. Feeling like there was nothing else for him to do but help Rogan finish fixing the actuator so he could get to his ship on time.
I am so pathetic, he thought miserably. A month he’s been here, a month in which I could have told him at any time that I really like him, and now that he’s about to walk away, I still don’t have the nerve to open my mouth and speak.
With a heavy sigh, Kelley unzipped and shrugged out of his own jacket, dropping it on the floor next to Rogan’s. He rolled up his sleeves and moved forward, saying, “Well, let’s get this thing done so you’ve got time to take a shower before you leave.”
As he bent down to pick up one of the new isolinear rods waiting to be installed, Kelley missed the torn expression that crossed Rogan’s features. By the time he had straightened, his friend’s face had become a mask of resignation not unlike his own.