Title: Force Field
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.
The shipwide intercom blasted a familiar siren, followed by the voice of the radio controller on duty,
Riv glanced down at his flight suit without a flicker of expression.
"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.
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.
"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.
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.
"I told you. I'm not going."
The comm bleeped at the other end and Bill Gordon, the Argo's chief medic answered.
"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?"
"And you got your medical degree when?" Bill said genially. Scott smiled.
Scott snapped off the intercom.
Riv tipped his head back, pale but perfectly together.
"I'm fine; I just want a stiff drink and an hour in the gym."
Scott meandered back to Nguyen, still reading.
"He couldn't even be bothered to turn out to the debriefing yesterday."
"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?"
"I'm not surprised. They were on a routine patrol; this bastard came out of nowhere."
Nguyen dropped a hand on Scott's shoulder, taking the chips from him.
"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.
Scott looked at him, none the wiser. "What does this have to do with that fall? It affected his balance? What?"
"Whoa!" Scott interrupted in growing disbelief. "Bill, he is NOT pregnant!"
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.
"He's absolutely serious," Gordon confirmed gently. "I know this seems outrageous but-"
"Great," Scott said blankly. "Is he going to keep coming up with these dreams? When do we get onto the pink elephants?"
"Being pregnant!" Scotty retorted. Gordon nodded.
"NOT for a man, for Pete's sake!"
"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.
"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?!"
"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."
"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-"
"What did Gordon say?"
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.
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.
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. "
"Did you ask him to?" Scott said bluntly. Riv gave him a brief glance under his eyebrows and looked away.
"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.
"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.
"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."
No, Rivington, I REFUSE to get involved in disciplining your dream life.
Riv pulled a face, quickly distracted. "Bill told you I wasn't ill-"
"Nah, I just know a good thing when I've got - damn."
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.
"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.
"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.
"Scott to Flight, stand to and arm boarding party."
"Has it changed speed?"
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.
"Forty seconds remaining."
The open radio channel brought a burst of static and then Riv's voice, clear and matter of fact from the flight deck below.
"It's not going to stop," Nguyen said grimly. "Is it big enough to disable safely?"
"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.
"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.
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.
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.
Scott turned him around and swatted him, hard enough to make him cough on the smoke.
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 laid another powerful dozen swats across the upturned backside over his lap, not interested in negotiation, then jerked Riv back to his feet.
"I've always smoked and you well know that too," Riv snapped back. Scott reversed him and swatted him again.
"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.
"You're under MY command, on duty or not,
"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?"
"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?"
"It's all right-" Scott began much more gently. Riv shied back from him, lifting his hands.
"What kind of a parent am I going to be for God's sake? I can't even put it first
"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?"
"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."
"Is it in your psych profile that you're a sadistic bastard?"
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.
"Come and take a break then."
"Neither of us are," Scott pointed out with perfect truth. Riv grinned.
"Don't you pull that sexist crap on me," Scott said, smiling.
Scott looked down at him, startled, leaning with a fist either side of Riv's slim hips.
It was almost funny. Kieran Rivington was barely tame, never mind domesticated. And honestly, Scott knew he'd never want Kieran tamed.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"Drugs," Riv said without looking. He was slumped back in his chair and his pencil was already in three pieces.
"That's crap; we're never more than a few hours from the nearest Starship because at least
"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.
"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."
"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?"
"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?"
"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."
"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."
"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?"
"He's been to Earth how often?" Nguyen asked curiously.
"Stationed there for three years at the
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.
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."
"What do you want for Pete's sake? Stalking me? Nothing to do?"
"You can try," Riv spat straight back. Scott shook his head, not moving.
"All right. Get yourself dressed."
"You need to lie down and calm down; we're not talking until you're a lot more settled than you are right now."
"I wasn't doing anything wrong-"
"Riv, harming yourself isn't doing anything wrong?"
"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.
"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.
"So start talking," Scott said firmly. Riv sighed.
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.
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."
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.
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.
"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-"
"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.
"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!"
"And how are you going to feel in four months time or five?"
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.
"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," Scott said again into his hair. "Let me do the worrying, honey; I'll handle it. Go to sleep."
"Bill, it's Scotty, Riv's in agony here, nothing I've given him is touching it."
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.
"It started about ," 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."
"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.
"It just came out of nowhere," Scott said softly, "He was fine-"
"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."
"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."
His voice was thick, his eyes hadn't opened. Scott sat down on the edge of the bed, stroking his knuckles.
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.
"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.
Riv didn't answer. Scott watched him for a moment, then leaned over to touch the comm.
"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."
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.
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.
"Honey, it's mostly instinctive," Scott said gently. "And you are a good person. We'll be fine."
"What if I do?"
"Him," Scott said mildly. Riv gave him a faint smile.
"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?"
"How's Riv doing?"
"We've got everything covered up here, there's no need to worry this shift."
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.
"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 will be for a few hours, don't worry." Gordon shut off his scanner. "He's fine.
"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?"
"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.
"No- I'm glad you did." Scott struggled upright, realising he'd fallen asleep fully dressed. "How are you feeling? What time is it?"
"How's your head?"
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-"
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.
"Then I'll stay right out of his way," Riv said dubiously. Scott gave him a gentle swat.
"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.
"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.
"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?"
"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.
"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."