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Part of USS Arcturus: Refresh

03. Ready Room

USS Arcturus, Ready Room
Stardate 2401.6
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After two laps around the widest part of the ship, Captain Lancaster was physically exhausted. His mind was also abuzz with an unusual encounter with his yeoman. Lancaster exhaled when Kaplan had passed through the ready room doors into the vestibule, but his ears perked up when he heard Kaplan say ‘captain’ to someone else in the corridor. It was followed by an acknowledgment of ‘ensign’ in Alesser’s familiar tenor. His first officer entered the room before the doors had a chance to close.

“Anything to report?” Lancaster asked. 

“We’re on schedule, captain,” Alesser said in a perfunctory way as he got closer to him. While Lancaster had only been speculating about the intent behind some of Kaplan’s facial expressions earlier, he knew Alesser well enough for there to be no ambiguity about the libidinous glint in his eyes at that moment. “Why did Kaplan look so hot and bothered just now?”

“We went for a run on the waterline track,” Lancaster replied.

“Hm. He’s one of your workout buddies now?” Alesser asked.

Lancaster rolled his eyes. “I don’t know what you mean by that. I converted our one-on-one meeting to a run because I couldn’t sit still while they rip apart my ship around me,” he retorted.

Alesser grinned, his canines seeming especially sharp from the apparent glee he found in their exchange. The Ardanan man stepped closer and put his hands on Lancaster’s bare biceps, flipping their interaction firmly from that of first officer and captain to boyfriend and boyfriend. 

“You’re very particular about who you exercise with. We were having sex for months before I ever got an invitation to join you on the tennis court,” Alesser noted; nothing he was saying was a lie.

The captain was extremely disciplined with his personal fitness, but he rarely used the ship’s public fitness facilities. Sheppard was even more of a fitness buff than he was, and his best friend Austin Carver was a certified personal trainer, but he rarely worked out with either of them because they made him feel self-conscious of his shorter, less-herculean frame. They also had, frankly, an energy that Lancaster found annoying when the two of them were enthusing about fitness or sports. Alesser and Lancaster had begun playing tennis a few times a week on a private sports court, but other than that, he did generally keep his fitness routine to himself.

“That’s an exaggeration,” Lancaster retorted anyway. 

“You also don’t usually sweat from just a run, so clearly something is up,” Alesser insisted. “The simple explanation for the sweat is that you were really pushing yourself, but why bring Kaplan with you for that?”

“It was efficient, Ari,” Lancaster protested. “We kept a pace slow enough for him to give his report, and then, yes, I did push a little too hard when we made up the time on the return trip.”

“Well, whatever you said—or did—to him, he looked like he’d won the lottery on his way out of here and like he seriously needed a towel,” the Ardanan said. “I’m not jealous—good taste all around.”

“You’re such a little shit,” Lancaster muttered. Even as their romantic relationship had blossomed, Alesser had only managed to keep his sarcasm in check about twenty percent of the time. Luckily, it was also endearing about half the time. “I’m going to oversee his training on the bridge stations. That’s why he was happy.”

That made Alesser frown. “You?”

“Why not me? He’s mine, isn’t he?”

“Yours?” Alesser said, laughing. “As first officer, I’m the more natural choice.”

“Fuck,” Lancaster hissed, knowing that he’d outed himself with a Freudian slip. “He is my yeoman and my mentee. It makes sense for me to oversee his training,” he clarified. 

“Mentee, huh? Should I feel threatened?”

For what felt like the thousandth time in that short conversation, Lancaster once again rolled his eyes. Alesser was beginning to drift into the overlap of percentages where his sarcasm was neither in check nor endearing. 

“He’s the one who used the word ‘mentor,’” he said, stepping away from Alesser. He peeled off his sweaty shirt and tossed it over onto the desk to be recycled later and then turned to go towards the head. “I need to take a shower before we disembark.”

Alesser caught him by the hand, his brown eyes looking reproachful and apologetic. Sincerity was often difficult for him to muster, especially when he got on a roll.

“Sorry. That’s not what I meant,” the Ardanan man said, apparently seeing the same implied slight there that Lancaster wasn’t a natural mentor. Unlike Sheppard, he had not quite learned to anticipate Lancaster’s many mood triggers, but at least he’d learn how to recognize them and eat crow in retrospect. “Seems like something’s either bothering you or turning you on or both. Besides me.”

Lancaster nodded, reminding himself that Alesser was one of an extremely small group of people that he could risk being honest with. He chewed for a split second on the corner of his lip as he wondered whether Alesser could stop champing at the bit long enough for them to find Sheppard so he wouldn’t have to tell the story twice. That likely would only be possible if he happened to have a phaser handy to stun him.

“We had a moment that felt like sexual tension, and it made me doubt my objectivity,” the captain admitted. “So, I have cognitive dissonance from thinking that I’m unfairly holding him back in his career by allowing him to continue to serve as a yeoman, while also feeling like I’ve given him an unfair advantage over his peers by giving him special treatment because of his looks.”

Alesser whistled. “That’s a lot to unpack,” he noted. His mouth quirked briefly into a smirk. “Would you like my opinion on either of those topics?”

“Yes,” Lancaster replied, leaning back on the edge of his desk and crossing his arms. He smirked back at him. “Not that my answer really matters, does it?”

“Correct. First Officer opinion first: Kaplan is impressive. His aptitude is off the charts and he gets exceptional performance reviews every cycle, which don’t come from you,” Alesser noted. “But he also only has his generalist officer credentials in hand. He’s not certified for any bridge or engineering section station. I’d say that he’s right where he should be, career-wise. Plus, he’s only 22.”

“When I was 22, I was a department head. So were you,” Lancaster pointed out, though Alesser’s analysis seemed to be fair.

“We also went through Starfleet Academy and are brilliant,” Alesser said, shrugging. “You gave him a field promotion in recognition of exceptional service. It wasn’t a gift. And I think you know I’d tell you if you were out of bounds.”

“You would,” Lancaster agreed. The captain nodded, feeling more confident in his decision-making prowess thanks to his first officer’s reassurance.

As he looked at Alesser he felt an inkling in the back of his mind that this really wasn’t about Kaplan at all—Alesser could and should really be on his own ship by now, and Sheppard’s recent promotion to chief medical officer was delayed by years because of Lancaster. He shook it off to focus on the problem at hand, though. 

But there was a moment where I felt like he was looking at me and found myself looking back.”

“I don’t see the problem,” Alesser replied bluntly. “He clearly left in a good mood, so he wasn’t offended, and you’ll never admit it, but you love attention, so…”

Lancaster found himself starting to pout in response to that accusation; Alesser’s views on sexuality were always much more liberal than his own, but even still he had trouble not taking that as an insult. His mood began to lift a little when he realized that he’d avoided thinking about dry docking the Arcturus for that whole conversation, which was a minor victory.

“I just don’t want to be one of those captains who can’t keep his eyes to himself around the yeomen pool,” Lancaster said. “I’m not Kirk, and this isn’t the 2270s. It makes me feel like I am not in control. He’s 22. I don’t know about your species, but in mine, the brain isn’t finished congealing until 25.”

“You could also just embrace it and give him what he clearly wants,” Alesser suggested. He put his hand in the center of Lancaster’s chest. “Not that you would ever sleep with your subordinates.” 

“If we’re back to teasing me, I really need to take that shower before we leave,” Lancaster noted, as he stepped out of his running shoes. Without waiting for a response, he tossed his workout shorts over to join the shirt on his desk and once again turned to walk to the head. “You can join me unless you would rather track Kaplan down for an interrogation.”

For once, Larus Alesser was speechless.