Title: Boomer Things

Author: Kylie Lee

E-mail: kylielee1000@hotmail.com

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

Date: 10/27/02

Length: ~17,000 words

Fandom: Star Trek: Enterprise

Pairing: Reed/Mayweather

Type: Slash M/M

Challenge: Yes. This is a metachallenge fic. Don't be scared—it works as a story too. Challenges are as follows. 3000-Post Challenge (Redhead; EntSTSlash post 3804): Reed and Mayweather are deliriously in love, although not necessarily with each other. Porthos shines brightly. Use the following phrases: "Tomorrow is another day," "Eat my shorts!", "Hold on, I'm coming," "A little dab'll do ya," and "I can't believe I ate the whole thing." Tattoo Challenge (Leah, post 3925): Whomever you pair up, both have tattoos. 4000-Post Challenge (Kageygirl, post 4048): No planets, ships, or aliens except for the ones already resident on Enterprise. At least 4 crew members get speaking parts. Any Earth sport other than water polo. Any dessert not involving pecans or pineapple. Anything resequenced and disgusting besides meatloaf. The phrase "Your ass is mine" in any context. H/C Challenge (Beloved Goddess, post 4312): Malcolm gets skewered, impaled, stabbed, or something similar. Make use of these sentences: "Get it out of me! Now!" and "No! Don't touch it!" Include a teddy bear or other stuffed animal, any Die Hard movie (or any movie where lots of things get blown up):, pancakes with peanut butter yuck. Decon Challenge (Beloved Goddess, post 4647): Tucker and Reed in decon [I had to make it Archer and Mayweather—sorry, BG!]. 5000-Post Challenge (Moppig, post 5315): Any pairing but it's gotta feature Malcolm. Somebody trapped in a pit. The line "will you just put that thing away." Mention of your home location, be it a famous landmark, local delicacy, or famous resident [Chester Greenwood, from Farmington, Maine, who invented earmuffs—really! He has a parade every year, and even the light poles wear earmuffs on that day]. The number 5000. The colour orange. Hot 'n' Cold Double Challenge (Beloved Goddess, post 5139): Hot'N'Sweaty Challenge: It's really hot, which necessitates the removal of copious amounts of clothing. Hypothermia Challenge: It's really cold. Lots of snuggling required to keep warm. Reed/Mayweather "How They Met" Challenge (Emsworth, post 5204): Write a story where we find out how and when, etc. Travis and Malcolm met. Impaling Challenge Sequel (Leah, 5205): The recepient of the wound is Hoshi. The victim is bitten, but not by an insect or another human being. Travis gets to be the hero. Birthday Challenge for Listmom (Sarah via DNash, post 5778): Terminator movie reference, preferably T2. An accidental broken nose. Any children's rhyme. [Sarah also wanted T/R—sorry, dear.] Under a Hunter's Moon (Leah, post 5432): Someone in our heroic crew gets to go on a hunt—as prey. Webmaster Challenge (Kylie Lee, post 6160): unlikely pairing; web; computer goes down.

Rating: NC-17 (what else?)

Status: Complete

Summary: As the ship's systems grow increasingly more erratic, Reed and Mayweather explore their feelings for one another.

Feedback: Yes

Series/sequel: No

Archive: Yes to EntSTSlash, Archer's Enterprise, Tim Ruben, WWoMB, Allslash, Complete Kingdom of Slash, Luminosity (aka the usual suspects). Anyone else, ask.

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

Spoilers: "Shuttlepod One," "Vox Sola," "Minefield," "Dead Stop" (all mild—just allusions to events in these episodes)

Warnings: None

Beta: Thanks to TheGrrrl, Kim, Kipli, and Sarah for beta! You know how much they rock? They *climb* rocks is how much they rock.

*** 1

"Get it out of me! Now!"

"No! Don't touch it!"

"Are you insane? Get it out of me!"

"Damn it, Malcolm, I can't pull it out, or you'll bleed to death."

"Oh, bloody hell. Not again."

"The doc'll be here in just a second. Please."

Lieutenant Malcolm Reed looked down at his leg—the same leg, ironically, that had been impaled by the mine he and the captain, Jonathan Archer, had defused a few weeks before. It had been healed by some advanced alien medical technology soon after. "I knew it was too good to last," he gasped. He and Ensign Travis Mayweather, the helm officer, had been working on some repairs in the shuttle bay when an oxygen cylinder had expelled a rod with tremendous force, missing Mayweather's torso by centimeters and thudding through Reed's upper leg. It had barely missed his artery. Mayweather, who was a quick thinker, had contacted Doctor Phlox already. Now he settled a light, silvery blanket over Reed, who was lying awkwardly on the ground.

"You don't look so good," Mayweather said, surveying Reed's ashen lips. He had just administered some drugs for the shock. He steadfastly ignored the blood, spreading in a pool on the shuttle bay's floor. When Reed had been hit before, he had been sealed in his EV suit. It had stanched the bleeding and kept pressure on the wound. "Are you cold?"

"Just a little," Reed confessed. "I want to sit up." His leg was pinned to the ground at a strange angle. It was more comfortable for him to sit up, but he was having trouble doing that.

"I think I'm supposed to elevate your feet, not your head," Mayweather said. "Don't tell Doctor Phlox." He sat down, then slid behind Reed's body. He propped Reed against his chest. One of Mayweather's feet slid a little in the blood as he positioned himself. He leaned back slightly, then wrapped his arms around Reed. "Better?"

"Cold," Reed managed.

Mayweather pulled him tighter. They were both trembling, Reed from shock and Mayweather from terror and reaction. Mayweather put Reed's head in the crook of his shoulder and rearranged the blanket. "It's okay," he said, over and over. "You're going to be fine, Malcolm." He felt Reed's fingers clasp his and squeeze, and a moment later, Reed was a dead weight against him. He'd passed out. Mayweather cradled the man against his body and tried to slow his own breathing. Doctor Phlox could get here any time. Any time at all would be good.

The shuttle bay doors slid open an eon later. Mayweather had no idea how much time had passed since the accident. It had probably been only a few minutes. Doctor Phlox and an aide were pushing a gurney, and Phlox carried a bag, presumably with his doctor's gear in it. The aide was holding some kind of welding tool.

"Over here," Mayweather called. "Hurry. He's passed out."

"Ensign?" Phlox said. "You should elevate his feet, not his head," he said when he caught sight of Mayweather.

Mayweather ignored him. "He's pinned to the ground."

Phlox pushed aside the blanket and issued orders. The aide cut the rod loose from the floor, keeping the rod in place through Reed's leg, and, with the awkward help of Mayweather, they manhandled Reed's body onto the gurney. "He'll be fine, Ensign," Phlox soothed, pushing a hypospray into Reed's neck. "His blood pressure is not dangerously low. I can synthesize a blood substitute, and it's only a flesh wound. It didn't go through the bone." He took in Mayweather's bedraggled, bloody clothing. "You need to go through decon," he ordered.

"What?" Mayweather wiped his hands on the legs of his uniform. They left brown smears.

"You need to go through decon," Phlox repeated. "You've been exposed to Lieutenant Reed's blood. That's a biohazard."

"Oh," Mayweather said stupidly. He knew that. Blood was always a biohazard. He wasn't thinking clearly. "I'll come with you to Sickbay and go through decon right now. Is that all right?"

"Fine," Phlox said, gesturing to the aide. All three headed out. "Is there anything else? You seem upset. Understandably so, of course."

Mayweather shook his head. "I've—I've just never witnessed anyone getting hurt that badly." That wasn't quite a lie. He had been there, aboard the cargo ship, when the second in command, Natasha Peters, had been blown out an airlock when the safeties went down. He had let her go and resealed the airlock. He had been sixteen. He had saved four other people's lives, but he still remembered what she looked like when they pulled her body in. He didn't know what he would have done if Reed had died. "I'll be fine."

Phlox patted Mayweather between the shoulder blades, an avuncular gesture. "You didn't pull out the rod, you kept him warm, and you called for help right away," he said. "You did everything right."

"It doesn't feel like it," Mayweather said as he hit the button to open the door. He stood aside and let the other three go through first, then followed them into the corridor. "It feels like I did everything wrong. That rod just barely missed me. It should have been me."

Mayweather trailed behind Phlox, the aide, and Reed as they hustled through the corridors. Phlox wouldn't let him stay and watch when they pulled the rod out, so Mayweather went straight to decon. He stripped in the anteroom. He removed his bloody uniform and wrapped it in a special plastic bag with biohazard symbols on it. After a moment, he took off his underwear too and added it to the bag, then stuffed the whole thing in the incinerator. The underwear wasn't bloody, but he felt dirty. After decon, he decided he would take a shower. He would use the special gritty soap that Engineering handed out to people who worked with grease. He associated the smell with stinging cleanness. He wanted to feel clean again.

He hesitated for a moment before entering decon. He remembered the way his foot had slid in Reed's blood when he scrambled behind Reed's body. He remembered Reed squeezing his hand before he passed out, trying to reassure him. Reed was always looking out for him. He remembered the dead weight of Reed leaning against his body, Reed's head heavy against his neck. His heart constricted. He had been sure Reed was going to die, and he, Mayweather, would have held him in his arms and been able to do nothing. Just like Peters when she got sucked out when the airlock cycled open without warning. He remembered her eyes, the colors of the emergency lights, his instant reaction: he'd slapped the override as all the air was sucked out of the bay in an instant. The klaxons had silenced abruptly when the air bled out. He'd hit the emergency air when the doors had shut and had been able to breathe twenty seconds later. It had been a long twenty seconds. He'd done the same just now with Reed: he'd acted without thinking.

Mayweather opened the door. It was warm and relaxing in decon, the colors soothing. He did as Phlox had hastily instructed: he entered a decontamination code on the computer keypad in the corner and sat down. There was a thud, and a second later, blue light rained down on him. Then there was another thud, and the light changed—red this time. Mayweather looked up, confused, then stood. The computer cycled through another few changes, blue-red, blue-red, and then settled to blue. Mayweather checked the computer keypad, but everything seemed fine now. Because he had been exposed to human blood instead of some weird alien pathogen, he didn't have to use gel. Special light did it all. When he sat back down, he realized he was nude. He should have grabbed more underwear. Phlox had a huge store of it in the anteroom. It was too much work. He sighed and wished he could play some music. He was in the mood for something like cool jazz with a lot of sax. Something relaxing.

He closed his eyes and drifted, deliberately thinking about something else—not Reed dying. Not his panic. Reed's accident had made him think of home, so he thought about his sister and her family. He'd gotten a letter from her yesterday, a long, chatty missive full of gossip. She did a great job of keeping him in the loop. There was nothing like knowing who was mad at whom, or who had hooked up with whom, to make him feel like he still knew what was going on.

"Ensign? Are you asleep?"

Mayweather opened his eyes and jerked forward. "No, sir," he said automatically, focusing on Captain Jonathan Archer, who was peering at him through the door. "How's Lieutenant Reed, sir?" he asked.

"Doctor Phlox reports he'll be just fine, thanks to you. Can I come in? I can bring you some underwear."

Mayweather, embarrassed, folded his hands in his lap. "Sure, Captain," he said. "Do you want to talk to me?"

"Yes. Hold on." Archer disappeared for a few seconds as the door shut. Then it slid open again and Archer entered, wearing skivvies. He handed Mayweather a skimpy undershirt and a pair of briefs, then averted his eyes politely as Mayweather slid into them. "I stripped down in solidarity, Ensign," he told Mayweather, sitting down next to him.

Mayweather smiled. "Thanks, sir. But I'll be out in another half hour."

"That's okay. I didn't want to wait. I wanted to tell you that Doctor Phlox was impressed with your quick thinking. You're getting a commendation in your record. You saved Lieutenant Reed's life."

"Thanks, sir." Mayweather couldn't put enthusiasm in his voice.

"You'll be promoted yet," Archer said.

"I wasn't worried, sir," Mayweather said. "I just graduated from Starfleet. I'm not up for a promotion for a few years."

"Well, it never hurts."

"I guess not."

"Do you want to tell me what happened?"

"It happened really fast," Mayweather confessed.

"Just what you remember."

"We were doing some repairs to the shuttle pod. We had some tools out and were working on the aft side. I had that side panel open, and I was just about to release the life-support system when one of the oxygen tanks threw a rod. It missed me. It just barely missed me. It went right through Malcolm's leg, and it pinned him to the floor." Mayweather wiped his face with his hands. "I called Doctor Phlox first thing, then got the medkit. I gave—I gave Malcolm a shot of synergine and covered him up. I wouldn't let him pull the rod out. He wanted to sit up, so I sat behind him and propped him up. Then he passed out. And—then the doctor got there." Mayweather indicated his own body. "I got his blood all over me," he finished. "I feel sick. I feel sick."

Archer patted him awkwardly. "He's okay. You're okay. You're a quick thinker."

"My dad always said I was cool in a crisis," Mayweather admitted. "That's not it at all."

"What is it, then?" Archer asked. He looked genuinely concerned.

"Well, being cool implies that you're aware of the risk, right? I wasn't aware of the risk. I just—acted. I didn't think."

"I don't know what being cool means," Archer said. "You acted right. So I guess you've been trained right."

Mayweather laughed, an unfunny sound. "It's a Boomer thing, sir," he said. "Living on a cargo ship'll do that. You're more aware of life and death when you're out in space. Commander Tucker told me that on Earth, you have fire drills."

"Yes, we do," said Archer, looking puzzled.

"Well, on board the cargo ship, we have no-gravity drills and air-leak drills."

"No fire drills?"

Mayweather shook his head. "No. It's like on the *Enterprise*. The computer just issues a warning, and then it expels the air. Fire's not really a danger when you control the air supply. And we had contests: who could put on an EV suit the fastest, with no mistakes. That kind of thing. I keep an EV suit in my quarters," he admitted.

"Smart," Archer said. "Well, you did good work, and I wanted to let you know. You have the rest of the day off."

"I'd rather not, sir," Mayweather said. "I'd like to keep my shift on the Bridge—keep my mind off what happened." He didn't want to sit in his quarters alone, feeling sick. He could feel sick on the Bridge just as easily.

Archer hesitated, then nodded. "Okay," he said. "Let me know if you need to talk about anything. I'm worried about you."

"About me, sir?"

Archer leaned forward and put his forearms on his legs. He considered his clasped hands. "Lieutenant Reed is a friend of yours, and he almost died," he said. "Now, I need to have a little talk with Lieutenant Reed about his propensity for getting impaled." Mayweather grinned despite himself. "We're all getting real close here on board *Enterprise*, and I'm encouraging it. We're a long way from home, and we need those emotional connections to survive in deep space. But when we all get close, when someone hurts, we all hurt."

"Yes, sir," Mayweather said. "I understand." He remembered the meaty thunk of the rod as it plunged through Reed's leg and the forceful sound of Reed hitting the ground. He had felt it in his leg too. When Reed got hurt, Mayweather had bled.

Archer stood up, but he didn't head for the door. "It's kind of relaxing in here," he said. "Do you mind if I stay for the rest of the cycle?"

"Sure," Mayweather said, surprised. He watched as Archer sat down on another bench, then pivoted on his butt and stretched out, crossing his ankles and putting his arms behind his head. It was clearly naptime. Mayweather shrugged, then followed suit. Companionable silence fell, and the rest of decon passed slowly.

*** 2

"Travis? May I join you?"

Mayweather blinked, then focused. "Hi, Hoshi," he said. "Sure, sit down." Ensign Hoshi Sato, the comm officer, slid her tray of food down next to his and sat down. The buzz of the mess hall was a quiet hum in the background. "You didn't need to make your shift today," she scolded.

"It was only four hours. It was fine." Mayweather put his head in his hand and looked around the mess. Several people had come up to say they were glad he and Reed were okay and to congratulate him for his quick thinking. "Captain Archer came and talked to me in decon." He sat back and studied his food. He had barely touched it.

"Really?" Sato said, setting her napkin in her lap and looking alert. "Why were you in decon?"

"Exposure to Malcolm's blood."


"The captain stripped to his skivvies and everything, just to have a chat with me."

Sato laughed. "What a guy. What did you talk about?"

"My impending promotion."

"Oooh. You're on the fast track now, Travis."

"He was worried I was upset about Malcolm, and he wanted to find out what happened and make sure I was okay. He's actually really…nice."

"It's the kiss of death."

"What is?"

"Nice." Sato took a bite of her trout almandine. "Mmm, this is delicious," she said. "Try yours."

Mayweather poked at it. "It's cold," he said, but he took a bite anyway. "Why is nice the kiss of death?"

"Nobody wants to date anyone nice."

"So you're saying nobody wants to date the captain?"

Sato's eyes glinted. She chose her words carefully. "I'm just theorizing that that's why someone as attractive as the captain is a single man."

"He's single because he's nice?"


"Your theories are wild," Mayweather opined. "Then—why are we *all* single? Are we all nice?"

Sato shook her head as she reached for her glass of water. "No. Obviously not. I'm single because I can't get the captain to notice me."

"Hoshi," Mayweather admonished. He knew she had no interest in the captain. Archer was much older than her, really more of a father figure.

"T'Pol's single because she's a Vulcan and suppresses all emotion, which is just bad, bad, bad for a relationship. It's good she steers clear. Commander Tucker—"


"I don't know about Commander Tucker. Maybe it's that nice thing for him too."

"I don't think Commander Tucker is that nice. Anyway, his girlfriend broke up with him a few months back. Maybe he's not over her."

"Who's left? Lieutenant Reed is single because he's British and reserved and also shy."

"I'd buy that," Mayweather said. "Doctor Phlox?"

"Married. Three wives."

"That's right. So—what about me?"

"Maybe you're single because you can't get the captain to notice you either."

"Oh, so we're in the same boat," Mayweather teased. "Just remember: Me. The captain. Underwear. Decon. You're out of luck."

"No, seriously," Sato said, who had shared decon with Archer—as had Mayweather, for that matter—plenty of times. "Do you date men or women?" She looked right at him, and Mayweather knew he'd been maneuvered.

Mayweather gave her some eyebrow raises. "If you have to ask, then I'll never tell," he said lightly. "Eat your fish."

Sato hesitated, and she let him turn the conversation. Mayweather felt the danger pass. She had been about to suggest that they try dating. He could just feel it. He really liked Sato, but they were friends. He absolutely didn't want to have that conversation right now, when he was still upset about Reed.

He sighed. He wasn't being fair. He felt just as Sato did, but for another crew member he was friends with. He knew how it was to like someone and want more, to read into a gesture or a touch, hoping that the feeling was returned. They were all living in each other's laps. There was very little privacy, and they were probably all going to go crazy with sexual frustration before this trip was over. To think. All those nights where he'd dreamed of Malcolm Reed's body pressed against his, and when it happened in reality, Reed was bleeding all over the place and Mayweather was in no position at all to enjoy it.

Sato kept up a conversation about ship's business and asked him about his family—she'd downloaded all the mail the day before and distributed it, and she was aware he'd received a letter from his sister. That was just the kind of lack-of-privacy thing that drove Mayweather insane. He knew she only did it with her friends, and she never spoke to anyone else about who got mail from whom, but it still rankled.

"Travis, what's wrong?" Sato asked.

Mayweather folded his napkin and placed it next to his plate. "I'm going to go visit Malcolm," he said. "Do you want to come along?"

"Sure. But what's wrong?" She got up when he did. "Oh, shoot. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked, but I'm dying to know. Please don't be mad."

"What?" Mayweather blinked, confused. "Oh, no. Not that."

"Then what?"

Mayweather took the plunge. "The mail," he confessed. "Can you just—can you just pretend you don't know when I get mail?"

Sato froze for a second. "Oh, I'm so sorry," she said. "Of course. I'm sorry. That's not very professional of me, is it?"

"No," Mayweather said, and Sato flushed.

"I keep forgetting about this Boomer stuff," she said. "You just tell me if I do anything else—I mean, just tell me."

"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, Hoshi," Mayweather said.

"And I didn't mean to hurt yours. And I'm sorry about—about invading your privacy."

"Okay then." "Okay. Let's go."

Sato wouldn't meet his eyes. He really did feel bad for hurting her feelings. He was in a mood tonight. He wasn't fit company. It struck him as incongruous: he wasn't really mad at her for asking him about his sexual orientation, but he was irritated because she directly asked him about his mail, even though they both knew that he had gotten mail. But life on board ship was maintained by these polite fictions—and by people pretending that they didn't hear, or that they didn't understand; by people deliberately choosing to not be irritated; by people keeping their mouths firmly shut when they heard or saw something they weren't supposed to.

Doctor Phlox was lurking in Sickbay, not his quarters, because he had a patient. He was feeding the animals when Mayweather and Sato entered, and he cheerfully directed them to the biobeds. "Don't wake him up if he's asleep," he ordered. "If he doesn't make much sense, it's the drugs."

"That sounds promising," Sato whispered as they headed back. A moment later, she said in her usual voice, "Malcolm? Are you awake?"

"Hello," Reed said, turning his head to track them. His voice sounded weak. "Yes, I'm awake."

"How do you feel?" Mayweather asked. He went to one side of the biobed, Sato to the other.

"It mostly hurts when I laugh," Reed confided.

Sato took one of Reed's hands, then leaned down and kissed him on the cheek. Mayweather took Reed's other hand, but he skipped the kiss. "Don't laugh, then," Sato advised.

"That was my general strategy," Reed said. He made no move to pull his hands away. "How is tac doing without me?"

"Terrible," Mayweather said. "Two separate alien boardings today, plus a shootout with some of those Romulan folks, and the phase cannons are all shot to hell."

"We were hard-pressed to fend them all off without you there, but somehow, we managed," Sato said.

Reed heaved a sigh. "My backup is well trained," he said. "I'm sure he did just fine."

"He seriously needs to work on his hand-to-hand combat," Mayweather said. Reed's backup was in fact an expert in hand-to-hand combat.

"I'll see to it," Reed said, chuckling. "Oh. Ow. Don't make me laugh."

"Sorry." Sato looked worried. Reed was very pale.

"Travis, did I say thanks?" Reed asked.

"No. You were unconscious."

"Manners," Reed said. "Thank you." He squeezed Mayweather's hand. "Thank you very much."

"You're welcome."

"I'll be here tomorrow too, and then the good doctor and I start in with physical therapy again," Reed said. "Can you believe he treated the wound by packing spider web into it?"

"Somehow, I can believe it," Mayweather said. He checked out the wound. Indeed, he could see grayish, compressed web sticking out around the edges of the bandage.

Reed continued, "But Phlox says it isn't as bad as last time and I won't be off duty more than two weeks. We're negotiating light duty after a week."

"Good news," Mayweather said. "I know how you hate to be away from your post."

"Mostly I just hate missing the fun of the alien boardings," Reed said. "And Phlox hates me. He inflicts pain deliberately."

"You're a lousy patient," Mayweather said. "I'm sure he's just getting back at you."

Reed looked thoughtful. "I never thought it was revenge," he said. "How petty."

"You could be nicer," Sato said. "Although Travis and I were just theorizing that that's why none of us is in a relationship."

"Because I could be nicer?" Reed said, looking confused.

Sato laughed. "No, we think that we're all too nice. You know how only feckless ne'er-do-wells attract the opposite sex. Nice gets you nowhere."

"Well, 'nice' is certainly not the explanation for me," Reed said, shifting slightly. He inhaled sharply, then let the breath out slowly. "It's—it's my British reserve," he said. "It scares people away. What's your excuse, Travis?"

"I haven't got one," Mayweather said lightly. "I'm sure I'll meet the right person someday. And Hoshi here is saving herself for the captain."

"Well, good luck with that, Hoshi," Reed said, looking from one to the other. "Nothing like setting your sights high."

"That's right," Sato said. She settled Reed's hand on his stomach and patted it. "Listen, I can't stay. I just wanted to see you and wish you health."

It seemed quiet when Sato left. Mayweather realized he was still holding Reed's hand, but he didn't let it go.

"I rather thought you and Hoshi—" Reed said after a second, then trailed off.

"No," Mayweather said, remembering the pleading look in her eyes. "We're just friends."

"Yes, we're all just friends," Reed said, and his voice contained a trace of bitterness. There was a pause. Mayweather didn't know what to say, so he was quiet. Reed said at last, "It all happened so fast. The rod barely missed you."

"I know," Mayweather said.

"When it hit, I was relieved," Reed confessed. "If it had hit you in the stomach, I don't know that you could have survived."

"I know."

"I'm just glad it was me and not you."

"I was just wishing it had been me and not you."

Reed's eyes met his, and there was another pause as they looked at each other. "Tell me," Reed suggested, and Mayweather took a deep breath and told Reed all about Natasha Peters. He told Reed about his hero-worship of her, her mentoring; how the airlock had cycled open without warning and pulled her out; how he had saved everyone else in the bay by his quick thinking; how her body had looked when they had pulled her back in; and how her body had looked when they launched her back out. Reed's eyes, clouded with pain, didn't leave his, and he didn't interrupt. Reed's fingers gently stroked his, soothing.

"That's a hell of a responsibility when you're sixteen," Reed said when he was done.

"I think that's just life," Mayweather said. He couldn't believe that Reed was comforting him. Reed was the one who had been injured.

"Yes, your life," Reed said. "When I was sixteen, I was just a schoolboy, worried about grades and—and girls. No worries, really. I'm sorry I brought it all back."

"It's just—" Mayweather paused, then tried again. "Natasha Peters was really important to me at that time in my life, and I felt like I failed her because I let her go. I know in my head that I didn't have a choice, but my heart—my heart didn't know. You know how it is."

"I know how it is," Reed agreed.

"So being there with you—well, you're really important to me at this time in my life, and I just really, really didn't want to see you go. So I'm glad you didn't." Mayweather barely got it out. His voice was hoarse, and his throat felt tight.

"Me too," Reed whispered. Reed half sat up, his hand pulling Mayweather toward him, and Mayweather leaned down and hugged Reed, careful not to jostle him. Reed put his arms around him. Mayweather exhaled and relaxed. It was okay. Reed was okay. They rocked together, clinging close. Mayweather could feel Reed's heartbeat. He could smell Reed's hair. He felt Reed's hand move down and up, stroking his back.

"Travis," Reed murmured, lips right next to Mayweather's ear, and Mayweather pulled back slightly so he could see Reed. They stared at each other, face to face. Mayweather didn't bother trying to conceal his emotions, and he saw Reed's eyes change when he realized.

"Malcolm," Mayweather responded. "You can't die."

"I didn't die." Reed's hand didn't stop its soothing movements.

Mayweather drew in a shuddering breath. "I hurt when you hurt," he admitted. It was as close as he could come right now to telling Reed how he felt. "And you keep getting hurt."

Reed smiled. "I'll work on that," he promised.

Reed's hand gently stroked, and his eyes held Mayweather's. The stroking had turned from soothing into caressing somewhere along the line. Mayweather's terror at the thought of the loss of Reed segued into something else: terror that he had actually as much as declared his feelings for Reed, and terror at the realization that the object of his affection had neither laughed maniacally nor turned him down flat. His breath caught as he stared into Reed's blue-gray eyes. The lines on Reed's face around his mouth were etched with pain, and Mayweather traced one with a forefinger. Reed's lips parted at the touch, and the controlled facade dropped. Their bodies moved imperceptibly closer. Mayweather looked down hungrily at a Reed whose eyes and face held desire. Reed's face was warm under his fingers.

"Travis," Reed breathed.

The lights abruptly went out, and Mayweather's response was lost in the sudden din of the screeching of Phlox's animals.

*** 3

Commander Trip Tucker, wearing blaze-orange coveralls, exhaled through pursed lips. "Here goes," he said, and he lowered himself into the hole in the deck. He dangled for a long second, then dropped down. He, Mayweather, and T'Pol had manhandled the flooring to the side to reveal a port to the computer core. The computer stretched three levels. "Okay, I'm down," he reported a second later. His voice echoed weirdly in the pit. As if on cue, the lights flickered wildly before they died altogether. There was a low thudding sound, and a second later, the emergency lights, powered by battery backups, came on.

"Not again," Mayweather sighed. The lights had been flickering for a week now, ever since their first outage a week ago, when Reed and Mayweather had been in Sickbay. The lights going out had killed the mood as all of Phlox's creatures had gone insane, and Mayweather hadn't had a chance to be alone with Reed again.

"Not to worry," Tucker said, enunciating words between grunts as he undogged a panel. "I got me an alternative light source." He flicked on a small flashlight and stuck it between his teeth. Mayweather, lying on his stomach, watched with interest as Tucker worked.

"What's your latest theory, Subcommander?" Mayweather asked T'Pol, who was sitting cross-legged next to him. She was also wearing orange coveralls, although on her, they looked like a fashion statement.

"I still believe it is a computer malfunction," T'Pol asserted. "I am unsure of the source of this malfunction. I have insufficient data upon which to form a hypothesis."

"Yeah, I hate that," Mayweather said, sympathetic.

Tucker called up, "Okay, I'm in. Get me up so T'Pol can come down here." He was obtaining access; T'Pol was supposed to do the fine work.

"Get you up how?" Mayweather asked.

There was a long silence. "I'm barely five meters down," Tucker said at last, sticking the flashlight in a pocket. He made a futile jump and grab, then tried again.

"Here, Commander," T'Pol said, rolling over on her stomach, leaning halfway into the pit, and extending a hand.

"That won't work, T'Pol," Tucker said.

"I'm much stronger than a human."

"Yes, but I outweigh you. It's simple physics. I'd just pull you in."

"I'm coming down anyway," T'Pol said. "You could stand on my shoulders and Ensign Mayweather could pull you up."

"Now, that's just weird," Tucker said. "I would rather not stand on a lady's shoulders, thank you very much."

"I'll go find a rope or a ladder or something," Mayweather volunteered.

"This is ridiculous," Tucker fumed. "I'm trapped in this stupid pit."

"I'll come down," T'Pol said. "I can begin work."

"T'Pol, there's barely enough room here for me, much less two," Tucker pointed out. His voice took on a tinge of panic as T'Pol swung her legs into the pit. "No, Subcommander, don't. No!"

Mayweather put his hand on T'Pol's shoulder just as she was preparing to slide in. "Don't," he said softly.

She looked at Mayweather, then Tucker, then back at Mayweather. "I don't understand," she told Mayweather, just as softly.

Mayweather thought he did. He said, very quietly, so Tucker wouldn't hear, "You're a very attractive woman. Being in close quarters with a very attractive woman is something Commander Tucker wants to avoid just now. If you get my drift."

"I do," T'Pol said, sitting back down. "Thank you."

"There are about five thousand reasons why I don't want to be down here," Tucker was saying.

"Claustrophobia?" Mayweather suggested.

"That one is right up there," Tucker confessed. "Oh, good," he said as the lights came up. The slight buzzing from the battery-powered lights ceased, and Mayweather breathed a sigh of relief. He never noticed the noise until it stopped.

"Okay, let's try this," Mayweather suggested. "I'll lean in and Subcommander T'Pol can grab my legs. Commander Tucker can grab my arms and hold on, and the Subcommander can pull me back. Will that work?"

"Yes," T'Pol said after deliberating for a second.

"Wait," Tucker ordered. "What about T'Pol? We need a way for her to get out."

"I can easily get out of this pit," T'Pol said.

"Oh, you're going to use your super-Vulcan powers?" Tucker asked.

"Yes," T'Pol said. Tucker just snorted.

There was a brief delay as Mayweather tracked down a slick, heavy plastic sheet. He set it on the ground and lay on it. He didn't really want to be unmanned as T'Pol dragged him back. When he was situated, he scooted forward so his upper body was in the pit, and T'Pol, standing, leaned down and took hold of his ankles. Tucker reached up, leaped, and grabbed one of Mayweather's hands, then pulled himself up so his hands were clasping Mayweather's forearms and vice versa.

"Okay, Subcommander, go ahead," Mayweather gasped. Tucker was heavy.

He felt the hard pressure of T'Pol's hands on his ankles, then a heavy pulling in his leg joints as she found her footing and tugged. He slid back slowly. Tucker tried hard not to swing; he steadied himself by extending a leg and lightly touching a toe to the wall every now and then. T'Pol would pull them back a bit, then pause, then pull, then pause. It got much harder when Mayweather's arms cleared the rim. They should have gotten an extra person to haul Tucker up once he got close enough to the edge, but they hadn't thought of it.

"Just a little more," Mayweather told T'Pol.

T'Pol heaved, and Mayweather pulled hard. Tucker popped up and out with rather more force than either T'Pol or Mayweather had anticipated, and there was a crash as Tucker and Mayweather skidded about two meters on Mayweather's slick mat, taking out T'Pol. There was a confusion of arms and legs, not made easier by Mayweather's sudden laughing fit. It was contagious, and Tucker started laughing too. All three lay entwined. T'Pol couldn't get up unless Mayweather moved, and Mayweather couldn't move because Tucker was on top of him.

"What's so funny?" a familiar voice asked.

Mayweather looked around. "Hi, Malcolm," he said, and he started laughing again.

"I hate to interrupt when it's clear you're having so much fun," Reed said.

"I am having difficulty breathing," T'Pol said, her voice strangled.

"Oh, sorry." Mayweather shoved Tucker aside and moved off T'Pol's stomach.

"Thank you," T'Pol said. "I will change my coverall and return shortly." The orange coveralls were special: they damped static electricity and so were used when people worked on computers. T'Pol had just ruined hers by sliding across the floor. She managed to look dignified as she headed for Engineering.

"Do you need help getting up?" Reed asked dryly, looking down at Tucker and Mayweather. Tucker, on his hands and knees, was still laughing weakly.

"Sure, thanks," Mayweather said, extending a hand. When Reed took it, Mayweather jerked sharply and pulled Reed down on top of him, knocking Tucker over in the process too. He did his best to cushion Reed's fall with his body so he wouldn't aggravate Reed's sore leg. "Or you could join us," he said, putting his head on Tucker's stomach. He smiled into Reed's eyes, then rolled Reed off so that Reed's head was on his shoulder. Mayweather's arm was underneath Reed, and he curved it around the older man. "Who else can we capture?" he asked Tucker.

"How 'bout Captain Archer?" Tucker suggested.

Reed made to get up, but Mayweather pulled him back down. "Captain Archer is a good choice. But what about T'Pol? Do you want her back? I could arrange it."

"You were the one on top of her, not me," Tucker said.

Mayweather giggled. "I didn't really enjoy it," he admitted. "She's kind of skinny for my taste."

"Well, I would have enjoyed it. Too much. Thanks for stopping her from coming down into that pit. I don't know how you did it, and I don't want to know. Just—thanks." This time, Tucker foiled Reed's attempt to get up. "Got somewhere to be, Lieutenant?" he asked.

"Apparently not," Reed said, relaxing against Mayweather, and when Tucker started laughing, Reed joined in. The three of them lay entwined, giggling, for another five minutes. Mayweather was quite enjoying the feel of Reed next to him. He was even willing to put up with having his head on Tucker's stomach as Tucker laughed for the pleasure of Reed's touch.

When T'Pol, looking exactly the same but presumably wearing another blaze-orange static-free suit, strode up, the three were still lying on the ground. She paused for a second. "I will now begin work," she announced.

"Knock yourself out," Tucker said. "I think we're just about done here. Are we done, gentlemen?"

"I'm all laughed out," Mayweather said. "Malcolm?"

"I was just getting comfortable," Reed said. "But back to work, I suppose." He made no move to get up.

"That reminds me," Tucker said thoughtfully. They watched as T'Pol entered the pit. She didn't bother hanging first; she just sat on the edge of the hole, then dropped in. "Did you come by for a reason?"

Reed was on light duty as his leg healed. "H'm, let me think," Reed said. Mayweather's arm was still around him, and Reed interlaced Mayweather's fingers in his as he pondered. "Yes," he said. "Captain Archer sent me to check on your progress."

"Yes, we're making progress," Tucker said. "Lots and lots of progress. T'Pol is all over it, progress-wise."

"I see that," Reed said. "I'll be sure to mention that to the captain."

"You do that."

"And he wanted me to tell you, in your capacity as chief engineer, that the systemwide failures are now occurring twenty-three percent of the time."

"Twenty-three percent," Tucker said. He sighed. "That's bad."

"The captain seems to think so. Luckily, life support, gravity, and environmental controls have been unaffected. What?" The last was said to Mayweather as Mayweather groaned.

"You had to say it," he said. "Life support, gravity, EV. They're going next. Mark my words."

"My, aren't we superstitious," Tucker said.

"Yes, we are," Mayweather said. "Just a Boomer thing."

"I really doubt that all the stuff you say are Boomer things are really Boomer things," Tucker said, dubious. "Not everything can be a Boomer thing."

"Why not?" Mayweather asked.

"What are the odds?" Tucker said rhetorically.

Mayweather released Reed's hand and brushed the backs of his fingers against Reed's temple. His stomach knotted as Reed turned his head slightly and looked at him. The knot eased when Reed smiled. Mayweather brushed again, forgetting to notice that his arm was going to sleep.

The lights flickered and went out. "Oh, good god," Tucker said, disgusted. They all waited expectantly, but the battery backup didn't go on. "Don't tell me the backup trigger is on the fritz. That's all we need."

Mayweather felt Tucker's stomach clench as Tucker rose to his elbows. Tucker eased Mayweather's head off his stomach, patted Mayweather on the shoulder, and stood up. Tucker's voice receded as he walked away from them, carping and tripping over obstacles on the floor. He was heading for the backup lights to activate them manually. Mayweather continued stroking Reed's face as he rolled to face Reed. It was too dark to see anything. He felt Reed's thumb trail along his cheekbone, then stroke his lips. He opened his mouth, and he touched his tongue to Reed's finger. He heard Reed's soft inhalation as he played with Mayweather's lips and tongue. Mayweather felt Reed move closer, and he felt pleasurable anticipation in his stomach.

Before Reed could kiss him, there was a thunk, and Reed and Mayweather pulled apart hastily as the battery backup lights came on a second later. Mayweather felt another pull at the pit of his stomach, but it had nothing to do with Reed. He drifted up about a half meter.

"Well, at least T'Pol won't have any trouble getting out of that pit," Tucker said bleakly from across the room. "Gravity's offline."

"I told you so," Mayweather said.

*** 4

Mayweather opened his eyes and stared up in the dark. Something had happened to wake him up. He reached over to turn on the lights. Nothing happened. He could tell from the way he felt and the way his arm moved that the gravity was back on. It was cutting in and out about three times a day now, and Engineering had sent a crew around to install handholds. Nobody knew what was going on. T'Pol reported that the computer checked out fine. But the persistent systemwide failures were getting worse and worse. T'Pol was running a computer comparison against the boot files, which she had requested from Starfleet. She used battery-powered padds to do it. Everyone was sick of losing data. Mayweather had even taken to plotting course corrections by hand. He felt like an old fogey using a hand-held calculator as he laboriously did the five-dimensional math, but it was good for his math skills.

Mayweather heard it again: Someone was knocking. That was what woke him up. With the power out, the door chime wouldn't work. He stood. His hand bumped against his nightstand, but he found the flashlight and turned it on. "Hold on, I'm coming," he called. He looked down at himself. He was wearing pajama bottoms and nothing else. It was too dark to find a T-shirt, and he didn't have a robe. He shrugged mentally as he made his way to the door. "Who is it?"

"It's me," Reed's voice said. "Power's out."

"I see that."

"The captain wants the Bridge crew on the Bridge. Can I come in?"

Mayweather sighed. "Yes. Just a second." He set his flashlight down carefully so it shed some oblique light on the door. He unlocked the door and used his hands to slide it apart. He shoved one side in, and Reed pushed on the other. Reed was holding a flashlight too.

"What time is it?" Mayweather asked.

"It's eight in the morning," Reed said. He played his light on Mayweather. "You'd better get dressed," he said.

"I hate it when the shower's down," Mayweather grumbled. "Can you hold the light, please?"

Reed held his light steady as Mayweather pulled a uniform out of his small closet, then got socks and underwear. He turned slightly to the side as he slid out of his pajama bottoms. He wasn't embarrassed about getting undressed in front of people or sharing decon with people, but somehow, he was embarrassed now. Reed didn't say or do anything; he just kept the light steady. Mayweather reached for his briefs, but then couldn't get them on neatly and ended up struggling. It was a relief when he pulled his uniform up over his shoulders. The zipper jammed halfway up.

"Here, let me," Reed said after Mayweather had tugged futilely.

Mayweather put his arms to his sides as Reed stuck the flashlight in his mouth and reached for him. Reed's hands were impersonal as he adjusted one side of Mayweather's uniform, pulling it straight, and then ran the zipper the rest of the way up. When his hands got to the top, he hesitated, then put his palms against Mayweather's chest. Impersonal had segued into intimate.

"What's your tattoo of?" Reed asked after removing the flashlight from his mouth. One of his hands was still on Mayweather's chest.

"Oh, you noticed that?" Mayweather said. He put his hand over Reed's. "I got that the day I moved into quarters at Starfleet. It's a Boomer tag. It means 'prosperity.' I got it for good luck." He curled his fingers around Reed's hand. "I always thought when I got my own cargo ship, I'd name it *Prosperity*."

"Your own cargo ship?"

"Sure, why not?"

"So you're not in for the long haul at Starfleet?"

Mayweather shrugged. "Maybe. I don't know. Maybe I'll get the ship when I retire. What about you?"

"What about me what?"

"Do you have a tattoo?"

Reed hesitated for just a second. "Yes," he admitted.

"Will you show it to me?"

Reed laughed. "Not just now. I'd have to remove most of my clothing."

Mayweather grinned. "What's it of?"

"A ship's anchor. On my arse. To remember the Royal Navy by. I got it on my first day in Starfleet too."

Mayweather remembered that Reed's family contained a long line of naval men. "When was your first day at Starfleet?" he asked.

Reed stepped closer. "Now, that would be telling," he said. "When was yours?"

"I don't know—maybe a few years ago," Mayweather said vaguely.

"Ah. A youngster."

"No," Mayweather said. "Not at all." He took a step forward, and Reed lowered the hand with the flashlight, focusing the beam on the floor and plunging them into darkness. Reed was very near.

"I outrank you," Reed said.

"I don't care," Mayweather said.

Mayweather lifted Reed's hand from his chest. They held their hands palm to palm, then intertwined their fingers. Their eyes held in the half-light. Then Reed dropped the flashlight and it rolled away with a clatter. Reed stepped back at the explosive sound, dropping Mayweather's hand. He leaned down and picked up the flashlight, then got Mayweather's from where Mayweather had left it near the doorway.

"Shall we go?" Reed asked. "It's a long way to the Bridge without the lifts."

Mayweather eyed Reed. He didn't get the man. There was definitely something between them. But he followed Reed's lead. After all, tomorrow was another day. "Maybe we'll get lucky and the gravity will go off again." He could travel much faster with no gravity, although it was hard to get the leverage to open the doors manually.

"Only a Boomer," Reed sighed. He followed Mayweather out, then helped him shut the doors to Mayweather's quarters.

It took them fifteen minutes to get to the Bridge. They were the last ones there. Jury-rigged emergency battery power sources were powering internal ship communications, and Sato looked frazzled. She'd been holding it together with spit and paper clips.

"Lieutenant. Ensign," Archer greeted them. It looked to Mayweather like Archer hadn't gotten much sleep either.

"Reporting for duty, sir," Mayweather said.

"Travis, we're dead in the water," Archer said bluntly. "Main power is totally offline. I don't need a helmsman as much as I need a helm."

"Understood, sir," Mayweather said. "Where do you want me?"

"You're with Commander Tucker. He needs extra hands. Trip?"

Tucker grabbed the metaphorical ball Archer threw him. "It's like this," he said. "Main power is not going to be coming on any time soon. We're bleeding heat into space. It's going to get cold if we don't do something fast. Real cold. And you know how I hate the cold."

"Yes, sir." Reed was fervent. He and Tucker had been trapped aboard a shuttlepod without heat. They had nearly died of hypothermia.

"I want to heat the air supply," Tucker said simply. Mayweather nodded. The ship didn't have ductwork per se. The air supply was the logical choice for delivering heat. "We can do that by rerouting the matter-antimatter output to the environmental unit. Are you up to it?"

"Just show me where," Mayweather said promptly. He caught the padd Tucker tossed him out of midair.



"You're with Ensign Mayweather. If you can reroute the output, I can prioritize keeping the air flowing in the first place. Rerouting is a two-man job, and it's easy. I need my engineers on another project. It shouldn't take more than a couple of hours."

"Certainly, sir."

Archer looked around and sighed. "Get going," he said. "At least there are no hostile—"

"Stop," Mayweather ordered hastily before Archer could continue. Then, appalled that he'd interrupted a senior officer, he clapped a hand over his mouth. "Sorry, sir," he apologized a moment later. "But—don't say it, sir."

"Boomers are very superstitious," Tucker explained as an aside to Archer.

Archer's expression cleared. "Got it. Sorry, Ensign. Dismissed."

"Aye, sir," said Mayweather, and he followed Reed out. "Oh, god," he groaned as they headed for Engineering.

Reed patted him sympathetically. "There, there," he soothed.

"Don't 'there, there' me, Malcolm," Mayweather said. "I can't believe I said that. It just popped out."

"I think the captain understood."

"Boomers are superstitious," Mayweather mocked. "All we need now is an alien—" He stopped just in time. "Now he's got me doing it." He sighed.

It took them about twenty minutes just to get to Engineering. Although the decks closest to the hull were cooling rapidly, the area near the matter-antimatter output was the opposite: hot. Mayweather handed Reed the padd and they surveyed Tucker's specs. Then Mayweather gathered equipment as Reed took scans of the machinery and set up the repair plan.

"This isn't too bad," Mayweather said two hours later. They were almost done. He and Reed had both unzipped the tops of their uniforms, folded the top part of the uniform down, and tied the arms around their waists.

Reed sounded worried. "I can't get through to the Bridge." Communication had been cutting in and out.

"Did you try the panel or the communicator?"

"The communicator."

"Try the panel."

Reed did, to no avail. "Well, it'll only take us twenty minutes to get back, and then they'll know we're done," he consoled himself. "What are you doing?"

"I'm hot." Mayweather kicked off his shoes and socks, then removed his T-shirt. He was slick with sweat. He pulled at his undershirt to puff in air. "Okay, hand me that—that thing." He gestured. Reed handed a tool over. There were dark half-moons of damp under Reed's arms. "How's your leg?" He had noticed Reed favoring it.

"Fine," Reed answered briefly. He seemed engrossed in the padd. "All right, we're almost done. Now we align the output with the EV uptake."

"Got it," Mayweather said, tilting a portable light toward the uptake. He selected a tool and made an adjustment. Next he squirted some adhesive gel on the couplings. The label on the gel proclaimed, "A little dab'll do ya!", which made Mayweather smile. He connected the two ports with an adaptor, and finally, he ran a scan. "Is that it? Did I do that right?" It had seemed too easy. Reed peered over his shoulder, then gently pushed him aside and squatted down as he ran his own scan. "It looks fine to me," he said. "Good job." He stood back up, then swayed slightly as he put weight on his leg. "I'm fine," he snapped as Mayweather steadied him.

"Sorry, Malcolm," Mayweather said, hastily removing his hands and holding them up in surrender. "Look, your leg hurts. Why don't you run the scans and I'll do the up-and-down work."

"I'm fine," Reed repeated. His voice was deceptively calm.

"You're in pain."


"Malcolm." Mayweather crossed his arms and looked him in the eye. Apparently Reed argued by being dead calm. So did Mayweather's mother. He knew how to handle that. "Tell me what to do next, and you run the scans."

Reed extended the padd. Mayweather took it and perused it. "Oh, we are almost done," he said in surprise. "Now we turn on the units."

"I'll scan, shall I?" Reed said.

"Yes, you do that," Mayweather said, refusing to be baited. He wiped sweat off his forehead, then wiped his hand on his undershirt. He reached over and flipped on one unit, then the other. Reed scanned wordlessly. "Do we check out?"

"We do," Reed affirmed, snapping the tricorder shut. He flipped open the communicator. "Reed to Bridge," he said, without much hope."

"Sato here."

Reed looked surprised. "We're done," he said. "We've had trouble reaching you."

Sato's voice fuzzed, then came back strong. "We've been having some problems with the power unit. Come back to the Bridge when you're ready. Sato out."

"Sit down, Malcolm," Mayweather ordered. "I'll clean up."

"Don't be ridiculous. I—"

"You're sitting down," Mayweather said firmly. "If you rest for a little bit, I may not have to drag your butt down the corridors."

Reed stared at him for a second, then gave in. He removed his shirt and undershirt, then sat down and mopped his face and chest as he watched Mayweather put equipment away. Reed was barefoot too. Mayweather was pleased to see the relief on Reed's face as he rested. He dropped some equipment off in Engineering, then returned. He found Reed slumped against the wall, mouth open, deeply asleep. Well, working through the pain in his leg must have been tiring. Mayweather smiled down at Reed, then sat next to him. He took off his undershirt too, then leaned against the wall. The heat would take a few hours to dissipate. It was ironic. Some parts of the habitation area were so cold that people were wearing EV suits, and here they were, stripped to the waist.

Mayweather's eyes took in Reed's short, dark hair, a little spiky from running his hand through it while it was wet from sweat. The lines on Reed's face looked less etched in sleep. Reed's chest rose and fell rhythmically. Mayweather watched Reed sleep, smiling to himself. It was nice to stare for a change, instead of sneaking peeks. He admired Reed's build, Reed's toned stomach and upper arms. Reed's hands curved, one in his lap and one on the ground. It was odd to see them motionless. Reed was often gesturing or holding equipment. He was always doing something. It was a rare pleasure to see him asleep. In sleep, he looked—competent. Quiet. Centered.

Mayweather scooted over so he was right next to Reed, then slid himself behind Reed. Reed woke up immediately. "Travis," he said muzzily.

"Shh," Mayweather said. He settled one leg on either side of Reed, then pulled Reed's back into his chest. "I think you're taking a nap."

"Is that what I was doing?" Reed said. "I thought I was thinking."

"What were you thinking about?" Mayweather asked.

"Taking a nap."

Mayweather put one hand on Reed's stomach and wrapped his other arm around Reed's chest. He nuzzled Reed's neck where it joined the shoulder. Reed tasted glorious—salty and sweaty. "Go back to sleep," he suggested. "I won't let you sleep more than fifteen minutes."

"Mmm," Reed said, leaning back against Mayweather and putting his hands on his stomach, covering Mayweather's hand. "Last time we did this, I wasn't in a position to enjoy it."

"Me neither," Mayweather said.

"Travis, what are we doing?" Reed's voice was sleepy.

Mayweather smiled. "I think we're flirting," he told Reed.

"Oh. All right then," Reed said, and he put his head back and closed his eyes. A moment later, his body got heavy and his breathing grew regular. Mayweather sat and held Reed in his arms, enjoying the feel of Reed's bare, sweaty skin against his.

*** 5

Body brushed against body. A faint moan, a small gasp were the only sounds. The texture of smooth, sweaty skin under his hands, the feel of lips against his lips—it had been so long. The wanting, the desperate wanting underlay everything. He was hard, and he was having trouble breathing. His body felt raw. Then his lover's body pushed harder, stroked harder, hands and mouth playing him. His breathing turned into panting, and he thrust up while his lover slid down. His cock stroked against his lover's flat stomach. He rubbed hard against his lover's body, then shattered, the sensation overwhelming. He cried out as he came, his body arching. He felt it in his very soul.

Mayweather woke up in the middle of his orgasm, crying out, almost sobbing. The pleasure was acute, lancing through his groin and up through his chest. It seemed to last for a long time, and when it receded, he was panting and whimpering. He hadn't even had to touch himself. Just dreaming about Malcolm Reed was enough to make him come. He ground his ass against his mattress, then reached down and touched his spent cock. There was another brief wave of pleasure as he stroked himself, squeezing out the last few drops of come. He ran his fingers through the warm wetness on his stomach and breathed hard for a while.

He and Reed had been dancing for three weeks now—the three long weeks during which the ship's systems had been slowly growing more and more erratic. The light touches, the caresses, the stares, the smiles—they understood each other perfectly. But still, they hadn't kissed. The most touching they had done was when Reed had slept in his arms after they'd rerouted the matter-antimatter output. Mayweather had reveled in every second of that fifteen-minute nap, gently stroking Reed's slight, muscular body, breathing in Reed's scent. He wasn't sure how much longer he could dance. He wanted to knock Reed against the wall, pin him there, and kiss him senseless. And, as his dream had reminded him, it wasn't just kissing he was interested in. He wanted more. He smiled to himself. That was, after all, the point of flirting: to establish interest, to build sexual tension. Well, they were certainly building sexual tension. He was ready to explode—had exploded.

Mayweather rolled onto his side and curled his hand around his cock. He imagined Reed in his small bed. He imagined Reed pressing against his back, kissing up and down Mayweather's shoulders, reaching around to fondle his nipples and chest. He imagined Reed's hard cock nudging against his ass, playing with him, then sliding into him from behind, Reed's mouth biting Mayweather's shoulder as he began pumping. Mayweather's hand on his cock suddenly wasn't enough. He slid the come-wet fingertips of his free hand just into the entrance of his asshole and toyed with the sensitive edges. He gasped at the sensation, imagining the smooth hardness of Reed's cock sliding in. The hand on his penis squeezed harder, and he pushed two slick fingers deep inside himself, as far as they could go. It was enough. He came again, the pleasure ripping through his body. In his imagination, Reed was behind him, riding him, fucking him hard, clutching him close, saying his name as they both came.

Mayweather wiped his hands on his pajama bottoms and rolled over onto his back. He felt a lot better. Every now and then, he would feel a jolt of pleasure and his breath would catch. He liked to think that he and Reed would be in bed together sometime soon. He wanted see Reed come. He wanted to see Reed lose self-control, just as Reed had let go and slept in his arms. The trust that implied—well, it wasn't just Reed's body he was interested in, although that was plenty interesting. It was the whole package: his personality, his difficultness, his intelligence, his arrogance, his sense of humor.

He was just contemplating cleaning up when his door chimed. He didn't keep track any more of when power was on. A flashlight was always by his bed. He got up and pressed his thumb to the com. "Yes?" he asked.

It was Reed. "T'Pol's gone missing," he said, his voice staticky. "Can I come in?"

"No," Mayweather said. "I'll be right out."

There was a pause. "All right. We're supposed to meet Commander Tucker on the Bridge. Com's down."

"I'll be right there."

Mayweather cleaned up hastily but thoroughly, then donned a uniform. He joined Reed in the corridor.

"Is everything all right?" Reed asked.

"Fine. I just wasn't decent," Mayweather said easily. "Do you want to take the lift?"

"I don't fancy getting stuck if the power goes down," Reed said.

Mayweather cocked an eyebrow at him. "Really?"

"The lift it is, then," Reed said immediately.

Mayweather smiled. He followed Reed into a lift. Reed looked all business: his uniform and hair were perfect. He was carrying a padd. Reed set the lift for the Bridge, then leaned back against the wall, tapping the padd against a leg. "I'm sure she'll turn up in no time," he said, referring to T'Pol. "She didn't show up for her shift and she's not in her quarters, the gym, or the mess. And it's ironic: she just announced last night that she found out what the computer problem was. She was supposed to start—Travis, what are you doing?"

"Gosh, the lift is stuck," Mayweather said, overriding it. "Imagine that."

"Travis. T'Pol may be hurt."

"This will only take a minute." Mayweather pondered. "Maybe two. Will you just put that thing away?" He tugged the padd away from Reed and dropped it on the floor. Before Reed could react, Mayweather pinioned Reed's wrists above his head. Reed was too surprised to put up a fight. Mayweather put his lips next to Reed's ear. "You're driving me crazy," he confided. He exhaled gently as he ran his lips mere centimeters from Reed's skin. "I keep having these—these dreams about you." He pulled back slightly. Reed's eyes locked with his.

"What kind of dreams?" Reed asked. His arms flexed as he sought to break Mayweather's hold, but Mayweather just pushed them back into the wall. Reed wasn't trying very hard.

"Erotic dreams," Mayweather clarified. He brushed his face against Reed's. Reed inhaled. "Very erotic." He touched Reed's earlobe with his tongue, then nuzzled his way down Reed's neck. He pressed his body against Reed's and was pleased to feel the beginnings of a bulge that indicated that Reed reciprocated Mayweather's feelings. "You've been playing with me," he told Reed. "My turn." He trailed his mouth along Reed's jawbone, then licked. "Oh. I like the way you taste." Reed's response was a strangled groan. "I have this fantasy where I push you against the wall and kiss you. Although I guess it's not much of a fantasy. The reality's kind of nice, though."

Reed's voice was hoarse. "What's been holding you back?"

"I hate making the first move." Mayweather pulled back sharply. He was withholding the kiss. He inhaled Reed's scent, then leaned down and ran his nose along Reed's lips. "What do I have to do?" Mayweather whispered. "What do I have to do to convince you I want you?" He relaxed his hold on Reed's arms and put his hands on Reed's hips. Reed lowered his arms; he was breathing in short gasps through his mouth. "Because I really, really want you. A lot." He leaned in harder, pressing himself against Reed's erection. Mayweather himself was only at half-mast. He'd come too recently to work up a proper erection. "Please," he begged.

Reed stroked the side of Mayweather's face, eyes burning. A moment later, Mayweather's back hit the lift wall, and Reed slammed Mayweather's arms up over his head. There was no hesitation. Reed's mouth was on his, hard and demanding. Mayweather opened his mouth and leaned his head back against the wall as Reed kissed him thoroughly. It had been worth the wait.

When Reed pulled back, Mayweather opened his eyes. He smiled at Reed, then broke his arms free with a twist and whirled them around, so they switched positions. He pushed Reed hard against the wall and grabbed Reed's waist as he lowered his mouth to Reed's. Reed mouth and tongue matched his, and the ridge of Reed's erection was insistent against Mayweather's hip. Mayweather rubbed himself up and down, then moved his hands so they cupped Reed's butt. He squeezed Reed's ass cheeks together. Reed moaned into Mayweather's mouth and put his arms around Mayweather, clinging to him.

Mayweather finally pulled back. "I think our time is up," he said.

"You said two minutes," Reed gasped.

"I did, didn't I?" Mayweather kissed Reed again, but he made it gentle and lingering this time. Reed tasted wonderful. Their mouths played, and Mayweather twined his fingers in Reed's hair. When he pulled back again, Reed's mouth followed him, refusing to let him go, and it was two more minutes before Mayweather could bear to break it off.

"Oh, god," Reed said. "Travis. You're gorgeous." He stroked Mayweather's chest. "You're—you're everything."

Mayweather smiled down at Reed, then released the override. That was certainly his idea of a first kiss.

*** 6

Mayweather's communicator chirped, and he flipped it open as he coasted to the next handhold. The gravity had gone out again just as he and Reed had reached the Bridge. Tucker had assigned himself, Reed, Mayweather, and Sato to look for T'Pol and had handed out deck-by-deck assignments to each. At first, Mayweather couldn't figure out why the bridge crew was looking for T'Pol. He thought that a security team would do a much better, more methodical job. Then he realized that Archer was trying to keep T'Pol's absence under his hat, for reasons of his own that Mayweather, with the pragmatism of the lower ranks, didn't even attempt to fathom.

"Mayweather," he said.

"Tucker here. B deck is clear." "I'm half done with C deck."

"Need help?"


"I'll see you at the port lift. Tucker out."

Mayweather, feeling a little guilty, scanned each room on C deck for Vulcan biosigns. He had found out a lot about his fellow crew members by this little exercise. Many people weren't where they were supposed to be: they had swapped quarters without telling anyone, a definite breach of security protocol, or else a lot of people were going visiting. He'd discovered two couples having assignations, and one of the couples fell under his definition of Too Much Information. He shook his head. He could keep his mouth shut, but he'd never realized the extent of the behind-closed-doors shenanigans that were going on. And it was only nine in the morning. He paused by the lift and waited for Tucker.

He didn't have to wait long. He'd barely gotten there when he heard a scraping, and he helped Tucker down from the ceiling. Tucker hadn't taken the lift.

"Thanks, Ensign," Tucker said. "Do you have to do that?"

Mayweather grinned. "There's no up or down when the gravity's out," he said. He was floating so his head was toward the floor, his feet brushing the ceiling. Tucker was drifting below him, mostly right-side-up. "But if it makes you more comfortable—" He expertly bent his knees and kicked off the ceiling, turning slowly in midair and tapping gently to the ground, then rising up about a meter. He crossed his legs. His mother called that the swami pose: he was elevating in midair.

Tucker shook his head in admiration. "That's a skill," he admitted. "And it doesn't make you feel sick? The lack of gravity?"

Mayweather shook his head. "Nope."

"Lucky." Tucker flipped open his tricorder. "I'm on antinausea drugs myself. Where did you stop?"

Mayweather told him, and they divided up the rest of C deck. No T'Pol.

"Is she hiding?" Mayweather asked when he and Tucker met back up about fifteen minutes later. He was only partly kidding.

"Sure seems like it," Tucker agreed.

"I really hope she's okay." T'Pol's motives were often opaque to Mayweather, but he liked her command style. She didn't waste his time, and he appreciated that.

They were about to head to Engineering and continue the sweep when Tucker's communicator chirped. He answered it, and Sato's voice came through. "Commander, I've found her." Her voice sounded breathless. "Please report to the shuttle bay. And hurry. Tell Lieutenant Reed to bring a phase pistol. Sato out."

Mayweather exchanged a look of concern with Tucker. Phase pistol? He waited while Tucker called the rest of the search team and Captain Archer. Outside the shuttle bay, they ran into Doctor Phlox.

"Doc, what are you doing here?" Tucker asked.

"Commander. Ensign," Phlox greeted them. "I'm afraid this is all my fault."

"What is?" Tucker looked confused.

"T'Pol was interested in one of my recent acquisitions, a Lowrian marmoset, and when I took it out of its cage to show it to her, it bit her."

"It bit her?"

"It bit Ensign Sato, too," Phlox admitted.

"Hoshi was there?"


Mayweather watched the back-and-forth with interest, holding his place by touching a hand to the wall.

"Okay, I don't get it. What's the problem? Are T'Pol and Hoshi sick?"

"You could say that," Phlox hedged.


"Well, Ensign Sato is fine—I just bandaged her hand. But it turns out that there's something in the animal's saliva that doesn't, um, mix well with Vulcan blood chemistry. I'm afraid T'Pol has experienced an extreme reaction. I didn't realize it until it was too late. I really should have sedated her."

"Sedated her?" It was sounding worse and worse.

There was a hugely loud banging sound inside the shuttle bay. Tucker started and slowly sailed a few meters back. Before he could regain control, the shuttle bay doors whooshed open, and T'Pol zoomed out. She was as good as Mayweather at handling herself in zero gee. She scattered Mayweather and Phlox—the latter lunged at her with a hypospray—with a few well-placed kicks, then managed to kick open a hatch and disappear. The whole thing took less than fifteen seconds. By the time Tucker had gotten turned back around, Archer, Reed, and Sato, her hand wrapped in a white bandage, had exited the shuttle bay.

"I can't believe it," Sato was saying, her voice nasal. "She's so strong." Sato's nose was at an odd angle, clearly broken, and she kept touching it; Reed's uniform was ripped; and Archer was bent over double and wheezing. Reed was nudging Archer along because Archer had had the wind knocked out of him and couldn't catch his breath.

"T'Pol's gone insane?" Mayweather said doubtfully.

"That about sums it up," Phlox said.

"Well, I'll eat my shorts," Tucker said in amazement.

"Travis—" Archer gasped, then gave up.

Reed seemed to get it. "Ensign, take this," he said crisply, handing Mayweather a phase pistol. "It's set on stun. You're the best of all of us in zero gee. Find her and take her out. Then call for Doctor Phlox." He turned his attention to the doctor. "You can cure her, right?"

"Oh, absolutely," Phlox assured him, looking up from an examination of Sato's nose. A few red droplets of blood formed perfect circles and floated around Sato's face, and her hair waved up and around as if she were underwater.

"Find her and take her out?" Mayweather repeated. "You want me to find her and take her out?"

"Yes," Reed said. "That's what I said."

"You make me sound like a hit man."

"Consider yourself promoted."

Reed nudged him gently, and Mayweather found himself heading down the hallway. He paused and surveyed his fellow crew members before he followed T'Pol. They looked terrible. "Starfleet's finest," he said to himself, and he flipped open his tricorder and swung himself up. Forty-five minutes later, he decided he had to hand it to T'Pol. She was cunning. She was sneaky. She was damn good. And fast. Very fast. He'd almost had her twice, and she'd gotten away easily. He hoped the gravity would come back on soon—then the others could help.

His eyes caught a blip on the tricorder, and he quickly entered the nearest room, which was a storage area. He floated quietly in midair, trying to make no noise that T'Pol's sensitive ears could hear, eyes on the tricorder. He'd ducked in just in time. She had entered Archer's quarters. And—hell. It looked as if Archer was in his quarters. He squinted at the readouts, confused. Then his brow cleared. The third, and inexplicable, biosign must be that of Porthos, the captain's dog.

He pulled his communicator out, then considered. T'Pol could probably hear his voice. But Archer was probably distracting her. He'd risk it. He reported the situation in a whisper to Reed, then slid the communicator back in a pocket and zipped it shut. As per Reed's instructions, he waited exactly five minutes, eyes on his tricorder. The biosigns remained steady. Archer didn't appear to be in any immediate danger, although T'Pol's proximity to Archer worried him. When the five minutes were up, hoping Archer would forgive him, he used the emergency code Reed had given him to overrode Archer's privacy lock and stepped inside. The door automatically locked behind him.

He barely evaded the blow. He kicked himself off from the floor, turned in midair, and balanced in a crouch on the ceiling. T'Pol rocketed off the door with a sickening thud and flew back in the opposite direction. Her back hit the far wall. If she felt pain, she didn't give any indication of it. She bounced off the floor and held herself against the ceiling with the splayed fingers of one hand. She surveyed Mayweather with unblinking eyes.

"Captain, are you all right?" Mayweather asked, without taking his eyes off T'Pol. She looked feral.

"Yes," Archer said briefly.

"T'Pol, you're sick," Mayweather said. He held her eyes as he unzipped the pocket with the phase pistol.

T'Pol let loose with a voluble string of words that made no sense to him. She was speaking Vulcan. But scarier than the sound of the normally calm, controlled T'Pol yelling was the emotion on her face: anger. She had definitely lost it.

What happened next happened so fast that it was a blur. The door slid open and Reed and Tucker peered through. At the same moment, Mayweather felt a familiar pull in his stomach, and his reflexes took over. The gravity came on, and there was the sound of bodies hitting the ground. Mayweather landed on his feet, taking aim. T'Pol, who had landed heavily on her knees, swung an arm at him, but before she could connect, Porthos was suddenly there, growling and snapping. Mayweather saw T'Pol's eyes flicker, and he shot before she could follow through. T'Pol and Porthos flopped over.

There was a stunned silence.

"God damn it, you shot my dog," Archer said.

"Ow," said Reed, who had landed in a strange position underneath Tucker. "Oh, god. Is everyone all right?"

"Good lord," said Tucker, rolling off Reed. "I've never seen anyone do that before. Ever. How did you do that?"

Mayweather ignored him. "Where's Doctor Phlox?"

"Right here," said Phlox, stepping over the bodies on his way to T'Pol. "Will Porthos be all right?" Archer asked anxiously, sitting up.

Phlox scanned. "They'll both be all right." He gave T'Pol two injections. "One will return her blood chemistry to normal, and this other one will ensure she sleeps for the next four hours," he told whoever was listening. He rearranged her arms and legs and patted her before he stood up. "Porthos will wake up by himself in about an hour." He looked on as Archer sat next to Porthos, then dragged the beagle on his lap and began stroking his ears, cooing in concern.

"No, really, how did you do that?" Tucker asked. "That was amazing. That was just amazing."

"It's a Boomer thing," Mayweather said modestly.

Tucker sighed. "I knew you were going to say that."

"What did he do?" Phlox asked, looking from Tucker to Mayweather.

"He was upside-down, sitting on the ceiling, and when the gravity came on, he twisted around in midair and landed on his feet, neat as you please." Tucker illustrated his narrative with hand gestures. "The rest of us just hit the ground."

"It really is a Boomer thing," Mayweather said. "I used to compete with that move. It's called the drop."

"It's a competition?"

"Sure. I competed when I was a kid."

"Did you win?"

Mayweather smiled. "Yes," he said. He'd been champion of the drop for three years running (he got extra points for style), and then had stopped competing. He remembered, starting when he was eight, the endless drills, the painful landings despite the cushioned surfaces. He'd done it so often that, like the best who did the drop, he didn't need the warning buzzer informing him that the gravity was about to come on. He could feel it in his stomach, and by then, he was already moving. Apparently he still had the knack.

Tucker shook his head, lost in admiration. Mayweather smiled at Reed, who was smiling at Mayweather.

"You know, this explains a lot to me," Reed told Mayweather. "When we'd go climbing, I thought you were fearless, but it's your background in zero gee. You simply don't have a problem with up and down, so dangling upside-down by a single line above a crevasse doesn't disturb you."

Mayweather laughed. "It disturbs me all right," he confessed. "I was just showing off."

Tucker was looking from one to the other. "Crevasse?"

"Didn't you know?" Reed asked. "That's how Travis and I met. When we lived in San Francisco, we were in the same rock-climbing club."

"You climb rocks too?"

"Not any more."

"Well, Travis, can you show me?" Tucker asked. "The drop, I mean."

Mayweather was surprised. "If you want. Usually people start when they're just kids, though. Just so you know."

"I think I'd like to learn too," Reed said. "It seems like a useful tactical skill."

Mayweather was touched. He knew he was a good pilot, but it surprised him that he had another skill that was perceived as useful. "Any time," he said.

Archer looked up from petting Porthos. "Doc, why don't you just leave T'Pol here," he suggested. "I guess we'll have to wait four hours until T'Pol can fix the computer."

"Fix the computer?" Phlox said blankly.

"Oh, didn't you know?" Archer carefully set Porthos on his cushion and settled a slightly chewed teddy bear next to him. "T'Pol figured out what's causing all the glitches. The computer boot files were corrupt. She got a new set from Starfleet. She has to shut down the computer, purge the corrupt files, and then copy in the new ones. We'll lose some data, but we've been making regular data dumps to Starfleet, so we won't lose too much." Archer brushed dog hair off the legs of his uniform. "She thought it was a hardware problem initially, but it was a software problem."

"Well, it'll be a relief to have things back to normal," Tucker said. "Computer problems, a rabid T'Pol—I've had me enough excitement to last for a day or two. We need a little celebration. I have something in mind with cake and Rocky Road ice cream."

"I remember when I last ate Rocky Road," Reed remembered. "I still can't believe I ate the whole thing. It was so sweet. But it beats, say, resequenced Swedish meatballs."

"I like Chef's Swedish meatballs," Archer objected.

"Sorry, sir," Reed said hastily.

Mayweather and Archer followed Tucker and Reed out. Phlox was going to stay and monitor T'Pol. "Good work, Ensign," Archer said.

"I'm sorry about Porthos, sir."

"He'll be fine." Archer patted him on the shoulder. "What are you going to do to celebrate? Lieutenant Rowe has planned an action-adventure night at the movies—you know, *Die Hard*, *Terminator 2*, *Bloody Sky*—all the classics."

"I'm not in the mood for movies, but I'm sure I'll be able to think of something, sir," Mayweather said.

*** 7

Mayweather clicked off his flashlight and knocked. He'd finished dinner about an hour ago. Tomorrow he was supposed to meet Tucker and Reed and teach them how to do the drop—by then, the power would be back up and stable. T'Pol was back to normal and was in the middle of repairing the computer. The environmental controls were offline until she finished, but she had been able to preserve life support and gravity. At the same time, Tucker was working on returning the ship's systems to normal, and he'd undone the jury-rigging job Reed and Mayweather had done to heat the air, so it was getting chilly.

The door trembled slightly, then began opening. Mayweather saw Reed's fingers push through. When the opening was wide enough, Mayweather helped him open the door the rest of the way.

"Come in, Travis," Reed said, pleased. "I warn you, though, it's rather cold in here."

Mayweather waved a silvery pillow at Reed. "I brought my own blanket," he said, stepping inside and unfolding the blanket. "Here, you keep it warm for me." He wrapped it around Reed's shoulders. "Where's Chester Greenwood when you need him?"


"The guy who invented earmuffs."

"Good god. I can't believe someone actually invented earmuffs." The two of them shut the door behind Mayweather. Reed's quarters were atmospherically illuminated with several portable lights.

"You did a wonderful job today," Reed said, tugging the blanket around his shoulders. "Do you want a reposting to security?"

Mayweather laughed. "No way," he said. "For one, I spent too long learning how to fly buckets like these." He gestured vaguely, indicating the entire ship. "And second, I don't want to report to the head of security."

"Oh?" Reed said. Reed was head of security. "I'm not surprised. I hear he's a right bastard."

"It's not so much that."

"What is it, then?"

Mayweather lowered his voice and leaned in slightly. "Can you keep a secret?"

"Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye," Reed said, crossing his heart.

"I have a thing for him," Mayweather confessed. "A really, really big thing."

"A thing, eh?" Reed said, looking interested. "What kind of thing?"

"Oh, the usual. Can't sleep at night; think about him all the time; dream of him when I do manage to get to sleep. You know. The love thing." Mayweather sighed. "It took him forever to notice me."

"But he finally did?"

"Well, I think he did. I hope he did." Mayweather smiled. "Did you?"

"Oh, yes," Reed breathed. "I did. A long time ago."

"How long?"

"Well, the first inkling was when we saw that movie together, or were supposed to—the one with all the explosions. We shared popcorn. It was almost a date."

"I remember that," Mayweather said.

"But I thought you were interested in Hoshi," Reed said. "And when I—when I thought you were dead, I realized that it had rather crept up on me." He sat down on the small bed and pulled the blanket tight. "I had to go through your things, and it almost killed me." He gathered himself and looked up. "What about you?"

"Since that climb in New Mexico."

Reed blinked. "That was more than two years ago."

"Yep." Mayweather sat next to Reed on the bed. "Like I said, it took you forever to notice me." He sighed, remembering the climb. "I was climbing right behind you, and I had to spend two solid days looking at your ass."

"You were on that climb? I don't remember your being there."

"You were dating someone at the time—Gloria, I think."

"Oh, Gloria," Reed remembered.

"Yep, two solid days," Mayweather continued. "Staring at that tight ass. Watching it flex. It was torture." He leaned down and brushed Reed's cheek with his nose. "Your ass is mine," he informed Reed.

"Is it?"

"Yes." Mayweather brushed again.

"Your nose is cold," Reed whispered.

Mayweather investigated. "So is yours." He tested. Reed's mouth was warm. "Are you cold?"


"Me too."

"What should we do about it?"

Mayweather touched Reed's lips with his again. His icy fingers found the zipper pull on Reed's uniform, and he began unzipping. "I'm sure we can think of something," he said.

He undressed Reed slowly, stopping to admire and kiss. Reed's fingers on his skin were cold too. He liked what he saw in Reed's eyes: appreciation mingled with the proper amount of adoration. They cuddled together, legs entwined, nude body pressed against nude body, and pulled the blankets of Reed's small bed up around them, letting the silvery blanket drift on top. Then they set to warming each other up, clasping hands and sharing increasingly desperate kisses. In the half light, Reed's eyes were dark. He looked younger somehow, the lines on his face erased by the angle of the light. Mayweather liked the lines. He missed the lines.

"Tell me what you want," Mayweather whispered between kisses. One hand was on Reed's cock, stroking the foreskin at the tip with his thumb.

"I want you inside of me." Reed gasped when Mayweather trailed his lips down and set his mouth around a nipple. Reed rubbed his cock against Mayweather's stomach. Mayweather was overwhelmed by the taste and scent of Reed. His dreams didn't have taste or scent. Reality was always better than dreams, anyway. Reality could kiss back. "Face to face."

"Oh, definitely face to face," Mayweather said. "I want to see your face when you come." He bit Reed gently on the chest, then wandered down lower, pulling the covers up over his head to stay warm. He pulled Reed's cock into his mouth and sucked. Reed tasted hot and musky. He smoothed his hands up and down Reed's sides as he sucked, reveling in the feel of Reed's skin. He felt Reed harden further, and he felt Reed's balls tighten. He stopped before Reed could come and worked his way back up to Reed's mouth.

Reed stretched out and grabbed lube out of the nightstand, then dove back under the covers. Now it was his turn to explore Mayweather's body, and Mayweather lay on his back and let Reed touch and lick. Reed took Mayweather in his mouth and repaid him in kind, his mouth pulling hard. Then Reed sucked as he applied lube, and the combination of the heat of Reed's mouth and the cold lube made Mayweather gasp.

There was an awkward moment as they switched positions on the bed, so that Reed was underneath—the bed was simply too small. Mayweather found Reed's entrance with his fingers and spread lube from his hard cock to Reed's asshole, pushing one finger, then two a few centimeters inside. He played for a while, until he felt Reed relax. Then he lifted up Reed's legs and pulled back so he could see what he was doing. He rubbed his own cock a few times, then slid the cap into Reed's asshole.

"Oh," Reed said. There was a faint sheen of sweat on his body, and his face looked ecstatic. "More. Please." Mayweather slid in slowly, making it last. "There," Reed said when Mayweather was partially in. Mayweather gently rocked back and forth, pleasuring Reed's prostate, then pushed in the rest of the way. He relaxed a little on top of Reed's body and smiled down at him. "Travis," Reed whispered, and his eyes shut for a long moment as Mayweather began thrusting gently. He wound his legs around Mayweather, crossing his ankles behind Mayweather's back, his knees pressing near Mayweather's shoulder blades.

Mayweather leaned down and kissed Reed as he fucked him, playing with his lover's mouth and tongue. He rocked back and forth inside Reed until Reed began moaning. It was intensely erotic. He had to stop a few times so he wouldn't come, and they paused together, throbbing. He could feel Reed's cock against his stomach and the faint stickiness of Reed's precome.

"Oh, god, please," Reed whispered at last. "I'm so close. I'm so close." He squeezed his legs harder around Mayweather's torso. His face was transcendent, his gray-blue eyes dazed. He was totally focused.

Mayweather was ready to come. Reed's body was slick and warm around his buried dick, his asshole a hard ridge that stroked up and down Mayweather's throbbing cock as he thrust. He was incredibly hard, incredibly excited. So it took amazing self-control to just lie quietly embedded inside Reed. He could feel his heartbeat in his cock. He was breathing harshly.

"Oh, god, no, don't do this to me," Reed pleaded, thrusting his ass up.

Mayweather groaned at the pressure of Reed against his balls. He closed his eyes and fought not to come. He wanted to stretch this out forever, the feeling of this man under him. "It's just you and me, Malcolm," he said. "I want to feel you." He slowly slid out a few centimeters. He focused on the feeling of his cock being squeezed by Reed's asshole as he moved. Inside, Reed was slick and warm. He slowly slid back in, and Reed gasped.

Reed's hands stroked Mayweather's ass when Mayweather stilled. "I want you," he said. "You inside me. You coming. Just—you. Please."

"You'll come with me?" Mayweather asked. He gave one thrust, and Reed shut his eyes, then opened them.

"Yes," Reed gasped. "Oh, yes." His eyes didn't leave Mayweather's. One hand stroked up and down his lover's chest.

"I love this," Mayweather said. "Just you and me. I've waited for this forever." Mayweather's free hand now came up and stroked Reed's face. They paused for a long moment, staring into each other's eyes, breathing in gasps, both on the verge of coming. He felt the pressure of Reed's legs on his sides, the pressure of Reed's asshole around his cock. "God, I want you. You're hot and ready," Mayweather whispered. "You're all I want."

Reed captured Mayweather's thumb in his mouth and gave it a long, sucking pull. Mayweather's cock throbbed, and he threw his head back and moaned, his finger wet and enveloped in warmth. Reed's tongue ran up and down his thumb as though he were fellating Mayweather. Mayweather's cock felt like a bar of heat, radiating intensity, so close to coming that he could almost feel it as a physical entity.

"Make me come," Reed whispered to his lover, releasing Mayweather's thumb. Reed's breathing was ragged. "Don't make me wait, Travis. It's you. It's you I want. Only you. Oh, god." This last was said when Mayweather thrust in hard, then pulled back. "Do that again," Reed said, and Mayweather did. "Oh, god, please," Reed begged. "Please. Please. Harder. More."

Reed was totally open to him, totally focused on him. They were not quite at the point of no return, but they knew they were going to come, and very, very soon. The anticipation was exquisite. Their bodies were trembling on the edge. If they did nothing, if they stayed just as they were, they would come in a minute or two anyway, and Mayweather knew what the orgasm would feel like: it would feel like glass shattering, a delicate, transcendent orgasm. He wanted another kind of orgasm: he wanted a huge, rolling orgasm, one that would force them to cry out, one that would leave them sweaty and spent. He wanted Reed to cry out his pleasure because he couldn't contain it.

He thrust again and stopped. Reed was just a heartbeat away from coming. "Oh, god," Reed whispered when Mayweather stopped moving. "Please, Travis. Make me come." At the next thrust, Reed shut his eyes and opened them slowly, and Mayweather knew Reed was just about to pass the point of no return.

He thrust in hard, eliciting a gasp from Reed, and then thrust again. Reed's hand settled back on his ass and pulled him closer as Mayweather set a rhythm. The ridge of Reed's asshole rubbed up and down Mayweather's engorged cock, pulling tight when Reed squeezed it around Mayweather's dick. If he weren't so hard, it would have been painful. Instead, it was unbearably pleasurable. Mayweather's hand circled Reed's cock, which was pressed between their stomachs, and he began rubbing it. He was too excited to go for technique; he simply stroked up and down. Reed rocked up to meet Mayweather.

It only took a few seconds. The sensations crowded, cascaded, and then Reed said, "Oh, god," squeezing his legs hard around Mayweather, and Mayweather felt the first warm jets of come spurt from Reed's cock as Mayweather's hand continued to stroke Reed's length. Reed groaned, and Mayweather watched as Reed lost control. Mayweather, just about to come, focused on sensation, his hips thrusting strongly, pushing his cock as deep as he could into Reed's willing body as he pounded his lover. He could feel the pleasure building in his balls, and his cock felt huge and distended as he slid in and out of Reed's asshole, Reed's body stroking up and down, squeezing hard, Reed's cock jetting sticky come.

"Malcolm," he said into Reed's pleasure. "Oh, god. Malcolm."

Reed thrust up hard, matching Mayweather's downward rhythm. There was a heavy smacking as their bodies thudded together, and Mayweather said "Malcolm" again as the sensation overloaded and he came. He and Reed came together for a few seconds, panting and gasping, bodies pushing hard against each other. Mayweather's mouth found Reed's and they kissed desperately as their bodies bucked, and the wet warmth swirled into the pulsing pleasure. Mayweather released Reed's cock, then put a hand on Reed's hip, and for the last few thrusts of his orgasm, he used his hand to pull Reed into him as he fucked his lover hard. He couldn't get in deep enough. He couldn't get enough sensation. His cock pulsed, sending pleasure through his entire body, and he could feel Reed's fingers on his ass, pulling him closer.

"Jesus, Malcolm," Mayweather managed a few minutes later. He caressed Reed's nipple and shoulder. His hand was sticky with his lover's come. "I never—oh, god."

Reed adjusted his legs and pulled Mayweather down on top of him. The kiss was lingering. Reed was hot and sweaty, and Mayweather's body was sheened with perspiration too. Mayweather slid out, and Reed uncrossed his legs and rolled onto his side to make room for Mayweather next to him.

"We need to do that again," Reed whispered. Mayweather could see Reed's breath puff in the cold air.

"Yes, we do," Mayweather agreed. "It's a great way to stay warm." He pulled the silvery blanket off the floor and tossed it over them; the blankets had been kicked off the bed. The air was icy, but it felt good against his sweaty skin. "All that flirting. It worked. It got me all hot." Reed looked into his eyes and smiled, one hand against Mayweather's chest, and they touched each other gently as they recovered.

The second time was slower. They used their hands and a lot of lube, exchanging deep, slow kisses as their hands worked. The edge of desperation was gone, and they explored what the other liked. Mayweather came first, and his coming triggered Reed's. Reed was in the middle of his orgasm when the lights came on. The sounds of the ship's infrastructure started in too: the faint exhalation of the air through the environmental system, the hum of the consoles and the portal computers. Reed turned the lights off when he had recovered, making a joke about the quality of Mayweather's lovemaking, which could inspire the lights to come on, and then the two of them fell asleep, spooned together.

*** 8



"It's time to get up. Would you like to go for breakfast?"

Mayweather opened one eye. Reed was still pressed against him. He tightened his hold.

"I'd rather stay here," he said firmly.

Reed managed to turn so he was facing Mayweather. "Me too," he said. He put his arms around Mayweather, their chests pressed together, and Mayweather caressed Reed's face. He'd wanted Reed for so long, and the joy in having was still new to him.

"You look very relaxed," Mayweather told his lover. Reed's professional facade was down. Mayweather liked what he saw. Reed's eyes were shining, and he looked…happy.

"So do you." Reed brushed Mayweather's lips with his fingers, and Mayweather remembered when Reed had done that in the dark, when T'Pol was down in the pit assessing the computer core. "I fancy pancakes with peanut butter for breakfast."

"That's just wrong," Mayweather informed him.

"Pancakes are not a British food," Reed said with dignity. "I did not know that peanut butter was an inappropriate topping."

"You should eat what you like," Mayweather said. "No matter how yucky."

"You should try it."

"Maybe I will." Mayweather leaned in and kissed Reed. Reed settled into the pillows, and their fingers twined together as they wished each other a good morning. "Mmm," Reed said when his door chime rang. "Terrible timing, whoever it is."

"Expecting someone?"

"It's probably just Trip." Reed clambered over Mayweather. "I'll get rid of him."

"Do you want me to hide or something?"

Reed looked surprised. "Why would you do that?" He pulled pajama bottoms out of a drawer. Mayweather had a clear view of the anchor tattoo on Reed's ass as Reed bent to put them on.

"Because you think Commander Tucker is at the door."

"Is there any reason you and I shouldn't see each other?"

"No, of course not."

"Then hiding is silly." Reed seemed struck by a thought. He ignored the second chime. "Unless—are you embarrassed?"

Mayweather sat up and pulled the silvery blanket up over his lap. "No," he said. "I thought you might be. I was trying to give you an out."

Reed's face cleared. "No need." He stuck his finger on the com and said, "Yes?"

Reed was right: it was Tucker. "Malcolm, it's me. Do you want to go to breakfast?"

"I can meet you there in fifteen minutes," Reed said.

Tucker sounded confused. "Malcolm, can I come in? I can wait while you get ready and we can walk over together. I wanted to give you some updates now that everything's back online."

Reed looked at Mayweather. Mayweather shrugged. "I'm…entertaining," Reed said.

"Like hell," Tucker said, clearly not believing a word of it. "Let me in already."

Reed hit the door control and stepped aside as Tucker strode in, extending a padd and already starting in with technobabble. He stopped midstream and took in Reed's state of undress, disheveled hair, and aura of radiant happiness. He pivoted, and his eyes widened when he saw Mayweather, sitting nude in Reed's bed, silver blanket strategically covering his lower half. "Oh, hi, Travis," he said weakly.

"Hi, Commander," Mayweather said, smiling.

Tucker cleared his throat. There was an awkward pause. "Um, I forgot what I was saying," Tucker admitted at last. "I'll just—should I just see you there?"

"That would be best," Reed agreed. He escorted Tucker the few steps back to the door. Mayweather heard Tucker hiss, "Next time, give a guy some warning, damn it, Malcolm," before he exited in confusion.

"Wow, that was kind of fun," Mayweather said when the door slid shut behind Tucker. "Come here." He pulled Reed back into bed. "We can take a shower in a minute," he said when Reed half-heartedly tried to pull away.

"I don't think anything with you could take only a minute," Reed said, giving in. He kissed Mayweather lightly, then deepened it, then pulled himself onto Mayweather's lap, wrapping his legs around Mayweather's waist. Mayweather leaned back, grabbed Reed's butt, and pulled him close as they kissed. "Mmm," Reed said when they came up for air.

"I like you like this," Mayweather said, touching the side of Reed's face. "You spend a lot of time being all business. I like you relaxed and happy." He had seen more of that Reed on Earth than on board *Enterprise*.

"Happy. Yes," Reed said. He stroked Mayweather's chest lightly. "Yes, I am."

"In fact, if you go around the ship being this relaxed and happy, it'll be all over the ship in ten minutes."

"It?" Reed queried.

"Us." Reed's hands paused in their exploration. "Is that a problem?" he asked.

"No," Mayweather said. "It kind of means we're in it for the long haul. Are we in it for the long haul?"

Reed resumed stroking. His hands were warm and caressing. "What do you consider long? Because I think I could spend the next few months learning what you like in bed."

"Just a few months?"

"The basics only, of course." Reed nuzzled Mayweather's neck, then drew back. "I think it would take me five or possibly ten years to stop being pleasantly surprised at the way you think." His hands swooped lower, circled around Mayweather's semierect cock, and then swooped back up. "Fifteen years to learn to keep my hands off you. And perhaps another twenty to learn all about Boomer things. No, I have to revise that. It would take me the rest of my life to learn all about Boomer things. There seem to be so many of them." He stroked Mayweather's upper arms. He was growing hard as he touched Mayweather's body, his erection clearly visible through his pajama bottoms. "Are long-term relationships a Boomer thing?"

"Depends on the Boomer."

"What about you, then?"

Mayweather smiled. "Depends on the guy."

Reed smiled back. "Well?"

"Malcolm, I waited a long time. I have no plans on messing it up, or letting you go."

"Good. And—I know you worry. I have no plans for getting impaled again anytime soon."

"Good. I hate it when you get impaled."

"Me too." Reed leaned in for a kiss.

"You're very interesting in the morning," Mayweather said. "Will Commander Tucker be upset if you're late for breakfast?"

"I imagine he'll forgive me," Reed said. "What about sex first thing in the morning? Is that a Boomer thing?"

"How did you know?" Mayweather said. "Come here."

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