Reading Material
by Katta

Ford took the bedclothes off his bunk and flipped the mattress over. As he did so, something fell off his bunk and onto the floor. Ford looked down, and his puzzled glance froze into disbelief as he saw the cover of the magazine sprawled on the floor. Now, he knew for a fact he'd never bought that. So how had it ended up under his mattress?

There was only one answer that made any kind of sense, and Ford squared his jaw. He headed for the door, then looked down on the magazine in his hand and put it back under the mattress. He'd be damned if he wanted to parade around with a dirty magazine just because Krieg thought it was funny to play a trick on a superior officer.

Having stashed away the magazine, he left the room and started looking for Krieg. The damned lieutenant wasn't in his quarters or on the bridge or even in the mess hall, but finally Ford spotted him in one of the corridors.

"Krieg! Get over here!"

Krieg's head whipped around, and for a moment he looked like he was going to make a run for it, but then his shoulders fell down and he came over to Ford with an expression of defeat.

"I think I can guess what this is about," he said.

"Why the hell," hissed Ford, "did you put gay porn in my bed?"

"It seemed to enjoy the company," Krieg said quickly. His sudden smile died away as suddenly after a look at Ford's face. "Sorry. Actually, I bought it during shore leave -- you know in that little used book store near the Lebanese restaurant?"

"Krieg," Ford warned him.

"Yeah. Anyway. I was taking it back to my room, and then I saw doctor Westphalen in the corridor. I didn't want her to see it, so..."

"You hid it in my bed." Ford's voice was flat. He was trying very hard to keep his cool.

"I meant to pick it up again," Krieg assured him. "You just got there before I did."

"But why would she..." Ford felt an urge to strangle Krieg right there and then, but he forced himself to lower his voice, seeing how Hernandez was just passing them by in the corridor. "Nobody cares that you have dirty magazines, Krieg. Even with men in them."

"Right," Krieg said, licking his lips and looking nervous. "I don't know what I was thinking. Um... You didn't read it, by any chance?"

"Of course I didn't read it!"

For some reason, this caused Krieg to brighten up considerably. "Good. Very good. You shouldn't. Bad habit. So, can I have it back?"

Ford felt his cheeks heat. A good thing it never showed when he blushed. "I don't have it with me."

A touch of panic entered Krieg's eyes. "Why not? Where is it?"

"Uh... still in my room. I put it back."

"You put it back?" Krieg's brow furrowed, and then he nodded. "Of course you did. It's okay for me to have gay porn. It's not okay for you. I get it."

That was a little closer to the truth than Ford was comfortable with, and he just shrugged.

"No, it's fine," Krieg said. "It's not like I've got any respect to lose. All the same, I'd appreciate it if this didn't become one of the Krieg anecdotes on board this ship."

He sounded so surprisingly sincere that Ford couldn't think of any reassurance. "I'll go get it."

"I'll go with you," Krieg said. "Wouldn't want someone to see you with it."

Ford bit back a sour retort. Krieg seemed just a little bit too earnest, and Ford started to wonder what he was so jittery about. He hoped to God the damn magazine wasn't stolen, though why anyone would steal gay porn was beyond him.

Maybe it was just that Krieg really was worried about his reputation, although as he'd pointed out, it wasn't like he had a good one as it was.

They returned to Ford's room in silence, and Ford dug out the magazine, still trying to figure out what to say.

"I won't tell anyone about this," he finally said, figuring that whatever Krieg was up to, this seemed to be what he wanted, and Ford saw no reason not to give it.

Krieg had been browsing the magazine, and now closed it, though with his index finger marking the place. "Thanks."

That could be it, really. No reason to say anything else. Ford hesitated, tempted by the silence, and then blurted out, "You know, back in college... sometimes I would... have sex with a guy. Everyone does, at some point. It's normal."

Raising his eyebrows, Krieg answered, "Which is why you won't tell anyone about this."

Ford suddenly remembered something he tended to forget. Despite his schemes and wise-cracking, Krieg wasn't stupid.

"Whatever," he said.

Krieg nodded, and threw another glance into the magazine before putting it under his jacket, heading for the door. He lifted his hand up to turn the handle, but stopped and looked at Ford. "And you didn't read it?"

"No, I didn't."

The serious expression on Krieg's face was replaced by a more common grin. "Okay."

 

Ford tried to let the whole thing go. He tried for the rest of that day and all of the next, up until the point where the captain asked him if he was feeling all right. At that, he assured him that sure, he'd just been thinking of home. He could hardly say that he'd been thinking of some gay porn Krieg owned -- even if he hadn't promised not to, the vivid image of the captain's reaction to such an admission would have been enough to warn him off.

Finally, he couldn't take it any longer, and so he sneaked off to Krieg's room to find out what exactly it was about this old, well-read, probably unhygienic (paper, for crying out loud!) porn magazine that made Krieg so worried that Ford should read it.

He had his arm already under the mattress, feeling for the damn magazine, when the door opened. Ford quickly withdrew his arm and tried to look like he wasn't violating every code of privacy by being there, but it was too late.

"Any particular reason why you're searching my bed?"

Ford shoved his hands into his pockets. "I was... I meant to..."

"It's not under the mattress," Krieg said, opening his cupboard and taking out a box. "It's in my private collection. People don't tend to look there."

The box was full of holograms, movies and even books. It looked crowded to Ford, but Krieg dug through it with a practised ease and fished out the magazine in question.

"I'm curious," he said, browsing through the pages. "What did you expect to find in this?"

"Well, I was starting to wonder if you were in it," Ford said. The joke had an edge of truth in it - and Krieg actually flinched.

But then he grinned. "You think I have the physique for gay porn? I'm flattered, commander."

So a miss, but a very near one. Ford's eyes narrowed. "Who is in that magazine?" It couldn't be Hitchcock, and anyone else he could think of, Ben would probably want to show to the entire crew.

"Do you swear not to tell?"

He already had, but he nodded again. Krieg found the place he was looking for in the magazine and showed Ford a picture of a very attractive young man who seemed vaguely familiar.

"Who is it?"

Krieg hesitated, and then said, "It's Bobby."

The name didn't tell Ford anything, and it seemed Krieg noticed, because he continued, "Bobby Bridger."

Ford felt as if he'd been struck in the head with something very heavy. "The captain's..."

"Yeah."

"Holy shit."

Krieg turned the picture around so the man it portrayed was facing him. "Maybe you're right and nobody cares about my dirty magazines. But I didn't want someone to think it was a great joke and start spreading the word... until maybe the captain saw this."

"Why..." Ford found it hard to move his lips. The captain's son. Gay porn. And Krieg, not the least bit surprised. "Why the hell did you even buy it?"

Krieg didn't take his eyes off the picture, but he spoke with unexpected force: "Because he's dead. There won't be any more pictures. I can't go up to the captain and ask him to share a few from the family album, now, can I?"

"Bobby was your boyfriend?"

Krieg looked up now, and smiled a little, though his eyes were sad. "That's a pretty committing kind of word. We were friends, and sometimes we slept together."

"Does the captain..." Does the captain know, Ford meant to ask, but the answer was clear. There had never been anything to indicate that captain Bridger thought of Krieg as anything else than an officer apt to get into trouble. Ford remembered the things the captain had said - and not said - about his son, the evident pride and love, and the pain that was still strong, after all this time. So he changed his question: "Don't you think he should know? About you and Bobby, I mean."

"Bobby never told him. How could I? Besides, with a guy from that generation..." Krieg shrugged and gave Ford a wry grin. "You know what the Navy was like back then. What the Navy is like now."

Ford knew. During all his active years, he'd never told anyone what he'd told Krieg a few days earlier. Maybe his caution was unnecessary, but he was second commanding officer on this ship, and it wasn't a risk he was prepared to take.

"And that?" he asked, nodding at the picture. Now that he knew what it portrayed, he could see traces of captain Bridger in his son's face, and it was very disturbing.

"A bit of a joke. We knew a guy in the business. Bobby posed, I took the pictures, and we both earned a bit of extra cash that month." Krieg's sad smile had a touch of nostalgia. "Regardless of what you might have heard, Bobby was anything but a square."

That sounded like a veiled insult, but Ford chose to ignore it. Maybe he was a square, but he could still see that this wasn't one of Krieg's usual ventures that you could roll your eyes at and forget about.

He reached out for the magazine and watched the young man posing spread-legged in it. It was a grainy, two-dimensional picture, but the cocky smile and the deep eyes were still taking. He felt himself starting to get hard at just the image of this man, which was pretty uncomfortable considering that A: this was captain Bridger's son and B: Robert favoured his father.

"So tell me, commander," Krieg said. "What would you have done differently?"

"Well," Ford said softly after a long pause, "I don't think I would have tried to hide it in a superior officer's bed."

"So I panicked," Krieg said with a shrug. "It could have been worse. At least I picked the right bunk."

Ford frowned. "What do you mean?"

Rolling his eyes, Krieg twisted his face into a comic scowl, crossed his arms, and said with a pompous voice, "Back in college I slept with boys. It's normal and everybody does it." He laughed. "Guess what, commander. It may be normal, but everybody doesn't do it. What do you think a straight officer would have thought of that magazine?"

Okay, point. But... "You didn't know that when you hid the magazine." It was impossible to tell anything from Krieg's expression, and Ford blinked as the thought sank in. "You did?"

"I knew you liked looking at guys. I wasn't so sure what you liked doing beyond that."

"How did you know?"

Ford had always thought he'd been discreet, but Krieg looked very amused.

"I watched you watching them." He let that sink in and then added, "It's become quite like salt to tequila, as far as I'm concerned. Sure you can have one without the other, but why would you?"

If Ford had felt insulted before, this more than made up for it. A compliment like that made him... well it made him wonder, for the first time, what sex with Krieg might be like.

God, he was really getting quite pathetically desperate, wasn't he? It was this whole submarine thing. You hardly ever ran into any new people, and even if you did get lucky it was either with someone you'd never meet again -- or someone you'd have to meet way too often for comfort.

The thought of having to deal with Krieg on a regular basis after having sex with him sobered Ford up a little. He wasn't going to suggest it. If Krieg did... well, what would he do if Krieg did?

The question was completely hypothetical, it turned out, because Krieg didn't. He just took the magazine back and put it back into the box, his actions careful as if he were dealing with the declaration of independence and not a seedy magazine. Ford watched him stash the box away in the cupboard, and then cleared his throat.

"So... I'll be going back to my quarters now."

"You do that," Krieg said.

 

As Ford was relieved to find out, suppressing his new awareness of Krieg's body was a lot easier than suppressing his curiosity had been. He was used to blue balls, and it took all of a week before he searched out Krieg in the supply quarters.

"Ah, commander Ford," Krieg said, with a light cockiness that was insufferable. "To what do I owe the..."

Ford crossed the distance between them and shut the damned nuisance up by kissing him hard on the lips. He could feel the muffled attempts at words coming out of Krieg's mouth, but then he finally shut up and just kissed back, tongue exploring Ford's mouth in a teasing, playful manner.

Ford deepened the kiss and pushed Krieg back against the wall, groping for the zipper of his jacket.

"Not in here," Krieg panted, breaking the kiss. "No privacy - people come here all the time."

He had a point. Ford thought for a while, and then said, "It's nearly two PM. I'm willing to bet that the showers are empty."

A smile tugged at the other man's lips. "Cleanliness is next to godliness, huh? Fine with me."

It felt odd to let go after a week of frustration leading up to this moment, but control was second nature to Ford. No one looked twice at them heading down the corridor towards the showers, even though they seemed to Ford so suspiciously inconspicuous that they might as well have been walking ten feet apart, whistling and staring at the ceiling.

The showers were empty, thank God, and Ford quickly returned to his previous task of getting Krieg's jacket off as quickly as possible. He threw it aside, and it landed in one of the stalls, where water immediately started pouring over it.

Krieg only threw a very quick glance at his soaking jacket. "Seems like someone didn't turn off the automatic system when they left."

"Damn. Should we?"

"Not now."

They took a few steps back towards the wall furthest away from the shower stalls. A soaked jacket was one thing, but if they got themselves soaked altogether, they'd have a hell of a time trying to explain it to the others.

Krieg didn't bother to try and get Ford fully undressed. Instead, he went straight to the point and undid Ford's fly.

Ford breathed in deeply as Krieg's fingers closed around his hardening cock, and when Krieg fell down on his knees and started licking, he temporarily forgot to breathe altogether. He ran his fingers through Krieg's dark hair, wondering why it had never occurred to him before that it would be so soft to the touch. He closed his eyes, living off the sensation of that hair tickling his hands and the mouth encircling his cock, bringing him closer to climax with every second passing.

"You're good," he managed to find enough air to say.

Krieg let go for a moment -- oh, fuck, why did he ever say anything, he didn't want it to stop -- and said, "It's been a bit more than just a few times in college for me."

"Don't stop," Ford said, pulling Krieg closer again. "Go on."

"Ooh, eager, are we?"

But he did go on, and soon Ford felt the climax building up, until finally he got his release and sagged back, glad that the wall was just behind him. How long had it been since he'd last had sex with anyone else than his own hand? He couldn't readily remember, and that scared him. That girl in Sydney, how many months was it? Six? Eight? It couldn't be more than eight, could it?

He sensed Krieg standing up again, and opened his eyes, reaching out at the same time to hold those slender hips. "Thanks."

"Yeah, 'cause I did it for charity," Krieg said with a grin. He was standing very close now, so close that Ford could tell exactly how aroused he was. Krieg's thoughts seemed to go in the same direction, because he pulled back and started undoing his pants. "Got to get out of these soon or people will know exactly what we've been up to," he continued.

As he took them off, he took a tiny plastic container out of his pocket and popped something from it into his mouth. Ford recognized the purple drugstore color, but still asked, "What's that?"

"Antivenerics," Krieg said simply, taking off his shoes and socks along with the pants. "It's not that I don't trust you, but just in case."

"You carry antivenerics in your pocket?"

"Sure. Why, don't you?"

"You've got to be the most arrogant, annoying..."

"Gee, commander, does that mean you want to stop?"

Ford stared at the other man for a moment, and then pushed him straight into a shower stall. The water immediately started running.

"Oh, great!" Krieg shouted, jumping out of the stall again. But it was too late -- his shirt was already getting wet, sticking to his torso in a way that showed his lean, long muscles. It was quite a sight. "Now what am I going to wear on my way back?"

"You could go bare-chested," Ford suggested with a wide grin. "It'd be a novelty attraction for the ship's crew. Or," he added, retiring quickly as Krieg stepped out of the shower, since he seemed in the immediate danger zone of getting wet himself, "you could wear my shirt, and I'll keep my jacket closed."

"Or I could get you wet as well," Krieg said, still moving closer, leading Ford in a slow chase around the room, "and we'll dry the clothes in the sauna."

"How long do you plan on staying here?" Ford asked. He was forced to move dangerously close to the stalls, but managed to sway aside before the drops started to fall.

"As long as it takes."

"I don't think you can dry clothes in a sauna anyway."

"Oh, I think you can - " Krieg suddenly stopped, and smiled. "But okay. You get to take your clothes off. Under one condition. When you're done, you have to blow me... long... and hard."

Ford walked up to him slowly, laying his hands on Krieg's scrawny ass and pulling him closer, if not so close he'd risk wetting his uniform. They stood there for a minute or two, just breathing and watching each other.

"So what do you say, commander?"

Ford let go and turned away, faking indifference as he started unbuttoning his shirt. "I say it sounds like a good deal."

 

It wasn't until weeks later, when they were lying in the privacy of Krieg's quarters, that Ford dared to say it: "We won't be able to keep this secret forever, you know."

He knew that Krieg didn't care about that -- at least not the way he cared. Krieg could probably sleep with whomever he pleased without anyone raising an eyebrow, if only because he'd already done everything else that might surprise them. Ford couldn't be so blasť about it. It wasn't that he cared much what the crew thought as long as they still followed orders, or even that he expected them to take it badly. He'd just much prefer it if he could choose the time, make it right. And maybe Krieg could be made to care about that.

"I know," Krieg said, sounding morose. "You can never keep anything secret on a submarine." He swung his legs over the bunk and headed over to the other side of the room.

Ford frowned. "What are you doing?"

"Taking care of one secret, at least." Krieg got a familiar box out of his cupboard and started rummaging around until he found the magazine. His hands were shaking, and Ford understood why when he slowly and carefully started ripping out the picture of Bobby.

"Don't."

"Don't what?" Krieg asked, still ripping, his eyes downcast on his work.

"Don't throw it away, or burn it, or whatever you were going to do with it."

"And if the captain sees it?" Krieg had it nearly ripped all the way out now, and Ford jumped down from the bunk and walked over, putting his hand over Krieg's to put a stop to this. The ripping stopped, but the shiver didn't. Ford closed his hand in a comforting caress.

"If the captain sees it, he sees it," he said. "He doesn't own his son's memory. You've got a right to mourn, same as him."

"What's the point in being sentimental?"

"The point in being sentimental -- look at me! -- The point in being sentimental is that you are." Ford had gripped Krieg's arms hard, and he finally got the other man to avert his gaze from the magazine. "You're shaking like a leaf, for fuck's sake. Keep the picture. Maybe one day you'll throw it away, but then it should be because you want to, not because of what you think Bobby would have wanted, or the captain would say."

Krieg gave him a long stare, and then, unexpectedly, smiled. "Doctor Ford to the rescue, armed with sound psychological advice!"

"Shut up," Ford said, shoving him a little, but he didn't take offense. He had chosen to have sex with a cocky, smart-mouthed trickster, he could hardly start complaining now.

Krieg didn't answer. Instead, he very neatly finished ripping out the picture, and folded it until only Bobby's smiling face was visible. Then he took a movie out of the box and opened it, tucking the picture into the sleeve.

"There," he said when he was finished. "Let's hope nobody tries to borrow it."

Ford glanced at the cover and raised his eyebrows. "Lesbian Spanking Inferno? Let's really hope so."

"So," Krieg said slowly. "One secret taken care of."

"One to go."

"I'm not going to walk onto the bridge hand in hand with you saying 'this is my new boyfriend'." Krieg said the last bit in a silly, childish voice, and Ford winced.

"God, no."

"Or 'Jonathan and I have something to tell you.' "

"Don't give me nightmares."

"Being caught in the act, on the other hand..."

"That would be worse, yeah."

"Really? I was going to say that would be hot. But I guess it depends on who would find us."

There was no use in talking to this man. Ford pulled him close and kissed him to shut him up. It was an effective method -- for a little while. Then he heard an indistinct mumble: "And all this from a porn mag..."

He suddenly wondered if the magazine under the mattress thing hadn't been a spur of the moment thing after all. If one of Krieg's crazy schemes for once had gone exactly as he wanted. He even opened his mouth to ask, but a tongue slipped into it before he had a chance, and it gave him enough time to change his mind and decide he didn't want to know. Accident or scheme, all's well that ends well.

 

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