And This Man Is My Lover

an excerpt



Chapter One



Bart strode purposefully away from Jake, his back rigid with anger. How dare he? He wasn't a child; so why did Jake persist in treating him like one? God, there were times when he wondered why the hell he even liked the man, let alone loved him!

Jake knew how much Bart's work meant to him, yet he still insisted in treating it like a...an encumbrance. How much had his work contributed to their knowledge? How much had they learned because of his expertise in archaeology and culture and because he made it his life's work to study every new language, every odd icon, glyph, marking--or scratching as Jake chose to call it--they came across? Jake liked to denigrate his career choice, even though it produced a lot of useful information, and the major damned well knew it.

Why did Jake enjoy annoying him like this, hurting his feelings? Feelings he claimed to care about? Damn the man!

Why didn't Jake believe him when Bart told him there could be important information in the other small buildings in the temple complex? Didn't he think Bart knew--better than he did, damn it--how unsafe the structures were? He'd done this work for over fifteen years and been on more digs than he could remember, but still Jake thought he took unnecessary risks. Bart wasn't a fool, nor was he incompetent.

Bart couldn't remember the last time Jake had questioned Delia's ability; he simply waved his arm in the air and told her to get on with whatever it was she wanted to do. He couldn't be bothered to listen to her reasons and explanations. He trusted her competence.

Why didn't he treat Bart with the same respect? No, Bart was just supposed to shut up when he was told, work where and when he was told, and his opinion on the mechanics of his job was overruled at the drop of a hat--or cap if you wanted to be pedantic.

And this man is my lover?

He knew Jake was still watching him from the hill just above the temple complex, so he marched straight into the main building, which Jake had already decided was the only perfectly safe place for him to investigate. As Bart entered the dark interior, he glanced back in time to see Jake give a slight shrug before he turned away to begin another patrol circuit of the large site.

As usual, Carl was keeping a close eye on Delia as she did her version of digging in the dirt with the assistance of Ron Eisley. No one denigrated her work. No, she was collecting important samples. Bart gave himself a mental shake. It wasn't her fault and he shouldn't get snarky with her over Jake's attitude.

He waited about fifteen minutes, knowing that would put Jake on the far side of the complex site and out of visual range of the particular building Bart wanted to investigate. While he waited, Bart went over his ideas concerning the site.

The main structure appeared to be a temple, though Bart had agreed it was possible it was a palace when Carl had made the suggestion. However, Bart stuck to his opinion it was a temple, and it seemed probable many of the other structures would have specific uses as part of a complex. Making assumptive comparisons, Bart concluded the buildings might have been used for the storage of records, a library, and living quarters for the priests. Likely, they would have more mundane uses, too, such as storehouses, kitchens, even a barn. Possibly, there would also have been other smaller temples, maybe a mortuary temple or chapels for the use of the nobility. From the layouts of temple complexes he was familiar with, he believed the particular building he was interested in could be the one where they used to keep the records. In truth, there was no way to know what he might find until he investigated.

Jake would be furious if he found out what Bart was up to, but if Bart was cautious the major shouldn't ever know Bart had gone into a “forbidden” building. If Bart kept a careful check on the time, he could leave and get back to the main temple building when Jake was on the far side again, during another circuit.

He'd allow himself two hours, during which Jake would make four circuits. Then Jake would contact him to let Bart know he was coming; his way to ensure Bart returned to camp for dinner. Bart simply had to make sure he didn't allow himself to get caught up in whatever he found inside so he could keep a close eye on the time.

He couldn't deny Jake was correct about the way he lost all track of time when he got carried away with something. Not that Jake minded when he got carried away between the sheets! However, he didn't want to think about that right now; he was still too angry with Jake.

Bart had mixed feelings as he hurried across to the ruined building. He knew that as far as Jake was concerned, Bart was being reckless. If he was honest, as opposed to being frustrated with Jake, he knew it was a calculated risk, but it was one he was willing to take.

****

Jake walked steadily around the perimeter, but his mind wasn't on the patrol, which made him even angrier. He shouldn't allow his mind to wander when he was supposed to be watching out for any sign of trouble. Okay, as far as they knew, there were no inhabitants on this damned planet any longer, though that didn't mean he shouldn't keep a weather eye out anyway. All their scans were based on recognizable or potential life-forms. There was always the possibility there was sentient life beyond their knowledge on this world. There was also the likelihood some local wildlife might come calling, but so far, even that had proved anything but threatening.

The problem was he was allowing himself to think about his personal life--well, no it wasn't quite that simple--where it collided with his professional life.

When Bart and he had finally understood how they felt and admitted their true feelings to each other, they had promised not to allow their personal life to interfere with their work.

Jake, in particular, was concerned about his ability to command Bart in the field, but the man had simply smiled and said Jake had never really commanded him anyway. Jake felt angry at the implication, until he realized what Bart meant--he trusted Jake and followed him from choice. During their time together as team members, Bart had always obeyed, automatically giving Jake whatever he needed, and he always would.

What Jake had forgotten--and it probably hadn't occurred to Bart at the time either--was that when it came to Bart's work, they had always butted heads. When they had only been friends and had an argument or disagreement, there was always the breathing space of separation. That option wasn't as simple now they were a couple since they spent all their off time together, too.

So it tended to hit them harder now when they had one of their rows, and the problem was, they seemed to be going through a bad spell recently. Twice in the last month, Bart had stormed out of Jake's place following yet another disagreement needing to get to his own place so they could both cool off.

Going over the last two arguments in his mind, Jake knew he had started the disagreements because he couldn't--wouldn't--allow Bart to indulge himself when they were on a survey mission.

I just need to stay another day, Jake.

The water is only rising slowly and these markings could be important.

To Bart, they were simple, reasonable requests; to Jake, they were hazards not associated with the main purpose of the survey.

It was happening again now, not that Bart was asking for more time because they still had two more days on this world. No, he was asking Jake to allow him to take unnecessary risks. There was a huge temple Bart could explore and investigate, however he demanded to go into every ruin on the damned site. It didn't seem to matter to him that most of them were too unstable and dangerous. Why couldn't Bart see the risk was too high? It wasn't worth him getting hurt or, God forbid, killed, to look inside yet one more dilapidated building?

Jake stomped along, wishing he had Bart with him so he could try to talk some sense into him. Try to make Bart understand it was his welfare Jake was concerned about. He could almost imagine Bart accusing him of letting his personal feelings interfere with his duty, but surely he must understand Jake would have made the same decision before they were lovers?

Frowning, it suddenly occurred to Jake to question whether he was being honest, to wonder whether he would have refused so readily before they became partners. He'd indulged Bart in the past, giving in to his requests when it wasn't strictly necessary because...because he could. Because he chose to. Did it mean he was choosing not to give Bart what he wanted, what he needed, just because they were now a couple?

He stopped walking when that thought hit him. God, they had promised each other not to allow their relationship to interfere with work, and he'd believed they were sticking to the agreement, but he wasn't, was he? He was going too far the other way; he'd never realized he was allowing work to interfere with their relationship. Fuck, if he wasn't penalizing Bart rather than risk indulging him. That was so unfair. No wonder Bart was pissed at him.

He reached for his comm-unit to speak to Bart, but aborted the move even as he touched the device. This wasn't something he could do over the comm. He was more than halfway around his patrol circuit, so when he completed it, he would go and talk to Bart face to face. He would apologize for his past behavior. He knew Bart would forgive him when he acknowledged what he was doing.

The only thing he wouldn't do was back off on his decision today because he knew, without doubt, he would've made the same choice either way. The structures other than the big temple weren't safe enough to enter. He would, however, tell Bart he was prepared to suggest to General Banks they come back with an engineering team to check out specific buildings if Bart was positive it was worth a second survey. Couldn't be fairer than that, could he?

He was smiling now he knew he could mend his fences with Bart and not risk spending any more lonely nights without the man he loved. He'd hated it when Bart had refused to sleep in their bed after an argument, relegating himself to the sofa in the living room. Jake missed him terribly, and it didn't matter that he was only downstairs. Jake was so used to curling up with Bart in his arms or spooned up behind him with his arms around Jake's waist. Their lovemaking was always good--God, the man blew his head off on occasion--but just sleeping in each other's arms had become a necessity to him now.