Title: Compromising Situation

Author: Kylie Lee

Author's email: kylielee1000@hotmail.com

Author's URL: http://www.geocities.com/kylielee1000/

Date: 08/25/02

Length: ~7,000 words

Fandom: Star Trek: Enterprise

Pairing: Reed/Mayweather Type: Slash M/M

Rating: NC-17

Summary: Only one person among the crew on shore leave doesn't know Reed and Mayweather are lovers, so they resolve to tell him. Except he finds out first. Oops.

Feedback: Yes, please.

Disclaimer: Original material copyright 2002 Kylie Lee. This is not an attempt to infringe on Paramount's copyright. No money changed hands. Etc.

Spoilers: None

Series: Under the Disco Ball

Previous story: Vodka on the Rocks

Archive: Yes, at EntSTSlash, Tim Ruben, Archers_Enterprise, Allslash, Situation Room, Luminosity, Complete Kingdom of Slash, and WWoMB; anyone else, yes, but ask first.

Comments: The title rationales are as follows: the first fics' titles are parallel notions based on the Prince song ("Dance, Music, Sex, Romance"). The second fics' titles are the name of a drink. The third and final fics' titles really begin with the word "Caught": thus, "Caught…between a rock and a hard place." Beta'd by The Grrrl and Kipli—thank you so much!

"Oh, Malcolm. Yes. There."


"Quit it."


"Damn it! Stop that."

"You told me not to stop a moment ago."

"Then go back to doing what you were doing before. Please."

"Ah! This, then."

Travis Mayweather's only response was a low groan.

"I'll take that as a yes."

Mayweather watched as Malcolm Reed's head dipped down again. Reed's warm mouth enveloped his cock. He closed his eyes and thrust gently into Reed's mouth. Reed pressed his hips into the mattress, and the dildo inside Mayweather brushed his prostate. He shivered in pleasure. He didn't want it to end. Then Reed's mouth left his cock and moved up his body, licking.

Reed had been tormenting him for a half hour—well, really the whole evening, because they had gone out to dinner with their crewmates and couldn't show even casual affection in public. Mayweather had to admit that the affection they wanted to show each other was likely inappropriate in a public setting. Even though Hoshi Sato and Trip Tucker both knew they were lovers, Captain Jonathan Archer didn't know. Reed hadn't let that stop him, just as he hadn't let it stop them the other day, when he'd done the same thing when he, Mayweather, and Sato had been having drinks in the hotel bar. That was before Sato knew that Mayweather and Reed were lovers.

This time, Reed had gone further. He'd cupped Mayweather's dick through his trousers under the cover of the tablecloth. He'd brushed his thigh against Mayweather's. He'd stroked Mayweather's knee and over to the inside of Mayweather's leg. He'd casually put his arm against the back of Mayweather's chair so he could lean over and talk to Tucker behind Mayweather's head. He'd actually played footsie. They'd made out like teenagers in the stall of the restaurant's bathroom for about two minutes and gotten so hard that it took ten minutes and a lot of cold water to get back to their usual "I'm on vacation" state of semiarousal, then had to make up a story about why they were gone so long and why Reed's hair was wet.

Now, at last, was the culmination of a night of teasing. Mayweather and Reed had spent every night of shore leave together. The extra privacy afforded by the hotel, by everyone having separate rooms on separate floors, by there being no roommate around; the large beds; the hedonistically large whirlpool tub in the bathroom, just the right size for two—it was getting so that Mayweather was beginning to resent leaving his room. He was pretty sure he'd much rather be Reed's sex slave for the entire duration of shore leave, but they'd filled their days with art galleries, shopping, and sightseeing and their evenings with long dinners and dancing at nightclubs. In fact, two days ago, they'd had quite a lot of fun on the dance floor.

Reed's mouth wandered back down Mayweather's body. "God, you're gorgeous," Reed breathed. "Here?"


"Yes, what?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Try again." There was no rank in the bedroom. That's what Reed always said.

Reed ran a hand down Mayweather's leg. Mayweather groaned. "Yes, please," he tried. He'd already seen what would happen if he called Reed "Cupcake" during sex, and he didn't care to repeat the experience. "Yes, Malcolm. Yes."

"Much better. Tell me when you're going to come."

Reed's hands pushed him down into the mattress again, and again, the dildo stroked. Then Reed deliberately set a rhythm. When Mayweather began bucking and thrusting, Reed encouraged him with little noises, hanging onto Mayweather's cock, mouth hungry. Mayweather felt the pleasure build, and when he knew he couldn't stand it any more, he said, "I'm coming." As he circled his ass, thrusting onto the dildo, thrusting into Reed's mouth, just about ready to come, Reed activated the dildo's remote, and the slight buzzing sensation deep inside him sparked a pulsing, throbbing orgasm. Mayweather came hard, grinding his ass into the mattress, spurting into Reed's mouth over and over again.

When he was done, he lay back, inert, still pressing his butt down, feeling the slight buzz against his prostate. For a long few seconds, it felt wonderful, like he could get hard again, but then suddenly, it was too much sensation, and he groaned and rolled onto his side. Reed deactivated the device and withdrew it, then put his arms around Mayweather, hands stroking.

"Was that nice?" Reed asked a few minutes later.

"Oh, god. Nice. Yes. It was very, very nice." His orgasm had had the quality of spiritual transcendence.

"Because you looked like you were enjoying it."

"I enjoyed it. Oh, god." His sphincter fluttered, and he pushed his ass back into Reed's body. Reed was hard. "Come inside me," he invited.



"You'll be sore," Reed demurred. "We've been…busy lately." His breath was warm against Mayweather's neck.

"Haven't noticed any problems so far," Mayweather said. "It's okay. Really. Do you want something inside you?" They had their toys out tonight.

Reed gave in. "Oh, you're going to kill me."

"I aim to please."

There was a brief interlude as Mayweather lubed up another dildo, slid it into Reed, and strapped it on so it would stay in place. Reed's eyes were a dark gray; he was incredibly excited. Mayweather slid the dildo's remote, an incongruous hot pink device, close to hand. Then Reed pushed Mayweather onto his hands and knees and quickly sheathed himself. Reed's hands grasped his hips as Reed smoothly slid in and out. He could feel Reed grow more and more excited—it wasn't just his moans; it was the way his hands clutched, the way his hips moved. Every now and then, Mayweather's sphincter would flutter against Reed's hard cock. He doubted he would grow hard enough for another round; he had come twice already. But it would be fun to try. When Reed's dick brushed his prostate, he felt tiny jolts of pleasure.

"Travis, now," Reed said at last. "Oh, please. Now."

Mayweather pressed the switch on the dildo's remote. He couldn't see Reed's face, but he imagined it as he felt Reed push in and out frantically, then climax inside him, fingers pushing into his hips as he thrust in and out, pounding Mayweather, coming hard. Reed said, "Oh, god," over and over again while he came, voice raw with pleasure. Then Mayweather felt Reed push in and hold himself there—the last few moments of orgasm. When Reed relaxed, Mayweather deactivated Reed's dildo. Reed leaned against his lover's back for a few moments, gasping. Mayweather felt Reed's hand stroke his back up and down as Reed pulled out. Then it was Reed's turn to collapse as Mayweather unstrapped the toy, removed it, and tossed it next to its brother on the floor.

"Why don't we do this more often?" Reed gasped after a few minutes. Mayweather could see Reed's pulse thudding in his neck.

"It's too much for every day," Mayweather opined. "Is it okay to touch you?"

"Not just yet."

Mayweather settled on one arm next to his lover and surveyed the dark-haired lieutenant. Reed had called Mayweather "gorgeous," but Mayweather happened to think the adjective described Reed. His slight, well-muscled body, his dark hair, those extraordinary eyes—well, "gorgeous" was as good a word as any. He'd gotten lucky. Reed was handsome, smart, and passionate under his professional British exterior, and it was not too much to say that they adored each other. But shore leave had only highlighted the restrictions in their relationship. Over the course of the last few days, Mayweather had realized that he wanted to acknowledge their relationship publicly. Secrecy seemed disrespectful to what they thought of each other, although it had seemed like a good idea at the time because they worked on board the same ship. It helped that Hoshi Sato and Trip Tucker had found out.

Mayweather reached over and lightly touched Reed's hair. Reed said, "Mmm," rolled over, and rested his head on Mayweather's chest. "Do touch me now," he invited.

Mayweather obliged, stroking Reed's stomach and side. "It's getting late," he whispered. "Do you want to go to sleep?"

"I don't know if I can sleep," Reed responded. He was almost purring with contentment. "Strangely, I feel as though I've just run a marathon. I'm still wound up."

"Well, then, do you want to make out?"

Reed considered. "Certainly. I could do that."

Mayweather turned off the light. "Sometimes making out leads to sleeping," he said in explanation.

"Sometimes it leads to sex," Reed said suggestively.

"Again?" Mayweather laughed.

"You never know," Reed said, and Mayweather touched his lips to Reed's, and they lost themselves in the warmth of the other.

They had a hard time getting out of bed the next morning. They had been slowly waking up when the captain called Mayweather's room—far too early in the morning for Mayweather's taste. The captain invited him to breakfast with him and Sato. "I can't get hold of Commander Tucker or Lieutenant Reed," Archer told Mayweather. "I left messages, though."

"Maybe they're in the shower or something," Mayweather said. "I'll stop by their rooms on my way over and bring them along if I find them." He pushed Reed's head away from his stomach with a mouthed "Stop that"; Reed's kisses had turned into tickles.

"Great. Thanks."

Mayweather and Reed stopped by Tucker's room on their way down to the lobby, but no one seemed to be in. They met Archer and Sato and walked over to a quaint café that Mayweather's guidebook rated high. Their server, a young woman with choppy hair that looked as if it had been cut in the dark, hovered anxiously as they ordered and ate. It quickly became clear that she was taken with Archer. If Archer so much as looked over a shoulder, she rushed to the table to see what he wanted. Archer treated her with courtly courtesy and ignored the reaction of his crew.

"Anybody know where Trip got to?" Archer asked when their plates were cleared.

"Commander Tucker is keeping amused with his redhead," Sato said.

"Oh, how do you know that?" Archer asked.

"I saw them in the hallway this morning, leaving his room together. I may have overheard a little something about a day trip to see Wollis Falls."

"May have overheard?" Mayweather said.

"I have very good hearing," Sato said primly. Her ears were famous on the bridge for picking things out of the com transmissions. She'd saved crew members' lives with those ears of hers.

"I've read about the falls," Reed put in. "They're supposed to be beautiful."

"Well, then, why don't we go and see for ourselves?" Archer asked. "Who's up for it?"

"Captain," Mayweather said warningly. "Are you spying on Commander Tucker?"

"He's supposed to be a friend of mine. I hear from Hoshi that he's seeing someone?"

"I don't think it's a seeing," Sato said. "Definitely not a seeing."

"Maybe a feeling, a touching," Mayweather added, and he and Sato collapsed into giggles.

"Travis, Hoshi," Reed warned.

They subsided briefly. Then Sato said, "A stroking, a petting," and Mayweather immediately came up with, "A kissing, a—"

Before he could go on, Reed said, "Travis," voice utterly shocked, and Sato and Mayweather collapsed again. Reed and Archer exchanged patient looks as Sato and Mayweather regained control.

Mayweather managed to make his face serious. "I would hate to imply that Commander Tucker was into one-night stands or something."

"Clearly it's a relationship," Sato said. "One of those two-day relationships. I know all about those."

"Oh, do you now?" Archer said, amused.

"What would hold Commander Tucker's interest?" Sato continued. "Let's see. She's probably got a PhD in stellar fluid mechanics, but she is also an exotic dancer, and in her spare time, she tutors disadvantaged kids."

"Stop this wild speculation," Reed ordered. "The captain invited us to go with him to visit Wollis Falls. I for one intend to take him up on it. We leave the planet tomorrow after lunch, so this is the last day for a proper day trip."

Mayweather agreed. He'd seen pictures of the falls in his tourist guide, which he'd been perusing over breakfast, and they were spectacular. "I'm in," he said. "Hoshi?"

Sato extended her hand, palm down, and waved it from side to side, indicating she was uncertain. "I don't know," she said. "I haven't seen the outdoor sculpture garden yet."

"Is there a description of the falls in that guidebook?" Archer asked, indicating Mayweather's slim, glossy commercial padd.

Mayweather pushed it over to him. "Yes, sir," he said.

"May I borrow this for a while?"


Archer flipped through the index, found the entry, linked to it, and quickly skimmed it. "Looks like from where we are, it takes two hours to get there by public transportation. And it looks like the route there is scenic in its own right." He considered briefly. "So if we leave at ten, we'll be there in time for lunch. We can have a picnic by the falls, or we could eat at the restaurant that overlooks it. What do you think?"

"I think a picnic sounds more romantic," Sato said. She gave Mayweather and Reed a meaningful glance, one that the captain totally missed as he paged through the guidebook. Mayweather winked at her, and they started giggling again.

Archer looked up, surprised. "What?" he asked. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing," Sato said, voice strangled.

"I don't know what is with you two." Archer shook his head. "Thank god you don't do this while you're on duty." He pointed the guidebook at Sato for emphasis. "You're going, and that's an order. And you're in charge of the picnic lunch. Got it?"

"Yes, sir," Sato said.

Archer returned to his perusal of the guidebook. "We can have dinner at the restaurant if we stay that long. And wear hiking gear and comfortable shoes, everyone. There are some nice trails there."

"I think I'll return to the hotel and change. Shall we meet in the lobby at ten, then?" Reed stood up.

The plan was agreed to. Mayweather stood up too. "I'll walk over with you," he said.

"That leaves us with the bill," Archer pointed out.

"Exactly," Reed said. "Thanks for breakfast."

Hoshi slid out of her chair, saying, "Gosh, I have to get going too. I have to arrange for lunch. Breakfast was delicious, Captain."

Archer sighed. "I'm a generous guy," he said. "See you at ten." He settled back and waved at them as they exited, then turned his attention back to the guidebook. The server hovered solicitously at his elbow as she refilled his cup; she blushed at his smile, and Archer pretended not to notice.

Sato, Mayweather, and Reed stepped outside and stood together on the sidewalk. It was a beautiful sunny day. "Which way?" Mayweather asked Sato. "I'm going to that little café on Bird Street," Sato decided. "They had a takeout menu posted that looked good." She cocked her head. "Look, when are you going to tell the captain?"

"Tell him what?" Reed asked.

"She means, tell him about us," Mayweather said. "That we're lovers."

Reed sighed. "Must we?"

"Commander Tucker knows. Hoshi knows. Hoshi can't keep her mouth shut."

"It's true," Sato said regretfully. They all knew that wasn't true at all.

Mayweather said, "He's going to find out, and don't you think he'd rather hear it from the parties involved, instead of having to haul us in and read us the riot act when he looks like he doesn't know what is going on aboard his own ship?"

Reed sighed. "I'll tell him. I'll stop by his room at five minutes to ten and tell him then, so I don't have to do any explaining."

"Good plan." Mayweather put an arm around Reed, and Reed slid his arm around Mayweather's waist. "Let's go. See you at ten, Hoshi."

They walked right past the window of the restaurant, arms around each other, and looked inside as they passed. Mayweather saw Archer, sipping from a mug, ostentatiously engrossed in the guidebook. The server was staring at him longingly from across the room. No doubt Archer was trying to distance himself from her. Although she was cute in a punky way, she was much too young for Archer. Mayweather suppressed a grin.

The hotel was only a few minutes' walk away, but Reed wanted to buy a souvenir for his sister Madeline, so they spent ten minutes in a quaint jewelry shop with wonderful one-of-a-kind handmade pieces. Mayweather tried to help Reed pick out some earrings, but he had to tease Reed when Reed admitted he didn't know whether or not his sister had pierced ears. They settled on a delicate necklace instead. "It will help her get over the shock," Reed said as they stepped back outside.

"The shock?"

"When I tell her I'm dating a wonderful man."

"What's the shock, the wonderful part or the man part?"

"Actually, the dating part," Reed said dryly.

"A year and a half and you're only now going to tell your sister?" Mayweather said. "I thought I had managed to thaw some of that Reed reserve, but boy, was I wrong." His family knew all about Reed, of course. Mayweather knew Reed hadn't told his parents, but he hadn't really considered any of the other people in Reed's life—his best friend Mark, Madeline, his other friends from home and from Starfleet.

"If I tell the captain, I should tell my family," Reed said firmly. "I've decided."

"Good decision."

Reed played with the paper bag his purchase was wrapped in. "Look, I'm nervous enough at having to talk to the captain about this."

Mayweather reached out and clasped Reed's hand briefly, then released it. "It's okay," he said gently. "You just do what you have to do, when you have to do it."

"Oh, god." Reed banged his head gently against Mayweather's shoulder.

"What, embarrassed of me?"

Reed looked shocked. "Not at all," he protested.

"What, then?"

"Butterflies. I'm all over butterflies when I think of telling them."

"You know why I think you're nervous?"

"No, why?"

"Because you're afraid of their reaction. You're afraid of their happiness or their disapproval. It doesn't matter what the reaction is. It's that they're going to have one."

Reed nodded. "Yes, of course you're right." He hesitated. "It seems like a terribly big thing, to admit to those around one how much one feels. How deeply one feels." He inhaled. "How deeply I feel," he corrected. "I prefer that those around me not know what I am thinking or feeling. I prefer that they not know the depth of my capacity to feel. By telling them this, I give them something important. When I tell them, I become vulnerable. I prefer to be perceived as invulnerable."

They were at the foot of the steps leading up to the hotel. Mayweather pulled Reed up onto the steps and hugged him. "No one wants to hurt you," he said into Reed's hair. "No one is invulnerable. I think the captain and your parents and your sister will all be happy to hear that you are vulnerable."

"Well, Madeline will certainly be delighted." Reed clutched him close, then released him, and they started up the steps. "It's ridiculous. I just have to tell the captain a simple fact about my life. But it will be easy telling the captain as opposed to my parents. The captain couldn't possibly disapprove of you, because he knows you, whereas my parents certainly could, because they've never met you." Reed held the door for Mayweather, then followed him through into the foyer. "How much time do we have until ten?"

Mayweather checked. "About a half hour."

"Let's hurry up to your room, then." Although Reed had his own room, he had moved most of his things to Mayweather's suite instead.

Mayweather pushed a button to call the lift, his arm draped around Reed as they waited. He didn't offer to tell Archer himself. He knew it was more appropriate for Reed, as the higher-ranking officer, to tell his superior. Reed felt it was his responsibility, and that was fine by Mayweather. He remembered when he'd told his parents and siblings; it was in a letter he sent home, to the cargo ship, while he was still living in San Francisco. He and Reed had been lovers for about four months when they both got notification that they had been posted to Enterprise. What had been progressing as a tentative, light, sex-based "we really like each other, but what will the future hold?" relationship had quickly turned into a "we really like each other, and let's get serious, because now we have a future" relationship. Very soon after that, he'd told his family. He'd included some photos in the letter he sent. The response back from his mother had been hilarious: a combination of "it's about time!" and "could he be more handsome? I don't think so." And of course, he'd had the freedom ever since to mention Reed in his letters. He couldn't imagine his family not knowing about such an important part of his life. But Reed didn't rely on his family for emotional support the way he did.

They stepped into the lift as it sighed open. The lifts at the hotel were ridiculously old and slow, but they were quaint. When the door had finally shut and Reed had pressed the ornate button to indicate the floor, Mayweather turned Reed to him, leaned down, and kissed him hard. Reed, surprised, kissed him back.

"What's that for?" Reed asked when Mayweather came up for air. "Nothing," Mayweather said. He pushed Reed against the wall and kissed him again, his hands holding Reed's hips, keeping his lover firmly in place. "Just giving the security guys something to watch." He waved and smiled at the discreet camera pickup, then gave it an enthusiastic thumbs-up. "I'm always thinking about security guys. I aim to entertain them." He kissed Reed again.

"So thoughtful. Let's make it good, then, shall we?" Reed's free hand stroked Mayweather's ass, and he pulled Mayweather closer to him, one leg between Mayweather's.

Reed gently bit Mayweather's lower lip, and Mayweather groaned as he rubbed his groin against Reed's stomach. Reed's mouth drew him in. His body responded. He and Reed had been kissing for less than a minute, and already he felt like he was going to explode. When the lift door slid open, he and Reed stumbled out. Reed's hands were on the buttons of his shirt and their mouths were still locked together as they made their awkward way to Mayweather's room. Mayweather pulled at Reed's shirt, untucking it. Reed's shirt had buttons too. They were too much work. He ripped at the fabric as he pulled out his room key, and buttons bounced on the carpeted floor.

"Don't stop," Reed said when Mayweather took his mouth off Reed's long enough to insert the door key. "Please. Don't ever stop."

Mayweather, kissing Reed, stroking Reed's warm skin, pushed the door open and barely managed to get the key out of the lock before he and Reed were inside, trailing shoes and shirts. He dropped the room key, and Reed must have dropped the package with Madeline's necklace, because both his hands were on the front of Mayweather's trousers, undoing them.

"Now," Reed said definitely, stroking Mayweather's throbbing cock. "Inside me now." Mayweather pushed Reed into the bathroom. The long mirror that ran the length of the bathroom reflected the light from the sitting room area. They were both frantic with need. His fingers were clumsy as he dug through the kit on the counter for lube. Then he had Reed's trousers down. He manhandled Reed, turning him so that his back was to Mayweather, and then urged Reed to lean forward over the counter. Mayweather squirted a glob of lube into his hand and slid his hard cock right through the lube and directly into Reed.

Reed was hot and tight. Mayweather buried himself to the hilt and groaned. He was only going to last a second. His lubed hand stroked up and down Reed's shaft, and he began thrusting. He felt red heat boil up from his balls, and he didn't attempt to stretch out his pleasure. His eyes met Reed's in the mirror. Then Reed's eyes closed and his hips bucked as he came, his own hand tightly cupping Mayweather's as it worked Reed's cock. The erotic sight pushed Mayweather over the edge. Mayweather let his climax wash over him as he pushed hard into Reed, feeling his cock pulse deep inside Reed's heat. The two men groaned in pleasure as they abandoned themselves to orgasm. Reed's arm flung out to steady them, and he knocked the kit off the counter, sending paraphernalia everywhere. Mayweather barely noticed. The explosion of sound was hidden in his climax. He closed his eyes as his cock pulsed again and again, focusing on the exquisite sensation of coming inside Reed, and when he opened them, his eyes met the shocked eyes of Captain Jonathan Archer in the mirror.

"Oh, shit," he gasped. He pulled out of Reed and leaned against the counter, then sat down heavily on the commode, a combination of his legs refusing to hold him and his tripping over the trousers around his ankles.

Reed said, "Travis?" as his own eyes opened. He leaned both arms against the counter, his come-covered hand slipping slightly. Then he saw Archer and froze.

Archer was beet red. He had something in his hand: Mayweather's guidebook. "I'm so sorry—" he began. He tried again. "I heard noises—" He took a step backward, and his heel knocked against something. Archer turned even redder as he looked down. It was a huge, double-sided black dildo. Also on the floor were a stun stick, interestingly shaped plastic bottles of lube and scented oil, a variety of wrapped condoms, cock rings, strings of beads, and various other sexual accouterments, some of them lethal-looking. "Excuse me," Archer said firmly, and he turned on his heel and strode out. They heard the door in the main room click shut behind him.

Reed sat down on the edge of the bathtub. He panted for a minute or two, then finally said, "'Oh, shit' about sums it up."

"Well, at least he didn't find out through anyone else." Mayweather kicked off his trousers and briefs.

"Yes, that's a big comfort," Reed said. He turned on the bathtub's tap and wet a washcloth. "I'm just so glad that he found out by seeing me with my boyfriend up my arse and me coming all over my stomach and chest. So very dignified." He began cleaning himself off.

In spite of himself, Mayweather began to laugh. After a moment, Reed grinned wryly, then joined in. "I'd best go see the captain," he said. "This isn't going how I planned."

"Want me to come along?" Mayweather offered.

Reed shook his head. "No, it's all right."

Mayweather began cleaning up too. "Looks like you're timing it just right," he informed his lover. "You'll get up there at about five till. We can still meet Hoshi at ten."

"Oh, good," Reed said brightly. "I'd hate to miss the day trip." "Ah. Sarcasm."

"Yes," Reed said, sounding very British.

Mayweather knelt at Reed's feet and spread Reed's legs. He scooted himself in and wrapped his arms around his lover, pressing his body against Reed's. "You know how I feel about you, right?" he said.

Reed dropped the washcloth into the tub. "Yes, I do," he responded. They clung to each other for a moment.

"Okay, then, tell me how I feel about you."

Reed stroked the side of Mayweather's face. "You love me," he said. "How do I feel about you?"

"You love me too." Mayweather touched the middle of Reed's chest gently with his index finger. "You feel it here."

"I do. You're absolutely right. How do you know that?"

"Easy. I feel it too." He kissed Reed and rose. "It'll be okay. The captain is just as embarrassed as we are. I absolutely guarantee it."

Mayweather met Hoshi in the lobby at ten. She was sitting on a large brown leather couch that made her seem very small indeed. Her feet didn't touch the ground. Next to her were two backpacks—probably lunch. Mayweather set his backpack next to Sato's and sat next to her. His feet didn't touch the ground either.

"You look nice," Sato observed. Mayweather was wearing hiking gear. Sato was wearing hiking gear too, but Mayweather's appeared high-tech and performance-based. It implied that Mayweather was an expert hiker—and in fact, he was. "Isn't it kind of…tight?"

"Yes," Mayweather answered absently. "So it doesn't get caught on stuff as you hike."

"What's wrong, Travis?"

Travis fidgeted. "The captain found out about me and Malcolm."

"I thought you were going to tell him anyway."

"We were."

"How did he find out?"

Mayweather turned and faced her. There was a long pause.

"Ohhh," Sato said when she got it. "Ouch."

"Malcolm's talking to him right now."

"What, you don't lock the door?"

"I guess we were busy. It probably got propped open accidentally." Mayweather cleared his throat, embarrassed. "Anyway. Tell me about lunch."

"That was a terrible transition."

Mayweather started laughing. "I know."

"Well, let me see. We have the strangely colored cheese course, followed by the inexplicable meat course and the fun blue vegetable course. All accompanied, by the way, by the fizzy green wine course."

"Yum," Mayweather said. "Is there a zany dessert course?"

"Zany is the right word." Sato's eyes shifted. "Oh, here they are." She struggled out of the sofa, then turned and gave Mayweather a hand up as Archer and Reed approached. Both of them were wearing hiking gear too, although it wasn't as form-fitting as Mayweather's.

Reed's eyebrows rose slightly as he took in Mayweather. Then he cleared his throat. "I have an announcement to make," he said without preamble as he and Archer came to rest beside the sofa. "Travis and I are dating. Tell whomever you like."

"Oh, my god. No," said Mayweather. "I can't believe it. Are you positive? You and me?"

"I assure you," Reed responded stiffly.

"If you say so," Mayweather said doubtfully. "Well, I always did think you were kind of hot."

"Well, it's not news to me," Sato said. "But I'm very happy for you nonetheless. Come on, Malcolm, help me with this." Reed and Sato began arranging backpacks and bickering as Archer and Mayweather eyed each other.

Mayweather said "sir" just as Archer said "Travis." They both paused, and Archer held up a hand to indicate he would go first.

"I'm really embarrassed, and I'm really sorry," Archer said. He met Mayweather's eyes directly. Mayweather had a feeling that this speech had been mentally rehearsed. "I just thought I'd run the guidebook by, but the door was open, the hallway was messy, and I heard, um, noises in the bathroom. I thought there were intruders or something. I just walked in. I'm sorry. I just—that is—oh, hell." Archer took a deep breath. He had gotten to the end of his rehearsed speech. He crossed his arms, then uncrossed them, then shifted his weight. His eyes focused down on a shoe, then back up on Mayweather, who was waiting patiently. "I was shocked. I had no idea," Archer went on. "I saw something very personal that I had no right to see, only it took me a minute to process it, and then—and then all hell broke loose."

Archer was turning red again. Apparently they really had shocked him. Mayweather had never seen the captain lose his composure like this. He watched, fascinated.

"Malcolm had a little talk with me just now," Archer continued. "I appreciate your telling me about—about your relationship before it's common knowledge on the ship. But I apologize. I shouldn't have come in uninvited." There was a brief pause while Archer fiddled with his earlobe. He was acutely embarrassed. "I'm done now," Archer said at last.

"Okay," Mayweather said. "We were going to tell you today anyway. I'm sure Malcolm told you that. I just want you to know that I really care about Malcolm, that this isn't a casual thing. And I absolutely assure you that our relationship won't interfere with work."

"I think that's clear," Archer said dryly. "What did Malcolm say? A year and a half?"

"That's about right."

"Well, I never even suspected. Keep doing what you're doing on duty."

"Yes, sir. Apology accepted, sir."

"Good." Archer heaved a sigh. "Let's go view those falls and maybe find Commander Tucker and his redheaded PhD exotic dancer girlfriend."

"Yes, sir."

The trip to Wollis Falls was a lot of fun. They had their picnic lunch—the dessert was indeed zany—and then went for hikes. Mayweather wanted to hike the most difficult trail, but only Archer had the hiking skill to go with him, so they set off, leaving Reed and Sato to take an easier trail around the other side. They spent about an hour at the top, taking pictures. The view was spectacular. The hike initially started out with strained silence, but by the time they had reached the top, Archer and Mayweather were making normal exchanges. It was good that they had this time alone—although Mayweather would have preferred to have Reed with him to enjoy the wild, romantic view.

They met for dinner in the restaurant, which was a casual place that catered to hikers and tourists; their garb wasn't at all out of place, and neither was their sweatiness. Mayweather was just beginning to think that they'd go the whole day without seeing Tucker when, during dessert, Sato perked up and waved wildly.

"They're here," she whispered, and a moment later, Tucker and a striking woman with red-gold hair came up to the table.

"Cap'n," Tucker said. He didn't exactly sound thrilled. "I didn't know you were coming up to the falls today."

Archer just said, "Yep," and waited expectantly. Tucker didn't leap right in, so Sato pushed it along.

"I'm Hoshi Sato," she said, leaning back in her chair and extending her hand to the redhead. "Trip and I work together."

The redhead took Sato's hand gratefully. "I'm Lauren Stone," she said.

She shook hands all around as they introduced themselves, and then took a chair when offered one, so Tucker had to sit down too. He looked grumpy.

"What do you do?" Mayweather asked her. "Are you an engineer, like Trip?"

"Oh, no," Stone laughed. "I'm a physicist. I specialize in the physics of stellar behavior. I run the stellar unit at Deep Space Four. I also do some volunteer work there, teaching physics to some of the disadvantaged kids on the station, to bring them up to speed so they can apply to university."

Mayweather blinked.

"I was thinking maybe you were a dancer," Sato confided. "You have the body type, and you walk like a dancer."

"That's funny, I was going to say the same about you," Stone said. "I used to dance. And you look really familiar to me. Have we met?"

"I don't think so," Sato said. "Just at the club a few nights ago."

"No, I'm sure of it," Stone insisted. She snapped her fingers. "Six years ago, the zumbai competition in Sao Paulo?"

"Yes," Sato said, voice incredulous. "I placed sixth."

"I knew it." Stone looked delighted. "I placed fourth."

"Zumbai?" Mayweather put in, before the girlish gushing could get too extreme.

"It's a dance form," Sato said. "It's highly stylized. I used to dance zumbai competitively when I was at school, and a partner and I used to do the ballroom dance circuit."

"I did not know this about you," Reed said.

"I'm full of surprises," Sato said. "Well, would you all like to see? I have a player and some disks with me." She turned to Stone, apparently her new best friend. "Shall we show them how it's done?"

"Oh, I'd love to," Stone said.

"Come on."

They paid the bill and left, heading for the area where they had picnicked earlier. Mayweather put his arm around Reed as they all walked, talking and laughing. Tucker fell in beside them.

"Lauren is really nice," Mayweather offered. "Smart and pretty."

"I know," Tucker said gloomily. "Trust me to find someone great on shore leave, when nothing can come of it. What, are you guys out now?"

"Oh, I forgot to tell you," Reed said. "Travis and I are dating. In fact, we're quite serious."

"You make a cute couple."

Reed smiled. "Thanks. 'Cute' is just what we're going for."

"So I take it it's no secret?"

"No," Mayweather said. "Malcolm told the captain today, so I guess we're going public."

"Well, good," Tucker said. "It's hard to sneak around. Excuse me." Stone had called to him, and he hurried to catch up.

There was silence as they walked. It was almost sunset. Finally, Mayweather said, "I was thinking."

"Mmm?" Reed's thumb traced lazy circles on Mayweather's wrist. "I was wondering if we could set up a schedule for me coming to your room," Mayweather said. "So I can count on seeing you, and maybe so my roommate could plan his life better."

"Certainly," Reed said. "Is your roommate seeing anybody?"

"I think he'd like to. This might help push it along."

"Well, it's a good idea. Unless—do you want to just move in?" Reed sounded tentative.

"No, I don't think that's a good idea," Mayweather said. He'd already thought about that. "Thanks, though."

"It would be nice to have you near all the time." Reed's voice was wistful.

"Three days a week?"

"Only three?"

"I think three."

"Three it is. We can figure it out with our duty rosters when we get back aboard ship, and we can inform the computer so it knows where you are. In case something happens."

They trailed behind the other members of the crew as they entered the picnic area, which was mostly deserted. They caught up just as Sato turned on the music, and as the men made themselves comfortable on one of the picnic tables, she and Stone danced zumbai. It looked to Mayweather like a combination between tai chi and hula dancing, with slow undulations of the hips and stylized arm movements. Although they had just met, the two of them danced an identical dance, perfectly in time with each other. The movements and the music were sultry and implied tropical heat and sex. Stone spoke quietly every now and then, and Mayweather realized she was cueing their movements. They took a bow when the song ended. When the next song on the disk began, Mayweather called out, "Do men dance zumbai? Can I learn?"

"Oh, yes, they do indeed," Stone said. "In fact, you'd be quite a hot commodity on the zumbai circuit. Don't you agree, Hoshi?"

"On appearance and sex appeal alone? Definitely," Sato said. "Tall, dark, and handsome, and just look at that body."

Stone made a noise of agreement. Tucker yelled out, "None of that, now, Lauren. You're supposed to pretend to like me best. And Hoshi, I'm pretty sure Travis is off-limits."

"Damn straight," Reed growled. "Mine. All mine."

"Tell him to wear less revealing clothing, then," Sato demanded.

"I can't tell him anything," Reed said in mock despair, to general amusement.

"Let's see if he can put his money where his mouth is." Sato pointed to a spot beside her. "Come on, Travis. Let's see if you can keep up." Mayweather joined the women, and Sato took a step forward so he could see her and struck a pose. Stone and Mayweather copied it. Sato's fingers snapped quietly. "Feel the beat?"

Mayweather nodded. "Got it."

"Let's go. Left arm slow around, then swipe fingers around like so. Good. Right foot back, switch weight and hold as right arm comes up overhead."

Mayweather listened to her soft cues. Stone had been using some kind of cueing shortcut with Sato, but Sato was spelling it out for him. His body found the beat, and he let it control his movements. He wasn't as smooth as Sato and Stone, but judging by the way Reed was looking at him, he wasn't doing too badly. He concentrated hard, trying to match his movements exactly to Sato's. The steps began repeating, and his movements smoothed as he became more comfortable. By the fourth repetition, they were all together, and he began smiling and getting into it. When the song ended, they took a bow, and the three members of the audience clapped and hooted.

"You're a quick study," Stone told him. "Does anyone else want to learn?"

Archer, Tucker, and Reed declined, and the trio danced zumbai to one more song before Sato swapped disks. "How about some regular dancing?" she asked. A slow waltz began playing. "Captain, will you dance with me?"

Archer took her extended hand. "Thanks, I'd love to." He put his arm around her and they began moving expertly. Tucker and Stone were next, Stone smiling up at the tall man. Tucker danced with more enthusiasm than grace, but Stone clearly didn't mind.

"That leaves us, Malcolm." Mayweather tugged Reed off the picnic table and kissed him. He could get used to this: kissing Reed in public, slow dancing with Reed in public. He found the beat of the music and they began moving, Reed easily following Mayweather's lead, warm body leaning intimately into Mayweather's. They danced together until the sun set and the stars came out.

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