The theme for today is departures, and I’m posting a scene from one of my m/m romances, Fallen Idol.
FALLEN IDOL by Shelley Munro
Rafi made it back to the spaceport with five minutes to spare. He paid the cab driver and sprinted for the ship, trying to ignore the throb in his leg. Barker would look at the injury once they were safely en route for Patigous.
“About time,” Henry snapped. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” He turned away to seal the door before nailing Rafi with a glare. “We don’t need any more crew on this voyage. They’re only teenagers. And where’s your shirt? Aw, man. You stink. Whatcha been doing? Rolling around in the drains?”
Rafi ignored the comments about his appearance. Teenagers? That old? It was better than he’d thought.
He’d had visions of the authorities charging him with child slavery or worse. He nodded at the grizzled male who had been with him from the start. “Yeah, I know they’re just kids. Long story. The shirt is in the story as well.” Now that he’d stopped his headlong rush, the pain seemed to have caught up with him. His leg throbbed, his shoulder ached where he’d scraped the skin off and his head hurt. “Where are they?”
“I told Mac to look after them. She’s a female. She knows about kids.”
Rafi snorted, trying to imagine the blonde temptress from Dalvine looking after the two street kids. She might look like centerfold material but all she really cared about was the spaceship and the engines that drove them. Fortunately for him, she was bloody good at her job. “Did you inform Mac she’s meant to know about kids?”
“Do I look stupid?” Henry’s grin bloomed to display a sapphire in his front tooth as he scrutinized Rafi carefully. They shared a knowing smirk. Mac was not a typical female. Henry’s humor faded, his brow crinkling in worry. “Hey, man, you okay? You don’t look so good.”
Rafi ignored the query, concentrating on more important things instead. He couldn’t believe he’d brought Bob and two street kids aboard the ship. The two street kids he could handle—he’d just delegate responsibility—but Bob was different. Bob had the ability to create turmoil. Hell, the man had him tied in knots of confusion already. And worse, it was difficult to reconcile the yearning inside with Bob’s physical appearance. Rafi swallowed and glanced at his second-in-command. “How’s Bob?”
Henry rolled his eyes in clear contempt. “The whale?”
“He’s my friend,” Rafi snapped, drawing up tall and threatening. Regret followed immediately since the movement stretched his thigh and hurt like a bitch. Rafi relaxed his body deliberately but his glare was designed to make Henry back down. “He’s going through a rough patch. He used to do well on the sex circuit. Bob has won lots of competitions.”
“Sorry,” Henry said, holding his hands up in a sign of surrender and apology. “We should be used to your strays by now. He’s going to be okay. Barker took care of him. Said he’s going to heal up fine. He’s in your berth, strapped in, ready for takeoff. I think Barker gave him something to knock him out because he’d started shrieking like a baby.”
Rafi swallowed and tried not to think about Bob lying in his bed. His berth was Spartan with not much in the way of personal touches, not that it usually mattered since Rafi spent most of his time up on the bridge or in the recreation room with his crew. Having Bob around was going to make his life difficult. Rafi pictured Bob as he used to be, regret at the forefront of his mind. Thoughts of Bob’s current appearance blotted out everything good. Difficult? Hell, make that impossible. “Where is Barker now?”
“Getting ready for takeoff,” Henry said.
Rafi nodded. “I’d better head up to the bridge now.” Damn, his thigh was hurting. It throbbed with each stride he took and he also gagged at the stench coming from his body. Too bad. Both a bath and medical attention would have to wait until they were out of Earth’s atmosphere and safely on autopilot. He headed down the short and narrow passage toward the bridge, limping as fast as he could. Beneath his feet, he could feel the rumble of the ship’s engine. The smooth purr was a credit to Mac, their engineer. Rafi grinned. Those two street kids would be driving her nuts.
“Captain. ‘Bout time you arrived.” Mac scowled at him. “You almost made us lose our slot. Where is your shirt?” Her dark stormy eyes said a lot more and Rafi knew he was in for a tongue-lashing later on once the complexities of liftoff were out of the way. “You look like you’ve been rolling around the gutter with all that muck on you and the torn trews.” Her perfect nose wrinkled. “You honk like a pack of dog-rats.”
“Sorry. It’s a long story. Plenty of time for that later.”
Barker and Mac were at their stations when Rafi slipped into the pilot’s seat. Everything looked set for takeoff. Mac had the two street kids strapped into the spare seats on the far side of the bridge. Wide-eyed and unable to hide their excitement, they gaped at the black and silver interior of the bridge. Colored lights flashed on the console. Henry communicated with traffic control and each member of the crew went through final preparations for takeoff. A huge porthole filled the area in front of the bridge, giving a view out over the busy spaceport. Henry slid into the copilot seat beside him and patched through to main control. The two kids took in everything, reminding Rafi of his first voyage into space, the exhilaration, the excitement and knowledge that this was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. It didn’t seem to bother the kids that they had no luggage or were with people they didn’t know. They seemed to trust him—another weighty responsibility he wasn’t sure he wanted.
Mac increased the power of the engines and after the last muffled instructions from control they soared upward into the Earth’s atmosphere. They shot through fluffy white clouds, continuing upward at a steep incline. In a short time, the color of the sky darkened and they blasted out of the atmosphere into dark space.
“Wow!” one of the kids said.
Rafi smiled, trying hard to concentrate on the instruments. Difficult when his leg ached so badly. He scanned all the readings and nodded slightly when he saw everything was working smoothly. Not that he’d expected anything else since his crew was topnotch. The ship leveled out and they headed out on the flight path they’d filed.
“On to autopilot,” Henry said.
As one, the crew relaxed and soon banter filled the bridge.
“Hey, Barker,” Rafi called. “You got a minute?”
“Sure, Captain.” Barker was a fearsome sight—a huge bear of a man with a scar down his left cheek, but he was the best medic Rafi had ever met. Barker strode over to Rafi, his right eyebrow rising in a question.
“I took a gunshot to my thigh.”
Henry’s head whipped around. “Why didn’t you say so?”
Purchase Fallen Idol at Ellora’s Cave.
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