Title: Eight Days

Author: Kylie Lee

E-mail: kylielee1000@hotmail.com

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

Date: 04/20/03

Length: ~7800 words

Fandom: Star Trek: Enterprise

Pairing: Archer/Mayweather

Type: Slash M/M

Rating: PG-13

Status: Complete

Summary: While riding out the neutronic wave front during "The Catwalk," Archer wonders who Mayweather's type is.

Feedback: Yes

Series: Wanting

Previous story: Say the Word [not slash, so not archived on this site]

Next story: Privileges of Rank

Archive: Permission granted to archive at EntSTSlash, Tim Ruben, Archer's Enterprise, Allslash, Complete Kingdom of Slash, BLTS, and Enterprising Endeavors

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: Original material copyright 2003 Kylie Lee. This is not an attempt to infringe on Paramount's copyright. No money was made.

Spoilers: Fusion, Minefield, Night in Sickbay, Communicator, Catwalk, Horizon (I guess that would be foreshadowing)

Warnings: None

Beta: The Grrrl, Sarah, rockin' as usual in their beta-y goodness

Comment: This fic is set during the action of "The Catwalk." The fic just before this one, "Say the Word," is, strangely, not slash, so it wasn't posted to slash lists. Therefore, you may have missed it. All my series fics stand alone.

*** DAY 1


Archer turned and looked down at the alien face. "Rellis Tagrim, right?" he asked, squatting down and steadying himself with a hand on the railing.

The alien looked gratified. "Yes, Captain, that's right," he said.

"Can I do something for you?"

Tagrim waved an arm to indicate the space he and his two colleagues had staked out. "Would it be all right if we hung some sheeting up to create some privacy?" he asked. "We feel a little—exposed."

"I'll put Commander Tucker right on it," Archer said.

"Thank you," Tagrim said, looking relieved.

"You're welcome."

The alien didn't seem inclined to chat, so Archer stood up and surveyed the catwalk that ran the length of the nacelle. All eighty-odd of the crew, plus the three aliens, were there. To say it was crowded was an understatement. They had to ride out a neutronic wave front in this claustrophobic space. The aliens had warned them about it, and Archer was glad they had. As a result, they had a few hours' head start, so they were able to plan and lay in supplies. Humans couldn't survive the radiolytic isotopes the wave front emitted. The catwalk was the only area shielded well enough to protect them. Eight days—that was how long they'd be inside, steering *Enterprise* through the eddies, keeping everyone safe. A jury-rigged command center was the new Bridge, and Travis Mayweather, Lieutenant Rostov, and Ensign Tanner were taking turns piloting the ship.

"Trip," he said to himself, and he went to find Trip Tucker to ask him to find something to wall off the aliens with. He figured Tucker was working, but he headed for Tucker's designated area, which he shared with Malcolm Reed, Mayweather, and a few people from Engineering. To his surprise, Tucker was there, laughing with Reed and Hoshi Sato.

Archer's eyes went to Reed and stayed there. The dark-haired armory officer was unaware of Archer's gaze. His smile lit up his whole face. Archer rarely got to see Reed this open, this relaxed. And only recently had Archer been able to look at Reed without his guts constricting. He had first become aware of his feelings for Reed when Reed had been pinned against the hull of *Enterprise* by a mine. He had understood then that losing Reed would be like losing an arm or a leg. He'd gone to Reed and told him how he felt, and he'd been rebuffed. He probably could have handled that, except during an away mission gone horribly wrong, he and Reed had made love while awaiting their execution. Every moment of that experience was branded into his soul, the result of the emotional intensity and of his feelings of desire, love, despair, and fear. Reed had responded to him. Reed had wanted him as much as he had wanted Reed. It hadn't been enough. Again Archer had gone to Reed, and again Reed had rejected him.

That had been a little more than a month ago. Now he could talk to Reed without his heart racing. He had always been able to behave professionally, but now, his emotions were starting to match his demeanor. It would be all right. He was getting over it—made easier by the fact that they had never had a real relationship. They'd had a few hours together in a cell, nothing more. The ultrapoliteness that had characterized their relationship for the first few weeks had loosened into their normal interaction. Reed had stopped withdrawing when Archer got too close.

"Cap'n," Tucker called, spotting him and waving him over. "We got a problem with one of the lavatories."

"I'm sure you can fix it," Archer said hastily, before his chief engineer could put him on repair duty. "I was looking for you. The aliens would like something to wall their area off with—a tarp or blankets or something. Can you take care of it?"

"No problem," Tucker said.

"Thanks, Trip," Archer said, and turned, only to bump into Sato.

"Is everything all right, Captain?" she asked, waving aside his apology.

"Yes, of course," Archer said, surprised.

"It's just that—you were watching us, and I thought you looked upset." Archer shrugged. He hadn't realized his face was so transparent, but Sato was a trained linguist. She could read body language just as well as she could listen to words. He couldn't very well admit he was feeling regret about Malcolm Reed, so he said instead, "I'm just concerned about everybody's safety. But we're in good hands. Ensign Mayweather can get us out of here."

Sato nodded. "He's the best," she said simply.

"Speaking of which, how did your date go?" Archer asked. "That was what, two, three weeks ago?"

To his surprise, Sato flushed. "How do you know about that?" she asked.

"Everybody knows about it."

"Commander Tucker." Sato's voice was accusing.

"Well, yes."

"We thought we would try dating, but we figured out that we're just friends," Sato said firmly. "Travis will make some other lucky girl a great boyfriend. Not me, though."

Archer briefly contemplated Mayweather with Sato. It seemed unlikely. But so did Mayweather with Carlsen, or Mayweather with Kelly, or anybody else he knew Mayweather was friendly with. Maybe Lieutenant Hess, he thought; she was kind of wild. "Who's Travis's type?" he wondered aloud.

"I don't really know," Sato said.

"Somebody who likes rock-climbing, I'll bet," Archer said. "Someone who doesn't get sick in zero g."

Sato considered for only a second. "Someone with the patience of Job to put up with all his practical jokes."

"Absolutely. And a background in higher mathematics, so he can have technical conversations about course vectors and gravity wells."

"Oh, don't forget piloting skills. That goes with the course vectors." Sato blinked. "Wait. We've just described Subcommander T'Pol."

"Does T'Pol like rock-climbing? I didn't know that."

"Well, okay, everything else—although I wouldn't put the rock-climbing past her. Except I asked him about the subcommander once and he said he's not interested. Besides, Travis absolutely needs someone with a good sense of humor. No, make that a *great* sense of humor. Subcommander T'Pol doesn't have a sense of humor."

"I don't know about that," Archer said. "She has a finely developed sense of irony. It's kind of like a sense of humor."

Sato sighed. "All he has to do is express a little interest, and he could have any woman on the ship he wanted. Travis is awfully good-looking."

Archer cocked his head and smiled. He'd noticed that about the Boomer some time ago. How disinterested was Sato, anyway? And he wasn't sure he'd trust what Mayweather said about T'Pol. Mayweather was probably being politic. T'Pol was beautiful and aloof. It was an intriguing combination. Certainly Archer found it so. "But he hasn't expressed interest in anybody?" he asked.

"Not to my knowledge, no," Sato said.

"Captain!" a crew member called, and Archer automatically turned toward the voice.

"I'll let you get back to it," Sato said quickly. Then she was gone.

Archer smiled at the crewman who had addressed him, and he promptly forgot all about Mayweather.

*** DAY 2

"'Captain!' the first officer yelled, but there was no answer. The com was down."

Archer looked at the rapt faces around him, hanging onto Mayweather's every word. No doubt about it, the man could spin a story.

"My mom wouldn't let me or Paul go after him. She grabbed a cylinder of oh-two and a breathing mask, and she let herself down. We could hear the clanking of the cylinder as it hit the metal ladder, and it got quieter and quieter, until we couldn't hear anything at all. We all just sat there, absolutely silent. The ship was pitching. Then we heard another noise: dragging. I had to hold Paul back—there wasn't enough room in the crawlspaces, and we were in a crisis situation. Dad had keeled over because of a buildup of gas. But my mom found him in time. She put the mask on my dad, then vented the gas. He wouldn't wake up, so she dragged him. She crawled backward through the crawlspaces, pulling him along. We had to tie a rope around him and haul him up so my mom could scan him with the medical unit."

"Was he okay?" someone asked breathlessly.

"He was okay," Mayweather confirmed, and there was a general murmur of relief.

"How did you do it?" Tucker called. He was crouching right next to Archer. "How long were you sealed in there again?"

"We were in there for six weeks. We lost gravity plating and life support. It was a class three neutronic wave front. And we did it because we had to. Just like us."

"Eight days doesn't seem so bad," Tucker murmured to Archer. "At least nothing horrible has happened, like the engines acting up or something."

"We'd better hope the injectors stay offline," Archer joked. "You know how hot it can get in here."

"Don't remind me," Tucker shuddered. "People are complaining that there are no showers. If that's the most they're upset about, I guess that's good."

Mayweather was continuing the story—he was getting to the part about the gravity plating going offline—and Archer and Tucker drifted away. "I'm glad he's entertaining everyone," Archer said. "Has he pulled any practical jokes?"

"No," Tucker said. "He told me he'd be good for the eight days, and I'm holding him to it."

"It might be good for morale," Archer said.

"Don't go there," Tucker advised. "Oh, that's right. You weren't there for the payback for the Swiss cheese incident."

"And you weren't there when I stopped him from perpetuating the worst indignity imaginable on my chief engineer and my science officer," Archer said darkly.

"No, really?" Tucker said.


"What was it?"

"Look, just trust me. And thank me."

Tucker laughed. "Thanks, Cap'n."

"You're welcome." They had reached the end of the catwalk, so Archer turned around and surveyed it. The aliens were in their little walled-off area, chanting quietly. There was a group gathered around Mayweather and several small knots of people scattered here and there. Some people were asleep; others were reading or playing cards. "Ensign Mayweather seems to be underfoot a lot," Archer said thoughtfully. "I keep running into him."

"You keep running into everyone," Tucker pointed out. "All of us are here. I've never seen so much of Lieutenant Baker, for example. Baker is damn near everywhere." He waved and smiled, and Archer laughed as Baker, who was wandering down the middle of the catwalk, looked surprised and waved back shyly. "See? Plus, Travis is on the Bridge a lot because he spends a lot of time piloting the ship, and you're on the Bridge a lot because you're the captain. So naturally you'd run into him."

"What do you think of Travis?"

"What, besides the practical joke thing?"

"Besides that."

Tucker considered. "He's smart, and he's a natural-born pilot. It's like he flies partly by instruments and partly by instinct. But I don't see instinct like that much. We're lucky to have him."

"I think so too."

Their conversation wandered to other topics, but Archer's mind kept returning to Mayweather. Tucker's assessment was right on, but it was articulated in terms of Mayweather's job. What about Mayweather as a person? Archer realized he was curious.

He decided to schedule another breakfast with the helmsman, once they were out of the storm.

*** DAY 3

"Cap'n! Come on," Tucker called. He scooted over closer to Mayweather. "We can deal you in the next hand." He patted the empty spot next to him invitingly.

"I don't have anything to bet," Archer said, leaning on the catwalk's railing and peering over Sato's shoulder at her cards. It looked like everyone was playing for ration packs.

"I think we can arrange something," Reed said. "Everyone?" He slid a pack over to the empty spot, and everyone followed suit.

"Thanks," Archer said, pleased. He swung down and sat between Reed and Tucker. His leg pressed against Reed's, and he shifted quickly so they were no longer touching.

"No worries, sir. We'll get them back in no time," Reed predicted.

Archer laughed. "What's the game?"

"Dealer's choice. Right now, five-card stud." Mayweather indicated it was Sato's turn with a lift of his chin, and Sato folded. Archer wasn't surprised. Her hand had been terrible. "We're just about done with this round."

Reed won with a pair of eights, and Tucker gathered all the cards up and began shuffling. Tucker had just begun a story about a game that he and Archer had once played on Jupiter Station when a sultry voice cut in.

"Hey, everyone. Captain," it said, and Archer looked up and saw Lieutenant Fremont. There was a general chorus of hellos, and Tucker politely offered to cut her into the game. "No, thanks," she said. "I just came to ask, Travis, if you were going to tell another story tonight."

"I'm on second shift," Mayweather said, his voice unencouraging, but he looked open and friendly. "So nope, not tonight."

"Oh, too bad," Fremont said. "You really know how to hold the audience in the palm of your hand."

Tucker strangled a laugh, and Archer patted him on the back when Tucker managed to turn it into a cough. He missed the next few exchanges.

"Okay, Travis," Sato hissed when Fremont had ambled off. "You can't get more obvious than that. Go on." She made a shooing motion at him. "Don't worry, I'll keep your cobbler and shortcake safe."

Mayweather covered them protectively with an arm. "I don't think so," he said. "Nice try, Hoshi. Nice try."

"She likes you," Reed put in. "Go on, she's one of the eligible few."

Mayweather shook his head. "Nah, she's not my type."

"Travis, you play it so close to the vest," Sato said. "Come on. Who is your type? There must be someone on board."

Mayweather began putting his rations into a soldierly line. "Who's my type? I guess I like something striking. Like—like green eyes. I never saw anyone with green eyes until I came to Starfleet. Well, not anybody human, anyway."

"The captain here has green eyes," Tucker said.

Archer was suddenly the object of everyone's gaze.

"Huh," Mayweather said. "I guess he does." He smiled.

"It runs in my family," Archer said, embarrassed.

"Brown eyes run in mine," Mayweather said.

"Mine too," Sato volunteered. "What color are your eyes, Commander?"

Tucker blinked. "Kind of blue," he said. "It says blue on all my paperwork."

Sato turned and looked at Reed. "What about yours?"

"Gray," Reed said succinctly.

"More blue-gray." Mayweather's voice was decisive, and Reed looked at Mayweather for a long second.

Tucker said, "Is blue-gray a color?"

"It says gray on all my paperwork," Reed said, and Tucker laughed.

"So you like unusual, Travis," Archer said, trying to turn the conversation. "Did you ever date anyone with green eyes?"

"No, but once I dated a girl with yellow eyes," Mayweather said. "They were kind of amber. Like a cat."

"And she was human?" Sato asked.

"Yep. But I don't know. Now that I think about, green is nice. So the next person I date will have to have green eyes. Just like the captain's here." Mayweather held Archer's eyes, then winked at him, his smile indicating he was teasing Archer. Archer felt Reed move next to him.

"Don't get too picky," Sato advised. "Hardly anyone has green eyes."

"That's the point. Unusual, remember?"

"The game is five-card draw," Tucker said, beginning the deal. "Ante up, ladies and gentlemen."

Archer spread his cards, then sneaked a look at Mayweather. He'd seen the Boomer tweak others, but he hardly ever tweaked Archer. He watched Mayweather choose a food packet and toss it into the pot, and it struck him that Mayweather had very nice brown eyes—very nice indeed.

*** DAY 4

"Captain?" Rostov turned and looked at him, amused.

Archer held up his boots. "T'Pol's sensitive ears," he said. "I'm trying to be quiet."

"You're very considerate, sir."

"Damn right. I'm going to bed. Wake me up if something happens."

"Aye, sir."

Archer slipped into his and T'Pol's room as quietly as he could. She preferred that he wasn't there when she meditated, so he had taken to waiting until she went in, then going in about an hour later. Usually, by then she was curled up and asleep. Like everyone else, they wore their uniforms to bed. Porthos was asleep on his cushion at the foot of the bed. Neither Porthos nor T'Pol stirred as he pulled back the blanket and slid in.

Archer stared up at the ceiling, fingers interlaced over his stomach, and breathed as quietly as he could. He'd done a quick sweep right before he'd turned in, walking the length of the catwalk and back. Everyone was bedded down, talking drowsily or asleep, except for the four members of the security team who were on duty at all times and the skeleton crew manning the makeshift Bridge. Although *Enterprise* was staffed on a shift rotation, because of the close quarters, Archer had decreed that everybody be on the same schedule. People were still adjusting, but the early birds and night owls seemed to be getting along. Everybody was determined to remain in good humor.

Two meters away from him, T'Pol sighed softly in her sleep. Archer heard movement as she shifted position. T'Pol's breathing slowed as she once again settled into deep sleep. She seemed so human, Archer mused, looking over at her. The half-light slanting through the open doorway gave him enough illumination to see her hand flung out. Archer's eyes moved up her arm to the curve of her jaw. She was beautiful. He forgot sometimes that she wasn't human, that she wasn't conditioned to respond the way a human would. Archer understood that Vulcans felt emotion but repressed it, perhaps a result of the feelings' overriding strength. To see a Vulcan lose control—it must be scary. Archer had never seen it happen, although there were whispers about it among humans at Starfleet, particularly those who worked closely with Vulcans, as Archer's father had. The Vulcans who had come on board *Enterprise*, the ones experimenting with emotion and with mind melds, were the most human of all Vulcans he had met, but rather than liking them, as Tucker had, Archer distrusted them. It was wrong, somehow, for a Vulcan to feel. It was wrong and selfish, not brave or pioneering, for someone to throw away the basis of an entire civilization.

Just as it was wrong for him to feel as he did about T'Pol. T'Pol, beautiful but absolutely unobtainable, was a safe object of desire for all the men on board ship. He could lust from afar, knowing she would never, ever bridge the gap between them, knowing that he never would because he knew what the reaction would be. But the fantasies—T'Pol losing control, T'Pol smiling, T'Pol kissing. They were all about T'Pol being accessible when she was not.

Archer sighed. When he'd spent the night in Sickbay, that horrible night when Porthos had been so sick, he'd dreamed of T'Pol. He had dreamed that her fingers brushed his, that she slanted a look at him—that she desired him. It was easy to see why he'd had that dream. Malcolm Reed had just rejected him. Today, here, in the catwalk, he was sharing quarters with her, and in the dark, it was easy to admit how much he thought of her. She was beautiful, smart, and loyal. She was also cold, dispassionate, and disinterested. She wasn't human. That was hard to remember sometimes. She simply wasn't human.

He tried to imagine touching her—maybe he could stroke that soft place just under her jaw, then lean over and kiss it. He tried to go with it but couldn't. His dreams about T'Pol were sometimes teasing, as the dream he'd had in Sickbay had been. And sometimes, they were overtly erotic; he'd wake up throbbing. But when he tried to imagine, the brick wall of reality slammed into him. She was simply unobtainable.

And so, he had to admit, was Malcolm Reed. But he had no problems fantasizing about Reed, because Reed had once been obtainable. Reed's mouth had been on him. Reed had been inside him. Reed had said his name when he came. For a while, after Reed had said no the second time, Archer would wake up and his chest would feel tight; his heart would hurt. He'd never had a rejection hurt so much. He didn't know why. He and Reed had never really had a relationship. He just—he just wanted. He didn't know what. Maybe touch, love, a relationship. Maybe he was just lonely, out here in space, his entire circle of friends and family light-years away. And he was the captain. He didn't get to be Jon anymore.

Porthos lifted his head suddenly, as if hearing a noise, and snuffled. He lurched to his feet, walked up Archer's body, and licked him on the face. His breath smelled terrible.

"Good dog," Archer said. "Come here." He settled the beagle into the crook of his arm and rubbed his cheek against Porthos's silky head. "That's right. Go back to sleep."

Porthos obediently put his head down. Archer felt the warmth of another living being against him and was glad for it. It wasn't Reed in his bed, but his body was slowly becoming aware that that was never going to happen again. It didn't stop the wanting, but it made it more tolerable.

"Good dog," he whispered, turning his head away. His eyes met T'Pol's. They looked at each other for a long few moments. "Go to sleep, Porthos," he said, and he shut his eyes.

He could the weight of her eyes on him, could feel her alertness. He kept his eyes closed and deliberately slowed his breathing. He wondered, just for a second, just before he started drifting, whether she watched him sleep the way he watched her sleep. He thought he knew the answer.

*** DAY 5


"Ensign," Archer responded automatically, scanning the room for the padd with the water polo game he wanted to finish watching. He'd misplaced it. Then he took another look. "Travis, are you all right?" The Boomer looked exhausted, and his dark skin had an ashen cast.

"I'm pulling a double," Mayweather said. "Ensign Tanner got motion sickness really bad and had to be sedated. I'm fine, sir; my double is almost over."

"Let me get Lieutenant Rostov."

"Sir, really. He's relieving me any minute."

"Well, have you eaten?"

Mayweather gestured to an empty white food box. "Yes, Chef came in and gave me some pot roast."

"Captain. Ensign," a voice behind them said, and Archer turned. It was Rostov. "I'm here to relieve you, Travis," Rostov continued. "Are you okay? You look kind of tired."

"I'm fine." Mayweather stood up so Rostov could take his seat. "You're early. How's Tanner?"

"You don't want to know."

"That bad?" Mayweather wiped his face with his hands.

"Pretty much. Doctor Phlox is on it, though, so don't worry." Rostov seated himself in the vacant chair. "And if you were thinking about getting some sleep, good luck. Liz Cutler organized a sing-along. Everybody's singing campfire songs."

Mayweather brightened. "I know some really good Boomer ones," he said.

Archer shook his head. "I don't think so, Travis," he said. He wanted his best pilot to be fully rested. "You're exhausted. You'd better take my bed. It'll at least be quiet."

"No, really, sir, I can sleep through anything."

"Not this," Rostov tossed over a shoulder. "And I should tell you right now that although I think Denise Kelly is the one of the loveliest women on board ship, she cannot sing a note. She cannot sing a note, but she is very loud. And she's not the only one."

Archer paused and listened. Yes, he could hear a faint rumble. He assumed it was singing. "Good god," he said. "Is that—is that 'Kumbaya'?"

"That's why I'm early," Rostov said. He adjusted attitude control. "Ensign, take the captain up on his offer."

"Come on, Ensign," Archer said before Mayweather could demur again. "I'll tuck you in." He put an arm across Mayweather's shoulders as they headed for his makeshift quarters. "T'Pol's bunk is right next to mine, but she's very quiet," he said. "She's off doing something right now, so she's not around anyway."

"Thanks a lot, sir," Mayweather said, giving in. "If you need your bed back, just wake me up and send me back out."

"Will do." Archer patted Mayweather on the shoulder. "Here we are. I said I'd tuck you in." He followed Mayweather into the room and was relieved to see that the area was at least fairly tidy. Porthos was nowhere to be seen. He was probably following Chef around again. Even if everyone else was sick of pot roast, Porthos loved it.

"That's not necessary, sir," Mayweather said, drawing back the covers and sitting on the pallet. He took off his boots, grabbed the pillow, and squished it. "No teddy bear?"

"No, sorry, I left mine in my quarters. But I can send Porthos in if you want."

"No, sir, I'm fine. Thanks, though." Mayweather sighed. "Good night, sir."

"Good night, Travis."

Archer lowered the lights and headed out to join the sing-along. Six hours later, he stuck his head back into the small area. The sing-along was long over, T'Pol was still analyzing wave front data, and Archer was bushed. It was time to send Mayweather back to his own bed. The lights were out, but plenty of light spilled into the area from the makeshift hallway. Mayweather had taken advantage of the relative privacy of the room by taking off his uniform. It was folded neatly next to Porthos' cushion. He was wearing the familiar blue skivvies, and he had the light covers pulled up to his waist. His back was to Archer, his breathing deep and regular.

Archer felt a pang of guilt. The man was exhausted. But then again, so was he—and Mayweather was in his bed. He paused for a moment and let his eyes adjust to the dim light. Regretfully, he knelt down and gently shook Mayweather's shoulder. The ensign was deeply asleep. Archer had noticed when they were on the away mission with T'Pol that Mayweather slept like the dead—or the innocent.

"Travis," Archer said softly. "Travis, wake up."

"Mmm," Mayweather said, rolling onto his back. His eyes opened blearily. "Oh. Jon. What time is it?"

Archer blinked at Mayweather's use of his first name. "It's time for you to get back to your own bed," he said.

"Okay," Mayweather said, making no move to get up, and to Archer's shocked surprise, he cupped his hand around Archer's neck. His skin was warm with sleep. His thumb brushed against Archer's jaw. "You smell good," he whispered, just as his eyes shut. His hand dropped to his side as his body once again became still.

Archer, frozen, knelt by Mayweather for what seemed like a long time. He looked down at Mayweather, peacefully asleep in Archer's makeshift bed, head resting against the pillow a crewman had taken from Archer's quarters and bundled up with some other personal items. *You smell good.* Mayweather must have inhaled Archer's scent on the pillow. And what had Mayweather said during the poker game? He liked green eyes? Well, Archer had green eyes. Was Mayweather trying to tell him something? Sato was right. Mayweather played it too close to the vest. Archer had no idea whether Mayweather liked men or not. He talked about women he'd dated, like the woman with yellow eyes, but he'd never mentioned men. Were men Mayweather's type?

He'd convinced himself that the reason Mayweather was always underfoot was because they were in close quarters. But—was Mayweather doing it on purpose? As he watched the ensign, relaxed in sleep, Archer's mind flashed through scenarios: Mayweather, nude, asleep in his bed, his proper bed, in his quarters, skin dark against the bloodred sheets; Mayweather's hand on his neck, drawing his head down so they could kiss; Mayweather touching him. Archer closed his eyes. His fantasies usually alternated between Malcolm Reed and T'Pol. He liked Travis Mayweather, but he had never really thought of him one way or the other. Suddenly, Mayweather wasn't a coworker but a man—a very attractive man.

"That's all I need," Archer said to himself under his breath. His eyes traced Mayweather's upper body, the shape of his face, the short hair. He could see Mayweather's chest, curiously hairless, and he resisted the urge to touch. Yes, all he needed was a fun new obsession. It wasn't enough that T'Pol's bunk was so close to his that he could watch her sleep. But now, a man was in his bed, a man who suddenly seemed available in a way that T'Pol would never be, in a way that Malcolm Reed emphatically wasn't. Mayweather was a lot younger than he was. He seriously doubted Mayweather would go for an older man. Mayweather was a handsome, young, available man, and Archer was lonely and vulnerable. He was reading into Mayweather's words and actions, but it was dark and Mayweather was asleep. Besides, "you smell good" was hardly a ringing endorsement of attractiveness.

"Ensign, wake up," he said crisply, giving Mayweather a little shake. He stood up and flicked on the lights. He was the captain, and here he was, admiring Travis Mayweather's body. Enough of this nonsense.

"I'm up," Mayweather said, sitting up abruptly. "Captain. Is everything okay? He rubbed his face. "Oh, lord. Yes. I'm awake." His voice was thick with sleep.

"I'll let you get dressed," Archer said.

"Thanks, sir." Mayweather kicked the blanket off and reached for his uniform. His movements were a little unsteady.

As Archer beat a hasty retreat, he tried not to notice Mayweather's legs. He cast one last look behind him and took in the view of Mayweather's tight ass as he leaned over to pull on his uniform. And he wondered again who Mayweather's type was.

*** DAY 6


"Another twenty minutes," Archer told Mayweather. He kept going in and out of the command area, restless, and Mayweather had finally been driven to make a comment. "Then I can go to bed."

"Doesn't she usually burn candles when she meditates?"

"Yes, but she decided against it for the duration. I think Commander Tucker had a thing or two to say about open flames. He's upset enough about Chef—and those aliens, when they tried to cook something."

"Well, sir, you lent me your bed once, so if you want mine, we can switch for tonight," Mayweather volunteered.

Archer did his best to push down his memory of gazing down at Mayweather's underwear-clad body—Mayweather in his bed, Mayweather's warm hand touching him. "No, thanks, Travis," he managed, giving Mayweather a shoulder pat.

He had just withdrawn his hand when he suddenly realized how often he touched Mayweather—well, all crew members, now that he thought about it. An arm around someone's shoulders, a comradely pat on the shoulder. Maybe Reed was right. Maybe he was being unprofessional. If Reed or Mayweather did the same to him, he'd be very surprised. But he'd be surprised if they called him by his first name. Hell, even Tucker didn't call him by his first name, and they were friends. Could his gestures be construed as signals of romantic interest? Archer was horrified. He was confusing *himself*.

"I think I'll do another circuit," he said.

"Yes, sir," Mayweather said, focused on piloting, and Archer fled.

Everyone was settling down for the night, so it was pretty quiet. For lack of anything better to do, he used one of the makeshift lavatories and spent a long time washing his hands and face. When he exited, he had ten minutes left. He was just on his way out, ready to head for command again, when he spotted something shiny behind one of the lavatories.

He managed to wedge himself behind the unit, groping for the item that had caught his attention, only to discover that it was only a fragment of the insulation Engineering used. It had fallen shiny side up and was guilty only of reflecting the light interestingly. He sighed and, on hands and knees, tried to go backward. He banged his hip against the corner of the lavatory. He swore under his breath and moved forward instead. His head had just cleared the far side of the lavatory when he saw Trip Tucker and Malcolm Reed. Both were carrying kits. They were probably going to brush their teeth. He considered hailing them but decided he didn't look very captainly, on his hands and knees behind a toilet.

"Let me help you with that," Archer heard Tucker say helpfully, and Tucker opened up the door of one of the units. "No? How about this one?"

"I think that one," Reed said decisively, pointing.

"Malcolm. It's in use. See? Red indicator? Red means in use."

"Yes, of course, you're right. Then—I rather fancy that one." Tucker opened it for him with a courtly flourish. "Thank you, Commander," Reed said. He pushed the door open, stepped in, and turned around.

Archer watched in stunned surprise as Tucker took Reed's hand in his. Their fingers interlaced as their eyes met. Reed smiled, and the look was so sensual, so intimate that Archer's breath caught.

"No problem, Lieutenant," Tucker said. Their hands stayed entwined for a long few seconds before they dropped them. The door shut behind Reed, and Tucker chose another empty lavatory.

Archer sat back on his heels. He felt like he had been punched in the stomach. He knew he couldn't have Reed. He knew that. But—Tucker? Trip Tucker? His best friend? What the hell had been going on right underneath his nose? The look on Reed's face told him the whole story. If they weren't lovers yet, they soon would be.

"Oh, god," he said, and it was a cry of pain.

He managed to get to his feet. He didn't care if he disturbed T'Pol. Hell, he didn't care if she was wearing nothing but a tutu, swinging on trapeze, and chanting witty Vulcan bon mots. He needed to crawl into bed. He needed to lick this new wound.

He ran into Mayweather in the doorway of the command area. "Captain," Mayweather greeted him. "You all right?"

"Yes, fine," Archer said automatically. It was hard to talk. His lips didn't want to move.

"What do you have there, sir?"

Archer looked stupidly down at his hands. "It's a—a piece of that insulation Engineering uses," he said. He hadn't realized he still had it. "It's just a piece of trash."

"I can take that, sir," Mayweather said, and somehow, Mayweather had his arm around him and was walking him to his quarters. The lights were dim, so T'Pol was done with her meditation.

"I'm fine," he said, sitting down heavily his pallet.

"Yes, sir," Mayweather said, kneeling at his feet, the tone of his voice disinterested and professional. Mayweather's fingers expertly unfastened his boots and slid them off. "There you are, sir. Good night."

Archer pivoted on his ass and Mayweather settled the light blanket over him. "Good night, Travis," he said. His chest hurt again, the way it sometimes did when he thought about how much he wanted Reed. He felt more than heard Mayweather leave the room.

There was a long pause. Then a tentative voice asked, "Captain?"

Archer looked at T'Pol.

"No," he said definitely, and he covered his eyes with one arm to block out all traces of light. "No," he repeated, and, like a Vulcan, he forcibly repressed the pain welling up from inside him.

It was a long time before he went to sleep.

*** DAY 7

"Captain, all clear," the com voice crackled.

"Get us out of here," another voice, presumably that of the captain of the Takret Militia who had boarded *Enterprise*, ordered.

Archer, sealed in his EVA suit and standing by a com panel just off the kitchen, watched the alien ship disengage. He didn't have much time. He keyed the communications over to the internal frequency Sato had set up before he, Reed, and T'Pol had set out to shut down the warp reactor. The ship was pitching from the stress of the storm.

"Go ahead," T'Pol's voice said.

"Travis," Archer called. "I hope you're not still heading for that eddy. Our friends are gone."

He heard T'Pol's voice say something, and the com cut off. A few long seconds later, the shaking stopped. Mayweather had changed course. Archer found he was grinning. Nothing like a little adventure to get the blood pumping, take your mind off your troubles. He'd even gotten to act—well, overact. He'd convinced the aliens that he was near death but that he would go down with the ship rather than let it fall into enemy hands. He'd cued Mayweather to steer for one of those eddies. The shear would tear *Enterprise* apart. The alien captain had seemed to think he was bluffing. He hadn't been.

Archer stepped around a cart tipped over on its side and dodged a head of cabbage and a wickedly sharp knife. Chef would not be pleased. Not only was the entire room in disarray, but the discharge from the energy weapons had left scorch marks. He paused at one of the cabinets, then grabbed a large stainless steel bowl. He loaded it up with dessert ration packs. They had something to celebrate, after all.

He strode down the hallway of his ship—*his* ship, damn it—one arm around the bowl, and suddenly everything was okay. The stress had burned it out of him. The realization that Tucker and Reed had something between them—well, it had been a shock, and he'd been surprised. The intensity of the emotions he had felt would surely dissipate. It was simply none of his business. Tucker would tell him when he was ready.

Despite the bulkiness and awkwardness of the EVA suit, he made it up the ladder with most of the ration packs intact. Doctor Phlox was waiting for him, medical scanner in hand.

"You cut it close," Phlox said severely.

"I had three minutes left," Archer said. "They cut it a lot closer on TV. Is the food okay? The radiolytic isotopes haven't damaged the packs?"

"No, it's living tissue that it affects," Phlox said, automatically waving the scanner over the bowl. He checked the readout, then turned the scanner to face Archer. "They're fine. As are you."

Archer hailed an ensign. "Take these to Chef," he ordered, handing the bowl over. "We'll have to share, but we'll have a little party tonight."

"Aye, sir," the ensign said, accepting the bowl.

"Thank you, Captain," Phlox said, putting his scanner away. "You did it."

Archer smiled at Phlox's suddenly serious tone. "You're welcome," he said gently. "The safety of the crew is my job."

He headed for command, a bounce in his step. He stuck his head in. Tucker, Reed, and T'Pol were crowded into the small space. They were still wearing their suits. Mayweather, face shiny with sweat, was piloting.

"Hey, it's hot in here," he announced.

Tucker turned at his voice. His short blond hair was matted to his head with sweat. "Cap'n! I have never been so glad to see anybody. You all right?" He pounded Archer on the back.

Archer pounded back. "Just fine. What are all of you doing in here? You're distracting the pilot. Trip, can you and Lieutenant Reed please see what you can do about getting rid of the extra heat?"

"Will do, sir," Reed said. He patted Mayweather on the shoulder on the way out.

The room seemed bigger with two fewer bodies. "Everything under control, Subcommander?" he asked T'Pol.

"Yes, sir," she said. "We turned away before we entered the eddy. However, the detour may have changed our ETA. I'd like to run some scans."

"You do that," Archer said, and T'Pol nodded and seated herself at a nearby console, graceful despite her bulky suit. "You did a great job," Archer said, coming up behind Mayweather. "You held the course until the absolute last second. It's what we had to do to convince the aliens that we were serious." He put a hand on Mayweather's shoulder and leaned over him. He was giddy with relief and feeling reckless. Mayweather felt solid under his hand, and he wondered again who Mayweather's type was. Mayweather flashed a smile at him, a contrast to the intent expression his face had worn a minute earlier. Mayweather could do that: he'd be totally serious one second, laughing the next. "Thanks, sir." Mayweather said, returning focus to their course. One hand stayed on the throttle, but the other settled on top of Archer's. Archer felt Mayweather's hand rub up and down his own, and he spread his fingers. Mayweather's fit between them. Archer had a brief flash of Tucker's and Reed's intertwined hands. Did they feel it too, the little rush of warmth and pleasure?

"I picked up some dessert ration packs while I was in the kitchen," he said, disengaging himself and sliding his hand back. He lightly brushed Mayweather's neck.

Mayweather put both hands on the controls. "A stake for poker, sir?" he asked. He was grinning. Archer couldn't help but smile in return.

"No. For a celebration tonight. And I made sure to grab a few strawberry shortcakes."

"Oh, those are my favorite."

"I know," Archer said.

*** DAY 8



"Is that it?" Tucker asked.

"Yes, I think so," Archer said. "T'Pol and I are going to do one last sweep after we're all out. You head on out."

Tucker nodded. "You done, Travis?"

Mayweather looked up from the console. "Not quite. Go on without me, Commander. I'll be maybe ten more minutes."

"Okay." Tucker hefted a roll of tubing over his shoulder and grabbed a duffle bag containing supplies. "See you soon, Cap'n." He exited the command center, and Archer smiled when he heard Tucker whistling. The relief everybody felt at having personal space again—at being able to shower—well, you didn't know how good things were until it was taken away.

Archer stood next to Mayweather and began returning command functions back to the Bridge. Both of them worked in silence for a few minutes. Mayweather finished first and sat back in his chair as he absently half-watched Archer. Finally, Archer entered the last code and shut down the panel.

"You did a hell of a job, Travis," Archer told Mayweather. "Thank you." It seemed inadequate. He remembered Mayweather's exhaustion, the dimming of the youthful vigor that he associated with the man. The experience had been stressful for everyone.

"You're welcome, sir." Mayweather stood up and stretched. Archer could hear vertebrae crack. "I'm really happy that's over," the helmsman confessed. "This ship is too damn big. The inertia is a killer. But that's what we needed in the end. It let us get through that storm."

Archer flipped the view screen so instead of showing where they were going, it showed where they had been. The neutronic wave front they had just broken free of curled behind them, retreating in the distance. "I told T'Pol that I didn't expect it to be beautiful," Archer said, propping himself against the console. "It really is." Mayweather leaned next to him, and the two men stared at the blue smoke.

"I was looking at it from the inside, thinking about how to work with it or against it," Mayweather said. "I didn't think it was beautiful, but you're right. When my parents' cargo ship rode one, we were sealed inside—we were flying on instruments and didn't have a way to look out, and I guess I don't remember viewing the logs afterward."

They stood together in companionable silence. When Mayweather shifted his weight, Archer's sixth sense tingled, and he remembered Mayweather's warm fingers against his neck, against his hand. Then Mayweather's hand gently settled on top of his, and Archer turned and looked at the younger man. Two days ago, he would have pulled his hand free and walked out the door. Instead, today, he left his hand where it was. Mayweather took it and tugged.

"It's beautiful," Mayweather repeated, moving closer. Their eyes held for a long second. There was a moment of suspension. Then Mayweather leaned in and kissed Archer on the lips—a slow, single kiss—and pulled back.

"Travis—" Archer began after a moment, but he had no idea what he was going to say.

Mayweather breathed, "Shhh, Jon. Shhh," and brought his lips to Archer's again.

Archer was the captain. He should not kiss ensigns. But ever since he'd seen Mayweather lying on his makeshift bed, using his pillow, ever since Mayweather had first said "Jon," he'd been lost. He knew that now. He couldn't have who he wanted. The person he wanted had found someone else. He needed to move on. And here was someone who thought he smelled good. Here was someone who liked green eyes—his green eyes. Here was someone young and handsome who thought Archer was desirable.

Mayweather's hands were strong in his, and his lips were soft. Mayweather kissed gently, almost tentatively. Archer took a small step forward, tilting his mouth down to keep in contact with Mayweather's. Mayweather's hands squeezed hard as Archer's mouth opened. And suddenly tentative turned into desperate as their tongues met and the pressure increased, and the world dropped away.

When he opened his eyes, their fingers had twined together, palm to palm. He remembered his hand on Mayweather's shoulder yesterday and smiled. They stepped apart slightly, hands still clasped, and Archer took in the sight of a thoroughly kissed Travis Mayweather: lips half-parted, breath a little quick, and those eyes—those dark brown eyes, black in this light, pupils dilated. And the look on Mayweather's face—he saw sheer delight.

How had he never noticed before how incredible Mayweather was? How handsome, how responsive? Mayweather gazed at Archer, and Archer could see what Mayweather felt: desire, respect, fearlessness. He could see that Mayweather knew what he wanted: he wanted Archer.

Archer smiled. Now he knew who Mayweather's type was.

He was.

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