Anthony’s life on the League space colony Advent is everything he ever wanted. Born into a League military family, Tony forges a respectable career at the Bureau—the investigative arm of the Morality Police. Tony’s job involves monitoring the communications of Advent citizens for any sinful activity punishable by Advent law—a duty he carries out with civic pride.
What Tony doesn’t count on is his boss—the charming and enigmatic Edward. Captivated by a man who shows him kindness and empathy in a lonely world, Tony finds himself questioning everything he’s been taught as his feelings send him spiraling into forbidden territory. His only saving grace is that Eddie is a League loyalist who could never reciprocate—until an encounter in secret proves otherwise.
As Tony begins to strip away the lies surrounding his identity, he learns that the League is evolving too, gearing up their anti-gay rhetoric in preparation for the coming Culture Wars. As Eddie slips secrets and sweet-nothings into his ear, Tony realizes that politics are something he can no longer sit on the sidelines and merely observe. To keep Eddie and their love alive, he’ll have to make choices and sacrifices he never imagined himself capable of.
Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 36-45
Tropes: Age Difference, First Time, Forbidden Love, Friends to Lovers, Hurt / Comfort, Office / Workplace Romance
Word Count: 50000
Setting: Advent Colon
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Tony knew something was wrong the second that Edward called out, summoning everyone into his office. His voice sounded shaken, and Tony felt fear jolt through his veins like lightning. He left his terminal in the middle of checking a suspicious e-mail, Edward's words far more important than any potential threat to the League at that moment.
"I'm being transferred to day shift. I wanted to tell you first." Edward leaned on his desk—and were those tears in his eyes? Tony's mouth fell open, aghast.READ MORE
"They can't take you. We need you here." Tony fought the rising panic, worrying he'd be overwhelmed right then and there. It wouldn't bode well for him to break down over losing his boss—people already joked that he was too close, like a stray dog following Edward around. He took a quick glance over at Rory, who looked just as shocked, and Brit, the woman who was always at Rory's desk. She looked disappointed as well. Perhaps it wasn't so strange to feel Edward's loss like a blow to the gut.
"They can and they will," Edward said, resignation in his voice. "You'll be okay. You're all good at your work. Just keep doing what you're doing and you'll be fine." He looked down at the floor for a moment. "I can't believe I'm losing my family."
"When?" Rory asked.
"Today is my last day," Edward said.
They shuffled out of Edward's office like zombies. By mid-afternoon, the entire office knew. Tony drifted through his work, allowing every e-mail through with only a cursory glance. His heart wasn't in it. Not now. Not when he'd never have one of those handshakes again. Not when he'd never receive praise for his work. Edward's replacement, Jeff, wasn't cruel per se, but he liked to push people to see how far they would go. He wasn't the kind of man Tony wanted in charge, even if Edward liked him. Edward emerged from his office and took Jeff aside, putting his arm around his shoulders and going off to talk. From anyone else, this intimacy between two men would have seemed strange, but Tony was used to Edward's casual touching of others. He gave out handshakes and hugs like they were candy, and everyone took them as a friendly—but not inappropriate—gesture of affection.
The rest of the day fled like a thief. Tony dragged his feet when it was time to clock out. One by one, his coworkers said their goodbyes to Edward. Tears and hugs were exchanged along with well wishes until only Tony and Edward were left in the office.
Tony stood and turned around, afraid Edward would leave before he could say goodbye. When Edward moved, Tony was afraid he was heading for the door, but Edward made a beeline for his desk.
"Here—here's the paperwork," Tony said, handing over a stack of reports. Edward took the papers and placed them down on his desk.
"I'm proud of you," Edward said. "You've come so far and learned so much."
The words buzzed inside Tony's head. Nobody had ever told him they were proud of him, even when he'd come top of his class. His parents were not ones for praise—certainly not his father. Tony felt proud. Valued. He would have cried if Edward hadn't surprised him further by taking him into a crushing embrace. He thought he might melt, pressed up against Edward's warm chest. He longed to wrap his arms around Edward, but already felt like he was pushing his luck, and pulled away as soon as he was able.
"I was—I was such a mess when I started," Tony said. "You helped me. I couldn't have learned all this without you."
"You were eager. I've never had anyone in this office so dedicated to learning. You put so much energy into your work. I knew you'd be an asset to the Bureau if we could just get past your nerves. You're doing great. Keep at it. You'll be fine. Maybe, after a while, I'll be able to come back." Edward embraced him again briefly before retreating to the elevator. Tony stood in place, stunned, then realized he should leave before he cried. With a nod, he walked away to his locker, fighting the urge to run. His hands trembled as he unclasped the lock and piled his work gear inside. He grabbed his jacket and walked to the elevator. He was afraid he would cry in full view of his coworkers. How embarrassing would that be, to cry his eyes out over losing his boss to another shift? He'd only been there a few months. He didn't know Edward like the others did. Didn't even know how old he was, or if he had a family. He didn't have the right to cry.
Tony made it to his car and jumped in, setting it to auto-drive. Once the car had cleared the lot, he let the first tear fall down his face, then another, and another. Nobody had ever told him they were proud of him, and the feeling was akin to having scaled Earth's Mount Everest. But now Edward was gone, fated only to be a figure in his life for a few brief moments every day when the shift changed.
But Edward's words and warm embrace… nothing could take the memory of that precious moment from him.COLLAPSE