Title: Longing

Author: Kylie Lee

E-mail: kylielee1000@hotmail.com

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

Date: 12/20/20

Length: ~10,500 words

Fandom: Star Trek: Enterprise

Pairing: Archer/Mayweather

Type: Slash M/M

Rating: NC-17

Status: Complete

Summary: Mayweather lusts after Archer while they're on a mission with T'Pol.

Feedback: Yes

Series: Wanting

Previous story: All Stop

Next story: Having

Archive: Yes to EntSTSlash, Archer's Enterprise, Tim Ruben, WWoMB, Allslash, Complete Kingdom of Slash, Luminosity, ASCEML, and Situation Room. Anyone else, obtain permission.

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

Spoilers: "Detained," "Marauders," "A Night in Sickbay," "Dead Stop," "The Seventh." This story is set during the action of "The Seventh."

Beta: Kageygirl and Sarah.

*** 1

"Just a hint?" Commander Trip Tucker's voice was wheedling. He was dying to know what the briefing was about.

"I'm sure the captain will tell you all you need to know," Subcommander T'Pol said, face carefully blank.

Travis Mayweather exchanged a look with Tucker. He didn't know either. He'd been told to find some coordinates, so he had, but that was the extent of his knowledge. "Don't look at me," he told Tucker before Tucker could open his mouth.

"So you were looking for coordinates with no idea why," Tucker said.

Mayweather shrugged. "I just work here," he said. "The captain tells me to look for coordinates, so I look for coordinates."

Malcolm Reed, the armory officer, strode in, then checked. "I thought I was running late," he said. "I see I'm not the only one." The captain hadn't shown up yet either. "Where are we going?"

"Pernaia Prime," said Mayweather.

Reed considered thoughtfully, and everyone looked at him expectantly. "No, that means nothing to me," he said at last. He took a place around the console in the center of the situation room and nodded at Tucker and Hoshi Sato. T'Pol was ostentatiously absorbed in a screenful of data, but Reed didn't let that stop him. "Subcommander? Do you know anything about this?"

T'Pol looked up. "Yes," she said briefly. She turned her attention back to the screen.

"No help there," Tucker said. "I already tried, Malcolm. I should have warned you."

"Well, it's all very mysterious," Reed said, in a tone of voice that implied that he loved a mystery.

They all swung around when they heard the situation room's door swoosh open again. Captain Jonathan Archer had finally shown up. Without any preliminary, Archer said, "Did you find the coordinates?"

"Pernaia Prime. Yes, sir," Mayweather said.

"Set a course. When we arrive, you'll be piloting the shuttlepod."

Mayweather was intrigued. He was their best pilot. What could Archer want with his best pilot off the bridge, piloting a little shuttle? "Where exactly will we be going?" Mayweather asked.

Archer's attitude as he answered his question indicated that he didn't know, which was surprising. Archer hated being out of the loop. "Somewhere in the Pernaia Prime system, no doubt," he said dryly. "As far as the exact location, Admiral Forrest doesn't even know that." He eyed T'Pol. He did not look amused. "It seems the subcommander is going on a highly classified mission."

Tucker grasped for clues. "Is the Pernaia Prime system inhabited?"

Sato said, "The Vulcan database says it has a methane-based atmosphere." She had been looking over Mayweather's shoulder when he accessed the coordinates.

"She's going to another planet in the system," Tucker theorized. At Archer's look, he huffed. "Are we supposed to play some kind of guessing game?"

Archer surveyed T'Pol, as if waiting for her to answer. When she didn't say anything, he said, "No, we're supposed to wait at Pernaia Prime for T'Pol and Travis to finish their mission."

"And do what in the meantime?" Tucker asked.

Mayweather concealed his surprise. He and T'Pol? Alone on a mission? But after thinking for a second, he realized that it wouldn't be as much fun as it sounded. He knew all about missions like these. He'd stay near the shuttle, keeping it powered up and ready, and T'Pol would skulk around and do mysterious things all alone, and then he'd shuttle her back up when she was done skulking. He would probably never find out what she had been doing. He'd done it a hundred times, back when he was doing his advanced piloting training. He'd shuttled admirals and heads of state. He was, in short, a glorified chauffeur. She had probably asked for a pilot, and Archer had said, without thinking, "Take Ensign Mayweather."

While his fellow crew members threw out ways they could spend their time, sitting out in space, waiting for him and T'Pol to get back, Mayweather studied the coordinates and the preliminary course he'd calculated. There was nothing tricky about the system at all—no rogue astronomical bodies, no strange gravitational forces, no nothing. He sighed. He liked a challenge.

He perked up when Archer asked T'Pol, "Is there anything specific you and Travis are going to need?"

T'Pol's answer did not inspire confidence. "Cold-weather gear, restraints, and phase pistols." Her demeanor was as icy as ever.

Maybe it wasn't going to be a boring run like he thought. Mayweather exchanged an apprehensive look with Tucker. Restraints? Phase pistols?

*** 2

"Hey, it's me. Let me in." Sato's voice came through the portal com.

"Just a sec." Mayweather stuffed some briefs into his duffle bag, then released the door. "Come on in. I'm just packing."

Sato scooted out the chair by his console and sat down the wrong way, putting her arms against its back and leaning her chin on her arms. She watched him pack for a few seconds. "T'Pol went into the captain's quarters tonight and was there for about five minutes," she reported at last.

"H'm. That would be kind of fast, wouldn't it?"


"You know—romance." Mayweather wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Sato laughed. T'Pol and Archer had been spending more time together lately, and everyone except Tucker was speculating. Tucker seemed to think that the notion was too ridiculous to contemplate.

"Maybe she was apologizing."

Mayweather counted socks and stuck six pairs in the bag. "I don't know about that," he said.

"Well, did you get briefed?"

"No," Mayweather said honestly. "All I know is, it could take a few days."

"Come on, Travis," Sato said. "Cold-weather gear, restraints, and phase pistols. Why can't Lieutenant Reed shuttle her down? He's a perfectly competent pilot. I'm sure he'd love the opportunity to see a little action. There's a man who loves his phase pistols. And, for all I know, restraints."

"H'm, I have no idea," Mayweather said. "I know! Let's contact the captain and tell him how to do his job."

Sato sighed. "Okay, I'll shut up." She spun idly from side to side. "Well, at least you get to go on an away mission. Even if it is all mysterious."

Mayweather hefted the bag. He traveled light. He still had room. "I'll send you a postcard," he offered. "'Having a wonderful time. Gunplay after lunch. Wish you were here.'"

"Don't send it to me, send it to the man who loves phase pistols," Sato said dryly. She perked up. "But you'll be in the perfect position to be all alone with T'Pol."

Mayweather shook his head. "I do not want to go there," he said emphatically, emphasizing each word.

"Half the men on board would kill for the chance." Sato considered. "I take that back. *All* the men on board would kill for the chance."

"And I am not among them."

Sato looked disbelieving. "Okay," she said skeptically.

"She's so—so—" Mayweather searched for the perfect word.

"Cold?" Sato supplied. She was good at synonyms, and in a variety of languages, too. "Icy? Logical? Calculating? Frightening? Unobtainable?"

Mayweather stood still for a second, folded-up shirts in hand. "Disinterested," he said finally. He didn't mention to Sato the real reason he didn't find T'Pol that interesting; he had his eye on another crew member, one he had admired from afar for several months now. He tossed the shirts in. "Besides, she'll be doing the—whatever it is she's doing, and I'll be sitting in the shuttle, waiting. I'm bringing a lot of books and games." He waved a padd at her, then thrust it into the bag after the shirts. "If you're so big on T'Pol, why don't you ask her out? Go to a movie with her or something?"

Sato laughed. "No, she's not my type," she said.

"So who on board is your type?" Mayweather asked. He had a suspicion she liked Malcolm Reed. She did target practice with him.

Sato cleared her throat. "The male type," she said. "So you can see that T'Pol wouldn't have a chance with me."

"Too bad," Mayweather said lightly, zipping up the duffel. "You're probably the only one on board she could really talk to." Sato looked surprised, but before she could say anything, Mayweather remembered: "Oh, toothbrush." He retrieved his travel kit from the bathroom, and when he returned, he found Captain Archer greeting Sato. "Sir," he said, surprised.

"Travis, I stopped by to give you a quick briefing," Archer said.

"And I was just on my way out." Sato headed for the door. "Good night, Travis. Captain." She turned around just before she exited and mouthed the words "Call me" behind Archer's turned back, then left.

Mayweather was still holding his kit, so Archer gestured to him to continue, and Mayweather unzipped his bag. Archer said, "This will only take a second. I'm sorry to chase Hoshi out like that." Uninvited, he sat down on the bed next to Mayweather's bag as Mayweather tucked in the kit, acting for all the world as if he often dropped by for a casual chat. "I'm coming on the mission," he said. "T'Pol invited me along. Seems she wants someone on this mission she can trust."

This was good news indeed. Mayweather did his best to look professionally interested. "Did you find out more about what's going on, sir?"

"Well, yes and no," he said. "The Vulcans are sending her to retrieve someone named Menos, and let's just say that he's definitely dangerous."

"Restraints and phase pistols," Mayweather said. "It's a search and seize."

"Yes, it is." Archer sighed. "Apparently T'Pol is…experienced at this. We're delivering this guy to the Vulcans. We leave tomorrow morning. T'Pol will brief us on the way down. I want to make it clear that T'Pol is in charge of this mission, not me. I do get the feeling she could use another pair of hands tracking this guy Menos down. You up to it? If she asks?"

Mayweather grinned. "Yes, sir," he said. He was indeed. He had been hoping to catch up on his reading while pretending to be on duty, but getting in on the action? That was even better.

Archer stood up and gave Mayweather a little shoulder shake. "Good," he said. "I'm looking forward to this. And it will give you and me a chance to work together more closely. I'm looking forward to that."

"Thanks, sir. Me too, sir."

"Good night, Travis. I'll see you tomorrow at 0900."

"Good night, sir."

Mayweather watched the door slide shut behind Archer. His shoulder was still warm where Archer had touched him. He hadn't been able to get excited about the thought of being alone with T'Pol for a few days. T'Pol was someone he couldn't work up feelings of strong emotion about, despite her undeniable physical appeal. He didn't really like her or dislike her.

But Archer—Archer was another story. A few months ago, he and Archer had both been imprisoned in a detention facility that housed Suliban. They had shared a cell during that little adventure, and that was when Mayweather had realized: he really, really liked his captain—liked him a lot, and in a way perhaps unbecoming to a junior officer. It was part lust and part hero worship, but he couldn't control his feelings, just like he couldn't control his physiological response to Archer's touch.

This feeling had only been reinforced when Archer had decided to have one-on-one breakfasts with everyone on board. The lowliest crewman couldn't escape. It would take Archer months to get through the crew, and then, knowing Archer, he'd start all over again. Mayweather's breakfast, which had had to be rescheduled, had been several weeks ago. It had gone well. Archer had barely talked about work. Instead, he had spoken with Mayweather about Mayweather's family, about sports, about experiences at Starfleet Academy—small talk, but somehow more than that. And Archer told stories himself, in addition to drawing Mayweather out. Archer was friendly and personable, and he seemed honestly interested in what Mayweather was thinking or feeling. His goal was to get to know his crew, but it worked both ways. And the more Mayweather saw of Archer, the more Archer let him in, the better Mayweather liked him.

Mayweather blinked when the com buzzed. He smiled and hit it with a thumb. "Hi, Hoshi," he said. "He's gone."

"What did he say?" Sato asked. "Did you get details?"

"The captain is coming along on the mission with me and T'Pol. That's all I know." Prudently, he didn't mention Menos or the search and seize mission. He figured it was classified.

Sato sounded disappointed. "Too bad," she said. "No chance to be alone with T'Pol. Or—worse yet—you'll have to watch the two of them flirt."

Mayweather hadn't thought of that. "We're all professionals, Hoshi," he said.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot," Sato said. "Professionals never flirt. Well, have some fun. Will I see you at breakfast?"

"Probably," Mayweather said. "If you don't see me, come by and wake me up. I'd hate to sleep through an away mission."

"Very funny. Sato out."

Mayweather released the com and sat down. Several days, in close proximity to the captain.

Things were looking up.

*** 3

"Permission granted," Control said, the woman's voice crisp and professional. "Site six." Their parking spot flashed red, the lights moving in a ripple to indicate direction.

"Site six, aye," Mayweather said. He brought the shuttle about and initiated landing procedures. "Thank you, Control. Mayweather out."

"Fair skies. Control out."

Mayweather landed neatly, without a bump. "We're here, Subcommander," he called over a shoulder as he powered the shuttle down. Archer was sitting next to him in the other pilot's chair, and T'Pol was seated on some supplies stacked in the back. In anticipation, they had their warm, hooded jackets on. The moon they had landed on had a breathable atmosphere, but it was distinctly icy.

"Thank you, Ensign," T'Pol said.

"Where do we start?" Archer asked. His annoyance at T'Pol, so evident to Mayweather during the briefing in the situation room, had disappeared. Mayweather was relieved to see that Archer and T'Pol appeared to be on a purely professional footing. He'd kept his eye out for flirting, on guard thanks to Sato's remarks, but he hadn't noticed anything.

"We need to find Menos." T'Pol had given Archer a briefing on the trip down, and Mayweather had listened with half an ear. Menos was a Vulcan deep-cover operative who had declined to be recalled when his mission was over. The Vulcans thought he had gone rogue and joined the smugglers he was supposed to be infiltrating. They suspected him of smuggling very illegal synthetic biotoxins that were used to manufacture transgenic weapons. Years ago, T'Pol had been sent to bring him back, but she had failed. Now, Menos had turned up again, and the Vulcans had turned to T'Pol to bring him to be judged. Menos had undergone surgery to alter his appearance; Mayweather wasn't certain what species he was supposed to look like, but he certainly didn't look Vulcan. Apparently he was very dangerous. Mayweather, who had seen T'Pol in action, had a healthy respect for anyone T'Pol considered a threat.

"How do we do that?" Archer asked.

"My preliminary research indicates that there are several areas devoted to gray commerce," T'Pol said. "We begin there."

"Sounds good," Archer said. "Should we book into a hotel, then get started?"

T'Pol shook her head. "No," she said definitely. "Mobility is important. We may have to leave at a moment's notice."

"Just to sleep, T'Pol," Archer said. He waved an arm, encompassing the interior of the shuttle. "I didn't think to pack a sleeping bag. It's kind of small and uncomfortable in here."

T'Pol held firm. "I would prefer not to. And it's best if we know where the others are. The shuttle is our home base."

"Okay, but that Vulcan nose of yours may not like it," Archer said. "There are no shower facilities on board."

"I am willing to take that risk." She handed Archer and Mayweather each a tricorder. "This contains information about the gray areas I spoke of. I've included an itinerary for both of you, as well as an image of Menos to show your contacts. I don't know the name he's known under here. Yes, Ensign?"

T'Pol must have seen his eyebrows raise. "Not very subtle, is it, Subcommander?" he asked T'Pol. "If we go around waving his picture around, he'll figure out we're after him. Someone is bound to tip him off."

"I'm sure you can think of something, Ensign," T'Pol said. "I trust your discretion."

Mayweather knew when he was licked. "Yes, sir," he said obediently. He accessed the tricorder's information and scanned his itinerary and the accompanying maps. T'Pol had been busy. Still, it looked fairly straightforward. The icy moon was sparsely populated. There was only one city, and most of the people lived either within the city limits or a few hundred kilometers out. T'Pol was clearly working under the theory that he would be within the city limits, near the port, to conduct business and then leave quickly.

"All right, let's head out," Archer said. He zipped up his jacket, pulled his hood up, and pulled on gloves, and Mayweather and T'Pol followed his lead. "Ready?"

"Yes, sir." Mayweather watched as Archer opened the door.

He thought he'd been prepared, but the cold was terrible. They walked quickly over to the port and checked in. Mayweather, who was registered as the pilot, showed the shuttle's documentation, and Archer paid their fees with a credit chit. They weren't scanned, although to verify the chit, the port official took Archer's thumbprint. Nobody said a word about their packing phase pistols. If Menos was a smuggler, no wonder he liked this moon. It was out of the way, access was easy, and security was lax. No doubt the port officials were also open to accepting bribes to expedite business.

Once free of the port, they took public transportation to the small city's center. They made arrangements to meet at a restaurant for a late dinner, then split up. Mayweather worked the west side of town. He created a story about the recent death of his father, who owed Menos money, and Mayweather was the obedient son taking care of this obligation as he cleared his father's business estate prior to liquidating it. He figured that his relative youth made it unlikely that he would be doing business with Menos on his own, although of course you never knew. He tried not to move too fast or too directly, so it took him a while to get through the four places on his list. Three were restaurants or bars, and one was a shipping business. None panned out, although he turned down two offers for dates.

Mayweather arrived at the restaurant a few minutes late. He took a look around the crowded room and spotted Archer and T'Pol sitting together at a small table in a corner, and he headed toward them. They seemed to be talking intently, and Mayweather, halfway across the room, hesitated. T'Pol turned her head to look directly at Archer, and the light cast by the candle in the middle of the table threw her features into relief. Her eyes were grave, the set of her mouth firm but somehow sweet. She looked like a serious, smart young human woman. She was lovely.

As Mayweather watched, Archer leaned toward her and said something. T'Pol didn't quite smile, but she radiated amusement, and Archer reached over and put his hand on the back of her chair and leaned in, still speaking. The pose was incredibly intimate. Mayweather's stomach tightened and his heart squeezed. It looked like Sato was right: the captain was interested in T'Pol. And T'Pol certainly wasn't pulling back. Maybe she'd been living with humans for too long. Maybe she reciprocated. After all, Vulcans had emotions. They just repressed them.

Then T'Pol's eyes flickered up and met Mayweather's. She inclined her head in silent greeting, Archer sat back, and Mayweather found himself sitting at the table to the captain's left, exchanging pleasantries, and indicating failure in his mission. He watched T'Pol and Archer all through dinner. Archer didn't touch T'Pol, and he didn't lean close to her the way he had when they were alone.

They were sipping little cups of strong coffee when T'Pol announced she was heading back out. She wanted to follow up a lead.

"Are you sure?" Archer asked her. "Do you want us to come with you?"

"I prefer to go alone," T'Pol said. "They don't know I have associates, and I'd like to keep it that way." She set her napkin on the table. "I may be some time."

"We'll finish up here and meet you back at the shuttle," Archer said. "Take your time. Hit the panic button if you get into trouble." They'd rigged their tricorders and communicators with emergency buttons that would register a distress call.

"I will not engage Menos tonight," T'Pol said. "My contacts are providing information about his whereabouts. I merely need to interview them."

"You promise you won't get into it with him? That you'll avoid him, even if you see him?"

T'Pol frowned slightly. "It would be illogical for me to proceed with my mission without backup," she pointed out. "Menos is highly dangerous."

Archer cleared his throat. "I'm just concerned, T'Pol," he said. "You used to do this for a living, you know."

"And I always had backup. My superiors always knew where I was. It's true I was granted autonomy and a certain amount of leeway, but I never went on a mission without being in full possession of the facts and a plan."

"Okay, good," Archer said. "That's all I wanted to know."

"I will return to the shuttle when I have finished interviewing my contacts." T'Pol pushed her chair back. "Try to get some sleep."

"I could say the same for you," Archer said.

T'Pol shook her head as she rose to her feet. "Vulcans can go several days without sleep," she said.

"Well, let's hope it doesn't come to that."

"I'll be fine. Good night." T'Pol left, graceful despite her bulky jacket, and several patrons' eyes followed her as she left. There weren't very many women in the restaurant.

"The subcommander can take care of herself, sir," Mayweather said, because Archer looked concerned.

"I know, Travis." Archer tipped his coffee cup and looked inside. "She's old, fast, smart, and strong, but just looking at her, you forget that. She seems like—like—"

"I was thinking she looked like a serious student," Mayweather said. "You know, someone studying math or physics. Someone smart."

Archer laughed. "You're right. That's it exactly. Smart, pretty—and Vulcan." He took a sip. "You hardly touched your food." He gestured with his cup. "Everything all right?"

"Yes, sir. The places on my list were bars or restaurants, so I had lunch three times."

"Anyplace good?"


"Do you want to go out, do something? Have a little shore leave while we're here?" Archer put down his coffee cup and lowered his voice, as though they were conspirators. "You heard T'Pol. She's just doing reconnaissance. She promised she wouldn't engage Menos. And we're only a panic button away."

Mayweather was surprised. "That sounds like fun," he said guardedly. "Are you in the mood for drinking or for dancing?"

He was joking, but Archer didn't seem to take it that way. Archer put a hand on the back of Mayweather's chair, just as Mayweather had seen him do with T'Pol, and leaned in. He looked amused. "What kind of dancing?" he asked.

Mayweather tried not to panic. Archer's gesture was just characteristic of the man. It probably didn't mean anything. It was probably not an overture of any kind. Archer's eyes held his. "All kinds," Mayweather managed. "But the bar I was in with a dance floor was kind of…seedy." In fact, it had been highly disreputable. "I passed a couple of other places that looked good, though. Or at least safer."

Archer's eyes hadn't wavered. Now Archer shifted slightly, and his wrist pressed against Mayweather's shoulder. "I don't know if I'm in the mood for safe," Archer said. "What about you?" Was every word of the captain's a double entendre, or was Mayweather just reading into it? "I'm always in the mood for safe during a mission," Mayweather responded. Now he bent forward himself, shoulder stroking Archer's arm. "The subcommander thinks we need sleep to be at our best, sir. So we should go someplace safe and be back early."

"That doesn't sound like any fun at all," Archer said. "Besides, it's already too late to be back early. We should go out, dance, drink, and then rent a hotel room and go to bed."

Mayweather gulped. He thought they should do that too, and he thought that they could use the bed for more than just sleeping in. But he couldn't say any of that out loud. Archer clearly wanted to play devil's advocate today. Mayweather decided to let him. He knew that Archer's words wouldn't suit Archer's actions: Archer would still be on the job, ready to back up T'Pol if she called him. But what did it matter if they were at the shuttle or at some club? They were equally reachable.

"Sounds good to me, sir," he said. "But you're buying."

Archer threw his head back and laughed, sitting back in his seat. Mayweather missed the warmth of Archer's arm as he settled back himself, danger averted. If Archer had stayed there for another minute or two, so close, Mayweather may not have been able to help himself.

"That's okay, Travis, my credit is good for a couple of drinks," he said. "Let's go."

*** 4

Mayweather seemed to be in charge. He and the captain caught the subway over to the west side of town. It was bitingly cold, and the streets were slick. They talked about nothing, the easy talk of two men comfortable with each other, two men still getting to know each other.

"I was thinking here," Mayweather said, pointing across the street. His breath made a white plume in the cold air.

Archer surveyed the club. The windows were steamed up, but it looked crowded. They could hear a low subsonic thumping: the bass of the music. A parking lot associated with the building was full, but no one was in line or in the street. It was simply too cold to linger outside.

"Looks good to me," Archer said, and Mayweather followed him across the street. Archer held the door for him.

The heat inside struck him like a blow. It was actually hot in the club, although this place, unlike many of the other public places on the moon, did not have braziers scattered around for light and heat. Most of the public places Mayweather had seen had far more men than women in them, and this place was no exception. For a horrible moment, he thought he'd brought the captain into a gay bar. Then he realized that there were a number of women, but they were all dressed like the men: they looked like miners, in drab, heavy clothes. He figured it was too cold for women to wear skirts. There were no women servers. They paused inside the doorway for a second, getting used to the sound and letting their eyes adjust, and then Mayweather led the way around to the bar. Archer bought a few beers, and they settled against a wall where the noise wasn't so loud and watched the action. Some couples were dancing, and there were a few groups of four or five men dancing as well.

"Is this your idea of a good time, sir?" Mayweather asked.

"Absolutely," Archer said, taking a small sip. Mayweather took his captain's cue: he treated the beer like a prop, taking occasional tiny sips. "I'm with the best-looking guy in the whole place." He inclined his head, and Mayweather's eyes flickered to follow the direction Archer gave. Several people abruptly looked the other way.

"Oh, the feeling's mutual, of course, sir," Mayweather said, and Archer laughed. Mayweather indicated the women with a tip of his beer mug. "I'm sure they're admiring you. They're just getting up the courage to ask you to dance."

"Very politic of you, Travis," Archer said, and Mayweather prudently remained silent. "But the best defense is a good offense, don't you agree?"

"Life is like football that way," Mayweather agreed cheerfully. "Is that a challenge, sir?"

"H'm," Archer said. "Yes. Yes, I think it is."

"Well, I'd be remiss if I didn't offer you the first shot. Care to dance?"

Archer actually looked surprised. "Me?" he said. "No, I don't think so. Better stick with one of those ladies."

Mayweather shook his head sadly. "You don't know what you're missing, sir," he said.

He handed Archer his beer and singled out a tall white woman with cropped blonde hair, one of the women who had abruptly turned away when he glanced their way, and headed over. Archer was laughing at him, but Mayweather ignored him. He introduced himself, found out her name was Gloria, and spent the next two dances on the dance floor. Next he pulled in one of Gloria's friends, Renee, and then Gloria grabbed Archer and joined them. It was about then that Mayweather realized he was having fun. He was dancing, which he didn't get to do nearly enough of, and he was dancing with his captain. It didn't matter that they were in a group. The presence of the women lent the dance legitimacy. Archer was a good dancer, and he seemed to be having a good time. He smiled a lot, and once he winked at Mayweather.

When the fast music segued into a slow number, Renee grabbed his hand and pulled him in. He let himself be pulled. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Gloria doing the same to Archer. He put his arms around Renee and they circled slowly, swaying. He closed his eyes and imagined he was dancing with Archer, that they were pressed together, that his chin, which brushed the top of Renee's head, was instead tucked on Archer's shoulder. Eyes shut, he drifted, lost in a world of pressure and touch, the object of that touch transmuted into the person he most desired. He danced, and he yearned.


Mayweather opened his eyes. Renee was looking up at him, eyes wide and clear. She was small, compact, and lithe, like a gymnast. She was, in fact, just his type, were he looking.

He wasn't looking.

"Would you like to go? Come home with me?" Renee sounded hesitant.

Before he could say yes or no, Archer and Gloria were there, Archer was saying that they needed to go, Gloria and Renee were agreeing that they should leave too, and suddenly they had collected their jackets and were all outside. They stood in a little knot just outside the door, zipping up, their breath puffing out in white clouds.

"We'll walk you to the subway stop," Gloria decided, and they crossed the deserted street, four abreast, dodging the parked cars.

There was a moment of awkwardness near the subway entrance. Renee put her hand on Mayweather's arm and said, "I meant what I asked."

"I know," Mayweather said. He was looking down at her, but he was more aware of Archer: Gloria was leaning up and kissing him. "I'm sorry. I have to go."

Renee shook her head. "Well, it would have made it easier if you had said yes," she said, and before Mayweather could puzzle out what she meant, she clasped her hands together and struck him hard in the chest.

Mayweather, surprised, said only, "Oof!" before he hit the ground. Renee kicked him, then rolled him over so he was on his stomach, her hands expertly patting him down. He barely had time to register that he was being mugged. He had been right. She was strong.

"Travis!" Archer yelled. Mayweather heard some scuffling sounds as Gloria took Archer down. He tried to twist around to look over his shoulder to see, but Renee pushed him back down. All he could see was the icy street and the tires and gravity plating of parked cars.

"My my," Gloria said, and a second later, a bolt of light exploded through the air: a test shot. "Behave yourself."

There was a thud, and Archer groaned. Mayweather wiggled hard, and Renee grabbed Mayweather's jacket collar and pulled up. His jacket pulled against his throat, and he stopped struggling, but his right hand stole toward his jacket pocket.

Gloria went on, "What have we here? Renee, does Travis have one of these?"

"What is that?" Renee asked. She slightly released Mayweather's jacket collar and turned aside for a crucial second.

"A phase pistol," Mayweather said, and he stunned her. Her inert body fell on top of him, but she wasn't heavy, just unwieldy. He didn't push her off, but let her body shield him. He hoped Archer's phase pistol was set to stun.

"You bastard!" Gloria cried.

"She's not dead!" Mayweather yelled. "She'll wake up! She's just stunned." He peered over his right shoulder. Over Renee's body, he could see Archer a few meters away, lying face-down on the ground, cheek pressed against the pavement. Mayweather thought Archer looked annoyed more than scared or angry. Gloria was sitting on top of him, holding one arm behind his back.

"Shit," Gloria said, and she pressed the muzzle of the weapon against the base of Archer's skull. "I'm in a bad mood now. And here I was having so much fun before." She met Mayweather's eyes. "Drop that thing."

Mayweather tossed the phase pistol to one side. It clattered loudly in the street. He didn't know what would happen if Gloria discharged the phase pistol so close to Archer's head. Even on stun, it might kill him as it scrambled his body's energy field.

"Just take what you want and go," Archer said.

"Yeah, I'll do that," Gloria said. She got up, swinging a leg around, and knelt by Archer, keeping Mayweather in sight. Her phase pistol was still trained on the captain. "If Renee's dead, then you are too," she informed him. She quickly stripped him of his tricorder, communicator, and credit chit. "Not much," she said, disappointed. "I thought there would be more. You seemed all—I don't know. Rich. Confident."

"I work for my government," Archer said, voice apologetic.

"Oh, that explains it."

Gloria rose and approached Mayweather. Renee was still lying sprawled on top of him. When she got close enough, Mayweather, grunting, heaved Renee up. He wasn't able to get much leverage, and he couldn't aim very well, but he managed to knock Gloria a step to the side, and it was all Archer needed. Archer rolled over and grabbed Gloria's legs, tackling her, and she hit the ground hard. Mayweather slithered across the icy tarmac and grabbed the phase pistol he'd tossed to the side, and when Archer pulled back, giving him a clear shot, he stunned Gloria too.

There was a moment of silence.

"Good god," Archer said, panting. "I can't believe it. I can't believe it. Here I thought I was going to get lucky." He knelt and patted Gloria down. He retrieved all his things as Mayweather checked the women over. Both of them were breathing regularly; they would be fine—assuming that they wouldn't get mugged as they lay unconscious outside a subway stop. Archer stuck everything back into his pockets and sat down on the curb. He pointed a finger at Mayweather. "Don't tell T'Pol," he said, and he started to laugh.

Mayweather sat down next to Archer and joined him in breathless laughter. It was ridiculous: they had been rolled by two relatively untrained women.

"We were surprised," Mayweather said.

Archer nodded in emphatic agreement. "They were women, so we couldn't hit them with everything we had."

"Well, our hands are lethal weapons."

Archer thought that one was really funny. "And it's so late," he finally added, wiping tears from his eyes.

"Yes, we're dead on our feet."

"Oh, please, please, don't tell T'Pol. I'll never live it down."

"My lips are sealed, sir."

Archer rose wearily to his feet. "Well, let's drag these ladies into that alley over there. It's darker; they'll go unnoticed."

Mayweather pulled Renee over, and Archer pulled Gloria. They propped the women up against the wall. "It's pretty cold," Mayweather said, concerned, so they spent a few seconds arranging the women's hands in their pockets and pulling up the hoods of their jackets. "We can call the cops when we get back to the shuttle and tell them where they are."

"Good idea," Archer said. "Let's go before someone shows up."

The subway cars were practically empty; it was quite late. They chose a car with a few other people in it, for safety. They rode in silence most of the way, but when they were almost at their destination, Archer spoke. "Thanks for that," he said.

"You're welcome, sir."

"We make a good team. I set 'em up, you take 'em down." The subway shuddered to a halt, and they exited and headed for the bay where the shuttle was docked. "This thing with T'Pol," Archer continued.

"Yes, sir?"

"This thing with Menos. I think it's personal. Not like Gloria and Renee. They had no idea who we were, and they probably wouldn't care if we did. I mean, we're not important in their lives. They're small time, just petty thieves. This Menos is the real deal. If what the Vulcans say about him is true, he's seriously scary. And with him and T'Pol, it's personal."

Mayweather looked at Archer, a question in his eyes.

Archer paused for a second. "T'Pol brought me along because she trusts me, and I trust her. I'm watching her back. I just wanted to let you know that I'm really glad you're watching mine."

"You're the captain," Mayweather said. "I'll follow you wherever you go, and I'll be watching your back."

"I know you will, Travis." Archer reached up and keyed in the shuttle door's code. The door swung up slowly. "I count on it."

*** 5

Mayweather awoke suddenly, all at once. He wasn't sure what had woken him. He lay there, listening hard for a warning beep or T'Pol returning, but he could only hear the white noise of the air cycling in and out and the faint inhalation and exhalation of Archer, who was deeply asleep. They both must have been exhausted. Archer was right: they should have gotten hotel rooms and spent the night.

Mayweather shifted position slightly. He was lying on his side, and he could feel the warmth of Archer behind him. They had unwrapped silvery blankets from the medkits. Mayweather was using a package of sealant gel for a pillow. It squished weirdly, and the thin plastic coating made strange crackling noises against his ear. He shut his eyes deliberately and exhaled as he sought to find sleep again. He needed it. He didn't know how long they'd be down here. He needed to be alert.

He was just starting to drift off when Archer mumbled something, rolled, and put his arm around Mayweather, over the top of the light blanket. Mayweather's eyes flew open and his body stiffened in shock. He quickly relaxed again and tried to regulate his breathing. Archer had surprised him, that was all. He waited a long few seconds, but Archer didn't move.

"Captain?" he whispered at last.

"Hrmm," Archer mumbled.

"Wake up, Captain."

No response.

"Captain Archer." Pause. In desperation: "Jon."


Mayweather's mind raced as he considered options. He could roll out from underneath Archer's arm. That would be the simplest, and smartest, thing to do. Or—or he could turn and face Archer, slide himself under Archer's blanket, and kiss him gently. That would be the incredibly stupid thing to do. That was what he really, really wanted to do.

Despite its stupidity, the scenario pleased him, and he mentally expanded on it. Archer's eyes would open, and he would blink sleepily, and he'd say "Travis." Then he'd move closer, put his hand lightly on Mayweather's neck, and smile—a slow, sweet smile, full of delight and promise. Then he'd say again, "Travis," his voice just a whisper, and he'd lean in the last few centimeters and gently stroke Mayweather's lips with his own, eyes half-closed with sleep, skin flushed and warm. Their lips would play softly, barely touching, as they exchanged light, feathery kisses. Then Archer would pull back and look into his eyes. Mayweather would slide an arm over Archer's waist and hitch a little closer, so they could each feel the hardness of the other, and the next kiss wouldn't be gentle at all. It would be deep and demanding.

Mayweather shifted his head on his gel pillow and tried not to squirm. He put the thought of kissing Archer out of his mind. There was no way he was going to kiss his commanding officer. Hell, his commanding officer was probably straight as an arrow and would never even consider Mayweather. There was age, rank, and sex to consider. Mayweather was probably the wrong thing for all three: too young, too fresh, and, well, too masculine.

Mayweather sighed. He hadn't done the smart thing. He hadn't moved. Now that he was paying attention, he could distinctly feel Archer's groin bare centimeters from his ass. Archer's blanket had half-slid off. Archer's groin was warmer than the rest of his body, and his cock was soft—or at least, not hard. He couldn't feel more than that through the fabric of their uniforms and the single layer of blanket. But it was just a fantasy, right? Mayweather didn't move as his mind flipped ahead. Certainly he was all for kissing; he greatly enjoyed kissing. But, well, it was his fantasy, so he'd skip all that foreplay stuff and go right for the main action. A harmless little sex fantasy. They were in the shuttle, so—

Archer would be sitting in the pilot's chair, nude, cock hard. He'd seen Archer wearing little more than a loincloth when he'd had to perform that Kreetassan ritual, and although Archer had been wearing face paint and had done something strange to his hair, Mayweather had easily been able to extrapolate what Jon Archer would look like nude—or, at the very least, shirtless. The glimpse of Archer in this getup had fueled his fantasies for weeks.

Now, his mind easily filled in Archer's broad chest; his hard, red cock; his lightly tanned white skin; his sexy body hair—all in all, a delightful contrast to Mayweather's dark, smooth, almost hairless skin. Mayweather mentally poised his ass over Archer's greased cock. He'd have to lean forward, up over Archer, to get the angle right. Archer would guide him with his hands, centering the cap of his cock against Mayweather's asshole and rubbing until the head of Archer's cock insinuated itself inside. Then Mayweather would slowly lower himself onto Archer's cock, centimeter by centimeter, until Archer was buried in him, feeling Archer's long cock stretching him. Mayweather would lean back. He'd put his legs over the chair's arms and support himself with his arms on the console behind him, and they'd pause for a second, throbbing together, Mayweather's dick iron-hard between them. Archer would put his hands on Mayweather's ass, hefting him up slightly. Mayweather would push against the console and lift himself up, and Archer would begin thrusting, not much, urging Mayweather to slide up and down. Archer would be incredibly hot, incredibly excited, mouth open as he panted, eyes locked with Mayweather's as they rocked together.

Mayweather, breathing hard, stopped the fantasy there. He'd gone too far. Just a harmless fantasy, sure—harmless if he were in his quarters, jacking off. But Archer was right behind him, and Archer was most emphatically not available. He knew that there was pretty much no way Archer was going to fuck him in the pilot's chair—not right now, not ever. He should set his sights elsewhere, on someone more obtainable. All this lusting after Archer was getting him nowhere, and it was torture to boot. His cock had gotten twisted in his shorts as it had hardened, and he adjusted himself, so the head of his cock was peeking above the band of his briefs. Just this slight movement caused waves of pleasure to rush through his groin. He should have stopped sooner. He was now incredibly hard, and the thought of Archer and himself in that chair—

—Archer gasping as he quickened his thrusts, about ready to come, those extraordinary green eyes locked with his, as Mayweather worked himself up and down, feeling Archer's dick brush again and again against his prostate, until Mayweather ground his ass against Archer's upper thighs, because he was going to come. He couldn't take the slow pleasuring any longer. Archer pulled him down hard as his hips thrust up, and then Archer gasped, "Travis," and Mayweather watched him come.

Mayweather's eyes flew open. Too much. Too much. Just the thought of Archer and what he would look like when he came was enough to make any red-blooded man cream. Mayweather tried hard to keep his body relaxed. He was right on the edge, panting silently. He felt stretched tight. His cock had never felt so big, so hard. The smart thing to do would be to slide out from under Archer's arm and jack off in the bathroom. But Archer felt wonderful next to him, his hand cupped loosely on Mayweather's stomach, his breath warm against the nape of his neck and ear, the length of his lean, strong body lightly pressed against Mayweather's. Mayweather didn't dare move, or Archer would awaken and the sweet torture would end. He would probably never get another chance to sleep in Archer's arms. He shut his eyes for a long moment as a pulse of pleasure went through him that left him breathless, and he gasped in a breath. The slight sound must have disturbed Archer.

"Hrmm," he said, and then, quite clearly, "Porthos?"

Mayweather looked across the floor at the bases of the pilots' seats, trying to relax. Archer settled back down. Mayweather clenched his ass as his cock seemed to grow larger. He put his hand on his cock, over his uniform, and pressed hard at the base, fighting for control. Archer shifted even closer, pressing his soft cock against Mayweather's ass, and Mayweather shut his eyes in pleasurable agony. Then Archer's hand wandered down and stroked the head of Mayweather's straining erection, then slid down a little further and stopped. Archer huffed a sigh, his body inert and deeply asleep. His hand, atop the silvery blanket, was right on top of Mayweather's hand underneath the blanket—the hand on his dick.

Mayweather couldn't take it anymore. The slight extra pressure was driving him insane. Archer was near, and his presence, his scent, his warmth, were overloading Mayweather's senses. As if of its own accord, his hand stroked down and up, Archer's hand perforce following, a tiny motion that brought pleasure all out of proportion to the size of the movement, and then he did it again, because that was all it was going to take to make him come.

He said, "Ah," a tiny sigh, as he exploded, a warm gout of come splashing against his stomach, and the door opened and T'Pol came in. Archer woke up immediately, a result of the cold air coupled with the sound. Archer turned his body toward the door, his hand sliding away, and Mayweather bent his legs and rolled partially onto his stomach, the silver blanket and the fact that he was moving concealing his hand as he frantically rubbed his cock and climaxed. He couldn't help moaning at the exquisite pleasure. He came hard, his balls emptying and his cock sending out jet after jet of warm come. His cock throbbed in his hand. He didn't dare rub it more than a second or two, so he squeezed it as it continued to pulse strongly. He came up to a half-sitting position, weight on his right hand, his back to T'Pol and Archer as they greeted each other.

"I'm awake," he said a few seconds later. He was almost done, but it was hard to speak. "Just give me a second to wake up."

"No hurry, Travis. Take your time," the captain said, and Mayweather was aware of him sitting up and addressing a question to T'Pol.

He forcibly repressed the panting as he faked waking up slowly. He knelt and wiped his face with his hands. He hoped that the signs of his coming—dilated eyes, a sheen of sweat, that tiny moan—would be mistaken for the grogginess that accompanied suddenly awakening from a deep sleep. He was barely aware of T'Pol and Archer's exchanges as he fought for control. Luckily, they weren't paying attention to him. He couldn't believe how dumb he'd been. He wondered if there was some Starfleet regulation about having an orgasm in front of your superior officers. Probably not, because it was so patently stupid that nobody in his right mind would do it.

"Ensign, can you get the door?" Archer asked, and Mayweather snapped around.

"Yes, sir," Mayweather said. He kept the blanket around his shoulders as he stood up and shut the door, which for some reason T'Pol hadn't closed behind her, despite the freezing air. He hadn't quite found his legs, so he staggered slightly. "Wow, I really fell asleep," he said. At least it had been bright outside and dark inside the shuttle—even Vulcans' eyes couldn't adjust that quickly, he hoped. The dark had probably been impenetrable to her for a few seconds. Archer raised the lights, and Mayweather grabbed his overnight bag. "Excuse me," he said, and without waiting for a response, he locked himself in the bathroom.

Sealed inside the tiny lavatory, its loud ventilation fan on, he dropped onto the lid of the closed toilet and put his head in his hands. He was shaking. He let himself pant as he brought himself under control. After incendiary orgasms, he preferred to cuddle—not to go about business as though nothing had happened. When Archer had put his arm around him, he should have slid out and moved away. Should have. Should have. "Stupid. Stupid. Stupid," he muttered. "Damn it." He was pretty sure that neither T'Pol nor Archer had noticed anything other than grogginess, but it was impossible to say with T'Pol. He was struck anew with horror when he remembered her keen sense of smell. She could probably smell pheromones, sweat, sexual excitement, and come. "Damn it," he repeated in despair. He valued his commission. Why was he being so incredibly stupid?

He had to face it. His feelings for Archer were absolutely out of control and absolutely inappropriate. He kept telling himself they were just fantasies, harmless, but on top of his lust for Archer's body was the very real fact that he actually *liked* the man. It was a terrible combination: like, lust, respect. It could so easily turn into love. He needed only the slightest encouragement. And meanwhile, he was deliberately turning down overtures of intimacy from others—people who would be more suitable to date. He was wasting his time mooning after Archer, and he knew it.

He stood up, unzipped his uniform, pulled it all the way off, and stripped off his underclothes. His come glistened in white globules on his skin, and it was everywhere: on his stomach, matted in his pubic hair, trickling down one of his legs. Luckily, not too much had leaked onto the inside of his uniform. He urinated, then wet a cloth and systematically began wiping himself off. There was no shower aboard the shuttle or he would have jumped in. He cleaned himself thoroughly, running the cloth through the water again and again. He used some scented soap he found in one of the cubbyholes in the lavatory, hoping it would foil T'Pol's nose, and rinsed. He looked at himself in the mirror when his clean underwear was on and pointed at himself. "Never again," he said aloud, firmly. "And next time someone asks you out on a date, you say yes." He didn't have to get over Archer, because there was nothing to get over. But he did have to begin engaging with the people around him more. He did have to allow for the possibility of intimacy with others.

He exited quietly, come-covered underwear sealed in a plastic bag tucked in his duffle. T'Pol and Archer ignored him as they sat in the pilots' seats and strategized. Mayweather experienced a pang, seeing Archer in a pilot's seat—a remnant of his fantasy. He flashed briefly to a nude Archer with a nude T'Pol riding him in that same chair, Archer's hands caressing T'Pol's ass as he chewed on a nipple and she threw her head back in ecstasy. No doubt that was Archer's fantasy.

He puttered around the shuttle. He returned the blankets neatly to the medkit and cleaned up. He heated some instant meals. T'Pol and Archer broke when Mayweather said, "Soup's on," and they all sat in a circle on the floor to eat. They didn't have any breakfast food, so they ate dinner instead.

"So you found him—the guy you were looking for? Menos?" Mayweather asked, poking at his pork chop.

"Yes," T'Pol said. "There's a commercial port nearby. His shuttle is docked there. There's a recreational facility for the port's patrons, and he regularly visits one of the bars, presumably to conduct business. We'll go there next. I'd prefer he be there before us. I suggest we arrive at about 2000 hours."

Mayweather nodded. "Do you want me to come too, or is it just you and the captain? I can drive the getaway car if you need me to."

T'Pol considered. "Your presence is required," she decided. "I may need assistance apprehending him. During our training sessions with the colonists fighting the Klingon marauders, I was impressed by your speed and hand-eye coordination. Your expertise would be most welcome." Before Mayweather could think of how to respond to this compliment, she went on, "Ensign, are you feeling all right?"

"Me?" Mayweather said desperately. "Yes, I'm fine, Subcommander. Why?"

T'Pol's nostrils flared the tiniest bit, and Mayweather tried not to panic. The soap probably hadn't covered up the smell. "You seem…agitated," T'Pol said.

"You seem all right to me, Travis," Archer put in, waving his fork at the ensign. "It's me who's agitated."

If he only knew. "Well, I'm a little nervous about our mission, sir," Travis told T'Pol, improvising. "I've never done a search and seize before. Piloting is really more my line. You know."

"Getaway car," said T'Pol.


"I take it you allude to mobster films."


"Very clever." T'Pol wasn't smiling. Then again, T'Pol rarely smiled. Her nostrils flared again, and Mayweather sank back and focused on his food.

*** 6

The shuttle trip to Menos' haunt was uneventful. Archer sat next to Mayweather on the trip over, with T'Pol relegated to the back. Mayweather couldn't help but smile to himself when he sat in the pilot's seat—his little fantasy, embarrassing as it was, shed new light on the shuttlepod. Archer chatted with Mayweather, tossing back a comment every now and then to T'Pol. Once, he leaned in front of Mayweather with a muttered "Excuse me a second, Travis," arm outstretched, and hit a button, thigh pressed against Mayweather's arm. Mayweather smiled at the captain as he sat back down, then, a second later, distracted by a readout, altered the heading slightly. When he looked back up, Archer was engrossed in readouts.

Mayweather's hands were calm, precise, and professional as he piloted, but inside, he felt turmoil. He hadn't seen any evidence at all that the captain longed for T'Pol. Rather, he'd seen only evidence of comradeship and mutual respect—and it wasn't only T'Pol who Archer felt that for. He was pretty sure Archer felt it for Mayweather, too. That was all right, as far as it went. But he still had no idea whether the captain would consider dating another man. It was a crucial unknown.

The experience of the near-mugging had bonded them: they had a secret together now, small and insignificant as it was. What comprised relationships? Mayweather thought it was a series of shared experiences, coupled with liking or affection. An ensign didn't usually get to interact much with the higher ranks, but Mayweather was assigned to the bridge. He worked with Archer every day. If he wanted to catch Archer's attention, he needed to build shared experiences—they needed more adventures like the one they'd just had together. But Archer was building shared experiences with T'Pol, not Mayweather. Mayweather hardly ever got to go on away missions, for instance. Archer saw T'Pol all the time.

Mayweather watched his hands as they manipulated the console. He flattened one hand and pressed it against the console's flat plastic surface. After a second, the console beeped in protest, and he released it. The problem was, he wanted to run those hands through Archer's hair, against Archer's skin. He wanted his captain. The pull was visceral: it was deep inside his stomach. It was deep inside his heart. He looked over at Archer's profile, and his heart constricted. He wanted. He wanted Archer like he had never wanted anybody, or anything, in his life.

And Archer was completely unobtainable. He sat in the captain's chair. He was nice. He was friendly. He touched Mayweather when they talked—on the shoulder, on the arm. He called Mayweather "Travis." He sat on Mayweather's bed and watched him pack, and he talked to Mayweather as though Mayweather were a person. The breakfast they had shared had been Mayweather's chance to stand out, and he'd done his best. He'd tried to interact with the captain as the captain tried to interact with him: as a person. But he knew that Archer's breakfasts were a way to build loyalty and connection. They were a means to the captain's end. Archer had an agenda. Mayweather just didn't know exactly what it was. And Mayweather was on that agenda, because he served under Archer. It was nothing personal. There was nothing personal between them at all. They were colleagues, and Mayweather was decidedly the junior colleague: far lower in rank, far younger in years.

Mayweather imagined so much. This morning, he had imagined making love with the captain in a pilot's chair—and that fantasy was one of his tamer ones. He didn't know where that imagination was taking him. He worried that he was becoming obsessive, dreaming about Archer, what he'd like to do to Archer, should Archer return his feelings. He focused on Archer's face, distorted and reflected in the glass in front of him, then turned and looked at the real thing, flesh and blood, sitting next to him.

"Everything all right, Ensign?"

Mayweather blinked. "Oh, sorry, sir," he said. "No, just—just distracted, I guess." He turned his attention back to the console, and after a second, Archer returned to his task too. Mayweather's heart thudded in his chest.

It was all simply wrong. He needed to be able to smile and say hello without the rush of feeling spreading through him. He needed to be disinterested—more like T'Pol. He needed to be open to other possibilities. Certainly there were other men and women he admired on board *Enterprise*, and some of them had made overtures. When he'd been sitting in the lavatory, he'd promised himself that he would say yes to the next person who asked him out on a date. Now, his heart full, his body reacting to Archer's nearness, he knew he couldn't live like this. He wasn't being fair to himself. He would wait forever, shutting himself off. He had to move on. He had to find someone else, because finding someone else would help. Maybe then, he would see—see how little he and Archer really had in common, see how much it was only physical attraction, see flaws that he couldn't see right now because he was blinded by lust.

"There it is," Archer said.

Mayweather looped the shuttle around. Their destination was just a few hundred kilometers away. He contacted Control and got permission to land. He heard T'Pol making ready in the back. Next to him, he felt Archer tense, but this was belied by Archer's easy banter as Mayweather descended.

"Our destination is just north of here," T'Pol reported as Archer zipped up and Mayweather powered the shuttle down.

"You ready, Travis?" Archer flipped his hood up and pulled on gloves.

"Just about, sir." Mayweather slid out of the pilot's chair and followed suit. He stood next to Archer, who was tall and strong and handsome next to him. He would say yes to whoever asked him out next. It didn't matter who it was. He would say yes. Because it was better than standing here, and wanting, and not being able to have. But the pleasure of the smile, the pleasure of the touch—they were reward enough. For now.

"Set phasers on stun." T'Pol's voice was clipped. She seemed distracted. "Let's go."

Mayweather was the last one out. He locked the shuttle door behind them, then hurried to catch up. Their destination was an easy five minutes' walk in the biting cold. It looked like it was going to storm, or snow: the clouds were low and dark.

"I can count on you to watch my back, right, Travis?" Archer asked as they approached their destination, T'Pol moving purposefully a few steps ahead of them. He put out an arm and gave Mayweather a manly, comradely hug.

"Yes, sir," Mayweather said, smiling at his captain.

"Good." Archer clapped him on the shoulder twice, released him, and strode up to meet T'Pol. T'Pol opened the bar's door, going to meet her fate, to meet Menos. Mayweather followed Archer in.

He would follow Archer anywhere.

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

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