Title: Togetherness

Author: Kipli

Author's email: kipli16@yahoo.com

Author's URL: http://kipli.net/fiction.html

Date: 09/11/02

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: Reed/Mayweather/Sato

Series/sequel: This fic has a sequel, Disconnected

Summary: Sato, Mayweather, and Reed are stranded on an alien planet after crash-landing.

Archive: Yes at EntSTSlash and Linguistics Database, but anyone else ask first pretty please. I wanna know where it goes.

Feedback: Any positive suggestions, comments, or questions are always welcome.

Disclaimer: Paramount owns the universe. I just live there.

Status: Complete, 4 parts

Spoilers: None to speak of

Comments: This fanfic includes m/m, m/f, and m/m/f romantic and physical situations. Warning, this is my first piece with any substantial m/f since I'm normally a slash author by trade. Therefore I attempted not to focus too much on the boys' interest in each other and tried my darnedest to show their interest in Sato. If I didn't manage to pull it off, well that would be why I write slash. hehe Blame for this fanfic goes to Sphynxie, who planted this plot idea into my head so she could live vicariously through Hoshi, then couldn't believe how extremely long the fic became. All she really wanted was a little nookie between the three and *this* is what she got. ;) Written at the end of Season One.

Betas: A good beta is a blessing. Multiple great betas and I was nearly overwhelmed. Thank you KylieLee, Squeaky, Kim, and Kalita for more than fabulous jobs.


How had his life been reduced to this? He was baby-sitting junior officers. At least he hadn't been forced to bring Porthos along with him. Malcolm Reed played with the phase pistol in his hands as he sat in the shuttlepod, his thoughts continuing to circle around his assignment for the day. He could still see Archer standing in his ready room giving him the orders: "I'm sending you with Travis today. He's going to be teaching Hoshi to pilot and land a shuttlepod. I want you to make sure they make it back just fine. No mishaps for today, all right, Lieutenant?" Reed shook his head as he holstered the phase pistol. He had planned to realign the phase cannons. Now he was stuck wasting his time. Not that he didn't enjoy Mayweather and Sato's company, but he wasn't too keen on shuttlepods after being trapped in one with Commander Tucker. He had better things to do than be rocked about in the little tin can.

Reed glanced up from his seat as he felt another jolt run through the shuttlepod. Sato was clearly concentrating hard on getting the hang of piloting. But although Mayweather was one of the nicest people Reed knew, he was not exactly the best teacher. Mayweather hovered over Sato's shoulder as she sat at the helm. He pointed from one control panel to another. Sato followed his instructions as quickly as she could, but she was getting more and more irritated with every jolt she inflicted on the shuttlepod. She looked rather radiant pushed to her limit of concentration, hair not quite all in place any longer.

Reed, noticing something on a nearby readout, leaned toward them as he spoke up. "Remember the power couplings."

"What?" Sato asked, quickly glancing over her shoulder at Reed before another jolt caused her to return her attention to her station.

"He's right. Check your power output." Mayweather pointed to the panel.

"For what?" Sato nearly snapped at him.

"You need to keep it between the safety parameters. Ease up on the throttle."

Sato slowed their already crawling pace slightly and watched the readout for a moment before asking, "There?"

Mayweather nodded but Reed spoke up again. "You have to keep an eye on it whenever you want to increase your speed. Otherwise, it's a bumpy ride."

"Try to bring us back to our previous speed smoothly," Mayweather instructed.

Sato nodded and carefully watched the power output readings to her right while she increased their speed. She managed to do so slowly enough this time to keep them steady, but then a light flashed on a panel to her left. Muttering to herself, she looked over to see what it was.

Mayweather explained it to her before she could read the panel. "Proximity alarm. Must be some space debris out here, nothing too big. Take us to port a few degrees."

It took a moment for Sato to remember which button was for the port thrusters. She apparently hesitated a moment too long, because Mayweather quickly reached over her shoulder and hit the control himself, getting them away from the possible hazard. "Do we need to go over the starboard and port thrusters again?" he asked.

She could hear Reed sigh softly behind her in annoyance. Sato set her jaw. "No, I've got it down. Just quit reaching over to do everything, Travis."

"Okay, but you needed to move faster to get out of the way of that debris."

Muttering something to herself in a language neither of the two men understood, she resumed increasing their speed to their previous level. She was certain she could do it—if Mayweather would just stop leaning over her shoulder like she was going to kill them at any moment. And Reed…all she needed was a second back-seat driver. "Velocity back to our previous speed," she announced, satisfied. She glanced out of the portal at the nearby planet. It gleamed over to their right, looming large and purple in her field of vision. She was going to have to learn to land the shuttlepod next. Now that would be the tricky part…

"Keep your eyes on your station," Reed snapped.

Sato quickly looked down at her controls, frowning slightly. She should have asked T'Pol to teach her to pilot. It would have been less painful than the two "instructors" she was stuck with now.

"Circle us around the planet once, then start a descent to the designated landing site," Mayweather ordered.

"And be sure to watch your sensor readings," Reed added.

Nodding again, unable to trust herself not to snap at Mayweather or Reed if she spoke, Sato did as instructed and orbited the planet once before beginning her decent through the atmosphere.

Another warning light flashed, and this time, it was accompanied by an alarm. Mayweather grabbed at the panel as they shook violently.

"Keep us steady, Hoshi," Reed barked, struggling to stay in his seat.

"I'm trying!" Sato snapped back, working at her controls to keep them at a steady decline, but completely failing to do so.

"This can't be right," Mayweather said to himself as he tapped the console. "Sensor readings are off the scale."

Reed was on his feet and crowding to look at the readings, grabbing hold of the back of Sato's chair to stay upright. The whole shuttlepod shuddered again, then stalled as they broke through the outer atmosphere of the planet. To Sato's dismay, nothing she was doing was having any affect whatsoever. She smacked the control panel in front of her and the shuttlepod lurched before the engines died. The three passengers were rocked forward as gravity kicked in and the shuttlepod fell into a nosedive. Sato cried out, "Travis!"

Reed yanked Sato out from behind the helm as Mayweather took the station. They were losing altitude at a nauseating pace as they plummeted toward the planet's surface. Reed shoved Sato into one of the back seats, then sat down in the other, holding onto the console in front of him. "We need to get the engines back on line now!" he shouted.

"They're not responding. Nothing's responding!" Mayweather frantically tried to get the shuttlepod to cooperate, but as he hit a control, it sparked, and the entire computer system shut down. The shuttlepod went dark as the readouts blinked off. He looked out the portal to see land formations and the white plant life coming quickly into focus as they careened downward through the clear purple sky. "Shit. Hold onto something!"

Sato clung to the console in front of her. She barely had time to mentally scream that she was going to kill whoever decided they didn't need seat belts, before the forest below them suddenly became distinct trees and they crashed into the upper canopy.

The shuttlepod was tossed around as it slammed between two immense white trees, slowing down its momentum slightly. The front portal shattered and the shuttlepod spun in the air before crashing through the undergrowth into solid earth, sliding fifty meters until it smashed nose first into another giant tree.


Reed was the first to come around. His head and back ached. What the hell had happened? One moment everything was fine, and the next, they were diving straight into the ground. He grunted softly as he lifted his head and blinked his eyes open. He realized with a start that he was on the floor looking up. So much for trying to stay in his seat. Slowly he sat up, feeling a liquid run down his cheek. He wiped it off with the back of his sleeve and surveyed it: blood. He would see to his own injures later. He had to check on Mayweather and Sato first.

With another grunt he got to his feet, feeling bruised and battered, but he was still whole. He felt slightly unbalanced while standing and blinked his eyes in an attempt to clear his head. "Hoshi? Travis?" Reed peered in the dim light of the shuttlepod and saw Sato slumped over the console in front of her chair. He touched her shoulder gently.

Sato whimpered a little, "This is all a dream, right?" She turned her head to look at him with a groan.

"More like a bloody nightmare." He noticed a rather nasty gash on her forehead. "You all right?"

"I think so…" With Reed's help, she pulled herself down off her console and slumped back into the chair. "My back is killing me…and my head…" She reached up to the gash with a shaky hand.

"I'll get you bandaged up in a moment." He looked to helm but saw no one there. "Travis?" he called out, making a search of the floor space under the helm. Then he glanced to the back of the shuttlepod and spotted Mayweather slumped back against the far wall. The floor felt as if it tilted down as Reed made his way to Mayweather. Reed decided he must have hit his head pretty hard.

He balanced himself as he knelt down beside Mayweather, gently rolling him onto his back. Mayweather moaned. He looked horrible. Reed noted a lovely array of slashes along Mayweather's face and hands, his uniform ripped in a few spots along his chest. He probably sported a few bruised or broken ribs. And the way he held his left foot out worried Reed. Then again, Mayweather and the rest of them were damn lucky to be alive. "Travis, wake up. I need you to tell me what hurts." He tapped his hand against the man's cheek, hoping to get him to come around.

Blinking his eyes open weakly, Mayweather stared up at the ceiling for a moment and wondered where he was. He noticed a worried Reed beside him and turned his head to look at the other man, then groaned and sucked in a breath as he became aware of the pain running through him. "What…" Mayweather noticed the bleeding cut on Reed's head and memories of the crash came flooding back to him. "Everyone okay?"

"Better off than you are." Reed gave him a weak half-grin, then asked, "What hurts?"

"Everything," Mayweather sighed, closing his eyes. "My chest hurts, but not as badly as my ankle."

"Your left one?" Reed reached down to inspect his foot. Touching the ankle, Mayweather sucked in a breath.

"Yeah, that one."

Reed looked back at him. "But your back and neck don't hurt?"

Mayweather shook his head slightly. "No, not really."

"Good. Means you can move. Just don't put any weight on your ankle until I've taken a look at it."

"Since when are you Doctor Reed?" Mayweather asked with a slight grin.

He chuckled softly. "You're forgetting I'm an Eagle Scout. Now here, sit up."

With his help, Mayweather sat up with a groan. His chest was warm and burned slightly under his shirt, and his muscles protested as he demanded them to work. Gritting his teeth, he leaned against Reed as he stood on one foot. Carefully, Mayweather sat down on one of the benches, leaning his head back against the wall as he closed his eyes.

Sato watched quietly from her seat as Reed pulled out his communicator.

"Reed to Enterprise." He waited a moment. "Lieutenant Reed to Enterprise- Respond." Nothing. He frowned as he snapped his communicator closed. They would have to try to get the shuttlepod's comm system operational again and then attempt to contact the Enterprise. It was a good thing Sato was with them. She was the communications expert.

Reed tucked away his communicator, still feeling off balance, and looked in the storage compartment under the other bench for a medkit. As he pulled a medkit out, all three froze as the front of the shuttlepod tilted up a few more degrees. They could hear sounds of branches outside the pod snapping before the tilting slowed to a stop.

"I don't believe we're on solid ground," Reed stated the obvious. He motioned for the other two to stay seated while he inched slow to the broken front portal, medkit still in hand. The shuttlepod groaned as it tilted slightly back toward level with Reed's moved weight. Reed's body ached as he climbed up onto the main console, but he only allowed himself a quiet grunt at the pain.

Sticking his head out the shattered portal, he looked around them. Just like an Earth forest was filled with varying shades of green and brown, this planet's forest was filled with varying shades of white and gray. The undergrowth was sparse as a result of mammoth old-growth trees blocking out the majority of the sunlight with their dense upper canopy. It was eerily quiet, their explosive crash having silenced for now any creatures living in the forest.

Reed straightened to look down the body of the shuttlepod to see a large branch supporting them as they teetered on the edge of a cliff. The cliff was a sharp cut into the land, but the forest had grown up around it as if not bothered by the hundred meter drop. The old-growth tree currently held them from plummeting down. "Both of you stand up slowly," Reed instructed. "Hoshi help Travis once he gets to you. No sudden moves."

"Where did we land?" Sato asked as she watched Mayweather strain to stand and walk to her without putting weight on his injured foot.

"We're on a cliff," Reed stated simply.

Sato swallowed as she put an arm around Mayweather once he reached her. The shuttlepod tilted and slipped toward the tree as the dirt under the pod started to give way. She watched Reed balance himself on the hood of the shuttlepod as she tried to help Mayweather up onto the main console. Reed took Mayweather's hand and pulled him up the rest of the way. Sato quickly followed as the shuttlepod slipped again. Reed grabbed her by the arm.

"Jump!" Reed leapt from the hood, holding onto Sato and Mayweather to be sure they followed. All three landed roughly onto solid ground. The shuttlepod's front tilted up with the lost weight and the branch supporting it snapped. With a sickening crack, the shuttlepod disappeared over the edge. With new momentum, it crashed through the canopy until it slammed into the valley floor a hundred meters down.

Reed stood to look carefully over the edge. He could just make out the shuttlepod through the branches. He looked from one side to the other. The cliff went for quite a ways in either direction. He frowned as he turned back to the others. There was a chance he might make it down the cliff safely, but Mayweather and Sato most definitely could not.

Getting his mind back onto their current situation, Reed knelt beside both junior officers. He at least still had the medkit. He pulled out the scanner.

"How's the shuttlepod?" Mayweather asked, sitting up carefully from where he had fallen. "It's not much use to us at the bottom of this cliff. Now stay still." Reed took readings on all three of them. "Travis wins the prize of most injures," he announced. Mayweather grumbled slightly, not amused, while Reed pulled out a bandage for Sato. "But Hoshi wins for most blood lost."

She smiled a little, glad for at least his attempt at humor. Reed leaned in and cleaned out the gash on her forehead with some antiseptic solution before wrapping the bandage tightly around her head to hold the wound. He struggled not to take notice of how close they got to do so and kept himself from watching her eyes.

Then he moved on to Mayweather, lifting the man's left foot up enough to take off his boot as gently as he could. Mayweather gritted his teeth, grunting at the final tug to get the boot off. Reed stripped the sock off and examined the twisted ankle visually, not completely trusting the scanner. The ankle wasn't broken thankfully. He touched the skin in various places, listening to Mayweather's reactions, then instructed Mayweather to move his ankle as much as possible. He watched as Mayweather rolled his foot slowly. No, not broken. Reed grabbed another bandage and bound Mayweather's ankle tightly. He sat back on his heels for a moment, then moved up to unzip the other man's jumpsuit. "Nothing personal, of course, Travis." He smirked a little.

This got a light chuckle out of Mayweather, who helped him shrug off the top of his jumpsuit and pull his undershirt up to expose his battered chest. Reed frowned slightly at the red and bruised skin. He gently prodded at a few tender spots, attempting to confirm that no ribs were cracked or broken. Mayweather set his jaw again, trying not to voice his pain. Reed decided after a moment that the scanner was working properly. Mayweather's ribs were bruised and battered but most likely were not broken. Reaching for another bandage, Reed gently wrapped the other man's chest. The smooth warmth of Mayweather's skin under Reed's hands caught Reed off guard but he was quick to shove a few pesky thoughts from his mind. When he was done, he sat back for a moment to let Mayweather redress, then started to put everything back into the medkit.

"Hold on, Malcolm, you're forgetting someone." Sato reached out to touch the cut on the side of Reed's head.

"Oh, yes—well, it's nothing really that bad."

"You're not the only one who gets to play doctor." She grinned a little as she moved closer to him and pulled out the antiseptic liquid again. She leaned back as she finished cleaning the head wound, glancing over him before asking, "Nothing else?" He shook his head. "I'm surprised nobody broke anything."

"Our luck hasn't left us quite yet, I suppose." Reed had been slightly embarrassed to have Sato so close, even though she was completely professional, and he was glad to turn away to put everything back.

"So what now?" Mayweather asked as he finished zipping up his uniform.

Reed glanced around them. It was deathly quiet. He was quite certain there was no clean running water nearby, or they would have heard it. And as he looked again, he realized there was very little on the forest floor that he could use to build a fire or shelter. "We can't stay here. We need water and shelter." Reed thought for a moment. "Before we hit the upper canopy, I thought I saw a clearing to the east with some rock formations. There could be some caves."

Mayweather nodded slowly. "Yeah…I think I saw it too…But I don't know if I can last the trip."

"We don't have much choice. It could take Enterprise some time to find us." Reed stood along with Sato and they helped Mayweather onto his feet. Each of them helped support Mayweather on either side as he put his arms around their shoulders. "Besides, we'll drag you there if we have to." Reed half-grinned.

"Just how strong do you think I am?" Sato asked, smirking slightly as they started slowly east into the forest.

"Well we could always just abandon Travis to the wolves."

"It would be better on my back then lugging him around," Sato replied.

"Thanks a lot," Mayweather said. "I'm overwhelmed by the love."

"Don't worry; we'll be nice…until we find a good place to dump you off." Sato grinned sweetly.

Mayweather laughed, but then grimaced as his ribs complained.

They hobbled along at a slow, steady pace. They did not notice the heat at first, but after a half hour of walking, they stopped to strip down to their black undershirts, pulling the tops of their jumpsuits down to their waists. It was not a tropical, humid heat but it was still hot enough to notice.

As the two put their arms back around Mayweather, he felt grateful to have them with him. He would have been fine with the Captain, Tucker, or T'Pol in this situation, but it was nice to have his friends with him instead. He hated to be a burden to anyone, and at least this way he was only a burden to his friends rather than captain.

Another hour later, and Reed stopped to do a perimeter check. He was glad to still have the phase pistol still on him, securely attached to his uniform. He circled wide around their current position to be sure no one or thing was following them. The forest had come back alive and was teeming with animal calls. Most of the calls came from a small creature up in the trees Reed had yet to get a good look at. There were a few tracks on the ground from larger animals, but they didn't appear to be in the area any longer.

The bugs had found Sato and Mayweather when he returned. He watched them slapping the biting pests away from them. Reed holstered his weapon. "Everything's clear. I didn't manage to find any water, though."

"Are you sure this is the right direction to the clearing?" Mayweather was exhausted and looked very pale.

"Nearly positive. We'll stop early if we find some water but we can't stop here, Travis."

Mayweather nodded grimly and put an arm around Reed's shoulders once more before they started off again. He was exhausted already. Sato and Reed were practically dragging him as it was, and he still wasn't sure how much longer he could keep moving. He wanted to curl up, fall asleep, and find himself in Sickbay when he woke. It was getting difficult to breathe. His ribs protested every breath.

Not long after they started walking again, Mayweather's breathing turned steadily into rough panting. He couldn't quite seem to get enough air with each breathe. Starting to cough harshly, he clung to the other two to keep on his feet.

"Travis, take deep, slow breaths." Reed patted him a little roughly on the back as he spoke.

Mayweather did as instructed, taking a slow breath between gritted teeth. "That's it. Now let it out slowly."

Eyes closed, he sighed as he let out the breath. He took a few more slow breaths before looking over at Reed. "Thanks," he said weakly.

"Don't overexert yourself by breathing too hard. Slow, steady pace."

Mayweather began to nod, but then turned it into a shake. "You should have been a doctor, Malcolm."

Reed snorted. "And be bored in Sickbay all day?"

"And never get to blow anything up?" Sato interjected.

Chuckling lightly, Reed nodded. "That too." He looked to Mayweather. "Ready to go again?"

"I wish we had some water…" Mayweather swallowed, his throat hoarse and dry. "But we can start again."

"Shouldn't be too much farther to the clearing." Of course Reed had no idea if it was twenty meters or twenty kilometers ahead of them, but he had to hope for the best. From what he remembered during the crash, it could not have been that far from where they had landed, but it was hard to judge distances from above when worried about an impending collision with a planet.


Another hour slipped by. Mayweather was just barely able to stay on his feet, and Sato was straining to help hold him up. She looked exhausted herself. She kept muttering to herself about how she hated forests, wondering why she ever left a perfectly safe city. The pain from the gash in her head had returned with a vengeance and she was not holding up well. Reed would have fashioned a gurney for Mayweather, but the underbrush held very little materials. The huge old-growth trees dropped few suitable sized braches, and with no younger trees in the sun blocked lower canopy, it quickly became obvious that fashioning anything here would be difficult. They needed to find a much younger stand of trees.

Reed's body ached with taking the majority of Mayweather's weight, but he forced himself not to acknowledge it. He was going to pull them through this forest to that damned clearing if he had to drag both junior officers behind him. His mind was focused on only one goal: the clearing. Everything else was just minor details. He watched a few steps in front of them, steering them around any obstacles, sure the others were not paying any attention as to where they were going. He was only vaguely aware of their less immediate surroundings. His mind was on autopilot. But as a soft murmur of a sound came in his ears, the anomaly to the normal background noise immediately caught his attention.

His eyes glance up farther ahead of them, trying to spot the river between the trees. He sped up their pace.

Sato noticed their increased speed and looked over to Reed. "What is it?"

"Can't you hear it?" The sound was nearly ringing in his ears, although it was still just barely audible. "A river. We're close."

"Water?" Mayweather asked weakly, lifting his head up.

"Plenty of water." Reed increased their pace again as the noise of running water shifted from a murmur into a low roar.

It was a shock for the three when they burst through the edge of the forest onto the small beach along the waterway. The river was wide and fast; the water a clear blue. A few clusters of odd creatures were in the water on the other side of the river, at least fifteen meters away. And beyond the river, the clearing they had spotted on the way down was spread out along the land, filled with snow-white grass. The field, however, was not all that big, and Reed would have been surprised if it was more than half a kilometer long. On the far side of the clearing, he could see a large rock formation jutting a few hundred meters up into the air.

"Look at the clouds," Sato remarked, staring up into the sky.

Reed looked to see the gray clouds speeding through the purple sky above. There was not a hint of a breeze as they stood by the river, but the clouds flew overhead as if powered by hurricane-force winds. He felt dizzy for a moment. He had the odd sensation he was watching a movie back on board Enterprise and someone had sped up the recording. Shaking his head, he looked back down.

"Why do you think they're moving so fast?" Sato asked.

"I don't know."

Mayweather didn't have the strength to lift his head to see for himself. "What are you talking about?"

"The clouds are flying by overhead. Don't look up—you'll just get dizzy. Here, sit down." Reed lowered Mayweather onto the trunk of a fallen tree with Sato's help.

"I don't think I could look up anyway." He groaned as he sat down, closing his eyes.

Sato slumped down beside him. Mayweather staggered for a moment, attempting to lean his back against something and finding nothing behind him, before leaning against Sato once again. She didn't seem to mind and leaned back against him.

Reed rubbed a hand over his face. All right, he had to get his mind focused and clear. They were in no shape to cross the river today to get to any possible caves. Now that they were in the open and could see the sky, he could tell it was getting into early evening. They didn't have much daylight left. Although they were injured and therefore possibly in need of water to stem off dehydration, Reed decided their injuries were not that extensive. He fell back onto his standard survival training. First they needed shelter, then fire, then clean water. The area around the river appeared to flood regularly. None of the trees along the flood zone managed to survive long enough to grow into mammoths like their relatives just a few meters away from the bank. Finally there were smaller trees and fallen limbs that he could work with. However, his body protested the idea of attempting any of his plans. He wanted to slump down beside the other two. Firmly he set his jaw. No, he could rest later.

Turning to the river, he knelt down and splashed water on his sweaty, exhausted face, then down along his bare arms. The cool water helped wake him up a bit. The sooner he was able to complete all the tasks, the sooner he could relax. Standing back up, he looked at Sato and Mayweather. They both looked horrible, and for a moment, he wondered if he looked just as bad. Why hadn't the Enterprise attempted to contact them? How long were they going to be stuck here? Walking over to the junior officers, he spoke to Sato. "I want you to collect firewood in a minute, but you can rest for now. Call out if you need me."

"Where are you going?" she asked.

"To build us some shelter."

Reed turned to go but Mayweather spoke up, his voice hoarse. "Can we drink the river water?"

"It may be clean, but I wouldn't bet on it. Let me attempt to boil some water before we all become hosts to alien parasites."

Mayweather sighed deeply in disappointment but nodded, his head leaning down onto Sato's shoulder. She looked at him, then leaned against him again.

Once more Reed fought off his urge to just sit down with them, not even acknowledging to himself another feeling at seeing the two sitting so intimately together. None of his business, he thought. Pulling out his phase pistol, he headed a short way back into the forest. He looked around for the nearest old-growth trees and found one on fairly high ground. The spot would most likely be safe from any flash flooding if it rained and the river rose quickly. He looked around for a downed sapling. Finding one not too far away, he paced off a length about twice his own height.

"Time to see if this will work," Reed said to himself as he set the phase pistol to stun and pointed it at the tree. The beam tore into wood, but it was slow going to laser through the fist thick log. "Still wish I had a hatchet," he muttered as he stood back to admire the cut.

Stripping the log of most of its branches, he strained to drag it over to its mammoth grandmother. He dropped it and rolled his shoulders to work out the kinks in his muscles. When he got back to the Enterprise, he was going to have to step up his exercise routine. He looked around for another log and found one about the same size as the other, cutting it in half with the phase pistol. He stripped them down of their branches completely before dragging them both over to the other. Setting the two half-sized logs propped up end to end against his hip, he reached down and grunted as he strained to pull the larger log up as well. Carefully he balanced them as a tripod, then worked to stabilize it with more branches.

For a moment he stood back. Should be big enough…for the night anyway. They would all have to get rather close but it would keep them warm and dry if it suddenly chilled or rained.

Working diligently, he collected other branches and twigs, placing them along both sides of the longest log. Then he gathered fresh white palm-like leaves and placed them on top of the shelter as well as a few layers inside as padding. Fearing it wasn't quite stable enough, he found a large thick branch and propped it in front of the shelter to give it four "legs" instead of three. He double-checked the structure before mentally marking off the task as complete.

Reed holstered his phase pistol as he walked back the few meters to the river. Mayweather was alone, slumped down onto the ground with his back leaning against the log he had previously been sitting on. "Where's Hoshi?" Reed asked as he approached.

Mayweather blinked his eyes open and looked up at him. "Getting firewood." He gestured to the pile of assorted logs, branches, and other dry kindling beside him.

Nodding, Reed took the chance to sit down for a moment while he waited for Sato to reappear. He rubbed the back of his neck unconsciously. "How are you holding up?"

"Just glad we stopped…" Mayweather leaned his head back against the log and closed his eyes again, taking in the last few rays of sunlight. He swallowed hard, trying to wet his dry throat. "How's the shelter coming along?"

"It's done. You can move in."

"Going to have to carry me over the threshold." Mayweather grinned slightly with his eyes closed.

Reed chuckled softly. "No problem, although we're all going to be in tight quarters."

Sato appeared with a load of wood in her arms and tossed it onto the pile. "What are you doing just sitting around, Lieutenant?" She grinned at Reed.

"Waiting for my junior officers to inspect our new cabin."

"You mean it took you that long to build a three-bedroom log cabin?" she continued the tease. "I would think you could work a little faster than that. You must have taken a nap."

"Oh, yes, I lounged about for some time."

Reed turned to Mayweather and gently helped him up onto his feet. Sato moved to help them and they hobbled their way to the shelter. The structure was not too impressive, but it looked comfortable enough. "Feet first," Reed instructed. It took some doing to get Mayweather carefully situated inside, but the younger man let out a sigh of relief when they finished, knowing he wouldn't have to move again for some time.

The other two soon had the firewood beside the shelter, and Reed managed to scrounge up some rocks for a pit. "One thing a phase pistol should be good for…" he muttered as he pointed it at the wood. He fired, holding down the trigger until the kindling in the pit smoked and burst into flame. After adding more wood, they soon had a small fire. Reed went searching for more wood as the daylight began to fade.

Finally satisfied with their stockpile, he turned his mind to one last chore: clean water. Sato watched the fire for him as he went to search in the remaining light for some kind of container to carry water in. He found the trunk of a tree about the size of a food platter that dipped down into a good-sized bowl. Using the phase pistol again, he cut it from the top of the trunk. It was heavy, and he cut away as much of the wood as possible. Heaving it up, he walked to the river and filled it with water. When full with water, the bowl was even heavier, and his muscles trembled as he attempted to lift it. With a grunt of defeat, he set it back down.

"Hoshi!" he called out. Sato raced to him, looking worried at his shout. "You okay?"

"Fine—just exhausted. Please help me carry the water to the camp."

"I might not be much help." She leaned down to pick it up with him.

"You've been of great help all day," Reed told her. Sato gave him a slight smile at the praise, glancing to meet his eyes. Reed quickly looked down and hefted his half of the bowl up. Sato struggled to lift her side but they managed to pick it up enough off the ground to start towards the camp. The water sloshed around as they walked as quickly as they could, water spilling out the sides. "Careful, don't dump it out on the fire," Reed ordered as they came to the camp and slowly lowered the bowl down.

Sato slumped to the ground between the fire and the shelter. Reed wandered into the darkening forest around them and reappeared with some good-sized rocks and a couple of sticks.

"How are you going to boil that water?"

"With the rocks." He set them into the coals and added more fuel to the fire before slumping down beside her and the bowl.

"The rocks?" She was tired and her mind was getting slow. "How?"

"I let them warm up, toss them into the water, then heat them up all over again." Reed was rubbing his neck again without thinking about it, watching the rocks in the coals.

Sato nodded, slightly awed by the idea. "Did you learn that in Eagle Scouts? I should have been a Brownie."

Reed chuckled slightly. "Basic survival training. Try to remember your Starfleet training."

"I was half awake for that class. Early Monday mornings with *the* most boring instructor. Besides, I never planned on being marooned alone out here."

"Always be prepared," Reed admonished.

Finally allowed to rest, Mayweather was drifting off to sleep. Sato glanced back at him when she heard him mumble something. So he talked in his sleep…She grinned a little, then noticed Reed rubbing his neck. Inching herself closer, she put a hand on his shoulder. "My mother will vouch for me, I give great neck massages. Do you want…" She trailed off as he looked at her in surprise.

"I…I'll live." Reed wasn't one for close intimate contact, even if it was Sato. He reached for the two sticks he had brought and picked out one of the rocks from the fire, tossing it into the bowl. The water sizzled for a moment while he removed another rock from the fire.

"You made the shelter and dragged us all the way here. The least I could do is give you a neck massage, sir." Sato wasn't going to take no for an answer without a more direct protest. She couldn't believe he was going to sit there and pretend his neck wasn't hurting.

Reed waited a moment for the rocks to cool before tossing them back into the fire to reheat, rotating a few more rocks into the bowl. "I'm busy at the moment."

"But I'm not." Sato moved around behind him.

"Hoshi," Reed started to protest again, then stopped as her fingers found the tense muscle that had been bothering him.

She worked at the spot she had seen him rubbing, adding her other hand to rub the same spot on the other side of his neck. Her fingers worked at the knot of muscle and slowly made their way up into his hair a little.

Reed froze for a moment. It felt good—too good. His mind strayed as he began to wonder about any double meaning in her gesture of kindness, then shoved such thoughts aside. He had watched Sato and Mayweather together—sitting very close. He let his shoulders relax slightly but bit back any verbal responses to her touch. Keeping his mind on the water, he continued to rotate rocks in and out of the fire and decided ten more rotations would keep the water boiling long enough to make it drinkable.

Sato sat behind him, working her fingers down his neck slowly before branching out along his shoulders. She lingered on his shoulders for a moment as she unexpectedly became aware of the muscles underneath his shirt. Of course she had noticed Reed's lean, muscular body before, but it was something different to notice it while kneading her fingers into his shoulders. Blinking her eyes, she was a little embarrassed of herself, and she quickly made her way back to his neck, working up along the center.

Finishing the last rotation, Reed stilled beneath her hands. He watched as the water cooled again, and he attempted to pay as little attention to her massage as possible. It was hard to do. She had a fantastic knack for finding just the right spots. As her fingers made their way back up into his hair slightly, he couldn't repress a small shiver. He pulled his head away as he cleared his throat. "Thank you Hoshi," he managed to say evenly as he glanced back at her.

A little perplexed at his sudden move to stop, Sato nodded as she shifted back over beside him. "You're welcome." She looked over to the bowl. "Is it ready?"

He nodded. "Yes, but the water is still a little warm. Why don't you wake up Travis while I get together a cup for us."

Moving over the few feet to the shelter, she sat just outside and shook Mayweather's shoulder gently. His eyes blinked open with a groan.

"What now?" he asked, eyes half open as he looked up at her.

"Malcolm's boiled some water. You should drink some."

"Water…finally." Mayweather sat up slightly, propped up on his elbows.

Reed appeared a moment later with one of the large leaves shaped into a cup. Kneeling down, he held it out for Mayweather to drink from. The younger man reached a hand up to steady Reed's hands and drank down the entire cupful, then another when it was brought to him, before slumping back down with a sigh. He rubbed his forehead as he closed his eyes again.

"You should drink too," Reed advised Sato as he brought another refill of water. She nodded and carefully took the leaf cup from him to drink.

The water in the bowl was just enough for all three of them. Reed set the bowl upside down when it was empty, the heating rocks underneath it, then banked the fire to last through the night.

Sato watched as he slid into the shelter to one side of Mayweather. She turned to look at the fire, not eager to crawl into the small space.

Noticing her still sitting outside, Reed said as he turned his head to look at her, "You should get some sleep. Morning will be here soon enough."

"I'm…a little worried about getting claustrophobic in there." She glanced at what little room there was left with both men inside.

"It's going to get cool out there."

Half awake with his eyes closed, Mayweather spoke up, "We won't bite."

She shook her head at them, swallowing back her feeling of being trapped, as she slid in to Mayweather's other side. "Don't be surprised if I wake up screaming and clawing to get out, Travis."

He chuckled sleepily. "Thanks for the warning."

"You're welcome." She grinned a little before she took a deep breath and then let it out slowly, closing her eyes and attempting to forget about how restrained she felt in the small space.

"The phase pistol is beside my head if anyone needs it during the night, although I doubt you could grab it without waking me as well."

"Light sleeper?" Mayweather asked with a yawn.

"It's part of my job description." Reed rolled onto his side, his back to Mayweather. The heat from the other man was bothering him nearly as much as Sato's massage. He rarely slept with anyone. He could already tell it was going to be a long night.

On his back, Mayweather was the first to nod off. Sato found it kind of endearing that he mumbled in his sleep once again, but Reed found it rather annoying. She could hear Reed scuffling around in irritation and bit back a chuckle. It distracted her from her slight claustrophobia and she was grateful for it. After a little while, Mayweather settled down, and Sato dozed off. Distracted by thoughts of Sato's fingers roaming more than just his back and visions of Mayweather's body pressing much more tightly against him, it took some time before Reed fell asleep.


Water. Dripping water. Cascading water. Rushing water. Water…on his face? Mayweather blinked his eyes open, rain splattering down onto him through a hole in the roof above. He grunted as he inched down enough to get dry, wiping a hand over his damp cheek. It hadn't been just the hole in the roof that had influenced his dreams. After the water he had drunk the night before, his bladder was full, and he had to pee.

From the light outside, it looked to be very early morning. Sato and Reed were still asleep. Mayweather realized Sato was actually curled up against his side. He glanced down at her. She was using his right arm as a kind of pillow. His eyes wandered over her tranquil face, only interrupted by the bandage still wrapped around her head. She looked serene, asleep beside him. It was going to be impossible to move and not wake her up. He watched as her lips parted. He wondered how soft those lips were, then quickly stopped himself, embarrassed by the sudden thought.

He glanced over at Reed, still on his side with his back to him. To Mayweather's own embarrassment, he found his own hand pressed up against Reed's bottom. He wasn't grabbing a cheek, but it was going to be hard enough to explain regardless. Remembering what a light sleeper Reed claimed to be, Mayweather resisted the idea of quickly withdrawing his hand. It would most likely just wake him up if he moved too fast. He pulled his hand away as slowly and casually as he could.

"I didn't realize we were that close, Ensign."

Damn. Light sleeper indeed. "Sorry, sir. I didn't…mean to, um, well…," he stammered.

Reed rolled onto his back, turning his head to Mayweather. "At ease, Travis. No harm done." He gave him a half-grin. "How are you feeling?"

Mayweather sighed, rubbing his eyes to hide his embarrassment. "I, ah, kind of have to pee."

"Now that might be a little difficult." Reed glanced out at the rain. It was only a light shower at the moment, and the fire was surviving. He propped himself up and noticed Sato curled against Mayweather. He gave the younger man a look. "You're quite the player, Travis."

Mayweather chuckled softly. "Apparently I make a good pillow, sir. Hoshi seems to be a heavy sleeper, but I don't think I can move without waking her up."

"She'll live." Reed glanced out the shelter again. "If we stay under the old-growth canopy we shouldn't get too wet." Without another comment he rose to his feet just outside the shelter and pulled up his jumpsuit from around his waist. He didn't bother zipping it up. Then he reached down to help Mayweather to his feet.

Mayweather's muscles ached. The ground had made for a hard bed, even with the layer of leaves as padding. He groaned as he pulled away from Sato and managed to get to his feet beside Reed.

"What…" Sato blinked her eyes open as Mayweather's body disappeared from beside her. She peered up at the two men standing out in the light drizzle, asking sleepily, "Where are you going?"

"To use the facilities," Reed answered.

"Oh…ohhh, okay." She yawned as she realized what he meant and curled into a ball to keep herself warm. "Don't get too wet."

"Yes ma'am," Mayweather answered with a slight grin, leaning against Reed as they went around to the other side of the large tree.

Reed left Mayweather leaning against the trunk to give him some privacy and went to find his own tree. When he returned to fetch Mayweather, Reed noticed the slashes along Mayweather's face had begun to scab. It made him look rugged and beat-up. "You know, you look like hell."

"Thanks," Mayweather replied as they made it back to the shelter. "You look pretty bad yourself."

"Quit trying to flatter me, Ensign." Reed helped the younger man back to the shelter.

"Just fishing for a promotion, sir." Mayweather laughed softly.

"And make it so I can't boss you around any more?" Reed gave him another half-grin before adding some more wood to the fire and reconfiguring the wood to keep the fire alive even during a downpour. He turned the bowl back right side up so that it would collect some of the rainwater. Then he rearranged a few of the leaves on the shelter's roof before sliding back inside.

"Ugh, Travis you're wet," Sato muttered, half awake.

"Not as wet as Malcolm."

Sato sighed, sleepily pulling up her jumpsuit top and zipping it up. It was cold, not curled up against Mayweather. "What time is it?"

"Probably 0500," Reed answered, running a hand through his wet hair.

Grumbling, Sato covered her head with her arms. "Way too early."

"Sorry, my fault," Mayweather admitted.

"Men and their small bladders…"

Reed chuckled as Mayweather laughed. "Not our faults."

"Yeah, whatever." She rolled onto her side away from Mayweather and curled up. "I was having the nicest dream and now I'll never get it back."

"What was it about?" Reed asked.

"A woman never discusses her fantasies," she mumbled as she attempted to doze back off.

This got another chuckle from the two men. "Already sounds more exciting than any of my dreams," Mayweather replied. "I kept dreaming of water. Water falls, dripping water, raging rivers…" He grinned slyly as he saw Sato squirming a little and leaned closer to tease, "The drip drip dripping of a rain drop. The gush of a stream. The—"

"Oh, damn you, Travis!" She cut him off and flipped over, shooting him a look before shoving her way out of the shelter. "I'm going to get you back for that, I swear." Sato stomped off over behind a tree.

"Better watch your back now," Reed warned the other man.

Mayweather smirked.


Three hours later, the rain was still a light drizzle. Mayweather and Sato were asleep, Sato having protested Mayweather's earlier teasing by sleeping with her back to him. Reed watched the forest just outside the shelter. He couldn't afford to wait for the rain to stop any longer. They needed food. The two junior officers would wake up hungry in another hour or so. It just wasn't going to be easy to gather food, especially with the rain. He was going to be soaked when he got back, light drizzle or not. Still, it had to be done.

Reed nudged Mayweather awake. The younger man grumbled as he blinked his eyes open. "What is it, sir?"

"I'm going to get us some food. I may be gone a while. You can drink the rainwater without boiling it. Try to keep the fire alive and stay in the shelter."

Mayweather yawned as he glanced out the shelter at the rain. "Don't be gone too long. You'll get soaked."

"Rather inevitable at this point, but we need food."

"Don't get yourself sick, Malcolm. We need you healthy."

Reed nodded. "I'll try my best to get back quickly, Travis. Believe me, I'm not interested in catching a cold either. Now rest, Ensign." He slipped out of the shelter, holstering his phase pistol, and then added more wood to the fire.

"Be careful," Mayweather called out as Reed disappeared into the forest.


"Do you think I should go looking for him?" Sato asked, staring out of the shelter. She was lying on her stomach. She watched the rain pour down through the canopy.

"And get yourself lost out there?" Mayweather replied. "He probably found some shelter out of the rain when it started to pour."

"That was hours ago. What if he's hurt somewhere?"

"How are you going to find him? We have no idea where he went, and our communicators don't work. And we can't follow his trail—the rain would have wiped it out by now. He's probably fine."

Sato sighed, her eyes glancing over to the fire that was barely surviving in the rain. "He shouldn't have gone out. We would have lasted another day without food."

"It wasn't raining that hard before."

"Still…" She looked at Mayweather. "Aren't you worried about him?"

"Of course. Malcolm needs to learn not to take so many risks, but I think he'll be fine. It's not like we can do anything about it, Hoshi. We just have to stay here and wait."

"I hate waiting." Rolling onto her side, she watched Mayweather readjust himself while he tried to get comfortable on the hard ground. "How are you feeling? Want any more water?"

"No, I'm fine. I just wish the ground were softer." He gave her a weak smile. He was more worried about Reed than he let on, but he was trying to keep Sato's spirits up. The other man had better find his way back to the shelter before nightfall, although Mayweather wasn't sure what he would do if Reed didn't return. He noticed Sato staring at him, and he gave her a sly look. "I can't be that interesting."

She blinked her eyes, looking away to cover up a blush. "Sorry, I was just thinking…"

"You worry too much. I'm fine and Malcolm is probably fine too." He reached out and squeezed her hand. "How's your head?"

"Better. My headache is finally gone. Only now the bandage itches."

Mayweather smiled. "That could be worse than the headache."

She grumbled and rolled onto her back beside him. "Why hasn't the Enterprise found us? We can't be that hard to find."

"I don't know. I still don't understand why we crashed in the first place."

They lay side-by-side for a moment in silence, listening to the rain. Quietly, Sato spoke up, "Is it weird for you? I mean, being on this planet and listening to the rain? I doubt it rained much on your cargo ship." She grinned a little as she looked up at the roof of the shelter.

He gave her another smile. "No, didn't rain much, although one time our main water storage tank blew. And even then it just flooded. I don't think I'll sleep very well tonight if the rain keeps up." Or if Reed doesn't return, he mentally added to himself.

"I don't mind the rain too much…as long as I'm dry." She glanced over at him and returned his smile. Mayweather forced away instant thoughts of Sato wet with very little on. He needed to get his mind out of the gutter.

A noise coming from the direction of the river got the attention of both of them. Sato's eyes widened as she slipped out of the shelter to her feet.

"What is it?" Mayweather called out, craning his head around to see.

Sato ignored him as she stood in the rain, watching a soaked figure walk toward the fire. "Malcolm? Malcolm is that you?"

"Calm d-down, Ensign." Reed tossed a couple bundles wrapped in large palm leaves beside the fire, but Sato wasn't interested in whatever food he had brought.

"Malcolm, you're drenched! What happened?" She pulled Reed by the arm back into the shelter.

He didn't resist and followed her in, Mayweather sliding over to one side so Reed could lie between the two ensigns.

"Oh, n-nothing much," he stuttered, teeth chattering as he attempted to talk. "F-found some fruit, then w-went looking for some p-protein. There were a f-few—" he stopped to attempt to calm his chattering, utterly upset with himself for sounding so weak. He sighed, calmed his shivering slightly, and continued, "few froglike creatures along the river bank. I was attempting to c-catch a couple…when I slipped on a log and fell in."

"You fell into the river?" Mayweather asked in astonishment. "No wonder you're soaked."

"Th-the walk back upstream in the pouring rain didn't help d-dry me off either," Reed snapped.

"You're freezing," Sato said as she took his shaking hands in hers.

"The river wasn't ex-exactly a h-hot tub, Ensign," Reed said, irritably pulling his hands away from her.

"You need to take off your wet clothes and get warm before you get too cold," Mayweather stated simply. He reached to unzip Reed's uniform.

"Undress and th-then what? I d-don't have a ch-change of clothes."

"We'll keep you warm." Mayweather pulled the soaked top of the jumpsuit down over Reed's shoulders to his hips and then moved to take off the other man's boots, ignoring as his own ribs complained at the movement.

Reed was shivering as he laid on his back, disgusted with himself at his having to worry the other two officers. "I c-can't believe I s-slipped on the log."

"Accidents happen to everyone," Sato replied, taking his hands back between hers, chafing them to try and warm them.

Mayweather pulled off Reed's jumpsuit after stripping off his boots and socks, laying the wet clothes at the end of the shelter by their feet, but fairly sure it would take some time for them to dry. He moved back beside Reed and looked over at Sato. "We should strip too for skin-to-skin contact. We can drape our dry uniforms over us like blankets."

She nodded and kicked off her boots as she worked her jumpsuit off.

"I'll w-warm up on my o-own. Don't a-act like I'm d-dying, Travis," Reed managed through chattering teeth.

"And quit acting like this is no big deal," Mayweather told his superior officer. "Now you're going to have to take off all your wet clothes." He yanked off Reed's black undershirt and blue tank top before Reed could protest, but Reed was quick to grab the other man's hands before he could reach for his boxers.

"Tr-Travis, what the h-hell do you think your doing?" Reed yelled.

"Stopping you from getting hypothermia, sir," Mayweather shouted back. "Allow m-me some damn dignity, En-Ensign!"

"Malcolm, you're not thinking straight. Remember your survival training. We have to get everything wet off of you. Everything." Mayweather yanked his hands away from Reed's grip, but moved to strip himself and let his words sink in. Kicking off his boots and jumpsuit, he pulled his shirt and undershirt up over his head. "This is no time for modesty, Lieutenant."

Reed's mind kicked back in slightly as he heard the worry in Mayweather's voice. Reed knew he was in physical danger of hypothermia. He felt numb—a numb he hadn't felt since being stuck in the shuttlepod with Commander Tucker, freezing to death. He just didn't want to admit to it.

"Bloody hell," Reed growled as Mayweather wrestled the older man's boxers off. Then Reed froze as he felt Sato press up against his back. She was warm and soft. He could feel his muscles rejoice at the heat. Only he was completely aware that she was wearing nothing. He closed his eyes as Mayweather reached to pull off his own boxers, felt Mayweather lay the dry clothes over them, then swallowed hard as the other man pressed the front of his body against Reed's chest.

"You're n-not getting a commendation f-for this, you know," Reed grumbled.

"Just once again trying to keep you from getting yourself killed," Mayweather replied, twining his legs around one of Reed's as Sato did the same with the other.

Reed snorted. "Who is the o-one who seems to break his leg ev-every three months?" He was still shaking with cold. "At least I don't get shot every other away mission."

"You d-don't even *go* on every other away m-mission," Reed snapped back. "At least I g-get off the ship."

"You'd think with all that experience you'd learn how to dodge enemy fire." Mayweather rubbed Reed's exposed arm.

The other man growled. If he had been fully clothed, the position he was in at the moment would have bothered him anyway. Being completely naked was driving him crazy. It was much too much intimate contact with the other two officers. His temper flared to compensate for his embarrassment. "I don't s-see you signing up for s-security and trying to keep everyone f-from killing themselves, now do I?!"

"Calm down, Malcolm," Sato soothed, pressing her face against the back of his neck.

Reed swallowed down his temper as he bit back a nasty remark aimed at Sato. Consciously, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. His body was starting to warm back up. He could feel his skin tingling with renewed feeling and his shivering was decreasing. So maybe it had been a good idea for him to be sandwiched between both ensigns. It was just far too intimate.

Mayweather cupped Reed's face in his hands and stroked, trying to warm up his nose, cheeks, and ears. Reed felt only pressure at first but as he warmed, he became aware of the warmth of Mayweather's hands. Reed cracked his eyes open slightly to look at the other man. Mayweather hadn't backed down from Reed's harsh comments. The younger man looked genuinely worried. Reed suddenly wondered how he had managed to gain Mayweather's friendship. They were the odd duo onboard, but they spent a majority of their off-duty time together. He enjoyed making the younger man grin and laugh—and once in a while, Mayweather was even successful in making Reed laugh. And more and more, lately, Sato had been joining them. He wondered what kind of twisted fate landed the three of them on the planet together. With a start he realized he had been staring into Mayweather's eyes and quickly looked away.

"Getting warmer?"

Reed simply nodded, staying quiet for a few minutes before speaking, "This is going to make for one hell of a report."

Mayweather laughed. "Our database needed some spicing up."

Sato giggled a little, shifting to be sure she was pressed up against as much skin as she could. Her arm was draped around Reed's side, cuddling him closer. "Captain Archer will be sorry he missed all the fun."

Reed half-grinned and glanced to see Mayweather smiling back at him. He had always found Mayweather's genuine, open smile endearing, and he caught himself staring at Mayweather again.

Seeming not to notice, Mayweather stated, "You sound better, Malcolm."

"Feeling better…thank you." Reed was quiet for a moment, before apologizing, "I'm sorry I snapped at you."

"Don't worry about it. It's fine to be embarrassed." Mayweather's smile grew.

Reed blushed slightly as he noticed a spark in Mayweather's eyes. "Am I that easy to read?"

"Yes." Mayweather smirked, then turned more serious. "I know you're not exactly comfortable curling up with people, let alone naked."

Not wanting to discuss his feelings on the subject, Reed turned his reply into a tease. "You've been scheming to curl up with me for a while, Ensign?"

"Just recently."

"Am I going to have to separate you two flirts?" Sato asked. "Flirts, us?" Reed answered, indignant. "Speak for yourself."

Mayweather laughed lightly as he could just imagine Sato pouting on the other side of Reed. She replied innocently, "Me? No, sir. I'm too much of a lady to flirt."

Reed shook his head with a smile. "You say that while you're curled up naked next to me?"

"For survival reasons, Lieutenant. Quit taking my kind gestures the wrong way." She pressed her face against the back of his neck.

Reed instantly remembered the massage the night before and found himself blushing again. Mayweather was giving him a sly look and Reed rolled his eyes. "Whatever you say, Ensign."

Sato pinched his side. "Don't you belittle me."

"Since when has it been appropriate to pinch your superior officer?" Reed snapped back, almost playfully, inching away from Sato and immediately regretting the move as he pressed his front tightly against Mayweather. Worse still, she followed his move and he was now tightly sandwiched between both of them. He shut his eyes to conceal his embarrassment, able to feel every contour of both bodies. It seemed he had gotten warm, all right. "You all right, Malcolm?" he heard Mayweather ask. When Mayweather spoke, Reed felt the bandage wrapped around the young man's ribs rub lightly against Reed's skin. He was definitely too close to the two soft yet firm bodies pressed against him. He attempted to control any blush that might be trying to taking over his face.

"Fine, just tired," was his quick lie in response.

"Don't fall asleep. You need to stay awake. You're still too cold."

Fall asleep? He couldn't fall asleep like this if he were fully clothed and half drugged. He replied rather lamely, "I'll stay awake."

Reed was overwhelmed by the feeling of Sato and Mayweather pressed against him. He could feel Sato's breasts against his back, Mayweather's strong legs wrapped tightly around one of his. Swallowing, Reed tried to think about other things. Plasma cannons, weapons systems, phase pistol maintenance. He had to get his mind off his current situation. Because Mayweather recalled his survival training, they would undoubtedly keep him pinned between them for at least an hour. It would be impossible for them to tell if his core temperature had returned to normal, so they would continue to baby him until they were absolutely sure he was fine. This meant they would force him to stay where he was until they decided he was thoroughly warmed. He could always try to pull rank and attempt to get away from them, but where would he go? It was still pouring, and he had no dry clothes. He mentally groaned. No dry clothes…which meant he was forced to stay relatively naked until they dried. He could always demand the use of Mayweather's boxers…

He was pulled from his thoughts by a soft sigh of a breath against the back of his neck. Unable to stop a shiver, Reed swallowed as Sato took it as a cue to reposition herself to be sure she was fully pressed against him. Her breathing deepened and Reed suddenly realized she must be dozing off. She could fall asleep, naked, curled up against him? It boggled his mind for a moment. He was ready to bolt and she was ready to take a nap?

"What food did you manage to get before you took your swim?" Mayweather asked, obviously worried Reed might be dozing off along with Sato.

Reed, too afraid to open his eyes to see the ensign so close, kept his eyes closed. "I found some type of sweet berries not far from the shelter. They're about the size of strawberries but they're white, like everything else around here." It was a completely odd and different sensation to feel their chests rub against one another as they spoke. The vibrations made him accutely aware of Mayweather's penis pressed against his upper thigh. He forced himself not to think about it, not to notice it.

"That's it?"

"Hungry, Ensign?" Reed could nearly picture the grin he got with that comment.

"No, just keeping you talking."

He stifled a sigh. He couldn't keep his mind off the lovely sensation of the other man's chest rubbing against his forever. "I won't fall asleep, Travis. You don't have to keep up a conversation."

"Fine, but was that all you got?"

This time Reed was only partially successful at suppressing a sigh. "No, there's another fruit that was growing up in some of the younger trees downstream. It's like…some kind of apple or pear, but more sour. And I did manage to catch two of the frogs before making a fool of myself."

"Everyone slips and falls. It was an accident; you shouldn't beat yourself up about it, Malcolm."

The worried yet kind tone got Reed's attention, and he opened his eyes a crack. Mayweather was mere inches from his face but seemed exceedingly comfortable with the intimate position. Growing up on a cargo ship most likely had quickly taught him how to deal with little personal space. Reed stared at Mayweather for a moment, growing more and more nervous at how closely pressed they were. No one ever got this close to him unless they were attempting to pin him down or kiss him—or both. He suddenly realized that this was not a good train of thought: his imagination quickly supplied a half-dozen sultry moves the younger man could pull on him. He could feel the blush creep over his cheeks, embarrassed at his own thoughts. He was not interested in Mayweather…not really. Well, not that it was ever going to happen.

Mayweather smiled a little at the blush, then noticed Reed's breathing had quickened, and a worried expression replaced the smile. "You okay?" He reached to feel Reed's forehead.

"Fine, just fine." It was a mantra Reed continued to repeat in his head. Nothing wrong here at all—no, nothing at all.

"You sure?" Mayweather repositioned himself, fearing he wasn't properly warming up Reed.

The older man shut his eyes again. Mayweather was going to drive him insane. When Mayweather moved slightly, he struggled not to find the sensation of Mayweather's skin against his erotic, but he reveled in the gentle rub and caress of Mayweather's body as it moved against him. Damn it, he was not going to let himself become aroused while firmly pressed between his two fellow officers and friends. Back to thoughts of weapons systems. Yes that was what he needed to do. Distance himself and—

"Malcolm?" Mayweather's tone was demanding, because Reed hadn't answered his first question.

"I'm fine, Ensign. Can we just…not talk for a while?"

Mayweather sighed beside him. "All right, but you'd better stay awake."

"Yes sir," Reed replied, his tone nearly sarcastic.

The younger man settled down and stayed still beside him. Finally…Reed quickly pulled his mind away from where he was and immersed himself in technical schematics and future weapons upgrades. Anything to keep his mind occupied.

An hour passed in silence and Reed was able to stay focused on the elaborate schematics he drew up in his mind, actually coming up with some new ideas for upgrades to the phase cannons.

Then his mind slowly registered fingers…soft caressing fingers…running along his cheek. Startled out his thoughts, he blinked his eyes open. A concerned Mayweather stared back at him, fingers resting still on Reed's face.

"You wouldn't wake up."

"I was awake—just thinking over some system upgrades."

"Either way, you wouldn't respond. I called your name twice." Reed was a little surprised he had managed to pull himself that far away from his current situation. "Sorry. You know how much I enjoy my work." He managed to give the still concerned Mayweather a reassuring half-grin.

It worked, and the other man removed his hand, relaxing again beside him. Reed wondered for a moment what made Mayweather choose to run his fingers along his cheek rather than simply shake him awake.

"I guess I should have known you were off dreaming about phase cannons and particle weapons."

"What else do I ever think about?"

With a jolt, Reed remembered what had previously been on his mind as Mayweather shifted to get more comfortable. He let out a sigh, which unfortunately got Mayweather's attention. "Still feeling embarrassed?"

Reed swallowed as Sato nuzzled her face against the back of his neck in her sleep, her soft lips brushing against the sensitive skin. He couldn't suppress a shiver that raced down his spine and settle at a very specific part of his anatomy. "You could say that…"

Mayweather stared at Reed for a moment in puzzlement, then comprehension dawned on his face and Reed squirmed in embarrassment. The wide grin from the young man was not what Reed expected to be his reaction.

"It's only natural. Don't worry about that either."

Reed was sure his face was a nice bright red at this point, his body leaping at the idea that it was just fine to find the man pressed up against him completely desirable, not to mention the woman breathing against the back of his neck. "It is inappropriate behavior," he managed to get out.

"I'd like to see you try and stop it," Mayweather replied smartly, still grinning.

"I don't see you having…difficulties." Shooting him a glare, Reed quickly attempted to calm his body down.

"I'm better at not letting my mind wander, I guess."

Was that a smug tone to his voice? Reed was about to snarl at Mayweather for finding this humorous, when Sato mumbled, half awake, "Quit flirting again you two."

Now it was Mayweather's turn to blush, and Reed was amazed at how quickly the other man became embarrassed. What…Did that mean Sato had actually caught Mayweather in the act? Reed's heart rate jump. That thought did nothing to abate his current problem.

"I, uh, think you're probably warm enough now, Malcolm. If you tell me how, I could boil some water to warm you up even more." Mayweather was looking outside. The rain had nearly ceased.

Reed suspected the younger man was investigating their surroundings in order to keep from looking at him. "Sounds good. But you can only get dressed if you give me your skivvies."

"Like I have anything to hide?"

Reed's eyes flashed with extreme agreement. He definitely felt Mayweather had nothing to hide. As he caught the look in Reed's eyes, Mayweather blushed again. However, Reed's look was quickly gone, replaced by a formal commanding glance.

"I won't have my junior officers running around naked in the woods after only our second day stranded on a planet."

"So, what, after a week we're free to strip?" Mayweather said as he pulled away. He grabbed his jumpsuit and pulled it on, ignoring his complaining ribs as he dressed.

"A month is the standard waiting period," Reed replied to the tease, taking the opportunity to grab Mayweather's boxers and tug them on. They managed to barely mask his arousal. He couldn't believe himself. This was a potentially dangerous situation, stranded on an alien planet. He had to keep in control of himself. They were in a crisis and he was the senior officer. He could never imagine the situation having the same effect on Captain Archer. Then again Sato and Mayweather were Reed's friends, and he had to admit he found them attractive. Still, it was completely inappropriate and he mentally beat himself up on the issue.

"They have rules for everything," Mayweather grunted as he staggered to his feet outside, leaning slightly on the rickety shelter. His muscles ached and complained, but it was good to stand. He kept his weight off his twisted ankle.

Sato blinked her eyes and stretched behind Reed as she woke up completely. "Hm? What, that's it? You guys get dressed and leave me naked?"

"That was the plan," Mayweather replied, smirking down at her.

She shot him a playful glare, then moved to pull on her skivvies. "Are you going to make us something to eat?"

"If you want to eat, get out here and help me. Maybe I can figure out how to make a stew from the frogs."

"Frogs? Well, one must learn to embrace new ideas—I guess."


"This is ridiculous! Where are they? Why haven't they found us?!"

"I don't know, Travis, but you need to calm down," Reed ordered, his accent flaring slightly as his voice raised.

Still distraught but taking a calming breath, Mayweather folded his arms across his chest. He strained to keep an even tone. "Fine, all right, I'm calm. But it's been two weeks. Two weeks. Just when are they planning on finding us?"

"There has to be a reason," Sato interjected as she sat on a downed log. "Enterprise might have been damaged herself, with key systems needing major overhaul, or sensor and communication problems. Maybe none of the pods are functional."

"Commander Tucker would never take two weeks to fix a pod, especially with crewmen to save," Mayweather countered.

Sato stared up at him. Of course Mayweather was right. "So just what are you saying?"

"I just…None of us wants to say it, but we're all thinking it—"

"That's quite enough, Ensign," Reed interrupted curtly. "This discussion is over. We have yet to make any solid efforts towards contacting Enterprise. We've waited for them to act long enough. I'm going to try to check on the shuttlepod, and that's final."

"And again I have to strongly object to you going alone." Mayweather was irritated because he was still injured, still limping around. "Your adventures when you're off alone never seem to go well, Malcolm."

"And do my adventures dragging the two of you along with me ever manage to go any better?" Reed snapped, clearly alluding their current stranding. He took a breath before continuing. "You're still hurt and therefore cannot come. Since I can't leave you alone, Hoshi has to stay behind as well." Before Mayweather could object again, he added, "It'll be for the best. I can move faster on my own, and I can manage to stay hidden from anything tracking me. I should be back by early evening."

Finished with talking, Reed turned to pick up his gear. He could hear a sigh from Mayweather, but the younger man kept his mouth shut. Reed fastened the phase pistol to his worn uniform, the weapon's power carefully conserved. Miraculously, it still held a charge. He slung on a newly constructed woven bag with a long vine cord strap over each shoulder to crisscross his chest. They held water, a little food, and room to carry back anything he might find. Picking up a wooden spear with a stone point lashed onto it, he turned back to Sato.

"You have my list of activities for the day. Be sure he doesn't wear himself out pacing." Reed glanced at the already worried marching Mayweather had fallen into. "And make sure he eats."

Mayweather spun around to face Reed. "I heard that. I'm not some little kid who needs to be baby-sat."

Reed ignored the comment, turning to Sato, "Don't wait up for me."

Sato nodded before Reed turned to head into the forest. "We'll keep the light on for you."

She glanced back to see Mayweather watching Reed until he disappeared from sight. Two weeks together had left them closer than ever. They knew how to push each other's buttons and calm one another down. They also knew how much they depended on each other. Sato understood Reed's logic in leaving them behind, but she also knew why Mayweather didn't understand. He was growing to hate his inability to help Reed with more of the hard labor. He wanted to be well, but it was taking time, and it chafed Mayweather.

Standing, Sato squeezed Mayweather's shoulder. "He'll be fine." She smiled and lowered her voice, adding, "As long as he doesn't fall into a river."

Mayweather smiled, looking away from the dense forest to Sato. "I just can't stand how he thinks he's invincible sometimes."

"Just another one of his annoying quirks. You've got a few of your own too." She patted his bare arm before walking over to the shelter.

During their two weeks on the planet, Reed had decided they needed a more permanent shelter and gave up on the idea of crossing the river in search of caves; the current was too strong. The new shelter was three-sided, one side being the mammoth old-growth tree. The other two were woven branches covered in mats supported by thick sapling logs buried vertically into the ground. The roof was crafted in much the same way as the walls but was also covered in multiple layers of palm leaves. It was set at a slight angle to allow any rain to run off, rather than sneak its way through the layers into the shelter. They were just now starting work on cots. One was finished, another halfway done. When all three side-by-side cots were completed, the shelter would still have plenty of room to store supplies.

Sato looked down at the list of things to do for the day as it sat on the finished cot. It was written on a palm leaf with old coal from the fire. She glanced down the list, then sighed. He wanted to keep them busy. It was probably for Mayweather's benefit. She was known to worry, but Mayweather took it to another level when he felt he might be able to do something, if only given the chance. Rubbing her hands together, she realized how dirty her hands looked. She glanced down at her uniform and frowned. They wore their uniforms unzipped and tied around their waists more often than not. Her black undershirt was looking far too crusty. Their chores would have to wait. Walking to a back corner of the shelter, she picked up two bundles before heading back out.

Mayweather was fussing with the fire, adding wood and then rearranging the setup as if it would go out with the new addition. He glanced her way when she joined him.

"Come on, we need a bath."

"A bath? What about Malcolm's list?" "I'm sure he won't mind if we're freshly scrubbed when he comes back." Sato led the way to the river, although not missing the fact that Mayweather grabbed a spear before following after her. It didn't seem to matter that he had yet to master using the weapon and would have little luck defending them with it.

It was another warm day, and the humidity was strangely high. Sticky and dirty was never a fun combination. Finding the medium-sized boulder they normally used as a table, she placed the bundles on it. Three small animal furs, a pair of palm-sized rounded rocks, and a packet of roots lay inside one bundle. She handed one of each to Mayweather before grabbing her own. Then she handed the second bundle to Mayweather. Inside was the sharp stone both men used to shave their beards.

"Stick close," Mayweather ordered.

"You just want to watch."

"Like I haven't seen it all already," he returned the tease.

She tossed him a friendly glare. "Now *there's* a pickup line."

He chuckled as he pulled his black tank top over his head, then tugged off his boots and socks. Being undressed around one another was hardly an issue any more, although Reed still shied away at times. Stripping to his boxers for comfort—he never did care for sand getting up into his hard-to-reach places—Mayweather walked to the water's edge with his clothes. He set them down and sat, finding his usual beveled rock and starting to work the root into a pulp with his palm-sized rock. Moments later, he added some water and finished working the pulp into a sudsy mush. He glanced up to see Sato begin working on the stains on her tank top. She was stripped to her underwear too. He caught himself glancing along her smooth bare back, admiring the lightly tanned skin.

It took them a good half hour to scrub their clothes and finish with their underwear. Mayweather would never take for granted modern washing methods ever again. Then they rinsed and rerinsed before laying the clothes out to dry.

Sato tossed Mayweather a grin before letting out a hoot as she raced to the water's edge and dove in. He watched her creamy skin disappear into the deep blue water before she bobbed back up for air a few meters out.


"Wimp!" she cried back.

He grinned wide before diving into the water after her. She swam away from him upstream and he quickly followed in pursuit. He was gaining on her even as his sides began to complain, when she suddenly stopped with a yelp. Mayweather increased his strokes as he saw her bob under. As he got to her, she was coughing, reaching under water to rub her shin.

"What's wrong?" he asked as he put an arm around her to hold her above water as he used his free arm to keep them afloat.

"I hit my leg on something, then I swallowed a little too much water." She coughed before taking a deep breath.

"Told you to stick close." Mayweather gave her a grin as he started them toward shore.

"I'll be fine."

"Just wait until Malcolm hears *you* were the reckless one for once."

Sato laughed. "For once? I just manage not to get caught all the time."

"Little rebel Hoshi—yeah I can believe that." He helped her up onto the sand spit and glanced down to see her shin bleeding from a minor scrape. "Smacked your leg pretty good. One sec."

He left her on the beach and jogged the few meters back to their things, returning with the skins they had used to scrub their clothes. Mayweather gave Sato a glance—she seemed to be staring at him when he returned. He snapped his fingers in front of her face. "Didn't hit your head, did you?"

"Oh, what? No, no my head's fine."

He gave her his own wondering look before kneeling down. "This is going to sting probably." He ran the fur over her cut, cleaning it and wiping away the blood.

Sato sucked in a breath between her teeth. "Since when are you Doctor Mayweather?"

Mayweather smiled as he looked up at her, recalling he had asked Reed the same thing two weeks ago. "I'm just the nurse. Doctor Reed will have to take a look at you later."

She grinned down at him, then surprised them both as she ran her fingers along the side of his face and into his hair. Realizing what she was doing, she froze. They both locked eyes.

Mayweather was the first to look away, glancing to the side as he stood. "We should…wash up while our clothes are still drying."

Sato nodded, quickly moving her hand away. "Yes, of course." She swallowed before moving past him back to their things.

Mayweather glanced after at her. What had just happened?


A waste of his time. Reed tried to shove the thought out of his head, but it echoed through his mind. Everything was ruined. If it hadn't been fried from the systems failure on their way down, it was smashed to pieces from the last drop off the cliff. The communications equipment was unrepairable. Even better, some kind of animal had ransacked the shuttlepod and there was nothing left small enough to carry back with him. He picked up his jogging pace as he recognized another landmark. A waste of his time…

Rounding one last corner, he spotted the camp. He was early getting back, and he could tell his early return surprised Sato and Mayweather as they worked on preparing dinner. Expectant eyes quickly dimmed as they saw his disappointment. Setting down the two woven bags and spear, he rolled his shoulders before stating plainly, "Everything's destroyed."

"Everything?" Mayweather asked in surprise.

"Everything. I think it happened when the circuits blew on our way down. On top of that the computer systems were smashed to pieces when the shuttlepod dove off the cliff." Reed sighed. "The pod is no longer any good to us." Then he noticed their cleaner appearance. "Bathing without me?"

Oddly both of them flushed slightly, and Reed started to wonder if he'd missed something.

"Just a quick dip, although Hoshi managed to hurt her shin."

"Only a scrape." She pulled her pant leg up enough to show the wound.

Reed nodded. "You cleaned it out?"

"Of course. I'm not going to let her die on my watch."

"Should be fine then."

Sato moved to straighten her pant leg out, when she froze, watching just behind Reed. "You sure you weren't followed?"

"Followed?" Reed glanced over his shoulder. He waited a moment, then a large form back in the forest moved a few feet closer to the camp. "Damn."

Hunching down and grabbing his spear, he motioned for them to get down and back. The form moved behind a large tree fifteen meters away, then disappeared. Reed glanced around for it, with no luck. Taking a few steps toward the tree, he just barely caught movement to his left before he lunged out of the way of an attack. He rolled to his feet to see a half-bear, half-cat-like creature with white fur and deep pink eyes glaring at him with a most definitely predatory glint in its eyes. How long had it been tracking him? A fine tactician he was if he hadn't noticed he was being followed. Puffing himself out as big as he could, Reed tried to intimidate the creature while shifting the spear for a better hold. Behind the creature were Mayweather and Sato, both quietly working their way toward weapons of their own.

A snarl and the creature lunged again. Reed dodged and thrust his spear into its side. There was a screaming cry, and it turned on him. Reed tried to draw his phase pistol, but the creature knocked him down, and in one swift move, took Reed's shoulder in its jaws. Reed grabbed at its throat. The creature increased pressure and started moving as it tried to drag Reed off. The pain, the pressure on his shoulder—it was nearly too much and he was about to scream when the creature was knocked off him and slammed over the head with a club. Reed wavered on his feet, then sat down heavily. He heard rather than saw his two friends strike the creature over and over again, the sounds loud in his ears.

Blinking his eyes in an attempt to focus away from the pain, Reed finally saw his rescuers, now standing over the animal's corpse. "Remind me never to pick a fight with either of you," he mumbled, then tried to stand again.

"Stay still, Malcolm," Sato instantly replied, coming to his side and pressing him back to the ground.

Mayweather clubbed the creature again for good measure before moving to get the water.

"I imagine I look worse than I am." Reed noted the extremely worried look on Sato's face as he stared up at her. He glanced at his shoulder and the torn and bloody uniform.

Mayweather sat down to Reed's other side as he brought water and clean skins. He carefully pulled the uniform back before he started on the task of cleaning away the blood and washing out the canine teeth marks.

Reed gritted his teeth to keep himself quiet. As his adrenaline diminished, pain was raging to the front of his consciousness. Mayweather frowned as he worked on the wound.

"So how is he?" Sato asked.

"The wounds are pretty deep. We'll need to wrap them, but I think they might need stitches. And I'm not sure exactly how to stop them from becoming infected." Mayweather let out a sigh, then added in a half-hearted attempt to lighten the mood, "But I think you'll have some great scars when they heal, Malcolm."

"Always wanted that rugged look. Like you." Reed referred to Mayweather's own scars from the crash, which were healing nicely but were still visible. Letting out a deep breath, Reed reached to gently touch his own shoulder. He felt two puncture marks on each side. He decided they did need stitches. He would have to figure out a reasonable way to do so. Then the thought of stitching up his own shoulder came to mind. He covered his eyes with his hand, swallowing hard. Suddenly, it was all too much. Under his breath, he whispered, "We're never getting off this rock…"

"Shh, Malcolm, we'll be all right," Sato soothed.

"But we're stuck here!" he growl, removing his hand and glaring up at her. "Stuck here for god knows how long, scraping away in the dirt, trying not to get killed!" He took another breath and his voice shifted from anger to defeat. "We'll never be found. We should have been rescued by now. Maybe they think we're dead. Or maybe the Enterprise was destroyed."

All three went silent as Reed stated what they had all feared. They hadn't yet said it out loud, but they were all thinking it. They weren't going to be rescued. And the only viable explanation for their nonrescue was the destruction of Enterprise—along with all of their fellow officers and friends…

A long moment later, Reed glanced to see both Sato and Mayweather quietly looking down, lost in the same negative thoughts. He sighed as he took their hands in his and caught their attentions. "I'm sorry. We shouldn't be thinking like this. I shouldn't have said it. Rescue will come…some day."

Mayweather nodded solemnly. "Maybe."

"We have to keep a positive outlook or we might as well be dead. We have to keep struggling." Reed squeezed Mayweather's hand, looking from his face to Sato's. Then Reed glanced at the shelter. "We'll need to clean the wounds before we wrap up my shoulder."


So many lines. There really couldn't be that many, could there? Travis stared at the parallel scratch marks on the flat piece of wood in front of him, counting up the marks once more. Thirty? Thirty days? It couldn't have been thirty days already. He picked up the piece of wood, staring. He hadn't miscounted. It just seemed like they couldn't have been stranded on the planet for that long, and yet it seemed like they had been there forever. Thinking back on it, there were too many events to remember. Malcolm had always had a steady flow of projects for them to work on. Procuring and drying food, building the sturdier and larger shelter, creating tools and weapons, finding and drying food. Malcolm's Eagle Scout badges had come shining through in every instance. He had become their undisputable leader and guide. Travis felt that he and Hoshi had been hard-pressed to not irritate Malcolm with their fumbling abilities, but Malcolm had never uttered a word of criticism.

Most memorable of all had to be the attack on Malcolm on his return from the shuttlepod—that had been two weeks ago. After killing the creature, they now had a large fur stored for future use, along with many other cured body parts. The day after the mauling, Malcolm started planning a protective fence around their shelter. It was now nearly complete.

But thirty days? A whole month? There had been no rescue attempts, no contact from the Enterprise whatsoever. Whatever little hope they had left had deserted them by now. Even if the Enterprise had been destroyed, Starfleet should have sent a rescue party or an investigative crew by now. And yet—no one had found them.

Travis notched another line on the piece of wood, then propped it back up against the old-growth tree that served as one side of their three-sided shelter. Standing up, he stared down at the thirty-one marks. They were never getting off this planet.

"Quit brooding, Travis."

Hoshi's words were harsh, but her tone was understanding. Travis glanced over at her sitting on the mats by the fire. It was midafternoon and heading toward evening. Malcolm was out tracking game. He was the only one of them who could consistently hunt well. Travis, still not completely healed, remained behind to help Hoshi at the camp, and Hoshi stayed behind to watch Travis. For weeks now, Malcolm had left them nearly every day to hunt and gather alone. Occasionally, Hoshi had gone out with him, but never for long. Both Malcolm and Hoshi worried too much about Travis whenever he was left alone. But around the shelter, Hoshi and Travis always had work to do—Malcolm saw to that. Travis knew it was important work, but it bothered him that Malcolm had to go off by himself. He knew Malcolm could get himself out of most any dangerous situation, but Malcolm was just one man. If Travis could have it his way, he would never want anyone off alone. He always felt better whenever they were all together. And deeper down, Travis missed Malcolm while he was gone. But he was still healing, and for now they still had to split apart for daily activities. Today, Travis and Hoshi were constructing new pillows out of long, fibrous leaves. That was the last task left on their to-do list for the day—the list Malcolm had written up before he headed out that morning. Hoshi was currently finishing up her first successful pillow. It didn't look half bad.

Slowly Travis walked over and sat beside her at the fire, picking up his latest attempt. It was pathetic compared to Hoshi's. "I wasn't brooding."

"Yes, you were." She finished weaving in a leaf, then glanced over at him. "It's been a full month?"

He nodded. "Wonder if Malcolm's realized."

"I'm sure he has—he probably knows what day of the month it is, too. Gotta be some sort of Eagle Scout trick for that." She grinned a little, then stuffed some downy fibers inside her pillow. The fibers were collected by Malcolm from a plant that had gone to seed. Finishing it off, Hoshi displayed her final product. "Think it'll pass inspection?"

Malcolm was the pickiest perfectionist when it came to their gear. Mimicking the older man's British accent, he replied, "It'll have to do for the time being, I suppose."

She smiled as she stood up and walked over to the cots. "Malcolm's got to learn that perfect is impossible."

"I doubt he'd ever agree with you on that."

He watched as she placed the pillow on one of the cots. Their living quarters were now complete. They each had a finished cot, and he was sure Malcolm was still wondering why he been saddled with the middle one. After the drenching Malcolm had experienced, Travis and Hoshi somehow managed to keep Malcolm in the middle position. At first it was because they were unsure about Malcolm's health and later on it simply became a habit. Malcolm had found it intensely irritating in the beginning, and had made it known to both of them many times. But the position stuck, and Malcolm was now reasonably comfortable curled up in the middle—or at least he had stopped complaining.

As Hoshi returned and started work on another pillow, Travis concentrated on getting his leaves to weave in as tightly as Hoshi's had been. He was good with his hands, but she was better. She was more patient. She often upstaged him, but he didn't mind. They needed each other's talents. If he ever got frustrated trying to weave, he could always work on finishing up the fence around their shelter. The harder labor he could handle better. His limp was nearly gone, but Malcolm still wanted him off his foot as much as possible for another week. Travis couldn't wait to be free to gather along with Malcolm. He was getting tired of being a burden—not that either of his friends would admit to him that he was.

And the time spent alone with Hoshi had its benefits. Although he was sorry not to see more of Malcolm, it gave Hoshi and Travis time to talk. He knew more about her than nearly anyone else did, with perhaps the exception of a close second in Malcolm. He enjoyed spending many afternoons talking with her. Her eyes sparkled when any discussions became heated.

And after the odd instance on the beach two weeks ago, Hoshi had become a huge flirt. He didn't mind, although he was beginning to wonder if it was just friendly flirting. She would tease and find excuses to touch him. He didn't quite know if he should mention it to her. Although it would be embarrassing to be wrong, he was more worried about being right—that the flirting was purposeful. It was just the three of them. He had absolutely no idea how to handle any feelings Hoshi might have without creating a rift. If he spoke poorly, he could upset Hoshi. If something sparked between them, he could upset Malcolm. Things were going so well between all of them. He didn't want to rock the boat. So, he pretended not to notice.

They worked in an amiable silence for a while; both subconsciously listening to the background noises for anything that might alert them to danger. Hoshi would certainly hear anything first, but he kept his ears open as well.

Travis adjusted himself on his mat, rearranging the shorts that had once been his uniform's pants. They had hacked off the pants to make them into shorts. Malcolm kept his pants intact to keep his legs better protected while foraging. Instead, Malcolm had opted to cut the top of his uniform off and had created a makeshift belt to keep the pants tightly on. Travis and Hoshi quickly followed suit with the idea. The uniform tops were hung up for use in the evenings, or when it was rainy or cold.

Travis glanced up at Hoshi. She had her hair done in multiple braids to keep it out of her face and to disguise the fact it was not particularly clean. It was her biggest pet peeve about their current situation. She dreamed of being able to wash and comb her hair, to know it was really dirt free. Dirty hands she could deal with but dirty hair got to her. Travis thought the braids looked very nice. The few rogue strands of hair that had fought their way out of the braids framed her face. She was beautiful, even with that smudge of coal on her cheek. He grinned softly before looking back down at his work.

Hoshi reached over and tugged on his half-finished pillow. "It'll never pass inspection."

"Hey I'm trying as hard as I can, Princess." He smirked. It was the nickname her grandfather called her by, and it never ceased to annoy Hoshi when he used it.

She glared at him. "What did you say?"


Travis dodged her attack, rolling away from the fire as she lunged. Hoshi quickly smacked him with her pillow before diving for his feet. He playfully kicked to get away, but she jumped up to pin him down by the shoulders. Hitting her over the head with his own pillow, he rolled them a few times until he ended up on top, pinning her arms down.

"Aren't you feisty today," he chuckled with a grin.

"Never call me 'Princess.'"

"I don't believe you're in a position to tell me what to do." Travis grinned down at her.

"No?" In one smooth move, Hoshi slipped one arm and leg free, flipping Travis and pinning him beneath her, hands behind his head. "How about now?"

Travis blinked in surprise. "You've been practicing with Malcolm again?"

"Just so I can keep you in line."

"I'm harmless." He grinned, then yanked his hands free and took a different attack strategy: tickles.

"No, no, stop," Hoshi giggled, rolling off of him as he attacked her sides. She was extremely ticklish, something neither man had failed to exploit after learning of the fact. She laughed as she squirmed to get away, hands on his trying to move them. Laughing, she struggled to say, "Stop, Travis, really…My stomach hurts."

He relented and stilled his hands on her sides. She sucked in deep breaths as she tried to calm her racing heart. Travis was mesmerized by the way she looked beneath him. Those deep brown eyes dilated, and her luscious lips parted. He pushed back the feeling rushing over him. They were friends. They all had to remain friends. But how long would they be stuck here together? Forever?

Hoshi met his gaze. He could see the same thoughts running through her mind as he kept her pinned down. Before he could release her, she leaned forward and pressed her lips to his. Stunned, he froze for a moment before returning the kiss, losing himself in the sensation. He'd been staring at those lips for too long to pull away. She felt soft and warm. He worked to memorize the feeling, the touch. He was certain once the kiss ended he was going to have to put a stop to it happening again.

When they finally parted, eyes still locked, Travis swallowed as he wet his lips. He stated simply, "This wouldn't be fair. Not to Malcolm."

She slowly ran one of her hands up along his arm. "It doesn't have to be unfair."

He stared down at her, uncertain what she meant for a moment. Then it dawned on him. She wanted to start a threesome? Any jealousy was quickly halted as he realized the benefits. He could have Hoshi and Malcolm, and no one would be left out. "Think he'd go for something like that?"

"Would you?" she asked, her eyes mirroring her uncertainty about bringing up the idea.

Travis nodded, leaning his forehead down against hers. "Yes…"

"I just knew you two flirted." Hoshi smiled softly, then answered his previous question. "I don't know what he'd say. We'd probably have to talk him into it."

He brushed his lips against hers. "This is going to change things."

"For the better," she reassured, kissing him again.


Malcolm swatted a bug away from his face. It was another muggy day. Since their arrival a month ago, the humidity had only seemed to increase. Now he was quite certain the forest was not temperate, as he initially thought, but instead tropical.

He smacked a large insect that managed to land on his arm. This was a waste of his time. No game was out this afternoon; it was too hot. He shifted his position. Malcolm already had a large troutlike fish in his bag that was big enough to supply their dinner. Unfortunately, the fish would not give them many useful items other than meat. He wanted to see if he could locate the large three-toed creatures that used the game trail he was currently squatting beside. No matter what time of day he visited, he never seemed to catch a glimpse of the animals. Perhaps they were nocturnal. When Travis was fully healed, he decided they would come back at night. But for tonight, it looked like fish was the only thing on the menu.

Standing silently, he inched his way from the trail and back to the riverbank. The thin beach was the quickest way to travel. He started into an easy jog. It was getting into late afternoon. He would be back to camp earlier than normal, but for once, they could eat dinner at a decent hour. As he passed the bathing boulder, he started up the path they had worn down to their camp.

Malcolm's eyes scanned the nearly complete two-meter-high fence as he came around to the entrance. He turned the corner, then froze. He saw Travis with Hoshi pinned beneath him, but he could tell it was not in anger or in fun. Something was different. They were whispering to one another, and he heard a low laugh. He couldn't see their faces. What was going on? He was about to call out when they kissed. His heart sank as his grip tightened on the spear in his hand. He couldn't seem to breathe. Their kiss was most definitely not one of friendship, if there ever was such a thing. Then they were intimately touching, stroking. He stared unable to look away. He couldn't decide who to be more furious with, and who to long after. They were equally desirable, equally disappointing to see with the other. Both of them…together…He had to get out of there.

As silently as he came, he backed away out of sight. His mind reeled, but he forced himself to march back to the beach before reacting to what he had just seen. As soon as his feet hit the sand, he slammed the end of his spear into the soil. The tip broke as it hit a hidden rock, but he didn't give a damn. He held the butt end in one hand as he kicked the spear in two, throwing the now broken piece into the river.

"Bloody fucking hell," Malcolm snarled, picking up the rest of the spear buried in the sand and yanking it free before launching it after its other half. As he hurled it, he pulled himself off balance and slipped down hard onto his side. He gave the sand a furious punch. It was not fair. Not fair. And it was all his fucking fault. He left them alone together every day; what did he expect would happen?

Sucking in a deep breath, he rolled onto his back, covering his face with his hands. "That'll be that, then," he said. They'll try to hide it at first, then try to explain that nothing will be different with them as a couple. Them…and him. That was it. That was all he had to look forward to. The eternal third wheel. He swallowed hard.


Malcolm leapt to his feet, wiping off his sand-covered clothes. "Oh, Travis. Sorry, I didn't hear you. How are you doing?" Pretty damn well, he should imagine. Jealousy flared, but it only served to confuse him. He wasn't sure who to be jealous of exactly.

"You okay?"

"Fine, just catching a little sun. I finished early today." Who in the world would buy that excuse?

Travis glanced up at the sky, then back at Malcolm. "Where's your spear?"

"Lost it in the river." Well, that was half true. He ignored Travis' disbelieving glance and quickly turned around, walking to the bathing boulder and pulling the fish out of one of his bags. "The fish here are quite the fighters. But supper will be ready in about an hour."

Travis followed after him. "Let us fix dinner. You caught it." He reached for the fish.

"No," Malcolm snapped, then calmed down as he pulled out a knife. "I'll do it."

"Hoshi's already started a broth of vegetables. We can cook the fish."

Malcolm swallowed at the new meaning of the word "we" in relation to Travis and Hoshi. "Let a man cook his own fish, Travis." He hacked his knife into the fish, working to cut off the head.

Travis was quiet for a moment. Malcolm's back tensed and he redoubled his efforts to make quick work of gutting the fish.

"Are you…upset about something, Malcolm?"

"No," he shot back a little too quickly.


"I'd rather not talk about it right now."

"Well, I do. What's wrong? I heard you breaking things out here."

The spear. Malcolm sighed before turn to face Travis. "This new…development, Travis. It's going to take me some getting used to."

Travis stared blankly for a moment, then ran a hand over his face as he realized what he meant. "You saw."

"I mean, it's not exactly unexpected, since I left two young friends alone together for hours on end day after day." His tone was bitter. He was fool. How long had it been going on without him noticing?

"Malcolm, let me explain—"

"No need to explain. I'm *thrilled* for you." He was nearly sarcastic but managed to fake a smile before turning back to the fish. He slit its belly and pull out its guts with a quick swipe of his fingers, then used the edge of his blade to begin removing the scales. "And it's really none of my business."

"Malcolm, for once, don't go blocking yourself off. We kind of thought you wouldn't appreciate us…together in any romantic way."

Malcolm spun around. "And just what did I witness then? A friendly make-out session? Yes, please do explain, Travis."

"First, put the damn knife down."

Travis took it from Malcolm's hand, setting it on the boulder beside the fish. Malcolm folded his arms across his chest, acting as if he had little time to waste on the conversation.

"We're not forgetting about you."

"Oh really," Malcolm said, eyebrows raised skeptically.

"No," Travis replied, becoming irritated with Malcolm. He stopped to take a calming breath. "No, Malcolm. We would like to ask you…to propose to you that no two of us become a couple—"

"What, just friends with benefits?"

"Shut up, Malcolm, and listen." Travis stared at him hard, trying to convey the seriousness of what he was trying to say. "No, not friends with benefits either. We want to know…if you are interested in the three of us becoming a couple. Or whatever the right word is."

"W—what?" Malcolm must have heard wrong. He hadn't suspected that Travis would say anything like this. The *three* of them?

"A threesome. No one left out. We are already best friends, and we're going to be stuck here for a long time, Malcolm. Forever, maybe. It's been a month, and we haven't seen a single rescue attempt. We need each other. The only romantic relationship that could ever work for each of us is if no one is left out." Travis took one of Malcolm's hands in his. "It's up to you. What you saw—it just started today. And it won't continue without you. Either we all try it, or we forget today happened."

Malcolm blinked, looking away to process what Travis had said. The three of them? It would change the entire dynamic between them. Everything would be different. But he wouldn't be alone. Did threesomes ever work? He didn't have a lot of experience with threesomes—no experience, in fact. He supposed they would have to make it work. Then a thought hit him. "This isn't because you're feeling sorry for me, is it?" He shifted his gaze back at Travis.

"No. You're a fantastic person, Malcolm, and very attractive." He paused, then went on, "We both find you very attractive."

Malcolm's eyes widened slightly. Travis…He had suspected, but…

"Hoshi and I discussed it. We need you with us, or it won't be what we want."

Taking a deep breath, Malcolm took a step closer to Travis. "This could really work?"

"It's the only thing that might." Travis squeezed Malcolm's hand in his, running his free hand through Malcolm's hair. "You've got sand all over you." He ruffled the hair to get some of it out.

"I was a tad upset." Malcolm stared at Travis—so close to him. He'd had a hideous record with relationships, and those were just with one person at a time. But two at once? "Travis…you know I'm not the best with relationships. I could botch this up. Then what? We're pissed at each other for the rest of our lives?"

"Think positively. With three people, someone's bound to be able to keep us from killing each other. We've managed pretty well so far. Now we just get a few more…benefits." Travis smiled.

Malcolm chuckled softly. "That's what you're going to call it?" He returned the smile.

"Should I state it more bluntly? Or—how about if I show?" Travis leaned down, brushing his lips gently against Malcolm's.

Malcolm hesitated for only a moment before he melted into the kiss, leaning against Travis. The kiss started out tentative, but it slowly grew more demanding. Travis was warm pressed against Malcolm. Malcolm recalled his bout with hypothermia and the way Travis had felt without clothes between them. He had thought back to that moment more times than he cared to admit to—Travis firm and strong and smiling at him. So close…But now Malcolm had him. Travis pressed against him, Travis' lips on his. When Travis pulled back, Malcolm had one hand on the back of Travis' neck, playing his fingers along the skin. He sighed softly. "All right, this could work."

Travis grinned, then nipped at Malcolm's lower lip. "Glad you approve." Stepping out of Malcolm's reach, Travis picked up the fish and knife. "All three of us need to talk. We can discuss things while we cook dinner."

Malcolm nodded. The big talk. The one that should happen before every relationship but never usually did. "Yes, right, of course."

"Don't go getting tense again." Travis smiled before starting them back to the shelter. "Just got to set up some ground rules. What we want, what we don't want."

As they entered the camp, Hoshi glanced up from cutting vegetables. "Everything okay?"

"Just fine." Travis set the fish down on a flat piece of wood beside the fire before motioning Malcolm to take a seat beside him. "He said yes."

"Yes?" Hoshi blinked. "You asked already?"

"I managed to catch you…discussing the idea," Malcolm explained. "Although I thought it was something else."

"Ah, no wonder we heard you tearing things to pieces." Hoshi grinned.

"This idea might take me a—a little while to get comfortable with."

Travis addressed Hoshi. "You just gotta know how to kiss him right, and he becomes putty in your hands. It won't be a problem getting him comfortable."

Malcolm flushed slightly. He wasn't certain it was going to be *that* easy. "So, what ground rules did you want to discuss, Travis?"

Travis started preparing the fish to be cooked by wrapping it in leaves. "Well, let's see. I think first off that being intimate with each other should always be a three-person affair. No twosomes."

Hoshi nodded. "Intimate meaning sex?"

"Yes. Any kind of sex."

"What if one of us chooses to opt out for the night's activities?" Malcolm asked.

"Probably best if they stick around and are awake, although I guess if you give the other two permission that might work too." Travis winked at Malcolm. "Afraid we'll wear you out, old man?"

"Old man?" Malcolm asked indignantly.

Travis grinned before continuing. "Other than that, I was just thinking we might want to say if there is anything you don't want to do. If you hate doing it doggie style or something."

Hoshi added the last of her vegetables to her stew. "I can't think of anything. But I want to say flat out that you boys are free to do a little twosome, as long as I get to watch."

Malcolm stared at her. "You like to watch?"

"Why wouldn't I?"

"Your turn, Malcolm. Any don'ts?"

He thought for a moment, then shook his head. He had nothing to declare that he prepared to start a discussion on anyway. "No I don't believe so."

"Same here—nothing to declare," Travis said. He placed the wrapped fish over the fire to cook.

"I do have one question, though," Malcolm stated before looking at Hoshi. "Are we going to have little ones running around if we do this? The shelter's not big enough for any new additions. I'll need fair warning to build something bigger."

Hoshi shook her head. "You think I was just going to throw myself at you two and not consider that?"

"We are two extremely gorgeous men…" Travis teased.

Hoshi gave his arm a light smack. "I have eight months left for the contraceptive in my system. After that, well—then we'll have to become creative, or add onto the shelter." She frowned slightly as she looked over at Malcolm. "Speaking of medications, what about your allergies?"

"They haven't resurfaced yet. For the most severe ones, I receive yearly injections, so I am fine for a while. Some, however, were monthly. I am not looking forward to the sneezing. Assuming, of course, that I have the same reaction to this planet's pollen that I do at home."

"So what next?" Hoshi asked.

"I guess we take things slow and see what happens," Travis said.

Malcolm glanced between Hoshi and Travis. "Whose idea was all this, anyway?"

"Um, mine I suppose," Hoshi admitted.

Malcolm was surprised. "Yours? Quiet little Hoshi?"

She shot him an evil look. "Who says I'm quiet?"

"If she's as tricky in the sack as she is in a fight, we might be in for some serious trouble," Travis told Malcolm.

"We can handle the Princess."

Malcolm was too slow to dodge her attack and he was knocked back against Travis. All three ended up in a pile, with Hoshi glaring down at both men beneath her.

"Stop calling me by that nickname, or I'm going to have to kill someone."

"But you're our little Princess," Travis teased, managing to sound sincere.

She shot him a look, then grinned slyly. "Fine, boys. But you're now 'sugar,'" she stated as she pointed to Malcolm. "And you're now 'honey.'" She pointed at Travis, who rolled his eyes at the nicknames.

"So original, Princess."

"Shut up, honey." She shoved him over to get to Malcolm.

Malcolm looked up at her, wondering for a moment if she was truly upset with him, before she kissed him. The kiss was demanding but gentle. He was surprised at her boldness. Plenty more to learn about Hoshi, he decided. As he returned the kiss, he cupped the back of her head with a hand. Her lips felt more wonderful pressed against his than they had been pressed against the back of his neck. And her body was pressed firmly down against him, eager for the contact. His mind struggled to comprehend the fact that both of his friends wanted him there—wanted him.

Travis sighed as he watched. "Now there's some harsh punishment."

Hoshi broke off the kiss. "Be nice to me, and maybe I'll let you join in."

Malcolm smiled as Travis grumbled. Malcolm slid his hand around to trace Hoshi's cheekbone. She smiled warmly. "Better behave yourself too, sugar."

"Yes, ma'am," Malcolm replied, moving his hand to her lips.

She sighed. "I see what you mean, Travis. One kiss and he's putty."

Malcolm blushed slightly. He'd now been twice labeled as a push-over. Just, it was becoming extremely hard to fight back those doing the pushing. She grinned and nipped at his thumb before kissing him again. He kissed her and flicked his tongue out to meet hers at she traced his lips.

"While you two hold this little make-out session, I'll just make sure dinner isn't burning." Travis stood up and checked the fish.

Malcolm broke the kiss, stroking Hoshi's cheek as he said, "Don't think we're going to let your young body go to waste, Travis." He grinned at the other man.

Travis smirked back at him. "Just figured you were pretty preoccupied with the other young body pressed against you."

"Always room for more," Hoshi said. She slid off to one side of Malcolm.

Travis made his way back over, then lay beside them. "Dinner will be ready in another half hour."

"Plenty of time." Hoshi kissed along Malcolm's jaw as one of her hands roamed along his chest.

Travis mimicked her movements, kissing and caressing, then slipped his hand up underneath Malcolm's top.

Malcolm closed his eyes as his heart rate climbed. "And why am I the appetizer?" He sucked in a breath as Travis found his right nipple.

"Because we know you're still wondering if we've just taken pity on you and don't really want you here." Travis pressed his cheek against Malcolm's, whispering into his ear, "Think again."

Malcolm shivered as Hoshi kissed and licked her way down Malcolm's neck before reaching the collar of his top and taking the initiative to remove his shirt.

Malcolm fought back the urge to evaluate the situation, as Hoshi looked him over appreciatively. He needed to let go and enjoy the moment. It felt so open, so easy. He stopped himself from waiting for the other shoe to drop. Reaching up, he pulled her down for another kiss and slid a hand along her back underneath her tank top, toying with the straps to her bra.

The kiss was cut short with as Malcolm uttered an appreciative grunt as Travis suckled deeply on Malcolm's right nipple. Hoshi grinned down at Travis and quickly followed suit, wrapping her lips around the other nipple and swirling her tongue. Malcolm gasped and gripped both of them by a shoulder.

With a nip, Travis paused to ask, "So, just what do I have to do to get you to moan, sugar?"

Hoshi giggled at the use of the nickname. "British reserve is hard to break," she said between flicks of her tongue.

"I tend not to be very vocal…early on in the game at least," Malcolm answered. He sucked in a breath and then swallowed hard as Travis brazenly cupped a hand over the tent forming in Malcolm's pants, rubbing the erection beneath. "However, that's definitely the right route to take." His heavy breathing turned into panting as Travis expertly stroked him. Travis purred encouragingly.

Hoshi abandoned his nipple to kiss down slowly to his navel. Malcolm whimpered softly as she explored the nook with her tongue. Travis grinned at the half success, drawing another disappointed whimper from Malcolm when he removed his hand to undo the belt around Malcolm's waist.

"Just—just a second," Malcolm panted, leaning up to look down at them. "Aren't you two a tad over-dressed?"

"Very true," Hoshi answered, quickly pulling her top up and over her head. Travis followed suit as Hoshi reached to undo her bra.

"Allow me," Malcolm hastily offered. He wrapped both arms around Hoshi and unclasped the bra, pulling it off slowly. He kicked his boots off as Travis moved to take Malcolm's pants off.

Tracing the healing scars on Malcolm's shoulder with her tongue, Hoshi took one of Malcolm's hands in hers and cupped it against a breast. Malcolm took the cue and circled her nipple with a thumb before rolling it between his fingers. She moaned a soft encouragement as he tugged gently. His free hand caressed the small of her back and then slipped under her shorts and underwear to cup a cheek.

Malcolm's thoughts snapped back onto Travis as he pulled Malcolm's pants down. Malcolm swallowed down a worried surge of modesty as he found himself naked on the mats by the fire. He was the only one completely naked at the moment. Why did he always manage to find himself in the middle?

Travis spread Malcolm's legs to position himself between them.

"Oh, Travis," Malcolm gasped as Travis took Malcolm's erection into his mouth in one smooth motion. Dragging his teeth lightly against the heated flesh, Travis finally earned himself the vocalization he wanted. Malcolm's deep moan ended with a shudder as Travis swirled his tongue around the tip.

"Moan again for us, Malcolm," Hoshi purred into his ear as Travis took Malcolm back into his mouth. She toyed with his nipples as he clutched onto her.

Breath coming in nearly panicked gasps, Malcolm whimpered his way into a groan as Travis settled into a slow, steady pace. Malcolm pumped his hips to urge him on but only got his hips pinned down by Travis' hand. "Please," Malcolm begged, "Faster."

"Let him suffer a little longer," Hoshi decided.

Travis took her advice and showed no signs of speeding up. Instead, to Malcolm's tortured delight, he cupped and rolled Malcolm's sacks with his free hand.

"Please," Malcolm whimpered, hips bucking against Travis' restraining hand. Hoshi was attacking his nipples now with nipping sucks. Malcolm buried one hand in Travis' hair in further urging, while the other clutched Hoshi's bottom.

Travis gave in and sucked hard and faster. Malcolm's panting jumped to catch up, his fingers digging into Travis' hair.

"Yes," Malcolm gasped, leaning his head back as he felt himself near the edge.

Hand slipping lower, Travis carefully pressed a finger up inside Malcolm.

That was it. Malcolm came, gasping for air, his whole body shuddering with the release. When Malcolm stilled, Travis slowly released him. Hoshi caressed Malcolm's chest as his breathing returned to normal. Travis, grinning, nuzzled Malcolm's inner thigh before moving up to his other side.

"Enjoying yourself old man?" Travis asked.

Malcolm snorted, swallowing to wet his dry throat. "Yes indeed, Junior." He gave them both a satisfied grin.

"Good, 'cause now it's Hoshi's turn." Travis leapt over Malcolm to tackle Hoshi. She yelped with a giggle, rolling onto her back.

"You young whippersnappers, give me a moment," Malcolm teased, resting an arm over his forehead dramatically.

"You recover; I'll see if Hoshi's a moaner or a screamer."

Hoshi laughed as she smacked Travis' butt in retaliation. "Can't I be both?"

"Now, Princess, don't go telling us any lies." Travis kissed her before she could snap at him. Instead, she ran her nails along the back of his neck before allowing him to explore her mouth.

Malcolm watched as the kiss escalated. His emotions battled for attention. He found the sight of them together arousing, but his jealousy flared just the same. He wanted to rip them apart—but not before watching the scene play out. Caught in indecision, he stroked a hand up and down his own chest as he watched.

Breaking the kiss with a flick of his tongue, Travis buried his face against Hoshi's neck as she dragged her nails down his back. She panted as he cupped both her breasts and rolled the nipples between his fingers. She tugged at his shorts, pressed up against him. He pulled back enough so they could undress completely before starting an assault on her nipples with his mouth.

His erection coming back to life, Malcolm mimicked Travis' moves on Hoshi on himself. He tugged at his own nipples in time with Travis, picturing the younger man's mouth wrapped around them. He watched Hoshi writhe beneath Travis and moan her encouragement. As Travis' fingers disappeared between Hoshi's legs, Malcolm wrapped his other hand around his penis, pumping slowly.

Hoshi's fingers dug into Travis' shoulders as she whimpered, hips arching up against his fingers that seemed to instantly find her G-spot, his thumb never let up on her clitoris. "Travis," she managed to gasp out, pulling his head up from her breasts to look at him. "Inside me—now."

Travis' unattended erection tightened at the idea. He forced himself to ask, "Are you sure? Now?"

"Now," she commanded, rocking her hips up.

"Yes, ma'am." Travis glanced over at Malcolm as he repositioned himself over Hoshi. He caught his breath at the sight of Malcolm caressing himself.

Hoshi motioned Malcolm closer. When he scooted up beside her, she wrapped her hand around his erection. "Let me help with that." She kissed Malcolm as she ran her free hand down Travis' muscular chest.

Travis removed his fingers before pressing himself slowly into her. Hoshi moaned deeply into the kiss with Malcolm, her tongue licking over his lips as her pumping hand picked up speed. Malcolm whimpered.

As Travis buried himself completely, reveling in the sensation of her wrapped around him, Travis sighed, "I definitely can't wait to do this every evening." He started into a slow rocking pace, grunting with each thrust.

Hoshi ended the kiss with Malcolm as she panted for breath, her hand pumping his erection in time with Travis' thrusts. Malcolm groaned softly as he rocked his hips against her stroking.

Travis buried his face against Hoshi's neck as his grunts turned into a husky moan, his pace quickening. He had held back so long, she was so deliciously warm wrapped around him, and he could hear Malcolm moaning beside them. It was intoxicating.

Hoshi quickened her pumping of Malcolm, who gave an appreciative moan. Her other hand clutched at Travis' back as she whimpered.

"Faster," she panted.

Travis let go of the last of his restraint and pounded into her. Hoshi cried out as she wrapped her legs around his hips. She barely had the presence of mind to keep her hand stroking Malcolm, but he had already covered her hand with his own to quicken the pace. Malcolm desperately wanted to climax with them together.

Teetering on the edge, Travis managed to catch a glance at Malcolm. The older man's face was open and full of expression, his eyes closed to concentrate on the pleasure of Hoshi and his pumping hands. He was grunting with each frantic thrust. Travis instantly decided he never wanted a night to pass again where he didn't see that expression on Malcolm's face.

Then Travis cried out his release, shivering as the climax rolled over him. His fingers found Hoshi's clitoris with his last shuddering thrusts. She followed after him, gasping for the breath to voice her pleasure. Her contracting vaginal walls pulled Travis along a moment longer before he collapsed onto her. Malcolm was last to reach his peak but his moan spoke volumes. As Malcolm stilled beside them, Travis managed to move himself enough to kiss Malcolm deeply.

As Travis broke the kiss the lean against Hoshi, Malcolm smiled dreamily. "I think I may not mind listening to the two of you together."

Hoshi chuckled. "Told you it's fun to watch."

"That you did." Malcolm nipped at her neck. "You were right."

The three grew silent but it was an easy silence, each working on controlling his or her own giddy feelings. The threesome might work. It just might all fit together.

Finally Travis slowly rolled off Hoshi onto his back. He glanced at dinner; smoke rising from the leaf-wrapped fish. "Dinner looks a little over cooked."

"You always over-cook dinner." Hoshi grinned before slowly getting up and carefully pushing the fish out of the fire. She glanced back to see both men admiring her. "What? More? Now?" She shook her head at them. "Go play with each other, then. I'm hungry."

Travis laughed, winking at Malcolm before getting up. "No, let's have dinner. The old man needs his rest."

Malcolm smacked Travis on the butt as he stood. "Stop this old man business, or I'll have to whip some common sense into you, Junior."

"Oh?" Travis sounded too encouraging.

Malcolm rolled his eyes, pulling on his boxers, to Hoshi and Travis' amusement.

"Don't tell me you can't live five seconds walking around without those boxers on, Malcolm." Hoshi stirred the stew. "I was enjoying the view."

"I don't care to walk around in my birthday suit."

"Goal number two: Get Malcolm comfortable being naked," Travis recited to himself.

"And just what is goal number one?" Malcolm had to ask.

"Get Malcolm to moan before, during, and after sex."

Hoshi giggled as Travis dodged another smack from Malcolm. "Now, boys," she warned. "Dinner is ready, so behave yourselves."

"Yes, ma'am," both replied together.


Dinner was hot and slightly char-broiled, but it was the finest meal they had enjoyed together while on the planet. After-dinner activities consisted of more fondling and groping, more attempts to get Malcolm to moan uninhibitedly, and eventually ending with a migration to the cots and sleepy nuzzling.

Malcolm stared up at the shelter's ceiling, his eyes half open. Travis' arm was laid protectively over Malcolm's stomach as he snored softly beside him. Hoshi was curled up against Malcolm on his other side, head half on her new pillow, half on Malcolm's shoulder. His heart warmed at the thought of both of them so intimately curled up against him. What a turn the day had taken…

He sighed. Even if they were destined to stay on this planet for the remainder of their lives, the thought no longer seemed so bleak. Together. They were together. No matter what, they would have each other. Perhaps he should start on another shelter. Something even more permanent. Hoshi had joked about a log cabin once, but it was a worthy idea. They could presumably build one with the tools and items on hand. It would simply take time. But they had plenty of time. Yes, a log cabin with a root cellar. And a stronger fence around it to keep out the wildlife.

Malcolm closed his eyes as he pictured blueprints of his ideas. A proper stove…and a real straw bed large enough for them all. A table and chairs and—


"Got 'em," came Commander Trip Tucker's triumphant voice.

Malcolm's eyes snapped open as his mind reeled back awake. Trip? He jerked up in one fluid motion onto his feet. The transporter pad on Enterprise. He was on Enterprise? Astounded, he looked to see a surprised Tucker at the controls to the transporter.

"Malcolm? What happened to your uniforms?" Tucker asked.

Malcolm took in Hoshi and Travis on the transporter pad next to him. Since their makeshift blanket was thin, all three of them had redressed back into their worn and hacked-up uniforms before curling up to sleep. Malcolm couldn't quite get his mouth to work to form a response to Tucker.

Travis and Hoshi had come awake at the voices and lights. Equally shocked at their sudden surroundings, both rose to their feet. Malcolm instantly put himself between them and the remainder of the room. This had to be a trick. They couldn't truly be back. In the back of his mind, Malcolm didn't really want them to be back.

"Travis? Hoshi?" Tucker stared at them. "You all okay?"

There was a moment's pause before Hoshi managed to get out, "Trip?"

Tucker took a step closer to the transporter pad, but Malcolm set himself to defend an attack. It had to be a hoax.

"Whoa Malcolm, it's me. Calm down." Tucker stepped closer, hands up to show he was unarmed.

"Stay back," Malcolm warned, glaring at the impostor Tucker with hard-set gray-blue eyes.

"All right, all right." Tucker backed up and made his way to the nearest comm panel. "Tucker to the Bridge. Cap'n you might want to come down here."

A few moments later, Captain Jonathan Archer arrived to find three of his bridge crew tattered and ragged, Malcolm standing protectively in front of Travis and Hoshi while staring down a confused Tucker.

"What's going on?"

Malcolm's attention shifted on to Archer. It was one damn fine hoax but it had to be unreal. If it was real, if they were back—but they just couldn't be back. He told himself aloud, "This is impossible. It can't be real."

"But maybe—" Travis started, noticing how genuine everything appeared.

"Impossible," Malcolm cut him off.

"Lieutenant, what are you talking about?" Archer asked, frowning slightly as he stepped toward them. "And why did you rip apart your uniforms?"

"Stay back," Malcolm snapped, crouching slightly to better spring at either would-be attacker.

"They could be real, Malcolm," Hoshi suggested quietly, staring objectively at both Tucker and Archer.

"After all this time?" Malcolm asked without taking his eyes off either man.

"Maybe they've been busy, unable to rescue us until now," Travis said.

"Wait, what time?" Archer asked as he stopped his approach. "We had a little trouble sending another shuttlepod after you when you crashed, but the transporter only needed another ten minutes to align with the planet's unique gravity and locate your biosigns. Did something happen in the thirty minutes you were down there?"

The three on the pad stared in disbelief. "Thirty minutes?" Travis echoed in surprise.

"Yes." Archer nodded, giving Tucker a worried glance.

Malcolm's protective stance lessened slightly. "But…no…"

"You can check the logs if you like." Archer looked over all three slowly. "How long do you think you were gone?"

"Thirty-one days," Travis managed, swallowing down the sick feeling settling in his stomach.

Archer blinked. "A month?"

Hoshi moved out from behind Malcolm and off the transporter pad. She walked up to Tucker and reached out to feel his arm. She shook her head as she felt the solid form of the man. "We thought Enterprise must have been destroyed," Hoshi explained quietly. She turned to look more closely at Archer. "We thought maybe…you all were lost. We had just accepted we might never get off the planet." She glanced back at Malcolm and Travis.

"The planet was spinning at an odd rate and took the computer longer than normal to catch your biosigns," Tucker said. He looked to Archer. "Could be why they thought it had been a month. To them, maybe it had been."

Archer stared at all three. "You survived a month alone?"

"Thanks to Eagle Scout Malcolm," Travis said, hoping to lighten the mood, moving slowly off the transporter pad. He came to rest behind Malcolm, and Malcolm leaned back against Travis. Malcolm felt sick to his stomach.

"Not unharmed either," Tucker said as he spotted scars on Travis' faces.

"We had a few bumps along the way," Malcolm replied, sinking more against Travis. This was indeed Enterprise? They were back? Back and a month into the past? Did that mean everything had changed back to the way it was? Everything?

Travis wrapped an arm around to steady and comfort Malcolm. Hoshi came up and leaned against Travis' other side. This was the end.

Archer watched as the three took comfort in one another. He was most surprised when Malcolm turned to rest his forehead against Travis' while Hoshi buried her face against Travis' neck. It had the distinct air of intimacy. Then again, they had just apparently spent a month alone together, attempting to stay alive. It was Malcolm's evident disregard to the fact that Archer and Tucker were also in the room that caught Archer's attention. Malcolm was never one to show feelings in any sort of public setting. He had only ever glimpsed such emotion after rescuing Tucker and Malcolm from Shuttlepod One. Now the emotions were there again, but even rawer. The three had given up hope. They had bonded completely. A month alone—and then suddenly, back on Enterprise.

"This must be a big shock. I don't want to rush any of you. But Doctor Phlox should take a look at each of you as soon as possible."

Malcolm was the first to pull away. The commanding, unemotional stance was returning. Leave it to him to be the first to rush back into the old routine. "We're ready now, sir."

Hoshi turned to watch Malcolm for a moment, then nodded to Archer. Travis released Hoshi, and he visibly composed himself.

The captain led the way out of the transporter room and to Sickbay.


Phlox found the news of their month-long survival of interest and ran a battery of tests to be sure each was at full health. He kept them for some time to be sure he didn't miss anything. The three were thinner and troubled by a few minor aliments. But in the end, Phlox congratulated Malcolm on his fine treatment of their injuries. He offered to start work on removing the scars from Malcolm's shoulder but Malcolm backed away from the idea—at least for the moment. It was too soon to think about it. It was one piece of proof that they had really been away for all that time.

Throughout their time in Sickbay, Malcolm kept his distance and remained quiet. Travis was beginning to worry. If he knew Malcolm, he was second-guessing their last evening on the planet. And even worse, he was convincing himself that nothing would translate back onto Enterprise. It was a ridiculous line of thought—as if they were just going to forget everything.

Finally, they were released to their quarters, and Archer promised them a few days off. They walked together in silence to the mess hall. Once they arrived, they were nearly overwhelmed by the number of people and voices. For so long, it seemed, it had been just them. Malcolm, still in hunter-gatherer mode, left them behind and forged his way to the food. He returned with a laden tray with enough food for the three of them.

"Want to eat in my quarters?" Hoshi offered, looking uneasily around at the crowd.

Travis nodded, but he noticed Malcolm hesitate before nodding. Malcolm was having second thoughts—Travis would bet on it.

They quickly vacated the mess hall, Malcolm carrying the tray, and went straight to Hoshi's quarters. She set the lights low. The harsh, full, artificial lighting was still difficult for any of them to bear. She sat at the small round table, marveling for a moment at not having to sit on the floor. "Guess we have to be civilized again." She smiled a little before picking at the rich food.

Travis made sure to seat Malcolm between them. The meal was quiet. The only comments made were about the quality of the food. Hoshi made it clear she was glad not to have to eat frog again. When the meal ended, Malcolm glanced hesitantly at the door.

"You have something you want to talk about, Malcolm?" Travis asked bluntly.

"Me?" Malcolm startled. He looked at both of them before glancing at his plate. "Oh, nothing, just…Well, I'm pretty exhausted. I should get to my own quarters."

Travis stared as Hoshi's eyes widened. "What?" she asked in surprise. Malcolm meant more than what he said. "Malcolm Reed, if you want to end this already, at least say it to our faces."

"No," Malcolm quickly answered, looking up with worried gray eyes. "I don't…know what I want. But…I mean, it's all different now, isn't it? We're here."

"So?" Travis asked.

Malcolm took a deep breath, looking as if he couldn't believe they weren't thinking along the same lines. "So life is different. You, me, Hoshi—we're not the only ones any more. We've got our lives back. You two can enjoy yourselves. There are plenty of fish left in the sea for me and—"

"We can enjoy ourselves?" Hoshi repeated. "What—" She took a moment to control her temper. "What in the world do you think is going on between all of us? Travis and I just happen to let you in on our relationship? Malcolm, we've said it before and I'll say it again, this—" She waved her hands at all of them. "—This isn't happening without you. Travis and I, we don't just want each other."

"Threesomes are not normal in everyday life."

"Says who?" Travis asked.

"Says society," Malcolm snapped.

"Forget everyone else. What do you feel, Malcolm?"

Malcolm looked at his hands in his lap silently for a moment before answering quietly, "Profoundly sorry we were rescued." He covered his face with one hand. "We've only just started and now…"

"Now is our first test," Hoshi answered, rubbing his shoulder gently. "Nothing good comes easy."

"Nothing good ever comes," Malcolm muttered.

"Don't you dare give up." Hoshi curled herself against Malcolm, wrapping her arms around his chest. "Stay here."

Malcolm sighed as he glanced from Travis to Hoshi. "Will it really work? It was so different with just the three of us."

"We can only try." Travis caressed Malcolm's cheek gently.

He resisted for a moment before leaning into the touch. "You two will be the end of me."

"No one can wear you out, old man." Travis smiled softly.

Malcolm chuckled lightly, turning his head to kiss Travis' hand while wrapping his arms around Hoshi. "I'm going to hate that nickname, Junior."

"At least you don't tackle me like the Princess here."

Hoshi shot Travis a warning look. "If you tell anyone else on board that nickname, I swear—"

"Oh, you mean I shouldn't have told Trip?" Malcolm asked, straight-faced.

"What?" Hoshi pulled back to see if Malcolm was joking or not. Her eyes narrowed as he kept his straight face. "You didn't…"

Malcolm kept his neutral face a moment longer before smirking. "No, but now I've got blackmail material."

"Don't you dare," Hoshi answered with a look, getting up to clear the plates but causing Malcolm to duck from any attacks. She laughed as he actually hid under the table. "Is my temper that bad?"

"No, actually, he's just looking for any excuse to be my love slave." Travis grinned down at Malcolm from between his legs under the table.

"You wish, honey." He crawled out and rose to his feet. "My back would kill me if I stayed there much longer."

"But you do quick work," Travis teased.

"Not quick enough."

"You're not that old, Malcolm."

Malcolm put his hand on his back, stretching. "If you say so."

"Men only look better with age." Hoshi flashed Malcolm a smile.

"Oh, lovely, I've moved on from being handsome to adorably wrinkled."

Travis laughed. "You're not *that* old. Now I'm almost sorry I started this."

"What, don't want to be bedding a grandpa?" Malcolm asked with a half-grin.

"You're only a few years older than us, Malcolm."

Malcolm shrugged, still keeping his smile.

Hoshi rolled her eyes at them. "Come on, I want to take a shower and actually get my hair clean for once." She started work on unbraiding her hair. "You boys should get some clean clothes to change into."

"What, are you expecting us to stay here and all fit in your bed?" Travis asked.

"I was just figuring Malcolm and I can pile on top of you, and we'd have plenty of room."

"He is nice and firm," Malcolm agreed.

"Just as long as you've figured it out," Travis chuckled as he pulled Malcolm with him to the door. "We'll be back."

Hoshi was combing out one last stubborn braid when they returned with clean skivvies and uniforms in hand, along with mischievous looks on their faces. Hoshi set the comb down. "Okay, what did you do?"

"Nothing," Travis quickly replied, holding back a laugh as they set their clothes on the table.


"Well, on our way back we just kind of bumped into Trip—"

"What did you tell him?" Hoshi asked in a warning voice.

"Nothing, really."

"Just that we were wondering if he could put in a good word with the captain about getting you a larger bed," Malcolm explained.

"You didn't."

Travis couldn't hold back his laugh any longer. "You should have seen the look on his face when we stepped back into your quarters."

Hoshi's eyes widened as she visualized the scene, and she giggled. "Was he shocked?"

"No, I believe the look was more along the lines of 'lucky bastards' than anything else," Malcolm replied.

"Think we should have invited him in?" Travis asked.

"Oh, no, I think keeping the two of you in line is enough for me," Hoshi said.

"Are we that much trouble?" Travis batted his eyes.

"Yes," came her immediate reply as she stood and headed for the bathroom.

Malcolm and Travis followed after her, stripping as they walked. "You know we're never going to have to put these uniforms on again."

"Thank god," Hoshi agreed. She stripped before turning on the shower and putting her hand in the stream of warm water. "And no more bathing in cold rivers."

"Amen to that." Travis stepped into the stall after Hoshi and shut the door behind Malcolm.

All three sighed at the warm water. It was a tight fit to have everyone in the same stall, but after a month in tight quarters together, it wasn't a problem. Hoshi grabbed the shampoo and started on her own hair before passing it on to Travis. He lathered up his hands but reached to wash Malcolm's hair. Malcolm closed his eyes and let the taller man work his fingers through his hair. Hoshi smiled at the sight.

Once Malcolm washed out the shampoo from his hair, he made it a point to do Travis' hair, but there was much less to play with. After Travis rinsed his hair, he noticed the disappointment on Malcolm's face.

"Don't fret, sugar." Travis grinned before wrapping a still sudsy hand around Malcolm's half erection and giving it a couple solid strokes, bringing it to full attention. "You can still play with me."

Malcolm swallowed down a groan while Hoshi covered up a giggle at Travis' line. She whispered into Travis' ear, "So romantic, honey."

"Hey, whatever gets the Malcolm going." Travis turned to kiss Hoshi before dropping to his knees in front of Malcolm. Holding Malcolm by the hips, he licked his way from the base of Malcolm's penis along the underside, tonguing just behind the head before wrapping his mouth around the tip.

"Travis," Malcolm moaned, straining to keep his hips still and his legs from turning to putty. "Who…who is playing with whom now?"

Travis smirked as he pulled back, to Malcolm's clear disappointment. "Very true." He stood and purred into Malcolm's ear, "Take me right here. We'll give Hoshi a good show."

Malcolm visibly shivered in the humid shower, looking over at Hoshi, who was watching with rapt attention. "In the shower?" he asked Travis.

Travis turned his back to Malcolm and tossed over his shoulder, "If you don't want me—" "Like hell I don't," Malcolm playfully growled. He pressed up behind Travis, caressing one hand down Travis' slick back while slipping a finger up inside him.

Travis gave him an appreciative whimper when Malcolm added another finger. Travis rocked his hips back and propped himself against the stall wall. "Faster. I'm loose enough."

"Just another finger." Malcolm wasn't about to rip Travis apart on their first time. He pressed his third and then fourth fingers inside, working until the muscles finally relaxed enough. Steadying Travis with one hand, Malcolm removed his fingers and pressed himself slowly halfway inside.

Travis moaned deep in his throat, hands clenching at the smooth wall for a hold, his forehead leaning against the wall as Malcolm thrust again to bury himself. Malcolm groaned as he worked his way completely inside. He rested his face against the middle of Travis' smooth back before starting pumping at a restrained, slow pace. Malcolm wanted it to last, but Travis was tight and responsive.

Travis panted harshly his encouragement. He glanced over to see Hoshi watching appreciatively and he pulled her closer. "Not feeling…left out?" he managed.

She shook her head but covered up his next moan with a kiss. Travis dove into the contact, clinging onto her to keep himself upright as Malcolm lost the remainder of his control and his thrusts became frantic. Hoshi broke the kiss as Travis panted for breath, rocking his hips back against Malcolm's thrusts. Travis was lost in the sound of Malcolm moaning.

"Travis," Malcolm grunted hoarsely. "Oh, now, please."

Desperate to climax, Travis reached to stroke his own erection. Hoshi was quick to stop him and dropped to her knees, taking half of him into her mouth.

"Oh god yes," Travis shuddered, burying his hand in Hoshi's hair as she bobbed her head. Two more hard, frantic thrusts from Malcolm, and Travis lost it, coming hard in Hoshi's warm mouth. He cried out as he struggled to stay on his feet. Gasping Travis' name, Malcolm was dragged into his climax along with Travis as Travis tightened around him. Malcolm collapsed against Travis.

Hoshi turned the shower off as they caught their breaths. Both men looked at her, their bodies wet and hair mussed. She purred, "You two better have enough energy left for me."

"Definitely." Travis grinned slyly.

Malcolm pulled away from Travis and ran his fingers through his wet hair to neaten it. Hoshi giggled and kissed Malcolm's cheek. "Keep your hair messy. For me?" She batted her eyes as he looked ready to refuse.

He sighed. "For you."

She smiled sweetly as she opened the stall door and stepped out, grabbing a towel and drying Malcolm's hair for him. After rubbing his head with the towel, she admired it: his hair was going every which way. He spotted his reflection in the mirror and visibly worked to keep his hands away from smoothing it out. "Aww, you're so sweet, sugar." She giggled as she kissed his cheek again.

Malcolm grumbled and dried the rest of himself off. As he finished, Travis smacked him on the butt with his towel. This called for quick retaliation, and Malcolm herded Travis into the living area with his own towel. However, he was quickly double-crossed by Hoshi, and he was outnumbered as Travis and Hoshi tackled him, throwing him onto the bed.

"I think it's time for Malcolm to play middleman," Travis decided as they pinned Malcolm down.

"Middleman?" Malcolm asked.

With barely enough room for all three on the bed, Travis turned Malcolm onto his side, so Malcolm was facing Hoshi. "Don't spoil your side of him too much, Hoshi." Travis set to work kissing along the back of Malcolm's neck.

Hoshi grinned wide, running her palms along Malcolm's flat stomach. "I'll be putting him to good use."

Malcolm gave Hoshi a grin as he realized he definitely was going to enjoy being the middleman. He shivered at Travis kisses, teasing, "Don't I get a moment's peace?"

"Not when you're in such high demand," Travis replied, hands caressing down Malcolm's back, along his bottom, and down the back of his thighs.

"I never knew I was such a heartthrob."

Hoshi nipped at Malcolm's lower lip. "Quit your modesty act." She smiled, caressing a hand along his cheek before kissing him deeply.

Malcolm wrapped his arms around Hoshi and pulled her close against him as his tongue sought hers. Hoshi pressed her hips against his returning erection.

Travis disappeared from the bed for a moment to retrieve the lube he had hidden away with his clothes. He turned to find Hoshi working Malcolm back to a full erection while Malcolm suckled her nipples. "Now don't make this a race," Travis complained, hopping back behind Malcolm and uncapping the lube.

"I just watched two gorgeous men come; I'm not going to take my time." She sucked in a breath as Malcolm scraped his teeth along her nipple before tugging.

"Careful—he can get pretty demanding if you get him worked up," Travis warned.

Malcolm pulled back to toss Travis a look. "Excuse me? And you're not demanding?"

"Did I say I wasn't?"

Malcolm rolled his eyes and backed his bottom against Travis. "Just quit your complaining and hurry up."

"See, what did I say?" Travis grinned at Hoshi. "Pushy, pushy."

Hoshi giggled but continued stroking Malcolm while tossing a leg over Malcolm's hip. She instantly got Malcolm's attention again, and he licked at her lips before kissing her once more.

Travis lubed his own returning erection before pressing a finger between Malcolm cheeks and stroking up inside. Malcolm moaned into his kiss with Hoshi. Travis moved both Hoshi's and Malcolm's legs up onto his own to get better access to Malcolm. He added a second finger and worked slowly to stretch out the muscles before slipping in a third.

Malcolm was writhing at the attention both were giving him. He broke the kiss, panting for breath. "Now, please," he begged, his eyes dilated. He slid a hand between Hoshi's legs, thumb circling her clitoris.

She whimpered, pressing her hips against his hand. "Yes." She removed both their hands from between them and repositioning herself.

Malcolm grasped her hips to help guide her as she slowly buried him inside of her. He moaned her name as she started moving her hips slowly. His mind snapped back onto Travis as the four stretching fingers disappeared and were replaced by the firm pressure of Travis pressing his penis inside him. Travis took his time, pushing himself in a few centimeters before stopping to allow Malcolm to adjust. It was an astonishing feeling when Travis was finally buried to the hilt.

"This is too much," Malcolm gasped as he held onto Hoshi.

"Learn to live with it," Travis whispered huskily into Malcolm's ear. Travis started a slow pace, matching Hoshi's, pulling out half-way before thrusting back in.

Malcolm rolled his head back toward Travis as he closed his eyes. His moan nearly caused Travis to lose his control. Malcolm was thoroughly enjoying himself, and Travis reveled in hearing it in his moan.

Hoshi picked up the pace slightly, and Travis was quick to follow suit. She was biting her lower lip to keep the pace as slow as it was. Malcolm dug his fingers into her hips and attempted to urge her on. Licking at his exposed neck, she gave in and let her needs take over. She held onto his shoulders as she rode faster, panting harshly.

"Hoshi, yes," Malcolm managed between husky groans.

Travis attempted to keep pace with Hoshi but quickly lost his ability to concentrate. His thrusting turned desperate as he buried his face against the back of Malcolm's neck, grunting Malcolm's name with each push in.

Malcolm couldn't speak. He clutched onto Hoshi as his mouth hung open in a silent moan. He'd never felt so filled up and surrounded by pleasure. He was so close. One fatal rub of Travis against his prostate, and he nearly howled his climax, crying out as his whole body shuddered from head to toe, hips bucking.

Travis and Hoshi joined Malcolm in his cry, both dragged into their climaxes along with him. They both rode Malcolm through their orgasms, and then all three collapsed in a heap. They struggled to catch their breath, and for a long few moments, they could only hear each other's panting.

"Malcolm's never leaving the middle," Travis finally sighed.

Malcolm shivered at the thought. "Are you trying to kill me?"

"Well, maybe just five times a week," Hoshi amended.

Malcolm groaned. "You two *are* trying to kill me."

"Don't you try to pretend you didn't enjoy it," Travis accused, playing a hand along Malcolm's bare arm.

"I wouldn't dream of it," Malcolm assured them. "I think I nearly blacked out."

Travis laughed softly while Hoshi grinned sleepily. "So…maybe tomorrow, we'll put Hoshi in the middle."

Malcolm flashed Hoshi a smile. "Now there's an idea."

Hoshi sighed dramatically. "If I must."

All three chuckled again. Travis and Hoshi repositioned themselves, disconnecting from Malcolm but then curling back together. Malcolm reached around to bring the blanket up as Hoshi stretched to turn the lights off. They were silent for a moment. The hum of the warp core, which permeated the ship, caught their attention, and there was silence as they lost themselves in their own thoughts on being back on Enterprise.

After a time, Hoshi stated quietly, "It's too dark."

"Think the captain would give us permission to light a fire?" Travis replied with a yawn.

"Somehow, I doubt that," Malcolm replied. He reached up and turned the lights on low, so the room glowed. "Better?"

Hoshi nodded, snuggling herself closer against Malcolm. "Thank you."

"Certainly, Princess."

Hoshi pinched Malcolm's side. "I hate that nickname."

"Would you prefer 'Goddess'?"

Covering up a laugh, Travis prepared to help defend Malcolm against an attack, but Hoshi just sighed.

"Go to sleep, Malcolm."

"Yes, ma'am."

The room was silent for some time and they were nearly asleep when Hoshi muttered, "Actually, I don't think I mind 'Goddess'…"

And the two men burst into sleepy chuckles.

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