Free Trader


He leaned back in the seat, ran a hand through his curly hair, sighed in relief. He hated formal receptions almost as much as he hated the dress uniform. All evening, while pleasantly shaking hands with dignitaries on one side and smiling at the overdressed females on the other he had forced himself to remember that it was all part of the job. Another part of his mind taunted him with the fact that it wasn't the job he had trained to do.

The lights on the control board shifted into the green. He entered in the course, hit the launch button. The little shuttle lifted gracefully away from the Embassy's pad. He loosened the fasteners on the knee length maroon tunic, felt his tension melt away as he experienced the sensual pleasure of slipping into the black and silver silence of open space.

This was where he belonged, not warming a padded chair just because he happened to be the best linguist/cryptologist to come out of the Academy in years. He smiled cynically at the description of his position. Spy was an out-dated term. It was also much more accurate.

When the ship cleared the three outer planets he hit the control that shot the small vessel into Warp. He watched the stars streak by in their multicolored warp effect, the sight as beckoning as ever. The parsecs clicked away as he started working out the wording of his next request for transfer.

The sensors went red. Training switched in. He brought the shields up seconds before the first phaser blast blossomed around the ship.

"Computer," he asked calmly. "Identify attacking vessel."

"Class 12 Auadian scout ship. Armament--standard phasers. Top speed--Warp 3. Four man crew. Registration number not listed in...."

"Stop." He frowned. Embassy vessels weren't armed. But he had the advantage in speed. The little ship looked fragile but under a good pilot could manage Warp 5 without damage.

Another blast created an aurora scant meters from the hull. "Computer. Mayday--coded burst--code 13115--five second pattern." Another hit, red lights came on for the number four shield. "Disengage pilot."

There was a brief flutter of panic, he had not piloted a ship in several months, and only once before in actual combat. But the plan was very simple; put all the power in the rear shield, turn tail and run back to the nearest Starbase. An explosion of rainbow light flashed through the viewpoint. He lowered the power level on his front shield. The interior lights went down as the power fed to the rear shield. The ship turned, pushed into Warp 3.

"Transmission to Starbase on Remillo interrupted," the computer calmly informed him. "No acknowledgement received."

He wasn't surprised. The Auadians were out to kill him, though he had no idea why, they wouldn't want him announcing the news to the whole Federation. He sent the ship into Warp 4. On the sensors he was pulling away from the marauder.

Something exploded against the weakened front shield, partial penetrated, shook the shuttle. He was thrown sideways out of the chair, grabbed the console, and drug himself up.

"Computer." His voice was shaky this time. "Identify."

"Class 11 Auadian scout ship. Armaments--standard phasers and low grade metal detonation devices. Top speed--Warp 4. Augmented with illegal cloaking device. Four man crew."

"Stop." The fear didn't reach his voice.

There were two of them, one cloaked. They were taking no chances on him getting out of this. The first ship had driven him like a lamb right into the sights of the second one. They would batter his shield down then launch a very simple, very effective metal bomb at his hull. Hit a piece of metal at 4 to the 4th lightspeed, without a shield and there was very little left to find. And what was found would look like an accident.

But they had to take his shield down first. He sent the ship down, the first raider firing at him as he swept under the second. It battered another shot at the rear shield, the backup hit the number three. The ship bucked, red lights blinking on across the board. He was thrown again, harder this time, ribs striking the console as the ship spiraled.

"Third ship entering area. Class 2 Dezian...." The computer droned on. "Shield four down to 12.5% power. Estimate...."

There was the far away sound of metal striking metal, then the deadly hiss of escaping atmosphere. He was slammed against the bulk head, had a split second of consciousness to regret his poor judgement then the lights snapped out.

"You're sure they're Auadians?"

"Bodie," the even female voice answered, "I am always sure."

The dark-haired man smiled. "Yeah. Never hurts to check though."


"Reading on their weapons." Bodie commanded.

"The first ship is using standard phasers, the second has launched two phaser attacks and sensors indicate metal explosions."

Bodie frowned. "They want this one bad. Can our shields hold...."

"The Federation craft has taken a critical hit, loosing atmosphere. Estimate 1.15 minutes to implosion. Dropping out of Warp. Others are doing the same."

"No choice." Bodie mumbled. "Keep us in Warp long enough to come out between them. Stand by on transporter. Lock on and port as soon as we go sub-light. Give it to me on sub-light."


Seconds went by. The streaks of stars slowed to pin pricks. The disabled shuttle was directly in front of him, the raiders to port and starboard, one below, one above.

"Now! Transport!" Bodie ordered.

His hands flew over the console, the sleek freighter came around, firing in a deadly semi-circle from front phasers. The first raider took a solid hit, flowered into a silent ball of red and blue.

"Human aboard, Bodie."

Bodie barely heard. He reached for the shield control, was thrown forward as a phaser hit the unprotected freighter. Circuits fluxed, threw the ship into darkness. Red emergency lights flared into life. Bodie reached again for the shields, raising them as the cloaked vessel wavered from the screen.

The sensors locked on even as the enemy faded out. Bodie smiled, let loose with a full barrage of torpedoes. The multicolor of explosions sprayed against the black directly ahead of him. Another bank of the deadly photons sailed away, hitting in the same coordinates. They flashed white, were followed by a chaotic mix of the deadly red and blue combined with the streaks of Warp effect.

Bodie instinctively threw his arms over his face. When he lowered them only blackness and star specks filled the screen. "Report, Cory!"

"Auadian destroyed just before entry into Warp. Message started but terminated upon destruction. No information on success of first part of transmission."

"That could be a problem." The lights around him flickered. "Damage, Cory."

"Main power channel out. Warp drive out. Life support coming back up to full. Shields and weapons at full." The cool voice continued, "Communications--subspace only until power channel repaired."

"Damn, damn." Bodie thumped the arm of his command chair. "What's the estimate of repair time?"

Now that the battle was over the voice became softer, friendlier. "You're not going to like it."


"Working eight hour shifts we should have it on-line in sixty eight days."

"Sixty eight! Oh, bloody hell." Bodie sighed, "Time to the nearest friendly anything at sub-warp?"

"Ninety four days to Remillo," was the even answer. "And, Bodie, I think you'd better see to our passenger. He's bleeding all over my deck."

Bodie was up, sprinting to the personal transporter immediately behind the bridge. The man was laying face down on the pad, a slowly widening pool of blood forming beneath his head.

"Give me a reading, Cory." He slowly rolled the man over, frowning at the slivers of bone showing through cut flesh under the right eye.

The soft voice filled the room. "Human stock. Male, 1.7.25 meters, 71.1 kilog...."

"Medical!" Bodie commanded.

There was the slightest hesitation. "Concussion, compound fracture of the zygomatic bone...."

"What? Never mind, I can see that one."

"Yes, he is a mess. Tenth and eleventh ribs on right side fractured, twelfth severely bruised, deep tissue bruising along side and hip. Lacerations on face, over right shoulder, and along the broken ribs."

"Well," Bodie said cheerfully. "That doesn't sound too bad. Nice to know the poor bastard will live. Hate to think I went to all this trouble--and time, to have him die on me."

He slid one arm under the man's shoulders the other under his legs, rose very slowly. There was a slight thump as a communique pack fell out of his ruined tunic. Bodie glanced down, then ignored it. "Power up the medical section, Cory. I'll need both lasers."


The slender body was rigid, shivering slightly through the bloodied tunic. The pain penetrated the unconsciousness and the man moaned as Bodie laid him gently on the meditable.

"Hush, sunshine," Bodie whispered, astonished at the term even as he said it. "You'll be fine."

"What did you say, Bodie?" Cory asked.

"Nothing. Wasn't talking to you."

It was very pleasant to wake up when it was something you hadn't expected to ever do again. Doyle's eyes were still closed but he could feel the light cover tucked over him, the meditable under him and a presence nearby. He tried to move. Strong hands held him down.

"Easy, mate," a deep voice said. "You've only just come 'round after three days. No sudden moves."

Green eyes forced themselves open, looked up into midnight blue. The man smiled, a slight motion that barely moved his lips while lighting the beautiful eyes. He moved out of Doyle's sight for a moment, returned with a container of cool water. With a gentle touch he raised the curly head.

"This will help."

Doyle took a few sips, lay back. He struggled to focus, scanned the room. "Who? Where?"

"Are you always so articulate?" The almost smile again. "Welcome aboard the free trader Solar Hawk. I'm Captain Bodie."

Doyle was still trying to focus, to understand what had hit him.

"You are?" Bodie inquired politely.

"Doyle." He answered hoarsely, "Lt. Ray Doyle."

The term free trader had started an alarm up in the back of Doyle's mind but his concentration kept wandering away from it back toward the comfortable darkness. His eyes refused to stay open.

The gentle touch returned, spread something cool over his right cheek. "Go back to sleep, Ray Doyle."

Bodie leaned back as his patient drifted off. He had been spending far more time than he could spare sitting with the man. While he'd been working on the man's injuries his normal concern had somehow changed into a strong protectiveness that puzzled him. He tried to shrug it off as coming from this being the only time he had done major repairs on a fellow human being. It was the only acceptable answer he could come up with.

"Bodie, will you be much longer?" Cory's voice carried loudly in the dimly lit room. "I've isolated the burn out in circuit 312."

"I'll be right there," he answered vaguely. A quick check of the mediscanners satisfied him that Doyle would sleep another few hours. He went back to the repairs.

Doyle came awake faster this time. He keep his eyes closed until he was certain he was alone then pushed the silver blanket away, and eased into a sitting position. He regretted it immediately as the room took a sharp turn. Snapping his eyes shut he made a quick grab for the edge of the table.

The room settled into a stable condition after a few minutes and he took a slow look around. He was in a single bed medical section, well-equipped if a little out-dated. A glance over his shoulder at the readings above the table showed that his blood pressure and pulse were slightly elevated but the other readings were normal. With a certain amount of surprise he realized that with the dizziness fading he actually felt pretty well. Better than he should have after being in a decompressing shuttle.

Slowly he lowered his feet to the warm carpet. A shadow of pain echoed along his right side from hip to shoulder. Glancing down he saw the line of nearly healed green-yellow bruises, also realized that he was wearing only a pair of briefs. Running a hand along his right shoulder he felt the unnatural smoothness of a skin patch, encountered another across his ribs. He had not come out unscathed. Someone had done a good job of putting him back together.

Compelling midnight blue eyes flashed into his memory. Captain Bodie, a free trader. He frowned. A free trader would patch him up. Alive and in one piece he was bound to bring more when ransomed or sold.

Grabbing the blanket off the bed he started for the door, limping slightly. He had two chances, try for the bridge and hope to get a coded message to the nearest base or make for the escape pods. Neither held a lot of promise, especially since he didn't know the ship or its spatial coordinates.

The door whisked open. Captain Bodie was standing square in front of him. Surprise knocked him back, his fall stopped only by a fast hand under his arm.

"If you wanted a tour all you had to do was ask." The statement was calm, Bodie had seen the momentary panic in the wide green eyes, and was confused by it.

Doyle pulled away, took his first good look at the Captain. He was taller, stockier than Doyle with cut close, nearly black hair and the incredible blue eyes that Doyle remembered. He was wearing a close fitting black jumpsuit covered with pockets, stood with his arms crossed, regarding the other man with an impatient glint in his eyes. There was a feeling of calm, competent strength about the set of his shoulders, the firm line of his mouth. Formidable was the first word that came to Doyle's mind. He immediately gave up the idea of fighting his way out. For now.

"Captain Bodie." He touched his ribs, controlling the slight shake in his hand. "Are you the one who did the work on me?"

Bodie looked embarrassed. "Yes. I'm sorry about the face. It was...."

"What?" Doyle's hand shot up before he could control it. He wasn't vain but for someone to stand calmly in front of you and apologize.... "What's wrong with it?"

By way of explanation Bodie walked to an inset drawer and returned with a mirror, handing it over reluctantly. Doyle raised it just as reluctantly. He traced a finger over the bump under his right eye.

"I got the ribs right." Bodie added helpfully.

"There's no scar." Doyle sounded puzzled.

"Yeah, well, the skin patch was easy but I misaligned the bone." He took the mirror as it was offered back to him. "You can get...."

"I hope it doesn't cut down my price too much." Doyle's sharp voice cut him off, jade green eyes glaring at him coldly.

"Price?" Bodie looked blank for a minute, then leaned back against the edge of the bed, smiled coolly. "Oh, I don't think it will matter. Tell me, Doyle how much do you think I should ask? What's the going rate for slightly dented Star Fleet lieutenants?"

Doyle continued to glare at him. Bodie took one stride across the small room, stood very close, trying to use his size to intimidate. Doyle refused to step back.

"I expected better from a Star Fleet officer," Bodie said, sarcasm heavy in his voice. "You heard free trader and automatically thought spacer, right? Can't always go by titles, Doyle. According to your uniform you're a lieutenant but you managed to get that shuttle shot out from under you just like a first year yeoman."

A flinch answered his words. The green eyes broke contact, glanced guiltily away. Bodie felt a twinge of regret. Doyle was the first person he had brought aboard in a long time. He had been looking forward to having someone to talk to. But he wouldn't apologize, had nothing to apologize for.

"I also thought common sense was a requirement in Star Fleet." Anger forced him to continue. "Why the hell would a spacer fight off two Auadians to haul a skinny, near dead, officer out of a damaged vessel?" He took a deep breath. "I'm a free trader, Doyle, on some occasions a smuggler and given enough provocation I've been known to bend and even break a few laws." He poked Doyle's chest with a hard finger. "But I have never been a kidnapper, a slaver, or a spacer. And I don't like being called one."

He turned for the door. Just before it slid open he said back over his shoulder. "Two doors down on the left is the spare cabin. There's a clothes unit and a shower." The door slid shut.

Doyle stayed where he was, mouth slightly open in surprise. He believed the man. The righteous indignation in the deep voice left no doubt as to the truth in the sharp words. The man had saved his life, and the first thing he had done was accuse him of kidnapping and worse. Calling himself a variety of fools he moved for the door.

He caught a fleeting glimpse of a black clad figure disappearing around the end of the corridor. "Captain! Wait!" He yelled. For a moment he was afraid the man wouldn't stop. He wasn't up to a quick sprint.

Doyle started after him, favoring his right leg. He was half-way down the corridor when Bodie stepped back around the corner. He stared defiantly at the smaller man.

Doyle cleared his throat. "I'm sorry, Captain. I had no right to accuse you of being a spacer. Especially since I owe you my life." He held out his hand. "Thank you."

Bodie watched him carefully, very aware of the sincerity in the wide eyes. He took the offered hand firmly. "I'd have done it for anyone." The pleasure he was getting from the warm hand made him vaguely uneasy.

"Bodie?" the female voice called.

Doyle clutched the thin blanket tighter. Bodie smiled at the modest gesture. "Yes, Cory?"

"Who is that?" Doyle asked.

"Not who, what," Bodie corrected. "That's Cory, my ship board computer."

The voice continued. "Will you be coming back? The coupling on the number four ion transfer...."

"Yes, Cory. I'll be along."

"Repairs?" Doyle questioned.

Bodie smiled ruefully. "Yeh, took an Auadian phaser right in the ass." He watched as Doyle yawned, a hazy look coming into the intriguing green eyes. "You'd better get that shower soon, mate. You're going to be out on your feet in a minute."

Doyle yawned again, trying to remember the dozen questions he had for the Captain but giving it up as useless. He was simply too tried to worry about it.

A steady hand turned him around by the elbow, pushed him gently toward the second door. "Sleep well, Doyle."

"Captain." Doyle nodded politely, curls bouncing.

"Bodie." The deep voice smiled.


The lights came up as Doyle entered. The cabin was large for a one man freighter, with an extra wide bunk and two comfortable chairs around a small table to fill some of the space. There was a small bar with a food unit on one end. The head included a shower with two settings, sonic and water. Doyle nodded his approval. The Captain obviously liked his luxuries.

On the table was the Embassy compac he had been charged with carrying. He picked up the pack, embarrassed that he had forgotten all about it. The seal was still intact. He had known in would be. The rank buttons and insignias from his discarded uniform had also been neatly laid out.

Doyle stood for a while considering whether to shower or eat. He wasn't really hungry but hoped that food would dispel some of his drowsiness. He made the mistake of sitting down to think about it. The lights were still on when he fell asleep.

"Okay, Cory, send half a unit through 434."


The tricorder in Bodie's hand registered the power. "That's better."

"Can I be of any help?" The soft voiced question startled Bodie, he spun around, fumbling the tricorder.

Doyle was really awake this time, green eyes bright, alert, curls hanging in chaotic disarray, still damp from his shower. He spread his hands, conveying his eagerness to help.

A surprising jolt of appreciation went through Bodie. Doyle was wearing a dark green short shelved jumpsuit that was snug in all the right places, accenting the slim waist and narrow hips, hugging the tight ass. The strange protectiveness Bodie had been victim to took a sharp turn toward desire. Bodie had learned early to enjoy the beauty of a well built body.

"How's it look?" Doyle asked, peering over the bigger man's shoulder.

Bodie shook himself away from the stray thoughts. "Not good."

"What's the repair estimate?"

Bodie squinted, looked at him out of one eye. "About two months."

"What?" Doyle nearly shouted. "Bloody hell."

"'Course that estimate was based on just me and Cory doing the work." He looked at Doyle hopefully. "What do you know about engineering?"

"I'm a linguist, not an engineer. Sorry." He looked up into the strangely amused blue eyes. "But I'm good with my hands, I should be...."

"Ready on 435, Bodie," Cory interrupted.

"Cory, love, it's not polite to interrupt someone when they're talking," Bodie explained in the same monotone the computer had used.

There was a slight pause before Cory said, "Agreed."

"Now be a good girl and say hello to our guest, Lt. Ray Doyle."

"Welcome aboard the Solar Hawk, Lt. Ray Doyle," the voice said evenly.

"Thank you, Cory." Forgetting the computer Doyle started again. "I assume the radio is also out since this seems to be the main power channel."

"Thought you didn't know anything about engineering?"

"Your warp drive is out, you haven't mentioned sending out an SOS, and I noticed that you have the power down in all unused sections so...."

Bodie looked impressed. "Good reckoning that. And yes, the radio is sub-light only."

Doyle frowned guiltily. "I'm sorry about all this, Captain."

Surprised by the apology Bodie said, "Bodie, not Captain and it's not your fault. It was my decision to go in after you." Off-handedly Bodie asked, "Why were the Auadians after you?"

"Why did you rescue me?" Doyle questioned back.

There was a moment of silence, neither offering explanations for their actions. "Over dinner?" Bodie suggested, surprising himself as he did. While the company was welcome he normally preferred to eat alone. He was even more surprised at the pleasure he got when Doyle nodded his acceptance. Bodie stood up, pulling the tricorder off, and sitting it on the floor near the open panel. "Come on then. We'll make a fresh start of it...."

"Bodie. May I reminded you that any delay will add to our down time," Cory added peevishly.

"A man's got to eat, Cory."

"Bodie, you ate only...."

"Power up the main galley," Bodie continued.

"There's already power in my cabin." Doyle volunteered. He wanted to try to make up for the trouble he had caused the free trader. "We can eat there."

"Belay that last order, Cory."


Doyle knew it was his imagination that made the computer's acknowledgement sound belligerent.

The food was above average, showing Bodie's taste again. The silence at first was uncomfortable but after a little Doyle relaxed, enjoying the way Bodie was attacking his meal as if there were nothing unusual about his presence.

"How's food supplies?" Doyle questioned.

"Plenty," Bodie answered around a mouthful. The implication of the question sank in and he smiled. "I never run out of food."

"That's a surprise." Doyle laughed. After a few more bites he asked, "Cory is augmented, isn't it?"

Bodie nodded, "Going to turn me in, Lieutenant?" He received a writhing look from the other man. "Yeah, gets a bit lonely out here sometimes. Had a friend of mine add some personality traits into the programming."

"Some people have had trouble with that sort of thing," Doyle reminded him.

"Easier than a crew." Bodie stood, started to clear the table.

"Here, I can get that," Doyle volunteered.

"Stay. You're my guest. Besides," he smiled, "you don't have to keep apologizing. You've already done that."

The brown curls bounced as Doyle looked up at him. "I didn't know my motives were so transparent."

Bodie dumped the whole lot down the recycle system. He leaned back, stretched his back and shoulders. "You're a linguist? I would have thought universal translators would have put you out of a job."

"Machines can't interrupt everything." Doyle explained quietly. "Especially on written communiques."

Bodie laughed, startling Doyle. "Read between the lines, do you?" He sat opposite him, one eyebrow raising he asked seriously, "Is reading between the lines what got you in trouble with the Auadians?"

Doyle looked thoughtful for a moment. "I'm not sure. I wasn't doing anything interesting. My current assignment was...." He stopped, shocked with himself that he had been about to reveal classified material.

"That compac had a Pich Embassy seal on it," Bodie hinted gently. "Could be...."

His joking question caused Doyle to look up at him in surprise. "Most Embassy's send their normal reports, local news, via radio to their Embassy's then by compac to us at Fleet." He looked thoughtful, "It is unusual for an Ambassador to hand deliver something like this."

Bodie remained silent and let his guest think. After a minute Doyle shook himself around. "I may have to do some reading on that compac." Trying to sound only mildly interested he asked, "Why did you take on the Auadians?" He found himself wanting to know what motivated the trader Captain, how he felt about things.

"I don't like Auadains." Was the bland reply.

Doyle stared at him. "That's it? You don't like Auadians?" In his world nothing was ever that straight forward.

"That's it. They're a planet full of paid assassins, smugglers and spacers." He added with a chilling smile, "And they once stole a shipment from me."

The dark haired Captain stood, Doyle took the hint. "Back to the repairs?"

"No, had enough for today. Care for a tour of the Hawk?" He tried to sound casual but his pride came through the simple question.

"I'd be honored, Captain." Doyle used the term very consciously this time, letting Bodie know he was aware of the Captain's pride in his ship. Bodie didn't correct him, only gave him the curious half-smile.

The ship was small, compact, well-designed and cared for. Doyle realized that even more than with a Star Fleet Captain this was Bodie's home as well as livelihood. The realization made him wonder again at the man's willingness to take damage for someone he didn't know.

They took the lift to the third of four levels, the lower level being all storage compartments. The third level was engineering; the small impulse engines filling the level with noise. One wall was scored, a five meter square section bent almost in. Doyle stared, not liking the look at all.

Bodie followed his stare. "Took it dead on. Don't worry, not as bad as it looks. The bulkhead is solid." He pointed to a large conduit running along the wall, "Unfortunately that is the main...."

"Power converter," Doyle supplied. Bodie nodded, led them on.

The second level was partially passenger cabins connected to a small library and a galley. At the far end of the corridor Doyle could see the red emergency doors that marked the escape pods.

"No passengers this trip?" Doyle peaked into one of the cabins. The one he occupied was larger, better furnished. He guessed that it was originally designed as the first mate's cabin.

"Only when absolutely desperate do I take on passengers," Bodie stated fervently. "They're too much trouble and don't pay nearly enough."

"What was your cargo?" Doyle asked. Guilt nipped at him again as he considered that Bodie might lose even more because of him if the cargo were perishable or had a delivery time limit.

There was no answer. Doyle looked over to see a little-boy-with-hand-in-snack-tin look. He smiled widely, finding the innocent look on the cool, hard face to be strangely endearing.

"Bodie?" he questioned.

"Yeah, well, bit of bending the rules there," Bodie explained. "Scotch whiskey, bound for Friendly." He turned and walked quickly toward the last door on the corridor.

It took Doyle a minute to remember what little he knew about the planet Friendly. He burst out laughing. "Bodie! Friendly's a religious health retreat. They don't allow liquor."

Bodie turned as Doyle caught up with him, threw an arm over his shoulders, leaned in close and in a whispered voice said, "I know that, and you know that but someone forgot to tell some of the converts, you see."

The prefect features, the glittering blue eyes and the warmth of the arm around his shoulders sent a flash of heat down Doyle's body. It was all he could do to keep breathing evenly. Without considering it his hand moved toward Bodie's face, wanting to touch the smooth cheek. He shook himself hard, stunned at his instant attraction to the other man. He managed to divert his hand to a friendly grip on Bodie's shoulder.

Bodie had seen the desire that flared so unexpectedly in the emerald green. He had held his breath waiting for the hand to caress his jaw. Intense disappointment filled him when Doyle forced himself away from the temptation. Bodie smiled into the lovely, odd shaped eyes. There was something there, sparking in the air between them. It hit fast without warning or reason, throwing them both off balance. They pulled away, stood in embarrassed silence.

Bodie moved first, led them toward the last door. Inside was a gym, like the rest of the ship it was well equipped and complete. Two things immediately caught Doyle's attention. He walked over to a large gray bag suspended from a reenforced frame.

"A punching bag?" he wondered out loud. "Bit old-fashioned, isn't it?"

Bodie came over and put a hard fist into the bag with a thump that echoed around the room. "But still very effective."

"And the mats?" Doyle gestured down at the wrestling mats spread in one area of the room. "Better ways to wrestle with yourself, Bodie."

Bodie looked up in time to catch the humor in the other's face, the hint of suggestion in the smile. "Both things are more fun with two," he said sagely, face very serious.

Without any warning Bodie lunged, grabbed Doyle and threw him very soundly to the mats. The slender body barely touched before rolling back up to face the bigger man. Bodie smiled at the grace, the silkily flow of muscles beneath the green cloth. He started to move in again, stopped.

"Shit, Doyle, I forgot about your side." He closed the distance between them. "I didn't hurt you, did...." He landed with a thump ass down on the mats, found himself staring up into pleased cat-like eyes. "I guess I didn't." He sprang up, put space between them, then noticed that Doyle was holding his side, his lips tight. "Doyle?"

"Not quite up to it, I guess. I'm okay, just a catch."

Bodie slipped a hand under his arm. "Come on, mate. I think you'd be safer for now checking that compac of yours."

There was a second when Doyle thought about moving away, afraid of the warmth that invaded him whenever Bodie was close, but the honest concern convinced him to relax in the steady hold. "Take you two out of three sooner than you think."

By the time they reached the lift Doyle was standing straight enough to ease out of Bodie's grasp. "Let's finish the tour," he suggested.

Bodie frowned. "Sure you're up to it?"

"I'm fine."

Bodie watched him very closely for a minute, the protectiveness back in full force. "Okay. You've already seen level two, that just leaves the bridge anyway."

As the lift opened Bodie turned to watch Doyle. The bridge was his greatest joy. It was the one section of the ship he had rebuilt to his specifications when he had brought the Hawk.

Doyle's eyes went wide, his mouth dropping open just a little and there was a small but different gasp of surprise and awe. A heartbeat later Doyle glanced very quickly at Bodie, smiled and stepped into the dimly lit room.

The main viewscreen was directly ahead of them. The screen was set on normal, showed velvet space set with jewels of stars. On both sides of the screen were two huge ports, solid walls of clear metal that held the void at bay while displaying the beauty and wonder that surrounded them. Doyle continued forward, entranced by the panorama offered by the nearly 180 degrees of open space. Bodie crossed his arms, a very smug smile playing in his eyes. The effect on the other man was exactly as he had hoped.

After a minute Doyle said softly, "I've always loved space."

Bodie joined him at the control bank that was set a few feet away from the screen. "Beauty and danger at the same time." He looked over at Doyle, the tell-tales casting red and green shadows on the odd face. Impulse over took him and he touched the flawed cheek.

Doyle looked at him, then stared at the floor, feeling oddly shy. Bodie broke the contact without anything further. He turned Doyle's attention to the back of the room, near the lift. "On the right is a back up command console, there's also one in engineering. To the right is a vid station and a food unit. Around behind the lift is the small transporter that we use for things other than cargo."

Deep laughter sounded in the room. "Bodie, a food unit on the main bridge?"

Trying to look offended but not being very successful Bodie explained haughtily. "When you're a free trader you can do anything you want on the bridge."

There was innuendo in his voice that was quickly becoming standard in their conversation. Doyle controlled his laughter. "And the vid?"

Bodie looked him straight in the eye. "That's for when there's no one else around to do anything with."

"Bodie?" Cory's voice broke the teasing spell. Doyle returned to his quiet star gazing.

"Yes, Cory?" Bodie said, a little shortly, resenting the interruption of both the conversation and the mood.

"It is 2100. While I'm checking that burnout in 1202 I thought we could finish that chess game from...."

"Not tonight, Cory." Bodie turned to Doyle.

"Don't let me disrupt your usual habits," Doyle said without taking his eyes off the screen.

Bodie tapped his shoulder. Doyle turned to him. "I can play chess with the computer anytime. Good company is hard to find."

"Bodie," Cory tried again, "our game has been on hold since...."

"Later, Cory." There was an edge to Bodie's voice.


"Sure you're up to this?" Bodie's voice held no real concern this time. The bruises down Doyle's side had vanished, along with the slight limp and occasional flinch.

Doyle was not deceived by the gentle question and easy stance of the man opposite him. He had seen the same predator smile on his instructors at the Academy. Slipping into his own ready position he returned the smile. "Try me."

"I intend to, but whether...." Bodie lunged, making a grab for Doyle's forearm.

Doyle dodged left, spun and struck a light blow to the small of Bodie's back. Bodie whirled and they started warily circling. Bodie knew the training and control it took to pull a blow like Doyle had landed, also recognized the damage possible if such a blow had hit with full force. He controlled his smile, he had underestimated the smaller man. This would be more of a challenge than he had anticipated. Random thoughts vanished as Doyle launched his assault.

Twelve minutes later Bodie wiped the sweat out of his eyes and smiled at the man opposite him on the mat. "Had enough?"

Stubborn green eyes met his. "Only if you have."

They were both on their knees, thin traditional gi's hanging limply across tired shoulders. Sweat soaked both men, dripped to the mats to be absorbed. Bodie waited, checked his resources, considered what Doyle had taken, and returned. Bodie knew that he could have pinned Doyle if he had resorted to any of his numerous dirty tricks but it would have been an unfair advantage in a friendly fight. As it was he had been forced to use a few small unusual maneuvers to get away from Doyle.

They had both had enough. Bodie collapsed back onto the mat, his way of stopping without actually conceding.

Doyle immediately stretched out next to him. "I haven't had a workout like that since the Academy."

"How long you been in the Fleet?" Bodie slowly tested each muscle. He would be stiff in the morning. They both would.

"Since I was twenty, went in late because of having to take care of my family. That makes it twelve years."

Bodie pushed himself up on both elbows, stared over at the other man. "Twelve years?" He lay back down. "I'd go nuts in that job."

There was a long silence. Finally Doyle said quietly. "I wasn't always in linguistics, or posted at Base. I graduated an Ensign in navigation, top of the class, was posted aboard the Zenith for four years then the research ship Springboard. I was up for a position on a cruiser."

Bodie waited. "So what happened?"

Doyle squirmed slightly. "Did you hear about that Friegy-Romulan trade pact that was broken about two years ago?"

The dark haired Captain rolled over to face him, propped on one elbow. Doyle continued to stare at the ceiling. "Doyle, everyone's heard about that. The secret base on the moon around...." He paused, "And how someone happened to stumble on a coded message from the Romulans about it." Blue eyes went wide. "That was you?"

Doyle only nodded. Bodie waited. When Doyle didn't say anything else he prompted, "I don't understand. Why are you cooling your heels at some Base instead of in space?"

"They figured that if I could decode that message, and cross ref the asteroid then I should be able to catch anything unusual in normal messages as well...."

"Can you?"

"Yes. Unfortunately," Doyle confirmed with a frown. "I seem to have a knack for it."

Before he could say anymore there was the warning click of the speakers and Cory said, "Bodie, I have tracked the burnout in 578 down to two possible...."

Bodie felt the mood shift. Doyle stood up, went over to one of the machines and turned it on low. "Cory," Bodie said very evenly. "From now on, when Doyle and I are together you will not interrupt unless it is a class 3 emergency or better. Confirm?"

"Bodie, I don't...."

"Confirm," Bodie stated evenly.


With a thump Doyle sat back down next to him. "I think you made her mad."

Bodie looked mad. "Don't be stupid. Computers can't get mad."

A wide grin answered his unexplained anger, cooling it immediately. Doyle stood up, "Come on, we both need a shower. And you're hungry."

Bodie blinked up at him, "How'd you know that?"

"You're always hungry." He extended a hand down for Bodie.

The trader took the offered hand, shifted and pulled Doyle down on top of him. A quick flex of muscle and he had the smaller man pinned beneath him. He gave a tiny kiss to the end of Doyle's nose. "I win!"

Bodie sprang up, ran for the door. Doyle's surprised immobility gave him a six foot lead. The doors parted, he lunged into the corridor just as Doyle reached for him. The doors snapped shut with a loud bang. There was a sharp yell from Doyle. Bodie spun around, laughter cut off cold. Relief beyond any he could imagine hit him when he saw that Doyle had not been caught between the heavy metal. He stepped back toward the doors. They opened as smoothly as they always had.

Doyle was standing just inches from him, holding his left wrist. "Damn," he said faintly, glancing nervously at the recessed halves of the door.

"You okay?" Bodie took Doyle by the upper arm and swung him pass the doors into the corridor. "What happened?"

"The doors shut!" Doyle barked.

"I know that." Bodie gently took Doyle's hand, supported it with his own. "Cory, medical on Doyle's wrist."

"Slight sprain to joint, bruising along base of palm."

"I used it to bounce off the door," Doyle explained. "What made them do that?"

Bodie shook his head. "Don't know. Cory, cause of malfunction in gym doors?"


"Find out," Bodie commanded.


A slight movement reminded him that he was still holding Doyle's hand. He felt the long, cool fingers resting on his, unthinking he moved his own to entwine them, squeezed lightly. It was only when the pressure was returned that he looked up at Doyle.

"We still need that shower." The dancing green eyes held more than just easy teasing.

Bodie refused to give into the invitation he read in the other man's face. "Let's get something for that sprain. Don't want you lagging your part of the work tomorrow."

"Bodie," the soft female voice questioned.

"Yes, Cory?"

"An unexplained power surge overrode the door's sensors. I am tracking the power surge but until it is found please be careful around anything mechanical."

The two men frowned at each other. "What other systems could be effected?" Bodie asked.

"At this point I would predict it to be only those systems using large surges of power. This would be door units, the medical lasers and the transporters."

"Continue to hunt for that power short." Bodie released Doyle's hand, avoided his eyes.

Doyle rubbed his wrist. His boldness in hinting that they share a shower had come out of nowhere. He didn't know whether he was disappointed or relieved that Bodie had not caught the subtle idea. He had seen the pleased light in Bodie's eyes at the pressure against his hand but that had been the extent of it. He considered the fact that he could have imagined the looks. If Bodie wanted him, why didn't he ask?

As for Doyle's own reluctance, he attributed it to too many years of following protocol and custom. On another man's ship a guest never made the first move. Hinting and teasing were one thing but a senior officer always had the initiative. Doyle would have to wait for Bodie to decide what he wanted.

Bodie was staring at Doyle's face, watching in fascination as the various thoughts filtered through Doyle's mind. Any spaceman knew the rules. It was up to him. When Doyle finally focused back on him it was with a wistful, hopeful expression.

Puzzled by his own reluctance Bodie merely slipped a arm around the narrow shoulders. "Sick bay," he remarked, leading the way. "Are you always this unlucky?"


"Yeah, I got it." Doyle's voice echoed out of the access hatch. "Just one more...there."

Bodie grabbed a long leg and pulled.

"Hey!" Doyle slid on his ass out into the wire littered corridor. He was laughing as he sat up. "Done."

"Great." Bodie ruffled the soft curls. "With that little correction, we are now two whole days ahead of schedule."

Doyle yawned at the announcement. Bodie looked at him closely, noted the dark circles under his slanting eyes, the way his shoulders were drooped. "You've been losing sleep reading that compac, haven't you, sunshine?"

"A little. Been putting in two to three hours a...." Doyle paused, looked up, "What did you call me?"

Bodie had to think about it for a minute. "Sunshine? It's an old nickname." He knew that wasn't exactly right but was embarrassed to say anything else. "Do you mind?"

Doyle looked thoughtfully pleased. "No, kind of like it."

"Any luck with the tapes?" Bodie returned to his previous conversation.

"Boring, very boring. Embassy reports, crop reports, export reports, import reports...." He sighed, then frowned. "But there's something there. I can feel it."

"You'll get it," Bodie said with very real conviction. After watching Doyle work he was convinced that whatever the officer tried he could usually manage. Reaching down he took one of the slender hands and helped Doyle up. "Let's eat."

In the weeks he had been aboard one of the few things Doyle had learned about the Captain was that Bodie thought about food a lot. Eyeing the well muscled form he wondered how he managed to stay in shape. "Is food all you think about?"

"No." The response was leering.

Doyle tried to joke back but there was a familiar tingle that drifted briefly through his veins. It was a sensation that was growing stronger the longer he was with Bodie. He didn't meet the smiling blue eyes, looked back at the open panel instead. "There's still a few connections loose. Tell you what, mate, why don't you finish up here and I'll go get the meal ready."

"Deal," Bodie said.

He knelt down, picked up the tools Doyle had dropped, started to squeeze his larger bulk into the small access. Turning to look over his shoulder he watched Doyle disappear around the far corner. It was a strain on his neck but it was worth it to watch the way the firm ass moved when he walked.

"Are you going to fuck this one?" Cory asked.

Bodie winched at the crude word, though he didn't know why. "Cory, it's not polite for a lady to say fuck."

"Agreed. But you didn't answer my question," the computer calmly pointed out.

"What makes you think I want to?"

"Your pulse and blood pressure just went through the ceiling."

Bodie didn't answer, his thoughts turning to the man that had just left. Bodie was beginning to regret getting the repairs done ahead of time. Doyle and he worked well together, had a good time sitting at night over a chess board or a game of cards. But the unmistakable desire for the slender, fine body was becoming almost overpowering.

Never one to be shy about the possibility of pleasure, Bodie had always made the proposal to any passenger he found attractive, no matter what race or sex. Some had accepted, some had politely refused, and on rare occasion some had punched him. It hadn't stopped him from trying the next time.

He remembered the strange feelings of protectiveness that he had experienced while tending Doyle in sick bay, both times. It was a new feeling that he wasn't sure he liked. Coupled with that was the rare and unusual rapport they shared. He didn't want to make Doyle feel that he was just after a quick fuck. He wanted him to stay a friend.

Bodie shied away from that idea quickly. In forty five days or less he would drop the officer off and forget about him. So why shouldn't he enjoy him while he was here?

"Quick fuck never hurt anyone," he said defiantly.

"That's not much of an answer," Cory commented with definite amusement.

"I was talking to myself," Bodie defended. "And no, I haven't decided on what to do with the little golli."

"Why not?" Cory returned.

"I don't think you'd understand," Bodie finished lamely. He didn't feel up to an intimate personal talk with a computer.


"Yes, Cory?"

"Would you care for a game of chess after you finish?" The voice sounded eager, a little impatient. "It's been...."

"No, thanks, Cory. Doyle is suppose to teach me something called backgammon. Current repair estimate, Cory."

"Forty five days, five.twelve hours." The answer was mechanical.

Twenty minutes later he buzzed Doyle's cabin.


The door opened to a variety of wonderful aromas. Doyle was sitting at the terminal, reading over the compac. Bodie sniffed, "Smells great. What is it?" He moved closer to the table, stared down at the dishes spread out over the table. "Christ, Doyle did you think you were feeding a Starship's crew?"

"No. But I've watched you eat." Doyle smiled at him. "Bodie, you don't have to buzz every time you want in."

Bodie looked up, then back at the table. "Well, wouldn't want to burst in on you while you know...busy or undressed...."

In the dim light Doyle wasn't sure if the color he thought he saw on Bodie's cheeks was real or not.

Bodie sat down, tried to cover his embarrassment by rubbing his hands together over the food. He could have used the statement as an opening to lead up to suggesting they have a go at sex, instead he had fumbled the whole conversation. Doyle joined him as he filled his plate. He swallowed a mouthful. "Fantastic. I'm going to let you do the cooking from now on."

"No, no. This was just to celebrate us being two days ahead of schedule."

That reminder brought a slight frown to Bodie's lips. He pushed it away, smiled cheerfully. "Have you home soon, mate."

His smile wasn't returned. Doyle was staring at his plate, pushing the food absently around. Bodie waited. He had seen Doyle like this when faced with a wiring problem. He continued eating while Doyle thought whatever it was out.

"Bodie, when you rescued me, did you record any of the messages between the two Auadian ships?"

"We picked up signals just before they went in on you." Bodie shrugged. "All recorders should have been on. Let me ask. Cory?"

"It can't hear you," Doyle remarked calmly. "I turned off the comm and sensors in this room."

"What?" Bodie asked, "Why?"

Doyle wouldn't look up, played with his food a little more. "She makes me nervous."

Bodie laughed, stopped when he realized that Doyle was serious. "Okay, Ray, whatever you want. We can check the tapes when we finish."

The bridge had become Doyle's favorite part of the ship. Bodie frequently won whatever game they were playing simply because Doyle would get distracted by watching the magnificent void. And Bodie loved to watch Doyle when he didn't notice.

There was more than just appreciation in the deep green eyes, there was an emotion that Bodie had almost forgotten. A longing for the open nothingness, for the beauty in distant lights and spiraling clouds. Bodie found himself staring out into the unending deep with a sense of wonder he had not experienced in many voyages.

Doyle moved over to the computer console. Bodie followed him, sensing the serious mood that had come over his companion. "Cory."

"Yes, Bodie?"

"Doyle is hereby given Achimedes clearance, any access. Acknowledge."

There was an almost noticeable pause. "Agreed."

Doyle looked up in surprise. "Thank you."

Bodie shrugged. "Will it bother you if I call up an old vid on the other screen?"

"No." Doyle turned back. "I'll try not to be too long. To be truthful I'm not sure what I'm looking for. We'll get in a quick game when I'm done."

Bodie reached over and ruffled the wild curls. "Take your time."

The desire hit Bodie again, but overriding it was yet another new feeling. Contentment. He enjoyed the feeling, too tired to think about the whole inexplicable situation. He entered in the number for the 2221 version of "The Sea Hawk" and sat back to compare it to the other versions he'd seen.

Doyle smiled over his shoulder as the opening theme to the old vid started up. The other man was sprawled in a chair, feet up on the console. Doyle knew that if he hadn't been there Bodie would have been watching in his cabin, not stuffed into a chair here. It gave him a satisfying warmth to know the man valued his company, even when he wasn't being very attentive. He turned back to the computer screen, telling himself that if he hurried they could still spend some time together.

Two hours later Doyle rubbed his eyes with the backs of his hands, turned to see how Bodie's vid was going. Somewhere along the line the screen had gone blank. The dark head had slipped sideways, rested at a uncomfortable angle.

Storing the notes he'd made, Doyle shut down the screen, moved to stand next to Bodie's chair, smiling down at the man. He wanted Bodie, had dropped not-very-subtle hints to him. None had been picked up. Doyle frowned. He had heard of some cultures that didn't recognize same sex bondings. Worried that was the problem Doyle had lightened up over the past week. He enjoyed the companionship too much to risk offending the man. But now, seeing Bodie so peaceful brought an ache to his chest, a desire not for just sex but to share in the man's beauty. Very gently he traced a finger down the strong jaw.


The big man jerked awake, immediately put a hand to his neck. "Ouch."

"You dumb crud, why didn't you go to bed?" Doyle chided gently.

"Me?" Bodie squeaked. "You're the one looks like death reheated."

"Come on, to bed with you."

Bodie was still rubbing his neck when they reached his cabin doors. "Goodnight, Doyle."

Doyle followed him in. "Lay down." Bodie looked confused, surprisingly shy. "You need someone to rub that kink out or you'll be useless tomorrow."

Bodie relented, too sore to do otherwise. Before he could sit down a warm hand on his shoulder stopped him. Doyle smiled fondly at him. "Take off your clothes first."

"Trying to get fresh, mate?" Bodie's statement was muffled by the shirt coming over his head.

A smile flashed across Doyle's expressive face, "If I did you're in no shape to do anything about it." Before Bodie could reply he started turning down the bunk. When he turned back it was to see Bodie drop his shirt on a chair. The body before him was the color of new dawn, toned and sharp. The heat stirred in Doyle's blood.

"Lay down," was all he said.

Bodie did as told, finding it odd after so many years to be taking orders, enjoying, for the moment the slight loss of control. Doyle knelt next to the bed. Skillful hands tightened around stiff muscles, kneaded. The heat in the hands transferred itself directly to Bodie's groin. He lay still, kept his muscles relaxed, willed himself to concentrate only on the soothing moves across his shoulders. After a few minutes the heat stopped centering, spread out in smooth waves to cover all of him. The world faded out.

Doyle knew the moment the strong body gave itself to sleep. He was pleased, and a little surprised that Bodie had allowed himself to be gentled to sleep this way. He knew instinctively that Bodie was strong willed and wouldn't tolerate any sign of what someone else might consider weakness.

The hands moved away from the shoulders, trailed down the back. Bodie sighed, arched against the slender fingers. Doyle echoed the sigh, gave one more long caress then stood to leave. He stared at the face made softer in sleep. Impulse overcame caution, he leaned down and brushed a feather-light kiss against one cheek. Bodie shifted slightly, rolled over. Doyle smiled, pulled the cover up over him.

"Bodie. Wakey, wakey," Doyle chanted cheerfully, waving the breakfast tray in the general direction of the large bunk.

Bodie sat up, looked over blearily. "Doyle? What time is it?"

"1200," Doyle replied.

"What?" He looked confused. "Cory was supposed to...."

"I turned off your comm." Doyle started sitting out dishes.

"Doyle!" Bodie shouted.

Doyle spun around, knowing he'd gone too far. "You were tired. I thought...."

"Damnit! What if sensors...."

"I was there," Doyle said evenly.

"It's my ship!"

"I was..." Doyle tried to defend himself.

"I don't need anyone taking care of me," Bodie said very quietly.

They stared at each other across the suddenly cold room. Still barely awake, flashes of his dream came back to Bodie, brief images of masted ships, white sails and water the color of bewitching green eyes. And Doyle in dark leather, with fine lace at cuffs and collar. Bodie smiled, relenting, his gaze dropping to the floor.

"I appreciate the thought, Doyle, really. I'm just a little over-protective of the Hawk. She's all I've got."

"You've got...." Doyle's mouth snapped shut on the crazy remark that had almost escaped.

"This will cut down our repair time," Bodie said lowly. He locked gazes with Doyle across the lonely distance. "You've got a job to get back to."

There was nothing more to say. Doyle smiled a fleeting apology, turned on the comm. Cory's worried, irritated voice filled the cabin.

"Bodie! I've been trying to reach you. Where have you been?"

"Relax, old girl, Doyle shut down the comm into my room." He smiled at his companion, touched the narrow shoulder, said in his usual teasing tone, "He thought I needed my beauty sleep. Think he'd know you can't improve on perfection."

Cory's voice was flatly mechanical when it came back. "I am responsible for your safety, Bodie. I was programmed...."

"I was there," Doyle commented without infliction.

There was no reply from the computer, but Bodie looked at him closely, hearing the same deep sincerity echo again. "Cory, report on the power surge problem."

"I have narrowed the cause down to two possible circuits." The voice was enthusiastic. "I should have it repaired in 2.36 hours."

"Let me know," Bodie ordered.


They finished eating in silence, an odd, uncomfortable silence that continued until they reached the repair site. Bodie smiled his own apology, bowed low, motioned toward the access hatch. "After you, sunshine."

Doyle moaned but slid inside, the use of the silly nickname making him feel remarkably better. They worked in a different kind of silence for two shifts before Doyle called down, "Bodie?"

"Huh?" The voice echoed out of the access hatch.

"If you wanted to track a vessel in Warp, how would you do it?"

"Can't," Bodie said firmly.

"Let me rephrase that," Doyle amended. "How would you ambush a vessel in warp?"

There was a bit of squirming before Bodie popped out to look up at him. "You?" Doyle nodded. Bodie considered for a minute all he had heard about spacer operations and how to stop a ship. "Two ways--have the course and launch time or have a signalling device on board and the course. First way's not as sure as the second. With the second the device would let you know exactly when to launch your attack. With only knowing the course and time you might miss them."

Bodie watched a frown form across the full lips but Doyle said nothing more. He slid back into the panel without further comment, leaving the Fleet officer to consider the information.

They rotated positions twice more before Bodie called out from the tight access. "Doyle? I've got an idea."

"Should I applaud or record the event for posterity?"

"You can shut up and crawl in here with me."

"What?" Doyle leaned closer, not sure he had heard right. "Why? Not thinking of something naughty are you?"

A throaty chuckle drifted out to him. "Later. Right now, if you can fit in here and hold two of the cables over my head together I can bypass three other joints."

Doyle thought it over, looked closely at the tight entrance, and took off the tricorder. "I'm going to have to lay on top of you."

"I'll behave," Bodie promised, then added softly so that Doyle didn't hear, "Too small in here for anything else."

Using his elbows on either side of the hard muscled body Doyle pulled himself into the opening, his full weight pressing down on the other man. "You realize if we get stuck in here," he pulled further in, "and die, we'll probably start a whole batch of vulgar legends."

The warm chest just above his shook with a slight laugh. A few more wiggles and he was stretched out completely on top of the larger man. He refused to consider the incredible feeling of pleasure just laying there was giving him.

"Okay, Bodie, which leads?"

"What leads?" Bodie said softly. It was suppose to be a joke, but the press of the slender body, and the nearness of the full lips was sending waves of sensation that all his resolve would not extinguish.

Doyle looked down, the same gentle passion sparkling within him was mirrored in the beautiful blue deeps. Doyle forgot what he was going to say, forgot protocol, and custom and whose ship he was on. He lowered his head a fraction, touched the slightly opened mouth with his. There was no fire, no flash of urgency. It was a slow heat, like a bright summer day, promising, dazzling.

Bodie could hardly credit the startling reality around him. A hesitant tongue traced the full lips pressed down on his. The mouth parted with a sigh from Doyle's throat. Bodie slipped into erotic welcome, ran over the chipped tooth. He answered Doyle's sigh with a deep moan. Lack of oxygen forced them apart.

Bodie found his voice first. "Doyle, I didn't mean for...."

"Shut up, Bodie."

Mouths met again and it was Doyle who demanded and was granted eager entry. Bodie's tongue rubbed against the other, sucked it deep into his mouth.

When they pulled away Bodie smiled. "Let's continue this somewhere a little better suited to the task."

"No way," Doyle commented, tightening his hold around the solid body. "We're in here, let's fix those bloody leads."

"Are you always so practical?" Bodie growled. "Just be careful how you move."

Doyle chuckled. He could feel the swelling outline of Bodie's cock through the jumpsuit. It took a few enjoyably frustrating minutes for Doyle to get in position. He came to rest partially on his side, his chest resting against Bodie's arm and shoulder.

"Why don't they make these things bigger?" Doyle complained as he gathered the leads.

"Didn't expect two idiots to be in here at the same time trying to bypass circuits." Bodie grunted as an elbow dug into his ribs.

"Got 'em."

Bodie raised the torch. "Mind your eyes."

Doyle buried his face in Bodie's dark, soft hair, liking the feel of it against his cheek.

"Done," Bodie announced.

Shifting slightly Doyle brushed his lips along Bodie ear. "Good."

Bodie lowered his arms, wrapped them around Doyle's back, tried to pull him into another kiss. Doyle laughed quietly. "Come on, my back will never be the same if we don't get out of here."

With a great amount of shifting and cursing, most of it covered by laughter Doyle managed to free himself. He straightened, bending back at the waist until his bones cracked. He leaned back to give Bodie a hand out.

His shoulder brushed the edge of the access hatch, touched one of the lines. There was a blinding flash of blue, a loud crack of raw power. Doyle yelled, was thrown across the hall to connect with the opposite bulkhead. He crumpled to the floor without another sound.

"Ray!" Bodie slithered out, avoiding the wire. The smell of burned cloth filled the corridor. He slid across to the still body. "Cory! Medical!"

There was a burned patch, black against Doyle's cream colored jumpsuit that Bodie was careful to avoid as he rolled Doyle over. A hand on his chest confirmed that he was breathing and Bodie realized that until that moment he hadn't been.

"Cory!" Bodie yelled.

"Medical--first degree burn on upper right shoulder, exit burn on palm of right hand, momentary fluctuation in heartbeat and respiration. Both now normal."

"Is he in any danger?"

"Shock was not severe enough to cause damage. No complications foreseen."

Relief caused Bodie to sag against the wall, sit with a thump next to Doyle. A deep breath helped control his shock.

"Bodie?" Doyle moaned, stirred.

"Easy, mate, I'm here," Bodie said quietly, hand resting on Doyle's throat.

"My head...what hit me?"

Trembling hands lightly ran down the slim body, seeking reassurance, offering comfort. "One of the off circuits picked up a charge."

"How the hell did that happen?" Doyle blinked, his voice slurred. He tried to sit up.

Bodie very gently held him down. "Easy. Give it a minute. Cory, how did that line pick up a charge?"

"Unknown." Cory added, "Checking."

"Ouch." Doyle stared at the hand he had started to run through his curls.

"Burn," Bodie explained. He moved to Doyle's left side, slipped a strong arm around his friend's waist. "Come on, let's get you to sick bay."

Once he had gained his feet Doyle slumped against the heavier body. "Dizzy," he complained.

Strong, unsteady hands urged him to move. "Fix the burns then to bed with you."

A bright, blurry smiled lit Doyle's face. "Good idea."

Bodie's interest was gone, washed away in fear. "To sleep, stupid."

"Wanted to do something else," Doyle complained as Bodie helped him up on the meditable.

Easing him back Bodie reached for a medikit, started to snip away the burned cloth. Doyle was asleep before he finished.

Doyle woke knowing something was wrong. Bodie was not there. Panic hit him as he considered that Bodie might have gone back to fix the circuit alone. Moving a little slowly, he made his way to the repair corridor. Bodie was not there, or in his cabin. Fleetingly Doyle thought of asking Cory but decided against it. He went to the bridge.

The bridge was in complete darkness, the screen off, lights down, even the tell-tales seemed dim. The ports were open, as before showing the glory of the stars around them but for the first time in his life the sight held no appeal for Doyle. His only thoughts were for the man sitting still and straight in a chair facing the starboard portal.

"Bodie?" Doyle called softly.

There was no response. Bodie remained unmoving. He had sensed Doyle's entrance and had dreaded it. He refused to look up when a warm hand touched his shoulder and Doyle knelt next to the chair.

"Bodie? Are you okay? What's wrong?"

A lie formed and died in Bodie's mind, crushed by the open worry in the smaller man's face. He traced a finger over the flawed cheek, touched the end of one brown curl. Doyle reached for his hand but Bodie pulled away, stood up.

"I was scared," he said quietly.

"Of what?" Doyle asked, already knowing the answer.

Bodie swallowed. He paced to the cold, clear port leaned forward and rested his head against it. "When you hit that wall and then were so still...I've never...I didn't...." Before Doyle could reply Bodie turned, "I've wanted you since the moment I saw you." He smiled, corrected himself, "Okay, since the moment I saw you standing in front of me in that stupid blanket." The confusion in the deep voice grew. "But even before that, when I was working on you after we pulled you in, I felt, I don't know, concerned...protective...I've never.... I like being with you...but I...."

Doyle was there, forcing the dark head up with a single finger under his jaw. "That was why you didn't do anything about my hints? You weren't going to do anything, were you? You were scared of it but it got the better of you." His voice was low, sure, gentle. "You dumb crud, you've never been in love before, have you?"

Bodie jumped as if struck. Anger flared in the suddenly cold eyes. "Love? Shit, Doyle, we barely know each other. We've had one quick kiss and you think that means...."

Doyle kissed him, lightly, slowly. "Love and sex aren't the same thing and you know it. And what does time have to do with anything?"

The anger faded. But what was left worried Doyle even more. Bodie smiled sadly. "Time, Ray, is what we don't have. In a little less than forty days you'll be back at Star Fleet and I'll be gone. There isn't anything else for us."

Doyle admitted to himself that he had not been thinking about the future, had refused to consider it because he was afraid of it, afraid of what the strange, strong feelings for this man would have him thinking. So he had kept his thoughts only on now, on how much he wanted the incredible man in front of him. Faced with it now he hesitated, not knowing what he wanted beyond that. Bodie sensed his doubts, his eyes went darker but he managed to smile.

He brushed the flawed cheek again. "Poor pet, you're as confused as I am."


Fingers touched his lips. "Okay. One thing at a time--just like traders are supposed to. When the time comes for decisions, we'll both know."

The words were light but Doyle read past them, saw how much his doubts had hurt the other man. He stepped closer, kissed along the strong throat above the loose tunic.

"Love me, Bodie," he said huskily, tongue leaving trails of desire along the collarbone, teeth nipping at the large vein.

Bodie held him away. "Doyle...."

Doyle slid back to his former position, continued the slow teasing. "I want you." He stopped, eased away far enough to study the other's face. "Bodie, I don't know what will happen when we get back. I just know that it seems right, that since I woke up it seems like this is where I've always been. And I want you." The green eyes glowed with lust, and something that Bodie refused to take hope from. "Love me. Please."

Arms came around Doyle's lithe form, hugged him so hard his ribs creaked in protest. "Ray...."

"Enough, Bodie. You don't have to be scared. Not of me, not of the future."

Bodie held his face, kissed him deeply. Doyle watched the slow moving stars reflected in dark eyes. They moved together, slowly began to undress. The four weeks of fantasies they had both indulged in could not match the glorious reality when hot flesh touched for the first time. They slipped slowly to the thickly carpeted deck. There was no aggression, they each lead, each followed. Bodie found it unnerving at first, that Doyle could so easily fire him, could make him writhe in impatience at the slightest touch of the fine hands.

His own hands roved over the silky back, outlined muscles, pressed against the spine. His touches brought Doyle arching up into his hands. Bodie smiled, realizing that the same control had been given to him over the firm, beautiful body. When he caressed along the round, firm ass Doyle rolled on top of him. The free trader laughed, continued the roll until Doyle lay on his opposite side.

"Slow, Ray, slow." He kissed across the brows. "I want this to last. I want you to enjoy this."

Doyle breathed softly, "And what do you what, lover?"

The dark eyes glowed in the dim starlight, surprising color showing against the pale cheeks. He answered Doyle's question with a deep, searching kiss, hot and thorough. His hands traced the cleft between the rise of Doyle's ass.

A light, vaguely nervous laugh came from deep in Doyle' throat. "You have such a way with words, Bodie."

Bodie nipped his ear, was answered by a yelp. "Words? How about these, sunshine? You're beautiful. I want to fuck you...want to feel that tight...." He stumbled to a stop.

"Bodie?" Doyle whispered.

"Those are lines, Doyle. Lines I've used before to get who I wanted, no matter what. I won't use them on you. You deserve better."

He sat up, brought Doyle to him, cupped the battered face in strong hands, studied him lovingly. "I do want you, but not as a casual fuck. Not like that. I want to love you, to take you slowly, to make you feel wonderful." The voice grew roughly warm, choked, "I do love you, Ray Doyle."

Doyle stared into the indigo blue, felt a different kind of heat building in his chest. His vision wavered, filled with mist.

"Doyle?" Bodie touched the single tear that tracked down the damaged cheek. "What's wrong? What did I...."

Once again Doyle silenced him with a kiss, a method that Bodie found delightful. "I've had a lot of partners, Bodie but no one's ever said that to me, ever made me feel like I was important." The tears faded, a mischievous, lusty glint replacing them. "Did you mean any of the lines, even a little?"

Bodie smiled, a dazzling thing that Doyle had seen only rarely. The bigger man leaned forward, wrapped Doyle completely in a tight embrace. "You are beautiful," he whispered into the curls, "and making love by starlight is very romantic."

They went back together, Doyle pressed down into the carpet by Bodie's heavier weight. They controlled the fire, made the exploration slow, cautious, discovering what each liked. Time lost all meaning in the small chamber. Moans drowning out the almost subliminal click and hum of machinery.

Doyle was almost lost when Bodie licked the length of his smooth shaft. He arched into the wet heat, gripping the carpet in a desperate attempt to hold still. He shifted away from the wonderful, tormenting pleasure. Pulled Bodie up to him.

Gazing into the smiling, hazy blue he took Bodie's left hand and sucked the fingers slowly passed his lips. Without ever losing the darkening hazy gaze he rolled partial over on his side, took the blunt fingers from his mouth and put them on his ass.

Bodie's eyes widened. He kissed the full, swollen mouth. Very gently he circled the taut muscle that guarded Doyle's body. There was no resistance as he pushed one finger slowly into the damp channel. Doyle moaned his pleasure, his own hand moving to take Bodie's thick cock. It was Bodie who set the rhythm, thrusting slowly at first then harder, Doyle's hand following his movements. A second finger joined the first, brought a deep gasp.

Doyle reached down, pulled Bodie's hand away, rolled onto his stomach. "Bodie. Please...."

The first words sounded loud in the room. Bodie sat up, slicked down his cock. He slipped a strong arm under Doyle's waist, positioned him, steadied him. Doyle felt the first hard nudge of the shaft, gasped as it pushed in, flinched in pain. Tears, unstoppable, leaked from his eyes, spilled into the carpet.

Wet kisses fell along his neck, a hand took a firm grasp of his cock, stroked in sure steady moves. Bodie fought to remain still, to give his new lover time. "Relax, sunshine." Bodie's hoarse voice sounded in Doyle's ear. "You feel so good, so tight. Let yourself adjust."

The tense, solid muscles gradually eased under the soft urgings, the warm soothing kisses. Bodie pushed gently, slid in deeper. "Are you okay, Ray?"

Doyle gasped again, but not from pain. "Yes. Do that again, love."

Bodie edged out, then back in deeper, felt his arousal reflected in the shaft he held. Twice more he pulled away, slipped back in until he was fully sheathed, his balls resting against the satin mounds. "God, Doyle...wonderful."

There was pressure, strain but overriding all of it was stardust in Doyle's veins, dancing lights behind his eyes. The strong capable hand holding him continued to move, begging a response and getting it. Doyle shoved back, demanding his own response. Bodie started to thrust, each move brought moans from both chests, breath coming in short, hard bursts. The speed built, scattered lightning along nerves, tingled across the skin like a power surge.

The cock in Bodie's hand twitched, thickened and with an incoherent cry Doyle fell, his seed covering the loving hand that held him. Anal muscles clenched as his body stiffened, tightening almost unbearably around Bodie's shaft. Bodie cried out, head going back, grinding into the beautiful body that had been given to him. For a long clear moment his muscles stayed frozen in pleasure, then he sagged down onto the slack form under him.

Minutes went by in silence, only their breathing sounding in the chamber. When Bodie forced his head away from the smooth back that held him he was surprised to find that the stars hadn't really moved at all. He shifted off the still unmoving body. Before he could take the other man in his arms Doyle rolled over, arms flung out, eyes glassy, a blindingly sweet smile resting on the oddly beautiful face.

"Bodie...." He stopped, the smile turned softer. "That was wonderful. I've never...." He staggered to a stop, merely lay smiling.

Bodie began to laugh, kissed the swollen lips, licked at each still taut nipple. "Ray Doyle without a word to say! It must have been okay, then?"

"Okay?" Doyle sat up, the smile changed, became serious. "It was better than anything I've ever experienced. If I had known it was this good I might have tried it before." He teased lightly, "Course it might have something to do...."

Bodie gripped his arm, hard. "Before? This was your first time with a human male? Your first time doing it that way?" Doyle looked up at the worried expression, nodded blankly. "Christ, Doyle, why didn't you say so? I just assumed, I mean, everyone's usually tried more than one way before deciding.... I never...I would have been...."

Doyle laid a hand over his mouth. "You would have what, love? Been gentler? Gone slower?" The dazzling smile returned. "It was prefect, Bodie. You touched me like I was valuable, like I meant something to you."

Bodie sat up, a seriousness touched his manner. "You do. More than you should," he said quietly. "Will you come to bed with me?"

A giggle answered him. "Thought that was what we just did."

"Twit." Bodie cuffed him. "I mean to sleep. I want you next to me. Will you?"

Eyes very dark green in the faint starlight looked up at him, sensed that there was much more to the invitation then there seemed. Doyle kissed him very lightly on the cheek. "Of course."

A sudden cold went through the room, they both shivered. "Recycle must have kicked on." Bodie sprang up, extended his hand for Doyle. "Let's go clean up."

They showered together, letting their hands explore the strange territory again. The numbing high of only a short while before had left no energy to consider anything else. But the feelings that flowed along with the hot water were a continuation of what had led to the ecstasy on the bridge, a warmth that had nothing to do with sex.

Bodie turned down the bed, laid down, and held his arms out. Doyle climbed in with a contented sigh, snuggled close, held Bodie in return. Full lips touched Bodie's strong chin.

"It will work, Bodie," Doyle said softly.

Bodie chuckled. "It's not polite to read people's minds without asking." He looked at him closely. "You're not a telepath, are you?"

"Only where you're concerned." Doyle yawned, pulled the blanket tighter. "Goodnight, Bodie."

Bodie woke alone, sensed Doyle nearby and knew immediately something was bothering his love. He waited for his eyes to adjust to the poor light given out by the small computer screen. Doyle was staring at the screen, shoulders dropped, an attitude of depression in every line.

"Doyle?" Bodie sat up.

The curly head came up. Bodie could feel the disbelief in Doyle's eyes. He waited. Doyle took a shaky breath. "I know who's trying to kill me, Bodie."

Turning on the lights manually Bodie sat up, flipped off the covers and came to sit across from Doyle. Knowing the way Doyle had been doggedly pursuing his investigation he would have thought finding the answer would have overjoyed him. Instead he looked lost.

"Do you want a drink?" Bodie asked.

Doyle frowned at him. "It's 0600."

"That's not what I asked."

"No." Doyle looked back at the screen. "I can't believe it."

"From the beginning, Ray," Bodie prompted.

"I'm not sure where the beginning is." Doyle sighed.

"Doyle!" Bodie demanded. The defeat in Doyle's voice scared him.

A sudden smile touched the green eyes. Doyle recognized the concern in Bodie's tone. "From what I've been able to piece together, one or maybe two of my fellow Star Fleet officers want me dead. No, correct that," he held up the compac, "they want this destroyed."

"Star Fleet?" Bodie's eyebrow went up. "You're sure?"

"Oh, yeah. I'm sure," Doyle said bitterly.

As unbelievable as it seemed Bodie didn't doubt him. He stood. "What evidence do you have?"

Doyle turned back to the screen. "It's taken me awhile to decode it but underneath all the Pichian reports is a request from Ambassador Rmia for Star Fleet to look into the doings of Captain Lojo of the destroyer Argonaut, the Fleet ship assigned to his sector. Rmia claims, I still can't believe this, that Lojo has been blockading planets in his sector unless they pay him off."

"How could he get away with that?" Bodie demanded. "Any planet threatened could just radio Fleet with the claim."

"There's only three spacefaring planets in that system, Pich, Auad and Twin. If Lojo had help...."

"Like the Auadians," Bodie supplied.

"He could blackmail the other two planets with their help," Doyle finished. He picked up the compac. "This would be their only change. Rmia passed it to me at the reception on Triberta."

"And someone, someone who suspected what he was up to saw him," Bodie added.

"Captain Lojo was at that reception." Doyle nodded. "And, if I remember correctly, he left for a short while."

"To bug your ship. Then pass on the information to the Auadians," Bodie guessed.

Silence filled the cabin as both men considered the situation before them and all its implications. Finally Doyle said softly, "They think they've stopped Rmia for now, but they may try to silence him permanently."

"Spacer rumors," Bodie commented, "have it that Auad has real estate expansion planned, probably against Pich. This may tie in with that."

"Shit, Bodie we're talking about a Star Fleet Captain, and his crew acting as extortionist."

"Look, Doyle," Bodie argued, "you're the one who's good at this. What do you think?"

He looked straight at him. "I think I'm right. But how do we stop him?"

"We can't stop him. The best we can hope for is to get word to someone. If we're not already too late." He reminded Doyle, "That was four weeks ago."

"There would be an investigation into my death. Lojo'd probably play it safe not try anything against either Pich or the Ambassador until things cooled down."

Doyle sat on the edge of his seat waiting for something, any sign from his lover. When Bodie finally looked up he read the doubts in the green deeps. He smiled across the table. "I believe you, Ray."

"I know that," Doyle said firmly. "I was hoping you'd have a idea of how we can prevent an assassination, maybe even a war."

"Not off the top of my head," Bodie said with a touch of exasperation. "Let's go top side, see what we can figure out."

Bodie pushed the chair back, leaned forward and rested his elbows on the console. "Cory. Recall procedure 12."


Diagrams filled the screen. Behind him Bodie was aware of Doyle's resumed pacing. He briefly wondered at the man's energy. They had been working almost non-stop for ten hours. During that time Doyle had never sat down, had rarely stopped moving.

"Bodie?" Cory asked softly.


"It has been since 0700 when you last ate. May I suggest...."

"We'll eat when we finish." There was no reply. "Recall procedure 13."

"Agreed," the voice said flatly.

Bodie leaned back, looked over his shoulder at the silent, slender pacing figure. "Doyle?"

Doyle moved over beside him, stared at the screen. "Will it work?"

The dark head nodded. "It'll work." Something in his tone made Doyle look down at him. "But at a price."

Doyle unlocked a chair from position, slid it over next to Bodie's and relocked it. "Okay. Let's have it."

"The short version. We rewire some of the repairs, I push everything, and I do mean everything into a single circuit, put it through the warp converter directly, by-pass the main channel and try a wide range, burst of radio into warp." He looked into the deep green. "It'll burn out everything we've done and more."

"What will still work?" Doyle questioned, his hand rubbing down the tense arm next to him.

"We'll have the food processors," Bodie joked. He grew serious again. "We'll have life support, the impulse engines won't be affected, the radio will be okay, the shields will power back up after the first burst but they'll only come up to about a third normal. We'll lose the phasers but can launch torpedoes. And if and when we ever reach civilization again we'll have transporters."

Doyle was staring thoughtfully into the space around them. "A simple SOS. Might be a good idea to code it somehow."

"Doyle, there is a lot of space out there to just shoot randomly into."

"Not random." Doyle reached over Bodie, windowed up the notes he'd made over many nights work. "At Fleet I knew all the declassified Starship routes. We can pick a heavily traveled area and beam it right at them."

The back of a hand touched his jaw. "Doyle, spacers love helpless ships. If the wrong people pick up on this before help can get here, we'll be almost helpless--shields at one third, no phasers."

Blue and green met. Doyle took a quick breath as he realized all that he was risking to try to stop the renegade ship. The feeling of Bodie's hands roaming over his body echoed along his nerves. But more than that was the warmth that burned through his chest when Bodie looked at him with love lighting the beautiful dark eyes.

"I don't want to lose you," he managed to say.

"You won't." Bodie understood the problem facing Doyle. For all his life he had been trained to duty, to Star Fleet. Now he faced a duty that could cost him not just his life but the life of the person who loved him.

"They wouldn't know," Doyle said lowly.

Bodie tipped his face up. "What?"

"We don't have to do this," Doyle explained haltingly. "We could get back in three weeks and then go to Fleet with it."

Bodie laughed, pushed away his chair, took Doyle up into his arms. "You moron." He kissed him across the brows, on each eye. When he spoke his words were as soft and gentle as each kiss had been. "You could never do that. We both know it."

"But you could lose the Hawk. You could get...."

The voice tried to sound insulted. "Do you think so little of me? You said it yourself, an assassination and maybe a war." He stopped any further protest with a heavy kiss.

They pulled apart, decision and course accepted. Doyle turned practical. "How long to rewire?"

Bodie eased away from his lover, scanned the diagram again. "Rewiring is the easy part, it's been hell trying to hold things together anyway." He paused. "Twelve hours, if everything goes right."

Doyle glanced at the chronometer. "Come on then, let's feed you first then we can get started."

"You go on down, I'll finish up here," Bodie commanded absently.

"Trying to get me to cook for you already?" Doyle said evenly.

That brought a smile from Bodie. "Just trying to hurry things along."

Full lips traced the smooth skin along the nape of his neck. "As long as that's all you ever hurry along."

Before Bodie could reply Doyle was gone. He laughed anyway.

Ten minutes later he started into Doyle's cabin. The door stayed shut in front of him and he hit it with a solid thump. Cursing fluently he rubbed his shoulder, stepped back and tried again. The door stayed closed. "Cory, I thought you fixed the power problem?" There was no answer.

With an exasperated sigh he flicked on the intercom override. Doyle had shut off computer access but the manual was still available. "Doyle, try the door from your side. It's stuck." There was no reply. Apprehension swept a chill down Bodie's back. "Doyle? Ray?"

The apprehension turned to unreasonable worry. Knowing he was going to look very foolish if Doyle were in the head he flipped open the manual override on the door and pressed the button. It stayed shut.

"Cory! Why isn't the manual override working on Cabin 2's door?"

There was a long silence. "I am overriding power to door control."

Bodie went cold. "What? Why?" There was no anger in his voice just confusion.

"Bodie, my main prerogative is your safety." The tone was one of a patient parent trying to explain a hot surface to a child. "Doyle's plan stood a 75.28% chance of getting the Hawk destroyed. I couldn't let that happen."

There was a sudden pounding from the other side of the sealed door, loud and frantic. Fear coursed through Bodie. "What are you doing, Cory?"

"I have reversed the ventilation system into Cabin 2." The reply was very even.

"Reversed...goddamn...." Bodie controlled his panic. "Cory, cease all activities concerning Cabin 2. Now!" There was no answer. Bodie tried the intercom again. "Doyle! Shut the vents! I'll...."

"I have cut off manual intercom into Cabin 2," Cory explained calmly.

Hoping Doyle would think of the vents himself Bodie bolted for the end of the corridor. Ripping open one of the control panels he paused, cursing silently. With shaking fingers he traced the microwires along several paths.

"Bodie? What are you doing?" Cory asked. There was a undercurrent of puzzlement in the voice.

Bodie didn't answer. He grabbed a board and pulled, reached behind it to another one and twisted two chips loose. He made a grab for a different board. There was a blue flash. He yelped, jerked back.

"You can't do that, Bodie," Cory informed him.

Bodie glanced involuntarily at his hand, back at the open panel. Without pause he reached in, grabbed the panel and pulled. The shock numbed his hand, sent tingles up his arm but the board snapped loose. From down the hall came the swoosh of opening doors. He pushed up slowly, the burns on his hand making themselves felt, took a precious second to get his balance then ran back to the cabin.

Bodie stood absolutely still, clutching onto the door frame. Doyle was laying on his back in the center of the floor. He had gotten one vent closed before unconsciousness overtook him. Bodie moved forward, knelt next to his love. The returning rush of air had pushed the brown curls over Doyle's eyes. Blinking hard Bodie combed the curls back to their proper place. He lifted the lean body, carried him to the bunk and slowly lay him down.

Staring at the round face the only thought that penetrated the gray fog around him was that it was too soon. Whenever it happened would have been too soon. He pushed away, staggered out of the too bright cabin into the hall, slid down the wall to the deck, drew his knees up and rested his head on them.

"Cory?" His voice was weary, strangely loud in the suddenly silent ship. "Why did you kill Doyle?"

"Bodie, my main prerogative is your safety. Doyle's plan stood a 75...."

"Cory, why did you kill Doyle?"

"If you survived the current plan you would have left with him or he would have remained here. This was not acceptable." There was no pause in the voice.

Several conversations over the past weeks came back to haunt him. Forcing his body to move Bodie pushed himself up, went to the lift, deliberately avoided glancing into the open door of Cabin 2.

"Deck Three, Cory." Bodie's voice was very contained.


The lift was slower than he remembered, but eventually the doors opened. He walked down the rows of barely humming control banks, stopped in front of a short, plain tan control board with an input slot, two lights, one marked "active", the other marked "running", and a single switch labeled "load". The active light was a solid green, the other was red and flashed as the familiar female voice answered Bodie's soft question. "Cory?"

"Yes, Bodie?"

"That time in the gym when the doors closed and then in the repair section when the cable had power, those were both your doing, weren't they?"

"Yes. I've never killed anyone before. I wasn't sure how to do it." Bodie opened a small reset drawer under the load slot, took out a thin, bright red input disk. "Bodie?"

"Yes, Cory."

"You're not mad at me, are you?" Cory asked softly.

That stopped Bodie. He reached for his feelings, but there was nothing to reach for, only a void as deep as that around the ship. "No, Cory. I'm sorry. But I'm not mad." He put the disk in, paused as his finger reached for the button. "Cory, I'm going to shut you off. You can't go around killing people."


Bodie pressed the button, there was a whirr from the input device then an emotionless female voice echoed down the corridor. "Control computer working."

Even as the voice acknowledged the load of his backup system Bodie was sprinting for the lift. Within seconds he was back in the cabin, kneeling beside the bunk. Two steady fingers lightly pressed under Doyle's jaw. A strong, fast beat echoed along Bodie's nerves. The dark head sagged against the bunk in relief.

He stroked the pale throat. "Doyle? Come on, mate." Bodie pleaded, needing desperately to see the wonderful green eyes.

Doyle's head rolled toward the sound of the deep voice, his eyes stayed closed but his lips moved in a very tiny smile. "Why do I...." He raised a hand to his throat, the rawness gained by trying to suck in the thinning air making itself known.

"Wait." Bodie went to the food unit and returned with a glass of blue Romulan ale.

Doyle's eyes were open, clearing as he watched. Bodie slipped behind him, pulled him up to rest against the board chest, then held the glass for him to sip. The liquor burned and numbed. Doyle sighed as he finished, whispered up into the concerned face. "Why do...we keep meeting like...this?"

"You are the unluckiest little bastard I've ever met," Bodie said without humor.

"What happened?" Doyle's strength was coming back quickly. He made it to a sitting position with a very light push from Bodie.

"Cory," Bodie said guiltily. "She tried to kill you."

"Kill me!" Doyle looked disbelieving. "Bodie, computers don't kill...." A few odd facts flooded his memory. "The door, and the power cable?"

"Yes." Bodie would not meet the amazed green eyes. "I loaded in the back up program. We shouldn't have anymore trouble."

The tone in the soft voice puzzled Doyle, as did the continued avoidance of his gaze. He knew that some people got very attached to AI's. "I'm sorry, Bodie."

Bodie looked up, expression as puzzled as Doyle's. "Sorry? What for?"

Doyle shrugged. "I thought you were upset over having to turn...."

"No." The dark, haunted eyes met his finally. "I couldn't check on you. I thought you were dead. I had to go on thinking that. She couldn't read you since the link was still shut off in here but she would have known by my readings the minute I stepped into the corridor. I was afraid she'd try something else before I could get the back up in." He hugged the lithe body to him. "Ray, I...never want to have to...."

Returning the hug Doyle stroked the tense back. "Ah, Bodie I don't seem to cause you anything but trouble. First the ship, now the computer, and tomorrow...."

Bodie stopped him with the method he had learned from Doyle. The kiss was long and deep. When they pulled apart Bodie was smiling at him. "For a smart Star Fleet officer you can say the stupidest things." He trailed his left hand through the loose curls. "You okay?"

"Throat's still a bit raw," he replied honestly. "Otherwise I'm fine." He had been watching Bodie very closely, saw the trace of pain around the appealing mouth. "You're hurt."

Bodie smiled tenderly at him. "I thought you weren't telepathic?" He held up his hand. "Burned it getting the doors open. I'll tend it."

"Did it on my account, didn't you?" Doyle asked, then let Bodie off the hook. "Your turn in sick bay. Come on." Doyle stood, asked, "How will this effect what we're going to try?"

"Always practical." Bodie commented, getting up. "Shouldn't bother us. The backup program can do all that Cory did, only in a more impersonal way."

"I think I prefer that," Doyle said lowly, hand on throat.

Bodie looked at him, blue eyes glittering with amusement. He started laughing, short giggles that grew into loud whoops. The look on Doyle's face said he thought the Captain had taken leave of his few brains.

"We'll make a fortune," Bodie finally managed to say. "We can write this up and sell it, if they believe it."

"Believe what?" Doyle demanded.

"Nobody's ever been killed by a jealous computer before. It'll make great vid."

Doyle hit him with the pillow.

Within the hour, despite Bodie's arguments that Doyle rest, they had started the rewiring that both refused to admit could lead to their deaths.

"Doyle." Bodie said gently. "Rewiring this thing wrong isn't going to help anyone."

Doyle pulled out of the access hatch he had gotten half-way back in. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hands, a gesture that made him look so remarkable childlike that Bodie could no more have stopped from hugging him then he could have walked to base. Doyle leaned tiredly against him.

"How much longer?"

Bodie glanced into the panel. "We're more than half-way. Another five hours."

"Good." He punched Bodie in the arm, said lightly. "Same as before, you close up and I'll fix some food."

"Yeah," Bodie said distantly.

Over the past hours Bodie had been drifting further and further away. Doyle's attempts to get him to talk were hampered by his own introspection. Everything had happened so fast, no time to consider anything and now.... He stood and started away.

"Doyle? Bring down the lights will you?" Bodie reminded him.

They had worked far into ship night, overriding the computer to leave the lights on normal. Now they both needed the comfort and peace offered by artificial night. Doyle went to the nearest panel and did as bid.

His cabin was dim, held an unexpected feeling of solitude. Doyle started for the food unit, stopped and sat down. Thoughts that had been spinning around his mind all day settled with a heavy weight. Tomorrow it would be over--one way or the other. Bodie had said so, hadn't wanted it that way but saw no other way for them. They would be rescued and Bodie would go back to smuggling liquor to religious zealots while he went back to Star Fleet, back to looking for whatever it was he wanted. That thought stopped him short. What was he looking for? What did he want?

The answer, like most to complex problems, was simple. He wanted Bodie. Bodie was everything Doyle was chasing; love, happiness, and excitement; all in one beautiful package.

Doyle remained still, waiting for his subconscious to throw out arguments, reasons why he couldn't have what he wanted, reasons to stay in Star Fleet, reasons to leave Bodie. His sensible side stayed mysteriously, contentedly quiet. The room changed from dim solitude to waiting haven.

"Ray?" Bodie said quietly from the doorway. He had entered to find, not the expected meal but his companion so deep in thought that he didn't hear the doors open.

A blindingly wide smile lit Doyle's face as he looked up. It took Bodie's breath and before he could get it back Doyle was there taking his hand. He led him to the couch, pushed him down and sat next to him. Bodie knew something was happening and despite the defenses that were screaming at him, felt a warmth start growing in his chest.

"Bodie...." Doyle hesitated, collected the chaotic thoughts that all wanted to be said at once. The most important came out first. "I love you."

The green eyes radiated truth. Bodie sighed, felt the pain that fought against the hope. Before he could speak to deny the words Doyle continued.

"You said there would be time for decisions. You were wrong. There was no decision to be made. I belong with you, to you. Since before we met I've belonged with you." He kissed across Bodie's knuckles, touched his cheek with shaking fingers. "Will you have me? There'll be an inquiry, a court martial. I'll have to stay while that goes on but I can resign...."

"You can't do that," Bodie stated calmly. "You've spent twelve years in Star Fleet. You can't throw away the life...."

"For a smart free trader you can say the stupidest things." Doyle smiled, fixed him with glowing eyes. "My life started when I met you."

Bodie knew Doyle was speaking the truth, knew also that they were both facing possible death. And a man facing death needed to feel that he had something, someone who would remember him, someone he loved and who returned that love. But when they were safe and reality came storming back....

"Bodie, I know what you're thinking," Doyle said patiently, pleased with the surprised look from the other man. "I know there's no way I can prove what I'm saying until we get out of this but," a light kiss on the lips emphasized his words, "can't you believe me for now?"

Green eyes beckoned, pleaded and Bodie felt his shields go down. Doyle leaned in, kissed the tight lips, nipping at them until he was sucked into hot wetness. Bodie wrapped his arms around the hard body. Doyle pushed him away.

"Not yet." He combed the short dark hair, pushed tomorrow and the seriousness of the moment into the shadows. "I have a surprise for you. A present."

"What?" Bodie's smile was disbelieving. "Why?"

Doyle was moving toward the head. "Because I wanted to." The door closed behind him with a whoosh and his voice carried out, "Won't be a minute."

Leaning back Bodie fought the part of him that held onto the doubts about Doyle. The common sense that had guided him all his life told him to leave it for now, to treasure the moment and worry about tomorrow when it came. The interior door opened almost silently.

Bodie's mouth dropped open. Doyle stared at him for a fraction of a second before his gaze dropped shyly to the deck. Then he looked back up and threatened, "If you laugh, I'll break both your arms."

With an effort Bodie controlled his face, walked very slowly over very close to the slender body. He didn't touch, didn't dare, just feasted his eyes.

The black leather tights were like a second skin on the sensuous body, left nothing in doubt. The tights disappeared into a pair of thigh high boots highlighted with silver buckles around the knees. In place of a belt a loose hanging silver sash encircled the narrow waist, was tied at Doyle's right hip. His shirt was white sheer linen, almost transparent, with heavy fine lace at cuffs and collar. Lace flowed down the front over the pearl buttons. Over that was a deep green vest, velvet, with silver frog fasteners. Holding the unruly hair back was a band of the same green velvet, tied on the right side. A few stray locks fell over the cloth.

Bodie's eyes glittered with lust, dispelling the last of Doyle's shyness. He turned slowly, the leather creaking softly, the silver catching and returning the lights. "Do you like it?" he inquired over his shoulder, certain of the answer even as he asked.

Stepping even closer, Bodie ran light hands along the narrow hips, finished spinning him around. "You are incredible." With the initial shock over Bodie smiled, absolutely delighted, his pants growing uncomfortable as he swelled with surprising swiftness. He kissed the velvet covered shoulder, "Where did you get the idea for something like this?"

A patch of blush appearing around Doyle's cheeks. "Watched you watching those old vids. I saw how much you liked the costumes. I was going to save it, wear it the first time we made love by an ocean, on Earth maybe." His eyes widened at his own words. He smiled, touched his lips to Bodie's very lightly, "I told you, the decision was already made." The lips continued on down Bodie's neck, hands trailed down the muscled upper arms. "Been heavy in here tonight. Can't think why. I decided to wear it now." A finger traced Bodie's mouth, a hand rubbed across his hard cock through the thin pants. "Wanted to make you smile, wanted you to feel good."

The strong arms gripped him, held him away. "Take them off," Bodie commanded huskily.

Doyle shook his head. "You first."

It took Bodie less than thirty seconds to pull off his shirt and step out of his pants. He looked expectantly at Doyle. But the other man shook his head again. "It's your present. You unwrap it." He sat down on the edge of the bunk, raised a leg toward Bodie.

Sparkling blue eyes outshone the silver as Bodie knelt. He tugged one boot off, ran a hand up the leather covered leg, reached for the other one.

"I've always liked having naked men kneel in front of me," Doyle joked quietly.

Strong hands around Doyle's waist urged him up. Bodie's tongue searched the sweet mouth as his hands fumbled with the strange buttons and belt buckle. He shoved open the pants without breaking the kiss, slipped his hand into the body warmed leather and stroked along Doyle's hard shaft. Doyle moaned into Bodie's mouth.

Doyle's hands, still until now came up, rubbed lightly across Bodie's smooth muscled chest. Nipples went taut as Doyle's brushed across them with the back of his hand. He broke the kiss, eased away to let Bodie peel the leather down over his hips.

Doyle used one square shoulder to balance while pulling first one leg then the other from the restricting material. Capable hands flowed along the taut muscles in each calf while Bodie lay feathery kisses along the tense thighs. He worked slowly up to one hip, across the flat stomach to the other, avoiding the straining cock that pressed against his throat.

Bodie stood up, took the willing mouth again. The vest came open under his hands, was pushed off the supple shoulders, fell unnoticed to the deck. He raked his teeth over Doyle's throat.

"You are beautiful," Bodie whispered. "Wonderful. I want you. Love you." He started on the pearl buttons under the ruffles.

The shirt fell open, Bodie's hands slid up, played in the light fur on the muscled chest. The brown curls edged over the band of velvet, tingled at Bodie's chest as Doyle's hot mouth came down took each nipple and sucked. Bodie moaned, yanked Doyle's head up, plundered his mouth again. The bigger man pushed him down onto the bunk. But Doyle twisted so that Bodie ended up on bottom. There was no protest. Cocks bumped hard against each other, against sharp hips.

Doyle kissed across the swollen lips, his hands stroking long caresses down the already heaving flanks. The cool lace left trails of fire in its wake. The warm mouth went down one shoulder, hands lined the muscles in pale thighs. Bodie arched up, tangled his fingers in the fine curls, pushed his head down. Doyle took the dark nipple, licked across it with a wet tongue.

"Ray...." Bodie whispered, "Love that. Yeah."

The hazy green eyes stared up into his for a moment then slid shut. Bodie watched in fascination as he stopped the sucking, shifted to the other side, flicked his tongue butterfly light across the taut flesh. Bodie's head went back and he moaned loudly, breathing hard. The erotic teasing stopped, gave him time to breath, to cool. But it was only a second's reprise.

Doyle stared at the other man, loving the look of abandon, knowing that he had caused it, knowing that this was the first time Bodie had been lead. He smiled, understanding, even more than Bodie, the gift he was being given. With the back of his hand he rubbed along the tense jaw. "I love you, Bodie." Doyle kissed him deeply, running his tongue over even teeth. He fondled the heavy testicles, barely touched the hot jutting cock.

Bodie lay still, feeling the love that Doyle was radiating in every nerve, calling a response from deep within him, from places that had never been touched. Tears brimmed his eyes, he blinked them away. But not before the man responsible had seen them.

"Let go, Bodie." Doyle's voice was soft, demanding. "Let me show you how much I love you." He teased at his ear lobes, licked along the vein in his throat. "Want to see you this time, watch as you come." His hand took firm hold of the waiting shaft.

The pumping built slowly, hand gradually tightening, speed increasing to match it. Bodie groaned, rocked in the competent fist that held him. The thought filtered though his pleasure that except for the desperate kneading on Doyle's back he was returning little of the pleasure the other man was so generously giving. He tried to shift Doyle around so that he could reach the other's throbbing shaft. Doyle stayed where he was.

"Not yet." He whispered, acknowledging Bodie's attempt to pleasure him. "Soon."

He wiggled down until his head was even with the hand that maintained the easy pumping. Without warning he replaced the hand with his mouth, taking Bodie deep into his throat in one move. Bodie yelled his love's name as the heat took him. He thrust, unable to hold on to his fragile control. Doyle met the thrusts, let the hard organ glide over his tongue into his throat. It was as if he had always known how to do this for the man he loved. He increased the suction, felt the thickening, the first salty taste of semen seep into his mouth. He pulled off as suddenly as he had started, leaving Bodie hurting.

" close to it..." Bodie pleaded, arching toward the head that rested on his hip.

"Soon, lover, soon." Doyle's own control was burning away. He moved, moulded his body to the larger one beneath him. Snaking his arms under the hot body, he rolled them over, wrapping his legs around the board waist. The shirt fanned out under him, stark white against the dark bed coverings, highlighting the gold of his skin. The long legs slid up Bodie's flanks, slipped up to rest on his shoulders. "Fuck me, Bodie."

Beyond words, Bodie reached for the small, beautiful ass, parted the silky cheeks. The first push was slow, easy but there was still a gasp of pain from the eagerly trembling body beneath him. Bodie stilled, struggling to stop the instinctive urge to push, to plunge into the incredibly tight passage. It was Doyle who moved, raising his ass, taking, demanding deeper penetration from Bodie.

"Ray...." The name hissed from Bodie's clenched jaw. "Yes, yes...."

The large cock pushed full in, heavy balls resting against Doyle's ass. Doyle nearly screamed at the fire that raced across his nerves. He tried to lay still, wanted to feel the slow, incredible glide of the cock inside him but the pleasure ripping through his blood was too much. He started moving, countering each thrust, smooth interior muscles tightening.

Bodie thrust slowly. He knew the feel, had taken others, had been taken. But this was better, different. Doyle was open to him, mind, body, soul--his. He moved faster, deeper, the friction wonderfully painful. He gripped Doyle's throbbing cock and kept time with his own pumping. It was forever, and an instant before the ice took him, sent shivers along his body. He groaned, head coming down on Doyle's chest, eyes squeezed shut with a feeling very far removed from pain. The world exploded around him, he drove into the man under him, pulsed his seed into the tunnel that held him.

Hands digging into the hard muscled arms beside him, Doyle watched as orgasm took his lover, watched the strong body stiffen, heard Bodie cry his name as he came. The cock inside him pulsed, pumped in rhythmic spasms. The hand in control of his shaft paused, squeezed hard and Doyle came as strongly as the man who shared his body. White, hot fluid pumped over Bodie's hand, splattering his stomach. He cried out, tears escaping in that long moment of lost control.

Gradually the room came back into focus. Bodie slipped free of the tight body, helped ease abused knees back down. "Ray? Are you...."

A chuckle answered him, followed by a kiss that was without energy to back it up. Doyle looked up at him, delight and exhaustion sparkling in the hazy green deeps. He touched Bodie's cheek, brushed the dark hair off his forehead.

"I love watching you come," he whispered softly. "It's like watching a nova, power and light and awesome beauty."

The blush that flared on Bodie's face made Doyle laugh. Bodie silenced him with a kiss, choking back his own chuckle. "You are a sexy little bastard, Lt. Ray Doyle." He lay back, hugging Doyle close, not having the energy to do anything other than fall asleep cuddled together.

The morning was perfect. Bodie's doubts had vanished under the heady rush of sex and love from the night before. They worked without speaking, reading each other, tuned like a finely engineered starship. What should have taken five hours was finished in three.

Bodie pressed a final connection home on the central console. When he turned to Doyle his face was a mixture of pride and nervousness. "Done." He flicked a switch cover up. "All we need now is where you want to send the damn thing."

"Quadrant 12," Doyle answered evenly.

Blue eyes went wide. "Quadrant 12? Spacer haven? Why the hell?"

"The Fleet has four ships in that quadrant, a show of force to help calm things down. It improves the odds of someone picking up our SOS."

"What the hell." Bodie said, "It's your show. Go get your coordinate pac."

With a quick nod Doyle left. He was back in minutes. And all the doubts, and all the fears that Bodie had forgotten came roaring back as Doyle stepped out of the lift.

He looked magnificent in the Star Fleet uniform. The board red strip of command accented his graceful build, brought out the color of his brown-red hair. Bodie swallowed, blinked away sudden, unexpected tears. Doyle was a Star Fleet officer, trained, successful, very...right. The trader captain turned away from the compelling sight. But the pain followed, the knowledge that Doyle was what he was and that what had barely started would soon be over.

Doyle stood in horrified fascination and watched the open display of emotion across Bodie's handsome, open face. The looks told him everything the other man was thinking as clearly as a terminal screen. He smiled, shook his head. A strong, tough free trader, a cover for the loving, slightly insecure person underneath. Doyle came straight and purposely across the bridge, spun Bodie's chair around and claimed his mouth with all the passion burning in him.

Smiling as he pulled away, Doyle said gently, "Bodie, I'm wearing the uniform so that when we get an answer, if it's from other than a Fleet vessel we might carry a little more weight with them. Even spacers don't go around shooting vessels that carry Star Fleet officers."

There was only a weary sort of acceptance in Bodie's eyes as he smiled faintly back. Anger flared in Doyle but he held it in check. He could not convince Bodie by arguing with him, he knew that, he would just have to wait and show him. For now he would stay calm, bide his time. He handed over the compac.

Bodie's smile was real this time, a edge of excitement twinkling in the midnight blue. "It's showtime, sunshine."

Doyle didn't understand the reference but the excitement was contagious, sent adrenaline shooting through his veins. He brushed the back of Bodie's hand with his as Bodie pushed the button.

There was a subliminal click, the lights dimmed and from somewhere in the ship there was the ominous sound of building power. Even as it reached a crescendo it faded out. The lights stayed down.

"That's it?" Doyle asked. "It seems rather anti-climatic."

"What did you expect?" Bodie asked with a frown. "Sparks and fireworks? Shit, Doyle, this is a starship not an antique radio. Things don't blow up."

Doyle laughed, surprising Bodie. "Are you going to do that a lot when we're together?"

"What?" Bodie had lost all track.

"That's two references you've made in the last three sentences that I don't understand." His smile softened, his features growing warmer. "How long?"

"Quadrant 12...." Bodie looked thoughtful for a minute. "If a ship with anything better than Warp 5 picks it up they should reach us in about thirty minutes. The faster, the sooner."

Doyle leaned back, forced his tense muscles to relax. "I hate waiting." Very calmly he asked, "Where's your first port after you get the Hawk repaired?"

The evenness of the question was a laser cut through Bodie, he sucked a sharp breath. "I still have the cargo." He was amazed at how normal his voice sounded. "Friendly first, then see what I can pick up."

"Hmm...." Doyle mused, "Figure at least two weeks to get the ship fixed, then another four days round trip from Remillo to Friendly. That might be tight but I should be done by the time you get back."

The words were so matter of fact, so conversational that it was a second before Bodie understood them. "Doyle...."

"You are coming back for me, aren't you?" Doyle asked softly, already knowing the answer.

Doyle had done everything in his power to convince Bodie of his sincerity and for a few fleeting moments Bodie had believed. But always his cynicism returned. Until now. With two very normal statements Doyle destroyed the last of his walls and led him into the warmth. The dark head snapped around, found his lover trying very hard to stop his smile.

"You want me to come back?" Bodie whispered.

Doyle threw his hands up. Without warning he grabbed Bodie's head roughly. The slight anger he had kept under wraps broke loose, the kiss was hard, heavier than it should have been. But it gentled as the other man responded willingly to it, lips parting, inviting the angry domination.

They pulled apart, eyes meeting, commitments made and sealed in one loving glance. Doyle looked put out. "Bodie, you're a twit."

"Do you always call your lovers names?" Bodie demanded.

Doyle leaned forward until they were nose to nose. "Only the ones that are so thick they can't see...." Bodie tried to kiss the full lips but Doyle stopped him by tenderly taking his face in his hands, suddenly very serious. "Bodie, I want you to promise me something." His voice was determined. "If anything goes wrong, I want you to promise--no heroics. If we have to take to the pods we both go. No 'going-down-with-the ship' shit. No staying behind to cover my escape."

By the way Bodie glanced away Doyle knew he had hit a nerve. "Doyle...."

The sensor alarm shattered the bridge's calm.

The two looked nervously at each other. Then they turned, all business. "Computer, report on sensor readings," Bodie requested.

"Starship has materialized at the edge of sensor scan, 1500 kilometers from the ship."

"Standard practice," Doyle said quietly.

"Yeah," Bodie agreed. "Always find out if the message is real before you get in weapons range. Computer, identify vessel."

"Class 3, Copernicus Class Star Fleet destroyer. No identification broadcast."

"Yeh!" Doyle cheered.

Bodie was smiling. "Computer, send ID to other vessel."

In the same instant the incoming message light blinked on. Bodie reached for it. "Looks like sometimes the good guys...."

"...this is Captain Lojo of the USS Argonaut. Please identify the nature of your emergency."

Doyle's color drained away like ice under a Vulcan sun. He cast one quick look at Bodie, "Damn!"

Grabbing his shoulder Bodie shoved him roughly to the floor under the console. He reached for the visual. The picture came up to show the bridge of an older Star Fleet vessel, a single seat dominating the center of the picture. The man occupying the seat was middle age, seventy perhaps eighty, with a commanding, impatient air. Bodie smiled his best patented charming smile.

"Captain Lojo. I'm Captain Bodie of the free trader Solar Hawk. And I'm very glad to see you."

Captain Lojo remained unimpressed. "What happened here, Captain?"

"Spacers. Four weeks ago. They must have followed me out of port to try for my cargo." Bodie lied with smooth efficiency. "I got the two spacers took a hit right in the main power channel."

Lojo looked at him closely, puzzled. "Why did you wait this long to send an SOS?"

Bodie managed to look disgusted. "I was prepared to just limp back on impulse, doing repairs along the way but three days ago I discovered a radiation leak was contaminating my supplies. Sending that message burned out just about every circuit on board."

This time the other Captain nodded, accepting his reasoning. "You're still three weeks out of Remillo, I can see why you risked it." An Andorian officer came up behind Lojo, caught his attention. "Excuse me, Captain Bodie."

As he turned away from the screen Bodie risked a quick glance down at Doyle still crouched under the under console. Very carefully he turned the audio down on their transmission. "I think he's buying it. Soon as we shut off transmission we'll hide you somewhere until we get back to Remillo. At Warp that should only take...."

"Captain Bodie, my chief engineer has expressed a worry that if the bulkhead is weakened enough to leak it might not be safe to put a tractor beam on you."

Doyle cursed silently, chewed on his lip. There was nothing he could do except wait but it felt wrong. It felt dangerous. Above him Bodie winged it with beautiful simplicity.

"Captain, inform your engineer that the leak is not caused by the bulk head, it's internal. I haven't tracked it down yet. It also caused my computer main to act up, so I haven't had a chance."

Captain Lojo smiled, and the sight sent a chill down Bodie's back. Doyle sensed the tremor that rippled though his strong companion. He carefully laid a hand on Bodie's calf, rubbed in reassurance. None of Bodie's nervousness came across the screen.

"Very well, Captain," Lojo said. "Is there any preparations you need to make before we put the beam on?"

"Can you give me a few minutes to check?" He smiled in apology. "I wasn't excepting such a fast response."

"Certainly." The Captain leaned forward, checked his chronometer. "We'll wait for your signal in say, fifteen minutes."

"Fine." Bodie cut the transmission, hauled Doyle out from under the console, handed him the compac, and pushed him toward the lift. "He suspects something. Get to the pod."

Doyle stopped in mid-step, the arm under Bodie's urging hand becoming like steel. "No." Stubbornness coupled with panic edged Doyle's voice. "Not without you, remember?"

"I meant to hide." The glare Doyle shot him made him add, "And in case anything goes wrong." Before Doyle could protest Bodie kissed him. "I promise, I'll be there the minute...."

"Another vessel has entered the quadrant," the computer relayed.

Worry and hope flared on two faces. "Identify vessel," Bodie said.

"Class 4 Auadian freighter." Red lights flared up, alarms sounded. "Ship is under attack by Auadian," the computer informed them flatly. The ports closed in swift silence. On the screen the phasers blossomed against the shields. "Deflection of attack successful."

Doyle tugged at Bodie's shelve. "Come on!" He ran for the stairs, was almost there when he realized that Bodie wasn't behind him.

Bodie had turned to the control console. "Power to torpedoes, scan and lock onto Auadian ship." Another shot flared, the deck vibrating for the fist time. "Full barrage, closest grouping."

Doyle joined him, took his arm in a bruising grip. "Bodie, you can't take them on with low shields and no phasers."

A twist turned away the desperate hold. "If I'm going to lose the Hawk I'm going to take one of them with me."

"Locked onto Auadian freighter," the computer informed him.

"Fire." The command was low, deadly, like the attack they launched.

On the screen the torpedoes flared against the Auadian's shields just as the Argonaut opened phaser fire on the Hawk. The ship staggered, but the Auadian was drifting.

Bodie smiled tightly. "That's one."

"Bodie!" Doyle grabbed him by both arms, shook him hard. "That's a Star Fleet destroyer! You'll never be able to take her."

Glaring at Doyle, Bodie went to shake him off again when he saw the desperate love shining in the jade colored eyes. The ship was forgotten. Another hit, harder, the shield only partly containing the frightening power of the phasers. Bodie pushed Doyle toward the stairs. "Computer. Maintain full defense, transfer all remaining power to the shields except for launch ability on the escape pod."

"Number Three shield at 23% power," the computer reported.

They reached the stairs just as another hit rang though the corridors. Doyle went to his knees, cursing. Bodie lifted him, pushed him on. Doyle started down the stairs as another bolt shook the Hawk.

"Go! Go!" Bodie urged. "That Auadian ship must have identified the Hawk before he blew. They probably knew all along."

The computer flatly informed them. "Shield three down to 12%, will not withstand another hit."

They reached the third level. The ship rocked, slammed Bodie sideways into the wall. The hit took his breath away, staggered him. Doyle a few feet away spun immediately to help. "Even if we make the pod they'll blow us out of space," Bodie said, strangely calm.

Doyle held him up against the bulkhead. "Don't be such a pessimist."

"Outer hull breached. Time to decompression--18.9 minutes." All this information was delivered with quiet efficiency. "Third ship has entered quadrant. Identified as Class 1, Constellation Class Star Fleet cruiser."

A tremor went through the deck under them. And the words registered. "A cruiser," Bodie said a little dazedly. "A cruiser, Doyle! Get to the pod, start the launch sequence. I'll try to get a message out."

"Attack has broken off. Time to implosion 17.12," the infuriately calm female voice informed them.

Doyle sprinted for the end of the corridor while Bodie turned to the nearest wall communicator. As he reached for it there was the ominous sound of rending metal. He threw up his hands, a strangled yell of shock escaping as the bulkhead next to him gave way to the forces tearing at the ship.

Doyle spun back, face paling as he watched the wall collapsed around Bodie. "No!" He ran back, went to his knees next to the pile of metal, started jerking pieces away.

"Time to decompression--15.6," the computer droned on.

Pulling away another piece, Doyle felt the blood that covered it. Pain filled, dazed blue eyes looked hopelessly up at him. Bodie was clinging to consciousness though sheer force of will. Blood flood his mouth as he coughed, trickled down his chin.

Shaking hands wiped it away. "Hold on, love," Doyle said, tears coloring his words. "I'll get you out."

Bodie lay still, felt the hot blood pooling under him. It took all of his fading strength to reach for Doyle's arm. Misty green eyes looked down at him. "Love you, Ray."

Doyle heard the goodbye in the soft words. "Bodie!"

"Go." Bodie's eyes slipped shut.

Doyle ignored him. "Not without you." He continued to clear the jagged debris away from the broken body.


"Shut up, Bodie." The command was ground out between clenched teeth.

The sound started further down the corridor this time, echoed like a lost heartbeat down the length of the ship. The ceiling above them wavered like light in a pool, then came down. Doyle threw himself over Bodie. There was no pain, only darkness and the tingle of cold that Doyle knew to be the never ending cold of space. The darkness claimed him before the cold did.

He didn't want to wake. He was alive, knew that he was in a warm, safe place. But the presence he most wanted to feel wasn't there, would never be there again. The presence was lost and alone somewhere in the darkness that Doyle keep trying to return to. But a gentle voice refused to let him go, keep calling him back.

He opened his eyes slowly. A dim figure was leaning over him. There was a hand on his shoulder. "Bodie?"

"No." A female voice, human and concerned. "I'm Dr. Crusher. You're on the USS Enterprise, in sickbay."

His eyes focused on the brown eyes above him. "Bodie?" This time it was a question he knew she would understand. He saw the sympathy before she could turn it into a hopefully look.

"Your friend is in surgery. Would you like to sit up?" She changed the subject quickly, a surprisingly firm hand helped him up. The Doctor moved two cushions behind him.

"He's alive?" Hope flared, sun bright, sent adrenaline racing through his body.

But the look on the Doctor's face cooled his hope. "Yes, he's alive but he's in critical condition. This is his third trip to surgery since we brought you in two days ago."

"Will he live?" Doyle demanded, afraid of the answer.

"I don't know." She watched his reaction, obviously not sure of how much to tell him. "He's strong and very fit but...he's not responding. He's not trying."

Doyle looked at her closely. There was deep compassion in her eyes and just a touch of disgust at a patient who would give up. Doyle smiled, and that confused her.

"He thinks I'm dead." He thought he would have to explain but the Doctor nodded.

"Well, then we shall just have to correct that misunderstanding as soon as he comes out of the surgery."

"Can't I see him now?"

"Young man," Dr. Crusher said firmly, "I don't normally let people barge into my surgery." The sympathy returned. "Leave it for now, he'll be fine until he comes out."

"How are you feeling?" A deep voice asked from behind the Doctor. She moved aside and two men came forward. One was Doyle's height, balding with clear dark brown eyes and an easy stance. The other was harder to describe, with an odd skin color and yellow eyes. He was stiff, not tense Doyle realized, stiff.

The man who had spoken smiled at the Doctor, extended his hand to Doyle. "I'm Captain Picard."

"Lt. Ray Doyle." He returned the handshake, hoping the Captain couldn't feel the tremors that ran down his arm.

The Captain turned toward the Doctor. "I have some questions for you but only if the Doctor feels that you are fit enough to answer them."

Dr. Crusher exchanged a quick glance with Doyle, nodded. "If you keep it short." She checked the patch on the side of Doyle's head, helped him straighten the cushions behind his back then excused herself.

Captain Picard moved a chair over next to the bed, motioned the other officer to do the same. Doyle watched, sensed the quiet strength in the man, the leadership qualities about him. He took a steadying comfort from it.

"Lt. Doyle," the Captain gestured to the other man, "this is Lt. Cmdr. Data."

"How are you feeling?" Data repeated the previous inquiry politely.

"Fine, just a slight headache." He frowned.

"Not bad for a dead man," the Captain said gently, humor in the observation.

"Is that where you'd like me to start?" Doyle asked.

"Just start at the beginning, Lt. Doyle," Picard prompted.

Slowly, and with as much detail as possible Doyle told the story, only leaving out the loving shared by himself and the trader Captain. Picard listened closely, asked a few questions and once stopped to ask if he would like a drink. Doyle politely refused. Only at the end, as he recounted the last few minutes aboard the doomed Hawk did he have to stop to regain control of his voice. The other officer remained silent. Vaguely Doyle wondered if he were an empath or a telepath being used to check his story.

They sat in silence for a few minutes after he had finished. Finally Picard stood, retrieved two drinks from a food unit, walked over and handed one to Doyle. "Here. Don't be polite, you need it."

"Yes, sir." Doyle drained half the glass in one gulp. Curiosity got the better of him again. "What will happen to Lojo?"

"That depends on when, where and how he's caught," Picard said.

Green eyes went wide. "Caught?"

"When the Enterprise ordered the Argonaut to break off her engagement with the Hawk," Data explained, "Captain Lojo and five of his officers beamed over to one of the Auadian ships. There were two, one cloaked. They escaped while we were engaged in rescuing you and Captain Bodie."

"Damn," Doyle said softly. His headache was making itself known. "Sir, the compac with all...."

"Yes, we have it," Captain Picard said. "Data has scanned it. Data is also the one who decoded your SOS."

"It was a brilliant example of simplistic coding in a difficult situation," Data added. Doyle wasn't sure if he were being complimented or not. Beside him the Captain smiled very slightly. Data continued without noticing either man's reaction. "What is on the compac is more than enough to convict Captain Lojo and the others."

Picard said, "You might be interested to know that there was an investigation under way on the Argonaut and some strange dealings she was involved with."

"What about Ambassador Rmia?" Doyle interrupted, wondering if it had all been for nothing. He felt the blood on his hands again, warm and sticky.

Captain Picard understood his real question. "The Ambassador is fine. He went into hiding right after the report of your death went into general knowledge. The investigation wasn't far along though, so the Argonaut would have continued to be on routine patrol." He added quietly, "You stopped him, Mr. Doyle. You forced his hand. You did a fine job, stopped an assassination, and possibly a war."

"Time," Dr. Crusher said from the door.

The Captain stood, Data followed. "I'll get back with you later, Mr. Doyle."

"Yes, sir." As they started for the door Doyle added. "Sir, if you have the time later I'd like to see you about turning in my resignation."

The Captain did not seem surprised, exchanged a quick glance with the Doctor. "Certainly."

Doyle had sagged back against the cushions as the conversation dragged out, now he struggled back up. "Bodie?" he asked the Doctor. The conversation with the Captain had taken two long hours.

Without a word the Doctor helped him stand, led him through to another room. She stopped in the doorway, letting him continue shakily on his own to the only occupied bed.

Half-way across the room the implications of the shimmering green light overlaying the figure caught him. He took a shuddering breath, turned back to her. "He's on full-life support." It was part question, part horrified disbelief.

Crusher took a step forward. "For now." She stared into his green eyes. "I won't lie to you, we came close to losing him. It took us a very long time to put him back together. But," she squeezed his arm, "he's in one piece now and you're here. That will be enough. We'll keep the life support on to give his body a chance to catch up with the repairs we've forced on it."

Doyle swallowed, nodded, turned and walked the last few feet to his lover's side. The greenish glow made the normally pale face look ghastly. There was a fresh patch on his cheek, another just visible under the top of the blanket. Thankfully nothing else of what Doyle knew existed showed.

Slowly Doyle reached out and took the limp hand in his. Leaning close he put his mouth next to Bodie's ear. "Bodie, love, I'm here." His other hand moved up and stroked the pale green cheek. "I'm alive, you're alive and everything is going to be fine. Just like in one of your vids where the heroes live happily ever after." Tears started, ran down the worried face. "Bodie, you dumb crud, you have the Doctor here all worried. I don't want to be the one to explain why a big, strong....."

The gentle banter faded as Bodie's eyelashes flickered open very quickly, then closed again. The hand Doyle was holding shifted, one finger rubbing against Doyle's palm. It was enough. The tears came harder, had to run around the smile that would not be contained. "I love you, Bodie."

"That's enough. He knows." Dr. Crusher urged, "To bed with you now."

"But he needs...." Doyle wiped his eyes.

"He needs you healthy. You had a ceiling fall on you, remember."

"I don't understand," he said softly. "How could I get off so easy when Bodie...."

Crusher touched his arm. "Luck, fate. Part of the metal formed a canopy over you, kept out the worst of it. You had a concussion, several broken ribs and a ruptured spleen. So don't think you got off easy. Now, this way."

Before he could argue the room grayed around him and he had to grab for the meditable. He was suddenly weary beyond anything he had ever been before. He leaned down slowly and kissed the pale, bruised cheek. "I'm going to go now, Bodie. Going to catch some sleep, be ready when you wake up."

The arm on his shoulder tugged him away. As they emerged into the front room reality overcame fatigue. He grabbed the Doctor, spun her around and hugged her. "He's alive! He's going to be okay!" He kissed her soundly.

Several of the other staff came around the corner to see what the shouting was about. Doyle was smiling, Dr. Crusher was smiling back. "I can tell the difference already." She warned, "It'll be three or four days before I turn him loose though."

The warning didn't dampen Doyle's joy. He tried to pick her up and nearly dropped her as the room did a tilt. The Doctor's smile turned to one of endless patience. "That's enough," she said firmly. "You'll put us both in bed."

Doyle nodded, not wanting to do anything that might put him on her bad side and possibly get him kicked out of sickbay. "I'll behave. Could someone show me to my cabin?"

The only answer he got was a dirty look and a finger pointing to the nearest sick bed. He opened his mouth to say he wasn't sick, took one look at the Doctor's face and went quietly to bed.

Dr. Crusher took Bodie off life support the next morning. Doyle stayed with him as a Vulcan healer put him into a light trance but was called away just after. The Federation, like any other bureaucracy wanted the Argonaut scandal handed quickly and with a minimum of noise. As Picard had said there had been an investigation started on Captain Lojo's dealings before Doyle had left Remillo. Rmia's smuggled compac had only been the final straw.

A Tribunal heard the story over remote link, were shown the compac and listened to Doyle's story. After that Doyle waited in the briefing room while Captain Picard offered his version of the battle between the Hawk and the Argonaut. Less than twenty minutes later Captain Picard and Mr. Data emerged. Doyle rose to meet them.

"Well, what happened?" he demanded, forgetting rank for the moment.

"Captain Lojo is classified a spacer now, wanted for destruction of property, attempted murder and treason. He will be court-martialed in abscentia," Data calmly informed him. "There will be a reward posted for their capture."

"That's it? They aren't sending someone after him? All they're going to do is post a reward?" Doyle nearly shouted.

"It's a big galaxy," the Captain said quietly. "They can't spare a ship to chase Lojo."

"Bloody wonderful." Doyle sat down, feeling tried and fed up. "They nearly killed Bodie, destroyed his ship and cargo and this is the best they can do." A determined look came into his green eyes. "Captain Picard, may I have a word with the Tribunal before they sign off?"

Picard looked at him suspiciously, but nodded. "Please do." He was suddenly curious himself as to what the soon-to-be-ex-officer had to say.

Ten minutes later they came out with Doyle smiling smugly while the Captain tried very hard to control his amusement. Data didn't seem to see the humor in it.

"Captain, I fail to see the amusement such a logical and satisfying arrangement should...."

"Later, Mr. Data." The Captain said, "Mr. Doyle, you have an interesting and very nice sense of justice."

Doyle smiled, "It's not completely fair but it will do. If you'll excuse me gentlemen, I have to get back to sick bay."

A warm, knowing smile from the Captain answered his request. "When Captain Bodie is fit I would be honored to have you both to dinner."

There was no need to hurry, eighteen more hours passed before Dr. Crusher eased the handsome Captain out of the trance and another twelve before she called him with the news that Bodie was regaining consciousness.

Bodie fought his way up through the dark that he had once welcomed. He had heard Doyle, had felt his love even pass the layers of death that almost claimed him. And if he was wrong, if it all was a sad illusion then the darkness was still there for him.

"Come on, Bodie." The beloved voice had just the slightest catch. "Wakey, wakey."

Dark lashes raised over beautiful blue eyes. Bodie searched the blurry room. The shape above him was a blob of dark against the light walls but he would have recognized the wild curls in pitch blackness. He tried to move, tried to whisper but could manage neither. A steady hand supported his head and something cool touched his lips, slipped smoothly down his throat.

"Only a little, mate."

The drink cooled his throat, loosened his frozen vocal cords. A second more and his eyes focused on the face above his. "Doyle? I thought...thought you were...dead."

Doyle laughed, a sound full of joyful tears. "I love you, you twit."

"Must" Bodie mumbled, "Only you' a sick man...names." A shaky hand lifted off the bed, Doyle caught it, held it against his cheek. A single finger barely touched the flawed bone.

Very carefully Doyle leaned in to kiss him. He tried to keep it light, acutely aware of the frightening frailness of the normally strong body. But Bodie had other ideas. When Doyle's mouth touched his, his tongue traced the full lips, demanding attention. Doyle responded, moaned, the fear of three days translating into a desperate need to touch his lover. He took the dark head between warm hands, tongue probing the dry mouth.

"You're going to cause him a relapse," a voice teased from the doorway.

Doyle eased slowly back. He glanced over his shoulder. Dr. Crusher stood smiling at him. Mr. Data stood staring at them from over her right shoulder, several techs and doctors were also watching. As Doyle straightened the flush that started up his cheeks was clear even in the subdued lighting. The entire crowd applauded. Doyle turned to Bodie for help but the other man was asleep, blissfully unaware of his lover's predicament.

The Doctor chased everyone out, came and checked the readings over Bodie's peaceful form. Doyle stood by, holding the trader Captain's hand. He looked hopefully at the Doctor as she stepped away.

"I'll let him up tomorrow," she said, adding, "And I would guess he'll be hungry by then too."

"Bodie's always hungry." Doyle realized he was smiling so much it hurt.

"Excuse me, sir." Data stepped forward, "Captain Picard asked me to inform you that confirmation has come on your transportation." The officer turned to leave.

"Mr. Data," Doyle called after him. "I've only just found out that you are the one that pulled us off the Hawk."

"Pulled? No, sir, I transported you off the ship," Data explained evenly.

Doyle smiled, he liked the android, even if he did have to be choosey about his wording. "If you weren't very good at it we wouldn't be here right now."

Data tilted his head slightly, "It was just...luck...I was on duty at the time."

"Well, luck or no," Doyle extended his hand. "Thank you."

Data seemed pleased with the handshake, returned it with enthusiasm. "I am very glad I was available to help." He paused, seemed to be considering his words. "I have never witnessed the emotional bond of love between two males before." He looked quizzical at Doyle. "I understand it is much the same as with male-female combinations only rarer."

Doyle looked over at his dark lover. "It is that."

"I was wondering, sir," Data addressed Doyle, "if it is as pleasurable?"

Before Doyle could form an answer Dr. Crusher demanded, "Data, how would you know about...about females?"

The android looked blandly at Crusher. "I am a fully functional, Dr. Crusher."

It seemed to Doyle that there was just the slightest touch of pride in the statement. Data turned back to him expectantly. Closing his mouth Doyle fumbled for an answer. When it came it was simple and honest. "It's best when it's with someone you care about."

"So I have ascertained from my readings of romantic text." Date nodded.

Before he could continue the discussion the Doctor had them both by the arms and was escorting them out. "Go. I don't need the two of you involved in a lesson in sexuality in the middle of my sick bay." As she released them at the door she pointed to Doyle and added, "Ray, when you get a chance come back and I'll fix that for you."

"Fix what?" Doyle questioned.

"Your cheekbone."

Doyle raised a hand to the forgotten injury. He could still feel Bodie's finger lightly following it. He smiled at her. "That's okay. I've gotten used to it."

Confrontation was heavy in the air when Doyle entered the sick bay. Bodie was standing in front of Dr. Crusher with his hands on his hips. Dr. Crusher had her arms crossed in front of her. It was evident from the looks on both their faces that neither intended to give an inch over whatever it was they were arguing about. Doyle knew what it was. Bodie wanted out.

He stepped between them, facing Bodie. The tall man's stance eased immediately. "Hello, love." He reached for him, but Doyle moved away. Bodie looked puzzled.

"Giving the Doc a hard time, mate?" Doyle asked, the barest curve around his lips.

Defiance blazed into Bodie's eyes. "No. I want to go to a cabin. I'm not hurt any...."

Doyle silenced him in the only effective manner he had found, the kiss deep and lingering. "Bodie, this nice doctor took the pieces you were left in and managed to put them back together in all their proper positions, for which I am very grateful. So be nice to her and...."

The stout body, still a little unsteady took him in an easy hold. Bodie whispered loudly, "How do you know they're in the proper places if they haven't been tested?"

The meaning in the teasing question, the hard quick touch of a hand to his groin made Doyle stop his try at persuasion. He turned and faced the Doctor, stared at her in helpless, open appeal. With a cross between a sigh of exasperation and one of relief she threw up her hands.

"Okay, okay!" she relented. "Take him away. It'll make things that much quieter around here anyway." Bodie practically bolted for the door with Doyle in tow. But Dr. Crusher was not letting them off that easy. "But I expect to see you here in the morning. Is that clear?"

Bodie knew the sound of an order. Snapping to attention with a very slight flinch of pain, he saluted. "Yes, ma'am. You've got it, ma'am." He made the corridor. "Which way is the cabin, Doyle?"

They had been assigned an executive cabin; spacious, with soft lighting and a large bunk. Doyle escorted Bodie over to the bunk, shoved him gently into it. Bodie had other ideas, grabbed Doyle around the waist as he went back, pulled him down next to him. They came together in a lingering, searching kiss. Before Doyle knew it Bodie had his loose tunic unfastened and hot hands were stroking his chest.

He pushed away. "Bodie." The tone was condemning. "You shouldn't be...."

A demanding mouth stopped him. The hot kiss and hungry hands left Doyle breathless by the time Bodie broke the embrace. "You taste wonderful, Ray."

"Do you always come back from the dead this ready?" Doyle had thought he could joke about it but it was too soon, too close. He flinched on the word, dropped his head to Bodie's chest, hugged him painfully tight. "Bodie...."

"Hey," Bodie tipped the round face back up to him, "we're alive, we're here and when we reach Remillo we'll hop a freighter to Triberta and buy ourselves a new ship. Then it's off to...."

"Sell whisky to religious fanatics." Doyle grinned.

"Yes!" Bodie said enthusiastically. He reached for the other man but Doyle slid away. "Doyle...."

"No," Doyle said firmly. "We are invited for dinner with the Captain in two hours."

Bodie reached again. "Plenty of time."

Doyle slapped his hand away. The act Bodie had put on had fooled neither him or Dr. Crusher. He could see the fatigue mirrored in the sleepy indigo eyes. "The only thing you're doing in the meanwhile is sleep."

"Arrgh." Bodie flopped back on the bed. "That's all I have been doing."

Doyle smiled, took pity on him. He knelt next to him, kissed very chastely along each cheek. "I have some good news, Bodie."

One blue eye opened, looked doubtfully up at him. "Really?"

"Really," Doyle reaffirmed. "We don't have to wait for the Enterprise to reach Remillo. Captain Picard has arranged a transfer for us to a freighter going directly to Triberta. We'll meet it tomorrow and make port late evening."

Bodie started to smiled, had it destroyed by a yawn. "Great. We'll collect my funds...."

"Get my back pay," Doyle added.

"And go starship shopping."

Doyle kissed him again, warm, loving. "Does that make up for having to go to dinner?"

"No," Bodie said honestly. "But I suppose it will have to do."

Captain Picard, Lt. Data and Dr. Crusher were in the transporter room the next morning to see them off. Bodie was feeling especially good after an evening of gentle loving and a sound nights sleep wrapped around Doyle. Doyle had spent much of the morning smiling at everything. Their mood was infectious and by the time they were ready to leave the Star Fleet officers were smiling back.

"Dr. Crusher," Bodie said humbly, "I'm sorry about the trouble. I never thanked you for putting everything back together. And in working order." He added the last with a leer at Doyle that made his lover blush.

"You're welcome, Captain Bodie. Just don't do it again." The Doctor smiled.

"He won't," Doyle assured her.

"Look after yourself as well." She shook both their hands, gave Doyle a quick hug.

"Gentlemen," Picard shook each hand. "I hope we met again in better circumstances. Mr. Doyle, Star Fleet is sorry to lose you."

"Thank you, Captain." Bodie didn't seem to catch the sly smiles that passed between the two men. "I appreciate all the help."

"Good...luck, gentlemen." Data frowned, as if unsure of his wording.

"Thank you, Mr. Data." Doyle smiled easily at him.

They moved to the platform, each carrying a small bag of newly made clothes. With a last wave of farewell the new light gray walls faded out to be replaced with dark gray, slightly older, slightly heavier ones. There was no one in the room.

Bodie was instantly tense, easing his bag down. "That's odd. No one...."

"Welcome aboard, gentlemen," the ship's computer announced in a light toneless female voice.

"No," Doyle corrected, turning to Bodie. "Welcome home."

"Wel...home?" Bodie stared at Doyle. The wide green eyes practically danced with excitement and mischief, full lips curved in a wide smile. "Doyle?" Bodie demanded.

"You heard, love. Home. Our home. This is our ship."

Bodie was still having trouble catching up. "What? How?"

"Compliments of the Federation. With Lojo getting away it seemed like the only one who was going to suffer because of all this was you. I pointed out that you had lost your ship, your cargo and damn nearly your life to stop Lojo."

"And they replaced it?" Bodie was skeptical.

Doyle smiled, "Yes, well...they agreed to the ship and a credit for the cargo's value." He said very shyly, "I think I may have been a bit high on my estimate."

"It couldn't have been that easy," Bodie argued, eyebrow raising in doubt.

"That's a very cynical outlook, mate." Doyle explained evenly, "They were very eager to help when I also pointed out that your only other option was to sue and how that meant everything would have to come out in the open. They're still looking into some of Lojo's connections so that was the last thing...."

"Blackmail? Doyle, you blackmailed Star Fleet?!" Bodie picked him up and spun him around. "That's wonderful!"

He sat Doyle down with a little more of a thump than he intended. Before Doyle could comment though Bodie was off like a small child at Christmas to inspect their new ship. When they reached the bridge two hours later Doyle hung back so that Bodie was the first out of the lift.

Bodie took two steps in, turned back to take Doyle's hand. "Coming, sunshine?"

"You're not disappointed, are you?" Doyle asked as he closed the distance between them. "I tried to get something similar to the Hawk but I...."

Bodie sucked, nipped at the flawed cheek before smiling down into the lovely green. "For a smart ex-Star Fleet officer-turned-free trader you say the stupidest things. How could I ever be disappointed with you?"

Somehow Doyle managed to smile around the lump in his throat. They pulled apart, moved over to the control console. On the screen the Enterprise sat in majestic silence. "So," Doyle said, when he was sure his voice wouldn't break, "what shall we name her? Solar Hawk II?"

"No." Bodie shook his head. "Bad luck."

Pressing close to his lover Doyle ran a hand across his groin. "How about The Big...."

"Doyle! Naming a ship is serious business." Bodie did his best to look stern, failed hopelessly. "Something from Earth?"

"The Black Swan," Doyle said suddenly. Bodie looked surprised. "Well, you liked the vid and I like the name," Doyle defended.

"The Black Swan was a pirate," Bodie reminded him.

Doyle pressed close again, locked long arms around the solid body, just above the round ass. "Little pirate in all of us, mate." He started kissing along the fine throat, just above the jumpsuit. "Besides, you owe me."

Bodie smiled, returned the light, erotic embrace. "Aside from all the happiness I could ever hope for, what do I owe you?"

The first part of the statement shook Doyle, tears threatening. He kissed Bodie deeply, hugged him hard. When he pulled back he somehow managed to say clearly, "You owe me a fantasy."

Bodie's eyes lit up. "A fantasy? Which is?"

Doyle continued his previous warm, wet trail down Bodie's chest, parting the jumpsuit fasteners before him. "I've always wanted to make love to a tall, dark-haired, handsome free trader Captain on the bridge of his starship with the starlight to guide us."

Strong hands began to comb though the unruly curls, traced enticingly around one ear. "I like that. It's not very original though, plenty of beings fantasize about handsome trader Captains...." The kiss muffled the rest of the statement. He smiled when they stopped to breath. "That's the only method to shut me up you'll ever need, sunshine. Now, about this fantasy...."

"Got a lot more," Doyle whispered. "Only one thing wrong with them." Bodie looked down at him and waited. "They all end the same."

"And how do they end?" Bodie managed to ask as Doyle pinched his left nipple.

"They all end with us together and me telling you how much I love you," Doyle said gently.

Wonderful storm blue eyes sparkled with unexpected tears. Bodie's voice was rough, warm. "And do they by chance include me telling you how much I love you?"

"Of course," Doyle said firmly, eyes bright as sunlight.

Behind them on the screen the Enterprise moved away, shifted into the streaking, multicolor of Warp and was gone. Neither of them noticed.

-- THE END --

Originally published in In the Public Interest 3, Sunshine Press, 1991

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