Chapter 28

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Chapter 28

Damn! Petrov was still on duty!  As much as he was prepared to openly declare his involvement with him, work was not the place for personal encounters.  Reluctantly Shehu sent Petrov a message on his wristcom.  “I need to see you.  Please.  Your quarters or mine? Leo.”

Petrov read the message a couple of times. Finally!  He was still inwardly fuming, but at least the other man had said ‘please’.  He checked the time and discovered that Shehu was due to have his bout with the Captain in the gym within the hour.  Perhaps he could catch up with him after that, there wasn’t time beforehand, not for the conversation he intended to have.

He sent a terse reply. “My quarters. After your fight.”

He didn’t know if he wanted to watch the two men have their grudge match or not.  Although he could understand the motivation behind it all too well, he didn’t want to be seen as a piece of meat they were fighting over.

Neither Farrell nor Shehu had advertised the match, the Captain attempting to treat it as one of his normal rounds with one of the crew, but somehow the word had got out and there was a large crowd in the gym waiting for them.  Of course it was a long time since he had had a practice match with the Captain so that could be the reason for the unusual interest, but there were enough speculative looks cast at Shehu for him to guess the word about his sexuality was spreading fast.  He cast a searching look around the gym but couldn’t see any sign of Petrov.

The Captain had chosen an ancient style of fighting called Gungfu, still one of the basics required by the Academy, along with judo and wrestling.  It was the Captain’s favourite sport, although Muay was similar enough thought Shehu, for him to be competitive. They warmed up with a series of exercises, watched closely by Chief Medic Norton, a keen exponent of the sport who had offered to referee.

Each wore a black shirt and trousers, loosely fitted to allow freedom of movement.  Because this was a demonstration bout they were barefooted, their light onboard boots put to one side. After the initial formal acknowledgement of each other, both men exploded in a flurry of blows and blocks.  Two whirlwinds of feet and arms.  Evenly matched.

Petrov hadn’t been able to stay away any longer.  He tried to slip unobtrusively in at the back, but Nguyen saw him and gestured for him to join him near the front of the crowd.  A couple of crewmen gave him an odd look as they parted to let him through, but he put it down to annoyance that he was disrupting their view.

God they were fast.  It was his first thought as he saw the two men on the mat.  He supposed some men would think it was hot, the two most powerful men on the ship fighting over him, idiots!   But if he was being honest, if there hadn’t been that undertone of strong emotion behind the match, he would have enjoyed it.  Especially if, instead of those shirts and trousers, they had chosen to wear tiny shorts, all that naked, glistening muscle would have been worth a week’s wages.

Petrov winced as Shehu caught a glancing blow to his right cheek.  He shook it off and responded with a kick to Farrell’s thigh, almost faster than the eye could see. Strike. Block. Kick. Arms and feet were a blur of movement.  Petrov found himself holding his breath, he didn’t care who won, he just wanted no one to get seriously hurt.

Sweat was pouring off both men, surely they must be tiring.  Then Farrell stepped forward with his right foot, his left arm fending off the other man and brought the back of his fist up hard against Shehu’s temple, just pulling it at the last second.  Even so, Shehu fell straight to the ground and suddenly the fight was over. There was an audible gasp from the crew and then total silence, you could have heard a pin drop.  Petrov’s heart stopped in his chest, he knew that could be a killing blow if delivered hard enough.  Had the Captain resented Shehu enough to kill him?

Norton knelt down immediately.  He had seen the Captain pull back on the punch but it was still a risky blow.

“Don’t anyone try that move unless you are at Black belt level,” he instructed calmly as he checked Shehu’s vital signs.  He looked up.

“The Lieutenant’s going to have a nasty headache but he’ll be fine,” he announced, trying to disguise his relief.

Petrov wasn’t convinced.

Shehu groaned and opened his eyes.  He looked up at Farrell, staring down at him with guilty apology.  “Remind me never to make you mad at me,” he joked.

A ripple of relieved laughter broke out around the gym.  Many of the men were still shocked by what they thought had happened.

“Give me a hand up, would you?” Shehu asked, continuing to defuse the tension.  The Captain glanced at Norton for permission to move him, then leant down and helped Shehu carefully to his feet.  He lifted his right arm over his own shoulders, and put one arm around his waist, drawing him firmly against his side, holding him up.  He must have touched Shehu before but this time, knowing he was an om, sent a shiver of awareness through him.  It was not that he was attracted to him of course, just that he was aware of him, his smell, his skin where his shirt had ridden up at the side.  It was extremely disconcerting.  He couldn’t help wondering if Shehu was having the same reaction.

 “I think we’ll get Norton to check you out, just to be safe,” he spoke for the first time, breaking the spell.

“I’m fine,” protested Shehu, “Nothing an hour or so’s rest won’t fix.”  But both men overrode him and he was whisked off to the infirmary.

Petrov sat down rather suddenly, he felt quite giddy.

XXX

Petrov went to see Shehu in the infirmary.  Chief Medic Norton said he wanted to keep him overnight for observation.

Shehu gave him a tentative smile.  “I was hoping you’d come.”  He didn’t even bother to check if anyone else was listening before he continued.  “I’m really sorry!  I know I should have trusted you but I just ... lost it, I completely lost it.”  He reached out his hand to Petrov.

Petrov looked around uncertainly, hesitating.  What if someone came in and saw them?

“It’s alright.  I’ve gone public,” Shehu explained. “I’ve told Norton I’m an om.  In fact I’ve told Eriksen and Nguyen as well.”  He was still gazing at Petrov, waiting for his response.

“You’ve what?”  The other man couldn’t believe it.

“I’ve gone public,” Shehu repeated hopefully. “I thought, if I wanted a relationship with you I should be prepared to be open about it.  I wasn’t being fair, expecting you to creep around.”  His hand was still waiting for Petrov’s.  “And I do, want a relationship with you, that is.  If you can forgive me?”

Petrov took Shehu’s hand in his.  “I’m thinking about it,” he frowned repressively.

Shehu began stroking his palm with small circles of his thumb.  “Norton says I could go back to my quarters now.  If there was someone prepared to keep an eye on me, that is.”

Petrov’s heart started beating a little faster.  Was it really possible?  Could they go back to Shehu’s quarters openly, and spend the whole night together?

“What about the Captain?” he couldn’t help asking.

“I think we’ll leave him out of it,” replied Shehu firmly.  “This is between you and me.”

Petrov smiled. “In that case, yes.  I’d be happy to keep an eye on you.”  He leant over to whisper in his ear.  “I’ve thought of five different ways for you to apologise.”

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