Title: But We Were Gods Then

Author: MJ

Author's e-mail: mjr91@aol.com

Author's URL: http://www.geocities.com/coffeeslash/mj/

Date: 07/22/02

Pairing: A/R. Life is like that.

Rating: R (some language, some violence, some KickAss!Reed rage)

Summary: Enterprise answers a distress beacon from a missing Starfleet ship whose captain was Archer's ex-lover.

Spoilers: Prize for anyone who finds any real ones.

Archive: EntSTslash, Archer's Enterprise, WWOMB, others ask first and I'll say yes.

Author's note: This story came about as a homage to the original series. Take the following classic Trek themes: the captain meets an ex who may be deranged, but isn't able to tell even though the audience can; humans stranded on a less advanced planet proceed to take over and exploit the natives by claiming to be gods (yada yada); one of our heroes gets to have a kickass battle involving less than sophisticated-technology weapons…and add the fact that Malcolm Reed's gonna look pretty damned good (to say the least) in black leather with a sword. Certainly better than Kirk ever did in those classic gladiator-battle-type eps.

Muchas gracias to the Trekslash chat crew, who thought Malcolm dueling was a fine idea, and that Malcolm in skintight black leather was pretty good all by itself. Everything else here is nothing more than a ploy to accomplish those ends in a logical way. Particular thanks to Kim and Drovar, who beta'd and test-drove this baby around the block. And to Kim for provoking the story in the first place (it's all 60's singer Gene Pitney's fault but explaining that's a loooong story…).

But we were Gods then: we were they
Who laughed at fools, believed in friends,
And drank to all that golden day
Before us, which this poem ends.

—from "The Sentimentalist", James Elroy Flecker

The communicator panel squawked, rousing both Captain Jonathan Archer and Lieutenant Malcolm Reed from sleep. "Bridge to Captain Archer." It was Hoshi, whose shift started half-a-shift earlier than theirs did that day.

Archer reached up to the panel, trying not to dislodge his lover, who was still curled against his chest, now sleepily running his fingers across Archer's chest and through its hair. Whatever Hoshi needed to wake them up for had better be good. "Archer here."

"Is Lieutenant Reed with you, Sir?" Their relationship was no secret; they'd been together on board too long to even try to conceal it. Everyone on board knew of it; most of the crew had accepted the actual news with boredom, as they'd known all about it long before either man had said a word.

"He's here."

"I think both of you should come to the Bridge, Sir. We're getting a Starfleet ship's beacon from a planet in the vicinity. It's the beacon for Calliope, Sir."

"*Calliope*?" The disappearance of Calliope a decade earlier had been the great "lost ship" tale of Starfleet's history. The large scout ship, with twenty aboard, had last signalled that it was responding to a freighter's distress call. Calliope had never been seen, or heard from, again. Archer had served on Calliope as a lieutenant, under its legendary and now missing commander, Captain Leonard Martello; he'd remarked on the fact to his senior staff more than once, usually when telling stories about Martello's infamous brawls. "We're on our way. Archer out."

Reed was already on his feet and looking for a uniform.


"I've isolated a town of some sort that seems to have radio capability, Captain," Hoshi said as Reed and Archer arrived on the Bridge. "There are humanoid forms there…and a few Earth humans. Did you want me to try to make contact?"

Archer moved to the command chair. "You're absolutely *sure* it's Calliope's beacon?"

"I've checked it three times," Hoshi told him. "I cross-checked it with the beacon signal database; it's Calliope. The ship's down there—and apparently some survivors, since there are humans."

T'Pol approached from the rear of the Bridge. "Captain, the name of this planet is Kiwar. It is in the Vulcan database, but there has been no entry on it in nearly twenty years. At the time, it was an aboriginal tribal planet made up of hunter-gatherer tribes. There are now signs of technology on the planet in this area, and some primitive factory of some sort, possibly being fueled by a small warp reactor as an energy source. It would appear that the survivors of Calliope have colonized this region in some fashion."

"Don't try making contact just yet, Hoshi. Have we got a visual, Malcolm?"

Reed adjusted his scanners and set them for the main viewscreen. "If you can believe it, Sir…"

Archer's jaw dropped. "Can we get in closer?"

If neither had seen it, neither of them would have imagined it possible. In the middle of a large cleared area of what looked as if it had been nearly tropical sat a small red-brick town, clearly recently built, but aping remarkably the look of a Southern colonial village. A number of small red-brick houses and a few wooden ones surrounded a town square. There were two larger buildings that looked like warehouses of some kind, and one taller one that looked remarkably like an armory. Behind the other buildings, a larger area of cleared grass between it and the rest of the town, stood a very large brick house with a cupola, and with a brick fence behind it, blocking out a view of the tropical alien foliage.

Reed cleared his throat. "Sir, the scanners indicate that there is a warp reactor in one of the large buildings. It's apparently being used as a power generator for the entire settlement. I haven't isolated the location of the beacon yet."

"Mr. Tucker," Archer asked, "could the warp engine from a scout ship of any class provide enough power for what we're looking at?"

Trip Tucker squinted at the viewscreen, sighing. "Depends. Possibly, if they're careful about power surges…and if they've got a good engineer. If I recall, the engineer on Calliope when it vanished was Mickey Singer. She was damn good, from what I hear. Beyond that…hookin' all that up's a piece of work, but it's not impossible. You got enough people, you can do it. Doesn't need a lot of skill for that part of it."

"Amazing," Reed muttered.


"One of those buildings…the larger one to the right…they're running a massive replicator unit in it. It's offline right now, but it's enormous. Unless I miss my guess…" Reed ran another scan. "Of course. They don't have actual heavy manufacturing to produce some of this; it's all constructed from replicated parts. Incredible."

Tucker stared. "Sounds like Singer's work. She worked in resequencing and replicator technology when she started out."

There was silence. Finally, Archer spoke. "Can we get a closeup of the people?"

Another picture emerged on the viewscreen. A tall woman in a long dress was followed by a man with two children. Archer choked. "That's Commander Pamela Wilcox. Calliope's First Officer." He paused. "Those look like they'd be her children…but she wasn't married…" The man came closer into the picture. He was well-dressed, in a suit, but there were markings or tattoos of some sort on his face.

"He appears to be one of the natives," T'Pol said.

Another native was following Wilcox and the man, struggling under the burden of several heavy packages. Barely dressed, this man's markings differed significantly from those of the man with Wilcox.

"Another native," T'Pol commented. "It would appear, Captain, that the survivors of Calliope have forged some kind of alliance with one of the local tribes, and that they are using one of the other tribes as servants of some kind. Of course, it is difficult to be clear on that without further information."

"Stay in orbit, Travis," Archer commanded. Trip, Malcolm, we need to talk. My ready room."

The three men headed into Archer's ready room, and Archer seated himself. "Sit," he ordered his Chief Engineer and his Tactical Officer. "I think the three of us are going on down, but I want to talk to both of you first. You both know I served on Calliope." The others nodded. "I knew Martello and his First Officer, Pam Wilcox. They're two of the ones who were missing. I don't think I knew any of the other crew that disappeared." He was silent for a moment. "I don't like what I see there. I think T'Pol may be right. Even with the largest replicator in the galaxy, that town couldn't have been built by the Calliope survivors alone. We know they're involved with the native population somehow. We need to find out what's going on."

Tucker frowned. "We need to contact Starfleet, and we need to get Calliope's crew back home."

"If they'll go," Reed stated quietly.

"What's that?" Tucker asked.

"They're living in a town that's straight out of a historical archive, except that it has full power and a replicator," Reed told the other two men. "They may have intermarried with the local population, from what you saw of Commander Wilcox. This may be a makeshift situation for them, but they've gone far beyond what's needed merely to survive; they've created their own fantasy world here. They've lived in it for some time. I shouldn't be surprised if they don't choose to leave—or if they don't care to report back to Starfleet."

"It's still our job to check it out," Tucker said.

"Oh, I agree," Reed replied. "I agree entirely. I merely advise not to expect their cooperation."

"I want a shuttle ready," Archer said. "We're going down there."

Reed waved a hand in warning. "If I may, Sir."

"Yes?" Archer had to smile to himself. Reed was enough of a stickler for protocol that, even alone with no one but Archer and their closest friend, he couldn't drop the 'sir' when he was on duty. Some crew couldn't remember to use "sir" when they were supposed to; Reed used it nearly everywhere except in bed with his lover. It had taken over a month for Archer to break Reed completely of calling him 'sir' when they were alone and off duty even after they'd begun seeing each other seriously.

"I don't like this any more than you do," Reed explained. "I'd like us to think about something. They're dependent on their remaining Starfleet engineering and technology to keep running, and possibly upon their old weapons technology in dealing with the natives. They'll know we have more of it than they do, and that it's many years newer. Might I suggest that until we get the actual lay of the land, until we know what is really happening, we refrain from informing them of the ship's capacities? I'd also suggest that we not disclose yet that Mr. Tucker is our Chief Engineer. They may or may not think they need our assistance, but I shouldn't like us to wind up being dragged into providing technical support for them unless we're sure of how it's being used. I should think that Trip and I could assist in assessing what they're doing more effectively if they don't know what we actually do on the ship."

"That's not a bad idea," Tucker ventured. "Jus' tell 'em I'm First Officer. They need to know what I do, I can always tell 'em I'm Chef lookin' for new food to try out. Whatta you wanna be, Malcolm?"

"Other than the shuttlepod pilot? Other than that…maybe I just came along for the ride. I'll decide that when I see what's happening."

Archer paused. "Before we go down there…there's one thing I think I'd better tell you. Both of you. Martello may still be alive. If he is…we'll have to see him…You know Martello's famous for shooting off his mouth. He's very likely to say something about me in front of both of you that I want you to hear from me first." He slumped back in his chair and stared at the ceiling.

"What's that?" Reed asked.

"When I served under Martello on Calliope…for three years…I was Martello's lover for most of my assignment with him."

Reed said nothing at the news, mulling it over in his mind. He'd had no reason to think that he was Archer's first male lover, or his first lover in Starfleet, any more than Archer had reason to expect it of him. One didn't normally meet one's lover's ex-lovers under this type of circumstance. Of course, on this mission, one did a great many things one didn't normally expect to do. However, one also didn't normally find out that one's lover's former partner was a historical legend. Martello had made a reputation as a drinker, a brawler…and as one of Starfleet's finest pilots and navigators. Stories still abounded about the man who could toss down drinks for half a night, clear out half of the bar with any handy weapon or his fists afterwards, and go out on mission on three hours' sleep following that, coming back more successful than planned. Martello was one of the great romantic legends of Starfleet, and the disappearance of Calliope on a rescue mission had only grown more stories about the man. There was nothing to say; better to keep quiet for now, worry about what this all meant later.

Tucker, on the other hand, goggled. "You an' *Martello*? Whoo."

"I'll spare you the details. Let's get ready to roll."


There was no way to land the shuttlepod in a clear area without the townsfolk seeing them, but that might, Archer thought, be the best way to make contact; it seemed an improvement over wandering around in Starfleet uniforms asking questions. It was likely that if a number of people were together, someone he'd known might be in the group.

It looked as if he were right. Almost as soon as they were spotted descending, people began congregating. When they came into landing range, it was clear that Pam Wilcox was among the crowd. Reed landed the shuttlepod as close as he could come safely to the few dozen townspeople assembled there, of whom five or so appeared to be Starfleet, and another dozen or so were children. The rest were well-dressed natives with the same face markings as Wilcox's husband, and some few poorly dressed folk with the markings of Wilcox's servant. As soon as practicable, Archer opened the shuttlepod hatch.

Wilcox stepped forward. "Starfleet?" she called as the hatch opened.

"Commander Wilcox?" Archer stepped out of the shuttle.

Wilcox dropped the few small items she'd been holding. "Jonathan Archer! Aren't you a sight for sore eyes." She eyed his uniform. "*And* a captain, at that. Congratulations! Welcome to Williamsburg, Kiwar." She reached over and hugged her former lieutenant. "Who's with you?"

Tucker and Reed climbed out of the shuttlepod. "My first officer, Commander Charles Tucker." Tucker took Wilcox's hand and bowed slightly. It was a bit much, but he didn't often meet ladies in long white tea dresses on his job, even if they were the same rank he was. "And my pilot, Lieutenant Malcolm Reed." Reed stood back slightly, nodding to her politely.

"What brings you here?" Wilcox asked. "We're not exactly on the beaten path."

"Calliope's beacon. Our ship picked up the signal this morning."

"Our beacon…" Wilcox mused. "My lord…the ship crash-landed over there"—she pointed to a small clearing among some trees—"a good ten years ago. Who'd have thought the beacon was still transmitting?"

"Did everyone survive?"

Wilcox nodded. "We did. Captain Martello made a phenomenal emergency landing. We survived…and I'm sure you saw, we've built a community here that we're very proud of. Our friends the Iwa here helped us, once they saw how our technology could help them, and, well, we've kind of married in. This is my husband, Walei."

The well-dressed tribesman extended a manicured hand to Archer, then to the other two men. "Please, I prefer Derrick. Much more civilized." Reed and Tucker glanced at each other. 'Since the white gods decided to live among us and teach us their ways, it is an honor for us to become part of your culture." Reed nodded civilly at Walei, then quietly elbowed Tucker, who gave Reed a very slight nod back. Walei's phrasing had not been lost on either of them.

"At any rate, Jon," Wilcox picked up, "I'm sure you'll want to see Len." She touched her husband's arm. "Have some of the men notify Governor Martello that there are visitors from Starfleet to see him. And be sure they let the Governor's cooks know." She smiled at the three visitors. "The Governor loves to give dinners. Occasionally we host a few of the more civilized tribes from the Northern region. They're studying us to try to learn how to form governments. A few tribes, though, like the Sian here," she said, pointing to the other tribesmen, "there's just nothing to do with them but work them."

"If they won't learn the white gods' ways," Walei said, "what else are they fit for?" He kissed Wilcox on the cheek and headed up towards the Governor's mansion.

"Derrick's a dear," she said. "He's the Iwa chief. Their culture teaches about a race of white gods with great powers, so when we showed up with warp technology…you see…" she trailed off.

"I see." Archer said nothing more. The discussion, both of Calliope's military involvement with the locals and of gods, had been no more wasted on him than it was on Tucker or Reed. It was alarmingly clear that Reed's warnings might well be exactly right.

"And let me give you a tour of Williamsburg while you wait for the Governor."

*** Wilcox led Archer, Reed, and Tucker along a hedged path into the developed part of the town. Children peered out from doors and windows, some of them appearing to be offspring of two colonists, the others mestizos, half-human, half-Kiwaran. None of the mixed-race children had any facial markings; it wasn't clear if the tribe did not mark them until puberty or adulthood, or if the Iwa who had married Earth colonists had abandoned the tattooing as part of their adoption of their "gods'" practices.

As she walked along, Wilcox pointed out the various sights. The one building they had spotted on the viewscreen was indeed an armory. Reed would have loved to know why the townsfolk were foolish enough to appear to keep all of their major arms in one building they might not be able to reach, since Starfleet would never have encouraged the idea, but the colonists seemed dedicated to the reconstruction of a spurious colonial village…albeit one with every twenty-second century convenience. They had lighting, heating and cooling systems, plumbing, computers, and, quite obviously, a heavily-used replicator plant.

The creature comforts, however, did not extend to the Sian housing. The Sian "servants" all lived in small wooden huts behind the brick and wood-shingled houses or in a cluster of huts at the edge of the town. Judging from their general condition, the huts lacked even the most basic utilities.

Wilcox kept a running narrative going, primarily to Archer directly, allowing Reed and Tucker the opportunity to observe. Tucker was trying to judge warp reactor size and location, and how much strain was being put upon it. A warp-2.5 reactor for an older large scout ship could take fairly constant use, but not abuse, and powering a small town was not what its designers had in mind. However, if Singer had reworked it or had trained someone, and if there were any dilithium resources available, anything was possible.

"And of course," Wilcox said, smiling, as they came up on the larger buildings, "we don't really need an economy. Our Chief Engineer, Lieutenant Commander Singer, was able to expand upon typical Starfleet resequencing and replication technology. We colonists needn't do anything we don't choose; we can have anything we need produced right here." She opened the door to the replicator plant; it was the largest replicator facility any of the three had ever seen. "We even replicate our clothing. Anything we had a picture of in the ship's data base could be replicated. The Governor is from Virginia, and I was always partial to colonial history, so we've replicated Williamsburg—at least, as much as we can make fit, and, of course, with more comfortable facilities." While she and Archer were looking, Reed blocked Tucker's side from their tour guide's view; the engineer was scanning everything he could see as quickly as he could, and trying to fit the hand scanner back into a cargo pocket of his uniform without being noticed.

Reed, on the other hand, when not covering Tucker, seemed determined to be noticed. He finally walked up to Wilcox, although "glided" might have been a better description of his movements. Reaching out and fingering a corner of the lace on her sleeve, he asked, "You're *seriously* telling me that *this* is replicated."

Archer and Tucker looked at each other. That wasn't the Malcolm Reed either of them knew.

"Yes, it is," Wilcox said, looking rather pleased with herself. "This replicator does a phenomenal job."

"My *dear*," Reed assured her, patting her hand, "you look *stunning*. But really," he said, leaning in towards her, "if *I* were you…lilac. It's your color." He smirked at her conspiratorially. She looked back at him, entranced. "Check, darling; you'll adore it."

"Lilac? Really? Hmmm, let me see. We have a few minutes. And I *can* work this myself…" Wilcox began programming as Reed blocked her view of Tucker again. Tucker pulled out the hand scanner and began recording the replicator's operation.

While Wilcox fidgeted with the controls, Archer turned to Reed. "Nice work," he whispered, "but what the hell are you doing?"

Reed gave his lover a half-smile, but his eyes shot daggers. "Working very hard at getting what we need by *not* being taken seriously," he hissed into Archer's ear through clenched teeth. "Play along."

"Lieutenant?" Wilcox called. Reed made his way back over to her. "What do you think?" She held up the new dress for inspection.

Reed stepped back, placed a finger to his lips, and looked over the dress thoughtfully. Then he nodded slowly. "Darling, it's *you*. Derrick will *love* it."

"You think so?" Wilcox asked him, desperately serious. Archer was amazed. In the three years he'd known Pamela Wilcox, the commander had never begged anyone for an opinion, and he hadn't thought she'd have started doing it here. For some reason, however, Reed had her under his thumb playing designer. "What about shoes?"

Reed looked down his nose in a way that absolutely astounded his lover, who tried not to stare. "Gray, dear. Gray suede. Very plain, no bows. Trust me." It was hardly credible that Reed could have been any more arch in his delivery.

"Oh, I do…" Wilcox looked up at a chronograph. "Later, though. You'll all need to head up to the Governor's Mansion now. Governor Martello hates people being late for him. I'll see you, Lieutenant."

"What're you *doing*?" Tucker asked Reed when the three men exited.

"Getting you a chance to read the replicator power usage by getting her to put it to use. You noticed the lights dim there when she activated it, I'm sure," Reed answered. "*And* I've got her eating out of my hand. Besides, we know things are wrong here from the get-go. The less dangerous anyone thinks we are to their colony while we're working this out, the better off we are."

"Yeah? Well, that business was dangerous to my stomach."

"*She* liked it, which is what counts. I'm not exactly thrilled about flouncing around myself—but I'm the *only* one of us who can get away with it. Calliope is an American crew—and for some reason, you Yanks all seem to expect it from the English."

"*I* don't," Archer replied, snorting.

"That's one thing I love about you," Reed told him, a hand on Archer's shoulder. "I'll think of the other things some other time. Meanwhile, let's go drop in on your captain."


They were greeted by the improbable sight of Iwa guards in colonial American uniforms guarding the doors to the Governor's Mansion. The guards had been notified of their arrival, it seemed, as none of them challenged the party, and one of the guards saw fit to open one of the heavy doors for them. An Iwa housekeeper in a long blue gingham dress and a full ruffled apron met them in the enormous foyer, under a chandelier that would have swamped a smaller room. Martello hadn't done this on a small scale. "Captain Archer? The Governor is expecting you. You'll be meeting him in the dining room; lunch is ready." She indicated a set of double doors with an Iwa who might have been a footman standing ready to admit them.

As they approached the doors, the Iwa admitted them, with a bow that would have been ludicrous had he been less serious, to a dining room that wouldn't have been out of place had Malcolm been told he was at Windsor Castle, or had Trip been told he was at Tara. The room was longer than a Starfleet Headquarters main conference room, with windows along one side that were easily over eight feet high. A fireplace was at either end of the room; portraits were hung everywhere available. The room was dominated by an enormous dining table that easily sat two dozen people. At the head of the table, and rising, was unquestionably Captain Leonard Martello.

Martello was about the same height as Archer, broad-shouldered and barrel-chested. Archer was better-built, but Martello was still plainly as strong as an ox. Although he was easily fifteen years older than Archer, he barely looked it but for the gray in his hair, which he wore in a decidedly non-Starfleet long braid down his back, over a maroon velvet jacket and black waistcoat. He was handsome now, and, as far as Malcolm could tell, must have been even more attractive when he'd been younger and at regulation weight.

And judging by the deep breath from the man beside him, he was still attractive enough for Jonathan Archer to notice.

"My dear Jonathan! What a wonderful surprise. You and your friends come down here now," Martello called. There was the faintest trace of what might once have been a Southern accent, not as noticeable as Tucker's, but lingering in the background of Martello's voice. Archer nudged Tucker and Reed, indicating that they should follow him. Martello's eyes were following Archer as they came towards the area of the table that had been set for lunch; a shiver from Archer showed that he was aware of it, and Reed could almost feel Martello's assessment of Archer himself. Martello apparently took none of his pleasures for granted, or in a small way. "Ah, you've made captain. Congratulations, Jonathan; rank obviously agrees with you."

"Thank you, Captain Martello." Archer was standing about two feet from Martello now, well into Martello's personal space, but not touching him.

Martello gave a half-smile. "Ah, captain. No one reminds me of my rank any more, now that I'm Governor of Williamsburg. But you, Jonathan—surely you should be calling me 'Marty.' You always liked that better than 'Len,' didn't you? So did I—no one else ever called me that." He looked over Archer again. "Welcome, Jonathan. It's good to see you again. I *have* missed you." Martello clutched Archer's shoulders and kissed him on the cheek; to Reed's astonishment, Archer exchanged the greeting.

Then Martello noticed the other two. "Ah, Commander. Lieutenant. Welcome. I'm sure you know your captain served under me?"

"So he's said, Sir," Tucker replied, casting an eye on Reed.

"I think I hear you're the First Officer and the pilot? Wonderful! They must have changed things around—Starfleet always was doing that—red used to be for ship's services and engineering. Horrid color choice, I thought. But what do I know?" He waved a hand around the room. "This is my place now, and I change the rules much less often than Starfleet, I assure you." Martello grinned. "Sit down, gentlemen, please!" He ushered Archer to a seat close to his. Reed nudged Tucker, gave him a fast look, and took the seat to Archer's right. That put Tucker at Martello's other corner, across from Archer.

Reed propped an elbow on the table, leaned his head on it, and looked around the room. "I must say, you've done a *wonderful* job with this place. It's quite phenomenal."

Martello beamed. "Glad someone else has the taste to appreciate it, Lieutenant. Care for a drink? You'll be surprised at what we've been able to replicate." He rang a bell, and an Iwa steward brought out a tray with decanters. "I'm sure the Lieutenant's a Scotch drinker. I know *you* are, Jonathan." The steward began pouring into four heavy, heavily-engraved crystal tumblers. "Well, Lieutenant," Martello said, handing Reed one of the glasses, "let's see if my replicated stuff meets with the approval of a Brit."

The glass was accepted with a nod and with what looked to Tucker to be a bat of Reed's eyelashes directly at Martello. The caution he took in taking the first sip was evident; the concept of replicated highland malt whisky was a frightening one, and not just to him. Then he looked up at Martello, apparently truly astonished. "You've managed to replicate Strathmore?"

"It's supposed to be Glenmachrie, actually, but you're close," Martello chuckled. "It *is* a bit closer to Strathmore. Cheaper to replicate than to buy, let me tell you." He handed glasses around the table, and stood as the Iwa removed the tray. "To friends, gentlemen. Friends and lovers." The glance at Archer was readily apparent. It would have been more reassuring if Archer hadn't been looking straight back at him.

Martello seated himself again, then, after a few minutes' conversation, rang another bell. Two waiters brought in the food, most of it, according to Martello, locally raised by Iwa landowners with Sian dirt farmers working for them. A query from Tucker elicited that Calliope had found it expedient to join the Iwa in the local civil war when it had landed; their technology had succeeded in subjugating the Sian in the land dispute. Relations between Calliope's survivors and the Iwa were an odd mix of worship and intermarriage; the Iwa seemed quite content to have gods that were all too human and lived in the same neighborhood. Marrying a Calliope survivor was the ultimate status event for the Iwa.

"I see yer First Officer married the tribal leader," Tucker observed. "What about you?"

"Me?" Martello laughed in a deep tone. "As chief of the local deities, I think it behooves me to stay a bit beyond attainability for the tribesmen. If I *did* become involved, it would almost have to be with another human, not one of the locals. And they have some rather unfortunate taboos I've never quite convinced a few of the better-looking boys to drop, anyway." He paused. "Tell me, Jonathan, how would you like to be promoted from captain to deity? It can be arranged."

The offer was obvious. Archer parried it. "My crew tells me that's happened already, Marty. I've already had to outlaw child sacrifice. It was getting on my nerves." He returned to his salad.

Martello laughed, but clearly didn't intend to forget the subject. Tucker tried changing it, to one that was of more concern to him. "Cap'n Martello, if you or any of your people want, we've got some room; if you'd like to get back to Earth, we can take a few people with us and get them to a starbase, or we can bring in a Vulcan ship…"

The governor shook his head. "Why? Do you really think any of us would want to go back there, and leave this? This isn't a survival camp, Commander; we've taken over this land, we've built the community we've wanted…We live well. When we went out on that distress call and the Nausicaans knocked out one of our engines, all we could think of was how to get home. Then, just to make things worse for us, we thought, they towed Calliope into deep space. We limped here, thinking we were dead, and the Iwa came to our aid because we fulfilled their prophecies. Between the Iwa, and Chief Engineer Singer's work, we've created a Utopia for ourselves out of a jungle and an aboriginal war. What's back on Earth that could compare to this? Nothing."

"What should we tell Starfleet?" Tucker asked.

"Don't," Martello replied without hesitation. "All we want is to live here in peace. You can ask the rest. If any survivor wanted to go, they'd have my blessing, but ask—none of them would give this up for anything. We have everything we want right here. Well…almost everything, for some of us," he added. "Bring your crew down here, Jonathan. Ask them. I'll bet you a cask of that Scotch that at least three of them would choose to stay right here rather than continue whatever mission you're on."

"That may be true," Archer replied, "but I won't be letting them. We're on an exploration mission. Who knows—there might be a better paradise on the planet 'round the corner and they'd miss out on it," he said sardonically.

"Oh, Jonathan, you're being a cynic. It's not becoming to you."

"I prefer to think of myself as being a realist. About this, anyway."

"You might think that, but you're still a cynic. Why don't you all stay down here a day or two and look around? You'll see we're perfectly content and perfectly well provided for. You may have become too sophisticated to enjoy the little historical anachronism we've created for ourselves, but it works for us. I have rooms here; why don't the three of you stay overnight?" Martello paused. "Unless you'd like to being someone else down?"

"Such as?"

"I'm hoping you'll say no to that last question, of course. I was politely trying to determine if you had a…um…friend…on board. It's been a long time, Jonathan."

Another glance between Tucker and Reed; Archer had been right in indicating that Martello had the subtlety of a Vulcan near a pile of manure. "It's been a *very* long time, Marty—and yes, there *is* someone." Archer's eyes were on Martello, but he reached over to take Reed's hand. "And I'm perfectly happy with things the way they are."

Martello flicked a glance across at Archer, then Reed, and then back at Archer. "Ah, well, you can't blame me for trying," he sighed. "No harm, no foul. My apologies, gentlemen; no offense meant, Lieutenant."

Reed gave Martello a sidelong glance, eyelashes fluttering again. "None taken, Governor Martello. Actually, I'm rather flattered to see that we have the same opinion, Sir." He ran fingertips gently up Archer's arm to the shoulder and gave his lover the barest hint of a smile before removing them. If Malcolm Reed had ever come closer to simpering, it wasn't clear when that was. Whether that was the shock, or that he did it so well was the shock, Tucker wasn't sure. Reed had already managed to pass as a Suliban, and he was rumored to be better at doing Tucker than Tucker was, though the engineer had never seen Reed's Tucker act; the engineer decided that he'd better get used to Reed's acting sooner rather than later.

Whatever Martello might have thought of the simpering, the flattery it contained was apparently appreciated; if he could have preened, he undoubtedly would have. "I'll arrange for you to see Chief Engineer Singer's domain this afternoon, and, if you'd like, Jonathan, there might be time for you to catch up with Wilcox. As I've said, feel free to talk to anyone you want, Commander. Lieutenant," Martello offered, "would you rather join Captain Archer, or would you like to see what I've been able to have replicated? The art here is all replicated from various sources; you might be interested."

"Really?" It seemed impossible that Reed should be able to bat his eyelashes that many ways. "That's *terribly* kind of you, Governor. But really, you know, the architecture here is what fascinates me. Might I have more of a tour around the buildings? That colonial armory of yours is such a *marvelous* reconstruction."

"Ah, you've noticed. I'm quite proud of that building, quite faithful inside as well as outside. If you'd like to go through the buildings, be my guest, Lieutenant. You can review our data banks to read about the buildings I've copied, if you like. I'd be happy to let you use one of my terminals here this evening."

"*May* I?" Reed's hand pressed gently to his throat. "That's terribly kind of you."

"Of course." Martello as much as dismissed Reed with the comment. "Commander, Lieutenant, enjoy yourselves. Jonathan, I *should* like to discuss a problem with you for a moment before you leave—a question about dilithium."

Tucker dropped a hand to Reed's shoulder as they left the dining room. "You're makin' me gag, Malcolm, but it's workin'. You got your own scanner for the armory?"

"Of course. I wish you could catch what Martello's asking the Captain about dilithium."

"I'm guessin' they need a new supply, and he wants to find out if we have any reserves. The amount of power that replicator's usin' and all, they'd need it eventually. If you get the chance, call up to the ship an' have them find out if there's any dilithium deposits here on Kiwar, especially ones in range of these folks."

"Right. I'm guessing I'm allowed into their armory to look around, since I'm apparently harmless—while I'm checking their arms supply, I'll get T'Pol to look into it."

"Good—an' I'll play dumb while Singer shows off the reactor an' the energy plant. I'm gonna do some of that wanderin' around first—I'm wonderin' if all the survivors are as happy as Martello and Wilcox."

"I'm wondering if the local tribes are as happy as the settlers," Malcolm stated as he fumbled for his scanner. "It's quite one thing for us to be interacting with a local population—even though there wasn't a warp drive civilization here; after all, Calliope did have an emergency—and it's very much another thing for a Starfleet crew to be taking part in a civil war and acquiring slave labor."

"Couldn't agree more. An' Martello's a pistol—does he really believe what he's sayin' 'bout his crew or 'bout the locals? At least Wilcox sounded somethin' between pragmatic an' cynical 'bout bein' a goddess or whatever—but I swear Martello really thinks he's got somethin' goin' with this governor or god or whatever business of his."

"Oh, he'll get something, all right," Malcolm snorted. "And if he lays one of his damned filthy hands on Jon, he'll get to find out just what *I* can do with *my* hands."

*** "I guess the Cap'n's still with Martello," Tucker opined after meeting up with Reed again. "How'd the armory tour go?"

"I had no clue that anyone would ever use a replicator to produce that much anachronistic technology, but Martello has enough eighteenth century replica flintlocks there to equip a small army," Reed sighed. "All in immaculate shape. I've never really handled a musket before," he sighed. "I wish I could have fired one, but I had to look vaguely afraid of the things. He's got some rifles there, too, which aren't period, but they're considerably more accurate than the muskets. And my scanner says that he has a vault full of nearly modern plasma weapons buried under the whole thing, presumably where nobody else knows to look for them—I gather he's not willing to take that many chances, when you get down to it." Reed checked that the scanner was safely back in a pocket of his uniform. "What about the warp engine?"

Tucker heaved a sigh and leaned back against a brick wall. "Wearin' down, though Martello won't admit it. Singer's puttin' on a good face, but she's worked to the bone—actually, she didn't look so hot; I think she's sick. That engine they're powerin' everything off of needs an overhaul she can't do with what they've got, and they *will* be short of dilithium within the next year. She didn't tell me that, but it was pretty obvious. Did you find out if they have any dilithium ore down here?"

"T'Pol says no," Reed responded, easing himself onto a patch of grass. Kiwar is significantly lacking in dilithium resources of any kind. Unless they feel like dealing with traders, Martello's got to convince the Captain to provide more dilithium."

"We ain't exactly got a stockpile," Tucker told Reed. "Ain't a lot we can spare. If these people wanna keep up this standard of livin' for more than a couple a' years, they gotta overhaul that engine, bank a dilithium reserve, and realign their power distribution, especially to that replicator. Otherwise, I give 'em three years outside before they all wanna go home, except maybe for Martello."

A voice came from around the corner of the building. "I'd say about half of us would leave tomorrow if you asked anyone but Len." It was Wilcox, now in the lilac dress, which did suit her. She came around to Tucker and Reed, sitting down carefully beside Reed. "I was about to ask both of you to tea at my house, if you'd like to join me. Especially if you want to continue this conversation. Len's Iwa guards are trained to listen for anything that sounds even vaguely insurrectionary. The party line is that we're happy as clams ruling two aboriginal tribes. The truth is that Mickey Singer's possibly terminally ill, and all we have is a medic, not a doctor. Most of the younger crew would love to leave. I'd stay, no matter what—I love Derrick and we have children—but Len would never let anyone here go. God forbid Starfleet would find out he's a power-mad lunatic who finally found a place he could literally call his own."

She paused. "And I think you've both done a lovely job playing dumb. Commander Tucker, First Officer or not, you're an engineer, I gather. Lieutenant, I did hear what you'd said about our armory—I take it you're a weapons officer as well as a fashion consultant? I have the feeling you're not nearly as…mmm…whatever…as you look."

Reed grimaced. "I hope Captain Martello doesn't figure that out. But I wasn't lying—lilac *is* your color."

"And Derrick *does* love it. I wouldn't worry about Len noticing, by the way, unless you drop your guard near him or one of his guards the way you just did when you thought you two were alone. Come on to my house—it isn't safe for us to keep discussing this out here. And don't break character again when anyone might see you, gentlemen—not if you want to get off of this planet."

*** As Reed and Tucker had been touring the area and talking to Wilcox, Archer had remained at the Governor's Mansion. The dilithium discussion had gone on for much longer than either had planned, but the situation was certainly complex. When they were finally through with the issue, Martello brought out a decanter of replicated cognac and invited Archer to his study to help him drink it. There were a thousand reasons Archer should have said no, another thousand to go with Martello, to indulge nostalgia for his old ship, to indulge his curiosity about an old lover. Staying with Martello won handily over departing until dinner.

"Try this; it's excellent," Martello assured him. And, indeed, it was. Archer was seated on an extraordinarily comfortable leather couch, near an enormous, currently unlit, fireplace, with a snifter. The temptation to stretch out and take a nap on it was strong, but Archer wanted to know more of what had occurred, and told Martello so.

And so Martello talked, spinning a story of the aboriginal wars, of Calliope's intervention, of everything that Martello, Wilcox, and Singer had done to build their colony, to convince the natives that with their weaponry, with their technology, they were the gods of local legend. The fact that their arrival and actions had fulfilled the Kiwaran prophecies of a return of the gods was not lost on them, however, Martello explained…who was to say that humans might not be the gods of some other planet, as they so clearly were on this one?

Martello poured both himself and Archer more brandy, Archer clearly entranced with Martello's storytelling. He had always found Martello an attractive man; he'd never have agreed to spend the better part of three years in Martello's bed otherwise. Martello had never pressured his lieutenant into bed; it had been Archer's choice to become the lover of Starfleet's greatest larger-than-life swashbuckler while assigned to Martello's ship. The reasons why were still apparent to him as he listened to Martello spin his tales of the colony.

Finally, Martello set his snifter down and rose from his seat, coming behind Archer. He dropped a hand on the younger captain's shoulder. "Think about staying, Jonathan."

Archer looked up at Martello regretfully. "I can't, Marty."

"Why not?" Leonard Martello had never taken a rebuff lightly; it was meant to be pursued and killed, not accepted.

"I have a mission."

"You have a duty, Jonathan. You have a duty to yourself to do something you want to do with your life, not what everyone else wants you to do with it."

"I have a ship."

"There are others to run it. If they care to. Bring them here, let them see what we have. Let them help us build this place. All of this is mine, Jonathan. I'm offering it to you. My bed, this mansion, the lives of all the people here—all mine. They're yours if you'll share them with me. Surely you know that."

"Marty…we haven't been together in years."

"But it seems like yesterday, doesn't it?" Damn the man; it was true.

"I *have* a lover, Marty," Archer protested. That was true, too. It was a solid, real fact. He couldn't doubt either the sincerity or the depth of Malcolm Reed's passion. And he couldn't doubt his own feelings for Reed, except when his ex-lover was getting him drunk and importuning him to the tune of half a kingdom, such as it was.

"That hothouse flower? Really, Jonathan, what's an orchid like that doing on a starship? He ought to be doing interior décor for the ship, not piloting it. You can do better—you *have* done better. And I'm asking you to come back. Pick up where we broke off."

"Marty…no. I can't." Archer set his own snifter down on a side table as the housekeeper informed them that Tucker and Reed had returned for dinner, as had been planned. Once, such an offer from Martello would have been all but irresistible. Now, Archer had too much responsibility. To his crew, to Starfleet, to his father…perhaps to Earth as a whole. And, most of all, to a man who was going through the torments of the damned to protect him, both as Archer's lover and as the man in charge of keeping him alive and intact for his crew, from just the sort of thing Martello was now doing.


The dinner had been singularly uneventful, as neither Reed nor Tucker intended to let any of their discoveries of the afternoon be raised yet. Martello begged leave to retire early, citing pressing business needing his attention; he asked the housekeeper to show his guests to their rooms. Tucker was given a large, comfortable room on one side of a corridor; across the hallway, Reed and Archer had been given a room together.

Archer slid an arm around Reed, pulling his lover close against him. "This has been one hell of a day."

"Agreed." Reed burrowed against Archer's broad chest. "Wilcox says the crew wants to leave. Half or more of them, anyway."

"Marty tells me there's a dilithium problem."

"Their usage is higher than their warp engine's tolerances, actually," Reed told Archer, clinging to his lover firmly. He sighed. "I'm tired, love. Ready to turn in?"

Archer ran his hand along Reed's side. "More than. I'm drained."

They parted and undressed wordlessly, in a companionable silence born of long-term acquaintance with each other, with each other's body. Passion was still there—the thought of Malcolm's body against his was still enough to cause Archer momentary embarrassment on the Bridge from time to time—but it was now tempered with the comfort of familiarity, with an ease that exists only with security, with the firm belief that one's lover will always be there in the morning.

It was enough to be tired, enough to slip under the bed's covers together, to curl around the other, against warm, naked skin; no longer a need to have sex every time they went to bed, as if the occasion might never come again. Reed's head was pillowed against Archer, one hand beside it, idly fingering the hair on Archer's chest. Archer held Reed against him with one arm wrapped loosely around his lover's side, his hand stroking the amazingly soft skin that covered Reed's rock-hard muscle much as he might pet Porthos in other circumstances.

Archer broke the silence. "Marty asked me if I'd come back to him."

There was no shock, not even a pause in Reed's breath. "And you said?"

"I'm here, Malcolm." Nothing else needed to be said. He loved Reed, had been faithful to him, despite opportunity, even before he'd promised commitment to his lover. Reed knew he'd turned down offers, had seen Archer steel himself against importuning by more than one man and not a few women.

"He's deranged, Jon. What he's doing down here—it's absolutely insane." Reed pressed his head more firmly against Archer's chest for a moment.

"I…I don't know," Archer said. "It's hard to say. We weren't here, weren't in their shoes. What he did might have seemed reasonable at the time."

"You're still in love with him," Reed observed. There was no anger or agitation in his voice. "Not enough to do anything about it. But enough not to see what he's doing."

Archer grunted a negative. "I was never really in love with him; at least, I don't think I was. He fascinated me; I was impressed by his reputation, by everything about him…but I wasn't in love with him. I wasn't ready to be in love back then. And a good thing, since I was waiting for you."

Reed chuckled into Archer's chest. "I'll concur that it was a good thing. And flattery will get you everywhere, love. But I do think you care for him a good bit more than you realize. And I hate to say that I think it's affecting your judgment here. Martello strikes me as quite dangerous."

"Marty's harmless. *You're* the dangerous one, you know. And if I have to prove to you that I'm all yours, I'll be happy to oblige." Archer pulled Reed into a firm embrace.

A hand ran through Archer's hair, smoothing it down against the pillows. "Not tonight, love. You need to get some sleep. When we get back to the ship, I'll be happy to remind you just how dangerous I am—in bed, anyhow."

Kissing his younger lover gently, Archer told him, "That sounds like a plan." He let go of Reed so that they could settle back into a comfortable position to sleep. "I love you. I'm glad you're down here with me."

Reed burrowed back into his lover's broad chest. Jonathan Archer was without a doubt the most comfortable pillow he'd ever had in his life. "So am I, love. So am I."


Archer, Reed, and Tucker found themselves alone at breakfast the next morning; the housekeeper informed them that Martello had risen early for business and had already breakfasted, but that he would see them off the planet. At about the time they finished eating, Martello appeared in the dining room in riding breeches and a waistcoat. "Good morning, gentlemen. I'm sorry I wasn't able to join you, but I've had a good deal to do this morning. I've been making some plans. Jonathan, could I see you in the drawing room for a moment?"

"Of course." Archer rose and followed Martello out of the dining room.

Several minutes later, Martello returned. Archer wasn't with him. However, a small contingent of Iwa guards, all armed, was behind him. "I regret to inform you that Captain Archer won't be returning to your ship with you, gentlemen. Or, should I say, lady and gentleman." Martello gave Reed an obnoxious grin. "I really can't take the chance that you'll notify Starfleet that we're down here. All of this means too much to us. And we need your dilithium reserve, I'm afraid; I don't care to take the chance that we'll run short before anyone else comes along to answer our distress beacon. Oh, and Lieutenant, I truly do apologize, but I've known Jonathan longer than you have…and I'm afraid it takes a *real* man to keep Jonathan Archer happy—which seems to be my department, not yours. He'll get used to being one of the local deities shortly, especially since he'll never have to leave the Governor's Mansion."

An Iwa guard forced Reed and Tucker out of their chairs. "I suggest the two of you head back to your ship—I'll open a hailing frequency and be in contact with you later, so we can discuss matters more thoroughly."

The number of Iwa guards with weapons suggested that argument would be wasted. Flintlock rifles might use obsolete technology, Reed thought, but that didn't mean they wouldn't kill you. He cast a glance at Tucker. "I think we'd better leave."

The gun in Tucker's back was possibly what led to his agreeing so readily with Reed. Left to his own devices, Tucker usually objected to such ideas. "I kinda think that's the game plan here." He glared at the guard holding the flintlock against his spine. "Can I walk to the shuttlepod without you pokin' that thing all the way into me?"

"Kufa," Martello called over to the guard behind Tucker, "please escort the two white gods there back to their chariot, so the Sian do not bother them."

"Yes, Governor."

"The third will be staying with me, Kufa. I believe that a festival will be in order."

"Very good, Governor." The guard and his men steered Reed and Tucker out of the dining room, and then out of the building, towards the shuttlepod.


The trip back up to Enterprise was nearly silent at the start, punctuated by muttered curses by both men and a few "oh, Gawd's" from Trip. Reed, trying to pilot, was nearly hyperventilating, his jaw clenched to near the point of fusing shut. He finally radioed up to T'Pol. "Shuttlepod to Enterprise. Commander Tucker and I are returning to the ship. Captain Archer is *not* with us."

"T'Pol to Reed. Why is the Captain not with you, Lieutenant?'

"We'll be on board soon. I'll explain it then. Reed out." He shut off the radio, sighing.

"What do we do next?" Tucker mused.

"Depends what Martello says," Reed replied. "However, all things considered, I'm sure we'll be having to fight."

"Why?" Trip pounded his fist against the shuttlepod's console. "We could blow Martello into nothin' in one or two blasts. What's he thinkin'?"

"He's not thinking," Reed responded. "At least, not the way we are. He doesn't know what Enterprise has, but he knows we're better-armed than he apparently is. However, although he's not sane, don't underestimate him. He's all too intelligent, I'm afraid. I'm quite sure that whatever he comes up with isn't going to be anything we'd possibly anticipate."

They were approaching the shuttle bay. Reed fell silent again, and prepared for docking.

T'Pol was in the bay to meet them. Reed and Tucker glanced at each other, uncertain as to who should speak first, or what to say. After a few false starts, as T'Pol remained silent and thoughtful, the two finally managed to gasp out the details of Archer's abduction on Kiwar.

The Vulcan contemplated the news quietly. After a few moments, she turned. "Then we shall expect to hear from Captain Martello some time today. Commander Tucker, please download the data that you and Lieutenant Reed have collected from the colony. I believe that we should review it. Lieutenant, I believe that we need to hear from Captain Martello before we determine a response. Please be prepared." She looked at Reed with less professional detachment for a moment. "I realize that this may be very difficult for you, Lieutenant, considering your relationship with Captain Archer. I want you to know that I appreciate your composure right now. I would suggest that you try to get some rest until we hear from Martello."

Reed nodded weakly and headed for his cabin, appreciative of T'Pol's gesture but certain that any effort to rest would be wasted. He stripped off his uniform, lay on his bunk vainly attempting to distract himself from the situation with a novel. The concentration required, however, was too great; he was unable to focus. For a moment, he appreciated Tucker's fondness for comic books; they might have been a better distraction. Putting the book down beside him on the bed, he stared at the ceiling aimlessly, trying not to consider all of the possibilities.

Finally, the comm panel crackled. "T'Pol to Reed. I have been contacted by Captain Martello. Please report to the situation room."

"I'll be there in a moment. Reed out." He rose unsteadily, still trying not to think about Martello's possible ideas, and reached for his uniform.

Reed entered the situation room shortly thereafter to find T'Pol engaged in a conversation with the room's other occupant, Tucker. "You wanted to see me?"

"Yes," T'Pol replied. "We have received an ultimatum from Captain Martello. That, and a challenge. According to Captain Martello, he intends to have Captain Archer, as you indicated, remain with him, and he also wishes us to turn over our dilithium reserve to him. Further, all of his people will be remaining on Kiwar. The alternative, he proposes, is that Captain Archer will be free to go, and any of his crew who wish to leave will be free to go, but we will supply them with a small dilithium reserve and may notify Starfleet of their whereabouts. However," T'Pol continued, all but restraining a sigh, "the choice of outcomes is contingent upon our sending Captain Martello our best possible challenger to meet him in a duel."

"A *duel*? Good Lord!" Reed shook his head. "I told you the man wasn't well, Commander."

"That ain't all," Tucker snorted, throwing up his hands. "The whole duel thing's crazy enough, right down to challenger getting choice of weapons, an' seconds, an' all. But it ain't enough just to do that—he also insists that the winner's gonna be the one who lives."

Reed considered Tucker's words, nodding. "That sounds about right. I suppose I'd better go get ready, then."

"What?" Trip was astounded, and looked every inch of it. "You can't be serious!"

"Oh, I'm very serious," Reed answered, looking first at Tucker, then T'Pol. "We've got to respond one way or another, and under any circumstances, that's my department. And the easiest way to respond, that puts the fewest people at risk, is for the logical person—me—to take him on." He stared directly at T'Pol, who gave the very slightest, almost unwilling, nod.

"You could get killed," Tucker protested.

"Of course. That's a risk I take every day. Tactical's like that. Do you have a better candidate to go deal with him? The thing is, Trip, I have an enormous advantage over Martello."

"What's that?" Tucker asked.

"I know *he's* a deranged, dangerous son of a bitch. He has no clue that *I* am. He thinks I'm a bloody swish that can't swat a fly, and that's right where I want him."

T'Pol looked at a monitor, her fingers running quickly over the keyboard as she verified information. "You might wish to know that the year after he joined Starfleet, Captain Martello was a pentathlon competitor in your Earth Olympic Games." Reed nodded. "Which includes shooting and fencing. If he made the Olympics, he was good. Still, that's over twenty years ago. He has pistols and swords down there, whether he still uses them or not. Best to presume he can, though he may be rusty." He shrugged. "I knew being on my college fencing team would have a purpose someday. I never quite thought this would be it." He thought for a second. "I'm sure you'll wish to be there, Commander, and I'd appreciate that. However, I'd like Mr. Mayweather with us as well. When do we leave?"

Tucker checked his padd. "We're to be there in the morning, 1000 hours."

"I need to be down there by 0900 at the latest. I'll need to speak to Commander Wilcox before I meet up with Martello." Reed turned back to T'Pol. "If you need me, I'll be in the ship's gym. I need Ensign Harrison to meet me there—he's a martial arts expert with sword background. It's not the way I learned to fence, but any practice should be better than none." He threw a half-salute to T'Pol and exited the situation room, his face fixed and unreadable.


Reed met Tucker and Mayweather at the shuttlepod bay. "Figgered Travis'd pilot," Tucker said. The helmsman was checking over the shuttlepod a final time. "He's prob'ly less worked up than either of us."

"That won't last much longer," Reed said. "Travis?"

The young helmsman stopped in his tracks. "Yes?"

Reed waved Mayweather over to him. "Travis, I wanted you to know now—you're going to be my second." Tucker began to protest. "I have a reason, Commander," Reed replied, holding up a hand. "First off, Martello's a stickler, as you've seen, for certain historical details. As I read the old Code Duello from 1777, your rank is a bit too far removed from mine for it to be strictly appropriate for you to second me. Second," he continued, reaching into a pocket, "you know what this is, Travis." He pressed a small black palm-sized object into Mayweather's hand. "The only thing you need to know about being my second is this: if anything happens to me, use it."

"What is that?" Tucker asked.

"A little toy I've been working on that might come in handy down there. Keep it in your pocket, Mr. Mayweather." Reed clambered into the shuttlepod. "Let's head down."

They landed on Kiwar shortly after 0830. A small crowd came over to meet the shuttle; at Reed's behest, Tucker and Mayweather shooed the crowd away. There was no chance that Martello would not find out that they had come down early, but it hardly mattered that much at this point. Reed led the other two men to Commander Wilcox's home and knocked on the heavy wooden door. "Commander Wilcox."

Wilcox answered the door herself, surprised to see them. "Lieutenant Reed, Commander Tucker, Ensign—won't you come in?"

"Just long enough," Reed told her, "to ask if you can operate that replicator for me. There's something I need before we head up to the Governor's Mansion."

"Are you taking your own weapons?" she asked, gathering a few things to take with her.

"In a way."

They followed Wilcox to the replicator as she quietly fussed at Martello's latest lunacy. He was so certain of winning both the duel and his point that he'd declared a feast for that evening. Her speech was guarded but the implications were obvious to the men; Martello, resident god-in-chief of Kiwar, was prepared to announce the arrival of his mate to the presumably rejoicing throng that night at the dinner.

Reed conferred with Wilcox for a few moments upon their arrival at the replicator facility. She turned on the machine, keyed in his requests, which the other men couldn't hear, and, finally, hit the switch.

Shortly thereafter, Wilcox handed a pile of something black and unidentifiable to Reed, who bundled it up in his arms. He merely excused himself to Wilcox and the other officers, and ducked behind the replicator, into a dark corner, with his loot.

He reappeared in a few minutes, to nods from Wilcox and stares from Tucker and Mayweather. "What on God's earth is *that* for?" asked a bewildered engineer.

"I'm planning to challenge him on sword," Reed answered. "It's easier to fight in this than it is in uniform. Less loose fabric to get caught in or on anything. And it stands a better chance of turning a blade." "It" was a pair of glove-soft, and apparently glove-tight, black leather pants that wrapped themselves around his hips and legs like a second skin and left little or nothing to the imagination, tucked into high, glossy, stiff black leather boots that looked to Tucker like a pair of riding boots. A loose white silk shirt, open well below the neck, was tucked into the pants and covered by a black leather vest. He was holding a pair of black leather gloves that resembled driving gloves, with open backs.

The effect wasn't lost on Wilcox, who was staring. Reed hardly looked like the same man who had been in a regulation Starfleet jumpsuit moments before. This Malcolm Reed looked every bit as dangerous as Malcolm actually was, as well as—was it the leather? was it the cut of the clothing?—thoroughly reeking of an overt sensuality that Tucker would never have associated with the Englishman under ordinary circumstances. Although he wasn't attracted to men, Tucker had no difficulty whatsoever seeing just then what Archer saw in Reed. The clothing did *something*—what, Tucker didn't know, but even Reed's usual little half-smile was tangibly more sinister than usual, redolent of a cheerful willingness to kill half-a-dozen grenadiers before breakfast without thinking about it for more than a few seconds.

Even without a weapon at hand, Reed looked…deadly. Even without Tucker's feeling a real attraction, Reed looked…rawly, blatantly, sexual. And he didn't appear to be even the least aware of it.

"Besides," Reed smirked, "it ought to appeal to Martello's weakness for period clothing. As well as convincing him I'm too much of a fop to be worth wasting his time."

Tucker would have argued with "fop." If anything, he thought Reed was about to have a harder time carrying off his effeminate posing than he had before. He was slender, he was slight, but the effect was overwhelmingly masculine—even more so than that of the larger, far better-built, Mayweather, who normally made Tucker feel inadequate when he saw the helmsman working out in the gym.

If there'd ever been the slightest doubt in either of the other men's minds that Reed was an alpha male, it was gone now. Both Tucker and Mayweather had stepped to the side with an immediate deference that suggested they recognized who was at the top of the order.

"Let's get up there," Reed directed, indicating the Governor's Mansion. He stepped outside, back into the bright morning light. Tucker and Mayweather followed, Mayweather patting his pocket for the item that Reed had given him before leaving the ship.

"Aren't you nervous?" Mayweather asked.

"*Nervous*? I'm scared bloody shitless—I may be crazy, but I'm not *insane*," Reed groused. "However, Ensign…would *you* care to be doing this?"


"Then let me handle it. It's what I'm paid for, and not *nearly* enough, I'm starting to think," Reed snapped as he started hiking up the path.

Wilcox came out of the replicator facility, locking it after her. "I'm going up there with you," she told the group as she caught up to them. "Len's gone quite insane over all of this, as if he weren't there already. If anyone can try to talk some sense back into him, I should think it would be me." She tapped Reed's shoulder as they walked. "And remember to stay in character, Lieutenant. At least until you've got him in a corner."

"Any tips about his fencing abilities?" Reed asked over his shoulder.

"He practiced a bit until a couple of years ago, but he had to teach his guards how to fight, and of course none of them knew what they were doing when he first taught them. So in the past ten years he's never gone against anyone with training. You *do* have training?"

"I competed in school," Reed acknowledged. "Never went as far as Martello did with it, but I've done it more recently."

"He favors his left side," Wilcox said. "Remember that. And I've only ever seen him use a foil."

Reed chuckled as he trudged up the path. "Well, then, that's just what I won't pick."


As the group approached Martello's Governor's Mansion, Tucker could see Reed change slightly, then more emphatically. He'd heard Commander Wilcox, twice now, exhort Reed to stay in his guise of a far-too-effeminate-for-Starfleet aesthete when he was anywhere near Martello or his Iwa guards; the armory officer was pulling himself back into character in front of Tucker's eyes. The same man who had nearly given Tucker cause to reconsider the matter of sex with men a few minutes before was now devolving into what Tucker thought was called a leather queen.

The frightening thing about Malcolm Reed's ability to turn on that pose was that he did it so well. Tucker had never heard more than the rarest comment from Reed that he would have thought of as camp, no matter how relaxed Reed had been at the time. Why Reed was so good at the routine when he wanted to be was a mystery Tucker wasn't sure he wanted answered.

Reed was practically swishing his way up the path by the time they were close to the Governor's Mansion. A group of uniformed Iwa came down to meet them; Tucker and Reed recognized Kufa, the guard who had jammed a gun into Tucker's back, as the leader. Mayweather shook his head in disbelief at the sight of tattooed aboriginal peoples in colonial American clothing, but remained silent as the guards led them to the Mansion. Martello stood on the steps, his graying hair back in a long unbraided ponytail over a black sateen waistcoat and breeches. "Come in, gentlemen," he said, eyeing the group carefully. "And what a surprise to see you here, Pam." He ushered them into the mansion's foyer.

"Len," Wilcox begged, grabbing the captain's arm, "this is ridiculous. Call the damned thing off! You don't need to get hurt or killed, and if you kill a Starfleet officer…there's no way that ship up there isn't going to bring back a detachment that could wipe us all out. Be sensible!"

"Are you a Starfleet officer, Pamela, or a goddess?" Martello asked. "The gods have no fear of death. What can Starfleet do to us now?"

If there had been the slightest possibility that Martello was not completely deranged, it was gone now. Wilcox backed away from him in horror. "Kufa," Martello called, "Commander Wilcox would like a ringside seat for the festivities. Why don't you have her seated with Captain Archer?"

Kufa and another guard dragged a struggling Wilcox into another room, through a set of double doors.

"Now, gentlemen, to business," Martello said, rubbing his hands together cheerfully. "I believe I extended a proposition to you regarding your captain, the dilithium, and Calliope. Do we have an agreement?"

Tucker stepped forward. "We do. We're acceptin' your challenge, Cap'n Martello."

"Splendid." Martello took a deep breath. "Kufa! You might bring out the audience." Kufa came out of the other room, followed by a group of guards who were restraining both Archer and Wilcox. Wilcox was still struggling against the men holding her; Archer stood still, his face expressionless until he saw Reed. His eyes widened at Reed's wardrobe, then lit up briefly—then Archer looked ill, as fear followed the prior moment of anticipation. By the time Martello turned in Archer's direction, his face was studiedly blank again.

"Now, who am I to take on? Who's the best man on Jonathan Archer's crew, eh?" Martello eyed Mayweather carefully, noting his muscles, apparently putting his money on the helmsman.

Tucker clamped a hand firmly on Reed's shoulder, startled by the heaviness and softness of the shirt Reed wore. "Took a bit o' deliberatin'," Tucker drawled, "but we all decided on Lieutenant Reed here. Ensign Mayweather's his second."

Martello stared in utter amazement, then swore. "I ask for Jonathan Archer's best man, I can see both of you here," he said, gesturing to Tucker and to Mayweather, "and I'm seriously being told I'll be fighting his *catamite*? Good Lord." He looked over Reed carefully, and not without some interest. "And it's such a shame to have to do this to someone like you, Lieutenant. I'm sure Jonathan's found you terribly amusing, and I'm certain I'd find the same. If one of the others were fighting me," he suggested, "you'd be quite welcome to stay here with us afterwards."

Reed lowered his gaze, then peered across at Martello through his eyelashes. "Oh, I don't know," Reed purred. "The place is lovely, of course, but I just don't *do* well with Colonial. I find French Mediterranean *so* much more attractive. And it goes better with my color, don't you think?" He pulled on the gloves. "I *think* there are matters to attend to?"

Martello glowered, though still contemplating Reed with open lust. Archer, watching the exchange from across the large room, looked decidedly less comfortable than he had, slightly unnerved by the sight of his ex-lover's attentions to the man who held his heart now. And there was nothing Archer was free to do about the matter, not with one guard holding him, one training a gun on him, and several others across the room, ready to attack at the first sign that anything was amiss with Martello's plans.

"Very well. Kufa shall be my second." The captain of the guard came over to join Martello. "Your choice of weapons, Lieutenant. Anything in these rooms, anything on these walls—feel free to pick."

"Of course." Reed began a slow, thorough search of the weaponry on display, immediately ruling out, again, the ancient firearms in favor of blades. A bullet might go anywhere, but steel at close quarters was bound to land somewhere on your opponent. And Reed had age, speed, and surprise in his favor against Martello's better sword training from his Olympic days. And there was one other thing. Martello wanted this to the death? But he and Martello were both trained to fight with foils, aiming to score by thrusting—his ensign, with the Asian sword training, used a full blade with edge, that cut rather than thrust. It had caught him a bit off guard during his practice. Reed walked over to the far wall, indicating a pair of crossed cavalry sabers. "The sabers, Captain Martello?" he inquired blandly. "I think these will do."

"Kufa." At Martello's command, the Iwa crossed the room and removed the sabers from the wall, carrying them back as Reed followed. "Would you care to examine them, Lieutenant?" Martello watched as Reed looked over the blades, felt the sabers' respective weights, and finally nodded, taking one of them. The former Starfleet captain appeared to be contemplating how to handle the swords Reed had chosen, larger, heavier, and far less flexible than regulation fencing gear, and unsuited for the thrusts that were expected of a championship fencer such as he had been. Reed found them far more comfortable to handle than the katana he'd been forced to borrow from Harrison; his own martial arts training had never included that.

"Now," Martello said warmly, "the rules, Lieutenant. These are sabers, of course, though not traditional fencing sabers; under standard rules, no contact below the torso is allowed, but the arms and head are permitted. No second weapon, no two-handed stance, no defensive padding. I myself am wearing none, though you may wish to check; I have no doubt, Lieutenant, that *your* ensemble, attractive as it is, leaves no room for anything of the sort. No striking or grabbing with the hand, and, of course, no action against an unarmed opponent. We shall begin with the usual foot distance between blades. Kufa will call us to begin, if that's acceptable; he has done it before. As I indicated to that Vulcan on your ship, there is only one possible determination of who has won -whichever of us is still standing at the end. Are we in agreement?"

"Certainly," Reed replied, adjusting the gloves once more. "No argument here."

"I presume, then, that you're quite prepared to die, Lieutenant?" Martello began warming up to his saber, displaying himself to the assemblage.

"Oh, I'm always prepared to die, Captain," Reed answered, stretching himself out. "It's part of my job description. I just don't plan on doing it today."

"Really? You might rethink that. After all, what is your job description, besides keeping Jonathan's bed warm?"

Reed gave a tight-lipped half-smile. "Wait until one of us has drawn first blood, Captain, and I'll tell you."

"You *are* a cocky little bastard, Lieutenant," Martello snapped.

"Thank you. It means a great deal to me to hear that from you," Reed quipped, taking himself to the middle of the room and waiting for Martello to follow. Kufa looked at the two men thoughtfully, adjusted their positions, and stepped back.


Reed and Martello circled for a moment, each studying the other. Reed was tempted to lunge, to go ahead, remembering his instructor's training: "First study your adversary's position and begin a false attack, to discover his instinctive parry." The only problem was, that was exactly what he would normally do, and exactly what Martello could be expected to do…but what would a hothouse flower with a probable fear of injury do, knowing that he couldn't back out?

If he were Reed, he would wait for Martello to move, expecting the false attack, and—like that; Martello had lunged—parry it stupidly, a little clumsily. A misstep to the right, cross the leg behind…and yes—he jumped back—that *had* been as close as he'd thought it would be.

But it told Reed what he wanted to know, he decided as he parried another of Martello's thrusts off of his blade, a bit more skillfully this time, but not enough to display his own ability. Martello was good, but rusty, and he did indeed favor his left side.

He also seemed to ignore that the joy of using a saber was that you didn't just thrust—you got to slice and dice. Reed parried again and riposted, a close-on lunge to Martello's left that came within striking range of the shoulder. He backed off slightly before Martello could parry, then decided to speed things up—possibly a blunder he'd regret, but Martello wouldn't expect it. He dropped down, left hand on the floor, for another lunge to Martello's left, while ducking a brief cut from Martello, and thrust up, to the left, nicking the side of Martello's face.

Martello backed slightly as Reed jumped up. "First blood to you, Lieutenant. A lucky accident."

"I doubt it," Reed called, ducking another cut and lunging again, backing Martello a bit further.

"Oh?" Martello parried a cut from Reed's blade.

"My job description." Reed feinted low, moving back to Martello's left again, looking for an opening.

"Which is?"

There it was, waiting for a lunge to move Martello to the side. Reed moved with a slash, putting Martello off balance. "Weapons officer." Another feint, and a parry from Martello, locking blades. Reed flicked his blade loose, then backed up. "And as I said, I don't plan to die any time soon."

"Damn you!" Martello snarled, moving furiously towards Reed. Reed had counted on that, hoping for rage and lack of concentration from the disclosure. He stepped aside to dodge one lunge, then parried and riposted, now passing directly past Archer and Wilcox. Wilcox gasped as Martello feinted low, then came at Reed's sword arm quickly. Archer, beside her, was pale, his teeth apparently grinding to keep himself composed. Reed dodged again, but not quite fast enough; fortunately, the blow fell on his shoulder at an angle and was, as he'd hoped, caught by the leather vest. The vest was cut slightly, but the snagging managed to turn the blade before it actually cut him; it stung, from the force of landing against him, but he didn't think he had serious damage.

He took the opportunity to advance, saber clashing against Martello's. Martello had clearly been formidable in his time; he was dangerous to underestimate now. What Reed needed was another edge. Martello was compensating for speed and agility, and was recovering from his sudden bout of rage; Reed needed something Martello couldn't overcome. Looking around quickly, he found a sudden reason to be glad he was small. His slight weight just might be supported…and the large chandelier in the foyer was within reach of the main staircase if you were halfway up the steps, yes. Thank God one of his tutors had said a man his size should think about gymnastics; he'd hated it, but the year's training had had its uses before.

Reed allowed Martello to back him over to the staircase, then, backed up one step by Martello's lunge, he took three steps at a time to the middle of the stairs as Martello followed. Keeping the saber in his grip, Reed reached up and pushed off the steps, giving him a chance to grab two of the lowest branches of the ceiling fixture. As Martello approached, Reed swung out with his boots to catch Martello in the chest, sending the older man down the stairs backwards with some force. Reed let go of the light and ran down the steps to meet Martello just after the former captain landed at the bottom, and jabbed the point of his saber directly against Martello's chest.

Martello looked up at Reed. "Touche, Lieutenant." He was breathing heavily, winded from the fall. The saber was half-out of his hand. "I didn't expect it of you. Which, I presume, was your ploy all along. I'd be happy to let you have the win," he suggested silkily as he struggled to sit up.

His opponent left his saber in place, moving along with Martello as he rose. "Really?" Reed sneered. "Your rules, your game, Captain. You wrote them when you thought you couldn't lose—I think changing them now that you think I could kill you is just a bit disingenuous, don't you?"

Martello was sitting up now; the saber was on the floor. "You wouldn't kill me now, would you, Lieutenant?"

"Not while you're unarmed; it wouldn't be sporting." Reed tapped a boot against the floor. "So I might suggest that you rescue that saber as quickly as possible, hmm?"

Archer pulled himself free from his amazed and distracted guards and laid a hand on Reed's arm. "Malcolm, please. Don't do it. You don't need to kill him."

Reed turned to Archer, his sword arm still steady, blade still lodged at the notch of Martello's waistcoat. "Jon, I really think I *should*. He's done enough damage to this place, he's done enough damage to his crew, and he's done *more* than enough damage to you. And I really don't care to have him on the same ship with us, taking him back. Besides," Reed sighed, "at the moment I'd rather enjoy it."

"Humor me," Archer replied, running his hand along Reed's side. "We don't have to hold him on Enterprise."

Kufa stepped forward from his place. "If I may. In such a situation, Lieutenant, is the proper procedure not for the seconds to decide the continuation or to end the duel?"

The weapons officer took a deep breath and nodded slowly, regretfully. "Of course."

The Iwa crossed the room and took Mayweather aside. They returned together a few minutes later to pull Tucker aside. Reed waited for them, his free arm around Archer's waist now, but still with the saber's point in place. Finally, Kufa stepped back to the center to speak to Reed and Martello.

"The seconds have decided. This duel will end now. The Lieutenant is clearly the winner. Therefore, the terms proposed to the Starfleet ship must be enforced. Further, Captain Martello, as captain of the Guard I am taking you into custody."

"What for?" Martello gulped.

"You kidnapped the Starfleet officer," Kufa replied. "You hold your own people here against their will. And from what I see here, I do not think that you are any god, nor do I think that any of my men will disagree with me. Guard, release Commander Wilcox. We will appoint her and her husband, our tribal leader, as our new governors." Wilcox shrugged herself out of the guards' grasp with a sigh of relief. "Very good. And please escort Captain Martello to the stockade."

The guards helped Martello to his feet and hauled him away, as Reed threw his sword to the floor. "Oh, well, just my luck. And I was *so* looking forward to that." Archer slid his own arm around Reed, squeezing him. If he'd ever had any feelings left for Leonard Martello, he didn't have to worry about it now; between Martello's kidnapping him, and the threat of Reed's being killed in the fight, there was nothing left but disgust, and a very slight trace of pity for the man's obvious derangement. He could well understand his lover's feeling that the matter wasn't completed with Martello still breathing.

Wilcox made her way to Archer and Reed. "Jon, of course you're free to go. I can't apologize enough for what's happened here, but there was nothing I could do."

"I understand that, Pam," Archer told her. "This wasn't your fault." Still holding Reed, he turned to Tucker. "Trip, contact T'Pol. Have them send a Vulcan ship out here with room to rescue some of Calliope's crew and a dilithium shipment for the personnel staying."

"Yessir." Tucker reached for his communicator.

Wilcox cleared her throat. "Commander? Be sure they have two other things—a decent medical unit for Chief Engineer Singer, and a brig. I don't want Len staying here, I want him off-planet. If I didn't think he was ill and needs treatment, he'd be up for a court-martial on kidnapping and attempted murder at a minimum." Tucker nodded. As he talked to T'Pol, Wilcox turned her attention back to Archer and Reed. "And Lieutenant…thank you. For everything. I really don't know what to say." She held her hand out to him.

Reed took her hand, squeezed it, and shrugged. "It's only my job, Commander Wilcox."

She shook her head in an emphatic negative. "I'm not sure that shuttle piloting, spying, acting, fencing, *and* fashion design all fall under weapons and tactical. Unless they've changed the requirements."

Another shrug. "I've always said, you do what it takes."

"You're far too modest."

Archer coughed. "I don't think so." He looked at Reed. "Malcolm, promise me one thing. Tell me you're never wearing this outfit outside of my cabin again."

Reed batted his eyelashes, smiling. "Really? I thought you'd like it."

"I do. Believe me. But it's…just…you look less naked when you're not wearing anything at all." Archer had a faint blush.

Reed raised one eyebrow. "Oh." A grin. "Well, if you like it that much…I think I can accommodate."

"Damn." That was from Travis. "Thought you were gonna wear that to the next party."

"Well, I *was*…"

"Cap'n," Tucker suggested, "doncha think you should let everyone get one look at it so they can get damn good an' jealous?"

"All right. Once." He returned to Wilcox. "We should be going. Is there anything else we can do for you, Pam?"

"Just get the Vulcans here and we'll be fine." She reached over and hugged him. "It's been good seeing you, Jon. I wish it had been better circumstances for all of us." A peck on Reed's cheek. "And I suppose it's late, but congratulations." She looked at Archer carefully. "He's much better for you than Len was."

"Don't think I don't know it."


The shuttlepod ride back to Enterprise was uneventful. Reed had taken care to change back into his uniform and to fold the other gear up as inconspicuously as possible. The other three men were still glancing at him as if he were still in it, with Tucker and Mayweather expecting to be ripped to pieces by Archer for even contemplating the leathers Reed had worn.

Finally, Tucker broke the silence by asking Reed a question that had niggled at him since early that morning. "Malcolm, what was that thing you gave Travis?"

"Oh, that." Reed gave a half-smile as the shuttlepod's pilot extricated the item from his own pocket and handed it back to Reed. "A little toy I've been tinkering with." Reed handed it to Tucker. "A palm-sized phase pistol. It doesn't keep a charge long, it's only good for a few shots, but it's easy to hide. I didn't care to trust that Martello wouldn't cheat, so I wanted a cheat of my own. I figured that if anything happened to me, Travis has used this before, so he'd be able to take out Martello anyway. As I said down there, I wasn't planning on dying, but I was planning on winning even if I did."

"You're somethin', all right," Trip marveled.

"Part of the job," Reed shrugged. "Just part of the job." He took the small phase pistol back from Tucker and secured it in his own pocket, rearranging the bundle on his lap that Archer kept pretending he wasn't eyeing.

All four men were exhausted upon their return to the ship, though Reed, with his blow to the shoulder, was the only one who headed to Sickbay—and that only after an ultimatum from Archer, who, knowing his lover's habits, also refused to accept his claim later of a clean bill of health until he'd double-checked with Phlox personally.

Reed finally arrived at Archer's cabin after dinner. He handed Archer a padd. "I thought I'd better get my end of the report down immediately. I…left rather a lot out. Somehow, I don't think Starfleet's ready for the details."

Archer glanced at the padd, then put it on his desk. "I don't think they're ready for your take on tactical officers' uniforms, either." He reached over and pulled Reed in for an embrace. Before Reed could protest on behalf of his clothing, Archer's lips were locked against his, taking Reed's breath away. He was flushed when the kiss finally ended. "And that was a damned fool thing to do, Malcolm—you could have gotten killed."

"I wouldn't have," Reed replied calmly. "Besides, we didn't have much of a choice, and who else was there that could have done it? And you were entirely too trusting of Martello by half—don't tell me you weren't acting out some leftover feelings for him instead of looking at what he was doing."

Archer's hands dropped to hold Reed's arms. "Guilty as charged," he sighed. "I wanted to believe he was still the same man I'd…" He trailed off. "I'm sorry. And I shouldn't be throwing that in front of you. I was wrong."

Reed leaned up to kiss Archer's face gently. "It doesn't matter. I forgive you. But don't *ever* do anything that miserably stupid again. But you owe me, Jon…"


The tactical officer reached for a bag on the floor. "You have to let me put this on now."

His lover blanched. "Malcolm, you promised you wouldn't be seen in that outfit. Except for the party…and that's not till next week."

"Who's going to be seen in it?" Reed smirked, fondling the miraculously unscathed shirt. "I fully expect you to peel me out of it inch by inch, love. With your teeth. After that, we'll worry about what you'll have to do to worm yourself back into my good graces…hmm?"

Archer tugged at Reed's uniform zipper. "I have a few ideas, if you're interested…"

Reed slapped at Archer's hand. "Hold your horses, love. No fair helping me get into it. I'm changing into this, and you just wait and pretend that you've been abducted to the Presidio by the Alcalde's men and you're waiting for Zorro to show up to rescue you."

Archer blinked. It seemed safer than some other possible reactions. "*Zorro*?"

Reed's eyes twinkled. "I had Wilcox replicate a mask and a bullwhip while I was at it—I just didn't show anybody else. You never liked swashbuckling novels as a boy?"

"Well, yes, but—"

"No buts, love." Reed shook out the leathers and peeled off his uniform. He looked up at the ceiling for a second. "And how *do* you feel about chandeliers?"

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to the author.

Star Trek and Enterprise are copyrighted by Paramount. We don't own 'em—we just play with them. No money was made.
Please do not repost material without requesting permission directly from the author.
Archer's Enterprise is maintained by the Webmistress.