“TIME TO Eridani VI—Five days, seven hours, forty-two minutes.”

“Ignore it,” Michael heard Adrian hiss into his ear, the command underscored by the push of sweat-slicked skin and the full stretch of a deep fuck.

“Mmmphhhfff.” Michael pulled his face off the pillow, only to get a mouthful of tawny-colored feathers as Adrian promptly stifled him with one of his wings.

“Distance—zero-point-one-three light-years.”

“I have no idea why they have to announce that every damned morning.” Adrian reached underneath Michael’s hips and pulled him up, seating him as deeply as he could with each stroke. Strong fingers found Michael’s cock and wrapped themselves around him possessively.

“Because,” Michael gasped as he pulled his head away from the feathers, “that’s what we’re here for.”

“Lieutenant. Michael. Lopez.” A deep thrust punctuated each part of his name. He could feel Adrian smirking against his ear. “I thought you were here for me.”

Michael dislodged himself, flipped over underneath Adrian, and looked up at the beautiful Morph. Long and lean, slender and sinewy, every line perfectly balanced—just as he was Designed. “You know I am. But I don’t think this is what the Designers had in mind.”

Hazel eyes sparked mischievously at him. “I’d say fuck the Designers, but I’d rather save that for you right now.” Adrian realigned himself and pushed in again, then picked up a rhythm in earnest.

“Once we… we reach Eridani… you know we… we… mmmmgggrrrnhhh!” Adrian had changed his angle and was now grazing Michael’s prostate with every thrust. “You… evil… horrible… fuck!”

“Can’t be… evil. Not in my… coding.”

Michael gave up trying to reply. He reached down and took his own cock in his fist and started pumping in time to Adrian’s thrusts. Sweat and skin and rumpled bedsheets moved in rhythm. He knew he’d come first. Adrian always held back until then, while driving Michael out of his mind. One particularly well-aimed thrust nailed his prostate, and Michael arched hard off the bed with a yelp.

“Quiet there, Lieutenant. Someone might hear.”

Adrian—

“Shhh.” Adrian pinned Michael’s right shoulder to the bed and took control of Michael’s hand, firmly guiding and controlling how he stroked his own cock. Pressure, rhythm, and the tension in Adrian’s hand matched the exquisite press and burn of each thrust of Adrian’s cock, controlling him inside and outside. It overwhelmed Michael in a way that let him forget everything else except this—the sensation of skin on skin, feathers brushing down against his legs, the possessive adoration lighting his lover’s face.

“Come on, Michael. For me.”

Michael couldn’t hold back any longer, and he choked out a cry as his body clenched and shook around Adrian’s cock. The Morph reached down and clutched Michael’s shoulders, holding him tightly as Adrian let loose his own orgasm with a high-pitched hum that vibrated through both of them.

The sweet moment faded. Adrian’s body went slack, and he rolled languidly to the side. One light brown arm draped loosely across Michael’s chest, and a massive wing covered the rest of him like a blanket. Underneath the feathers, Michael relaxed as the last aftershocks of his own orgasm eased into sated exhaustion.

Even as his body calmed, however, Michael’s mind raced. After a too-brief moment to savor the afterglow, he groaned and rolled out from under Adrian’s wing, then sat up on the edge of the bed. “I really don’t think we can keep doing this once we get to Eridani VI.”

“Not this again.” The bed shifted only slightly under Adrian’s unsubstantial weight. “Michael… I can have a relationship with whomever I want. It’s one of my Rights, and I intend to exercise it. Despite what some of those crazy, old-fashioned purists back on Earth might think, I’m proud to be a Morph. I don’t care that my DNA was tinkered with in a lab. But just because I was Designed for colonizing a low-gravity planet and accepted the mission doesn’t mean I don’t get to have a life of my own.” He paused. “Hey, look at me.”

Reluctantly Michael complied. Adrian looked like something out of ancient Earth mythology. His eyes were technically hazel, but the tone was a bit too amber to be Original Equipment, as people often referred to natural human traits. His skin looked more bronze than beige, a delicate contrast of ethereal tones against tawny wings. His hair was sandy brown but had a faintly metallic sheen to it, and always seemed just a bit longer than regulation, flopping playfully over one eye. Michael knew these traits came from a carefully selected combination of human genetics combined with external gene sequences, both natural and artificial. Same as every other trait in Adrian’s body. Just as the Designers had intended.

Somehow he suspected they didn’t know how much of an individualistic attitude the young Morph had developed. He worried about what might happen if they did.

Adrian hunched down, feathers ruffling in agitation. “There is nothing wrong with a Morph making his own decisions.”

“Of course there’s nothing wrong with it,” Michael said flatly. “Every sentient being deserves self-determination, no matter what they were born or Designed to do. That’s an essential Right. But there’s a huge ethics violation when a Morph’s decision involves one of the scientists working with him, especially his Partner. You know that. We knew this would be a problem when we started.” He stared imploringly at the man who had been assigned as his Morph Partner in this Project and had become so much more. Too much more. “It’s why we both agreed to keep it to ourselves.”

Adrian’s lip quivered so slightly it could have been a flicker of the light. “Maybe I don’t want to keep it to ourselves anymore.”

A cold ooze of fear worked down Michael’s neck. “Adrian… no. That’s the last thing we should… you know what they’d do, right? I’d lose you anyway.”

Before Adrian could argue, Michael lurched off the bed and let himself into the bathroom. He felt too bleary and too freshly fucked to have this conversation.

Thirty seconds in the sonic shower blasted away all traces of his morning activities. He programmed in two minutes of water rations and indulged in a round of real shampoo. By the time he came back out, he figured Adrian would have gone back to his own quarters to get ready for the day, but he was still sitting on the bed.

Michael frowned. “You know we have to be down at the lab in twenty minutes.”

“I know.” Adrian’s face revealed nothing.

Arguing about this now wouldn’t get them anywhere. Michael sighed and opened his closet. “Are you coming to the Longest Night party tomorrow?”

Adrian snorted. “The days and nights are always the same length on this flying drama boat. We’re almost twenty light-years from Earth. Why the hell are we celebrating the Solstice of a planet that none of us will see for at least another decade, if ever?”

Michael pulled his undershirt over his head, then reached for his uniform pants. “Because it’s home.”

“Speak for yourself.” Adrian finally got off the bed, stretching his wings as much as he could in the small quarters. Morphs assigned to this mission had larger quarters for that reason. “I was made to be Eridani, not Terran.”

“It will still be a fun time.”

The guarded scowl on Adrian’s face clashed with his casual nudity. “And will it be an ethics violation if I go to the damned party with you?”

Michael felt something in his chest wilt at the vitriol. “It’s just a party. Anybody can come.”

“You could bring me as your actual date.” Despite the challenge in Adrian’s voice, his face held a vulnerability that wrenched at Michael’s emotions.

“We can’t. Shit, Adrian, you know we can’t.”

Adrian nodded grimly. “I thought so.” With that, he snatched his pants off the floor and started pulling them on.

Michael wanted to grab Adrian and hold him until he stopped thinking such ridiculous things, but that wouldn’t work right now. “They’d think I’m taking advantage of you.”

“I’d make it clear that you aren’t.” He buttoned his pants and reached under the bed for his shoes.

“That’s not going to work. They already think our friendship is too close, and….” Michael’s voice choked off, and he stopped, unable to come out and say it.

Adrian looked up at him, eyes narrowed. “Did Commander Xiao lecture you again?”

Michael cringed at the memory of his latest research meeting with the lead science officer in charge of the Morph Projects. “Four days ago. It was bad. I should have told you, but we were too busy.”

The anger on Adrian’s face dissolved. “Oh shit! Michael, I’m sorry. What did he say?”

“That he tolerated our friendship because it’s lonely and isolated on a ship traveling at warp, but that once we get to Eridani, we need to keep it professional. And as far as he knows, we’re just close friends, Adrian!” Michael grabbed his uniform boots from their spot next to the door, sat on the edge of his small coffee table, and put them on. “He’s given us far more leeway than he should have, by the book.”

For a moment, Adrian didn’t answer. Then he stood and crossed the two meters to where Michael sat. He cradled Michael’s face in his hands, and wrapped them both in a strong set of wings. “Well, the book is wrong.”

Michael sighed and leaned his forehead against his boyfriend’s stomach. “I know.”