Friday, February 12, 2010

Force Field

Title: Force Field
Author: Ranger

The single plane nosed over the lip of the hangar deck, manoeuvred to the docking bay marked on the deck, and touched down. The blackened and twisted metal down one side of the craft and the badly damaged wing told their own story, as did the vapour escaping from the craft in whole beads in the null grav atmosphere. The hangar doors seemed to take several hours to close, and half the crew seemed to have found an excuse to be hanging around the observation deck to watch. Commander Stephen Scott glanced up at them and continued pacing behind the airlock doors, watching the plane's lights blink off one at a time. The blue spinners continued to flash in the hangar deck while the bay repressurised, blasted with heated air from the giant fans that overtook the dead chill of open space. As soon as the spinners clicked off, the airlock released and the hangar crew jogged across the deck, surrounding the plane with the heavy chains that bolted it to the deck. A fire team appeared on the run with hoses, rapidly covering the craft with nitrogen foam as the vapour became active and pouring smoke. The smell of burning added to the usual strange hangar atmosphere of engine heat and bitter cold, oil and metal. It was the same faint tang that hung on Kieran Rivington's skin at the end of the working day.

Scott kept his distance until the fire team signalled the craft safe, then he ducked the wing and waited, watching the pilot hatch above the markings that identified this plane as the squadron leader. The technicians had the tools in case the craft shell needed forcing open, but the canopy whined up on its own, Riv snapped off his flight harness without waiting for the technicians' help and swung himself over the side, landing like a cat on the deck. One of the crew boys, a teenager in the uniform that marked him as a Starfleet cadet on a training placement, appeared at his side, keeping pace with them while Riv pulled his helmet off. His dark hair was damp and his face was completely expressionless. The boy took the helmet and ducked out of the way, voice somewhere between shocked and awed. This kind of experience was foreign to the idealism of Starfleet Academy. One of the main reasons the kids were rotated to ships in action.

"I'm so sorry, sir."

Riv gave the kid a brief, faint twitch of the lips that might have been a smile, and headed for the lift. Scott touched his arm as he passed, falling into step with him. Neither of them glanced up at the observation windows high above in the hangar where all the faces were. Riv tapped the panel for the lift controls and Scott followed, waiting with arms folded until the doors shut behind them and they were out of sight of the hangar. Then, at last, he let go of the professional mask and yanked Riv against him.

"Are you okay? What hurts?"

"DON'T squeeze," Riv said through his teeth. Scott froze, instantly loosening his grip. 

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry." He pressed his lips against Riv's forehead, tasting the salt of his sweat and the faint tang of oil and steel. "What hurts? Where? How bad?"

Riv shut his eyes and leaned hard against him. "I'm okay, really. Just rattled. And about ready to throw up."

The shipwide intercom blasted a familiar siren, followed by the voice of the radio controller on duty,

All personnel clear the hangar, Beta Squadron observers docking. Repeat, all personnel clear the hangar."

Riv took a deep breath and slipped out of his arms, keying the lift for their cabin deck. Scott grabbed for a handhold as the lift soared into action, watching him, still not happy.
"You ought to go up to the infirmary."

"I'm okay."

"You still should be checked over. Look at yourself."

Riv glanced down at his flight suit without a flicker of expression.
Scott put out a hand, unable to help himself, and brushed his wet hair off his forehead.
"Are you sure you're not hurt?"

"I'm fine."

There were other pilots hanging around their residential deck: Scott caught sight of a few of Riv's particular friends as they reached the cabin they shared, men clustered in discreet groups with sympathy on their faces. Riv keyed their door without appearing to see them. Scott followed him inside, waited for the doors to close and snagged his wrist as soon as they had privacy. 


He could almost feel Riv edge away from him. 

"NOT now, Scotty. I've been in the air for hours; I just want a shower and a drink."

"You did the best you could," Scott said quietly. Riv didn't respond. Not because he agreed, and Scott knew it; he was looking for the quickest way to avoid having to talk about this.

"There'll be a debriefing in fifteen minutes or so," he said to change the subject. "We held on for you-"

"Sod the debrief," Riv shouldered out of his flight suit and headed for the bathroom. "You've got my bloody telemetry from the flight, you don't need me there."

"It's you that needs it, not us," Scott said gently, following him. Riv slammed his hand into the power control for the shower, ripped his shirt over his head and vanished under the sonic spray. Scott took a deep breath and programmed the server unit for coffee. Lieutenant Commander Kieran Rivington was temperamental at the best of times- whether at his most irrepressible, or his most volatile tempered. The way to handle him - both as his senior commander and as his husband- was quietly and with patience, no matter what the provocation. And no matter how difficult it got.  

"Besides the debrief, we need a senior crew meeting anyway. Starfleet's going to want a full statement from you about this. There's a good chance you'll be wanted to give evidence."

The shower was running and Riv was doing a very good impression of being unable to hear him. Scott added a plate of sandwiches to the coffee and left them in easy reach. He took a clean uniform out of the wardrobe and laid it out on the bed, transferring the command bars from the shoulder of Riv's dropped jacket. Crushed from seven hours in the air, sweat-stained, oil-stained, as his clothes invariably were after ten minutes on duty. He stuffed the jacket into the laundry chute out of Riv's sight and sat on the bed to wait for him. Riv emerged wearing a clean t-shirt and shorts, damp and towelling his hair off, face still surly and his eyes suspicious. Scott got up to take the towel from him and Riv relinquished it, but moved straight out of his reach.

"You can stop looking like that, I'm not debriefing. I don't give a damn what you say. If you want to put me on report, get the damn sheets out and I'll sign them, but I'm not going."

"And I'm not going to argue with you Kieran," Scott said bluntly. "If you're too shaken up to debrief, fine. I'll call a medic down to sit with you."

"Go to hell," Riv said briefly.

"Your choice." Scott watched him pull the clean uniform on, oblivious to the idea of getting dry first. "Come on. You did everything you could."

It wasn't enough. He could see the response in Riv's shoulders; he didn't need to say it. Scott held out his clean jacket to him.

"An hour at the most. Come on."

"I told you. I'm not going."

Scott moved past him to the comm unit and keyed in a code.

"Dr. Gordon?"

"All right," Riv said sharply, "All right, whatever!"

The comm bleeped at the other end and Bill Gordon, the Argo's chief medic answered. 

"Hey, Scotty."

"All RIGHT," Riv snapped, shouldering into the jacket. Scott didn't look around.  

"Did Kleiffner make it down to you?"

"He's on his way; they just landed his craft up on the hangar. Poor bastard," Bill Gordon sounded sad. "I'll do the autopsy this evening, I want to attend the debrief with Alpha Squadron. How's Riv doing?"

"Shocky as hell." Scott freed a hand from the comm to tug Riv's collar straight, taking on board the half scowl, half flinch he got as he touched his partner. "But he'll live."

"And you got your medical degree when?" Bill said genially. Scott smiled.

"I check him out a lot, I'd know."

"I believe you. I'm going to need one of you down to sign Kleiffner's death certificate. Tell Riv I'm sorry, that was a hell of a patrol. Gordon out."

Scott snapped off the intercom.

"Thanks," Riv said softly. Scott walked over to him, put both hands on Riv's slim and mobile hips and kissed him, gently and thoroughly. Something he did purely as Riv's lover and partner and not as his senior officer. Usually that was something Riv would respond to at any hour of the day or night: his sexuality was one of the main ways to access him even when all the other paths were shut down and closed off. Even now his stance eased a little, his breathing softened and Scott felt him respond, but it was a very stifled flicker of response. This was no time to try to break him open either.

"It's ok," he said softly, tilting his forehead against Riv's for a minute, nuzzling back wet hair. "This isn't going to take long."

As the Flight Commander, Riv led the debriefing. It was standard post-action procedure: as much a routine means of dealing with the psychological aftershocks of action for the crew involved as to gather and organise the information that would be packaged for Starfleet. Both secretaries and the two ship counsellors were present in the large boardroom, as well as the ten large and fatigue uniformed pilots, and the senior crew members.

By now, the observing planes had downloaded their files and the data teams had edited together a film showing most of the day's events: from the first sight of the battle cruiser, appearing without warning in secure territory, to the two observer planes that had been attacked. Riv's and Kleiffner's. Gordon, as chief medical officer, always took a strong part in every debrief of any critical incident, and Scott watched his face as the data tape replayed Riv and Kleiffner's radio broadcasts when the cruiser appeared and opened fire. Riv's voice, crisp, together, Kleiffner's responding, the valiant efforts of two small planes, unprepared to fight, and up against a cruiser designed to withstand attacks from Federation Starships. Kleiffner's screams when his craft caught fire. Riv's short, matter-of-fact voice detailing his struggle with a damaged plane as the rest of Alpha Squadron began to arrive, with Beta Squadron waiting in reserve. The cruiser had fled at that point, alarmed by the sight of reinforcements. It had taken Riv four hours to bring his damaged craft limping the distance back to the Argo, utilising what little power he had while the salvage teams concentrated on retrieving Kleiffner's burned out shell and what was left of Kleiffner himself. Both crafts had had to be taken into the hangar via the ship's tractors, too badly damaged to risk a manual landing.

Gordon's face across the table was weary and grim. Rivington, fingers fiddling with his pen, sat with his eyes on the table as the film ended, face still expressionless. Nguyen added a closing statement to the recording of the debrief which would be forwarded immediately in a radio package to Starfleet, with all the telemetry the Argo's scanners had managed to gather on the cruiser before she fled, then closed the briefing. Bill Gordon rose to his feet with everyone else and dropped a hand on Riv's shoulder before he could get up.

"Get yourself to bed, young man, you look exhausted."

Riv tipped his head back, pale but perfectly together.

"I'm fine; I just want a stiff drink and an hour in the gym."

"You need eight hours sleep," Gordon said firmly. "You're off duty, get yourself to bed."
Scott pulled Riv's chair back and stood, waiting. Riv looked from him to Gordon and got up, muttering under his breath.

"Fine. Whatever."

"Stop it," Scott said quietly and firmly. No one else so much as looked around. Riv, feeling the pressure of Scott's hand resting briefly and discreetly on his backside, flushed and moved silently where Scott steered him. Prickly, exhausted, upset, Scott knew that he'd be asleep before he managed more than a mouthful of the drink he wanted.

Once they reached his cabin, he left Riv alone, stripping his own clothes off and heading for the shower. From the bleep of the comm unit and the irritated tapping, Riv was accessing the shift's messages, scanning through the day's telemetry, anything to keep his overstressed mind occupied. There had been half an hour today when Scott had seriously wondered if he'd ever see Riv again: the sight of Kleiffner's craft smoking and the sounds of his last few minutes had been terrible. There had been deathly silence in the control room while they listened, stifled tears from the radio boy- Riv had been engaged in keeping himself and his craft intact and giving Kleiffner all the protection he could at the time. And Riv was as protective of his own team, his own men, as any good commander was. It must be now that his mind was processing what he remembered. What the telemetry must be reminding him of. For Scott, the sounds had been all the more terrible for knowing that at any second it could be Riv's screams he heard. Riv's craft that lost contact with them.

The sounds from the cabin had faded. Scott towelled himself off and stepped out of the tiny shower room, pulling clean shorts out of the rack as he passed it.

Riv had found his drink: two thirds of a double scotch stood on the table beside the comm unit. Riv himself was asleep, head down on his arms on the table, one hand still on the keyboard. Scott stood watching him for a moment, stomach tightening a little with more affection than he knew what to do with. Then he pulled the shorts on, picked up the rest of the scotch and drained it, glancing through the messages Riv had called up on screen. The last of the panics from the previous shift had been quieted, recorded and filed, the pilots involved off-duty, most of them would be up on the rec deck now, releasing the stress of the day. He dimmed the lights, set the lock on the door and leaned over Riv, wrapping one arm around his shoulders and pulling his head gently against his chest, then sliding the other under his knees to pick him up. Riv didn't stir. Scott paused to shift him to a more comfortable position and carried him across to the bunk, far less amorous right now than paternal. And as always, a little amused by it, despite everything. If someone had told him as a teenager that the day would come when, sharing a bed with a young and beautiful and extremely active man, that what he'd want more than anything was just to hold him and watch him sleep, he would have ridiculed it. And yet he knew too, sex was something that came easily to Riv. But the number of men in his life that he'd ever lain against like this, relaxed, trusting to the point where he didn't even stir as Scott settled him under the covers- that was where Scott knew he stood alone, and that was immeasurable.


The comm woke them both at six. Riv hauled himself upright and leaned over Scott to punch the button, barely awake and in no mood for calls. “What?”

“Sorry, Flight, message from Engineering. They need sanction to req. another shuttle. Yours is a write-off.”

“What a surprise. Authorise it and bugger off, Mick.”

“How are you feeling? I heard you were lucky you came out in one piece yesterday.”

“Get the story from the squaddies.” Riv turned the comm off and collapsed face down into the pillows. Scott rolled over and arms slid around him. For a minute Riv sank himself into Scott’s warmth, appreciating the comfort, then he pulled himself free and found clothes, staggering to his feet with an effort. His head was buzzing, he still felt extremely sick and he was in no mood to lie around and let himself think.

"I'm going up to see whoever’s on duty on the hangar and check this shuttle before it's ditched, I’ll meet you in the Control room.”

Scott rolled over and sat up, pushing his hair back. “Hang on, I’ll come with you.”

“It’ll take two minutes and it's my department. Don’t fuss.” Riv pulled his boots on, fastened his shirt and ran a hand through his hair, avoiding his eyes. “I’ll see you down there.”

Scott opened his mouth, then shook his head and let him go. If his temper was anything to go by, he hadn't had nearly enough sleep and he was suffering from a major adrenaline hangover. Scott dressed and shaved, and read through the shift messages. The best thing to do when Riv was in this kind of mood was to get him in the gym as soon as possible. Not the isolated routine of weights he preferred either: a long and hard game of squash or grav ball would take the edge off his stress, and might even calm him down enough to talk. Scott went aft to the Control room, planning, if he could, to ease them both off duty for a couple of hours. He found Nguyen still processing the data from Kleiffner's black box, occupied and harassed. Scott left him in peace, glanced at his watch and went across to the radio operator's station to read their ops status. Beta Squadron was out on the routine morning patrol without having found anything more exciting than a passing liner who had signalled them some hours ago to give identification. Riv's shuttle had been condemned and would be destroyed on board once all forensic detail had been recorded. The radio operator handed Scott a stack of data chips.

"The top one's Starfleet's response to the incident yesterday, sir. The SS Ulysses has been diverted; they'll signal us when they get into range. They're going to sweep this sector; our orders are to continue patrol."

"Anything about what the hell that cruiser was doing in our airspace?" Scott flipped the chips over in his hand, reading the labelling.

"No, sir. But if they're diverting a Starship to us, they're taking it very seriously."

"Where's Captain Manterfield this morning?"

"In his cabin, sir. I forwarded the Ulysses' signal to him."

Scott meandered back to Nguyen, still reading. 

"He couldn't even be bothered to turn out to the debriefing yesterday."

"That's our field, not his," Nguyen said without looking up.

"He's the damn Captain and we lost a pilot."

"Would you have wanted him talking to Riv last night?" Nguyen dropped his pile of printouts and sat back in his chair. "How is he?"

"Stressed. Angry. Not saying much."

"I'm not surprised. They were on a routine patrol; this bastard came out of nowhere."

"They've got to be smugglers; that's the only reason a ship that size would get that close to the Starbase, but what the hell are smugglers doing firing on Starfleet fighters?"

"All we can do is what we do anyway," Nguyen said grimly. "Run surveillance, scan all small shipping we run across and search it if need be, and carry on overtly patrolling."

There was a bleep as the comm came to life, the RT channel open all over the ship which the crew of the Argo lived by day and night.

"Dr. Gordon to the hangar deck, casualty at Gantry 5."

"Roger that," Bill Gordon's voice said over the loop. "On my way."

"Control to Hangar," Scott said, coming to lean over the radio operator's shoulder. "What's going on?"

One of Riv's pilots answered, Scott knew the voice.

"Been a fall, sir. Flight slipped on the gantry ladder."

"Badly?" Scott demanded. Riv had a thing about the gantry ladders, he was unable to walk down one, always having to slide down the rails despite all Scott's threats and warnings- this morning, still hungover from yesterday's adrenaline, still tired, he was all the more likely to fall and to land badly if he did.

"I don't know, sir; it didn't look a bad fall but he hasn't got up. Achion called for Dr. Gordon."

Nguyen dropped a hand on Scott's shoulder, taking the chips from him.


Scott fled.

There was a small crowd at the foot of the gantry ladder where Riv was sitting, legs tucked under him, head down, arms tightly folded around himself. Bill Gordon and Julius Achion, the huge Greek squadron leader from Alpha Squadron, were on either side of him, Gordon talking softly. The crowd parted to let Scott through and he crouched beside Riv, putting an arm over his shoulders.

"Are you ok? Riv? What happened?"

Nothing. Bill Gordon pocketed his scanner and nodded at the two paramedics waiting a few steps away.

"Gill, bring that stretcher over here. Scotty, give me a hand?"

Scott took Riv's weight and with Gordon's help eased him to his feet. Riv didn't wince or look up and he stood without difficulty, clearly both legs were sound- but he moved as though he was expecting something to snap and Gordon kept an arm close around him as they eased him down onto the stretcher.

"All right, kiddie, we've got you, easy does it."

Riv lay down on the stretcher without a word of protest, curling up on his side, arms still tightly wrapped around himself. Scott smoothed his hair back, trying to get him to look up, but without raising a flicker of response. His eyes were open but they were fixed on something deep inside himself; and worse than that, Scott could see a grim fear in them that made his own heart thump in response. He grabbed Achion's arm as the stretcher was taken away.

"What happened? How far did he fall?"

"He hardly fell at all." The big Greek looked troubled. Scott knew he was a good friend of Riv's. "Just slid down the rails as he usually does and missed his footing at the bottom. He was going fairly fast but it was barely five feet, I don't know how he got hurt."

And Riv had had a far rougher youth than Scott wanted to think about- he'd pulled Riv out of bar brawls with broken bones before now, still more than ready to go back and carry on the fight. To let himself be carried off by medics, he had to be seriously hurt. Or else his short temper this morning had been the result of something more sinister than an overdose of an adrenaline. Trying to think back over the last few hours for any clues or indications that Riv had somehow been hurt in yesterday's attack, Scott made his way aft.

In the infirmary, he watched Gordon take an initial hand scan, then he and a nurse got Riv out of his jacket and shirt and into one of the smaller exam rooms for more extensive scans, all without getting a word out of Riv or Gordon, other than a brief request to sit down and let the medics work. Tired and increasingly alarmed, Scott punched the machine outside Gordon's office for coffee and paced, trying not to watch the opaque glass for some clue as to what was going on inside. It was nearly an hour before Gordon emerged, shutting the door behind him. Scott crushed the cup of his third coffee, getting up off the bench.  

"Is he all right? What happened? WAS he hurt yesterday?"

Gordon waved at him to follow, heading into his office. "Come in here. Come on, you might as well. You're not going to see him yet anyway."

Scott followed him with one last look at the exam room door.

"What is it? Achion said he didn't fall that far- he seemed fine last night, just stressed-"

"Scotty, sit down." Gordon took a seat on the other side of the desk and waited until Scott took one of the several armchairs. "He's okay. Nothing broken, nothing bleeding, he's fine. And he did only fall, a good hard drop of about five or six feet, but he's only got a few bruises to show for it."

"So what on earth's going on?!" Scott demanded. Gordon took a deep breath and blew it out sharply, slouching back in his chair.

"Riv's craft was brought in by tractor beams yesterday- the craft was damaged and he was in tow for some time before the craft was landed on the hangar. Now we've only been running across magnetism of this strength and size for a couple of decades, medicine's still getting its head around its implications on the human body but it seems to have a major effect on the barrier between the conscious and the subconscious mind. A lot of people exposed to these serious fields seem to lose that barrier for a while, or things appear out of the subconscious into the conscious mind. Like a concussion but without impact- just the neural scrambling injury. It does show up on the scanners, more neural inflammation than anything else. It's a temporary effect, usually a few days to a few weeks at the very most, but it's disturbing for the patient."

Scott looked at him, none the wiser. "What does this have to do with that fall? It affected his balance? What?"

"Brace yourself," Gordon said kindly. "Riv knew he hadn't hurt himself, he was worried about internal damage and that was why he wouldn't move until I'd checked him out-"

"Internal- he barely fell five feet, I've seen him break bones and walk away!"

"Scotty, Riv confided in me that he's pregnant."

Scott looked at him, dumbfounded. Gordon steepled his hands on his stomach. 

"About three months along, he hasn't known more than a few days. I get the impression he's somewhat worried about telling you. He was very afraid of the fall hurting the baby, but it was only a superficial fall-"

"Whoa!" Scott interrupted in growing disbelief. "Bill, he is NOT pregnant!"

"I know that, you know that," Gordon said patiently. "As far as Riv's concerned, it's a hard fact. He's not messing around, Scotty, he believes this, heart, body and soul. It's completely genuine."

Scott stared at him, mind rebelling. There was no one more down to earth, less given to fantasy or with less patience for psychology than Riv.

"Bill, he's kidding you, you don't know Riv-"

"He's absolutely serious," Gordon confirmed gently. "I know this seems outrageous but-"

"You can't tell me he seriously thinks he's pregnant, for God's sake! It's ridiculous!"

"These magnetism injuries mess around with the segregation between concious and subconscious mind. I've read cases where people have adhered to the strangest ideas and beliefs, without any of the conscious mind logic to neutralise them," Gordon said patiently. 

"Pregnancy is a very common theme in fantasies and dreams in women, usually to do with issues of control and security. Effectively, Riv's mind is playing out a dream with all the logic and lack of questions you get in a dream. The same rules apply: he won't consider that it isn't possible, he just believes the situation as it is right now."

Scott stared at the ceiling, stunned. "How long has been fantasising this? He was FINE when he got up!"

Even as he said it, he realised the lack of truth in that protestation- Riv had barely spoken to him this morning, anything might have been on his mind.

"Not fantasising- this is a subconscious thought that's broken through, no one knows where these things come from, it’s a form of thought that works in symbolism. Not actual fact, Riv would probably be as shocked as you are. And to him this is totally real." Gordon corrected, "I'd guess it came up on him slowly over the last 8 hours or so- probably a dream or fragment of a dream that gradually got more and more concrete until it became hard fact at the front of his mind and he stopped questioning it. The effects usually last from a few hours to a few days- twelve days is the longest case I've read about."

"Great," Scott said blankly. "Is he going to keep coming up with these dreams? When do we get onto the pink elephants?"

"I very much doubt we will," Gordon said calmly. "The effects are usually very soon after the magnetism field ends- very early on, one or two ideas come out and the patient just sticks to them for a while. It's very unlikely he'll come out with any more now. This idea to him has just become a normal part of life, just like when you dream you change the facts to fit what you believe. He'll carry on totally as normal."

"Being pregnant!" Scotty retorted. Gordon nodded.

"It's natural and normal-"

"NOT for a man, for Pete's sake!"

"It won't last long."

"If you knew this was likely to happen why the hell didn't you check him over last night!"

"Because there would have been nothing I could have done except worry him and make it more likely that it happened. This can manifest in a thousand ways," Gordon said firmly. 

"And because I knew if anything DID happen, you or I would notice within a few hours. He's okay, Scotty, this won't do him any harm, try not to worry too much."

"What do we do then?" Scott took another deep breath and got himself together with some effort. "How do we explain this to him?" 

"We don't," Gordon said calmly. "It's short term, you won't persuade him, all you'll do is disturb and upset him if you try. We just go along with it until it wears off itself. It's like a sleepwalker; you just guide them along, keep them out of danger and wait until they settle back into sleep. Keep to the usual routine-"

Scott shook his head in disbelief and growing protest. "You're sending him back to duty in this state?!"

"There's no reason to keep him on the sicklist," Gordon said patiently. "He's not ill. And three months pregnant, married, with partner on board, he WOULD still be on full duty, just that I'd be keeping a good eye on him. It'll probably go as suddenly as it came, he'll just forget about it. All you need to do is be supportive. It's not even as if it's going to be the full nine months you have to support him through, just a few days at most."

"It's insane! I'm not having him out on duty like this!"

"He'll be fine on light duties; I'll tell him he needs to rest and be careful after that fall. Scotty, calm down! There's no reason for you to freak, think of it like a concussion and just be patient with him for a few days."

"I'm not freaking," Scott said a little defensively. "I just never expected to have to deal with this particular- ok ok I won't do anything to upset him, you know I won't!"

"Just be prepared," Gordon said a little warningly. "This IS real as far as he's concerned, and he's going to need understanding. It's heavily on his mind-"
"I can imagine it would be on most men's minds, yes."

Gordon shook his head and got up. "Look, Scotty, go for a walk, take an hour and think this over, but you're going to need to take this seriously. He's going to need your help and your understanding, no matter how weird you find this. You're going to need to be ready to talk about it and think about it until it passes, and you need to realise how deep this belief of his goes."

Scott doubted that. Riv had little patience with fantasy or with the ridiculous: if he was seriously scrambled enough to think pregnancy was a possibility, then he was most certainly in no fit state to manage any conversations that were complex or well reasoned.

Riv was lying down on the bed in the little exam room, which was dark and like the rest of the infirmary, tropically heated. Even so, he was curled up on his side as if he was cold. Dressed only in his uniform pants and socks, his arms still wrapped around himself, he looked defensive enough to take away the immediate surface of confusion and frustration from Scott. A gifted and highly expert pilot and mechanic, Riv had spent the first sixteen years of his life forcing down the bare minimum of schooling he needed to get the qualifications he wanted: in emotional skills he was barely literate. Scott sat down on the edge of the bed and ran a hand over the nearest bare shoulder, rubbing gently and intimately with growing concern and flooding sympathy. Riv had clearly heard him come in and realised who it was: he didn't look around.

"How are you feeling?" Scott asked softly. The shoulder under his hand lifted in a brief shrug.


"What did Gordon say?"

"Probably what he told you."

Ok, this wasn't going to be easy. Scott gathered his resources and pulled at Riv's hip and shoulder, turning him onto his back and holding him there when he made a brief attempt at turning away.

"Hey. It's me."

Grey eyes, currently looking angry and distant, didn't respond for a moment, then slowly lifted to his. Scott cupped a hand around his face and ran a thumb gently over his cheekbone, worried by the isolation he saw there.

"Are you okay, baby?"

Some tones Riv couldn't bear, even after two years of marriage, and Scott saw his eyes respond as though he'd been hurt, then blur. Riv finally sat up and his arms clenched painfully around Scott's neck. Scott hugged him back, just as hard, rocking him slowly from side to side, sliding one hand up to cradle the back of the sandy head, putting his heart into his hands. It worked. Gradually Riv began to shake, the rigidity easing out. Scott went on rocking him, holding on when he tried to draw away.

"It's all right. Nothing's going to happen that we can't handle, we can sort it out. We can always sort it out."

Riv's body tensed under his hands, an almost imperceptible withdrawal. Scott let him go and once more cupped his face, once more demanding eye contact.

"What? Kieran, what? It's okay. I'm here, I've got you."

Riv eased away from him, once more folding his arms over his body and drawing up his knees, folding into a deceptively casual ball on the pillows. "I'm all right, Bill told you I was all right, don't panic."

Scott shook his head, pulling the other voice Rivington always listened to out of his personal armoury. "
DON'T bullshit me, Riv. However upset you are, we still talk."

"So, don't bullshit me either," Riv snapped back. "Bill told you, I know he did."

"Did you ask him to?" Scott said bluntly. Riv gave him a brief glance under his eyebrows and looked away.

"I didn't know how to tell you myself."

I'll bet, Scott found himself thinking. And hushed the thought at once. Riv rested his head on his knees, shoulders hunched and stiff.

"I'm sorry. I haven't known long. I WAS going to tell you."

Ok, they were off into the realms of fantasy right here. Scott stifled a brief flicker of somewhat hysterical amusement- and another fleeting moment of confusion and embarrassment that made him want to shrug this off, avoid this conversation. Except Riv's face was angry and distressed enough to hold his attention and draw him in, even against his will. He heard his own voice saying, calmly and a little wryly, "I think I'd have probably noticed eventually?"

"I'd have told you before that. I just didn't know what to say, ok?"

"Riv, it's all right," Scott began gently.

"It is NOT all right," Rivington snapped, jerking away from Scott's hand. "For a start it'll screw my career right up. And it's not like either of us are in a position to be playing happy bloody families, neither of us have a home, I don't even have any bloody family-"

"You do," Scott interrupted firmly. "You have me."

"You think I can even work with this bloody thing inside me? You saw today, one stupid fall, NOTHING, and it stopped me dead. I can't do this Scotty, I seriously can't!"

There was active panic in his voice. Scott heard it and responded automatically, even as he tried to sort out his own mind and the knowledge this was pure playacting- this was a fantasy, come out of nowhere overnight- except the fear and the anger in Riv's voice was genuine, and that in itself made everything feel alarmingly real to Scott. He pushed away the confusion and responded instinctively, not sure now whether he was actively encouraging Riv in his delusions, only knowing he needed to stop the panic.

"WE can do whatever we want to. And don't speak of it like that, Riv. It's a life; it's a person, not a thing. You're not talking about a tumour or a parasite; you're talking about a child."

"What if I DON'T want it?" Riv demanded, glaring at him. "What if I said I wanted rid of it?"

"I'd say it wasn't purely your decision and I'd want to know exactly why," Scott said crisply.

 "Neither of us are doing anything on the spur of the moment, calm down and we'll talk about it."

"It's not your fucking body, it's mine and it's MY fucking decision," Riv spat back. Scott didn't hesitate. One powerful yank brought Rivington to his feet and Scott swatted the seat of his uniform pants soundly.

"I don't care how upset you are, we do NOT speak to each other in that tone or in those terms. When you can talk to me quietly and civilly, we will discuss this. Until then, you're going to lie down, quietly, and wait while I talk to Bill and see about getting you released. Move."

Riv had come to Starfleet from the army, and the military was strongly ingrained enough that he responded instinctively to that bark. Scott settled him on his side, not softening his tone.

"Stay still and wait, I'll be right back."

"Are you mad at me?" Riv demanded before he could move. Scott paused, confused. That was not something Rivington was given to inquiring when they were in mid battle, nor something that usually worried him in the slightest.

Riv's careful nod down at his body made him realise the connotations of the rather odd question. It made him sit down once more on the side of the bed and pull Riv into his arms, shaking him slightly with exasperation and deep, abiding affection.

"NO, of course I'm not! WHY would I be angry with you?"

"Because it's going to cause trouble," Riv said tightly, "We're not geared for this kind of thing; it wasn't something you wanted to happen-"

And that was Rivington. Still desperately worried, even after two years of formal commitment, about pleasing him, about being the person he wanted. Scott hugged him fiercely, resisting the urge to swat him again.

"Honey, I love you and we'll take things as they come. Change doesn't mean trouble; we don't have to stick to some master plan. It's okay. Understand me? It's going to be okay."

"Do you want it?" Riv struggled back out of his arms to see his face, the defensiveness slipping. "Do you? We don't have to, I'll do whatever you want-"

"It's whatever WE want," Scott said firmly, "We make decisions together, I don't just tell you what we'll do. What you want matters to me a lot, honey; it's okay. This affects the both of us."

"But do YOU want it?" Riv said again, not listening. Scott felt his eyes sting. This was so totally ridiculous, so surreal he was beyond trying to stay analytical about it- but he knew Riv and the instincts worked, even with something so very unreal. And despite the snarling, the swearing, the willingness with which Riv appeared to have to detached himself from the child he was sure he was carrying, Scott had seen the terror in his eyes when he thought he was hurt, and the way his arms wrapped around himself, encompassing. Protecting. Which shocked him in itself. That Riv was willing to sacrifice that if he demanded it was alarming and it was heart-wrenching. Scott took another breath, and found he didn't have to try to put sincerity into his voice.

"Kieran, we're talking about something part of you and me, of course I want it. Why on earth wouldn't I want a child who was a part of you? Not just related to you but FROM you, part of who you are and what you are- part of US. How could that NOT be incredibly precious to me?"

"I'm scared, Scotty," Riv said very quietly.

As he always would be of anything he couldn't control, anything that was tied to emotion and commitment. Scott lifted his chin and kissed him, gently and very deeply.

"You leave the worrying to me; I won't let anything happen to you. It's going to be all right. I promise."


"I'm sorry I didn't tell you."

Scott turned around from the com unit where he was working and looked across at his partner with another mild jolt of concern. It brought home to him that he'd hoped against hope that out of the infirmary, once he'd rested up he'd lose this ridiculous idea.

Riv was lying on the bunk in their small, shared cabin, as he had been doing since Bill Gordon released him from the infirmary with orders to rest as much as possible and a restriction to light duties only. He'd slept for an hour while Scott went up to the bridge and took the day's messages, checked in with Nguyen and picked up his shift's work. What Nguyen made of the information Scott and Gordon had shared with him, Scott had no clue- Nguyen had all the inscrutability reputed to come with his ancestry, but he'd certainly juggled the workload this shift to let Scott stay with Rivington. The Captain, Manterfield, had also been informed, but since Manterfield took very little interest in his officers or the day-to-day running of the ship, what he thought was pretty much irrelevant.

Riv himself hadn't said much, although he looked calmer. Scott looked at him now, well aware of the connotations of what he was saying. A secret kept like this would usually have been grounds for punishment- particularly with their history. It had taken a long time for Rivington to learn to share himself after twenty-eight years of total independence. On the other hand, there was no way Scott was about to consider punishing him just for imagining how he would act under these circumstances.

"It can't have been easy," he said gently, wondering how to term it. "This isn't a small thing, Riv, I understand."

Riv gave him a brief and uncertain smile and shrug.

"Not for either of us though. I shouldn't have kept it from you."


"No," Scott agreed, "No, you shouldn't. But this is a - new idea-  for both of us. Especially you."

"I don't-"
No, Rivington, I REFUSE to get involved in disciplining your dream life.

Scott interrupted him, as firmly and kindly and as quickly as he could manage.

"Listen to me. I understand why you found it hard and this once I'm not going to say any more about it. That doesn’t mean I expect it to happen again, or that I'll be nearly so understanding if it does."

Scott held his gaze, hoping that would be enough. It was something of a forlorn hope, but knowing too the tactics that worked on Riv, he got up and came to sit with him, making his voice sterner.

"We DO need to talk about how we're going to keep you safe."

Riv pulled a face, quickly distracted. "Bill told you I wasn't ill-"

"We DO need to be careful of you though," Scott said firmly. "For a start that you that you eat and sleep properly. And most definitely that you stop taking extremely silly risks on gantry stairs. I've told you and told you about that anyway, one day you'll break an ankle and I will NOT be pleased."

"I never usually slip," Riv said somewhat plaintively. Scott shook his head.

"You never try if you think I'm looking, which shows clearly that you know you shouldn't do it. And what'll happen if I DO see you."

"Everyone does it!"

"Everyone does not do it, for a start it's against deck regulations. After shift tomorrow you can copy those regulations out for me yet again, twenty times. Maybe that'll jog your memory. And if I catch you doing it again I'll spank you. Clear?"

The look he got was resigned rather than subdued, and the "Yes sir" contained some of Riv's usual irony.

Scott leaned down to kiss him and Riv's hands slid up the front of his uniform, expertly unfastening the front seals of his jacket.

Scott grinned, shifting to help him. "You're clearly feeling better."

"Nah, I just know a good thing when I've got - damn."

The siren made them both jump. The emergency light above the cabin door began to flash a bright, neon blue and the central light dimmed as all but the minimum of domestic power supply was re-routed to the ship's action stations. Riv rolled off the bed, snatched up his jacket and hit the seal to their cabin door, sprinting ahead of Scott down the corridor as the shipwide Intercom burst into life.

"All crew to action stations, this is not a drill. All crew to action stations. Duty Squadron scramble, all personnel clear the hangar."

Scott caught up with Riv just as the lift arrived, and grabbed his arm.

"You are NOT cleared to fly, do you hear me?"

"I can't hear anything!" Riv yelled back over the siren. "Yes, ok, chill!"

Scott snatched a kiss and let him go to get into the lift, continuing his own run along the corridor and up the ladder that ran between decks to reach the next level and the bridge. The siren had been turned off there, and the lights were steady, enabling the working crew to read their instruments undistracted. The officer on duty glanced up at Scott with relief, surrendering her clip board.

"The Cruiser's back, we picked him up on radar five minutes ago, heading in this direction. No response when we signalled him."

"Signal again, Starfleet coding." Scott read through the ops status just as the radio operator registered the chime on his board and shut it down.

"Beta Squadron launched, sir, Alpha Squadron standing to."

"Beta Squadron has the cruiser in sight," the navigations operator added. "Squadron leader hailing him now with Starfleet coding."

It was the military flag: the equivalent of a police officer pulling out his badge. All ships within Federation space were obliged to respond to that signal or become liable to being taken under Starfleet control.

"Beta Squadron, maintain position, mark the time, give three minutes for response."

"Aye aye, sir."

"Message from Flight," the radio operator said from his station. "Permission requested to launch Alphas One, Seven and Three as ship defence, launch immediate."

"Permission granted." Scott took a seat, not checking the plane details other than noting that Riv's own pilot number- Alpha Ten- was not among them. The air defences of the ship were Riv's responsibility, his notification of the bridge was for courtesy purposes only.

"Roger that, Alpha One, Seven, Three, you are cleared to launch," the radio operator retailed, tilting his headset to listen. "Flight asking sir: shuttle is prepared and can launch when ready, will a boarding party be required to stand to?"

It was a little early into the situation to require that, but Riv was obviously prepared for further conflict with the craft. Scott leaned over the radio boy's shoulder and hit the button.
"Scott to Flight: who's your boarding party?"

"Santelli and eight of the securicorps," Riv said shortly through the radio, "In armour, with rifles."

A securicorps platoon, fully armed, would be plenty to board and take over the crew of a cruiser, no matter how recalcitrant.

"Scott to Flight, stand to and arm boarding party."

"Roger that."

"Two minutes," the navigations operator commented. "Beta Squadron notes no response from Cruiser on any channel. Cruiser continuing on course."

"Has it changed speed?"

"Beta Squadron notes no response from Cruiser in any way since sighting."

If it continued on its course without responding they would be left with no other option than to open fire on it. Nguyen appeared through the doors, looking wet and hassled. Scott straightened up to hand him the ops board.


"I was in the bloody shower. I heard the shipwide, I take it they haven't responded."

"Forty seconds remaining."

The radio operator glanced around. "Signal from Flight, sir. Cruiser moving into attacking range, Beta Squadron taking up attack positions."

"Confirm to Flight, hold all fire unless fired upon until the deadline's reached."

"What's it playing at?" Nguyen demanded. "It knows it can't outrun us, it's surrounded, why doesn't it stop?"

"I'd love to know what its cargo is," Scott said grimly. "Twenty seconds. Open the squadron loop here."

The open radio channel brought a burst of static and then Riv's voice, clear and matter of fact from the flight deck below.

"Beta Squadron prepare to open fire on my signal. Ten seconds and counting."

"It's not going to stop," Nguyen said grimly. "Is it big enough to disable safely?"

Scott had no idea. Riv's pilots were talented and experienced dogfighters, but the cruiser was a small ship and to take out its engines would probably mean blowing up the entire vessel.

"Three," Riv said over the loop. "Two. One. Open fire."

"Delta observers in position, we have visual,"  the radio operator reported, opening the connection. The video clearly showed the front phalanx of Beta Squadron dive and roll on the cruiser, firing with exact precision into the heart of the engines. In the same moment Scott saw the Cruiser start to roll and raised his voice.

"Flight, she's going to fire!"

"Bring her down!" Riv snapped over the loop. "Blow her and safe distance, all planes!"

"What's he doing?" Nguyen demanded, "Flight, you're not cleared to destroy!"

The second phalanx of Beta Squadron picked their kill spots and even as the cruiser's lasers fired, the Cruiser blew apart in a blinding orange flash. 

"Safe distance all planes," Riv barked, "Stand by, second attack."

"Second?!" Nguyen echoed in disbelief. Scott straightened up, seeing at last what Riv had seen.

"Look at her position, she was a runner for something bigger, there are three crafts on radar. Flight deck, get the squadrons out of there, pull out now."

Nguyen caught his eye and nodded, hitting the intercom. 

"Captain Manterfield to the Bridge, immediately."

"Alpha Squadron go to launch," Riv said over the loop, "Beta squadron on my signal-"

"COUNTERMAND," Scott leaned on the button, holding the loop open and sharpening his voice. "Withdraw all squadrons, clear the hangar, prepare to land incoming planes. Flight, bring them back, do NOT engage."

He heard the fractional silence. The Squadrons' trust and relationship was with Riv- in a craft like this, effectively a carrier, it had to be. If it came to the crunch they would listen to Riv, not to the bridge officers. And if Riv refused this order now it would be a court martial offence pure and simple, not to mention the after-effects of a battle they shouldn't have joined. Sending the squadrons up against crafts they hadn't even made visual contact with yet was insane.

Scott was aware of Nguyen's faintly anxious glance on him. This was exactly the sort of situation Riv had in the past made his own decisions on, ignoring or even refusing orders, and sometimes things fell his way and sometimes they didn't. Put in the position of needing to control him under stress, Scott would have preferred warning and time to organise: this situation was thrust on him and all he could do was put all the authority into his voice that he could muster and make absolutely sure that Riv heard him.

"FLIGHT. Withdraw all Squadrons, NOW, we will NOT engage."

The crew around him who had very rarely heard him snap never mind shout gave him a somewhat nervous look. Scott waited, then hit the switch again, thundering in earnest.

Even as he said it he heard Riv's voice, equally sharp. "Squadron, withdraw, disengage; return to Argo. Alpha Squadron remain on standby."

Thank God. Scott leaned on the com, looking to Nguyen for agreement.

"Flight, do we safe-distance Argo? Do we have time?"

"We can try, the Squadron can stay in the air and defend if need be," Riv snapped, "Flight deck, main engine ignition sequence-"

Captain Manterfield arrived on the bridge looking very far from confident.

"Do we know what those three crafts are yet?" Nguyen demanded of the navigation officer. "Anything about their capabilities?"

"One of them is big, sir. Cargo-sized."

"SS Ulysses signalling," The radio boy said sharply, "They're two minutes out, they have visual on Beta Squadron, they're asking us to safe distance."

"The cavalry," Nguyen said grimly. "Thank God."

The deck rumbled as the main engines ignited many decks below. On the loop Riv could be heard ordering a rendezvous point for the planes still in the air. One of the stewards came quietly onto the bridge with a tray full of coffee. Nguyen picked up a cup and caught Scott's eye, lifting his coffee in a silent toast.


Riv was sitting on the edge of the deck rail, a cigarette between his fingers which he didn't bother to hide when Scott walked onto the flight deck. Instead he flicked ash onto the floor and looked straight back at Scott with an expression that was purely a dare.

Scott took no notice, instead going to join the senior pilot at her seat and watching her monitor as the last of Beta Squadron landed on the hangar. There was the usual short delay while the hangar repressurised and then the deck filled with pilots and crew, fastening down the aircraft and stretching bodies and nerves after several very tense hours. The Ulysses had not yet confirmed her statistics, but from their own instruments the Argo crew were fairly sure she had managed to destroy one of the craft and board another. Scott waited until all the pilots had cleared the deck before he caught Riv's eye.

"That's it then, you can stand your teams down. I'll wait outside for you."

He waited for some time. Finally Riv emerged, with an expression very far from calm or cooperative and a cigarette still in his fingers. There was no one in sight and they both knew it. Riv looked him straight in the eyes, put the cigarette in his mouth and took a long, hard pull on it. Scott jerked his head at the door ahead, folding his arms. Still smoking, walking casually enough to make Scott long to clobber him, Riv strolled down the corridor and pushed through the swinging door onto the flight deck gallery.

The long corridor was the Scotland Road of the ship- running the entire length along the starboard side, a long line of observation windows that looked out over space. It was never more than dimly lit and off it were several small, sparsely furnished rooms, used for meetings, for minor briefings, for social events or for anyone wanting peace and quiet on a very small and very crowded vessel. Scott snapped the light on in the nearest and stood back from the door, waiting until his partner sauntered after him and locking the door after them.
"Put that thing out."

"Regulation 597, no pilots shall engage in fire management unless off ship when a fire crew is unavailable," Riv blew a smoke ring at him, eyes sardonic. "I remember that one cl-"

Scott turned him around and swatted him, hard enough to make him cough on the smoke.
"NOW, Kieran."

"You're developing a thing for imperatives."

Scott swatted him again, harder, keeping hold of his arm. "If I have to ask you once more, young man, you'll be over my knee."

"You can try," Riv said sweetly.

Scott didn't hesitate. He took a step back to lean against the table, yanked sharply enough to get Riv off balance and over his lap, and broke the seals on his uniform trousers, pinning Riv where he was while he pushed them out of his way.

"Okay," Riv said struggling, "All RIGHT, Scotty I GET it, you're still the He-Man around here- OW-"

Scott laid another powerful dozen swats across the upturned backside over his lap, not interested in negotiation, then jerked Riv back to his feet.

"Put it out."

The cigarette actually lay on the deck, dropped in the wrestling match, but Riv put a foot over it and ground it out, eyes still defiant despite being stood in front of his lover, trousers at half mast and his hair in his eyes. Both hands were fisted, determinedly resisting rubbing at the sting of those swats.

"Smoking ANYWHERE on this ship other than the rec deck is forbidden," Scott said sharply. "Especially on alert. And you do not smoke anywhere at all at any time. Which you well know."

"I've always smoked and you well know that too," Riv snapped back. Scott reversed him and swatted him again.

"You do NOT smoke. That is a habit my partner does NOT have."

"There isn't even bloody nicotine in them!"

"You do NOT smoke," Scott said sternly. "I can remember you making promises to that effect some time ago."

"I'd forgotten then," Riv said shortly. Scott shook his head and pointed at the corner of the small room.

"Ok, enough. Face the wall, stand still and give some SERIOUS thought to calming yourself down before you find yourself in real trouble, Rivington."

"I'm on duty!"

"You're under MY command, on duty or not, 
MOVE yourself!" Scott ordered, raising his voice back to the bark. It worked. Riv moved sullenly but he moved. Scott took a seat on the desk once more, glanced at his watch and waited.

It took nearly twenty minutes before Riv's voice reached him, the tone changed entirely.

"What?" Scott said unpromisingly. Riv sounded as plaintive as he looked, his height and the long, well muscled body at odds with the bare bottom under the uniform jacket.

"I'll chill. I promise. Blood pressure down. Aura a light azure. I'll be good?"

"That'll be the day. Come here." Scott held out a hand as Riv turned around and with a wary eye to see if he'd be forestalled, re-ordered his clothing. And reached Scott, looking somewhat sheepish.

"You did VERY well," Scott said still sternly. "You kept your head and you listened, and you saw the threat of the other crafts long before anyone on the bridge realised. I was proud of you."

"Until I flipped out," Riv said with unconvincing humour, "I know."

"I AM proud of you," Scott said again more firmly. "I know your temper. You didn't lose it in front of anyone but me, you held onto it until we were alone, and that's good. I can handle you; you don't need to worry about what I see."

"Don't I know it," Riv said ruefully, half under his breath. Scott yanked his head down and kissed him, half a caress, half a growl.

"Yes you stroppy so-and-so, you do. WHEN was the last time you smoked?"

"I did when I was stressed on the base," Riv admitted. "Most of the last year."

"Then it stops right now," Scott said firmly. "Every time I smell smoke on you you'll get your mouth washed out, my lad. If you want revolting things in your mouth then I'll see to it for you and it'll be clean soap, not junk. Clear?" 

Riv snapped him a salute, "Sir."

"And you can write for me all the deck regulations governing smoking, by hand, by the end of second shift tomorrow," Scott added. "Not to mention the medical reasons why I don't want you to smoke. Why SHOULDN'T you smoke?"

He was shocked to see Riv's face change, paling slightly and losing its wryness.

"Because it could hurt the baby. I know, I didn't think of that. Oh God I'm sorry, Scotty."

"It's all right-" Scott began much more gently. Riv shied back from him, lifting his hands.

"I shouldn't be doing this. I'm totally the wrong person to BE doing this; do you know how close I was to going out and flying obs with the Alpha Squadron planes?"

"I know." Scott caught his hands and held them, trying to make him look up. "But you didn't."

"What kind of a parent am I going to be for God's sake? I can't even put it first 
NOW -"

"STOP," Scott said firmly. "You'll be a GOOD parent. You wanted to go out and fly, you didn't. You wanted to send the Squadrons back to attack and you didn't. You stopped, and you listened, and you thought. You're doing so much better with that; you HAD the control to stop."

"Because you yelled!" Riv said contritely. "If you hadn't been on the radio-"

"But I was. And this was the whole point of you being on the Argo with me, that you needed me here to help when you had difficult choices to make," Scott told him, shaking him gently. "Wasn't it?"

"No, it was because Starfleet threatened to ditch me unless you got me under control."

"Starfleet has nothing to do with my marriage, what happens there I do for you and for us. I can keep right on shouting at you at difficult moments, that’s no problem. You don't have to do anything on your own. I'm not going to let you get yourself into any trouble."

Large, grey eyes looked back at Scott somewhere between laughing and sincerity, with a little boy voice that in no way matched his expression.

"So if I kiss you nicely and make up can we skip the soap?"

Scott resisted the urge to laugh and kissed him anyway.

"Certainly not."


"I was already SUPPOSED to be writing out these regulations anyway for sliding down the rails…." Riv protested as Scott called up the fleet regulations on screen.

"So you'll know a lot of regulations," Scott said cheerfully. "Deck regulations I think it was twenty times, and everything pertaining to smoking please."

"I'm going to have written out the damn Fleet handbook from start to finish by the time we finish this circuit," Riv muttered, picking up the stylus.

"Maybe you should memorise the regulations instead?" Scott suggested. "I'll give you an hour and call it done if you're word perfect."

"Is it in your psych profile that you're a sadistic bastard?"

Scott smiled and left him to it. It was a good hour before he heard Riv stir and straighten up, his shoulders audibly cracking.  Scott glanced up from his own work from where he was sitting on the bed. They did actually have separate cabins, but it was also the first time since their marriage that they'd had unlimited time together and they enjoyed every opportunity to share space.

"How are you doing?"

"Back aching." Riv dropped his stylus and stood up, stretching his arms over his head. Scott got up and came to look over his shoulder at the several pages of scrawl, rubbing his neck.
"Not there," Riv said absently, leaning against his hand. "Down."

Scott slid his hand down and down and down until he reached the small of Riv's back and heard his soft sigh of satisfaction. "There?"


Whether this was a real ache or purely in his head was doubtful. Scott stifled the small swell of concern and put an arm around him, steadying him while he rubbed.

"How many have you got done?"

"Rest of the smoking ones to go."

"Come and take a break then."

Scott steered him across to the bunk and watched him flop down across it, one arm over his eyes. He sat down more gently on the edge and ran a hand over Riv's flat stomach, massaging.

"How are you feeling?"

Riv shrugged a little cautiously. "Mostly okay. Sometimes weird. I don't know."

Whether that was part of what was in his head was anyone's guess. Scott went on massaging, aware that usually Kieran would by now have turned the gesture into an overture for sex, and quietly delighted by his allowing and wanting it. He wasn't at all good at touching purely for affection or comfort, it wasn't something he was comfortable with and it was something Scott usually only managed in infrequent and brief gestures- they hadn't had enough time together for him to put in the work needed to develop it. It wasn't that Riv didn't want the physical contact either, it was simply lack of experience and lack of confidence. Scott always thought that would stagger Riv's department where he was thought of as the epitome of self confidence.

"How do you mean weird? Physically?"

"Maybe," Riv said a little evasively. "It's okay, I'm just not used to this."

"Neither of us are," Scott pointed out with perfect truth. Riv grinned.

"You DID your part; it's over."

"Don't you pull that sexist crap on me," Scott said, smiling.

"It's true, I get to do the hard part!" Riv protested. "For a start, I'm the one who's going to have to ditch his commission and find somewhere to live." His tone changed, but only very slightly, the joking becoming a little wry. "Christ, Scotty, I've never lived outside of an institution in my life, I don't know what the hell to do without bells and regulations and canteens. I can't cook, half the places I've lived I've not even been allowed in the kitchen."

"You don't have to ditch your commission," Scott said gently, touched.

"Oh I do," Riv said at once, "I've tried living in a house full of strangers with people paid to do the looking after. You think I'd do that to a kid myself? It stays with me. And it has a home address it knows, in one place."

Scott looked down at him, startled, leaning with a fist either side of Riv's slim hips.
"You'd cope with that? One place?"

"It's a bit different now, isn't it?"  Riv said wryly. Scott leaned down and kissed him, gently, making him squirm free after a minute, wary.


"You. Taking off to establish a home and family."

It was almost funny. Kieran Rivington was barely tame, never mind domesticated. And honestly, Scott knew he'd never want Kieran tamed.

"You think I'd ever let you go off alone?" he demanded, still gently. "Where am I while you and this child clear off into the wide blue yonder?"

"Working? There's no reason for you to stop."

"This involves both of us," Scott pointed out, not liking his isolation in this idea, even if it was only theoretical. Riv shook his head.

"You love this job. You LIVE for this job, you always have."

"I married you, not the job. We're not going to want to do this forever anyway; there are plenty of settlements and plenty of work for people with our training when we're ready to get out of Starfleet. Whatever we do we do it together, my boy, you don't get rid of me." Scott hesitated, expecting a smile and not raising one. "Kieran. I got a ring on your finger, remember? Where you go, I go."

"I don't want you to end up hating me when you're out of Starfleet and bored to death," Riv said matter-of-factly.

Scott winced on that, several thoughts stirring. The first being that he'd thought- clearly mistakenly- that Riv had put this insecurity behind him. He'd had no experience in his life of permanence, it wasn't a concept he found easy and he put far more meaning on the commitment behind their marriage because of it- it had been a formal contract he had serious respect for. But even with that, underneath it all, Scott suspected he was still waiting to be tired of, as various foster families and institutions had tired and passed him on in his chaotic and social service supervised childhood. And he clearly felt this was more likely to happen when there were additional complications which he felt responsible for. This wretched baby idea of his was hitting every insecurity he had. Reminding himself this was only going to be for a few days more at most, Scott swallowed down on his own resentment for the problem and once more leaned down to kiss his partner.

"I am NEVER going to resent you, and we do things together, we make decisions together. It's going to be okay, I promise. We've got plenty of time to think about this, there's no rush."

"There's three months," Riv said lightly. "I'm going to get suspended from active duty then."
This is NOT real, honey; this is NOT going to happen and we really don't need to worry about it...  Scott swallowed on the protests.

"It's okay. We get back to base nine in three weeks, we can do some looking and thinking then about where we want to be. If it's important to you, we'll work it out."

"It's got to be what you want too."

"I know; it will be. It will be. We'll work it out."

"Somewhere real," Riv muttered, pulling Scott down on top of him with his patience for talking at an end.

"Real?" Scott pulled free long enough to see his face.

"Mmn. Maybe Earth."


"So where DID the cruiser come from?" Nguyen demanded, turning off the video. "Starfleet is still investigating, they won't confirm what the cargo is-"

"Drugs," Riv said without looking. He was slumped back in his chair and his pencil was already in three pieces.

The rest of the senior staff were grouped around the briefing room table, still reviewing the data package laid in front of them.

"We've got no proof it was drugs," Scott said firmly. Riv shrugged.

"Nothing else it could be. We'd have scanned goods of any kind- food products, weapons, materials, it would have shone up on the plane radar like flipping fireworks; of course it was drugs."

"We need to look anyway," Nguyen continued, taking no notice, "At why we were taken by surprise and how we maintain the security in this section. If the Ulysses hadn't been in calling range we'd have been in trouble."

"That's crap; we're never more than a few hours from the nearest Starship because at least 
ONE is always in dock at one of the Starbases," Riv interjected. "That's what they're FOR."

"We STILL have to look at alternatives," Nguyen persisted, glaring at Scott. Scott leaned over and confiscated Riv's pencil, digging him discreetly in the ribs until he sat up.

"We would have put into play our action plans for smuggling vessels."

"IF we'd been able to board her," Riv commented. "It's STILL crap, she attacked. We did everything right, whether or not it fits the paperwork."

Since this was, effectively, an exercise in beaurocracy, no one argued with him. Scott did however reach in his nearest pocket and dig out something which he passed Riv under the table. Riv promptly sat back, tucking one foot under him, and let the rest of the senior team get on with constructing an appropriately-worded report in peace, apparently quite happy.

"Does Command know you bribe the flight officer with chocolate in staff meetings?" Nguyen demanded when the meeting broke up. Scott gathered up his papers.

"He's always irritable when he's hungry."

"RUBBISH, Steven, you always carry sweets in your pockets when he comes into meetings, I've watched you at it." Nguyen sat on the table, watching Riv exit the boardroom with the two Squadron leaders. "How is he?"

Scott shrugged, leaning on the table. "I don't know. It's not showing any sign of passing yet. Bill keeps telling me to be patient, let him talk it out and that it'll just fade away, he'll forget all about it."

"It must be worrying," Nguyen said gently. Scott gave him a wry look.

"Not exactly. I keep finding myself getting drawn into it; he's taking it so seriously."

"It's not showing; he's got his mind on the job as usual. And he does a damned good job with the squadrons, he's had them analyse the battle flight down to the last decimal place. Manterfield's very impressed with him."

"Does Manterfield realise he's expecting?"

Nguyen smiled. "Actually, yes. He was very sympathetic. Asked me how you were doing too as it couldn't be easy for you."

"So long as he's not regretting having a married couple on board."

"Why should he?" Nguyen said philosophically. "Until you start having domestics in the middle of staff meetings you're hardly inconveniencing anyone."

Scott shook his head. "So long as I have chocolate, we won't have any arguments."

"You're amazingly calm. I don't know how I'd feel about impending fatherhood," Nguyen commented, clicking the data chip out of the machine and following him into the hallway. "Probably scared stiff."

"I have to keep reminding myself not to take it seriously," Scott admitted. "It's hard not to when Riv does. We've gone the whole gamut of discussion, up to and including resigning our commissions."


"If we were going to look at raising a child then I wouldn't do it in Starfleet. And Riv's absolutely against it. Which means we're now into where we live, what we do-"

"Complicated stuff."

"Exactly. Even if he DOES forget all about it when this passes, we've still got to do it all now."

"Where does he want to go?"

"Earth I think. He talked a little about the Genesis colonies, there're a lot of new Starfleet ground posts out there, but really it's Earth."

"He's been to Earth how often?" Nguyen asked curiously. 

"Stationed there for three years at the 
San Francisco base."

"I knew you met there."

"He was raised out on Cygnus somewhere. Went into the army there and into Starfleet when he was twenty. The whole idea of living somewhere permanent usually freaks him out entirely."

"He's probably not used to be responsible for something. Particularly something he'd need to be so protective of."

Scott found himself resisting the urge to protest that, and found somewhat to his chagrin that he was actually a little jealous of that idea. It was ridiculous. He was actually starting to regard this phantom child as competition, some part of Riv's life and being that he wasn't able to share. This was a temporary fantasy, that was all. Just something he needed to go along with for a few days until it passed. A minor head injury.

Nguyen's hand dropped on his shoulder, relieving him of the data pack.

"I'm off duty in ten minutes; want a few rounds of grav ball in the gym?"

"Thanks, but I promised to meet Riv."

That wasn’t entirely true, but at the moment Scott found himself unwilling to have Riv out of his sight for long. While he was in the grip of this- fantasy or injury, whichever it was - he was vulnerable.

 It took a while to track Riv down. The flight deck at this hour of the day was quiet, the rec deck was busy but Riv wasn't in the bar nor at the simulator games, his usual haunts when off duty. Eventually Scott ran him to earth in one of the weight rooms, alone and stripped to the waist, already gleaming with sweat and his eyes shut as he worked. Lean and thinly muscled, Scott loved to see him do this. It reminded him of a big cat, the way the sinews moved and worked under the skin, the roll of agile joints, the controlled strength and power. He slipped quietly in the door and locked it behind him, settling onto one of the bench machines in the corner to watch. Riv didn't appear to notice the intrusion. He was working smoothly and efficiently, this was one of his favourite methods of sport. Individual and personally challenging. Knowing his routine, Scott relaxed and settled down to enjoy himself, watching him move through the set. It was the number of repetitions that drew his attention a few minutes later. Another five minutes and he was beginning to worry. Riv's eyes were still closed, he was still oblivious, but Scott could see the tremor in his overworked limbs and hear the beginnings of strain in his breathing. He moved to the next machine without looking round, settled on his back on the bench and Scott got up at once as he saw the setting Riv was clicking the machine to. He grabbed the bar before Riv could lift it from its cradle and leaned on it, looking straight down at the red-rimmed grey eyes.

"What are you doing?"

"What does it look like?" prevented from activity, Riv pushed up from the bench and seated himself at the next machine. Scott went to the control panel on the wall and killed the power. Furious, Riv leaned on his knees and glared at him.


"That's what I asked you," Scott said grimly. "What exactly are you doing?"

"What does it look like?" Riv snapped.

"Like you're trying to get a stress fracture. You KNOW how to use this stuff, Kieran."

Riv got to his feet and grabbed up his towel, heading past Scott for the door.

"Yeah, and I usually do it without you standing over me."

"Don't even 
TRY that tone on me, my lad," Scott warned. Riv hit the door control and stalked towards the showers. Scott shook his head and followed.

It took some time before Riv emerged from the shower, damp and dripping, and he buried himself in a towel with only the briefest of glances at Scott. 

"What do you want for Pete's sake? Stalking me? Nothing to do?"

"I've watched you often enough on this equipment to know you use it sensibly and you know exactly what you're doing with it," Scott said matter-of-factly. "I want to know why you're abusing it."

"You're right; I DO know what I'm doing."

"If you like, I can ban you from using any equipment in the gym unless I'm supervising."

"You can try," Riv spat straight back. Scott shook his head, not moving.

"No, Kieran, I can and I will. Do I need to?"

"Sod OFF, Scotty, I'm not in the mood." Riv flung down his towel and picked up his shirt, shouldering into it. Scott swiped it out of his hands and Looked at him.

"LAST warning, my lad."

Riv glared at him, eyes hot and too angry to be cautious.

"Go to hell."

Scott turned his back on him, pick up his clothes and sorted through them, untangling his pants and jacket, and handing his shirt back. 

"All right. Get yourself dressed."

Silently, still glowering, Riv put his clothes on, tugged his collar straight and shook his hair out until Scott turned him around and finger combed it straight. Sill in silence, they left together and walked side by side down the corridor to the lift and down four decks to their cabin. The door slid shut behind them and Scott tugged his jacket off, hanging it on the back of the door. Riv stood quietly, face still grim. Scott glanced across at him and nodded at the bed, voice calm.

"I don't want you standing anywhere for a while, not after the workout you just had. Strip and lie down."

"I'm fine."

"You need to lie down and calm down; we're not talking until you're a lot more settled than you are right now."

Riv didn't argue any further. Time out was a concept Scott had introduced him to; the idea of stopping, of making the effort to calm down without blame, without it being punitive, had been totally foreign to him. There WAS a certain peace to it. As well as a lot of reassurance. Silently he pulled off boots, pants and jacket, and dropped full length on the bed, face down, resting his face on his arms. Scott straightened out his desk, checked the shift messages for anything requiring either of them, then lay down on the bed beside him, putting a heavy hand on his shoulders and rubbing, finding the familiar patterns of tension. It had taken Riv some time to learn that even when they were locked in combat he was still loved. It took a long time before the muscles eased out under his hand.

"All right?" Scott asked eventually, gently.

"Yeah." Riv glanced over at him, the mood and temper gone from his eyes. What was left there now was the apologetic humour of Riv in trouble. Scott shook his head at him. 

"So what was that all about?"

Riv shrugged. Scott reached for his hand and pulled him onto his side, swatting him firmly.
"No way, my boy. I want an explanation "

"I wasn't doing anything wrong-"

"Riv, harming yourself isn't doing anything wrong?"

"I didn't, Scotty, you're making a big deal out of this and it isn't at all-"

"Kieran, this IS serious, take my word for it. I saw what you were setting that machine to. You'll have some pulled muscles at the very least, you're very lucky you didn't do any damage. You certainly CAN'T push yourself at the moment. Bill made that clear to you."

Riv's eyes flicked up to his, quickly and guiltily. Scott pushed his hair back from his forehead, noting the faint twitch as he did so. Riv craved this kind of attention just as much as he balked at it.

"Besides which, you don't LET emotion get involved with weights, it's not safe. If you want to work something out, run or take a squash court, or find someone for some hand to hand."

"I like weights."

"I know you like weights. What was bothering you?"



"That's the rape and ravish tone, and I'm WAY too tired-" Riv began lightly. Scott swatted him again, more firmly.

"No, that's the ‘I can get the paddle down and encourage you if you insist’ tone."

"I'm not insisting!" Riv protested, "I'm not remotely interested in that possibility at all! LOOK at me not being interested in that possibility!"

"So start talking," Scott said firmly. Riv sighed.

"No, because it'll get way too complicated and it really isn't that important- Scotty NO, you really don't want tears on this pillow, it's yours."

Scott rolled to his feet and took the paddle down from its place on the wall amongst the other brightly-coloured wood decorations. Riv shook his head at him as he lay down again.
"You are NOT bringing that to bed with us. I'm coming to your next psych evaluation, I'm getting worried about you-" he broke off on a yelp as Scott leaned across him and applied the paddle soundly to the seat of his shorts.


"TALK, Rivington."

"I'm STRESSED!" Riv exploded. "I'm trying to organise the squadrons after they lost one of their pilots and ended up in a battle situation we didn't expect find ourselves in, I'm trying to work out how the hell I cope with leaving Starfleet and coping outside it, I'm trying to work out how I cope with HAVING six months of wandering around like this never mind what comes when the kid's actually born- it's not that easy to handle, Scotty!"

Scott looked at him for a moment, then shook his head, unmoved, leaned over him once more and brought the paddle down again, just as firmly.

"Ten out of ten for style and performance, Riv. Now tell me what this is really about."

"You're a bastard, you know that?"

"You ain't seen nothing yet, sweetheart."

Riv grimaced at him, but didn't move away. "I'm sorry I lost it."

"Thank you, but you're still going to tell me why."

"I'm tired! That's all. The meeting was boring as hell. OW!"

Scott levelled the paddle at him. "Once more, my lad, and we'll continue this in much less comfortable positions."

Riv didn't answer for a moment, eyes finally dropping.

"I don’t stay in this shape by not working out, none of us do, it's not like there's any room on this floating bucket to exercise UNLESS you work out-"

"What shape?" Scott interrupted. Riv shrugged, still not looking at him.

"I need to be fit. Especially now."

Scott refrained from making the obvious response, instead looking for something mild, non-committal, that would encourage Riv to keep talking and give him some more clues. 

"Why now?"

"Additional weight, my balance is going to change, I still have to be able to move around and do my job. How the heck am I going to get in a cockpit in three months time?"

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Scott said, trying to block out the mental image that raised. "It's going to come gradually, honey, it isn't as though you've got to handle it today."

"I don't WANT the weight." Riv pushed to his feet and ran his hands through his hair, walking the short distance the small cabin allowed. "I NEED to be fit, I AM fit-"

"You'll stay fit, Kieran-"

"You're not exactly going to think that when I'm God knows what shape and God knows what weight and I can't even run any more-"

"Is THAT what you're worrying about?" Scott got to his feet and padded across to him, evading the shove and pulling Riv against him. "LISTEN to me. You won't just gain weight. It's a baby, not weight. Secondly, it's temporary."

"You won't care about that when I look like hell," Riv said into his neck. Scott hugged him tighter, shaking Riv in his arms.

"I'll always love you no matter what, and you never stand still long enough to gain weight. It's a baby, the body changes are specific and they won't last-"

"Scotty, you can say that as many times as you want and in as many ways as you want and it still won't be true!"

"Yes, it will," Scott said firmly in his ear, not having to try for sincerity. "I can tell you with total honesty, looking at you and thinking about the baby makes you look - incredible- to me. I look at you and I see all three of us; have you any idea how that makes me feel?"

"And how are you going to feel in four months time or five?"

"The same. Probably more so," Scott told him, not letting him move. "It's nothing to do with cold blooded sexual attraction; you're not just a body to me. Are you?"

He actually doubted Riv believed him. This was a hangover from years of relationships that contained very little more than a cheerful casual friendship and sex. He could understand why Riv found the idea of losing the physical perfection so alarming.

"I'm TIRED," Riv said suddenly and piteously against Scott's shoulder. "I'm so bloody tired, Steve."

Whether it was stress or emotion or the effect of this head injury, either way it went to Scott's heart. He pulled Riv across to the bed with him and drew the covers back, sitting Riv on the edge of the bed to strip his t-shirt off.

"It's all right, sweetheart. Lie down."

"I keep telling you I'm not ill."

"You're still on light duties and Bill told you to take it gently. We'll discuss the rest of that in the morning." Scott pulled the covers over him and dimmed the lights, stretching out next to him on the bed. Somewhat to his surprise Riv's hand came straight over and gripped his, hard. Scott pulled him over on his side and wrapped both arms around him, holding him tight.

"It's all right. It's okay. Try to sleep, I've got you."

"My head's thumping."

"It's all right," Scott said again into his hair. "Let me do the worrying, honey; I'll handle it. Go to sleep."


It was the middle of the graveyard shift when Riv's tension and occasional stifled moans finally made Scott lean over to the bedside table and key in a private comm code to a cabin on the next deck. The answer was immediate: Bill Gordon always woke instantly in response to a call, sounding calm and together despite the hour.


"Bill, it's Scotty, Riv's in agony here, nothing I've given him is touching it."

"Head? All right, I'll be right down."


Scott keyed the comm off, padded to the bathroom and turned the dim light on in there, soaking a towel under the tap. Riv groaned at the touch of it on his face, curling away.


"Just a minute," Scott said quietly, persisting. He had the feeling Riv let him more because it was easier than resisting. Bill tapped at the door a few moments later, unshaved and looking rumpled in a uniform sweatshirt, sleeping shorts and bare feet. Scott moved aside and let him take his place on the edge of the bed to run his hand scanner over Riv, his voice low and easygoing.

"All right, kiddie. I'll give you something to knock this out, it's ok."

"It started about 
eight PM ," Scott said softly, "Just got steadily worse."

"It's all right." Gordon put the scanner down and took a hypo out of his kit bag, setting it rapidly. "Riv, I'll sign you off the next shift, this should get you some sleep and I'll come down around ten hundred and see how you're doing then. You're fine, this is quite normal."

"Nothing's been normal since I had that bloody fall," Riv said through clenched teeth. Scott sat down behind his back, rubbing his hip deeply and soothingly.

"You were cleared, sweetheart, you weren't hurt."

"This is natural, your hormones are all over the place," Gordon said easily, "Doesn't mean anything at all, you're fine. Nothing to worry about"

Riv didn't react to the soft hiss of the hypo, and Gordon didn't say anything further, just sat where he was and watched, his hand scanner running, until Riv's breathing deepened and evened out. Then quietly repacked his kit.

"That'll keep him out a good six to eight hours; he's too deep to feel anything now. If he's still in pain in the morning I'll give him another dose and he can sleep it off."

"It just came out of nowhere," Scott said softly, "He was fine-"

"It's quite normal, Scotty, it happens in these kind of neural scrambles. Especially when the brain's starting to unscramble again. He'll be confused for a while, like having a hangover, then he'll probably, gradually, forget all about the last few days."

"How can he just forget?" Scott demanded, "It's all he's thought about!"

"Same way it came," Gordon said mildly. "It'll just gradually get less and less real to him until it just sinks back into his subconscious with everything related to it. It's a good sign, don't worry. Buzz again if you need to, but he should just sleep his way out of this now." He dropped a hand on Scott's shoulder as he got up. "Relax. A few more hours and it'll all be over."

"I'm here." Scott dropped his jacket and went back to the bed. He hadn't turned the cabin light on, not wanting to disturb Riv. Riv fumbled for his hand, turning over to find him.

"Where are you going?"

"Just to check the messages, I won't be long."

"You don't have any; they won't want me on duty for hours yet."

Scott hesitated, disturbed. "Riv. We're on the Argo, honey."

"Heard the base sirens."

His voice was thick, his eyes hadn't opened. Scott sat down on the edge of the bed, stroking his knuckles.


"What if it's a girl? Did you think about that?"

He was light years away. Scott combed the hair back from his forehead with gentle fingers, letting his voice soothe as much as his hands.

"Boy or girl, we can handle it."

"I don't know anything about girls."

Scott smiled faintly, unable to stop the mental image of a little girl, with Riv's slight build and his grey eyes- and probably his temperament as well. Although what the temperament of a child that was both of theirs would be like he was less sure.

"We'd work it out."

Riv didn't answer. Scott watched him for a moment, then leaned over to touch the comm. 

"Control room?"

"McGee here."

"It's Scott. Can you pipe down any messages to my cabin? I'll work here this morning unless I'm needed for something specific."

"Can do, sir."

Scott killed the connection and looked back down at Riv once more. He looked as though he'd drifted away again, his eyes were closed, his face peaceful. Scott smoothed his hair, watching for a moment, then got up and took off his jacket. He had paperwork- as the personnel officer he always had paperwork- but he lay down beside Riv once more, sliding a gentle arm over his waist.

The lights on the ship simulated night and day, dimming at dusk and rising at dawn according to Fleet standard time- mostly to keep the crew sane. In the cabin, Scott overrode the programme and kept them out, encouraging Riv to sleep as peacefully as he could. He was drifting in and out, still confused- mostly, Scott hoped, from the painkillers and sedation.

"You know I know nothing about what to do with children," he said unsteadily at one point. "Nothing about babies."

He meant it. Scott knew very little about the specifics of Riv's childhood but in institutions he would have had no opportunities at all to watch the handling and care of younger children. And his own memories would be of institutional care, if he remembered much at all that far back. He'd probably never touched or handled a baby in his life.

"What about the younger ones in the children's homes?" he said softly, wondering whether Riv would answer. It took awhile but Riv responded, eyes open and fixed on the wall beyond him.

"They kept us pretty separate. A lot of disturbed kids, a lot of them beat up on smaller kids or couldn't be trusted around them. And I was moved around a lot."

"Do you remember where you were when you were small?"

"Not until I was seven or eight," Riv said vaguely. " San Lucia City , the kids’ home there."
That was the most specific he'd ever been. Riv glanced towards him in the dark.

"I'm no good person to be around a child, they say you just hand on all the crap that happened to you- I know nothing."

"Honey, it's mostly instinctive," Scott said gently. "And you are a good person. We'll be fine."
Riv found the hand Scott had over his waist and gripped it.

"What if I hurt it? What if I do something wrong?"

"You won't, Riv."

"What if I do?"

Scott pulled him closer, trying to quieten the anxiety in his voice.

"Think about it. Could you? Could you really?"

"I feel like I'd kill anyone who hurt her."

"Him," Scott said mildly. Riv gave him a faint smile.


The comm bleeped. Scott rolled over to answer it, fumbling for the key in the dark.


"Scotty it's Nguyen. Just thought you might like to know. Starfleet just confirmed to us, they seized two million credits worth of illegal chemicals on the two captured crafts."

"Drugs or weapons?"

"Unconfirmed chemical compounds. Starfleet's investigating where it was headed and why, apparently the army are involved which suggests they've got specific people in mind."


"How's Riv doing?"

Scott glanced back. Riv was asleep again, breathing quietly but his forehead was lined and tight.

"Sleeping a lot. Gordon says it's the head injury wearing off."

"We've got everything covered up here, there's no need to worry this shift."

"Thanks, Chen."

"Keep me posted."

Scott keyed off the com and lay down again, once more gently tucking an arm over Riv. His stomach was tight, as though he was waiting for something to happen- something awful. And he didn't know why. Edging closer against Riv's back he leaned over, kissed his temple and lay against him, continuing to wait.

Gordon came up at ten. Scott got up in response to the knock, put the shower room light on softly and opened the door.

"Hi, Bill. He's asleep; he's been out most of the time."

"Is he more comfortable?" Gordon said quietly, pulling out a scanner. Scott stood to watch him work, trying to sound relaxed.

"He didn't seem in any pain. Just confused."

"He will be for a few hours, don't worry." Gordon shut off his scanner. "He's fine. 

Temperature up a little but the inflammation isn't reading on here any more. I'll leave you some painkillers in case he's uncomfortable, just let him sleep. Are you staying here?"

"Things seem to be quiet this morning."

"If you need to go anywhere, give me a buzz and I'll come down and sit with him." Gordon pocketed his scanner and got up, giving Scott a sympathetic look. "He'll be okay. You've had a hell of a few days; this has probably been harder on you than him."

Scott gave him a faint smile, shrugging, "It's been different."

"Something you two would think about? Kids?"

Scott raised his eyebrows, a little surprised at the thought. "I don't know. We'd never really thought about it. This has upset him a lot; children aren't really something he's got much affinity with."

"I do his psych profiles, I can imagine," Gordon said wryly. "You're probably the nearest he's come to a parental relationship, I can see he probably wouldn't cope well with competition."

"That's rubbish, Bill; it isn't in the least parental," Scott said absently. Gordon paused, watching Riv for a moment.

"They say your partner is the closest relationship you ever have similar to the parent-child relationship. And you learn how to have that relationship through the first parental one. I think anyone partnering someone who had a lousy experience of that relationship probably ends up teaching them what they missed the first time around. I know it was that way with my wife."

Scott looked around at him, eyebrow quirking, thinking of the holos he'd seen in Gordon's office. A tall, brown-eyed woman and two teenaged girls.


"Definitely.  Twenty-three years of marriage and still is that way. If I ever meet her father I'll perform a free frontal lobotomy on him."

"You can do his parents too," Scott said dryly. "Whoever they were."

Gordon patted his shoulder as he passed. "Buzz if I can help."

"Thanks, Bill."

Gordon left and Scott eased himself down onto the edge of the bed, once more looking down into his partner's face. Untroubled. Boyish and anything but boyish once you saw the stubble and the shape of his jaw. A powerful, well-kept body and an active mind. A running dynamo. Having God only knew what dreams. Scott ran a hand gently over his forehead, hoping whatever was going on in his brain was happening fast and painlessly.

He was woken by the creak of the door.

The dim light of the shower room was still on, and Riv, fully uniformed, gave him an apologetic smile from the door.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."

"No- I'm glad you did." Scott struggled upright, realising he'd fallen asleep fully dressed. "How are you feeling? What time is it?"

"It's first shift, the bells rang twenty minutes ago."

"How's your head?"

Riv gave him a faintly sideways glance. "Fine?"

Scott leaned over to snap on the cabin light and held out a hand to him. "Come here."

"I'm okay, I need to go-"

"Come here."

Riv rolled his eyes but came to him, letting the cabin door slide shut. Scott pulled him down onto the bed and rested a hand on his forehead, looking at his eyes.

"You don't feel warm. Headache?"

"No, fine." Riv gave him a slight shrug, looking a little awkward. "Just things are a bit blurry? I remember landing, they brought me in on tractors, and we debriefed…?"

"That was four days ago," Scott said gently. "You came in with a bit of a concussion. Bill had you drugged to the gills yesterday for the headache, I don't know if he'll want you on duty this morning."

"Then I'll stay right out of his way," Riv said dubiously. Scott gave him a gentle swat.

"Go up and find him now, he'll be coming on shift. Go on, I'll meet you in the Control room."

"You look shattered, yourself; did I keep you up?" Riv asked, reaching to tug Scott's collar straight. "In fact you look a mess, my boy."

"I just need a shower. And I like watching you sleep."

"I'm married to a total pervert," Riv said resignedly. And grinned as Scott grabbed his lapel and pulled him down for a kiss.

"Get up to the infirmary, Rivington. I'll check."

"I'm going, I'm going." Riv gave him a mocking salute and headed for the door.

He was sitting on the deck rail and drinking coffee when Scott made it up to the Control room twenty minutes later, dressed, shaved and still feeling half awake. Riv gave him a wink over the edge of his cup and watched Scott help himself from the machine.

"No messages, Alpha Squadron's out patrolling, it's all boring."

"Shhhh, that's good." Scott perched beside him on the rail. At this hour of the morning only the skeleton crew were stood to, just three youngsters manning the stations with no interest whatsoever in senior officers.

"What did Bill say? Are you cleared for duty?"

"Fit, full duty, ready to go," Riv spread his arms, indicating fitness. Scott gave him a faint smile over his coffee, appreciating the fitness presented to him.


"He just said to be nice to you, you'd had a hard few days," Riv gave him a faintly anxious look, well hidden behind the joking. "Give you a bad time, did I, love?"

"No." Scott got up, taking advantage of the disinterest of the duty officers to slide an arm around Riv and give him a quick and discreet hug. "No, not at all."

"Sure?" Riv paused, giving him a searching look. "You look down."

"Just tired."

"Come have breakfast with me?" Riv said gently. "My squad's out, I've got half an hour."

"Now THIS is why I wanted you on board." Scott picked up his coffee and followed him across to the lift. Riv keyed the door and gave him another quick look.

"You'll come to regret it."

"No." Scott waited until the door closed, leaned across and gave him a quick and thorough kiss, unable to keep away the hand that ran gently down Riv's flat midriff, caressing from several days' sheer force of habit. "Never, no matter what."

~ The End ~

Copyright Ranger 2010


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this. I kind of wish they actually do have a kid now. Especially since Scott would be more prepared to handle Riv's insecurities. More please!!!

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